Nevada’s a Trapezoid But We Aren’t Square

Nevada is shaped like a trapezoid. Anybody know the circumference of Vegas?!

It’s been an exciting few days. Aside from missing out on scoring an awesome piece of art – yes, I’m still fixated on the dogs playing poker tapestry! – plenty of groovy stuff has happened. The biggest piece of news is that my wonderful girlfriend is moving in with me.

That’s right. Tara and I are shacking up!!!

I’m such a romantic, huh? But truly, this is fantastic. We met in person just over a year ago, and as I was driving away from our lunch date that drizzly March afternoon, I never would have dreamed that she and I would be in an amazing relationship six months later, and starting a life together not long after that. She and I have talked about this, and it seriously boggles both of our minds. I spent a portion of this past weekend skimming through old Facebook status updates from 2009 (Timeline makes this very easy to do), and couldn’t help but smile every time there was a comment from Tara. Which was often. I love that our friendship dates back so long – it makes for a wonderful story. And also solidifies my belief that we were meant to be.

Also, there was a very interesting comment I made about “suddenly becoming a Peyton Manning fan.” As a Broncos fan, it’s strange how this has come to fruition. The past is a funny thing.

Nevada is shaped like a trapezoid. Anybody know the circumference of Vegas?!

Tara’s original plan was to find a job and then move out here, but the reality of the situation is, long-distance job hunting is even more challenging than short-distance job hunting. The fact that she wasn’t living here was a disadvantage; even though she rocked the interview for a job she was perfectly suited for a few weeks ago, the hiring manager told her straight up that not being here was a strike against her. Suddenly, it looked like she might not be able to make it out here for a long time, which would never do because we’re both so damn impatient. And then, she came up with a brilliant plan that will enable her to move out here right away and search for a job. She’s much less pickier than I am, and I’m confident it won’t take her long to find something right up her alley. Yesterday she gave three weeks’ notice to her employer, and she’ll be moving in on April 14th!

Tara, however, isn’t used to living in a large metropolitan area. There are big differences between her state and mine. For starters, Nevada is a trapezoid and Washington’s more of a rectangle. But that’s just the tip of the iceberg. In the interest of easing my girlfriend’s transition to life in “the city” (which is how her friends and family refer to this place – or anyplace with more than four stoplights, actually), I came up with a list that not only points out the differences between Nevada and Washington, but also provides a few handy tips to blending in with the locals and embracing the Pacific Northwest lifestyle.

Nevada v. Washington, or How To Survive in “The City”

  1. There are no video poker machines in the corner laundromat. Or the convenience store, the carwash, McDonald’s, etc. I’ve spent a lot of time in Nevada the past six months and still can’t get used to the novelty of seeing gambling machines wherever there’s a spare electrical outlet.
  2. People don’t have “jockey boxes” here, they’ve got “glove compartments.” I didn’t know what Tara was talking about the first time she mentioned a jockey box. I assumed it was a holding pen for people who race horses for a living, not the opening on the passenger side of a car’s dashboard where people store, oh you know, gloves and things. I don’t care how short he is, there’s no way you could fit a jockey in there!
  3. A “crick” is something you get in your neck, not a fast-flowing body of water. You will see plenty of CREEKS when we are hiking, dear. If we do happen to come across a crick, I’ll massage it out for you.
  4. People lock their doors when they leave the house here. I wish it could be like Ely. I was amazed that Tara would leave the house without locking the front door. This happened time and time again, whether we were leaving for ten minutes or fourteen hours. I always worried about my “stuff” disappearing, yet it never did. Almost makes up for the weird “jockey box” and “crick” talk.
  5. We freak out over snow. I know you think our two-inch snowstorms are “cute,” but you know who doesn’t? The mayor. He absolutely panics. So do most other people. If there’s so much as a threat of a few flakes in the forecast, people flock to the grocery store to stock up on essentials like salmon and hazelnuts. Oh, and we can’t drive in it, either.
  6. Rain, on the other hand? THAT we’re used to! So used to that, we don’t bother with fancy contraptions like umbrellas. Don’t buy one if you want to blend in with the locals. Or buy one, but use it as a hiking stick. Or to poke all the annoying Californians invading our slice of paradise.
  7. We take recycling very seriously. Sorry for freaking out over the fact that your dad didn’t have any recycling bins in his house. I felt like I’d committed a crime, throwing aluminum cans in the trash like that. We have bins for paper, plastic, glass, and aluminum. We even have bins for recycling our old bins.
  8. Washington is as blue as blue can be. Politically speaking, that is – I certainly don’t mean the skySure, there are pockets of conservatism out there – but that’s all east of the Cascades, where the population is roughly 65. We’re the state that just legalized gay marriage and will be voting on legalizing marijuana for recreational use in the fall. We haven’t had a Republican governor since 1985!
  9. The Mob doesn’t give a damn about Washington. We do have a disproportionately large number of serial killers, however. People like Ted Bundy, Ken Bianchi and Gary Ridgway. Even the DC Sniper used to live here. Instead of burying bodies in the desert, our killers choose the forest. Which, when you think about it, is simply another form of recycling! (See # 7).
  10. There’s actually stuff to do here all the time – and you don’t have to drive 4 hours to do it. We both love music, and you’ve been busy penciling in your calendar with all the live shows you want to see. We’re going to be going to a lot of great concerts! Not to mention restaurants, art galleries, farmer’s markets, wineries, festivals, trips to the coast, etc. I promise we’ll never be bored!

