Tuesday, October 30, 2007

The Scariest Yard in All of Portland

Shish Kebab Doll

I think I'll award the Scariest Halloween Decoration Award to this thing.

But this guy and this gal were close contenders.



Monday, October 29, 2007

Smells Like Stonehenge

The transformation of the second bedroom into the satellite office/personal writing sanctuary/craft room/Zen spa/yoga practice and meditation room continues apace. Make that semi-apace, two steps forward, one step backward. On the progress front: I've got a desk, a soothing mood light, and a rug.

On the lack-of-progress front: I've had to return the chair I bought. It was aggravating this mysterious intermittent hip pain problem I have. Rusty, by the way, is devastated by the sudden loss of the new chair. He started sleeping on it and bringing it "offerings"* as soon as it was delivered. Up until it arrived, he'd never shown the slightest interest in this room or anything in it. Now that the chair has been temporarily replaced by a chair from our set of patio furniture (ugh, I know!), he is mourning its loss by sleeping under the patio chair and acting very proprietary about the small rug that the chair used to be on.

Anyway, to return to the lack-of-progress catalog: I've not made a single move to put artwork in frames; there's a lampshade, two bulbless lamps, a Dustbuster, and some audiobooks, all stranded in limbo on the floor. Plus, I've brought the hideous paint besplattered kitchen stool that I previously condemned to the basement back up here to serve as a platform for a mushroom-spawning experiment.** (There's no other place for it!)

And the whole room smells like Stonehenge.

In case you didn't know, according to the Archipelago Candle Company, the scent of Stonehenge is a blend of smoked cedarwood, bergamot, and amber. I happened to purchased Stonehenge at the same time I purchased Joy (orange, cinnamon, and spice) and Dubai (undisclosed, but mustard yellow in color), and they were all sitting together in a bag fuming and offgassing, and it quite bowled me over--all those volatile essential oils. I don't quite know what I was thinking when I bought them. I guess I was really focusing on that sanctuary/Zen spa aspect, but I do believe I overdid it in the candle department. Anyway, slowly but surely the candles are beginning to mellow. I helps that I've banished Joy and Dubai to the back of a drawer until Stonehenge can be dispatched. It's only a votive—a black Halloweeny votive—but, wow, it really does pack quite a punch.

*Rusty has this thing he does with his two favorite toys (a really old ratty cat teaser and a slightly less ratty version of the same toy). We store them on top of a 6-foot-tall book case in the basement. After we've gone to bed, Rusty jumps up to the top of the book case and picks up one of the toys in his mouth. He jumps down with the thing still in his mouth and carries it all the way up the stairs to our closed bedroom door. He "announces" his offering outside our door with loud, insistent mewling. Then he goes back downstairs to get the other one and repeat the ritual. Every morning, both toys are outside the bedroom door. Until the new chair arrived, that is. Instead of bringing the toys to us, he suddenly started bringing them to the chair in the second bedroom. What the fuck? As I type this they are both here, leftover from last night's ritual. I cannot imagine what this is about or why the chair (and its memory) became so instantly important to him.

**More on the mushroom experiments later. I've decided to do NaBloPoMo again this year--one post a day for the entire month of November--so rest assured you'll hear plenty about the fungi I've got growing here in the Stonehenge room.

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Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Save Oregon

I'm not so great at political blogging, so I'll let this video I made speak about my love for Oregon's rare and varied beauty.

Land this beautiful is worth protecting, so I'm doing everything I can to support the passage of Measure 49.

Having moved here from Chicago, I've seen the soul-destroying horror of unrestrained, unplanned, unsustainable development and suburban sprawl and the loss (forever) of prime farmland.

