Fish Out of Water

Musings and observations about life from an East Coast native now living on the Left Coast in the California State Capitol since 2004. This fish has made her home in Madison, WI (7 years); Portland, OR (2 years); Las Vegas, NV (7 months); Middlebury, VT (3 summers); Marne-la-Vallee, a small town east of Paris, France (6 months); Middletown, CT (3 years); and Marshfield, MA, the fish's coastal hometown 40 miles south of Boston (17 years).

Location: Sacramento, California, United States


Ode to Muffin

I discovered that Blogger doesn't easily host images, so at the moment, I don't have a quick way to upload and display photos of the wonderful Miss Muffin. Lacking the visual, the verbal will have to do for now:

Crescent Cat
Paws curved in
Upside down smile
Head curled, legs stretched
Peace until the twitch of feline dreams interrupts the stillness
Then a moment of waking, arms and legs reached to the tail's tip
A look, a blink, a lazy stare
Resume the curl and return to sleep

Gargoyle Cat
Paws folded under the soft white bib perched on the sofa arm
An ear raises slightly, back legs adjust underneath
Fur ruffles in the warm slow breeze of mid-evening
Tranquil gaze overlooks all
A modern sphinx in furry feline form

Jungle Cat
Teeth bared, a growl to wake the world
Or a roar to recall the leonine past
No claws to unfurl to defend the articulated cry
Hidden hunter inside attempts to emerge, embody the fur, enliven the muscles to spring into action
But the fur stays still, engulfed in the verdant fabric of comfort not the plush green fields of tropical fury
Domestication conquers the wild

Clinic Update

A bit more news about the challenge to the clinic ordinance.  I spoke with this reporter yesterday but no part of our conversation appears in today's story.  Perhaps tomorrow??


"Escort for Death"

I think that might make quite a splash if I added it to my resume.  Much more exciting than "Volunteer Clinic Escort at Planned Parenthood." 

A new protestor last week introduced me to the Escort for Death term - stated with hatred, loathing, and a very deep horror-movie voiceover tone - and used it frequently to refer to me and the two other volunteer escorts.  This was in addition to the typical "Mommy, don't kill your baby!" and "Daddy, don't kill your baby!" mantras that the protestors favour.

Fact:  In the entire region, abortions account for 2% of the services provided by Planned Parenthood of Mar Monte (PPMM).

Fact:  The protestors don't consider the wealth of other necessary services provided by PPMM - pre-natal care, pediatric care, reproductive health care, family planning, primary care.

The protestors accuse PPMM of being motivated by greed and money.  Yet PPMM remains one of the few resources available to men, women, and children who don't have health insurance or access to health providers, and PPMM uses a sliding scale to calculate fees to make sure that everyone can receive health care from qualified medical professionals.  How can this be considered greed?

The city of Sacramento recently passed a new ordinance to protect clinics and people seeking access to the clinics (this includes both patients and staff members).  The ordinance creates a buffer zone with a 20' radius around any clinic entrance.  Protestors may still stand in this zone and express their opinions, but they are not permitted to approach people entering the clinic without their consent.  Two of the regular Tuesday morning protestors at the PPMM B St. clinic have filed a suit challenging the constitutionality of the ordinance.

I read about the suit in the Sacramento Bee online this morning.  Considering that I have been a witness to the protestors' actions on numerous occasions, including on July 6th, one of the days specifically mentioned in the suit, I immediately contacted both the reporter who wrote the story and the Deputy City Attorney who is handling the case.  I'm pleased to report that I heard from both of these people today - I'll be meeting with the City Attorney sometime within the next two weeks to draft a declaration that will be entered into testimony at the September injunction hearing, and I spoke with the reporter who is doing a follow-up story for about 15 minutes to tell her about what I've experienced as an escort at the clinic. 

After being a part of the historic March for Women's Lives in Washington, D.C. in April, the last thing I'm going to do in a situation like this is remain silent! 

Pro-choice = pro-women, pro-health, pro-child, pro-family.  I'm pro-choice and proud of it!


The Power of the Click

This is such an easy thing to do, and yet every once in awhile I receive emails from friends pleading for more people to go click on the Breast Cancer site to help donate free mammograms for low-income women.  Make the site your home page so you don't forget to click each day! 

And don't neglect the related sites, either:  Rain Forest, Animal Rescue, Hunger, and Child Health.  It's a quick and easy way to give something back to others while you're sitting in front of your computer. 

Also a great source for cool and meaningful gifts that benefit these same worthy organizations!


Internet Inspiration

I really should have known.  How could I have been so negligent, so careless? 

The simple fact that the handful of pharmacies and grocery stores that I visited in both Sac and Mad were lacking in my chosen and favored razor should not have led me to believe it was truly obsolete.  Alas, I gave up, I gave in, I broke down and bought a replacement. 

Ha!  The Venus is nothing next to the Personal Touch, nothing, I tell you!! 

