Friday, June 26, 2015

Amazing Grace.

Last week, I watched a documentary called Limited Partnership. It told the tale of Richard Adams and Tony Sullivan, two homos who fell in love in LA over forty years ago. The one kink in their love story was that Tony was actually Australian, just visiting the US when he first met Richard. In order to stay--his childhood in Australia being extremely abusive, he had extra reason to not want to return--they thought getting married was the one solution. An extremely kind and adorable feminist behind a clerk's counter in Boulder, Colorado granted them their wish. 

As you would expect, the federal government did not deem this marriage certificate from Boulder in 1975 valid. In fact, Tony received an official response from the INS that stated: 
"You have failed to establish that a bona fide marital relationship can exist between two faggots."
This quote became an integral part of Tony and Richard's story, but I knew nothing about their story before watching this movie, and my mouth dropped open when the end of that sentence was read. An official of my government sent that out. If there were any superiors at the INS that reviewed that letter, they didn't find anything wrong with it, either.

After many failed lawsuits, Tony was deported, but eventually sneaked back into the US. He continued living with Richard illegally for decades, not being able to work or receive benefits, not being able to live openly as a US citizen--not that he exactly hid. I think the INS gave up the fight of chasing Tony out of the country eventually, but of course, that doesn't mean he actually won.

Perhaps the most heartbreaking part of the documentary was a section that took place during the '80s, I think, where, after continually losing legal battles, they thought public opinion could help sway power to their plight. They went on Donahue, where a bitter woman, among other guests, spewed the most vile hatred at them, shouting from the audience in her shoulder-padded power suit, while they both sat quietly, placidly on stage--not angry, just hurt, vulnerable, and sad.

In the end--bit of a spoiler alert here--Richard's health declines; he gets cancer. Their lawyer strongly urges them to renew their vows in a state where marriage is now legal, something they've never done, to make sure that their old Boulder marriage holds up federally if Richard dies. In the last recorded interview with both of them on screen, planning this trip to get married again, Richard says, in his weak, strained words, that he loves Tony more than ever. He dies the next day.

I spent a lot of time during this documentary feeling humbled with my own gay privilege, and thinking about how often you hear that gay rights have swept the country so quickly. I married the love of my life in the first state to ever legalize gay marriage; filing for our license was easy and never questioned. We've filed joint federal tax forms for two years now. I have a lot of guilt and conflict in my heart about the fact that I've stayed mostly closeted at my new job for the past year. But when I cross the bridge over the Columbia River and come home again each day, I breathe freely; my muscles relax; I know I can be who I truly am, without complete fear of violence. I have lived in liberal cities for the last decade, taken the easy road. I work in a conservative town, but I was still able to walk into my HR office and ask if I could add my wife onto my insurance benefits and they didn't blink an eye, because they were legally bound not to. 

Yet Tony and Richard--and so many others--fought for decades; hid for decades. Tony kept saying, "Those were hard years," in reference to being deported, in reference to all their friends dying from AIDS and being blamed for their own deaths; in reference to being publicly humiliated and harassed on the Donahue show. "Those were hard times," he kept having to say, over and over and over.

When the words came on the screen that Richard died, before they could renew their marriage vows, before they could hear the Supreme Court normalize their life, I actually said "No," out loud and broke out into sobs. It was so unfair. One of the last scenes is Tony watching the news about the fall of DOMA, alone in his pajamas. He calls Richard's sister, happy, but sad, wishing Richard was there to see it. The last update to hit the screen before the credits roll is that Tony is again petitioning for citizenship, as the widower of an American citizen. He is still, in 2015, fighting.

I've read a decent amount of LGBT history--most LGBT people have. But even as a lesbo, I had never heard of Richard and Tony, even though their story seemed pretty important, pretty pioneering. I thought about how much of my own history I still need to learn, how much more meaningful knowing this history makes current events.


Yesterday, I watched a documentary called Love Free or Die, about now infamously out Anglican Bishop Gene Robinson from New Hampshire. Yes, watching documentaries that make me cry is a nasty habit of mine, and no, they're not always about gay people. PBS has just really been gaying up my DVR recently, completely out of my control.

Anyway, most of this one wasn't news to me, as I'm already familiar with Robinson. But there was a section at the end that just had me crying and crying and crying, for the same reason that I always cry at the Gay Pride Parade, as I did here in Portland a couple weekends ago. He was speaking at a church in NYC before their Pride Parade, and his plan for the day that he implored his parishioners to join him in was to pass out cups of water to the parade participants. It was such a simple act, this passing out of water, just like it's a relatively simple act for all the churches and synagogues and mosques to march in Pride Parades, as so many now do. But sometimes simple acts of kindness really do just knock you flat on your ass. Especially when there's emotional instrumental music flowing in the background.

"It's not enough to pull the people out of a raging stream who are drowning," Robinson says. "We have to walk back upstream and find out who's throwing them in in the first place."


I have been thinking a lot about religion lately. After spending every Sunday in church growing up, I stopped going when I went to college and obtained my own free will, perhaps for obvious reasons. Yet one of the most prickly topics for Kathy and I over the last ten years has been Catholicism--I still have this stubborn desire to defend it, even when I know the church has done so many wrongs, even though I still don't feel comfortable walking back into a Sunday mass again. My defense is often illogical to Kathy, because, well, it is illogical. Most deeply rooted emotions that we don't truly understand are. The election and continuing reign of Pope Francis has been raising my Catholicism defenses to all-new heights, almost making me want to be Catholic again. Almost.

