Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Got a Date with an Angel

Jude works a few days a week in a little shop in the Pearl District. The Pearl is the converted warehouse district where lofts are half a million and the streets are paved with latte. It’s a very cool shop that sells antiques, jewelry, art & sculpture from the Thai region and from Central and South America. It’s called The Monkey and the Rat. Some of the images are weird because she was closing and had already shut off most of the lights last night when I took them, but they give you a sense of the place. Jude does all the displays and is constantly rearranging the whole place, and it's pretty big. She's happy as a hobo in a hot tub.

Since she closes at 6:00 and I get off around 5:30, we’ve established a pattern where I drive home and take a short walk over to the Max stop. I bring a book and read for 15 minutes during the ride downtown and I walk in right around 6:15.

The trains are free downtown, so we get back on together and ride over to this little Italian place and we sit in the bar playing Gin or Cribbage and have clams, Caesars, and a pasta dish, all from their cheap cheap happy hour menu.

The Italian place is right across from Border’s, Nordstrom, and Jude’s fave, J. Jill. We sometimes go into one or two of these hotspots “real quick.” Last night we went to Wild Oats after dinner – it’s a gourmet grocery – and we picked up some victuals. Then we went home. Life is good.

Sorry if this post seems scattered. I'm having all kinds of trouble with the software today, and it's screwing up my rhythm. Damn it!

Where was I. Oh yeah, life is good.

Anyway, here’s some of the evidence that we worked all weekend. We emptied the dining room of all non-dining items (everything), and we busted open the 3-year-old boxes containing the table and chairs we bought. The table is perfect for the room because it has curved drop leaves that make it circular if you’ve got a crowd. We’re going to keep the end curves open and the side curves closed, as a rule.

I also installed the lower doors on the built-in china cabinet. Thanks for the chisels, Dad!
And thanks, Lisa, for saying the moldings are beautiful. Please look past the missing window bottoms shown here, to my shame. (Also, don't try to open the lower right cabinet door.)

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

When Tony Comes Marching Home Again

Holy crap, I'm busy! One piece of news, though: I'll probably be in Virginia on in mid-February. It looks like it's going to be a mid-week meeting so, while I'll probably request a crash pad from Keith, I probably won't get to squeeze a weekend out of it.

On the weekend of the 17th/18th, Jude's son, Tony, is due to come home on leave from Baghdad to see his scheduled-to-have-been-born-by-then son, Isaiah -- my 5th grandchild. Top that, mofos! He only gets to be home for two weeks, then it's back to the trenches (ha ha).

For them's who don't know, Tony is a Captain in the army, commanding about 200 troops trained in chemical attack response and security. Since the WMD finds have been a bit thin, they're over there running a prison just outside of
Baghdad and training the Iraqi police. We are very proud of him, and worried about him. Jude and I try not to watch too much CNN, but I must admit to being addicted to news, and I suspect Jude watches alone, too. Here's the family (so far):

Billie, Tony, Kailey, and Sebastian (Sammy).

Billie got trapped in Portland during the ice storm a couple of weeks ago and spent a delightful evening at our house. I took a snapshot.

Last time I talked with Tony, he said the Iraqis he's working with are some very impressive guys. They really care, and
they're really dedicated. Most of them have to sleep at the prison and only go home occassionally, and when they do they have to be snuck in and out to avoid exposing their families to violence. He said many of them speak English, and some even went to school in the US. One guy was actually taken prisoner by the US in the first Gulf War, was released, and went on to get his degree in Seattle, then joined the US army, and is now one of Tony's troops. It was Christmas eve day in Iraq (they're 11 hours ahead of Oregon time) when I last got to talk with him. He had organized a Christmas day 5K run for anybody who wanted to (not the prisoners).

OK, the end -- back to work.

Monday, January 29, 2007

Weak-ass Post

My productivity to blogging ratio for the last few days has heavily favored the productivity side. That means everybody except you lurker surfers is happy with me. And who cares what you think?

The house actually looks like a house. The basement is clean(er), the tools and lumber are all downstairs, the living room is nicely laid out with rugs, some art, and even furniture. [By the way: want to buy a loveseat and a chair-and-a-half w/ottoman?]

You may be wondering, "Why doesn't this post contain any photos?" (Keith, particularly). Well, I left my USB cable in the other car. I guess I'll come back later and update this post with some photos -- photos
of the furniture, maybe.