Oregon will face the same horror if Measure 49 fails. Good-bye to Wine Country, good-bye to the fruitful orchards of the Hood River Valley, good-bye to much of the public's access to the beaches on the Coast, good-bye lush forests. Hello to strip malls, hello to massive housing developments in areas without adequate water supplies to support them, hello to more clear-cuts and polluted rivers, and hello to a pumice mine and housing development in the middle of a national monument. I've been having nightmares about all this--seriously! That's why I've even ventured far out of my comfort zone to work the phone banks for the Yes on 49 campaign and to urge my fellow Oregonians to vote Yes on 49 and to do what I can to clarify the misleading claims presented by the opposition.

Oregonians, please vote "Yes" on Measure 49 to save Oregon's farms, forests, coast, and wilderness from inappropriate commercial and industrial development. More information here.

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Thursday, October 18, 2007

Where Old Office Equipment Goes to Die

If you need a brown naugahyde office chair, circa 1974, I know where you can get one. Actually, I know where you can get a whole set of them. Cheap! Plus, dozens of crusty manual typewriters that are pushing 100 years of age. So what if the ribbons are hopelessly tangled or missing altogether?

How about a complete dental office set-up?

Pre-Novacaine Dental Office
OK. So it's not quite cutting edge technology, but the spit sink is like new. And, I'm sure the price is right.

Perhaps you need a punch clock.

Time Has Run Out

I'm waiting for a couple of projects to come in, and while I've been waiting (and not working) this week, I've been roving around Portland trying to finally, finally, finally (after almost six years) find the accouterments I need to turn our second bedroom into the satellite office/personal writing sanctuary/craft room/Zen spa/yoga practice and meditation room that I always knew it could be if I'd just stop using it as a place to store junk in a willy-nilly (i.e., piles on the floor) fashion.

I needed to find a desk--a nice elegant, unobtrusive, low-profile desk. Not some hulking particleboard abomination and not some sleek modern aluminum twig from IKEA (recall that I am no fan of IKEA and am not in the least bit thrilled that we now have one in Portland).

I decided that I would try this weird old-skool office store on Sandy that I've driven by hundreds or thousands of times. It's called Desks, Etc., or something like that, and has been there since the year dot (or thereabouts).

No one was in there except for the people who worked there, but they didn't hover. They let me roam freely. The main floor was mostly new stuff, but they encouraged me to check both their upstairs and their downstairs levels.

The upstairs is amazing. It's more antique store than anything. It's where they've set up the "dental office" and the wall of octogenarian-plus typewriters. The lighting is dim and no one ever dusts. No real effort has been made to, say, put all the typewriters in one place (the wall o' 'writers is something of an anomaly) and all the adding machines in another. Stuff is just plopped on desks and heaped on chairs--wherever there's room, I guess. But everything does have a price tag. Still, I can't imagine anyone buying any of this outdated stuff. And even if there are some defunct office equipment enthusiasts out there, I don't know how they'd know to go to this Desks, Etc. place. It's not like it's called Desks and Every Piece of Defunct Office Equipment There Ever Was.

Next, I went down to the sad, sad, sad basement. That's where you can get a desk for five dollars. The stuff down there was a bit newer (1970s and 1980s) but so much more depressing. A typewriter from the 1920s has a bit of style and dignity, even if it hasn't been oiled and cleaned since the Hoover Administration.

Cubicle Graveyard

But look at all these scratched desks and wobbly chairs lined up and ready for the firing squad. There were rooms and rooms with chairs and desks like these (also "office art") stacked to the ceiling. Color scheme: beige, pale turquoise, orange, and maroon, the color of impending doom.

It reminded me of my first job.

But the good news is that I did find a desk--from the main floor where they sell the new stuff--that is not at all dusty or depressing. I think it will suit me perfectly and its being delivered tomorrow! Fingers crossed the delivery people will be able to maneuver the desk through our kitchen and narrow hallway into the sanctuary (etc.)-to-be.



Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Chowing Down in Chicago

I was in Chicago—where I lived for about 14 years—over the weekend. Every year, I go back to visit family and a few friends. And every year, I feel more and more like a tourist and a bumpkin. I find myself thinking things like, “Wow, there’s so much traffic here!” and “Look at all them tall buildings!” Chicago’s changed so drastically in the five years since I left, it almost feels like I never lived there, which is a bit unsettling.

