Sunday, April 16, 2017

Fave Five: High Desert Spring Break.

Eastern Oregon is overwhelming in its vastness. It is full of wide open spaces, room to make big mistakes. But it's also not just a sage brush prairie. There are mountains and hills and gaping canyons that come out of nowhere. It's desert and forest and lava fields. And a whole lot of cows. A LOT.

But no matter what it is, it is big, incomprehensibly so. And mostly empty. An emptiness that leaves me feeling awed and slightly uneasy. But it is really, really pretty. 

We took a two and a half day road trip at the end of my spring break this month to see some of it. As we do with road trips, we crammed a whole bunch of stuff into a short period of time. Here are some of my favorite parts of the trip, in an absolutely random order.

5. Shaniko.

Our first stop on the Journey Through Time Scenic Byway (we REALLY LOVE a scenic byway) was the "ghost town" of Shaniko, Oregon. There were a bunch of old timey shacks and civic buildings and such that are a tourist draw in the summer, but at the beginning of a very chilly April, it was almost an actual ghost town. We did see a few other people but not many, starting a theme for the whole vacation, really. Still, cheesy tourist trap or not, it was a really fun spot to take pictures, AND we got to meet a friendly dog named Sadie. Win-win!

4. The High Desert Museum.

Visiting the High Desert Museum outside of Bend, where we headed for our last day, was a literal last minute decision after other outdoorsy plans were nixed due to it snowing outside. Because it snows in the high desert during spring break! FYI! The High Desert Museum is a little pricey to get in (although they take AAA discounts!) but it was awesome and totally worth it. You get a bunch of history and edumacation stuff, including a particularly good wing dedicated to high desert/plains American Indian culture, which is markedly different from the coastal nations that you most often see associated with the Pacific Northwest. There is currently another exhibit about the high desert during World War II, where I learned a bunch of stuff, including some particularly terrifying things about the Hanford Nuclear Site. Hoooooly shit. It is incredible that at 33, I am still learning new stuff about World War II. 

What makes this museum unique though is that there is also wildlife to see, and a ton of it! We watched a badass peregrine falcon demonstration, and did you know that peregrine falcons can fly over 200 miles per hour, making them the fastest animal on the planet, because they can and they are! We also saw owls, eagles, tortoises, snakes, lizards, a porcupine, and a bobcat. A BOBCAT!

And we saw this amazing band playing old timey folk songs, which made us feel real peak white people.

3. Fave Food: Little Pine Cafe and Spork.

Welcome to me not-so-sneakily squeezing more than one thing into a single number on this list; it is about to get even more ridiculous when I get to number one!

We stayed one night in Mitchell, a tiny town in the middle of nowhere where we constantly worried about our survival, either from ghosts in the one hotel in town in which we were the ONLY GUESTS, or from the other folks in town who were REAL BIG FANS of open carry laws. BUT the one place in town where we definitely felt the happiest and most welcome was the Little Pine Cafe, also known as the Mitchell Stage Stop. The food here was standard American diner fare: burgers, sandwiches, salads, but everything we got was really good and the waitress was really friendly. And we learned that in Eastern Oregon, you take friendliness where you can get it. Even though we were, unsurprisingly, the only customers, it was a really cute space and we didn't feel uncomfortable at all. And their homesqueezed lemonade was STELLAR. 

Somehow we did survive our stay in Mitchell, even with Manda's Hillary sticker still on her car and Kathy's queer haircut. For this, I consider myself blessed.

Back in Central Oregon in a town where we didn't feel like we might get shot if we spoke positively about Obama, we ate at Spork in Bend, a food cart turned hip brick and mortar restaurant. And like all food carts turned brick and mortar, the local residents seemed evenly split on their Yelp reviews about whether this place was even more awesome now or TOTALLY SOLD OUT. Luckily, we are not locals, so I can say without any anxiety about how cool I am or not that it was neat and delicious and I really enjoyed it! While I got the spicy Korean chicken because like any red blooded millenial it is hard for me to say no to spicy Korean chicken, everything on their menu looked great and I would love to go back. 

Having been to Bend a few times now, I think the area where Spork is, on the west side of the Deschutes along Newport Avenue, is one of my favorite places to be. It's just down the street from Chow, which is also delicious, and a few blocks north of 10 Barrel Brewing on Galvelston. Of course, I think this area of town is newer, more manicured than older parts of Bend, but that's the nature of the beast with Bend--so much of it is new and manicured that as an outsider it's hard to figure out what's authentic, or rather what authentic even means, making Bend both really cool but kind of weird. While this can probably be said of any town in the West these days, it seems particularly true here. 