And then this year, a student of mine that I find a particular affinity with stays after school sometimes just to talk and rant about life. One day, he begins complaining, loudly, about religion, a topic that he continues to talk about in other after-school chats, about how all the Christians at this school are hateful bigots, how all religion is stupid. And it's wrong to automatically tell him he's wrong, because some of these Christians have indeed said hateful things to him, supposedly in the name of God, and it's important to not erase that. But immediately I find myself protesting this bold, blanket statement of his, imploring him that he can't just say that all Christians are bad. If we did, we'd be doing the same exact thing as people who say that all gay people are bad. That there are a lot of religious people who do really good things and are in fact not hateful bigots.

For the record, I don't think he bought it, but it's often hard to buy what an adult's telling you when you're a teen and everything sucks.


This weekend, most of Melissa Harris-Perry's Sunday show was taken up with the live broadcast from Emanuel AME in Charleston, the first Sunday service since the terrorist massacre last Wednesday. The crowds spilled out onto the street. And I know I shouldn't have been surprised, but as a white formerly-Catholic girl, it was still shocking to me to witness how this church and community that had been brutalized to horrific lengths carried out their Sunday worship. There was hurt and anger and sorrow, of course, but the church choir that was on the front steps, singing to the people on the sidewalk and in the street, were singing upbeat, joyful sounding songs, swinging their hips back and forth. And when the preacher spoke inside, he kept making the congregants laugh. He kept making me laugh! The call and response of that church this Sunday was so powerful but also so normal: it was what black churches have done to lift their people up for centuries.

Today, after a joyful morning of absorbing myself in as much happy Internet pride as I could after the Supreme Court declared gay marriage the law of the land, I sat down and watched President Obama deliver the eulogy for the Reverend Clementa Pinckney at an arena in Charleston, one of the nine slain during bible study last week, a man that Obama and his family knew personally. The speech was unreal. It almost felt like I was having an out-of-body experience, it felt so spiritual and righteous and true. He talked about Pinckney and he talked about racism--the real, insidious racism that poisons our country, that has poisoned our country from the beginning. He talked about God, and grace, and he talked about them a lot. The call and response that I had witnessed on Sunday continued, but it was more charged this time, a deep electricity pulsing through it, because this was the president of the United States. And he was taking. us. to. church.

And while I believe fiercely in the separation of church and state, while I believe those lines are still far too blurred in too many of our public schools and institutions today, at that moment, I wanted to go to church. I needed to go to church, something I didn't know until I started listening to Obama's sermon. The talk of grace and hope and resolve felt so healing, such a release, after all the anger and fear I've been bottling up since last Wednesday. The anger and fear won't go away, and shouldn't, but man, did going to church feel good. When he started singing Amazing Grace, I felt weak in the knees. It was the most unreal moment of the whole speech, but it was only because of all the words he had said before he got to that hymn, all the truths he had spoken that we've been needing to hear him say. He had preached so intensely that by the time he started singing those words, we were all there. We were there with him, and I hate that we had to get there because of this atrocious act of hate, but it's moments like these when you are there that you truly feel that hate can never win. And without those moments, we are all lost.

It wasn't my church. I was just sitting in my living room in my pajamas. But I was awfully glad I was able to be there.


It was not surprising to me, when flipping through news stations this morning, that Fox News had guests on that started talking about how the Supreme Court ruling today sets up a future war on religious freedom. That people who believe in the sanctity of one man, one woman are now somehow going to be persecuted, that somehow, they are not going to be able to live their lives freely.

This week I also read a book called Audacity, a fictionalized novel-in-verse about teenage labor union fighter Clara Lemlich in the early 20th century in New York City. In one poem, she talks about how the garment shop owners hired men to come to the picket line and tell all the Italian girls that the union leaders hated them, and the only reason they were really on strike was to get rid of them. The Italian girls went back to their workstations.
It is a tactic as old 
as the stars,
the poem read. 
and conquer.
The divisiveness that Fox News tries to cultivate is so transparent, so boring, and most of all, so demeaning to people who truly see and hear their God, who are truly people of faith. By saying that gay marriage is going to lead to a war on religious freedom, one assumes that religion is automatically against gay marriage. This is such a disservice to so many faithful and loving Christians today, to so many Jews, to Muslims and Buddhists and WhateverReligionYouWant. 

There is this perceived division in America that either you respect the Bible or you don't; that you either love the gays or you hate Jesus; that you are either red or blue. And I think so much of it is such a lie. I think people, in general, are so much smarter, so much braver than you would believe. 

Because Gene Robinson may be one of the gayest people I have ever witnessed. He is so gay. But goodness, does he love God. So much. And I think a lot of people are just like him.

You don't have to love God, of course! You don't have to believe in anything! But the possibility that you could, while also being gay or lesbian or gender-binary-smashing, that you could contain multitudes--why is that so hard to accept? In what world does containing multitudes make us weaker, not stronger?


I kept thinking during Limited Partnership that if I had so much more to learn about LGBT history, imagine what the general populace could learn about LGBT history! 

And a second after that, I thought, imagine if every non-black person knew the history of Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina? The hatred and the strength that had already vibrated through those walls over the decades before a terrorist stepped into it last week? That, as Obama said today, it is a phoenix? That it has already risen from the ashes and it will again?

Imagine if these stories were told in history books. Imagine if students across the nation knew the name Harvey Milk as well as they knew Abraham Lincoln. If students knew the name Clementa Pinckney as well as Martin Luther King. If they knew about the transwomen that sparked a movement at Stonewall Inn; if they knew about the number of trans people that have been killed in 2015. (According to Wikipedia, at least 14.) If we all knew each other's history a little bit better, imagine what the world could be.


I hadn't been thinking about the Supreme Court decision that much lately. I knew it was coming, and because of the way recent history's been leaning, I hoped and suspected it would be good news. But I live and work in states where my marriage is already recognized; the federal government recognized it, too. This decision, in a way, wouldn't affect me at all.

