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Thompson Peak as I slowly made my way closer to it.

Thompson Peak as I slowly made my way closer to it.

When I broke camp I had only a few miles left to go, but also the most difficult part of the trail ahead of me. Since I’m out of shape compared to previous years, I intentionally chose an easy trail. However, the last 2 1/2 miles climb nearly 2000 feet to Grizzly Meadows.

Steep elevation climbs bring the views and the waterfalls that make it all worth the trouble. In no time I was marveling at Thompson Peak holding court at 9000 feet among the shorter, but just as spectacular, peaks nearby. Glaciers on the north face are each noted to be 2 miles across, but the map needs some updating because the snow fields are now tiny. I could only identify one glacier, so perhaps the second is gone forever.

Two fabulously gorgeous and athletic hikers refilled their water bottles at China Creek with me. I contemplated the unfairness of it all: gay men can be some of the most attractive humans on the planet, and they get to hook up with each other. D’oh! They were planning to summit Thompson Peak the next day, and planned to camp at the Meadows with me that night.

Falls on Grizzly Creek

Falls on Grizzly Creek. What do you see at the bottom? That’s right: swimming pool!

Another of the many falls on Grizzly Creek.

Another of the many falls on Grizzly Creek.

“Somewhere between the upper and lower meadow, one of the most incredible mountain vistas I’ve ever witnessed comes into view.” ~Art Bernstein, in Best Hikes of the Trinity Alps

Bernstein was not kidding. This place is amazing.

This is what I go to the mountains for: jaw-dropping views.

This is what I go to the mountains for: jaw-dropping views. Grizzly Meadows in the foreground is surrounded by a shelf holding Grizzly Lake. Thompson Peak rises above it all. To see the falls, click this image for a larger version.

Pool beside my camp.

Pool beside my camp.

I found a place to set up camp beside a pool on Grizzly Creek at the base of the falls. My original intent had been to hit the scramble trail next, following cairns up the cliff. It would be another 1000 feet in one mile. At that point I was exhausted and simply didn’t have the heart for it. I had achieved 18 miles with no injuries, but I was wiped out. I imagined that a good night’s rest could give me the inspiration I needed, and spent the rest of the day playing in the meadow. I dropped my nalgene of wine into the creek to chill.

A doe lingered on the edges of my camp all afternoon. She was even skinnier than the other deer I had seen so far. I hope it means only that it’s early in the season, and not that she is starving.

After a good soaking in the pool beside my tent, in which I even unraveled my braids and let the water run through my hair, I felt good enough to climb over boulders and investigate the woodpeckers and snakes and other delights. In three days I had only one pestering blister, and I had to be grateful that I can still do this kind of thing, when many of my friends suffer with knee and shoulder and spine injuries that are forcing them to slow down in life.

In the evening I sat on a big rock in the center of the creek and let a refreshing breeze blow through my hair. I ate smoked salmon and cream cheese wraps and had a cup of wine. The chilled wine was so good I had a second cup. I had been planning to share the last of the smoked salmon with the gay men, who had camped at the lower meadows, but my hunger finally kicked in and I finished every last bit of the fish, down to licking my fingers.

The falls from Grizzly Lake

The falls from Grizzly Lake

Peaks around Grizzly Meadows

Peaks around Grizzly Meadows

This is the last mile of trail. Bernstein writes, "The trail's slope occasionally exceeds 100% and approaches infinity in a couple of spots." Ha, ha.

This is the 19th mile of trail. Bernstein writes, “The trail’s slope occasionally exceeds 100% and approaches infinity in a couple of spots.” Ha, ha.

I looked at the cliff in front of me and… felt dismay. I could not summon the spirit to climb. Though I would be able to leave the pack at the bottom, I still didn’t have the heart to go on. I suspected I wouldn’t feel any different in the morning. I was so tired. It was so hot. And I was alone. I yearned for the enthusiasm of a friend to bust out with a smile and say, “Come on, Crystal, let’s go! You can do it!” But the deer was only interested in my leftovers, and the couple were conserving their energy for the next day’s climb. It had been nice to relax for hours, and I went to sleep feeling good, despite my misgivings.

The next morning the only thing on my mind was going home. I watched the orange sunrise light up the peaks and then drip down the steep slopes. I put my leftover oatmeal on a rock for the doe. I wished the guys a good climb as I passed their camp (btw, gay men are still gorgeous, even when you catch them brushing their teeth in a creek). Before the sun even touched the meadow I was on my way out. I took more photos.

I turned around to take one last look at the trail through the Meadows.

I turned around to take one last look at the trail through the Meadows.

Gray squirrel looks at me

Gray squirrel looks at me

Ponderosa pine cones

Huge Ponderosa pine cones

The remarkable bark of a Madrone tree.

Remarkable bark of a Madrone

indian paintbrush

Indian paintbrush

It took me two days to get back to the trailhead. I was disappointed to have been so close to the lake and then let it slip away. But by then I had other things to be excited about, because once I got out of the mountains I would be heading to the coast to pick up my kid from her dad’s house. Instead of thinking of my missed opportunity, I thought about how great it would be to see Tara again.

Let me tell you, on day five this sight was aaaaalllmost as awesome as Grizzly Meadows:

Lonely Dragon Wagon 2 at the trailhead.

Lonely Dragon Wagon 2 at the trailhead.

Yes, I’m a nature girl, and yes I love the modern world. I’m a woman of complexity, what can I say? The Jeep seemed the epitome of luxury, with cushioned seats, AC, and satellite radio. I admit the stereo was blaring The Prodigy as I wound my way back out of the Alps, grinning.

