Wednesday, April 27, 2016

"Is your life not enough like a Portlandia episode already?"

Asked a friend last summer, when I told him I was working part time at a food cart.

We met for lunch on the patio of Holman's, with tatooed women in black eyeliner, smoking like chimneys, smoking like it was a perfectly healthy thing to do in 2015, and I was eating bacon at the time.
He's grown foreign, having moved to the east-coast after law school.
Portland was even a little cliched for him, a native.

I still like Portland, despite the traffic, which has grown insufferable, and the demolition of old charming houses and ratty charming buildings. 

I guess I do, maybe I don't so much anymore, but where to go?

I really like working at the food cart, I explained to him and many people after him.

I really like the people, and I am good under pressure. 

I like to cook.

I like to keep order.

I like a challenge.

I like getting a little dirty and frazzled.

So I continue.

I go faithfully each weekend and it pleased me very much.

I help by training new people, which also pleases me.

In general I am pleased.

Last Sunday, I was standing at the counter cracking eggs, 48 eggs, cracking and cracking, waiting for a new girl. 

I'd left the door open for the breeze.

People walked by, several stopped to see if I could make them breakfast, but I was not quite ready. 

I heard someone mumbling, so I said in my cheery breakfast lady voice "I'm not quite open yet, I can help you at 9:00, maybe a little bit earlier!" and turned to look and saw a disheveled fellow, but I was up high and rushing and not looking closely, and he was leaning on the back porchlet of the cart, chin to chest.

When he looked up, I saw that his mouth was bloody. 

Like someone had lined his lips with black Sharpie.

He moved his lips, but no words were coming out.

I said "WHAT?"

And then he started crawling over the edge, pulling himself up onto the platform, but slowly, like the zombies in The Walking Dead.

He slurred "I just want to come home, I am not in love with you!"

I realized that he was just wearing underpants. 

Maroon boxerbriefs, and one sock.

He was quite dirty, but not the kind of worn in dirt that people that live on the street usually have.

"You need to get OFF of there RIGHT NOW!"


I screamed at him, but he kept crawling, like someone pretend swimming.

I locked the door, but I couldn't tell if it was locked, or not.  It was one of those handles, that UNLOCKS when you jangle it from inside.

I bolted the top of the Dutchdoor, and fastened the chain.

I ran to the front and locked the windows. 

I looked out and not a soul was on the street. 

He'd climbed down and was embracing the ATM machine, which stands right next to the backdoor.

Sticking his hands in the slot, and hugging it over and over, like a weird ritual.

"I'm going to call the police, you need to leave!"

And he wandered off down the street.

My heart was pounding, not so much that I thought he might harm me, although I thought he might, but mostly because he spoiled something I like so much. 

I got a huge splinter in the palm of my hand from the top of the Dutch door, and my nerves were badly jangled. 

I am grateful he didn't touch me, his bloody hands. 

The idea of that made my skin crawl.

My friend Doug came down later and just sat outside and kept me company.

It got busy right at 9:00 and I don't think anyone could tell I was feeling woozely inside.

When I got home, I told Mark about it.

"Why didn't you call!"

I didn't want to wake him.  I didn't want to spoil his Sunday. I didn't really want to talk about it, very much.

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Merle Haggard died today, and I have been listening to his lowdown country music all day, and I just thought of the time my grandfather and I went looking for one of his old foster daughters in old town.

He called me, which was unusual.

I used to call my grandmother everyday, just to say "hi", and when she died I started calling him, because frankly I couldn't imagine what he would do without her, but after a while I called less. 

We'd had a disagreement in the mid 90's and neither one of us was one to back down. 


It was slightly improved when my baby was born. 

He came to the hospital, when he heard I was very ill, and held newly born Maxwell. 

It's hard to convey to people with normal families, how deep and hard things are when they are deep and hard, but I knew that he must really need my help, if he called me up like that.

The last of my grandparent's foster children had aged out of the system in the early 90's, but they never became self sufficient. 

There was no place for them to go, so they stayed.

One became a crack addict and a prostitute and came and went.

During one of her times out in the world, she got mixed up with what my grandfather called
"a real bad feller"
and called to say she was being held against her will.

