Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Encounter on a Cinder Cone

Yesterday evening, B and I set off at about 7:30 PM to do some grocery shopping. But first we thought we’d hike up a cinder cone that's been in our neighorhood for, oh, a few million years or so. For some reason, we’d never explored it. True, the trail is not super pristine, being that at times it passes within 15 feet of the deafening traffic on Interstate 205 and that at one point we noted that the side of the cinder cone has been tagged with an ominous-looking skull. True, also, that we had to hike past rubbish such as a flattened box of Camels and a ripped-open strawberry-flavored condom packet (ew!) and—a few strides later—sidestepped the actual used (double-triple-quadruple ew!!!!) strawberry condom, but soon we were walking up what for all intents and purposes was an old country road. Really olde. Could this gutter be any more medieval looking? I guess it could, say, if there was a slurry of raw sewage running down it. Fortunately, there was not.

Eventually, we found ourselves standing in front of this stone fortress. Welcome to the Middle Ages.

Rocky Butte

The 360-degree view from the top is splendid. Mount Hood looms, of course, but also Mount St. Helens and the very top of Mount Jefferson. Who knew you could see Jefferson from Portland? I sure didn’t. We could see almost the entire city, including the IKEA that is finally being built out by the airport. What a huge footprint that thing has. I could totally live without it. But even with that blot on the landscape, I still had to get all warm and fuzzy about the number of mature trees we have in even the most densely populated parts of Portland. It’s a bit hard to tell exactly where the city leaves off and national forest begins.

Mount Hood from Rocky Butte

We had a bit of a wander and because my mind was so boggled by the view and the whole medieval thing, I really had some trouble when we started heading down a set of rustic stairs and the strains of an a cappella rendition of “Desperado” started wafting toward us. Was it the 1370s or the 1970s?

There behind the fortress, sitting on the edge of a steep drop-off into the forest were three people in sunglasses and a puppy named Dojo. Spread out between them was a waxpaper sleeve of Ritz crackers, a rolled-back tin of sardines, and a six-pack of Olde English 800s. And they were smoking weed. Mainly because of the sardines, I immediately jumped to the conclusion that they were bona fide hobos and walked extra slow as I passed them, hoping to engage them in conversation. Luckily, the puppy came bounding up to us, causing the guy singing “Desperado” to stop and start calling after the puppy. My wish was granted! Engagement with suspected hobos.

Desperado congratulated us on living in a beautiful part of the country (I didn't dispute it) and volunteered that he was from California, as if that Eagles song, his blue-mirrored oval sunglasses, and the way he wore his bandanna didn’t totally give him away. The other guy tipped his oversized sunglasses (the kind senior citizens with cataracts wear) briefly up toward his forehead and stated “South Dakota.” There was a youngish woman there, too, but she just sat there with her back to us and said nothing. I was on the brink of asking them how they got here—in my mind I was totally prepared to hear and almost certain they would say “freight train,” maybe even being as specific as “Burlington Northern” or “Southern Pacific,” but South Dakota started quizzing me about which species of woodpeckers he could hear. I think he got a bit annoyed with me for blathering on about how much I didn’t know about local woodpeckers and drowning out the woodpecking sounds he'd been enjoying so much. Our conversation sort of petered out.

We decided to leave them to it and started hiking back down. The closer I got the better I felt about not having blurted out a question about how they had gotten to Portland. I’m sure they just drove a car (or a flatbed Ford) here. Just because people are eating straight out of a can of sardines, it doesn’t necessarily follow that they’re hobos. But, I’m telling you, for a while there I had myself convinced.

We got back to the bottom of the cinder cone and then drove to the grocery store to buy cat food and people food where, it being about 9:00 PM on a Monday night, we had to dodge beeping forklifts (loaded with pallets of Cheerios and barbecue sauce) that were barreling down practically every aisle. Back to 21st century Portland. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

Labels: ,


Saturday, June 23, 2007

Day 3 of Summer

Summer is here, I guess. I’ve not yet been able to dispense with the fleece jacket,* but I’ve been moving forward with summer-type activities anyway. To celebrate the Solstice, B and I took an evening walk in Hoyt Arboretum staring at about 8:00 PM. There was still plenty of light, but we were pretty much the only humans there. We heard a coyote howling, saw a grouse making a ruckus, and listening to the gurgley flutey song of what I am fairly certain were Swainson’s thrushes. And I breathed in lots of conifer-scented Solstice air. Just the ticket.

