Favorites 2.2.16

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Cleaning the garage. It once held a mini ramp, and more recently, a very persistent rodent. Right now, though, my garage is strictly a purgatory of stuff. My stuff. Old roommates’ stuff. Ex boyfriends’ stuff. Former homeowners’ stuff. Maybe even your stuff? It’s possible. The important thing is that I’ve been cleaning and organizing it, and in addition to fulfilling my pathological need for order, I’ve unearthed a treasure trove: 2 skil saws, 3 orbital sanders, bike fenders, a staple gun, spray paint in a myriad of colors, and so much more. It’s like Christmas morning!

Taco potluck. See, I buy the tortillas and tequila, you bring over your favorite taco fillings. What could be easier, cheaper, more delicious, tipsier?

Theo Peppermint Stick Dark Chocolate. There’re way too many houses still draped in Christmas lights around here. It’s messing with my feng shui. But! This limited edition left over from the holidays is fine by me. The crushed-velvet richness of dark-as-night chocolate; the crunch and coolness of peppermint candy. As I’ve stated elsewhere, it’s so super worth it to buy the really good chocolate (esp. if you’re down for getting all feel-good-organic-fair-tradey) (which I am).

Pretending it’s spring. The other day, I felt a barely warm breeze and got all excited thinking about spring. This caused me to hurry to the nursery and browse seeds for my future veggie garden, all the while caught up in a kind of frenzy dreaming about the fresh salsas and salads I’d make when the warm months returned. If this is crazy, I don’t wanna be sane.

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January 25 + Astoria

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As a month of 31 days, January’s in no hurry to leave. I think the magic of this early-in-the-year time is getting 100% back to basics, getting 100% serious about clearing out clutter both mental and physical—like, replacing the strings of white lights in the windows with nothing, with fresh space, with newly cleaned glass.

Something else that makes me feel like I have more air in my lungs is travel, by road, by car, with good people if that’s at all possible? Exploration. I am still determined to find new favorite places in Oregon. And despite my longstanding grudge against the Oregon coast (too crowded in the summer, too gloomy in the winter, altogether too many windsock shops), a few of us drove to Astoria this weekend, and I was charmed by the place.

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I liked the ancient crumbling victorians piled all the way up the hillside. I liked the colossal freighters anchored in the inlet. I liked the melancholy place names—like Cape Disappointment, where all the ships crashed, even the one carrying supplies to build a new lighthouse. Astoria’s just a grand, rugged ole frontier timber town straight out of The Journey Of Natty Gann or something. It’s exceptionally Northwest!

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Anyway, we let the dogs lunge through the waves and watched Billy do donuts in his SUV on the beach. We stopped at view points and looked at views. We drank beer and ate copious french fries and then fell asleep early in one of the quietest, comfiest hotel rooms with the softest of beds.

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What You’ve Been Up To

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Oh hi. What have you been up to? Me? I’ve been trying to work. But it’s damn, damn January and all the companies who hire me are just waking up from a long holiday slumber. As such, there’s no real projects cracking yet, and projects are what get me paid (and soothe my pathological inability to relax).

I cannot tell a lie, I’ve been feeling a little useless lately. It happens every year. The darkness and rain of mid-winter mixed with a sense of treading water. I’m a baby. This is basic boredom. But the work-like tasks I’ve been giving myself (update your portfolio, prune the rose bushes, repaint the fireplace) haven’t been doing the trick to get me jazzed on life. I mean, where is all that effervescent joy we used to know?! Like, back in summer and stuff?

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Sorry, that got depressing really quick. It’s okay! Life is grand, and I’ve been taking a lot of pleasure in cooking simple things from scratch using this cool book my mum got me for Christmas. It’s all about how to make at home the basics you’d usually buy at the store. Hummus. Milk. Yogurt. Just do it yourself. Dial ‘em in how you like them. Way cheaper, better, and healthier, too, without all the additives and such.

Yes, I’ve been learning a lot. Did you know, for instance, that the very best thing to spread on a piece of toast is not butter, like I’d once thought, but rather a rich, lemony tahini sauce? I just found this out. Wonders never cease.

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3 Things

The Revenant. A revenge story set on the Montana frontier, where the rawest brutality and grand, austere beauty are married by the power vested in Alejandro Iñárritu’s camera lens. Nature is savage, and humans are no more than animals, after all. The movie is 2.5 hours long. I wouldn’t write about it if it weren’t worth the hassle. It is. And all them Golden Globes last night just prove it.

The best cruiser-board ring. Acquired for Christmas via the bargain basement of MapleXO, who doesn’t really make rings like this anymore, which is just another reason why I like it so much.

