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Kimberly, me, Will, Romain

Paul Harvey (radio host from 1952-2008) used to have this radio bit titled “The Rest of the Story.” I am reminded of that title when I think of how some people and places in my life have a story for me that lasts decades, and I expect future decades of story to be added. There is an added richness to my experience when I consider not only today, but also the rest of the story.

My trip to Rhode Island was a great opportunity to meet up with old friends. States are tiny on the northeast coast, so visiting state to state is like driving to another town.

Kim, Will, and I used to work together at the National Weather Service in Burlington, Vermont in 1995-1998. They knew me when I was pregnant with Tara, and got to meet baby Tara in the first weeks of their life. Tara and I went to Kimberly’s wedding. Kim still works for the National Weather Service in Massachusetts. Will still forecasts for Vermont, though he lives in Rhode Island. Romain is a Catholic priest, and was a classmate at Brandeis University and became one of my best friends at school in 2005-07. Tara and I last saw Romain when he gave us a tour of the Harvard College campus back when Tara was deciding what college to attend. These friends weave through my life.

Romain’s birthday gift.

The Superman Building

We met for lunch at a place in between all three of us, in Taunton, MA. We chatted for two and a half hours, but finally Kim had to go to work. It was so easy to get comfortable with them all despite not having seen any of them for years, and I was happy that Will and Kim and Romain easily enjoyed each others’ company though meeting for the first time. Before Romain left he gave me a stunning birthday gift of a glass dragon for the Dragon Lady.

The next morning I had to leave Rhode Island. It dawned that spectacular blue that only happens in New England winter skies, and I had Will hold the car while I finally got a great shot of the Superman Building, Providence’s tallest skyscraper. Will told me that locals call it that because it reminds them of the Daily Planet building in Superman comics. You know, the newspaper where Clark Kent worked.

Being a nerdy girl myself, the idea of a comic book connection was intriguing and I looked up images of the Daily Planet. I think the residents of Providence are generous in their memories, because the building really doesn’t look anything like what I found online. However!! I’m not a connoisseur of comics, particularly not DC, so there might have been a series or an artist that drew the building more like the Providence building. You be the judge.

Now THIS image of the Daily Star building (from an early version of the comic in 1938 before the name was changed to Daily Planet), looks a lot like the Providence building.

An image of the Daily Planet building from 1943.

There is no denying that it’s a stunning building. It’s gorgeous and I love it. The 26-story building opened in 1928. I was dismayed to find out that it has been empty for over 5 years and has such a low real estate value placed on it that there are calls for it to be demolished. There have been a couple of plans to put a new tenant in there, but a lot of rennovation work is required, and the maintenance on that place would be enormous, so the Mayor has not been able to find a new company to occupy the building. Thank goodness someone is trying to save Superman in the meantime.

Superman Building and the Biltmore – two historic and iconic Providence buildings.

Will and me inside the beautiful Biltmore Hotel, our winter weather gear heaped on a chair.

Elevator in Biltmore says “Built in 1978. It’s a Biltmore Classic. Use for Time Travel only.”

I’ve mentioned the Biltmore Hotel in earlier posts and haven’t talked much more about it because I managed to forget to take photos inside. We were usually on our way to do something fun and I didn’t want to stop for photos in the hotel, or on our way back from something fun and I was too tired. I managed to get two pictures that help you get a sense of how wonderful it is inside. At the top of the staircase is a neat old glass elevator that is no longer in use by guests, but Will recalls from his younger days that it was fun to try and sneak onto the elevator for a ride and a view of the city.

Providence downtown, the morning that I left.

Then we went to the airport and I remembered to thank the TSA personnel for working with no pay because of the government shut down. Providence has a small airport like Portland’s, and checking in was a breeze. Soon I was in my seat. I always want a window seat. I was in my first airplane at about age 8 and I’ve been flying commercial since age 16, and yet I still get a thrill when I’m in the air. With a background in meteorology, I marvel at the up-close look at clouds. With an unquenchable yearning for new sights, I spend all the time I can with my face pressed up against the safety plexiglass, peering through the frost patterns, in speechless awe at the planet below.

My flight at the beginning of the trip from Portland to Newark. We took off in darkness, then flew into the sunrise. It was so wonderful. See the star? Although, it’s so big and bright it might be a planet.

Bumping along the updrafts above the clouds.

Orange morning illuminates snowy peaks.

The day I left, our tiny plane flew low from Providence to Newark, so it was easier to watch life on the ground.

On approach, I realized Newark must be close to a larger city.

Yep. “THE” larger city. I had fun looking down onto New York City as my plane landed.

After a long layover in Newark, we left for home in the dark. Goobye New England. I’ll be back!

Two of my former co-workers notified me that our office instant message service has declared that it has been 100 days since I logged in. That means, I have not been to work in 100 days.

With my anthropology background, I find it interesting that the 100-day mark caught their attention and that they both contacted me about it. One friend suggested I look up the significance of 100 days; the other friend suggested I write a blog post to commemorate the event as a possibly therapeutic process. I’ll do both.

The passage of 100 days is significant to people around the world, but I did not find analysis of why it is significant. My guess: the number 100 is important mathematically and mathematicians were crunching numbers prior to the Babylonians and Egyptians. Mathematicians have likely been teaching the general population about the significance of the number 100 since before recorded history. Look around and it’s not 100 days that are significant, but 100 anything. 100 degrees Celsius is water’s boiling point, 100 kilometers above sea level is the end of Earth’s atmosphere, 100 years is a century, and the number 100 is an easy-to-remember emergency phone number in multiple countries, like 911 is used in the US.

