Friday, April 28, 2006

Hitting new lows

I've done something terrible and the conflicting part of it is I feel great! Despite years of being warned about its evils and destruction and chaos and potential for unraveling the tenuous fabric that holds society together, I threw caution to the wind and went on a walk on the wild side... yes, I VANDALIZED A SIGN!!! I know, I know... that ranks up there with pulling off a mattress tag or smoking marijuana, but I couldn't help myself. It was more of an expression of creativity than destruction, anyway, so therefore TOTALLY justified. Actually, I just defaced a sign that had already been defaced... it wasn't like I was working with a clean canvas. (Did I tell you that my talent was self-justification when I represented Norway at the Mormon Missionary Universe Pageant? And the white shirt and tie combo I had on totally blew the Elder representing Italy out of the water... And don't even get me STARTED on the Bible Bash competition. It was awesome!)

Anyway, back to the vandalism: The Multnomah County Health Department has a sign for bathrooms in restaurants that says: "Don't spread disease. Wash your hands after using the toilet. And again in the kitchen." Well, some mildly creative soul had blacked out some letters to spell: "Don't spread disease. Wash your hands after using the toilet." But they'd left the "And again in the kitchen."

Well, my years of playing Scrabble and Boggle finally paid off, because I noticed that I could black out some letters in that phrase and complete the thought. I've attached a picture of the final product, and I have to admit that I'm pretty pleased with the result. Hopefully it will catch on and I'll see people replicating my strike-outs in restaurants throughout the city! I've finally made a mark in public restrooms that doesn't have to be cleaned up with a mop and bucket!

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Summertime's a comin'

Whew--not a moment too soon has the weather started its shift from the soul-sucking grayness of spring to the bright, warmness of summer. In fact, on Tuesday, Margaret and I went on a walk and I made the mistake of wearing flip-flops. If I had known we would be walking several miles, I would have worn regular shoes, and by the middle of the walk (of course when we were FURTHEST from the house) one of the straps started chaffing me so bad that it became unbearable--now I know how those poor Chinese women with bound feet must feel like! In an act of desparation, I took off my shoes and walked home--on roads, sidewalks, and--most appreciatively GRASS--barefoot. It went ok--other than dodging the occasional broken glass and dog poop, but I wasn't so careful running across a busy street and planting my tender foot on a round rock. You might think a sharp rock would be bad, but a foot that hasn't seen anything but the sole of a shoe for years doesn't take kindly to even a round rock and I think I bruised the bottom of my foot. It still hurts when I walk even with shoes on! What would my Indian ancestors think of me? (Actually, I'd probably be long dead if I had to live in the past--my eyesight is so bad that the only thing I'd have been good for would be modeling for totem poles or being bait to catch bears or mountain lions.)

Speaking of good weather, finally getting to wear shorts again reminded me of one time when I was eight or nine, my brother and I decided to make some cut-offs. Since our mom wouldn't have approved of us cutting up our school jeans, we had to take matters into our own hands. Of course we had no idea how to make cut-offs, and every time we'd try, the legs wouldn't be even or they would go up in the back or some other problem. So we kept trying, eventually getting the shorts a little too short. Then it became a game of how short we could cut them off. It got to the point that we'd only left the seam down the middle--I know... we'd inadvertantly made THONG cut-offs. Of course we didn't realize the ramifications of such short shorts until we tried them on... and then proceeded to bury them in the trash in the hopes that mom didn't find the destroyed clothing. My brother is still adventurous--he cuts the sleeves off t-shirts--but I've completely given up altering my own clothing. Something about tighty-whiteys hanging out of jean shorts so short Daisy Duke wouldn't wear them was enough to scar me for life!

Monday, April 24, 2006

Wyoming makes the news...again

...and not because of Brokeback Mountain. Reading the paper this morning, this little tidbit jumped out at me, since it happened in the little town in Wyoming where I grew up and where some of my family still lives:

In Gillette, Wyo., a thief siphoning gas from a car late at night spilled some of the gas on his pants and decided to use his cigarette lighter to see how wet his parts were. He's recovering with second- and third-degree burns to his legs.

