Bear With Me

Hey, remember that longtime fear I’ve had about getting eaten by a bear? I knew I was right to worry. (If you don’t click on the link, I listed a bunch of random facts about myself. #2 was, “I’m sort of afraid I’m going to be eaten by a bear one of these days.”). Because that exact thing almost came to fruition yesterday.

Well.

I guess that depends on your definition of “almost.”

If “almost” means we were parked on the side of the road with a crowd of people, looking down into a meadow where a black bear was meandering about, a couple of thousand yards away, then yeah. Almost.

Regardless of the spacious safety net known as distance separating us, this was still closer than I’ve ever come to a bear in the wild before. (I hope. If not, ignorance is bliss.) And just between you and me, I don’t need to ever be any closer to a bear than a few thousand yards. Unless a cage separates us.

The bear had better be the one in the cage, by the way.

So, yeah. Had my first wild bear sighting. Tara and I had driven up to Mount Rainier National Park. It’s a good 2.5 hours from home, so we hit the road early, leaving at 7:20. Only twenty minutes behind schedule this time. Hey, we’re gettin’ better! And it’s a good thing we left when we did, because by the time we arrived at the Paradise Visitor’s Center shortly after 10 a.m., the parking lot was already full. But we were easily able to nab a spot on the shoulder (by the time we left that afternoon, the line of cars parked on the shoulder snaked down the road a good half-mile). But crowds and Rainier go hand in hand. Any place that has so much natural beauty, people are going to want to see.

Selfish bastards.

We did a bit of hiking – I had every intention of completing the Skyline Trail Loop but was thwarted by a slickly dangerous patch of snow and ice clinging to the trail (which was on a rather steep slope at this particular juncture) so I turned around at that point and made it an in-and-out. Which was fine, as it was about the halfway point anyway. I mean…wouldn’t you?

The rocky portion at the bottom was off-limits, and those rangers in the pic were making sure nobody trampled over that section, where wildflowers are supposed to bloom.

In any case, I don’t feel like I missed out on anything scenery-wise.

After the hike, we got in the car and drove around the park (stopping along the way for the bear photo-op). We pulled over in one spot for a picnic lunch, where Tara tried to teach me the proper cherry pit spitting technique and pointed out a woman whose ass had eaten her shorts.

Don’t ask.

We finally got back home at 6:07, and had a relaxing evening. Ate pizza. And rice balls. And popcorn. And blueberries. And, what a weird combination that is…

Today I gave Audrey a driving lesson, then the three of us went out to lunch. (Yes, she’s driving now. Or learning to. But that’s a different post altogether.)

We’ve got a short week coming up. Tara and I took Thursday and Friday off to head north for some camping. Like, far north. 5 hours north north. But the campground’s in a canyon outside Leavenworth, WA and we’ve got a great spot right next to a river, so I’m confident it will be totally worth the drive. We’ll have a great time relaxing and recreating. Feels like forever since we’ve gone camping.

Hopefully there won’t be any more close encounters with bears…

A Pain in the Arsenal

We were hanging out at McMenamin’s on the Columbia a few days ago, enjoying a late lunch with Tara’s friend Betsy before dropping her off at the airport, when Tara discovered a French fry mixed in with her tater tots. I immediately pounced on this and declared it the best thing ever! before practically inhaling it. Err…sorry if you wanted it, babe. I just love when you order something like tots or onion rings and find an accidental fry hidden in there. It’s such an unexpected bonus! I equate it with the feeling you get from a winning scratch-off lottery ticket or a bonus scene tucked in at the end of a movie after the credits have rolled. Invariably, that unexpected French fry tastes far better than a whole platter of fries would if you’d ordered them instead.

Never underestimate the allure of surprise, folks.

Betsy, who lives in Las Vegas, came up for a visit Friday night and stayed through Tuesday afternoon. We had a blast showing off our favorite sights and, in fact, dragged her all over the place: downtown Portland on Saturday, a waterfall hike on Sunday, a girl’s trip to the Oregon coast Sunday night-Monday. She even got to meet my parents when we had them over for dinner on Monday night. Much fun was had during her visit (and much alcohol was consumed – there is a correlation between the two). Good times, good times.

The 4th of July itself was quiet, a sentence I have never once written in 23 years of living here.

