Wednesday, June 30, 2004

okay okay okay

It is noon and I'm not working. I'm not going to work. I'm going to go out in my yard, prune a red climbing rose probably a little further back than my sweetie would like me to. Whack 'em, I say. They're roses. Portland roses. What could go wrong? (I'll get back to you....) I'll organize terra cotta pots on my old wood bench and stake the tomatoes. This one guy from Hillsboro says you gotta compete for the first tomato. Not me. I want the best tomato. So.... less water, more sun. Sweet. I'm going to water the yard, slowly, deeply, by hand, because that's the way I remember where I am, who I am, to feel my own two feet, bare and wet in close clipped green grass.

I am so displaced. Yesterday, my 17th Anniversary, was awful. I tried to do the same things with different people. It didn't work. I made dinner, and it was appreciated, but it wasn't the same. I don't think I expected it to be the same, but I thought I would feel the same. I did not. I felt as alienated as I ever have, here, and it only serves to remind me that time takes time. I am so happy. But it seems there is always one area out of kilter in my perfect life. My perfect life. And I look around at my beautiful home, my flowers.... I consider my husband, away at work, day after day while I make this home my own... make his home mine, and I am content. I miss my girlfriends, but, if memory serves, I'd about had it with my social condition. I was already gone. I moved to Portland a year before I got here, and it should come as no surprise that I am isolated. I isolate. I like it like that. I just want it all on my terms. Come here--go away. That's me.

Monday, June 28, 2004

Eulogizing Kim Kinney

My brother was a good man. I think we buried him 17 years ago today. I think this because I'm not really certain. I was, as ever back then, drunk as a dog. I remember what I wore to the wake, a torn but handmade sleeveless cotton blouse that did little to hide my tracks. The celebration was huge. He had quite a following: east coasters, a judge from the Supreme Court of Alaska. I remember this guy particularly because I wouldn't have expected him to become a judge. Jeff. In my family we grew up with a Boston Terrier named Penny who farted like no dog I've known before or since. My brother's friends would visit, and the commentary was predicatable. People who knew that dog still blame her for their flatulence. Many, many years later, Jeff sent us a Christmas card, a shiny photograph of cellophane wrapped peppermint candy. Inside was blank but for this handwritten question: Is Penny dead yet?

Anyway, I digress. My brother, of all of us five, was the best one. Everyone of us liked him best. It was hard not to, the rest of us were such shits. I often think any of the rest of could have died (and now, some have) and it would have been better. He was an architect, designed many buildings along the Sunshine Coast of Canada. He made his own rootbeer, pickles and could play Sweet Georgia Brown on the banjo. I don't think he really got it right, but who cares? The end of his life was the beginning of mine, and for that, I owe his memory my attention, at least one day out of each year.

Tomorrow is 17 years for me. 17 years without the bane of my existence, without the elixer that seemed like life to me. I used to say, "My past is like a mad dog, snapping at my heels, keeping me ever vigilant to the danger I am capable of embracing." Now, I think that's overstating it a bit, but looking back, as I often do on these days, it was a little scary. I certainly couldn't have managed it sober.

Next topic: I sold my bike to Larry and his Green Garden Cart. Once again, calling Larry a gardner may be overstating it a bit, but if you've been paying attention, I'm always overstating stuff. He mows. I put my bike, my single-gear cruiser, in the Thrifties for 125 bucks. Got 120. Paid 189 two years ago, so did well, I think. I'm buying the Aero6 deluxe by KHS. It's a little flashy for me, but the Division street bike shop, 7 corners cycle and fitness, is making me a good deal. It is olive green with buckskin-colored seat and handle bars. Kind of the color of a John Deere tractor, like the windmill out back, if you'll recall. ....Well, Larry's mother, it turns out, called me and arranged to see the bike. You never know who'll answer these things and it's always an adventure to meet new people. A farm couple (you could tell) came waddling up the sidewalk, calling out house numbers as they went. 2587! "Keep going Larry. It might be the next one." I figured it was them so flagged them over. "You interested in my bike?"

