Thursday, May 31, 2007

'nuther day

Well, for those of you wondering whassup, we're not going to do the property thing. Turns out we're not wealthy after all. Lifestyles of the mediocre and obscure. That's us. Naw... we went to the bank and they would have loved to sell us a buttload of money, but we couldn't quite figure it out. There was so much on the line. And we could have crawled out on that limb, but back there would always be the things sawing away at it. In order, my reasons for supporting the decision not to go forward are:

Its too freakin' hot down there.
Our families are too freakin' close.
The ecoterrorists in the neighborhood freakin' annoy me. Seriously.

So, home we are and home we'll stay.

It did galvanize, momentarily anyway, the value of saving for retirement property.

So now you know... the rest of the story.

Monday, May 28, 2007

existential weekend

So there we were. Eliott Creek B&B, my Father-out-law's cabin, for a nice quiet weekend. We got in Friday afternoon. Kurt wanders over to his father's place for coffee, as usual, and they go for a walk, as usual, and my husband returns with a funny look on his face, says, "I want to talk you into something." Pause. "Go for a walk with me." He seems serious. I think, okay. I'll go for a walk. I'm not that lazy that he has to talk me into it. "Okay. A walk sounds great," I say. He still seems serious. He's kind of shifting from one foot to the other. "What?" I say. "What's going on?" He crooks his finger and says, "Let's go look at the 10 acres Dad has for sale." He pauses. "I told him we want it."

So began the relaxing weekend. This could be a long post, because I'm going to take you for a walk through the property and try to record some of the emotional upheaval that is still going on in my psyche.

The road in. Literally and figuratively. The road was just dynamited into submission after a 30 year nap.

10+ acres, 750 feet of which are pristine, year-round, swimmable creek frontage. The majority of the lot is hillside, forest--logged probably sometime in the fifties or sixties. Well forested again. Beautiful. Lush. The septic is installed and approved, the meadow, below, is huge.... at least 3 acres of level, buildable land. Off grid. Untouched. The road ends at this piece. Beyond is only rock face and Forest Service land. A rare private subdivision in the middle of all Federal land. Below is a view of the meadow from entrance.

This shows the first of three drops in water elevation on the property. There are three small waterfalls with enough drop to run a hydraulic generator year 'round. The water is clean. Very little human occupation upstream. Stunning.

A longshot up the creek from the back of the property. I wish you could see this. It goes on and on back along the creek.

A view of the creek at the deep green far end of the place. The meadow is open and sunny with a decent growing season and plenty of room for a nice garden (picture a 12 foot fence), but the far end is more dense. The property is situated in the middle of an old copper mining community that died years ago (JoBar), but has supported a small (10 people or less) alternative community for the past 40 or so years. My husband's father the main landowner.

At the far end is this gorgeous rock face. Probably 200 feet high. Many ferns, trillium, other delicate posies.

Rock face close up. From the end of the property this is pretty much it. Rock. You can hike way up and over it (but why? I ask. Why?) and a mile or so down the road is a remote campground, but nobody comes over the rocks. Nobody.

Amenities. Hers.

I don't know if you can see this, but the ridges (long, knee-high piles of river rock) are tailings from the hydraulic mining activity in the early 1800's by Chinese immigrants who were generally treated badly and run off a cliff when we were done with them, or so the saying goes. A few years ago, Jacksonville began having a Chinese New Year celebration and I thought it odd.... At any rate, there are tailings throughout the property.

Shed. His. We would likely build next to the hillside, in the shade. That way, it would be cooler in the summer. It couldn't get any colder in the winter. Many of the homes (a loose description) in the area are decorated with found items turned to flower pots. At this point, it seems a sin to decorate this sanctuary. A quiet home, a garage for the equipment, a shed for the well, some chairs and a table down by the water, to bring up when the rains come. The piece is well above any recent high-water mark. The flood of 97 didn't get it.

Challenged with my fabulous life, I hardly know what to make of it. I've lived off the grid before, and would do it differently if I am (since I am) confronted with the opportunity: reliable heat, comfort, water, light, refrigeration. I do not want to live poorly. But how often does somebody say, here: have another life. Again.

For both of us, even to consider this is a tremendous step back in time. We both lived here once upon a time. Kurt's father is here. My history is here. Distant, but the bones still rattle in the closet. The question is whether it can be both a step backward and a step forward -- if the city life will take a backseat, if it will live in well-behaved memory or remind me of all I should miss.

