Thursday, November 30, 2006

Moments of Timeless Pleasure

First things first. I did it. I posted a blog entry every frick-frack-fruckin’ day of November, and am thus eligible for a major award (no, not this). Perhaps I’ll celebrate by not posting a blog entry every frick-frack-fruckin’ day of December.

Kidding! But it will be nice to go back to the relatively leisurely rate of 2-3 posts per week.

B came home this afternoon and placed this on my desk, appropos of nothing.

Citrus Sunset

He sure has my number when it comes to chocolate. I love a dark chocolate/orange peel bar and this one is new, new, new, so B had to get it for me when he saw it. I guess it can, by default, serve as my reward for finishing NaBloPoMo without a hitch. I’m sort of saving it for when my period next strikes, but I couldn’t resist snapping off a tiny little corner, just, um, to make sure there’s nothing wrong with it. It is scrumptious, although the tagline Ghirardelli came up with—"Moments of Timeless Pleasure"—is farking meaningless.

Enough meta. B also brought home a copy of the soundtrack to O Brother, Where Art Thou?, so I can keep plugging away at being far, far behind the times. (By the way, has anyone heard of this band called the Beatles?) Actually, we did see O Brother, Where Art Thou? (the movie) right when it came out, and I remember liking the soundtrack quite a bit more than I liked the movie.*

Anyway, I was listening to the CD and enjoying all the banjo picking and pedal steel guitar (so up my alley—that kind of thing), and I got to “I’ll Fly Away,” and found myself—inexplicably—choking up! I know all the words to that song, but I don’t recall when or why I learned them; they're just lodged up in my brain somewhere, apparently, and I didn't even know until now.

Why should that song make me cry? It’s just about as bouncy and chipper as can be and is played in the most major of all major keys. Of course, the lyrics are all about someone toiling through his miserable, cotton-pickin’ life and looking forward ("Hallelujah! and by") to the release of death . Anyway, I'm listening to it again right this very minute and it's having the same effect. Sob! How maudlin of me. What's going on here? I'm usually a very even-keeled person.

*I cannot tolerate George Clooney, the unsexiest and yet smuggest (most smug?) man alive.

Today’s NaBloPoMo blog: BosphorusRamblings

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Unkind Lighting, or An Invitation to an Electrocution

A while back I wrote about the If-It’s-Broke-Don’t-Fix-It Lamp, a floor lamp that is a good 80-years-old and, although technically broken, could still be coaxed into working with a lot of patient jiggling and twiddling of the cord at the point where the cord entered the plug. Yeah, I know, an electrocution waiting to happen.

Well, about a week ago, the doddering and decrepit old plug came off right in my hand (while the lamp was off, thankfully). Damn. That lamp gives off 300 watts of blistering luminosity. I love it for that. Why don’t they make lamps that actually shed a decent amount of light anymore? There’s nothing I detest more than a lamp with a simpering, weak-ass 60-watt bulb unless it is a harsh, glaring overhead light. As far as I’m concerned lightbulbs of a wattage less than 100 (minimum) and overhead lights should never be used. They should not even exist. I turn them off as fast as B flips them on and hasten to the nearest high-wattage lamp for relief. Just to be clear: I am a lamp person. I like warm, incandescent light and plenty of it.

Anyway, the dining room is now all dim and shadowy because I’ve had to recruit this lamp to pinch hit.

Sadistic Lamp with Fugly Shade

I like the lamp, but I cannot find a period-appropriate shade for it, so I’m stuck with the fugly ill-fitting thing that my dad plopped on it some years back. To turn the lamp off, you have to reach in precariously close to the burning lightbulb to get to the switch. The other day I went to turn it off and my hand brushed the bulb—a paltry 100-watter—and the bulb burned the crap out of my wrist.


My wrist couldn’t have been in contact with the bulb more than a quarter of a second, but it hurt like the dickens—just goes to show how much energy is wasted as heat with an incandescent bulb, I guess. I had to walk around with a cold compress on it for an hour afterward. And I’ve been keeping it bandaged so that when I’m typing the open wound doesn’t become more irritated and festering from rubbing against the edge of my desk.

Anyway, that mishap provided a powerful incentive to see if I could replace the plug to the If-It's-Broke-Don't-Fix-It Lamp (something I should have attempted to do long ago). I bought this little plug kit thing and tried to do it this evening. I figured one of three things could happen: A) It would restore the lamp to A-1 working order. B) It would all go wrong and I’d be fried to a cinder. C) Nothing.

Guess which happened? Obviously, not B. Nothing happened. I don’t know if the plug kit is just a piece of Made-in-China rubbish or if the ancient cord just has a zillion shorts in it and needs to be totally replaced. Probably the latter. I’ve heard that rewiring a lamp is easy. Is it? Or is it an invitation to an electrocution?

Today’s NaBloPoMo blog: The Ugly Green Chair

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

The Language of Baklava

Last week I started reading The Language of Baklava, a memoir by Diana Abu-Jaber. Interspersed among stories about her Jordanian father’s obsession with bringing up “good Arab girls” as opposed to “bad boy-crazy American girls” are recipes for everything from “Barbaric Lamb Kofta” to “Mad Genius Knaeffa” to “Comforting Grilled Velveeta Sandwiches” to “Ful for Love”—she must be a Sam Shepard fan! I’m only a few chapters into the book, but it’s an absolutely delightful read.

Little did I know that Diana Abu-Jaber actually lives in Portland and teaches at Portland State University! Even better, coincidentally, she happened to be giving a reading tonight at the Kennedy School, mere blocks from my house. But it gets even better than that, if you can believe it! My friend P (who lent me the book) and I decided to first stop off for a quick dinner at Aladdin’s Café to get in the proper culinary mood with a plate of hummus and some grapeleaves—the best in Portland, not to put too fine a point on it.

Diana is just as delightful as her book. She’s genuine, self-effacing, witty, and down-to-earth. And she has a wonderfully expressive face. I loved the big frowny face she pulled as she read out the words, “bad, boy-crazy American girls” in her father’s accent. I’ll now hear that accent as I finish reading the book.

I love going to readings precisely for that reason—to hear and see an author read his or her own words, especially if there’s a healthy dose of self-irony and eyebrow raising.

I blew off yoga to go to the reading, and it was totally worth it: for the reading, for the pint of Nebraska Bitter,* and for the Q&A afterward during which Diana told a hilarious story about how her father “extended” himself to read her book and then yelled at her for portraying him as a “yellhead,” which, of course, is 100% accurate. (You had to be there, I guess, but trust me, it was a great story, especially if you have some sense of her father from reading the book.)

Ugh. I have no time to make this a more finely crafted post. I’m always more keenly aware of the gross inadequacies of my own writing when I’m coming fresh off of hearing a really good writer read, although Diana did say that the first draft of her memoir read like a 200-page mimeographed holiday letter that would bore everyone to death.

Two more days until the madness ends!

*I’m willing to bet that Portland is the only place in the United States where you can sit in the gym of a former elementary school and imbibe handcrafted microbrews, local wines, or snazzy fresh-sqeezed cocktails along with high cultcha. That’s why I live here.

Today’s NaBloPoMo blog: Somnambulist

Monday, November 27, 2006

My Inner Euphonium

What is your inner musical instrument?

You're a Euphonium. Aww. SPEAK UP!
Take this quiz!

Quizilla |

| Make A Quiz | More Quizzes | Grab Code

A euphonium is about the last thing I would have expected to be harboring in my psyche. Heck, we didn’t even have euphoniums in our band; we had baritones. (OK. I've just read the baritone Wikipedia article I linked to and it seems possible that our baritones were actually misnamed euphoniums, if Wikipedia is to be believed, that is.)

The baritone players did tend to fade into the background, as indeed, I have been known to do, so perhaps the quiz isn't as seriously flawed as I was first prepared to think. Plus, come to think of it, some of the funniest, most creative, and quietly subversive kids in band were baritone players. Therefore I will proudly embrace my inner baritone/euphonium/B-flat saxhorn (whatever).

Anyway, there’s really no percentage in rehashing the distant past, but sometimes I wonder what my life would have been like if in 5th grade I had answered the question: “What instrument do you want to play?” with “Percussion. Hand over the drumsticks!” In fact, I did write down “percussion,” but I was waffly about it and, yielding to expected gender roles, erased it and wrote "flute." The dumb and insipid flute. I never really enjoyed playing it all that much, and all the flute players were nice quiet girls just like me. Not much scope there. Had I stuck with percussion I would have got to hang out with psychos and smoke weed.

