48 Hours In New York

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I started this weekend by getting on an early flight to JFK. By noon (3 p.m. local time) I was riding through the hot city, all sticky like a glazed donut, on an A train express to the Bedford Stuyvesant neighborhood of Brooklyn—where Matt and Mimi of Cape Cod wedding fame now live with their two dogs who both closely resemble stuffed baby seals.

We were back East for just over 48 hours. A quick trip to Get Out Of Town and help Matt celebrate his birthday. The goal was not tourism, but simply real life. As such, I did not see the Empire State Building or the Statue Of Liberty, just wandered around Brooklyn eating and drinking and skateboarding and soaking in all the general lawlessness and spontaneous joy of that great, old city on a summer weekend.

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Vegetable-arian food. From ramen to cornmeal french toast, I ate a lot of incendiary food while I was there. My favorite, I think, was the oyster mushroom banh mi from Toad Style. I’m always trying to eat those spicy, saucy sandwiches, but I’ve only ever seen them made with tofu, and I don’t really care about tofu—don’t hate it and don’t love it, but generally find it hard to digest. In other words, tofu doesn’t close the deal for me. Mushrooms though!

A shot and a beer. Nowhere else on the planet do I find myself ordering a shot and a beer when I walk into a bar. But in New York, that’s how they do it. Not only is it the cheapest way to consume alcohol in an expensive city, it’s a super easy way to get on a vacation tilt-awhirl. Weeeeeee!

Skatepark tourism. We did a wee skatepark tour through Brooklyn. There’s loads of new ones. I had fun at each one—if not skating, then people watching. From scene to style, New York is super different from Portland, almost the opposite, you could say. I dig watching and observing that stuff, from a sociological standpoint. Also, I dig fun. Coincidentally, that’s what skateboarding is.

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Dispatch From Camp

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The last time I spent the night outside, it was high on a mountain during a freak snowstorm. Mentally, I’m still recovering. So it felt good to pack up the ole backpack again the other day with all the windows open, the sun streaming in, the screen door screening the bugs of May, the birds birding around, the buds, budding. Everything’s just easier in the summer, isn’t it? Throw a few things on your back, walk down a trail until you come to a river. Spend the night there, relaxed.

By the way, did y’all notice the trend in canned wine, recently? How fortuitous for me, an appreciator of the grape and its juices, fermented or otherwise. Mostly fermented. Bottles, as you know, are heavy, unwieldy. You can fit them in your backpack, and I have, many times, but only at the expense of looking a little ridiculous. Those canned wines, though, they stash perfectly in a pocket meant for camp-stove fuel or some such. What did we ever, ever do without canned wine? Whiskey, I guess.

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I’m related to the best dadgam gift givers. Every time I swing through my parent’s house on holiday, I come away with a new fancy thing for being outdoors and adventuresome. The Big Agnes air mattress my dad gave me is one such item. It weighs next to nothing and takes around two wheezy minutes to inflate. Then all you have to do is throw it in your tent and have a lovely, comfortable night. I’m one of those featherweight sleepers. Typically, a night of camping would mean mostly lying there awake. With this mattress, you can get all cocooned up in the fetal position on your side and sleep like a lil baby, though. Sure, I still wake up sometimes, but only now and then. The other night I woke up because—I swear—the river had gotten incredibly loud. Do you think that happens, around 3 in the morning? Witching hour? The air thins out and the river rages? Maybe preambling a wild battle of the spirit world? I wouldn’t know. I never did leave the tent—just cozied back in, willed my brain into submission, and drifted off again until the sun woke up the birds and then they woke up me.

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P.S. Thanks to Dorian for the lovely pic above of me and Lunden wrangling the dogs.