But I spent the weekend, and the morning, and likely the next month, trying like hell to figure out who I am. This is not the quest of a 50-something. I should be over all that. Am I that little hippie chick who canned peaches and hauled water up a hill, all tan and pregnant? Who sat naked at the edge of Yale Creek unafraid of my body? Or, am I the person I've sold to employers, a capable, competent managerial slave? Am I a civilized modern woman who can negotiate a big city with relative ease and fool the natives? Am I a writer? A biker? A wife? A mother? A junkie? A drunk?

Shit. All of the people I have been are clamoring for attention in the face of the chance of monumental change. I can't figure out if I have been lulled into the belief that a job and health insurance are critical or whether I would regret leaving it all behind. Do I think we can throw it all up in the air and live on love? I used to. I used to move freely through my life with little overhead save a bag of dirty laundry, a sleeping bag and a dog. Now, it is significantly heavier to be me. So much more to carry.

But wouldn't that leather furniture looks spectacular in a cabin?

I think these decisions are for the young and unsuspecting, the dreamers and optimists. I have been to the circus. I know how the magic tricks work. I know who lives in the outback nowadays. I know too much and too little.

But I sit beside that creek and think: I used to be this.

Thursday, May 24, 2007


The first day out of winter clothing, the first non-black day, feels like full frontal nudity to me. I have on a perfectly respectable blue sundress, but feel fat, white and naked -- in that order. I am.

I just purchased a pheasant berry, or, himalayan honeysuckle plant. I'm not sure what it is going to do, but the fruit is splendid looking, a tiny, burgundy, hop-like flower that hangs pendant-like beneath broad leaves and is just as nice dried. I'll get it in a pot today. Not sure if it will take over, so am not going to put it directly into the ground. Not enough space to lose.

I don't have to go back to work until Wednesday, and I am sitting at home, day one, trying to adjust to the fact that I can enjoy myself, if I only will. Inertia rules. I have been downtown today, shopping my little heart out, until I had to go to a noon dental cleaning. Whee. Audrey, the hygenist, a tiny little asian thing, said she has a serious cellulite problem and an old woman's body. Cleaning teeth is a job for someone with OCD and I believe she is well-employed. My teeth are clean.

Tomorrow morning, we head for parts South.

We hired a new nurse at work. A him. A male nurse. During the interview process he was asked what he does for fun. "I really enjoy power tools," he replied, humorless and intense. To get a little closer to the point, the interviewer asked, "What is your philosophy of life?" He said, without hesitation, "I follow the Ten Commandments and the tenets of the Roman Catholic Church." We were more or less speechless. One of those occasions when a light version of "alrighty then" would have been a perfect fit. So, he will be looking after my folks. And I will be looking after him. I guess the good news is that he will be anything but a slacker. And he'll work weekends. Of course he will. He will obey God and Country. He will obey. Its part of the Big 10.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

de nada

where have all the comments gone?

Saturday, May 19, 2007


I'm headed out to purchase brand new leather furniture at lazboy.

Five hours later... done. I am the proud owner of more stuff. I put my old stuff on craigslist but nobody seems to want it. Go to: portland craigslist-furniture-mission sofa and loveseat - if you want to see my crap. yep. Its right there. It won't be delivered until July, so the immediate gratification part of my brain is experiencing a minor stroke, but I am ready to sit on camp chairs for two months. You read it here first.

I will probably make minor adjustments in the decor -- just ever so tiny -- perhaps paint and carpet, maybe window coverings. Maybe. The leather is very dark brown. Coffee grounds brown. Future Martha Stewart postings are very likely. I am a little disturbed at the notion of purchasing Lazboy products, but they are not recliners and offer a great repair guarantee package for the leather. Lazgirl, now that I could get behind.

The search for furniture, a lifelong pursuit, always involved orbiting early yard sales and dusty second-hand stores. This is new, though, and the cruise through crowded furniture showrooms has been illuminating. The things they think people will put on a coffee table. Where are your feet supposed to go? These items of African interest are big and un-ignorable. And useless. Now, as I gaze around my own little showroom, I'll admit not every single thing has a purpose, but three giant picture frames with one Pakistani purse suspended between layers of glass, all three sitting in the middle of the table, blocking my view of Survivor? I don't think so.

