Waiting for the bus downtown in winter, a large building has a video screen with a film projected 30 feet wide. A dark field is suddenly lit by a spiraling flame. A tanned, beautiful face comes into view, green palms collar his neck, skirt his shirtless waist, and cuff his wrists. He is a fireknife dancer, twirling the machete-like nifo oti, or “tooth of death.” He brings the long flamed edge to his open mouth like a hot drink and taps it to the edge of his tongue where a brief lap of blue and orange ignites and smokes out like a bare-skinned dragon and I think, “yes, perhaps a trip to Hawaii.”
Yes. I know. It’s been since February . . . but let me explain:
We’ve moved our home from Southwest to Northeast Portland
(from the South Burlingame to Irvington neighborhood).
I’d barely finished Winter term when Spring Semester was
already bursting through the ground (like those new black
and red tulips I left behind and the compost bin I had going.)
that would’ve come in handy for some fresh gardening.
And soon, I will be helping my boss to move our office . . .
Does the fun ever end?
i’ll tell you all the rest soon!
::: ::: ::: ::: ::: ::: ::: :::
We are stardust, we are golden,
We are billion year old carbon,
And we’ve got to get ourselves
back to the garden.
~ Joni Mitchell
::: ::: ::: ::: ::: ::: ::: :::
I know, i’ve been remiss at posting. But it’s been for good and happy reasons. It was months packed with gardening, visiting gardens, hosting a Pagan Potluck for Easter, reading, cooking, eating, drinking, berry picking, jamming, canning, beach vacationing and when i wasn’t too busy doing all that – i took some quiet time out for the Ancient Forest at Opal Creek.
Hmmm . . . so because i’ve been immersed and seeing and doing, what’s the best way to describe the last couple months of activity?
Visually! Of course . . .
In My Garden
(see the full set on Flickr)
Crystal Springs Rhododendron Garden
(see the full set on Flickr)
Holden Beach, NC
(see the full set on Flickr)
Opal Creek Ancient Forest
(see the full set on Flickr)
i promise ♥
::: ::: ::: ::: ::: ::: ::: :::
“There are things you do
because they feel right
& they may make no sense
& they may make no money
& it may be the real reason we are here:
to love each other
& to eat each other’s cooking
& say it was good.”
::: ::: ::: ::: ::: ::: ::: :::
“I’ve been a bad yogi this week,” I mused sadly to Joe. Even talking about yoga to Lia in lieu of actually doing it got my muscles to tingle and miss it.
“Yeah, but sometimes forging new friendships takes the same kind of commitment,” he said to me.
I am consoled to think that at least I’ve been a good friend. or have been having a good time. I can also tell it’s been a full, week of good people, food and silliness when the fridge is full of tasty leftovers, there’s a bouquet of lilies on my living room table, there are a lot of dishes to do, there’s silver spray paint and glass beads in strange places, the laundry turns up stickers, candy wrappers and tiny plastic babies, I am pleasantly tired and I am editing photos of it all.
Sufjan Steven’s “The Henney Buggy Band” lyrics and melody occur to me in snippets.
“Oh life, with your colorful surprises
Eleanor, how you put one on disguises”
“Far in the morning light
We let the movies play
A weekend from the holiday
. . . Forget about yourself and all your plans”
This past Saturday a group of friends all dressed up as Villains attended the Alter Egos Power Struggle. It was pretty much a Heroes & Villains pub crawl all brought to you by Alter Egos Society and Drunken Rampage. And Benja said it best with:
“the event included games and prizes along a route through several downtown Portland bars. The games included initiation games (such as “save the kittens” for heroes and “steal candy from the babies” for villains), “You’ve Met Your Match” finding an Arch Nemesis speed dating style), and a dance-off between good and evil. A number of local businesses (bars and comic shops, etc.) and organizations (Stumptown Comics Foundation, etc.) supported the event as part of official Portland Comics Month.”
But for me to tell you about the evening from the streetside and onlooker POV – well, is to tell the story of running through the city, engaging in an en masse, public, costumed rubber band fight, taking over bars of every variety including strip and gay (Portland famous), community pole-dancing, swinging from the ceiling (on a literal swing suspended by chains) climbing elephant statues in the park, catching free prizes in the air like porn, latex whips, silver-studded leather chastity belts, oh – and comic books too. Sure. To give you ALL the details would read a bit Gonzo-esque so . . . “No. We can’t stop here. This is bat country.”
But there are some photos where my friends are harpies, mad scientists, robots, caped, cylcloptic evil overlords with interchangeable blue & red laser monocles with minions to match, judges dressed in cinched robes & a wrestling unitard, and futuristic underwater murderers of dolphins (it’s quite a backstory). A bit of “so long and thanks for tall the fish.” Dolphins are super smart and take over the world. See: Douglas Adams.
Here’s the rest of my photos anyway . . .
The next morning, Easter Sunday we threw a Pagan Potluck to celebrate Eostre, the goddess of spring fecundity, love and carnal pleasure. How appropriate. There was so much wonderful food! A big spiral-sliced ham I cooked with an orange-maple glaze and served with a side of “last nite’s costumed bar crawl hangover,” with a friendly diner smile. Quiche, potato salad, fruit salad of blood oranges and tangerines, quinoa, spinach salad with goat cheese, potato salad, deviled eggs, chocolate angel food cake, cherry cobbler, coconut balls and more mimosas and white wine than humanly necessary were consumed. Eventually it devolved into a game of Scattergories and Celebrity. Somehow, my dumb ass did NOT take pictures. I was off duty that nite, I suppose.
Last nite we gathered for a loose dinner party at Jeremy’s apartment themed “food on a stick.” The colorful spread ended up consisting of cheese & chocolate fondue with dippers of olive bread, meat, angel food cake, strawberries, apples, pears, sushi and skewered teriyaki chicken and beef, wine (hey, stemmed glasses are on sticks!) the comedic Pabst Blue Ribbon that Cooper brought up from the depths of the ice cooler, carried in on a large branch and hoisted into the room like catch of the day, and Benja’s contribution of candy with Chick-O-Stix. Surprisingly, no popsicles, perhaps a rather obvious choice. This in no way detracted from the rainbow of bountiful foodie goodness we enjoyed. (Once again, no photographic evidence!) Later, we all lay on collective couches in a food coma watching Val Kilmer in Real Genius. A good old fashioned 80’s “nerd saves the world” movie.
