Oh, Sheila

I was out walking on my lunch hour yesterday, phone in hand, which I was checking periodically. There is nothing unusual about this; I often look at my phone while walking, either to track my workout progress on MyFitnessPal or queue up my camera for potential photo opportunities. There were lots of people out and about, and many seemed to be smirking at me as I passed.

“Petruska,” I chided myself, “You are being paranoid.”

But the weird looks continued. And then it dawned on me why: they obviously thought I was swept up in the latest mega-craze, trying to catch Pokémon on my phone. I mean, that’s how it is these days. I can’t even go for a walk around the block without running into roaming packs of teenagers glued to their phones in pursuit of these virtual reality creatures.

Once I realized this, I got immediately defensive. I started overcompensating by laughing out loud and making random comments directed at my phone. Ha-ha, I chuckled. “Oh, Sheila!” The weird part is, I do not know anybody named Sheila (unless you count Prince’s former protege from the late 80s, Sheila E. And I can’t say I know her per se, but I have heard “The Glamorous Life” on the radio approximately three million times. That must count for something.) “Oh, Sheila” was simply the first thing that came to mind. Guess I had that old Ready for the World song lodged in my brain.

It didn’t help anyway. Now, instead of a guy chasing after Pokémon, I was a guy laughing to himself and talking out loud. I shoved my phone in my pocket and clammed up for the rest of my walk, but by that point the damage was done, the ridicule self-inflicted.

Gotta catch 'em all!
Gotta catch ’em all!

As far as crazes go, this Pokémon one came out of left field. About a week ago Audrey asked if I’d heard about it.

“Pokémon?” I asked in disbelief. “Wasn’t that popular about 15 years ago?”

It was, because Rusty used to collect and trade the cards. Seems quaint now in this mobile age. I think he had a Nintendo 64 game, too. I simply did not believe my daughter when she said that Pokémon was popular again. Now that I can’t walk around the block without running into packs of teenagers glued to their phones talking about Pikachu, I have to concede that she was right, after all.

I never would have imagined this happening.

And, okay. Confession time. I wasn’t just looking at MyFitnessPal. I was also – ahem – playing around with Snapchat.

Never would have imagined that happening, either.

But I work with a bunch of Millennials. Deb, in particular, was touting the virtues of Snapchat to me and Kimberly (who is a fellow Gen X-er). She convinced us to download the app and see if we liked it. In typical fashion I resisted for weeks.

And then got hooked.

badgalrihanna.w190.h190.2xWell, kinda. But not really. I think Snapchat is a fun diversion, but impossible to take seriously. The impermanence of it bothers me. I have a hard time getting over the fact that everything you send (or post) disappears in 24 hours. I know you have the option to download Snaps to your gallery now, but that’s an extra step and really, what’s the point? So I’ve been playing around with it, usually via videos and goofy-as-hell daily stories that chronicle my day, but I feel the novelty is already wearing off. Maybe that’s because few people my age use it? Other than my SIL Esther, who has fully embraced it. Tara joined too, but she’s even less enthused than I am. It’s tough to justify creating Snaps when you have at best two or three people viewing them before they self-destruct forever. I suppose if I had more friends using it things would be different, but we old folks just aren’t that into it.

Instagram is more my speed – I’m on there every day. (adios.ghost, if you’re so inclined to stalk me look me up). I don’t even post that much to Facebook anymore. It just seems to have lost its appeal over the past year. I like to follow my friends there, and enjoy looking back at my memories, but actual updates are rare. I can’t even really pinpoint why…I guess maybe it’s just mostly run its course for me? I seem to be experiencing a lot of “what’s the point?” feelings lately. I like the simplicity of Instagram. I’m a visual guy. I dig pretty pictures.

Especially ones that don’t disappear in 24 hours.

Un-July

Living in the Pacific Northwest, there isn’t a lot of variation in the weather. A typical January day looks like this:

rain-generic

Peek outside in March, and you’re liable to see this:

rain-generic

Curious about November? Here’s what you’re going to find:

rain-generic

Yes, it’s very often a broken record around these parts. But there is a brief window in which you are pretty much guaranteed a break in the rain. It’s known as July. With this in mind, Tara and I planned a camping trip last week. We figured the weather would be decent right after the 4th of July, so we took Thursday and Friday off and were eagerly anticipating a couple of nights around a campfire. We’d do some hiking and maybe a little fishing, too. It sounded like a perfectly relaxing getaway.

And then, a week ago, the forecast started showing rain.

