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Well, you quite possibly know that your family is partially screwed up when your aunt attempts to visit you and is not allowed to board the plane due to “aggressive behavior”.

Oh, Aunt Linda. How did this happen? I suppose it isn’t that hard to picture Aunt Linda being aggressive, despite her hippie persona. I haven’t seen her in years, which was the reason for the attempted visit. Encouraged by my hippie phase in my late teens/early twenties, she always felt we understood each other. On Jerry Garcia’s birthday each year, she would bake a “steal your face” cake and snap a picture of it, later emailing it proudly to me. 7 years ago while on a road trip, my brother and I stopped by her apartment in Florida to pay her a visit. Aunt Linda and I drank one of those double- size bottles of red wine while my poor brother looked on helplessly. But even then she had a sense of wavering fragility, as if something wrong could occur at any minute.

And things did go wrong at any minute for her. Over the years it would seem that her life was peppered with melodramatic family mishaps. A traumatic divorce. Both of her sons did time in jail for strange things that were of course never their fault.Her oldest daughter became a female bodybuilder. I am not even sure how that relates to anything and certainly doesn’t fall into the melodramatic family mishap category, but I thought I would make mention of that fact to present a picture of just how strange things really are down there in Florida.

I arrived home from work on the night she was due to arrive in Oregon and checked my email. On my facebook page there was 1 new message, and it was from Aunt Linda. The subject: Plane. The text described an interesting situation where apparently she was not allowed to board the plane due to being “too aggressive”, as well as her claim that she did nothing out of the ordinary. Had a couple glasses of wine before the flight.

My emotions vacillated between sympathy (how dare they!), anger (who is going to pay for those hotel rooms my mom bought her in Portland!?!), and morbid curiosity (wow I wonder what actually happened? can’t you just picture some kind of scene?). But after lengthy discussions with the relatively emotionally sane members of my family, I have determined that perhaps the airline did us a favor by pre-screening my aunt for me. The bottom line is, if a 62 year old woman is denied boarding due to aggressive behavior, and she can’t even get her shit together for 5 minutes to get on an aircraft, that week long visit here in Oregon might not have been terribly enjoyable.

And we never did find out what happened. The airline would only tell us there had been an “incident report”. My morbid curiosity hasn’t gone away, but I may never find out. We’ll save that one to the imagination, I suppose.

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thoughts on self improvement

I feel completely sick to my stomach as each hour of the day passes with no news of the position I applied for. In my mind, I break down each moment of each interview, and the inane and ridiculous things that came out of my mouth before I had a good chance to think them through stand out like beacons of idiocy in an ocean of calculated speech.

Not getting the position would mean being flung back into the depths of despair. The despair of being stuck with no movement, lateral or otherwise, and the despair of another rejection being heaped on top of other monumental rejections in my life so far. A symbol of hopelessness, of an inability to break out of what I’m doing.

Getting the position would mean an elated feeling of success and validation. It would serve as a sign that I am on the correct path. It would mean I am the best at what I do, that I have something to offer. But somehow, as time goes by without hearing, that likelihood seems to become less and less.

Of course I know that I am notoriously overdramatic, and not getting one position does not automatically preclude me from getting another position. But the roller coaster of emotions that comes with the fitfulness of simply not knowing the outcome has led me to this unpleasent place in my mind that I need to escape from.

Outside, the sun has made an unscheduled appearance and it’s hesitant presence on the decomposing, sodden, brown, leaves of fall makes me feel like perhaps I will probably be able to feel successful someday regardless of the outcome of the situation. Until then I will continue to ride this out, and hopefully someday myprofessional blunderings and feverish snaps of emotions will even themselves out against the backdrop of life.

I have a cat. However, I do not qualify as a “cat person”. You know the stereotypes that come to mind when you think of a cat person: a house reeking of urine, perpetually single women, overfed and fussy cats occupying prime real estate in a living room. At the risk of seeming like a bad person and pet owner, I will announce that I keep my cat to keep rodents out of my house, provide a homey feel when humans view him perched on my porch, and to enrich my life when I overhear some purring.

I believe that cats should come and go as they please, cause little trouble, provide bits of therapy here and there with an appropriately timed lap sit, and defend the house against mice and rats when they try to move in during the fall time. My end of the bargain includes providing a warm shelter, sufficient quantities of high quality cat food, and annual checkups at the veternairian.

