Thursday, September 30, 2004

Music That Makes Me Want to Rip Someone’s Head Off

Yesterday I had to FedEx a package to a client, so I went to the Postal Annex/UPS Store/Parcel Place-type store that I have determined is the least objectionable of is breed--mainly because the staff is friendly and competent but also because it is next to an Old World bakery staffed by ladies in starched white caps. I have been known to wander into that bakery after an exhausting afternoon of photocopying.

However, the one big negative about this Parcel Annex (or whatever it is called) is that they peddle a particularly noxious brand of “world music”* CDs and are so gung-ho about them that they play them constantly. I’m not sure what the packager of these CDs does to render the music unsuitable for human ears, but each tune ends up being the musical equivalent of a slice of processed American cheese. To further annoy me, all the music comes from parts of the world that were former French colonies, so the lyrics are in French. (My dislike of most things French [except for those that can be eaten or imbibed] will have to be the topic of another post.) It is truly awful stuff. Here’s the really sad part: the sweet, but tragically misguided, owners of this UPS Place have a special little CD easel next to the cash register on which they proudly display the CD currently playing.

So yesterday, just as I was finishing filling out my airbill to the accompaniment of one of these Francomerde CDs, an older woman came in all flushed with excitement. Apparently, she had just discovered this thing called FedEx and was itching to use it to send an urgently needed photo frame to her son in Milwaukie—a suburb probably less than five miles from where we were standing. Hmmm. Why not just drive to his house, or take the bus, or even a cab? It would be quicker and cheaper. She proceeded to share with the clerk crucial details about the size, color, and architectural style of her son’s apartment building, while I fumed and allowed increasingly unkind thoughts to surface. Normally, I wouldn’t be so intolerant. I ascribe my irritation and impatience to the revolting music. That or the very real possibility that the bakery might at that very moment have sold the last of its apricot danishes to someone other than me.

After another minute or so, I rather assertively set down my package and announced that I would be leaving it there on the counter for the clerk and turned to leave. This had the desired effect of interrupting the delicate groundwork being laid for the Milwaukie dispatch and freeing me to storm out of the Postal Parcel (or whatever) and straight into the bakery. No apricot danishes. Harumph!

* I have no objection to authentic world music. If they were playing, for example, Mahlathini & the Mahotela Queens you’d hear no complaints from me.


Tuesday, September 28, 2004

It’s a Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood

Blast! I am still feeling a bit green about the gills, a condition which is sapping my usual quantities of zest and verve. I realized today that I have hardly set foot outside or gotten any kind of exercise for nearly a week and a half.

Determined not to let a little peakedness get the better of me or to let another perfect Indian Summer day pass me by, I took myself out for a walk around my neighborhood right in the middle of the day. This is something that, as a self-employed person, I should be doing much more frequently.

B and I made a very wise choice when we bought our house. It’s located in a neighborhood that is midway between (and within walking distance of) two highly desirable neighborhoods. This means we get all the benefits of living in those neighborhoods without the outrageous tax bill. All of the following are a mere 15-minute or less walk away:
  • a pint of my favorite IPA
  • a tattoo
  • a slice of the best pepperoni pizza in Oregon
  • a bikini waxing
  • a decaf iced Thai coffee
  • an apple fritter
  • a wreath made of dried-out moneywort (better than it sounds)
  • a po’boy
  • a Bikram yoga class
  • a hamburger with slices of ham, cheese, and a fried egg on it
  • a reconditioned balloon-tire bike
  • an excellent bottle of pinot noir
  • a plus-size pair of palazzo pants
  • a haircut
  • a brain taco
  • a Murphy bed
  • a spicy tuna maki
  • a slice of vegan Mexican chocolate cake
  • a hot-stone massage
  • a tube of hemp lipbalm
  • a handmade rocking chair

And so much more. OK. Some of the above are more desirable than others, but it’s nice to have options. Anyway, as I walked I was reminded of just how many people are not withering away in some drab windowless cubicle from 9 to 5. Yay for us! I saw people sitting outside eating pizza, although (tragically) many of them were talking on cell phones instead of soaking up the last juices of summer. Better-adjusted people were out preparing their gardens for winter or strolling with babies or dogs. And of course some people were shopping for brain tacos and/or palazzo pants.

It always does me a world of good to take a good, long walk and, in fact, I maintain the fiction that I take a walk every day, which is my justification for not belonging to a gym. But if I were to keep track of how many days I let work hork all my time and end up sacrificing the walk, I’d probably find I only get out on average two to three times a week (with a good long hike on the weekend). There’s really no excuse for not getting out every day since I set my own schedule. So buck up, Rozanne, and shift your lazy ass!