But then when it happened today, and I thought about all those people in states that never would have passed gay marriage on their own--all those queers in Mississippi, in Alabama, in Oklahoma, in Georgia--and I thought about all those people fighting immigration battles like Tony and Richard that can be hinged on marriage, and all the people who don't get to sit by their love's deathbeds. 

And I thought about all the people who never got to see this. The dykes and trans warriors of Stonewall, the queens of the New York balls that bravely vogued their way to dignity, the fallen activists of ACT UP. Richard Adams. Jonathan Larson. Leslie Feinberg. All the icons that would have declared marriage a patriarchal piece of bullshit anyway, god bless them. And I was overcome.

And a few hours later, I thought of all the slaves, the activists, the allies, the regular beautiful people that never got to see a black president sing, simply and movingly, Amazing Grace from the pulpit of a black church to the entire United States of America. How surreal it would have seemed to them that this black president was only singing from this pulpit because black people were slaughtered in their church--again--but what an overwhelming moment this would still seem, what a teetering precipice of hope.

How lucky are we. What a responsibility we have; what a future to protect.


Our president quoted Clementa Pinckney in his eulogy today, and all of my thoughts from the past week or so were crystallized, affirmed.
"Across the south, we have a deep appreciation of history. 
We haven’t always had a deep appreciation of each other’s history.”

Imagine if, even just for a few days a year, we could all go to each other's churches, whether they're in the heart of Charleston or on Christopher Street.

And imagine if we just listened.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Best: January 2015.

A lot of terror and hurt has been happening in the world lately. I've almost written about it here a hundred times, and I hope I still will, eventually, when I have adequate words, because if there's one thing I know it's that we have to talk about it. We have to talk about a lot of things.

But I still need to call out the good things in life that I like. To be able to do so at a time like this is definitely a privilege I have, but I'm going to push forward anyway at the same time that I own that privilege. And by 'push forward,' I actually mean rewinding to January.

2015 started with a reading bang for me, one of those runs where every book you pick up seems awesome and perfect and written just for you. If only these runs lasted forever! Jacqueline Woodson has always been one of my faves, but brown girl dreaming truly felt like a gift. A memoir told in verse, this is supposedly for middle readers but is really just for humans. Following her childhood from the North to the South and back again, this book aches of family and belonging and identity and longing and all the things Jacqueline Woodson's poetry says that I can't. I was so grateful for it, and it was so deserving of all the awards it racked up.

Ready Player One was the exact opposite, but so damn fun, the most fun I've had reading a book in years and years. I stayed up way past my bed time several times reading it because I was so wrapped up in its world, something my old lady body can hardly do for any book these days! And I don't even care about video games, and video games take up pretty much this whole book! It is spectacular and deserving of exclamation points! Steven Spielberg is slated to make the movie and I know it's Spielberg and all but still, YOU BETTER DO IT REAL GOOD, STEVE.

I made a couple actually decent meals this month, both just served over rice, one easy, one kind of a pain in the ass, but both delish! One was chicken tikka masala, everyone's favorite not-actually-Indian Indian dish. I used a recipe from the sriracha cookbook Manda got me for Christmas, which involved some marinating of the chicken for a while, among other things. Marinating chicken always ends up being worth it but like, you have to plan? And take extra time? Anyway, I also happened to make the basmati rice pretty perfectly, if I do say so myself, and it was a wonderful combo of tangy and creamy and spice.

My other favorite meal of the month was the "Cheater" Korean Beef Bowl from Damn Delicious, and lesbe honest, I think those should actually be triple quotation marks, because I don't think this thing authentically resembles any dish related to Korea. It is basically ground beef with brown sugar and soy sauce. BUT MAN does ground beef with brown sugar and soy sauce taste good! I added peas and potatoes to the mix, so, HEALTHY.

This whole year thus far belongs to T. Swizzle, both on a personal level and in terms of world domination, but winter was really all 1989 all the time for me.

Jill's Top 5 1989 Tracks, A List That She May or May Not Have Spent Several Hours of Commuting Time Contemplating:
  1. How You Get the Girl (I WOULD WAIT FOREVER AND EVER!)
  2. Welcome to New York (BOYS AND BOYS AND GIRLS AND GIRLS!)
  5. Shake It Off (Dwayne The Rock Johnson helped put this one on the list because now I REALLY can't listen to this song without smiling!!!)

We attended the Portland Dog Show at the Expo Center for the first time ever this month and it was...weird. It was so weird. And okay, to be truthful, I got really tired and moody towards the end of it but the weirdness of it all, and the fact that I got to see so many Newfoundlands and Bernese Mountain Dogs and St. Bernards all at once--all while getting to drink beer and eat salty soft pretzels--definitely marks it as the best thing I did during the inaugural month of 2015.

I went to the movies a few times in January, and saw other really great movies, like The Theory of Everything, but no other thing stuck in my mind and heart this month as much as Selma, a movie that was released at a strangely, heartbreakingly appropriate time. The work of Ava DuVernay and all of the actors in this film is remarkable and important, and I wish every single American watched it, and had conversations with each other about the real messages its stories told, and not about how the President was portrayed, as the President was a relatively minor character in all of it. The fact that LBJ was what America wanted to talk about in relation to a movie about MLK is all too apropos of what we do and do not talk about in America in 2015, what we shine light on and what we hide. It doesn't have to do with truth, but with what we're afraid of.

Watch movies about our history, read things, have conversations, rename that godforsaken bridge, and for the love of all that is good in this world, take down that damn flag.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Best : May 2015.

