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


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.


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."


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:


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."


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.