Focusing only on the significance of 100 days, I see that my friends were dialed right in. I made a list of some of the ways in which 100 days are significant:

  • Buddhists have a prayer ceremony 100 days after a death, and this also may be a long-lost Catholic tradition.
  • Schools celebrate 100 days of learning.
  • 100 days following a bone marrow and stem cell transplant is a milestone.
  • Napoleon’s final military campaign in 1815 was called The 100 Days.
  • The 100-day moving average is a method of analyzing the health of a particular stock.
  • Chinese babies have a celebration when they are 100 days old.
  • American zoos wait 100 days when naming baby pandas.
  • Films called 100 Days include a 1991 Hindi murder mystery and a 2001 film about genocide in Rwanda.
  • There is a book called 100 Days in which a teenager has a rare disease and 100 days left to live.
  • People set goals of 100 days to bring awareness, to do art projects, to lose weight, to make money.
  • The first 100 days of an American Presidency is considered a landmark.

The question I ask myself today is “How are my first 100 days away from work significant to me?” Honestly, until my friends pointed it out, I wasn’t even paying attention to the timeline. So in that sense, not significant at all.

I miss my job. I love the job. I miss figuring out the puzzles every day. I miss both having a tight enough knowledge of the law that I can recall the regulations from memory, and I miss searching through the laws and court cases till I find exactly what I need. I love writing my decisions. I love finding new medical evidence and pointing it out to an overworked doctor, putting the pieces together for them, so all they have to do is recognize what I’m trying to do and either agree or disagree. I like volunteering for the totally confusing screwed up cases that have been ignored for two years because nobody can figure it out. I miss serving people.

I’m still mad at myself for failing at my job. I left for medical reasons that are not my fault, but I still feel like I failed. Because. I did.

Yes, people I used to work with still love me, and probably nobody blames me for forcing them to take over work I was supposed to do. The fact remains that I can’t do my job while other people can. Just because my decision was valid doesn’t make it comfortable. It sucks. It’s hard for me to tell myself “Well, I’m sick, I had to leave the job,” because that feels too much like blaming my problems on something else. Also it’s very hard for me to accept that I’m sick. I don’t want it to be true.

Either I’m sick and that prevented me from doing my job, or I’m not that sick and I simply failed. Both options bite.

I suspect that once I’ve found my new path/career/plan, I’ll be able to put my last job into the right context. In 2003 I left my job after 11 years as a weather forecaster with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to go to University for the first time. Once I embraced my role of student, I was glad I had left weather forecasting. In September, I left my job as a disability benefits decision-maker with the Department of Veteran Affairs after 11 years. Eleven years must be my auspicious number, rather than 100 days!

I have remained the same person during the past 100 days. I adore my same friends, I get excited over visits with Tara, I nerd out about all the same nerdy things, I still go for walks around my property, I can’t stand grocery shopping, I love my kitty, I whine about the cold, I drive into Portland to catch shows, I plan future travels. Without the job, I am the same woman.

So just maybe…maybe a word like “failure” is much too grand for my story, and the truth is merely that I used to work there, and now I don’t. After 100 days away from work, I’m marking that event by recognizing that who I am might inform how I do my job, but is not shaped by what that job is, or whether I even have one. I am grateful that my friends told me about this milestone and prompted me to think about it. It’s no great ceremony, but it does give me hope and confidence.

Me with Santa in front of the Mt. Angel Sausage Company

Marlene, who keeps a blog at insearchofitall, likes German things, and has a special affinity for German Christmassy things. It was a no-brainer that when I heard about the Mt. Angel-Silverton Hazelnut Festival with a German Holiday Market, the person I wanted to share the day with was Marlene.

The hazelnut (also called the filbert) is Oregon’s state nut. And here you were thinking that *I* was Oregon’s state nut. On the Oregon hazelnut website, it states that about 800 Oregon farmers grow hazelnuts on 70,000 acres. The total value growers received for hazelnut crops in Oregon averaged nearly $70 million in the last 5 years. The website does not herald the most important nut fact: Hazelnuts are delicious!

On the way to Mt. Angel we drove through the beauty of the Willamette River Valley. I stopped to take a photo of an eye-catching tree. I thought at first it was the most enormous juniper tree I have ever seen, but I am not sure what kind of tree it is. I am impressed with the massive size of its trunk.

Typical field in the Willamette Valley.

I was watching the tree, but the sheep were watching me.

We parked just before 11am in this lovely small town with a German & Swiss heritage. While we waited to walk into the Glockenspiel restaurant to ask for directions to the festival, their 49-foot clock tower came to life. Hand-carved, life-sized figures rotated to the center window, and each figure had a corresponding song. There was a Native-American-themed chant with drums for the Kalapuya Indian brave, a Pioneer-themed song for Robert and Katrina Zollner, Catholic church music for Father Adelhelm Odermatt and Sister Bernadine Wachte, and it ended with the song Edelweiss. Other tourists next to us began to laugh, commenting that Edelweiss is an American song. They are correct: the song was written for the 1959 Broadway show, The Sound of Music. I don’t see the sense in disparaging the song choice however. Mt. Angel isn’t claiming to be European, but American with early German-Swiss settlers, and the song is lovely.

This building holds the Glockenspiel restaurant & tower, and senior housing in the upper levels.

Kalapuya Indian represents the first occupants of this area.

Abbot Odermatt represents the small group of Benedictine monks that founded an abbey here in 1882 after leaving Switzerland.

Marlene and I walked a few blocks to the big festival hall that was packed full of vendors of handmade wares and many local products. It is the Christmas season and my thoughts should be on gifts for others, but we immediately began spotting things we wanted for ourselves!

The outside of the festival building.

The inside

Marlene said that if there is music, she will dance. I was a witness when she danced with the accordion player.

Marlene stocked up on handcrafted artisan pasta from Esotico, and then raved about the nut butters from Bliss. Keeping with the theme of the day, I purchased hazelnut pasta and hazelnut butter with cranberries. Of course I picked up stocking-stuffer-sized packages of flavoured hazelnuts snacks for Tara and their partner Brynnen, from King Fresh. I bought a pound of wild rice from Arrowhead Wild Rice Co. I found some locally made candies, ornaments, and window sparklies for more stocking stuffers.

