Monday, December 31, 2007
I give 2007 an 8 out of 10. There’s some room for improvement, but overall a very satisfying 365 days. Some highlights, not all inclusive and in no particular order:
1) A new nephew. Not quite sure who he really is yet, beyond being very sleepy, but he seems cool. Even if he is squishy.
2) Friends. I really can’t express how unreal some of my friends are. And I keep stumbling on more and more great people all the time.
3) Living in the city. This is probably the single biggest catalyst for change in my life that I’ve had in some time. All for the positive.
4) Losing weight. I’ve dropped a total of 25 pounds now which puts my initial goal weight well within sight. Not easy, but it hasn’t killed me and I not only look healthier, I feel healthier.
5) Portland Timbers. Feel the love.
6) Portland Trailblazers. Feel that love. Wow.
7) Red Sox. World Series champs twice in my lifetime. That will last me for a long while.
8) I got a trumpet.
Some things I wish were different:
1) War. Stupid.
2) Romance. I could use a bit of it.
3) Distance. I wish I lived closer to my brother (or vice versa) and a few other amazing people. But then again, I’d always be missing out on someone wouldn’t I? There’s no perfect solution to this one, is there?
I hope that your 2007 has had similar highlights and very few lowlights.
Thursday, December 27, 2007
This party, for me, has never really struck the right chord. It always hit me as a bit stuffy and even pretentious. To please my mother I normally attend once every 6-8 years. This year was one of those years.
This edition of the party should’ve been the stuffiest of all; Hosted at the Portland Art Museum. However, to my surprise, I enjoyed this version tremendously. Bruce must be growing up. Mom will be proud.
I learned a great deal about the founding of the Art Museum and our ancestors’ roles in that. We were given a private tour by the current curator of many of the significant works that were sold or donated to the museum. Cousin Bill gave a great account of the family over the years and many of the specific donations, gifts and contributions.
The highlight, once again, was Aunt Lucy. She related several stories but one that was very touching. The family once had a Winslow Homer painting. It was sold to put Lucy through college. It turns out that several of her generation of the family attended college through similar sacrifices. It was evident to all how much this meant to Lucy and it really demonstrated to me the profound connections of family, city, museum, education and culture.
I’ve always felt a bit of disconnect to my extended family, much to my mother’s dismay, I fear. But, as I’ve been working to be better connected to both family and friends, I want this to change.
So, see you all next Boxing Day.
Tuesday, December 25, 2007
No matter what your particular version of this holiday time entails, I wish all of you the best through this season and well into the New Year.
Peace and prosperity, harmony and fulfillment. May these all be yours now and in the future.
Thursday, December 20, 2007
Gmail came highly recommended and overall I’ve been very satisfied. Great spam filters. Versatile archiving. Except for this one thing:
They run an automated ad generator at the top of the email screen. It’s not a graphic or anything, just a link and a quick blurb. Except their ad bot is reading my email and generating targeted ads for me. It’s just a bit on the creepy side.
In the past week I’ve had the following ads come up, some more than once:
Indianwives – forgo the traditional arranged marriage; join the new century (eww.)
Bourne Identity becomes funny – the guys from MST3K take on Matt Damon (OK, this actually sounds funny)
Albany Apartments – great rentals in the capital region (I’m willing to visit Albany, but I didn’t know I wanted to live there – does the bot know something I don’t? By any chance does it know the Powerball numbers?)
Netflix – Get Netflix (reasonable)
Room Paint Designs – myAuraPaint.com by Benjamin Moore – high quality, eco-friendly paints (too many house/remodeling emails?)
101 cookbooks – Minty Chocolate Christmas Cookies (isn’t the bot smart enough to know I’m on a diet?)
Now some of those make sense, but Indianwives? Where is that coming from? Did this bot actually put together a link between an email I sent to someone about Indian food and another lamenting my status as a single guy at holiday parties with happy, loving couples?
I’m considering writing some really provocative emails just to see what the bots will come up with. Feel free to send me some too. If I can make it a game it won’t be so creepy.
Gmail – Get your creep on. In writing. In a fun way. Oy.
Wednesday, December 19, 2007
When I was a sophomore in college, TMBG came out with their first real single, “Don’t Let’s Start” in 1987. Living in the LA area, KROQ played all the cool new music and had it in heavy rotation. I loved it. Acquired the album and enjoyed it, but not as much as that one song.
Fast forward to junior year, 1988. TMBG had released more music and I met Alice who was a huge TMBG fan. She played more TMBG for me and once again I found a few songs that I loved and enjoyed the rest.
Now, TMBG are a difficult band to describe. They are smart. Funny. Ironic. Their lyrics cut every which way. They take traditional rock arrangements, turn them on their side, add accordions and funky horns and quirky synths and create a singular, unique sound. They really explore their musical space. They write children’s songs and Disney theme songs. They have an unreal appreciation for history and weave it into their act. They are, in essence, a renaissance band full of renaissance men.
All of the shows I’ve seen have had great moments. They’ve also all been within the last six years. Turns out it took me fifteen years from when I first heard them to get to one of their shows.
The first show that I saw was postponed because of September 11th. Rescheduled for about nine months later. The Crystal Ballroom was sweltering hot. The band had great energy and got great energy back from the Portland crowd. Two moments stand out: the extended drum solo where the drummer played in different styles prompted by the crowd: from Charlie Watts to Stevie Wonder to Animal from the Muppets. Hi-Larious. The second was when they played “New York City”. A fast paced, heartfelt love song. In the aftermath of September 11th, and the connection that show had to the event, the song meant more that night to me than it ever did before and ever will again. I’m certain of that.
I saw the band most recently in September of this year. Roseland theater this time. I really enjoyed the show as they played some more obscure songs than before. They even played “We’re The Replacements” which is a personal fave that I’d never seen them play live before. There was a horn section. They received phone calls from Carl Sagan’s grave. Good stuff.
