Thursday, December 31, 2009

2009 Wrap-up.

Things I have liked in 2009:

- Pine State Biscuits
- The 'doo doo doo's' at the end of Crosby, Stills & Nash's Suite Judy Blue Eyes
- How I Met Your Mother
- Anna's Taqueria
- Robot Dreams, by Sara Varon
- Award shows
- Conan O'Brien
- Yurts
- Lily
- Everclear's Santa Monica
-
March Madness
- Boneless buffalo chicken
- Tom Petty
- Marley & Me, the book by John Grogan & the movie
- Paul Rudd
- National Geographic
- Lisa Hannigan's I Don't Know
-
Early signs of spring: daffodils & hyacinths
- One Shining Moment
- The Cat's Meow
- Gossip Girl
- Gertrude Hawk Smidgeons
- The Boston Marathon / Marathon Monday
- The Wooden Shoe Tulip Festival in Woodburn, OR
- The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
- A good grey t-shirt
- My Canon AE-1
- Crepe Mondays
- Burgerville
- The ARC Bike Hike
- Sweet potato fries
- Portland, Oregon
- Dave Matthews Band's Under the Table and Dreaming
- Up
-
Michael Jackson
- Por Que No? Taqueria
- Simon & Garfunkel's America
- Our Man of Perpetual Sorrow, by Dan Savage
- Harry Potter
- Southern fast food
- Weddings
- Cookies & Cream
- Radiohead's The Bends
- Nutella
- The Cranberries
- A Time to Kill
- Breakfast in Portland
- The Beatles
- Striped shirts
- The Office
- Brookline Booksmith
- Pretty much any & everything pumpkin related
- Brandi Carlile
- Rain boots
- The Danger of a Single Story, by Chimamanda Adichie
- Laughing Planet Cafe
- 5 Blues Traveler songs
- The Trans-Siberian Orchestra
- Real Christmas trees
- Judy Garland singing Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas in Meet Me in St. Louis
-
Mariah Carey's All I Want for Christmas Is You
- It's a Wonderful Life

Not bad, 2009, not bad.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

It's a Wonderful Life.



"My mouth's bleedin', Bert! My mouth's bleedin'! ZUZU PETALS! Zuzu - there they are! Bert! WHADDAYAKNOW ABOUT THAT! MERRY CHRISTMAS! Mary! Mary! YAYYYYYYY! YAYYYYYY Hello Bedford Falls! Merry Christmas! Merry Christmas, movie house, Merry Christmas, emporium, Merry Christmas, you wonderful old Building & Loan!"

Up until two years ago when Kathy made me watch it I had never seen It's a Wonderful Life, and after my first watching I decided it probably had to be my favorite movie of all time, and ever since I haven't changed my mind.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Mariah Carey's All I Want For Christmas Is You.



Okay, FOR REALS, twenty years from now, this will be the one Christmas song from our generation that still matters. This is not just the perfection of the Christmas pop song, this is one of the best pop songs I have ever heard in general. Its infectiousness cannot be stopped! Yeah that's right indie kid, you think it's catchy and can't help loving it too, and not even in an ironic way! From its spare dramatic beginning to its classic fade out end, it is perfect. It is like candy! Sweet, Christmas-y, 1990's Mariah Carey-filled candy!

Monday, December 14, 2009

Judy Garland singing Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas in Meet Me in St. Louis.



Kathy and I watched Meet Me in St. Louis today and when it comes to this part, gee whiz, it is just. The. Most. Beautiful. And. Sad. Thing. Ever. If you can watch this scene and not cry and cry, or at least want to cry and cry, then you are a bad human being. Yeah, I said it. As I'm writing this I'm listening to it over and over and just feeling weepy. And then Tootie runs downstairs crying and knocks down all those beautiful snowmen she made which are obviously not made of real snow because she is so upset about going to New York! Gah! THEY LOVE ST. LOUIS SO MUCH.

Sad Christmas songs also always makes me think of Mr. Buehler, my first real employer, who is now sadly no longer with us. I worked on the very small family resort he and his wife owned and it was all very idyllic and old-time-y but I was miserable there because I was so angsty. Mr. and Mrs. Buehler were the type of old couple where the wife is really mean and stressed out all the time but the husband is quiet and cheerful and smiles a lot, and he was pretty much the one thing I liked there, other than the family dog and the horses and the broccoli salad, which was awesome. Since the resort was only open during the summer I'm not sure how Christmas music got brought up, but I remember so clearly Mr. Buehler telling me about I'll Be Home For Christmas, and how when he was in Europe in World War II all of his fellow soldiers and he would listen to it and just cry like little babies. Which to this day is pretty much one of the saddest things I have ever heard.

It occurs to me that writing about things that make you cry is a strange thing to write about in a blog about things I like, but I do like the things about Christmas that make me cry each year because along with the cookies and the presents and everything they are the best part about it! For they are those comforting, sentimental kind of tears that make you appreciate your life.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Real Christmas Trees.


1) In Pennsylvania each December we took a right past the Paupack Post Office onto Gumbletown Road, so curvy but beautiful, and drove until before that park where Jeff played little league baseball games and Mom and I played tennis sometimes, before the township building where we recycled, held girl scout meetings, and voted, and before the Paupack Blueberry Farm, we'd turn onto a dirt road to a field full of trees. I remember there usually being snow on the ground, or if not, it at least being frigidly cold, and we'd stalk around in our boots and gloves and scarves until we found a sufficient one. Then we'd find the guy with the chainsaw who'd chop it down for us and load it onto Mom's car. She'd give him 20 bucks, and once we returned to the house, she and Jeff would commence in an epic struggle to get the tree into our ancient stand, which usually involved a decent amount of curse words, while Sara and I watched TV and ate Christmas cookies.

2) Decorating the Christmas tree at my grandparents' house on Christmas Eve, always in the same spot in the corner, in front of the wood paneled walls and between those 1960's couches. Being that my grandma was a tiny, gentle woman and my grandpa an overweight, grumpy man, I don't know in retrospect how they actually got the tree into the house and into the stand, except I do know it probably involved even more curse words. They were always a fan of blue spruce. We'd toss on a bunch of tacky tinsel and the most godawful ugly balls--there seemed to be a never ending supply of them. Yet there was also a Hallmark ornament for each of the years' each cousin was born--our name was written in ballpoint pen on it in case we couldn't figure it out--and we always treated these reverently. The Zalasky cousins were usually late, so Sara and Mom and Grandma and I would do most of the decorating, saving just their Hallmark balls for them, and then commence to a long afternoon full of cheese, crackers, shrimp, candy, and a general abundance of appetizer-y food before church.

3) Christmas trees are one of the biggest exports of Oregon and Washington, and it seems like you can't walk ten feet without running into somebody selling them. For the last three years though we've stuck with the boy scout lot down on Powell in the parking lot of the Catholic church. The kids who work there always seem remarkably wholesome and helpful, throwing footballs around and being all around cheerful when helping us. It is not quite as authentic as trudging out into a field in the snow, but we still like it. We nervously drive the ten blocks home. Both of our parents have sent us boxes of some of our old, personal ornaments - I laughed about a crooked candy cane Kathy made in first grade when taking it out of the box this year, handed it to her, then she dropped it and it broke, and we both stopped laughing - and ones we have gathered ourselves, ones bought on vacation in Seattle, New York City, North Carolina. Toby seems pretty nonplussed about it, as he does about everything. Lily and Cleveland sleep beneath the needles on the skirt we bought from Target.

4) The smell. In particular, walking inside after being away from home for some 12-odd hours at work, and having it hit you in the face. And thinking, That's right, it's Christmas! And it's warm inside, and it smells good, and really, what can be better than that.

Monday, November 30, 2009

The Trans-Siberian Orchestra.



