Monday, February 11, 2019

Ten (More or Less) Things: Leaving Home…Going “Home”

Back when “Coming to Terms” was a viable collection of writings, with actual readers, I used to do “Ten Things” lists when I had a bunch of little ideas for posts rolling around in my head, but I couldn’t flesh out any one of them enough to create an actual essay.  To say that I have lived in that paralyzing limbo for many months now—since ‘long about November of 2016, I’d guess—would be a gross understatement.

Still, I feel like this momentous change that’s going to occur in my life deserves some kind of record, if not analysis…or maybe a bit of both.  Much as I’d like to do a series of essays on the subject, I haven’t yet moved past that emotional roadblock that has kept me from investing any decent amount of energy into anything that ISN’T about the horrifying state of our national government. 

So I’ve decided to record some of my maddeningly incomplete and random thoughts on the coming move as a “# of Things” assortment.  Maybe sometime later I can take one of the ideas and turn it into some real writing.

1.)It’s no secret that I am NOT sad to be leaving Scappoose.  It’s hard to believe we’ve been here for almost 18 years, and, despite even having run a damn restaurant in the town for 5 of those years (possibly the most exhausting five years of my life) we have NO friends and NO social connection to this place.  I realize that, with the advance of the internet and social media, communities and neighborhoods aren’t what they once were.  And I also realize that, being the introvert I am, my social isolation is as much my own fault as anything.  But that hasn’t really changed the age-old small town dynamic:  at its core, it’s a tightly closed group of folks who were born and raised here, as their parents and grandparents were.  They all know each other and they pretty much shun “outsiders.”  And no number of years living in their space absolves you of being an “outsider.
 We had lived here 5 years when we bought the restaurant.  We'd made some attempts at fitting into the place in that time...I'd frequented the community swimming pool, I volunteered at the county fairgrounds, we tried to join local community organizations...but we were still hanging on the fringes of the place after 5 years.  Then we bought the restaurant, where we were loudly and aggressively NOT accepted as part of the community for 5 of the hardest years of my life.  After that, I really had no more interest in assimilating into this insular, mean-spirited little burg.  
As I was driving AWAY the other day, toward my new house and new future back “home” in Eugene, I thought of how I would describe this community in one sentence.  And this is what came to me:

Columbia County…land of unimaginative, uninspired quasi rural types whose vision forthe future is “let’s keep things the way they’ve always been for as long as we possibly can.” 

Even at MY “advanced” age, I can’t see myself allowing my life to be ruled by that moldy old philosophy for the days I have left on this planet.  Can’t shake the dust of this backward little town off my feet fast enough.

2.) Even as I complain that I won’t miss this little town, I am struck by how much I will miss this place—the geographic location.  It’s a lovely area, hemmed in as it is by the hills to the west and the channel to the east, with major components of the “ring of fire” visible beyond the channel, on clear days. I have grown to love the outdoor spaces of this place, to which I have so often fled for solace in the sadness, exhaustion and confusion so ever-present over the past two decades of my life. I know I can and will establish a connection to Mother Earth in my new home.  But I will miss the breadth and depth of the one I have here.
3.) And then, there’s the house.  I have never been one to become too attached to stuff. I do tend to acquire more than I need, mostly because of my philosophy of “retail therapy”—I just like to shop.  And when one’s next living space will be roughly half the size of one’s present living space, one learns to cut the cord on much of the stuff pretty quickly.  The concept of purging my life of things that “no longer serve” has never been more relevant.  I’m not surprised, really, at just how much of what I own no longer serves, or at least will not serve in a vastly reduced living space. And I’m okay with that. 
But as I wander the rooms of the house that has been my home for so many years, "staging" it to be attractive to prospective buyers, I can’t help but look a little wistfully at the spaces that have held some of my favorite objects—my mantels, my bookshelves, even my dressers…and feel somewhat sad that I will no longer be able to indulge my penchant for (over)decorating.  Gone will be the elaborate Christmas mantels and much of the kitschy wall art I’ve acquired over the years (because there were so many walls to decorate…)  The tiny rooms into which we’ll be installing ourselves will not lend themselves to the large collections of tchotchkes  I’ve compiled.  If I don’t learn how to decorate in a minimalist, massively edited fashion, our home will look like an overstocked curiosity shop.  I’m pretty sure I don’t want to live in such surroundings, and I know the husband doesn’t.
This post has been sitting on my desktop for a couple of weeks already.  If I try to come up with my traditional “Ten things,” it might never make it to the blog.  So I’m going to publish this now, and add more “things” as they come to me, in short enough bursts to get onto “paper” and over to the blog. 
That seems to be the best I can do, right now.  Cheers!

