Like many social media denizens slash foodies, I like to take pictures of my food. Mostly these turn out decent, but I learned yesterday that it is virtually impossible to make split pea soup look even remotely palatable. Regardless of how delicious it might taste, it’s going to resemble something regurgitated by a baby. Case in point:

pea soup

Trust me when I say it tasted much better than it looked. I had never made split pea soup before, but because Tara was partying it up with her friends on the Oregon coast, I took advantage of her absence by making myself food that she would never eat. Considering she’s such a picky eater all I really had to do was throw open the pantry, but I digress.

So this was a smoky ham and split pea soup that simply cooked in the crockpot all day. I topped it with a dollop of plain nonfat Greek yogurt (who needs sour cream, anyway?) and a dash of smoked paprika. Good stuff! I’m assuming I’m not the only one who eats things they otherwise would not when their spouse or significant other is out of town? Feel free to weigh in on that (and share your go-to solo indulgence if you’re so inclined).

I missed my wife, but made sure to keep busy over the long weekend. I took Friday off and drove to the Oregon coast for a hike up Neahkanie Mountain. The view from the summit was breathtaking, despite the thick cloud cover.


After that I drove to Cannon Beach, where I proceeded to set up my beach chair and kick back with a magazine. Well, that lasted all of ten minutes, because it was cold as hell and started raining. So I returned to my car, changed into warmer clothes and a jacket, and walked past Haystack Rock and back. Because, why settle for a five-mile hike when you can add a three-mile walk to the mix?

By then it was approaching dinnertime, so I drove half an hour south to Garibaldi. My destination? The Ghost Hole, a little dive-bar some coworkers told me about. I was a little intimidated when I first walked in because the place was clearly inhabited by locals, but I grabbed a seat by the window, ordered a Bloody Mary and a cheeseburger, and settled right in. Ended up staying for a couple more drinks before leaving. I thought I’d stroll around town for a little while afterwards, but it was dark, rainy, and cold. Too bad – I found Garibaldi to be quite charming. Tara and I will have to come back and do some exploring.

Saturday, I spent the afternoon strolling through the Hawthorne District, my favorite Portland neighborhood. Browsed through a couple of vintage stores and bought records from the used record shop we frequently frequent. Is that redundant? Oh, well. Sunday was more relaxing, though I did walk to Target in pursuit of a pair of gloves, a strange (and ultimately fruitless) mission considering it was sunny and 80 degrees. Hey, fall – come back! I made the aforementioned soup for dinner and ended up watching a documentary on Netflix called Fed Up. Fascinating look at America’s obesity epidemic and the proliferation of Type 2 diabetes in people of all ages. It was very eye-opening, and made me feel genuinely sorry for the handful of kids chronicled in the doc. All were morbidly obese and wanted to get healthy, but were having difficulty thanks to many obstacles in their path, such as:

  • Soft drink lobbyists testifying before Congress that soda is not unhealthy and is, in fact, part of a balanced diet.
  • School lunch programs that are reliant on exclusive contracts with fast-food chains.
  • Food manufacturers making up the lack of flavor in their reduced-fat items by doubling or tripling the amount of sugar.
  • Companies targeting kids through false and misleading advertising.
  • Parents enabling their own children by buying junk food or products they erroneously believe to be healthy.

It’s somewhat maddening. Take the whole school lunch thing. It boggles my mind how different things are now from when I was a kid. Not only are there vending machines in the hallways; my daughter can order Taco Bell, Burger King, Pizza Hut, or Subway for lunch. In the cafeteria. WTF? We got choices, too: eat or don’t eat. That was it.

It was also interesting to see old commercials featuring Fred Flintstone and Barney Rubble smoking Winston cigarettes. And then they cut to the present day, where Fred Flintsone and Barney Rubble are peddling sugar-laden Fruity Pebbles cereal.


Based on my own personal experiences, I already know that sugar is evil. This documentary really drove the point home. I highly recommend it to anybody interested in learning more about nutrition and how the “American diet” is contributing to so many serious health issues.

Uncle Tom’s Cabin

It’s been surprisingly cool lately. Especially jarring since we just suffered through our hottest summer in history, but I for one am not complaining. Fall is my favorite season and if it has decided to show up early this year, so be it. Because of the colder weather, I wore pants yesterday for the first time in months. I should elaborate: jeans instead of shorts. It’s not like I was walking around in my boxers every day.

Just in the afternoons, much to the consternation of my coworkers.