Anyhoo, Spork was great! And ALSO had good lemonade! Well, mint limeade, actually, but close enough!

2. Alpacas at Crescent Moon Ranch.

One great thing about having a friend like Manda is that she will always make you stop anywhere it looks like you might be able to pet animals, and it is ALWAYS WORTH IT. Crescent Moon Ranch is just north of Redmond near Smith Rock, and even though getting in and out of it almost gave me a heart attack because it's right off this section of 97 that has WAY TOO MANY CARS WHY ARE THERE SO MANY CARS, 10/10 I would go back again. You can buy feed in their store and then give it to ALL THE ALPACAS. They are so cute and so soft and they don't really like you except for the food and they might spit at each other or at you if you give the food to the wrong alpaca instead of them but gosh they are the best.

1. The John Day Fossil Beds.

A) Clarno Unit.

The John Day Fossil Beds were the real purpose of our trip. They are a national monument spread over three distinct units, with many miles between them all, full of geology and science and history and diverse landscapes. We hit all three and they were equally fantastic. The first one, heading west to east, is the Clarno Unit, these hulking cliffs that come of nowhere from the rolling hills surrounding them. 

We only walked part of one of the several trails here. It was full of placards that told you about the things that happened millions upon millions of years ago to make those cliffs, when there were no Cascade Mountains and the Northwest was basically a jungle, and it was at this point that I realized my small human brain cannot comprehend what millions and millions of years ago even means. Time + Earth = WHAT.

B. Painted Hills.

The middle unit of the John Day Fossil Beds, Painted Hills, is the most famous of all three for a reason. It is out of this world. Much of the landscape makes you feel like you are legit on Mars, or at least the closest thing most earthly mortals can imagine of Mars. A lot of the hills look so soft and smooth and inviting that you just want to throw yourself upon them, but DON'T DO IT. The rock that forms these otherworldly formations and striations has been here, again, for millions upon millions of years, and much of the landscape is so fragile and protected that while there are a number of trails here, most of them are relatively short and limited, including some boardwalk trails. You know, so that us humans can't eff up this magnificent place too much. *ahem* AND THIS IS WHY WE NEED THE NATIONAL PARK SYSTEM.

C. Sheep Rock Unit.

The biggest of the three units and the furtheast east, closest to the actual town of John Day, is the Sheep Rock Unit. It's also the hardest to describe. It is surrounded on both sides of Highway 26 by an incredible canyon, and then once you turn into the heart of the unit, there are sweeping landscapes of sage covered valleys and peaks that are just...breathtaking. The kind of landscape where you turn off the music in the car so you can sit in silence and fully take it all in. 

There is also a great visitors center here, the Thomas Condon Paleontology Center. You can walk through a rather impressive exhibit about the natural history of the area, where I learned about a bunch of ancient animals that apparently roamed this place that I had NEVER EVEN HEARD OF BEFORE. You can also watch REAL PALEONTOLOGISTS AT WORK through a glass window like you're in a scientist zoo! In addition, there's a small theater where you can watch a 20 minute video about the John Day Fossil Beds. We debated where the exact copyright of this video fell, although I feel pretty strongly that it was between 1990 and 1994, but whatever it was, it was fantastic! There is nothing I like more than a video at a national park visitors center! 

Manda and I also purchased National Park Passports here and got to stamp it THREE TIMES, once for each unit. Best day ever!

There are a ton of trails and things to see at this unit, but a storm was blowing through all of Oregon this day and it was so cold and windy that you could barely function outside for more than five minutes. In a way, this was good, because now I have more of an excuse to go back.

Some photos are just made for a harsh Instagram filter.

Man, that was fun to write. But now I miss vacation even more. Why can't every day be a day for exploring? 

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

My Fave Comics of 2016.

One of my last real posts on here was about the Year I Got Real Into Comics (2015). 2015 really isn't that long ago, but looking back at that post, I remember how insecure I felt walking into a comic store, like someone was going to call me out for not belonging there. Now, my comic store is one of My Places. And while it's an extremely irresponsible part of it, picking up my pull list now feels like an essential part of my monthly budget.

I know we're well into 2017 already, but I do what I want, so here are my top five comic reads of 2016.

5. The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl
Ryan North & Erica Henderson

Goddamn, Squirrel Girl is delightful. She is the goofiest, most lovable, nerdiest, most truly all-age comic there is right now, all due to the goofy, nerdy, lovably Canadian Ryan North. I would read anything Ryan North writes, because it's hard to be in a bad mood while reading anything Ryan North writes. 

