Tuesday, August 31, 2010

great plains to great lakes

There was a big storm overnight in Bismarck, ND and it was still raining when we left a little after 9am. We've been fairly lucky with the weather so far except for another heavy rain that lasted an hour or so when we were still in the mountains of Montana the day before. When you're on the open road traffic doesn't slow down for much of anything so there were some scary moments. The winds were fierce between there and Fargo (don't go, not scenic at all) but in the whole 250 miles we saw only one wind turbine. What a waste of energy. One thing we've noticed though is that if you don't like the weather one place, keep driving.

The other tip I have for you is that if you get bored on a long drive let a fly into your car. Rather than all that money for video games and movies for the kids you could just get them a fly swatter each.

It was a pleasure to find ourselves driving through northern Minnesota; all of a sudden we were seeing signs we were back in the east - white birch trees, goldenrod and huge placid lakes on either side - all that and green grass too.

By early evening yesterday we'd bypassed Duluth and driven along an amazing little windy road that ran 10 miles beside a river rapids that looked much like this. Then we crossed the border into Superior, WI. The lake and Canada are just outside the hotel window.

See you on the other side :-)

Monday, August 30, 2010

mild wild west

Big Horn, Montana yesterday and a sign that pointed to the right off the road saying 'Battlefield of Custer's Last Stand'. All we saw there was a very, very large corn field that was irrigated and more of the Badlands beyond where it wasn't and you have wonder why a bunch of crazy white guys came all the way beyond the middle of nowhere to fight a bunch of Indians. There's not much out here worth fighting over and I have to think the country would have been a better place today if we'd left the middle to the tribes.

Montana rolled by the window for quite a while so it seemed we were almost to Bismarck before we actually crossed into North Dakota. We saw mile after mile of rolling hills, buttes and mesas, and more grass than you could wave a stick at. Multiply layered clouds lit parts of the landscape like roving spotlights. Huge wheat farms were interspersed with badlands and painted canyons. It's easy to forget just how big this country is unless you see it from a car window now and again.

We've also seen some enormous car dealerships on our way - never mind the RV sales centers and every larger town seems to have a Harley-Davidson franchise. Some of the towns are still involved in mining and smelting. It's a different breed of people out here from most we know on the coasts and cars and trucks are a way of life. Of course, all I have to do is imagine this landscape in winter and I want to keep going right now. Personally, I prefer a city bus or taxi.

Next we go to Duluth, only 450 miles but we'll be getting off the highway and traveling narrower roads through more state parks. I've got the camera handy again. My computer doesn't know what time it is and neither do I.

Not everyone can stand living out here.Yesterday afternoon I actually saw a woman on the other side of the highway hitch-hiking with 10 suitcases. I hope someone gave her a lift.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

no shifting gears

Before I say anything else, I'll just mention I'm not taking any pictures - impossible at highway speeds. You need time and skill to get good photographs and the only times we stop are for the necessities. One quickie mart truck stop looks much like another. I am taking notes, though.

We spent yesterday driving through Montana, an experience that was at least as amazing in parts as the Gorge drive. We crossed the Continental Divide just outside of Butte at nearly 7000 feet and hadn't even realized how high we were because there were mountains all around, followed by huge mountain valleys with rivers and more mountains beyond. Yellowstone looked as though it was a landscape that had been dropped from some magical other planet.

Now we're in Billings getting ready to go to Bismarck, ND. I'll keep my eyes open for you :-)

Saturday, August 28, 2010

on the road

There's no way east from Portland except through the Columbia River Gorge which is even more beautiful than one picture can show since it's 200 miles long. The part you can't see here is the effect of the strong wind gusts on the cars and trucks driving along its length at 70 to 80 mph. Beautiful and scary all at once.. just like life.

We're in Spokane and will be leaving for Billings, Montana in a little while. This time I have my camera available and will see if I can get some pictures of the mountain peaks and rivers - that is after we get the insects who sacrificed their lives off our windshield.

Sorry, I don't have time for visiting. You know there's nothing I like much better than being able to do so every day but we have miles to go before we sleep again. Love to you all.

Friday, August 27, 2010

going dim, not dark

The movers will be here soon and sooner still the wi-fi will be packed up into one of the last 'packed by owner' cartons. We're planning to drive to Spokane today and then will head east through the Cascades mostly on Rte 90. It's supposed to be a very beautiful drive and one we haven't done before. Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Montana, North Dakota, and Wisconsin will pass outside the window before we cross into Canada in North Ontario. Hopefully, the hotels will have internet service; hopefully, there will be hotels. Yes, we're taking a blanket.

