Thursday, October 25, 2007


Don in Blue and Max in Red.

This past week we had our first visitors. Matthew and Sharon arrived on Sunday on their way to Hawaii for a vacation.

We were so excited to see Matthew and Sharon. We are absolutely delighted that Sharon is going to be part of our family- And wanted to see them now that the relationship is "official". Additionally- I was anxious to see how the apartment handled the increase in population. At home in Cinti company is never a problem- why I think you could live for days and not see someone if you wanted- But not here- there isn't anywhere to "get away".

The weather in San Francisco was beautiful, so we spent time on Sunday doing the normal sights. First we went out to the Golden Gate National Recreational Area for some wonderful views of the coast line and the Golden Gate Bridge.

Next we drove to Ghirardelli Square for a little chocolate, then Fisherman's Wharf to see the seal lions that collect there

and onto Telegraph Hill to go up in Coit Tower for a view of the sun setting over the bay, the bridge and the city.

I had never been up to Coit Tower. Don thought we could all use some exercise so he parked at the street on the bottom and we started the climb up- one of those streets so steep there are actually stairs to get up and down. So all the people living along the path have to climb up steep stairs from the street below (and I thought a 4th floor walkup would be bad). Don told me later that the path up was the equivalent of 25 floors up! But it was absolutely worth the walk. The views were incredible. You can walk the perimeter of the tower and see the city from on top of the world. We were there at sunset and it was breathtaking!

Unfortunately, Max had to work on Monday and Tuesday, but since I still have 4 weeks vacation that I haven't taken yet, I got to spend time showing them some of the sights of the California Coast. On Monday we drove up to Marin and then over the mountain to Muir Woods. We hiked for about 4 miles on the trails at Muir on another absolutely beautiful day.

Looking up at these magnificant thousand year old trees is a humbling experience. Some of these trees are over 1200 years old and are among the tallest trees in the world. The ones at Muir are over 250 feet tall. These trees give you an appreciation of what nature can do.

Here is picture I took looking straight up from the base of two giants.

On Tuesday we took a different approach and visited wineries in Sonoma County. Our first stop was at one of my favorites, St. Francis Winery. Matthew and Sharon did the tasting while I did the driving.

From St. Francis we went to Chateau St. Jean and then onto Benzinger winery where we took a tour of the whole operation. First they took us out into the field among the vines. This is a biodynamic vineyard where they use no pesticides or herbacides and use only the mulch they create to fertilize the fields.

From the fields we went to the processing where they de-stem and crush the grapes (not by stomping on them, so our feet aren't purple) and then pump it all into the fermentation vats. Finally we went to the caves where they store the wine in oak barrels to age it. This is a fairly small winery, and they had over 14,000 barrels in their caves.

Matthew and Sharon had a great time swirling, sniffing, and tasting just like the pros, and we came away with some really nice bottles of wine.

Sharon and I decided to try some shopping on Fillmore (the restaurant and shops a few blocks from our apartment) so we walked down when I got home from work on Monday. Well trust me- we'll save money this year if I can't find other places to shop. It was a shock. We wandered into a lingerie store.

I looked at one of the bras- IT WAS $350! And trust me on this- it did not provide adequate support- And a pair of under panties- $85- and there was not much material in those panties (you'll have to trust me on that as well). The clerks didn't look as if they thought I might be interested in any of their underwear- And believe me I wasn't. Not just the cost- I do not believe there was one single item in that whole store was even close to comfortable. And as far as I'm concerned COMFORT is the first criteria for any pair of underwear. It was a bit sobering though to know that in this little store (voted BEST LINGERIE in SAN FRAN) just one bra and panties set would cost much, much more than all of Don and my underwear put together (even if you add in all of Don's black socks and white t shirts).

But of course I didn't miss a meal! I am having such a good time trying different restaurants in in San Fran. We're still focusing on the ones we can walk to from our house. We'll branch out later- but for now are sticking to the neighborhood. The first night we went to a Japanese restaurant on Fillmore (not far from the underwear store). The food was great and not too pricey (unusual for San Fran). I'm enjoying the SUSHI- but TH (and other environmentalists out there)- I'm avoiding endangered fish- so I'm loving the eel- my favorite anyway.