Summer means spending as much time as possible lazing around on patios, ideally, accompanied by pizza and beer (the two mainstays of the Portland economy [according to my brother]). So we did that yesterday evening.

Pizza and Beer

It seems way early in the season, but this morning I harvested my first small handful of blueberries. Super yum! I grow the biggest and best blueberries, though I say it myself.

Blueberries and Granola

One other garden-related thing. I have succeeded in turning the pink blossoms of one of my hydrangea bushes to blue.

My Very Own Blue Hydrangea

I am thrilled with the shade! It took two years of sprinkling the soil with elemental sulfur to acidify it sufficiently for the color change. (Don't tell Al Gore.) The other hydrangea bush, however, remains stubbornly pink, despite the same treatment.

*This is in no way a complaint. It’s more that I just have trouble processing the fact that it’s noon on a summer day and only 66 degrees F, with 45% humidity. Having spent most of my live in the Midwest, I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to rid myself of the notion that summer = suffocating heat and humidity.

Labels: , ,


Monday, June 18, 2007

Hairstyles That Should Not Be

OK. I know it’s the 30th anniversary of Star Wars and all, but does that explain why every guy between the ages of 15 and 35 is sporting a Mark Hamill/Luke Skywalker “hairstyle” all of a sudden? Have you noticed?

I rewatched Star Wars when it was re-released to theatres for the 20th or 25th anniversary, and I remember just being completely distracted by Mark Hamill’s hair. Weren’t the 1970s the Golden Age of the Blow-dryer? It’s really shocking to think that a Hollywood hairstylist would have let an actor get away with hair like that back then. Even the most cursory use of a blow-dryer should have kept some of those whacked-out wings and random flip-curls from forming.

And now everywhere I go it’s Star Wars, nothing but Star Wars, on every guy’s head. What’s the deal with that? It’s like zombies from my old junior high school yearbook are skateboarding down the streets. Spooky.

Anyway, I guess I shouldn’t talk. There was a brief period during the 1980s when, making one of my inept stabs at fashion, I got myself an asymmetrical haircut. The result, I’m afraid, made me look like an androgynous, vaguely Weimar Republic-ish personage. Not really the look I was going for. After that, I tripped obliviously through the rest of the ‘80s with a gigantic and damaged perm.

The reason these memories are fresh in my mind is that I’ve been invited to an ’80s-themed party, so I've been doing some research. I no longer own any of the acid-washed jeans or vintage Cyndi Lauper-style dresses I favored back then, which means, thankfully, that I’m not going to be able to dress as my former self, but I thought that at least I could bring some photos for everyone to laugh at. The ‘80s were not my finest moment, that’s for sure.



Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Moss Mania

I’ve been giving my mania for moss and mossy things full rein lately. A crisis may be imminent. What do you think?

Surprise! I Have Moss Instead of Hair!

This actually represents the marriage of two of my manias: moss and ridiculous anthropomorphization (if that’s a word). That’s golden club moss standing in for the little guy's hair. Factoid: Dinosaurs ate this stuff for breakfast.

And I saw this on a hike in Forest Park on Sunday. Very Blair Witch-like and right here in Portland, too. Shiver!!!!

The Stumps Have Eyes

The Stumps Have Eyes!

Of course, there was nothing but moss, lichens, and ferns on the trails I hiked at the Oregon Coast last week. As part of my pact with myself to take it slow and easy, I found myself taking note, more than usual, of the rustic benches that show up—sometimes in the weirdest and most remote places—here and there on the trails.

Here’s my favorite.

