Thursday, November 30, 2006

gimme shelter from the shelter

For three nights in a row now my humble little workplace turned itself into one of only two emergency overflow shelters in the whole city of Portland. We had room for 15 people. The other overflow shelter had room for 15 people. That's a grand total of 30 people housed by the city in overflow shelters to protect them from the trecherous weather. Thirty of the one or two thousand people estimated to be on the streets in Portland every night. That's ON THE STREETS every night, not in shelters, not crashing on people's couches, not just "homeless" by definition, but actually ON THE STREETS.

Thirty more beds was a nice gesture on our part, but obviously just a drop in the bucket. Don't worry, though, the overflow shelters (all two of us) were also handing out hotel vouchers after we hit capacity.

What's that, you say? Hotel vouchers? Yes. Hotel vouchers. If you showed up too late to get a cramped and crowded spot on our basement floor, you walked away with the lamentable consolation prize of a free night in your own room in a hotel. Note the sarcasm. We gave out about 50 vouchers last night alone. Each voucher was worth about sixty bucks.

(Ok, watch out for my inner Republican:) Why is the city spending thousands of dollars vouchering people (usually singles) into whole hotel rooms at market rates??? This is a shitty way to spend our taxpayer dollars and a completely inadequate way to address homelessness especially in the face of dangerously cold weather.

My inner rainbow-fairy-liberal thinks it's awesome that a handful of homeless people got to spend a vacation from homelessness in a hotel last night. They had the treat of a hot bath and a warm bed and a t.v., things most of us take for granted. Good for them.

But considering that only a tiny fraction of the people who needed shelter last night actually got it, it seems like a ridiculously disproportionate way to allocate resources to solve the problem at hand. How bout open up a public space and staff it on those extra-cold nights? The city is throwing money at the problem, which is nice of them, but they could do it better in the future and serve a lot more people.

(Not to mention, I wouldn't have to spend six hours of an eight hour shift dealing with a steady flow of people waiting to collect their jackpots, I mean, vouchers for the night. That joint was a zoo until ten o'clock, at the expense of our own program and our own clients who had to do without our attention and care last night while we four, ill-prepared staff juggled the city's homeless problem by ourselves. Pardon my venting, but I found it to be pretty frustrating.)

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

word of the day


Pronunciation: &-'kyü-m&n, 'a-ky&-m&n
Function: noun
Etymology: Latin acumin-, acumen, literally, point, from acuere
: keenness and depth of perception, discernment, or discrimination especially in practical matters

I love this word. Thanks to Merriam Webster Online.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

shelter from the storm

Tonight the shelter where I work expanded its capacity to make room for fifteen more people, a special emergency shelter program, because of the weather. The weather is dangerous. It snowed today during my Civil Rights Litigation class and I sat and stared out the window mesmerized. I love snow and would love it to snow more but worry for all the people outside on cold nights like tonight. Not everyone will find their way to shelters and there aren't enough shelters to accomodate everyone anyway. Weather is less novel when you're homeless. Weather is life or death.

Monday, November 27, 2006


Nano: DONE! My 50,000 word National Novel Writing Month novel is FINISHED! And three days early. Just in time for me to start working on, oh, I don't know, exams and stuff.

My Thanksgiving Illness: Lingering. It's either the mother of all sinus infections or a brain tumor, you decide.

My Grandmother: Still Alive. I talked to her on Thanksgiving (directly before the onset of vomiting, mine not hers) and while she did not sound great, it was really, really good to hear her voice. She started out pretty alert, but soon drifted and we lapsed into long silences. I'm glad nobody tried to take the phone away from her until we were done. It was painful to "say goodbye" without really saying it; to just say "I love you, I'm glad I got to talk to you." Careful of sounding too morbid, too maudlin, careful of not sobbing, just careful, probably too careful. We'll see.

Friday, November 24, 2006


On the nation's number-one food holiday, I was sick like a Russian spy. Who came along and poisoned *me* with thallium? I don't know, but if I ever find out...

Bad headache, nausea, couldn't keep any food down. I was either sleeping or rolling around crying and moaning all day. It sucked. Finally, at around 9pm, something shifted. The headache was still there, but the overall discomfort subsided a little. I put a potato on to bake. I put the South Park movie in my computer.

Ahh, South Park. I guess, on the day after Thanksgiving, I am thankful for South Park. In my sickly delerium, that movie seemed even more brilliant than ever. I kept wanting to pull out my moleskine notebook and jot down all the little bits that were so perfectly funny: the "viva le resistance" poster that looks like canadian che; satan's frolick on a gay cruise ship called the S.S. Manhandler; the giant, luminescent talking clitoris.

Awake and less ill today, those seem a little less earth shattering, but still, funny. I watched South Park from my bed and ate a potato which, thankfully, stayed in my stomach, then I went to sleep. Now I still feel crappy, but less crappy than yesterday. So, at least there's hope.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006


My mom sent me an email the day after my birthday to tell me that my grandmother was "in the process of dying." She said, "We're hoping she'll make it to Christmas." Yesterday's updated email says, "She could go any day." I wonder if mom's ever spent time with someone dying, especially in the last days. I wonder if she knows what it looks like.

I compartmentalize this information and I go about my day, classes, work, homework, nano, blog. Then I lay down and try to sleep, but instead of sleeping, I have images of my grandmother, laying in the bed with her eyes sunk into her head, sores down her legs from bad circulation, going crazy and talking nonsense.

And I have images of all the sweet grandmother things that ever made her dear to me. I think of "how now brown cow" which she taught me to say as we sat in her window, looking out across the field at the distant cows. I was three. I think of her in her kitchen, teaching me to wash dishes. I don't wash them that way anymore, but I did for years. I hear her voice, which was always so sweet, especially singing. She and mom were singers together, in church, they recorded the theme song for a church program that was televised in Miami in the '70s. She wanted to write songs, but she never learned how.

My grandmother has a little joke, well, she doesn't think it's a joke, but the rest of us think it's a joke. The joke is that she raised me. I was the first grandchild and I was doted on and adored by my grandmother who babysat me when my parents divorced and to whom I was viciously attached when I was very young. My grandmother, who taught me to drink coffee. My grandmother, who gave me fever blisters. We have a complicated relationship.