What I really love about this band and its audience is that every fan of theirs has a different favorite song. They have that many good ones and speak to that diverse an audience. My personal favorites include the aforementioned “We’re The Replacements” plus “’Til My Head Falls Off”, “Ana Ng”, “Why Does The Sun Shine?” and “Another First Kiss”.
So, if TMBG come to your town and you’ve ever enjoyed their recorded music, go check them out. You will leave with a smile on your face and a bounce in your step. You might also feel a bit smarter.
Sunday, December 16, 2007
I got him when I was in sixth or seventh grade. Bud was a pound cat. He was a brown tabby with a white stomach and big, white paws. Bud had a singular talent of walking on his hind legs and asking not-very-politely for his food.
Bud had an attitude. Bud was independent. Bud was a bit ornery. Bud was like one of the cool kids in high school. The ones who impressed you just by knowing your name, even though you otherwise had little in common. Bud was a rock star of a cat. Remember those fat cat cartoons with the sunglasses? Bud could’ve been the inspiration for those.
Tragically, he was struck and killed by a car on the busy street where we lived. It was summer. I think I was 17 or so. My brother had to give me the bad news. I’ve always wondered if that was difficult for him. He did it rather businesslike. I was in the shower. He came in, told me through the steam and water, said that Bud was in the garage and then he left for work.
I didn’t cry. I think I always figured that Bud would go out that way. He had been hit in full stride. He had what you could only categorize as a smile on his face. Eyes open. The only sign of trauma was a small trickle of blood from his mouth. I can still see his image in my mind’s eye. I’d like to think that he died instantly and didn’t suffer. It certainly looked that way.
Bud was the last cat that I have called my own. Turns out I am allergic to the beasts.
I was reminded of Bud last night when I was at my friends, Lucas and Audrey’s for dinner. They have two cats of personality: Mudshark and Sputnik. Sputnik is a wonderful spaz of a cat. Mudshark may be the reincarnation of Bud himself. I had fun playing with them between a few too many swigs of port and episodes of Buffy The Vampire Slayer.
And with that I realized that I am a cat person. Not an active cat person but a cat person nonetheless. Allergies aside, if there’s a cat that I meet in my strolls I always try to engage it. Jangle some keys. Call to it. See if it will do that sort of feline Salsa dance between my ankles.
Yep. Cat person.
Take care crossing the street.
Friday, December 14, 2007
A recap. Gabriel Allred is a 2-year old child. He’s been in foster care with Steve and Angela Brandt in Oregon most of his life. His biological parents both faced criminal charges and were deemed unfit, as was his maternal Grandmother here in the US. His paternal Grandmother, Cecilia Martinez, lives in Mexico.
The Department of Human Services has policy on the books that blood family is the preferred place for a child. The Brandts had started the process to adopt Gabriel. DHS thus sought out Martinez to determine if she was deemed fit and to inquire if she wished to petition for custody of Gabriel. By every account Gabriel’s life with the Brandts is one of love, affection, stability and familiarity. They behave and function like his family.
DHS decided that, by policy and law, Gabriel should live with Martinez. In Mexico. Gabriel, by law, can claim both US citizenship and Mexican citizenship. The issue of the child’s best interest thus became clouded in outcries of deportation, language and even race.
A proverbial no-win scenario.
Until Martinez did the most loving thing that she could have done. Upon visiting Oregon and entering into negotiations, she dropped her petition. It’s called a sacrifice and it could not have been easy for her. I wouldn’t blame her if she had continued to fight for custody. She had the law and policy on her side. I’m sure she would have provided the absolute best she could for Gabriel.
But even she could see that what was best for Gabriel wasn’t what was best for her.
Now, there are some unusual concessions in the agreement, so this isn’t entirely roses and puppies. But the end result is that the child’s interests trumped the law and the policy. But it took the sacrifice of a wise Grandmother to show DHS that Gabriel was the exception and not the rule.
I don’t fault DHS. Their policies are almost always proper. Even this application of policy was well intentioned. But their policy couldn’t interpret what so many of us know to be true:
Blood isn’t always the end of family. Family is often the place where you belong.
Gabriel, in the end, belonged with the Brandts.
Wednesday, December 12, 2007
The single most awful ingredient known to mankind. Yet, even I, who can't stand eggs in most of their native forms use this god-awful stuff. But no longer.
The stuff is basically fat and calories. It's a lubricant for sandwiches and a creamer for dips. Consider this: would you ever eat the stuff straight or almost straight? I'll take a spoonful of peanut butter, a dollop of cream cheese, a pinky of jam and I'd never, ever consider putting a glob of mayo down my gullet. I bet you're the same. I sure hope you're the same. Ewww.
So why do we still use this stuff? The low fat alternatives don't do it for me. and, bless it, yogurt just has too different an overall flavor. But I've found a solution that works for me (Thanks, Mom!). Pickles.
Pickles do something interesting when you eat them. They increase your output of saliva. This in turn makes the dryness of otherwise plain bread dissolve away easily. Calorically they are nothing compared to mayo. Fat? None. Cholesterol? Nada. Salt. There's the kicker. Gotta be aware of that but that's really their only flaw.
So, if you're after another easy dietary change, add four more pickle slices to your 'wich and leave off the mayo. Unless you can't stand pickles, either. But c'mon, it's not like they're eggs.
Tuesday, December 11, 2007
The very name is fun to say. Hell, elephant alone is fun to say. Good word. But White Elephants and the parties they throw are quite fun themselves.
Sunday night was our annual department holiday party. Hosted at Ernesto’s Italian Restaurant. We were complete with our own version of Bad Santa (great job Ted!) and another curious excursion into the land of white elephant parties.
