blog challenge topic 2: hair

April 18, 2013

Dad’s Hair

My dad’s hair smelled. Not bad. Also, not good. Just distinct. He always wore a hat. Mostly a rolled up stocking cap. So maybe it was the smell of the hat and his sweat trapped in the hat and then dried on his head plus cigarette smoke and sawdust from work and the smell of outside mixed with smell of his truck, in which he stored everything – his tools, books, clothes, etc. Sometimes I’ll smell the inside of one of the stocking caps that I used to wear all the time and I swear it smells a little bit like him.

When I was young, maybe 6 or 7 or 8, Dad used to let me and my sister Katherine comb his hair. He’d sit on the side of one of our beds and take off his stocking cap and and Kath and I would stand or kneel behind hind and run a comb through his hair, over and over and over. Or maybe it was a brush? Dad never said much to us while he sat there. He was mostly quiet. Kept his hands folded together in his lap. Maybe his head was bowed down a little, unless one of us tilted it up or to the side. Which is a distinct possibility. I’m pretty sure Kath and I fussed over him and probably argued about taking turns and whoever wasn’t doing the grooming likely tried to lean up a little bit against his shoulder or his back.

Hair Cut

For a chunk of time when I was little, like at least in kindergarten through 2nd grade, I had short hair. My mom called it a pixie hair cut, which was maybe a way to cutefy the cut which was pretty boyish on me. Or at least I passed a lot as a boy then. Mom always took me to her hair stylist to get my hair cut. The salon was in the basement of a semi fancy, old hotel near downtown and first mom would get her hair permed and I would run around the hotel and ride the elevators and then while Mom was under the dryer I’d get my hair cut. Mom’s stylist used scissors on everything but my bangs, which she cut with a straight razor. She would pull a lock of of my bangs out with her one hand and hold them and then with her other hand hack at the ends with the razor. It always tugged on my head in a way that made me tear up. I would get so quiet and I wouldn’t look at myself in the mirror because I didn’t want to see myself crying. I don’t think she needed to use a razor to get the stupid pixie look she was going for and sometimes I think she must have enjoyed inflicting the pain on me.

MTB’s Hair

The first time I saw MTB was years ago at the E room. I noticed her because she was rocking a modified mullet and wearing mostly black, and I’m pretty she was wearing a vest too. I remember thinking about her hair and thinking “bold.” As in right the fuck on bold. It was so fucking cool, I thought; she was making the mullet her own. Plus she looked hot. I saw her a few times at the E room. I thought the same thing every time. Bold! Coooooool! Hot!

I met MTB in person about 4 years ago via a get together for CS. CS invited a bunch of people out to celebrate the fact she’d quit this job that was sucking the life out of her soul. I was sitting at the end of table with 6 or 7  people when MTB walked in Bar Bar and I thought, holy shit there is that hot dyke who rocked a mullet from E Room. I immediately got self conscious and I tried not to stare at MTB. Or not to be too obvious about staring. At some point CS introduced us and then at some point later, MTB and I caught each other’s eye across the table.  I’ve got to admit that I don’t remember how MTB was wearing her hair that night. I’m sure there was that curl cascading down the right side of her face, but I couldn’t say how long or how short it was, or if it was dyed. Besides catching her eye, what I remember were her boots. Danner’s. The kind a logger would wear. I nearly melted.

1 Comment »

blog challenge. 4 topics in 8 days. first up: beer.

April 17, 2013

MTB and I are undertaking a mutual blog challenge. The challenge runs from today through next Wednesday the 25th and our goal is to publish a post on each the following topics: hair, dogs, summer and beer.

We are kicking it off with beer. Which is funny because I don’t drink beer. I don’t even like beer. I never acquired a taste for it. Cheers. Except not with a beer.

I’ve drunk beer exactly one time in my life. I was 14. I was at party celebrating our Episcopal diocese getting a new bishop. Episcopalians are decadent when it comes to alcohol. Or at least they were in the 70s. Me and my friends were some of the youngest kids at this party, which was put on by one of my best friend’s older brother and sister, who were kind of cool, or at least cool enough to know lots of cool people. Also, their mom let kids drink alcohol at their house, upping the cool factor exponentially. The scene had a little bit of The Dazed and Confused feel to it, with a whole bunch of high school and college kids coming in and out of the house. Classic rock blasting on the stereo. And a handful of us, who had just gotten out of junior high.

