Monday, December 27, 2010

clement clarke moore is rolling in his grave right about now...

'Twas two days after Christmas, and all 'round Camp Cactus
Not a creature was stirring...they were all out of practice;
The stockings were emptied, the presents unwrapped,
Just recycling the paper left our energy sapped.
Girl child and puppy cuddled snug in a chair,

Whilst commercials on TV continued to blare;
And Poppa in his rocker, a cat in his lap,
Had just settled down for a little nightcap,
When out on the porch there arose such a clatter,
Cat sprang from his perch, sending cocktail a-splatter.
Away to the basement he flew like a flash,
As the dogs began barking and got into the trash.
While he hid in the basement, an unearthly light
Lit up our street like Las Vegas at night,
Then, all of a sudden we heard a Bronx cheer,
As the neighbor's bright decor again did appear,
With rope lights and candy canes, and icicles galore,
They had no competition, that was for sure.

More brilliant than searchlights, those ornaments were,
And they blinked and played music and caused quite a stir;
Blow up Snowman and Snoopy and reindeer aplenty,
And penguins, I swear there were as many as twenty!
Then the cars came! And vendors! And people on foot!
I found myself wishing Christmas would go kaput!

Our street filled with gawkers and kids by the dozens,
All with their cellphones, taking pictures of cousins.
And then, in a twinkling, I heard in the sky,
A TV news 'copter in a prime-time fly-by.
As I closed all the curtains and turned my head 'round,
Through the door a reporter burst in with a bound;
He was dressed in a parka, his news station's logo 
Emblazoned all over, from his head to his big toe;
A microphone clutched in his hand like a club,
The former top newsman was now a poor schlub; 
His eyes -- they looked haunted! his complexion, how scary!
His cheeks were all puffy, his nose like a cherry!
His mouth was a grimace, drawn up like a bow,
And his teeth, oh! his teeth, they were whiter than snow!
The poor man was a wreck, hadn't slept in a week;
And the stress, it showed up in his flabby physique.
He had a broad face and a big ol' round belly,
And his nerves made it shake like a bowl full of jelly.
He was chubby and bent, a right shaky old elf
And I gasped when I saw him, in spite of myself;  
A tick in his eye and a twist of his head,
Soon gave me to know he was just filled with dread;
He asked all his questions, finished his interview,
And fulfilled his damn duty to me and to you,
And laying his microphone down by the door,
He escaped out the back to be seen never more;
But I heard him exclaim, as he fled from the lights,
"Happy Christmas, my ass! This holiday bites!"

with apologies to Clement Clarke Moore

Sunday, December 12, 2010

alien beings inhabit potatoes

I cleaned out the potato basket in the kitchen today, and found this:

It definitely belongs under the category of miracle food.

It creeps me out that it was lurking in my kitchen. 
Now I'm afraid to clean out the refrigerator.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

a morning full of memories

I started writing this on a warm and sunny September day. The sky was the color of a bright chunk of turquoise, the sweet sounds of singing birds in the back yard and the chaotic noise of construction coming from the house across the street, coupled with the distant wail of police sirens, reminded me of San Francisco, and of a time I flew down there a few years ago to hang out with my older brother Jim for a week or so before the cancer that was sapping his strength left him unable to savor the warm sun and a trip to a favorite bookstore.

He wanted to take me over to this bookstore in Bernal Heights, my old neighborhood, knowing I loved rummaging around the musty used books as much as he did. It took awhile for him to get up the strength to get dressed and out the door (as much a mental preparation as a physical one) which in part involved waiting for his morphine to kick in, and then for the inevitable nausea to pass. It was difficult to witness his pain and determination to rise to the occasion. I'm sure he felt he may not get another chance to spend time with me in this way.
When we finally got out the door of his apartment, he was bundled up snugly against the warm breeze, overkill at the moment, but in anticipation of the fog that would soon come tumbling over Twin Peaks into the warm valley of the Mission District. It struck me then that I'd never seen him in more than a denim jacket layered over a sweatshirt in all the years he'd lived there. Now his body was betraying him, his internal thermostat suddenly unreliable.