Which prompted my eighty year old grandfather to call me up and ask me to go looking for Charlotte.

Off we went into Portland's seedy Old Town, him in his gray Stetson, me in my wooden clogs.

We went into all of the seedy hotels, the day centers, the homeless feeding programs.

We talked to the cracked out folks milling around the Charlotte's last residence.

We found exactly nothing.

He never said thank you, or my goodness you are such a kind and selfless person, for walking the piss stinking streets looking for a girl who has robbed the house more times than anyone in the family can count.

He didn't say anything other than to affirm that he could not fathom my desire to live in the city, and that my coffee was too dang strong.  

It went without saying, of course, that it was my duty as a decent human being and someone raised in a Christian home, to help the less fortunate. 

I should just be grateful that my mind was sound and my body worked well. 

At one point I told him I felt like Doc in Breakfast at Tiffany's, but the joke was not welcome. 

He was worried sick, and so was I in some ways. 

She eventually came back, and left many more times. 

She stole and stole and stole.

At his funeral, she wept, and hugged me. 

My grandfather would have said

She ain't bad, she just ain't right in the head. 

Sunday, March 27, 2016


When I was a child, Easter meant bonnets and dresses and maryjanes. 

We aren't religious, so there is no reason for church clothing, and this year, I have been working both Saturday and Sunday at the food cart, so I didn't even do a dinner. 

On Friday, I happened to think of eggs, so Freyja and I tinted a few, six, with what we had on hand- beets, turmeric, cabbage.

And that was that. 

Mark and Freyja went to see a play, I worked the cart and made decent tips, despite the hail. 

Food Cart Easter lady


I belong to this absurd online haiku group, an anti-poetry band of misfits, who write silly haiku about found objects.  In January, in a fit of despair and existential angst, I invited a group of the Portland  haiku folks over for dinner, and we had a fabulous time  Every single one of us had social anxiety and bad nerves, so it made for a fantastically sensitive and festive evening.

liver pate, cucumber salad, deviled eggs

haiku PIE, with a not so subtle nod to Portland's free sidewalk couches, which are sofa king gross!

and then I did it AGAIN, in March! Ten amazing creative women came for dinner and laughed.  I think we forgot to talk about haiku, but we laughed and laughed and had a fabulous time. 

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

February is a hard month.

It the the gray cold month my friend Leo died in, in 1985.

When it rolls around it I remember.

Like it is my job to be the keeper of his memory.

I remember differently as an adult, as a parent, as a middle aged woman with life experience.

In my twenties I was so angry.

I am much less angry now.

Now my memories are snapshots, a slide show in my mind.

I stand in the hallway of my high school, my friend Brooks wraps me in a hug, picking me clean off the ground, and whispers the news in my ear.

"but he's ok, right."  

I  ask, perplexed.

I sit on a church pew beside a leather jacket clad friend, who is sobbing and writhing.

I am stone faced in my fancy black dress.

I shoo my new boyfriend away at the memorial and leave, drunk, chain smoking, with an old boyfriend.

We sit in the parking lot of Powells in the pissing rain, smoking and crying and sobering up.

My mother screams "WHAT ARE YOU ON?" when I walk in the door, and lectures me on the selfishness of suicide, as if knowing Leo is a gateway drug, that puts me at risk.

"I'm on melancholy and self loathing."

Was my punchline for years, when I told this story.

As a mother, I have a more compassionate heart.  I understand irrational fear better.  I understand powerlessness, more.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Our home burned down, just before my 5th birthday.

It was a pink trailer, in a park in Sherwood, Oregon.

We weren't at home at the time thank goodness.

My brother and I were at my grandparents house, and my mother was at a rehearsal for One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest and my father was working the night-shift at Dammasch State Hospital, where the play was set, which was just a coincidence.

My parents came to pick us up the next day, and told me about the fire.

I remember thinking that this surely must be a joke, that it could not possibly be true.

This is one of the few memories I have of my parents together.

My birthday is January 12th, just after Christmas.

We lost everything in the fire.

I was most upset about my Christmas gifts, notably a Mrs. Beasley doll, just like the one that Buffy, on Family Affair had.

