Interrobangin’

Last Christmas, Tara got me a Word of the Day calendar. What does she think I am, some kind of grammar nerd?!

Oh. Wait…

Anyway. I keep it on my desk at work, and the first thing I do when I arrive in the office every morning is tear off the previous sheet to unveil the new word. I feel just like a kid opening presents on Christmas morning, except I’m not a kid. And there are no presents. And it isn’t Christmas morning. Pesky little details aside, it’s still a lot of fun.

Not every word enriches my vocabulary. Some are common. Others, nonsensical. Up until this morning, my favorite had been jerkwaterMeaning remote and unimportant; trivial. I tore that page out and taped it to my filing cabinet. It sounds like a PG-rated insult, and I try to use it often. Thank you, March 23rd.

Today’s word of the day? Even better. I didn’t think that was possible, but guess what? July 27th takes the cake. There’s a new sheriff in town, and his name is…

interrobang

First off, it’s fun to say. Interrobang. Rolls off the tongue, doesn’t it? And it’s vaguely naughty-sounding. Especially when you have a wife named Tara. Think about it.

Best of all, I’ve been using the interrobang for years without even realizing it. Check out my opening paragraph in this post. I’m interrobangin’ like nobody’s business. Who wouldn’t want to interrobang?!

Sorry, March 23. Jerkwater is now playing second fiddle to interrobang.

Who says English is no fun?!

Speaking of fun, this past weekend was. But it almost wasn’t. Tara came up with the idea of heading out of town for a little weekend getaway. She suggested exploring Mount Rainier National Park on Saturday, then staying overnight in Yakima. I’m all for national parks and nature and outdoors. It was the staying-overnight-in-Yakima part that gave me pause. No offense to Yakimans. (Yakimen? Yakiwomen? I could really use some Word of the Day help right about now). It just didn’t sound very exotic. Never been there, never had any desire to be there. But I figured life is one big adventure anyway, and maybe Yakima wouldn’t prove to be so jerkwater after all.

And then the weather became an issue. It’s been an abnormally hot and dry summer throughout the Pacific Northwest, so naturally – on the one day where we planned on spending approximately 100% of our time outdoors – it decided to rain. Oh, and it was cold, too. When we reached the Sunrise Visitor’s Center it was 42 degrees and we had to warm up in front of a blazing fire. I kid you not.

42

42 may be the Answer to The Ultimate Question of Life, the Universe, and Everything, but it’s not exactly conducive to a nice outdoor hike. So instead we wandered aimlessly through the park with the heat blasting and the windshield wipers keeping steady pace with the rain. We’d heard a rumor that there was even a mountain out there, and Google confirms this…

Mount Rainier National ParkThough our view was decidedly less impressive.

What MountainAnd then, when all hope appeared lost, we noticed that the rain had stopped. Sure, it was still foggy. And cold. The air was damp. But there was no precipitation precipitating, and that made all the difference in the world. So we pulled into the parking lot at Tipsoo Lake and, just for fun, began walking the Naches Peak Loop trail. 3.8 miles and two hours later we had completed what turned out to be one of the best hikes we’ve ever done. At one point as we traversed a ridge line the clouds below us parted and raced through the valley, lending an ethereal quality to the place. There were alpine lakes and wildflowers and acres of huckleberry bushes laden with ripe, succulent fruit. The views were breathtaking. The sun even came out briefly. It was nothing short of spectacular.

Bonus: 0% chance of sunburn.

And you know what? Yakima, despite its essential Yakimaness, proved to be a good spot to hole up overnight. It was only 60 miles east of the park and had an honest to goodness real restaurant with tasty, strong cocktails. We imbibed in a few, and ate spring rolls and wild Alaskan salmon and a pork chop with bacon jam and the next morning bought fruit and vegetables from the farmer’s market and well, damn it all, we ended up liking Yakima. Go figure.

Not a bad weekend at all! And then interrobang eased my Monday morning transition to the workplace.

Does it get any better than this?!

 

 

Only Consequences (and Hush Puppies)

I did not expect my last post to generate such a strong response from my friends and readers. But a good number of them had much to say about whether or not I should eat those onion rings. It was all very eye-opening, I have to admit.