Since breaking my abstaining-from-Christmas philosophy since Thanksgiving, Kathy & I have been indulging in K103 FM's all-Christmas-music-all-the-time annual programming while in the car, and although I have since heard Wham!'s Last Christmas (I Gave You My Heart) about five times, tonight on my drive home I experienced my first-listening-of-the-season of Trans-Siberian Orchestra's Christmas Eve Sarajevo. As soon as I heard those first notes while driving across the Ross Island Bridge I thought OHMANOHMANOHMAN and turned up the volume to an acceptably inappropriately loud level and my chest heaved with on-the-verge-of-sobs emotion the entire time, like it does every single time I hear this song. I recently came to the conclusion that The Moody Blues' Nights in White Satin was the most dramatic song ever recorded (it happened like this: I listened to it one night and said to myself, "This is the most dramatic song ever recorded!") but after a re-listen to this song I think they might be tied. I mean, this song is REALLY DRAMATIC. Like, it is ridiculous. But I love every second of it. Even the title - Christmas Eve Sarajevo, visions of snow falling on war-torn lands, oh God! - is emotionally wrought. Before looking it up on YouTube, I had also forgotten how amazing and somewhat confusing the video is. Is it about world peace? Is it about cute kittens? Is it about how cold it must be playing the piano and rocking out on the axe in the snow? Who knows!

Although Trans-Siberian Orchestra have come out with a few albums, I hold this first one, Christmas Eve and Other Stories, that came out in 1996 dear to my heart for reasons other than just Christmas Eve Sarajevo. My mom is a big fan and has played this album every Christmas since 1996 and so I've come to know it pretty well. She has also seen them in concert every year since then, and I was able to go to one of them with her in Scranton back in high school. (I remember it being very, very loud.) Anyway, the reason I like this album is because it tells a story. At the concert, they had a narrator on the side of the stage who would narrate the story between pieces, making it half concert, half theater. Let me tell you. I love this stuff. I feel like the best music, or at least the music that is most important to our culture, has always been music that tells stories. Billy Joel and Bruce Springsteen are two dudes who are good at this. As in, the purpose of a song is not just to say, Oh, love is so hard, or, Oh, I am so sad and lonely! (although it can obviously serve this purpose too), but instead the role of a rock star is actually the role of a storyteller, following in the line of storytelling traditions throughout different cultures throughout centuries, who spins tales that say something about who we are. Which is why I think things like -

Brenda and Eddie were the popular steadies and the king and the queen of the prom, riding around with the car top down and the radio on / Nobody looked any finer or was more of a hit at the Parkway Diner / We never knew we could want more than that out of life / Surely Brenda and Eddie would always know how to survive

- are so great. And which is why I like things like Christmas Eve and Other Stories, even though the story it tells is overtly religious, involving an angel coming down from heaven to find the best thing about the human race for God, and helps a bartender help a young girl, who is estranged from her family and alone in the big scary city, get back to her family on Christmas, teaching us that helping others is even better than the prettiest Christmas songs, etc. etc., something touchingly cheesy like that. I'm not normally an overtly religious person, but I like the whole experience of it.

In this touchingly cheesy tradition, the other highlights on this album include A Star to Follow, which includes a children's chorus singing "Christmas, we are your children, lead and we'll follow" (children's choirs singing touching lyrics = killer!) and This Christmas Day, which starts out quiet and with the question, "So tell me Christmas, are we wise?" and leads up to a layering of a burly-gravelly-sounding man's voice yelling "She's coming home this Christmas daaaaaaaay!", a joyous background choir chanting "Merry Christmas, merry merry Christmas nooooooow!", and of course lots of awesome electric guitar. Oh man it is gut wrenching, in a cheesy and awesome way.

As an ending note, my other favorite memory involving this band includes rocking out to them with Steve and Kathy on Thanksgiving two years ago at the beach house at Gleneden Beach. No one can rock those air guitars like you, Steve. Thank you for being awesome.

Friday, November 20, 2009

These Five Blues Traveler Songs.

1. But Anyway
2. Hook
3. Most Precarious
4. Christmas
5. Runaround

Okay, alright, so I have a distinct feeling that for some reason talking about Blues Traveler is one of the most uncool things one can talk about, but the other day while driving home from work I was listening to KINK, who were doing this thing where they were playing their entire collection from A-Z by song, and overall this had been producing strings of really awful songs or really great songs, and they happened to be on M and they happened to be playing Most Precarious when I got in the car, which I probably hadn't heard for five years, but I was suddenly so glad to hear it again! And alright, check it, these five songs are awesome, okay. Also, if you haven't heard #4, it is their Christmas song which is on A Very Special Christmas 3, and which may be my all time favorite contemporary Christmas song, but I can't really gush too much about how much I love it because it's not Thanksgiving yet and I adhere to very strict no-Christmas-before-Thanksgiving rules, but once it is past Thanksgiving you better believe there will be an entry about the A Very Special Christmas CD series because my family listened to that business ALL. THE. TIME. Also, I'm sorry I have hardly updated this blog, but this semester has been very very hectic and draining. In conclusion, every single one of these Blues Traveler songs is suh-weet and you will never convince me otherwise, thank you goodnight.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Laughing Planet Cafe.


Laughing Planet is a Portland-Eugene chain which sells burritos/salads/smoothies/good stuff, and they are awesome for plenty of reasons but these are mine:

1) The Che Guevara Burrito: OH MAN SO LISTEN TO WHAT IS IN THIS: Brown rice, black beans, sweet potatoes, plantains, pico de gallo and barbeque sauce. I have to say it does depend on who is making the Che, sometimes there's too much pico de gallo and not enough BBQ, when what I really want is lots of sweet potatoes and lots of plantains and lots of BBQ, and when there is it is AMAZING. Also, since it's meatless, it's also cheap, less than $5! I have also tried their BBQ Chicken Quesadilla - made from local-ish Draper Valley chicken of course, in Oregon restaurant style - and it was good, but I usually can't resist the Che.
2) The Blue Suede Shoes Smoothie: blueberries, banana, honeydew, cantaloupe, apple juice. All of their smoothies seem to be pretty top rate, but this is my favorite.
3) The random dinos they have scattered around their tables at all of their locations. We usually go to their Woodstock location, which is huge and usually filled with Reed-ish type folks, and almost every time we go there is a table with at least one enthusiastic kid who gathers all the dinos onto their table and engages them in epic battles and it is awesome.

Also, for some reason no matter how many times Kathy corrects me I always find myself calling it Lonely Planet, like, "Hey, want to go to Lonely Planet?" which is of course not a delicious local eatery but a company which primarily sells travel guides to all the places in the world I would like to visit, and which overall sounds much more sad than Laughing Planet, which actually sounds quite cheerful, because it is.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Chimamanda Adichie: The danger of a single story.

This was mentioned in one of my classes today, and so I just spent the last 20 minutes sitting on the couch enraptured watching it. I had never heard of Chimamanda Adichie before or read any of her books, but after 20 minutes I can tell you she is pretty great and what she has to say is pretty important, not to mention pretty darn inspiring for what I want to do with my life, and also anytime I see something like this I am in awe/jealous that I will never be able to speak publicly so intelligently, and so this is what I like today and I think you should listen to it.

Ps. This whole website seems somewhat amazing.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Rain boots.


I am an increasingly big fan of things which are extremely simple and remarkably efficient. In fact as a society we could all use much more of them. And one of those things are rain boots. The Northwest is notorious for being rainy - in fact, as a kid growing up on the East Coast, this is pretty much all I ever learned about the Northwest, that it rains a lot, which seems slightly weird/funny to me now - but the truth is most of the time it's this light, drizzly rain that is often so constant during the fall and winter that one almost doesn't notice it after awhile. However, this morning when we took Toby out for his morning walk it was a certifiable downpour, almost akin to a thunderstorms-in-the-South kind of downpour. Well, not really like that, because it wasn't muggy and magical, just shocking and cold. My sneakers and socks quickly became soaked and my jeans commenced that awful mysterious event wherein as soon as the cuffs were wet the water immediately traveled upwards until I was soaked up to my knees. If there is one thing I really do NOT like, it is this walking-in-jeans-in-the-rain phenomena. So before heading back outside again on my way to class, my eyes alighted on my rain boots and I said, "Hey! Now there's a good idea." And let me tell you, they are. Wearing rain boots almost feels like a joyous adventure to me. Every time I walk right through a puddle and don't feel ANYTHING I feel practically giddy. Even if it is raining all day, my feet and my pants are bone dry when I come home. It is amazing. Also, they often come in an array of fun designs and bright colors, they are comfortable (I did a lot of walking today and didn't even get a blister), and often they are real cheap. If only everything in life was that awesome.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Brandi Carlile.