The other animals in my life are considered differently. My geriatric dog, who is approaching the ripe old age of fourteen, has an entirely different contract with me. She is my best friend, a spitting example of unconditional love, and I will do anything and everything for her. We go everywhere together. I will get up at six in the morning to take her out if need be. I will prepare her elaborate meals, buy her heated dog beds, and go out of my way to ensure she has an enjoyable day which includes several trips to the park. And then there’s my horse. He provides me with endless hours of entertainment, exercise, enjoyment, and listens to me discuss all the aspects of my life while we are on long trail rides. He commands my unlimited attention and wallet because he doesn’t even have to try, there is something about his sheer massive size and nonchalent attitude that you cannot argue with.

Back to the cat. He came about accidentally, as you may be able to guess. He was found as a feral kitten, newly born, under a tractor out on Sauvie Island, where I work. I didn’t mean to adopt him, in fact, when myself and a co-worker first discovered the 2 kittens in the grass under the tractor, we decided to put them back out in the barn, so that their mom could come find them. We also had the hope that if their mom didn’t find them, that the barn owls would find a nice meal. But the next day, it was apparent that neither their mom nor the barn owls had located the kittens, and they looked substantially weaker. We brought them into the farmhouse, and the next thing you know, we had bottled kitten formula at the ready, and took shifts feeding the cats. One of the kittens was an orange tabby, and because I had a beloved orange tabby named Sam as a child, I decided I would adopt the orange one. You know, do my duty as an animal lover and take in the poor wretched creature. I named him Tractor.

Everything was going along great with Tractor until recently. He is kind of the perfect cat- he is willing to put in a little bit of time snuggling, but he has a cat door that we installed so he is free to come and go as his pleases. This has made him independent and prevented him from becoming too needy. He sticks around our house though, not liking to go too far away. He sleeps on our bed, usually at the foot curled up against our legs, and I like this immensely.

Then suddenly, he started excessively grooming his genitals and howling. I’m not really sure how else to describe it. But he spent one night under our bed, conducting the aforementioned activity. The next day, like the responsible pet owners we are, we took Tractor to the vet’s office and spent three hundred dollars to determine that the cat had “crystals” in his pee. We came home armed with special cat food and three kinds of medicine. Ten days later, there has been no improvement. A quick peruse of the internet reveals all kinds of people, cat people if you will, that seem to think there is nothing strange about spending thousands of dollars at the vet’s office to improve this problem.

It is symbolically a dark rainy day as I sit here contemplating not doing that. I saved the feral kitten from death once before, must I now slip into debt to do so again? When there are people in my life that need the money for health care and food, am I a bad person for having the cat euthanized rather than paying for surgery for Tractor? I am hesitant, and the moral dillema is making me miserable.

It took me a long time to get used to the idea of laser eye surgery. I remember when I first heard about it, back in the day, perhaps 15 years ago when it first came out, and thinking “holy shit!”

The idea of some laser machine fixing my eyeballs so that I would never have to wear glasses or contacts again was so amazing. The very idea that something like that could even be a remote possibility was almost too delicious of an idea to really be true. I remember discussing it with my father, and both of us being in awe of the concept. It gave me an almost reverential view of medical technology. I thought, “oh, I’ll give it ten years, and let them work out the kinks”.

So when I ended up in the laser eye center on the date my eyeballs were to be lasered into shape, approximately 15 years after the fact, and the doctor asked me how long I was thinking of getting laser eye surgery, I answered truthfully. He didn’t seem surprised, and he didn’t say much to me, he just squinted down at my file. My file was pages upon pages of beautiful color renditions of my eyeballs. There were rainbows everywhere, representing the many inaccuracies in my vision picked up by some kind of wavefront analyzer. The rainbows must’ve meant something to him, or at least I hoped. At the very least, he was doing a good job of squinting down at the information and had a very good thoughtful doctor expression plastered on his face. He looked up at me, and smiled. “Very good!” he said. “All set.”