Thursday, January 31, 2019

Little House Is...

...starting to feel a little more like home every day.  

Wednesday, January 30, 2019

New Year...A Few Weeks Late

Last year’s blogging effort sort of petered out ignominiously, didn’t it? 

I honestly don’t know why I’m having such a hard time writing.  I suspect it has something to do with the all-pervasive political pall that has fallen over our world.  I have been overwhelmed…buried by the endless stream of catastrophic bullshit emanating from the bullshitter-in-chief, his cult following and his sycophants in Congress.  It seems like there is nothing good or pure or innocently exciting under the sun. 

And in this heavy, poisonous atmosphere, I am preparing to embark upon a shiny new chapter of life.  Doesn’t bode too well, does it?

Yet…here I am, clickety-clacking away in my new home, ink barely dry on the official documents, and house #1 in Scappoose still having not quite yet made its debut on the affordable-housing-hungry market in greater PDX. 

A little scary…yes, indeed.  But things have been moving forward inexorably; while not as rapidly as my impatient heart would desire, certainly as quickly as this old girl and her old guy are able to assimilate the changes.  Our first goal was to reduce our inventory of vehicles to one each (plus the bus), all paid for and titles in hand. That was a process!  But eventually we were able to declare “Mission Accomplished” and had put ourselves on better financial footing to begin our house hunt.

So…I am going to attempt to re-invigorate my blog with tales of the ups and downs of setting ourselves up for retirement.  If I’m too overwhelmed by the sheer volume of heavy political crap to formulate decent essays on that subject, I can, at the very least, maintain the “historical record of my life” aspect of the blog. 

Stay tuned, if you’re interested…

Monday, January 14, 2019

Thursday, December 20, 2018

I'll Drink To That

My mother drank.

She was—or tried to be—a secret drunk. 

At least, she kept the DRINKING secret.  The drunkenness, not so much.  She must have known that we understood how she got the way she got, every night when she came home from work.  But she just could not be frank or honest that she drank, about how much she drank, or about how and/or why she NEEDED to drink. 

She was ashamed of it.  But she didn’t stop.  She couldn’t stop. 

And Dad, who could have helped her stop, helped her drink instead.  Made sure that there was booze in the house so she wouldn’t have to go out in the car to get it.  He thought he had it under control.  As if making sure she didn’t kill herself or anyone else out on the streets after having power-chugged two or three canned cocktails in the parking lot at the liquor store was the only and most important aspect of having her drinking “under control.’

So, my mother spent much of my formative years in the bag.  And I spent much of that time praying that the few friends or acquaintances I had would never see her in that condition. 

I suppose I have made peace with that aspect of my childhood.  I don’t hate my mother for ruining my teenage years.  I was a pretty fucked up kid, independent of any of that (I think…) She did the best she could with what she had, and so did Dad.  Do I wish that they had made different choices?  Yes…sometimes I do.  But it was what it was, and there were happy times in spite of and in between all that. 

So why am I thinking about this today?

Because, now I’m over sixty myself, and it takes a half-hour for me to iron out all the kinks and get fully mobile every morning.  And, with the seasonality of my “career,” I spend many of the darkest, coldest, gloomiest days of the year alone with my thoughts…and that is NEVER good.  So lately I have got to thinking about Mom’s drinking.  It was self-medication, of course.  She had severe arthritis in her neck, and it fucked with every aspect of her body.  AND—and this is her legacy to me, my sisters, my nieces—she had severe anxiety.  Anxiety that she could never share with anyone, because she didn’t want anyone to throw a net over her head and clap her in the loony bin.  The very same kind of anxiety that I grapple with.  Every. Single. Day.

So….I understand, more clearly than I ever have in my entire life, why my mother drank.

At those times when I just want to bash my own head in with a hammer, just to stop the ever-churning circle of anxious thoughts from speeding around and around and around in my head, I fully understand being willing to do anything you can to SHUT THEM UP.         

And that being drunk most of the time was probably one of the more innocuous ways to deal with the issue.

Unfortunately, I cannot drink like that.  My stomach just won’t let me.  My mother’s insides must have been made out of cast iron.  She got loaded every night, but I don’t think she ever got sick from it.  I never saw her with a hangover.  I can drink a couple of glasses of wine, and that’s it.  Any more than that and it just goes down like battery acid.  And if I do manage to choke down enough to cop a good buzz, I feel like crap most of the next day.  Who needs that on top of the crippling anxiety you’re drinking to get rid of?

