Tuesday, December 25, 2007

christmas present

Christmas in the present.

The gifts: A copper teapot, a pocket knife, a treadmill and a sock monkey to add to the clan. He's beautiful. Haley found him at an antique shop. He is handmade of real socks, not the acrylic type you see mass produced these days, and has a crooked handstitched smile.

Being present at Christmas.

All of these things.

Together we cleaned the house. I got everyone phoney fur throws so Nicole and I can stop battling over the zebra stripe. Sid even got one. He doesn't know what to think. It is on his bed, and it is soft, so he likes it, but it doesn't smell like him so he is suspicious of it. We are awaiting the arrival of the mother in law.

She is come and gone. Brunch of eggs and veggies, coffee cake for the normal people, watching Stardust and talking to all of the families on the phone. So many others, now. So many. My family grows and grows and at times like this, I feel like they know me.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

drive by christmas

It was a good trip, the Drive By Christmas. I gave my son his scrapbook and he was properly surprised and pleased to have it. I think he even teared up a little bit. We drove house to house, leaving tiny gifts of homemade blackberry jam wrapped in red cotton dishtowels; red metal stars and red rubber spatulas that I found at Winco and love to cook with.

It was good to see everyone, and it is good to be home.

I like being a passenger, in so many ways, but on these trips south, then north again, I am able to reminisce as we pass places for the many-th time, places so embedded in memory that they seem at times part of a movie set. As I age, and as places age and change, I am moved at the impermanence of things: of the many tractors along the road, of Mexia's -- a roadside cafe or tavern or inn, one that captured my imagination every time I passed it on the freeway headed north. It was a tall white clapboard house with a vertical sign that you could just see through the trees. A poorly marked exit leads to it, but I have never taken that exit. I was always afraid to. Mexia's, in my imagination, was a satin-lined brothel, a roadside oasis, brownskinned women more beautiful than I've ever been, with ivory hair picks holding back flowing locks of black hair. As I passed what is left of Mexia's, I wondered at my memories, of my fear of beauty and its unwieldy power and my unwillingness to allow reality to alter memory.

Driving through the Applegate, seeing the barns that finally finally finally came down as though somehow they would not, that somehow they would remain, that my memories would be enough to hold the sagging timbers intact until I no longer needed to see them as they had always been, always and never falling for these long fifty years now, as though the landscape existed only for my entertainment. And we passed Roy Winningham's green house, built for him by his brother Dave who is in his 90's now, and Roy is gone I'm almost certain, the retarded younger brother, who lived in his own house on the edge of the meadow and helped tend the cattle across from McKee Bridge. I remember those old men. Dave, who talked slowly and could play horseshoes like nobody else. He was a patient man, as ranchers can be, men who live by the movement of seasons and light, who are not pushed by artificial time or held back by manufactured misery. Not modern.

But I always thought Roy's house would be there, and I always thought there would be people at McKee Bridge who remembered the stories Dave told. And they are mostly gone. As I packed away my son's scrapbook, and tucked the genealogy of these people, the Applegate pioneers, my son's people, into the back cover, I was glad I had made some record of a time gone by: loggers and ranchers, men who needed alot of room to live.

As I grow old behind them, it is terrifying to think that the time is passing, that I have lived in log cabins and hauled water from a creek and know how to use kerosene and clean a lamp globe without burning myself or breaking it. So much is behind me, and the terror, I suspect, is that there is less in front. I am in awe of my life, and the people and the history who have touched it. There is nothing to regret.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

jane is gone

Watching her leave was hard. She stood in my office, shaking her fist in my face, cursing me with the words, "You, you have no love in you." And I don't know how far off she is. At that point, she was close.

Like so many of us didn't, Jane got caught being crazy. And once that happens, it is all doom from there on in. You become protected, and being protected ain't nearly as fun as living your own crazy little house, knee-deep in hoarded margarine containers and tin cans, setting up shop outside your own front door selling potholders and paperbacks for a dime.

Over the years, Jane had collected a whole bunch of dimes. Many many thousands of dollars worth. And now, now what good does all that frugality get her? Protection, that's what. She shook her shrivelled fist and hyperventilated, "You're taking my life from me. I want my life. Not YOUR life. You life is worth nothing!" her thin voice crackling across my desk like old lightning.

I hate social workers.

Sunday, December 09, 2007


Every day I run out of time, and writing is lingering at the back of the pack of wolves that nip at my heels this time of year. So much to do. So much to do. I have listed the demands on my time, work and Christmas among them, and will not bore you with them again. Writing comes and goes and will come again.

At present, I am composing a letter to go with the scrapbook for my son. It must be carefully articulated as he does not suffer emotion easily or for long, and it was an emotional stroll down the dark alleys of this past life. I want to issue a blanket apology, something akin to David Crosby's "Sorry I drank thanks for the liver" statement, and let it go at that, but I won't. He will always know he was born to a writer, dammit.

My days have been full of cardmaking and harpplaying and housecleaning and treegetting and lightstringing and foodeating and moviewatching. I am lazing through the winter without apology. We head for the southlands friday for our Driveby Christmas, flinging presents into the yards of our families and on the road and home again.

For the politicos: I am waiting to see if Oprah can get Obama elected. Are we so asleep that he seems real? To me they are all cartoons so far. I don't know what will happen. Of course I don't. How could I?

Sunday, November 25, 2007


I had dinner with my neice last night. We drove out the their farm of filberts and marion berries along the Willamette River. Two neices and their mother, and their families. To describe my family as fractured is accurate, and these girls were raised on the far side of one of the deepest breaks. A crevasse.

At some point, when her daughters (one my neice by blood) were about two and five, she took them away from us and never came back. The girls are now 40 and 43, and to be face to face with her is like looking in a rearview mirror. I see myself, my brother, my grandmother, perfected by the union of my brother and a beautiful but crazy girl some forty years ago.

They came to my mother's funeral some seven years ago, and even then, it was stunning to see her. She has become a good woman. She knows some of the tragedy of her young life, but wonders at her lifelong fear of poverty and places that are not clean, and I will not be the one to describe her childhood to her. She told me she used to make up stories about her family because she didn't have one.

I cried. I don't know what to tell her.

I'm not sure why we didn't see her again. I'm not sure why we didn't keep in touch with them. To protect her? But when she said, "There probably aren't any pictures, are there?" I had to laugh. Oh yes. We have pictures. Pictures we have. So today, I dug out pictures of her grandmother, and her grandfather, and her greats and great greats, and her father as a baby and her aunts and uncles and I will write her a family tree and make her a scrapbook, because I know how and because, fracture or no, we are family.

Friday, November 16, 2007


I finished the scrapbook. The fucking scrapbook, as it has come to be known. And here is a record of the process: (apologies to Nina for not posting scanned pictures. Turns out the scanner is so old it won't work.)

First of all, I had to sort through mountains of old snapshots, selecting those that wouldcouldmight have meaning for my son. He is not nearly as sentimental as I am, and I am not. So, I judge and I wonder and I choose this one and that one. There are my favorites, and all of the shit (did I say shit?) from his father. They are actually fairly nice photos, better than any I take, and as important for this document as mine are (hate to admit it, but it is true).

Then, I rounded up all of the undeveloped film canisters, 23 in all, and took them to Walgreens. Most were about 20 years old. Like I've said all along: I'm no historian. And honestly, I am such a shitty photographer that the ones that did survive move after move after move are unredeemably bad. Most were blank, whole rolls of purple, one roll of people I either never knew or have forgotten entirely. The latter is as likely as the former. It was somebody's wedding. Not mine. There is one picture of my wedding. One. So, of 23 rolls, I probably got 10 useable photographs. It was a relief to have them developed, though. Done is done. But there was one great, if purple, shot of my son and Spencer, the greatest dog in the world.

Having completed the monumental undertaking, my initial disgruntlement is not so much with my absence (I hate to have my picture taken) but with his father's presence. I may have referred to this in the former post and this is probably not the last time you'll hear about it.

So, we have picture after picture of Daddy with the Baby Boy as though he were the most thoughtful and present parent in the universe. If you look closely, however, you'll see the book he is reading to the adorable baby is Easy Rider magazine, and that the only thing under the Christmas tree for Baby's First Christmas is motor oil, and that baby's first birthday cake is really just a chocolate chip cookie with a candle on top.

I muddled through these resentments once upon a time. They may need just the slightest bit of review.

