commute notes

hopscotch numbered from the top with tiny hopscotch beside it

I am pretty sure I’ve never seen a hopscotch grid numbered from the top. I kept trying to make sense of it after I had walked past, and ended up walking around the block to look again.

I have, however, seen a tiny hopscotch marked “for cats,” and I wonder if that’s what the smaller one is here. I can’t quite read the numbers.


orange racks ready for Biketown bikes

Portland’s Biketown (because co-sponsored by Nike) bikes arrive tomorrow! The racks have been in place for a week or so– people happily started locking their regular bikes up at them, and then the city sent out some grumpy tweets and added the CAUTION tape.

This rack is just outside my office, so I’ll try a ride down by the river on my lunch break sometime soon. I admit, I don’t really understand the customer base for bikeshare. Commuters would want their own bikes, right? Some tourists will use them, in good weather, if they’re not afraid of sharing the road with cars downtown. Maybe close-in bar hopping after the bus stops running? I guess we’ll find out.

Throwback Thursday: Runway Walk

illustration of style show from A Dream For Addie

I surprised sanguinity this morning with a skill from my past– a practiced runway walk, complete with stop, pivot, and graceful gestures at features of my clothing as they are described by the narrator (who was also me).

I learned it in 4-H, because we had a fashion show every year to show off the clothes we sewed, knitted, and crocheted.

Granted, mine is the smiley midwestern version, more A Dream For Addie than Project Runway. But then, I was modeling a Rick-Rack Rhapsody navy-blue t-shirt from JCPenney. Frump Power!

Reading Wednesday

Off and on this year I’ve been reading malt-shop YA that I get via interlibrary loan– Anne Emery’s set of four about the Burnaby girls, and last week, to commemorate Lois Duncan, her first novel Debutante Hill. I love the malt-shops, but their worlds are relentlessly white and after awhile I was longing for books from the same period about black girls.

The closest I came up with was Brenda Wilkinson’s Ludell, published in 1975 but set in 1950s Georgia where Wilkinson grew up. Ludell would be categorized now as middle grade, and its sequel, Ludell and Willie, as YA. I’m still waiting for the third one, Ludell’s New York Time. 

The first two have all the back-then vocabulary and detail that I love about old kidlit. This is before school lunch programs, so the teachers sell boiled hot dogs and candy and soda at lunchtime. Blue jeans as girls’ fashion are a brand new thing and the grown-ups disapprove. The jukebox at the after-football dance is called a “piccolo.”

The dialect is stronger than in most books now, and it took me a few pages for my associations with old racist books like the Bobbsey Twins to fade away. I like “nem” for “and them.” And you know how everyone’s always yelling and shouting in Harriet the Spy and The Long Secret? These books are like that too! I mean, I think Ludell is especially loud, like Harriet is. But in both cases, it’s almost everyone, not just the main girl.

Checking dates on Goodreads just now, I see that there are several reviewers of Ludell who say it’s the first book that made them like reading. I heart Ludell. (And Ludell and Willie are a sweet couple.) I will be starting a Wikipedia article about Brenda Wilkinson, in case anyone has favorite articles or links about her.


Rereading The Westing Game

Continuing with my 1970s reread jag, I spent most of my day off this week with The Westing Game. Spoilers ahead.

  • I admire intricate plots and puzzles… and I’m not very good at them. There’s a reason I keep reading Howl’s Moving Castle over and over. This was the first time through Westing Game that I felt like I got almost all of what was going on. That Crow was seeing Angela and Theo as another iteration of her daughter and Theo’s father. That Otis Amber was listed in the phone book as a PI under his own name.
  • Sam Westing is a despicable man. He executes the game to punish Crow, using her as a sacrificial queen in his search for someone smart enough to be his heir– Turtle, as it turns out. He has monitored his ex-wife for years and years via private investigator, and is fine with her wrongful arrest for homicide. Not cool. Never addressed. Sorry, Chris, Mr. Westing was not a good man.
  • Crow’s hair is red-blonde. I always pictured her with black hair, very goth and severe with her white skin. Probably because of her name.
  • The last chapter made me laugh. Doug Hoo has to be an Olympic medalist! Judge Ford has to get to the U.S. Supreme Court! Turtle has to make millions and millions! Somewhat more disturbingly, she marries Theo just like Violet should have married Theo’s father. Such a relief that someone (Chris) gets a partner who wasn’t involved in the game at all.
  • I think the book’s most egregious fault is its treatment of Mrs. Hoo. Raskin reports her thoughts and opinions as though they are as simple as the English she has only recently started to learn. The effect is sooo racist.
  • The $10,000 that each player received would be just over $38,000 in 2016 dollars. Harvard and Radcliffe charged $1,250 per year for undergraduate tuition in 1958, so maybe $10k is realistic for Judge Ford’s education, especially if it’s not adjusted for inflation between her student years and the book’s setting (assuming it’s more or less contemporary with the 1978 publication date).

