The Writer's Life: Film & Book Reviews, Observations, and Stories
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Posts from — February 2010

Dr. Seuss

In his books, Dr. Seuss gave sound advice for children, and for adults, as well. Seuss, of course, means “sweet” in German, and he truly was a sweet man, though his truth did have a bite to it. Seuss created many interesting characters and provided a number of famous quotes. This is one of my favorites: Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind.

Being who you are at the moment is the only way to learn anything about yourself. Conforming, living in fear, always doing what is expected of you is synonymous with dying in the midst of life, because you learn nothing, see nothing, are nothing. Have the courage to be spontaneous. Don’t let your internal censor rule your life. You are not a potential mass murderer. Trust yourself.

February 26, 2010   1 Comment

Moscow, Belgium

Very charming Belgian (Flemish) film about a woman whose husband is having a mid-life crisis who falls for a ne’er-do-well, though kindhearted, truck driver by the name of Johnny. Watching Barbara Sarafian, as the jilted, fed-up wife, breaking the bands of conformity and cutting loose is exhilarating.

February 23, 2010   Comments Off on Moscow, Belgium

Mad To Live

February 20, 2010   Comments Off on Mad To Live

Lake Merced

Lake Merced, which has a circumference of about 4.5 miles, is popular for walking, running, biking, golfing, shooting skeet, and for sculling. Dozens of young crews were out this morning, warming up or running on the grass, chatting and laughing with one another, or practicing on the water. It was a cool day and the wind off the ocean made it even colder. Of course, this didn’t stop anyone, including us, from going through their Saturday routines.

February 20, 2010   Comments Off on Lake Merced


Went to a Barcelona replica restaurant last night with a genuine Madrid waiter who knew his sherries. “I drink a bottle every night.” So, of course, we had a bottle of sherry, an amontillado called odoroso which I began to call doloroso, along with olives, almonds, cheeses, bread, calamari and black rice, patatas bravas, and meatballs that were more salmon than chorizo, ending with flan, French press coffee, and very full stomachs. I had read the reviews of the restaurant on yelp before we went. Some people loved it, and others hated it. The threesome at the table next to us were debating about where to retire, and the leading place seemed to have a beach, swimming pool, maid service, and all the amenities. It made me smile ruefully. With the kind of money we blew on our meal, we’ll be retiring in poverty.

February 20, 2010   Comments Off on Contigo

As Seen on Haight

Met an old drugged-out hippie on Haight who stopped us briefly and then smiled scornfully at us. I felt like telling him that the joke had been old forty years ago and was absurd now, but didn’t bother. He was too far gone. One enterprising employee of the Escape from New York Pizza shop, also on Haight, advertises the place on the back of his calf. After washing down the sidewalk in front and scrubbing off the dried shit, he paused long enough for me to get this picture as he returned inside with his bucket and brush. First class work.

February 19, 2010   Comments Off on As Seen on Haight

Fort Funston

In most public beaches and parks, dogs are supposed to be leashed in San Francisco, but hardly anyone bothers. A popular spot for dog walkers, especially those who do it for a living, are the sandy expanses of Fort Funston which look across the sea toward Marin on the far side. Funston is one of a series of forts that were used to protect San Francisco from invasion, but, like the others, was long ago converted to public parks. Though trammeled by thousands of people each day, the beach below the fort is a fun place to take your dog to gambol at the edge of the water. It is also a dramatically beautiful if you can ignore the squalor.

February 19, 2010   Comments Off on Fort Funston

Cataract Canyon

Marin gets its water supply from a number of reservoirs, one of which is Alpine Lake several miles beyond Fairfax. Just past the dam (on the highway that connections Fairfax with Bolinas) is a trail that goes up through Cataract Canyon to Laurel Dell. Basically, it’s a steep climb for a couple of miles along a stream and series of very beautiful waterfalls that empty into the lake. It was cool and misty today, the trail a bit wet, and the waterfalls were flowing abundantly. The climb gets one’s blood moving rather rapidly but the hike is pretty and very popular.

February 18, 2010   Comments Off on Cataract Canyon

Let the Great World Spin

This is a novel I really wanted to like. It had been recommended by my most unfailing “recommender” of books. It had won a National Book Award. The reviewers that mattered raved about it. How could it miss?

Well, sadly to say, it does.

My reasons for not liking the book may be pedestrian and show how little taste I actually possess, but, although the writing is interesting and the story is good, it too obviously is a novel written to be a best-seller. There is nothing quirky about it. No real flights of fancy. No odd digressions. Nothing too obviously writerly. It’s a literary version of a Dan Brown novel. Aimed at a particular audience. Written to be sold. Carefully marketed for mass exposure.

I don’t say this out of envy, but true disappointment. Colum McCann is so talented. He could be another Henry James if he had the courage to push himself to the limit.

February 17, 2010   Comments Off on Let the Great World Spin


Saw this U R GOD license plate on Cortland near the Liberty Cafe and had to get a photo. I asked the guy who pulled up behind it in his boxy Honda Element to pose beside it, but he immediately pointed to a guy feeding the meter (whom I had somehow missed) and asked, “Why not get the owner to pose?” Luckily, the owner’s significant other also appeared, so I got a photo of both of them. Very charming couple.

Afterward, the guy whom I had talked with originally showed up and asked whether I had gotten a photo. I said I had.

“Weird license plate,” he said.

“You’re not a mystic? You don’t know what it means?”

“No,” he said scornfully.

Rubbing salt in his wound, I said, “I instantly knew what it meant.”

He shrugged, and then said he was off to get a car wash.

It was a humorous encounter. Only on one coast or the other would people be so open and generous with their time.

February 17, 2010   Comments Off on U R GOD