A new mountain bike: In December Mark gifted me a two-wheeled steed in honor of the winter Yule. I’ve been craving a method to get way out into the backcountry and feel like come summer I will do many horrendous climbs and long loaping descends on this bike, and it will calm my troubled spirit.
Annihilation by Jeff VanderMeer: I only read sci-fi when it comes recommended from my big sister, as she has immaculate taste in the genre. When this book arrived, I knew I must read it and did so in a matter of 3 days. It takes you inside a dreamworld flowing with the odd and creepy, never painting the full picture but instead a vague outline, remaining mysterious, knowing all the strangest things are cooked up by your own imagination. The book is part of a trilogy, and spoiler alert—they made a movie out of ’em starring Natalie Portman. Better get reading!
60 degrees on a Saturday: You wake up inside a house with glowing windows. The day shines with opportunity. Go out and do stuff, or sit at home, it doesn’t matter. Life is better in the warmth and light.
Rebecca Gates from the Spinanes: Me, Colorado, died red hair, corduroys and a cardigan, listening to the Spinanes in between Geology and German class. Fast forward 20 years to Oregon, and there’s Rebecca on stage in front of me playing soft-as-velvet acoustic guitar in a halo of purple light.
A winter solstice party in the sky: Sunday evening in the dead of winter is more like Sunday afternoon. What a fine time of day to walk the dog, though. On the way to the schoolyard the sky cracks into a magenta golden dream, like alpenglow, like cotton candy, and then on the way home it’s dark. The Christmas lights twinkle cheerfully as you walk by and peek in people’s windows, watching all the small, graceful moments of their quiet indoor lives.
Marc Maron’s WTF interview with Sam Beam: I’m still thinking about this conversation Marc Maron had with Sam Beam of Iron & Wine fame. What a gentle, funny human. What warmth. In my mind, he’s a bearded buddha, living like he does off in the woods of Carolina with five kids, a bunch of banjos and a head full of dusty tunes. He has the secret. He laughed at every single interview question—even the ones that weren’t funny. “You can’t be too serious about it,” he said. “It’s only life.”
Joan Didion: After watching the Netflix documentary about her, I was inclined to reopen Slouching Toward Bethlehem and spend a night reading wisdoms like this: “I think we are well advised to keep on nodding terms with the people we used to be, whether we find them attractive company or not. Otherwise they turn up unannounced and surprise us, come hammering on the mind’s door at 4 am. of a bad night and demand to know who deserted them, who betrayed them, who is going to make amends. We forget all too soon the things we thought we could never forget. We forget the loves and the betrayals alike, forget what we whispered and what we screamed, forget who we were. I have already lost touch with a couple of people I used to be …”
Portobello rueben at Capitol: On a Tuesday night of no particular import we went out for bar food at Capitol on Broadway. It wasn’t our first choice, but Shan Dong was full and I refuse to wait for dinner in town of 10 bajillion restaurants. So. Amidst ladies dressed in shimmery skirts and men in dapper coats, I ate the reuben of a lifetime. Beet and cabbage slaw, hearty mushroom meet, crisp rye. Thank you, world! Thanks December. Cheers Portland. Sometimes, you just get it right.
Stranger Things, season 2. I know you’ve heard of it. It deserves to be heard of. It deserves to be watched amidst bitten fingernails and tea spilled on the couch when you jumped at the scary thing that jumped off the screen at you. Those little humans—kids, I think they’re called—can really act.
Hot pokers in my back: The unsolved mysteries of a sharp, lingering pain just beneath my left shoulder blade. The last time it bothered me was in the midst of a total life melt down. Engagement, failing. Business, all consuming. Weather, wet and bitter cold. Unsurprisingly, a tarot card reading revealed the source of my back pain to be emotional—the earthly place where I held all my twisting woes. Spoiler alert: I made it through. My life didn’t end. My back felt better—so slowly I barely noticed. That was 5 years ago. Though the hot poker is back, the woes are not. I gave up tarot readings and bought a foam roller.
Depth Perception: I didn’t not like this new snowboard flic by the Travis Rice machine. I had a good time watching it, mainly for all the pillows and powder riding, and also the skit featuring my favorite little Canadian cabin in the woods. The same cabin where—see below—I spent one peaceful, quiet, ultra-starry night of summer slumber.
Black hits. When I bought my house 11 years ago, the trim was painted a festive teal. I hired Neil Dacosta and his lass Sara Phillips to paint over it with an understated white—and do classics accents of deep red. Recently, I realized I could—nay, must do something different. And so I went to Home Depot and bought a pint of black to refresh the accents. What I like is the way black isn’t even a color. It doesn’t add anything to the mix—it just emphasizes things, like putting eyeliner on all your windows. Here they are!
Old Country mornings. Townes. Emmy Lou. They are very recommended for breakfast listening on cool-to-cold mornings with fall light coming through the windows (when the NPR membership drive and other horrors of the world have taken the op for soothing news radio off the table).
Harvest moons. Not the Neil Young album of the same name. The real thing—our planet’s satellite. I can never really get over the moon. It’s strange light and mysterious vibrations. What pulls the ocean, pulls us in seen and unseen ways. Or at least that’s what the folk revivalists tell us. Regardless, you can’t not gasp at that big ol’ pumpkin-sized moon hanging over the horizon.
Dove Vivi. Under the influence of cornmeal crust pizza and a glass of red, on maybe the last truly warm night of the year, you can discuss anything. Friends. Work. Blatant gossip. Philosophy. Rock and roll. Television. Death. Birthdays. Future plans and regrets. Etc. At the end, when there are 2 pieces left but 4 people around the table, you cut each piece in half, so that everyone takes home a morsel of the sacred evening.
Driving at sunset. To be out moving through the landscaping at at time of night when you might otherwise be bound—couch-bound, restaurant-bound, bar-bound et cetera. Here, amidst the softy, glowy light, the music sounds better, and hope is renewed.
THIS episode of Snap Judgement. Two first-person tales that I’m still thinking about. Life and death. Star-shaped acid tabs. Ghosts, parachutes and marshmallow skies. Let ’em rip and let me know what ya think.
Tapenade. Bagels. Bowtie pasta. Put it on anything. Have I told you about my love of olives and other briny fruits of the warm, sun-washed lands?
Big West Linn with buds. If you live and skate in Portland, then you know that West Linn park was returned to its almost former glory with some patching and fresh coping. I hadn’t been out there since back in the day, which is to say back when we all skated there a lot because it was new and legendary and there were so few other places, besides. These days, I keep it to skating “small stuff.” However, we went to West Linn on Sunday and I had an amazing time. There on old familiar ground, the memories the and muscle memory returned. I took it easy. Cruised. Pumped walls and peered up at the coping. Thanks world. Thanks skateboarding. You’re just what I need sometimes.
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?
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 …
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.
Mini ramping revival: Years from now, we’ll tell tales about this winter. The “crazy winter of ’17”! Right now, though, we’re livin’ it, and I am not understating things by saying this is the least amount I have ever skated in any season, ever. But that’s okay. We have to live in time and the realities of our world. It was awfully nice, though, last week, to session the garage mini again—sustained by friends and beers—and feel warm, and, heck, feel happy.
Durango’s ashes: Over the weekend, a few of us hiked a very long way into Mt. Hood National Forest. We kept climbing the steep switchbacks until we broke free from the trees and found what we were looking for—a bold, rocky precipice. Here, several months ago, we’d come with Durango—my wonderful first-pup-after-Lefty.And here, we scattered his ashes. When Lefty died, we buried him in the garden and I can still feel him there. I don’t know where Durango is—I can’t feel him anywhere. Maybe he wasn’t even with us long enough to linger. Still, scattering his ashes made me happy. Watching that dust fly away wild on the wind. Earth dust, to become, at some point, start dust, I hope?
Moonlight: I don’t know if the trailer does this movie justice. It makes it seem overly serious, misses the tender moments of light. However, I didn’t go see Moonlight (the early show on a winter evening of no particular import) because of the trailer. I went because I heard it was good—nay, great, and had the Oscar noms to prove it, and also because I listened to an interview with the film’s creators and found their perspective compelling. LONG STORY SHORT, I loved this movie. See it—even if you think it might look depressing. Like all real-world stories, with sadness, there is redemption.
For snow days. For ice storms. For cabin fever. For life on weather hold. For cold nights with the furnace on blast … Here are 2 good movies that’ll get ya thinking.
Author: The JT LeRoy Story. A crazy story about a crazy story. What is art? Does it matter who the artist is? Was it all a hoax? Is hoax even the right word? For me, this drama says more about “us”—a society hungry for celebrity—than it does about a middle-age woman channeling a teenage boy to write books.
Midnight Special. A sci-fi that doesn’t feel like sci-fi. Such a subtle movie. What’s it really about? You have to use your brain, figure things out for yourself, make the connections and be rewarded.