Today’s NaBloPoMo blog: Kerrianne

Sunday, November 26, 2006

SuperSeventies Treasure Trove

Treasure Trove

I had a large time this afternoon rummaging through this SuperSeventies floral suitcase, which contains some of the ephemera of my youth. A few of the things I found: a library card (expiration date: April 25, 1982), a waxpaper bag containing a remnant of my matchbook collection (with matches from places such as The Rusty Harpoon, The Yankee Clipper, Das Dutchman Essenhaus, The Prime Rib Rack [Leo and Wanda Stork, your hosts], and a letter that my sister wrote to my mom from some camp or other (in it my sister waxes lyrical about an activity known as Groking)—I have no idea how it got into my SuperSeventies treasure trove.

The reason I retrieved the case from the top shelf of the haunted closet (brrrr!) was that I knew it contained thousands of postage stamps that I had amassed by sending away for every free stamp offer I saw in newspapers and magazines (and there were many) and by cutting every stamp off of every envelope that came through our mail slot and instructing relatives to do the same, which they did for years and years after I had abandoned the hobby. I’m not exaggerating when I say I have thousands of stamps stuffed willy-nilly into that suitcase. I never did get around to mounting most of them in my stamp album. Why I still have all the stamps decades later I cannot explain.

Stamps from the Trove

Good thing I did, though, because today I thought of a scathingly brilliant use for at least a few of them. Make them into magnets! It was great fun to paw through the stamps searching for images that might look good on a magnet. It brought back memories, too. Spain: Every ding-dong stamp featured King Juan Carlos. Snore. The UK: the blue Queen Elizabeth stamp; the red Queen Elizabeth stamp; the purple Queen Elizabeth stamp. The green Queen Elizabeth stamp. You've seen one you've seen them all. Ho-hum.

Then there were countries like Rwanda and Mozambique that had these absolutely gorgeous triangular stamps with butterlies and flowers on them. Now that’s more like it! Those stamps went straight into the album as soon as I got them, so the suitcase contains mainly stamps that didn’t excite me as a kid, so lots of QEIIs and Juan Carloses. But also lots of stamps from the Eastern Bloc. They failed to capture my imagination back when I was a kid, but I now realize their Social Realism images lend themselves perfectly to repurposing as magnets!

Here’s the beginning of my Iron Curtain Series. (Unfortunately, there is no way to light these things and, though I took half a dozen photos they all suck ass. The magnets look a lot brighter and more detailed in real life.)

Iron Curtain Series

Clockwise from top left: Bare-chested East German miner, generic Soviet comrade saluting the State, Hungarian village, Soviet solider (can you see the hammer and sickle on his helmet?), and Soviet rocket blasting off to kick the U.S.’s ass in the space race.

Wow. Those little stamps had quite a propaganda burden to carry. I'm thinking of adding some Romanian stamps later. Romania had this whole series of Progress with a capital P stamps that feature very modest industrial achievements, e.g., there’s a stamp with a picture of a dial telephone on it and another one with a bus on it. I can just hear Ceausescu crowing, “Look, we haff phone!” “Look, we haff bus!” Oh, dear. Really, it’s tragic when you think about all the deprivations the Romanians suffered and how little the so-called Progress benefited them. Maybe I shouldn’t make the Romanian stamps into magnets.

Anyway, I'm going to guess that not everyone would be thrilled to be the recipient of the Iron Curtain series so I’m not going to be taking it to the handmade gift exchange. (I'll keep it for myself!) My gift will likely include all or some of magnets shown below (images culled from Sunset and the Sierra Club magazine [the only two magazines I have in the house—see why I had to ransack my stamp collection?]).


Green Series

Again, the photos are pretty damn awful. They do look a lot niftier in reality.

Today’s NaBloPoMo blog: Knitting 40 Shades of Green

Saturday, November 25, 2006


I’ve somehow acquired a bunch of crafty friends. And by crafty I don’t mean sly and conniving. I mean they make stuff. Cool stuff, not pipe cleaner-based monstrosities like these.

Anyway, one of these crafty friends has invited me to her annual handmade gift party. I went last year, and it was a lot of fun. Everyone brings something handmade and then, after eating a lot of food* and drinking a lot of wine, we do the exchange. Last year my contribution was a small charcoal drawing that was, indeed, handmade but by someone other than me. It was the least cool thing there, and I resolved that this year I would make something myself.

Thus, I found myself in a Michaels craft store today. The last time I was in one (years ago) it was all styrofoam balls, googly eyes, felt, glitter, glue sticks, popsicle sticks, and gold spray paint. They still have all that stuff and more. It's a fairly appalling place. I got a headache almost immediately upon entering, brought on by bushels of cinnamon-scented pinecones, fluorescent lighting, and tinny music box Christmas carols being broadcast at top volume. After less than a minute, B told me he’d wait in the car and vamoosed. Wise decision.

Anyway, after much wandering, I found what I was looking for: mini magnets, clear half-marbles, and this special kind of ultratoxic glue. I’m using these items to make some refrigerator magnets like these. I think they should be well within the limited range of my crafting abilities—albeit a little bit fiddly. All I need to do is page through magazines looking for itsy-bitsy drawings or photos, cut them out (the fiddly bit), and then try not to glue any digits together while sticking the pictures to the marble-magnet thing.

I’m reserving tomorrow afternoon (forecast to be windy and rainy) for experimentation. I’ll post photos of the results in tomorrow's post. Either they’ll come out beautiful and I’ll be tremendously pleased with myself or they’ll be a total farking disaster and we can all laugh our asses off.

*Last year someone brought hash brownies! Nonadventuress that I am, I didn’t try them.

Today’s NaBloPoMo blog: SlashBoing

Friday, November 24, 2006

Glorifying God Through Our Business Transactions

I’m fried! I worked today, although not really diligently or productively enough to account for the crispy-crunchy malaise I’m now experiencing.

I’ve slightly revived myself with a coffeecup of Vedge, which tastes exactly like V8 but is made with 10 vegetables instead of 8 and is not manufactured by the icky Campbell Soup company.

Remember those TV commercials for V8 where people strike their forehead with the heel of their hand and exclaim, “I could have had a V8!!!!” after guzzling down a less satisfying bottled beverage (e.g., Yoo-hoo, Mickey’s Big Mouth, Kickapoo Joy Juice)? Well, I have that problem with Vedge. I cannot for the life of me ever remember that there’s a big bottle of Vedge in the fridge. Why is that? I do love it, but I just doesn’t register when I open the fridge. I still don’t see it despite the fact that I've posted a note on the fridge that says, “Drink Vedge!”

What more do I have to do?

Was Campbell’s on to something when they rolled out that ad campaign for V8? Are our brains somehow hardwired to never spontaneously crave a tomato-and-beet–based vegetable drink?

Hold everything. I’ve just discovered the following statement on the Web site of Bolthouse Farms, manufacturers of Vedge.

The purpose of this Company is to glorify God through our business transactions, our work, and our relationships. It is further our desire to bring honor and glory to the Name of Jesus Christ by following God's Word in all of our dealings with employees, suppliers, and customers. God's Work as contained in His Inspired Scriptures will be the final authority in all Corporate matters concerning direction, decisions, and disputes.

Holy Shite! Glorifying God through our business transactions? Fine. Have your beliefs, but don't pretend that raking in record profits is a function of worship. That is a load of crazy horse crap.

Note the veiled threat in the final sentence of their statement. What is that about? Are they saying that they're above the law? I envision the following scenario. Suppose you have a complaint about, say, their Prickly Pear Cactus Lemonade. Perhaps a stray cactus needle found its way into your bottle of juice and impaled your tongue. Don't expect them to take the rap. Don't even expect a refund! It’s divine retribution for your sins! I’m now deeply regretting that I gave any money to that wingnut company.

In case you’re wondering, I will be just as thrilled/relieved as everyone else when this whole NaBloPoMo thing is over, and I can go back to posting 2-3 times a week.

Today’s Random NaBloPoMo blog: Caffinara

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Forty Lashes With a Limp Strand of Angelhair Pasta

I showed up for Thanksgiving dinner at our friends' house bearing a tiramisu with beer in it. As if that weren’t unorthodox enough, it also had an unknown number of strands of rubbery uncooked angelhair pasta embedded in it. The beer was intentional; the spaghetti was not.

Here’s how it got in there. I made the beeramisu last night and it sort of overflowed the dish it was in so that I couldn’t cover it with the dish's own lid without smooshing it and making a cocoa-y mess. Recalling an old trick of my mom’s, I decided that I’d stick the beeramisu full of toothpicks and cover it with a little Saran Wrap tent.

Problem: We didn’t have any toothpicks. “What do we have that is like toothpicks?” I thought to myself. “Eureka! Spaghetti!” I checked the cupboard, only slightly deflated by the fact that all we had was angelhair. A little flimsier than I would have liked, but it would still work. I broke the pasta up into toothpick lengths, stuck them here, there, and everywhere in the beeramisu and covered the whole shebang with Saran. Then I put it into the fridge to chill. I congratulated myself heartily and even imagined how I might later share this ingenious household tip with the blogosphere!

