gardening, holidays, nature, photography

An Amethyst Cap for the New Year

“If you don’t have a song to sing
you’re okay

you know how to get along
humming . . .”

“Waltz (Better Than Fine)” — Fiona Apple

On the last day of the year, an Anna’s Hummingbird appeared, perching gently on the edge of a cut rose bush stem. I loved the way The Cornell Lab of Ornithology described them “no larger than a ping-pong ball and no heavier than a nickel . . .with their iridescent emerald feathers and sparkling rose-pink throats, they are more like flying jewelry than birds.” Their Anna photos also use a thorny perch and float on the edge of a twig.

“Anna’s Hummingbird was originally named Ornismya anna by René Primevère Lesson in 1829, based on specimens collected by Paolo-Émilio Botta and owned by the duke and duchess of Rivoli. Lesson regarded it as one of the most beautiful hummingbirds, on account of “the bright sparkle of a red cap of the richest amethyst…” on the male’s head, and so named it after the duchess of Rivoli, Anna de Belle Masséna. Gould (1861) placed it in a new genus, Calypte, for “not only the throat, but the entire head as glitteringly resplendent as if they had been dipped in molten metal”. Calypte is greek (Кαλυπτη) for covered or hood (Holloway 2003), a reference to the male’s iridescent crown. Males turn their head from side to side as they sing, flashing the brilliant iridescence as a signal to other hummingbirds.”

I leaned against our window into the garden and took a few photos as he visited the rosebush and feeder.




holidays, interviews, music, Vortex Music Magazine, writing

White Devils and ‘Sacred Nights’: In Conversation with David Bazan

In the darkest time of the year, perhaps even, in our culture and our larger world, Bazan invites us to “admit your despair to safe people in your life this Christmas. Be a safe person for others. Feel better. Jesus Christ, you guys.” It’s an honest Christmas wish we could all find some truth and light in.

David Bazan has been remixing and remastering a lot of different things lately. His music. His workflow. His life. He’s been incorporating old songs and sensibilities into new endeavors, like releasing his first music video, embarking on a documentary about his “existential, artistic and family life,” and touring with a very unlikely holiday album collected from annual yuletide song releases, dating back to his Pedro the Lion days.

No matter the sound—from guitar strings to symphonics or synthesizer—nor the venue—whether it’s a house show or concert hall—one beautiful consistency remains in Bazan’s music: his raw, emotive vocal delivery of difficult topics, from faith to politics and all the human faults in between.

READ the rest at the Source: White Devils and ‘Sacred Nights’: In Conversation with David Bazan

family, food, friends, health, holidays, humor, love, marriage, pets, politics, relationships, technology, travel, tv, weather, work & employment

Seasonal Love & Minor Miseries

So let me just jump right in here and catch you up on the post-Holiday bliss . . . .

December was a CRAZY month. A car accident followed by a week-long visit from my sister & brother-in-law that involved beer tastings, strippers, lost IDs, credit cards, medication, a “Getting To Know You” session with the TSA, a flurry of found & lost employment, a crippling snow storm and a major abdominal surgery . . .

Not much of a Christmas & New Year’s, but – what can you do? Life intervenes sometimes and puts the smack down on all your sparkly plans.

So yeah, from car to job and health matters – it’s been buckets of suck lately, but thank goodness i have my Joe, for better or worse and all.

The Bunny Goes Bang . . .

Joe and i were in a car accident early in December (my poor VW Rabbit). We were simply dropping off a friend so she could avoid taking the bus. Luckily, it was a slo-mo, non-jarring crash that no one was hurt in. In short, some jackoff signaled to go right, then changed his mind and veered into us, even though his lane had ended. This sent us banging into the large SUV to our left, effectively smashing my left quarter panel, taking out the left headlight cluster and ripping my bumper off in one arc over my hood and into the street behind us.

i was all in my Zen-state, post-yoga and coolly remarked from the passenger seat, “well, there goes the bumper,” as it sailed overhead. I was not pleased to discover the no-fault law here in Oregon. The police didn’t even take a report?!?! But we did have two witnesses who volunteered information without even being asked, so it was clearly NOT our fault. i rode home with the bumper in the backseat curled up on the ends like a big, red-lipped smile while the broken eye of the headlamp cluster sat dark and blinded in the trunk.

Surprisingly, all told, it wasn’t too much of an inconvenience. Even though it was several days before my sister & brother-in-law was scheduled to visit us from Indianapolis and i thought, “great, now what?” The body shop took us VERY early the next morning and gave us a free loaner car, a pimp-ass white ’00 Ford Taurus with the body shop name emblazoned on the doors. The smell of faux strawberry walloped you in the face when you got in, which was better than say, cigarette smoke, though the history of burn marks dotted the seats exposing the fleshy, pale foam below. Then i discovered the source of the scent.

There was a Little Trees air freshener hanging from the steering wheel. This reminded me of an old friend Dave, who became a police officer and used a special sort of profiling. He noticed that a high proportion of criminals in an effort to mask the smell of open intoxicants and / or drugs have an awful lot of the Little Trees air fresheners hanging from air vents and from their rearview mirrors. He referred to these collections as a “felony forest” and a sure sign of unlawful nonsense being perpetrated. So, in all of its red and white, cloyingly fruit-scented glory, i thereby dubbed the pimp car “Strawberry Shortcake Mobile.”

We had the estimate the next day – $5,081.00 worth of damage (we merely paid the $200 deductible). All of this was completed within a week and my car looked factory show room new. Plus – anyone getting $2,000 worth of work done qualifies for their “Detail For Life” plan, which entitles me to come in four times a year and they will clean the inside and polish up the outside of the car for FREE. Even if i sell the car, for the life of the car. The body work also took care of all minor road, gravel, dings scrapes and insults on the first half of the car since i owned it, so THAT was great too!

Jobless but not Hopeless . . .

Joe is happy & successful with his job at PSU and thank goodness he has a good salary and has made good friends & contacts with his workmates. My job search, not so much. Not since October. i started one, then had my driver’s window smashed & my car broken into while working. i could see someone else nearby had the ol’ window trick pulled on them as well. It was next to a dimly lit playground, plenty of places for crazies to crouch. No way i was hanging out there. i drove home sitting on a grocery bag that nite and had the police come to my house to take the report.

To work there, i was spending more money on transportation and parking (unsafely) than i was making and was generally miserable serving happy hour food to VIPs (Visibly Intoxicated Pricks), hotel and rich asshole marina guests. Nice enough people to work for & with, but i am accustomed to a much faster pace and different atmosphere. i quit that job.

i was also interviewed by a winery, Chateau Ste. Michelle (Erath) one of the oldest in Oregon wine country, until Cigarette giant Altria Group, which owns Marlboro, announced an agreement on Sept. 8 to buy smokeless tobacco firm UST for $10.4 billion. As part of the deal, Altria acquired UST’s Chateau Ste. Michelle Wine Estates. In all that, the position fell through or more or less, evaporated when they began reorganizing.

i also interviewed with a woman who was opening a new wine shop. i suspect her bank backing bottomed out or perhaps she chose someone else, either way – i haven’t heard from her again. i worked one day at another wine shop. a week later, he reneged his offer and sent me a check for my time. no loss, i’m afraid i was a bad fit and didn’t make the cheerleading cuts anyway.

i’m sure everyone’s been saturating themselves in the depressing news about the shitty US economy, banks, mortgage crisis, unemployment rates & the systems supporting it crashing & drained. All bad news about how it affects things both locally and globally and i am here to tell you, it’s no bullshit. Being in the service industry, i am also keenly aware that dining out is one of the first things to be culled, the first belt hole to cinch up from the family budget, making my employment search options even more grim.

Then i read this article: Portland’s restaurant scene in trouble. And thought – well hell . . . no wonder i can’t find fuck-all for work! so, i may want to reconsider my line of inquiry and use some of my other “job skills.” this of course being freelance photography or administrative desk slave. i may just start writing that novel i’ve been threatening for years. I’m looking forward to seeing what the Hope & Change guy has in mind and more, what he puts into action.