Monday, September 27, 2004

Great Aunt Lelah, the Black Sheep

The entire weekend was devoted to conquering the collywobbles that have been laying me low (accomplished). During one of my many nonproductive moments, I pulled a book off my shelf written by my Great Aunt Lelah.

Great Aunt Lelah was what passed for a black sheep in our family. Born sometime slightly prior to the turn of the 20th century, she earned her Black Sheep Badge when she got pregnant before getting married, although she headed off a full-blown scandal by marrying the perpetrator, an English bloke and a drinking man whom her strait-laced, teetotalist, small-town Iowan family never cottoned to.

As a young woman at teacher’s college she had been told she should consider becoming a writer, which according to the author blurb on her book “was a goal to which she greatly aspired.” Unfortunately, she met up with that English lothario and sealed her fate. For the next six or so decades, she raised a family, did housework, and wrote nothing. (I’m paraphrasing from the blurb.)

Great Aunt Lelah did not get around to writing the book until 1974 when she was 80 years old and the Englishman was safely dead. The novel, Bobby Schantz, is purportedly the story of a nine-year-old boy. He's bears no resemblance to any nine-year-old boy I’ve ever met. On the Goofus and Gallant Scale of Wholesomeness, Bobby is an uber-Gallant. Examples:

“ ‘Oh, dear,! I hope grandma didn’t look in here. I forgot all about making my bed.’ In seconds, he had the bed made. And just in time, too...he took time to gather up his toys, and was at the table in plenty of time.”

“ ‘I can stand on that stool and hang your dresses up if you put them on hangers, said Bobby.... “My you have pretty clothes, Grandma. I like that lavender dress, and this pink one is pretty, too.’ “

Bobby, however, is just a foil for the real hero of the book—the grandmother, that is, a thinly veiled version of Lelah. The grandmother doesn’t do anything traditionally recognized as heroic nor does the novel’s plot arc contain even the tiniest hint of conflict. Every single page is either about preparing a meal (“Are we going to have Rinky Dink salad today?”); eating it (“I’m just too full of rolls, but I just can’t refuse Dutch apple pie.”), or cleaning up after it (“Now the dishes, forever with us, whether we are tired or not. I’ll wash them tonight.”) No one ever gets in a fight, says anything mean, or gets bored at church (“Bobby, his eyes sparkling, whispered to his dad, ‘I sure like Reverend Brower, don’t you?’ “).

Well, they say write what you know, and Lelah clearly did that, but how sad that her life experience boiled down to so little at the end of 80 years and that she felt it necessary to present it through such extremely rose-tinted spectacles. All she felt qualified to write about was meals she had cooked for her family. She wasn’t even a very adventurous cook, sticking with tried (tired?) and true Middle America recipes that featured canned kidney beans and hard-boiled eggs.

In my view, Lelah ended up a casualty of the societal conventions of the time and place in which she lived. I think she spent most of her life trying to “make up” for her “mistake” and win back her family’s approval by pouring all her energy into being a perfectly subservient wife and mother. Judging from Bobby Schantz (which, it must be said, is pretty awful and was published by a vanity press), it’s hard to imagine she really had the makings of a writer, but had she started younger and gotten some encouragement and guidance, who knows?

I met Great Aunt Lelah when I was a kid in the 1970s at some 50th wedding anniversary banquet or another, but I don’t remember a thing that set her apart from her presumably more virtuous sisters: Mildred, Gertrude, Evangeline, Alta, Eloise, and Mamie. They all seemed impossibly and inpenetrably ancient and old-fashioned to me in their bead-studded hairnets and lace-up schoolmarm shoes. Situations like this are a perfect example of why youth is wasted on the young. What I wouldn’t give to be able to talk to her about her book and ask her why she buried her dream of being a writer. Oh yeah, and maybe I’d ask her for the recipe for Rinky Dink salad.

Friday, September 24, 2004

A Picture Is Worth...

Originally uploaded by Rozanne.
A Thousand Words--especially when one is continuing to suffer from ongoing blurgification and a wonky stomach. No more needs to be said about that. This is South Sister, a volcano in Central, OR. B and I took a 12-mile hike that took in South Sister, Broken Top, Mt. Bachelor, Cayuse Crater, and the Green Lakes. The hike is often billed as Oregon's Most Beautiful Hike. I wouldn't quibble.

Curious George National Monument

Originally uploaded by Rozanne.
Not really, but note the uncanny resemblance. Located in Smith Rock State Park, near Terrebone, Oregon. Rock climbers consider their lives complete if they make it into his mouth. Then what?