We also happily tasted wines and spirits from the region. I was swept away by the flavours of Townshend’s tea liquor- spirits made from tea. I had never heard of such a thing. I also picked up a bottle of Crater Lake vodka from Bendistillery infused with hatch green chili and peppers. I’ve been craving peppers and hot stuff lately – must be because it’s 26 degrees outside. Just a dash into a glass of fruit juice and then you have a drink that warms you from the inside. Next I want to try it in hot chocolate.

By this time we had worked up an appetite and were thinking about the Glockenspiel again, but on our way back to the Jeep we passed the Mt. Angel Sausage Company. Santa was out front, waving to people on the street. It was a sign, and I told Marlene that’s where I wanted to eat lunch. She was on board. I had a bratwurst with onions and sauerkraut, and marlene had sausage in a sandwich with a pretzel bun. Yum! I chose a beer to go with lunch and it came in a pint bottle so I couldn’t finish it – so sad to leave beer on the table.

Me looking at the menu and trying to choose a sausage.

Frosty beer, ready to be tasted

We then prowled the shop counters on the other side of the restaurant, and found a thousand more tempting treats in the form of German chocolates and cookies. Neither one of us could resist them and more purchases were made.

We continued our chatting on the drive back home through the picture-perfect Willamette Valley, and I dropped Marlene safely at her house, then texted her when I arrived at my own home an hour and 15 minutes later. I’ve been having so much fun with friends lately and it was good to catch up on Marlene’s news and to get into the Christmas spirit!

Santa and Marlene. Her hat says: How’s My Attitude? Call 1-800-eat-dirt (How can I resist her?)

 

 

Maria and I sample Thanksgiving food at Zupan’s grocery – finding some space away from all the other people in one of the aisles.

This month I’ve had the opportunity to spend time with friends and that helps brighten up cloudy days and warm up cold ones.

I spent November 7th with Norman and Rodel, as I already mentioned in my last post.

On Veteran’s Day weekend I met my friend Maria and her friend Le, at a wine/beer tasting with food at a Zupan’s grocery in Lake Grove, Oregon. I arrived a little before the others, so I explored this upscale grocery store and found a wine cellar!

The wine cellar at Zupan’s

Maria told me that the wine cellar at a different Zupan’s is larger, and hosts events. That is probably the fanciest grocery store I’ve ever heard of.

We spent the next hour wandering the store (squished among droves of other tasters) and tasting local wines, beers, and heaps of food from their deli counter and aisles. It was all delicious and we were all three stuffed when we left.

After leaving there, I stopped alongside the highway for an overlook point I had never previously investigated. Trees and bushes make the view difficult and I stood on top of a rock wall to see better Willamette Falls, a curved basalt falls in the Willamette River, that is 42 feet high and 1500 feet wide.

Willamette Falls in the Willamette River

A view of Mt. Hood beyond the falls.

An information sign there explains that (while you can’t see them), it is also the site of the oldest continuously operating multi-lift lock and canal system in the United States. Nearby is a museum, and access to the locks, which I definitely want to find another day.

My next stop was to visit a friend who is encouraging me to make a quilt. I got some fabric cut up, and developed some ideas, but it has not progressed yet. If I actually create a quilt, you’ll see it here.

The next day I watched my best friend Genevieve get married to my friend Lloyd. I have loved them so much for years, and their backyard wedding was very sweet. I was able to meet more of G’s family. Best of all I got to see the typically reserved and practical Genevieve look into Lloyd’s eyes with heaps of mooshy love. I’ve never seen that expression on her face and it was precious. I didn’t post any photos because they had a photographer there, and I’m going to defer to Genevieve’s judgement on what the most beautiful photos are to post.

Yesterday I spent the day with Ira & Deborah, visiting Oregon from Hawaii. They have been cold every day, but good sports about it. When they arrived at my house I checked their feet and saw good walking shoes, and suggested a tour of my property that they’ve only ever seen on facebook or instagram. My home itself is in total disarray, due to the kitchen construction. All the furniture in the kitchen, dining room, pantry, closet, and living room has been removed and crammed somewhere else in the house. Not ideal for entertaining. A walk outside seemed best.

Ira takes wonderful photos (find his Instagram account @potatohead_808). He took this one of my pond in the rain.

Ira, me, Deborah standing beside Beaver Creek in my back yard. Selfie clearly by Ira again.

We explored the Rainier marina, and “downtown” Rainier, only a few blocks long. Then I suggested a short hike to Beaver Creek Falls, which you have probably seen on this blog before. I love the falls because it’s close to my house, and great spot to take guests. Also, it’s the same exact creek that I look at every day, just a few miles closer to its mouth.

Someone’s rock sculpture at Beaver Creek Falls.

Ira soon began climbing the walls of the canyon, looking for an ideal perspective for photographs. Deborah and I chatted, and then it began to rain while we stood watching Ira. Not terribly hard, but persistently. I had no hat and no gloves and got soaked. Deborah was smart enough to bring better gear.

He would spot a place that seemed better, and would carefully climb over there. Then he would spot a new place, and make his way slowly. Before we knew it, he had made a whole circle of the canyon, including walking behind the waterfall!

Ira’s shot of Deborah and me from his location behind the waterfall. @potatohead_808

Ira hiking behind Beaver Creek Falls.

I assumed that in order to keep his feet dry, Ira would return the way he came. Nope, he hopped rocks and crossed Beaver Creek. Afterward he said, “I’ve been over and under Beaver Creek today!”

