Wednesday, December 17, 2008

the metrosexual

“The definition of a metrosexual varies but often includes urban, wealthy and a hint of something more sinister: the very term connotes an abundance of self-indulgence. Any man interested in style… must have some intrinsic, decadent flaw.”

Right. I feel the same way about men who can cook something without benefit of a grill, enjoy room service at a posh hotel or who can talk honestly and openly about their feelings.

Seriously. Guys like that need to man up.

If a man takes care of himself, uses moisturizer and knows a bit about fashion, is it fair to call him a metrosexual? And doesn’t the term imply that men who do make an effort are something of an aberration? I have an editorial in a fashion magazine this month that talks about the term metrosexual, and makes the case that the term is discriminatory. Check it out.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Happy anniversary

It’s been one heckuva year, readers. As many of you know, I moved from a small town in Northern Kentucky to Portland at the end of April. The blog moved too, and it’s had some growing pains along the way:

Low points: Switching comment systems due to an influx of spam and effectively losing all of your comments. Blechh. And moving a popular geo-blog to a new city proved confusing for new visitors. I’m working on it.

High points: Getting freelance writing work from people who like the blog. Meeting amazing new people. Slowly but surely, gaining some ground in Oregon, with new readers visiting the blog every day.

In fact, Visitors from 28 countries and 42 states visited the rose city journal this month. And it’s an ADD blog, but if you’re a regular reader, you knew that already. I started blogging to bring attention to an area of Northern Kentucky that wasn’t getting much play in the news. Then I wrote a couple of essays from the heart that became so popular, I kept on going.

And with the move to Portland, things haven’t changed too drastically. I still write about stuff that you and I both love to do: drinking craft beer, festivals, concerts in the park and some art-y happenings. Well-documented on the blog this year were my relationships with family, friends and of course, love interests- they’ve continued to be blog mainstays.

I look forward to a new year with you. As things keep changing for me, I’ll keep you posted. I hope you’ll keep me posted too.

December 11th is the two-year anniversary of the rose city journal.

Out with the old, in with the new.

Because darn it all, I’m ready for the New Year. Are you?

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Christmas Ship Parade

For more than 50 years, the Portland Christmas Ship Parade has charmed visitors to Portland and its year-round residents. There are two Christmas Ship Parades, one that trails the Columbia River and one that follows the Willamette River. Approximately 60 boats are participating in this year's event.

The Portland Christmas Ship Parade website offers information about where to see the boats, including hotels and restaurants (if available) and on-shore spots along their routes where the flotillas can be viewed. The skippers pay for their own fuel, holiday decorations and other expenses, so donations are welcomed at the holiday boat parade’s website. This weekend, both fleets will be sailing together on Saturday from St. Helens beginning at 6 pm and Sunday from Scappoose beginning at 5 pm.

The Christmas Ship Parade runs through Sunday, December 21st.

Portland Christmas Ship Parade
Portland, Oregon and surrounding areas
Through December 21st

Monday, December 8, 2008

the grinch

When it comes to giving handouts to the homeless, I have to admit, I’m kind of a Grinch.

Since moving to Portland, I’ve found that the city, like many cities on the west coast but more so, is exceedingly helpful, tolerant and generous to its considerable homeless population. The affordable housing program is doing so well, it’s being duplicated in other cities. The town turns a blind eye to a squatter’s village inside the city limits. And everywhere you go, you’ll find citizens of the rose city communing for homeless rights. Yay for us.

But when it comes to spanging, I don’t help out at all. I don’t give anything to anybody. At some point I decided that if I give money to some people, but not to others, I’ll never know which ones to choose. Which ones to say no to. So instead of saying yes to all, I say no- to everyone.

I wasn’t always this way. In college, with each visit to the Bay area, I warmly greeted the homeless people (who correctly surmised I was just off the turnip patch), and handed out change as freely and as often as it was asked of me. I even used to engage many of the homeless people I encountered, asking them where they were from or what war they’d served in.

But I don’t do that anymore. There are an overwhelming number of homeless people in Portland asking passers-by for change, going through the recycling bins and hanging around the bus stop asking people for cigarettes. And these days, I don’t stop to give them money or to shoot the breeze.

In fact, I sort of walk around them.

I know, this probably makes me a bad person. And trust me, I’m lousy with liberal guilt. But almost every time I’ve been asked for money, I’ve just paid my whopping rent check. Negotiated a payment plan for medical bills. Been shocked at the ever-increasing price to heat my little home.

And that seems unfair. Because I do I have a home. Get to go to a cushy doctor’s office to get checked out. Have lots of nice things that many other people don’t have. And with the holiday season close upon us, I feel my stinginess more than ever.

I don’t want to be a Grinch. To be self-involved and to only care that my own needs are taken care of.

But right now, I don’t know any other way to be.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

the mattress

“I’m getting a mattress,” she said, smiling shyly. The pretty young student moved upstairs two weeks ago and has hardly any furniture at all. “I can’t afford a new one, so I’m buying one used.”

I remembered when Tawny, who worked with me at the paint store, started work at the rent to own store instead. And her stories, gleefully told, of maggots in couches and roaches in beds.

“You can’t see them so ya gotta be careful,” she admonished me when I ran into her at the diner one day. As if at any minute I would race to a rent to own store to buy some dirty couch.

I didn’t tell the pretty graduate student any of this. Just:

“Ask them to flip it over.”

Friday, November 21, 2008

losing perspective

One time in Maui I was out on a boat, run by a friend’s charter. We saw whales everywhere- breeching, spouting, and frolicking. They’d just mated so there were families of whales, too. Mama whales. Baby whales. With Daddy close behind.

The whales were so close that I thought I might touch one, until my friend laughingly told me- they were a mile away. That’s just your perspective, he explained. They seem closer than they really are.

Ah. Perspective. I’m familiar with the term.

Because I seem to have problems with my “perspective” on dry land, too. Believing in the wrong kind of people. Following my heart and not my head. Getting let down.

Recently I’ve been thinking a lot about the journey I’ve been on for the last couple of years. I know that life is a learning process. And I know that I still have a lot to learn. About myself. About other people.

But lately I’ve been wondering, when will the learning stop? Will I ever feel like I know what I am doing? Or years from now, will I still be constantly surprised by other people? Still saying and doing the wrong things at incredibly inappropriate times?

And when I am finally learn-ed, will the answers I find look different upon closer inspection? Or will it all be what I thought it would be like when I get there? Is it ever?

And whatever will I do when I finally arrive?

Perspective: When you don’t know what you want, and you don’t know how to get it, either.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Things to do in Portland: Holiday Craft Sales, Art Fairs and Christmas Bazaars

Holiday craft sales, art fairs and Christmas bazaars are a time-honored tradition for procrastinating gift-givers. The holiday craft shows are typically sponsored by churches, clubs or high schools and are often some sort of fund-raiser for the sponsoring organization. Christmas bazaars and holiday craft sales offer yummy foodstuffs and homemade crafts, art and photography at cut-rate prices.

Get the best deals at holiday craft shows- and avoid the crowds- by showing up on the first day of the sale. If you can manage it, take off on a Friday to visit the Christmas bazaars and show up early; you should have most of your shopping done by lunchtime. After you visit the art fairs, you can hit the Heathman for high tea (if you’re with your parents) or head to OTB for a couple of pitchers (if you’re with my parents).

Holiday Craft Sales and Christmas Bazaars
Look for: Homemade cookies and native desserts, holly wreaths and eclectic gifts made by artisans.

Best for: Hostess gifts, moms and mothers-in-law presents and cheering up sisters who are going through a divorce.