For now, here's one of my favorite pictures of Jude:

Friday, January 26, 2007

Don't Overthink It

I told you about my boss who wouldn't drive in the snow, but I actually have two bosses -- brothers, Mike and Steve. They inherited the company from their father, and they're accustomed to a wealthier lifestyle than I am. Aside from our money, though, Steve, Mike and I share a common boyishness. We rely on our wives and our heroes to tell us when to pretend manliness, but left on our own we just quote Bill Murray, make poopy jokes, and play Businessman.

At the end of the day yesterday I went to Steve's office where they both were talking and I said, "You know I really have nothing much to do tomorrow. Mind if I take it off?" They told me that it was a bad idea because

a. I shouldn't tell my bosses I have nothing to do, and

b. I shouldn't let my staff see me taking a slow day off because it might cause them to panic, thinking the company is faltering

To be the boss is to be critiqued and analyzed - every decision is an illustration of your own beliefs, fears, hopes. When I'm mercilessly assessing Mike and Steve, I try to remember the seven people I manage are assessing me, too. I mean, I use very unnatural sports metaphors like, "Well, sometimes you gotta play hurt," or I'll make one of them stand there while I show off my amazing spreadsheet skillz. I hope they don't have cruel nicknames for me, but I have one for Mike: Crazy Eye.

If you write a two-paragraph email to Mike, you can be damn sure he didn't read the second; go ahead and fill it with invective or confess to white-collar crimes. He's always advising me to "use my gut" and "don't overthink it." So it surprised me when I first learned he was becoming a pilot. Flying involves maps, coordinates, clear communication, and 3D thinking that I just didn't associate with him. But when he's into something, he really gets it.

So, this afternoon Mike comes to me and says he's going to test-fly a plane he's thinking about buying, and would I like to go. "So long as you're caught up on your work," he says. "Well," I say, "I certainly have a lot to do. A lot. But I think I can carve out 80 to 200 minutes."

We took off from Portland and landed at a small, regional airport, then took off again and landed back at Portland. We had an instructor with us who, at one point, seized control of the aircraft when we were in (alleged) danger of hitting another plane on approach to the small airport. Without warning he put the plane into a hairpin 180 that felt like the right wing had reached the end of its leash. Later Mike explained to me that he wouldn't have hit the other plane, so that's very good.

Here are some shots from the Friday I had to come in to work.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Ice Man

When we were kids, my twin brother, Keith, and I used to mix it up pretty regularly. We were evenly matched, so the combat was usually confined to body blows until somebody broke us up.

My brother Steve, though … when riled, he would punch me in the face and just saunter away, clearly wound up but with absolutely no bluster. One time he did that and I fell backward into an outside corner, and I pretended that I might have a spinal cord injury. I screamed and screamed so much our Mom – a nurse who’d have spotted the phoniness in a less gifted actor – actually took me to the hospital. But as I was being wheeled out to the car Steve whispered in my ear, “next time I’ll take a finger,” his icy breath on my neck. Not much bothers him, but he has no patience for anything that does.

When he wasn’t attempting murder, Steve was always the fashion-forward kid in the family – still is, really. Check any old family photo and you’ll spot the plaid pants and wire-frame glasses right away. Player! He listened to Journey while we were playing the Who. He reads Italo Calvino, I read Elmore Leonard, Keith can’t even read, and Dave and Lisa are both just totally into truckstop porn novellas. Steve painted an undulating rainbow tri-stripe on an antique white base all the way around the perimeter of his bedroom, and he went out and bought a special, flat toggle light switch -- wired it himself. He’s, like, 11, he does this.

Later he got a degree in Landscape Architecture and now he works in: Landscape Architecture.

Today’s his birthday, and he looks great for 44. He’s beginning to turn into a really nice guy. Recently he even gave me my favorite excuse for calling in sick: “hurt my back fucking.” But he’ll pass 100 before my fingerless nightmares cease.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

I Had a Big Lunch

Jude left some outbound dry-cleaning hanging on the front doorknob this morning, and she gave me a Holiday 6-for-$25 car wash coupon that she noticed contained no expiration date. My lunchtime was teed up.

The Washman is right across the street from Burgerville. If you don’t live in the Pacific Northwest, you don’t know the place: it’s really good fast food. Like, lobster on a stick, free-range chicken filet … me, I like a turkey burger with (wait for it) sweet potato fries. It’s like a lunchpail Thanksgiving. Then I ride through the frikkin' car wash, eating. Great Satchmo's satchel!

As an added bonus, today I get the carwash buttnugget who's going to tell me that they no longer honor the 6-for-$25 deal – that was a holiday offer, you see.

“Where’s the expiration date?”