Vancouver, WA has always resembled a war zone this time of year. Evidence of the upcoming assault first came in mid-June, when large canvas tents sprang up like weeds everywhere, taking over parking lots and grassy fields across town. Soon, boxes of fireworks of all shapes and sizes filled the tents. They were legal for the week leading up to the 4th, and the day after, and we’re not just talking sparklers. You could buy mortars and rockets that rivaled anything you’d find at professional fireworks shows. When the kids were little and we owned a house, I’d shell out (pun intended) at least $100 every year on fireworks. We would then set them off in front of our house, joined by our neighbors. The whole thing turned into quite the free-for-all as everybody on the block got in on the action, turning Independence Day into a bona fide Event. My ex’s family even made the pilgrimage up from California for a couple of years to take part in the festivities.

Fireworks over Vancouver, WA.

As time went on though, it started to feel like a drag. With so many of our neighbors contributing their own personal arsenals, those fireworks shows would go on well past midnight. Cleanup afterwards was a real bitch, and there were a couple of close calls, incidents that could have resulted in a loss of limbs or a house fire. No matter how responsible we were, there was always an errant gust of wind or a defective fuse to worry about. I’m kinda surprised we made it through those years without even a minor injury to contend with.

Citywide, residents complained constantly. The noise was excessive, people were reckless, dogs spooked by the noise ran away from home, and fires occurred. So gradually Vancouver scaled back their ordinance. Instead of the fireworks being legal for a full week, they cut it down to three days, then two. Last year they were allowed on the 4th of July only. And this year, a complete citywide ban on all fireworks went into effect. While there were some scofflaws risking the $500 fine, it was nothing at all like in years past. It was so quiet, in fact, I almost forgot it was a holiday. I don’t mean to sound like the grumpy old man who yells at kids to get off his lawn, but the whole thing is a relief. I much prefer the peace and quiet to the weeklong chaos that was the norm for so many years. Plus, I’m $100 richer now. Go, me.

Hope you had an equally peaceful 4th!

Wanderlust In Our Blood

I want to start off by saying that I love the Pacific Northwest. This should be obvious to anybody who has ever read my blog. It’s been my home for almost 23 years now, and I always figured I’d spend the rest of my life here. I probably will.

But maybe I won’t.

When I short-sold my townhouse in 2014, our plan was to spend two years in an apartment and then buy a house. It’s been over three years now and we’re still here, not really any closer to our goal. Part of the reason is, we are waiting for Audrey to graduate from high school. She’s got a year to go, and after that, we figured we’d buy a place in Stevenson. But S-town (not that S-town, podcast fans) is small, and there aren’t a lot of houses for sale. We’ve been paying close attention to the real estate market. And by “we” I mean Tara, but it’s all semantics.

Tara’s got a Zillow addiction, and is constantly sending me listings. Because it’s slim pickings in Stevenson, she’s been focusing on Vancouver, where we live now. That would be okay if we could find the perfect place. And last Thursday, we thought we had. Until we crunched the numbers. Every week, it seems, prices are creeping up. We are in danger of being priced out of the market, especially if we can’t realistically buy anything until next summer.

So, in a moment of inspiration on Friday, I turned the tables on Tara and sent her a Zillow listing. The house was a gorgeous three-bedroom, two-bath split level ranch, 1680 square feet, with a covered deck and spacious backyard. And at only $189K, it was a steal.

It also happens to be located in Rapid City, South Dakota. 

I guess I was sort of half-kidding when I sent her the listing, but: not really. I have long had a fondness for Rapid City. After all, I lived there for three years in the mid-80s. Three formative high school years, I might add. And when I visited again six years ago this month during my solo road trip, I was so enamored  that I switched up my itinerary and stayed an extra day. In looking back through those old posts, I stumbled upon these eye-opening passages.

I was quite surprised to find a little slice of Portland in Rapid City: quaint coffee shops, a used bookstore, and this cool alleyway I stumbled upon that was decorated all over with graffiti and murals. I strolled through there, taking plenty of pics. Love it! I am enraptured by this place all over again, and want to enjoy every last drop of it while I can.

This is definitely a land of fierce extremes, and it can be very punishing if you aren’t prepared for it. But the magnificent beauty and abundance of natural attractions makes it worthwhile. I’ve often wondered if I could ever picture myself living in Rapid City again, and the verdict is in: yes, I could. I wouldn’t rule it out if the circumstances were exactly right.

There are definite pros and cons to living there. The weather can be punishing (though it’s also right up my alley) and the Pacific Ocean is a lot farther than a mere 100 minutes away. And Rapid City isn’t exactly a destination for most touring musicians. But houses comparable to what we’re looking at here are at least $100K less. The Black Hills offer plenty of opportunities for hiking, camping, and fishing. The population – 72K – is close to ideal (big enough for the essentials, small enough that gridlock is not a problem). There’s a surprisingly robust local food scene. And Denver is a mere 5 hours and 56 minutes away by car, so we could see a lot more Broncos games.