 And I didn’t even mention Voodoo Doughnut…

Dogs Playing Poker Doesn’t Qualify as Art?!

Say what you will, but I think this is a perfectly lovely piece of art.

Friday afternoon, I was wandering around one of my favorite areas of Portland – the Hawthorne District. It’s fun, funky and cool. The people watching alone makes it a worthy destination! There’s a place there called House Of Vintage where I love to browse. It’s a cavernous store full of vintage (or retro, or antique) appliances, decorations, knickknacks, clothing, etc. It’s already a well-established fact that I am in love with the 1970s (see: my fascination with/collections of lava lamps, tie-dye, peace signs, vinyl records, and someday – hopefully – a VW Bus). So, when I spotted a groovy tapestry that featured dogs playing poker – and for a mere $29 – I knew I had to have it! My mistake was firing off a text to my girlfriend.

Do we want a dogs playing poker tapestry?? I wrote, and included a photo of said tapestry in all its velvety glory. I’m dead serious…

Um…no. Maybe one day when you have a man cave, she responded.

The rest of the conversation went like this:

But…I love it!
But…where would you put it??
In the dining room.
You’re a nut.
A nut who loves tacky 70s stuff. Good thing you’re moving in, or I’d totally buy that.
You could hang it in the garage.
Nah. Such a thing of beauty deserves a place of prominence.

And just like that, my dreams were dashed. I still thought Tara was slightly crazy for not recognizing the beauty of this amazing tapestry (which I genuinely did love), so I posted a photo on Facebook, and was promptly bombarded with a slew of less than enthusiastic comments.

Puke, wrote Monica.

Ummmm…WTF, Mark???? chimed in Wendy.

Mark, they don’t appreciate your refined taste in “art,” said Mike, the lone male in the conversation. Suddenly this man was my savior, the sole voice of reason in a sea of negativity. Dogs playing poker must be a “guy” thing.

And then Wendy slammed the coffin lid when she replied, I thought you WANTED Tara to move in.

It’s really not that bad…is it??

Say what you will, but I think this is a perfectly lovely piece of art.

I guess it takes a certain type of person to appreciate that kind of artwork. I personally thought it would look fantastic hanging on the dining room wall. A real conversation starter, for sure! I’m forced to concede that perhaps dogs playing poker is a “guy” thing, along with lighted beer signs (I’ve got one hanging in the garage!) and bikini calendars. I love Tara to pieces, but man, she broke my heart with her resistance to that masterpiece. We’ve got so much else in common, I was rather shocked that our tastes deviated so drastically when it came to this tapestry. In retrospect though, I suppose I should have known. Each time she’s come out here, she has managed to “girl” the place up a bit more. Last time she left I found myself with a pumpkin-scented air freshener downstairs and a sorta-flowery air diffuser in the bedroom. And she’s already talking about things like a throw rug in the living room and plants hanging from the ceiling.

Living together is going to be an adventure!

Speaking of adventures (and demonstrating the fine art of segueing), my whole Friday was chock full of fun! I started out by heading downtown for the first showing of The Hunger Games. I haven’t looked forward to a movie so much in ages, and this one felt like an Event. I devoured the trilogy in a matter of weeks, and even though it’s marketed as Young Adult fiction, the story is dark enough (kids fighting other kids to death in an arena while an enthralled nation watches the bloody spectacle on television) to appeal to adults, too. And when I finished each book, I passed it on to Audrey, who tore through them just as quickly, providing us with a nice father-daughter bonding experience. We would discuss plot points and various characters over dinner each night, something we’d never done before. So, how was the film? Pretty damn good, as a matter of fact. The story was condensed in places, a few characters were cut, and the tension between Katniss and Peeta was downplayed quite a bit, but it was a faithful and satisfying rendition. I loved seeing the book brought to life, and many of the characters – Effie Trinket, Caesar Flickerman, and especially Haymitch Abernathy – were spot-on. Woody Harrelson rocks, and Jennifer Lawrence is the perfect choice for Katniss Everdeen. I can’t wait to see what they do with Catching Fire and Mockingjay.

The theater was also packed to the rafters. I see a lot of movies, and I’ve gotta say, I haven’t encountered crowds like this since…ever. Black Swan came close, but that was during Christmas break and an evening show. The matinee on Friday started at 11:30, and it took me twenty minutes just to exit the parking garage. I predict a huge weekend opening.

It was around 3:00 by the time I reached Hawthorne. Later than I’d planned, and rush hour traffic would be kicking in shortly, so I just decided to spend a couple of extra hours there in order to avoid it. After the vintage store and my aborted attempt at buying the dogs playing poker tapestry, I stopped by the Bagdad Theater for a cocktail and an appetizer at the McMenamin’s pub. My Cable Car was delish, and the Cajun tater tots hit the spot. I then wandered around for quite awhile, stopping in various shops (a record store, a bookstore, an Italian market) and soaking in the sights. Like this one.