 

Thinking, Reading, Watching

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The Girl With All The Gifts: We live in a Netflixian world. Books struggle, reading is second order. So the fact that I’m telling you to read this book—in the face of overwhelming odds against the practice of reading—well, that’s serious, and you should take it seriously. Although suspense is at a premium here, I don’t think I’m ruining anything by saying that this is a post-apocalyptic story of the zombie persuasion. And although the world does not lack for post-apocalyptic zombie stories, this one, I promise you, is different. Anthropologically speaking, it brings a fresh perspective. It’s exciting, and inarguably interesting. It will get your thinking juices flowing. Note: there is a Girl With All The Gifts movie—but read the book, do, because the movie isn’t nearly as rich, as fraught or as scary. Here’s to books!

Fortitude: A crazy television show on Amazon Prime. I say crazy, because after every episode, I find myself saying, “That was crazy!” The kind of bad-dreams crazy where you watch two episodes, and then you have to put on Planet Earth to give your brain a break before bed. Murder. Intrigue. Evil. Science. Death. Vodka. Ice. Polar bears … Just some of the ground covered here. It’s great. Give it a go.

The Red Turtle: An animated short film about a man shipwrecked on an island. It’s beautiful. I watched it once, but I’d like to see it again. I suspect there’s much more there than meets the eye here. Like, maybe, the secret of life?

Puppy 2.0

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By now you probably figure me insane. All I ever talk about is dogs and backyard mini ramps. And forest-bathing. (Ah, but aren’t those the good things in life?)

I thought I’d tell you the story of Piney. If you’re one of my people, then you already know Piney is my pup—Puppy 2.0, we call him. We adopted him from the Humane Society out in Hermiston. Roving farmland. Watermelon country. What happened was, I had a right-hand man named Lefty, and he died. I took some time, and then I got another puppy and called him Durango. He was a magical beast—part St. Bernard, part panda bear. I loved him impossibly much. And he died.

This is old news. The heartbreak that was Winter 2016.

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What you may not know is that, no joke, ten days after Durango died, we went and adopted Piney. In the hush that falls between Christmas and New Years, we kicked solitarily around the house, did chores, put dog toys away in closets. But try as I might, I could not forget what needs forgetting. And so in between snowstorms, I made Mark drive me out to Eastern Oregon to pick up another puppy.

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To his credit, Mark said he thought it was too early. I joke with him now—”At least I beg you for puppies, instead of begging you to have babies like a normal girlfriend!”

I believe there’s no such thing as “too early” when it comes to providing shelter and love for a critter in need. I also believe I could’ve waited a little longer. With that said, every creature, humans and dogs included, is so damn different. No matter how long you wait, you will not get your old pal back. So F it. Bring on the puppies—and all the joy that comes with them.

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Three months later, we’re just getting to know Piney still. He has a fierce streak about his food bowl. He pees with joy when he sees someone he truly loves. He sun bathes. He howls. He dawdles over dandelions. These are all revelations—Lefty did none of these things. What will Puppy 2.0 turn into?! Will he fetch? Will he swim? I can’t wait to see. Here’s to new friends (and never forgetting the old ones). Here to new adventures (and all those old, happy memories).

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Homesteading, Part 1

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I purchased a little land in Central Oregon, just a twirl down the road from the Deschutes River. As mentioned elsewhere, my plan was to build a cabin of dreams there. No undertaking works the way you think it ought to, though. It happens that the groundwater in this area is too close to the surface to build a regular old septic system—no, to install a tank for my cabin, I’d need to drop many Gs on a fancy sand filtration system.

The short of it: I’m priced out of building anything for now.

Who cares? Less work for me! I’ll be happy with a tidy fence and a modest camper trailer. We could put solar panels on the trailer. We could set up a wood burning stove. We could build a shed for a couple bikes. We could, we could, we could …

I spent this weekend backfilling the septic test pits. In other words, shoveling dirt into big holes. When was the last time you shoveled for a couple hours straight? Crikey! It nearly killed me. In life, I feel strong. But in shoveling, it’s clear that I’m a pathetic weakling. I’ve got the arms of a typist, a tinkerer, a delicate herb gardener.

No matter, though, because I also happen to love hard work. Mark and I shoveled and shoveled, while the sun warmed the earth and the Ponderosas kicked out that sweet perfume of the Northwest. We heard the rhythms of the neighborhood, we saw where the shadows fall. What can I say? We bonded with the place.