Downtown Rapid City from Skyline Drive.

As for work…I can do my job from anywhere. All I need is a laptop and an internet connection. I have no idea if my company would even entertain that option, but we’ve been hiring a slew of remote employees lately, so you never know. I feel like it’s at least a possibility.

Surprisingly, Tara was more receptive to the idea than I’d expected. We both just want the best life we can live, and if that means pulling up roots and starting fresh somewhere else, we’re open to the idea. It helps that we both moved around a lot growing up. Wanderlust is in our blood, I suppose.

When I left the Bay Area for Portland in 1994, those were the most exciting days of my life. Everything was new, and the sense of discovery was like a drug. It wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world to experience that all over again, this time with Tara by my side.

I’m not saying this is going to happen. It still seems like a pretty farfetched idea. But we are now planning a long weekend so Tara can see the place (she’s never been) and we can get a feel for the neighborhoods and downtown. Rapid City is an 18-hour drive from here, which isn’t too bad. We’re tentatively looking at early October – specifically, Columbus Day weekend. The weather that time of year should be perfect (though, this being South Dakota, there’s always the possibility of a little snow).

Gotta do what you gotta do, yo.

Funbelievable

It’s been a pretty decent weekend. Friday evening we finally got to sit out on the deck, where we played cards, drank stuff with booze in it, and listened to records. These are our go-to Friday nights, though they usually happen indoors around the dining room table because it’s rare that the weather is just right. So we were thankful for “just right” this time.

“Just right” is going to morph into 90+ degrees tomorrow, so no deck time for us on Monday.

Friday on my lunch hour I took a walk through the woods and came armed with my Nikon in order to take photos of the Camas lilies, which a week earlier had been abundant. I’d taken a few photos with my phone, but they didn’t turn out great, so this time I was prepared. Unfortunately, there were significantly fewer lilies in bloom this time around, and those that I did see were getting past their prime. When it comes to wildflowers, you need to act quickly. Still, I managed a few decent shots, like this one.

Camas lilies.

It’s National Wildflower Week, btw, so get out there and enjoy.

Saturday we were finally able to plant in our community garden plot. This is the second year we’ve done it, and we are a solid month behind where we were in 2016 thanks to a long, cool, wet spring. Partly because of this, and partly because there’s only so much you can do with an endless bounty of zucchini, we scaled back this year. Last time Tara showed up with elaborately-diagrammed charts and maps detailing where each and every tomato plant would go; this year we have half as many plants and we basically winged it. (Wung it sounds right, but alas, there is no such word.) We’ve got a small assortment of tomato and pepper plants, some tomatillos, lemon cucumbers, and one zucchini. We’re hoping to find some radishes at the farmer’s market, but other than that, I think we’re good. This will be the last year we rent a community garden plot as we will be gearing up (hopefully) to buy a house next summer. Once we have a yard we’ll be able to plant shit galore right out back. I can’t wait for that.

Later we drove into Portland to find a salsa we fell in love with at the Portland Night Market last weekend. Our local New Seasons doesn’t carry it but the Concordia one did, so we zipped over there, found what we were looking for plus some other things we weren’t specifically seeking out but decided we had to have. Like small-batch apricot tonic and a burnt caramel sea salt chocolate bar and one vanilla bean pod and Moon Cheese. In other words, the essentials. Then it was on to the mall, because my wardrobe of flannel shirts was in need of expansion (“summer’s lease hath all too short a date” as The Bard infamously said, impending 90-degree weather aside) and J.C. Penney had a rack of Arizona brand flannel marked down ridiculously low. They were like $6.91 apiece, or 80% off, so I stocked up. Flannel tends to be my outfit du jour eight months out of the year. After the mall we grabbed Chinese food, came home, and watched “Patriot’s Day.” It was surprisingly tense and well-acted. I wasn’t sure how they were going to make an entire movie about the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing, but they pulled it off well. Followed by a couple episodes of “The Amazing Race,” which I’ve gotten back into after a long hiatus. SPOILER ALERT! READ NO FURTHER IF YOU HAVE NOT WATCHED THE LATEST EPISODE. My question is this: how am I possibly going to live without my weekly dose of Team Fun? Pretty Funbelievable that they are gone now. Brooke and Scott will probably win the whole thing – just watch.

Today we are planning to hit the farmer’s market in the morning, then I’m going to give the Mazda a little TLC since we’ve got a stretch of nice weather coming up.

Hope your week’s a groovy one.

