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December 25, 2008

Time for a new motto, perhaps?

In the past week and change, Portland has received somewhere in the neighborhood of 14 inches of snow. It didn't all come at once; it would snow for a day, be clear for a few days, snow again. And yet, since the snow first started falling on December 14, most streets here have yet to be cleared. They're calling this the worst storm in 40 years.

Here are a few fun facts about my first winter storm experience in a place that sucks at winter:

-In the past two weeks I have had four days off (out of seven possible working days) due to weather related conditions. During the first three there was maybe a few inches that stuck to the ground.

-No one here owns a shovel. That means no one bothered removing snow from their sidewalks. That means once the temp got above freezing during the day the snow would melt, and then harden into a citywide skating rink by nightfall.

-Salting the roads is illegal here due to environmental concerns. One would think plowing was also illegal, since I saw but a handful of the machines during the whole of Winter Storm 08.

-Tire chains are not only legal, but they were required on all state highways.

-They finally decided to sand and snowplow Interstate 5, which is the state's main north-south thoroughfare, on Tuesday. The machines started rolling out during rush hour. Some poor people were stuck on the highway for upwards of five hours trying to get home for the holidays. Some ran out of gas.

-Mass transit has been a crap shoot. Two of our three train lines stopped running, including the one that goes to the airport. The usually handy Transit Tracker arrival time phone line told me last night that the buses on the line I intended to take "may or may not be running."

-Flights in and out of PDX were canceled for three days, evidently because every airline ran out of de-icing fluid.

Were it not for the kind Portland citizens who helped push the boyf's car out of snowbanks not once, not twice, but thrice (and who joined him in pushing out a car that inexplicably chose to drive down train tracks last night), I might have started to sour on this fair city.

As it is, I think they might want to change their motto to something else besides "The City that Works," at least for three months out of the year.

TP note: Happy Chanukah to my fellow members of the tribe and Merry Christmas to all you goyim.

December 19, 2008

Bath time, Laura Ingalls Wilder style

Back when I was a grubby, bang-faced child of 8, I used to protest bath time with what I thought was a cunning, ingenious defense: Ma and Pa Ingalls only made their brood bathe once a week, according to the "A Little House on the Prairie" series. I begged my own ma and pa to allow me to do the same.

Now I know why the Ingalls' cleanliness was so sporadic. Bathing without the help of modern plumbing is... well... read on, dear readers.

Our pipes first froze on Sunday. The chill initially affected our kitchen, leaving us with mounting piles of petrified pots, pans and plates. We decided to make the best of it, and since the elements had not yet touched our bathroom faucets we lugged everything into the bathtub and washed it there. It was a little gross, but I felt all pioneer about it. "This is what the Boxcar Children would have done," I thought to myself. "Definitely."

The next morning was a snow day, so I took my sweet time getting presentable. When I finally decided to wash the stinkys away I realized with horror that Jack Frost had gotten his icy grip around our precious bathroom plumbing, too. The water in both the sink and tub was barely trickling out, and what managed to emerge was ice cold. Now that I've matured into a woman who feels absolutely disgusting unless she's laundered her tresses on a daily basis, the thought of skipping a day was unbarable.

I gritted my teeth and resigned myself to the inevitable: I was going to have to take a sponge bath. I found my biggest pot and waited for an eternity for the faucet's little trickle to fill it up. Then I sloshed it on the stove and waited an eternity for it to heat to an acceptable temperature. Then I sloshed it onto the floor of my bathtub. I hovered over it in a vertical fetal position and my frigid flesh shuddered as each measuring cupful of water ran down it. It was miserable. And cold. And awkward. And miserable. And I vowed never to submit to a sponge bath again until I was old. And then I did it again the next day.

I'm happy to report that our pipes are once again home to mighty gushes of heated agua. Never again will I wish to emulate my storybook forebearers in habits of hygiene.

December 9, 2008

The typical Portlander will sneer at you if:

  • You buy your groceries anywhere but at your local coop or the hippy favorite, New Seasons. At the very least you should go to Whole Foods. If you shop at local chain Fred Meyer's or Safeway you clearly want the bioterrorists to win. Go ahead. Buy that un-organic tomato. But I'd rather die a fiery death than eat it in the caprese salad you just made me.
  • You shop at any chain. What's that? You're getting your beloved episodes of Six Feet Under at Blockbuster because your aunt sent you a gift card? Way to support your local video store, jerk.
  • You use a car as your primary mode of transit. Ever heard of mass transit, dude? And this is only the most bike-able city EVER in the HISTORY of the UNIVERSE. I get 32 miles per burrito. What do you get?
  • You watch TV, especially crap TV like Gossip Girl or The Hills. The cool kids don't own TVs. We read episode recaps on Gawker and feel/act morally superior.
  • You buy new clothes. Pants: old drapes I sewed together. Shirt: a vintage, ironic Mickey Mouse shirt purchased for $2.00 from a homeless woman who threw in a paper clip necklace. Jewelry: paper clip necklace. Shoes: Kenneth Cole boots my mom sent me that I covered in duct tape to stave off embarrassment of wearing leather. Hat and scarf: knitted from the yarn of an unraveled thrift store sweater.
  • You attend less than three beer festivals in any given year. There's one practically every weekend so you have no excuse not to go and exclaim at the awesomeness of the latest jalapeno-strawberry-chocolate-coffee brew.
  • You throw anything away. That chicken carcass can be used (and reused, and reused) to make broth. That broken hanger could become a piece of art about the fragility of human experience. That notebook with one piece of paper left, that old shoelace, those stickers for the 99 cent roast beef special could all be donated to Scrap. Never, ever throw away or recycle coupons. People dumpster dive for them. Be grateful they're yours.
  • You don't devote a small part of your day to Keeping Portland Weird. Today I saw a man at the train station wearing a skull mask under his hoody and skeleton gloves. He was doing his part. It's time to do yours.

December 7, 2008

Let's pretend this is a picture blog

I was perusing our new handy blog roll (conveniently located to the right of the page, under the archives) and got reacquainted with Everyday, a lovely and whimsical photo blog from our lovely and whimsical friend Sarumph. Because I want to be like her in all things, I'm going to pretend for one teensy tiny post that I can be a stunning artiste as well.

Or maybe I just took a bunch of pretentious pictures that I wanted to post somewhere but didn't think belonged on Facebook. You'll never know.

We went to Pix Patisserie, a glorious place for a francophile. Here you will see the St. Honore (a confection of cream puffs and caramel), cream about to be poured into coffee, one of my fleur du sel caramel macarons and my boyfriend's crotch. Try to ignore the latter.

This is my eyeball. The sun was shining directly into it, revealing its splotches of blue and yellow that forge to make that olive-y color. I wanted to see what it looked like so I made the boyf take eleventy dozen photos of it whilst I struggled to keep the peeper open. This blurry mess is the best we got. Deal.

This is the vessel for the sugar that accompanied his coffee. It made us have a funny reflection, which my camera struggled but failed to capture properly. I hope you don't think that cherry next to it is real. It's been decoupaged onto the table. Don't try to eat it.

We have been having glorious sunsets lately.

There was one other thing I wanted to take a picture of but didn't: there's a tree in front of my apartment building that has lost all its leaves but inexplicably has flowers blooming on it. I might take a snap later and add it to this post, but don't get your hopes up. I'm fickle on Sundays.

PS: Happy birthday Sarrumph! Bisous!

December 2, 2008

Selling my soul

Dude. I've been looking for a second part-time job to supplement my piddly income since, like, ever. I'm on Craigslist every freaking day praying to find something like this:

Hip, truthy magazine seeks peppy young writer/editor semi-fresh from college, but with a year of journalism odd jobs under her belt. We need you 20 hours a week, and heck yes we'll work around your other job. Along with an outrageous hourly wage for the work required and a sublimely generous benefits package, we'll feed you and send you home with leftovers. We also have an office dog who likes to curl up in your lap and be cute whilst you work. Oh, and sometimes we like talking in Cockney accents. That's all. Pip pip!

Instead, I inevitably find listing after listing that says something to the effect of this:

Boring office in lame suburb seeks peon to do menial office work while we stare our beady eyes down your neck. The work required is tedious, but we want you to have been doing similar tedious work for at least a decade before we will even consider you. We only want you 20 hours a week (and never a minute more!), but we will schedule it in such a way that it is impossible for you to have another job. We will pay you a pittance. Benefits? You wish! We will hate you and you will never have anything more enjoyable than a "semi-OK, I guess" day here, so don't get your hopes up. Oh, and our toilet overflows a lot. You're going to have to clean it up.

Or this:

We need a sales-driven, computer-savvy registered nurse who has a car.

The job market here hasn't been stellar since I started paying attention to it--too many do-gooding recent graduates just like me are flocking here--and this Recession doohickey isn't doing a heckuva lot to help anything. So it got me to thinking: Recession or no, people are hella anxious to procreate, right? And the people who are unable to will go to quite the lengths to get a bouncing bundle of joy on their knee.

Basically what I'm trying to say is people would pay top dollar for my reproductive facilities, as evidenced by this article in last Sunday's New York Times Magazine. And according to what I've been seeing on Craigslist, they'll pay double for my goods since I'm Jewish. We're talking $20,000 here for the teensy trade-off of physical discomfort, social stigma and chance that in the future someone with my genes will be walking around somewhere in the great wide world.

Just throwing it out there.

