Things I read, started to read and didn’t read in October

I read a lot. I always have, and the insomnia problem I’m dealing with just gives me more time to read. I spend more time reading than probably anything in my life with the exception of working and sleeping. So I decided to keep track here of what I read. I added to this entry all through October, with the intention of publishing it at the end of the month. About a week ago I realized that this is a very long entry and I would be better off posting as I finish books and save my end of the month recap for the books I give up on or end up not reading. So new format next month.

The Royal Treatment.
MaryJanice Davidson.
What if the U.S. hadn’t bought Alaska, but instead it had become it’s own country? With a king? And what if the King ran into a feisty American who he thought would be perfect for the crown prince? And what if hijinks ensue? This is a the usual girl-meets-boy book, but setting it in the Sitka Palace in Alaska made it interesting.

Sleeping With Cats: a memoir.
Marge Piercy.
Marge Piercy has lead a very interesting life. And I am an incredibly boring middle class girl. This was a great book.

The Friendship Test.
Elizabeth Noble.
After immersing myself in Ms. Piercy’s fascinating life, I needed some fluff to cotton my mind again. Four friends meet in college, then stay friends and are there for each other when two have problems in their mid-thirties. And there is a romance. I didn’t hate anyone, it didn’t tax my brain and now it is over.

Cataloochee: a novel.
Wayne Caldwell.
Set in Appalachia, one of my favorite kind of books: sprawling time period with a family tree at the front to keep track of the characters as they age and reproduce. It began just as the Civil War was ending and kept going all the way to the 1920’s. This book had me flipping to the family tree constantly, because it had a lot of characters, but I enjoyed getting to know them as they aged.

Sex Wars.
Marge Piercy.
This was a great book. I really like Marge Piercy, her novel Gone to Soldiers is one of my top 10. It’s not about that type of sex, but what we would refer to as gender. The book takes place in the 1870s and follows a few main characters: a Jewish Immigrant from Russia, Anthony Comstock (of the Comstock Laws), Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Victoria Woodhouse. Their stories intertwine and made me both happy that women have a lot of rights now and also angry about the status of women, both historically and today. Marge Piercy really brings this time period to life.

Fun Home
Alison Bechdel
Matt is the graphic novel reader in the house–my skimming style of reading and leftover classist issues mean that I don’t read them. I did read Craig Thompson’s “Blankets,” which was good, and Matt also introduced me to the serial comic “Dykes to Watch Out For” drawn by Alison Bechdel. Matt being Matt, he also checked out all the “Dykes” books from the library so we’ve both read the whole series. It’s good. Anyway, the foremost author of “Dykes” has written a memoir about her father’s death when she was 20 and he was 44. A few months before his death, and right after (like the sentence after) she came out as a lesbian, Bechdel’s mother told her that her father slept with men. This book is a history of her life with her family and is beautifully told and drawn. In discussing with Matt, I learned that it is better to read a chapter, then put the book down and come back later for the next, rather than devour it in two days as I did.

Every Man for Himself: Ten Short Stories About Being a Guy
Ed. Nancy E. Mercado
Not the short stories I thought it would be, a fact which is clearly stated in the introduction: “They are not stories about your voice changing, learning how to shave, or any other ‘coming-of-age’ cliches like that.” Instead there are 10 pretty original stories. About a guy who has a lottery to take a girl to the prom and finds that every action around that becomes a statement for someone. About The Unbeatable, a student at the NewMan Academy for the Enhanced who’s name gets him into a lot of trouble. About a boy sent to live with his grandmother who, when she catches him kissing a girl, makes him take care of a piglet. A few of these stories I did not enjoy, but most were good.

Rock Star, Superstar
Blake Nelson.
Pete is a high school student who plays bass in a band. It’s a cover band, but they make good money. He joins another band and they suddenly have a chance to make it big. But is this high school student ready for the big time? And how does this affect his relationship with his girlfriend, his father and his friends? I read a good amount of Young Adult fiction and this was some good stuff. It was also set in Portland, so that was fun. And the main character reminded me of one of the kids in my youth group. Blake Nelson wrote “Paranoid Park” which Gus Van Sant adapted into his new movie.

Linden Hills
Gloria Naylor.
I read Mama Day in college and loved the book. I tried to read The Men of Brewster Place and couldn’t get into it. So when I was checking out books a few weeks ago I stumbled into the “N’s” and happily found Naylor, Gloria. This book is about land owned by a former slave before the Civil War. After the war his son and grandson, etc through five generations build Linden Hills, a subdivision for only the best black people. But all isn’t as it seems in Linden Hills as two young men find out as they do odd jobs to make money before Christmas. This was engrossing, but hard to read, I finished three other books as I was reading this one. I kept getting distracted trying to figure out where this Linden Hills was supposed to be set (it may have said at the beginning of the book, but I wasn’t paying attention) and also what the time period was. Other than that, it was a great character study of a handful of characters. Mama Day makes a two paragraph cameo.