I feel like I don't even know how to start to write about Brandi Carlile because I love her SO MUCH that I feel like it will be impossible to describe it without delving into hyper tween fandom shouting. She is my Jonas Brothers, she is my whoever-the-stars-from-Twilight-are, she is JUST AWESOME AND I LOVE HER, OKAY?!?! I LOVE HER! And yes, this picture is extremely hot, whether you're gay or not (she is)!

Okay but seriously here's the deal: When I am busy, kinda stressed out, kinda feeling like I am in one of those stretches of time where life is just unexciting and tiring, and I put in one of her records and I haven't listened to her in a while, as soon as I hear that voice, all the muscles in my neck and shoulders relax, bam just like that, and I feel better, comforted and calm. No joke. Here's the deal, furthermore: If you just listen to her records, you hear another good, folksy, female singer-songwriter, good but not life changing. If you see her in concert, you are hyper tween fandom IN LOVE FOREVER. I think I have seen her in concert now as many times as I have seen Hanson in concert - five, six? - and if you know me and my history with Hanson, that is saying something. My favorite live experiences of hers include seeing her with the Seattle Symphony last year, and seeing her for free at Copley Square in Boston the summer of 2007, because it was free and so Boston-y and summer-y and fun.

Specific song notes: Every time I hear The Story (the song) I am floored by how much I like it. Every time I get That Year stuck in my head and think about the lyrics too much I feel like crying.

She is amazing at covers and these have been my faves:
1) Madman Across the Water, at the Crystal Ballroom last year, Portland
2) Fortunate Son, Copley Square, Boston
3) Hallelujah, Seattle Symphony
4) Mad World, this week at Schnitzer Concert Hall, Portland
5) Folsom Prison Blues, various concerts

Recently I have also been realizing how, even though I started listening to her a long time ago, I have begun to strongly associate her music with the Northwest. In particular, all of my favorite, fun things about the Northwest - drives to Seattle, Seattle itself, drives to Eugene, drives to the coast and to the Columbia Gorge, going to random festivals in random small towns, getting Burgerville milkshakes. Seattle in particular, and I'm not sure if this is because I know she's from the Seattle area, or because the Seattle Symphony concert was so awesome, or because I have just really been wanting to go to Seattle lately and have been thinking about it while listening to her new CD on repeat in my car. In any case, I have been mentally organizing my life by music for years and years and feel comforted that certain songs will always bring me back to certain places: Dave Matthews Band owns fall and field hockey seasons in high school, Modest Mouse owns that one summer in Boston I worked at Barnes and Noble and hated it, Wilco owns the semester I spent in Europe, Arcade Fire own my last year in Boston, and Brandi Carlile owns my life here & now, among the fir trees and Cascade Range peaks and traffic on I-5.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Pretty much any & everything pumpkin related.


Including but not limited to:
1) Starbucks' Pumpkin Spice Latte
2) Burgerville's Seasonal Pumpkin Milkshake (still not available yet, though...we wait for the day)
3) Pumpkin bread
4) Pumpkin pie
5) The Pumpkin Patch at Sauvie Island - Corn maze and all!
6) The Pumpkin Festival at Oregon Hill Farms in St. Helens we went to our first year here
7) Pretty much any fall pumpkin festival ever
8) Pumpkin pancakes
9) Pumpkin beer
10) Toasted pumpkin seeds
11) Yes, the word 'pumpkin' does look weird after typing it that many times

In conclusion, pumpkins & my favorite season = awesome.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Brookline Booksmith.

I've talked about a lot of things I like on this blog so far, but the truth is, other than Kathy, my family, traveling, and ice cream, there is nothing I like more than a good bookstore. Being in a good bookstore makes me feel happy and calm in such a deep down way that I like being in them even when I have no intention of buying a book, even when I have a huge stack of books waiting to be read at home and $0 in my bank account. I like just being there, just looking at stacks of books, being around other people looking at stacks of books. I can't describe it! There is only one thing that can make a bookstore bad, which is extreme pretentiousness, such as the random one we went to in San Francisco once who rudely kicked out Kathy and I when Kathy (quietly) answered her cell phone. Man, San Francisco was wonderful and all, but some people there really need to get off their high horse.

Anyways, I know this will be sacrilegious of me since I now live in Powell's country, the largest bookstore in the country, the bookstore everyone here loves to love. And I love it too! But no matter how big and wonderful it is, I don't think I'll ever love a bookstore more than Brookline Booksmith in Coolidge Corner in Brookline, Massachusetts. Booksmith is like a tenth the size of Powell's, if that, but I loved being there. I loved their sale book tables up front, the wall of fiction on the right, and the amazing gift section to the left, full of amazing jewelry and mugs and cards and an assortment of charming crap. Their children/young adult section always seemed to be lacking a little, but maybe that's just me, and that's the only slightly bad thing I can think of. Maybe the truth is that I just loved Coolidge Corner in general, and Brookline Booksmith was like the capstone of the neighborhood to me. Being there made me feel really Brookline-y, like I could one day live this really New England life and fill the big dark bookshelves I would own one day in my spacious personal library with books bought from there while sipping hot cider, or something. When I think about the fact that I will probably never live in Boston again, one of the things I'm immediately saddest about is not being able to call this place my own anymore.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Striped shirts.

So I swear it hasn't been done consciously, but 85% of the shirts I've bought for myself over the last two or three years have been horizontally striped, in all widths and colors. I didn't realize this until I really looked at my closet one day and said, "Holy crap! I have a lot of striped shirts. Is that weird?" After I took this picture I realized there was at least one more long sleeved striped shirt in the dirty laundry, and that I own at least two striped sweaters, too. Upon further reflection, I'm pretty sure striped sweaters made up a good portion of my middle school closet, and does this mean I should be worried about my fashion sense/inability to grow up? Also, Kathy and I spent a good portion of today shopping for our upcoming vacation/weddings on the East Coast we're attending, and although I actually did buy a good amount of things I actually needed, I couldn't resist buying one more - guess! - striped shirt from Old Navy.

In related news, I know malls are supposed to stand for all that's wrong/annoying with our current frivolous, soulless culture, but ya know, spending a day at the mall with Kathy is pretty much one of my very favoritest things in the world, anyway. God bless it, but spending lots of money with the one you love on goods made in Asia in blasting air conditioning feels so good.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

The Office.

Since this is a pretty entirely selfish blog, I'm going to start this entry in a selfish way by saying that: who knew a popular TV show set in your pretty crappy kinda-hometown could make you realize how much you actually appreciate your pretty crappy kinda-hometown? So Scranton wasn't my actual hometown, but it was the closest thing to a city that was in proximity to my hometown, and we went there anytime we wanted to 1) go to the movies, 2) go out to eat at some big chain restaurant, or 3) go to the mall. And really there wasn't much else to do in Northeastern Pennsylvania except for those three things, so, we went there a lot. In any case, anytime something local is mentioned on the show that I recognize my heart fills up with unexpected glee and I want to say "Hey, hey, hey, I know that!!!" in an excited/annoying type of way. Such as: 1) Crystal Club soda, which they seem to drink in copious amounts, which is okay since I grew up drinking it in copious amounts, 2) Dwight's Froggy 101 bumper sticker, the local crazy country station, 3) In an episode we just watched they were at Idle Hour Lanes, 4) Once Pam was giving out a fax number and it started with 570, and I said, "Hey, that's my area code!", 5) They mention Cooper's a lot, which is fun even though we never ate there much. The day they mention eating at Fresno's, my favorite Scranton restaurant as a kid, I will die happy. 6) Any general mention of Dickson City/Carbondale/Lackawanna County/The Steamtown Mall, 7) And of course the Booze Cruise episode, when the office takes a booze cruise on Lake Wallenpaupack, which actually is my hometown, and although it's very clearly not actually filmed at Lake Wallenpaupack, they got a Hawley, PA bumper sticker and displayed it inside the boat, so I was pretty much satisfied.

