27 August 2007

This made me laugh

Large quilted shoppers
Originally uploaded by dgans
A sign captured by a friend while traveling in New Jersey. Good catch, Gans!


The last couple of weeks have flown by. How, with no regular job obligations and precious few fixed commitments of any kind, can life possibly be so busy? Just for the record, here's a blessedly brief summary of what's been going on:

--A birthday party for a friend who volunteers at a homeless shelter downtown. He requested socks for his clients in lieu of gifts for himself. You go, Richard.

-- The Woodstock neighborhood picnic, featuring lion dancers and belly dancers. Pictured is Grace, who sunlights as a master gardener and (our) landscape designer.

-- A "Chef in my Garden" benefit for Growing Gardens hosted by "Tomato Bob" and his wife Marilyn at their home in Oregon City. The chef was Adam Sappington, owner of The Country Cat restaurant. Perfect weather, delicious food, copious wine, interesting dining companions. Bob grows four dozen varieties of tomatoes, and we all went home with a few.

-- An Underground Portland walking tour featuring glimpses of the so-called Shanghai Tunnels and other aspects of the city's seamy past and present. I've wanted to do some of these walks since before we moved here; we're signed up for a couple more, with different itineraries, in the next few weeks.

-- A visit with our friends Mona and Rob, whom we first met when they moved to Sea Ranch. Mona and I bonded immediately over our mutual homesickness for Berkeley. They've since relocated to Sebastopol, though in retrospect it's clear that they should have moved to Portland instead. We did the full-out tour guide number: The Chinese Garden, Contemporary Craft Museum (with side excursion -- Rob's a copper-lamp artisan -- to our friend Larry's lighting store, Lumen Essence, on the North Park Blocks), Powell's, windowshopping in the Pearl, the Japanese Garden, the Rose Garden, and the farmers' market, plus dinner at home one night and dinner out the next.

-- Keb' Mo' and Robert Cray in concert at the Zoo. The music was fine, the crowd mellow, and the weather, again, was perfect. I spotted one friend in the crowd, and Jer ran into another; an increasingly frequent indication that we're getting to know more people around town. But the highlight of the evening, as far as I'm concerned, was the pre-show raptor fly-by. I was standing in the concession line at the time, and almost dropped my noodles along with my jaw. The experience of a bald eagle zooming by at eye level was, in itself, worth the price of admission.

15 August 2007

Bridge Pedal pix

They're not great, but here they are, proof that I did it, at least. The first one is at the top of the Marquam Bridge, the second mid-span on the Fremont.

12 August 2007

Bridge Pedal!

This morning I rode in the annual Portland Bridge Pedal, a mass bike ride for which the city closes its major bridges in one or both directions, and blocks off a number of streets as well. You have the option of doing six, eight or ten bridges, at 14, 24 and 36 miles, respectively. (The routes are up at www.providence.org/oregon/events/bridge_pedal/) Since I was starting from home, which would add another 14 miles to my round trip, I unhesitatingly went for the low-end itinerary.

We got off to a slow start because of the sheer number of participants; they'd expected 15,000 people and 20,000 showed up. We had to push our bikes halfway across the Hawthorne Bridge before we could finally hop on and ride. There was even more congestion and a long wait at the approach to the Ross Island Bridge. The first three photos illustrate the problem. The top shot is the trudge across the Hawthorne, and the next two show the bottleneck at the Ross Island, looking forward and back. Looking back made me feel a tiny bit better; it's the Schadenfreude factor.

Once we made it to the roadbed of the Ross Island, though, the rest of the way was fairly smooth sailing. Booths were set up at the crests of the Marquam and Fremont Bridges and a carnival-like atmosphere prevailed. The rest of the pics feature the Fremont Bridge, and the view therefrom. I wondered whether there was a correlation between the suicide prevention hotline signs and the presence of a bagpipe band. On both bridges, we could wheel in to have our photos taken. They'll be available online within 48 hours; if mine turn out I'll post them.

My favorite parts of the ride were coasting down from the Marquam Bridge onto I-5 -- riding a bike on the freeway felt deliciously transgressive! -- and again, riding faster, probably, than I ever have in my life, down from the summit of the Fremont Bridge. The whole trip, from starting line to finish, took me 2.5 hours, including the long wait to get onto the Ross Island. Early on, during the standing and trudging phases, I thought "well, this is my first and last time for the Bridge Pedal." Guess what: I've changed my mind.

Yesterday, I ran into some people who, when I told them I was planning to do the Bridge Pedal, responded enthusiastically, "There's nothing like it; you will own Portland." I see what they meant. Riding the bridges, at your own pace, shows you the city in a way that's both intimate and majestic. Next year, knock wood, maybe I'll go for eight.

