Thursday, December 29, 2005

Well, Margaret and I still haven't see the Narnia movie--but while we were in Salt Lake we did enter a strange door in the city's scary west side industrial district to an alternate universe (and I'm not talking about the Jordan River temple). Margaret's sister, who knows EVERYBODY that's somebody in Salt Lake and everything that is going on in the city, found out about this place to buy cheap jeans. We were a little trepidatious when she told us it was in the heart of the industrial district of Salt Lake--on the WEST SIDE, nonetheless. The only time we ever cross the forbidden line of the I-15 freeway that bisects the city is to go to the airport--and we try to drive that route as fast as possible and NEVER make any stops until we're safely at the Delta entrance. Anyway, we drove to the area in one of the few passenger vehicles on the road--it was mostly trucks and shipping containers for the giant warehouses for who-knows-what (I'm thinking Jell-O shipments). We drove up to a pretty nondescript building with lots of loading bays for 18-wheelers and there, in the middle of the block-long building, was a tiny (in comparison) red door. We went through it and it WAS like the four kids stumbling through the wardrobe into Narnia. In this crazy, mixed up universe, you could buy name-brand jeans for over half off, designer shirts, jewelry, even LUGGAGE! Of course, we felt like we had stepped into if not the black market (a place that I had always thought was an actual store--and probably behind "Vern's Emporium of Cheap Stuff.") Well, it wasn't exactly the BLACK market--it was more... steel gray, or possibly tarnished silver. Not one to be hooked up on the morality of where something comes from if it involves saving a load of money, we proceeded to spend several hours in the store, rifling through the stacks of jeans, shirts, etc. I tried on a Versace pullover in medium. Normally I wear a small, but European clothes tend to be cut a little more slutty fitted--the medium was so tight I felt like I was trying on Seven-of-Nine's bodysuit. The large ALMOST fit, but was so long I could have gotten away with not wearing any pants with it. We did leave the store with some great finds, and I'm sure that people will be surprised when they ask us where we found our new designer clothes and we tell them "Utah." Prior to this trip, the coolest stuff we've brought back were some delicious dried cherries from Brigham City.

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Whew, this has been an exhausting few days--I don't think that Christmas would be Christmas, though, without being completely spent by the time New Year's rolls around (and I say spent in both senses of the word). Last night, a group of Norwegian returned missionaries--or "RM's" in Mormon slang; the invitees were carefully culled from the larger group based on how funny they are, how laid back they are, and how willing they are to dish out any information about other RMs. We met at a brewery here in Salt Lake (and unlike the breweries in Portland, this one doesn't rely solely on brewing beer--or they'd probably go out of business here--they also brew up Mormon-friendly root beer, cream soda, and orange soda--it gives the feeling of sin, without the pesky aftereffects--like confession). We had a fun time, and afterward, came back to Margaret's mom's house and talked some more. We started telling stories about crazy family members and one of the guys told us about his sister-in-law that suffers from O.D.D. We all looked at each other trying to figure out what that disorder was--maybe it was a more acute form of ADD? Finally, he said, she's odd. That's one for the Big Book of Insults, a tome that my brother wrote over half of that I keep at home for continual study.

Speaking of hilarious family stories, Margaret's sister takes her son to a Jewish preschool. During the orientation, they kept stressing that children were forbidden to bring any form of peanuts whatsoever in their lunches. They were pretty forceful in their warnings. Finally, Margaret's sister leaned over to a woman sitting next to her and said, "I know the Jewish thing about pork, but I've never heard about peanuts." The woman, probably trying not to laugh or roll her eyes, informed her that it was a precaution for children with peanut allergies. Oops. I hate it when I do that--your mind just goes off in one direction and leaves reality far, far behind. I remember when I was a kid, every time our school had a fire drill, I would furtively look up and down all the halls on my way out of the building, trying to catch a glimpse of the workers using a "fire drill"--a tool so dangerous that the children had to be evacuated from the building in case of accident or emergency. I was SO disappointed when I found out what a fire drill really was--my version was much more interesting.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Yesterday Margaret, my grandmother, and I went into Logan to do some shopping. Margaret was on the lookout for a kitschy Mormon gift for a friend, so she ran into the first stop for seekers of Mormon knickknacks--Deseret Book. (In case you don't know, Deseret is the original Indian name for the Great Salt Lake area-I think it means "Place where one buck has seven does," but that was changed to Utah, which means "Land of stone-cold sobriety.") Anyway, for those who haven't heard of this source of goodness and propriety, Deseret Book is where ALL self-respecting (and self-righteous) Mormons get books, music, videos, journals, and tiny religious sculptures that help remind them not to drink coffee or date a non-Mormon. They carefully screen all their offerings to make sure that there is nothing in the store that could possibly be offensive, promote tolerance, or encourage someone to vote Democratic. It's so much easier for the pious, upstanding church-goer to have someone else filter out the confusing, wicked world that surrounds him. Needless to say, Margaret HATES the store, and only considered getting something there for the ironic ramifications of the purchase. Well, she was in luck--a new Deseret Book super center just opened here in Logan in a new super-duper Mormon strip mall. If I hadn't seen it, I wouldn't have believed that it was possible, but the mall where the bookstore was is the perfect nexus of Mormonism and commericalism. In addition to Deseret Book, it had a church distribution center, where you can buy church-produced scriptures, magazines, posters, and instruction manuals--essentially all the required reading you could possibly want or need. Next to that was "Dressed in White" which is a store that only sells white clothes, presumably for use in the temple, where that's the only color you can wear. I think it is the only place where you can buy a white suit, white tie, white dress socks, and white patent leather shoes, all to match your white shirt. The place was really hopping yesterday from all the people who needed to dress up as angels in their church Christmas pageants--and everyone knows that male angels don't wear robes, they wear white polyester three-piece suits! The final store in the strip mall is "Flick's: Edited Movies." As the name suggests, this store offers videos that have been stripped of any swearing, violence, nudity, sex, liberalism, intellectual freedom, or the merits of a socialist government. How they get away with altering these movies is beyond me--I would think that Hollywood would be knocking on their door for destroying the artistic freedom and expression of their movie-makers. What struck me as particularly ridiculous was the poster for the remake of "Amityville Horror" was featured in the window! How long could the edited version of this movie be? I would think that after all the above cuts, the movie would be 12 minutes long and be a feel-good story about a young couple in New England who have a wild and crazy time restoring their fixer-upper Victorian-style home. I'm assuming that the edited version of Fahrenheit 9-11 went straight from the opening credits to the closing credits for a total of 4 minutes of movie.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

What is up with wait staff at restaurants that make you feel like you're putting them out by actually being there? Yesterday Margaret, my grandmother, and I went to a national restaurant chain that rhymes with "schmili's" (I have to do that in case their corporate lawyers try to hunt me down--I'm probably already on their "watch list" since I one time refilled my drink there 14 times! But who could blame me when they charge $2 for a glass of pop! If they're not ashamed of THAT, I'm not ashamed of risking my health to take home a gallon of Diet Coke in my bladder!) Anyway, when our server came up, she had that teenage I-know-I'm-better-than-you-but-due-to-circumstances-beyond-my-control--namely-my-stingy-parents-won't-buy-me-$125-jeans-AND-pay-my-cell-phone-bill--I'm-forced-to-work-here-but-don't-have-to-like-it-and-by-god-YOU'RE-not-going-to-like-it look. If you've ever been to that mall food court staple "Hot Dog on a Stick" you know the look I'm talking about. One thing she DID have going in her favor (and that eventually earned her her tip) was that we never had to go very long before getting our refills. In fact, she was so diligent in bringing us more pop that Margaret finally had to cut me off! All in all, it wasn't THAT bad, but it did remind me of awful high school jobs that were pretty mindless but served as an evil means to a necessary end.

Speaking of which, that reminds me of my only high school job; I worked in the Shopko electronics department for a few years and pretty much enjoyed it. (Except for the hideous orange smock we had to wear! That was wrong on TWO counts--one: the orange was a shade that would have made anyone look like they were in the late stages of liver failure, and two: how could you be taken seriously when wearing an article of clothing called a SMOCK?!?) One Christmas experience, however, was pretty memorable--it was the Christmas that the original Nintendo Entertainment System was THE must-have Christmas item. We had to field at least 50 calls a day asking if we had gotten any new shipments in and when they did come in, they were gone within the day. As Christmas approached, frantic parents were getting more and more desperate--resorting to disparaging and demeaning remarks to us clerks--since we were the ones responsible for ordering them and had a secret stash of them in the back storeroom for all our good-for-nothing pot-smoking buddies. Well one evening, it was really rushed and the service desk had a cart of returns that they had parked in my department but I hadn't had a chance to put in back yet. On the top was a returned Nintendo in its original box. Well, a woman who had come in almost every day to see if we had any in saw that sitting in the cart and just took it. Evidently she thought it was someone else's cart and not the return cart, because she went to the front and bought it. The day after Christmas, I was working again, and she storms in, absolutely fuming, accusing me of ruining her son's and her Christmas. She said that her son had opened up his present from Santa on Christmas morning and inside he didn't find his dream machine but a filthy, broken Nintendo. He had no idea why Santa would deliver something like that to him and she was forced to tell him there was no such thing as Santa. (Although it seems to me she passed up a golden opportunity to tell him he shouldn't have been so naughty that year) When pressed, I found out how she had gotten the machine in the first place, but I don't think that appealing to her sense of karma or divine justice would have been appropriate, so I had to play the good corporate hack and apologize--which if you know me was NOT easy--so I earned a lot of karma points for it that, which I promptly spent on judging the servers at Taco Time.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Margaret and I are at my grandmother's house in Logan for the week. Logan is a little college town in northern Utah that is even MORE dominated by Mormons than Salt Lake is (yes, that IS possible!). I love reading their local paper while we're here, not only for the obituaries (it's always amazing to read about someone's 50 children and 150 grandchildren and you realize that the guy was a polygamist) but for the crazy ideas and articles. This morning, there was one that took the cake, and I'm including it below in its unedited glory:

Bad Moon Rising
A 37-year-old Hyrum man was booked into the Cache County Jail on Sunday after he reportedly got into an argument with his wife and then exposed himself to her and their children.
According to sheriff's reports, the couple was fighting when the man dropped his pants and said to the woman, "Kiss my a--." (the censor is from the paper, I'm not one to limit free speech, and especially a word as benign as ass!)
When the man allegedly mooned his wife, his children were in the room.
Sheriff's deputies were called to the home and the man was arrested on two class-A misdemeanor charges of lewdness involving a child. The man was booked into the Cache County Jail.