A sampling of holiday art fairs, Christmas bazaars*, holiday craft sales and shows happening in Portland:

Christmas Tree Sale and Holiday Bazaar
Saturday, November 22 10-4
Clackamas United Church of Christ, 15303 SE Webster Rd., Milwaukie

Holiday Gift Bazaar
Saturday, November 22 9-6
Bethel #67 Job's Daughters International, 3612 SE 52nd Portland, OR 97286

Cornell Estates Marketplace Bazaar
Saturday, November 22 10-3
1005 NE 17th Avenue, Hillsboro 97124

Holiday Bazaar
Saturday, November 22 9-4
East Portland Community Center: 740 SE 106th Ave, Portland: Located behind Floyd Light Middle School

America's Largest Christmas Bazaar
November 28 - December 7
Fridays and Saturdays 10-6, Sundays 10-5
Expo Center, 2060 N Marine Dr. Portland OR, 97217
Child Price: $3.25 Ages 12-17
Adult Price: $6.50

Museum of Contemporary Craft Presents: Holiday Shop
December 4 – January 3, Tues-Sun 11-6, Thurs 11-8
Museum of Contemporary Craft, 724 Northwest Davis Street, Portland, OR 97209

Handmade NW Artisans Fair for The Holidays
Tuesday, December 2 10-6
World Trade Center, 121 SW Salmon St, Portland, OR 97204

Have Yourself a Crafty Little Christmas Holiday Craft Show
December 5 - December 6
6-9 on December 5th and 10-6 on December 6th
2223 NE 47th Ave. Portland, OR 97213

Irvington Artisan Market
Saturday, November 22 10-4
Irvington Tennis Club, NE 21st & Thompson, Portland, OR

Oregon College of Art and Craft (OCAC) Student and Alumni Holiday Sale
Friday, November 28 - Sunday, November 30
Nov 28 7-9, Nov 29 10-5, Nov 30 10-4
Oregon College of Art & Craft, 8245 SW Barnes Road, Portland, OR 97225
$3 admission on Friday, free Saturday and Sunday

Portland Saturday Market Artisan Market
December 8 - December 11 11-6 Pioneer Courthouse Square, 701 SW 6th St, Portland, OR 97205

Last Chance Holiday Bazaar Hood River Fairgrounds
Saturday and Sunday, December 13-14, 10-4
Hood River County Fair Grounds, Wy'East & Summit Rds, Odell, OR 97044

In addition, the Portland Saturday Market will be open daily from December 15th through Christmas Eve. Shoppers can receive two hours of free parking at any Smart Park Garage or a Tri-Met ticket with a $25.00 purchase.

*Admission to Portland Christmas Bazaars should be free unless noted otherwise. Feel free to post information about your organization's holiday craft show in the comments section.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Things to do in Portland: 2008 Holiday Ale Festival

The 2008 Holiday Ale Festival kicks off on Wednesday, December 3rd and runs through Sunday, December 7th. There will be 37 Oregon craft beers available at the festival, including beers from Alameda Brewhouse, Astoria Brewing Company, Collaborator, Hazel Dell Brewpub and Track Town Ales. Ah, yeah.

It’s free to get into the 2008 Holiday Ale festival and then you can buy a mug and tickets for beer tastings (Who does that? Really?) or to fill your mug with some yummy Oregon craft beer. Per the festival website, they need volunteers. 2008 Holiday Ale Festival volunteers get a limited edition long sleeve t-shirt, souvenir mug, free entry into the event, and 12 beer tickets. Volunteers who work a back-to-back shift get an additional 16 tickets for a total of 28 tickets.

I’m trying to imagine what shape I would be in after redeeming 28 beer tickets. It’s probably not too far off how I’ll be after spending eight of them.

2008 Holiday Ale Festival
Pioneer Courthouse Square
701 SW 6th Avenue
Portland, Oregon 97205

Sunday, November 16, 2008

things to do in portland: 5 months of lompoc lagers at bailey's taproom

Bailey’s Taproom is hosting a 2008 Lompoc Brewing Co. Lagers tasting event on Wednesday, November 18th from 4 p.m. until midnight. Visitors planning to attend the Oregon craft beer event will meet the brewers and have the opportunity to try the July through November seasonal lagers:

  • Heaven's Helles 5% ABV Bavarian-style pale lager

  • Saazall 5.5% ABV Bohemian-style dry-hopped Pilsner or lager

  • Oktoberfest 5.0% Bavarian-style Maerzen or amber lager

  • OktoBock 6.7% ABV Bavarian-style Bock or amber lager brewed with 5 lbs/bbl of fresh picked Crystal hops

  • Saazilla 7.6% ABV Bohemian-style double Pilsner or pale lager brewed with over 2 lbs/bbl of Saaz hops.

Visitors can order flights, pints or glasses of the Oregon craft beer.

2008 Lompoc Lager Tasting
Bailey's Taproom
213 SW Broadway
Portland, Oregon

Day Trips from Portland: Newport Lighted Boat Parade

The 14th Annual Lighted Boat Parade happens on Saturday, December 6th in Newport’s Historic Bay Front. The holiday boat parade will include commercial fishing boats, charter boats and sail boats decorated for the holidays. Newport’s Lighted Boat Parade can be viewed from 5-6:30 p.m on the 6th. Many commercial fishing boats keep their Christmas lights going well after the holiday boat parade, so if you’re anywhere on the coast with a view, you’ll see them twinkling on the ocean at nighttime.

Visit Discover Newport for more information about the Lighted Boat Parade and upcoming events in Newport.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

the chanterelles

Spending time with my family is never dull. And it often proves interesting.

A couple of weeks ago, I ran down to the coast to visit my folks. Two of my brothers (the twins) were also visiting, for the start of deer hunting season. Slow, sweet days with my mother while the boys hiked over the pass were golden… And the days went by too quickly.

And I’m reminded again, of the cultural divide that exists within my sprawling family. On the one hand, we have the hunter-gatherers, fishermen and hunters who ooh and ah over new gun purchases, think McCain would have been our salvation, eat red meat and often work in dangerous or semi-dangerous occupations.

I am endlessly fascinated by them and forever asking questions:

“Bears? What kind of bears do you see up there?”

“Dead ones.” Because when you come face to face with a bear or a cougar and the animal isn’t running away from you, self-preservation quickly takes over.

“Why are there so many cougars here?”

“You can thank PETA for that.” According to my brother, the animal rights organization put a stop to the apparently abhorrent but time-honored tradition of hunting with dogs some years ago. Since then, the cougar population in Oregon has exploded ten times over.

But cougars still fear many types of dogs.

One day in the woods, my brother saw a cougar in a low clearing and for a joke went running down the hill, barking and baying like a bloodhound. Once at the bottom he looked around and realized, he could no longer see the cougar.

And not in the good way.

The same brother once stumbled in the snow and found himself kicking at air, with only his shoulders above ground.

That’s one way to find a bear’s den.

A hunter’s stories never cease to amaze me, and my dad and my brothers have many. I press and press for more detail, as much for myself as for my friends, who like me, live vicariously through their tales. They look like city-bred woodsmen, sagely nodding their agreement while I spin my family’s many tales in back-lit barrooms over icy gin martinis.

And then there are my other family members. A brother in tailored suits who isn’t too masculine for the occasional manicure (though the time he got home and realized they had used clear nail polish was “a little much.”) Brothers and sisters who refuse to wear fur, vote Democrat and work as engineers, executives and, a writer.

I even have my own (little) hunting story to tell. Once, when my friend Ann was visiting, my dad drove us up the pass so we could see where they hunt. We trundled up the mountain in his pick-up truck, the road becoming more winding and narrow as our elevation increased. Upon reaching the summit, we found a beautiful view of the valley. A photo opportunity.

I hopped out of the truck, barely glancing at the tall hedges on the other side of the eight-foot wide road. Happily snapping photos, I paused to consider a different angle… And heard a long, low growl from the hedge on the other side of the road. I jumped back in the truck, slamming the door and rolling up the window.

“What???” I told them what I heard and my dad sloughed it off in attempt to calm us down: It was probably a dog.

A dog? Three miles up from the rest of the civilized world? Are you kidding me?

Later, I relayed the story to my sister, who asked me what time we’d gone up the pass. Oh, it was around 5:30.

Ah, she smiled.


It makes for interesting family get-togethers. I really don’t know how we all manage to get along. It hasn’t always been easy. I think truly, we support each other, we’re interested in each other and above all, we make an effort.

The fellows didn’t have any luck this time around. Weather that’s far too warm and sunny for the beach at the end of October quickly put an end to any of their buck dreams. Dry leaves crackling underfoot and snapping branches meant that there was no chance of bagging a deer. Instead, they happened upon green glades overflowing with mushrooms.

So they picked Chanterelles instead.

Friday, November 14, 2008

from the road: seattle

I’m in Seattle* tonight, at El Gaucho Inn on first ave. I have a beautiful view of the water from my suite. And Seattle seeps into my consciousness… When I was driving in I came over the hill where the city is laid out to greet me and I leaned forward to see… and caught myself holding my breath. Cruel to be Kind came on the radio so I sang really loudly all the way to Aurora Avenue.

Wednesday I leave for Orcas Island. I called the innkeeper where I am staying tomorrow night and it was the classic innkeeper/stupid tourist conversation:

“What time ya gettin here?”

“Well, I thought I might get the 2:30 ferry or make the 3:00.”

“Nah. Them don’t run to Orcas. Ya gotta get on the noon boat or wait til four o’clock.”

“Ah, I uh, yes, I definitely don’t want to wait until 4.”

“Ya wanna get out here during the day anyway, so you can see some stuff. And it gets dark real early.”

“I’ll be sure to be on the noon ferry.”

Funny. I checked the menu where I’m staying tonight and it’s a sort of twee steakhouse, with dishes like Chateaubriand (which I love) and Porterhouse. I may order a bottle of Billecart just to mess with them, ha.

