Sunday, December 30, 2007

Puzzling



I've never really thought of myself as a puzzle person. But if other people are doing puzzles, I can get sucked in pretty easily, which is what happened when I went to the Sylvia Beach hotel with Carmen and Traci. So when Jess and I saw this puzzle in the gift shop at Crater Lake, we thought it would be fun to invite Carmen over and have a puzzle day, which is just what we did today.

There was guacamole and chips, tea and good conversation and catching up. Jess didn't like working upside down so I took the top spot and worked on the clouds. The two of them poured over colors but colors were useless to me in the cloud section. I became obsessed with memorizing shapes, which is my preferred puzzle methodology. Once I had an image of some distinctive feature, I could often be heard muttering "two bumps, two bumps, two bumps," or some other reminder chant. This always caused the others to make fun of me, but they couldn't argue with the effectiveness of my methods. This was definitely one of the most challenging puzzles I've encountered, with odd curves to the pieces and no clear lines. Often pieces would clearly fit together, but not hold together on their own until a third or fourth piece was found to hold them fast. When I solved one of these, I would declare, "Security! We have security!"

There were two edge pieces that we didn't find until late in the game. Whenever a piece proved particularly wily, Jess would exclaim, "I think there are pieces missing!" even though we'd just cracked open the sealed wrapper. Sensing an opportunity, I told her she had to give me a dollar for every time she said it. A quick and easy $20 for me if only she would pay up...

Sadly Carmen had to leave before we were quite finished. Jess and I spent another hour or so and it was a battle to the end, but oh so satisfying.

I could see myself becoming a puzzle person.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Let the Resolutions Begin!

I wanted to write more, so here we go. I've just signed on for this:

Join me (Cortney Erskine) & many others in this New Year’s Invitation on behalf of Studio PA-CO!

~ 365 Degrees ~

Make one piece of art EVERYDAY starting January 1st, 2008 thru 12/31/08. Whatever medium you desire.

We will meet to discuss experiences and share monthly at Studio PA-CO every Last Thursday of the month at 6 PM.

Come January ‘09 a group show is planned & potential publishing of artists work by Alberta Street Small Press.

Everyday. Overwhelming, but I think I can do it. What have you committed to in 2008?

Holidaze Pt 1 - Christmas Eve

Well I made it through my first mom-less holiday season more or less intact. Some extra moodiness for sure, but all in all it went much better than I would've thought. I think it was helped by the fact that I've long been over the hype that is Christmas and have been striving for low-key traditions for years.

I spent the days enjoying the family I have left, which is considerable, and enjoying quiet (blessedly quiet) times with Jess.

Christmas eve we went to my dad's annual dinner, which includes fifty or so of our closest family, friends and probably a few folks who heard there was a good meal to be had and showed up. There's always a core group that I knew and recognize and then a much larger percentage of folks that I only see once a year and wouldn't recognize on the street if I saw them again. My strategy is to hug everyone who hugs me and it seems to work out well. I warned Jess not to expect introductions.

Jess came down with a cold that included a four day sinus headache so she was even less prepared than usual to deal with the madness that is large numbers of my family combined in a small space, but she was a trooper. Walking into the house was like walking into a wall of sound, such as you might find in a football stadium. No one's ever heard of an inside voice and the volume just escalates as people try to out shout each other to be heard. The children are quiet by comparison, though most of them are relegated to the basement game room. Even I was overwhelmed, and I grew up with it.

Jess forgot her lactose pills (there's no hope of avoiding dairy and we gave up trying until '08) so she ran back home to get them. Meanwhile, I found happiness in a bowl of sausage dip. Living with a vegetarian has definitely given me a greater appreciate of well prepared meat, since I rarely bother to cook it at home. I barely managed to tear myself away from the dip, but I didn't want to fill up completely before dinner.

When the time came to eat, we managed to squeeze everyone into the main room for prayer. I always marvel that we all fit, it reminds me of the time I saw a six foot tall Yoga master squeeze himself into a three foot square box on That's Incredible.

Then my dad's wife announced the rules for the food line; people 40 and over first, followed by people with children under the age of 10.

What? I felt betrayed. I was suddenly glad for all that dip I'd eaten. I couldn't bare to stand around and watch the line crawl by, so Jess I retired to the quietest room, one just off the kitchen while we waited for people to get through. We ended up at the back of the line, something that's never happened to me at a family gathering.

You know those people who wait for someone else to go first in line, or cut the first piece of dessert? I'm not that person. In fact, I feel it's my sworn duty to help those people by being the first in line so they can feel free and unencumbered about getting their food.

The line at least moved quickly, but as we got into the kitchen and started to see the food choices awaiting us, it became clear that Jess's options weren't just limited, they were non-existent. Every vegetable dish was filled with meat--hamhocks flavoring the greens, bacon floating in the cabbage. There wasn't even any mac and cheese in sight. There was potato salad but Jess hates potato salad as much as mom did.

Luckily she's learned never to go to my dad's house hungry. She'd eaten some not long before we left so she wasn't starving. As they saw her approaching the table, the servers realized the situation and Faye took control. "Hang on a few minutes, Jess I'm going to make you something." She wouldn't hear any protesting from Jess, who looked to me for help. I just shrugged. "They have to feed people, it's what they do," I said. In due course, Faye brought over some Uncle Ben's wild rice with vegetables.

We sat in our 'quiet' room with some cousins, visiting, eating and eventually sampling desserts, before making a fairly early exit. I heard the final count was sixty-six people.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Vacation

It was in this super-dork configuration of gear that I headed out into the muck for what I didn't know then would be five hours of running around. First stop Kinkos, where of course they screwed up my order. Just like old times. Once they got it right, I said I'd go next door and come back in ten minutes to pick it up. And of course it wasn't ready when I came back. You really do have to stand there and watch to get anything done. I didn't get mad, because I remember how it is to work there and I'm just glad to have escaped.

I killed the (apparently useless) waiting time at the Mountain Shop next door, looking at snowboarding jackets. I've been making noise about going snowboarding again, despite dubious results the previous two times. I know if I could go more than once a year, I could greatly improve my learning curve.

From there it was downtown to the central library to pick up Blue Screen by Robert Parker, so I could return the copy I bought at Powells. I It was supposed to be a gift for Traci but of course she's read every Parker novel that's been out more than five minutes. Not sure how she managed that in the middle of her first term of law school but I gave up and just got her a gift card because I don't care what Liz Pulliam Weston says. I'm certainly not anti-present, but I never look a gift card in the mouth and neither does Traci. Anything that equates to her spending someone else's money is fine with her. And she proceeded to find a stack of books I never would've thought to get her so all's well that ends well.

So I read the latest novel, Now and Then, picked up Blue Screen at the library and then returned both to the store today. Powells was a MADHOUSE, which wasn't really a surprise. There was literally a guy who's only job was to stand at the end of the line holding a sign that said, "End of the fastest line in town." And I have to admit, I waited less then five minutes to get to the counter, even through the line was just shy of bursting out of the Orange room entirely.

On my way to Powells, I suddenly remembered that I was back in Cacao territory and almost did a little dance of joy on my bike. So after Powells, I headed right over and indulged in a 4 oz cinnamon drinking chocolate, an earl grey truffle and a couple of salted caramels. That place will ruin you for other chocolate. Since I discovered the truffles, my average spend there has gone from $5 to $10 dollars. It's really good I don't live close to it, but it's really bad that I seem to be down there a lot lately. Even bad weather isn't keeping me away.

Next stop was Trader Joes for some frozen mangoes. I'm newly addicted to mango smoothies in the morning. A nice change from strawberry and blueberry. And finally, back over the bridge towards home. My last planned stop was New Seasons but at the last minute I turned up Mississippi to hit up Grand Central Bakery on Fremont. I've been craving some potato bread from that shop for a while and since I was planning to make soup for dinner, it seemed a good reward for going up the big hill. The problem with that Mississippi hill is that it doesn't seem so bad, but then just when you think it's over, it goes on for another two blocks and gets steeper. The thought literally went like this: Hey, that wasn't so ba--holy crap this is steep!

But I made it and rewarded myself with potato bread, and continued on to the madhouse that was New Seasons. I didn't care though because the first thing I saw when I walked in the door was this: An olive oil smorgasborg. I used extreme self control and limited myself to seven or eight samples, including the $30 bottle from Australia. Tasty, but way out of my budget. I did however, fall prey to the grapefruit sample lady. She was giving out the fresh squeezed juice and I can honestly say, I've never tasted anything grapefruit-related that was so naturally sweet. I bought two to put through the inherited juicer lounging in the garage.

