“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.
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.”
Jeremyasked: “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:
British Airways. 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.
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 . . .
Douglas, WY – Laramie, WY . . .
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.
Hefener, UT – Caldwell, ID . . .
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.
As the sparrow in her wandering,
As the swallow in her flying,
So the curse that is causeless
::: ::: ::: :::
Olivia called me while driving and said, “i’m at a red light, thinking of you.”
And in my little self-absorbed funk i quipped, “Why,” and snickered, “because my signs say STOP?”
“No, because it’s RED,” she laughed.
A few dream cycles ago, the reddest of thoughts wended their way through the white matter that is my brain in a state of sleep, and i awoke, emitting pink smoke and in a haze from the most fantastic visions. my signs lately, they stop other things, they cut them off, they shine dark red warning light into my face: a submarine submerging, a whore advertising, a dark room for developing images, distant galaxies red-shifting, moving away from each other and then the signs switch and i turn right and the color begs me to go, go be green, be verdant, to grow. to GO! and i do.
i dreamt i was taking a shower in a brightly lit bathroom with a huge window in the shower stall. on the wall outside of the shower, where a medicine cabinet or mirror should hang was instead, a large vent recessed deeply into the wall, slatted for ventilation, as in a factory. i could hear birds chirping, chattering, squawking, and scratching around inside. it sounded like nest building, like an argument, like a rusty gate swinging in a storm.
a small blackish bird got loose and slid between one of the slats and out into the bathroom where i stood naked in the light. it was brightly yet darkly colored, iridescent like a Raven yet smaller, like a grackle. In Norse mythology the god Odin (for which i named my cat) kept a pair of ravens called Hugin (thought) and Munin (remembrance). Even Odin himself would occasionally shapeshift, becoming a raven. But his pets, they took flight in the morning and scaled the earth, asking questions and begging secrets of people, even of the dead before returning to the shoulder or the throne to whisper all they had seen and heard into the ear of their master.
The raven symbolizes solitude, gratitude, affection, wisdom, light, hope, longevity, death, and fertility. In alchemy, it represents change and the advanced soul dying to this world. Conversely, the grackle is typically a sign of Spring, perhaps of re-birth, the dark keel-shaped tail sailing in just before the Robin’s red-breasted return. But this bird was smaller and something about it was both sweet yet sinister. i bent down to push my finger against its chest to scoop it onto the ledge of my finger and it pecked me lightly. The grackle is an omnivore, which means it will eat almost everything that doesnt eat it first, so i thought it might take my finger off, but instead, it turned its head sideways at me and glared then clamped down onto me with its talons before flying out the window. Was i dying to this world or was i becoming new?
somehow from contact with the bird i developed a curse. i was new by design but i brought death instead. any man i touched, any man i put my hands upon out of love would turn ashen and grey, then disintegrate, like burning incense. with one boy i learned i could touch him with my toes and so we held feet under the table during dinner, but when i got too comfortable, when i forgot myself, when i curled into the crook of his arm as we watched a movie, i placed my hand gently on the outside of his forearm thinking it wouldn’t harm him if i touched him through his clothing, through the sleeve of his maroon jacket. he turned to me, he grew stock still, his eyes grew wide as tears welled in my own. a wave of frightening, sure knowledge crashed over us as he turned a grey replica shape of himself, then fell into a soft pile of silver ashes below me.
i went to see a bruja, a Mexican witch and she drew a curse book from a dark drawer in a table. “You have the Blackbird’s Curse,” she told me. “You must trust and they will remain. You must love openly and it will pass. The bird will come to you again and you will be safe and your lovers safe from harm.”
do i mistrust so much i withhold emotions and never give myself away – both betraying and denying myself? or do i flay myself so wide open that i bleed a murder scene, make a mess of things until my lovers evaporate, leaving only a chalky outline? or will everything i touch simply dissolve while i am waiting to hear his call above all others? will i understand him when he calls, will i know him when his feathers brush my cheek or feel him when he finally reaches out and clutches me?
this was a slightly long day – nothing too taxing, just a lot of little errands. i was so proud of myself for waking at 8am to get a jump on the day. yeah – i know, 8am is everyone else’s report time whereas this is a miraculous feat for me. i showered, pulled my hair into a wet knot and i was out the door.
i stopped at the gas station for fuel ( holy shit is diesel expensive now) i parted the waters, made up of men, waded past the farmers, truckers, mechanics all snickering, hitching their pants, and leaning around the coffee station smelling of burnt caramel, evaporated coffee and faintly like broken radiators. i got myself a vanilla iced coffee thing to go with my Raspberry NutriGrain bar and headed into a sunny day. i needed to get to the MVA to take care of my tags, title, and registration for my new car.
it was a relatively painless process, and luckily, both of the attendants i dealt with actually smiled and were pleasant. it was a quick wait, i even ran into one of my wine distributor representatives to sit next to. And – i will now readily admit, i ordered and will have vanity plates that read:
and why not!?!? the name and monicker has become so much of who i am and identify myself as that it’s only fitting.