A Francisco Clause

The Tape Face show on Friday night turned out to be lots of fun. Well, fun in retrospect, because throughout the performance I was paranoid I was going to be yanked onstage and humiliated, like the poor fella who had to face off with the comedian in a light saber duel involving a limp tape measure and loads of sexual innuendo, or the dude who had to wear a toilet seat around his neck, or the trio forced to learn an impromptu disco dance. Every time T.F. leapt from the stage and raced down the aisles I scrunched down into my seat, making myself as small as possible, and patently avoided eye contact. Meanwhile, people were waving their arms all around me, gesticulating wildly to get his attention, practically shouting Pick me! Pick me! while I was trying to blend chameleon-like into my surroundings. What a bunch of weirdos.

Buuut, tension aside, he really is a clever guy, and his act is very original. He’s got boxes full of props, and can convey about a thousand different emotions purely on his body language and facial expressions. It was a very enjoyable show and I would see him again in a heartbeat. Preferably seated from the balcony, of course.

Saturday we met up with our friend Kara to check out the Portland Night Market. This is a quarterly event that showcases the many unique and diverse businesses that call Portland home, and blends food, culture, music, drinks and retail together for an adventurous evening in the Industrial District.

Those are totally not my words BTW.

We had never been before, and it was a blast. There were more than 175 vendors, food and drinks and crafts and art, housed inside an old warehouse, with an outdoor section that featured food carts. Fortunately, this area was protected by a tent, keeping us dry from the heavy rain (and thunder and lightning!). We browsed and people watched and enjoyed free samples and cocktails and some delicious food – in other words, all my favorite pastimes. We had a great time and will definitely be going again. It’s coming back September 29-30, and we’ll be ready.

Happenin’ scene at the Portland Night Market.
Thankful for the tent.

Audrey got back from Disneyland on Tuesday. She had a great time, and was super excited because Heidi Klum walked right past her. But now she’s talking about moving to California because it doesn’t rain all the freaking time, a new plan that directly contrasts with her desire to live in Seattle when she graduates, where it most certainly does rain all the time. All I can say is, teenagers are fickle creatures. And I would a million times rather live in Seattle than Los freakin’ Angeles, but that’s just me.

Actually, I’ve found I can determine potential places to live based on their names. For instance, I am opposed to any city that starts with either Los or Las. I don’t care much for anything beginning with San, either (though there is a Francisco clause). Pretty handy formula, huh? But things get murkier when it comes to choosing a state. Because I would totally move to South Dakota but have no desire to live in North Dakota, yet I’d pick North Carolina over South Carolina in a heartbeat. So much for rules of thumb.

There are a few other personal preferences I’ve compiled into a handy list:

  • States that end with the letter n are an automatic yes.
  • States that end with the letter i are an automatic no.
  • The higher the ratio of vowels to consonants, the less likely I am to want to live there.
  • No News isn’t good news, as I find those states that begin with New appealing.
  • I don’t think I could live in a state with a panhandle, but if I lived in Idaho, I’d only want to live in the panhandle.
  • Generally speaking, I prefer rectangular-shaped states.
  • The more lakes a state has, the better. The more swamps a state has, the worse.
  • Ocean access is good, as long as the mean water temperature is lower than 68 degrees.

I’m not the only one who spends this much time obsessing over geography, right?!

A Man from Nantucket

Alexa told me it was National Limerick Day this morning. In honor of the occasion, I responded to every work order that came across my desk with a comment written as a limerick. For example:

The bios attached are just fine
The credentials you listed, divine
I have no corrections
To any selections
Feel free to send on to Design

My coworkers think I’m insane, I’m sure. But I was having too much fun with it to care much. And my team was impressed. For some reason, I can bang these out in seconds. I have no idea why – I do not consider myself a poet in any way, shape or form – but I’ve always been a natural when it comes to limericks.

I’ve also been known to rock the haiku.

Unfortunately, National Haiku Day is (was) April 17, so it’ll be a while before I can have fun with work order comments again.


Tonight we are headed to the Aladdin Theater in Portland to see a comedian named Tape Face.

Until a few weeks ago, I’d never heard of the dude. When we were up in Seattle, Tracy gave us the tickets as an early birthday gift. Turns out he was a finalist on America’s Got Talent last summer, and his clips are great. His whole schtick? He wears a strip of duct tape over his mouth throughout his performance, so he never utters a word; it’s all physical stand-up comedy, sort of like a mime. And from what I’ve seen, it’s original – and funny as hell.

But I made the mistake of looking up reviews of his recent shows this morning, just to get an idea of what to expect, and have spent the rest of the day stressing over it. Because in reading up on his act, I learned that it involves audience participation. Lots of it. Which is just the type of thing that strikes fear into my heart. I want to sit there and be entertained, you know? I’d rather not become part of the entertainment!