So, on I went, slogging through page after page of a not particularly idyllic childhood. If it were left to me to choose the chapters, they would be titled:

Jacksonville, before the escape
The Wonder years
On the run in Red Bluff
Post trauma in Bolder City
Coosbay, after the escape
Central point, the heroin years

As a writer, I had visualized this project as one requiring a fair amount of writing. I figured I'd write a brief commentary about each picture, talking about where and when and who, but I found myself speechless and unknowing. I couldn't get the school pictures in order if my life depended on it. I wrote things like "kindergarten or first grade?" How lame is that? What mother doesn't know that? I don't even really know if he went to Kindergarten, or if there was one. So, my comments are brief and tentative. It is a bit embarrassing, really. I have pictures from my side of the family, way back, and papa's, way back. There is an Ojibwa medicine woman named Naganook on that side. Mine? Texans and Coastal folk. Oregonians 5 generations back from him. But even that stuff I am unclear about. I know some faces that appear to age from frame to frame, from birth to death, all in celluloid permanence. And what difference does it make really? What if I just made it all up? Who would know, or care?

Still, it is a great scrapbook. Only I know what really happened. Then again, I have a revisionist memory. Ask anyone.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007


In the midst of Nanowrimo, I am working that scrapbook for my son. It is an emotional work, and difficult when I find so many years when there were no pictures taken at all. No record of his life from about 4 to 9, which was the bottom of my life. But there are also wonderful times recorded, the background apparent only to me. Like the one where we are sitting on the docks at Charleston, crabbing, my arm around my son protectively, the half-gallon of Sunnybrook just beyond the frame. I wish the pictures were digital.

Sunday, October 28, 2007


I just came from a party and it isn't that I didn't know anyone -- I did. Its just that I didn't know anyone. Not really. Not in the way I like to know and be known. This is not even nearly the first time since moving that I have felt the absence of my friends so acutely, and I'm sure it won't be the last, but damn. it gets lonely up here without them.

A few weeks ago we were in Southern Oregon, and I realize I haven't even written anything about it, probably because it was such a profound experience. We went down for the yard sales, like we do each year, and all of my friends met us at the Mustard Seed Cafe, still the same after 40 years. My friends and the cafe. And we sat around, my husband and I, his father and his father's wife, kids and dogs and all, and Lorretta, Cookie, Tracy and Shona. Fast smart women who think on their feet and can keep up. Through my life, these women have been my friends. Before and after. Always.

And I know I don't make friends, my friends make me.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

morning in gresham

I started a breakfast gathering for other Alzheimer's professionals and I show up extra early to get the room and hang out for an hour before they all show up. Numbers have dwindled, and the spark will likely sputter out after this meeting, but I am here and writing. Alzheimer's professionals. Sure we are. I watch the news, and see people die in all manner of catastrophe, and know there are worse things, and we all die of something.

This morning I awoke with a bladder infection. So cranberry juice for breakfast it is. And lunch. At the restaurant, I'm guessing the juice is about .001% actual cranberry.

But I digress. Letting the harp idea go had a surprisingly invigorating effect. I feel better about practicing my dusty strings (a brand name, for those of you who would accuse me of slack) I feel able to finish the holiday projects in front of me, beat nanowrimo to the finish line and remodel the upstairs.

Let's talk about the upstairs for a minute. You've seen the stairs.... if not, do some quick review in the posts about the garret. It is a neckbreaker, and probably the first thing that needs to be redone. I have too many clothes. I'll admit it right here. I'd take over the entire house if my husband hadn't gotten there before me. He has the downstairs for his guitars and all manner of manly (and to be fair, lots of mine) storage. He has the garage to himself. He lets be park my scooter in there. But my clothing. It is getting out of hand. When I was considering the $5500.00 harp purchase, one way I was considering paying for it was to stop shopping for a year. That might come close. I know it isn't much by some estimates, but for me, it isn't so much about the cost as the storage. I just don't have room. And if you know me, you know I wear a black turtleneck sweater and jeans. That's about it. some carhartt overalls if I'm cold. And my professional clothes in all possible sizes. I probably have three wardrobes for each season. I could outfit a small country. Maybe the Malibu refugees would like to have some nice linen pieces.

So, given the lack of storage in the bedroom and Nicole still occupying the only other room on the main floor, I have to use all three floors to store my stuff. I can't find anything, don't know what I own, and just keep buying more.

I will stop. What I really do need is a walk in closet. I'm making a good case here for a serious remodel. My garret would be a nice walk in. That would work for me.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007


I'm not getting the new harp. I am a baby harpist and have so much to learn on my little 26 string, like, if I practice every day I will improve. It was too much to think about, too great a committment, and I couldn't explain to the guy that if I spent over five thousand dollars on a harp, I would never play it.

I know myself. I am ridiculous.

So, on with the 26, and the song "Twilight and Mist" from Legends of the Fall. I can play that. And what more could I ask? It is why I got the harp in the first place.

Don't be disappointed. I'm not. I'm relieved. I didn't like the mother of pearl inlay. I didn't want to say so, because it is worth alot, but mother of pearl is made in japan jewelery box decoration in my mind. I want a plain, dark brown harp. Plain. Like me.

Sunday, October 21, 2007


I am making a scrapbook for my son. NO it isn't a fluffy little thing with stick-on hearts and flowers. It is sturdy and will need to be to keep the wild dogs at bay. It is chock full of memories, bursting at the seams, layers of yellow tape on some of the pictures I can't quite bear to part with.

Thank god for Kinko's.

I peer down these alleyways, hoping the landmines are fewer and farther apart, praying I won't step in the same holes, but remorse is strong and photographs DO lie, contrary to popular opinion. The happy Christmas mornings of nearly thirty years ago are beautiful seen through my son's wide almond eyes, but it was not a safe place, his childhood, and there are some pictures, him standing with a group of other children gathered around Santa, and his smile is tentative, uncertain, as though he is only playing at being a child, knowing there were more important things to attend to, and where is his mother and is his father still alive?

And the pictures, always of the father holding the son, proof of love, proof of presence, and he was not was not was not. And all my years in therapy melt away and I am an angry young mother whose eight year old son is still sitting on the porch on his sleeping bag long after dark waiting for a father who will not arrive.

And I prayed it. Not for my satisfaction but for his safety. Please God don't let him show up.

So it gets heavy in my heart and it will be good to release these pictures to his son, and he can separate truth from fantasy. And he can have his fantasies. His father is dead. I can offer him that much.

It is Sunday night, my husband playing his acoustic guitar, my fingers clicking a percussion to these blues.

Thursday, October 18, 2007


The last harp deal fell through, but in a good way. The nice lady in purple mumu and pantaloons whose husband had carved the harp for her twenty years ago, she went ahead and sold it to someone else who was in love with it. I wasn't. I liked it. It was really pretty, and really cheap, but imperfect, and the tone was not what I have been looking for. My teacher, now she has the harp I want. And the thing about opening the door to new harps, is that once opened, the universe always comes up with something. And if you're me, it is usually exactly what I want, and then I have to thank the universe and make a decision.

So, as I am looking at the husband-made harp, I look at the Nova site, and dream about the harp I really want, and decide to email the guy who makes them. Turns out he's in Coquille. Also turns out he's not making harps anymore. And on his site, it says something like, if you really want a harp, convince me to make you one. So, always up for a challenge, I tell him exactly what I want, and tell him I am from Coosbay, or at least my parents were, and that I know the difference between a river and a slough. So I figure this has to get his attention, being a coastal sort. So he emails me back, and says no, but he knows someone who is going to sell a Nova because she has arthritis and it is like new. So, I tell him, okay. I want it. Now this one, this one is really nice. It is a Cydarha (Not Siddhartha) Nova or something like that, a loose-strung 36 string harp that has a sound like you would not believe. Deep and resonant, and it gives me the lower octave I miss so much with my 26. But it is a butt-load of money, and I want it. And I believe I should, by rights, have a loose-strung harp.

So now, here I am, once again stuck in the middle of exactly what I asked for. I hope I buy it.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

hilde and the new stove

We are finally getting a new stove. I love craigslist. We found a thousand dollar stove for 300 bucks. I say "finally" as though I've been waiting to get a stove that meets my high standards for home appliances. Nope. I've never had a good stove. I've always had stoves (ranges) that I didn't mind the oozing blackberry goo piling up in the bottom, smoking and starting on fire. I always had stoves that had some burners that worked and some that didn't, that sat at odd angles; ovens with tempermental temperatures. Hot in the front and hotter in the rear. Slanted, although it was often the floor that was off by an inch or so in either direction. So, getting a new stove is really a first for me.

So K calls to check it out.
"Do all the burners work?" he asks.
She assures him they do.
"And the oven?"
I'm baking bread in it now," she says.
I roll my eyes.
He makes arrangements to view the thing, and off we go.
"There is a picket fence," she says.

Of course there is.

So we get to the picket fence house with steam in the windows from the baking bread. I'm singing under my breath, "Our house is a very very very fine house."
And she answers the door.
Beautiful girl. Two beautiful children. Blonde boys. Brown baked bread on the countertop. "Smells good," I say.
"Yes," she says, and corrects one of the children in German. "We have a grinder."
I turn. Look at the grinder, the rows of glass jars full of grain.
"You grind your own grain?"