Can you believe that? I can't imagine doing anything but laugh if Margaret did the same thing--it would have been the last thing on my mind to call 9-1-1 and report it to the police. Plus, knowing some of the uptight people around here, I don't know if the wife called the police because her husband mooned her or because he uttered the word "ass!"

I remember one time at BYU I was in a New Testament class and we were taking a fill in the blank quiz. One of the blanks should have had the answer, "hell," but when we traded the sheets to correct them, someone had written in "heck" instead. She was evidently too pure and innocent to even allow her pencil to scrawl that profanity! Geesh! If I was the one correcting it, I would have marked it wrong, and taken off a few more points for being holier-than-thou. Alas, I wasn't the one, so I have to make due by telling her story to the internets--which, I have to admit, IS surprisingly satisfying!

Monday, December 19, 2005

It always surprises me how you can take the boy out of the country, but you can't take the country out of the boy. Farm chores, stories, and even livestock killing techniques that I thought I had repressed all come flooding back when I'm talking with Margaret's sister and her husband who live on a farm in central Utah. Here I am, thinking I'm all modern and urban, then they come along and we start talking about the most effective way to kill and pluck a chicken, or how to keep a pig dewormed, or the benefits of raising guinea hens. Being so focused on graphic design and working with computers all day has really removed me from being so close to anything but prepackaged food from Costco. Going down to their farm is a lot of fun, too. The last time I was there, I had to fight a pack of aggressive chicken off from the pig's food or it would have gone hungry. I also got attacked by one of their rabbits and still have the scar on my hand to prove it.

One thing I never did get too into was horses--and I can pinpoint that to a single event that caused me and them to go our separate ways--literally! Our neighbor had a horse that was so gentle and easygoing. She encouraged me to hop on and take him for a ride, so I did--not really knowing what to do. I moseyed around our properties for a bit, thinking, "this isn't too bad." Just when I was getting to the point I thought I could try a few tricks--like make the horse go faster than a mosey or jump over a stream, the reins came off in my hand! The little buckle that held the bridle in place had fallen off and I was left holding a long strip of leather connect to nothing! Well instantly the horse realized what this meant--"I can do whatever I want to this sucker on my back and he can't do a THING about it"--and that's exactly what he DID. We wandered around the area and every fence, gate, post, and tree that he could rub me up against, he went for. The final straw was when he walked between a narrow gate that had a little wire sticking out of it that caught my pants (and I remember they were my first pair of real Levi's and I was so proud of them) and, starting at my hip, ripped them all the way to the leg opening. That was the final straw! As soon as the horse walked under the swingset in the neighbor's lawn--I reached up and grabbed the top beam and let the horse walk out from under me. I then went straight home, pant leg flapping in the wind. When I got there, the neighbor was still visiting with my mom and I told them what had happened; after getting a laugh out of it, the neighbor realized that her horse was still wandering around the area and she rushed back to find him. That was the least of my concern. I was humiliated, my new adult pants were ripped to shreds, and to add insult to injury, my uncle (who lived with us and forbade us to get into his things) saw that I was wearing his socks and cussed me out for THAT! What did I receive from my mother in the way of consolation? Her ordering me to stand still while she took my picture! She wanted to preserve that moment for all time--as if I could forgot it. All those horrible events swirl around and flood back to the surface whenever I think about getting on a horse--and I've never been back on one since. I know there are much more traumaic things that could have spawned such a deep and abiding avoidance of horses, like being trampled, maimed, drawn and quartered, or have a finger bitten off (I don't know if horses really do that, but you never know), so there is a slight chance I will one day get back on a horse--and not one of those that cost a quarter to ride that you find in front of K-Marts.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Margaret and I just went through security at the Portland airport and boy are they getting strict! They have the sensitivity on the scanners turned up so high they would go off if you had more than three fillings in your teeth! I dutifully put my bag on the belt; they then said I had to take off my coat, so I did that. Then I tried to go through the scanner, but the guard had me take off my shoes. I tried again, but of course it went off, and I realized that I had my watch on, then I tried AGAIN! and had to go back and take my belt off! By the time I was cleared, I was glad that I was wearing my firetruck underwear, because that's all it felt like I had on and if everyone has to see me in my underwear, I would want to be wearing those!

I remember once right after 9/11 that Margaret and I were flying back from New Orleans. They were doing random extensive searches of people and they picked an old lady that needed a walker and an Amish women (okay, she probably wasn't AMISH, but she was dressed like one, she had some knitting she was doing, and she didn't even have a iPOD!--and in my book THAT'S Amish!) I had no idea that Al Quaida was so desperate that they were recruiting amongst the elderly and the technophobes. Maybe they offer a better health care package than Medicare provides. Another time, flying back from Europe, we went through Dutch security, but that wasn't invasive enough for the US State Department, so we had to go through American security, too, before we could even get to the gate. They conducted personal interviews with every person getting on the plane--asking us about the nature of our trip, how we got to the airport that morning, if I wore boxers or briefs, what that condom full of heroin was doing up my... well, you get the picture. What REALLY set off their suspicion flags, though, was the fact that we only had ONE piece of luggage between the two of us. Who every heard of such a thing--especially with Americans?!? What we thought was a convenience (who wants to lug around a crap load of bags on a trip through Europe?--plus compared to the French tourists we ran into, there wasn't THAT much need to change our clothes very often) turned out to make us terror suspects--I swear, I hadn't been confronted with that much suspicion since I was being questioned by the mission president in Norway after an entire ward turned into atheists (and I still maintain that I had almost NOTHING to do with it!).

Friday, December 16, 2005

Yesterday we got our Christmas bonuses at work. I took the opportunity to be able to buy Margaret her Christmas present without having it show up on our credit card statement--one drawback of completely joint financials is that it takes away the element of surprise--plus it's always embarassing when Margaret takes a look at the statement and sees that I used the debit card 15 times last month for purchases at Taco Bell for under $2--oops! Anyway, what I wanted to get her was at Nordstrom, and since they have a notoriously generous customer service policy, I thought I'd try to just cash the check there and make my purchase in cash, thereby preserving the element of surprise (I'm writing this right now confident that Margaret won't see it before she opens her present, since we'll be opening our presents to one another tonight--it's a struggle to bring all our family presents let alone our own on the plane and we leave for Utah tomorrow.) Well, I go up to the customer service lady and said, "Is there any way I could cash this--I want to buy something here, but I don't want my wife to know about it." She gave me a studied look and said that they didn't and I'd have to go to a bank if that's what I wanted to do. Now I wonder if she might have thought I wanted to buy something for someone I'm having an affair with and that's why I didn't want my wife to know about it and THAT'S why she wouldn't cash the check. How dare she judge me! Oh, and Margaret, when you read this--the gift really was for you!

Thursday, December 15, 2005

This past weekend, my brother took his four-year-old son to see Santa. After he got done, my brother asked him what he asked Santa for. My nephew said, "A DUMP TRUCK! I don't even want a dump truck, but I got so nervous up on his lap that I couldn't think of anything else. Next year, I don't want to sit on Santa's lap." Now he's worried that that's all Santa is going to bring him. Talk about a scene out of "A Christmas Story."

I remember when I was little, I asked Santa for a Speak & Spell. Oh the joy, to have a computer that gave me constant reinforcement for good spelling. Now I think, "What an N-E-R-D!" That Speak & Spell was my pride and joy, and I ran through batteries on that thing faster than the digital camera of a Japanese tourist. I even got modules for my birthday that had more words to spell. I admit that I have a SLIGHT obsession with correct spelling--and I'm sure that the Speak-N-Spell reinforced that. After all, how could I resist something that congratulated me with a monotone "good job" or "terrific" every time I spelled something correctly? I wonder if I would enjoy work more if everything I did was followed by a "nice going" or "you're great." Now I think about how my siblings surely thought I was the biggest dweeb--asking for an EDUCATIONAL toy when I could have asked for a video game or something! Fortunately I've outgrown that--I've moved on to asking for the standard frivolous items from Santa--a new patio door! Akk! What have I become?!? Maybe I should send an emergency letter to the North Pole and change my request to a dump truck, too!

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Yesterday on the bus, a semi-homeless woman tapped me on the shoulder and said, "President Ford had a stroke." That was it--no introduction, no follow-up--just a totally random statement. It's always so unnerving to me anyway when strangers talk to me on the bus--or any public place for that matter. Why can't they just leave me alone? And to imagine that I was putting people in that situation EVERY DAY when I was a missionary! If any Norwegians out there are reading this, I'l like to say I'm sorry. Anyway, I instantly thought, "This lady it totally crazy! Gerald Ford has been dead for YEARS!" A minute later she tapped me on the shoulder again and told me that he'd been sick. I'm thinking, "Is she living thirty years in the past? WHAT is she talking about and would it hurt her to run a comb through her hair once in a while?" (Okay, that last part didn't have anything to do with what she was saying, but I couldn't help thinking it--and I'm all for full disclosure here.) Fortunately my stop allowed me to escape, and as soon as I got off the bus, I called my grandmother to ask her if Ford was still alive. Well... it turns out he's still alive and that "crazy" lady was just making small talk. Ooops! (But that didn't change the fact that she needed to comb her hair.)