Depending on how you look at it, I am either the world’s most extroverted introvert, or the world’s most introverted extrovert. In any case, I hate getting up in front of people. I don’t like being the center of attention…unless I purposely strive to be the center of attention, in which case I love it. It’s all about control. I’m fine with it on my own terms, but leave it up to somebody else and I’d rather stand cowering in the corner or hide under my seat. Hmm…I wonder if the space beneath my seat is large enough to accommodate a grown man? I am not against curling up into the fetal position if need dictates.

Wouldn’t you know it, we have good seats, too. My mother-in-law was generous with her gift, which is a blessing of course, but it would be a bigger blessing if we were going to see Bruce Springsteen. We’ve got orchestra seating, 7th row. Close enough to make eye contact, I’m sure. I’ll have to be very careful not to do that. Our one possible saving grace? Our seats are not front and center, but rather, front and left side. At a slight angle to the stage. And in the middle of the row. I’m hoping this keeps us out of the line of fire. I mean, he’d have to step over and across people to reach us, and that’s neither convenient nor safe. Probably a fire hazard, come to think of it. Best you stick to the aisles, Mr. Face. Or do you prefer Tape?

I’ve probably jinxed the whole thing now just by mentioning it.

Bacheloring it Up

It’s been a pretty full weekend so far. I’m trying to downshift today, but still have some errands to run. Which is fine, because I get antsy just sitting around the apartment anyway.

Tara is in Nevada for a visit with friends and family, so I’ve been “bacheloring it up,” you might say. In my case, this means three things:

  1. Eating all the foods my wife does not like. (It’s a long list, FYI).
  2. Hiking.
  3. Listening to lots of rock ‘n roll.

She swung by my office on her way out of town around 2:00 on Thursday afternoon to say goodbye. It was a super warm and humid day, the likes of which I have never seen here; just stepping outside felt downright tropical. The sun was blazing, and then it started raining, big heavy drops that just sort of sank to the earth beneath their own weight. Thunder rumbled. We kissed, and she was on her way.

I’d bought a ticket to see a local band called Eyelids play at Mississippi Studios, and it’s a good thing I did that in advance, because I’m sure I would have talked myself out of going otherwise. One of my biggest regrets from when I was single was the fact that I never stepped outside of my comfort zone. I never once set foot in a bar or went out to catch a concert by myself, things that I really enjoy doing nowadays, and I wanted to prove to myself that I could.

So. Damn. Good!

So I did. Thursday after work I drove into Portland and got to Bar Bar (the appropriately-if-unoriginally-named bar adjacent to the club), ordered a burger/fries and a cocktail, and snagged a spot outside on their patio, where I buried myself in a copy of  Portland Mercury while stealthily people-watching. My cocktail hit the spot, and the food was fantastic. I honestly can’t remember the last time I ordered a burger and fries, so it felt like a great splurge. I got another drink before the doors opened at 8:00. The air-conditioning was running full blast and it was cold AF in there, making me glad I’d grabbed that flannel shirt at the last minute even though the idea seemed ridiculous at the time (when it was 82 degrees with 1000% humidity).

The bands were good, really good. All three of them. We’d just seen Jackson Boone five days earlier at the Doug Fir, which was kind of funny. Point Juncture, WA was up next, and they have an interesting dynamic: two women and three guys. The female drummer also traded lead vocals with the male keyboard player, alternating between songs, which always makes for a good, varied sound. The main act, Eyelids, was having a record release show, so they played their new album in full as well as a bunch of their older stuff. These guys are really good; they’re considered a sort-of indie “supergroup” with former members of The Decemberists, Guided By Voices, and the Jicks, and they had great stage presence: lots of witty banter. It’s clear they’re very comfortable playing together. I decided to ditch my cozy seat in the balcony and made my way down to a spot right in front of the stage. Screw sitting, I texted Tara. I mean, normally we do, but occasionally a guy’s gotta get up on his feet and rock out to the music. Which is exactly what I did. The show didn’t end until well past midnight, making me glad I took Friday off. I walked to my car while lightning flashed overhead. It started pouring rain around the time I got home, and the temperature dropped down to the 50s. Just like that, our first heatwave of the year came to an end. 

