Wednesday, March 30, 2005

White Bleeding Heart and Friends

White Bleeding Heart and Friends
Originally uploaded by Rozanne.
Things are looking pretty good in the garden with all the rain we've had, so I thought it was high time I posted some more photos. The photo in the corner is of one of my favorite spring plants, white bleeding heart (Dicentra spectabilis 'Alba'). Too bad my crap camera does not do it justice at all. I adore the way the little white hearts festoon themselves along the stems, bending them very slightly with their delicate weight. The plant to the left of the bleeding heart is an orange variety of wallflower, which is just getting started--it blooms from spring til frost and thrives on neglect. I give it an A+, although it looks like about a D- in the photo. Anyone want to buy me a decent camera? To the right is a mass of veronica 'Georgia Blue' and behind it is part of my woodland garden. Click here for a somewhat better photo of the woodland plants. I also snapped a photo of the coolest looking daffodil that has thus far appeared in my garden. It has a soft, peach-colored trumpet and creamy petals.

I still don't really know what all in the way of daffodils I've got, since everything I planted last year came from a bag of 50 mystery bulbs. About half are blooming and, just like a can of mixed nuts that is mostly peanuts, most of the bulbs that have bloomed so far are the unexciting standard yellow ones. I consider the peachy one to be equivalent to a pecan (there are never enough pecans for my liking in a can of nuts). Any double daffodils I get (and I hope I don't get even one) will be equivalent to hazelnuts. Both are abominations. Double daffodils remind me of star-nosed moles and hazelnuts remind me of rancid butter.

I was planning to move right on to an extended rant about taxes (and how I hate them), recounting frantic searches for missing documents and my mind-boggling ineptitude when it comes to preparing them or being unable to perform even the simplest arithmetic accurately and then getting myself into mountains of trouble, but, frankly, after spending a few hours rifling through boxes, folders, and file cabinets, and scanning checkbooks and bank statements, I cannot bear to think about it a second longer.

Tuesday, March 29, 2005


I’ve been taking yoga classes fairly regularly since 1993. You might think that that means I’m an expert yogi who can do advanced poses like this. Well, I’m not. I'm just not into the pretzel thing. Unfortunately, ever since yoga got so wildly popular in the late 1990s, the various yoga classes I've taken have developed this sort of competitive element. I see so many people brutishly force their bodies into inversions and arm balances that they don't have the strength or flexibility to do correctly. To many people, yoga is all about pushing your limits and many of the trendier styles of yoga (Ashtanga, Bikram [debatable whether Bikram is yoga at all--I think not]) cater to that. Yoga is meant to be a philosophy/religion after all--not a sport.

It's becoming harder and harder to find a yoga class that I can enjoy. It's not like I just want to sit in lotus pose and do an hour of breathing and meditation, but I would like a class without a lot of backbends and inversions. I can do a handstand and a headstand, but I don't think they're good for me. They leave me with broken capillaries under my eyes. That can't be good. And yet, the pressure's always on when everyone else is frantically flailing about (incorrectly, I might add) trying to catapult themselves into a handstand and then failing and crashing back to the floor with a jarring thud. Who wants to go to a yoga class and have to worry that a 200+ lb guy--who was so hellbent on getting into a handstand that he's up there with his teeth clenched and his face red as a tomato--is going to keel over any second and take out a row of teetering yogis like a line of dominos? Om. Shanthi. Not!

I find it rather galling when 15-20 minutes of class time are devoted to these kinds of poses. That’s kind of a big chunk of time to sacrifice. I take yoga classes mainly because I don’t want to lose my flexibility and so I that in my golden years I won’t be stiff and shriveled and have an enormous dowager’s hump to contend with. Of secondary importance, I think a good yoga class should be relaxing. It’s really nice to be able to clear your mind and actually think about getting in better touch with your body. I tend not to ever think about my body--yet I expect quite a lot of it, so I’m sure it’s good to keep working on developing a sense of how it’s moving through space.

Today, I went to Anusara yoga class that I’ve taken only once before. Anusara yoga, it turns out, is very much about alignment and awareness of the dynamics of movement. The class is a bit low-key and slow paced for me, but I like the teacher very much. She’s got this wonderful, subtly enthusiastic, yet soothing, way of explaining things and she just exudes positive energy. (What a gift to be able to do that! I sometimes fear that I exude negative energy.) In addition, she’s very sincere and liberal with praise, which I find both amusing and gratifying. It’s sort of hilarious to be told that you’re doing a really good job of just basically standing at the end of your mat. There’s more to it than that, obviously, but on the face of it, it doesn’t seem like something worthy of a compliment. Still, I have to admit, I’ll take praise of any description--anytime!

I’m not sure how often I will go back to the class. Apart from not focusing enough on poses that require deep stretching, it’s at noon, which is just a terrible time for a yoga class, really. It shoots a gaping hole in the middle of my most productive hours. Plus, after taking a yoga class in which I spend an hour and a half trying to stretch and lengthen muscles and reverse all the damage and compression that comes of sitting in front of a computer all day, it’s a real bummer to have to come back home and plop myself down at my desk.

Monday, March 28, 2005

I Blame Mercury

Mercury is in retrograde, according to my friends who keep track of these things. I really haven’t the faintest idea why this is supposed to be so important. But I do know this. When Mercury is in retrograde we are allowed to blame anything and everything on Mercury’s apparent retrograde motion. Fine. I’d much rather blame a dried-out planet that’s barely bigger than the Moon than take any personal responsibility.