For years my eyeballs have been the bane of my existence. I have been so blind, that I cannot even find my glasses without my glasses. You can imagine how this might present a problem in life. I have worn contacts since I was 13, so that would be wearing contacts straight for 18 years since I am now the ripe old age of 31. For 18 years straight, I have been able to pretend that I have 20/20 vision, simply by conducting a twice daily ritual that I used to refer to as “putting in” or “taking out my eyeballs”. At times, this ritual would cause great angst, since the contact lenses did not always cooperate. They were not reliable friends. At these times, I would be reminded that I was indeed quite blind, and unable to see farther then 10 inches from my face. The contact lenses got dirty easily from the myriad of activities that I do that involve copious amounts of dirt, and they stuck to my eyes or felt like sandpaper. Occasionally, they would decide to fall out at inappropriate times, such as driving on the freeway at seventy miles an hour, or when I was away for the weekend at a friend’s house and didn’t have another pair of contacts with me.

Contact lenses became a further hassle when, at the age of 27, I was told I had astigmatism and needed better, differently shaped lenses that also happened to cost twice as much. And my eyes, weary of the struggle of having things put in them each day, began to get annoyed sooner and sooner with the contact lenses. This meant I had to throw them away earlier in their life span, and despite numerous coaching sessions between the eyeballs and the lenses, nobody seemed to like each other anymore.

There were always the glasses. Glasses never had a problem with either of the eyeballs, they tended to be rather easygoing. On with the glasses, wow I can see, off with the glasses, oh shit I’m blind- where are my glasses? The glasses always had to be carefully set directly near me whenever they came off, or else I might not live another day. In fact, in matters of life or death, my struggle with the eyesight ranked high. During my hippie days, I was positive that the world was going to end shortly. Probably, this would entail running and yelling and building forts in the woods, at which point my stash of canned goods and underused backpacking equipment was going to come in great handy. But what was I going to do about the eyesight? During the Armageddon, when my last box of contact lenses ran out, and my last pair of glasses were stepped on during some frenzied stampede, what was I going to do? I would be useless. A burden to someone, or worse, left to flail around helplessly or starve to death while natural selection quickly plucked me out of the gene pool.

So I wasn’t surprised when filling out the initial questionnaire at the laser eye center, to discover that the number 4 checkbox under “Reasons Why You Want to Have LASIK” was indeed “safety in an emergency or other situation where there is no time to find glasses or contacts”. I checked that one with a flourish.

On surgery day, they gave me enough Valium to sink a ship. Well, not to sink a ship, that’s an exaggeration. But enough Valium to allow someone to willingly stick their eyeballs under a huge laser machine, for re-shaping. Because no matter how many times people tell you it’s the best thing that ever happened to them, and no matter how many times you read the statistics that claim 99% satisfaction, there is nothing natural about having laser beams shape your eyes. And even as the Valium set in, and I laid on a chair in the bone chilling temperatures of the “surgical suite”, there was a tiny voice somewhere hollering at me “Nooooooo! What are you doing????? Ruuuuuuuuun! Laser beams + eyeballs = TERRIBLE IDEA!!!!!”

I couldn’t feel much, but everything went gray. This perhaps is the most frightening moment, in a lost gray world, and there is some pressure on your eyeball. It is remarkably unpleasent, but not painful. I definitly wondered if I would ever see again. Soon, the lasers are working, dull orange pulses of blurry light, I try to watch them and hold my eyes steady as they get to work. They tell you it doesn’t matter, that if you move your eyes, the laser beams have a tracking system.

When it was over, in an amazingly quick burst of time, I sit up, and am surprised to see on the clock above the chair that it is 10:30. Before, the clock could’ve been a smoke detector, for all I knew, a white blurry blob. Otherwise, I’m in a Valium dream, and there are doctors shaking my hand and telling me “congratulations” and to “enjoy my new eyes”. I feel like a bionic woman, half woman, half robot, and that the lasers have someone shaped who I am. I stumble out into the waiting room wearing black goggles, and my driver, who also happens to be my boyfriend, collects my things, gathers me up, and gets me to the car somehow, wisely suggesting we take the elevator instead of the stairs on the way down.

Now it is the following day. I have 20/20 vision. I have normal human eyeballs. I’m glad I took the day off, not because I needed it, but because I wanted to wander around the city, and look at the world as if seeing it for the first time. Because it was my eyeballs, by themselves, seeing it. There will never be any stumbling around looking for glasses. There will never be anymore dreading of campfires, because the smoke will ruin my contacts. I can sleep over at anyone’s house I want if I have too much to drink, without paying big bucks for a cab because I don’t have my contact stuff with me. Oh, it will be the little things! And, the big things too, like Armegeddon. Bring it on!