This is where I’ll be tomorrow: Turtleback Farm Inn. Then the next night I am on to Lummi Island for another inn and a tour of an organic farm and hopefully, a reef netting fishery.

The innkeepers at Lummi are apparently of different stock than at Orcas. They called me to confirm my visit and explained they’re having a wine dinner for the journalists and their guests on Thursday. I’m not sure what that is (a different wine with every course, maybe?) but I told the innkeeper, hey-hey, that’s right up my alley. My mom called right before I left and told me, you may have to dress for dinner at some of these places. I threw some gold shoes and a bunch of jewelry in my bag at the last minute and will hope for the best.

I actually can bring someone with me on these trips. They want the writers to be happy, so they kind of encourage it. And everything is comped except for travel, usually. This one just came up really fast and I thought, why not? I’ll focus on my writing and enjoy some self reflection. I got an assignment today to write a fictional story for a women’s fashion magazine about three couples who are on holiday. I want to give someone a secret, or maybe all three of them; someone is having an affair, someone lost their job 18 months ago and hasn’t told anyone and the other couple lost a child.

When my mother called me this morning she wished me a happy birthday (yup, it’s today) and I thanked her for deciding that seven children just weren’t enough. At the end of the call she said, I love you so much, Lisa. It was sweet.

Call me, because I am not sure what my email capability will be on an island where the boats don’t dock in the afternoons, ha.

It’s sunny and glorious here. I’m off to Pike Place.

*Sometimes I am a travel writer. This was from last month, when I did a tour of the inns of the San Juan Islands in Washington.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

the memo

To: My faithful employees

From: Your Benevolent CEO

Re: Best Practices, Core Competencies, Integrated Solutions and Action Items for the New Year

Dear Employees:

Well, another year has gone by and it’s been a good one.

I’d like to take this time to recognize some people who really stood out this year and unfortunately, point out the few who proved to be a huge, huge disappointment to me:

A big thanks to Jerry, Mike and Randall- I know that the infinite, interminable meetings in the product marketing department that never resulted in anything “productive” (heh, heh) certainly made my weeks go by faster!

And once again, we spent more time on project management than on projects. Building instead of buying proved to be a decision that sunk us. For the fourth year in a row (coincidentally, the fourth year since we started using Project Managers), no project was actually completed and we wasted hundreds of thousands of dollars. Bravo!

For those of you (Kelly, John and Reg) who utilized jealousy, infighting and back-stabbing to get ahead: I applaud you. For those of you (Mary and Chris) who remained apolitical throughout all of the drama that ensued (Way to spend more time in the break room and less time on the phones, customer service!), I encourage you to look to your brethren for advice on the proper way to conduct yourself in the office.

As a reminder this holiday season, please, keep the cube decorations to a minimum. We don’t want you to “labor” (haw-haw) under any sort of pretension other than that you are at work. In your gray hole, toiling away from morning til night, you’re mine. Mine! And I don’t want to see anything that smacks of a life outside of work.

Before you head off for the holidays, we have some good news and some bad news to tell you. If we don’t start cutting w-a-a-a-y back, we may have to (gulp!) start leasing our jet. Or (shudder) sell the Lear and start flying… commercial. I’m sure you can see just how hard that would be on my third wife and our precious three-year old twins.

The bad news is that 80% of you will be laid by off by the New Year. As I’m sure you know, times are tough for American-based businesses. But the good news is that moving most of our operations to another land will save us three million in the first year alone. Really, and I know you agree, it’s just the best thing for all of us.

Merry Christmas!

Friday, November 7, 2008

2008 weblog awards

The 2008 Weblog Awards

You can nominate your favorite blog for the 2008 weblog awards online now until Wednesday, November 19th.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

the southern girl

In the midst of champagne toasts and the ongoing celebration at the beautiful election party I attended last night, I found myself caught up in an extraordinary conversation. Even more extraordinary was the moment I found myself caught out when the person I was speaking with said, “I detect a southern accent.”

Why, yes, I trilled. I’m from Northern Kentucky. I just moved here in April. We laughed and the conversation continued.

But it made me think.

For a long time, I resisted the urge to speak with the southern accent of my many friends and neighbors in Newport and later, Covington, Kentucky. I spoke eloquently (or so I thought) and without a hint of an accent. I enunciated my words properly, without any bluegrass slang. And I took great pains to sound Northern.

But over time, I learned some things that changed my attitude. Forever.

It was getting to know the hard-working people of the towns where I lived. My neighbors, my friends, the people at the post office and the bus drivers. Artists, writers, government officials and restaurateurs. I can’t do them all justice here, so I won’t try.

They weren’t dummies. They were unique individuals, with hopes and dreams like the rest of us, but expressed in a slow-talking, slightly southern drawl.

It’s that “slow-talking” cadence of the language of the South that fools you. Seems funny to outsiders. And it’s easy to assume that southerners are stupid. That we should distance ourselves from them. Talk pretty. Sound smart.

Some years ago I was visiting friends in Wisconsin and an actress who’d been taking voice lessons told me I sounded "a bit southern." At the time, I felt vaguely resentful, as if she had pointed out a stain on my blouse.

Nowadays, when I pronounce words in a way that makes my friends smile, I have to smile too. I take pride in my accent. In my inflection. If you talk to me, you’ll find out right quick that I do have a bit of an accent. And that’s just fine. I’m proud of who I am, and how I got here.

To be otherwise… Well, as we say where I come from, that ain’t right.

Question: What’s the plural of “y’all?”
Answer: “All y’all!”

historic Oregon photos available online

Bathing beauties at Oregon Centennial Exposition at Portland, Oregon, 1959

The Salem Public Library historic photograph collection includes thousands of Oregon photographs dating from the mid-1800's to the present. You can search for vintage Oregon photos online in the historic Oregon photos database. The old photos of Oregon can be downloaded for personal or educational use and purchased for commercial use.

Monday, November 3, 2008

the list

I am writing a fictional story for a women's fashion magazine and trying to clean up my place in anticipation of out of town visitors. During the razing, I found a list of things to bring to the coast for my dad's birthday, which was in September:

- New David Sedaris book;
- Rose's macaroons;
- my sassy attitude.

I have to think I was on the phone with my sister when I wrote the list; that last one sounds like something she'd tell me to pack.

I’m always amazed at the cleaning products that I find under my sink. And slightly suspicious: Who bought those?

Who put them there?

Back to work.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

portland election night parties

I'll be attending a partie privée on election night but for the rest of you jokers, culturemob has a list of election night parties that will be taking place next Tuesday in and around the Portland area.

the celebration

I wandered into the house after work one day and to my delight, found my ex-boyfriend hard at work in the kitchen. I do so love it when people cook for me. In addition to the lovely smells emanating from the stove, chocolate-dipped strawberries, wine and flowers adorned the table and a crackling fire lit up the hearth.

“What’s the occasion,” I squealed, expecting to hear “I just love having you in my life” or maybe “you’re an amazing person.” What I wasn’t in any way prepared for was this:

“It’s our six-month anniversary! Did you forget?” This was said with more than a little shock and of course, an accompanying wounded look.

Aw, jeez. Another made-up holiday that I’m supposed to plan for with all of the pomp and ceremony dedicated to Christmas, a real holiday that I actually do celebrate.

I don’t mean to be unsentimental. But between half-year anniversaries, monthly anniversaries, Sweetest Day and the 1001 other made-up holidays that we’re forced to not just recognize but actually celebrate when we’re in a relationship, I’m just… not that into it.

I think it’s all really silly. Kind of a waste of time, really.

And it’s not that my family didn’t celebrate holidays and special events when I was growing up. Birthdays, Christmas, Graduations, end of summer block parties- we always had plenty of excuses for celebration. With one or two memorable exceptions.

One time, my parents were off on one of their trips and left me in the care of “the boys.” My older brothers managed to feed me and clothe me but fell sadly short in one essential area. I woke up on Easter eager to open my bedroom door, the place where the Easter Bunny always thrilled me with a basket of candy and toys.

The hallway outside my bedroom door was empty. Hmm, I thought. He’s gotten wilier this year. I trundled off to the living room, looking behind furniture, a popular hiding place for extra special gifts on Christmas Morning. Still nothing.

I quickly did a scan of the house, and then moved into the backyard to continue my search. Nothing. I asked my brothers if they had seen my basket, worried that one of them had stolen my precious booty. Puzzled, they looked at me as if I was speaking some new foreign language. Then the phone rang and my mom asked to say hi to me, presumably to see if I was still alive after some days in my brothers’ care.

“Mom,” I said crying. “The Easter Bunny didn’t leave me a basket this year!”

