Friday, April 29, 2005

Something with Poison in It, I Think

Oriental Poppy
Originally uploaded by Rozanne.
Poppies! Are they called poppies, because they pop explosively out of their buds? Going from tightly shut buds to extravagantly dazzling fully in bloom flowers in an instant? Whenever I find a poppy in bloom, I find shards of the bud all around it--sometimes as much as a foot away from the plant. What kind of weird plant hormone chemistry must be involved to make that happen? If I ever have a lot (really a lot) of time on my hands, I’m going to park myself in front of my poppy plant and witness one of these explosions.

Poppies (I keep typing poopies--hee, hee) are one of my absolute favorite flowers. B says they look like orange Mr. Coffee filters. I see his point, but I love the wrinkly-crinkly paper texture of the flowers, the black blotches on the inside of the petals, and the roly-poly, inky black seedpod in the center of the flower. Note to lackeys of the Drug Czar who have nothing better to do but trawl through blogs looking for gardeners they can bust: My poppy is an Oriental poppy (Papaver orientale), not the opium poppy (Papaver somniferum),* so don’t show up at my house with your Hummers and nylon jackets.

There is one downside to poppies. They flame out really quickly. For example, this poppy bloomed on Wednesday. By Sunday, its petals will be on the ground. So, while I’d love to have a flaming mass of Oriental poppies, an enoromous drift of crazy-neck Iceland poppies, and a vast meadow of Shirley poppies, it's not going to happen. I’d have one week of fabulousness in late spring, followed by a swathe of scraggly, charmless foliage that would rapidly die back. I don’t have a big enough garden that I can afford large voids of barren earth. So for now, I have just the one “specimen” poppy that came with the house.

I do have some poppies that earn their keep. California poppies bloom from April until November. Perhaps the reason they aren't as short-lived is that they aren't really a poppy. They're another genus altogether, although they are in the poppy family. Not sure of the genealogical ins and outs so don’t ask me. Anyway, these guys are cast-iron plants. I do nothing to them. No supplemental water, compost, or TLC. Just plenty of neglect. I pull out many of them every year just to keep them in check. It is perhaps a bit unfortunate that these orange flowers are intermingled clashingly with my pink and red roses, but there’s nothing I can do about it. They self-seed like mad and bloom their little duncecaps off. Speaking of those duncecaps--I very much enjoy searching among the poppies for flowers that are just about to bloom and prematurely pulling off the duncecaps. Just to save them the trouble, you know. It’s great fun.

*Apparently, it is impossible to buy Papaver somniferum seeds in the U.S., because the government thinks miniature Golden Triangles will spring up in every suburb. Of course, you can always just scrape the poppy seeds off a bagel and plant them. The opium poppy and the breadseed poppy are one and the same.

**Not the greatest photos, once again. I am using my new digital camera, but I haven’t applied myself to reading the manual yet. The other problem is that I keep jumping the gun and snapping photos as soon as plants produce their first runty flowers, rather than waiting for them to reach their peak. In future, I’ll try to see if I can hold off and post photos when plants are more discernibly stunning.

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Status of Fences: Mended

Well, it seems I’ve been engaging in a lot of needless seething about the rock band next door. I came home from an appointment today to see the drummer walking through his yard with a huge roll of pink insulation tucked under his arm. It could only mean one thing—the much-anticipated (by me) soundproofing of their basement was underway. Not having ever bitched out introduced myself to the drummer, I nipped over to do so.

I was quite taken aback by how young the kid looks. If he were to tell me he was a sophomore in high school, I’d believe it. I know he's got to be older than that, but still. I'm sure I look quite elderly to him. As I was shaking his hand, a guy who looks like he might be a member of one of the more recent incarnations of Lynyrd Skynrd rounded the corner and introduced himself as the drummer’s dad. The son faded into the background (in typical high school fashion) and the dad took over the conversation. He told me that he’d flown in from out of state to help his son with the soundproofing. He went on at length about how he himself was a musician so he knows how important it is to be respectful of neighbors, etc., etc. He piled on the reassurances. The soundproofing was going to be so thorough that it would "knock out all sound." He even shared some technical details (which of course sailed right over my head). It was a bit overboard, which leads me to conclude that the drummer and his girlfriend must have told him all about Ye Olde 24-karat Bitch next door.* I've become a legend, apparently.

Anyway, I am greatly relieved not only that the soundproofing is being done, but that the dad seemed to be trying to sort of apologize on his son's behalf. I’m totally prepared to do a 180 on my opinion of my new neighbors. I'm telling you, large rolls of pink insulation are a wonderful mood elevator. Actually, my mood was already rather elevated, owing to the fact that earlier today I finished and turned in a semi-hellish work project. Yay! I’m going to take Thursday and Friday off before a new onslaught of projects arrives on Monday. As a freelancer this is the ideal situation to be in: Not working at the moment, but with a big wad of work on the way in the near future, so there's no need to squander precious free time drumming up business. Let’s hope I don’t squander it some other way.

*In addition to the ass chewing I administered mere days after they moved in, I was forced to go knock on their door a few weeks ago when the band started playing so loud (on a Sunday after 9:00 PM) that we could hear it in every room of our house. B went with me. He was friendly. I, unfortunately, couldn’t contain my fury and demanded to know when the soundproofing was going to happen. I regret being so confrontational—it’s very unlike me. The next time I see the girlfriend of the drummer (the recipient of the ass chewing both times), I’m going to apologize for flying off the handle. Sure I was within my rights to complain, but I could have been a lot more civil.

Monday, April 25, 2005

Going Off the Deep End with the Government Dope

I just discovered a manifesto taped to my front door. The manifesto was addressed to “Head of Household,” and while I prefer “Lady of the House,”* I’ll answer to “Head of Household.” I opened it up to find two pages of single-spaced, free-ranging typewritten ramblings, authored by an anonymous “36 year resident of inner Northeast Portland, Or. who knows [his] nieghborhood [sic] like the back of [his] hand.” The whole thing is very unfocused and 'noid, but as near as I can tell, the guy is trying to spread the word about some sort of government conspiracy to hook people on drugs. An excerpt:

Onto the scanning electron microscope. There are no viroses [sic] to look at or show to a judge. What they have in books can be drummed up in any basic black and white lab, but there are no physical viroses [sic] to be viewed with the electron microscope. Magic Johnson was to give people hope and get them off narcotics because people went off the deep end with the government dope. They thought they were dying anyway. They get congestive heart failure, which has similar symptoms of pneumonia, fluids in the lungs. They don’t eat, then we end up with a quilt. Ryan White could have died from any childhood disease. Freddy Mercury was a smoker and Paul Glasers’ wife, cancer maybe? Their son any childhood disease. It’s rare but it does happen. Easy E, the rap star, who knows? What are you going to believe? What they can’t show you with an electron microscope or TV? Government pumping out narcotics. I just wouldn’t know why they came up with aids [sic] and Hepatitis C.