In addition to being a cooler-than-normal month, September has also been super busy. We knew looking at the calendar that this would be the case. Hot on the heels of our mini family reunion, Tara, Audrey and I drove up to Mount Hood last Friday to hang out with my uncle Tom and his wife Sue before they flew back to New Jersey. They had spent most of the week in a cabin in the woods, and invited us to join them their final night.

You literary buffs and pro-abolitionists (better be everybody reading!) will appreciate the fact that we stayed in Uncle Tom’s cabin.

Uncle Tom's cabin.
Uncle Tom’s cabin.

We met up with them last Friday evening at a cozy little restaurant called the Rendezvous Grill in Rhododendron, where we enjoyed great conversation and food. I hate to use cliches like “my salmon was to die for,” but my salmon was to die for. As was Tom’s, and as was Sue’s. That’s right: we’re all a bunch of fish lovers. Tara and Audrey were the exceptions, ordering food that once walked instead of swam, but we all left quite pleased with our dinner, not to mention a little tipsy. Tom and Sue graciously picked up the tab; considering it was not insubstantial, we very much appreciated their generosity.

Cards Against Humanity: not for the faint of heart.
Cards Against Humanity: not for the faint of heart.

Afterwards we followed them to the cabin, and the adults spent the rest of the evening drinking and playing Cards Against Humanity. Gulp. Talk about a family bonding experience! There’s an eye-opening game for you. But lots of fun.

Not a bad way to spend a Friday evening.
Not a bad way to spend a Friday evening.

We enjoyed a dip in the hot tub out on the deck beneath the stars before hitting the sack. We were up four hours later to catch the sunrise over Trillium Lake, something that Tara had wanted to do for a long time. It was well worth the lack of sleep. After a hike around the lake we returned to the cabin and Tara cooked breakfast while Tom and I played a game of Scrabble. We’ve been playing Words With Friends for years, and Tom is my toughest competition by far.

Who won, you ask? My answer is simple: it doesn’t matter, right?

(Damn stupid tiles!).

Then it was time to pack up; they had a flight to catch at PDX, and we had to get home. All in all we had a great 17-hour visit and enjoyed their company. Hope we get the chance to do it again sometime soon.

Trillium Lake.
Trillium Lake.

Monday, Tara and I celebrated our second anniversary with a Foo Fighters concert at the Moda Center in Portland. Great show; Dave Grohl came out kickin’! Not literally, of course. In reality he spent the entire three hours seated in a giant, lavish, over-the-top throne that he designed himself while high on oxycontin after breaking his leg earlier in the year. This thing had flashing lights, guitar necks, and an elaborate FF logo. At one point, Dave played guitar with his leg brace. It doesn’t get more badass than that! Three hours and 25 songs later the concert ended, which meant another late night for us. But again, totally worth it. He’s Dave f***ing Grohl, man.

Well, he IS rock royalty. (Image courtesy of nj.com).
Well, he IS rock royalty. (Image courtesy of nj.com).

Because our anniversary landed on a Monday, we went out for dinner the evening before. We wanted something nice and were torn between three different Portland restaurants, but ultimately decided on Imperial because we are Top Chef fans and were cheering on Doug Adams last season. I thought he should have won, but after eating there I no longer think that.

I know it.

DinnerBecause hot damn, that was one delicious dinner from start to finish. Everything was amazing, from my chipotle-infused Bloody Mary to the oysters with a horseradish mignonette; the giant, fluffy Parker House rolls with butter and Jacobsen sea salt; the buttermilk fried chicken with sweet pickles, honey, and hot sauce; the pasta carbonara with bacon; the caramelized green beans with kimchi, pork tongue, and a sunnyside egg; the fire roasted mushrooms with bone marrow and parsley; the warm chocolate chip cookie; and the cheese plate (a creamy wedge of bleu, wafer crackers, thinly sliced apples, honey, and candied walnuts). I’m much more cautious – okay, militant – over what I eat these days, but this was a splurge night and I’m glad I did. Afterwards we walked across Portland’s newest bridge, the Tilikum Crossing. All in all, we had a great anniversary this year.

Portland's newest bridge.
Portland’s newest bridge.

Our busy September continues this weekend with a camping trip on the Washington coast. It’s actually been two years since we’ve gone, and the weather looks to cooperate. Then next week we’re seeing The Who in concert, provided Roger Daltrey doesn’t keel over first. Oh, you think I’m kidding, but he has cancelled a bunch of tour dates due to a “mystery virus.” Portland is to be the first show they play once resuming their tour, so fingers crossed.