Now, for me, White Elephant parties date back to when I was a child. My parents would occasionally host the Catlin Gabel faculty party. I have very fond memories of the fun and laughter and specifically Pru Twohy, one of the most dynamic people I have ever known. I should dedicate an entire blog to her as she’s on the short list of the people who helped shape me into the dashing and charming gentleman I am today.
So, as White Elephant parties go, ours was a bit tame. That’s to be expected at a work party. There were no coats made out of human hair nor any flutes sculpted to resemble a penis (both are actual White Elephant gifts from other parties I’ve attended. True.). But we had good fun.
I was early in the arena, third or fourth to pick. My strategy was simple. Go big. There was a five foot long tube colored like a candy cane. Heavy. Solid. I went for it. Inside, rolled in brown butcher paper was a wallpaper mural of a window overlooking the sea. The cheese factor of this gift was phenomenal. I was satisfied that not only had I found a unique item that I could likely regift without shame but also that nobody in their right mind would steal it from me. I was done.
Or so I thought.
Within three gifts my mural was nicked. Can you believe it? So I had the indignity of having to make the trip to the gift table a second time. Now, I just wanted to nurse my IPA and chat with folks. My work there was supposed to be done. But, ever the good sport, I cracked some jokes, tried to steal Bad Santa’s Rum and changed my strategy. Small. I wanted the smallest package.
What I found was small, about 4 inches square. Covered in black crushed velvet it looked out of place. The clasp for the box lid was a band of elastic and I unwound it to reveal a small penguin ornament on skis. With a blue glitter coat. Tasteful. I felt less safe with this gift than the mural. As tacky as I thought it was, it did have the glitter factor as well as the penguin factor. Two major components of bizarre obsession of the knick-knack crowd.
Sure enough. My bird got nicked quickly.
With my third, shameful visit to the table, I decided I would go ugly. There was a clumsily wrapped blue package. The weight made it feel like a jug of laundry detergent. Cool, I thought. Practical. My kind of WE gift. I was hoping it would be HE compatible as our washer’s very new, and quite fancy. Alas, I couldn’t have been more wrong. I was going to post a picture but it is really too hideous and might actually harm your computer. What I discoverd inside the ugly, blue bag was a gilded porcelain sculpture of grapes and fruit, in a cone shaped tower. Did I mention it was gilded? The sucker is heavy. It also is engraved on its base with the great artist named MITCHELL and dated 10-69. It’s almost as old as me. If I was more creative I’d come up with it’s thirty-eight year biography. Wanna give it a shot?
Well. At least I have a gift for my next White Elephant party.
Sunday, December 9, 2007
Both of my kilts no longer fit me.
Now, my kilts weren't very expensive, nor great works of tailored magic. But I still enjoyed wearing them as kilts are extremely comfortable. They also are great conversation pieces.
When I get down to a more permanent size I will certainly replace one or both of them. Maybe add a higher quality one in the family tartan. Who knows. But it's going to be difficult to replace my Timbers Army one. Custom tartan, that one. Not sure when another run of those will ever be done.
So, it looks like I'll be wearing traditional trousers to my company holiday party this evening. Oh well.
Saturday, December 8, 2007
Friday, December 7, 2007
We both defaulted to Jimi Hendrix and went from there. For me it's probably Mark Knopfler after Hendrix. He's got a totally unique style and phrasing. He plays beautiful riffs and solos and can actually write songs. Dire Straits songs from the 70's and early 80's still stand the test of time for me.
Then we decided we'd extrapolate and form our own super groups. You should too. Here are the rules:
Choose one vocalist, one guitarist, one bassist and one drummer.
Pay attention to style and personal ego.
This is a band designed to play live. So, showmanship and stage presence should play a role.
That's it. Have fun. I'll post my own supergroup later. What's yours?
Thursday, December 6, 2007
But, this weight loss thing is on my mind a lot, one of about four things that dominate the thoughts currently. So, this morning, I again mustered the courage to get on the scale. Now for those of you in internet-land who haven't ever fought the battle of the excess pound, the intimidation of a scale probably doesn't move you. Perhaps you might compare it to having blood drawn or getting an injection. Momentary fear that is gone quickly. But the fear of the scale persists. It grabs a hold of you. It mocks you. It even punishes you. It's one of those things that never leaves you even as the pounds do. Irrational fear. Like most fears.
For the longest time I didn't even own a scale. Ignorance is bliss. I didn't want to know. But it became necessary when my doctor and I started working on a plan towards better health. That was 15 months ago. I used it a few times and then it went neatly under the bathroom sink. Didn't touch it until I moved this past summer.
So it's been in my new bathroom under the sink. Staring at me every time I replace the tissue or get a new razor (I do shave from time to time) or a new bar of Safeguard. It's a light shade of green (I always call this Martha Stewart green) and matches the bathroom decor nicely. It belongs here. But, dammit. It's just a household appliance. It has no power over me. I am the great and powerful Oz.
So, this morning the scale and I had a little chat. I told it what was expected of it, what my job was in relation to it and how we could achieve mutual cooperation and understanding.
I think she got the message.
Somehow, I've trimmed an additional four pounds in three days.
However, my system is not loving this. It's in sugar deprivation. I'm getting plenty of food and nutrition, but I got a bit of the shakes yesterday afternoon. A quick bite of salad and a very mini pack of SweeTarts later and I was back in business.
Still, this is a hopeful start to my ultimate goal. I know the first two weeks aren't indicative of the overall path of progress. This will slow down. But it still gives me a bit of the happies. And I sure welcome that these days.
