Thursday, October 13, 2011


Twelve per cent unemployment is no sneezing matter. That, my friends, is what I'm facing in this city. With its reputation for cool and as the birthplace of the hipster, too many white, bachelor's degree totin', artistic twenty-somethings moved here too fast. Wanting to reduce their carbon footprints and live off farmers market produce and hate on motorized vehicles, they wish to reside in the city. Work in the city. And this means there aren't enough jobs for all of us. Plus, the word about Portland's myriad programs and cash for the taking got out in the homeless community. They come here in droves--most of them about my age. So when I say I'm new to town and jobless, people inch back from me as if the next time they see me, I'll be asking for a $1.00 to add to my hostel fund. "It's going to rain tonight," I'll say.

With redundancy the pool teems, so one's only hope is to be an expert at something. You're qualified to be receptionist, you say? Have you spent a year as a personal secretary to Harvard's Provost? How about time as a senior undersecretary to the governor? No. Alright. Perhaps I could count change at a bank, smile, and tell customers to have a splendid day. Well...yes, you meet the minimum requirements, they say. But our other applicants spent a collective 29,470 hours in environmental service. One developed a sign language pattern amongst penguins in Antarctica. Ok, I think. I can nanny. I've done it recently and with style, right? Yes...but we, the parents, would really prefer whoever watches our children speak fluent Portuguese, Spanish, or Mandarin. We might consider French, even. Also, we'd like you to be here as the kids wake up to make their meals and get them out the door, stay to pick them up from school (The house should be spotless when we get home, btw), make dinner, help with homework, wash them, and put them to bed. Most nights you'll be out by 9. We'll call you.

Since I haven't invested a three years in Cyrillic or composed a sonnet circle on the merits of a cherry blossom, I am still awaiting returned calls.

Ever more plain, my lack of control over my own life. Care and keeping of, yes, but control belongs to He Who Sits Above. Know what? Praise to Him for that! I'll keep applying, but I know His hand must open those matter how many endangered species I regenerate from bone samples.

Fall: A Contrast

They tell me it's fall in the Northwest. Trees still bear their leaves, the air stings a tad when biking, people started putting pumpkin in their lattes, I overheard a sibling debate 'tween the merits of a Power Ranger costume versus Disney's Belle--but I find myself longing for North Georgia's October. Here, we have none of that evening autumnal glow, no richness in the air as the cooler temperatures release smells heretofore masked in a summer haze, fiery foliage, sweet relief from oppressive heat. We lack the temperature contrast. Ben and I met relief from heat oppression upon arrival in August. There's nowhere to go from there.

Makes me wonder if I owe a piece of my fall adoration to my disdain for Georgia summer.

So, not much of a fall. But what they lack in October glory they pour into their coffee and beers (...excepting the lack of pumpkin beer for which I never can forgive the state. Seriously? Doesn't someone sell a respectable brew in honor of squash's robust cousin? I need Shipyard, dog'on it!) They're quite proud of these. And it's no wonder! With all the rain we're driven to teapot, press, and stein to lift our spirits and make our taste buds dance.

Rain appeals to me, though. It's a good thing; for our ten-day forecast reveals nothing but sprinkly days with bright spots between. Never have I consumed tea with such fervor. Portlanders walk about indifferent to this constant dripping. Most of them seem averse to the concept of an umbrella, preferring to shove their hands deep in their pockets and keep their beanie bedecked heads low. Light waterproof jackets and Doc Martins are the thing. Sometimes goulashes. Bumbershoots are for the out of towners--a funny stigma since everyone in Portland is a transplant. Besides the two true locals I've encountered, this is not an exaggeration.

This is Department of Eagles weather. Weepies. Wilco.

I'll like it all the better when I can meet a friend in it. This much tea consumption requires a partner.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Atlanta Lessons

Atlanta scared me. Crime, water shortages, and parking issues seemed the only news I heard from the place when I lived in the burbs. Aside from theatrical visits to the Fox and the Shakespeare Tavern, concerts at large, well-publicized venues, or a quick foray into the Highlands, I knew little of the city I orbited. It had two streets dubbed Peachtree and I couldn't afford anything on either of them. 85 proved elusive every time I wanted to get home. I liked the coffee at San Francisco. That's about it.