November 30, 2008

The best (true) ending to a story ever

After a mightily expensive Thanksgiving holiday, the gent and I decided to spend the last two days holed up in the apartment watching Six Feet Under and not spending money. To keep ourselves from going totally insane we devised outings for each day. Last night he suggested we get all gussied up. I put on a dress and my most ridiculous earrings and high heels and make up and did my hairs. He donned his nice black shirt and white tie. Where did we go in all our finery, you ask? Erm... we went to Blockbuster for more Six Feet Under.

Today we decided to go for a walk. People always ask, "Oh, so you live by Mt. Tabor?" when we tell them our apartment's vicinity, but we've never actually seen the thing. We decided to head in its general direction, passing scads of cute Portland hobbit houses on the way. It's so weird for it to be on the cusp of December and yet have roses and dahlias still blooming. Flies are even alive here. I got bit by a mosquito, for goodness sake.

We kept hoofing it into further elevations above sea level, pausing every so often to look back at the mist-covered hilltops and mountaintops. Finally we reached Mt. Tabor Park, where a seemingly endless series of stairs cut into the hillside. Panting, we stumbled to a bench at the summit and encountered the most wondrous site through a gap in the pines. Snow-covered Mt. Hood was bathed in a pinky-orange glow, and there was so much thick fog that the 36 miles between the two peaks looked like a gloamy lake. A crowd of people paused their jogs and bike rides to behold it. The view was truly spectacular, and of course I didn't have a camera to capture it for posterity. This is the closest thing I could find on the interwebs:

Then, on the way back home, I found $15. No, seriously, I was just minding my own business when I saw three Abe Lincolns staring up at me.

November 29, 2008

The First Annual Neenuh Saves Thanksgiving

Is there anything more terrifying than hosting a conglomeration of your peers for a dinner on a day devoted to a certain fowl you've never handled in its flesh? For the purposes of this blog post, I'm going to answer my own rhetorical question with a resounding "No. There is nothing."

It started out being just me, the boyf and my big brother who were to gather at my extremely humble (read: mouse's shoebox-sized) apartment. Then six more Portland orphans said they wanted to come, two of whom later retracted that wish, so in the end we were seven. According to my father's turkey math, that meant a 15 pound bird. I agonized for weeks over the accompanying menu. Should I follow the Food Network's lead and make something irrestibly gourmet (but still a little gross) out of offal? Should I infuse my mashed potatoes with truffle oil? Would people laugh at me if I crowned the yams with a crust of gooey marshmallows?

In the end, I went traditional: my customary pear and goat cheese appetizers, a pear and toasted walnut salad, broiled asparagus, cranberry sauce with orange zest and gravy. Our guests contributed two kinds of stuffing, mashed taters, two kinds of pie and booze galore. I wanted to make rolls, but the stupid store didn't carry the delicious Pillsbury roll mix my ma favors, and that's the only flava I dig. I wanted to make my customary orzo with roasted vegetables dish, but I'm po' and the turkey was real spendy, yo. I wanted to make an elegant galette or meringue surprise for dessert, but, well, I just ain't got the skillz. So wha'? You don't know me! Sheeeeeet...

When the brother arrived from Montana on Wednesday night I put him to work preparing our fowl friend, whom I'd christened Giblets, while I supervised. I made sure he didn't miss any nooks or crannies as he washed the bird, and I helpfully dropped paper towels on it from a distance of three inches so he could pat it dry. I squeezed lemon juice, again from a safe three-inch height, on the bird's exterior whilst he handled moistening its innards. Same goes for the freshly ground nutmeg, salt and pepper: I sprinkled, he rubbed. Then Brother Bear covered Giblets with some plastic wrap and let him slumber for the night in the fridge. Lesson learned: you don't have to actually touch a turkey to make it, so long as your brother will let you have all the credit.

The next morning we encountered our sole catastrophe of the day. The rack that accompanied the roaster I purchased last weekend had handles so protrusive that we couldn't shut the oven door with it inside. Of course, we only discovered this travesty after settling Giblets ever-so-carefully boob-down on the offending rack, so we had to lift him up and away before improvising with a ring of tin foil. Phew. Crisis averted. After his first hour in the oven we began our campaign of slowly drowning him in 2/3 cup of wine every 20 minutes. Fast forward five hours and this is how he turned out:

The meat was practically jumping off the bones, my friends. Even the white meat was juicy and the image of perfection. Even our guest the professional chef was impressed.

We ate, we drank, we sang songs, we played charades, twas a resounding success. The end.

November 23, 2008

In which I discuss pop culture phenomena

 border=Hey there. Remember me? I'm that jerk Neenuh who hasn't posted in nearly all of November. I don't know what to say. Actually I do. I just ate a large bowl of edamame. I am stuffed. Also, I have been Twittering a lot, which is so much better when I just have a nubbin of a blog idea, not enough flesh on it to merit an entire blog post. So, really, you should thank me for my hiatus because I've spared you from having to read 600 words of me expounding on such topics as, "my shower didn't have hot water for two days," "I am in constant need of quarters for laundry" or "I do office work at my office, surprisingly."*

Anyway. Now I'm going to talk about Twilight.

The last time I encountered a pop culture phenomenon of this size it surrounded the Harry Potter books, and you bet your bippy I'm glad I jumped on that bandwagon. So when one of my coworkers started reading Twilight and gushing about how vampires+teen+romance=crazy delicious, my resolve to sit this trend out shriveled like George Costanza's undercarriage in that one episode of Seinfeld. I checked the library's website to put a hold on the book, but saw that 643 citizens of Portland had gotten there first. "Fine," I seethed to myself as I instead went to the bookstore to purchase the cheapest mass market paperback to be had with plans to sell it back at a loss once I was finished. "That's JUST fine."

After trying to wrap my head around a seriously deranged book featuring some breed of alien/ evolutionized monkey that eats humans, reading this fluff was a relief, if somewhat of a disappointment. It is not a good book. It's poorly written and more often than not had me smacking my head in disbelief at its god-awfulness. The thing that pissed me off most about it was the fact that Bella, the main character, has absolutely no discernible personality traits other than the fact that she's clumsy. Why the heck is she worthy of a hot piece of undead vampire booty? The boyfriend pointed out that she's probably written that way so every love-starved lass who reads it can imagine that it's her that all this is happening to, that somewhere there exists a universe where she is the point around which things turn. I agreed and then tried to convince him to reenact the pose on the book's cover with him as Edward and me as Bella.

I finished the book on Friday, just in time for the movie's premier. I spent the entire weekend struggling to decide whether I wanted to spend $7.50 on what every review I read told me was going to be utter crap. The biggest reason I wanted to see it was to see what Edward's hot vampire siblings looked like. Finally, my buddy called me this morning on pretenses of finding out the plans for the first annual Neenuh Saves Thanksgiving, but I was able to get out of him that his real motive was to ask me to go to Twilight with him. Not wanting to disappoint my buddy, I sighed and said I guessed I could probably go to the movie... if he REALLY wanted to.

I'm only sort of embarrassed to say that I 100 percent enjoyed myself and that I'm 3000 percent in love with Robert Pattinson. The movie was so much better than the book. New York Magazine agrees with me. But don't think you should just skip the book and see the flick; much of my enjoyment derived from seeing what I'd imagined played out on screen. I'm afraid it's both or nothing, folks.

And now, having fulfilled my blog duties, I am going to turn my full attention to the Travel Channel show about the tribe in the Pacific Ocean where they wear g-strings made out of twine. It's a pivotal moment: the boys have just been circumcised and one of the women is trying to decide whether to drink an abortive potion made out of tree bark that her husband concocted for her. Circle of life at its finest.

*All true stories. All things I've Twittered about.

November 2, 2008

A feast fit for a mooch

I'm sure we're all tightening our belts in these troubling economic times. For example, I have refrained from seeing all but the essential movies in the theaters (don't worry, Keira; I'm waiting till The Duchess comes to a second-run movie house), sold some itchy but gently used sweaters to a "recycled fashion" store and all but quashed my already nearly non-existent social life.

But my greatest savings have come from changing my food habits. I don't really eat lunch anymore. I wait to see if there are any goodies left over from the various meetings my co-workers host, and at the very least there's usually a sprig or two of grapes and this delicious cheese that's a little nutty and a little crunchy. That tides me over until I can get home and eat a delicious, cheap burrito (recipe below).

Another huge boon to my mooching has been my live-in companion's propensity for securing free meals at fancy restaurants in the past week. On Wednesday we went to Nutshell for a media dinner. They had just changed their menu and wanted the local scribes to sample it in hopes of scoring some free press. This blog doesn't net very many readers in their favored demographic (people who actually live in Oregon), but I'm going to do my part right this very second.

The restaurant specializes in vegetarian tapas, or small plates. They brought us a never-ending series of deliciousness, most paired with a sample of amazing wine. I think we had about five glasses, which, needless to say, made me quite the convivial dinner companion. These were my favorite dishes:

-Crispy rice fritters with avocado puree and sweet chili sauce
-Creamy Bluebird grains farro with Brussels sprouts, mustard, apple and roast garlic
-Fuji apple salad with beets, Marionberries, pinenuts, peppermint and muscatel vinaigrette
-Leek and potato flatbread with blue cheese cream, gremolata and spicy pears

Then for dessert we had pieces of a chocolate fudge with hazelnuts in some magic cream sauce. Oh. Em. Gee. To die for. But I'm still alive.

