A lovely day to be a Swede

A few months back, I came up with this crazy idea to spend an afternoon running around IKEA taking pictures with friends like we were in a catalog.

Today, thanks to the wonderful assistance of Angel, Roxanne, Lauren and Roger, that dream came true.

See the whole Flickr set here.

-Thank you for reading.


Look who's talking now

I recently switched back to browsing on Safari, as I have learned there are wonderful drag-and-drop things I can do on my Mac that Firefox can't do yet. Now, I haven't tried the beta release of Firefox 3 - if you even can. I've been too lazy to look.


However, one thing I sorely missed from Firefox was the ability to chat within Gmail.

Well, I got my chat back today. I opened up Safari and there it was. I wish I could tell a cute story of someone IMing me and startling me into spilling coffee all over my keyboard. Alas... not so much. Still, I'm pretty happy about the whole thing.

-Thank you for reading.


Holy Poop!

Eric Powell is going to be in Portland on Friday night!!!

He is the artist/writer/creator of The Goon, which is rad. People should get in on it.

Bridge City Comics, 3725 N Mississippi, 6-9 pm (21+ after 7 pm), FREE


The thing that is awesome about my job

I drew this. It is being used in an actual online campaign. Of course, I had some photoshop help from the Art Director...

But still... kick ass.

- Thank you for reading.


15 questions of fame

So, my regular trivia team (which consists of people much smarter than I) won our third week in a row tonight, which means one of us gets to co-host next week.

Guess who it is...


So, I'll be asking 15 zingers (and some 2-point bonuses) next Wednesday at the Lompoc 5Q at 7:30. The theme is "Mini." You should all come. The crowd has been light.

I am soooooo excited!

-Thank you for reading


Street Views!!!

When I first found out about Google Street Views, I practically started counting the days 'til we got it in Portland. Well, my friends, that day is today!

There's even a picture of my beat up car!!!

- Thank you for reading


Pub Ride: Sellwood Excursion

Google Map of our route
Flickr Photostream

Riders: Mason, Bobby, Aaron, Carrie
Ride Time: 6 Hours
Ride Distance: 11 miles

Friday night was ride two of the year. We started of at Produce Row Cafe, where just as Bobby, Aaron and I had given up hope that anyone would join us, people joined us. Two of my new friends from the Platform Animation Festival, Kate and Chris, came along with their friend John to join us for a pre-ride drink (sadly, they had other plans and couldn't do the ride) and Carrie showed up waffling about whether she would come with us or go see some band named mattress.

We stayed for an extra beer (this will be important later) and beheld an artful plate of nachos before getting ready to embark along the Springwater Corridor. Carrie had heroically fixed a flat tire to attend the ride, and mentioned how she always gets flats in the part of town...

From left: Chris, Kate, John, Carrie.

Interlude: Tragedy strikes!

She cursed me.

As I unlocked Cub Scout, I discovered my flat front tire.

A smarter man than I would not undertake a pub ride without the proper emergency equipment. But I was stranded. In the time it took to walk from the table to the front door, Carrie had decided to join us - at least to our next destination. And I looked at the group and I could literally see everyone's resolve fraying like a rope with a small cut unraveling - pulled by the heavy weight it supports. But in a flash of military-like command, I told them how it was going to be.

Carrie was appointed temporary ride leader with the charge to get the group to the Muddy Rudder on 7th and Tacoma. I would somehow get home, grab my other bike and meet them out there by the time they were done with their beers.

The group looked at me suspiciously. I could see Aaron looking at me and saying silently "Really, Mason? Why don't we just call it a night." And I looked back as if to say "No. Everything will be fine."

They left and I walked about 20 paces toward a nearby gas station before I realized that they would not have the proper valve connection to fill up my tire enough to ride home. I called my roommate in the hopes of getting a ride. He was out to dinner and four drinks deep. Luckily, my sister was home and sober. Many thanks to her for the bailout.

Now, about this spare bike of mine. I happen to have three bikes - which is mostly circumstantial. One is out of commission. The other is the mountain bike I've had since I was 14. It's clunky, slow, heavy and too small for me. But I have it and it would have to do. So I pedaled my ass off to Sellwood, cutting through clouds of bugs along the corridor (should have thought of that earlier) in the fading light of the day.