Briefly, the beer & the boobs . . .

my sister’s visit was mostly, fun. and there are stories i could tell which were hinted at in the opening paragraph, but i will protect the innocent and spare my sister and her husband the embarrassment of me airing a couple kooky escapades that ended in ill consequences . . .

It was during the week of my sister’s visit that i had the surgery consult after an ultrasound revealed several 2mm stones in that useless little bile storing organ, so it slowed things down considerably for us, in a city known for, in addition to its natural beauty, quirky places and fresh local food, its prevalence of brew pubs and strip clubs.

Now – before i get into this last bit, make no mistake, we are eating, and living and loving and surviving just fine. Oregon is wonderful; Portland was not a bad move and my Joe and i are as  happy & close as ever, Just little irritating life issues have been getting in the way, like, my gallbladder, for instance.

but let me back up . . .

You Don’t Have The Gall . . .

i had an episode several weeks back where i was waiting to see Quantum Of Solace on Sunday’s opening weekend when, apropos of nothing, i had extreme abdominal pain and pressure – it was so bad and intense i thought it was a heart attack. or a really bad taco. Joe refunded our tickets and drove me home immediately. I thought for sure i would have to go to the emergency room! Turns out that time and the 5 repeat performances afterward were gallbladder attacks. I had a mean, miserable headache for three days after the first one!

and let me tell you – i don’t wish that pain on anyone!

It was as if my body were hi-jacked, my heart pounded, i would sweat and waves of nausea built up into a high pressure weather system that radiated pain concentrated in the center of my chest, lateral right, and shoulder. then i’d wretch and writhe for anywhere from 30 mins to more than an hour until it passed. no position, being still, Maalox or movement eased the pain. the only thing that seemed to mitigate it somewhat was glugging down a big glass of water as the attack symptoms began and i began to ride it out.

Generally, i just felt sorta weak, dizzy & fatigued and simply tried to make myself comfortable, warm, sleep a lot and took it really easy. i’d have several hours a day where i felt good and tried to do some writing and editing photos or read or catch a flick, just to keep myself occupied.

i had another bout of a lesser attacks on and off over several nites following the first major attack, these while my sister was in town. It was all i could do to try to be remotely fun, a decent host, and not a total drag. Those tail end attacks were mostly just overwhelming nausea, pressure, heart pounding, then sudden drop in blood pressure and dizziness (like fainting), the sudden multiple bowel movements/diarrhea (sorry, TMI all indications of a sick gallbladder), but at least it didn’t include any monstrous pain or vomiting. i had some anti-nausea medication (Phenegran), and i took only 1/2 a Vicodin a few times to stave off any pain.

Eating was scary as you can imagine. everything i put into my mouth i worried about, “what will trigger an attack, this time?” i felt WAY too full after even a small meal (which was mostly, lite protein, soups, the BRAT diet (bananas, rice, applesauce, toast), juices, mint tea, gingerale, etc.) Despite all that, i sometimes felt like there was a lump in my throat, as if it were food that hadn’t gone down. a sort of creepy indigestion. This really pissed me off, and since i love food, i grew quickly fed up with the baby diet!

i was of course, drinking lots of water & tried to avoid any fatty foods or anything that might trigger an attack & send the gallbladder into secretion or action or whatever it is that it does to try to clear out the multiple stones that are in there. Thus, the suggestion that i hydrate more than usual and at the onset of attack, drink down a big glass to try to i guess, move the bile along.

None of this is fun to read, i imagine, but i suppose it helps me to assess what i experienced and to tune in with my body, recounting what i had to do to nurse myself along until i had that evil little sack of pearls out of there! So – thank you for taking the time . . .

pumpkin in the snow

“Oh The Weather Outside is Frightful” – But The Fire Inside My Gut Isn’t So Great Either . . .

i was supposed to have my surgery on December 22nd, except, my surgery was canceled due to SNOWPOCALYPSE 2008. ( SEE my photographic evidence). Or as the local news kept referring to it “Arctic Blast.” It was reported as the most snow they’ve seen in Portland in 40 years, and in its soft, white fluffy beauty, it went about crippling the city, crushing public transportation, grinding everything to a halt. The more the snow fell, the more my anxiety mounted. i worried that in the case of an extreme emergency, we were clearly going to have a difficult to impossible time even getting out.

We were lucky enough to have already purchased snow chains from a quick jaunt Joe and my brother-in-law, Flounder took out to Bagby Hot Springs the week before the real snow hit. As the mayor, Sam Adams (yeah, like the beer guy with the funny bowl cut) reported on the news, snow chains were required to travel on Portland roads, but were also SOLD OUT locally. How helpful. We got to try them out a few days before and survived our maiden voyage out to get cat food and return & rent new DVDs for the Holiday pre-surgery stretch.

The only trouble we had was getting back into the garage, if you can believe it. It was messiest in our back alley, kind of a dirty slushie. One of the chains twisted up & fell off, we retrieved it, got a little mired on an ice patch, and i pushed Joe into the driveway, but then the garage door opener and track decided NOT to work. It’s probably an easy fix, but nothing wrong with using our hands to pull the door open in the meantime of investigation. Luckily, it warmed up and some of the snow turned to rain and the roads became only slightly less sloppy the following week.

While the white shit was busy falling in heaps and mounds from the sky, it was three days before someone even answered the god damned phone at the surgery center’s office! This did not contribute to my sense of well-being. When i finally did get a human, Rose, the frazzled sistah on the other end, was mumbling some nonsense about the schedule being pushed into February, to which i declared shenanigans, “i am not waiting and feeling like this with pain, nausea and strict diet management,” i calmly explained to her. i knew it was “elective” surgery, but i was voting to have it out ASAP. So she “caught up” with the doctor and i was rescheduled for the following Monday the 29th. Sad that i have to raise hell to advocate for my own health care. but it was my first major abdominal surgery and i wanted it over with!

The F criteria . . . family, flights, fairness – does FUCK this count?

It’s been a frustrating, confusing health journey, seeing as how i am otherwise, the picture of supposed health – good diet, whole, organic foods when possible, yoga & exercise, 119 lbs, low LDL, normal EKG, healthy heart & lungs, liver function healthy and all other bloodwork levels completely within normal ranges, including thyroid. Even my surgeon said i don’t really fit most of the F criteria (Female, 40, Fat, Fertile & Fair) and remarked questioningly “doesn’t seem fair does it?” In my case, estrogen in my oral contraceptives & the environment, and family history (my aunt) might be the only risk indicators.

My mother’s initial flight had also been canceled, not enough snow plows in the city or de-icers for the planes. But she was able to rebook, came out Sunday and stayed for a week while i recovered at home. Sure, the main calming factor is, my mother is a nurse and she was able to help Joe administer my post-surgery care, but really, when i get down to the basic emotional component of what was happening to my body, i wanted my mommy!

Ladies & Gentlemen, Nurses, Anesthesiologists and a Surgeon! The Main Event . . .

The laparoscopic surgery (cholecystectomy) involved four small incisions for light, scope, suction and instruments, and they pulled that sucker out through an incision above my belly button. Weee! It’s same day outpatient (unless they have to convert to an open cholecystectomy), routinely safe, well-practiced and the most commonly performed surgery. So, you know, i made sure i tortured myself on the internet, reading up on all the truly rare complications incurred during or after, until i whipped myself up into hypochondriac frenzy. i don’t recommend this method of education, but i was prepared for the worst, so i came out with just about the best, of course.

i scrubbed up the nite before with special special surgery soap called CHG (Chlorhexidine Gluconate). It was all wrapped in foil and had a spongy side to wet and release soap and scrubby side to get under nailbeds. It was quite a humbling ritual to remove my wedding bands, my moonstone rings, the small drop earrings i haven’t taken out in more than 6 years, my moonstone necklace & toe rings. And then, the morning of my surgery, absent of all body decoration, i used the second CHG provided me and was instructed – “no shaving, no deodorant, no lotion, no perfume.” No germs. No scent. No signature.

i showed up in comfy clothes, at the Sunnyside Medical Center, had 2-hour prep which included consent forms, a nurse to take my information, a nurse to start my IV, plus an anesthesiologist and his nurse with another battery of questions.