“That’s gotta be a mistake,” I told my wife confidently. “It never rains here in July. The forecast will change later in the week – I’m sure of it.”

Sure enough, the forecast did change. But not in the way I anticipated. The 20% chance of scattered showers turned into an 80% chance of rain.

It’s been a very weird year for us weather-wise. Last 4th of July it was 95. This year, it reached 68. I’d spent part of the afternoon sitting out on the deck reading a book, but had to come inside because it was too chilly.

In the middle of the afternoon.
In summer.

And it’s been this way for weeks – unusually cool. Some nights it’s dipping down into the 40s. Quite a dramatic change from the past couple of summers, which have been unbearably hot. I’m calling it Un-July.

We debated taking a chance and going camping anyway, but memories of our washout at this same site four years ago were still all too fresh in our minds. Instead of eating S’mores, we were digging s’more trenches so our campsite didn’t flood. At one point our air mattress practically floated away. Not willing to put ourselves through that again, but also unwilling to cancel our vacation and actually work instead (perish the thought!), we came up with a Plan B: an overnight trip to the Oregon coast.

Our first stop was Drift Creek Falls, a fairly easy three-mile hike in the Coast Range east of Lincoln City. The highlight is a 240′-long suspension bridge traversing a canyon that overlooks a waterfall and a creek far below. Quite dramatic scenery, as long as you’re not afraid of heights like certain people I’m married to. I think Tara actually walked across the bridge with her eyes closed. In any case it was a gorgeous hike, despite the rain and mist that plagued us during much of the return trip.

Drift Creek Falls.
Drift Creek Falls.

After the hike we drove into Lincoln City, making a quick stop for essentials (and by “essentials” I mean alcohol) before checking into our room. Our motel, Sailor Jack’s, was pretty decent. Every room has an oceanfront view, and the bed was soft. Can’t really ask for more than that! We listened to music, poured ourselves a few drinks, and played cards while watching the waves roll in.

We drove to Depoe Bay for dinner. There’s a little dive bar called Gracie’s Sea Hag that we’d driven past for years without ever checking out. Well, I stumbled across an article recently that examined the 25 best places for clam chowder on the Oregon coast, and the Sea Hag was ranked #1. That gave us the incentive to stop, and I’m glad we did; the food was delicious (and yes, I’d have to say their chowder is my new favorite). I ordered a barbecued steelhead filet with veggies, and Tara got the seafood au gratin. Just as I was digging into my dinner, things got weird.

There was a blind piano player in the bar, and he started playing a very obscure Hawaiian song called “Ku’u Home O Kahalu’u.” I have never heard it anywhere else but on my dad’s record player growing up, so to hear that song in that setting blew my mind.

I left our table and sat down in front of him while he played what I’ve long considered my favorite Hawaiian song. Afterwards I walked over to him and struck up a conversation. Told him how much I loved the song and how surprised I was to hear it in a tiny coastal town in Oregon. To my surprise, he told me his cousin was Jerry Santos, the singer in Olomana.

Man, it really is a small world, huh?

I went back to the table to finish dinner. A few minutes later another patron came over to tell me the piano player was dedicating a song “to the guy who was born on Oahu.” That’d be me! Because of his visionless-ness, he probably thought I was sitting there the whole time listening to him play. Oops. Anyway, I went back over there for the rest of his performance. Afterwards, somebody else came over to our table and thanked me for my dad’s service to the country. That’s something that has never happened before.

Suffice it to say, we had a great time at Gracie’s Sea Hag. When we left, we almost felt like local celebrities. It was very weird, but in a good way.

We drove back to Lincoln City and ended up going to a video arcade, where we killed an hour playing old school video games like Frogger, Centipede, and Galaga. Back in the room, the rest of the night is a bit hazy. I recall drinking raspberry flavored vodka in the shower, so that pretty much sums it up.

Stormy July morning.
Stormy July morning.

Friday morning we were up early for a walk on the beach. It started raining when we were at our farthest point from the room (because Un-July, remember?) so we got pretty wet. Naturally, our solution was to go back to the room and drink Bloody Marys. We checked out a couple of hours later, grabbed breakfast at a Hawaiian-themed restaurant (might as well after the previous night, right?) called Macadangdang’s in Lincoln City before driving home.

Funny, after such a fun mini-getaway, we weren’t the least bit upset about missing out on our camping trip.