One thing that is surely Mercury’s fault is that I’ve been feeling extremely angry for the past week to 10 days. If you consult astrological charts I’m sure you’ll find that this time period coincides exactly with Mercury’s going retrograde. I’ve gotten irrationally frothy about the new neighbors next door. Their only pieces of furniture seem to be a drum set, a guitar, a bass, a wheezy synthesizer, a mattress, and an assortment of bikes. Maybe I missed it, but I never saw a moving van or U-Haul or anything move stuff in.

The day after I saw the drum set arrive, there was an extended practice session that could be heard--quite clearly--from my garden sanctuary (i.e., my backyard and patio). I’m sorry, but this is not allowed in my universe. I could feel my blood pressure (which in normally very low, like 80/50 or something [if that’s possible]), screech into the thermosphere. I needn’t remind you that at the time I had a migraine and was still exhausted from my bout with the flu, because that had nothing to do with it. It was Mercury exerting its influence on my psyche. There was little I could do. I knew it wasn’t a good idea to waltz over and introduce myself amid the din of the band practice, but when I heard someone out in the yard, over I went.

To my credit, the first words out of my mouth were not, “What the fuck is that fucking noise? Stop it at once!” No. I first introduced myself and then I mentioned--just mentioned--that it was “a little loud.” The girl—she looks about 20—hurriedly informed me that they were going to put in soundproofing but that her boyfriend was practicing because his band had a gig the next evening. I feigned interest in the band, asking its name, etc. and she suggested that I should come to the gig (?!). I blabbered on for another five minutes about the neighborhood and the neighbors--I was trying to be friendly and also attempting to sort of redeem myself. I’m sure it was pretty obvious to her that the only reason I came over that that moment was to bitch about the noise.

A reasonable person would have taken her at her word about the soundproofing and worried no more about it. Not me. I continued to seethe (which almost certainly perpetuated the migraine) and think ill of these kids. For example: “How is it that they can afford--at their tender age and being apparently unemployed--to buy a house that cost $239,000? Why must that guy with the crap muffler keep visiting? Why does the mom of one of them have to use our driveway to turn around in? Why couldn’t some nice quiet eccentric gardeners have moved in instead?”

Jeez. I am just a horribly uncharitable person to be thinking this way, no? Why can’t I be Zen about this? If nothing else, it is bad for my mental, physical, and emotional health to work myself into such a state over this--especially since I haven’t heard any music coming from their house since Friday. But no. Instead, I’m waiting with ears pricked, ready to pounce at the first crash of a cymbal. That’s what I’ll want to do, anyway. But that’s not actually what I will do. What I will do is wig out and be miserable and possibly buy earplugs or those industrial earmuffs. Then after a few more weeks have passed, I’ll go over and meekly ask how they’re coming along with the soundproofing.

I am a most exquisite example of passive-aggressiveness, am I not?

Sunday, March 27, 2005

A Cure for the Common Migraine

I’ve been plagued by an on-again/off-again migraine since Wednesday. No amount of rest (afternoon naps and going to bed at 9:00 PM), Excedrin, or endless moaning to B seemed to get rid of it. Thankfully, the migraines I get are not kind where one has to go lie in a completely dark and silent room until it passes. Mine just sap all my energy and make me truculent and intolerant.

Today, I got fed up with letting the thing dictate my every move and figured I’d just go out and plant my rather desperate-looking delphiniums, do some weeding, and start nibbling away at the neighbor’s mountain of mulch--as long as I was destined to feel like crap anyway. I was just so sick and tired of being sick and tired. So out I went into the rain. I didn’t even bother with raingear.

After about 20 minutes of weeding and surveying my domain, I realized that the headache was nearly gone. Mind over matter? Fresh air? Raindrops falling on my bare head? I don’t know what did the trick, but what a relief to feel pretty much restored to my normal self after two whole weeks of torpor.

My neighbor--who had been hard-coreishly gardening in the rain all morning--saw me and trotted over to renew her plea that I cart off some of her mulch. I started to feel oddly gung-ho about the idea of hauling perhaps ten loads of mulch across the street and smothering all those pesky weeds. As I was shoveling the stuff into my barrow, my neighbor’s boyfriend appeared out of nowhere and asked, “Where’s your hat, Young Lady?” I love how he phrased that, since I’m a good seven or eight years older than he is. Also, I must tell you that what with the flu, the headache, a diminished appetite that hollowed out my cheeks, etc., I have not been looking my best over the past couple of weeks. I must be looking less ancient and wraith-like, or he would have said, "Where's your hat, Not So Very Young Lady?," right?

B and I are now off to see a pizza-and-beer movie at the Laurelhurst (I need to work on plumping up my ass face). A slice of pizza and a movie sound inordinately appealing after two weeks of being almost totally housebound. I may even have a beer!

Friday, March 25, 2005

Mangetout, Mulch, and Migraines

I am still well below par, which means that very little of the gardening I want to get done is getting done. And by very little I mean--actually--none. Instead of gardening, I’ve been reading a wonderful little gem of a book called Urban Gardener by Elspeth Thompson and doing quite a bit of wistful dreaming.

This book appeals to me on multiple levels. 1) The author’s name is Elspeth, which may well be the very best first name a woman can possibly have. 2) Elspeth is British (obviously), and we all know what an Anglophile I am. 3) My favorite style of garden is the English cottage garden.

