Monthly Archives: November 2006

Chiaroscuro Dog

Chiaroscuro Dog

Although Bonnie is nearly twelve years old and increasingly arthritic, she still gallops the length of a park, joyful to be outside and able to smell the scents of the world. I came upon her yesterday, sitting in a slash of sunlight that had come to rest on the living room floor. She looked regal and as if she knew something I didn’t.  When I called her name, she looked me straight in the eye.  After I had snapped a couple of pictures, she sniffed and lowered her head to rest on her paws, as if to say, “How exhausting the demands of the paparazzi are.”

Mount Hood and Firestone

Firestone Mountain

In the mid-1980’s, when my parents were looking for places to move in order to get our family out of Los Angeles, my mom had a dream. She dreamed that we were living someplace with views of a beautiful mountain. When she came to Portland for the first time, she was struck the tree-lined Sunset Highway, a freeway where the traffic actually moved and how polite and helpful everyone was. But most of all, she was stunned to find the beautiful views of mountains just like those she had seen in her dream.

When I was in college, I would drive the four hours from Portland to Walla Walla, WA and back once every couple of months. I always knew I was on my way back to school when I turned the bend in the road and could see the Firestone sign dwarfed in size by Mount Hood.

This weekend, my mom and I drove out that way to attend a Subud gathering at Menucha, a retreat center in the Columbia River Gorge. I was in the passenger seat of my family’s aging Nissan Quest, my camera in hand, to capture the view that was an integral part of my college experience. The mountain wasn’t out as much as I would have liked, but I love having a picture of it nonetheless.


Until this morning, it had been years since I saw the sun rise.  I’ve never been much of a morning person, but today I found myself on an Amtrak train at 5:15 am, speeding from Philadelphia to Newark, NJ.  As we neared the airport train station, I watched as the undersides of the clouds reflected the growing light of the sun.  It started a dusky, pale rose and grew fiercer and more orange.  A bright, slashed bit of moon lost its prominence as the sky abandoned near black and shifted closer and closer to blue, fading and brightening, until I wasn’t sure I could trust my remembrance of the vanished darkness or the glowing moon.

All of this happened over the steaming, industrial land of northern New Jersey.

Random Friday–I'm leavin' on a jet plane

But I know when I’ll be back again (next Friday).  I’m heading to Portland today for a week.  This will be the first Thanksgiving I’ll celebrate on the west coast since 2001 and I’m really looking forward to it.  I’m throwing up a quick and dirty Random Friday Ten.  There will be no outward linking because I’m actually doing this a little after midnight and no one else is up yet.

1. I Love My Car, Belle and Sebastian (Push Barman to Open Old Wounds)
2. Any Day Now, Sam Cooke (Sam Cooke with the Soul Stirrers)
3. We Never Change, Coldplay (Parachutes)
4. National Steel, Kathleen Edwards (Failer)
5. Maggie Mae, The Beatles (Let It Be)
6. La Bayamesa, Buena Vista Social Club (Buena Vista Social Club)
7. Uptown Up, Maceo Parker (Funk Overload)
8. Illegal Smile, John Prine (Great Days: Anthology)
9. Expressway to Your Heart, Various Artists (Sounds of the Sixth Borough)
10. You’re Gonna Lose That Girl, The Beatles (Help!)

There’s lots of good stuff in this set.  I particularly recommend John Prine, he’s always been one of my favorites.  My friends in college would cringe when I’d go to play him, they couldn’t quite deal with his folky/country sounds in those days.   I’m also tickles that two Beatles songs have shown up in the sets for the last two weeks.  Kinda kooky.

Memories of place

This afternoon my mom and I started talking about a Safeway that was near my high school in Portland, that no longer exists.  It was poorly lit and slightly dirty.  The parking lot drains were always clogged with fallen leaves, creating lakes across the white lines.  There was frequently a person of dubious residency sleeping off an encounter with a bottle of whiskey on the bench in the corner.  A couple of years ago the store was replaced by an artistically lit, clean and spacious one that belies its previous identity.  I’ve only been there once because I prefer not to supplant my memories of it’s other incarnation with this pristine location.

It’s got me thinking about things that aren’t there anymore and how those vanished things live on in our memories.   My mom hasn’t been to visit me in Philly since I moved here, and so has never seen the changes I’ve made the apartment.  She still sees it as it was when her mother was still alive.  I still see my college campus as it was when I went to school there, even though I know that the student union building has been torn down and replaced.  I even saw that change with my own eyes last fall when I went to my reunion, but I prefer to imagine it the way is was when I was there.

