Toad in the Hole

November 20, 2006


It's been one of those months that suck up my social energy, and that seems to relate to my writing energy. Well, sure it's social; otherwise I could just think stuff and not have to mess with the keyboard.


So I can use all the surface tension to keep to the shallows, what the hey.

We did have a good stroll through Cold Canyon on Saturday, with Numenius, and met Pica afterwards for lunch. That photo is of waterstriders in one of the few pools of water in Cold Creek (or a tributary) this time of year. We've had a little rain, but not enough to get the creeks marching. Here and there on the path we could hear moving water, and there were pools with assorted kinds of water bugs in them: boatmen, backswimmers, 'striders.

The energy-draining stuff was different. I stressed like crazy over a reception last Thursday night, the sort of crowd we just don't mingle with normally. I mean, people who paid spent upwards of $150 to get into this, and most of the people there presumably paid, as it was a fund-raiser. The kind of thing Willie Brown shows up at. (I didn't recognize him without a hat on. Joe did, though.)

This was our first night view of the SF Conservatory of Flowers, a gorgeous big Victorian-style glass house crammed with various sorts of tropical plants. I've always loved it, and was pleased at the resto job they did when the windstorms smashed it up about a decade ago. So the event got usa new view of a great place at least.

It was a preview of an installation (uh-oh) by Stanlee Gatti, who is known mostly for designing foo-foo parties. Maybe interiors too, I don't know. Not my beat. Skinny expensive people in skinny expensive clothing, good skin and haircuts, namedropping. Fashion, including some gorgeous textiles. There was one young woman -- cheekbones, short blond trendy hair, very skinny, very pregnant; she was wearing some strapless kneelength knit tube-top-and-skirt or tube-dress thing, monochrome bright red. All I could think of was a maraschino cherry on a toothpick in a Shirley Temple.

We know the new director of the place a bit from one introductory meeting maybe a month ago with him and his wife, who's a birder.He'd graciously invited us as his guests. Aside from them, we knew our Chron editor and her husband, who were there briefly, and Claire, who works with the plants at the Conservatory and is an auld acquaintance of mine from Merritt. Plus a couple of people on the publicity staff, so we got the glad hand when we arrived and that was relaxing. We sat down first for a good half hour with Claire on a bench in the cool-rainforest room and chatted and drank champagne while waiters kept plying us with very nice food: crab cocktail, fresh raw oysters, rack-of-lamb slices, sausage on polenta, pumpkin risotto, teeny hamburgers on teeny buns, little cones of very good french fries, asparagus tarts, you get the idea. Aside from the wine at the door, there were a couple of bars in other rooms.

We didn't get to see any of the night-shift geckoes and anoles -- too many humans -- but the place and plants look and even feel different at night. Outside, when we left, the weather was amusingly matched to the interiors: it wasn't cold, and a nice tule fog had settled in. The only time those orange sodium-vapor urban lights look good is when a fog turns them and their surrounding space a mellow prosperous peachy color. Made the walk to the parking valets and the drive home as romantic as the glasshouse interiors, maintaining that tropical intimacy with airborne water.

Posted at November 20, 2006 04:21 PM


Were you stressing because you were responsible for some aspect of the reception?

Posted by: emma goldman at November 20, 2006 05:41 PM

I love this post. I also like how the photostream from which the illustration was pulled mirrors the way you mention fabrics, textiles. The photo of the waterstriders, in fact -- I thought it was upholstery and had to blow it up to really see it. Very cool.

I've never been to this place. If I ever make it back to that coast, I'm going to have to.

If I weren't high on NyQuil right now, or residually high on the generic version, more like, I might have choked on your maraschino cherry on a toothpick remark. Funny. So what if you aren't a fashionista? There is a difference between fashionable and beautiful, and I think you know what it is.

Posted by: Sara at November 20, 2006 08:56 PM

Emma, no, I wasn't responsible; it's just that public appearances, even when I'm not ostensibly on display, give me the heebie-jeebies. I'm not agoraphobic, just a tad unsociable in some respects. And this sort of crowd... Well, once upon a time we stayed in the Hilton Hawai'ian Village hotel in Waikiki (something else we couldn't have afforded if we'd been paying for it) and one of the several surreal aspects of the stay was the company of a largish group of Mrs, that's Missus, America contestants. Lord, lord. Running around with those diagonal pageant sashes on -- it's a good thing Mrs. District of Columbia was tall or she'd've tripped over hers.

Me: jeans and Tshirt or Aloha shirt. I don't actually own a swimsuit, and if I did it'd be for swimming in, not wearing with 3" heels. A girl can get to feeling dowdy in an elevator full of such people. (And their husbands, who all looked generic, even more so than the byooty queens. That was odd. Even Joe noticed it, so it wasn't just me.)

Of course, it did not escape me that (according to a posted schedule) they were spending the morning in!doors! in a FOUR-HOUR makeup lesson! I shit you not, while I was off to frolic in various bot gardens in paradise.

Yeah, well. Rational is one thing, but sometimes the cringing curs of the unconscious get to yapping too loudly to be ignored.

Posted by: Ron at November 20, 2006 11:29 PM

Sara, I'm glad you liked those. I was a tad shaky for taking photos, and couldn't kneel to get some shots I wanted; my knees are really bugging me lately and the trail's rough with a lot of climbing over rocks in places. (X-ray and PT appointments made, as I can't ignore the damned things any more.) Shaky because physically stressed by same.

You know, maybe that's why I like textiles, because of how I look, meaning "see" more or less. (As opposed to how I look.) It's not as if I could sew or anything so useful.

And yes, I myself draw a big fat line between fashion and style. I also don't wear things out fast, except jeans. I notice I really hate to get rid of anything when it finally falls apart, because chances are I still like it after 10 - 15 years.

If you get out here, I have a bunch of places I'd love to show you. That canyon's right by Lake Berryessa, up Putah Creek. Eagles, ospreys, mergansers! And an incredible show of wildflowers and redbud along the way.

Posted by: Ron at November 20, 2006 11:40 PM

i haven't been to the conservatory since it re-opened. we took the kids there a few times, but that was many years back now. it is just an amazing place, must be even more wonderful now than it was then.

there is a yearly fundraiser that i help with, but it is on a much less grand scale. the part i hate is calling people to get them to pony up again. the part i like is helping do the catering. we might buy some trays of goodies, but keep the costs down by mostly putting the nice food arrangements together ourselves, with a few volunteers. it's for a do-good non-profit in the south, so those dollars count a lot. working on refilling the food keeps the meet and greet angst to a minimum, but still allows some catch-up time with old colleagues. win-win.

if stanley gatti got in the act, i don't know how we'd manage. there would be nothing left over for the cause! so, chez us it is. we obviously don't mingle with the seriously wealthy...

Posted by: kathy a at November 21, 2006 01:12 AM

I snorted at the Missus of the District of Columbia's sash (and, as long as we weren't in an elevator, I'd fart in her general direction) . . .

Yeah, I know what you mean. But give me some chi-chi appetizers and a coupla cold fermented beverages and I care a whole lot less.

Posted by: emma goldman at November 21, 2006 03:26 AM

"Skinny expensive people in skinny expensive clothing..."

We call them "the pretty people". ;)

Posted by: Rurality at November 21, 2006 01:55 PM

Okay, I'm waiting for the knee post, Ron.

We've been socked in by fog since you left; I think we chose the right day!!

Posted by: Pica at November 21, 2006 02:22 PM

happy thanksgiving, ron!

Posted by: kathy a at November 24, 2006 12:30 AM

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