And get this: the sofa cushions are attached to the sofa. Not loose. They wouldn't slide off if you begged them. Now, where will all the money go? I recall (wistfully) digging for change to do laundry. Back then, a quarter was a big find. Those were the days, eh? A load of wash for a quarter, hauling dirty laundry tied in sheets like a hobo stick to the Ruch laundramat, sitting the children on the washer during spin cycle because we couldn't afford the horse at the checkout stand. And we did all the laundry at once. Thirteen loads was not unusual. Make a day of it, then, stack it all nice and folded, tie it back up and haul it home: kids, dogs, whiskey and all, hitchhiking highway 238 with nothing to fear but the ol' man at home. If I remember long enough, I always get there.

But these sofas.... I'm not sure how to take care of them. Do I get a skinny attachment for my vacuum cleaner? Nah. Who vacuums?

Tuesday, May 15, 2007


This should be good. Me, providing clarification. L wanted to know about Anne Lamott's comments on whether or not to write about the living. What I recall.... is that she talked about people seeing themselves so differently that if you created a character, a real bastard, based almost verbatim on some asshole you know, they would read the book, walk up to you and tell you what a good book it was and what a bastard the bad guy was and how the hell did you ever think that up??????? She had actually had that experience and was all neurotic about seeing some woman she had written about and when she did -- nada.

But L, if you write about me, I'll know.

For me, I just won't write crap about my son or my husband. All the rest of you are fair game. And it isn't that there is nothing to write. OH! Believe me. But I gave birth to one and am hopelessly and legally devoted to the other, so am not quite ready to cut my throat. Shit, my kid doesn't call me on mother's day and I still won't write smack about him. Maybe I just did.

It is sunny. We went for my first bike ride, and will walk later. Survivor ended sunday night, so that leaves an evening free. I don't like to be tied to TV when it gets warm out. I'm grateful for the tube during the winter, but I'm ready to be outside. I am still mad that YauMan didn't win it though. He was the best contestant ever. Ask anyone who watched it. Ask me.

Saturday, May 12, 2007


I'm never really quite certain where the balance is when it comes to writing about the living. I don't, for instance, write about my mother in law, even though there are things I could write. I listened to a cd by Anne Lamott one time that talked about this topic. It is walking that tightrope between, "Damn the editors" and "living in a family with some measure of harmony."

I doubt she reads my blog (MIL not Lamott). It could happen. Would I care? Not much and not for long. She pretty much just forwards pithy, pseudo-feminist spam (self-centered, stereotypical, shopping, body-conscious, male-bashing) with never an original thought. Oh. Did I say that in my out loud voice?

So I'm a shitty wife. I am. I come home on Friday and I don't want to dedicate this weekend or any other to anybody else. I am socially exhausted. I take care of other people's families all day every day for money. I don't care if its Mother's Day weekend. I don't get to see my mother or my son, so I'm mad. I love my husband. I really do. I just can't, at 50-something, have a new mom. I can't bond. It ain't gonna happen. There you have it.

So, this weekend is Haley's graduation from Northwest YouthCorps. She's been in the outback of Oregon blazing trails and eating stew from a dutch oven. She's a gnarly kid anyway. We will drive down to Eugene to see her graduate, and we adults will all be piled in the front seat of our truck. Hubby, me and MOM. I'm not looking forward to it.

My hope is that today will count as Mother's Day. Two for one. I am not a nice person.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

monkeys I know

The Clan

Some monkeys who are no longer on my back.

The abandoned Mr. Baggs (see previous post) This monkey actually showed up on our porch with this note, possibly seeking asylum. We never did find out who left him. It was pretty creepy. If you click on the photo you can read the note.

Cross on the garret wall. For those in peril.

road kill

I ran over a squirrel. I tried not to. I zigged, he zagged, and there he was, furry little tail twitching in my rear view mirror. I know I know I know they are nothing more than rats with decorations here in the big city, but I'm not from here, and I like squirrels. I grew up in campgrounds with gray squirrels and chipmunks when were were in higher elevations like Lake of the Woods. I watched Chip and Dale cartoons. I've delighted in watching them walk along the phone lines on Clinton Street out my bay window. I know they're a pain in the ass and they bury peanuts in my geranium pots, but shit. The little bump under the great big tires of my great big shiny red truck was not enough. There should have been body damage. But, he was on 122nd in rush hour traffic. Maybe he was suicidal. Maybe that was it. Poor little guy.