By this time we were starving. I obviously could not feed us, unless we would be satisfied with an avocado and a peanut butter & jelly sandwich. So we began driving to one restaurant after another, and all of them were closed because it’s Thanksgiving!! Purely by accident we stumbled onto a full parking lot in front of Stuffy’s II. They had a limited menu, serving only one meal: a traditional Thanksgiving dinner, choice of chicken, ham, or prime rib. We were delighted! A real Thanksgiving meal after all, when we had been ready to accept sushi or a taco, or anything that was open.

Next we hopped in our cars and made the trip to Astoria to try and climb the column before the sun went down at 4:30 pm. We made it!

Deborah at the top of the Astoria Column.

Ira creating another one of his brilliant photos.

Then we checked in at their Air BnB, which is on a pier in the Columbia River! I have been on that pier several times, because I like to visit the Rogue brew pub there. I had no idea there were rooms as well. Imagine being able to leave the pub and walk 50 steps to your room! (I am making birthday reservation plans as I type….)

We went into the Rogue Ales Public House and nibbled a little at amazing soups and some toasted cauliflower, and of course, sampled some ales. We talked and talked and finally hugged goodbye.

My friend Curt over at Wandering Through Time and Place introduced me to his friend Bone, the bone, last year. He was telling Bone about my place, and when Bone talked to Curt about a visit, a plan was quickly put into action. He put on his favourite leather vest and came up to northern Oregon for a few weeks last year, and at the time I posted a photo of Bone with my bees, and a little later, Bone in Tulsa, Oklahoma. I intended to do a Bone-centric post and it slipped through the cracks. So, without additional delay, here is the full story of Bone’s visit.

As I mentioned, we visited the bees on my property first.

Here, a bee tells Bone something that I didn’t hear.

Bone really liked my back yard and thanked me for my hospitality. I said I was happy to have such a pleasant guest.

Next, Tara and I took Bone to the coastal town of Astoria. Sometimes people are reluctant to climb the Astoria Column that overlooks the mouth of the Columbia River as it empties into the Pacific Ocean, but Bone didn’t hesitate at all! He was on vacation and wanted to do it all. So I helped him climb the 164 steps to the top.

Bone told me a joke right as Tara took the photo. Lucky I didn’t fall off!

We had sushi for dinner. Bone was fascinated by watching the chefs prepare our meal, but was not interested in tasting any of it.

He never did get tired that day. Bone was hopping around, trying to look out the windows, so Tara let him sit on the dashboard to watch the road as we drove home.

The next week I was in Oklahoma, at the invitation of the Cherokee Nation. The week started off with a three-day conference in Tulsa. Of course, Bone came along.

Inside the Hard Rock Casino in Tulsa, we Cherokees spent the whole time viewing the Cherokee art throughout the facility. Bone and I liked this one by Jane Osti best.

To the bottom left, you can see Bone trying to decide if he feels lucky.

When the conference was over, my group of visiting Cherokees went out to Cherokee country and were treated to up close visits at some important historical sites. At the Saline Courthouse, we walked around till we found an old cemetery. I had not done my research prior to this trip, and inspected gravestones at random, based on how interesting their appearance from a distance. Thus I missed the one that says, “A. J. Colvard. Born April 12, 1858.” and it then lists the date Andrew Jackson Colvard was murdered. It actually says “murdered” on the gravestone! I am so sad I didn’t see that in person. Interestingly, I did get this gravestone, which is linked to Mr. Colvard’s:

Bone likes exploring cemeteries.

Another place we visited was the Cherokee Heritage Center. This center for Cherokee culture, history, and the arts is located where the first Cherokee female seminary used to be. In the 19th century, Cherokee prided themselves on exceptional schools. In the traditionally matriarchal society, girls’ education was as important as boys.’ The first Cherokee Female Seminary was a boarding school opened by the Cherokee Nation in 1851. A fire burned the building in 1887 and all that remains are three columns.

First Cherokee Female Seminary, courtesy Wikipedia.

Bone quietly contemplated Cherokee history as he gazed at the columns.

The heart of Cherokee country is the city of Tahlequah, where the Chief and his administration are based.

Can you see him sitting on the bricks?

While waiting for the speakers to get organized, Bone gasped and pointed. There was Chief Bill John Baker!

We both learned quickly that when Cherokees get together, there will be food.

And before we knew it, our trip to Cherokee land was over and we had to go home. Bone wanted to stay longer with the Cherokees, and so did I, and he was pretty sad while we sat in the airport waiting for our flight.

Sad as he was to go, Bone couldn’t resist watching the planes load and unload.

Bone slept almost the whole flight back. I had finally managed to tire him out. His emotions are hard to read and I’m never quite sure if I can catch a facial expression, but it seemed like he was smiling while he slept. When we arrived back in Portland, I asked him about it. Bone said he was dreaming about Cherokees, and imagined that he got to meet Sky Wildcat, Miss Cherokee 2016-2017 and Lauryn Skye McCoy, Junior Miss Cherokee. He described the two young women so well, it almost seemed like it wasn’t a dream after all.

Bone with Sky Wildcat and Lauryn Skye McCoy.

This is the final version of my painting before I gave it away.

You may recognize the image above. It’s similar to a photograph I took when I was in Myanmar in February:

Our first view of the Golden Rock from a distance.

I’ve been wanting to paint more, but hadn’t been making time for it. So I tricked myself into it. For me, overcoming challenges in life is often a matter of using the correct psychology on myself. Self-care and personal health don’t seem to motivate me enough. However! I am very good at keeping obligations to others. I signed up for a night class at the local community college, and now at a bare minimum, I paint once a week on Wednesday nights. My responsible brain goes to class because I respect the teacher’s time. A bonus is that I paint, which I love, and it fills my heart and makes me happy.

The instructor recommended we paint from a photo, and as a helpful suggestion, said that his students in the past painted scenes from their travels. I had been thinking of this one for a long time, but was avoiding it because it seemed too ambitious. When no other ideas came to mind, I started it.

