Hold the Ice

Do you think it’s rude (or weird) to order iced tea, but ask them to “hold the ice”?

This was the dilemma I encountered last week. I ordered an iced tea from the coffee shop around the corner, but they ended up adding so much ice I only got a few sips of tea. So I debated ordering it sans ice the next time I went, posing this question on Facebook because I didn’t want to walk in there looking like an idiot.

The overall consensus was, I’m the paying customer and am, therefore, entitled to iced tea just the way I want it. Most of my friends thought it would be perfectly acceptable to ask for no ice or light ice. It’s no worse than Tara ordering a Beef ‘n Cheddar from Arby’s and asking them to hold the cheddar. (She likes the toasted onion roll). Armed with the confidence instilled in me by a social media majority, I stopped in Friday afternoon and placed my order. And they never even batted an eye. In retrospect, this was yet another situation in which I was guilty of overthinking things.

Shocking, right? That never happens.

This does beg the question, though: if you order iced tea without ice, isn’t it technically just tea? And if you ask for tea, won’t they assume you want it hot? Should I ask for cold tea instead? What should I say?!

Man, the world is too complicated nowadays. And I am overthinking things again.


The reason I was so fixated on iced tea last week was because our high temperatures were hovering right around 185 degrees. OK, that might be a slight exaggeration, but it was still hot. 103 on Wednesday and 105 on Thursday. 90s the rest of the week. Adding insult to injury, the air was thick with smoke from wildfires burning in British Columbia. It was just awful, ugly, and uncomfortable weather. Summer at its worst. Our only saving grace was a lack of humidity.

It was so hot, the weekly farmer’s market shut down. Now I am out of berries and that is just unacceptable.

Not so long ago, people were whining about the rain and the cold and the fact that winter seemingly would never end. Man, what I’d give for a little snow right about now! Hell, I’d settle for a temperature cooler than 80 degrees. But the forecast for this week doesn’t look promising, unless you’re a fan of hot, hazy weather.

In which case, you’re probably downright ecstatic.


So, we’ve been teaching Audrey to drive.

Our lessons must have paid off, because we’d enrolled her in a summer driving course and she passed with flying colors on Thursday. Now, she just has to hand the DMV a piece of paper with her passing score, and she can get her driver’s license. In Washington, you have to wait six months from the time you receive your permit, so she can’t get it until October 22nd. Not that anybody is going to forget the date, given that she’s got it circled in bold on every calendar hanging up within a three-mile radius.

Actually, I don’t know how much credit we can actually take. Most lessons consisted of me sitting in the passenger seat while she practiced driving in circles around empty parking lots. I did make lots of hand gestures in the air in which I pantomimed turning a steering wheel, and occasionally pressed down on a nonexistent brake pedal out of habit, but otherwise I was pretty much just along for the ride.

The next big milestone is her high school graduation, a mere 10 months away now.

Damn, I’m old.


Just heard on NPR the other day that Dunkin’ Donuts is opening a new store in Pasadena and dropping the “Donuts” from their name because they want to be known more for their coffee than their doughnuts. If it works out, they are considering changing their name company-wide and simply going by Dunkin’.

Is it just me, or is this a really dumb idea?

Dunkin’ Donuts is an institution. Carving the name in half is almost sacrilege.

Then again, I’m still mad that Kentucky Fried Chicken changed their name to KFC, and that happened 26 years ago. Besides, if history is any indication, this could all backfire on Dunkin’ Donuts. When Kentucky Fried Chicken morphed into KFC in 1991, rumors started flying that they were forced to change their name because they were using genetically modified chicken and could not, therefore, advertise it as chicken. Which is false, but I’m sure there are people who actually believe that, just as there are folks who think the moon landing was staged, there was a second gunman on the grassy knoll, and Courtney killed Kurt.

Only one of those things is true, of course.

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Tube Close for Comfort

Camping: it’s not for the faint of heart. The funny thing is, I always figured it would be a bear that posed the greatest danger to my well-being. Turns out it was the (not-so) mighty Wenatchee River that done near did us in.