 

 

I don’t celebrate Valentine’s. Actually, I always sort of prided myself on that. A good example of why: a few years back, I was out with some girlfriends at a bar on that particular day. Although I had a boyfriend at that time, I don’t know where he was, but we certainly weren’t together. I went into the bathroom, and this woman was crying mournfully.

“What’s wrong?” I ask, concerned.

“My boyfriend didn’t give me a good enough Valentine’s Daaaayyyyyyyyy!!!!” she wailed miserably.

It’s this one day, where, even if you are a complete ass the entire rest of the year, society is going to make you buy a pink shiny balloon and redeem yourself over an awkward and painful dinner that cost three times what it should.

My boyfriend and I have been dating for over three years and have yet to celebrate. Well, unless you count the “Spandex Party” we had on Valentine’s Day two years ago. Everyone came dressed up in ridiculous spandex outfits. We served cheap wine (one step down from two buck chuck, if you even knew something like that existed), cheap vodka, and cupcakes. There was a enthusiastic dance party, a game of Pass The Orange, Twister, and hula hooping. The next day, I was amazed from talking to party goers to find that a lot of people had peed in their spandex, from laughing so hard. My research led me to believe that wearing spandex makes one more like to pee themselves. Who knew?!?

So I don’t know what came over me the other day, but on Friday before Valentine’s Day my coworker had delivered a huge bouquet of roses. She displayed them proudly to the others of us in the office and I felt some sort of pang. I guess that’s the point of sending your honey roses at work on Valentine’s Day, to make others in the office think “well now that’s something special. I wish I had roses at work!”

I fired off a text message to my boyfriend: “Ahem. Stephanie just had roses delivered at work. was just wondering where mine are. must be a mix up.”

His immediate response: “thought you didn’t like roses. how about i clean the bathroom and we call it romantic”

The thing is, I really don’t like roses. They do nothing for me. The sight of roses does not make me feel romantic. Most of them are grown in Ecuador with tons of pesticides and persevatives and shipped via jetplane . Besides roses are old lady flowers. Whenever my boyfriend gets me flowers, which he really does quite often by the way, he gets them from a little boutique florist and they always include lots of my favorite flowers, including birds of paradise (which aren’t my favorite, but it’s the closest thing purchasable to a Heliconia, which is my favorite). In fact, when me and the poor guy started dating, he asked me what my favorite flower was and as a botanist, I replied “shooting stars”. The shooting star, Dodecantheon spp., is a native flower that likes grasslands here in the NW. It flowers briefly in early spring and looks like a little shooting star. I don’t think there is a cultivated version of this, and if you did go find one in the wild, I am positive the little thing would wilt on the hike back. Not knowing this, my boyfriend goes in search of them unsuccessfully at flower shops. That’s when I settled for the Heliconia, and then birds of paradise by further default.

My point is, sending me roses would be entirely inappropriate and I’m not sure why I was feeling this pang.

Then, actual Valentine’s Day rolls around. Of course as usual there is nothing planned. Not to mention, we are both slightly hungover from some overindulgence the night before. We eat a big casserole and then he tells me he wants to go out to have some beers with some of the guys. Do I want to come? No. But you go right ahead honey. Am I sure? Of course. We don’t celebrate Valentine’s Day. It’s a stupid hallmark holiday.

He’s gone for a few minutes and I am feeling a little funny. I decide to go down into the basement and play with my new karaoke machine. I love karaoke, and I have just purchased a karaoke machine, in the hopes that I can be like those little old Asian people sitting on a cot somewhere, stoically singing. In fact, it had only just arrived, and I have been just waiting for the opportunity to have the house to myself and operate the karaoke machine to my heart’s content.

I settle onto the couch and my old dog hops up next to me. I begin singing, I start with “Always on my mind” by Willie Nelson, as it seems to fit the mournful Valentine’s Day mood. My dog begins to frantically look around, apparently the sound of my voice through speakers is disturbing to her. After about 5 songs she gets used to it and settles in to a slumber, looking up at me if I get to a dramatic point in a song. I sing many slow mournful songs, including several Air Supply hits.