She didn't look like she could ride a rocking chair, let alone a bicycle. "Is it for you?" My husband asked her. "Oh my nO, its for the boy." Well, I looked around and couldn't see a boy. Then, the oversized fellow in overalls raised up his head from whatever it was he had been inspecting on the sidewalk and I realized this was not her husband. It was her son, this was "the boy." And this was why they needed a single-geared model. (I have to insert here that selling the only bike I could figure out how to operate to a developmentally delayed person balanced my world for a minute.) Larry does yard work in NE Portland. So, the bike is gone now, and on to the next one. This friday.

We went to April's wedding, a full-fledged stargazing blowout, complete with unity candles, lillies and a relapsed drunk in the wedding party. Memorable. I made a fresh peach pie. I can be nice.

Wednesday, June 23, 2004

more bikes, shifting gears

I think I've seen them all: Raleighs, KLS or KHS, Trek, Schwinn, you name it. I've been to all the bike shops. One bicycle purist told me the bike I am interested in is little more than efficient walking. It is an UPRIGHT bike, meaning you don't lean into the wind (or rain, as the climate dictates) to ride. You sit up like the Wicked Witch of the East. I've test driven Cruiser after Cruiser. I love the Trek Calypso men's bike. The KHS aero6 is cool too. I like men's bikes over women's. I'm not sure why, but I suppose it has somehthing to do with the fact that I always rode bicycles handed down to my by my older brothers. Girls bikes are for wussies. I'll choose one this weekend. I put my old bike in the Thrifties. Watch for it.

I've never understood gears. I've mentioned this before, I know, but necessity is the mutha.... riding up Division has made a believer out of me. Last night as we rode up to Hawthorne to return a movie, we traded bikes and I finally got it. It was just like algebra: I didn't get it for so long. I took algebra in college because I had to, and because I was still loaded as a rat during most of my classes, I wrote answers on tests like, "X+2= Apples and oranges," and "You can't multiply letters," and, "Tilt." It was the only C in my transcripts, and only then because the instructor appreciated my sense of humor and inability to abstract. But then one day, many years later.... I was visiting a class with a friend and the instructor handed out a pop quiz. I took it. Suddenly, the algebraeic tumblers fell into place and I could do it. The equations seemed like tiny little recipes only when completed, you get numbers and letters instead of a cake. I took that experience with me into the much-feared Statistics, and flew throught it with an A, although I think I took it pass/no pass.

So I rode back from Hawthorne, shifting and gliding all the way. It was so easy, in fact, that I don't think bike riding will do my ass any good at all.


It rained last night following a week of heat. For the past several years I've had the luxury of air conditioning, and have passed the time moving from one temperate zone to another: home to office to truck.... We do not have AC. Don't, as a rule, need it. It stays pretty cool around here. But it has been in the low 90's and managing the temperature of the house a challenge. Managing air. Try as I may to trap the cold stuff, corral it like a barnyard animal, it just doesn't keep. There are critical junctures throughout the day. Equinoxes. In the morning, as the outside temperature equalizes with inside, I shut the place down. Pull curtains, close off the upstairs. Then, as the whole place heats up anyway, as the temperatures become close again, I fling open the doors, turn on an upstairs fan and hope the laws of physics continue to hold sway. (heat rises) That's my life.

The hunchback got a haircut. He looks decidedly more male in his slivery pink top and mini skirt. The flamingos are still here, a fixture by now. my flowers are growing and Cooky came to stay with us. There is something about having outside guests that makes it seem less like a dream and more like home. I live here now.

Tuesday, June 22, 2004

disenchantment: What The *%$@~ Do We Care???

So much disturbs me. So many little ordinary things shift the ground beneath my feet. I want to say at the outset that I don't actually believe in magic. (magik, nowadays, among the newly annointed) I'm not in favor of any particular brand of belief; do, in fact, find belief difficult both to have and to undo, let alone outrun.

That being said, I love the idea of mystery, of not knowing, of being in the dark either literally or figuratively.

So we went to this inane movie last night (What The Bleep Do We Know?). Some people think it is wonderful, inspiring. I'd been hearing about it for some time and had some interest in seeing it. I'll admit it. Shit, I bought the book "The Celestine Prophecy" and hated it for many of the same reasons. It isn't that I'm not glad these movies are made. I am. I think there are people so misguided, so fundamentally asleep, as to make spiritual pablum a social necessity.

This is not to claim even a nodding acquaintance with quantum physics. Seriously. Those guys have figured out stuff most all of us weren't even wondering about. And good for them.