She tells people, when I'm doing well in school or otherwise appearing *not* to be in trouble, that she raised me. When I'm looking good, that is, she takes credit for me. And she does it in this sweet sort of way. But otherwise, in the presence of a great deal of distance, she doesn't take much credit for anything. She has an out of sight, out of mind idea about us grandkids and my sweet relationship with her began to end in my teens when I was far enough away and not familiar enough, for her to begin ignoring. No calls, the rare card, nothing much happening at all.

I'm not complaining. I'm just saying, it's complicated. I'm saying I love her and now I lay in bed at night and ignore the complicated parts and remember only the sweet parts and I cry for something that was and then was no more, something that could have been, but didn't become. I cry for the sweet grandma she was when I was little, and I cry for the old lady she is now, dying in a bed in a house in Florida; the old lady I heard just now on the phone, coughing in the background, saying "please help me" to, maybe, nobody, as my grandfather shuffled me off the phone. "How's she doing? Oh, she's fair." She doesn't sound fair to me. She sounds pretty fucking awful, but I guess you're too busy being in the middle of it to want to talk about it, huh.

Yeah. Huh. I cry because death is this precious thing and I hope they're taking good care of her, being sweet to her, and letting her know it's ok to go. I spend the end of my day, unable to sleep, not thinking about the complicated parts, but giving time only to the sweet parts and the loving parts, sending her something loving and peaceful and painfree, saying to her, "I love you and you can go on to the next place, whatever you want it to be, and hopefully they will have 'hey good lookin' and coffee and lots and lots of food because I know you love to eat. Don't hang around for us, we'll be fine."

nano update

I just tipped over the 40,000 mark. Unreal. Less than 10,000 words to go. The homestretch. It's all downhill from here! Wheeeeeeeeeeeeee!

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

frickin word of the night


NOUN: Chiefly British Slang 1. Aggressive or violent behavior. 2. Irritation or exasperation: “Postponing new hospitals and roads causes far less aggro than sacking town hall or Whitehall workers” (Economist).
ADJECTIVE: Slang 1. Aggressive or violent. 2. Daring and skillful, especially in a sport such as surfing.
ETYMOLOGY: Short for aggravation and aggression.

Thanks to the American Heritage Dictionary online. And thanks to everything in my path today that's making me so frickin aggro! ARRRRRRGH!

last night at the homeless shelter

Observations: everybody psychotic is even *more* psychotic lately. I don't know if it's the short days and the long dark nights, or the cold and rain, or the barometric pressure, or mysterious astrological influences, but the crazy are crazier. A couple of my favorite guys are getting to be downright scary, and that concerns me a little. Oh well.

And another thing. Last night I had the unusual experience of giving a new person his very first tour. Working swing shift nowadays, I pretty much never run across a new person who has never even come to the building before. That kind of stuff gets worked out by other people on day shift, who do the paperwork, the tour, etc. This guy, though, for whatever reason, was all set up but hadn't come in yet.

It was nice, after all these years, to see the place through new eyes. This guy was nice, clean and very appreciative to have a temporary place to crash at night. As I walked him through the common areas and pointed out all the luxury features (e.g.: the disgusting smoking room, the tiny phone room, the pop machine, the bread table, the water dispenser) he actually seemed to appreciate everything. He actually said, "Wow," with this voice that told me he had expected much worse.

I don't know why it touched me so much, but it did. The little place ain't so bad after all. In fact, it was somehow on the cover of the Sunday Oregonian this weekend. Too bad I missed it, I'll have to get on their website and see if they can send me a copy. Apparently, they did a huge article on the state of mental healthcare in Oregon (mostly not good) but gave us plus-points for being one of the only drop-in-centers left open downtown. Yay for us!

Monday, November 20, 2006

tram gawking

Sorry, Bojack, but I gawked the tram today and I LOVED it.

For those of you not fortunate enough to be living up here in Stumptown, we're in the midst of building this quite controversial aerial tram (rimshot for Bojack) over I-5 to connect some really big buildings to some other really big buildings. I don't know much about it besides what Bojack says about it over on Jack Bog's Blog and, frankly, the details go in one ear and out the other, I just gather that it's a money sucking bad idea.

But it's SO COOOOOL! I've been watching the big tram post (I'm sure it has a name) go up next I-5 as I drive back and forth school and that alone has been pretty interesting. The finished product looks like one of those giant AT-AT military walkers from StarWars (just Google it, you'll see) and seems poised to take one wide step over the highway on it's way up the hill to destroy the VA hospital.

That part's been finished for awhile and the cables are up too, but it wasn't until (of all days) my BIRTHDAY last week when I first saw an actual tram car gliding along in the sky. I had just come around the corner, in view of the tram line, when I saw it, cresting the curve over the post and slipping along, high over the road. It was silent and ethereal, still in it's wrapping plastic, which flapped in the air and gave it the look of a ghostly, haunted tram car, transporting ghouls from here to eternity. It was really cool and especially nice to see it on my birthday. Like a weird little present from the city, just for me.

I saw another one today and the shock was less noticeable. People were slowing down to gawk though. I guess that's to be expected, but hopefully it'll wear off once the thing's been running for awhile. I know you hate it, Bojack, but now that it's there, don't you think it'd be really cool to ride it??? The view of the valley and the river would be gorgeous from up there. I don't know about you, but I can't wait!

Sunday, November 19, 2006

drinks with waspy

Four o'clock drinks with Waspy today yielded fifty pounds of bar study materials, free of charge, to use in lieu of the bar prep course. It was fun to hang out with Waspy who is more relaxed now that school is over. See, I have proof now that law school is bad for your health and your personality. I'm looking forward to entering my own recovery period starting March 1st, 2007.

Hobo's, an upscale piano bar owned and frequented by middle-aged gay men, was swarming with old dykes tonight, highly unsual. Waspy and I raised our eyebrows at each other about it, but then we learned the occasion. Eight-minute ladies dating. A woman from the flock finally came over to our table, apologizing profusely, because she thought we'd been left out. "Oh, we didn't come for that," we said in unison. She looked back and forth between us, "Oh, you two are together."

It was like the kind of ridiculous mix-up that would happen on a bad episode of Will and Grace. We laughed and I explained that we weren't together, but that we were "separately coupled" and still not interested in eight-minute dating. The woman chatted with us a minute and explained that there was quite an age-spread among the ladies tonight, the oldest lady being 74. Wow! A 74 year old lesbian showed up at Hobo's tonight to do eight-minute dating! I guess she doesn't have time to waste on, say, twenty-minute dating, or, god-forbid, two-hour dating! Good for her, though. I hope she finds a nice lady and settles down.