On Friday we decided to spend our Halloween at Siam Society due to my inability to imbibe (see story below). My companion had received a $20 gift card there from his bosses, and we fortuitiously arrived 10 minutes before Happy Hour ended so we were able to nosh delicious eats for a grand total of $19.75. I had the Siam Society Burger (house ground steak, seasoned with spices, melted gorgonzola cheese and homemade cilantro aioli) and he had the Peanut Sauce Pizza (homemade peanut sauce, mozzarella, gorgonzola and fresh vegetables). When we got the receipt back we discovered we still had $30.25 left-- it was a $50 gift card! Hooray! More mooching!

Because of all the money I saved, I'm sorely tempted to violate two of my new rules and take my Sunday buddy to Nutshell for some lunch. I can't stop thinking about those brussell sprouts...

Delicious, cheap burrito:
Spread a few tablespoons of refried beans (one can lasts for many, many delicious cheap burritos) on a tortilla. Put another few dollops of black bean and corn salsa atop that. Sprinkle with shredded cheese. Either pop it in the microwave until the cheese is melted or, if you're industrious, put it in atop a baking sheet in an oven preheated to 350. When the cheese has melted to your satisfaction, remove your 'rito from the heating implement and top it with some iceberg lettuce (again, one head of lettuce lasts for many, many delicous cheap burritos). Roll that sucker up and love it.

My inability to imbibe, explained:
I had a bad toothache that started last weekend. Assuming it might be a vestige from the hack job my hometown dentist did on me before I left Minnesota, I decided an appointment would be prudent. My new dentist resembles Michele Bachmann. She discovered after sticking a fancy camera in my mouth that I've been grinding my teeth hardcore-- my aching tooth was nearly down to its nerve endings and there was a visible crack in another. She prescribes me an anti-inflammatory and a muscle relaxer, both of which will apparently turn my innards to goo if I mix them with alcohol. For the long term, though, she wants me to get a $500 mouthguard, which I can't really afford in these troubling economic times but should probably get anyway because it will prevent me from being a toothless hag in the future. Fin.

October 25, 2008

Porque mi casa?

I heard a rapid succession of knocks at precisely 10:30 on this Saturday morning. Assuming it was just the punks on the other side of our bedroom wall nailing yet more things to their soon-to-be tattoo parlor, I ignored it. After all, they had been sanding, banging, clanging and presumably hurling things at our paper-thin shared wall until quite late last night. Maybe they had slept there and decided on an encore immediately upon waking.

But then I heard it again.

I slipped out of bed and tiptoed stealthily to the door for a peep out of the eyehole. I spied a blond woman in a burgundy suit. Perhaps it was my landlord, coming to evict us for leaving my ugly flip flops--a vestige of my frenzied Wednesday of mopping and scouring surfaces--on the porch one day too long. Giving up, the lady stuck something in the door and left. I waited until I could no longer see her, counted to five and unlocked the door to see what present she left us.

It was a two-page color pamphlet entirely in Spanish, entitled, "Le gustaria saber la verdad?" Based on my vast internal Spanish dictionary I would guess "gustaria" has something to do with liking (like "me gusta horchata"), "saber" means saber, and "verdad" means green. The liking of the green saber? Huh?

As I pondered this, a corpulent, mustascioed man in a three-piece suit moved in sight of my porch and spotted me. He motioned to his lady friend to come quickly, but I quickly closed and locked the door before they could speak to me. I scurried back to the bedroom to show my spoils to the boyf and attempt to translate the brochure.

"Hay alguna esperanza para los muertos?" could only mean, "Do you hope the dead eat hay?"

"Como encrontrar la felicidad?" must be a query about how I plan to encounter happy times.

"Jesucristo dijo en oracion a Dios: 'Tu palabra es la verdad'" I roughly translated to mean, "Jesus Christ said in an speech to God: 'You probably are the green.'"

In the midst of the fun translating game, I happened to catch sight of myself in the mirror. My hair had used last night's hairspray and my pillow to concoct a rooster-like pompadour. My eyes were rimmed in black due to my failure to wash my face off last night because I fell asleep immediately after guzzling a glass of red wine. My pink-and-white striped nightshirt was festooned with kitties, Eiffel towers and the phrase, "Oh, mon amour!"

I may not know what the brochure meant, but I can translate with confidence exactly what the look in that hombre's eye was saying when he glimpsed me: "Guapa mamacita!"

October 21, 2008

Some stories about knitting

 border=This headless form is me, and the coverlet in which I'm ensconced has been my labor of love for the past month and change. It consumes all my non-work waking hours. Even when I'm not working on it, it glares at me from my purse and chides me for not being more industrious. As a result, I've had to renew my copy of The Feminine Mystique from the library no less than three times. I just don't have time to read anymore. When I'm on the train, I'm knitting and listening to a podcast. When I'm home, I'm watching yet another episode of Iron Chef America to occupy my brain whilst my fingers knit and purl themselves into a near-arthritic condition.

Here are some facts about my blanket:
  • Its girth has increased so much that I can no longer schlep it around in my quite roomy purse. I had to buy a new tote bag bearing the visages of Portland's many bridges because my Nina Totin' Bag is, unfortunately somewhere back in my room in Minnesota.
  • It's length has grown correspondingly with the decrease in temperature, so I can snuggle in it while I knit it and be quite cozy.
  • Knitting=friends. People on the train and bus are always EVER so curious about what I'm making. Their first guess is usually a sweater, which I find kind of silly. Even obese giants would swim in the amount of fabric I've created. They are also often quite keen to tell me about how their mothers used to knit, they themselves never learned and now my generation is "bringing it back." Yes. That and sexy. It's what we're here for.
  • My plan for the blanket was to have a big chunk of maroon, a band of teal and then an equally big chunk of maroon. I belatedly realized that I am a skein short of maroon, and I am in just a tizzy about what to do about it. I've done exhaustive Internet research and it appears there isn't a yarn shop within a hundred miles that sells the brand and color I need. Oh, for my Yarn Lady of old.
Well, the ol' woolly wench is staring at me again, urging me to finish the row I started so the above picture could be taken. I bid you adieu.

October 7, 2008

I Just Can't Help Believing

I got myself into trouble during my job interview, when I insisted to my soon-to-be boss that I'm most definitely a morning person. While it is the absolute truth that I'm an early to bed, early to rise kind of gal, that statement meant I was precluded from yawning or being bleary-eyed when I first arrived at the office. It also meant I would have to dispel of my ample morning rage before I reached the front doors every morning.

This morning, for example, I was livid at the following:

-The weird, powdery smell that emanates from my porch
-All the puddles I had to step around
-The tennis shoes in my backpack strategically poking me in my aching lumbar
-People on the train who use the adjacent seat to store their belongings
-The woman who swiped the seat I'd been eying for a good two stops
-The man whose earbuds were blaring thumping rap beats
-The clipboarder who approached me and asked me to sign his stinking petition. Some places should be sacred, people!

I exited the train only to be slapped in the nose with the dank smell of rained-on urine and began to mentally curse my maker. Then I saw this...

... and the King gave me a little religion.

September 28, 2008

Death to all (fruit fly) infidels!

I am a killing machine.

In the past week I have massacred an entire sect of annoying, tiny insects that somehow got the idea they had the right to munch on my hard-earned fruit without my permission.

When we first moved in there were one or two of them that we easily shooed away when they perched atop the highest peach in our fruit bowl, but they started multiplying relentlessly. It reached critical mass last week when a winged contingion rose up when I attempted to select an apple from the bowl for lunch. These weren't just any apples. These were my beloved Akane apples purchased from the not-inexpensive farmers market and lugged home on a train and a bus whilst uncomfortably balanced on my hip. This, my friends, was personal.

Thus began my surprisingly accurate killing campaign. Though I lack any semblance of hand-eye coordination in other endeavors, every fly I set my sights on ended its life between my two palms of justice.

Though I doubt fruit flies can fit a brain inside that meager corpus, I decided to start playing mind games with them. I moved the fruit bowl from the kitchen to the dining room. When they discovered my ruse I came up with a new, better one: I covered the bowl with an upside-down paper bag. Success! The methane gases could get out but they couldn't get in. Lacking a food source, several of them migrated to the bathroom where they began living off our toothpaste. Every morning I offed another two or three and was glad the boyf gets up later than I do so he wouldn't hear me and think I was applauding a recent feat of quite another sort.

I am proud to say that I have seen but a handful flitting through our apartment this entire weekend, and every single one met its maker in my hand...ful.

September 25, 2008

Dos Mas Pictoras

God I'm good at Spanish. I went to a play this weekend that was half in Spanish, half in English, and I understood pretty much everything. People were begging me for translations and I had to be all, "Dude. I'm enjoying art here. Learn how to be 100 percent bilingual on your own time."

On to my Dos Mas Pictoras (which are not to be confused with the original Dos Pictoras):

I went to Salem on Tuesday for a work event in one of the state government offices. My cohorts and I were stationed in the lobby, and the sculptures pictured above were in my direct line of sight. You can't tell from this picture because I cropped the living daylights out of it, but these pewter ladies and gents are suspended a few dozen feet in the air, closer to the multi-story ceiling than the floor.

My first thought upon seeing them was, "Omigawd Harry Potter." (Warning: Book 7 spoiler ahead.) Remember how in that epic battle in the Ministry of Magic the wizard figures in the fountain come to life to battle the forces of evil? I was terrified--TERRIFIED!-- that scene would replay itself during my work day. Granted, several of the figures are inexplicably missing their lower extremities, but I have no doubt they could inflict serious damage if someone brought them to life. And it wasn't too far from the realm of possibilities, either; I was in a DHS building. Who knows what kinds of creepy stuff they're experimenting on in the bowels of that structure.