Despite the late night, I was up early Friday morning, as usual. I just can’t seem to sleep in anymore these days, especially when it’s bright by 6:00 this time of year. My destination was the Eagle Creek trail in the Columbia Gorge. Specifically, I wanted to hike to Tunnel Falls and back. It’s a 12-mile round trip; I had never hiked more than 9 miles before, but was pretty confident in my abilities as I’ve done a lot of hiking the past couple of years and am definitely in shape for it. I got to the trailhead at 10 a.m. and set out, thanking my lucky stars that it was only overcast and misty. Well, those stars turned unlucky, because just a few minutes into my hike it started raining…and continued the whole time. Fortunately I have a rain cover for my camera and backpack, but the jacket I had grabbed to wear was not waterproof, and I got thoroughly soaked, so much that I had to wring out my flannel shirt afterwards. So much for that forecast of “rain ending by noon.”

Beautiful views, even with the clouds and rain.

The hike itself was fantastic, though. The first five miles were fine; the trail runs parallel to Eagle Creek on a high rocky ledge smack dab in the middle of a heavily forested canyon, with abundant waterfalls and tons of pink and yellow wildflowers this time of year. Even with the steady rain, it was breathtaking.

The best hikes come with cables.

And then I hit that last mile…

I’d read trail reports ahead of time and knew the going would be rough, but I didn’t know it would be that rough. There were lots of downed trees that were tricky to navigate, a swollen stream with nothing but a narrow log and slippery rocks to help you  across. In one section, a small landslide had turned the trail into what can only be described as a giant mud pit. It was pretty challenging, and I was half tempted to turn around, but I’d already invested three hours and knew the falls were close by, so I pushed on.

One of the many obstacles in my path.

And I’m glad I did. Tunnel Falls was totally worth the effort. It’s a dramatic waterfall tumbling 175 feet down the side of a basalt cliff. Here’s the description from a hiking website:

As the name implies, your path will pass through a tunnel behind the falls about midway up the span. Consider as you enter the tunnel, that work to build this was done in the 1910s and has been virtually unchanged since! The falls drop from the bluffs above to the creek bed below then downstream into the main Eagle Creek run. The years have carved out a striking amphitheater here. It is a breathtaking area, and easily the climax of your trip.

Tunnel Falls. You literally walk through a tunnel behind the falls.

As if that wasn’t dramatic enough, and because I’m nuts, I didn’t stop there. I took the website’s advice and did this, too:

The stretch just beyond the falls is another very exposed cliff-side pathway etched into the gorge wall. Again, a cable line is there to steady you. But nowhere has the traverse been quite so dizzying! If you still feel like you have some energy, continue less than a half-mile ahead to the two-tiered, 200 foot tall Twister Falls. It is well worth the minimal additional effort if time affords.

It was totally worth the effort. Definitely a very unique waterfall that, sure enough, resembles a twister. I posted a video to Instagram if you follow me there (adios.ghost).

I appreciated the falls as much as I could, but I was drenched and knew I had a long return trip to make, so I did not linger. It took another couple of hours to get back to my car, which I reached at 3:30 just as the freaking sun decided to show its face. Screw you, Mother Nature. By then I was sore all over; every step of those final couple of miles was a struggle. According to my Fitbit, I logged 13.23 miles and over 30,000 steps! Both are new records for me. When I got home I listened to records, drank some well-deserved tequila sodas, and ate the pork and pigeon pea stew that I’d had cooking in the crockpot all day. Tried to watch Braveheart but fell asleep probably a third of the way through. I was exhausted!

Saturday I stayed closer to home. Drove into Portland, walked around East Burnside. Grabbed a Bloody Mary at Eastburn, ramen for lunch at Marukin, and bought a bottle of pear vodka from the Wild Roots tasting room on Distillery Row. My final stop was Music Millennium for some record shopping. Scored a great copy of Wooden Shjips on green vinyl and some other stuff. Came home, listened to all my new purchases plus some old stuff, drank more tequila (it’s what I do, apparently) and made chicken mole. Watched a lame Netflix movie called The Shallows.

Today I have some errands to run – my car is long-overdue for an oil change, and I should probably run it through the carwash since the birds have been treating it like their own personal empty canvas in which to decorate lately. I should probably start editing my book, too. Writing it was the easy part.

Back to work tomorrow, and then Tara will be home late on Tuesday.

Undercover Genius Here

I took an online IQ test a few days ago. It was a link I stumbled across on Facebook so, you know, totally legit. I ended up scoring in the Genius category, so I naturally assumed the whole thing was rigged. Mama didn’t raise no dummies, but she also didn’t raise no Einsteins, know what I’m saying? A couple of months ago I found an online grammar test and decided to have my team take it. I got suspicious when we all ended up with perfect scores, so I had some other random people in the office take it, too. Folks who aren’t writers. And wouldn’t you know it, every single person scored a perfect 100 percent. No way, I thought, so I retook the test, intentionally choosing the wrong answers. My result? A perfect 25/25.

