Sadly, I’m Not Peter Parker

February is simply flying by! I’d better recap before it disappears.

Valentine’s Day was super low key. Sappy sucker that I am, I gave Tara a card in the morning. She admitted, rather embarrassedly, that she did not have one for me. I told her that was okay. It’s never been my favorite holiday; I don’t hate it, but I feel like it’s unnecessary. My friend Heidi says V-Day is her favorite holiday, and I joked that it ranked around #17 for me, a notch below Arbor Day (I do love me some trees!) but higher than President’s Day. Probably because I have to work on Monday, and Tara does not, and I am bitter about that. Speaking of my lovely wife, she did in fact come home with a card for me and a dark chocolate bar, so the day was not a complete wash.

Don’t worry, we were plenty romantic in Astoria. :)


I think a spider bit me in the shower a few days ago. Trust me when I say, there are few things as traumatic. I felt something on my hand, glanced down, saw a small dark object that may or may not have had eight legs, and did a jerky little dance that sent it down the drain. Whether or not I also screamed is irrelevant to the tale. My hand was then itchy for a couple of days, but I did not suddenly gain the ability to shoot webs from my wrists (too bad, because how cool would that have been!?) so I trust that all is well now.

ultimate_spider_man_renderStill wondering how a spider ended up on my hand while in the shower of all places. I can only surmise that he was lurking on the shower curtain and scurried onto me when I opened it.


I broke down and bought Girl Scout cookies on Monday.

At first, when Justin walked around trying to sell them, I told him thanksbutnothanks. I hadn’t had GS cookies in years. In fact, in one of my not-proudest-moments soon after being discharged from the hospital as a newly-diagnosed diabetic, I might have told a little girl selling them outside a grocery store that “those sugar bombs will kill you, kid.”

What can I say? I was a lot more militant about my food choices back then. I actually ate a bagel last week. With cream cheese. This is progress, folks. I have learned that I can, in fact, splurge in moderation without suddenly gaining back 70 lbs. or needing to inject myself with insulin. It’s been very liberating. So, two minutes after telling Justin no, I had a change of heart and told him to go ahead and put me down for a couple of boxes. Thin Mints and Trefoils. I was thinking they’d arrive in a few weeks, so when Justin showed up the next day with the cookies, I was a bit surprised. My Content team all put in orders of their own and wasted no time tearing into theirs, but I waited a couple of days before opening mine. My definition of less militant means portioning them out into single servings and limiting myself to once or twice a week. vegetarian_recipe_dessert_thin_mints

I guess I still have a ways to go before I’m completely carefree.


Is anybody else watching The Carbonaro Effect? I first discovered this hidden camera magic show a couple of years ago, but sort of forgot about it until I rediscovered it last week. I have been binge-watching ever since. (It’s on A&E, home to Impractical Jokers, another hilarious guilty pleasure).

Anyway, the host/star, Michael Carbonaro, is a rather nerdy-looking guy but one hell of a magician. Seriously, he’s one of the best sleight-of-handers that I’ve ever seen, and his pranks have become very elaborate and well-executed. I am usually laughing my ass off while wondering out loud, “how in the hell did he do that?!” Highly recommended if you’re looking for a quick dose of laughter and want to be amazed.


I’ve been listening to Prince pretty much nonstop for the past week. Now that he has landed on Spotify, I’m a happy camper indeed.

The truth is, I’m still sad over his death. I’m grieving in a way I have not for most other celebrities. Even my beloved Abe Vigoda. It’s been particularly hard for me to come to terms with. I guess I feel like he was always such a motto for clean and healthy living that even the suggestion of drug abuse is surreal. But…it is what it is. I do not fault him for being human. I had my own dalliance with Vicodin about ten years ago, and understand the powers of addiction more than you might think. I’ve never written about this, but maybe it’s time? Just not today.

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Rubber On Wood

The low growl of a diesel engine rumbles to life and then idles, the steady deep-throated purr of a cat. Footsteps echo across a dock, rubber on wood, followed by the metallic clang of cargo being loaded. The plaintive cry of a gull fills the air.

Astoria is waking up.

