Wednesday, December 30, 2009

you talk too much

Everywhere I go, people tell me things about themselves. Which I enjoy, for the most part. And although I’m usually a fairly private person (believe it or not), I will occasionally give too much information to someone that I don’t know. I think sometimes, there are certain people that make us feel like we have to explain ourselves.

I hope I am not one of those people. I would prefer to think that others confide in me because I am always honestly interested in other people, and because I have compassion and empathy… Not because they think that they have to justify their actions to me.

But either way, I can relate. Parking in a lot by a bar I asked the attendant if I could leave my truck overnight, if need be. I would have left it at that… But he made wiggled eyebrows at me! Lest he think that I’m a whore of Babylon (or even of downtown Portland), I felt compelled to tack on, “I mean in case I drink (as if there’s any doubt) tonight.”

But it’s really none of his business. And why do I care what he thinks? I don’t care, actually. But it’s that knee-jerk reaction to one raised eyebrow (I can do that too) or a strange look and an awkward pause that always gets me talking.

This week I stopped by a store one afternoon after going to my chiropractor to pick up a couple of things. Apparently, not even our groceries are sacred, or at least not to the guy who accosted me in the booze aisle. “You’re buying sushi… and bourbon?” Again, with the wiggled eyebrows!

And once more, I felt compelled to explain myself, for fear that this complete and total stranger might think I’m a boozehound: “It’s for later.” That just netted me a confused look, so I scampered off to pay, fawn over the cashier (he carded me!) and accept compliments about my faux fur.

I think the reason we feel like we have to give out explanations to random people (who surely don’t really care and probably aren’t even really listening) has something to do with our own moral checks and balances.

I probably shouldn’t be contemplating drinking so much that I won’t want to drive home at the very onset of an evening out with friends. And maybe I shouldn’t be buying a bottle of Basil Hayden’s in the middle of the day.

Or maybe I should just shut up.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

laughing on the inside

From time to time there are things that are happening in my life that I would love to talk about here. But sometimes, the things I would like to share the most are also the things that have the highest possibility of harming other people. And sometimes, I can’t share things here because I haven’t told anyone else. Not a dear friend, not a beloved family member. The residual pain that talking about it would cause wouldn’t help them. Wouldn’t help me. So what’s the point?

I have no qualms about supporting my many friends who have decided to get sober, get into therapy and get on medication. I think everyone has to be responsible for themselves and has to do what’s right for their personal situations. And it’s not up to me to tell them otherwise. I’m not medically, clinically or otherwise endowed enough to tell them anything different.

And I don’t feel a strong need to get into therapy. Get sober, stop taking pills or start taking pills, attend a meeting or anything else. For the most part, I’m doing just fine.

But every once in a while, when everything starts piling up; when things come to a head; when I feel like I’m going to take my scanner and shove it in the microwave and turn it on “broil,” I have to wonder what the rest of us are supposed to do. Those of us who don’t have a prescription, an appointment or a “group.”

And I do have friends. I have amazing friends. Heart friends, the kind that would bail you out of jail and never ask why you were in. Friends that I can tell… just about anything to. I adore my family, too. But there are some things I can’t talk about. With any of them. For some of it, the pain goes too deep, and the rest of it, well, I can’t imagine telling them because it will just make them hurt, too. Or worry about me, which is infinitely worse.

I always think that it’s funny, when people tell me “Woah… You really put it all out there.” Because I don’t. I really don’t. You think you know me? You have no idea.

I’ve always promised to be honest with you, and I try. I really try. About the one thing I ever try to do really well is to just tell the truth. But there are some things you’ll never read about. Some matters will be kept to myself.

Because if I don’t talk about the things that matter with the people that I love most, how can I talk about them with you?

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

the Christmas letter

Dear friends and family,

Well another year has passed and I have so, so much to tell you about what’s going on in my life now. I know, I know, another Christmas letter. But I figured, with holiday form letters filling up my mailbox daily, why not add mine to the mix?

So let’s recap:

No. I am “still” not married. And I have to say, questions about “when” and “why” just get better and better every time every time I hear them. I can’t think of anything more personal that all of you cheerful well-wishers might ask me, unless it’s a blow-by-blow of my last physical. “No, the stirrups don’t bother me at all. But his hands are always so cold!”

And no, before you ask, I am not currently in a relationship. I went through a very painful, protracted break-up this year that seemed to go on for months and at this point, there is some possibility that I am just dropping out of the dating game. Forever.

Getting ready to mark my five-year anniversary for being self employed in spring, I can’t tell you how much I appreciate your support. The 2pm Monday afternoon phone calls where you always manage to ask (in hushed tones), “Did I wake you?” exemplify your ongoing commitment to and understanding of my work ethic and it is so, so appreciated.