I started out with a couple of Strohs tall boys, which tasted bitter, and then had some Little Kings creamed ale, which tasted creamy and bitter. But Little Kings were what all the cool, older kids at the party were drinking, so I just sucked them down. I followed up the Strohs and Little Kings with some wine and then port and then some liquor. Just re-reading that sentence, makes me want to vomit. The night did not end well for me. But I won’t go into too many of the details. Suffice it to say that when I got home, I vomitated. (I asked my housemate, Remy, who I just accidentally called Roomy, what another word for vomitate is, absolutely unaware that I was thinking out loud and in doing so, that a non-word combination of regurgitate and vomit was actually coming out of my mouth. Pun intended. Anyway, she said I had to include the word, vomitate, in my post) I vomitated a lot that night. Outside the party in a neighbor’s front yard. And then in the bathroom attached to my mom’s bedroom.

After that, for years, and by years I mean up through college and a little longer, I mostly stuck to disgustingly sweet liquored drinks, like cherry vodka and peach schnapps, etc, which did not make me a very good dyke. Because I was never up for splitting a pitcher or springing for a six pack or going in on a keg or driving over to Ohio on a Sunday because Indiana is dry on Sundays. There was no shot gunning for me. Or playing quarters. Or funnneling. I don’t regret that. But maybe its why I didn’t stick with rugby, which I do regret a little.

My housemate, Remy, suggested that I tell that story, in part, because I don’t have any other beer stories of my own. Remy also said I could basically lie and say I drink beer, but I think she was just humoring me because she is tired and I want attention. Remy said a bunch of  other things about beer, like how delicious it is to have one after a long hike and how once when she was drinking Belgian beers with her friend, Lisa, the bartender touched Remy’s finger nails because her nail polish was glittery and that chicken cooked on a beer can reminds Remy of going to Communist Bulgaria and hearing the song, Ring of Fire, and sitting in a bedroom full of stuffed animals, and also of constipation. Except, Remy wants to stress she wasn’t not the one who was constipated; it was her friend, and for some reason a very handsome soccer player took Remy and her friend to the hospital where her friend  was given anal suppositories.

Is it maybe lazy or a cheap shot or too obvious or trying too hard to be funny to end a post on beer when you don’t drink beer with the phrase “anal suppositories.”

I am so very confident that MTB is going to have a much better story about beer! Very confident, in fact.

No Comments »

staci with and i

November 30, 2012

I remember the very first girl I almost kissed. I was 12 and she was 10. We lived in the same apartment complex, but her family had moved in a year after mine. Same kind of deal though, single mom, newly divorced, older siblings. Her name was Staci (with an “i”). She was short and wiry and had shoulder length straight blond hair, the color of corn silk. Her voice was low and raspy, like she smoked a pack of cigarettes a day. But none of us were smoking yet back then.

We rode the same bus to school, but we didn’t much talk at the bus stop or at school. The 2 year age difference seemed gigantic, until the summer came around and all the kids who lived in complex hung out together at the pool, racing each other, diving for rocks we threw to the bottom of the deep end and having epic splash contests, lots of times off the diving board. I swear to god I perfected a can opener that summer that splashed a ridiculous amount of water all over the cement surrounding the pool and if possible, the lifeguard. In large part, because I was trying to impress the lifeguard who I had a huge crush on. She wore a salmon colored one piece, mirrored aviator sunglasses, and had the most perfect deep Coppertone tan. She always smelled like coconut, which at 12, smelled sexy to me. And even now, in the summer months, that smell still gets to me. The lifeguard kept a radio turned on all day and would turn the volume up when Elton John came on or Wings or Eric Clapton’s cover of “I Shot The Sherriff.” It is impossible for me to hear those songs now and not think of summer.

At the pool, Staci was game for anything. Chicken fights, underwater swim contests, who could hold their handstand the longest, who had the best backstroke . . . and on and on.  At some point during the summer, Staci started coming over to our apartment sometimes for lunch. I kind of think she just invited herself and I would make us Spaghetti-Os or ham sandwiches. And we would drink Cokes and eat Pringles and wait out the hour we were supposed to before going back to the pool (so we wouldn’t get cramps swimming) by either watching a crappy soap opera or game show on TV or riding our bikes around the apartment complex. Sometimes I would trail her around on my handlebars up and down our little street, our shorts sticking to our legs, sun making us sweat.