I went in for a CT scan of my gut. Something is wrong with me [other than that] and I had to drink a bunch of water and wait. That is not something I do easily. I have a bladder the size of a teaspoon and it waits for no man. I think I have been clear about my ability to pee anytime, anywhere. I've published articles about bathroom stalls of the northwest. I been around.

So there I was, about two hours into having to piss, and now its time to draw blood. This is not fun for me. I'm not exactly sure how much to say here... leave it to your imagination that my misspent youth caused me just ever the tiniest problem with phlebotomy -- thus the need to be fully hydrated. Well I was fully hydrated. I was afloat. So, I explain to the child who is about to stick pins in me that this isn't going to be easy. I always warn them and they always reassure me and I always leave the office looking like a junkie on a bad day. Which I am, but not just now.

Anyway, she ties me off and says, "Relax."
Now, I can relax, or I can refrain from pissing all over the CT scanner. As my good friend Dan used to say: clean body, clean mind. Take your pick.

I didn't die, she got her blood, and I didn't urinate on the equipment. That's the short version. I still don't know what's up with my body. I just don't want to need surgery again. (see previous posts) I can't live on Vicodin.

Well, maybe, just for a minute.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007


My first Cecil Brunner rosebud. This rose is about half an inch long. Lovely,isn't it?

Saturday, May 05, 2007


I spent the better part of my day in Goodwill looking for sun hats. It isn't sunny --don't get the wrong idea--this is Portland. I decided to have a pre-Mother's Day hat party at work. Mothers and their mothers. Grandmothers and their mothers, actually. I have to give them something to do with each other or they will spend the whole party arguing about where is home and why can't we go now and where is dad who's been dead for twenty years but it seems like yesterday to them. It is always yesterday, never today, and always just the one moment. Its all you get with Alzheimer's. Its all you get anyway -- they just seem to have a firmer grasp of the ethereal, if that's possible. [Is it?] And it doesn't matter that I hold Mother's Day on the Friday before, because its all the same day. We could have Christmas next Tuesday and they wouldn't blink. But that wouldn't be very nice, would it? So, a couple of days early, we will make peach tea and glue silk flowers onto floppy straw hats and call it a party. Mad as Hatters, every one.

So there I was, not at a Goodwill SuperStore, but at the Goodwill Bins. The Pound Store, as Larry calls it. Everything for sale by the pound. I pictured a bin of hats, teeming with wide-brimmed straw, taking my sweet time picking the nicer ones from the vast selection. This was not to be my fate. There were rules, to begin with. What is it with places like that? Run by lesser folk with attitudes. I hate being elitist. I am a fingersnap away from streetwalking, grocery cart, shit in the alley, wear all your clothes at once poverty and I look down my (perfectly straight, patrician) nose at these poor bastards who sort my leftover shit for a living.

This is supposed to be about sun hats, not a sociological confession.

This place was huge. It rivaled the new Boeing building. There were giant bins of human waste, unsorted, ripe for the picking. But there were so many people. And the rules. First of all, you have to keep moving. If you stand still you get run over. There were Russians (I told you. The scarves give them away. According to my husband they ship this stuff back to the mother country by the buckets.) So all of these people with their shopping carts were digging madly through the bins and I'm s h o p p i n g like I was at Nordstroms or something. I was kind of just strolling, not really wanting to touch anything, pick anything up or turn anything over or get my little hands dirty. And this is precisely what was required. Mind you, there was a time when about half a gram of somethin' woulda had me crawling to the bottom of those bins sorting buttons for days, but I'm civilized now. Timid. Useless. And not a freakin' hat in sight. I took a deep breath and knew I had to dig. Digging was called for. So I began my search.

When all was said and done, at a buck a pound, I had 10.96 worth of hats and flowers. And a breadboard. And a cool Tibetan bag. I think I could get the hang of this. Again.