Just for the record, the majority of my education was in Idaho, NOT Wyoming.

Friday, April 21, 2006

Fun with impaled objects

Ugg, this morning, I read an article in the paper that actually made me a little queasy (and if you've eaten within the last half hour, log off and come back after your meal is settled). The article was about a guy who was suicidal, depressed, AND on meth. That's a bigger recipe for disaster than giving me the church calling where you get to file the church court disciplinary hearing records! (Speaking of which, I remember one time in the mission office, I was filing some missionary application forms and one sister's application jumped out at me because there was writing in the "Misdemeanors and felonies" section! As you could well imagine, given the reputation of Mormon missionaries, that particular field is NEVER filled in. Making sure that the Mission President was nowhere around, I read through the description: "I got pulled over for a traffic violation that turned into a misunderstanding." Wow! I'll say MISUNDERSTANDING if it resulted in a criminal record! Something told me that that was a major understatement... and knowing the sister, I wouldn't put it past her to have 1) threatened the officer with violence, or 2) offered sexual favors in an attempt to keep from getting a ticket. Ahh, does the heart proud to know that she was sharing a message of Jesus Christ to the Norwegians!)

Anyway, back to the article in today's paper: the suicidal depressed meth guy evidently had some fun with a nail gun. Two days after his nail gun frenzy, he went to the doctor complaining of a headache and neck pain. The doctors couldn't find any reason for the headaches (the nails were finishing nails that went slightly under the skin and since the entry points were in his hair, they didn't see anything awry). Anyway, imagine their surprise when they X-rayed him and saw a dozen nails in his head! They gave him a tetnus shot (what else could you do?) and flew him to a hospital in Portland, where the nails were successfully removed and he left the hospital walking on his own. The hospital noted that he still had "some thinking problems, including diffuculty with concrete reasoning and abstract thought." (Although that's a little unfair, because the same thing could be said from most anyone from a red state.) The guy refused to let the article use his name. I can't imagine why not--that's something worthy of the Guiness Book of World Records and he's refusing the limelight?!?

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Random Portland

I love Portland for its subtle--and not so subtle--quirkiness. Like in today's paper about a group of people setting up a "non-profit, family-friendly, multigenerational coffee house." How specific is THAT? Evidently this group of parents were tired of going to Starbucks where students and telecommuters were quietly working over the Wi-Fi network and who gave dirty looks to the noisy kids and their parents. (I can ignore noisy kids normally, but every once in a while--most recently it was at Target--there is a parent that completely ignores their kid's tantrum and just continues shopping despite the fact that the sound blast being emmitted from their offspring could bring down the walls of Jericho. Don't they know that some of us are trying to SHOP here?)

Anyway, reading that article, then seeing some homeless guy walking down the street with a cat perched on his backpack--it just comfirmed that the state slogan IS true: things ARE different here. Here's a picture I took with my camera phone--it's a tad blurry--hey, I was running to catch up to him, but still be clandestine in my illegal surveillance--if you squint, you can see the black cat balanced on the guy's backpack. You have to wonder what kind of life that cat leads. I'm sure it's not like that white fluffy cat on the Fancy Feast commercials that eats her canned cat food out of a Waterford crystal goblet with a sprig of parsley and served to her by a butler with white gloves. (The only time I every got anything close to that treatment was one time when my mom brought the mac and cheese to the table holding it in a white oven mitt.)

Here's a close-up I took of the cat tied to the backpack. I'm hoping to see some homeless guy with his pet iguana tomorrow. Unfortunately I'll probably only see one with his own private flea circus.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Parking rage

Last night, we met a few friends for dinner. It was ok, if you like your server bringing your food on the back of her shell and leaving a slime trail. She came so few times that I only got ONE refill on my overpriced pop! What a waste! Anyway, after that experience, we went out to get in the car and some courteous drivers had left us 4" of space in the front AND the back of the car! I was pretty sure I could navigate it tight enough to not have to go back and forth in the spot 20 times as seen in that Austin Powers movie. I could do it in 15. When I was SLOOOOWLY backing up the car so I could feel when the bumpers hit, I couldn't help but wonder how hard I would have to back into the car behind me to set off their airbags. Would that have been wrong? As it was I did finally get out of the spot--but that experience, coupled with the service at the restaurant left me with one of those little black clouds that stays right over your head that you see in all the cartoons.