As for the show, I don't think I've ever watched something where the characters seem so real to me that I am pretty convinced I actually know most of them, although if this is the case I feel like real life should be more constantly hilarious than it is because this show is hilarious. Although what makes it good is that, like all good comedies, it is actually extremely heart warming at the same time. Let me tell you about Michael Scott. One episode, I can completely hate Michael Scott and feel completely frustrated by something he is doing; the next episode my entire heart and soul is rooting for him. This conflict makes him pretty much one of my favorite characters on television. Pam and Jim = amazingly sweet and endearing in a way that always makes you pretty much completely happy. There are only two things which I never find not entirely frustrating: 1) Whenever Michael is mean to Toby for no reason; 2) Whenever Jan is mean to Michael for no reason. Other than that, these are my favorite Office moments off the top of my head:

1) The Dundees
2) "I declare...Bankruptcy!!!!!"
3) Whenever Creed says anything
4) At the end of pretzel day when Stanley and Michael are bonding and Stanley does his one and only "that's what she said" joke
5) When Michael includes Ben Kingsley on his list of famous Indians
6) In general every office meeting & office party in the conference room
7) In general every single character on the show

And yeah, I'm too tired to think of more. I first got in to this show two winters ago when I was unemployed for a month, which made me really quite depressed. But I watched The Office on DVD every day like it was my job, and it was literally what I looked forward to every day. I'm not unemployed anymore, thankfully, but these people are still my people, and I love them, and root for all of them in their wanting-better-than-Scranton-but-loyal-to-Scranton-anyway lives, and really I love the writers who create them & their commentary on white middle class America so wonderfully.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

The Beatles.

Today on 09/09/09, all albums by The Beatles have been remastered and re-released (as well as The Beatles Rockband), and Kink FM has been playing every Beatles song - alpha'beat'ically (yeah, I know) - all day. This idea was so amazing to me that Kathy & I actually went out to Fred Meyer and bought a radio - no joke - just to listen to it while we were at home most of the day. I don't think there's any other band one could listen to nonstop for an entire day without getting sick of, but listening to it throughout the day has been kind of a grand musical voyage. If you think I get a little riled up when I hear people calling Michael Jackson overrated, just wait until I hear the words, "The Beatles are overrated." In fact, the minute I hear that come out of someone's mouth, my respect for them automatically plummets a little bit. Sorry, it's just the truth. That statement to me isn't a personal judgment call, it's just someone being stupid.

On my own personal level, there were two bands which shaped my musical life growing up: The Beatles, and Simon & Garfunkel. (And then after that, Fleetwood Mac and Stevie Wonder.) Only I feel like kind of a bad Beatles fan because I can't really tell you the specific attributes of each individual album. I own Revolver, Rubber Soul, and Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, and I think that's it. And even those I bought later, just because I felt like I should, and never actually listened to a huge amount. What I actually grew up on was this blue cassette of my parents', which my sister and I combined probably completely wore out. The Beatles, 1967-1970. There's another similar collection, with a red background instead of a blue, of their earlier years, and I think I later bought both the red and the blue on CD but listening to it weirdly somehow wasn't as good as listening to that cassette. And the red, earlier-years CD is fun, but it's the songs on that blue one which I know so well and have listened to so often that every time I hear one it's like hearing an old friend who's known me my whole life. Hence, while a real Beatles fan could debate the merits of say, Abbey Road versus The White Album versus Let It Be, my only contribution to the conversation would probably be, "Uh, was that song on the red album, or blue?"

I feel like I don't really need to talk about the cultural and musical significance of The Beatles as a whole because it's already been stated better a hundred times over by rock critics and smart writers around the world. But here's a list of some of my favorite things.


1. I believe in that fifth grade journal I had where I listed Dreams as my favorite song, I'm pretty sure I probably had Let it Be as my number 2.

2. Help! My favorite of their earlier, jinglier stuff. This song is awesome, and like a lot of their early songs, there's something slightly edgy hiding behind the happy-go-lucky-ness, something hinting to the world that Rock 'N Roll is going to be really, really awesome, a la the Beach Boys' Good Vibrations.

3. Songs Which Are So Uniquely, Simply Wonderful There Will Never Be Anything Else Like Them: Eleanor Rigby, Yesterday, and Lady Madonna.

4. Blackbird. This song is so delicate, so pretty, so lovely.

5. Hello, Goodbye & Here Comes the Sun: I have just always liked these a lot and found them the most fun to sing, for some reason. My other favorite thing I like to sing is from She Came In Through the Bathroom Window and I like it just because it sounds fun, although it makes pretty much no sense, which is a theme among a lot of Beatles songs (You'd like to be under the sea in an octopus's garden? Really?): Sunday's on the phone to Monday, Tuesday's on the phone to meeeeeee.

6. These lyrics from Strawberry Fields Forever: I think I know, I mean, oh yes, but it's all wrong. That is, I think I disagree.

7. Don't Let Me Down: Just for that chorus, for the first time he sings it at the very beginning of the song: that is soul, that is the blues.

8. Those na-na-na-na's at the end of Hey Jude. Come on. I don't think there's anyone alive who doesn't feel good when they hear those na-na-na's.

9. Golden Slumbers. This song is short, less than two minutes, and quiet and simple, but there is something about it that almost makes me cry. Perhaps because it is such a sad, defeated song, signifying their sad, defeated end after a long and tumultuous journey, starting with the hopeless line, Once there was a way to get back homeward. Once there was a way to get back home. And then what gets me is when the song swells and it is just full of sweetness, Golden slumbers fill your eyes. Smiles awake you when you rise. Sleep pretty darling, do not cry, and I will sing a lullaby. This song then segues into Carry That Weight, which takes all that tenderness and just feels good, determined, triumphant. This YouTube video someone made, coincidentally, is pretty awesome.

10. While My Guitar Gently Weeps. Thanks, George Harrison. Thanks.

11. Revolutionary: A Day in the Life, Come Together.

12. In My Life. If this song doesn't just wrap you up in its sweetness, you have no soul.

13. Pools of sorrow, waves of joy are drifting through my open mind, possessing and caressing me. Across the Universe, the song, not the movie, which I thought was awful.

14. Finally, I almost cannot stand how perfect their last words - I cannot remember if they were the last recorded or the last released, I know it is all kind of switched up and confusing, but it doesn't matter - were. Thinking about The End (which segues after Carry That Weight, see #9, I just wanted to write about this separately), how it is so simple yet so brilliant, it just blows my mind, and, just, just, Overrated? There are people in the world who can actually think that?

And in the end
the love you take
is equal to the love

you make.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Breakfast in Portland.


