This gallery contains 9 photos.
Saturday afternoon in the Columbia Gorge, after a week of freezing cold weather and a deep arctic freeze. And you thought “regular” waterfalls were beautiful…
This gallery contains 9 photos.
Saturday afternoon in the Columbia Gorge, after a week of freezing cold weather and a deep arctic freeze. And you thought “regular” waterfalls were beautiful…
Earlier this week, I celebrated my one-year anniversary working for my current employer. I had completely forgotten the significance of the date, until HR wished me a “happy anniversary!” mid-afternoon. An hour later my boss pulled me into his office to give my me annual review. To call it positive is an understatement. Let’s just say it’s nice to feel appreciated. I love the company, and my job is the best!
Things weren’t always this way, though…
Ten years ago, I took a job with a health insurance provider. I’d been unemployed nearly a year, and quite frankly, was desperate for work. Why else would I end up working in a call center for a few bucks more than minimum wage? The office was located in a high-rise in downtown Portland, which was pretty cool, but the commute via mass transit was not. The work was grueling and tedious, and I was miserable there. It’s a wonder I lasted ten months! Anyway, being a call center, I was basically chained to my desk all day long, tethered there with a headset. Even our bathroom breaks were monitored. So when an opportunity arose to tackle a special project for the accounting department, I jumped at the chance.
The work was monotonous – basically, it involved transferring member files – but it was quiet, and I was off the phones for a whole week. That first day I opened the drawer of the abandoned desk where I was working, looking for a pen, and found a CD that had a single word scrawled on it with a blue Sharpie.
I slipped the disc into the CD slot, and listened as a series of soulful R&B tunes played. I did not recognize the artist or the songs, but was immediately captivated by the music nevertheless. Tracks like “The Love I Lost” and “I’m Weak For You” and “Bad Luck.” And a couple of familiar ones: hey, it’s that Simply Red song, “If You Don’t Know Me By Now!” And there’s the disco hit “Don’t Leave Me This Way.” I listened to that CD all week long, and when the work assignment was up, I took a copy home for myself. Listened to it on occasion, and never grew tired of the soulful harmonies and often-inspiring lyrics.
For years, I had no idea who “Melvin” was. A few internet searches yielded no obvious results. This was before apps like Shazam existed. If you’re unfamiliar with Shazam, all you do is press a button, and your smart phone “listens” to the song that is playing. Within 30 seconds, it tells you who the artist is, as well as the name of the song and the album. There’s even a handy link to download the MP3, if you’re so inclined. Boy, that would’ve been really helpful in 2004! Instead, I just enjoyed the music, even if I had no clue who sang it.
Years later, I had the idea to Google a snippet of lyrics, and found they were attributed to Harold MELVIN & The Blue Notes. Only one of the most popular soul groups of the ’70s! I was thrilled that I’d finally made the connection, and solved the Melvin mystery. Since then, we’ve picked up three Harold Melvin & The Blue Notes albums for our record collection, and enjoy listening to them when we’re seeking a respite from our usual rock ‘n roll. It’s good stuff, man. Here’s a clip.
In other news, we woke up to snow today. In fact, it’s still coming down at a good clip right now, and on top of that, we’ve got gusty east winds blowing. It’s not supposed to get above 29 today, which is bitterly cold for Portland. Talk about a blustery day. Remember when I was all excited because our low dropped to 23 a couple of weeks ago? Well, it’s been in the teens since, and this weekend could drop to 10 degrees, which would be the coldest temperature here in 24 years. Portland hasn’t had a low in the single digits since 1950, so if that occurs, it would be historic. This winter is shaping up to be a doozy!
Anyway, even though the snow hasn’t amounted to all that much – just an inch or so, tops – it’s funny, because up until last night, every meteorologist in town was predicting no snow for Portland. It was all supposed to hit Salem and Eugene, leaving us high and dry. I think there’s too much of a reliance on computer models these days. All of them showed the storm tracking south. In reality, it came ashore 50 miles north of where it was “supposed” to, which put us right in the bullseye and gave everybody a surprise snowstorm. The smartest computers in the world can’t predict all the curveballs Mother Nature can throw at you. I like to joke that the most accurate weather model is the GOLU. That’s “Go Outside, Look Up.” That one never lets you down.
With the snow and cold, you’d think we’d be eager to hunker down and stay inside this weekend, but instead we’re planning a trip to the Columbia Gorge tomorrow. When it gets this cold the waterfalls ice over, leading to some spectacular photo opps. It’s a rare event that only occurs every few years or so, and we want to take advantage. We’ll just pile on coats and scarves and gloves and bring along a thermos of hot cocoa, and enjoy the scenery.