I'm better now, since I've had my morning Diet Coke.

Monday, April 17, 2006

Gardening plans thwarted

This weekend, we'd planned on getting our yardwork done for the baby shower we're hosting on Saturday. Of course THAT was the weekend that the last major winter storm blew in and dumped several inches of rain and never got over 45 degrees. We just stood at the window, looking forlornly out at the unfinished yardwork that we'll have to take care of after work all week. Maybe we should have just rented out the local roller rink for a 70's theme baby shower--which wouldn't have been that bad, considering we were all babies in the 70's. Plus Margaret could have worn one of those snazzy multi-colored ponchos like my mother had on in almost every photo of her during that era. And I have a pair of skin-tight baby blue polyester disco pants from a... well, I'll leave THAT to another time.

Friday, April 14, 2006

The 20th Century was a simpler time...

Geesh, I read in the paper this morning for a review of a new video game and am shocked... SHOCKED over over how much they have changed since I first started playing them. I remember playing 2-bit video graphics of just a pixelated Pac-Man with ridiculously simple sound with my brothers... and liking it--no, we really DID like it. When we moved up to the Nintendo Entertainment System, we thought we were in heaven--playing with Super Mario Brothers or the boxing game Mike Tyson's Punch Out--and to let you know how much of a simpler time it was, the game didn't include any special combinations to get Mike Tyson to bite off any opponent's ear. Yes, I told you it was OLD SCHOOL.

So, growing up in the climate of alternating between Nintendo and watching Thundercats on Saturday mornings, imagine my surprise when I read this review for a game called "Rumble Roses XX." (By the way, when I was talking to my brother about it, I made the mistake of saying, "Rumble Roses TWENTY" and his response was, "Uhh... the two X's aren't supposed to say 'twenty'...) After reading the review, that comment made a LOT more sense. Anyway, here's the review:

I expected "Rumble Roses XX to be a mediocre and slow-responding wrestling game where you get hit, fall down and you can't get up. But as it turned out it's defines, instead, by its redefinition of sensuous cheese.

You play as fatless, anime-busty women wearing underwear, or perhaps a smart display of cow-print chaps. These women walk sexy on catwalks, they pose for photos, they wrap their upper thighs around each other, and the loser gets tickled while you zoom your TV camera angle onto the body part of your choosing.

Man, that game sounds racier than most FOX sitcoms--and THAT'S saying something! Busty women? In underwear?? Wrestling??? Loser getting TICKLED????? It seems expressly designed to aggravate the Christian fundamentalists, feminists, AND legitimate users of cow-print chaps! What ever happened to the plumber trying to avoid the barrels rolled at him by a giant gorilla? That game only offended plumbers and animal rights activists.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Impossible standards of beauty

Last weekend we went to see the amazing Cirque du Soleil while it is in Portland. If you haven't heard of it before, it's an amazing circus comprised of acrobats, gymnastics, contortionists, and really funky, artsy stuff--although what else would you expect from those funky, artsy Québécois? Some of the routines are so over-the-top you can't believe that humans can actually do what you're seeing with your own two eyes. One of the performers was so flexible that she could balance on a tiny platform raised on a pole and bend herself backwards so far that her butt was resting on the top of her head!!! In another one, a pair of twins did these aerial maneuvers that had us closing our eyes thinking that they were going to go flying off into the audience. That's them in this picture and notice that the only thing holding them up is two straps around their wrists (and the only thing holding up their outfits is evidently a tiny bit of lycra). Aside from this routine, the costumes are so over-the-top that it is a recipe for a spectacle more engaging than the Mormon Tabernacle Choir performing at the grand opening of the Victoria's Secret flagship store in Amsterdam. If you ever have a chance to go see one of their performances, be sure and go (Cirque, not the Tabernacle Choir--well, I guess if you're in Salt Lake and happen to be on the Temple Square tour and they HAPPEN to be performing I wouldn't dissuade you from going in--I'm just saying that Cirque du Soleil TOTALLY tops people singing hymns)!

