Monday, April 27, 2009

out of the mouths of babes...

the school where I'm teaching

I've been teaching after school art classes the last couple of weeks and have had the opportunity to eavesdrop on a few interesting conversations. The kids are in 1st through 8th grades, and some of the stuff they say to each other is pretty amazing:

"Did you know that 3 million people a year die from choking?"

"My mom had a secret wedding. If they don't let you get married you do it anyway and keep it a secret."

Girl #1: "My mom was old when they got me. I got adopted because my real mom was only 19 when she had me. She was still in college. But I wasn't in the orphanage or anything. They got me from the hospital."
Girl #2, with an air of superiority: "They don't have orphanages in America. They abolished them."

"I know a boy who had a cell phone in kindergarten. But he was only supposed to use it in an emergency. Or if he really really wanted to talk."

"I just don't get why my mom gave birth to my brother...he's such a pain."

Girl #1: "My parents met each other at a wine and beer tasting. My mom was the bartender, but then they got engaged in Belgium."
Girl #2: "Belgium, Germany?"
Girl #1: "Yeah. Belgium, Germany."

"My sister's really evil. She wants to take over the world someday. But for now, she just took over the fridge."

And in case you were wondering if they're all girls...they're not. It's just that the boys don't seem to have a lot to say, but I'm sure they're listening in, too.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

not exactly disney world, part 2

Yesterday, following this prompt from San Diego Momma, (What is your craziest travel adventure?) I started telling this tale from my sordid past. Scroll down to read part one. Here's part two:

* * * * * * *

(photo borrowed from this guy)

After we'd regained our composure in the restroom of a gas station in nearby Pittsfield, my boyfriend (always looking ahead for an opportunity to mooch) suggested, that since we were in Massachusetts with no place to go, I should call up my aunt and see if she was up for a visit. My aunt (actually my great aunt, the matriarch of my father's Irish Catholic family) lived in New Bedford, an old whaling town on the coast near Cape Cod. I had not had any contact with her in a couple of years, but I was pretty sure that she had heard rumors of my fall from grace, ie: my leaving home and school to travel around like a vagrant with my hippie boyfriend whilst thumbing my nose at responsibility and polite society. The thought of calling her up out of the blue (and it would have to be a collect call) made me a nervous wreck.

My father's side of the family (particularly the older generation) seemed to me to have very high standards of moral conduct. Maybe it was the proximity of New Bedford to Plymouth Rock, the original landing site of those uptight pilgrims who founded our country.
Or maybe it was the vision of my aunt's (a retired schoolteacher) stern countenance and upstanding character and the fact that any moral misconduct would be most likely be reported to my father that turned my knees to jello. In any event, the LAST thing I wanted to do was to call my aunt and ask to use her place as a crash pad with my hippie boyfriend and gay sidekick. The boyfriend, in his infinite wisdom, cajoled me into calling her (collect) and telling her that we'd be no trouble...we had a tent, and we could simply pitch it in her backyard and she'd hardly even know we were there.

(photo borrowed from this site)

I made the call from a phone booth somewhere between Pittsfield and Springfield. It did not go over well. Perhaps I didn't have the powers of persuasion that my boyfriend so obviously possessed. Maybe I didn't really want to go there. In any case, my aunt's response was unfailingly polite, but firm. That of course, she'd love to see me, but my friends would have to find alternate arrangements. The tent in the backyard was a definite no. I was relieved, but now I had to face the boyfriend and tell him we had no place to stay. His response was not exactly repeatable.

At this point, my gay best friend suggested we check out Cape Cod. We were headed that direction anyway, and he'd heard it was a nice place to pick up guys hang out, a gathering place for artists and others with alternative lifestyles. Maybe we could camp out there on the Cape for a couple of days and check it out. Next stop: Provincetown.

We rolled into Provincetown that afternoon, our ride dropping us just outside of town on Hwy 6. The weather was warm, and before us spread sand dunes rolling gently out to sea. It looked like the perfect place to camp, and was illegal but free within walking distance of town. We climbed over the guardrail and hiked out a ways, up and down the dunes, and finally pitched the tent on the lee side of a small rise overlooking the ocean and invisible from the road. It was a lovely spot, and we left shortly to check out the scene in Ptown.