Happy weekending, y’all!
I’ve spoken before of the friendly little rivalry Tara and I have, between where we currently live (Vancouver, WA) and the place I’d love to one day call home (Portland, OR). Don’t get me wrong: I love it here. Vancouver is a great community – it’s just a little too polite and refined for my tastes. Or not edgy enough, depending on whether you view the cup as half empty or half full.
Case in point: last Friday, the day after Thanksgiving. My wife was interested in seeing the annual Christmas tree lighting ceremony. Naturally, I assumed she meant the big one in downtown Portland. Pioneer Square, the mayor, the whole shebang. True, this was the place where I was almost blown up by a terrorist a few years ago, but if that doesn’t scream excitement, I don’t know what does! As it turns out, she was referring to the tree lighting ceremony in downtown Vancouver, Washington.
How cute, I thought.
Actually, in all these years – I’ve lived in “the ‘Couv” (as the locals annoyingly call if) since 1996 – I’d never been to their official tree lighting thingy. Maybe it wouldn’t be so bad, I told myself. Might even be quaint. Or possibly fun. It was worth a look, anyway. So we bundled up against the 42-degree chill (hush, East Coasters and Canadians) and headed down to Esther Short Park, a “five acre gem in the heart of Vancouver” and the oldest public square in Washington state (established in 1853). I have to admit, I do love this park. It’s got rose bushes, a clock tower, mature fir trees, and is the site of the farmer’s market, summer concert series, and various festivals throughout the year. But it is nothing at all like Portland. The crowd here was all toddlers and yapping pocket-sized dogs, hot cocoa, caramel corn, buttoned-up fleece, and yuppies. PDX, on the other hand, is chock full of hipsters and coffee, purple hair and tattoos, unicyclists and beards. An entirely different mix. Standing there, listening to our mayor speak, I almost had a moment in which I flipped sides, if you will. He was talking about the great citizens of this community, and how the park had been named one of the nation’s Top 10 “Great Public Spaces” by the American Planning Association this past year, and I’ll be damned if he didn’t almost win me over. Suddenly Voodoo Doughnut ceased to matter, the Alberta Arts District vanished from thought, and the Saturday Market was irrelevant. Powell’s Books? Big whoop. In my mind, I was all rah-rah over the YMCA and Barnes & Noble and Red Lobster. I turned to Tara, pride swelling in my heart, and was just about to say, “bless this wonderful town with its multiple Applebee’s franchises and Ross Dress For Less stores” when the mayor flipped the switch to light the city Christmas tree.
And half the tree remained dark.
It was similar to the anticlimactic scene in National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation, although at least some of our lights lit up. Tara and I looked at one another, and said simultaneously, “Oops.”
But a curious thing happened. Nobody else around us said a word. People were lifting babies onto their shoulders for a better look, snapping pictures, singing Christmas carols. It was a very Stepford-Wives-meets-all-the-Who’s-down-in-Whoville moment, one in which not another living soul acknowledged the fact that a large portion of the tree remained dark. As for the mayor? “It’s beautiful!” he declared. “Merry Christmas!” instead of apologizing for the huge screwup and cracking some joke about how he “shouldn’t be late with the electrician’s paychecks next time.” It was a prime moment for humility and humor, but neither occurred. Instead, everybody in the park was laughing and smiling and singing holiday songs, while Tara and I were left to gape in wonder.
Umm…are we both a couple of cold-hearted cynics missing the point of the holiday season? Is it foolish to expect that somebody might have actually checked all the bulbs before committing to flip a switch in front of 2,500 spectators on a cold (shut up, East Coasters and Canadians) late November evening? Granted, the festival was free, but even that’s a ripoff if the frickin’ tree doesn’t light up like it’s supposed to.
I dunno. I envy those who didn’t care. As for me, I told Tara, “next year, we’re going to Portland’s tree lighting ceremony.” And suddenly remembered how much I dislike Applebee’s. Eatin’ good in the neighborhood means Navarre or Interurban or the Tin Shed, not some place that serves “riblets” and has the audacity to call their cocktails ‘ritas, as if marga doesn’t matter. It’s not cute, guys. It’s annoying.
Tree lighting debacle aside, we enjoyed the remainder of our long holiday weekend, which included a great family Thanksgiving feast and new vintage furniture and Catching Fire and spiked egg nog and decorating the townhouse and an exciting Broncos game. Best of all, the snow is back on my blog. And possibly coating the city next weekend, if this current cold snap lasts as long as they think it will, and we’re lucky to get some moisture at the same time.
Hope your T-Day was a blast!