Flash forward to this afternoon. I took the beeramisu out of the fridge only to discover that—of course—the pasta had absorbed all sorts of moisture from the beer (and the coffee, whipped cream, and mascarpone cheese) and was suffering from a bad case of brewer’s droop. I extracted what I could of the flaccid strands of pasta, but portions of them remained permanently lodged in the depths of the beeramisu like glutinous shrapnel.

Today’s Random NaBloPoMo blog: Peevish Pen

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

That Clean-Baby Smell

Love's Baby Soft

Love’s Baby Soft keeps cropping up lately. After I mentioned it in a comment on Tinarama, Tina immediately sent me an e-mail to let me know how much she used to love it and that it can still be purchased, approximately 30 years after what I had presumed was its hey-day. Then LeLo, totally independently, brought it up in the comments to this post about phallic packaging. Then today, as I was getting my hair colored, my stylist happened to mention it (as well as the overly astringent, vaguely Janitor-in-a-Drumlike Jean Naté, yet another fragrance of a bygone era).

What is it about Love’s Baby Soft that so resonates with all of us? Surely, the freak-ass ad campaign featuring a JonBenet precursor had nothing to do with it?

As a kid of about 11 or 12, I remember hanging around the drug store perfume counter trying all the testers of grandma perfumes (White Shoulders, Emeraude, Tabu), and then discovering Love’s Baby Soft—the only one that didn’t knock me off my feet with its cloying sweetness. Perhaps, I really did think, “Yes. Innocence is sexy!” or maybe I just liked that “clean-baby smell,” as they chose to describe it in the ad copy. Anyway, I bought a bottle when I was in junior high and I think I kept it (the same bottle) until I was in my late 20s. I sure know how to nurse a bottle of perfume or cologne or whatever the heck it was!

I got the photo above from this Web site, and I was shocked to discover that I have used just about every product shown on the page: Midol, Stayfree MaxiPads (ugh!), Herbal Essence shampoo, Lip Smackers (I had the Hires Root Beer flavor!), Noxema (ugh, again!), and Gee, Your Hair Smells Terrific. I must have been a lot more susceptible to the advertising in Seventeen magazine than I realized.

One thing the site showed that I didn't fall prey to was Farrah Fawcett shampoo. Oh, how many girls at my school tried and failed to achieve that Farrah look! Smart move on the part of Faberge to start marketing that shampoo—as if Farrah's hairstyle had anything to do with shampoo and not everything to do with hot rollers, blow dryers, curling irons, and professional show-biz hair stylists. I’m sure the shampoo sold like gangbusters anyway, at least for a while.

Coincidentally, I just happened to find out today (while reading People at the hair salon) that Farrah has anal cancer!* I didn’t even know there was such a thing as anal cancer, but there is (I looked it up). It’s fairly rare. How grim. I have to hand it to Farrah for even letting the press know she’s got such a disease. I think I would have tried to keep it quiet or at least been vague about the type of cancer. (I’ve had to recast the previous sentences about three times to avoid any turns of phrase that might be taken the wrong way.)

Speaking of the ‘70s…it’s time to for me to come clean about Chuck Mangione. Ha, ha, ha! I was lying!!!! I do not now nor have I ever owned any Chuck Mangione albums. That’s not to say that my father didn’t own every single album Chuck ever put out nor that our marching band (of which my dad was the band director) didn’t once do a show that featured “Hill Where the Lord Hides.” I may or may not still have the alto sax part memorized.

Mangione factoid: The VH1 Web site describes Chuck’s music as “purposely lightweight.” Who do they think they are? This is the man who wrote “Legend of the One-Eyed Sailor”!

*Everyone else has known about this for months, right?

Today’s Random NaBloPoMo blog: Open Vein

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

True or False?

Sort of in the spirit of PostSecret, I’m going to from time to time* post a secret (or a lie) about myself. You get to guess whether it’s fact or fiction. Won’t that be fun? (Props to Liz for coming up with this super-clever NaBloPoMo bailout.)

Today’s secret or lie.


I am a fan of the flugelhorn and own not only Feels So Good by Chuck Mangione but Children of Sanchez as well—on vinyl!

Speaking of Chuck Mangione—is Harvey Keitel’s pimp character in Taxi Driver modeled after Chuck Mangione or was it the other way around? I mean, the similarities are remarkable.

Harv the Pimp

Chuck in a Chair

That is, for the remainder of November whenever this blogging every day thing gets the better of me.

Today’s Random NaBloPoMo blog: hello my name is: lindsay

Monday, November 20, 2006


B and I just came back from a screening of Jonestown: The Life and Death of the Peoples Temple. When the mass “suicide” in Guyana occurred in 1978, all I really picked up on was that about a thousand members of some weird cult willingly drank some poisoned Kool-Aid after their leader told them to. That’s more or less it, but there was so much more to it.

I’m still processing the documentary, but one rather chilling thing I didn't know was that Jim Jones gained a considerable amount of political clout in the mid-70s. He’d gather together all of his followers and have them show up in loud and enthusiastic support of various liberal political candidates. He undoubtedly helped San Francisco mayor George Moscone win office, and Moscone later appointed Jones to the city’s housing commission. And when Rosalynn Carter was in San Francisco, she set up a private meeting with Jones. So scary to think people in high places weren’t, apparently, catching on to the fact that the man was unhinged and dangerous.

What a tragic waste of life—of people who were, essentially, idealists. It seems many of them truly believed that they were part of a little utopia where they were all be one big happy interracial family. Some did realize that Jones was a lunatic and fled, but many them continued to believe what they wanted to believe, even as Jones became increasingly paranoid and demanding.

One final comment. In looking for a review of the documentary that I could link to, I found a Newsweek article in which Jones is described as “kooky” in one of the captions. What? Jerry Lewis is kooky; Jim Jones was an unquestionably insane murderous megalomaniac. I can’t believe that Newsweek’s editors allowed the writer to softpedal Jones’s character like that. Also, the same caption leads off with “Don’t drink the Kool-Aid,” an expression that always makes me cringe. I just don’t think it’s right to make light of such a tragedy.

Today’s Random NaBloPoMo blog: jazzgeek!

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Several Absurdities


I felt just a leetle bit self-conscious carrying these up to the cash register at Rite Aid, one cradled in each hand. Did the manufacturer have to make them look so extremely phallic? And what’s with the shiny chromium-look heads caps? When B saw me take them out of the bag his first comment was, “Those look like dildos.” And they do. No two ways about it.

The thing is this shampoo and conditioner delivers on their promises. They thicken and volumize. How I don’t know, as the first ingredient in both of them reads pretentiously and at the same time condescendingly: “aqua (water)”—thanks for the translation; I would have been totally mystified otherwise.

Moving on. B doesn’t think I should be blogging about dildoid hair-product packaging and has suggested two other topics.

Topic A is the awful play we went to last night at the very same college where we saw an awful play last weekend. Are we gluttons for punishment or what? It was a Harold Pinter play, which I’ve found is always terribly difficult for Americans to pull off. But I love Pinter, so I guess I was hoping for a miracle. It was not to be. The poor actress in the lead kept wiping her palms against the front of her dress every minute or two. It drove me crazy! And she had no clue how to move across the stage. She didn’t walk; she loped—in high heels. Quite a feat really, but this wasn’t Cirque du Soleil, it was Theatre of the Absurd. It was absurd all right, but it was the wrong kind of absurd.

Topic B is cute kitties! Not being a blogger, B doesn’t know that if you blog about cats you are inviting ridicule from certain quarters. I’ll risk it this one time.

On my way back from having coffee and dessert with the lovely LeLo, I found myself passing the Oregon Humane Society, where we adopted our cute kitty Rusty almost exactly three years ago. I decided to stop in and get Rusty a new Swizzle Teaser to replace the one we bought when we adopted him. He does love that toy, but the fake leopard fur is now stiff with slaver and horribly gross.

Of course, I couldn’t go in the Humane Society and not check out all the cute kitties! I made a beeline for the little cubby Rusty had been in when we adopted him. Not sure why. There was a black-and-white cat named Jasper there and on his cage was a label that read: “Don’t stick your fingers in my cage or I might do something we’d both regret.” Hey, just like Rusty! He had one of those Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde warning labels, too!

Keeping my hands well out of the way, I leaned in to get a closer look at Rusty’s successor. He promptly took a swipe at my nose. I wasn’t even that close and he felt it necessary to lash out. I liked him very much. He simply didn’t give a shit that it wasn’t in his best interests to strike a prospective owner.

Today’s Random NaBloPoMo blog: Music and Cats (appropriately enough!)

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Invigoratingly Bleak

I just got back from a hike through Powell Butte Park in Southeast Portland. The sky was a uniform pearly gray, the watery sunshine we’d had earlier in the day having abandoned its perfunctory show of force. The wind was strong enough to flip the part in my hair from the left side of my head to a sort of wishy washy center-right position. It was the kind of day every day in November should strive to be. Bleak! But invigoratingly bleak!