Memory ... I remember when my brother Kim and I were robbing a Goodwill box, the kind with the metal tip-in donation door. I was sitting in the tipper, balanced between inside and out (I have lived there), reaching inside, going through shit, when the cops drove up. Kim tipped it closed, I fell in, and was stuck in that Goodwill box until he got me out after the cop left.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

peony and the drive by incident

By now, most of you know I raise Alzheimer's patients for a living. Well, in case you didn't know, I do. They are wealthy and live in a private place created just for them. They each have their own little apartment and I beg -- I BEG -- their family members not to furnish their rooms with heirlooms. Alzheimer's is the great leveller. About halfway down the trail, personal property ceases to hold any special appeal. Not much matters. To them. To family? That's a whole 'nother deal. Not that family matters a whole lot to them after awhile, but the stuff... the stuff matters to the family.

So there I was, fast asleep, midnightish, and the phone rings. I always know these calls are for me. Almost. So I fumble for the phone, and the night shift med aide tells me, in pretty broken english, that a car has smashed into the building and destroyed Peony's room and all of her trinkets: commemorative plates, crystal vases, knotts berry farm cup and saucer, the works.

I wonder about Peony, as I should. I'm always so relieved when I show signs of compassion. I worry that I'll forget to ask: "Oh, and Peony? Is she under the broken glass or under the bumper?" But Peony slept right through the whole thing. She's deaf as a post.

So, the morning was full of taking pictures and attempting to reconstruct what might have happened. Who knows? Some crackhead probably trying to turn around in a driveway that, at first glance, looked a bit wider. Maybe a swing shift employee in a hurry to leave work who accidentally floored it in reverse, jumping the curb, crossing 15 feet of lawn and smashing into the wall without, say, stopping to say oops. my bad.

Her daugher showed up before nine, the first words out of her mouth "shattered family heirlooms." I knew the bill would be high. But really, who sets the price for memory? You can't buy it back. You don't really even get to know you lost it.

I remember my sister in law driving through some lady's house, knocking her out of bed and breaking her ankle. She at least had the good taste to pass out at the scene. We'll never know what happened.

And really, I'll never care all that much. Peony is okay. Knotts Berry Farm is still in business [right?] and they still make those commemorative plates, only it seems like they all have Elvis on them.

Time for Survivor.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

one anniversary and a funeral

May Day May Day. It is our third anniversary. We had dinner at Montage, that Cajun place under the Morrison bridge. Yum. They wrap leftovers in sculpted tin foil to go home. Somebody decided that we should have dessert because it was our anniversary, so they sent us home with this fat piece of chocolate cake, which we just finished and I have vanilla sauce on my fingers and I can still type.

Today I went to Alice's funeral. I don't usually go, but Alice didn't have many people to show up for her and she was wearing red, and I thought that since we'd danced together it was the least I could do.

I'm never really sure what to do, Amy Vanderbilt-wise, for a funeral. Do you still wear black, for instance, or is it okay to dispense with tradition. Now, I always wear black, so for me, its no trouble. I have the good black clothes and the great black clothes. Today I wore one of each. But, do you bring flowers or send them ahead? I really only know biker funerals, you know, the kind where you throw precious things in the hole: gold rings, good weed, bad whiskey, stolen roses and eventually somebody usually takes a piss for old time's sake.

It wasn't like that.

It was in a mausoleum [shudder] and it was a little creepy, nine or twelve lawn chairs stuffed between slabs of pink marble with the names of dead people on them stacked ten high, a ceiling probably twenty feet tall. Her urn wrapped in red velvet up front and afterwards people were invited to touch the velvet. I didn't. The minister was her stepson and the few people who were there I had never seen. He mostly told the story of his father instead of Alice, but that is probably because it is the only story he knows and people seem to think their perspective is interesting.

I know I do.

The only thing I learned is that Alice liked to mow the lawn.

I don't understand the reason for mausoleums. They had not run out of room out in the dirt, so it wasn't like that. I think its that they want permanence. I think that would have probably gone without saying but for my saying it. Maybe notoriety. Maybe status.

Dead is dead. The place was thick with the smell of roses, or rose spray, more likely, because the identical little vases on each crypt were full of silk and plastic flowers. Again, that permanence thing. Weight my ankles with chains, throw me off the side of a boat and feed the fish. Heaven knows I've spent my share of time leaning over the bulwarks. A wonder I never fell in.

My husband sent me a text message that said, "I'm not a smart man but I know whut love is." I am happy to be married. Permanence... ah.