I think my favorite non sequitur is "They don't eat, then we end up with a quilt."

Apparently, the Bank of America is somehow involved in this conspiracy (specifically a person named Pam), as is the City of Gresham and Oxford and Cambridge universities:

There were some people with PHD’s from Oxford, Harvard, and in this case where there’s Oxford there’s Cambridge, who were involved in this cover-up also. Bank of America. these PHDr’s, FBI, local news media in Portland, Or., people in the government of Gresham, Or., and the CIA all think they’re slick, but they’re not slicker than me, a tenth grade GEDr who hooked it into a bank. And look around! Drug trafficking and entrapment is still going on!!!

The manifesto eventually peters out, ending with a motley bunch of phone numbers. If you need the phone number for the British Embassy or the City of Gresham, just let me know.

I’m glad I was chosen to receive the manifesto,** even though I am unable to fully comprehend its message. I wish it would have come with one of those “Keep Portland Weird” bumper stickers. I really should get one of those.

*Not really.
**I wasn't the only one. I actually saw the guy distributing them up and down the street yesterday. I just assumed he was leaving chimney sweep coupons (or similar). I think it was very wise of me not to go to the door.

Sunday, April 24, 2005

Minuscule Reticule

Minuscule Reticule
Originally uploaded by Rozanne.
You look a trifle warm. Why don't you take off your balaclava? I'd find that a little itchy myself, but then I've always been one for freedom of movement. Even in the depth of winter I wear next to nothing.

I love this snippet of monologue from Harold Pinter's play, A Slight Ache. One reason I think I've memorized this bit is because of the "I've always been one for freedom of movement" line. It really resonates with me.

I resent having to carry purses and handbags. They interfere tremendously with my freedom of movement. I must have my hands free when walking! How very irksome it is to walk any distance clutching a shoulder strap that is attached to a bag that's weighing down one side of my body. It throws my whole body out of alignment.

When I used to work in an office, a handbag was unavoidable. I had a 50-minute commute on the "el"* to and from work. I always carried a sizeable bag filled with things like gym clothes, a book, a Walkman, assorted painkillers, tampons, loose change, shredded Kleenexes, and unsavory detritus that seemed to spontaneously generate in the bottom of the bag. Yuck. And I kept trading up--buying larger and larger bags and carrying more and more crap. It was madness!

Now, of course, my commute involves a leisurely stroll from one part of the house to another. It takes 45 seconds (if traffic is bad), and I manage to accomplish it without carrying a whacking great bag of crap--yet another thing that rocks about working from home.

So the purse/handbag problem has been nearly solved. I've pared down what I carry with me to the bare minimum: keys, wallet, and sometimes sunglasses. In fall, winter, and spring I can easily carry all this stuff--"man style"--in my jacket or coat pockets. But come summer, I wear shorts and sundresses--garments that do not have any pockets. What to do?

I refuse to wear a fanny pack (UK: bum bag). It does get high marks in the freedom-of-movement department, but aesthetically? One word: codpiece. And a droopy codpiece at that. I cannot do it.

Last year I "dealt" with the lack-of-purse problem by foisting my keys and wallet on B (and his pockets) whenever we were out together. When I wasn't with B, I dumped my stuff in a camera bag that I had mysteriously acquired at some point.** The camera bag was far from ideal. Although small, it bashed against my hip with every stride, gradually moving forward and eventually bashing my stomach. I had to constantly yank the thing back to where it was supposed to be. Extraordinarily irritating. Plus, it had "MINOLTA" emblazoned on it. This caused an awkward moment once while I was having drinks with friends. I had to leave early and, in an attempt to be unobtrusive, I picked up the camera bag and slowly moved it toward my lap while attempting to remain fully engaged in the conversation. I was only trying to be polite, but I noticed that one friend's eyes were riveted on the bag. She looked sort of panicky. Turns out she thought I was going to whip out a camera and take some sort of candid shot, the result of which would be that yet another bad photo of her would be floating around the universe.

Summer is approaching. I don't want to frighten any more friends or permanently bash in my hip, so I decided that I needed to obtain some sort of minuscule reticule. My first thought was, "Here's my chance to knit a felted bag!" But after looking at a bunch of patterns on the Web, I didn't see anything that I could tackle with my very modest knitting skills. Plus, I really should maintain focus on the huge-ass afghan if I want to finish it in my lifetime. My second thought was that I should check out Saturday Market, since it is one of the few shopping venues I can stomach. As it happens, there is an embarrassment of minuscule reticules being sold at Saturday Market. As you can see, the bag I chose is not exactly a reticule, but it is minuscule and that's the main thing.

And now, I will award myself the Prolixity Award (long overdue). Who else would write 764 words detailing how a minor purchase came about, when posting a photo of the purchase with the following caption: "I bought this at Saturday Market." would have sufficed?***

*Chicago's elevated and subway train system.
**I acquired the camera bag but not the camera.
***And who else would actually think that buying a handbag is a blogworthy event?

Friday, April 22, 2005

Book Thingamajig

Shelley tagged me for this bookish meme, so here goes.

1. You're stuck inside Fahrenheit 451, which book do you want to be saved?

The Collected Writings of Thomas Paine (Common Sense, The Crisis, Rights of Man, The Age of Reason, etc.). We’d need something to inspire a revolution. Paine did it before; he can do it again.

2. Have you ever had a crush on a fictional character?

Well, I’m really not a crushy sort of person, so I don’t recall ever having had a crush on a fictional character. Instead, I’ll just list some of the characters I’ve found memorable for one reason or another.

  • Hans “Neither Genius nor Dunderhead” Castorp (from The Magic Mountain by Thomas Mann)
  • Fleda Vetch (from The Spoils of Poynton by Henry James)
  • Ferdinand Lopez: bat guano investor and blackguard (from The Prime Minister by Anthony Trollope)
  • Bridget Jones (from Bridget Jones Diary by Helen Fielding)
  • Amit Chatterji: an extremely likable fellow, probably the closest I’ve ever come to having a crush on a character (from A Suitable Boy by Vikram Seth)
3. The last book you purchased?

Dish: How Gossip Became the News and the News Became Just Another Show, purchased only because the library didn’t have it and I needed to read it for my book club. I got it from Amazon for 39 cents!

4.What are you currently reading?