Stop 1: The Muddy Rudder

It was around 8:30 that I arrived at the Muddy Rudder, feeling much like Bobby must have upon summiting the St. John's Bridge last ride (Mr. Pass Out Poopy Pants). The beers were only half empty. I drank a few waters rather than beer to get my wind back, which seems outside of Pub Ride protocol, but it was what needed to be done to set things back on an even keel - well, almost everything that needed to be done.

The Muddy Rudder is a quaint bar, though, and I'm sad I didn't get to actually drink there. It felt like a Eugene-y kind of place. I will be going back.

Stop 2: The Limelight

One of the lessons I took from last pub ride is that we needed to hit more bars. The Limelight was only a mile or so away in downtown Sellwood. To make up for missing the beer, I got a shot of whiskey and a beer back. I was caught off guard when the waitress asked me what kind of beer I wanted my back to be. This is a quality place. The inside looks like an outside, with faux rooftops overhanging the tables. The place was also given charm by some very cool local art on the walls, for sale at rock bottom prices. I think Bobby was planning on going back to buy one of them. He'll have to let me know.

Stop 3: Pub at the End of the Universe

A ride over Bybee and past Reed College took at the Pub at the End of the Universe. A stalwart Reedy bar, it is calmer during the summer. Their excellent beer selection brought about a controversy recalling the last pub ride. They had a War Pig beer on tap, which I thought might have been the same beer we had at the Gotham two weeks ago. Ultimately, I wagered not. Bobby said it was. The suspense lingers and there are beers in the offing for the victor.

We sat at a table with an appropriately themed ashtray embedded in the table. I thought that was nice.

Stop 4: Dots

This turned out to be a better idea than I'd thought it would be, because we needed to refuel and Dots has great greasy food. However, the kitchen is notoriously slow. So I told our waitress straight out that we weren't here to dilly dally. She did her part and not eight minutes later we were feasting on some bacon cheddar fries with a $6 pitcher of PBR. Amen.

There was something bike-related showing at the Clinton Street, which added to the validity of what we were doing.

Stop 5: Roadside Attraction

We took the scenic route through Ladd's Addition to go along 12th toward the Roadside Attraction, a bar Catherine, Dave and I discovered on the first pub ride ever last year. This place is drowning in charm, from the free pool to the soul-filled jukebox. They had added a new annex in the back of the restaurant, marked by a carved Chinese archway, but the real place to be is in the front courtyard. Unfortunately, due to some bullshit, they had closed this section by the time we got there (maybe 12:30?). Ah well.

Being close to her house, and past 1pm, Carrie chose not to accompany us to the final destination. Considering she hadn't really planned to come with us at all, I had no problem with her bowing out. In all honesty, as we got up to leave the R.A., I realized I didn't really need to drink more. We'd added two bars to the route from last time, drank two beers at the outset (and I'd had a pre-ride beer before leaving my place) and ridden five less miles. This was a true pub ride.

Stop 6 (kinda): Rocket

Readers of this blog will have read my earlier post declaring undying affection for Rocket. So I'd thought it would be a lovely night cap for the evening to enjoy a cocktail on the balcony overlooking the city. At 1:30, we thought we could just sneak that in. Sadly, it had been a slow night and they had called it quits. They were still closing down, so Bobby and Aaron at least got to check the place out and take a gander at the view before we too packed it in and went our ways home.

I am tremendously happy with how things went. I saw Carrie on Saturday and she's already convincing all her friends to come on the next ride. I've been asked to put one together for this Friday. Any thoughts?

- Thank you for reading.


Harry Potter Watch: Day Six

848 of 1537 holds.

So far, I'm about 50 holds closer every day. I'm mostly counting from Monday, because the first batch of 500 went out on Saturday and nobody would have brought any back for recirculation before then. Still, I am astonished at the general goodwill society is displaying with their promptness here.

Even so, I may borrow a copy from Katie if she finishes it this weekend. Really, if she'd never moved out, I wouldn't have to go through this agony.