Although I have to forewarn you that once you see the perfect specimens of the human form at Cirque, you'll want to go straight to the gym. I've gone to the gym twice since seeing the performance and can now bend so far back that I can look at the ceiling while I'm standing up! Woo hoo! only 3 feet to go...

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Common courtesy died with common sense

This weekend at a birthday party, some of the guests were complaining about the lack of party courtesy here in Portland. I don't know if the epidemic has spread past the Pacific Northwest, but here in Oregon, getting people to RSVP is like pulling teeth. We've hosted a couple of parties where guests just showed up and we had to scramble to accomodate them with extra food and drinks. Don't get me wrong, we were happy to have them there, but we would have liked to have known about it beforehand so we could adequately feed them. The coup de grâce of this problem was our wedding reception, where almost 100 extra guests showed up! Fortunately the hotel's kitchen was able to throw together some stuff at the last minute, but that was just a fortunate coincidence.

The reason this is fresh in my mind is that we're throwing a baby shower for some friends and the RSVPs are coming in slow--and we KNOW lots of people are planning on showing. I had an idea, and I'd like to float this out on the Internets to get their feedback--I am tempted to not put our address on the e-vite, so people would HAVE to RSVP to find out where the party is being held. PLUS, the shower honorees get the benefit of pouring guilt on the people who didn't make it because they hadn't RSVP'd and therefore didn't know where to go. It's a win-win in my book!

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Phone queue hell

I have come to the conclusion that I loathe with all my heart phone queues. I've been trying to talk with a live person all morning, and have been stuck on hold the entire time. There ought to be a special circle of hell reserved for companies that tolerate hold times of more than 10 minutes. One of my coworkers was on hold for 45 minutes recently and an emergency came up so he had to run take care of that, which only took a minute or two, and by the time he got back, the call had been answered and the customer support had hung up, so he had to start over. One time, being the passive/agressive type, I got stuck in a phone queue while at work so I kept transferring to a different line and calling, resulting in 8 or 10 lines being used for the express purpose of sitting on hold. It gave me a smidgeon of satisfaction to know that their lines were being tied up and their operators getting frantic over the growing number of calls waiting--then I remembered that these companies have hundreds of lines and hundreds of people waiting in the queue at any given instant--but still, it somehow made me feel better.

Monday, April 10, 2006

The Siren song of Costco

After not having made the trek down to Clackmas, where the closest Costco is to us, for a couple of weeks in an effort to save money, I learned that just staying away isn't enough to keep from being held captive by its budget-busting influence. We normally don't get out of there for under $100, and I figured that since we hadn't gone in about 5 weeks, we were doing pretty good. Well when we got there, we were out of so much stuff that we ended up spending $250--which averages out to about $100 every other week, which is how often we usually go. We didn't end up saving ANYTHING! I wonder if that would work at church? Don't go for several weeks, then eat a whole slice of sacrament bread and a bottle of sacrament water and, voila! it averages out to regular spiritual sustenance. Maybe I'll wait a few years and then just eat a couple of loaves of bread and a bladder-buster of water and call it good.

Friday, April 07, 2006

Angel or Devil?

After yesterday's post, I've heard back from my relatives who are shocked... SHOCKED that I was such a naughty boy scout. Now I have to share uplifting or enlightening stories about myself in a feeble attempt to prove I still deserve my halo. While not as entertaining, they do paint me in a better light, like the time I... wait, that one ended badly.

Oh, yeah, once, when a group of us got together for a... hold on, a couple of laws were broken at that party...

Well, I can remember once, when I was helping a stray... oops, that one didn't turn out well, either.

Geesh! Maybe I AM a bad person--that would explain the two cowlicks in my hair right on the top of my head that I never seem to be able to comb down and look like two horns...