Oh hello there, beautiful little blog! Didn't see you there! Probably because I haven't updated you for five months! And last time I did update you, it was to post a humongo list of EVERYTHING I DID IN 2014 THAT I LIKED (okay almost everything) and it was great but also long and took a week to compile which was satisfying in the end but also annoying.

But it's 2015 now! Summer is in the air and I can feel it in my bones! And I have plans for you, beautiful little blog. This go 'round, instead of blogging once a year in a mind-numbing burst, I'm setting a goal of writing at least once a month about the good things that have been filling my brain parts. The best things, even. I will call this series Best. That previous sentence was a bit of a spoiler, wasn't it?

You also might have heard this, but it is June now. I know! WTF! As this is my second post of the year, I am clearly a bit behind in my once-a-month ambitions. I'm about to unroll the Best of May 2015, but I do really want to catch up on the previous months, too. I have notes in my phone about what the Best Things were of all those previous months and everything--whatta nerd!--it's just taken me this long to actually fully write one of them down here.

So after today, I'll work on catching up retroactively, and then hopefully I'll get on track. This is an over-explanation. Which is not new for me. Things Jill Likes definitely needs an editor.

I loved Americanah from the first page. What a knockout, gut punch of a novel. The hardest parts for me to read were when Ifemelu first came to America--well, a lot of her time in America, really--and Obinze's time in London. An epic about race, immigration, Lagos, America, and love. And blogging. But mainly the other stuff.

I also want to note that May was the month that I set up my own pull box at a local comic store for the first time. Nerd achievement: unlocked! I'll write about the comics I've been reading in another post because they deserve their own undivided attention.

I don't know if it's the on-point '90s references or if it's just all Jessica, but Fresh Off the Boat, which I was introduced to way late in the game this month, makes me laugh out loud. I love Jessica more and more each episode. And when I say love I mean I. LOVE. HER. This and Blackish are so good and promising and I hope that they are signs of more things to come--even more complex and even more funny stories of people that have been ignored by mainstream media for too long--not just a brilliant but brief ABC experiment of 2015.

These are new shoes I bought this month. They make me feel super cute!

I have been generally boring with music lately and just *whisper* listen to the radio *un-whisper* but gosh darnit, that "Shut Up and Dance" song is my jam. I also really love "Renegades" by the X Ambassadors which is that "long live the pioneers" song from that Jeep commercial and yes that Jeep commercial was how I first heard it oh god I am so old and embarrassing. The new Brandi single is also smashing DUH but I still haven't listened to the full new album yet so MORE TO COME ON THAT probs. 

Also let's talk about Janelle Monae and her backup dancers when she performed "Yoga" on The Tonight Show:

How I wish yoga was actually just like this.

Man oh man was I bad at food this month. I made a couple new recipes that were OK, a few standby favorites that didn't even taste as awesome as remembered, and ate a whole lot of fast food. But! I did get to visit the Portland Mercado with Kathy and Manda at the end of the month and man oh man was it neat. 

While pretty much every other development in Portland and the Pacific Northwest as a whole appears to be goddamn awful and soul sucking lately, the Portland Mercado, down the street from us on Foster, is a diamond in the rough: a bursting-with-life, bursting-with-success authentic community project. It's described as "the first Latino public market in Portland" and has pretty much everything you need: coffee, alcohol, groceries, candy, and chorizo. AND eight colorful food carts out front that each tell their own story from different corners of the Latin American world. This is a mole bowl from the Mixteca cart and it was good but now I just want to go back and try EVERYTHING ELSE.

I'm going to try to narrow down a thing I did each month that was my favorite but there will often be multiple things, as there are this month. The first notable thing we did was an urban scavenger hunt, which I thought was going to involve alcohol but actually just involved hula hooping and jumping in water fountains and talking to strangers and pretending to dance at a make believe quinceanera. It was very silly but very fun and Manda made us all matching t-shirts that said Darryl's Lesbian Haircut, which is our trivia name, which is a Walking Dead reference. Do I watch The Walking Dead? Of course not, fool. 

This is us making a ring around the world's smallest public park. It's a thing; look it up.

Kathy, Manda, and I also went on a hike at Latourell Falls, my second time doing the loop, which is a near perfect little hiking loop: awesome upper falls, awesome lower falls, Columbia River Gorge overlooks, inclines and declines, walking under a gothic feeling bridge, and a memorably odd tree. JP went with and was so tired and adorable in the back seat on the way home that I just about died.

Friends Katie and Todd also got married this month, which included a karaoke bachelorette party that began at Chopsticks III and ended with me having a serious conversation with a pitbull named Mixie on Becky's kitchen floor. It also involved a weekend full of shopping for new clothes which was almost shockingly irresponsible but also WAY FUN. And then of course there was a wedding in a barn in the Willamette Valley where you could see three Cascade peaks and lots of horses and llamas and the ceremony involved some killer Bob Seger references and even though it was hot we did our best to make it a dance party.

That was fun. Just wait until you hear about all the best of JanuaryFebruaryMarchApril!

Saturday, January 3, 2015

2014: Some Highlights.

2014 had some tough times, but overall, it was actually awesome. So awesome in fact that it took me three days to compile this thing. Sorry (to myself) that I've been so slack at actually documenting all of this throughout the year, but here I am now to make up for all those months of silence. Get ready to be OVERWHELMED WITH THE AWESOMENESS of this highlight reel AND ALSO OVERWHELMED WITH HOW MANY TIMES I CAN SAY AWESOME IN ONE POST (it is a lot).

In January, we went to Florida to visit Kathy's brother. I spent a lot of time in Florida as a kid, but hadn't been back in a long time. I went to Disneyworld after graduating college in 2006 but that doesn't really count; Disney is its own state. In terms of an actual visit, it'd been a long time. The trip was great and fun and brought back Florida-y feels that I forgot I had, especially when coupled with family.

