Thursday, January 24, 2008

The Chill East Wind

This is the 24th day in a row I've gotten my butt outside and taken a walk and the 24th day in a row I've posted a Project 365/366 photo. I've been loving doing both, but, boy-howdy, was it cold and windy today. Just the sort of weather I thought I'd gotten shut of by moving away from Chicago.

There were tons of great photo opps today, but it was murder having to take off my gloves and handle that metal camera in the wind. I suffer for my art. Yeah, right.

It's been interesting to see what each day will yield. Some days I'm not really thrilled with any of the photos I take; other days I end up with several that I quite like. Then I have trouble making a decision about which one is going to be the official photo of the day.

Today, was one of those days. I couldn't decide between the bubblewrap jellyfish lanterns and this rusted Medusa with her beer can boobs. I finally went with the jellyfish since they were being buffeted around by the chill east wind just like I was today. Plus, will they look as compelling the next time I'm out if the wind isn't blowing and the sky isn't so vividly blue? Will they even still be there in a few weeks or will the elements have shredded them or will neighborhood toughs have stolen them?

Yes, I know I am taking this project just a smidge too seriously.



Sunday, January 20, 2008

That's Kinda Interesting

I went on a fantastic snowshoeing trip yesterday. I don't know why I keep forgetting how much I enjoy the snow (in small, controlled doses). We've got the perfect arrangement here: go up to Mount Hood to play in the snow for a day, then come back down to Portland where all precipitation falls as rain (or, occasionally, wintry mix).

I have to say that the snowshoeing knocked any residual Januweariness I might have been experiencing right on its ass. The longer I snowshoed the more elated and pumped full of energy I became, tromping over the cushiony snow with a goofy grin on my face. I was practically manic by the time we finished up the trip, babbling on and on about how great it all was.

The trip also gave me the opportunity to have an extended conversation (I guess it was a conversation) with the 16-year-old boy seated next to me on the van. I fully expected him to say exactly nothing to me for the entire trip, plus my friend A. was on my other side, so I figured I'd just talk to her. But before the van had even gotten on the freeway, Mr. 16 introduced himself to us and quite politely tossed his two cents into our discussion about Portland's various Tae Kwan Do schools.

Soon I found myself fielding question after question from Mr. 16. For example:

Mr. 16: Like how cold did it get in the winter when you lived in Chicago?
Me: Probably about 20 below was the coldest it ever got, but with wind chill it could get close to 50 below.
Mr. 16: That's kinda interesting. Did people go out when it was that cold?
Me: Yeah, if they had to.
Mr. 16: That's kinda interesting. What do you think people from Chicago would think about Portland winters?

I swear he responded to every single thing I said with "That's kinda interesting." Sometimes he'd volunteer some piece of related info to me, always prefacing it with "It's kinda interesting..." For instance, "It's kinda interesting but next year our high school is going to be classified as a 6A school instead of a 5A school."

Anyway, it was kinda interesting that this kid seemed so interested in what I might have to say. How come when I was 16, no 16-year-old boy ever paid that much attention to me? But now that I'm old enough to be the mom of a 16-year-old boy? Different story.

Speaking of moms, this kid's mom was actually on the van with us. She was seated right behind us and made sure he didn't starve to death on the way up to the mountain, passing muffins and other sustenance over the seat at regular intervals. Surely it's a bit unusual for a 16-year-old boy to elect to hang out with his mom for a whole day? I know for a fact that nothing (not even a 10-pound bag of weed) could have persuaded my brother at age 16 to spend the day with our mom. Anyway, this 16-year-old boy was very nice to his mom, I noticed. From what I could tell, the last couple of miles of the snowshoe trip were pretty much a death march for her, but he hung back and stayed close to her, which I thought was very sweet (and very mature) of him.

On the way back home, most people in the van conked out, but, being on that manic snowshoeing high (mentioned above), I remained extremely chipper and ready to answer more questions. Mr. 16 was prepared with scads more questions. He wanted to know if I'd ever seen any wolves in Oregon. I said that I didn't think there were any populations of wolves in Oregon. (Now I'm suddenly an expert on Oregon wildlife? He's the one who's lived in Oregon his whole life, not me.). Then he said, "Let me change the animal then. What about elk?"

