Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Exhausted Fumes

Unfasten your seatbelts folks; it’s going to be a short ride. I’m guessing things have happened on planet earth this week, but from a cloistered, myopic viewpoint, I have little to report or say as my eyes try to refocus, temporarily shifting from the tiny world of beads, charms, rivets and rusty metal to the larger screen of font and photographs.

Groom and I have been on the road for most of May and we are scheduled to leave in a week for Spokane’s ArtFest. This means creating in a high-pressure cooker and I am not a create in a high-pressure cooker kind of person, especially when we are in the midst of designing a new line of jewelry, so everything is experimental and takes about a hundred times longer.

For instance, I was operating under the misimpression that a jewelers saw blade had teeth only for metal and was not interested in human flesh, much like a cast cutter. Wrong! I am now cured of that dubious information. Slicing through copper, my saw blade jumped course and landed on my left index finger with a little muscle behind it, leaving serrated skin in its wake. Whoo-ey, makes me know I’m alive.

Speaking of alive, I must take this opportunity to wish a couple people Happy Birthday. Val and Gypsy Sole, you know who you are, so many happy returns. S’pose I could mention other birthday boys and girls like musician Lenny Kravitz, actress Helena Bonham Carter, or Crown Prince Frederik of Denmark, but that would simply be empty calorie space-filling, so I’ll probably skip it.

The truly juicy gossip is always off-limits and forbidden territory, so I must skirt around it, painting over it with a second-string line up much like brushing latex over rust. Oh well…

Eeek, Groom is getting scruffy and needs a haircut, the house is just begging for a cleaning, my correspondence requires answering, the clothes I’d like to wear for dinner this evening are wrinkly, my belly is growling because it’s time for breakfast. Gee, my inner thoughts are spellbinding, aren’t they?

Ooh ooh, we did witness a spectacular rainbow this week though, two octaves of color with shades of hot pink thrown in for good measure. Part of the sequestering, in addition to focusing on work, has been because of the rain. The weather report has been the same, I wanna say for weeks now, rain, precipitation, 93% humidity with a chance of T-storms in the afternoon. Walls of grey, a ceiling of slate, the color of granite underfoot. It’s enough to make one beg for a little variety in the color palette, so thank you rainbow!

I suppose like the Inuit and their expanded vocabulary for snow, those of us residing in the Pacific Northwest, also know our shaded scale. Let’s see, there’s charcoal, iron, lead, silver, slate, ashen, mousy, powder, oyster, gunmetal, dove, pearl, sere, withering, cement, pebble, depression, mourning, aluminum, stainless steel, space age metal, titanium…

Oh, and the photographs? Did we have our cameras with us for rainbow preservation? Nooo, because it was raining. However, this week’s pics picks are random shots that we’d like to share. Remember, and I haven’t said this in awhile, you can always enlarge for better details by clicking on them and then hitting the back button to return to the blog.

Yep, many happy returns!

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Awesome, Possum

You may or may not know this, but I have a numbers thing. I find comfort in alignment and feel a sense of calm when things add up. For example, since the odometer of the century turned over my age adds up to the current year. I’m 46, so 4 + 6 = 10. Last year, in 2009, I was 45; in 2008…I think you can do the math.

I was 43 while our country was operating under the influence of the 43rd President and I turned 44 when we elected our 44th Commander in Chief. There’s harmony in them there numbers.

And I’m also date oriented. Yesterday marked 30 years since Mt. St. Helens blew her top. There must be something about temperatures rising and guns during the month of May because 27 years ago today, the infamous Diane Downs shot her three children.

And, 12 years ago this week, Kip Kinkel went on a killing rampage known as the Thurston High School shooting. Same month, same year, Brynn Hartman shot her husband, actor and comedian Phil Hartman while he was sleeping and then turned the deadly gun on herself.

On a lighter note, today is also the 48th anniversary of Marilyn Monroe singing her oft imitated breathy rendition of “Happy Birthday Mr. President” to John Fitzgerald Kennedy. Okay, that’s enough of trivial pursuit. Whoops, I stand corrected; this entire blog is froth, little slices of life served on trifle crackers. Bon app├ętit!

Phew! What a whirlwind road trip. We were home from Medford for about a minute and a half before turning right around and heading north to Seattle for the University District Street Fair, otherwise known as U-District.