Meanwhile, I'm home now and it's time to get to work on the nano novel. I had a wild spurt of inspiration last night and wrote for nearly four hours. I doubt I'll match that rate of productivity tonight, but I've got to try and catch up, there are only eleven days left and I've got 17,000 words left to write. Wish me luck.

say it ain't so!

I don't know where I've been, but apparently our neighbors to the North have somewhere along the way elected themselves a conservative, evangelical christian Prime Minister. Say *what*??? It's all in the "cover story" of the New York Times website -- conservative christians in Canada are galvanizing a movement to repeal the same-sex marriage laws that passed there in 2003, and this new Prime Minister, Stephen Harper, is going to put it to the Parliament to vote on whether they want to "reopen" the issue to debate.

Canada!!! What is wrong with you??? Our example wasn't horrifying enough, you had to go and elect your very own evangelical Christian leader??? And now you're letting the conservative chritians "galvanize" something?? Stop it! Stop it right now! As if the Beaver Fever in Vancouver wasn't bad enough...

....wait a minnit. Is this just a hoax to stop us nutty Americans from emmigrating up there in droves?? Are you pretending to suck just as bad as we do, just to stop us from trying to escape our problems by flooding your borders? Ok, ok. I get it. Nice one, Canada. You almost had me there for a second. Whew.

laden with the pollen of living

Friday night, at the white bar (actually named Moloko Plus, but with no sign out front do indicate it), before anyone else showed up, Fat Tony and I had a heated conversation about the reality of existence. Or scientific explanations about existence. Or the reality of scientists. Either way, it stayed pretty scientific and we went back and forth on the ways different scientific models work or don't work under different circumstances and which model might be necessary to understand something like the meta-brain theory that came up in the first conversation.

At some point, there was no way to keep the conversation purely scientific. Fat Tony kept veering in the direction of metaphysics, but then over-correcting, and veering back towards science, as though taking the leap into the metaphysical would suddenly tank the conversation. That would be similar to what I heard on the radio show yesterday. One of the scientists was explaining the deep and unexplainable interconnectedness he had witnessed when studying these leaderless systems, and eventually he said, "these patterns are so intricate and so incredible, I can't help but look at them and see a creator."

There was dead silence. Then the interviewer (who wasn't behaving like your typical interviewer, he was doing more of an Ira Glass/subjective/conversational style interview) said, "Wow. You said that, and you just let the air out of it for me. That takes away all the magic." To bring up something metaphysical, like a creator, was to kill the conversation which had, until then, rested in the otherwise objectively observable world of science. Bummer.

So, after several near-misses with metaphysics by Fat Tony, I could tell we needed to go in that direction, so I carefully brought it up myself. I laid a nice, safe foundation and then, with much hesitation, Fat Tony started to explain his own very interesting and very sweet theory of the point of life. Normally, I wouldn't feel comfortable recounting somebody else's personally arrived at theory about anything, but this was really sweet, and in my opinion, pretty unique. I'd never heard it put quite this way. So I want to be able so share it.

First we agreed on something of the "raise the sparks" idea -- if not the full mythology around it, at least the part about everything being made of the same divine stuff. Then Fat Tony explained that he's always believed, though he's never really known why, that we have a mysterious purpose on earth that we may never actually figure out. But our job here is to go through life having lots and lots of experiences. As we go, our experiences will collect on us, more and more, until we are totally caked in it, like pollen. Then, when we die, we will carry all that life-pollen back to something, somewhere that waits for it. We are, essentially, like big, fat bumblebees, bumbling through life, collecting life-pollen for whatever comes next.

It's the absolute opposite of karma. Karma asks us to become clean and free of all our past actions so that our unenecumbered souls can ascend when our bodies die. That's all fine and good, but Fat Tony's pollen theory has captured my imagination. I am a big fat bumblebee, collecting the pollen of life. I don't have to worry about the pollen I collect, or judge it, or figure it out, I just have to fly it back to where it belongs when the time comes. Sounds kind of nice.

The pollen theory dovetails nicely with the theory that god (as the indivisible, all-there-is) created other stuff besides god (like universes and people) so that god could have an experience that was outside itself. So, even though god is literally all there is, god can split parts of itself off to make other stuff and let those parts interact with each other in a way that god can't as the indivisible, all-there-is. Our existence as pollen gathering bumblebees, bringing our experiences back to god makes sense if god is out there waiting to know itself. This is just one more way we are like the mirror.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

important things you should think about

I listened to this radio show on NPR yesterday about organizational systems with no leaders. Like ants and bees. (You're thinking, 'But wait! Ants and bees have queens!' -- They sure do, but queens are just egg factories, not leaders.) Each individual ant, for instance, isn't particularly smart. But somehow, mysteriously, all the ants working together manage to do really smart things. It's almost as though the relation of all the ants working together creates a meta-intelligence that can't be pinned to any one ant or otherwise located in space. It just is.

It's the same in our brains. Where, I ask you, is the thought you're thinking right now? Where is the you that you think you are? The thought isn't located anywhere and neither is the you. The thoughts and the you only exist within the relationships among neurons in your brain. Like a billion little ants, scrambling around in your head, no one neuron holds the thought. The thought only comes from the workings of all the neurons together.

Deep, don't you think? Yeah. Totally. And if ants work this way and neurons work this way, what about large groups of people? Isn't it possible that in a large group of people (or maybe even in a small group...) something mysterious is happening within the interaction itself that is creating a meta-effect that is bigger and broader than any one of us is able to see or comprehend? Already there is evidence to suggest this is the case.

For example, the scientist who invented Eugenics (a sweet guy who really loved people...) had this theory that if you got a lot of dumb people together the sum of their parts would be super-extra dumb. So he went to this carnival in a rural community and watched as a carnival guy asked a crowd to guess the weight of an ox. The crowd made guesses, the person who came the closest won a prize, and everyone left.

When it was all said and done, the Eugenics guy went to the carnival guy and asked if he could have all the slips that the guesses were written on. He then added them all up and came up with the mean average. It was one pound off from the actual weight of the ox and way closer than any individual guesser could've been. Interesting, no? You can try it with a jar of jellybeans. Ask all your friends to guess, then get the mean average of the guesses and see if it isn't alarmingly close to the right answer and much closer than any individual guessed.