But then again, there are a few neighborhoods that remain unattractive to developers and those are the neighborhoods I chose to spend time in on this visit. No wonder I had such a great time.

Despite record-breaking heat and humidity, I insisted on walking around the city as much as possible. A friend of mine and I took a long walk looking for a place to eat lunch and ended up at Argyle Street, a Vietnamese neighborhood near the el tracks. As soon as I saw this place, I knew I had to eat there. I love the complete lack of regard for cuteness, hipness, and glamour.

Tank Noodle

Its name made me wonder if there was just a giant self-serve communal trough of pho in the center of the restaurant. We stepped in and, though there was no trough of pho, the place did rate near zero for ambiance. Nevertheless it was packed (mainly with Asians) and we would have had to wait for a table, which on the one hand made me want to eat there (the food must be great, right?) and on the other hand made me want to leave, which is what we ended up doing.

We walked about 50 yards down the street and ate at a place called Thai Pastry and you can bet your sweet bippy I ordered a Thai pastry for dessert, simply because…who ever heard of Thai pastry? It was really more like Thai bread pudding, and even though I normally don’t go for bread pudding of any nationality, this stuff was delicious.

I love and always have loved Chicago’s ethnic neighborhoods. Portland has tons of Vietnamese and Thai restaurants, sure, but they’re scattered all over the city. It’s just not the same as having an actual high-density Southeast Asian neighborhood you can go immerse yourself in and sort of feel like you've been transported to another country.

For dinner that night we went to a traditionally Polish but now trending toward Hispanic neighborhood on Chicago's South Side. The neighborhood seems to be completely immune to gentrification, save for a lone and loathsome Starbucks.

We were there to celebrate my dad’s birthday at this place.

Beer Burden

He’d seen something about it on TV and decided he wanted to trek into Chicago to go there. I think it has something to do with the fact that somewhere in our ancestry we have an ounce or two of Polish blood.

Fine with me. When I see beer given this sort of prominence on a restaurant’s sign, it automatically makes me quite well disposed to it. Do they have their priorities straight or what?

Oh my god. The place was over-the-top. Stuffed bears and elks, a working waterwheel, booths that mimicked olde European sleighs, strolling musicians dressed just like the guy on the sign, a menu chockful of leaden meat-and-potatoes dishes, patrons who spoke nothing but Polish and ordered bottle after bottle of "wodka" and sang along with the musicians, and little old ladies in long dresses swaying to the music and just waiting for some guy at the bar to get drunk enough to dance with them. I felt like I was in fake Europe. But the beer was authentic and that’s really all that matters.

So yeah, this trip was really about eating my way through some of Chicago's ethnic neighborhoods.

The absolute highlight, though, was Devon Avenue, or to use its alternate name, Gandhi Marg. How I have missed Devon Avenue with its sari palaces, chaat houses, sweets shops, and pan (paan) emporiums! I’ve even missed the splotches of red pan-tinged sputum on the sidewalks (OK, not really). Portland has no vibrant Indo-Pakistani neighborhood. And to think that I once lived within a 20-minute walk from Devon Avenue and just took it for granted, heading over there probably no more than half a dozen times a year. I miss it so much!

But—yay! yay! yay!—my sister and I sauntered down Devon on Monday and found a brand-new place that serves pani puri plus tons of other great snacks. I’ve been craving pani puri for years and years and years and you can’t find it anywhere in the Portland metropolitan area (at least I don’t think so)!

Pani Puri Front and Center!

We devoured not only the pani puri, samosa chaat, and mango lassi shown here, but also an order of onion pakora and a masala dosa to the accompaniment of a couple of blaring TVs tuned to B4U (a sort of Bollywood version of MTV). Everything about it was fantastic and highly satisfying.