The next night is was Peruvian. Well trust me- it was not like the Peruvian food Don and I ate in Cinti (some of the worst food I have ever eaten- gag me sort of stuff). This was wonderful. I decided to stay with the Ceviche....

It was amazing. They actually had 7 different selections (not that all sounded very good- I'm just not a big fan of octopus) But I did find some to try.
Now this restaurant is one of those restaurants that the young love- very popular (waiting outside for a table- even on a Sunday night)- and noisy- and new different combinations- not sure a Peruvian would recognize.

And of course great wine!

We loved the time we had with our first visitors- and are ready for more. The apartment handled the population explosion quite nicely (of course it helped that I was up and out of the bathroom- in fact out of the apartment- before anyone else crawled out of bed). But we can "schedule" shower times if needed (reminiscent of that first year in Cinti with all the kids- and tiny, old water pipes that only lets one person shower at a time- my time was 6:30- and if you miss your scheduled time it is just "tuff luck"- we'll be nicer here).

But best of all- we know Sharon better- and Matthew- and enjoyed spending time with them at our HAH.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Normal in San Francisco

Don in Blue and Max in Red

I guess the first part of this post is exactly what is normal in San Francisco. So far I think the answer might be: "almost anything". It is certainly a city of diversity. There are hundreds of street people and homeless, and you see them everywhere. Some are young some are very old and they can be either men or women. This was someones home overnight not far from Max's office.

I have been surprised at how many "street" people there are here. Now the street people are a bit more affluent than the street people in Cincinnati- they push laundry size bins around the street- not just a shopping cart. And of course here they can live year round in the streets. There is a bit of speculation that because San Francisco has so many social programs (in comparison to other cities) it is actually a magnet for the homeless. But I just know I was surprised- I hadn't noticed before when I just came for a visit. They are mostly men- not all of course- And some live for years in the same location- rather stable homeless population. Recently there was a man knifed to death near Golden Gate Park- And the newspaper said that he had lived at one location in the park for 11 years. I took the picture above- not sure it came out very clear- from my car window on the way to work. The city is beginning a "clean up the streets" program- sending out police officers and social workers to corral the homeless into shelters- but not sure how it will end- this being San Francisco has caused quite an uproar about whether we are impinging on the rights of the homeless-

At the other extreme I would guess most of the houses cost well over $1 million. In fact our meager apartment would probably sell for over a $1 million if it were to be for sale. On our street alone, there are enormous beautiful homes that I would guess range in price in the tens of millions. I don't necessarily consider that normal, but it is common here. Below are a few examples of houses on our street. These are not apartments, but single family houses.

I can't even guess what this one must be worth. There are views of the bay the the Golden Gate from the rooms.

I love to drive through the neighborhoods (I can drive- I get the car everyday- Don can only see out the window of the bus)- I have never seen such variety- And our neighborhood is absolutely stunning. I think I have to pinch myself because it can't be real.

People seem healthy here. We are used to the Ohio obesity epidemic where the state laid claim to be one of the fattest states in the Union, but people are always exercising here, even running up and down these hills. I sometimes wonder when these people actually work. I could go on about this for a while, but my real intent is talking more about what Max and my life looks like now that all of the moving in and settling is over.

And- you'd think with all the hills and all the walking people do that women would wear "sensible" shoes- But no- I look around and I am the only woman in sensible shoes. Other women are wearing strapy sandals, high heels, flip flops, NO SUPPORT whatever- And on these hills- with all the walking- I am amazed- Not me though- I am wearing sensible shoes!

For me it's a bit strange. I worked at P&G for over 30 years, longer than all of the other people that I worked with. But now I am suddenly the new guy in the office who doesn't even know where the copy machine is. I did find the bathrooms my first day, but only because I had to walk by them from the elevator to my office. The people are all very friendly, but it is obvious that I am on a learning curve. I also have noticed that on some days I am the only Secondee here. Maybe I have the wrong idea about how to do this job. I'm still getting used to having an office with a door and a window. I haven't had an office with a door for about 10 years. At P&G we all lived in cubes about 1/3 size of my office. This isn't so bad. I do have to wear a suit every day and of course Max had to take a picture of me on my first real day.

