last day of a small vacation

December 28, 2011

Day 7 on antibiotics and  a self-imposed dose of generally taking it easy.  I think the sinus infection is mostly gone.  Finally.

I’ve been reading Joan Didion’s Blue Nights. A Christmas present to myself and the second time I’ve spent then holidays reading JD write about grief. I don’t know why I tend to read heavy book over the holidays. A while back, I had a stretch of Christmases where I read Holocaust books. And there was a couple years of reading war books. Maybe I just don’t read much light fair in general. I am trying to make Blue Nights last as long as I can; it could easily be finished in on one sitting. JD is such a great writer and in this book her writing seems even more poetic and looser, in a way, than in other books of hers I’ve read. It’s really moving.

RU and I took a low key road trip on Monday down to Silver Falls. We drove back roads, which is our favorite thing to do, and on our way we made a detour to Mount Angel. First, we visited the Abbey. We got there just in time for a noon prayer service, which was perfect, both for its brevity and because it was sung. I think it was cool for RU to see these monks and think of the similarities and differences with her Buddhist monks. I’m not sure cool is the right word, but it will have to do. I forgot that there would be bowing any time we heard “Father, Son and Holy Ghost” said together. People used to do that at All Saints. In fact, I think my mom used to bow. But All Saints was very a Catholic Episcopal church. I wished I would have tracked better the short reading from the New Testament, because it felt kind of antisemitic. There was something about how the Jews tried to argue with the Christians, but the Jews were wrong and we, the good Christians, forgive the Jews for their persecution of us. I’m paraphrasing, obviously. But I did feel like cringing and then I thought of Mel Gibson, which made me want to cringe more. I also thought of this PBS documentary I watched about how Jesus became Christ. One of the things the scholars talked about  was how the texts, even the Gospels, changed over time, to turn the Jews, not the Romans, into the bad guys. I’m paraphrasing here, too. We walked around the church after the service was over and then a little around the campus after that. It is a beautiful place and really wonderful that it is open to the public.

We had some excellent, excellent Mexican back in the town of Mt. Angel. We debated trying the Gloskenspiel, to get the authentic Mt Angel-Little Germany experience, but it seemed over priced. It’s weird, but anytime I visit an “o little town of Germany” town I immediately recall the scene from Cabaret where the Nazi youth stands up in the beer garden and starts singing “Tomorrow belongs to me” and a bunch of people stand up and join him and you know things are going to be fucked. And I don’t know if RU was thinking the same thing, but as we walked down the street, she said, “I wonder if they like the gays here?” Which is always on my mind when we travel anywhere outside the I-5 corridor. My experience is gays are tolerated in lots of parts of Oregon, but not very well liked.

We made it to Silver Falls but because RU’s foot is messed up, we only took a couple of short walks and stopped to get out of the car at look out spots, which as fine, as our goal had been to get out of town and breath in nature. If you’ve not been down to Silver Falls before you should check it out. There’s a great hike around the 10 falls which I did once with Becky when she came out to visit from Indiana. It was built by the CCC, a wonderful and sad reminder of what a real government stimulus package looks like. I think we read it took something like 7 years to build the park and the workers were paid $1 a day.

Getting out of town, even only an hour and a half away, is usually a treat for me and RU. There’s a little adventure to it and usually we head to place with more nature than the places we usually go in town. And even a hike in Forest Park is not the same as a hike out on the woods an hour a way. More woods? More nature? I don’t know.




what i write about when i write about missing home

December 23, 2011

Day three  on antibiotics and I am rejoining the living. Slowly. Left the house. Saw lots of people I did not know. Came back home.

I am feeling encouraged by the sun and the brief company of strangers.

Christmas makes me miss Indiana and also makes me a little nostalgic for the past. For instance, I was thinking of my grandmother this morning. She died this past April, several months after her 100th birthday. It was a long decline that started in earnest at least 7 or 8 years ago and for a while it pushed out the ability to see her any other way except declining.

But recently I’ve been thinking of her the way I knew her best — her hair permed, her house immaculate, cooking, cleaning, and watching TV with her leg swung over the arm of her big, black leather lazy boy.

My grandmother loved car trips. She loved to garden. She loved to play cards. She was a good cook. She made the best fudge. She made the best apple dumplings. She made the best chocolate pie. She liked Bing Crosby and Bob Hope. She watched Lawrence Welk and HeeHaw on TV. She saved paper bags and margarine tubs. She baked her Christmas cookies ahead of time and then hid them in her house, even when there were no longer kids or grand kids sneaking around to try and find them. She was a good whistler.  She was a terrible driver. She wore Estee Lauder perfume. She wore clip on earrings. She wore a thin and delicate watch on her left wrist. She ironed her sheets. She always made her bed. She liked hard candy. She drunmed her fingers on table tops and arm rests and the outside of her purse. She had good china. She had good silver. She told us grand kids to “sit up straight” and called us “kiddo.” She made sweet tea.

Which is what I was thinking about this morning. I was about thinking about my Grandmother getting ready to have everybody over on Christmas and picturing her standing at her kitchen counter, pouring boiled water from her kettle into her teapot, the 7 or so bags of Lipton tea squeezed under the lid.


being sir in 2011

December 23, 2011

I regularly get called sir or am regularly otherwise assumed to be a guy. And, actually, I like it (probably no surprise there), except that it often leads to an expression of embarrassment or some other awkward or uncomfortable feeling from the other person, who feels like they’ve made a mistake, which I understand, even though I don’t feel it’s mistake. The gender binary really does suck.

