Saturday, January 10, 2009
"Tears of the Giraffe" Alexander McCall Smith
"The Handmaid's Tale" Margaret Atwood
"Holy Cow" Sarah McDonald
"I Am A Soldier Too: The Jessica Lynch Story" Rick Braggs
"Persepolis 1" Marjane Satrapi
"Persepolis 2" Marjane Satrapi
"Madras on Rainy Days" Samina Ali
"The White Bone" Barbara Gowdry
"Clear Light of Day" Anita Desai
"Love, War, and Circuses" Eric Scigliano
"Water for Elephants" Sara Gruen
"Wild Sheep Chase" Haruki Murakami
"Oryx & Crake" Margaret Atwood
"Women's Work: The First 20,000 Years, Women, Cloth, & Society in Early Times"
Elizabeth W. Barber
"Son of the Circus" John Irving
"Setting Free the Bears" John Irving
"Guns, Germs, Steel: The Fates of Human Societies" Jared Diamond
"Lizard" Banana Yoshimoto
"Felaheen" Jon Courtenay Grimwood
"Finding Moon" Tony Hillerman
"The Camel & the Wheel" Richard Bulliet
"The Landscape of History" John Gaddis
"Dog Lost" Ingrid Lee
"The Second Summer of the Sisterhood" Anne Brashares
"Girls in Pants: The Third Summer of the Sisterhood" Anne Brashares
"Snowflower and the Secret Fan" Lisa See
"Saving Fish From Drowning" Amy Tan
"From Baghdad, With Love" Jay Koppelman
"Moloka'i" Alan Brennert
"The House of Blue Mangoes" David Davidar
"House of Sand and Fog" Andre Dubus III
"The Far Pavilions" M.M Kaye
"Special Topics in Calamity Physics" Marisha Pessl
"Shanghai Baby" Wei Hui
"A Rumor of War" Philip Caputo
"Pashazade" Jon Courtenay Grimwood
"Go Ask Malice" Robert Joseph Levy
"Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Spark & Burn" Diana Gallagher
"The Toughest Indian in the World" Sherman Alexie
"Harry Potter & The Goblet of Fire" J.K. Rowling
"Harry Potter & The Order of the Phoenix" J.K. Rowling
"Harry Potter & The Half-Blood Prince" J.K. Rowling
"Harry Potter & The Deathly Hallows" J.K Rowling
"Holes" Louis Sachar
Thursday, May 17, 2007
2. Prodigal Summer Barbara Kingsolver
3. Jarhead Anthony Swofford
4. My Year of Meat Ruth Ozeki
5. Shopgirl Steve Martin
6. Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister Gregory Maguire
7. The Lone Ranger And Tonto Fistfight In Heaven Sherman Alexie
8. Reservation Blues Sherman Alexie
9. Ten Little Indians Sherman Alexie
10. One Hundred Million Hearts Kerri Sakamoto
11. A Bed of Red Flowers: In Search of My Afghanistan Nelofer Pazira
12. The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants Ann Brashares
13. A Canticle For Leibowitz Walter Miller Jr.
14. Memoirs of a Geisha Arthur Golden
Far better than 2005's paltry showing!!
Wednesday, September 06, 2006
FOR THE LOVE OF CHOCOLATE
Once again, Bay Area artisans are at the forefront of a confectionary renaissance
Laura Compton, Chronicle Staff Writer
Wednesday, September 6, 2006
It doesn't feature a crazed assembly line, or vats of chocolate, but make no mistake: The Charles Chocolates facility in Emeryville is a chocolate factory. Trays of gorgeous chocolates entice from a worktable -- round lavender honey and Earl Grey truffles; rounded passion fruit and mojito hearts; orange twig truffles dusted with confectioners' sugar; and the piece de resistance, a dark chocolate box with a floral-printed white chocolate lid, filled with two kinds of caramels.
These decadent confections, from chocolatier Chuck Siegel, are typical of the offerings from the new wave of Bay Area artisan chocolatiers, who are making sophisticated products paired with eye-catching packaging.
"We're very blessed here in the Bay Area," says Adam Smith of Fog City News, a San Francisco magazine shop that's also known for its selection of 200-plus premium chocolate items.
"In my mind, really it's sort of ground zero for the chocolate movement in this country. So many exciting things are going on now with so many chocolatiers cropping up, and they're being so experimental, trying all these new ingredients and combinations."