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Last week’s snow storm. A not-necessarily-predicted snowstorm hit while Portland slept last Saturday night, and we all awoke Sunday morning to a city of zero snowplows under 3 inches of fresh. Calamity! It was the day after the day after New Year’s Day, also known as the day you chuck your Christmas tree, and the boys of the Cub Scout tree-recycling program sipped cider on tailgates in the park as people from all over the neighborhood dragged their formerly festive spruces by hand through the empty white streets.

Side note: I like the way my house looks with the powder—cute and kinda old timey.

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The Year That Was

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I don’t usually sweat the New Year or starting fresh, but this year I did take a little inventory and did find things a little wanting and did make a little list. Things to remember. Ways to live. Aspirations of a higher order.

1) To wait and see. Patience served me well in 2015.

2) To live honestly. It’s a character thing.

3) To be there and be cool for my friends and my family. Relationships are complex, but what they require is pretty simple.

4) To pay attention to the world around me. The little things are the big things, etc.

5) To get good at getting old(er). I think this has to do with cultivating an ongoing appreciation of me, such as I am.

Aaanyway, here’s a wee tour through my 2015. Salut!

spring

Spring: Tiki-bar karaoke. Eugene for Derek’s birthday. Skating in shirt sleeves under the flowered, drooping trees.

 

summer

Summer: New York City skate gangs. Go Skateboarding Day hill bombs. A boozy rabbit hole of summer involving swimming spots and front stoops.

 

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Fall: Road tripping to the American Southwest in order to bathe in the sage-brush breeze. Halloween hijinks. Piles of crunchy leaves and all the trees caught on fire.

 

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Winter: Powder days. Arctic nights. Copious celebrations indoors—where everyone gets along because it’s too cold not to.

Vacation Views

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I’ve spent 30-something Christmases in the Colorado alpine. My parents live on a towering ridgeline ringed with peaks, and I find it meditative to go back there once a year. To wander. To wheeze. To snowboard. To curl up in my bed at the top of the house and lay there in the dark watching the moonlight on the snow and the lights of faraway snowcats, 10 miles up the valley at the ski resort, going up and down restoring order to the slopes, until I fall asleep and then the dawn breaks all cold and blue.

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This year:

This year I was especially in awe of the the winter scenery. It’d rained in Portland for 17 days straight before my trip, and so the dazzling sun on the Colorado snow was so freaking bright I could barely open my dim little eyes.

This year I rode my fill of powder, through trees and open snowfields, till my legs ached and my back spasmed. On Christmas Eve Day, we lapped the lifts for hours and then went in the lodge at the top of the mountain to warm up, where we drank hot coffees stiff with Jim Beam and ate snacks my mom had packed for us whilst contemplating the expanse of rugged peaks out the window.

This year, in cosmic observance of the Christmas Eve full moon, I made my entire family go for a late night hike through the dark. Some were more game than others, but I thought it was lovely and remain a firm believer in the magic of a winter night.

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Snow-caked trees and 14,000-foot peaks, et cetera.

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Dusk dog walks on the ridge line.

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Vacation views to remember.

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Sun + fresh snow. The air was super sparkly!

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Real-deal parking prices at Vail Mountain. (I did not park here.)

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Aaaaanyway, lovely to visit, lovely to come home. Lovely to spoon with dog in bed and carry on with real life in a regular, non-holiday fashion.

Get Out

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We’re having a “real winter.” The kind that sends the faint of heart back to wherever they came from (California). Perpetually dark skies. Flood warnings every weekend. Rainstorms worthy of horror films, with the wind lashing a torrential spray against your windows.

It’s nice. It’s what makes it a little rugged up here. More weather today? I don’t even care. I’ll slosh my way to work again, keeping a towel ever close to dry off the dog. Sunshine is a fantasy. The littlest blue, a fleeting pinhole on the horizon—that shit can last me a whole month. I live in the North Country.

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Key to winter survival is the ability to get out of the city.

As mentioned elsewhere, I have adult-onset phobia of driving in the snow, but I happen to know a handy fellow with a 4-wheel-drive car. We’ve escape toward the mountains whenever possible. You can breathe a little deeper up there, take in some natural light. You can walk. You can hike. Stumble on the ice. Maybe snowboard? Hell, even telemark if the mood so strikes you. Any outing involving physical exercise in the cold is what I suggest. Bring drinks, bring snacks. Bundle up. If yer like me, wear two sweaters at once but forget your gloves. It’s all about getting the blood moving and tapping into the wilderness vibrations.