Thank you to all who have left messages and those who come after. We'll keep in touch :-)

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

countdown to lift-off

Since this was the first picture I painted after arriving in Portland it seems appropriate to post it again now - especially because all my pencils, pens, and brushes are packed.

We haven't actually heard from the moving company that our moving day is definitely Friday but this afternoon their were barriers on the sidewalk in front of our place warning the space between will be closed to parking on Friday. I guess that means our appointment has been confirmed.

We've passed the 50 mark of packed boxes and hope the inventory lists won't be too closely scrutinized by those in authority and that 'knicknacks' is an acceptable term in Canadian customs lingo.

If it weren't for the fact the movers will be packing the chairs, bed, and lamps we'd be sitting in the dark (the candles are packed) and trying to find a comfy spot on the carpet for sleeping.

I'll do my best to stay in touch along the way. Motel 6's do have wi-fi, don't they?

ps: We had a wonderful time on Sunday :-)

Monday, August 23, 2010

my american experience (the susan years)

while this will be the first time i have physically left the u.s., it will not be the first time i've said good-bye. i've actually been saying good-bye for a while now - in fact, i've been saying it, on'n'off, for most of the time susan's been here. iow, for at least the last 30 years...

while it's difficult to say exactly when i began saying good-bye, i'd narrow it down to around 1980, & were i to name a specific 'something' that triggered it, i would say it was probably 2 'somethings': the election of ronald reagan, & the arrival of the ramones...

much of what's been said regarding the seventies is true - it was a period of national fatigue, hesitancy, & emptiness. the concept of 'limitless resources' that had up till then been the basic premise fueling the dream machine began coming into question, & the country was at a crossroads: it could either begin attempting to redefine/reconfigure itself in preparation for an approach to a future that differed from what'd come before, or it could deny the reality of what was there to be seen, undertake the wholesale fabrication of it's own alternate reality, & then stubbornly (some might say pathologically) proceed along a 'business as usual' road to (in reality) nowhere...

&, for me, it was the election of reagan that firmly placed the country on the latter path. & it was the ramones that, for me, clearly described just what it was, exactly, that going down that path truly meant...

"A conspiracy between a presidential candidate and a hostile foreign power against an incumbent president would seem to be without precedent in American history..."

- project censored 1987 (reagan's 1980 "october surprise" - arms for hostages)

the 1980 presidential election was itself a bold new experiment in reality fabrication, & going back & reading about the original 'october surprise' now is both bizarre & eerie. even in that 'pre-internet' era, with a mainstream media already somewhat co-opted, there was more than enough independent information available to make one seriously wonder what the hell was going on...

(never mind the strangeness of seeing some of the people involved. like lee hamilton, for example, the chairman of the investigative task force. this being the same lee hamilton who would later serve as both the chairman of the committee that investigated the iran-contra scandal, & the vice chair of the committee that investigated 9/11. needless to say, everyone involved in all 3 of these incidents were completely, officially exonnerated. just saying :) )...

anyway, when you combine this election with the august '81 firing of 11,000 air traffic controllers, you end up with a then 30 year old guy beginning to think that the country he'd lived in all his life was no longer quite the same place, in a very tangible, substantial way. call me naive, but things've just continued to feel distinctly different from that point on, & ominous in a way they'd never felt before (& it never fails to sadden me to appreciate that, for many americans, this's the only version of the country they've ever known)...

i began to think that the administration's 'new morning in america' slogan might not be quite as indicative of what the majority of us might be expecting down the road as was the phrase coined for it's economic program: 'trickle-down'. that there were gloves being removed, & plans being made by forces unknown, which existed above & beyond anything commonly or traditionally understood as 'government'. &, to top it all off, that the vapid cheerleader in the white house was being left out of the loop every bit as much as the rest of us...

"Sitting here in Queens
Eating refried beans
We're in all the magazines
Gulpin' down thorazines

We ain't got no friends
Our troubles never end
No Christmas cards to send
Daddy likes men

We're a happy family
We're a happy family
We're a happy family
Me, mom, and daddy
We're a happy family
We're a happy family
We're a happy family
Me, mom, and daddy..."