A true cottage garden is a splendid thing. Not only is it beautiful, brimming over with all my favorite flowers—delphiniums, lavender, roses, foxgloves, clematis, hydrangeas, poppies, and primroses—but it’s practical and productive. Keen cottagers grow fruits and vegetables right alongside the flowers and do so in innovative and aesthetically appealing ways—training an espaliered apple tree against a wall or planting neat rows of cabbages or carrots along a path. And that’s not all! They might have a couple of bee hives, chickens or ducks, a grape arbor (so they can make their own wine) and, of course, a darling little shed and/or greenhouse for giving the tomatoes a head start in spring. I know all this because I have closely studied a copy of The Cottage Garden by Christopher Lloyd and Richard Bird, which I checked out from the library on November 4, 2003 and have been renewing faithfully for more than a year. The book even has recipes for making elderberry or elderflower wine, hard cider, and something called “perry” (cider made from pears)—all of these beverages, of course, to be made with produce from one’s own garden. I just love the idea of that sort of self-sufficiency. Anyway, I consult the book again and again, as inspiration for creating a cottage garden in my own back yard, although true English cottage gardens rarely feature gigantic sun-obliterating Douglas firs as my back yard does.

Quite a little digression there. I could go on and on, but back to Elspeth’s book.

As I mentioned in Monday’s post, Elspeth’s book is a collection of three years’ worth of columns she wrote for the Sunday Telegraph. The columns alternate between being about establishing a flowery cottage garden behind her house and the goings-on in her allotment (a plot in a community garden). That’s right. She actually has two gardens and (clearly) buckets and buckets more energy than I do. I love reading about the crops she’s chosen to grow and was all proud of my British English-to-American English translating skills, as I effortlessly translated courgette to zucchini and aubergine to eggplant as I read. Then she started talking about mangetout. Huh? My one year of high school French suggested “eat all” or “eat it all,” but that still didn’t give me much of a hint. Mangetout, it turns out, are snow peas, which makes sense because you do eat the pea and its pod, so you do “eat it all.” Here’s something I’ve never understood though. Why do the British use French terms for eggplants, zucchinis, and snow peas (and possibly other fruits or vegetables I can’t think of right now)? It’s always been my impression that the British are not terribly fond of the French.

Anyway, it is delightful to read about Elspeth’s transformation of her allotment. A sample:

It is almost impossible to be taken seriously on an allotment without a compost bin, so I am relieved and delighted to report the delivery of a very fine example of the genre, made for me by my boyfriend as a belated, if not madly romantic birthday present. Its design—two adjoining square bins with walls of slatted wood—is based on the rather ritzy one featured in Terence Conran’s DIY, but instead of the fresh new planks favoured by Sir Tel, we have used some ancient tongue-and-groove panelling.... Very smart it looks, too—though sufficiently home-brewed to win the approval of the ‘makeshift and make-do’ philosophy that is part of allotment life. Partly through circumstance (allotments are not usually the preserve of the well-off) and partly due to the thrifty resourcefulness that seems ingrained in most gardeners, whatever their income, nobody uses a length of new string where a sliced-off sock or recycled bin-bag tie will do. To have won wholehearted approval, we should probably have tacked together four old builders’ pallets with nails and crowned the heap with a square of festering old carpet, but I’m glad we didn’t.

I love the bit about the “festering old carpet.” Reading about all of Elspeth’s industriousness is sort of helping keep my mind off of the dearth of industrious digging and planting outside my back door. Half a dozen delphiniums have been languishing--dangerously rootbound, I’m sure, in their four-inch pots--on the patio for two weeks now. It’s all I can manage to get out there and water them every couple of days. Lifting a trowel and plunging it into the earth would be too taxing.

And as of yesterday, another monumental garden burden/opportunity has arisen—literally—in the form of a mountain of mulch that was delivered and dumped on our neighbor’s parking strip. The thing is so massive that our neighbor felt it necessary to decorate it liberally with orange hazard cones and e-mail me immediately begging me to haul off as many wheelbarrow loads as possible.

Under normal circumstances, I'd be overjoyed. Free mulch! However, I am still suffering from ongoing lacklustrousness and have had a migraine for two days. Plus, the wheelbarrow is pinioned behind the car, two bicycles, and a stack of wicked and twisted tomato cages that are just dying to poke out one or both of my eyes. I thought about getting the wheelbarrow out and toddling over to the mulch mountain yesterday afternoon. After two seconds of thinking about how much back-and-forth toddling (and shoveling), I'd have to do, I decided to think about it tomorrow. Or the day after. Or the day after that...or the day after that.

I know it’s tiresome to read about my still being marginally ill, so I’ll say no more about it.

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Blogging in Secret

A couple of weeks ago a good friend of mine here in Portland and I were hanging out and she announced to me that she just started a blog. She eagerly told me that she’d love to have me read it and sent me the link almost as soon as she got back home to her computer that day.

Did I volunteer to her that I’d been slogging away at a blog since last August? No, I most certainly did not. Unlike my friend, I do not want anyone I know in real life to read my blog. None of my real-life friends or family reads this blog--not even B. This is not because I want to be able to bitch about my friends in my blog--not at all. There are several reasons I keep my blog a secret. Mainly, I never want the following conversation to take place when I get together with a friend:

Me: “These irresponsible kids moved in next door with a huge-ass drum set.”

Real Life Friend: “I know. I read about it in your blog.”

It seems to me like it would be a real conversation killer to have something like that happen all the time. And it’s not even like I record that much of my daily existence in my blog, but still. It sort of smacks of the broadcast e-mail or holiday letter. I wouldn't want friends or family to read my blog and start thinking of it as a sort of substitute for actual contact with me. That would be tragic. When I'm talking to someone I want the conversation to be a two-way street, with equal input from the other person. On a selfish level, I also suspect that the control freak in me wants to be able to be able to pick and choose just what I tell which people. Not that I have dark secrets I’m trying to keep under wraps or anything, but I know I’d end up censoring myself more if people I know were reading it. And we can’t have that.

Don’t get me wrong. I enjoy blogging, and I love all the new friends I’ve made through my blog. You guys totally rock! When I started out I never dreamed that the blog would turn out to be as interactive as it has proved to be. I started it simply to force myself to do some personal writing--and to keep my brain from going soft. I figured that if there was the chance that people were reading what I wrote, I’d be less likely to abandon it after a week, and I’d probably also put forth a little more effort than if I were just writing for myself.

So I’ve been reading my friend’s blog and enjoying it. Interestingly, I don’t find that reading her blog impedes our conversations or steers them in a predestined direction. She’s using her blog mostly as a sort of creative space for short fiction and poetry, so actually her posts have served as springboards for interesting conversations. It just goes to show that probably every blogger has different goals and expectations for her or his blog, which is cool and quite fascinating, I think.* I’m still pondering if I should “out” myself to my friend, although I’m about 95% sure I don’t want to. I have to admit, though, that I felt a bit disingenuous as she explained Blogger’s features to me, presuming that leaving a comment on her blog might flummox me!

*Anyone who wants to weigh in on why she or he started a blog or the experience of blogging in general, please feel free! I’d especially like to hear if anyone now regrets having told real-life friends or family about a blog.

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Shameful Thoughts and Behavior

Even though my clients generously gave me extensions on my assignment deadlines and I could have lolled around in bed a few more days, I worked yesterday (for the first time since last Tuesday). Possibly not the greatest idea. All I did was sit on my arse and scribble edits on paper with a purple pen, but I was kaput by 4:30. I had also managed to work myself up into a peevish and uncharitable frame of mind, which I hope was mostly due to the fact that I am coping with dual afflictions—leftover flu symptoms and full-on menstrual cramps.

I would hope that under normal circumstances if I happened to see our brand-new next-door neighbors pull up outside and move a mammoth drum set into their house, I wouldn’t have instantly jumped to the conclusion that they are irresponsible nimrods and that B and I will have to listen to hellish thrash-rock racket from dawn to dusk. However, that was--more or less--what crossed my mind. All I ever ask from neighbors is that they be quiet. I don’t care if they’re operating a meth lab. As long as it’s a silent meth lab. OK. Not true, but my point is--I have a very low threshold for racket of any description. Very old fartish of me, but I’ve always been this way.

B pointed out that I was borrowing trouble, and so I am. I really have no evidence that the new kids aren’t nice, responsible people who are installing top-of-the-range soundproofing at this very moment. I should give them the benefit of the doubt, right? And I should go over and introduce myself. I will--when I’m feeling less like a cross old troll.

Instead of being neighborly, I left the premises and went to the fancy grocery store to get myself something to eat. B has been rather saintly about fetching and preparing food for me for the past week, and it seemed to me high time I made some token effort to feed myself. However, I just can’t see doing anything resembling cooking for at least the next few days. I'm still running an enormous peppiness deficit.

It’s more than a little embarrassing and shameful to report the contents of my shopping cart, but isn’t embarrassing yourself what blogs are all about?
  • wedge of triple espresso chocolate cake
  • tub of Kozy Shack chocolate pudding*
  • quart of 1% milk
  • container of locally made hoity-toity salsa
  • two avocados
  • bag of Kettle “Little Dipper” tortilla chips
  • fresh artichoke and cheese ravioli
  • jar of pesto
  • quart of New England clam chowder from the deli counter (much better than anything I could ever make)
  • 12 oz of decaf coffee
I’m not going to tell you how much this rather modest number of purchases cost, but suffice it to say that a more prudent shopper could have probably fed a family of four for a week with the amount I spent. More frugal habits will return as soon as my reserves of energy are replenished. Until then, I think I’ll just about be able to muster the strength to mash up avocados, churn them into guacamole, and tear open that bag of chips. Or maybe I’ll have B help me get that bag of chips open. I don't want to wear myself out.

*Yes. Two chocolatoid items. I’m surfing the crimson tide, remember?

Monday, March 21, 2005

Lukewarm on Books

For some time now, I haven’t been much interested in reading books. I find this surprising and a trifle disturbing, since not so very long ago I used to spend most of my spare time reading. I still read some nonfiction, but over the past few years I’ve gone off fiction almost completely. I’m not sure how this happened, but reading fiction started to feel to me like an exercise in idleness and a waste of time.

Maybe I’m just getting older and more aware of how precious time is or maybe I’m just in a phase of my life where I would rather be using another part of my brain. Or maybe I don’t want to use my brain at all. A definite possibility. Given the choice of sitting down with a book or knitting, hiking, hanging out with friends, or working in the garden, the book would probably lose most of the time.

Being sick, however, made me feel like reading again. Reading was about the only thing I had energy enough to do other than sleep. The very thought of sitting on the sofa, knitting needles a-clacking tuckered me out. Watching TV seemed too arduous a task. Go figure. Anyway, I happened to have a copy of An Obedient Father, a novel by Akhil Sharma out from the library. Didn’t I just say I was off fiction? Well, yes, but this book had several things to recommend it. First, David Sedaris had mentioned in an interview that he was absolutely in awe of this book and its author. I was intrigued since Sedaris is just not the kind of guy to be wholeheartedly positive about anything usually. Second, the novel is set in India, which is always a selling point for me.

I finished the book on Thursday. I won’t say that I found it to be as profound as David Sedaris evidently did, but it was good—anyway good enough to keep me reading it even though I felt like mushy canned peas. What I liked most about it was the insight it provided into the petty and not-so-petty government corruption in Delhi. I suppose that’s really only the backdrop against which the story is told, but that’s what I found most interesting.

I’m sure everyone is going to run out and buy the book after reading my compelling take on it. Sorry not to be a little more forthcoming about plot and characters, etc., but I’m still feeling apathetic and notably unambitious, so I don’t feel like writing a book report. I suck at that anyway.

When I finished the book I was still under the influence of the viral miasma, but I found myself feeling like I wanted to do some more reading. How novel (heh, heh)! But I could find nothing else to read. We have shelves of books, but unless I wanted to start reading through 32 volumes of Encyclopaedia Britannica there was nothing I hadn’t already read. Somehow re-reading books did not appeal, even though as I perused the shelves I recalled with fondness just how much I had enjoyed many of those books.

I finally found some old literary magazines I hadn’t read completely and read snatches of them, all the while with the vague notion that what I was doing wasn’t very edifying. It’s strange, but if I’m going to spend time reading it has to be either pure mindless entertainment (like People magazine at the hair salon) or something that will in some way make me gain a better understanding of society and the wider world (like a nonfiction book about out-of-control consumerism)--nothing in between it would seem.

An Obedient Father was due back at the library yesterday, so I dropped it off and wandered through the stacks to see if I could find anything that would pique my interest. Even though I’m suffering from an extended bout of book aversion, I still always feel like I should have something available to read. Kind of a security blanket thing, maybe. It’s just too unsettling to find myself without anything to read.

After much listless shuffling through the stacks, here’s what I picked out:

The Urban Gardener by Elspeth Thompson (a collection of gardening columns from the Sunday Telegraph). The flyleaf promises there will be lively discussions of pitched battles against slugs in South London.

Real Time by Amit Chaudhuri (short stories by an Indian author I like).

Across the Lakes by Amal Chatterjee. I know nothing about this author or the book. I just picked it up because it was right next to the Chaudhuri book, and the author is Indian (Sri Lankan, actually, but the novel is set in Calcutta). I’m going to guess that I won’t get around to reading this.

Palace Walk by Naguib Mahfouz. I grabbed this on the way out. I’ve liked short pieces by Mahfouz and since he’s a Nobel Prize winner, I figured he might have something worthwhile to say. Palace Walk is book one of his famous "Cairo Trilogy," and I have to admit that in my current comfoozled state, getting through all three novels sounds just about as daunting to me as climbing Mt. Everest.

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Rozanne Is Unwell

Wracking cough, stuffy nose, fever, achiness, lethargy.

I think it's the flu--not a cold as I had previously self-diagnosed.

In retrospect, yesterday I shouldn't have been galavanting off to gynecological appointments and documentaries and staying up late writing blog entries.

But you see, I almost never get sick. The last cold I had lasted less than 24 hours, so I expected this one to be the same. Not.

I hope no one catches this thing from me by reading my blog.

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Appalachian Impressions

I just got back from a screening of Appalachian Impressions, a documentary about thru-hiking the Appalachian Trail (AT), that is, hiking all 2000+ miles of it. I have a lot of fantasies about one day hiking a long distance trail like the AT or our very own Pacific Crest Trail, but I recognize them as being fully unrealistic--given the fact that I am me.

Seeing the documentary simply gave me even more confirmation that were I to lose my head and set out on the AT, I would be one of those people who quits after the first day. I detailed why this would happen in an earlier blog entry, so I won’t repeat myself here.

Anyway, the documentary was excellent and jam-packed with facts and “impressions” from various hikers. Here’s what left the deepest impressions on me:
  • Fairly early on, there’s a hostel where hikers are encouraged to let AT experts rifle through their weighty packs and toss out all but the most essential items, leaving most people with little more than what they’re wearing, a spare pair of socks, and a couple of bandannas. The rest of the space in the pack is taken up with Pop Tarts, Little Debbie Cakes, Top Ramen Noodles, and cans of cake frosting (at least that was the impression I got).
  • Hiking the AT wrecks your feet. I think it’s possible to develop trench foot from slogging through mile after mile of waterlogged trail. There were also plenty of shots of blistered, bloody toes “bandaged” with tattered duct tape and--the absolute worst--a close-up of a hand examining a full complement of blackened toenails and then casually flicking one of the black toenails right off the toe and out into the wilderness.*
  • Everyone on the trail adopts (or is given) a “trail name.” Some of the more memorable names of the hikers featured in the documentary: “Loser” (Did he choose this name or did someone give it to him? Either way, you have to wonder about the guy.); “Toothpick”; “Homer” (as in Simpson); “Dharma Bum”; and “Nimblewill Nomad.”
  • There are some breathtaking vistas in New Hampshire's White Mountains (they remind me of the Alps), but they are often obscured by some of the worst weather on the planet. The highest wind speed anywhere--ever--was clocked on Mt. Washington. It regularly snows up there in the summer. I want no part of that.
  • The favorite topic of conversation for thru-hikers revolves not around nature or the idea of the quest or spiritual journey but FOOD. The first thing thru-hikers do when they get to a town is order pizzas.** Ah, wilderness! At one hikers' hostel, there’s a standing challenge to thru-hikers to eat a half-gallon of ice cream in one sitting. One guy snarfed a carton of peanut butter ice cream in 17 minutes! I was impressed (and appalled), but then it occurred to me that my dad could probably do that without taking one step on a hiking trail.
  • And get this. Male hikers (despite inhaling entire pizzas and half gallons of ice cream at every turn) usually lose dozens of pounds while out on the trail, but women hikers gain muscle mass, which we all know means that they actually gain weight. That ain't right. If women are going to put themselves through the ordeal of the AT and the indignity of having to change and dispose of a tampons in mosquito- and bear-infested forests, the least they could get out of it is a svelte, Olympic-class figure.
*Have I made it my mission to include at least one really gross thing in each blog entry?
**After seeing pizzas being ordered and devoured with gusto maybe seven or eight times throughout the film, imagine my dismay when the film ended 15 minutes after Pizzicato Pizza closed. Probably a good thing really.