Riding home from the store, the sky was amazing...inky black, and foreboding in one direction and clear and moonlit in the other. I was very glad I'd taken to the streets under my own power for the day so I could enjoy it.





The evening was spent making a rutabaga and leek chowder that was a smashing success. This was my first year experiencing the rutabaga and I've been quite pleased. The soup was easy to make, took under an hour, was creamy, yet dairy-free, with a good flavor and was quite filling to boot. I'll post the recipe if requested.

We're between Dexter DVDs from Netflix right now, so we finished up with some Playstation snowboarding. I really need to practice my tricks, Jess stomped all over me in freestyle.

I think I'm finally getting into this vacation thing.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Dedication

My mom created and ran the library at Self Enhancement Inc for nine years, and passed her love of reading on to countless kids in the process.

This coming Monday, December 17th, The SEI library will be formally dedicated, the Genia Adair Memorial Library. It just seems right that someone who loved reading so much, and shared that with so many others should have a great tribute like this.

The ceremony is open to the community and will be held in the gymnasium of the SEI building and will include remarks from CEO Tony Hopson, SEI students and others.

Monday Dec 17th
5:00--5:30pm
3920 North Kerby Ave



It's a bit fuzzy due to having to convert the format, but she's reading The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman. While hiking. Cuz that's just how she rolled.

Two funny videos

Because I can never get too many good laughs this year. Shamelessly stolen from Kelli because she stole it from someone else so it wasn't hers anyway:



Please don't play this for my cat, she might get ideas. Thanks to the deeply disturbed cyclists of the Ironclad cycling team.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

4.0

Just took my last final. As of 11:12pm I can now resume attending normal life. That means I might actually post some stuff. Soon.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Whipped

It's been a good day so far. We pondered getting up and doing the weekly Sorella team ride this morning, but Jess only has one day off this weekend and I have just been tired. Instead we slept in and barely hauled ourselves out of bed around 10am. After smoothies and scrambled eggs, we decided we'd better get outside after all. Today was bright and sunny with temps in the low 40's. Not exactly warm, but for December, it's pretty darn good and days like this don't come around very much.

Jess pumped up the tires on the roadies and then came the agonizing about what to wear. I went with wool socks, shoe covers, shorts, tights, arm warmers, long sleeve jersey, wind vest and wind-proof shell, topped up with my Smartwool beanie. My smart wool gloves with mountain bike gloves over them have been working better than I ever expected. I knew I'd probably be a little cold, but bulky gloves and road bikes don't go very well together.

Jess's Sugoi hooded jersey was in the wash, so I loaned her my short sleeve wool jersey and she put tank top base layer, long sleeve shirt and wind vest, along with shorts and full length leg warmers. It was a full hour between having the idea and getting out the door, but we finally hit the road shortly before 1:00.

It was chilly, but the sun helped and I was pretty happy with my clothing choices. My hands were cold immediately, but a few windmills with my arms at stop lights and they revived. Jess was not so fortunate. I swear all the blood in her body just stops at her shoulders and thighs. I'm not against keeping the core warm, but share the love for crying out loud. Growing up in Wisconsin, I'm still not sure how she survived to adulthood.

We headed south from our house, down Interstate to the Esplanade and then east on Hawthorne to Harrison and up to Mt Tabor. Jess wanted to snack after we climbed Mt Tabor, but I suggested doing it before so we wouldn't climb and get all sweaty, and then stand around in the shade just before making a frigid decent. My plan sort of worked, but we weren't counting on the steady headwinds from the north. We were assaulted pretty much constantly and the whole second half of the ride we were pretty much frozen.

We came down Mt Tabor and headed north and through the golf course with a stop at one of our favorite little shops just off Sandy. We stayed there long enough to partially thaw out but the rest of the trip was pretty chilly for both of us.

Still, I was really glad to get out for a long ride, something I haven't done since the end of September. I was in serious danger of spending the entire day in a somewhat zombified state. The ride woke me up and got my blood moving, although now I'm really tired and sore. Out of shape much?

As soon as we got home, we peeled off our layers with frozen fingers. I headed straight for the shower, but Jess had to thaw her hands and feet some before subjecting them to hot water.

Shortly, we're headed out to a party at my long lost cousin's house. It will be good to see some family all together. I suspect it will be loud.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Cyclocross madness


Created with Admarket's flickrSLiDR.

The last cyclocross race of the season was out at PIR the first weekend of December. That's about a 10 minute bike ride from our house so we ventured out into the muck to watch the insanity. The rain was epic, and the temperature was in the 30's and yet we saw guys in the elite men's race wearing what I would consider summer race-wear; shorts, short sleeve jersey, short fingered gloves, or in some cases no gloves at all. There we were bundled in many layers and waterproof shells and I just could not fathom how they did it. My capacity for suffering will never be that high. But it's sure fun to watch them slide around.

We mostly watched on a muddy hill that most riders started out riding up but as the laps went on you could see how much more effort it took and more of them got off and ran. There were also more wipe outs.

We didn't even last the whole hour to see the end of the men's race. We got too cold and baring our hands to unlock our bikes was the final straw. It was then that I discovered that they way to get Jess to ride faster is to freeze her. In an effort to get feeling back to her extremeties, she left me in the dust getting out of there. We stopped at Fred Meyer on the way home and I locked her bike up for her so she could go straight inside and warm up. All part of the service.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Back to Church

I started my own church. I'm not particularly religious, but a few years ago, when my mom was bugging me about going to church with her, I decided I'd just start my own Sunday tradition. Also, I'd just been dumped and I needed something more productive to do than sit around at home alone feeling sorry for myself.

Thus, the Church of Waffles was born. Most of my friends are of similar secular bent as myself, but as it turns out, we could all get behind (or outside of) a good waffle.

At the time, I was living with my old roommate Carrie, in a big house with a wood stove. Saturdays I would clean and Sunday mornings I would get up early, start a big fire in the wood stove and start cooking. In addition to waffles, I would usually make veggie and regular sausage or bacon, and some kind of egg dish. I finally learned to make and grew to love frittatas but sometimes I'd do a big scramble or once, an omelet bar. I'm really good at omelets. Juice, coffee and tea would round out the menu.

I did this, just about every Sunday, from December 2005 to March 2006. The last one I pulled out all the stops and asked Stephanie to come and play, which she did. It was fabulous.

Most weeks, I provided all the food and didn't ask for contributions. Sometimes I'd have people bring fruit or juice. People often brought things without my asking but always there was a good feast and anywhere from 6-20 of my friends to enjoy it with. In January I met and started dating Jess, and C.O.W. became a great way for her to meet my friends.

In this way a lot of my friends got to meet and connect with each other which was really cool. And when mom got sick, it was a lot of the people I'd fed all winter who stepped up to the plate to make our lives easier in whatever ways they could, which was a lot.

Today was the revival of C.O.W. It was our first one since moving into our new house. There was still a fire, though I flipped a switch to light it instead of chopping wood (which, with the weather the way it has been, was quite a relief!). It's been raining--no, pouring--all day and we weren't sure if folks would actually leave their houses to come see us...but ten people showed up which turned out to be the perfect number. It was great to see some people I've lost touch with during my year of hell, and just hang out laughing and talking about stupid names for towns--like the one in Indiana called Gnaw Bone--but pronounced gah-naw-bunny. It makes a great interjection in the middle of a conversation. Try it.

Several friends ran into my Dad this week and excitedly asked "Are you coming to brunch?" Which could have been akward since I hadn't exactly extended an invitation--not because I didn't want him there, but mainly I didn't invite any family members who I know are usually in traditional churches between ten and noon on Sundays.

To the suggestion that perhaps the name of our shindig could be considered sacrilegious, Danette replied, "No, it's SACRILICIOUS!"

I think I'll use that on next month's invitation.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Can't we all just get home alive?


Created with Admarket's flickrSLiDR.

November called and got it's weather back and today was a truly miserable, never-ending downpour kind of day and I really didn't want to go out in it.

But I did, because the We Are All Traffic press conference was held at 12:30 down at City Hall. I went because I'm concerned about the fact that several cyclists have been hurt or killed in the last few weeks and the police continue to bend over backwards to excuse drivers who are clearly at fault. I went because my girlfriend rode out in this crappy weather to work this morning, as she does three out of four mornings a week these days and I want her to come home safe each night. (Two close calls today for her, one in each direction). I went because we ride by Brett's ghost bike all the time.

As I pulled up to Interstate, a MAX train was waiting with open doors so I hopped aboard. Yay multimodalism. I checked out Brett's memorial as we went down the hill.