“Do you have anything of value, any jewelry, electronics, medications . . .” the nurse rattled off a big list in rapid fire succession.

“No. No. No No, nope. Nothing. i come to you naked and without frills.” i answered lightheartedly.

She laughed and gave me a big plastic snap bag with the words PATIENT BELONGINGS and a name & info sticker on the front, then told me to take everything off and put on the lavender colored hospital gown that had the words “Bair Paws” and a little foot print of a bear track scrawled across my heart.  Now let me “paws” a moment. Go ahead. Groan. i don’t care. This was one of the best things i’ve ever experienced in medical care. It was a soft, longer, thick gown with the usual bum-showing slit down the back, except that it had a sideways wrap around tie so you could make yourself decent. But the best feature is what the thing actually DID.

Pre-op, surgery and recovery areas are usually kept a little chilly to discourage bacteria growth, so you end up with minor hypothermia, and they merely toss an extra blanket on you to stave off the cold. Not with this thing though . . . the Bair Paws had a port in the side where a warming unit hose attached and a temperature control box with a dial was placed beside me. i suppose if you’re the hot-blooded type, you could choose cool air, but not me . . . crank that sucker up! In moments, it filled with warm air that puffed the gown up a little and filled the little channels inside, flooding warm air over my whole body as i lay there waiting for surgery. Awesome! i wanted to take it home with me when i left!

Speaking of comfort, while i lay there the nurse asked me things beyond the normal health battery that crossed over into personal wellness. “Are you employed?” “How would you say your stress levels are?” “On a scale of 0-10, how much pain are you in right now?” And one of the strangest things the nurse asked me was: “Do you feel safe where you live?” Which one could interpret as, “Is your neighborhood kinda sketchy and do you think you can be a bit incapacitated for a week without the worry of having to fend off an attacker or break-in?” Or perhaps an equally unpleasant implication “Is your spouse / partner / parent / roommate abusive or uncooperative?” But maybe this was just a general assessment of “Do you fear having no help or support during your recovery at home or are you safe in the knowledge that you have a loved one or family & friends to help you recuperate?”

The anesthesiologist asked if i’d like a mild sedative but i felt pretty calm and warm and content. Everyone was so pleasant, calm, kind and assuring. The woman who put in my IV was a pro, it didn’t hurt at all.

“Would you like to see your family now before we take you back? It’s almost time,” the nurse said, her eyes motioning to the clock that was 7 minutes from 8am.

“That would be nice,” i said softly and as she walked away i looked beyond her to see that one of the surgery swing doors had a feminine scrolled, handwritten sign taped to it that read “Door To Narnia.” And this made me laugh.

My mother & Joe came back to pat my hand, rub my feet, kiss my forehead and cheeks and assure me before my passage into the back of the wardrobe and on into snow-laden Narnia.

i was wheeled back past a few operating room doors all looking set for procedures, heads wrapped in institution green caps bobbing in and out of the square fields of glass in the doors and finally, there i was, last door on the right. They bumped my hospital bed / gurney against another set below operating lamps and a nice young man with his mask pulled up halfway told me his name, then a nice woman across the way named Tammy said hello, then from my left the surgeon and another nurse came in.

i mentioned i’d like pictures of my gallbladder, which drew a couple strange looks to which i explained, “Hey, i want to see the thing that’s been causing me so much pain. Can i have some of the stones too?”

“We don’t give them out like candy honey,” the nurse to my left quipped, “they usually get sent off to the lab.”

“Well, it’s just that i spent some time making them, so i want to see them too.”

“i hear some people make bracelets and jewelry out of them,” remarked Right Nurse.” i had already thought of this and in fact had joked about it just days before.

Then the male nurse to my right said, “Ok, scoot over to this bed,” while Left Nurse gently instructed, “Move up just a little so your head is on the pillow, your bed is a little lower.”

While i did this, Left Nurse injected something magical into the midsection of my IV and Right Male Nurse put a mask lightly to my nose and mouth with, “Some oxygen?” which seemed mostly a statement but went up a little at the end to form a question.

“Yes, please,” i half-thought and thought nothing else.

There was no counting back from 10 or 100, there was only sleep, then surgery for 45 minutes to an hour, and then i was suddenly awake. None of this drifting back or blurred cinematic visions of white coats flurrying about or a nimbus of faces hovering near me while lights flashed in my eyes checking for response. It was, “Some oxygen?” then, i was wide awake in a bed somewhere in recovery, back in my Bair Paws and feeling amazing. i don’t know what drugs they gave me, but it was more than relief, more than feeling that some offending organ making me sick had been removed. i felt at peace, warm, well-rested, comfortable, not cloudy, no pain, and an oddly light sense of elation. Truly happy.

A nurse picked up the phone at a desk directly across from me. i smiled at her over the tops of my feet. “Yes, she’s very alert,” she reported to someone on the other end.

i was wheeled back to the room in a line of beds where i was first admitted and my mom & Joe came in to see me. it was less than an hour of recovery where i chewed two cups of shaved ice, gulped down 3 apple juices, had two glasses of water and some graham crackers, proved that i could walk across the hall & urinate and i was free to go. A funny little old man cracked corny jokes and wheeled me down to the car where Joe helped me into the passenger seat, we were home before noon, and i rested for a week.

warm recovery

REAL food . . .

My mother & Joe ordered Hawaiian pizza and hot wings that first nite, and sure, i had my juice and water and all that nonsense, but for weeks, i had been craving fried chicken, so i am happy to report i had a slice of pizza with cheese stuffed crust and three little nubby chicken wings just hours after surgery and was SO happy. Nothing like jumpstarting your system by challenging it. Shortly after that i mostly behaved and ate more mild foods: brothy soups, applesauce, cottage cheese, peaches, saltines, tea, gingerale, and managed to destroy a box of graham crackers.

Then my mom would get to cooking and i found myself eating spaghetti and meat sauce, crock-pot slow-cooked pot roast with carrots, potatoes and buttered biscuits, happy, fluffy clouds of 2 scrambled eggs nestled into Franz white bread with a light spread of mayo and cut into little triangles. She made sure i got my protein and ate “real food” as she called it. None of this “organic” shit we usually eat which as everyone knows, is made of ground-up hippies and probably caused my gallbladder to go rogue in the first place. There may be such a thing as eating TOO healthy and not eating some evil stuff once in awhile.

But man, my mother packed this house with 12-packs of three different sodas: Vernors, a Michigan hometown gingerale favorite, Dr. Pepper and Fresca. Then there was a deluge of junk food snacks: three different types of chips, 2 dips, ranch dressing, a box of See’s chocolates, a canister of See’s nuts, a HUGE canister of three flavored popcorns (cheese, butter and caramel), a pound of Twizzler’s red licorice, Raisinettes and Resse’s peanut butter cups that were Christmas Tree shaped. That was just what i took immediate stock of, there was plenty more. i have considered hosting a movie nite or a party just to get RID of some of this!

I’d Like to Introduce You To My Girls, Vicki and Pam . . .

Diet was one concern which seemed to go fine but pain management was a deep worry. i thought for sure that i wouldn’t be able to tolerate the Vicodin, but a few experiments of breaking them in half in the weeks before the surgery proved to be promising and when i came home i simply tapered as the days went and remained a little sore sometimes, but pain free. First two days were every 4-5 hours, days three and four every 6-8, by days 5 & 6 i was taking one at noon and one at midnite, plus a little Motrin for the pain and swelling and by the end of the week and the beginning of next, i was taking ½ a Vicodin at nite to sleep through the nite peacefully.

Though infrequent, my usual fall back sleep aid is Tylenol PM, who i call “Pam,” and just one, because the suggested dosage of two guarantees i won’t be attending anything the next day until after, oh, say 3pm. i also nicknamed my Vicodin, “Vicki.” i only need ½ of her. And the girls now, well, i just keep ’em around for laughs and a good time if i need to just knock myself the fuck out of consciousness for the nite.