As for my health and well-being, well, I feel every year of my age this month. And while “the big one” is still about 10 months out, my helpful friends have already started referring to me as being 40. As in “Did you ever think it would be this way when we reached our 40s?” Thanks. That’s really, really helpful and I appreciate the shove into middle age.

It wouldn’t be a Christmas letter without writing about what I resolve to do in 2010 and what my Big Plans are for the New Year. It’s been a crazy year and in case you haven’t been reading, I still don’t seem to know where I am going, what I am doing or who I might be doing it with. Mostly, I just try to reflect the principles of Taoism and let myself go with the flow to find my happiness. Because any planning that I do always seems to end up misfiring, backfiring or otherwise just not working out.

And after everything, I still believe in Christmas.

Best Wishes in the Holiday Season. I hope wherever you are, you are safe, healthy, happy and loved.


Sunday, December 20, 2009

county fair

The smells of the county fair bring it all back; it’s the oil burning in the air from the demolition derby and the grease puffing the elephant ears before they get puffed with sugar and the heat, the heat makes the animals less nervous about being there, on the block, ready to go to the highest bidder because who cares when every time you move sawdust sticks in your fur and the water has been sitting there all day you could boil an egg or at least coddle it in that water and so go ahead and stick your finger in the cage or buy me/hog-tie me and throw me in the back of the truck, mebbe there’s water where we’re goin’ and then again maybe you’ll just put me out of my misery and either way, I just don’t care.

Surprised to see her there, somehow, surprised she would be there with the baby in the stroller, surprised like when I ran into my doctor at the store and found out, almost cruelly, that he eats frozen lasagna, the good kind from Stouffer’s, but still, just out of character/as wrong as the rubber wheel catching on the stone in the dry dirt and twisting, as she twisted around to stare hard at me through flinty eyes, greeted me with “Hey, howya doin’?” and my throat closed up right then.

The garage door at the mill always starts slowly then bangs shut with a thump on the ground always right before you can get a see inside/that mill/like a ghost town except during the shift change and then you get a glimpse but not inside/just the deck chair and the casual flip of a hand, or two, as you slow to drive over the tracks. Her throat closes just like that last “whump,” when the door clicks just as it shuts down, and then she almost shuts down too but she takes a deep breath and says, “How are you?”

Smells of the fair bring back warm summer nights when we played ball in the park and Kevin kept hitting them out of reach so we’d have to stop, pile into the car and run to the store, grocery store open all night and bleary-eyed, beer in Styrofoam cups, cigarettes dangling we’d wander the aisles til we found the display at the end of the “outdoor/grill supplies” section and carefully choose the next plastic pink bat and ball, all the while ribbing him for losing yet another one, but laughing too as we made our way back to the car, back to the park and Kathy swung lazily from the swing set, laughing so hard it hurt/hurts still hurting/ begging for a chance to hit the ball before he lost it again/ smiling triumphantly, no grinning really he took position as we crouched in the outfield, close to the woods and away from the sleeping houses to look up at the stars and watch the ball arc quickly out of reach/ no one was anyone’s girlfriend it wasn’t like that it was just fun and I couldn’t stop laughing and fell down into the grass already misted with dew like a damp bath towel enough to jump up again quickly, cursing softly and then still laughing, yes I remember-

And remember when we used to go fishing behind the mill in the Big river and again laughing quietly but wildly, late at night and the river didn’t keep the beer cold at all but it was better than nothin’, in fact it was damn near to perfect and he parked his truck right at the bank and we turned around for something close to a minute and it was gone, swallowed by the river and they had to get someone to come and pull it out, drained it and cleaned it and it looked fine but he sold the truck he loved on the following Tuesday because no matter what they did, and everyone said it was fine, but no matter what they did he couldn’t shake the smell of that dirty old river/I wondered when it got hot would the new owner, a young woman, would she smell Budweiser in a can and fish that had to be thrown back because they can’t swim in the glove box, can’t feed on the dashboard, can only swim upstream through the seatbelts?

Everything comes flooding back/I am drowning in the memory of him and how every bristle on his face looked/and how his sister was afterwards, she was so, so sad and instead of congratulating me in the yearbook or scribbling the usual, party hard/Van Halen rocks/School Sucks, she wrote, “Be careful.” The loopy cursive handwriting scrawled across the inside of the first page, down at the bottom in the middle, where everyone would see it and years later at a party/drunk on homemade plum wine and maybe drunk with remembering, too we laughed over our high school photos and how we all looked back then and then Cheryl said, “Be careful?”

Monday, December 14, 2009

the simple life

A while ago, I wrote about dating someone who wasn’t…exactly an intellectual, who didn’t really…challenge me, but who was just fun. Really fun, in the way that I’m fun, laughing and silly and crazy and fun. That isn’t me all the time, but it is definitely a part of who I am.