The overwhelming consensus was that I should just shut up already and eat the damn things. To wit:

PLEASE DO eat the onion rings. They are a once a year treat. Eat them, savor them, love them, DO NOT FEEL GUILT OR SHAME and get back to your wraps the next day.

This from my friend Jamie, who was especially vocal in her encouragement. She linked to an article where the author espoused the merits of healthy eating with the flexibility of enjoying the occasional indulgence and, more importantly, not beating yourself up over it. My favorite takeaway was this simple gem:

Embrace that there is no guilt, only consequences.

Man, I love that. The author is right. Talk about a perspective shift. It makes the whole debate scientific in nature. Cause/effect. Action/reaction. And removes any emotion from the equation. Exactly what I needed.

Another friend, Heidi, said she has noticed that when people go through a drastic transformation such as weight loss, they become obsessed with the process of maintaining it “for fear that something would magically reverse itself. Like overnight the weight would start to return or they’d lose their motivation.” And again, this was eye-opening because I guess I’m sort of obsessed at this point, too. I joke about it, but those very fears Heidi mentions, irrational as they are, have crept into my head at times. I look back at photos from a year ago and read posts from my hospital stay and catch sight of my CPAP machine tucked away on the top shelf of the bedroom closet and think to myself how very fortunate I am to have overcome so many bad things and how much better my life is now which makes the slightest notion of ever ending up back in that same boat again a little terrifying.

So I’m thankful for the thought-provoking comments I received from my friends. And because of them, last night I was comfortable ordering these:

BBQThey’re hush puppies, not onion rings, but nutrition-wise aren’t exactly health food. Roughly 40 calories apiece and, of course, cornbread (hello, carbs). I may have limited myself to six, but it’s a start.

As for the Bloody Mary, well, I never said I gave those up!
#crazytalk

Another good friend, Monica, supported my decision to refrain from the rings and asked yet another great question: Eating well means you aren’t enjoying life?!

Bingo. I love broccoli, and it just happens to be a very healthy food. It’s not like I’m hating life whenever I take a bite! The bottom line is, it’s all about choice. You just have to decide for yourself what your own personal comfort level is. and where your boundaries lie. For me, that is apparently somewhere in between a hush puppy and an onion ring. It’ll differ for everybody.

Part two to that equation: if you do happen to reward yourself with a treat, do not get your boxers twisted in a bunch afterwards.

But enough about food. Just writing about it is making me hungry, and breaking out the carrot sticks and hummus (boy, I’m really not enjoying life!) would be downright rude. Tara and I went out last night to catch Built to Spill at the Wonder Ballroom in Portland. We love these guys so much, because… well, here:

Screenshot 2015-07-24 16.41.10

That about sums it up. Awesome show, and even though we didn’t get to bed until 1 AM and both of us had to work today, we had a blast. Doug Martsch is an indie rock god, and I can’t wait until we see him a sixth time.

Happy weekending!

On Pleasure, Guilt, and Onion Rings

I’ve been waging an internal war over onion rings this week.

Every summer, our fabulous local burger chain, Burgerville, rolls out their seasonal Walla Walla onion rings. These babies are amazing! Big, sweet slices of Washington state onions rolled in panko breadcrumbs and deep fried to crispy golden perfection.  Here’s a photo I took last year, approximately five point eight seconds before shoving my face into that glorious pile of tasty goodness.

Walla Walla Onion RingsNormally, I look forward to this yearly treat with the same anticipation as baseball fans awaiting spring training. I wax eloquently over these bad boys to anybody within earshot. Within days of their annual release I’m lining up for lunch.

Ahh, but much has changed in the past year.

Namely, I almost died. So I changed up my diet, started exercising, and got healthy. Nowadays, a typical lunch looks like this instead.

wrap

Can I just say I’ve mastered the art of the wrap? Stuff a whole wheat low-carb tortilla with chicken breast, quinoa, avocado, spinach, cherry tomatoes, and feta and you’ve got one delicious and healthy lunch. Every time I assemble one, a coworker will invariably comment on how good it looks (usually while nibbling on a cookie). “I don’t know how you do it,” they’ll say, but I’m not sure exactly what they’re referring to. Avoiding temptation? Keeping fit? It’s all second nature now.