Snow! It snowed last winter, a real snow, which doesn't always happen in Portland. We made a (pathetic) (amazing) snowman. We took a walk in the snow with our dog and everything was peaceful and cold.

We won an award at trivia, an award that didn't even make sense because we had no idea people considered us foes. Like, we don't even win that often, you guys. We got trophies. What even. When playing weekly trivia wasn't enough geekery for us, our trivia team had board game nights. Or we just drank and played games at other bars. Because that is what grown ups do.

The Boston Marathon is one of Kathy's and my most favorite things in the world, and the 2013 bombings affected us in a way I can't fully describe. So it was important to us to return again this year, and somehow we made it happen. Plus, the timing of the marathon this year meant that we got to see not only great friends (plus baby!) but also family for Easter. Seeing family for holidays is a rarer and rarer thing these days, so all in all, what a fantastic trip. I will always love that dirty water.

While I've taken many, many trips to the Oregon coast, we took one in the spring that seemed particularly magic: a visit to Hug Point at low tide where there are waterfalls on the beach and caves and all sorts of wizardry, and then an overnight stay in what I believe was my first true oceanfront room. We be fancy!

The Wooden Shoe Tulip Festival: be still my little heart, every single time.

I took my first library class at Portland State's Graduate School of Education back in--2008, I believe? I finished all of my regular classes but then took some time off to get another master's and do some classroom teaching and try to make some money and be a writer and who knows what else, because that's the way I am, but this year I finally decided to finish my library degree for real. This meant doing two practicums--one at an elementary school, one at a high school, and then doing an additional practicum this summer at a public library. Along the way I got to visit a bunch of other unique libraries I probably never would have visited before, from the state library in Salem to art museum libraries to medical libraries. A lot of finishing up my degree was really stressful, but a lot of it was also really awesome, and affirming to me that the library just really is where I belong, and probably where I always meant to be from the time I picked up a Roald Dahl book when I was 8.

While I didn't take as many hikes this year as I wanted to, JP and I did take an awesome hike to Dry Creek Falls last new year's day, and Kathy and I hiked Cape Horn in Washington this summer, along with some other shorter hikes we did on trips. I'm hoping to get out more in 2015 and actually document more of my hikes in my seriously nerdy hiking blog.

In early summer, we headed back east to my home state of Pennsylvania for my cousin Brian's wedding to his lovely wife Ann. The wedding was in Lancaster County and Kathy and I arrived a few days early for a mini-vacation for ourselves before the festivities, and we really Amish-ed it up hard. What we learned is that the Amish can be kind of amazing and also that that many horse and buggies alongside cars zooming along roads is really strange. Anyway, the wedding was at a spectacular venue, and I took a lot of pictures, and cried a lot. My family weddings are better than your family weddings. I bet you a hundred dollars. (Notreally)

Kathy's parents came out for a nice long visit during the summer. We ate a lot of food and went to the coast and hung out on Mt. Tabor and I made them my peanut butter chicken, among other things.

Kathy, Manda and I took a day trip to Mt. Rainier, wherein I realized that Mt. Rainier is really too far away for a day trip, and it was hot as eff and the air conditioning in our car doesn't work and also Kathy was really sick for the whole long trip home. BUT! It was a really beautiful day, and we got to drive all the way to Sunrise Visitor Center, where I had never been before. Mt. Rainier is an insane place. The Earth is insane.

Along with the (dude) World Cup happening in 2014, we got to attend a few futbol games PDX style, which, let's be honest, is the best futbol style you can get in the US of A. Kathy and I got free tickets (thank you, Tiffany and Fred!) to a Timbers game, but the real joys of our hearts were the Thorns matches we saw, even if we didn't end up season champions this year. If we can swing it, we're hoping to get season tickets for the Thorns in 2015, because WOMEN'S SOCCER 4-EVAH. 

My mom visited in August, and we went on a rather epic road trip through Central Oregon. We started with a really interesting hike on Mt. Hood, then had lots of good eats and long walks in Bend, and then visited Crater Lake. And JP got to go along for the whole thing!

Speaking of road trips, we took another one to Southern Oregon with Kim to see Bela Fleck perform with the Britt Festival Orchestra in Jacksonville. Britt Fest is a music festival set in gorgeous hills that a lot of old white people really love. Like Tanglewood in the Berkshires but in Southern Oregon. So basically, I felt right at home. We spent the rest of the time stuffing cheese and chocolate and ice cream in our faces, as one should always do on road trips in the summertime.

For Manda's birthday, we had a touristy weekend in Seattle since she had never been there, and it was awesome because Seattle is always awesome. Seattle. Is. The. Best. In addition to all the classic stuff, we also did some things I'd never done before, like visiting the salmon fish ladder at Ballard Locks and actually visiting a Top Pot.

Throughout the year, we got to take a few random trips to Eugene/Springfield (really, Springfield) to visit Kim and Cliff, which feels a bit like a second home. Sorry, East Coast, we know you love them too, but man, are we glad that Kim and Cliff are back in Oregon. These trips included staying in their brand new adorable house, going to a Ducks football game for the first time (apparently a good year to do so), getting introduced to Ticket to Ride which has CHANGED MY LIFE FOR THE BETTER, and lots of delicious meals at Plank Town and Addi's Diner.

This fall, to celebrate ten years of being together, Kathy and I went to the San Juan Islands, north of Seattle. We stayed on Orcas Island at Pebble Cove Farm, which I almost don't want to tell anyone about because I want it to be OURS. But seriously, it was the type of place where we walked onto the property and said, here, we want to come back here, next year and every year. The whole trip was once of the most peaceful trips of my entire life. The Northwest continues to amaze me with all of its ridiculous Northwesty-ness.