I told you Hawthorne was great for people watching! It’s like a street full of sensory overload.

Nothing screams “Portland!” like a fake kidnapping. Fortunately, she was a mannequin.

I think.

hope.

As the sun sank lower, I figured it was finally time to head for home. I ordered a pizza to go from Hot Lips, and then hit the freeway. Fortunately, my timing was perfect, and the traffic flowed smoothly – I had managed to avoid rush hour altogether.

Got home, watched a movie, read for awhile (11/22/63 by Stephen King – I am enthralled with this book!), and then went to bed. It was a near perfect day! The only thing missing was Tara, of course.

And my beautiful dogs playing poker tapestry…

Peaches for Tebow. Let’s Get This Done.

Alas, it is Tebow Time no more in Denver.

It’s been an amazing couple of weeks if you’re an NFL fan. Especially if you’re a Denver Broncos fan. And this is only the offseason.

What a wondrous sight to behold.

First came Manningwatch 2012. I haven’t seen the media this obsessed with somebody’s every move since a certain white Ford Bronco sped down a certain Los Angeles freeway lo these many years ago. It was kind of like a real-life version of Where’s Waldo?, only everybody knew exactly where Peyton Manning was at every second of the day. The “breaking news” reports bordered on silly after awhile. Peyton’s plane has just landed at Denver International Airport. Peyton is eating dinner at a country club with John Elway. Peyton is accidentally using his salad fork to eat his steak. Peyton ordered a side of asparagus and when he went to the bathroom his pee smelled funny. 

You gotta feel sorry for the guy. I mean, as sorry as you can possibly feel for somebody who just signed a $96 million contract despite the fact that he’s got a bum neck and is considered “old” by football standards.

My neck is perfectly fine, and I’d be content with fifteen bucks an hour at this point. Employers, take note.

The guy I really feel sorry for, though, is Tim Tebow. A scant few months ago he was the Second Coming of Christ. Or at least had a direct hotline to J.C.’s daddy. I’m a little sketchy on the details. The point is, the guy was being revered for his late-game heroics and miraculous comeback victories. And then, in the blink of an eye, was unceremoniously dumped in the New York Jets’ laps for a couple of low draft picks. I’m pretty sure when he was praying for his team to find  success, trading him away for next to nothing isn’t what he had in mind. But it’s a business, and as a diehard Broncos fan, I can’t fault the organization for making the moves they did. Bringing Peyton aboard is a huge coup and, while some might argue otherwise, makes the team instant Super Bowl contenders.

I just wish their top brass had contacted me before the Jets. I’d have liked to put in an offer for Tim myself. He wouldn’t be my starting quarterback seeing that I don’t own an NFL team or anything – details, details – but I could use some help around the house. Sometimes I pray that the dishes in the sink will clean themselves, and yet, that almost never happens. OK, never happens. And, despite my most fervent wishes, the dirty litter box only gets dirtier the longer I go without scooping it. And, grocery shopping. I hate dealing with crowds. Mr. Tebow is used to playing in sold-out stadiums surrounded by 60,000 screaming fans. He orchestrated an 80-yard touchdown pass 11 seconds into overtime to beat the heavily favored Pittsburgh Steelers in the playoffs. Certainly a trip to Safeway for a can of tuna and a box of Zatarain’s where there’s a screaming three-year-old kid and a checkout aisle four deep is nothin’. Sure, it ain’t glamorous work, but is being a backup QB for a crappy team really any better? Besides, in the glare of the Big Apple spotlight, any tiny mistake Tim makes is going to be examined and debated and thrust down the throats of New Yorkers ad nauseum. I can promise Tim that if my wine glass has a few water spots on it after washing, I won’t make a big deal of the fact. I think I would have had a real shot at the guy, too. If the Broncos were willing to settle for two measly draft picks, they might have been willing to entertain my offer. I’ve got a bread machine I hardly use and a couple of lava lamps just gathering dust. Oh, and some peaches in light syrup that have been sitting in the back of the pantry forever.

Alas, it is Tebow Time no more in Denver.

You know what would be cool? If we could trade real people the way we trade athletes. Take my newspaper delivery guy, for instance. Maybe he’s no longer at the top of his game. Sure, sometimes he shows flashes of his former brilliance, depositing the paper right next to my door and making sure it’s wrapped tightly in plastic to protect it from the rain. But more often than not, the paper is strewn haphazardly several feet from the front door, forcing me to take two or three steps across the cold, dirty concrete – in my bare feet, no less – in order to retrieve it. Maybe there’s some really awesome newspaper guy in Cincinnati or Miami, one who lays that sucker neatly by the door every single morning. That’s the guy I want delivering my paper, so I make a few calls, and suddenly they’re switching routes! I might have to add in another person or two to sweeten the pot, say the coworker in the adjoining cubicle who wears too much damn perfume but always brings in the best desserts for potlucks. I’m sure we could come to a consensus. Plus, if a relationship isn’t working out, you’ve got an easy way to solve that particular dilemma. Hell, I’d have traded in my last three girlfriends – plus cash – for Tara. She has vastly improved the quality of my life, after all. I only wish it had happened sooner.