If you didn't know, the Unbeatable Squirrel Girl is half girl, half squirrel, which gives her the power to EAT NUTS AND KICK BUTTS. She is also a computer science major college student, with an amazing best friend and roommate, Nancy, and an adorable squirrel sidekick named Tippy Toe. While she does, as aforementioned, have the power to kick butts, the truly lovable part of Squirrel Girl is that she almost always takes down her adversaries through logical conversation, empathy, and non-violent persuasion. 

I do admit that sometimes I put off reading my issues of Squirrel Girl these days if I'm looking for a quick read, because reading all the footnotes North includes on nearly every page requires more time and patience, but at the same time, the footnotes? Best part.

4. Patsy Walker, AKA Hellcat!
Kate Leth & Brittney Williams

The first thing you need to know is that Kate Leth and Brittney Williams = DREAM TEAM, so there is no way you can go wrong with this comic.

The second reason that I like this comic, about a superhero who's trying to go low key in life by starting a temp agency for reformed superheroes (but who obviously gets caught up in a lot of superhero-ing anyway), is because of her gang. I just really love a good ensemble cast. After all, Buffy is nothing without her Scoobies. And the ensemble of Hellcat is particularly strong, and also particularly queer and feminist! I am OBSESSED with Ian and Tom (PARTICULARLY TOM), who are pretty regularly at her side, but her BFF is She-Hulk, and Jessica Jones is there a lot, and as illustrated in the cover above, a bunch of other amazing Marvel Universe ladies show up from time to time, including America Chavez (swoon). Plus, cats are the best.

Kate Leth has announced that this current revival of Hellcat will be coming to an end this year, which breaks my heart a little, but alas, such is the world of comics. 

3. Goldie Vance
Hope Larson & Brittney Williams
Boom! Box

Goldie Vance, and how much I loved it, was my biggest comics surprise of 2016. There are no superheroes here, just the charming antics of Goldie, a mischievous, sleuthing teen who works as a valet driver at a resort hotel in Florida in the 1960s. I've learned I really dig the hotel-as-primary-setting storyline set up (see also: Jane the Virgin), and there's something about the shiny, clean art style of Brittney's in this one that's really satisfying. This was originally just going to be a one story, few issues arc, but I am so glad it was successful and Boom! Box kept it going. 

This comic is all about Goldie solving mysteries and living her best life. The first arc involves solving a mystery for a hotel guest, and the second arc delves into the life of her best friend, Cheryl, who works the front desk at the hotel and dreams of being an astronaut. The third and current arc is all about cars, which I'm not as into, but it's still great having a comic out there about a girl who really loves cars. Goldie also has total googly eyes for side character Diane, which makes sense because Diane is a stone cold fox. 

This happens to be my only non-Marvel comic on this list, which is a little misleading because I increasingly love almost everything Boom! Box puts out. Their books are all-age gifts of goodness with huge heart, and I can't wait to keep following their work. Thank you, Shannon Watters, editor lady!

2. Ms. Marvel
G. Willow Wilson & Adrian Alphona/Takeshi Miyazawa/A Whole Buncha Artists

While I still read most of the comics I included on my 2015 list, Ms. Marvel is the only one that's making a reappearance on this one. And that's because Ms. Marvel continues to be, simply, the best. Issue after issue, arc after arc, I am still in love with Kamala Khan. She had a real rough year this year, especially with all that Civil War II junk, and my heart wishes that she could go back to just hanging out with Bruno at the Circle Q and superhero-ing, you know, sometimes. :\ And honestly, I forget all the different superhero leagues that she's supposedly a part of now. But it's her continuing, mounting struggle between who she is as Kamala Khan and who she is as Ms. Marvel that makes her story, like so many superhero stories before her, compelling and heart-wrenching. Still. Bruno. :\

I particularly liked the issue last year where she went to Pakistan, and wish they had made that a full arc instead of a single issue story, but perhaps she'll return one day. My only complaint about Ms. Marvel is that while G. Willow Wilson has held steady for a few years now, I feel like they've rotated through guest artists A LOT, and it throws me off sometimes. I don't mind a guest artist now and then, but when it's too often, it really does affect the consistency of the reading experience.