I arrived at work yesterday and was all set to pull into one of the last two available spots next to the building, but one of my coworkers in an SUV had arrived simultaneously, so being the gracious guy that I am, I let her go first. She tried to swing into the corner spot but couldn’t quite fit, so she pulled out, and parked in the spot I was going to take. No big deal…until a black Mercedes swooped in behind her and took that last parking spot. I was pissed. I’d been waiting patiently, was next in line, and somebody – to make matters worse, a coworker – stole my spot. You have to understand, we have 30 employees in a building that housed half that number a year and a half ago, and parking is at a premium. I had to park at the opposite end of the parking lot, at least half a football field away. Which is normally not a big deal – I’ve done it before, and will surely do it again – but it was windy and cold and I had my hands full.
I muttered a few choice curse words under my breath and was still irritated when I got to my cubicle. A little while later, the woman who had been driving the SUV approached me and said, “Did I cut you off out there? You must think I’m a real bitch.” Well, no – I wasn’t really angry with her. I blamed the black Mercedes instead.
So when I walked across the
football field parking lot at lunch and saw the rear tire on the passenger side of the Mercedes was flat, I chuckled to myself a little. I’ll admit, while I don’t wish ill will on anybody I work with, and actually think the person who drives the car is a decent enough guy, I couldn’t help but feel an inkling of perverse glee. This was karma at work, in all its glory. No doubt in my mind.
But standing there, staring at the flat tire, my ever-so-slight mirth dissolved when I realized how bad this made me look.
Because, not more than two hours earlier, I had publicly badmouthed this car to my coworkers. I’d talked about how the driver had carelessly and thoughtlessly taken something that was rightfully mine. I stopped just short of vowing revenge, though perhaps it had been implied. Or maybe the implication had been implied. Either way, I suddenly realized people might mistakenly assume I had slashed the tire myself. Something I would never do, of course.
In these cases, it’s best to fight fire with fire. When I got back to the office after lunch, I fired up my email and immediately sent out the following:
Only later, another coworker was passing by and said, “I don’t think you’ll have any problem getting your parking spot from now on.”
“Why’s that, Dan?” I asked.
“We all know better than to piss you off now. We steal your spot, you slash our tires. Message received loud and clear.”
Message?! The only message I was trying to send is, I’M INNOCENT!
So, now the whole office is afraid of me. Everybody thinks I’m some kind of knife-wielding, tire-slashing nut who won’t dare let others push him around.
That is SOOOO cool!!!
So, tomorrow’s the big day. Thanksgiving has long been my favorite holiday. And Tara and I make such a great team, it’s better than ever! I think we’re natural born hosts. This year I insisted on a fresh turkey (free range and grass fed, even) instead of the usual frozen bird. I’ve never had one, and am curious to see if the extra cost is worth it. Tara asked if she could prepare it and cook it, and I hesitated for maybe five seconds before saying “sure, honey – have at it.” While I trust her completely and have no doubt it’ll be delicious, I am the type of person who likes to be in control (I think that’s the Taurus in me) and I always cook the turkey. But this is a year of change. I’m ditching my tried-and-true stuffing recipe for a brand new one, and instead of a pumpkin pie, I’m doing a pumpkin cobbler in the crockpot. I guess I just feel like mixing things up this year. New wife, new life, and all that jazz.
I also can’t help but remember what happened two years ago. This holiday will forever be associated with my unexpected hospital stay back in 2011. Too bad, but I guess that’s inevitable. I still love it more than any other.
Have a great Turkey Day!
There’s been a crime wave of epic proportions sweeping through the Rose City lately, and its got all of us on edge.
This unprecedented streak of criminal activity began with a roving band of chefs swooping into residents’ yards at night and stealing herbs from their gardens. An apartment manager whose complex is located suspiciously close to the trendy restaurants in SE Portland talked to local news affiliate KATU and said, “In some neighborhoods there’s coyotes, some have skunks – here, it’s just sous-chefs and all the things that come with that.” Everything from nettles and catmint to borage, pineapple weed and grape leaves have gone missing. A neighbor reported chasing one off the property with what appeared to be a bag full of chicory leaves. Apparently, these sous chefs even have a certain scent. “Sometimes smells like brisket,” the manager reports.
Surely, there’s a way to catch these heathens in the act. Maybe lure them into a trap baited with a little lemon aioli?
Next, a colorful and festive holiday sweater that had been placed on the iconic umbrella man statue in Pioneer Square was ripped off. Literally: only a sleeve was left of the blue cardigan with red poinsettias, part of a “yarn bombing” project where local fiber artists are decorating city statues with hand knit sweaters. Umbrella man will be getting a new sweater, authorities say, but this one will come from a thrift store. In the meantime, if you happen so see anybody walking down the street wearing a gaudy blue and red holiday sweater with a missing sleeve, call the cops! (If he happens to smell like brisket, call them twice).
