April 23, 2014

Beauty and The Beast

It's, hmmm, an interesting exercise, reading, writing and thinking about the passing of the wonderful Colombian writer Gabriel Garcia Marquez, juxtaposed with indelible (to this point, at least) thoughts of a very ugly incident we witnessed just a week ago: beauty and the beast. But I suppose if it weren't for those beautiful moments, the beastly would prevail. Another shout-out for art!

We ride the buses everywhere; it's easy, and, again, interesting. We are, I will guess, the most well-to-do riders (leaving out the possibility that a dirty, crumpled old lady with millions in loose change she's hoarded over the years rides incognito with us). There are young people, riding to and from work,  grandmothers with their daughters' little children in tow, the random tourist couple wondering when the bus, heading east, will get to the Rose Garden, way up west, the down-and-out homeless and lunatic, and us. It's quite a scene. Half the time, I'd say, there is something different, some kind of "fun" encounter, never anything "bad," until--

Maybe a week ago, maybe nine o'clock at night--the bus maybe an eighth full--a man and woman, babbling loudly back and forth, stumbled and fell--literally--onto the bus, arguing with the driver, a woman who stood firm (though in my view she should not have picked them up), then, at first, being funny, in a drunken sort of way, but that funny didn't last.

The man was rough and mean with the woman, pestering her, popping her with a rubber band, nasty talk--and she giving a lot of it back. And it went on and on and on, and I just sat there, not six feet away, just sat there. It bothered me then and still does, as you can see. Is it a "man" thing, to be so troubled by having let something like that go without comment? Was I afraid? I may have had a right to be: a dark night, a mean and street-wise man, and I, old now and not in anyway powerful. Or was it that I didn't want to interfere or risk some ongoing encounter that could inconvenience me, lengthen my night, elongate it into something even more unpleasant--a fight, a police encounter, a trip "downtown?"

I don't know. I do know, however, that I made a vow that, should anything like that happen again, I would at least speak out: "Stop that _____!" I'll say. And I will say it, I hope.

Years ago, we lived in Telluride. Someone who had once lived there, someone I did not know, but lived then in New York City, was showing his mother around Manhattan. She was visiting. They were, I'll bet, having a big time. A hoodlum accosted them on the sidewalk, brandishing (common word in this context) a knife. The son resisted and was killed. In Telluride, and I'm sure other places as well, some said things like, "What did he expect?" You know, like he should have known better. A friend of mine, though, said, "Bullshit! He was defending his mother. What man among us wouldn't choose that as a way to go out?"

I will at least say something next time. I think my mother would expect that.

April 21, 2014

Gabriel Garcia Marquez, RIP

"Many years later, as he faced the firing squad, Col. Aureliano Buendia was to remember that distant afternoon when his father took him to discover ice."

I have probably mentioned this idea before. If I have, forgive me. If I haven't, here it is: I have thought for some time of writing an essay (at least) about the best opening lines of novels or stories. I'm a weak choice for the project, without doubt. I am poorly read, though I read all the time. Still, when I read this opening sentence, I never forgot it. And by reading it, I was inspired and still am, as you can see.

No, I doubt I'll ever really do the hard work to write such an essay. There are people--many people--who could write the essay I mentioned off the top of their heads. I am not one of them. But I do know that the impact that line had on me is what fine literature is all about--what fine art is all about, or what the hell? what not so fine art and literature is all about.

If, say, we were just yokels, hanging out, fiddling around, dead-end kids, and we saw Jay Z make it to the top, or someone a lot less like him, but nonetheless move from dead-end to a prime place on the sidewalk--a place that came with recognition and admiration and so forth--and we had even a glimmer of Jay Z's talent, even his interest, wouldn't that be inspiring? Maybe keep us from lying down in the gutter, instead of standing tall on the above the street--nothing great, even, no, that's not what I'm talking about. I mean just that a glimpse--whoa, brother, did you see what I saw?--of success. of achievement, makes, or can make, all the difference. Whoa! Surprise! Role models? Uh huh, like that.