At first, I can’t stop laughing. The whole thing, sitting on my couch on Valentine’s Day by myself singing karaoke with my dog and drinking Miller Lite, seems hilarious. The expression on my dog’s face, the solitude of the whole experience, and yes, the karaoke. Too funny. But it doesn’t take very long before this becomes somewhat depressing. Each song I sing with less and less enthusiasm, until I become tearful. After an hour of this misery, I pick up my phone and text the boyfriend: “worst valentine’s ever.”

Now this really is ridiculous, I mean, we don’t celebrate Valentine’s Day. I honestly think it is silly. But he comes rushing home, anyway. We sit on the couch and snuggle, he brings me a diet coke and an ice cream sandwich, and I feel somewhat redeemed. I know he is very confused, but I apparently am not immune to those pangs that women tend to experience on this day. Next year, I am not going to let it get to that point. I swear.

Arctic Blast 2008

It’s that time again, time for an Arctic Blast. Only happens about once every five years or so in Portland, Oregon. Only this time, for some reason, it seems to be lasting a very long time. Our first little bits of snow starting coming down about a week ago, and then there was snow blanketing the city on and off since then. Over this past weekend we received the motherlode of snow, somewhere around 6-8 inches I’m guessing. It appears to be still snowing.

At first it was rather exciting. My boss, who is originally from San Diego, declared that the roads out to our office with their mere dusting of snow were too hazardous to drive. We all went out and fetched our computers and worked from the comforts of our houses, all week. I went along with the game and pretended to feel equally snowbound, all the while driving out to the horse barn everyday to take care of my horse, who lives very close to this supposedly “snowbound” office. But now, now that we are actually snowbound, I’m beginning to feel differently. We’ve sort of run out of snowbound activities, you could say. We have already had “nights out” at all the bars within stumbling distance of our house. We have played all the board games in the house that are appropriate for two people, and when those were over, we got drunk with the neighbors. We’ve had movie nights and baking nights. I even had a letter writing night, yes, actual hand written letters on paper that I will now take to the post office and mail with actual stamps. Everybody on my street keeps bringing over cookies and scones and shit they keep baking in their ovens, with nothing else to do. In my neighborhood, which tends ever so slightly towards “urban redneck”, people are driving past my house on ATV’s.

The problem comes that Portland is incapable of doing anything about the snow. There are very few snowplows, no such thing as sanding trucks or even perhaps accessible stockpiles of sand. The prevailing snow mentality is to require everyone to use tire chains and just hope it melts. 4 out of 5 times this proves to be an acceptable strategy, as the snow really does melt quickly. But tire chains are relatively helpless in large accumulations of snow, and there is that 1 time out of 5 where it sticks around for a week or so, and the city shuts down. Like now.

The plan for today? Another booze run. Maybe buy some new toys. And we had a wholesome board game playing letter writing night last night, so it might be time to start cycling back through the neighborhood dive bars.

Thoughts on the economy

It’s my favorite time of year. That’s right, it’s that time again: bring on the toy stampedes. Every year around this time, crazed and panic stricken shoppers turn violent as they scuffle over the last remaining electronic whatever-it-is-now. Just today, I am greeted with the inspirational news that some poor soul working at Wal-mart was trampled to death while trying to unlock the store doors at 5 am. Now, you heard that right. Yes, apparently two thousand people were gathered outside Wal-mart at five o’clock in the fucking morning! Just dying to get inside.

Who are these people, in the first place? Who the hell would want to wait outside Wal-mart at that hour? In the cold? You couldn’t get me near a Wal-mart with a fifty foot pole, at a normal hour of the day. And here all these stupid fuckers are, lined up overnight to get in, and for what? To trample some poor guy to death! To fight over useless crap, brandishing toys as weapons? And if you think about it, no wonder these people trample employees to death and punch each other out over the last cabbage patch kid. They’ve been standing outside Wal-mart for over 12 hours, spending the previous night awake and in line instead of sleeping, in the freezing cold, working themselves into a frenzy over the useless contents of some soulless big box store! If you ever want to feel more desperate and unenthusiastic about humanity, just think about that.

The sick part is, I’m sure all over Wall Street some assholes clapped their hands in glee that shopping related stampedes are still commonplace in these “trying economic times”. I’m just wondering. Has it occured to anyone else that maybe there is something inherently screwed up about our culture if we all need to be constantly purchasing useless crap to make our little world go round? The minute people stop racking up pointless debt to procure yet another flat screen TV, the world is crumbling to pieces?

I say, let it crumble. It’s time to build on a new foundation.