But the coup de grace goes to a man police have dubbed the Nerdy Bandit. The guy, described as “a white male, early 20s to early 30s, 5’8″ to 6′ tall, skinny build, brown hair, “nerdyish,” wearing a hat…and black-rimmed glasses” is responsible for holding up two American Apparel stores, before moving on to an Urban Outfitters. Armed with a handgun he has absconded (great word!) with an undisclosed amount of cash from all but one of the stores. In that case, the frightened employee simply ran away from the register, enough to scare off the armed robber. Interesting strategy, that.
Marauding sous chefs. Ugly holiday sweater thieves. Nerdy looking armed robbers. I’ll never be able to venture out into my beloved Portland again, without a cold shiver of fear inching its way down my spine. This crime spree serves as a warning: NOBODY IS SAFE OUT THERE.
(It also reminds us why our unofficial motto is “Keep Portland Weird.” This type of thing couldn’t possibly happen anywhere else).
But if this is what we have to contend with, when other cities are dealing with drive-by shootings and gang activity and murder, then I’ll take my chances with sweater thieves any day.
It was cold this morning. 23 frosty degrees. I realize in some parts of the country that might be considered downright balmy, but in the Pacific Northwest, that’s about as cold as it ever gets. I’m going on my 20th winter here, and I speak from experience: it drops into the teens occasionally, and once bottomed out at 12 degrees, but in many winters it doesn’t get any colder. So, when the alarm clock went off this morning at 4:50, I was anything but pleased. Our bed was so warm…so soft…so comfy. Nothing but cold awaited us out of the covers. The last thing in the world I wanted to do was leave that warm and cozy haven, but we have been making an effort to attend the gym more regularly, so I forced myself to get up.
And proceeded to grumble incessantly to Tara.
“It’s 25 degrees!” I told her after consulting the thermometer in the kitchen.
“Hmm,” she replied, not sounding all that impressed. She was no more enthusiastic when the temperature inched down to 24, and then 23. I, on the other hand, was conveying this information to her excitedly, as if relaying a play-by-play in an NFL game in which the wide receiver was racing down to the 30-yard line…then the 20…the 10…
When she had the nerve to yawn in my face.
“What are you doing?!” I asked.
“Yawning,” she replied. Duh.
“Did you see the frost on the rooftops?”
“Yeah. Sure. I guess.”
Yeah? Sure? I guess?! It’s not every day that our rooftops are coated in frost. If you squinted your eyes and turned your head just the right way, it almost looked like snow, and that gave the whole neighborhood a Norman Rockwell feel. The only people who feel ambivalent over Normal Rockwell scenery are those who enjoy kicking puppy dogs for sport. Good lord. Who did I marry here?!?!
Oh. Right. The person who used to live in Island Park, Idaho. Where the average annual snowfall is 214.8 inches. No wonder a little frost on the rooftops was nothing to that wife o’ mine. OK, I get it…it’s all about perspective. I don’t blame her for calling me a “wimp” when I was shivering in the car on the drive to the gym, my teeth chattering in time to the rock ‘n roll music on the radio. So what I don’t understand is, why is she piling the blankets on when it’s 66 in the living room at the same time I’m peeling off layers of clothes because I’m burning up?! There’s no rhyme or reason to this madness.
They’re calling for this cold airmass to remain in place for a few more days, so I’m sure there will be more grumbling and more frosty roofs and more unimpressed Taras to contend with.
The cold weather did make me realize that Thanksgiving is only a week away. Which means, incessantly nonstop Christmas music is a mere 8 days away. How did that happen?! Up until a week ago, we weren’t even sure what we were doing for Turkey Day. Turns out we’re hosting. (Who am I kidding? I figured all along that’d be the case). Don’t get me wrong, I love hosting. It’s our one day of the year to show off our cooking prowess to a house full of guests.
But it’s our one day of the year to have to tackle a mountain of dirty dishes, too. And all the other cleanup afterwards. This is called “mixed feelings,” folks.
However, with the pending short sale and next year’s living situation up in the air, this year will probably be the last Thanksgiving in the townhouse. So that’s kind of bittersweet. Only seems fitting that we’d host again this year. We may be living in an apartment a year from now, and relying on somebody else to do all the work. Hint, hint…somebody else.
What’cha doing for Thanksgiving next year, Tori Nelson? I hear the South is nice…
What is your definition of a photograph?
