Hard Day in a Soft-Living City

I spotted her mid-sidewalk just past Five Mile, her friendly wave shuttered and battered between the automated beats of the wipers, slicking away the torrents along with the sight of her tenacity.

It is raining. We are cold. She is on the clock.

Ironic, isn't it? Our greatest monument, the patinated personification of freedom and free enterprise, finds warped reflection in her, her bedraggled crown and terry cloth robe, inscribed tablet replaced with a corrugated sign bearing the legend 'Liberty Tax Service.' Monseiur Eiffel would not recognize this iteration of la liberté éclairant le monde, though I believe he'd see a kindred spirit, a determination to fight, to keep your head above water, in a time and place where struggle defines nearly every day.

She was standing just outside a cafe, so I pulled in and offered to buy her something hot. She told me she couldn't, but that she'd appreciate a tea on her break. The coffee kid inside asked me if I knew her as I pre-paid for her drink.

I don't know her, but I know of her. She is me, running out of options and behind on rent. She is you, tackling a demeaning task because someone else depends on you. She is all of us, surviving. We are surviving.

He asked for her name, perhaps fearing a rival Lady Libertized sign-tosser might swoop in and snatch this meager gift, only a small measure of the mercy I've been shown over the years. "Katie," she told me when I trooped back out into the downpour, and she spelled it for me. It's my sister's name.

If the statistics hold true, one hundred and fifty-six people lost their jobs while I spoke to her. This has to change.

As I drove off, scanning left right left as the rain dimmed to a drizzle, she was facing away, waving and smiling, advertising a service she could never afford and possibly might not need. She has no offshore accounts, no second home. But boy, that lady's got a wealth of guts and grit. I don't need a hundred-year old delphic piece of statuary to hold up a torch, to give a light through this dark depression, or recession, or whatever label you want to put on the consequences of some really bone-headed actions by officials I'll never meet. What I need is people, my family, my friends, girls like Katie standing against an onslaught of wind and rain and pessimism.

You can stand by yourself, alone on an island, an admired but stony copper-plated castaway, or you can stand with those you love. That's how I prefer to weather this storm.
Hard Day in a Soft-Living CitySocialTwist Tell-a-Friend


Urban Dictionary take note!

You read it here first. I'm coining a new term. Expect to hear it on Gossip Girl by next week.

Internestling -
1. Connecting with friends via all your online outlets. e.g. "Marcia and I are myspace buddies, but should internestle with twitter and googlefriends too."
2. Changing your relationship status in order to name your significant other. e.g. "Brian and Melanie just internestled on facebook"
3. Light flirtation found in coquettish comments or aired in public chatrooms (must be mutual). e.g. "Well I wanted to talk about Obama's television appearance today, but maybe we should leave you two the room to internestle in private. My hard drive's starting to overheat." This behavior is frequently followed by internecking, then nine months of internesting and finally by a drawn out period of internegotiating child support payments.

Please use freely, but when it reaches the status of meme, make sure my name is on the Wikipedia article.

On an unrelated topic - studies have found that E. maimaiga rarely infects insects other than gypsy moth. Didn't see that one coming.
Urban Dictionary take note!SocialTwist Tell-a-Friend


LSD - Librarian Smartipants Dificiency

Lord knows I love a good skylark amongst the stacks, and I recently was reminded by the great little blog Downboi of the story behind Boise Public Library's addition of five-foot-high exclamations points that echo my bibliophilic joy.

Our city's library, while not as forgiving fine-wise as the Oregon system with whom I had a brief affair, was (in my childhood) and is (in my adult childhood) a fantastic free service, and yesterday I had an encounter there that gave me a huge chuckle. After checking out my books (or more often dvds, truth be told), the librarian normally will inform me of the date the items are due back by listing an important birthday or event. The conversation typically goes thusly -

Book-checker-outer: "These are due back on Blankdy-Blank's birthday."

Trespasser's Thoughts: "Who-the-hey?"
Trespasser's Words: "Oh, excellent. I didn't know it was coming up. Wow."

BCO: "Yes. We're so grateful for his/her/their/Russia's great work."