We climbed into his car, and as soon as he started it up and tried to put it into gear, it became apparent he was too weak to handle the shifting and the braking and the clutch. It was a difficult thing for him to admit, this man who had until recently driven a Yellow Cab for twenty years, who knew every neighborhood, street and blind alley in the whole 49 square miles that makes up the city of San Francisco. We switched places, and I got in the driver's seat, but professing that I had been away too long and the city had changed too much, I made him guide me over the familiar streets from his apartment to Bernal Heights. 

I did manage to parallel park his car, touchy clutch and all, in a tiny spot facing uphill on Cortland Street across from a coffee house where we had espressos and pastry to fortify us before attempting to browse the bookstore. When we finally made our way across the street and into the store, the books seemed to revive him a little, but I could tell he was already exhausted. I remember thinking later how grateful I was that we had that afternoon together.

Weeks later, he lay propped up with pillows in the living room on a rented hospital bed, his feet sticking out from under the  blanket, its light weight too oppressive for his fragile bones.  I remember he wore clean white socks, because the coolness of the slight breeze from the open window cut across his bare skin like a glacier carving a valley across the landscape.  His left arm, by now shrunken and bony, nevertheless still bore a deep tan: the badge of a longtime cabbie. It looked odd now, as if it belonged to someone else.

Now all we could do was to try and keep him comfortable. The whole family gathered in his little apartment, sleeping on the futon or the floor or in a chair at the old kitchen table, quietly waiting.

Pumped full of morphine, sometimes he was here and then he was there, and when he returned, he'd give us a report. His son Casey and daughter Lily kept a notebook to log those reports from wherever it was he went.  After returning from one such sojourn into the unknown, he told us we needed to clear some of the furniture from the room to make space for all the kayakers.

It's hard work, this business of dying. I wonder if that final moment when we move into the unknown is similar to the moment we enter this life --  but instead of crying noisily, the silence delivers us into the embrace of loved ones who have passed before us.

So when I started writing this it was a warm and sunny September day... as I finish, it's a cold and dark December morning, and the anniversary of my brother's passing. He was a man of extraordinary intelligence, wit and grace, and I sure do miss him.

You can read a bit more about my big brother here.  

Thursday, November 11, 2010

one tough mother

Among the clients I work for as a freelance photo stylist are a couple of homegrown, Oregon-based clothing and footwear companies.

Yesterday, the 80+ year old Chairman of the Board of one of those companies (Columbia Sportswear) thwarted a home invasion by outwitting the robber. This is not too unusual for Gert Boyle, who's known throughout the industry as a force to be reckoned with.

Apparently, she became suspicious of him right off the bat, as he was wearing a jacket made by these folks. When he pulled a gun and forced her into her home, she told him she needed to turn off the alarm, but instead tripped a panic button, which summoned the police who found her somewhat roughed up and her hands tied. The intruder ran out the back door and was captured later at a local McDonalds.

She really is one tough mother...and an inspiration, to boot!
(no pun intended) And by the way, I'm seriously thinking I'd like one of those tattoos.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

not such a bad friday after all

Fridays are tough. They seem like they stretch on forever, and I'm antsy to get out of the dark and windowless photo studio and see the big picture view of the and trees and fresh air. 

My morning commute starts before dawn, through the cold fog. (Figurative and literal, since I haven't had coffee yet, my brain is as foggy as the highway)

Then I spend my day on details. (I'll explain this part of my job some other day)

On the commute home I take a different, more idyllic route. It calms me down and reconnects me with the outside world.

When I got home, I grabbed my camera and tripod and spent the evening at one of my favorite places:

It's a century-old farmhouse situated on an acre of land in what is now SE Portland, about 10 minutes from downtown.

The house and garden have been restored by two amazing artists and their friends into an delightful showcase for their pottery and other designs.  