And surely, surely a smart and Internet-savvy woman like me should have at least done a quick online search for the glorious PT before spending a hard-earned $9 on a personal hygiene item so coyly named after a goddess.  But no, I caved.  I turned my back on the primary source of all information in this modern world and surrendered to the desperate temptation to have smooth legs before returning to Sac. 

So is all lost for our intrepid heroine?  Or will she grasp victory from the jaws of defeat? 

Ah... the joys of Ask Jeeves, online pharmacy supplies, and other women who truly understand the power and prestige of a PT, which one has held and cherished since the first downy hairs appeared during puberty, and who so rightly take Schick to task for attempting to usurp the reign of the venerable PT. 

Yes, dear readers, our heroine found several sources for PT razors and cartridges, the vagaries of distribution to large pharmacies and grocery stores be damned!  Victory!

Now if I could only return that darn Venus thing... guess it'll just have to live at the health club for those emergency situations.


Of Dampness and Driving

Although it's only been about 7 weeks since we made the transition from Mad Town to Sac Town, I'd already forgotten how nasty the high humidity in the Midwest can be. When I arrived in Madison, the temp was in the mid 80s with matching humidity levels, I think. Yuck! Even yesterday, when the temperature had fallen to the low 70s, the additional moisture in the air maintained a certain warmth. The same temp in Sacramento would have required a light sweater. Hmm. Definitely something I don't miss about Madison!

Another thing I don't miss is the horrible drivers. Now it's true that folks in Sacramento seem to be impaired when it comes to using turn signals, but at least they actually know how to drive and are aware of other cars, bikes, or people on the road. Here, drivers are sooooo slow and clueless, lingering back when attempting to make left turns, braking too soon before stop signs or lights, hesitating at 3 or 4-way intersections since they don't know who arrived first. Arrgh! Just drive already!

I'll be glad to get back to Sacramento...


A slight correction to the "Distribution" entry - apparently, the lack of Personal Touch razors and refills isn't unique to Sacramento. I tried Woodman's & Walgreen's here in Madison, too, but to no avail. I've thus arrived at the unfortunate conclusion that the wonderful Personal Touch line has for some reason been rendered obsolete by its maker. Let's just hope the Gillette Venus I purchased as a replacement is satisfactory (and longer-lived, too).

But my suitcase for the return trip will be rounded out by:
  • 4 4-packs of Charmin triple roll
  • 3 plastic jars of Peter Pan lowfat creamy pb
  • 4 boxes of Betty Crocker shark bites (though I may remove the little packages from the boxes & scatter them around the suitcase for easier packing)
  • 6 bags of Eillien's brand big jujus
All in all, then, a successful Woodman's experience!


Oddities of Distribution

Items that cannot be attained in Sacramento:
  • Peter Pan low-fat creamy peanut butter
  • Personal Touch women's razors or refills
  • Large juju candies
  • Charmin triple roll toilet paper
  • Betty Crocker shark bites fruit snacks
Items that will be purchased at Woodman's during my visit to Madison this weekend, packed into the extra space in my suitcase, and carefully escorted back to Sacramento:
  • All of the above

Mad City Marathon (late report)

Should have been called the Mad City Monsoon, really...  Lots and lots of rain on May 30th for the majority of the 26.2 miles.  Soggy, soggy, soggy.  But E & I successfully finished with a respectable 4:26 time - not bad for our first marathon, especially in such nasty weather conditions.  If you'd like to see photos, go to Brightroom, click on Find Photo, enter "Mad City Marathon" in the first box ("name of your event"), click on Mad City Marathon 5/30/2004, and then enter Photo ID #4187-154-004 (E) or 4187-141-024 (me).