Here's the thing.... I don't care. I know it is probably the height of human arrogance to think we've figured out enough. I think during the age of enlightenment, during the renaissance, during industrialization, there was some bitch sitting around her hand carved dining room table in her mud hut, saying, "Enough, already.Flat, round, who gives a shit?" Well.... that would have been me. I'm happily human, happily stunned to have been allowed another day upright, above ground. I just don't need to know what is going on at the molecular level to be happy.

Not only do I not know what I don't know.... I don't want to know. I don't want my world demystified, disenchanted.

Beyond that, I think they get it WRONG when they take perfectly good information about quantum theory, molecular structure, perfectly good brain chemistry and neurological data and force it into a new age mold with romance, addiction and Marlee Maitlin to spin out a docu-drama so poorly constructed as to rival "Bird on a Wire." What was the point? WE ARE ALL ONE.

Are not are not are not.

You know what was cool, though? It was shot in the Bagdhad Theater, just around the corner, and that's where we watched it. THat, at least, was surprisingly eerie. The rest? Review.

Sunday, June 20, 2004


Went on a bike run yesterday....wind in my hair and all that. Riding down Powell first thing in the morning is a wake-up I will try to describe. I consider biker poetry, and am sure there is some, but leather and words intertwined somehow seems antithetic. Wind blowing through my head is bliss. Takes all those fluttering words-- the ones who play at the windows of my mind, small flightless birds these days, tap tap tapping to be let out (or in) -- and turns them into something less important. Less urgent. Less insistent. And sometimes I fear words have left me for love.

But, in the final analysis, bikers are bikers and tits are tits. It is a stable universe, momentarily. We ended up at Hooters. Hooters girls on tiny little motorcycles, Hooters girls with hula hoops, Hooters girls with push up bras, the foam kind that let anyone look like they have great tits. Great tits used to be an advantage, but no more. With foam bras and implants, I am one of many. These little chicks had their tiny little breasts squeezed so high and tight (as though they weren't high enough... what do we want? Christ.) as to cut off circulation to their head and neck. And I won't walk headfirst into the assumption that nothing is going on above the neck to air out. I'm sure they're laughing all the way to the bank.

The ride was beautiful. Miles of winding road, fresh-cut hay, new construction, traffic, all the things that make a country road refreshing. We remained apart from the pack with brief exceptions at gathering places. It was a poker run. We picked up a card at each of 5 locations to make a poker hand, then followed complex directions in large print to the next site. My first card was an ace, but from then on it was downhill. Husband got two aces. We didn't stay long enough to see who won. We were just along for the ride, literally, and, of course, the hooters.

Thursday, June 17, 2004

eastside sunrise

The room is bright, morning light slanting across rows of bent metal folding chairs. Little padding. Those who show up early sit with their backs to the window. Late sleepers get the other side, and those who have been there before bring sunglasses. The coffee isn't bad, really. It is too early for me to listen, but I sit, an act of obedience by now. Familiar words drift in and out of my streaming thoughts. "...made a list of all the people we had harmed..." I fidget, consider writing a list, dig through my purse for pen and paper, disruptive. Half and half, I write. Hooks for the bathroom door. Cheddar. Canned food for the prodigal cat. "I've always been more like broken glass." A woman's voice penetrates my domestic fog. "...born without sandpaper." I consider her. An aging hooker, hair too long, still wet from an early shower, clothing too tight, too bright, sexier than she is. Sharp edges, I think. Yes. A drunk life. There's her sandpaper -- and mine. We sit in the chairs, day after day, an hour at a time. Medicine for what ails us. Sandpaper for our rough edges.

Tuesday, June 15, 2004


It's my big day. One of two. This is not the one I celebrate with any vigor. My sweetie gave me a huge bottle of my favorite perfume, and I am happy. Perfume, flowers, jewels. The three gift categories that work for me. As I got in my truck and looked into the sun, I saw the silhouette of a squirrel as it dashed across the phone lines above me. Today I will try to find stone supports for my bench top. It is a huge slab of basalt complete with fossils and butt imprints. I wish I could find matching basalt crystals, the kind that you see along the Columbia Gorge east of here. I could go there, I suppose. Since I live here and all.

