Saturday, June 28, 2008

chewing glass

It is the last day of my 20th year. Tomorrow is 21. Legal. I sat in front of Mulligan's Bar and Grill on Hawthorne last night, considering the days, the years, that have passed. I do that on anniversaries. I sit in or around bars and remember things best forgotten.

This morning I took my scooter down to the meeting place, wind in my hair and all, listened, came home to make oatmeal with walnuts and green apples, wait for my husband to get home from a bike ride, and watch as my day unfolds under the rare Portland sun. I need to have another key made for my scooter and I must go to Freddy's to talk about glass shards in the frozen berries, then off for coffee with a writer in hopes of structuring my fucking book.

I know the part about glass was tucked in there as though just another moment in my always zen-like existence, but seriously. I've been eating broken glass for breakfast. It started last week.

Sunday morning, like any weekend morning, I made oatmeal with frozen blueberries. I prefer frozen to fresh. On weekdays it is yogurt and berries. I usually mix frozen cherries in with the blueberries for the sweet. So there I was, shovelling down the oatmeal when I discovered some broken glass in my mouth. I fished around in the bowl for more glass and finding only a couple of pieces, cautiously ate the rest of my breakfast. The next morning I dumped my yogurt and berries together and headed to work. At about 8:30, I open my pack and take out my breakfast, finding partway through it that again, I have glass in my mouth. Bummer. This time it feels kind of like I may have swallowed some and this concerns me. I fish around and find a little more, and toss the rest of my breakfast, sad and desperate, and eat some cold scrambled eggs. By this time, I'm guessing the blueberries are the culprit rather than the oatmeal, either that or Nicole is trying to murder me, which is entirely possible.

So, next day I open a brand new bag of frozen cherries, both to rule out the blueberries and the murder theory. I am certain it is not the cherries. NOT THE CHERRIES!!!. So I make my breakfast, go to work, sit down after the initial blur of physician's orders and employee complaints as well as one of my patients yelling, "Get away from me you sons of bitches and I don't mean daughters, either!" to eat my breakfast, and begin shovelling the cherries and yogurt down my throat with relative abandon, considering the events fo the past three days.

This raises some questions for me. And I would understand if it also raised some questions for you. Why? You may wonder, does she keep eating this food when she could die a ghastly death bleeding from the inside out?

Its a fair question.

Well, I really like cherries and I have a smallish but significant disability when it comes to, well, living in reality. My behavior would suggest that I believe the laws of physics don't apply to me, such as: glass cannot be digested safely. I don't believe this consciously, I am not an idiot, but my actions do not support my beliefs. I live outside of integrity when it comes to food. Now, I don't think that is such a big deal, really. I've been worse and lived.

So, yes. I'm certain you are hanging on by a thread here, wondering if there was glass in my cherries. Yes. Dammit. There were large shards, kind of flakes of glass, throughout my breakfast for now the fourth day in a row. So, I don't need a brick wall to fall on my head. Again, scrambled eggs.

I got on the phone and called Fred Meyer himself to explain to him that he has a small problem in the frozen food aisle. I saved the glass and the bag the cherries came in and am heading down there today to bring in the evidence, and report that should I, in any way, have gastrointestinal problems due to ingesting glass, Freddy is footin' the bill. Period.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

vacation part II

So there we were, all packed up and ready to head inland when my husband stepped on the clutch and nothing happened. Not one thing. Had we been on minimally level land, that would have been one thing, but we were about a mile down a spiraling 14% incline, towing a small but significant U-Haul trailer. Russian Gulch is about a mile north of Mendocino on Hwy 1. A beautiful campground surrounded by ferns and just the minutest bit of stinging nettle, which I managed to steer clear of, but my husband did not. Left up to me I would have unwittingly picked a bouquet to grace our table, but he was the first one out of the truck and into the campsite. I guess it stings--thus, the name.

We are such grown ups now that we have AAA.--Triple A for the unititiated. (I could refer you to previous posts about my 65 Dodge Polara with a plywood back seat and a starter that had to be beaten with a shovel each time I turned it off, but I'll leave that up to you. ) Ah, poverty, that fount of revisionist memory.