I can't remember exactly how I answered that, but I know that he found it kinda interesting.



Thursday, January 17, 2008


The weirdest birdbath ever!
Originally uploaded by marstinia.
If you were shopping for a birdbath, would you ever in a jillion years buy this one? It's horrifying. Look at the simpering expression on that thing's face. B says that it looks like he's "cutting farts." I say it looks like he's doing a half-assed version of the yoga pose navasana.
That elf isn't using its abs at all!

My sister, who took this photo and who deserves full marks for documenting such an abomination (located in Chicago, if you must know), states that if she were a bird she wouldn't go near it. Excellent advice.

Who designs things like this and who on Earth buys them? I ran across a similarly twee totebag today. It's a few notches down on the kooky scale from the birdbath, but still. Hang Ten!



Monday, January 14, 2008

Dead Crow on the Sidewalk

A couple of days ago, B and I found ourselves having to detour around a dead crow slumped in the middle of our neighbor's sidewalk. Ew! Gross! Ick! Yuck! How did it die? West Nile virus? Avian flu? And is it shedding virus like crazy in all directions? That sidewalk is a major thoroughfare for dog walkers, little kids on bikes, sketchy characters carrying poorly concealed tall boys in brown paper sacks, neighborhood cats, and me! We don't need no stinkin' crows getting in our way.

That frickin' thing was still there festering away as of yesterday, infecting (or not) goodness knows what. I told myself that if it was still there today (Monday), I'd find out what city bureau to call to have the carcass removed.

I guess I was procrastinating this morning, because I made searching out the dead-crow removal number my top priority. It was surprisingly easy to find. Portland, it so happens, is really on top of things when it comes to picking up dead birds. Here's the number in case you ever find a dead crow (or magpie or jay) on your property (Multnomah County residents only): 503-988-NILE.

Not too scary that the number spells out NILE! Jeez. I felt compelled to find out a bit more about West Nile virus, now that there was (potentially) a giant heap of it not 30 feet from our house. Turns out that birds cannot transmit it to humans (at least according to the one source I checked). By the way, I did all this before I had actually checked to see if the crow was still on the sidewalk. It wasn't. D'oh! Anyway, for future reference, I now know what to do should this problem ever crop up again. And it could.

You see, this was the second dead crow I've encountered in the past couple of months. Last fall, I was walking along in another neighborhood and saw a crow cawing away (the way they do) while perched on a power line. Suddenly it just plummeted to the ground with a hideous black thud. Dead. (I was so astonished that I crossed the street to investigate [without getting insanely close, of course].) Spooky and freaky the way that happened. I assumed that the crow had somehow gotten itself electrocuted, but I did some half-assed research later that pretty much indicated that it was impossible for crows to electrocute themselves. So. There may be some kind of crow epidemic afoot. Beware.



Thursday, January 10, 2008


Grayness + rain + more than usually inflated spare tire around my middle = the mid-January slump. Fuzzy math, I know, but I'm feeling a bit out of sorts. I'm sure if I were to look back through my archives I'd find that I write a blog entry about the January blahs every January—probably at just about this time—but I am feeling too lazy to go back and check.

Root Causes

1. Eating fudge, chocolate espresso beans, ice cream, cheese, and cookies, cookies, cookies with an utter lack of restraint during the month of December.

2. Spending long hours sitting on my duff hunched over knitting projects instead of tackling not-fun projects that need be done (ranging from painting a cabinet to making a will to researching roofing companies [our house needs to be reroofed--a tear-off job. Yoikes]). While there's nothing wrong with doing a bit of knitting, I can see that I'm using it as mode of procrastination.

3. Being somewhat in limbo with current work projects. This isn't anything major, but I'm spending way too much time obsessing over what may or may not happen.

4. Worrying about the future of society, the economy, and the environment. I can't seem to convince myself that it can be anything other than frighteningly bleak. Can you?


I don't enjoy feeling like this, and I wouldn't say that I'm even depressed or anything, just focusing on obsessing about the wrong things.