I was amazed by how my friends felt that the whole relationship was a big waste of my time. As if everyone I date is in contention for some sort of relationship title. That if I don’t remain focused, on whatever it is that I am supposed to be looking for, I’m going to end up unhappy, unfulfilled and ultimately, alone.

And it’s not that I want to waste my time or anyone else’s time by hanging out with someone whom I know won’t be around for the long haul. I am, in fact, a long-term relationship person, someone who is most comfortable being with someone that I love, trust and who I feel honored to be with- and who feels the same about me. It’s just that sometimes, I don’t want more from a relationship.

I want less.

Relationships take time. They take work. They take effort. They involve discussing feelings. Communicating. Thinking about how your actions will affect someone else and ultimately, changing the way in which you live your life to ensure that whatever it is that you are doing at any given time doesn’t negatively impact that other person.

As someone who veers from being entirely social to entirely alone (often not answering my phone for weeks on end, then moving into a never-ending stream of text messages, parties and happy hours), I have often been (rightfully) accused of breaking any one of 1,000 relationship rules. And the whole process wears me down sometimes. Even thinking about starting a new relationship depresses me. Sometimes, I just can’t face starting over.

I don’t know why or how it is that every relationship ultimately seems to deteriorate into a complete breakdown in communication. It amazes me how months and months into a relationship I can look at someone and feel like I don’t know them at all. Like I never knew them, really.

And the funny thing is, I know I’ve been duped before. I have been in the middle of a long-term relationship and sat bewildered, listening to my significant other tell me, “Well I lied about that. I wanted you to go out with me so I just made it up.”

I mean, how could I have not seen that one coming? And what am I supposed to do a year into it all, when I find about a lie? At that point, I’m too invested to just walk.

I have to wonder if, like my friends would tell you, I’m not doing enough research to find the right person before the relationship begins. I should be staying focused and manifesting what I want from this other person. Because you would think, if I knew everything going in, that I might be a little smarter about whom I love. About whom I allow into my life.

But even if I were smarter. Even if I did the research and went into a new relationship wide-eyed, intent on what I want and prepared for anything:

Can I choose love? Or will it still choose me?

Sunday, December 13, 2009

fine, thanks

A friend of mine used to say that people don't want or expect an answer when they ask "How are you?" They say it automatically, because it's what you do, after all, when you run into someone you know. But most of the time, people have too much on their minds to really listen to your response.

I conducted an experiment* a while ago, just giving random answers when asked how I was doing. It was funny; no matter what I would say, I could tell by their responses that people really weren't listening to me.

I don’t know whether to be put off by this or not. We lead busy lives; we’re constantly under attack, receiving information from far too many sources. We might be, in fact, what many people refer to as “overconnected.” Between Facebook updates, Twitter blasts, emails and yes, this blog, I rely on not talking to people in order to update them on my life.

How screwed up is that?

In thinking once again that I want to break my Crackberry addiction and move on to something new, I’ve been looking at phones that offer even more options- for texting and emailing. Because really, that’s mostly what I do. These forms of communication far surpass any phone conversations I’ve had in recent months and I can’t even remember the last time I sat down and wrote someone a letter.

When a friend is in trouble or hurting, I write them an email to let them know they have my support. Send little text messages just so they know, they’re on my mind. When I can’t connect with my sisters by phone, they too receive texts, which seem to grow ever more and more shorthanded, as we all lost the time to type out proper messages: “ask him say yes pick up Aug 4?” (response from sis: “he is a yes but l8r, like 7”).

Even at the blushing beginning of a new romance, I’m hard-pressed to pick up a phone. Why bother to call when a text can do all the talking for me? And when it comes right down to it, I’m a writer. I know how to write a (really good) text, IM or an email to someone I care about. So naturally, writing will be my first choice for emotional expression. For saying things I don’t know how to say in person. Frisky flirting, heartfelt promises and a whole lot more, all happening in just 160 characters or less.

How am I doing? I’ll send you an email.

*Sample responses I gave when asked how I was doing:

"OK. I just got treated for my STD and I think I can start having sex with random guys again." "That's great, Lisa!"

"Not too bad, since I started using a straight-edge razor to get rid of the stress." "Awesome! Hope to see you out this weekend!"

Friday, December 11, 2009

the anniversary party

Over the past year, a lot of things have happened.

We had a 20-year blizzard. Seeing Portland residents skiing downtown is a sight I’ll never forget.

In Scotland, I found a resurgence of civic pride in Glasgow and was charmed by lovely Edinburgh.

I was also charmed by the Blazers’ sixth man, missed my old friends, blinded by love and sad about a break up. And I moved, to beautiful Lake Oswego.