 

A Lesser Finch finds birch seeds outside my window.

A Lesser Goldfinch finds birch seeds outside my window.

Squirrel with attitude

Cheeky squirrel ensures my bird feeder never retains much seed.

Aside from the distinct disadvantage of shooting through glass, I have had a blast watching the critters from my office window this winter, and photographing them. I’ve learned so much! I now keep a (totally non-work-related) Word document on my desktop that includes a list of birds I’ve identified, and the dates I saw them. I’m not sure I’m right on my bird identification, but at least I take the time to make a good guess. I’ll bet by this time next year, I’ll feel a lot more sure of what I’m seeing.

A treeful of lesser goldfinches. Can you see them all? And they make the sweetest cacophony of fluttering and twittering when they are in the weeping birch tree. And below the fluff of the seed pods floats down like snow below them.

A treeful of lesser goldfinches. I count eleven. And they make the sweetest cacophony of fluttering and twittering when they are in the weeping birch tree. And below the fluff of the seed pods floats down like snow below them.

The window has received more attentive cleaning, inside and out, than it has had since we moved into this place in November 2011.

I’ve seen things I never expected to see. Last week, four juncos perched at the hummingbird feeder at once, testing the sugar water. They decided simultaneously that they didn’t like it, and flew off in unison. I’ve seen squirrels chase and chase each other, in circles, up and down trees, round and round the yard. Hilarious.

I watched a chickadee chase off a lesser goldfinch from seeds on the ground. And that cracked me up too, because the chickadee was all fluffed up and large compared to the goldfinch, and was being threatening and aggressive. It’s hard for me to think of chickadees as big mean birds, since they’re about 2 1/2 inches tall. I’ll bet they don’t get the chance to chase off others very often.

Speaking of small birds, I am surprised to discover that the birds that often make the most noise back there are the hummingbirds. I didn’t even know how to identify a hummingbird’s sound before, now they are raucous.

The Northern Flickers take my breath away with their size and beauty.

The Northern Flickers take my breath away with their size and beauty.

Can't you just feel that nasty cold wind and snow blasting? The juncos kept hiding on the windward side of the feeder, little darlings.

Can’t you just feel that nasty cold wind and snow blasting? The juncos kept hiding on the leeward side of the feeder, little darlings.

Oh, she was too fast and I missed the shot. Hello, dear. Can I help you? I've never seen a chicken in my yard before, but she is as welcome as all the other birds.

Oh, she was too fast and I missed the shot. Hello, dear. Can I help you? I’ve never seen a chicken in my yard before, but she is as welcome as all the other birds.

Well. You knew this was going to happen eventually.

Well. You knew this was going to happen eventually.

Hummingbird sipping juice from plastic flowers. I haven't decided what kind he is.

Hummingbird sipping juice from plastic flowers. I haven’t decided what kind he is.

I call them the silver squirrel and the red squirrel. There is no better way to explain it!

The silver squirrel and the red squirrel. There is no better way to describe them!

D.L.F. and the Break Neck Betties battle it out at the Memorial Coliseum

D.L.F. and the Break Neck Betties battle it out at the Memorial Coliseum

rose-city-rollers-logoLast week we did something totally Portlandy: Roller Derby!

I took Miss T and her friend to watch our local Rose City Rollers at the 2014 season opener tournament against Seattle’s Rat City Roller Girls. This was not what I had seen in the movies, where skaters speed around a banked track. Instead, this was flat track roller derby. The pace was slower and more complicated, with much back and forth and obvious strategy. Slow-er doesn’t mean slow. There was enough action in Bout 1 for triple-digit scores!

Portland Taiko in their finale: eating person beating multiple drums

Portland Taiko in their finale: each person beating multiple drums

The night opened with a great show from Portland Taiko. The drummers hammered out engaging beats and dazzled us with their active movements. In the final piece, they all stood between two drums and took turns beating on each of them, twisting back and forth in time. And no one lost an eye!

After the drums, we listened to the National Anthem with hands over hearts (some in the audience actually cheered Camryn Carr when she hit the high notes – spot on!), and then all the roller girls came onto the track and circled for us, and then circled in opposite directions and slapped each others’ hands. It was a cacophony of spandex and dyed hair, glitter and tattoos and wicked grins.

Teams circling prior to the opener

Teams circling prior to the opener

Rose City Rollers flag!

Rose City Rollers flag!

Roller Derby is pretty popular here in Portland, and my brother says the Roller Girls are popular in Seattle too. They attract a city crowd, by the looks of the audience. People who have probably lived here all their life, sitting on stadium seats next to their parents and their kids. The audience is yet another example of what it means to be a Portlander: friendly, unpretentious, quirky.

Sadly, I had not picked up a program before we found our seats, so at first I struggled to understand how the Bouts worked, or how points were achieved. Tara overheard someone explaining it behind her, and she explained to me. The teams can send up to 5 skaters onto the track: one is the jammer (who speeds through and makes points), one is the pivot (who keeps the team together), and the rest are blockers.

Blockers in a group, getting ready for the start whistle

Blockers in a group, getting ready for the start whistle

Since everyone's on wheels, there were plenty of spills

Since everyone’s on wheels, there were plenty of spills. Here, the Heartless Heathers and Throttle Rockets both hit the ground.

Most of the skaters are required to stay in a group. They begin by finding a good start up position, with pivots from both teams in front. Pivots and blockers are trying to both 1) keep the other blockers from getting in the way of their own jammer, but also 2) trying to block the opposing team’s jammer. Like football. On wheels.

