September 1998 Archives

The mountain

I spent the weekend helping Amy collect her things from Spokane.

We rode Amtrak up and drove a rented truck back, filled with boxes, a futon, a dresser, and a chair. (Homethings.)

We came home on I-84, heading West from Umatilla.

The freeway follows the Columbia on its slow and powerful trip to the sea.

In the midst of following the road following the river, the sun began to go down.

Beyond everything, directly in the Columbia's path, Mt. Hood stretched and yawned and settled in at 11,245 feet.

I looked at the mountain (a whisper of a mountain with the sun settling over it just so) and thought:

I climbed you.

And just as I was settling into my weak and petty pride, I remembered that the mountain has the power to take life in seconds.

I remember the mountain exercising that power.

Autumn arrived with grace

I can remember clearly when it was too hot to sleep.

Now I am curling tightly into my covers.

The Autumn equinox came upon us at 10:34pm PST last night. The shift is suddenly complete.

It smells wonderful outside.

The season is kissing the earth on the nape of her neck. Gently.

It is also deliciously quiet.

Those few people who are not tucked into the corner of a bookstore, a coffee shop, or their homes are on the street only because they have a specific purpose.

They have been working late and are finally getting home.

They are walking across the city to meet a friend.

They are restless. They need a wet kind of quiet.

Something about the temperature (just cold enough), the smell, the rain, and the indiscriminate whitegrey that fills the sky entirely makes me think of soccer.

An explanation by way of anecdote:

When I was in 8th grade, my soccer team sat squarely on the top of our league for one very specific reason. We were amazingly adept in the mud.

It is a soggy, dripping, mossy, thick, secretive season.

And I am curling up quietly with a book.

How about you?

The coast as home

I've been better.

And I've been worse.

(Sounds like the beginning of a poor poem.)

Lars and his mother are traveling from Astoria to Florence, taking in the entire Oregon coast on the way. It has been a dream of hers.

"Das ist die Spitze!"

Last night Anne showed me slides from the Lars and Anne's tour of the west. I haven't been to many of the places they visited, so the slides were wonderful and new.

And then, when we arrived at the last two sets of slides, and the Germans pulled into Yosemite, I felt a warm sense of recognition.

Better still when they drove over the border ("Welcome to Oregon! Please fasten your seatbelt") and began their drive up the Oregon coast.

Rock jutted out into the Pacific. Waves crashed. Sand dunes rolled into the sea.

Cliffs dropped suddenly into the deep blue.

I was home.

Leaf five has tooth marks in it

Portland is a city filled with secrets.

I suppose every place has them.

Alleys and courtyards hide them.

When I was young, I was the bearer and discoverer of secrets.

Now I am a keeper of them.

And my place to tuck them away is called teeth.

Here are a few promises:

The posts will be glorious to behold.

I will post carefully (I'm only saying I'm not going to fill your inbox with piles of teeth that will never make it to

Special things.

Secret things.

Leaf four

I bought a huge cookbook on Sunday.

Our apartment had been one year, to the day, without a cookbook.

So I celebrated our triumph, and my sudden wisdom (we should have a cookbook... it would be helpful...) by purchasing the most expensive one I could find.

The beast of all cookbooks. The definitive guide. A reference manual, with a red ribbon to mark your place.

And right away, I was at the store, looking over the steelhead.

"Give me that small one near the back," I said. It weighed exactly one pound.

Hmm... fresh basil, garlic, fresh cilantro, a couple of avocados, tomatoes...

Flowers for the table.

At home I read that fish should be left well enough alone.

So I brushed the fillet lightly with oil and threw it in a preheated pan.

Just before flipping it, I threw salt and pepper carefully across the pink flesh.

I diced two tomatoes, finely chopped some fresh basil, added a spot of garlic, a dash of salt, a larger dash of pepper, and ten drops of olive oil.

This completed the side dish.

By the time we were ready for dessert, no one had room for it.

We shuffled off to bed and dreamed of trout making its careful and fateful way home.

Back from the sea's deep secrets, up shallow freshwater streams, toward death.

Leaf three

It is a kind of writers block that I am experiencing now.

I can write journal entries with little problem.

Everything else (narrative, short stories, poetry) is swift. It eludes with a certain skill.

I have taken to composing in the most basic text editors. Fancy word processors are too much glitz for a writer with nothing to write.

I would write by hand, except that I cannot read my own writing.

(( A writer composing in absolutely indecipherable code. ))

There is one story about a taxi driver. One about a girl in a bowling alley.

There is a composition for my father's wedding. One true story meant to translate a near-mythical evening.

One catalog of a long journey.

Projects coming out of the walls, but nothing completed recently.

I need inspiration.

Any ideas?

Leaf two {and a birthday wish}

What are you doing here?

{happy birthday!}

Leaf one

Planning for these days is difficult.

Mornings are always crisp.

Afternoons are breezy or still, hot or cool, sunny or cloudy, wet or dry.

I roll a pair of mental dice and grab an outfit. I hedge my bets with a packable rain jacket.

The trees are still dressed in green, though the ground is slowly collecting yellowed leaves.

Public school is in session. Every day on the trip to work, I roll by high school students making their tired way to class.

The bells ring in the churches every hour on the hour, like they have for as long as I can remember.

I just don't seem to notice until September.