Midtown Coffee

Not that E & I don’t love Starbucks (after all, we are both stockholders – and no comments from those in the audience who view *$ as the corporate enemy!), but we like to try to find local establishments to frequent whenever possible.  So over the past six weeks, we’ve embarked on a quest during our weekly Sunday morning laundry ritual to find a good local coffeehouse.  Up to this point, we’ve concentrated on places in Midtown (no further East than 16th street) that are preferably close to our laundromat, City Suds, on the corner of 19th & L. 
[In the interest of full disclosure, I must confess that many of my ideas about what makes a good coffeehouse are inspired by my stints as a Barista at Starbucks in Las Vegas and Starbucks Café in the West Towne Barnes & Noble in Madison.  I’ve also worked retail in other contexts, so I have very little patience for poor customer service, especially when the employees are slow and/or rude and/or seemingly incapable of taking any initiative.]
The criteria are as follows:
1.  Excellent customer service – efficient, friendly, accurate, prompt (this is by far the MOST important criteria for me!)
2.  Consistency
3.  Broad variety of baked goods (savory & sweet, healthy & indulgent, crunchy & chewy)
4.  Fair Trade/Organic options
5.  Expansive hours of operation (open early, close late)
The results, in order of best to worst:
Java City, 18th & Capitol
This local chain has excellent coffee, including some Free Trade options, fabulous lemon poppy-seed and coffee cake and low-fat blueberry muffins, tasty egg & cheese bagel sandwiches, and a great staff who are always friendly and usually quite prompt, even on busy Sunday mornings when only two people are working.  In addition, the “personal cup” discount here is $.21 and is rung up as “save the trees.”  This one easily tops all the rest and also has several other locations around the city.
N Street Café, 21st & N
To be honest, we tried this place on a Saturday morning after our workout, and the café isn’t open on Sundays.  But it still deserves to be highly ranked, with great coffee, yummy bagel sandwiches, extremely friendly staff, and excellent service.  The variety of baked goods leaves a bit to be desired, but the overall atmosphere compensates for this lack.  A solid choice.
Open Book, Ltd., 21st & I
Again, not a place we’ve tried together on a Sunday.  In addition, it’s primarily a bookstore rather than a café.  But I’ve gone there several times to do work on the iBook, and the staff is extremely friendly, the coffee is nice and strong, the biscotti are excellent, and the back courtyard is shaded and pleasant.  And the focus on supporting the GLBTQ community makes this a strong contender in my book (pun intended – sorry!!).
Cup a Joe, 16th & P
OK, not really that close to City Suds, but worth a mention.  Across the street from a Starbucks, this establishment makes a decent latte and provides a satisfactory selection of baked items (muffins, scones).  Directly across from Fremont Park, the café also offers a local favorite chilled drink – Gunther’s freeze.  We haven’t yet partaken of this delicacy, but as the weather heats up, it becomes more and more tempting.  Another plus for this café is that it’s part of a mixed-use complex of small retail and condos (as a recent Madisonian, this type of urban development and smart growth are extremely appealing to me).
Those are the only cafes that could even be considered anything approaching “best.”  All of the others fall far short:
Infusion, 17th & K
Funky décor (think 60s style handing pod chairs and stylized plastic tables), but we haven’t actually tried any of the fare at this particular café because it’s not open on Sundays – despite the 9am-1pm posted hours…  Such misleading advertising is one of my pet peeves, as a lack of professionalism that I find completely unacceptable.  The one time I stopped by during the week, the staff failed to even acknowledge my presence and the bakery case was poorly stocked, so I didn’t feel terribly strongly about returning to actually taste the offerings.  Which is, in fact, rather unfortunate, since I heard from a local resident that this coffeehouse offer exclusively Fair Trade coffees, something I prefer to support and encourage.  Dommage…
The Bread Store, 18th & J
OK, so if you want interesting bread, this is your spot.  But if you want a breakfast sandwich or a decent latte or acceptable customer service, you need to search elsewhere.  The muffins, pecan rolls, and cinnamon twists are great, but the wait for a sandwich is waaaaaaay too long.  Not to mention the use of “old” espresso shots and a milk-steaming wand that is certainly not cleaned as often as necessary.  Yuck.  We gave this place two chances to overcome its shortfalls, but its surly and slow employees doomed it to failure.  If we need fresh crusty bread, we may return.  But not for Sunday morning and coffee and treats.
Weatherstone, 21st & H
Again, we gave this café two chances to impress us.  We’d heard great things about this café – diverse clientele, welcoming atmosphere.  But we were sorely disappointed on both occasions.  The service bordered on rude the first time and crossed the line to negligent the second time when the person who was supposed to be making E’s breakfast sandwich continued to chat with a friend who had come in and completely ignored her responsibilities.  Surly servers and excessive waiting do not make a good combination.  One or the other alone may be excusable, but after enduring this negative experience twice, I firmly declared that my patronage would be withheld for the foreseeable future.


Mad Town to Sac Town

Hard to believe we've been in Sacramento for almost 6 weeks now.  In some ways, I feel so comfortable here that it already feels like home. But at the same time, little differences keep cropping up to remind me that my relationship with this city is still young, still in the courting phase. The vast amount of body art on the Sac citizens, for example. Or the extreme 30-degree changes in temperature that make the heat more manageable. Needing a motorcycle license to ride the scooter. Finding out that California is the only state that requires a very specific Certificate of Good Standing for a non-profit organization from another state (a certificate not available via the web, of course). Not to mention the neighboring trains, of course...

Overall, though, I'd have to say that both E and I are delighted by our new city. Basking in the sun on a daily basis can be lovely. Rows and rows of trees filter the sunlight and provide haphazard but frequent pockets of shade - the very epitome of "dappled with light." Lively areas with lots of restaurants and funky shops to explore. Definite walkability and easy to get around (although we still couldn't figure out how/where to board the Light Rail that time...).

I created this blog to chronicle some of my experiences with my new city, as I become acquainted with its eccentricities and beauties. I'll provide descriptions of some things I like as well as short litanies of certain aspects that aren't so appealing. The next post will be a summary review of local coffeehouses, as E and I have been on a quest to find an acceptable alternative to Starbucks. Stay tuned...