31 May 2008

There goes the Sun

In 1994, with the royalties I'd earned from Secrets of the Super Searchers, I bought myself a new car, a sweet little Honda del Sol. It was totalled a couple of years later (in a no-injury rear-ender, if you really want to know, though the airbags did deploy, and that was exciting). Insurance paid for a nearly-identical replacement, a '97.

I loved driving that car, especially on curvy Highway 1 along the northern California coast, and especially with the top down. I'd fantasize that I was in an automobile commercial, with a helicopter filming overhead.

But eventually I stopped traveling for business, and then we moved to Portland, where we walk a lot and seldom need two cars at the same time. In the last three years, the del Sol has rarely left the garage. Since the Accord lives in the driveway, that was usually the car we took. Jerry finally hooked up a battery charger to which we tethered the del Sol whenever it wasn't in use, so it would start on those rare occasions when it had to.

Last summer I got back on my bike, and several months ago I received a free FlexCar membership, and I started thinking seriously about selling the del Sol. Owning two cars seemed ridiculous. The del Sol was just sucking up insurance premiums and taking up space in our barely-one-car garage. Also, to be honest, now that we were back in an urban, freeway-laced environment, I was so much more aware of how tiny it was compared with the trucks and SUVs that dominate the roads. Even compared to a standard sedan, the del Sol is a very small car. I just didn't feel very safe in it anymore.

A couple of months ago, I went so far as to check the Blue Book value, download the appropriate forms from the DMV, and read up on the do's and don'ts of selling one's car to a stranger. That was it til this past Thursday, when I checked Craig's List, just to get a sense of the market in our area. I found an ad posted the day before: I AM LOOKING TO BUY A DEL SOL and HAVE CASH NOW--THANKS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

So I responded to Mr. Multiple Exclamation Points, giving the basics, including my asking price. The guy came over this morning and took her for a spin. We now have a pocketful of cash and he has a car that, for him, is a celebration of life.

I took these pictures yesterday after washing her and cleaning out my tapes and trash and the plastic wildlife menagerie that adorned the dashboard. Apparently the buyer had no issues with my bumper stickers or Grateful Dead decals; I suspect that he's not familiar with that particular iconography.

As I told Jer this morning, I "pre-grieved" for the del Sol; I'd been thinking about selling her for so long. But I'm still kind of stunned. It happened so quickly.

I've never named any of my cars or even imbued them with gender, but notice how I switched from "it" to "her" in the last few paragraphs? That was unconscious. She was an old friend with whom I hadn't spent much time lately, but now she's gone and I miss her.

I'll get over it, though. I'm already thinking about what we can do with all that space in the garage.

25 May 2008

County Fair and Other Amusements

Yesterday started out sunny and warm. The newspaper said it would probably be the best day, weatherwise, of the three-day holiday weekend. Jer and I seized the opportunity, and rode our bikes to the Multnomah County Fair at Oaks Park. It felt so good to get back on my bike again, and the ride along the Springwater Trail and the streets of south Sellwood was a joy (for me, anyway -- Jer came back with an aching tailbone; must do something about that seat).

The fair itself was a schizoid blend of traditional -- home ec skill competitions, midway and carny rides, animal exhibits and trials -- and (ick) modern, as in vinyl window sales come-ons (I counted four of those), obscure specialized appliance vendors, insurance and real estate agents, really tacky souvenir vendors, and so on.

Next time, if there is a next time, I'll know to avoid the mercantile tents at the south end and focus on the animals and the judged events. These included a smattering of quilts and other needlework, an aisle or two or fresh flowers and prize produce -- very slim pickin's, considering how early it is in the growing season -- and a couple of dozen flower arrangements. Aren't these two charming? Click to get the full effect. Another one of my favorites consisted of a pair of cowboy boots, a walking stick, and a bird of paradise).

There was a bountiful assortment of baked goods and home-canned foodstuffs. Look at all those ribbons. One entry was labeled "curried prunes". Mmm, mmm, good.

Butter making dirt babies? I don't want to know.

Our dinner last night was a lot more appetizing than either of those. Jer made individual puff pastry tarts filled with asparagus and shiitake mushrooms, gruyere, creme fraiche and tarragon, and an edamame, green bean, orange and marinated red onion salad with a tart-sweet dressing.

I took this photo of the western sky just before we settled down to dinner and a movie. Thunderstorms were forecast, and they hit not long after. We abandoned Across the Universe to take in the spectacle from our porch. The light, warm rain drew us out, and we ended up walking around the block, flashes of lightning and rolling thunder accompanying us every step of the way.

It was a delightful day.

18 May 2008

Yes We Can, So We Did

I can't remember the last time I participated in a large-scale political rally. My husband has major cred; among other actions, he marched on Washington with Martin Luther King ("I have a dream") in 1963. All I can come up with is cutting junior high bowling club in Philly, hopping on my bike and peddling furiously so I could wave to JFK's motorcade during what must have been the 1960 presidential campaign. That, and miscellaneous Telegraph Avenue/Peoples' Park actions in Berkeley between '69 and '72, and three or four San Francisco Gay Pride parades, as watcher, marcher, or -- my fave -- parade security, which translates to making friends with the crowd along your stretch of the route, so they'll listen and obey later on, when you tell them to move back out of the street.