This isn’t exactly a heart-warming holiday reminiscence, is it?  The fact is, holidays were the times when my mother’s drinking was the worst.  She just couldn’t handle the “stress” of cleaning up the house and having people over…not without a good snort or two under her belt.  So it is, like it or not, one of the memories that comes to mind (haunt?) when the holidays roll around.

Memories….  They’re not ALL good and happy, are they?  But they are what they are.  They don’t keep me from thinking fondly of the Christmases when we were all together, before the really SERIOUS losses of life had begun to whittle away at our numbers around the table.  Mom’s slightly altered condition just became part of the fabric of our lives.

I’d take those days, now, over sitting here at my lonely keyboard, typing out a journal entry, trying to give my brain a productive distraction…

Friday, December 14, 2018

Happy (Not) Holidays

Couldn't really believe this when I saw it online the other day...on NPR, yet:


For all the recent hype about journalists/the media being "the guardians," perhaps a piece like this more accurately portrays the mission of today's media.  Even an outlet like NPR--which is supposed to be above the fray--has been poisoned by our national malaise...and so, has chosen to add a pinch of poison of their own. 

Why not throw just a dash more hate and negativity out there...our gift to our listeners this holiday season!  

Shame on you, NPR.  Shame on ALL our media.  We're supposed to be better than this.

If you would, with your last breath, strenuously object to being labeled, "enemies of the people..." 

...don't act like it.    

Tuesday, November 27, 2018


By next spring, lord willing and the creek don’t rise, our lives will have taken a definite turn.  In the works at this moment is a deal for a house in Eugene, 1.4 miles away from the family I fled in 2001, to this home-in-exile, in the godforsaken wilds of the Portland exurbs. 

By the time we shake the dust of Scappoose off our shoes and leave it well behind, we will have lived here for almost 18 years.  Long enough to have borne and raised a child to almost adulthood…scary thought.  I wonder…would we have been accepted into the community any more readily if we HAD done that?  Because it certainly didn’t welcome us as citizens and business owners.  Quite the opposite, in fact.  Though I love the geography of the area where we’ve lived for almost 2 decades, the town and the people in it thoroughly rejected us, and I, for one, have hated them right back.

As I look over our tenure here, I realize that there have been few moments of true happiness in this place.  Truthfully, I don’t know if that’s just me…I wonder if I have the capacity to be truly happy anywhere.  But there have been challenges.  There was the disastrous five years of entrepreneurship, and the several years of recovery afterward…the damage done to a marriage that, if I’m honest, was already headed for rocky shores when we crashed it into the cafĂ©.  In the end, we’ve built nothing here, save a tenuous peace between two partners whose lives continue to creep inexorably apart from one another.

The result has been, for me, an eighteen-year exercise in learning to be alone.  And I have learned some skills in that direction.  I’ve also experienced the pitfalls.  Chiefly, I’ve learned that it’s hard to be alone but not free; to have no one who is really engaged or interested in what you do, but still have obligations to people to whom you are legally or emotionally tied…or both. 

I’ve spent the past seven years trying to stay out of my spouse’s way and find pursuits that interested me.  Living out here in the back of beyond has not been helpful…if I had lived closer to a larger and more diverse community, I might have had more success building a busy and engaging life for myself.  I don’t know.  All I know is that I have been incredibly lonely, 120 miles away from my family and what I consider my “home” in Eugene.  In 2003, I fell into an internet community that went a long way toward easing the loneliness and making me feel valued and engaged, but it  also dissolved…long ago, in fact.  I’ve been on my own for every bit of ten years, tilting at…whatever. 

Instinctively, I’m retreating back to the bosom of my family for comfort and connection.  Since they are the reason I left my home in Eugene, I’m not completely convinced that, two decades later, they will be the source of what I’m looking for…but it feels right.  If nothing else, I’ll be close to a larger community of people more like myself—liberal, educated, thoughtful and with a world view beyond the end of their noses.  So I should be able to find a place of comfort and support, should my family poop out in that capacity (which I am confident it will.)

If all goes as planned we will close on this house…

…on January 10, 2019.  It is meant to be the place where we’ll spend our retirement…the alternative to a cardboard box under an overpass.  It’s really a nice little home, in a nice little neighborhood.  Not exactly what I had hoped for as my ideal retirement cottage. I had envisioned a little house out in the country, with a pond or creek, and birds and animals to enjoy…but the husband was not so much into that. 

So, once again, my dream has been put on a back burner…no, thrown in the firebox and reduced to ashes, since we won’t be moving again.  And I can live with that, I think.  As long as I can have a place of peace and comfort as a base of operations, I should be able to sally forth on (solitary) adventures when I choose.  And the family will at least be closer than 120 miles away.  I think that will be a good thing, too.  Though you never know. 

