Monday, May 28, 2007

Let's Do the Time Warp

42nd Street Station
Originally uploaded by Rozanne.
Rumor has it that a giant corporate-ass Whole Foods is going to be built in Portland’s Hollywood District. And if that happens, I fear it will be the death knell for the strange bedfellows that inhabit Hollywood’s 42nd Street Station, my favorite time-warpy, throwbacky place in Portland. Where else can you do one-stop shopping for a hearing aid, a single Bic pen, curly-toe slippers from the Himalayas, a $15.99 perm, and a pint of Mirror Pond Pale Ale?

Aunt Tillie

Aunt Tillie stands cheerfully out front in all weathers, occasionally being bopped in the head by one of her Mylar balloons. It is her job to inform all passersby of the daily half-sandwich special. Note: There are never any whole sandwich specials—who can eat that much?

Upon entering 42nd Street Station, I always try to dissect its peculiar smell. Key components include dustiness and mustiness (courtesy of the antique stalls in the basement); nag champa and patchouli (courtesy of Himalayan Gifts and Candies' full range of joss sticks); and egg salad (courtesy of Aunt Tillie’s Deli, although this component depends on the daily half-sandwich rotation).

I usually make a beeline for the old-timey post office in 42nd Street Station. (I have little need of $15.99 perms, but I do have need of postage stamps.) It’s not a real post office but some sort of franchise post office. There’s a few post officey things that you can’t do at the 42nd Street Station (like send packages to APO addresses), but most of the time it suits my needs, and it is quite a bit less harrowing than visiting one of the bona fide post offices. Although never ever never ever ever go there in December or you will die while waiting in line.

Waiting in line at other times of the year, however, is not such a bad thing, because it gives you time to peruse the fascinating merchandise they have for sale. They’re all things I might have found in the drawer of my grandfather’s desk—things like moistening pads and moistening bottles (so that you don’t have to wear out your tongue licking envelopes) and an insane variety of sticky labels including the rare and coveted permanent reinforcement labels (in four different colors!). I believe they also sell mucilage.

But by far the best thing about the not-quite-real post office is its selection of greeting cards. What normal post office has greeting cards? None of them! And even if they did, would they have greeting cards that have been sitting in the racks since the Nixon Administration? I think not!

Seventies Dude

I'm Fabulous and I Wear Purple Eyeshadow

Mr. Right with Malibu Tan

The last one is my absolute favorite! The guy has been closeted in a tanning booth since the Summer of Love, wouldn’t you say? The inside of the card reads: “From Your Mrs. Always Right.” Cheesy! And how about that sparkle glinting off of his teeth?

I’m not sure if Whole Foods is really coming to Hollywood. I hope not. We don’t need Whole Foods anywhere in Portland (even though it’s been foisted upon us in the Pearl District, for example). We have New Seasons, a locally owned natural/gourmet foods market that beats the shiitake out of Whole Foods. And we certainly don’t need a Whole Foods in Hollywood of all places. Developers are putting the finishing touches on the enlarged Trader Joe’s in Hollywood, and I think that’s more than sufficient. But I fear, I fear. If Whole Foods goes in, Aunt Tillie and the other businesses in the Station will be out on their arses. At least I took some pictures before it’s too late.

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Wednesday, May 23, 2007

I Have All the Answers

Diana, star reporter, has personally crafted me some questions as part of an interview/meme-type thing that’s currently floating around the blogosphere. I had a great time answering them!

1. In the blogosphere, you are known for several things, including your walk-abouts around Portland, Oregon. What other city would you choose to spend a day doing a walking exploration of?

Well, I was going to say San Francisco, because it’s got roller-coaster hills, interesting history and architecture, and great restaurants, and I’ve never been there. Then I realized that there are tons of cities that meet these requirements, and I remembered that my friend P recently visited San Francisco and told me that it’s great and everything but that it doesn’t have anything that Portland doesn’t have. (This, by the way, is very typical of how we xenophobic Portlanders feel about our fair city, and I’m sure I’d have the same reaction.) Instead of really answering the question, I’m going to lame out and supply a whole list of cities I’d love to walk (in alphabetical order).

Bombay (Mumbai)
London (I never tire of walking it)
Miami Beach
New York City
San Francisco

2. You share with many enlightened ones of the Pacific Northwest an enjoyment of craft beers. Any current favorites? Which single one would you be stranded with on a deserted island?

Oh, this is an easy one. My favorite style of ale is India pale ale, or IPA, which is all about hops, hops, hops, and even more hops. I love that hoppy bitterness! If I were to be stranded on a deserted island, I’d take C-Note IPA, brewed right here in Beervana by the New Old Lompoc brewery. I believe it’s called C-Note because it has a rating of 100 on the IBU (International Bitterness Unit) scale. FYI: The scale only goes to 100.

3. You are self employed, doing freelance work instead of working for The Man. What has been the hardest part of this, aside from fretting about getting a steady flow of work?

