Grape Juice With a Kick

Tara and I met up with a friend to go wine tasting over the weekend. This was a new experience for us, and I gotta say, it made me feel like…


I like wine, but I’m hardly a connoisseur. Hell, it took me several tries just to spell the word connoisseur. And I’m a professional writer! The whole experience is rather intimidating if you’re a wine novice like me. The person pouring the wine is talking about “oakiness” and “tannins” and “a nice finish” and I’m thinking ooh, what a pretty shade of purple. 

And then there’s the tasting menu. How are you supposed to pluck out “notes of grapefruit and lavender with a butterscotch finish”? All I taste is grape juice with a kick.

I think I was thrown off by the town itself. When we made plans to go wine tasting, I was picturing stops like this…


Instead, we apparently wandered into that creepy town where the children of the corn resided.


That would be Carlton, Oregon. I’d never even heard of the place before Saturday. Is it any wonder? Apparently those who wander into town never leave. Was this my payback for flirting with a nun, I wondered?

Creepy signs aside, at least the wine tasting in Carlton was convenient. The main street looked like this: wine shop, wine shop, cafe, wine shop, wine shop, cafe, wine shop, jam shop, wine shop, wine shop. We got buzzed without walking more than half a block. And then after leaving town, we did stop at the nicer-looking winery pictured above. There, we got into a heated debate that did not involve pinot noir vs. syrah, but rather, Prince vs. Michael Jackson.

OK, maybe we were really buzzed at that point.

But I loudly contended that Prince was a far better music artist than the vastly overrated Gloved One. Our friend Chris, on the other hand, thought I had lost my marbles.

“Billie Jean!” she declared.
“Purple Rain!” I countered.
“Thriller. Zombies.”
“‘Dearly beloved, we are gathered here today to get through this thing called life.'”
“Your guy changed his name to an unpronounceable symbol,” she said.
“Your guy dangled a baby over a ledge and bought the Elephant Man’s bones,” I responded.

We were both rallying the people tasting wine around us to our side. Chris got some random woman to agree with her, but then her husband sided with me. I think the whole thing ended in a draw, but c’mon…

…I’ll take Prince over Michael Jackson any day.

How ’bout you?


Carpet Diem

Portland has a reputation for weirdness. It’s something we embrace – and want you to, as well. We even advertise it on our buildings.

And if you think our unofficial city motto is just meant to be cute, well….


Let’s just say it’s legit.

Nowhere is this more obvious than at PDX, our international airport. People are in love with the carpet there. In fact, it’s become a downright obsession for many folks. I’m not kidding. The PDX carpet has its own cult following. Don’t believe me? Here’s proof.

When the carpet was installed in the late 80s, airport officials wanted to invoke the spirit of the Pacific Northwest in the color scheme (greens and blues), while paying homage to the intersecting north/south runway, as seen from the control tower. Here’s what they came up with:

PDX, airport carpet

Local travelers fell in love with this carpet. It became a symbol of home, and marked a direct contrast from other boring, utilitarian airports around the world. This being Portland “put a bird on it” Oregon, we decided to put a carpet on it, too. You can buy all kinds of merchandise with the PDX carpet now. Socks, t-shirts, hats, water bottles, coffee mugs…you name it. Tara and I were in Powell’s last weekend, and came across these groovy coasters.

PDX carpet, coasters

The PDX carpet is so beloved, it has its own Facebook and Twitter pages, as well as an Instagram hashtag. Look up #pdxcarpet and you’ll see lots of photos that look like this:


I love this city, but man, I’m beginning to think “weird” isn’t a strong enough word.  After all, we have a love affair with a rug. Top that, Austin.

And now, people are in mourning, because PDX has announced the beloved carpet is in need of replacement. They’ll begin tearing it up this year. But fear not, carpet lovers…they’ve come up with an updated, modern design that perfectly captures the aesthetic of the original PDX carpet while bringing it into the 21st century. This one adds additional runways, flight paths, the terminal, and even surrounding landscapes.


I like it.

And I’m sure it’s only a matter of time before they are selling PDX carpet-themed socks reflecting the new design.

In the meantime, you can always settle for these.


