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. :)
Neeble neeble neeble, neeble neeble— neeble neeble neeble neeble!!
LIZARD MUSIC broadcasting from east Portland
1:00-3:00 a.m. on Wednesdays
life is wonderful
The front page of Wikipedia is one of the few websites I let myself visit without guilt while I’m at work. Most of the internet I keep blocked off most of the time with the Strict Workflow (formerly Strict Pomodoro) Chrome extension, but if I get that want-to-chew-my-arm-off feeling, Wikipedia’s allowed.
Anyway, today’s featured article is about Weather Machine, a weather-predicting sculpture in Portland’s Pioneer Square that’s been here since 1988 and I never heard of it til now. How did this happen? I knew about the green and red light on top of that building downtown, but not this?
Must figure out when I can get to Pioneer Square at noon. And actually, I’ll need at least three visits.
Happy New Year! I have been away–very far away, it felt like. To be specific, I was on a cruise in the Caribbean. The cruise-ship culture sometimes seemed as far from home for me as the islands are from Oregon.
“Are you having a good time?” people asked me everywhere I went. Yes, I said, I am! Then– all these people had been on multiple cruises, and there was the faintest hospitable air of recruitment–they always asked, “So would you go on another cruise?”
I wasn’t sure how to answer that. Not for the sake of going on a cruise? Not as a means of travel? I loved meeting the new-to-me cousins we traveled with, and seeing the blue water and the rainbows over the islands as we pulled into harbors on misty mornings. Yet we were a 14-story hotel pulling into those small harbors– as Sanguinity said, it was like the cruise ships warped space and time and economies all around them.
So all that is still sinking in. I’ll leave you with just a bookish note or two. The Carnegie libraries we found in San Juan and in Castries, St. Lucia, were closed on the days we visited, but we did get to go to the library in Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas: I reflexively check the Daniel Pinkwater holdings when I visit libraries, and Sanguinity checks for Peter Dickinson books. We saw one of each on the shelf.
In St. John, Antigua, there was a really good bookstore called The Best of Books. The children’s books were from British publishers, and there were shiny new paperback reprints of Enid Blyton’s books from the 1940s! I even overheard one girl in a school uniform tell her friend, “I just LOVE Enid Blyton!”
In Castries, we stopped in at a bookstore with lots of school supplies and textbooks. In the fairly small young adult fiction section, there were at least 15 copies of Sarah Ryan’s Rules for Hearts (which features lesbians in Portland)! Maybe a teacher ordered a classroom set and then the curriculum changed? Sanguinity wondered what Caribbean teenagers would make of the Portland setting. It felt so different and so far away.
Traveling was a full day in each direction– the redeye on the way out, and downtime in San Juan and Chicago on the way back, arriving at 11 p.m. Portland time and 3 a.m. by the clock we were used to. I’d caught a cough by the time we left the ship, and then there was jet lag and a day of stomach trouble when I got home. After awhile I began to feel that watching bad airplane TV to get through the second leg of the flight had been a bad, poisonous idea, and maybe part of my soul was still trapped up there in a United Airlines jet, going back and forth. When I was falling asleep and got that floating-away sensation, I tried to impress on myself that no, I didn’t feel the motion of the ship, I was in Portland. Home in Portland.
So glad to be home, but for days I was still clinging to each little Portland thing like I was stitching myself in. The chow dog that lies by a bench in Ladd Circle every morning! The cedar waxwings mobbing a tree! I was actually glad to go back to work, too, especially since the cough was finally departing by then.
So now I’m back, and I’m not minding the gray days or the chill or the rain at all, and things have been happening. Bookherd is staying with us for a few weeks before her next adventure, and we helped evannichols put together a lot of IKEA furniture, and refgoddess is renovating her shed to move into so her B&B can expand, and I went shopping for a bridesmaid dress on Northwest 23rd Avenue and actually enjoyed it. (Good thing, too, because I’m still shopping. One way or another it will be sorted out by the end of this month.)
In reading news, I added eleven new favorite books that I read in 2011 to my LibraryThing collection. If you want the whole long list of books I read in 2011, let me know and I’ll email it.
In writing news, I was turned down for the Oregon Literary Fellowships— congratulations to the winners announced yesterday! I hope to apply again next year. With a story that I haven’t even met yet–exciting.
I am busy again, so busy. (Some of you would laugh at what I consider busy.) I hope 2012 treats us all well and we all stay in touch.