Dollars and Sense

All parents have moments where they feel pride for their children. Last week, I experienced one of those intense bursts of fatherly admiration for Audrey. She had her eye on a new pair of white Converse tennis shoes, and had done some housework in order to earn money for them.

“I’ve got enough!” she announced triumphantly one day. “I’m off to buy my shoes today.”

“Good job,” I replied. “Where are you going?”

“Walmart,” she said with a cringe, waiting for my inevitable reaction. True to form, I did not disappoint. My disdain for Walmart is legendary. Well, among my immediate family and friends, at least.

“I thought I raised you better than that!” I said.

“But they’re $10 cheaper there,” she countered.

walmart-evil“Maybe, but the true cost of doing business with Walmart is not reflected on the price tag,” I told her. We’ve had these discussions before. How Walmart’s business practices leave much to be desired: the annihilation of small businesses, the bullying of suppliers, the reliance on overseas imports, the mistreatment of employees in the form of low wages and a laughably expensive health care plan. My parents, fervent fans of Walmart, argue that they’re not as bad as they once were. They’re paying their employees more these days, they say. Giving back to the community. (I say they’re paying lip service. The Waltons donate little of their personal fortune to charitable causes. And the well-publicized salary increase? Not so impressive when you actually examine it. Let’s just say they have a long way to go to catch up to Costco, about as employee-friendly a company as you will ever find. But I won’t go into all the pros and cons here; just search Google and you’ll find plenty of links that will help you make up your own mind about them. My point is, I hate them with a passion and refuse to ever shop there. So when Audrey was all gung-ho about going there to save a few bucks I was disappointed, but ultimately it’s her decision and I am not one to interfere.

So, here’s what happened last Tuesday. She got to Walmart. Stepped inside. Made a beeline for the shoe section…

…and couldn’t go through with it.

“I thought about what you said earlier,” she explained. “How too many people look at the price without seeing the real cost of the product.”

Maybe she didn’t use those exact words, but the point is, what I told her sank in and made an impact. My awesome little liberal! She turned around and bought the shoes somewhere else. Someplace that treats their employees with the decency and respect they deserve.

She bought them at McDonald’s.

OK, I kid. They wouldn’t have had her McSize, anyway…

Zeppelin Had Coda

I apologize for my recent absence from Blogville. Work has been kicking my ass lately. We’ve been busy for months, but that has really ramped up these past few weeks. Considering that the company has tripled in size in the nearly three years I have been there, this isn’t exactly a shock. Sadly, they are unwilling to invest in another copywriter at this point, choosing instead to hire more marketing staff and focus on increasing membership. Of course, more marketing staff + increasing membership = more content to write. This has all the makings of what the old-timers call a “vicious circle.” As a result, I’ve been under the gun and stressed out quite a bit over the work that has been piling up and the deadlines that are falling by the wayside. But as I told my junior content specialist, there is no use complaining about something we have no control over. If it takes a few missed deadlines to get management to acknowledge the need for help, so be it.

Fortunately, the company is still investing in fun activities for its employees, and Friday was no exception. We shut down the office at 1 PM for our annual picnic. Busy or not, there was no way I was going to miss out on the opportunity to get paid to drink down by the river on a Friday afternoon. We had reserved a picnic shelter at Cottonwood Beach in Washougal and the plan had been to barbecue, play some volleyball and kickball, and socialize. It turned out to be really hot and muggy, so most of us congregated beneath the shelter instead. We had good food, lively conversation, and plenty of booze.

And then the cops showed up.

I hadn’t given much thought to all the No Alcohol Allowed Under Penalty of Death! signs posted all over the place, figuring whoever organized the picnic surely must have gotten a permit or special exception. After all, there were cases of beer right out in plain sight. I am not a beer drinker myself, but came prepared with a flask full of vodka. It wouldn’t be a {Insert Company Name} party without a little booze, after all!

Cops
Shit just got real.

Surprise, surprise. There had been no special deal brokered, no temporary liquor license granted for our group, so when four police cruisers showed up and a bunch of sallow-looking uniformed fellas stepped out of their vehicles, the jig was up. I nervously worried about getting patted down, but luckily my flask went undiscovered. We were asked to remove all alcohol from the premises and issued a citation, and after that the party pretty much petered out. Tara and I left around 4, and ended up at our favorite bar in downtown VanWA for more (legal) drinks. We’d invited a bunch of friends to stop by, but nobody did. Lame! Fortunately, we enjoy each other’s company best of all, and had a great time anyway.

