swimming, sunshine and memories

February 22, 2010

Great coffee in Palm  Springs. I’d never have guessed it, but every morning RU and I have walked to Koffi for lattes and americanos that rival Portland’s own. Seriously. That’s one thing about traveling and being kind of addicted to coffee. It’s hard to find great stuff on the road. So Koffi’s a terrific find. Way, way better than the Blue Bottle in SF. And makes the beans in NYC not even worth mentioning.

At first we couldn’t find the place. The guys that run the little hotel where we’re staying had called it coffee with a “k” and that’s literally what RU and I looked for as we drove down Palm Canyon, craning our necks at the signage on either side of the road. We shared a collective “doh” when we finally spotted it. Prices run about the same as in Portland, which tells you something about the Rose City’s cost of living. Anyway, it’s just been this nice, unexpected pleasure to have such good coffee every morning.

I’ve been swimming twice since I’ve been here, which seems almost unbelievable to me. It makes a big difference that the pool is heated, for sure, still, I can’t think of the last time I went swimming outside. I don’t go swimming in Portland in the summer. And any time I’ve been to any of the Oregon beaches the water is too cold for me, even in warm weather. I’ve only swum in the Pacific twice. Once when I was visiting Martha and she took me to this semi isolated beach in Malibu and another time in the Bahia de Banderas when RU and I went to Puerto Vallarta.

The last time I was in a pool though was this time last year, when Kath and I went home to bury Dad. We stayed in the suburbs at a hotel with a pool and I brought my swim suit just in case. I swam on the one night that we didn’t have other things to do. I don’t know why. I wanted to do something normal I think. But it was like trying to take respite in my junior high gym after everyone had gone home for the day — if it had had a pool. It was empty and out of place and I wasn’t sure what I was doing there.

I didn’t plan this trip to coincide with last year’s but it’s ok it turned out that way. It doesn’t make Dad’s dying the way he did any worse or any better, but the sun feels good and I got a slight recharge. Which is a lucky thing because I still need to write a letter to the VA appealing their denial of our application for his death benefits. Fucking bureaucratic bullshit. Something I’ve had little energy to deal with for the last year, but time is running out.

I hadn’t planned on writing about Dad. I had no idea how much his death would become part of my life. I’m not surprised that it has, it just wasn’t something I predicted. For so long he wasn’t really part of my life.

Yesterday, after spending the better part of the day by our hotel pool, Rachel and I went on a self-guided MCM architecture tour that took us from one end of Palm Springs to the other. It was late in the afternoon and we were driving on these wide streets that reminded me more of the midwest than of Portland. Something about the traffic and way the sun was shining made me flashback to a teenage summer evening in Indy, riding in the car with my mom over to my cousin’s, window rolled down, pushing my hand against the air, skin a little sun burnt, chlorine rainbows jumping off everything that was shiny, and there was the faintest smell of coconut oil hanging around me. The impossibly sexy smell.

No Comments »

February 18, 2010

Sunshine is an amazing thing. Especially when it seems to spill out from some endless supply, which maybe there is down here in southern California. I’ve never been to Palm Springs before. I feel like I’ve walked into an issue of Dwell Magazine, the sunny edition. RU just said it is so nice out and it truly is. We can see the mountains; a pool is about ten feet away; we just got back from a bike ride admiring the palm trees and the architecture.

I need some renewal. I didn’t realize it until we got here last night. I could use the vitamin D too, which is no joke. But the last year, has been a really tough one. Took something out of me I think.

I feel incredibly lucky to be here.

No Comments »

a year ago

February 13, 2010

This time last year Katherine and I were getting ourselves ready to come home and bury Dad. I’ve been thinking about him more on the anniversary of this trip than I did on the anniversary of his death, which was just a couple weeks ago. It’s not surprising that it took coming home and being immersed in his after-life, to make his death real to me in a way it hadn’t been up to that point. Sadly, I was never as close to Dad as I was that week last year, which probably doesn’t sound that weird to anyone else who’s lost a parent.

As a rule, I’ve not speculated a lot on what exactly happened to Dad. It was a fire. He was found kneeling by his bed with his arms folded over the top of the mattress and his head laying face down in them. His cell phone was on the floor. His dog on the rug beside him. The coroner had Kath identify the tattoos on Dad’s arm via a photo and you can see the redness of burnt skin on the side of his chest. Nothing good in any of that to speculate on.

But this morning, when I was just half awake and the sun wasn’t up yet, I got filled with a kind of palpable imagining of him waking up to a dark room so full of smoke that he couldn’t see and reaching out for the phone, but knocking it off the table. I could feel the fear and confusion, and the disbelief he must have felt, even if only for a split second, when he realized that he wasn’t going to make it.

No Comments »


February 3, 2010

Until I write my own ode to the midwest this weill have to do for. Just because your state is flat doesn’t mean you’re in the Midwest.


changing history

February 1, 2010

Fifty years ago today, four black students from North Carolina Agricultural and Technical College walked into a Woolworth five-and-dime with asked to order lunch. They stayed until the end of the day, when counter closed. The next day, they came back with 15 other students. By the third day, 300 joined in; later, 1,000. The sit-ins spread to lunch counters across the country — and changed history.

On MLK day in the midst of all the “I Have A Dream” clips, a couple local reporters drew some very loose analogies between a couple local campaigns and civil rights. A guy from the Mercury talked about MLK in the context of the campaign to pass a two ballot measures that would nominally raise taxes on high income earners and businesses, and the bikeportland.org guy talked about civil rights in reference to bike rider’s rights to use the road. Both columns bummed me out and reminded me of Oregon’s overwhelming whiteness. The campaigns being discussed were legit and they have an impact on real people’s lives, but they’re not landmark movements. It’s as though those reporters failed to understand the suffering, torture and killing that were part of slavery and part of the Jim Crow south. Whether or no they intended it, I read it as this casual white wash of MLK, where not only was he was separated from his blackness, but there was no recognition of why the civil rights movement was so necessary – why people were willing to risk their lives.

When people ask me about living in Portland, I try to explain it’s overwhelming sense of whiteness. It’s uncomfortable and strange. It’s so just so white.

No Comments »