Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Favorite Oregon Recipes: Extra-Small Oysters in White Wine

Last week I was driving out to my folks’ house, all dithered because I was running late or something (running late according to my self-imposed schedule, right?) when it occurred to me: what are you so stressed about? You’re self employed, you live in Oregon and you’re taking off in the middle of the week to hang out at the beach. Not a bad life, actually.

When I took my leave of my folks’ house, my dad gifted me with a tub of extra-small oysters, my favorite. I really, really wanted some oysters before the end of April, the last “R” month until fall. I prepared a simple recipe for oysters in white wine and made short work of a nice Pinot Gris (some for the pan, some for the chef). Here’s how I made them:

Melt 4 T margarine in a shallow pan on medium-high heat. Add some green onions, enough to taste. Let the green onions sauté for a while, and meanwhile, set up your luminous fresh salad from the Corvallis Farmer’s Market (thanks to the good people at Heavenly Harvest Farm) and toast some bread in the oven. By this time the onion should be soft, or if you’re like me and you got distracted by the Mariners and the Pinot Gris, they’ll be slightly browned. That’s ok. Add enough tarragon to make it all smell heavenly and then toss in 12-24 oysters. Let them rest for a couple of minutes and then flip them and leave them in for a few minutes more, turning off the heat.

It was easy, and it was tasty, too. Typically recipe books will state some BS like 5 oysters per person but I think that’s ridiculous. I used at least 7 and I ate two raw before I put them back in the fridge. Then again, I skipped lunch.

Ingredients You’ll Need for this Favorite Oregon Recipe: Margarine, green onions, tarragon, white wine, oysters, salad and toast. Salt and pepper if you must.

Feel free to post your Favorite Oregon Recipe or any recipe with oysters here. I still have half a tub and though I will probably eat them raw for lunch tomorrow, I’m open to suggestions.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

the life of the party

Sometimes it would be a call at 3 in the morning. No, not another ex-boyfriend with late-night meanderings in mind. Not at all. It was Julia.

With a tone of almost-ecstasy or unfathomable despair, my friend would relate her drama du jour as my half-asleep brain tried to process what she was saying. That she was “stranded” in a motel room in a bad area of town with a couple of guys she’d met in a bar earlier that evening. One wanted to tattoo her while the other wanted her to do a lot of coke. Neither one of them would let her go home. “I don’t know what to do,” she breathed. “I’m drunk and I’m so scared, Lisa.” And I could feel her terror, trembling in her voice and coming across loud and clear over the wire.

“Julia,” I said, thinking quickly, “I’ll call the cops. They’ll be there in no time.”

“Oh No,” she said. “Don’t do that. I’ll get in trouble because they have the coke.” OK, I said, still thinking. Then I’ll call you a cab. “No, no,” she whispered dramatically. “That will take too long. And I don’t have any money! Can’t you just come and get me?”

“Julia,” I said patiently. “I live 40 miles away. A cab can get there much more quickly than I can. Have the driver call me and I’ll give him a card number to pay for your ride. It will be fine, I promise.”

This goes on and on while I lie on the edge of my bed, clock in hand, thinking about how I have to get up for work in a few hours. And how insomniac-me will never get back to sleep. And how clearly, she’s not in any danger. She just wants a friend to join her for the party. No, seriously. That’s how she thinks.

But that’s the joy of Julia.

And if it wasn’t a 3 am phone call, it was a call hinting at suicide, or at least severe depression, at 2 in the afternoon. On more than one occasion, this resulted in my leaving work to race across town(s) to her house… Only to find her drinking margaritas and slumped over the kitchen table but ready to party.

“I can’t believe you left work for me. I love you!” she crowed. “And I’m going to change. Everything’s going to be different. Look,” she said, waving a hand engulfed by a cluster cocktail ring from Avon. “I’m engaged to Bobby!” Bobby, it turned out, was a paunchy ex-rocker with stringy hair and Motorhead t-shirt, who slinked down in the corner of the room looking wild-eyed at the thought of marriage.