Ready, Cassette, Go

A few days ago, my dad told me he had a boxful of cassette tapes he wanted to get rid of, and asked me if I was interested before he tossed them.

“Thanks, but no thanks,” I replied.

And then I saw this article and was like, wait a second. Maybe I was a bit hasty?


Anybody who knows me at all is well aware of my fondness for vinyl. The only “new” music I actually buy these days is records. Our album collection now exceeds 400. Obviously, I love nostalgia and all things retro. Not just in music; this fondness extends to lava lamps, the VW Bus, beaded curtains, avocado green appliances, and so forth and so on.

But I’m just not a fan of cassettes.

I owned them growing up. Quite a few, actually. I alternated between records and tapes growing up, preferring the sound of LPs but the convenience (and portability!) of cassettes once the Walkman came out. Tapes are such a pain in the ass, though. Forget about skipping to a particular song; you pretty much had to immerse yourself in the whole album experience. Which isn’t necessarily a bad thing – bands concentrated on cohesive full-length records rather than putting out collections of disposable singles, and music was truly art – but tell that to a 16 year-old who wants to hear Night Ranger’s “Sentimental Street” without having to wade through the drivel that is “I Need a Woman.” At least a record allows you to pick up the needle and skip to the next track, if so desired.

Tapes also fail to satisfy your desire for instant gratification. If you want to listen to “Separate Ways” but your cassette copy of Frontiers is stuck on “Faithfully,” you’ve gotta hit rewind and wait a couple of minutes. Life is too short for that nonsense.

Exactly! The reason I kept pencils next to my music collection.
Exactly! The reason I kept pencils next to my music collection.

Don’t even get me started on the cassette players’ fondness for eating tape. There is nothing more frustrating than Cyndi Lauper’s “She Bop” devolving into an incoherent mumble-jumble midway through the song because the tape got tangled up. Unspooling that shit and praying it would still sound okay is one pastime I do not miss.

I guess I should have seen this coming, though. If the hipsters can revive Pabst Blue Ribbon and somehow make that cool again (strike that; PBR was never cool to begin with), cassettes are simply the next logical step. I would argue that anybody longing for a cassette tape is really craving novelty, not nostalgia. They’ve probably never seen one before, and certainly haven’t been forced to deal with the problems listed above. Things become obsolete for a reason: it’s called technological progress, not regress.

Last week, my beloved favorite band, The Moondoggies, announced a cassette release party for their first album, Don’t Be a Stranger, which came out in 2008.  It’s not even available on vinyl.

And damned if I didn’t think, I’ve gotta have that…

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!

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.

It’s beginning to look like fall out there.

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.


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?

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?

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.


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.


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.

Ornery Little Rascal

Midway through my morning walk today, I surprised a raccoon. He was in the act of climbing a fence and froze when he spotted me. We were just a few feet apart, staring each other down. Sensing a perfect photo opportunity, I grabbed my phone, fumbling for the camera in the hopes of capturing the moment for posterity.

raccoon fence

Unfortunately, the above photo is not mine. I’d love to take credit, but I wasn’t quick enough on the draw. Instead, I ended up with this shot.

2338Kinda pales in comparison, but that’s the fleeting nature of existence, right? Fortunately, getting up at 4:30 every morning for a three-mile walk around the neighborhood presents plenty of opportunities for wildlife encounters. So long as those encounters do not involve bears, I’m okay. We see rabbits every day. Earlier this week, there was a deer. I hear there are coyotes around. Walk long enough, and you’re bound to be rewarded.

rascalRaccoons, though. When I was eight years old and living in Ohio, my family took up camping. In the evenings when the sun went down and we gathered around the campfire, raccoons would show up as if on cue, passing through our campsite. I quickly developed a fascination for the animals, and when I picked up a copy of Rascal, Sterling North’s memoir about growing up in Wisconsin and the raccoon he adopted as a pet, I decided that I, too, should have a pet raccoon. Oddly enough my parents did not agree, but gave me a stuffed animal, which I named Bandit, for Christmas instead. Which is probably just as well; North eventually had to release Rascal into the woods as the animal grew older and became more ornery. Still, every time I see a raccoon, even to this day – (and today, on this day) – I am transported back to my own childhood and can instantly recall the wonder and innocence of my halcyon youth and the belief that all things are possible.