I quickly launched myself up toward the top of Powell Butte—more to try to warm up than to take in the view. The view was great right from the start. I could see Mount Hood, with a pleasingly even sifting of powdered sugar on it. Mount St. Helens was right there as well, a Bundt cake with a heavy-handed coating of glaze.

On my way up, I passed thickets of shrubby trees with garnet-hued berries, ever so slightly shriveled. Elderberries? There is an Elderberry Trail in Powell Butte, so that’s my best guess. I wonder what the policy is on picking them. Ixnay, probably. But wouldn’t it be cool to have a ready source of elderberries? I’ve l always wanted to try making elderberry wine.

The real reason I was at Powell Butte, however, was to walk through its groves of Western Redcedars, the best in all of Portland. The trunks of the Redcedars at Powell Butte have the most amazing blue-green mossy lichen-y thing going on. The color is exactly the color of the patina that forms on bronze statues. Gorgeous! Why did I have to forget my camera?

Anyway, those groves just seemed magical to me on a day like today. Walking through them was like being a character in one of the stories in The Blue Fairy Book or The Red Fairy Book or The Violet Fairy Book—books that I checked out in constant rotation from the library when I was a kid. I was so forest-deprived! I had to live vicariously through fairy tales.

Today’s Random NaBloPoMo blog: The Molly Bawn Chronicles

Friday, November 17, 2006

Nineteen Years Late

I’ve just recently discovered the band Jane’s Addiction. Yeah, I’m so on top of things. I don’t know what I was doing in the late ‘80s to have missed out on such a great thrashy and seminal band. I guess I was in some kind of Van Halen rut and/or time warp. I got my fill of Van Halen by about 1990 and switched over to opera. I really haven’t been keeping current with rock ‘n’ roll since, even though I love rock ‘n’ roll, at least I always claim to.

I now have in my possession Jane’s Addiction and Strays. I need to get Nothing’s Shocking and Ritual de lo Habitual. Then I should be all set.

“Jane Says” sure is an astounding portrait of inertia, directionlessness, chaos, and impotent anger. I listened to it about 30 times in a row last night while knitting a sweater sleeve. Hopefully, the sleeve won’t have absorbed all the contempt and squalid wretchedness contained in that song. If it does, it’s going to turn out looking something like this, only much, much worse.

Anyway, it would not be an overstatement to say that at the moment I’m addicted to Jane’s Addiction. I did a spot of research on the band and found out that the band is named after one of the lead singer's former roommates, a heroin addict named Jane Bainter.* “Jane Says” is basically a list of actual things Jane said and did as she staggered catastrophically through her junked-out life. The genius of the song, in my opinion, is in the selection and compilation of Janeisms.

Well done, Mr. Perry Farrell. It's a mean song, entirely lacking in empathy, but I'm certain it's accurate.

But what about Jane? I feared that by now she might have self-destructed like the band did. But no. She’s alive and has been clean for 10 years, as of 2003. But at that time she was also jobless and so in need of money that she was attempting to sell autographed Jane’s Addiction album inserts on eBay.

*Don’t a lot of my blog posts contain announcements of facts long known to everyone else in the world but me? Look for a post from me in about five months’ time stating that Dick Cheney has resigned.

Today’s Random NaBloPoMo blog: So…What Else, What Else, What Else?

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Strip Croquet, Of Course!

We Won!

Peter’s 19th Hole had better fire up their microwave, because they owe me some appetizers! That’s right, after five weeks straight of finishing in second place at Trivia Night, I finally had the satisfaction of being on the winning team.

It was a triumphant but also humbling evening. The team configuration is never the same and last night I found myself teamed up with B, L (who is a passing acquaintance), and her newish “friend,” a young man, J, who wore his baseball cap backwards. One of my least endearing traits is that I tend to make snap judgments about people, based on their appearance. My heart sank a little when I saw J. What could he possibly know? Struggling to be affable and a little patronizingly, I blurted, “Are you good at sports questions?” “Oh, yes,” he assured me, “And science and history, too!” “Yeah, right,” I thought, smirking to myself.

He went on to talk about how addicted he was to MySpace. Jaysus Gawd. We’re friggin’ doomed. I smiled wanly and tried to change the subject.

I’d like to think that I, Rozanne, a person who spent 11 years working at Encyclopaedia Britannica, am pretty good at trivia—that all those years of exposure to massive doses of arcane facts would have turned me into some kind of trivia Olympian. But nope. If anything, it trained me to retain as little information as possible. There’s only so much room in this brain of mine. I think for every new fact that comes my way two facts that had been knocking about for a while get tossed out. The truth of the matter is: I am no better than average at trivia. And I’m absolute rubbish when it comes to questions about sports, hip-hop music, celebrity gossip, and movies. I just look helplessly at my teammates when those questions come up.

Well, of course, you can see where this is going. Mr. Backwards Baseball Cap proved himself immediately by supplying the answer to a question about the NFL. He later pulled our collective ass out of the fire on at least one science and one history question. I was forced to radically revise my initial assessment of him as well as my inflated opinion about my own trivia knowledge, which seems to be getting worse and worse. It’s so sad when a question comes up that I should know the answer to, in fact, used to know the answer to. But now? Can’t dredge it up, at least not within the time limit.

My faculties are decaying—no doubt about it—but I did help score a modest number of points for our team (e.g., Q: What word is the name of a flower, a part of the human body, and a poet/novelist who suffered from Alzheimer’s? A: Iris. Got that one right away, but, yeah, it’s not terribly tough). B saved our bacon with his impressive store of facts about films and old-timey music, and L demonstrated a superior knowledge of booze and poetry.

One of the coolest things about the trivia contest is that it truly is a team effort. It’s fun, and often surprising, to find out everyone’s strengths and weaknesses. It’s also a nice ego boost when a question rolls around that absolutely stumps your team members and you can calmly quell the panic. “How do you know that?” they’ll exclaim in wonderment and admiration. Speaking as someone who was a miserable failure at team sports in school, the adoration of one’s team members is a foreign but welcome feeling.

Anyway. We came to the final round and everyone toted up their scores. The trivia maven announced that something unprecedented had happened. There was a three-way tie for first place, and our team was one of the three. No worries. The trivia maven had some lightning round questions on the ready. The first round did one of the teams in, but we were still tied for first with another team. But that team floundered when asked which strip sport was being played by the characters in Heathers. Why strip croquet, of course! Doesn't everyone know that? But they didn’t! And we did! And we won—and made far more fuss than necessary over our prize—a voucher for two free (and probably fairly mediocre) appetizers.

Today’s Random NaBloPoMo blog: Jam Jar

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Gone With the Wind

Yesterday, the Tulip Decapitator dropped by and vacuumed all the leaves off our lawn. Because the Tulip Decapitator always does things in an unorthodox way, he left all the vacuumed-up leaves in a little mini mountain range out in the street about a foot away from the curb. I don’t know why he didn’t cart the leaves away. Perhaps he was planning to come back today? He doesn’t tell us these things; he just materializes when he feels like it, which usually coincides more or less with when the lawn needs mowing or the leaves need vacuuming.

Well, he didn’t return today, but—lucky for him—the job was finished in a matter of seconds this afternoon, as the wind whipped up like crazy and whisked all the leaves in the mountain range to points northward. All afternoon I watched as leaves from our neighbors to the south whooshed down the street as if they were on an out-of-control I Love Lucy-style conveyor belt. It was really quite thrilling. They just kept a-coming—lickety split.

A couple of hours ago, I saw the wind snatch the American flag out of the hands of a school janitor. The flag landed some yards away from him, amidst mucky, partially decomposed leaves. The janitor quickly retrieved it, draped it over his arm, and scurried back into the school, totally failing to observe proper flag protocol. No salute, no playing of "Taps," no folding of the flag into a compact little triangle. Don’t tell John Ashcroft! He’d see to it that the poor guy was burned at the stake.

I must say, I adore a good rip-roaring wind storm, and now that rain is also splattering madly against the windows, I'm pretty much over the moon. Gusts up to 60 mph are predicted. Whoa!

Today's Random NaBloPoMo blog: Sphincterhood

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

A Post About Toast

Tuesday is yoga night for me. It’s always tricky to figure out what to have for dinner on yoga night. As my friend and former yoga teacher, David C. Wreath,* once warned, “It's not a good idea to have a big pile of curried lentils right before yoga.” Agreed. Who hasn't been in a yoga class where someone farted? What are you supposed to do when someone in your vicinity poots? I always stare straight ahead and pretend I didn't hear/smell anything, while fervently hoping that no one thinks that I was the person who let one rip!