I also moved, lock stock and barrel, from MySpace to Facebook…and Twitter. Despite being overconnected and hyperconnected, I continue to find myself in the middle of a number of confusing miscommunications.

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

Thanks for sticking by me, dear readers. It’s been a crazy year and I’ve loved sharing it with you.

I’m ready to fall headfirst into winter and full-length into the snow. Care to join me?

Thursday, December 10, 2009

the whitewash

Looking back at our trip to the Big Island, I fondly remember the soft blue water pushed up against the sharpness of the sun in the early morning. Long walks on private beaches, stumbling in and out of bars that were just shacks, really, drinking funny umbrella drinks that I’d normally eschew for a beer; the memories I have of that time and that place are beautiful.

Throughout every thread of every memory, I remember him, with some sadness now, and how sweet he was when I got sick on the last day. How much fun we had eating the strange, exotic fish and how much we laughed at the old man who ran the B&B. How my hand felt pushed up against the tree and the exact rose-blue blushing pink inside the purple flower above me.

And yet…and yet. If I think about it all a little more, I remember something else, too.

I could be wrong, but I’m fairly certain, that we fought our way up every mountain, snapped at each other at the rim of the volcano and went off in a dither at the hotel buffet. That at one point, lost in a rainforest and listening to a litany of complaints about how everything was MY fault, I very seriously considered leaving him to fend for himself.

I have to wonder, given these competing memories, if over time we consciously- or unconsciously- decide to whitewash our past relationships.

Do we idealize our ex-loves?

I’ve been on the other end of this, too. My friends think I never go out with anyone new- I just continue to recycle my old boyfriends. Which strictly speaking, isn’t true. But they do seem to pop back up a lot. One of them called me last year.

I kept telling him on the phone, “No, I won’t have lunch with you.”


“Well, because what you always seem to forget is that you don’t like me very much.”

It sounds funny, but I think it’s true. Over time, as he saw his friends and family settle down and begin to raise their families, he realized that he wanted that, too. And as he flips through the rolodex, I’m sure I look pretty good…on paper. The word most people use to describe me is sweet. And about the only thing I ever try to do really well is to be honest. Those are qualities that, on paper, are just what someone might want for their future.

But the reality is that nothing ever looks as good as it does in the box. I’m sure that I have many moments that aren’t so sweet. I’ve also been told by more than one person that I’m quirky. ADD. And always, always writing- on the backs of paper bags, receipts, even my hand. These “quirks” can make trying to foster a relationship difficult. There isn’t a lot of time left to just be.

I want to move forward, without looking behind me. To acknowledge my missteps, laugh at my foibles and stand ready for whatever comes next. I don’t know what could be worse than repeating my past mistakes.

Unless it’s not getting the opportunity to repeat them again.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

the suitor-writer

While running around with my friend Diana this weekend, we started talking about our friends who are also writers. Diana is a (wonderful) writer, a great friend and is helping me with a new project I am working on, too. We feel lucky to know so many talented people and to have amassed a stockpile of free (signed!) books.

And we also commiserated about that most feared friend of a writer- the pseudo-intellectual slash poet slash writer. They inspire much fear in writers and over time, will be avoided and shunned by much of the writing community, who live in constant fear of being forced to come over for day old banana bread, peppermint tea and haiku ("Kitty! Get off the couch!").

But there’s something even worse, I explained to a happily married Diana. The suitor-writer.

Men, whom you want to get to know better, who want to read their attempts at writing to you, first…Before anything else. Typically, this seems to run along the lines of really bad poetry and songs but it has also included poorly written detective/murder mysteries and, on one memorable occasion, some really odd science fiction (accompanied by a diorama, complete with headless Barbie).

I don’t why, but as soon as I hear a prospective suitor read something out loud that’s really bad, every other feeling, action or impulse that I was considering pretty much goes out the window.

With me after it, ankles neatly clearing the sill.

Staring hard at the floor and trying not to laugh while one swain waxed on about his, um, prowess, stopping ever so often to arch a carefully tweezed (and possibly waxed) brow at me, I bit my lip so hard to keep from laughing, I still have a tiny scar.

Listening to another short-lived potential love interest shout about his abusive father, unpopularity in high school and love for his ex-fiancée poetry-slam style, I felt unnerved to the point where I finally made up an excuse and went home.

Another time, held captive over the phone while the soft, lulling voice of a would-be storyteller meandered through the Iowan farms he missed so much, I fell asleep.

And I feel bad for reacting this way. I, of all people, should understand what it means to share your writing with someone you like. It’s not something that I do very often. I don’t typically bring any of it to anyone’s attention. It’s more like I am just found out.