For Thanksgiving, Sam and Steve (plus Desi) flew out from Boston and we all convened in Eugene at Kim and Cliff's for a ridiculously wonderful Friendsgiving 2014, a reunion that we hadn't replicated since Friendsgiving 2007. Hopefully another seven years won't go by until we can all see each other's faces again.

And perhaps the most important part of 2014 was that I started a new job, my first full time job as a teacher-librarian. I'm still not quite sure how to write about this job, or whether I should at all, due to public school privacy and professionalism issues (I know, professionalism, so boring), but essentially, this is my dream job. I cover a middle school and a high school in a small town and I have some really amazing co-workers at each school and each school is really different but I love them both, and am especially excited that I'll get to watch students transition from awkward 7th graders to graduating seniors. I took over for a librarian that had worked in the district to 30+ years, and after walking into her libraries, I now feel much better about my own hoarding tendencies. This fall has been busy with attempting to go through all of her old stuff and plot out how to bring these schools more into the 21st century. I've started graphic novel sections (there were none before), met with the superintendent about some staffing and budget issues and about introducing a programming class run through the library, I've met with the assistant superintendent about upgrading our library management system, I've talked to students about databases and being smart online and copyright, I've started book clubs, I've promoted Banned Books Week and the Young Reader's Choice Awards for what is apparently the first time at these schools, I've given book talks, I have deleted too many outdated books from the system to even count. What I'm saying is I really love my job and I think I'm doing a good job at it, and I'm hoping that I get to keep it for a long time, and that I continue to be better and better at it. I mean, I'm also human, and there are days where all I want to do is go home. But more often than not, I drive home with a warm feeling in my gut that says, I can't believe I get paid to do this.

I also say that it's the most important not because it's actually more important than all the other amazing things I did this year, but because the stability that it's starting to give both Kathy and I (health care? a decent paycheck? get outta here!) will allow us to do even more of the other amazing things, and start working towards some things we've wanted to work towards for a long time. 

After working part-time and freelance and retail jobs my whole life that could often literally entail working 24 hours a day, the privilege of my Real Person Schedule now is also not lost on me. Kathy and I now have every major holiday off together, and I'm still trying to get over the fact that I get winter and summer breaks. I am very lucky and very grateful.

Anyway, I'll stop crying over my job now, and say that this list of awesomeness wasn't even everything that was awesome this year. 2014 on the wider socio-political spectrum was a rough one full of hurt, but personally, this one was really good to me.

2015 holds a lot of things: planning a road trip to California for spring break that already feels like it's going to be the BEST TRIP EVER but I am not over hyping it or anything. Also everyone in the world that I love having babies. Also spending the summer actually learning how to code so that I can teach teenagers how to code. Also writing more and taking more pictures and reading more and being more awesome. 

How many times did I end up saying awesome, by the way? Probably too many. Or, AN AWESOME AMOUNT.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

MJ&K Explore PDX 2014: June & July.

Since last updating da blog back in June, I was really hoping to write more posts other than JUST documenting the food that Manda, Kathy, and I have eaten. BUT THEN, this summer went and blew up in my face. IT BLEW RIGHT UP, I TELL YOU, making focusing on non-essential real-life things very hard. In fact, I should very much not even be writing this, because I have so much other adulting I should be doing like, right now. But whatever. Sometimes you just have to write about the food you ate.

June: The Grilled Cheese Grill Double-Decker Bus!; SE 28th

Holy crap, was this one of the most Portland-y experiences I've had in a while. (Which is not a negative statement, by the way!) The Grilled Cheese Grill is a thing I've wanted to visit forevah, because hello, who wouldn't want to eat grilled cheese on a school bus-turned-restaurant? While the original is on Alberta, we opted to visit a closer-to-us location off of Burnside and 28th, where there is a DOUBLE DECKER GRILLED CHEESE BUS. To be clear, they actually make the grilled cheeses in a separate, actual-food-cart type space, and you just have the option of eating it on the bus. BUT WHY WOULDN'T YOU EAT IT ON THE BUS.

The front of said double decker grilled cheese bus.
There are so many reasons to like this place before you even eat there, starting with their website, where they list these reasons as why you should, in fact, eat there:
  1. With a full menu of cheeses, breads, and other good stuff, we make sandwiches that range from Saturday morning cartoon worthy, all the way up to Jeopardy-level sophisticated. We're just that versatile.
  2. It's an anecdotally-proven fact that food always tastes better when somebody else makes it, and usually even better if Mom made it.  Well if you can't get your mom to make you a grilled cheese right now, we'll be your mom.  A couple of bearded dudes in a food cart will be your mom.  
 3. You know you don't feel like cooking anyway.
UGH, I really don't! Thank you, beard dude moms!

The double decker is very much a legit old bus that shakes when people move around in it, and while you can eat on the first or second floor, if you want to eat on the second floor, there are some pluses and minuses. Plus: You can stare at people down below you from UP HIGH, which is always SUPER FUN.

So here, you just see bikes, but you get the idea.
As you can see in this picture, the tables are also covered in hee-larious childhood photos of what I'm pretty sure are the owners, possibly plus some other poor souls they immortalized underneath heavy plastic. Big plus! Also, to keep track of orders, you get assigned some random celebrity face on a stick. We got Mr. T. Meaning that when our grilled cheeses were ready, they called "Mr. T!" out through a loudspeaker into the bus and across the whole food cart pod. Pretty special.