At trivia last night, Portland's best Triva Buff, John Doyle, jokingly modeled the last question on last week's Mercury's Harry Potter "spoiler" - which of course I avoided like the plague, and so wasn't in on the joke. My teammates had a good laugh at my expense when I freaked out at his supposed revelation.

Every moment I do not read this book I am at risk!

- Thank you for reading.

P.S. If you're not up to anything on Friday night... and happen to be in Portland... and happen to like riding bikes, Come Pub Ride!


High and Low

Went out with Angel last night, who has now confirmed she is moving to San Francisco to open a bar. This is terrible and wonderful as I am losing one of my best friends in this city, but gaining a friend (with a bar) in one of my other favorite cities on the planet.

Our first destination was coffee, because I was out of beans. But my roommate had planted the seed in my mind to check out The Chesterfield - a new bar that opened in that unmissable red building on E Burnside across from Hippo Hardware.

I hate this bar.

First off, it is dark and lit with red lights. Call me crazy, but I don't like red bars. Make me feel dirty and evil. But I could deal with the red if there were other redeeming factors. Not so much. The clear colored plastic stools and chairs felt like they would fall apart if I sat on them too long. My cocktail, a gin/grapefruit/salt thing, was ok. Angel's was ungodly. Called a "Passion" it included vodka, strawberry and passion fruit juice. It tasted like an unripe green vegetable. Blech. Served in a pint glass, she walked out of the restaurant having not drained it more than an inch.

Now, I didn't know this when I got there, but the building is sandwiched by restaurants - so we decided to hit up the Rocket on the top floor.

What a difference!

Light colors with a high-class, but hang-outable vibe. A great view of the city. Cute servers (a few of whom Angel happened to know). It was the ultimate cure for the bad taste the Chesterfield had left in both our mouths. Angel got a bourbon cocktail that used black tea concentrate. It was really sweet, and hit you with three different flavors in stages. I had a beer. But a good beer.

The menu looked interesting but a little spendy. I just read a review that said they've got some kinks to work out. But I'd give it a try for a nice date or special occasion. Seriously, I just got such a good feeling being there. Because we had the inside connection, we even got to check out the rooftop garden where the cooks grow a lot of the herbs, spices and vegetables they use. And did I mention the view? Yeah, it's even better from the roof. I was struck by how there just aren't places to get a good elevated view of the city from the East side, which is stupid because that's where you have to be to appreciate what skyline Portland has.

Pub riders: I'm thinking this is a spot on our next sojourn.

Harry Potter Watch: 920 or 1585 holds.

- Thank you for reading.


Harry Potter Watch

From the Multnomah County Library System:

Harry Potter and the deathly hallows/ J.K. Rowling; illustrations by Mary GrandPre

974 of 1575 holds of 500 copies.

- Thank you for reading.


Leaving the Red Room

I just finished watching Twin Peaks. This is one of those things that many people had told me about and I've certainly heard of in many cultural references (my favorite being the simpsons) but none of them have ever been able to explain what the appeal was.

Well, I'll tell you.

First, Twin Peaks has a charming and innocent sense of humor about it that made me laugh out loud more than most things on television. Agent Dale Cooper's wide-eyed lovel of the simple things (ie pie and coffee) is the most refreshing thing I can imagine on the screen. It's so genuine, yet so absurd... Taking that quality even farther is Lynch himself, in the role of Agent Gordon Cole - the FBI official whose trade is secrets but, due to a hearing problem, constantly yells everything he says. I was in hysterics every time he came on screen.

I was not expecting this levity to the series, and for me it was what will stick with me most. What I was prepared for, was the abstract and eerie dark side of Twin Peaks - though I don't know if even my preparations steeled me enough. There were some nights where I went to bed fighting thoughts of Bob and what he represents. The unresolved and meandering nature of Twin Peaks would have been immensely frustrating to a weekly viewer.

But ultimately, it is the abstract nature of the show that lets it endure. It's got a mystique that sticks with you. You'll never really understand it, but like all things we don't understand, we are compelled to try to figure it out. If something is easily dealt with, it is easily made safe and forgotten. There is something dangerous about the persistent unknown of Twin Peaks.

