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Random musings on a writer's life & times, with occasional input from acquaintances

 

Saturday, January 25, 2003

 
Returning to Oregon Weather

Leaving the airport
after flying home
from a winter week in California,
my thirteen-year-old says:
"Ah, it's good to be back
in weather you can touch."

He's right, I realize.
I complain overly much
about the Oregon weather.
Gentle rain rests in my hair,
Frisky cold lingers on my fingers,
Friendly wind pats my back,
Peaceful fog flows from my mouth.
Remember, friend, how fine
it feels to abandon
sterile sunshine in favor
of weather you can touch.

--by David Jordan
originally appeared in Perceptions



Thursday, January 23, 2003

 
I stumbled across this list of the ten most romantic places to kiss on the internet. It was posted on a site called All ThirdAge.com, which I assume is operated by some folks who are severely out of touch with reality.

#1: On any beach, during a full moon, by a bonfire
Imagine the waves washing up onto the sand as golden flames and silver moonlight illuminate the face of someone very special. [Imagine being on the Oregon coast in February, as the wind blows 40 miles an hour, rain falls sideways and the temperature hovers at 35 degrees to illuminate the face of someone very special -- me -- with hypothermia.]

#2: Flipping pancakes together in the kitchen, any Sunday
Sleep in on a lazy Sunday morning, awake, and entwine your arm with your mate's. Cooking breakfast together, you know that the day will be a slow and tranquil one. Plant a fond smooch on your loved one as you hand over the spatula. The relaxed comfort of this setting makes it one of our best places to kiss. [My wife trained as a professional chef. Entwining your arm with Cookie Jean’s when she is cooking might get you a broken arm. Trying to kiss her would be like kissing Roger Clemens as he throws a pitch off the mound at Yankee Stadium.]

#3: At any airport, meeting your lover coming off a plane
As anyone knows who has been separated from a partner for a long time, airport kisses are especially ardent. You can't help letting the sparks fly with that first kiss upon reunion, right in front of all the other travelers. [What, you think I let my wife take trips while I stay home and care for the kids and cats? Be serious.]

#4: In an elevator, with no one else inside
The glass elevator at the famous Fairmont Hotel in San Francisco whisks you up and down its 24 floors. [During which time my wife would be cringing terror-stricken in the corner. Cookie Jean hates and fears elevators.]

#5: Floating in the 80-degree waters of the South Pacific
You and your lover cling gently to one another as the glimmering blue water of the Pacific calmly rocks you. [My wife and I tried this once. We rented snorkeling gear at Napili Bay on Maui, went out and floated around on a little styrofoam surfboard to watch colorful fish at play on the ocean floor. Cookie Jean got sea sick and vomited into her breathing tube.

#6: In a boat in the Blue Grotto off the Isle of Capri, Italy
Get ready for a kiss as deep as the azure water of the famed Blue Grotto off the Italian island of Capri. [My wife and I have never been to the Isle of Capri, but we visited the famed Isle of Vancouver, B.C. Riding the ferry from Seattle, we BOTH got sea sick.]

#7: At Niagara Falls, enveloped by the mist
[Closest Cookie Jean and I have been to Niagara Falls was when we stayed with her father and stepmother in their New York City apartment. They didn’t allow kissing.]

#8: In Venice, riding through the canals on a gondola
Your boat carries you past magnificent palazzi, thousand-year-old churches, and inviting courtyards as you're lost in admiration. Ah, Venice--a city for lovers.
[I’ve never been to Venice, but Cookie Jean says she got her butt pinched there while on a student tour when she was 17. I guess it really is a city for lovers.]

#9: In Central Park during a snowfall, New York City
Above you, two rows of elms arch upwards and form a cathedral ceiling, through which the snow slowly falls. The dark limbs above The Literary Walk in New York City's Central Park are lined with white -- and the city, for a moment, is pristine. You squeeze each other's gloved hands and hug to share your warmth. The air may be cold, but your lips stay warm. [Cookie Jean and I visited The Literary Walk in Central Park, but it was August and we were sweating like pigs while jogging three miles, so there was little need to share warmth.]

#10: In Paris at the Louvre, surrounded by the most glorious art
[I tried to kiss Cookie Jean in front of the Mona Lisa at the Louvre in Paris, but I was blinded by the flash of cameras wielded by dozens of Japanese tourists and wound up breaking my glasses against her nose.]

See what I mean? Wake up and smell the dandelions, ThirdAge people!

The most romantic place I ever kissed Cookie Jean was on the couch of a severely underheated (and undercleaned) little house in Bend, Oregon. It was our first kiss, and the first is the most romantic, wherever it is.



Wednesday, January 22, 2003

 
Implicit in poetry is the notion that we are deepened by heartbreaks, that we are not so much diminished as enlarged by grief, by our refusal to vanish -- to let others vanish -- without leaving a verbal record. Poetry is a stubborn art. The poet is one who will not be reconciled, who is determined to leave a trace in words . . .