Urban Gardener by Elspeth Thompson (discussed here)
Afluenza: The All-Consuming Epidemic by John de Graaf et al (discussed here)
Two Diane Arbus monographs (sort of discussed here)

5. Five books you would take to a deserted island?

What I’d like to know: Is it a deserted island or a desert island? That would make a difference! I’ll assume both.

1. A comprehensive survival guide, such as 98.6 Degrees: The Art of Keeping Your Ass Alive by Cody Lundin.

2. Joan Crawford by Bob Thomas. Just in case I get depressed out on the deserted/desert island (a distinct possibility), all I’d have to do is read a chapter of Joan and realize things could be a lot worse.

3. I’m going to steal Shelley’s idea and take a set of encyclopedias, but I’ll go with World Book instead of Encyclopaedia Britannica.*

4. Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov. Nabokov’s use of language is exquisite. I don’t think I’d ever get tired of rereading this book.**

5. The unabridged 8-volume set of the Lewis and Clark journals. I’ve always wanted to read these, but what a time commitment! However, once I’ve figured out how to keep my ass alive and I’m just hanging around waiting to be rescued by pirates, I should have time for the journals. Might pick up some good survival pointers, too!

*I’m a bit of an encyclopedia connoisseur. I know that sounds horribly pretentious, but it’s true. I worked at Britannica for about a decade and still use it all the time, so I think I am qualified to say that although there is information in Britannica that you will find no where else, it is often not the information you are looking for. Extremely vexing! For example, say you want to find out some basic fact about France. Do you really want to plow (heh, heh) through eight or nine pages detailing the various soils in each region of France? I think not. World Book, I have found, does an excellent job of presenting information in layperson’s terms. It’s also accurate, concise, and far more current than many of Britannica’s articles. That said, if I could take both, I would.

**I should add Humbert Humbert to my memorable character list, although he’s certainly not a character I would ever have a crush on!

I tag Jamie, Cagey, Diana of Piffle, and Diana of Seeking Clarity to take on this mission meme, if they so desire!

Thursday, April 21, 2005

Camille Paglia’s Non-Reading at Powell’s

I don’t like to read reviews of books, films, or plays that I know I am going to read or see. For example, say there’s a new film by Mike Leigh (one of my favorite directors). I don’t want my expectations tainted or influenced in any way by what I might read in advance. I want the experience--and what I take away from it--to be completely my own. That’s the approach I took when I showed up to hear Camille Paglia read from her new book at Powell’s bookstore last night.

I’d heard Paglia lecture a few years ago at the University of Chicago and had enjoyed every minute of it. So when I found out she was coming to Powell’s, I didn’t bother even finding out the title of her new book.* I just knew I had to go hear her again. I arrived 40 minutes early to ensure getting a seat in one of the more-cramped-than-seats-in-coach-class-on-Southwest-Airlines plastic chairs Powell’s sets up and dove into a book of short stories** I’d snatched from a shelf on my way in.

Of course, it’s a bit difficult to concentrate when one is so scrunched into a chair that there is no way to arrange oneself to avoid having one’s arm pressed into the arm of the Quintessential Middle-Aged Portland Man (complete with Birkenstocks) sitting next to one. It was only a very short matter of time before the arresting hot-pink cover of Paglia’s book (copies were everywhere) caught my eye and I discovered that her new book is called Break, Blow, Burn: Camille Paglia Reads Forty-Three of the World's Best Poems. Holy crap! Poetry is one genre of literature that I have never been able to much tolerate, with the exception of William Blake’s poems and a handful of Shakespeare’s sonnets. Getting through all the required poetry classes I had to take as an English major was pure torture for me.

I briefly considered bailing, but reminded myself that it was a Camille Paglia reading and that it was highly unlikely that she would do anything so predictable as to stand in front of us and drone “Ode on a Grecian Urn” at us.

At 7:30, Paglia shot out of the gate and up to the podium, and let 'er rip as soon as the applause died down. It was exhilarating to listen to her and try to keep up. If my brain and her brain were jogging together, her brain would be the one sprinting along effortlessly, dispensing insightful commentary and mine would be the one a couple of steps behind, panting slightly and saying “uh huh, uh huh, uh huh.” She’s a very charismatic and dynamic extemporaneous speaker. She's hilarious, too. And I agree with a lot--though not all--of what she has to say.

I wish I would have brought a tape recorder with me (other folks did) so I could listen to her lecture a few times and fully digest and contemplate all she said. One of the reasons I like Paglia is that she has an exquisitely tuned bullshit detector. Early on she informed us that poststructuralist theory is “dead as a doornail.” Glad to hear it. I’ve always thought it was rubbish, so I was pleased to have Paglia’s validation on that one.

Anyway, it seems to me that the main reason she wrote this book is that she is concerned that there are too many Americans who have no sense of history or art--especially the history of art. And that without exposure to the world’s great works of art (music and visual arts as well as literature) our country is in big even bigger trouble. She's worried that people's lives are so narrowly circumscribed by TV and the Internet that they have no awareness of anything that came before it and consequently the arts are stagnating--have been stagnating since Andy Warhol, whom, Paglia says, sounded the death knell of the avant garde. A bit of a sweeping pronouncement,*** but some truth in it, I think. Anyway, I know my feeble attempt to summarize some of her ideas (and pronouncements) sounds oversimplified and not terribly profound. She had a lot more to say--and presented it much better and more entertainingly than I have.

I’m sorry I can’t be more specific about the gist of the book, but Paglia barely mentioned the book and never bothered to actually pick it up and read from it! (The other reason I can't be more specific is that I have a terrible, terrible memory, and there were just too many ideas whizzing past. My poor, lumbering brain just couldn't absorb them all. An infuriating condition--and the reason why I need to bring a tape recorder next time.) I will say this, though, in the space of 45 minutes, I went from thinking that there would be no way in hell I’d ever read her new book to reserving a copy of it for myself at the library. I’m not proud of the fact that I don’t seem to “get” poetry, so if her book can bring me around to an appreciation of it, that would be a very good thing.

*If I were properly keeping abreast of goings-on in the book world I would have known about the book weeks ago. I used to be that sort of person. Not anymore.

** Children Playing Before a Statue of Hercules, if you must know.

***I'm quite fond of sweeping pronouncements myself.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Tulip Trials and Tribulation

Clown Border
Originally uploaded by Rozanne.
One of the first garden-related things I did when we bought the house was go out and buy tulip bulbs. Unfortunately, I allowed myself to be seduced by the gorgeous photos of all the tulip varieties. Instead of limiting myself to one or, at most, two colors for maximum impact, I bought four or maybe five different colors. It didn't occur to me that buying different varieties would mean they wouldn't all bloom at once. Because I didn't plant a huge mass of tulips, they tend to bloom one at a time. Not quite the showstopping display I had hoped for! Eventually, I get the effect you see in the photo to the right--some tulips are going strong, while others have gone to pot.

