Pretty, Pretty, Pretty, Pretty Good

For the past month, I’ve been binge-watching a little show called “Curb Your Enthusiasm” (though my definition of “binge-watching” probably differs from yours; it’s more like a handful of episodes a week instead of multiple episodes per day. More of a Binge Lite, if you will.) Perhaps you’ve heard of it? It stars Larry David, the creator of “Seinfeld;” he plays a man named Larry David, the creator of “Seinfeld.” How very meta.

People (my brother, my coworker) have been urging me to watch “Curb Your Enthusiasm” for years. Their refrain was always the same.

If you love “Seinfeld,” you’ll love “Curb Your Enthusiasm!”

Well, I do love “Seinfeld.” The name of my very first blog was Yadda Yadda, and I practically had every episode memorized. Its catchphrases permeated my consciousness and slipped into real life. I was the master of my domain who couldn’t spare a square, especially to low talkers and close talkers (not that there’s anything wrong with that). “Seinfeld” remains one of my favorite all-time sitcoms.

Sure enough, “Curb Your Enthusiasm” is the closest thing to “Seinfeld” I’ve ever seen. I’d always resisted watching, mostly due to logistics. I do not get HBO and the show isn’t available on Netflix. But last year I signed up for Amazon Prime, and one of the benefits is free streaming video. “Curb Your Enthusiasm” is one of the available shows, so I finally took the plunge…and can’t believe it took me so long. I love it – Larry David’s sarcasm and awkward/biting humor is right up my alley. And now I find myself adopting some of that show’s catchphrases. I don’t have time for the stop-and-chat because that’s a jet stream of bullshit. And so it goes. I’m midway through Season 4 now, so I’ve got four more to go – and then there are new episodes coming out this fall. Looks like I “discovered” this show just in time!

What’s better than Larry David? MORE Larry David.

The scary thing is, I find myself acting more and more like Larry David these days. Tara jokes that I’m “turning into a curmudgeon,” to which I reply, I merely like what I like and don’t want to deal with a lot of crap. I just think I share a similar skewed view of life and am not afraid to voice my opinions sometimes. For instance, a coworker was talking about attending a wedding, and I launched into this long rant about how the ceremony is only fun for the two people exchanging vows. The rest of us are dressed uncomfortably and probably can’t see or hear anything going on because there’s a tall guy blocking our view or a baby crying. It’s all so predictable anyway: a long-winded speech about the sanctity of marriage, followed by a couple of promises that are destined to be broken 50 percent of the time. An invariably awkward kiss, a cheesy piano riff, and that’s it. Nobody throws rice anymore – have you noticed? They say it’s “dangerous to birds” but I don’t think we are giving our fine-feathered friends enough credit. They’re no more likely to eat hard rice kernels than pebbles, right? And if they do, well, that’s their own stupid fault. Survival of the fittest and all that.

I say skip the wedding and show up to the reception instead. It’s not like the newlyweds are even going to notice you’re missing during the ceremony, and if they say anything, you can easily fake it (“That was nice what the priest/rabbi/officiant said about love” is a generic enough statement that will get you off the hook 99 percent of the time. You can also get away with mentioning the lack of rice too, most likely, because everybody’s so concerned about those damn birds). The reception is where all the fun is, anyway. Not to mention the food and booze, which is the saving grace of all weddings. The only “I do” that I care about is answering the bartender’s question (“Why yes, I do believe I’ll have another cocktail!”). I was saying all this out loud and just thought, man, I’m having a Larry David moment.

But I will never pee sitting down, so.


Had a pretty decent long weekend. Saturday we went for a hike to Siouxon Creek, which is way off the beaten path. It’s about a 90-minute drive across a rugged mostly one-lane road littered with potholes, culverts, and occasional small rockslides. Not for the faint of heart (or 2WD vehicles). But it’s a nice trail, mostly shaded and level, that runs parallel to a creek. We ended up doing about six miles, and it was nice but just a little too hot for a hike – anything over 80 is uncomfortable. I did take my shoes off at one point and waded into the creek, but that lasted all of two minutes because the water was brutally cold. Oh, and then Tara and I actually drank straight from the creek, which sounds like a totally reckless (and, admit it: sort of badass) thing to do, but we were actually trying out her new LifeStraw. The water was cold and delicious, and we did not (yet, at least) end up with cryptosporidium, so yay us.

We stopped and picked up MOD Pizza on the way home. First time I’d been there, and it’s a great concept: think Subway-meets-a-pizza-parlor. Or Chipotle, if you’re so inclined. You start with a basic 11″ individually-sized artisan pizza crust and add as many toppings as you’d like, at no extra charge, to completely customize your order. They’re the perfect size, too. Call me Team MOD now.

