Wednesday, November 21, 2012

the lecture


Driving to Portland from Waldport is a significant investment in time. It's about three hours from end to end and that's assuming that a. there isn't a wreck on I-5 that shuts the whole thing down for an hour or two and b. there isn't a miserable, ungodly backup at the 205 or that c. you don't stop to get a diet coke, fill up your truck or visit your sister in Corvallis. Even if you don't dawdle at my sister's house saying things like "Woah! Those cookies sure smell good!" it's still going to be several hours' worth of driving.

So when I get pulled over for speeding while driving over the pass, I have to groan inwardly and mumble a few choice swear words. Because no matter what the outcome, my drive has now become three hours and 30 minutes. And now there probably will be a wreck on I-5. And I just missed the window when the 205 is still passable. Worst of all, my sister and her family have already pissed off to church and there won't be any fresh-baked goods anywhere.

The last time I got pulled over, it was in one of the three usual speedtraps on Highway 20. They are: 1. About 6 miles west of Philomath, just past where the passing lane ends at the bottom of the hill and 2. About a mile west of the Ellmaker rest area and 3. One or two miles in, heading east from Newport.

Now, let me just say, I mean no disrespect here. If you drive these roads more than a few times a year, you'll notice the speedtraps yourselves, without me clueing you in. And I am not anti-police, either. But like all of you, I get frustrated when I get bluelighted, and sometimes, I just have to have a little fun with the young bucks who pull me over. To wit:

The last time I was pulled over was just outside of Newport, at speedtrap #3 listed here. The officer, who looked to be about 22, told me that he while he could give me a citation, instead, he'd give me a long, boring lecture about racing around switchbacks (one of my all-time favorite pastimes) and oversized deer and basically the whole history of the pass.

(I'm paraphrasing).

Because, he went on to explain, I just want to make sure you're safe. 

Mmmm-hmmm.

That's why I'm not going to give you the citation.

Uh-huh, I said. Well.

It's for your own good. 

Yeah...I think I'll take the ticket.

What? Sputtering.

I'll take the ticket.

You will not take the ticket. You'll listen to the lecture.

I thought you were giving me a choice.

No. I'm not giving you a choice. Now, just listen. 

Sigh. OK.


And I did.


Cheryl: Did they start giving tickets to women? When did that happen?



Monday, October 29, 2012

the laundry

In order to do laundry, I have to walk outside and around the building to get into the basement. This presents a variety of different hazards, including a. not wanting to risk getting soaked, so never doing laundry when it rains and b. a testy sensor light that never seems to turn on when I need it to, then blinds me with a glaring light after I don't need it anymore and c. unforeseen events that could only occur when you have to trek any distance carrying more than your body weight (I have a tendency to let the laundry go for about six weeks at a time). To wit:

One day, I am scrambling up the steps carrying my clean laundry when I glance over into the neighbor's yard and happen to spy a pair of my underpants. There are several questions that you'd probably like to ask and I'll try to get to them in order of importance:

1. How did they get there? I'm assuming I dropped them on my previous trip to do laundry. It could have even happened the time before. But that's really the only explanation I can come up with.

2. How did I know they were my underpants? Well, they're these little lacy...never mind. They were mine, OK?

3. Why did the neighbors just leave them there, probably for several weeks? Your guess is as good as mine, but I never see them in their backyard and also, I think where my underpants landed was out of their line of sight from the inside of their home. 

4. How did I get them back? This presented the biggest problem. Although it was apparently quite easy to drop them into my neighbor's yard, retrieving my underwear proved to be a bit of a challenge. Because I dropped them over a rail from the top of the steps, they were quite a distance away from anything I could grab by reaching over or under the railing.

This also presented a second problem. Just how badly did I want my underpants back? I mean, I have a lot of underwear. It's not like losing a pair is going to force me to stay home from school. Which presented an unusual conundrum, namely:

Is it in poor taste to drop a pair of underpants in your neighbor's yard, and then just leave them there?