Paranoid Park
Blake Nelson
Another YA book by Blake Nelson. This one is about a high school kid who inadvertently, well, it’s pretty gruesome and I don’t want to say what it is, but he didn’t mean it to happen. He gets away with it, and the book traces his reaction in the days and weeks after it happens. Gus Van Sant’s newest movie is based on this book. The “it” scene is very well written in a screw-up-your-face kind of a way. This is also set in Portland. It may inspire a Gus Van Sant movie with dialog again.

Started but didn’t finish:
What goes around.
Alexandra Carew.
I hate this book. I’m only reading it because I have no other fiction right now. Every character I have encountered I have hated. No more!

In a Country of Mothers.
A.M. Holmes.
I really liked the last book I read by her (This Book Will Save Your Life) and expected to like this one. However, the shrink, one of the main characters, was entirely unlikeable by the close to the end point (about 20 pages more to go) and her patient wasn’t so great either. Plus, neither of these people seemed to need money. Like they didn’t have to go to work. It just bugged and I stopped reading.

Catching Alice.
Claire Naylor.
I grabbed this while I was grabbing Linden Hills. It’s one of those novels that Bridget Jones has paved the way to publish. I can’t tell you how many books I’ve found in the last 10 years where the main character is tragically flawed, spends the whole book flailing about and finds love at the end. In Bridget Jones there was much laughter. Most of the other ones range from fluffy to sad. This was sad. I’m not even going to bother telling you the plotline.

Anything Considered
Peter Mayle
I really liked A Year in Provence. Every piece of Mayle fiction I’ve read since that time. Eh. It passes the time, but I don’t really like it. I’m about 20 pages from the end and will I finish? Who knows? Who cares? This story is about an Englishman living in France who is out of money and advertises for a position. Anything considered. He ends up on this convoluted chase. It’s kind of boring.

Sugar Blues
William Dufty
I haven’t eaten sugar since late September (except the slice of cake I had on my birthday). I checked this book out of the library because it is a classic, but it is so dated. I already think sugar is bad for you, so I don’t really need 200 pages to tell me the entire history of sugar and all the havoc, physically and socially, it has created. I skimmed, then skipped entire chapters. Then I flipped to the second to last chapter, read it and then decided that was all I needed of that particular book.

Checked out of the library and didn’t even read:

Life your Life for Half the Price: Without Sacrificing the Life You Love.
Mary Hunt.
I just read a book by her and wasn’t ready to read another one. I’m not in the mood for financial books, though I do go through stages where I will read tons of them.

Halloween Graveyard.

Today, I bring you the best Halloween decorations in the neighborhood. Why the fuss over a few fake gravestones and some pumpkins? Let’s look a little closer……
Ah, The Flat Earth. It had a good life. As did disco (which seems to have some sort of nostalgic zombie thing going on)
And we often morn those family values (especially every election). I personally morn the loss of the LP, though I’m not sure where the date comes from. Nuclear Power. Is it dead? France doesn’t think so.
I guarantee you a history major lives here.
Hee hee. Happy Halloween.

Red Sox memories.

I lived in Massachusetts from 1996-2001, and spent the majority of those years living in South Boston and Somerville. Before arriving in the Bay State, I had no idea that the Red Sox were living under a curse.

At the library in college, I came across some graffiti on a desk asking “What dumb $%^& blew the 1986 World Series?” The answer was scratched in the desk along with more choice words about the player.

I asked my then-boyfriend the trivia question and the sentence was barely out of my mouth when he spit out the answer. “Bill Buckner.”

“How do you know that?” I was amazed, this being a decade after that particular series was over.

“It was one of the worst plays in Red Sox history,” he explained to me, as if I should know this. “The Red Sox are the worst team ever. They always loose. They haven’t won a World Series since 1918”

“The Cubs haven’t won a series since 1908. What makes Boston worse than them?” I asked.

He sighed and said, “The Red Sox come so close to winning and then lose in the most painful way. It’s torture.”

And thus I was introduced to the sad/happy loser culture that was being a fan of the Red Sox.

A few years later, I was living in Boston and watching the evening news. The Red Sox had just lost some important game and were not going to advance. There were man-on-the-street interviews. One of them was a middle aged man, nicely dressed and very angry. “My father,” he spit out, “My father, is eighty-three years old! When is he going to see us win a series?”