Lots of cool stuff about the manuscript, process, and design of the book here. I first read a hardback library book, but now I have an Avon-Camelot paperback and so miss out on some of the design details.

Monday Magpie

I save up links by posting them with “Only Me” access in FaceBook. Here’s a few that I still find of interest:

  • I enjoyed Victoria “Winnie the Pow” Jamieson’s Roller Girl, pitch-perfect and set in Portland, and of course it made me think about what my derby name should be if I ever join a league. Fuse Eight riffed on kidlit derby names (Nancy Drew Blood. Jacob Have I Shoved.) a few years ago. I am pleased to see that Ramona the Pestilence isn’t taken yet, per the registry. Maybe someday.
  • Audre Lorde’s first published poem appeared in Seventeen magazine! Here’s a little more about it, with quotes from her autobiography Zami about her group of high-school friends, their support and their silences. Now I really want to read Zami.
  • Matt de la Peña’s Newbery acceptance speech was published this morning and it has EVERYTHING. Kid-Matt with his school librarian, what The Phone Call was like, the make-me-cry-at-the-end part, it’s classic and perfect! *snif*


five pink roses blooming in a corona from one stem

First there was one large bloom with a corona of buds, and now all the coronal buds have bloomed. Their fragrance is so wonderful that I find myself thinking that watering and protecting this rose is sufficient purpose in life. I’m going to spend the evening sitting down-breeze from it in the backyard.

Friday Five

1. When we moved into our house 20 years ago, sanguinity and I ripped up the incredibly gross carpet in one room, and with friends’ help we resanded the softwood floor underneath. It was pretty worn, but we got one more sanding out of it. Sang convinced me to finish with old-school shellac, and it worked out fine. (No wet shoes or muddy pets allowed in that room.)

We mostly cleared the room last month to make space for workers restoring the window, so it seemed like a good opportunity for another couple of coats. The hardware store employees were incredulous that shellac could be a floor covering, and I had to be adamant to get them to order me a quart of it. (It was weird, they’re not usually like that.) Sang wielded the brush and had to go lie down and giggle afterwards because of the alcohol fumes. But look, pretty!

shellacked softwood floor

2. After Vass mentioned a game called Alphabear, I put it on my phone and tried it out. I may get hooked enough to have to delete it soon, although so far it’s strenuous enough that my brain’s tired of it after a round or two. It’s just as well I left my phone at home today.

3. This art car has been for sale down by the Reed campus for a couple of weeks.

art-car wagon in the sun

Thing is, the front panel spells out in beads that it’s dedicated to the memory of someone. It would be a considerable and maybe odd responsibility to take over an art car memorial for someone you didn’t know.

We had an art car plan, never executed, for my old Camry– the paint on the hood was worn and scratched, and Sang suggsted we could paint on a knitting-stitch pattern, with cables or whatever, and then maybe put a big ball of yarn and needles on the roof. But in reality, I’m so averse to attracting attention that even a bumper sticker is pushing it. Also the reason I’ll probably never have a recumbent bike, unless someday they’re no longer conversation magnets.

4. Tomorrow evening I’m volunteering at the Portland World Naked Bike Ride. They’re taking off from the park nearest my house, and it seemed a shame not to go see such an iconic event, but I didn’t want to un-cobweb my bike or be a creepy rubbernecker. So I’ll help with the first pass of cleanup after the ride leaves. (Another crew comes through at 8 a.m. to get whatever we miss in the dark.)

5. 1970s rereading jag, including most of the Al books by Constance C. Greene. Books set in apartment buildings were strange and fascinating to me as a kid– friends living down the hall, taking the laundry to the basement, and people called “supers” who also lived in the basement? The Al books are such a comedy act in their dialogue and timing and repetition that I’m a little surprised that they felt like real novels to me then. I didn’t even notice for years that we never learn the narrator’s name. Now I’m on to Beat the Turtle Drum and it’s very weird to hear echoes of that same voice in Kate and Joss, but slower and more serious.

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.