Minuses of sitting on the top of the double decker bus: If you want a space where you can stand up fully, this is NOT THE SPACE FOR YOU. Here is a photo of Manda and Kathy, sitting, with the roof directly over their heads, looking happy and sexy:

Now here is a photo of me, standing closer to the stairs where you can actually stand straight up, but still suddenly having an anxiety attack over the small space, saying, we have to go, we have to go, we have to go right now. I become increasingly claustrophobic as time goes by these days, because oh god getting older is so weird:

Anyway, it's amazing I've talked this long without actually mentioning the food, isn't it? THE FOOD WAS GOOD! How could it not be! It's grilled cheese!

I got The Kelsey with ham, which includes Tillamook cheddar and basil pesto. Pesto + ham + cheese = YEP.

Kathy got the BLT GC, and Manda got The Gabby, which is a grilled cheese with ALL THE CHEESES, plus bacon! In addition to these fancy-ish grilled cheeses, you can get "The Cheesus," which is a cheeseburger squeezed between two grilled cheese sandwiches in lieu of a regular bun. Haha. Hahahahaha. God bless America.

I also really want to return if just to try their dessert grilled cheese concoctions. Dessert grilled cheese!

July: Gold Dust Meridian; Hawthorne

Okay, so this one wasn't completely, completely new to all three of us, because I had been there before, a long long time ago, when my cousin Meg lived here (*wipes away tear about recent return to the Coast of the East*) and had a genius tradition called Cocktail Club. I went to a Cocktail Club meeting once here, and arrived very late, and maybe, if anything, had a single beer. So let's be honest, it doesn't really count.

However, Manda and Kathy had never been, and when, on the fly, we decided to get celebratory drinks last night, I recalled that this bar had good looking drinks and a long lasting happy hour, so we went. We also got food--I had deviled eggs and a barbecue chicken flatbread pizza thing--and they were both really good. But I didn't take any photos of the food, I think because I was too busy being mesmerized by how pretty the drinks were.

We were celebrating because I got a job, a job I've wanted for a long time, and one that might sort of change our lives a lot for the better, and one that I am simultaneously thrilled and scared as hell about. I have a month before I actually start to let the reality of it sink in, and maybe eventually I'll be writing about it.

Anyway, in less vague and dramatic terms, the job is at a public school, which means I will probably have to start being slightly more careful about what I publish online. Which bums me out on the one hand but I know it will probably make my life easier on the other. Dear parents or administrators who may Google me and find lots of profanity in things I've published on the Interwebs and that I can't take back: I'm a very nice person, I swear, and I care about your students very deeply.

I WILL, however, never stop writing about food. Just with less cursing...I guess. (Or maybe I could just make up words to take the place of Bad Words I Want to Use When I Am Really Really Excited or Alternately Really Really Angry About Something. Like a-bing-bang-boom! Or gosh-golly-gossamer! Or coswallop-ahoy! I don't know. I'll work on it.) 

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

MJ&K Explore PDX 2014: January-May.

First of all, let's have a little talk about 2014 thus far, and why I haven't (really) written anything in this here blog since January. And even the posts I made in January were all about summarizing 2013, so essentially, we can all agree that 2014 has been non-existent on this blog thus far. 2014 has been blog-ily invisible. It has been unblogged. It is a blog-able ghost. It has been--okay, you get it.

The reason for that isn't because I don't want to have a personal blog anymore, or because I have run out of things that I, Jill, like (puh-lease), but because since almost the moment 2014 started, I have been working really hard at being a Real Adult Person trying to Make It in the World of Education. I know, being a Real Adult Person is the boringest, but for the most part it has been rewarding. And also very exhausting. And sometimes cynicism-inducing. Working with kids is hard. Through a combination of substituting and finishing work on a second endorsement/masters, almost every Monday through Friday I have been bouncing around between a variety of elementary, middle, and high schools. And I feel (mostly) good about what I've done.

The only downside of this is that, while I never lose the desire to write, I often lose the 1) time 2) headspace 3) strength to do it while rocking the Real Adult Person thing. (Well, I don't know if "rocking" is an adequate verb there. "Attempting," maybe.) But lately I've been craving a space to get back to myself and back to writing. I've still been writing for AfterEllen (and very occasionally, the Riots), but I want to get back to this--to the very exciting world of documenting the food I eat and the hikes I go on and the music I listen to and all the other shit I've been documenting for myself since I was 10.

So now that I've over-explained that, I can get to what this first-real-blog-post-of-2014 is actually about! *CHEERS FROM THE AUDIENCE*

2014 also marks the first full year that our best buddy Manda, recently imported from Connecticut, can officially call Oregon home. There are lots of pluses about having fresh faces in town; mainly, you get to see their faces! But also, they insert slightly fresher lenses into your eyeballs, inspiring you to see your familiar surroundings in a newer, more exciting way. So to make the most out of Manda being in Portland and all three of us being alive and mobile, we've made a pact to once a month either 1) eat at a new restaurant or food cart that none of us have been to before, or 2) do a new thing of some sort. We've stuck to it so far--obviously, mainly with the food thing--but I've been bad at documenting these new experiences as I hoped. It's kind of similar to how Kathy and I made a pact to visit (and document) one new food cart in PDX a month back in 2011, which we almost did for a whole year but then kind of puttered out on. But THIS TIME, we WILL NOT putter! We will have a whole year of new things! WE WILL!

So now let me shut up and start documenting the things.

January: PBJ's Grilled; Hawthorne

This is a peanut butter and jelly food cart. HOWEVER, just calling their sandwiches peanut butter and jelly is like calling the David a cool statue. In other words, these are some fancypants peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, and not all of them have peanut butter, and not all of them have jelly, but most of them have some semblance of the gist of those things.