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Monday, October 01, 2007

Twenty Minutes Before Dusk

The Last of the Blue Sky
Originally uploaded by Rozanne.
I woke up this morning feeling just a smidge depressed. Depressed because I’d taken a week off while my brother was visiting and now had to get my ass back to work. And depressed because the first thing on the agenda was some pro bono work—involuntary pro bono work, if such a thing can be said to exist.

I quit work at 6:15 PM (after logging a lousy fifty bucks of billable work for the entire day) and went for a walk to savor the last 20 minutes of daylight to see what I could see. I hoped the walk would put me in a better frame of mind.

It totally turned my day around! I love the whole seasonal transition thing, and it’s in full swing right now, as we hurtle prematurely into autumn. Last year I made an exhaustive photo study of autumn foliage. This year it's looking like I may be making an exhaustive study of decay and desiccation. Get a load of these spent coneflowers and post-apocalyptic sunflowers!

Kaput Coneflowers


I never tire of walking my neighborhood. I always see something I’ve never noticed before.

Punkin Clown

Plus, it’s a chance to talk to my neighbors. I am still always astounded by Portland’s neighborliness. It’s not possible to pass someone on the sidewalk without a friendly “hi” or at least a nod and a smile. It just does not--evidently cannot--happen. More often than not, there is even some affable chit-chat.

Fall Color and Texture

While I was looking at this inspiring and still vigorously thriving garden, a woman wandered out on the sidewalk with a bin of recycling. As a born-and-bred Midwesterner I felt I needed to assure her that I was not loitering with intent in front of her garden. I told her (quite sincerely) how much I admired her ability keep her garden looking magnificent when we were well into the fall (my garden looks like puke right now). She thanked me profusely and revealed that she, in fact, works for Portland Nursery. I guess I’m not surprised, I mean, the garden does look like it could only have been created by someone who knows a thing or two about gardening, but I love it that I now have that extra little insight into that garden and the gardener who tends it.

Soon enough it was too dark to take any more photos, but I decided to meander rather than leg it straight for home. That’s another thing. I don’t feel that it’s unsafe to walk my neighborhood alone after dark.

When I was within about half a block of home, I ran into another neighbor—one I see once a year at our “ladies only” neighborhood Christmas party and one whose name I was (and still am) blanking on.

I don’t know her well at all, but she’s one of those people who assumes that somewhere along the line I’ve been filled in on the whole backstory of her life. As soon as she saw me, she was off and running with a recent saga about Chomper’s (her dog) torn ligament. He seemed fine to me as I tossed and tossed the stick he brought to me (until he chomped it to teensy untossable bits).

From the tale of Chomper she moved on to an account of her teenage son and his four friends and the task of keeping them all on the straight and narrow. She mentioned each of the friends by name and designated each as a “good kid,” stated with genuine affection. It seems she and her husband have sort of taken these four additional boys under their wing.

As if on cue, her husband (who coaches the boys at football) pulled up and the boys (a surprisingly multicultural crew) piled out of the car, all still wearing those weird shiny padded football knickers. With one eye on me and one maternally slanted toward the boys, What’s-Her-Name momentarily broke off her conversation with me to holler (quite a full-throated holler) that there was a tuna-noodle casserole in the oven. Tuna-noodle casserole! A second later, as they were about to enter the house she reminded them (at the top of her lungs), “Shoes Off!!!!!!!!!!!” Then she looked at me and rolled her eyes, presuming that this was something I could totally relate to.

Sidewalk Mosaic

But it isn’t. It is very far away from my own experience and lifestyle. I’d never in a million years volunteer to be a “second mom” to four teenage boys. Heck, I don’t even want to volunteer to be a biological mom to a dainty and well-behaved infant (if such a creature were to exist). But it’s amazing to me that there are people like What’s-Her-Name who take on what seems to me to be a tremendous burden. A good soul. She’s about the same age as me, give or take a year or two, with less education, but in many ways she seems a lot older (would I ever make a tuna-noodle casserole?) and wiser. The fact that the boys were home meant it was time to wrap up the rambling, so she hugged me (!) and headed toward the house, calling out, “Take care, Love!” She doesn’t know my name either.

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