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.
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.
Sternwheeler on the left, then two yachty-cruisey boats, then DARPA’s prototype drone submarine-finder.
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.
No one could look up when exactly it was built?
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.
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.
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!
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.
Took a careful walk around the neighborhood today– wore knee and elbow pads. Did not fall. Much beauty.
I walk by here all the time but have never encountered this sneaky dog. For some reason, the sign always reminds me of the one at the Convention Center:
I have an irrational dislike of Red Bull’s Flügtag event. I even have a trunked story (that will probably never be published for other reasons) where I air these feelings:
“Hey,” I say suddenly. “If we go over the Hawthorne Bridge, we can see Flügtag. They started setting up yesterday.”
“It means Flying Day.” Dennis makes an impatient noise like he shouldn’t even have to say he already knows this, and I roll my eyes but he doesn’t see me. “People build giant sculptures and try to fly them off a big ramp over the river. Down by the waterfront.”
“Flügtag was an air show disaster,” Dennis says. “At a base in Germany in the eighties. Seventy-some people were killed.”
“God, Whitman. How do you even know that?”
He shrugs again. We’ve come down Clay Street to the riverfront and start climbing along the bike path that leads to the bridge. A couple of cyclists zip past. We reach the bridge’s crest and I can see the Flügtag machines below us. There’s a big toaster, a fish, and some airplaney things.
“They won’t fly,” Dennis says.
“Well, some of them. But–”
“None of them.”
“You don’t know that.”
“I’m an engineer,” Dennis says like it’s a fatal disease.
“Well…well, the bumblebee flies anyway,” I announce, and stomp ahead of him. But the closer I get, the more, I don’t know, corporate it looks. Sponsorship signs all over, and those giant black towers of speakers. Dennis is right. They’re not even trying. The flying machines are going to tumble right off the end of the ramp as people watch from the beer tent. People suck.
Hence my UNATTRACTIVE GLEE today when Red Bull completely failed to keep the river clear for traffic, the Portland Spirit plowed through clueless spectators, and the Coast Guard shut it all down. BYE!
The middle day of a three-day weekend is a beautiful thing. Sanguinity and I went to our favorite coffee shop and ate this:
and I drew Batman (a bit Loki-ish now that I think of it):
Last week I started reading Jenny Han’s To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before and did not want to stop til it was (sadly) over! (But there’s going to be a sequel!) It has a bit of a Little Women vibe, with three close sisters and the boy next door. It’s about family and friendship as well as romance, and the characters were likeable, good kids just trying to figure stuff out. Even the mean girl was not that mean and had an understandable motivation based on the characters’ past interactions. It’s the kind of sweet comfort reading I call a cupcake, light and well written.
I was a little taken aback at how much of my pleasurable sigh as I got into this book was based on the setting of universal affluence. I mean, starting on page two, the characters are talking about a possible trip to Paris over spring break. And when they decorate their Christmas tree, it’s “We run out of lights, so Daddy goes to buy more at the store.” (I grew up middle class, but you unwind the lights and redo them with more space between the rows!) It’s not a gossip-girl type thing where conspicuous wealth and glamour are what the book’s offering; it’s a shiny, normalized wealth where teenagers have cars and no one thinks twice about ordering pizza delivery once a week. I love it when books show working-class families (Ramona and her Father, Please Ignore Vera Dietz), but apparently I love this too, in a different way. Maybe it’s nostalgia for Nancy Drew and her roadster, or the baby-sitters in Stoneybrook? Some kind of relaxing escapism going on.
At the same time, I happened to have also just started Dani Shapiro’s Still Writing: The Perils and Pleasures of a Creative Life in a desultory way. (It’s my backup bus book, in case I finish my book on the bus, or don’t feel like reading my regular bus book. Not an exalted position in my book hierarchy.) Weirdly, the unremarked-on affluence in that book made me grouchy and resentful! She buys a pricey chaise longue “covered in an antique Tibetan blanket” because why? Because “although I have an office in my home, it had grown stale. My desk was piled high with papers, mail, and various forms that had nothing to do with my writing life.” A few pages later, she’s like, “I can’t imagine what my UPS delivery guy thinks when I crack open the door to sign for a package. There’s that weird lady again.” Um, he thinks you don’t have to go to a job. Right? By this time I was pretty much hate-reading (“On my desk, propped between two Buddha-head bookends,” grrrr), until on page 47 I came to: “my friend Peter Cameron.” What? Really? Well. Just in case they really are friends and I am missing something, I will quit with the judgey and keep reading to learn something. I’ll let you know.
Yesterday Sanguinity and I went on a Heritage Tree Walk down in Sellwood. The rain was coming down like it meant business, but there were still about a dozen of us there, led by an arborist and an AmeriCorps volunteer and someone from the city’s street tree program. We saw a gorgeous pair of American Chestnuts that escaped the blight, a big Oregon white oak, and an amazing huge European Copper Beech in a big yard. But one of the coolest things was when one of the leaders started measuring the trees that were on public property or in the planting strip between sidewalk and street with a diameter tape!
It’s a cloth tape with a little crank for winding it up again after use, and each “inch” on the tape is actually 3.14 (or so) inches long. So you measure around the tree and the number on the tape is the diameter. I wish every kid learning about pi and circles could play with one, it is so pleasingly concrete.
At the end of class we got a booklet with maps and descriptions of every heritage tree in Portland. And an application in the back in case you know a tree you think should be designated. (They’re pretty choosy, accepting only about 25% of applicants.) So we are equipped for a project if we ever want to go visit them all. :)