Both teams’ jammers start from behind, and must shoulder their way through the pack. Whoever gets through first has control of the play and can end it when she wants. Both jammers circle the track and come at the pack for the second trip through, and this time they start earning points. A point for each opposing team member that is passed, including those in the penalty box. From then on, it looks like the jammers keep skating in circles, racking up points, while the pack remains clustered: scattering when the jammers come through, then re-grouping when the jammers are circling. Lead jammer signals the end with her hands on her hips.

His socks say: Nerd

His socks say: Nerd

Kilted ref

Kilted ref

The penalty box was often full, as you can imagine with a full contact sport like this. Like hockey, the team simply had to function without a team member while that person was gone. In the first game, there was a time when the Heartless Heathers had only one person on the track!

Which brings me to the names. What a riot!

The teams were Heartless Heathers vs. the Throttle Rockets, Break Neck Betties vs. Derby Liberation Front (or DLR), Guns N Rollers vs. the Sockit Wenches, and finally the High Rollers vs. Grave Danger.

Their personal names were hilarious: Screaming Beaver, Ethel Vermin, Shock Therapy, Napoleon Blownapart, Untamed Shrew, Knots O’Pretty, Sher Nobyl, and Slamburger Patty just to name a few.

The numbers on their jerseys were not even conventional. Oh, sure, you had your 3, and 47, but there was also 070, H155, OXO,  K2, 5150, 1.001 and my favourite: 16 going on 17. All this was printed on their jerseys. Imagine it!

The officials had their own crazy names on the back of their black-and-whites, and I was delighted to see one ref in a kilt! (Of course there’s a kilt: Portland is the home of the Unipiper, the bagpiping, unicycling, Darth Vader.)

Sponsors even fit the bill: Pabst Blue Ribbon, for example. PBR-Portland’s drink of choice! (not mine, of course, but it’s what you drink if you’re trendy) Also VooDoo Doughnut. You must have heard of it: home of the famous Maple-Bacon Doughnut!

The roller girls from both teams were tatted up and pierced and a load of fun. I’m so glad I finally got to go. I’ve been wanting to see some Roller Derby since I moved here. I had a good time, and learned something more about life. Which, if you’ve seen my blog tagline, is what I’m all about.

Enurgizer Bunny skating for DLR moves in for a block.

Enurgizer Bunny skating for DLF moves in for a block.

In Portland, we got your red mohawaks. We got your lime-green mullets. Any questions?

In Portland, we got your red mohawaks. We got your lime-green mullets. Any questions?

This is the first raccoon of its kind I have seen in colour. Art near the intersection of Belmont and 60th.

This is the first raccoon of its kind I have seen in colour. Art and a message, near the intersection of Belmont and 60th.

I’ve been noticing a stylized raccoon appearing in the city around me. It’s been more than a year since I first spotted them, maybe two years. In the beginning, I mainly saw tiny stencils spray-painted onto a wall or a curb, or at the Green Dragon on Belmont – on one of those wooden folding signs that businesses place on the sidewalk during open hours.   The most astonishing find was a giant raccoon face on the side of a soaring red Petco balloon during a store event on Glisan Street. These days I see black and white stickers of a simple raccoon face.

at  my bus stop

at my bus stop

The design is consistent and easily recognizable. There is something about the white eyes of the raccoon that stick with me.

The mystery fades every so often and I think I don’t care anymore till I see another one. Just that face, staring with ghost eyes right at me. Somehow not creepy, but absolutely compelling. What is it? What is it?

In my attempts to find out a back story of the raccoon, I asked many of the people in my life: “You know that raccoon that has been popping up everywhere? What’s up with that?”

“What raccoon?”

I tried describing it, to no avail. When I told my daughter Tara about the one on the Petco balloon, she rolled her eyes. “Well, it’s obviously just a promotional thing from Petco,” she said. But there was no question of that. A person gets a sense of things, and you have to go with your sense because it’s often smarter than your brain. There was a message. And it was not corporate.

When a sticker showed up at my bus stop on Stark & 86th, I finally had something helpful. I took a photo with my phone and showed it to my daughter that evening. She had never seen one.

on Thorburn Street

on Thorburn Street

But didn’t I tell you it’s a remarkable design? One glimpse on a phone, and she could already pick it out. A month later she spotted one. We had turned off Burnside onto Thorburn St, and were waiting at a light. “Mom! It’s one of those raccoons!” I gave her my phone and she got a quick photo of the sticker on the road guard before the light changed.

I could end the post right there.

I could sum it all up with a happy paragraph on how much I love Portland and it’s eclectic inhabitants, a confession of my interest in tagging, or maybe a nod and a smirk to those of you in Portland who will now SEE this thing, because you can’t help it once it has been pointed out. But I am not very comfortable with mystery. I just want to know what’s going on.

Periodically I have scanned the Internet trying to find something else that refers to the raccoon. The first few times I found nothing. Maybe nothing was out there a year ago, or maybe I used the wrong search terms. Then I found a blog that cleared it all up, and the name of the artist, and artist’s Instagram page. I actually feel relief to see a dozen images of the raccoon on line. I’m not crazy. It is a thing.

The blogger is Katie, who wrote a three-part post titled No Schools, No Churches. She is one other person at least, who noticed the raccoons. She was motivated enough to get to the bottom of it. Katie’s explosion of questions was nearly identical to mine:

Why are you doing this? What does it mean? Where did the raccoon come from? How long have you been making stickers? Do you put them up by yourself or with other people? Do you make other kinds of art? Where did you grow up? Is it OK to peel stickers? How do you feel when the raccoon is torn down or scratched out? What has the reaction been? What are your goals for the raccoon? What’s the Portland sticker scene like?