1. Spider-Woman
Dennis Hopeless & Javier Rodriguez

I jumped into Spider-Woman without knowing much about her, but I'd heard such good things and was intrigued by the pregnant superhero storyline. Many issues later, I am just consistently blown away. It's the most stereotypical superhero comic I read (although in many ways, not, because again, the pregnancy thing), but man, Dennis Hopeless and Javier Rodriguez just know what they are doing. I'm still relatively new to the world of comics, but after a few years in, reading this comic feels like watching the work of masters. 

Jessica Drew is so deeply flawed, and so deeply stubborn, but you still love her to death anyway. She is fiercely independent and fiercely resilient at the same time that she is deeply human. And, she is sexy af. At all times. I love her friendship with Captain Marvel (ALSO SEXY AF) and I love her friendship with Roger. (ROGER! ~heart eyes~) The balance of action and character development is just right.

I also read and enjoyed the Spider-Women crossover event last year, which involved picking up some copies of Spider Gwen and Silk, and getting to know them and their back stories was enjoyable, as well. Silk in particular I could potentially read more of. But egads! So many comics, so little time. And money.

Honorable Mention this year goes to the Lumberjanes/Gotham Academy crossover by Chynna Clugston Flores and Rosemary Valero-O'Connell (Boom! Box/DC). It took me a while to get into the art and concept of these two similar yet very different books coming together. Like, it makes total sense to put them together, but at the same time, it's hard to actually execute. Seeing all the characters together still felt a little clunky and weird throughout because it is just a goshdarn LOT OF CHARACTERS to put together. But I ended up really digging the storyline, which made it all worth it in the end.

Already in 2017 there are so many new series that I'm jazzed about (America! Lady Hawkeye going solo!) that I can't wait to make this list again next year. COMICS! ~flexes bicep like Jessica Drew~

Monday, April 3, 2017

Fave Five: Mom's visit.

My mom and her BF were in town last month over the course of a couple weekends. Even though February isn't the best of months to visit Portland (especially this winter), we were still able to squeeze in a lot of good stuff. And I'm committed this year to getting back to writing down the good stuff. Here are five highlights:

5. Wine and Girl Scout Cookie pairing at Hip Chicks Do Wine

Listen up, y'all. Even when it feels like the civil world as we know it is crumbling into dust and ash, remember that there are small wineries run by lesbians who put on a Girl Scout Cookie and wine pairing event each year. And it is officially endorsed by the Girl Scouts. I feel like that should make you feel better. Even if just for a moment.

4. Painting pottery at Ready Paint Fire

Painting pottery always seemed like a real yuppie thing to do, but it turns out--as is often the case with things you judge prematurely based on no facts--it is in fact super fun! I have had a great time both times I've done it now. Ready Paint Fire is in kind of a strange location in Northwest, but it's super chill. They have a hundred different things you can paint, it's all reasonably priced, and they set you up and then just leave you alone. This is a very Portland-y style of customer service, but here I enjoy it.

3. Brunch at Tasty n Alder

Tasty n Sons/Tasty n Alder are that variety of REAL POPULAR AND HIP PORTLAND RESTAURANT that we don't go to that often because we're too lazy these days to wait for a million years and we're almost always too poor to be hip. Visitors are nice in this way because you realize that maybe they want to see popular and hip, as opposed to the dive bar you play trivia at every week in your real life. And, they were paying. 

So we went to Tasty n Alder! And it was, very sincerely, one of the best meals of my life. Kathy and I had gone to Tasty n Sons once before but each only got one thing, but this time we did it the way you're supposed to, tapas family style, and ordered way more things than we should have and tried all of them. Highlights were: potatoes bravas with egg, the radicchio salad, and the cast iron frittata. But it truly was all delicious.

The other plus about Tasty n Alder is that while you will have to wait, you are within walking distance of a bunch of stuff downtown, including Powell's, and you don't have to stay close by because they'll text you when you're almost up. Win win.

2. Ping Pong at Pips & Bounce

This is a bar where you can get good drinks and play ping pong. I mean. This concept needs no further improvement.

1. Foot massages at the Barefoot Sage

So, this was blissful. It was TWO FULL HOURS of soaking and massaging our feet and ankles. And dipping them in wax and stuff. The things humans think of! I spent a lot of the first hour thinking about how everyone in the world deserves to experience such a thing, how good it is for our mental health, and how the people who probably need such services the most are the ones that don't have the money to ever experience it, and how unfair everything is, and do these workers ever get tired of massaging our feet because they are really going at it and they must get tired! I spent the second hour thinking about pretty much nothing. If I ever make it big, I will buy a two hour massage at the Barefoot Sage for everyone I know.