We pull back the blinds to reveal a fog bank drifting down the Columbia River. Green bleeds to gray as the fog blots out the Astoria-Megler Bridge, turning it into a smudge that disappears into the ether. We wander down to the hotel lobby, bringing back steaming hot cups of a locally roasted coffee. Ray LaMontagne is playing on Spotify.

We are waking up, too.

The day is full of promise.


Astoria has long been a favorite spot of ours, but we’d never actually stayed there. When we decided it was high time for a weekend getaway to the coast, our first inclination was to head down to Newport or Lincoln City as we usually do, but we found a good deal in Astoria and figured, why not? We’d originally planned on going last weekend, but the weather looked dicey – this is the winter where anything goes in Portland – so we ended up delaying our trip a week.

Friday we worked a half-day, then hit the road around 1:00. The drive to Astoria was rainy, and the Columbia River was really high; some of the small towns we drove through on Highway 30 were practically flooded. Luckily, just as we pulled into town, the rain stopped and the clouds broke. Our hotel, situated right on the water, did not disappoint.

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I’d have loved to have taken advantage of the deck, but it’s just too cold in February to sit outside. So we drove into downtown Astoria and wandered around. Checked out a couple of stores, bought some fancy vinegars, nuts, and mustard from a Fancy Vinegar, Nuts, and Mustard store, and then ducked into Inferno, an upscale bar overlooking the river, for cocktails. The place was very Rat Pack-y, dark and clubby with Sinatra playing over the loudspeakers, and specializes in infused liquors. I tried a Manhattan with cherry vanilla whiskey, and followed that up with a pineapple tequila soda. Both drinks were smooth and delicious, as was Tara’s pear vodka press. We had a nice, relaxing time watching the cargo ships pass and the full moon rise.

We were tempted to stay at Inferno, but there was a dive bar within walking distance of our hotel, and we didn’t want to worry about driving after we’d been drinking, so we headed over there for the rest of the evening. The Portway Tavern was everything a dive bar should be, and a few things it shouldn’t be (karaoke), but we had a great time. The drinks no-nonsense and got the job done, the food was pretty good – especially the chowder – and while we didn’t have a view of the river, we did get to hang out with the locals, which is always fun.

Saturday was a lot of fun, too. After a lazy morning lounging around the room with Bloody Marys, we headed over to Pig ‘n Pancake for breakfast. We drove up to Long Beach, Washington next, and ended up walking six miles along the paved Discovery Trail that parallels the beach. We grabbed a late lunch at Castaway’s – chowder, steamer clams, and oyster shooters – as well as a couple of cocktails. It was getting late now and we wanted to catch the sunset over by the Peter Iredale shipwreck in Fort Stevens, Oregon, so we drove over there next. Unfortunately, the sky was mostly overcast and there were quite a few people with the same idea, but despite the clouds I got a couple of pretty good shots. 16711680_10211878220779864_2617787077505098621_n

By now we were pretty exhausted. We’d been on the go all day, as evidenced by the 18,661 steps my Fitbit told me I took, so instead of a dinner out at a nice restaurant as originally planned, we kicked back in the room and ordered a pizza. We had a very chill evening listening to music, drinking, and reading. Who says you need to go out to have fun?

Today we’re going to grab breakfast somewhere and then head home. We should be back by mid-afternoon.

Phoning It In

I was watching the news earlier and they were showing a woman who was 104 years old pushing a cart through the grocery store, and marveling over the fact that at such an advanced age she was still independent enough to handle the weekly shopping duties on her own. I had two thoughts about this:

  • I hope I’m still independent at the age of 104! (Actually, I’ll settle for being alive. Why set my sights any higher?)
  • If I am still alive at 104, I’m going to be pissed if I’m still pushing my own shopping cart through the grocery store. I will consider my life a failure if I’m doing my own shopping at such a ripe old age! That’s what kids are for. Or grandkids. Or younger wives. Tara will only be 96. She can take care of the weekly groceries.

Still, I suppose the story was meant to be inspiring. It just kinda backfired when I saw poor ol’ granny doing all the heavy lifting herself.

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Don’t forget the vodka, babe!

Yesterday, we got new phones.