But Barack Obama was in Portland today for a rally in Waterfront Park, the weather was perfect, and we just had to do it. Unlike some of our past involvements, the cause was a given and the controversy (sorry Hillary) essentially nonexistent. We parked on the east side, near the Hawthorne Bridge, and walked over the river. Bonus: A close-up perspective on a bridge opening, just as we got to the middle of the span. I've seen the Burnside open before, but not the Hawthorne. Cool.

Downtown, once we got there, was a maze of volunteer-wrangled line segments, all intended, I assume, to manage the crowd and feed it gradually into the venue. The queues moved quickly, once they got going. Despite the unexpectedly Byzantine approach to the venue, folks were in good spirits. As we shuffled along, we were a captive audience for electioneering on behalf of several local candidates, and of course for myriad button, bumper sticker, hat and t-shirt vendors.

Eventually the lines funneled down into a surprisingly thorough security checkpoint featuring airport-esque walk-through beepy gates (keys, coins and clunky jewelry on the table, please) and manual inspection of bags and electronics. I hadn't even thought about leaving our sharps behind as we're programmed to do when flying, so they nabbed our Swiss Army knives, aargh, and plunked them in a box. No guarantees but, amazingly, we were able to retrieve them later, from an array of several dozen potentially lethal weapons spread out at the checkpoint. The security guy even asked if I'd like to upgrade my model. Jer'd brought a low-rise lawn chair, which was also disallowed. We leaned it against a fence and hoped for the best. That, too, was still there when we went back for it after the event. Ah, Portland. But really, media guys: next time there's an event of this magnitude, how about a line in the paper saying "leave this stuff at home..."?

Obama's people estimated the crowd at 70,000, the largest they'd seen on the campaign. The Willamette, south of the Hawthorne Bridge, was bumper-to-bumper boats. Overall, it was a predominantly young crowd, which I think bodes well for the future. The vast majority of our co-rally-ers, I'd say, were born well after 1968, the year of MLK's (and Bobby Kennedy's, damn it) assassination.

The Decemberists, of whom we literally couldn't catch a glimpse from our place in the mob, played a mellow, if invisible, hour-long set. Then a couple of politicians did their yada-da. Finally, The Man. Michelle and the girls performed a charming wave-by, and then Barak launched into pretty much his standard stump speech, studded with Oregon references. He spoke without notes for 40 minutes or so. He's done it before, of course, and we've heard it before, but hearing it in person was impressive. If Obama can accomplish a fraction of what he says he wants to do, this sorry nation will be transformed. He's smart, charismatic, straightforward and, in the opinion of this political pundit, much cuter in person.

Our primary is Tuesday, officially, but Oregon is a mail ballot state, and I've already voted. It's so late in the process that, normally, our results are irrelevant on the national scene. But I don't think anyone in that crowd by the river felt irrelevant today.

12 May 2008

Mother's Day at the Duck Pond

Surely spring has arrived in Portland. Last weekend there were plant sales all over town. I hit three in the immediate area on Saturday, and came home with four tomato plants (please oh please let this be a better season than last), yet another ornamental grass I'll stick somewhere out front, a hardy begonia and an epimedium, both ostensibly shade-lovers, for the dim recesses of the back yard, plus a sweet little birdhouse-on-a-stick garden sculpture/ornament thingy.

The Eastmoreland Garden and Woodstock sales were low key, laid back, and laden with bargains. Not so the one at the Crystal Springs Rhododendron Garden; cars were parked up and down 28th Avenue, and the Reed lot across the street was filled. On Sunday, I dragged Jer back there, along with our friends Jen and Drew, who were visiting from the Bay Area. This time I took my camera, because the rhodies and azaleas were just about at their peak.

Crystal Springs Lake, a.k.a. the duck pond -- a marvelous understatement -- is a year-round waterfowl habitat. This time of year, the duckling and gosling population is blossoming as well. I especially love the wood duck chicks, which are as exquisitely marked as their parents.

Jen's lovely daughter Laura, who goes to Reed, came over for Mother's Day brunch. Jer made strawberry and toasted-almond pancakes, and champagne was poured.

So, here's to moms, including mine, who was very much in my thoughts last weekend. She had an incredible green thumb, and I've inherited her love of gardening, among many other things. Yes, that's me in the picture; it was cold in Chicago in December 1947.

09 May 2008

Scenes around the 'hood

On one recent walk around the neighborhood, we saw...

a charming sign:

a large-scale model airplane hanging in what appeared to be an abandoned and partially-demolished workshop. It seems to be a bit deficient in the wingspan department. If I'm not mistaken, the engine cylinders are crushed beer cans:

a challenging doorway:

and a tile-encrusted set of stairs worthy of a Mexican village:

Most of our perambulations aren't quite so rich in amusement value, but we usually see something that makes us stop and think, or grin, or scratch our heads. For instance...

a flicker rat-a-tatting on a metal chimney:

a kitty curtain call:

an insouciant vehicle:

and, last but not least, what I will G-ratedly refer to as the Tickle Chair: