Monthly Archives: November 2013

The Corner Of State And Main

The Corner Of State And Main

I am a woman of habit. I find a lot of comfort in knowing what is coming next and have always had a strong aversion to surprise.

For instance, I drive the exact same route to and from work every day. I drive this route at the exact same time each day. I know which song will be on the radio at the exact time I pass a certain shop or hit a specific intersection.

Other than the possible deviation in the timing of the traffic lights, it is the same thing day in and day out. And I like it that way.

On one particular day, however, an additional deviation was introduced to my tidy and controlled commute.

It was an unusually gloomy day. Swollen, dark clouds hung low in the sky, making you instinctively duck like you were passing through a smaller than usual doorway. The Thanksgiving holiday and time with family loomed as ominously as those rain clouds.

I was stopped at the traffic light at the corner of State and Main. As I often did, I was thinking to myself that every town in the nation must have an intersection of State and Main. And, as always, I thought this while humming along to an old Beach Boys song because it was 7:47AM and that’s what was always played at 7:47AM.

Glancing to the left, I saw Mandarin Palace, the best Chinese restaurant in town. Mu Shu pork, six pancakes and extra hoisin sauce every Friday night.

But today there was a girl, no more than 16 years old, standing outside the ornate red and gold doors to the restaurant. She wore ill-fitting jeans, a couple of sweaters topped with a jean jacket and a knit cap. She looked unwashed and exhausted, like so many others I had seen on these streets.

But rather than smoking a cigarette and looking angry, like so many She was playing a well-worn violin.

I turned off the radio and rolled down my window. I strained to hear over the hustle and bustle of street noise as a mournful and beautiful melody wafted into the car. It may well have been the most moving sound I had ever heard.

I closed my eyes and let the ethereal music wash over me.

I was unpleasantly startled out of my reverie by an annoyed car horn and I saw the light had turned green. I quickly rolled up my window and continued my drive.

The following day, at the corner of State and Main, I once again saw the girl and listened to her beautiful playing until the light changed and I was forced back into my routine commute.

She was there each day for the next two weeks, always playing the violin but never playing the same song. Each piece more beautiful and perfect than the last. I never knew what I would hear each morning and I liked it that way.

Until the random Wednesday when I pulled up to the intersection of State and Main, rolled down my window and heard nothing but street noise. I looked up to see only the gold and red doors of the Mandarin Palace, but no violin player.

She never appeared again and I returned to my predictable mornings thinking of who she was and where her music had come from. After a while, I began to wonder if I was the only one who had heard it.

But, my tidy and controlled commute never held the same appeal to me again and from that day forward, every time I drove past that street corner, I thought of her.

 

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Dipping my toe, once more, into a little bit of fiction through the Yeah Write Weekly Writing Challenge.

This is my response to the Speakeasy prompt, which was to write a fictional piece in less than 750 words using “Every time I drove past that street corner, I thought of her” as the last line.

Please take a minute to click on the badge below to check out all the details!

Peace out,
Irene

The Shelf Life of Relationships – #5 In The Achieving Emotional Grace Series

The Shelf Life of Relationships – #5 In The Achieving Emotional Grace Series

 

“I wish I would have a real tragic love affair and get so bummed out that I’d just quit my job and become a bum for a few years, because I was thinking about doing that anyway.”
~ Jack Handey

 

Relationships are hard. There. I said it. Did I just blow your mind?

Being in them is tough but having them end can be even harder. And, I don’t mean just romantic relationships. Friendships, work relationships, and don’t even get me started on families.

We “humans” often don’t deal with endings very gracefully. (I’ve been binging on True Blood reruns so I question everyone’s species right now.)

We get hurt, depressed, angry, hungry. Ben and Jerry’s is in existence because of emotional eating. Well, that and weed.

I certainly have had my fair share of struggles with closing those doors and moving on. Or, having those doors slammed in my face and not moving on because I couldn’t find my car.

This was especially daunting for me when I was younger. But as I got older I started to wonder why it had to be such an emotional roller coaster. Clearly it’s a part of living life but I wanted to understand how to be more accepting and see more clearly.

And, it was becoming abundantly clear that I’m really not good at stalking people. My voice carries and I have a heavy foot. Especially after I’ve smoked weed and eaten all that Ben and Jerry’s.