At the moment, things are fine. Really. I have a great life. I'm in good health. I have a job I like. None of my friends or loved ones is ill or dying. I'm under very little stress, so I'd better enjoy life to the fullest (while I can), right? It's just that it's been hard to motivate myself to do stuff. I need to stir up some energy, so here's what I've prescribed for myself:
  • Do a three-hour yoga workshop this Sunday (billed as "antidepressant yoga").
  • Take a snowshoeing trip next weekend.
  • Walk every day. (This is helping—even though I've sometimes had to dress from stem to stern in waterproof clothing.)
  • Keep doing Project 365/366--I am getting way more enjoyment out of this than I ever anticipated. I highly recommend it for anyone who owns a camera.
  • Avoid as much as possible all the hoo-ha over the primaries. I'll wait to get involved in political work until after the candidates have been nominated, and I know who the heck we're dealing with. (Will the DNC please stop calling me and sending me a shiteload of mail until then?)
  • Plan a vacation to Yellowstone National Park. How is it that we've never been there? And how is it that we didn't even go on a vacation last year?
  • Limit myself to one slice of bread a day and one beer a week. This is going to be tough!
  • Eat lots more root vegetables!
  • Make sure I do one fun/rewarding thing for myself every day while at the same time getting one onerous task (from my long list of onerous tasks that I've been putting off forever) out of the way.

Wish me luck!



Friday, January 04, 2008

Project 365

So far, so good with my plan to take a walk every day. As added motivation, I've signed up for Project 365*, a Flickr photo group whose members post a photo a day to the pool. (Shout-out to Marilyn for posting about the project and for her inspiring photos.) I'm really pretty excited about the idea, not only as a way of melting some of the too too solid flesh off of my arse but as a way to pay more attention to my surroundings.

In fact, I just got back from a walk. Thanks (but no thanks) to the possible implosion of one work project and a stall-out on another, I've not got a lot of work on my plate for the next few days. That's OK. As I walked, the sun unexpectedly came out and the sky cleared and became a lovely baby-blanket blue. It got warm enough and dry enough for the neighborhood cats to venture out beyond their porches. I even saw an earwig. Can summer be far off?

Here's today's photo:

Day 4/366: Christmas in the Rubbish Bin

My set is here. Four so far, and 362 to come.

*Yeah, I know, this year has 366 days.

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Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Oompah-pah, Ching, Ching, Ching!

B and I spent the frigid afternoon of New Year's Eve roaming around the terra incognita that is southwest Portland, which, as we found out, is chockful of hilltop cemeteries with amazing views of this immense pile of powdered sugar.

Ahavai Sholom Cemetery was impeccably maintained but deserted, with some ultramodern headstones.

Modern Headstone

Note all the medals on Leon Plotkin's chest.

It's Nice to Be Important But It's More Important to Be Nice

I like the humble epitaph (is it an epitaph?).

But my absolute favorite headstone of all time has to be this one that I saw at Riverview Cemetery.

Obsolete Job Title

Not many people bill themselves as traveling musicians anymore, do they (even though traveling is certainly a major part of all working musicians' lives)? Imagine actually putting that on your headstone (or your tax forms). You might as well identify yourself as a minstrel or a ne'er-do-well.

What was even weirder about this headstone was that it occupied this narrow strip of ground between the cemetery road (how symbolic!) and a sort of mini-cliff. The headstone is just crammed in there, about three inches from the edge of the pavement. Technically, I suppose, it isn't even correct to call it a headstone, because the body must have been buried parallel to the headstone rather than perpendicular--no space for that. Or maybe it's just the guy's ashes that are buried there. No one else is buried on that strip, not surprisingly. What's Allen Joseph Griffin's story, I wonder? B pictures him as being one of those "one-man band"-type guys who would have played about eight different musical instruments all at once. You know, the kind with a pair of dwarf cymbals strapped to the inside of each knee. Oompah-pah, ching, ching, ching!

After the cemetery ramble we came home and had a super-exciting New Year's Eve, which included a bottle of Inversion IPA apiece, a Pepperoni Supreme pizza, and a partial viewing of Louis Malle's classic (although pretentiously narrated) documentary Phantom India (1969). By 10:30 PM, I was all partied out and went upstairs to bed.

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