Smith Rock, near Terrebone, Oregon

Smith Rock1
Originally uploaded by Rozanne.
Looks like Arizona, but it's not. Home of Monkey Face and less than an hour from the snow-capped Sisters.

Thursday, September 23, 2004


Today I am unwell, afflicted with intermittent nausea, a low-grade fever, and general malaise compounded with unusually noisome menstrual cramps. I was just sick enough to not really be able to justify not working, so I made the attempt. Luckily, I am self-employed so my clients will never know about the nap I took from 1:15 PM to 2:00 PM and the other nap I took from 3:15 to 5:30. Luck was also on my side when it came to what I needed to work on today, which happened to involve writing on paper rather than working on the computer. Every time I spent a moment or two at the computer, I felt like I was going to ralph. Peculiar.

I’m feeling a bit better now and thinking that the best possible elixir would be a glass of red wine and some spicy tuna sushi, but I really don’t want to have to make the effort to go out and get the sushi. God knows I don’t have the ingredients (or the know-how) to make it myself. If I wanted to be really selfish, I could probably wheedle B into going out for it, but he is actually sicker than I am with a cold and hacking cough.

What a pair.


Wednesday, September 22, 2004

Portable Soup That May Be Carried in the Pocket Without Inconvenience

Actually, I do read things a little weightier than David Sedaris. Why, for the past two months I’ve been reading a biography of Meriwether Lewis (of Lewis and Clark fame). I do admit, however, that it is taking me donkey's years to get through it. I’m easily seduced by less taxing literature. (See yesterday’s post.)

It was Lewis’ job to outfit the Corps of Discovery, taking more or less wild guesses about the amounts of whiskey, small white beads (to appease Indians), and Dr. Rush's "Thunderclapper" pills the corps should take with them on their quest to find a route to the Pacific Ocean. He blew a huge chunk of his budget on something called “portable soup,” spending more on it than he spent on weapons (blunderbusses), ammo, or navigational instruments. What could be in this stuff, I wondered, that Lewis was willing to potentially compromise the crew’s safety for soup? The book is infuriatingly vague about its components.

I Googled “portable soup,” secretly hoping I would find a recipe and be able to re-create this highly prized historical soup. I found the following 1753 recipe from the “Ladies Companion” on this soup site. I reproduce it here, as surely there can be no question that something this old is in the public domain. I’ve highlighted the most stomach-churning aspects in queasy green.

To make a Veal Glue, or Cake Soup to be carried in the Pocket Take a Leg of Veal, strip it of the Skin and the Fat, then take all the muscular or fleshy Parts from the Bones; boil this Flesh gently in such a Quantity of Water, and so long a Time, till the Liquor will make a strong Jelly when it is cold: This you may try by taking out a small Spoonful now and then, and letting it cool. Here it is to be supposed, that though it will jelly presently in small Quantities, yet all the Juice of the Meat may not be extracted; however, when you find it very strong, strain the Liquor through a Sieve, and let it settle; then provide a large Stew-pan, with Water, and some China Cups, or glazed Earthenware; fill these Cups with Jelly taken clear from the Settling, and set them in a Stew-pan of Water, and let the Water boil gently till the Jelly becomes as thick as Glue; after which, let them stand to cool, and then turn out the Glue upon a piece of new Flannel, which will draw out the Moisture; turn them once in six or eight Hours, and put them upon a fresh Flannel, and so continue to do till they are quite dry, and keep it in a dry warm Place: This will harden so much, that it will be stiff and hard as Glue in a little Time, and may be carried in the Pocket without Inconvenience.

Now I have no idea if this is the very same portable gloop Lewis paid a dollar a pound for (in 1804 dollars, mind you), but if it is, he definitely got ripped off.

Tuesday, September 21, 2004

Why Rozanne Can’t Read

For my vaguely feminist book club I’m supposed to be reading a book called The Alphabet Versus the Goddess: The Conflict Between Word and Image. However, this is what happened when I opened it up to the first page and tried to read: My eyes rolled back in my head; my my chin clunked forward into my sternum; and faint wisps of blue-gray smoke issued from my ears. At least that’s what would have happened if I were a cartoon character and the cartoonist wanted to indicate that the book caused my brain to shut down.

This is how far I got before I smelled smoke:

“Writing of any kind, but especially its alphabetic form, diminishes feminine values and with them women’s power in the culture. The reasons for this shift will be elaborated in the coming [432] pages.”