South Century Drive, we’ll be seeing you!

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Spring Precipice

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Guys, I’m always and forever in search of experiences with fun and meaning. Lately, they’ve been hard to find, though.

Where is all that joy we used to know?

For me, it both is and isn’t the weather. It’s the weather and the other stuff, like death, and like almost dying, and like being stuck in town—both literally (with snow and mudslides closing the passes) and figuratively (with a new puppy we must care-take instead of hopping a plane to Hawaii)—that have made this winter a winter to hibernate.

However, in a rare act of magnanimity this weekend, the sky got sunny over Beaverton skatepark on a Saturday who’s forecast had preambled rain showers, allowing me to do what I like, which is skateboarding, outside, in the sun, with friends. No small miracle.

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Then, on Sunday, we got up early and drove into the Gorge to skate more and climb a mountain, where we walked through glowy green fields, sun dappled, flower dappled, with silver river waters off in the distance.

It wasn’t the nicest weekend, as weekends go. But it was nicer than any in recent memory, juicing with enough of that second-tier happiness I needed to pull me back from the precipice—out there where I was teetering, close to becoming so grumpy, I’d be forever lost to the lands of Curmudgeon.

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Favorites 4.4.17

20th Century Women: Maybe my favorite Mike Mills movie. A perfect depiction of a slice of history, of a “family” in 1979 San Diego and all the complex, strange, wonderful stuff of being alive (including, but not limited to, punk and skateboarding). Being uniquely in my late 30s  (you might call it the “middle” of life), I feel like I can empathize with a lot of different ages right now. I can, for example, vividly recall what it was like to enter the impossible landscape that one must traverse from being a teenager into adult hood. And yet, at the same time, I can absolutely imagine what it will be like in the not-so-distant-future to turn, say, 55. This movie does the exact same thing, artfully.

Lucinda Williams, “Passionate Kisses”: “Is it too much to ask I want a comfortable bed that won’t hurt my back?” A perfect opening line. I love Lucinda and this, the sweetest theme song for crazy liberated women everywhere (i.e. me!).

The Puppy Growing Up: The puppy (did I ever tell you about my new puppy?) is getting bigger, yes, but thank the heavens, his brain is also growing. There’s the young lad below, at left, all of 5 months old, next to Chelsea’s adult-sized Igby. I can’t say we’ve shared any moments of spiritual communion yet, Piney and me. I’m still teaching him to not step in his own pee. But I can’t wait for a time, very soon, when he’s all grown up and can be my emotional support animal—instead of me being his …

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Social Butterflies

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Borrowed the above pic from my pal Kristine.

It’s from Derek’s birthday party last Friday night. Twas proper 40th birthday party—everyone came out. Whiskey spilled. Dinosaur Jr played. Cake did what cake does, it got ferociously eaten!

To be around so many buds, from so many different times and places in my life, it was awesome, but overwhelming. I wanted to leave, I cannot tell a lie … But only for a minute! That feeling passed over me, just like a wave.

This winter has made me very reclusive. Everyone, I think?

To go from months of the quietest evenings ever spent cowering from the cold—or, alternately, mellow gatherings of 4-7 people—straight into a wild rager like this one was a wee difficult for my delicate social constitution. Nevertheless! I persevered, and talked to Molly about her Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, and hugged Kelly and heard all about her terrible brush with death, and chatted with Jamie about his epic trip to Columbia, and so on …

All said and done, it was better-than-great to see everyone. Friendships are way more than the sum of their parts. And while we can all keep in touch passively (i.e. digitally), being in the same room with your friends doing that face-to-face QT is the best and only way to tap into the real, good stuff, the sustenance, the love. Friends! Where would any of us be without them?

3 Things

I Am Not Your Negro. Watch this movie. Show it to your kids. Heck, show it to your pets. Yes, it’s that important. I am in awe of James Baldwin as a thinker. What an amazing mind. And when you get to realizing, as he suggests, that the whole of Western Civilization was built (thru colonization/slavery/warfare) on a model of white power that we’re still living in, it’s like, what the F do we do now?!

