Many Happy Returns

1922 sepia photo of girls who look like Beezus and Ramona

In honor of Beverly Cleary’s 100th birthday today, here’s a photograph Bookherd gave me a few years ago. The back says “Taken at Albany, Ore. 1922,” but as Bookherd noted, don’t they look like Beezus and Ramona?

I feel lucky that my lifetime has overlapped Mrs. Cleary’s so that a garage-sale paperback of Ramona the Pest was waiting for me as soon as I could read chapter books. Ellen Tebbits, Otis Spofford, and some of the Henry Huggins books were around the house, too (it probably helped that my sister is three years older than me). In 1977, both Ramona and I were seven years old and I got the new hardback Ramona and Her Father for Christmas. So I’ve had the pleasure of reading books written 20 years before I was born, with their slightly retro topics of guppies and woolen underwear, and also the excitement of spotting brand-new Beverly Cleary books.

I’ve read and watched a bunch of tributes in the past few weeks. I think my favorite is this set of two anecdotes by her longtime editor David Reuther.

To me, Beverly Cleary is one of my lifetime’s great writers. I hope she feels the love today.

New Projects

This week I started two new projects with Sanguinity!

We both joined the LiveJournal community Sherlock Holmes: 60 for 60. Each week I’ll be reading one of the original 60 Arthur Conan Doyle stories (or a fraction of a novel– the whole cycle will take 71 weeks total) and posting a related ficlet of exactly 60 words. We started with A Study in Scarlet, so my first contribution was of course about the “bull pup” Watson claims to keep but never mentions again.

Separate Breakfasts

I was sorry to leave the hotel: Sophie was my biscuit friend, and waited for me to finish the crumbs before sweeping. At the new house the tall man has a noisy howling-box but I must be quiet. The old dog won’t play, but I go out early with the tall man to sniff. Then run home for another breakfast!

New members are welcome to join in anytime, in case this appeals to you. This is round five, so chances are you’ll have another chance at any stories you missed.

I also bought the latest edition of my favorite hiking book, William Sullivan’s 100 Hikes in NW Oregon and SW Washington, so that Sanguinity and I can do them all and mark them off. There are so many that are wonderful but I had a “we did that” mindset, which is ridiculous. So today we checked off #8, Oaks Bottom. It wasn’t much more fuss than our usual neighborhood walks, and we heard red-winged blackbirds and saw woodpeckers working. There are multiple options for many hikes plus a bunch more at the back, so some recordkeeping details are unclear… for now I’m just writing dates and notes in the book. No set time frame.


Walk Up Clinton

I missed my run to go to a meeting at work this morning, so when it was over I decided to walk over the Tilikum Bridge up to the Hawthorne branch of Powell’s, and home from there. Seven or so miles, same as my run would have been.

boats at the east end of the Tilikum Bridge
Sternwheeler on the left, then two yachty-cruisey boats, then DARPA’s prototype drone submarine-finder.

Futel phone
My first Futel phone. There was no dial tone, just a recorded menu that includes the Mayor’s office, the 211 social services and resource finder, a general repository for apologies, and other options. I chose the Willamette Valley Dream Survey and reported last night’s dream.

CYRK Building, "Circa 2012"
No one could look up when exactly it was built?

dogwood bough starting to bloom
The dogwoods are starting! Azaleas, lilacs, and Japanese maples also starred. It was actually a lovely walk; more diverters have gone in to force cars to turn off Clinton, so it’s quiet and bike-dominated now. A version of Portland that I thoroughly enjoy.

Feminist Press and spring

Yesterday on the bus I started reading Sarah Schulman’s The Cosmopolitans, newly out from CUNY’s Feminst Press. It is a beautiful book! Just the right size, with black endpapers and that nice porous book paper. I can’t name the typeface, but it’s nearly identical to the one in my copy of Harriet the Spy (1964), and Cosmopolitans is set in 1958.

In short, every element is thoughtfully designed. I looked for a colophon or Note on the Type. There wasn’t one, but there was “A Note on Style” about the book’s connections to Balzac’s Cousin Bette (1846) and Baldwin’s Another Country (1962), neither of which I’ve read yet. The end reads:

I also try to evoke the era [of Cousin Bette] through slight allusion to the Britishized American English that dominated commonly read translations at the time. Whether the source was Flaubert or Dostoyevsky, these novels often sounded, in English, like they were being recited by Katherine Hepburn. And so, that tone, in a way, represents the period for American readers.

I am already in love with this book’s attention to detail. And I will be sad if a day comes when print books of this quality are too rare to check out from the public library and carry around on the bus.