But as with any story, you gotta save the good stuff for the end. So hold on tight.

It’s been a nice, long weekend. Four days for me and Tara, ’cause we took Thursday and Friday off for a camping trip up north. Like, real far up north. Leavenworth, WA, about a five-hour jaunt from here. Why travel so far to go camping, you may be wondering.

Well, because. When your campsite looks like this:

And is situated yards away from this:

You drive five hours to go camping.

Sure enough, our spot was damn near ideal. Surrounded by dramatic granite cliffs, a few steps from the gently rushing Icicle Creek, Eight Mile Campground was worth the long haul. Our only complaint? Because of the position of the trees, our site was in the sun from about 10 a.m. until the sun dipped behind the mountains to the west, a couple of hours prior to sunset. But we were gone most of the time, so it was pretty much a non-issue.

Oh, we spent our evenings in camp, drinking in the scenery (and the alcohol). We (Tara) cooked steaks and corn on the cob the first night; bratwursts, grilled peppers and onions, and beans the second. We listened to music and watched a (flock? herd? whole bunch of?) brown bats come out at dusk, swooping in over our camp to gobble up meals of their own. When the stars came out they were magnificent; we walked the few steps to our little beach by the creek in the pitch darkness to gaze at them in awe, and were rewarded with several shooting stars streaking across the sky. The weather was warm and dry so there was no need for a rain fly, leaving us able to look up at those same stars through the roof of our tent while listening to the babbling brook when we went to bed.

Heaven, people.

Friday we went for a 3.5-mile hike along the Icicle Gorge trail, marveling over more stunning scenery. Even here, in the “dry” part of the state, the vistas are remarkable.

Yes.

We really do.

Luckily, we’d gotten an early start to our hike, setting out at 8:30 a.m. Because it was warming up pretty quickly along the way, already in the low 80s by the time we got back to camp at noon. It was even hotter in town; Eight Mile was a good 6-7 degrees cooler than Leavenworth, which is – coincidence alert! – exactly eight miles from the campground.

Whoa.

In any case, we weren’t concerned about the heat, because we’d (Tara) come up with a great plan.

A nice, relaxing float in an inner tube down the Wenatchee River sounded like an ideal way to spend a hot and sunny summer afternoon in Leavenworth, WA. After our hike, the idea of hitting the water was especially appealing.

Tara had booked a reservation with a tubing company in Leavenworth. We met up at their office/store downtown at 2:00 and boarded a shuttle, which drove us a few miles upriver. Once there, we were handed waiver forms to sign, releasing the company from all liability should anything go wrong. I barely skimmed most of it – does anybody actually read all that legalese? – but there was one sentence that leaped out at me. “I realize that the risk of serious injury or death is significant,” it read, or something along those lines. I chuckled over that.

We’re on inner tubes, I thought. What could possibly go wrong?

We were given very brief instructions that basically consisted of, “Start here, finish there, and when you reach the island in the middle of the river, stay to the left.” They handed us Frisbees to use as makeshift paddles and then set us free. In retrospect, I think they should have taken a few minutes to go over safety rules and given us the opportunity to ask questions. But alas, it was time for them to go pick up the next group of people.

$$$, don’tcha know?

Tara and I had rented a floating cooler because, you know, when you’re lazily floating down the river in the hot sun, what’s better than a cool, refreshing adult beverage? So Tara tethered her tube to the cooler and we hopped in.

Things went very smoothly for about three minutes. And then, all hell broke loose.

An island appeared in the middle of the river. We assumed this was the one they had instructed us to pass on the left. (Turns out it was not, but how were we to know that?) The current was pulling us to the right, so we started paddling like mad, but it looked like we weren’t going to make it. So my dear wife, concerned that we were going to be dragged into some hidden danger lurking on the right side of the island, a logjam maybe, or a Class 5 rapid, decided to get out of her tube in order to give it a good push in the right direction. This turned out to be a huge mistake, because the current was much swifter than anticipated. Her inner tube and cooler shot away from her and were quickly zipping down the river, unattended. I saw her treading water and tried to paddle in her direction, but she yelled at me to “go after the inner tubes!” instead.