And therein lies the problem.

I won’t say I obsess over what I eat, but…

Yeah. OK. I do obsess over what I eat. So sue me! (Don’t really. I have lots of bills to pay). This is one obsession that has paid off big time, though. Ain’t nothin’ wrong with watching what you eat! And since reaching my goal weight and resolving my health issues, I’ve eased up quite a bit and am not nearly as militant as before.

But I still can’t bring myself to eat those onion rings. ‘Cause, you see, I looked up the nutritional information online. Those bad boys clock in at 230 calories and 28 grams of carbs each. Their “regular” serving of three = 700 calories and 87 carbs. Way more than I’m comfortable with.

Don’t even get me started on the creamy ranch dipping sauce.

“You can cheat one time,” Tara says. “It won’t kill you!” And I know that she is right. I could have the onion rings once, and probably would not experience a single adverse effect. Except for one:

guilt
ɡilt/
noun
noun: guilt
1. a feeling of having done wrong or failed in an obligation.
he remembered with sudden guilt the letter from his mother that he had not yet read

Annoying emotion, guilt. It’s both a blessing and a curse. Years ago I found myself mired in a relationship that was basically killing my passion for life, yet I stuck it out longer than I should have because I felt guilty breaking up with her. She had a daughter who was fond of me, you see, and…

Yeah. Stupid. On the other hand, a little dose of guilt is a great way to keep you on the straight and narrow. It’s helped me avoid the many doughnuts, cupcakes and other treats that have appeared in the office the past six months. I know if I caved in to temptation I’d enjoy them for two minutes and then feel guilty for the next twelve hours. Quite frankly, nothing is worth the aggravation.

Except maybe those onion rings…

“You only live once,” they say. Which may or may not be true depending on whether this whole reincarnation jig is legit, but I appreciate the sentiment. You might as well enjoy life’s little pleasures, right? Then again, avoiding temptations like onion rings could increase your lifespan. Then again again, what’s the point of living longer if you aren’t indulging in things that bring you joy in the first place? Then again again again, it’s hard to enjoy the finer things in life if you’re too wide to fit through the door to go buy them.

And you thought only characters in Woody Allen movies were this neurotic…

woody615So, what do you think? Should I have the damn onion rings or not? If I hold out long enough the season will be over and Burgerville will take them off the menu.

But they’ll be replaced with sweet potato french fries and I’ll have a whole new dilemma to contend with…

 

Sofa King Brilliant

I’ve been watching a lot of Shark Tank lately. In case you are unaware, this is a reality television show in which entrepreneurs pitch ideas to a group of well-known billionaire investors in the hopes of landing a business deal. It’s entertaining as hell and highly addictive. Most of the proposals are silly (an alarm clock that awakens you with sizzling bacon, a fart-scented “Man Candle”) or ludicrous – how about that vortex generator that uses the earth’s rotation to create electricity and, in the process, solid gold? – but a few are home runs. Naturally, the allure of a million-dollar business deal has piqued my interest. Don’t get me wrong, I love my job, but you know what I like even better?

Independent wealth.

Shark Tank

So I have been trying to develop ideas for my own great invention to pitch to the Sharks. After much deliberation, I think I’ve got something. (And no, it’s not my chain of Vietnamese restaurants cleverly named Pho Q or my furniture empire, Sofa King (“Our prices are Sofa King low! Our couches are Sofa King durable!”). Endless tongue-in-cheek advertising possibilities aside, I am aiming for something higher than a sixth-grade maturity level).

Tara and I were discussing Drumsticks recently. The ice cream kind, as opposed to chicken legs. I mentioned how that last little bite – the solid chunk of chocolate in the bottom tip of the cone – is the best part. She wrinkled her nose in disgust, but I knew a thousand happy bites (I used to be fat, remember?) could not have been misleading, so I quizzed a few people.

“Do you like the solid chunk of chocolate in the bottom tip of a Drumstick cone?” I asked a coworker.

“Duh,” she replied. “It’s the only reason to eat one!”

And just like that, I knew I had struck upon a golden idea. Audrey agreed with me. Everybody I asked said the same thing. Sorry, dear! You’re in the minority on this issue. So I decided that my ticket to riches is…drumroll, please…

Drumstick Bites.