You’re Gonna Need a Bigger Boat

Last night I was getting a haircut, and there were banners on the salon walls promoting Shark Week. [Weirdest marketing tie-in ever, by the way. Makes about as much sense as seeing an advertisement for patio furniture in  Red Robin.] Sitting there, staring at a poster of Jaws, I wondered who the genius was that decided Shark Week should take place in June.

The first movie I ever saw in an actual theater was Jaws, back in the 1970s. Fortunately we lived in Ohio at the time, so there were no oceans within 1,000+ miles. Good thing, because for the next two years I shied away from every large body of water I came across. Which is exactly my point: watching sharks kill people sort of makes people want to avoid going swimming. It’s June. Summertime is synonymous with the beach. If it were up to me, Shark Week would air in the middle of December, when any self-respecting large body of salt water is about the same temperature as the inside of a refrigerator.

shark-week-04

The original intent of Shark Week, when it premiered in 1988, was to promote conservation efforts and help correct misconceptions about sharks. Nowadays it’s a bunch of sensationalized dramatic fiction like Lair of the Mega Shark. Even the actual documentaries are pretty lurid, though. I don’t think Blood in the Water or Wrath of a Great White Serial Killer are going to have people clamoring to take a dip anytime soon, you know?

Hence my midwinter plan. Too bad nobody ever pays attention to me.


Last Saturday, we drove up to Alder Lake, north of Mount Rainier, to meet up with Anne and Anthony for the day. On the way there, I convinced Tara we should listen to Hamilton. This was my third time through, and it just keeps getting better and better with each repeat listen. Tara liked it, but I wasn’t sure at first because she said it was “interesting,” which is often a polite way of saying you’re not really into something. It’s like when you are setting a friend up on a blind date and you tell him the girl “has a nice personality.” 9 times out of 10, that phrase means she’s ugly. Fortunately in this case my wife meant “interesting” in the literal sense, in that, she found it “engaging or exciting and holding the attention or curiosity.” She said the songs were catchy and clever, and she’d like to listen to it again and see an actual stage production someday. Whew! Anyway, the weather was perfect that day – low 70s, sunshine, fluffy white clouds, a breeze blowing off the lake. We did a little fishing (but didn’t catch anything), might have broken a few open container laws in the park, and grilled hot dogs. Oh, and at one point Anthony said he didn’t want to go in the water because he was afraid of sharks.

See?!

Gone Fishin'

Sunday was a much more laid back day. One of my coworkers was raving about the movie Prometheus and loaned me her BluRay copy a few weeks ago. I was like yeah, sure, I’ll watch it. Someday. Maybe. Well, every time Monday rolled around she’d ask me if I’d seen it yet and what I thought about it, so after briefly considering fake-watching it – surely Google would help me come up with a few coherent talking points should we engage in a lengthy conversation over the merits of the film afterwards – I figured I might as well actually just watch it. This turned out to be a surprisingly good idea, as both Tara and I ended up liking it. A lot. It’s an unofficial prequel to Alien, so if you’re into that sort of thing (coughDadcough), check it out.

I guess I should start taking people’s recommendations more seriously. I usually do end up liking whatever it is they suggest. And worst case, if I’d found Prometheus awful, I’d have simply told Kimberly it was “interesting” and nobody would be any wiser.

Talk Less. Smile More.

If you had told me a week ago that I would be walking through the forest on my lunch hour listening to show tunes, I’d have said you were nuts.

But Friday afternoon I found myself doing exactly that.

Who is this guy?! I wondered. Because I know me pretty well, and I am not the type to do this sort of thing. Or I wasn’t the type to do this sort of thing, until Hamilton came into my life.

I blame my coworkers. Deb and Kristen kept going on and on about some guy named Hamilton.

“Who’s Hamilton?” I asked.

“Hamilton’s not a who,” Deb replied. “It’s a what.”

Well, technically Hamilton is a who. Alexander, to be precise. Constitutionalist, Founding Father, guy whose face appears on the $10 bill. He was (spoiler alert!) famously killed in a duel with Aaron Burr. You probably remember him from history class (or the “Got Milk?” commercial). But the Hamilton my coworkers raved on and on about is the mega-popular Broadway musical that won 486 Tony Awards last week.

I have to admit I was skeptical. I don’t hate musicals, but I certainly don’t seek them out. When Deb urged me to listen to the soundtrack for Hamilton, my first inclination was to come up with an excuse not to. Especially when she described it as a history lesson set to hip-hop music.

“That sounds ridiculous!” I said.

And then she sent me a YouTube link to a song called “Aaron Burr, Sir” and I got it. Instantly.