I naïvely assumed that working in a library equated possessing all the knowledge found therein, and always felt embarrassed to ask more about the author or event in question. I guess I just was feeling frisky yesterday, because our chat had a satisfactorily equalizing effect -

BCO: "These are due back on Sid Fleischman's birthday."

Trespasser's Words: "Who-the hey?"
Trespasser's Thoughts: "What are you DOING? Are you trying to look stupid?"

BCO: "Oh, um... (covertly consults hidden paper) he's an author?"

Trespasser's Thoughts: "WHAAT!?! This man who may very well have gotten this job right out of high school is not the fountain of knowledge I assumed he was?"
Trespasser's Words: (silent, small shrug, bemused smile)

BCO: "Hmm... (cheat-sheet-peek) it's also the day chemist Albert Hoffman discovered the effects of LSD."

Now that's something I can relate to.
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It's almost a given that my older sister would have exactly the same idea for a posting and get it online several days before mine. This entry could easily turn into a list of ways in which she has preceded me (and I'm grateful, believe me, that she's tested so much ice) but I'll save that topic for another time.

Of course, I wasted at least two days half-heartedly sorting through several piles of batteries, finally digging up a live quartet with enough juice to power my camera. The photographic subject? My newly furnished workspace, located in the second-floor "writer's garret" of Scott Towers.

It was more than time to allow myself a cordoned-off area in which to write, a scribe-nook tucked away from the daily press. I've been making due scribbling words in lively cafes with biscotti-strewn surfaces (quirky), sterile libraries with coffee vending machines (quaint) and have even written part of an article with paper pressed against a concrete parking curb (queer).

Like my sister, I was inspired by a recent article, but I at least had the foresight to catalog my finding for future reference (I win!). Incidentally, the article refers to Mad Men, an AMC television show, and maybe the greatest new series to premiere in decades. Definitely one to check out. I've also been reading a very interesting book called the New New Journalism which is a series of interviews with long-form non-fiction writers about their habits and methods. Every author I've read about so far recommends facing a blank wall, and you can see that my space ignores this advice, but the view is quite unremarkable and perhaps I can learn semaphore to signal messages to people walking by.

I'm already quite fond of my new spot, although the internet signal is weak (another quiet blessing for a distractable fellow). I've cluttered it up with far too many organizational tools (which I love but tend to over-collect), so hopefully my production will reflect the spirit of these digs but not its messes.
Work/plays...SocialTwist Tell-a-Friend


What Goes Around Comes Around... Repeatedly.

What has been will be again,
what has been done will be done again;
there is nothing new under the sun.

This biblically-distilled bit of lay-wisdom is never more apparently true than in pop music. Some artists (*cough* Coldplay *cough*) even openly admit that their music apes that of another, while others simply steal riffs.

What motivated this observation was a nagging feeling I had in the car today. Ray Guns Are Not The Future is the second album by indie electro-duo The Bird and the Bee, and it's in heavy rotation on my stereo right now. What I was having trouble with was why the sixth song, Love Letter To Japan sounded so dang familiar. Then it hit me.

1) The tune is insanely catchy.

2) It's vaguely concerned with Japan.

3) The music video featured Dance Dance Revolution, the spry grandfather of Guitar Hero.

Call me crazy, but it sounds very similar to Butterfly by Swedish pop group Smile.dk which was featured on the first Dance Dance Revolution soundtrack. I'm sorry this has turned into another link-heavy post, but check it out and see if I'm trippin'. My family always accused me of finding too much synchronicity in everything, however minute the similarity might be.

I'm also having trouble deciding which music video I like better. dk's is clunky, corny and sort of cute (who doesn't love mini-braided Swedes yodeling atop computer-generated mountaintops?), while B&B's is polished but doesn't display the same sort of unbridled enthusiasm. I'm inviting my discerning readers to weigh in. Please note that I'm not asking you to compare the two styles of music, just the videos and the song's similarities. You have the ability to choose more than one answer, since I'm really asking two questions.

  • You crazy mon! Dem two songs is way boss different!
  • Maybe they thought no-one would notice since only anime geeks know .dk. BTW, that's you.
  • Okay, I see your point, but I had to squint, look backwards through my legs, and stop my meds.
  • The badly rendered graphics in "Butterfly" make me yearn for the late '90's.
  • I'd rather be in Dance Dance Nirvana with Inara and Greg.
  • None of these answers make any sense and I wish you would refrain from creating a poll ever again.


What Goes Around Comes Around... Repeatedly.SocialTwist Tell-a-Friend


In the skyways, in the byways...

So remember how I just posted that my life's settled down, that I'm not as spontaneous anymore? Well that's not always true. An old dance company called me up out of the blue yesterday. Apparently, one of their dancers abruptly quit, so they're flying me down to California to meet them on tour for a single performance. I have about eight hours to relearn a two hour show I last performed three years ago. I'm writing this during my layover in San Francisco. I'll give photo and video updates from the road, er... skyway. My picture doesn't make me look that excited, but I'm actually looking forward to the weekend. Sorry I'm missing your birthday, Hilary. I owe you a plate of pad thai, a backrub and a late-night conversation.
In the skyways, in the byways...SocialTwist Tell-a-Friend


---=+? (a.k.a. three lefts make a right & three negatives have somehow defied mathematics and created a positive, which makes Pascal angry. I assume.)

The universe sometimes coalesces in oddly amusing and comforting ways. Recently I found myself walking out of the Salvation Army with a new record (excuse me - lp). It's part of a genre I hate (movie soundtracks), based on a book I thought was ridiculous (Jonathan Livingston Seagull), performed by an artist I'm completely indifferent toward (Neil Diamond). So it's got nothing going for it. What, exactly, is the attraction?

Despite my dislike of the record's three basic components, I kinda dig it. Not because it's musically brilliant or rises about its weak, quasi-motivational source material. I like it because it reminds me of where and who I was the night I first heard it about five years ago - a half-awake young artist in the middle of a late-night roadtrip following an underpaid, under-appreciated gig in northern Idaho. That night was part of my "blue" period, back when I couldn't afford to heat my bedroom at night. The cheapest solution was to pile my dirty laundry on top of my covers to try and insulate.

Things are a bit easier now (though I'll still accept your sympathy offer to buy me a drink), but listening to Neil caterwaul over substandard orchestrations takes me back to that season of life when lunch was a day-old scone from Espresso Roma and nighttime was for skinny-dipping in the Willamette River and reading Poe up at the Masonic cemetery. I liked that me, poor and hungry though he was, and I'm glad that this me descended from him. While I miss having the overabundance of fearlessness and curiosity of those days, I've retained enough of the wonderment and unconscious naiveté - two qualities that should be valued, not dismissed - to genuinely be thrilled by each new day, excited by each new adventure and eager to take on each new challenge. Melodramatic lyrics and saccharine string arrangements aside, I think Neil's onto something. It's still awful, awful music, but in the right mood it's exactly what I need to hear. Give one song a listen (all the way through, no cheating) and let me know if sentiment is clouding my judgment.

On a tangential note, Google Maps has a neat feature where you and any number of your cartographically-inclined friends can plot a map together. I've included the four locations I mentioned in this post on this map and I'd be thrilled if my Eugene homies (current residents and former) would tag some of their significant spots. You can include pictures and add your thoughts to mine. Just initial your contribution. If I know my friends at all, none of you will do it and this was a waste of time, but as I said earlier, I'm naive and I like surprises.

"Actually I find it quite difficult to not crack a smile over this fool's weak-sauce math skills."

ADDITIONAL NOTE: Blogger's title maximum prevented me from adding that I thought Radiohead would be proud of my alternative title (as would Fiona Apple). Freakishly, I'd forgotten that the Oxfordshire lads had very similar main title on the album I was referencing. They probably wouldn't be proud. I don't get the impression that they're very pleasant people, just very talented.
---=+? (a.k.a. three lefts make a right & three negatives have somehow defied mathematics and created a positive, which makes Pascal angry. I assume.)SocialTwist Tell-a-Friend