The trick is to eat early enough that you’re not attempting to digest while in the midst of, say, halasana, but late enough that by the time you get to savasana you don’t spend it mentally cataloging all your favorite foods and thinking about what you’re going to eat the moment you get home. I rarely get the timing right, usually erring on the too early side and thus ending up with visions of cheeseburgers, brownies, and spicy tuna maki dancing through my head instead of focusing on my breathing and "letting...go...of...all...effort."

I don’t think David C. Wreath would approve of what I ate for dinner tonight: two slices of buttered toast made with this uber-dense bread from Trader Joe’s that’s packed with flax seeds, sunflower seeds, and (possibly) birdseed (very European and yummy, though) and a slice of home-baked oatmeal bread (also uber-dense, toasted, and buttered). I also had a red Comice pear (with a withered leaf still attached to it!) that would probably have gotten the David C. Wreath stamp of approval. But the butter-soaked toast? I think not. I love it, though, and if I didn’t exert some sort of discipline over myself from time to time, I’d eat toast for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. And as a snack.

*Not his real name. “David C. Wreath” is the festive holiday moniker that my gym/health club in Chicago bestowed on him (and all other instructors) for the month of December. I love that they included that tantalizing middle initial. What could it possibly stand for? Christmas? Chanukkah? Comet? Cupid? Christ? Candycane?

Today’s Random NaBloPoMo blog: Momopeche, go!

Monday, November 13, 2006

Circus-Colored Mudpies

Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear. B and I saw another bad play this weekend. I’m sorry to say it, but the theatre scene in Portland leaves much to be desired. This was a college production, so I tried to cut it as much slack as possible. But there are limits!

A fundamental problem was that they chose to perform what is probably one of Tennessee Williams’s most meandering and self-pitying plays, In the Bar of a Tokyo Hotel (1969). It would have been difficult for experienced professional actors to do much with this play. It's about this nymphomaniac woman who's married to a tortured artist. She spends most of her time lounging around in the hotel bar, trying to pick up the Japanese bartender by shocking him with tales of her sexual exploits, like the time she asked a young man at a party if he wanted her to “manipulate his genitals.” Who says things like that?

Meanwhile, the tortured artist is upstairs in their hotel room painting. About halfway through the first act, he shows up, staggering exaggeratedly across the stage. One sock on and one sock off, his suit disheveled, with a multicolored splosh of paint in his greasy and unkempt (of course) hair. Each step required monumental effort, which meant that it took about five minutes for the actor to reach his mark. Five very long minutes for the audience, I can assure you. Wouldn’t it have been quicker if he just sailed on in on a big ol’ showboat, clinging to the crow’s nest and crying out, “I’m king of the world”? The net result would have been the same. We get it. You’re going to ham it up for all you’re worth. Ugh.

Let me first just say that I have little patience with tortured artists, fictional or real. All that endless talk about suffering for their art and how noble that is. Bosh. Quit talking about it, and get on with it. Make art or don’t. But do not talk about how you’re not making art. Nothing could be more tedious.

That’s my attitude, so imagine how pleased I was to find out that I was going to have to endure an entire second act of this repugnant character taking himself way too seriously. This is a character who claims to be "terrified" of his canvases. What the freakin' fuck? Also, here's his painting style: he squirts a bunch of pain on the canvases and then rolls around naked on them. He's trying to create a new painting technique and it's just about killing him. Why? What on earth is difficult or taxing about rolling around in paint. Jaysus!

So the character is bad enough, but—and I’m sorry I have to make this criticism—the actor playing him* only made me hate the character even more. There was all the scenery chewing and overemoting, of course, but he resorted to some extremely amateur acting devices as well. For instance, in Act 2, he was supposed to slap the actress playing his wife. His hand didn't get anywhere near her face and he actually stamped his foot as a superlame face-slapping sound effect! C’mon. That’s something you'd see in a play put on by fourth graders. I can’t believe the director let him get away with that.

I soon reached the end of my tether with the play, but it would have looked bad to leave (we were in the front row, right under the actor's noses). When I finally couldn’t take the tortured artist anymore, I scrawled across the top of my program, "I hope he dies soon," and about five minutes later he did. What of, I don't know. Artistique angst, I suppose.

There were a few enjoyable moments in the play. The artist’s nympho wife despised him just as much as I did, and even though she was a fairly despicable character herself, Williams gave her a few fantastic lines. For example, she tells the artist that his paintings are basically “circus-colored mudpies.” Earlier when someone suggests she visit Bangkok, she exclaims ribaldly, “Bang-kok. What a name for a city!” That line was my favorite part of the whole play.

*The actor looked to be about 17, and I suppose he could have been a 17-year-old college freshman (I was once). Anyway, I feel a little bit bad about being so hard on the kid’s overwrought performance, but since he’s so young there’s every reason to hope that he’ll learn to tone himself down…or not.

Today's Random NaBloPoMo blog: The Life and Times of Sarah

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Candle Hoarding: What Is My Problem?

A few days ago, I was seduced by marketing mumbo-jumbo and an appeal to my limbic system into buying a scented Feng Shui candle at Fred Meyer. The candle is supposed to bring me good fortune and creativity if I burn it while I’m facing southeast or some such bull crap. I looked at the little formula and made the calculations with my birth year as required. It told me to buy the “Metal” candle. Metal smelled icky, so I just went ahead and bought the one with the most pleasant scent (“Earth,” if you must know).

I find it a bit difficult to walk past candle aisles in places like Freddie’s and Target without at least buying myself a token votive as a little treat. They’re so cheap and they smell so good! I always think I’m going to go right home, light the candle, and bliss out, but somehow I never do. Candles sit in the hall closet for a couple of years before I am able to feel it might be OK to light one up.

I blame Wicks ‘n’ Sticks* for this candle-hoarding hang-up of mine. Back when I was in high school, there was nothing I enjoyed more than an expedition to Woodfield Mall—one of the biggest malls in America and Illinois’s biggest tourist attraction (depressing!). My first stops was always Wicks ‘n’ Sticks. As I remember it, there were candles stacked floor to ceiling. They had a lot of toadstool and owl candles. But what they had even more of were these LOTRish candles (wizards, trolls, pixies, gnomes, elves, dwarves, wood nymphs). The wick always stuck out of the top of the head. Plus, they’d all been dipped in polyurethane or some other shiny clear coating. They didn’t even look like proper candles. And I’m willing to bet they were plenty toxic.

I was not attracted to the LOTRish candles at all except, perhaps, in a sort of horribly fascinated way. Like who’s going to pay $49.99 for a three-foot-tall wizard candle, light the top of its wizard hat, and then gleefully watch the flame creep down until the head was on fire? John Wayne Gacy and Jeffrey Dahmer, that's who! It gave me the willies to look at those candles and think about who might be buying them.

I did, however, pony up for a modest $2.99 glazed toadstool, which I deemed “too nice” to burn. Heck. It was an objet d’art, what with that gleaming finish and all! I displayed it on this knick-knack shelf I had in my bedroom. It sat on that shelf—the shiny surface getting clouded over with dust—all through my college career. It may still be in my dad’s house somewhere.

And here I am decades later, still hoarding candles.

*I’m astonished the stores still exist. They seem to have jettisoned the wizards and trolls, thankfully.

Today’s Random NaBloPoMo blog: At Sixes & Sevens…

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Buttermilk and Cottage Cheese

I’m posting about lunch—but not my lunch—so no one can accuse me of a NaBloPoMo lame-out! A glass of buttermilk and a bowl of cottage cheese is the lunch Shirley “Hazel” Booth dishes up for Burt “Raucous Guffaw” Lancaster in Come Back, Little Sheba, one of the most baffling movies I’ve seen in a while.

Shirley plays a supremely frowsy housewife who’s married to the polite and refined Burt Lancaster. Shirley loves her husband, but she goes around cheerfully telling total strangers (e.g., the mailman whom she addresses as “Mr. Postman”) all about her husband and how “he’s not a real doctor; he’s a chiropractor” and how he’s also a recovering alcoholic who attends AA meetings! She's always jawing or dancing around the house to "peppy music" (her favorite kind) and as a result the housework suffers.

Meanwhile stoic Burt puts up with Shirley’s sloppy ways and her incessant reminiscing about the past but is unable to prevent himself from developing a crush on a college co-ed, Marie, whom they’ve taken in as a lodger. Marie “spends a fortune on bath salts,” according to Shirley, and Burt periodically sneaks into the bathroom to take whiffs of Marie's spendy salts when no one’s looking. That’s how we know he has the hots for her, you see.

Shirley lumbers around the untidy house in her chenille bathrobe, hair perpetually uncombed, constantly hovering as Marie tries to make out with her crass boyfriend, Turk, who—by the way—is the college's star javelin thrower (?!?). Shirley thinks he's quite a catch! Shirley even pretends to give them some privacy and then spies on them smooching through a crack in the door. Ah, young love!