I Want to Look More Portland

We went to a rock ‘n roll show Saturday night, and while standing in line, I realized I didn’t “fit in” with the rest of the crowd. In a sea of hipsters, I resembled a suburban dad. Granted, I am a suburban dad, but there’s no need to look the part out in public. Any survivalist will tell you the key to success is blending in with your environment.

With that in mind, I have decided I want to look more Portland.

(For the record, that would be Portland, Oregon – not the “other” Portland, in Maine. I imagine everybody there looks like they stepped out of an L.L. Bean catalogue and owns a different lobster bib for every day of the week).

Granted, I’ve made some positive strides over the years. “At least you’re wearing Kicks instead of white tennis shoes,” Tara pointed out. I may have the footwear figured out, but I’m way off base with the rest of the outfit. Take my black cargo shorts, for instance. Seriously: take them away when I’m going out to a concert! Everybody else was wearing jeans. I was sporting a Pink Floyd t-shirt, while the rest of the crowd looked like they were ready to ring in the new year (if the new year was 1994). One word: flannel.They wore beanies or hats while I displayed a $14 haircut from Great Clips. Oh, the shame.

My big mistake was dressing for comfort. It was a warmish evening, and I was too concerned with feeling cool when I should have realized my lack of sleeves and long pants would only serve to highlight the fact that my arms and legs were embarrassingly free of ink. They were smirking at my clean-shaven face through their whiskers, I just know it.

I have a better idea. Instead of writing about the essential items needed for that “Portland” look, I’ll present them visually.

Yes! This is perfect.  Look out, Portland!

eating lobster with a lobster bib alma new brunswick canada

Err…other Portland…

A Tale of Two Sunsets

Tara and I got back from a weekend trip to the Oregon coast yesterday afternoon. It was my anniversary gift to her, and it seemed fitting. After all, we were married at the coast.

We always make it a point to catch the sunset when we’re there. Friday evening, we arrived with about 90 minutes to spare. The view from our second-floor, corner unit condo was unbelievable. As the sun sank toward the horizon, we sipped wine and watched as no fewer than a half dozen whales swam slowly by offshore. Talk about magical.

Friday evening's sunset.
Friday evening’s sunset.

After the sun dipped below the horizon – we watched it literally wink out – there was a long, slow fade to darkness. We watched the sky very gradually turn from orange to pink to black, a process that took a good ninety minutes.

Saturday night’s sunset was equally spectacular, but also very different. It had been perfectly clear all day and unusually warm for Newport, 80 degrees or so. Just as the sun was nearing the horizon, wisps of clouds from an offshore fog bank began to drift in. They raced across the sky on a stiff breeze, trying to blot out the sun.

Saturday evening's sunset.
Saturday evening’s sunset.

They didn’t quite make it, but instead added beauty and drama to the experience. The evening before, we’d had that long, slow fade to dark. Saturday night, three minutes after the above photo was taken – no exaggeration here – the world had gone completely gray. This is the photo I took then:

The same view, three minutes later.
The same view, three minutes later.

It went from light to dark in minutes, the complete opposite of the previous evening. Not that it mattered; we were tucked inside the condo listening to music, drinking alcohol, and cooking an amazing dinner. Fresh dungeness crab, rice pilaf, and corn on the cob.

All in all, the weekend was perfect, even though our plans were thwarted. Tara had booked a charter fishing trip for Saturday morning, so we got up at 5 AM, drove north to Depoe Bay, and joined a crowd of would-be fishermen and fisherwomen waiting to head out onto the Pacific ocean in pursuit of rockfish, lingcod, sea bass and crab. Unfortunately, all fishing trips that day were cancelled due to unusually large and dangerous swells. Their website explained why:

The ocean weather was marginal in the forecast to begin with but in one hour the ocean swell went from 7.2 foot to 8.2 foot to 9.8 foot and now at 10.5 foot. That is a really quick rise in swell in a real hurry. The result is a total cancellation from the Tradewinds fleet this morning. No wind to speak of but really rough especially at the entrance to the harbor.