At one point we started talking about music. Tara asked me whether I thought Nirvana would still be as revered today if Kurt hadn’t killed himself. No, I replied. They would have eventually made a bad album. It happens to all bands – even Led Zeppelin had “Coda” – and that would have diminished their legacy. And then she asked about other untimely rock ‘n roll deaths. What if Jim Morrison hadn’t died so tragically young?

“It’s probably a good thing he did,” I replied (though not really). “Because you know The Doors would have gone on to release the inevitable disco album, and that would have forever tainted them.”

It’s funny, the conversations you have after downing a few drinks.

Yesterday, summer came to an abrupt end. We had a big windstorm move through, with some pretty heavy rain in the morning. Since it’s still only August I’m sure this is temporary and we will soon return to our Regularly Scheduled Program (warm + dry), but it was a nice break from the monotony and the perfect excuse to spend the day holed up inside. We made meatloaf and watched Boyhood. Usually our weekends are go-go-go, so it’s nice to chill out for a change.

Leaves
It’s beginning to look like fall out there.

Pepper Blizzard

I had a spice crisis a couple of days ago and am just barely starting to feel comfortable in the kitchen again. Friday morning I was making myself a breakfast sandwich before work and needed a little black pepper for the coup de grace. I reached for a canister we had just bought from the store but it still had the plastic “tamper-proof” strip around the top. After attempting to pry that off with a knife, the whole thing exploded in a fine black powdery blizzard that settled softly over everything. The stove. The kitchen floor. The feta cheese I was about to add to my sandwich. And me. I looked like I had a raging case of black dandruff. So I cleaned everything up and, stubborn guy that I am, ate the sandwich anyway. Feta and all. An hour later my mouth was still burning, but by god I hadn’t had to throw the feta away, saving myself $1.98.mccormick-pepper

Classic case of it-could-only-happen-to-me.

And you know, the next day I did toss the feta in the trash after all, because that pepper was potent. Now I’m being careful with the caraway, gentle with the ginger, deliberate with the dill, mindful with the marjoram, and precise with the paprika. I have no desire to deal with another spice emergency quite so soon.

Then Friday night we met up with our friend Kara for drinks and dinner at a bar in Portland. This place has a great vibe, good food, very reasonable prices, and heavy-handed bartenders. Every time. I knew this going in, but my Bloody Marys were tasting really good so I kept ’em coming, forgetting the fact that I am considerably smaller than before. Suddenly it was four hours later and weird things were happening. Like, apparently I drunk-Facebooked a status update that was riddled with errors and then later deleted it out of embarrassment, but not before a bunch of people had seen it and commented. Oops. The next morning I awoke with a hangover, which is pretty significant because I famously never get hangovers. Tara felt bad for me, but also, she gloated a little. A couple of Excedrin took care of the headache, but I felt kind of “swimmy” for much of the day.

Fortunately, we were going to the beach, so that turned out to be rather apropos.

It wasn’t the best day to head to the Oregon coast for several reasons, the biggest being the thick layer of smoke and haze that drifted over Portland when the wind shifted direction and blew all the smoke from wildfires in Oregon and Washington our way. It was really bad all over, and our air quality rating dropped to “unhealthy” for the first time in forever. We were hoping Cannon Beach would be clear, but nope. The usual ocean breezes were not blowing this time around. On top of that, we ran into a 45-minute delay on the way over due to an accident. “This has never happened before!” I told my wife as we inched forward excruciatingly slowly. (Little did I know that coming home 10 hours later we would run into another costly delay because the whole freakin’ highway was closed due to a fire. Seriously, what are the odds? And also, is anything not burning out there?!).

But, there’s no such thing as a bad day at the beach. I call it ocean therapy. We took a long walk down the sand past Haystack Rock, caught up on some reading, people-watched, grabbed dinner at a seafood market in town, and caught the sunset. Great day. Take that, smoky air!

smoke
Smoky air over the Columbia River.

I really wish it would clear up, though. It’s weird to walk outside and have it smell like a campfire everywhere you go. The wind is supposed to shift back this evening and blow the smoke back east, away from us. Can’t wait. I swear, this has been the worst summer in ages. So hot and dry. And yet, there are signs of change in the air. Like this tree in our apartment complex.

tree

Now that’s a sight for sore eyes!

What’s the 411?

Last week, we paid Audrey to catalogue* our record collection.