Kathy & I concluded a long time ago that our favorite meal to eat out for is without a doubt breakfast. And so thank goodness we moved to Portland, because I have never met a city who loved the art of eating out for breakfast as much as Portland. Like, for serious. Portland LOVES BREAKFAST. There are so many places to eat good breakfast here I don't think I'll ever get to all of them, but I am pretty determined about it anyway. Here's a list of our favorites, two years in:

1. The Hawthorne Cafe, SE Hawthorne
Pictured above, from the first time Zoe took us there when we visited in 2007. This restaurant-in-a-house (Portland is big on this business model) is cozy with yellow walls and those classic red-checkered-table cloths, and Kathy & I are so enamored with this place it deserves its own entry. There are two reason: 1) The crepe special, which is $10 and consists of a seasonal fruit crepe, potatoes or fruit, and half of an eggs benedict. Does this seem like a ridiculous amount of food? Yes, but in fact the portion sizes of each are perfect and it completely satisfies my Constant Breakfast Dilemma: Sweet, or Salty? I agonize over this decision every damn time, but the crepe special is amazing because I get both and both are completely delicious! 2) The owner, or at least the guy who is always there and always serves us, is this amazing Iranian fellow who loves his job more than anyone I have ever met. These are the things I never tire of him saying every time we go: "It is my pleasure, madame," "Everything is fresh, fresh, fresh," "We have a very fine black tea," "That comes with a very delicious house po-ta-to," "Always so good to see you, madame," or pretty much any sentence he ends with "madame," which is pretty much every one. I really can't even describe this man, other than to say he is the most amazing man I have ever met after Alan Hankin and Kathy and I are in love with him.

2. Fat City Cafe, Multnomah Village
One of the first places Kathy & I discovered on our own, this is in the uber-cutesy-but-not-in-an-annoying-way Multnomah Village in Southwest. This is the perfect kitschy breakfast diner with license plates and other crazy decorations covering every inch of every wall. I love these places. Walk me in to any restaurant covered in license plates, and I'm pretty much immediately satisfied. I know, it doesn't take much. Also, the place lives up to its name - the portion sizes are riduculously too big. For instance, your normal, say, omelette comes with a SIDE of pancakes (pumpkin pancakes in fall!) which could very well be an entire meal, and a HUGE melt in your mouth biscuit and it overall makes you feel like you want to pass out and die afterwards. So, you know, the kind of meal my family and America are known to enjoy.

3. The Arleta Library Bakery & Cafe, SE 72nd
This little cafe is really close by to us, meaning we can ride our bikes there, which we have done once or twice, and which makes us feel really Portland-y. In fact, its closeness is one of the reasons I like it. We live in the Foster-Powell/Mt. Scott area, which, in a city full of really funky, neat-o neighborhoods, is, well, not a funky, neat-o neighborhood. Powell is busy and full of fast food, Foster is full of run down, dilapidated businesses. But after living here two years I now feel a strong loyalty to it, a kind of love almost, and in the midst of the ugliness, there are these little gems of really great places which gives it that on-the-cusp-of-something-good feel. Arleta Library Cafe is one of them. Another reason I feel loyalty to it is that I'm pretty sure the guy who owns it is from Philadelphia, and they have a big Eagles bumper sticker on their fridge, and we all know how excitedly I latch on to anything East Coast out here. Their menu is relatively small and simple but good. They are one of those Portland places who are so hard core about serving local, good, organic food that they even make their own ketchup. There is also something about the atmosphere there too - the simple front windows with "cafe" written in cursive across the glass; the lazy window fans; all of their produce being shoved in the front display case; the stacks of delicious-looking scones, cookies, muffins on the wood counter - which takes me to someplace slow-paced and romantic, like New Orleans, or Paris.

4. The Cup & Saucer Cafe, SE Hawthorne & other locations
The Cup & Saucer serves up good, reliable breakfast chow, with a really big & hearty menu, including lots of delicious egg scrambles. The scramble = the easiest, most genius breakfast idea ever. Also, the few times we've been there the service has actually been pretty friendly & efficient, which is somewhat rare in what we call the blight of West Coast Service. Which means, it's not difficult to find the friendly part, but it is really, really difficult to find the 'efficient' part. We understand that it is probably a lifestyle thing, and that some people don't care if you have to wait a leisurely half hour to get your check, but, we're not West Coast people, and we do. Anyway, I mainly wanted to mention the Cup & Saucer for their homemade vanilla scones, which you can get instead of toast with your meals, and you should, because they're delicious.

5. The Waffle Window, SE Hawthorne
So we've only actually gone here once but I want to mention it just because I am so taken with the very idea of this place. So it's a window on a side street off of Hawthorne. They serve waffles. It's amazing. A waffle window! Seriously. Portland is awesome.

Hey, this was really long. Sorry. I really like breakfast.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

A Time to Kill.



The other day Kathy and I had a conversation wherein we discussed how, in A Few Good Men, "You can't handle the truth!" is the more infamous line but how obviously the best line is actually "You're goddamn right I did!!!"After talking for awhile about how ridiculous and scary Jack Nicholson is when he delivers this line, I questioned, "Doesn't he say something else angry-sounding after this line?" Kathy replied that she thought I was getting mixed up with Samuel L. Jackson in A Time to Kill when he says "And I hope they burn in hell!!!!!!" after saying "Yes they deserved to die!" and I of course knew she was completely right. And, since A Few Good Men is well known and recognized for being an amazing film, I knew I had to get on here and talk about A Time to Kill instead since I feel that it is, well, not well known and recognized for being an amazing film, when it IS.

I remember seeing this movie in the theaters in Scranton with my family and being absolutely terrified during the opening rape scene (still am), but loving the rest of it, and I continue to love it more as time goes on. The most important factor of course is the Southern-ness of this film, to completely exaggerated and amazing degrees, such as the intensity to which Matthew McConaughey and everyone else are constantly sweating. There is so much sweat in this movie. SO MUCH. Especially that scene when Matthew McConaughey and Ashley Judd are on the kitchen floor in their house, you know the one, and they're all in white tank tops, sweatin' the hell out of that joint. Then there is Samuel L. Jackson, being real angry and righteous (and sweaty), and any role which has Samuel L. Jackson not being real angry and righteous is misguided. There is Kevin Spacey being a big Southern racist jerkface, and Kiefer Sutherland being a big Southern racist hick. There is the inexperienced-lawyer-with-big-ideals-rising-up-to-beat-them-all storyline, with help from the old-wisened-lawyer-mentor and all. There is the triumphant ending of the races coming together and doing the right thing and having their children all play together, God bless America! There is Sandra Bullock, getting kidnapped by the KKK!

Seriously! This movie is amazing. Seriously.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

The Cranberries.

Oh, my life
is changing every day
in every possible way

When I was in the fifth grade I declared - and I'm sure I actually declared it somewhere in some embarrassing diary - that Dreams by the Cranberries was my favorite song of all time. Sometimes, when I hear it randomly now, I believe it still is.

I bought some of their newish albums as the years went on, but all I ever really want to hear are the first two: Everyone Else is Doing it, So Why Can't We? and No Need to Argue. The former isn't terribly remarkable except for the fact that it includes Dreams and Linger, both of which are extremely remarkable. No Need to Argue I love as a whole album and I used to listen to it like whoa back in the day. Seriously, like whoa. The first doo-doo-doo's that start off the album in Ode to my Family still give me chills. Every song on that album is good. There is something about Dolores O'Riordan's pretty, light-yet-angry Irish voice which is entirely magical, and unlike anything else I listen to. It transports me to another place, somewhere misty and romantic and Irish-y. When I hear that triumphantly-1990s swish of the first chords of Dreams in particular I always feel like I am inside of a My So-Called Life episode. Which means that I feel full of all the ridiculous, cheesy, dramatic, hopeful feelings of being a teenager, of being Not a Grown Up. And perhaps this is why it should always hold that daunting title that I captured in my fifth grade diary, my favorite song of all time.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Nutella.


Why are you SO GOOD?! HOW IS IT EVEN POSSIBLE??!!!? Also, 50 hazelnuts per jar? Really? That's a lot of hazelnuts! YOU ARE SO GOOD.


ps. Once upon a time I lived in a castle in a tiny town in the Netherlands and ate Nutella on bread - with chocolate sprinkles on top!! - for breakfast every day. This is so ridiculous and seems so far away now that sometimes when I think about it I can't believe it actually happened.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

The Bends.