Tonite while drinking cold beer on our warm sunny patio talking to Lia & Cooper who were getting ready to depart for their stay at home happy couple date nite of dinner and cuddling, I was cheered as I received, fielded and answered text messages:
Tiffany: “If I get enough work done today i was thinking of going to the tulip festival tomorrow – interested? It’s going to be a beautiful day.”
Chelsea: “Thought I’d take advantage of the sun with a book and my dog. Ran into friends on the Beach. Dungeoness crab for dinner. Call ya when I’m headed back.”
Claire: “We went to the farmers market and now we are relaxing at a park in the SE. If you were at Stumptown I’d join you. Nap in park instead! We are going out for Pho if you are interested.”
And later from Lia: “We love you guys. Seriously. Like love love. U fixed my music collection! i owe you my life.”
Jeremy asked: “What time tomorrow?” in reference to the brunch we’re having on the deck at my house since the weather promises sunny and 74 degrees. i instructed, “Let’s call it a casual noon. Brunch in single digit #’s is called breakfast & is lame.” Claire is coming over to cook some spicy eggs, i’m gonna to fry up some bacon and make a stack of fluffy pancakes. hmm, i have no champagne for mimosas . . .
i smiled to myself a lot for a lot of little reasons today. Odin was hiding in the freshly washed bed sheets in an effort to stalk me. i realized that if i want to fall madly into bed with Joe tonite, the bed must be made, cat or no. There was a time when we got so distracted and caught up in each other, too busy making love that we could rarely be bothered to comb our hair or pack properly for a trip to the woods. The apple butter in the fridge reminded me of the camping trip where, because we were too busy “packing” we had forgotten a knife to cut and spread food, so we simply tore off hunks of bread and dipped it in pumpkin butter (no more apple butter to be had at the roadside stands that late in the afternoon.) How that nite, Joe and i flipped the script on the traditional camping roles: i built a fire and secured the goods from bears and he, my would-be-husband cooked a fabulous dinner of beans and onions and summer sausage. I thought of our long looks in the fire light, and the sound of a large skunk trundling through the brush into our campsite making my eyes go from lovestruck at half-mast to wide and panicked. “Animal. Biggish.” i whispered in a fearful assessment. And he laughed.
i washed the tablecloths from the Easter Pagan Potluck we threw last week and tossed in a few old throws. One of them, a bright blue with red stripes i didn’t recognize until turned the tag to read it:
MADE IN ENGLAND.
Airline use only. Please do not remove from aircraft.
And i smiled, thinking of Joe taking me to Rome after we got engaged.
“Hey, did i ask you to steal this blanket from the plane ride?” i prodded.
“Well, one of us stole it. It’s unclear who, “Joe smiled.
it’s in my lap right now as i type this in the office.
i am about to take some fruit down to thaw for brunch: a bag full of frozen mango & berries – something called “Mangolicious” from Trader Joe’s that i put with some Vanana (vanilla & banana flavoured yogurt) and some local Hanna’s honey in a cup. i am thinking fondly of myself & two dear friends in our pajamas eating apple pie for breakfast. In bed. Laughing. i am thinking of not waking up earlier than 11 am tomorrow. i am thinking the red & yellow tulips in bloom in my garden should suffice if i don’t make it out to the Wooden Shoe Tulip festival.
Oh, life with your colorful surprises.
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 . . .
“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.
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 . . .
It’s not like you haven’t heard from me . . . but i suppose you haven’t heard all the tales and tidbits. i DID just make a cross-country move with my darling husband. So let’s see what i can tell you about what it is to move from Virginia to Oregon with everything you own, a car dragging behind you, plus a landlubbing Bengal Cat to which any confinement in a moving vehicle is a personal affront to be met with vociferous fury . . .
We’ll begin with the end of days: the weekend of Saturday August 23rd was my last day of work, i waited on Joe’s family, we said goodbyes and he sold them his car. Sunday afternoon we were off to a baby shower for my dear friend Megan in Annapolis and a late-night fevered packing session on Sunday which brings us early into Monday . . .
Monday morning we were supposed to pick up our Budget Rental truck. Penske doesn’t do it that far and U-Haul was NOT an option by poor reputation and my friends’ numerous horror stories and breakdown variations on a theme so Budget had our business, begrudgingly we were to find out. Due to some unknown fuckery at the rental shop, we received a phonecall in the morning, informing us that our honkin’ monster truck (24 ft) would be available closer to noon as the current drop-off hadn’t arrived, but that they would call when it was ready. It was verging .. 2pm by the time Joe actually went there in person to experience – more fuckery. Apparently, Larry, Curly, Moe (and possibly Shemp) were not capable of doing anything by hand (filling out forms, figuring out taxes) and the whole Eastern seaboard Budget computer system was apparently mysteriously “broken.” Once it came back online, (and partway through the manual entry) they insisted Joe stay to put it all in the computer. My poor husband, fuming, but controlled did not arrive until 3:30. Luckily we had angels waiting for us.
i don’t know what we would’ve done without Jared and Patrick helping us haul things down and load the truck. i don’t know why we thought we could’ve done it by ourselves; we would’ve had to add another whole day to our trip exhausting ourselves getting everything loaded! Of course, the late truck meant later packing, meant later loading meant later cleaning of the apartment, and we really wanted to be out early evening, get somewhere outside of the DC Beltway morning rush hour, hole up in a little motel and rest, and to then start the trek first thing in the am. Well, it wasn’t until after midnight, when we finally packed the vacuum and cleaning supplies. i gave Odin some PetCalm to ease his nerves (but it didn’t, much) while we drove over an hour (an eternity with howling feline) to Hagerstown, Maryland.
A word about the Motel 6 . . . sketch. Okay, lots of snaky S words. Like, skeevy, scary, bars on the window where the night clerk sits, sketchity spookville. We were only here because they had a pet friendly policy, not to save on any moving expenses as they were covered by Joe’s university job. A quick survey of the area (and the big sign about NO TRUCKS) and it was clear we had to park the moving truck (24 ft + now the extra 10ft or more with my car in a flatbed tow) at the shopping mall lot across the way. We figured it was ok to do since other trucks were parked similarly.
But just to be sure, Joe asked the clerk, “Is it ok to park over there?” motioning to the direction of the trucks.
The clerk offered a nervous, and falsely reassuring answer, “yeah – a security guard patrols there every hour or so. Any room preference?”
“Where we can see the truck,” Joe said plainly.
So, Odin got settled quickly (he can bed down anywhere, he just hates MOVING in a vehicle), chowed down, did some encouraging kitty business in the newly re-located litterbox and perched himself at the highest point in the room, the tv, to survey his new domain. We pulled the scratchy, toilet paper thin bedsheets over us and commenced sleeping into morning one of our cross-country adventure.