I thought hard about that one, readers. Because although it seems rude, and probably not what you'd want to find in your yard, I worried so much about how I was going to get my underpants back that I quite honestly considered just leaving them where they were. I even took a vote, and had my friends weigh in. Although some friends were firmly on the side of "eh, just leave 'em there," several people piped up and told me I should plan a recon, to recover my underwear in the dead of night.

So that's what I did. Just past the stroke of midnight, a bit before my bedtime, I cautiously opened the back door. Easing the door closed, I padded softly down the stairs, never taking my eyes off my neighbors' windows. God, what if they wake up? What if they find me creeping around their yard in the middle of the night in my old plaid wool bathrobe and even worse, what if they happen to catch me right at the moment I pick up my underpants? 

I worried and worried and stared at the yard, casing it as if I was a jewelry thief planning a Tiffany's heist. Finally, I took a deep breath and without breaking stride, ran around to the back alley and crept into their yard. Slowly...slowly...slowly...I can almost grab them. Oh! I didn't quite realize they were under that structure...It's going to take a bit of maneuvering...I got them! Whew. I straightened up, twirling the little scrap around my finger. Nothin' to it, I thought with no small amount of relief. Why, I could probably break into any store anywhere. In fact, I could...

Woof.

Woof-woof.

Peering up, I saw the neighbor's little dog looking back at me. Making that little noise that for many dogs, precedes a loud barkfest.

And then I ran.


Saturday, October 27, 2012

the twin



My writing partner and I finished up our book in August. Maybe one fine day you’ll read it. I hope so.

I won’t tell you what it’s about just yet. I could tell you it’s racy. Filled with deception. Sexy. And all of those things are true. But it wasn’t that- it wasn’t that exactly that made me want to write the book. It was something else. Something that’s intrigued me for a long time, and something that might appeal to you, too.

You might even recognize yourself in the context of this story.

Duality. The idea that all of us, somehow, someway, have two sides to ourselves.

We have the upstanding, dinner-on-the-table side, the side that the world sees, the side that our families see and the side of us that most people would use to describe us. “He’s a great dad.” “She’s a wonderful friend.”

But for some people, this side of their personalities just isn’t enough. They feel something.

Another side.

A darker side.

Some people (maybe me) call it the Pull.

If you feel the pull, there isn’t much that I can write here that you don’t already know. But if you don’t what I mean, I’ll try to explain. It’s the idea that all of us have a straight side, an upstanding side, and another side that’s just…different. Not so upstanding. It’s that feeling you get when you want to do something you know you shouldn’t be doing.

And then you have to decide what to do.

One of my psychic friends told me when she gets a message from the other side, it’s lit up like a neon sign across the person of interest. The pull works much the same way, but for me, the sign almost always spells T-R-O-U-B-L-E. If you see the sign, and you don’t want to risk everything for the sake of the pull, then you’d do best to slow down.

Back away quickly.

Turn right around and go back the way you came.

Unless…Unless. Unless.

You find something you need there. If you can’t deny the pull, maybe you’re not supposed to deny it. And many people don’t deny themselves.

Some people don’t deny themselves anything.

And isn’t strange, how the twins find each other? When you think of all the people in the world, and all the things we might otherwise be doing, it’s kind of amazing that you’d find your twin somewhere where you’d least expect it.

Although maybe it’s not so strange. If we do all have that duality.

And the people who can lose the most are the ones who haven’t fully realized their own duality. Who haven’t realized if they go down this path, they might lose everything.

I think it’s innate, this twinning. Some people were born with the pull. Others lead happy, sunny lives without ever once feeling a darker need. Or maybe they’re just fooling themselves. Denying that this thing exists inside of them, even as they coach little league, set the table or give a speech at a fundraiser. They feel the pull but they refuse to let it get in their way.

That’s smart.

That’s probably the best thing you can do for the sake of your livelihood, your family, for all of the things that matter to you the most. Ignore the pull.