She wanted to believe it so much, I felt obligated to say something in kind. “That’s great, Julia,” I forced a smile while Bobby edged his way out of the kitchen. “I’m really, really happy for you.”

And it was also worrying about her when she didn’t show up for classes for several days in a row in the year or two she attended college. I finally grabbed my boyfriend at the time and drove over to where she was living, a dingy apartment butted up against the aforementioned crummy motel. There we found her, naked and lying on the floor in a semi-comatose state. We dressed her and drove her to the hospital where she was pronounced malnourished, suffering from double pneumonia and as having some sort of immune deficiency. I was rewarded with a wan smile. “Thanks, Lisa. You’re always there for me. Don’t worry. I really learned my lesson this time.”

I think everyone has a friend like that. The life of the party. And something of a wash-out, all these years after the party’s over.

But, there’s always that feeling, at least for me, that I’ve got to do something to help these friends. I just have to. Julia was always that kind of friend for me. I just can’t turn my back on her, or on anyone in need. It’s just not in me.

Friends since high school we were, and Julia seemed like she had everything back then. Always had the newest, coolest car. The cutest clothes. She was smart, funny and popular. And she had the best ideas for where to go and what to do. Sneaking up on a penned-in lion in someone’s yard. Hanging over the monkey bridge and screeching at the ghostly whistle of a midnight train. Making even a humdrum trip to the mall exciting. She was just so much fun to be around. The one person who could make me laugh so hard I almost wet my pants, practically every time we were together.

But she didn’t have everything. In a lot of ways, she had nothing. Just a very, very sad childhood story. Mix it up with margaritas, meth and oxycontin, and there you have it: a life that was well worth living, but unrecognizable to the very person who was living that life.

The last time I saw her, she seemed so thin. So, so thin you could have snapped her in half. I wanted to hold her, and tell her that I would always be her friend. That she could always count on me. “Please eat something,” I begged instead, my eyes on her face. She just laughed and tossing her hair, walked out of the food court without ordering, while I stared blindly at the Ferris wheel.

We lost touch after that. Again. Because ever since she dropped out of college, she’s moved around a lot. Different men, different situations but always the same story: “I’m really getting my act together, Lisa. This time, I really am. I have a good job and whatever-his-name-was-that-month and I are getting married!” She always had to make that last-ditch attempt with me. To try and convince me that the old Julia was still there. Still a winner. Still on top.

Every time she called, I wanted to tell her that I knew it wasn’t true. I wanted to beg her to me be honest with me, so that I could try to help her. Promising her, like I always had in the past that I would hold her hand as she walked up the steps to rehab. Instead, I did the only thing I knew how to do, to allow her to save face:

“Congratulations, honey. I know it’s going to be perfect.”

Sunday, April 27, 2008

the rose city journal

For those of you just tuning in, welcome to the Rose City Journal. For the many opinionated (and much beloved) readers of the Northern Kentucky News blog, this is where I landed: in Portland, Oregon, also known as the Rose City. I was going to go with “Rose City News” for the blog title but at the last moment I decided that “journal” better reflected the stuff I write about the most:

While I write about locally-owned businesses, music, events and things to do, I also write a lot about the relationships that mean the most to us: our family, our friends and of course, our lovers. I’m a wide-eyed optimist who has a lot of innocence/angst, according to my friends, and a lot of curiosity about the many different people that I am lucky enough to meet, talk with and learn from. Learn more about me and the rose city journal blog by reading some of the “best of the blog” in the left-hand column.

I am, at the end of April 2008, a brand-new resident of Portland. As a kid I lived in Eugene and then I migrated to the Midwest and lived in greater Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky for many, many years. Although I loved living there, the west coast kept calling, and my large family (seven brothers and sisters, plus parents, nieces, nephews and all of their spouses) kept calling, too. Literally calling and asking me when I would make the move. So finally, I just did it.