The next morning, it was the breakfast buffet at Shoney’s which smelled like greasy, eggy-bacon heaven floating atop pancake clouds; evil and delicious but the type of meal one could not hork down shamelessly every morning without regret or consequence. Our waitress was pleasant, quick and dirty with the coffee cups and water and plodded through the standard “Hello, my name is ______, and i’ll be your server today.” There wasn’t any fresh fruit, unless you counted all the sugary canned ones for pancake toppings, but there were three types of gravy to include chipped beef and four types of potatoes – all fried.
And boy howdy it hurt my soul; there were some very unhealthy, ungainly, unhappy people milling around the breakfast bar. People shuffled up with oxygen tanks and walkers, sort of a One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest revisited meets Dawn Of The Dead, and honestly, forgive me for this description, but between all the medical equipment, the staggering display of obesity, and the general slow-moving malaise owing to an early morning it was not an easy square to maneuver. Conversely, the buffet was patrolled and replenished by a pasty, skinny, pock-marked, shifty-eyed, surlier than Satan, quick-handed, would be mass-murderer type, luckily armed only with a few spatulas. i hesitated to ask for anything that might come off sounding like a snooty, pain in the ass dietary concern, should Jethro James Manson, Jr. decide this was his morning to “waste ’em all.”
The bill didn’t amount to much, as we had a per diem for food in our moving expenses, so Joe left the waitress a $10 tip.
“Whoa, what’s that say?” the cash register jockey drawled, incredulously.
Joe is lovely, but his hand-writing is difficult and deeply codified, plus the pen was a little dry, so i assumed the numbers were hard to make out.
“Joe went back over the numbers in pen and told him “Ten dollars.”
“Wow! That’s a great tip.” This was the lottery to this guy.
As a waitress in fine dining where the average low end tip is a straight $20, this statement made me terribly sad, but i could see the grubby, wrinkled, single bills and piles of change emptied from pockets and cup holders, piled on dirty tables under brown coffee mugs as we walked by, looking more like several police searches than gratuities. We must’ve made, “Hello, my name is ______, and i’ll be your server today”‘s day.
We wound our way through Appalachia through the first of many many miles of corn on our way to Indianapolis.
What should’ve been an 8-hour drive grew into a 12-hour nitemare of three terrible realizations. One – we had one angry, frightened, inconsolable cat (no matter how much herbal tranquilizer administered) who slept for 20 minutes and howled and climbed windows, dashboard and floorboard the other 40. Two – a mysterious idiot light came on depicting a wrench and an oilcan. This to me meant “You’re fucked, Tin Man.” After one of the first tiffs my sweet husband and i ever had about how to handle this second crap-laden fact, we decided the best course was to pull over and call the Budget help line. After being jockeyed through the phone system of choices, we finally pushed enough numbers and spoke to an informed human service agent who wasn’t reading verbatim from the “How-To Talk To The Pissed And Stranded” manual. She spoke to an actual mechanic who assured us it was simply an early warning oil change interval and that we could tell the delivery place on the other end that it came on and needs the service. They even told us how to disable it, but we never did. And finally, Three – with footnotes a) & b) were realizations we made about the truck. a) it laughed at and evaporated fuel – 5 miles to the gallon. b) uphill grades any steeper than say 4%, with the pedal to the metal resulted in the hazard lights being flicked on and a maximum speed of 35mph.
After we finally arrived in Indianapolis to my sister’s place, hair matted, mood dampened, cat howling, with furrowed brow, exhausted and hungry as hostages, we came around to the idea that we had to add a day to our ambitious arrival time. This was decided over a fabulous pork dinner and several ears of corn on the cob plus two bottles of wine. We also decided (and thankfully, my sister and her husband agreed) to leave Odin to stay with them for a week for a later flight retrieval operation that my poor Joe volunteered for. It was clear that completing the rest of the trip with kitty in the cab would make for a longer, more difficult, harrowing and stressful journey – for all of us. Let’s just say that Odin is not easily calmed or sedated, by natural, herbal, homeopathic, psychological, or pharmacological means. On the two-leg (no direct flights from Indy) trip home, he even managed to surf above the double dose of chicken flavored kitty Valium and maintained a constant meow from under the seat, save for the last hour. Joe reports that he made lots of friends on the planes. When Odin did finally arrive, he was all hyped up. Apparently, diazepam, instead of having the nice calming effect, can cause a paradoxical reaction and instead make a human (or bad kitty) wildly alert and excitable. So Odin, above the normal exploratory passes that go along with an animal in new surroundings, paced, mewed, jumped from window to window and trotted from room to room with a lack of coordination and on wobbly legs until pretty much the next morning when he was able to settle in and have a good long sleep. And he’s doing fine now . . .
But back to the adventures of the Janda’s cross-country excursion . . .
Getting fuel was always exciting. Finding diesel in Hellhole, Nebraska often required the help of my fancy new Instinct phone’s GPS Navigation, then it was determining whether we could get the moving truck under, around and out of places without jackknifing, tearing off the trailer or bringing down awnings and taking out gas pumps. EVERY stop, which was more frequent with the awesome fuel consumption, required this exercise in mathematical probability and turning radius.
The cities moved on as I downloaded the local weather. Amazing to me that i could find where we were and what was close by to eat or refuel by the help of Jenny (the name i have dubbed my cell phone’s navigational voice, as in: “Jenny Jenny, where do i turn now? 867-530 ni-eeee-ine.” and yes, Iain . . . a tip o’ the hat to you as well on the name.) Lore City, OH – Grass Lake, MI – Normal, IL – Exira, IA, Waverly, NE – Grand Island, NE. Oh, which by the way, appears to be in the center, like a bullseye dart throw at the US map. However, Grand Island is, as far as i can tell, neither “grand” nor an “island” and is not even remotely near water. Or culture. Or . . .
The waitstaff at the local Perkins gave me very confused looks when, upon having my own oolong tea, i simply requested a pot of hot water, a pitcher of milk and a cup.
“So, you want a glass of milk, like orange juice?” Lloyd asked.
“No, i want a small container, for milk instead of cream, like for coffee,” i tried to explain. He brought me a pitcher of milk normally reserved for syrup and a plastic carafe big enough for 8 cups of coffee but filled with hot water and still, sadly, no vessel to put any of my tea in. 2 out of 3 wasn’t bad i supposed. i was finally able to flag down another waitress to ask for a coffee mug since i was certain tea cups were not to be had. forget about latte mugs too in case i wanted to make a BIG cup of tea . . .