OK. Shouldn’t the premise intrigue me? I feel it should, but the author just sounds so dustily academic, and, truth be told, I’m not at all intrigued. I know I won’t be able to force myself even to get to the bottom of that first page.

That is truly shameful. What has happened to me? Once upon a time, when I was a bluestocking college girl, I read histories of the labor movement and 18th-century novels that were twice as long and probably 100 times as desiccated.

I’d like to think that it is just this author’s stultifying writing style that is making my brain go on the fritz, but I’m afraid I’m developing an allergy to anything that might require analysis or interpretation. Some sort of new manifestation or escalation of my innate laziness?

I do feel that I have to say in my defense that there are still a few functioning brain cells in my skull. After retreating in defeat from The ABCs vs. the Goddess, I finished David Sedaris’ Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim in a couple of hours. I liked it very much. I don’t know if that restores me to the status of esteemed member of the reading public or brands me as a true sloth who would rather laugh than do any serious thinking.

Friday, September 17, 2004

Vulcanism Up Close

B and I just got back from Central Oregon, or Volcano Central. I’ve visited the area before, but I’d forgotten just how obvious its volcanic origins are. Most obvious, of course, are the seven big-ass volcanoes looming on the horizon, including North Sister, Middle Sister, South Sister, Mt. Bachelor, and Broken Top. (A few representative photos will be posted in an upcoming entry.)

Just about anywhere you go there is evidence of vulcanism that seems spookily recent. Look down at your feet in town or country and you might find yourself standing on a driveway made of crushed red pumice or hiking a trail littered with lava bombs and walled in by elephant-size blocks of glassy obsidian.

Living within 50 miles of two dormant volcanoes--Mt. Hood and Mt. St. Helens--you’d think I’d be a little more blasé about all the clods of pumice and pillars of obsidian strewn about the vicinity of Bend, Oregon. But the Central Oregon volcanoes seem different from "our" volcanoes. Wherever the Central Oregon volcanoes have spilled their guts, precious few plants and trees have been able to reestablish, even though they’ve had something like 7,000 years to do so! Instead there are barren expanses of chunky lava that give the impression that the eruptions must have happened roughly in the summer of 2002. This is not the case around Mt. St. Helens, which erupted only 25 years ago. Even in the “blast zone,” there is ample evidence of revegetation, which I suppose is why I just am not as aware of living in such close proximity to volcanoes.

From time to time there is talk of Mt. Hood blowing. No one can say when or to what extent. And it’s not like an eruption would entomb Portlanders in the midst of their daily routines, later to be excavated by archaeologists who would puzzle over why these people might have been drinking coffee in a bookstore or eating pizza in a movie theater. But the scenario is sobering enough. It goes something like this: If Mt. Hood were to erupt, it would spew out enough lava, ash, and rock to clog up and dam the Bull Run watershed, which is Portland’s water supply. I think that would pretty much knock Portland off the "most livable city" list.

Friday, September 10, 2004

Furry Toffee

One of the most hideous men I have ever had to work with is a man whose name rhymes with Furry Toffee.

My First Taste of Furry Toffee: Furry Toffee called me at 8:30 PM from his cell phone while driving home from work. Being the big wheel of cheese that he was, he had no time to contact freelancers during actual working hours. Would I be interested in doing some contract work providing “content solutions” for the big shiny new dotcom he worked for? I naively agreed.

I Talk Money with Furry Toffee: How much did I charge? I told him my fee and he replied instantly that they were paying a rate $15/hour lower. I told him that that was less than what I charged a nonprofit and his company’s clients were all major corporate law firms. He said he would check with the president and see if they could make an “exception.” They did, but I did have to compromise.

My First Job for Furry Toffee: “Boo hoo,” Furry Toffee, moaned in an e-mail, “I can’t think of the right word to use in this extremely important, extremely urgent communique to a client. Could you help me? I need this back in 20 minutes.” Servile me, I complied, rewrote the paragraph, and e-mailed it back. “You’re a rock star!” Furry Toffee enthused, “Charge for a full hour!” What generosity.

I First Clap Eyes on Furry Toffee: After several months of jumping when he said jump, Furry Toffee was so pleased with me that he invited me to the big shiny new offices for a mysterious lunch meeting. Furry Toffee turned out to be a chubby shlub in a pilled navy-blue sweater. More or less the mental picture I’d formed of him. Furry Toffee introduced me to a small army of wan, rumpled, sleep-deprived 20-somethings beavering away at laptops. As we walked from soul-crushing cubicle to spirit-shrinking work station, Furry Toffee peppered me with questions that I could hardly have answered: Did I know that the company was soon going to go public? Did I know that all the employees were going to get stock and profit-sharing and be rich, rich, rich? Did I know that soon, very soon, the company was going to build an exercise room so that employees would never have to leave work? “Furry Toffee, I thought to myself, “you are so transparent. You’re going to try to wheedle me into giving up my free(dom)lancer status and signing over my destiny to you.

Furry Toffee Promises Me the Earth: Over plates of Larb, Furry Toffee offered me a job on staff with full benefits. I could name my salary; I could telecommute; I wouldn’t even have to come in the office—much. I told him I’d think about it and drove home, feeling alternately flattered and repulsed.

Furry Toffee Tries to Screw Me Over: A few months went by, and I noticed I was not being paid promptly by Furry Toffee’s company, although Furry Toffee was still sending me plenty of work and expecting double-quick turnaround. I called Furry Toffee and he told me that one of their clients was very unhappy with my work and hadn’t been able to use any of it on their Web site. I had completed that job months ago. I sputtered out something along the lines of “Why didn’t you tell me; I would have been happy to rework it.” He didn’t answer that, but instead asked what I was going to do about it, implying that I should agree to let them stiff me for all my outstanding invoices (more than $1000). I had the foresight to ask him if I could get back to him the next day about it. “Get back to me today,” he demanded and hung up. I checked the client’s Web site. There was all my content, exactly as I’d written it! Did he really think I wouldn’t catch him in his lie?

Furry Toffee Gets His and I Get Mine. A few months later that linty lump of candy was forced to resign in ignominy. After a few more months, I got a letter from the president saying they had no quibble with my work and I was paid in full.


Silence will now descend for a few days as B and I head out to the Central Cascades for some hiking. Back blogging by the 16th or the 17th.


Thursday, September 09, 2004

A Ruthless Evaluation of My Tomatoes

After two years of trying to grow tomatoes, I have yet to arrive at that blissful state of having such a surfeit of tomatoes that I am forced to dispense them to friends, neighbors, FedEx delivery persons, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and anyone else who might show up on my doorstep. Out of the six plants I planted, one has performed magnificently; two have performed passably; two have performed dismally; and one has performed exceptionally but parsimoniously. Or to put it another way: one gets an A; two get B minuses; two get Fs; and one gets a B plus for achievement but an F for effort. (That slacker.)

So how do I reward that valedictorian of a tomato plant? By harvesting its bounty and subjecting it to the whirring blades of my blender. That’s right--turning its ass into salsa!

And darn tasty salsa it is, too. (Fresh ginger is the secret weapon.) After B and I ate our way through a bag of chips, I ate the rest of the salsa with a spoon and didn’t share.

Old German Heirloom* Salsa

12 ounces tomatoes, diced
3 (or more) serrano peppers, diced
1/4 inch slice of fresh ginger, peeled and cut into bits
1 small onion, diced
1 glove of garlic, minced
1.5 teaspoons lime juice
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
small handful of chopped cilantro

Place 1/3 of the tomatoes, the onion, and the garlic in a bowl. Dump the rest of the tomatoes, the peppers, the ginger, the lime juice, the salt, and the cumin in the blender. Blend to desired consistency and pour into bowl with tomato-onion-garlic mixture. Mix in cilantro. Let it sit in the fridge a few hours for maximum toothsomeness.

*Old German heirloom tomatoes (my A-rated tomatoes) were what I used to make this salsa. They’re a lemon-colored tomato.


Wednesday, September 08, 2004

Fruits of the Forest, i.e., Wild Mushrooms!

Originally uploaded by Rozanne.
Or mushrooms gone wild.

If there is one disappointing thing about our move to Oregon, it is that I have yet to see a plethora of huge, presumably delectable, mushrooms erupting from the forest floor. When I used to come to Oregon on vacations, I marveled at this sight, having been obsessed since childhood with mushrooms and the idea of harvesting them.

As a kid, I got mushroom books out from the library and tried to identify the white mushrooms my dad routinely mowed down with his lawnmower and the masses of stump mushrooms that quickly turned into mucky black goo. The books all suggested taking a sample of spores from a mushroom and looking at them under a microscope as part of the very tricky identification process. Well, I didn't have a microscope. I determined (through wishful thinking probably) that some of those lawnmower mushrooms were good to eat, and my mom actually let me make a spaghetti sauce out of those 'shrooms.

No one got sick, went on an unplanned vision quest, or died, but the sauce was unpleasant. It tasted like sour metal. I think my dad only ate some of it so as not to hurt my feelings. Were my parents too lenient and trusting of their 12-year-old daughter or what? The entire family could have died an excruciating death featuring such symptoms as bloating, bloody diarrhea, loss of coordination, spasms, unmotivated laughter and hilarity, a metallic taste in the mouth (!), destruction of red blood cells, vomiting, and kidney failure.