We also switched carriers, ditching Sprint in favor of Verizon. This was Tara’s idea; I’d been a Sprint customer since 2001 – which kinda surprised me, as I don’t even remember having a cellphone that long ago – and never had an issue with them. But Tara had been with Verizon before moving out here, and complained about spotty service and a lack of adequate coverage in certain places. Seeing that she’s going to be the one pushing the grocery cart around when she’s 96, I figured it was best to keep her happy, so I was agreeable to the switch. Nostalgia is overrated anyway, at least when it comes to phone carriers. They’ve all got the same selection of phones from which to choose, and in this day and age when you get to keep the same phone number forever, there’s really not much incentive in staying put.

While going over the paperwork at the Verizon store, our rep informed us that he needed our old account # in order to make the switch. If I’d been smart I would have had this information on me, but I did not, so to obtain it I had to call Sprint customer service. The Verizon guy warned me not to tell them I was leaving, but instead to say I just needed the # “for my records.” But when I called, the woman helping me immediately sensed trouble. She started talking about how much she appreciated my loyalty, and at one point straight up asked me if I was planning to cancel my account and tried to talk me into upgrading to a new plan with more data for less money. I stuck to my guns and denied the whole thing.

It was a pretty awkward phone call, to be honest. Kinda felt like I was breaking up with somebody, which isn’t too far off the mark considering I was ending a 15-year relationship. I wanted to comfort her with that old cliche, It’s not you, it’s me!, but in actuality it was neither her nor me but Tara, so instead I said nothing.

In the end I got the information I needed, and within minutes of assuring Sprint that everything was fine and I wasn’t going anywhere, we were no longer together.

Sometimes, I’m a real heartbreaker. smartphones_rect

Tara and I ended up with new HTC 10 phones, and Audrey got an iPhone 7S (this was our Christmas gift to her). The phones are great, but man, I hate getting new ones because it’s a pain in the ass to set them up. I had an app that allowed me to transfer all my contacts and media from the old phone to the new one, but I had to go back to the Play store and re-download ever single app, and then I had to customize the phone (new theme, organizing folders, adjusting the settings, etc.). Y’all know how it is, I’m sure. The whole process took a good couple of hours. Just once, I would like to own a phone for longer than two years. Their disposability drives me nuts! Sadly, I read that lithium-ion batteries are only good for about two years, and even if we had stuck with Sprint I’d have needed a new phone anyway since my old one started acting wonky. It’s just the nature of the beast, though I suppose you could just buy a new battery and switch that out. Unless the next generation of phones can do amazing things, like cook me dinner or give me a back rub, I’m content with keeping this one for awhile.

 

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?

Ask and Ye Shall Receive

This morning we called my dad, put him on speakerphone, and sang “Happy Birthday.” Which would have been great, had it actually been his birthday.

Oops.

So we were a day off. In my defense, January 11 was my grandmother’s birthday (RIP), and my dad’s is the 12th. I could never quite get those two days straight. My apologies, dad. At least we were thinking of you on your (almost) special day!

The truth is, I was probably a bit distracted anyway. Remember how just a couple of days ago I complained that we were getting all kinds of cold weather but no snow to go along with it? Mother Nature was clearly paying attention to my ranting and raving, and more than made up for that. We woke up to 8-12″ of snow throughout Vancouver and Portland, our biggest storm in at least nine years!

It all started innocently enough. Yesterday was pretty calm – overcast but close to 40. The snow from our last little storm had turned to slush (and in fact, I slipped and fell not once, but twice when out walking at lunchtime; fortunately, the only thing I damaged was my pride). The forecast was calling for evening rain turning to snow after midnight. We might get 1-4″ if we were lucky, and that sounded like a stretch. So when Tara got home at 6:30, ninety minutes after me, and asked if I’d looked outside, I couldn’t imagine why I would be doing so.

“It’s snowing,” she said. “And already beginning to stick.”

