Monday, October 31, 2005

A couple of weeks ago, a friend of ours held a “Get your glam on” party. Since this friend has enough costumes and outfits to start her own vintage clothing shop, I felt a little pressure to come up with something exciting. It occurred to me that Margaret and I would be the only Mormons at the party, and so I could take it as an opportunity to represent the faith—only glamorously! I got some glitter spray and sparkle-encrusted my missionary name badge. (I hope that doesn’t result in a fair-use lawsuit from the Church—I’ll just hope anyone who reads this doesn’t rat me out to the Salt Lake authorities.) Anyway, I had wanted to find a tight white shirt to wear with it and Margaret was still trolling for ideas, so we went to a local thrift store. Well I couldn’t find a single white button-up shirt—I guess they were more interested in more funky stuff. (This was the same store who didn’t want our Ralph Lauren and J. Crew clothing from college, but the buyer next to us bought a pair of frayed out denim cutoffs with paint spilled on them—I mean, what’s up with THAT?) Anyway, I didn’t want to wear the glitter badge only with a regular white shirt and pants—I did that in Norway and it didn’t seem too exciting. Margaret was taking a while, so I started browsing around the store and came upon these outrageous PURPLE VELVET PANTS! Margaret made me try them on, and as soon as I came out of the dressing room with them on, she told me that I couldn’t leave the store without them. I had to agree—they would complete the glam missionary look, even though velvet apparel isn't something I'd usually buy, and a purple clothing purchase is every rarer than a velvet one. She found a purple tie at the same store and took it home and glued rhinestones to it, completing the outfit. If my mission president could have seen me, he would have had second thoughts on honorably discharging me. It was hilarious to see people at the party wonder what I was dressed as, only to see the nametag and bust up. After the party, we went dancing, but I thought discretion was in order and I took off the tag, but I still got plenty of attention with my purple pants and bejeweled tie.

Not to be just a one-time thing, my next opportunity to wear the pants came up this weekend, when our friends Brent and Janis hosted a Halloween party with a costume theme of "color," and by a cosmic quirk of fate, I just HAPPENED to have a pair of purple velvet pants! Margaret and I went to a different vintage clothing store and while she was looking at gowns and boas from the 60’s, I went to the men’s department and told the guy about the pants and I was looking for a purple shirt to go with them. After commenting on how impressed he was about the pants, he told me that he had the perfect thing—and pulled a purple button-up cowboy shirt with purple and white gingham trim. It was perfect (although a little tight, but I guess looking a little slutty is what Halloween is all about, isn’t it?). Margaret didn’t find anything there she wanted, but remembered a bright pink pair of pajamas that her mother had given her. She found a pink fluffy feather boa and tiara and had a red wig that completed the outfit. We went to the party as pink and purple, and when Janis saw my outfit, she said she had the perfect thing to complete it—her purple bobbed wig. I had to admit, it WAS the perfect thing to wear with it, but I couldn’t shake the feeling of ridiculousness—since unlike most of the attendees of the party, I didn’t have any alcohol to lubricate my bravery. After a while, I felt a little more comfortable, but I don’t know if that was from the knowledge that most of the people around me were drunk, and so wouldn’t remember, or if it was from being high on the two liters of Diet Pepsi I drank. Either way, it was a lot of fun—and I’ll be on the lookout for more opportunities to wear the purple pants—my brother-in-law has a baby blessing coming up…

Friday, October 28, 2005

Every Tuesday, like clockwork, the Portland Gang gathers at the Campbell household to spend the evening glued to their tv. Margaret and I have to arrive before 8 because she, Janis, and Stacey have to watch a show that even they won't admit to watching. Margaret would kill me if I told what their dirty little secret is, but suffice it to say it's on the WB at 8 o'clock on Tuesdays--that's all I'm going to say. (And I'm sure that with such limited information, it would be practically IMPOSSIBLE to figure out what show I'm talking about. Well, OK, in case you don't know how to use Google, I'll drop one last hint, it rhymes with Schmilmore Girls--OK, that's it, that's all I'm going to give you.) Anyway, right after the show-that-shall-not-be-named, we watch the new NBC comedy, "My Name is Earl." It's about a sleazy guy who wins $100,000 in the lottery and gets hit by a car while he's celebrating. While recovering, he hears about the concept of karma--that when you do good things, good things will come your way, and when you do bad things, bad things will come your way. It's a pretty entertaining show, but reading this morning's newspaper, I saw that someone in Oregon must not have been watching it. Evidently some woman bought a scratch ticket and won $1 million. Unfortunately for her, she was being investigated for meth use and using a stolen credit card. Since she bought the winning ticket with that stolen credit card, she had to forfeit the prize. Talk about karma--and I'm sure she was in Seventh Heaven (another WB show, but one we don't watch--it's so preachy!) thinking about how much meth she could buy--only to have that dream cruelly ripped away along with the stolen credit card. You can read the whole article here. Oh well, I'm sure she'll have plenty of time to ponder the principle of karma in prison--where every bad deed, and good ones, too, have the same result: you're still in prison!