See, rain is very dark (especially today—the darkest day of the year), but snow—snow is bright! It holds the light. It makes the evergreens sparkle in the dead of winter. If the spirit of the solstice is rebirth, then I would argue that there’s nothing more solstice-y than retreating into the cold, embracing a polar adventure, and then driving back toward the warmth of the city through that strange late-afternoon dusk.

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Ghosts Of Christmas Past

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I come to you today from memory lane: Oregon. Colorado. Nights that got cold. Christmas parties in my old kitchen. Winter quiet. Snow in the city. Snuggling in my pop’s chair with nephew Pat.

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Late-December dusk at 13,000 feet—white knuckled in the passenger seat on that crazy road between Denver and mom and dad’s house.

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The Slammer—a scummy bar with a heart of gold. This place decks it out for Christmas, but I don’t think you can go there anymore on account of it being clogged with Chads and tourists. Fuck it, though.

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Dog walks on Christmas Day when everyone was happy and the snow danced with sunlight.

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Baby-face Justin, back when the boys lived in the Belmont house and threw the wildest New Year’s Eves.

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A mistletoe last year, for kissing season. As I recall, I’d been feeling blue, and although December did bring with it a spicy kiss or two, they weren’t partaken of in any real proximity to my kitchen or this talisman of Druidic fertility. Nevertheless!

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A powder day. A powder day with my dad. How many of these I’ve had in my life, I can’t be sure, but they’re very valuable.

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Me hanging twinkly lights at Commonwealth in 2011, the year I decided against all odds to open an indoor skatepark in the middle of a recession.

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This picture reminds me of the unkempt Chrismas parties I used to have and how one in particular, maybe even this one, ended with a can of caramel popcorn getting tossed all over the hardwoods and then, like with alchemy, transformed into a kind of tar thanks to the addition of spilt beer and dancing. Ah those were the days!

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Nephew Pat in his Kermit slippers, working his way through a dire case of post present-opening blues.

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Do y’all remember how for a little while there after Department Of Skateboarding got torn down, we still skated the empty warehouse—just cuz it was winter outside and there was NO WHERE ELSE TO GO?

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The coldest Christmas camping in Arches National Park. We were the only ones. It was beautiful and austere. I turned into an icicle.

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Peace on earth.

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Fire & Ice

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Despite a lot of harsh, wild, and sad events happening in the world right now, December carries on, here in the Northwestern territories of the United States. It seems like every act of turning on the news is an exercise in bravery, and I haven’t been very brave lately.

Really, the bravest thing I did this weekend was attempting to skateboard after eating a monster burrito that was so heavy, it almost ripped all Hulk-like through the paper bag it was carried home in.

There was a birthday party, too, featuring an arm wrestling tournament that crowned our pal Xeno the #strongestmanonearth. And the day after that, there was a slippery hike up an icy gulch (much cat-like balance came into play). The reward at trail’s end was simple and austere: a veil of rushing water and a cauldron of blue ice.

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There were many, many minutes tucked away in the corner of the couch. Book open. TV or radio on. Rain rushing down the windows. And so on. Plenty of quiet hours appreciating such things as the sense of peace a sleeping animal can bring into a room.

In contrast to the rest of the world, our lives are magical, lucky, impossibly charmed. Continuing to live them in the face of impermanence and death isn’t exactly brave or noble, but it’s something.

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The Thanksgiving Report

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I like a good eating event. A gathering focused on food. Potluck, I think it’s called? A table full of steaming dishes magnetically draws a party close, gives it purpose, fills the stomachs of imbibers so that they don’t get wrecked when/if they take it a few sips too far. This is the magic of Thanksgiving.

I hosted at my house on Thursday, but I did not belabor the feast. I just made a simple herb salad and cooked a frozen rhubarb pie. Mark roasted a ball of reconstituted soy product, also known as a Tofurky (the best turkeys being the alive ones, of course). Toby created a platter of scalloped potatoes that billowed clouds of steam, Danielle crafted supernaturally good cornbread, and Jesse, bless his soul, showed up carrying a pink-cheeked baby and a giant fake turkey made of vital wheat gluten. (We cuddled the former and ate the latter.) Also, there was green bean casserole, candied yams, mashed potatoes, pumpkin pie—every whateverthefuck you’d expect from a classic holiday spread—and I barely lifted a finger.

Many ovens make light work, you see.

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We skated before we ate, despite the kind of cold that had the trees tinkling with ice.

FullSizeRenderMy pets are thankful that I continue to feed and house them even after enduring years of their joblessness and failure to contribute to the household in any other way .