“Put. Your. Brother. On. The. Phone. Now.”

The mumbled no’s, I didn’t know, does she really? and uh, okays emanating from my brother told the full story: The Easter Bunny needed a helper to get the basket outside my door. Because he’s so busy, you see. That’s what I believed until my brother got off the phone and looked at me curiously. “Lisa… You still believe in the Easter Bunny?”

Not anymore I don’t.

On the night of the big six-month to-do, I quickly shot into my boyfriend’s living room and clawed through my handbag, desperately searching for something that could be considered a gift. The purse probe resulted in a car wash gift certificate (about to expire), some gum (Because I love your sweet kisses?) and something that looked suspiciously like a napkin with someone else’s phone number.

Someone, whom I’m sure, doesn’t celebrate three-week, six-week or two-month anniversaries. Sighing, I walked back into the kitchen.

“You’ll get your gift later tonight, honey.” Whistling and smiling, he dropped a kiss on my forehead and turned back to the stove.

Monday, October 27, 2008

cell phone service in portland

It looks like cincinnati bell wireless is going to pull the plug on my mobile phone. I've been looking at portland cell phone service options and they all seem pretty much the same, price-wise. And they all require contracts, which I'm not crazy about.

Before I sign my life away for two years can you tell me, if you live in portland, who do you use for cell phone service? Like them? Hate them? I'm most interested in coverage / service availability for using my mobile phone in Portland and while outside of the area.

e.g., when I drive three hours down to the coast to see my folks, can I still conduct business on my blackberry? Or will I be out of luck?

Thursday, October 23, 2008

blog crush: cobalt blue

My blog has a crush on cobalt blue. From the gory details of signing up at a temp agency to remembrances of sweet growing-up years in Texas, the San Francisco-based blog splashes life across the screen- and it ain’t always pretty. But it is always energetic and it’s very often great fun.

You’ve gotta love a blog that moves from flat-out bad boy behavior (presidential contender's policy choices from a dirty frat brother’s POV) to dreamy quotes like this: “Green fireflies glowing in the distance and a cigarette ash blinking right back at them.”

Blog crush: Cobalt Blue
Rated: Sexy, Smart and Funny as Hell.

Monday, October 20, 2008

the triumph

so today, I was goofing around downtown, getting my passport (are you reading, lynn?) and I quickstepped over to macy's (just to check on things) and bada-bing, bada-boom, someone asked me where something was and I knew the answer! (imagine cymbals crashing)

I was very blase about it all but couldn't stop grinning at the guy, who smiled back in obvious recognition of my all-knowingness.

could I be more of a geek?

Sunday, October 19, 2008

black box

The old black box tells a million tales.

Ticket stubs, from concerts long ago forgotten. Yellowed photos of a young girl in a long dress. A diamante crown leftover from some unknown celebration. Pennies flattened by trains. Dried corsages, old but firm, bedecked with pink satin ribbons.

And letters. Everywhere. There are letters.

Ruled white paper, torn from a notebook and filled with blue ink. I don’t have to read the letters to know what they say. I pick one up, and like a flash! I remember. That big old car. Windshield wipers swishing in the rain, a farmer’s rain, a real soft soaker. We left the windows open and the car was turned off but for some reason, the windshield wipers were still on. You forgot about them, or maybe you just liked the rhythmic, thwap-thwap sound they made. The stereo softly playing some song I thought I’d never forget, but after a while I couldn’t hear it, couldn’t hear anything but that thwap-thwapping sound.

And I remember smelling that heady scent, that wicked-rhododendron sweet smell, and laughing softly at the flowers you put on the mirrors, the dashboard, on the floor of the car and in my hair. Our Secret Garden.

Sometimes I still read your old letters. Are you somewhere reading mine?

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

the pitch

So a couple of unrelated events happened in the last 24 that got me thinking:

I am at home last night minding my own business (working, actually) when a guy from Environment Oregon stopped by. Barely taking a breath (I watched for it but never saw one) he proceeded to natter on about the environment and then he.pushed.his clipboard.over the threshold.and into my face.and waved it around. I told him I wasn’t interested and still, he kept wiggling his list of signatures in my face.

I appreciate the fact that he’s on commission (those signatures seemed almost a matter of life and death), but come on… That was a little much. I very much contemplated taking the clipboard, locking the door and calling his employer, but instead repeated that I wasn’t interested and firmly shut the door. A shame, because I actually thought Environment Oregon was fairly reputable. Apparently, I was wrong.

Today, I went for a deep tissue massage (hey-hey) and to see the chiro and while I was waiting, had a funny conversation with the receptionist. That crazy girl admitted that she looks in everyone’s grocery cart at the store to see what they are buying. That struck me as really funny, and we laughed when I told her if I ever saw her anywhere around New Seasons that she was to just walk away immediately, ha.

In the middle of our conversation, a couple of sales reps from Quill Office Supplies came in. Without apologizing for the interruption or asking if it was a good time to talk, they disrupted our chat to move in on the receptionist and to give her their pitch. We talked about the Quill sales reps after I came back from my appointment (they’d stayed for a while and she was aggravated by their strong sales pitch) and I told her she was too polite. She said she didn’t know what to do to avoid those situations so I pointed her to Staples to buy a “no solicitors, ever” sign for their door.

And how many people have YOU heard complaining about the Greenpeace kids who hang out in downtown Portland? The receptionist started talking about the downtown Greenpeace folks and their aggressive behavior this morning, but lately I hear complaints about them from everyone. And I am all for Greenpeace, trust; but when I’m in downtown Portland I’m always going somewhere and I don’t have time to talk. I, like many other people, will and have actually crossed a street to avoid the Greenpeace cadre that lurks outside Chinatown like an eco-friendly gang of tweakers.

I know of many, many people who made sales their lifetime work. It’s often an honest and perfectly acceptable way to make a living. But there’s a fine line between salesmanship and aggressive, annoying behavior. For me, that line was crossed not once but twice in the last day by Environment Oregon and Quill Office Supplies.

I am v. open to your suggestions for best ways to handle overly aggressive or rude salespeople, readers. So far, my no thank you’s and my more abrupt I’m not interested's just don’t seem to be doing the job.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

the interview II*

One part of the online dating process that strikes me as really, really strange is what can only be termed… the interview.

When you date people online, you’re supposed to have Some Goals in mind. Have an Idea of What You Want. So when you are emailing before you meet, talking on the phone or on that interminable first date, you can make sure that you’ve found someone who is Very Compatible with What You Want and Need out of A Relationship.

But when it comes to asking extremely personal questions of people that I hardly know, I have to admit that sometimes it feels suspiciously like…. A job interview.

“So Dylan… I see here that your last relationship failed miserably after only six months. Can you tell me a little bit about what went so horribly wrong?”

“Have you thought about having children, Mark? When?!”

“Can you list some of your areas of experience? And maybe, uh, tell me a little more about your specific areas of expertise?”

Going right along with the job interview and asking all of the personal questions, I’ve started to wonder about checking references, too. I’d call ex-girlfriends, sisters, moms and friends to learn more about a potential suitor. Questions to ask might include:

“So tell me, Mrs. Bradshaw. Has your son had very many girlfriends?”

“Sarah, when you dated Jeffrey, did he do that thing with his hands? Or is that new?”

When it comes right down to it, online dating is exactly the same as regular dating. The wrong ones text and call you all the time. The right one disappears into thin air about ten minutes after you have your date. I guess it’s all a waiting game, no matter how you meet.

So far, I’m still waiting.

*Not to be mistaken with the interview, a wholly different type of awkward moment for single women.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

the void

A friend of mine emailed me from Vegas and was telling me how unfortunate it was, watching the tourists cavort on the strip. Drunk and stupid and littering the streets. He said it reminded him of that spot by voodoo doughnuts where people congregate and whoop it up after the clubs close. Oblivious, I think he called them. I told him this:

Sometimes when I see people like you describe, I hate them. Not because they are oblivious. Because they’re really phony.

I like to drink. Beer, or sometimes a small batch bourbon. But I don’t whoop in the street, throw up on the curb or cry with abandon under the streetlight. Well, I probably do all of those things, but I do them in my home.

And I have never before lived in place where people got tattoos just to get them.

When I lived in the Midwest, people got tattoos because they meant something. To remember a beloved parent. Commemorate a lost brother. Celebrate the birth of a child. Here, a hallmark of the creative class is getting tattoos just because they’re pretty. An act of defiance as meaningful as working in a coffee shop and telling people that you’re an artist.

In forty years, will they be wiping the crumbs from the counter of the nursing home when someone notices their demarcation? And will they say: I worked in a coffee shop? Or will they say: I was an artist? Will they still believe it? Or will the inaction have finally sunk in?