Sunday we went into Portland for brunch and a movie at McMenamin’s Kennedy School (we saw “Going In Style” and enjoyed that), followed by a stop at Music Millennium for record shopping. Came away with some good finds, too. Tara made fish tacos for dinner and we watched some TV (including, of course, “Curb Your Enthusiasm”).

We were supposed to go to my parents’ house for dinner this evening but they are both sick, so we’re going to do some baked chicken and corn on the cob instead. And wine. ‘Cause that’s how we roll. Otherwise it’s going to be a super low-key day.

Shout out to all who served, my dad included.

Orange, Naturally

We spend one-third of our lives at work. So it stands to reason that we should make our workspaces cozy and inviting, no? With that in mind, I decided to spruce up my own 12’x12′ slice of heaven last week with what can best be described as an impulse purchase.

That is, if you consider an orange shag rug an impulse buy.

Given that I am a child of the 70s, and have long expressed an admiration for the decade, it was probably less impulsive than you might think.

Regardless, I’m diggin’ my new Seventies-themed workspace.

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How groovy is that? Next up: a beanbag chair. Orange, naturally.

So I’ve got this whole pseudo-hippie thing going on. Beaded curtain, lava lamps, peace signs, tie-dye shirts, lava lamps, incense, yadda yadda. I think I was born 15 years too late. Not that I’m complaining, though. I’m happy not being in my 60s, y’know?

Anyway. So as to preserve my new rug, I am also wearing slippers at work. I keep a pair there, and slip out of my shoes every morning (and back into them before I leave for the day). In the summer, I imagine I might go barefoot.

My coworkers have had mixed reactions. Most like it, but a particularly stubborn one who shall remain nameless is opposed. I have no idea why, but suspect she is merely jealous.

What will she think when I bring my Pet Rock to work?

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Guilty confession alert: I really, really like Kevin Can Wait.

Yeah, I know. The critics are slamming it. IMDB says 5.8, which translates to: bitch, please. And it’s a very conventional (polite way of saying “unoriginal”) sitcom with recycled plots and an annoying laugh track. But damn if it doesn’t crack me up!kcw-mainelement-2

I can’t help it. Kevin James is hilarious. I loved The King of Queens, as well as many of his movies. Yes…even Paul Blart: Mall Cop. And I find myself laughing out loud, week after week, over his exploits on the new show. I don’t care if it isn’t highbrow or trendy or hip, and airs on CBS instead of Netflix or HBO. Bottom line: it makes me laugh, and that’s all that matters.

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And just like that, our snow is gone.

It was nice while it lasted. And it lasted quite awhile – a whole week, to be exact. But it was also, in many ways, a pain in the ass while it lasted. Roads were a mess. Sidewalks were treacherous. 2′-long icicles dangling from the eaves put the fear of god in me as I imagined a death by impalement. So, pretty as it was, I’m glad it finally warmed up and started raining instead of snowing. 40 degrees never felt so tropical.

I’d be lying, though, if I said I didn’t miss it already. Just a little bit.

Encore, Mother Nature?

NNWM/26: Inception-ish

When I’ve talked about the plot of my new novel, a lot of people say, “Oh – like Inception!” And while both stories center around dreaming, that’s the only real common ground they share. But enough folks made the comparison that I began to worry. I saw Inception when it came out a few years ago, but only that one time. The truth is, I didn’t remember many of the details other than the fact that it was a visually stunning film and starred Leonardo DiCaprio. I began to worry that I might have inadvertently “borrowed” from the script and incorporated those elements into my book. The subconscious is a powerful tool, after all. Which is sort of the whole point of Inception, come to think about it.

So last night we watched it again. I’d picked up a BluRay copy at Value Village a few weeks ago for $4. God, I miss that store already. Tara had never seen the movie and I wanted a refresher course to ensure that what I was writing was, indeed, original. You’d think I’d have done this prior to committing to NaNoWriMo, huh?

But it’s all good. My book is, at most, Inception-ish. But barely. Overlapping themes aside, it’s totally original.

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Today we picked up my parents from the airport. They have been in New Zealand and on a cruise for the past month. I’m glad they’re back.

We bought a Christmas tree this afternoon from the Boy Scouts lot across the street. I was surprised when Tara suggested a real tree, given that we’ve relied upon her artificial tree the past few years. I love the smell of fresh pine. Tomorrow we will finish decorating the apartment for Christmas.

Tonight we went to Shanahan’s for cocktails and dinner. I don’t think we’ve ever gone there on a Saturday night – usually it’s Friday after work. We had a great time even if our usual server, Alicia, was not there. Tomorrow we will finish decorating. It is taking so much concentration for me to type this post without errors, so I think I’ll wrap it up now.