So I understand how it feels, standing in front of someone that you really like, and sharing your writing with them. It’s me saying: I want to elevate your opinion of me. I want you to know that I’m relevant, that I matter, that I’m something other than whatever it is that you think you know about me.

I’m going to try to keep this in mind, the next time I find myself considering love with an as-yet undiscovered writer…I will think back, remember how it felt to place my work in his hands and why, after all, it’s so scary to share our writing with our crushes.

I think it’s because when you read me, you’ll know everything that I don't know how to say.

Once you learn how to listen.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Yaquina Pacific Railroad Historical Society Rich with Memories

When my father was growing up, he used to hop freight trains to travel the country. I can’t endorse this form of travel, dear readers, but it was free, got him where he needed to go in a couple days’ time and from the stories he tells us, it was a whole lot of fun. I’ve stood next to a river in Bonner’s Ferry, Idaho looking up at a train track that wound around a mountain and listened to my father tell me about the times he hopped a train on that very track, and say looking out at the town, legs dangling over the railing. And when he helped build Hungry Horse dam on Highway 2 in the Montana mountains, he frequently hopped trains to visit his sister in Minnesota.

When I was in high school and later in college, and I had all the time in the world, I bought my passage to Oregon on Amtrak. The trains were staffed with charming young men from UCLA, who told me they “rode the rails” during vacations to make extra money. Heading north to visit my friends in Canada next month, I’ve vacillated about taking a train or driving. A round trip ticket from Portland to Vancouver, BC can be had for less than $100.

I have a new article in Oregon Coast Magazine this month that profiles the Yaquina Pacific Railroad Historical Society in Toledo. The museum, made up of old railway cars, tells the tale of how in years past, trains brought passengers to the coast and transported logs to other areas of the country. The old steam engine has a thousand stories, if you’re curious enough to listen.

Visitors to the Yaquina Pacific Railroad Historical Society tend to include a number of past railroad workers with grandkids in tow. In addition, Thomas the Tank Engine has spawned a whole new generation of young children who know about railroads. For any visitor, taking a tour of the 1923 Railway Post Office car, 1922 Baldwin Steam engine and the Southern Pacific #573 wood-sided caboose and learning more about railroad production in years gone by is an exciting and memorable event. All aboard!

Yaquina Pacific Railroad Historical Society

Toledo, Oregon 97391


Hours: 10-2 Tues- Sat

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

why the toronto star needs editors

On the heels of an announcement sent out by the Toronto Star stating that it would outsource 100 in-house union editing jobs came a funny follow-up. Click on the image to view an internal memo from the Star's publisher, John Cruickshank. With edits.

Monday, November 2, 2009

the new place

I moved to Lake Oswego this month, surprising everyone. Mostly myself. Don’t get me wrong. It’s beautiful here, in the charming First Addition neighborhood. It’s just not very… Lisa.

Last Saturday we drove down State Street after returning the moving truck and I had to laugh at the darkened road- truly, the sidewalks roll up at a surprisingly early hour here, even on the weekends. And it is so very quiet here.

At night, there is no sound at all and you can feel the darkness- it’s that oppressive. I have never in my life slept in such quiet blackness. It’s hard to believe that I am just a few blocks away from shops and restaurants.

My place is charming, mid-century modern at its finest and very evocative of lake homes, in its own way. After years of urbanity and historic, transitional neighborhoods, living here is different. There’s no telling how I will feel after six months have passed. But for now, I’m open to new experiences, meeting new people and generally enjoying the river, lake and neighborhood views.

Photo by Wilson Chen, one of the City of Lake Oswego Photo Contest Honorable Mentions. View more photos from Lake Oswego photo contest winners online.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

the love-blind

Do we ever really know the people we love?

I frequently stalk my ex-boyfriends online. That isn’t quite as harsh as it sounds. I just like to have a picture in my head of what everyone’s doing now. Through my online searches of names and email addresses, I’ve come up with the following information about people that I’ve dated: One ex moonlights as an escort, one is apparently a member of some sort of circus-slash-fetish vaudeville troupe and one of them, who lived at home until he was 30, finally bought a house- right next door to his parents!

I bet he still strolls into the kitchen every morning calling out, “Ma, what’s for breakfast?”

All of the bits of information I’ve found online (except for the last one) threw me into a state of confusion. I thought I knew these people. I thought I knew them fairly well, actually. But now I have to wonder: do we ever really know the people we care about?

A dear friend of mine was shocked to find out about her husband’s secret credit card debts. Even more surprised to see the number of charges that appeared to be from strip clubs… while he was supposed to be at work. Their marriage fizzled and his hidden drug abuse/various other addictions started all coming to light. It was pretty gruesome; thankfully, she got out in time and managed to make a new life for herself.

But how is it possible that she didn’t know?