I went and looked at the rest of Feminist Press’ catalog and picked out Louise Meriwether’s Daddy Was a Number Runner (2002, original 1970) to read next.

Speaking of matters typographical, I no longer believe that one space after periods is the only way. This article changed my mind.

In other news, the water is on in the Keller Fountain!

And zoe_1418 was in town for a conference, and took sanguinity and me to breakfast and autographed my copy of her coloring book, Mindful Mosaic. I highly recommend coloring in a book designed by a friend, as it feels cozy and collaborative.

The little birds are back to tapping on the bathroom window. Since they will no longer be nesting in the walls of the house and demonstrating how about-to-fall-apart everything is, it isn’t nearly as irritating as last year! My in-laws gave me a birdhouse and some nesting material to hang up, so I hope the birdies will move into that instead.

The Inker’s Shadow, Alone in Antarctica, springtime

The Inker's Shadow cover

Allen Say doesn’t make many public appearances in Portland, but I still feel all warm and fuzzy that he lives in the same city I do. I just finished The Inker’s Shadow, sequel to Drawing from Memory. I hope someday there will be a third book, about his life as a young artist in San Francisco.

Partway through this book, a school principal in a small town gets teenaged Allen into an appropriate school (he had been at a dubious military academy with much younger kids) and uses his network to connect Allen with a job to cover living expenses. One person with privilege can make such a huge difference when they help someone with less.

When I poked around online I found this charming profile written by Say’s daughter when she was thirteen.

What I admire most about my father is that he always says exactly what he thinks.  When I was seven years old, I dragged my father into a Hello Kitty store.  After I had picked out the things I wanted, we walked up to the cash register.  The lady at the register rang up the purchases, and just as she was about to put them in a bag, my father said, “I really wish this place would burn to the ground.”  The lady gave him a blank look.  I was very embarrassed.  But that’s the way my father is.

It looks like some of what’s in the essay is in The Favorite Daughter, which is now waiting for me at the library. This segment of Oregon Art Beat shows the barely-furnished studio his daughter mentions. I was surprised to hear he completes the art before writing the text of his books.

Some of his books have mostly adult characters (and not zany kidlit types like Mr. Popper and Mrs. Whatsit, either), and I wonder if they have much of a child audience or are mostly read by adults.

Alone in Antarctica cover

All my favorite moments in this book were ones when Felicity Aston had a hard time that either Sanguinity or I, in our milder lives of hiking and camping and (in Sanguinity’s case) climbing, had also experienced in a correspondingly milder form. Narcissistic, I know, but I felt it when it turned out that the porridge she’d packed for every single breakfast didn’t agree with her and she had to iron-will it down morning after morning. Or when after many days of all-day straight-line travel, she’s almost to the polar station where friends and supplies await, but there’s a tangly little network of trails around it and she can’t tell for hours if she’s going the right way. In fact, there’s a lot of Almost-There Syndrome, and also the difficulty of getting out of the tent and on the trail in the morning. (When my dad read my PCT trail journal, he asked, “Now, why was it you were having so much trouble in the mornings, packing up camp?” “I don’t know!” I semi-wailed, and I still don’t, exactly.) The mental argument, and the screaming tediousness of knowing the night before that you’ll be having the mental argument as soon as you wake up, but not being able to stop it.

So those were my favorite parts, but I think Aston does a good job of balancing the scenery, technical, and emotional aspects in the book so it doesn’t bog down in any of them. Helen Thayer’s books are good readalikes. I wonder if they know each other.

Felicity Aston says something a lot of ultrarunners say, that she does what she does in order to find her limits. I don’t fully understand that– when I do things that are extreme for me, it’s because I don’t want to find my limits– I am hoping to find out that something that I or other people aren’t sure I can do is within my limits after all. But maybe Aston is more driven than I am– she says that even as the plane approached to pick her up, she was feeling out mentally how much further she could have gone, whether she could have turned around and skied back to the pole. Maybe it’s more of a relief to her, to find things she can do but has no interest in doing again ever, thanks.

It’s been several weeks since the Spring Triumvirate hit town:

  1. Primroses appear in grocery stores.
  2. Big waves of fragrance stop me dead on the sidewalk until I can spot the daphne bush nearby.
  3. Crocuses bloom.

We’re well into daffodils now, and yesterday I saw irises in bloom, sheltered against a wall.

Spring has long been my least favorite season, one of always being too cold as I stubbornly try going without a jacket or turning the heat off, and wishing it would be summer already, and feeling like it’s time for fresh food but what’s available is radishes and lettuce. But I am going to give up this attitude. Portland has FIVE MONTHS of spring, from February to the Fourth of July. This is a spring town, and I am going to appreciate it.