“Well, see, this is nothing, OK. This is just an ad selling the offer, but we don’t even have this anymore.”

“You don’t have carwash coupons?”

“No yes, we do.”

“Good, give me 6 for $25.”

“Well, we have the coupons and it’s pretty much the same deal now but you get 5 for $25.”

“But it’s pretty much the same?”


“Good, then give me 6 for $25.”

And on like that until they pony up, and all the time I’m enjoying my sweet fries, using the force on this guy.

Then, the dry cleaner, Mrs. Chow. “Oooooh, long time no see!” she says.

“I know, look at me – I’m wet and filthy.” She laughs her ass off; "better get dry clean, then!" she says. My sense of humor is well suited to people for whom English is a second language.

Back in the car I’ve got Al Franken’s whine-saucey show on the radio, and tonight is State of the Union Flyboy Smackdown.

“What do we want?”
“The le
ast bad way out of Iraq!”

“When do we want it?”
“As soon as possible without allowing the situation to further devolve into an utterly chaotic bloodbath!”

Finally, I head back toward work, but I still have about 15 minutes and about 15 fries. I work right near the airport, south of Mt St Helens (I’ll try to get a shot next time the steam spews) and west of Mt Hood. At the airport, we have an Air National Guard base. The F-15s take off and land several times daily, patrolling the spacious skies for suspicious guys. I can park right at the end of the runway and see the jet bellies as they launch. Fries with that, please! Sweet Masters & Johnson!

Today, no jets, but a nice view. See? We’re getting an Ikea, so there will finally be something to do around here.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Forgot to tell you ...

Maddy came downstairs for dinner the other night with a towel over her head. Lacey said, "What's with the towel, honey?" No answer.


"I did something."

"What did you do? ... Maddy?"

She pulled the towel off and stood there quiver-lipped for a second. She'd cut her own hair, pretty short, right in the front, right in the middle. Just befor
e she burst into tears, she yelled, "I'm ugly!" and ran into the bathroom. Lacey went through an initial rotation of responses before landing on the one that basically goes, "Well, now what should we do?"

"We could try headbands," Maddy said, clearly having given the matter some thought. So they tried some, and -- long story short -- they didn't help much.

During that bathroom interlude between Maddy and Lacey, Mason had gone upstairs. When he returned, he'd done the same damn thing to his own hair. Lacey said, "Mason! Why did you DO that?"

"I didn't want Maddy to be the only ugly one."


Sunday, January 21, 2007

Just Outside of Barstow

It's Monday now and I'm sitting in the Portland airport. My flight to SFO is delayed, so I'm camping in an airport cafe that masquerades as a quirky little local place. I always think of Hunter Thompson during these airport refugee situations, but I never can muster the HST urgency when I’m stuck waiting. I’m OK at hunkering down, so long as I have some notion of the wait duration. This morning, it’s an hour – so this is no mescaline trip. See the crazy look in my eyes? (Photo credit: Negligent Waiter.) It says, look out everybody, you never know what I might do!

I’m not in sales, but I’m going to San Francisco to help my company’s new sales person migrate one of her old clients from her old job to our company. Like that? Migrate? God, I wish I had a laser pointer.

Over the weekend, we found we’ll be having company to the house for dinner in a couple of weeks. As I’ve mentioned, our house has been under construction for five years. We decided we’ll need to assemble the dining room table and chairs we bought about three years ago.

To do that, I’d need to move the pile of lumber currently occupying most of the living room and part of the dining room. To do that, I’d need to get rid of the pile of now-refuse lumber in the basement; this is the old, crappy trimwork some underachiever installed ten years ago that I thought I might be able to reclaim. Nope. To do all of this, we’d need a hearty breakfast. So we went out for breakfast and read the weekly alternative papers.

After breakfast, though, we did get started. After about two hours of maneuvering crap up out of the basement, we wound up with a driveway full on Saturday, and the promise of a trip to the dump with the coming of the rosy-fingered dawn. I love the dump.

Sunday night was Maddy’s sixth birthday – so we all went to Red Robin to celebrate in style. Maddy is Lacey’s daughter. Lacey is Jude’s daughter. Whenever we go out, Lacey’s boy Mason and I are always sitting with the prettiest girls in the place. I have a picture of Jude from the evening, but she’ll hate it and I’m still in dutch over the shot of her making breakfast in her curlers so, sorry world.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Driving Mr. Nancy

My bossman is how should I say: smooth of hand. Flocculent. Soft like a breast. When it snowed the other day, he wouldn’t drive. All of his employees drove in – 150 of us, even some who live in unibomber-style hidey shacks up in the hills. But he "worked from home."