And now, the dos-iest pictora:

Not nearly as epic as the first, but still a good example of Weird Portland (or, as I like to call it, Wortland). We came home from a watering hole last night to find this scene in the street behind our apartment, where a pack of feral cats likes to roam.

Kitty woke up when I took this snap. Sorry kitty.


September 23, 2008

Back to working out and having fun-- with just us gals!

I re-joined Curves last week in an effort to get all healthy-like. My new club is quite nice. It boasts a stretching machine, which my old club had tried in vain to win during a citywide food drive, and two stair stepper stations that measure your heart rate. Yesterday I got up to 166 beats per minute, which corresponds on our heart rate poster to 85 percent. Percent of what, I don't know; but that's a solid "B."

Though I appreciate being in fancy surroundings, I miss sweatin' with my favorite oldie*: my ma. I used to go nuts on the recovery stations (platforms interspersed between the machines where you're supposed to do cardio), flailing my limbs instead of jogging half-heartedly in place (like most of the ladies do) in an effort to get her to crack a smile. I'm left with doing my little hops and sporadic cheerleader arms.

I have yet to encounter a Curves-inspired diorama, but the music at my new athletic home has been a bit on the odd side. On Saturday it was cracked-out Broadway show tunes put to a techno beat. Yesterday it was Hits from the Late Nineties. "Smooth Criminal" from Alien Ant Farm was on there, as were a number of J.Lo hits. Then they played a song with the following lyrics:
"So come on, shorty
If you think you can roll
With an iced-out playa
Ballin' outta control"
I'm sure the sexa- and septuagenarians populating the place really enjoyed that one.

*Just kidding, Ma. You're not old. It was just a really great opportunity for a "jeu des mots," as they say.

September 20, 2008

Keep your hands down if you're not Sure

I'm just going to say it. I spent a majority of Thursday with neither antiperspirant nor deodorant to shield others from my pheromones.

This happens to me way more often than it should. I just have so many things to remember to do in the morning that slathering on that one essential product often slips my mind until it is too late. Once, when I was in high school, I decided to take drastic action to correct my underarm situation. I had my newspaper class first hour, which left me free to roam the halls as I pleased under the auspices of reporting. I went down to the girl's locker room (wow, this is embarrassing but I'm going to soldier through) and tried several lockers until I found one that had a stick of Sure prominently displayed and wasn't locked. I quickly coated myself and ran away, ashamed of the lengths I had gone to but relieved I wouldn't be The Stinky Girl.

On Thursday I realized my gaffe when I was about halfway to my office, and didn't want to ask the boyf (who was kind enough to give me a ride) to turn around since we were already running late.

When a gas station a few blocks from my destination proved empty of what I so needed, I resolved to spend the day calm and cool as a cucumber so as to not tax my sweat glands. The plan worked until the very end of my day, when a social interaction made me so nervous that I blushed several times and started "glowing," as my ballet teacher used to call it.

As soon as I was out of the office I hightailed it to a convenience store I remembered seeing whilst on past bus rides. I soon secured my desired product, but when I left the establishment wondered where a good place to put it on would be. I'm still 98 percent anonymous in this city, so I briefly considered slapping some on in the middle of the street. Thinking that too uncouth even for me, I hesitantly veered toward large trees and parking garages only to decide that'd just be too creepy. I ended up in the bathroom of a venue at which I was about to volunteer, and everything was well and good.

September 17, 2008

Attack of the clipboards

Portland is absolutely glutted with be-clipboarded do-gooders who sometimes stand three to a corner. They desperately want you to register to vote/ donate money to Obama/ save a dying child/ end petlessness.

In the block-and-a-half between the library and my train stop I side-stepped one man who wanted to register me vote (did it on Saturday), did a swoosh and dip to avoid a lady who wanted me to join Greepeace and ignored another woman whose heart's greatest wish was to register me to vote (I did it on Saturday! Sheesh!).

I was distracted by a street musician and totally fell into another clipboarder's trap. I didn't notice her clipboard at first, and removed my earbud because I couldn't hear what she was trying to say to me.

"Thanks for unplugging! I'm Jacquelyn. What's your name?"

Zounds! She asked me if I've ever thought of sponsoring a child. I told her I was actually sponsoring one. I don't know why I lied. Maybe it was because I've been approached by the folks at Children's International so many times I feel like the time I've spent listening to them is worth about the same as a sponsorship. Mabye it's because I have a friend who spent a day working for them and she told me what she thought about the people who said they couldn't afford to sponsor a kid. In any event, I regretted it as soon as the words slipped out. I suck at lying.

"That's great!" Jacquelyn said. "What country?"

Busted. She's a tricksy one. "Oh... uh... The Gambia? I think?"

"We actually don't serve children there," Jacquelyn said cheerfully. She went on to give me her pitch about how I can be a penpal with the child I sponsor, and actually go to the country to meet him or her. "Doesn't that sound great?"

"Yeah, that's why I'm sponsoring one," I said.

"So who are you sponsoring them through?" she asked.

"Um... I forget the name. A Christian agency."

"Really," she said, raising her eyebrow at my no-good, very bad, horrible lying self.

"Yep! Bye!" I said as I ran away.

Jacquelyn, if you're out there, I'm sorry for lying to you. You didn't deserve it. About a month ago I told one of your coworkers who managed to run into me thrice in the same day that I'd sponsor a kid as soon as I get another job or go full time, and I intend to keep that promise. Now if you could please get your ilk to leave me alone I'd be much obliged.

Eye of newt have I none

So a few weeks ago I decided to spend a random mid-week day off concocting Thai chicken curry as a surprise for the gentleman caller, and to do so I needed a mortar and pestle to grind the spices to a fine pulp.

After a fruitless multi-establishment search for the tools (shame on you, Martha!) I finally came across a 10-pound green marble model at Marshall's. I proudly lugged it home and mortar-d and pestle-d my little heart out and the curry turned out great, thankyouverymuch.

Since then it has perched atop the second shelf of the cupboard, silently telling me it's lonely every time I reach in for a cup or bowl. I just don't know what other use I have for it. The curry recipe was from my fancy cookbook, which insists that I go beyond the call of regular cookery; the rest rarely require me to do anything more strenuous than smashing a clove of garlic or de-juicing a lemon.

The only other folks I've seen make use of the tool are scientists and witches. I haven't needed to grind up pig liver to smear on a slide since 10th grade biology. Now that I've been there and done that, I don't really need to do it again. And not being a chemist, I have better things to do with my time than mixing up powders to pour into capsules.

I haven't been here long enough to develop enemies for whom I'd want to learn how to concoct the draught of the living dead, or any potion, really. So sorcery's out. Plus I'm fresh out of toe of frog.

[Sorry if you've already read this; it didn't post correctly]

September 5, 2008

Passive-aggressive Midwestern woman nearly resorts to full-blown aggression

A young Minnesotan very nearly lost her cool whilst aboard a Portland bus coming home from work Friday afternoon. Though normally a textbook example of passive-aggressivity, Neenuh insisted a combination of exterior factors caused the incident-that-almost-was.

She arrived at her bus stop at approximately 3:20 p.m., expecting the bus to come at any second. Nevertheless, she took a seat on the vacant bench and returned a call to her older brother. Soon afterward, a leathery older woman made it known that she wanted Neenuh to remove her lunchbox from the adjacent seat so she could join her on the bench. Neenuh obliged more than willingly.

Soon the woman, who was emitting copious amounts of vodka from her pores, began babbling incoherently while Neenuh attempted to converse with her brother. When the bus finally arrived a full 20 minutes later, the woman insisted Neenuh let her borrow her sunglasses for the next month and a half. Neenuh declined.

Once aboard the crowded bus, Neenuh made her way to the back and spotted a seat next to a pimply but otherwise harmless young gentleman. She contentedly switched on her iPod to listen to the latest installment of This American Life and cracked open a local magazine.

The gentleman began bobbing his head ever so gently, entering a slumber so blissful he lost all sense of propriety and personal space and began encroaching on Neenuh's. On a normal day, she would have ignored it, but this same gentleman was emitting gaseous odors of beef jerky, and she was in no mood to handle that.

She had passed a sleepless night and consumed iced tea at lunch (the caffeine of which disrupted her delicate countenance and gave her the shakes). A full bladder completed the trifecta known to cause Neenuh to lash out at unsuspecting boyfriends, family members and the occasional civil servant.

When heavy sighs and eye rolls directed in his general direction proved fruitless, she considered more drastic measures. She imagined slapping him across the face for allowing his gaping mouth to come dangerously close to her bosom. She considered shoving him squarely into the window. She mused about elbowing him in the gut.

Taking a deep breath, she refrained from any of these actions, instead deciding she could come up with a much more amusing culmination of events on her blog.

The offensive young man suddenly bashed his head into the seat in front of them of his own accord, immediately woke up and apologized to Neenuh for being such a neanderthal. He then revealed that to make up for his transgressions he would pay off her student loans, making her completely debt-free.

September 1, 2008

The only thing on a stick at the Oregon State Fair were corndogs...

... and they're supposed to be on sticks.

I went to what was supposed to be the Great Oregon Get-Together on Friday expecting to see all manner of local culinary delicacy and sights particular to this particular state fair. In my head I was preparing to be amazed by local girls' heads carved out of marionberries or Walla Walla sweet onions.

I have never been more disappointed in my life.

This was no state fair! This was a glorified carnival with an over-abundance of hot tub displays! This was an alternate universe where the only fried objects are things that are always fried like elephant ears and onion rings! Where is your creativity, Oregon?? Where is your soul??