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Boy Scout oppression

One of the comments I got from yesterday's post was from my brother, who reminded me of a particularly mean streak that transpired on our annual 50-mile hike in the Idaho wilderness. I'll preface this with a reminder that the façade of "boy scouts is the crucible where good, upstanding, wholesome men are created" covers up the true story of oppression, ostracization, and class warfare. And while I'd like to say that I was above such things, the sad truth is I often lead the pack in terms of quashing any self-esteem of the boys who likely were in most need of it. It was amazing how quickly things could degenerate into a Lord of the Flies scenario--which doesn't bode too well about the future of modern civilization. In my defense, though, I had been trained for the role since growing up with my family, we'd honed our sarcasm and mockery skills to such a sharp degree that using them against the more socially inexperienced scouts was literally having a battle of wits against unarmed men.

Ok, that's the preface to this story... I just wanted to set up the image for you, because I was young and my moral compass was still easily moved by the magnetic field of social power--that's not a problem anymore, since I've ditched the moral compass for a much cooler GPS system that can show me where the nearest Taco Bell is. Anyway, back to the 50-miler.

One of the kids in our troop was desperate for acceptance (a sure recipe for disaster, as he was willing to do anything to please or for attention (he WAS the oldest of THIRTEEN kids, so I don't know how much attention he got from his family)--gad, I feel terrible just writing this). We'll call him Donl (pronounced Don-el), because that was his name. Ah, the stories I could tell about how he was tortured, but this story is about how he got the nickname "sphincter." Our troop's version of a 50-miler was to hike to a hot springs about 10 miles from the trailhead and set up a base camp there. Then, on the subseqent 3 days, we'd just do 10-mile day hikes and return to the spa-like base camp where we could soak away the soreness brought on by moseying around in the forest. Well, I don't know if it was from the hot springs, or just a lack of chapstick, but Donl started to get chapped lips. Since he didn't have any chapstick (and we weren't willing to share with him because that would be like KISSING if both our lips touched the same stick), he got to the point of continually licking his lips--which everyone knows results in the opposite of the desired effect. Over the course of the five days, his lips got more and more chapped until his mouth was puckered up so tight that talking was painful for him, as it would crack open his lips. That puckered up mouth is what spawned his nickname of "sphincter," from the obvious comparison. When we were done with the hike, some mothers met us at the trailhead with snacks, one of which were those giant grapes that you can get at Costco that look more like a bunch of plums and you know have to be genetically modified to get that big. Well, several of us held down Donl while someone pushed one of the grapes into his mouth--and the grape was big enough to crack his lips open once again. Ugg, now thinking back on that, I cannot imagine how the scout leaders tolerated our behavior. In the grand American tradition, I'll place all the blame on them for what happened.

Now don't judge me for my youthful oppression of the less-fortunate. I'm a fine, upstanding citizen now, and I don't think it hurt Donl too much, either--the last I heard, he was managing a 7-11 in Spokane--and they carry almost 14 different flavors and brands of chapstick, so he'll never have to go through that horror again!

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Like sands through the hourglass...

Someone pointed out to me that this early this morning, the clock/calendar said 01:02:03 04/05/06! (cue Twilight Zone music). Actually, what has me worried is an upcoming clock/calendar combination that tells me to that we only have a few more months to get everything packed up in handcarts for the long, long journey to Jackson County--for those who don't know, for Mormons, it's the North American gathering spot for the Reckoning. I can't even imagine why someone would leave the amazing mountains and deserts of Utah for humid, possum-overrun, backwater, rural Missouri, but to each his own, I guess. (You can read more about it here.) So set your countdown timer for 06:06:06 06/06/06. Actually, I we're just planning to wait it out here in Portland. After they've all left, we won't have to deal with hardcore fundamentalist Christians anymore and we can have a big party.