The story is hers, of course, so read her post and see how she unraveled her mystery. She introduced me to the artist: Just1. His raccoon was inspired in part by Studio Ghibli – isn’t that perfect?! I am struck by how many invisible things link people together. (I am also inspired by the art in Studio Ghibli)

I took this photo of a furry dude in my back yard a couple months ago. Afterward I realized the flash caused the same white ghost eyes as the stencils and stickers. Is there a message in that, as well?

I took this photo of a furry dude in my back yard a couple months ago. Afterward I realized the flash caused the same white ghost eyes as the stencils and stickers. Is there a message in that, as well?

In answer to my question, and maybe yours, there is no call to action. No Great Message. But from what I can tell, there are a few deceptively quiet messages that are profound: pay attention and think about what’s going on.  I haven’t talked to the artist, I don’t know anything about Portland  Art except that I love it (examples: Heavy or Wall Art). But the raccoon IS a thing. And I guess I realize now that I made it a personal thing.

I envy Just1 for doing what I want to do with my art: get through the fog. I want to reach out to take the shoulders of people, shake gently till they notice, and say, “Hello.”

“Don’t sleep,” says the raccoon on the wall, in the latest discovery I made two weeks ago, as I gazed out the window of the #15 bus. It crystalizes the message for me. (Did you get my pun? hyuk!) Whenever I see the raccoon, I do wake up. My senses go on alert, I pay attention, I think. I’ve spent time with the raccoon; we have a relationship. I’ve pondered the meaning, looked for more raccoons, and searched the Internet, all because of a black and white face I can’t forget. The raccoon gave me something to talk about, some sleuthing to do, and a story to write.

From now on, when I see a new one, I’ll be grateful for the reminder to engage with my life while I am living it.

Island in a lake at Laurelhurst Park in Portland, Oregon

Island in a lake at Laurelhurst Park in Portland, Oregon

On a lovely day in early October, Arno and I had a free morning and went to Laurelhurst Park, in Portland’s trendy Southeast section. The park is an easy walk from the famous Hawthorne Street, and even closer to Belmont Street. It’s a long walk from my house, but a 15 minute drive, so we took the quicker option.

I had my photography lesson the day before, and I practiced a little. I don’t notice any great improvement in the quality of my photos, but I did practice adjusting aperture and shutter speed. I still haven’t really figured out iso. But the great thing is: I went out snapping photos, and did not rely on my auto settings. This is a first for me, and I’m proud of myself for taking the plunge.

Ducks left us when they realized we had no food.

Ducks left us when they realized we had no food.

We came across these happy ducks who found children with bags of grain.

We came across these happy ducks who found children with bags of grain.

Laurelhurst sits on a divide between the grittier hipsters of the SE, and the wealthy Laurelhurst neighborhood of gigantic homes like castles that vie for attention along hilly streets that curve from view beneath enormous trees. When I first moved to Portland I fantasized about living in one of those homes, and being able to walk from my front porch to the spacious and stunning park.

The day was sunny. The lake sparkling. The ducks eager. Dogs and children barking and squealing. Strollers being pushed, lovers hand in hand, joggers, skaters, readers, chess players, photographers. All in all, a perfect day for the park.

I enjoyed experimenting with the reflections in the lake.

I enjoyed experimenting with the reflections in the lake.

The algae gives a strong colour to the lake

Algae gives a strong colour to the lake

I did not expect newly blossomed flowers in October!

I did not expect newly blossomed flowers in October!

Laurelhurst Park has some truly remarkable trees

Laurelhurst Park has some truly remarkable trees

Aren't the branches fascinating?

Aren’t the branches fascinating?

Hello friend!

Hello friend!

bonding over redness

bonding over redness

I am not a redhead, but I do get the shivers over gorgeous red locks.

So I was pretty excited that my red-headed friend Heather invited me to come along with her while she joined a bunch of people trying to set a World Record for greatest number of redheads gathered together. I eagerly agreed. On August 17, 2013, my camera in hand, we went to Pioneer Courthouse Square in Portland, Oregon.

The previous World record was set in Breda, Netherlands, and the previous North American record was set in Samammish, Washington. At the beginning of the event, organizers announced that at least 1300 had registered, so if they all stuck around for the official “gathering” and photo, the record would be broken. (Latest estimate is that there were nearly 1600 natural redheads in Pioneer Courthouse Square, so Portland did it!)

My stunning friend Heather, blending in for a change

My stunning friend Heather, blending in for a change

The excitement lasted all day long, as far as I could tell. There were live bands and booths set up all over the square. People were packed in. I began to speculate about whether all those fair-skinned lovelies in the sun would require– yes! Volunteers walked through offering free sunscreen.

And oh, the red hair!

I simply gaped, because I felt like in the midst of a redhead event, I had permission to stare. I begged photos. I drooled over the many heads that held cascades of rolling auburn locks down to the waistline. I cheered the men sporting fiery beards. There were so many smiles from so many people. A natural red came by hollering, “High Fives for redheads!” He slapped Heather’s raised hand and turned to me. And lowered his hand. “You don’t get one,” he said, and moved on to the next huddle. “High Fives for redheads!” “Yay!” they all shouted in reply.

Gathered with the courthouse in the background.

Gathered with the courthouse in the background.

Redheads facing the announcers.

Redheads facing the announcers.

proud of his 'fro

proud of his ‘fro

free sunscreen anyone?

free sunscreen anyone?