What inspires you to create limp bread baby birds instead of seed art?

What compels you to dream up a menu for an event that doesn't exist and then set the table for it?

(The judges' comments for this entry were as follows: "You need a dessert fork. The large spoon above the plate needs to be repositioned so that the bottom of it is pointing toward the knife. Do you even need the second spoon?")

The fair seemed to draw that other breed of Oregonian you don't run into much in Portland. They are tattoo- and piercing-free, wear cowboy hats and boots and voted Gordon Smith into office. Exhibit A: the gentleman caller and I got roped into watching a 1.5 hour cookware demonstration where the chef warmed up the crowd by telling cow jokes.

"What do you call a cow with only two legs? Eileen!" she proclaimed triumphantly.

"What does a Japanese person call that same cow? Irene!" guffawed an obese, red-faced man wearing an American flag t-shirt.

Give me Sweet Martha's Cookies, hot dish on a stick, pickle on a stick, Princess Kay of the Milky Way and a hobnobbing politician over this sorry excuse for statehood any day...

August 21, 2008

POD: bringing people together

Yesterday was a big rainy, drizzly mess here in the City of Roses, weather I assume is similar to what we'll be experiencing all winter long. But whilst waiting at the bus stop, a human ray of sunshine wearing a black tank top that said "Stop bitching/Start a revolution," a blue plaid skirt and a red pom pom in her ponytail came hurtling toward me.

"What is this thing?" she demanded, indicating the POD's bulb. "It looks like something you see in a grocery store. An eggplant... no... a kiwi... no..."

"A starfruit?" I offered.

"Yeah! Are you supposed to peel those things or what?"

"I think you slice it," I said.

"My, what a beautiful skirt," she said, indicating the long, maroon-purple-orange-yellow delight my uncle had purchased for me because he thought the girl in the catalog was my spitting image. "Twirl! Twirl!"

I twirled. She joined me.

"What are you reading there? Oh! Anna Karenina," she said, using her best Russian accent to say the heroine's name. "You're brave for reading that book. I won't ruin it for you. You know, I had an affair. My husband knew about it, but the guy wouldn't marry me. Next you should read Muh-dahm Bohv-ree by Goos-tahv Flo-bare. And then Wuthering Heights. You've seen West Side Story? This is Natalie Wood: 'Don't you DARE touch him! [kiss kiss kiss]'"

I applauded. She curtseyed.

"Thank you very much. My name is Kathryn Ann Sampson*."

And she raced off accross the street.

*As soon as she left I scribbled our entire conversation on the back of an envelope. The one thing I couldn't remember was her name, though... Curses.

August 18, 2008

More public art

 border= border=

This piece of beauty, which graces my bus stop, is called the POD. I took the picture above last Thursday, when temperatures topped 100 degrees. It was radiating heat onto my mug, making me resemble a sopping wet tomato. The photo on the right, taken from another angle, shows the bulb at the sculpture's epicenter. What the heck does it mean, you ask? (Cough cough uncultured peon cough cough) According to the plaque next to it, it represents "the infrastructure, energy and vibrancy of Portland[.] This sculpture is made complete when a passerby gives the pendulum a push."

That's right. It's an interactive sculpture. When you poke it, the steel "hairs" jiggle to and fro like Santa's belly while he's being tickled.

There wasn't a plaque next to this one so I'm not entirely sure it's supposed to be art. It could be that some curmudgeon stole a gaggle of children's bicycles from some kiddies and then locked them all up to the pole with a padlock to mock their youth. But even that could be considered art-- no? A commentary on the ephemeral nature of youth? In any case, I saw no less than three tourists on Thursday flash peace signs in front of it whilst a friend snapped a picture. Definitely a Portland icon.

Other public art sightings:
  • A man walking down the street beneath my office's supply room window wearing a cape and playing a flute-like instrument. Despite resemblance to the Pied Piper, there were neither children nor rats in his wake.
  • A vagabond cuddling a stained, pillow-y doll at my bus stop.
And now, just for fun, a golden pony:


August 16, 2008


Yesterday morning blazed as hot as the Spanish sun (over 100) and I had two fierce desires burning in my homonculus: No. 1- get to a body of water and submerge and No. 2- get my first pedicure.

I googled the heck out of my options. No. 1 was easy; there's a community pool up the street that had a free swim from 1-2:30. Free as in no dinero. Score.

No. 2 was a bit trickier. Since I've never had a pedicure and had but a handful of manicures in my life, I wasn't sure what I should be looking for. I knew I had to be careful of the cheap places because of things like this, but I don't really have a gaggle of girlfriends here I can survey on the matter. Then I found this place, which has Neenuh written all over it.

It was glorious, let me tell you. I submerged my feet in water bubbling with essential oils and then got exfoliated and... but I digress. That's not what this post is about. One of the ladies--a fellow member of the tribe--asked what I was doing that night and I told her I was planning to go to services at a gigantic reform temple here called Beth Israel. She told me not to go there; it was huge and hoity toity and every available surface was inscribed with someone's name. She referred me to a much smaller reconstructionist congregation called Havurah Shalom.

Once there I made the acquaintance of some nice grandma types who reminded me of folks back home and settled into my seat. Out of the corner of my eye, I noticed some youngins sit down to my left. I took a gander and what do you know... it was a girl (woman now, I guess) who'd gone to my temple in Duluth forever ago and her fiance!

If I hadn't had the burning desire for a pedicure, and if I hadn't happened to find this particular pedicure place, I would have gone to the other temple and never connected with my long-lost friend. Now, what are the chances of that? I'm no mathematician, but I'd say it's pretty close to one in eleventy billion.

August 14, 2008

A $1.75 bus ticket gets you so much free advice

I heard her nasally, whiny voice-- a voice that sounded like she had a lot of trouble pushing it out of the diaphragm-- before I saw her. She stood outside the bus querying the driver for what seemed like forever about whether his route would take her by the hospital.

Finally she hoisted herself into the bus. She was stuffed into a black corset and skirt, and her legs were encased in black fishnet stockings. She had a stained bandage wrapped around her right leg under the fishnets. She looked around helplessly before approaching the man next to me and asking for his seat. She plopped down and muttered about being late for an appointment and then apologized to me for knocking her oversized tote bag into my lap.

Her face was vampirishly pale thanks to a heavy powder, and two thin, arched lines served as her eyebrows. Her dark red lipstick bled onto her teeth.

"Can you believe these shoes I have to wear? It's because of my leg. I was in a car accident. I should probably wear a long skirt but it's just so damn hot I was like 'Heck, no!' Where are you going? Work? School?"


"Where do you work?"

"An arts nonprofit."

"Oh! Do they take volunteers? I'm a make-up artist, you know. I did operas and theater and stuff. I could make you look like you had no eyebrows and add some prosthetic to your face and put a wig on you and no one would recognize you. You have pretty eyes. You should wear gold eyeshadow and green liner."

She whipped off her sunglasses to reveal the fuchsia eyeshadow adorning her lids.

"See like mine? I got this stuff in New York at a store for make-up artists. But yeah, gold and green for you. Just real light. Liquid liner, you know? Your cheeks are still rosy. Do you mind if I ask how old you are? 23? OK that's why. What do you wear on your lips? You should just wear beets. That's right--beets! I got this powder from Egypt that's like, ground up beets. You can do anything with it. You could add water and make it liquid liner or add KY jelly... I could paint my whole face red."

We reached my stop and I started to get up.

"Brown mascara! Not black!" she called after me.

August 12, 2008


For those of you who know me in the flesh, it may surprise you to learn that I am often painfully shy when it comes to situations I'm not comfortable with. It probably won't surprise you, however, to learn that with severe social anxiety comes an excruciating exacerbation of my natural awkwardness.

I'm trying really, really hard to make friends here, and thus far my strategy has been to be adorably quirky. But my jokes bomb every. stinking. time.

A few examples:

20-something tech dude: So how's your computer running?
Me: It's as swift as... as swift as an eagle swooping in toward its prey of... osprey.

Late 20s/ early 30s front desk lady: See you tomorrow!
Me: No, I'll see YOU tomorrow. (several meaningful looks before I leave the office and melt in embarrassment in the hallway)

Me: That smells good.
Mid-20s hipster grants lady: Thanks! It's broccoli, rice and fake chicken.
Me: Oh, are you vegetarian?
Her: No, I used to be but now I eat meat. I just often still eat like one.
Me: Yeah, I do too. I'm afraid of cooking meat... well, besides chicken boobs.
Her: (silence)

I think the worst gaffe came at an employee party the director hosted. I think the aforementioned 20-something tech dude is one of my best chances for friendship, so I approached him to initiate a conversation. My opening line?

"You remind me a lot of my ex-boyfriend."

August 6, 2008

Quiche gone wild

Oopsies. I doubled the recipe and somehow this happened:

That is one huge, eggy mass. The second one turned out much better and a slice of it is currently residing in my new red lunchbox.

August 2, 2008

Overheard on the train

I was told the post I just did wasn't funny, but wasn't not-funny enough to be taken down. So I'm going to revert to the old standby: overheard conversations in public transportation.