I got off downtown and even on two wheels, getting through traffic was tough. The buses are going up third street now while construction continues on the new MAX line. Twice I gave up and walked up the sidewalk just to keep moving. As I got back to a rideable street, I noticed an SUV at the light with her right turn signal on. How ironic would it be to get right hooked on the way to the traffic rally? I didn't feel like being a martyr today. I waved at the driver till I got her attention and signaled my intention to go straight. Disaster averted.

The crowd was pretty good for a Friday in the middle of the day. Most of the cycling heavy hitters were in attendance. Several speakers got up and gave some really nice talks, focused on trying to heal the bikes vs cars divide that the media insists on playing up relentlessly for the sake or ratings.

Personally, I would like to get back to enjoying my commutes instead of feeling like I'm venturing into a war zone each day.

Here's a snippet from Joe's (AKA Metal Cowboy) talk about R.E.S.P.E.C.T. We could all use a little more of it.

Beach Day

Beach day is an idea that I came up with originally when some friends and I had scheduled a trip but one by one we all backed out becuase we were broke. But, since we'd already planned to spend the weekend together, I suggested we dedicate at least one day to pretending we were at the beach. I hosted, everyone brought food and Tessa even brought her "Endless Beach" DVD which as you might suspect, just plays scenes of ocean waves continually, like a never ending visual Enya. It was perfect.

Jess and I spend a lot of time at home, but not enough time really enjoying home, so we decided to do a beach day for two. Unplugged, offline and no work allowed.

The weather was freakishly cooperative, serving up our first official storm of the Fall/Winter with rain and wind gusts up to 50mph. After the last week or more of gorgeous mild sunny Fall days, it was quite a shock to the system--but a perfect day to stay in, put on your most comfortable jammies and watch movies by the fake fire, which is just what we did. The Minestra Root Vegetable soup we made on Saturday was a perfect compliment to the weather. We watched leaves blow down our street and saw a huge branch that had broken off and fallen into the driveway across the street but were fortunate not to lose power at any time during the day.

Jess has her own Netflix account now, so we had plenty of movies to choose from. We started with Hell On Wheels, a documentary about the Tour de France which follows the German Telekom (now T-Mobile) team in the 2004 race. We followed that up with lunch and a few Tony Hawk battles and then watched Superman Returns. The opening credits rolled and some expository text came rolling up about Krypton, the journey to earth etc etc. I said, "You probably know all this stuff already," and started to fast forward.

"No, I don't, what's the story?"

"What!? You've never seen Superman?" I knew that she was tragically sheltered from pop culture in her youth, but come on, it's Superman! Truth, justice, the American way! Well there was no help for it. But I'll have to rectify this gaping hole in her super hero education before winter is over.

The entire day was lazy, warm (did I mention the fake fire) and thoroughly enjoyable. We've decided to do it once a month.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Portland

Here's another quintessential Portland scene. I'm at the Alberta St Teahouse and the guy next to me is sitting cross legged in a comfortable chair. Next to his chair is the box for the brand new black Macbook he's busy configuring, a Vaude pannier for his bike, a rain jacket and his bike helmet.

While he waited for the new settings to be downloaded, he read a book. Now he's downloading Firefox and looking at the website for The Farm Cafe, a restaurant which gets all it's ingredients from local farmers and probably gives out spoons and forks made from corn if you order to-go. Now his Firefox is all loaded and he's checking his Gmail.

Let's sum up:
  • Bike
  • raingear
  • laptop
  • open source browser
  • tea
  • organically and locally minded.
I love this town.

Therapy

I walked out of my therapy session this morning. As I came down the stairs there was a Fedex guy staring intently at the office directory. He looked up at me and I expected him to say, "Do you know where ____'s office is?" but instead he said, "You look just like your mom."

SUCKER PUNCH!

Can I go in and ask for another hour? Probably not. I smiled and said, "How do you know my mom?" Stupid. Slow thinking. The correct question would have been "How did you know my mom?" because I couldn't tell if he actually knew that she died, especially with that big smile on his face. (Aside-as politically correct as it may be, I consciously avoid using terms like 'passed away.' in reference to my mom. She certainly didn't do anything remotely passive in regards to her dying, unless you count the ever present denial...). Turned out he knew her from Jefferson, from around, from one of her ex boyfriends.

"Do you work here?"

No, I'm in therapy because my mom's dead.

"No, I just had an appointment."

I could've dropped the bomb, but I wasn't up to it and why ruin his day? More importantly, why ruin the $65 dollars I just spent trying to stay sane? I wished him a good day and took my girlfriend's car to the carwash.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Weekend Update

It turns out that predictions of outings on Sunday were greatly exaggerated. We slept late of course, but more than that, I had a pretty sad day and didn't really feel like dealing with people so I just kept cutting out one plan after another (Cross racing, handmade bike show, skating) until all that was left was shopping for bookshelves, which really couldn't be put off since Jess wouldn't have time to do it during the week. But at least it required a minimum of human contact.

We wanted a tall shelf for the guest room and also a shorter one to go under the kitchen counter in the dining room so our dining room table could perhaps remain cleared for actual meals. It starts with just our computers, but then mail and newspapers start piling up, and then textbooks and pretty soon it looks like a war zone.

We started at the Natural Wood Furniture store, where I bought my bookshelf, which I've had for about 15 years. I finally got around to staining it when we moved into this house last December. We picked out a seven foot high shelf to start and we'll fill that up and then see where we're at. Of course getting a nice real wood shelf meant going cheap on the little shelf and unfortunately that meant a trip to Ikea. On a Sunday.

The last time I was near the Ikea blight was on a pedal potluck picnic ride late in the summer. Getting there by car is a bit more challenging. Sure, the sign is easy to see (and thanks for ruining the view of Mt Hood from the airport by the way), but getting there is another matter. Without the written directions from Google maps I shudder to think how much pointless wandering we would have done.

I was disturbed to see how quickly a full-on strip mall is going up out there with all the usual suspects--Starbucks, Panda Express, Famous Footwear etc. It's like Vancouver escaped across the river and set up on our side.

Once we got inside the store, we stayed focused on the mission so as to spend as little time there as possible. Making my way through the sections, I had a good idea of how rats in a maze must feel. We finally found our item, but then it was another ten minutes of wandering to reach the warehouse. The signs shouldn't say 'Exit,' they should say 'Escape' with a little icon of broken shackles.

The high point of the trip was running into a couple of friends of mine, a lesbian couple I would've bet you $100 I'd never see in a place like Ikea. We commiserated on the horror of selling our souls for cheap furniture and went on our way.

I spent the rest of the evening doing homework, getting my old Powerbook laptop ready to sell (it's up on Craigslist if you know anyone who's interested) and straightening up in preparation for Beach Day. Jess put our new shelf together and Willow wasted no time in testing it out.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Haiku Hotties

It's so incredibly 'Portland' that the first Livewire show to sell out is the special two hour Wordstock show. I heard one woman say that tickets were being hotly bid for on craiglist and went up to $60 (tickets are normally $12). We love us some books here.

Everyone was all agog about Harry Shearer being on the show. Apparently he's done a few voices on the Simpsons and I assume he's written a book or two. For once, I had no intention of going to Livewire--even the book episode, which probably has mom shifting around in her urn...but it was song writer night for VfSD and I knew it was going to be good. But then, Steph called yesterday and said that Livewire had agreed to plug the last weekend of concerts in exchange for them providing Haiku Hotties for the show.

I'm sure you're wondering, "what is a haiku hottie?" Well, I'll tell ya. It's volunteers who need publicity of some sort and to get it, we wear itchy feather boas and walk around for an hour or so with one of those cigarette girl boxes around our necks, handing out programs and haiku cards. The audience submits their haikus and if their poem is picked to read on the air then they get a gift certificate to Powell's books. I expect the competition was pretty fierce on this particular night.

We took a few hundred postcards and stuffed them into the programs. Once the show started, we collected the last of the finished haikus and then we bugged out and headed over to the Mission for the rest of the concert. Sadly, we missed Linda Hornbuckle's performance, which was a total bummer. I heard she sang Amazing Grace, which I'm sure would've given me goose bumps. But we all make sacrifices for the cause. And the rest of the show was really good and it was great to hear some new artists. Jess has been saying for a while that we need to get out and see new people (i.e. not Steph, Lara or McKinley). Of the folks who were new to me, I really enjoyed Jacob Van Auken.

We lasted almost all the way through the night, but had to leave just as Little Sue was going on, as I was fading fast and getting really hungry.

Tomorrow, a little sleeping in, cyclocross (watching), book shelf shopping, homework and skating. Not necessarily in that order.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Close Call

Jess is embarking on a detox diet (no wheat, dairy, sugar) to try to deal with some gastric issues and, as any good girlfriend would, I have agreed to support her by eating everything in the house that is now off limits. It's a tough job choking down the rest of the pumpkin cookies, chocolate pudding and various cheese products, but I try to shoulder the burden gracefully.