And it isn't that I am jealous, I couldn't be. I'm not even in the same domestic ballpark. She, it turns out, moved here from Germany yesterday, boxes everywhere, and she is grinding her own grain making her own fucking bread, homeschooling the next arian brotherhood with not a hair out of place.

I was never like that. Had I moved from Germany yesterday, I would still be in bed, eating bon bons that I'd had delivered, waiting for the cable to be hooked up.
The only leveling moment was when one of the boys toddled into the kitchen, his hand blue and his mouth dripping the same colored drool. "Oh, my" says Hilde, "Have you any children?"
I really wanted to say, "Yes, but I broke mine." But I just said yes, I raised one.
Then the wanted to know if ink was toxic. And this is where the gray area of life always eludes me. Scale of one to ten? Not too bad. Somewhere between white sugar and rat poison. "Ah, not really," I say. "He'll be fine."

And I believed it as I said it, but toxic, to a woman who grinds her own grain and bakes her own bread, is such a far cry from the toxicity of my life. Of my child's childhood.

Toxic indeed.

So, I guaranteed Toffler's safety, and made the deal on the stove. It will be two weeks until she gets her new one, but if we want it now, they'll be fine. They will chew raw grain for two weeks. But we didn't want to take Hilde's stove away from her and her children, so I'll be burning things on my old stove for another couple of weeks.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

root canal

My mouth hurts.

Turns out the molar was a wisdom tooth that had drifted. Drifted. Drifting teeth. I didn't know they could, but leave it to mine to be the ones to slip and slide. But apparently the roots were nearly horizontal, so the drilling just went on and on, and the numbing wasn't enough.

But enough about that.

A saturday morning, just the other side of yard sale season. It was foggy early, but is bright and blue and crisp now, the kind of day that brings to mind plaid pleated skirts and sharp new yellow pencils. One new outfit each for my sister and I. The leaves are turning all the great colors they are known for. I love the Raywood ash that turns olive and burgundy from bottom to top. I remember the flaming red maple on the corner of 4th and Rose Court in Medford. We used to drive up that crappy street in the midst of Medford's barrio just to see it.

And now it is Sunday. I am headed up into my garret to sort photographs. I am making a scrapbook for my son for Christmas. I had the idea about two weeks before Christmas last year, and thought I'd just throw one together, but the things you can get now to make really good, archive-able documents is remarkable. I think I'll pass on all the stickers, but the papers and page covers will make a nice gift.

It is one of the strange things about a late, if happy, marriage. I guess we'll have to wait to make a scrapbook. And as reluctant as I am to have my picture taken, it is likely to be a slim volume.

My tooth still hurts, two days later. I go back in Thursday for additional torture and expense. I have always resented the unavailability of dental work for poor folk. And now that I am well-insured, my opinion of the industry hasn't changed much. I do like our dentist, but he hurts me. The fact that I have "a" dentist, and that he remembers me and us and knows our lives, is odd. It was just always this place I went in an emergency and came out of with a handful of narcotics. Always the incentive NOT to brush.

Friday, October 12, 2007

harpy home

A big friday night at my house. There is a harp on craigslist and I think we will go out to look at it this evening. It is in a meditation community called anynanda or something like that.

Okay, just got back. Its a beauty. Tara The price is so low it is suspect. K says just buy it, and he doesn't say that very often. So, I am considering it. Handmade of black and english walnut. Very pretty. Very big. 36 string. A real harp. Makes mine look like training wheels, which it is, I suppose.

Today I was retrained, for the many-eth time, about CPR and first aid. It is disturbing when they change the rules on things like that, but they have. Instead of 2 breaths and 15 compressions, its 2 and 30. And they're thinking about dumping the 2 initial rescue breaths because allegedly you have air in your lungs at the time of the event that is more oxygen rich than the air you, the saver, would introduce. The guy was a firefighter from the tiny little town of Oakridge. He was full of himself, but entertaining. Overall, I find people who work in emergency medicine exhausting.

In the middle of the training, I had to return to my office for a family conference with the son of one of my favorite patients. Yes, I have favorites. Sue me. His mother is so confused. But she likes me. He, on the other hand, does not like me all that much.

My task, in this conference, was to convince him that signing his mother up to have CPR was not a great idea. And after completing the class, I was even clearer about my position on the matter.

Here's the thing: When you start CPR, the person is already dead. You are bringing them back to life. And it isn't that life on the unit isn't great, but it isn't great. And it is so long. And she is already 90-something. I mean really, what does he want from her?

I referred to CPR performed on an old woman as "a bone-crunching experience." Even that didn't sway him. Now, if there had been a religious reason, it still would have been difficult, but there wasn't. No evident or stated belief behind his decision, only inertia. Only, "Well, I think this is what the doctor wanted and she's the medical expert."

Oh. Good. An expert.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

just wondering

I was driving around Ladd's Addition the other day, which is the only thing you can do in Ladd's Addition: go around in circles. The first time I drove through it, I remember noticing the Chinese Baptist Church, and wondering, how would you ever know if they were speaking in tongues?

These are the things that go through my mind.

So, yeah. I'm pacing myself. Saving up the sheer force of my writing for Nanowrimo.

But what I know is, its all the same book. Over and over again. Like relatives who have stayed too long, the characters just will not go home.

Friday, September 28, 2007


I am working on a longer piece of writing for the first time in quite awhile. In the past I have been hamstrung by pre-publishing it here, so will not, but may use this space for something besides my running commentary on the mundane. It is a tenuous connection, a thread at best, and I follow it with trepidation and respect. I know it can disappear under the most unlikely circumstances, say happiness, maybe busy-ness, but I am not particularly happy right now, and thus the fertile ground for being somewhere else. I wish it were not so. And, as always, I don't really care. Whatever mystery unlocks my fingers and moves the pen, I'm for it.

Jane moved into the unit. Her eyes are big, like those bears or monkeys or whatever those little animals are that live in the rainforest and stare out from their vivid green perch. She is bent, and mobile, and pissed. In her chart, the place of all truth, she is characterized as paranoid, but she is also right. She's been caught being who she is. Captured. Snared by the uneven net of bureaucracy and locked away. Does she have Alzheimer's Disease? It doesn't seem so to me, and I think I know a little bit about that. She has lost command of language to some degree, but not of communication. Understanding her is much like playing a combination of the games Taboo and Charades, but she's good at it, and gets her point across. It only took me a few minutes yesterday to get that what she wanted was Famous Amos Lemon Cookies. Most people with Alzheimer's don't even know they like cookies until you put one in their mouth and their eyes get big and they go "mmmmm." Jane's eyes are always big.

Does she need somewhere safe to be? Yes. Should that place be locked? I'm not so sure. I think, from all I can figure, is that she is one of those odd little yard sale ladies who always has a perma-sale going in front of her trailer, with treasures only she understands, and a firm grasp of what things are worth.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

reality tv

Well, I'll admit it right here: I watch Survivor. I always have. There was a time when I tried not to for a season -- I think it was the second one -- but I did end up watching, and have since. It was the first reality TV, unless you count COPS, which I don't, and won't. Or Road Rules, which I also don't. But could. But don't, still. I like to think I'm old school about reality TV, but I just don't think its been around long enough to have qualifying material. We don't exactly unplug the phone, but we aren't happy when the phone rings Thursday nights between 8:00 and 9:00.

Survivor was always about regular looking people with fairly regular jobs thrown together somewhat randomly -- although we all know some casting went into it -- and sink or swim, they hung in together on the island. Now we have the silicone babes, the overtly gay mormon boy, the black grave-digger/underwear model, the anorexic blonde, an old guy named Chicken, a christian radio hostess, and some other people I can't remember, but nearly all chosen for looks or wierdness. Nothing regular.

Now we have a new season. This is the first time it has been a blatant wet t-shirt contest. There has almost always been a decent looking male and female, and somebody strutting around in their next-to-nothings, but not like this. I am notnotnot against breasts or nudity, but I think it detracts from an otherwise great contest if human behavior. I know I know you'll tell me how shallow I am, and you'd be right. But I like to be tricked, entertained. I liked the game. I prefer subtle.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

frank fishing

We (he) drove out to Cascade Locks to buy fish from Indians. We watched Frank bring in nets across the bow of his mossy, 16 foot fiberglass boat while his wife sold fish from the bank--a parking lot bank beside the locks on the Columbia. His boat had no windshield. I guess it would play hell with the net. Big nets. Nice fish. Cheap, for fresh fish. Once we got ours home it looked to have been bit by a seal, so we lost a little in the middle. It was a steelhead, to smoke. Most of it is now in brine, and we'll eat some tonight, cooked in coconut butter and lemon, with a blend of red, brown and wild rice and some fresh picked tomato salad. MMmmmmm. Its not salmon, but smoked steelhead is my favorite. I got all I could off the carcass to use for omelettes and chowder. It was their last day of fishing for the week. They get to fish when we whities don't.