Here Kitty, Kitty Or, Taming The Beast . . .

i’ve been introducing food slowly and lightly as a one at a time lineup to my digestion, sort of like tossing bananas and tennis balls and roller skates and live goats into a lion’s den with “here you go – what do you think of THIS?” Experimental interaction. And because what i know of food is occupational, i think of my gallbladder in food & restaurant terms as having been “86ed” or as i said to Joe while pawing through the random generators for the words and distractedly typing on the computer the other day, “my gallbladder’s been deleted.”

To follow that theme – i’m sure it will be awhile before my digestive system reboots & comes back online. And i’m certain that i won’t be able to hork down a bacon cheeseburger and waffle fries without incident anytime soon. i don’t want to piss anything off in there . . . i know very well it’s a first class luge ticket for any food that offends my system currently rewiring itself and trying to figure out why the bile salts storage facility closed down. Sorry, love – it’s the economy. Things are tough all over. Soldier on. Now here’s some Indian Food, some wine, some corn chowder, a fried egg sandwich, some potato chips – oh, no sorry, i take that back. Baked potato chips from now on.

All told, if you find out your gallbladder is angry and you are considering just leaving it in and dealing with it, DON’T! You have to EAT to LIVE, and there was no way i was going to compromise my lifestyle & diet in fear of food and future attacks. i already had the basics and took care of my body, now i just have to bounce all the way back. The incisions are barely anything, one inside my belly-button that you can’t see, one barely the length and width of the edge of my pinkie fingernail, one smaller than the circumference of a pencil top eraser, and the largest one is about a centimeter. That one has character too . . . a little red edge, like its smirking at me which will fade and flatten over time, plus a little kitten whisker edge of a clear, dissolving suture, which i may snip if it doesn’t go away soon.

The cost of this whole adventure via the care of Kaiser Permanente? $14. Two office visits at $5 apiece, $4 for four presecriptions. No cost for the EKG, bloodwork or ultrasound. Thank you Jesus. Thank you Joe. Thank you PSU. Thank you State Of Oregon.

Well, that’s enough for now. i’m sure i have left anyone who made it this far with plenty to digest . . . sorry about that – you can see what occupies my mind these days.

And you’ll just have to forgive me, you see – i’m not all there . . .

books, food, holidays, humor, love, photography, tv, weather

yesterday’s tidbits

where are you going deer?

things seen and done in the course of a day . . .

+ First thing, i started my day, pulled out of my garage and drove 20 feet before a doe stopped in front of my car on a quiet residential block, panicked, scrabbled on the pavement, then ran full-tilt boogie, leaping and sprinting down the street.

+ Went to a job interview in a posh place, and promptly made up my mind after meeting the head MFIC, that i would continue my search.

+ Went to a garden center, picked out two potted burgundy colored mums & vegetable seeds for Spring, then hauled two bags of soil to the trunk.

+ Ate a sub sandwich with salt and vinegar chips while sitting on the sunny deck in the backyard.

+ Completed a phone interview for a job at an established Oregon winery while pacing my garden.

+ Scheduled another interview with a wine shop for the following day.

+ Ran two loads of laundry and hand washed my “delicates.”

+ Joe and i went to Starbuck’s and got a pumpkin spice latte and a salted caramel hot chocolate. mmmm.

+ We then went to pick out carving pumpkins and Halloween candy in case we stay home, or to set out for the little monsters in a free for all grab-bowl. i’m sure we’ll have leftovers . . .

+ Had dinner with Joe at a “Carribean” place, courtesy of a 2 for 1 entrée coupon, with dishes from Ethiopia, Hawaii, Thailand, New Orleans and Jamaica. i settled on a crazy tropical drink and Kalua Pork – a Hawaiian slow-cooked, smoky shredded pork pile with grilled onions, sweet peppers, Tamarindo BBQ sauce, garlic mashed potatoes, tropical slaw and cornbread. speaking of leftovers, it’s about to become lunch.

+ Settled down in front of the computer to edit some photo projects, including a few from our recent hiking and “camping” trip out to Bend, Oregon.

+ Watched some quality Daily Show and Colbert Report with Joe & Odin.

+ Dug into the Halloween Candy and ate a Halloween orange colored Kit-Kat.

+ Settled down into bed with a good book and an even better husband.

education, family, friends, health, holidays, love, marriage, nature, philosophy, psychology

The Invitation – for Valentine’s Day

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Oriah Mountain Dreamer wrote the prose poem The Invitation after returning one night from a party where she had found herself frustrated by the level of superficiality that these events often function at: ‘I just sat down and wrote my responses to all the usual questions that people ask – Where do you live? Who do you know? What do you do for a living? And I wrote what I really wanted to know, not just from others, but also from myself in a sense.’

Every so often i revisit this poem to remind myself the qualities i value in a mate and the ways in which love and companionship can be measured and cherished.

This – especially, on Valentine’s Day . . .

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The Invitation
by Oriah Mountain Dreamer

It doesn’t interest me what you do for a living. I want to know what you ache for, and if you dare to dream of meeting your heart’s longing.

It doesn’t interest me how old you are. I want to know if you will risk looking like a fool for love, for your dream, for the adventure of being alive.

It doesn’t interest me what planets are squaring your moon. I want to know if you have touched the center of your own sorrow, if you have been opened by life’s betrayals or have become shriveled and closed from fear of further pain! I want to know if you can sit with pain, mine or your own, without moving to hide it or fade it, or fix it.

I want to know if you can be with joy, mine or your own, if you can dance with wildness and let the ecstasy fill you to the tips of your fingers and toes without cautioning us to be careful, to be realistic, to remember the limitations of being human.

It doesn’t interest me if the story you are telling me is true. I want to know if you can disappoint another to be true to yourself; if you can bear the accusation of betrayal and not betray your own soul; if you can be faithless and therefore trustworthy.

I want to know if you can see beauty even when it’s not pretty, every day, and if you can source your own life from its presence.

I want to know if you can live with failure, yours and mine, and still stand on the edge of the lake and shout to the silver of the full moon, “Yes!”

It doesn’t interest me to know where you live or how much money you have. I want to know if you can get up, after the night of grief and despair, weary and bruised to the bone, and do what needs to be done to feed the children.

It doesn’t interest me who you know or how you came to be here. I want to know if you will stand in the center of the fire with me and not shrink back.

It doesn’t interest me where or what or with whom you have studied. I want to know what sustains you, from the inside, when all else falls away.

I want to know if you can be alone with yourself and if you truly like the company you keep in the empty moments.

family, friends, holidays, travel

Holiday Travel

Well . . .

We got back from Rome and semi-settled back into our workaday lives. Now it’s time for the big Holiday Road trip.

Joe and i are traveling to Rock Hill, South Carolina to visit his family where his sisters, Rachael and Laura will be there as well as my friend Graham.

Then we are off to Detroit to see my family, including my youngest sister, Angel who just turned 15!

More stories from the road soon . . .

xoxo

dreams, family, food, friends, holidays, love, marriage, music, photography, psychology, weather

Superheroes Since September

So much life happens in between writing – sure, i toss off a few poems here and there, bread crumbs for the flitting birds to circle and chase and peck upon in my head, but after awhile, i think i get a little backed up. Polluted really. My brain hurts – and i get an actual headache from the need of being empty. But not in a bad way. i am full to the brim of events to reflect upon, or more, i have so much to convey, to catalogue where i’ve been, what i’ve seen, and all the emotional responses in between.

As a child, i often imagined what it would’ve been like to be Anne Frank. To live swiftly, to love, to fear and to hope so deeply in a mere 15 years, and somehow, to have the wherewithal to take the time and write it all down. I imagined what it would be like to have your secret thoughts, sketched out and told to a book/creature/confident called “kitty.” Strangely, i romanticized the idea of having my own thoughts read by others after i died, young or old, discovered in a desk nook, thumbed over and devoured. i think it is more the idea that most of us want to create a legacy than a fantasy about dying young and being immortalized.

Humans want to surpass mundanity; we want to be individually great and loved and remembered for something. Anne did it unwittingly and it was more than just a girl talking about family and school and boys and prejudice – she documented and encapsulated a dark time in history making it a crystallized horror for us to look at and in some ways, to give thanks for our lives now. Is this why we blog? To prattle on about daily events in the hopes that we are found? Or that better, we are PROfound . . .