Last night we went to New Seasons and I decided to get some granola to go with the massive container of yogurt now sitting in our fridge. They have lots of different granola varieties so I decided to test taste before buying. The first one I tried was called Rainforest Granola. I carefully scooped out one small piece and dropped it in my hand.

I popped it in my mouth and the flavor was good, nutty but sweet. As I was swallowing, I happened to look a bit closer at the container label and see these words:

CONTAINS CASHEWS & BRAZIL NUTS

Crap. Having enjoyed a variety of nuts throughout my life I was surprised to learn last winter--in the middle of a cross country ski trip--that I am violently allergic to brazil nuts. We're talking hives, itching, throat-closing allergic.

OK, I thought, it was just one piece. How bad could it be? I had barely finished this thought when I felt a peculiar tickling in my throat. Less than a minute had passed! I couldn't believe it. I called over to Jess, who was busy getting beans further down the aisle. "Honey, don't ever buy me Rainforest Granola."

"Why?"

I told her about the nuts and what was happening. It was mild but totally discernible and already it felt kind of hard to swallow. I waited a few more minutes and when it seemed to be progressing, I went over to the pharmacy. I explained what had happened and they were only too happy to break open a bottle of Benadryl and give me one. It took a while to take effect, which was probably good since we had to ride our bikes home with our groceries. When the sleepies hit, they hit hard, but I took a power nap and rallied so we could go to the Voices For Silent Disasters performance.

And the moral of the story is, read the label kids! And always carry drugs.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

The Visit



Jess's dad came to visit in October for four days. The whole thing went pretty well, despite the fact that I had a huge project due for school. I stayed up all night Friday working on it and after sleeping in a little on Saturday, still managed to be social for most of the day.

We took Chuck around to a bunch of our favorite eats, like the Blue Moose, Little Red Bike Cafe, Flavour Spot and Thai Noon. He managed to only publicly embarrass us one time. Sunday we went out to Rainier, OR to watch cyclocross racing.

Monday was a gorgeous sunny Fall day and we headed over to Portland Meadows for a couple of hours to watch the racing. I'm in a horse phase right now and I hadn't been over there for few years. Yeah, it's a small time track full of nags as far as the big time racing venues are concerned, but the horses are still real pretty and it's exciting to watch and hear them come thundering down the home stretch.

On his last night, my dad joined us for dinner and we finally answered the burning question of which dad talks more. Mine won by a landslide. :) Fortunately, they both tend to say interesting things, and it relieves us from playing hostesses over dinner.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Ride for a Fallen Comrade


Image from Jonathan Maus

Having no obligations today other than taking Chuck to the airport this morning, I came home and indulged in taped episodes of Heroes and Battlestar Galactica. By the time I was done with that, I was well on my way to wasting what could be the last sunny day until May.

That combined with the news of yet another cyclist getting picked off by a right hook from a truck yesterday spurred me into action. I threw on my team kit, pumped up the roadie tires and headed out on a one woman memorial ride. I went where I always go when I need to pedal out some pain--Rocky Butte. It doesn't take much hill to leave me panting and Rocky Butte always does the trick.

On the way I thought about the latest crash victim, Brett Jarolimek. He worked at the Bike Gallery and was well known in the racing community and the bike comunity at large. He competed in the cross race we went to watch on Sunday. I didn't know him and never met him but I'm all too aware whenever I throw a leg over my saddle, I could very well be him. I ride down Interstate all the time. I know how crappily the lights are timed and how narrow the bike lane gets just when your speed going down the hill is the greatest. I have felt the WHOOSH of semis passing me less than two feet away and you can bet I am watching to see if they need to turn. I do not want my memorial to be some ghost bike on a corner.

Still, there's only so much you can do and then you have to let go and live life. Which is the point of going on a ride. I attacked the Rocky Butte climb harder than I ever have, not fading after the tunnel like I usually do. I just kept pushing and pushing all the way to the top. I felt my lungs, bursting, legs burning, heart pounding between my ears and was grateful to be alive and healthy and pedaling. I sent some thoughts out to Brett and all the people mourning him right now.

I started out with a notion to time-trial the whole ride, but I had to stop at the top and take in the views of Mt Hood & Mt Saint Helens, cause working so hard and not enjoying the view seemed so pointless. Then I took my sweet reward, braking only a little on the backside and hitting 41.5 mph on the way down. I didn't get any bugs in my teeth, but it wasn't because I wasn't smiling...

The rest of the ride, I spun at a comfortable pace and kept an eagle eye out to make sure I made it home safe, taking the lane at most of the lights to avoid the suicide slot.

My friend Greg wrote a heartfelt guest post on BikePortland today urging people to turn sadness into action. Inspired by that message, I went to tonight's town hall meeting on the Safe and Sound Streets proposal that could actually put some money into making our streets safer for all road users. I'm glad I live in a place where our city leaders are willing to ask hard questions and tackle overwhelming issues like the 422 million dollars in deferred maintenance liability that has built up over the years. $72 per year in energy fees and gas taxes seems like a bargain for better signal timing, more sidewalks and hundreds of new miles in bike Blvds. Especially if it'll keep more of us on the road and out of the cemetery.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Crunch

My slacking off last week came back to haunt me this week, as I had my first big project due for a class which coincided with Jess's dad coming into town. I stayed up till 5:30am Saturday morning finishing most of the work, slept till 10:00 or so and then we went over to the Red Bike for breakfast. It was hopping as usual and we saw our fellow bike dorks Deanne and Jonathan.

The plan was to drop me off at home to finish my paper while Jess and Chuck went to Powells. They got distracted talking about home projects and before I knew it they had a bunch of tools and the step stool out and were tackling the upstairs office door. Our house is fairly new and the settling of the first few years has tilted things enough that two of our doors won't close. Chuck, being ah, frugally minded, took a look and figure sanding down the top of the doors would be the cheapest, easiest way to fix them.

I finished my paper to the sounds of electric sanding, vacuuming and occasional swearing, but we both got the job done eventually.

I rewarded myself with an episode of season 2 Battlestar Galactica and later we went out to a Livewire show, which is a whole post in itself.

I made it through the day pretty well considering I'd only had 3 hours of sleep, but I was glad to hit the sheets finally. Sadly, my rest was short lived. I woke up three hours later with a phlegm attack and spent 30 minutes coughing and hacking. I couldn't even retreat to the guest room, since it was occupied--and besides, laying down seemed to make it worse. Instead I spent some time online researching the possible causes of my trouble. I figured it could be either dairy, gastric problems, which I have a history of, or the lingering of the cold I had three weeks ago. Either way, I was pretty pissed off about not being able to sleep. After an hour online, I successfully went back to bed for a few hours.

Today we grabbed waffle goodness at Flavour Spot and headed out to Rainier, OR for the third in the Cross Crusade Cyclocross series. We wanted to Chuck to have a quintessential Portland experience. Lots of Sorella's were out representing and I think we got 3 of the top 5 spots in the Master women 35-44. Colleen keeps saying she's 'retired' but she keeps winning the races. I hope I can ride that fast when I 'retire.'

We also got to see our buddy Rebecca, whom we met doing the Idaho ride this past Labor Day weekend (which I will one day finish writing about--really). She's doing her best to lure me out to race (as are many of my team mates) and she reeled in the line a little by suggesting I take her new ultra-light cross bike for a spin around the parking lot. It was light alright, and cornered like a dream and I almost endo'd when I forgot the brakes were disc and they worked *really* well. There were no barriers on today's course which makes the whole thing look more enticing--but I could still see the pain on those uphills. I'll probably end up trying it at some point. Maybe next year...

Here's a few shots we snapped of the action:


Created with Admarket's flickrSLiDR.

Soon after we left the race, Jess saved us all from untimely death with a masterful piece of defensive driving. Some idiot that didn't know how to merge was coming onto the highway and would've totally broadsided us had she not gunned it and laid on her horn. With a car directly to the left of us, she had nowhere else to go. The other driver finally got a clue and we watched as he slammed on the brakes and his car swerved 90 degrees in both directions and nearly hit both retaining walls, while we cruised away unscathed. We all waited for the bad sound we knew was coming, but miraculously, they got straightened out and kept going. Hopefully the near death experience means they'll watch where they're going next time. The odd thing was I looked up in time from my crocheting to see the whole thing, but my heart rate never even went up, even after the fact. Neither did Jess's obviously, cause she reacted and got us clear and never broke a sweat. And people think bike commuting is dangerous...