It’s kind of like Elaine’s “muffin tops” idea on Seinfeld, only in reverse. We’re using the bottom of the product instead of the top. We’ll slice off the chocolate tips of the cones, package them up (I’m thinking 10 or so per bag), and market them as a decadent summertime treat. It’s so simple, and yet, Sofa King brilliant. I have no doubt it will singlehandedly pay for that winter home in Park City.PhotoGrid_1437093413581

I realize Drumstick is a proprietary product and I can’t very well just buy a truckload of ice cream cones and a trusty pair of scissors, but here’s the beauty of my plan: I don’t need to lift a finger. All I’ve gotta do is sell the idea to Nestle, sit back, and rake in the dough. It’s a simple licensing deal. I’m thinking Kevin O’Leary, “Mr. Wonderful” himself, might be the best Shark to help me broker that deal, though he’s a bit prickly (with an emphasis on the first syllable) so I would be happy to work with Robert Herjavec instead. Then again, Mark Cuban‘s got mad connections with concession vendors and could get my product into stadiums and arenas nationwide. Hmm…

What do you think, guys? Do you like that solid chunk of chocolate in the bottom tip of a Drumstick cone? You’d love a bag full, wouldn’t you? Should I get to work perfecting my pitch, or start shopping for real estate first?

As they say on the show…are you in?

Walking the Dinosaur

I slipped into a meeting at work yesterday morning carrying a red and white Netflix envelope containing a DVD I was planning on dropping into the mailbox across the street afterwards. Judging by the response from my coworkers, you’d think I’d shown up with some rare, barely-glimpsed artifact from a different era.

“Is that an actual DVD?” Dan asked. When I responded in the affirmative, Kat replied, “They still make those things?!”

Umm…yes…

netflix

They went on to tell me that I “must be grandfathered in” because Netflix is a streaming-only service nowadays, and new members do not have an option for receiving DVDs. A little Internet sleuthing showed that this is not true. At least, I don’t think it’s true. Kat insists she signed up a month ago and was not allowed to select a DVD plan. After reading the above article, I’ll admit I was surprised by the prevalence of the streaming business; the latest figures show streaming customers outnumber DVD customers by about a 7-to-1 margin, and the gap continues to grow. The article calls shipping DVDs by mail “retro.” Hmm. This is all news to me.

No sooner had that dust settled than a friend messaged me to tell me her husband had just booked them an apartment in Honolulu for their upcoming honeymoon via Air BNB. “Too high-tech for me,” I told her, “This Air BNB business. I know nothing about that.” And it’s true: I have only the vaguest notion about what Air BNB is. Something about strangers renting out their homes to travelers. Kind of like a motel without the rack of postcards in the lobby. Without the lobby, for that matter. When I asked Kat if not knowing about Air BNB made me old, her response was an emphatic YES. Capital letters and all. Even though we sit across from each other we were holding an electronic conversation, because that’s what this generation does.

Jesus, I feel old.

(And I just Googled “Air BNB.” Found out it’s actually “Airbnb.” See how hopelessly out of touch I am?).

When I got my first “real” job after college, I was the young, fresh-faced guy in the office, the newbie who didn’t know his way around a fax machine. Now, 20+ years later? My office doesn’t even have a fax machine. And even if we did, it would be about as alien to some as that weird red and white envelope I was carrying around. They’d probably think it was some newfangled coffee maker and end up accidentally calling China while randomly pushing buttons to get a perfect brew. Not helping matters is the fact that a couple of my coworkers are younger than my son. I was sitting in somebody’s office yesterday for a conference call and came to the disheartening realization that I had already graduated from college and was faxing stuff at my first “real” job before she was even born. 

She probably has a Netflix streaming-only subscription and books exclusively through Airbnb whenever she goes on vacation.

Dinosaur on Leash

Meanwhile here I am, walking the dinosaur every morning before work. At least in their eyes. It wouldn’t surprise me if they start calling me Fred soon. As in Flintstone. Though if it were up to me, I’d rather be Barney. ‘Cause, you know…

Betty.