Hence, my skepticism over the IQ test. But this time, when I shared it with my coworkers, they did not all get perfect scores. I took it again, missing questions on purpose like I did with the last test, and according to my results the second time around, it was a bit of a miracle that I had been able to dress myself that morning. The IQ test, it turned out, wasn’t fake. Which begs the question: am I a genius?!

I dunno. Maybe I just got lucky. My mom has told me she had our IQs tested when my brother and I were young, but always refused to share the results. Based on her response, I’ve operated under the assumption that I did either really poorly or really well, and she didn’t want to burden us with that knowledge, or Scott’s score was so vastly different from mine that she didn’t want to hurt anybody’s feelings. Like, if he tested at a genius level and I was actually an imbecile, the kind thing to do would be to spare our feelings, right? Now I’m not so sure. Maybe my whole life I’ve been an unwitting genius completely unaware of my mental superpowers! If that’s the case…well, sorry, Scott.

If I am a genius, talk about a wasted talent. I still can’t figure out how to unravel Saran Wrap without having it bunch up and stick to everything. Mostly me.


We were up north this past weekend, helping Anne move.

Now, I’m the type of person who never volunteers to help out when it comes to moving. Not only do I avoid it like the plague, I actually think I’d prefer coming down with a case of the plague. In fact, if I so much as hear the “m” word I usually walk away from the conversation as quickly as my feet will carry me, pretending not to hear a word of what is being said. If I had to rank helping somebody move on a list, it would look something like this, in order from worst to best:

  1. Dying a slow and painful death.
  2. Dying a quick death.
  3. Speaking in public.
  4. Helping somebody move.
  5. Paying taxes.
  6. Listening to rap music.

If I should inadvertently not scoot out of earshot quickly enough and somebody does end up asking me for help, I usually come up with a fake excuse of some sort. I’m sorry, I’ll tell them. I have a bar mitzvah to attend. Or, Aww, shucks – I’m having my gall bladder removed that day. You know, something believable-ish. The more difficult to confirm, the better. But Anne is family, and I felt I couldn’t very well say no this time.

Plus, she knows I’ve already had my gall bladder removed.

Annoyingly, Tara was much more chipper about the whole thing. “Think of all the Karma points you’ll rack up!” she declared. I wanted to respond by letting her know that ‘Karma points’ are not an acceptable currency in any store where I shop, but didn’t have the heart to break this news to her. So I gamely agreed, even though she did let me off the hook by saying I could stay home instead if I wished. Fortunately, I’ve been in enough relationships to recognize this as a trap. Sure, I could have remained behind, sitting on the couch watching a mind-numbing, endless parade of television instead of lugging heavy furniture and boxes, but I’d have been paying the price for that decision for weeks to come. It doesn’t take a genius (ha!) to see that the Benefit-Cost Ratio would have landed firmly in the negative column, for all my accounting friends out there. So of course, I went and helped.

And really, it wasn’t that bad. At least there were no stairs to contend with, and Anne was getting rid of a lot of stuff, so we didn’t have to pack up the contents of her entire apartment. Plus, my gall bladder never once flared up. On the downside, it rained. But now Anne is all moved into a nice little house that is all hers, and I have banked a shitload of Karma points.

I’ll try not to spend them all in one place.

I’m Not a Robot

I think it’s weird whenever I come across one of those CAPTCHAs designed to thwart spam and I am asked to check a box stating that I’m not a robot. Because inevitably I click the box and a few seconds later, my comment has posted. Don’t get me wrong, I’m glad the process is so easy, but should the process really be so easy? Robots are supposed to be a million times smarter than humans, right? If a robot has the ability to solve a complex quadratic equation in nanoseconds, don’t you think he’d be artificially intelligent enough to check the box indicating he wasn’t a robot in order to bypass the system and spam the shit out of somebody? I’m pretty sure it would be easy enough to program “subterfuge” into his operating system.

Is it really wise to rely on the honor system when it comes to network security, folks?

But what do I know. I’m just a human.


Apparently, I am now in the wholesale egg distribution business.

Now that we found an egg guy who will deliver, I decided to let the entire office in on the opportunity and sent out a company-wide email yesterday. I told my coworkers we found a local guy, his eggs are great, and we’d be placing a regular order with him every two weeks. Anybody interested on getting in on the action could pay us $4 a dozen in advance. We got orders for 10 dozen this first go-around, which isn’t terrible. I actually thought there’d be more takers – I mean, who can resist farm fresh eggs, delivered for free to your workplace?