I always took pictures of the kids on their first day of school. It is really hard to give up things like that- I miss that. But here I am- And Don has a first day of school! He is all dressed up in his new suit and new tie- And has a new brief case (remember the new backpack for the first day of high school) and he is going for his first day on the bus. I am taken back to all those years- so many years- of first days- and new clothes- and new book bag- and new bus- or new school. I miss that. I always liked taking pictures on that first day....

Then when Max and I moved my stuff into the office on Saturday, she also needed a picture of my name at my office.

And of course me sitting at my desk in my new office (note that suits are not required on Saturday)
And even a picture of my view, never mind that you have to sit on my desk at the window and look to the side to see this particular view of the Bay Bridge.

I do now have my October bus pass compliments of Max being next door to a transit office that sells them. I have found my bus routes and even have now found the express bus routes that go from the financial district where I work to within 5 block from our apartment. Unfortunately, the bus stop is at the bottom of the hill and the apartment is at the top of the hill, but we just consider that to be my exercise. It is a good thing that I got the new batteries in my pacemaker because it is working hard before I reach the summit.

Note that the cars on this, the last hill to our street is so steep that they make the cars park perpendicular to the sidewalk so they won't have runaway cars.

This is the view looking the other direction toward (toward the north). Unfortunately, our view is to the South, but this is only intersection is only two houses from our apartment.

When I first started taking the bus, the local (not the express) stopped at about every corner and went right through the middle of Chinatown, filling up with lots of Chinese and then quickly emptying out once we got to the center of the China district. I did have to get used to not sliding off the seat every time the bus braked to a halt on a steep downhill slope. I do appreciate the express.

When we were driving around with Tara- our realtor- looking for a place to live driving the hills was really intimidating. It was like living on a roller coaster- And I don't really like roller coasters. I asked her if she thought I'd get used to driving these steep hills- she looked puzzled and said of course. Well she was right- I hardly give them a second thought- though I'm really glad I don't have a stick shift- but with the Honda it is a breeze- and I've stopped (well almost stopped) avoiding the ones with the perpendicular cars.

The apartment is in great shape - although we did have to buy some more area rugs for the hard wood floors. It seems that SF has a law about apartments and how much carpeting you have to have to decrease the walking noise for your neighbors below. Well right under us is the VP of the our Apartment Governance Board (just our luck) and we have already gotten two "friendly" letters from her about our walking in the mornings disturbing her sleep. Max suggest we get her some ear plugs, but we got some more carpets instead and now only wear house shoes in the apartment.
I just thought that maybe a "friendly" note that reported our additional carpets- and of course concerns for her sleep- might end on a little suggestion- something like- I'd found when my sleep was interrupted with a snoring husband- or whining dog- I'd found earplugs especially helpful- I'd have even recommended which ones are especially nice/comfortable. Don nixed the idea- so we didn't write the note. I just don't think this woman has had the life experience that prepares her for such minor morning noises- try children- or dogs- or husbands- Her life if just much too quiet.

We also put the 31 pictures of family and friends plus the 4 watercolors of Cincinnati that we brought with us into frames and got them hung on the wall last weekend. The place is actually looking kind of like a home, at least our home away from home for a while. (I think we need an acronym-like P&G has for everything- I'm thinking that perhaps we should call this place our HAH- for home away from home- so when you see HAH you'll know we are P&Gers through and through)

PS- You'll hear more about my job later- just suffice it to say that I am putting in long hours- and still have much, much, too much to learn. For the first time in our marriage I am working harder and longer than Don- Who would have guessed!

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Big News!

We have the most wonderful news! Matthew is engaged to be married to the most wonderful girl. We met Sharon last summer when they visited us in Cincinnati. We were immediately smitten with her beauty, charm and intelligence. Don was in 7th heaven- She is an arborist-And knows more about trees than Don- our family expert. In addition to her expertise in trees, she is a graphic artist- And is the talent behind making models into the beautiful images we see as real. She grew up on Long Island- And is a Brooklyn girl now.

We have been holding our breathe- wanting so much to have her as an addition to our family. And it is now official.

Sharon (Mathis) and Matthew will be visiting us here in San Fran in a couple of weeks. We are so excited to celebrate this special occasion with them. We'll provide more details about the plans of this wonderful couple as they unfold.

Sunday, October 7, 2007

Finally Settling IN Don in BLUE, Max in RED

We've finally transitioned from car to hotel to apartment. We are here and moved in. It has been a struggle and there are still a few hills to climb (besides the obvious ones in SF), but we are moved in and almost cleaned up.