Also, my grandmother solved my 'getting rid of the help' problem for me--she suggested I put the cleaning on hold since we'll be out of town for the holidays and tell them that we'll call them when we get back to restart our schedule--and then just never call them back. I know, I know, it's a TAD cowardly--but they're Eastern European--what if they respond with a vendettta or a blood feud? THEN where would we be? This way seems preferable for all involved--except the cleaners, or course.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Margaret and I have been fighting over who has to be the one to fire our cleaners. We're both dreading it, which is why we've tolerated finding undone cleaning after they've been there for so long. I told her last night that I wish I had a personal assistant to do my dirty work. How great would that be to tell my assistant, "Ludmilla, please 'take care of' the cleaners today and then conduct interviews to find some that will do a good job for around $25" Unfortunately, I only make 6% of the required income to be able to afford a personal assistant, and also my life isn't so complicated that I really require it. My poor personal assistant would be relegated to things like popping some microwave popcorn when we're watching a movie or standing guard while Kitty eats her food to make sure the racoons don't steal it--those rascals. Alas! Maybe Margaret and I'll end up playing rock-paper-scissors to decide who has to do play Donald Trump and declare, "You're fired."

We had recommended these cleaners to our friend Ber and she didn't think they did that good of a job, either. One time when we were over at her house, she was talking about the cleaners and what they missed or glossed over or did poorly. We were comiserating when it struck me: when did WE become the people who complained that you can't get good help these days!

Monday, December 12, 2005

Following tradition, this morning I bought a newspaper and went in to Noah's Bagels. I'm trying to cut back on the newspapers, since The Oregonian just upped its price from 35 to 50 cents! Since I usually only read the Living section--that's the part that has the comics, crossword, and! (The rest is so DEPRESSING.)--I thought 35 cents was a fair price to pay. But now that it's 50 CENTS I feel compelled to read the entire paper--including the SPORTS PAGE--and believe me, THAT'S a chore I would prefer not to have to do. Anyway, while I was paying for my bagel, the newspaper started slipping out from under my arm and when I looked down--to my horror--I had accidentally grabbed TWO papers. I should have know something was wrong--after the newpaper box slammed shut, I felt a great disturbance in the Force, but I had chalked it up to Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes having a baby together--little did I know that I was the cause of the disturbance. I told the cashier at Noah's what I'd done and said that I had just lost some karma points. That dedicated bagel angel then spared me the wrath of the gods by saying that the shop hadn't bought it's store copy yet so she would just take the extra one from me, go deposit 50 cents in the newspaper box, and open it, but not take a paper. Whew! When she came back in after doing that, I could feel my Light Side points tick back up, counteracting my Dark Side points that I had accrued in Norway for... well, I'll just say I'm a big believer in justification repentance.
The Internets have spoken and they have demanded a picture of The Dress. Never one to argue with the Internets (I heard that JFK tried arguing with the Internets--although it was called the Mafia back then--and look what happened to him!), I feel compelled to comply. So, for your viewing pleasure, here is a picture of Margaret's party dress. I'm posting this with full faith that no unscrupulous visitor will use the picture for evil--so let this serve as a warning: I'll be checking all the Southern Belle fetish websites to make sure that Margaret's honor is upheld. I really hate to have to visit those kinds of websites, but what can I say, I'll make all kinds of sacrifices for my Margaret, it's just a service I provide.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

I just talked with my grandmother and aunt and they were telling me all the latest news of the family. By far the most shocking was that one of my cousins had the great idea of dousing snowballs with gasoline and lighting them for use in a snowball fight! What could POSSIBLY go wrong?! I guess he hadn't learned anything from, let me see--EVERY SINGLE COYOTE AND ROADRUNNER CARTOON! Was there EVER a time when Coyote used gasoline in one of his schemes that it didn't completely backfire? Well, in a case of life imitating art, my cousin got hit in the face with one of the flaming snowballs--isn't that shocking? I can't believe that kids having a snowball fight would aim for someone's FACE! What's the world coming to? Anyway, he got pretty seriously burnt--enough so that he almost had to be flown to the burn center in Salt Lake! While reeling from the tragedy, I said I couldn't imagine how he would have even gotten the IDEA to do that, let alone actually implement it, to which my grandmother replied, "and with the price of gas these days!" I had to admit, I hadn't thought of that aspect of the situation.

Note: the above story is just one example of my family's propensity to share stories about our own accidents, foibles, and misstatements--in fact my grandmother collected a whole book full of them, titled "Perks and Quirks." Since it was finished in 1995, she's gathered enough for a volume 2. We like to trot out our embarassing stories about each other and show them off like treasured trophies at every family get-together. It's great! (And gives you a little glimpse into how my cold, shriveled, three-sizes-too-small heart works.)
Margaret and I have been dragging now for two days--paying the high price of going out on the town into the wee hours with only caffeine and other stimulants holiday cheer to fuel us. Friday night was Margaret's work party AND our friend Ber's birthday blow-out. The work party was an evening-attire event, so we couldn't wear the Portland uniform of polar fleece and jeans. Actually, Margaret had been looking forward to dressing up for the event--she even bought a VERY full petticoat that made her dress flow out so far that she'd have looked right at home waltzing into Twelve Oaks for a cotillion (doesn't even the SOUND of that word sound presumptuous?) and given Scarlett O'Hara a run for her money. Margaret's dress didn't go to the floor like an antebellum hoop skirt would have--she was daring and showed a little ankle, so I guess you could call her Starlet O'Hara. Unlike Scarlett, however, Margaret had to get into a compact car and had a hard time buckling her seat belt, or even seeing over the mound of dress. We decided to make a cameo at the birthday get-together before heading over to the work party and boy did Margaret get the attention of the lounge! Most of the looks were of admiration although more than a few looked like Anastasia and Drusella sizing up Cinderella--I had to keep a watchful eye to make sure none of them ran up to Margaret and tried to rip her dress to shreds--her fairy godmother wouldn't have come to her rescue after the falling out they had in Barcelona--but that's another story. One thing, though, that was completely ridiculous, was the bouncer at the door of the lounge. Obviously a slave to procedure, he dutifully checked our ID's and after confirming we were over 21, asked for our inside wrist to stamp. Well, Margaret had on long gloves and she asked if that was really necessary. He said it was, so she had to peel off a glove so he could stamp her wrist, after which she rolled the glove back on--not to be seen again without considerable effort. Can you imagine some glamorous 1940's movie scene where a sultry woman in long gloves, holding one of those long cigarette holder thingys, ambles up to the bar to order some glamorous drink and the bartender asks her to roll up her glove to make sure she's over 21? Anyway, after making the cameo, we made our way up to the work party. I had to laugh when we came in the door--three little girls were near the entrance sitting around the Christmas tree and when they saw Margaret, they stared, mouths agape, at that dress, and didn't stop until we were in the ballroom. I guess little girls are always suckers for princesses. I didn't rate a second glance--I was just Beast, accompanying Belle.

After the party, we called Ber and--surprise (ok, NOT a surprise--she's IRISH)--they were STILL at that lounge! They were heading over to a late-night restaurant, so we joined them and ate again. (The place was a cajun-style restaurant and Ber ordered 'gator bites!' Yes, actual ALLIGATOR--and you know what? It DID taste like chicken--(albeit chicken that had known the taste of human flesh--but chicken nonetheless). After we had lingered over our food for a while, someone in the group mentioned a bar nearby where we could end the evening. We decided why not--it was only ONE THIRTY IN THE FRICKIN' MORNING (maybe being sober clouded my perception of how good an idea it was, but that didn't stop me from going--I'm always game to see drunk people make fools of themselves and be the only one to remember it.) As soon as we entered the bar, Margaret was met with an entire room full of Anastasias and Drusellas--it was a total dive bar and everyone but us was wearing the obligatory polar fleece, stocking cap, and jeans required by Portland law. It was great--the evening was enjoyable, despite coming at a cost of stumbling home at 3 in the morning and having to wake up the next day to go to TWO MORE PARTIES. Ugh, I'm ready for the holidays to be over already--there's only so much that caffeine can do and I'm pushing it to its limits. Maybe what I should ask for from Santa is my college ability to live off pizza, Diet Coke, and three hours of sleep.

Friday, December 09, 2005

It has been FREEZING here in Portland for the past few days. Yesterday when I came into the office it was 38 degrees, but with the wind and humidity, it was closer to the freezing point of nitrogen! I told the receptionist that I felt like the Inuit guy in that movie "The Fast Runner" who had to run across the Arctic tundra naked for several hours to escape some guys who were trying to kill him. I think I'd rather be killed than have to endure THAT--imagine the shrinkage!!! I was cold just WATCHING the movie--and after getting to work yesterday (nursing a large Diet Coke, which had NOTHING to do with how cold I felt) I knew EXACTLY how that Inuit guy felt (even with my L.L. Bean Northwoods Spruce Thinsulate Reversible Gore-Tex lined Extreme Adirondack Explorer Parka with removeable boiled Polarfleece vest and integrated iPod control system)! I can't believe that 38 degrees feels so cold to me now! I lived in frickin' NORWAY and I'm complaining about THIS?!? Norwegians SUNBATHE in weather like this!