Monday, March 14, 2005

Below Par

Originally uploaded by Rozanne.
When I woke up yesterday, I quite unexpectedly found myself struck down by a full-blown head cold. No portentous scratchy throat had preceded it, so I was really caught unawares. But this post isn't going to be about how crummy I feel, because we all know that colds suck. We also know that they probably impair one's ability to write a scintillating blog entry. You've been warned.

In lieu of a scintillating blog entry, here is a photo of my daffodils--the ones I belatedly planted back in December. Here in Portland most daffodils are beginning to atrophy and decline, but mine are just now starting to bloom. I wonder, are they a bit retarded? Certainly, it took them almost four weeks longer to flower than their peers around the neighborhood. And look how they are pointing every which way. What is up with that? All other clumps of daffodils I've seen (and I've been monitoring them closely) are very well behaved and have their little cupped faces pointing all in the same direction. But mine? They're a bunch of unruly hooligans.

In other gardening news, slug patrol is now (finally) in full force, although I fear it may be too late for some of my hollyhocks and one delphinium, which has had nearly all its first leaves chawed off by a pack of hungy-as-hell mollusks. I really should have been more vigilant about slugs earlier on. Anyway, I hope to permanently close down "the salad bar" by giving them a more tempting type of bar--one that serves the Champagne of Beers (AKA Miller High Life). Basically, I'm attempting to blot them out by getting them blotto. Sort of. It seems to be working. Note: Do not click on the previous link if you have a weak stomach or are a militant member of PETA. If, on the other hand, you are a gardener and believe that the only good slug is a dead slug,* you should find the photo delightful.

*I don't actually believe that the only good slug is a dead slug. I am quite fond of our native banana slugs--who leave gardens well enough alone and play an important role in our ecosystem--but the garden slugs that wreak havoc on hollyhocks are nonnative invasive species and are therefore not a natural part of our ecosystem, so I don't feel too bad about doing away with them.

Thursday, March 10, 2005

Once Around the Garden

Originally uploaded by Rozanne.
Don't let anyone ever tell you that gardening isn't a lot of work and a major time commitment. Not that gardening isn't rewarding, but there is always--always--something that needs to be done if you don't want squalor and anarchy to gain a foothold.

I've been out in the garden for some portion of every weekend since mid-February, and yet...I don't have much to show for it. My main problem is that I seem unable to systematically assess all that needs to be done.

To illustrate what I mean by this, I'm going to try to approximate the thoughts that pass through my mind when I step out into the garden for my daily inspections:

Jesus H. Christ--look at all the weeds, where did they come from? I wonder if the compost I used last year was contaminated? It must have been--otherwise how could there 1,000,000 weeds of the same species? I need to pull all of them right now! I should really get a dozen bags of mulch and mulch around each and every plant after I get all that weeding done, so that the weeds don't come back. Plus, it would look so much nicer, and it would cover up all the drip hoses that are so aesthetically displeasing--and it would conserve water. Yeah. I really need to do that right now. Arghh! I really need to install more drip houses for the plants around the Doug fir. They got so parched and pathetic last summer. Do I have enough hose and drippers? God, I so don't want to have to go back to the irrigation store. I hate going there. Blech! Maybe I should just plant something else there. I'd better water everything right now. It's been so warm and the last time I watered was last week and it's prime growing season and they need an inch a week (at least!) and it hasn't rained in, like, forever! I wonder how high our water bill is going to be? The patio is a frickin' mess. I need to clean the table and the patio furniture and hose down the surface. I should also cut up and bag that huge fir branch that's been sitting next to the table since November. Fuck. Look at those hollyhocks. They are totally skeletonized. I need to put out slug traps. Do we have any cheap beer?* I should go to Fred Meyer and get some. While I'm there I should pick up as many bags of bark nuggets as I can fit in the car, because the garden path really needs to be replenished. No wait, I need to buy mulch. Which is more of a priority? Maybe I should just order a truckload of bark nuggets. Or a truckload of mulch?

I think you get the idea. And I think you can see why very little progress gets made. The above is really a fairly accurate representation of what goes through my head, and I spend so much time thinking about the monumental amount of work that needs to be done that I get overwhelmed and all that actually gets done is some random weeding--not enough so's you'd notice either.

Actually, blogging about this should help. I've just listed--in stream-of-consciousness fashion--most of the major tasks that currently need to be accomplished. If I'd convert it into a orderly, prioritized list and break it down into manageable tasks, I think I'd be able to make some headway. And that would be highly satisfying.

Seems simple enough.

Anyway, despite the fact that the garden is at sixes and sevens, some early perennials are starting to bloom. I took some photos today, but I don't want to blow my whole Flickr quota early in the month, as nothing is really at its peak yet. So all I'm posting for now (at the top of this entry) are some lungwort (dreadful name--apparently someone thought the blotchy leaves looked like tubercular lungs!), which are just starting to bloom with some creeping veronica 'Georgia Blue' in the background. Both will be much showier in a few weeks, but I couldn't wait. These are both plants that do well in shade--for those of you who like to know these things. And, OK--throwing caution to the wind re: squandering the Flickr quota--here are my trilliums with a meadow rue (Thalictrum flavum 'Illuminator') in the foreground. (Kindly ignore the unsightly drip hose and leaf litter. These eyesores will be dealt with in the fullness of time.)

*Slugs love to chomp on all my most precious plants, but they love to swill beer even more. Actually, I don’t know if they “swill” beer, but they do like to crawl into it and drown. At least they die happy.

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

Deranged and Disused

Ruined Piano
Originally uploaded by Rozanne.
I stumbled across a series of haunting photos from a derelict insane asylum (the Northampton [Mass.] State Hospital). If you've got a few minutes, take the photo tour. I am quite certain tortured souls still linger behind the scabby doors of the asylum. What were we thinking to sentence mentally ill people to such a prison? Even if you don't have time to take the whole tour, you owe it to yourself to at least view this cry of anguish.