I don't yet feel enough distance to comment on what it means to me. The themes of good and evil are in no way limited to lodges of black or white. If you've seen the series, we should chat about it sometime.

- Thank you for reading.


Beer + Heat = Strip Jeopardy

Last night was the much anticipated (at least by me) bi-monthly Strip Jeopardy event at the Lompoc 5th Quadrant. I missed the last one as I was in Eugene with Dave's Killer Bread. The desire had stewed and boiled and I was agog with excitement.

If you've been hanging out with me in the last month, it occurs that I've come off rather gay in a lot of regards. Yes, I was excited at the prospect of seeing Jon, the host, take off his clothes. I've also been spouting off madly about a book of penis pictures that I think needs to be made. I've also been on a lot of failed dates lately. I am quite aware that none of this sounds good for my continued status as a heterosexual male. But I'm still on the team, guys.

Anyway, the reason I can be excited about Strip Jeopardy is because it's just so silly. Jon is the best trivia host in town and you always know he'll put on a show. Last night, he arrived in a Seersucker Suit, complete with bow tie. He also debuted a new prize, pilfered from another host, called the "Magic Glass." The owner of the Magic Glass, which is marked with special tape, shall drink whatever he or she wants from it all night for the cost of $1/drink. However, tips must be given based on actual drink prices. A lovely new twist to the trivia experience.

It has been so damn hot lately, my teammates and I speculated that Jon would be all to eager to Take It Off. We were quite wrong. All told, he only removed 4 items out of 10. Each category consists of 5 questions that get progressively harder and are worth different points. If any team exceeds a certain point amount in a category, Jon strips. But with questions like: "Name both of the Lesbian Pirates that are the subject of a famous stage play" and "What Oregon vintner worked on the Pirates of the Caribbean ride & the sundial in Pioneer Square" he was feeling rather prudish.

The shining moment of the night, however, was when Jon did remove his shirt, leaving the Seersucker pants, a wife beater and red suspenders and Angie said "You look like a slutty Orville Redenbacher."


After the festivities, I went off to The Mission Theater to watch Arrested Development. I find it interesting that McMenamins has repurposed this theater mostly for screening television and TV DVDs. The turn out must be better when there's no cover, but we all still drink as much...

- Thank you for reading.


I see dead people

The Body Worlds exhibit has been in Portland for a while now and like pretty much everyone I was fighting between my curiosity and my thrifty nature. Well, I finally convinced myself that they were never going to lower the ticket price, and it's the kind of thing I should see at least once.

Totally worth it.

I first found myself fascinated by the brain slices. It's like an MRI printout... but with real brain. I was staring at them intently and for the first time in my life, really wondered about issues of our own consciousness. When you look at it and just see this gray mass, it makes no sense how we think and dream and all that crap.

Then I saw the blood vessel structures... amazing. You're literally looking at something - let's say rooster - and it's nothing but veins and arteries and capilaries. It's in the right shape, but it's just blood.

I was also pretty interested in the organs. In general, everything is smaller than you think it's going to be... except the liver. That thing is enormous. Like 3 pounds. And after the last two weeks, mine's probably even bigger. By the way, if you ever needed a reason to stop smoking...

For all the small things that were fascinating, there's no understating the overwhelming presence of the entire exhibit. You walk into this one room and there's a fucking zombie camel just like ::BAM:: right in your face. You can get right up to a lot of these bodies - and I did. Like sharing air with them... well, you know. I spent most of my time walking around with my arms clenched around my torso - half bracing myself to keep cool and academic about the whole thing, and half because there were just so many people that I kept bumping into everyone. And I worried that I would bump into one of the bodies. They look like they're planted pretty solid, but when you get up close, you can see limbs and the tendons shaking ever so slightly.

All told, an amazing thing to see - but I think I'll skip Body Worlds 4. Unless they bring a llama or something...

- Thank you for reading


Pub Ride: Sunset Over St. Johns

Flickr Album of Sunset Over St. Johns
Google Map of our route.