If you can.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

leaving things behind

When I first decided to move back to Portland, I had nothing but resolve. There was no queasiness about leaving, no inhibitions about what waited for me on the other side of the door, just happiness, light, and a great excitement tumbling through me: I was going home.

Growing up in Eugene would be hard to define to anyone, most of all to someone who’s never lived in a small town. Not just any small town, mind you. A small town replete with a nuclear-free zone, attorneys who might be mistook for hippies, public marketplaces, community gardens, and a town full of adults who spoke to a 14-year old girl like she was an adult. And around us all was the green, green, green of that fair town. A small town, a University town, filled to bursting through the school months with lively, bustling young students. From football to basketball, the town moves and breathes with the school.

Moving away from all of that- that was the hard part. Getting plunked down in the middle of high school in a small town in the Midwest alternately infuriated me and puzzled me, leaving me saddened and confused. I didn’t understand the way the students in my town breathed or moved. I didn’t get their inside jokes, and I wasn’t included in their long-ago formed cliques. I often eschewed early morning or late afternoon classes in favor of driving around with my friends. (“Were you ever there?” my mom recently asked me. “As little as possible,” I replied.)

Because for the most part, the other students laughed at my designer jeans (“Guess?” Guess who?”), didn’t understand my sarcastic jokes and much of the time, I felt like an alien from a strange planet.

It was hard.

But over the years, I found my niche. With the exception of a few close friends, I hated high school, but I loved college, and my work after graduation intrigued me. I made friends, business contacts, moved an hour south and got to know the large city like the back of my hand. At some point, without even realizing it, I began to love my life.

Except…except.

Every so often I would remember that green city. That tiny microcosm of people, moving and breathing without me.  I missed them.

I used to cry a lot. Without much reason and without much to-do, I’d find myself moved to tears by a cheerless story on the news, a tender moment in a movie, or in deep conversation with the friends of my heart. I tried to explain myself after one sobbing session to one heart friend, saying, I have no idea why I’m crying, really. I guess I’m just too sensitive. My emotions rest right on my skin you know, I said, laughing it off.

“You’re unhappy because you’re not where you’re supposed to be,”
she told me sadly.

And she was right. I missed Oregon. I missed my family, long since relegated to annual visits. I missed seeing the little faces, now grown, shining up at me from the dinner table. I missed long walks on a deserted beach, wandering through art and crafts-filled stalls on a rainy Saturday, and fountains that gushed water every day of the year.

In the end, the decision to move back was easy. I set a deadline for myself, to become self-employed and to move back, this time to Portland, within three years. And in the 12th month of that third year, I packed up the last of my belongings and headed west.

Sometimes, I miss my friends. There aren’t many left in that small town in the Midwest- so many of the friends of my heart flew the coop as soon as they had the chance. Some never did leave. I think about them, moving and breathing without me, and I wish them well. I hope to see them again, one fine day.

In the four years since I returned to Oregon, I’ve had my share of ups and downs. There isn’t, I don’t think, ever a time where I’ll look around me and say “Yes, this is right. Yes, this is where I am meant to be and what I am meant to be doing.”

It isn’t always that easy.

But I don’t cry at the drop of a hat anymore. I think…I think I found myself again, here amongst the green, green trees and the gentle rain. The other day, someone even called out to me in a way I haven’t heard in a long, long time: “Hello, sunshine!” And it’s true: Despite the looming, gloomy rain of the winter season in the Pacific Northwest, I’m sunny again. My laugh bubbles over at every opportunity and I’ve even found myself laughing uncontrollably as of late. It’s a sign, I think. A sign that I made the right move.

It feels good.

It feels right.

I’ve written a lot about taking leaps. About being true to myself and following my muse. Taking steps to improve myself and my relationships. And I am still learning. I won’t try to fool myself about that. But one thing I have learned and I know to be true: When you are where you’re supposed to be, you’ll be happy.

It’s as simple as that.


Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Tips for NXNE First-Timers





For first-timers, playing a large festival- especially outside of the U.S.- can seem like a daunting prospect. I attended the 2012 NXNE show in Toronto as a member of the media and was amazed to find how few U.S. writers and musicians were really aware of the Canadian festival and the impact it can have on a band's career- and their press kit. The festival had limited press in the U.S., something I hope changes for their 19th year. Along those lines, a guide to help answer some frequently asked questions for first-timers considering submissions to NXNE seemed in order. In a candid interview, indie band Animal Talk talks about playing North by Northeast, Toronto's largest music festival.

What was a high point of playing the festival?

 

Seeing how well the Toronto press and media covered us leading up to the festival.  The NXNE PR team did a great job getting us into newspapers, magazines, blogs. By the time we hit the stage we had a packed house and people knew who we were. All of this happened in a city we had never played. It was a real treat.

Did you use any particular website to help with your application? What do you think it was about your application that got you into the festival?

NXNE took submissions through Sonicbids. I'm not sure how they've done it in the past but it was easy to do this year.  We've played festivals like NXNE before. Having a little experience playing these kinds of shows goes a long way. Ultimately though, the music is what matters the most.

Were there any particular challenges with applying/traveling/playing at a festival in Canada?


We're from Boston, MA, so Toronto isn't too far for us to drive.  All we needed to do was renew a couple passports and get in the car. The NXNE stage managers are top notch.  We had a great backline. Since drums and amps were provided, we didn't even need to rent a van. The festival organizers made sure to send us the appropriate immigration papers to get into Canada as temporary workers. Be advised, on the way back into the US you'll have to declare any money you made from shows. 

How does playing at a festival like NXNE impact your career?

It reflects well on a band that can organize and coordinate a show outside of its area. Festivals like NXNE are a perfect opportunity to test this out. It generated a lot of press for us and gave us another city to hit while we're on tour. That is so valuable. We met a lot of great bands from Canada and the US. Networking, gig swaps, finding new venues to play- all of these are indispensable when it comes to planning the next 6 months or year of your career.  

What would you do differently next year?


We played every night that we were in Toronto. Next year we might take a night off and go to a few other NXNE events and parties. As an artist you're given a badge to attend the other shows. We probably should have hit the late night shows to network a little more. There is a lot happening during the week. We'll probably plan a little more next year.

What advice can you offer bands who want to apply to play at 2013 NXNE?

NXNE is highly organized.  The crew of PR, stage managers, and organizers are beyond helpful. Don't let the size of the festival or the thought of heading out of the country to play a show intimidate you. If you haven't played smaller festivals, book a few before applying to NXNE and list those in your press kit or application. 


2013 NXNE applications are now being accepted online. Bands, filmmakers, and comics can apply online through January 31, 2013. The 2013 NXNE Festival runs June 10-16, 2013 in Toronto. Read more tips for first-timers from bands online.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

the break-up

Several years ago I made some big changes to my life. Before I get to that, I’ll give you a bit of framework.

I’m a very loyal friend. I’m a “you-could-call-me-at-four-in-the-morning-and-say-you-need-bail-money-and-a-ride-home-and-p.s.-you-don’t-wanna-talk-about-it-and-I’d-say-where-do-I-pick-you-up” kind of friend. I’m fiercely loyal, especially when it comes to my heart friends. I would do anything for them. Anything.

When you foster these sorts of relationships, you stay friends for a long, long time. There’s no lying to each other, spilling their secrets to garner a few minutes’ worth of the spotlight, no grandstanding, and generally no drama. You just be. It’s a steady, calming thing to know that you have these kinds of relationships with people all over the place. It means a lot to me.

And from time to time, I try to express how much my heart friends mean to me. Several years ago I went through a phase where I felt intensely that I needed to tell all of my best friends that I was "grateful for you, and grateful for your friendship." I kept doing it over and over until my friend El held up a perfectly manicured hand, frowned and said “Lisa. You have to stop.” My friends are used to my emotions runnething over, but there are limits to how much they can take.

