Sunday, February 22, 2009

Sinister Weekly - Week of February 15-22

As promised, here's my first weekly post.

It's been a month since we moved to Portland, and I'm still convinced that we made the right move. Quite a bit has changed about how we go about our everyday lives. I hardly drive anymore, which is a blessing. I actually hate driving in this city, especially in the Alphabet District and downtown. At intersections where there is no stop light, but there is a crosswalk, cars have absolutely no defined time when it's "their turn" to go. If traffic clears so that you can turn, but there is a gaggle of pedestrians about to cross the street, you have to wait. Then, by the time the pedestrians have wandered across the street, you've lost your chance to turn anyway. Then, when you finally get to your destination, there's never anywhere to park. It's extremely frustrating, and it's why I hardly drive anywhere anymore. Luckily, this city is extremely walkable and the public transit system is fantastic. We're actually planning to sell the car and buy a motor scooter.

We drove to Cannon Beach yesterday, which is a cutesy little tourist trap of a town but with an absolutely gorgeous beach. The dog, who must be going a little bit stir crazy cooped up in the apartment all day, was able to run around and play with the other dogs and had a great time. It started raining a bit while we were there, but we ducked into a seafood place and I had some delicious fish & chips and clam chowder. We also experienced something called "salmon jerky," which distills all that is not good about fish into a chewy, crunchy, dry stick of nasty that might be good for keeping Eskimos alive but isn't meant for general consumption.

To be completely honest, I haven't really been following the news that closely lately. I watch the local news on television, but that's so much Readers Digest fluff and I don't really get anything out of it. I'm glad the stimulus bill passed, even though I think it contained too many tax cuts and not enough spending. Still, it's a good bill, and I think it'll really help put a floor on the recession and maybe start lifting us out of it. I'd like it if we could get all of the economic bills passed quickly so that we can start addressing some of the other injustices wrought by the right wing over the past twenty odd years, like the Defense of Marriage Act and Don't Ask, Don't Tell. I'm also very keen for Obama and Congress to get to work on fixing the health care system. I'm still in favor of HR 676, which basically expands Medicare to cover everyone. It's simple, it would cover everyone, and it would work.

I'll leave you with a few photos.

Cosette enjoying some sunshine.

Wendy romping on the beach.

A view from our rooftop deck.

Another view from our rooftop deck.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Sinister Weekly

Long time readers of Sinister (all 3 or so of you) will have noticed a sharp drop in posting volume over the past month. As I've explained in previous posts, my new life in Portland is making it very difficult for me to find time to blog. I'm too damned tired when I get home from work, and my weekends are packed with, well, the kinds of exciting activities outside in the real world that I dreamed about when I was bored stiff in Tulsa. This upcoming weekend, for example, we're thinking of taking a road trip to the coast. How cool is that?

All that being said, I still think that it's important for me to keep this blog going. Therefore, I'm going to transform Sinister into a weekly blog. I'll do one post per week, most likely on the weekends, in which I'll expound on whatever has piqued my interest over the past seven days. Happy Friday posts and Monday loldogs are probably not going to come back, though I may post a funny video or random thing every so often.

For now, my martini and I are going to take it easy and watch some television. Take care, be excellent to each other, and I'll be back to fill you with Sinistery goodness this weekend.

Much love.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Still alive.

Still alive, just busy. I have a day off today, which is nice, so I'm relaxing a bit. Just completed the three hour Oregon notary public course, which is something my boss wanted me to do, so there's that. Dog's at the vet getting her teeth cleaned. I think I'm going to go out for some groceries in a bit. Other than that, things is quiet.

On the political front:

-I'm cautiously optimistic about the stimulus package.
-I'm not sure what the hell is happening with Roland Burris now.
-I'm glad that the police aren't going to charge Michael Phelps with anything - really, the only proof they have is a photo of him holding something that isn't illegal in itself, but can be used for the consumption of an illegal substance. Without proof of the presence of the illegal substance, what can they charge him with?
-I'm a little annoyed that Randi Rhodes is having another tiff with a radio network and has taken her show off the air again. Not sure what's happening there, but I was looking forward to listening to her on my day off.
-I'm still in favor of puppies.
-I'm still opposed to razor sharp spikes through the navel.
-I'm still ambivalent about arm hair.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

About the Michael Phelps thing.

So here's the situation as I understand it. Someone published a photo of Michael Phelps holding a device that is often used for smoking marijuana. Let's break that down for a second.

1) It was a photograph.

2) He was holding a device.

3) There was no actual marijuana anywhere in evidence.

So, we've got a photograph of a guy holding a thing.