-- Edward Hirsch



Tuesday, January 21, 2003

 
As a former journalist, I feel it is my responsibility to offer meaningful comment on important news events. Here’s some:

--British writer Valerie Laws, 48, painted the words of a poem on meandering sheep in order to see if they would inadvertently line up to form a different poem. An arts council granted Ms. Laws about $3,400 for her project, which she said would break down the boundaries between "literature" and "quantum mechanics." [Daily Telegraph (London), 12-4-02]

So that’s why I find writing poetry so difficult. I don’t have any sheep.

--Ng Lai Ping, 39, complained that an official at Hong Kong's Central Library had demanded that she stop breastfeeding her child in public and gave as the reason signs posted at various places in the building, "No Food or Drinks." [The Straits Times (Singapore), 10-26-02]

Reminds me of the long-ago summer I worked as a box boy at Erickson’s Market in Albany, Oregon. Every Saturday morning, a young, pretty Mexican woman came into the store with a band of migrant laborers and pushed a grocery cart up and down the aisles with her blouse thrown open so her baby could nurse at her shapely bare breast. This sent our crotchety old store manager into blue-nosed hysteria each week, but he couldn’t speak Spanish and wasn’t about to attempt breast censorship via sign-language. A teen-aged boy, I found the whole situation titillating.

--For 12 days in November, Yugoslav performance artist Marina Abramovic, 56, confined herself to three raised desks at a New York City gallery, where she subsisted on water and carried on all bodily functions in full public view. She said she was hoping to heighten her senses so she and the audience could efficiently transmit energy between them. [Village Voice, 12-4-02]

Sounds like the remodeling work going on at my house. My senses are so heightened from carrying on bodily functions in full view of plumbers, carpenters, electricians and what-have-you, visiting friends mistake me for Robert Downey Jr.

--The former Bob Craft filed a lawsuit against the owners of the reckless-stunt-filled MTV program (and movie) "Jackass," claiming it has defamed him, in that five years ago, he had his own name legally changed to "Jack Ass." Ass, who lives in Montana and filed the lawsuit there, claims the TV show and movie have damaged his reputation to the tune of at least $10 million. [Reuters, 12-31-02]

Jack Ass of Montana, eh? Brings to mind an old Montana high school football star, to whom a coach once compared me in my days as an undersized but maniacal linebacker. His name was Frosty Cox.

--The head of a government health agency in Thailand proposed that a leading oil company offer massages to tired motorists at its gas stations to help reduce traffic accidents. [BBC News, 12-27-02]

If the company really wants to relax motorists, it should install bordellos at gas stations. Of course, that would work best for male drivers. And then they’d have to sleep for an hour before going back on the road.


--A 30-year-old man was killed by a freight train when he walked across railroad tracks in Hermann, Mo., while talking on a cell phone. According to the coroner: "The engineer (blew the whistle) hoping he'd stop but ... he just kept walking. He was talking on a cell phone, and ... stepped right in front of the train." [St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 10-15-02]

I’ve encountered MANY cell-phone users I’d like to see walk in front of a freight train.

--Incoming Colombian defense minister Marta Lucia Ramirez rescinded the military's policy of encouraging the country's Marxist rebels to defect by airdropping sexy photos implying that the depicted women were waiting for them upon their surrender. Said Ramirez, "I, as a woman, add myself to (the protests of this policy)." The so-called FARC rebels, mostly men, are not allowed to have sex without permission of their commanders. [Reuters, 12-1-02]

I think I may be a FARC rebel. I’ll surrender if you bomb my house with skinshots of Liv Tyler.

--Officials of the Longchi Scenic Area in southwestern China, apparently bowing to public pressure, canceled plans to kill five monkeys that had been terrorizing the park’s visitors. According to the Commercial Daily newspaper in Chengdu, park officials had become so exasperated with the marauding monkeys they had been planning a formal execution by firing squad. The monkeys’ sentence was reduced to faraway exile. [Agence France-Presse, 12-3-02]

Hmmmm. My wife has a couple of cats who could use a blindfold and a last cigarette.

--The city council of Soap Lake, Wash., a 1,700-population town that did a booming tourist business in the 1950s but has fallen on hard times, voted to approve the first step toward a revitalization that it believes will draw visitors back in droves: a 60-foot-tall Lava lamp on Main Street. The architect of the campaign, Brent Blake, said, "I just for some reason thought of (a) lava lamp." [Boston Globe, 12-1-02]

Rumor has it the city will stage a Grateful Dead concert to unveil the lamp. Deadheads will attempt to channel the voice of Jerry Garcia from The Great Beyond by rubbing the lamp and chanting: “Oh, wow, man -- the colors! the colors!”