I was in the midst of a game of Dr. Mario (love our NES Classic, by the way!) and enjoying a glass of wine and really didn’t think much of this. Until I looked out the window and saw it coming down nice and steady. Still, I figured it would let up momentarily. Instead, it started snowing LIKE HELL. Yes, I realize that if Hell were a real place, it would likely be too hot to snow. But that’s a figure of speech, and an appropriate one. Seriously, we were getting 1-2″ an hour all evening long. There was already half a foot on the ground when we went to bed, and no signs of a let-up.

So today was a work-from-home day. The office was closed, anyway (but the company wasn’t closed, an important distinction). Fine by me. I love working from home! Good thing, because this snow isn’t going anywhere until Sunday, when it’s finally supposed to warm up. I may be stuck here a while longer.

Tara is not nearly the snow fan that I am, but she’s happy we got what we did, because it means I will finally stop my bitching. Even if we don’t get another flake all winter, I am happy.

Enjoy some pics!

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Rumor has it my car is buried under there somewhere.
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The fitness center looking all festive.
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Anybody feel like a dip?
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Probably the best way to get around today.
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Definitely not picnic season.
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Snowy walk through the park on my lunch hour.
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This is why I love snow so much. Look at it!
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Very appropriate sign today.
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Our back deck. That’s 8″ on the railing and closer to a foot on the table.

Cold AFF

It has been cold AF here lately.

If you don’t know the meaning of AF, you’re not hip to the lingo. (The fact that I used the phrase “hip to the lingo” probably indicates that I am not hip to the lingo, either. Oh, well.) AF simply means “as f**k.” I’m sure you can fill in the blanks.

However, in this case, I actually mean it’s been cold As Fargo. You know, the city in North Dakota where people talk funny, own a lot of wood chippers, and slog their way through notoriously cold winters.

Actually, on second thought, it’s been cold AFF here lately. Cold As F**king Fargo.

Normally, I love winter. But I’m beginning to suspect I love it more in theory, because when you step outside and the temperature is hovering in the teens and we’ve got gusty east winds blowing out of the Gorge at 40+ mph, there ain’t nothin’ enjoyable about that. I’m sure a bunch of my readers on the East Coast are probably snickering right now, but I am not on the East Coast, and therefore am unused to temperatures this extreme. 15823153_10211517029750314_5762248814829038873_n

45 degrees sounds like a heatwave right now.

And that’s normally what we’d be experiencing in January. Gray, dreary, and wet. Rain I can handle. Sub-freezing temperatures are another story. Last week our highs hovered right around 32 for five days in a row, which wreaked havoc with my daily walks. When the hundred or so yards between my car and the office feels like a formidable distance due to the cold and wind, and I spend half the day at work bundled up in a puffy coat because I can barely feel the tips of my fingers when I type, I’m certainly not going to be in the mood to put in four miles around the neighborhood. I’ve actually been taking advantage of the fitness center in my apartment complex and using the treadmill again. It’s the first time I’ve bothered in about a year and a half. I despise walking on the treadmill; not only do I find it tedious and boring, but the act of moving without actually getting anywhere drives me to the brink of insanity. However, even at 5 a.m. the fitness center is a toasty 71 degrees and there is zero percent chance of getting rained or snowed on, so I’ve made temporary peace with the place and will continue to go there until we’re only cold AS (cold As Sacramento, which really isn’t cold at all).

Making matters worse: we haven’t even had a decent snowstorm to justify all this cold weather. Oh, we’ve had a bunch of close calls this winter, but we keep dodging the bullet and ending up with nothing more exciting than a few flurries. We picked up a 1/2″ dusting yesterday. And there has been a little sleet and freezing rain at times. But ice isn’t as nice. I want a big payoff for putting up with the cold. A good 3-4″ of snow at a minimum would at least make it all seem worthwhile. C’mon, Mother Nature! Quit giving Eugene all the goods!

In other news, as is usually the case, the worst part about returning to work after an extended vacation was the anticipation (some might call it dread) of returning to work, rather than the actual returning-to-work part. It didn’t take long to get back into the groove. I think I was there by 10:00 a.m. Monday morning. After a pretty slow six-week stretch our workload has picked up again, which makes the days pass quickly. Last Wednesday I helped conduct employee reviews for my team, and I had tantalized them in advance by letting them know I’d put together a little pun for them. Sure enough, when each one walked in, I greeted them and said, “You might call this a room with a (re)view!