I felt pretty white purchasing a fish from an indian. Its not like we got it for beads or anything, but still, it felt a bit city-fied and touristy. I was nearly compelled to explain to Frank's wife that, although we may at this point in our evolution be living in Portland, we are really just country folk, momentarily lost in the city. And while this is true, I don't know that explaining to an Indian that we are, in fact, rednecks from the Rogue Valley, would have improved our standing or offered any comfort or commonality. Race is so difficult for me. I am so white. I overcome it intellectually, but at no time was I unaware that I was dealing with an indian, and as such, wondered if he knew the fish had been bit and spoiled. Old wounds run deep. But at the bottom of it, we are both gypsies.

But what got me most of all was not the ingrained racism, which I think is a product of vision and history, but the way I see certain people: artists who make their living as artists, writers who make their living as writers, Indians who make their living as indians. It is a one-dimensional view at best, and I romanticize it like I do anything that is other than me.

So, you can imagine my dismay when she, the loyal and nameless wife of Frank, fish monger and authentic indian, pulled out a business card. And all of my assumptions, my romantic notions of what it means to be other, clattered to the asphalt, a feral breaking sound that in the end, made us more alike than not.

Now, my belly full of fish and rice, I am posting on my brand new computer with Windows Vista. I like it. I'd venture to say I love it. In my view, it is the first new version in a really long time that actually seems like an improvement. I'm sure there is a good reason why it is awful and I should hate it, but so far, the little notepad gadget on the desktop is my favorite. Remember, I'm the girl who bought a car once because it had a fan that moved from side to side automatically. I'm easy.

And cheap.

So, the coming of age procedure is behind me (ahem) and I'm all better. Just fine. Nothing was wrong. I'm glad to have all the major systems checked out. I know just enough to be dangerous, and that can be nerve-wracking.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

i'm back

Sorry for the delay. Technical difficulties.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007


I blogged for three and a half years without an audience. I just wanted a space to record stuff that would not be lost if my computer crashed, which it did from time to time back then.

Having some of you stop by from time to time is unnerving to me still, but I'm not against it. I never intended the blog to be a social thing, and I go through the human stuff about failure if there are no comments, but I'm not in therapy over it yet. I don't so much care what it looks like anymore, thus the canned template. For me, the jury isn't really in yet about linking to others. I just do what asha tells me to, as grand puppet master of blogland.

But the thing is, I write or I'm cranky. I'd like to say that where I write doesn't matter, but I have found, and blogged about my findings, that this venue is little more than a vent for good writing, is NOT real writing, and speaking for myself, certainly not my best. But just because it takes me hostage and requires time and attention like any other habit and I've had some, I cannot say it prevents me from writing. But it is true that I do not write, have not written anything of substance, since I started blogging.

And perhaps before.

Roy, I'd have posted this on your comment page, but didn't want to take up the room.

Monday, September 03, 2007

ride interrupted

We took the motorcycle out for a long spin today, out to Mt. Hood and around the base of the mountain and back around into Portland. We only fell over once, and that wasn't bad. I remembered from times gone by to mind the tailpipes when scrambling out from under a falling motorcycle. No scooter, this one. It's big, and heavy, and the next time we pass a yard sale down a steep gravel driveway, I'm thinking we'll take a different tack. It was a helluvan entrance though. Stop drop and roll. And the yard sale wasn't even all that great. But it was real. It was their own crap. No complaints from me.

Had breakfast at the Black Rabbit out in Troutdale, at the Poorfarm.

Sunday, September 02, 2007

truth in yardsaling

This post has been a long time coming. I am a dedicated yard saler. A "one man's junk" officianado. And here is a fairly comprehensive list of what annoys me:

1. Perma Sales. These are ongoing sales where they drag out the shit and leave it there, rain or shine, sheets of plywood on saw-horses covered with blue tarp and last fall's fallout. It is clear these people visit other yard sales, bring the crap home, reprice it, and this brings me to the next category...

2. Re-Sales. Often found in perma sales. People who have closed out an, oh, let's say, a christmas knick-knack store, and have all the twinky little shit nobody wanted anyway and the big thing is, they DO NOT sell it at yard sale prices.

Let's clear one thing up. Yard sale price: 25 cents. Period.

3. The ULTIMATE YARD SALE!!! When you finally find the place six miles later due to poorly placed signage, no parking and frantic traffic, you find three hot pink My Pretty Pony dolls with matted hair, melted christmas candles, a set of hot rollers and 8 track cassette tapes.

4. Antique Sales The price goes up. I take similar issue with Vintage or Retro. Anything plastic or avacado green or mandarin orange or chocolate brown is now retro.

5. Yard sales that are MILES from where you find the sign. Over the river and through the wood. Buy local.

6. Garbage Sales. Just like the name implies. They are trying to make enough money for garbage bags and a dump run.

7. Crack Sales. Scary. The people having the sales never make eye contact and cannot stop rearranging the tables. Do not come up behind them to ask a question. People come by in bad cars dropping off bicycles and firearms while you peruse the silk flower arrangements that keep changing.

8. TMI Sales. There is a balance somewhere between, "Hi, thanks for coming." and "Yes, the clothes belonged to my sister but she ran off with this guy who lived next door and I don't really have room to keep her stuff and her kids are in Louisiana now because we think the guy jumped bail." or, our favorite from the Vancouver area... while looking at a computer, my husband asks why there is an evidence tag on the case. "Oh," comes the reply. "We got the computer before we knew my dad was a pedophile. But he's in jail now. I think its okay."

9. Things people should not say at yard sales:

"It was sixty dollars new." Yeah. Well, thanks for the fascinating history report, but this is not JC Penney, and I'm not paying half price for the crap you'll be hauling to Goodwill at 5:05 today. 25 cents. Take it or leave it.

"I really hate to part with this." But you will. Say it with me: 25 cents.

"Yeah, it works great. Oh, wait. Hey, Honey, get me the..... " All together now: 25c

"Yeah, if you just fix the ____ it works great!"

"Its an antique."

"I was always going to fix, paint, etc."

"Oh. I guess it needs batteries."

10. Things people should not sell at yard sales:

Photographs. I've dedicated entire blog entries to this practice. It is like selling the souls of your ancestors to strangers.

Underwear. Need I say more?

Items made of wax.

Canned food.

Eighties chrome-framed disco art, specifically pink and grey calla lilies.

Broken shit (see above).

Friday, August 31, 2007

children of the corn er

You never know what you're going to see on Clinton Street. I hope I never move away. Last night we were sitting on the porch, minding our business and that of our neighbor's, when many people began to walk by. This is not terribly unusual for our neighborhood-- it is a walking place, the bike lane and all that-- but there were so many and they began to congeal just short of the corner with a few lingering in front of our place just out of sight. I motioned to K and he stepped off the porch to look. Some of the people looked up at us, so I asked what was going on.

"Nothing bad," came the answer.

Okay. Now we are fully engaged. Inquiring minds and all.... So off the porch we jumped only to see a crowd on the sidewalk standing in a circle, under the streetlight, taking pictures of a girl who was blindfolded and wearing a pointed birthday hat. The flashes continued to go off as the procession passed our house, leading her by the hand.

And me without my camera.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

one luau and a funeral

It is always of great interest to me watching intact families, or at least families that appear to be intact. I attended a funeral today. Not Peony's. I don't think they did anything for her. I think my blog posting was about it. Nope. We'll call this one Eleanor. She passed quickly and was mourned by a large Mormon family, a religion that I find odd, but interesting.

They put great stock in family, and if you join, one of the perks is getting to be in the same family again when you get to heaven. Now I don't want to say in writing that I wouldn't want my same family because I don't like very many people all that much and I already know what's wrong with my relatives, so I'd probably pick them all over again. But still, my view of life after life is more solitary than that.

Anyway, there I was, in the chapel, some bearded guy with a guitar singing "In the Garden" which is my favorite hymn, and he also sang "The Circle of Life" from the Lion King, which I thought was a little wierd, and Elton John's Princess Diana version of "Candle in the Wind" which I thought was very wierd for a ninety year old woman. I mean, that song is all about life cut short. And he sang Sentimental Journey, which was really great. I don't think I'd ever paid attention to that song before. But anyway, there I sat, my view from the rear pew more voyeuristic than not. Most of the time I spend at any family gatherings it is that way for me. I always wonder where they learned to be a family, how they all managed to keep the same beliefs, pass on traditions intact, look similar, speak without saying fuck and finish a gathering without raising law enforcement's interest.

So I sat there, considering family, mine and ours, which is really difficult for me right now, and I know it is just part of the journey, that my step-people will be adults one day and that will be a relief. I remember a time when the only good thing I could say about my son was that he did live to be 18 and I didn't kill him. So, I guess I've never really been great with teen angst. Mine or anyone else's.

