That Time I Met The Boss

I can sum up the most surreal ten seconds of my life in a single photograph captured for posterity:


I don’t even know where to begin. How often does one get the opportunity to meet a famous person whom they have admired their whole life? And after doing so, how does one find the proper words to sum up the experience? Damned if I know, and I’m a writer. But I’ll give it a shot.

I left the apartment at 7 a.m. Tuesday morning and decided to take mass transit in order to avoid traffic and the hassle of parking, based on my mom’s suggestion. This involved catching a bus in Vancouver and transferring to a light rail train at a transit center in Portland. It cost $5 and was worth every penny. I arrived at Powell’s Books about 8:15 and joined the throngs of excited fans lined up around the side of the building. There was a party-like vibe to this communal once-in-a-lifetime experience, but I wish Tara had been able to join me. I felt a little out of place showing up stag because nearly everybody in line was there with somebody else, a spouse or parent or friend, but I felt lucky enough just to have snagged one ticket, so I can’t really complain.

Powell’s opened their doors at 9:00, and it took another half hour to make it inside for the official registration. Once there we presented our tickets to a cashier, were issued wristbands and handed our signed copies of Bruce’s autobiography, then ushered to another line upstairs for more waiting. People were sharing their favorite Springsteen memories, talking about his music, etc. I learned that one person flew in from Australia for the chance to meet Bruce, and another had seen him in concert 60 times. There is no doubt these people were all hardcore fans, so in that sense I felt right at home. I killed a lot of that time reading from his book, which is quite entertaining and well-written (naturally).

Around 11:30 cheers went up from the crowd, and though we couldn’t see him from where we were waiting, we figured The Boss had made his grand entrance. The line started moving again, upstairs to the Red Room. Powell’s is cavernous; it takes up an entire city block and has nine color-coded rooms on three floors. I have long called it my favorite Portland hangout, and that is twice as true when The Boss happens to be there. The third floor was closed off to the general public and it took about half an hour for the line to wind around the shelves and through the aisles. Meanwhile, reporters from The Oregonian were taking photos and interviewing people, which only added to the surreality. When we got close we were liberated from our wristbands and our books were collected for safekeeping. Suddenly I was there, right behind the curtained-off area where Springsteen was meeting his fans. The woman in front of me looked like she was about to faint. “I see him through the curtain!” she squealed. Then she parted the curtain and surreptitiously took a photo, holding her phone up for all to see. “I got a picture of him hugging a stranger!” she declared excitedly. Which was kind of silly, because she was just a few seconds away from meeting him in person herself, but I appreciated the unbridled enthusiasm. We were all feeling it at that point.

A minute later I was led into the curtained area, and there he was, standing on a raised platform a mere ten feet away. Unbelievable. Bruce freakin’ Springsteen, The Boss himself, right there in person. He looked larger than life and completely ordinary at the same time, an everyman who just happens to be a world famous rock star adored by millions. There were three Powell’s employees taking photos, and they did a great job of keeping the line moving efficiently. I brought along my point and shoot camera – this was far too important an occasion to rely on my phone’s camera – and handed it to a staff member. The woman in front of me had an iPad and was having trouble figuring out how to make the camera work. I really hope she got it figured out (or not, because taking pics with an iPad is pretty lame).

“You’re up!” an employee said, and suddenly it was my turn to meet Bruce Springsteen. I stepped onto the stage and he turned to me with a friendly smile. This was the quintessential OH-SHIT-I-CAN’T-BELIEVE-THIS-IS-HAPPENING-TO-ME moment of my entire life. For a few brief seconds I had his complete and total attention. Trust me, that’s an awful lot of pressure! It felt like the whole world stopped spinning for those next ten seconds. I’d had a little speech rehearsed – I suspect most everybody who was there did, too – but there just wasn’t enough time. How can you convey to a man how much his music has shaped your life in a few brief words? How can you let him know that his lyrics inspired you to become a storyteller yourself? Bruce breathed life into a cast of characters whose tales have intrigued me since childhood. There’s Crazy Janey and her mission man; Rosalita, jumping a little higher; Gunner breathing deep, his ankles caked in mud. There’s Wendy and Mary and Spanish Johnny; Go-Cart Mozart and Wild Billy and Bad Scooter (searching for his groove) and dozens more, all whose stories are etched into my brain as if they are living, breathing people rather than names in songs. The answer is simple: you can’t. Not in ten seconds. So I gave him a warm handshake instead and told him it was a huge honor to meet him. He was equally gracious and said the same to me, and did not flinch when I put my arm around him for the photo. There wasn’t the slightest bit of pretension whatsoever. And just like that, it was over.

Afterwards, Tara asked me what he smelled like. I replied, “Like rock ‘n roll and liberalism and the working class.”

And now I can cross a very big item off my bucket list.

When Life Hands You Lemons, Upgrade!

A couple of weeks ago, my Fitbit Charge broke. Oddly enough, this was exactly one year to the day that I got it (easy to remember, as it was an anniversary gift from Tara). It still worked fine, but the band had torn away from the plastic housing, which had also cracked. Bummer, right? I was dismayed for maybe 60 seconds, but then I remembered that Fitbit had just come out with an updated version of my tracker, which was called – drumroll, please! (and kudos to the marketing geniuses who burned the midnight oil to come up with this one) – the Charge 2. I probably could have gotten by with a little creative use of duct tape, but what am I, a hillbilly? I saw this as an opportunity to upgrade and jumped on it.

Turns out to have been a great decision. I’m really loving the Charge 2. It’s got a bigger screen, a better (and brighter) OLED display, built-in 24/7 heart rate monitor, hourly reminders to get off your ass and walk, and will even give you a massage and cook you breakfast if you hit your step goal. What more could you ask for in a device? fitbit-charge2-3qtr-cardio-blue-1472474863-p7eo-full-width-inline

Once upon a time, I was a huge fan of Survivor. I watched probably the first 20 seasons of the show, but eventually lost interest and gave it up.

And then, a couple of months ago I got wind that the newest season would be an epic battle of sorts: Millennials vs. Gen X. I was intrigued, and set a series recording. Tara and I have caught the first two episodes so far, and I think it’s safe to say we are hooked.

I told her it feels both weird and natural to be watching Survivor again.

“Like slipping on an old pair of shoes?” she asked, and I thought that was the perfect analogy. It feels both comfortable and right.

I just hope Generation X kicks some ass!

In my last post I hinted at a meeting with my rock ‘n roll idol, Bruce Springsteen. ‘Tis true. Next Tuesday – in just four days! – I will have the opportunity to shake hands with a man I have admired my whole life. To say I’m excited is an understatement.

Here’s how it went down:

Two weeks ago, Powell’s Books announced that Bruce Springsteen would be coming to town October 4 to promote his new autobiography, Born to Run. A limited number of tickets would be made available to this special event, and we knew they’d sell out fast. Demand was so high that the system crashed the first day they went on sale, forcing Powell’s to find a new ticket vendor and try again two days later. I had logged into the site that morning and the moment 12:00 rolled around I immediately got through, but tickets had sold out within 30 seconds. Dejected, I called Tara to give her the news. While talking to her I was constantly refreshing my screen because the site said that even though all the tickets were gone, there was the possibility one might become available if a purchase didn’t go through. I figured I had nothing to lose, but didn’t really expect to get through again…until I actually did. Nine minutes later, on what must have been my 100th refresh, the “tickets available” screen popped up.

rs-227987-btr-700x1057“Holy shit!” I told Tara. Unfortunately there was only a single ticket left, but she gave me her blessing to snag it, knowing what a hardcore lifelong fan I am. So I did. And now, in a few days, I get to meet a man I have admired for three decades. One whose albums I have owned for 30 years and whose concerts I have attended, most recently six short months ago. It hardly feels real. Once I scored that ticket, I submitted a PTO request to take that day off, which my boss promptly approved. Thank god. I might have had to quit my job if he hadn’t signed off on that.

I got a confirmation email today with the details. Check-in starts at Powell’s Books on Tuesday morning at 9:00 a.m. There’s a list of rules a mile long – no backpacks, must present photo ID, etc. The one part that jumped out at me was,

You are allowed one posed photo with Bruce Springsteen. An employee of Powell’s will take the picture using your phone or camera.

Hell. Yes.

In four days, I get to meet Bruce freakin’ Springsteen. I can hardly wrap my brain around that.

It’s Ethan HAWKE, Not Ethan “Who?”

Earlier this week I was telling Deb at work that I’d read in a Vanity Fair article that Bruce Springsteen did not hire a ghostwriter to help pen his new autobiography; instead, every word is his own. I told her that I really respected celebrities who did this. Like Ethan Hawke, who actually wrote and published a couple of novels. I have no idea if they’re any good, but kudos to him for writing ’em.

“Ethan who?” she asked.

No. No, no, no, no, no!!

How can a person have no idea who Ethan Hawke is?! I wondered incredulously.

“How can you have no idea who Ethan Hawke is?!” I asked incredulously.

And then I remembered that Deb is a Millennial. Still, I pressed on, naming a few of the actor’s better-known films. “Reality Bites? Before Sunrise? Boyhood?”

She continued staring at me blankly. And then Kathleen, another coworker, happened by.

“Kathleen, you’re not going to believe this!” I said, unable to contain my shock and bewilderment. “Deb doesn’t know who Ethan Hawke is!”

“Ethan who?” Kathleen asked.

%$@#&. SMH. FML. And any other appropriate acronym I’ve left out.

I should have known better. Kathleen’s a Millennial, too.

What kind of world do we live in where people do not know who Ethan Hawke is?

[Please don’t respond with “a world where you’re old enough to be their dad” like my smart-aleck friend Monica did].

Dear Millennials: this is Ethan Hawke.
Dear Millennials: this is Ethan Hawke.

So the next day I brought in a DVD copy of “Reality Bites” and handed it to Deb. When she asked what it’s about I was tempted to reply, “It’s all just a random lottery of meaningless tragedy and a series of near escapes,” to paraphrase Troy Dyer (a/k/a Ethan Hawke), but of course she wouldn’t have gotten the reference so I told her instead to read the back of the DVD case.