Some of my blogging friends can relate to this post, I’m sure. But others are like my China-calling, coffee-brewing “what’s that shiny plastic disc you’ve got there?” coworkers.

The generation gap has never felt wider.

 

Home is Where the Hotel Is

The first thing my mom said to me when we got back home from vacation was, “When are you moving to Utah?”

“We’re not,” I replied. “Why would you think that?”

UtahBut I knew exactly why she said it. Whenever we go someplace new and have a good time there, we get the itch to pack up our belongings and call this new place home. It happened most recently on our trip to the Olympic Peninsula.

“How was Port Townsend?” my mom asked.

“Great!” I said. “We’re moving there!”

Granted, I did not offer a timeline as to when this impending move might occur, but it was enough to cause her to worry. My parents don’t want us to move too far away. I even blogged about it here.

And now Tara and I want to move to Port Townsend. We even found a house.

The same thing happened when we returned from Denver. And every single time I pass through Astoria, I dream of a house on a hill overlooking the Columbia River. Hell, we can’t even go to a show in Portland without me admiring the neighborhood and gushing over how amazing it would be to live in an urban oasis like the Hawthorne district or Laurelhurst.

You have to understand, this whole “plan” to uproot ourselves and move to a new city will likely never come to fruition. Because every time I feel the tug of someplace new – Omaha, anybody?! – common sense eventually prevails. I love Washington. The Pacific Northwest is the greatest place on earth. Why would I ever want to leave?

And so it goes with Utah. It’s true, I did mention to Tara that if I had to live someplace else, Utah would make my Top 5 list. And I might also have said – purely hypothetically, of course – that if money were no object, I would be keen on buying a house in Park City. Utah is beautiful, and they have actual seasons. Plus, there are tons of hiking opportunities. And…the Great Salt Lake! But I did not come back from this current trip with any immediate desire to move. The truth is, I’m far too liberal for Utah. I have a “live and let live” mentality, but the politics and religion would drive me nuts. PDX is more my speed in every way possible.

Utah IS beautiful. There's no denying that.
Utah IS beautiful. There’s no denying that.

So relax, mom. No need to worry. We will not be calling the Beehive State home.

She may need to dust off that anxiety in another 14 months though, because we are already planning our next vacation. Yes, it’s over a year away still, but it’s never too early to plan! We’ll be going to Yellowstone and the Black Hills the week before Labor Day, 2016. I am already looking forward to it.

And thinking again about the cheap housing in Rapid City…

One Mile Closer to the Sun

There was a moment Tuesday afternoon when I thought I was going to die.

I was standing on a platform 7434′ in the sky, looking down at a distressingly thin pair of cables about to whisk me on a 60-mph, 1400-foot drop, wondering how I’d gotten myself into such a jam.

ZiplineMaybe I’m being a bit dramatic (“no maybe about it!” Tara says), but waiting in line for the Extreme Zipline at Utah Olympic Park in Park City forced me to confront my fear of heights dead-on. When we were planning this vacation months ago and my wife suggested we ride the zip line, I was like, “Yeah! Let’s go!” But my macho bravado faded in increments with each additional foot of elevation gain. In the end I not only survived but enjoyed the exhilarating rush and incredible view, and when I reached the bottom was ready to go again.

This whole vacation has been nothing short of amazing. It’s also been very hot, in the 90s and 100s everywhere we’ve gone, but I have not let the extreme early summer heat dampen my enthusiasm one bit.

We’ve been on the road for one week now. Home feels distant and far away. As great a time as we’re having, living out of a suitcase gets old after awhile. Audrey misses the cats. We long for the comfort of our own bed. Hell, I miss sea level; we’ve been one mile closer to the sun for the better part of a week now.

Our adventure began last Thursday when we drove to Baker City, Oregon after work. We spent the night and continued on to Ely the next day, meeting up with Tara’s cousin for lunch in Twin Falls along the way. Her dad greeted us with homemade fish tacos and booze. Great “homecoming!”

The main purpose for our trip was a wedding on Saturday; one of Tara’s close friends was tying the knot. The ceremony was nice and the reception, held in the Ely train depot, was a lot of fun even if it had a decided country theme about it. Think cowboy hats, belt buckles, and a DJ spinning plenty of Brooks & Dunn. We had fun regardless, and I even got to line dance. My feet had other ideas, but we clumsily pushed through somehow. I can cross that one off my bucket list.