- ramones (we're a happy family)

meanwhile, on the other end of the spectrum, the ramones were proceeding to provide all the confirmation of these dark thoughts i could ever've asked for. their music was unlike any i'd ever heard, joyful & angry at the same time, & their message was basically 'look, you're waaay too young to die quite yet, so fasten your seat belts, kids, cuz we both know this's gonna be one helluva hard, crazy ride, & we might as well make the best of it'...

hard to describe how something as simplistic, bombastic, deranged, & blissfully nihilistic as the music these guys produced could at the same time be so comforting, but it most definitely was (& still is). it's not like they're interested in any way in giving anyone any hope for the future. rather, they're saying 'enjoy what there is, now - because, when there is no future, now becomes more precious, & wonderful, than ever. so be alive'...

well, that's what i hear, anyway, when i listen to the ramones. ymmv :) ...

whew!... so, yeah, i've sorta been saying good-bye, on'n'off, ever since back then. i'm sure when someone says good-bye to their country, they're also, in a way, saying good-bye to a part of themselves as well, & i'm okay with that...

it's not like i haven't had a tremendously good time for the most part, because i have. it's just that, as i've gotten older, & am no longer capable of doing what i once could, i'm also, i'm thinking, incapable of living where i once did...

& so, for the last time, good-bye (&, of course, rock on! :) )...

Saturday, August 21, 2010

time for fun

I'm tired of talking about moving, and thinking about moving, and planning for moving, and packing for moving. After all, I have lots of time since the movers won't be coming for another six days..

Meanwhile, I have an appointment to meet a blogger I know and four more I don't know at a fancy French restaurant for brunch tomorrow. Now if I could only find some clothes to wear.. I mean naked's okay for around the house :-)

Friday, August 20, 2010


I feel naked without my tools - the paints, paper, silks, and books.
I caught myself ready to open a box so I could make someone a present.
There's a relentless quality to the moving process in these final days.
The place is in chaos but there's always a quiet retreat somewhere.
Usually that place is anywhere but inside my head - too much to think about.
Perhaps if I'd begun sooner - left my job a month ago instead of last week.
I've thrown away my work clothes, those black skirts and jackets.
It's not that I'm tired of black but some things are just plain finished.
My favorite silk jacket had lining so worn it couldn't be fixed again.
I wore it just the same but not every day - probably just once a week, if that.
Sometimes I needed the feeling of elegance and comfort it gave me.
The tiny rhinestone Canada brooch on its lapel dreamed another life.
The country I return to is not the one I left behind.
I have no illusions.
I'm not the person I used to be either.
I know I'm kinder and more compassionate
But don't know if that's a natural result of the added 30 years
Or because of all the people and places I've grown to love in the US.
I can guarantee I'm not complacent but I never was.
On the other hand, I've developed too many comfortable habits.
Change comes whether we embrace it or not.
Laughter is an excellent antidote for fatuous obsessions.

I saw myself reflected in big windows every morning.
Dark glass doors opened at my approach.
I wonder if they saw me as I left.
I never looked back to check.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

pardon while I brood

Gradually, as we've been surrounding ourselves with boxes and the collapsed frames of collapsible bookcases, we've been amazed at just how much a single shelf can hold, and we have many shelves. The only place I know for sure that has more, aside from (possibly) the Library of Congress, is Powell's World of Books. This is a picture I took in the Red Room - home of books devoted to religions, cults, psychology, travel, foreign language, and their collection of maps, religious statues and travel accessories. Upstairs from there is the Pearl Room - art gallery, arts, architecture, and a beautifully constructed Rare Book Room with old glass windows, hanging lamps and fine furniture for the comfort of perusers.

I've started off describing areas deep in the store that many first time visitors never see. Shall I tell you about the others? Why not? I'm sitting here with a cup of tea and thinking about the place in this city I'll miss most of all. We've lived in Portland for the past 17 years and rarely has a week gone by that we haven't made a pilgrimage and left the appropriate donations on our way back out. Michael Powell probably isn't aware he owes a significant proportion of his wealth to us. Although it's situated on always busy Burnside, when we arrived it backed on a wilderness of old and crumbling railroad yards and warehouses. Parking was never a problem and walks in the area were frequently entertaining, especially because real estate rentals were cheap.

The Church of Elvis was on the upper floor of a building nearby - Elvis was known to be cranky and bad-tempered. I remember hearing loud yells and thumps one day we were near the church and seeing a frightened tourist running out the bottom door with Elvis swearing and waving his guitar in hot pursuit.