We checked out the galleries and gift shops, and as darkness fell, the bar scene picked up. Not being a drinker, and being underage kept me outside on a bench while my boyfriend and friend (who had fake id) checked out the nightlife. As jailbait an underage girl in a gay resort town, I was at least relatively safe alone on my little bench, and after a couple of hours we decided to head back to the tent, and walked back along the road, now brightly lit by a full moon. As we came to the bend in the road where we thought we had set off across the dunes, it was apparent that we had sorely misjudged our wilderness camping skills: the tide had come in while we were out partying, and the water now came almost up to the road, the tops of the dunes just peeking out above the water.

This did not deter my best friend and my boyfriend, who by this time were both three sheets to the wind. They took my hands, and dragged me, whining, into the current, wading waist and then shoulder deep through the tide and up and down across the dunes. We had no idea if our tent was even still where we'd left it. I was positive we were all going to die.

We didn't die, and miraculously found our tent, but I was not convinced that the tide was all the way in, and couldn't sleep most of the night. Someone had to stay awake and keep watch while the two drunken idiots slept like the dead. At one point, a small boat with a searchlight on it motored by (I was convinced it was probably a police patrol boat looking for illegal activity) but they apparently didn't see our bright orange and green tent.

I suppose I did fall asleep for awhile, because I woke up to warm sunlight on the tent, and two snoring guys next to me. I quietly crawled out of my sleeping bag, and felt around for my glasses. When I started to unzip the tent screen, I came face to face with the biggest tick I had ever seen. It was on the outside of the screen, and it was then that I slowly realized all the hazy spots covering the tent I'd noticed before I put my glasses on were actually many, many more giant blood sucking bugs. I lurched away from the tent door, falling over my friend, and started sobbing. I'm not a wuss when it comes to bugs, but this was just too much. I figured these things could probably drain the three of us in about 30 seconds and leave our empty shells for the next high tide to take out.

The boys woke up, probably stirred by my now uncontrollable shaking, and complained loudly. When they realized what was happening, they both sobered up immediately. My boyfriend tried to tell me that they were just flies, and I was being a sissy, until he put his glasses on and gasped. My best friend, on the other hand immediately grasped the situation, and joined me in sobbing hysterically. My boyfriend (ever the knight in shining armour) then took control of the situation and went outside to scrape the ticks off the tent, while we cowered inside. When the coast was clear, we packed up and hiked back to the road, where my best friend promptly stripped naked and begged me to inspect him for ticks. The three of us looked like a trio of monkeys going through each other's hair looking for parasites.

By that summer, I had taken the GED, got my high school diploma, moved to California and enrolled in college in San Francisco.

My boyfriend hooked up with my best girlfriend and mooched off her, crashing in her dorm in upstate NY.

My gay best friend found a sugar daddy in Greenwich Village and took to spending winters in San Juan, Puerto Rico.

c'est la vie.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

not exactly a trip to disney world...

Over at San Diego Mama's place, it's Prompt Tuesday #52, and the theme is: Craziest Travel's one:

Now, being a starving artist most of my life, I haven't exactly been a world traveler, but I've had one or two adventures here and there.

(photo borrowed from this guy)

Back when I was a young and stupid 16 year old high school dropout with a 21 year old boyfriend, I did a bit of hitchhiking around the countryside. Unemployed and unencumbered, we'd take off on a whim (mostly his) and head out on the open road. Sometimes we'd go places on our own, and other times he'd sweet talk friends into coming so we could mooch off their relations on the trip. Generally there were drugs and alcohol involved, and the transportation of choice was always hitch hiking.
I know what you're thinking. He was a jerk. An asshole. A child molester. Yes, yes, and yes... to all of the above. I know that now. (Actually, I figured it out about 35 years ago) I'm pretty sure I had an inkling then. But I was 16. I was looking for love in all the wrong places (more on that another time).