The concept is nothing short of genius. The rhymes are dope, as the kids say (wait – do they still say that?), and the whole production really is one giant history lesson that happens to be entertaining as hell. I’ve learned so much. Who knew Alexander Hamilton was such a larger-than-life character?

Hamilton silhouette

In retrospect, it shouldn’t be too much of a surprise that I caught the Hamilton fever. I’m a History minor, after all. And while I’m not a huge fan of rap music, I do appreciate its lyrical complexities and the skill involved in crafting a good rhyme. It was pretty much preordained that I would fall for this musical.

And now a group of us at work has our own insider jargon. We’ll walk around quoting Hamilton lyrics and people are none the wiser. Like, I’ll go up to somebody and say, “Why do you assume you’re the smartest in the room?” and they’ll think I’m just making conversation or insulting them when, in reality, I’m making a subtle reference to “Non-Stop.” It’s pretty cool. I always wanted to learn another language.

I’m hoping that Hamilton hits the road, Jack. Or whatever your name is who happens to be reading this. I’d love to see the actual musical sometime.

What do you think? Are you a fan of musicals in general and/or Hamilton in particular? Does it live up to the hype?

And do you kind of think of Thomas Jefferson as a bit of an asshole now?

Punctuation Menopause

I have recently been informed that the period is dead.

RIP, period. We hardly knew ye.

Actually, we knew ye for a good long time, but you are as obsolete as rotary telephones and dial-up modems now. Even The Washington Post says so. The younger generation shuns you. You have been demoted to a mere option now, an accessory that adds emphasis but isn’t necessary to the ensemble as a whole. Adding insult to injury, you have been dumped for the line break, which isn’t even punctuation at all, but rather a void. It’s empty space. That has to sting. We’ve gone from debating whether to leave two spaces after you or just one to omitting all spaces because we’re not even using you any more. Today’s youth have fully stopped using the full stop, as you are known in Great Britain. Coolest nickname ever, by the way! I’ll write the rest of this post as the younger generation would, even though it makes me cringe and breaks every grammar rule I have ever been taught.

Dearest period
We have had a long relationship, you and I, but now it is time to part ways
You are no longer relevant, as the simple line break is enough to convey a pause in the conversation
By not bothering with periods, productivity increases 0.00000000000000007%
This certainly provides a boost to the American economy
And look at the extra four seconds a person gains over their lifetime by eliminating your use
Time well spent, I have no doubt
When you do appear, you are feared or misunderstood
Periods are used for emphasis now
They denote anger
Should somebody send a text with a period in it, kids gasp and shudder
Oh no, they think
I’m in trouble now
What did I do, mom?
Or
U mad, bro?
Question marks, in case you are wondering, are alive and well, according to my Millennial colleague, as are exclamation points! and hyphens-it’s only the lowly period we must mourn
And thus, society devolves into anarchy a little bit further every day
As a show of support and to emphasize the importance of proper grammar, I have vowed to start writing out acronyms
LOL is now Laughing Out Loud
ROFLMAO is now Rolling On the Floor Laughing My Ass Off
And I shall spell out your name to end a sentence
In fact, I’ll just start spelling out all punctuation marks because I believe in equality
I’m going to the store period
Do you need anything besides milk question mark
Fear not, my friend
Your legacy is assured with me
Period

Courtesy of blogs.dixcdn.com
Courtesy of blogs.dixcdn.com

Three Seconds Away from Nuclear Oblivion

I was browsing my local thrift store last weekend and came across a Betamax player. I don’t think I’d ever actually seen one before. I picked it up, marveling over its simplicity. Not to mention its weight – I was surprised by how heavy it was! I remember the whole Beta vs. VHS war in the late 70s/early 80s. It’s weird, because by all accounts Betamax was the superior format, but its undoing was its one-hour limit per tape. Clearly, Americans were willing to sacrifice picture quality for convenience. Who wanted to bother with getting up every 60 minutes to switch tapes mid-movie?!

And we act surprised that there’s an obesity epidemic…

This also made me think of our first VCR. I remember my dad coming home carrying a box so large my first question was, “Where are we going to put the new couch?”

Paging Marty McFly!
Paging Marty McFly!

Seriously. This thing was a beast. But it looked so futuristic! With its gleaming chrome body and top-loading videocassette slot, it reminded me of Doc Brown’s DeLorean in Back to the Future. I figured we’d all be jetting around in flying cars by the end of the decade. Instead, we got the Yugo. Yugo

Our first microwave was a monster, too. It was a Quasar unit that featured groovy fake wood paneling. The design might have been circa 1978, but my folks had that microwave oven for decades. Literally. They just got rid of it a year or two ago, and used it to cook rice (it had a dedicated button for that) right up until the end. Say what you will, but the phrase they don’t make ’em like they used to certainly applied to that old Quasar.

Quasar

In today’s disposable economy, 30+ years of reliable service is quite an achievement.

I guess I’m feeling a bit nostalgic after watching CNN’s miniseries on the 80s. It’s called – drumroll, please! – The Eighties. And is every bit as fascinating as last year’s The Seventies, and the previous year’s The Sixties. The series covers everything from the Cold War and AIDS to Wall Street greed and A Flock of Seagulls. Captivating stuff. It’s a wonder any of us made it out alive, what with Dexy’s Midnight Runners topping the charts.

Also, that whole three-seconds-away-from-nuclear-oblivion thing. mushroom-cloud-624x467

And really, as distant as the 80s seem, the so-called “modern age” is still pretty new, when you think about it. It’s easy to forget that all these things we take for granted today haven’t been around all that long. Just 10 years ago, “facebook” wasn’t a thing, it was an action. Two words. A noun plus a verb. Something you did in a library when staring at the shelf, deciding what to read. I miss libraries.

I miss simpler times, in general. Even top-loading VCRs and microwave ovens that look like they were built out of wood.

What do you miss the most about the past?

Breaking Down the Fourth Wall

I’ve never been a good sick person. Then again, if you talk to most women, they’d say the same thing about the men in their lives. So really, I’m just perpetuating the stereotype.

Go, me.

In any case, a week ago I came down with a bad cold [I don’t know what the medical definition of “bad” is but I was sick and that was bad, so I’m sticking with it] and ended up staying home from work for a couple of days. My problem is, I’m too damn impatient to be sick. I don’t want to sit around coughing and sneezing when there are places to go! and things to do! and people to see!

I think this is why I fear death so much: I hate the idea of lying around doing nothing for the rest of eternity.

It was bad enough being stuck in the apartment for two days. I did have the foresight to drive to the office on Monday morning and grab my laptop, a move that enabled me to work from home for the better part of two days. I have to say, that was amazingly productive. Some employers fear their workers will be tempted by distraction at home, but for me the lack of everyday distraction – people tapping me on the shoulder to ask a question or stopping by to chat about their day – was a breath of fresh air. I like camaraderie, but I also enjoy actually getting work done. So in the end, the whole being-sick thing wasn’t a total downer.

And my timing was great. By Friday I was feeling much better. Not quite 100%, but a solid 87% or so. Just in time for the long Memorial Day weekend!

Naturally, Tara texted me Friday morning to let me know that her throat was now bugging her.

What was I just saying about timing…?

Sure enough, by that afternoon she’d come down with a similar case of the Dreaded Sickness. Which meant a change in plans for our weekend. We had been planning a visit to a state park/waterfall in Oregon and a detour through Stevenson to check out some property we found, but that’ll have to wait for another time now. Instead, I drove out to June Lake up near Mount St. Helens for some hiking while Tara stayed home and tried not to cough up a lung. Poor thing. It was cool and cloudy, only 52 degrees up by the mountain, damn near perfect hiking weather in my opinion. I had a great time. Did four miles in and around the lava beds surrounding the lake, then another mile and a half through Lava Canyon. That second hike is particularly beautiful, but always crowded with people, and Saturday was no exception. Not that you can tell from this photo, taken from the middle of a swaying suspension bridge connecting both sides of the canyon. It’s not an ideal spot if you’re the least bit leery of heights. Or of plummeting hundreds of feet to your death when a flimsy wooden slat breaks beneath your feet.

Lava Canyon, WA.
Lava Canyon, WA.

I drove home with the moonroof open and good music blasting from the speakers. Back in town it was much warmer – in the mid 70s. I stopped at Trader Joe’s to grab a few items for dinner, then made myself a couple of vodka sodas as a reward for the hike while Tara and I settled back to watch Concussion with Will Smith.

I should clarify, we didn’t watch the movie with Will Smith; Will Smith was actually starring in the movie. Though if he had been sitting there between us on the loveseat, I’d have totally talked him into rapping with me. “Parents Just Don’t Understand,” anyone? Would have been hilarious coming from a couple of guys well into their 40s.

Come to think of it, it’s probably a good thing Will Smith was not there.