Oh, well. We ended up walking along the bay front in Newport, watching the sea lions up close before heading to breakfast and Bloody Marys. Then we grabbed some fresh crab from the South Beach Fish Market because we had really had our hearts set on that crab.

All in all, a great weekend. Here are a few more pics from our getaway.

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The Best Surprises Involve Sand Between the Toes


Saturday morning I woke up and Tara was standing by the side of the bed, yanking the covers off me.

“Get up,” she said. “We’re going to the beach.”

“No, we’re not,” I mumbled sleepily, confused by my wife’s declaration. She was going into the office to get some work done. We had no plans. “You’re going into the office to get some work done,” I reminded her. “We have no plans.”

“I lied. It’s Father’s Day weekend. Work can wait.”

Turns out, she had planned a surprise trip to Cannon Beach behind my back. Complete with a picnic lunch and new kites to fly. It was pretty awesome, I have to admit. We hadn’t been to Cannon Beach on the Oregon coast in two years. I’m not sure how that happened, but considering how much I love the place, that’s a crime. So an hour later I was showered and dressed and we were eating breakfast before heading west. Audrey was in on the secret, too. I’m impressed they pulled it off. As we drove over the Coast Range the clouds pressed down ominously, giving way to spates of rain and worrying me that our trip would be a washout. But the coast was dry and mild, and by the time we were walking across the sand at Cannon Beach, skies were blue and the sun was shining brightly. For about ninety minutes, anyway; just long enough to get a nice little sunburn going. We had a picnic lunch, flew kites, walked down to Haystack Rock and back, and just enjoyed the sights, sounds, and smells of the crashing surf. The ocean always takes away my stress and makes me happy. We stayed until a little after 5 PM, then made the journey back home, stopping into the Helvetia Tavern for burgers and a cold one (well, root beer for me) on the way. Got back around 8 PM, tired after a long but fun day on the go.

Sunday was considerably more relaxing. And also considerably wetter, so it’s a good thing we hit the beach on Saturday. Perhaps because it was Father’s Day, I found myself immersed in old home movies from when the kids were little. I used to tote around a camcorder like a modern day Scorsese, filming nearly every moment of Rusty’s and Audrey’s childhoods. The impromptu viewing triggered a bit of nostalgia, as I watched memories from a completely different life reveal themselves in brightly colored pixels before my eyes. Tara observed that I led a very “yuppie life” back then, and – between the house in the suburbs, the two children, the birthday parties and Easter egg hunts and ballet rehearsals and karate lessons, the freshly mowed lawn, the 4th of July fireworks, and the mountain of gaily wrapped gifts beneath the tree on Christmas morning – I can’t really argue with that. The only thing missing was the white picket fence, and that’s only because our HOA would have fined us for disrupting the neighborhood aesthetic if we’d dared to put one up. It just amazes me how incredibly different my life was a dozen short years ago. That’s a blink of an eye, really. And yet it feels like it was the Ice Age. One obvious takeaway from the home movies: I loved having little kids. I was in my element then, in a way that my ex never was…and that is also obvious from the videos. She often told me, as things were unraveling, that she only had kids because I wanted kids. I never really believed her then, but I think I do now. After all, the camera never lies.

Having teenagers is just so completely different. Especially when one doesn’t even live with you, and hardly ever comes around. I miss those days more than I ever imagined I would. At the same time, I’m thankful I got to experience them.

Here are a few pics from the weekend. Click on any to enlarge.


Keep Portland Weird

Portland’s unofficial motto is “Keep Portland Weird,” and that’s a reputation the city proudly strives to live up to. Between the chicory-pilfering sous chefs and the battle between the machete-wielding stepdad and the kid who defended himself with a garden rake, there’s plenty of weird to go around. But even I was unprepared for this particular sight a few days ago.

RIP Bigfoot

We were driving through one of Portland’s nicer neighborhoods last Saturday on our way to lunch. This area of tree-lined streets and beautiful big houses is called Ladd’s Addition, and is just south of Hawthorne Boulevard, a favorite hangout. I would love to live there. I would also need to have quite a bit of money to live there, so for now it’s a distant dream. Anyway, when we came upon the above sight, we all did double takes. And then parked the car to take pictures.