In Rock Springs, Wyoming we stayed on Elk Street at the “Outlaw Inn” Best Western, ordered my first breakfast in bed and watched my first episode of “It’s Me Or The Dog.” We had traveled all nite through so much flatland (called the Great Plains for a reason, clearly – they go on plainly forever) and when we woke up, we were surprised that we found ourselves in the desert. Rocky, golden stoned climbs and scrubby green & brown foliage dotted the hillsides and ground like so many funny little clown wigs left out in the sun after the carnival left town and never came back. But here’s what surprised me. Sure, we laughed at first, because the winds picked up and there were some honest to goodness TUMBLEWEEDS moving across the road which to me, signals true desolation and nowhereness. Then the sky grew ominous, black and bruised and instead of being hot and blazing, it rained through most of our trip through the desert and on our way as we dipped barely into Utah north of Salt Lake and on into Idaho.
And can i just say here, forgive me if you grew up in, lived or currently live in Idaho, because, i know the northern part is beautiful, but damn. Boise proper, from the road and some of the rare farms and outlying suburbs hurt a little to look at. It was hard for me to imagine where you would live, where you would work, how far you had to drive, the manner and means by which you’d survive. Strange domiciles huddled like hungry masses, bumped up against and thrown together in a manner almost suburban, but more like third world dilapidated houses of clap-trap metal sheds and sheets, some barely wooden, functional farmlike lean-tos. Meant for animals. Weathervanes on top seemed an unnecessary after thought. A spritely windchime tinkling and floating off a broken fence made me sad. i hesitate to say soul-crushing, but it did approach that. Once, after a batch of mean road food, we rolled down the windows to umm . . . get some fresh air, and were assaulted by an even worse smell. and here’s where tasting food and wine and trying to disseminate spices, essences, flavors and smells comes in, though i hope to never come across any food or beverage of the sort. i can only describe the smell in Idaho as a dead squirrel/rodent rolled in mocha and put on a pyre of leaves. It had a pungent, smoky, mocha, sweet, rotting meat, dead, acrid, burnt, dry smell that was enough to make us prefer our own flatulence. damn.
Crossing over into Oregon, we stayed in Baker City at the Oregon Trail Motel & Restaurant to prepare for the last leg of our journey into Portland. What a funny, little old, almost stagecoach town. The room was cheap, and included free breakfast the next morning, which was delightful and a good thing, because our first dinner in Oregon, was when we arrived there near closing time to have a most disappointing steak dinner. flavorless, tough, square shaped strip steak (definitely frozen and hauled in), grey-tinged green beans, sad and soggy (definitely canned and not sautéed), and a dusty baked potato (the best part, sadly) which could’ve benefitted from a good wash and less time in foil, so it was easier to strip it out to eat. we probably should’ve had to the fried chicken dinner special that the kooky local ordered when he bellied up to the counter, because he ordered a second plate. but then again, “special” to me in the far restaurant outreaches does not mean “fresh today, on the mind of the chef,” it means, “get this scary shit out of the kitchen before it violates health code.”
Speaking of health code . . . the not so sanitary, no sneeze-guard, precursory salad bar on a small wheeled cart had a threatening sign tacked to it about allowing only one visit with no sharing and one plate per person limit. This plate, by the way, had a 4in diameter, enough to hold a slice of bread with some overhang. and the usual sad green fare of anemic looking iceberg lettuce, limp, shredded carrots, sulfurous purple cabbage, some unidentifiable, unnaturally colored, jiggling gelatinous something, creamy thick dressings, crushed into sawdust croutons, and luckily for me, some watermelon. a rare one-off fruit treat with more crunch, water, and possibly more nutrients than the iceberg lettuce.
i know – i am spoiled. of course, i did not expect to pass through the middle of the heartland, the dairyland, the plains, the land of plenty and to have a diverse and delicate gourmet experience, but being that close to corn, vegetables, grains and cows, i had my standards set high enough that i might actually receive something on a plate that tasted farm raised and had enough color to shine through the blue pallored spectrum of fluorescent lighting that haunts every diner. i realize, i may come off as a food snob, but more i find myself grateful. it occurs to me how fortunate i am to work in an industry and now live in a city and state where culinary excellence, even in the simplest of places, hinges on fresh, whole, organic, local, seasonal, and sustainable food sources. you can taste the difference, people. tomatoes that aren’t pale pink, mealy and flavorless. Strawberries that although smaller than the grocery bought flats, stain the fingers and taste sweet and heavenly. i made a soup last week with these huge gnarly carrots, just pulled from the ground, bundled with the tops on and even after boiling were the most amazing flavorful carrots i’ve ever eaten.
So on the tip of food et al, we’ve been hitting the wine bars, the sake bars, the breweries, the Saturday Farmer’s Market, dinner here and there and lots cooking at home. a few weeks back, my friend Tiffany and i went to the Portland Classical Chinese Garden where we had a traditional tea and ate a red bean mooncake to celebrate the Mid-Autumn Festival.
Joe and i have already met new people and are definitely getting some socializing done. on one such event, i even canned peaches and tomatoes w/ garlic and green peppers for sauces. first months out here out here and were discovering how to compost, rethinking everything i throw away, recycling the hell out of EVERYTHING i touch, and putting food into Ball jars for the winter! holy granola! stop me if i cease wearing deodorant, let my hair dread, get a nose or lip piercing, go on road trips to support jam bands and start practicing hacky sack in my backyard, k?
One of the prettiest parts of the trip – The Columbia Gorge . . .
i’m the impatient type. i’m the girl who wants to feel established and settled the minute i set foot in a new situation. i crave quick learning and acclimation and seem to give myself a bit of hell if i don’t have all my systems, rituals and routines in place. Joe’s sister, Laura reminded us (me, really, who needs the patience and the temperance) that we are setting up a HOME, not just a house or living space, so i should just ease into it without spazzing out too much. but yes, the “house” is mostly setup and the “home” bit is starting to warm in me. we have been sleeping fitfully in a new king-sized bed, (Odin’s all about it too!) the weather has been stellar to mild, with yes, some rain here and there though we’ve apparently entered the rainy season. But Indian Summer came and went in full-swing (it was in the 90’s a few days in the first weeks of arrival and not a drop of rain) and i am certainly enjoying my little garden, deck space, cool mornings, quiet breakfasts and tea in a sunny kitchen, dinners & wine with my Joe and friends. it’s all been quite good. And i know it’s going to be at least a year until all things truly settle, i have a solid base of friends, a job i enjoy and can get all the way around socially and physically without getting lost.