Monday, June 14, 2004

monday monday

We buried Richard yesterday. Sent him down the river. John Barleycorn takes another one. At all of the funerals, it is often a gathering to see who's left and to guess at who's next. Very few Applegate valley men remain. They played too long at a game we all lost. It is curious to me that at every gathering, every memorial, every wake, someone says, "We've got to stop meeting like this." But it is at this time of life, the middle, that these are the only reasons we meet. We don't get together for coffee, we don't make time for old acquaintances. We see each other at these moments, these transitions, where we stand around and dump some old drunk's ashes in the river, against the law, against the weeping old mother's wishes, and somebody always comments on the speed at which the ashes move through the water on the journey away from us.

I don't know why I go. I guess it is to see the ghosts, the ones who are still standing, who have stayed the course, kept the party going long after it ended. I need to see them, to remind myself of where I would be. There was one particular ghost there -- a mean one, a bad memory -- and he finally worked up the nerve to approach me after several beers. "I thought you'd be a hag by now," he said. I didn't answer. "Instead, you look 30 years younger than the rest of us." I think what is difficult about being someone's victim is seeing them again after so long. I smiled and talked to him as though he'd never raped me at all.

I remember several years ago when I saw another ghost, a nicer one, Crazy Billy at McKee Bridge one morning. It was early spring, the sun breaking over the ridge behind me, the air chilled with the nearness of passing winter. Billy crawled out from under a blue plastic sleeping bag in the back of an open pickup bed. "Where's the party?" he asked me. "Party's over, Billy. I been clean a couple of years now." He said, "yeah, me too, pretty much." I'd heard he was dead -- OD'd in LA. It wasn't quite true. Nearly.

So, that was a quick trip back to the southlands.

On Saturday, we took a fishing boat thirty miles out into the ocean out of Newport. We each caught a halibut. If you've never done that, its kind of fun. But the thing is that they are 600 feet down, laying on the bottom of the ocean. Reeling up 600 feet of line takes awhile. I got the first one. their bellies are white and the other side is camouflage. They look like flat round hunters without guns. I remember asking my brother, a fisherman turned basketweaver, if he was ever afraid when he was out to sea. "You deal with that before you get on the boat. LIve or die, he said. I found that was true. For all my trepidation prior to boarding, I was never afraid. I was out there, thirty miles from shore, catching sharks on fishing poles, porpoises racing the bow of the boat as we sped for home, and I hung over the edge like the most natural thing in the world. My father was a sailor. He would have been proud.

Some ghosts:
Mark Fossen
John Who
Michael Topar
Ken Powers
Ed Gregory
Richard Bohannon
Sherman Butler
Marc Kinney

Wednesday, June 09, 2004

rain gears

Coming up with a title for this stuff is becoming a preoccupation with me. I should be working. I am now gainfully employed again, and lazy as ever. I want to write about bicycles, but there is so much more to it.... I bought a bobo bicycle a couple of years ago: an new old-style single gear cruiser that worked well on the roads of talent. And that, by the way, is an issue here. All the people I sit with in meetings have lived "on the streets." They "come from the streets." This is heavy shit. Me? I come from the roads. I lived on the roads. See? It just doesn't carry the same weight.

Anyhow.... My bike flew, usually under cover of darkness, down the roads (well, one road) of Talent, effortlessly, or relatively so. But pedalling up Division is a fucking bitch. (Did I say that in my outloud voice?) The thing is.... I've never been able to figure out the whole shifting thing about bicycles. Its a walk-and-chew-gum-at-the-same-time issue. Keep pedalling while you shift!! Don't stop pedalling or the chain will jump off the gears!!! It scares me, so when the cruiser craze hit, I happily paid way too much for a like-old bike rather than risk looking stupid (or fast) on a mid-grade street bike.

(I'm baking a chocolate cake for my sweetie. I slammed the oven door which it occurs to me is the psychological equivalent of yelling at the cake. I hope there is no long term damage.)

Anyway, now that I'm a city girl -- actually a displaced small town girl -- I need gears. I pause at intersections and fall over because I can't free-wheel, and I have to place the pedal just so for take off or I end up braking rather than accellerating. Very inconvenient. My woes have resulted in a city wide hunt for the perfect cruiser-plus a few gears. Just a few. I have to have a boulevard cruiser, though. Will I never learn? But they are so pretty. I can't stand the silvery sleek bikes. The modern rockets. I want a red raleigh cruiser, maybe. Schwinn has a beautiful cruiser. Or a trek calypso. Turquoise and cream. Goes with my hair. (Not the turquoise, of course.) So, I've narrowed it down, and will put a for sale sign on my single geared model and stick it out on Hawthorne. It's a Torker Boardwalk. Nothing fancy. It'll sell. But that's me... remember my yard sale? I recall admitting to complete ignorance about what other people want or will buy. This time will be different, I'm certain of it.

