Saturday, July 20, 2013

Plotting My Own Extinction

One of the backyards which abuts mine is having a party today, an exceedingly loud and incredibly annoying one. It started around 11:00 am with a boom box at a volume loud enough to rattle my windows. I went outside and yelled through the fence for the owner to turn it down but unsurprisingly, he didn't hear me. There are at least forty people in a small backyard already packed with party equipment.

The owner moved in recently. He has the largest gas barbecue grill I've ever seen plus several smaller, Weber-type ones, a smoker, a large concrete charcoal pit, giant heat lamp, picnic tables and benches, and has apparently cornered the market on beer. Since I thought I couldn't make a nuisance call to the police until 10:00 pm, I decided to calm my frazzled and offended nerves with a walk on the beach.

When I got there, the beach was closed, cyclone fencing separating it from the parking lots. Apparently it will remain closed until the end of September because of the America's Cup. Are they serious? Who closes a public beach for July, August and September? I am sensing a trend. A few very wealthy people are sailing their luxury boats in San Francisco Bay, so the beaches are off-limits to the plebeians. The logic escapes me. I wouldn't mind if they had closed it to protect an endangered species, but the super-wealthy are not threatened. Everyone else is.

While next door, we have over-privileged people growing increasingly loud as they imbibe more and more beer, without regard for the misery they are causing their neighbors. They are making the construction workers seem almost quiet by comparison, or at least sober. I think the Dodo had the right idea when it became extinct.

Friday, June 07, 2013

Springtime in San Francisco

I live in a construction zone. Last year, the building next door to mine, which had two floor-through flats with fireplaces, balconies and a lovely garden, was sold. The gentleman who had rented one of the units for 25 years was given two weeks to move. He is a cellist with the San Francisco Symphony, so it was challenging for him to find another place while meeting his performing obligations. The new owners are a pair of sisters whose parents bought them the property with a family trust. They spent six months throwing loud parties in the garden, and then in January, I saw them overseeing the loading of their belongings into a moving van. I was momentarily elated.

The mother was standing on the sidewalk with one of her daughters. I asked if they were moving out, and was told that they would be doing some construction on the house and were moving out for the duration. I asked how long they anticipated the work to last and was told it would be 9 months to a year. Without thinking, I blurted out, "You mean 9 months to a year of hammering and machinery noises?" The mother smirked and said, "That's what construction means, doesn't it?" She turned on her well-manicured feet and minced up the stairs.

The work began in February and we have been living with non-stop jackhammers, sledgehammers and all manner of heavy equipment for 10 hours every day including Saturdays and Memorial Day. Work begins (with a bang) at 7:00 AM and ends around 5:00 PM. The entire building is being gutted and extended 12 feet into the backyard on all levels. My next door neighbor came home to find her large bathroom window, an Eastern exposure that brightened her hallway as well as her bathroom, sealed with knotty pine one inch from her window ledge. It has since been cemented over so she has no window at all. What is more, she works from home for a charity that supports a school for young girls in Kenya. This arrangement is not possible with the noise and vibrations all day long, so she takes her laptop to coffee shops or the library where she can't make business phone calls. She is about to quit her job, which she loves, because she needs a quiet place to work.

My nerves are shot as well, and I'm sure everyone in the immediate vicinity is suffering. I think we have a microcosm of what is going on in the country: An extremely privileged 1% of the population trouncing the rights of everyone else. I can get past my disgust that buying a $3 million house wasn't good enough for these people -- they had to improve it. After all, they have the right to do what they want with their own property. But subjecting everyone else in the neighborhood to excessive noise, vibrations, and large trucks and other machinery blocking driveways all day long seems terribly unfair. I think the owner's response to my question should have been an apology, even if it was insincere, rather than a snooty, cavalier, "let them eat cake" attitude.

Tenants are supposedly guaranteed "the quiet enjoyment of the premises," but it's impossible to fault our landlord because he is not to blame. He could have gone to a Planning Board meeting and paid $500 to object before the licenses were issued, but that is probably too much to ask. For many of us, a home we loved has become a place to avoid as much as possible. At a time in my life when I really crave a peaceful, healing environment, this is hard to bear. They had such a nice garden, too. Some people have no souls. All the birds have left our neighborhood. Can the rest of us be far behind?

Saturday, May 04, 2013

Holy Moly

Nearly a year ago, a new mole appeared in the small of my back and even with two mirrors, I couldn't get a good look at it so I finally went to see my dermatologist. To be precise, I went to the office of my dermatologist, whom I have not actually seen in years except in passing as he spends most of his time performing expensive cosmetic procedures while those with unexciting medical issues are relegated to his Physician's Assistant. I have never had a problem with that as she was a lovely young woman who did my yearly skin cancer check and always had time to answer questions.

Unfortunately (for me) she recently married and moved to the east coast so I saw her replacement, a young, good looking man who seemed to have more important things to do. He quickly appraised my new mole, pronounced it harmless and managed to call me "honey," "dear" and "sweetheart" several times in the five minutes he spent with me. I also asked him if an itchy, bleeding rash on both arms was eczema and he said it was, and that I must not be applying body lotion very often. Guilty as charged.  He didn't offer to do my yearly checkup which was a relief because I didn't want to bare my body to him anyway.

I had noticed that the waiting room was full of elderly people as well as a couple of women probably there for Botox in their facelifts, and wondered if Wednesday was Over-60 Day. Do older women like to be called endearments by brash young men they don't know? Does it make them feel young, attractive and flirtatious again? Well, I do not. To say it rings of insincerity does not do it justice -- it clangs. It feels demeaning and condescending. I am not stuffy enough to demand that he address me as Mrs. P_, but my first name will do fine. It should be noted that if I do not introduce myself as "Honey" or "Sweetheart," I do not want to be called such things. What's next, Honey Boo Boo Second Childhood? I think the crux of my displeasure is my suspicion that I'm being lumped together with those REALLY old patients, and that if I were still young he would not call me such things because it would be sexual harassment. Do they assume that a woman past sixty is also beyond having a sexual identity? Or do they merely believe that we are all so silly and starved for attention that we welcome it in any form?

I am looking for a new dermatologist. Dr. X is impressive, but if I am not going to see him personally because my needs are medical, not cosmetic (which pays more, cash on the barrelhead,) I may as well find someone whose staff practices respect. I considered whether I might be finding fault because I'm disappointed that the PA's predecessor is gone but decided I do, indeed, have a legitimate complaint. I thought of mentioning my concerns to the doctor, but that would be awkward if I saw his assistant again. Also, I think the doctor himself has addressed me by endearments in the past, but in his case it seemed to be a sign of genuine affection. Maybe he's a better actor. And he's older. But I've always had the feeling that we liked each other, and he made a point of seeing Flip personally long after I was passed on to his former PA, so I cut him slack. Perhaps the new assistant is modeling himself after his boss and mentor, but he has not earned the right to such familiarity. Maybe I'm making mountains out of molehills, but if I'm uncomfortable and do nothing about it, I am conspiring to be treated without respect. And that is never good for anyone. We teach others how to treat us by what we will or won't tolerate, and if we are paying attention they return the favor. It's kind of like having a manual. Or a personal Bill of Rights.

I am still brooding, however.