The Science Fiction Museum was just up the street. Nothing was for sale there but the guy who ran the place had an amazing collection of memorabilia large and small going back to the 30's. He'd even built a couple of space ships based on ones he'd traveled in himself and a room designed like the inside of one where you could recline on a starship couch and listen to theramin music. Yes, I tried it.

There was a fabulous record/music store called Django's across the street from Powell's and Spartacus further up that sold seriously exotic kinky gear. Django's had been a landmark for 25 years but when they tried to take their business on-line they failed badly and had to close; Spartacus is still there but looks like a Frederick's of Hollywood now. Comic book stores, vintage clothing stores, 50's furniture stores and all sorts of cheap eateries have disappeared but the real estate is valuable.. or maybe not.

But I was going to tell you about the other Rooms at Powell's. Have I run out of time? No. Have you run out of patience? Maybe, but I'll go through the colors anyway. I have time.

The Green Room is the entrance area off Burnside and is where they sell magazines, feature all the new arrival books in every category, and display cards, and maps and books about Oregon. The Blue Room, up a short ramp from Green, specializes in English Literature and poetry. Then there's the Gold Room where you can check out their huge collection of science fiction novels as well as mysteries, thrillers and Manga. If you feel like sitting down with a book or a stack of books while having a snack and a beverage the Coffee Room is right beyond the Gold and you can stay there all day and evening if you like. It's also where they keep the Romance novels, fashion and home decorating books. Did I mention the long balcony corridor that opens on to the Green, Blue and Gold Rooms? There are places to sit and spaces where they have journals, calendars, cups and t-shirts for sale and also staircases up and down (or an elevator). Down is the Rose Room with children's books, young adult books, a play area, toys and puppets and science books and doors to the Orange Room. It really is a very big store. Orange is the entrance from Couch (pronounced cooch) and 11th where you can sell your old books then look for cookbooks, craft books, gardening books, business books or find more cards and literary inspired knicknacks or chopsticks. The only one remaining now is the Purple Room. It's out the back door of Green, across the balcony and up the stairs if you're looking for books about history, political science, archeology, paleontology or books about those topics in foreign languages.

I know I've missed mentioning a few subjects and sub-subjects I've come across in the hundreds of hours I've spent there. I haven't even mentioned Powell's Technical one block down on 9th that overlooks the North Park Blocks. Across the park was a wonderful and enormous old fabric store called the Daisy Kingdom - the building is still there but it's been empty for more than 5 years because the owners could no longer afford the lease.

I'll miss Powell's but I've long been missing the little places that gave the heart of this city it's famous motto 'Keep Portland Weird'. It's still a beautiful city but we'll take our personal weirdness and our collection of books to a city that's one of the oldest in North America, one that is guaranteed to be new and strange to us.

for La Belette Rouge who will visit soon

Friday, August 13, 2010

lucky shots

One thing I'll remember about Portland is the sunrises that could take my breath away. I'm not a very good photographer but all I had to do for these was to stand still and press the button. This one was taken from our upstairs bedroom window after a rainy night. The roof of the quickie mart is what's shining in the lower left. Beyond is the bulk of the medical school campus, then clouds that covered the river, the southeastern part of the city, and all the way beyond the foothills of the Cascade Range. You can see Mt. Hood shimmering in the distance on the right.

Summer mornings with Maxfield Parrish skies were a frequent delight when I drank my before work cup of coffee on the balcony. I wonder if he ever spent time here.

This one was taken on an autumn morning when I stood inside by my drawing table waiting for the hummingbird to return. We saw her often but she always seemed to know when I had a camera ready and would be there and gone before I could click.

Then came the morning I got lucky. Isn't she lovely?

Today I got my art supplies packed - something that I didn't particularly want to do (far too many niggly bits) but now it's done I feel better. Tomorrow it will be time to repack the china I saved from my mother's collection. Oh well, we still have 13 days.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

here there and wonder where

Have you ever noticed that if you look at a picture taken on the North Atlantic coastline, that even under a summer sky, it still looks kind of cold? A long time ago I spent a few days in a borrowed Nova Scotia house in a village that looked much like this one. It may even have been this one, too long ago to be sure, but I can say that's when I fell in love with the eastern seaboard. The coastal climate gets increasingly savage the further north you go but there's a primal beauty in places where nature gives just enough for people to get by.