Riders: Mason, Bobby, Aaron
Ride Time: 5 hours
Ride Distance: 16 miles

Bobby and Aaron joined me for the first Pub Ride of the year last night, which was quite a kick off and will be tough to match. As I rode across the Broadway Bridge to meet them at Holdens, I was struck with the idea of riding to St. Johns along Hwy 30 and then drinking our way back to the city. The gentlemen agreed it was a fine idea, though I wonder if they really knew what they were getting themselves into.

I would like to point out two things from our time at Holdens: 1) Bobby's wonderful custom footware.

2) The obscene bug bitey thing that appeared and suddenly disappeared on my lip

We left Holdens around 8:15 and set out along Front Street. I wasn't really prepared for the eerie industrial area we passed through. I knew it was there, but only in that dismissive context of driving from one place to another having to pass some boring scenery. On bikes, you really soak it all up. The railroad tracks on the left for the constant moving in and out of goods (which makes for lots of tracks to ride over. Boo.), the large silos of fuel and other chemicals. Bobby observed that if The Terrorists ever want to do some real damage, they just have to come here.

As we rode through this beautifully ugly space we were fighting strong winds and staring down the setting sun. On one hand, it was the hardest part of the ride and I'm glad we did it first. On the other hand, I wasn't drinking enough yet.

When we summited the St. Johns Bridge the sun had just gone behind the hills of Forrest Park, but the air had that pink/purple haze of sunset. It was a beautiful view and even Bobby admitted it was worth the trouble. He got a little poopy on the ride up the hill and needed a breather. In a place like that, I wasn't going to protest.

Stop 1: The Perch
The destination in St. Johns was left to chance, but as we rode on Lombard we all slowed our pace to look at The Perch Tavern. One of Portland's many dive bars, you never know what you will find. We pulled up to the bike racks (good sign) and Aaron commented: "You ever felt like you had to pee so bad that if you farted you'd pee yourself? That's how I feel now." I do love these guys.

If I have ever felt more like an owl in its nest than at The Perch, I don't know when. The entire thing is brown and wooded and lit with warm red-yellow lights of gaming machines. Owl figurines and bric-a-brack adorn walls and shelves. Their tap selection consists of Bud, Bud Light, Pabst, Coors Light and Miller. Their bottle selection is extensive, with all of the above tap beers offered in both can and bottle, along with just about every other crap beer you can think of. For the ladies in the house, there is Mike's, Smirnoff Ice, Sparks, etc.

Oh, and Snapple.

The music selection at this place was varied, and we all gave each other a look when a Randy Travis song segued into "Shoop" by the immortal Salt N' Pepper.

Stop 2: The Chapel
I'd had my heart set on seeing McMenamins latest pub on Killingsworth, so I set the course. We stumbled in shortly after happy hour, which was a delightful treat. I'd eaten a full dinner, but we had done some hard riding and I barely gave Bobby and Aaron a chance to eat any of the tots we ordered (which the waitress kindly made a split order of Cajun and Regular. The basket had a little divider down the middle. Adorable!)

The Chapel is smaller than I had thought it would be, which is not to say that it is exactly small. There are many smaller rooms, nooks and crannies that hide the space. The patio, which was closed, really seems the selling point for this pub. Still, another triumph for McMenamins. I often find myself bad mouthing the chain because it has grown so big, it is now "The Man." Their beers are fine, but there are better out there. Their food is good enough. But what they do for the cultural buildings of this City is beyond reproach.

Tots in my belly and a group pitcher of Ruby later, we were off.

Stop 3: Vendetta

We had aimed to play shuffleboard, but I should have known better. Nobody waltzes into Vendetta on a Friday night at 11pm and just gets to play shuffleboard. So we contented ourselves to beers and crowd watching. I observed that Bobby and Aaron often drink bottled beers (their list so far included: Amstel Light, Coronas and now Heinekens). Bobby blamed his oral fixations. Aaron said he just wasn't paying attention to what the board said was on tap and not. To me, it is a great insult to go to a bar and drink something I can so readily have at home. Yes, I often drink Pabst while I'm out. But it is TAP Pabst. Do I have a keg of Pabst in my house? Only when I dream...

Stop 4: The Gotham
One of my main reasons for going to the Gotham Tavern was the chance to ride down the hill on Russell. Good hill. If you ride a bike, you should take advantage. Weeeeee!

