Wednesday, May 4, 2016

The bikers of Bald Peak State Park

Last Sunday was a ridiculously beautiful day in Portland -- the type of day where law enforcement officials should be out arresting people holed up in their homes watching FOX News. (Oh wait. Those people should probably be arrested regardless.)

That being said, my date suggested we take a drive in the country, specifically to explore Bald Peak State Park.

(Note: I just took a look at this website. It's actually called Bald Peak Scenic Viewpoint. . . if you consider a cracked, circular parking lot and picnic table as "scenic". . . . apparently the state parks department does. Sigh. Hang in here with me.)

We first got wind of Bald Peak during a visit to Raptor Ridge Winery last fall. It, too, was a glorious day (it happens here on occasion -- really) and we were captivated by the tasting room's view of the tippy tops of Mt. Hood, Mount St. Helens, Mt. Rainier and Mt. Adams. The pinot gris isn't bad either.

The tasting room guy  said, "You ain't seen nothin' yet" -- in a far more articulate way, of course -- and pointed us in the direction of Bald Peak, noting that the view from there is downright breathtaking. We were intrigued.

And thus, with the help of The Lady inside My Phone Who Talks to Me, we found ourselves pulling into Bald Peak State Park Scenic Viewpoint Sunday afternoon. . . along with about 150 bikers milling around at the top of the park scenic viewpoint, their "hogs" shimmering like so many jewels in the May sunlight.

Uncertain as to where the brilliant views were to be seen, we inched our way up toward the bikers, me helpfully advising my date to not "pull a Pee Wee Herman."

Despite being trussed up in copious amounts leather, with record-setting tattoos to boot, the bikers were a congenial group and waved us through with whoops and whistles. No view, though.

And so we parked. By the picnic table pictured on the BPSVP website as you would have it. From there, an older lady and gentleman (also a biker) pointed us in the direction of a large stump, and sure enough, there were all four -- not just the tippy tops, but the whole gosh darn mountains. Pretty dang impressive.

But the best was yet to come.

There are no hiking trails at BPSVP per se, but our older biker friends told us about a footpath that takes you a short way down the other, non-mountain-view side of the peak. The biker gentleman then sent us on our way with a psychiatrist joke. And a pretty good one, at that. I think he practiced on the ride out toe Bald Peak.

The footpath is indeed short. And there we joined more bikers -- all completely geeking out about the view: Below us all was one of the best, panoramic views of the Willamette Valley I've ever seen, a giant green patchwork quilt of orchards and vineyards, farms and grazing meadows, creeks and ponds. I think we were all quite pleased to be sharing this treasure on such a fine day.

If you haven't seen some leather-encrusted, mustachioed, top-to-bottom pierced/tattooed biker
get all giddy about Nature, you haven't lived. Just sayin'.
And with that, the bikers gathered up their copious leather items, flexed their colorfully impressive tattoos and, in small groups, so as not to shatter our non-biker ear drums, headed off for their next destination (all mapped out on Facebook -- who knew?) which I believe was somewhere on the coast.

A few even popped a farewell wheelie in our honor. Or so I like to think.

Safe travels, friends.

Friday, March 11, 2016

The lady inside my phone who talks to me

Over the last few weeks, I've made several triumphant trips back and forth to the east side of Portland from The Beav.

I say "triumphant" only because, even though I spent some 20 years of my early life living in various parts of northeast Portland, I am now hopelessly confused by the new and emerging landscapes in this part of town. (The fact that I didn't get my driver's license till I was 21 and was living in The Beav may have contributed to this. Those Multnomah County DMVs are h.a.r.s.h.)

Enter The Lady Inside My Phone Who Talks to Me. We shall call her Gabby.

Gabby is my new travel BFF in PDX.

Gabby now sits proudly in the passenger seat with my destination in her hands any time we stray out of the west side of town. She knows all my secrets, all my fears, all my joys. (Well, not really. She's a phone app, after all.)

BUT she does know how to get me places.

We've gotten into a pleasant routine -- me the pilot and Gabby, the patient yet firm navigator.

"In a quarter of a mile, turn right."

Tick. Tick. Tick.

"In 500 feet, turn right."

Tick. Tick. Tick.

"Turn right."

She's so calm, so assured. And she never says, "Don't be such a tool. Just turn right."

Under other circumstances, i.e., traveling with certain family members, it often is a pitched verbal debate:

CFM: "Are you sure we should turn right!??"

Me: "YES!"

CFM: "I really think we should turn left!! It feels like it should be over on the left!!??"


CFM: "I'm turning LEFT! Trust me."


Gabby also gracefully recalibrates. This is a somewhat unnerving habit but always with my best interest in mind. I tend to listen carefully.

For example, on a recent jaunt over to southeast Portland just before rush hour (always a treat), her original directions, which I read first, had me going over the Marquam Bridge to Portland's Central Eastside.