Artichoke heart wings. Procured a plate of these from Century Bar the other night. Of all the things that you could deep fry and dip in a sauce instead of chicken wings, I’m gonna argue here that artichoke hearts are among the best. Full of tang/flavor, and yet light and easy on the stomach in their way. A triumph for vegetable-arians everywhere!

Recovery. After our life-giving “winter ordeal,” we spent all of last week recovering. Their were sneezing fits and other symptoms of the common cold. And there was absolutely no energy to be had anywhere until Friday or so. Earlier in the week, from the moment I got up, it was a stone-cold countdown until I could come home and sit on the couch. Also, Piney got fixed and snoozed off his surgery meds with the rest of the laid-out household.

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Overnight On The Mountain

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Dark was the morning we loaded the car and drove south through Eugene, through Oakridge, and up the side of Warner Mountain until we reached the deep snow. Ten miles of freshly powdered road separated us from the Warner Mtn. Fire Lookout, a cozy cabin atop stilts atop a ridge with 360 views of the Cascade Range. We strapped into our split boards and swished off into oblivion.

Fast forward through 8 hours of rugged uphill ascent, and we were still on that trail. It was pitch dark. The storm raged. Mark was slurring his speech, suffering from severe exhaustion. In the light from my headlamp, the tracks of the people who’d skied out earlier that day were buried, wiped from existence by snow and wind. This blizzard of March 5th, it wasn’t half hearted—but brave and full of force.

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It’s a funny thing, memory. Already what happened is all jumbled up in my mind. I remember a moment when I realized something was wrong with Mark. It’s really hard to see someone who’s always very strong, always taking care of you, suddenly need help. It hit me over the head—it was time to stop, stop motivating, stop rallying. We had to go into survival mode, which meant digging some form of shelter and staying put. And—not kidding—calling 911. Yep, only 1.5 miles from our cozy cabin destination, we were immobilized by exhaustion, by darkness, and by the storm.

We shimmied into the area under a tree well, threw down a sleeping bag, sat down, and then put another sleeping bag over us. This is making it sound warmer than it was. We were soaked to the core from sweating and from the storm. We were very, very cold. Cold is an understatement. Drifting in and out of consciousness, we shivered violently from 8 pm until 4 a.m., when, thinking I was hallucinating, I saw the lights from the Search And Rescue snow cat.

What we did wrong. 

-We had too much stuff. Just because you’re going to a cabin, doesn’t mean you need to bring your 700 page book. If I did again, I’d go so much lighter, so much leaner.

-We brought a 4 month old puppy. Sure, he’s part Malamute. But he’s a freaking baby. We were prepared for him not making the whole trek—we just weren’t prepared for the extra strain pulling a 30+ pound pup in a sled would put on Mark.

-We didn’t eat. We had plenty of food, but not super accessible trail snacks to keep us super fueled up. We were prob burning thousands of calories, but we kept thinking, we gotta just GET THERE! Turns out, taking care of yourself is more important than anything.

-We didn’t turn back when we maybe thought we should. My new mantra—it’s okay to quit!

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What went wrong. 

-There was (way) more snow than expected. The park ranger had told us the trail would be packed by snowmobiles, but instead, we were skinning through feet of fresh. This was a game changer.

-The GPS made us look closer than we were to the destination. There was a tragic moment just before dark when we made a final push, thinking we were 2 miles away, and then saw a road sign that read, “Warner Mountain Lookout, 3.7 miles.” FLlksjdfla;jksdbuasdfja;sjkdgjl;dajsg!!!!!!!

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How we got so fucking lucky.

-Like a ghost, 1 bar of LTE service shivered in and out of my phone. Just enough to get some calls off to 911 and text my mom our location.

-The sheriff’s department was able to get a snow cat sent up from Roseberg. It was hours away. It took, literally, all night—but the cat was everything. It got us out of there in 25 minutes flat. All hail volunteer Search and Rescue crews, everywhere!