I came to this conclusion: All relationships have a shelf life. Every single one of them.

People come and go in our lives and I believe that there are lessons for us and for them in those connections. I believe that the duration, whether it lasts a month, a year or a lifetime, is all part of the grand design of co-habitating on earth.

We should not get mad at the loaf of bread because it’s gone bad. It was tasty and fed you when you were hungry, serving its purpose. The bread’s value should not be diminished because you are now constipated and have a need for vegetables.

Do you smell that? What the hell is that smell?

Do you smell that? What the hell is that smell?

Whether you are the bread or the vegetable in this analogy, it’s always good to keep an eye on your nutritional value.

I think deep down, if we are paying attention to all parties involved, we know if the connection is adding value to your life and to theirs. If it doesn’t work for one of you, it isn’t working for the other.

It’s a matter of paying attention and really being present in any relationship. If you aren’t reading the expiration dates closely, things can get toxic.

Next thing you know, you’ll be waking up with melted ice cream on your face and clutching a restraining order.

And that just leaves an unnecessarily bad taste in your mouth.

“Don’t cry because it’s over,
SMILE because it happened.”  ~ Dr. Seuss

Top Knots, Amish Beards and Comfort Food – A Love Letter To Portland

Top Knots, Amish Beards and Comfort Food – A Love Letter To Portland

 

I am an Oregonian. I say that with no small amount of pride because I love the Northwest in general and Portland specifically. That city is my soul mate. It’s inhabited by such a variety of humanoids that it sometimes smacks of the bar scene from Star Wars.

I love every one of those freaky bastards!

But, here’s the terrible tragedy in my love affair with Portland.

The weather kind of sucks ass.

You see, emotionally I wear Gortex and fleece. My psyche and humor reside in a dark and rainy place.

By stark contrast however, physically, I am a giant weather pussy. Shorts and a t-shirt or death. I eschew the very thought of socks and shoes.

The thing about Portland is that while the people and it’s environs can look dark and, often, grim, in reality they are exceptionally sunny of disposition. Which flies in the face of the stereotype that Northerners are all Kafka-esque, alcoholic Nihilists who suffer from seasonal affective disorder.

Nay, these are a friendly, helpful, welcoming and honest tribe who read a lot and compost even more.

And I, just like Oscar Wilde, have been exiled from my home land. Except that he was an amazing writer. And he was exiled for sodomy and gross indecency. I guess I could cop to the gross indecency but you can keep your sodomy thank you very much.

Lest I sound ungrateful, I do live in a very beautiful place. The sun shines pretty much every day and 70-75 degrees with a pleasant breeze of 0 MPH out of the North is de rigueur. (Along with throwing out the occasional snooty French term to prove you are wealthy and well-travelled.)

But, you are not going to see the chunky human soup here that you will see in Portland.

A clown wearing a kilt and combat boots while weeding the community garden? What of it?

A woman who looks remarkably like Betty Paige whilst sporting a Betty Paige tat across her back with an ironic and Escher sort of vibe? All women (and many transvestites) in Portland look like Betty Paige.

Here are a few other delightful and singular quirks about my beloved City of Roses.

The men’s top knot – Here’s your situation. You are running late to bartend at the new badminton/karaoke/tequila bar you work at called “Flick”. But, your exceptionally long tresses that brush your vintage rockabilly belt buckle are in the way.

Do you:

A) Cut them off to free you of the burden?

Or

B) Twist them up into a head bun ala Black Swan?

Obviously, you are going to go with option B. Cut off your hair??? Not even possible! What are you, high? And, if so, quit bogarting.

Facial follicles – Just when you think there is only so much one can do with face hair, you walk down Burnside Avenue and a whole new world is opened up to you. Big mustaches, done that. Retro mutton chops, yawn. The Amish beard, or “face mullet”, well, that’s still kind of cool…to the Amish anyway. Is that a dude with The Rachel on his face walking into The Doug Fir Lounge? Why, yes. It certainly is. Bold move, my man! Well played!

Which brings us to vintage comfort foods. Portland loves it’s eclectic food combinations and genre-specific trends. Like a Yoo-Hoo and Hamburger Helper tapas bar. I don’t know if it exists, but it should.