Wednesday, December 5, 2007
So, I got to thinking. I've got a lot of CDs. Although I have one box that went AWOL in my move in July and I am missing a lot of good stuff. But I digress. I've got a good cross section of classic rock, punk, some disco, 80's progressive, alternative, grunge, soft rock, classical, jazz, etc. And I've got some stuff that seems so out of place. This is what I want to know. What is the single most embarrassing CD that you own? Do you ever listen to it?
For me, it's probably Barry Manilow's Greatest Hits. I haven't listened to it in a long time but I have a modest respect for the Bear-Cat. He's actually quite an accomplished songwriter. He's humble, funny and he has very little ego. I'd enjoy having him over for dinner. 'Mandy' is gold. Fact. If anyone has a copy of Soul Asylum doing their version of 'Mandy' I will pay money for it.
So, what's the worst CD in your collection?
Tuesday, December 4, 2007
More importantly I’ve found a new notch on this belt. I didn’t even know it was there. It’s also the final notch on this particular belt. This is good news. For the belt industry. A new belt means progress of a kind I’ve not known for a long time. Yay for me! Again!
Monday, December 3, 2007
With a double-blind random selection I am now toting around The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle by Haruki Murakami. This novel is translated from Japanese which means it is not eligible to be the great American novel. I wonder if that makes it sad?
It got me thinking. I've read lots of translated masterpieces. Camus. Sartre. Homer. Dante. I tried to read all but Dante in their original language. Even as one who was pretty good at speaking French and understanding spoken French I was horrible in the area of reading French. I was a functionally French illiterate.
Now I'm working on this novel. Honestly, I'm not sure I've ever read anything translated from Japanese before. But, I will admit, even just two chapters in I am hooked. And I think part of it is the translation. Part of it is the rave reviews. But the novel has a nice flow to it and I can tell that I will enjoy it. I also have no idea where it is really heading. Also good to get me hooked.
If it had been up to me I would've probably started with a shorter novel. This one's 607 pages. But I think it will go quickly.
If the wind and rain continues tonight like it did last night I'll make some real headway on this novel. It was impossible to get any real sleep during Sunday night as the weather was severe enough to shake, rattle and roll right outside my window. Unreal amounts of water.
Sunday, December 2, 2007
If you are interested in supporting this union which has produced an enormous quantity of quality entertainment, all relatively anonymously, click this link. Buy one box. Buy ten boxes.
They've amassed close to 400,000 pencils so far. You can check out the overall blog here.
Saturday, December 1, 2007
I used the morning hours to plan my attack at the city of books. I know that a list of books and authors isn't always preparation enough to tackle Powell's. So, I visited their website. I found each of the eight books I planned to purchase and cleverly located them in the proper Powell's room under the proper Powell's category. Once at the store I made very efficient use of my time with only the Roger Angell book being difficult to locate. But even it could not escape me and my Batman like detective skills.
How's that for the start of an entry? This is actually a good thing. I hate the scale. I've never trusted it as a great way to measure fitness and health. I was in the best shape of my life when I weighed 190 even though the charts said I should be at 170. But I know that when you've put on as much weight as I have over the last 8-10 years that it's not all muscle mass. Still, today I actually was feeling thinnish and I thought to myself that it was probably time to do some gathering of data.
When I last got on the scale, in the first week of July if my memory is any good, I was tipping it at a not-particularly-healthy 248. Most people are surprised when I tell them the actual numbers. I take that as a kindness, but even I know that I resemble a Weeble more than a G.I. Joe.
At Thanksgiving many of my family said they thought I'd lost weight. I chalked it up to a nicely pressed shirt that was actually tucked in for a change. Turns out they were right.
Today the scale read 237.
That's 11 pounds that I've dropped in five months. Not earth shattering, but as it's not the result of much exercise and is more a product of some moderate changes in my diet it provides me some optimism.
My very good friend Kip's wedding is the first weekend in April. I am honored to stand with him as best man. It's time to put this body through some real improvements. Gotta look good for the pics and who knows, I may end up deciding to take a date.
So here's the goal. 210 pounds by April 1, 2008. That's 27 pounds to lose in four months. So, roughly 7 pounds a month. Less than 2 pounds a week. This is possible even if it is lofty.
So here's the master plan. I've got very few master plans so this is actually another good thing:
I've been a roll out of bed, clean up, hit the streets kind of guy for as long as I can remember. I hardly ever eat breakfast. This has to change. So, it's off to the cereal aisle when I next visit my one stop shopping center. Maybe some oatmeal from time to time just for variety. I'm a 1% milk guy anyway so that should be easy.
I am right now drinking my last sugary, bubbly soda for four months. Including diet soda. I happen to be fond of water but I almost always reach for soda instead. Time to buckle down.
I don't eat many desserts. I never eat the donuts and pastries that try to serve as some sort of office thank you at work. I've stopped eating ice cream as part of a low lactose project. But I have a sweet tooth something awful from time to time. It normally manifests itself as Red Vines, Twizzlers or the ever evil Jelly Belly. I love Jelly Bellies. I am confident that I will still love Jelly Bellies when I am allowed to taste them again in April.
I am done with fast food. Finis. I've been cutting down on it anyway but I need to do better.
When I lived alone it was very easy to make too much food and to then eat too much food. Living with a housemate has helped. From now on, I only cook enough for a single meal per person.
I actually eat a lot of the good stuff; Vegetables. Lean chicken. Fish. But I also eat far too much bad stuff; Pasta. Empty Bread. Ceaser dressing. Red meat. White rice. Potatoes. I have far too much starch in my diet. A few changes, with an emphasis on a higher proportion of vegetables is in order.
There is an Indian restaurant two minutes from my office. They make fantastically savory food. I love the place. But it is far too easy to eat too much and too much of the bad stuff of their lunch buffet. I will not eat there again until April 7 and then only if I have met my weight goal. The Chinese place and Italian place are also off limits, if only so I don't get accused of discrimination.