A couple of times a year they open it to the public and sell their pottery and let people tour the garden.

I love seeing it in the spring, but I think their Halloween sale is the best!

Happy Halloween!

Friday, October 22, 2010

fall: tying up loose ends edition

I think it very fitting that fall is hurricane season. Autumn always seems to sweep in and hurl me about in 120 mph mind-storms, leaving me dizzy with excitement and soaked in a creative downpour of ideas. It also really stresses me out, making it really hard to keep track of all the irons I've put in the fire, which are suddenly all hot at the same time.
Since there aren't enough hours in the day, or brain cells in my head to process all this energy, I have to let a few things slide here and there. This blog is one of those things.  I'm not giving up just yet, but since it's not a money making endeavor, and since our finances and the rotten economy seem to be the only things in sync these days, I just have to focus on the bottom line: keeping the refrigerator stocked and the wolves from the door. So my posts here will be few and far between for awhile (I really don't know who I'm talking to, either. It's not like I have millions of faithful followers, but I know there are one or two of you who check in from time to time. )

Anyway, here are a few photos of my fall so far:

here's the galette I made with the plums from the last post

 we went to a fun surprise birthday party here for a dear friend

 with incredibly colorful and really tasty seasonal food

the grapes were almost ripe

and the wine was fantastic, of course

the evil hops growing on our fence have had a very good season

but they seem bent on taking over our neighbor's driveway...
too bad I'm not a home brewer!

drawing classes continue in my studio

and the spiders have set up housekeeping across every path and doorway 

making everyone walk around waving their arms out in front of them like lunatics,

lest they end up with spider webs across their faces and creepy crawlies in their hair.

All in all, things are pretty normal around here for hurricane season.  I'll check in again whenever I can. Thanks for stopping by.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

nap quest

I got into a conversation about napping the other day with a couple of friends.  I know this sounds simplistic, but after taking an informal survey of a decidedly small segment of the population (do four people qualify as a focus group?) I've since come to the conclusion that the world is divided up into nappers and non-nappers.

Non-napper types generally feel that sleeping during the hours we're supposed to be awake and productive is wasteful. Time spent napping could be better utilized doing something productive, like checking your facebook page  balancing the checkbook, or  reading blogs emptying the dishwasher.  They employ slogans such as "Sleep is for the weak", or "I'll have plenty of time to sleep when I'm dead", along with copious amounts of caffeine to get them through the day.

A typical non-napper type getting her caffeine fix.

Nappers are generally divided into three camps: the Unabashedly Laid Back,  Guilt-Ridden Snoozers, and Master Nappers. The ULB's talk of the restorative effects of the 15-minute Power Nap. They quote studies that support their theories, and insist that scientists at Harvard have determined that a midday snooze reverses information overload. (wikipedia)  

The Guilt-Ridden Snoozers, on the other hand, also believe in the benefits of napping but due to a childhood spent under the influence of parents who adopted a strict work ethic during the Great Depression, they find it difficult to nap with a clear conscience. A typical GRS can usually be spotted in the prone position with an open book, magazine or newspaper on his or her chest. If caught dozing off, they will insist, "I was just resting my eyes!"
photo borrowed from here

And the third category of napper? Master Nappers are those who have achieved the highest level of Napology. See photos below:

A true Master Napper can nap anywhere, at any time.

This is known in the trade as a Napportunity.

The training to become a Master Napper 
must begin at an early age

and is successful only if practiced on a regular basis.

 Another hallmark of the Master Napper is the Group Nap

where three or more Master Nappers
meet to practice in a warm and cozy place.

Synchronized Napping 

is a highly developed art form

practiced by teams of Master Nappers.

MN's take Nap Form very seriously

but are sometimes mistaken for Unabashedly Laid Back Nappers.

I hope this post has helped to illuminate the plight of all misunderstood Nappers (yawn!). As it is only through understanding and education that we can promote tolerance for all.
Now I really must go and get another cup of coffee, because I'm suddenly feeling very sleepy.... 

Buenas noches