Rustic Bench in the Woods

Now, I wouldn’t want to sit on that thing (rising damp, you know), but I love the way it looks. Note the whopper specimens of shelf fungus growing out of it! And I love the fact that some trail maintenance person decided to make furniture out of a fallen tree. Why ever not? It sure beats schlepping a prefab bench up the trail.

So all of a sudden, I’m totally into trail benches even though, in the recent past, I scoffed at them and the idea that someone could be so wiped out after a short incline or (sometimes) no incline at all that he/she would need to collapse onto a bench. (How typically intolerant of me.)

Maybe I still do think that a little bit, but I must say I have come to appreciate the charms of these benches.

Here’s another supercool one, located near Upper Kentucky Falls.

Flintstone Sofa Near Upper Kentucky Falls

Didn’t it once belong to Fred and Wilma Flintstone? I seem to recall seeing it in their rumpus room. And guess what? I actually sat on this one for a while and enjoyed the view (and ate some chocolate-covered peanuts [if you must know]).

Labels: , ,


Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Gone Coastal

I’m on vacation! I’m on vacation! I’m on vacation! This is going to be my mantra for the remaining two days, and I am not going to answer anymore e-mails or make anymore phone calls to clients or potential clients while I am on VACATION. (Note to self: Do not bring laptop on vacation ever again.)

Jeez. Parts of the Oregon Coast hardly even look real. It’s like they’re part of a Tolkien novel.

Stairway Suitable for Hobbits

Annice Falls

Beaver Creek Falls

Gorgeous as this is, I shared the trail with no one except dozens of snails, banana slugs, and newts. No people! Up above were birds--some of those haunting flutey-sounding birds that you never hear in the Midwest. I have an idea that they might be some type of thrush, but I don’t know why I think that.

I’ve been having some trouble relaxing on this vacation, despite the fact that there’s nothing but beauty and solitude all around me. Possibly because I haven’t closed off all the work portals? Ya think?

Also, I always try to do high-mileage hikes when I’m on vacation “to get my money’s worth” (or some such rubbish) when, in reality, I always feel like it would be nice to just sit somewhere and soak in the scenery for a while rather than march hell-for-leather up the trail, barely taking time for a nibble of beef jerky. This morning (after spending about an hour dealing with work-related crap)—CRAP!—I decided that, yes, I would make a concerted effort to relax, so I stuck a book in my pack along with my trail mix and rain gear, figuring I’d pull it out and read it while perched on a sand dune overlooking the Pacific Ocean.

The book is a novel called The Underminer, or The Best Friend Who Casually Destroys Your Life (recommended by Diana). Is anyone surprised that a book with such a title would appeal to me? Turns out it’s excellent perched-on-a-sand-dune reading material. Razor-sharp satire and not at all a tax on one’s mental energies; it would make equally good plane reading. It’s written as a series of one-sided conversations that take place in various venues from 1990 to 2004. We get only the side of the effortlessly successful Casually Life-Destroying Friend and are left to imagine what the flabby, cowering, underachieving “sort of friend” must be saying and thinking as her (his?) self-esteem is calculatedly and painfully drained from her (his?) being, drop by excruciating drop.

Sample excerpt (at a French bistro: 1995):

The tea here tastes weird. Wow, where did you read about this place again?

OK, I’ll tell you. You know that children’s book that I wrote really fast for no reason, It’s a Funny, Sunny Day? Well, apparently, who knew, it’s selling like crazy and can barely stay on the shelves. So the publisher is begging for a three-book series.

And I just got another voiceover gig! It’s so funny. They just like my voice so I don’t even leave my house, I just call it in. I don’t know how it happened, I just sort of fell into it. You should try it. but it’s really hard to get into. But you should try it!

I have to admit, I’m a bit surprised that I’m still reading. I read a few chapters and basically thought, "OK. I get the gist of this; I don’t need to read any more, especially when I’ve got like four other books (most of them about carnival sideshows [?!?]) with me to read," but I find myself strangely drawn to read on. It’s like watching a train wreck in slow motion—or something.

Labels: , ,