I love humanity. I just hate people.

I think Linus said that.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

the elimination

So dear readers, I wrote about the craigslist experiment a couple of weeks ago and I’ve barely had time to catch my breath since. I still have lots to tell you but for now, I want to write about the elimination process; to share my experience in case you’re thinking about putting up your own personal ad.

The sorting process for the responses to the ad has been interesting. Because how do you choose? And you have to start the selection process pretty quickly if you plan to a. keep working b. have any sort of life outside of checking email and 3. ever go out on any dates.

Here’s a little about how I (tried to) pare down the responses:

Men who sent me an email saying, you didn't say what you're looking for, were deleted. I did say what I was looking for. But I talked about common interests, qualities I like and values instead of height or age or whatever. For the people who didn't "get it," I didn't feel like explaining it to them.

Men who responded and sent me their own personal ad or a link to MySpace, Facebook, etc. Deleted. Not that this was such a bad thing to do, though as Annie and my sis pointed out, they didn’t put any thought into it. I deleted them because when I read the email that was clearly their personal ad (“I like walks on the beach, butterflies and poetry”) or read their online ad or profile, I didn’t see why they were contacting me. I didn’t feel it.

Men who didn’t send a photo were deleted. I asked for a photo and my thinking was, for all of the people who didn’t send one, many people did, often saying, this is a terrible photo of me. But they still sent one. It seemed only fair to delete the rest of them. Also, and this is important, because everyone on craigslist personals complains about spammers, I think that many of the people who responded without a photo were spammers. Clever spammers who said they wanted to see if I was a scam before they sent a photo. I just have a feeling about it.

Men who quite obviously didn’t read my ad at all or only honed in on one aspect of it, one line, etc. Deleted.

Some people were from out of state. I deleted them just for expediency's sake. I understand, there’s a romantic aspect to dating someone who is far away. But there’s also a “you're far away and I bet you can save me and also you don’t know about all of my flaws” aspect to it that I didn’t like. Deleted.

Some were from out of state and said they frequently travelled to Portland. Those were suspect and deleted. Some were just a one liner and some included photos of half-naked men. Deleted. Deleted.

The people who responded apparently just to tell me we had nothing in common. Quotes from the bible, and others who were offended by something that I wrote. Deleted, deleted, deleted.

Spammers that were clearly spammers, “Hey I like you you look good hit me up” there were only a blessed few and they were deleted.

The hard part came in reading the rest of the responses. And then I just worked off instinct. Dear readers, it's been really hard. Everyone seems nice, funny, interesting and attractive. How do I know who I am going to have chemistry with?

I’ve been on a few dates. Have been trying to set up a few more. Tricky because of my travel, their travel, but I’m trying to take a Taoist approach to dating: whatever happens, will happen.

And the dates I have been on have been nice. Really interesting, dynamic, nice people. I can’t tell you too much about them, because it’s none of your business. That’s private. But I will say, I’m still feeling good about the experience.

~ More later.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

been holding your breath?

the resemblance is uncanny.

So I told you all that I posted an ad online to meet men in the rose city. It was a long journey that got me to this place, this place where I posted an advertisement on a website to try to meet someone special. But here’s what led me along this path:

In 2008, I had some goals. Move to Oregon. Spend lots and lots of quality time with family. Keep working to stay self employed. And that… was it, really. I hadn’t thought beyond the move. Once I was settled; once I’d been down to the coast a dozen times to spend long weekends with my folks, or spent many a lazy Saturday afternoon bicycling around Corvallis with my sister’s family, it was time to look at what else I needed. For me.

And there was definitely something missing.

So I posted an ad. And the next thing that happened astounded me.

From all over this fair city, and from many points beyond (California, Idaho, Washington, Montana- even Chicago and New York), I received email after email from hundreds of people who were all looking too.

I don’t what I expected. Maybe I thought it would be all spam. I remember thinking, I bet I get 20-30 responses and I hope it doesn’t overwhelm me. I had no idea.

I figured I’d get some downright silly responses and I did. Here are a few of my favorites:

- I don’t know about going out but you need to clean that room. (one photo showed me in my apartment, and yes, it’s a mess)
- You’re thirtysomething? Damn. I’m twentysomething.
- Sell some of those fucking vintage coats! (I fessed up to owning more than 100, which is a conservative estimate at best)
- I didn’t list any age or race or height or bank account requirements, because I think that’s shallow and superficial. So I got a number of responses like this one: “Is 74 too old?”
- You don’t want a man. Get a dog.

And my favorite, “You look like Sarah Palin.”

Then there were photos of men in drag, a woman (who I actually agreed to meet), several half-naked members of the Greek persuasion (or at least they all had SAE tattoos) and lots more fun and funny responses.

But mostly, it was just nice, sincere men who are all looking for someone special. I was really, really blown away by the time and thought that they put into responding to my ad. I still am, because responses continue to trickle in. And I am still reading through emails from two days ago.

I’ll have more to tell you soon, dear readers. How the whole process feels like a job interview. How very difficult it is to try to pick some people to respond to, and how worrisome it is to think that the right one might be missed.

I also think you might be interested to learn what I wrote in my ad that seemed to engender such a range of responses. I know my beer and baseball comments hit a home run with some Mariners fans (boo); musicians, artists and writers responded to a call for an artistic bent; and some people were motivated by something else entirely.

And the difficult, stressful process of elimination will be another blog. I wish there were more hours in the day. So that I could respond to everyone who emailed me. Since there aren’t, I had to make some quick decisions, or I’d be dating until 2011.

I suppose whether I really do meet mr. right will have to be it's own blog, too.

More soon. ~

Monday, September 22, 2008


More than once since I moved to the rose city I’ve had to apologize, belatedly, for not posting regularly. And here we are again, dear readers. So, some updates, and a hopeful promise that I’ll soon have more news to share:

A few days at the coast to visit mom and dad unearthed yet another interesting tidbit about their 80 + year-old neighbor, who is a dear friend to them and to me; it turns out that he was published many times in Sunset magazine.

Noteworthy simply because I love that publication and getting published there is on my to-do list… one day. Also, we had an interesting conversation about his plans to sell his property and move to some acreage off in the middle of nowhere. I couldn’t stop myself from asking, “Why do you want to be alone? How can you do that?”

Taken by surprise, he responded wholly and without artifice that he doesn’t need people. He gets enough interaction with family as it is and will most likely get involved in some local politics (lately lording it over the run-down claptrap of a clubhouse/neighborhood association where my folks live).

I couldn’t stop thinking about our conversation (much more lively and detailed in person, of course) and here’s what I took away: he’s already had it all. Was married, has a daughter, has other family members he’s close to, it’s just, he HAS it all or had it all already, and now he just wants to putter in his not inconsiderable gardens and have some peace.

I can dig it.

Moving on: my sissy got the cutest. Dog. Ever! A teensy-tiny terrier that flips and flops and runs excitedly when you whistle for him and he’s just generally sweet and v. lovable. I am usually a big-dog person but I tend to migrate towards any kind of dog without reservation. And when they are puppies they are so playful and sweet. My sweetie-niece had a bad experience with dogs way back when and the dog-ownership is in part a salve, an attempt to get her on board with cute canines. So far, it seems to be working.

I have moved far beyond disenchantment and being pissed off at the complete lack of communication and am now just flummoxed at the fact that our garbage hasn’t been picked up since, I don’t know, July?

My folks are threatening a visit tomorrow and my place looks, as usual, like a crack den of iniquity.

Biggest news of all: I posted an ad online to meet people. Yup, I really did.

We’ll see what happens. Highlights from responses received so far include a large number of married men (why? Why would you contact me and why would you admit to being married? Although I guess that beats the alternative.), one photo of someone in drag (wha?), countless suspect spammers and finally, some very well-thought out, kind emails that immediately got my attention.

One hour after posting and I’ve received so many emails, it’s kind of overwhelming. I posted my photo and requested a photo with responses so for people who email me without one, I guess that gives me a point of elimination. That only seems fair to the people who do include photos. Right? Right.

Keep your fingers crossed for me.

Monday, September 8, 2008

growing up

“You don’t know me at all. You don’t know anything about me,” she mumbled at me through tears. A whirling kaleidoscope of images came fast, almost choking me:

That time she fell and the way that she looked around, finding me, and how she ran so fast, chubby little legs pumping, into my arms. And sobbed her heart out. How I held her tight and whispered things to make her rigid body soften.

When she read a book upside down so she wouldn’t be left out while all of the adults were reading.

In the hot rod I drove during college, taking her for afternoon rides while she grinned up at the bright sun, blazing through the sunroof.

Going to softball games. Watching gymnastics.

I remember so much.

But I guess I don’t know her now.