The remainder of our time in Nevada was spent visiting with family and friends. Our last evening there we were sitting out on Mike and Doreen’s back porch after sundown when a bat swooped in and chased all the females away. I have never heard such a loud and prolonged scream. All I can say is, those are some impressive lungs you’ve got there, Doreen!

Monday afternoon we left Ely and drove to Park City, Utah, passing through the Bonneville Salt Flats along the way. Fascinating area, and I couldn’t help but scrape some of the salt off the ground and stick it on my tongue. Tasted exactly like the salt that comes out of the shaker back home. Go figure. Next up was the Great Salt Lake. It’s an impressive body of water but boy, does it smell bad. And swarms of gnats reside along the shoreline. I waded in up to my knees. The water was very warm – I’d guess at least 85. Tara and Audrey chose to watch from shore.

90 minutes later we arrived at our condo in Park City, a quaint ski village east of Salt Lake that is best known for the Sundance Film Festival. There were no celebrities in town this time of year, and no snow either. Try 90 degrees instead, even at 7000′. Summer, I hate you. Our condo was nice, but had a few weird quirks. Hot water came out of both taps; when I called the front desk, they said to turn on all the cold faucets and let them run for a few minutes. This worked, but got tiresome as we had to do it almost every single time. And though the place advertised central A/C, the thermostat couldn’t be set any lower than 69, and the air-conditioner struggled to cool us to even 76. Add A/C to the list of things I miss about home.

Nevertheless, Park City was picturesque and quaint, and we enjoyed our time exploring the area. Had a great dinner the first night at Wasatch Brew Pub on Main Street, and because our condo had a kitchen, we cooked most of our other meals there, including some delicious steaks and corn on the cob thanks to the onsite gas grills. Highlights of our visit: the aforementioned trek to Utah Olympic Park, a stroll through downtown Park City, a ride on the Deer Valley Ski Lift, and a hike to Donut Falls in Big Cottonwood Canyon. But the best part was catching the sunset (and moonrise) from atop Ensign Peak in Salt Lake City last night. I can’t decide which was more impressive.

SLC Sunset

Moonrise

Both were pretty stunning. And well worth the mile-long hike to the top of the peak, especially with the lights of Salt Lake City twinkling far below. Last year, I struggled to walk a block in the thin air of Ely. This time around, the elevation never bothered me. Yay for being in shape!

We’re leaving Utah this morning and driving to Boise to spend the night before making the journey back home tomorrow. Luckily, we’ll have the weekend to recover from our vacation.

Happy 4th!

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Happy Birthday Two You

Monday was my birthday.

Well, not really. But on Facebook it was my birthday – all part of a great social experiment, if you will. Three days later, I’m not sure how to feel about the results. On the one hand, I have a lot of well-meaning friends who serenaded me with heartfelt birthday wishes. But on the other, I learned that very few people actually know my real birthday. I was surprised how many forgot they had wished me a happy birthday less than two months earlier.

It all began a couple of weeks ago. A coworker and I were talking about the ramifications of economic recovery as it pertains to global trade in a free market environment…oh, who am I kidding? We were talking about some Facebook quiz on which Disney character best describes you (I got Mickey Mouse), and somehow the topic of birthdays and social media came up. Facebook, you are probably aware, informs your friends when your birthday rolls around, and they in turn usually post something to your wall. 21st-century technology, right? My coworker told me about a friend who changes his birthday every few months just to see how many people really know him. This, I thought, was a brilliant idea, especially for a prankster like me, so I stole it and changed my birthday from April 27 (real) to June 22 ( fake). And then promptly forgot I had done so, which made June 22nd really confusing when all these “happy birthday!” messages started popping up.

FB Birthday

Oh. Right. I figured somebody would catch on and spill the beans publicly, putting a quick end to my experiment. Only that never happened. All day long, happy sentiments rolled in. A few people wondered privately what was going on, but the majority never gave it a second thought. One close friend texted me birthday wishes; when I told her it wasn’t actually my birthday she replied, “But Facebook sez.”

I guess that pretty much sums it all up.