Thanks to my main source, Chuck Shepherd's News of the Weird, on MSNBC.



Monday, January 20, 2003

 

I was more or less oblivious to it then, as we all are to so many profound events in our lives, but when I was a child I lived four years in a strange community.

It was a military housing project that sprawled snakelike through a skinny valley northwest of Hamilton Air Force Base in Marin County, California. Rafael Village, they called the place. It was a Wherry project, so named for a pork-barrel senator who pushed a bill through Congress to erect living quarters for Air Force families all across our Cold War country. Imagine the money to be made by contractors who flattened that valley and threw up mile after flimsy mile of low stucco homes, duplexes near Highway 101 for enlisted men, bungalows back near the hills for officers.

At the halfway point, they built a school. That's where we mixed, the captains' sons and sergeants' daughters, taught by civilian outsiders who drove over from Novato or San Rafael -- Mrs. Chipman, Mr. Whitman, Mrs. Pollard the sour librarian who berated me for returning a checked-out book to the shelf without checking it back in. To a ten-year-old, Ignacio Elementary was just school, the place I went to learn long division and study the discovery of gold at Sutter's Mill, to discuss Buffalo Bob and Dishonest John on the jungle gym during recess. It meant little to me that my old man was a staff sergeant who fixed jet engines and my best buddy Jackie Hudson's dad was a captain who piloted an F-86. I just knew when we slept over at each other's houses, his family live in a bungalow and mine in a duplex. Both were pale stucco structures with sparse yards and no trees. In winter, salamanders -- evicted from nearby creeks by water spilling over their banks -- teemed in the stretches of mud that were supposed to be our lawns.

My mother, sensitized to social nuance by her upbringing in small-town Nebraska, saw that Jackie was a smart kid but a cut-up, one who actively disdained studying yet received better grades than me. And when we got caught sneaking a rubber octopus into Pamela Randall's desk, I was the one who had to stay after class for twenty minutes. So one day my mother went to school and yelled at Mrs. Chipman and yelled at the principal, and after that my grades went up and I stopped being kept after school. Years later, she told me what she yelled about: social discrimination, officer kids vs. enlisted kids, favoritism, apple-polishing the elite while picking on peons.

That's when I realized what a strange, hothouse environment our valley must have been, all the tensions bottled up there, the rules of military discipline and social order disrupted by child proxy, captains' sons and sergeants' daughters playing an intricate game in 1950s California consumer culture -- new orange Pontiacs and nine-inch televisions -- overlaid with the very real threat of a Korean War that drew dads out of our lives for months at a time, if not permanently. When Jackie's dad, driving his red MG, dropped him off at our duplex, what did he think? When my mother learned I took the rap on the octopus caper, what did she think? When Mrs. Chipman, who lived in tony Sausalito, considered that Jackie's dad, with his aviator sunglasses and white silk scarf, flew the planes my old man took a wrench to, what did she think?

Pamela Randall, the most beautiful girl in school, tall and strapping, with shoulder-length hair the color of a palomino horse, was a sergeant's daughter. Her dad worked at the commissary. She lived half a block from me. Jackie was crazy about her. She ignored him, preferred Rodney Applegate, a lanky sergeant's son who lived in the duplex next door. At least there was some natural justice in that, not that I understood it at the time, because I too had an unrequited crush on palomino Pam. I guess love, and beauty, hold no respect for rank, even in a community where rank usually rules.




Sunday, January 19, 2003

 
Open as I am to all legitimate forms of emotional self-improvement, I decided to copy the leading lady of the Rose is Rose comic strip and wrap a rubber band around my right wrist to snap stingingly against my skin each time I entertained a negative thought.

Then, incurable Quacker Backer that I am, I watched Saturday’s Oregon-Oregon State basketball game on television. Bum idea.

Oregon’s Luke Ridnour fires a behind-the-back bounce pass straight into the hands of a startled Beaver. Zing! goes the rubber band against my wrist. Luke Jackson clanks a 25-foot jumpshot off the rim. Zing! He does it again. Zing! Again. Zing! (He missed 13 of 19 shots -- ow! ow! ow!) Beefoid Brian Helquist throws his chest into Oregon State’s Philip Ricci, who responds by muscling him backwards three feet and sinking a lay-in. Zing! The referee whistles a foul on Helquist. Zing! Ridnour goes to the bench and James Davis, taking over at point guard, promptly whips a pass by the head of an unlooking teammate and into the Mac Court stands. Zing!

At the end of the half, the Ducks had a 3-point lead and my wrist was swollen and throbbing. It looked as if some 1800s sea captain had been flogging it with a cat o’nine tails.

The Ducks played better in the last twenty minutes and won the game 79 to 68, but it was too late. I had removed the rubber band at halftime. I guess emotional self-improvement will have to wait until basketball season ends.





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