Is this just a parlor trick? Maybe. What are the practical applications? I don't know. But it's interesting. At least, I thought so. I have a lot more to say about it, but I need to go do homework, so I'll leave you all to mull it over then maybe I'll write some more about it later. But remind me to explain the reverse-karma theory of bees gathering pollen. It's really cool.

home is a fuzzy place to be

My one-day-late, psuedo-birthday party: at a bar that was all white, a white bar, white tables, white chairs, white walls. It was like the '70s or an Austin Powers movie. First, it was me and Fat Tony with one hour's worth of heated conversation on the issue of scientific modalities of understanding the world. That was pretty good.

Then came my friends from law school. That was not so great. I'm done with those law school people. They are mostly useless.

Fat Tony gave me a foldable chinese fan he won at a video arcade and a set of "Star Wars Flash Cards" he drew. Part of an inside joke, but just know, they were hilarious. (Law school friends gave me a bottle of wine. Thanks law school friends. That's so unique.)

Then, fortunately, the law school people went away (even Fat Tony went away, god bless him) but Hoot and Andree showed up and they carried the rest of the night. The oldest of my old Portland friends -- Hoot is growing his scraggly beard and has somewhere along the way acquired these black framed glasses and he now looks like Alan Ginsberg cerca 1956 or something. I love those guys.

We left the white bar and went to the White Eagle (minor irony -- everything was white tonight) where we had one last drink and something to eat. Ah food. I'm out of practice with this Going Out Drinking thing. I went slow, but still. Four drinks in four hours and I'm... well... a little drunk. But I'm home alive and things are good. And things are, really, you know, ready for bed.

Friday, November 17, 2006

i love kiwi!

No, not my New Zealand friend Kiwi. She's nice and all, but... we're just friends.

Kiwi! is an animated movie on YouTube that I watched last night after catching a link to it on Joolie's blog, Oh My Stars and Garters! Oh. My. God. I cried and cried! I was warned that tearage might result, especially if watching while even slightly premenstrual... which I am. But wow. I had no idea.

So, I apologize for my lack of computer skillz, because (despite best efforts and help from friends) I still don't know how to post a working link. So please copy and paste this link into your browser and go watch this video. It's only three minutes long and it's so awesome.

Basically, it's somebody's masters animation project. It is the story of a very sweet little kiwi who stands in as a kind of anti-Sysiphus. She has all of the painstaking labor of Sysiphus's boulder rolling, but instead of perpetual, eternal boredom, the kiwi gets an exhilerating if not briefer reward for her labors.

If you can watch this video and not cry at the end... well... you're just not premenstrual. Good for you.

i *said* it was my *birthday*

Thanks to the two lovely people who posted me birthday comments. You are my true blogfriends and everyone else can just hope to catch up tomorrow and not wind up in blog-friend purgatory. You get a grace period, people. Please take advantage of it.

What did I do for my birthday, you ask? If you are only wondering what I might've done *today* for my birthday, you are not thinking big enough. You have to start way further back. You have to start by asking, "What did you do last weekend for your birthday?"

SK and I went out to dinner at the Tin Shed last weekend, the weekend smack between both our birthdays. We each ate exactly the same meal (bacon blue cheese burgers -- though I had cole slaw and she had potato salad) and we had really interesting and animated conversations that made us the envy of all the other boring people in the restaurant.

That was followed by a whole week of birthday presents from SK who, god bless her, was making up for the fact that she was planning to leave town on my birthday. Yes, it's true, SK has run away to the Great White North for the weekend and left me here on my birthday. But like I said, she spent the week filling my mailbox at work with lovely presents, every day. I got some sweet stuff and I am convinced that SK is the most awesome (yet complicated) special friend on the planet.

Blah, blah, mushy stuff. But what about today?? Prepare for disappointment. Today I went to class at nine in the morning. I pretended that the sesame donuts (that's right: sesame donuts) the professor brought in were actually for my birthday and not just a general act of kindness. Then, after two and a half hours of class, I went to the cafeteria and ate a Happy Birthday Bacon Swiss Burger. (I am so grateful to all the animals who contributed to my notable, nearly identical, birthday meals.)

After that, I had a nice phone call with SK who hadn't yet headed for her train, and I followed that up with some tantalizing Birthday Research for the Last Paper of my Law School Career. Woo-hoo! Then what? How to top such an exciting birthday activity?? TWO MORE HOURS OF CLASS!! Ok, just another hour and a half of class, but it felt like at *least* two hours.

Here's the good part. The gift I gave myself today (besides bacon and beef) was two hours less at work! Instead of bolting out of my last class and rushing to make it to work by 4, I strolled out to my car and drove home, content in the knowledge that someone else was working for me until 6. Ah leisure! Ah relaxation!

I went home and checked my email and cleaned my house and made some food and, believe it or not, that all felt pretty nice and relaxing. Then I went to work. Work was dull. I did my writing group, I updated our blog, etc, etc, I hung out with some crazy people, and now here I am. Back home where I ought to be. :-) Drinking my birthday beer from SK and sitting with my feet up and my trusty little ibook in my lap. The good life.

Tomorrow I will actually celebrate. I have vowed not to do a single drop of homework tomorrow. I will wake up and make coffee and lounge around and do all the leisurely things I've been wanting to do. Like read. And work on my lagging behind nano-novel. And then, later on, the fun will start. I'll be meeting up with some folks for birthday drinks and celebrations. Should be lots of people I haven't seen in a long time, and that should be interesting. Yay! I'm having a one-day-late, pseudo-birthday party!

Then, Saturday morning (depending on Friday night) I might extend the celebration to include a post-birthday hangover cure pho lunch at the Pho Jasmine on Killingsworth. Pho is supposed to be the best thing ever for kicking the dog that bit you... or whatever you call it when you need to feel better after a night of boozing. ("A night of boozing" for me, anymore, is three beers, so I better be careful Friday.)

AND LASTY BUT NOT LEASTY -- the ten day birthday celebration will wrap up on SUNDAY with a happy hour round with my BEST (law school) FRIEND WASPY!!! Poor Waspy, I'm always neglecting her, in real life and in blog life, so Sunday will be our first big togetherness outing in awhile. It should be nice. Plus she's handing over an enormous stack of Barbri study books for my bar study festivities which will be coming up in January. Yay for Waspy!