A century after E. Guittard and Ghirardelli pioneered quality chocolate-making in San Francisco, with gold miners as their best customers, and a generation after Alice Medrich opened her Cocolat stores, and John Scharffenberger and Robert Steinberg started premium Scharffen Berger, these new chocolatiers are tapping into the region's passion for local, artisan products.
Like Michael Recchiuti, who introduced extravagantly flavored artisan truffles in 1996, they make their gourmet chocolates by hand, using natural or organic ingredients and premium chocolate. Yet, the resulting confections are all different from one another in ways that reflect the personalities and backgrounds of their creators.
"Certainly the Bay Area is very visionary when it comes to artisan chocolate," says Joan Steuer, who consults for big and small chocolate companies. "It paves the way for what's to come."
"The sky's the limit,'' says Smith. "Whoever would have thought about putting dragon fruit into a chocolate bar?"
Oakland chocolatier Michael Mischer has. His line of 20 oversize criollo chocolate bars are studded with caramelized nibs, Montmorency cherries, roasted nuts and spicy mango. Mischer also fashions rich Belgian-style shell-molded truffles, which he sells at his stylish Grand Avenue store.
In Sausalito, Stephanie Marcon makes enrobed ganaches that taste like banana splits, gingerbread and malted milk and other nostalgic flavors for her Coco-luxe line. San Franciscan Ariella Toeman's Cocoa Nuts marry her classic French training with her fondness for nuts in the form of dragees -- nuts roasted and caramelized, then dipped and coated in dark or milk chocolate.
They are by no means the only artisan chocolatiers around -- from Woodhouse Chocolates in St. Helena to Richard Donnelly in Santa Cruz, others are also making exquisite confections -- but their products are among the most visible. Grocers such as Whole Foods, Andronico's and Draeger's carry most of the lines, as do smaller specialty stores such as Bi-Rite Market and Gump's in San Francisco.
Americans spent $15.8 billion on chocolate confections last year, according to the Department of Commerce, up 3 percent from the year before. But tastes have deepened. Dark chocolate sales have increased by at least 15 percent over the past three years, says Lynn Bragg, president of the Chocolate Manufacturers Association, a trade association whose members account for 90 percent of U.S. cocoa production.
Seduced by antioxidant claims and the explosion in offerings, more and more people are discovering premium chocolate, preferably with a high cacao percentage (see "The dark chocolate obsession," this page), and exploring its characteristics as they would a fine wine.
Within the dark chocolate category, trends such as sweet-salty and hot-spicy flavors and "single origin" cacao sources have taken hold, converting more connoisseurs every day.
The mass-market companies have taken notice: In the past six months, Dove, See's and Ghirardelli have all rolled out dark chocolate offerings, including Mars Inc., which is reintroducing its limited-edition dark M&Ms.
Hershey Co. thought tastes were changing enough to buy both truffle maker Joseph Schmidt and Scharffen Berger a year ago and start a new subsidiary, Artisan Confections Co. Hershey also has a new premium line called Cacao Reserve, and a single-origin line planned for December.
"People are using chocolate in a different way. The price is less of a variable, and the quality is more important," Steuer says. She credits Starbucks with helping shift the perception of chocolate as a special occasion treat to an "experiential indulgence" of buying several truffles in the afternoon.
"We're spending $5 for coffee, and $5 for chocolate," she says.
It seems consumers will pay for quality. That's what premium chocolate offers, from the couverture, a French term that refers to chocolate that is at least 32 percent cocoa butter, to natural ingredients, and no shelf life-extending additives.
"We order one week, they make it that week, we get the delivery within 3 to 4 days -- people realize it's the freshest it can be," says Ron De Leon, head buyer at Bi-Rite, which stocks a wide range of items from small chocolate companies.
"The greatest thing about artisan products is the story behind them," he continues. The chocolatiers "are so passionate about what they do. Everything they say, they make you want to eat every one of their chocolates."
With nine candymakers on staff and part-time help as needed, Siegel has the largest operation of the emerging chocolatiers. He just lured his friend Glen Ishikata from Scharffen Berger to be Charles Chocolates' vice president of operations, managing production and distribution.
Charles Chocolates is Siegel's second candy company. In 1987, the self-taught chocolatier, then 25, founded Attivo Confections, which sold s'mores kits, among other things. He learned by "trial and error," he says. "Back then there weren't the educational opportunities that exist today."