I haven't been to the Gotham since it switched ownership, and they've done wonderful things. The wooded wall has been changed to really air the place out. And they constructed two hives in the back, one of which we were privileged to call ours. It was around 11:30 when we arrived and the place was dead, so we were well attended. We all drank a delightful hefeweizen with something about Pigs in the name. I'm sad that I seem to have forgotten. The bartender offered us the choice of lemon or orange. Bonus point to the Gotham. And take note of their $3 happy hour after 9pm. Very nice.

The boys spent most of their time listening to me bitch about women and offering some helpful advice. As I know Bobby will read this: I'm sorry for being such a whiny pansy.

I don't know how things were for Bobby and Aaron, but speaking for myself, I was fading. It was a pub ride to be proud of. The only thing I see being able to surpass it is if we get more people into the mix. I'm talking to YOU.

-Thank you for reading.


It has to be covered

I am in New York.

Why I am in New York is because my two great aunts (on my Mother's side) just passed away within two weeks of each other. My Mom asked me if I would go with her, and in return for a flight and my attendance at the burial, I am given two days to frolic with my many New York friends. Fair trade.

We took the red-eye last night. I shared half a Lunesta with Mom. Apparently it worked, as we arrived in Newark both saying: "Well... we must have slept, but I don't remember doing it."

Straight to the funeral home where, to my surprise, there was an open casket with a dead body in it. This is not a Jewish way of doing things and I was caught off guard. I've never seen a dead body before. Strange and surreal. Even unsettling. Not something that needs to be done, in my opinion.

Then following the Hearse to the cemetery. Old Jewish cemetery in Staten Island. Lots of tall stones. There, I witnessed my first burial – another first. The casket was there surrounded by fresh dirt. The rabbi spoke with a thick Brooklyn accent.

After the casket was lowered, we were invited to each shovel some dirt in the grave. This is a tradition, though I didn't know it when I had already felt an odd impulse to do so. As people took turns grabbing shovels, one older man who had walked to the site with a cane continued to shovel. "You're supposed to cover it up" he said to the assembly. There was an awkward moment where nobody else took up the task. It was a rather large hole. We wouldn't have to fill it completely, but at least render the casket invisible under the earth.

I grabbed an extra shovel and put my back into it. Odd work but satisfying. Seemed the right thing to do. I don't plan on leaving earthly remains, unless they're allowed to be buried naked in the ground to decompose - in which case, I'd like everyone to lend a hand in burying me. An excellent act of closure.

But now all that business is done and I'm off to conquer New York City. For your records: MOMA closes at 5:30 pm.

-Thank you for reading.


"I am the best dancer ever"

One of my favorite friends, Angel, has started a web-comic that she updates most weekdays. You should check it out. This one is my favorite. www.brokenspectacles.com

-Thank you for reading


I'm Lost.

So, I'm trying to make sense of last night's LOST. Feel free and weigh in. Obviously, don't read this if you don't watch the show or haven't seen the finale.

Michael - harpooned, grenaded
Looking Glass Lesbians - shot
Tom - shot in cold blood by Sawyer
Beach raiding party - Dynamited, Volkswagoned
Dude who doesn't age - Still not old. Bound to play a role next season.
Ben - beat up, crazy, but maybe not completely so?

Charlie - drowned, rather unjustly. Must have a better project going on or wanted to go out with dignity.
Kate - Probably pregnant. Wears too much makeup in the future.
Hurley - Convicted of vehicular homicide, dude
Sayid - Badass. Did you see him snap that guys neck with his feet? Yeah.
Desmond - Not dead. In love with Penny. (Remember WAY back at the end of Season 2 when they brought her whole search thing into the story? Funny how it took a WHOLE SEASON to get back to that)
Claire - Still adorable.
Bernard - Not dead. Just means we'll forget about him for another 10 episodes and bring him back to do something stupid.
Sun - Pregnant. Waiting for her baby to kill her.
Jin - Can't hit stable dynamite but has no problem shooting people with guns.
Jack - Losing it. Terrible future beard.

Locke - Back on the Zealous track. Apparently invincible.
Juliet - Hot.
Russo - Looks like ET.
Penny - Desmond could have done better.
Jacob - Still invisible. Possibly manifesting as Walt?

