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The sun sets over the Columbia River

The sun sets over the Columbia River

We had some mighty hot days here in Portland Oregon not too long ago. I was trying to move from my old house to the new house, in the off hours between work hours. I was tired and sweating.

A friend offered to meet me at the river and that was a great plan. I took a break from packing and was still dressed in shorts and a t-shirt, but when I spotted that water, I just waded right in. J waded in after me and we stood in the water and I unloaded all my worries for about two hours as we watched the sun drop to the horizon.

It was just what the doctor ordered.

Cars zoom past on I-205 between Vancouver, Washington and Portland, Oregon. These two cities (and states) straddle the huge Columbia River.

Cars zoom past on I-205 between Vancouver, Washington and Portland, Oregon. These two cities (and states) straddle the huge Columbia River.

J directed me to a beach that was west of the I-205 bridge.

J directed me to a beach that was west of the I-205 bridge.

Here, dozens of families unwound and cooled off. You can still see the bridge in the background, as well as my favourite volcano: Mt. St. Helens.

Here, dozens of families unwound and cooled off. You can still see the bridge in the background, as well as my favourite volcano: Mt. Hood.

A few sailboats were out.

A few sailboats were out.

The air was warm. The water was warm. The people were warm - even the talking and laughter were like a blanket around me. In this softness, the copper sun sank into the water.

The air was warm. The water was warm. The people were warm – even the talking and laughter were like a blanket around me. In this softness, the copper sun sank into the water.

A and Tara pose for me at the Japanese garden

A and Tara pose for me at the Japanese garden

This post can be a complement to my post from several years ago, Japanese garden in the rain. Both times I forgot to bring my camera, so the photos from both posts are taken by phones. In comparing the two, the advances in cell phone camera technology are evident.

Tara met an Italian exchange student at their school, two weeks before school was out. The visiting student had not yet had a chance to see many sights of Portland, and it was almost time to return to Italy. Tara was dismayed. I got a text while I was at work, “Will you please take us to the Japanese garden this weekend? She has to see more of Portland!”

It was a very sunny and hot day and we looked forward to the shady glades of the Japanese garden.

“Designed by Professor Takuma Tono in 1963, it encompasses 5.5 acres with 5 separate garden styles, and includes an authentic Japanese Tea House, meandering streams, intimate walkways, and a spectacular view of Mt. Hood.” ~from the brochure we received at the garden.

Sun filters through branches, colouring everything green and magical.

Sun filters through branches, colouring everything green and magical.

The Flat Garden (hira niwa) is a central focus of the garden, beside the pavillion.

The Flat Garden (hira niwa) is a central focus of the garden, beside the pavillion.

On the other side of the pavilion is this view of Mt. Hood, reminding many of Mt. Fuji because of its symmetrical shape.

On the other side of the pavilion is this view of Portland and Mt. Hood, reminding many of Mt. Fuji because of its symmetrical shape.

Inside the pavilion, events are held. It was a bonsai exhibit in my

Inside the pavilion, events are held. It was a bonsai exhibit in my “rainy” post. This time a pottery exhibit. Most of the pottery displays were traditional, but this artist was fanciful.

A look inside the pavilion

A look inside the pavilion

The Flat Garden

The Flat Garden

I was pleased with the fine touches in the garden, such as the gracefully curved railings.

I was pleased with the fine touches in the garden, such as the gracefully curved railings.

Irises grew from the water beside a wooden walking path that kept our feet dry.

Irises grew from the water beside a wooden walking path that kept our feet dry.

It was past peak spring colour, but these azaleas still added a spark to the shady greenery.

It was past peak spring colour, but these azaleas still added a spark to the shady greenery.

The Strolling Pond Garden

The Strolling Pond Garden

Shady stone path

Shady stone path

After our time in the shade, we crossed the road to another famous Portland garden: The International Rose Test Garden, named for its mission of testing new rose varieties. Built in 1917, this garden holds over 7000 rose plants of 550 varieties. It was in full sunlight and roasting. Despite the heat, it was a gorgeous Sunday afternoon and was filled with visitors. The roses were spectacular, and the scents intoxicating. Our new friend A kept a brochure to send home to her family. We had done our small part in encouraging good international relations. 🙂

Looking down onto the Rose Test Garden.