Then I re-met Ben, the man I'm going to marry (a story for another time). He lives in the Old Fourth Ward, a part of Atlanta I had never visited. Heck, who knew Atlanta had neighborhoods beside Midtown and Virginia-Highlands? The more time I spent with him and the more areas of town he showed me, the more his affection for our mess of a hometown rubbed off on me. So I moved. To be honest, my relocation owed about a quarter to interest in the city and the rest to Ben. But, since moving, I've fallen increasingly in love with this place. It's impacted me far deeper than I'd imagined. I've grown to see I need these people, these viewpoints, these challenges. They rub away my self-delusions. For each issue I see around me, I find the rank black mold in my own heart, the areas my Lord would cleanse if I would but ask.

And I've learned, among other things, all that follows:

1. If leaving a generous tip feels beyond my means, I should stay in for dinner. It's not my server's fault I didn't monitor my bank account for the week.

2. Try biking your way through your errands. You'll become aware of any cyclists you may pass and your gas bill goes way down.

3. Atlanta, like any compilation of people, is multi-faceted. Downtown and Midtown do not reflect the whole of the place. In fact, they mis-represent most of it.

4. Run or walk through Druid Hills. You will thank me.

5. Scoutmob.

6. Over-sized, neon-colored, non-prescription frames and Chuck Taylors do not make you any more inventive or complex than do Hollister polos.

7. All that "support local" hype is more than a bunch of tree-huggin' buzz.

8. The city has no shortage beautiful, giving people. Take a moment and listen before you assume a tattoo or a smoke denotes a filthy lifestyle.

9. Street art highlights a city's character. Visit Krog. Or Irwin.

10. The West Coast ain't alone in excellent coffee.

11. Don't write off Piedmont Park simply because everyone seems to go there. That's a silly reason to avoid something anyways.

12. Parallel parking isn't as daunting as I feared. I still have a ways to go, though.

13. Wear sunscreen to Brave's games.

14. Pray for your city. Love your city. Serve your city. Don't simply leech off its cultural energy.

15. Eat out for breakfast on the East Side. Ria's, Stone Soup, Carroll Street, Highland Bakery, Candi's--go! Try!

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Winter's Here

Winter didn't wait for December 21st this year. Oh no. It's here and it's chilly. For those of you familiar with Northern winters or the should be uninhabitable settings, bear in mind I write from Georgia. For us, this is COLD. And I love it. Always have.

This morning, though, I started wondering why I esteem winter above hot, sticky Southern summers. Here's the situation: I was out running at ten after six. My face went numb in about thirty seconds and it was then I began to question my fervor for the icy air. As I ran, I gradually warmed. Then it hit me. It's not the chill I've loved about this season, but the measures we take to make ourselves comfortable in it. Fires, sweaters, hot chocolate, tea, stews, wool socks, hoodies, blankets, cider, boots, overly-cheerful music, cinnamon, Christmas--it's these things I find appealing in their juxtaposition to colder temperatures and stark landscape. When the outside world slips from fall abundance and smoldering colors into white and gray, we decorate it. With Christmas lights, for instance. You gotta love that about people.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010


Memories make my life look like a clothesline of sepia pictures, all hanging about at an artsy, off-center angle. In memory, food tastes better, light glows soft and mellow, and trips taken seem smoother. Squabbles either lose or gain significance in recollection, leaving me to wonder why I let something so small damage a relationship or why I reigned in my opinion.

Moving from one phase of life to the next throws that sepia glow hallmark of memory over the present. It all seems so much sweeter and I'm left wondering how I ever overlooked any details of my current life. Why didn't I spend more time with some people and less worrying about the opinions of others? Why didn't I visit that restaurant? When did that park get there? Why am I leaving again? And then I stop asking, for I know as soon as I decide to stay based on familiarity alone, my presently positive perspective will vanish in a wave of humidity. I know I must go. I also know, upon returning, I will appreciate all I left behind whatever the temperature or pollen count. Sometimes you just need a fresh start to see that next step. And sometimes, I suppose, you have to make that jump alone.