As for our immediate locale – there’s a little coffee house nearby and as we walk down to it, we get a clear view of Mt. Hood, and off to the left, Mt. St. Helens (which i read are two “active” stratovolcanos, kind of “exciting”). there are pear trees along the walk, overflowing and dropping in the grass – ah, the spoils. In our yard, we have roses lining the wooden fence, blueberries, raspberries, tomatoes, fennel, ferns, lavender, rosemary, sage, hydrangea and little bursts of wild flowers. In fact, this year i am putting in Spring bulbs and next year, i think i will revive the tomatoes, put in cucumbers and plant squash.
i put out hummingbird feeders and they’ve come and i put out a regular seed feeder and the loudass squawking Scrub and Stellar Jays (plus some sweet Chickadees) have depleted it twice. the squirrels are plentiful – one (or a party of several) gnawed through our Comcast dropline to the house, so we had to have our internets fixed the first few days here. they also chase and skitter across the length of our roof top and you can hear the entire scrabbling pursuit from room to room. This drives Odin wild! Bad little tree rats!
Joe got his haircut at this little local barbershop on the corner by this big brawny tough dude named Justice who had two teensy-weensy grey kittens scurrying about that his friend dumped on him and now he has seemingly been forced to adopt. Their names are Guns & Roses. seriously. And, as recent pictures depict, i also whacked my hair off. it’s a bit curly and untame unless i brush it down some and straighten it, but i like the shortness. Hair clips are my friends.
The fine people i worked with in Virginia bought Joe and i a most original going away gift. A hot air balloon ride over Yamhill wine country which ends in a catered hot, champagne/mimosa brunch! We’re going to try to fit that in while the weather holds . . . but, there is always Spring and Summer next year.
Joe started work on September 15th, and me, after hitting craigslist like a whore, i’ve had a few bites and started a job that’s going to require endurance of some growing pains, but i won’t bore you with those details here. i’m not one to talk shop and air dirty laundry of how i trade time for money; it’s one of those questions i’ve always hated and dislike answering. “So – what do you do?” Of course, i grew a bit bored being a lady of leisure but there are some things i loved about it, like seeing my husband during normal evening hours for dinner in or out and watching or reading things together. Life moves slower here, hours go slower. Life is more leisurely it seems, and it’s not just lack of full-on social or work obligations either, it seems to be an engrained mindset.
On September 23rd, Joe and i celebrated our 1st wedding anniversary. We had a low key day of salad, pizza and beer, some board games with some rosé champagne, some tv time, some private time, and some blissful sleep. The beer and first bottle of bubbly did us in, so we didn’t get to some really nice champagne gifted to us last year, but there was always lunch the next day . . . and me, i never need a celebratory excuse to crack the bubbly.
Well, two things i am looking forward to out here – Halloween and voting. Both bring a certain level of ghoulish fright and giddy excitement. It’s safe to say that by lawn and houses alone, it appears that Oregon is largely an Obamanation. (heh!) Voter registration was made pretty easy for us: they got me in front of an organic market out here, and Joe at the Saturday Farmer’s market. It was convenient and fast, done by the last four of my SS (since i don’t have an OR license yet) and the voter’s card arrived days later. Apparently, we send all of our ballots in by mail here, which surprised me. i was really hoping to go into a secret squirrel booth for my first voting experience. But hey – no nervousness about machines to manipulate and no hanging chads. i wonder if it’s a scantron?
And if you need to go back a few lines, yes . . . that’s right. MY FIRST. in all my 36 years i have never been registered to vote. Never cared for the process, and living near DC never endeared me to the constant conversation, the dogged preoccupation nor the convocation. (Apologies to my friends for whom it is an occupation.) But i am doing it this year. i am fortunate to survive and do well in as they say, “times like these,” and it occurs to me that being politically active when it counts is by extension, a survival tactic to hold onto all the ideals in life that brought Joe and i out here in the first place.
Oregon is already proving itself as some manner of heaven and a lifestyle i can love.
So come visit us! We have a nice guest room in the basement, right next to the wine cellar.
so . . .
here i am in beautiful San Diego, California with pinky-brown toasty shoulders and a soft band of freckles across my nose.
Joe and i are here primarily for the BIO 2008 Convention and i was able to have floor access through George Mason University . . . what a spectacle! It’s been four days of business card exchange, glad-handing, hob-knobbing, party-hopping and eating all on the dime of the biotech industry (photos and stories to follow when i get home!)
But mostly . . . this message is broadcast to thank everyone for the texts, emails, MySpace messages and phonecalls to wish me a Happy Birthday. it’s been such a warm and beautiful day, and i feel so loved and thought of, even from so far away and on the other coast.
i will be having some great food, fine wine, tropical drinks, and the requisite sprouts and avocado slices that accompany all California fare.
i plan on having my eyes take in more waves and feet touch more sand in the coming days . . . and you should see some Flickr images and a few stories by early next week.
see you all soon!
much love . . .
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 . . .
::: ::: ::: :::
“Boy Mercury shootin’ through every degree
Oooh girl dancin’ down those dirty and dusty trails . . .”
::: ::: ::: :::
For those who are close to me, you already know, but this is the formal press release . . .
On Novemeber 30th, Joseph Janda proposed to me on his birthday . . . to give me such a gift speaks to me of his character.
Of course, i said YES!
To celebrate our engagement, we are leaving for Rome, Italy today for 5 days!
::: ::: ::: :::
The open palm of desire
It wants everything
It wants soil as soft as summer
And the strength to push like spring
~ Further To Fly by Paul Simon
::: ::: ::: :::
A few nites ago, a wicked rainstorm, which usually puts me to sleep or better – makes me feel lusty, instead put me in a most melancholy mood. Also – the lightning was wild and plentiful, flashing on and off like a constant power surge, as if someone were flicking the light switch in my room, keeping me half-awake for hours. i rose reluctant and weary, bleary-eyed, trying to recall twisted dreams.
It has been raining on and off now for 3 days and no sign of it letting up. the forecast for the next week reads like an incessant moody blue cloud of a poem:
Showers and thunderstorms.
Some thunderstorms may produce heavy rainfall.
Torrential rain will be possible with these showers.
Mostly cloudy with a chance of showers and thunderstorms.
Cloudy. A chance of showers and thunderstorms in the morning…
. . . then showers and thunderstorms likely in the afternoon.