Deb laughed, but the others were a bit less effusive with their praise. Maybe they’d prefer a boss without a sense of humor?

Hey. At least I crack myself up.

Tit’s the Season

Funny how quickly we fall into old habits, huh? Like not posting blog entries?

In my defense, there have been many distractions over the past ten days. Such as:

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Christmas.

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Food and drinks. (Sometimes in the same glass!)

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Fun stores.

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Amazing scenery.

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Video games.

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Even Elvis managed to get in on the action, and if that isn’t a theme in my life these days, I don’t know what is!

The weekend before Christmas, we drove up to Bothell to visit Tracy, David, Anne, and Anthony. We had a great time seeing them all for an early Christmas gift exchange. My MIL entertained us with an Atari Flashback gaming system, a miniature version of the old 2600 console with 101 built-in games. In turn, we entertained her by rearranging the LET IT SNOW letters on her window to something less appropriate but more fun.

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When I returned to work the following week and noticed one of the marketing managers had hung some garland in her office that resembled, ahem, that same part of the female anatomy, I once again improved upon the decor by adding a couple of well-placed bows.

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I may have all the maturity of a twelve-year-old, but I’m awfully fun to hang out with. You’d have the breast time with me, I swear!

I’ve been off work since last Friday. That evening Tara and I went out to Shanahan’s to kick off the holidays. Nothing says “Merry Christmas” like Scottish eggs and tequila soda from an Irish pub!

Saturday we went to my Aunt Nancy’s house in Newberg for our annual “ethnic Christmas Eve” feast. We’ve done this every year since 2006 except for two: in 2008, when we were snowed in; and last year, when she wanted a break from hosting. This year my cousin(ish) Shannon was there with her guitar, and we had a great time listening to her play.

Sunday was Christmas, and I’ve gotta say, it was a delicious day. Between the Bloody Marys, biscuits and gravy, prime rib, mashed potatoes, cherry cheesecake, and wine (not all at once, of course), we did not go hungry! We opened gifts in the morning, and everybody made out well. Tara ended up conspiring with Deb to surprise me with a pair of Bose wireless noise-cancelling headphones I’d been coveting. Deb’s brother works for Bose and his employee discount is 50%, so when she showed up to work one day wearing those headphones and I tried them on, I knew immediately I wanted some. In fact, I tried to order them from her, but unbeknownst to me the two of them had already placed an order, so there was a good bit of scrambling on their part that ended up as a conspiracy to rival the JFK assassination. Well played, you two!

Tara was off on Monday and we were itching to get out of the apartment, so we drove into the Columbia River Gorge for a little winter hiking. Ended up seeing a bunch of waterfalls, but after four miles of freezing our asses off we decided to drive across the river to Stevenson for cocktails and a light lunch. Seeing all the snow still on the ground makes me want to live there even more now.

The rest of the week has been both busy and relaxing for me. Tara’s been back at work, so I’ve done quite a bit of writing; surprised her with a candlelit dinner; run errands; listened to records; drank wine; and took myself to Portland for a day in the Hawthorne District. It’s been a good mix and a fun vacation. Today will be another low-key day around the apartment; I plan to work on my book, watch a movie, and meet Tara for sushi. Friday  I want to do something fun, and am torn between going into downtown Portland or driving back out to the Gorge. I’m leaning toward the latter, so long as my Mazda can handle the snow. Saturday night we have early reservations at a Chinese restaurant called Shandong – their claim to fame is 3′ handmade noodles you have to cut with a pair of scissors – then we plan to hang out at home, drinking responsibly. I am excited to have a low-key NYE for a change. It’s been a long time: last year we were in Ely, the year before I was in the hospital, and the year before that we were also in Ely. We’ve only stayed home once since Tara moved up here, so it kind of feels like a novelty.

Sunday we have brunch reservations in Portland, and then Monday it’s back to work for me. Not going to lie: that will suck. It’s also supposed to turn super cold next week – highs in the 20s, lows near 12 – so it’ll feel like winter for sure.

Hope your holidays have been as fun as mine!