So this ranger shows up to see who the flakes are who have broken down in his campsite. He is clearly from Mendocino based on the tan and the 150.00 haircut. To be fair, he was very nice. Rangers are very nice, as a rule, aren't they? Have you noticed? For instance, this one came up to us while we were walking toward the beach to let Sid run around for awhile.
My husband says, cleverly, upon meeting the ranger, "Sid! Where is your six foot leash?"
The ranger says, in perfect tour guide inflection, "Say, Do you know where the Rite Aid is in Fort Bragg?"
I think, What the hell? Does he need bandaids or a prescription filled?
So my husband, knowing we are about 9 miles from Fort Bragg, says, "Sure." And he's thinking, like I am, that this guy needs directions to Rite Aid and has a medical problem of some kind.
The ranger says, "Good. Well, there's an off-leash dog park down toward the water from there." and goes on to explain the directions in minute detail.
We consider admitting to the ranger that Sid is usually on his leash and no one is around anyway, but don't. We just stand there like the guilty campers we are.
The ranger, remaining tour guide-positive, says, "I was just thinking you might want to know where an off leash park was located."
Well, we really didn't at all. We weren't thinking how nice it would be to drive nine miles to walk Sid, who can walk just fine on an empty beach.
Anyway, I was just wondering if all rangers are taught to deal with campers in positive language only. Maybe some campers are a tiny bit unstable and will flip out if a ranger was to, for instance, say something like: "Put your fucking pitbull on a leash, asshole," or something like that. I wonder if there is a ranger school for manners.

We met this other ranger in Jedediah Smith State Park where we camped early. In campgrounds now there is evening entertainment and actual gift shops. It was the first Ranger Talk of the season when we were there. It was called "The Bear Necessities" and talked about bear ettiquette, like not spreading jam on your child's face or something if you happen to run into a bear on the trail. It was for idiots and flat-landers I guess. The plan was to have this blazing bonfire (which I thought questionable in the redwoods) but the guy ranger couldn't build a fire. It took him forever. It was decorative, the way he built this tipi out of wood, but it wouldn't take off for the longest time. At the talk, the ranger-gal handed around this necklace of bear teeth and the next morning, as we checked out of our campsite, there was a note at the entrance that someone had pocketed it and the sign said, "It is MINE."

When we finally made it out of Russian Gulch, we were towed by AAA inland to Willitts. It is a 25 mile winding road and we were in a huge flatbed tow truck driven by Kevin who has three children who have turned out well because they do things together as a family and he married his high school sweetheart and drives the road like he has lived there all his life, which he has, almost without looking. I believe we made better time being towed by Kevin than we would have on our own.

Willetts isn't much. We were pretty much hostage to the auto repair shop, and several hundred dollars later, were on our way up 101 and toward home. I should report that Sid was really happy to finally make it to a hotel room with air conditioning and a bed he could call his own.

We drove straight through to Port Orford and spent the evening with my brother Doug and his wife Joyce. The curry was excellent. The company, even better. It was good to see them.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

brother, first and last

I started out with three brothers and now I have one. The eldest, older by about 12 years than I, is the only one left. I could tell a million stories about Doug because he is someone about whom stories are told, and will be told long after he is gone, which won't be long if things keep on the way they are. I love my brothers, not any one the best, and went through life being never myself but always somebody's sister. They were all treacherously handsome and drawn, all but the youngest, to trouble. The youngest (and I think we'd all agree, the best) died first. His heart was like his father's, doomed to beat for only about 35 to 40 years. Doug's has been beating longer, and likely harder, and is beginning to wear down now. The middle boy, silenced his about five years ago with whiskey.

When I was eleven, Doug taught me to play poker so he could beat me out of my babysitting money and play pool at Foss's Pool Hall in Medford. He told me to fold on the only royal flush I've ever been dealt. Lore has it that he painted his Navy commander's face with deck paint and nearly joined the Mafia. I'd believe anything. I have believed anything. I like a story and am a liar, this much we know. I remember people bringing Doug home from long benders, leaning him up against our front door, knocking, then running away. We'd open the door and down would come Doug -- passed out cold. I remember (or I may just be repeating a story I heard a hundred times) my brother hanging out the back window of a station wagon, the old kind with the seat facing backward, bottle of tequila in hand, spinning out of our wide gravel driveway with a carload of Mexicans bound for Tijuana, and this during a time when cars full of Mexicans were something of a rarity. Now, to say it outloud, or rather in print, it sounds rather benign. At the time it was the height of subversion, of rebellion, something he was known for. My mother never gave up on him.