Also--and this is not my fault--the tulips have been mutating (I guess that's what's happening) like crazy. See the yellow ones with the red streaks? (Click the photo to enlarge if you want to follow along.) Those were originally pure yellow. See the blasted, almost entirely red ones behind them? Those were also pure yellow two years ago. Not visible because all that's left of them are naked pistils are what was supposed to be 'Queen of the Night'--gorgeous, almost black tulips.* In my garden they have always bloomed an unlovely bruise-like purple/magenta.** Finally, add in the fact that there are large gaps in continuity that resulted from the removal of some ugly bushes, and the end result is that the border looks like it was planted by a colorblind clown.

My only consolation is that I don't seem to be the only person who got carried away at the bulb bins--judging by the heedless riot of tulip colors I see in neighbors' gardens anyway.

Enough whingeing! How about some photos of the parts of the garden that actually look good instead of photos of plants that are not living up to expectations or that are ravaged by pests?***

Daffodil Tableau with African Daisies, Wallflowers, and White Bleeding Heart (features the much-maligned double daffodils)

Close-up of Peachy Daffodil

Mossy Bricks and Golden Hops Vine (included for Carolyn's benefit and because I love the way the hops look against the moss)

Baby Blueberries! This bush flowered so early, I had my doubts about whether the bees would be ready for it. But fruit is definitely setting. Because of my dreadful record-keeping skills, I'm not exactly sure which variety this is, but it's either 'Toro,' 'Patriot,' or 'Olympia.'

More photos will be forthcoming. I ordered a new digital camera to replace the godawful antique I inherited from my father (the early adopter). Yes. I have succumbed to a minor bout of affluenza. But I found a really good deal at Amazon. Since I signed up for an Visa at the same time, my total cost was only $139.88. Even Gandhi would have bought one at that price!

*The other reason you can't see any in the photo is that the Tulip Decapitator (true to form) cut a few of them down in their prime. I can't say I'm terribly sorry about that.

**I have no complaints to register against the white tulips. They bloom for a very long time and have never pulled any color changes on me. I wish I'd planted the whole border with them.

***I seem to have conquered the climbing cutworms. For the past couple of evenings I haven't found any on the foxgloves or hollyhocks. Yay!

Sunday, April 17, 2005

My Overburdened Liver

I woke up this morning feeling bilious and resolved to try going vegetarian for a week. It just seems like the right thing to do. Today’s biliousness (if biliousness is indeed what I am suffering) and subsequent resolution are the result of several physical and psychological conditions. There’s the general impairment caused by menstrual cramps. And then there’s last night’s dinner, which consisted of a margarita; chips, chips, and more chips; and a pizza-pan sized plate featuring a chile relleno, a pork tamale, a beef enchilada, Mexican rice mish-mash, and refried beans--all smothered beneath a quarter-inch scum of oozy orange cheese.

We all remarked on how large our meals were, but I was the only one who didn’t finish everything on my plate. Our friend T.O.--a doctor-- virtuously remarked at one point that he had opted to get the regular margarita as opposed to El Super Mucho Grande margarita, since he had taken some Advil earlier in the day and didn’t want to tax his liver’s toxin-processing faculties too much. What? As if a ton of meat and cheese and gluttonous portions in general aren’t a huge burden on the liver (not to mention most other organs and glands).*

T.O’s liver remark clearly made an impression on me this morning. I’d hurled a considerable amount of animal fat, alcohol, and Advil at it yesterday, and it was choking and sputtering under the burden. Or so I imagined. At any rate, I felt crappy and going meatless for some reason seemed highly appealing.

I’ve made a few feeble attempts at vegetarianism before, but I’ve never managed to stick with it for more than a couple of weeks before I developed uncontrollable cravings for bacon cheeseburgers and the like, even though I’ve never been a person who has to have meat at every meal or even every day.** I guess I'm just somehow not committed enough to the idea, even though I know becoming a vegetarian or--better yet--a vegan would be better for my health and most certainly better for the environment. I do try to always buy meat that hasn’t been raised on factory farms, but even so, raising animals for food is not a wise or sustainable use of the planet’s resources. I feel guilty about that.

Anyway, for the next week, I will be a vegetarian. And I’m not going to cop out and just eat a bunch of grilled cheese sandwiches. Really, it shouldn't be all that hard to be more conscious about what I eat. More than anything, it's just a matter of being organized enough to have the right food on hand. So often, I find myself caught without any groceries in the house, have no time to compose a shopping list, and run out for pre-prepared food or pick up quick pork-laden Vietnamese takeout.***

As of this writing, I’ve been a vegetarian for 12 hours. (Please hold your applause.) I made some homemade vegan granola this morning that is totally fabulous and low in fat. Who knew that low-fat granola could be good? Plus, it's made with whole, organic ingredients. Right now some yellow split-pea soup is simmering on the stove. It's the first time I've made it without bacon or ham, but I’ve had a taste, and it’s unexpectedly good.

I know that at this point in my life, I would still be dooming myself to failure if I were to permanently declare myself a vegetarian. Instead I’m going to see if I can do it for one week each month. It’s a small thing, really, and hardcore vegetarians and vegans may scoff, but what can I say? I just don’t have the gumption to be a full-time vegetarian. Maybe one day.

*T.O. is famous for cheerfully pointing out how terrible certain foods (e.g., tater tots) are for a person’s health. He then proceeds to eat them with great gusto. Of course, the guy is always running half marathons and climbing Mt. Hood, so that might give him a bit of leeway.
**I admit to an enthusiasm for most things pork, and most hikes I take end with a hamburger.
***I cannot bring myself to like tofu or any other meat substitute. And I have tried.

Thursday, April 14, 2005

Taxes: How I Hate Them!

It is not in my nature to leave things til the last minute. I never once in my high school or college careers turned a paper in late or asked for an extension. Nor am I usually careless about details.* In fact, some aspects of my job could be described as professional nitpicking. But when it comes to paying my taxes, all bets are off.

Last year, I made the spectacularly boneheaded mistake of failing to send off my IRA contribution and my contribution to my other retirement plan when I sent off all my other tax stuff. I guess it was something to do with all the different checks I have to write out and forms I have to stuff in envelopes and matching them all up (it requires all my concentration not to put get all the checks and forms muddled up). Pathetic, I know! Anyway, after writing six checks, and matching them with their forms, I just figured I was through and skipped off to toss them all in the mailbox, thrilled to have my taxes out of the way for another year.