So, one fine, late spring day we he decided we should take a trip up to Massachusetts to visit an old friend and neighbor of his, Mrs. Green. Our rent was due, and and since neither of us were employed (I had gotten fired from my job shoveling french fries at McDonald's, (and I'm pretty sure he had never held a real job in his life), and considering that we hadn't paid the rent for a couple of months previously, it seemed a good time to get out of town travel. Mrs. Green had bought a cabin in the Berkshires, in hopes of retiring there someday, and was a good prospect to hit up for money friend who might let us stay there for a bit. We were joined on this trip by our roommate, (my best friend) who was another unemployed 16 year old art school drop out, in the midst of discovering his homosexuality.

We hitch hiked up to the Berkshires from Queens, arriving at Mrs. Green's mountain hideaway just as night fell in the middle of a drenching downpour. Mrs. Green was not in residence. Or maybe she was smart enough not to answer the door. In any event, things were looking bleak. We had the forethought to have brought a tent, but for some reason (Who knows? I certainly was not the one making the decisions) we spent the night in an apparently abandoned car on the dirt road leading up to her cabin. The next morning dawned clear and cold, and we were rudely awakened by an irate Massachusetts hillbilly slamming his fist on the windshield, demanding to know just what the F**K we were doing in his car? We high-tailed it down the muddy road as fast as we could, making tracks for the state highway, and the closest town. Apparently, people don't feel the need to lock up their cars in the country.

* * * * * *

The trip didn't end there, but good Lord, it's 1:43 am, and I've got to get to bed. I promise I'll fill in the rest tomorrow.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

flower power

grape hyacinth (muscari)

It's a glorious spring day...the sun is shining, everything's in bloom, and the colors are so bright they hurt my migraine-distressed eyes. But this week's Thematic Photographic subject is floral, and I've sure got a lot of those to share! 

heirloom rose "The Impressionist"

I love this rose. Oregon is not an easy place to grow roses. Gardeners here all have favorite remedies for the dreaded blackspot, a fungus that thrives on cool, mist leaves and can defoliate a rosebush in a matter of days. But this rose seems immune to it. It thrives on neglect, and blooms like crazy in partial shade against the east wall of the studio. I bought it as a tiny, single-twig start from Heirloom Roses in St. Paul, Oregon. In the spring the multilayered blooms are a bright yellow-gold. In the fall they change to an orange-tinged deep gold. And it smells heavenly!

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

thematic photographic: edible

Willamette Valley wild blackberries. They squish when ripe and burst in your mouth, the dark juice staining your lips and running down your chin. And somehow, I'm always wearing a white shirt when I'm picking them and look like I've been involved in some grisly scene, rather than just gathering berries!  

Raspberries are bland, and strawberries are just too ordinary when compared with these black beauties. Unfortunately, they don't ship well, so you'll just have to come to Oregon this summer and taste them...stop by over at Carmi's blog to see who else has posted photos on the edible theme.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

happy birthday, roscoe

Easter, 1960.

This photo was taken was just a few months before our youngest sister, Kathy was born. My brother Jim (the tallest one in the back) was almost 17, my sister Patty (on the right) was almost 12, I was 3, and my brother John (on the left) was 13. 

Today would have been John's 62nd birthday. He was an amazing artist and musician who taught himself to play flamenco guitar as a teenager by listening to Jose Feliciano and Carlos Montoya records.  He'd often lock himself in the upstairs bathroom for hours to practice, because he said the tiled walls created great acoustics. I remember thinking he was cool because he painted the fingernails on his right hand with Sally Hansen's Hard as Nails to strengthen them. 

He taught me to play a few tunes on the guitar, and inspired me to take lessons from the guy around the corner at the music store for a little while.

He put up with my sister Kathy and I, (she adored him, and he was a softie for her, too) but he also took every opportunity to tease us unmercifully. He used to shut us in the basement and turn out the light while we crouched by the door at the top of the basement stairs, wailing "JOHNNNY! Let us out!!!!" 
Torturing your baby sisters was a big brother's perogative, after all...but he was also our protector of sorts. If we got in trouble with neighborhood bullies, we'd run home and John would come shambling out with his pigeon-toed gait and by then, shoulder length black hair and full beard, and whoever was chasing us would turn right around and high tail it home. He looked a little like Rasputin in those days, and we used to tell our friends that he kept pigeons in that beard.   

