I Saw A Racoon Today and He was Wearing Hiking Boots

This morning, it dawned on me: Hills rock. Oakland rocks. But it’s the hills that rock the most. I stopped going to the gym…45 minutes on the treadmill, then 45 minutes on the stairmaster made for a l-o-n-g do-I-gotta?-workout. Every morning there was that fragile liminal space wherein I would argue that being Rubenesque really isn’t the end of the world…(it is) and that sloth is an art form (it isn’t). So, I’d trudge down to the bus stop to hop onto the bus to go to my crowded gym each and every morning. The key phrase there is ‘trudge down to.’ Like a dimwitted child it hit me: I live in the hills of Oakland, technically Piedmont…a terrain that makes cars wheeze and bikers gasp. Bur the views! And the precipitous cliffs!

When we first moved up here, it was the hills that held the allure. I can see the Bay Bridge from my balcony…not only that, here we are smack dab in da hood, but surrounded by redwood trees and Oakland’s arboreal namesake, oak trees. Not only that, the neighborhood is full of stately old mansions dating back to the 1800’s. At one time, Piedmont was known as the City of Millionaires. In the 1920’s, Piedmont boasted the most millionaires in all of the US. They built these lovely Italianate mansions surrounded by groves of trees. All of which are built on upslopes. Each time I point out a new favorite house, my husband always mentions the sheer hell it would be to haul bags of cat litter up the slopping front terrace and then up the three flights of stairs to the front door. Yeah, but our asses would be like steel!

The first day I decided to trek the neighborhood, I donned my trusty ol’ Nikes and off I went. Shoes are the semiotic indicator of who lives in the Bay Area. When we first moved to our apartment, as I stood on the balcony watching the tiny white sailboats off in the distance, I looked down. Way down the hill and then down at my feet. I was wearing a pair of pink pumps with a cute bow over the tow. While they were sartorialy adorable, I knew I was doomed. I went through my catalogue of shoes in my head that I had just unpacked. The last place I lived was flat…and walking consisted of going to the cab, and from the cab, to my office. Come 5pm, all I needed to do was retrace my 20 or so steps (office – cab—condo) and I was finished. This meant that shoes were nothing but pointy jewelry for me. Suddenly, I realized that my python boots would render me housebound, All I had to do was walk out to get the morning paper and I would slide into the bay. Now, a native, I wear those platypus looking Keens…ugly, yes. But in them, I am like a gecko with sticky toes…I can scale any hill.

I love hills. I will never live on a flat topology again. There is something about flatness that transcends geology and permeates the spirit of a place without hills. Hills lend character. Hill dwellers incorporate the expansive views into their souls—at least they do here—it’s hard not to be progressive and live in the Oakland/Berkeley hills…compare our hilly ethos to say, the flat mundane terroir of Fresno or Bakersfield.

I have a three mile circuitous loop that weaves through canyons, skittles down winding roads and chugs back up alpine worthy hills. I take great pains to search the neighborhood via Google maps whenever I change routes…one can’t, just say, arbitrarily turn left and then turn right on a whim…if one did, they’d become lost for days. At least, I would, I’d be too embarrassed to knock on someone’s door to ask, “Excuse me, but where exactly is the main road from here? This takes less than an hour—much more efficient than my 90 minutes at the gym. And it works! The joy of buying a pair of yoga pants in XS knows no boundaries! Lately, I have been running (yeah, right), trudging a tad perceptibly faster on the inclines.

Our neighborhood must be an engineer’s nightmare…the hills roll. Within one block, there could be three steep inclines followed by a terrace of jaw dropping declines. I try to avoid the hills where you can’t see beyond the summit. Talk about a sudden fear of heights! But this is why hill walking is the best workout—it is far from boring. There is always that subtext of immanent and unforgiving danger to keep you on your toes. Since the houses are so old, the trees are even more ancient, which means that the roots are the size of underground hippos swelling beneath the sidewalk (when there is an actual sidewalk) or the road. Your mind cannot wander. Walking at a good clip down a hill then stepping off a 2 inch drop can be lethal.

Even better is all of the wildlife I get to see…Raccoons! Who knew we had raccoons in Oakland? And rabbits. You can tell I am an urbanite when you hear how excited I get at seeing non-rat rodents in the neighborhood. On Christmas morning, I convinced the DH to join me…we were the only ones out in the morning fog. It was so peaceful. Suddenly we froze as we watched a pair of wild turkeys walk across the street. Totally amazing.

This is why I love Oakland…walking back up the hill to our apartment complex, I stop and stare in awe at the Julia Morgan mansion on the corner. I turn to the left and catch the sight of a hawk soaring over the redwood tree in front of our building…I turn to the right, sniff the soft air ever so gently and catch the faint whiff of the crack house across the street. Oakland rocks.

Published in: on January 22, 2010 at 4:53 AM  Comments (2)  
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Stilettos on High

Look at these:

or these:

Decisions, decisions.  Yeah, right.

I’d choose the purple babies hands down.   At least,  I’d know they come in my size.

I have to thank Em over at her totally charming http://eminpursuit.blogspot.com/ for turning me on to to the purple clogs available at Hanna Andersson.

I totally relate to Em’s conundrum of tossing out your favorite, albeit not Manolo sexy, but totally comfy shoes, as she says “to reinvent (our) style into streamlined and hip.  I recently spent an hour looking for a now too cool Doc Martens I forgot that I tossed out during a frenzied shoe-makeover. ‘No more comfy shoes!  “I want ’em pointy and high!” I wailed.

Isn’t funny how we all start with the shoes?