Speaking of Norwegian winters, I remember a Mission Myth (they're like Urban Myths, only more spiritual, and therefore TRUE) about a pair of Finnish missionaries who were out proseletizing on bikes and one forgot his hat. Well, their area was quite hilly, and they came to a hill that they both rushed down, and afterward, the hatless missionary complained of a splitting and debilitating headache. His companion rushed him to the hospital, (that should have been a clue that the story was fake--I had companions who would have told me that that was a sign from the Lord that I wasn't working hard enough and if I got busy, the pain would go away) where the doctor said that the hatless missionary only had at most a half hour to live and that there was nothing they could do to help him BECAUSE PART OF HIS BRAIN HAD FROZE!!!! Walking around in Norway, we were all sure that this story was absolutely true, because you haven't seen cold until you've experienced below zero temperatures on days when the sun never comes up and you're just walking around because no one wants to let you in their door because they'll have to listen to a church message. It wasn't until I got back to BYU and talked with other Scandinavian missionaries that I found out that the Finns heard the same story, only it happened in Sweden, the Icelandic missionaries heard it was the Norwegians, and the Swedes heard it was the Icelanders. Nowadays, the only brain freezes I have come the old fashioned way--with a Slurpee.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

My brother is in town for a work training so he's been staying with us while he's here. When he first arrived in Portland, I was still at work, so he just took the train to my office, dropped off his things, then went shopping at the mall near here. The Lloyd Center is a pretty big mall, and it has always seemed very suburban and tame; I usually just go over there to see a movie or to eat at the food court. Okay, strike that last sentence--while I was writing it I remembered one time Margaret and I went to see that Mormon movie "Charley," the classic Mormon story of bad girl meets Mormon boy, discovers error of her ways, becomes Mormon, gets married, has a baby, gets cancer, and dies--it was the feel-good hit in Provo when it was released. Anyway, there were only 5 other people in the theatre to see the movie (as you can tell, the heart of Portland isn't the bastion of Mormon population that it once was--they've all moved out to the suburbs where the Costcos are). As we were sitting down, a girl ripped a length of toilet paper off some that she had and offered it to Margaret. She declined, but the girl insisted, saying that we'd need it. To be nice, Margaret took it, and halfway through the movie, when Charley is struggling with chemotherapy and doesn't even have the strength to lift her own baby out of its crib we're trying to hide the fact that we REALLY need that tissue, but don't want the girl who gave it to us to see us using it. Okay, that was just a long intro for the part that illustrates my point about the seedy underbelly of this mall that one rarely sees. During a lull in the movie, and since I'd probably drunk a large Diet Coke and was about to burst, I got up to go to the bathroom. As I rounded the corner to the little foyer area between the theatre and the main hallway, I saw a girl giving a guy oral sex!!! (And they say that romance is dead.) They stopped as soon as they saw me, and were gone by the time I came back--I guess they had figured that there wouldn't be anyone seeing some Mormon movie and that they were safe. I wonder if anything like that happened when the film was screened in Salt Lake? Nah, the closest thing would probably be someone trying to foist off a Book of Mormon onto a movie-goer who they had found out wasn't Mormon while they were in the foyer.

Well, to continue--despite the preceding story--the Lloyd Mall is GENERALLY safe and tame, but my brother, who was dressed in a Carhart barn coat, had a fitted stocking cap on, and has a goatee, walked through the mall and got several offers to buy jewelry and other items that were clearly stolen from the stores! I guess he looked questionable enough to the theives to think that he would be interested. Can you believe that? People JUDGING OTHERS just by the way they LOOK! I am SHOCKED! He said he was pretty confident that it was real gold jewelry, too, since they still had the pricetags on! That NEVER happens to me! I guess I look too innocent to attract them--that, or I look like the kind of person who would turn them in. Either way, I'm stuck with having to pay retail and I HATE that!

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

I have a site tracker link on this blog to count how many people visit it, you know--for the ego trip. It also shows the domain that the visitor is accessing the internet from. It doesn't show me a particular person, but it does show me the internet provider or company. It does my heart good to see all the visitors from Utah--I'm constantly amazed that this blog makes it through the Zion Censorship Grid© which works hard to keep good Mormons on the straight and narrow by preventing them from visit porn sites,, and the Democratic Party website. Anyway, this morning when I was looking at my stats, I noticed that I had a hit from the domain! I have a friend who just moved to Maine, and wondered if she had gotten a job there. I clicked for more details and discovered that someone at L.L. Bean had done a blog search for the keyword "L.L. Bean" and came up with my entry on the crazy color names they use! Yikes--I'm being tracked by The Man (Corporate Edition). I'm just glad I didn't say anything disparaging about them--I'm assuming they're down with it, since I didn't have a cease and desist order in my email. Phew! Although if you read an entry in a couple of days about how cold it is in Portland right now and I don't know how I could survive without the unsurpassed warming features of my L.L. Bean Northwoods Spruce Thinsulate Reversible Gore-Tex lined Extreme Adirondack Explorer Parka with removeable boiled Polarfleece vest and integrated iPod control system you'll know that it's a part of my plea bargain--and you'll know that because I'd NEVER wear anything in Northwoods Spruce--it makes me look pale.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Every year when we go to Utah for Christmas, I try to get together with a group of cool Norwegian returned missionaries that I knew while I was there. (I say "cool" to denote that they are pretty laid back, don't sugarcoat their mission experience, and make constant jokes like, "I haven't [insert questionable activity here] since we were in Norway!") Usually we go to the Olive Garden--nice predictable Olive Garden. That gets a little old (although the bottomless pop and breadsticks are a great selling point--I wonder if they get mad if you went in and just pretended you were lingering over the menu, filling up on the free stuff; maybe I'll have to give that a try sometime). Anyway, as a joke, I mentioned to one of my friends that I was thinking of going to a microbrewery because it would be a much closer fit to our group. When he said that he would join us sinners, I took it as a challenge to find a place that was just enough on the edge to be fun, but still vanilla enough not to scare away some of them with more churchy standards. Coincidentally, the New York Times a couple of weeks back featured Salt Lake in their travel section and listed some cool night spots. One of them caught my eye, just because of their clever name: The Tavernacle. That would have been perfect--until I just visited their website; it's just a dueling piano bar that serves alcohol. D'oh! Back to the drawing board. Any suggestions out there of a place that has a seedy reputation but in reality just makes the patrons FEEL like they're being rebels, without really rebelling? What is the happy medium between Elmer's Pancake House and Hooters?

Speaking of rebels, I remember when I was in college, I had a teacher's assistant that thought I was going to hell in a handbasket. One morning, he called me around 10 am and I was pretty groggy, having gotten in from visiting the hot springs around 4 or 5 that morning. When I mentioned this, his response was, "I don't even want to know." I got a little rush out of thinking that someone thought I was a rebel--and without having to even bother with the effort of being rebellious--I mean WHO'S got the energy these days? Well, a couple of weeks later, a friend and I decided to see what kind of response we could get out of the people in my apartment complex if we were to be seen drinking beer in the hot tub that was in the middle of the courtyard (I know, tame or even a non-issue anywhere outside Happy Valley, Utah, but this was the school that only sells caffeine-free Coke and CHEESE CURDS at football games!). We went down to the grocery store to buy a 6-pack of Coors Cutter (the fake beer). Carrying the 6-pack to the checkout, who should we run into but the same teacher's assistant. He took one look at what I was carrying (and I don't think he looked closely enough to see that it wasn't what he thought it was) and said, "I don't even want to know." How simple was THAT--two innocent relatively tame acts got me labeled as an alcoholic carouser that had no business being at BYU when there were thousands of pure, wholesome angels who would kill to be there (but only kill if God commanded them, which happens surprisingly often in the scriptures and in some cults). Anyway, when we got back to the hot tub, we opened a couple of the Cutters (which were AWFUL--but we endured them, hoping to not be seen as the poseurs that we were) and sure enough, several people walked by, saw the brown bottles, and took it upon themselves to lecture us. I guess we were doing a community service, giving all those people practice at giving self-righteous diatribes to the fallen among them. And I was getting much-needed practice at completely ignoring them.

Monday, December 05, 2005

Yesterday Margaret and I went downtown Christmas shopping. Actually, that was just an excuse to visit Santaland at the Meier & Frank store downtown. We had never heard about it, but there was an article in the paper about this being the last year that the Santaland monorail will be running. Nice that we don't hear about it from the PR from the store but from a newspaper article about it's demise! Evidently the monorail has been running since the 1950's every year from Thanksgiving to Christmas. We went up and saw it and it didn't disappoint! It looked like something from an old Flash Gordon show, with retro-futuristic styling. The train ran around the outside edge of Santaland, where there were an assortment of elves working, etc., and Santa in the middle. It looked like a ton of fun for the kids to ride in it, waving at their parents below. Unfortunately, the train has a strict height policy and both Margaret and I were about three feet too tall to be able to ride! Man, midgets must have it MADE!

We did content ourselves to look at all of the crazy colors that you could get your fake Christmas tree in. They had the standard white, aluminum, and pink, but have you ever seen a chartreuse, beige, burgundy, or sky blue fake Christmas tree? The chartreuse one took the cake--they even had a matching wreath made out of chartreuse FEATHERS! Geesh! Nothing says the birth of Christ like a painfully matching Christmas tree that coordinates with the chartreuse curtains, sofa, and Fifi, the chartreuse-dyed toy poodle. I'm more of a traditionalist--give me an English manor decked out with evergreens, holly, Christmas trees, Dickens' carolers and enough servants to host a grand Yule ball over a burgundy-colored plastic Christmas tree any day! What can I say--I'm old-fashioned.

