day 8 i think and the banality of my bedside table

August 28, 2012

What does a bedside table say about someone? I think it must say something. If not in its whole at least via what’s on top. Mine has a digital alarm clock on top and a trivet my mom made and a lamp with a base that is a little bit too big for a table on the smallish side. There’s also an empty prescription bottle for some antibiotics I finished taking almost a month ago, a pencil holder that often is empty but currently has 4 pens, my reading glasses, a spray bottle which I use when the cats run in here at 5am and start fighting, my phone, and a box of matches that seem entirely out of place because I don’t have candles or incense, and I don’t smoke. There’s a pad of  large sticky notes that I use to write myself reminders, like “call Rachel,” as well as to jot down sentences or fragments of sentences I might use in a piece I’m working on, like “this is for your own good.”  There’s also a stack of books, made up of the following titles from the top down: About Alice by Calvin Trillin, Stories for Boys by Gregory Martin, Ting Beautiful Things by Cheryl Strayed, a small spiral notebook with lyrics to some songs I wrote in 2001 and 2002, but that I currently used to work out multiple sentences or lines I thinking through for a piece, Go Down, Moses by William Faulkner, Transgender Warriors by Leslie Fienberg and Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace. This stack is clearly more aspirational than practical or realistic. I’ve not not read any of these books, except a few pages from About Alice and couple Dear Sugar letters and responses. Beside the book stack and on top of the trivet there’s the book that I’m actually reading. The Invention of Solitude by Paul Auster.


last post of the year

January 1, 2012

Spent the last day of 2011 driving around the Oregon country side with RU. We took the long way out to Oxbow Park, which ended up being closed, and then took the very long way back, via the Gorge and Bull Run. Not much walking or hiking because RU’s foot is still fucked up, but still a nice day and a nice way to end the year.

I don’t have resolutions for 2012, as much as I have some wishes and intentions, and most of those are about what Joseph Campbell calls the experience of being alive. Here’s his full quote from the Power of Myth:

People say that what we’re all seeking is a meaning for life. I don’t think that’s what we’re really seeking. I think that what we’re seeking is an experience of being alive, so that our life experiences on the purely physical plane will have resonances within our innermost being and reality, so that we actually feel the rapture of being alive.

Here’s to everyone feeling some rapture in 2012.


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.





October 25, 2011

Blue skies. And sun shine. Even if it was mostly experienced from the inside of a window, the window was big and I got to ride my bike home in all of its glory. I know when it’s clear, it’s colder, but that’s ok with me right now. I don’t mind.

A woman chatted with me on the tram this morning. That almost never happens – prolonged chatting. I was as just telling RU about it. How the woman was from Jersey but had lived in Florida. And how she offered me a tissue when I was sniffing and asked me if I rode my bike all the time and I told her yes and I asked her if she rode and she said “are your kidding” and then told me she was premenopausal and that made her feel more fearful. RU said she couldn’t believe I knew so much about a stranger, which is funny because I only told RU half of what the woman shared me, which made for a pleasant tram ride, especially because the tram was jam packed today, like a subway car.

Depending on which way the tram is going it has to ascend or descend up and over this big ass tower. And either way it creates a front to back swinging motion, the severity of which depends on how fast the tram is going. Severe is maybe not the best word; pronounced is probably better. Sometimes the swing throws people off, especially new riders, but most often in the morning when I’m riding, which is around 7:20 or so, the tram is full of people going to work or class and they are oblivious to the motion. But last week a woman sitting in one of the four little jumps that line the side of the cabin yelled “oh lord, oh lord, oh lord” as we were cresting the tower and then repeated the phrase when the cabin dipped in it’s first swing. Some good humored words of encouragement floated through the crowd and I thought to myself, good for her, to just get it out there in the open. I was silently saying as much to myself this time last year.

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almost a another year

May 31, 2011

Tonight we get a sunset we can see. A nice and welcome break from the end of what seems like an eternal spring.