Minutes before the exit, Gabby changed her mind.

"In 500 feet, take the Market St. exit."

WTF. But far be it for me to argue with The Lady Inside My Phone.

I took the exit. And with that, Gabby guided me through downtown and onto the Hawthorne Bridge -- a far more efficient (and apparently less congested way) to get to my destination. She also got me home. . . in the dark.

Sometimes, I wish I could change Gabby's flat, calm voice. Maybe something classic and just a little imperious -- like Lady Violet of "Downton Abbey" fame. . . or bright and brassy, peppered with an F Bomb here and there. Bette Midler maybe?.

But that's not to be. It's OK. Gabby's my go-to gal and erstwhile travel companion.

I like her just the way she is. As long as she doesn't call me a tool.

Friday, February 26, 2016

Oath of office

Let's see. Supreme Court nomination process - check.
What other Constitutional rights can I piss on?
Do you ever wake up in the middle night absolutely seething about the current state of affairs in the U.S.? That was me around 3 a.m. last night. Perhaps it was the chili I ate for dinner. . . or that I watched the first  20 minutes of the Republican debate before assuming the fetal position, covering my ears and chanting "La la la la la la." I don't know for sure. But I do know I've really got my knickers in a knot about this whole SCOTUS nomination debacle in the Senate.

While I try to keep this blog focused on happy things like rainbows, unicorns and salt water taffy, I really need to vent.

Mitch McConnell, Chuck Grassley and their yahoo partners in crime took an oath of office to defend the U.S. Constitution when joining the U.S Senate.  Instead, by obstructing the SCOTUS nomination process, they're wiping their feet on this revered document as if it were my backdoor welcome mat. I am almost certain the Constitution's fathers are spinning in their statesman-like graves.

So, fueled with a couple gallons of caffeine, I fired this off this morning. Anybody care to wager whether it actually makes it to Mitch McConnell's mailbox?

Sen. McConnell:

When you took your oath of office for the Senate you solemnly swore/affirmed that "I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter. So help me God."

By blatantly announcing that Senate will not meet with nor consider a Supreme Court nominee until a new president is elected, you have broken this oath and should be ashamed. It confirms to me that you are no longer (never were?) a statesman, but an ideological puppet and obstructionist.

It is the President's AND Senate's constitutional responsibility to fill a vacant seat on the Supreme Court as soon as possible, and according to the SCOTUS Blog, the "historical record does not reveal any instances since at least 1900 of the president failing to nominate and/or the Senate failing to confirm a nomination nominee in a presidential election year because of the impending election."

Failure to do so impedes and delays the work of the Court, potentially affecting the lives of hundreds to thousands of Americans. It is our right as American citizens to have a fully functioning judiciary. Shame on you.

Live up to your oath. Don't hide behind statements Joe Biden made many years in the past; members of your own party have done the same. It's time to unravel the mess you've created with your dysfunctional, partisan "leadership." Guide the Senate through the Supreme Court confirmation process as our Constitution directs.

So there. I feel better now.

I think.

Seriously, folks, we need to care about this.

A lot.

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Sofa wars

About a month ago, it looked like we might lose our dog Ben. Almost 15-years-old, Ben's hips are going, and one night in December, they completely gave out, leaving Ben panicked in pain.

We rushed to the emergency animal hospital, where Ben collected himself, took a few tentative steps and then peed on a bush. We took him home, thinking it might be the end that week.

But it wasn't. He got better. And better still. To the point where he is now sneaking up on the no-fly-zone living room sofa any chance he can get.

You talkin' to me?
Sneaking is the operative word. If we are in another room, and the sofa is open, he makes a break for it. If we are gone for awhile and forget to "protect" this apparently tantalizing piece of furniture, we are greeted with a guilty canine slinking off the sofa. Sometimes he looks faintly annoyed that we dared return to the house.

This is a dog we now have to lift into the car. And who often labors up the front steps returning from a walk (more likely because he doesn't want to the walk to end). And who looks like he may never get up from his blanket because it's "so hard."

But when he hears the siren song of the sofa, it's game over.

This is a dog who apparently believes the command "Down!" now applies to his head.

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Bermtopia by the Sea: The haunted edition. . . Or don't read this if you're home alone, laying in a bunkbed, at 4:10 in the morning


We have survived yet another grand Bermtopian holiday. One that, this year,  was just a notch below epic.

Who else out there in the Blogosphere can say they survived a canine near-death experience. . . the Great Seattle Poopheads' Dishwasher Fire. . . a trip to the ER and hospital overnight with The Mom Unit. . . four days in Texas (not as weird as we thought it would be). . . the Number Two Son's version of Grand Theft Auto. . . and throughout it all, the impossible cuteness of The Most Adorable Grandson in the World.

But this all pales -- pales, I tell you -- to being haunted.