It’s unknown whether the husband will be inclined to throw in his lot with me at this point, or remain faithful to his number one priority—his job.  It’s worth noting that this whole process was initiated by HIM, precipitated partly by his dissatisfaction with how his employer has chosen to treat him over the past several years.  He’s toying with the concept of “Fuck them…I have a life.”  But hasn’t really brought that concept into his heart and nurtured it.  I’d like to think that it’s finally dawning on him that yanking oneself out of bed at 5:30 AM five days a week and dragging one’s ass to a job that makes one frustrated and miserable might not be a good way to spend the first decade of one’s “golden years.”  But I’m painfully aware that all they would have to do is crook their little finger and give him some tiny hint that he might actually be appreciated, and he would be bound to them for life.   

Yes, this is the same employer that was the catalyst for “our” foray into restaurant ownership all those years ago, at another time when the frustration and futility of the job had begun to wear on him.  The restaurant was to be “our” ticket to the freedom and independence of self-employment…but it was never to be.  Twelve years on, he’s still at the same job, still letting it and his hyper-loyalty to it rule his (our) life.  So I am not inclined to think he’s had some kind of epiphany about his relationship to the job and life in general.  He’s nothing if not a creature of completely ingrained habit; that he might voluntarily give up habits of 24 years at the job is almost beyond realistic consideration.  

But, you know, I’ve made my peace with that.  If he chooses to continue working in Portland, we’ll get him an apartment close to work and he can have at it.  Truthfully, our relationship works better, these days, when we’re apart.  Which was one reason I established my own living quarters at our catering kitchen (which I’m not so sure I want to give up, even if we ARE going to have a home a short drive away from my “work.”)  We might just be happiest, for the next three years until he can qualify for Medicare, if we live mostly apart and see each other on weekends.  If, indeed, his job lasts that long…as the company is, once again, hanging by an economic thread.  But the separation would most likely be a positive rather than a negative.  I honestly have no idea what we would do if we had to live together 24/7/365…but I suspect it wouldn’t be pretty.

So this last holiday season in Scappoose, and the next couple of months, should be…interesting.

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Nothing New

The internet is in a twist brought on by the release of Trump’s thoughts on Saudi Arabia and the Khashoggi murder.

No doubt it is a clumsy, childish, and ill-reasoned argument for avoiding losing Saudi Arabia as a “great ally.”  But IMO it says more about Trumps’s woeful ignorance when it comes to international relations than it does about any corrupt relationship Trump himself might have with Saudi royalty. 

Let’s “never forget” that the Bush Administration gave Saudi Arabia a spotless pass on 9/11, even though 15 of the 19 hijackers were Saudi nationals, including Bin Laden himself.  Bush’s team, with its bottomless font of experience in matters of international relations involving oil, skillfully and patiently wove the narrative so that it directed the trail immediately away from Saudi Arabia.  At the time, even the American press didn’t mount a consistent and coherent call for the Saudis to be held accountable for the attack.  

The Bush team spent their time and news cycles sowing seeds of nationalism, fear, and vengeance among the general population. After a decent interval, during which the ADD American public could be counted upon to forget the finer details of the attack—like, who actually WAS responsible for it—Bush and his team pushed the narrative in a direction that served their own purpose, which was to establish a democratic ally (puppet) in the oil-rich Middle East. First, attack Afghanistan, and then swing the sword to Saddam Hussein and Iraq—which was their target all along.

We all know how THAT turned out.  But the Bush Administration did have inarguable success directing the narrative exactly where they wanted it to go, whipping the majority of Americans into a bloodlust that would grant Bush carte blanche to carry out any measures he claimed would “keep Americans safe.”

And Trump? Trump has merely taken the baton of GOP protectionist capitulation to Saudi Arabia that has existed for decades.  But he is handling it in true Trump fashion: awkwardly, ignorantly, impatiently…looking every bit the dictator-wannabe in the process, and not really giving a shit.

Perhaps Trump is doing America a service, in this case. He’s displaying in a stark, unvarnished way how the US conducts covert policy on the international stage with respect to oil. No subtlety, so sugar-coating, no misdirection.  Just “Here it is, deal with it.”  He’s showing it for the ugly, dishonest business it is…and we don’t like it much, do we?

So maybe, in future, we’ll be a little less likely to swallow the kind of subtle brainwashing and skillful narrative weaving to which we have been so vulnerable up till now?


Tuesday, November 6, 2018