This much I did at home, prior to classwork. One of the instructor’s first suggestions was to fill in all the white area. Paint the background a dark colour, and complete the sky. I should paint the tree and rock over the top of the sky, rather than inside the white areas.

So I did.

Each Wednesday night I painted at class. Usually I painted during the week also, because the painting was still on my mind.

I particularly love how the sky turned out. There was a lot of burning happening in the region, as local people cleared land and burned the brush piles. The sky was hazy from smoke and I think you can see that in the painting. It was sunrise as we arrived at the rock, and in the photo, the sun had only reached halfway down the rock. Everything else in the photo remains in the shadow of morning.

It was suggested that I paint the things farthest away first, then move to the foreground.

It’s hard for me to paint in class because the flourescent lights are terrible and 5-8 pm is my lowest productivity period of the day.

My artistic friend Lloyd saw my very first draft (with all the white parts) and was excited about the painting, and asked me to keep him updated. I sent him new pictures of my progress every time I painted, which was usually twice a week. He was ecstatic with enthusiasm each time, and that helped me stay motivated. It felt like we were doing the project together.

Almost done!! I added people, landscaping, and finally began plodding through the masses of foliage in the foreground.

I sent Lloyd this close up. Look! People!

Lloyd and Genevieve got married over the weekend, and I had a gift in mind that they would both love. There was really no question who was getting the painting when I finished it.

I grabbed a couple of quick photos before I headed to the wedding.

Comparing the painting to the photo here in this post, I see that I needed to add glints of sunlight to the rock. It is not bright enough where the morning sun touches it. I’ll have to bring some paint next time I visit my friends.

Our backstage guide, Sal, talking about the Elizabethan Theatre.

I made my debut on the Elizabethan Theatre stage!! Then they asked me to get off – for safety reasons. Ha ha ha ha!!

Margaret and I met up for a vacation a little closer to home than our two most recent trips to Chile and to Myanmar. This time, we went to southern Oregon! She drove north 5 1/2 hours from Santa Rosa and I drove south 5 1/2 hours from Rainier. We met at a hotel in Ashland.

The town of Ashland, in Southern Oregon, is famous for its Oregon Shakespeare Festival (OSF), founded in 1935. These days it’s a pretty big deal. Wikipedia says “Each year, the Festival offers 750 to 800 performances from February through late October or early November, to a total audience of about 400,000. The company consists of about 675 paid staff and 700 volunteers.” The website also notes that by 2015, 20 million people had attended.

Even though my mother went to high school in Ashland, and my grandmother lived here when I was a kid, and I have family that lived in the area for decades, and even while I traveled through constantly on my way to northern California to pick up and deliver Tara while their dad and I were sharing custody, and even though I have lived in Oregon for the last 11 years, this was my very first visit to Ashland for the purpose of seeing Shakespeare. It’s about damned time.

We had tickets to two matinees (they’re expensive – I couldn’t afford more), one Tuesday and one Wednesday. We arrived Saturday night and entertained ourselves with other things Sunday and Monday. We did a couple of hikes, one of them the morning before our Tuesday show. I’ll get to all that stuff later. Stay tuned.

The first play we saw was Manahatta, by Mary Kathryn Nagle at the Thomas Theatre. It was my choice that we see this one, because the playwright is Cherokee, and I continue my quest to learn about my Native history and support other Indians when I can. Two stories are told at once, overlapping. One is set in the 17th Century when Dutch colonists were recently arrived on the island called Manahatta by the occupants and while trading with the local Lenape Indians, decided they wanted control of their land. The other is set on precisely the same piece of land, 380 years later called Manhattan, as a modern Lenape woman fights her way into employent at the white male dominated Lehman Brothers bank and begins to make a name for herself on Wall Street.

The young woman in both stories is at first filled with hope of youth and all the possibilities of life ahead of her, and both are eventually devastated through wrenching tragedy. The Dutch trick the Lenape into allowing them to settle on the island, and then the kick all the Indians off the island and build a wall to keep them out, then shoot and kill her husband and father of her unborn child. The wall is later immortalized in the name of a street in Manhattan, synonymous with a financial center. Lehman Brothers is embroiled in sub-prime mortgage lending and fails and the young woman knows she was a part of the bad practices, while simultaneously the woman’s childhood home is foreclosed upon, making her own mother homeless.

The author said one of her goals in Manahatta was to show the audience how our history is always part of our present, whether or not we realize it. The final line of the play was when the modern Lenape woman speaks introspectively about the interaction of the Lenape with colonists saying, “Ever since they arrived they have been trying to get rid of us, and we are still here.”

That line wrecked me. I am no Indian activist, but I guess with the years that I have spent learning over and over and over how to recognize subtle and sometimes unintentional but always consequential attempts to erase indigenous Americans, I too have begun to feel a resonant idignation at how hard it is to convince people that we are here. Right in front of you all: we are here! Living in 2018, using smart phones, running companies, getting graduate degrees, flying cross country to visit grandma, standing in line at Starbucks, watching Netflix, marrying and having families and shopping at Target.

Ahoy, ye mateys!

The lights came up immediately and I was bawling so hard I couldn’t speak. Margaret practically had to lead me by my arm to get me out of there. She insisted that I needed to go next to the fabulous gift shop and try on masks and hats on display for Halloween. I acquiesced, and it definitely helped. (Thank you Margaret)

That night my friend decided that we should do a backstage tour the next morning, only $20 each. We both went on line to try and book one, but we couldn’t make it work. She called the box office to buy tickets and was informed that first of all the backstage tours are only available to OSF members (minimum membership $35), and second of all the tours were sold out for Wednesday. The man on the phone said that sometimes there are tickets available just before the tour, when someone returns tickets they can’t use…but they are still only available to members. Margaret did not recognise any particular obstacle.