Writers--oh, you know, artists, all of us who are of the liberal, open-minded, easy-going persuasion--we come and we do what we do and few appreciate it, and "few" could be, in this world of "many," not too many at all, but those few make all the difference. As in, when Marquez published "One Hundred Years of Solitude," in 1967, his wife said to him, more or less, "This is a nice book. We are $12,000 in debt." But then, guess what? The first printing sold out within days and the family never owed a penny again. That's what it took, and that's what it takes, will take, time all the way to the end.

If we are writers, we write. If we are painters, we paint. If we are musicians, we play or we sing or we compose. If we are carpenters, we drive nails--and no matter what we are, we try to be the best that we can be, we try to make our beliefs and our visions and our ideas known--visible, audible--in a way that might influence those who see or hear or read them. That's what we do.

We are writers and artists and craftspeople and our work may or may not ever be recognized as we recognize it, as we meant it to be recognized, but, hey, you know what? It'll have to do. We may wind up with a shelf full, a wall full of ART--leftover art ("may I have a box, please?")--or what we believe to be ART, the best that we can do, and no one else ever agrees. But there it is. We did it. Created it. It is what it is.

If we're lucky enough and strong enough, we'll be able to honestly say--at the very least--that it's good enough for me.

Yours in faith-based a truckload of art is better than a truckload of turnips or is it, really?


April 20, 2014


The joys of living in a small town.  Our Gunnison Department of Motor Vehicles has our backs.  I have dealt with the DMV before in Texas, like taking my frail 90 year old mom to get an ID so we could buy her a CD at a bank.  We had to make three trips out there because every dot wasn't dotted like they wanted it to be.

On this new Subaru we just bought, the dealership filled out the necessary VIN readings.  Wrong!  We then went to an Oregon DMV (you know the time and lines it takes), and faxed that in to Gunnison DMV.  Wrong!  Our Colorado DMV requires a police officer or sheriff, but the Oregon police stations say they will not do it.  Catch 22!  But Joan, at the DMV in Gunnison, is bending over backwards for us, and sending us a temporary license to last until June 1st.  She said, "We've got you covered, Mike."   Thank you!

The book My Stroke of Insight was recommended to me years ago by our Western State College University President, Jay Helman, when he had a stroke.  Jay said that there were things he was choosing to not relearn in his rehab efforts - things he no longer wanted in his life.  The book sat by my bed until I finally gave it to the Friends of the Library Book Sale.  Now, with our pal, Ralph, and his stroke, I read it.  It is very possible that the book is changing my life.  I am taking a step to the right - into my right brain where the neurological circuiting for feelings of deep inner peace are located.  It is a must-read for a recovery guide for anyone touched by a brain injury, and I actually have a number of friends touched by a brain injury.

The book is going to Ralph in the love package our family is sending.  He is doing well.  His stroke was last Thursday.  He was discharged from the hospital on Tuesday.  He dodged a big bullet.  The delay in his response is fading, his speech is back to normal, he walks fine.  His daughter took his car keys away, but she was gone yesterday, and he had the shop van keys and was heading out to do a salvage bid on a demolition.  Ralph will be Ralph.  People will be people.

I cannot believe Goldfinch won the Pulitzer.  After all my moaning about the writing, I guess it does merit a win as a novel by an American author and dealing with American life.  In addition to the Pulitzer fun this year, our young friend from Colorado Springs won in journalism for his work around returning vets from Iraq and Afghanistan.

Gorgeous day in the Rose City.

I hope all the children had great Easter Egg hunts.

We're off for thrifting downtown and already have our dinner place chosen in our minds.  Yum Yum!