And while we’re on the subject of football, I am still sore over that $20 I lost to my dad two years ago when he bet me the New Orleans Saints would go all the way and win the Super Bowl. They did…but it turns out, they kinda cheated, putting out incentive-laden bounties on opposing players. That’s just wrong, on so many levels.

I’m coming over for dinner tonight, and I gotta warn you, dad – I want my money back.

I Wonder What The Sky Looks Like

A few of the drawings decorating my windows.

The condo complex in which I reside is in the midst of a makeover. The HOA sued the builder for faulty construction and won, a lawsuit that unnerved me as I wondered what “faulty construction” meant, exactly. Apparently it’s nothing major – just the windows, siding and roofs. Whew! As part of the settlement, they hired a construction crew to do repairs, an eight-month job that includes replacing the siding and all windows. This has been a pretty big disruption, one that got worse last week when they finally reached my building. I was asked to remove all my blinds, and on Friday they came in and put up a “dust barrier” – covering every window in the house with plastic sheeting.

I used to have windows there.

I gotta tell you, this just sucks. Makes me feel claustrophobic, like I’m living in a cave. The worst part is, I have no idea what the weather is like. Yesterday, it was snowing – SNOWING!! – and I had to learn this through Facebook. Through the plastic sheets, the world outside looks like a dreary shade of gray. Which, let’s face it, it probably is - this is the Pacific Northwest, after all – but still, I hate not knowing. Tara suggested I cut out little eye holes, a brilliant idea but one that would surely meet with resistance from the construction crew. Personally, I’d rather deal with a little dust than not be able to see outdoors. That’s why they invented vacuum cleaners, after all. But it’s not my decision.

Without blinds, it’s too dark during the day and too bright at night. About the only advantage to this situation is the fact that I can now walk around the house completely naked. Of course, it’s March, and we’re having record cold (see “snowing” above). Why couldn’t they be doing this in August??

My friend Steven said I ought to decorate the plastic with drawings. He suggested little cars, trees, ghosts, etc. I loved his idea, and when I mentioned it to the kids, they were all in. Saturday morning, we got busy on the plastic covering the sliding glass door. I added my own flourishes – peace symbols, a math equation straight out of A Beautiful Mind, etc. I was tempted to draw a geoduck, but…umm…I don’t really want my townhouse looking like a page out of Playgirl magazine, thanks all the same. We wanted Rusty to dip his hands in red paint and put up bloody handprints on his second-floor bedroom window, but that might startle somebody on a ladder, and I don’t need a broken neck on my conscience.

A few of the drawings decorating my windows.

What I do need are suggestions. From you guys, my faithful readers. Since this construction is going to last six to eight weeks, I’m looking for ideas on how to have fun with the whole thing. How can I make lemonade out of lemons? Turn living into a cave into something that doesn’t drive me batty? Short of staying away (and I do plan to make many daytime excursions to other places that actually have functioning windows), what can I do to make the experience more palatable? And if I do have to stay away, where should I go? What should I do? What types of adventures might I embark on to take my mind off the fact that I’m holed up in a bunker back home? And what exciting blog posts can I spin from these little getaways?

The best idea will WIN!!!

What’s the prize? My gratitude. But hey, that don’t come cheap!

 

Walmart Therapy: I’d Rather Deal With Terrorists

And the award for Mother Of The Year goes to... (Courtesy of peopleofwalmart.com).

While reading the newspaper yesterday, I came across a rather disturbing article. The Pentagon is turning to “Walmart therapy” to treat soldiers affected with PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder). PTSD is an anxiety disorder that occurs in people who experience traumatic events that involve the threat of injury or death. Like natural disasters, accidents, and war. According to the medical experts, symptoms fall into three main categories.

1. “Reliving” the event, which disturbs day-to-day activity

  • Flashback episodes, where the event seems to be happening again and again
  • Repeated upsetting memories of the event
  • Repeated nightmares of the event
  • Strong, uncomfortable reactions to situations that remind you of the event

2. Avoidance

  • Emotional “numbing,” or feeling as though you don’t care about anything
  • Feeling detached
  • Being unable to remember important aspects of the trauma
  • Having a lack of interest in normal activities
  • Showing less of your moods
  • Avoiding places, people, or thoughts that remind you of the event
  • Feeling like you have no future

3. Arousal

  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Startling easily
  • Having an exaggerated response to things that startle you
  • Feeling more aware (hypervigilance)
  • Feeling irritable or having outbursts of anger
  • Having trouble falling or staying asleep

In an effort to help veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan, the military is pursuing the most natural and logical course of action: prescribing a shopping trip to Walmart! Their reasoning is that big-box retailers are often busy and noisy, and people may be hidden behind things. In other words, the situation is similar to what these folks would encounter in a combat situation.

