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!