Today, now that the ice is melting, he finally saddled up and made it in.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

You're looking Tony Robbins good, man!

My brother’s got it going on. He walked into a dinky office with a card table about 8 years ago and said, “I’m quitting the radio announcing game. What do you do?” and somehow got hired. Now he’s living poolside – nothing but bitches and barbecue. I asked him, “Keith, what’s your secret?” and he said,

“Well, about 9 yar ago,” (that’s how he talks) “I got word that my father was in the hospital, dying.” (I didn’t even know about this.) “And like most great men, I’d never been close to my father. But I collected my cash, got a bus ticket, and rode on out to see him. He looked so frail there in his hospital bed with his jello and, well, it just got to me. We didn’t speak for several moments. Then my distant, dying, diapered old dad raised a shaky hand and said to me,

‘You see this watch? This was your great-great-grandfather’s. He was Josephine’s lover after Napoleon died, and she gave him the watch. It was on his wrist when he met with kings, bedded peasants, shot a giraffe once. It’s solid gold, handmade by Germans. See the little hologram? It’s worth a fortune ... But I want you to have it for $70.’

That old hump died with my last $38 jammed down the waistband of his pajamas. Mmmmmmmm. So take a lesson!”

I’m trying, Keith! I’m trying.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007


We’ve got an ice storm this morning. In Portland, the temperature doesn’t get too cold so when we have bad weather it’s usually right around 30 degrees. We don’t get a lot of snow, but we do get ice. My brother Dave in Nebraska would probably look at this and say, “Gadzooks, you can’t drive in that?” He really does say “gadzooks” – he sounds like Rumsfeld but without the guile. But Portland is like a hockey rink with hills today.

In other news, yesterday was haircut day for our cat, Action Jackson. He’s part Persian, part Siamese, part Abominable Tumbleweed. When his fur gets long, you can’t even see his legs and he just glides around like a frosted armadillo. He loves to get his lion cut hairdo. Ever had a crew cut? Know how you can’t stop lightly brushing it with the palm of your hand? That’s our boy.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

They should have a show about me

When we first looked at our house, I was skeptical. There was a giant wood stove insert in the living room fireplace, a bank of inset flourescent lights in the kitchen to accentuate the white z-brick walls with black mortar. Just all kind of crazy stuff. The dining room had an accoustic tile ceiling, like the one my dad put up in the basement when we were kids. Our realtor could see I was dubius, so to overcome the objection she said to Jude, "He just doesn't see it."

So, that was four years ago. No wait, FIVE years ago now. And we're still ripping rooms down to the studs a
nd rebuilding.

Anyway, whatever. I told you that to tell you about these shorts I'm sporting. When I went home to Virginia early in December, my Dad gave me a couple pairs of denim shorts (because Mr. Tai Chi has lost weight). I have to say, I just love these crazy shorts. Look at them! Look at all the pockets! I've got about half the hand tools I own in them. You can't see it, but I've even got a two-foot level in the left leg superpocket, right next to the hammer hoop. Bam!

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Is there a signal out here? Call Larry Tate.

Jude took me over to the coast for my birthday last weekend. She got us this cabin with a fireplace and whatnot. It was relaxing.

The little tourist town was almost empty and it rained and blew and stormed. We went in and out of art galleries and little shops.

Sometimes I can't get interested in the shops Jude likes, but I try to carry a book and just park it near an exit. She'd prefer that I shop with her, but sometimes it just makes my arm hurt. There was a shop like that we went into, and I didn't have my book but they'd put a football game on TV and set out some things to fiddle with.

On Sunday morning, we had breakfast. Then we drove south down the coast, but turned back because we came to some flaggers where a 30-foot section of the right lane had slipped down into the embankment, and it reminded us of that family who got stuck down in southern Oregon, and how we'd pointed out the mistakes that led to the man's death. Here we were, driving in our slippers along the liminal edge twixt life and death.

And I thought of a potential Lexus commercial:

husband and wife, or
woman alone pulls over for hitchhiker (sexy subtext), or
man pulls over for injured elk (sensitive!), or whatever.

Show the supple leather interior, windshield wipers busy, and epic aerial shots of the car riding the coast highway in a crazy rain and windstorm. Call Dylan's people. Overdub:

"Not a word was spoke between us,

There was no risk involved.
Everything up to that point had been left unresolved.
Try imagining a world where it's always safe and warm.
Come in, she said, I'll give you
Shelter from the storm."

fade to logo. MONEY!