November 23, 2010

An old friend in Indiana lost her mom recently. I wish I could have come home to attend the memorial. Mrs. Ridley was always so kind to me and we’ve all known Kathi since she and my sister met in first grade. I remember tagging along sometimes with Kathi and Kathy (which is what we called my sister back then) when they’d walk over from St. Richards to Shortridge High School, where Mrs. Ridley taught math. She had the way about her that good teachers have, that firmness mixed with nurturing. I feel lucky to have to have known her.

No Comments »

things happen

November 18, 2010

All the time. Last week I had a flat tire on my bike on Wednesday and then my chain broke on my ride home Thursday night. A week before that I stepped on a pair of my reading glasses and lost my bike gloves. This week I upgraded WordPress and kept getting a 500 Internal Server error that blocked me from accessing any of the admin tools, like the posting tool. Obviously it got fixed but it was frustrating. I keep losing my favorite bandannas, the ones that are already broken in. I didn’t get my New Yorker last week. And every time it rains I feel like my $170 rain jacket should be doing a better job of keeping out the water. No real big deals here, even with the bike break downs, I was close to a bike shop and the mechanics weren’t busy.

Daniel Gilbert, this psychologist who writes and does research about happiness has observed that people “overestimate how future successes and failures will affect their happiness, for the better or worse.” In this article of his I read in the New York Times magazine he said talked about how we have all this fear that we won’t be able to handle the big blows in life and dismiss how much the little every day things accumulate and drive us kind of nuts, like a tear in a screen door that you that you catch you shirt on every day. One of the things I took away from that was one to have some faith in my resilience and two, and two, that I’d be happier if I fixed the tears.

No Comments »

love birds

November 13, 2010

A toast for Becky and Jeremy. I’ve been meaning to post this for some time now, but it’s taken me a while to figure out what I wanted to say.

The first time I met Jeremy was when he and Becky came out to Portland for a fencing tournament. At that point they had been dating for around six months and Becky had told me she thought that Jeremy could be the “one.” So of course I went with Becky to watch Jeremy fence. It was cute how much she could barely stand it -watching him compete. Jeremy would make some kind of move and Bec would twist in her seat and rub her fist into her hand. Jeremy’s opponent would make a move Becky would hunch over a little and squeeze her eyes almost shut. At one point she said she felt like she was going to throw up.

They were in that madly in love stage. At that stage that makes you believe in fate – that stage where you’re absolutely sure you and the one you love share a special psychic connection. It was kind of freaking me out because my dad had just died and the thought of loving anybody as much as they seemed to be loving each other terrified me. I told Becky that and she said she’d “I know.” She already thought about it – that she could be so in love with Jeremy and he could die and it would be completely and utterly unfathomable.

We all hung out together the rest of the weekend and the two of them were inseparable. They modeled clothes for each other at Buffalo exchange and made eyes at each other trying on hats at the Saturday market. We went for a hike up in Washington park and they kept lagging behind, stopping to point at trees and flowers, holding hands, talking low and leaning into each other. At dinner Becky asked me to trade places with her so she could sit beside Jeremy and afterward they shared a chocolate beer float at Pix. It was both maddening and one of the sweetest things I’ve seen – my friend was head over heels in love.

The next time I saw Becky and Jeremy together was at Ned and Kristie’s wedding. By that time, they’d been involved for about a year. It was obvious Jeremy was mostly living with Bec. He kept alot of important stuff of his at her house, like his bike, his laptops and his bass, his guitar and one of his cars. They were signs of seriousness.

They sat close together at the reception and flirted with each other. Bec told more than one friend to check out her Jeremy’s butt. We all danced together a little bit and I loved that Jeremy could shimmy and Bec tried but couldn’t and that fact was more fun than something Jeremy made fun of. He just kept shimmying for Bec and she just kept smiling really big at him.

I knew I’d be coming back some time in the next year for their wedding.