A little criticism

The H.O.R.D.E. came through Portland last weekend. Portland being the tour's last show this year, the artists and crew were feeling particularly sentimental.

Unfortunately, this also meant that John Popper played at least one tune with every band.

I'm rightly impressed by Popper's harmonica skills. Every time he plays, I think, "Wow. I could never do that."

But harmonica is harmonica. The power of the instrument is it's simplicity, and the best harmonica players understand it's limitations.

Because of its unique timbre, it is most powerful when it is used sparingly.

When it whines and hums at just the right times, we are moved.

John Popper, though, is trapped under the weight of his prodigious ability.

He can play so fast that unwitting listeners are shocked when they learn he is playing harmonica.

It is impressive.

And to keep up appearances, Popper is obligated to impress.

Each harmonica solo begins beautifully. For a few bars, he plays musically, carefully, melodically. And then, suddenly, inevitably, he reaches the instrument's high range. He throws out a constant barrage of eighth notes and triplets.

It all sounds the same.

Jazz musicians tend to go through this phase. John Coltrane went through it. Critics called it "sheets of sound."

Coltrane grew out of it, though. He blew like crazy until he had played all of the notes he could, and then he realized that his prodigy was impressive, but not very musical.

He began thinking again about what the music demanded of him. Just because he could play fast didn't mean he should play fast.

Suddenly his music became introspective, beautiful, and nearly perfect.

His "sheets of sound" period was amazing (I own several albums where Coltrane blows up and down his horn in unbelievable ways...) but I am more impressed with the careful period that followed it.

It is probably unfair to compare Coltrane and Popper. Coltrane is legendary. Popper is a mere prodigy.

Someday, Popper may learn to play less. He may extend that purely musical minute at the beginning of his solos. He may grow into something great.

But this weekend, we put up with Fastball, laughed with and enjoyed Brown Van 3000, were absolutely impressed by Bare Naked Ladies, enjoyed the stylings of Galactic, loved Ben Harper but wished we could see him in a smaller venue, rocked out to the hard-core blues and funk of Robert Bradley's Blackwater Surprise...

and left before Blues Traveler played a note.

Art and coffee

My left hand is gripping my coffee mug. It looks like one of those robotic arms they use to build cars and other things.

The mug is on my desk, handle pointing at two o'clock.

My right hand is sitting on my mouse. The ball beneath my index finger rests on the mouse's curve. The index finger stretches out, bends, and rests on the mouse's wheel. This is how I scroll.

The coffee is from this morning.

It has been microwaved because it was cold.

When it is microwaved, it takes on the flavor of coffee-soaked firewood. I kind of like it.

Last night was First Thursday. Nearly every gallery in Portland has an opening on the first Thursday of each month: artists standing near their work, food and drinks provided, and piles of people wandering here and there, as eclectic as the works on display.

The air outside the galleries was hiding behind a perfect temperature and a stillness that wasn't at all stuffy.

And the work was incomprehensible, wonderful, ridiculous, stunning, and silly. One artist penned small ink drawings of household objects on light yellow paper, each drawing one continuous line (the drawings were kindergarten quality--light and simple). The paper was mounted on an off-white heavy stock, and then framed in small square wooden frames.

Interesting, but if I can make it myself for the cost of the frame, paper, and pen, why would I want to spend $300 on it?

After visiting several galleries, navigating the crowds like salmon in spawning season, Amy bought me two slices of pizza and a ginger ale at Escape From New York.

Twenty-third Avenue--a trendy shopping-mall-of-sorts kind of street with unique shops tucked into historic houses and the first floors of turn-of-the-century apartment buildings--gives one the impression that Christmas is celebrated year-round.

This impression is the product of lights strung through trees that line the street.

Amy and I sat under these trees, eating our pizza, talking about the people and art we had just seen, enjoying the still, cool air, anticipating something we couldn't describe.

My coffee is cold again.

I turn my head down to look at it. I look back at my monitor without turning my head; this is accomplished by a strange shifting of the eyes.

In this position I look sly.

Birds and butts

Having left my inline skates at work, I was forced to travel by foot this morning.

Having neglected laundry, I wore sandals with no socks.

Having stubbed my pinky toe in this last week (in one blow, it became a bloody, painful pulp), I walked slowly and carefully.

A pigeon flew down in front of me as I walked.

What you should know: I really don't like pigeons. I'm not talking about an uncontrollable kind of loathing. It's more like a distinct distaste. I love animals in general, but specific experience with dirty, disease-ridden pigeons while traveling through Europe tainted my view of them.

This particular pigeon welcomed me to work by flying with a certain style--a celebration of it's freedom, maybe. Whatever it was, for one striking moment, I was impressed.

On the way back from lunch, some guy tossed a cigarette out of the window of his parked car. I picked it up, doused it, and carried it to the nearest trash can.

Now I'm feeling like a dork because I didn't just give it back to him.

"I believe you dropped something."

More power to smokers. It's your body, your life, and most of the time, your air.

But this guy littered on a sidewalk that was already covered with flattened butts. It's just plain ugly.

So I'm asking one very simple thing of smokers in general: please don't be lazy about your butts.

About this Archive

This page is an archive of entries from September 1998 listed from newest to oldest.

August 1998 is the previous archive.

October 1998 is the next archive.

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