Is it the unadulterated image you snap through the lens of your camera, or your artistic interpretation of the scene? Do you believe you should present a picture As Is, warts and all, oversaturated and uncropped, or is it okay to touch it up with filters and photo editing tools?
I once dated a woman who believed a photo was only “real” if it was untouched. I, on the other hand, contended that it was perfectly okay to manually touch up a picture using readily available tools and technology if doing so improved the quality of the image. She so passionately (and stubbornly) believed she was right, we actually got into arguments over it. To her, editing a photograph was “cheating,” and in doing so, you are compromising the integrity of your image. “The sky didn’t look that blue in real life,” she would say.
But you know what? People don’t have red pupils in real life, either. The “red eye” effect is the result of the flash reflecting off blood in the choroid of the eye. We think nothing of fixing this when developing (or nowadays, uploading) photos. So what’s wrong with enhancing the sky or softening the shadows? Instagram takes this concept and runs with it. The few photos that are displayed naturally are often accompanied by the #nofilter hashtag. Pretty much everything else has been touched up to some degree. I don’t see any harm in that. To me, photographs are art – a creative expression unique to the person behind the lens. They are meant to evoke a mood, and making them “warmer” or “cooler” can help complement the background scenery.
Clearly, you can tell I’ve been playing around with photos lately. ‘Tis true. Here’s en excellent example, two versions of a photo I took in downtown Portland in September.
See what a dramatic difference a little editing can make? I think it improved the photo immensely. Is it “cheating,” as that ex would insist? Or is it enhancing something that was there all along? I guess you’ll have to be the judge of that. All I know is, I’ll make manual improvements to a photo every single time if the end result turns out that stunning. I also think there’s a fine line, and you don’t want to overdo it. A little editing is great, but too much just makes your shot look cartoony. Finding that balance is key.
Speaking of stunning, Saturday night we got all cultured up. We had been wanting to do something special with Audrey, and Tara stumbled upon a concert by a dance troupe called iLumiDance. I’d have a tough time describing them, but if I had to try, I’d call them contemporary dancers who utilize glow sticks, black lights, and other props to tell a unique story. Sounded interesting enough, so Tara bought tickets. That’s when she discovered the show was in Salem, rather than Portland. Oops.
In the overall scheme of things, not a huge deal. Salem’s about an hour south of us. And it was a Saturday night. I decided to set aside my initial skepticism and embrace the evening as an adventure. Which is exactly how it turned out. We arrived in Salem around 5 PM, two and a half hours before showtime. But it was overcast, and the sun had already set. As much as we wanted to explore the city – I’ve only ever passed through a couple of times, usually on my way to the coast – we figured we wouldn’t have much of a chance at sightseeing. Until we found the state capitol building. Even though I’ve lived here almost exactly 19 years (tomorrow’s my anniversary), I had never even seen the building. Well, the way it was lit up after dark, with the sky a purple post-sunset glow, made it appear quite stunning. Check it out. (This photo is NOT touched up in any way – though it could be (and was for Instagram).
We wandered around the grounds for quite a while, stopping to check out a reflecting pool, a Walk of Flags, and a miniature version of the Liberty Bell. All quite impressive. Then we ducked into a Mexican restaurant and ordered margaritas to kill some time.Had a nice “adult” type chat with Audrey. (It’s still weird that I no longer see my kids every other week). Finally, we headed to the Elsinore Theater, an elegantly restored historic theater dating to 1926. It was beautiful inside, and the show itself was thrilling – an expertly choreographed three-act performance complete with intermissions and an orchestrated version of Metallica’s “Nothing Else Matters.” I can’t say I’m a big dance fan, but this really grabbed my attention and held my interest. Tara was near tears, and Audrey was equally impressed. It turned out to be a real fun time. Afterwards, we stopped at Jack In The Box for a late night meal on the ride home. Audrey stayed the night. We had pumpkin pancakes and sausage for breakfast the next morning, hung out for a while afterwards, then I took her home. Watched the Broncos/Chiefs game in the evening. Made chicken tortilla soup. Our team won.
It was a nice weekend.
My attitude about books has changed drastically over the past year. Or, more specifically, e-readers.
I had long lamented the rise of the Kindle and other e-readers. “They’re too impersonal,” I said. “There’s nothing like feeling the weight of a book in your hands, smelling the musty pages, immersing yourself in the realm of print.”
Said the guy who had never actually used an e-reader.
I attribute my bias to the fact that I’m an author. As such, I long for physical evidence of my legacy. I want to see people with my book in their hands or on their shelves, not buried away in a stream of computer code on somebody’s password-protected digital device. There’s a certain pride in a well-designed cover, a byline, individual pages. Books, I surmised, felt real in a way that electronic readers never could.
