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!
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.
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.
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.
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:
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!
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!
I hauled loppers up there with me, and a sweatshirt to kneel on because the shingle was already painfully hot. There were four or five big trees encroaching on the roof in various places. One bay tree, two maples, plus some hazelnut and walnut all threaded together with clematis vine. And a cedar that’s maybe getting ideas.
I snipped and lopped and heaped the branches on the roof until I’d made enough progress that maybe the roof won’t be such an ideal freeway interchange for rodents– my other objective. Then there was the problem of where to throw it all off the roof– in most places, it would get caught in other greenery long before hitting the ground. I pretty much pitched half of it down from above the back door, and half of it down from above the front entrance to the porch. (Later when Sanguinity went to cut it up, there was way too much for the yard debris bin, so a big pile is waiting for next week.)
I liked the diagonal view across my block from the roof– all the other roofs plus antennae and outbuildings and a jumble of fences, like a Miyazaki cityscape.
Of course, the sound I’d been worrying about is still there, exactly the same as before.
Yesterday afternoon was rainy and I hadn’t been out of the house all day, so I walked to Yo Mama’s Coffee & Tea House for some writing time. It’s fairly new, over on 65th and Foster, and I liked it as soon as I walked in. Tall wooden booths with good lighting, laid-back music, and good food on real dishes for reasonable prices. Tasty hot chocolate, too. I will never forget you, Bubble Bubble, but my mourning period may be at an end.
I am starting to pull together my next
long project novel. Just starting. I am not really sure how to do that, without overrehearsing or overdetermining or scaring it away. But without underworking it until it withers and dies, either. I have a couple of glimpsed characters and maybe a setting, that seem like they might be amalgamated. Other things will present themselves to be added in, and the energy holding them all together will somehow be the aspect of the story that makes people say, “It was very, um…you,” when they read it.
I haven’t decided whether it will be a NaNo project. I will set up a word counter for it, but I don’t know if I am willing to risk rushing into 50k words of crap. I suppose that over the next six weeks I’ll see what the momentum looks like and how much time I’m managing to give it without NaNo to boost and contain it.
Today was my first run in the rain since I don’t know when. Warm, off-and-on rain, so it was fine. I ran down to the college track and trotted around while the Ultimate Frisbee teams warmed up for their games, and listened to Octavia Butler’s Parable of the Talents. My September mileage as of today pulled ahead of August’s total mileage, so my plan to run/walk more miles each month is working. I hope I can keep it up as the weather turns and the days get short.
It’s been a good weekend, also featuring a leaky toilet repaired before the subflooring rotted, and a surprise visit from Evan, who was able to join in our celebratory lunch. Sang and I will finish the night off with purple peppers and jalapenos from the garden, stuffed with cream cheese and roasted in the oven, and eaten while we watch Friday Night Lights and share a beer. I am so lucky.
Our house is getting a new roof! Like, this week! We were hoping it would be a limited repair job, but once they got in there it was clear that wouldn’t do. The roofer takes lots of photos and prints them out in his van so we can see all the damage. Roofers must have been delighted when digital photography came along and they didn’t have to take clients up on the roof anymore.
If I have to be spending a large chunk of the emergency fund, I’m happy that it’s on something that’s supposed to last 30 years, and that it’s not on any medical emergencies or funerals or anything. Still– car, furnace, and roof replaced by necessity in a six-month period. (Loose sense of “necessity” for the car, but boy do I love having a family car.) With Sang and I both working part-time, replenishing the funds is likely to feel slow.
On the first night of class at the IPRC, we were sitting around the table talking about our goals, and one of mine was to make a little money. I wasn’t audacious enough to say so out loud, but wouldn’t it be cool if, within a year after graduating from the program, I’d sold enough work to cover my tuition money? But even a hundred bucks on the spreadsheet would be exciting. Placing zines on consignment, or selling stories for a few bucks to magazines, or winning contests, whatever– it would just tickle me to see the tiny beginnings of an income.
Step one: make stuff.