I live in the lovely, historic Lair Hill neighborhood of Portland, which is not dissimilar from where I lived before: a historic district with an urban feel, very near the river and downtown. Lovely, rose and lilac-laden Lair Hill. I have already discovered the Old Lair Hill Market, a combination bar/restaurant/coffee shop, just steps away. Yay. I am still trying to find my way around the city. So far, I’m doing really well with finding places in SE Portland because anytime I try to go anywhere I seem to wind up on the Ross island bridge, ha.

I made the drive out to Portland from Kentucky with one of my brothers, who kindly offered to accompany me on my odyssey. I had thought about getting movers, but in the end… I wanted the experience. I just really wanted to feel the move. My brother, who lives in the Eugene/Springfield area, was perfect company for that kind of drive.

My brother is one of my many extended family members who has either lived or lives in Alaska. A pilot, he flew cargo, people and medical patients all over that fair state and to points beyond. Herded reindeer by helicopter. Mined for gold in the early summer months. Walked away from a polar bear. Could have been Phi Beta Kappa while in school but turned it down. Could have been an officer in the service but was too anxious to leave. We both count The Fountainhead among our favorite books- but only one of us is a Howard Roark. As you can probably guess, his exciting tales go on and on and on. I don’t think we had the stereo on for more than a total of 30 minutes throughout our entire 32 hour drive.

If he moves back to Alaska (a distinct possibility), I want to fly up on weekends and interview him on camera for a documentary about the state. I’ve learned more about the history and current social conditions in Alaska from my brother than from any show on the Discovery channel or PBS. The people who live there are not given to sharing with outsiders, but my brother lived there long enough (and has such a natural curiosity and friendliness to strangers) that he learned a great deal about the culture. If nothing else, I want to finally get to the dog races next year.

And so here I am. No worse for wear, and moved into my apartment, which is much smaller than the place I had before and not as nice, but hey, it costs more, ha. A band lives upstairs. They rehearse there too. A couple of band members already approached me, hats in hand, and asked how annoying they are. Not too bad, I told them. I just wish you’d learn more than two songs.

Welcome to the Rose City Journal. Stick around. This promises to be one heck of a ride.

a real honey

Before I move forward with the new blog, I have to post one more blog under the banner of Northern Kentucky News.

When I moved, I originally thought I would just hire someone to do it for me. However, my mom suggested flying out one of my brothers to drive with me, and that’s what I did. We rented a U-Haul from American Auto Body on Donaldson in Covington (behind CVS and around the corner from the cop car graveyard on Madison). It was a wonderful trip, and I’ll talk about it in my next blog post, dear readers.

But first, I’ve gotta give a lot of props to the Northern Kentucky U-Haul services at American Auto Body. From start to finish, Karey and Greg were totally professional. Karey made me feel like a. she understood what I was going through (I was a wreck, basically) and b. she cared about my belongings. It made moving so much easier.

When I originally searched for Northern Kentucky U-Haul rental services, I didn’t look at the Covington U-Haul rental center because it didn’t hit on something I needed, like truck size or something. However, American Auto Body in Covington can get pretty much anything- all you have to do is ask. I upgraded my truck twice before the move and I am not sure how many trips to the warehouse Karey had to make to get all of my U-Haul supplies. But she did it all with an unflagging energy and a disarming charm.

Greg at American Auto Body also gave me an unexpected parting gift before I left Covington. In addition to the many businesses they run (doing body work, selling “work wheels,” renting U-Hauls to Northern Kentucky customers), the shop’s owner, Greg, is also a beekeeper. Once I saw the American Auto Body label (ha), I knew I wouldn’t be able to leave the tri-state without a bottle of his homemade honey. The honey is so, so good that I almost hate to eat it, because I know I can’t get anymore. It’s for sale all the time, just call ahead and ask if they have any available. All in all, I have to give the U-Haul rental and Honey services at American Auto Body four stars.