Yesterday was the beginning of a clear stretch in the weather, and we were able to get some protective stain onto the new porch deck. In the same way that adventures are 95% packing, apparently painting and staining are 95% masking and draping the parts you don’t want to do. I think it’s gonna look good though!

Smoky Salmon and Cranberry Sage

Twenty years after we told the insurance guy we would take care of it soon, our house is no longer covered in battered gray asphalt shingles. Instead it’s this color:

which is called “smoky salmon” and looks a lot more orange and less pink, on the house. Maybe. It changes. The trim is “restoration ivory” and has a touch of spring green in it. All in all, a huge change for our formerly quite scary-looking house. I keep thinking the porch light is on, but it’s just the glowy light-colored paint.

Considering that I did not do the actual work, it’s amazing how stressful I found the re-siding (and painting and rebuilding some of the porch where it was sagging) process. Multiple people right there at the house all the time, and way too many decisions. Sanguinity managed the bulk of it while I hid at the office, and I am very grateful.

To show my appreciation on one of those days, I made her a ridiculous dish from the side of a Triscuit box!

Cranberry & Sage Candied Sweet Potato is made with Cranberry & Sage Triscuits (review), which I bought because they were clearly a leftover holiday item and might never come back. They’re weirdly sweet but tasty. And turns out, when you mash them into crumbs and dump them on top of a baked sweet potato with butter and brown sugar, that is also weirdly sweet but tasty!

Tilikum Crossing

bike-themed mural on approach to Tilikum bridge

sidewalk view of Tilikum Crossing with streetcar

Walked over Tilikum Crossing for the first time this morning. (I had previously crossed it via light-rail and bus.) Love how quiet it is– no car traffic makes all the difference. Too bad the west-side leg to PSU is still long light cycles admist concrete spaghetti. It all felt safe, just cumbersome. In the future I’ll probably hop a train or streetcar at the Life Sciences building.

good reading recently

more Last Stop on Market Street

I’ve been reading posts about Last Stop on Market Street when I run across them– today’s was at Latin@s in Kid Lit. I was caught by this spread:
streetscape from Last Stop on Market Street
I really like how the curve of the page coming out of the gutter on the right side makes the building look more 3-D, while the rainbow stretching across both pages keeps the gutter from breaking up the spread. Having it both ways.

Shadow Hero

I let Gene Luen Yang’s The Shadow Hero (art by Sonny Liew) languish on my library-book shelf for ages, until the library insisted I bring it back. (Maybe more people are reading his books since he was named National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature.) I think it was the antique-looking palette of the cover, greens and browns, that made me slide by it whenever I was in the mood for a shiny superhero comic.
cover of Shadow Hero

But in fact the art is perfect for the 1930s California Chinatown setting, and once I started reading I was completely drawn in. I laughed out loud at least twice: when Hank’s mom meets a superhero while driving, and when she tries to reverse-engineer some superpowers for Hank. Later on, things get serious.

Shadow Hero is an origin story for Green Turtle, created in Blazing Comics for just five issues in 1944, by Chinese American artist Chu F. King. (This context, along with a sample from the original comic, is provided in the author’s note at the back, but I think it would also be fine to read it before the comic.)

The Rest of Us Just Live Here

I dropped Patrick Ness’ The Knife of Never Letting Go because it was too grim for me, a la Cormac McCarthy. But this one, as noted by many bewildered and disappointed Goodreads reviewers, is totally different! Each chapter has a little synopsis of what’s happening in the ongoing Buffy-like plot… and then the chapter is about the lives of the regular kids we’re following, who are only intermittently aware of and affected by the “indie kids” fighting the supernatural. They have stuff in their own lives going on to worry about.

Brilliant. And, you know, true to the experience of being on the periphery, at most, of newsworthy events, as most of us are most of the time. The regular-kid characters were written with a lot of warmth and sympathy.

I wish I could quote out a couple of the funniest passages, but alas, that one had to go back to the library too. Anyway, he nailed what he said in this interview was the hardest part of writing the book:

I loved the challenge of writing a wild, hopefully funny, hopefully warmly satirical book about all the YA tropes while still hopefully having a serious, moving story at the centre of it.

Current read:

Kinda Like Brothers, by Coe Booth. I like kid characters who are good at playing with and caring for younger kids–maybe it’s my Baby-Sitter’s Club roots showing.