*As an aside, I realize that “catalog” is the more common spelling of this word in American English, but I prefer the European version. I also favor favour and find colour more colorful than color. However, I refuse to belabor the point and call our holiday Labour Day. I’m funny when it comes to language. 

Anyway. Our record collection continues to grow, and this was becoming a problem. Case in point: we hit our favorite record store in Portland recently and ended up buying an album we already owned. As much as I like Ozzy Osbourne, one copy of “Blizzard of Ozz” is plenty. This has happened on more than one occasion, so we figured it was time to actually come up with a list we can refer to in order to avoid duplicates. Only, the idea of sitting down and going through all those albums one by one seemed far too onerous a task to deal with, so we bribed my daughter to do it. The grand total? 411. That’s a lot of vinyl! Some of those albums we bought nine days ago, while others I have had for almost 40 years.

In fact, I still own the very first record I ever bought. And there’s a great story to go along with it.

cmon_everybody_elvis

In August of 1977, we were on vacation in Texas, staying with some friends of the family in Wichita Falls. I was eight years old and not nearly as worldly as I am these days. One afternoon the adults walked into the living room, and I could tell immediately that something was wrong. Their eyes were downcast and brimming with tears, and they spoke in the same hushed tones usually reserved for the recounting of Bad News.

“What’s wrong?” I asked nervously.

“Elvis is dead,” my mom answered sadly.

“Oh, no!” I cried. And then, after a long pause, “Who’s Elvis?”

I feel pretty stupid about the whole thing now, of course. I may have only been a kid, but you’d think I’d at least have some knowledge of the King of Rock ‘n Roll! Nope. I’d never heard of the guy before. It’s rare that you can point to any random, particular day and assign it significance, but for me, August 16, 1977 is monumental. It’s not just the day that Elvis died – it’s also the day I discovered rock ‘n roll.

elvis headlines

News of Elvis’s death was all over television for the next few days. It made me want to learn more about this fat man in a white sequined jumpsuit whose death stunned the nation. A few weeks later, I walked into a record store and bought my very first album ever. C’mon, Everybody. Because I did not know any of Elvis’s music I chose that one randomly. It was a compilation album containing songs from a number of his movies (another revelation: Elvis made movies!). Aside from “Follow That Dream” there weren’t even any songs that I would consider classic Elvis, but it was enough to whet my appetite and ignited a love affair with popular music in general, and vinyl in particular, that continues unabated to this day. 411 records and counting, remember? (And a handy Excel spreadsheet so we don’t double dip further).

Rock and roll music, if you like it, if you feel it, you can’t help but move to it. That’s what happens to me. I can’t help it. ~ Elvis Presley

I am reminded of this story not just because the 38th anniversary of his passing was Sunday (did you realize Elvis would be 80 now?), but also because the King has a significant role in my novel-in-progress. In case you’re wondering, it’s set in the present day. Anything more than that is a spoiler, and my virtual lips are sealed. But I’ve had to do some research in order to flesh out the character and portray him convincingly. I was hoping to avoid cliches such as fried peanut butter and banana sandwiches, but guess what? Elvis really did eat fried peanut butter and banana sandwiches. All the damn time. So, fine. Fried peanut butter and banana sandwiches will make a guest appearance in my book, too.

In the meantime, I’ve been listening to his music a lot lately. Trying to get into the right frame of mind, if you will. My favorite Elvis songs, in order, are:

  1. Burning Love
  2. Kentucky Rain
  3. Suspicious Minds
  4. Don’t Be Cruel
  5. Mystery Train

What about you? Favorite Elvis song? First album you ever bought? Is there a celebrity whose death significantly affected your life?

In This Corner: Team BerenstEin

Have you heard about this whole Berenstein/Berenstain Bears controversy?

Earlier this week, a coworker asked if I was familiar with the popular series of children’s books that features a family of bears. Yes, I told her. Of course. I grew up with the books, and read them to my kids when they were young, as well.

“Do you remember how they spelled their name?” she said next.

Duh. I spelled it out for her.
B-E-R-E-N-S-T-E-I-N.

Little did I know I had unwittingly become the latest participant in a raging internet debate involving parallel universes, multiple dimensions, time travel, and the Butterfly Effect. Heady stuff! It turns out a large percentage of the population remembers the Bears spelling their name with three Es. However, the actual spelling is with an A toward the end:
B-E-R-E-N-S-T-A-I-N.