my local radio station, 103.1 WRNR pulled the best and most entertaining April Fool’s joke by changing their call letters and format. They became 103.1, W-O-M-B “you’re inside the womb.” They had great one-liners like “we’ll leave the toilet seat down for you” and “testosterone free-radio” and “we don’t dick around” and my favorite “radio for the breast of us!” and the format ROCKED – ALL females DJs, ALL female artists, ALL day long! it was brilliant! you wouldn’t believe the wide range of wonderful music i heard to float me through my day!
i went to work directly after the MVA and into a slammed lunch shift. busy enough for 3 servers to run around . . . i shot out of there for the 35 minute trip BACK HOME sometime after 2:30, so i could put the new tags on and drive the new car BACK into Annapolis to present to my insurance agency for photos and processing. i made it there with 5 minutes to spare before closing time.
then i went BACK TO WORK for round two, the dinner shift, but not before making a credit card payment in person for Tiffany, a work mate, also on a double shift with me. I did this so she could run her errands in the opposite direction during the lunch/dinner interim, she needed to deliver a catering order for the restaurant to make some extra cash, and i didn’t mind making the payment for her since i was going past Pier 1 Imports on my way back into town. i ended up bussing and hosting instead of waiting tables as it wasn’t too crazy busy. we sat around, the 3 of us, drinking chai tea (me) and cappuccinos (them) and doing a crossword until the first guests showed up well after 6pm.
during the nite a VERY big kitty came to the door of the restaurant. mind you – we are like a small house, in fact – people used to live there. this cat was like a Maine Coon: big, tabby/tiger like, fluffy with pointed ears. he was really sweet, rolling around on the porch, totally approachable, rubbing against the legs of all the guests entering and trying to slip past them to get inside. that’s all i needed was to chase a big cat through the dining room. we made friends and i petted him for awhile and he sat watching me through the door for a good 20 minutes before wandering on. he wasn’t starving, and i think he may actually belong to someone.
i hung around until 9, then stopped by a Ruth’s. she got a new computer and needed help setting up her email. we talked about the party she threw for her recently deceased mother . . . a big family gathering for remembrance that included a bonfire, good food, and spreading of her ashes on the California beach and into the ocean. Ruth is older than i am, i suppose i would put her near 60 or just beyond. Her mother had been missing out of her mind, Alzheimer’s for quite some time and was failing, and so her passing was a relief. i wish everyone dealt with death the way she does. when her mother died, she brought the box of ashes into the restaurant, as i was curious about the after-container. “Mom – meet the girls,” she said to Sally and i. “Hi, mom,” we chimed. “She always wanted to come here,”Ruth remarked. “And now she has,” i smiled. as i left Ruth to her newly established email and her headache owing to allergies, the light drizzle i had left before, suddenly became a good rainstorm.
in my infinite wisdom, i decided to go grocery shopping.
Everyone there near closing time ducked in to grab just one or a few things. margerine. a flat of strawberries. some milk and eggs. a frozen dinner. And you had the derelicts from the nearby laundromat hitting up the cashiers for rolls of quarters since the machines were out. Then my favorite – the randomly stoned Friday nite boys, the monkey pack, wandering around with Cheetos and Gatorade and Red Bull and Snickers bars, jumping on each others backs like horses, playing assgrab and leap frog and pull your pants down so everyone can see your balls. Some of them singing (more at howling) from the remote aisles, the lyrics to “End Of The Road: by Boyz II Men. fucking people . . .
Everyone had a few things, but me – i decided to do a big list right in the middle of things and everyone who queued up behind me saw my conveyer belt full, remarked things like “oh shit” and “nuh-uh” as they wandered over to the Self-Checkout lanes. This pleased the young, pretty cashier, who shared a devious smile with me and vowed to take her time, as i would be her last customer before the store closed.
i had been craving Szchezuan food, some spicy stirfry. (or so i thought . . .) i considered take-out, but then got ambitious. i had thawed some chicken in the fridge the nite before, came home with armfulls of plastic bags to the hungry cats climbing the walls, fed them, put things away and fired up the wok. i rinsed my perfumy jasmine rice, diced chicken, tossed the veggies and brown sauce, threw in the peanuts and by the time i was done, i was so tired, so uninspired that i scooped out a cup of rice, put a pat of butter and salt & pepper on it and called it dinner, wrapping up the rest and putting it into the fridge. have you ever cooked a meal and then decided not to eat it or have something else entirely?!?!? i just did . . .
i ate the rice and then opted for a salami sandwich with mustard and muenster cheese, sliced dill pickle and kettle chips. i began chinese and then went italian deli!
what the fuck is WRONG with me?!?!?
in other thoughts . . . after having this long hair for so many years, waking with it in my mouth sometimes, having the cat curled up in it (or me laying on it) so i can’t readily move, washing it, clarifying, deep conditioning, brushing, natural drying, babying it, fussing with color, loving it, hating it, having it stick to my face in the rain, tickle me under my bra strap, hang in his face, in my food, mostly tied back for work and wandering and cooking, i have decided . . .