Text Color
I can only imagine what folks thought when we checked into the hotel in Oakland- for just two nights- and pushed the loaded cart through the lobby. We were not traveling light! But then we hoped to organize everything into two piles- one for the hotel and one for the apartment which meant EVERYTHING had to come out of the Honda. I think the Honda sighed a big sigh of relief with the load off!

Our initial plan was pretty good, but plan and actuality are two different things. We originally asked to have our stuff picked up so we could have it in the apartment on October 1, then have a week to get organized before having to start serious work. We learned on the 29th that delivery wouldn't happen on the first, but rather probably on the 3rd, then probably on the 4th, then definitely on the 5th. So we were stuck in a hotel in SF for 5 nights instead of one.

Kelly- our wonderful niece- with 4 children AT HOME- will never understand how anyone could complain of staying in a luxury hotel- we did not have to clean the bathroom- or set out fresh towels- or make our bed- But we were ever so anxious to get started- And living out of a suitcase was getting more and more cumbersome with each day.

So instead we spent the week taking care of details. Max had her physical for work and got her California drivers license.

I read the California Driver's Manual from start to finish twice- and some 3 times. I know the California Driving rules (I missed the question about what happens if you are driving and are intoxicated and get pulled over- Marianne missed that one in Florida as well- I just guess neither of us read that part very carefully!) But I do know that the driver's here are not as familiar with the laws as I am. Such as- the book clearly states that one SHOULD NOT honk unless it is necessary to prevent an accident. Well they've been honking at me all week- And only once was I even close to an accident- I did appreciate the honk that kept me from turning the wrong way down a one way.

WE did some shopping for the apartment that we hadn't expected. For instance, there is a rule here in the apartment that we have to have 80% of the flooring covered by carpets so the noise of walking around won't bother neighbors below.

And we managed to fit all three area rugs into the Honda- And drive across the Bay bridge from Oakland. The carpet rule is just one of the HOUSE RULES- we have a copy- And have to sign and give back. There are other things as well- like being quiet after 9pm and before 9am- And not putting trash down the chute after 9pm- and not plugging the trash chute- I did that once- But Don was able to get it unstuck! But I appreciate the quiet- The only place I can hear a neighbor is through the bathroom wall- Our lovely neighbors- one of those gorgeous, tall, healthy- drives the BMW- warned us to watch the bathroom noise- or the whole house would hear.

We got the telephone, cable TV and telephone done. We bought stuff for the home office that I'll need. WE found a Bed Bath and Beyond and bought lots of the little things we didn't bring because Amber will need them in our house in Cincinnati. In short we spent a lot of money that we hadn't really expected.

You would not believe how BIG this Bed, Bath and Beyond is- I've never seen one so large- even has an escalator just for the shopping carts- you can see mine piled high! If you need it- they have it- And we bought it! It is amazing how much "stuff" you need for a one bedroom apartment! And this Bed, Bath and Beyond is not far from us- no long drive to Oakland!

It turns out that the reason the furniture delivery was so late was that the truck that was hauling our furniture broke down somewhere in the middle of Wyoming and it took a while to get the part to repair it. They finally arrived Friday morning around 10:00 and started getting our stuff hauled up the two floors to our apartment. Everything made it undamaged. Unfortunately, our brand new sleeper couch was about 4 inches too big to fit through our door.

We briefly considered hiring someone to hoist it up and through a window, but since this apartment is like most in SF and set up in a row house fashion, there was no way to get it to the back of the apartment where we might have been able to hoist it in. So we are going to have to sell it and get whatever we can for it. Right now it's sitting in the entry way of our apartment building waiting for someone to buy it.

Other than the money- but what the heck- what is another $1000- it worked out best that the couch didn't fit- I was actually going to put it in front of the window with the wonderful view- Now it wouldn't have obstructed the view- but when you sat on it you would be facing a wall. But now there are two overstuffed chairs in front of this window looking out over this beautiful city- A pretty sight at day or night.

We spent most of Friday afternoon unpacking and putting away.