The logical conclusion isn’t that we’re all simply remembering incorrectly, but rather,

Someone traveled back in time and inadvertently altered the timeline of human history so that the Berenstein Bears somehow became the Berenstain Bears.

According to this article, at least. The writer explains further that the reason we all remember them as the Berenstein Bears is because when we were all children they were the Berenstein Bears, until somebody disrupted the whole space/time continuum. bb_prod

I know what you’re thinking. Total crackpot, right? But this mass delusion is so…umm, mass…that others began to weigh in. Like the Australian blogger who posits that we are all living in our own parallel universes. There’s even a name for this delusion: the Mandela Effect. (It gets deep, people. Now I know how Alice in Wonderland felt). This is based on an uncanny number of people who “remember” Nelson Mandela dying in prison in the 1980s when, in reality, he passed away at his home in Johannesburg in 2013. At least that’s the case in this reality. Our reality.

Is your mind blown yet?

Here’s a fascinating list of common examples of the Mandela Effect. I have to say, I agree with a bunch of these! When did violet switch from red to blue?!

My words may appear to come across in jest, but I do find this whole subject fascinating and not as “out there” as you might think. Because, not too long ago on a dark and moonless night, Tara, Audrey, and I sat on our back deck and discussed the very concept of parallel universes and alternate realities. We go on these binges occasionally where we’ll start debating topics like life after death and time travel because a wise man once said,

Socrates

Or maybe we’re just drunk.

(With the exception of my daughter, of course).

On this particular night, we had just watched The Butterfly Effect, a film that absolutely floored Audrey. She was unfamiliar with the principle of chaos theory, the idea that small, seemingly random events can lead to large, unforeseen consequences over time. The most famous example, and the basis for the title of a crappy (yet oddly entertaining) Ashton Kutcher movie, is the butterfly that flaps its wings, a simple action that leads to a hurricane thousands of miles away three weeks later. The butterfly does not actually cause the hurricane; instead, its wings might stir up the atmosphere, creating tiny changes that evolve into large-scale events. Like the ripple effect when you toss a stone into a lake, or falling dominoes. This led to quite the spirited discussion, one that touched on many interesting philosophical concepts. Parallel universes was one of them.

butterfly_effect

“One day I turned onto Elm Street instead of Maple,” I explained by way of example. “In that universe, I’m still married to your mother.” Wisely, I left out the second half of that sentence (“…and praying for the sweet release of death”). Impressionable young minds and all.

And then, because I’d really gotten my engine revving (and was on my third vodka and soda), I launched into a discussion on the theory of the multiverse. That is, the idea that an infinite set of universes exists, each one evolving from the everyday actions we take. In some, we are happy and successful and the Broncos are celebrating their 14th consecutive Super Bowl victory. In others, we’re destitute or dead and Ashton Kutcher is President. Lest you think only crazy people buy into this stuff, proponents of the multiverse include Stephen Hawking and Neil deGrasse Tyson, among others. Hardly slouches.

Do I believe in all this, though? I’m not quite ready to go “all in,” but I don’t outright disbelieve it, either. I’ve always been very open-minded, and that holds true for all this philosophical fringe science, as well. The world is a big, mysterious place, and it’d be foolish to believe we have all the answers. The only thing I know with absolute certainty is that I can be absolutely certain of nothing.

That, and the fact that when I was growing up, I was reading the Berenstein Bears…

Like Old Friends

When I got to work this morning, I ran into my boss in the parking lot. “Looks like you had a great hike on Saturday!” he said. “How was The Bite of Oregon?”

And I realized in that moment the extent to which social media has changed our lives. In the past, you wouldn’t know what your coworkers had been up to unless you asked them. How old-fashioned, right? But Jeff could have recited a step-by-step recap of my weekend because it was documented for posterity on Instagram (my platform of choice these days) and Facebook.

For that matter, he’s probably well aware of the fact that politically, I side 96% with Bernie Sanders. And that I liberally doused my Mexican street corn with Tajin.

There’s no mystery left these days, you know? We’re all open books. Good if you’re sharing photos of beautiful sunrises…

sunrise

Not so much if you’re talking about all the Bloody Marys you have consumed in a single sitting.

(It was three, okay? I’m not quite a lush).