American Auto Body/Northern Kentucky U-Haul Rental Services
2301 Donaldson Avenue Covington, Kentucky

Tuesday, April 22, 2008


Dear blog readers,

I am going to post soon and tell you all about the move. Right now I am still stumbling over boxes, swearing under my breath and talking to myself to try to remember everything I still have to do this month to get settled.

But I wanted to let you know, my domain name is going to change. This seems to be the easiest way for you to still find me. However, if you subscribe, you may have to re-up after the change in order to stay updated. Just an FYI because last time I made some blogger changes I unwittingly bumped off several subscribers, oops. However if you have NKY News saved as a favorite, or if you just like to type it in, you should be automatically directly to the new domain. It's easy, or so they tell me.

Stay tuned... I'll have lots to tell you very soon.

Friday, April 11, 2008

the good stuff

At my parents’ anniversary party last year, one of my brothers gave a toast that made me cry. Made everyone cry. He talked about my parents’ love and how that love spread its wings ‘round all of us, making us a tight knit family. And he’s right. For the most part, I’m close with everyone in my family. There are a few that I don’t know as well as the others, but that has more to do with age difference (I’m the youngest of eight, the youngest by a mile) and proximity, since some of them moved away when I was little.

But that’s the thing about family. In some ways, we don’t know anything about each other. In other ways, we know more about each other than anyone else.

I was thinking today about some of the other gifts my parents have given me and my family. Many, many have people pitched in to help with my move. My niece clinched the deal on my rental, my brother (her dad) is helping me move my stuff and my sister and mom have just offered a lot of emotional support in what has been an increasingly stressful (and fast!) move to Portland.

We’re “yes” people. We don’t sit around lamenting the ins and the outs of what might happen if we make a wrong choice. We just do it. And anyway, as you may have picked up from reading the blog, there’s plenty of time for self-reflection after the wrong decision was made.

We’re a family of doers. Spontaneous creatures who love to get the most out of life. A while back I had a kind of surreal experience when I got waxed by an ex-member of popular heavy metal band from the late 80’s/early 90’s. And no, I don’t mean that metaphorically. I mean literally waxed. He works in a hair salon now. That’s where heavy metal drummers end up, I guess. Which I suppose makes sense in an odd sort of way.

He’s a good guy, and we had a nice talk during my appointment. He talked about how he lost some friends after he got married… Because they sort of drifted away. He also talked about a family member who refused to do “anything” anymore, because he has kids. “You can’t just jump in the car and go off somewhere when you have children,” he told me.

A fact that would probably surprise my sister a great deal, since she does this all the time.

I truly believe that throughout your whole life it’s rare to meet anyone who says what they mean, follows through on what they say they’re going to do, and just generally can be counted on 100% not to let you down. We have a whole family of people just like that. Our word is all we got, man. And it’s important to all of us.

I don’t feel hurt or angry by the people I come across who let me down. I really don’t. As I’ve mentioned on the blog before, I think just about everyone lets you down. People rarely say what they mean or do what they say they will do. And that’s ok. That’s their life choice.

And if that sounds pessimistic and un-Lisa like, consider this: I’d rather be pleasantly surprised by a few than disappointed by many. It’s just easier to expect less of most people. Easier on me and, I suspect, easier on them.

I’m grateful for my family. Gratefully Deadicated, as a favorite t-shirt from college proclaims.

My family is the bane of my existence. The root of endless stress. And made up of my favorite people on this planet.

I guess I’m just lucky.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

crystal clear

Never buy someone a crystal bowl, candlesticks or anything in this vein. Because one day they will have to buy several sheets of bubble wrap, a special kind of tape and a box just to move the one.stupid.bowl.

And then they will drop the box and hear it shatter a week before the truck arrives.


Over the years, I’ve learned not to pack a box full of books. No. You spread them around, so that a seemingly lightweight box doesn’t become an unbearable burden to the one who picks it up. And I had to laugh today, at the mix of books spread out in the cartons. The philosophy of Kant, the rantings of Rousseau… Harriet the Spy. Toni Morrison, Sandra Cisneros… Sidney Sheldon.