I’ve known Becky now for over 12 years. She is one of the last good friends I made before I left Bloomington. I think some folks have found us a kind of funny pair, because on the surface there are a lot of differences between us. But we forged an enduring bond when we lived together and have maintained it as best we can ever since. I’ve always valued Bec’s support, generosity, forthrightness, and her sense of humor. And I’ve always counted on her willingness to do things, like coming out to Portland and singing karaoke on Thanksgiving or hiking up the side of a mountain in the rain. Bec’s made of good, solid stuff and I wanted her to find someone who not only deeply valued the stuff she’s made of, but someone who could see some of the other things I know Bec can keep to herself, like her open heartedness and her tenderness. And along came Jeremy and he got it; he gets Becky. And one of the things I love is that he makes it ok for Bec to wear some of that gushy heart stuff on her sleeve.

I have a soft spot for weddings, I really do, but I’m not super sentimental about marriage. A life time commitment is made up of all sorts unpoetic and not very romantic moments that don’t usually work their way into toasts. When I think of getting married I think of what Joseph Campbell said about how you have to let go of the life you’ve planned, so you can to accept the one that’s waiting for you. And it does seem to me that if you can do that when you get married, if you can let go of the crazy things you’ve thought up about how life should be, you’ve gone a long way to making a good start. And that’s what I see in Jeremy and Becky – not just the willingness to accept the life that’s waiting for them, but the longing to jump in to having that life together. Being in their house, being around them together, seeing them with PJ – it’s obvious they are committed and I feel lucky that I got to be there to help celebrate that with them.

No Comments »

veterans day 2010

November 12, 2010

Of course Kurt Vonnegut’s birthday is on Veterans Day. I’d never put that together until now. Wow.

Kurt Vonnegut went to Shortridge High School, the same high school my dad went to, but Dad is 4 years younger than KV so they didn’t really know each other. I’ve heard a family story, though, that KV might have based a character in one of his books on an older cousin of Dad’s, named Mig. It’s plausible and I imagine Mig cut quite the figure in her high school days. Listening to KV give interviews in the last  couple years of his life always made me thing of Dad. I don’t know if it was something in his voice and his tone or his humor and his dark perspective, or all of the above. There was definitely some old veteran thing going on. Or I think there was. I don’t know for sure, of course, but that’s how it seemed and it made me like Kurt Vonnegut disproportionate to liking anything he wrote or anything he said. Happy birthday Kurt Vonnegut. It never feels right to me to say happy Veteran’s Day, but I don’t know what to say instead.  Maybe just salute.

Like Kurt Vonnegut, Dad’s cousin LeRoy, or Little Roy as I’ve always heard him called, fought at the Battle of the Bulge. Unlike KV, Little Roy was killed there. It happened after Dad had already shipped out to the Pacific. I’ve tried, but I can’t imagine how Dad must have felt when he heard the news. Little Roy and he were like brothers and I don’t know how Dad could manage that loss while being in combat himself.

Dad served in an artillery battalion in the 1st Marine Division. If you’ve ever heard anyone talk about the “Old Breed” they are talking about the 1st Marines . It’s the most decorated unit of its size in the Corps and its battalions were on the front lines of some of the bloodiest battles in the Pacific, including Peleliu and Okinawa, which is where Dad fought. For a long time I thought Dad fought on Guadalcanal too, but I’m thinking now that I was just confused by the 1st Marine patch he wore on his National Guard uniform.

On Okinawa Dad became a forward observer. All the other observers had been killed and his highers ups were looking for volunteers who could read instruments. Dad said he jumped at the chance. The observer serves as the eyes of the gunners, going out with the infantry and directing artillery fire and close air support onto enemy positions. According to Wikipedia Artillery observers are considered high-priority targets by enemy forces, as they control a great amount of firepower, are within visual range of the enemy, and are often located deep within enemy territory. Dad said he loved the excitement, danger and adventure of it, even though he knows that loving it was bad side effect of war.

I have a box of letters that Dad wrote home to his grandparents and they cover the duration of his enlistment, from the train trip to San Diego, where he went to basic training, to the 35 day voyage back to the states from China, which is where his division was stationed after Japan surrendered. There must be more than 50 letters in that box, but there’s only one letter where Dad talks about being in combat. It’s pretty painful in parts and someone in his family typed it up, made copies and passed around among the clan, as Dad called his family. I’ve got 2 copies and I’ve seen another copy at a cousin’s house.