I think my mushroom obsession went on hiatus for about 15 years after the lukewarm reception of the spaghetti sauce, but it was reawakened once I got into hiking and started seeing mushrooms out in the woods. I bought a bunch of field guides and coffee-table books including The Ultimate Mushroom Book, a charming British tome that has huge photos of all my favorites (or they would be my favorites if I ever got a chance to find them and eat them) such as the Giant Puffball, Gem-Studded Puffball, Chicken of the Woods, Amethyst Deceiver, Hedgehog Fungus, Horn of Plenty, Charcoal burner, Shaggy Inkcap, and Slippery Jack. The best thing about The Ultimate Mushroom Book is that it has recipes, complete with mouth-watering photos of the dishes. Now these are British dishes with names like Kedgeree of Oyster and Chanterelle Mushrooms and Roly Poly Chicken and Chanterelle Pudding. Does that sound good to anyone in the United States or is it just that my obsession has overridden my better judgment? Every time I looked at this book when I lived in Chicago, I wanted to try these recipe, but sadly there was no way to get my hands on the key ingredients.

So when we moved to Oregon, I fully expected that I would find some sort of mycological society to join whose slightly unhinged members would teach me how to accurately distinguish the edible mushrooms from the lethal Death Caps and Destroying Angels. I have not found this group. Sure, I could buy a few types of wild mushrooms at the local natural foods grocery or the farmers' market, but that would not be satisfactory for the following reasons:

* In order to get full enjoyment out of any mushroom dish I might make, the mushrooms must be harvested by my own hands.
* When my friend Elizabeth bought some wild mushrooms last year at the farmers' market she started hallucinating and was sick for an entire weekend. That does not inspire confidence.

I am going have to console myself by skimming through my books and amusing myself with some of the more whimsically named fungi:

Chocolate Tube Slime
Witches Butter
Dirty Milky
Carbon Balls
Wolf's Milk Slime
Elegant Stinkhorn
Stalked Yellow Trune
Saltshaker Earthstar
Blushing Fiber Head
Viscid Violet Cort
Chicken-Fat Suillus
Old Man of the Woods

Monday, September 06, 2004

Am I Turning into My Mom?

My mom was an eccentric. This was never more apparent to me than when I was a teenager. One of the eccentricities that most pained me was the fact that Mom bought all her clothes at garage sales. As a semi-fashion-conscious teenager I was mortified when she would flourish in my face a designer tunic, shawl, or other item of offbeat garb she’d gotten for 10 cents. I’d then get irked when she’d wig out about the price tags on (new) clothes I wanted to buy. I’d fume, “You have no idea what clothes cost these days!” and march off to my room in a snit to brood on my misfortune.

Today I am pretty much fashion semi-unconscious, and I can now go my mom one better. Forget paying 10 cents for a sweater or a sundress. I must get my clothes for free. I have only just now discovered what a tremendous fashion and financial coup I scored at the Naked Lady party last week with a pair of Juicy Couture Jeans. This brand name meant nothing to me when I picked the jeans up off the floor. I had not an inking that the price of these jeans starts around $130 and that these are the jeans made famous by J.Lo’s ass as well as the lesser asses of Ms. Britney Spears and Mrs. Tori Spelling. I am in questionable company for sure!

But I must admit this: I love these jeans! They fit (OK they are a wee bit too big) and are incredibly comfortable. And as mentioned in an earlier post, they have finally vaulted me (fashionably speaking) into the current century, which I can see now is a good thing. My glee is only slightly tarnished by finding out that I am wearing almost the largest size that they make (equivalent to about an 8-10 in the real world). I’m guessing, then, that J.Lo must get hers custom-made?


Friday, September 03, 2004

Pink Novelette

A much-anticipated blast from my past landed in my mailbox today in the form of a pink novelette. Ten (or more) years ago at my first job, three co-workers of mine--T, L, and N--and I wrote this pink novelette, a collaborative effort. Not only was this a blatant misuse of company time, we wrote the whole thing on company-purchased pink phone message notepad paper that bore the rah-rah slogan “Take Pride in Your Work,” a slogan which became the title of the novelette. The irony was not lost on us.

