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