April 18, 2014


Buck used Uber X in Los Angeles to get to the airport.  They have it in Denver and in Dallas and lots of other big cities.  It started in San Francisco as Uber with an app for Androids and Smart Phones using high end cars as taxis for the more wealthy.  Now Uber X is for anybody, and it works.  Buck's bus to the airport was late, so he tried it out and it cost him $6.00 - no tip, no exchange of money, just credit card use.  To be an Uber driver, your car has to be less than 5 years old.  It works through GPS.  You call, they know the closest car, they are there in 45 seconds and there you have your ride and good conversation in a jeep or SUV or any old thing with no sign on it.

M and A use Go To cars pretty regularly.  You log on and your location is shown, the nearest car comes up, you go get in it and you are charged by the mile, and you just leave it wherever you want to and the charging stops for you, and the next person comes to get it.  In Portland, it seems to have overrun Zip Cars.  You see Go To cars everywhere.  So, it cost M and A $3.00 to drive over to our house.  They just park and leave it.  No gas, no parking hassles or charges  (Go To has an agreement with City to park anywhere, pretty much), no insurance, no maintenance.

Mike has pointed out with happiness several times, that people in our neighborhood seem to have an understanding of the value and an appreciation of the fun in having classic, low rider vehicles.  We see them often and more so here than in other parts of Portland.

Buck left today.  We had a ball.  Last night at Bollywood Indian Restaurant, we ordered so much there was no more room on the table.  So fun getting to sample so many different treats from India, street food included.  

And we saw "Joe" which we loved.  Nicholas Cage is good in anything, but in this one, he comes alive with a very good and dramatic performance.  

And now off to catch the bus to downtown and Powell's.  We have some books we want to look over.   And then, we are catching "Northern Lights."  It is a 1978 film, one of the landmarks of American independent film, set in 1915, and played by an actual participant in the events, a 94 year old man in his Model T in North Dakota drumming up support against the trust-held grain elevators, trains, and banks that constantly threaten foreclosure.

We will most likely see at Powell's this fellow:

He is almost always there, sitting in the coffee shop, using napkins, paper cups, and straws from Powell's service counter making these flowers and quietly selling them to anyone interested.  Isn't it amazing that Powell's doesn't care!  People can stay in there all day and never buy a book or a cup of Joe.  Who would have thunk it?

April 14, 2014


We have been so busy we forgot to post.

At the Whitsell Theater of the Portland Art Museum we have found some culture this week. We saw the FOUR hour long filming of the reconstruction of the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam which took over ten years to complete due to complication after complication.  The four hours just flew by. It was so interesting.  The next night we saw the two and a half hour long new Russian film of Faust which also intrigued us to no end.  Now, I can take reading Goethe off my list, and I can know that Part 1 is all about the soul of Faust being sold to the devil.  Wow!  That is a memory!!

We just finished one of our favorites - lunch at Nicholas.  It is a Lebanese restaurant.  I just ate a falafel sandwich at the Egyptian food cart yesterday, so I can do it.  Love hearing all the middle eastern languages and music in both places.  Topped it off with Turkish coffee and baclava.  Yum Yum!

It is cold and wet and hailing in Gunnison.  The ski areas are closed.  People are hanging their skis up and getting their fishing and camping gear ready.  Surgery is a definite for me.  I am stewing on which orthopedic surgeon to use and which hospital.  I am open to anyone's opinions and experiences. Tomorrow, I will go for another acupuncture, but I have thrown in the towel on healing (it is just too loose in there) and am now strengthening for surgery.  Ralph is being discharged today from the hospital in Dallas after four days.  Amazing recovery, and that is going to be me with my knee surgery!!!

                            Flowers and more flowers!   Friends and more friends!

Buck arrives tomorrow and we will pick him up in our new car!

April 8, 2014


Jury is still out on the knee.  It has been a month.  I certainly do not trust it, but it is mending.

We did a float.  Ever heard of it?   The largest one on the west coast is in the Hawthorne area.  It costs $50 for a 90 minute float, each of us all alone in a completely soundless and dark tank filled with Epsom salt.  I guess it could have been a Bungee Jump, just as easily, if one is looking for a thrill or a new-age experience.