I wish it was the sixties
I wish I could be happy
I wish, I wish, I wish
something would happen

I have faithfully bought almost every Radiohead album over the last decade or so, but the truth is I haven't connected to one fully since OK Computer and The Bends, but the reason I keep buying them is because I like OK Computer and The Bends so, so, so much. Of the two, I know OK Computer is considered to be the better album and perhaps their career triumph, but I loved The Bends first. I keep wanting to say it was the first album I really loved, but that's just not true. Then I want to say it was the first album I really loved when I was really angsty - I bought it and listened to it non-stop in high school - but that's not really true, either. Perhaps I could say it was the first album I really loved when I was beginning to become the person I am now, but that would assume I knew who the person I am now is. Maybe I could truthfully say that really loving this album influenced my musical life thereafter. Yeah, I'll settle on that.

Yet like so many albums which have changed my life and which I still love with my whole heart, I couldn't remember the last time I listened to it. This changed last week when I was driving home one day and listening to KNRK during the 90's at Noon and they featured some songs from it, and I remembered. I remembered, holy crap I love this album. This album is, like, amazing. And since then, the actual song The Bends has been playing over and over somewhere in the back of my head, but I finally got out the actual album and realized how amazing the whole thing really is. Songs I had momentarily forgotten: High & Dry and Fake Plastic Trees (these should always be considered together); (nice dream); Just; Black Star and, although my CD is way too scratched to play through it, Street Spirit (fade out). And, okay, just the whole album. Mr. Thom Yorke, I feel like I don't understand you in the slightest & like I could never be your friend, yet you reside somewhere in some unknown part of me where we know each other very well, and unless I lose who I am completely you always will. I don't understand how this works, but it's the way it is.

This entry, by the way, is dedicated to Lou.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Cookies 'n Cream.


I love ice cream to such an intense degree that I feel the need to make a different post about each particular flavor, and today I had myself a big ol' bowl of cookies & cream. It felt appropriate since the temperature has passed the century mark for the last day or two here in Portlandia, which seems a good enough reason to indulge in a big ol' bowl of ice cream, although let's be honest, any reason is usually a good enough reason to eat ice cream for me. I feel like cookies & cream is one of those classic flavors that gets forgotten a lot, in favor of flashier varieties like oh, say, any crazy flavor combo by Ben & Jerry's or some ridiculous combo from Coldstone, etc. etc. And then one day you decide to have a bowl of your regular ol' cookies & cream, or let's say maybe some butter pecan, and you realize, Holy crap, this is quite good.

Maybe I just view flavors like cookies & cream and butter pecan as classic flavors because they seemed to be ones which were frequently found in the freezer of my grandparents' house. Every Sunday of my childhood found my siblings and I having a big lunch, or 'supper' at my grandparents' house after church. The meals were always full of mashed potatoes laden with cheese and butter and some type of vegetable also laden with cheese and butter, along with some hearty variety of meat, and usually some of my grandma's 'cabbage salad,' otherwise known as coleslaw. But at Sunday supper it was always called cabbage salad, and I loved the crap out of that stuff. Maybe there was something different about it because of our family's loyalty to Miracle Whip instead of mayonnaise at all times, but whatever it was, it was better than coleslaw. After this ridiculous gorging every week, my grandpa at the head of the table would lean back in his chair while my grandma started clearing the dishes and say, "Hm, girls, well I think there might be something in the freezer downstairs," and my sister and I would run down the stairs to their basement, where there was a huge honking storage freezer right at the bottom of the stairs. We'd lift up the lid and try to decide between the three or four cartons of ice cream which lay before us. There would also be some additional ice cream cartons in the freezer of the regular fridge upstairs in the kitchen, too - my grandparents weren't one to take their chances of an ice cream shortage - but there was always something special about the routine of going down to the basement freezer, pondering how many different kinds there would be in there that day. And a lot of the times, there'd be butter pecan, or tin roof sundae, or good ol' cookies & cream.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Weddings.




I LOVE THEM! My first wedding was my cousin Jen's. It took place in the church I grew up in and then at the classiest joint our small town has to offer and it also took place when I was an angsty teenager. I was lonely and whiney and convinced that this occasion would make me even lonelier and whinier, but then instead it was beautiful and touching and fun and peaceful and happy and ever since then I have been hooked. I have been to a few more since then - we got to go to one this week! - and have a few more coming up later in the year and although big family ones seem the most epic, I loved/will love them all. You get to dress up. You get to eat stuff for free. Depending on the wedding, you get to drink - a lot - for free. There is a cake. There are people you love, loving each other and loving life. Often, you get to see people you don't get to see enough. There is music. There is dancing. There is lots of photo-taking. I love them in all shapes, forms, and sizes and all sappiness levels.

We love weddings so much, we are starting to scheme up our own.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Southern Fast Food.

As I'm sure I've mentioned on here a few times, Kathy's & my plan post-Oregon is to eventually wind up in North Carolina. I am still feeling pretty swell about being right here in Portland, but there are occasions when my mind/heart swell for when I am permanently in the South and can enjoy certain things. Like all the unhealthy fast food.

Alright, so I've read Fast Food Nation, I've seen Super Size Me, I am concerned about how the low cost and also low nutritional value of fast food targets low-income minority groups, compounding their troubles. But I've learned that, while I like being educated, I also don't think I could ever be a purist about certain things. For instance, earlier this year I read Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver, who I absolutely adore and usually agree with full heartedly and enthusiastically, but at the end of this book while I had learned a lot, I also realized that I could never not eat bananas. (Bananas were a no go in her strictly-locally-produced diet.) This was just a small point in her book, but one I really couldn't get over. Bananas are effing delicious! I know I am costing the environment tons of oil in transport from Latin America, but...they are effing delicious! In a similar way, you can't have a good road trip without a fast food stop, and sometimes nothing goes better with a late night and an empty belly than greasy fries.

Something about Southern fast food in particular really takes the prize for me. Perhaps because southern food in general always takes the prize for me, and so I get excited about even the homogenized fast food versions of it. I had lunch today at a Popeye's on MLK by the library bookstore where I volunteer on Tuesdays, where I have stopped a few times before. I am always by myself and always in a bit of a rush but something about that fried chicken po'boy and those red beans and rice makes me feel so darn happy. Of course, Popeye's belongs in Portland, Oregon as much as it belongs in Boston, Massachusetts, and although I'm not complaining, I also have respect for those glorious businesses which I rightfully can't get in the very-not-southern Pacific Northwest: the infamous Chik-Fil-A, who is so southern they are closed on Sundays. I even feel a little soft spot in my heart for places like Bojangles or Checkers and I've never eaten in them. Let's be honest, I am even a fan of McDonald's Southern style chicken sandwich, and that is a pretty wimpy imitation of Southern cuisine. And everybody's gotta love those neon yellow blocks that light up Southern highways, the good ol' Waffle House.

Some day. Some day, I will leave the sustainable, local, nutritional world of Burgerville, and head toward the land of endless fried chicken, lard laden biscuits, and iced tea made with ten pounds of sugar. Some day.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Harry Potter.

There are some things I want to be able to say I like without feeling the need to explain why, and Harry Potter is one of them. I like Harry Potter. I like it because it makes me happy, and I feel that that is enough. The only few people I've met who actively dislike Harry Potter seem to be fellow literary types, and it doesn't interest me at all to talk about the literary merits of it. Although I hold a bachelor of arts in Writing & Literature and obviously understand the beauty & art of a well crafted piece of literature, I increasingly feel that the true purpose of books, or rather of fiction (other than educating people, of course) should just be to make people happy. I'm starting a literary theory & criticism class next week, and I feel that I could A) find it interesting & educational, or B) hate it, since "reading makes people happy!" probably isn't going to be covered in the class. But I digress. Like most Harry Potter fans, I love the books best but love the movies too, and having anything to be excited and silly about - like midnight releases of the newest Harry Potter movie - makes life better.