Maybe they just aren’t aware of how much better fresh eggs are compared to what you can buy in the grocery store. Oh, well. They’ll come around.

And if they do, I might need to consider a new line of work. Deb said we should be charging $5 a dozen and splitting the extra dollar as profit for our hard work in engineering this whole thing, collecting the money, placing the order, etc. It IS quite a bit of effort – I started a spreadsheet, for crying out loud! – but I’m too damn nice to try to actually profit from this. I just like the idea of supporting a local farmer.

A couple of friends expressed concern over the fact that he’s got “hundreds of chickens” and were afraid he might be cooping them up to mass produce, but that is not the case. Our egg guy promises they are, and I quote,

Farm fresh free range eggs from hens of many different breeds, so there is a good mix of colored eggs. The chickens are fed produce, germinated grain from local farmers, germinated sunflower seeds, egg and oyster shells, alfalfa hay and mealworms that I raise.

It doesn’t get any more humane or organic than that, folks.

We’re going to schedule our next delivery for the end of this week. Good thing too, as Tara and I already used up our last couple of dozen.


So, my parents are in Florida for a few weeks.

My parents have a nice gas grill. We live in an apartment complex that does not allow grills. Do you see where I’m going with this?

Tonight, we are taking advantage of their grill to cook us up some nice ribeye steaks. And we’ll take advantage of their empty sunroom to eat them in.

Might even take advantage of the chilled bottle of wine in their fridge, too. If there is one.

Mom and dad, you have been warned.

The Agony and the Egg-stacy

I feel like an extra in a Portlandia sketch, because I’ve got my own egg guy now.

This all began last week when a coworker arrived with a carton of farm fresh eggs. She said she had a supplier and might be able to hook us up, too. I was immediately interested, because fresh eggs are, shell we say, quite divine. So when she told me that her egg person did not have enough to go around, I figured that was it, my dreams had flown the coop and I was destined to continue purchasing my eggs from the grocery store like just another commoner. I did learn an important life lesson, though: don’t count your chickens before they hatch.

Why, yes. I am breaking out the egg puns in earnest. What can I say? They crack me up.

Just when I thought all hope was lost, Deb said she found somebody on Craigslist who could get us farm fresh eggs. Best of all, he delivered, as long as we ordered a minimum of five dozen. He charges a mere $4 a dozen. Granted, this is more expensive than what you’ll pay in the grocery store, but about half the cost of what they charge at the farmer’s market, and the quality is far superior. I have to admit, I never would have thought to look for something like that on Craigslist! I was so proud of my coworker’s ingenuity I wanted to give her a standing ovation. I scrambled to find additional people who were interested, a task that went over easy. Before long we had a commitment for eight dozen eggs. The guy showed up at our office two days later, and I have been enjoying farm fresh eggs ever since. They are, dare I say it, eggcellent.

We are planning on opening this up to the whole office and making it a regular thing. Our egg guy has lots of chickens and can easily meet our demand. We’re thinking a delivery every two weeks should be sufficient.

Never a dull moment around here, folks.


Tara and I have new neighbors in our apartment complex. And these neighbors have dogs. Let’s just say things are off to a rocky start.

I’ve never been much of a dog person to begin with. I just prefer the no-fuss nature of cats (though I will admit I’ve known some pretty cool dogs in my day – Sadie, Lily, and Hank come to mind). Regardless, I’m a live-and-let live type of guy for the most part.

But not when your dogs bark constantly, as in incessantly, as in nonstop for hours at a time. Which these dogs do, every single moment that the humans next door are gone. Which is most evenings until 8:50 p.m.

Things got so bad, I finally broke down and called the management office to complain. They were actually sympathetic and told me they’d already received other complaints, so they were going to talk to these people and let them know if they can’t control the barking they will either have to get rid of the dogs or get rid of themselves. I was satisfied with this response.

A little while later, we were coming home from the grocery store and ran into the neighbors. First time we’d met them since they moved on. Immediately, the guy goes, “I’m sorry about our barking dogs!”

Now, I could have said, “Oh, it’s okay. No big deal.” But it is NOT okay and it is a big deal. I wasn’t about to let him off the hook that easily! I might have been graded a C- on social graces, but I’m pretty sure I got an A on Telling It Like It Is 101. To his credit, that made him apologize more. I still didn’t let him off the hook – trust me, his dogs are really annoying – but I respect him for admitting they are a problem rather than getting defensive about it. The sad thing is, he seems like a nice enough guy. I really hope they can get those pups under control. Seems like their bark is worse than his bite.

Oh, you thought I only did egg puns?

No such luck…