It all began in1954 when a neuroscientist needed to eliminate incoming sensory information to create a control group for one of his experiments.  This one today, of course, was started in planning over beers in Portland in 2009 by two college friends.  Here is what they have to say and here is why I wanted to to try it.  Plus, I was thinking it would be good for my knee along with the acupuncture which I am doing regularly.  Plus, a person we have met here who we really like does it regularly - like every week, and so do MANY Portlandiers - and says you ultimately get a "Monk's Mind" without hundreds of years of meditation practices.  I guess one should not think they can get something like that so easily.

As we walked in, Mike said, "Now why am I doing this?"

Verbiage from Float On brochure:
Getting rid of all sensory input allows the "constantly-make-sure-you're-not-dying" part of your brain to chill out for a second allowing the creative, relaxed part of your brain to come out and play.  Without the constant pressure of analyzing the world around you, your body lowers its levels of cortisol, the main chemical component of stress.  Your brain also releases elevated levels of dopamine and endorphins, the neurotransmitters of happiness.

Not having to fight gravity lets your muscles, joints, and bones take a well-deserved break.  Your body suddenly has loads of extra resources (usually spent supporting your weight, regulating temperature, and trying not to get speeding tickets), which it gets to focus on things like healing and resting. Your spine lengthens an inch, chronic pain is relieved, and your muscles get to fully rest. 

About 40 minutes into your float your brain stops producing its normal Alpha waves and starts churning out Theta waves which are responsible for that between waking and sleeping state.  The Epsom salts we use soften and replenish your skin.

I think each of you can imagine what Mike had to say when we were out of there.  At least we now know.  The interesting part is that each tank has 1000 lbs of Epsom salt, twice as much as the Red Sea.  Weird stuff, but no way to sink.  No fears of drowning in there!!!

So, a very big day was had yesterday.  We did a Float On, bought a new 2014 Subaru, went to the ballet, and our great buddy Ralph had a stroke down in Dallas.

And so it goes...
Ralph is doing pretty good and said to his son last night that he was going to walk out of there.
Carry on!


I think I may have died and gone to heaven.  It is a blue sky, sunny day, and 67 degrees.  I am eating a warm coconut macaroon fresh out of the oven made by our friend J who is the cake baker in the Whole Foods close to us that we can get to by bus.  She made our daughter's wedding cake and just recognized me in there.  The sweet little library next door to Whole Foods is next up.  I love to test them all out and spend time in my old stomping grounds.  Libraries are way cool!

"Rocco and His Brothers" was great.  It was 177 minutes long and completely gripping.  We are lucky to be able to see old films in 35mm formats and in a big theater.  The Portland Art Museum's theater was packed with movie buffs which makes it even more fun.  Alain Delon plays Rocco, and I still have him in my mind.  Indeed, each of the five brothers and their mother, who have freshly immigrated from the South of Italy to Milan and are out of touch with city life there, are memorable, and the sad doomed Cain/Abel like brotherly rivalry ending is unreal.  Sylvester Stallone's "Rocky" is loosely based on this 1960 Luchino Visconti film.  And, we are going to the ballet Thursday of Rocco and His Brothers set in a boxing ring and danced by dancers from the Amsterdam City Company.  Another cultural highlight in the Newmark Theater, one of Portland's Five Centers for the Arts.  It holds 880 people but no seat is farther than 65 feet from the stage.

The house where we are living is four stories, five bedrooms, 4 baths, and huge sitting on large grounds packed with flowers and trees and gardens.  The neighborhood is new to us, and we are exploring.  There are so many cool restaurants and shops and action that we are never at a loss for something to do.  Powell's downtown is no longer our main attraction, but when we find ourselves there, we are at home.  We have all the bus schedules dialed and are free as birds.  What a walkable city!!  I thrive in the diversity of this new neighborhood - one that is our daughter's first choice.  May the black folk here keep their houses in their family!  May they resist the temptation to sell at these high prices!  May they stay!