State of the Running

I spent 2015 developing what I don’t think I’ve ever truly had before: a training base. Dailymile kindly sent me this summary of my walking + running mileage for each month, starting in January when I walked two miles a day and ending in December, when I did three runs each week (7, 4, and 3 miles) and walked three miles on each non-running day:

bar graph of mileage, rising from 61 in January to 116 in December.

(I was sick in November and didn’t feel like trying to catch up, what with Thanksgiving and all.)

I called a lot of December fingernail mileage, as in I barely clawed my way through it each day. Once I spent an hour walking through hallways at the university because it was raining and I needed to stay dry for an office party. Once I got dressed for my long run as soon as I got up on my day off, and still never dragged myself out to do it, and then had to rearrange the rest of the week to make it up. I thought I would probably quit or take a break in January. But it felt wrong not to walk on January 1st… and run on the 2nd and 3rd… and I’m still going.

I am proud of this, after so long being perpetually undertrained for races, so much starting and stopping with running. But I don’t really know what I want to do with it.

Walking is easy. It makes me happy, gets me out in the daylight, and often I can do it with Sanguinity. I’ve been hankering to go hike at Silver Falls pretty soon, because we haven’t been there for years, but even our one-mile walks to the library and my commute miles have an obvious payoff in how I feel.

I would not say I’ve been enjoying running, particularly. Every single time it’s hard to get out there, and I’m glad when I’m done. Is it the cold and the rain? Is it that generalized “resistance” that doesn’t mean much of anything? It is hard to tell.

I would be happy to drop any individual run, but not running in general, apparently. When I have dropped running, pretty soon I started dreaming about it.

I don’t really care if I get faster, and going longer doesn’t appeal to me much either– more time away from home and all the other stuff I love to do. Races aren’t appealing to me right now. I guess I’ll keep this baseline for a few more months and see if spring and summer feel different.

And keep inching up the walking, because I love to walk outdoors and look at trees, and it’s fun to see the bar graph grow. And it injury-proofs me for the running.

My next run has built-in motivation: I got new shoes this month!

blue Mizuno Wave running shoe

Aren’t they the prettiest? I keep making Sanguinity admire them.

Provisional notes on the first three books I read this year

Because they were so different from each other, and because their blurbs on my book list got longer than usual, and because I’m still thinking about them.

The Lesser Blessed, by Richard van Camp. YA, though it was marketed as adult fiction. 1996. Larry, a Dogrib boy in a small town in the Northwest Territories, is trying to get through the year and cope with his traumatic past. He makes friends, or maybe frenemies, with the bad-boy new kid at school…who gets the girl Larry’s been worshiping from afar. Larry’s a mess of admiration and lust and jealousy. His mom is busy working and going to school, and the past is unspoken between them. Her boyfriend Jed is pretty great, but it’s unclear if it will all work out, no matter how much Larry wants him to stick around. It’s the 1980s, and life in town is mired in drink, drugs, bad sex, racism, poverty, violence– seriously, heavy metal music is the most reliable comfort. Beautiful writing in short sections with bursts of old memories and tribal stories mixed in. I thought the jacket copy’s “fresh, funny look at growing up Dogrib in the North” was off base… but there’s something that makes you see through the grime and teenage raunch and want to stick with this sweet storytelling kid.

Dare to Disappoint: Growing Up in Turkey, by Ozge Samanci. Comics. 2015. Memoir of a childhood and youth in Turkey in the 1980s and 1990s. Ozge’s family is middle-class: she and her sister can go to good schools if they work hard, but their parents worry that they won’t have good lives unless they study engineering or medicine and get good jobs. Meanwhile, the fight over secularism in Turkey and the nation’s youth and political fragility are the background to everything. One page includes a photograph of Ozge’s stencil, which has shapes, rulers…and the profile of military hero Ataturk, because drawing him badly is not an option. Ozge tries to fit in and please her family, when really she’s a weird artistic kid who idolizes Jacques Cousteau. My only criticism is that the resolution at the end felt tacked-on.

Ongoingness: The End of a Diary, by Sarah Manguso. Memoir. 2015. A woman who has kept an exhaustive diary for decades writes in small sections about contemplating stopping. Also about her experience of time and memory, and how it changed when she became a mother. Mostly, this book came across to me as unbelievably self-absorbed, but every now and then one of her sentences intrigued me. There’s also a note of “and then I became a mother, and understood time and the meaning of life!” and I can take only so much (not much) of that. Can’t help wondering if she would find it all so profound if she had four kids instead of one. I think I will forget this book almost immediately, but hope to remember at least these two things: 1. When she watched her baby playing with crib toys, she suddenly remembered her own toys and sensations from before she began talking, and 2. she writes her diary in the present tense.