Sunday, December 04, 2005

Last night, Margaret and I rented The Interpreter. We had to go to the video store anyway, since I had to take my video game back--and before I had a chance to complete it! How disappointing! (Although in my haste to finish it before the game was due back, I had a marathon play session yesterday afternoon, and now my hands are a little sore! I haven't had "Atari Thumb" since we had an Atari 2600 and played it compulsively--Damn you, Pac-Man, for my current suseptibility to carpal tunnel syndrome! It used to be so bad that we couldn't hold onto the joystick with our fingers--we had to use the crook between our thumb and forefinger to move it, and after a while, even THAT started to hurt! After that, when I was reading about British children being forced to work in factories and mines, I KNEW how painful their problems were!) Anyway, when we sat down to watch it, one of the previews was for the currently playing movie Pride & Prejudice. Margaret had been wanting to see it since it came out. (It is one of her favorite books and she claims that she doesn't know anyone who doesn't love it. I reminded her of a friend she lent it to who is a single mother of two teenage boys and struggles to make ends meet. SHE didn't like it--I guess reading about the trials and tribulations of the British upper class didn't interest her for some reason.) Anyway, upon seeing the preview, she told me how disappointed she was that I hadn't taken her to see that yet. I hopped up to check the movie times and found a theatre (that was NOT nearby) where it was starting in 20 minutes! I came in and told her to get her shoes on, we were going to go see it RIGHT NOW! She obliged and we got to the theatre in plenty of time to even see some of the coming attractions! I guess we have to enjoy that level of spontaneity now, since when we have kids someday, I'm sure we wouldn't be able to do that! I know people who have to plan three hours in advance just to go to the grocery store.

As it turned out, the movie was brain candy--sweet and fluffy, and you know exactly what was going to happen, but you still enjoy yourself. (Although Margaret said it was a little cheesy--so I maybe a more apt term than brain candy would be a brain cheeto?)

Friday, December 02, 2005

We recently got our Holiday L. L. Bean catalog and I love looking through it just to make fun of the completely non-descriptive color names that they use. What color is Mist, actually? It sounds like some shade of blue, but the deadly mist that was released from Chernobyl was probably fluorescent green. There are millions of colors of flowers, how can they call one of their options Petal? Or Seedling? Or Tarragon? Cement seems a little descriptive, but doesn’t lend itself to a light jacket--perhaps it's available only on their heavy parkas. I would love to be able to work for them to think up cool color names that don't really mean anything. Why say Mustard when you could order a Shit-brindle fleece pullover? Why be content with just a Black coat, when you could order it in Evil, that deepest of all the blacks? If you're interested in a gray long-sleeve shirt, consider a dress shirt in a delightful shade of Melancholy. All the peace activists this season are wearing vests in the soothing shade of Bruise. Man, this is too easy! And once I've proven myself with fabric color name development, maybe I could move on to paint colors.

Speaking of paint colors, when Margaret and I were redoing our bedroom, we knew we wanted a shade of blue for the walls. Being designers, we're used to being able to exert absolute control over the colors we work with, and the limits that paint imposed was very frustrating. Utah Sky was too constricting. Cobalt Ice was too cold. Depression was too gray. After buying half a dozen shades of blue samples, we still hadn't found any that we liked. Sitting in the room, Margaret finally found the blue she wanted on the stripe of a pillow that was in the room. We took the pillow in to Home Depot and they scanned the color and were able to mix that exact shade. Now we have a bedroom with walls the exact shade of blue that we want--I call it Anal Retentive Periwinkle. Looking back, we felt kind of ridiculous walking around with the pillow in Home Depot, but I felt better after I read an article about a woman bringing in a HAIRBALL that her cat had thrown up to be color matched! I can't imagine having my living room walls painted in the pleasing shade of Indigestible.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

This morning, Margaret was singing the theme song to CSI, The Who's "Who are You." She said it was to prepare us to watch the show tonight. Well, I started singing along, too, and then said, "You know, why is that their theme song? All their water is trucked in and they don't even have any rivers or streams near them." Margaret looked totally bewildered and asked what I was talking about. I tried to explain that there wasn't any cool water in Las Vegas, and that choosing that song as the show's theme song didn't make any sense. She was completely at a loss by this point and asked me what I was talking about. I said, "You know, the song goes, 'cooooool water, ooo ooo, ooo ooo." She busted up laughing, as it turns out the lyrics are "Whooooo are you? Who who, who who?" Oops! I hate when I do that.

That reminds me of when I was little, my brother and I would often fight over song lyrics, with the understanding that whoever was able to shout the lyric the loudest was the winner. My favorite was the old Mazola corn oil commercials that had the Indian woman singing the praises of the power of maize. The theme song had the line, "Mazo-ola CORN goodness." Well, one of us (and I don't remember now which) thought it was CORN goodness and the other thought it was FOR goodness. Everytime that commercial would come on, he and I would scream at the top of our lungs what we thought was the correct lyric. I'm sure that our parents thought we were completely crazy, their two kids calmly watching tv with them in the evening, then all of a sudden scream out a random word during a commercial. Another was the Mary Poppins song, "Feed the Birds." It has a line in it that one of us would sing, "feed the birds, TOPPINS again," and the other would sing, "feed the birds, POPPINS again." It turned out neither of us was right, the correct lyrics are "feed the birds TUPPENCE a bag." Although you could forgive us, because as 8-year-olds, we had no idea what a tuppence was, in fact most American adults don't know what one is. Anyway, we would always be shouting out our preferred version, and I can remember one time, my dad secretly recorded us fight-singing our own version. We were so humiliated that we stopped doing it after that. Well, I haven't grown up much since then, but I learned my lesson when I was 8 and will refrain from screaming out "cool water" tonight while watching CSI!

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Last night the Portland Gang met up at our house for Gilmore Girls My Name is Earl, but "The Biggest Loser" was having its seasons finale on and preempted it. Brent and I took the opportunity to play XBox--I rented a crazy game called Blinx where you're a "time sweeper" cat that uses a vacuum to pick up trash and then shoot that trash at the bad guys. We were completely enthralled by the game. The girls stayed upstairs and periodically came down to tell us dinner was ready. As we only had ONE more level to go before completing that segment, we told them it'd just be a minute. Pretty soon, someone would come down and remind us, culminating in a shout TELLING us to come eat--fortunately at that point, we'd just killed the major monster on that level, so we were ready to eat, anyway. When we got upstairs, they'd all eaten without us!!! Unbelieveable! Then, when we tried to tell them how cool the game was and how cool the cats were, and how cool the gang of pigs were, they just rolled their eyes and made fun of us! Can you believe it?

That reminds me of when we first got our original Nintendo Entertainment System back in the 80's. It was the one with Super Mario Brothers. We LOVED it--particularly since it was such a HUGE step up from the Atari. We would play it any chance we could get, but when bedtime came, we had to obey, ripping ourselves from the hypnotic glow of the game. Well, I remember one night getting up around 1 or 2 in the morning for a drink of water and found my dad playing Super Mario Brothers in the dark living room. He finally had to go cold turkey, because he wasn't getting enough sleep. I don't think I'm that bad--especially since Margaret will remind me to go to bed. Although, I think I'm definitely going to have to ration my play time--I could totally get addicted to playing during non-sleep hours, and that would cut into my tv watching time--and THAT would be unacceptable!

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

It's good to know that this blog is doing some good in the world. I was talking with a friend from Salt Lake yesterday and he told me that he had never heard of Bikini Cuts before reading about it here--he then found out that there was one near his house! Oh the joy--to find out that something like that is in your neighborhood! He said he had seen it before when he had to drop his wife off at a craft store and was parked in front of the salon, which was in the same strip mall, not realizing what the place was. Well now he knows--and I'm sure his hair looks GREAT!

Speaking of haircuts--a while ago, I decided to be cheap save money and try cutting my own hair. I bought some clippers--the kind with various guards to control the length. Well, taking the clippers on their maiden cut, everything was going great. I was thinking, "I've been paying for this for HOW long, and I can totally do it for free." When I got to the back of my head, I made a couple of swipes and felt something hit my shoulder as I made an upward swipe. When I looked at what had hit me, to my horror I saw that it was THE GUARD!! I had just made a swipe at the back of my head with the bare clippers and had cut a swath of hair, exposing a strip of scalp--and just in case you're wondering, my hairline is just receding, I don't have a bald spot, so the loss was noticeable! I was so disgusted, and mortified that I would have to go to work and have people see that bare white skin on the back of my head. After determining that wearing a hat at work wouldn't work, I finally sucked it up and endured the questions, and laughter. I definitely learned my lesson--I still cut my own hair, but now I check that the guard is firmly in place after every swipe!

Monday, November 28, 2005

Over the Thanksgiving weekend, we didn't do much in the way of exercising--I guess it's part of the holiday. Anyway, on Saturday, we went down to a local theatre to watch a movie and at this particular theatre, there is a nickel arcade in it. They have all these crazy Japanese video games that have no English instructions, those ball toss games, and those games where you drop coins in and a bulldozer pushes them, and you get prizes if any coins fall over the edge; my dad won a couple prizes on that one. My brother and I played a mountain biking videogame that was CRAZY! To play, you actually had to ride a bike! The faster you pedaled, the faster your character would go. We were pedaling flat out for over three minutes and by the end, I thought my heart was going to EXPLODE! I don't get it--I work out almost every day, but I couldn't handle a video bike ride! My brother was giving me a hard time about it, too--he told me, "Man, I beat you and I don't even exercise AND I'm fat!" Way to make me feel old!