We had a luau at work today. Complete with Micronesian dancing girls and MaiTais with little paper umbrellas.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

goodnight johnboy

Peony was always angry. Deaf as a post, she screeched at everyone--her children included. I suspect she always had. The children were awful. Awful. Terrible terrible children. Grown women who wouldn't visit but when they did would scream right back in their mother's face. It was a good thing Peony was deaf. Remember when the car drove through her wall? Well, she slept right through it. She lived out her last days in a tiny room with the TV set tuned to The Hallmark Channel and watched Little House on the Prairie, and Matlock, and they were her company day and night. Her friends. She is the only person in a dementia unit I've ever known to work a remote to the end.

Do not go gentle into that good night (Whitman?). It was a hard road for Peony, and who am I to judge, or even consider, why? Perhaps her body, the Auschwitzy shell that carried her through these last days, was stronger than it looked.

There is so much theory and practice about human death, about grief, about how people find a way to escape this mortal coil and move on or out or up or over.... Hospice organizations swear by people needing permission from the living to die. I don't so much buy that one. I think it is the one thing we do utterly alone. The daughters, one more terrible than the other (not because of her absence but because of her presence) sat bedside, good little new-agers, and said over and over again, "Go to the light, Mother. We'll be fine. You can go. Go to the light." But she wouldn't. Couldn't. Didn't.

I think the daughters began to take it personally when she wouldn't give it up--the ghost--and they stayed and stayed and slept in the room and kept the TV off. And Peony wouldnt' couldn't didnt' die.

So one of the women who took such tender care of her tiny body waited outside her room, waited for the daughters to leave early this morning. When they did, she slipped in and turned on the television.

Goodnight Johnboy, Goodnight MaryEllen, Goodnight Peony.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Saturday, August 18, 2007


There are not enough sofa pillows in the world to make me comfortable on this leather. I fear it will be some time until I adjust to the simple lines, the blocks of neutral brownblack that I sit on these days. I move from piece to piece, testing the view--the red wall vs the windows--and I still don't know. Shall I use the ottoman? Then I consider what luxuries my problems are. I spent the better part of last week shopping for-- no, obsessing for-- just the right carpet to soften the floor for my precious little feet. It is absurd. I used to live in cabins without floors for god's sake. I swept hard packed dirt. I decorated it. I did. And loved it. So, the more affluent I become (or appear), the more absurd the distance. And the more relative the distinction. Simply having does not civilize. I know that is a poor excuse for a sentence. Sue me. But my point is made. Accumulation is not proof of existence. But the way I go about it, you'd think it was.

After visiting all of the rug dealers, I found a white rug. Cream. Not quite white. Shaggy, but not like the shedding one that is now back upstairs in the garret, home of the unwritten novel. It is an uneven shag. I bought two of them, a mute attempt to hide the gold carpet that underlies the entire room. It didn't work. The gold is there. And there to stay.

I know this is crap. I know this doesn't matter. One time I bought a going away card for somebody and it said, "Remember all the trouble I've caused you?"

and on the inside it said, "I'm almost done."

Well, I'm almost done. I'm almost done bringing home sofa pillows and table runners and dolls without heads and carpets and copper pots and red paint and copper paint and shamelessly returning anything I don't love. Almost.

Until next time.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

one red wall

It has been a busy weekend. I painted the wall, after twenty years of saying that red is psychologically the worst color choice. But, psychologically speaking, who gives a shit? Its the only color I loved. Terra Cotta Tile by Hewlitt-Packard or something like that. Benjamin Moore. That's it.

So I painted the wall. I am vascillating about sofa pillows. And all of this is meaningless. I hopped on my scooter this morning. Husband off doing the Bridge Pedal. The Burnide bridge was closed because of all the cyclists, so I had to cross the Hawthorne Bridge and I hate going across that metal grate on my scooter. It feels like I am driving on Wesson oil. It is terror. And terror in slow-motion this morning because everyone else in the world also had to use the Hawthorne. So, I lived, and drove on up to 23rd for a little tiny bit of shopping. NW 23rd, where the homeless girls wear perfect tatters and smell of Shalimar.

I found one great thing, but couldnt' bring it home on my scooter, so left it in the hands of the merchant and will go back with the truck later. Now, does this mean I wasted gas? Dammit. I am certainly wasting money, but I have wandered shop to shop for weeks now, since the furniture came, to find just the right thing to fill a vacant spot in my living room. And I finally found her on 23rd. No surprise to you shoppers out there. But I have to see everything before I am sure. It is a rusted metal doll manekin. Is that spelled correctly? It is only about two feet tall, so not like the real thing. But she is bald, and almost scary. I love her. I can make hats for her on holidays. I'll work up a little two-inch tall witch hat for halloween. Just you wait.

So, there's my wall. It brings the room back to some kind of life after killing it with coffee bean black furniture.

I posted the picture of Ida on that post if you want to look back.

Thursday, August 09, 2007


there is no way around but through

A tunnel on Highway 20 near Diablo Lake.

The pool is up, the sarongs out of the summer box and hanging in the closet, the air conditioner in the window, and I am ready for summer. I think I missed it. I think it was summer here while we were away on that road trip. It has been mostly cloudy since. Hardly warm enough to use the pool, haven't used the a/c at all, my hot montana tan has faded to Portland white.

Our camp at colonial creek on Diablo Lake.

Olympic rain forest. Don't stand in one place for too long.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007


Raised by wolves, it is in me to ride in the rain, to ride, no matter what. To endure. To get on the back and shut up. And now, with my own vehicle.... You bought it, you ride it. You made your bed, you sleep in it. What a crock of shit. Bikers.

I'm not a biker anyway. I'm a scooter-er. I'm a nearly legal, nearly adept, nearly safe, scooter rider.

I don't even like to be cold. I got up yesterday morning to a weather report of possible drizzle and I was taking no chances. I drove. Don't get me wrong... I love my scooter. A woman at work asked me if I'd named it yet. I haven't. I hadn't considered it. It has Milano stamped on the side, so why would I give it another name? I think that is a teenage girl thing. Name your vehicle. I remember Billie Bohannon who named her olive green Pinto "The green Burrito." No.

The advantages of driving, so far: NPR, heat, metal surrounding me, and a clock. I'm surprised at the number of times I want to know what time it is. It doesn't matter. I don't need to be at work at any certain time. I can do whatever I want whenever I want to. But seems I like to keep track of things like the passing of minutes from home to coffee shop. Oh, and coffee. It is hard to get coffee on a scooter, and impossible to drink it. I can eat CrackerJacks while riding, but that's as good as I've got so far. And I can't talk on my cell phone, but not for lack of trying. The helmet gets in the way. But I know I know I know, I don't need distractions. I need to keep my eye on the side streets and parked cars.

I'm getting better at the scooter. I can almost release my deathgrip to wave at other scooters. There is, apparently, a sisterhood: Hell's Bell's. I won't join, but its nice to know they're out there. Actual motorcycles don't wave at scooters, and scooters don't wave at cyclists. We have our standards.

So according to Gwen, I don't have to tough it out and ride in the rain. I don't have to do anything I don't want to do except work, and truth be told, I like my job. I like working. I'd have little to complain about otherwise. They give me money and I need money, so it works out.

About twenty years ago, a little more, I made my first counseling appointment. (Yes, this will be a tiny little peek into my psyche. Hold on. It'll be great, really.) She asked me a bunch of questions. I can't remember what I was twisted up about at that time, but based on my answers, she asked me to write down the higher moral code I (apparently) was thinking I lived by. It went something like: (drumroll)

Blood is thicker than water
Don't cop to nothin'
There is honor among thieves
Walk tall
Don't blink

And this crock of shit included things like riding in the rain and wearing dead men's clothes.

Why do I mention all of this? Because it bothers me when I feel like a big baby for driving my truck in the rain, which is what any normal person would do. Right? Any normal people out there???? Hmmmm?? Higher moral code my ass. It was a man's list that women were supposed to live by that included learning to take a punch without flinching.

Remember flinching?

Well I do.

Saturday, August 04, 2007


The furniture arrived. Out with the old and in with the new. The problem is, everything is old. I do know enough not to buy a new house to go with the furniture, but it is dramatic, and dark, and oh so yummy, and I just want to look at it and little else. I call it the "dentist office" phase. Nothing but the sofa and a coffee table book.

During the garret project ("a [garret] does not a novel make..." see ashabot) I bought a fuzzy white rug to tangle my toes in while writing that fucking book that will not write itself. Yesterday I gave up and brought it downstairs for some contrast. Fuzzy is fuzzy. It sheds worse than Sid. I'm pretty sure its going back upstairs in a lower traffic area. Much lower. I haven't been up there since the monkey clan took over. They scare me.