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

We All Scream!

Ever since I signed up for Working Assets long distance back in December, I have been picking up my free pint of Ben and Jerry’s ice cream dutifully each month. My favorite flavor is Coffee Heath Bar Crunch. It’s so tasty, I’ve been loath to branch out and try other flavors. Yesterday, I was forced to. There was not a single solitary pint of Coffee Heath Bar Crunch in my grocer's freezer case. I even rummaged about among the Chunky Monkey and Chubby Hubby to see if, perhaps, I could find an errant Coffee Heath Bar. No dice.

In fact, the Ben and Jerry’s selection had been pillaged by yuppies and hipsters, so I had no choice but to select a pint of Dave Matthews Band One Sweet Whirled, consisting of caramel and coffee ice creams with marshmallow and caramel swirls and coffee flavored fudge chips. A tad cluttered, but it was the best thing going.

Here’s the thing, though. I’ve frequently scoffed at this ice cream simply because of its connection (whatever it may be) with the Dave Matthews Band. I despise the Dave Matthews Band, although I admit that the reasons for my despisement (is that a word?) may be somewhat flimsy: One day I was listening to the radio, and I heard what I instantly deemed to be the worst song ever to come into existence. It was trite, derivative, pandering, commercial, overproduced—you get the idea. “What is this POS?” I wondered. Turned out it was a Dave Matthews tune. Gack!!!

My apologies to any Dave Matthews fans, but that was my gut reaction, and I'm sticking with it. I’ve been avoiding ice cream named after him and his band ever since. Plus, there's more. The Dave Matthews Band saw fit to jettison the contents of their tour bus’s toilet as they crossed a bridge in Chicago, thus giving an entire ferryboat of people below a very unwelcome shower of blue shit. And then Dave Matthews, Inc. got all snarly about paying the fine for spraying the people with band sewage. How ungracious. So that’s why I scorn the Dave Matthews Band.

But guess what? One Sweet Whirled is quite edible, as it turns out. I have to say that the rather potent coffee quotient probably has a lot to do with it—and, really, I could do without the marshmallow swirl (I’m guessing that was Dave Matthews’ idea), but if I should ever again be faced with a Coffee Heath Bar Crunch shortage, I might, quite possibly, get another pint of One Sweet Whirled.

One last thing. As much as I like Coffee Heath Bar Crunch, it cannot hold a candle to the best B&J flavor ever—White Russian. No chunks, hunks, or lumps—just pure, smooth, creamy coffee-liqueur flavor. It was the best! I miss it so much. RIP White Russian (1981-2002). You gave us 21 good years.

Monday, March 07, 2005

Hiking with the Herd

Are the people of Portland (myself included) a bunch of suggestible zombies? Apparently. The Channel 8 Weather Sultan commanded Portlanders to take a hike in the Columbia River Gorge this weekend because it’s early March, the temperatures are in the mid-60s, and it’s sunny. That just is not supposed to happen here at this time of year! Take advantage! And even though I received my instructions second-hand through B, I knew I had no choice but to carry them out.

I decided we should do the Angel’s Rest Trail for several of reasons. A) It’s one of the nearest to Portland. B) It’s got sweeping and almost constant views of the Gorge and the Columbia River. C) It gains 1500 feet in 2.3 miles. As a point of reference, the Sears Tower is 50 feet shorter. I always like to find out early in the hiking season just what kind of shape I’m in, and Angel's Rest is a good test for that.

We arrived at the trailhead at about 11:30 AM. Both the main lot and the overflow lot were full. Cars were parked all along the side of the road. That’s really not unusual for Angel’s Rest. It’s a darn nice hike, and people like it for all the reasons I cited above. Plus, what choice did we have? We were just obeying orders!

The hike is a bit of a grind, I admit. It’s all uphill, with very few stretches of flat, but it’s gorgeous. The path was lined with early trilliums and spring beauties. There’s a charming little waterfall to cross and the view just keeps getting better as we gained elevation. By the time we reached the top, we could see Mt. Adams’ snowy peak (it looks just like a golf cap!) and I-84—the freeway we drove in on--dizzily below. I’m not at all afraid of heights, but Angel's Rest is undeniably a cliff--it brings to mind Roadrunner cartoons--and if you were to fall off, well, you’d better be prepared to meet your maker. Just thinking about that when I’m up there always makes my stomach do a few somersaults. Really, one careless step and you'd be in smithereens. Chilling.

I’d say we saw at least 200 people and 99 dogs on our way up and down the trail. That’s more hikers than I’ve seen on any trail ever—and I’ve done a considerable amount of hiking over the past 15 years. On the one hand, I’m always glad to see people out hiking and enjoying nature.* But on the other hand, if, for example, one is drinking adequate water to stay properly hydrated while engaging in several hours of strenuous exercise, one is going to need to pee. It’s never easy to find a good pee spot off the Angel’s Rest trail under the best of circumstances, but with the trees not yet leafed out and with the huge throngs of hikers charging up and down the trail, it was a challenge. I found a spot not quite as far off the trail as I would have liked and powdered my nose. At some point, desperation overrules modesty.

So was I ready for the glue factory after hiking up to Angel’s Rest? No--not at all. I felt fine after the hike, and I feel fine today. No sore muscles or anything. Let the hiking season begin!

*I saw all sorts of people--ranging from little Muslim girls in hiking boots and veils to a senior citizens wearing blue jeans and those nursey-looking “walking shoes.” The seniors were probably in their 70s, and once they got to the top they pressed on to do an additional 2.4 mile loop. Way to go! I hope I'll be doing that when I'm in my 70s.