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Old Salt Marketplace.

Kathy, Manda, and I have been hitting up a new (to us) restaurant in Portland every month for a few years now. It's one of our finest traditions, and one that I hope to actually document this year. Last month, following through on this tradition felt more important than ever. Post-inauguration of the President Who Shall Not Be Named, we were feeling depleted both mentally and physically from the news and our own acts of protest. And sometimes, even when it feels like the world is ending, you still need to go out for a good meal with your people.

Manda chose Old Salt Marketplace for our first pick of 2017, and she chose WELL. Located on NE 42nd (close by to Doggy Business, one of our favorite, uh, doggy businesses), it serves lunch and supper during the week and brunch on the weekends, as well as offering a bunch of fresh and gross looking meats at their butcher counter. We went for brunch, and I got these migas that...fam. I wasn't even expecting to love as much as I did. The squash that was in it was so delicious and different, and there was this creamy cheese sauce perfectly spread throughout that was delectable, and the tortilla strips added just the right level of crunch. It was positively delightful, let me tell you. There is also something special about their potatoes, which are just slightly smashed and vinegary and golden.

I liked this meal so much that I ended up going back a couple weeks later when my mom was in town, to discover that the migas...were no longer there. Old Salt, like most restaurants in Portland, uses fresh and local foodstuffs in their menus, but unlike other restaurants, this means their menu frequently changes as well. While I was obviously sad about the migas I had been craving, this actually makes me like them more. I had buckwheat crepes stuffed with ham and cheese the second time, which was NOT SHABBY.

Kathy's one complaint about the joint were its chairs. The second time we visited we actually sat at the bar, which is quite a lovely bar, but the first time we were at a table with wooden chairs that Kathy really, really hated, you guys. Just a heads up, Old Salt chair buyers.

Helping soften the blow of the chairs, though, is Miss Zumstein's Bakery, which is attached to Old Salt. After stuffing ourselves on brunch, Kathy found a chocolate cookie here that made her happier than most things in life have ever made her. Including me. Look, I saw the joy on her face. I totally understand.

Old Salt Marketplace: 5027 NE 42nd Ave, PDX, open 9-3 for brunch Saturdays and Sundays, walks-ins and reservations accepted.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

10 Women Who Gave Me Strength in 2016.

I have had this blog since 2009. TWO - THOUSAND - NINE! Barack Obama had just been elected president! I had been on the West Coast for less than two years and everything was fresh and new! We were so young and innocent!

I only posted on here three times in 2016, the least I have ever written since that naive 2009 inception. There are a myriad of personal reasons for that, I know. But on a global scale, too, 2016 was rough. Things feel scary. It's hard to know how to best process, because there is just so much TO process.

But you know what consistently gives me more and more strength with each passing year? The ladies. In an effort to remember the good in 2016, and in honor of the upcoming Women's March on Washington, here are 10+ women that empowered me this year, whether through making me laugh, educating me, or just not backing down from their power and magic. I am in debt to them all.

10. Leslie Jones

Leslie's tweeting during the summer Olympics in Rio was one of the PUREST JOYS OF MY YEAR. PURE. JOY. And I don't care if it got bad reviews, Ghostbusters, and her role in it, also gave me PURE JOY. Remember when no one would make her a dress to wear to the premier? And then Christian Siriano was like, what is wrong with you, I can make this woman beautiful, I mean look at her, you should be able to, too? And he did? And remember when nude photos of her were leaked and the worst of humanity assaulted her online about it, and then she strolled up at the Emmy's and didn't apologize for one goddamned second about the photos but instead said: "I just wanted to feel beautiful, y'all. Can a sister feel beautiful?" I can't even describe how much she took me to church in that moment. It was perfect. Fuck shame. A sister CAN feel beautiful.

9. Samantha Bee

Samantha Bee is the first woman to have her own late night political commentary show (correct me please if I'm wrong on that) and sure, it's only on once a week and sure, it's on effing TBS, but how many Samantha Bee clips did you see friends share on Facebook and Twitter this year? If you didn't see any, why are you even reading this blog, but if you did, it's probably because you have smart friends and Samantha Bee is killing it.

Like all great late night political commentary, she is critical of EVERYONE. This included often being harsher on Hillary than my own sensibilities would agree with this year, but damn if I don't love how little she gives a fuck. About anything or anyone. May she continue to be just as vicious and fearless in 2017, and may more be allowed to follow in her footsteps.