11 August 2007

Another busy day

My day started by discovering that somebody, probably Stella Luna, had knocked the cat drinking fountain askew. The adjacent chair and dressing room rug were soaked. Good morning!

After breakfast I went to the Lloyd Center DoubleTree to register for tomorrow's BridgePedal. Talked a while with Sharon Wood Wortman, who wrote The Portland Bridge Book. I had plenty of time left on the meter, so I walked up to Broadway and stocked up on Peet's French roast. Decided to window shop a bit, taking a different route back to the car, and ended up in Goodwill. My, my; the Irvington store is a good 'un. I scored big: A tan lightweight linen Flax-like short-sleeved blouse (collarless, buttons up the front) for $4.99, a black lightweight linen Flax-like long-sleeved shirt (also collarless) for $8.99, and a muted, medium green Agnes B long-sleeved shirt, in a soft fine cotton, for $6.99. Great condition, well-made, lovely detailing on everything. Given Portland's excellent second-hand stores and the fact that I can sew and alter fabric in various interesting ways, I might never buy a new item of clothing again. Well, there is underwear.

Then Office Depot for printer cartridges, and the Aladdin box office for tickets to Richard Thompson's show in September. An efficient morning: Two hours door to door, and I accomplished everything I wanted and more. But that's not all. After a bite to eat (I'm still working on those salads from Thursday lunch) I planted the crocosmia and sedums I got from Jeannette yesterday. No sooner had I stuck one of the orange-flowered crocs in the dirt than a hummingbird zoomed up to check it out. A good sign. Then I deadheaded the roses and did a little weeding. Now I'm tired.
It's amazing how much the garden has grown. Compare these pics (taken before today's additions) with how it looked just a couple of months ago. Note in particular the left porch column, which was bare and is now completely entwined by wisteria, and the light blue-green eucalyptus to the left of the flagstone path, which has at least quadrupled in size.

10 August 2007

The road goes on forever, the party never ends

It's been a full and satisfying couple of days. Yesterday we had a visit from my ex-sister-in-law, Sheri, her husband Mark, and their almost-three-year-old, Josh's half-brother Matthew. Jer hadn't met Mark before, and neither of us had met Matthew, who's very blond, sweet and funny, and of course adorable. I served two salads for lunch -- smoked chicken with blue cheese, peaches, hazelnuts and greens; and broccoli with whole-wheat rotini, peanuts, scallions and a vaguely Asian dressing. The former in particular was a winner.

After we ate, I led Sheri and Matthew to Berkeley Park while Mark and Jer did guy-talk for a while. The park is just a couple of blocks away and we often stroll through it on our daily walks, but this was the first time in the two years we've lived in the neighborhood that I had an opportunity, or a reason, to focus on the playground aspect. While Sheri and I attempted to carry on a conversation, Matthew went happily from climbing structure to sliding board to bouncy chairs to swings to rings and back to climbing structure. Repeatedly.

After they got back on the road and we (by which I include the cats) had recovered from all that toddler energy, Jer and I went to dinner at Nostrana. I've been wanting to check that place out for ages, and we finally got there. It did not disappoint. We shared an heirloom tomato/mozzarella/basil salad, one of my favorite combinations. I ordered an eggplant, chickpea and farro soup, which was quite tasty, and Jerry had a fish dish the details of which escape me, but it involved a great deal of butter and was exquisitely delicious. My entree was pizza with caramelized onions; I took almost half of it home and am looking forward to having it for dinner tomorrow. For dessert we'd preordered the berry-nectarine crisp, which took 20 minutes to prepare and was served hot, with almond cream poured over it at the table. Oh my. It sounds like a lot of food, and I suppose it was, but we didn't feel stuffed; it was Just Right. I look forward to going back.

Jer was off to Denver for a conference at dark o'clock this morning. Ironically, his takeoff was delayed almost three hours; had we known, he could have gotten a normal night's sleep. My day was incredibly productive in a boring, low-key, checkbook-balancing kind of way. I made a run over to Jeannette's to pick up some crocosmia and "Autumn gold" sedum that she'd culled from her garden. Now I must ponder where to stick 'em in ours. Then I sat in the back yard for a while and finished Bee Season, a remarkable book. I'd enjoyed the movie and wondered how much more there was to the story; now I know.

Around 6:30, I headed toward the Bite of Oregon festival at Waterfront Park. Last year we attended this event thinking it would be all about Portland's top restaurants offering savory snacks; nope, that's Taste of the Nation, which is about 10 times more expensive to attend, but worth it. Bite is much more corporate/mass market, but the entertainment this year is top-notch. The draw for me was Robert Earl Keen, but I got there in time for Todd Snider's set, and he was a revelation. A home-town boy (well, Beaverton), based in Nashville now, with a funny (though, I suspect, scripted) rap and some great original songs.