Speaking of the lottery--I discovered the price of my soul this last week: it's $340 million. That's how much I was willing to trade it for in the form of winning the Powerball Jackpot. On the Saturday of the drawing, I went to to find out if anyone had won and what the numbers were. Since we'd been strung along for over two weeks (we only buy tickets when the jackpot exceeds $100 million--anything less is SO not worth it--and yes, I'd actually sell my soul for $100 million in a pinch, but that's only because it's slightly tarnished and doesn't command the premium that it did when I was serving the Lord in Norway) I was anxious to find out if we would finally be able to buy that third-world country we've been saving up for. When I first logged on, I saw that, indeed, someone had won. I then noticed that the winning ticket was sold in OREGON! All of a sudden, a little fire lit inside me, wondering if I would finally get the power and respect that I am entitled to, but unfortunately lack the ambition to earn. Since our computer is in the basement, and the ticket was upstairs in the kitchen, I had to run up to check the numbers. As I got up from the computer, I noticed that the powerball number was 29, and so you can imagine my glee when I picked up our ticket and noticed that one of OUR powerball numbers was 29! From the time it took me to walk/dash from the kitchen back down to the basement, I think my heart beat the same number of times as it would if I were to ever run a marathon. Of course that feeling only lasted as long as it took me to sit back down in front of the computer and see that none of the five other numbers matched. My hopes of encrusting my insulated big gulp cup with diamonds would have to wait. It took all my effort to maintain a calm composure to walk in to tell Margaret that we didn't win. She had no idea that her husband had just aged an extra year between the time she saw a blur dash upstairs until he was sitting next to her right then.

Two days later, insult was added to injury when it came out that the couple who won (and live in the GOLD RUSH TRAILER PARK!!) was quoted as saying, "This has just turned our lives upside down! I wish we never would have bought that ticket." Lady, I'd be more than happy to take it off your hands.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Growing up, my mom always insisted that we ate a complete breakfast. Since our health, grade-earning potential, and long-term happiness was at stake, we had to gulp down a bowl of cereal and juice if the bus was almost to our stop, or something more filling like porridge or pancakes if if we had more than three minutes. We didn't complain--well, other than throw tantrums in the cereal aisle when she wouldn't buy us Cap'n Crunch or some other technicolor cereal that had more toys in the package than nutrients, and she NEVER did! The line of reasoning that mom had for a complete breakfast, however, had one HUGE drawback--the annual standardized tests. Since every parent knows that these tests determine the college, career, and paycheck their children will have for time and all eternity--it was absolutely paramount that our breakfast on the day of our standardized test be a breakfast more suited to an Australian rugby team that had just played a double match after competing in an Iron Man competition. I remember one year having a table piled high with pancakes, eggs, biscuits, bacon, has browns, several kinds of juices, milk, and STEAK! Ugg, thinking back, I don't remember how much we were able to eat--and I wonder how I was even able to concentrate, let alone do well, on my test with a stomach full of stick-to-your-ribs food. Well, I got into BYU, so depending on your outlook, you can make the call of whether or not mom's breakfast=success theory worked.

Nowadays, Margaret and I have to literally DRAG ourselves out of bed. Compared to our college-aged selves, when we could stay up to 3 am (you know, to read the scriptures), and still make it to 8 am classes, we have fallen indeed. Now we start to feel lethargic at 9:30 and still hit the snooze button three times, stalling our wake-up past 7! What gets me up in the morning now isn't mom's hearty country breakfast, but bagels. And not just any bagel--there is a bagel shop four blocks from our house that the mere thought of in the morning has the power to drag me out of bed and force me to stumble down to get a chocolate chip bagel with peanut butter--they're like crack cocaine to me. Ah, food of the gods! (I say this because they're the perfect thing to be consumed in the morning with Diet Coke, and since all-you-can drink Diet Coke is the official drink of the gods it makes sense that chocolate chip bagels with peanut butter is the official food of them--trust me, it makes sense when you've got a load of carbs and caffeine in you.) Margaret's standard is a pumpkin bagel with cream cheese, which is pretty good--I'd give it a "food of the people in the terrestrial kingdom" rating: good, but there's that little something that keeps it from perfection--I mean, I'll GUARENTEE that you'll never see a pumpkin bagel used for sacrament bread. Anyway, we probably eat our breakfast there 4 or 5 times a week! You know it's bad when they start toasting my bagel when they see me walk by the front door to get a newspaper before I come in. You know, it probably wouldn't be worth the cost and effort if it weren't for the bottomless pop, though. We get so many refills (the sad reality of needing caffeine in the morning but not being able to get it from coffee), that the price evens out. If I'm going to pay $1.39 for a Diet Coke, I'm for darned sure going to be drinking at least 48 oz--and 64 on the weekends when I can linger over the paper as long as I want and not have to sneak into work late. The way I figure it, the more I can drink, the lower the price per ounce is--it's all economics. Hmm, come to think of it--I wonder if the reason I'm compelled to go there every morning is somehow related to a caffeine addiction... Nah! Diet Coke would never have anything but my best interests at heart--isn't that right, my precious? Precious? Oops! Umm, could I get a refill?

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Have you seen this crazy painting by the German surrealist Max Ernst? It's titled "Mary Spanking Jesus." I love how it flies in the face of conventional portrayals of Jesus as perfect. It was considered blasphemous when it was first shown, but how exactly is a perfect five year-old to act? I mean, if I had a toddler who never got dirty, always said "please" and "thank you" when he was supposed to, ate all his vegetables, never cried, always wanted to read the scriptures, and never tried to give Kitty a bath, I would be a little concerned (and relieved--I could keep our collection of nineteenth century Faberge eggs out on the end table and not worry about him breaking them). I don't think that even if there were such things as perfect parents, they couldn't get that good of results out of a five year-old. In fact, my parents still don't get that good of results out of me--and they've been trying for a score and fifteen years! I think the only way you could get that behavior is with at least 1200 mg of Ritalin twice a day, coupled with copious use of a sensory-deprivation chamber and a straight jacket. Anyone who thinks that kids exerting their independence in ways that the adults don't approve of is something to be quelled is just missing the point--complacent, submissive children grow up to be complacent, submissive adults.

Last week, the Portland gang went to see "Wallace and Grommit and the Case of the Were-rabbit." Admittedly a kid's movie, we went into it expecting a diverse age spread in the audience, which there was. We got there a couple of minutes before the twilight showing of the movie started. (We went to the twilight showing and it was still $6! If we went to the evening showing it is $8.75! At those prices, I feel COMPLETELY justified in smuggling in two jumbo bags of peanut M&M's, some crackers, a two-liter bottle of Diet Coke, and a salisbury steak to offset the complete screw of the admission price--good thing Margaret has a HUGE purse!) Anyway, in the almost-filled theatre, we found enough seats for our group on the front row of the stadium seating area (which is prime, since it's far enough from the screen that my contacts don't fly out from whizzing back and forth at the field-of-vision filling screen, yet close enough to the exit so I can rush to the bathroom after finishing off that aforementioned Diet Coke). Unfortunately, though, to get the seats together, an older couple would have to move over one seat. We asked them if they would so we could all sit together and the woman looked over and saw that she would have to sit next to a maybe seven year-old. She looked back and said, "Not if I have to sit next to that KID." I couldn't believe it--and she said it loud enough for the kid's parents to hear! She wouldn't budge, so we ended up breaking up the group, part of which had to sit next to that couple. I felt like coming into the aisle first and then saying, "Oh, wait, I'm not sitting here if I have to sit next to that OLD LADY." But I didn't--stupid social conventions. As it was, I was glad that a kid sat next to me, because I got to hear him whisper to his mother, "Mom, I have to go potty, but I want to watch the movie, too." Kid, speaking from experience, THAT'S something you can't have both ways--I've tried and the only thing I had to show for it was a drenched theatre seat and a slippery rather than sticky theatre floor.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

This week, Ikea announced that they will be opening a store here in Portland. I'm experiencing mixed emotions about it, though. On the one hand, I'm totally excited about the prospect of having Swedish meatballs and cheap lighting only a ten-minute drive away, but on the other hand, I'm not looking forward to everyone I know 1) knowing that our house is an Ikea catalog ad as seen in the movie Fight Club, and 2) will have the same stuff that we do. Right now, the closest Ikea is in Seattle--which is a big enough deterent to keep all but the elect from embracing the Ikea lifestyle. We drive up occasionally... ok often... but not that often... umm, anyway, I'll just say I know the route well. We've filled our house with chairs, tables, rugs, bedding, lighting, and decorations from the Disneyland for Adults that is the Seattle store. We've proselytized all our friends and family, extolling the benefits of, coolness obtained, and fulfillment possible from Ikea--and I'm proud to say that I've had a much better conversion rate than my proselytization in Norway. I'm at almost 100% conversion (I say almost, because even though one couple goes there every time they're in Seattle now, they still bristle at how consumeristic it is--classic self-loathing Ikeans). I get a warm feeling in my heart when people confide in me that they are having some home furnishing problem and I am able to get out a copy of the Ikea catalog and tell them "I've found answers in this book, and I know that if you browse through it, really ponder the design ideas that it shows, and follow the examples contained therein, your home problems will be solved, too." Following one trip to Seattle with Kelli, she left the store bearing her testimony of Ikea, saying, "I know that Ikea is true." It's stories like that that tell me that I'm helping change people's lives for the better. Now with a store in Portland, I'll go from being an Ikea missionary introducing people to its wonders to a pesky stake temple coordinator, encouraging people to go do something that can easily be put off--it will be like when a new temple is built--prior to that, people sacrifice to go hundreds of miles for the opportunity, but build one in their backyards and voila! they always have an excuse.

Well, the new store isn't slated to open until spring 2007, so I can wallow in my self-righteousness, er, I mean continue to proclaim the blessings that Ikea promises to all who visit with a non-maxed-out credit card.
I have been working on writing a forward for a book for the past three months. They want 12 to 15 pages! (Fortunately double spaced, but STILL!) I've been trying to work on it off and on for about a week now, and have made about 5 pages of progress. It has been torture--I'm totally out of practice with writing, but am surprised at how fast the defense mechanism of procrastination kicked in. My office is now spotless, I've actually logged all my mail, and I started a frickin' BLOG--things that NEVER get done. Anyway, yesterday I had been working on the forward and had gotten into a writing groove when I got an email saying that there was a new story on the Norwegian mission website. And being a Norwegian returned missionary, I clicked on over there, only to be dismayed that it was a "faith promoting" story--BOOOORR-RRIINNGG. Since I had the writing bug, and I knew a much more interesting story, I decided to send out my own. Since I knew that the story would never be approved by the webmaster, I just emailed it directly to my mission contacts. While I won't go into the details in this forum, I'll suffice it to say that the story documented at least five breachs of mission rules--and not just the lame ones like "don't steal." It is one of my favorite mission memories, and from the responses I got from the people I sent it to, evidently struck a chord, as it spawned at least 30 replies back and forth.

Am I a bad Mormon or just a bad return missionary for reveling in the interesting and memorable stories and not perpetuating the illusion that 19 through 22 year-olds are saints? I'll just say that I'm doing my part to let people know that Mormon's aren't perfect, and when given an opportunity, could appear in the DVD "MISSIONARIES GONE WILD!" Which is probably the first thing people think of when they hear about Mormon missionaries, I'm assuming.

Monday, October 24, 2005

This past weekend, the gang here in Portland went to the inagural roller derby match and it was CRAZY and totally Portland. It gives you some idea at what kind of demographic they expected to attract when the primary sponsor was Pabst Blue Ribbon. Someone from my work is on the "Guns and Rollers" team, which is how we heard about it. The day before the match, Margaret and I decided to don costumes with an 80's rocker theme (since we were rooting for Guns and Rollers). Margaret wore this crazy top and a red wig that together made her into a cross between Little Nakita and Pat Benetar. I found the coolest cowboy shirt at a vintage shop, and ended up wearing it--(so much for the 80's theme!) But you should have seen the shirt in all it's gawdy glory! If you've seen Back to the Future II, you'll remember the ridiculous "Western" outfit that the 1940's professor gets for Marty (with the red and white shirt, and fringe). Well, this shirt didn't have fringe, but it was brown and tan satin and had embroidered six-shooters on the cuffs, spurs on the collar, and calves on the upper chest. I think I'll wear it to next year's Pendleton Round-Up and hope I don't get beat up!

Anyway, back to the roller derby--I had no idea what to expect, or even what a roller derby was, exactly. I did know that it could be quite violent (my coworker came to work last Friday with stitches on her cheek!) After a few quarters, we kind of got a feel for the game, and boy was it unlike anything I'd seen before! The whole point of the game if for one person on each team to try and pass up the pack of people from both teams that are trying to hinder the opposite team's person and help their own teammember. The violence comes from pushing people so they veer off into the crowd, crash, or, the best, create a massive dogpile. The classic stereotypes were all represented: the slutty scorecard girl, scantily clad contestants, constant sexual inuendo of the announcer, etc. etc. We saw a couple of fights near the end, which were quite exciting--so exciting, in fact, that I almost lost my voice yelling so loud. What is it about a fight, and especially a fight between women, that is so mesmerizing--and when it gets broken up, you feel a little disappointment that it didn't last longer.

I don't think we'll make the roller derby a regular event for our social schedule, but if you happen to hear about one in your neck of the woods, I would highly recommend it, not only for the entertainment value of the teams, but also to watch the sleazy hipsters, drunk rednecks, and butch lesbians all together cheering on the ladies of the roller rink.