Although in an ideal world we’d all be best friends forever, sometimes things just…don’t work out. I have over the years had to distance myself from a few of my friends. Sometimes, it’s been due to a terrible miscalculation on my part- entrusting someone who wasn’t trustworthy or overlooking something that couldn’t be overlooked forever.

But for the most part, there were no horrible betrayals of trust. No big fallouts over money or men. Nothing like that. And I don’t think the friends I exorcised are bad people. I don’t hate them. It’s more, well, it’s more like this:

Friend: “So what have you been up to? How’s the big writing career?”

Me: “Pretty good! The book is going well, and I started work for a new client this week.”

Friend: “Really? I thought you’d be done with this by now. Aren’t you a little old to playing around like this? Don’t you think it’s time you got serious and did something meaningful with your life?!”

Or how about:

Friend:  “You know, if you haven’t married by now, chances are, you’ll never be married.”

Me: “I’m OK with that, actually.”

Friend:  “Doesn’t it bother you that you missed your chance and you’ll always be alone?!”

Do you see where I’m going with this? It’s not that Friend hates me. I don’t think Friend understands how difficult it is to be friends with someone who is so critical. I don’t think Friend thinks she is being critical. She is, in all seriousness, probably just worried about me. And she’s likely projecting and a whole lot of other stuff that I won’t get into here.

I did try to speak up about my feelings. I was met with responses like “Oh, Lisa. You’re too sensitive.” I also heard “Well, you have opinions about other people. Can’t I have an opinion?” (Of course, I’m not running around telling people how they should be living their lives, but I digress.)

So here’s what happened: After one too many conversations about the way I should be living my life, what I should be doing, how I should be handling my family, I just, sort of…dropped her. We’d been friends for years. I care about her very much. I’m just not really interested in defending myself or bracing myself every time there is a call. The amazing thing is, the people that I bounced for being too negative have been bounced by other friends, too. But they can’t acknowledge they’re negative and critical, so they write their ex-friends off as having “issues.”

Maybe I made a tactical mistake when I dropped out of these friendships. The people that I have let fall away likely have no idea why I stopped calling them or stopped answering their calls. Perhaps we should have had angry, tense conversations where I laid out every reason why I wouldn’t be speaking to them again.

But I’ve always been fairly low-key. In addition to not relishing the idea of some sort of battle royale along the lines of David and Goliath, I just don’t think those kinds of conversations would change anything. I don’t think those people can change. And in the end, the biggest reason I decided not to pursue some big tell-all discussion was pretty basic:

I just don’t care anymore. 


Friday, March 9, 2012

unfounded and confounded


One of the most disappointing situations we can ever find ourselves in is being on the wrong side of an unfounded accusation. It’s frustrating. An example of the unfounded accusation:

“I heard from so-and-so that you said this and that about me.”

“What do you think about that?”

“Well-l-l…It doesn’t really sound like something you’d say.”

“Exactly.”

Sound familiar? I can’t even be bothered with defending myself in this situation. Either you know me or you don’t. If you know me, you should give me the benefit of the doubt. If you don’t know me, you should know better than to randomly attack the character of someone you don't know.

I’m not a gossip. I don’t waste my time spreading stories about people that I know or that I don’t know. Frankly, if someone anywhere, at any time tells you I said something hurtful about you, instead of getting upset with me, you might instead consider why that person is giving you that information.

Say what?

Yes, I went there.

When a “friend” relays some piece of hurtful information, under the guise of “helping” you, or “just trying to be a good friend,” I have to wonder how “helpful” that “friend” is really trying to be. For the sake of argument, let’s say I wake up tomorrow and decide I love to spin stories about people I know. I start to burn up the phone lines with wild tales that are so bad, they’re good. Right. But even if I did do something like that, why would the person I am talking to run to you? Will the information help you in some way?

How?

Because as far as I can tell, spreading gossip is just as bad as making it up. The person gleefully dispensing the information may not have started the juicy rumor, but they sure are feeding the fire. If you find yourself on the wrong end of a rumor, instead of getting angry at the person who “started” the gossip, try exercising a bit of wisdom from an old friend of mine:

Consider the source.