Packed tightly into boxes are also books that I borrowed over the years and forgot to give back to their rightful owners. I have so many books that I can’t remember who owned what. I can hear my sister already: “Great Scott! I’ve been looking for that anthology for more than five years!” Looking at my mom’s taped and worn-out copy of Atlas Shrugged, I know she’ll pick it up and ask “Well? Did you ever finish it?” (I didn’t.)

And inevitably, some of the books in my collection belonged to ex-loves. Their choice in books says as much about them as their cars, their clothes and their careers. Maybe more.

There was the quiet, soft-spoken guitar teacher who loved gothic horror novels. The sports-obsessed rugby coach who favored Camus. An artist who enjoyed biographies of American Presidents. They’re all there. I can’t remember their phone numbers, and I have to pause and think about their last names, but their love of literature is branded on my brain. A unique part of them and, for better or worse, often more memorable than anything else about the relationship.

Regular blog readers know that I’m a voracious reader. So it might seem odd that most of the men I’ve fallen for aren’t terribly… bookish. I’m the bookish one, head often buried in a tome, oblivious to anything else including ringing phones, blaring TVs and the pile of empty boxes waiting to be filled. But I think it’s good to have a balance. One bookish person + one non-reader isn’t such a bad thing. In fact, it probably gives us all more to talk about. More to contribute to the conversation.

An ex-boyfriend (and a non-reader) who is helping me get ready for the move already offered up the inevitable question: “Why don’t you get rid of some of these books?” I don’t know how to explain that my books are like friends. That they remind me of other times… In the same way that Houses of the Holy will forever transport me back to high school, seeing those dog-eared pages and loose bindings instantly brings me back to who I was, and who I was with when I first read the book… Especially if it belongs to someone else.

Or was written by someone that I used to know.

It’s funny. I know I’ve written about closure on the blog. About putting photos, letters and books away on a high shelf, along with my memories, so that I don’t have to think about them anymore.

But when you start packing up to start a new life, sometimes, you’re confronted once again with your past.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

hippies at heart

Kel went to the Oregon Country Fair last week outside Eugene. It was emotional for her because it was her first time back since we were in high school.

The country fair remains uncommercialized. Still held on private land. Still has plenty of available drugs. Beautiful hippie girls going topless with painted breasts. Music that makes you want to gig. They camped overnight and found what they needed behind the canopy of an old tree.

I’m a hippie at heart, said Kel, and my heart swelled at the thought. Because I feel it too, every time I’m in Eugene. Righteous anger at everything that’s
inside the norm. A town without political diffidence. Deadheads ejected from motels not from partying but from tie-dyeing t-shirts in the bathtubs. I still reject the thought of buying a tie-dyed t-shirt. Turn my nose up at the too-perfect dye matches available in the mall.

The last time I went to the country fair I had an experience that will stay with me always. Next year, she said to me. Next year, we’ll go together. I can’t wait.

I wrote this last summer, after I returned home from my usual bi-annual pilgrimage to Oregon. Over the last few days, I’ve signed my new lease and scheduled my move to Portland. I leave in a little less than two weeks’ time. It’s been a long road to get me to this place. With a lot of friends that I’ll always cherish. Memories that I’ll never forget.

The blog will continue. There might be a hiccup or two while I am getting settled, and the name will change to reflect my new digs, but it will still be the same old Lisa… living in a new town and having all new adventures. With, I’m sure, plenty to write about. Many local bloggers had much good advice about how to handle the transition. As with all of the blog format changes I have put you through, it will take a little time to get organized. But I can promise you, it will be worth the wait.

When it came time to get really ready to move, I had a lot of anxious moments. It costs so much more to live in Portland. What if I get a place and find out the local crack den is next door? What if I move and my huge family engulfs me? What if, what if, what if… But somehow, it’s all working out. Like it was meant to be. Finally. Everything is falling into place.

I’m going home.