Speaking of my brother--when we were out shopping after Thanksgiving, he saw someone with a mullet, which he had to take a picture of with this camera phone. Evidently he has a collection of pictures of mullets that he's seen in the wild and he was excited to add one to his collection.

Friday, November 25, 2005

Man, I'm still recovering from a food coma that I slipped into yesterday afternoon. All the food...all the delicious food! We had my parents, my brother, and some friends over and had a great Thanksgiving dinner. We'd made as much of the food beforehand as possible, including the stuffing--which we unfortunately forgot to put in the fridge overnight and had to throw it out the next day--since it's always in bad taste to give your guests food poisoning. (Although it would match the sentiment I heard from Jon Stewart--he said he was having a traditional Thanksgiving feast: he would invite the neighborhood for dinner, then kill them and take their land.)

I remember celebrating Thanksgiving once in Norway with a family that had lived in the US for twenty or so years. They had lived in Idaho, and five of the six missionaries were also from Idaho, so we spent the entire dinner talking about how great Idaho was. Well, the odd elder out, who was from Florida, finally got fed up with all the Idaho talk and so he said, "you know, if America were a person, Florida would make it a man." We all just sat there dumbfounded, unable to believe that he'd say something like that in front of this family--(it was mild compared to what we talked about when we were among ourselves, but we TRIED to be a little couth in public). It did make for a memorable close to our Thanksgiving in Norway.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Yesterday I attended a commemoration for the close of Native American Month, and the headline act was a singer who gave new meaning to the term "commercialization of tribal culture"--ok, that's not one term, but she was so over-the-top that she deserves all four words! Her voice was good, but her outfit was Disney's Pocahontas meets Las Vegas showgirl. Her skirt was looked like the animal hide miniskirts that Wilma Flintstone wears, and the top was all fringe and feathers--and when I saw "all," I mean that all there was to it--just fringe and feathers! I imagine that her tribe must live in a very hot climate to have to necessitate such skimpy regalia--somewhere like the surface of Venus. And her fly girls! They were wearing even LESS clothing--less meaning a leather strap that nearly covered their breasts. The dancing looked like they were classically trained dancers from the Showgirls Academcy of Erotic Dance. I asked someone I came with if this was the traditional dance of the Las Vegas Paiute tribe! I was standing next to a traditional tribal dancer that I know here in town and she was appalled--but she couldn't turn her head away, either--it was like watching a train wreck (granted a wreck between a train with a cheerleading squad car and one carrying a variety of leather goods and feathers). I hope this wasn't an indication of where tribal culture is headed as we enter the 21st century--I'm fine with just the casinos!

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Wha? First I heard that IKEA has purchased land in Salt Lake to build a store, NOW Apple just opened a store downtown. Between those and the Bikini Cuts opening, the only thing keeping us from moving back to Utah is they don't have Noah's Bagels--they have Einstein's, which are TOTALLY different, depsite being owned by the same company, have the same marketing, etc. Actually, make that TWO things, because until Salt Lake has a Freedom Run (see the 11/03/05 post), we're not movin' back!

Actually, having roots in Utah has given Margaret and me some interesting experiences here in Portland. We're often seen as the ambassadors of Utah and Mormonism to all our friends--(I know--what a scary thought!) One time on Margaret's birthday, the Portland gang went down to a drag show. (See--as ambassadors of Utah and Mormonism, we thought we'd set an example for our friends and go see a bunch of men dressed as women.) At one point in the show, the emcee Darcelle asked if there were any birthdays in the audience. Margaret stood up, and we all urged her to say she was from Salt Lake instead of Portland, which she did. Well that set off the emcee. The rest of the night, everytime Darcelle would tell a joke, she'd tell the lighting guy to "shine the light on Utah to see if she got the joke." That was our cue to laugh, since being from Zion, we really didn't get ANY of the jokes she was telling.
Yesterday a Nike corporate jet took off from here in Portland and after takeoff, one of the landing gear got stuck. This is a picture from the news, emphasizing the problem. When I got to the gym at lunch, it was all over the news--and quite dramatic reporting, too--about how the jet was circling the city to burn off fuel before attempting to land. The news was SO boring--they just showed the plane circling and interviewed various people and asking the most inane questions, like, "what will the pilots do when they've landed?" What kind of question is that? And I think the answer would be: "Change their pants and drink a few bourbons." As it turned out, they took the plane up to a high altitude and all of a sudden--the landing gear worked again! Crisis averted, but don't tell that to the newscasters--they broadcast a completely normal landing as if it were a ticking time bomb about to land--and granted, it WAS that before the gear got fixed--but it was FIXED! Ugh. My favorite part was the constant reassurance that they were boradcasting that they had confirmed with the FAA that there were no sports stars on board--phew, only management, and they're expendable--but thank heavens Tiger is okay!

I swear, watching tv news get us so brain dead. There is always three things that they have to cover--A grisly crime that scares people into thinking they happen all the time and could happen to YOU!; a cute pet story; and something about meth. Last year there was a HUGE ice storm here in Portland that shut down the city for three days. It was AWESOME! No one could drive because the streets were like ice skating rinks (actually, so were the sidewalks--when work started back up, I was getting off the bus and as one person stepped off the bus, they slipped and fell, then the next person stepped off, and HE slipped and fell, then I stepped off the bus--AND SLIPPED AND FELL! It was like a scene out of some penguin movie!) Anyway, the newscasts were broadcasting commercial-free weather reports the entire time, and in reference to the cold air mass that was blowing into the area along the Columbia River, they kept saying one stupid phrase over and over and over and over, "It's like someone left the refrigerator door open." I can see the description once, but to use that as your description every time really tells that you're aiming for the lowest common demoninator--oh wait, this is tv, THEY ARE!

Monday, November 21, 2005

After the post about the hot springs south of Provo, Utah, I got a comment from a friend that refered to "Bikini Cuts." I had never heard of them, so I risked googling the name. (And I put and emphasis on risk because you never know with Google. My brother is in a web development class that needs to design something with a person's head shot and the teacher said to just get a random person's photo off the internet, but warned them to not just go to the Google image search and type "head." Let your imagination fill in the rest.) Anyway, fortunately the first hit that came up was for the actual salon and OH MY GOSH!!! I can't believe that such a place exists--and in Utah of all places. It's a men's hair salon where all the stylists are women in bikinis! They only offer magazines like Maxim and other soft-core porn men's interest reading materials. And to top it off, they offer special cuts for kids under 10. WHO in their right mind would take their 9-year-old child to get his hair cut by a woman in a bikini?!? Plus, I can't imagine how sexy getting your hair cut by a woman that has hair stuck to her amply exposed bare skin--and what is the appropriate way to tip your stylist?

I think this is one of the signs of the Reckoning! When almost naked women are cutting men's hair in frickin' ZION, you know Armageddon is right around the corner. As is says in the Bible, "And lo, when the dancing girls frolic in the places where brethren become clean-cut and entice them with scalp massages and views of flesh, yea, the time is nigh for a great and terrible destruction." I can't remember the exact chapter and verse in the Bible, but it's in the back somewhere.

Saturday, November 19, 2005

The Harry Potter premiere was great. The Portland gang met up at a British pub near our house called the Horse Brass Pub. We picked it because it's that dark wood walled, dart boarded, smokey, English-style place that also serves authentic British fare--like scotch eggs. If you don't know what a scotch egg is, (and if your cholesterol is above 200 or you are on Lipitor, don't even read the description, because even THAT will be enough to give you a coronary) it's English sausage packed around a hard-boiled egg and then deep-fat fried. Just reading the menu description was making me feel queasy. I ended up getting the standard fish and chips, which were great. We like going to that pub for Harry Potter events (we went there the night of the last book release, too) because it gives us a chance to imagine we're in Hogsmeade (and for the others in the gang, I'm sure the fact that they serve traditional British beers has NOTHING to do with humoring me on the Hogsmeade thing). After eating, we headed over to the theatre and got there early enough to get pretty good seats. We all didn't get to sit together, but we weren't talking during the movie anyway. The movie was by far the best one to date, and certainly the darkest. It did have its moments of levity, however--my favorite being a quote by Professor MacGonagal talking about expected behavior at the Yule Ball. She said she wanted, "well-mannered frivolity," which is coincidentally what we called our behavior in the mission when called into the mission president's office.

On the way home, we were met with even MORE excitment. (I know--how much more could we handle, but we managed, somehow.) Going down the main road from the theatre, we could see a lot of flashing lights from a fire truck. As we neared it, we could see a building actually on fire--not just smoke, but huge flames shooting out of the front windows! We were the last car to pass by before they closed off the road, and I didn't notice that they'd just pulled the fire hose across the street, and drove over it. In a classic gesture, I could see the fireman in the rear-view mirror shaking his fist at me for doing that--WHO still shakes their fist at people? What is that supposed to mean, or even accomplish? It just felt like he was the villain from some Scooby Doo cartoon and we had just nabbed him, and he, shaking his fist, says, "I would have gotten away with it, too, if it weren't for you meddling kids!"

Friday, November 18, 2005

I was so annoyed last night watching Smallville. They totally sold out on product placement! During one scene, Lois Lane was trying to distract a security guard and so she started flirting with him--he came over and started drooling over her car, to which she had him get in the driver's seat and explain all the great features of the car. I was thinking, "What kind of car is that? It doesn't look THAT special!" Well, at the next commercial break, there was an ad for the new Ford Fusion, which they pointed out "as seen on Smallville." Ugg, THAT explained it. I swear, it's one thing to have basic product placement like when people are obviously using an Apple computer, but when the product ad is part of the plotline, that's gone a little too far. I remember in Smallville season two, there was a football game segment where, in the lockerroom, when Clark Kent opened his locker, you could prominently see his "Old Spice: Code Red" deodorant. Then, when they were coming onto the field, instead of a "Go Smallville Crows!" banner the team rips through, it was a huge Old Spice: Code Red banner! Geesh! (Curiously, on the DVD of that episode, both of those clips were removed--evidently Old Spice didn't pay them enough for THAT!)

It make me wonder how much I would be willing to sell out for--what am I saying—I PAY to sell out. I wear any number of brand names on my clothes every day. Ugg, such a sucker.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

I had to stay home this morning to meet the plumber (you know there is a problem when the water dispenser in the fridge just drips the water out). Since he wouldn't be here until after 10, I wasn't in a hurry to get down to the bagel shop. I finally got down there at about 9:30 and HOLY SMOKES! That place looked like a day care center! Usually I go down from 7 to 8 in the morning, so it's just a few people, and even when it gets busy, it's just people stopping by on their way to work. I had no idea that Noah's Bagels had this alternate personality. Every table was occupied and I couldn't even get to the back of the dining area because there were three strollers just parked in the walkway. It was so strange to see a place that I thought I knew so well be so different just two hours later than I usually see it.

Speaking of which, that reminds me of the Hot Pots, south of Provo, Utah. The Hot Pots are a series of hot springs that are notorious for non-BYU activities. (As opposed to regular BYU activities, which includes class prayer, caffeine-free Diet Coke, dressing like a J. Crew model, and going to devotionals.) A group of us would go down quite often to escape the stringent contraints of Happy Valley and just soak ourselves out of the conformity boxes that a week in Provo crammed us into. The hike up to the Hot Pots was about a two-mile hike, and in the winter was quite dangerous--the steam in the air would freeze the path to an icy slipperiness that, on the wrong stretch, could send you right into the creek. Only hardcore hikers, rebelllious BYU students, or teens that really wanted to get high or drunk would brave the trail from late fall to early spring--which was the only times I had ever visited the place. (Note to family members and Mormon friends who are extremely active and judgmental who happen to be reading this--I didn't fit into any of those groups--I was just doing, uh, research for a geology paper I was writing on...dissolved minerals found in hot springs, yeah--and it was taking me several years to get all my data.) Well, one year, just when school had started, we decided to go up to the springs for a start-of-the-year soak. Provo hadn't gotten to us yet, but it was a preemptive strike. The path was pleasant and safe, and since the days were still a decent length, there was enough light to see the trail without a flashlight. When we finally rounded the bend to get to the Hot Pots, however, we were confronted by a horrifying sight--a Mormon youth conference! At least that's what it seemed like. They were probably ALL BYU students. They all had swimsuits on, there was no visible lawbreaking going on, the faint, yet distinct aroma of burning...herbs wasn't in the air, and to top it off, some of them were singing CHURCH HYMNS!!! What had they done to the place? I halfway expected someone to get up an bear his testimony! I wonder if that's what it's like when your neighborhood gets gentrified out from under you. Anyway, since we'd hiked all that ways, there was no way we were turning back just because the spot had been BYU-ified. We picked a pool that already had several girls in it and got in. Soon, two guys that fit the hardcore user group (see description above) stripped naked right next to the pool and hopped in. The girls that were already in the pool were MORTIFIED and jumped up, carefully averting their eyes, and dashed to another pool. What was perfect was one of the guys who got in yelled to them, "What's the matter? Haven't you ever seen a penis before?" (Which, if she were a good BYU student, she certainly HADN'T!) I'm sure that made the girls' embarrassment complete, confirmed to them the evils of the place, and guaranteed they would have to have a heart-wrenching confession to their bishop on Sunday where they questioned their virtue for having that image seared into their brains. Fortunately, the next time we went was a little later in the year and the place was back to its former seedy glory and all was right with the world.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

I'm sitting here on pins and needles hoping Fandango works--I think they're being inundated with Harry Potter movie purchases. (Which is why I'm using the service--why else but for a major release blockbuster on opening night would some idiot pay the extra $1?) It would seem that they would plan for this--when I bought tickets to Spiderman, I tried at least twenty times before I didn't get a "server overload" message. Since a blockbuster is their bread and butter, you'd think they would be anticipating this level of traffic.

The last Harry Potter movie we went to on opening night, we made the mistake of waiting to get in line only ONE hour before the movie started. We ended up sitting two or three rows from the screen, which always makes me sick, and scared my contacts are going to pop out. Anyway, we sit down and decide we can deal with the seats, since it IS opening night and we're kind of rowdy as a group; having fun, etc., when someone sits down in front of me with the absolute WORST B.O. I have EVER SMELLED IN MY ENTIRE LIFE--and I've been to Oklahoma, so that's saying something! It was an unimaginable stench--but if you would like to try imagining a mere HINT of it, try thinking of a leperous hobo that hasn't seen bathwater since his train left Milwaukee back in 1968 AND he has a catfish that he caught just outside of Denver on that same trip in his pocket that he's been saving "for a rainy day" AND the railroad engineer, upon finding him, pushed him off the train into an open cesspool. That should give you a little whiff of what we had to endure. It was so bad that anyone with an outer layer of clothing took it off to breathe through it, and someone found a vial of lavendar essential oil in her purse, which we applied to our upper lips. That odor STILL made it through, but at least it was downgraded to nauseating instead of toxic. The SECOND the credits started rolling, we were climbing over one another in an attempt to leave the theatre. While the others in our group were doing it to flee the putrefaction, I was actually doing it because I'd made the mistake of drinking a large Diet Coke at the start of the movie and my bladder had backed up into my kidneys. Fortunately I escaped the whole ordeal without a bladder infection or a diminished olfactory sense. We plan on getting there early enough on Friday to make sure we get to choose our own seats, this time. Wish us luck!

Ugg! It took me ten minutes to write this, and I'm STILL waiting for Fandango! You'd think they'd be in a bigger hurry to overcharge me!

Phew! I was finally able to buy the tickets after more than an HOUR online. I watched the entire episode of Apprentice: Martha Stewart a business management program before the ticket was finally processed!
Ugg, Margaret and I are recovering from food hangovers this morning. Last night, we went to B&J's for Earl/Gilmore Girls and since it was J's birthday on Monday, we cooked dinner for her there. Margaret and I cheated and bought pre-mixed meatloaf (we couldn't resist--it was the same price per pound as plain hamburger--and MUCH less work), and I made mashed potatoes. It was a recipe that I wanted to try out to see if it was worthy of making at Thanksgiving and it was--it should be, it had six tablespoons of butter and a cup of HEAVY CREAM! To top off the over-the-top food fest, our appetizer was chocolate fondue--we figured why wait until we were too full from dinner. Normally we don't eat such rich food, and now we're paying for it. I think I'll just have Cream-of-Wheat for dinner!

Speaking of rich--I was totally aggravated when I read that the lottery winners from Oregon (the ones who won $340 million) would only agree to appear on the Today show if they were flown to New York on a private jet, put up in the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel, given tours of New York, meal allowances, and tickets to Broadway shows. So much for not having the money change you! And what's up with being so cheap? That just puts one more dent in my faith in a higher power deciding who gets to win the lottery--heaven forbid it would go to someone who would actually do any GOOD with it.

Monday, November 14, 2005

My brother Jayson is probably the funniest person I know--in fact in high school, his jokes and sayings proved so popular that one friend took to using Jayson's phrases, followed up by, "copyright 1994, Jayson FiveCrows." Today, Jayson called me and told me about a LAN party he went to where people just sit around networked computers and play games like Doom and Warcraft. Jayson told me that, upon entering the room and seeing all the pale faces glued to the computer screens, he was prompted to say, "If all the nerds are here, who's running the internet?" I'm going to have to tell him to copyright that one--it's too perfect!

Follow-up: I just found out from Jayson that that line is a modification of a line from "American Dad." So much for original thought--he just regurgitated something he'd heard. Although I have to admit, being able to recall germane lines at a moment's notice is STILL quite a skill. (But now I'll have to cancel that copyright application that I'd filled out on his behalf.)
Margaret is the pianist for the primary here in our Portland ward. She really likes to play for the children, and it's a great excuse to practice the piano, which surprisingly gets put off when it comes as a choice between watching Prison Break and practicing piano--go figure! Yesterday she played at a primary program that lasted the entire sacrament meeting. It was funny to see the primary workers almost outnumbering the primary kids--there are only 10. Margaret did a great job playing all the songs and she even got to play the closing hymn for the whole ward. I was totally proud of her.

It's funny how playing the piano is such a rarity outside of Utah these days. A while ago, a friend from Utah was visiting and we went on a tour of a traditional Portland tourist trap site, Pittock Mansion. When we were paying the entrance fee, the woman asked us where we were from and our friend said, "Utah." Then the lady said, "Oh, which one of you plays the piano." The three of us looked at each other quizzically, and the woman continued, "I've found that every group from Utah has at least one person who plays the piano." Instead of going on a tirade over the woman's blatant stereotyping (I mean, who's got the energy these days?)Dave and I both pointed at Margaret and said that she did. The woman told Margaret, "When you get to the music room, feel free to jump over the rope and play the piano in there." We thought that was a little random, but when we saw the music room, I knew Margaret had to play. The Pittocks were totally into music and they had their mansion designed to carry the music that was played in the music room throughout the house. Margaret sat down and played a Mozart piece and it sounded incredible. (Even though I was hoping she would play something from the new music book I'd gotten her "Songs of Light--music inspired by the art of Thomas Kinkade," but unfortunately she'd already burnt it--can you believe it?) I had to laugh, though, when I looked up the open stairway foyer that people up all four floors were leaning over the railings listening to the music that could be heard everywhere in the house. I was about to start tap dancing on the parquette floor of the foyer to attract some attention on myself, when I thought that Margaret was probably a lot more deserving of the other people's praise. (And I'm glad I didn't, because without my satin dance ensemble, I probably would have looked ridiculous!)