So, now I'm trying to bring some color into our life. Menopause beige with espresso brown is putting me to sleep. Add to that a white rug and not much happens. Subtlety is over-rated. I'm looking for Mexican vases. I may have one around here somewhere. Why wouldn't I? I have everything else. The sign says, "You can't have everything. Where would you put it?" but I do -- and it won't even sell at yard sale prices.


I am the angel of death. I signed four people up for hospice last week. I was upstairs in one of the storage rooms (in a nursing home the storage room takes on new meaning) looking for Hawaiian flowers to put on a bulletin board. You really never know what you might find. I noticed an old suitcase, falling apart, old photographs and ivory baby brushes spilling from tattered edges. You know how I am about old photographs. So, I peeked inside, which was wrong, but not that wrong. And I am prone to wrong behavior in case you didn't know.

I was looking at the handwriting, that perfect, calligraphic penmanship typical of the twenties and forties, and soon realized it belonged to Ida -- one of mine. You might wonder why, if she is still living, why her belongings are squirrelled away in the storage room. Why?

When people come to live in a dementia unit, as a rule they do not come unwillingly but rather unknowingly. They come with medical records and a social history. As you might imagine, they have not written this history with their own palsied hand. The story is a mash of questions that do not accurately describe that life, that ninety year span filled with horses and hay bales and dances at the grange. It is a regulatory requirement and little else. It skims the surface of memory. No. It doesn't even do that. It is someone else skimming what they think are the important elements of history.

Favorite food
Favorite kind of music
Morning person or night owl?

The worst thing I can think of is someone else telling my story. Well, again, I exaggerate. The Minneapolis bridge thing is worse.

So, Ida has this history, and this short list of numbers, and it is easy to say that nobody cares, but something happened in her life, something that estranged a daughter and cut off a son. There is a brother, but he is so old he probably stopped keeping his own pictures. Old people know better than I do the transitory nature of memory, and of memories. They understand the boxes of photographs left at yard sales.

I remembered, then, asking her brother what to do with her things when we had to clear clutter out of her room so she could have a roommate. So this was the clutter I had removed. I didn't realize. And he had told me to give it away. Don't sell it. Give it to someone who can use it.

So I took a picture back to Ida.

I held it up in front of her and asked, "Who is this?" because occasionally, if you sneak up on Alzheimer's, it gets the answer right.

She said, "It has my face."

I cried. The picture, which I will post, is of a young woman at the absolute height of her beauty, running through a hayfield holding the reins of a huge Percheron horse.

Ida was so alive. I said, "I can still see that beautiful face."

She said, "I can see yours."

And the moment passed. Ida was one of the four.

Monday, July 30, 2007

gone in 60 minutes

I finally dropped the price of my living room furniture on craigslist from what I think it is worth to what someone might actually be willing to pay, and they did. Immediately. Some guy from Hillsboro swooped in and got it within an hour of posting. As he was loading it into his truck, I said something insipid like, "Enjoy" and he said, "Oh, I'm just putting it in the kid's playroom."

What? My fabulous mission oak set? First of all, their poor little heads will crack on the arms.

Oh well, they're not my kids.

So, it is gone. My first set of really great furniture. It was a watermark moment for me, to sit on things no one else had used.

In a different time, I would have gladly given my last and only twenty bucks for them in the shape they're in, Sid-scented and everything. I loved this stuff. I used it up. Today, (and yesterday, and for the forseeable future) as I am trying to pick out throw pillows to go with the new leather set -- which is driving me insane at this moment, because now I want to rip out our carpet and redecorate completely -- I don't want to go too formal because I really would have to redecorate, and I'm sick of the early garage sale look my house always seems to have.... so I'm thinking awning stripe. Red and brown to go with the leather. Maybe a western flavor. So yesterday, as I'm buying these really fancy pillows with white embroidery and black wool which I will now have to return because they are all wrong, I told the girl at Cost Plus how I shed a tear as the guy walked off with my stuff. She looked at me funny and said, "Yeah, you just kind of want something new once in awhile." It was then I knew we had led different lives.

Here is a list of the sofas and chairs I remember, and as usual, liar that I am, I'll make up a few just to offset memory loss:

Oversized, long and white, a precursor to civilization. When I saw it at a yard sale, I had high hopes that I had come far enough, domestically speaking, to handle white. I was a bit premature, as I recall. Just ever so slightly.

The Pit. This was a selection of pieces, you know, that burgundy velour that everyone had. But most everyone had the whole pit. I just had the leftovers, the corner wedges and hassocks that rolled sideways on those little gold ball feet if you looked at them. And for the pieces I didn't have, I filled in with twin bed mattresses and box springs covered with Mexican blankets. Mexican blankets cover many sins.

Green Brocade: This was my nod to the 50's. I was in a pretty steep learning curve about home decorating at that point. Pink, green and cream. Very girly. Lotsa tulips.

The Red Wine Chair. I know I've written about that one before. The one Cooky and I vied for. My story is that she already had great over-stuffed blue velvet furniture and I called dibs anyway. There it was, sitting out in front of the Central Point Goodwill Box as we pulled up to steal a wheelchair for a nursing home patient. I'm sure her story would be very different, and if she would set up a blog, which isn't all that hard, she could tell you all about it.

Okay, there are many many more. But those are the few stand out in my memory. Its late and am too tired to lie.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

another yard sale day

We did it again. A long day spend peddling our trash as treasure to our neighbors. I really should have had the camera out, because let me tell you, SE Portland is ripe with freaks. Bursting. It was the day of the Clinton/Division Street Fair, and a pretty good day to have a yard sale, but our crap just wasn't moving. Ended up taking most of it to goodwilly.

I made about fifty bucks, K about one fifty. Not enough money to sit in the sun all day. Although it is good to be out and a part of the neighborhood. Still trying to sell my furniture before the new leather set arrives on Wednesday. Wednesday. That's four days. Shit.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

morning after shoes

in situ

One thing is certain: Every picture tells a story. If you enlarge the photograph, you will see the stonework. It is much more interesting, I'm certain, than the story behind these shoes, which have been out front for, oh, 36 hours now. Most of the freegans in the neighborhood have passed them by, I presume, out of respect for drunkeness and excess.

Is freegan a Portland-only term? I think it refers to vegans who will break the severity of their diets only for free food, but the term has been extended to mean scavengers who pick up all the free shit left on Portland sidewalks with the intent to be re-used.

What does it all mean?

My neighbor collects sparkly dancing shoes.
She got tired of walking uphill in heels.
She got tired of walking downhill in heels.
It is a very small yard sale.

Monday, July 23, 2007

the road to the sun

I don't think either one of us would have taken it if we knew. The Road to the Sun is a two lane road (for thin cars) and we were in a pickup towing a trailer. The road is, in the immortal words of Daryl Bouie, "Steeper than the back of God's head." Logger colloquialisms... whaddyagonnado? Anyhow, there we were, driving through Glacier National Park, happy to be in America, when the road narrowed and the sides dropped away leaving a tiny, maybe twelve inch rock wall between us and the yawning glacial abyss. Was it beautiful? Well, yes, I have to admit it was spectacular, and were there a place to turn around I would have and I'd never have seen it, but there was no getting out.

So, photographer that I am, I closed my eyes, stuck my arm out the window and snapped. I got a couple that were okay, and I'm lying, of course. There were plenty of pull-outs, but us with the trailer and all. There was a length limit of 21 feet, which we exceeded by about nine feet. But they didn't say anything at the entrance, and we figured that since we were two pieces that bent at the hitch, the rules didn't apply to us. (see previous post regarding the criminal mind.) So on we went, until we were at the summit and a cop pulled us over for a too-long vehicle. So, essentially, within three days we had been thrown out of a country and a National Park.

We were not willing to turn and go back, so on we went down Highway 2, and that is when we gave up the notion of making it all the way to the Bighorn Mountains.

It was so hot. How hot was it? 104 most of the time. 90 at night. I'd brought gloves and hats. We didn't even use a sleeping bag the whole time we were gone and the only reason we used a sheet was for mosquitos and common decency, which my husband, country boy that he is, has little.

Sid was in the back of the truck, under the canopy, dying. We channeled a/c back for him and kept it liveable, but it wasn't good, and we came to the conclusion that the Cascades were the coolest place we'd been so far.

Washington Pass, summit 5500 feet or so

The overlook at Washington Pass.

So, we backtracked through Montana, Idaho and across WAshington back to Colonial Creek on the Skagit River at Lake Diablo and spent a few days there. The lake, like the river, is turquoise. It was bliss.

Next stop: Indians.

Saturday, July 21, 2007


Let me be the first out here in blogland to congratulate Asia and Clark on their very recent nuptials. We just got home, full and happy. It was a beautiful wedding, the sunflowers spectacular and the weather mild and perfect. I didn't take any pictures, though. You'll have to wait for those from someone else.