Is there some place that you see in your head one way, even though you know that it has been altered?  Are there places you avoid, because you don’t want to change the memory you keep?

An essay of place

Last Thursday I had an assignment due for one of my classes.  It was to be an essay about a place, and being that there is no more story-chocked place in my life than my apartment, I wrote about my home.  I’m feeling fairly happy with the way the piece turned out (although I have to admit that if any of it feels familiar that’s because some bits of it were inspired by entries I’ve written here in the past) so I thought I’d share it.

I live in an apartment full of ghosts.  Sometimes out of the corner of my eye I will catch my grandmother, making her way from the living room to the bathroom, wearing a cashmere sweater and pantyhose.  Once in a great while, I will turn the corner into the kitchen to find my great-aunt Doris standing at the counter, making Onion Olé, one of her infamous hors d’oeuvres.  Younger versions of my mother show up on the living room couch, despite the fact that she is alive and well in Portland, OR.  Ninety-eight year old Aunt Sue, wizened but still wearing her black wig with the dramatic white streak, reapplies coral lipstick in the foyer mirror.  Grandpa Sid, my grandmother’s second husband, can be found napping on the davenport in the den.  If you caught him like that when he was living, he would have sworn that he was just resting his eyes.

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Fork You

Sometime last spring, Scott and I started talking about making a food video podcast.  We spent most of the spring trying to name it and finally settled on Fork You.  Thad and Angie came on board to help us out and help us they have.  We are happy to announce that the first episosde is finally ready for viewing.

Please excuse the squeakiness of my voice, I swear I don’t sound like that in real life.

A half-dozen short paragraphs

It’s close to midnight and work for my class tomorrow night calls frantically. If it weren’t for my NaBloPoMo commitment, chances are good that I wouldn’t be posting. But I like finish what I start, and so I’m here, diligently posting away. I hope you don’t mind an eclectic assortment.

I ran today. For the first time in many months. Interspersed with walking, it actually didn’t feel too bad. I’m toying with the idea of working towards the ten mile Broad Street Run again. I really loved how I felt when running 3/4/5 miles was easy. I’d like to be that girl again.

My upper arms are sore because I spent twenty minutes on my back, raising and lowering a 6-month-old last night in a bench press position, all because it made her smile and giggle. We finally stopped when she deposited a wad of drool dangerously close to my mouth. I love this child, but not quite enough to willingly ingest her saliva.

I am completely and obsessively addicted to Sudoku again. I think I need to hide the puzzle books until Thursday evening, so that I get everything I need to do for school this week done.

I recently put myself back up on, having forgotten how little I actually enjoy the process of dating. I like being in a good relationship, but not the work that is sometimes required to find one.

That feels like enough for now. I’m going to go climb into bed with my laptop and notes for my journalism assignment and see how much I can pound out before sleep steals my brain’s functionality.

Cranberry Bread

Cranberry Bread
The first time I made cranberry bread, I was 8 years old. My mom helped me toast the walnuts and chop the cranberries in her Vitamix, but left the rest of the measuring and stirring up to me. We took it with us to my grandma Bunny’s house, and I walked around with it sliced on plates, urging family and friends to try a slice. I was so proud of myself.

The recipe had come from the back of a children’s book called “Cranberry Thanksgiving,” about Maggie, a young girl who lives with her grandmother on the edge of a lonely cranberry bog. She befriends Mr. Whiskers and invites him home for Thanksgiving dinner. Her grandmother’s secret cranberry bread recipe goes missing that night and she suspects Mr. Whiskers. It all works out in the end, and Grandmother feels so generous, that she shares the recipe with the readers of the book.

My copy of the book lives in my mom’s kitchen cabinet next to her edition of the Joy of Cooking. It is splattered and has the changes I’ve made over the years written lightly in pencil. I don’t believe that as year has gone by in the last 19 that I haven’t made this bread, either for Thanksgiving or Christmas. In recent years I’ve given it as a gift around the holiday time.

This weekend I had three events for which I had to contribute a food item. Flipping through my mental file of recipes, I landed on cranberry bread and Friday night after a Unitarian happy hour I went home and cranked out three loaves. One of the wonderful things about this recipe is that it is really forgiving. There isn’t much that you can do to screw it up.

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