The photo was supposed to happen at 2pm. Since it was a hot sunny day, we showed up only an hour early. Heather signed in and had her photo taken while holding a photo of herself as a tyke, in order to validate her claim to world record-ness. She slapped a sticker to her shirt and we killed time by having some Ben & Jerry’s.

dance! dance!

dance! dance!

Then they cleared the square and set up a makeshift fence to keep everyone out. The intent was to let the reds in one by one, so they could be counted. But…. they weren’t quite ready. So an entertainer came out and tried to make everyone dance in the sun while waiting. He was funny, and full of wonderful vivacious energy, but the crowd wasn’t his ideal audience, and most of us packed into the perimeter were lugging backpacks and water bottles and cameras and children…and even if we wanted to bounce around with his danceclub moves, it just wasn’t gonna happen. He got smart and pulled a group of children out of the waiting crowd of redheads, and they danced for the rest of us.

Kids dancing while we wait for the event to begin.

Kids dancing while we wait for the event to begin.

there's a beard!

there’s a beard!

Nice!

Nice!

Finally, a stream of participants began to pour into the central brick square, and soon the area fenced in was completely full. Organizers told all the redheads to look up toward a nearby office tower and wave because photos would be taken from there. Apparently, to meet the requirements of the world record, the group had to be gathered officially for 10 minutes. The organizers weren’t ready for them to be officially gathered, despite the fact that they were already unofficially gathered. Thus, the only downer note of the whole day was a significant one: in an event designed to raise skin cancer awareness, 1600 redheads plus many non-red supporters and friends were forced to stand without any shade in the blazing sunshine on a brick square for two hours!

like red waterfalls!

like red waterfalls!

Someone made a crack about making 1600 redheads angry….

In all fairness, Portland is not famous for its sunshine. The weather was unusual and not many people could have anticipated it.

At long last, the 10 minutes began. We knew it would be over soon, and all the redhead participants had a bond to share at that point. Not only were they joining in the fun of making a world record, but they were also having to work

three beauties

three beauties

for it. As we counted down the final seconds, announcers had participants turn and wave to the cameras high above. In 4 minutes, the square was cleared.

Earlier in the day, Heather had been approached by two women working on a documentary that will be called Ginger Girls: The Secret Lives of Redheads, about growing up as a little red haired girl, and living the life of a red haired woman. (Check out all the info, videos, and an opportunity to support the project!)

And since the word came up, I’ll say a little about Ginger. And then you may want to discard my input because I was once a towhead, and then a dishwater blonde, and now a mouse brown, but I’ve never been naturally red or even close to it. Here it is: I want to use the word! At this event I felt like celebrating the hair by calling them reds, and gingers. I wanted to shout, “Yo, ginger beauty!” Heather told me that in Australia they are called Rangas, short for orangutan, and that too is apparently an insult. I wanted to feel the glee of witnessing RangaCon 2013!  Instead it’s an insult. Because some people make immature statements about souls. Because some people bully with real venom in their attacks. How can we put a stop to this? Hopefully Alexia Anastasio’s documentary will be a step in making the word ginger a beautiful word.

During the last seconds of counting down

During the last seconds of counting down

I don’t know what the deal is: why I love red hair so much. My brother had an astonishing carrot top when he was a toddler, that matured into the most amazingly beautiful wine red hair you’ve ever seen, when he was in middle school. And now…you have to look hard to see it’s not a true brown. What a loss. His opinion? He hates his red hair. He says it would be different for me if I had red hair; then I would understand. “No one wants to date a red-haired man,” he confessed. (Except maybe his vivacious & gorgeous girlfriend, I might have retorted, but didn’t.)

Well, I am proud to say I stood on the sidelines of a record-breaking event that day. My eyes will always twinkle when I remember it, all the sun and the Indian dance music and the copper dogs that showed up to help support. My girlfriend might be in a documentary and be my first movie-star friend.

…and I need to soak it all up as much as possible right now, because Breda is going to put in an earnest effort to shine the sun back over on that part of the globe again, during their annual redhead gathering, coming up September 1, 2013! Since it takes months for the Guiness committee to announce for sure, there will be a period of time when Portland and Breda are both waiting and wondering. Will they wrench the world record back from Portland? Stay tuned.

Portland Pride Parade 2013 with Poder Latino Oregon!

Portland Pride Parade 2013 with Poder Latino Oregon!

I’m a little late, but I want to get these photos out to you. Last month I met a friend in Portland’s Chinatown and we watched the Pride Parade. I hadn’t seen Eliot since I lived in Humboldt, which was before I went to school in Boston, which was so long ago! Nine, maybe ten years, it’s been, and that is entirely too long to go without seeing a friend.

He introduced me to Amanda, and then we were able to catch up on old times while cheering our support for the floats and banners and people as they passed.

Our ladies of Bridgetown

Our ladies of Bridgetown

The Timbers Army loves LGBT!

The Timbers Army loves LGBT!

The parade was smaller than the last couple of times I’ve seen it. Fewer drag queens, which is a disappointment. More company support, which I LOVED. You know, banks, churches, high schools, airlines, etcetera, marching in T-shirts shouting “We are happy to serve everyone,” or “We hire anyone who is qualified.” There were lots of politicians in the parade, publicly announcing that they want to represent all of their constituents.

People of faith were out in support...um, wait a minute... is this a real church?

People of faith were out in support…um, wait a minute… is this a real church?

Nike, one of the area's largest employers, came out in force

Nike, one of the area’s largest employers, came out in force

I was pleased to see Uncle Jim and Uncle Larry driving the square dancing float for the Rosetown Ramblers. Jim drives it every year, and Larry typically drives the bowling float for the Portland Community Bowling League, but I didn’t see the bowling float, so the Uncles were in the same truck this year.