Skinny white guy with missing teeth: Dude, did you see those chicks?
Huge black guy wearing construction boots: Man, you gonna strain yo' neck lookin' at all the fine ladies 'round here.
Teeth: Shoo...
Boots: So I just downloaded all this classical music onto my iPod here. I like me some Mozart. This other guy, he put some French dude's shit on here, but I just like my Mozart. I tell you one thing I hate listening to: country music. I'm allergic to that shit. I was talking to this lady and she told me Garth Brooks was a better singer than Michael Jackson.
Teeth: Say what? That lady's whack! I mean, his new shit ain't that great, but the old stuff is the bomb.
Boots: Yeah, Michael Jackson. You know, I think he's guilty on all them charges. I don't care if he didn't do nothing with those kids, just the fact that he had them in bed with him-- just ain't right to have someone else's kids in bed with you. Now he lives in Bahrain, you know. I just been there for the army. In all those Arab countries, ladies is just for having kids, the little boys is for having fun... if you got enough money.
Teeth: And he sure has enough money.
Tattooed woman with a 2-year-old and an infant: Have y'all seen the movie "Human Trafficking"? It talks about how these people are bringing over the Iraq children and selling them in America.

And...... scene.

All I'm missing is the iodine and Ace bandage

Content's of Neenuh's Mom Purse, as Aug. 2, 2008:

-1 pair socks, red, with a woman drinking champagne on them
-2 checkbooks, one for a now-defunct account
-1 passport (in case I should need to jet off to Europe on a moment's notice)
-1 DVD about Duluth, Minn.
-1 maple and brown sugar Nature Valley granola bar
-2 mp3 players-- one iPod Touch and one Zen Nano
-1 camera
-1 cell phone
-1 voice recorder (two if you count the one on my Zen)
-5 Allavert pills
-1 Kingston Data Traveler
-2 things of floss
-1 toothbrush
-1 pair sunglasses
-5 keys
-3 pens
-2 pairs of earrings
-2 bandaids
-1 receipt for hotel in Paris
-2 brochures: one from Portland's Classical Chinese Garden, one from Fred Meyer Grocery Store's rewards program
-1 proof of membership from Curves
-1 earning statement from previous job
-2 checks to deposit
-2 press passes
-2 tubes of lipstick
-4 tubes/pots of lip gloss
-1 pack of Orbitz citrusmint gum
-1 wallet

And yes, I need it all on a daily basis.

July 24, 2008

Dos Pictoras

See how fast I'm learning Spanish? Muy caliente! Train de la ligne roja!


Here are some treats for your retinal enjoyment:

These are some scary vegetables I picked up at the Farmers' Market this Saturday. On the left we have what I'd like to call the "fractal fruit" (even though it's clearly a vegetable). On the right we have some gigantic string beans. I forget what their name is, but I feel like I thought of Hannibal Lecter when I saw the sign, so I'm going to guess they're fava beans. In the middle we have some de-pod-ed fava beans birthed from a pod as long as my forearm.

Having never seen their like in real life nor the Food Network, I was forced to postulate as to their prepration. I decided to steam them and afterwards coat them with butter, salt and pepper as if they were succulent ears of corn. The fractal fruit tasted like a hybrid of broccoli and cauliflower, so I'm going to guess that's what it was. I liked. I don't think the fava beans steamed long enough, and they were rather chewy and mealy rather than crisp (like a pea), so I was not a fan.

It's Windchill! Just kidding. This little critter is parked on the sidewalk across the street from my new office. When my coworker and I were on our way to lunch on my first day I guffawed and pointed, and she informed me that this was part of a public art project that we had funded in all probability.

I guess this stuff is what they mean with the ubiquitous bumper sticker encouraging locals to "Keep Portland Weird." I also guess I'm going to have to start "getting" art real soon here...

July 20, 2008

Cooktress, meet Technology

I've had nothing but free time this past week, since the job I secured on Monday doesn't start until tomorrow. I've spent nearly all of that time cooking, cleaning/laundering, reading about Sylvia Plath or watching episodes of AMC's Mad Men . In other words, I am learning to become a housewife straight out of the early 1960s-- albeit under the tutelage of Ms. Plath, one with rather consuming emotional problems.

I mean, after doing laundry I ROYGBIV'd the boyfriend's tshirts, for god's sake.

In an effort to get back to the culinary ascendancy I achieved in college, I've been busting out all the old standbys: orzo with roasted vegetables, curried chicken salad, zesty tomato soup and black bean soup. I've been getting creative with leftovers, too, taking the ingredients Ma bought for a salade nicoise when she was here and turning them into mashed potatoes with a mushroom-shallot sauce and avocado-feta paninis.

Creating a dish last night, however, threw this cooktress for a loop. We were invited to a vegan potluck. I can do meatless dishes no sweat, but no butter? no eggs? no milk? That eliminates nearly everything from my canon of cookery. I finally settled upon a dish of yams and broccoli and nearly sliced my phillanges off trying to cut through those blasted roots. I wasn't confident in the vittles' quality, and made sure to tell my host.

My related my tale of the futile search to a fellow guest.

"I near tore apart my cookbooks looking for something to bring!" I said.
"Do you have the Internet?" she asked.

Oh, snap.

July 14, 2008

You should all move to Portland

I've just finished a whirlwind week of moseying westward, settling into my new abode and sightseeing-- Holy Hannah, did we sight-see. I've said it before, but this time I mean it. I friggin love it here. This is a first-blush kind of love, where I look past all the area's faults (such as its seeming moratorium on employing me) and turn them into pluses (such as the fact that being a bum gives me more time to explore).

In my five days of being an Oregonian, here's what has made me kvell about the place:

Getting around: Oh, public transit, I love you I love you I love you. I prefer to travel by train, and the ones I've been on thus far have been clean, swift and decorated with quirky lines of poetry. There's a "fareless square" downtown where, you guessed it, you don't have to pay a fare to travel. The highways bear good signage, so me and Sir Lostalot have been able to navigate the city a few times without ending up 40 miles from where we wanted to be. And the drivers are so NICE. A few days ago the boyf needed to make a right turn into a left turning lane and a car in that lane waved him in in front of him. Amazing.

Occupying ourselves: Every weekend there are two huge markets-- the Portland Market for your organic produce needs and the Saturday Market (also on Sundays) for all your artsy fartsy homemade wares needs. We went to both yesterday, and I was in hog heaven. Supposedly the farmer's market goes all the way to December. Ma picked me up some medicinal honey to help cure my horrific allergies. I had some on my toast this morning and have been more congestion-free than I've been all week.

Great outdoors: This place has it all. Mountains to the east, ocean to the west, plenty of parks and waterfalls in between. I'm an indoors kind of gal, but I've enthusiastically embraced all Mother Nature has to offer here.

OK. Come see me now.

July 7, 2008

On the Oregon Trail, Part 1

Yesterday the gent and I left our dear Minnesota to go Westward, ho! We spent a nearly unbearable nine hours getting from there to here (which would be Dickinson, ND, natch) with nary an incident beyond a speeding ticket and a North Dakota rain storm so fierce I feared for my life. But we survived the brutal river fordings and cholera epidemics, and for that we must be grateful.

(Aside: I just discovered iTunes U and I'm totally in love. Yesterday we listened to an Australian university's lecture on Harry Potter and the Holocaust and a Stanford lecture about the rise of French awesomeness. Last night we went a little nuts on the downloading (they're free!) and got podcasts on everything from Bob Woodward discussing the media's impact on politics to the art of reading a poem. Sigh... I love getting learned real good.)

We made our home last night at a bed and breakfast, a type of lodging which is quickly becoming an obsession of mine. Hey-- they're often cheaper than regular hotels, the rooms are nicer, the owners are always quirky and you get a lovely and filling breakfast.

When we arrived at this one the owner, Quinta, greeted us at the door, which opened upon her handmade jewelry shop. Sparkly. Then she led us through the house, where we saw the fancy library:

The lovely dining room:

 border=Our room's mini keg (it's the German Room and all Germans have mini kegs-- didn't you know?):

 border=And then this:


July 5, 2008


I smell like stale coffee shop. I have for three and a half days now, ever since the possibilities of my world became limitless with the addition of portable electronics to my life.

I've always been kind of slow to catch on to technology trends. I didn't own a cell phone until the beginning of my sophomore year of college, when the fad had trickled down to become the latest necessity of the middle school set. My first mp3 player came two years later, but I wasn't ready for the status that came with an iPod's white earbuds. Instead I got a matchbook-size player that could hold six albums, play the radio, record weird conversations on the bus and my boss' cackle and hook onto my jeans pocket with a handy clip.

On Wednesday everything changed. Ma got me a MacBook for my birthday, and it came with a free (after rebate) iPod Touch. I used a birthday giftcard from Pa to get cases for both at Best Buy, as well as $40 of iTunes gift cards. iLoggedOn. iBrowsed. iBought.

Suddenly my 25-hour car ride to Oregon is looking much less bleak, because I have several episodes of Gossip Girl and conversational French podcasts to keep me company. I can finally listen to the Jenny Owen Youngs cd I've searched for in vain at every music store I've visited for the past year. And I can update you, dear readers, on the sometimes-boring minutiae of my life whenever and wherever (as long as there's free wifi).

July 3, 2008

The events of July 2, 2008

I'm at the dentist for what feels like the bazillionth time in the span of a month. The dentist comes in and sighs his customary "Oh, [Nugget]." He has another dentist come in to use a different anesthetic technique since I had so much trouble with what he'd given me the last time. As Dentist 2 shoots it in my jaw, my heart starts racing. A few minutes later, and the poison has yet to deaden me. Dentist 1 sighs again and shoots me with another needleful, and it feels like the needle is tearing tissue. Finally I can feel the telltale signs of Novocain, but my lip doesn't go numb. The numbed area includes my left cheek and eye, though. Dentist 1 decides this is good enough.