I'm not a huge fan of exercise for exercise's sake. I'd prefer something where you keep score. But this is a vital component of the plan and I need to make myself move more and break a good sweat when I do it. This part of the plan is still a work in progress. Maybe some night walks in the 'hood. Certainly some weight work. But I really don't want to join a gym. Running leads to heart attacks, I'm certain.
So. Some big changes to make me small. Or smaller. Still big. 210 is still 20-40 pounds more than I should weigh. But this is about moving in the right direction, not being perfect.
Wish me luck.
Wednesday, November 28, 2007
It's hard to describe what it means to me to have been present for Flynn's birth. When Miles was born five-plus years ago I was able to make it to Bend for Melissa's first day of labor but I had to leave before the actual birth. When Nathaniel showed up last year I was in the midst of an unimaginable fiasco at work that kept me in Portland.
I hadn't expected to be able to make it this year.
But, as everyone at my work can attest, I have a particularly strong devotion to my nephews. When Mom called at 9:30 to say that Mel had gone to the hospital and that it looked like he was on his way I made a split second decision and asked my boss if I could disappear. Within a few minutes I was finalizing my rental car for the Mt. Hood trek and wrapping up my nervousness in piece after piece of Extra Dark Blue gum.
So I had a great night. I spent some really good time with my brother, Stuart. Even Minnie the cat was friendly with me for a minute before she remembered that she hates people. I slept hard for three hours and got up pre dawn to make the drive back.
I love mornings. I also enjoy driving. So I had a splendid start to my day. It was 22 degrees in Bend when I left. Clear, beautiful skies. As I approached Mt. Hood the massive moon in the sky illuminated the snow drifts on the side of the road. A pale shade of blue. It was like being IN an Ansel Adams photograph. Drives such as these really help me clarify my thinking. I don't want to do them everyday, but from time to time they help straighten out the piles of random thoughts that have collected in the nooks of my brain. I also sing loudly all by myself.
So now, at the end of the day, I am exhausted. Probably not as much as Melissa is, but exhausted nonetheless.
I am so glad that I was there.
Tuesday, November 27, 2007
Uneventful drive over Mt. Hood thanks to my rented GMC Yukon. The budding enviro in me is sick to his stomach, but it handles the roads much better than my Santa Fe (why'd I buy 2-wheel drive? Remind me to change the blog title to "He's a moron.")
My folks are here. Miles is with his Bend grandparents and Nathaniel is with us. Now I just have to meet the new little guy, snap some photos, pick up David's shoes and try to make it back to town in time for work in the AM. Oh, and get some sleep.
I think my adrenaline rush is dropping off. I wonder how Melissa (and the rest of the mothers in the world) do it. Thanks for reading.
Saturday, November 24, 2007
So this is the first in a possible series of reminisces of past shows that I feel fortunate to have seen.
My friends Rick, Adam, Andrew and I were inseparable during most of our middle and high school years. We would listen to music together after school at Adam's house or use the theater's sound system if we were working after school on a play. Rick had exceptional musical ability and progressive musical taste. He introduced me to Talking Heads, The Clash, Squeeze, The Buzzcocks, Elvis Costello, R.E.M., The Alarm, Adrian Belew and many, many others. Portland radio at the time (and still to a certain degree) was horrific in its lack of musical diversity and vision. KBOO being the only real exception.
Talking Heads were the band that really defined our musical connection. In 1983 (we were all 15) Talking Heads released Speaking In Tongues. While, they had some previous success and great critical acclaim, this was the album that really put them on the map. I remember Rick going to Tower Records on the day it was released and buying the special edition Robert Rauschenberg edition with clear vinyl and spinning art pieces. We thought we were so cool. As was the way of the day you played the record once to get a feel for it, taped it, and put it away. We treasured our records.
So when Talking Heads announced their tour dates and placed a December date at Portland's Civic Auditorium (now Keller Auditorium) we were all ecstatic. Rick got the tickets and we scored great seats. Row C, front center section. We'd be within spitting distance of David Byrne, Tina Weymouth and the rest. I think I had been to one real rock concert before so the whole experience was still rather new.
I can't remember much of the pre-festivites, other than Rick's mom dropping us off and being paranoid. But I remember arriving at the Civic and feeling the buzz of the event. Rick had saved up to get some concert tees so we went to the merch stand immediately. The one cool item was a hat with a special interlocking TH logo. Think New York Yankees only not evil and more linear. I loved the logo (I think it was adapted from Hanshin Tigers of Japanese baseball) but I was a cheap boy and had to pass. But the shirts were awful. Most of them were muscle T's (it was 1983 after all) and really rather uninteresting. For a band made up of former art students it was underwhelming.
So we made our way to our seats. It turns out Row C (which we thought was third row) turned out to be the fifth row as they added chairs above the orchestra pit. Still, we were in a great spot to see our favorite band.
The show was tremendous. This was one of the final concerts before Talking Heads filmed the classic concert film Stop Making Sense. Director Jonatahn Demme was likely at our show determining camera angles, moments to capture, etc. The concert we saw is basically what you see in the film. Backlit screens, big suit, dancing with the lamp, etc. But what I remember most about it was how much genuine fun it was. It wasn't angry like the punk shows I'd attend later in life. It wasn't extended, hippiefied grooves. It was fresh, funky, lively music at its best from a band at its creative zenith.
We screamed, "Tina, We LOVE you!" (I am certain I saw her smile and wink at me), we stood and danced and Adam almost caught one of Chris Frantz' drum sticks at the end of the show.
The band never toured again. So I feel incredibly fortunate to have seen them in one of their final shows. Their next three records all declined in quality and cohesiveness as the band started to splinter musically. But the best Talking Heads music was on display that night.