That was followed by breaking down all the boxes and collecting all of the packing paper that was used. That resulted in about 6 very large wardrobe boxes filled with either cardboard or paper. So we took it down the elevator to the basement and sat it beside the recycling bin. It wasn't long before the V.P. of the apartment board knocked on our door telling us that the recycling truck only takes what is in the bin and we would have to find something else to do with all of those boxes of paper, each of which was significantly larger than the recycling bin. So we are going to have to find some way to get it hauled to a recycling center. Apparently, California is very big on recycling, just not very interested in making it easy.

And we ate out. I've been looking about- And I think there are enough restaurants here that we could eat out every night this year- And never go back to the same place. I even found a Dino's Pizza- not a Gabby's- but I'm going to have the San Francisco Dino deliver us a pizza soon! But we started the grand adventure of eating!

There are the diner's:

Though it is true that the 60's HAPPENED in San Fran- the Diner's are straight from the 50's- complete with the juke box- and the music- and food. It reminded me of our dear Diner in Cinti on Sycamore- that closed after the riots. Here riots are just part of the fabric of living- And the Diner's live on!
And there was Mediterranean, Mexican, Sushi, Chinese, Thai, oh my oh my! I just drive around looking for more places to eat! I don't think anyone cooks!

But we are here, the apartment looks great, the weather is beautiful, we have cable, high speed internet and telephone, the IKEA stuff is all put together, we both are starting out new jobs this week. We are on the cusp of what we hope will become normal for us here. It will be good to find out exactly what that means.

Monday, October 1, 2007

The IKEA Myth Don in BLUE Max in RED

Most of you have probably heard of the IKEA stores, and I'm certain some of you may have actually visited one their stores. Their reputation is to provide low cost, simple furnishings and household goods in a one stop location. That is all very true, but they don't tell you the rest of the story. We needed some simple stuff for our new apartment, like a TV stand, a small dining table and chairs, and a small desk for Max. It all sounded fairly easy to do, so off we went to Emeryville, the only IKEA in the Bay Area. Our first trip there was not too complicated since we were staying Oakland to avoid the high prices of hotels in San Francisco.

As we approached IKEA we were somewhat taken back. This place is the size of a football field and it has its own parking garage next door plus a parking lot for people who bring rental trucks to load up their purchases. We parked in the garage and walked to the entrance at one end of the building. First you are herded up an escalator to start a trip through a very convoluted maze of isles that route you through different types of furniture, i.e., bedrooms, then living rooms, then TV tables, then dining rooms, then office stuff, then several more stuffs that I don't remember. But what I do remember is that there was no way to get from point A to point Z without walking through the entire alphabet. It reminded me of driving up a mountain road with one switch back after another. To add further insult, once you thought you were through and followed a sign down some stairs to what you believed was a place to check out, you are forced back the other direction through a similar maze of kitchen stuff, rugs, linens, pillows, sit around cute things and who knows what else.

At the start it didn't look too bad.
As you actually find something you want, you have to write down a list of descriptors to help you actually get what you want at the end, because everything you have seen in the store is only for display purposes. If you have question, there are a few people on the floor to answer, but it seems that they are only allowed to provide only the most minimal answers. The several questions we asked were replied by printing out a fact sheet that we were told had the information we wanted.

It is a good job I suppose- for the clerks- they obviously are not on a commission- And just stand at computer terminals and look things up in the catalog- never venturing into the mass of shoppers (we were not alone- Oh no- there were many, many others sharing this experience with us).

The Maze

As as you are finally leaving the display area, further insult is added. You have to get a cart and go find your stuff in their designated bins (some of the descriptors you wrote down on your way through). Then you have to load the stuff up yourself and push it to the check out. Did I mention that nothing at IKEA is assembled? Anything you buy there comes disassembled in a box that will fit on this cart you must load. Since all the carts are the same small size and all of the boxes have to fit on the cart, the largest piece can't be any wider than the cart which is only about 30 inches wide. Consequently, each piece has been reduced to its lowest denominator for you to put together.

Once you pay for this stuff, you either have to haul it to your vehicle, load it yourself and take it home, or IKEA will deliver it to you for a charge. But to get it delivered, you once again have to push your cart to the delivery area, fill out a form by hand that lists all of the stuff you bought and gives the delivery information. They will actually take it from you at that point, but that is only time that an IKEA person actually handles anything you are shopping for.