At any rate, the rain part of the title is about acceptance. I live in a rainy town. Back home I used to wait for the perfect 70 degree day. There were usually about three a year. Now, I have nothing but 70 degrees day after day, but also a little rain to keep it that way. So I wait and wait for a dry day to ride. I sensed a pattern in my behavior (inaction) and corrected it this morning. I rode to a morning meeting in the drizzle. It was cool on my face as I coasted downhill to the place. Going home? Uphill, as you might imagine. Steep and wet wet wet. I am here.

Monday, June 07, 2004

bitchy lamas and big sand

You never really know. I was delighted to see my monk/lama fall a little way from his perch. I put him there, afterall. My pedestal. Many have fallen from it over the years. I've pushed a few. But it was great to hear him tell us that he complained to another monk about how the dali lama is mis-handling world peace. He got busted doing it-- was overheard during the bitch-session at a lama convention. I love that. I love that lamas bitch at and about each other.

Well, we went clamming over the weekend and they were picked over like late season raspberries. We got enough to fry up a batch and make some chowder, but we didn't limit out, and they were small. I wasn't ashamed about it, afterall, I'm in it for the thrill of the hunt. I don't really care how many we get. I hate cleaning the slimy things anyway. And my boots leaked. My hip waders need a coating of shoogoo. Magic. You'd have to see me in my hip waders and my heidi hat to get the full effect. Out there among the Columbia sportswear/Eddie Bauer crowd, smacking wet sand with a shovel and looking for the tell, the little burp of sand that gives away the clam hiding place. We are not purists, we go after them with a clam gun (we don't shoot them. I don't know why its called a gun at all) instead of the classic shovel. I am a rebel, though. If I get a little one, I put him back in his hole if I haven't squished him in the process. But I do follow the sportsmen's code: if I kill it I keep it.

Speaking of tourists.... we wandered down the coast to Cannon Beach to the Sand Castle competition. It was okay. One team had won time after time, and they were professional -- many trophy flags flying above their site. But I liked the locals who did the melted witch from the wizard of oz. A broomstick clutched in a disembodied hand with a cone and partial brim of her hat nearby. Subtlety. There were dragons, of course, and a few actual castles. I wonder who won. We didn't stay.

Thursday, June 03, 2004

back to work

Oh god. I've been on vacation for two months to the day. No, wait. Two months and a week. Two months, a week, and a half. I've lost track of time, which was my goal, so am feeling fairly successful. What is it about vacation anyway? When I take time off, it is my goal to seek oblivion in safer ways, non-life-threatening ways, but above all, to lose sight of the clock. And then, returning to work, they ask the inevitable question: What did you do? "Nothing. I did nothing on purpose. I had nothing planned. I planned to do nothing and did it." It isn't true, of course. During my time off, I've gotten married, changed my name, killed all manner of aquatic life and eaten them whole, painted the inside of a big house, packed, moved, unpacked, quit my job, and now, am starting a new one. I saw Van Helsing, the single worst movie to date. I've met the dali lama of Newberg, and you thought it was a Quaker town. My new job doesn't seem like a real job. It's marketing. Not the calling-people-at-dinner-time kind of marketing. Not reading from a script, paid by the word depending on how long I can keep 'em on the line. No. This is face to face telling. It goes against my grain, but I've done worse things for less money. I've done worse things for free. Shit, I've PAID to do worse. YOu get the drift.

I painted the living room a color my beloved calls "coffee with cream." He indulges me with his observations. He could give a shit less what color it is. He concerns himself with things I never think about, such as: will the paint stick to the wall? and Can we afford it? Tripe. Minutae. I was tearing off wallpaper and made a fabulous discovery. I am so excited about it. Beneath the antique paper (there was bad taste as far back as 1911) I uncovered an old plaster wall. I know I've complained about the lath and plaster, but this seems to be all plaster. I'm not going to paint over it. I'm going to decorate it. I can decorate anything. Ask anyone.