Tonight – showers and thunderstorms likely.
Showers and thunderstorms likely in the morning…
Flash Flood Watch in effect through this evening…
Mostly cloudy with a chance of . . .
Partly cloudy with a chance . . .
Mostly . . .
Along with the rumble in the sky, the neighbors have been building something. Again. Last time it was 5 days of clunking and knocking as they installed new flooring. The whole house reverberated with the swing and mark of two hammers hitting wood. His and hers. For the last three days, it’s been tentative tapping somewhere further off in the house. (maybe since the last time i banged on the wall at 8am when i found this to be an unreasonable hour to make so much fucking racket.) But i can hear it whether i’m in bed, at my desk or downstairs cooking eggs. i’m beginning to think they are elves and cobblers. Ruummmmble roll, crackle, tap tap tap tap tap tap. This beat of rain and thunder and punctuating hammerstrokes is droning on and on and on and maybe, just maybe i’ll go mad.
Two nites ago i drank, i think, too much wine (if that’s possible for me) in late celebration of my birthday (week) with a few friends. One bottle was sent to me from a friend, Drew, in California, a Pinot Noir from Willamette, Oregon. i had come home in the afternoon in between shifts on a 12-hour double and there was this package with Happy Birthday in black sharpie written on the outside. it reminded me of a flower box, long and deep, and then i unwrapped the label “Sass,” and had a good snicker to myself. how appropriate. His prelude message read: “You are the anthropomorphic embodiment of this Wine’s Color, Size, Disposition, and Flavor. Hope you like it.”
i liked it alright; it was ruby, dirty, fruity and chocolate goodness. And as always, good wine spurs good conversation and with three wise women, Nicole, Lesley and Jean it went on to waxing love’s philosophies until Nicole, in an emphatic discussion, toppled her wine glass and we shuffled about cleaning as Jean and Lesley (both of whom work too early to conscionably get loaded) took their leave. Nicole convinced her boyfriend Brian to make homemade biscuits and gravy and soon enough we had a slightly over-baked but warm and edible version of breakfast. i poured myself out the door at 4am and found myself weeping a bit openly and unexpectedly as i drove in the rain amidst my thoughts, thankful for at least, a talkative cat when i arrived home. it can get so lonely, even when you’re surrounded by friends, which is to say – i get lonely. And then, you know – i get it in my mind to initiate a bit of a drunk dial, only to find disconnections of not-oft dialed numbers and eventually a sleepy, but willing voice. Thank all good graces for my friends.
But i should move from this grim business of rain and drunkards and think about sunshine and music and poppies and light again on the goodness of friends – even ones i don’t know in this disembodied, alternate state of conscious living, the online community. Some of these friends seem to know me and my tastes better than people i spend most of my direct and physical days with, and that’s fucking impressive.
i have known some of them for the better part of 8-10 years and only recently had the opportunity to meet a handful of them in the real. some people i only know through their writing or their photography or comedy or art or music or whatever it is they do to create and express. And some of these people have imparted on me inspiration, cheer, well-wishing, encouragement, down-right deep flattery, and the most apropos gifts at the most unexpected intervals.
i’m waiting for Monday – for a day off to sit around and package things i’ve meant to be packaging. i truly enjoy sending gifts to people when they don’t expect it. so much better than obvious holidays or birthdays. i take great care in accumulating little things and cards and glitter and confetti and stickers and specialty paper and then i put on music and think of them opening it and enjoy the whole process.
Most recently, me and 6 photographers on deviantART who have never met did a mix CD exchange where we picked 100 songs that somehow define, illustrate, or describe us in some way. Also a great way to acquire new or old music we may have forgotten about and to learn a little about each other.
i picked the number 111, as it has a mystic quality to it. i’ve always liked it better than 100 and also, i’m miserable at sticking to explicit directions. (Like the one where Drew included two books in with the wine and instructed me to choose one, finish it, then open the other.) Of course, i just ripped right through the tissue paper into both of them like a cat into a grocery bag, turning the titles over in my hand, reading the descriptions and accolades on the jackets. As it is, i have 6 books piled on my nite stand with bookmarks at various places and two audio books on my iPod i’ve been listening to in my car and in bed, plus two more audiobooks to rip on my computer desk.
i like visiting different spheres and stories as my mood calls for. i am in constant flux, a multi-tasking motherfucker of the highest degree, horrible at sticking to one idea or project and often finishing 3 or more at once as their immediacy and priority call for. Ask me to tell you my favorite anything and i’ll give you at least three choices. Tell me to compile a Top 10 list on any subject and i might just burn a hole in my brain. At dinner, i often consider two small meals out of liking both and not wanting to decide on one taste alone. Gemini nature? mayhaps . . . more that i don’t want to pick/play favorites in foods, color, pastimes, friends or anything really and i don’t like to issue hurt feelings or choose something final.
Well – unless it’s love, and boy howdy, having tasted a whole lot of that in drams and dumps in several mildy satisfying configurations and variety packs over the last year, it’s safe to say i’ve become a nit-picky connoisseur bitch about that category.
But we’ll come back to that . . .
June 6th through the 8th i convinced Meg, Megan and Michael, her brave husband (in a car with 3 women) to take a short jaunt out to Pittsburgh for the Three Rivers Art Festival, primarily to see Andrew Bird (here on MySpace and his official site). He is a Chicago-born classically-trained violinist borrowing sonic everythings including Swing, Appalachian folk, Gypsy music, Jazz, Brazilian sounds and the Blues. He is parts Beck, Jeff Buckley, Devandra Barnhart and Rufus Wainwright. He plays violin, guitar and glockenspiel all the ever while looping, even live, to create textures and whistling, warbling like an eerie, otherwordly bird with a Theremin or a UFO for vocal chords. even so, the parts he plays are spare and atmospheric but densely textured and made all the more lovely, delicate and moody with his intelligent lyrics steeped in myth, brilliant observation, whimsy and word play. His music is penetrating, magical and haunting. i’ve known nothing like it. And i wasn’t about to miss it, so we trekked out to Pennsylvania to see him perform.
We started the day early with greasy biscuit bombs of eggs and bacon and cheese plus coffee (jet fuel). On the way up we listened to comics like Dane Cook go through their routines, laughing with tears in our eyes and taking photos of each other and the passing scenery until we couldn’t, that is to say i couldn’t allow us to pass this beautiful field of red poppies dotted with velvety shoots of royal purple flowers. Simply magnificent to behold and to photograph.