John went on to play flamenco guitar professionally using the stage name Juan Roscoe (there was already an actor named John Russell), landing a job with the road company of Man of La Mancha. We saw him in the play in Los Angeles in the summer of 1967 while on vacation. My ten year old self was so proud of him, I thought my heart would burst!

Like a lot of incredibly talented people, my brother was emotionally troubled, and had a tough time managing to live in the real world. He died in 1977 at the age of 30, a bright spark for the short time he was here. 

Happy Birthday, John.

Friday, April 10, 2009


This week's Thematic Photographic is "edible". Since I love food, this will be a fun one. And a good excuse to eat and photograph yummy things! (Not in that order, I promise)

kitchen still life with apples ~ fall, 2008

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

pasta with a side of irony

So today I've been going through some drafts of posts I've been meaning to finish, and came across something I started about a month ago... 

Does anyone else but me think this commercial is weird?
If this image brings to mind only an Old Chicago Pizza promo, then you're too young to get this. If, however the term Chicago Seven conjures memories of the infamous 1968 Democratic National Convention, where Mayor Richard Daley brought the full force of the Chicago P.D. down on thousands of anti-war protesters, then you're old enough to understand the sheer lunacy of this ad campaign.
Being a dyed in the wool, second-generation-bleeding-heart-liberal, I remember 1968 well. At 11 years old I was a quick study, listening to my older siblings discuss the anti-war movement and other subversive stuff. 

Politics were frequently batted around over the family dinner table. My parents were early supporters of Eugene McCarthy, the anti-war candidate, and supporters of many progressive ideas like equal rights and desegregation.

 The Democratic convention in Chicago that August saw mass protests fueled by heavy-handed militaristic tactics led by Mayor Daley, who repeatedly announced "Law and order will be maintained!", and passed out "We love Mayor Daley!" signs to the delegates inside the hall.

 Protesters, many of whom were led by Yippie leaders Abbie Hoffman, Jerry Rubin, and Black Panthers founder Bobby Seale, clashed with police in bloody riots, and hundreds were arrested. Hoffman, Rubin, Seale, Rennie Davis, Tom Hayden, Lee Weiner, John Froines and David Dellinger were indicted by a Grand Jury for conspiracy, and crossing state lines with the intent to incite a riot. Seale was bound and gagged in the courtroom to keep him from acting up, and was ultimately removed and tried separately, (sentenced to four years in prison for contempt-one of the longest sentences ever handed down for that offense at the time) and the remaining defendants then became known as the Chicago Seven.

They were found not guilty of conspiracy, and two of the seven were acquitted of all charges. The remaining five were convicted on the charge of inciting a riot, fined $5000 apiece, and sentenced to five years in prison. At his sentencing, an unrepentant Abbie Hoffman suggested that the judge try LSD.  All the convictions were ultimately overturned in the U.S. Court of Appeals in 1972. 

Abbie Hoffman by Richard Avedon

I'm pretty sure this is not the image Old Chicago Pizza's ad agency had in mind....

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

more signs of spring

Ever get up in the morning and feel like you've been swimming all night in a vat of this stuff?

The last few days, as the temperature has crept up and awakened the trees from their long winter's nap to bloom like there's no tomorrow,  I've been stumbling out of bed, barely able to breathe without first dislodging vast quantities of green goo from my nose and lungs. 

Poor Dave's been lying awake at night listening to me snore even with these things on.

 Sometimes I even wake myself up. The funny thing is, this allergy problem has kinda crept up on me. I don't remember ever having allergies before moving to Oregon almost 20 years ago, and they've only recently become noticeable. Last spring I brought in a bouquet of Daphne blossoms from the front yard, and after sneezing about 100 times in less than an hour, realized that maybe those sweetly scented flowers were the cause. This spring I'm so congested I can't even smell the damn thing. 

If things keep escalating like they have been, I'm gonna consider joining Costco again so I can buy Kleenex in bulk.
Now if you'll excuse me, I've got to blow go.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

menden ponds reflections

Early summer morning at Menden Ponds, near Rochester, NY... A surprisingly busy place, with birds chattering, insects buzzing and frogs ribbitting. And despite all that activity, it was the still water that became a mirror of the day.

Reflective is the mood of this photograph. Carmi over at Written Inc. sets the tone each week with Thematic Photographic. Click over and see who else is playing.