Kathy and Manda both had the hearty but messy Good Morning with egg, a hella intense breakfast sandwich, whereas I opted for the Oregonian. The Oregonian includes this seemingly strange variety of things stuffed between challah bread: hazelnut butter, Rogue Creamery blue cheese, and marionberry jam. Maybe this sounds as gross to you as it sounded to my dad when I tried to explain it to him. It also does not photograph particularly well! But it was dee-licious. And as Oregon is the nation's leading producer of hazelnuts and blackberries (of which the marionberry is an Oregon-specific type), very Oregonian indeed. (I don't think the Beaver State necessarily holds a monopoly over blue cheese, but we like it an awful lot.)

PBJ's has two locations, one of which is in the Cartopia food cart pod on the corner of 12th and Hawthorne, one of the oldest and most-established food cart pods on the East Side. But the news on the street is that the pod will soon be razed in favor of some type of overpriced apartment building. Because heaven knows, the one thing the East Side needs is LESS funky culture that drove people to the city in the first place, and MORE condos/overpriced apartments that are pricing everyone OUT of it! AMIRITE!

February: Little Big Burger; Division

Little Big Burger is a recent, rapidly-expanding Portland chain that takes on the In-N-Out philosophy of an exceedingly simple menu: cheeseburgers, fries, floats. And the bright red and white design scheme is appealing. Now, is this close to the thrill of In-N-Out? No, although I don't think it necessarily desires to be anyway; that was just a flawed comparison I pulled out of nowhere. BUT, is it a dang tasty burger for under $5? You bet your butt it is! My favorite thing about this place, actually, was that you could choose ANY cheese for your cheeseburger, including blue cheese, all at the same charge (a quarter). That's a heck of a deal! The bun is also delicious, and of course everything is local, yadda yadda, down to the ketchup. Solid.

March: Tortalandia!; Foster-Powell

Tortalandia is a Mexican restaurant I've been meaning to check out forever, because it's located in our hood, and we love supporting independent business in our hood. This is located right off of Foster, but is slightly hidden on a weird little corner of 60th. They specialize in margaritas and tortas (duh), which is a type of Mexican-style sandwich, although we actually went there for brunch. Brunch with margaritas. I'm pretty sure I got the chorizo con huevos, because I am drawn to any menu item that has chorizo almost as much as I am drawn to any menu item that has blue cheese. It was huge and I couldn't finish it, although this is maybe also due to the fact that we also got sweet potato fries and I got a fried cauliflower thing that was a special side of the day. It seems like they have lots of specials, and a lot of unique stuff that sets them apart from just a typical Mexican restaurant. The margaritas, also wonderful. The space itself is really interesting but neat--I think it used to be an old auto shop, or something of the sort. Anyway, this is in walking distance from me, and goddammit but I really want to walk there right now.

April: Cheese Bar; Belmont

I was really excited about this place, because HELLO. CHEESE. QUESO. FORMAGGIO. JOY. REASONS FOR LIVING. But I've decided that maybe places like this are only truly enjoyable if you are an actual cheese aficionado. And I am not. A cheese lover, yes. A food lover, yes. But will I ever actually be a foodie? Will I ever understand half the words on the menu at places like this, or know which cheese comes from which animal, or which cheese to pair with which beer? No. I will not.

That said, man, do I always love the stylish hunks of wood that meat and cheese plates are so often presented so beautifully on in the Northwest.

Other than cheese and meat plates, they also have a small food menu, and Kathy and Manda both got the mac and cheese, with they both reported to be somewhat underwhelming. But I got a sandwich that, even with my whining about the fanciness of the place, was really, really tasty. The things I recognize that were on it: pimento cheese and greens. The things that were on it that I do not understand, but that tasted good: mortadella? Giardiniera? And the bread was called Levain? It was good. The beer I got was good. But, we'll probably leave this one to the foodies.

May: El Cubo de Cuba; Hawthorne

Yet another food-cart-turned-brick-and-mortar success story, El Cubo de Cuba recently took over the adorable aquamarine storefront on Hawthorne that used to be a Taco del Mar. Both the decor and the food are full of color and flavor, yet I don't think I took any photos. Clearly there was something wrong with me that day. Anyway, the idea of Cuban food has haunted me ever since a particularly memorable hole in the wall Cuban restaurant in Miami that I visited with my dad when I was in middle school, where I had the best black bean soup and Cuban sandwich that I will probably ever have. This memory is both delicious and painful, because any time I've tried Cuban food since then, it's failed to live up to the hole in the wall restaurant in Miami. Which makes sense. A hole in the wall restaurant in Miami is like the pinnacle of Cuban food, the gold medal, the home run. But ugh, the disappointment that follows hitting the home run on your first go!

So I obviously had the Cuban sandwich here, which had been well-touted by reviewers, and it was good. It was very good. But here's what I really want with a Cuban sandwich. I want the pork to be sliced just as thinly as the ham (or as close to it as you can), and the cheese as melty and the bread as pressed but crispy as possible, so that it all just kind of melts together in your mouth. This, and other Cubans I've tried, have thick slabs of pork that fall out of the sandwich and necessitate more chewing and less melting-in-your-mouth-iness. And I know that the pork Cubo de Cuba uses is really good local pork! But sigh, I dunno.

On the plus side, though, there were PLANTAINS! So many plantains! Fuck I love plantains! Kathy and Manda and our friend Becky all got a variety of the bowls they offer, and I think when I go back I'll get one of those. And I have to go back because I didn't even get to try a mojito. Also, I need more plantains.

So that was January through May, and now that I've typed it all up, I'm proud of ourselves, and also really hungry. I'll try to post the rest of our adventures in shorter, more current updates. Because if anyone actually read all the way through this, well, thanks for loving me.