Saturday, November 12, 2005

Today Margaret and I went down to the Portland Art Museum to see their new exhibit on the Hesse family. They were a royal house in central Germany, and the art and artifacts they had there were amazing. One thing that we couldn't believe was a 30-foot long table "centerpiece" that was made of gilded bronze. It had hundreds of candelabras, elevated trays, and decorative sculptures. I think we need something like that for our Thanksgiving table setting. All we have decorating our table right now is some pumpkins left over from Halloween, and they're probably not going to last until Thanksgiving--they're already giving off a slight odor which is never a good sign. We also got to see a whole collection of miniature Fabergé eggs, that were pretty impressive--given how small they were.

Since this was an American museum, the exhibit path ended right in the gift shop--isn't that convienient? They had all sorts of re-creations and books, but what caught my eye was a selection of REAL (albeit modern) Fabergé eggs! They had little ones, full sized ones, solid ones, ones with little carriages in them. I was amazed that they were all there just in the museum gift shop (of course there weren't any prices, which I assume means that if you have to ask how much one is, you can't afford it.) I told Margaret that we should get one, not because it is a beautiful piece of art, but because it would sound so cool to refer to it in the house. Can't you imagine what visitors would think when they heard lines like, "That Costco toilet paper is under the table that the Fabergé egg is on," or "The Wal-Mart coupons are sitting next to the Fabergé egg," or "Who put the Fabergé egg in this carton of REAL eggs?" See? Don't you agree that having one of those in the house would really class the place up! Especially since right now, we're decorating with those plastic easter eggs that split in two and are filled with jellybeans.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

I've been wanting to see the new movie Jarhead since it came out, but Margaret didn't really have any interest (which didn't really make any sense--she's usually the first to want to go to every war epic, hyperviolent thriller, or mindless killing movie that comes out--oh wait, that's my brother Jayson!). Anyway, I met up with a friend to see it last night and was glad I saw it. After the movie, since neither of us had eaten (compliments of rush hour traffic, both of us had to head to the theater straight from work), we headed to the P.F. Changs next to the theater for something. We ordered a bowl of hot and sour soup that ended up being a vat full enough to feed a small Vietnamese village, so needless to say, there was a lot left over. I had them put it in a to-go container, because Margaret really likes that soup, and it was my way of making up for the fact that I'd ditched her for the evening (since last night she'd brought me back a piece of stale sacrament bread that she'd found on the floor of the chapel from her primary practice last night--I sure hope that the blessing hadn't worn off yet). I had brought a baggy of dark chocolate M&M's to smuggle into the theater, but had forgotten them, so when I got back in the car to drive home, I found tham and was blissfully snarfing them down and was almost home when I realized that I had left the container on the table. Don't you hate it when that happens? When the food is sucky, or even ok for that matter, I don't feel guilty about throwing it away, but when its good, and the next day you're hankering for the rest of your meal, and go to the fridge to get one more bite of that Chili's Southwest eggroll (aren't those the best?), totally anticipating the left over goodness, only to discover that there is no box in the fridge, and remember that you so stupidly forgot the box that is in the landfill by now!--THAT'S what kills me. Plus, it was my only evidence that we went to the movie and had some food later--now Margaret will probably think we just spent the evening at Jiggles!

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

I would just like to announce to the internets just how good a husband I am. Last night, Margaret had to go to the church to play piano for a primary program practice. The practice session lasted from 6:30 to 8:30, and so she had to miss out on our weekly ritual of hanging out with the Portland gang and watching Gilmore Girls "My Name is Earl." Well, being the dutiful husband, I sat through the ENTIRE episode so I could tell Margaret all the sordid details when she got home. Imagine my surprise when she didn't ask me what happened! It's as if she could go on with her life without knowing if what's-her-name reconciles with what's-her-face without losing sight of something or other, while still maintaining who-knows-what! The next thing I know, she'll want to stop watching THE SIMPSONS! Then I'll know that the whole world has gone crazy! (Well, maybe not THAT extreme--however if I every want to stop watching The Simpsons, start packing your hand cart, because the call to walk to Jackson County will be right around the corner!)

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

I was at the Apple Store today and--joy of joys--actually HELD a Video iPod! It was like the moment of splendor when the Nazis opened the Ark of the Covenant on Raiders of the Lost Ark--only I didn't see any sultry maidens fly out only to turn into horrible banshees, nor did I get melted--OK, OK it wasn't EXACTLY like that moment, but it was pert-near close. I checked it for what movies were loaded on it, but there was only movie trailers. Before the sublime moment could be marred, however, I noticed that the full-length trailer for Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire was on it. Oh man, I'm so excited to see that! Anyway, I started it and was glued to the 2.5 inches of full-color glory, feeling the intoxication of holding the portable movie in my BARE HANDS! I can now say that I know how Gollum felt when he first got his mitts on the Ring of Power--to be able to hold every digitized bit entertainment in the palm of my hand is perhaps the closest thing to heaven that man can attain here on earth. (Aside from meth, but that's so 2004, and I've always hated needles anyway.) When Fox starts selling episodes of the Simpsons to watch on it, then I know I've finally reached the Terrestrial Kingdom (since I'm pretty sure they don't allow Simpsons videos or any music by Madonna into the Celestial Kingdom.), and at this point, I'm resigned to being in the cool section of heaven anyway. Anyway, I've already starting lobbying Santa's representative in our household--Elf Maiden Margaret--to give me this gift that exemplefies the birth of Christ. (And if it helps, I promise not to delete "The Work and the Glory" that unfortunately comes preinstalled on all units sold in Utah, AND to cut back on pirating music by 13%). Right now, I'm just hyping the product, but I'll turn up the pressure as December 25th nears, until she'll HAVE to pass the request on to Santa just to shut me up. I'll keep you apprised of the status of the pestering lobbying.

Speaking of Christmas, several years ago, Santa's Little Helper Margaret got me an iPod for Christmas. We were heading to Utah, but she asked me to open her present before we left Portland. When I started opening the package, I could tell it was a book, and I thought that she must want me to read it on the flight, because why else would she insist that I open it a week before Christmas. Imagine my paralysis when I opened the package to find a copy of WHAT TO EXPECT WHEN YOU'RE EXPECTING!!! I just sat there a minute, mouth agape, not knowing what to say. I looked at Margaret and thought, "This--THIS is how she's telling me we're going to have a baby?!?" Shaking a little, and mumbling a "Wow," I thumbed open the book to find that she had cut a chamber in the book and put my iPod in it. Seeing that iPod was like getting two gifts in one! Afterward (it took about 10 minutes for my adrenalin levels to return to normal), Margaret said that she was going to give it to me at Christmas, but that it might be a little mean to put me through what I had just gone through in front of our family. I'll agree that THAT would have been a little much--plus I don't think that they rest of the family would have taken kindly to have the tantalizing prospect of Margaret and me finally reproducing, only to have it ripped from their cradled arms. Now she could probably get away with it, since everyone in our families have given up on us having kids any time soon.

Monday, November 07, 2005

I just found out that for my weight, I would die from a caffeine overdose if I were to drink 230.53 cans of Diet Coke. (I'm assuming that's in one sitting--I'm WAY over that number if that's per week) Phew! Anyone who knows me knows that my limit is 200--225 if it's a real kick-ass party and I lose control, so I'm good. You can find out what your limit would be, given your caffeine delivery of choice (cola, coffee, cocoa--yes, cocoa has the evil substance, too despite what your seminary teacher told you, etc.) and your weight here.

Sunday, November 06, 2005

This weekend, Margaret and I got some yardwork done. We've been putting it off since spring, so to say, there was a lot to do would be an understatement. We knew that it had gotten bad when, last month when my brother was visiting, he said he had to walk through a jungle to get into the house. Despite the fact that we've carefully nurtured the "wilderness" look (I AM a conservation botanist, after all), something had to be done. Last night, coming home from the store, I got saturated trying to squeeze between two rain-soaked shrubs that line the walk up to the house. Getting all the work done in between rainstorms and before the sun goes down at what feels like 2:00 is no easy task. Every time we put in marathon gardening sessions, I can't help but think of how convenient it would be to live in a condo where the only yard maintenance we would have to worry about would be--NOTHING!

I wish I would have read the fine print in the American Dream of Homeownership Contract©--I'm sure it would have said, "you hereby agree to worry about your roof every time it rains really hard; forgo a twelve-week Kenyan safari and 2006 Honda Civic because this is Oregon and combined, that's how much your property taxes will be; give up your weekends doing yardwork, despite the fact that putting in fewer than 80 hours per week will just leave your yard looking slightly less messy; be prepared to fix at a moment's notice, any emergency repair regardless of other plans, obligations, or desires (these emergency repairs may include, but are not limited to: front steps falling in, upstairs toilet leaking through kitchen ceiling, or garage being declared a hazard and you are fobidden to enter it.)

Am I just kidding myself when I think about how perfect it would be to live in those ultra-cool modern industrial urban loft-style condos? Can't you just see Margaret and me, in our perfect outfits sitting around a gas fireplace, sipping our drinks while chatting about the day's political events, with enough time and energy to cook gourmet meals for our weekly dinner parties, solve world hunger, and write the great American novel? That's what it would be like, wouldn't it?