How, exactly, is that damning evidence of Michael Phelps OMGWTFBBQ smoking TEH WEEDZORS????!!?! Besides Phelps actually, um, admitting to having smoked marijuana, that is.

And, besides, even if he was smoking some kine bud, so the hell what? The dude's an amazing god damned athlete. If he can do what he does and get stoned occasionally, the guy deserves even more medals.

Leave the poor guy alone. Sheesh.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

You know what, McDonalds?

I'm glad you're serving cappuccinos and espressos.

But I'm getting a little fucking tired of anti-intellectualism in our culture. It shouldn't be a bad thing to be smart, to read a book, to know something about culture, to enjoy things other than football and American Idol. We should leave that kind of bullshit thinking behind with the failed Bush regime where it belongs.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Part Deux - Our First Week in Portland

We spent much of the weekend getting our stuff into a reasonable semblance of order. Having ditched our long dying 20 year old particleboard Ikea bookcases in Tulsa (that had made it from France to Tulsa and through quite a few moves within Tulsa, but that were clearly not up to the task of moving cross country), we no longer had space for the many boxes of books we refuse to part with. We still don't, but we're looking at options. In the meantime, though, we have one big stack of boxes left to unpack.

Our apartment is in a fantastic neighborhood full of shops and restaurants, and only minutes from downtown. My partner got a job in the suburbs, so he takes the car to work. I got a job downtown, so I take Max. Thus far, it's working well. The dog is adjusting to her new walking routine and all of the interesting and wonderful new people, other dogs, and smells that permeate her new domain. I think she's even figuring out how the elevator works. What's this, she thinks. It's a little room, and I go into it, sit down for a while, and suddenly the door opens and I'm somewhere else. Ok, whatever, hey - that smells good, I'm going to go pee on it.

We've spent a lot of time walking around our new neighborhood, trying new restaurants, taking in the sights, learning our way around. We're feeling a little bit homesick, because nothing here is familiar, but we're adjusting. As I said the other night at dinner, my only complaint about Portland is that nothing is comfortable yet. Nothing fits like an old shoe. Everything is new, everything is different, and so I'm always at a state of slightly heightened awareness, which is a little bit tiring. In Tulsa, we always had our places that we could go to feel comfortable - my parents' house, our favorite Mexican restaurant, the Temple. We don't have that yet here. But we'll get there, slowly but surely. I'm sure it's a little more overwhelming for my partner than it is for me - I've spent my life traveling and lived in a number of different places. He's never lived outside of Oklahoma.

Portland is a living, breathing, urban city in ways that Tulsa will never be. There's an energy in the air, even when that air is encased in cold, drizzly fog. People are out and about, enjoying their surroundings, living, being supremely aware of the world. There's an intelligent sparkle in the air, an aura of exploration, of learning, of the desire for knowledge and personal advancement. In short, Portland is exactly the city I wanted it to be.

Sure, that's a supremely naive assessment. I can't ignore the legion of homeless people asking for change, many of them kids in their 20s that make you wonder how they got so desperate so young. Was it just an act of rebellion - moving out of Mommy and Daddy's house with nary a plan and moving to Portland only to discover that stuff costs money? Is the economy really that bad? Is there something else going on beneath the surface that I can't see?

So this city has its warts, its difficulties, but for me, a kid raised between the comfortable but banal suburban sprawl of Tulsa and the exciting urban cosmopolitan vibrating life of Paris, Portland is in many ways a paradise. It's easy enough that a kid from Tulsa can figure it out, but it has enough urban life that a Parisian urbanite wouldn't get bored here.

I'm just beginning to dig into the various facets of this city. There will be plenty of time to see everything, and it's going to take a long time before this city truly feels like home. Yet, I think my partner and I will do well here.

This blog, however, will suffer for it. I'll do my best to keep up with it, but now that I have a hell of a lot more to do outside in the real world, my Internet time is going to be a bit curtailed. Don't expect Sinister to comment on every breaking news story. For example, I still haven't figured out what the hell I think about the scandal involving Portland's mayor. I just know it's a shitty, shitty situation that has dragged a lot of people into a lot of mud, and I don't think anyone involved in the scandal is a "good guy." And I can't even begin to comment on President Obama's stimulus package, except to say that we clearly need to do something about the economy and our national infrastructure, and what I've heard of Obama's proposal sounds good.

Thus, Sinister readers, I am doing well. Life, the Universe, and everything are, thus far, going where they should be going. We've been extremely lucky so far that everything with this move has gone so smoothly, and we're grateful to Murphy for turning his back on this one.

Be excellent to each other.

Part One - the drive.

Much has happened since we last spoke. I've moved halfway across the country. The country has moved into a new age of ...well, we'll have to wait and see, won't we? And something else has moved, because this type of literary construction works best in threes. The funny thing is, both of the first two things started on the same day.