Personally, I’d rather take my chances against Al-Qaeda.

I am not a fan of Walmart. In fact, I flat-out refuse to shop there. Call it a one-man boycott, a crusade against a corporation whose business practices leave much to be desired. They monopolize the marketplace, lowering their prices initially in order to drive local retailers out of business; once the competition is gone, prices creep up. They buy enough of a product to become the major source of income for that supplier, and then use their clout to force the supplier to lower their prices, leading to a push for overseas labor in order to remain competitive. This has happened to companies like Heinz, Vlasic and Levi’s. They mistreat their employees, in particular discriminating against women, and have penalized those who have attempted to unionize. At least they’re making a valiant effort to go green – I’ll give them credit there. But it’s still not enough to get me in the front door.

Plus, People Of Walmart dot com. ‘Nuff said.

And the award for Mother Of The Year goes to... (Courtesy of peopleofwalmart.com).

Which is not to say I have an issue with anybody else shopping at Walmart. My parents go there. Tara does, too. And a lot of my friends. Much like politics and religion, those are individual choices and I’m all about having the freedom to decide for yourself who to patronize. My mom has, on occasion, served me dinner, only to announce midway through the meal in a conspiratorial whisper, “Sorry, Mark. These rolls are from Walmart.” My reply is usually something along the lines of, “They’re delicious!” And then she’ll mention how cheap they were. I get that and I respect that, and I ask her to pass me another one, please. Which I spread with butter that also came from Walmart. I am not one of those self-righteous do-gooders who will pester people to join the cause or like this or dislike that. I am content in knowing that I didn’t contribute any money toward them, so the overseas yeast manufacturer earning thirty cents an hour can’t blame me for his poor working conditions, at least. I am an idealist, but also a realist. People are going to shop there because the prices are low, and in this sputtering economy, I really can’t blame them.

Plus, it would be rude to turn down a roll.

So, the idea of this PTSD Walmart therapy is pretty unnerving. If I suddenly found myself smack dab in Aisle 6, I think I’d be even jumpier than usual.

And quite possibly end up with the very first documented case of WSD – Walmart Stress Disorder.

Tag Teaming, Ely Style

Typical Friday night scene in Ely, Nevada. These were chocolate cake shots. Yummy!

Dear Readers,

You’ve chuckled over her comments. You were dazzled by her guest post when I was in the hospital. So, as a special treat, I thought I would team up with the girl who stole my heart for a post while we are together this weekend. That’s right: it’s the one…the only…TARA!!

Or maybe I’m the only one excited by this?

Whatever.

My spur-of-the-moment trip to Ely has, naturally, been nothing short of wonderful. It still amazes me how perfect we are together, and how everything just feels so right. It’s nice to experience a real relationship for a change. Maybe someday I’ll talk about the other crazies delve into my dating past.

Someday when I’ve knocked back a few and my inhibitions are looser.

Speaking of knocking back a few, we did just that last night. But instead of my usual play-by-play, I think I’ll turn the blog over to Tara for a bit. Take it away, lovergirl!

Wow, babe.  Good thing I’m not feeling any pressure…

So, yeah, the visit has been wonderful so far.  And I get where Mark is coming from when he talks about how things were with the crazies. Been there, done that myself and its so great being with someone that gets excited and appreciates all those little moments that make up the best weekend since the last time we were together.

After he posted yesterday, I hurried home from work so we could spend the afternoon [CENSORED] and relaxing. Two of my favorite pastimes.  :)  We then hurried down to Racks because it had been a whole 24 hours since we had consumed alcohol. A couple of friends joined us and since Mark had posted on FB that we were likely to get shmammered, rounds of chocolate cake shots were a must. Not surprising, we bar-hopped until a little before midnight and even stopped at the Hotel Nevada to blow some bucks at the Blackjack tables. Also not surprising, Bloody Marys were in order (and greatly enjoyed) early this morning.

OK, it’s me again. In all fairness, my Facebook post originally put the odds of getting intoxicated at 70%, but as the evening wore on it was clear that we were headed in that direction. (Relax, mom and dad – we were celebrating. More on that in a second. Plus, this is Ely. What else is one supposed to do in a small town on a Friday night?). You know, I often say that I’ve lived my life in reverse. Married my high school sweetheart at a young age, settled down, bought a house and had kids. It wasn’t until my divorce that I started actually going out and having fun. Luckily, Tara is all about having fun. So are her friends. Let’s just say at one point we were playing shuffleboard and they may have been lifting their shirts in order to distract me. Which, I might add, worked like a charm.

Typical Friday night scene in Ely, Nevada. These were chocolate cake shots. Yummy!

Tara’s got the coolest friends ever.

Today has been much mellower. We got up at an ungodly hour – 5:30, after going to bed a mere four hours earlier – because…umm, I have no idea WHY we were up so early! Care to field that one, babe?

Because beers and chocolate cake shots = HEADACHE & THIRSTY!!!  I got up intending to drink a gallon or two of water, pop some Excedrin, and crawl back into bed for some cuddle time. Remember when I asked if we were going back to sleep or if I should make coffee YOU were the one that said ‘coffee’?