Or maybe she just wanted me to save the beer.

So I started paddling like mad, using those gaily-colored Frisbees like they were oars, to reach the wayward inner tubes, racing along 10 feet ahead of me. Meanwhile I’m concerned about my wife, who is in the middle of the river without a tube or life preserver. But I’m rowing like a madman, and a minute later, I see a metal cylinder bobbing along. A-ha! That’s Tara’s Yeti, an insulated beer can holder she recently bought for $20, a can of Bud Light still nestled inside like an aluminum passenger aboard a tiny ship. I stretched out my hand, plucked it from the water, and deposited it into my tube. That little victory felt momentous at the time, as I’d assumed the Yeti was at the bottom of the river by then.

Next up were the inner tubes. After some more desperate paddling, I somehow managed to snag them. So I’m in my tube, hanging on to two others for dear life, and glance over my shoulder. Tara is rapidly receding into the distance. I turn around, and spot an island in the middle of the river. Was this the one we were supposed to skirt to the left of? I had no clue, but it didn’t matter, as the river was taking me in that direction anyway. Too quickly. I realized suddenly that if I had any chance of salvaging this trip and reuniting with Tara, I would have to land on that island. If I overshot it, I’d be swept down the river who knows how far. My paddling was ineffective, so at this point I made my own bad decision and jumped out of the inner tube, reasoning that the water was shallow enough here for me to walk onto the shore, pushing the tubes and cooler. Well, yes, the water was shallow – but the current was swift as hell and the moss-covered rocks on the bottom of the river were so slippery it was impossible to find my footing. I was immediately knocked off my feet and dragged underwater, and thought to myself – in all seriousness – you are about to drown.

My heart pounded furiously even as I shot to the surface. I struggled like mad to avoid being swept away, terrified at the prospect of being pulled under again, and scrambled over those rocks through chest-deep water as if my life depended upon it. Which it sort of did. Amazingly, I found the strength to make it to shore. And breathed a huge sigh of relief while I tried to steady my nerves.

Thank god we’d brought waterproof pouches for our phones. My Fitbit had taken the plunge, but luckily was none the worse for wear. Not that personal electronic devices mattered in the least in that moment. I looked upstream and found Tara, slowly but steadily making her way toward the island. The water in that section was shoulder-deep, but the current was not bad at all.

Until she reached the channel where I’d lost my footing.

She was in earshot then, so I called out to her to stay put. I figured I’d try to paddle upstream against the current and have her hold on, but she figured it would be easier to get over to the island and thus had little choice but to risk it. Naturally, she was swept off her feet at about the same place as me, and took another dunk. The current was pulling her along, she was partly underwater, and I panicked again, watching helplessly as my wife struggled. She was unable to make it to her feet and I thought, for the second time that afternoon, that somebody was about to drown. I lunged forward, reached out my hand…

…and my fingers closed around hers.

Relief, guys. Huge and overpowering. I was able to pull her to shore.

I fucking saved her life.

She might say I’m being overdramatic, but I don’t think I am. People drown all the time. You hear stories on the news every summer. This very easily could have turned disastrous for us. I watched her flailing helplessly as the mighty river pulled her along, and I truly believe with 100% certainty that I saved her life.

Rather than collapsing into my arms and thanking me for staving off the Grim Reaper, my dear wife instead reached into the cooler, grabbed a can of Bud Light, popped it open and started guzzling it.

“You almost drowned, and you’re drinking a beer?!” I asked incredulously.

“I’m thirsty,” she said with a shrug.

And really, that’s why I love her. All the tension dissipated in that instant. After allowing ourselves a few minutes to regain our composure, we set our tubes back into the river (tethering all three together this time) and climbed aboard.

“We don’t get out for anything the rest of the trip,” she said, and I nodded my head in agreement. There are some things you don’t need to be told twice about.