I started thinking last night as we waited in the theater about how long this phenomenon has been going on for me, and how in that fact alone it will probably wind up being one of the most important cultural experiences of my life. I started reading the first few books way back before any movie was made, staying up late reading in my bedroom in Pennsylvania, where all of my greatest and most intense reading experiences occurred, because everyone's greatest and most intense reading experiences occur when they are kids, and have the ability (and time) to let their creative mind wander out of control and become entranced in stories. The movie stars have long since taken over what my own visions of Harry and Ron and Hermione and Hogwarts were, but I've grown okay with that. And although not related to the movie that came out today, which I loved, here is one of the best things that has happened to me in the last few years: the last Harry Potter book was released; we waited at midnight to get our reserved copies at the Borders in Downtown Crossing in Boston, started reading on the T ride home. I think we had specifically asked off of work for the next day so we could read it, which is remarkably nerdy but just who we are. And aside from going out at night for a few hours (which I forced myself to do), for an entire day and a half, I did absolutely nothing but read a book. And I felt so inside of that book that the thought of doing anything else was hard to comprehend. For a moment, I was part of another world, transported in a way I used to do so easily when I was a kid in a bedroom in Pennsylvania. There is something about Harry Potter which melts away the entire world around me in a complete, impressive way, where thoughts of what I have to buy the next day at the grocery store or what I have to do that week for homework or what kind of silly drama will occur at work or if I'll get around to that huge pile of dirty dishes and huge pile of laundry in the apartment - they don't even begin to filter through my head for even a second, and that feeling - no matter what it is that makes you feel that, Harry Potter or no - is probably my favorite feeling in the world.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Our Man of Perpetual Sorrow, by Dan Savage.

I sadly do not listen to NPR, or This American Life, all that much. When I had long subway commutes in Boston I did spend many a ride listening to NPR podcasts, but since then it's been pretty wholly absent from my life. But Kathy is a good web savvy liberal and still listens to This American Life podcasts sometimes, and the other night a week or two ago when we'd gotten in to bed she got out her Macbook and had me listen to a piece from show #379, Return to the Scene of the Crime. This show included a musical number by Joss Whedon, which is pretty amazing and right up our alley, but she didn't have me listen to that, but to the last piece, entitled Our Man of Perpetual Sorrow, by Dan Savage.

I've tried to find Youtube or other such clips of it online, since the show was recorded in front of a live studio audience, but I've come up with pretty much nothing other than the full show which you can download here at NPR's website. It's free and easy and I urge you to go there, and click to about the 37:00 minute mark, and listen to it.

I cried while we listened to it laying in bed, but this was not too strange, being that I seem to cry easily at things. What was notable about it was the next day I got up, went to work, and throughout the day at work I would think about certain parts of it, parts where he said something particularly poignant or parts where his voice started to crack, and suddenly without control tears would spring to my eyes, again. In the middle of work. This was weird. For instance, I cried like a baby during the Michael Jackson memorial today, but thinking about it now, I still feel sad and moved but my eyes are dry. But this Dan Savage piece seeped under my skin in a weird way, probably for a variety of reasons. Because it is about being Catholic, and being gay, and about the awful pain of losing someone you love, and how to reconcile liking the feeling of being in a church, calm and quiet and holy, while knowing that you don't adhere to so many things the church stands for. It is an overall complex emotion and one I relate to in certain degrees. For instance, I knew in my mind that I stepped away from the Catholic church the moment I started dating Kathy, but sometimes when she mentions bad things about the Catholic church I get weirdly riled up and offended. Anyway, it's not really about me, or even the whole gay-religion thing, I think that just made the piece sting my heart even more. Savage's piece is really more about loss and coping with the idea of death, and it is shockingly honest and beautiful and I am mainly posting about it here because I want more people to hear it.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

My favorite Simon & Garfunkel song.

Let us be lovers we'll marry our fortunes together
I've got some real estate here in my bag
So we bought a pack of cigarettes and Mrs. Wagner pies
And we walked off to look for America

Kathy, I said as we boarded a Greyhound in Pittsburgh
Michigan seems like a dream to me now
It took me four days to hitchhike from Saginaw
I've gone to look for America

Laughing on the bus
Playing games with the faces
She said the man in the gabardine suit was a spy
I said be careful his bow tie is really a camera

Toss me a cigarette, I think there's one in my raincoat
We smoked the last one an hour ago
So I looked at the scenery, she read her magazine
And the moon rose over an open field

Kathy, I'm lost, I said, though I knew she was sleeping
I'm empty and aching and I don't know why
Counting the cars on the New Jersey turnpike
They've all gone to look for America

All gone to look for America
All gone to look for America

Friday, July 3, 2009

Por Que No? Taqueria.



Dear Por Que No Taqueria,

You will never be Anna's. For one, your ingredients are way too fresh and your dishes way too authentic. Also, you are totally not greasy enough to compare. In fact, you are really so different it's hard to even compare you at all, yet your names both have "taqueria" in them, and so it feels confusing. But I have quickly grown to love you in a separate-from-Anna's way, and this is why.

1) Your Pollo Asado tacos are SO GOOD. Your Pollo Verde tacos are also real good. Seriously though, the asado. SO. SO. Good. It is happiness.
2) You have a fun name.
3) Your Hawthorne restaurant is full of really fun, bright, random decorations, all of which I love.
4) Your fun, bright, random decorations continue to the seating area out back which I just recently discovered, which feels very Southern-California-esque yet Portland-secluded-garden-y at the same time.
5) You always have an assortment of fresh fruity drinks in big jugs on the front counter which your employees scoop into glasses with big fun ladles, which are also ridiculously good. Your raspberry lemonade I had a month ago stole my heart.
6) You have a big table just for a crapload of hot sauces for the customers' choosing, including a crapload of homemade ones, even though I've hardly tasted any of them because the pollo tacos are perfect as they are, but I appreciate just having the hot sauces there.
7) That corner of lime you serve with the tacos - when squeezed over the pollo verdes? Sweet, glorious perfection.

That is mainly it. Every time I drive by you recently there is a big line curling outside the door and on to the sidewalk, and it makes me feel happy for you. You deserve it.

Best,
Jill

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Michael Jackson.

Okay. So I know you are probably overly media saturated with news about Michael Jackson, his debt, his kids, his life, etc by now. But I actually haven't been, because I've spent the last week working a lot and then freaking out about school/my life when I haven't been working a lot, and so haven't been paying much attention. I have heard, however, some pretty offensive jokes about him made at work the day after he died, and overall a bunch of people complaining about all the attention he's getting when he hasn't been popular for years and is in general just a weird freakazoid. And so since this is my blog and I can say how I really feel (as opposed to just laughing kind of awkwardly at the offensive jokes so as to not make a scene at work), I feel the need to give my opinion.

Michael Jackson is awesome, and always will be. Yeah, he was weird. Like, really weird. And you would be too, if you had his life. I personally believe he had a pure, sad soul that just constantly wanted to be a kid and couldn't be. Regardless, his personal life doesn't matter, in my opinion. What matters is that he was the biggest pop icon of our generation.

I've heard people say "Yeah, well he had some good songs in 80s," or "Geez, I didn't know he was still so popular." 1) He did not just have good songs in the 80s. His songs in the 80s defined our generation of pop music & continue to do so. People who say his songs didn't are probably the same sort who say the Beatles were overrated. These people either just don't understand pop culture or have an annoying underlying need to be different or indie or something. The Beatles' created modern pop music; Michael Jackson was the biggest thing since the Beatles', and it doesn't matter if you particularly like either, that's just the way it is. 2) Because of that, he was, still is, and will always be popular. If he lived a full life, he would have continued to sell out megaconcerts in minutes until the day he died. When I re-listen to songs like Beat It, Dirty Diana, Smooth Criminal, Bad...it just confirms it even more. The man was a genius.

In addition, any revolutionary knows how to adapt to change and somehow preemptively know what the next big thing will be and throw themselves into it. Which is exactly what MJ did with Thriller and MTV. Sure, MTV is crap now, but MTV isn't really the point; now it's just all about YouTube. We're a visual, media driven society obsessed with short-clip-thrills, and Thriller is really what started it all. Will there ever be anything as epic and widely known as the Thriller video? Alright, maybe November Rain comes close, but that's it.