Later the firemen would give me a brand new one.

I still have her.

The fire destroyed everything, except for my mother's hope chest, which was later sanded down and used for a toy chest.  Her wedding china, a set with pink roses and silver trim, from Wards, was inside.

My brother has the china. 

As the following Christmas rolled around, I had a grave concern that we would not be able to have a tree, since our ornaments had burned the year before.

I'd made a giant paper Santa at school, which I hung up in the living-room with scotch-tape.

By this time, we were living in the same trailer park, again, this time in a larger trailer, that was yellow, and had three bedrooms.

My mother in all of her infinite resourcefulness, set about making decorations for the spindly noble fir, that we cut in the woods.

This being Oregon, we had our pick of trees, but our taste is for spindly noble firs with spaced branches, and it remains so.

We covered dixie cups with foil, to make silver bells, we strung popcorn and cranberries and my mother painted balsa-wood ornaments from a paint by numbers kit.

The bells and the berries are long gone, but I still have little hand painted the wooden shoes.

I made paper chains from construction paper and taped them around the windows.

My mother made stockings out of green felt, writing our names in glitter, stuck on Elmer's glue.

Santa found our house, and filled our stockings and left loot under the tree.

Today I bought a tall skinny tree from my neighbor, as I always do and we will decorate it with my collection of ornaments from my 6th year forward, and some things Rolf and I bought from Germany and things friends have gifted me, and a few strings of cranberries for good measure. 


Wednesday, November 11, 2015

I went to see my doctor today, because it is my day off, and I had owed her a visit since summer.

She broke her leg badly in summer and had to postpone a surgery that I had thought I would have, but have since sort of changed my mind.

She phoned me yesterday and suggested I come in.

Linda has been my doctor since 1999, and she is pretty unusual for a surgeon and medical doctor.

Today, for instance, she was wearing those LL Bean style rain bootlets, the ones with the rubber toes and leather ankles, with a long floral dress, and green woolen socks.  I could see the socks, because the dress had a dramatic slit, on one side.  It was a sort of slinky number, something you might wear to a garden cocktail party in 1988.

How ARE you?! 

Man, am I ever a sucker for people that appear to care about me.

I told her I was much, much better, now, with my new low stress job, that doesn't include HR, or bookkeeping.

Linda laughs a lot, and swears, and has a very messy office, all of which makes me feel comfortable, but Mark hates her.

Two years ago, I had a little surgery with her, to remove a polyp, and Mark was completely freaked out, trying to talk me into rescheduling with someone else, right in the pre-opt bed.

She is totally WEIRD, you can't let someone that weird put you under!

The anethesiologist will put me under, she will be doing the surgery! 

That might be WORSE. 

l i k e her.  She always remembers little details about me, and she laughs a lot. 

Linda is a radical feminist doctor, that preforms abortions, and has a little side business, treating people like me, with complicated female problems, and nervous constitutions.  Her office looks like a Home Beautiful spread from the 80's, with wicker, and inspirational quotes and antiques, you hardly notice the doctor officey element.  
Her files are a mess.  I have considered offering to clean the place up more than once, but thought better of it.  

I told her about the terrible sinus problems I had been experiencing since late September, and she looked in my ears, and tapped on my forehead.  

I told her about the amoxicillin from the nurse practitioner at Zoom Care. 

HA! Ha ha ha! Oh, those clowns, ha ha ha. That is not strong enough to kick a true sinus infection. 

She wrote me a prescription for something stronger, and suggested drinking fenugreek tea to thin the mucus. 


Sunday, November 8, 2015

Elephant meat

I woke up this morning thinking of Beechnut baby food.

When I was a child, too old to eat baby food, but young enough to still be charming, I loved the jarred meat, in all of it's graypink fineness,  and my grandmother would buy me the tiny jars, for a treat. 

The label pictured a jaunty cartoon elephant, wearing blue overalls and a striped train conductor hat.

One hand was thrown up, as if waving. 

I thought that the jar contained elephant meat, which my grandmother thought was funny. 

So when we went shopping, I would ask for elephant meat, and she would oblige by buying it, and then feeding it to me with a small silver spoon, even though I was much too old.