8. The ladies of Another Round.

Another Round was hands down one of my favorite podcasts of 2016. Say what you want about BuzzFeed, but they produce some solid ass podcasts. While Tracy Clayton (@brokeymcpoverty) and Heben Nigatu (@heavenrants) are the two regular hosts, I am also obsessed with Bim Adewunmi (@bimadew), who filled in for Heben on quite a few episodes this year. Importantly, she was with Tracy for the first podcast ep post-election, and while all the other NPR and NPR-ish podcasts I subscribe to were like "Let's be professional and examine this apocalyptic event rationally and logically," which made my absolutely broken and fragile mind want to implode, Bim was like LET ME TELL YOU HOW MANY DIFFERENT WAYS I HAVE CRIED IN THE LAST 48 HOURS, and it was exactly what I needed. I feel like they're all my friends even though they never will be. But like they ARE. In my head. Which is all that matters.

If you're a white woman wanting to Do Better, I highly, highly recommend Another Round. This podcast is not For You, but you will be better for it. I promise.

7. The lady editors of Book Riot.

While I feel bummed that I no longer have the time/motivation/talent to write for Book Riot, the ladies who are in charge of it--and ALL the writers on it, including a great number of awesome dudes--make me so consistently proud that I once did. Amanda Nelson (@ImAmandaNelson), Rebecca Schinsky (@RebeccaSchinsky), and Kelly Jensen (@KellyJensen) are constantly calling the publishing world out on its shit, and I love it so hard. And if someone shows up in their comments or notifications complaining about their promotion of diversity, or their "political correctness" or whatever, they say BYYYEEE and delete and block and never apologize, no matter how much the naysayers whine about "censorship." They respect and collaborate with all of their writers so well and are a fantastic example of how a website and a start-up can be run. 

I truly believe that they, along with the #WeNeedDiverseBooks movement, are changing the book world, and it is in turn going to change the legit world. Seriously.

6. Jessica Williams & Phoebe Robinson

If you are NOT listening to 2 Dope Queens.......................why. Damn, I cannot even handle how fierce they are in this foto.

And NO, I have not read Phoebe's book yet but you KNOW I got some Amazon gift cards for Christmas and you KNOW it's in my shopping cart.

5. Beyonce

Listen. I know Lemonade was not made for me and I will never think it was but damn if it didn't shape my year anyway. I was so empowered and centered by so many of its songs, whether I was playing them at the gym or as loud as I could on the way home from work, or just in my head when the real world was pissing me off. Her and Kendrick Lamar's performance of Freedom on the BET Awards--I cannot even think about them kicking that water with so much defiance and strength without getting chills. I hope I never stop getting chills thinking about it.

Remember her performance at the Superbowl? Remember how people wanted to boycott her afterwards? Remember how she then sold BOYCOTT BEYONCE shirts at her tour? See, 2016 did grant us some gifts. We are truly blessed in this world while Beyonce is in it.

4. Joy Reid

2016 saw the passing of Melissa Harris-Perry's show on MSNBC, a passing that I grieved like a dear friend, because it was. RIP #nerdland, forever. I have yet to find something exactly like it, something as smart and inspiring and informative and reassuring. So since I can't have my weekend doses of MHP anymore, the only reason I would ever turn on cable news again, the only reason in this whole wide world after this election, is Joy Reid.

If you're not following Joy Reid, whether on her show (AM Joy, although she frequently fills in for other MSNBC hosts on their respective shows) or on Twitter (@JoyAnnReid), you are missing out on one of the most solid sources we have these days to get information about this wretched world. She just does it all right. She's smart and serious and kind and funny but doesn't pull any BS. She's just good. We're going to have to stand up for our journalists tooth and nail over the next few years. Follow her. Fight for her.

3. Tobin Heath

It is hard for me to write at all objectively or even coherently about Tobin Heath because of my HARDCORE AND FOREVER RAGING FAN GIRL CRUSH ON HER. Ahem. But look at this picture. Look at the expressions on those girls' faces.

The Portland Thorns (and Tobin Heath) meant more to me personally this year than I think I ever could have expected, but on a worldwide level, I think what this photograph captures can change lives. Women's soccer is at such an exciting spot right now. The Thorns are getting attendance numbers as high as the Timbers, and the passion and commitment and support Portland gives to the Thorns are a keystone in the success of the NWSL. Each year that the NWSL is successful, the more it can expand, and the more countries around the world start to support their own women's soccer teams and leagues, and the more girls around the world can start looking like these girls. With their own heroes to look up to.