Of course, all my tax forms and payments due had been figured with the IRA and other retirement-plan deductions. About two weeks later, I had a V-8 moment and remembered I hadn’t sent in those checks. I had to refigure all my taxes. Then I had to turn over a good portion of the money I had intended to put toward retirement to the state of Oregon and the U.S. government. Never would it be seen again. Seriously, I almost threw myself to the floor and started shrieking when I realized I was going to have to go through all that paperwork again. Plus, I probably gyped myself out a deluxe Lazy-Boy recliner or some other golden-years luxury that I will now not be able to afford.

So this year, as you might imagine, there was no way I was going to allow myself to do anything so brainless. And B wasn’t either. He printed out mailing labels for each and every entity to which I owed taxes or payments--a total of eight. How kind. He also told me not to seal any of the envelopes until he could double-check them all. Most helpful. I guess I might as well admit that he pretty much did my taxes for me, too. I am forever grateful. Most importantly, he asked me this morning if I was sure that the retirement-plan payments didn’t need to be received (not just postmarked) by the 15th. To my credit, I had wondered this myself and was planning on calling to find out. Sure enough, the checks must be received by the 15th to count for 2004. It cost me $23 to overnight them. Grumble. Still, much better than a repeat of last year's ordeal.

By the way, I just cannot emphasize enough how uncharacteristic everything in the above paragraphs is of how I typically conduct my life. Most of all, B is usually not forced to treat me like I’m a feeble-minded child!

*I am careless about details in this blog, actually. I don't pay near the same level of attention to grammar, punctuation, and accuracy as I would if I were gettting paid to write this thing. And most of my sentences are overly long and tortuous. And I begin a lot of sentences with "And." Just so you know--I am aware that all my entries could use a rigorous copyedit.

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

My Little Favorite Life-Shape

Even if the things wormy are probably my little favorite life-shape, I must say that I am a small piece in conflict on having to be so personally and unequivocal person in charge of its death. I have passed to a sure time this morning that investigated more human alternatives, and it looks like that the "manual harvesting manually" is really the best option, if nondesire to douse my chemical agent garden. Which I do not do it. And at least I schnippele it not into pieces, as some gardeners are recommended. In any case, it comes down to the lives without aim or the foxgloves. The lives without aim live; the dice of the foxgloves. The dice of the lives without aim; the foxgloves they live that is--if it is not too much late. Those foxgloves they are for nothing good.

Isn’t that charming? Does it sound vaguely familiar? The above paragraph is the result of taking a paragraph* from a previous entry and feeding it into the Google translator** and then back again, e.g., start with English to Italian and then take the Italian translation and put it back into English, or rather Manglish. Hours of fun!

The above is actually an amalgam of Italian, Spanish, and German translations, created in order to deliver maximum hilarity. I did, however, have a hard time choosing between the Italian and the German versions for the last couple of sentences. Here’s the German alternative:

Anyway it comes down to the continuous screws or to that foxgloves. The continuous screws live; foxgloveswuerfel. The continuous screw cube; those foxgloves live -- that is, if it is not too late.

How does worms translate to continuous screws, I’d like to know?

Why all the silliness and no real blog entry? I am conserving my cerebral resources, so that I will be able to write about a dozen tax checks*** tonight and make sure I get them in the right envelopes. And not (like last year) somehow forget to mail off my contributions to my IRA and my other retirement plan. One of the most nightmarish mistakes I've ever made!

*Here’s the original paragraph:
Even though wormy things are probably my least favorite life-form, I have to say that I am a bit conflicted about having to be so personally and unequivocally responsible for their demise. I spent some time this morning researching more humane alternatives, and it seems that “handpicking” is really the best option, unless I want to douse my garden with toxic chemicals. Which I don’t. And at least I’m not snipping the worms into pieces, as some gardeners recommend. Anyway, it comes down to the worms or the foxgloves. The worms live; the foxgloves die. The worms die; the foxgloves live—that is, if it’s not too late. The foxgloves are not at all well.

**I haven't done this in years. I don't know what made it occur to me to to try it again. I must have been desperately bored this afternoon.

***Thanks to being self-employed and living in a place where there are various municipal and county taxes to be paid.

Monday, April 11, 2005


For my book club I’m reading Affluenza: The All-Consuming Epidemic. According to the authors affluenza is “a painful, contagious, socially transmitted condition of overload, debt, anxiety, and waste resulting from the dogged pursuit of more.” In short, it’s all about how Americans buy too much crap and consume way too many resources and, for the most part, don’t think twice about it.

Although the book is lighthearted in tone, attempting to stop the madness through humor and gentle persuasion, every page presents some absolutely appalling fact. For example, 60 percent of American families have so little savings that they can only sustain their lifestyles for about a month if they lose their jobs. Or 90 percent of teenage girls in the U.S. rank shopping as their favorite activity. Or a contemporary three-car garage is about the size of a typical 1950s house.

Well, I’m allergic to shopping and haven’t been in a mall since last July and even then I only went in to use the restroom,* so no wonder I find these stats mind-boggling. As I read, I was feeling pretty certain that I was not infected with affluenza. I skipped ahead and found a rather comprehensive test the authors have compiled for diagnosing affluenza. I wish I could reproduce it here, but it consists of 50 questions, so I’m not going to type it out.** If you want to take an abridged, less serious 15-question version of the test, click here.***

Both the abridged and unabridged tests indicated that I have almost no symptoms**** of affluenza. I wasn’t surprised. I just don’t buy stuff, apart from food (and drink) and garden plants. I drive a 16-year-old car. I've got many articles of clothing that date back to the administration of George Herbert Walker Bush. There just aren’t a lot of things I want. Even as a kid, I often had trouble coming up with a Christmas list. At the moment, the only thing I want is a small compost tumbler, but who knows if I’ll ever make the purchase. I’ve been mulling it over since last year.

However, there is one question in the comprehensive test that I didn’t really know how to answer: “Do you routinely compare the appearance of your lawn and/or home with others in your neighborhood?” I do. Sometimes I’m just enjoying people’s gardens and landscaping, but there is a definite covetous component to it more often than not. I’ve always kind of wished our house was bigger, even though there is plenty of room for B and I here in our 1900 sq ft (including basement) house.