It won't be long before we go. Tomorrow is my last day at work and the moving company is scheduled to pick up our belongings before the end of the month. Have we packed? No, not yet but we cleared the rented storage space and learned once again we didn't need much of what we'd paid to keep there. Maybe those places could be seen as a kind of drying out space for our attachment to stuff. There was one in RI we paid for every month for 15 years, eventually sending the keys and truck rental money to a sister. Not mine, I don't have siblings. We arrived out here owning next to nothing.

This time we're taking what we've collected with us - bed, couch, chairs, carpet, lamps, bookcases (lots of bookcases), drawing table, and all the accoutrements of the wired life. Should I even mention the books, music, movies, art and art supplies, portfolios, photographs, and the little treasures saved from my mother's collection of things? I've become the family repository of memorabilia. It's all worth more to us now than things once were. Isn't that the way?

I haven't done well with blogging just recently because I'm unable to start any new projects and prefer to treat you to stories and pictures of what I'm currently doing. Now it's become totally apparent that what I'm doing is moving, my choice is to stop blogging altogether until it's done or to post about the move and things considered between here and there.

In a way we're going home to a place that's vaguely familiar and that's always a good thing to be doing.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

a question of intelligence

Recently I spent an entertaining evening with my old friend Octavius O. Rangutan in his Borneo forest. I'd brought along the most recent issue of Time Magazine so it was neither unexpected nor irrelevant when our conversation turned to the subject of whether humans think. This is a subject animals have debated for thousands of years and so far the jury is still out.

Animals don't:
imprison other species
pollute the environment
devise fraudulent banking practices
build weapons of mass destruction
torture other animals
kill out of hatred

Why is it necessary to compare animal intelligence with human intelligence in order for humans to accord us respect?

Speaking of drinking, here's one of susan's favorite songs performed by Louis Prima as King Louis of the Apes, Sebastian Cabot as 'Bagheera' the Panther, and Phil Harris as Baloo the Bear. If you feel like watching more you can find George Sanders playing the evil Shere Khan the Tiger and Sterling Holloway (who seemed to be in every Disney movie back then) doing his twisted version of 'Kaa' the Snake.

How well I remember the the drunken hilarity at the cast party. The ability to laugh and be happy is common to all species.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

drinky bird saves the world

Every time I watch our drinky bird I imagine a giant one operating gears that could power our house. It would solve the problem of renewable energy quite handily, don't you think?

The scientific explanation is they're heat engines that exploit the difference in temperature between the air and the water it dips into. But so far as I can tell, after hours of careful observation, they're real perpetual motion machines.

Besides, wouldn't it be fun to see giant ones in front of peoples houses everywhere? Imagining fields of enormous drinky birds providing power for our cities makes me smile.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

I protest

Crow here. Please pardon my somewhat ruffled and down at beak appearance today but I've spent months of spring and summer toiling at the Gulf of Mexico in a rescue operation. Just recently we heard the news that the massive blowout of oil from the infamous Deepwater Horizon site has been capped and there's nothing more to concern ourselves with.

Nothing more to see here folks. Everything is back to normal. Nobody need worry about the millions of ton of Corexit that have been dumped into the water since it does keep the spilled oil submerged. You can't see it. It's gone. So it may be a little toxic to marine life but what the heck, you can't see them either unless you go diving.

I've been around millennia so try to take the long view, but I must admit I haven't been able to help but notice there's something seriously wrong and I don't like it. In point of fact, I'm angry, ticked off, indignant, offended, irate, outraged, resentful, and yes, vexed. I don't know what's right. I don't know the right thing to do. I don't have any answers. It's a puzzle.

Naturally, if I complain out loud someone will always say, 'So what's your answer?' Anyone who's considered the great mass of problems that have come to weigh on us certainly has some clues about how to make things better but none of us have the solutions to everything that's gone wrong. How could we? It appears we've reached the end result of hundreds of years of generally limited vision combined with a natural tendency among some to be power mad and greedy.

So I protest in general, an empty protest, a non-positivist way of being part of the political discourse. I take my outrage seriously but I can't force myself to have answers. There's no way to replace the frustration I feel by figuring out rational answers to insanity. Why try to fill the emptiness of protest with positive suggestions before their time?

When the time is right the answers will come to me, to you, to others. Meanwhile, we go on with our lives and hope that day comes soon.