The evening has been spent in various forms of industry--more door fixing for Jess and Chuck and cookie and cake baking for me. Cory is coming over to pick up his post hole digger and wheel barrow that we borrowed for fence building so it seems a good opportunity to thank him again with some baked goods--all of which I have thoroughly checked for poisons by sampling them myself. It's a tough job, but someone's gotta do it.

Friday, October 19, 2007

A Good Day

It's been a little bleak around here for the last few weeks so I'm going to make a conscious attempt to brighten up the place. Today was a pretty good day so I'll start there.

So I have this car. I'm not really crazy about cars (no really, this is going somewhere good, just stay with me), but they have their place and can be useful at times. But I haven't owned a car since the 90's.  The early 90's.  For several years I didn't even have a license.  So now I have a license and a car, and insurance.  I'm ambivalent-to-resigned about all of these things.  We won't even get into the ramifications of how I got the car because I'm trying to be upbeat.

So anyway, now I have this car, and while it makes it easier to do things like run off to Benihana when I'm craving ginger salad dressing, for the most part, the car sits in front of the house and begs me to drive it.

Hey, did you hear all that rain coming down last night? There's supposed to be a storm today.  You should drive me.  You'll stay nice and warm and dry and we can stop at Flavour Spot on the way to school!

Looks like you're hauling a lot of stuff today.  You know I could keep that in my trunk so you don't have to get a locker on campus.

Hey, wasn't there something you wanted to go to after school? Man, you're going to be so tired (and wet) by the time you do all that riding!

And so on.  People have been telling me for years what a 'hard core' biker I am, sometimes with awe and envy in their voices.  What I couldn't seem to make people understand was that I didn't have a car.  If I wanted to get somewhere, I had to get there on my own power, unless I wanted to take the bus or ask someone for a ride.  I really felt I was getting more credit than I deserved.  

There was indeed a storm forecast this morning.  I woke up shortly before 5am and heard some epic rain pounding down on the roof.  When Jess's alarm went off, I said, "Honey, I think you should stay home from work and help me build the ark," that's how bad the rain sounded.  I went around in my head for at least an hour arguing with myself about whether to drive or bike.  Winds were predicted to gust up to 40mph.  Anyone but a hardcore biker would've totally given me a pass to take the car.   

But that little event I wanted to go to after school? The Lloyd TMA (Transportation Management Association) Bike Bash.  Hard as I tried, I couldn't really make the logic of "I had to drive so I could go to the Bike Bash party" work out in my head.  So I rode.  I took both panniers because I told Jess I'd pick up her books on hold at the library.  I also took just about every piece of bad weather gear I owned, including the ski goggles.  If I was going to get caught in some kind of epic downpour, then I was going to be ready.

The thing I've learned over the years, the thing non-bikers and sometime bikers don't get that makes them look at hardcore bikers with awe--is that it's rarely as bad as you think it's going to be.  Even when it looks really bad.  I can probably count on one hand the times I've really gotten caught in a vicious mess in almost 10 years of bike commuting.  I recently read on Kent's blog that there's no bad weather only bad gear and all my gear is pretty darn good. 

And the day turned out to have a lot more bark than bite.  I went out loaded for bear and found deer instead.  Sure there was some wind and a few sprinkles, but mostly it was dry and freakishly warm.  In fact, my biggest regret turned out to be wearing too much and not having a lighter layer to change into.

When I got back to Cascade Campus after class I picked up the library books (note to self--ask about the number and weight of books before agreeing to pick up!).  I left everything in my school locker except my laptop which I took in my backpack.

The Bike Bash is a now annual event that Lloyd TMA puts on to celebrate their biking accomplishments.  They work hard getting companies to encourage employees to bike to work and participate in the BTA's Bike Commute Challenge in September.  I don't work in the district anymore but I'm still on the email list.  Last year I won a sweet wool jersey in a raffle in which I was the only entry.  I figured it was so profitable, I may as well go back. The least I could get was free pizza.

I arrived early and sat at a large table that was empty.  I can tell my Yin is still not up to snuff, by the way my brain went to Defcon 3 when Maura from the LDTMA committee came over to talk to me.  Not just hi-howya-doin' casual either.  She wanted a real conversation and I definitely was not up to it.  I faked it as well as I could and finally, she got pulled away by other duties.   The people who inevitably ended up sharing my table were content to talk to each other and leave me out of it. The laptop may have helped, since I was busy typing away on it. 

I used my remaining social marbles to participate in the group bike trivia contest and we came out victorious!  OK, we tied with another table.  But we would have been the clear victors had I been consulted on a question that someone thought they knew but only had half right.  Luckily, there was plenty of schwag to go around.  It wasn't anything I was super excited about, but it was nice to win.  And you can never have to many blinky clip-on lights.

Maura started the third and final raffle and it didn't look good for my chances.  They were giving away some nice prizes--messenger bags (yeah, I know I don't need one, but if it was free...), gift certificates, Flexcar memberships. These were no slouchy prizes.  Still I had now decided to go downtown to REI and needed to get going.  I was actually standing up with my coat and pack on ready to step out the door when suddenly I heard my name!  I didn't just win a prize, I won the *grand* prize, a 1GB Ipod Shuffle that holds 240 songs.  Cool!  Never mind that I already have a 20GB Ipod I like just fine & already bought a Nano for Jess for her birthday.  I just love winning stuff.  I can figure out what to do with it later. 

So I left both victorious and lucky and feeling pretty good.  The pressure's on for next year...

So I think we've discussed that I ride my bike a lot.  You could say that the phrase "rode hard and put away wet" applies to my bike quite often between October and June each year.  As a result, my back tire recently gave up the fight and the front tire developed a slow leak.  I replaced the back with a Maxxis tire and changed out the front tube, but typical of the Continental tires, it didn't get seated properly when the tube was filled and was wobbling something awful.  Jess had this problem this summer and some very nice REI employee ordered her a new Schwalbe tire and swapped it out for free.  Yes, FREE.  Even though she bought the bike over a year ago. 'Cause at REI that's how they roll--which is why we find ourselves rolling there so often on two tires or four.

I saw my wobbly tire as a prime opportunity so I called the bike department and explained how my partner who had the exact same bike I did got a free tire and didn't they want to give me one too?  He said sure, come on down.  When I got there, they didn't give me too much trouble.  They didn't have any Schwalbe's in stock, which is what they gave Jess.  I would've waited for them to order me one but they've already been waiting two months.  Something about shipping from Germany to Canada and then here.  It didn't look good, which was a bummer.  If Schwalbe's were a character on Heroes, they would be Claire.  No seriously. Check out what happened to Kent's tire when he ran over a nail.  But I took another Maxxis to match the back and went upstairs to try on pants while they installed it.  For FREE. 

When I went to pick it up, a different guy handed it over.  "We got your old tire seated just fine so I'm not sure why we're giving you a new tire."

Because you're suckers and you already gave my girlfriend one, which means I would raise hell if you didn't.

But what I said was, "Well all the shops we have tried have a LOT of trouble and you guys couldn't do it the last time we were here.  It's kind of ridiculous.  He kinda looked like he knew he'd been had and wanted to say more, but I took my bike and left.  Hey, if you want to be the Nordstrom's of the outdoor gear world, you gotta make some sacrifices.

As I stopped near the door to put on my helmet, the greeter who was there when I walked in piped up, "And just like that, you're leaving." Wow, does she know I'm escaping with free stuff? I wondered.  I decided not.  I chatted with her for a moment and she admired my jacket.  I told her I didn't know why they don't sell Showers Pass jackets, since they are the best breathable fabric out there but she'd never heard of it.  First she accused me of working for them and then (when I revealed my unemployed status) she said I should work for them.  I told her I wasn't really looking for a job...but they really should get those jackets.

The ride home was warm and fast with my brand new tires and the wind at my back.  I'm still trying to decide what to do with my new Ipod Shuffle.  I could try to return it to a Mac store for credit or refund but I'm actually pondering some sort of contest that might actually bribe someone into commenting on some of my posts.  I'm open to suggestions...

So to sum up:

1) Good riding
2) Free Ipod
3) Bike Schwag
4) Free new tire
5) And did I mention Grey's Anatomy with popcorn, ice cream and fabulous company?

Yeah, it's been a good day.

Ramble

Well, it's been almost a week since my last update (if you can call it that) and therefore I reserve the right to ramble in any direction. Consider yourself warned.