I don’t mean that as a criticism. I place the blame for everything that went wrong directly on him, where it belongs. But where was my friend’s radar for lying, for cheating, or for deception? She isn’t slow. In fact, she’s one of the most dynamic, intelligent people I know.

But when it comes to relationships, do we love ourselves blind?

I know that there were things I chose to ignore in my past relationships. Flaws I was willing to overlook. Messages that I just didn’t want to receive. But when you ignore the small things (and ok, some of the medium-sized things too), after a while, do you start wearing blinders? Because I have to think that must be how we miss the big deceptions. By starting with the small lies to ourselves, first.

And if I’m being completely honest I know that sometimes, someone has tried to tell me something… And I didn’t want to listen. I shut down and shut them out and pretended that everything was fine. I want to have adult relationships that enrich my life and deepen other peoples’ lives, too. But I know I need to get past this hurdle first.

Do we choose to make ourselves love blind?

And how can we take the blinders off?

Monday, September 28, 2009

a country of neighbors

While visiting the Midwest this month, we stopped by a friend’s house in the country. He has something special in his property, with several acres of land, a charming timber-lined home and a large pond, positioned many miles away from the nearest superstore, chain restaurant or strip mall. I love it, but I always have the feeling that I’m on vacation when I visit. I mean, I was on vacation this time, but even when I lived in the area, visiting always made me feel like I was at someone’s weekend home- not their residence. I’ve lived in and around cities for years, and I know that the surrounding woods, while charming, would begin to chafe after a while.

My friends were so enamored of the property they asked if it were for sale. I gather the primary reason for this was because it was so remote. “No neighbors,” Calle commented, as if this were a good thing. “It’s just so private,” Shel agreed.

And this got me thinking, about people who choose to live away from it all. Good fences make good neighbors, but what about people who think that it takes many acres to make good neighbors?

For a long time, I’ve been lucky to have found good neighbors. Everywhere I’ve lived; I’ve hung out with neighbors, been fed by neighbors and even vacationed with neighbors. And I have to say, I love the connection. That no matter where I go, I seem to find new friends (or maybe they find me). But what of these other people, who make a conscious decision to distance themselves from the city- and in so doing, distance themselves from everyone else?

Why would anyone want to do that?

Having spent an inordinate amount of time in the suburbs in my own youth, I craved city movement and sound for as long as I can remember. Soothed by late night brawls, quieted by curious tourists and calmed by a never-ending search for on-street parking, I’ve made my home in one city or another for years.

I asked my friends, so in awe of that country home, about their thoughts on neighbors. If it was growing up in a city that made them yearn for the country. Had they had enough of city noise to last them for a lifetime? Or was it something else?

Yes, my friends explained, they were romanced by the idea of a quiet, country life. But they also seemed less inclined to know their neighbors. To be forced to attend neighborhood gatherings or obligated to hold impromptu happy hours over easements. And maybe that stems from childhood, too. In my family, we organized the block parties. Had untold social gatherings for every special occasion (and some not so special occasions, too). I baby-sat the neighbors’ kids, swam in the neighbors’ pool, and busily baked cookies to welcome new friends to the neighborhood.

Yet somehow, I ended up in the city. I feel lucky for the friends I've found in the cities where I've lived. And my friends, though definitely charmed by the idea of a move to the country, seem to also enjoy all the benefits a city has to offer, including their neighbors. They frequently stop off at block parties and are often rushing out the door to help a neighbor in need. Though they still dream about a move to greener pastures, I think they'd miss their friends.

And maybe no matter how far we move away, there’s part of us that needs that country of neighbors- a country of friends.

Friday, September 18, 2009

day trips from portland- mt. angel oktoberfest

The Mt. Angel Oktoberfest kicked off yesterday and runs through this Sunday. The heritage festival celebrates German culture with traditional music and dancing, yummy food and my favorite, German beer. The Mt. Angel Oktoberfest also features a classic car cruise-in, a small dog race (natch) and many arts and crafts to help you get a head start on holiday shopping this year. Prosit!

Mt. Angel Oktoberfest
Open Thursday - Saturday From 11 a.m. to midnight.
Open Sunday from 11 a.m. to 9:30 p.m.

5 N. Garfield St. Mt Angel OR 97362

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

the best wine, but the least observant employees

Patty and I breeze into a liquor store for last minute supplies before the fireworks and are confronted by a very intoxicated woman and her… “date.” The alcoholic influence is evident because the first thing we see is this woman on her back in the middle of the floor. Since the guy helped her up (while she kept chatting, as though nothing was wrong), we moved along to the back of the store to make our selections.

When we strolled to the front of the store, the couple had buzzed off and I told the cashiers, “That woman was very drunk.”