Burt, on the other hand, can’t stand the loutish Turk, but he keeps it to himself. Then one night Burt sees Turk sneak into Marie's bedroom. Believing Marie’s tossed away her virginity on the worthless and callow Turk (which, of course, she hasn’t because it’s 1952), Burt wigs out and goes on a bender.

He comes home stewed to the gills, calls Shirley a “fat slut,” and tries to kill her with a kitchen knife. He’s pretty terrifying, actually. After he dries out in the “crazy ward” of the local hospital, he tells Shirley he can’t live without her and begs her forgiveness. She immediately forgives him and starts putting more effort into her housework. She even paints the icebox and fries him up some bacon! Now that’s living! Nothing like being called a fat slut and having your life threatened to make you love your husband even more and, of course, realize that it’s high time you reformed your slatternly ways. And that, we are supposed to believe, is all it took for that terribly mismatched couple to live happily ever after.

Come Back, Little Sheba is based on minor and soon-to-be-forgotten playwright William Inge’s play of the same name. What a fucked-up version of reality that guy had. I’ve seen the movie version of his play Picnic, and once again people—especially women—are choosing the worst possible partners for themselves. Inge seems really sold on the idea that women have to have a man—any man—in order to be happy and “complete.” No matter if the guy’s abusive or a shiftless schlub. So irksome, that attitude! Resolve: No more William Inge movies or plays for me. Plus, who would ever believe that anyone would willingly have buttermilk and cottage cheese for lunch? Ew!

Today’s Random NaBloPoMo blog: minorthird

Friday, November 10, 2006

The Unbelievable Truth

I just found out that indie actress Adrienne Shelly was murdered 10 days ago. Is this major national news that I’ve somehow missed? Because if it is, then this blog post is redundant, but I'm posting it anyway.

I’m stunned. Shelly starred in two of my favorite Hal Hartley films, The Unbelievable Truth and Trust. She wasn’t a well-known actress, but I always found her tremendously likeable and winning. I don’t know why she didn’t get more roles. I like to think it was because she was selective and couldn't abide the thought of acting in schlocky Hollywood flicks.

The circumstances of her death were tragic all the way round. She was working in a Manhattan apartment that she used as an office. She registered a complaint about noise a construction crew was making elsewhere in the building. One of the workers, an illegal immigrant from Ecuador, got into an argument with her and knocked her unconscious. Fearing he’d killed her and he’d be deported, he dragged her into her bathroom and hung her from the shower rod to make it look like suicide.

At first detectives did think it was suicide, but the Ecuadorian left behind a footprint and police somehow tracked him down. After questioning, he confessed to the murder. The whole thing sounds like one of those barely plausible plots from a 1950s film noir, but it really did happen. Unbelievable.

The Ecuadorian is only 19 and speaks almost no English. Who knows what will happen to him now? Shelly’s career is cut short at the age of 40, perhaps, when she was just hitting her stride. She'd just wrapped a movie she’d written and directed herself, Waitress. But the most tragic thing? Shelly’s three-year-old daughter will grow up remembering little about her mother except for the fact that she was murdered.

Update: In the comments Dave notes that Adrienne Shelly died of compression of the neck. I checked this. It's true, which means she was alive when when he hanged her. Terrible.

Today’s Random NaBloPoMo blog: Liz is working

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Rejected and Dejected

Dejected and Rejected
Originally uploaded by Rozanne.
I’ve been waiting for about six weeks to find out if I will be working on a rather lucrative project that I’d been asked to vie for. Along with a slew of other candidates, I sent in my c.v. and some samples of my work.

After a couple of weeks, I got an e-mail telling me that I was among a select group from whom the client was requesting a made-to-order sample. So I created and submitted the made-to-order sample, confident that it would pass muster and that I’d get the project and be all set workwise through spring. I kept getting e-mails from the client, citing delay after delay in the decision/selection process. Fine with me. It gave me plenty of time to finish up the project I was currently working on. I figured that I’d finish the current project just as the prospective client made their decision, which would work out nicely. Of course, not wanting to tempt fate, I kept telling myself that there was a chance I wouldn’t be one of the candidates chosen. But I wasn’t too worried. In short, I was basically counting on that job.

This morning I opened my e-mail to find out I didn’t get chosen for the project. I was floored. This is the first time ever in nine years as an independent contractor that I haven’t gotten a job I was in contention for.

OK. So that’s a damn good record, but that e-mail left me feeling pretty deflated. I’ve worked for this client before on several occasions, and they’ve always loved my work. This project wasn’t anything out of my depth, in fact, I thought I was an excellent fit for it. What could have been wrong with my sample? Was there an egregious error in it? Did I somehow fail to follow their guidelines? Of course, I can’t interrogate them about why they don’t want to use me on the project. I just have to accept their decision gracefully, which I did with a brief e-mail this morning.

But, oh, the self-doubt and creeping panic!

I finished up the current project yesterday, and now I have no work pending. Zilch! This seldom happens to me, but I tend to have no perspective on this situation when it happens. I start thinking that, yep, this is it. It’s finally happened. I’ve lost my touch. They’ve discovered what an imposter I am. All the work has been outsourced to India. If I have to go out and find myself a mainstream office job, I’m doomed! I’m going to have to hurl myself repeatedly against the door of the Poor House sobbing, “Let me in, let me in, let me in! For god’s sake, let me in!”

Thoughts like that. This is always the way I start thinking before I even make one phone call or send one e-mail to my list of clients asking if they’ve got any work for me. And you know what? I hardly ever have to start going through the list, because almost always a client just happens to contact me, thus saving me the trouble of soliciting for work.

I mean, how great is that? I know for a fact that most independent contractors in my line of work have it much tougher, with real—not imagined—droughts occurring all too frequently.

So, today, I attempted to not let the panic demon ruin my day. I sent off the assignment I finished yesterday and asked that client if they’ve got anything else for me. They’re checking. Good enough.

Then I forced myself to turn off the computer (always a good idea) and take advantage of the fact that it had stopped raining and the Sun was out. An unexpected day off! “Get your ass out there,” I told myself, “and finish that fall garden clean-up.” And I did and—get this—I enjoyed it. Go figure. I did a bunch of errands and took a walk. The fall color is still magnificent, so I took some photos and added them to my monstrously huge fall color Flickr set to make it even more monstrously huge.

True, I somehow didn’t get around to working on the revamp of my professional Web site, which has hideously out-of-date content and a hideously dated appearance (late 90s). Vomit! I always tell myself that I’m going to update it when I’m in between jobs, but then I hardly ever am. I’ll work on it tomorrow. Really, I will.

Gosh. Does this post sound incredibly egotistical, smug, and boastful? It might. But that wasn’t my intent. Since I’m blogging every day, I figured I might as well document for my own future edification exactly where my mind goes when I hit a tiny little sticky patch in my career and remind myself that there is NO NEED TO PANIC. At least not until next week!

Today’s Random NaBloPoMo blog: Jamielynnlynn

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Sir Galahad (Extreme Version)

Originally uploaded by Rozanne.
I just did this exercise for 60 seconds on each side, and now my hip flexors are generating enough thermal energy to heat the state of Rhode Island for a year. If you’ve ever done this stretching exercise, say, in a yoga class, you’ll know that it’s feckin’ excruciating. One yoga teacher posited that when you do this stretch you're accessing decades of trauma built up and stored in the hip flexors. Think about that! It's probably hooey, but the agony component of the stretch is so great I could almost buy into that idea. One good thing? My hip flexors feel noticeably better immediately afterward. There might even be a bit of an endorphin rush.

As a person who spends hour after hour sitting on her arse, my hip flexors are in a constant state of contraction. To make matters worse, when I’m not sitting, I’m walking or cycling—two forms of exercise that further contract and shorten the hip flexors.

And now I’m paying the price. There’s been something wonky and ominous going on with both of my hips for the past couple of months that cannot completely be explained by the nearly total slack-off in my yoga routine. It’s more serious than that. So I’ve issued myself a new directive: Do the Sir Galahad* (Extreme Version) twice a day without fail. I hope it helps. I also turned up some scary information about how chronically tight hip flexors can lead to arthritis. Yikes.

Other than obsessing about hip flexors, I’ve been feeling pretty great today. I feel pleased and light-hearted every time I think about the way the elections went. Yesterday I found myself diligently avoiding any situation in which I might hear early returns. In recent years, it’s just been too disheartening to listen to election-night returns. And this year, despite a prediction that Democrats would do well, I just had trouble believing it and didn’t want to get my hopes up. But—Yahoo, Mountain Dew!—things turned out so much better than I dared imagine (at least for a mid-term election). My faith is somewhat restored in the American people for (very belatedly) rejecting the Bush Administration’s heinous, murderous, profiteering agenda. I hope that the Democrats will now exhibit some backbone and get cracking on getting the country back on track—a monumental task.

See ya in Hell!

See ya in Hell!