Looking down onto the Rose Test Garden.

Aisles of fragrance and colour.

Aisles of fragrance and colour.

Most of the roses were as tall as we were, and the blossoms were nose-height: perfect.

Many of the roses were as tall as we were, and the blossoms were nose-height: perfect.

Pike Place Market. A must-see if you visit Seattle.

Pike Place Market. A must-see if you visit Seattle.

{I called it right when I realized I needed to blog on the road or I’d never be able to post my whole week of road trip once I got back home. As you have noticed, being home is like entering the caucus race* from Alice in Wonderland, and time for blogging is hard to come by. But in any case, I’m here with bells on. Nice to see you again!}

One wall in Caffe Vita. This is a great coffee shop.

One wall in Caffe Vita. This is a great coffee shop.

Waking up walking distance from the Space Needle was perfect for me and my friend M on Friday morning. My brother recommended a coffee shop, and we hit that first. Caffe Vita is strongly encouraged, should you find yourself in Seattle!

EMP Museum and the Space Needle. The monorail track runs right through the building.

EMP Museum and the Space Needle. The monorail track runs right through the building.

I had it in my mind that I would lead M directly to the Pike Place Market, since he likes markets so much, but we chose a route that went past the Space Needle, because, duh, Seattle. Well, that’s all it took. Only ten minutes into our day, and we were in line to ride the elevator to the top!

My disappointment was palpable, and even M asked what happened. It was a particularly hazy day. Really bad. I pointed out Mt. Rainier to him, but a person sort of had to know it was there to find it through the airborne particles. M was unimpressed with looking in the direction of the mountain, and more excited about the view of the city. And he should be! It’s spectacular! Only, in my mind I was comparing it to all my other visits, and this was truly the worst one. I wanted to show off Seattle to a Sri Lankan/ Bostonian.

M with the hazy Seattle skies behind him, from the top of the Space Needle.

M with the hazy Seattle skies behind him, from the top of the Space Needle.

By the time we reached the bottom, we had to hustle to meet my brother and his girlfriend for lunch. We zoomed through the market, not there to shop, but only to jog through on our way to the federal building. M was in awe, as I knew he would be. I am SO glad we stopped in Seattle instead of pushing on home the day before.

We met up at the federal building, and K led us up to the 34th floor to her office and a one-of-a-kind view of the city. Everyone who has visited knows the views from the Space Needle, but we got to view the needle itself! What a treat! My spirits lifted.

The view from K's office. Outstanding! Even on this hazy morning.

The view from K’s office. Outstanding! Even on this hazy morning.

K, my brother I, and me. Look at the clothes and guess which one of us is on vacation? ha ha!

K, my brother I, and me. Look at the clothes and guess which one of us is on vacation? ha ha!

K bubbled about the “secret waterfall” on our way to lunch, so we went to visit the Waterfall Garden Park, built in honor of the United Parcel Service (UPS). It is enclosed by walls and completely invisible from the outside, but an oasis inside. Please see Lucy Wang’s photos and description of this place!

Across the street from the waterfall, we ate at another place I’m going to have to recommend: The London Plane. It’s a restaurant/flower shop/specialty goods store in a reclaimed industrial building. The light inside and the sky-high ceilings are transportive.

The counter at The London Plane.

The counter at The London Plane.

Looking down at a man making bread in the London Plane.

Looking down at a man making bread in the London Plane.

Spying on I, K, and M as they wait for lunch to arrive. They are at the table by the window, farthest from me.

Spying on I, K, and M as they wait for lunch to arrive. They are at the table by the window, directly across from me.

M was really excited about this monument to Chief Seattle, since he had been taught about the man in school as a kid in Sri Lanka. Wowzers. I never would have imagined.

M was really excited about this monument to Chief Seattle, since as a schoolboy in Sri Lanka he had been taught about the man. Wowzers. I never would have imagined.

Satiated, we said our goodbyes and walked back to the market. It was a delicious madhouse that never fails to delight me. We even caught a glimpse of the famous fish mongers tossing a codfish. Here’s an old video about the fishmongers that I had to watch years ago when I was a forecaster with the National Weather Service:

Flowers at the market.

Flowers at the market.

Springtime colours at Pike Place Market.

Springtime colours at Pike Place Market.