A few weeks ago KNRK's Perfect Playlist was from a guy named Matt. He used to DJ at KNRK in its early days. He was also two years behind us in high school. He finished his set with "Once In A Lifetime" and mentioned the cool kids in the theater who introduced him to so much music.
Who knew, maybe we really were cool?
Care to share memories of a great or important show?
Friday, November 23, 2007
Thanksgiving this year was great fun. Aunt Lucy joined us as well as her granddaughter (and my 2nd cousin) Heidi and Heidi’s Fiancé Doug. It was great to catch up with them and I really enjoyed getting to know Doug. He’s a very bright and funny guy and they seem very good together. Stu and Katharine’s friend Scott was a great addition and has a new BFF in my Pops. They were inseparable.
Our family is so entertaining. We have a lot of characters. Uncle Skip couldn’t make it but, as is becoming a new tradition, he sent along a letter from his expansive archives to be read during dinner. Last year it was a letter to the CEO of Home Depot, this year it was a letter he wrote back in 1999 to a charity that kept soliciting from our Grandfather. Now, I pride myself on being the comedian of the family, but Skip’s complaint letters to CEO’s are pricelessly funny. I hope to be able to post it here soon. Perhaps I will get the audio of the Kung Fu Fingerbook version of Wizard of Oz posted on the blog at some point too. We can then all be inappropriate together again.
Aunt Lucy also read a poem she wrote long ago. I know that I’m not alone in thinking of Aunt Lucy like a Grandmother to us as well as an Aunt. I was pretty young when my Grandmother Elsie died. I have very few memories of her. Aunt Lucy was there for all of us and I treasure her with a very special place in my heart. She has lived a tremendous life full of adventure, spirit, wit and laughter. We all should be so lucky.
There was great food. Beer. Cocktails. Skeezy cheeses. Wine. Desserts and a big finish with Brandy Alexanders. A new tradition Stu started last year. Cousins Katharine and Stu really put on a great party. Mr Twister, the custom built rotisserie that travels the roads with Stu, was used for the big bird. It’s really enjoyable to see my generation start to make their mark on our holidays without losing any of the traditions that have come before.
As always the conversations veered every which way and all at once. A vast highway of opinions and declarations and laughter and stories. I’m quite impressed when guests like Scott and Doug can jump into the fray and play along. They performed admirably.
As cousin Stu helped Aunt Lucy into the car to leave he thanked her for reading the poem and she replied, “It was a Hell of a Poem.” He smiled and she pulled him in closer and declared, “And it was a HELL of a party!”
It certainly was.
Thursday, November 22, 2007
The Ginger Man - Donleavy (Dave)
The Dharma Bums - Kerouac (NBorders)
The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle - Murakami (Devlyn)
Pandora's Star - Hamilton (Ralph)
The World Without Us - Weisman (Whitney)
A History of The World in 10 1/2 Chapters - Barnes (Trask)
Let Me Finish - Angell (Pops)
A Confederacy of Dunces - Kennedy Toole (John Locke's Moron Cousin)
The Floating Opera - Barth (Lucas)
I'm going to Powell's next week. Feel free to make a suggestion of a book you've read in the last five years. I'll add it to my sparse library.
Wednesday, November 21, 2007
Part of it is the day off. Certainly that’s a welcome thing. Work has been difficult recently and any time where I can just get away, no questions asked, is a good thing. I also am quite fond of the food.
It’s nice that there really is a day when everybody just slows down. Life moves at such a pace that it sweeps by us in an instant. I prefer it when it’s slow.
In my family we actually have a Thanksgiving Dinner. Many people celebrate with a very early meal but we don’t get started as a family until about 5:00. The day is given to each of us to do with it as we will. Past are the days of the Thanksgiving football game at Wallace Park or Irving Park (those were so much fun!) and now the day is my own.
This year, for the second year in a row, my cousins Katharine and Stuart are hosting. They own a house in SW Portland that they’ve put a ton of work into in the last three years. I’m in charge of beer, cheese, crackers and la baguette. Easy peasy. I am not a fan of stinky cheeses. But I am a member of this family, and a team player, so I got not one, but two, small wedges of bleu. Oy. We also have some Brie, two boxes of water crackers and a New Seasons organic baguette. Love New Seasons. Our beer selection is New Belgium’s ‘2 Below’ and Deschutes' ‘Jubel Ale’ (raises pint glass towards the Great State of New York).
We have all the standards plus a few signature dishes; creamed onions for one. I wouldn’t touch this stuff as a child and now it is my single most favorite Thanksgiving dish. My Aunt Alice also makes an insane peanut/chocolate pie most years. I rarely eat dessert but I am a sucker for just about any pie.
So without further ado, here is an incomplete list of this year’s thanks:
1. Family. My brother Stu and his wife Mel are still awaiting the birth of son number three in Bend. I wish they were here but the kid is in charge of this situation.
2. Friends. I am astounded at how many great people choose to share time with me and support my endeavors.
3. Future. I like the look of what’s in store for me.
4. Forgiveness. I found a level of it recently that has had a profound impact on me. I strongly recommend it.
5. Music. It feeds my soul.
6. Beauty. I see more of it today than I ever have before.
7. Dreams. I do like to dream.
8. Still no chest pains.
So, what are you thankful for?
Tuesday, November 20, 2007
I’m not much when it comes to being a geek. I’m certainly a dork and possibly verging on a nerd, but not a geek. Geek’s not only own technology, they understand technology. They fix technology. They build technology. I’m the lowest end user of the technology that they fix and build and I certainly don't understand it.
I really don’t know much about it at all. I couldn’t describe the difference between HTTP and FTP or HTML and other such acronymy things. It’s all pretty much Greek to me (which I actually flunked in college – no joke. It was the third major…). And this leads me to MySpace.
What is up with MySpace?
