A citizen responds

As part of a US Department of Justice settlement, my company is conducting a survey of the Portland Police and their community relations.

We sent a postcard giving residents the option of filling out the survey online.  That was followed up by a paper copy of the survey, complete with postage-paid return envelope.

This respondent wasn’t having any part of our postage-paid return envelope.  They supplied their own.  The return address moniker amused me.

Post-Election Walk

Everyone was pretty raw at work.  I did some stuff, and then left early to take a long walk to the Hollywood Library, where I was volunteering with Teen Book Council.

Look at this blast-from-the-past mural/advertisement for radio station 94.7!  Usually it’s covered by an official billboard.

I’ve take a picture of this building before, but on a happier day.  It seems today the building is sad.  Sorry building.  I feel sad too.

The footprint of Farm restaurant, which I always wanted to eat at, and never did.  I guess I won’t ever get to now.

Tracking apartment rental prices.  For reference, when I got my first studio apartment in Portland in 2002, I paid $500/month to live downtown.  If Matt and I rented this apartment, we would pay $850 each.  Yikes!  

Here’s the house where the unit is.

I loved the green of this house.

And look!  It’s a very specific green.

Very nice vintage four-plex.

I love the neon sign with the brick.

Bit of grey cloud hovering.

The day after the election, not much was happening at the Multnomah Democrats headquarters. The building was dark.  (The cars are from the business next door.)

I had a sundae at Baskin Robbins and a very nice Teen Book Council meeting.  Then there was square dancing.  It was a raw, but good day.

The result.

It’s not yet 1:00 in the morning on November 9, 2016. I’ve been to a bar, where I had a glass of wine and waited, trying to ignore the sinking feeling. I came home and did the shot that I was hoping would be celebratory before falling asleep not too long after my usual 9:30pm bedtime. Insomnia, my usual friend, woke me at a usual time and after a period of back-and-forth of the relative merits of knowing/not knowing, I got up and hit the Google App icon on my phone. Google knew what I wanted to know. The results were sitting right there. I didn’t even have to type.

I find myself thinking of a different time in my life. South Boston. I was an early adult, floundering my way through my first post-college job, managing pretty well with the bills and the brick-a-brack of day-to-day living and completely failing at actual life. Aside from my boyfriend, who had bounced back to his suburban home with his parents, I had no friends close by. I went to work with people much older than me who were nice, but remote. I still hadn’t gotten used to the standoffishness of New England (and maybe I never did.) The social connections I now have over the internet weren’t a part of my life and I was intensely lonely and depressed.

I spent a lot of time thinking about end times, and contemplated becoming a plumber because I figured when things fell apart, plumbing would be one thing that was maintained the longest. I saw so many signs that society was going to collapse, that this could all be over tomorrow. It was a terrifying prospect: the end of everything. It was an exhilarating prospect: the end of everything. I wanted to end.

The library, as always, provided solace. There was a branch library two blocks from my house and I went there and to the big Boston Public Library in Copley Square. Like all libraries, there was programming and so it was that I clomped down the stairs in green L.L. Bean barn boots one cold winter evening to see David Macauley give a talk.

I remembered David Macauley’s books Castle and City and Motel of the Mysteries from my adolescence and I went to see him because I admired how he broke down complex things from the past into small details that added up to a bigger whole. He was awesome that way. But also I went to see him because I’d never seen an author of any book talk before. I marveled that this was a free event.
David Macauley had no idea when he came to discuss his drawing process, but his talk was exactly what I needed. It seemed that the author and I shared a similar period of growth. He also felt lost and alone and like society was falling apart all around him. And for Mr. Macauley, that period of his life coincided with a year of study abroad in Rome.

Rome. I can still remember the look of peace that came over his face when he said the word. Rome was comforting to him because everywhere he went, he was standing in a place where people had lived for more than two-thousand years. Rome had been sacked and occupied over and over again and yet it still remained. Society had collapsed, and collapsed again and Rome still stood. Rome lives.

Things would remain bad for me for several years, but I walked out of that reading with a signed copy of his picture book Rome-antics and a feeling of hope. Rome lives.

A few years ago, when the 2016 presidential campaign was in a very embryonic period of its longer-than-an-elephant’s gestation, I made a solemn vow. I had read yet another letter to the editor about President Obama and his raging ego and his crazy decisions. Like all the letters of that ilk, this one left me befuddled. Obama’s policies were clearly not to this person’s taste, but overall, the president struck me as a pretty normal dude, trying to get things done. What was up with this person’s venom?

I then recalled my frothing-at-the-mouth denunciations of Obama’s predecessor. Ah. This letter writer was expressing sentiments I’d also had when faced with a president I didn’t agree with on very many levels. It was at that point I took a solemn vow that whoever was president, I would dispute any policies I disagreed with, but I would leave the person him/herself out of it. I would see the president as also a person.

I’ve thought of that vow often during the campaign. I’ve noticed how incredibly odious I found the Republican candidates for president, so much so that it was difficult to focus on what I didn’t like about their policies. As Trump’s campaign raked in win after win, I wondered how, exactly, I was going to keep that vow if he should win.

And he has. So I’m going to find out.

I guess it starts with what I believe.

I believe that this is my country; I have no plans to relocate elsewhere. I believe that there is good in every person. I believe that small acts of kindness should be done as often as possible. I believe in saying hello to the people I pass in the streets. I believe that everyone has the right to be who they are and love the people they love.

I believe that we need to make room for the marginalized voices to speak, and be heard. I believe that everyone has the right to food, shelter, an education and healthcare and it’s our job as a country to provide them. I believe that we work better collectively, rather than spending time hopping around in a corner tugging at our own bootstraps.