An hour later we reached our departure point, without further incident. And best of all, alive. Once we got over the shock of almost dying, it was actually rather peaceful.

Would I do it again? I suppose so…but you can bet your ass I will never, ever leave the safety of my tube next time.

 

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…

Juanito Told Lupe

It’s nice to have one food you are so good at making, you become “known” for it. People expect it whenever they come over for dinner. They ask for the recipe but, if it truly is “your thing,” they can never duplicate it. For me, that is guacamole.

(Side note: I was walking through the Camas farmer’s market yesterday and saw a sign for “Fresh Guak.” That k just about killed me. Once an editor, always an editor, I suppose.)

I’ve been making this guacamole for the better part of a decade now, and have it perfected. I stumbled upon a recipe from Who Song & Larry’s, a local Mexican food joint, in the newspaper one time. I was a big fan of their guacamole – which they make fresh for you, table-side, while singing an outlandish guacamole song to the tune of “Woolly Bully.” You can only imagine. The lyrics go like this:

Well, Juanito told Lupe

About a thing he saw

It was green and squishy

And they ate it all.

Guacamole!!

Guacamole.

Guacamole (squish, squish), guacamole (squish, squish), guacamole.

There’s more, but I trust you get the picture. There is a video clip on YouTube if you’re that inclined to hear the rest. Corny song aside, I really liked Who Songs’ guacamole, so I saved the recipe and made it. It was pretty, pretty good, as Larry David would say, but I gradually modified it over the years. Today, I’ve achieved avocado perfection. Juanito and Lupe would be proud. So I make it for potlucks and parties and dinner get-togethers when we have people over. In true rock ‘n roll fashion I’ve even made it on the road, at other people’s houses, though thankfully nobody was waving a lighter in my face while I was dicing up onions.

Not mine. But eerily similar. Green, chunky…what a coincidence!

And I’m happy to do it. I could probably make it in my sleep at this point. I’d share the recipe, but because it’s “my thing,” you won’t be able to duplicate it. Trust me.

Tara’s thing is deviled eggs, by the way. What’s yours?


Speaking of Larry David, I finished watching “Curb Your Enthusiasm” over the weekend and now I kind of don’t know what to do with myself. Eight seasons worth, 10 episodes per season. That means I just completed 80 episodes of Curb (though I’m not sure if you’d call it “binge watching” as this was spread out over a few months’ time…is there an official equation for determining what constitutes a binge watch?), and as predicted by all who encouraged me to watch, loved it. Like, freakin’ loved it (because, hi mom!). Almost without exception, it’s brilliant and hilarious and sarcastic and dark. All positive factors in a sitcom. I’m on the fence as to whether it’s better than Seinfeld. I mostly find the idea ludicrous and sacrilegious, but then I think about Denise Handicapped and the awkwardly inappropriate question of whether a Chinese baby has a predilection for chopsticks and the prostitute Larry hired simply to take advantage of the carpool lane and the idea doesn’t seem so farfetched at all. I’d say both series are close – it’s almost a toss-up for me – so if you’re a Seinfeld fan looking for something similar but have never checked out Curb, I highly recommend you do so.

Now.

Seriously, what are you waiting for?

(Other than to finish my blog post, of course.)


(And leave a comment.)


Did anybody take advantage of Prime Day on 7/11?

Up until this year, I knew nothing about it. I was never an Amazon Prime member, so why would I? But I am now (the ability to maybe-binge watch 80 episodes of Curb Your Enthusiasm alone was worth the price), so I actually started paying attention this time around.

I ended up buying a brand new Kindle Fire 7 tablet for an impossible-to-resist price of $20. It was marked down from $50 to $30 that one day only, and ordering through Alexa would give you a $10 Amazon credit, so I jumped all over that. And I had no desire for a tablet before that day, but I gotta admit, it’s nice to have around. I gave my old MacBook to Audrey at the beginning of the year, reasoning that I could always bring my work laptop home if I needed to do something. (Like writing a blog post at 6:30 p.m.). It’s worked out fine, but it is nice to have a tablet with a screen that’s big and easy to read. So, good job, Prime Day! You have made me a convert!