Now, I’m sure there’s not really a body beneath that dirt piled next to the curb in front of somebody’s house. The owners probably had topsoil delivered for a gardening project, and thought it would be funny to stick a couple of crosses in the dirt.

I’m about 85% sure, anyway. If this were any other city, I’d be positive. But it’s Portland, so you never really know.

This got me thinking about all the weird sights I have seen around town. Fortunately, I have photographic evidence of many of them. So, without further ado, enjoy!

Is your city weird, too? Do you have photographic evidence? And what do you think of the first photo: topsoil for the garden, or a homeowner taking revenge on the guy who always steals his parking spot?

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A Vintage Seafood-y Weekend

While pop-up campers were representative of my childhood, I’ve always had a fondness for vintage travel trailers from the 1950s. No surprise, given my love of all things retro. Think shiny silver Airstreams that looked very Space-Agey back then, or my ultimate dream machine, a Volkswagen Camper Bus. So when a friend of ours told us about a place on the Washington coast where you can stay in fully appointed vintage trailers, we knew we had to check it out. This past weekend gave us the perfect excuse: it was both my birthday and the Astoria Crab, Seafood & Wine Festival. We made reservations a couple of months ago, and set out Friday afternoon after work.

We arrived in Astoria, Oregon around 6:30. Surprisingly, it was a gorgeous evening, with brilliant sunshine and a pristine blue sky dotted with puffy clouds. I say “surprisingly” because Astoria is notoriously cloudy and damp. But it’s a beautiful harborside city with a rich maritime history located at the confluence of the Pacific Ocean and Columbia River. It’s also the site of several popular movies including The Goonies, Kindergarten Cop, and Short Circuit. Quaint Victorian-style homes dot the steep hillsides overlooking the water and the impressive 4.2-mile long Astoria-Megler Bridge that connects Oregon and Washington. I love the place, and hope to live there someday. We slid into a booth at the Silver Salmon Grille and ordered a couple of drinks and appetizers. The steamer clams were the best we’d ever had! It was the beginning of a very seafoody weekend.

After killing time in Astoria, we crossed the bridge into Washington, and arrived at the Sou’wester Lodge around 8:30. Some articles refer to the place as a “spiritual convergence zone,” and I’d say that’s not far off the mark. It felt like we had stepped back in time; the rustic lodge (built in 1892) with its brightly colored string of lights overlooked a group of vintage trailers plucked straight out of the 50s, all tucked between a stand of towering fir trees within walking distance of the ocean. The proprietor was an older woman who was clearly an ex-hippie. She showed us around the lodge and then walked us over to our trailer, a 1953 Zelmar cruiser. The trailer was well-maintained and right up my alley, with polished wood and kitschy curtains throughout. It included a cozy bedroom, a table with bench seating, sink, stove, microwave, refrigerator (more like a classic icebox), and a living room with a low-slung couch. We even had a 13″ color TV/VCR combo and a library of VHS tapes to borrow for free. Very cool. We kicked back with some adult beverages and then walked over to a dive bar next door called Rod’s Lamplighter, where we had some more drinks, played pool, listened to karaoke, and chatted with the locals. Everybody was friendly, and the tater tots were delicious. We didn’t get back to the trailer until close to 1 AM, and didn’t get to bed for almost an hour.

The next morning we recovered in classic Mark & Tara style: we lounged around with Bloody Marys while watching 10 Things I Hate About You on the VCR. After showering (that was an experience in the cramped confines of the trailer bathroom), we headed over to Astoria for the festival. I’d been there a couple of times before, most recently in 2008, and always enjoyed it. Sure enough, it was a lot of fun, and a popular draw: the place was packed. We wandered around, sampling wine and beer and eating – you guessed it – seafood. Oyster shooters, crab and shrimp toast, pan fried oysters, seafood gumbo, all of it fresh and wonderful. We spent a few hours there, wandered around Astoria some more, and then drove back to Washington, where we hit the beach. By this time the skies had clouded over, the wind was raging, and the heavens opened up with a driving, drenching rain. We weren’t actually “on” the beach ourselves, per se, but in my car, driving up and down the sand, protected from the elements. That’s one of the best things about the Long Beach Peninsula: you can drive right out to the water’s edge. Afterwards we drove back into town and grabbed some ingredients for dinner. Back in our trailer, rain pounded on the roof and the wind clawed at the windows with the eager determination of a house cat demanding entry, but we were warm and dry. Tara cooked us a dinner of garlic chive pasta with asparagus tips and bay shrimp, and we watched a couple more VHS movies (St. Elmo’s Fire and Sister Act) before crawling into bed early. We were both exhausted after a late night and busy day.