Sometimes, i still see myself as the girl with the diary in my night table, except that not only is the writing not so private, there’s a digital display for anyone in the world to locate and to read it. Though i have them and use them for other things, my tools are not paper or pen, but this monitor and this computer with a program that throws clean white sheets and perfectly scribed text and no crossing out or rubber-end erasing; it’s cut and paste and movement and manipulation and clickety-clack and SAVE AS until it’s fitfully complete.

And what will they discover of me? i thought about this upon cleaning my keyboard, popping off keys to reveal multiple DNA samples, unlikely chimera tailing together: dust, dried ivy leaves, finger nail clippings, sticky bits of evaporated wine, food crumbs, cat hair, all recombining to lay out a pattern that speaks of a woman with small hands and a dislike for fingernails that make tapping noises, a someone who loves cats and plants and food and libation and cool breezes through windows to kick and stir things up a little, rather than the swatch of a dust rag.

But that’s just part of me – there is also the most important influence and the reason i am able to write at all . . . the people in my life who i spend time with, who inspire me, who i create memories with, else i’d be moaning and meowing on in my own private hell, concocting my prosaic neuroses in painstaking, exhaustive (and to be sure, wildly boring) detail. There’s plenty of that to be had about and so really, it’s a meaningful task to tell a good story about a normal life; that’s what allows us transcendence into heroes.

Wikipedia tells us that a superhero is a fictional character who is noted for feats of courage and nobility, who usually possesses abilities beyond those of normal human beings. The exhibit a strong moral code, including a willingness to risk one’s own safety in the service of good without expectation of reward. They have extraordinary powers and abilities, relevant skills, and/or advanced equipment. More often than not, they have a secret identity.

Well – my list of late, they aren’t fictionalized (well, yet, unless you count Chelsea, who wrote a book and flattered me with a request to design the cover.) i’m going to have break confidence on this one and reveal the identities of good friends and loved ones.

In June, the Monday night of my birthday, it rained. Not to be deterred and though some of the people I invited did not show, Nicole was my sweet saving grace and trooped out with me. We went out drinking like rockstars and dancing like divas, hair thick and skin slick with rain which became sweat, pressed against all those swaying bodies in the basement bar. It could’ve been a disappointing night with the no-shows and the weather, but Nicole was a true friend to me.

Tuesday it drizzled a nice haze to accompany the hangover I nursed at work the following day, but on Wednesday, there was no holding back – the sky opened up and hailed a glorious rainstorm down on us replete with lightning and thunder and flash flooding. And then the transformer blew out at the bottom of the street in a spectacular blaze, then dudded like a lame fireworks finale and darkened the block all except Joel’s house on the corner who was clearly jacked in to the electricity from the next corner over.

The houses on my street are quite old, a good deal of them declared “historic” with building markers by the nearby and omnipresent Historic Annapolis Foundation. Ours in particular falls under the category of “Chesapeake Gray” in the 19th/20th-Century Annapolis Vernacular, 1837-1921. Some of these houses still have root cellars and a good downpour can mean serious problems in the basement – the kind that require a sub pump to work and when there’s no power, there had better be a generator. On this night, there was a truck, suited with a generator rumbling at the bottom of the street for hours while other neighbors exhaustively bailed out bucket style. Luckily, this was not my fate that night leaving me to concentrate on being comfortable in my pajamas and lighting enough candles to give off the illusion of civilized living.

In this monsoon and to my darkened door, Nicole delivered me the birthday carrot cake, carefully wrapped in plastic and shielded from the rain under my porch awning when i rescued it and brought it inside. i poured a glass of Moscato dessert wine and sat down with a good portion centered on a bone white plate, decoratively trimmed with fat pears and flowers rising from the edge of the china; a happy brail inscription of bounty and beauty. no power, no internet, just my cell phone with three little bars of battery power left, so i sent merry, thankful texts as i happily and greedily devoured a wedge of orange, cream-cheese frosted goodness.

“Still living in 1785?” inquired Ryan? “oh yes. it’s Jane Austen up in this motherfucker. candlelit room like a Renaissance ballroom. quite pretty, actually,” i replied. although it was probably more Jane Eyre a la Emily Bronte. more poor girl makes good of it in the dark and damp. Soon after the umpteenth message was texted under my quick thumb, my cell phone battery died. not to be deterred, i went out front to my parked car into the long, narrow street, wading through ankle-high water rushing past me like a line of cool, silver fish swimming to meet the bay at the foot of the hill. All the ever meanwhile, i was in my grey pajama nightie with the intentions of using the auxiliary power in the car to charge my phone and continue my only connection to the outside world beyond this wicked rainstorm.

As i sat with my feet propped up on my dash, i noticed a bright orange and black umbrella lulling a promenade from side to side in the wind and coming toward my house. it ducked into my neighbor’s fence, then dipped to reveal my neighbor Joel’s familiar face. “Joel!” i called. And then had to call again as he swung around trying to figure out where the voice was coming from to discover it was from a car window, rolled down just enough to let the sound out while keeping the rain out too. He laughed at me and my non-outfit and invited me, or more, tempted me with pomegranate cosmopolitans and a warm robe. i mean, how could i refuse a bartender with a Harvard degree in said skill. Well, ok – a “Master of Mixology” degree from the Harvard Bartending School.

The robe he produced was like the coat of many colors. A terrycloth robe in magentas, teal and goldenrod. It boasted a smaller, matching version for his son. So, for the second time that week, i sat, drinking with a head full of wet hair, but this time, i danced with his dog, Schooner, who allowed me to pull him by his front paws and onto his back legs for a little spin through the kitchen. A finer partner than some men i’ve cut a rug with, i can tell you, and sweeter.

Since we got onto the topic of dressing strangely or inappropriately, for my amusement, Joel pulled out the ghosts of Halloweens past. Costumes made mostly of foam: gigantic heads with glasses, a monstrous slice of pizza you could slide your arms into and peek out through holes from, a blood spattered t-shirt to be worn while carrying plastic knives glued through boxes of Cheerios and Cinnamon Toast Crunch (a “cereal” killer) and finally, the piece de resistance: a naked, disembodied boob wearing a spiked collar and a stiff leash, the kind meant for walking invisible dogs or for, in this case, for two people to walk side by side and when begged the question, “what the hell are you supposed to be?” They could slyly answer, “Oh, we’re just two people walking abreast.”

Joel showed me pictures from a recent bike trip to Lake Tahoe where he races for Lymphoma & Leukemia. He also showed me photos from a recent wedding of his friend Brit. Joel is a wonderful father to his son, Galen, a terrific host, a great cook and a good ear to bend. And he makes a mean drink too . . . i walked home after several ruddy cosmopolitans in my coat of many colors and staved off the raindrops as i went.

And speaking of some mean drinking . . .

Esthero 18 of 74

Esthero 49 of 74

August 21st, i went to see one of my favorite female singers Esthero live at the Ram’s Head Onstage in Annapolis. This venue is small and extremely intimate and we, in fact had front row seats. (me and the 3-Ms (Megan, Meg and Melissa). The four of us were parked right up against the stage at her feet. These were feet at which lay the many shots of Jaegermeister she was able to coax from the crowd. The show progressed at a loose and silly pace of storytelling, her father taking pictures as he strolled through the crowd and around the stage, her and her brother drinking as the set grew more improve and a touch vulgar and hilarious.

But she became a Superhero to me when she pulled me up on stage to sing Superheroes with her – a song i had here on my profile for quite some time, and that’s a memory i’ll always cherish whenever i hear it. it’s not every day that a beautiful woman /rockstar you admire points to you in the crowd, compliments you on the way you sing and the way you smell, lays their head on your shoulder and then cops a feel!

Esthero 43 of 74

i only wish that Shane and i were still friends – he gave me that first CD, Breath From Another, thinking i would like it  . . . i did. besides good music and film, he also offered company and advice at a time when my life was undone. i’ll be grateful for that time even if i don’t understand what happened to make us distant. i hope he reads this and he knows that although he can be an extremely occupied but selfless recluse and though i can be a little flighty with a full plate of my own, i’m so happy he found someone to love with as much passion as he owns in this life and offers to the people around him.