Over the weekend we had as close to 'Indian Summer' as we're going to get--two days of weather in the 70's neighborhood and actual sunshine. Saturday we got out by volunteering with Voices for Silent Disasters, putting up posters in businesses along Alberta. We made up for the drive to SE with a nice walk on the Last Thursday strip. The business owners were one and all, very welcoming and supportive. We got posters in windows I didn't think we would which just proves my motto--if you don't ask, the answer's always no.

On our way back to our starting point, we happened upon a cool classic car parked in a field on Alberta. After our tour was over, we headed back to the Lucky Lab to take advantage of Gordon's generous offer to buy us lunch and had a great visit as well.

Then it was home to do a couple of hours work on the garage. The pile of "things to get rid of" has been building all summer. We used our new bike trailer to make a few trips to the Goodwill, conveniently located around the corner. We just took turns riding my bike rather than switch the trailer back and forth, which left the receiving employee at Goodwill pretty confused.

Saturday night we actually left the house and went to a friend's to watch on-demand episodes of season three Weeds. We got through six episodes and things just get wackier with each passing episode. We still have a bunch of watching to do, but fortunately, I have a key and an open invitation. What could be better?

Sunday we continued the outdoor theme, heading over to a birthday party at Old Wives Tale for my former roommate, and new seven year old, Logan. Logan was far more interested in playing with his friends in the playroom than talking to us, but fortunately, his mom was a bit more social.

After that we headed further south, enjoying the fall colors as we traveled on our way to Cold Stone Creamery. Jess got a gift certificate for her birthday and this gorgeous day seemed like the perfect 'now or not until spring' opportunity. I used to be a cake batter purist, spurning the mix-ins and relishing the smooth, unadulterated creaminess of the unsullied dish. However, I've changed my tune and I went back a successful flavor from a previous visit, titled, 'All Lovin' No Oven.' Start with cake batter ice cream, add cookie dough, fudge and whip cream. And since it was 'free' for me, I threw in some Oreos for good measure. I took my time and made every bite count.

My therapist will be thrilled to learn that on Monday I finally got some of that acupuncture she's been gently suggesting for the past three months. As part of my barter with friends and ex roomies C & D, I got what I like to call the "double feature." Acupuncture and massage, back to back. I was having a lazy day and couldn't be bothered to change out of my jammies, so I drove to my appointment.

C got a hold of me and started in asking me about how my mood has been (crappy), how I've been sleeping, (not so great) etc. She took my pulses and made a 'tsk tsk' sound as she reached for her box of needles. "You're going to be seeing me for a while," she informed me. "We have so much work to do today..."

And with that, she proceeded to pincushion the entire length of my spine. She says that my organs are stressed and my ability to deal with people is low (no kidding!). She said I was like a shaken up soda can and the points she was picking would open me up and relieve some pressure. She also did something new that involved putting a sponge-like substance I think she called Moxy, on the various points and lighting them on fire with an incense stick. I'm either very trusting or very desperate. Probably a bit of both. It wasn't as bad as it sounds. I lay there letting the needles work their magic. She said I'd be done when the points around my skin didn't look red any more. It took a while. After that she flipped me over and did points on my feet, legs and head to relieve some stress.

She said my Yin is very low. I'm all Yang. I'm so Yang, I'm Christina. I got herbs to help strengthen my Yin and a meditation to help calm my brain before bedtime. I go back on Monday.

Then it was over to the room next door so D could work her magic. We always start out chatting and catching up a little but usually about halfway through I go into Zen mode and just relish being pampered. By the time she was done, my brain had actually turned off--I had no thoughts. I can't remember the last time that happened (please no jokes from the peanut gallery :).

It was a shame then, that I had to go out Monday evening and ruin all that lovely body work by playing our final softball game. This was a make up for one of our two rained out games the previous weeks. I actually called Mo to see if I could get out of it, but she said she needed me. The sound of the wind howling at high speed outside the patio window did not make the prospect any more pleasant.

But like most things that involve going outside in less than ideal weather, it wasn't as bad as I feared. Once I got warmed up, I even ditched my extra layer. A few sprinkles fell on our heads, but we had mostly dry weather with no serious wind gusts, although we were quick to blame any sketchy pitching on the wind. I ended up having a great time and to make it even better, we not only won the game, but completely shut out the other team. Take that with your fancy uniforms!

It's true that the other team sucked *really* hard--not even the guys could hit--but it's also true that we played the best we ever have and made hardly any errors. I had my best hit of the season--a satisfying smack that sent the ball sailing right over the second baseman's head--and also managed to sneak to first on a nicked ball that barely made it halfway to the pitcher. The guy who batted after me hit it so far, I had to run three bases at once. Probably why my legs hurt... Tim went ahead and hit a home run and had Liz barely scooting fast enough ahead of him. I caught a pop fly (my first) and got two other outs at second and first (not in the same play). The final score was something like 14/0. I'm glad we finally won one. It made the unreasonable soreness in my legs (it's only an hour game!), a bit more bearable.

Tuesday was a blur of school and house cleaning. I went on cat puke patrol, vacuumed the whole house and started laundry. We're getting ready for the Chuck invasion. Jess's dad is coming for a visit Friday-Tuesday. In addition to getting the house ready, I'm trying to get caught up on school work so I can help absorb the talking. We're hoping to get him and my dad together and see who talks more.

Wednesday my LRBC date canceled so I took it as a sign to get some more homework done, after spending the morning on a bit more cleaning. While I worked, Jess went tornado on the house, cleaning all three bathrooms and scrubbing the kitchen to a high shine. I was also scheduled to go ride horses Wednesday night but that was rescheduled as well. Peanut's owner had some concerns about me riding him in 3 team penning since we're both new to the sport. Totally understandable, but I was bummed I wouldn't get to ride him since he and I both love to run. I'll go at the end of the month and ride Ryo or Handsome--if I can get them to listen. Instead Jess and I ran some errands by bike and got hailed on briefly outside of Fred Meyer.

The rest of the week/end will be finishing my first major assignment in E-Commerce class and keeping Chuck entertained.


Friday, October 12, 2007

Thursday, October 11, 2007

And Still They Dance - Voices for Silent Disasters

It just takes one person

My friend Stephanie has been talking all summer about the concert series she's putting on this Fall to benefit people in northern Uganda who have been displaced by the civil war that has been going on there for twenty one years. When I first heard about it, I thought, oh that sounds cool kind of the way you'd think someone putting on a really good party or a house concert was cool. And in fact, that's how this whole thing started out. But since then it's...well...it's grown.

Over the last month or so, it slowly began to dawn on me that maybe this was bigger than I had realized—especially when Steph got an invitation to go to Uganda for 10 days and meet some of the people she's trying to help. What started out as an idea for one house concert with one performer—Steph--has become something much bigger. You can read the story here.

So when she sent out the email broadcast a couple of weeks ago, announcing the kick off concert last night, I shot back a reply: “Do you need any volunteers?” She emailed me back from Uganda and hooked me up with her partner in crime and co-producer Gordon Heady and he invited us to help with ticket sales and will call.

Tuesday night was a gorgeous evening by Portland October standards—sixty degrees and not raining—so we rode the five miles to the McMenamins Kennedy School. McMenamins has donated the venues for all ten concerts and 35 of the best musicians in Portland have all donated their time and talent. If you're getting the idea that Steph and Gordon are People Who Know People, you're on the right track.

We wandered the halls and found the will call table at the front door and met Rebecca, another volunteer from Mercy Corps. She said Gordon was supposed to train us so we kept wandering, looking for him or Steph. We just missed sound check, but heading backstage, we saw Tony and also Aaron, who we met randomly on NW 21st a couple of months ago after he saw me sitting in with Steph this summer. He was busy setting up sound equipment. Turns out he works for the Jazz festival, where most of the stage volunteers were commandeered from. And there was Shira (Princess of Power :), the sound queen, making everything sound pretty.

We found Steph and said our hellos and soon we were back at our station getting the run down. We were in charge of will call which meant giving out a few tickets and mostly answering questions about the location of the bathroom, where to buy door tickets, who was playing and when. Rebecca, it turned out, had just finished nursing school and is applying to the same hospital where Jess works so they spent some time talking shop.

One woman walked up to me and asked excitedly, “Are you from Uganda?”

“No, I'm from Portland,” I said, managing to hold back a laugh.

Her face fell. “Where are all the Ugandans?”

Just then her wish was granted as two people walked in who had the gorgeous blue/black skin you see in true Africans. Their accents as they greeted us confirmed their origins and my new friend dropped me like a hot potato and latched onto them. I wasn't offended.