We set out for Portland from Tulsa on January 20th in a rented moving truck and a station wagon, our goal for that day the city of Albuquerque, New Mexico. My dad had a guide to finding NPR stations all over the country, so we wouldn't miss the inauguration. He and my partner were in the truck; I was driving the car, with the dog in the passenger seat, the cat in her carrier sitting basically on the console, and the Betta fish in Tupperware on the floor of the back seat. We switched drivers and vehicles frequently during the trip.

I quickly realized that the broken antenna on our station wagon would cause me to lose stations rapidly. At one point I found myself, in disgust, listening to a right wing AM station that was broadcasting the Fox News coverage of the inauguration - because that's what I could get. Eventually, I found another AM station that was broadcasting ABC news coverage, and I stuck with that till we got to Oklahoma City and I could get their NPR station. Anyway, I heard the bizarre, improvised, and altogether meaningless invocation by right wing demagogue Rick Warren, followed by the botched oath, and finally, Obama's good, but not spectacular, inaugural address.

I could make a parallel here between the change that the country is seeing and the change that my partner and I are making in our own lives, but such a comparison is not only obvious and predictable, it also does a disservice to Obama's profound achievement. On the other hand, one could argue that not much has changed for the country - yet - while my partner and I have profoundly changed not only our surroundings, but the way we interact with them.

We made it to Albuquerque with nary an incident, though every night on the trip we had to wrangle the animals and all of their stuff into our motel room, which was always interesting, and then getting the cat back into her carrier in the morning was a difficult and painful experience. I still have some battle scars.

The next day we set out for Barstow, California, traveling through some truly breathtaking desert and mountain scenery. It was a long drive, but not a difficult one. We were disappointed that we didn't have time to visit the Grand Canyon, only about eighty miles north of our route, but if we were to make Barstow by a reasonable hour, we couldn't deviate.

At the California border, we had to go through an agriculture inspection, which I've never done. It was pretty quick and painless. The guy just had me open up the back of the truck, inspected our house plants, confiscated our Florida oranges, which are apparently verboten, and sent us on our way.

Let me pause here to give some free advertising to Motel 6. Both the Motel 6 in Barstow, and the Motel 6 in Weed, California, where we spent the next night, were clean, comfortable, and well located, with friendly and helpful staff, at ridiculously low prices. They also allow pets. We stayed in Barstow for $35, and Weed for $48 - with three adults, a dog, and a cat. You can't beat that.

Things got a little bit interesting on Day 3. If you look at a map of California, you'll notice that it's a very, very long state. We had a goal of making it all the way through California and stopping in Medford, Oregon. Needless to say, we didn't quite make it.

We got to Redding at about sundown, thinking, hey, it's only another two to three hours to Medford - let's go! Sure, that would have been fine, but again - look at the map. We were about to hit the Cascades.

We suddenly found ourselves driving, in the dark, up and down steep grades and tight curves. It was also raining. And then the fog started to move in. My partner was again driving the truck and I was driving the car. He got behind a pickup truck to use its lights to help him see the curves in the road, and we started going about 35 miles per hour. At that rate, Medford was a long, long way away.

Finally, my partner and I pulled off in a little town called Weed, California. In a happy coincidence, there was a Motel 6 at the same exit. I made an executive decision that we would stop there for the night, and we changed our reservation.

That's when things got interesting.

Back in Redding, I had noticed that I was having trouble getting the steering wheel of the car unlocked to start it. My partner and I had finally gotten it started, and we had been able to go on our way, but in Weed, the damned thing wouldn't budge. The car was stuck, with a locked steering wheel, at a gas station in the middle of Weed, California. Thankfully, my Dad had AAA, and we had the thing towed to a service station.

The next morning, we heard the bad news that the car would have to be serviced at a dealership - the nearest of which was in Medford, more than 80 miles away. My partner, who has this uncanny ability to get things out of people on the phone (he once got us a new, free laptop computer from HP when the cat's claws pulled some letters out of the keyboard of our old one) spent an hour with a phone to each ear arguing with AAA that they should tow the car to Medford for free. He finally got them to agree to it. So we gathered our things and went to the service station to meet the tow truck.

At which point my partner got into the car and said, "I'm just going to try it."

Well, the car started.

So we were on our way to Portland. My partner decided that he would not turn off the car for any reason until we got there, for fear of locking the steering wheel again.

Long story short, we made it to Portland at about 6:00 PM on Friday the 23rd, unloaded the truck in about three hours, had some delicious pizza at a place across the street, set up the bed, found sheets for my dad to use to sleep on the couch, and collapsed into bed.

I'll do another update later and tell you about our first week in Portland.