I’m pretty sure that coming over to our place for lunch is how Staci saw my epic collection of Matchbox cars and Hotwheels. I must have left them out on the back patio, where I often built these intricate city-scapes made up of small boxes as stand-ins for buildings and houses and used tiny rocks to outline streets. I was deep into my imagination and my car cities weren’t something I shared with many other kids, but Staci must have been cool about it, because the night we almost kissed, she was sitting there with me while I was playing with my cars. Actually, I was building a small city on the dining room table. And Staci was asking me questions about the city and the cars and all the make believe lives I’d created to inhabit them. She leaned over the table sometimes. Sometimes she leaned close to me and I’d just answer her and keep working away. I remember the overhead light was on, but the rest of the apartment was dark and the dining room window was open and you could hear the crickets outside. When the city was all built and I didn’t have any more stories, Staci and I were just sat there together and looked at it. We were quiet. Her leg was near mine, my arm near hers. She smelled just like chlorine and cherry bubblegum and we kind of looked at each other for what seemed like forever right then, but was probably only a second or two.  Maybe we were kind of smiling, maybe she closed her eyes for a nano-second.  And then through the open window we heard her sister yelling for her. I remember Staci just kind of shrugged her shoulders at me and got up and said something like, “Cool city. See you tomorrow.”


another amazing sunrise which somehow led to me thinking about my dad

October 4, 2012

Looking at the Cascade range silhouetted against the sunrise this morning made me think of looking at a picture in a book or a travel magazine. it was a very “this is the northwest – it is stunning” moment. It is amazing that sunrises on the tram, even with 70 people crowded in the cabin, can be so amazing to look at. I know I am repeating myself writing about this, but I can’t help it. How does one stop talking about an amazing thing?

Sometimes, during the thick of rainy season I will try to remind myself that all the amazing sunshine is still right there; it’s just behind the cloud cover. Occasionally, the trick works and this idea makes me feel less desperate for the sun. Other times it makes me feel all “dead duck,” inf act, I’d say almost wretched if I inclined to be dramatic about it, and I want jump on a plane as fast as I can and top the clouds so I can finally see the blue sky again.

There are still times I think of flying home after my dad died, leaving Portland early on a grey and cloudy February morning, falling asleep and then waking up somewhere over the upper midwest. The sky was so clear, which felt bittersweet, and I stared out of the window, looking down at the typical patchwork of farmland that makes up so much of the midwestern landscape. It was both a sad and comforting thing to look at because I had been ruminating on and writing about that landscape for many months before my dad’s death, re-remembering everything I loved about the Indiana as a place and how it was almost like this metaphor for who I am and how I go about being in the world. I had even gone that summer before my dad died, in large part, because I was worried I was just imagining that I loved the landscape and was kinda scared that I had fallen into a deep and delusional bout of nostalgia, as opposed to having real and true insight. And I’d felt so relieved and affirmed and so like, “yes, I do actually know myself,” to get home and discover that the all the places and things I had been re-remembering still did blow me away in my heart. And that quest, so to speak, was why I saw my dad alive for the last time, about 6 months before the fire.

I don’t know why stuff about my dad is coming up. I don’t feel sad and there’s nothing happening that would trigger it – no special dates, no dreams, no recent contacts with his friends or his other family. I’m not working on the his ww2 letter project. I don’t purposefully look at his photo every day. I even removed his dog tag from my key chain several months ago and as of right this second, I’m not even sure where I put it and strangely, I don’t feel panicked about that. So, I don’t know what’s going. Could it be as simple as the facts that 1) I am amazed that amazing things still happen, and 2) I am truely in my heart amazed by the amazing things? How long does grief last anyway? Do you know you’re done grieving because you cry at your desk over an email from another writer and you can’t stop talking on your blog about sunrises? I thought I was done grieving a year ago, but I can’t figure out why I’m talking about my dead dad now, in the same breath as wonderful stuff, like getting to see the sunrise.