We had a fourth volunteer who's name I ended up not getting, but she was a sweet woman and a member of Lions of Batucada, who will be playing the closeout show of the series. She had also spent a few years in Uganda as a member of the Peace Corp so she was very excited to be part of the series. She kept telling us how amazing the movie was that would be playing at the end of the show. It's called War Dance and it's about the struggles and the triumphs of some of the people in northern Uganda. Because Steph and Gordon are P.W.K.P, the makers of the movie, which had only shown at film festivals thus far, gave it to them for the opening concert absolutely free and allowed them to premiere it ahead of the New York and Los Angeles showings.

Once the show had started, Rebecca offered to hang out at the table so we could go hear some music. We go to hear Gordon and Steph introduce the show and talk about the journey. Gordon was particularly skilled at encouraging people to donate to Mercy Corp above and beyond the ticket price. There were also beaded bracelets and necklaces for sale made by a group of women called luchan rebe—the poor unite. The jewelry is made from recycled calendar paper and it's gorgeous. VfSD ordered 1000 pieces to sell during the series. Portland Roasting also had coffee for sale with the proceeds going to Mercy Corp as well.

We caught most of Art Alexakis' set and then got food and went back to check on Rebecca, but the table had been shut down. So we enjoyed our meals to the tunes of China Forbes and Thomas Lauderdale of Pink Martini which were exquisite. Girls who sing in foreign languages are hot.

During intermission, I got to connect with more people I knew, including Stephanie's sisters and some people I hadn't seen since my Kinkos days. Yet another person I don't remember came up to me and told that we'd met previously in some bar. Since I spent about 0.0000001% of my time in bars, I'm always slightly suspicious of these claims, but then again, my memory isn't that great either.

After helping to encourage folks to head back in for the movie, we were excused from duty for the night and went in to watch the film.

And I thought I had problems

To say that I was unprepared for the scope and emotional impact of the movie would be the grossest of understatements. I could see right away why it has already won some awards. It sucks you in from the beginning and profiles several children—Nancy, Dominic and Rose, ages 12-14. The film centers around a national music competition that takes place in Kampala in which 20,000 schools compete. This was the first year that the school from Patong, in the war zone qualified to go to the national competition.

It was easy to get involved in the children's stories. When they begin to describe in mostly calm, matter-of-fact tones, the horrors that they have lived through, it is all the more chilling:

Being abducted and forced to kill as a soldier in the rebel army.
Watching parents be abducted and later identifying them as the rebels pull their heads out of pots.
Hiding out in a school house as rebels break in, threatening to kill children

These horror stories are interspersed with their commitment to artistic expression as a tool to survive and thrive despite their losses. It's a good emotional breather but it wasn't enough to help me handle what came next.

Nancy's mother takes her to her father's grave before she leaves for Kampala, to receive his blessing. When they arrive, she falls down on the grave, wailing out her grief. The orderly procession subtitles juxtaposed against her raw grieving-which needed no translation-made it that much worse.

It was far too close to home for me, and I had to leave the theater and go into the next room, where I proceeded to have a full scale meltdown. Nothing unusual about that of course, but usually I'm at home when it happens. It was particularly frustrating to lose it in public. A nice employee came over to check on me and brought me some water, which was about all they could do. Steph's sister was having dinner with a friend and she came over to offer a hug. I managed to croak out the reason for my utter lack of composure. Later Steph came in and they both stayed with me till I pulled myself together.

I went back in and watched the end of the movie, which thankfully, focused on the competition in Kampala and has a very positive ending. Still, I shook uncontrollably for a long while, probably from forcing myself to stop crying prematurely. But I was glad not to miss the end of the movie.

As hard as it was to watch, the film definitely does it's job—showing the spirit of people half a world away who refuse to give up, no matter what life throws at them. I am so proud of Steph for putting together such an amazing fund raiser.

There are nine shows left in the series, starting November 2nd. You can go to the Voices For Silent Disasters website for more info and to buy tickets, read the blogs from Stephanie's trip and watch related video on the KPTV channel 12 website (search for Stephanie Schneiderman).

Please spread the word!

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

All the pretty little horses



I went out to the 'Couve tonight to check out the sport of 3 team penning. Basically, three riders have 90 seconds to cull three cows from a small herd and get to them into a pen at the other end of the ring. Don't be fooled by Denise and company making it look easy.

There was a big crowd riding tonight including one guy on a mule and a little girl who was riding around the staging area on a pony not much bigger than the cows. She had a pink cast on her left arm and spent most of her time riding behind the saddle right on the pony's butt. Maybe that's how she got the cast.

Next week, I'm diving in and giving it a try. You only live once.

Monday, October 08, 2007

One Week

Dear Blog,

It's been over a week since my last real entry. Can I even remember what happened last week?

Monday: Wake up to the doorbell ringing at 9:00am. “Who's is ringing my doorbell this early? It rings again and it dawns on me. Fedex?

I run to the front bedroom window and look out. The big white truck is blocking my neighbor's driveway. I throw on a robe and run like a mad woman down the stairs, to the front door and yank it open.

“Hi!”

My delivery person is a woman and I'm pretty sure from the amused smile on her face that she A) knows what my package is and B) has been following my chain of thought. “I heard you,” she says, referring to my thumping down the stairs like herd of elephants. Without further torture, she hands over a pad, I sign it, and she gives me the box containing my shiny new Macbook Pro.

“Thanks,” I say, holding my robe closed.

I went back to bed, but the doorbell wasn't done with me. It rang again an hour later—post office package for Jess. By the third time I had already given up and gotten out of bed and was watching Battlestar Galactica. I wasn't expecting UPS and my girlfriend was at work which meant it couldn't be anyone I wanted to talk to. I went back to the upstairs window and waited to see who walked away. After a minute, two older women came into view, carrying pamphlets.

I was glad I trusted my instincts. I get annoyed at the best of times, by anyone who tries to convert me to their religion—but I think it's the height of rudeness to interrupt people in their homes to try to tell them who, what or how they should worship.

From there it was pretty much downhill. Other than moving my files and settings from my old Mac to my new one, not only did I get nothing done, but I was barely functional. I didn't feel like eating or drinking, so the inevitable headache showed up right on time and then I just felt crappy for the rest of the day. Total waste.

Tuesday I had class, which forced me to get up and be productive. The cleaners showed up at a ridiculously early hour, which they've never done before. Jess got called off work, so rather than stay home while they cleaned, she got up and rode to Cascade campus with me and we had breakfast in the cafeteria.

Thursday started out with me getting a flat on the way to school and Jess coming to rescue me. I took Tri-met to school and put Mr Tuffy liners into my tire when I fixed it. I much prefer the quiet, peaceful, point to point transfer of the school shuttle.

In the evening we had my old roommates Carrie & Davina over for dinner. The house was nice and clean and we finally had an excuse to extend the table into it's large configuration, with real place settings and a lovely looking (and tasting) spread of couscous salad, Mediterranean carrot salad, dolmas and vegan chocolate cake for dessert. The salad is one that Jess's friend Jessie (I know, too many Jesses!) made us when we went to her house for dinner. It's filled with things I supposedly don't like (zucchini, peas among others) and yet I couldn't stop eating it. Luckily she was happy to part with the recipe but this was our first time making it. It came out great. C & D are a little party shy so I knew that personally inviting the two of them to dinner was the only way to get them over to the house. We had a fabulous time though so maybe it'll be easier the next time. Carrie has possibly an even drier sense of humor than I do and she kept us in hysterics for most of the evening.

They also told us about Bob, a friend they met while traveling in southeast Asia last year. Bob caused another kind of hysterics when I finally got to see a picture of him this weekend. They met him in their hotel bathroom and once they saw him, they always wanted to know where he was. It's not like you could kill him. That would only heighten the trauma. Personally, I think Bob would've sent me on a one way search for the nearest airport.

Friday after a slow start, we decided to go out and be touristy on our own turf. This included riding down to the south waterfront and taking the OHSU tram up to the top of the hill. We hung out on the balcony of the Kohler Pavillion enjoying the view and then we bombed down the hill at 30mph. We easily kept up with the cars so we could take the lane and the road was twisty enough to be exciting but mellow enough not to need much braking. I found out my three month Trimet pass is good for the Tram too so I'll probably go up and do it again at some point.

After that we took the MAX up to the Zoo for an official Zoobomb, which wasn't as steep or as fast as I remembered, but still fun. And we finished off with some drinking chocolate from Cacao, Drink Chocolate.

Jess worked all weekend so I spent the quiet time mostly studying. I seem to work best very late at night. I think it's because the world is mostly sleeping and I don't have the feeling that I'm missing something cool while I'm studying.

Sunday I got another random job, helping Carrie with backing up and cleaning up her computer. In exchange, she and Davina are giving what I like to call the 'double feature' acupuncture/massage treatment. I love bartering. I really should try to do more of it.