The Rose City Rollers are Portland, Oregon’s all-female flat track roller derby league

The Rose City Rollers are Portland’s all-female flat track roller derby league

The weather was great! There were some clouds early, it cleared up and became warm and sunny by the end of the parade.

Portland is certainly the most eclectic, accepting, diverse, and liberal place I’ve ever lived. It feels good to be in a city where most of the time strangers see you first as a human being, and second as whatever your outward appearance might be. That also makes it more startling when insensitive, non-inclusive, or even hateful words and actions are tossed around. But…I suppose it’s unavoidable that when you take people from 600,000 different walks of life and put them all together, that sometimes we’ll be awful to each other. Considering that this is the case in every city, most of the time Portland does a damned good job of embracing all of its people.

Enjoy the photos.

Ssssssssssizzlin!

Ssssssssssizzlin!

The audience, I kid you not, does not look much different than the typical group of people one finds on Portland streets.

The audience, I kid you not, does not look much different than the typical group of people one finds on Portland streets.

Sorry I caught you in an unflattering expression, but dahling, you look FABULOUS!

Sorry I caught you in an unflattering expression, but dahling, you look FABULOUS!

Red Dress is always a great float

Red Dress is always a great float

The Pug Contingent

The Pug Contingent

Eliot, me, and some of our fair city's bridges in the background.

Eliot, me, and some of our fair city’s bridges in the background.

Trails in Forest Park are irresistible. Like this. Could you stand here and NOT pick a path and walk?

Trails in Forest Park are irresistible. Like this. Could you stand here and NOT pick a path and walk?

Arno and I met for the very first time on Mount Tabor, a beautiful Portland park so close to my home that I walked there to meet him. It’s the site of an ancient, dormant volcano. The date went so well that we spent about four hours on Mt. Tabor, till we got hungry and had to come down off the volcano.

After eating, we weren’t ready to separate quite yet. Arno had moved from Chicagoland only months before, and didn’t know many places in Portland, so he asked where we should go next. I had had been in Portland a couple years, and didn’t know the place like a native, but knew of Forest Park, rumored to be one of the largest city parks in the country (5,172 acres). (I’m determined to do some real research some day, and figure out precisely where Forest Park fits in the list, since the lists I have found don’t mention it.)

The sun thought about getting stronger and lighting the world.

In this photo, the sun is thinking about getting stronger and lighting the world.

trillium

trillium

On that day, we walked the trails and tried to keep ourselves steady as we tumbled madly for each other. We came to a beautiful little bridge over a creek, and stopped. Arno called it The Troll Bridge. We paused awhile to see if the troll would come out, and in fear for my life, I caught Arno in an embrace. (ok, maybe it wasn’t out of fear…)

violets

violets

We shared our first delicious kiss on the Troll Bridge. And since then Forest Park has held a special place in our collective memory.

Yesterday the sky threatened rain, and I told Arno I was determined to go outside for a good long while, and get some exercise, rain or no rain. We found our way to the other side of town, to the west hills, and to one of the many trail heads. The drive was beautiful in itself, winding up through the gorgeous homes in Portland’s King’s Heights. The homes are so eclectic, so fascinating, so obviously loved, that it’s always worth the trip there.

Path through a decadent green carpet

Path through a decadent green carpet

We didn’t get rained on, though the sky remained cloudy. It remained warm, and our walk was lovely. Arno turned on the GPS to track us, and we did a 7 1/2 mile loop, which was enough to get the stir crazy out of my bones.

This picnic table is begging for someone to stop for a lunchtime break.

These picnic tables are begging for someone to stop for a lunchtime break.

We crossed many little wooden bridges, but did not come across our Troll Bridge yesterday. We did pause on a couple of them, however, to share a kiss and wait to see if a troll would come out.

Most of the people we passed on our walk were joggers and cyclists.

Most of the people we passed on our walk were joggers and cyclists.

I asked Arno to hold the camera while I took off my fleece and tied it around my waist. He took my photo! Can't trust that guy... ;-)

I asked Arno to hold the camera while I took off my fleece and tied it around my waist. He took my photo! Can’t trust that guy… 😉

Awwww, I thought this was a really wonderful tribute. Here's a place to read more and see a video about Dave Terry's memorial.

Awwww, I thought this was a really wonderful tribute. Here’s a place to read more and see a video of Dave Terry’s memorial.

DSC_1108

adiantum aleuticum. Eye-catching, lacy, fern hands.

adiantum aleuticum. Eye-catching, lacy, fern hands.

Andre, me, Marcus, and Tara at Jimmy Mak's

After our full morning with the Mt. Hood Cherokees, Tara and I then had an awesome evening when we took Arno to see my favourite musician, Marcus Eaton. ME also plays with Ben Burleigh on bass and Kevin Rogers on drums, but often I catch him in Portland when he’s solo. This was one of those times.

Two bonus items of the night, in addition to the awesomeness of catching ME live: our good friend Andre came out from the Tri Cities, and Intervision was the headliner show. Damn. Just can’t go wrong with the whole combination.

When you make dinner reservations, you can bring minors, so we were able to have Tara there in Jimmy Mak’s with us. Jimmy Mak’s is an excellent little jazz club that offers the perfect atmosphere, surprisingly stellar food, great drinks, quick service, and the best size for keeping things intimate with the musicians.