Years of being institutionalized can harden even the sweetest of children. Vulnerability masked by a thick-skinned veneer. It can make me cry for hours after a visit. Thinking of that little girl that I still see, that I will always see, in the young woman’s face. I used to wonder, what we could have all done differently to save her. Replayed mistake moments over and over again in my head.

I don’t go back in my mind anymore. It doesn’t help anything. And it hurts.

We talked for hours through our tears, and I don’t think we found any resolution. It’s too much to hope for and it’s too much to ask. I just hope we found some middle ground.

"I don’t have to know everything about you," I told her yesterday. "I just want to know you."

When I left, she hugged me and at the last moment grabbed on and really held.

That’s enough. Enough, for now.

Monday, September 1, 2008

the clock stop

I have to think that a lot of what went wrong in our relationships has to do with timing. Looking back at my most significant relationships and trying to figure it all out, it wasn’t so much that we didn’t get along or that we didn’t share the same values. I think that our timing was off.

When I lived with him, I was just finishing college and we moved in together after something like, I don’t know, three weeks? And I loved him, I still love him, but now that we’re just best friends we laugh about how young we were then. Trying to play house. We were trying to cope with the emotional upheaval that comes with a deep commitment when we were, basically, still just kids. With no idea what it took to sustain a relationship.

And I have to wonder, if we’d met at a different time in our lives, if things could have been different.

Sometimes it feels like when you most want a relationship, when you’re ready to go all-in, to start to trust again and to give something new a try, that’s when you only meet people who want to be just friends. Who want to explore new opportunities and leave themselves an opening to see “what’s out there.”

When you want to meet a lot of new people and just have fun, you find people who are flummoxed by your decision and don’t see the point of going on together, when it will never go anywhere. And it’s true; as long as you’re spending time with the wrong person, you won’t find the right one. I’ve learned that over the years. You have to be open to feeling the click.

I broke up with him because I wanted to see what else there was. Years later I can tell you, there wasn’t anything else. I found myself trying to explain this to a friend recently and I know, he didn’t understand what I was saying. But it’s this:

You can get up every day, drink your latte, go to work, come home, fix dinner and go to bed, wake up drink your latte go to work come home fix dinner and go to bed every day for the rest of your life while never quite finding that connection again. Because people just aren’t making connections like that every day. Mostly, they’re staring out the window, slurping hot coffee and wondering if today’s going to be the same as yesterday.

And yes; it is.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

favorite Oregon recipes: Cioppino

With the dusty, unused smell of the furnace permeating my place, drizzling rain outside and wool socks on my freezing toes, it seemed like a good day to post my favorite Oregon recipe: mom's Cioppino. For the uninitiated, Cioppino is a sort of bouillabaisse, a red sauce-based seafood soup recipe that's overflowing with fresh fish and seafood still in the shell.

The bouillabaisse recipe takes some time to prepare (run to the seafood store, clean the goods and ready the spices), but it's really quite easy to make. Cioppino looks lovely on the table, impresses the heck out of your guests and it's so, so good. If you try it, let me know how it turns out and feel free to share your choices for catch of the day ingredients.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

this time things will be different

When I was growing up, my parents used to have huge parties. Stacked crates of bottles of Pop Shoppe Pop in every flavor the brand carried looked like a rainbow rising out of the wet bar. Strange adult drinks that included eggs and bourbon heated in the 40-gallon silver urn and delectable dishes strewn around the dining room captivated me, as did the white tablecloths, pretty china and harried preparations for the party.

And all through the house, people readied themselves for a night of fun, while I excitedly wandered around, inspecting the goings-on. I stayed up well past my bedtime, relishing the adult conversation, admiring the long, filmy gowns and elaborate hair-dos of family friends until someone finally caught sight of me, round eyes burning, stuffing myself with cheese-filled dates and commanded me to my canopy bed. A considerable letdown.

As I got older, my sense of raw anticipation about the new, the unknown, never wavered. If anything, I got even more wound up when it came time for the keggers and the homecoming parties of my teen years. Any excuse to get dressed up in my new Guess jeans or in a fancy formal gown was momentous, and evolved out of long days of surprisingly extensive planning and highly detailed organization.

Giggling girls crowded my bedroom phone line with questions about what I was wearing, could I lend them this, and did I think they should wear that, what time would I arrive at the party? And oftentimes we’d gather at my house before we went out, I think just to draw out the getting ready time… Envisioning ourselves dancing, drinking clouds of champagne and falling for some as yet unnamed, no-faced suitor.

The anticipation, it always seemed to me, was the best part of any event.

And as an adult, I still approach any new adventure with my usual wide-eyed optimism. Excitement builds, in tandem with anxiety, as I worry whether everything will go off correctly. Gripping the drink that helps assuage my worries, I’ve had (mainly fleeting) thoughts that I should both drink less and apologize less for scheduling difficulties and my own insecurities that everything won’t be perfect.

It’s the same thing with relationships.

I want to keep a clear head, and not be naïve about whom I trust and who I allow to get close to me. Understand that I need to take the time to really learn things about people before I let them in. But mostly, I find myself swept up in the newness of it all, carried along by sensation and by my own, foolish fantasies about how things will be.

And just like a party, the anticipation and excitement that a new relationship brings often dwindles in the face of reality.

While our fantasy lives often far outweigh our real lives, we still always have that hope, don’t we? That everything will be perfect. That somehow, things are moving of their own volition into something bigger than two people, and that it’s an inevitability that everything will turn out just right.

Confronted with the awful truth, that you are, after all, ordinary, and that the goings-on around you are just ordinary, or second-best to someone else, makes me feel like I’ve fallen flat. Like I didn’t do everything that I could have done. I could have made better plans. Could have dressed differently, or worn someone else’s brittle, sparkling personality that would have made me seem more interesting. Second-guessing myself. It comes with the territory.

It’s hard to let people in, even harder to let them go. But sometimes, you have to face reality. Even when it’s hard. Even when it hurts. But still, I love that anticipation. The idea that someday, something good will come of all of this.

At least that’s what I hope.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

things to do in portland: Free Summer Symphony Concerts

There are only a few free summer symphony concerts remaining this season.

An overview of free concerts in Portland and a few highlights:

Saturday, August 23rd The Oregon Symphony at Mt. Scott Park- an afternoon festival begins at 2 and culminates in a show at 7 pm. Wagner, Tchaikovsky and Berlin are among the show highlights.

Thursday, August 28th A free symphony concert at Tom McCall Waterfront Park- The Portland Youth Philharmonic plays at 5 pm and the Oregon Symphony takes the stage at 7. More Tchaikovsky, bits of Liszt’s Hungarian Rhapsody and Verdi makes this show look promising. And the Portland park concert ends in the 1812 Overture, the biggest crowd-pleaser there is.

Sunday, Sept. 7th at 4:00 pm at the Foothills Park in Lake Oswego, the Portland Festival Symphony finishes off the free concert season with selections including Liszt, Tchaikovsky and the Toy Symphony by Haydn.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

i’ve had nothing to compare it to

Once when I was in college, my hairstylist, on a whim, died my hair a deep chocolate brown. When she suggested it, I immediately thought of Michelle Pfeiffer and her starring role in that really awful movie, Married to the Mob.

I know, I know, for dumb, right? But I’d just seen the movie and the only thing that really stood out, other than the terribly inept acting, was Michelle’s charming cap of dark brown hair. It was such a surprisingly theatrical look for the light-eyed, Nordic-fashioned Pfeiffer. I thought it was stunning.

Drama, I thought, was just what I needed. And a change. And why not? I’d been blonde since I was young and I wanted to try something different. When we dried my freshly shampooed hair and checked it out in the salon mirror, we loved it. It was dramatic. The fresh change I needed. I cheerfully paid her and went off to show my best friends.

Who, to a person, hated it. Hated it.

It was bizarre. More than bizarre. Clearly, my friends were repelled by my new darkened tresses. And I heard so many people ask me that same, annoying question, “why?” that it really started to get under my skin. To the point that I actually started to feel less dramatic and more… dull.

At the time, a guy friend of mine explained it to me like this: there’s nothing better than long, blonde hair: It’s the absolute American feminine ideal. So to get rid of it, to hide it under a brunette shade, well, people think you must be crazy. Astounding.

Case in point: Carly, a best friend from college, listened to me complaining that everyone else was complaining about my hair for several minutes before she cocked her head and peered up at me closely. “It looks really good,” she said sincerely. Ah, thanks, Carl. “It’s just… that it was so pretty before.” I rolled my eyes at her and we both started to laugh.

And it was funny. Funny and ridiculous that I offended people by coloring my hair.