What does "Walt's" return mean for Michael?
Who the fuck is Jacob?
How is the shit going to go down between Locke and Ben?
Will the Others and The Survivors unite against a common threat?
How did Russo not die when she had her baby?
Didn't Penny get a location on the island back when the hatch exploded?
What the fuck purpose did the hatch serve to keep the island from exploding if it doesn't exist anymore and things are fine?
Remember those weird numbers? Yeah... why were they important?
Polar Bear?
Why can Desmond see the future? It was set up like he had lived through everything already, but that was up to the point where the hatch exploded... time travel?
Why did they waste an entire episode burying that stupid couple they introduced at the beginning of the season alive?
Who died in the future? Does it even matter?


I have a Daemon, but is it the right one for me?

If you don't know about the Golden Compass, get with it. If you do, rate my daemon, Artemis.

-Thank you for reading.


The lesser whole

Kurt Vonnegut just died this week, and the world is less for it. However, there was recently another, more subtle death that affected me. A man my age, whom I went to school with since the 5th grade, died two weeks ago, a year after being diagnosed with colon cancer. I would call it tragic, but I don't really believe in tragedy because it implies an intent. I don't know what to call it. It happened. I wish it hadn't.

Today I attended his memorial service, both at church and at a gathering for family and friends. Truth be told, I was never close to Aaron Schulte. The first I remember of him is from 5th grade when he moved to Lake Oswego. At the time, anybody who was anybody played wall ball during recess. We had a newly constructed elementary school with an excellent corridor for many varied wall ball courts. And here comes this kid from Washington to establish himself as the dominant King of Wall Ball. I'm talking skipsies, cuts, hopsies and whatever other silly rules and strategies we were inventing at the time, he could do them all. Naturally, I resented him for his talent. But I never remember him being boastful or unkind about his status and abilities. Those of you that have ever been in 5th grade know what a rarity that kind of character is. But as became all to clear today, it was par for the course for this one man.

Fast forward to junior high. I don't remember if it was my 12th or 13th birthday, but my best friend at the time, Aaron White, had moved to Indonesia with his family and I had no good friends to spend my birthday with. Almost on a whim, I invited two people to come out with me: The new kid, Scott Thompson, who I thought was super cool, and Aaron Shulte, who had maybe played roller hockey with me a few times. My Dad took all of us out to Escape from New York Pizza and then to a Winterhawks game. Though I don't remember any real details about the evening, it was a fun time with new friends when I really needed them. Schulte (he was always the kind of guy who was called by his last name, despite his having two younger brothers who were at school with us) he always acted as a friend toward everybody. That night, he was one of mine.

In high school, we had a tradition called May Fete. Once a year, all four classes would rally and put on a skit in front of the student body. Aaron, who was involved in class politics every year, loved to take part in these. Being a theater geek, my friends and I often had a hand in writing and performing in these skits. Sophomore year, the theme was something to do with "on the back lot"... I think. Well, Aaron stole the show in our climatic fight scene (there were always fight scenes. It was high school.) as Rocky – who as I learned today, was one of his heroes.

I lost track of him after high school. He returned to Washington to go to school, join a fraternity, etc. A year ago, he popped back on the radar when I heard through channels that he had cancer. It's the kind of thing that doesn't make sense: 25-year-olds don't get cancer. And I let it slide. I made no effort. I'm not regretful about that, but I could have behaved differently. It feels important to me that I acknowledge my choice in the matter. In any case, that brings us to today: his funeral.