And to think the previous most exciting thing to ever happen to me on 7/11 was a free Slurpee…

Tara also bought a tent on Prime Day. She got a lightning deal that saved her $40. Great timing, as we have a camping trip coming up the end of next week. It’s quite a haul, five hours away and north of Mount Rainier, but we’ve got a great spot right next to the river and are looking forward to a couple of days spent hiking, exploring, and kicking back in front of the campfire with a cocktail in our hands and not a worry on our minds.

No doubt Tara will want me to make guacamole.

I’ll offer her a trade if she brings deviled eggs…

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!

Everything Old is New Again

We were watching MasterChef last night, and at one point Christina Tosi, one of the judges, started choking and coughing after tasting one contestant’s scrambled eggs, which she declared were too peppery. I have no doubt she was heavy handed with the pepper grinder, but Christina carried on the charade so long that I said, “Enough with the histrionics already!” At which point Tara and Audrey both looked at me and snickered.

“What?” I asked.

They exchanged a knowing glance between themselves, mumbled something along the lines of “this is what we were talking about earlier” but refused to say more.

“Are you questioning my use of histrionics?” I asked, pressing the issue.  And then I hit PAUSE on the DVR, typed the word into Google, and read aloud the definition.

“See?!” I said. “It really is the perfect word for this situation!” I think most of you would agree had you seen Christina’s wildly exaggerated coughing fit. It wasn’t until later…much later, in fact…that I realized how my dramatic, defensive response could be considered a bit histrionic, as well.

Oh, the irony.

I still don’t know why they were laughing at me, either.


We’ve been watching America’s Got Talent this season for the first time in years, and enjoying it quite a bit. We were inspired by last month’s Tape Face show, a gift from Tracy; we enjoyed the comedian so much, we decided to check out AGT again in the hope of discovering some other great acts. This season has not disappointed! It’s hard to pick a favorite, given that there are so many talented people this time around. I’m pretty sure one of the many gifted singers is going to win, though. That’s usually the case.

Anyway, Audrey asked why we ever stopped watching in the first place, as the kids and I used to really like the show. The truth is, I don’t know! Maybe it was a general reality television burnout, or perhaps I was bummed that Recycled Percussion didn’t win Season 4, or maybe I got too busy courting Tara. For whatever reason, the show dropped off my radar for a few years. But it’s back now.

This has actually been a trend as of late. In the past year, I have started watching a bunch of shows I’d given up for dead years earlier. First up was Survivor last fall, followed by The Amazing Race in the spring. Maybe I’m just on a general nostalgia trip as of late.

Come to think of it, this whole idea of moving back to Rapid City is yet another example of me rediscovering the past. Hmm. How interesting.

Everything old is new again, I guess.

Dogs and Pigs

We went to an anti-Trump rally disguised as a rock concert Saturday night. And it was great.

Even casual Pink Floyd fans should know that Roger Waters is one of the most political and outspoken musicians in the business. When he performed “Money” and the video screen behind the stage cut to photos of Trump Tower and the Taj Mahal, it wasn’t exactly shocking. But that was merely the beginning. There was no doubt who he was referring to when he sang “picture a leader with no fucking brains” in his new song “Picture That,” followed soon after by a choir of schoolchildren who discarded jumpsuits for t-shirts with the word RESIST midway through “Another Brick in the Wall.” He was really just getting warmed up, though.

The real fun came in the second half, following an intermission. A series of giant projectors split the Tacoma Dome in half, and images of Donald Trump surrounded by KKK and Nazi propaganda filled the screens. Ol’ Roger really let loose then, turning 20 minutes’ worth of “Animals” tracks (Floyd’s most underrated album, in my opinion) into a crusade against tyranny and oppression. “Dogs” and “Pigs” have never sounded more relevant (“big man, pig man/ha-ha, charade you are”). Even the infamous flying pig got into the action; one side featured an image of Trump’s face with dollar signs in place of eyes declaring “I won!” while the other was emblazoned with the slogan PIGGY BANK OF WAR. The monitors continued to show images, such as that of Putin holding a diaper-clad baby Trump. Let’s just say subtlety is not Roger’s forte. It was a spectacle unlike anything I have ever seen, and given my political views, a message I could appreciate.