Regardless of the reason, our eyes lit up when Mark suggested a Bloody Mary instead of coffee. Nothin’ like a little hair of the dog to make things all better. And honestly, it turned out to be a great morning. Not only do we share a love for great food and drink, we also get a bit spastic over good music. With our respective music libraries, we took turns listening to old classics and new favorites. While he was jamming to Survivor, Men at Work, and Flock of Seagulls in high school, little ten-year-old me was rockin’ out to Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, Fleetwood Mac, and Bob Seger. Many thanks to my mother for raising me right!

OK, first off, “Eye Of The Tiger” is the perfect rock anthem. Long live Survivor! Maybe my musical tastes in the eighties did leave something to be desired. But once the nineties rolled around, I got into all the cool bands!

Anyway, yes, this morning was pretty great. What I like best about this relationship – as Tara mentioned above – is how much we appreciate and enjoy the simple things in life. We both sort of spazz out over things that other people would take for granted. Like grilled cheese sandwiches, for instance. It brings us closer together. After our music and Bloody Marys, we headed into town for a stop at the All Aboard Inn, a bed and breakfast run by one of Tara’s friends. While this particular friend didn’t lift up her shirt, she did serve us a delicious breakfast – French toast for Tara, a carne asada breakfast burrito for me. Then we came home, watched a movie, and took a nap. Afterwards, we walked back into town with a loaf of bread to feed the ducks, grabbed a sandwich at the local drugstore, and ate that in the park. It was the perfect day to be out and about – sunny and 60 degrees – although a breeze did kick in while we were sitting at a picnic table, chilling us just a bit. We’re back at the house now for more movies and, well, we’d just like to enjoy each other’s company on my last night here. I’m heading back home tomorrow morning at 7 AM, and already feeling bummed over that.

But…

The reason we were celebrating last night? Tara has been applying for jobs in the Portland area, and there was one in particular she really wanted. They contacted her the other day, and she’s got a phone interview scheduled for Monday morning. They’ve already asked about her availability for an in-person interview. I was hesitant to mention any of this on the blog lest I jinx it, but Tara assured me it was okay. Neither of us is getting our hopes up, but if things do pan out, then she could be moving in with me very soon. At the least, I may get to see her for a couple of days again next week. Fingers, toes and all other appendages that can be crossed are officially crossed!

That’s all I’ve got. Any parting words, dear?

Yes, actually I do have some. I just want to take this opportunity to thank all your readers for their kind words and supportive comments over these last few months. You all have been wonderful and I love reading your comments. I look forward to the day when I’m moved, settled, and have a job that doesn’t send me all over this great state so that I can read more of your posts and start writing again myself. Just like blogging brought Mark and I together all those years ago, I suspect there will be more new friendships forged in the future. You guys are awesome.

May This Passion Never Fade

Tara's dad's driveway. Not his sole method of transportation.

So, I’m in Ely again. Surprised? I blame it all on my girlfriend. She’s too damn irresistible.

When we parted ways after her last visit, we weren’t sure when we’d see each other again. For once, we didn’t have any future visits planned – only because Tara is focused on moving out here there ASAP. Her job search has begun. Things could conceivably move fast, if everything falls into place. So there’d been talk of meeting up in Boise for a weekend, but that was it. And then, suddenly, opportunity presented itself. Her dad (who she is living with until she moves) was headed out of town for several days, and the kids are with their mother this week. The lure of four nights together in Ely proved impossible to resist, so we made plans for me to drive down on Wednesday. Even then, we were nearly thwarted by a snowstorm, a case of the stomach flu, and an appointment with the state of Washington regarding my unemployment. But everything always seems to work out perfectly for us, and all of those became non-issues; at 4:41 AM I pulled out of my condo complex and began the long trek to Ely. Just a little over twelve hours later I pulled up in front of Tara’s office and we embraced. It had been an excruciating eleven days apart.

Yes, I’m serious. And may this passion never fade.

The trip down was uneventful. Cold and windy, but not a cloud in the sky the entire 837 miles. There’s snow on the ground here, but not a ton. Still, more than I encountered in December. Go figure. The desert is quite beautiful in late winter, as a matter of fact, with the snow-covered mountains that stretch north to south nearly the entire length of northern Nevada, and acres of silver sagebrush dotting the plains. It got down to 12 degrees my first morning here, but warmed up to the mid-40s. Today it was 16, but on the way up to 60, with clear skies. I couldn’t ask for better weather.