And then I got a Kindle for Christmas, and everything changed. I LOVE my Kindle. You can’t beat the convenience, or the portability. I love having a virtual bookstore with millions of titles just a click away, and I appreciate features that allow me to change the font size, spacing, etc. It’s so reader-friendly it’s ridiculous.
Still, there are certain occasions in which a book is preferred. When Doctor Sleep - Stephen King’s sequel to The Shining - came out in September, I wanted to buy a hardcover version to add to our library. So I made a special trip to Powell’s, plunked down twenty-two dollars (ouch), and couldn’t wait to tear into it.
Only once I tore, I wasn’t so enamored. Not because of the writing or plot or anything silly like that. It’s just that the book was so heavy. I had to turn the light on at night in order to read it, since it didn’t have a backlit screen like my Kindle. And I couldn’t bring it to the gym to read while I worked out on the treadmill, because it was big and bulky and I had to forever manually turn pages and then hope they’d stay turned. Don’t get me wrong, the book looks nice on our bookshelf, but it was kind of a pain in the ass to read. “I wish I’d bought this for the Kindle instead,” I said one day, and surprised myself with that sentiment. Just for fun I looked it up on Amazon, and found the Kindle version available for $7. What the hell. I downloaded it, and have been making great progress in the past few days, whereas the big, clunky hard cover version had been sitting on my nightstand mostly just gathering dust.
(Which means I spent $29 to read Doctor Sleep. Whoa. But, lesson learned. And if you happen to unwrap a hardcover copy of that book this Christmas, just forget you ever read this blog post, okay? *whistles innocently and walks away*).
I’m not saying the Kindle is perfect. It’s hard to judge how long a book is, for one thing, even with a handy “8 hours 31 minutes left until you finish” counter. You can’t loan books, or check them out from the library. Still, the pros definitely outweigh the cons. I turned a corner last week when I made that purchase. Henceforth, I can’t really see buying a traditional book again, which is really going to put a damper on my Powell’s trips. At least not something bulky and hefty that costs a small fortune.
Talk About Being in the Right Place at the Right Time
Yesterday, my car started acting funny. I don’t mean it put on horned rimmed glasses with a big nose and fake mustache and started telling jokes about airplane food; instead, it wasn’t starting right. When I turned the key, the engine took an extra second or two to catch. Nothing real drastic, and probably unnoticeable to most, but when you’ve been driving the same vehicle for 11+ years, you get to know her intimately. The slightest deviation from normal raises your hackles. I immediately suspected my battery was going. It hadn’t been replaced in several years, and the same symptoms had popped up once before, followed by a dead battery. I told Tara it looked like I’d be replacing it soon. And then, this morning, things were worse. She was taking a good three or four seconds to “wake up,” and the dashboard lights were dimming in the process. Definitely not good. I had a couple of errands to run in the morning, and was worried each time that my car wouldn’t start afterwards. It did on both occasions, but reluctantly. So I decided to drive to Jiffy Lube on my lunch. For one thing, I was in need of an oil change. For another, I figured they could check the battery and let me know if my suspicions were correct. So I got it there, told the mechanic I was having starting issues, and turned off the engine, per their request.
When they went to move my car into the service bay, the engine wouldn’t start.
Talk about being in the right place at the right time! How fortunate that I hadn’t driven home on my lunch, as I normally would have. Or been caught somewhere inconvenient. Next in line at an auto mechanic is probably the best possible place to be when your battery dies.
I’m Not All Rainbows and Sunshine
I got the following reply to a comment I left on somebody’s blog:
I’m always surprised by evidence that you’re into paranormal / horror / gothic stuff … your blog is so beautifully grounded in Portland and Tara and food and fun. (In other words, it’s cheerful.) When I find out that you’ve already adopted something that I consider dark and obscure, I’m a little startled.
This made me laugh. It’s true, what she says. I keep this blog pretty lighthearted because friends and family read it. Plus, it’s way too easy to find online, and you never know when a professional is going to come a-callin’. Are there times I wish I could delve deeper into darker areas? For sure, yo. But prudence dictates otherwise.
Damn you, Prudence.
So I talk about Kindles and dead car batteries. I just try to do so in as entertaining a manner as possible.
I’ve encountered this my whole life, by the way. I guess I have one of those faces that is friendly and trusting. People think I’m this unassuming guy who’s pretty straitlaced.
Until they see my dungeon.