There are many good reasons--economic, social, political, and especially environmental--for not owning a really mammoth house. And yet, when B and I take walks around the neighborhood, I am always seeing houses that I think I like better than ours. They are always larger. What I really want is a house with an upstairs, a second floor, where I could have my office. But there’s more to it than that that I can't quite pinpoint. You see, I could move my office up out of the basement right now. Even though we’ve only got two bedrooms, one of them isn’t being used. Sure we’d have to do some fiddling to get an Internet connection in that room, but it’s hardly an insurmountable problem, and it surely would be cheaper and a lot less complicated than taking on a mortgage for a more expensive house. So why haven’t I moved my office up to that spare room? I think mainly because I like having the main floor of the house free of all traces of my job.

But if we had a larger house....

Perhaps I need to finish Affluenza. The last section apparently has tips about how to get over wanting more than you need.

*I did, however, impulse-buy one of those mall pretzels that contain about a pound of cheeze and are dunked in butteroid substance just for good measure.
**I also don’t want to get myself in trouble with the copyright police.
***Before it was a book, Affluenza was a documentary on PBS. The test comes from the Web site for the TV show and is therefore less substantial--in keeping with the nature of television.
***This will be the last time I will use the disease metaphor. The authors of the book use it constantly, and it gets very tiresome.

Sunday, April 10, 2005

Lowly Worms

I owe a partial apology* to the slugs of my garden: Sorry for blaming you for skeletonizing one of my hollyhocks and turning the leaves of my foxgloves to tatters.

I have discovered the real culprits, thanks to a tip from some folks at GardenWeb Forums who sugggested that climbing cutworms might be to blame. I’d not heard of climbing cutworms before, but I have heard of the nonclimbing variety--a particularly vile creepy-crawly that mows down seedlings at ground level, thus breaking the hearts of many a gardener. I’ve always been very thankful to have never been a victim.

Even though I had my doubts about cutworms being the perps, I had to admit that over the past few weeks not many slugs have been drowning their sorrows in the round-the-clock supply of Miller High Life I’ve made available to them, which led me to wonder if some other pest might be at work.

Armed with a flashlight and container of water with a squirt of detergent in it, I tiptoed out into my garden at 10:00 PM last night.** I trained my flashlight on a foxglove, and there were three cutworms gorging themselves silly. They are dreadful. Gingerly, I reached down and picked one up (with my gloved hand). It curled itself into a ball--characteristic behavior and proof that it was indeed a member of the despised cutworm family. I plopped it into the soapy water.


I persevered and gave the same treatment to eight or nine others.

Gardening can be murder.

Even though wormy things are probably my least favorite life-form, I have to say that I am a bit conflicted about having to be so personally and unequivocally responsible for their demise. I spent some time this morning researching more humane alternatives, and it seems that “handpicking” is really the best option, unless I want to douse my garden with toxic chemicals. Which I don’t. And at least I’m not snipping the worms into pieces, as some gardeners recommend. Anyway, it comes down to the worms or the foxgloves. The worms live; the foxgloves die. The worms die; the foxgloves live—that is, if it’s not too late. The foxgloves are not at all well.

I really want these foxgloves to survive because: A) They are volunteers that sprouted up last fall, presumably from foxgloves I had the previous year, as I had no foxgloves last year. A nice serendipity. B) Foxgloves are biennial and since they sprouted last fall, they are going to bloom this year, despite the cutworms’ best efforts. I can see the stalks rising out of the mutilated rosette of leaves, and I want to see them triumph over a higher (debatable) life-form. C) I’m eager to see if these foxgloves look the same as their “parents,” which were the giant white variety, or if they revert to the standard pink color. I’m hoping for white and giant. They were smashing.

*I cannot issue a full apology, nor will I remove the beer traps, as I know the slugs noshed on my delphiniums, and have, in general, been up to no good.

**Cutworms spend the daylight hours buried below the surface of the soil, doing god knows what. After dark they emerge and start their feeding frenzy.

Friday, April 08, 2005

Seven Eastside Happy Hours

I like cheap food and cheap drinks and quitting work a bit early on Fridays. If you add all these together you get Happy Hour. A like-minded friend and I have been “researching” the Happy Hours on offer here in Portland for a couple of months now. We throw in a good healthy walk beforehand, just so we can feel slightly less like cheapskate booze hounds and can snarf onion rings with abandon. Here are the places we recommend so far and what you should eat and/or drink while there.

Doug Fir: 830 E. Burnside
If the Jetsons lived in a log cabin, it would look like the Doug Fir. Get there early (before 5:00) and order what are possibly the world’s best onion rings and certainly the most generous portion ever served up for $2. Cheaper than Burgerville! In fact, and--I can’t believe I’m saying this--you should really split them with a friend if you value the size of your thighs/ass/tummy. Or you could just get the Fir Burger (heh, heh), a bargain at $3. Anyway, it’s a damn good burger, all juvenile snickering regarding its name aside. Oh yeah, $3 well drinks, too. Be sure to drink enough so that you'll have to use the hall-of-mirrors restroom while there. You may never find your way out.

Crush: 1412 SE Morrison
Go here for the martinis, which are excellent and about the cheapest we’ve found: $3, if memory serves. The food menu is very limited, but I did enjoy the sunflower hummus and olives. What it lacks in food is made up for by dim, atmospheric lighting and a TV in the restroom that was tuned to, I believe, a rerun of Hee Haw. Class and kitsch!

Pambiche: 2811 NE Glisan
They don’t have a Happy Hour they have La Hora de los Amigos (or something like that). Must be a Cuban thing. Anyway, I like it very much. They have two different versions of fried plantains. Have both and don’t stint on the banana ketchup. The empanadas and croquettes should also be sampled. I’m always surprised at how much I end up eating here. Their sangria is good, but I can make better.

Bernie’s Southern Bistro: 2904 NE Alberta
Sit on the lush, secluded patio. Once seated, order any or all of the following $3 items: blackened salmon po’ boy; fried green tomatoes; hush puppies; or sweet potato fries. Avoid the spendy mint julep, which has so many wadded-up mint leaves in it you’ll end up chewing your drink. Have a pint of microbrew instead. Beer goes better with all that fried stuff anyway.

Echo 2225 NE Martin Luther King Blvd.
Upscale but without attitude. This is a place where it’s worth shelling out $6 or $7 for a fancy-ass drink. My fave is the Dark and Stormy. I don’t really even know what’s in it other than fresh ginger and some kind of booze. Boy, oh boy, is it tasty. The food is more expensive than, say, the Doug Fir, but it’s also much more sophisticated. The $5 pizza with spinach, goat cheese, garlic, and fresh tomatoes was excellent, and I actually took about half of it home with me—so the portions are ample.