On a personal note, Kathy always attests that the moment She Knew For Sure About Me was one morning way back when at a breakfast outing with friends in Boston, Man in the Mirror came over the radio, which Lord help me just makes me so happy every time I hear it, and I sang along/kind of danced along ridiculously to the entire thing. (Make that change.) So there you have it. Michael Jackson brought us together, and made my life a better place. So thank you, Michael, & I hope you find peace.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Up.


The wonderful thing about this movie for me was that even though I had seen the trailer a few times, I still had no idea what in the world this movie was about, other than a guy's house floating into the air with a bunch of balloons. (And I wasn't quite sure how that would fill two hours.) So I'll try not to reveal too much about the plot, because sometimes it's kinda fun not knowing. I'll just say that this movie made me laugh and made me cry. To elaborate, it made me laugh a lot and it made me cry a lot and that to me is the perfect combination for quality entertainment. In addition to being funny and moving, it was also often just plain weird and kooky - mainly, when the dogs and birds came in the picture. Overall, I'd say it was the most creatively original movie I have seen in a year. Artistically, it was stunning - any shot with the ballons was completely beautiful. (Kathy and I also have a tradition of sitting through to the very end of the credits when we go to the movies, and this time I was floored at how many people it really takes to make an animated movie. Seriously. SO. MANY. NAMES.) It was also one of the most adult animated movies I have ever seen. In particular, I keep remembering one scene (slight spoiler alert) where the old man, Carl, inadvertently hurts the guy on the street over his mailbox and then runs inside his house, confused and scared at himself, and then shows up at the courthouse for his hearing, sad and lonely. With no dialogue, it showed a surprising amount of emotional complexity. Themes of the movie ran the gamut from true love, to following your dreams, to friendship, to bad parenting, to being disappointed by your idols, to respect for all creatures, to what happens when one becomes obsessed with others' opinions of them over their own, to the confusing and frail human experience of growing old.

Kathy & I discussed on the way home how shockingly good Disney-Pixar movies are every time. How even though Dreamworks movies such as Shrek and Kung Fu Panda are definitely enjoyable, they can't even compete when it comes to the level of quality in the animation and writing. And I think I can boil it down to this: those are good animated movies, but these Disney-Pixar movies to me are simply films. And even though I know it won't be, just as Wall-E should have been included last year, I think Up should be nominated for this year's Best Picture.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Under the Table and Dreaming.

I remember clearly the first cassette tapes I ever bought for myself when I was in elementary/middle school. Hootie & the Blowfish's Cracked Rear View. The Cranberries' No Need to Argue. Counting Crows' August and Everything After. No Doubt's Tragic Kingdom. And the blurred carnival swings of Dave Matthews Band's Under the Table and Dreaming. I listened to side A and side B of that cassette before I knew it was cool to like Dave Matthews Band (high school, especially with the band kids) and long before I knew it was uncool to like Dave Matthews Band (college at a private school, where it was uncool to like most things mainstream except in a hip ironic way, although if I had joined the crowd and gone to a public state school, Dave Matthews Band might have stayed a little bit cool, at least one can assume from the masses of college kids who attend all of their concerts). Back in the day, before they started releasing songs with titles like Dream Girl and American Baby, I attended ridiculous huge stadium DMB concerts in New York and Philadelphia and Hershey and I know I've outgrown that phase of my life - none of the bands I really listen to play stadium shows and if they did I couldn't afford the tickets - but sometimes I wonder why. I mean, really, they were pretty fun. And sometimes, randomly, I listen to this record again, like I did earlier this week driving back from the coast to Portland on Route 6 through Tillamook State Forest. This is a road full of twists and turns which sometimes makes you sick to your stomach but which I'm getting more used to driving on now. It is also a pretty much beautiful drive, following the Wilson River and surrounding you with big forested hills. It is, essentially, a good road for Under the Table and Dreaming.

I'm not sure what it is but this album sets me at ease when I am in transit. It's one of those albums everyone in my family likes so we usually popped it in on road trips, settling into a comfortable silence while it spun. In particular it takes me back to road trips with my brother through the west and California, or any time I felt really and truly far away from everything, in a good way. Sometimes it makes me feel like I am in Pennsylvania in the fall and it is late afternoon and everything seems golden and pretty. It sounds simple to say it makes me feel relaxed, but, well, sometimes feeling relaxed is a totally underestimated emotion. When the weather is just right and I'm on the road and listening to this album I can imagine I'm one of those dudes who are perpetually tan and happy with good hair who take a year off to move to Hawaii to surf, or move to Colorado to ski a lot, just cause. And let's be honest, I want to be one of those dudes a lot.

Musical notes: If there were more songs like Ants Marching being released as big radio hits today, radio would be better. Rhyme & Reason is, like, really really angry/scary. Lover Lay Down is still one of the sleepiest, sweetest love songs I've heard. And, if in the right mood (ie., if I was sad), I could listen to Pay For What You Get on repeat for hours.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Portland, Oregon.

As mentioned in my last entry, June is the month of visitors for us. My dad was here last week, who has been here more than anyone and has already seen a good amount. So we got creative and drove to Bend, which was pretty wonderful and made me realize what a diverse/great state Oregon as a whole is. This week Kathy's friend Steph from North Carolina is visiting, her first time, and so we're hitting all the first-time-visitor hot spots: Yesterday we conquered the Columbia River Gorge and all the wonderful vistas/waterfalls which come with it, and we tried to conquer Mt. Hood at the same time but it was all a little too much. Especially since Steph had been a plane for six hours. By the time we got home we were pretty exhausted and had probably spent too much time in the car. So today, we spent all day in Portland. And it was awesome.

There was an editorial in the Oregonian recently about how the New York Times Travel section and really pretty much everyone else have been writing a good number of articles about How Awesome Portland Is and how all the love is almost getting to be annoying/unrealistic. As for actually living here, the awesomeness does shine through sometimes but is often crowded out by other things. On a superficial level, it's crowded out by working too much and stressing about money and all the other realities of day to day life, just as living anywhere awesome probably isn't awesome all the time when you actually have to make a living there. On a personal level, it's crowded out by a specific inability to live in the moment which has come over me here, even though I know what's happening in the moment is great. For better or worse, living so far away from everything my life was before makes me live in a mindset of either overthinking the past - how great life in Boston was, how I got to see my family more, etc - to overthinking the future - moving to North Carolina at a future date, having an actual career, being able to see my family more again, etc. It's a strange situation of being constantly excited about where I am and when I won't be where I am anymore at the same time.

But today, we started out the morning at Pine State Biscuits. Then we made our way to the Rose Garden. Then the Japanese Garden. And the Chinese Garden. And Powell's. And Stumptown. And then we took a tour on Willamette Jet Boat Excursions, where we got soaked and I pretty much had the most fun I've had in a really long time. Then we drove home feeling sunsoaked and windwhipped, and soon, we will make our way out to dinner at Montage.

And right now, I am not thinking about work, or the East Coast, or pretty much anything at all, except for what a really, really wonderful place I live in.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Sweet potato fries.

I love them. I was reminded of this when I had them at the Three Creeks Brewery in Sisters, Oregon this week on the mini-road-trip we took with my dad while he was visiting. Really I love any and all sweet potato fries - I can't recall ever having a bad batch - although the Orleans Fries we had at the Friendly Toast in Portsmouth, New Hampshire two summers ago do stand out when I try to rack through my sweet potato fries memories. Orleans Fries consist of a huge heap of sweet potato fries with brown sugar, Tabasco, and sour cream. Yeah. Done, and done.

Updates to this blog may be sporadic for the month of June, wherein we are entertaining various visitors for almost the entire month. My dad's visit kicked it all off and we had a great time; we have a few days of work until the next visitor, Miss Steph, arrives on Monday. I feel preemptively sad for when the month is over and we have to return to regular ol' life. But, at least since we will be doing lots of awesome things, I will eventually have lots of awesome things to write about.