(I love you anyway, Heidi).

Soon, I was feeling guilty. People were being really, really nice to me. Saying how much they cherished our friendship and what an inspiration I have been and yadda, yadda. I had planned on letting the cat out of the bag, but by then I didn’t want to burst anybody’s goodwill bubble or hurt their feelings, so I just played along. I kind of ‘fessed up the next day…

Screenshot 2015-06-24 13.43.28

…but nobody took my “normal, ordinary day” stuff literally. Oh, well – I tried.

In the end, about 85 people wished me a happy birthday, which was – ironically – more than I got on my actual birthday. And these greetings seemed friendlier and more clever, as if people had put a little more thought into them.

Like I said: I don’t know what to think. I have conflicting emotions over the whole thing.

All I know is, I’m stuck with June 22 as a birthday now because Facebook won’t let me change it back. I guess the joke’s on me, after all.

#backfire

I won’t dwell on it too long though, because we are headed out of town this afternoon for a much-needed vacation. The only downside? It’s going to be really hot everywhere. We’re going to Ely for a wedding and to visit Tara’s family, followed by a trip to Park City, Utah for a few days of R&R in a nice condo that is super cheap because it’s the offseason. We’ll get back home just in time for the 4th of July.

I’m sure I’ll be updating from the road ’cause that’s how I roll.

Solstice Parties Are All The Rage

Summer Solstice Party
I assumed the guests would look like this. They did not.

Tara and I have a friend who throws a summer solstice party every year. We’d received invitations the past couple of summers but hadn’t been able to make it. This year, we decided to RSVP early and commit to going. After all, we’ve known Lisa for a few years – she’s a fellow author that I met through blogging, and she and her husband turned us on to one of our favorite Portland restaurants, Navarre. Plus, I equate solstice parties with hippies, and those are some fun people to hang out with.

I emailed Lisa a few days before the shindig to ask her if the party was going to include naked dancing by moonlight. I was trying to determine whether or not to bring my bongos, and also to gauge just how much hemp seed and kombucha to pack. That’s when I learned that this was to be a fully-clothed affair and that, while the potluck might include organic foods, it would also have Lay’s potato chips and Diet Coke.

Whew. Glad I checked in advance and saved myself from a potentially embarrassing situation! I left the drums home and trucked on over there with a nice Frito corn salad instead. I did show up in flip-flops, but it was eighty degrees out, so this was more about personal comfort than feeling a close connection with Mother Earth.

The mother of all solstice parties takes place in England.
The mother of all solstice parties takes place in England.

We had a good time, even though we knew nobody aside from Lisa and her husband. I had been warned there would be a lot of writers in attendance. Great, I thought. I’m going to be surrounded by a bunch of socially awkward, self-important loners living in their own fantasy worlds. But then I remembered that I’m a writer, so instead I was like, “Cool.” And it was cool. They were cool. I was cool. We were all cool despite being fully clothed. We ended up chatting quite a bit with one couple in particular. They were older, but really friendly and easy to get along with. Sharon is a writer (shocking) and former hospice nurse who self-published a memoir. I happen to have a strong interest in near death experiences and the afterlife, and asked Sharon whether any of the patients she cared for had ever had deathbed visions – something not uncommon in hospice patients.

“Oh, a lot of them,” she replied, and went on to recount stories of patients talking to departed relatives who they claimed were sitting on the edge of their beds, and even – in one case – hugging an invisible entity. Upon hearing that I got goosebumps, and I mean actual, literal ones. I even raised my arm to show them off. Weird moment perhaps, but damn…that stuff fascinates me. And it led to a spirited (pun intended) discussion on the deck when we got home. We talked about souls and dreams and parallel universes and the idea that we might all be stardust. I’d elaborate, and really want to, but will save that for another blog post.

One of the couples arrived well after the party had gotten started and offered up apologies for showing up late. “We just came from another solstice party,” she explained. “I hear they’re all the rage these days,” I said jokingly. “Well, not ‘these’ days – just this day,” she corrected me. “The solstice only occurs once a year.” And that, my friends, was the precise moment when the evening turned into a Portlandia sketch.

I mean that in the best way possible.