Sunday we lounged in bed reading our Kindles for awhile and enjoying the sound of the rain pelting the roof. I pointed out that 24 hours later we’d be back in our cubicles toiling away for Corporate America, a depressing thought that we tried to push aside. Reluctantly we packed up and checked out, making a detour back to the beach before leaving. By now the rain had stopped and the sun was playing hide-and-seek with the clouds. We were actually able to walk on the sand this time. Then we began the long drive home, stopping in Astoria for breakfast at Pig ‘n Pancake on the way. It was a white-knuckle drive, with lots of heavy rain and even some hail thrown in for good measure, but we made it back unscathed, arriving home mid-afternoon. After a quick trip to the grocery store we went to my parents’ house for a birthday dinner. They had watched Audrey for the weekend, in order to give Tara and I a much-needed relaxing weekend.

My verdict? Best birthday ever! We’ll definitely return to the Sou’wester Lodge. Err…the “spiritual convergence zone.”

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Where’s the 13th Floor?

I was in an elevator a few weeks ago, and noticed there was no 13th floor. I know that some building owners are superstitious and consider 13 an unlucky number, but just because there wasn’t a 13th floor listed does not mean the 13th floor didn’t exist. In this case (a hotel with 15 floors), if you’re staying on the 14th floor, guess what? You’re really staying on the 13th floor, sucker. Calling it something different doesn’t mean it’s not there. It is, under a different name, to make those with triskadaphobia feel happy.

Just because it isn't listed doesn't mean it's not there.
Just because it isn’t listed doesn’t mean it’s not there.

I’ve always felt bad for the number 13. It gets such a bad rap, and I’m not even sure why. There is some argument that Judas was seated 13th at the table during the Last Supper, but the Bible doesn’t talk about a seating order and makes no mention of 13 being an unlucky number. In Norse mythology, the 13th god – Loki – son of Odin (another god) and brother of Thor (another god) – murdered Baldr, another god, and was the 13th to arrive at the funeral. I find that a pretty flimsy excuse to shun the number 13, because the Vikings had so many gods to worship already, would the loss of one really put a dent in their ability to pray? I would gladly stay on the 13th floor of that hotel. Room 1313, ideally. Bring it on!

The world is a crazy place. The things we do or say to make ourselves feel better, huh? Fate is going to do what Fate is going to do, regardless of our efforts to step in and intervene.

I was thinking about all of this recently because I often marvel how my life turned out so perfectly, despite every effort on my part to go down a different path. Had things turned out the way I wanted them to a few years ago, I’d have ended up with somebody else. And would now be a widower. She passed away earlier this year, and unbeknownst to either of us, had been suffering from a fatal illness for years. Ironically enough, that same person prevented me from pursuing yet another path that would have left me feeling unhappy and trapped. I can only shake my head in wonder. If you ever read Stephen King’s 11/22/63, it suggests the idea that there is a Master Plan, and despite how hard you try to alter the course Fate has laid out for you, it will make every effort to right itself so the end result is exactly as intended. In this book, “the Past harmonizes,” making it very challenging for the protagonist to change the future (in this case, prevent Kennedy’s assassination). It’s a fascinating theory, and one of the more provocative King novels ever written. I mean, maybe the Present harmonizes, too.

There’s a reason why I included a mention of Fate in my wedding vows.

I know I’ve talked about all this stuff before, and it may sound like I’m beating a dead horse. It’s just that, I have these moments of clarity where I realize how I’ve dodged multiple bullets over the past few years, and it sometimes leaves me shaky. Because I came so close to having a life that wouldn’t have made me happy. I see that now. I didn’t then. It’s pretty scary.