I joined MySpace in May. Here’s my page. I joined for three reasons:
1. My friend’s band, fuzzball, had a page and it seemed a good way to keep tabs on them.
2. Nathan Fillion, the actor who played Captain Malcolm Reynolds in Joss Whedon’s Firefly, has a page and he writes regularly, but you need to be his friend to read it. I am his friend.
3. Timbers Army had set up a page and I like to be in touch with those yahoos as well.
So immediately after joining I start getting requests to add friends. Curiously I check out these people. Wow. Most of these women are very confident in their bodies. Very strange names. I quickly realize something's up and they’re not really my friends. After a few weeks the emails dwindle and almost stop. Thankfully.
Anyway, so I add a few people and then forget about the site. Then I move to my new house. I change email addys, etc. So yesterday, I decided to jump back on MySpace to see what I might be missing. After 15 minutes of trying to locate my password email from them back in May I get back on the site. I figure they probably don’t have my email (which is reducing the spam) so I decide to update it.
Here’s the rub. They need to email the old email to change to a new email. That would be fine if this was June 28th, but that email addy is dead, Kaput. So, I search to see how to update an email if the old email is dead. Kaput. No other options that I can find. Not the end of the world, really.
I still don’t understand MySpace. Most of the pages are really hard to navigate and even to look at. A high percentage of users listen to really crappy music. Now, don’t get me wrong, I like rap music. I was even part of a short lived rap duo in high school. But this music is awful. Plus everybody thinks they’re a DJ. It’s a very strange place. I still don't quite understand why I'm supposed to be on it.
Anyway. Feel free to send me an add. I just won't get the email.
Sunday, November 18, 2007
I need some books.
I am always impressed by my friends who read every piece of literature published (or seemingly do) and can remember the details and nuances with great clarity. Even quote eloquently at times. I can't seem to do that. It's a shame really.
See, I was an English Lit major in college. Granted, it was my fourth or fifth major, but it was still my major. And while I got decent grades I basically sucked at it. My classmates ran circles around me in understanding and clarity and depth of thought. But I fought on. Against the tide. I suppose a bit more application and study would've produced better results but I saved that for art class apparently. I once made a 16 panel piece of a banana done in 16 different mediums. My favorite was using a hole punch on black and yellow construction paper and gluing them in place. It ended up 3-D. I felt rather clever. But I digress.
I need some books.
I moved into a new house in July. My friend David had it built. It's a great house and we're having a blast being roommates and better friends again. Plus it's nice to be back in the actual city. But I don't have any books. My entire library, which consists mainly of a lot of pop fiction, crappy sci-fi, American Lit and comic books are in storage. I need some stories.
So, my challenge to you dear readers is to recommend me one book. A single tome that you've read in the last five years that will change my life. Change my outlook. Offer perspective. Or just entertain me. One book. Don't make me choose.
Once I've got your short list I'll hit Powell's (what a great way to occupy an afternoon) and start to fill the barren shelves.
We can do this. Together.
I just completed my insurance and elective forms this morning. Upped my 401K some more. Feels good. After completing these same forms for six years I think I finally am starting to understand how it all works and what it all means. At least at my company. Copays. Out of pocket maximums. Alternative medicine. Preferred Providers. Cafeteria Plans. But it got me thinking about the insurance industry, healthcare and our recent vote in Oregon to defeat a healthcare bill funded by a cigarette tax.
If you’ve ever had a health scare you know what it means to have proper insurance coverage. About two and a half years ago I had that scare. I was about two hours into my workday and rapidly had trouble breathing – I could barely move enough air to form a complete sentence. I have had mild asthma for several years but never anything like this.
I went to my local urgent care where they did my vitals and quickly got me on an EKG. My symptoms: shortness of breath, elevated (way elevated, actually) blood pressure and rapid pulse were just chest pains short of a classic pulmonary embolism. Except my chart said I had chest pains even though I responded ‘no’ twice when asked if I had chest pains. What a typo that turned out to be.
Have you ever had an EKG? Pretty cool. Except for the part where you think you’re about to die. Not cool. They also have to shave little circles into your chest hair for the EKG pads, which creates a sort of reverse leopard effect for a guy like me. Also, not very cool.
So the Doctor evaluates things and is concerned enough that he wants me to go to the emergency room for further evaluation and maybe a chest x-ray. He also tells me that he can’t allow me to drive myself as I am at risk for dying at the wheel. Wow. So I get my first ride in an ambulance.
Now, mind you, ambulance rides on TV and in the movies look pretty cool. The lights. The gurneys. The really attractive EMTs. The perfect crisis management and hero moments. The actual thing is so much less as to be enough to cause a pulmonary embolism.
When the EMTs arrived, they checked my vitals again and unhooked the electrodes. Gurneyed me (not that easy as I was at my heaviest that day) and strolled me out through the lobby. This was the least cool part of the whole ordeal – except for the constant perception that I was going to die. Here I am – half naked with electrodes attached to my leopard spots, my pasty white skin and perfectly cultivated microbeer belly for all to see. I think I heard the theme song from Free Willy.
Once inside the ambulance they hooked the electrodes to their EKG (I was making a perfect metronome by this point, wish I’d had my guitar) and gave me a dose of nitroglycerin, which can aid in preventing a further heart issue from cropping up in transport. Now, nitro is what some people make bombs out of so the prospect of ingesting any of it, even in a dose the size of a 10-pt umlaut is odd. The pill burns a bit under the tongue but other than that it was fine. I didn’t explode.
The amenities in an ambulance are nothing like the movies. It was about as comfortable a ride as when I’d be in the bed of my Uncle’s pickup truck on a quick trip from Neskowin to Pacific City. Except that was fun. And I was twelve. Wasn’t worried about nitroglycerin and embolisms on that trip. But the ambulance itself is grey and chilly. The EMTs were professional but I certainly didn’t make a love connection with the stoic female EMT. I don’t even recall her reacting to my jokes. And I know I made some funnies.