“It’s true,” cashier #1 twinkled at me. “We have the best selection of wine anywhere.”

“She fell down in the middle of the store,” I further clarified.

Nodding and smiling, cashier #2 offered: “It’s much less expensive than if you go over the state line.”

“She was on her back,” explained Patty.

“Yes,” they responded in unison. “It really is the best selection and the best price.”

Monday, September 7, 2009

where are you?

As we move through life, we’re often lucky enough to make the kind of friendships that last forever… that last a lifetime. Through all of our ups and downs, these are the people are there for us- we can count on them for anything.

But what happens when you find such a friend, and then you lose them?

Sometimes we fall out of touch with those we love. People grow up, get married, have kids, get divorced, move, switch jobs- any one of these things can lead to the loss of a friend. But when your energy is spent only on making heart friends; when you have fun with acquaintances but dismiss the thought of anything deeper, how do you explain losing someone who once meant so much?

As I continue to plow through my 30’s, thinking about the future and where we’ll all be in 30 years, I often think, I hope I’m lucky enough to retire near my friends. Or that at least, we’ll continue to travel together, and still see each other, once in a while. Thinking about how we’ll live out those years and starting to give the future some due consideration, I have to wonder about the people that I’ve lost over the years.

The ones I thought would be on the deck chair beside me in my twilight years. The ones I thought would still be teasing me about my snorting giggle and the ones who would still be getting silly after one too many margaritas. There are a few who slipped through the cracks, and they’ve left a terrible void. If you’re out there lurking and you feel the same way, let me just say this:

I miss you. I hope it wasn’t something that I did wrong. And I hope to see you again, one fine day.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

best places to watch riverfest fireworks

So, since I'm going back to Cincinnati for a nice long visit with friends and family this weekend, I should bump this post about the best places to watch the webn fireworks.

For Portland readers who are scratching their heads, the Riverfest fireworks in Cincinnati are a huge annual event; a half million people will be along the Ohio river watching the fireworks display (synchronized to music provided by WEBN, a popular rock station) on the Sunday before Labor Day.

Another million (or two) people will be watching from one of the seven hills in Cincinnati, enjoying park picnics or a private party. Your faithful blogger will be at the latter. ~

preserving forest park- day of stewardship September 19th

The Forest Park Conservancy is holding a Day of Stewardship on Saturday, September 19th.

Volunteers will help clear invasive weeds that are choking native habitat. In addition, volunteers will work on trail restoration and repair at five separate sites. Volunteers can get more information and register online for the day of stewardship at Forest Park.

More Information about Forest Park Conservancy

The Day of Stewardship is an important part of the Conservancy's ongoing effort to restore Forest Park's 5,000+ acres and maintain and improve its trail system of 70+ miles. All of the Conservancy's events are coordinated in partnership with Portland Parks & Recreation.

Forest Park Threats Include Overuse

Portland's Forest Park, one of the largest urban parks in the U.S., currently faces a number of threats, including overuse, encroachment by aggressive non-native vegetation and development. Forest Park Conservancy provides essential volunteer support and resources dedicated to helping restore and protect the Park's health and well-being.

(503) 223-5449
Twitter: PDXForestPark

Friday, August 28, 2009

language lessons

Cheryl’s nephew Aero is visiting from Mexico. He’s come to Portland to immerse himself in the language. He’s twentysomething, very sweet, lives at home with his folks and works in some job that involves math.

We frequently, quite by accident, get into very personal conversations with Aero when I am visiting Cheryl's house. It’s something to do with the language barrier. He asks a simple question and we are so forthright, we blurt out an overwhelming amount of information in response to a question that really, probably could have been shrugged off with some simple A-B answer.

We are sitting at the dining room table when Aero asks Cheryl a question about her marriage. Cheryl, stumped for an answer, brightly changes the subject:

“You know what, Aero? Lisa’s never been married. Not even once. And she’s in her 30’s!”

I am looking at her stupefied, when the questions begin:

“Why you never marry, Lisa?”

“Well, I…” Sighing, I give Cheryl a thankyouverymuch look and try to formulate a response.

And it’s funny, I couldn’t really… come up with any good reason for never getting hitched. Instead, like a flash, came a whole long list of reasons why I haven’t married. What I was thinking, was this:

Well, he told me one thing and then he changed his mind, eight months later.
He ended up being a crazy drunk.
Him, I would have damaged him completely.
I am not sure why that one didn’t work out. I liked him a lot, actually.
He cheated.
He lied.
He… just wasn’t the right one.

I have no idea what look was on my face while the play by play was running through my head, but Cheryl finally shook me out of my reverie by saying emphatically,

“Well, she just hasn’t met the right person, Aero. That’s all.”

Ah, they nodded, looking at me speculatively.