No Comments »

when all else fails write about your childhood

August 23, 2012

When I was in 7th or 8th grade, I asked my gym teacher, Miss Benz, about the  junior olympics, vaguely hinting around that I wanted to be in them.  It’s kind of embarrassing to think about it now, or more I feel kind of embarrassed for my junior high self. Because even though I was on the athletic side, I wasn’t particularly gifted at anything; plus I was getting kind of pudgy and out of shape from the combination of puberty and spending too much time in front of the TV, eating pieces of bread I rolled up into dough balls and drinking glass after glass of sweet tea. But I had this fantasy self that was going to run hurdles, thanks in large part to my baby butch crush on Babe Didrikson. I’d checked out a biography of her from the school library and I was blown away. Babe was a bad ass. And I didn’t even know that there were women athletes that could be bad ass like that. It was 1974. There was Chris Evert and Billie Jean. Olga Korbut. Maybe Ann Myers was in my radar too. All great athletes, for sure. But not like the Babe and after reading her bio I really wanted to be bad ass too.

Silly as it sounds, I wasn’t exactly sure how one went about becoming a bad ass athlete, as in that it would a shit load of practice. I thought either you were born talented or not. I’m being a little simplistic and exaggerating too, but on some fundamental level I didn’t understand how much training and practice it takes for even talented people to be good. I think its because I didn’t play a lot of sports growing up. A big chunk of my child hold occurred during the pre Title IX years. There weren’t many organized leagues for girls sports. Definitely not like now, and not like there was even in the 80s and 90s. The only league I even vaguely knew about about was run by “Tab,” a Presbyterian church where my Mom got married, but we all went to an Episcopal church  so I wasn’t sure how that would work out. Plus it may have just been a softball league and I had my heart set on basketball and then track and field. Also, it didn’t help that for a number of years I went to a private school run by a bunch of teachers from the UK and we didn’t have a gym class. The Brit teachers gave us a soccer ball at recess, and we kicked it around and scored goals, but no one really explained the rules to us.

I don’t remember what my gym teacher said to me about the junior olympics. I think she kind of brushed me off. Maybe she was embarrassed for me too. It’s funny because she could have challenged me to shoot 100 baskets a day or start out by running short distances and I probably would have done it.



random thoughts at the start of a new year

January 4, 2012

The sun is starting to set and I do believe that the day is just a little bit longer than it was a week ago. Which is how it works. Minutes get added on to minutes and then some time in April we notice that the sun is setting and it’s a few minutes past 8pm. If it’s not cloudy. I mean we notice the time the sun sets if it’s not cloudy.

Right now the sky is covered with scattered clouds, turning orange and pink on the their undersides as they move closer to the bright strip of light that hugs the horizon. It’s kind of spectacular looking. It’s like the end of the world is right over there.

I had the good luck to start 2012 off in the company of funny, warm and generous friends. I don’t tend to look for signs, but still, I’m hoping that it is a sign of nice and friendly things to come.

Last night I remembered that it was my dad’s birthday. He would have been 86 this year. I swear I’m better at remembering his birthday now that he’s dead. When he was alive, neither one of us were good at remembering each others birthdays, or at least letting the other person know we remembered. I don’t know who started forgetting first. I’d like to say him, because he was a crappy dad, but it could have been me, because he was a crappy dad. I don’t mean for this to be a crappy dad story, though, because remembering his birthday makes miss him and makes me wish I would have written his birthday down on a calendar and called him every year no matter what kind of dad he was.

January 1st was the 35th anniversary of the ordination of the first woman Episcopal priest. And I was there. It happened in the church I grew up in.

I was 14 years old when Jackie Means got ordained at All Saints church. I think almost the whole congregation was there that day for Jackie, squeezed in along with everybody else who wanted to see history happening. I don’t remember much of the service, except for Martin Bell singing one of Jackie’s favorite songs that was from a folk mass he’d composed and Jim Taylor giving speaking fervently about the historical nature the event. What I remember most were the body guards and news people and the cameras and the protestors, a number of whom came from our own congregation. They wore black arm bands. They held signs, I think. I’m pretty sure they even stood up during the service and condemned Jackie’s ordination and called it a heresy. It was sad and strange. These were people I’d grown up with, people who’d probably been at both my baptism and my confirmation, people who were kind of like a second family. After that day, they were gone from our lives.

It was amazing and overwhelming to be there. Because of the personal significance to my church family at All Saints and because I really loved Jackie and was cheering for her the whole way and because I’d never been as close I was that day to experiencing a cultural shift. I was sitting there and something historical was happening 10 or 20 feet away from me, which would change the Episcopal church forever.