I’m curious whether she’ll like it or not. I mean, “Reality Bites” is the quintessential Generation X movie. But it came out in 1994, so there’s a possibility she won’t get it. It’s all about disenfranchised youth and misplaced idealism and the grunge scene and AIDS. Hardly topical stuff these days. There was no Internet back then, and no emojis. Ben Stiller did have a car phone, but it was attached to a cord and the size of a small brick. Maybe the film doesn’t stand the test of time.

All I know is, it’s damn good, and was super influential in my life when I was 23. After all, it taught me the meaning of irony after Alanis Morissete failed. Convinced me to change my answering machine message to, “You’ve reached the winter of our discontent.” Showed me that Evian is “naive” spelled backwards. And even made Peter Frampton seem cool. That’s no small feat there.

If nothing else, Deb will at least know who Ethan Hawke is.

Oh, by the way: the reason I was discussing Bruce Springsteen’s autobiography? I am going to be receiving an autographed copy on October 4th. Handed to me by the author himself. The one. The only. The Boss. Dream come true? You bet your ass.

But that’s a story for another day.

I’m Dying to Be Left Alone. Literally.

I may have finally learned how to beat telemarketers at their own game. Just tell ’em you’re dead.

One day last week, I got a call from a Nigerian prince telling me I’d just won the lottery, and would I like to buy some Viagra with my earnings while switching cell phone carriers? Or something along those lines. We never got very deep into the conversation, because when he asked for Mark, I got all serious and said, “I’m sorry. He passed away recently.” The caller on the other end of the line mumbled his condolences and could not get off the phone quickly enough. It’s been a week since I faked my own death, and they have not called back since.

Hmm. Could death be the secret to a stress-free life? I’ve tried every trick in the book to get telemarketers to leave me alone. None of them has worked, with the exception of my untimely demise. Turns out that dying was the best thing to ever happen to me!rip

Now I’m trying to come up with other ways to take advantage of this apparently foolproof excuse. Forgot to pay the electric bill? Sorry, utility company. I died. Missed that dinner with my annoying friend who won’t stop going on about her poodle? Didn’t mean to stand you up. I was dead. Didn’t show up to work on Monday? Sorry, boss. R.I.P. Me.

Turns out you have far fewer commitments when you’re dead. I should have kicked the bucket years ago!

Speaking of work, my team had a very interesting IM conversation today.

Kimberly was talking about how excited she was over the upcoming Wonder Woman movie. I don’t know much about WW other than the fact that she flies an invisible airplane. This became the source of an afternoon-long debate, mostly between me and Deb.

“How does she know where the throttle is?” I wondered. “Or the brake? How can she tell how much gas she has left? Or her altitude? I don’t think an invisible plane is very safe.”

Deb said, “Now, does she become invisible when she is in the plane? Or do you see her just popping around in the sky?”

I replied that WW isn’t invisible, but the plane – and, oddly enough, everything else inside it – is. Which, once you start to think about it, is mind-blowing.

Image courtesy of
Image courtesy of

“Won’t people be able to kill her easily?” Deb asked.

“Well, the bullets would bounce off the exterior of the plane, invisible or not,” I explained. “Just because you can’t see it doesn’t mean it’s not there.”

From there, the conversation devolved further.

D: So the invisible plane is also bullet proof?
M: One bullet won’t take down a plane. It’ll just develop a hole…which you will never see. So if a bullet pierces the fuselage and gas starts leaking out…DO YOU SEE THE GAS?? No, right? Because it’s not like you see it when the plane is fully loaded.
D: What about window washing fluid? And brake fluid? And oil?
M: What if there is an in-flight beverage service???
D: Do you need a special license to pilot an invisible plane?
M: An invisible license!
K: [trying to steer the conversation elsewhere] You guys need some cats right now. [Links to hilarious cat slideshow. This one, actually.]
M: What if Wonder Woman brought a cat aboard her invisible plane? Would the cat be invisible?
D: I DON’T KNOW. This is really messing with me right now. What’s real. What’s not.
M: This is a blog post. Thank you for the inspiration, Kimberly!

Believe it or not, it was actually a very productive afternoon. Productive in that, we learned all kinds of interesting facts about Wonder Woman’s invisible airplane. Did you know that it’s actually an allegory? Per Wikipedia,

The invisible plane represented the “invisible” feminine compliance that allowed women of the Depression Era to enter and survive in the hostile male dominated work place with less resistance from that hostility. To demonstrate this, it was allegorized that the Invisible Plane would be undetected while moving quietly at super sonic speeds so that it would not be shot down by the guns of Man’s World. The idea was avoidance of conflict rather than meeting hostility head on.

All along, I thought it was just an invisible plane.

I certainly never imagined some deeper hidden metaphor action was happening behind the scenes. But I have an even bigger question: Wonder Woman flies, right?

…so why does she need an invisible plane…?

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.

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.


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.


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?

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.


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.

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.


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.”


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’.