The venue didn't provide enough intimacy for Andre, apparently, who took matters into his own hands

Arno, Tara, and I arrived early and before ordering dinner I asked a server whether any of the musicians were around. She pointed to the bar, where Marcus sat with Andre having dinner. Yay! We went over to say hello, and big smiles, introductions, and hugs were passed all around. Tara thinks Marcus is a big-time famous personality (and of course she would… since she’s been listening to his music in our home for as long as she can remember), so she was beaming light rays in all directions. I was so excited to see both Marcus and Andre I totally forgot to include Arno in the conversation (luckily he was able to pick right up with Andre when I turned to talk to Marcus). Sorry Arno!! I get a bad case of Fan Idiocy whenever I’m around Marcus. Blerrg.

gourmet burger!

We settled in and were soon eating the establishment’s delicious food and imbibing their drinks.

Marcus opened, and, I was a little disappointed with the sound quality. His guitar, which is the firepower that carries the whole thing, just sort of faded into the background. On pieces where I got ready for lighting fingerwork and ka-blam percussion dropped on top of heart-rending melodies… well… it was too fuzzy. I had to listen carefully to pick out the guitar from the rest of the sound. Ok, this is probably exaggeration. I have this stuff memorized. Maybe it was a factor of us sitting on the side of the stage, so perhaps there wasn’t a problem with the equipment at all. But …this guy is my musician hero. I want his stuff to always sound PERFECT, not just really good.

Marcus engaged

His vocals knocked us out, as always. And refreshing: ME had a bunch of fans in the audience this time! I am more familiar with two groups of people when Marcus opens for someone else: 1) those so focused on wishing he would hurry up so their fave band can come on stage that they don’t hear him, and 2) those having their world rocked because they have just heard him for the first time. My suspicions were confirmed later when a woman said her husband recognized me from another concert, and wondered if I was related to Marcus. “Nope,” I answered, “Just a big fan.”

But, don’t let me disparage the concert! Just because I noticed an imperfection in the sound equipment quality is not a reflection on the always-inspiring Marcus Eaton. He doesn’t stop with talented guitar playing. He turns his instrument into a machine for his creativity. His fretwork has no boundaries except on the neck itself, he uses his pick, his voice, the heel of his palm, to thwack and thump and twang and knock and ting! ME will pop all that stuff into loops until the playback sounds like he’s got 8 people on stage with him, then he casually segues into words with a voice so compelling it makes people in the audience  turn and look.

Leanin' in for the win

Paul belts it out

Over all too soon, Intervision took the stage. My feelings of disappointment for not having ME on stage lasted about 3 seconds until I was reminded of why I *LOVE* catching Intervision in concert. Cripey, that is one groovin’ croonin’ happy jazz band. Love it, love it. One of my favourite things about Intervision is the obvious individual personalities I see on stage. Though I don’t know them, I get the sense that these guys might not have anything else at all in common except that when you put them together they make magically moving jazz. I don’t even consider myself a jazz fan, and this stuff is irresistible. In no time I was wiggling in my seat as much as I had done with my favourite ME songs. Who can resist great music?

It was a night I’ll use in the future to explain to myself why I love Portland so much.

Friends reunited

There are advantages to living in the city. I talk about those advantages on a regular basis in my blog: fairs, art shows, parks, and people. There are also disadvantages, such as being awakened by screaming cops and flashlights blasting through your bedroom window in the middle of the night.

Oh yes. I crawled up to consciousness from the foggy cobwebs of my dreams, because someone was shouting and explosions of white light were blasting into my bedroom. I looked at the clock: 1:33 am.

I live in a neighborhood called Montavilla. It’s in Portland’s southeast, blocks from major streets in any direction, and not at all a place I would have expected to see the culmination of a police chase. At the old Morrison Street house, we were two blocks off Stark/Washington, and heard sirens all time, often heard shots discharging. But not where I am now: it’s very quiet. Usually.

“We know you’re back here!” I hear men yelling. “Come out. Come out NOW!” The whole time this German Shepherd is going off: bark! bark! bark! bark!

I scrambled out of bed and gingerly pulled back the bedroom curtain. It’s one of those low hung windows, so the bottom of the sill is at about my kneecaps. I stood behind the curtain so that I was less visible. I could see four uniformed police officers in my back yard. The officer with the dog was 10 feet off to the kitchen side of the house. Two of them were yelling “come out!” and two of them were blasting flashlights in every direction. One blasted me in the face within two seconds of getting the curtain back. Dang, those beams are BRIGHT.

Suddenly I was struck by what a personal space my back yard is to me. It felt like a violation to have it filled with officers. All these implications hit me (I’m terribly existential at the weirdest times): I pay taxes for just this: It is my privilege to have uniformed strangers and their crime dog barking away on my property: When I say “my yard” I delude myself: It’s a communal existence, we want it to be so, we insist that it remain so, yet we do not admit it even to ourselves: When we are faced with the reality of what we have created…it is a shock.

I let go of the curtain and ran to the kitchen. I ran up to the window, gasped, and took two steps back. They were right there! Wild flashlight beams are frantically dashing in every direction – into the shrubs, up onto the roof of the separate garage, at the house. From my new position, the living room was alight like a disco with red, white, and blue glittering across the walls.

“He’s in the garage!” One guy yelled from the yard. I imagine he had discovered the window at the back, and hit it with his own nuclear flashlight beam.

“We know you’re in there. Come out!” another guy yelled.

“I’ll let the dog loose!” threatened a third voice. The dog is going bananas the whole time. Bark! Bark! Bark! Did I ever tell you I was attacked by a German Shepherd once? They are serious dogs. The officer eases his hand down to the dog’s collar, at the ready, and the Shepherd goes airborne with eagerness at each bark.

My view from the kitchen to the garage and back yard. This is the actual location of everything taking place last night. Right there!