I’ve given this question some thought and as much as I'd like to say that the hardest part is scheduling vacations, the honest and shameful answer is (despite the fact that I taped this sign up above my desk a few months ago) that I spend too much time fucking around, taking little breaks here and there to check in on blogs or look at the new offerings in my Flickr groups. The work always does get done, and I do think that in my line of work sometimes a certain amount of fucking around may be necessary to in order to churn the creative juices, but, really, I’m just rationalizing here. The problem is most acute when I'm not really under the gun--if I've got a pressing deadline, I do pull up my socks and buckle down. But what's infuriating and self-sabotaging about the fucking around that occurs when I've got a relatively light workload is that if I just applied myself I could maybe quit at 2:00 PM or something and have the rest of the day to myself. What's wrong with me?

4. Your mother and mine shared a horror of junk food. What chemically-laden, nutritionally devoid item that would make your poor mother scream, do you love to indulge in most?

Wow. I am so impressed that you remembered this obscure fact. Actually, I’m not a huge junk-food fanatic, but there was a time a few years back when I developed a mania for apple fritters. It had something to do with the fact that I lived within walking distance of three (3) bakeries that sell apple fritters. One of the bakeries actually sold a Boston cream apple fritter that was INSANE. That's right, a deep-fried fritter filled with custard cream. Can you imagine anything more deadly and delicious? How much fat was in one of those things? Interestingly and fortunately (for me, not for them) that bakery went bankrupt. The mania has gone into remission, luckily, or perhaps been replaced by a mania for iced lattes, which may be every bit as bad for my health.

5. Growing up in the Midwest, what were your girlish dreams? How did you see your life unfolding?

Girlish dreams? How far back on the girlish dream spectrum should I go? As a very little girl, I recall making some very detailed calculations and determining that I should get married at age 23. No further dreams necessary! Age 23 seemed to me, at the time, like the perfect age to get hitched—neither too young nor too old. Ha! That sure didn’t happen. A little later in life (i.e., high school), I became completely disenchanted with the Midwest and my life in general and really, really wished that I could somehow travel back in time and live in Victorian England. That didn’t happen either, surprisingly. To tell the truth, I think I basically just sort of drifted through most of my childhood and on into my 20s without any sort of real life plan. I never really knew how to answer that question: What do you want to be when you grow up? At various times the answer would have been: children’s author (fiction), librarian, hair dresser, veterinarian, ballerina, or microbiologist, but I wasn’t too sold on any of those professions and ended up majoring in English, simply because I liked to sit in a corner and read. I didn’t really have any clue about how I might use sitting in a corner and reading to get a job.

Hey, that was really fun! And now it is incumbent on me to offer to devise some custom questions for anyone who’s interested. Just let me know in the comment box if you want to be interviewed and I’ll shoot you some questions. Enquiring minds want to know!

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Monday, May 21, 2007


I finished up the last of a super-intense work project on Friday and then spent much of the weekend showing an out-of-town friend around Portland, which, while very enjoyable, wasn’t exactly relaxing. “Me time” has been in very, very short supply for the past month, so I gave myself the day off today. I found myself extremely reluctant to attend to anything seeming to have even the faintest whiff of work to it. Therefore, I did not handwash the sweaters that need to be handwashed. I did not fill out a FedEx slip that needs filling out. I did not file away the stack of invoices and paid bills on top of my filing cabinet that needs filing away. And I am not at this very moment roaming the aisles of a grocery store even though we rather desperately need some groceries (especially cat food).

I did, however, meet up with the lovely and talented LeLo, who luckily had time in her schedule for dessert and a nice long chat. We each ate one of these!


Here’s what mine looked like after I dug into it with my shifty fork.* It’s like the Earth! The “crust” is an envelope of dark chocolate; the mantle is some kind of mousse; the outer core is molten caramel; and the inner core is salted almonds. If only Earth were really made out of these ingredients instead of boring and inedible stuff like silicon, nickel, and iron. World hunger would be solved!

*A shifty fork is the kind of fork that you’d use to skewer a gherkin, an olive, a radish rose, or any other thing you might find on an old-skool relish tray. My brother coined the shify fork term when he was about five, when relish trays were a standard feature of every meal my mom served to "company." No one—not even my brother—knows exactly what’s so shifty about it.

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Sunday, May 20, 2007


Well, I did it. I ended my friendship with Y. I tried to follow my sister’s plan of action—simply not allowing Y to take up time in my life until she figured out that I no longer wanted to be friends with her. Y sent a few e-mails. I responded with short, neutral replies. But something about that didn’t sit well with me. It didn’t seem fair or honest. Then she called me one night about a week and a half ago. The call went to voicemail (thank heavens!), but in her message she requested that I e-mail her and tell her when a good time to talk on the phone would be.

It pissed me off that she seemed to feel entitled to my time like that, but it also brought up a feeling of dread. My stomach clenched up and my heart raced. I lay awake for at least three hours that night feeling all conflicted. I knew there was no way I wanted to be in the grip of this amalgam of dread/pressure/guilt/deceit/annoyance over our relationship. I was going to have to do something decisive to end it ASAP.