Now it is probably important to mention that Don has limited experience with shopping. Other than Lowe's, the Feed Mill and Borders he does not ever- And I really mean NEVER darken the door of a store. I stopped asking him to "tag" along when I have "shopping to do- it puts him in such a state he might not recover for hours. But even for me- the accomplished shopper IKEA was a challenge- there was just not way to get from point A to point Z without going through BCDEFGHIJKLMNOPQRSTUVWXY. It was amazing- what a way to "capture" the customer. On our second trip (oh yes we did go back- in fact went back a total of 3 times- see the products are good- and the price is right- even if the shopping experience is a bust)- Anyway on the second trip I decided to go back into the store for pics- so entered the exit- Oh what a mistake- probably didn't help that I was talking to Amber on the cell- But alas I got lost- And could not find my way - rather like a maze- wandering around and around and around. I began to wonder exactly how long I might wander about looking for some escape from my maze. The only up side- by the time I did find my way to the end Don had finished the checkout as well as all the paper work for the delivery- he was just waiting (not patiently- but Don is not by nature a particularly patient person)- And we headed for the car- to await the deliveries in a couple of days.

So now I understand why they can sell stuff so cheaply. They offer no services, they don't have to answer questions so the staff doesn't have to know anything, they don't help you find your stuff, they don't help load the cart and they don't even help load your car. Consequently, to buy anything of significance there, you have to be strong enough to pick up the boxes (Max couldn't have done it alone), load the boxes into your car, van or truck, and then be able to assemble the stuff once you get it into your house. All I can guess is that the concept of this store must have come from the Scandinavian roots that the furnishing resemble. Those Nordic types are industrious, have great stamina, and must be very patient.

Me hauling a small part of our purchase

At the end of our first trip, we just left with nothing purchased and very discouraged about the whole IKEA myth. We decided if we really needed this stuff, we would find a real furniture store where the stuff is already put together, and there are people to answer question who might actually know something about the furniture. So on the way back to the hotel, we passed by a furniture liquidator, the type of place I usually don't visit, but after IKEA it seemed worth stopping. Well, the stuff we saw in there was about twice the price and not at all what we wanted. Let's just say it was a reality check that forced us back to IKEA for another try.

So back we went, but now we knew the process and the lay out of the store. We passed through all of the stuff we didn't care about and went straight to the stuff we wanted. We got forms to fill in all the appropriate numbers. We still had to work our way through the whole maze, but we weren't diverted by cute baskets or stacks of wooden pants hangers. We got the cart we needed and found the right rows and the right bins. We load the stuff onto the cart, pushed it through the checkout and onto the delivery area (had to be delivered because our Civic just won't hold any of the stuff we were buying).

Well it wasn't quite that easy- most of the items come in mutiple 2-3 boxes- so you go to the designated area and find the correct number of boxes. For one of our items there were two #1 boxes, three #3 boxes- but no #2 boxes. But the clerk- standing of course next to the computer- they just don't mingle- looked up the item- and it was going to be delivered that night. So we made the third trip the next day- from San Francisco- so we are acquainted with the Bay bridge.

Next comes the challenge of taking all of these pieces that will be delivered later this week and putting them together. I know those Scandinavians are clever folks, but the real question is can I figure out how to hold several pieces of wood together while tightening the screws that hold it together. This move has presented one challenge after another. This may be my toughest.

Need lots of room to put it together

Lots of pieces to put it together

Post script: I agree that the above was somewhat of a rant that was expressed when I was pretty well stressed from the whole process of trying to move. It was one frustration after another. I think IKEA pushed me over the edge. But to their credit, I put together a new TV stand/book shelf, a desk for Max, a dining room side table, a dining room table, six dining room chairs, and a 3 drawer file cabinet. I started right after breakfast and finished around 10:30 that night. Amazingly, everything was in the box and fit together. Of the hundreds of screw, wooden pins, nuts, bolts, and other stuff in all the boxes, they put a total of 5 extra pieces (4 screws and one other IKEA hardware piece that I don't know the name of). The stuff looks great. So as far as quality goes, it was very good. Once I did the first piece, the instructions of the rest were not too bad. So I have to say that the IKEA is true, good quality at fair prices. I guess most myths have some small grain of fact behind them.

I didn't help with the assembly much- and occasional "hold" when required. But the "stuff" looks good- And the price was right- And I think we have a retirement career for Don- He can become a personal shopper for IKEA- He knows the process!