He sold Attivo in 1995, and worked at San Francisco financial services and technology companies but "always had my foot in the chocolate," he says, consulting formally and informally, and making chocolates for parties and events. His chocolate tempering machine lived in his kitchen until he started Charles Chocolates.
Back to the sweet life
Eventually, he realized that "as much fun as I had helping other people, I really missed making candy." He spent a few months developing a varied line of handmade artisanal products, got wife Shabana's seal of approval, and was up and running by Oct. 1, 2004.
Charles Chocolate's distinctive packaging juxtaposes a loopy cursive logo and lines against primary colors and a brown background.
Marcon, too, spent time in business world before going back to her pre-MBA idea of attending the Culinary Institute of America in St. Helena. The timing for the pastry chef program worked out so well that "I really think it was fate," she says.
"When I got out of culinary school, my favorite thing was chocolate. I like the way you have to work with it -- the scientific principles and temperature control." She spent six months working for Michael Recchiuti, then launched Coco-luxe in February, a year after leaving CIA.
Marcon started experimenting with her favorite flavor, gingerbread. After looking at all kinds of recipes and playing around with percentages of cream and spices, she came up with a combination that tasted like spice cake: white chocolate ganache infused with spices and blended with molasses.
The crowning touch is an illustration of a gingerbread man made with custom colored cocoa-butter transfer sheets. She uses El Rey's Venezuelan white chocolate, which blends cocoa butter with real vanilla and milk solids.
Her nine-piece box of dessert chocolates are square ganaches with colorful graphics that clue you in to what's inside -- banana split, devil's food and double cherry -- "the flavors that you remember as a kid, but more refined." Her afternoon chocolates are green tea, mocha and chai-flavored.
In each case, "I wanted good-quality chocolate that you want to eat every day." The square, striped boxes, labeled, "Nine chocolates to share -- or not," retail for around $18. She produces about 600 boxes a month; that number is rising as the chocolates are distributed to more Whole Foods stores.
Toeman also trained as a pastry chef, at Paris' famed Le Cordon Bleu, then interned and worked at the pastry shop Fauchon. She was a pastry cook at Jean-Georges Vongerichten and Daniel Boulud's New York restaurants and had a wedding cake business in her hometown of Montreal before moving to San Francisco in 2003.
"My background is Middle Eastern, and I like a lot of nuts, so I like the concept of the French praline almonds. Cocoa Nuts are a combination of my love of chocolate and love of nuts."
The confection is based on her grandmother's recipe. Toeman candies and roasts the almond until the outside shell caramelizes, then dips it in El Rey's Venezuelan chocolate. A dusting of cocoa powder and roasted, ground spices or espresso powder finishes it.
The French names reflect her classic training; the first three were Noir, Lait and Epices -- dark chocolate, milk chocolate and a spice blend. She has since added others such as Aztec (featuring Hatch chile powder from New Mexico and cinnamon) and Framboise, a haunting raspberry flavor.
Toeman also produces six bars with these same flavors, and is introducing a new line of choclate bark called Cocoa Loco this fall.
She designed the original packaging herself at Kinko's, though she has since had a professional designer revamp it. The clothing boutique Girlfriends on Union Street, Say Cheese and PlumpJack were among her first retail accounts. She's gone from a dozen stores her first year to almost 60 now, including Northern California's 25 Whole Foods stores.
Playing with flavors
Michael Mischer, also a trained pastry chef, ran a pastry shop called Die Konditorei in Alameda during the '90s. He opened his store in 2004 on Oakland's Grand Avenue corridor. He puts in a 12-hour day, making chocolates in the back, then coming out to sell them from 5 to 10 p.m.
"Some people come in every day and buy one piece -- that's their fix," he says. "A lot of people obviously buy it for gifts, or before a party." Still others buy chocolates to smuggle into the nearby Grand Lake Theatre.
The evocatively shaped truffles, and bagged gift items, such as chocolate-covered potato chips, are displayed on marble counters. Although these sumptuous truffles, marzipan potatoes and almond clusters are traditional, he likes to experiment with flavors, having created infusions with Calvados, the apple-flavored spirit, as well as tequila, in addition to more traditional fruit essences.
Mischer used to make a pistachio truffle, but no one ever bought it. A jalapeno truffle "didn't work out," he says, but "chipotle works well," he says. "It has a smoky quality."
He started making bars last fall, at the request of his wife, Audrey.
