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.