I’m sure many people would argue that I should have called her and talked to her in person, but I just couldn’t bring myself to do it. I didn’t want to have a “discussion” about it; I didn’t want to hear her "side of the story." After all these years of waffling and trying to cut her slack, something—I’m not sure exactly what—had brought me to the place where I was 100% certain I wanted out and that I couldn't delay it any longer.

I lay there that night anxiously mulling over how to break the news to her (I felt I at least owed her that) but leave no doubt that our friendship was over.

I sent her a short e-mail. I told her we have fundamentally different approaches to life, and I just can’t genuinely provide her with the support she wants from me. I told her I’d felt this way for some time, but had tried to ignore it. I also told her that, though I wished her well, our friendship has run its course. And I told her to please not call or e-mail me. And she hasn’t so far.

I feel relieved to have done it, but I also feel pretty shitty. Isn’t it cowardly to break off a friendship (a friendship of 18 to 20 years) via e-mail? And was it fair to tell her not to call or e-mail me? Was I too harsh? There’s no answer to those questions. But I do know that the mere thought of speaking to her or even seeing another e-mail from her in my In Box caused me mental, emotional, (and physical!) stress, and so I had to do what worked for me to end it.

An unexpected effect of all this has been that I feel extra appreciative of and grateful to the good (i.e., non-soul sucking) friends I do have. The ending of the friendship with Y coincided more or less with the easing up of my insano/overwhelmo work schedule, and I realized how great it is to be able to spend time with people with whom I can relax and be myself. I don’t have to pretend around them or be on my guard and feel stressed and exhausted listening to a litany of woe, complaints, and blame laying. I did that for far too long. We all have such limited time to spend with friends; I’m actually angry that Y horked so much of it. In a way I feel like she stole from both me and my other friends.

Issues I’ve had with Y have been preying on my mind intermittently for years and rather intensely for the past month or so. It’s demonstrated to me that avoiding conflict serves no one. Maybe if I’d brought up the issues I have with her sooner, I could have preserved the friendship on some level. Probably not. We just would have stopped being friends sooner. But that would have been a good thing—at least for me—but probably for both of us. Was there some kind of codependency thing going on? Maybe that’s the wrong psychobabble term, but if it has anything to do with not stepping in and telling someone you think they’re making some bad choices then I’m guilty of that. But on the other hand, it’s not my job to run other people’s lives.

Anyway, that long, drawn-out chapter is now closed.

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Sunday, May 13, 2007

Bloody Butcher

One day soon, I will have enough time to write a real blog entry, but in lieu of that here is a photo of my formerly grass- and weed-choked tomato beds, also known as our front yard.

Grass = Weed

I took a break from the grindstone and weeded today (not sure if that really qualifies as "a break").

Ta da!

'Bloody Butcher' tomato

Then I planted five tomato plants. Featured above is the Bloody Butcher tomato plant. Yes, that is its actual name, and, yes, I only bought it so I could go around telling everyone about its gruesome name. And, one last final, yes, I am still using the dumb useless-ass tomato cages that don't do a ding-dong thing (really) to keep a sprawling and frowsy tomato plant upright.

The other four tomato varieties I planted were, if you must know, Arkansas Traveler, Moskovich, Taxi Yellow, and Sungold.

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Saturday, May 05, 2007

Weary, Bleary, and Dreary

I’ve been working 12–14-hour days since last Sunday. I’m not used to it, and things are sort of going straight to hell around here.

Exempli gratia:

1. The tune “I Am Easily Assimilated” from the operetta Candide keeps running through my head, but I’ve changed the title to “I Am Very Highly Caffeinated.” Clever, no?

2. If I had time, I might write a blog entry about that meeting last week. Actually, it’s probably best that I don’t, but let me just say that it wasn’t even remotely what I was expecting. Here’s a tidbit: Only about 25 minutes of the five-hour meeting were devoted to talking about the upcoming project. At some point while we were driving to a restaurant there was serious talk of stopping to go shopping—for a Utilikilt.* And we totally would have, if the shop hadn’t moved. We were cruising around looking for it in earnest. Is this normal? Is this what people who work for large, moneyed companies do when they go to out-of-town meetings? Just fuck around, shopping and eating? I really wouldn’t know. I’m going to stop short of saying they wasted my time, as the project they’ve offered me pays very well and will be quite a feather in my cap. But. WTF?

3. Grass = Weed. I’m talking about the kind of grass that grows in lawns (not marihoochie). I cannot believe how much grass has invaded the garden beds where I need to plant tomatoes. It’s frickin’ a foot tall, and I have no time to do anything about it. Meanwhile it will continue its hostile takeover as I look on helplessly.

Feel sorry for me. No, don’t. Despite being worn out, some exciting things are transpiring on the career front, but it’s not stuff I can blog about.

*If you have time, check out the top 100 reasons to wear a kilt. Hilarious.