Well, as fate would have it L found herself interviewing with T for a job a month or so ago and he wrested “Take Pride in Your Work,” back from her. She has been preserving it all these years in a ziplock baggie that she kept under her pillow alongside a machete (at least I imagine that might be where she kept it and how she protected it from burglars). She reluctantly brought in “Take Pride in Your Work” so that T could turn the whole thing into PDF files and give me and N copies. I know L didn’t want to do that, but T kind of had her over a barrel. Since she was interviewing for a job with him I’m sure she saw that denying his request would probably not work in her favor. After removing it from the baggie, she informed him that he could keep it for “a few days” but then she “needed” it back. She then proceeded to quote and perform lengthy passages from it right there in his cubicle. He became frightened.

I have been waiting eagerly for several weeks for my CD of the PDF files to arrive. For one thing, I remember thinking at the time that it was hee-lar-i-ous. But I also knew that it was very likely that I would now deem it a childish piece of crap.

I just finished reading the whole thing about an hour ago and my verdict is: It is brilliant! The original should be in a temperature- and humidity-controlled room in the Smithsonian, not moldering away in a baggie under L’s pillow. Seriously, I have to say I thoroughly enjoyed reading it again. I do think it’s pretty damn funny, but there are probably only three other people who would agree with me on that. Maybe only two. L has gone through and corrected in green pencil the (few) spelling and factual errors I made. I’m sure she was tut-tutting and tsk-tsking at what a sloppy-ass writer I was every time she had to use that green pencil. Jeez.

One thing I regretfully have to note about “Take Pride in Your Work” is that my mind seems to have been much more nimble back then. I wrote each episode in a 20-minute burst of creativity and never went back to revise or rewrite. Plot, character, and voice were all intact in the first draft. Granted it’s fiction, which perhaps lends itself better to creativity, but still. I think I’ve got to accept that I had brain cells back then that are no longer in the land of the living. But don’t we all use just a minuscule fraction of our total number of brain cells? Aren’t there hordes of slacker brain cells lounging around doing nothing that can (somehow) be prodded into action? I must cling to that hope.

The question now is what to do with “Take Pride in Your Work”? I need to send a copy to N, but she has serious vision impairment and there is no way she is going to be able to decipher the sloppy handwriting of four different people (hers may be the worst) and, of course, the green-pencil corrections. So since N is still my good friend (L is not BTW), I am seriously thinking of creating an audio version of it for N and for T. I’d have to work on my acting skills (currently nil), but it sounds kind of fun. An easier option would be to just type it up in Word so that N could use software she has to magnify it to a point where she can read it. If I actually typed it up, I’d then be tempted to post it (or portions of it) on this blog--an exercise in vanity if ever there was one. But what are blogs anyway but virtual vanity presses for the masses?

Postscript: T did not offer L the job. Not the right fit apparently (draw your own conclusions). When he returned the original manuscript, she paged through each of the 127 pages to make sure none were missing or defaced. Wow. Take Pride in Something Else Already.

Thursday, September 02, 2004

Touching the (Still Warm) Cannon

How often does the average citizen get a chance to touch a state-of-the-art cannon, minutes after it has been fired? I have just had that privilege, if you could call it that. Mind you, it's not something I'd go out of my way to do, it just sort of happened.

This is how it all went down. This evening B and I went downtown with a bottle of wine and a couple of chopped-off-at-the-knees chairs and set them on the banks of the Willamette River to listen to a free concert given by the Oregon Symphony.

Listening to them play Strauss, Mahler, Shostakovich, and Brahms, I was reminded of how seldom I listen to any sort of music anymore, let alone classical music. I don't quite know how I've allowed music to evaporate from my life, since it used to be such a huge part of it. Mystifying. Nowadays, when I do listen to something it's usually NPR. So it was really nice to set aside some time just to listen to music.

So the grand finale to this concert was Tchaikovsky's 1812 Overture with requisite cannon blasts provided by a battalion of the Oregon National Guard. They marched out on stage before intermission in full camouflage battle fatigues with backpacks, walkie talkies, and who knows what kind of guns strapped to them. A little over the top for a concert, I'd say.

Well, if you're going to play the 1812 Overture might as well go the whole hog, which meant at this particular concert hoisting an American flag about the size of an Olympic swimming pool up the mast of a sailboat named Luscious and firing the cannons nonstop until the ammo ran out (several minutes after the last bar of the piece).

Immediately after the cannons stopped, the fireworks began. Great timing! These were fantastic fireworks—loud, sparkly, swirly, and twirly—they appealed to every juvenile cell in my body (of which there are many).

Walking back after it was all over, we had to walk right past the cannons. I can't really explain why I insisted we stop and look at them, but the fact is I had to look at them and touch them. I'm not a supporter of war in general and certainly not the current conflagration Bush has mislead us into, but these pieces of weaponry sitting on the shore of the Willamette were something--and as mentioned above--they were still warm.