As he begins his work, tears start streaming out of my left eye. He asks if he's hurting me. I tell him I'm just having a lot of trouble closing my eye. He and his assistant emit sounds of surprise and concern. "That's why I don't use Dentist 1's technique," he sighs. "It seems he's paralyzed your facial nerve. But don't worry; it will go away. And if it doesn't, you just call me right up!" This is not comforting.

Because I'm not numbed in the right place, the drilling he's doing hurts. A lot. Tears start to stream out of my right eye as well, and Dentist has to keep pausing to daub my eyes with my paper bib. He does a hasty job on the filling, and when taking out a spring-loading instrument from my mouth, it pops into my afflicted eye. "Oh, my God. I want to go home just as much as she does," he says. "I wouldn't be surprised if you never come back to the dentist." I try to keep the blubbering to a minimum, but can't contain myself when seeing my gentleman caller in the waiting room. He, who has never had a cavity, takes one look at my face and resolves to start flossing five times a day.

I'm boxing up my earthly possessions in advance of the big move Out West. The GC tapes 'em up and drives away with 'em so his mom can ship 'em with her mega-discount from UPS. After he's left I realize I have approximately three outfits to last me until the boxes and I meet again. Five if you count my prom dresses.

Ma Nuggs and I head to Barnes and Noble to test drive my brand-new MacBook and brand-new iPod Touch (free with rebate!). Bro Nuggs helps me discover the wonders of video chat. Aside: Ma has been destitute since last Friday because all four of her chitlins were scattered to the exotic locales of Japan, Missoula, Tucson and Shokoppee. The prospect of being with yours truly whilst video chatting with her firstborn was a joyous one indeed.

Ma isn't used to this fancy technology. She talks WAY more loudly than is necessary, so all 20 patrons of B and N's cafe discovered that my mom won't be able to stay at my aunt's house in Seattle "BECAUSE THEY ONLY HAVE ONE TOILET IN SERVICE!" Bro further exacerbates the situation by slowly leaning toward the camera so that his eyeball, nose or mouth take up the entire screen. Ma guffaws till the cows come home. I cower.

While out with some (now former) co-workers, we decide to move from an Irish pub to a sports bar near the paper. As I'm driving along downtown's main drag, I hear a woman shouting. Then I see a man with blood all over his face putting a woman in a stranglehold. A second woman is shouting, "He cut me! He cut me!" Another man, who I don't think is involved in the situation, shouts at the first man to let the woman go. I come to the conclusion that the first man has a knife and is about to slit the woman's throat. Since I am now merely a Samaritan (temporarily on leave from ink-stained-wretchhood), I call 911 and tell them what I saw.

I get to the bar and ask my co-workers if they'd seen what I had. They hadn't, and the city hall reporter decided it was breaking news and rushes out to cover it. Our higher ed reporter follows suit, removing her heels to run the few blocks barefoot. When they return they say one of the women had been performing sex acts on the man, expecting a $20 payment for her services. When he reneged a scuffle ensued, and he started biting her.

Back at the bar, we sing and dance to classics like "Like a Prayer," "Toxic" and "Hit Me Baby One More Time." During the latter we discover City Hall Reporter is a human version of those nylon blow-up men frequently seen at car dealerships.

I'm extra careful to drive exactly the speed limit on the way home in Ma's dented minivan. Nevertheless, a state trooper turns his lights on and pulls me over once I've gotten off the highway. This is my first pullover experience, and yet I'm eerily calm. I fish my drivers license out of my purse and sit very still in the car's blinding search light.

He approaches and asks for my license. "What seems to be the trouble, sir?" I ask as innocently as possible. He tells me the light above my back license plate has gone out. Seriously? They stop people for that?

June 25, 2008

I guess yo’ lips weally aw impotant

Before this month, I hadn’t had a dental check up in an embarrassingly long time. My visits home while I was in college rarely coincided with my dentist office’s hours, and I’ve spent most of my post-college life without insurance. Facing another unknown span of time of being uninsured when I move to Portland, I figured the time was nigh for a cleaning.

As is to be expected, I had kind of a lot of work to be done… enough that required multiple visits. I returned to the office this morning to get fillings on the upper right and lower left sides of my mouth.

“Oh, Nugget..” sighed the dentist I’ve been seeing since I was 5 as he hunkered in beside my gaping maw. He injected each side of my gums with the longest needle I’ve seen in my life (though I was looking at it cross-eyed so I may have misjudged it). Tears streamed out of my eyes as he wedged the needle ever-deeper.

He left to give the Novocain some time to do its magic, and when he returned a few minutes later was disappointed to hear that only one side of my mouth was numb. He shot my left side with yet another needle-ful and set to work on my right side.

As I lay there, swallowing tooth dust and listening to the gurgling of his belly, the reporter in me couldn’t help but ponder what the life of his dentist was like. Was he judging me right now? Did he have a favorite procedure he was doing after lunch, the thought of which was getting him through the day? Have the prices of dental equipment stayed fairly steady throughout the years or have the companies conspired to artificially raise prices? Does he feel morally superior to orthodontists?

When he finished he asked how my left side was doing. It tingled a little, I told him, but it was nowhere near as dead as my right.

“Well,” he sighed. “I’m sorry, but that’s going to have to be where we end today. There’s a safe level of anesthetic I can give you and we’re bumping up against that. You’re going to have to come back.”

Crushed at the thought of having to return yet again, I got into my car and drove back to the office. I called my mom to tell her what happened, and it was then I realized the anesthetic had finally started to work.

“I’m hoving a weally hahd time talking and my wips feel funny,” I told Ma Nugget, who responded with gales of laughter. “The woost pawt is I’m weally, weally hungwy. I hope I don’ hafta do any innavoos. Oh cwap! I havta cawl Woger Weinawt!”

I got to the office and tried out a few words for Krupskaya, and the sound of my voice made me laugh so hard I started weeping. I called my brother, who told me I sounded like I’d had a brain injury, and my boyfriend, who told me I sounded like a stroke victim.

My next appointment is next Wednesday at 2. Give me a call afterwards if you’d like a sequel.

June 24, 2008

The most wonderful time of the year

I've always taken my birthday very, very seriously. It comes in the middle of summer, so for 20 glorious years I was able to do nothing but celebrate my coming into being. No school, no work, nothing but birthday festivities.

That changed the year I turned 21. I was the newly anointed freelance editor at my college newspaper, but the managing editor called me at 8:00 that morning requesting that I regress to my previous position: administration reporter. The person on that beat had set up our monthly interview with the university president for that morning, but had broken her leg and was unable to follow through on her commitment. "She broke her leg this very morning?" I asked incredulously. No, Boss Man told me. She broke it last week. "Did she at least prepare some questions? I've been out of the country for three weeks and I haven't been following the news... I usually take weeks to prepare for these interviews." No, Boss Man told me. "DOES SHE REALIZE IT'S MY BIRTHDAY?!?" I silently screamed in my head.

This year I'll also be at work, but thankfully the day will be full of the respect my birthday demands. Apparently five months on the job qualifies me for a goodbye party* with a cake made to my specifications.** After work I'll meet up with a gaggle of buddies at not one but two venues, and the celebration will continue Saturday with a get-together for all my TC friends.

I am quite confident everyone I encounter on a daily basis knows Thursday is my birthday (I may have been shouting that fact out in the newsroom at random), and thus the day can finally return to the status it has held for most of my life.

*last day is Friday
**no frosting

June 16, 2008

Curly Hair Classy finds a home

 border=In the past week I've happened upon two ponies in my house, gifts that my cruel family had bestowed upon me in lieu of a real, live breathing creature. The first was a pony-on-a-stick I received when I was nominated for Miss East (a title often mispronounced or misheard as "Miss Yeast" that was my high school's equivalent to Prom Queen). I bestowed that one upon Krupskaya's daughter, a girl I've never met but whom her mother makes beyond adorable in her blog.

Several in the office oohed and aahed over the creature (read: seethed with jealousy), so when I happened upon Curly Hair Classy I knew I had to be more egalitarian in my gifting. I know not when and under what circumstances I received this hunk of plastic, but allow me to regale you with her glory: she comes with three curlers, two styling barrettes, three pink curly hair extensions, styling glitter gel, a pink hair crimper and a (drum roll please) motorized styling wand.

This morning I let Classy graze on my desk while I emailed my coworkers with their mission. To win Classy, and make the child of their choice unendingly joyous, they had to email me a limerick by no later than 5 p.m. My father, an esteemed publisher of countless books of poetry, would be the judge to assure impartiality. Here are some of my favorites:

While many seek ponies to ride 'em,
I can't seem to stay astride 'em.
But ponies-on-a-stick
May just do the trick.
Falling off will just hurt my pride then.

An unhappy couple wondered what to do
They talked and talked until blue
They got a divorce
Fought over custody of Classy the Horse
But poor Classy was turned into glue

The poor pink pony walks a life of shame
Nobody wants her but who is to blame?
She's pretty 'n pink
But [Nugget] sure thinks
Curly Hair Classy's quite lame.

There once was a girl on a pony
She said, "My saddle's quite tony."
The horse took a dip
The girl took a flip
Then she wished the ground weren't so stony

I once owned a pony named Princess,
I got her through childish insistence.
Fat, sassy and brown,
She once wore a crown,
Then tossed it off quite a good distance.

Pa Nugget deemed the last one a winner, saying, "I think it's the best written example of a limerick. That first couplet, that's a real gem."