There have been many years of my life when I didn't know him. He captained his own fishing boats and fished the Southcoast of Oregon for the past 40 years or so. When he found out I was shooting heroin he walked into the bar and slugged me, not really very hard, but nearly knocked me off my barstool. I tried to explain to him that it wasn't that big a deal, but he knew better. He knew. When I needed to kick, I went to him and camped inland from his mooring, and felt safer leaving my boy with him on his boat when I was sick and had to drink. He knew that one too. And still does. He is not a gossip.

He finally found a woman who could live alongside him, not exactly a pirate's wife, but something like that, who can't get too far from saltwater without getting nervous. She is a weaver and she has saved him twice now from the foibles of a body that is nearing an early finish. .

What Doug and I have in common is walking away from the rest of the family -- he more than I -- to live lives unapproved of by the Christians. We, me and K, visited him on our way back from this past camping excursion, and I didn't know if my husband would like him, but they seemed to hit it off, and for maybe the first time since I got married, I felt like family all together. Kurt said, "You never told me your brother was a real fisherman." I said, "Oh. Well, he is." I forget to tell him things about my family. I often forget I have one. He is my family now. Our counselor thinks I'm not a great communicator.

I am sad for my brother's failing health. I work in an industry where it is impossible not to know what it means to have a stroke, even if they get you to the hospital in time to bust the clot. I am grateful that he and I have lived long enough into this life to sort of know one another, although I will always feel separate from him, which is not very different than how I always feel.

One of the most significant memories from my very early childhood, maybe even the earliest memory of all, was of being awakened before dawn to hear him saying goodbye to me. I was in the top bunk, and he hugged me and ruffled my curly blonde hair. He still calls me Jude. He was seventeen and leaving for the Navy. It was that or prison I guess. I never did know what he did wrong. Maybe I should ask him. I've always wondered. But I guess he, or my Dad, chose the Navy. As you can tell with the face painting incident mentioned above, it didn't go well. None of my brother's took to the military. Or the military to them, it seems. Rebels, one and all.

Friday, June 06, 2008

vacation: backwards, in two parts

I can't tell where I'm typing. But this is Glass Beach in Fort Bragg. It used to be the city dump and now is literally covered in beach glass. People gather it in five-gallon buckets, so there isn't as much as there used to be. According to K, used to be you could see old Model-T's sticking out of the sidehills where they had been dumped and rusted. They are no longer visible.

Now we are in the Avenue of the Giants, although this happened in reverse. I can never remember to load the pictures in reverse order so they come out front to back. Ah, well. Use your imaginations. The route was this: Portland to Eliot Creek for a night; Jed Smith for 3 nights; Russian Gulch (Mendocino) for two nights; Willitts for a night; Port Orford for a night and home. There is much story to fill these gaps, but because I am a crappy blogger (albiet a decent writer) you will have to wait for your bedtime stories until a little later, kiddies.

More and more trees. I don't know what to say about the redwoods. A cathedral. We drove through Stout Grove across the river from Jed Smith, but the sun hardly came out the whole time we were there, so these shots are all from the Avenue of the Giants, which is somewhere further south along the Eel River.

More and more. The place to the left is where I peed. Just in case you were hoping for some significance. I mark territory like a male dog with prostate problems.

More Avenue of the Giants. And more....

I'm not very good at making the right words go with the right pictures. To the left is a view looking up in the Avenue of the Giants.

Our setup. The trailer has all of our gear and we sleep in the truck. This is from the Avenue of the Giants in California somewhere. (if this photo doesn't post, it is our white ford truck. again, imagination....)

Me and a big tree

The lighthouse at Crescent City

This is a giant redwood on a trail in Jed Smith. The chunks cut into the sides were for platforms for fallers back in the day. Coulda been my uncle or cousins, redwood loggers all.

This is camp #22 in Jedidiah Smith State Park. it was a great camp that they rented us by mistake and we had to move to #12, which was okay, but not as great. Sid, the guard dog, protects us from bears.

Monday, June 02, 2008


Jed Smith to Russian Gulch at Mendocino. Very pretty. More later.