My friends and coworkers think Tara and I are crazy to get up so early every day for those walks. I say they keep us young, in more ways than one.

Happy Friday.

See You in 364 Days, Chewbacca

I am so glad it’s May 5th. Not because I have a special affinity for Cinco de Mayo (though, hello nacho bar at work!). It’s just that, if I see one more lame May the 4th be with you post on social media, I am going to scream.

It’s not that I’m anti-Star Wars. I like Yoda as much as the next person. Hell, I once dressed up like C3PO for fun Halloween. (My brother was Darth Vader that year, proving that he was much cooler than me back in the day). But this pun has been so beaten to death, it makes me want to jab a lightsaber in my eye. I chuckled the first time I heard it…but that was three years ago. I haven’t even cracked a smile since.

In case you don’t get it, “May the 4th be with you” is a play on the famous Jedi line, “May the force be with you.” If you don’t know what a Jedi is, clearly your pop culture skills need work. Every May 4th, people take up the rallying cry ad nauseum.

More like, ad nausea.

It started when I arrived at work…


…and was a steady barrage the rest of the day. Every time I scrolled through my Facebook newsfeed to see photos of people’s dogs and lunches and find out the color of their aura or which Game of Thrones character they embody most, I was assaulted with May the 4th nonsense. This trivial fluff was getting in the way of really important matters! Because of the clutter, I almost missed the invitation to “like” my friends’ uncle’s cousin’s neighbor’s daughter-in-law’s nail salon page. Close call, people! And I nearly overlooked the hilarious George Takei meme that was sandwiched between a picture of Bad White Police Officers and that Timehop shot of my friend from one year ago (but God loves me, so it’s all good).

timehopMay the 4th is just too stressful these days. May 5th? Much better.

Or should I say mucho better? After all, it’s Cinco de Mayo, and my newsfeed is going crazy with that topic…

And also Bernie Sanders. He’s running for President. Too bad he’s a Socialist. You just know he’s going to take away all our guns and privatize healthcare.

Ooh, a baby picture.

GREAT headline, The Onion.

My buddy from Wisconsin’s sister is holding a Scentsy party and I’m invited!

What am I doing here, still blogging?! Gotta go……………

Armadillos in Our Trousers

Saturday evening was weird, but fun.

Weird because we went back to our old condominium complex, a year after moving away. It was remarkable how little things had changed. It’s still next to impossible to find parking, because the residents all use the guest spots, so we ended up parking roughly eight miles away. Fun because we met up with our old neighbors, David and Andrea, for the first time since our impromptu drunken Super Bowl party in 2014. They recently learned that Tara and I had never seen This Is Spinal Tap and declared this a grievous cultural omission that must be corrected. So they invited us over for dinner and the movie.

After our long hike to their front door (in which I had to force myself to turn left when I reached their front porch rather than right, where my old door is located), we rang their bell and quickly commenced on catching up. There isn’t much I miss about the townhouse (especially after hearing that the HOA fees have gone up to $250/month), but D & A are good people and I do miss having them as neighbors. And, well, the covered back porch was nice. But that is it. Ironically, this was the first time they’d ever had us over for dinner. It only took us moving away and a year to pass before it finally happened.

This pretentious ponderous collection of religious rock psalms is enough to prompt the question: ‘What day did the Lord create Spinal Tap and couldn’t he have rested on that day, too?’

Dinner was awesome. Andrea showed off by whipping up a spinach salad with a balsamic vinaigrette, a Moroccan chicken with garbanzo beans and quinoa, and fresh berries for dessert. Man, if I knew she could cook like that, I’d have invited myself over years ago. And the movie? Loved it. It’s very Christopher Guest-ish, which is a good thing, especially if you’re into Best In Show. Funny stuff, and very quotable. The movie does for rock ‘n roll what The Sound of Music did for hills. We had a great evening.

Friday wasn’t too shabby, either. Tara and I had tickets to see Pigs On The Wing, a Pink Floyd cover band we had seen perform Dark Side of the Rainbow soon after she moved out here. The show as at the Doug Fir Lounge, a favorite Portland venue, which gave us an excuse to grab a few drinks and settle in for a fun night of rock ‘n roll. They played the Animals album in its entirety (my favorite – awesome!) and followed that up with tracks from Dark Side of the Moon, The Wall, and Wish You Were Here. There’s nothing like a great rock ‘n roll show to set the tone for the weekend.