And a day of pony poetry fun was had by all...

June 15, 2008

Overheard in Duluth

An overweight man, in the lobby of the movie theater:

"The polar ice caps on Mars are melting. They gonna blame that on man, too?"

June 13, 2008

Sights, sounds and experiences of the day

A coworker, in response to my new haircut: "BAM! Kazam! Shablam!"


Another coworker and I compete in a bubble blowing contest with what I have found to be the ultimate bubble blowing gum: citrusmint Orbitz. I think I win, but it's hard to say because we never seem to be looking at each other at the bubble's pinnacle. We sit too far apart to make muffled yells while wildly gesturing at our mouths.


I investigate a building a superior has told me holds a magic shop, an occultist and a faith healer. It is carpeted in turquoise, velvety-looking stuff and is decorated as a creepy bed and breakfast might be. I investigate the doors on the lower two levels, but most seem to be home to family counselors and therapists. I hear one therapy session behind a closed door: "So am I supposed to take the initiative and invite her to dance? Or is she supposed to sense my desire and approach me?" The second floor's ceiling is slanted like there are stairs above it. I try the door leading to them and find it unlocked. Maybe that's where the witch lives...


A girl who looks no older than 17 talking on her cell on the sidewalk: "You had your baby yet? No? What the (tr)uck?? (Tr)ucking push the sucker out! My babies were all at least a week before their due date. You're two days past yours! Well... let me know when you pop."


A man at my temple: "You're getting so famous."


My sister on the car ride home, in response to a conversation about what a good wedding song would be: "Mine would probably be, 'Jessie's mom/Has got it goin' on.'"

As promised


June 10, 2008


Oh my BFG. One of the ladies at Curves made a diorama of our workout room. It has these two mini Barbie-like dolls and a Jasmine figurine with limbs splayed in awkward positions atop cardboard squares meant to represent our cardio stations. This lady glued carpet to the floor of her display, and taped pictures of exercise equipment to the walls. I meant to get a picture of it after my workout last night but forgot. I just wanted you to know that something really, really good is coming.

June 5, 2008

Odd person #5: Conspiracies

I was interviewing a self-described ultra-conservative for a story I’m working on. We started off innocently enough, discussing her difficulty getting behind John McCain—he’s too liberal—and different vice presidential candidates he could choose that would make him a sure deal for her.

Then, at what I thought was the end of our conversation, after I’d delivered my courtesy, “Thank you for taking the time to talk to me; I appreciate your comments,” she wanted to go off the record.

What she’s really worried about, she said, was an alliance between America, Canada and Mexico that would make us one country with one currency: the Amerro. It would be run by a small group of powerful men and women who fly all over the world and whose aim is world domination. She taught the book of Revelation last year, she said, and it all made sense. She needed this part of the conversation to be off the record because she didn’t want people to find out about it and get frightened, she said.

When she finished she asked me to repeat my last name. “Oh! Is your mom [Ma Nugg]?” she asked. “I know her from [Ma Nugg’s place of work]. I’m very impressed with what she does for the Holocaust.” (Ma Nugg organizes an annual Holocaust memorial lecture.) “I just LOVE the Jews! I’m very pro-Israel.”

May 28, 2008

Odd person No. 2: Attention hog

Let me preface this post by saying that it will not be as hilarious as I intended because I seem to have left the notebook in which I chronicled OP2's behavior in my office, and I am currently in Arizona.

I was at a local cafe on Sunday to chronicle a jug band contest. After having done the bulk of reporting in the first two hours of this eight-hour jug-gernaut (hyuk!), I had just returned for the last half-hour to see who would be declared winner of the coveted Krumkakke Iron Trophy (second place won freshly caught steelhead... gotta love northern Minnesota).

After the champions were announced I ambled over to the man who seemed to be their leader and asked him if I could interview him for the paper. What follows is an approximation of what the gentleman said as he got close enough to me for me to smell that he had apparently bathed in gin that morning.

"What's your name?"
"Bob what?"
"Bob Dylan."


"What instruments do you play?"
"Well, I played the harmonica tonight, but I also play guitar. And spoons. And the occasional jug. And I blow a mean whistle. I've done washboard before. I also play the ham bone."
"The hand bone? What's that?"
"No, the ham bone. Like this: (slaps hand on thigh)."


"What does winning this prize mean to you?"
"Apple pie... mom... the American flag... getting the Republicans out of office... no, wait, say getting those goddamn bastard Republicans out of office... want me to keep going?"


"Well, I think those were all the questions I had for you."
"Are you sure? Because I sure do like the attention you've been giving me."

May 23, 2008

How to make an unamusing work day more amusing

Disclaimer: At least one of my work superiors now reads this tract, so I want to assure her and all others concerned about my productivity that I only resort to the following during the spans of pensiveness I must indulge before spewing out a story. Remove treasure from your keyboard: The obsessive-compulsive in me recently became, well, obsessed with my keyboard being spick and span. Not satisfied with hanging it upside down over my garbage can and gently tapping it, I have taken to popping off the keys using a defunct pen as leverage so I can more effectively remove dust, granola bar crumbs and other errant bits of debris. I would recommend only removing a few keys at a time so you can ensure accurate replacement.

Use unique words to spell your email address: This one always gets me giggling on even the most gloomy day. Most people use a predetermined set of words to clarify which letters they’re saying, i.e. “P as in Peter, i as in igloo, r as in rat, a as in apple, t as in tree, e as in egg.” I like to use more non-conventional words, i.e. “N as in natal, u as in umbilical, g as in gregarious, g as in geriatric, e as in elephantitis, t as in Tunisia—at—t as in tinkle, p as in prenatal—dot—com.” Oh, the fun you can have.

Exchange nonsense phrases in your foreign language of choice with a cubemate: My work pal has picked up a good deal of French from visits to the Cheesey Wineland and educational media like this. Sometimes, like yesterday, we go through a list of produce vocabulary. Other times he’ll tell me, “Voulez-vous coucher sur le Lac Qui Parle, Mont St. Michel, n’est-ce pas?” and I’ll respond with, “Il y a une pamplemousse dans le forêt magique qui a un clé au royaume magique dedans. Cherche-le!”

Look for jobs in Portland: This is a really fun game, and it’s made even more amusing by the fact that you can be a college grad with all sorts of great experience and you still won’t qualify for anything that looks even remotely interesting. Plus, sometimes you come across real gems, like this job working for a Masonic Lodge. One of the job duties is to prepare “needed items for the change over to the new Grand Master, i.e. pocket calendars, etc.” My aforementioned superior and I hypothesized that “etc” might mean skulls, rings that hold poison, magic plumb-bob and most holy and mysterious fez.

May 8, 2008

I think I pressed my parking luck

Remember how my parking lot attendant was creeping me out? Since writing that post I haven’t been back to his garage. Sometimes my van spends the day at a meter. At times I’ll cough up $4 to hitch my wagon at a bowling alley’s lot.

But lately, upon the advice of some sneaky co-workers, I’ve been leaving Ol’ Red in a (free!) hotel parking lot that has signs everywhere stating that only hotel guests may park there. There’s a greasy-haired, snaggle-toothed gremlin who watches from the hotel’s back doors to guard against malfeasance, and the game is to exit your car, duck out under the garage’s overhang, speedwalk up a hill and down the street to the office without him catching you.

About a month ago, I lost. I had pulled in next to a coworker and was nervously chatting with him before making my trek up the hill. I had turned the corner to the street, thinking I was safe, when the gremlin literally ran up to me, waving his arms, telling me my actions were verboten.

“You can’t (heave) park there (heave) unless you’re a (heave) hotel guest,” he panted.

“Oh really?” I asked innocently. “I didn’t see a sign.”

I apologized and drove across the street to the bowling alley. I waited a few days before trying again, and since then I’ve only parked there if I arrive by 8:40, figuring he doesn’t start patrolling until about 8:45.

This morning, I did everything right. I left my house on time, made sure there were no shadowy signs of life from the back door before I parked, silently locked and closed my doors, and began my speed walk up the hill. When I reached the street I thought I was safe, but the gremlin appeared on the second floor of the parking garage below me.

“Ma’am!” he screamed. “You can’t park there! Ma’am! MA’AM!”

I ignored him, thinking that if he caught up to me I could claim to have been listening to an iPod and didn’t hear him. When he started moving like he planned to follow me on my trajectory, I cut across the street and headed to the courthouse, thinking I could claim sanctuary.


I walked away from him and into the courthouse. I had to get a refund from the post office there anyway. When I was done, I circled around the government buildings and entered the skywalk, not wanting to reveal my place of employment in case he was still watching.

I don’t think he’ll really tow me… He didn’t see me get out of the car so there would be a chance that he towed the wrong one. Plus, I’m parked inside the garage between two cars. Could a tow truck really get in there?

Regardless, from now on, since I’m something of a wuss, my free ride (park?) is over.

Update: I followed a complicated route around the hotel at 11 a.m. so I could catch a glimpse of my car. She was safe. I returned for another peek at four, this time risking a route that put me much more out in the open. After ascertaining she was right where I left her, I hesitated, thinking maybe I should just drive to a meter so I wouldn’t have to make another harrowing journey to the site when I was done with work. The exact moment I was about to go into the garage, the gremlin drove right past me in a hotel van. I cast my eyes shoe-ward in hopes that he wouldn’t recognize me, then continued walking down the sidewalk in case he was spying on me from his rearview mirror. Then I jumped in Ol’ Red and got the heck out in my Dodge (get it?).