I laughed, but I thought of that man every September and wondered, in 2004, if the poor man’s father was still alive to see them win.

NPR tonight had a story about younger fans having escaped this sad/happy state of loserdom. “The Boston Red Sox are the greatest team evah!” one teenager said. One of the parents commented about his child’s confidence in his team, “I know that eventually, the Red Sox will let him down.”

And thus, a new generation will be born.

Random pictures from the last two months

I’ve been carrying my camera around, but haven’t been downloading pictures as much. Here are 7 random pictures from the last two months.

Caveman run this place. Today special? Sandwich. That all.
Actually, I walked by about two hours later and the message had been fleshed out to read: today special half sandwich and soup. More intelligible, but not as funny.

What’s the story behind this van, do you think? It was parked downtown.
When Matt and I went to visit my Dad and Barb in Arizona, we saw a lot of this in front yards. This, however, is an Oregon specimen, from my neighborhood. Impressive!
On the way to the Max stop is a very button-down security firm. It’s a nondescript office building with a parking lot. Boring, boring, boring. What fun to walk by one day and see these two ladies outside. I’m not sure what the protocol is when finding chickens. They don’t have collars, so it’s hard to figure out where they came from. I’m not sure how this story ended.
This is a bad picture of the beautiful moon in September. It was so beautiful that, while stopped at a light, the guy in the car next to me (I was on my bike) beeped his horn to get my attention so he could exclaim “Look at the moon!” while pointing out his sunroof. “I know!” I said. And stopped to take a picture.
Tis the season. We don’t really have fog here like I experienced living in South Boston, or even Boise. Our fog is more like very small particles of slow-falling rain. This day, a spider had spun a web on a real estate sign and the fog just made it pop.
Heh-heh. Ah, Halloween decorations. This made me chuckle. People don’t go all out in this neighborhood with the decorations, but they do decorate. I’ve got another house I need to walk by in the daylight because it is very funny.
So ends the random pictures.

Robert Slack has had enough.

I found this sign on the door of an apartment building downtown. It made me laugh. I can relate to the huffy nature of this memo. Get it together, people!

It says:
Attention all residents
If you have lost your fob it is not Mary’s responsibility to let you in the building. I have told her not to let anyone in that doesn’t have a fob. You will need to contact one of your friends if you need to be let in or purchase a new fob for $10.00. Kevin will not be letting people in that doesn’t have a fob either. If you need to have your fob replaced please see me in the office and you must have the $10.00 at the time of purchase.

In case you were wondering, today IS my birthday.

I love my birthday. It’s not about the presents, or the cake, but about it being MY birthday. (And Henry’s, a first grader from school, and Meridith’s, from my youth group, and Hillary Clinton’s) I like people to wish me happy birthday on my birthday. I like their delight when they discover it is my birthday. When people find out it’s your birthday, even strangers you meet throughout the day, they gasp, straighten up, throw back their shoulders, a smile comes to their face and the cheerfully exclaim, “Happy Birthday!” I love that.

Worst birthday ever? The year I did inventory the night before at Bread & Circus and neglected to plan something for the day itself. I spent the entire day alone.

Best birthday ever? Last year. Why? Elementary school children get birthdays. Last year I had cards from two classes, several whole-class choruses of “Happy Birthday” and seemingly every single child wishing me happy birthday. I also put a huge sticker on that said “Today is my birthday” so all the parents could wish me happy birthday too. Which they did. And I got a crown which I wore all day and home on the bus. Best birthday ever!

In the afternoon, Kristen, the K/1 teacher informed me that Henry, the student in her class who I share a birthday with, had invited me to share his Wishing Ceremony. It was great. I got to sit in the rocking chair and we all covered our eyes and thought of a birthday wish for me. I was thinking about my Wishing Ceremony yesterday and realized that my birthday wish was to own a house. Which, of course, came true! I think all those K/1 birthday wishes helped. One of them that I remember is the wish that I would find “Pirate Treasure.” And I did in a way. I would count the Land Trust as Pirate Treasure.

Sadly, this year there is no school on my birthday. I protested heartily when it came up as a potential day off, but I lost out. Even more sadly, leap year next year propels my birthday right over Saturday to Sunday. Lame. So it will be awhile before I have such a great birthday again. The glow from last year will have to last until 2009.

8 Random Things

Over at Pike Schemes, Shawn and Sara have listed their 8 Random Things. Here are mine.