Adria, a friend from work quipped recently, “you know, i’m never the bride, i’m not even the bridesmaid, i’m the bride’s waitress.” and i laughed, because i’ve listened to women “ooh” and ahh” and aww” over baby booties and matching dishware for many many years having been the waitress who brings the food, the mimosas and the garbage bag to put all the colorful wrapping paper into as well as the paper plates to affix all the bows to for the “bouquet.”

She’d been asking me about dealbreakers and happiness and love and i’ll have to attest, you’re doing the right thing girl. when you bicker over the proper way to make toast in the morning, when the important conversations become null and void topics for discussion, when there’s love but there’s no real time spent together showing it, if it’s only inertia keeping you there then it’s time to escape the atmosphere. Her life will only open up and welcome the love she needs from here.

Proof positive – you can love people, you can enjoy them for who they are and rail at them for who they aren’t, but that still doesn’t make them a good fit in your emotional world. Weather, seasonal disposition and growth (or death) accounts for the fostering or the floundering of any relationship. Some fall away, some change their shape and meaning, some we cling onto for good.

Which brings me to my beautiful Joseph. There i was, ready for the big move. “Fuck it all, boys and girls. He must not live here so i don’t want to either.” i was going to Los Angeles to be near to my sister, Racheal and her great relationship with Flounder (his legal name for which a story is due), and i would foil off of them and locate love in the big bad scary plastic city (with pockets of reality, so i understand). i even had a sweet benefactor/friend who sent me wine and wonderful books, encouraged my move and bought a photo from me. Drew, you’re a beautiful, thoughtful person and a fine example of the goodness in the world that allows us all to pool from the collective unconscious and come by like-minded people to grok this life with.

And weeks before i was ready to make arrangements for the moving truck, the drive, the car, the clothing, the cat, fate stepped in and said,”oh no, not that!” Somehow by some strange twist of dreams, roommates, my friend from the south, Graham, and Joe’s sister from across the pond, Laura – we came to find each other. It was a volley of long, tasty emails, a dinner date and a long walk that turned into two days before i allowed him to go home.
So many false starts and flat hopes and meaningless gestures from other men and then he sweetly asked, “i know you’re planning on moving and i’m not trying to force my will, but would you consider staying here to see where this goes?” His kind request slowed me and led to deeper discussions and further, fancier endearments. His question also prevented me from making a gross error in thinking that there was no one here for me and possibly, though i adore my sister and the west coast landscape, i have a feeling that a part of me might’ve died out there, that i might not have survived in some ways, financially, emotionally and otherwise. That the crushing loneliness of one cat, a small room, a couch for a bed and a horrific daily commute might only have furthered my suspicions of futility when it comes to finding your soulmate. Out there, somewhere, in one of those tin cans driving alongside you or passing you by on the way to the grocery store and you don’t notice him because you’re digging in your door pocket to retrieve a lost CD for that song you just HAVE to hear that reminds you of the love you want except, you know, he didn’t see you either because he’s got his hand flailing under his seat trying to retrieve the fucking Bluetooth so he doesn’t crash his car or worse, get a ticket for using his cell phone without a handsfree unit.

That’s what i mean – in all the mess, all the chaos, in the busy storm we swirl up to occupy our lives, it’s a miracle we find people remotely like ourselves. People who will take the time to get to know each other, to have the serious and soulful conversations that lead to sunrise and breakfast and the rest of your burning lives. To pay attention to someone closely enough beyond movies and music and favorite colors and pet peeves until it leads to understanding. By measurable degrees, you should come by knowing whether that person is a good match, sense the difference between affection and affliction and employ the necessary balance between appearing over-eager, cooling your chances by self-censorship and being justly picky and mindfully critical.  i never settled for friends with benefits, i don’t answer to booty calls and the oil-change for the libido that sport-fucking accomplishes is a pale and temporary fix. it is a troublesome, fantasy-laden emotional vacuum compared to the safety and comfort that a real relationship with lovers able to communicate their desires can offer. Eventually, you relax and just marvel and open yourself and are thankful for it all. And i did. Completely. My reward is being unafraid and constantly amazed by the synchronous workings of this gorgeous love affair.

And wow, does it ever give you perspective . . .

A few weeks ago, we lay down for sleep and he was more than half way there when the phone rang at some inhospitable hour. It was a drunk dial from a boy-long-ago. i let it go to voicemail then checked what could possibly be the matter. I snickered as it played back and thrust the phone at Joe so he could hear the silliness for himself. He muttered, “poor guy, sounds like a Muppet with a mouthful of socks.” Indeed. Occasionally soft, brightly colored, delightful in half-hour episodes, but tragically childish and impossible to understand. i lay back down, he pulled the pillow over his shoulder for my head, smoothing my hair as i settled in and curled an arm and a leg over him, a koala bear clinging to a eucalyptus tree.

Megan and i sat down over a big buttery pretzel and some lemonade last night and i described to her, how different i feel. This, i explored out loud, though she already knows the full story because she’s been there since the bad days crashed down and watched with me as the good ones rose and smiled upon me (thank you woman, you’re in my heart). i expressed how my body is changing and strengthening through the yoga she re-introduced me to, how it is also changing and strengthening (and in some ways, softening) at the influence of joy and love, but more so this yielding is taking place in my mind and in the way i see my life unfolding.

“i consider myself so lucky,” i said.

“i think it’s more making better decisions,” she said thoughtfully and practically.

She’s right. And i choose Joe but not only because he rescued me, but because he chose me. And i choose to be a superhero. To be courageous and noble, to devote my life in the service of good without expectation of reward, to develop extraordinary powers and abilities and to choose love. With abandon.

family, film, food, friends, holidays, love, marriage, music, nature, photography, travel

ThanksLiving

Listening to: In The Round – The Cardigans

I am flushed and warm.
I think I may be enormous,
I am so stupidly happy,
. . .
Squelching and squelching
through the beautiful red.

~ Sylvia Plath from Letter In November

It’s not a typo. i read it on a billboard that encouraged me to “Try ThanksLiving,” and it gave me pause, thinking on the implications of living graciously, happily . . . thankfully. In the last few months my reality has been superseding reality TV. This is not to say that i actually watch any of that garbage, but more that i have traded in cultivating my online life for actual life. This is also not an indictment on anyone spending inordinate hours here or copious time on the net blogging, posting photos, chatting, emailing, taking quizzes, general surfing and shopping – as i, of course, partake in all of the aforementioned activities.

But i offer here a pastiche of the sights, sounds, sighs, and movements in my life since September . . . those moments, amusements and muses i am thankful for:

i loved my Autumn . . . i breathed it in deep. That first bit trickled in the window, red and orange and gold and whispering . . . talking some liquid breathy jive about pumpkins big as carriages, soft-bake melt-mouth doughnuts, and oh yeah —- cider like Eve sucked into her mouth on that first bite that day in the garden . . . slightly sin. mostly cinnamon. the cool crush of the weather to come, burning wood, the crunch of leaves, apple cider, cinnamon, brown sugar, gourd vegetables carved out into crescent shapes, stew/goulash boiling, rolling over in a pot for hours in the kitchen, an afternoon nap in a chair, warmed by a slant of sunlight, and a fire in the hearth and in the heart. And there is the settling in: turning a tender eye towards the dying off of things. Pruning, scaling back, simplifying, bedding down for sleep, hibernation, preparation for renewal.

Barnyardpastoral perfection: Plymouth Orchards, MI

in September, i made a pilgrimage to Michigan to drink apple cider and eat fresh baked donuts, and also to see Imogen Heap – a woman whose music i have listened to and couldn’t pass up the cool venue in my hometown. i had my camera with me and the doorman just assumed i needed a press pass so i spent the concert in the pit, mostly just to the right of the stage where all her gear was set up.