Imbibe: 2229 SE Hawthorne
Like having a drink in someone’s living room—only you have to pay for the drinks. I’m not actually sure of the particulars of their Happy Hour specials, but I recommend the macaroni and cheese. It’s made with sharp white cheddar, and they’ll add in caramelized onions, bacon, and other stuff for a small fee. Darn tasty. One of my favorite places to have a quiet drink and some conversation.

820: 820 N Russell
This place is on the brink of being too upscale for the likes of me, i.e., my friend told me I couldn’t show up in jeans. It has a sort of spruced-up dungeon look to it—black walls and sinister corksrewesque wall sconces. Still. They have buckets of fried calamari served with three different sauces—all of which are fabulous and different. They have a double-sided scroll of fancy drinks (not discounted). Sadly--lightweight that I am--I can only handle one drink, and what I had wasn’t memorable.

Our bender research continues. Other Happy Hours for which either data are still being compiled or testing has yet to be carried out include:

Brazen Bean
Slow Bar
Sweet Basil
The Italian Joint
Tin Shed

Stay tuned.

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Nearly Busted by the Dog Police

Today at lunchtime a fellow self-employed friend and I went out for a walk with her dog—the Dork.* We meandered around the neighborhood for a while, finally ending up at a neighborhood park. My friend then let the Dork off his leash, so he could romp through mud and drink skanky greenish water from puddles. Even though the Dork was behaving dorkily, he was reasonably well behaved. He stayed pretty close to us and when he shook loose a few clinkers, my friend intervened immediately to seal them safely away in a plastic bag.

And then we saw it: a preternaturally white Multnomah County Animal Services stealth vehicle had glided silently up to the edge of the park. A guy with a clipboard got out, and my friend panicked. She raced over to the Dork and put his leash back on. “I’m gonna get busted! Let’s get out of here,” she stammered. Turns out that not only was the Dork off-leash during leash hours, my friend had lost his tag. She could be fined $150. Luckily, I kept a level head. I suggested that we turn around and walk fast toward one of the exit gates.

As we hauled ass out of there she whispered, “Is he coming?” I looked over my shoulder and saw the dog cop lumber back into his vehicle. Apparently, it would have been too much effort to walk 200 feet to bust us. Instead he drove 100 feet to an easier target—a mom with a toddler in one of those Tilt-a-Whirl-looking strollers and an off-leash Vizsla of the extra-frisky variety. The dog cop knew there was no way the mom was going to be able maneuver the kid and the stroller over to the rambunctious Vizsla in time to get a leash on it. Last I saw he was puffing out his chest and brandishing the clipboard at her. Nice. I’m always leery of people with clipboards: gym teachers, driver’s ed instructors, poll takers, and so forth. They always seem to think their clipboards give them more authority than they actually have.

So did I aid and abet a crime by suggesting to my friend that we high-tail it out of the park? She was in the wrong--no doubt about it. And she knew it, but $150 for not having your dog on a leash seems pretty steep. Plus, she is a very responsible dog owner. She didn’t let the Dork off the leash until we were far from the playground, so he wouldn’t inadvertently frighten small children. And she is a whiz with the poop bag, I’m telling you. Those bum brownies had barely hit the ground before she had them scooped up and out of harm's way. So, no, I don’t feel too guilty. Let Animal Services go after the folks who let their dogs loose and start yammering on their cell phones, paying no heed to whether the dogs are sideswiping pedestrians as they try to tree a squirrel or depositing ploppers in remote corners of the park that will at a later date end up on the bottom of some unsuspecting person's shoe.

*Not his real name. Since this dog is rather famous--well, his picture has appeared in the Portland Tribune (does that count?)--and he's in a spot of trouble, I thought it best to give him a false name. Since my friend is always saying, "He's such a dork," whenever the dog does anything borderline naughty, I think "the Dork" is as good a pseudonym as any.

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

Stand Back and Admire

Potato-Rosemary Focaccia
Originally uploaded by Rozanne.
I made this potato-rosemary focaccia. Isn't it pretty?* I'm quite pleased with it myself, but in reality it is not at all representative of what usually comes out of my oven, which is to say--nothing. I'm not much of a baker.

But last night I went to a Stitch 'n' Bitch gathering and I had this bee in my bonnet about bringing something impressive and homemade, instead of just showing up with a bag of Terra chips or a box of cookies from the bakery, which is what I usually do.

At the risk of having Jamie and Bakerina boot me off of their blogrolls, I'm going to admit that I did not follow the recipe--given to me by a prissy and snobbish former friend**--to the letter. The recipe wanted me to incorporate two cups of mashed potatoes into the dough, but there was no way I was going to spend time mashing potatoes (and burning out my triceps whilst so engaged), so I used (gasp!) instant mashed potatoes. I couldn't help myself! Taking this sort of shortcut is in my blood. I am, after all, the daughter of a woman who scooped up Jiffy cake mixes by the dozen whenever they were on sale*** and never made a single casserole that didn't contain a can of cream of mushroom soup as an integral ingredient.

Also, when the recipe recommended that I allow the dough to rise in a "warm place," I got out the heating pad, set it on "Low," and placed the bowl of dough (draped with a kitchen towel) on the pad. Unorthodox, but the dough rose beautifully. I was quite pleased. On the rare occasions that I do attempt yeast breads, they usually are indistinguishible in size and shape from quick breads, i.e., they're about 2 inches high.

So I presented my focaccia at the gathering and basked in the admiration of my fellow S'n'Bers who lauded and magnified me and were suitably impressed. Privately they may have been confirming their suspicion that self-employed is indeed a synonym for unemployed. But if they were, that's their problem. I did work yesterday. Really, I did! I just took a few much-kneaded breaks! (Har har!)

*Next time (if there is a next time), I would overlap the potato slices a bit more. I didn't quite achieve the tile-roof effect I was going for, as shrinkage occurred during baking.
**This prissy and snobbish former friend is the madwoman with the green pencil mentioned in this post.
***What? Haven't I spent plenty of time lamenting my sugar-deprived childhood? And now it turns out my mom was buying Jiffy cake mix right and left? Here's the thing: These boxes of cake mix mostly ended up being turned into "cake mix cookies" that were sold at church bake sales--the proceeds of which went (I surmise) toward buying cases of Lancers rose, the wine doled out in wee sips at communion.

Sunday, April 03, 2005

Arcadia at Reed College

Good evening and welcome to another edition of “It's the Arts.”

It may seem that this blog is suddenly going all highbrow. First a discussion of a museum exhibit, now a review of a play. Aren’t I the cultured one? Well, not really. You see, I did only two things of note this weekend. One was go out and eat BBQ with friends and the other was go to a play. Wait. I tell a lie. I did one other thing. Sit around on my ass.