It made us want to have a real wedding, something a little more substantial than our eight-person event, counting the judge. But our families never act that well when gathered in one place. It always used to turn into a shoot out of some kind and I can't see any reason why that would be different today just because most of the troublemakers are dead. There are enough of their progeny remaining to shake things up.

Really, it was probably the nicest wedding I've ever been to.

from sea to shining sea

Beyond the initial rejection, we had a great time. In retrospect, even the denial at the border seemed more money-maker than moral judgement. We ended the border day early, a little worn out from the drama, and stayed in a pristine camp along the Skagit River in Washington at Rockport. In our truck and trailer we camped alongside 50,000 dollar campers and retirees from Whidbey Island. It was a good camp, though, and nice to listen to the river.

There were yuppie trails to wander in: flat pathways mowed in meadowland along the river. My kinda hiking. The Skagit River is turquoise and opaque, almost milky, from glacial flour -- minerals that run off the cascade glaciers in such proportion that they color the river.

The next day we made up for lost time and drove to Montana. The thing I like best about Montana is the way they mark death by car crash.

Other than Glacier Park, which was spectacular, and I'll post pictures when I get them sorted out (I am a crappy photographer) I found Montana in serious need of a bottle bill or a conscience. It was a mess. And so hot. And more heat to come.

We were on our way out of Glacier Park when we decided to turn back West to escape the heat wave. It was a disappointment for K who really wanted to show me the Big Horn Mountains, but the heat just wouldn't permit it, not with Sid under the canopy. So, we headed West on Hwy. 2 instead of East, and back to the Cascades. Home. Green. Happy.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

part II: crime and punishment

So there we were, off on day one of our fabulous summer vacation. Originally, our plans had been to head due east for Yellowstone, but in light of the heatwave, we went north to escape it. The plan was to make it to Glacier Park in Canada and camp somewhere around there and tour the Canadian Rockies. That was the plan.

Our first day was spent driving back and forth from the potluck funeral in Myrtle Point, Oregon. No one officiated and it was a good time, got to see cousins from the civilized side of my family. My cousin Linda was eventually sent down the Coquille River at the old campsite at Powers by the people who loved her.

We made it back to Portland by 6:30 or so with the intent to stay home for the night and leave in the morning, but decided to hit the road and try to make it past Seattle the first night. We got as far as Everett before we both collapsed and parked in an RV lot the first night, which was really just a parking lot, and we had to squeeze into the overflow area. We peed in the dark, went to bed, and slept like dead people. Waking up next to a rotting RV with moss for windows and more dirt than tin was not exactly what I had envisioned about camping in Washington, but it was better than crashing on I-5. And it was free. So, we jumped in the cab, let Sid out to pee, and we were off to the Canadian border. Yippee! We found breakfast, good coffee and wifi to check the exchange rate and fruits you can’t bring in. Nectarines. Damn. So far, as supplies go, all I’d forgotten was mustard and carrots, so that was good for me. There will be more. I forget at least one ingredient for each thing I plan to cook but that’s okay because I have money and there is always a store.

We landed in Bellingham at about 8:00 am, stayed for a couple of hours, then north again. By 10:30 we were at the border. We expected Sid to be a problem, but he wasn’t. In fact, they fed him dog biscuits and played with him while they detained us and searched our vehicles. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

It’s always the questions that trip me up. Us. Trip us up. First of all, the girl in the booth asked a million questions. For some reason (which we were told later was because we were pulling a small U-Haul trailer and most people don’t take U-Haul trailers camping) we were told to pull into the lot and go inside to the immigration desk. If you’ve never been to the border, it is a land unto itself. I’d been in situations before where my rights were suspended and I was detained, but I usually had some idea why it was happening. I didn’t like it then and I really didn’t like it now. I’ve been guilty and I’ve been innocent. Both are uncomfortable. So, when we were asked to step out of our vehicle and away from our dog and all of our belongings, we did as they asked, believing it was just a formality – like maybe they check every seventh truck or something.

At the immigration desk, which was much like visiting someone in jail, they asked even more questions, then the same questions in different ways. It was seeming more and more like interrogation or an MMPI. Then, they took our I.D. and walked away. One of the questions was, “Have you ever been arrested or convicted of a crime?” I never seem to get that one right. I mean, who hasn’t? Really. Who has not, at some point in time, been cuffed and jailed? Everyone I know has. I guess you might not be surprised to learn that many people have not. So we, like good criminals, said, “Nah, not really.” And this somewhat ambiguous answer is based on so many things. The internal dialogue was something like, "no, we’ve never, like, murdered anyone or robbed a bank" (although I did rob Jack’s Drive Up) but I didn't get caught for that and that’s nothing compared to real criminals. So the answer, for me, is relative. But those border guards just don’t split hairs. It’s yes or no. Did you or did you not get arrested. Well, okay. If you mean EVER ever, then yes, I guess there was a time or two when we had just the teensiest bit of trouble. Big deal. Its not like we’re Bonny and Clyde or something. And the truth is, neither one of us really remembered (until a little later) much that happened twenty or thirty years ago anyway. But none of that was said out loud and the answer remained: "Nah. We’re good."

It is so difficult to have a criminal mind. It has such a hard time finding fault with itself.

So, they came back and said to my husband, “Please step through the door that has no windows.” An ominous request in lesser places. We looked at each other and away he went. I waited and waited and began to get nervous. They said nothing. Finally they let him out and he tells me we’ve been rejected. We don’t get to go camping in Canada. The whole story about stealing the lead in 1978 came out under the stress of interrogation. “How much was it worth?” they asked. “I don’t know, but I can tell you what I got for it,” he said with that boyish grin that made me marry him. So on it went.

So, they searched the truck and trailer anyway, even though we were going home. And they kept us apart in case we tried to get the story straight, and wouldn’t give us back our I.D. and detained us for about two hours. But the punch line was, “But you can buy a 10 day pass for 200.00.” Hmmm. Maybe, we’re thinking… maybe we'll just pay and stay. Then they say, “But we keep the nectarines.”

Fuck you. Fuck Canada. I love my nectarines.

Finally, completely demoralized, we were allowed to leave Canada. Which wasn’t the end of it, because we had to give our rejection slip to the US Customs, which created yet another scene.

I decided it was a Kodak Moment and took some pictures at the border, which turns out to be a terrorist act and they nearly took my camera away from me and told me to delete the pictures which I said okay and clearly did not. See below.

So, on we went, touring the US, where we are wanted. Well, not wanted in that sense.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

crime and punishment

Apparently, when my husband was twenty, he was arrested for stealing lead out of an old field. Oh, and convicted, and he served his period of probation without event or jail time and paid his debt to society. But that's the thing... this society. Not, apparently, the Canadian society. So....

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

ready, set

Time to finish. I've packed already. I've sewn clothes I want to wear. I've gathered up our belongings and done everything but go through the camping gear, which is the larger task in front of me. I have to thaw meat and make something for the potluck funeral. I don't know what, because like the rest of the world, it is freaking hot and using the oven is absurd. So it will be a bbq special. I'll think of something. Pork-something covered with bbq sauce. That's it. Who will complain?

So, its south to Coos County, of Coos County Jail fame, then back to Portland to pick up our gear and head on up into Canada through Idaho and Montana. We will camp some and motel some. We should hit some rain and some big heat. We may make it as far as Lake Louise. I'd like that. Sitting on the vortex of my sofa which I put on craigslist but no one will buy -- it doesn't feel like vacation yet, but it will in the morning. I am very ready.

Saturday, July 07, 2007


I've been through the Rockie Mountains once.... well, twice: there and back. I was eighteen and coming off a year long post-religious coversion high. It must have been the altitude, but once the other side of those mountains, which we crossed in the night, I was able to cut some of the ties that bind. Blessed be the ties that bind... what does that mean?

I was raised by a pentecostal mother. For those of you who don't know what that means, I will say more. For those of you who do... nuff said. The mandate for evidence is strong in that arm of Christianity: speaking in tongues, being "slain" in the spirit (the rolling part of holy rolling) and overall rejection of anything that might be considered worldly. Temporal. Secular. Books. When my son was five or nine (time collapses) I sent him to church one Sunday morning with his Grandmother (Whether to save his soul, mine, or to get him out from underfoot is unclear some 20 years later) and when he returned, he said, "Gramma fell down in church, but that's okay--God made her." The expectation for me to align myself with the family religion was strong. And I aimed to please as a lifestyle back then. So there I was, ripe for the picking.

Why am I talking about this shit?

Because the last time I crossed the Rockies, I was under the influence of an almost cultish arm of Christianity.