Nothing subtle about Roger’s message.

Oh, yeah. There was music, too. And it was good! 80 percent Pink Floyd classics, the rest tracks from Roger’s new solo album. Great setlist, focused mostly on “Dark Side of the Moon,” “Wish You Were Here,” “Animals,” and “The Wall.” If you’re a rock ‘n roll fan, this is one concert to cross off your bucket list. Unless you’re a Trump supporter, in which case you’ll probably walk out in disgust.

To each their own.

We drove all the way up to Tacoma for the concert because Tara is a huge Roger Waters fan, and there was no Portland show initially. He did end up adding one, months later, but by then we already had our tickets. It gave us a good excuse to explore Tacoma a little bit, meet up with a longtime blogging friend in person, and visit with family. We finally got to check out the Museum of Glass, which pays homage to Dale Chihuly and other glass artisans from around the world. It was a really cool exhibit, and we got to see the Hot Shop where they were working on new pieces. If you’re ever in Tacoma, I recommend a trip there.

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Kind of a whirlwind trip, but we packed a lot in, and the weekend actually felt extra long because of all we did. The only downside was the hot weather. It was in the 90s in Tacoma and a solid 100 when we got home late Sunday afternoon. I was a little worried because all the traffic lights along Mill Plain Boulevard were off and the businesses lining the main thoroughfare were dark, but fortunately our apartment complex was on the right grid (in other words, the one not affected by the blackout) and our central A/C was keeping things nice and cool. Whew!

The Roger Waters show was actually our second concert of the week. Wednesday night, we went to see The Shins at the Edgefield amphitheater. We’d seen them once before, in Bend shortly after Tara moved out here in 2012, but our memories of that evening are a bit sketchy because we got a tad drunk. And by “a tad drunk” I mean totally blitzed. It was by far the most inebriated I’ve ever been in my life, which is a shame because I really didn’t enjoy the concert like I should have. We made up for that this time around, limiting ourselves to just a couple of drinks each. It was perfect weather for an outdoor concert, right around 70 degrees or so, and because it was the summer solstice, the sky wasn’t even completely dark yet when we left. We really enjoyed ourselves, even though we had to go to work the next day. And lead singer James Mercer is so damn affable, he told the crowd how excited he was to be performing for his hometown, when just a few hours earlier he’d been mowing his grass. Then went on to explain that he doesn’t even have a riding mower; he was literally pushing a little self-propelled Honda across the lawn. It doesn’t get more down to earth than that.

James Mercer, a few hours after mowing his lawn.

In other news, we are planning a road trip to South Dakota! Though my idea of moving to Rapid City may have started out as a lark, it’s gathering traction. The more we research, the more sense this makes for us. I know my mom isn’t thrilled over the idea, but there are a lot of pros, most of them centered on cost of living. Plus, Rapid City was ranked #16 in Livability’s Best Places to Live last year. It may not be for everybody, but it might very well be for us. We shall see. We’re going to head out there over the long Columbus Day weekend in October.

Just a quick explanation on why we are considering bailing on this part of the country: we were prequalified for a loan, but the amount we are eligible for is considerably lower than the price of the homes we are looking at – and the disparity between the two continues to grow every month. The housing market is so bullish right now, listings are being gobbled up within days. I’m even hearing of bidding wars taking place. So while you might pull up a Zillow listing and see that the estimated monthly mortgage payment is, say, $900, that would be based on a huge down payment. We’ve crunched our own numbers and would be looking at a figure double that amount, which would be very difficult to swing. It puts more and more homes out of reach. Now, if we were to buy a comparable home for $115K less, we wouldn’t be nearly as strapped. Obviously a lot depends on the job situation, but it definitely makes the idea worth exploring.