Thursday, March 03, 2005

Who Is Barbara Millicent Roberts?

A few hints:
  • She was born in 1959.
  • She has no children.
  • She has massive gazongas, even though the rest of her is rail thin.
  • She never wears a bra or panties.
  • She’s held a number of jobs, including airline pilot, astronaut, doctor, and Olympic athlete. Pretty impressive, considering she’s always hated math.
Any ideas?

Here are a few more hints:
  • She is a registered work of art.
  • She has blonde hair (usually).
  • She’s made of plastic.
  • She’s 11 inches tall.
  • She has “Made in China” stamped on her ass (maybe not literally).
OK. Everyone should have the answer by now: Barbie!

Who knew she actually had a middle and last name? Or that it would sound so gilt-edged? Millicent, indeed! Anyway, I learned all these interesting Barbie facts from none other than Encyclopaedia Britannica--bastion of stodginess--while researching the hijab (the dress code for Muslim women). For a Britannica article, the Barbie article was uncharacteristically entertaining and filled with juicy factoids. In addition to some of the tidbits included above, I learned the following:
  • Some Finnish researchers determined that if Barbie were human she wouldn’t have enough body fat to menstruate. (Don’t the Finns have anything more important to research?)
  • Mattel didn’t get around to making an African American Barbie until 1980.
  • Barbies sell at a rate of two per second!
In case you’re wondering why typing hijab into the Encyclopaedia Britannica search engine yields an article on Barbie,* here’s why: In attempting to gain world domination for Barbie, Mattel neglected to consider that Muslim women do not parade around in the kind of revealing outfits Barbie is so partial to. Strict adherents to the hijab cover themselves from head to toe. Mattel belatedly trotted out some Barbies in hijab (which must have looked ludicrous), but they never caught on in the Muslim world.

Barbie is somewhat controversial these days. She wasn't when I was a kid. All my friends had Barbies, but not me. My mom--once again ahead of the times--refused to let me have Barbies. I remember being crushed when a friend gave me a Barbie for my birthday, and my mom took it back to the store! She wouldn't tell me why I couldn’t have Barbies, either, which made it all the more frustrating. I found out a few years later when I overheard my mom tell my aunt that the problem was with the massive gazongas, although she used some euphemism now lost in the mists of time. I guess my mom thought that if I were to own Barbies, I would develop a crippling inferiority complex when my own gazongas, as was likely to happen, failed to require a size 40 DD bra.

Mom didn’t ban me from playing Barbies at my friends’ houses, though (too hard to enforce, I guess). One of my friends had such an enormous collection of Barbies and Barbie paraphernalia that she stored all of it (willy-nilly) in a trunk and just dumped it all out in a heap--a sort of Barbie haystack--whenever we wanted to play. In addition to her own up-to-the-minute Barbies, this friend also had all of her much older sister’s Barbies (from the early ‘60s--now, no doubt, worth millions of dollars). She also had tons and tons of Barbie clothes--ranging from sequined ball gowns to psychedelic peekaboo jumpsuits--most wrinkled beyond hope from the haphazard method of storage. The boyfriend pickings were slim, though. All we had was an elderly Ken (from her sister's collection) who had hair that looked like moldy gouda cheese. It was either him or GI Joe, who was even less desirable because he was shorter than Barbie and her pals and his freakishly flexible limbs were visibly attached to his body with rubber bands. He was just plain revolting. Of course, since they weren’t my dolls, guess who always had to endure dates with GI Joe? And if I remember correctly, he was always doing loutish things like drinking too many Manhattans and showing up for dates at nice restaurants wearing his fatigues, thus forcing my Barbie to dump him, which was actually rather satisfying.

*The search also yielded more pertinent articles, e.g., "Islam," but who’s not going to choose “Barbie” over “Islam”? I did read the Islam article but only after Barbie.

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

Kathleen Turner's Fat Ass

To paraphrase Kathleen Turner: If you’re a woman over the age of 35, you have to decide which is the lesser of two beauty evils: a fat ass or a gaunt face. In other words, if you want a trim tushy, your face is going to pay the price by looking drawn and haggard. If you don’t want to see a cadaver stare back at you from the mirror, you’re not going to be able to plump up your face without having your bum balloon to undreamed of proportions.

As much as I’d like to say that Kathleen’s pronouncement is a load of rubbish, I am sorry to report that, at least for me, there does seem to be some truth in it. I’ve always had a thinnish sort of face, and lately it seems to me to be getting quite hatchet-like, despite my amping up of the Meg Ryan hairstyle with generous blasts of Headbanger Way-Out Wax for Rock Stars in an attempt to divert attention from the wizened lower half of my face. It’s not working too well.

I believe Kathleen opted for the fat-ass option.

Should I? No. I am a normal, healthy weight and deliberately trying to make myself fatter would be foolhardy and potentially a health risk. Plus, what if I just ended up with a broader backside and still had the thin face? That would totally suck! Really, it’s so ridiculous to spend even a nanosecond of my time worrying about looking slightly Ichabod Crane-like. I should just be grateful that I’m in excellent health; I’m in a good relationship; I love where I live; I have good friends; and I like my job. And I am grateful for all that. But...from time to time it does get to me that I don’t look quite as youthful as once I did--usually when I glimpse a reflection of my face in fluorescent lighting. I look like I’ve just spent the past seven months crossing the Great Plains in a prairie schooner with nothing to sustain me but rattlesnake and white lightning. OK. I’m exaggerating, but my point is: fluorescent light is the unkindest light of all and, in my opinion, should be outlawed. Aside from making everyone look peaked and liverish, it reminds me of all the most depressing places on Earth: school classrooms, laundromats, dentist’s offices, and currency exchanges.