1. I was named after my mother’s sisters, Patricia & Carol. Around age 20, I realized that my brother could have been named after my father’s sisters, Frances & Merle. Alas, he was named Chris.
2. I am 1 year and 11/12’s older than my brother to the day. I am 3 1/3 years older than my boyfriend to the day. 26 is a good number in my life.
3. I have a phobia about plastic shower curtains
4. I consider myself a homemaker, though I don’t want children or a husband. I am happiest when I am cooking, canning, gardening and doing handyman projects.
5. I read varaciously, though mostly things that don’t tax my mind. When I finally finished Little Women, it was a bigger accomplishment than walking the Portland Marathon.
6. I’ve lived in all 4 continental time zones.
7. I don’t spell well, and suspect I have some sort of undiagnosed learning disorder, but have never been able to prove that.
8. My favorite two movies of all time are Singing in the Rain and Almost Famous.

Feel free to leave your 8 things in the comments section.

Did I mention I love comments? I do.

Back in August, I did the Portland (quarter) Century

Heidi, Kelly (my faithful biking companion) and I rode the 25 mile loop of the Portland Century. A century is a bike ride that is either 100 miles or 100 meters. This 100 mile ride is the only one that starts in the city of Portland proper. You can choose to ride 100 miles, 50 miles or, this year for the first time, 25 miles. For a 40 dollar entry fee you get a lovely ride, and a lot of food. Very yummy local food.

Here we are at the start. Just after taking this picture, one of the organizers gave Kelly a disposable camera to take pictures along the route with. We returned the camera at the end and they put the pictures on the website. There is a picture taken at the first rest stop that I hope never gets linked to my name.

The start!
This picture is taken at the (not so) new bridges over McLoughlin on the Springwater Corridor. It used to be a pain to get across that highway, but these new bridges make it a breeze. I was happy to ride over them.
Here we are at the strawberry shortcake rest stop. Look at all of the boxes of pound cake below the table.
Kelly and Heidi getting water.
We’re almost done here. We stopped to take a picture of the Freemont Bridge. I think my photo wasn’t that great, so you get a more South-bound view. That’s Big Pink off in the distance over those trees.
The official “we are done” photo.
Standing in the food line. The free beer line is the shorter one to the left. Not enough people were standing in line for beer, so a guy took to walking around and handing out cups to people. Thus, Kelly and I split one. Heidi, more of a beer fan than the two of us, had her own cup.
Their very cute logo, done in ice. The shirts were red with that logo on them. Very nice. I’m tired of commemorative race shirts that are white.
Our dinner. Salad, grilled salmon with a marionberry sauce, asparagus, roll and marionberry cobbler. Yummy!

Back in August, I went to this concert…

Back in high school, I used to really love music. I spent a lot of time buying records and tapes (never Cd’s) listening to the radio, and I loved going to concerts.

Music is much more removed from my life today. So many things have changed. Clear Channel bought all the stations, concert tickets are about three times what I used to pay, I don’t drive a car anymore, and the car was where I listened to a lot of music. I haven’t seen MTV in years, but last time I watched, four hours went by before I saw a video. I listen to NPR to catch up on news and get Cd’s from the library instead of buying them. But I did love a band called Concrete Blonde and when I saw the former lead singer, Johnette Napolitano was playing at the Noon Tunes this August, I made sure to get myself there.

It was just Johnette and her guitar, but she was great. Her voice is still incredibly powerful. Often she would step back from the mike when she really belted out a note.
This woman brought Johnette a present and kept wanting her to open it. She danced by herself off to the side for the entire concert. I mostly found her a distraction.

Johnette wore those gold heels out to the stage, promptly took them off and played her whole set barefoot. Then she put on her shoes and walked back off stage.
The majority of people at the concert were probably like myself, older and plumper then they were when we first heard those songs. Some people had their kids there, like this woman, who still managed to look hip while taking care of her three. Johnette played some of her own songs, some Concrete Blonde songs, some Coldplay and even the old standard “Smile Though Your Heart is Aching.” The guy next to me was a true fan and sang along with every song she sang, even songs that weren’t hers. She ended with “Joey” and came back for an encore of her own version of “Mercedes Benz” which started, “Oh Lord, won’t you buy me a biodiesal Mercedes Benz”

Isn’t that what answering machines are for?

One of the messages on the answering machine today was the following:

“Hi this is Justina, I’m sorry I didn’t find you at home. I was just calling to share a comforting thought with you from the Bible. I can try another time. Thank you.”

Um, Justina. Why not just leave the comforting thought on the machine? Then you won’t have to call back. And are you just calling random people in the phone book? And why?

I was oddly charmed and confused by this message. It’s sort of the answering machine version of those prayers to St. Jude that are sometimes in the classified ads.