That’s all.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

the house-sitter

I am house-sitting for my folks at the beach.

My dad, upon leaving for their trip: “Well, if you decide to vacuum the hardwood floors…”

My mom, choking with laughter, “Sure, Lisa will vacuum!”

Me, indignant: “What?! I might vacuum!”

By this time, they are both laughing so hard that the conversation more or less ends. Maybe I’ll clean the whole house, I think (still smarting from the slight). That will show them.

They return tomorrow.

Needless to say.

I have yet to empty the dishwasher, dust a windowsill or pick up a broom.

I don’t think they’re showing up until late afternoon. I think I can get everything done tonight and just rest tomorrow. Or get everything done tomorrow morning and relax during the afternoon. Or maybe I could just…

Aw, screw it.

Friday, August 14, 2009

day trips from portland- scandinavian festival

Junction City's annual Scandinavian Festival runs through this weekend. For almost 50 years, the festival has been celebrating the area's Scandinavian heritage with crafts, food (don't forget the lefse!) and the Scandia Run, a 10K flat course (walkers can choose to take the 4.4 mile Scandia Stride). The cultural festival also features folk dancers, storytellers and plenty of people in traditional dress. A beer garden and wine terrace rounds things off perfectly. It's great fun and at just under 100 miles, an easy day trip from Portland. Uff-dah!

Scandinavian Festival
Through August 16th
Junction, City Oregon

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

bridgeport brewery block party

This Saturday, August 15th from 4-10, BridgePort Brewery is throwing a block party on NW 13th in the Pearl District. The beer festival is in celebration of the brewery's 25th anniversary.

$1 for every beer sold during the block party will go to the portland audubon society. In addition to live music, beer and whatnot, members of the audubon society will be on hand with some live birds. Your faithful blogger will get into the spirit of the thing by drinking beer... and twittering, ha.

BridgePort Brewery

1313 NW Marshall Street
Portland, Oregon

Monday, August 10, 2009

the weddings

From start to finish, the two weddings I attended this weekend were lovely and couldn’t be more different: a traditional wedding, held in a house of worship (after which, I scuttled home to sleep off my miserable summer cold) and a charming, bohemian outdoor wedding, held alongside a river. From blushing brides to cheerful, expansive grooms, the weddings were just what I’d hoped they would be- full of love, laughter and tears (even from me, I have to admit).

When you see the little nieces and nephews grow up; when you watch them move into the next chapters of their lives, there’s something sweet and yes, beautiful, about watching them go. And there was more than just wedding celebrations happening this weekend.

It was about family; strengthening the bonds with the matriarchs and patriarchs, heads bent together with the littlest of the group to feed baby goats through the fence, gossiping with the one-time adults who became, over time, my best friends and contemporaries. Little girls in flowered dresses, tiny boys trying on gamma’s silk gloves and the hearty, champagne-induced laughter of everyone’s parents- these are what wedding memories are made of. From a cancer-stricken father who cheered everyone with his fluffed line (“Who gives this bride? My mother and I do-”) to the sedate giggle of a grandmother, the time spent with my family this weekend glows like the little flame on the unity candle- warm and soft and leaving me in its knowing.

Bryan and Casey, Danielle and Matthew, much love and felicitations on your new lives together- you make our family complete.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

the confession

Call it the hallmark of a misspent youth, but authority figures have always made me nervous.

And yes, that most definitely includes Customs officials. Despite going through interviews with customs officers every other month this year, I still find myself a little… unnerved in their presence.

Returning from my latest trip to Canada, I went through the usual rigmarole at customs. Made more tedious, no doubt, by my initial attempts to always, yes always, not reveal any more information than what’s asked of me and by my inevitable, ultimate confession of something completely irrelevant and absolutely unnecessary.

Case in point:

“So,” the handsome officer asked me sternly, “you were here on business?”

“Yes,” I replied. (just the facts, man. Just the facts.)

“What kind of business?”

“I’m a freelance editor for a Canadian website.”

“Mmm,” he said, taking in my disheveled hair and ratty t-shirt. “Is it (voice lowered) an adult website?”

“No, no… Much less interesting. I’m a Business and Finance Editor.”

“Hmm,” he said, looking like he believed me less than a little. “Isn’t it true that 90% of what’s on the internet is adult-related?”

See, right here, I could have just said, I don’t know. Finished up and walked away. Instead:

“I don’t… I’m not sure. I hardly ever look at those sites,” I fumbled, blushing furiously.

With a cough that might have been disguising a laugh, he nodded at me and encouraged me to keep going.

“I never look at any online porn for more than 45 minutes at a time. Really!”

“You’re awesome,” he said, sending me on my way. “Keep that sense of humor!”

I fled as quickly as possible, face burning.

Can I help it if I crack under questioning?