M with Smokey

M with Smokey

It was time to hurry home. We hugged goodbye to my brother I, and to the cat, Smokey, and in seconds we were heading south on I-5, and racing toward Portland at about 4.6 miles per hour, bumper to bumper in 5 lanes of rush hour traffic.

Somehow we made it on time to catch a show in Portland. We swung by the Blue House to pick up Tara, and went downtown to the Keller Auditorium to catch Shen Yun. I had purchased the tickets back in December, and we had been waiting to see it all this time! The show was made up mostly of dancers performing traditional Chinese dances and dances that told stories. There were two professional singers and one musician who played an erhu, a two-stringed instrument that M particularly liked. The orchestra was entirely Shen Yun musicians, who performed all the music for the dancers. There was a political message that was only possible because it’s a New York-based Chinese group and not a China-based group.

Saturday morning we took Tara to the Convention Center to get into line for Abby’s Closet, an organization that provides free prom dresses to people interested in a free, used, prom dress. We had barely begun our day when Tara texted us to come back. Turns out it was a six-hour wait and Tara had other plans to meet friends that day. So the three of us explored Washington Park, the International Rose Test Garden (sans roses this time of year), and Pioneer Courthouse Square. Tara went off and M and I rode the Tram up to Pill Hill (so-called because there are multiple hospitals at the top of the hill).

M at Pill Hill, at the top of the tram route.

M at Pill Hill, at the top of the tram route.

Sign in Pioneer Courthouse Square.

Sign in Pioneer Courthouse Square.

Portlandia!

Portlandia!

Our long, fabulous journey was finally at an end, and I took M to the airport for his flight home to Boston.

At home I began the daunting tasks of home upkeep that had piled up in my absence, beginning with laundry and mowing the lawn. I had just finished mowing the lawn, all green-smeared and in my cowboy work boots, when Tara came home and begged me to go back to Abby’s Closet to see if we could squeeze in before closing, in 30 minutes. I washed my hands and off we went, cowboy boots and all!

It was evening, and they got us through in two hours rather than six. The staff made an exceptional effort to keep us all happy and entertained and moving through. {Imagine: hundreds of teenagers and thousands of dresses. Instructions: Pick one!} I am glad I experienced that with Tara, who leans alternately from tomboy, to stereotypical masculine characteristics, to stereotypical feminine characteristics. It was a really girly experience, and neither of us is particularly girly, so it was good that we could lean on each other in that overwhelming cavern of pink and lace and sparkles.

What a long and action-packed week it was. I hope you enjoyed the journey with us. 🙂

Post Script: M texted me from the airport. “You would not believe what happened in security! The TSA guy going through my bags said, ‘Let me guess: Tillamook! But why do you have so much cheese?!’ I started laughing, and had to tell him what happened at the border. He laughed too.”

*After swimming around in Alice’s pool of tears, the animals need to dry off, and the Dodo recommends a caucus race. There are no rules; all of the participants run haphazardly around in no particular direction, and everyone wins.

Nothing says "Spring" like newly opening flowers.

Nothing says “Spring” like newly opening flowers.

Tara and I visited Laurelhurst Park a couple weeks ago to take advantage of glorious February sunshine. The park was lovely, as always, though not as advanced into signs of Springtime as we had hoped. I took plenty of shots, in my typical fashion, and nothing grabbed my heart until…these.

Reaching up hopefully to a weak Spring sun.

Reaching up hopefully to a weak Spring sun.

A tiny package of delight, reaching out to me.

A tiny package of delight, reaching out to me.

The light behind these buds and flowers is inspiring!

Has that ever happened to you? You are walking along, looking around, taking all things in as more or less equal contributors into your environment, and then BLAM! An incredible snapshot is framed ahead of you. Terrible when you see it without a camera nearby. But what a treasure when the Nikon is slung around your neck at that moment. Carefully pull the strap over your head without breaking eye contact with that amazing view, switching it on as part of the fluid swish of motion, since – for heaven’s sakes the “on switch” is programmed into subconscious memory by now.

And the greatest treasure of all: when the photos look as wonderful on your laptop as they did in the tiny viewfinder.

I couldn't get enough of the fuzzy flower buds. Tara was getting chilly, hopping from one foot to the other, while I was not aware of temperature at all.