Anyway, the visit to the emergency room was quite pleasant. When you arrive in an ambulance you don’t wait in the lobby unlike all the other times at the ER when all the people that arrived after you get admitted first. That was cool. I felt rather important. By this time my vitals had totally stabilized and they allowed me to call someone to wait with me. Of course I called my mother. The doctors actually laughed when they had run their tests and determined that I had just suffered a severe asthma attack. Y’see, my chart still said I had chest pains. Even after telling every doctor, nurse and EMT along the way that I didn’t.
I guess they knew what was best for me.
So, I was finally discharged late in the afternoon – the whole ordeal lasted about six hours. I got two new inhalers and a final bill for about $400. If I hadn’t filled out my insurance forms properly that year the whole thing would’ve cost about five times that.
So, fill out your forms. Especially the cafeteria plan – the single best way for an idiot like me to prepare and pay for healthcare expenses.
But, with all of that, we need insurance reform. The idea that tens of thousands of children in this state go without basic healthcare is criminal. The systems have too many layers and too much bureaucracy. Care is too inconvenient. Forms are too confusing. I don’t have the answers but apparently taxing cigarettes isn’t the right one. At least not for the voters of the great State of Oregon.
Saturday, November 17, 2007
The brou-ha-ha over renaming a Portland street for Cesar Chavez has clearly been scripted in the Bizarro universe known as Portland City Hall. We’ve had an unclear process, heavy handed tactics, a Mayoral walkout, vintage political flip-flopping, accusations of racism, and an N Interstate for SW 4th Avenue bait and switch.
Can anyone tell me who’s winning?
Those who want a Cesar Chavez Blvd in Portland want it on N Interstate. They see a compromise of SW 4th as some sort of insult. Why? Because they didn’t get their way? Freaking City Hall would be located on Cesar Chavez Blvd! What could be more Portland than that? But Mayor Tom Potter will have none of it.
Of course now Chinatown businesses that have NW 4th Avenue as their turf are up in arms for similar reasons as the Interstate folks. Culturally why should they recognize a Latino labor union guy in Chinatown? The NIMBY* crowds are hard at work on this one on every front.
Is there anyone who doesn’t have heels dug in?
Perhaps there is a mature avenue, street or boulevard that could volunteer for Cesar Chavez duty. Take one for the team. Union Avenue is already taken. Maybe Division Street. That seems appropriate.
This whole thing is about power. It’s not about Cesar Chavez at all. There’s been a distinct lack of leadership in this whole affair on every front. These politicians and activists should be ashamed of themselves for distorting the very legacy of Chavez over a mostly symbolic gesture. How embarrassing.
*NIMBY - Not In My Back Yard
Friday, November 16, 2007
And if, like me, you know just a few people at the shoe companies you can get some very good swag from time to time.
I am very loyal to a particular style of sneaker. Adidas Stan Smiths have been the footwear of choice for my casual and everyday wear for as long as I can remember. I've dabbled in a few other items, and you can't play soccer in a Smith, but for the most part those are the only sneaks that I spend money on. And, recently, I scored a killer sample pair.
I happened to be going over to my cousins' place for a beer and some smoked ribs. They throw a cider making party each fall and this was the day. It was a stunning October Sunday; crisp but not cold. As I traveled toward their house I went by the former spot of Copeland's Sports. Now Copeland's was a really crappy sporting goods store. No personality at all and horrible service. But they did have good prices on my favorite Smiths. As I parked at Stuart and Katharine's I was lamenting the loss of my best source of footwear, knowing that meant paying $12-$15 more at another retailer when my current pair went under.
After some pleasantries and some snacks (including incredibly mild venison sausage from Stu's recent hunting trip) Stu took me to his room to show me his stash. His stash of sneaks that is! He must've had 10 pairs of brand new shoes just waiting for average feet like mine. He brought out the pair shown at far right and it was something close to lust. Oh what insoles! What perfect tread! Look at that pair! Not only are they a fantastic fit but they are an even more pristine white than any other Stan Smiths to come before (Note the tongue and rear are white as opposed to the traditional green or slate blue.).
The Stans on the left are now looking over their laces trying to make sure that the young, chiseled, pure Stans know their place. "Kid, you may get a Sunday stroll every other week but I am day to day until my tread is gone, maybe even longer. Don't push me. Dong Le Ma*?" Eventually every pair will be replaced. Even my Birkenstocks knew that. But only when it is time.
Alas, I'm stuck with just shoes filling my sample bag at this time. Large shirts and 34 waists are a few burritos in the past. But I am working on it.
*Dong Le Ma is Mandarin for understand. The kicks are made in China after all. Native tongue. Ouch.
Thursday, November 15, 2007
Well, recently I discovered that I had some things to say. So that's reason number one.
I've also recently seen what a good blog can really be. It can be more than a collection of random thoughts or pictures. When done well it carries its focus to the reader and can often enlighten. So, in a way, it's something to strive for. A good blog. Good words. Reason number two.
It's also time for me to write more. I've often written just for my own guilty pleasure. The challenge to write something that others might read and might enjoy is something I need to take on. The words are inside me, they must be freed. Reason number three.
I've been publishing a podcast about Portland Timbers soccer, the 107 report, for two years now. I enjoy it. It's fun and fulfilling. But it's often fractured and rushed in its composition. It doesn't lend itself to quality production as the content is disposable; it's mostly interviews related to specific matches. I'll continue to do it, but my deep thoughts should be published here, not there.
Different thoughts. Different medium.
Regardless, I hope you'll enjoy both of them and provide me your comments as you see fit. I have a short list of topics that I hope to share with you over time. Look for them soon.