Dad’s tone is so detached in the letter and at times or in parts, it almost sounds touristy. When I read it I remind myself that he was only 19 and I don’t think he knew how or what to tell his family about what he was experiencing. He’s filtered out all the horrible stuff in all the other letters and I don’t know what got him to turn filter off to write this one. I can guess, but I don’t want to do arm chair analysis right now. What I want to do is include part of that letter here in my blog. I’m so sorry my dad suffered for so long with some of the horrible things he saw and did and I guess I want to witness that for him even though he’s dead now. And I also want to remember that even though we’re in a different war, people are still suffering over the same horrible stuff, which is just insane really and I wish we had it in us to make this insanity stop.

From my dad: One morning we found a woman who had tied her kids to her and then cut her throat. When we found her she was still alive and the kids were screaming and crying. After we got the kids still they were just sobbing instead of screaming. The doctor gave the woman some morphine and they carried her away. She was the worst mess I’ve ever seen. Her hair was stuck in her wound and she was gasping and carrying on and the blood was squirting out of her throat like a fountain. That particular incident upset me more than anything else I saw during the whole shellings.

One day a fellow lost his leg and some other people got hurt which was too bad. The next place was where we got rained out so much I finally gave up trying to stay dry and went around barefoot with just a pair of shorts or nothing on at all. We went through Naha on a rainy day and you could see arms and legs sticking out of buildings. The whole place smelt so bad it nearly knocked you out. There was was one nice little gruesome sight. There was a dead Jap buried underneath mud and water except for his arm. His hand had turned yellow and all the veins stuck out. When we set up outside Naha some sniper would shoot at us when we went to the head, he never hit anybody, but he was harassing to say the least.

1 Comment »

it begins

November 11, 2010

5:32pm at kennilowrth park

Originally uploaded by proteanme

It’s just gonna get darker – from now until winter solstice. Days will be getting shorter and there may be a cold spell. For sure there will be more rain. Hunker down Portland, here comes winter.

No Comments »


November 9, 2010

Life is made up of tram rides and bike rides and putting away the dishes and putting away my clothes and paying bills and balancing my checkbook and trying figure out how to stop the water that sometimes comes in through the basement door and buying food or picking it out of the back yard and cutting my hair and sweeping up the bits the fall to the ground and then sweeping again because I never get it all the first time and lifting weights and looking for my running shoes and making tea and brushing my teeth and flossing and reading the New Yorker or The New York Review of Books or the New York Times online and looking for my gloves or my sunglasses or a pen that works right and checking my voice mail and writing short emails and making lists of things I need to do in the next hour or next day or next week and then going to sleep but I hardly ever sleep through the night any more and waking up to feed the cats who are oblivious to day light savings time and making art and listening to music and wishing there was a movie I really wanted to see and writing and fretting about writing and avoiding writing and playing Matt’s guitar and reading old letters my dad wrote home during WW2 and dusting and taking out the trash and going through the mail and getting annoyed about the tall decorative grass drooping over out front side walk and calling my sister and talking to Rachel and stopping to take a photo of the sunrise or the fog or the big ship they are building in the shipyard at the bottom of the tram and putting on my rains pants and turning on my bike lights and muttering to myself about the people who pass me but don’t say on your left and petting the cat and changing my shirt and rubbing my feet together just like my mom does.

1 Comment »


November 8, 2010

Dorencbecher in mist

Originally uploaded by proteanme

This is what it looked like last Tuesday up where I work. No matter what window I looked out, it was thick with mist every where, like a loose fitting cloud bank had draped itself over the campus. I wouldn’t call it magical, but it was a little other worldly. I had a hard time concentrating on getting my work done; I wanted to check out the ghost world from as many vantage points as I could. I guess it’s a result of the micro climate of the West Hills where OHSU sits at about 500 feet elevation – twice the height of good old Paoli Peaks. By the way, did anyone ever go there? If I remember right, there was a ski club at IU and they planned trips to Paoli Peaks, but even then, before I moved to Portland, skiing in Indiana seemed kinda silly. But I’m digressing. The mist gave way to sun shine in the afternoon and I got to ride home in an unusual blast of warm fall air. I’m getting more settled in at my new job, but I hope I never get so accustomed to it that I don’t notice the amazing stuff outside my window.

No Comments »