I think I’m just extra happy and really excited lately because our trip to Denver is now a mere five days away! One week from this very moment we’ll be in the crowd at Mile High Stadium, watching the Broncos kick some Redskins butt. In person. Talk about a dream come true. This whole vacation is going to be amazingly fun, and I. Cannot. Wait!!!

And as Tara says, every day we spend together is a blast, even when we don’t do anything special. Yesterday, we did. We drove to Hood River for the Fruit Loop – a meandering drive through the countryside, with stops at various farms and orchards for all kinds of harvesty goodness. Apples, pears, jam, cider, baked goods. Last year it was cold and wet. This year, sunny, mild, and dry. The weather may not have felt fall-like, but we had an amazing view of Mt. Hood, and were able to walk through a corn maze without getting muddy. We even stopped in at Cathedral Ridge Winery for some wine tasting, and on the way home, saw a gigantic 70 y/o sturgeon at a fish hatchery. It was the perfect day.

Hope you had a nice weekend, too!

Mount Hood on a sunny Autumn afternoon.
Mount Hood on a sunny Autumn afternoon.

A Lovin’ Spoonful

We’ve  been back home going about our normal routine for a few days now, though the post-wedding bliss continues unabated. It’s still a novelty to refer to Tara as “my wife,” and I’m sure that will give me a thrill to say for some time. Coworkers joke about “the ol’ ball and chain,” but they also greeted me with a round of applause when I walked through the door on Tuesday and were genuinely happy for me, so I’ll forgive them their cynicism. Apparently, the guys who saw pictures (male coworkers and the husbands of female coworkers) wanted to know why they didn’t get to wear tuxedo t-shirts to their weddings, so my attire made quite the impression. Maybe I’ll launch a new casual wedding trend?

I doubt it, but it’s a nice thought.

We are also still reaping the bounty of our wedding weekend; Monday, Scott and Esther made us fish tacos using some of the sea bass we brought back, and last night, Tara and I enjoyed steamed Dungeness crab. I never thought I’d say this, but I’m starting to get seafooded out. This doesn’t bode well for our freezer, which is stuffed with plenty more fish and crab. Maybe in a few days it’ll sound appealing again.

One thing I forgot to mention in my wedding post: Friday evening, we started noticing spouts of water offshore, visible with the naked eye from our beach house. Turns out we were witness to migrating gray whales! Well, all but my mom, who was either always looking in the wrong spot or turning away at the exact moment they breached the surface. It was still pretty cool to see. I miss the sights, the scents, and the sounds of last weekend. I have a white noise machine and the first couple of nights back home I played the ocean sounds, but it’s just not the same as the real thing. A few weeks ago Tara asked me if I could ever see myself living on the Oregon coast, and I said at the time, probably not. I’d miss Portland too much. But after last weekend, I do in fact think I would be quite happy in a coastal town. Probably Astoria, which is much less touristy and stripmallish. A nice old Victorian perched on the side of a hill with a view of the Columbia River and/or Pacific Ocean? Yeah. I can see that. Plus, Astoria has both a Fred Meyer and a Burgerville, so I’d be set. And PDX is less than two hours away. If it was good enough for the Goonies and Arnold Schwarzenegger, it’d be good enough for me, too. Even Newport or Lincoln City have their charms. If we ever come into a lot of money and can afford to take the plunge, I’d like to do it. It helps that I really like gray skies and clouds, and detest hot weather. In that regard, I’d feel right at home.

This is the restaurant Tara and I would love to reopen!
This is the restaurant Tara and I would love to reopen!