Allow me to illustrate the depths of the emotional investment Portlanders (Portlandians? Portlandists? The Portlandic?) feel for their food.  The following is a real-life tragic tale that recently occurred one evening at a fine establishment on SE Division Avenue during dinner.

The young adorable nerd (adora-nerd?) looked solemnly through his horn-rimmed glasses and toyed with one of his lip studs.

“I have some terrible news about our menu tonight.”

We sat back and girded ourselves for some horrific story of severed fingers or a devastating kitchen fire.

“Our waffle maker is broken.”

I actually believe I saw a small tear forming on the inside of his left eye.

“And what’s even worse,” he continued, “our back up waffle maker also isn’t working.”

They have a back up waffle maker?

“So, I’m so sorry but any items on the menu that have a waffle involved will now be replaced with johnnycakes instead. I’m so sorry.”

We all look at each other and murmur our understanding of the situation to our forlorn little hipster as he slinks away.

“Wow, he was really upset about that. Should someone go see how he is holding up? Maybe we should buy him a card.”

So, in closing, I leave you with a quote from my 11-year-old son upon our return from a recent visit to PDX.

“You know what I like best about Portland, Mom? I like that no one cares what other people think about them. I think that’s why everyone is so happy and friendly.”

Could not have said it better myself.

Don’t Expect A Fish To Climb A Tree – #4 In The Achieving Emotional Grace Series

Don’t Expect A Fish To Climb A Tree – #4 In The Achieving Emotional Grace Series

 

“Everybody is a genius. But, if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.”

~ Albert Einstein

 

 

Judging others is built into our DNA. I’m sure we crawled out of the primordial soup, looked at the slimy amphibian next to us and judged him for his weird lazy eye. That is if you believe in that particular theory of evolution….not that I’m judging creationists….honest….that wouldn’t be very Christian of me, would it?

OMG, did you totally check out Hank's middle eye?

OMG, did you totally check out Hank’s middle eye?

See, you are most likely judging me right now. Who does she think she is? Does she even have data to back up that last, oddly-constructed sentence? And, while I’m at it, what’s with the over-use of elipses? Pause much?

And, I’m judging you right now for that weird-ass haircut you got. And that shirt. What the hell are you thinking wearing that shirt?

We all do it. Definitely inside our heads and, after a drink or two, outside our heads. Often loudly.

There are a lot of reasons to judge. Much of the time we judge because it simply makes us feel a little better about ourselves and our lives. It’s also why I binge watched “Cheaters” and “The Anna Nicole Smith Show” right after having twins.

Thank you Anna Nicole Smith! I do feel better!

Thank you Anna Nicole Smith! I do feel better!

But, it’s also a means of discerning what is or is not acceptable to us. We have an innate need to choose people who do not threaten our pre-conceived notions of who we are and our belief systems.

I don’t like myself when I judge people. But, I also have a really hard time just not doing it.

So, rather than shutting down what appears to be a natural human response, maybe there is a way to simply not do it so harshly.

You’ve all heard a great deal about my Mom. But, I tell you , she passed on some of the most amazing advice I have ever gotten. And, she had a wonderful take on judgment that went something like this:

Everyone on earth is in a different phase of their lives. Some are advanced in their overall, spiritual development while others are just beginning to walk. Judging all humans on an even playing field is like expecting a toddler to win the Boston Marathon. It not only makes no sense, it’s a disservice to them and to you.

Don’t assume you are the marathon runner in this analogy….you may still be in diapers so don’t be getting all high and mighty.

But, imagine the opportunities for interesting relationships with people if you just keep that idea in mind. Not only do you open up the possibility of helping another person get on their feet, but you may also benefit from a helping hand now and then.

Life can be a real slog, people. I know I’ll take all the help I can get.

So, next time I start down that path and think or say those petty, shitty judgments, I’m going to attempt to step back a bit and think about it.

I’ll forget to do it more times than I remember, I’m sure. So, I’ll apologize in advance if I forget with any of you.

All that being said, for the love of God, go change that shirt. Really. You look like a lunatic.

Nevermind. A bad Hawaiian shirt is the least of your worries.

Nevermind. A bad Hawaiian shirt is the least of your worries.

 

“We can never judge the lives of others, because each person knows only
their own  pain and renunciation. It’s one thing to feel that you are on the
right path, but it’s another to think that yours is the only path.”

~ Paulo Coelho