And hopefully, one day soon, these talented, hard working badasses can GET. EQUAL. PAY. Because every single excuse against it just doesn't even make sense anymore. When it comes to soccer in the US, they're the ones making you money, Soccer Powers That Be. Your fucking move.

2. Hillary

I don't care about why you don't like her. I just really don't anymore. I will never again in my lifetime try to see her through the eyes of millions of voters who thought a racist, incompetent, mentally unbalanced sexual abuser was better than her. I will not read think pieces about "why she lost." I don't give a shit. I know why she lost. Your opinions are irrelevant.

Here is what I care about. I care that in the face of utter ridiculousness, of callousness, of cruelty, of ignorance and dishonesty and the basest qualities of humanity and America, she never forgot the best ones. She never lost her dignity. And somehow--some freaking how--she never stopped caring. Never in our history has there been a woman in the public eye that was beat up so many times, but still kept fighting. I honestly don't know how she did it.

She lost. But she changed things. She still broke ceilings. No one ever got as far as her before, and I think her loss is going to mobilize a future of feminists that will blow all of our minds. She wasn't perfect. But she made us better. She made me better. And there is nothing a sad, bitter old man can say on Twitter to change that.

1. Michelle Obama

Sometimes I feel like I can't even look at her when she walks onto my TV screen or my social media feeds anymore. She is too beautiful. She is too elegant. Too genuine and kind and smart. Too human. She is too wonderful for words.

The Obama presidency wasn't perfect. A lot of people are quick to say that right now, as the nation starts to reflect on the legacy of the last eight years. And I think that's important, in time. But I don't know if I need to hear all the criticisms right now, right now when so many of us are grieving what's about to be lost, what's already lost. When we are so afraid of what's to come. Of what's happening.

All I need to think about right now is that for the past eight years, this woman and the gorgeous family she led lived in the White House. They invited more people of color into their home, into our nation's home, than had ever been there before, more queer people, more of Our People. She was warm and inviting and funny. Her fashion was flawless. She hardly stumbled over one single word of her speeches. Her eyes were rich and alive and comforting. She belonged there. She was grace. In a way, she centered us all.

And while ugliness is moving in, rolling in waves of dark, blotchy, foreboding storm clouds, one small thing that's giving me peace is that Michelle Obama will still exist in this world. She'll still be able to give talks and appear on talk shows or just do whatever the hell she wants. She can choose to never be in the public eye again, if she wants. But we'll still know she's there. And we'll remember that we can be good. We'll remember that we can be great.

Monday, June 27, 2016

Best : February 2016.

It has been so long since I've done one of these. Do I even know how to do one of these? Can I even remember what I did in February? Trying to catch up on these will be such a shit show but I do like shit shows and I am also a little drunk, so let's try it anyway!

I obvs can't remember what meals I cooked in February, but I DO know that our restaurant of the month was Pip's Original Doughnuts, a PDX food cart/van turned into a SUPER POPULAR AND HIP brick and mortar store on Fremont. Pip's jam is mini donuts and chai. So like, how could you not like that. The donuts are good but what I was really drawn to was the chai--you can get a FLIGHT OF CHAI! Like beer, but CHAI! Not all the chai actually tasted that wonderful to me but STILL! A CHAI FLIGHT! We got there nice and early so we didn't have to wait in line too long, but if you get there after 8:30 on a weekend, good luck to ya. I feel a little jaded about Pip's now because I decided to follow them on Instagram and they post way too much. Like, we get it! People enjoy your mini donuts! I see it every day! Of course I could always make the decision to unfollow them on Instagram but I apparently prefer to keep looking at their photos and complaining about them!

Damn, I read a lot of books in February. Good for me. OK, let's try to run this down real quick!

George by Alex Gino is the cutest and the best book for elementary/middle grade kiddos about being transgender you will ever read, or that at least exists right now, for sure. I am so, so happy it exists. Even though it's really meant for even younger readers, I got it for my middle school and I've seen quite a few kids pick it up and look at it and while only a couple kids have actually checked it out, no one has complained about it yet, so SCORE for me!!

Liesl & Po by Lauren Oliver is just a really lovely, lovely fairy tale that reminded me why I love upper elementary/middle grade books so much. I truly feel like some of the best writing in the world exists at this age level. Like all fairy tales, this was often incredibly sad but enchanting and beautiful.