Keen rocked; I titled this post after the song he did for his encore. The audience let him go after just one because it simply couldn't be topped -- except, perhaps, by a full-out fireworks display, which began on the final downbeat. Perfect timing! I watched most of it from the walkway on the west side of the river, directly opposite the barge, took a dozen or so photos (I like the shakey one; it's, uh, dynamic), then walked back across the Hawthorne Bridge to where I'd parked the del Sol. She and I were home in less than 15 minutes. Lordy, I love this town.

07 August 2007


The friends we've been staying with in New Mexico have so many visitors that they've put a B&B-style comment book in their guest room. The first several pages are filled with fond farewells, including Jerry's and mine, from when they left Sea Ranch several years ago. Now we've moved on as well. Among the more recent messages, we recognized the names of many mutual friends. I added our own thanks this morning, before we left for the airport.

Yesterday's outing was a long, scenic drive, the ultimate goal Los Alamos and the enthralling little historical museum there that several friends had recommended. The photo is a replica of an "atomic cake" that someone baked in "celebration" of, I think, the bombing of Hiroshima. Los Alamos has streets named after explosion sites. Just after we crossed Trinity and Bikini Atoll, Linda pointed out the local wellness center, an amusing juxtaposition, we thought. En route home we meandered through the Jemez mountains and some spectacular red-rock country. We had to stop for a while to wait out a fairly intense hailstorm.

We also got to see and share a couple of meals with Cynthia and Jim, another pair of Sea Ranch transplants, including dinner at their cat-filled (four) rancho-style house one evening. And we reconnected with Mary and Gary, who relocated to Placitas from Marin some time before Floyd and Linda made their move. I introduced the four of them via email, and they've since become good friends. Mary and I had breakfast yesterday at Home at the Range, a restaurant/bar in Bernalillo that's a favorite local hangout. She and Gary hosted us all for brunch the day before. They have a spectacular home with a thousand-mile view, endearing kitties (that's The Mook in the bowl below one of Mary's many chicken-themed paintings), and intriguing artwork everywhere you look. I'm so glad I had the opportunity for some gurl-schmooze with Mary, whom I met on the WELL years ago.

Last night, after our long day on the road, we went back to the Range for dinner. Our visit wound down with a couple of hours of quiet conversation back at Casa Floyd e Linda. We're more than ready to be home with our own kitties. But the change of scenery was good for us, and the reconnection with old friends even better.

05 August 2007

Greetings from Placitas

We're visiting our friends Floyd and Linda in Placitas, NM, about a half hour north of Albuquerque. They have a wonderful view of the Sandia Mountains, which change dramatically with the light. A friend of theirs quoted the painter Richard Diebenkorn, who lived in this area for a while. He said something to the effect that he thought he'd miss the ocean, but he realized after he'd been in New Mexico for a while that the sky was the ocean here. I can see what he meant, though I'm still a holdout for proximity to large bodies of water.

Every August 4th the Santo Domingo pueblo holds a feast day in honor of its patron saint. Thousands of tribal members converge from all over. They don ceremonial garb, paint their faces and bodies, and form a huge procession, carrying gifts of bread, candles, and pine branches. Corn dances follow. Cameras are strictly forbidden on the reservation for this event, so I have no photos. Floyd's advice was "click it in your head"; I'll do my best.

Our afternoon entertainment was measuring our vitals with Floyd's nifty electronic blood-pressure monitor. You stick a finger into a hole, press a couple of buttons, and the tiny cuff expands to check your BP and pulse and give you a digital readout. Oh the thrill; it's like this generation's equivalent of a handheld video game. Once the competitive excitement ("whose pulse is the lowest?" "yeah, nice reading, but you're on drugs!") wound down, we went out for dinner at a Hyatt resort in Bernalillo. I wasn't expecting much from a hotel restaurant, don'tcha know, but aside from a couple of off-notes, our meals were delicious.

En route to dinner, we stopped at Art Gallery 66, which features whimsical sculptures, garden art and painted furniture as well as prints and paintings. My purchases, before tax, added up to $66. How did I do that? Jer called my attention to these grasshoppers in front of the building, posing on a rusted objet.

The evening's main attraction was an excellent thunderstorm, which we enjoyed from Linda and Floyd's patio until the flashes and rumbles started coming simultaneously and from almost directly overhead. We retreated to the living room, had dessert, and went to bed fairly early in anticipation of an early start on today's big adventure, Tent Rocks National Monument. Words cannot really describe, so I'll let pictures speak.