Word Count Today: 2,081.
Total Word Count: 41,130.

NNWM/15: Cliff Clavin

Today was a very productive writing day. I dashed out over 2,000 words for the first time since Day 1. I have reached a crucial scene in my novel that is fun to write and the words are flowing. It’s a full-on writer’s high, and I hope it continues for the rest of the month. I am on a roll now.

One of the most enjoyable parts of writing, for me, is the research. I have always considered myself to have a bit of an encyclopedic nature and love learning things. I remember working at a job once where, quite frankly, I was often bored. I’d turn to the internet for entertainment – specifically, Wikipedia. I’d while away the hours looking up topics of interest in order to learn more. The subjects varied widely – one day I might read up on George Harrison, while the next, I’d be delving into D-Day or the Apollo missions to the moon or the lyrics to Supertramp’s “Breakfast In America.” It was all incredibly random. I fancied myself a Cliff Clavin of sorts, a guy with a mental library chock full of mostly useless information. And like the fictional postman on Cheers, I found myself approaching friends and coworkers and leading off conversations with, “It’s a little known fact that…”cliff-clavin

Nowadays, it’s all about authenticity. First off, I had to learn what made Elvis Presley tick. Now I’m studying up on police procedurals, and it’s a good thing I am. For instance: it’s a little known fact that the fingerprinting process involves optical scanners and digital prints rather than ink and cardboard, as I’d long assumed. Once upon a time, of course, but nowadays that manual process is extinct. My novel would have been hopelessly outdated had I not taken the time to look that up. Thank you, Google.

Which makes me wonder: how in the hell did authors research their stories before the advent of the World Wide Web?

Word Count Today: 2,106.
Total Word Count: 27,549.

NNWM/12: Mind Blown Upon Arrival

Today has been a very good day. After a leisurely morning, Tara and I took a walk through the park and stopped into WinCo to pick up a few things we needed for dinner. Then we headed to Regal Cinemas where we caught a movie, “Arrival.”

arrivalteaseronline1-shtdevonukcoordinatesI used to see a lot more movies than I do nowadays. When I was single and unemployed, going to the movies was a weekly ritual. Nowadays, it’s more of a rare treat. The last flick we saw in theaters was “Deadpool,” and that was months ago. Our choice today was “Arrival.” All I can say is: holy shit. What a cerebral mindfuck. This was one of those movies that has you scratching your head when the credits roll, wondering what the hell just happened. But in the best way possible. It’s a smart film that raises questions about the very nature of time and space and the interconnectedness of humanity. A quote from this review sums it up nicely:

Arrival may be the best science fiction film of the year, and arguably the most introspective movie in the last decade to broach the contentious topic of intelligent life beyond our own. Its clever approach to storytelling forces the audience to grapple with their preconceived notions of what the typical “alien” is thought to be like, of what it means to communicate, and ultimately, a reminder that humankind is young, powerful and still has a lot to learn about understanding one another.

For a sci-fi movie, it’s light on action, focusing instead on introspectiveness and raw human emotion. I found it original and thought-provoking.

Definitely the type of movie that remains lodged in your brain for hours afterward, and warrants a second viewing. We may not get to the movies as often as we used to, but when we do go, we make it count. Tara is making a pork roast for dinner. We are planning to walk down to Cascade Bar & Grill later this evening to enjoy cocktails and live music. Enjoy the rest of your weekend!

Word Count Today: 1,701.
Total Word Count: 22,819.

NNWM/7: Method Writing

I think I might be suffering from Elvis overkill.

I was writing another Elvis scene this evening while listening to Elvis on Spotify and researching the Elvis Suite at Hartland Mansion in Las Vegas. You know how actors like Marlon Brando and Dustin Hoffman immersed themselves so completely in their roles they took on the traits of their characters in order to identify with them on an emotional level and thereby coax forth an expressive and realistic performance during filming? That technique, called method acting, has resulted in some very memorable movies over the years. Well, I think I might be engaging in a similar type of art form called method writing.

Turns out it’s actually a thing. The idea is you essentially “become” your character, immersing yourself in their world in order to understand their mindset. Very interesting. However, I draw the line at fried peanut butter, bacon, banana, and grape jelly sandwiches. I will not sacrifice my health in an attempt to delve into the mind of the King of Rock ‘n Roll.

I draw the line at wearing a white sequined jumpsuit, too.

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Word Count Today: 945.
Total Word Count: 17,238.