If my shoes are funky, nothing is right in the universe.  I could be wearing a Dior blouse, a Ralph Lauren (Black Label, thank you) alpaca skirt, a mink-trimmed sweater, and my ubiquitous pearls and feel as if I should be squatting by the nearest subway entrance with a chipped plastic cup and a sign with “Help me get to Bloomingdales” scrawled in lipstick.

I have almost called in sick at work if I couldn’t find the right shoes to go with that day’s ensemble. Such is their importance.

At one time, my categories for shoe beauty were as narrow as the shoes on that list.  They had to be pointy things with skinny heels.  They needed to show toe cleavage….oooh yeah!   And if there was a strap, it had to be as thin as a piece of bucatini…I once had a pair of 4 inch heels that consisted of:  the heel, the very thin–I feel-every-pebble-sole and one narrow strip of gold eel skin that went across the vamp.  How something so narrow could be responsible for blisters the size of Montana was a true mystery.  Blisters is notoriously in the plural, so enamored was I with these beauties, that I would suck it up, and slip these on and teeter through the day.  These were my go to shoes for work.  I became an expert in the different types of band aids.

One of the reasons I so loved these shoes is that they were my size.  I wear a size 4.  I have midget feet.  People oooh and awwww when they see my feet—Once on a very crowded city bus, a man kept gushing with his adoration for small feet…I kept politely nodding until he asked if  he might rub mine.  After I coaxed my eyebrows down from the top of my bangs,  I quickly squeezed me and my tiny feet to the front of the bus.

In my next life, I swear, I will have size 10 feet.  Yea, I want to have to back up to ring the doorbell!   I am so jealous of you ladies who have larger feet.  I can’t imagine how it must feel to walk into a shoe store for grown ups, choose a pair, and hit the jackpot! They have your size!

I can’t fathom purchasing a pair of shoes, getting them home and not needing to figure out how to pull the ears off.  Even though children sized shoes can be cheaper I am now haunted.  Every time I see Mickey or Minnie, I feel an urge to apologize profusely.

So when I found a source for grown up shoes that fit, I’d rebel at being constrained by maryjanes and aimed for the highest heels and the scantiest form of support available.

Before we moved to the Bay Area, I lived in a town were nobody walked.  It was amazing.  GM probably underwrote the city coffers.  While the town consisted of strip malls upon strip malls and its system of public transportation nothing more than an urban myth, my feet never touched the outside ground.  I only had to teeter from car to my desk to my car to the restaurant and back home.  It was easy to live in high heels.

When we moved to the Bay Area, my life totally changed.

Our neighborhood is noted for hills…no, I mean real hills; hills that have staircases carved into the sidewalk.  The squirrels, I swear, shop at REI and wear hiking boots.   From up here, our views are breathtaking.  From our balcony, if I lean far to the left, I can see the ocean and the Bay Bridge, if I lean further over the rail, I can see the San Francisco skyline at night.  Most of the time though, if I look straight down, I can watch people pause, clutch their chest, pant like a dog for a few seconds as they come to the top of our hill.

One morning, coffee cup in hand, I stood on the balcony, thrilled to be nose to nose with the squirrel scampering from treetop to treetop, I looked down at my feet…they were all dressed up in their baby pink maribou’d 3 inch slides that I found in a Barbie Dress Up kit–hey, they fit!

In a bolt of lightening, it hit me.  I had suddenly turned into Rapunzel trapped in her tower.  I couldn’t walk down the hill to catch the bus.  I’d have to have groceries shipped in.  I’d have to wait for weekly mail drops for news from the outside world.   I ran, ok, I minced, to the closet, I had nothing that that would keep me from tumbling down the hill and sliding into the bay.

I quickly logged into Zappos!  In a matter of days I have transformed from Rapunzel to Indiana Jones, my quest was to find a pair of walking shoes that don’t scream solid and sturdy.  Solid and sturdy are merely a hop, skip and jump from bucolic.  Some walking shoes bring images of potato farms…I like potatoes. I respect potato farmers, I just don’t think combining the two make for fashionable shoes.

So far, the quest never ends…Em, I am intrigued by the clogs…thanks for the link!

Guess what?  I started cooking again.  DH is a happy camper.  Thanksgiving is still lingering like that poltergeist that won’t leave.  I froze a hunk of turkey the size of our Prius.  I figure, come February, the poltergeist will rise again transformed into some sort of casserole.  For now, we had beef and cheese tortellini vegetable soup…perfect for these cool winter nights.

This is so easy:

2 large leeks cleaned and chopped

2 large carrots cleaned and chopped

1 8oz package of cheese tortellini – I find these near the dairy aisle in my grocery store

3 8 oz cartons of beef broth

½ head of cabbage shredded

2 large russet potatoes peeled and diced
1 lb chuck roast cut into 2 inch pieces

1 tbl of thyme, and oregano

¼ cup sherry

salt & pepper to taste

  • In a large Dutch oven, pour enough olive oil to coat the bottom, heat until it shimmers.
  • Sauté the leeks until soft
  • Add the meat, continue to brown lightly
  • Add the cabbage and toss with the meat and leeks, cook until the cabbage start to wilt.
  • Pour in the broth, tomatoes, bring to light boil
  • Add the potatoes and the oregano & thyme
  • Boil until the potatoes are soft
  • At this point, you’ll need more liquid, so add about 2 cups of water, bring back up to a light boil
  • Add the tortellini and cook for 7 minutes or until the pasta is cooked.
  • Stir in the sherry and serve!


Published in: Uncategorized on December 2, 2009 at 1:45 AM  Comments (1)  
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