*While researching hip flexor exercises I discovered that the killer stretch is an extreme version of what the Kiwis call “The Sir Galahad.”

Today’s Random NaBloPoMo blog: Doahleigh – Holy Waste of Teabags!

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

A Peculiar Little World

The Drowning?

This is the most fascinating graffiti I’ve seen in Portland. It’s part of a whole “mural” that wraps around what I presume is an abandoned building. I first spotted it a few months ago, and I keep fearing that one day I’ll pass the building and the images will be painted over or defaced. I’m glad I was able to take a few photos before that happens. So far, they rank as the crown jewels of my Keep Portland Weird photo series.

The artist has created a peculiar little world populated mainly by a tribe of squat little people with crenulated heads.

Castleheads with Cat

There also are a few taller folk who remind me of sinister hospital orderlies.

Squarehead with Regal Bird

I imagine the hospital orderlies take orders from these guys, who are being squeezed out of an enormous double-ended toothpaste tube. Or maybe they’re not the ones in charge. They look too world-weary to give a shit about anything.

Weird Sleepy, Toothy, Horned Heads

Or maybe this guy’s the kingpin. I like how the artist incorporated that old electric meter right into the narrative of the scene.

Squarehead Kid with Unfinished Squid

It’s all pure speculation on my part about what’s going on in the mural, and for all I know this is actually “sanctioned” graffiti. I know that when I lived in Chicago several businesses hired graffiti artists to do giant side-of-the-building advertisements for them. Clearly this isn’t an advertisement for anything that’s for sale here on Earth, but Portland’s very big on public art, so maybe the city has actually tossed some dollars out to this graffiti artist? That would explain why it hasn’t been painted over, but then why isn’t it finished or signed? Anyway, I hope it stays, and I hope the artist continues to work on it; it’s my favorite piece of public art in Portland, sanctioned or not.

Today's Random NaBloPoMo blog: Candy Blog

Monday, November 06, 2006

Parrot Sighting in Forest Park!

Hello, Mr. Polly Parrot!

Walking in Forest Park this morning, I rounded a bend in the trail and was absolutely stunned to see this huge blue parrot perched high on a mossy branch. “Oh my god!” I whispered, instinctively halting so as not to scare the magnificent bird away. I’ve seen The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill, and I know there’s a flock of parrots living in Hyde Park in Chicago that have somehow adapted to that northern climate. So clearly parrots are tough, adaptable birds, but I hadn’t realized we had wild parrots in Portland. How fabulous!

I admired the bird for some seconds before realizing it was a two-dimensional cut-out, and that I’d been completely taken in. The parrot was perfectly sited, so as to make the most of the element of surprise. And it was amazingly realistic. I was really and truly fooled. This was even better than the Ned Flanders stunt. Getting that parrot situated would have required first making and painting the parrot and then maneuvering a tall ladder a good way along a steep, rocky footpath so as to get the parrot up on its perch. I sure hope that whoever is responsible for the parrot got to observe the effect of his or her handiwork on unsuspecting hikers. I should have checked to see if anyone was hidden among the sword ferns, snickering.

I am so glad I had time in my work schedule to nip out and take a hike in Forest Park this morning. Today’s weather (65 degrees, windy, and rainy) and Forest Park at this time of year were a combo I wouldn’t have liked to have missed. I set out in full-on rain combat gear (including a very fetching rain hat [not!]) and just soaked up the magical atmosphere. It was a feast for all five senses:

Sounds—a stiff, gusty wind shushing through the upper canopy of the forest.
Sights—the forest aglow with maples in every shade of yellow from pale ivory to schoolbus gold. Lazy clouds of mist drifting and shape-shifting at the higher elevations. It’s so much fun to walk right through these things. Hobbits. OK—no hobbits, but it was hobbit habitat.
Smells—an indescribable mixture of moss, slightly decaying deciduous leaves, cedar and fir that I’d love to distill and keep in a fancy bottle on my dresser—Eau de Pacific Northwest!
Textures—the slippy, gooshy mud under my boot soles and the cooling, refreshing pelt of raindrops on my face.
Tastes—I suppose I could have gnawed on a sliver of bark, but I’m really not up on edible forest plants, so, exercising prudence, I just opened my mouth and let a few raindrops fall in. Since there was no one around, I felt like giving free rein to my inner goofball.

Forest Park

And, oh yes. The beeramisu. I had some when I got home from my hike, and it was outstanding. I was totally surprised. I really hadn’t enjoyed drinking that porter and was prematurely ruing the fact that I’d allowed myself to be seduced by the name beeramisu. But beeramisu is seriously delicious. Better than many of the incarnations of tiramisu I've had. Go figure.

Today’s Random NaBloPoMo blog: Life Without Instructions

Sunday, November 05, 2006


Black Boss Porter
Originally uploaded by Rozanne.
Or should I say birramisu? Anyway, I just made some, and it’s at this very moment chilling in the fridge. It’s basically regular old tiramisù, but you soak the ladyfingers in a mixture of porter and strong coffee. Oddly, I thought that sounded like a good idea, or maybe I just liked the idea of making something called beeramisu. It’s hard to tell with me sometimes.

B picked up the porter for me. I’m sure he got it because our old cat (RIP) was named the Boss. Turns out the porter is from Poland and is 9.4% alcohol. The recipe only called for 3/4 cup of porter, so I’m drinking the rest. I expect to be a bit squiffy by the time I finish it.

Porter isn’t a style of ale I ever drink. It’s sweet and caramelly, which normally I don’t care for, although I’m managing to choke it down. Just. Heaven forbid I should waste beer! Sweet and caramelly, however, is probably a good thing if you’re going to go around putting beer in a dessert.

By the way, the recipe is here. As per usual when I’m cooking, I made a few substitutions. I couldn’t find ladyfingers (what the hell are they anyway?), so I used biscotti, which seem to me far more authentically Italian than ladyfingers, which sound like something Miss Marple would have at afternoon tea.

Anyway, the beeramisu needs to chill for a few hours, so I won’t know until tomorrow if I’ve created the most heavenly dessert on Earth or the most hellish.

Fortunately, if it does turn out to be hellish, I’ve got a back-up.

Fat Boys

Total impulse buy. I knew I was going to make beeramisu, and yet I was powerless to resist these things when I saw them in the freezer case. First of all, the brand name: Fat Boy! I find their candor about their product refreshing. Plus, who ever heard of Fat Boy brand? I’m drawn to obscure brands for some reason. Also, eggnog. I loves me some nog! And then there’s the panic-triggering “Limited Edition” label. What if the next time I go to the store they don’t have them? Better play it safe and buy them now.

Today's Random NaBloPoMo blog: Desktop Confessional

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Okeley Dokely!

I knew if I waited long enough today, I could get out of doing fall garden clean-up. And, sure enough, that prediction of 100% chance of rain came through for me. It is coming down in buckets, barrels, and casks. Highly satisfactory. I love rain, so it’s a good job I live in Portland. In fact, sometimes I wish it would rain even more than it does. Like I really wish it would rain a few times in the summer. Everything gets so parched and desiccated.

One of my favorite things to do when it rains is to monitor the end of our driveway. A big puddle forms there, and I like to watch it expand and start flowing like a river. Right now it’s about three and a half feet across and floats an assortment of yellow and orange maple leaves. It’s quite lovely, really.

It’s weird how rain affects me. If it’s a workday, it almost always makes me more productive, despite my taking breaks to check on the puddle (I’m not kidding; I do make a point of checking it!). If it’s a weekend, I don’t feel as pressured to get shit done or to be doing something outside. If the weather’s nice I always feel that it’s tantamount to a crime to stay in the house. I feel I should be outside gardening or hiking—moving not sitting. And as much as I love hiking (and I do love it enormously), it’s nice sometimes to feel that it is OK to do indoors things like knitting, baking, writing, and reading—all of which are on the agenda for this exceedingly rainy weekend! “Bad” weather (e.g., rain) lets me off the hook and gives me permission to spend all day in the house puttering.

Another project that’s been languishing because of good weather (among other things) is my Keep Portland Weird photo series. I’ve taken a number of great weird photos, but so far I haven’t gathered them all together into a Keep Portland Weird Flickr set. And I haven’t posted one on my blog in a while either. Unforgiveable! Let me remedy that right now.

Okeley Dokely!

Okeley dokely! Whoever added that D to NE Flanders St.—I love your sense of humor and I love that it was important to you to bring a smile to the faces of passing pedestrians and cyclists.* I also admire this person’s commitment to his or her idea. That is one pretty ding-dong tall sign, and I don’t think street sign embellishment is the kind of thing you just decide to do on a whim. Who just happens to be carrying around an indelible marking pen that's the color of the lettering of Portland street signs? Also, unless that person had exceptional upper-body strength and could shimmy up to the top of the sign, I think the operation probably required setting up a ladder. So whoever it was who came up with the idea took the trouble to follow through with it and obtain the materials necessary to do the job right. Well done!