And yay for ten day birthday celebrations! And yay for your patience, if you've gotten this far, YOU deserve a birthday present! You're awesome! Now I'm going to bed. YAY SOME MORE!! IT WAS MY BIRTHDAY!!

Thursday, November 16, 2006

i say it's my birthday

Hey blogfriends, it's my birthday! I've got an unsteady relationship with getting and wanting attention for things like birthdays, but I'm working on finding a balance and this year my approach is to ask for some attention that I would otherwise try to avoid. To that end, I would like to ask you, my readership, for a present.

Please can I have a present, please, please, please???

Yay! Thanks. All I want is for you to post me a birthday comment saying as much or as little as you like. I check my sitemeter obsessively (like... I could probably benefit from medication for my sitemeter obsession) and I spend a lot of time wondering how people found me, what they like about the site, why the come back, etc. I like writing what I write, and I like knowing that people are reading, but I notice sometimes that I long for something that feels more like a conversation. Sometimes I feel lonely.

So, if you don't mind, I'd love to hear from you. If you don't want to post a public comment, feel free to email me at the address provided. And thanks for reading my blog, that's the best present of all. :-)

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

substance abuse

I'm tired lately. Drinking too much coffee to get through my day. Noticing, also, a craving for sodas, sweets, fast food and other garbage that was somewhere along the way hardwired into my brain as "treats." I "treated" myself just now to a Cherry Coke. Last night I "treated" myself to Fritos and cheese dip. My mind feels treated, but my body feels cheated. Ha ha. Yeah. What the hell.

Crossing the bridge today, thinking about work and how some days people seem universally good and other days people seem universally disgusting. I had a really cruel thought and remembered a whole constellation of really cruel thoughts that have crossed my mind recently: wanting to hit a classmate in the face with my nalgene bottle because she was chewing crunchy cereal in class with her mouth open; longing to scream at the loud kids on the bus to shut the fuck up; wishing some of our "suicidal" clients would go ahead and do it already. What comes over me?

Then I thought maybe my work with disadvantaged populations wasn't so good hearted, but was really the living out of some kind of weird reform sadism. I feel best about my work when I'm witnessing a particular kind of human suffering. When clients equally crazy, equally needy, equally homeless behave defiantly or with a sense of obnoxious entitlement, I don't enjoy helping them. I kind of resent helping them. But when they're just the right timbre of meek and just the right shade of broken: then my job feels golden. What the fuck is wrong with me?

I don't know. All I know is: I'm tired. I'm thirsty. And tomorrow is my birthday. And this is the angsty way I've come to celebrate it. Yippee.

nanny 911

Oooooooooooohhh, I finally heard my upstairs woman scream at her obnoxiously bratty three year old. Well it's about time. That kid's a terror and I've been waiting to hear something wafting down here a little sharper than the soothing murmer of over-educated, liberal parents whimpering out their well-reasoned disciplinary suggestions.

But, as much as I've longed to go up there myself to jerk that little monster out of one of his tantrums (my mom's favorite thing to yell at us when she was annoyed was "I'll jerk a knot in you!" -- still not sure what that would actually look like...), I couldn't help feel a little PTSD just now when she shrieked "GOD DAMMIT GET BACK IN YOUR CHAIR!" Yikes. Poor kid. He better do what she says.


I read today that Toys for Tots, which is run by the Marines and collects toys for needy children at Christmas, turned down an offered donation of 4,000 talking Jesus dolls. The dolls, go figure, quoted scripture from the Bible. Sounds like fun to me.

The spokesperson for the Marines (much to the credit of the Marines, I must say) said that the Marines had to decline the dolls because they don't inquire into the religious backgrounds of the families to whom the toys are donated, and they would hate to wind up giving talking Jesus dolls to Jews or Muslims for Christmas. Seriously.

Forget that Christmas is supposed to be a celebration of the birthday of Jesus and, as far as I know, isn't celebrated by Jews and Muslims anyway. "Christmas" has come to be a sort of umbrella term relating to the giving and getting of stuff in December and has apparently ceased to have much connection to its old Jesusy roots. Which leads us to this sort of absurd moment when, on a holiday purportedly celebrating Jesus, it is taboo to give a Jesus related object as a gift. My conservative Christian family are probably churning out the hate-emails on this one as we speak.

They shouldn't bother. The Marine spokesperson seemed to imply that the dolls might have been turned down anyway just for being lame. He said, "the kids tend to want presents that are fun." Ouch, Jesus. I still think you're fun. Barbie can't turn water into wine and GI Joe never died for my sins. Those Marines don't know what they're talking about.

Monday, November 13, 2006

what you can pound

Among other things, coffee. Between two paper towels. With a hammer. Because you are at work with a bag of whole bean Starb*cks coffee someone left at the desk and while you do have a coffeemaker you do not have a coffee grinder. And then, while you're pounding the coffee into dust with the hammer, your coworkers say "What are you doing? There's a coffee grinder over there." And they point and sure enough, there's a coffee grinder, right over there, and you never knew. But you keep pounding on the coffee underneath the paper towels anyway, b/c what the hell, you were already almost done anyway.

word of the night


Pronunciation: in-'kO-&t, 'in-k&-"wAt
Function: adjective
Etymology: Latin inchoatus, past participle of inchoare to start work on, perhaps from in- + cohum part of a yoke to which the beam of a plow is fitted
: being only partly in existence or operation : INCIPIENT; especially : imperfectly formed or formulated : FORMLESS, INCOHERENT [misty, inchoate suspicions that all is not well with the nation -- J. M. Perry]
- in·cho·ate·ly adverb
- in·cho·ate·ness noun

I see this around and can't put my finger on what it means... still not sure I know...

stumped shmumped

I'm at work. Fat Tony is serving teryaki chicken and rice to fifty more or less homeless people. It's raining. The building is not yet leaking, but the leaks will come in time. I have a huge Joan Didion book that I'm trying to read, but clients keep interrupting me with, you know, legitimate requests for things I'm supposed to be doing. The nerve.