I kid, I kid. But I’ve long thought I’d make the perfect serial killer. Which is, admittedly, a pretty dark statement to make. Step aside, Prudence! Just for a sec. I never would, of course. For one thing, I practically faint at the sight of blood. If I so much as nick myself shaving, I’m rummaging through drawers looking for a bandaid and imagining I’m growing more and more lightheaded by the second. And, I’d probably throw out my back if I tried to dig a ditch. Then I’d have Tara in my ear reminding me, “the body’s not going to bury itself, dear.” Who needs that kind of pressure? I’m just saying, I’m kind of like a Ted Bundy figure. Smart, polite, and charming. People like me, and they trust me. I could probably use that to my advantage…
…buuuuut, I’m too busy feeding unicorns! Relax, my friends. I might kill a six-pack (of Lime-A-Ritas, of course), but that’s as far as I’ll go.
Still. I bet you’re wondering what prompted that comment above.
Tara and I have recently discovered hashtags.
I know, I know. They’ve been around for a few years now. We’re late to the party because neither of us really utilizes Twitter, where hashtags were born. If you’re unfamiliar with what they are, allow me to enlighten you. They aren’t something you order with bacon and eggs. That would be hash browns. Simply put, hashtags are a word or phrase preceded by a hash or pound sign (#) and used to identify messages on a specific topic. They are a useful social media tool for finding like-minded individuals or posts. For example, on Instagram, I’ll often post a photo and use a #portland hashtag. This allows other people who have posted photos of Portland to find mine, and vice-versa. I’ve found people to follow this way. What can I say? #hashtagshelpmemakefriends.
You can get really specific with your hashtags, too. #portlandeats will take you to restaurant and food posts. #portlandfeets might show you barefoot Portlanders, while #portlandbleats will take you to sheep and goats in the Rose City. Presumably, of course. Half the fun in hashtags is to come up with some that are so outlandish it’s unlikely you’ll actually find a related topic, but at least you can make people smile. Tara is really good at this. Here’s one of her recent Facebook posts:
And, there was this picture she posted on Instagram.
As a result, it’s become a friendly little competition to come up with the most clever hashtags. But she’s clearly one up on me. The best I could come up with recently involved our weekend. We went up to Seattle for a family visit and to celebrate Tracy’s birthday. The highlight of our trip was a drive out to Leavenworth on Saturday. We had posted photos and Facebook updates, but our friends kept confusing Leavenworth, WA – quaint little Bavarian village east of the Cascades – with Leavenworth, KA – federal penitentiary. So I used a hashtag to explain that I was not, in fact, “doing time”:
It turns out that not everybody is as enamored with hashtags as we are! #lightenupfolks #hashtagsareariot #whatdoyoumeanyoudontlikehashtags
Take Tracy, for instance. She was telling us how ridiculous she thinks hashtags are and wondering what the point was in posting them. Tara very helpfully explained that they do serve a purpose and showed her how clicking on a hashtag will bring up related photos and posts, but my mother-in-law was still unimpressed, I gathered. Oh, well. #toeachtheirown #maybeshe’lllaughatsomeofthese #probablynotbutihavetokeeptrying
She is certainly not alone in her views. Jimmy Fallon recently did a sketch on his late-night show with Justin Timberlake poking fun at hashtags. It’s quite hilarious, actually. #watchthisandlaugh #jimmyfallonrules #jaywho?!
Love ‘em or hate ‘em, hashtags are here to stay! #thismakesmehappy #sodoespizza #andbroncosvictories #guessiameasytoplease
Speaking of our trip…
It had been a while since we’d driven north to Seattle (I always say Seattle, by the way, when in reality Tracy lives in one of the eastern suburbs. We never even caught a glimpse of the Space Needle or downtown this trip. Sometimes we do, other times we don’t. It’s like how I tell people I’m “from Portland” when really I don’t even live in Oregon. #detailsdetails). Anyway, our last visit was way back in July. It feels even longer, with all that has taken place between then and now. We always leave right after work, and are on the road by 5:30 for what is normally a three-hour drive. Last time it was sunny and bright the whole way. This time, darkness had already fallen. The change of seasons can bring such a different feel to that drive. We got in a little after 8 and spent plenty of time visiting and catching up.
The highlight of our trip was the visit to Leavenworth on Saturday. Neither Tracy nor Anne had ever been, while Tara and I visited once before, last February. Fascinating history behind this town. It was a logging community that nearly became a ghost town when the railroad was relocated to Wenatchee in the 1920s. Struggling with a way to survive, a couple of logging residents who had visited the Danish town of Solvang in California decided that, hey – since Leavenworth is in the mountains and gets a lot of snow – why not turn it into a tourist attraction by transforming the whole city into a Bavarian-themed village? And the rest is history. It’s pretty quaint, and they’ve done a great job. Even the local gas stations and McDonald’s restaurant look like they were plucked straight out of Germany. We ran into quite a bit of snow crossing Stevens Pass, but Leavenworth itself was dry…and cold. Good thing we were all bundled up. We killed a few hours there, ate some German food for lunch, and got back home after sunset. Had a late dinner (fantastic homemade chicken and noodles), played cards, and drank late into the night. It was a very full (and fulfilling) day.