To recap. Christmas Eve and Christmas Day played out here in The Beav with My Date, two sons, daughter-in-law, The Mom Unit and, of course, TMAGITW. We then decamped for another four days to Arch Cape Cannon Beach on the Oregon Coast.

WTF!!!! you ask in a shouting font: YOU ALWAYS STAY IN ARCH CAPE.!!!!

Why, yes, boys and girls, we usually do. But this year, five weeks before Christmas, we we were informed our long-time go-to rental place in Arch Cape had been hijacked by its owner (fancy that) for an impromptu family reunion. Okay, so the guy apparently lives in Tanzania and is home for once in a blue moon. . . . . w.h.a.t.e.v.e.r.

So we selected a back-up place suggested by the rental agency in Cannon Beach. It had its pros and cons, including My Date, Number Two son and myself sleeping in bunkbeds (try it sometime!), a faintly sinister playhouse in the backyard and a selection of somewhat weird tchotchkes displayed throughout the house.

Bald dolls. Two-sided dolls. A frog holding a potato.
There are SO many things are wrong with this.
They should have been our first clue.

After a bracing walk on the beach and a replay of Christmas dinner (leftovers are ALWAYs better -- probably because they are actually warm when you eat them), we all toddled off to bed our first night in the house: The Mom Unit in the main floor master bedroom, the Number One Son and family to an upstairs bedroom, the dog to his bed in the living room and The Number Two Son, My Date and myself to the lower level "bunkhouse."

My Date and I nestled into our bunks, noting not to rise up too quickly or risk smacking our heads on bunkbeds above us, while N2S stretched out in the adjacent room for a late-night movie.

And we fell asleep.

Until about 4 a.m. that is -- when I was vigorously persuaded to answer a call of nature. As I tiptoed back to my bunk, I glanced at my cell phone. It was exactly 4:10 a.m.

"Perfect. Another couple of hours of shut-eye," I thought and began to doze, the house silent except for the faint whisper of a gentle wind in the trees outside.

And then. From inside the wall right next to my pillowed head:






And silence. Well, except for the "WTF!!??" firmly wedged in my throat, struggling to make its presence known.

I let a minute pass.

"Bra-aa-ad. . . did you hear THAT?" I hissed.

"Yesssssss," My Date hissed backed.

We bolted out of bed (of course smacking our heads on the upper bunks) and checked the bedroom windows.

Nothing. Nada. Zip.

The front and backyards were empty and silent, shimmering through an early morning rain shower.

And with that, date and I settled back in our bunks for a not-surprisingly restless couple hours before sunrise.

We recounted the story at breakfast. The Number Two Son had heard the knocks, too!

With that, he and I decided to do a perimeter check, reconnoitering for evidence our Cannon Beach version of Caspar the Friendly Ghost. Armed with a flashlight that was about 4 feet long (they grow 'em big in Cannon Beach), we set out on our ghostly campaign. We checked the empty garage first, thinking it was adjacent to the "bunk house." It was not. Plus the exterior doors were locked.

And then. . .  we discovered the Secret Room -- an add-on to the garage that did, indeed, share a wall with bunkhouse. Was this the haven of some insidious Cannon Beach prankster? The N2S readied the flashlight.

We stopped in our tracks and stared the irrefutable evidence. There couldn't be an insidious Cannon Beach prankster: The knob was coated in at least a year's worth of cobwebs. No. one. had. been. in. the. room.

Gentlemen (and women) of the jury, Exhibit #1
Suitably impressed by our phantom visitor's skills at breaking and entering and knocking, the N2S and I retreated back into the beach house to make our report, only then noticing one, slightly unnerving detail. The door to the faintly sinister playhouse was ajar. The same door -- that had been closed the day before.  

We gently closed it -- with apologies to Caspar.

Epilogue: There were no more paranormal antics for the rest of our stay. . . although we three bunkmates slept upstairs the next night, but the bunkhouse was silent and would not reveal its secrets.

It appears haunting is a lonely -- and somewhat inconsistent -- business. Which is a good thing.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Second childhood

It recently occurred to me that I haven't written about Ben the Wonder Dog in some time. He informs me this is an egregious omission and probably the reason the blog's readership has dwindled.

(We'll let him think that. . .  I don't have the heart to tell him it's really probably because I don't get off sit down on my fat you-know-what and write more often.)

Ben, who turns 15 in February, is growing old.

Or so we thought until about a month ago.

Most of Ben's year has been punctuated with long, deep naps -- so deep that we occasionally have to wake him up to let him know we're home. He struggles a bit more to get up from his blanket now, hind legs wobbling perceptibly. (Strangely, hopping up on the no-fly-zone sofas in the living room and guest room isn't a problem. Funny how that works. ). And occasionally we find he's wandered into the bathroom to stare at the tub.