We stayed at a beautiful Bed and Breakfast, The Arbors on the North Side, five minutes over the 6th street (Roberto Clemente) bridge and we were right in the heart of the city and festival. Jim, our illustrious host upgraded us to the Timberline Suite with a bedroom and adjacent sitting room (which i offered to Megan and Mike for a little space and privacy) and Meg and i stayed in the Sunset room. The sun was peeking through here and there when we arrived and the place was so comforting and homey, we decided to take in a day of rest and make use of the kitchen, the sunroom, the garden, and the beds for a nice afternoon nap. We took a little walk with umbrellas when a light rain began through the quiet, steeply hilled neighborhood and found the whole area flanked by cemetery, making it quite peaceful.
We took a few meals of salads and sandwiches from the cooler Megan packed and had access to the fridge and pretty much, run of the house. Jim left in the afternoon after laying out continental breakfast and we turned the place into one long pajama party. Jim baked wonderful treats; mango muffins one morning, coffee angel food cake another, fresh fruit, cereal, juices, and good coffee and teas. We drank several bottles of good wine, ordered out food for delivery that was plentiful and cheap, soaked in the hot tub room, listened to music, had wonderful conversation and restful sleep.
The second day, we made it out to the Andy Wahol Museum (a 7-floor prolific extravaganza), and The Mattress Factory (a two-building art installment). From Wikipedia on the Warhol: “Opened on May 15, 1994, the Andy Warhol Museum is the largest museum in the world dedicated to one artist. The museum’s collection includes over 4,000 Warhol art works in all media – paintings, drawings, prints, photographs, sculptures, and installation; the entire Andy Warhol Video Collection, 228 four minute Screen Tests, and 45 other films by Warhol; and extensive archives, most notably Warhol’s Time Capsules. While dedicated to Andy Warhol, the museum also hosts many exhibits by artists who push the boundaries of art, just as Warhol did.”
And in the basement, a photo booth, which we spent some time goofing off in. i have decided i’d like one installed in my home, as a sort of guestbook. Something magic about the way they produce photos that everyone looks good in with perfect contrast of black and white.
It was then on to the Wednesday nite main event, the main impetus for the trip (other than to celebrate Megan’s and my birthday in tandem) . . . to see Andrew Bird LIVE. We sat right up front near the stage in folding chairs provided by the venue and the mini-magical micro-climate allowed the weather to hold out, though it had been threatening rain all day. In short, so as to not gush – it was everything i imagined it would be. i shot 60 great photos of him, picked up a rare CD and a t-shirt, got to meet him, thank him for his beautiful music and hand deliver a piece of writing that his music inspired in me.
After a couple days of filling our eyes, ears and hearts with music and art, and our bellies with wine, baked goods & cheeses (my GOD the cheese we ate!) we decided to go a little low country. We picked up some 40 oz beers (MGD & Heineken, we stayed away from Malt Liquor and brown bags) and we ordered 3 large containers of various flavored hot wings and had a ghetto feast. Later, we all piled into one bed in the suite and for the second nite in a row, attempted to watch Midnight In The Garden of Good and Evil on the DVD we borrowed from our host Jim, but Meg and Megan crashed out both times, leaving Michael and i to declare bedtime for all us bonzos.
Wednesday, the last day of our trip, was full of activity and pleasant surprises. We ended up with a super-deep discount on the stay. We were to receive the weekend rate of a 2-nite stay for $195, so two rooms, 2 nites, 4 people, $100 per person for accommodations. Jim only charged us for double occupancy of the suite at $145 / nite, thus we collectively paid $300 for all of us! We left him a thank you / love note and tipped him $40 for his kindness, generosity and the time he spent sitting around talking to us, giving us directions and highlights of the local things to see and do. It was one of the most pleasant stays i have ever had, anywhere.
In the afternoon, we headed down to the actual Festival to walk around the city and take in all the local booths of jewelry, sculpture, art, crafts and food. After a couple hours and some lunch, it was time to take our rock show tour on the road. We drove back to Maryland, changed clothes and headed out to DC to the 9:30 club to see KT Tunstall. It was being filmed and it was a fantastic show with a wonderful crowd. All the people around us were fun and friendly, receptive, polite and out to have a good time.
And here’s the best part – the next morning, my friend Mike, a local guy who records sound for a number of local venues dropped a 2-disc recording of that very same show in my mailbox (as he’s also the local carrier!) what a treat to get to hear it all over again! Not only that but Michael, Megan’s husband called to see if i’d be home, dropped by my house and left me a bouquet of gorgeous flowers that included Stargazer lilies with a note thanking me for planning the perfect road trip (and declaring that i was “the poop.”) My friends are truly amazing and thoughtful people. i am gifted by graces and for lack of a better term, blessed.
3 friends, 3 days, 3 rivers, 3 bottles of wine . . . it was one of the best 3 days in memory.
By the next week when my real birthday rolled around, my friend Tiffany came in from Oregon to visit, i showed her the huge terracotta pot she had left me which i thought to be empty but was suddenly blooming blissfully orange Tiger Lilies against the “Love Lies Bleeding” Amaranth i had fertilized and planted. We put on swim suits, crawled up on my 3rd story roof, drank a bottle of wine, laid in the sun and talked about work and all things “boy.”
The day before, 12 of us went to an English High Tea at Reynold’s Tavern on a Sunday. i wore a beautiful white linen dress with gold and green floral and ivy accents, borrowed from Nicole (and breaking tradition of my usual black wardrobe.) And we picked through three tiers of scones, clotted cream, strawberry preserves, finger sandwiches, tarts and a variety of tea cakes and pastries. Everyone gave the perfect gifts! A moonstone toe ring, a book of Polaroid art photos, wine napkins, a book to log all the wine i taste, funny fridge magnets, cards with faeries and of course the gift of their attendance and company. It was so civilized compared to the next evening of debauchery . . .
Monday, i started out my day easy with sticky rice, coconut milk, fresh mango and Chicken Satay with peanut sauce and cucumber salad. Nothing like Thai to get your day jump-started. i went to get a manicure and pedicure, complete with salt scrub (a gift from my boss and his wife) and i drove home through a light patter of rain, laid down with my iPod and went down for a gorgeous disco nap.