But still, I only did it once. I never ventured down that darkened brown path again. I did, finally, cut my hair. Like I wrote about here, I worried that with the loss of length I’d somehow lose my powers, like Samson. It didn’t happen. Chances are, it only happened when I dyed my hair brown because I allowed it to happen. I know that. It was a big change and I didn’t own my appearance the way I do today.

And nowadays, highlights from a stylist in the winter and from the sunny Oregon sun in the summer keep my hair bright, shiny and blonde. And regular Brazilian waxes eliminate any other evidence. Evidence that might indicate the truth: I started going a lot darker sometime after college. Not that you’d ever know. Well. Not that anyone who doesn’t read the blog or know me personally would ever know.

Moving to Oregon this spring my new stylist, debating with me about colors and highlights and the rest of it, thought about my hair color intently for a long moment and then put her hands on my scalp, speaking seriously to my reflection: “You’re a blonde Lisa. You couldn’t be anything else.”

I couldn’t agree more.

Question: Do Blondes Really Have More Fun? Answer: See the Title of this Blog.

Monday, August 11, 2008

unexpected time

Almost a year ago at this time, I was in South Carolina visiting a friend when in a flurry of text messages and phone calls, I found out that a family friend had passed away.

It felt so strange.

To be surrounded by so much beauty; and yet, to keep getting reminded that there's so much pain and sadness, too. I had been working on a lot of funny, silly story ideas about Hilton Head hotties, the dearth of sad sack starter wives and the outrageous plethora of second-time-around sex kittens on that island. My trip was made up of Mai Tais and Pina Coladas, noshing on sushi and wading in the ocean. But mostly, I found myself alone inside my thoughts. I had a hard time absorbing everything and finally sat down with my friends for a heart to heart.

And so I cut the trip short to be able to attend the funeral. I had just seen the young woman not two months’ before, at a baby shower. She looked so good, I kept signing that to her and I remember teasing her about the obvious lack of piercings. For years, longer than most pierced people that I know, she’d been dotted with a variety of metals. “I’m a mother now,” she signed to me. “It’s not right anymore.”

And the baby was luscious. A charming chunk who grabbed onto me, arms windmilling, to tote him around the buffet and delight him by pointing out the babified shower decorations of chicks and ducks. It was a happy day.

Later, I learned about the depression she’d had since the baby was born. How she’d taken pills and fought with the baby’s father. Felt like she was failing. At the funeral home, I looked at photos taken when she was little and remembered her when. The priest was from the deaf school and he signed a beautiful service. And later, I pressed the letter into her dazed mother’s hand.

In my letter, which was and is private, I tried to explain how much the young woman’s mother had meant to our family over the years. To tell her that she was a beautiful mother. Pitiful small words that didn’t say much at all, not everything I wanted to say. Not hardly at all.

One year later, I think about that little baby. Remember the way the proud young mother looked that day, smiling serenely and happily telling me her news. Teasing and laughing at the young grandmother, who seemed happier than she had been in years.

Still, I remember.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

the long sweet minute

Like a parish priest in gym clothes, the sight of me in a heavy metal t-shirt takes some people by surprise. Bright red with a prominent skull on the front, the vintage tee I’m wearing today might portray my love for a little-known thrash metal band from the 80’s. Or just indicate that I buy fake vintage t-shirts at Abercrombie & Fitch. In fact, I was never a fan. And I hate the mall. But the t-shirt crept into my wardrobe a long time ago and there it remains: Evidence of an ex-love, who loved that band.

In the past I’ve written about my favorite concert tee. But there’s another type of relic that looms large inside my closet: T-shirts that belong to ex-boyfriends. The lost artifacts of failed relationships. Soft from years of washing and wearing, they’re still a perennial favorite. But what do they say about me? About the people I have loved… and lost?

I barely give pause when I come across one of these old t-shirts today. Except when someone notices, like the guy at the 7-11 did this morning. “Flotsam and Jetsam?” he asked, tilting his head and looking puzzled. Oh… right.

I tore up your photos. Threw away your love letters. And I really never think of you at all now, unless I need an anecdote: “I actually dated a guy in a heavy metal band. No, really.”

But still, I love your t-shirt.

Monday, August 4, 2008

fear of flying

Every step that I took on my way to the top hurt me in some way. I couldn’t look down for fear that I would lose my footing and tumble over the side. When I reached the apex, the mouth where I had to walk across the platform, my tongue felt stuck to the back of my throat. I took each step cautiously, but my legs were leaden and I felt myself dragging my weight with each step I took. I was so, so scared, and so worried that my incredible shakiness, my complete instability would make me lose my footing, plunging me to my death.

Does anyone ever fall off, I asked the guide? Yes, he smiled. I choked back my horror. “Que?” he asked at my confusion, clearly not having heard my original question. I shook my head slowly and turned to face my fear. The struggle to fit my feet into the bag took too long, since my legs didn’t seem to work. And the bag itself kept bunching up below me, ensuring that my plummet to the ground was imminent.

“Well, I’m going,” piped my puzzled eight-year-old niece, who until then had waited patiently. And off she sailed, down the big slide. I watched her slip neatly down to the bottom and, taking a ragged, shallow breath, I followed.

Yes: I am afraid of heights.

No, despite the title of this blog, I am not afraid to fly. Thankfully, I’ve been travelling since I was a kid and it seems to have inured me. But I have severe acrophobia. So severe that watching my neighbor, who locked himself out of his apartment, race to the top of the ladder and then jump through his open window on the 2nd floor almost made me faint, as I held my breath for his entire trip up the ladder. I am also afraid of steps with spaces in between them and walking by a scaffolding makes my hands ice cold with dread. I don’t know why, since I have no plans to stand on one anytime soon. But just the thought of that height makes me dizzy with my own fear.

The treatments for acrophobia seem to run one of two courses: slowly introduce patients to situations where they have to confront their fear of heights, so they become desensitized over time to the affects on their body. The second course involves throwing patients into the worst situations possible, in order to make small situations involving altitude increases less alarming.

Never having received any therapy for acrophobia, I’ve always chosen the “just do it” mentality. Forcing myself into situations where I have to confront my fear of heights to prove to myself that I am, in fact, stronger than my fear. Riding in tall glass elevators, I stand next to the glass and watch the ground drop before my feet. With small, but equally frightening tasks like changing a light bulb, I try to shake off my fear and take deep breaths in order to reduce the shakiness in my legs so I won’t fall. I want to prove to myself that I can conquer my fears and face them head-on.

But I only want to do it once.

I don’t see any need to prove, over and over again, that I can get on the Ferris Wheel, I can go down the big slide or that I can do any other number of these stupid endurance tests that I always force myself to do. My best friend Cheryl is talking about jumping out of a plane on her birthday next year. I might just do it with her.

Then again, maybe I won’t.

Talking with Dave Schappell about TeachStreet

Dave Schappell’s TeachStreet website rolled into Portland today. The website helps people connect with teachers, classes and tutors in their area. I had the opportunity to interview Schappell just before the website dropped:

Tell me about TeachStreet. TeachStreet allows users to find teachers and experts in their area. It’s not online learning or e-learning; it’s a place for students and teachers to find each other. There’s just no way to differentiate in Google SERPs when trying to find one good yoga class, for example.

In the past, many teachers used craigslist and classified ads to promote their services. TeachStreet gives them another, more direct avenue to find prospective students. We’ve imported information about local service providers and then we present them with the opportunity to claim their profile with one (and only one) email.

The inspiration behind TeachStreet? Everyone’s an expert in something. And anyone can participate. We're building an active, vibrant community online.

The benefits of TeachStreet? Teachers and experts don’t always have websites to promote their services; TeachStreet gives them a place to advertise their services. In addition to finding information about specific classes and class times, the website also includes discounts.

The future of TeachStreet? We’ll continue to launch city by city, offering free set-up and helping website visitors to find experts in their area.

The most unusual classes offered? TeachStreet offerings have included but are not limited to cat training, making grocery bags out of recycled materials and environmental knitting. Piano instruction, cooking, language, salsa and merengue dance lessons, introduction to acting and performance etiquette are among the classes being taught right now.

To find classes in your neighborhood, visit TeachStreet.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

day trips from portland: the benton county fair

The grizzled, sun-split skinned ride operator politely asked if he could sit next to me on the bench and then told me a. he’s been operating rides for 27 years and b. “that’s my wife,” indicating a beautiful young woman with three tiny children in tow. Teenaged kids flirted and laughed, teasing each other with cotton candy, queuing up to the ticket booth. I faced my fear of heights head on and walked the long steps into the sky to go down the slide.

A cowboy willingly brought his lasso outside of the barn to let me snap some photos with my crackberry and told us that he didn’t enter the rodeo this year; the $100 fee wasn’t worth paying since he wasn’t skilled enough to win. Watching his lasso swoop and swirl we laughed and told him he was wonderful.