At 9:30 am we showed up at the box office and asked if any tour spots had opened up. None had. Margaret walked out the door and began questioning people sitting on rock walls and benches waiting for the tour to begin, “Hi! Do you have any extra tickets?” Can you believe it: after asking her third group of people, a woman nearby overheard and came over to tell us that her daughter could not come and would soon be returning two tickets and she would not accept payment for them. Viola! Margaret waited and sure enough, soon she had the other woman’s tickets. She took those into the box office and asked to get them converted to our names. Margaret was told she couldn’t use them because 1) we are not members and 2) these are special tickets for handicapped people anyway.

My ballsy friend met me outside with all the other waiting people who were now queuing up at the doors of the Thomas Theatre, where the tour would begin. “Just get in line,” she says to me, conspiratorially. As we arrived at the door, the man taking tickets burst out laughing at something someone behind him had said. Still chuckling, he took our tickets and added them to his growing stack of tickets, and joked to us about the funny thing that happened. He then turned to the people in line behind us. He never even LOOKED at our tickets!

Boom. Backstage Tour. For free. Not members.

In the Thomas Theatre, we were told about the history of the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, and about the amazing versatility of Ashland’s newest theatre: the Thomas Theatre, in which every single seat can be moved and the audience and stage rearranged in any configuration you like. We were handed off to a second tour guide, actor Christopher Salazar, who asked us to call him Sal. We crossed the street to the Elizabethan Theatre and went underground to the tunnel connecting it to the adjacent Bowman Theatre. We sat in the Green Room and learned about the incredible choreography of making this festival happen. Think about it: typically when there is a play, it continues on the same stage daytime and evening, for months until the run is over. However! In Ashland, festival directors want visitors to be able to see every single play in 10 days, or to be able to choose from multiple options each day, no matter how short your visit. This season there are 10 separate productions using three stages. That means a complete breakdown and set up of the stage twice a day for two theatres and once a day for the other theatre. Wow. We then walked over to the Angus Bowman Theatre, named for the founder of the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, and Sal told us about his favourite part of OSF: the outreach productions into communities not able to participate in the festival itself.

Our final stop was backstage at the Elizabethan, an open air theatre, where Sal (currently an actor in multiple productions at the festival) described how many of the people are employed behind the scenes, stories about inspiration for costumes, economies for typical actors at OSF, and what it’s like to have to change from one character to another in less than a minute, while running from exit to entrance behind the scene, dropping pieces of costume onto the floor and pushing arms into clothing extended by waiting assistants.

The tour was fabulous! And highly recommended, even if you need to go the route of obtaining membership, followed by purchasing an available ticket.

Henry V, a good man

We lunched, then explored lovely Lithia Park that borders the theatres, before returning to the Thomas once more for our matinee show of Henry V. In the intimate Thomas Theatre, we recognised Sal right away in one of the five roles he plays in Henry V. He all but winked at us when he spotted us, only 15 feet away.

This was my first exposure to Henry V. I hadn’t even read it before. I learned long ago that it’s helpful to research prior to seeing a Shakespeare play for the first time, so I had crammed a little in the hotel room the night before. Basically the story tells the tale of King Henry V as he has just ascended the throne and no one is quite sure what kind of king he’ll be, especially considering his history as a carouser. He turns out to be a good king: strong, fair, and in multiple ways still a confused young man. His leadership is outstanding and he conquers France by sheer force of will, and finds his match in a woman.

Daniel Jose Molina is phenomenal as Henry. I understand now why the Henry V performances sold out so fast. Molina lets himself go so freely that I think for the first time I recognise, in hindsight, that every other actor I’ve seen has been holding back the tiniest bit. I was all in from the first scene. What really strikes me with this actor is his body language and facial expressions that go beyond flattering hyperbole I’ve heard before. This stuff is for real. Just watch his FACE, and somehow you know what’s in the character’s mind, and then…watch it change as the character has a new thought…and realize even before the next line is spoken, that the character has told you what he’s going to do and you’re right there in on it with him. What an extraordinary, personal way to be introduced to this typically massive play, in a small theatre with only 12 actors other than those in the ensemble. I was so close I could see the notch in his eyebrow: not sure if it’s from a scar, or is a bit of fashion.

I found Molina’s Instagram page and I’m following him now, because he (like my actor friend, Sheldon Best) is going to blow my mind periodically with his artistry, and I want to be there to see it.

My other favourite actor in Henry V is Rachel Crowl who was an understudy that stepped in for the original actor. Crowl acts in multiple roles but is most memorable and excellent as Pistol. I noticed her instantly, as she took the stage in the chorus as the play begins. I saw a person presenting as a woman but also reminding me of a man. Rachel plays multiple men’s roles, and as Pistol has a deep, gorgeous voice that cannot be mistaken for anything feminine. I am delighted and fascinated, and now have so many questions for some future transgender actor I meet: Are there additional layers of conflict compared to a gender normative person who plays a different gender? And also, is your transformation to play both male and female roles a more familiar task than many actors with the same challenge?Do you have more insight? Does this give you an advantage? Is everyone else jealous? haha

As soon as the lights came up, we slipped out of the theatre ahead of everyone else and got totally soaked in the rain as we hurried to the Jeep (glad I wasn’t in the Elizabethan just then). I gave M a ride back to the hotel to get her car. Then we hugged goodbye and hit I-5 going opposite directions.

{I’ll post soon to tell you all the other stuff we did.}

Jerry and Terry Holder are annual favourites because they are so much fun on stage, they’re lovely people, and we love their music.

I went to my third backyard music and barbecue yesterday at Roy and Lucy McAlister’s home. Remember how enchanted I was the first time? It’s like that every time. Roy McAlister is a luthier, and consequently knows a lot of musicians. He and Lucy host a gathering every summer at their home, where they invite neighbors, celebrities, local stars, old friends and brand new friends to take the stage and perform for all of us lucky people who are invited. The music is always exceptional. The people who show up – every single soul – are always exceptional.