Sunday Tara was understandably feeling a bit stir crazy, so even though she was still under the weather, we decided to venture out. Hit Music Millennium to check out their sidewalk sale, then McMenamin’s Kennedy School to see Deadpool with Audrey and her GF. I’d had zero interest in seeing the movie when it first came out, but ended up liking it far more than I’d thought I would. Probably because it never took itself even remotely seriously. Not only do the filmmakers spoof the whole superhero genre, but they often break down the fourth wall, too. That technique doesn’t always work, but when it does – Ferris Bueller comes to mind – it can really pay off. In this case, it worked. The film is raunchy and foul and funny as hell, and Tara is happy that Ryan Reynolds is in it, even though his face is hidden behind a mask most of the time.

Today is going to be pretty low-key. The weather is warming up [they’re telling us to prepare for 90 in a couple of days, absolutely thrilling news] so I’m planning on spending some quality time on the deck with a Kindle in my hand and a couple of Bloody Marys by my side.

In the meantime, can all you scientists get cracking on that cure for dying, please? Preferably have it done within the next 30 years or so if it’s to do me any good.

Why Not Stevenson?

Last month, I took a day off work to go hiking. It was my birthday, and I wanted to commune with nature instead of dealing with an overflowing In Box.

[My In Box is virtual these days, I should add. But I remember well the stackable plastic trays that used to take up precious real estate space on my desk. I also remember having an actual Rolodex. God, I’m old.]

Anyway. On the way to Falls Creek Falls, you pass though a town called Stevenson. It’s a quaint little place, not much more than a wide spot in the road, with a picturesque downtown consisting of coffee shops, brew pubs, and an ice cream parlor. It takes all of ninety seconds to traverse, and that’s only because the speed limit is 25 mph. I’d never really given Stevenson a second thought before. But for some reason, that day, I did. I actually had a brilliant idea in the minute-and-a-half it took me to enter and exit the place.

We should live here. 

Why Stevenson? I think the more appropriate question is, why not Stevenson?

For starters, there’s the scenery. Stevenson is about 30 miles east of here, but it might as well be a world away. It’s smack dab in the middle of the Columbia Gorge, surrounded by mountains and forests and a stone’s throw from the Columbia River. It’s long been our gateway to nature; we drive through on the way to some of our favorite hiking and camping spots. Best of all, housing prices are considerably cheaper in Stevenson than they are in the Portland/Vancouver metropolitan area. For some reason, nobody around here ever thinks about living in Stevenson. Maybe because it’s in a different county? Whenever I bring it up they say, “Why would you want to live so far away?” like it’s out in the middle of nowhere. But here’s the thing: it’s only a 30 minute drive to the office. It might take Tara 40 minutes. Hell, I’ve got coworkers who live twice as close, but their commute takes them twice as long. Do the math and ask yourself,

Why not Stevenson?

So I was telling a bunch of coworkers my plan, and damn if they didn’t come around to my way of thinking. Within minutes two or three of them were thinking about moving out to Stevenson themselves. That’s when I realized I’d better shut my mouth and keep this idea to myself, because the last thing in the world I want is a bunch of other people discovering Stevenson and moving out there. That would drive housing prices up and put more cars on the road, adding to the commute time and pretty much defeating the whole purpose.

Then again, it’s still got scenery…

DSC_0001
Our little secret

Over the weekend, Tara and I decided to drive out there to explore the area. We’d never actually spent any time in Stevenson. That’s not completely true: we did stop for ice cream once, and grabbed a snack from a gas station (THE gas station) another time. But other than that, Stevenson was a mystery. Maybe we’d end up hating it?

We did not end up hating it.

DSC_0015Actually, we ended up loving it. We drove around looking at houses for an hour and a half, and then walked through downtown [took about three minutes] before ducking into probably the nicest restaurant/bar in town, the Big River Grill, for cocktails and dinner. Great ambience, friendly service, and the food and drinks were amazing. If you think smoky garlic shrimp served over bowtie pasta in a rich fire-roasted tomato, bacon, and feta sauce is amazing. If not, well…there’s just something wrong with you. We struck up a conversation with our server. It turns out she was born and raised in Stevenson, and loves it there. When we told her of our idea, she was full of encouragement. Not at all standoffish and protective of her small town, as you might think she’d be.

So. We’ll see. A lot has to happen first. Audrey has two more years of high school, and there’s the pesky little matter of coming up with a down payment for a house. And…well, I guess that’s it. These obstacles are not insurmountable. If the perfect opportunity came along, I’m sure we could figure out how to make it work.