Anyway, I have chosen to talk about the stint of sitting around on my ass that occurred in a theatre seat at Reed College on Saturday night. I have B to thank for this change of venue for my ass sitting. B, as it happens, is a playwright and an author of several musicals so he keeps up with the theatre scene (saving me the trouble). Sadly, the Portland theatre scene is not so robust as the Chicago theatre scene. In Chicago, we were forever going to excellent creative, energetic $8 plays at tiny dungeonesque theatres, but there just isn't the proliferation of small shoestring-budget theatres in Portland that there is in Chicago.

After a great deal of hunting and pecking, B has found that our best bet in Portland is college productions. They are usually pretty good. Plus, they're seldom more than $10 a pop (usually more like $5 or $6), so if they suck it’s not as painful for our pocketbooks. We’ve seen some quite passable productions at Portland State University and at University of Portland. Oddly, until last night we’d never gone to anything at Reed College.*

Before even seeing the play, we had to give Reed College full marks for the play they’d chosen: Arcadia by Tom Stoppard. Stoppard is a tall order, especially for Americans. We’d seen Arcadia slaughtered by the Goodman Theatre in Chicago a few years ago. The production was absolutely stultifying--like being stuck in an overheated funeral parlor at a wake for a person you barely knew. The director and his minions sucked all the humor out of it, leaving only a bunch of actors moving woodenly about the stage and enunciating in smug, show-offy British accents. What was so tragic is that they actually had good actors who, had they not been hampered by misdirection, would have done a great job. We left after the first act. We spent several minutes gulping in fresh air in front of the theatre--it was that bad. We were pissed, too, because we could tell that it was a good play, but if any theatre company can turn diamonds to dog shit, it is the Goodman, venerated though it is. I always think it’s a case of the emperor having no clothes. OK. I'm dangerously close to setting off on an anti-Goodman rant, and I don't want to go there.

So having seen the bloodbath at the Goodman, we were wondering how a bunch of college students would do with Arcadia. Splendidly! It turns out. They totally got Stoppard’s humor and took it and ran with it and kept up with it, which is more than I can do most of the time. Stoppard is amazing and is one of my favorite playwrights. His plays are always a whirlwind of intriguing ideas presented in an incredibly witty and inventive way.

I won’t attempt a synopsis of Arcadia. (I’m too lazy. There’s a very brief one here.) But I will say that the acting was outstanding, considering these were college kids. The leads’ accents, inflections, delivery, and timing were spot on. I was especially impressed with Kati Sweaney in the role of Hannah Jarvis. Her performance was nearly of professional caliber. (Note to Kati in case she’s ever ego surfing: You were way better than the Goodman. Be proud of yourself!)

*This is odd, because Reed is the college here in Portland I feel the most affinity for. I wish I had gone to Reed.


Friday, April 01, 2005

Diane Arbus Exhibit at Portland Art Museum

King and Queen
Originally uploaded by Rozanne.
Diane Arbus is perhaps best known for photographing people who fall outside the norm: nudists, transvestites, the mentally ill, midgets, etc. All her photos have a sort of disturbing/unsettling quality to them. She had an uncanny knack for managing to capture people just as they allowed their masks to slip for a moment.

I don't know a lot about Arbus, but I think she was rather a tortured soul. At the age of 48, she committed suicide by slashing her wrists. I've always found her photographs to be riveting and thought provoking, though, so I was eager to check out her Family Albums exhibit at the Portland Art Museum. The exhibit is sort of a loose assemblage of photos of mothers, fathers, brothers and sisters, and people in other relationships that aren't strictly familial, like the photo in the corner, which shows a couple who had just been crowned king and queen at a senior citizen dance held in 1970.

Apparently, they'd only just met. They look monumentally dejected, don't they? When I see a photo like this, I crave to know more about the people in it. Often I find myself piecing together a backstory based on details I see in the photo. For example, with this one (which was one of my favorites), I initially presumed that the dance was something that neither the king nor the queen wanted to attend in the first place. Perhaps their well-meaning children forced them to go or perhaps they lived in a retirement home and attendance was mandatory. Then to their horror, they were chosen as monarchs of the dance and made to wear fake ermine capes and feign to reign over the rest of the senior citizens at the dance. Or--maybe not. Check out the snazzy leopard-print dress the queen is wearing. Maybe she had, in fact, been looking forward in great anticipation to the dance, going so far as to buy a groovy new dress for it. Once there, it turned out to be a crushing disappointment. No dashing older gentlemen to sweep her off her feet. Only the old geezer sitting next to her who smelled of Schlitz malt liquor and cheap cigars.

The possible scenarios for these two are endless. Is it a testament to Arbus' talent as a photographer that her photos make viewers (me, at least) want to know more about the subjects? I don't know, but she sure is able to strip away the false veneer most people slap on whenever they're in front of a camera.

I've managed to find a few of the photos from the exhibit online. So here's a brief virtual tour for you, along with my thoughts and impressions.*

Child with Toy Hand Grenade in Central Park
It's alarming enough just to see a kid holding such a realistic-looking hand grenade, but what about the expression on his face? This kid looks like his parents just told him to blow himself up with the hand grenade and he's pleading for mercy. Also, it's impossible to see in this small version of the photo, but the hand not holding the grenade looks like a paralyzed animal claw. This is one of Arbus' most famous photos, I believe.

Identical Twins
Another one of her fairly famous pieces. There's an intriguing contrast here. One twin looks like she's on the verge of laughing and the other looks like she's on the verge of crying. I looked at this photo for a long time.

Jayne Mansfield and Her Daughter
What Ever Happened to Baby Jayne? That was the thought this photo evoked. Sexpots seldom age well, and Jayne Mansfield was already well on her way downhill when this photo was taken even though she was only 32. Judging by that infantile bow in her hair it looks like she knew it, too, and was not making the most rational fashion choices. She died in a horrific car crash two years later. Knowing that adds a sort of gruesome overlay to the photo.

There aren't quite as many photos from the exhibit online as I'd thought, but I should mention the series of photos of Marguerite Oswald (Lee Harvey Oswald's mom). Arbus said that Mrs. Oswald wore an "eerie and unnatural" smile throughout the photo session that made Arbus wonder what she had to be so happy about. Good question.

*Note to anyone reading this who lives in Portland or Kansas: Nearly all the photos in the exhibit have been transported to Portland from the Spencer Museum of Art at the University of Kansas, so if you live in Kansas and haven't seen the exhibit, it might be worth making a trip to Lawrence (once the exhibit has returned home, of course). It really is worth seeing the original, full-size photos. A lot of crucial detail is lost in these smaller online versions. If you live in Portland, the exhibit runs through April 24.