Damp but optimistic audience.

We’ve had an unusually hot and dry summer here along the coast of the Pacific Northwest. Day after day of temperatures in the 90s have finally dried out the earth to dust and much of the greenery has yellowed. So in between two solid weeks of clear blue skies and 90-degree temps, there was one day – a single day – of rain in the forecast. Any other day we would be cheering for the much-needed rain, but instead we remarked about the bad timing. And then… we appreciated the rain a little bit anyway, because we live here and have made peace with rain.

It intermittently poured, then broke up and splashed sun on us – teasing us and getting our hopes up – then started pouring again, for hours. We fretted about the electronic equipment under plastic sheets, hoping nothing would get ruined, hoping there would be a way to have an outside concert eventually. And yes, around 6pm the clouds began to break apart in earnest. By 7pm it had cleared up for good and people moved permanently out of the house. We sat on wet lawn chairs and got ready to be delighted.

A series of fabulous musicians took the stage!

This photo is from 2017, since I didn’t take any good perspective photos this year. Behind the stage you can see the glowing windows of Roy’s shop.

Steve Hawkins was gracious enough to start off the night with some beautiful songs. One song was interrupted by low-flying aircraft, and he calmly took it in stride and incorporated the demonstration into the show. Now there’s a performer for you.

Rick Ruskin is another familiar friend and performer. His ease with his guitar made the audience forget it was a show and just get caught up in the music.

Roy McAlister, left, introduces Andre Ranieri and Diana Brown. It was their first time on stage and Andre impressed us with his lead guitar while Diana wowed us with her vocals.

Andre has been a beloved friend for years.  We met through a mutual friend and musician, Marcus Eaton. In fact, it’s because of Andre that I received my first invite to McAlapalooza in 2015. Andre plays with Diana, and so she made the journey from the TriCities to be here tonight. I loved her of course.

Peter Jacobsen used his guitar to accompany his outstanding voice.

Christine Gill and John Resch knocked our socks off with their great songs! John played a guitar he built himself.

Christine and John get a second photo because this one was too good to leave out. They are such a loving, open, humble, and generous couple. I begged them to come and play again next time.

Pianist and singer, Grace, a McAlister family friend. This young woman’s talent will take her places. (and look how much fun she’s having)

Our hostess Lucy took the stage to introduce Save the Bees, a new act and immediate favourite once they began belting out brilliant harmonies.

This is where the guitar magic happens.

Andre plays his new guitar.

As I watched Save the Bees, Andre gestured to me from the other side of the lawn to follow him and John Resch up the hill to Roy’s shop. When I arrived he announced, “This is my new guitar.” We admired the nearly-finished instrument (missing accessories like a pick guard and strap button) that Roy has been making for him. It’s a sister to Marcus Eaton’s guitar, that stirred up so much excitement in 2015. Andre humbly handed it to John, who tuned it and played a few pieces, and then Andre finally got to hold his new baby.

Diana showed up a little later and played it too, Jerry and Terry Holder stopped in to watch the delight settling over Andre. Terry showed us her mostly-built ukulele that Roy is making. Then Andre played while Diana sang, and I was a quiet, wide-eyed witness to musicians simply reveling in the joy of making music.

Jerry backs up Terry who wrote a new song while teaching herself to play the ukulele.

I had been stuffing myself with food all evening. That’s one of the fun things about McAlapalooza: guests trickle in from 3 to 8, and everybody brings something: salads, blueberry tarts, roast potatoes, noodles, fresh vegetables, cake, and artichoke dip. The grill was fired up and then chicken and sausage appeared. Every time I walked into the house, a new dish had found a place on the table and I had to sample it. It was late, and dark, and I was tired and full of delicious food and wine. I missed the final act, James Anaya, and climbed into the Jeep and set the GPS for home.

Entrance to Willamette Valley Vineyards

Lavender and vines along the entranceway to the hilltop facility.

My dragon spawn turned 21 recently. It’s so hard to wrap my head around the concept of this full-fledged adult being the same teeny wrinkly purple thing I brought home 21 years ago. I have realized that 21 years is not that many years. It’s nearly half my life, but dang, it went like a blink!

A small Tara with wooden sword at a Renaissance Faire

Tara and me at one of our first Faerieworlds festivals.

Our tradition, you may recall, is to go to The Enchanted Forest in Salem. I’ve had loads of fun with Tara and their awesome friends, visiting the theme park year after year and living out our childhoods with abandon on one brilliant July day. Right next door to Enchanted Forest is a winery that we had only spotted from the Interstate. This year, since Tara is of legal drinking age, their birthday idea was to visit the winery.

I called Willamette Valley Vineyards and explained it was a birthday visit and asked what a person might do there for fun, other than tasting wines. They suggested a tour, and I made a reservation.

Willamette Valley Vineyards is a first-class destination, which made this a serendipitous choice. Until we arrived, we had no idea what an enormous, visitor-centric place it is. Sadly, I neglected to get some photos of the main tasting room, but it’s huge and oh so beautiful. There are three bars with about 8 people tending, who can all help you with tasting a flight of wines, or purchasing, or eating lunch, or touring, or even booking a night’s stay because yes, this place also has guest lodging. I imagine it would be a wonderful stay.

The main buildings are at the top of a hill, and thus visitors are afforded incredible views in every direction. Just in case you want something even better than the view available in the dining and tasting rooms, there is a tower one can climb, which puts you another 50 feet up.

Tara celebrating their birthday in the tower.

View from the tower.

 

Molly and me, at our main gathering place during the tour.