When i woke up, it was still raining, but i was not to be deterrred . . . Jean, my roommate Andrew (who gave me a bouquet of flowers when i woke!), Nicole and the more than half the bar that i knew (including the Band, The Mike McHenry Tribe) celebrated in 5 rounds of shots and two beer style. Despite the rain, i donned another fabulous dress, a halter number with tangerine, red, browns and gold. i warmed up with a plate of potato skins to soak up the alcoholic gravy i was about to imbibe and the nite was underway. Nicole and i hung out for the long haul and danced until the lights came on. the band sang me happy birthday, played all my favorite songs with sweet wishes and dedications in between. Both my email and my cell phone were blowing up all day with calls and text messages! it was incredible to be so thought of; i felt so loved.
And so boys and girls, we arrive – skidding the car back into the topical station and everyone get the hell on board for the messy, dizzying, head-spinning, scream-inducing, laughter-lust, flights of fuck-fancy, hands-in-the-air and NOT safely-in-the-car-at-all-times rollercoaster of L-O-V-E.
i reflected on where i was last year how on my birthday i was unceremoniously dumped by my love of 8 years. it’s all fine now, really: his mother is still my friend and psychic (she even attended my tea party), his father, my mechanic, his brother, my concert buddy, and Brooks, still my friend after all the hurt subsided. i have said it before, and i will say it again, my life has opened up so much since then.
what i will say, as i am a pretty private sort and since this is a small fucking town i will put it simply; i have a heart-wrenching love affair in mind, a summer or beyond romance i seem to be hanging my hopes on. Those who know me will nod, as you’ve already been informed, those who know me peripherally, may simply wonder and offer unsolicited advice but trust me i know.
In a pre-birthday strangeness, while listening to Andrew Bird in Pittsburgh, one of the biggest fantasy-type, love hopefuls erupted back into my life with a barrage of “can i see you,” type text messages. We met for a drink and a talk and all the connection and fire was still there between us as it always has been despite the respective relationships we were in at the time we met several years ago. mine ended and his, is about to self-destruct and so, i suppose he found himself reaching out to me in possible hopes that i was still there, still available.
After than initial time spent, the details of which are mine to own, he’s either buried in moving out and hurting or gone the other direction into reconcilliation with her for all i fucking know, but he’s somewhere out there with his tail between his legs, licking his wounds and not at all interested in answering my syrupy, lustful, hopeful text messages. This, since the last thing i told him when he cancelled for the evening (again) and at 7am to thoughtfully allow me to alter plans for the day, that i recognize the potential for me to be seriously disappointed but that i wouldn’t hold back my emotions or reservations for fear of rejection from him.
i told him i was tired of being careful, and i meant this in general and in emotional terms, that i wanted to be his friend and his lover, eventually, whenever, but that i would protect myself until he gets things figured out. really – it’s nearly impossible to hum a dirge while singing a new love song. He should be noticing this right now. he has no real business tangling with me, since i am ready, willing and knowing but he has barely begun to land or recoil from the shocks.
it could all be so romantic – requited love long in the waiting, but then . . . fucking timing. always.
In the same theme of getting messy and misunderstanding or running away in fear . . . my friend who i know by his persona, “jesterday,” wrote to me recently on the difficulties of courting and pursuing love. he admired a girl on the city bus, wanted to express how beautiful he found her and so wrote her a poem:
” . . . I had to spent several weeks to chase around, trying to come across her, while skipping busses that come and go when it was freezing outside. Finally, I managed to sit next to her, and try to talk, and hand her this handwritten piece. She got a little nervous, and asked if she could read later. Yes. It took me several weeks more to get “feedback.” “It’s nice”. She said she had a boyfriend, so end of story.
I am 25, living as an expatriate in cold Scandinavia. People are quite different here than what I am used to, even quite different compared to the US. For the better and for the worse, just different, the culture and relationships having been sort of shaped by the climate.
As they say for the nordic region, that ‘the seduction process is short here, it starts with liters of beer in the evening, then ‘your place or mine?’ at night, ‘who are you?’ in the morning and then they start dating.’ I think it was quite unusual and uncalculated what I have done. I’m still proud of myself for that, for being a romantic in these ages and in this geography; however, it hurts that this girl whom I called as the nordic elf, Majbritt (/my-brit/), does not even look at my face when I come across occasionally. And I just walk away, trying not to bother. Would you believe that I have no idea how her body looks like, i.e., in common terms, I never ‘checked her out,’ as I couldn’t move my eyes from her face, eyes, and hair, which looks like a little bird’s nest.”
He had sent me the poem he gave to her to read, to critique really, and it was near my birthday, so i took it as such, but then, having “elf” in the title, i also misconstrued as being intended for me, an accidental if not bold assumption. We were both a little embarrassed, but as i am never one to kick love in the teeth, no matter where it comes from, i am kind enough to entertain any affections until it seems incongruous – a bad match.
i am never misled – only slightly confused sometimes, but it never stops me from acting accordingly or expressing thanks. and the beauty in the language is this: it could be taken to heart by anyone. and if it does what it is good at doing, a poem makes you think deeply on things and perhaps, even wish you had written it yourself or that it was intended for you.
::: ::: ::: :::
Nicole called a little while ago. She wanted a recommendation for a wine that pairs well with ham.
“Riesling or Beaujolais,” i suggested.
“Oh,” she asked suddenly, changing the subject, “do you like carrot cake?”
“It’s my favorite,” i chirped excitedly, thinking of moist orangey cake with cream cheese frosting.
She giggled in such a way that it sounded like she had chosen wisely and had a good secret or a pleasant surprise.
“It’s the one thing i do really well,” she said offhandedly, “and i’ve already shaved the carrots so i’m going to bake three: one for my mom, since she’s coming to dinner, one for Brad’s family, and one to split between you and Genna.”
My friends are so good – i finally get my birthday cake . . .
To tie Pennsylvania, love and friendship, food and the quality of life into one neat package, again, i give you what jesterday had given to me:
“Andrea, you know I like squirrels very much from my days in Pennsylvania, that you even posted the Berry Squirrelly for me. So here’s a quote from translation of a poem from my favourite Turkish poet:”
Living is no laughing matter:
you must live with great seriousness
like a squirrel, for example-
I mean without looking for something beyond and above living,
I mean living must be your whole occupation . . .
~ Nazim Hikmet
Please take the time to read the poem, On Living, in its entirety HERE.
It ends this way:
This earth will grow cold,
a star among stars
and one of the smallest,
a gilded mote on blue velvet-
I mean this, our great earth.
This earth will grow cold one day,
not like a block of ice
or a dead cloud even
but like an empty walnut it will roll along
in pitch-black space …
You must grieve for this right now
-you have to feel this sorrow now-
for the world must be loved this much
if you’re going to say “I lived” …
now you’ve been properly instructed,
get out there, and do some living. . .