I found myself asking the camouflaged guardsman all about his big gun. He was only too happy to fill me in. Turns out that nothing but the best will do for the 1812 Overture. I wasn't looking at some wheezing old museum piece that could barely cough forth a puff of black powder. This was a British-made Something or Other that had been modified by the U.S. to, of course, "make it better." I asked this young soldier what these fabulously improved cannon were used for and he assured me that they got plenty of use. For example, say the governor comes to town or there's a parade. I guess I should be glad these things are only used for ceremonial functions rather then to kill people, but still...I have to think about Oregon's budgetary woes and wonder if perhaps the purchase of British-made Something or Other cannons to jazz up the 1812 Overture and the odd parade is really the best use of our tax dollars.

Wednesday, September 01, 2004

Fast Girls and Naked Ladies

Our barely-spluttering-along book club had its one-year anniversary on Sunday. Whoo hoo!

The book we were supposed to read this time was in a word--crap. It was Fast Girls: Teenage Tribes and the Myth of the Slut by Emily White. I should say that I pretty much have zero interest in reading about high school sluts (so-called). This may seem odd, but I don't recall any girl in my middle-class suburban high school being labeled a slut. But even if there had been a girl renowned for her sluttiness, this topic would still be of minimal interest to me (unless of course that slut [so-called] had been me). Add to that the fact that the book was poorly written (the author was overly fond of clunky Wizard of Oz metaphors) and relied on way outdated research to support its claims. I was not at all sorry to return it to the library only half-read.

We did have a great discussion, though, about other stuff such as gender roles, e.g., it's OK for men to be slutty but not women. I think book clubs that survive probably find that as time passes less and less of the get-together is devoted to discussion of the book. That's fine by me especially if the book discussion involves sangria, cheese, and other assorted snacks, which it always does. (I'd never be a part of any book club that didn't have a food and drink component.)

So after we were done talking about Fast Girls we moved on to the Naked Lady part of evening.

We had all brought a bag (or bags) of clothing we were ready to part with and dumped the contents into the middle of PF's floor. Then at the sound of a whistle we all dove in and started pawing through the stuff (just kidding about the whistle--but not about the pawing). I scored BIG TIME and finally catapulted my wardrobe into the 21st century. About time, too! As I have been self-employed since 1997 and hate shopping, I really haven't bought any clothes to speak of for years and years. Amazingly, some women took some of my antique-y clothes. (Go figure. In Portland, people will wear anything.) I was pretty sure all my stuff (probably none of it younger than 10 years old) would end up at Goodwill.

Here's what I got--I'm so thrilled!!!!

  • A pair of jeans. A pair of jeans that fits. I don't need to tell any woman reading this that pulling a pair of jeans that fits and looks good out of a pile of clothes on someone's floor is the textile equivalent of finding a needle in a haystack.
  • A gorgeous black sundress that fits perfectly and flatteringly.
  • A gray sweater with a black velvet collar. Tres chic.
  • An avocado green sweater-jacket thing.
  • A multipurpose, wear-anywhere black skirt.
  • A green short-sleeved top.
  • A black shirt that is so big B could wear it (if he had any reason to dress in drag). This was the one dud, which is already set aside for the next Naked Lady Party.
Now I know some people would probably think that the idea of wearing your friends' castoffs is groddy and against all fashion rules set forth in Vogue, but here in Portland we like to recycle!

Blogged Down

Surely, I'm not the first person (I'm probably the 187624th person) to coin the term "blogged down," but that phrase presented itself after my long (albeit intermittent) struggle to post a photo to my profile page.

May I rant?

On the rant scale of 1-10 this is probably only about a 2, but I'm going to go ahead and let her rip anyway.

I use a Mac so that is problem and obstacle #1 for the powers that control the Blogger nerve center. It is way too boring to enumerate all the backdoor methods that I tried to get the photo up on the page, but suffice it to say I have been trying for about a week and a half.

B caught me signing up for a Freeserver page (which I was going to use simply to post that one photo--yeah I'd become obsessed) and quickly put a stop to that. You see, B designs and manages Web sites for a living, so all along I knew that all I would really have to do is ask him for some Web space (or whatever you call it--he's got gobs of it) and he would post the photo and I wouldn't have to worry my pretty little head about it. But I had a bee in my bonnet about doing this myself, so I kept mum. So the next thing you know he'd uploaded the photo and gave me a URL and after some resizing and futzing around, the photo is now up and doesn't it just make my blog look so much better!