That Time I Met The Boss

I can sum up the most surreal ten seconds of my life in a single photograph captured for posterity:

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I don’t even know where to begin. How often does one get the opportunity to meet a famous person whom they have admired their whole life? And after doing so, how does one find the proper words to sum up the experience? Damned if I know, and I’m a writer. But I’ll give it a shot.

I left the apartment at 7 a.m. Tuesday morning and decided to take mass transit in order to avoid traffic and the hassle of parking, based on my mom’s suggestion. This involved catching a bus in Vancouver and transferring to a light rail train at a transit center in Portland. It cost $5 and was worth every penny. I arrived at Powell’s Books about 8:15 and joined the throngs of excited fans lined up around the side of the building. There was a party-like vibe to this communal once-in-a-lifetime experience, but I wish Tara had been able to join me. I felt a little out of place showing up stag because nearly everybody in line was there with somebody else, a spouse or parent or friend, but I felt lucky enough just to have snagged one ticket, so I can’t really complain.

Powell’s opened their doors at 9:00, and it took another half hour to make it inside for the official registration. Once there we presented our tickets to a cashier, were issued wristbands and handed our signed copies of Bruce’s autobiography, then ushered to another line upstairs for more waiting. People were sharing their favorite Springsteen memories, talking about his music, etc. I learned that one person flew in from Australia for the chance to meet Bruce, and another had seen him in concert 60 times. There is no doubt these people were all hardcore fans, so in that sense I felt right at home. I killed a lot of that time reading from his book, which is quite entertaining and well-written (naturally).

Around 11:30 cheers went up from the crowd, and though we couldn’t see him from where we were waiting, we figured The Boss had made his grand entrance. The line started moving again, upstairs to the Red Room. Powell’s is cavernous; it takes up an entire city block and has nine color-coded rooms on three floors. I have long called it my favorite Portland hangout, and that is twice as true when The Boss happens to be there. The third floor was closed off to the general public and it took about half an hour for the line to wind around the shelves and through the aisles. Meanwhile, reporters from The Oregonian were taking photos and interviewing people, which only added to the surreality. When we got close we were liberated from our wristbands and our books were collected for safekeeping. Suddenly I was there, right behind the curtained-off area where Springsteen was meeting his fans. The woman in front of me looked like she was about to faint. “I see him through the curtain!” she squealed. Then she parted the curtain and surreptitiously took a photo, holding her phone up for all to see. “I got a picture of him hugging a stranger!” she declared excitedly. Which was kind of silly, because she was just a few seconds away from meeting him in person herself, but I appreciated the unbridled enthusiasm. We were all feeling it at that point.

A minute later I was led into the curtained area, and there he was, standing on a raised platform a mere ten feet away. Unbelievable. Bruce freakin’ Springsteen, The Boss himself, right there in person. He looked larger than life and completely ordinary at the same time, an everyman who just happens to be a world famous rock star adored by millions. There were three Powell’s employees taking photos, and they did a great job of keeping the line moving efficiently. I brought along my point and shoot camera – this was far too important an occasion to rely on my phone’s camera – and handed it to a staff member. The woman in front of me had an iPad and was having trouble figuring out how to make the camera work. I really hope she got it figured out (or not, because taking pics with an iPad is pretty lame).

“You’re up!” an employee said, and suddenly it was my turn to meet Bruce Springsteen. I stepped onto the stage and he turned to me with a friendly smile. This was the quintessential OH-SHIT-I-CAN’T-BELIEVE-THIS-IS-HAPPENING-TO-ME moment of my entire life. For a few brief seconds I had his complete and total attention. Trust me, that’s an awful lot of pressure! It felt like the whole world stopped spinning for those next ten seconds. I’d had a little speech rehearsed – I suspect most everybody who was there did, too – but there just wasn’t enough time. How can you convey to a man how much his music has shaped your life in a few brief words? How can you let him know that his lyrics inspired you to become a storyteller yourself? Bruce breathed life into a cast of characters whose tales have intrigued me since childhood. There’s Crazy Janey and her mission man; Rosalita, jumping a little higher; Gunner breathing deep, his ankles caked in mud. There’s Wendy and Mary and Spanish Johnny; Go-Cart Mozart and Wild Billy and Bad Scooter (searching for his groove) and dozens more, all whose stories are etched into my brain as if they are living, breathing people rather than names in songs. The answer is simple: you can’t. Not in ten seconds. So I gave him a warm handshake instead and told him it was a huge honor to meet him. He was equally gracious and said the same to me, and did not flinch when I put my arm around him for the photo. There wasn’t the slightest bit of pretension whatsoever. And just like that, it was over.

Afterwards, Tara asked me what he smelled like. I replied, “Like rock ‘n roll and liberalism and the working class.”

And now I can cross a very big item off my bucket list.