What’s even weirder is when somebody you’re meeting in person for the first time ever knows every little detail of your life. This happened to me (again) yesterday. Last week, my friend Allison messaged me to let me know she was going to be in Portland and wondered if I’d like to meet up for lunch. “Sure!” I said. I’ve known Allison for more than 10 years. Only “known” is a relative term, because I’d never actually met her. Really though, that’s only a minor detail in the blogging era. I’ve mentioned before how many of my closest friends have come from the blogosphere. My own wife, even. So I jumped at the chance to meet Allison, who lives in New Orleans – so far away it might as well be another planet. A party-happy planet where you can walk down the street with booze in your hand at 2:30 in the afternoon, a/k/a my kind of town. I honestly never thought I’d have an opportunity to meet her.

But there she was, sitting across from me and Tara a mere 28 hours ago, and we were chatting it up like old friends. Which is exactly what we are. Allison was vacationing with her husband Ben, who was unaware of her blogging past, so she had to let him in on that little secret first. Otherwise, how would she explain traveling to a city she’d never been to, thousands of miles from home, to meet up with a guy she’s known practically forever? Believe me, I get it. All of it. I blogged for five years when I was married and never advertised that fact to my wife. Not that I was doing anything wrong or had things to hide; blogging was simply an outlet in which I could be myself without fear of recrimination. Open Diary was such a self-contained little community it can be hard to explain to outsiders, but those friendships have been both genuine and long-lasting. To his credit Ben took the news in stride, and he was very outgoing and friendly. Allison, of course, is awesome.

But I already knew that.

We had a great lunch at McMenamin’s Bagdad Theater, and should we ever find ourselves in N’awlins we’ll let them have a turn showing off their city.

AllisonThis brings the number of bloggers I’ve met in person now to 10, plus an additional three that Tara used to read. Not bad! I’m waiting for Wendy to make it 11.

I know many of my readers have also met up with people they got to know online first. What have your favorite experiences been? Anything bad ever happen?

Is That Sriracha in Your Pocket, or Are You Happy to See Me?

It’s Sriracha in my pocket.

SrirachaI don’t know – is it weird to carry around a portable bottle of hot sauce in your pants? Conventional wisdom would probably indicate so. Fortunately, I never pay attention to the so-called arbiters of what is, or is not, considered normal behavior.

When I whipped it out at lunchtime yesterday, it drew more than a few stares from my coworkers. And yes, I realize how naughty that sounds.

Why do you think I said it?!

(Still diggin’ the interrobang, as you will observe).

But hear me out. I’m a guy who enjoys a little spice in his life. Literally. When I saw a Groupon for the Sriracha2Go, I could not resist. It cost a mere $10 for a three-pack. Granted, the bottles are shipped empty, but Sriracha is cheap enough. Plus, I already had some in my pantry anyway. The nice thing about Sriracha – any hot sauce, for that matter – is that it does not need to be refrigerated. Few people seem to know this. I read it somewhere years ago, and have kept my Tabasco, Cholula, Valentina, Tapatio, and Frank’s Red Hot at room temperature ever since. Lest you think I’m making this up, I’m not. The same applies to other condiments, as well.

But for god’s sake, please don’t leave your mayo out on the counter. Common sense, people!

Now, I do refrigerate ketchup and mustard, but that’s only because I don’t use them nearly as often. Hot sauce, on the other hand? I put that shit on everything, to quote a popular slogan. I was adding the Sriracha to my lunch wrap ’cause I like to kick it up a notch. If you’re worried about the bottle leaking, you can put those fears to rest, my friend. I’ve been using them for months now and have never had a problem. And while Sriracha is my go-to, I have a green chili verde in one of the bottles and Tabasco in the third. The bottles may have Sriracha branding, but it’s not like I’m going to get pulled over by the Sriracha police and arrested for fraud.

SrirachaAddict

Maybe my coworkers think I’m weird. I don’t know. But they’re not the only ones to witness my surreptitious Sriracha consumption. My mom pitched a fit when I squeezed some onto my plate of homemade stuffed cabbage rolls, calling the act a desecration of a sacred family recipe and threatening to put me up for adoption. I think she forgot that particular ship sailed a good 35 years ago, but point taken. I’ve also used it in restaurants and bars. I figure, there’s no shame in doctoring up food to your liking, right? I’m all about the slow burn.

How ’bout you?

Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On (Someday)

There’s been a lot of talk in the news lately about a devastating earthquake that will someday hit the Pacific Northwest. It all started last month, when The New Yorker published a story called “The Really Big One.”

quake4

A lot of people are really freaked out about this, including my daughter. While the overall details of the article are correct – the Cascadia subduction zone is overdue for an earthquake and it will be a big one – the over-sensationalized tone of the story is causing a lot of unnecessary fear around here. It’s okay to make people aware of the dangers so they can be better prepared if/when a natural disaster occurs, but when they talk about how seven million people will be impacted and “that region will suffer the worst natural disaster in the history of North America,” it borders on fear mongering. My coworkers were talking about the wall of water that will inundate the office when Bonneville Dam collapses and the Columbia River overflows but that probably won’t matter because we’ll all be dead anyway, and I couldn’t help but shake my head and tell them to put down the Kool Aid stat.

Earthquakes are scary. I get that. But when you are suffering from crippling nightmares and spending hundreds of dollars buying survival gear from Amazon, your paranoia has reached a critical stage. It’s pointless worrying over something we have no control over, anyway. It will happen someday. Maybe tomorrow, maybe 100 years from now. It will be swift and sudden and you’ll be taken completely by surprise. Again, a little knowledge and preparation are good. But you can’t let fear get in the way of your everyday life.

quake3

I know of what I speak. I was there when The Pretty Big One hit. Loma Prieta. October 17, 1989. I was living in the Bay Area, attending college, working retail, and dating my future (though not permanent) wife. In fact, we were at her dad’s house on that warm early fall evening after classes at San Jose State University earlier in the day. Game 3 of the World Series was taking place, a big deal in Northern California that year as it pitted the rival San Francisco Giants against the Oakland A’s in a “battle of the Bay.” I’d like to say we had the game on – that would have been the “cool” answer – but in reality, the TV was tuned to a Facts of Life rerun and we were just sitting down to an early spaghetti dinner when there was a sharp jolt. The world moved sideways and then all hell broke loose when the shaking got underway. I remember looking at her when it started and laughing nervously, but I made no move to get up because I’d lived there a few years by then and had experienced my fair share of earthquakes. I figured it would be over in a few seconds and then I could get back to my spaghetti. quake1

I don’t think I ever finished dinner that night…

Because the shaking got real intense. Lights were swaying, objects falling over in the china cabinets next to the kitchen table, and the rumbling was growing louder by the second. They say a tornado sounds like a freight train when it strikes. I don’t know about that, but an earthquake sure does. I did what I had been trained to do next – found a doorframe, planted myself beneath it and rode out the quake. I can’t remember exactly how long the shaking lasted, but it felt like about a thousand years.

quake2Finally it did stop (though aftershocks continued all night and for the next couple of days) and we made our way to the living room, where the television quickly filled with images of death and destruction. The Cypress Street Viaduct, where a section of the freeway collapsed, crushing cars and killing 41. A brick facade from a high rise that came crashing down onto the street and sidewalk below, killing six. A collapsed section on the upper deck of the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge. Fires. Buildings reduced to piles of rubble. Pandemonium. It was all very sobering, and the next few days were surreal as people tried to go about their lives. Damage in San Jose wasn’t nearly as bad, but classes were cancelled at SJSU for the rest of that week. I was working at a little store in Eastridge Mall that sold luggage at the time, and had a lot of cleaning up to do when I got back to work as nearly everything had fallen off the shelves during the shaking. But that’s minor, compared to the 63 people who ultimately lost their lives in the 6.9 earthquake.

And the one that’s expected to strike the PNW someday could be as strong as 9.2…

Which is why I refuse to devote any extra anxiety to it. There’s only so much planning you can do. Your pantry might be stocked with four weeks’ worth of bottled water, but what happens if the quake hits when you’re at work? I’m not trying to underplay the threat and am not suggesting you don’t stock up on emergency supplies; I’m just saying don’t let fear keep you up all night long.

Which is why we took Audrey to the movies yesterday. The film we saw? San Andreas. 

Hey, don’t fault us for that. (See what I did there? Earthquake humor!). At its epicenter (again!), the movie featured a cliched, predictable plot that strained credibility within its first two minutes and characters who were caricatures of other film characters. But the special effects were incredible, and Sia does a really cool version of “California Dreamin'” over the closing credits. It’s the ultimate summer popcorn flick and provided us with a cheap distraction (and more importantly, cold A/C on a wickedly hot summer afternoon). Don’t go in expecting an Oscar.

Unless, of course, you’re meeting a friend named Oscar.

oscar

And if you’re a resident of the Pacific Northwest, please don’t let the article from The New Yorker ruin your day.

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!