to cut it.
probably chin length and then color it something bold and bright for Spring. i want easy, breezy and light. i used to wear a pixie, short as Sharon Stone – but i won’t be going THAT drastic this time around. so Tuesday. . . i lose the curtains. this may require a new ID, just for a bit of change, though i am not one to change things often. especially my personal decoration.
i have worn the same silver moonstone necklace since i bought it in Chicago 13 years ago. i take it off to polish it now and again. Same silver moonstone earrings for about 7 years, and the same silver rings with moonstone and labradorite for about 5 years, with exception to the latest ring addition brought back from the British Virgin Islands.
even this “new” car i just bought is just a more perfect rendition of my other car – just a far superior transmission and suspension (which i really feel when i drive, more power and comfort). jeez – i currently own and insure TWO Mercedes . . . how do i afford my rock-and-roll lifestyle?
like i said – i am not one to change things often, but lately, i can barely commit to a meal and having recently (finally) seen Super Size Me i am reminded again of the importance of good food, of healthy choices for change, of exercise, and how i need to rescue my Yoga mat from becoming an oversized cat toy and scratch post.
in the meantime, i believe an evil chocolate chip macadamia nut cookie will fix me up for bed.
after some well-needed, well deserved sleep – i’ll start the transformation tomorrow . . .
Well – it seems i survived the Storm of The Century of the Week. The Weather Channel kept referring to the approaching snowstorm as the “WINTER WALLOP.” i only see about 8″ but that’s enough to put everything to a halt out here. Maryland closes the schools and government if someone even whispers the word “snow.” The winds rolled in today, 24 hours late to do its job of whipping up some window high snowdrifts.
It was especially nice getting that call from work that said, “don’t bother coming in.” Of course – i missed out on money at work, but it wasn’t going to be your average Saturday nite nearing $300, so i didn’t risk sliding into a ditch for an unusual $80 or less.
What was really nice was watching the snowfall, baking croissants to eat with butter and homemade apple jelly spiced with red cinnamon, brewing some tea and watching the birdfeeder.
It’s butterflies in the summer and birds in the winter. Ok – so, i’m a bird nerd too. The birdfeeder has been like an airport the last few days. All manner of bird zooming in and chirping: chickadees, juncos, sparrows, tufted titmouse with their funny crowns, winter wrens, grey-cheeked thrush, red cardinals, and most exciting, i found (or it found me) a red-bellied woodpecker.
i shot a few from inside, caught some glare and then went outside, standing still and crouched against a wall to observe them swooping in to peck at the feeder. i then turned the camera in to my own window where Odin was watching intently, and probably wondering what i was doing out there in the snow with that silly white-spotted leopard flophat.
i don’t enjoying skiing or sledding or anything like that, but this kind of winter sport, i can learn to love because i love to learn.
that’s what the old lady said
like an opening chant in Santeria,
bringing on the spirit of love/lust/desire in a man
with the sharpened hopes of seeing it all destroyed.
This is when you train a female to know
her supposed enemy, and assure her
to tear it down
is to win.
No earth root sky there.
No Goddess bellies, no blood, no bread.
No offering of breast milk, no black honey.
No power in defeat.
No love in war.
It is what it is when you raise a girl,
for some, there is the other way,
like frosting a cake.
And you can add almondine
or strychnine to the batter
or you can leave her sproingy vanilla flesh
so the sweet perfume can find its way out.
Let her choose her own dressings.
Let her layer on what she will.
Not all of us are sweet.
Not all of us wear frosting.
Which brings me to ….
the old theme of neurotics in the suburban housewife.
went to see it once briefly. . . curiosity and the cat
and all that.
i have swum in those hip waders before
as did my mother before me.
Some of us choose the ironing board as our prayer altar.
Some of us get wise,
we devour the books and we breathe deep the intellectual stench.
and we are never the same.
we learn to accept our minor defeats
and escape our major trappings.
sometimes we gnaw off a few layers of skin
in order to run wild through the forest,
. . . but it grows back.
And some even say that this same tenderness
enables you to feel the next love to a greater extent.
if your flesh is open, you may certainly feel the warm breath of a lover
more distinctly at your shoulder.
Which brings me to you ….
i know this place in your life now,
i am no less or greater traveled than you
but i know this place . . .
darling, i wish so many things for you:
that i need your gorgeous inspirit dialogue so profoundly,
that yes, whatever body love chooses to live in,
whatever guise she chooses to wear,
whatever she means when she rises up
like nectar from the heart
and trickles from the mouth,
it is what it is when i say that i love you so fiercely
and always want to know where your growing pains are.
– i hope that this remoteness brings you your desired focus
or unfocus …
whatever it is you need this time to bring about the change.
– and this last wish has a bit for me too as we are always selfish
when it comes to magic genies,
— that when the change comes