Who wouldn’t want to get the most bang for their buck?

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.

You Can Ring My Bell

We had the longest, most hilarious debate at work on Friday. It all started when I walked with Sarah to the post office. There was one of those bells on the counter that said “ring for service,” and nobody up front, so I did as instructed and rang it for service. This caused Sarah to freak out. When the postal employee came up front to help, she started apologizing profusely for my behavior, even making excuses for me (“Sorry about that…he likes to ring bells”) that, quite frankly, made it sound like I am not all “there” in the head.

First off, I don’t “like to ring bells.” What I like to do is follow instructions, and when there is a bell on the counter with a sign saying to ring it, I’m going to ring it! So there was no need to beg for my forgiveness. What was I supposed to do, stand around waiting for the postal employee to wander up front whenever it was convenient for him? He was hard at work sorting mail in the back and probably appreciated hearing the bell. Even if he did not appreciate it, too bad – it was sitting there begging to be rung. Literally. He can be mad at his boss for putting it there, but he’d better not be upset with me.

So I got back to the office and was relaying this story to my team. Not A Palindrome said, “I will sit in a waiting room ’til I die before I ring a bell.” This naturally led to a bigger conversation about bells – specifically, doorbells. I wanted to know if she and Deb were knockers or ringers. And for the next 45 minutes, we engaged in a spirited debate over the issue.

Not A Palindrome’s issue with bells stems from the fact that she doesn’t like to make a lot of noise. I countered by saying a loud knock is more disturbing than a ringing bell, but she explained that she knocks softly. When I asked what happens if they don’t hear her, she said she’ll knock again and again, progressively louder, until they finally do hear her – a process that takes three times on average by her estimation. I told her that she’d only have to ring the doorbell once to get the person’s attention, which meant knocking was an inefficient method, but she said she never claimed it was efficient, it’s just what she does.

Deb is a ringer like me, but makes some concessions for knocking (e.g., she’ll knock if there is a baby in the house, or it’s early in the morning). My question is, what constitutes “early”? I’m up by 7:00 on weekends, so you can ring my bell all you want on a Saturday morning and I’m perfectly okay with that. But maybe the other person is a night owl who likes to sleep in late; they might consider 10:00 early. So I’m wondering, what is the cutoff? Are we drawing demarcation lines in the sand at a certain time of day to separate knocking from ringing? And how on earth do we come to an agreement? Hell, if you work the graveyard shift, 3 p.m. might be early while 2 a.m. is lunchtime. It’s madness.

Complicating matters further, Deb said it also depends on whether the person knows you are dropping by. If they’re expecting her, she’ll knock. If not, she’ll ring the bell.

Why does this matter?!?!

 

In any case, I found the whole thing very eye-opening, and I’m curious: are you a knocker or a ringer?


Tara and I had quite the urban adventure Saturday. We took the light rail train into Portland (just a week after the fatal MAX double stabbing that made national news…ugh) and walked to the PSU farmer’s market. Our long, wet winter and spring have delayed the hotly-anticipated arrival of fresh berries, but finally – finally! – strawberries were available. That alone made the trip worthwhile.

After grabbing a bite to eat, Tara turned to me and asked, “How adventurous are you feeling today?” I was in the mood to step outside of my comfort zone, so we hopped onto the Portland Street Car – a new experience for us both – and randomly explored some parts of the city we’d never seen. We alternated between street cars and MAX trains and shuttle buses and eventually found ourselves at the International Rose Test Garden. Talk about taking advantage of mass transit! Planet Earth owes us big time for yesterday. At least the weather was perfect for urban exploration – overcast and in the mid 60s. We got home around 5:30 and enjoyed a low-key evening with a simple dinner, BLTs and corn on the cob, and a Netflix movie (“Black Mass” with an unrecognizable Johnny Depp playing notorious Boston gangster James “Whitey” Bulger).

Nobody knocked on our door or rang the bell all evening, I’m happy to report.

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.