Exciting, huh?

Hits 52!

Last night, we added another great classic rock concert to our ever-expanding list when we saw The Who (finally) rock Portland’s Moda Center for their Hits 50! tour. It’s actually now been 52 years, making the fact that Roger Daltrey and Pete Townshend were even able to walk onstage unassisted even more impressive. I’m glad they did not die before they got old.

This concert was a long time coming. Tara bought the tickets almost two years ago – a full 13+ months before they were scheduled to perform. And then, weeks before the concert, the band rescheduled a bunch of shows when Roger Daltrey developed viral meningitis. The September date was pushed back another eight months. I was beginning to doubt we’d ever actually get to see them play.

I’m so glad we did, though. We have seen a lot of great artists over the years: Bob Seger. Tom Petty. Crosby, Stills & Nash. Bruce Springsteen (twice). And those are only the old guys. Last night’s concert was so incredible, the experience felt almost transcendental. I rank it as one of the best I have ever seen. Only Springsteen impressed me more, and that’s probably because I’m such a huge fan of his.

Before the show, I was feeling kind of ho-hum about the whole thing. I love The Who, but the enormity of who they are (who who, who who) didn’t really sink in until yesterday. These guys were at Woodstock. They played the Monterey Pop Festival. Shared a stage with Jimi Hendrix. Their music kicked off many an episode of CSI. I don’t use the term “legends” loosely, but it’s The (freakin’) Who, man. They are rock royalty. And they were in fine form last night despite their advanced ages. Daltrey still swings that microphone around and Townshend’s still got his signature windmill pose. Maybe the voices are a little more gravelly than before, the notes sometimes a little out of reach, but what do you expect for guys who are 72 and 71 years old, respectively? They played every conceivable song you could hope for (unless you were dying to hear “Happy Jack” like the fella behind us). Their setlist included all their biggest hits (“Who Are You,” “Behind Blue Eyes,” “My Generation,” “Pinball Wizard,” “Love Reign O’er Me,” “Baba O’ Riley,” “Won’t Get Fooled Again,” etc.) and lasted a full two hours. It was nothing short of epic. who-album-art

The concert was amazing. Good thing, because getting there and back was a clusterf*^k.

The last time we saw a concert at the Moda Center, back in March, we ran into one problem after another. We had planned on taking light rail to the arena, but as we were about to merge onto the freeway, a police car went roaring past and blocked the onramp due to an accident. We had to backtrack and ended up driving there, only to discover – once we arrived – that Tara had forgotten to bring the credit card she’d used to purchase the tickets, which was necessary due to some new paperless ticket scheme. It was all very stressful and we nearly missed the Springsteen show. This time, we figured, things would go much more smoothly.

Ha.

Our first inkling of trouble came ten minutes into the ride. One second we were zipping along through north Portland, enjoying the scenery (if pay-by-the-hour motels and trashy liquor stores can be considered “scenic”), the next, we were at a dead stop on the tracks. The driver’s voice came over the intercom a moment later.

“Ladies and gentlemen,” he said, “Due to a fire a few blocks away, there will be a short delay while emergency response vehicles arrive on the scene.”

The “short delay” turned into 30 minutes. We were anxious, but had given ourselves plenty of extra time just in case, so we weren’t too worried about missing the show. Eventually we got underway again and made it to the Moda Center without further delay.

After the concert, we boarded the return train. “Well,” we confidently declared, “At least going back should be a much smoother experience.”

Ha. [Yes, again.]

Not more than a minute after pulling away from the Moda Center we were cruising down the tracks when there was a sudden loud crash, the grinding sound of metal scraping on metal, and a shower of sparks flying by our window. People were gasping and shouting. Turns out we had just hit a car.

Let me repeat. The train we were riding on had just hit a car.

Unbelievable, huh? Turns out some dumb-ass cab driver (don’t worry, he wasn’t hurt) decided to make an illegal U-turn across the light rail tracks. Never mind the fact that a train was bearing down on him at the time. Oopsie. In exchange for his stupidity, we took out the front of his taxi.

Our train came to a dead stop and was turned off. The driver came over the PA system.

“Ladies and gentlemen,” he intoned. “Due to the accident, there will be a delay while emergency response vehicles arrive on the scene.”

Deja-freakin’-vu.

It was already 11 PM, and we had to be up early the next day for work. So naturally, that “short delay” stretched into half an hour, too. Eventually the train was taken out of service, and we were forced to disembark and board a shuttle bus, which finally deposited us at the park and ride lot a few minutes after midnight.