Now, I remain faithful to many of those tenets. I do. I like Jesus and always have. But the behavioral piece always eluded me. So many don'ts. Never was there a religion with more things not to do every day, or it may have appeared that way to me because I was doing so many of them on a daily basis. A better person may have looked at my list and nodded, saying, "Well, of course. This makes perfect sense. Any sane person would never..." fill in the blank.

But, as you may have extracted from these pearls over the years, sanity is overrated.

So there we were in the rockies: me and a couple of sinners, two kids and two dogs in a 73 Impala, trying to cross Lolo Pass in a blizzard. Not just a snowstorm -- a blizzard: snow piling up at a visible rate and us without chains or brains. I was praying, as I was prone to do back then, when God sent a snowplow driver. Einstein said that the proof of God's existence is not miracles, but the absence of miracles. I agree. That guy was just working at his job: a night snow plow driver in the rockie mountains. A lonely post, for certain.

We were hippies, myself, at that discreet point in time, a non-sinning hippie, but we all had that look. The snowplow driver, in Montana in 1971, wasn't a fan. But we did have the kids and dogs for added value, and eventually he came back with some gas. Did I mention that we ran out of gas cresting the summit? Well, we did. Big planners, hippies.

So, he saved us. God in an old orange jumpsuit with a fur hood. We rolled into Lolo Montana at 4:00 a.m. and at his encouragement, kept on rolling. It wasn't until Minnesota (Carly Simon singing "I've Got to Have You" from the radio of that Impala, me in the backseat, big Minnesota starry night out in some beet field) that I fell off the wagon (jumped, more like it) and rolled to the curb, where I remained for the ensuing 17 years.

So I wonder what our trip will be like. This whole story was really just about wondering if our road trip will be a spiritual experience. Raised in the Pentecostal faith, I have (perhaps until this moment) viewed that trip as the beginning of the end. The original backslide, from which I have since been sliding. Belief is difficult. I have the beliefs that were given to me. I have tried to outrun them, but they remain embedded.

It is saturday morning and we are going to rent a U-haul trailer, I guess, to tow all of our gear so we can sleep in the back of the truck. I will spend the weekend sorting and packing and preparing for the unpreparable: a road trip. Was a time I threw my laundry in a garbage bag, grabbed my leather jacket and stuck my thumb out. Life is so complicated with money.

Friday, July 06, 2007

friday before

Leaving on vacation is impossible. There is so much that can't live without me in this heat. I can't imagine leaving this place in the care of my step-daughter, so will beg you all, out in the blogosphere, to come by and water my flowers while I am away. The hose is on the side of the house and don't forget the fuchsia baskets on the front porch. Thanks.

If they all died, what difference would it make, really? We are going to the Rockies. There will be more 50 cent fuchsias next year, with free dirt. This year some joker must have switched out all of the markers in the little two-inch fuchsia pots because none of the flowers are the colors we expected except the marshmallow white ones. Funny.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007


This year I missed the "hoods", the best local strawberries, so didn't get to make my favorite jam. We still have a bunch of raspberry and blackberry leftover from last year. So I bought apricots and cherries and a few raspberries and made 16 jars of jam: eight cherry, and eight apricot-raspberry, which is outstanding. The cherry is bland. It was an experiment, and like anything with cherries, more effort than not. I'm learning to adjust the amount of sugar based on the tartness of the fruit. I'll bet pie cherries would make great jam. Bings, not so much.

It is Independence day, and our freedom seems artificial, the price too high for comfort. As a nation, we are whistling past the graveyard, keeping the spooks at bay with the memory of what we once were. It is a thin cloth, which they will see though any day now and they will take us apart with little effort because we are weak and self-indulgent. They are probably already here, but perhaps, with luck, they will forget their God, become enamored of slack, and lose the drive to conquer.

Probly not.

Okay. On a lighter note (it is so easy to turn away from these things) we rode bikes this morning, my love and I, and stopped for coffee (see above) at a funky new coffee shop further down the street. We rode the Springwater Corridor to Sellwood, which isn't very far, but as far as I can go with effort.

It is good to not be at work. With two admissions back to back, it was a busy week. But the mean girls are gone at last, and life is returning to some form of happy on the unit. There was laughter and dancing and walks in the garden. As the days slowed and afternoon naps were over, they began the evening's wander. And because I am not usually there in the evening, they gravitated to the humanity of my office, little zombie hordes in search of normal. The new lady picks up rocks outside, "For a path," she says. Heaven knows she needs one. And in the last place they moved her out of, she had hundreds of pounds of small stones, collected day after day until she did have enough to build a pathway. Her daugher had to get a wagon to haul them out, load after load. I hope I'm like that one day. Rock collector to the end. My sister Peggy used to gather rocks. She brought them home, little red-headed handfuls, certain they had value beyond her small dreams. My sister is strung out on methadone and I haven't seen her in years and years now. I could, but don't. Too hard. Too many dead siblings for me.

And on that note, my cousin Linda died friday. She drank too much for too long and it got the better of her. When we were on the run, my son and I, from his father, we landed in Coosbay at one point, and she took us in and we lived with her for a long time. I don't remember how long, or when exactly. Most of those memories are in a file long lost to time and over-indulgence, but I know that I owed a debt of gratitude to her that I was unable to repay.

We leave for our vacation in 7 days. We will begin it with a potluck funeral at the coast. A potluck funeral. Sounds good to me.

Saturday, June 30, 2007

twistin' by the pool

It's up!!! A brand new ten-footer complete with solar cover. Had I known what a solar cover is, I could have saved bubble wrap and taped it together in a ten foot circle. Or just bought two rolls of saran wrap and three rolls of tape. Either way, this is probably easier. It should be warm by the time it gets hot.


It is quiet this morning. I can hardly hear the birds outside. It was a good rain yesterday and the world is clean. My fingers will not work. I picked seven spent blossoms from my Chicago Star and laid them out, fifteen feet apart, and drove my scooter in a zigzag pattern through them to simulate the road cone test. I dumped my scooter over on its side. Not while I was riding it, but I parked it, put down the kickstand and walked away. I failed to account for the weight of the new pack and panniers attached to the back rack. It bent the rear brake lever and spilled a little gas, but all in all, no problems.

Sid is recovering from the raccoon attack. Those urban 'coons are tough mothers. As it happens, I was taking Sid to the vet and went across the street to Starbucks for a cuppa and the charming window girl asked,

"And what are you up to today?"

and I said, "Well, since you asked, I just dropped my dog at the vet because he tangled with a Clinton Street Raccoon."

and she said, "I am terrified of raccoons. In Kansas, one jumped out of a tree and landed on my head and attacked me."

I didn't know this much about raccoons, but apparently, they can get a little bit agitated. I thought they just ate nuts and berries but I was wrong wrong wrong.

So, the story, in case you didn't know, is that I was sitting on the porch, blogging my life away, and Sid launched in the general direction of the street. It is unusual for him to do stuff like that. Being evening, I wasn't sure what he was after, but soon realized it was a raccoon. Everyone started yelling at once. Even the neighbor boy who suggested that Sid's breeding was a menace--so that was fun. But the fight was on, and Sid lost. Got his little pitbull ass kicked. It was his first fight. Quite primitive, actually, but this raccoon lives under the house next door, and torments Sid every morning. So when Sid saw that guy sauntering across the street in plain view, he just went for it, to his immediate dismay.

Sid is now laying at my feet, an antibiotic keeping the bad germs at bay, and the world is awake.

I am going to figure out the camping trip. I have a list of things not to forget. I am a planner, at least in advance of anything. I do like my lists. We'll see, come leaving day (12 days!!) what I bring and what I don't.

Saturday, June 23, 2007


I was enjoying my saturday morning here in America when I cruised over to the Language Barrier (to your left) and fell in a deep dark hole. Enjoying my morning now seems an atrocity, and there is a deafness in my home, and I can't help the man from Iraq but by my vote and I pay my taxes and I support this war and I don't know how not to. I am passive and can't even imagine what it would look like to do something against the neocon machine. At the end of the post I read apology after apology by other Americans and the hollow thud of our empty words typed gingerly between sips of latte and dainty bites of warm croissants made me sick.

Friday, June 22, 2007


Sid is an idiot.

hers and his

We drove over to Gwen's, she joined us on her BMW and away we went, out Johnson Creek. I felt like one of the big kids. But I had to be in before dark and I should wear better shoes. I think my strappy little pink balerina shoes won't quite get it. My tail light/brake light wasn't connected and K fixed it today so I'm good to go, but as a permit-only rider, I can't just take off by myself. I have to have adult supervision. Too little, too late, eh?

Monday, June 18, 2007


The approach to fraternity row. Actually, I have no idea who these people are. They are my neighbors, two blocks down. They cause no trouble and are a source of entertainment, especially now as the realtor decorates the porch next door with a single, pathetic fuschia basket in desperate need of water. It just won't make the sale.

the flower box

deep weeds

the cans, after trash day

the side yard