I came out ahead of the pack and now I've ground to a halt. This nano-novel of mine is suddenly going nowhere! I got my characters further along in fewer pages than I'd planned and now the balance of the narrative seems off and I don't know how to fix it! Furthermore, I can't think of anything to blog about! It's like my head has been opened up and completely emptied of everything interesting. I suppose I need a break.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

like a double agent

"My only advantage as a reporter is that I am so physically small, so temperamentally unobtrustive, and so neurotically inarticulate that people tend to forget that my presence runs counter to their best interests. And it always does. That is one last thing to remember: writers are always selling somebody out."

That is from the preface to Joan Didion's 'Slouching Towards Bethlehem,' a collection of her essays published in magazines between the years 1965 - 1967. This collection, in turn, is part of a larger collection called 'We Tell Ourselves Stories in Order to Live,' a wonderfully chunky book full of Didion's nonfiction, starting with 'Slouching Towards Bethlehem' and ending with work written as late as 2003.

I hadn't read any Joan Didion until I read her memoir 'The Year of Magical Thinking' last January. That was a phenomenal, stark and heartbreaking book about her life directly after the death of her husband John Gregory Dunne, also a writer, to whom she had been married for forty years. It was a beautiful book about life after the death of a loved one, straightforward and more-or-less unsentimental, and I read the whole thing at my dad's house, sitting in the exact spot on which my brother Isaac died in 2001. Ironic? Yes. Weird? No. Powerful? Certainly.

A few days ago, I saw the cover of this big, fat collection in a magazine and thought "Wow, that looks lovely, I should see if that's at the library." Then, yesterday, SK and I went to the library to pick up some things that were on hold, and to my utter amazement, there it was, waiting for me with my name on it. Apparently, I'd put a hold on it months ago and had completely forgotten about it. Nice. So now it's sitting on my desk, looking very huge and inviting and I really want to read it but probably won't have time. I did, however, read the preface to the first book it contains, and I was struck by that bit that I just quoted.

As you know, I've been working like a woman possessed on my nano novel and I've got quite the word count (over 23,000 words now, on day 11 -- 65 pages). Writing at this clip wouldn't be possible if I hadn't started with an already fully formed story that had been outlined in my head for months, full of characters based on clients I have worked with for years. I know my story really well and I know my characters really well. As I read that bit that Didion said about her presence always being against everyone's best interest, I felt a little shameful. I love my story and I love my characters, but is my writing against their best interest? I hope not.

Of course, I've changed names and evolved the characters in my story a bit. They aren't complete clones of the actual people who inspired them, but still. My story's main character is based on a guy I see every single day I work. I have a good relationship with him and he likes me a lot. I wonder what he would think if he knew I was using him, his life, his experiences, to shape a character and write a novel? Would he even recognize himself if he read it? Maybe not.

I realized something recently though that is unsettling but true and there's nothing I can do about it. To be an artist you have to be ruthless. Especially to be a writer. In a way, you belong to the world, not to your friends and not to your family. Nothing can be sacred. You have been called (and given the tools) to share something, to expose something, to broadcast something, to reshape something. You might hurt people, you might alienate people, you might hurt and alienate yourself, but you have to do it. It is your job on the planet.

I'm in a slightly different position, because I am a mental health worker and my confidential relationship with clients is the only thing that gives me access to their stories. So I have a legal and moral obligation to respect their privacy, to change their names and identifying information. But, as a writer, I have an obligation to the world to bring their stories out and share them as best I can. As Didion says, I will always be selling them out, I just hope to do it with a lot of awareness and as gently and skillfully as possible.

Friday, November 10, 2006

wasting time

I just spent about fifteen minutes typing up this complicated story for your reading enjoyment before finally realizing that it was too complicated and not that enjoyable, so I gave up. I love stories and my urge to tell this one is really great, but this isn't the right venue.

Sorry the posts have been boring lately. So busy. So, so busy. The nano-novel is coming right along and I have been funneling all my extra time and energy into that instead of this. It's day 9 and I'm already over 20,000 words. That's 57 pages, for anybody keeping score. Almost a third of the way to the end. Rock on.

Fat Tony's racing me. In three short days, he's gotten himself up to 12,000. He posted an excerpt tonight and it looks pretty decent. I don't want to give it away, but there's a lot of fungi involved. I think he was drunk when he wrote it, but it works, somehow.

I should go work on mine some more, actually. I can't let him get ahead of me. I must crush Fat Tony. I must win nano glory!

Thursday, November 09, 2006

and a good time was had by all

It was another fun Wednesday night at work with Fat Tony and Chunk, who is finally back after his car-crash. He looks like absolute hell and clearly shows signs of traumatic brain injury. He was cranky and mumbling nonsense all night, but we still had fun.

First there was the fifty-cent booklet (a one-inch square of glued together pages) that Fat Tony got out of a machine in the men's room at My Father's Place entitled: "Sexual Positions of the World." In addition to claiming to be one in a long series of best sellers on matters of international understanding, the little book even contained a touching dedication: "This book is dedicated to helping you become a more worldy and satisfying sexual partner." Isn't that sweet? And of course, there were the illustrations.

Second, was the babelfish. If you haven't tried it yet, go to babelfish (an AltaVista site) and do a double translation. To do this, you must first translate a chunk of English text into another language (how will be self-evident once you're on the site) -- then retranslate it back into English. Hilarity ensues. If you laugh at malapropisms and typos, you'll really love the fun of babel fish.

Third, there was the "I'm in UR" website. Harder to explain and made much funnier because it came in the midst of hilarity already in progress: the "I'm in ur" site offers a series of pictures with carefully worded "I'm in ur" statements. For example, an old, egyptian painting featuring a jackel with his hands on the chest of a mummy lying prone, features the caption "I'm in ur pyramid, touchin ur mummies." Why is that funny? I don't know. But we laughed and laughed. The best and most fucked up? The one with baby seals. Just trust me, I won't say anymore.

Finally, the night degenerated into Fat Tony and Chunk sending dirty text-messages to each other. I'm not proud of it. But I did laugh at it. Reminds me that I grew up with brothers and I'm happy with a rough and dirty sort of humor. It's nice to have a once-a-week dose. Whew. Now I can get on with the rest of my week.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

feelin blue

And that ain't bad. Well, kids, the dems have the senate and maybe the house. Rummy is going to resign. North Dakota rejected their draconian abortion ban and Arizona, of all places, rejected a gay marriage ban. And, last but not least, we're about to have our very first female speaker of the house. I can't help but feel just a tiny stir of excitement about it all... but I don't dare get my hopes up too high. We'll see what happens...

eyes peeled

It is after 1am and I'm finally going to tear myself away from the election results to go to bed. I will wake up and learn the good, bad, or ridiculous news. (Ridiculous, at this point, would be contested elections and recounts, which may happen in Virginia.) While I'm definitely on the edge of my seat about the close Senate situation, I can't say I'm wildly happy about any of the results. Things have sucked thus far, but will it be all that better under the dems? I hope so.