We have even joked about opening up our own restaurant. There’s a boarded-up place in Lincoln City called The Lovin’ Spoonful that would be perfect for us. It’s even got a peace symbol on the sign! It’s small and cozy, and we could decorate it with our lava lamps and others 60s and 70s kitsch. I looked them up on Yelp, and they were open until April, 2012. Too bad we missed out on going! It got pretty good reviews, was decorated with old rock ‘n roll album covers, and served comfort food like “Simon and Garfunkel’s Chicken Pot Pie.” This, my friends, is right up our alley, and a concept we could have fun with. We’ve even discussed a menu, and talked about what some of our signature dishes would be. Tracy’s clam chowder, for one. My mom’s chicken paprikas. Tara’s chicken chimichangas. My fried chicken. We could do some fun themed burgers: the Woodstock burger (with lots of ‘shrooms), the Purple Haze burger (grilled red onions), the Apollo burger (served with a tiny American flag poking through the bun and described as “out of this world!”). The possibilities are endless. I know that restaurants are a LOT of work and we’d probably get burned out after a couple of years, but I also see it as a fun venture. Again, dependent on coming into a lot of money, though.

Dare to dream.

Not much else new to report. My employer’s annual symposium is a week away, and I’ll be glad when that is over and done with. I’m not exactly looking forward to giving a presentation in front of a crowd of strangers, but I’m less thrilled about giving up three whole days of quality time with Tara. We’re newlyweds, dammit! Just having the conference finished will allow me to breathe again.

On a positive note, fall has apparently arrived early this year. It’s been a cool week, and this morning, it was a downright crisp 44 degrees. Plus, rain is in the forecast 5 out of the next 7 days. This usually doesn’t happen until October, but I for one am not complaining. Fall is my favorite time of year!

Holy Matrimony!

As I write this post, I can hear waves crashing on the shore. I’m in a hotel room in Newport, Oregon, with the balcony door open and the cool salt air wafting in. I can hear the occasional cries of seagulls over the roar of the surf. It’s been a constant in my ears since Friday night, as has the impenetrable gray overcast. I’ll miss these things when I return to civilization, but you know what? I’m taking back a pretty good souvenir.

I’m bringing home a wife.

This long weekend has been absolutely perfect. Back when I proposed to Tara on February 1, I had given no thought to the actual wedding part of our marriage. I was so relieved she said yes, I figured those details would come later. Neither of us wanted a big wedding, and we decided early on to keep it casual and fun. Just an intimate gathering, immediate family only, on the Oregon coast. So I found a beach house that would sleep the appropriate number of guests, and we picked a date. September 14, of course. Our two-year anniversary, and our lucky number. It couldn’t get more perfect than that.

Only it could, because there were 14 of us total, and we got married at 2:00 PM on the dot. 1400 hours.

Friday morning, our first stop was Portland. We decided to take advantage of a weekday off and hit up Bijou Cafe for brunch. The Rose City is notorious for long lines at brunch. There was even a Portlandia episode spoofing this. On a Friday morning, we were seated right away, and enjoyed a delicious meal. My chorizo hash with roasted red peppers and eggs over easy was fantastic, but the star of the show was the homemade organic ketchup. Tara loved her fluffy French omelette with mushrooms. Then, we walked to Voodoo Doughnut, where we had ordered a wedding “cake.” Only it wasn’t really a cake, but an assortment of heart-shaped doughnuts personalized with our names, because we wanted to keep the theme quirky. After waiting in line nearly half an hour we got to the counter, and told them we were there to pick up our order.

They had no record of our order.

And this is what separates good places from bad. We were devastated, and Tara was near tears. We told them we were getting married the next day and on our way out of town, and the manager came out and said he would make things right as best he could. We didn’t get the heart-shaped doughnuts we wanted, but we did end up with cream-filled doughnuts with blue and orange highlights (go, Broncos!) and our names on them, plus an assortment of others – Maple Bacon Bars, Voodoo Dolls, Blazer Blunts – and were only charged for two doughnuts. It cost us a whopping $3. They may have screwed up our order, but they made it right, and that’s what counts in the end. I love Voodoo Doughnut.

Then it was on to the coast. We arrived at the beach house about 3:30 in the afternoon, slightly ahead of my parents, Scott, and Esther. We did a quick walk through and were blown away by the beauty of the place. It’s a tri-level home on a cliff overlooking the Pacific Ocean, with five bedrooms. Ours upstairs featured a king bed with a pillow top mattress sitting on a platform immediately next to the window, with an incredible view of the ocean. It was so relaxing sleeping there with the window open and the roar of the ocean in our ears. Tracy, David, Anne, and little Anthony arrived a few hours later, and we had a blogging friend from Seattle, Nancy, and her friend Brian stop by for a visit. They happened to be vacationing on the Oregon coast at the same time. Papa Murphy’s pizzas were consumed as everybody chatted it up and got to know one another. Finally, Tara’s dad and his girlfriend, and her sisters Maggie and Jessie, showed up about 10 PM after a flight from Vegas and a long drive to the coast in the dark. We stayed up until nearly 1 AM before finally making our way to bed.