Imogen Heap

Imogen Heap @ St. Andrew’s Hall, Detroit, MI

all that time i have spent in my car driving, thinking, working, relaxing, entertaining, sleeping to her music it was so rewarding to see her perform and be at her feet with no obstructions, just awash in her sound. and even moreso – a real treat to be able to tell her so and take photos with her and chat coolly and comfortably like old friends. immi was friendly and warm and told me to come visit with her after the show. later, after most of the people met her and took pictures and she had some time to unwind, when i asked if i could impose for a few pictures myself, she sweetly obliged and invited me to sit not just AT the bar with her, but ON the bar. we hopped up and she flagged down one of the other guys on tour to hand her the Toasted Head Merlot, a wine that features a fire-breathing bear on the label which she drank straight out of the bottle! she asked if her lips or teeth were wine-stained and i assured her she looked fine and we snuggled up for some nice photos together. You can see a collection of my photos from the show HERE.

the drive out to Michigan was interesting . . . i got out of work that nite much later than i anticipated, got home, finished packing, dumped ice into my cooler, burned a long mp3 disc for the car, did my little walk through and checklist, then, at 2am, hit the road.

a little after 5am and just outside of Breezewood, Pennsylvania (nice of them to FORCE corral you through that place to get onto your exit) i stopped at a rest area. my dumb ass forgot the all important pillow and blanket but i crawled over my backseat, folded some clothes into the shape of a pillow, pulled a sweater jacket over my legs, curled into a kitty ball and called it good. for 3 hours. when i woke up it was misty and cool and a light fog was moving through. my mother asked me where i slept and if i was worried about being broken into and raped. i’m pretty sure i just looked like a pile of dirty clothes crumpled into the corner of my backseat, so i had no fear. Besides, my kung fu is superior to most and my ninja style is superb.

i made crazy time, just under 9 hours. This is discounting the 20 minutes it took to get fuel at one stop off the Ohio Turnpike. To clarify – i pulled off because my reserve light didn’t give me quite enough warning and i stalled out directly in front of the toll booth as i remarked to the attendant, “i sure hope they have diesel up the road from here.” Lucky for me, there was hardly anyone pulling off where i had, she and her supervisor pushed me to the side of the road and she indicated the way just down an exit ramp and embankment about 2 blocks up where i could find a diesel pump.

i carefully scaled the hill full of really nice wild flowers and across the gravel and rocks lining an underpass (in my stupid flip flops) and managed to laugh a little as i informed the little old man there behind the counter, “i ran out of fuel at the toll booth, i need to use a gas can if you have one please.”

he grabbed up this big red can and shuffled out to the diesel pump. “how much do you want?”

“oh – i imagine about as much as i can carry up that hill in that thing,” i motioned to the impossible place my car was. he told me that normally someone was hanging about and he would run me up, but not this morning.

he smiled, filled the tank with a gallon or so for me and squinted at the display for a bit. “how much is it?” i asked.

“i can’t see so good, i just had cataract surgery last week,” he laughed. i gave him $6 for what looked like $5.88 and $10 deposit for the tank, told him i’d be back to fill the tank and walked back to my car.

i filled up, primed it and had to crank it for awhile to start it. when you run these things ALL the way out of fuel, they tend to get some air in the line so you have to open the hood, unscrew this little metal circle with teeth that looks like an oversized bottle cap which releases a plunger type thing you must push a little to get the fuel primed, close it off and crank it hard with the pedal to the floor until it roars into life and keep it revved until it no longer stalls when you allow it to drop down into idle.

i drove back and as he placed the 22 cents in my hand he said, “you’re lucky you got it started, most people don’t.” i explained to him the above procedure that most people fail to do with an old Mercedes, thus pissing the car off and NOT getting it started. after that fun adventure, i got underway again. i’m so glad i was not on the side of the highway flagging down a ride.

autumn skin

my photo Autumn Skin finished in the 2005 Maryland Department of Natural Resources Photo Contest with an Honorable Mention, a place in the 2006 calendar, and a $25 Gift Certificate to Ritz Camera.

By mid-month October, my roommates were craving baked pumpkin seeds, so they went and procured some pumpkins from a patch. i told them to bring me home a weird one. they succeeded. it was sort of squat but lovely, like an elliptical planet. and it was nearly RED, with green stripes through it. bravo!

Renaissance Festival Girls
Megan, Tracey, Me, Tiffany, Sally
Ren Fest October ’05

i managed to get to the Renaissance Festival, TWICE, the first time i procured some great thistle honey. as always, lots of good food and beer was had, including some evil dessert: cheesecake on a stick, in chocolate. on the second trip it was Oktoberfest and so for the occasion and for breakfast, i ate a spicy sausage with sauerkraut and onions and mustard that came on what looked like a loaf of bread sliced down the middle. when i ordered it ‘loaded’, the clerk yelled “BURPER!” i also had a big scoop of rainbow sherbet, one of my favorite things. we saw Johnny Fox, the sword swallower again, and i saw something i’ve never seen at his performances. a boy child of maybe about 4 or 5 was standing at the side of the stage and as Johnny swallowed the first sword, the boy moved close, curious, with his hands out and Johnny moved toward him, motioning and pointing at the hilt, and he bent close to the boy as the audience gasped and the boy bravely pulled the sword out of his mouth to the wild applause of the crowd! it was one of the most innocent and tough things i’ve ever seen a child do.


Johnny Fox, sword swallower and audience of 1 . . .

Monday nites have been dubbed Wine Nite ay my house . . . me and a bunch of women get together. We also joke and call it the “menstrual hut.” Sometimes men are invited and we call them the “manginas” and encourage them to get in touch with their “inner vagina,” a phrase that is accompanied by a hand gesture (formed by making a prayer-stanced diamond out of pointed hands and planted against one’s barren abdomen.) Sometimes we dance in front of my desk computer (entertainment altar) while iTunes spins a sexy mix. We’ve also danced in my living room to salsa and slow Spanish ballads. As Halloween fell on a Monday this year and we called it HALLOWINE and had Sangria and Spanish wines and tapas of cheese, breads, olive tapenade, dips, tortillas and chocolates. Olivia noted that one Tuesday as she left early, my half-open mouth looked like i’d eaten through a blackberry patch all nite. good times and good girls sprawled on my floor like tinsel torn from trees in the morning.

In October, i spent some time being haunted and walking about town like a ghost, scaring people, scaring myself a bit, but all my reflections showed up in the mirror and i came back, fully fleshed . . .

i met a boy who lives on a boat just south of where i just moved from in June from out of the woods. a graduate research assistant in marine biology. oddly enough, he was from my hometown, in fact – half a block away from my mother’s house and we shared stomping ground though we never met. we spent one glorious and oddly magical evening that led to a morning, proceeded to conquer our muses and write to each other everyday, until – well . . . it’s only slightly complicated from here. he made me recall that kissing is like learning a new language, rolling it around, becoming accustomed to the feel of it in your mouth. sometimes the accent is bad, the pronunciation improper; it can be a disaster. but he and i took to it like naturals – we spoke a very similar if not the same mother tongue. and in many other interesting, puzzling, gorgeous ways. but his life was full – maybe even too full for me. it would be a morning of slow breakfast and desk work, followed by rock climbing in the afternoon, boat maintenance early evening, a film on the wall of his boat and dinner with friends then swing dancing, and finally, as a late nite thunderstorm got underway, the fumbling steps through his new interest in yoga and meditation until he crashed on some random person or friend’s couch.

i admired his passion but eventually, his contact dropped off; partly owing to student life, sailor life, and largely the love life with his ex. his car broke down, he cancelled a date and avoided most future ones then messaged my phone one early random morning where he was in town and i was invited to meet him for coffee. of course, i drink tea but opted for hot chocolate as some strange compromise. we took a walk and soon enough, it was time for both of us to get on with the rest of our days. apart. it was so curious how from our beginnings we held pinkies under the table at dinner on the first date, nearly got arrested in public shortly after making out atop the granite steps and marble columns of a city courthouse, then his hands in my hair, pulling it in several directions and smiling at me half-asleep in the morning and that day, we could only manage an awkward embrace in a circle on the street. he emailed me finally and explained himself and what i already knew. he went back to her. sure darling – no regrets, but there is one sting . . . if his heart was still spoken for, he should’ve reserved his words, his mouth and other parts as well. and thus, so should have i.

i met another boy somewhere in my haunted travels who talked fast and lived even faster. he was a bruised beatnik in black and red, exuding sexual energy from every pore, a quick study who spoke my language, ate my candy, drank my favorite libations, was seemingly versed in the same food, films, books, music. Cocksure braggart, infamous destructor, people collector, devil on a walkabout, too topped-up martini meniscus threatening to spill out over the edges, a dark crescent dangling like broken glass in a shattered window pane, destined to fall, certain to slice, with a predilection for death and discomfort and drug addiction and ready to tell you all the fuck about it . . . he tore at my jeans and broke the zipper – eventually, i had to replace them both . . . some things are far easier to sew up than others, only one of them came back clean and fixed. i still wear the pants around town, but not the boy.