"I'm having fun with the bars," he says. "Right now I'm experimenting with sun-dried tomatoes and almonds on 65 percent bittersweet chocolate."
The 20 bars line a dark-wood shelf offset by burnt orange walls; Mischer designed the clear plastic packaging himself to show the bar's contents, which are sprinkled on the underside. Milk chocolate with toffee and spicy mango with cayenne are big sellers. The bars are also carried at Draeger's, Fog City News, Sigona's Farmers Market and a few other stores.
Mischer's couverture comes from South America's noble-grade criollo beans, sometimes called "flavor beans." Criollo makes up less than 5 percent of the world's cacao supply. The rest of his ingredients are as local as possible.
Although many people still think of chocolate as either milk or dark, and don't explore the other nuances. "They know when they have a good bar of chocolate," Mischer notes.
Siegel believes this chocolate fever started with the availability of high-end chocolate. "I truly think one of the most influential things was Trader Joe's carrying Valrhona," he says of the French brand.
"Valrhona is arguably one of the best chocolate bars in the world, and hundreds of thousands of people have had it. Like any specialty food product, once you've had really good chocolate, you really appreciate the difference, and you don't like going back." Buying a premium chocolate bar is "not considered just an indulgence anymore, it's considered a chocolate bar choice," he says.
"Right now, I think we're really at the beginning of a great chocolate renaissance in the Bay Area."
Consultant Steuer agrees. "Love and obsession with chocolate is not a fad. It's a trend that's here to stay."
The dark chocolate obsession
No chocolatier worth his or her couverture wants to discourage customers from eating chocolate. But there is one thing that puzzles them.
Why the obsession with percentages?
"This 72 percent, 80 percent chocolate thing to me is such a crock," Chuck Siegel says.
"Every chocolate is different, and has wildly different ratios of cocoa butter to chocolate liquor." For instance, "Our 65 percent bittersweet chocolate has more chocolate liquor than most 72 percents."
Cacao is simply the amount of cacao beans and cocoa butter by weight; the remainder refers to sugar and vanilla. But hype about the antioxidant properties of dark chocolate has taken hold in the public consciousness. Inevitably, perhaps, consumers think the darker the chocolate, the healthier it must be.
Chocolate consultant Joan Steuer says interest in dark chocolate may have been sparked by Starbucks and others popularizing dark-roast coffee. Since then, other flavors have become "mega and extreme, and bitterer, and stronger and spicier," she says, with dark chocolate gaining favor in the last five years.
"I was never a big fan of putting a percentage on the label," says Michael Mischer, who makes and sells chocolates at his Grand Avenue store in Oakland. Yet he's also relented, labeling his bars: 38 percent (milk chocolate), 65 percent (bittersweet) and 72 percent (dark). Toeman notices the intense consumer interest in percentages at in-store demonstrations she sometimes gives.
"Seventy percent -- it's golden to them,'' she says. "For some reason, they think the higher the number, the better the chocolate."
Steuer joked, "How high will it go? Ninety-nine percent?"
Toeman points out, "If you wanted to make a really good cup of coffee, you don't use more espresso, you use better beans."
-- Laura Compton
Known for: Wide range of confections, including five bars, truffles and chocolate-covered almonds and hazelnuts, and citrus marzipan. Uses El Rey, E. Guittard and Cacao Barry chocolate.
We recommend: French butter twig truffles, truffles, triple-coated chocolate almonds, caramels.
Available at: More than 300 stores, including Whole Foods, Bi-Rite, Gump's and Confetti le Chocolatier. Also online through www.charleschocolates.com (Bay Area residents get free shipping).
The latest: Triple-Coated Chocolate Hazelnuts.
Known for: Bite-size ganaches with familiar flavors. Uses El Rey and E. Guittard chocolate.
We recommend: Dessert collection (After Dinner Mint, Cherry and Devil's Food), Peanut Butter Bites.
Available at: Bi-Rite, Gump's, Whole Foods, Bittersweet or www.coco-luxe.com.
The latest: Afternoon collection (the Blue Bottle mocha milk chocolate was our favorite).
Known for: Six flavor combinations used in classic dragees that are crunchy and not too sweet, and in bars. Uses El Rey and Valrhona chocolate.
We recommend: Framboise Cocoa Nuts; also Noir, Azteque, Epices and Noisette bars.
Available at: More than 60 stores, including Bi-Rite, Whole Foods, Draeger's, Oakville Grocery, www.cocoadesigns.com.