In the afternoon J came over for a study date. She worked on algebra which made me all nostalgic. I will probably remember math as one of the only good things from 2006. I made some progress on my first programming assignment.

And that was pretty much the week.

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Burning the midnight oil

I've been studying for most of the day. I would dearly love to spend a few hours posting various stories and pictures from the week but it's almost 3am so I guess it'll have to wait.

I seem to have a caught a cold. A mild cold, but still annoying. Enough to keep me from going on the perfect team ride this (Sat) morning, enough to cause post nasal drip that has me sniffling often enough to keep my light-sleeping girlfriend awake if I don't get it under control. Fortunately, she bought some real Sudafed when we went to Vancouver for custard and we haven't yet used it all for meth. (Just kidding Mr Big Brother!).

And just to make sure I don't end up in the guest room, I just took two Benadryl, which means I better finish typing this sentence and get up to bed before I fall into the keyboard. We all remember what happened the last time I took Benedryl right?

Yeah. Goodnight.

Monday, October 01, 2007

From the Jaws of Defeat

Welcome to part three of "How to get your mind off your dead mom."

Fittingly enough, I reverted back to a time honored sanity tool--my bicycle. Normally, I would not have ventured out into the utter crap that was the weather on Sunday, but I had already agreed to help lead the Meet the Team ride for Sorella.

The ride is just what it sounds like, a chance for new comers to go on a ride and find out what our team is all about. In a shocking turn of events, I arrived about 20 minutes early, having decided at the last minute to burn some fossil fuels and drive. I don't normally drive to the start of rides, but I had a social gathering nearby afterwards and didn't really want to A) sit around in wet gear for 2 hours or B) carry all my dry clothes on my back for the whole ride. It's hard enough to keep up with ladies as it is, even when they're in 'leisure mode' as we were that day.

Hey, maybe no one will show! I thought hopefully. But alas, I wasn't let off the hook that easily. When I came out of the bathroom, another cyclist was in line for coffee. We introduced ourselves and I went to get my bike off the car and gear up.

By the time I came back, more Sorella's had showed up. Kim Reuter, Deb, Michelle, & Colleen. Sarah T came screeching up at the last moment and pulled a gorgeous red fixie out of her trunk. We had four hardy souls show up to meet our team; Kristin, whom I'd met inside the bakery, Sandra, Annie and Rachael.

We set off to the south, bound for a loop down to Oregon City and back up on the west side.

In spite of the constant rain and the 52-feels-like-41 tempurature, I actually had a good time. Good company makes all the difference. And so does good gear. This was my first real test of my new Showers Pass rain jacket and it performed beautifully. My Sugoi Mid-zero tights have seen worse weather so my legs were pretty comfy. Even my hands and feet stayed on the right side of the mercury, despite 40 minutes or so spent waiting due to mechanical incidents. One more pair of socks and I would've been completely comfortable.

Kim won the thrifty and clever award for her light wool liner gloves covered by dish washing gloves. Yup, the long yellow kind your mom wore while she washed up before you had a dish washer. She said they worked great.

We stopped in Lake Oswego for a nature break and as we stood outside waiting, Kim said to me, "Kronda, your face is all brown."

"Yeah, that's normal Kim," I couldn't help dead panning.

Somewhere in the course of the day, I'd gotten friendly with a large amount of grease and dirt from somewhere. My brand new jacket was covered with it and too much fiddling with my glasses and rubbing my face had left me looking like a football player about to hit the field. I was glad I couldn't see it.

We headed through Lake Oswego and into Tryon Creek state park, down the cemetery, across the Sellwood bridge and back on 17th--after trying to take the Esplanade and running smack dab into a wall of people doing a walk for diabetes. Sandra suffered a flat in the middle of the ride and we played a game of "How many cyclists does it take to change a tire?" Colleen finally succeeded in getting the tire--which seemed to be glued to the rim--off. Someone put the tube in and after a CO/2 fiasco, I volunteered to pump it up using Rachael's Road Morph pump. When she flatted again less than a mile later, she was was ready to call her husband to come get her but Sarah T convinced her she could fix it and proceeded to do so. After some waiting and wandering, we all ended up back together for the ride down the cemetery and across the bridge.

We were on Milwaukie just blocks away from the end point--we could practically smell the coffee--when a Union Pacific train blocked our path. I raised my arm defiantly and shouted, "Damn you, Union Pacific! Damn you!" which made the others laugh. We made it back and Kim declared bagels and coffee courtesy of the team. After changing clothes and washing the grease off my face, I hung out with the others for a while enjoying a well earned breakfast.

After that I headed off to the Yarn Garden a few blocks away for a stitch 'n' bitch gathering with a few friends. The idea was Danette's brain child, a way to literally 'knit' us back together after hectic summers spent running every which way. She even found the Red Scarf Project to give our knitting focus.

I showed up late, but not too late to get some yarn, get a quick reminder on how to crochet--I decided to go with crocheting since I'd done it before and the work goes quicker--and catch up with what was new in everyone's life.

All in all I'm pretty impressed with how I snatched a pretty good weekend from the jaws of defeat.

Sunday, September 30, 2007

More pet prozac


Saturday we headed over to the Little Red Bike cafe grand opening party, which by all appearances and accounts was a whopping success. I'm sure the excellence of the meatloaf and the "meat"loaf sandwiches had something to do with it.

In the afternoon, we headed up to Vancouver where my friend Denise keeps her horses. Way back when dinosaurs roamed the earth, I still had a mom and I owned my own car, I used to head down to her house in Gladstone every Thursday night for riding lessons. I'd trot around the indoor ring on while she yelled at me (in a nice way) to keep my toes in, squeeze with my thighs and remember to post while trotting.

I hadn't seen her in a while, but she came to our house warming party and the subject of a ride came up. So we finally worked out the scheduling and that is how we found ourselves at the Clark County fairgrounds on a cloudy Saturday afternoon.

Denise has two horses of her own and her friend Lynn has one that's also stabled in the same barn. I was slated to ride Lynn's horse, Peanut, a sweet and people-loving soul who lived to please. Jess was given a horse named Handsome who lived up to his name, but who's reputation for obedience was suspect.

We got them all brushed and saddled and set off on a trail that started at the end of one of the pastures. The woods were gorgeous and quiet and you would never know there was a city just 20 miles away. It was awesome.

We were warned that Peanut and Handsome didn't really get along so I brought up the rear and made sure not to get too close. That wasn't really a problem because Peanut was the slowest walker ever. I didn't mind that though, because it meant every so often, he or I would decide it was time to trot to catch up with the others. Since I still not-so-secretly want to be a jockey, the faster I can go, the better--at least in theory.

Meanwhile, up in front, things were heating up. Handsome spent most of his time biting Ryo's butt or trying to get ahead of him. Jess was having quite a time trying to control him and not having much success. Denise assured her that he didn't listen to her either. Maybe that was why she kept turning me down when I offered to switch horses. Not that I would have had any better luck, but at least I had a little experience with horses, while Jess had almost zero. But she toughed it out, which I totally admired.

I got invited to move to the front of the line and Peanut, liking it much better up there, walked a bit faster. We were also free to trot whenever we wanted and even managed a couple of gallops here and there. We were having a grand time.

Unfortunately, behind us, Handsome was getting more bullheaded by the moment. When we got near the end of the trail and onto the wide straight road that lead back to the barn, I decided to gallop in. That got Handsome really worked up and he up and ran off with Jess, galloping down the road with her sawing the reigns and shouting "Whoa!" She finally got him stopped and I stayed put behind them so as not to give Handsome any more ideas. I waited till they reached the gate and then galloped the rest of the way in, grinning like a Cheshire cat.

"Can we do that again before I get down?" I asked Denise.

"Sure!"

So we trotted off again to the end of the road and this time came back at a faster gallop. I'm used to going 35 mph downhill on my bike but this was totally different. My bike bounces less and doesn't have it's own brain. Watching the ground go by while bumping along is a totally different thrill. Slightly scary but in a good way.

I really mustn't let so much time go by before I do that again. And perhaps I won't have to. Denise told me that she and a friend of hers have gotten into three team penning and she invited me out to watch this week and if I get into it, maybe I'll go out on a regular basis, help warm up the horses and see where it goes from there.


Created with Admarket's flickrSLiDR.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Pet Therapy


Created with Admarket's flickrSLiDR.

Desperate times call for desperate measures. There wasn't much that could bring me out of my Friday funk outside of ressurrection, but Choco the wonder puppy gave it her best shot. And it's pretty impossible not to melt at the cuteness. It was just what the nurse ordered. Thanks to Carmen for letting us horn in on her dog-sitting gig.