*I don't think anyone whizzing down the street in a car is going to see, much less get, the joke.

Today’s Random NaBloPoMo blog: The Akamai Knitter

Friday, November 03, 2006

Alone and Palely Loitering

I’ve been paging through Essential Blake for the past few days. Not because I really like poetry or the idea of analyzing it, but because B and I have been watching old episodes of Rumpole of the Bailey, and I am in love with the idea of declaiming bits of verse at appropriate moments just like Rumpole. For example, suppose I was meeting a friend at a pub. Wouldn’t it be grand if I could saunter up to the friend and say, as Rumpole once did, “Is that you, ‘alone and palely loitering’?”

However, snippets of poetry are not just going to gush forth at will, because I was never forced to memorize poetry when I was a kid. I’m sure that if I had been I would have loathed it and thought it pointless, but I would certainly be glad now to have a nice little stockpile of classic verse on hand to whip out as the occasion warranted.

So I’ve been toying with the idea of memorizing some poetry, even though I’m at a semi-advanced age and who knows if it would stick?

Please note that I’m not in the least bit interested in doing anything other than learning it by rote. No analysis please. Although I have little memory of it, presumably I did plenty of analysis when I lurched through Poetry 101, PoetryThreeHundredSomething, and assorted other required Tennysonish, Donneish, and Percy Bysshe Shelleyish classes that I had to take in order to graduate with a BA in English (or was it a BS?). It’s all long forgotten, probably because the emphasis was always on “cracking the code” not appreciating the language.

Anyway, I borrowed the Blake book from the library. I remember, vaguely, sort of liking William Blake. And I was rather excited to check him out again and “skim for fun phrases” (to paraphrase David Sedaris’s M.O. when reading Shakespeare).

I was quite nonplussed as I skimmed. I wasn’t turning up any fun phrases. And some of the poems are so unsophisticated they’d be easily intelligible to a first grader:

“Little Lamb,
Here I am;
Come and lick
My white neck [ew!]”

I mean, was the man a simpleton? The excerpt above is one of the Songs of Innocence, which are supposed to be great. What is so great about "Little Lamb,/ Here I am"? I’ve been through the whole book and most of it is taken up with the Songs of Innocence and the Songs of Experience, and since the book is entitled Essential Blake, I presume there isn’t much else in Blake’s oeuvre.

I’m kind of bummed out. It’s just a lot of sing-songiness about birds, angels, and infants. (He’s absolutely obsessed with capital “I” Infants; there seems to be one in every poem. Is it the Christ child? I’m not going to spend the time to try to figure that out.) I thought there’d be a lot more about sick roses and dark Satanic Mills—that’s the Blake I remember liking.

But I’m not giving up with this poetry memorization scheme. I think I need to obtain a copy of Essential Keats—he’s the clever drawers who came up with “alone and palely loitering”—or maybe I need to skim some Wordsworth—Rumpole’s poet of choice.

Today's Random NaBloPoMo blog: The Fabricated Goddess

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Bad Behavior at the Breakfast Table

I took the day off yesterday, and when I take the day off, I like to treat myself to breakfast at Gravy. Since my main reason for taking the day off was to go hike the Multnomah Falls-Wahkeena Falls trail in the Columbia River Gorge, it was essential that I fuel up, and Gravy is definitely the right place to do that.

What I really like about Gravy is that they have this mix ‘n’ match breakfast where you can order two eggs plus one, two, or three side dishes. Naturally, I went for the two eggs and three sides—a short stack, a slice of the most delicious ham imaginable, and a circlet of hash browns that looks like a crispy bird’s nest. I know that’s not the most appetizing analogy, but don’t you hate flaccid, underbrowned hash browns? I do, and I’m not a fan of “house potatoes” either. You know—those cubes of soggy sautéed potatoes that are sometimes mixed with onion and green pepper. I’m old skool when it comes to potatoes at breakfast, and I’m always thrilled when I find a restaurant (that isn’t a Denny’s or similar) that still serves hash browns that are actually brown. Delish!

As I was making inroads into my repast, two women came and sat down at the table next to mine. One of them bugged out her eyes in feigned horror as she leered my plate (I should say plates, as I actually had two) of food. “That’s a lot of food!” she said to her companion. I don’t know why she thought I wouldn’t hear or see what she was doing, as she was about a foot away from me.

How dare she comment on the amount of food I was eating?! I couldn’t help but overhear her as she nattered away to her companion, and it was clear that she was planning on totally tying on the feed bag by ordering one of Gravy’s enormous cheese-laden scramble combos and a couple of sides. What gave her the right to pass judgment on me and the amount of food I was eating? I felt like leaning over and saying. "Wow. I notice you’ve ordered a very substantial amount of food. You must be planning, like me, on climbing to the top of Multnomah Falls after breakfast and then hiking another 1,000 feet up into the Earth’s atmosphere for a grand total of 1,600 feet of elevation gain." Then I'd watch her squirm and splutter.

Of course, I kept my snide little fantasy speech to myself. Talk about bad behavior! It really reflects badly on me that I went on to devise several themes and variations on that speech as I finished my breakfast,* each more barbed and sarcastically lethal than the previous version. Yes. Ugly behavior on my part. Definitely.

So this is what happens when I undertake to post to my blog every day. I think the above certainly qualifies as twaddle. I should conclude on a positive note, so I’ll say a bit about the hike, which was so lovely it (temporarily) erased all memories of the hypocritical breakfast lady!

Multnomah Creek

I try to do the Multnomah Falls-Wahkeena Falls loop at about this time every year. The trail passes about a dozen waterfalls and the lemony leaves of the bigleaf maples and the vine maples contrast wonderfully with the mossy hemlocks and cedars. If ever there was an enchanted, primeval forest, the stretch of woods along Multnomah Creek is it! How ‘bout one more photo for good measure?


Today's Random NaBloPoMo Blog: Open Book

*For the record, I wasn’t able to actually finish my breakfast. Rather than stuff myself like a pig, I left half the short stack uneaten and prudently took most of the ham home. I wonder if hypocritical breakfast lady was able to demonstrate such restraint?

Wednesday, November 01, 2006


The Most Beautiful Red Maples in Portland ™

Yesterday I made my annual pilgrimage to The Most Beautiful Red Maples in Portland ™. How lucky that the trees just happen to be (more or less) in my neighborhood. I don’t know what exactly it is about these trees, but the fall color they develop is just so vivid and intense—and totally kicks the ass of the red maples on our parking strip. I feel like marching our red maples over to The Most Beautiful Red Maples in Portland ™ and telling them that that is what they should be doing. For crissake--get on with it! It’s November 1st.

The photo above doesn’t quite do the trees justice. There are shades of peach, crimson, scarlet, and pink all somehow mixed in there for maximum effect. And when the sun is on the leaves? Wow. It’s such a treat for me to see these trees, but then again, as has been established in many previous posts, I go more than averagely ga-ga over autumn foliage. As of this evening, there are 82 photos in my fall color Flickr set, all taken within the last two weeks. (Feel free to check them out. Hint: It will only take about two minutes if you view them in slide-show mode.) And the photos uploaded to the Flickr set represent only a fraction of the hundreds of fall color photos I’ve taken in recent days. Just so you know who you’re dealing with.

However, the little boy who lives at the house that owns The Most Beautiful Red Maples in Portland ™ did not know who he was dealing with. As I brazenly snapped photos of the trees, he rode his bike around muttering and singing to himself. After a few minutes he rode up to me and blurted, “Who are you?” as, I suppose, was his right. I wondered if he thought I was some crazy/creepy old lady. I know that as a kid I used to jump to conclusions like that about adults. Especially if they were doing something that didn’t make a whole lot of sense.

How to answer his question? I thought of saying, “I’m a neighbor,” but that isn’t strictly true as I live nearly a mile away. Plus, I don’t know. It seemed to me that that would definitely feed into his crazy/creepy assessment. So—a la George W. Bush—I simply didn’t answer the question he asked of me and told him, “I’m just taking a few pictures.”

He had no problem with that and told me, “You can have a leaf. Just be sure to pick one up off the ground—NOT one off of the trees.” What a little martinet! I told him I didn’t need a leaf; I was perfectly satisfied just to take pictures. “No, go ahead,” he insisted, “You can have one, but only one.” Hilarious. Then he lost interest in bossing me around. He picked up a rake, raked leaves for 1.5 seconds, and then got on his bike and rode off.

Kids don’t get me.

So today is Day 1 of NaBloPoMo. So far I’m batting 1,000. Go me! I’ve decided that a cool thing to do would be to check out and comment on another NaBloPoMo participant’s blog every day this month. And here is the perfect tool for doing so: the NaBloPoMo Randomizer, which selected fish puke for me today. (I’ll try not to read anything into that.)