The latest: Tea-infused caramels and Cocoa Loco, four varieties of chocolate bark.
Michael Mischer Chocolates.
Known for: Elegant European-style truffles and chocolate bars with intriguing ingredients. Uses criollo chocolate.
We recommend: Truffles, particularly lavender & honey, Montmorency cherry, and caramel. Dragonfruit bar. (Below, pictured, are creme de coconut and champagne truffles)
Available at: 3352 Grand Ave. (at Elwood), Oakland; (510) 986-1822. Also at Fog City News, Chocolate Covered, Draeger's and Sigona's Farmers Market.
The latest: Peanut butter cup and hot chipotle truffles, spicy almond bar.
Where to get a fix
Here are some of the places carrying the artisan chocolates mentioned:
Bi-Rite. 3639 18th St. (near Guerrero), S.F.; (415) 241-9760.
Bittersweet. 2123 Fillmore St. (at Sacramento), S.F.; (415) 346-8715. Also in Oakland at 5427 College Ave. (at Hudson); (510) 654-7159.
Chocolate Covered. 3977 24th St. (at Noe), S.F.; (415) 641-8123.
CocoaBella Chocolates. 2102 Union St. (at Webster), S.F.; (415) 931-6213.
Draeger's. 324 First St. (at Main), Los Altos. (650) 948-4425. Also in Menlo Park and San Mateo.
Fog City News. 455 Market St. (at First Street), S.F.; (415) 543-7400.
Sigona's Farmers Market. Stanford Shopping Center, 180 El Camino (off Sand Hill Road), Palo Alto; (650) 329-1340. Also at 2345 Middlefield Road (near Woodside Road), Redwood City; (650) 368-6993.
Whole Foods. Various Bay Area locations.
E-mail Laura Compton at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Saturday, August 19, 2006
1. Garbage "Bleed Like Me"
2. Garbage "Bad Boyfriend"
3. Bob Marley & the Wailers "Dancing Shoes"
4. No Doubt "Beauty Contest"
5. The Distillers "Sick of it All"
Friday, May 26, 2006
Kingston James McGregor Rossdale arrives
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
May 26, 2006
Los Angeles, CA
Gwen Stefani and Gavin Rossdale welcomed the arrival of Kingston James McGregor Rossdale, 7.5 lbs on May 26, 2006.
High above the roof tops,
Higher than the milky way,
Slipping through the hour glass,
Shooting up the desert plain,
You are one life older than before,
But you cant stop the chill,
Now youre falling in slow motion,
Though the air is still.
If you close your eyes than I can take you all the way,
Let me close your eyes and I will take it all the way.
You are on the outside,
Hands upon the window sill,
I am on the inside,
Carving up the hunters kill.
If you close your eyes than I can take you all the way,
Let me close your eyes and I will take it all the way.
Cruising on a missile,
Cruising on a desert plain,
Wading through a minefield,
Wading through the monsoon rain,
Surfing on an oilspill,
Surfing on a perfect wave,
Porn upon the airwaves,
Rituals of the mating game.
If you close your eyes than I can take you all the way,
Let me close your eyes and I will take it all the way.
Sunday, May 07, 2006
Monday, May 01, 2006
I told you he was the best husband ever! Last week the fed-ex man came to my door bearing presents. Sorry the photo is slightly out of focus. You all know now who the photographer is in the family. Anyhow, I was given a matching necklace, earrings, and ring. In the picture, I am wearing the pearl ring with my great-grandmother's wedding band. The wedding band was just sitting in my jewelry box after I inherited my great-grandmother's wedding jewelry. So I figured why not get it resized (from 7 to 4); at least it wouldn't be collecting dust. I'll try to take a better photo tomorrow.
I love you, Sean! Watch out for those water balloons!
Here we are, the amazingly happy couple on one of our last nights together, a Saturday. It's been longer than a month now since he's been gone. One down, five to go. He's spoiled me though because he calls everyday (mostly, unless there's a storm or something) and I get emails too. How did I get so lucky to catch such a great husband?
We've been married for ten months now!
Thursday, April 27, 2006
One week after he left for Iraq, and I'd driven to San Jose we found out that the shipping company in possession of the moped was going to beging charging us rent for holding the thing (because it was taking up valuable space for other items which had recently arrived.) Being the only member of the family unemployed, as well as the only member of the family with access to a large vehicle I decide to bear this particular cross. After driving the Beetle to San Jo on March 27th, I found myself driving back to San Diego on April 5th.