Wednesday evening, Tara made me egg rolls and sesame noodles. It was a great meal after a long drive. Felt weird to be in her dad’s house – my last two trips here, I stayed at Tara’s, but her place is rented out now – although, weird in a good way. He’s got a real nice home. Thursday, Tara had to head into Wells on business, so I accompanied her. Wells is two hours away, and even though I’d spent the entire previous day in the car, this drive was pretty spectacular. Maybe it was the grazing antelope we spotted shortly after heading out. Or the detour down a dirt road. Let’s just say, great drive! After several hours in Wells, we drove to Elko, another hour away. There, we toured Lamoille Canyon, stopped for Bloody Marys and hush puppies at JJ’s in Spring Creek, visited with Tara’s aunt and uncle, and met up with her cousin and his family for dinner at a “sushi” place called Flying Fish. I use the term loosely because it’s not traditional sushi, but is still quite good. They have something like 30 different “long rolls” you can choose from; I opted for the Godzilla, consisting of shrimp, crab, scallops, avocado and eel sauce in a tempura batter. Sooo good. Add in the appetizers – inari, stuffed avocado, and lumpia – and we were pretty damn full. Afterwards, we made a quick stop at K-Mart (because Ely does not have any big box retail outlets and Tara has to take advantage whenever she’s in “the city” to stock up on necessities), and then made the 2.5-hour drive back home, chasing a brilliant full moon the entire way.

All in all, it’s been a very nice visit so far, and is only halfway done. The next couple of days shouldn’t be so hectic. Tara’s working until noon today, and then we’re going to relax the afternoon away before heading to Rack’s to meet up with some friends for drinks. Because in Ely on a Friday night, that’s what you do. Tomorrow we’ve got nothing planned other than breakfast in town and a walk to the duck pond. It sounds like a perfectly idyllic day to me. Sunday morning, I’ll head back home. Sadly, we lose an hour thanks to @#$&% Daylight Savings Time, which I already hate as it is. But, hey – what are you going to do? At least we’re enjoying a nice little bonus visit in the meantime!

Mountains south of Jackpot, Nevada.
My baby makin' me dinner!
Tara's dad's driveway. Not his sole method of transportation.
Lamoille Canyon, east of Elko.
*Smooch*
Stream running through Lamoille Canyon.
Godzilla Roll from Flying Fish Elko.

But Have You Poached Geoduck?

That baby's going to fetch a lot of clams! (Courtesy of zoodisk.com).

A few months ago, I tried geoduck for the first time. Prior to that, I christened “but have you tried geoduck?” as my personal catchphrase. You might say I’ve got a weird relationship with this funny-looking bivalve.

Apparently, I am not alone. A recent article – read it here – talks about how illegal harvesting of geoducks is costing the state of Washington a heckuva lot of clams. It is reported that 800,000 pounds are missing offshore, translating to a $14 million loss.

Fourteen million dollars!

My friend Mike brought this article to my attention. He jokingly asked whether Tara and I could account for our whereabouts, given our fascination with this rather tasty little delicacy. His comment may have been tongue-in-cheek, but I’m beginning to think the guy is onto something, after all. I’m thinking Tara and I should become geoduck poachers!

This would be an ideal pursuit for so many reasons…

  • The Washington coast is scenic. It’s a much better view than what you’d find parked behind a desk in a cubicle.
  • There’s nothing like fresh salt air to make you feel alive.
  • My catchphrase could double as a marketing slogan.
  • Geoduck is selling for $150 a pound in China. We’d be filthy stinkin’ rich!
  • Crack is wack, but ingesting geoduck won’t harm you. Seafood is both nutritious and delicious, as a matter of fact.
  • Did I mention we’d be rich?!

Let’s face it, this unemployment thing is getting old. Plus, Tara needs to find a job so she can move out here. This is perfect! We won’t have to deal with endless resumes and dressing up for interviews. Or that pesky little thing called income tax. Sure, we’ll have to invest in diving equipment. And work in the dead of night. And possibly deal with unsavory characters dressed in trench coats. Don’t laugh – those illegal fishmongers are a frightening bunch! But the pros definitely outweigh the cons (see: filthy stinkin’ rich). Plus, we’re both foodies, and any old time we felt like whipping up a geoduck gratin, all we’d have to do is reach into our bucket and pull out a fresh clam. So long as the dreaded East Coast Seafood Syndicate doesn’t catch us skimming the take, I see no flaw in this little plan of mine.

That baby's going to fetch a lot of clams! (Courtesy of zoodisk.com).

Maybe I can pull a Henry Hill and write a book about my experiences. Sell it to Hollywood, have Martin Scorsese make an Oscar-nominated film about it. Geofellas, anyone? Has a nice ring to it! Ray Liotta’s a bit old to play me, but surely Matt Damon would fit the bill. He’s more age-appropriate, and quite a dead ringer, if I do say so myself. OK, maybe not, but still. I would’ve suggested Mark Wahlberg but didn’t want to get too carried away.

Side note: I wrote an e-mail to Henry Hill once…and he responded. I was nearly beside myself with excitement. Henry Hill is the real-life gangster who betrayed the mob in exchange for his own freedom, and ended up in the witness protection program. There’s that scene in Goodfellas where they’re making spaghetti sauce and slicing the garlic really thin with a razor blade, and I asked him if that’s really how the boys did it. He confirmed that this was, indeed, a trick of the Italian trade. Naturally, I made a trip to the store and bought a pack of razor blades. The next time I made spaghetti, I sliced the garlic really thin with a razor blade. Didn’t notice any discernible difference in the flavor or texture of the sauce, but boy did I feel cool doing so!

Anyway.