I couldn’t get enough of the fuzzy flower buds. Tara was getting chilly, hopping from one foot to the other, while I was not aware of temperature at all.

Obviously, all the light and dark made me think of black and white.

Obviously, all the light and dark made me think of black and white.

Portland Pride Parade 2014. The 44th annual parade celebrates legal marriage for same sex couples this year.

Portland Pride Parade 2014. The 44th annual parade celebrates legal marriage for same sex couples this year.

My Tara was in the parade for the first time this year! It was exciting to get ready and to show up early and wander through the staging area, which I haven’t done before. Tara had cut up her Madison High School Gay Straight Alliance T-shirt and made a really awesome shirt out of it. Sadly, it was cold and rainy before the parade so she kept a sweater on and I couldn’t get a photo of the awesomely creative dragon-spawn I call my kid. Even sadder: I never even saw her in the parade. She wasn’t with a float, just a group of kids, and I spotted her group as they were already past me, and I couldn’t pick her out. I am So Bummed.

Tara and my Uncle Jim in the staging area. She was between floats 50 and 51, and he was float 79, so even though the parade had started at this time, we were still at leisure.

Tara and my Uncle Jim in the staging area. She was between floats 50 and 51, and he was float 79, so even though the parade had started at this time, we were still at leisure.

Dancers with Maracatu PDX

Dancers with Maracatu PDX

Yup. It's Portland. It rained. But it didn't seem to damped anyone's spirits.

Yup. It’s Portland. It rained. But it didn’t seem to dampen anyone’s spirits.

She was so funny. "The rain is melting my hair!"

Lotta Marie Liquor was so funny. “The rain is melting my hair!” (it still looks great.)

Rainbow Balloons are required at Pride Parade

Rainbow Balloons are required at Pride Parade

We saw plenty of vuvuzelas this World Cup Sunday

We saw plenty of vuvuzelas this World Cup Sunday

Well, I could have guessed that Indians are proud, too

Well, I could have guessed that Indians are proud, too

I don't know who this guy is/ is representing, but he's awesome.

I don’t know who this guy is/ is representing, but he’s awesome. Look at the little tyke in the yellow rain slicker in the background.

Maracatu PDX had wonderful costumes

Maracatu PDX had wonderful costumes

Here's another couple of dancers from Maracatu PDX

Here’s another couple of dancers from Maracatu PDX

This fashion hasn't gone out of style yet, and probably won't.

Old fashions haven’t gone out of style yet, and probably won’t.

I got a kick out of the softball players, the Fairies and the Cubs

I got a kick out of the softball players, the Fairies and the Cubs

Things warmed up a little when this float came by

Things warmed up a little when this float came by

 

Ok, I’ll say it: this had to be a crushing blow to a dog ego, if there is such a thing. There were lots and lots of parade dogs this year, all decked in finery from pink tutus to monster costumes and rainbow clown collars. Oh, you poor doggies. I hope your people took you home and gave you bunches of love for putting up with our human silliness. 🙂

monster dog

monster dog

I didn't know their spots came in those colors!

I didn’t know their spots came in those colors!

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.

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.

St. Andrews Memory Care Center in Portland

St. Andrews Memory Care Center in Portland

Lots of things have been going on around here, as is typical in our lovely little life. They don’t seem enough to individually warrant a blog post, but they are worth mentioning for those of you who read to see what’s been going on in our household.

I recently took my camera up to Mt. Tabor to capture my favourite volcano, Mt. Hood, in the setting sun, and saw the church above, lit up in the late day sun. It’s a care center for patients with Alzheimer’s.

Mt. Hood in the setting sun, from Mt. Tabor

Mt. Hood in the setting sun, from Mt. Tabor. I live in those trees down there.

Miss Tara successfully completed her 10th grade year on Friday. We’ve had some challenges this year with academics, and it’s been good for both of us. I’ve learned better ways to recognize the work she does without honing in on places where I want her to do better, and she has had a good dose of what future school work is going to require from her. Tara encapsulated the biggest challenge for me the other day when she explained how 9th grade was a continuation of middle school, in which teachers constantly reminded students to get their work done, forgave late assignments, and invented plenty of extra-credit when all else failed.

