Tuesday, May 20, 2014

clamfest 2014

Our anniversary celebration is always held on the weekend of the best spring clam tides on the Oregon Coast. This is our tenth and the clams this year are huge. A limit of 15, carried in my mesh sack, weighs three times as much as in previous years. Fukushima. I know. On the upside, the clams glow in the dark, so if you start clamming before sunrise, you. can do without a lantern.

I made reservations a bit late, as is my custom, and we ended up in Venice, an RV park turned crack 'hood. "Venice" because it is set along the tidal canal that wanders through Seaside. Word has it that Venice used to be one of those upscale mobile parks that only accepted newer mobile homes, must-have aluminum skirting in place, no vehicles-in-progress, no faded plastic flowers in plastic pots. Well, not anymore. Now, an old woman with COPD struggles to breathe through her memorized tourist script, including how to tell if the tide is going out or coming in. We know this, of course, but were afraid to interrupt her lest she run out of air completely and fall over. I believe that she is being taken advantage of. The drunkards and addicts run amok, all stopping by her place daily, which is next to our place. I hear snippets of conversations, "...yeah, it'll be here on the third," and "No, really. I'll be out by the end of the month...." For all I know she's selling meth.

I can't imagine, given the general entropy of Venice, that she gets many cash customers. These days, any remaining "permanent" trailers are in utter disrepair and have become rentals. The maintenance man is drunk, driving around in a front-end loader/backhoe that the crackheads refer to as his hovercraft. No one has pulled a weed in years and the blackberries have thus far consumed the Spanish-style wrought iron trellis, a set of concrete seagulls and the compulsory wooden sea captain with their persistent, thorny vines. Crackheads don't mind the ambience. All the better to hide in plain sight.

As with any three day tide set, the first days are the best, because the clam beds are being revealed -- this is the first real set since last year -- so the clams are plentiful. By day three, they were over-picked and a small storm had blown in. No self-respecting clam would put up with such a beating; they stayed under the sand. We had to work for our take on the final day, but came home with 74 clams.

It was all work for me. With my right breast still smoking from the radiation burns, it was all I could do to get through the hour of physical labor each morning. But I prevailed. I will not give up my life. Not yet. And good news! A possible job has come my way. It is something I think I would like, and does not involve death except to the extent that human beings are involved. I am not quite ready to work though, and I hope our time frames can co-exist and they will wait for me. Either way, all is well. I've done my part and the outcome is not mine to fret over.

A radical hailstorm followed us back from the coast and tore through my sweet little spring flowers. They will bounce back. We finally made it home (the hail stopped freeway traffic) and I fried a big batch of clams. Kurt's mom and Nicole joined us. Nicole is staying here these days and was such good company during the post-radiation inferno.

And that's the news from Clinton Street.

Friday, May 09, 2014


I am now in the surreal place of having completed cancer treatment. Eight months have passed with little participation from me except survival efforts. Important, to be sure. My breast is like an eight pound Judyroast that seems a bit on the well-done side. Pain is unignorable. I realize this is not a word, but it is my current experience. My MD said, "You are doing as expected given your anatomy." Read: more tissue = more trouble. The right breast, the one reduced by surgery, is now nearly twice the size of the left. The skin on skin truth of my anatomy offers many square inches of tenderness now occupied by searing, weeping flesh.


My arm is responding well to the compression garment and I am being fitted for a permanent sleeve. Being a chicken about tattoos, I'll decorate my sleeve instead.

Thursday, May 01, 2014

radiation, succulents and anniversaries

Down in the bowels of Providence hospital, beyond the bounds of cell service, we arrive, one after the other, for our daily dose of cell-killing rays. We sit and wait our turns. I've been showing up earlier to grab a cup of coffee with an older couple who like to chat. We all have our stories. She got to keep her hair, I didn't. I miss my hair most of all. It hasn't really started growing back yet. I hope it will. I have lymph edema in my right arm because the lymph fluid can't find its way back to my heart since the surgery. Instead, it leaks out my eyes and I bloat up like a whale. I have physical therapy appointments, radiation appointments, and any day without one is a gift. I want to sleep, but life calls me. I have a garden, after all.

Today the physical therapist said (of the edema), "Well, since this is something you'll have to manage for the rest of your life, blah blah blah." I pretty much stopped hearing at that point. "What?" I may have yelled. "The rest of my life?" "Yes," she said, very nicely, "It is incurable." Was anyone going to tell me this? I've had it for months. Now, turns out I have to wear an arm length ace bandage-ish thing, two of them on top of each other, to get the swelling down to the point where they can make a permanent one for me. f-o-r-e-v-e-r. What a bonus, eh? And now, in addition to breast-shrivelling radiation, I get a permanent elastic sleeve to wear. Even in the sun, which has been out for two consecutive days, only to slink back to wherever it goes when it isn't in Portland.

Next topic: For ten years we have been fighting a battle to maintain a spot of lawn in our backyard. Just a little bit. Ten by ten. And each year we begin anew, sod or seed, it doesn't matter. We plant, water, baby along the soft green fuzz, and enjoy it for the summer. But each year, the encroaching moss takes more than its fair share and gobbles up the grass. This year has been darker and wetter than usual, which, for Portland, is saying something. The interminable, dreary gray of day after day after day has invited a moss revival. We finally gave up. The moss won. I wasn't sure what I would do in the absence of grass, but decided on a rock and moss-like plant garden instead. As it happens, as soon as I made this decision, my cousin, who had just moved from inner Portland out to the Sandy River (their place is lovely -- their own state park complete with waterfalls and river frontage) she no longer had a need to landscape the place, so she gave me nine flat stones, each about the size of a very large coffee-table book each. No -- they're bigger. About two of those books side by side. Anyway, they are big. So now it is a design question. I've considered placing the stones in a circle; making a path to nowhere? Well, its too late for input. Time has passed, it is now two weeks later and the path is laid. I decided to be practical for once instead of purely ornamental. I made the path to correspond where I walk when I water. That way, all of the "steppable" plants I have planted (I think I got one of everything) won't get crushed and die when "stepped" on.

So, today is our 10th Wedding Anniversary, We took a long drive through the gorge and the waterfalls and around the base of Mt. Hood. I stole a big chunk of moss from one of the waterfall parks. Horsetail Falls. It was already on the pavement and sprouting ferns. Not exactly theft, but I'm still glad we weren't accosted by the tour bus of elders from "Friends of the Gorge."

Ten years of marriage and I am so happy. This past year has been a beautiful demonstration of our commitment to each other. He kisses my bald head and tells me I'm beautiful. Always marry a liar.