By the time we finally [FINALLY] got home, Tara and I had decided, quite simply, that – unlike Mr. Daltrey and Mr. Townshend – we have gotten too old for this shit. It’s a good thing The Who put on an incredible show, because the getting-there-and-back-again part straight up sucked. It’s going to be a long time before we decide to venture out to the Moda Center for a concert again. Led Zeppelin would need to get back together and have Pink Floyd open for them. Or vice-versa. Other than that, it ain’t happenin’.

Don’t Get Murdered

A few weeks ago, I stopped into my local State Farm office to steal a cup of coffee. You might recall me talking about it here. But that was merely the tip of the iceberg. Immediately afterwards, I started plotting something even more daring. What would happen if I walked past somebody dining outdoors at the restaurant around the corner, I wondered, and grabbed a tater tot off their plate? I decided that I absolutely, positively had to do this. Call me a daredevil. A prankster. A student of human nature.

I make really weird bucket lists, I know.

Because it’s easy to talk yourself out of doing something unless there is accountability, I told a whole bunch of coworkers about my plan. Even though they had witnessed me pilfering coffee firsthand, not a single one believed I would actually steal somebody’s food right off their plate. Which made me want to do it that much more.

Every day, multiple times a day, I walk around the block to stretch my legs. I go right past this restaurant, so I had plenty of time to scope things out and formulate a plan. I approached the task with the seriousness of a runner preparing for his first marathon, and considered myself “in training” for the big event. Because the weather has been so ridiculously warm this past month, there were frequently diners sitting at the outdoor tables – but for one reason or another, the situation was never ideal. Their tables were empty, or a busboy was clearing their plates, or they were eating something difficult to grab, like soup. Or they looked like they might murder me. [My one hard-and fast rule: don’t get murdered.]

And then, today happened.

I walked past the restaurant, and there were two separate tables with diners eating tater tots. I still wasn’t 100% sure I was going to do it, but then a coworker wanted to grab coffee. I told her that sounded good, but we had to walk past the restaurant so I could steal a tater tot. Naturally, she did not believe I was going to do this.

Hey, Sarah: told ya so!

We walked by, and the same two pairs of diners were still there. The first ones were paying their check, and the tots were gone. Dammit. But the second pair were still there. Deep in conversation, laughing and taking sips of water. Right there, in between them, a half-full plate of tater tots beckoned.

It’s now or never, I thought.

Previously, when I’d planned this out, I figured my safest bet would be to grab a tater tot and run. Because, remember: don’t get murdered. But in the heat of the moment, I threw sense and logic out the door. Instead, I was amazingly calm. I stopped in my tracks, casually reached over, snatched a tater tot from their plate, and held it up for them to see, acknowledging the fact that it was, indeed, right there clutched between my fingers  and not on their plate, where it belonged. I even grabbed it with my left hand, which I feel should earn me bonus points.

“Thank you,” I said politely. Then I turned and strolled away.

The looks on their faces were priceless. They stared at me, wide-eyed, caught between anger, amusement, and amazement. I think they were trying to decide whether to yell at me or burst out laughing. In fact, they never did say a word, just stared at me as I walked away with their stolen tot.

I mean, what do you say in a situation like that? If it had been me, I probably would have laughed.

Sarah, my coworker who witnessed the whole incident, was astounded by my bravado. “I never thought you’d actually do it!” she said.

“I told you I would,” I replied. And that sums me up in a nutshell. If I put my mind to something, you can take it to the bank that I am going to go through with it. My word is gold. I try not to worry what other people think, and I am not afraid to step outside my comfort zone. Even at the risk of public humiliation. I rarely back away from a dare. I’m like Marty McFly in Back To The Future. Call me “chicken” and I’ll do my very best to prove you wrong.

I figure I did those diners a favor. Now they have a great story to tell their friends and family. You’ll never believe what happened one time when we went out to lunch! We were eating tater tots when a stranger walked by and grabbed one right off our plate. Can you believe the nerve of that guy?! They’ll get mileage out of the retelling for years to come.

You’re welcome, strangers.

As for me, I’m feeling pretty immortal these days.

When I got back to the office, after showing the tater tot to my disbelieving coworkers, I ate it. It turned out to be a sweet potato tater tot, which I’d never had before. It tasted extra delicious.

And best of all, I did not get murdered.

The infamous stolen tot.
The infamous stolen tot.