I believe in speaking up when I disagree and I believe in listening, no matter how hard it might be. I believe in thinking on things. I believe that changing my mind is something that happens when new information is digested and new understandings reached.

I believe that the phrase “be kind and have courage” is a good way to live your life. I believe that things are getting better.

I’m very far away from that floundering post-college person I was. I have friends near and digital, a home in a city I adore, a man that loves me, two cats and a job where I feel like I make some small difference in the world. I will keep my vow. I will not get caught up in petty denunciations of personalities. I will not make fun of anyone, not even people with whom I cannot find a sliver of common ground. I will read and listen and speak. I will live my life as I have every day for my 42 years: I will get up every morning. Hopefully when I go to bed I will have done my part to make someone’s life better. The sun will rise tomorrow. Rome lives. So will we.

Election Night 2016

Though I disagree with the sentiment, this is a pretty awesome drawing I grabbed a picture of on the way into the bar where we waited for results.

“I’m going to have a shot tonight,” I told my co-worker earlier in the day.  “I don’t know if it’s going to be a celebratory shot, or a misery shot, or an I-have-to-go-to-bed shot, but I’m doing a shot tonight.”  He told me about picklebacks, shot of whisky chased with a shot of pickle juice.

So that’s what I had.  It turned out to be an I-have-to-go-to-bed shot.

Hike at Tom McCall preserve

Here we are at the parking lot at Rowena Crest, with the Columbia River in the background.  I love this picture because it looks like I’ve got a white stripe in my hair, which has always been a dream of mine.  (I don’t actually have a white stripe in my hair.)

Informational sign about the Missoula Floods, a topic which always inspires feelings of panicked boredom.  Even while typing the letters I need to remind myself to breathe deeply.  Geology.  Not for me.

See that peak up there?  That’s where we are headed.  We’ve done this hike before, in 2013.  (Thanks blog, for keeping a record of this stuff.  Comparing the two posts is also fun.)

Pretty landscape.

That white car on the right is our car.

Mountains peeking through.  We’re at the apex of our hike.

Acorn survivors.

This time, we added the second half of the hike, which took us closer to the river.

These birds were HUGE!  I took a picture, wondering if they were ravens.  Googling in the interim has told me that there’s not really an official line between crows and ravens.  People have also told me ravens are bigger than crows.

Columbia River.

Self portrait.

Nicely tiered landscape.

Wordstock 2016. Much improved.

Conference logistics in general were much smoother this year.  It seems Literary Arts learned from the 2015 debacle.  The venues were spread over a large portion of the Park Blocks, and there were more of them, which alleviated the crush of people that made last year’s event uncomfortable.

If you had registered for a workshop (I had) you could even check in at an alternate location.  My workshop with Kari Luna took place in a classroom at Northwest Film Academy.  I was amused by this diagram.

After my workshop, I attended a session titled “Sports Hour,” mostly because I wanted to see Jason Reynolds and Karen Karbo.  Though Lisa Congdon’s The Joy of Swimming also sounded like an excellent book.

Jason Reynolds in his silver shoes.  Just like his character in Ghost.

Lisa Congdon also possesses a mouth, you just can’t see it due to microphone.

Karen Karbo’s wrote the book Hound of the Sea with surfer Garret McNamara.  She had a lot of good stories.  She was not as tense as she looks in this photo.

It was weird seeing Geoff Norcross, as he’s a radio dude.  I learned his sport is crew.

Next was the session “Women First” with Chandler O’Leary, Jessica Spring and Laurie Notaro.  Elly Blue was the moderator and she informed us of the real title of this was “Feminists First,” but that somehow didn’t make it into the program.  We heard about the book Dead Feminists and Laurie Notaro discussed her novel Crossing the Horizon.  I enjoyed the way moderator Elly Blue handled the question and answer period.  Instead of inviting people to the microphone, she asked for people to raise their hands and then called on one person at a time.  This made for a better selection of participants, rather than just the people who could get to the microphone fastest.

The “Out Past Curfew” panel was my favorite.  It helped that I’d read books by (nearly) all the authors.  It also helped that Jay Asher and Jennifer Niven are friends in real life as are Nicola Yoon and David Arnold.  There was great rapport among the panelists and Alicia Tate’s moderation contributed to a spirited and convivial conversation.

The best part was when a young audience member asked  a question about how best to become a writer.  David Arnold invited her onstage, so she could see what it’s like to be on a panel of authors.  Everyone gave their advice (“write stories you want to read,” “write all the time,” “read all the time.”) Jay Asher brought down the house with his advice of, “Writing is a lot about who you know.  So when it comes time to start submitting your things for publication, be sure to say you sat on an author panel with Jay Asher, Jennifer Niven, Niciola Yoon and David Arnold.”

Jennifer Niven made sure there was a selfie of the panel and the audience. She made sure to get all three sides of the room.

My last panel of the day was called “Family Drama” and included Peter Rock, Paula Stokes, Cat Winters, and was moderated by Alison Kastner.  They discussed different aspects of writing their books

Overall, I can say that Literary Arts learned a lot from 2015 and put on a very good conference this year.  Hooray!

Three sentence movie reviews: Things We Lost in the Fire


Every once in a great while I come across a movie where the characters feel like real people, not things created to tell a story.  This is such a movie, and what well-written/acted/directed movie.  The story of the widow and the heroin addict is well worth watching.

Cost: free from library
Where watched: at home.

poster from: http://www.impawards.com/2007/things_we_lost_in_the_fire.html