All this yelling and barking and flashing lights are RIGHT THERE next to me. The dog is at the base of the steps out the back door. Four feet from the window I’m watching through. Then BLAM! I’m hit in the face with another nuclear blast beam of a flashlight from officer #5, who is in the driveway on the side of the house. He leaves it on me and I am virtually pinned to the spot. I have folded my arms in front of me, because I suspected I might be spotted, and I want to seem non-threatening. But I just have to watch: this is my own property.

Tension builds, they continue to yell. “Come out!” they yell at the dark. And to an officer they warn, “Get back from the door!” And with the same incredible drama of a television show, the garage door begins to open. No, with more drama. It’s like a shock wave. I can’t believe officers have this kind of thing happen on every shift. A building is surrounded, and slowly a door opens….

A 30-ish, black man emerges. He looks like a regular guy, but with his hands in the air. Damn you! I curse silently at him. How are we supposed to erase stereotypes if you’re only the second black man on my property since I’ve lived here, and you’re running from the police? Aren’t you motivated to uphold the law simply because you’re black? Just to shove it in our faces?

The aggressive flashlight beam in my face has completely blinded me, so I move backward into the living room, and the beam drops from the window. It was aggressive. I can’t explain why I knew that. It was a clear message: “Butt out, lady.” I see shadows as all the officers move a man in handcuffs along the driveway to the front of the house.

Bam! Bam! Bam! On the door at the kitchen, where I had been standing. I hear creaking on the wood floors down the hall, where my sweet little girl has also been pulled from slumber and comes to investigate. At the door is an officer who explains that they just apprehended a man from my garage.

“Yes, I saw that,” I confessed. Totally up front: that’s me. I saw it, and I saw that you saw I saw it. No sense in pretending.

“I’d like you to look in your garage for anything that does not belong to you. We’ve been chasing this guy for an hour. There were two of them; they fled an accident scene,” he pointed. My girlie was in the kitchen, so I went to her first.

“Are you ok?” I asked.

“uh huh,” she answered.

“The police caught a stranger in our back yard,” I said. “It’s ok.” I kissed her on the forehead and went out to the garage.

“He was carrying something,” the officer continued. “We think he may have hid it in here.” I poked around, but …seriously. Who can find stuff in a garage under any circumstances, much less in a sleep-haze, in pajamas, directed by a police officer? Ha, that’s almost funny.

“I think I should try harder to remember to lock the garage,” I said. Aside from existentialism, my humor tries to come out at all hours of the night, too, apparently.

“Yes, would you please?” agreed the officer. “In fact, I’m locking it for you now,” he said, turning the lock and pulling the door closed behind us.

I went back inside, and tried to slow my breathing. I crawled onto girlie’s bed and gave her some quick snuggles to reassure her. I crawled into my own and glanced at the clock again. 1:44 am. Wow! That was a jam-packed 11 minutes. I closed my eyes and saw the image of a black man, lit up by white-hot flashlights, emerging from my own garage. The dog was still barking, as well as one of the neighborhood dogs. A stranger. A fugitive. Why were you running? I asked him silently. Don’t flee a scene, stay there. You have rights, don’t run. Don’t give them the opportunity to pin race on you. Damnit.

Am I the racist? Am I deluded?

Bam! Bam! Bam! This time, the front door. I leapt from bed to get to the door to avoid more banging that would disturb my kid.

“Hello Ma’am. How are you tonight?”

“Tired,” I answered. (Seriously? What kind of question is that?)

“We just apprehended a man in your garage.”

“Yes, I saw that.”

“You saw it? Yes, well, he is being arrested for trespassing. Do you recognize this man?” He held up the man’s driver’s license and shined his flashlight on it for me. (I had no idea what a critical tool the police flashlight is) I didn’t recognize the face, which looked older and more tired than the vibrant face I had seen minutes before. “Is there any reason why this man would be in your garage?” The officer held up the light, not in my face, but to illuminate my face. It was interrogation; eliminating a possible lead. I played my part.

“No, sir.” I looked right into his eyes and held the gaze for a beat. No fear.

I gave him my name, my phone number, the zip code. He told me the DA’s office might be calling me later. He filled out a Victim/Complaint Information Form on my behalf, noted the charge was Criminal Trespass. I asked if I did find something in the garage, should I call the DA? He gave me his card and said to call him.

wow.

I view the episode as a very entertaining paragraph in this chapter of my life. I was never scared, not even a little concerned. I was riveted. I will do a better job at locking my garage now, but only to make sure no hoodlum steals Miss T’s bike. Maybe I should lock the house too. What a pain.

I just don’t fear as much as everyone else, apparently. Fear is a terrible waste of time and energy, and it’s bad for one’s health. I have as much chance of dying from a frozen block of toilet water falling from an airplane, as getting attacked in my bed by a criminal, as eating poison mushrooms. If I’m going to be realistic about fear, then I should commit to it and be afraid of everything that could happen, right? That’s the only way to be honest about it.

But to actively respond to legitimate fears of every possible trauma in a person’s life…that would be ridiculous. Every person who is afraid has chosen to be afraid of a particular thing, or things. So, I choose not to be afraid. It’s my prerogative. If it’s my time to suffer tragedy, then it’s my time. The odds are greatly stacked against it though. Criminal attacks and winning the lottery: they are equally represented in my life. Which is: I won twenty bucks with Lotto last year, and my kid’s bike was stolen once.

Entertaining as it was… and despite the fact that I got a blog post out of it… I continue to look forward to the day when I can move back to the country, where there are less flashlights.

One of my many guises

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