And I didn’t have the heart to tell her there are actually two solstices as that would have been splitting hairs.

How’d you celebrate your solstice? Are parties a “thing” where you live? What about kombucha? Know anybody who had a deathbed vision?

Let’s talk…

TV is Like a Cookie

Last week, Tara accused me of being a music snob.

“What do you mean, a music snob?!” I demanded, incensed by this allegation of music snobbery. I pass no judgment, whether you listen to Neil Young or Neil Diamond. Or even Neil Sedaka, for crying out loud (but you’re way cooler if you listen to Neil Young).

Oh, shit. Maybe I am a music snob…

Tara, who enjoys two of the three Neils, then accused me of having an affinity for “the deep tracks.” In other words, album cuts – songs that have not been played to death on the radio. And I have to admit, she’s right about that. No matter how great a song is, it begins to wear out its welcome by about the 30th listen. Look, I love “Another Brick in the Wall,” but for god’s sake I wish that teacher would just leave those damn kids alone already. It doesn’t stop there. We’ve all heard the tale of Billie Jean, claiming she got knocked up despite our protagonist’s insistence that the kid is not his son. A simple paternity test could have resolved this issue thirty years ago! The longer the song, the more excruciatingly painful and drawn out it seems, too. Three minutes would have been plenty of time for Jude to take a sad song and make it better, but we have to put up with seven minutes and about a hundred “na na na na”s first. By then I’m kinda wishing the rumors of Paul’s demise hadn’t been mere rumor.

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Maybe that explains why I’m drawn to those lesser-known songs. I’ll take “Lost in the Flood” over “Born in the USA,” “Sister Morphine” over “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction,” and “Frances Farmer Will Have Her Revenge on Seattle” over “Smells Like Teen Spirit” any day of the week.

I even went so far as to say that should my favorite obscure local band, The Moondoggies, ever get one of their songs played on the radio I’d have to stop listening to them. Admittedly, that declaration veered a bit too close to blasphemy, so I added a quick

Oh, I’d still listen to them. I’d just skip over the popular song.

OK, fine. Tara was right. I am a music snob. Destroying any last shred of doubt, I came across an article titled “11 Signs You’re a Music Snob” and didn’t even make it past #1 (“You hate everything on the radio”). Yes, I think live shows are better. Yes, I like Pitchfork. Yes, I judge artists by how they look. Yes, I regularly use vinyl. Yes, I’m a music snob. musicsnob2

Yes. Yes. Yes.

And yes, I think Yes is pretentious.

Fortunately, I’m much less of a television snob. I have about twenty episodes combined of Shark Tank and Naked And Afraid on the DVR, stacked up like planes on the tarmac waiting to be cleared for takeoff. Don’t get me wrong, I also enjoy quote/unquote “quality” television. We just finished watching all five seasons of The Wire, a show that came highly recommended by – well, everybody – and yeah, it lived up to the hype. And we just started the third season of Orange is the New Black, only we don’t binge watch like so many other people. To be frank, I don’t get the appeal. Sure, it satisfies your craving for Instant Gratification, but wouldn’t you prefer to savor something, drawing it out and enjoying it slowly? If somebody handed me a chocolate chip cookie I wouldn’t shove the whole thing in my mouth – I’d take little bites and chew them slowly in order to make the whole thing last longer. TV is like a cookie.

I’m not saying binge watching is wrong. Hey, if that’s what floats your boat, go for it! I just personally think if you knock out a whole season of something – anything – in one fell swoop, you are preventing suspense from building. I like to let the details of something I have been watching sink in slowly so I can reflect upon tiny plot intricacies and maybe better understand a character’s motivations. Hard to do so when resolution is just a remote control click away. I looked at my Netflix queue to see when we started The Wire and had to laugh. The first disc of Season 1 arrived November 16. 2013. We are the very antithesis of binge-watchers.

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So, I’m curious. If given the opportunity, would you binge watch a favorite television show, or would you rather take a break between each episode? There are no right or wrong answers here. I could very well be in the minority. Hell, I probably am. And while I’m askin’, do you consider yourself a music snob, or are you okay hearing “Stairway to Heaven” for the millionth time? Oh, and if you are a music snob, tell me about a band I should be listening to.