I’d better make like Ralph Kramden and focus my efforts on this get-rich-quick geoduck scheme. I suppose I oughtta figure out a way to rig this post to self-destruct after a certain amount of time, just in case the Feds get wind of my plan.

Hmm, it may be time to drop Henry Hill another line…

Flannel, Peace and Hunger

Totally worth the few hours it stuck around.

With yesterday being Leap Day – a once-every-four-years event – I wanted to do something special. February 29th is rare, and it practically screamed for something unique and fun. Adventurous, even. I contemplated various ideas in my head, but quickly dismissed most of them, as they fell a little short of what I was aiming for (namely, living to see another day). Skydiving? Hell, no. Bungee jumping? Not on your life. Taking a stroll down the aisle of Walmart? Never in a million years. It was too cold and wet for hiking, or a trip to the beach, or even a jaunt downtown. However, I realized that I had never once, in my entire life, curled up beneath a set of flannel sheets in the middle of the afternoon while reading a good book.

And so, that’s precisely what I did yesterday, for about ninety minutes.

I am hooked on The Hunger Games trilogy, and Tara got me books two and three for Valentine’s Day, so I have been eagerly lapping up Catching FireI usually knock out two or three chapters before bed, but am so engrossed in the story I didn’t want to wait that long. Besides, Suzanne Collins has this annoying little habit of ending each and every chapter with a mini cliffhanger, making each book extremely difficult to put down. I find myself wanting to keep reading, regardless of the hour, just to find out what happens next! It’s a rare book that can captivate me so strongly; few novels – of any genre –  have ever managed the feat of pulling me in like this. So, even though crawling into bed at 1:30 in the afternoon is the epitome of decadent laziness, I did indeed find myself in that very position on Wednesday. Better still, I wasn’t wearing pants. But only because jeans and flannel sheets don’t mix. It would have been absurdly pointless to keep them on. Those sheets, by the way, were a gift from Tara’s mom, Tracy. I’d remarked how much I liked them last week when we were staying with her, and next thing I know she’s practically shoving them in my suitcase, imploring me to take them home. I swear I wasn’t hinting, but they are flannel, and have peace symbols all over them. What was I supposed to do, pretend I’m not secretly a hippie at heart? What with my Woodstock records and lava lamps and stash of LSD?

Leap Day 2012: flannel sheets, peace symbols, and a good book!

Kidding about the LSD.

I’d never owned flannel sheets before, always believing they would be too warm and uncomfortable. My body temperature has always run warm, anyway. Right up until my gallbladder surgery in November. Ever since, my internal thermostat seems to have readjusted itself, and I find myself much colder than I’d ever been before, or am used to. Tara suggested it might be the blood pressure medication, and there’s some evidence that elevated blood pressure might, indeed, cause a person to feel warmer than others around him. I have no idea whether this is the case or not, but I can tell you that those flannel sheets are a godsend every night. I slip beneath the covers come bedtime and don’t have to put up with chattering teeth, no matter how cold it is. They keep me nice and toasty, and are plenty soft.

Plus, they’ve got peace symbols on ‘em. Have I mentioned that?

As nice as my afternoon reading-in-bed break was, I couldn’t stay there for long. I just felt too damn guilty whiling away the day in such fashion, while plenty of other people were going about their routines, stuck in cubicles or bussing tables or bungee jumping or wandering the aisles of Walmart. I allowed myself that hour and a half, but then forced myself to get up and put pants back on.

Before heading downstairs to the couch, but that’s neither here nor there.

So, while my first Leap Day since my last Leap Day wasn’t exactly chock full of excitement, I still managed to do something fun and different. Man, I can’t wait to see what my next Leap Day will bring.

The day after Leap Day has not been without its share of thrills, however. This started with a phone call at 6:05 in the morning, rousing me from a luxurious sleep courtesy of my peace symbol flannel sheets. It was an automated phone message from the kids’ school district informing me that CLASSES WOULD BEGIN TWO HOURS LATE DUE TO INCLEMENT WEATHER. Inclement weather? I wondered. Nobody had been forecasting anything more exciting than rain. Skeptical, I peeked through the blinds, and was greeted with the unexpected sight of snow. Quite a bit of snow, actually. Gleaming and white and covering the neighborhood in glorious wonder. This, after a disappointing winter largely void of anything even remotely exciting. Plus, it was March now. I read somewhere a few days ago that the odds of Portland seeing measurable snow after February 25 are about 1%. To say I was surprised is an understatement. I did what any perfectly sane 42-year old parent would do in this situation: leaped out of bed, threw on a robe, dashed into the hall, and excitedly encouraged my kids to look outside, look outside!! 

I have really got to get a grip on this snow fever of mine.

Besides, here it is, 2 PM and everything is completely melted save for a few sparse patches in the shade. Those, too, will be gone by sunset. What’s the point of getting excited over a couple of inches of heavy, wet snow when it’s all gone within hours, anyway?

Actually, the answer is simple. I’d rather enjoy a brief, fleeting glimpse of beauty than to never experience it at all.

A great philosophy for life, by the way.

Totally worth the few hours it stuck around.