I don't believe in God. I believe in People. Today was a day that validated that belief. Most people of faith will tell you that people will let you down sooner or later, where God is steadfast. That is true, if you believe it. But I don't believe that people's ability, even tendency, to falter is a justification for not putting your faith with them. People can embody every virtue. That potential is not something to be treated like a lucky streak we're all waiting to run out. It should be encouraged and celebrated. That is what I saw today. Aaron was, with no exaggeration, the last person anything like this should happen to. His disease came out of nowhere, attacked him relentlessly and took him "too soon," for as much as that means. It's such an unjust death, it seems scripted. What makes his story even more surreal, though, is the strength I now know he possessed through his illness and the strength that gave to those around him. By all accounts, his family should be grieved beyond consolation. But I saw them today smiling, greeting friends and speaking of Aaron's life without the faintest hint of resentment about his fate. They mourn the loss, but they do it with such grace and love for life... I don't really know how to put it. Aaron's father made a touching video to show in remembrance. Not only did they show him during the good times, they unflinchingly - even proudly, showed him emaciated by his cancer, a shadow of his healthy self. I watched all this, listened to the stories people told and thought "this is how these things should be, but nobody ever expects people to have the strength to do it." Today I saw that strength and I am touched by it.

There were at least 400 people at the service today. I saw people from high school that flew from the opposite end of the country to be there. I saw teachers and community members I haven't seen in 8 years. All these people brought together by loss. I had the image during the Catholic Mass of Aaron as a weight attached by strings to many smaller weights all suspended somehow. And as Aaron's weight is dropped, all these sorted loads are drawn together for a brief moment of solidarity before the strings attaching them to the large weight are finally snapped by the pull of gravity. But for the brief moment that we are all brought together, it is as if the smaller weights are trying to support the large one from being pulled away.

I'm not a quoter of literature, but the first book that made me love Hemingway is For Whom The Bell Tolls. Most people probably know this, but the title is taken from a passage with a much more famous phrase by John Donne, and it is fitting for the moment. It goes:

"No man is an Iland, intire of its selfe; every man is a peece of the Continent, a part of the maine; if a Clod bee washed away by the Sea, Europe is the lesse, as well as if a Promontorie were, as well as if a Mannor of thy friends or of thine owne were; any mans death diminishes me, because I am involved in Mankinde; And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; It tolls for thee."


Bigger is better

This weekend was The Tri-Move and it was pretty hectic. Katie, my roommate since... what, 2004? Yeah. Late '04. Anyway, she has finally left me for the other man in her life, her boyfriend of 2+ years. Let the record show I had her first! Not in that way, of course.

As I reflect on our time together, I think both she and I will realize that we still know very little about the other person. It wasn't all that long ago that I learned she was obsessed with French Noir films during high school. Ours was not a relationship of minute details. On some trivial game show where we would be partnered and asked to recount facts for one anothers' pasts, we would fail. But were that game show to enquire what we would do in certain situations, we would be aces. I feel I know Katie's character. The essence. And I feel she understands me likewise. It's people who get that sort of thing that have the lasting friendships, because the wind may blow the sail this and that way, but the mast stays put.

The best thing that has come of Katie's departure is that I have claimed my rightful place in the big room. I'd have never admited it to her while she was here, but I deserved the big room - especially once I started working from home. Katie may have paid rent, but she barely lived here. One of her most awe-inspiring traits is her ability to be constantly doing shit. And so, her room here was little more than a place to keep her bed for when she actually chose to use it. I, on the other hand, am a homebody and could have used a more spacious command center.

Now that I have The Big Room, I am surprised by how much better it actually is. I thought I'd built up its importance in my mind, but no. It's really that good. I have my bed at at an angle. An angle! It's so luxurious. Though I need something to keep my pillows from falling behind the bed...

My new roommate, Nick, seems a fine sort. This morning, we woke up at roughly the same time and had coffee together. This is one of the small roommate pleasures I was denied by Katie, her demanding schedule requiring every minute of her time be streaminled for maximum life-living and minimum coffee drinking. It goes without saying that Nick and I will have to work out some unforseen bumps, but I've just got a good feeling about it. The man likes Deadwood, for God's sake, so at least he's got his head on straight. And he says things like "Yeah, that movie didn't blow wind up my skirt..." So when I start throwing that gem out in conversation, you'll know why.

-Thank you for reading.


Even cute has limits

Turns out that line gets crossed right around the time your bed gets peed on.

-Thank you for reading



There was a lot of poop around NW today. Not sure if it was all dog poop, either. And it was right in the middle of the sidewalk. Is this the price we pay for living in civilization? Because poop in the middle of the woods, that's one thing. Urban poop is a completely different matter.

- Thank you for reading.