Hippietown confirmation

If you've been reading this blog for very long, you'll know that we live in a particularly liberal part of a very liberal city. Yesterday we got another reminder of why we love our liberal neighborhood so much. Walking home from the library (and how liberal is THAT!--checking out books that the public bought--for FREE!), Margaret and I saw four boys playing on the corner of our street. They looked like they were all around 8-12 year range and it was obvious that they were playing war. However when we got closer to the action, we overheard one of them say, "I'm an Iraqi and I'm gonna get the Americans off my land." Margaret and I couldn't help but laugh. As we passed them, we heard another say, "Go back to American soil!" Now I won't be surprised when we run into a bunch of kids and one of them says, "Start implementing the Clean Air Act provisions, polluter!"

Speaking of playing in groups, I remember a particularly painful memory of my youth. It wasn't painful at the time; I thought it was the coolest thing. But now, looking back on it, I'm completely mortified and wonder how I ever got married given how much of a complete nerd I was. One year for a scout fundraiser, we had to go into the mountains and find squirrels' caches of green pinecones which we would then sell to a forestry company who would extract the seeds from them. Little thought was given to the poor, starving squirrels, scratching through the deep snow only to find their stash of winter food robbed so our troop could go to the jamboree. Anyway, it was fun work, because it just entailed running around in the forest looking for signs of a cache. Once a cache was found, we'd get our gunny sacks and load up on the stolen food. The green pinecones were really sticky from pine pitch and sharp, so after a bit, someone said he wished he had a dustbuster vacuum to just suck them up so he didn't have to handle them. The dustbuster idea took off--I told you full-on, code red Nerd Alert! Over the next couple of months, our patrol was named the Dustbusters, we even had a patrol flag that was the Peanuts character Pigpen! Fortunately it died out, because it was completely stupid and embarassing to go to campouts and get to the part of the evening when all the patrols would shout out their patrol cry. While EVERY OTHER PATROL had an animal, and the accompanying animal noise, our stupid shout was, "Who ya gonna call? Dustbusters!" (If you hadn't guessed, the movie Ghostbusters had just come out and we were still influenced by its coolness--especially that rascally Slimer!) Anyway, after that shame, we decided to change the name of our patrol to the hyenas so when we had a campout and all the patrols would shout out their animal cry, we could just sit there and laugh at them all--with the same derision that they laughed at us (albeit justifiably!)

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Drawback of western wear

This weekend, our friends that we helped move had an open house to show off their new place in its newly unpacked glory. Earlier in the day, we'd gone to Target and I found this cool western-style shirt that of course, it being Target, ended up in our shopping cart. I wore the shirt to the party, feeling all styling in it. The party was great; it was amazing to see their place without mounds and mounds of boxes. I swear it was right our of House Beautiful. Right as you came in the door, there was an enormous floral arrangement, with 4-foot lengths of pussy willows, birds in nests with eggs, some flowers, all arranged in a hollowed out birch trunk surrounded by a mound of moss. It was so over the top, I asked about it and found out that one of the people who helped them move had made it himself. When I ran into him, I complimented him on the amazing arrangement and warned him that by making something that great, people would start thinking he's gay (which he is; I was just making a joke) and he came back with the perfect reply: "Hello! You're the one wearing the Brokeback Mountain shirt!" Great! Now every time I wear that shirt, I'm going to wonder if people will think I'm getting ready to move to Wyoming--oh well, I'm still going to wear the shirt, because it IS cool.

Monday, April 03, 2006


Like I've said in previous posts, Margaret and I live in Hippietown, which is saying something for Portland, since most outsiders think the entire city is Hippietown. This was reiterated this weekend when Margaret and I were on a walk through our neighborhood. As we were walking down the sidewalk, there was a couple walking towards us. I was paying particular attention because the guy was wearing a flourescent orange fake fur Dr. Seuss-style top hat on. While not enough to think it strange in our neighborhood, it WAS notable. Well, almost as we reached the couple, they stopped and started talking to one another, and the snippet that we overheard as we walked by was "Well, do you want to go back and smoke a bowl before we go over there?" (for anyone out there that doesn't know what "smoke a bowl" is, it has to do with non-medical marijuana. Margaret and I just had to laugh--and she pointed out that we must not look like undercover narcotics police, so evidently don't look like "The Man©." Of course we also didn't look cool enough to be offered any bowls of pot, either.