Strangely, I barely remember Jackie at all that day, a day that changed her life forever too. I suppose that’s because I was 14 and in the throws of a typical narcissistic adolescence and it was crowded and hard to see and there must have a ton of people around her after the service at whatever reception was held in the parish hall. But I remember the first time I took communion from her a week late and how moving that was. But Even with my hazy memory, I’m still grateful to have been there the day Jackie was ordained and grateful to have stood with Jackie. It is amazing thing at 14 to get the chance to stand up for something real like that and I feel lucky to have been at All Saints during the years she served as our associate priest. She was good to us and good to me. Thanks, Jackie and congratulations on 35 years of remarkable service.


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.


fodder for a poem – maybe

July 16, 2010

I wrote this several years ago and I keep thinking I can user some of it for a poem. It’s about summer when I was a kid.

We spent the rest of the summer in my backyard or Tim’s and when we weren’t there, we were riding our bikes up and down the street with one of the George’s (pet snake) wrapped around our handle bars. We passed rainy days jumping up and down on my bed, singing to Jesus Christ Superstar and the Jackson Five. We found the Playboy magazines our parents had hidden under their mattresses and we swung on the trapeze my father hung in the garage. We wrote a play about saving a tree and staged it on my front porch and charged every kid in the neighborhood a nickel to come see it. We ate Oreo cookies and Space Sticks and cut the crusts off the ham sandwiches we made. We drank Koolaid sitting on the wall of my porch, legs dangling over the side, dropping half melted ice cubes down into the patches of dirt beneath our feet. On muggy evenings my mother took us to Lindners Ice Cream shop. She stayed in the car while we waited in line, waiting our turn to order milkshakes and sundaes with lids on them so we could take back home. On days it was so hot that the pavement burnt our feet, we’d ride over to Butler college a couple blocks away from where we lived. We’d throw our bikes in the grass and chase each other under the rows of sprinklers that rained down on the big lawn in front of the library. The water arced in the sun and cast off halos wherever we looked.

1 Comment »

or something

June 23, 2009

Cardboard. That’s how it feels sometimes. Like I am cardboard. Mostly flat. Or maybe burlap is a better fit as is can take on some rudimentary shapes depending on how you fill it. But it’s the middle of the marathon here. Nothing sexy. Just more miles.

Solstice has come and gone and summer hasn’t even really started yet out here in this part of Oregon. I hate that fact more than I hate the rain. I don’t even really hate the rain so I guess that’s not an apt comparison. I just hate that summer starts when the days are getting shorter. I miss summers that start in May, summers that have seen the first sun burn come and go by this date.

This weekend I took a train to Eugene to see my sister and niece.The ride was a little dreamy and a little sad. I got to thinking about my father. Something about the clumps of trees so close to the tracks reminded me of home and I remembered that I am never going to see him again. Never.

I had a dream about my father the weekend before last. My sister and I were visiting him in a nursing home. He was telling us a story, looking from my face to her’s, checking our expressions for something. As he was ending, I kinda rushed him along, telling him “we have to go”; we had to go see see so and so. He looked up. Looked  right at me and said, “But I don’t want you to go.” Said it twice. And then my sister and I laid our heads down on his arm.

No Comments »

winding down

December 28, 2008

It’s 10pm on a Saturday night and I’m making latkes and reading posts about “best records of the year”. After more than a week of snow, warmer temps have came back to town, along with the rain. And now Portland is awash in a sea of slush. My feet are still wet from an epic walk around the sotuheast side. Trying to quiet the blues that seem to be weighing heavy on me as 2008 winds down. iTunes is playing random songs and  “Band on the Run” just came on and suddenly I’m at the pool waiting my turn at the diving board and every where the smell of coconut oil mixes with the smell of chlorine. The lifegaurd  cranked her little radio, but I can’t tell if she’s looking at me through her mirrored sunglasses.

That’s how it is so often with music and for some reason these last couple months I’ve been listening to it less and less. I think because I wanted to shut down to myself.  Music opens me up. And I couldn’t bare it these las couple months.

Earlier today I was at the grocery store and the Smashing Pumpkins “1979” came on. I cannot hear that song without remembering a certain girl. I hear that drum fill in the beginning, sticks on the rim, and I’m in her car at Taco Bell late at night and at that moment I didn’t want to be any where else. Sometimes I wonder what we would have done without each other that winter.

The latkes were good. The applesauce and sour cream helped. But that’s what they’re supposed to do.

No Comments »