Although I have never witnessed a monsoon in person, I'm fairly sure I have an excellent idea of what one may look like because, curiously enough on both March 27th and April 5th, violent rain and wind storms would ravage California. Imagine that. Still, driving a Beetle in a pounding rain (nay, monsoon!) through California's central valley is one thing. Driving an empty cargo van through California's central valley is quite another. My first taste of the vicious wind I will face is East bound on Highway 152. The posted speed limit of 65 is wishful thinking, a joke.
Of course it got worse once I hit South bound Interstate 5. Despite my best intentions, I do not get an early start on the drive. I have to make a stop at my dad's office and pick up proof of insurance as well as a letter authorising me to operate the van. I'm concerned that I will not make it to Inglewood before the company we hired to assist us in the importation closes. I'm also concerned that if I run too late, the warehouse in Torrance will be closed as well. Once again, the speed limit is a joke. Even if the sky was not unleashing a torrent of rain down upon the unfortunate few who chose April 5th to drive to LA, I have to keep the speed down for economic reasons. One other big difference between the van and the beetle is this: the van is a gas pig. It gets okay gas mileage for a behemoth, but at that particular point in April the per gallon price of 87 octane is about $3 a gallon. This translates to an approximate cost of $85 to fill the tank completely up. So I try to keep my speed between 55 and 60, which means I am stranded behind all the big rigs in the slow lane. (As the more adventurous whiz by in the fast lane at estimated speeds of 90 miles an hour, despite billboards that warn "1,015 licenses taken here last year!". A speed violation over 100mph is a felony. Do not pass go, do NOT collect $200.)
The drive worsens still as I reach the grapevine, which is the winding route of I-5 which climbs over the mountains at a peak elevation of 4,000 feet. A blinking road sign is warning that "HIGH WIND ADVISORY: Big rigs, Trailers are not advised." In fact, it is raining so hard and is so foggy that I can barely see the 5 feet of road in front of me. I begin to worry that snow will be falling and that I will either have to purchase snow chains or rent a room just short of the summit and wait out the storm. Happily, there was no snow falling that day. That was the only break I got, the only thing that went right that day. The distance from Bakersfield to LA is given as 110 miles, but it felt like twice that. Instead of heading East on the highways tp avoid the rush hour LA traffic, I have to take 405, the San Diego freeway right into the belly of the beast.
After locating the office in Inglewood, the people who eased the import of the moped into America I have to drive around the block to find a parking place big enough for the van. I walk three blocks in the rain to pick up all of the official paperwork I will need, including a shipping list, and a packing list with the address of the final destination. (The closest port to Paulden AZ is, apparently, Long Beach!) My purse brimming with papers I make my way back to the van huddled under a violet umbrella.
The first stop went so well that I was beginning to think the rest of my endeavour would be equally simple.
This assumption was completely incorrect.
I find my second stop in Torrance simple enough. I exit the freeway on a completely random street and after making three left turns I find the street that I need. I consider this to be a stroke of considerable luck.
After parking my van in the warehouse parking lot, I make my way through a tangle of big rigs which are backing up and pulling forward, nearly hitting one another in an attempt to get into the slips. I stand in a drafty office while a secretary processed all of my paperwork behind what I assume was bullet proof glass. She types away and informs me that I have to pay $100 before the moped will be released to me. Cash. I have exactly $50 on me, and the company does not take plastic. It was 6pm and the warehouse was closing, so I trudged back to the van empty handed.
The AAA California map indicates that Long Beach is 113 miles, or one hour and forty minutes to San Diego. My empty hands and empty van are insult to injury, as it takes five hours at the neck-break speed of 15 mph to get to San Diego.
The next morning a Wednesday I wake up late (again) and call my mother-in-law about the $100 fee. She had tole me I wouldn't have to pay any money, but she authorises this fee and deposits the money into my account. The van and I suffer through another commute up 405 back to Torrance, which took two hours. I am confident because I am armed with $200 cash. I am getting that moped or will die trying.
And once again I find myself standing in a drafty office, only this time I have about a dozen burly truckers to keep me company.