As I sit here tonight I can't help but think of 2004. I was sitting at the E-room with CB and Mog (a.k.a. 'make out girl', but way before she was Mog, when she was still just a cute chick in one of my classes) watching the election results roll in on a giant screen with a roomful of other dykes. We cheered for awhile because Measure 36 was doing poorly, then we groaned and sighed when it picked back up and eventually won. What a fucking disappointment that whole election was. So many states voted against gay marriage. And then there was the whole re-electing George W. thing that happened. What the fuck. I realized that night that this country is completely fucking crazy. Sorry, fellow citizens, but how could we have elected that idiot-monkey two separate times? I know, some would argue we never even elected him once, much less twice, but whatever. He's in there, isn't he? And we didn't do enough to stop it.

Now the dems are taking over and I'm mildly excited about it but, as they say, only time will tell if makes any difference. I might be too disillusioned to care. It's all rearranging deck chairs on the Titatanic at this point, as far as I'm concerned. I'd like to see the two-party system tank, the institution of national healthcare, a clampdown on big-bizniss, the eradication of the influence of so-called morality politics, and a globally responsible attitude towards foreign relations. Just for a start. Maybe I'll run for prez in 2012. Better start polishing up all the skeletons in my closet, I'm afraid my opponent would have lots of mud to sling. I guess I should start by admitting I inhaled, among other things...

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

today is the day

Ok, everybody. If you haven't done it already, go do it now. VOTE! I know it may all seem like bullshit spread on top of manure with a nice sprinkling of crap, but whatever. Vote anyway. Let's at least try to have a successful democracy here at home, since we're so assiduously trying to purvey it abraod. Even though it all looks bleak, just suck it up and pick the least of the worst. Maybe something good will happen.

Monday, November 06, 2006

free to go

Guess what I got in the mail Saturday. :-) A passport. My very first passport ever. (!!!) Yay for me. It means I can leave. I can leave and never come back. But first, I must finish school. And then, I must take the bar. And then... I will leave. Buh-bye.

parade of the scorpios

Last Friday was SK's birthday and today is my brother Alex's birthday and the sixteenth is *my* birthday. Yay for all the scorpios. :-)

My brother's birthday is a little complicated for two reasons. First, Alex was a twin and his twin, Isaac, died in 2001 right after they'd both turned twenty. So, today is also Isaac's birthday. Happy birthday Isaac. Isaac, being dead, may or may not be all that interested in his birthday anymore, but Alex, being alive, will probably never have a single birthday all his life that doesn't remind him that his twin brother is dead. And that's complicated.

To a lesser degree, Alex's birthday is now complicated because mine comes ten days after and, because his comes first, my actions tend to set the tone each year for how we will handle birthdays. If I ignore his birthday and send him a late card, he ignores my birthday and sends me a late card. If I remember, and send him a present, he remembers and sends me a present. If I just send an email, he sends an email. It's kind of strange. This year I sent him a t-shirt from Powell's. Turns out, it was way too big. I'm no good at judging sizes, apparently. I'm not good at judging much of anything, to be honest, but that's beside the point. I'm just hoping he doesn't feel obligated to put something in the mail for me this week of similar size and value. That's just weird.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

"a finch sucking a boobie bird's blood"

My sitemeter reveals to me (mystical oracle that it is) that someone accessed my blog via a google search for the above, enigmatic phrase. What in god's name does this phrase mean and what insight could my blog possibly offer on the subject?? Oh mysterious internet, will I ever understand your wily ways?

to relax

SK's got a lot of interesting ideas about awareness. She likes to bring awareness to everything you can think of, including the lack of awareness that comes from something like drinking. She has a cool theory about drinking: we often drink to go into altered states, but we don't usually understand much about those states. Her idea is to follow ourselves while we drink to try and understand what we find so moving and meaningful in those altered states, with the hope that we may be able to live those things more fully in everyday life.

So, with that in mind, I paid very close attention to myself the other night at Leo's pumpkin carving party, as I carved my pumpkin and drank my three Black Butte Porters right in a row. At first, as I drank, I just felt heavy. I was also sad, because SK and I had just had a big fight and she hadn't come to the party with me. I was feeling anxious and hopeless about things, yet there I sat, drinking a beer and carving a pumpkin. Then, suddenly, the feeling hit me and it was so... well... intoxicating. I suddenly just relaxed. It manifested like a sturdy column, running up the center of my body. A sturdy column of warmth that seemed to hold me up and make me very steady and peaceful. It was like I had finally found my balance, my center. I smiled. I felt wellbeing.

Wow. No wonder I used to drink so much! I *never* feel relaxed like that. Even when I look relaxed, even when I act relaxed, I am not relaxed. I am churning about something on the inside. Always churning. And always so externally focused, externally validated. Always watching for signals that the outside world approves of what I'm doing. Always anxious. Yuck. I don't like it.

Contrast that against a film SK and I watched last night about the artist Andrew Goldsworthy. He makes gorgeous and temporary art in nature, entirely of natural materials. Some of his most striking pieces are his egg-shaped stone cairns, big as a person, which he creates by meticulously balancing the stones on top of each other, without the aid of mortar or other structural adhesives or support. As you can imagine, these are often precarious and we watched as several tumbled apart while he made them, after hours of work but long before completion.

I watched him labor over these emphemeral projects and I thought how wonderful it would be to wake up in the morning and know that I would spend my day on my art and know, furthermore, that no matter what I had to show for it at the end of the day, it would be worth every moment. I watched him work last night and I imagined him feeling that feeling of peace I get when I'm drinking. I imagined he felt a harmony with his natural materials, his setting, his contribution, his body, his mind. Maybe he doesn't feel harmony at all. Maybe he feels just as anxious about it all as I do and maybe he goes home after a cairn collapses and drinks a bottle of whiskey and yells at his wife and feels like a failure. That's all possible. But I don't want it to be the truth. I want his art to sustain him because it gives me hope that I'll eventually find something that sustains me too, besides a six-pack of dark beer. I want to figure out how to have all that without the beer belly and the hangover. Is it possible?