(On the other hand, perhaps that isn't a true barometer of aging -- I wander into a lot of rooms and stare at random things. Check that off the aging list, okay?)

ANYWAY.  Earlier this year, we resigned ourselves to helping Ben age gracefully and comfortably in our home. Until now. The dog appears to be experiencing a second childhood.

These days, we are greeted in the morning by a canine senior citizen who bounces and prances around the condo barking to get on with his walk. He's also been known to bite and tug at his blue blanket in his fever to walk.

Outside, Ben literally lopes across green spaces in search of new smells -- and occasionally still stalks an unsuspecting squirrel. Our walks have gotten longer and longer instead of shorter and shorter and it's proving downright tricky to convince Ben it's time to go home.

And meal times? It's like we have a teen in the house. Ben fusses and frets -- punctuated with a few spoiled barks -- until food is delivered. . .  and then stands in front of the laundry room where his treats are located. . . until treats are delivered.

Always a grazer, who has left dog food in his dish almost his whole life, Ben is now a card-carrying member of the Clean Plate Club. Most mornings an empty dog food dish, edges scoured for renegade crumbs, greets us -- along with a hungry, reproachful side glance from the dog.

Ummm. You gonna eat all of that?
What's up with this second puppyhood? Our theories range from the possibility that this fall's cooler temperatures and damp mornings have hit Ben's aging sweet spot. . . or that the reoccurring appearance of the Most Adorable Grandchild in the World is a heads-up to keep moving or risk being attacked by a 13-month-old hurricane of curiosity.

And the purpose of this is........

Whatever it is -- we love it. And it appears Ben does too. Pesky teenager.

You know, youth is wasted on the young.
P.S. Sorry about the poopy pix. Technical problems!

Friday, October 30, 2015

WTF Friday: The count down

Duly noted.
About a month ago, I spent the day with DZ, my oldest BFF (can you say 5th grade?). She was hooked up to various IV lines for her bi-weekly dose of chemo -- and I was posed to learn the fine art of counted cross stitch.

May God have mercy on our troubled souls.

Okay. I'm a quasi-crafty person. I know my way around a glue gun. I've put together a seasonal wreath with the best of them. And back in the day -- when I had the eyesight of an eagle (albeit a very nearsighted eagle) -- I did crewel and cross stitch work, but I always eschewed counted cross stitch. Because, well, it involved, counting. 

To put this in perspective: DZ is the math-science part of our friendship equation. I'm the wordy variable (who's been known to draw on a occasion, too). We bonded in 5th grade while working on posters for a school book fair contest themed "Swing into Books." (Is "theme" a verb? it is now) .

Our desks were across from each other, and I was cutting out about a bazillion felt leaves for a Tarzan-oriented creation. I believe DZ decided to inventory each one and calculate how many leaves could be produced from a 12 x 12-inch piece of green felt. When we discovered our mutual love for the local bookmobile -- it was destiny: We were made for each other!

As a result, given our different skill sets, it's no surprise that, over the years, DZ has gravitated to crafts that require organization and precision, becoming a skilled baker, quilter and counted cross stitcher.

And I blog (not very faithfully these days, I'm afraid). . . . and do yard art.

But back to our counted cross stitch lesson. My first assignment was a bookmark. Within 10 minutes, I had an impossible wad of tangled thread on the back of my project. With the patience of a saint, DZ carefully excavated through my counted cross stitch folly and got me back on track. Fast forward another 10 minutes -- another bird's nest. Again, DZ to the rescue.

Interesting aside: The vast majority of counted cross stitchers don't use the F word. They should. And, if I have anything to do with it, they will.

But once DZ got the cross stitch boat righted the second time, I kind of got the hang of it. Feeling pretty full of myself at the end of our session, I announced:

Note to The Mom Unit, My Date and The Kids: Do not read the next part of this. 

You have been warned.


Note to The Mom Unit, My Date and The Kids: You can start reading again.

DZ smiled and nodded benignly, gracefully hiding an urge to wrap one of her IV lines around my neck.


So. I am just finishing up my second project and will now share several counted cross stitch take-aways in closing:

1. Counted cross stitch is a contact sport. It involves sharp things like needles, people! Sharp things that find your fingers -- and d.r.a.w. B.L.O.O.D. So, therefore, counted cross stitch is also a blood sport. Make sure you're up-to-date on your shots before tackling that next bookmark.

2. Counted cross stitch is kinky. Christian Grey, take note. My counted cross stitch projects have introduced me to more knots than you'll ever master in three lifetimes.

So rooky, Christian. So very, very rooky.
(Thanks, Google Images!)
And by the way, Christian, you really haven't really experienced bondage until you've self-stitched two fingers to a sampler that reads "Home Sweet Home."

3. And finally: There IS room for the F bomb in the rarefied world of counted cross stitch. Plenn-nn-tty of room.

Just ask My Date.