“But this year,” she moaned, “I was just going along, doing the stuff I remembered, not really worrying because I know I’m a good student, and then I get zeros on homework and since I forgot a test was coming up, failed the test. I wish it wasn’t just ‘total help’ in 9th grade, then ‘no help’ in 10th grade. I wish they would make the change more gradual. I knew at some point I would have to be more responsible, but I didn’t see it coming.”

roses in Coke bottle

roses in Coke bottle

Good life lesson, yes? 🙂

Roses have passed their peak now, but different kinds of blossoms are coming into their own time. Plants are so fascinating for me to watch, as they morph through seasonal changes. I cut a couple of the deep red roses in my yard and put them into the green glass Coke bottle I dug out of the sand when I was stationed at Shemya AFB in Alaska. It’s the real thing. The number “44” in raised glass can be seen on the side of the bottle, for 1944. One of my favourite archaeological games is imagining the world in which an object had its heyday. A cold, wet, lonely soldier drank a coke during World War II, on a nasty little island in Alaska. What were his thoughts? Was it refreshing to drink the Coke? Comforting? Or just something to do out of boredom.

The sun gets up when I do now, and I can’t help but embrace the change in my circadian rhythms. My body is ready to rise, even without the alarm. I retain a tiny bit of hope and optimism each morning as the bold sunbeams dash through a pale blue sky. Though I have had enough of the city (and look forward to living in the country again), I still find such beauty and excitement in the architecture of a city.

this

This is what one sees at 6:30 am at Pioneer Courthouse Square, if one looks up.

Old kitty named Tux, who claimed our house as his own for a few days.

Old kitty named Tux, who claimed our house as his own for a few days.

Tux has been frequenting the house. From the tag on his collar, we discovered that he lives across the street. Perhaps he got locked out of the house accidentally, but he showed up bony and famished. We lavished him with attention and food, and after two days got more of him than we wanted. Tux (so states his collar) made himself comfortable in our home, climbing in through the window we leave open for our own cat, Racecar, and sleeping on the couch at night. This photo shows him on my bed. That was shortly before I went to sleep, and was awakened 10 minutes later when Racecar jumped onto the bed, found an uninvited guest, and asserted her territorial rights. A catfight on my belly! Thankfully his mom came home and he doesn’t come over so often anymore, except occasional requests for food and love.

German Beer

German Beer

Arno and I tried out a new place on Belmont Friday night. We decided Belmont is more Portlandy than Hawthorne now. Hawthorne Street is famous enough to draw tourists and people from outside the neighborhood, so it’s getting a bit snooty and trendy. People shop on purpose to look like hipsters there, while people on Belmont are naturally hip, since that’s what young people in Portland do. 😉

In any case, we went to the Pied Cow Coffeehouse, without knowing the name. We were looking for a restaurant, but found it’s a coffee house that also serves alcoholic drinks and hookahs. We ordered the Indian Style Curried Lentil Dip with yogurt and pita, and the Smoked Salmon Plate off the “savories” menu, and expected appetizer nibbles, but were served two heaping platters of food. It was plenty. Arno ordered a Swedish beer on tap and I asked for the German beer, Weihenstephaner hefeweissbier, just because I wanted to try and pronounce it. There were four tables that had ordered giant Arabic water pipes (they are about 3 feet tall) being enjoyed by patrons. The many tobacco flavours included rose, honeydew melon, orange, and mint. Non-tobacco substitute is also available.

We thought the appetizers were priced too high, till they brought these two platters of food!

We thought the appetizers were priced too high, till they brought these two platters of food!

Today a friend from long ago when I lived in Humboldt County, CA is in Portland. We are going to meet up at the Pride Parade. I like to go every year because The Uncles usually drive floats. I hope to see Eliot as well as The Uncles, whom, I sadly admit, I have not seen since before I went to Japan. Long overdue!

I wrapped up my second 10-hour overtime shift yesterday, so I have completed my obligation for the month of June. At the Department of Veterans Affairs we have been assigned 20 hours of mandatory overtime each month through the end of the fiscal year. It happens every summer. Sigh. But I’m finished for the moment, and get to enjoy the rest of my time off in June in someplace other than in the office. That is cause for celebration!

Arno captured me, capturing the mountain.

Arno captured me, capturing the mountain.

futzing with the lens

futzing with the lens

photographer photographed

photographer photographed

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