Best part, though? Moving alone doesn't require loneliness; for, I've found I'm only as lonely as I allow myself to be.

Sunday, September 19, 2010


In the not so distant future, phone companies will begin issuing phones used exclusively for texting. Talking capabilities will become an optional feature. We've already moved that direction, really. Most phone plans offer a limited bundle of minutes but unlimited texting capabilities. Many people prefer to text rather than call. Why is that? Convenience, I think. One can get the answer he needs from one friend while in the midst of a social gathering with several others, and all without breaking the flow of conversation. One can offer criticism he'd never be able to utter in spoken conversation, get an opinion on shoes while in a library, or send a jumble of punctuation to imitate some facial expression. The possibilities seem limitless!

While I do not deny texting is a helpful tool for a short answer, an address, or quick "Hey, I was thinking about you" blurb (Who doesn't love those? I enjoy them! They're something like leaving a sticky note hello on the cubicle adjacent yours.), it has morphed into a mainstay of communication. Talk about inconvenient! A text message conversation often proves lengthier than dialing and dialoguing. Determining plans for the evening is a good example. Say you send a text to your friend--let's call her Pheobe--and say, "Hi Pheobes! Wat's up?" To which she responds, "Heya. Nada. Want 2 do something tonight?"
"Yes!!! OMG, I;m starving."
"Where u want 2 go?"
"IDK...I went lsat night..."
"Eww! Gross to the max."

And so it continues. Now, during all of this, you and Pheobe have exchanged eight texts so far, all with a gap of typing and waiting for a response. Wouldn't it have been easier to pick up your phone, call, and have a three minute conversation as opposed to ten to fifteen of typing? Or, let's say you accidentally typed something like: "Not italian. breadsticks make u fat and bloaty...they always do that to me." Only you typed this particular phrase toward the end of your message without noticing you overstepped your 160 character limit, leaving off the crucial last segment implying you meant breadsticks were a dilemma for you personally. You alone. Pheobe takes offense, as she's been overeating the past two days and feels sensitive about the effects. You meet for salads and can't determine why she made a snippy comment about your outfit or why she didn't order the ranch dressing she prefers. When you ask her why she chose the vinaigrette, all hell breaks loose. See? You should have just called her.

Now, gents, this texting business has become a chronic issue for many of you. When you ask a girl for her number, DO NOT text her immediately thereafter. Give her a day and then CALL her. Make the extra effort to show her you have time for her. A text implies you're busy doing other things, but you felt obligated to touch base. It's the chicken's way out. It's too easy. She won't appreciate it. And heaven forbid you follow an text inquiry as to the state of her day with one of those dreadful little smiley faces. C'mon men! Would you send her a letter and seal it with a yellow Wal-Mart sticker? No! You're a man! Don't type like a middle school girl. Use your words to communicate your smile; don't bastardize punctuation in a gross quest to be cutesy. Be thoughtful. Go further than society's standard. It will set you apart.

Text responsibly.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Pasta Sauce

Between a conversation with a dear friend and a trip down the pasta aisle at Kroger, I decided to attempt my own pasta sauce. What's been stopping me? Prego's ease? The fear of undercooking tomatoes? Lack of initiative? Whatever the culprit, I began rummaging through the fridge and pantry for sauce worthy ingredients. Extra steak in the freezer? Perfect! I had been wondering what to do with that. I browned it right up with some freshly-pressed garlic and extra chaste olive oil, threw in some sea salt for good measure, and foraged for veggies. Mushrooms seemed appropriate. Tomatoes, of course. Spinach was up for debate, but I couldn't resist the deep green hue. I wasn't sure what to toss in for that little kick, that something different, the yum factor. Would you know it, I discovered a nearly empty bottle of merlot slightly beyond hope of straight sipping and employed it to harness the sweetness of the tomatoes. Presto! My newest concoction sits stewing on the counter. I can't wait for dinner.

You're right, Anna. There isn't a better use for those leftover bits of meat from the week.