Sunday, on our way out of town, we made a detour to Kirkland to meet up with our blogging friend Nancy and our other blogging friend (first time we met her), Taire. Nancy recently sold her townhouse and relocated to an apartment. She was somewhat leery of downsizing, but her place is amazing. It’s a top floor, corner unit with a view of Lake Washington. The bottom floor consists of shops and restaurants. Talk about a great little community. Hardly a step down, in my opinion! It’s very cozy and homey and makes me dread our own impending move somewhat less (though I doubt very much we’re going to end up someplace that has a lake view). We all went out to a sports pub for a late breakfast and Bloody Marys. Tara and I were the lone spots of orange in a vast ocean of Seahawks blue and green. Doesn’t matter, though. We wore it proudly. We had a nice, long-overdue visit before the 3-hour drive home.
Here are a few more photos from our weekend.
A coworker said something interesting the other day. Somebody else at work was sick, and was going on and on about having chicken soup for dinner to help with her cold. He claimed that would never work for him, because “Men don’t eat soup.”
This was news to me, because…
So then I started wondering: is it unusual that I eat soup? This is the second time an argument about soup has erupted at Ye Olde Office. Last December, a discussion arose over the merits of eating soup for breakfast. And come to think of it, it was the lone female in the group extolling the virtues of soup, while the men called her everything short of crazy. And then they did call her crazy. So I’m wondering all over again: do men eat soup?! Or is it in our genes to prefer something hearty and filling and dripping with blood when we kill it with our bare hands? I’ll bet none of my caveman ancestors would have chosen cream of cauliflower soup over mastodon.
Dear god, what’s wrong with me?!?!
In the past couple of weeks, I have made (or consumed) taco soup, cream of mushroom soup, chicken tortilla soup, Italian wedding soup, and a couple of cans of Campbell’s condensed soups that at least count as a technicality. And – gasp! – I’ve enjoyed them. What’s better than a steaming hot bowl of soup on a cold and blustery autumn evening? I guess I’m supposed to say “a nice, juicy steak” but I just can’t bring myself to do it. SOUP is the answer! The answer is SOUP!
Once upon a time, we were told that real men don’t eat quiche. (I have a problem with this, too – I happen to love quiche!). Concerned that I might be doing my gender a grave injustice by actually eating soup, I turned to the all-knowing Internet and posed the question, What foods don’t men eat? A list was spat back at me, and it included the following:
Soup, it should be pointed out, did not make the list of foods that men don’t eat. So it appears my coworker was wrong in his assertion. I can continue to slurp away secure in my manhood!
Last night was an odd one. Tara had an after-hours work function to attend, which meant I was on my own for a large chunk of the evening. Once upon a time, this was the norm, but it’s been ages now and I’m out of practice. My first thought was, I’ll make something for dinner that Tara would never eat. I decided on chili verde; the recipe I’ve got is so spicy it feels like acid is tearing away the layers of your stomach from the inside out. Yum! But definitely not something she could handle. So I got home, poured myself a whiskey sour, put on a record (Pink Floyd’s Animals – a criminally underrated album), and commenced to slicing and dicing. While dinner was cooking I kicked back and watched The Walking Dead and Grimm. The chili verde was delicious, I had a nice buzz going, and I was comfortably reclined on the Man Chair with a purring cat in my lap. All very circa 2010: this was my exact life back then.
I realized how little I missed it.
Sure, the complete and total freedom (on the weeks when I didn’t have the kids) was nice. But I had forgotten how boring it all became, how one day bled into the next and life was a never ending blur of sameness. Wash, rinse, repeat. I became pretty isolated, especially once I was unemployed. Sometimes I wouldn’t leave the house for days. Some days I never even bothered getting dressed. Man, things were bad back then, and I didn’t even comprehend that at the time. It was the Normal I was used to.
Maybe that’s why I’m so eager to move on and grab hold of a fresh start. The short sale process has begun (and by begun, I mean, Wells Fargo is calling multiple times a day and I am ignoring their calls multiple times a day). My mortgage is now officially late, and I swear, within an hour of going past the grace period, they were hounding me. I won’t be able to put them off forever. Fortunately, they emailed me with a lot of handy links, including info on short sales, so soon I’ll swallow my pride and officially let them know what’s going on.
In the meantime, I’m focused only on soup.
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