Love is a many-splattered thing so it should be used in good measure, not just tossed around, slapped up, glossed over and painted with a fresh coat over a tired one. i am in no haste to make waste of good stuff and redecorating is a real bitch. i’ve had to do a whole lot of it since June, so i know. i’m not on the fast track to love, but i have realized now, it is possible to love almost anyone in the world if they simply invest, if they simply follow through and keep on doing it. and more than ever, i am far less tolerant of the missed phonecall, the cancelled date, the thoughtless comment, the scattered lifestyle, the broken promise, the hidden agenda, the other woman, the thankless acceptance, the brusque or reserved affections, the little and constant freak-outs and the need for definitions. i now approach love and sex like a Jedi fucking Master and with Yoda’s advice, “do or do not, there is no try.”

but this brings me back to the title of this beast i am laying down for you and me to read here . . . Thanksgiving. i flew out to Detroit at my mother’s insistence and on her dime. my sister Racheal flew in from Los Angeles, me in from Baltimore and both of us WAAAAY earlier than we liked. it was frigid and snowy as we arrived, but after some hot breakfast and some peaceful sleep, me, my two younger sisters, my mother and her husband Frank assembled at the dinner table in the late afternoon for dinner. no one dressed or combed their extreme bed heads sporting hair bent in several directions. we simply shuffled to our chairs, all of us in our pajamas, ate slowly, laughed, talked about sex and food and the wedding we were to attend the following day, went through three bottles of wine, took a nap, had seconds, ate dessert, listened to music and watched a movie, had thirds and went to sleep late, never having to fuss over driving anywhere or getting fancy. it was utterly relaxing.

a bit of the bubbly . . .
Racheal enjoying a bit of the bubbly . . .

the next day we attended my cousin Crystal’s wedding. At first – there was concern over family spats and feuding that had been going on behind the scenes, including an escalation that might’ve precluded the bride’s mother, my aunt from attending her own daughter’s wedding. But all turned out well and we had the most popular table as we seemed to be having the most fun. at one point, the 3 sisters, me, Angel and Racheal, ran out in the snow and snapped some photos against the backdrop of twinkle-lit hedges. Even the blind date my sister and her friend Cody set me up with ended up being a lovely person who i am still in touch with . . .

3 sisters
Racheal – Angel – Andrea (me)
All three sisters together for one picture . . .

shooting, but not heroin
Mike Cody on camera and my sister Racheal being filmed . . .

the rest of the trip was spent hanging out with these two boys, Cody (aka Mike Cody) and his friend since grade school and my blind date Kevin. Cody is a film maker and Kevin is/was as well though he now finds himself composing music and taking photographs more full time. One nite involved much beer, Racheal’s limbs being made up like a heroin addict while Cody did some shots for a film project he is calling Ever Happened, some tinkling on the piano and plucking on guitars in Kevin’s basement studio setup and some general horsing around ’til the wee hours. Nothing quite like getting a bunch of creatively talented people in one room with plenty of alcohol, just enough energy to watch the sun rise and with phasers set to “stun.” And then there was the 2am trip to White Castle Hamburgers but i will omit THAT story. some of the evidence is on cell phone cameras . . .

Kevin Knox
Kevin Knox

And now . . . the mini-list of vision and sounds . . .

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MOVIES i have seen and liked:

The March Of The Penguins
Kung Fu Hustle
Ong-Bak: The Thai Warrior
In The Mood For Love
2046
Chungking Express
Garden State
Sideways
The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy
Batman Begins
Good Night And Good Luck
Walk The Line
Capote

MUSIC i have acquired and played to death:

Fiona Apple – Extraordinary Machine
Imogen Heap – Speak For Yourself
Tegan and Sara – So Jealous
Sufjan Stevens – Illinois
The Cardigans – Super Extra Gravity
Feist – Let It Die
Zero 7 – Simple Things
Bertine Zetlitz – Rollerskating
Télépopmusik – Angel Milk
Peaches – Fatherfucker
:::   :::   :::   :::

family, friends, holidays, nature

Independence

Independence (Noun): Freedom from control by outside agents or influence, self-reliance, self-governance.

Of course, i’m not a wild patriot, in fact – i’m currently embarrassed by the state of governmental affairs and the current administration is not particularly my favorite. But you see . . . living this close to D.C., i just don’t take a hard-line stance on political life or activism. And i never discuss politics or religion in polite company and certainly, never at the table. Besides – you never know the company you keep when you go running off at the mouth with your opinions.

We renamed sauerkraut “Liberty Cabbage” during WWII, had this spell of boycotting French wines and are so mad at French Fries in the local government cafeterias, i understand they call them “Freedom Fries.” We forget that France and its people were critical in winning our independence. LaFayette and Rochambault fought alongside Washington in the final days of the Revolutionary War, while Admiral DeGrasse’s fleet prevented Cornwallis from escaping from Yorktown. In 1778 France became the first nation to recognize the United States. It supplied us with uniforms, arms, and the credit with which we paid for them. The very symbol of our independence, the Statue of Liberty, was a gift of the French.

Interesting Etymology: “Independent” is composed of in- “un-, not” + dependent. “Dependent” comes from the Latin present participle “depend-ens” from dependere “to hang from, depend.” This verb contains de- “from” and pendere “to hang,” akin to Latin pondo “by weight” from which we borrowed “pound.” Pondere “to weigh, ponder” is the origin of this word. The English word “spin” comes from the same root, *(s)pen-, with an [s] that is sometimes there, sometimes not. The Old English word “spithra” was originally spinthra “spinner.” Today it is “spider.”

Here (and most everywhere) we have something called an American House Spider. A very self-reliant creature. Every nite it builds a large web (an amazing thing to watch) ending at the center where there is extra silk to suspend itself, waiting for its prey to be caught up and entangled. Then it throws some extra silk over the captures and eats the entire web, squirming dinner and all. It repeats this same show every nite. Females can live up to a year which is impressive for such a creature who hangs out under the eaves so close to houses filled with squalling humans.

Tonite Zoey, Brooks, Jesse, Hope, Dan, Dave & Amy and me cooked out. Barbeque chicken, cheeseburgers, baked beans, garden salad and lots of wine. Then set off some slightly illegal fireworks. i highly recommend watching fireworks while wearing holographic 3-D glasses. They make every light into a prism or a halo, even the dimming light of the sunset through the trees.

In my (red)neck of the woods, the reporting sound of gunfire can also be heard, competing with the sound of exploding fireworks. Odd that we should believe the perfect end to fighting a war and winning our freedom is to set more things on fire and fire off more weapons in the name of glory, but that’s us I suppose. Sometimes, i wish I had an eagle eye view of the whole affair. Most other times, i am glad for excellent company, warm nights, good food and glittering lights.

How was your red, white & blue?

holidays, travel, writing

shiny, used, temperate blues

upon leaving Manhattan
the Christmas tree at the curb
wearing tinsel like a greenstick girl
who is showing her silvery gray
and beside it after midnite
a Champagne bucket.

the Holidays are over . . .
and now the winter
truly begins.

but I will find myself
in Tucson in 4 days,
stomping through the desert
sweating & trying to make sand
and cactus flower
visually appealing.

~ Andrea E. Janda