Goodbye Stranger by Rebecca Stead, okay, I can't remember exactly what happens in this book other than I liked it. I don't know if any of her books will suck me in like When You Reach Me did, but I remember Goodbye Stranger touching on so many good real life shit themes, and that it was a bit of a slow burn, but Rebecca Stead writes so beautifully that it was all worth it. Man, what a great review. Read her books, okay.

Just One Day by Gayle Forman, awww, I loved this book so much! Which was surprising to me because I despised If I Stay like a lot! But this was the perfect sweeping epic romance. And it takes place in Paris! In guess what, just one day! It was also V. SEXY at points! Just a really fun satisfying read.

So in 2015 I tried to have a Best TV/Movies pick for each month, but in 2016 the reality so far has been that I've listened to and been entertained by way more podcasts than I have TV or movies. So this year I'll still give shout outs to movies/TV that deserve it but also try to remember some of my favorite podcast eps because some of them have been real gems.

I don't know if I would call Anatomy of Doubt a "gem" because "gem" implies happiness and goodness and there is absolutely none of that here! Jesus Christ this episode of This American Life wrecked me to the very bone. This iTunes description says it's a story about doubt but here's the truth, it's about fucking rape and rape culture! And how easy it is for women to be shamed into silence when every single person in their lives doubts their pain, even when they're brave enough to tell it. And how even when it's proven beyond a shadow of a doubt that you were telling the truth, people, including the people who are supposed to love you the most, will look for any scrap of guilt they can project back onto you. To still make it your fault somehow. So yeah, this made my brain turn into a fiery ball of rage! But it's important and anything ProPublica touches is pretty fantastic and you should listen to it. But take a deep breath first.

My memory is especially poor when it comes to music so I don't know if it was February exactly when I obnoxiously played this song over and over, but at some point early in this year, I definitely played this song over and over. At this point I've played it so many times that it's lost its magic, sadly, but for a good while it just made me SO HAPPY. 

This song also now reminds me of one day this spring. I was playing a mix of music in my middle school library while preparing for an event and one of my favorite students, a white girl, was helping me, and when "My House" came on she was like "I LOVE this song!" And then told this story about how she was talking about loving this song in class once and a fellow white student said to her, "Oh, I didn't know you were into THAT music," and I said to her, "What does that even mean?" (even though I know what it meant) and she said "I KNOW, right??" So don't worry guys, in 2016 children are still judging even the most banal music made by black people! (I know. I know their brains are tiny and they will learn and grow. They will.)

All right, now on to the best STUFF of February two thousand sixteen! Much of our time was occupied by our brand new PUPPIESSS and while Fury (on the right) is pretty much the same here, omg, Tegan (on the left) looks like such a baby! She was also probably being a massive and exhausting pain in the ass to Manda, but so cuuuuuute.

One of my major goals of the new year was to walk all 30 miles of the Wildwood Trail in Forest Park, one because I've always wanted to, and two because I needed to start training in long distance hikes for my PCT backpacking trip this summer, and Wildwood offered a good alternative to tougher, further out hikes that were still packed in with snow. (My PCT adventure is now less than two weeks away as I'm writing this! And in case you are reading this and don't know, I have a PCT blog on Tumblr now!) I actually didn't complete the entire trail until March, BUT I'm pretty sure February included the weekend where I did a 12 mile day on Wildwood, which was tiring but satisfying. Even though it's technically within a city park, Wildwood still feels pretty wild. Manda was essential in me completing the whole thing, as she took time out of many weekends to drop me off and pick me up along the trail this winter, which was pretty great, but that's the kind of friend Manda is.

Every winter around Valentine's Day, our favoritest friends Ashley and Kelly come to Portland from Seattle for an event they have lovingly termed LIVER SHIVER because we drink a lot and it's cold. We are HONORED to be invited to this outstanding tradition, but this year Kathy was sick as a dog. So I left her at home and went out drinking in her honor, because that's just the kind of wife I am! We went to Gigantic Brewing where Fury was petrified to be on one of her first public outings and where we just happened to run into one of my favorite dogs of all time, Taylor (Taylor's owners aren't too bad either!), then to Hopworks, then to Cascade Brewing, then to Gold Dust Meridian where we made a really great choice to get one of those huge bowls of alcohol that you order when you've just turned 21. I should say just Ashley and I made that choice. That one's on us.

In the next couple weeks I'm hoping to get in as much reading and writing and depressing documentary watching as possible--in other words, all of my favorite things--before I leave for the trail. Maybe in that time I'll drink more and be inspired to catch up on the best of March and April and May and June! OR I will write about all those things in six months. Hard to say! I like to keep you on your toes.