Nothing this year rivals some of the classics from the past, like the time I was asked to show my ID as I started walking into a ladies changing room or the time at the SF airport when I was walking into the women’s restroom and this women behind me told me I was wrong place or the time RU and I were walking around our neighborhood park and this kid who had climbed up in a tree asked me if he could ask me a question, which was: was I a girl or a boy. Still, I thought I’d recount a few of the more memorable incidents from 2011

  • A TSA guy working the security line at the PDX airport waved me forward with a “Next, sir.” I handed him my ID and he quietly looked at it and my ticket for more than a few uncomfortable seconds. (I have an irrational fear that I’ll be strip searched to prove who I am.) Finally he said to me “I guess I need to start wearing my glasses.”
  • While walking around the NYC’s lower east side with RU this fall, we passed a guy on street who yelled out at me “What are you anyway?” And then the guy said something about my haircut and was a guy or not. I don’t remember his exact words about my haircut because I was fighting the urge to tell him to go fuck himself.
  • I was shopping at Food 4 Less and check out lady called me “sir” about 5 or 6 times in a row even though I was using my debit card, which has my name on it.
  • I was checking out the sale rack at J Crew in downtown Portland and this very cute gay guy who worked there came up to me said , “Are you looking for anything in particular, sir?” I told him “no,” and looked around for a few more minutes, but then I got started feeling awkward and left, but then I came back because it felt stupid to feel awkward. Plus, it was a good sale and I’ve been obsessed with trying to find good wool sweaters. I picked up a bunch of sweaters I wanted to try on and headed to the men,s dressing room and the same guy who called me sir came over to help me and we started talking about the holiday shopping madness. As he opened the door to one of the tiny changing rooms he waved his hand torward the room me and said “Oh girl, just leave whatever doesn’t work out for you.”
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starting to look back at 2011

December 21, 2011

The combination of antibiotics and sleep is amazing. I’m no longer contemplating tragedies; nor am I groaning because I feel like crap all over. All this just in time for solstice, which I think I’ll commemorate by getting out of bed and taking a shower, which could be seen in the great solstice tradition of rebirthings and new beginnings, as me celebrating beginning of getting better.

I’ve been trying to reflect back on this year. In the past I’ve done this by making lists of favorite songs and books and movies and meals, but this year I’d like try to to pick out memorable events and occurrences and determine if there’s some bigger picture to tie it all together.  To that end I’ve got a list things that happened in 2011 that were meaningful to me or that I liked or that I feel grateful for.

  1. Hanging out with Becky in Portland, especially riding bikes, especially at night.
  2. Spending time with Lowen, my favorite nephew (who is technically not my nephew).
  3. Seeing all of my family even though it was for the incredibly sad occasion of my grandmother’s funeral.
  4. Flying from the funeral back to Portland with my sister and feeling glad I had a good shoulder for her to put her head on when we had to non-dramatically abort out landing in Las Vegas.
  5. Spending 3 unexpected weeks getting to know Rachel’s cousins better.
  6. Spending time with Martha in NYC.
  7. Hosting a buddhist nun for 10 days at our house.
  8. Camping near the Fossil beds with RU.
  9. Writing and reading with the Thank You writers.
  10. Figuring out how to teach my REDCap class.
  11. Seeing, in person, art by Richard Serra, Willem De Kooning and Lucien Freud.
  12. Walking the new section of the Highline.
  13. Watching the sun set on the Hudson.
  14. Stumbling across Occupy Wallstreet at its beginning.
  15. Seeing Jennifer Egan at Wordstock and talking to her when she signed my book.
  16. Learning to make great larb.
  17. Growing green beans.
  18. Making one batch of kick ass ice cream.
  19. Eating Thanksgiving turkey and pie with my sister and niece.
  20. Taking in a lot of the TBA, including seeing a really good play, The Method Gun. Thank you Susan.
  21. Talking to RU on phone right after a retreat.
  22. Spending time with Deirdre in DC.
  23. Reading out loud part of a story I’m working on and making a lot of people laugh.
  24. Listening to hymns when I was feeling sad.
  25. Working in my yard. A lot.
  26. Buying a bunch of shoes that I’m now trying to sell at Buffalo Exchange.
  27. Feeling heartened by the Occupy Movement and feeling disgusted by the U.S. congress.
  28. Feeling curiosity  and something like dread at the thought of turning 50.
  29. Thinking a lot about my gender.
  30. A really great dinner at June with the Uris’es and a great breakfast at Navarre with RU. Both vaguely birthday related events.
  31. A couple nice long drives with RU around the Oregon country side.

what happens when i get sick

December 21, 2011

I am sick. Sinusitis. I thought I  just had a crappy ass cold, but then yesterday I added a fever, chills, sore neck and aching face parts to the copious amounts of phlegm I’d been producing so today I headed to the doctor. Sitting up in the waiting room and in the office just about did me in. I kind of wanted to cry, but yay antibiotics! After just 1 dose and a longish nap, I’m starting to feel better.

I don’t get sick that often, but when I do my mind spins out in couple different ways. One, I think what if this is something worse, like today I got the idea of meningitis stuck in my brain, even though I clearly didn’t have most of the symptoms. Among other things, this led to Ween’s Spinal Meningitis song playing over and over in my mind. Two, I think how did people survive gulags and concentration camps and forced marches, etc. when they were sick. It seems so impossible, but somehow at least some percentage did survive. When I am sick, I think I would not be in that percentage. Sometimes, I also wonder why we never hear about the president being sick. Not just Obama, but any president. Even if it’s only a one term president, he must get sick enough at least once or twice in 4 years that he has cancel meetings and lie around in his presidential sealed pjs drinking tea with honey and lemon. Or maybe he gets some kind of crazy super inoculation shots as soon as he takes office.

Going to bed now.

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