When someone tells me something that doesn’t sound right to me, I don’t just think about what the person is saying to me. I wonder why they are telling me that bit of information. I wonder about the timing.

I wonder if they are telling the truth.

To drive the point home, I asked a good friend, a really good friend, what she would do if another one of our friends approached her with a story that was attributed to me.

“I don’t get it. What do you mean, if you said something about me? Why would you do that?”

“This is just for the sake of argument. Imagine so-and-so said that I said this-and-that about you.”

“Why would you do that?”

“It’s just for the sake of argument!”

“OK, but it seems pretty stupid.”

(Sigh) “I know. But just tell me, what would your very first reaction be?”

“I’d wonder why so-and-so was making it up. I know you’d never talk about me. You just...don't do that.”

Right.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

consumable gifts: specialty foods offer a taste of the city

When trying to come up with the perfect gift for my mom and dad for Christmas, I had to face a couple of challenges:

*My parents have too much stuff, or so they tell me. I actually think they've done an admirable job of downsizing over the last few years.

*My parents expect a lot from me at Christmas. Past Christmas gifts included repairing an old Brownie photo of them, which, when blown up, turned out to be the only good photo of them together before they married. Last year, I ordered steak sandwiches from the half-century old restaurant in the town where they used to live. Hard to beat, in other words.

So the challenge every year is to give them something special, something that they'll really enjoy, and something they can actually use. I liked the idea of a gift basket, because since they live in a small town on the coast, they don't have the luxuries and niceties that we all take for granted, living in and around a larger city. In the end, I went to Wizer's in Lake Oswego and created my own gift basket. Without the basket. My parents actually have enough baskets, too.

If you haven't been to Wizer's, you're missing out. This fabulous gem of a specialty grocery store has, well, everything. At least the important stuff, including a very knowledgeable wine steward and a fabulous selection of craft soda pops. In addition to Wizer's, we also popped into Lady Di's British store for a couple of items to include a bit of Canadian influence. Lady Di's has all the good stuff especially if you're craving English shortbreads, toffee, or tea.

When you put together a gift basket, think about who you are buying for. My parents, like everyone in our family, are foodies. They both love to cook and they love to eat. However, they are somewhat limited by the options available to them on the coast. Although the central coast has a bounty of fresh seafood, you're hard-pressed to find gourmet food items.

I buy a spinach salad from New Seasons with a fantastic dressing made with champagne vinegar and I knew they'd love it, too. I'm trying to convince my parents to switch to homemade salad dressings. They're so much better than bottled dressings, and there's no waste- you just make as much as you need for the evening. So, champagne vinegar got added to the basket. For the other items in the gift basket (below), I just wandered around the stores and thought about what my parents would like the most. Putting it together was fun and watching them sift through the contents was even better. They loved the gift basket so I'm off the hook once again- until next year.

Champagne Vinaigrette
2 T Champagne vinegar
1/3 c Olive oil
1/2 t Dijon (mustard acts as an emulsifier- use more or less depending upon how thick you want the dressing to be)
1 T Chopped shallots
Salt, pepper, or other herbs to taste, if you like.
Quickly whisk all ingredients and serve. I use a small mustard bottle with a lid for a final shake-up.

Consumable Gift Basket
Champagne vinegar
Columbia Crest Cabernet Sauvignon
Gift certificate for restaurant in Seaside 
Green olives hand-stuffed with garlic
HP sauce (The Canadian insisted upon this English steak sauce which supposedly puts A1 to shame. I can't really tell the difference.)
Old English hot mustard
Russian mustard (Beaverton Foods mustards are available along the coast, but they don't have all the flavors we have up here)
Sardines (Ick. Gross. Ick. However, this wasn't a basket for me, so in they went.)
Taveners Proper Sweets- English Liquorice Allsorts 
Werther's (You can get Werther's everywhere, even in Waldport, but between the liquorice candy and the sardines, the basket was tipping in favor of my dad).