Saturday, November 04, 2006

let us eat cake

I had a little party in the hovel last night. A birthday party for the illustrious SK. A very small party, but a party nonetheless. As I prepared for the small party, I ran over an inventory of modern conveniences I don't have: microwave, television, coffeepot, teapot, vacuum cleaner, furniture. I have all the stuff I need to get through an average day, but I'm not exactly equipped for entertaining.

Fortunately, I have enough cups, plates and forks to accomodate tea and cake for five people (five whole people, and most of them really tall, all crammed into my hovel!). Dr. Dutch, who is now SK's landlord after years of being SK's friend, made a gorgeous, three layer coconut cake with sour cream in between the layers (yum) and home-made icing, creamy like marshmallow goo. It was so lovely. And Kiwi and her big-toothed, healthy looking California friend (we'll call her Berkeley) came and brought two mugs, some ginger, and some bags of fancy black tea. We all spread out in the floor, cut the cake and had a very nice time.

One thing I can say about all the people in the hovel yesterday: they are all interesting. And mostly educated. Dr. Dutch just got her PhD and Kiwi is working on hers. I'm not sure about Berkeley, she's in some kind of Master's program. And SK's educated along multiple lines. First education: textile design. Second education: chinese medicine and acupuncture. Third education: process work. And of course, here I am, lumping along with my law study. It was nice to have a roomful of intelligent, educated, ambitious women in the hovel and glad that SK's birthday gave me the excuse to do so. Yay for smart chicks. :-)

Friday, November 03, 2006

happy birthday sk!!

May your next year be better than any that have come before. Kisses to you.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

among other things

Today's project (besides writing 2,000 words for nanowrimo, reading some homework, washing my dishes, taking a shower, going to class and then going to work) was making vegetable barley soup with portabella mushrooms. Yum.

I made this recipe up out of my head and realized as I was piecing it together that the reason I don't know how to cook very well is because I never learned how. It only recently occurred to me that I could consult these things called recipes for helpful cooking suggestions.

I watched my mom, who is a great cook, throw things together in the kitchen as though throwing things together was as natural as walking across a room or talking on the telephone. She just knew how. I never, in all my young life, saw her consult a recipe. I guess she didn't have to. Her mom taught her to cook. And while my mom was a great cook and I saw her doing it in there, she never said, "hey, get in here and let me show you how to do this." And I never said, "hey, teach me how to do that." And so, here I am, getting to be an old lady, and I don't officially know how to cook.

In my mind, cooking is like a science project and a logic puzzle all rolled into one. I start with a goal, create a hypothesis based on reasoning, and before you know it, I have something good or nasty smelling up my house. Today I wanted barley soup with a meaty sort of savory flavor, but I didn't want meat, so I chopped up and sauteed portabella mushrooms (w/ garlic and onions) in olive oil and a little bit of wine. I added that to my barley and vegetables and threw in some red kale and wow, I had some yummy soup!

And I'll continue to have yummy soup for the next several days, because I made enough to feed an army. That's another thing I haven't learned to do: cook small portions. Oh well.

na no wri mo

It's National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo for short) and, as if I don't already have a lot on my plate, I'm jumping on this moving train as well. Yay! If you don't know what it is, head to their (extra super slow) website to read up on the details: basically, participants spend all the November writing feverishly in hopes of producing something at least 50,000 words long. You win by quantity, not quality.

It's really just a tool, a trick to keep you writing, and so far it's great. I've got this story about my workplace that I've been trying to write for months and months and months. I've started and stopped over and over, I've tried it from several different angles, I just couldn't get it like I wanted it. But something about the pace and pressure of NaNoWriMo has really shaken something loose. It's like a zen calligraphy exercise. I am writing like crazy and trusting the total *right*ness of every word. I can go back and edit later. Right now it just feels great to leave the nagging, critical voices in the dust. It's like I'm a kid, racing all by myself through a long field, just for the sheer joy of my legs pumping against the ground and the wind tearing at my hair. It feels really good to write with abandon.

I might be blogging a little less, though, and for that I apologize. But I might actually be blogging more. Seems like the more I write, the more I write and that might spill over into the ol' blog. I'll also keep you updated on my word count, if you're interested. So far, I'm at 5797 (that's about 15 pages) and it's only day two! Rock on! Wish me luck.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

a shining example from my chosen profession

I just read this really disturbing story in the Oregonian that does not reflect well on lawyers -- no shock, I know, but this was particularly nasty and this time it's a defense attorney being a jerk. Come on, people, defense attorneys are supposed to be the good guys!

Apparently, after a former soldier was sentenced for molesting an eight year old boy 11 years ago, the victim confronted said defense attorney outside the courtroom. He called the defense attorney a name and the defense attorney, by his own account, responded by saying "at least I didn't try and commit suicide!"


I'm not defending the right of the victim to call the attorney a name. But the attorney's childish and nasty response was totally uncalled for and, I'd like to think, in violation of the Oregon Code of Professional Responsibility (aka: the ethics rules).

It's bad enough that he taunted the victim of child sex abuse about his past suicidality, but it's even worse that he told the Oregonian what he said! I mean, I guess honesty is better than lying about it, but his openness implies that he doesn't think there's anything wrong with what he said. And the Oregonian certainly didn't seem to blink, the headline of the article is "Sex case ends on healing note."

Which healing note would that be? I only hear mutual acrimony and unprofessional behavior by an attorney. Certainly the legal profession can do a little better, and the Oregonian would do well to work on their angles because this one seems way off the mark.

halloween hangover

Well, that was fun. Now the pumpkins are rotting and I have to put all my skeletons back in the closet. The saddest part of all was washing off my moustache and side-burns. I make such a cute, hairy guy, I'm always so sad to see him go each year. Oh well.

Now I'm off to the store to buy some goldenseal. My "hangover" feeling this morning wasn't from alcohol and probably wasn't even from too-much-candy. I think I've got a sinus infection so I'm going to try running some goldenseal through the handy ol' netipot to see if it will help clear me up. (If you don't know what a netipot is, google it. You're industrious. Or go to Oh My Stars n Garters for an artful tour of all things neti... if you can find her neti hall of fame.)