I spent a portion of this long weekend reading (for the first time) Slaughter House Five. I didn’t choose the book because of Memorial day, but I fully appreciate the coincidence, and in that respect, I think it was fitting. Also, now I know why so many folks have told me to read this book. If you’ve never read the book, you should. It will take you less than a day. Afterward you won’t be able to stop thinking about it. I swear that Slaughter House Five should be on a required reading list for being human.

If you like Kurt Vonnegut Jr, you might want to check out this interview.

I got an early start to celebrating my birthday this weekend, with a family dinner, Uris style. It reminded me of all the years I spent celebrating my birthday with my extended family, which meant a lot to me. However the rest of my birthday plays out, last night was pretty perfect.

A bank of clouds, visible form my front window, has turned nearly the color  of fuchsia. We really do get amazing sunsets


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.

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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.

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topographically speaking

September 25, 2010

I was in Indiana before coming to New York. RU and I spent 5 days racing around Hoosier land visiting friends, family, certain country roads and various old haunts that seem forever lodged in my brain because they always show up in my dreams, or at least that’s what I realized driving down 10th street in Bloomington. Even when place is not central to my dreams, some block in Indianapolis or some corner in Bloomington figures into the scene.

While in we were Indianapolis RU and I drove by my great aunt’s old apartment building, which is across from Crown Hill Cemetery, where my dad and a number of his cousins are buried, which we also visited. I don’t have a lot of sentimental attachments to graveside visits. We didn’t do a lot of it growing up, as most of our close relatives weren’t buried in Indiana, so this was more of a matter of fact checking that my dad’s grave marker looked like the one we ordered. And it did.

We visited the sites of some of Dad’s cousins too and we drove up to the James Whitcomb Riley tomb, which at 842 feet was assumed to be the highest point in Indianapolis. And although it does seem you are perched above the miles and miles of flat terrain that make up Indy, the highest point is actually southwest of there on bluff called Mann Hill, which rises to almost 900 feet.

RU has remarked a number of times how the Indy seemed kind of vacant, which is strange considering its the 14th most populated city in the country. I don’t think its just that she’s not used to the big parking lots or the empty fields in the suburbs. Everything seems stretched out and everyone’s in a car. The first ring of suburbs on the near north side is becoming a ghost town, and while the neighborhoods close in are getting revitalized, there’s still lots of empty lots between the big old houses that line College and Central Avenues. Even driving I-70 from the airport to downtown was strange as it was almost empty and it was 6:30pm a weeknight.

I never see all the people I want to see in Indianapolis or spend as much time with them as I wish I could. And that always leaves me feeling a little sad. I wish it wasn’t such a trek to fly home or that I could at least fly directly to Indy, instead of spending an extra couple hours flying through Denver or Minneapolis or Chicago.

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I just cut my hair

June 8, 2010

One thing I accomplished this year was teaching myself to cut my own hair, a little longer on top and shaved down on the sides and back. Sometimes I cut it better than others, but just doing it is one of my secret pleasures.

I’ve hardly taken any photos this year, except when I went to Palm Springs and then there’s my ongoing obsession with how the sky looks from my front window, but I just uploaded a few to flirckr. I love the one I posted of RU on the boat. She didn’t know I was taking it and she’s hard to get a good photo of. Plus it captured the joy of being on this little boat in the SF bay, heading toward the Golden Gate as the sun was just starting to begin it’s drop.

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sunny side up

June 6, 2010

Sunshine finally came to Portland and the blues skies and long shadows have wiped out the bitterness about the rain, just like that. No lingering bad feelings. If you sent me sunny wishes, thank you. If you’re sweaty and sitting in front of a fan, I still envy you a little. Portland’s pretty sexy in the sunshine. It’s like finally noticing the bookish girl who sat behind you in English class is actually a fox and then you can’t stop thinking about her. RU and I went for an epic walk to savor all that foxiness. Spectacular stuff – the foxiness of sunshine.

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