And I felt an odd sense of relief at seeing the many baked goods on display. It’s comforting somehow, to know that people still care about things like cookies on a plate or jelly in a jar. I couldn’t hold back my giggles as I perused the lego creations and bizarre collections (rubber ducks, bugs) on display in the exhibit center. The band played loudly to a tiny audience and all around us, families chattered and took in the sights.

The 2008 Benton County Fair in Corvallis wraps up today. If the fair’s attendance doesn’t hit a certain number, they’re going to decrease the number of days for the fair starting next year. It’s sad, but over time, county fairs have decreased in popularity. Sad, because county fairs offer local residents a way to learn more about the agriculture that’s at the heart of many rural communities. And they’re just so much fun. If you’re looking for something to do today, go.

Benton County Fair and Rodeo
Corvallis, Oregon

Monday, July 28, 2008

the crisis

The dream:

I am in a parking garage and pressed for time.

Looking around I can’t find what I need, anywhere. I can hear the elevator gears grinding, but none of the doors will lead me to where I need to go.

I spy several young, good-looking attendants (hey, it’s my dream, ok?).

“Where’s the elevator? Which door should I choose?”

Moments later, nothing. Still no response from the weary, bleary-eyed men.

“Still waiting!”

I realize that one of the men is walking towards me. In fact, they all sit down at a long desk to observe. “An existential crisis, huh?” laughed the attendant. “Doors.”

“No!” I shouted with conviction. “Sometimes a door is just a door.”

“Do you have a problem with ambiguity?” he asked, furiously scribbling on a pad of paper.

“Well, no, I…. Well, I don’t like it. But I see its inevitability.”

I stepped through the door closest to me and leapt into nothingness.

~ Lately, I have the feeling that everyone I know is in therapy. And that they are all in agreement that I need to be therapy, too. Or on some kind of medication. If I choose to be screwed up and can live my life without causing harm to others, or harm to myself, isn’t that enough?

Thursday, July 17, 2008

one’s hot

I might have a tiny crush on my neighbor. I know, I know, but I just can’t help myself. I feel like every time I talk to him, I learn something so wholly unexpected, such a surprising new facet of his personality that it makes him, well, pretty irresistible: He can fix anything. He taught himself how to design websites. Plays the piano like a savant. Lives life respectfully in regards to the environment. Loves his family. Funny and a good listener. Modest about his many accomplishments and awfully sweet. And good looking? Oh, my. He is loaded with attractability.

But that’s part of the problem, dear readers. Help me out here; because I’m not sure about this, but I think he might be too good looking. At least for me.

A while back on the Today Show, they were talking about a funny topic- "One's hot, and one's not." They were, of course, referring to that mysterious couple you sometimes see together that has a, well, sort of imbalance in their collective appearance.

Today talked to a number of people with extraordinarily good-looking spouses and then did a man on the street poll, asking what people think when they see a couple with an inequity in good looks. The responses ranged from “he must have money” to “he needs someone to focus only on him” to “maybe he has a nice car.”

I don’t think those are fair assessments. After all, when it comes to the laws of attraction, who are we to sit in judgment over their kind of cute? "My kind of cute" is my way of defining that elusive secret of personal magnetism, that indefinable draw to someone I like. "That's chemistry, Lisa," my friend Jo has always told me. And maybe she's right. After all, what better way to describe that feeling than by using the laws of science?

For me, chemistry works something like this. The "right" kind of man says something to me. Something about his voice, the words he says (or how he says them) makes a bell go off in my head. I'm not kidding. It sounds like the end of round 1 at an Anselmo Moreno fight. Ding!

But it’s nothing that I can explain properly. Especially to my friends, who are always bewildered at my vast array of love interests, which have ranged from the hippie guy to the entrepreneur, to the artist, etc., etc. I don’t know how it works. It just does. But sometimes, what other people think about the one you’re with can be damaging- to you or to your partner.

I was at a bar with an ex-boyfriend, who left to make a phone call. The second he walked out of the room, some would-be lothario rushed over to talk to me. “Is that your boyfriend?” “Yes.” “No, really, you’re with him? Why?” This went on for a while, while I stealthily text-messaged my boyfriend, telling him to come back and rescue me. Later, I told him what the man said, only because he said he wanted every detail of the conversation, but it was still a mistake. Because the man’s words were very hurtful, and they cast a pall over the rest of the evening.

I haven’t ever bothered with online dating (I haven’t ever bothered with online dating yet) since I think that more than likely I will just be wasting someone’s time. Because either I will hear that bell, or I won't.

"That's just sex," says my friend Mark. "There's a lot more to a relationship than that." Well, I know that. And I know that for me, how someone looks isn’t a deal-breaker. But isn't basic chemistry between a man and a woman at least a starting point?

I could give you a list of what I like in the opposite sex, but it would be kind of useless, since it seems to go out the window whenever I meet someone who's my kind of cute. I have no idea how other people see me. Because it’s all so subjective- if I’m not their kind of cute, they probably won’t be interested.

And when it comes to trying to find a match, I worry about the really good looking guys. Frankly, dating someone who’s much better looking than me affects the balance of power in a way that makes me uncomfortable. I don’t have to be the one that’s hot.

But I definitely don’t want to be the one who’s not.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Oregon Country Fair: revisited

I’ve been writing about my great anticipation for the Oregon Country Fair for some time on the rose city journal and this weekend, it finally arrived. In days of yore, the fair was a much-anticipated event. And it was exciting to go back again, for the first time in years. As always, the fair is like two separate events: a daytime fair for the public, and a midnight show for friends of the fair.

Highlights of the post-sweep show included a naked woman who stepped out on stage to do a reverse strip and a burlesque show done by two women on trapezes. Highlights during the day included phenomenal falafel and plenty of people-watching. But like everything around us, the Oregon Country Fair has changed over time. Some visitors felt the changes were subtle but noticeable, and others (like me) felt they were huge, sweeping changes that manifestly changed the fair’s footprint.

With the rose city journal in mind, I had some very good, very involved conversations with vendors, volunteers and visitors who have been coming to the fair for many years. One attendee (a tax protester who only comes down from the mountain for the annual event) was at the very first Oregon Country Fair and has been back every year since.

A few things that I noticed about the country fair this year:

The fair has expanded a great deal, with a lot more space to walk around in. This is nice, but it also adds to the more commercial aspect that the fair has today. In addition to the current expansion, the fair’s management team continues to look for more new ground to break, in their efforts to continue to expand the fair.

There were a lot less people waving their freak flags at this year’s Oregon Country Fair. Sure, the strumpeting flamingos were there and the parade went by one time, but overall, well, it could have been a renaissance faire in Ohio for all of the freak-festing that didn’t go on. Having said that, I was wearing a t-shirt and Capri pants so I can hardly complain. There were some women, young and old, who were topless, but they were few and far between.

There’s some sort of tension between vendors and Oregon Country Fair volunteers. I don’t know if I completely understand the root cause, even though it was explained to me more than once. But it seems like there’s some kind of misunderstanding that’s gotten a bit out of hand. Which seems silly, but then I’m not in the middle of it. The fair could probably benefit by using some mediation or finding some champions on either side to come together and determine how they can work out their problems.

There was far less dust than in previous years. This was due in no small part to vendors, who used watering cans to keep their walkways dampened.

The Oregon Country Fair has become somewhat homogenized and more than a little bureaucratic, explained the tax protester. Yet, he also pointed out something important: where else could you have this big of a gathering, where nothing bad ever happens? And that’s true. I told him about the many Midwestern Oktoberfests I’ve attended, and how they often seemed to end in muggings or fights. He told me that’s because they are based on drinking beer, where the faire finds its roots in a more peace-seeking variety of herbs. He might be right.

The Oregon Country Fair has had to change and adapt to the world around it for a number of reasons. The local police and the farmers on surrounding land were fed up with the “dirty hippies” that the fair engendered, and demanded a change. Being asked if I had drugs or alcohol on me was one of many changes the fair has made to capitulate. Seeing two officers when I first drove in to the fairgrounds was another surprise.

For the Oregon Country Fair to continue to thrive, it has to remain reflective of the counterculture that still exists in Eugene. But for that to happen, the world would have to stop. I completed a survey, part of the Fair’s attempt to capture the vision that visitors have for the annual event. I’m hopeful that they’ll contact me and ask me for my opinion.

A last thought from the Merlin-like vendor who told me the most about his Oregon Country Fair experiences, 40 years ago and today:

“It’s like a hot tub. Get in there with your best friend and it’s seventh heaven, man. Get in there with two best friends and it’s ninth heaven. Let everybody in and it starts to stink.”

I couldn’t agree more.

The Oregon Country Fair
July 10-12, 2009