The tour is also a tasting. We tasted 5 different wines, some award-winning, during the tour. Our guide, Suzanne Zupancic, put us at ease and made us feel like she was our friend right away. Suzanne led us through the different stages of wine production at Willamette Valley, to include the history of the vineyard’s existence, and the bottling station and of course the barrel storage. She told the story of the founder, Jim Bernau, who grew up knowing wines because his father was an attorney for the first vineyard in Oregon after prohibition. She explained how the winery is solar powered, doesn’t irrigate, and instead of typical pest control, partners with a raptor rescue organization to use owls to control the rodent population!

She explained some general concepts to help us in choosing a wine, such as when a wine is sweeter, there is generally less alcohol. Knowing this, a quick glance at the label can help you choose what you’ll like. She talked about Oregon’s famous pinot noirs, a thin-skinned grape that has caught the wine world’s attention. She taught us about cooperage, the craft of building wine barrels, and how to understand the labels on the outside of the barrels. She also explained why so many barrels are stained red. It’s because the wine slowly evaporates and the only way to maintain its integrity is to top off the wine frequently, and not allow any oxygen inside the barrels. Topping off tends to end up with a little bit of wine spill, that drips down the side and stains the barrel. She explained that Cabernet sauvignon and Merlot benefit from aging, but others do not.

Barrels of white wines.

A door leading from the red wine barrels section.

Me with as much wine nearby as I could ever wish for.

It’s not a flattering photo, because everyone is squinting in the bright sun.

Suzanne also told us about Bill Fuller, a legendary winemaker in Oregon. He left California’s Napa valley in 1973 to take advantage of the ideal geography in Oregon’s Willamette Valley. His Tualatin Vineyard 1980 Pinot Noir and 1981 Chardonnay took home “Best of Show” in both red and white categories at the 1984 London International Wine Fair, a feat unduplicated by any winemaker in the competition’s history. Bill Fuller’s winery merged with Willamette Valley Vineyards, and Mr. Fuller began working with Willamette Valley Vineyards in 2013.

She also explained about the remarkable geologic processes that made the Willamette Valley so rich for agriculture and particularly for grapes. The history includes a historic sea, volcanic processes, and the Missoula Floods. Tara, a geology major at Oregon State University, was interested in this portion of the tour.

Brynnen, Tara, me, Molly

After the hour and a half long tour, and five wines, we were all ready for some food! We ate from their gourmet menu and sat out on one of the many outdoor patios to eat it. We were joined by bees. Interestingly, the staff handed us fabric softener sheets to place on the table to keep the wasps away. It was a little effective. At lunch, I gave Tara a gift I had made of childhood photos through the years. Tara read the book outloud to all of us.

Tara opens up the memory book I made as a birthday gift.

Tara reading their birthday book to us.

Finally, we were ready to go and purchased some of our favourite wines from the day. I said goodbye to the kids who were all headed back to Corvallis.

I built a new attractive front walk and steps to replace the ugly concrete slabs.

Ever since Josh has been living here, things are getting done at a breakneck pace. I almost need a moment simply to absorb the changes.

New front door with glass to let in light.

Tara called him my Work Gremlin at one point. I came home from the office one day and the deck was stained. I glanced out my window from my home office one morning, and noticed a new, handmade bird house mounted on a tree. He cleaned the roof, repaired the gutters, then installed leaf guards. He borrowed a leaf blower and cleaned up the leaves, and heaped them all on the burn pile. He rakes, and power hoses, and organizes. He consistently takes the small push mower and mows the grass where there is no room for the riding lawn mower. Sometimes I ask for things, sometimes they simply appear. Josh isn’t able to pay me rent, but as far as I’m concerned, he’s paid up.

In my quest to bring more light to my cave-like living room, I purchased a new front door with decorative glass in it. I was quoted hundreds of dollars for the store to send someone out and install it. Josh said he could do it, and within an hour from when I brought the door home, it was installed.

I complained one day about my sloping drive into the garage. I said I had been thinking that a French drain might be a good way to address the problem of all the mud and rainwater and snow that slides down the slope into my garage. He said, “That’s a good idea.” And in a couple of days, it was done. While he was at it, he also installed new weather stripping on the bottom of the garage door, and a rain barrier to the concrete floor, so it’s much better protected inside. Then he found some of the spare house paint, and painted the outside of the garage door that had been weathered down to bare wood. All the work on the garage door disrupted the open/close mechanism, because the size of the opening had changed. I found a YouTube video that addressed my brand of garage door opener, got a stool and got up on tiptoes, and reprogrammed my garage door. With this guy around, I have to do *something* to show for myself.

In front of the garage door, a drain is installed. Now, water that runs down the hill will fall into the drain, then run through an underground pipe into the yard.

Behind the French drain, you can see the red curved bricks that make a border around my front garden. The front garden has changed somewhat. I don’t have many good photos from what it was on day one. Funny how consistently I have not photographed the “before” scenes, so that even I have a hard time remembering what it used to look like. Here are a couple:

This was in February 2016. You can see there is almost nothing planted in the garden. (also no French drain!)

This photo taken in May 2018.

I’ve always hated the concrete walks in front of the porch. I asked Josh one day to take the sledgehammer and bust them up so I could haul them away. It didn’t take him long to discover that these walks are six to eight inches thick! Whoever decided to pour such massive slabs of rock? ugh what a pain. Somehow, he got them broken into three huge pieces and drug them out of there, chained to his truck. Somehow, none of my plants were destroyed. That’s the real miracle.

Since I moved in there has been a pile of bricks on the side of the house that are left over from when the previous owner built the rock fireplace inside the house. I had the idea of using those bricks somehow to make a more attractive walk. Josh showed me how to mix concrete, and soon I was up to my elbows in it and having a blast. He built some forms for me to make steps, and then left me to do everything else.

Steps are poured, and river rocks laid down before concrete is poured on the walk.

Looking from the porch toward the driveway. Isn’t this a hundred times better? I’m so proud of myself for building this beautiful walk on my very first attempt at using concrete.

Just wait till I tell you about the new pump house and new shop!

One of my many guises

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