You can imagine my horror when I present all of my paperwork including a power-of-attorney (all official and stamped) only to be told that the moped will be released to me after I pay the $399 in cash which is owed to the shipping company. The man in the office laughs in my face when I state that I only owe $99. He seems incredulous that I do not have $400 in cash on my person. Again I call my mother in law and inform her of the situation. We are in so deep now that there is no turning back, and she deposits the amount I need into the bank account. When I get to the ATM I learn that I have exceeded my withdrawal limit for the day, and can only take $150.
I now have on my person $400 exactly. After my paperwork is okayed and I fork over the $400, I am told to back into a slip between two big rigs.
I now have on my person exactly $1.
Since my fan is considerably smaller than a big rig I am told to pull around back by a grove of palm trees. The last piece of paperwork is signed by yours truly as the forklift approaches and the doors of the van are open.
My first sight of the moped occurrs at this moped. It is surrounded by a giant crate made of pallets. The crate is too damn wide to fit in the back of the van. Because the young guy in charge of the work crew recognises me from the day before he rides back to the main office to ask permission to remove the moped from the crate. Permission is granted.
But it will cost me $100 in cash (natch) to do so.
I am sunk.
Faced with the probability of having to try again on Thursday, I explain the situation to the young work crew. "I drove down from San Jose to pick this up.... My husband is in Iraq... I have only $1." The manager of the work crew translates my dillema into Espanol.
After I promise not to hold any of them responsibl;e should anything go wrong, four guys flip the crate on it's side while it is still on the forklift. I crawl into the van to detach the spare tire from the left side of the vehicle. Every millimeter counts. Two guys crawl into the van but cannot stand up because of their height. Two guys and a forklift stand on the outside pushing with all their strength while the other two guys are pulling with all they've got. They have to pull in and up to make it over the wheel wells that jut up in the cargo area. This takes about 45 minutes. But finally the crate is IN! I thank them profusely and feel bad that I don't have any thing to reward them with.
It took roughly three hours to get home. But I was just happy to finally have that supid moped in my possession.
Let this be a lesson to you. Unless you like cutting through tons of red tape and spending lots of money, unless you want to deal with a business run by Tony Soprano or one of his close personal friends, never NEVER import a motor vehicle!!
Good night and Good luck, Tragic
Tuesday, April 11, 2006
Monday, April 10, 2006
Once again, CONGRATULATIONS Tom and Mieke!!!!
Friday, March 10, 2006
Wednesday, February 22, 2006
Our second visit to the Midway was made in the Beetle, and I'm pleased to say that the drive was breakdown free. The only hitch was that I had a bad cold, complete with a cough and runny nose. Due to a childhood accident when my nose was broken in three places (and never corrected) my sinuses don't always drain as they should. It was a chilly, yet sunny day at the Embarcadero, and I found myself wishing I'd worn more layers. As I was not feeling my best, here is my concise and almost clear recollection of that day. If I hadn't felt so ill, I'm sure I would have enjoyed more of it since I'm such a history buff.
The flight deck was really cold as there was a strong wind that day. Brr! There were also some old-timers (volunteers) telling old war stories in front of different aircraft.
The "museum level" complete with cafe and souvenir shop was also very chilly. Although there were walls here, there were also many places that were open to the strong breeze. 'Brr, I could never live here' was my most dominant thought.
As we followed the tour throughout the ship we passed through various other levels, where I found myself thinking one of the following at every turn:
-It's too cold, I could never live here.
-It's too cramped in this section, I could never live here.
-It's too hot in this section, I could never live here.
-This part of the ship is too orange, I could never live here.
Sunday, January 01, 2006
Maybe I just have a bad attitude, but more likely it's just past experiences. New Years Eve, is generally about people getting completely drunk off their asses and making promises they have no intention of ever keeping. ("I'm going to lose 15 pounds!," "I'm going to stop smoking," "I'm going to stop selling drugs.") This is my problem with the whole stupid holiday. In my own personal experience, New Years Eve marked, for five consecutive years, the most awful fights I ever had with my ex.
Our second New Years Eve together was 2000, the Millenium! The potential end of the world, and one of the worst nights of my life. I never really saw any reason to celebrate the New Year because every damn year was the same, at least in regards to the relationship. What was there to celebrate?
Last year, although with a new guy, I had strep throat, and spent the dreaded holiday in bed with a fever and almost unconscious. But this year, even though I was sick, I didn't have a fever. So I had to face my most unfavourite holiday.
I was in bed and asleep by 11:30pm, missing the ball drop and all that craziness. It's better that way anyhow.