Saturday morning dawned. Our wedding day. Tara handed me a card that nearly brought tears to my eyes. It was, after all, our anniversary, and the start of the most special day of our lives. The morning was a blur as we ran errands and the clock ticked down to Zero Hour. Her dad is an avid fisherman and had chartered a boat for their group to do a little fishing. “A little fishing” turned out to be 30 dungeness crabs and about 40 lbs. of ling cod and sea bass. Perfect for our clambake that afternoon! Suddenly the officiant, Elizabeth, was there. And then it was time.

We stepped out onto the back deck. There was a perfect spot on the landing for Tara and I to face each other and recite our vows while our guests gathered on the deck. What an amazing and beautiful spot for a wedding; I get shivers still just thinking about it: the Pacific Ocean stretched endlessly behind and below us, the crashing waves, the windswept trees, and the two of us, surrounded by the people we care about the most in our lives. There was no wedding dress or tuxedo, because we wanted it casual and quirky; I wore a tuxedo t-shirt, jeans, and flip-flops, and Tara wore a simple but nice dress shirt and capris. She immediately started crying so I slipped on my checkered sunglasses in order to keep it together myself. Which I did, thankfully. I had been very nervous about reciting vows, because we each wrote our own, and that’s a scary thing, pouring your heart out in front of everybody. But they were perfect, and the whole ceremony was quick, lasting about seven minutes.

“I now pronounce you husband and wife,” she said, and introduced us as Mr. and Mrs. Mark Petruska.

“Whoo-hoo! Let the party begin!” somebody shouted, and it did. After filling out paperwork the officiant went on her way, and the rest of the afternoon included a wine and food pairing demonstration by David, who is a sommelier by trade, and our clambake, with fresh crab that had still been swimming around (or whatever crabs do in the ocean) earlier that morning, along with clams, shrimp, red potatoes, and corn. Tracy made a delicious batch of clam chowder that was as tasty as any restaurant’s, and we all just had a lot of fun well into the night. And a lot of drinks. A certain bride of mine who shall remain nameless partook of a bit too much alcohol and was delayed in climbing into bed, but she did have a lot to celebrate.

Sunday morning we had fresh fish for breakfast (hey, why not?) and we sadly bid farewell to our guests, who left in groups. It was just Tara and I left, and we locked up the house before heading south to Newport, where we had a reservation at the Elizabeth Street Inn, a hotel we discovered last December. We splurged for a jacuzzi suite and were able to talk them into an early check-in, so we climbed into the hot tub and watched the Broncos game on TV. Then we, and, and then we, and…well, never mind. We drove down the coast for a bit, then stopped in at Georgie’s Seafood Grille for dinner. We had a table next to the window with a view of the ocean, and some pretty damn tasty seafood. Then it was back to the room for a relaxing evening, more jacuzzi time, and a very intense episode of Breaking Bad. Some time later we tore ourselves away from the balcony and the ocean and the mist to go to bed.

And here we are. All that’s left is to check out, grab breakfast, and make the trek back home. Reality intrudes tomorrow, and I’m not happy about that, but in the end, I could not have asked for a more perfect wedding. Everybody had a great time and got along wonderfully, and they all really liked the beach house and the setting. Our wedding was perfect for us: not at all stuffy or formal, but still serious and romantic and, I can’t stress this enough, FUN. Best wedding ever. By the way, the officiant told us that 90% of the people she marries these days meet online. I thought that was pretty interesting. A lot of them opt for fun and quirky weddings like ours, too. Why not? Life is short – you might as well do what makes you happy!

I did. I married my best friend, my soulmate, the love of my life. Nothing could ever make me happier than that.

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