Intending to avoid the worst traffic both Portland and Seattle have to offer, we decided to begin our long weekend meeting up with Nanny Bee Bugg (our photographer friend), for lunch at an Indian restaurant. This way, we could toodle around Portland for the day and glide into Seattle after rush hour.

We chose this restaurant on purpose because they’ve been known to serve a particular dish that appeals to our darker humor. If you read last week’s entry, you’ll recall we stayed with friends in southern Oregon who adopted two goats that currently live in their house.

For some deep-seated Freudian mystery, each time we stay with them, we have this hankering to eat goat curry. Although admittedly, I would be insulted and appalled if, after friends stayed with us, they desired to try kitty cat curry.

Hypocrisy aside, we were disappointed to discover that the Indian restaurant did not have it for Thursday’s lunch buffet. Oh well, there’s always Seattle.

After vindaloo and rice pudding, Nanny Bee Bugg drove us to the Northwest Industrial section of the Rose City, introducing us to Macleay park, a forest within a metropolis. This stunning gulch of tall timbers was a gift to the City of Portland in 1897. Pine trees, ferns, a babbling brook and an abandoned stone building named “The Witch’s Castle” made for a delightful respite.

Caravanning across town, we meandered through antique stores in the Sellwood neighborhood and ordered coffee at The Blue Kangaroo. We were invited to select our own preference of beans they’ve roasted themselves. The barista then ground them and made us each a delicious cup of pour-over coffee. Strong and full-bodied, just the way we like it.

I often do my best photography with a cup of coffee in one hand and a camera in the other. As I’ve mentioned before, I do not study my subjects, but simply aim and shoot at whatever catches my attention in the blink of an eye. If they turn out, it’s the luck of the draw. Groom is patient, and his work is beautiful. My random way comes from an intuitive place and I’m often surprised later to discover what I’ve shot, as it all happens so quickly.

I could be called the Impatient photographer or the Promiscuous photographer. Wait, that doesn’t sound right. I meant that I take optimal advantage of the digital age and refuse to limit myself based on the old standard of finite film. I take the camera with me everywhere, wearing it like a favorite piece of clothing.

Back to window shopping in Sellwood. We wandered into a posh store celebrating its three week anniversary. That was weeks, not years. Heeding my father’s advice from childhood, I looked at the store’s inventory with my eyes not my hands until I spotted the fur blanket draped over a fainting couch. I had to touch it to see if it was real or faux. Flipping over the tag, it read, “Possum $1,200.” I yanked my hand away almost as quickly as if it had said skunk.

“Groom, you gotta see this,” I whispered loud enough for him to hear across the empty store. Curious to see what I found, he sauntered over. “Pet it,” I suggested.

“Oh, that’s soft,” he said.

“Yeah and it’s twelve hundred dollars worth of possum,” I say with all the flourish of a big reveal.


The overly made-up clerk came to the possum’s defense. “It’s called eco-luxury.”

Now here’s where, in an alternate universe, I might have been able to keep my mouth shut, but in this reality, well, we all know that didn’t happen.

“Eco-luxury… is that fancy talk for road kill?”

The clerk did not care for my observation. Her way of showing disapproval, since she could neither smile or frown (I’m guessing Botox), was to ignore my question and instead, correct the way I said “Eco.” In my mouth, it came out sounding like echo, as in “eco-friendly.”

She hissed, “It’s eeeeeko-luxury.” Then, to make the road kill blanket appear more exotic, she emphasized the detail that the possums came all the way from New Zealand.

Groom didn’t miss a beat. “Even if they bought them their own seats on the flight over, that’s still a pretty good mark-up.”

Clerk glared at us. “Bet you’re sorry you let our kind in here,” I say, waving goodbye and wishing her a happy three-week anniversary.

And with that, it was just about time to bid our friend adieu and continue the drive to Seattle. Our late night arrival didn’t pan out exactly as we had imagined. Even at 10 o’clock at night, the traffic was bumper to bumper often to the point of standstill.

After we finally arrived and shlepped our belongings up two flights of stairs (no elevator), I was a wee tired. I started to brush my teeth and the experience woke me up with full alert precision. Groom says he’d never seen that particular expression on my face before. I loaded my toothbrush with shaving cream and went to town polishing my pearly off-whites.

Now I know what you’re probably thinking - What kind of idiot uses shaving cream to brush their teeth with? Are you imagining an aerosol can with a push-top lid? Me too, but noooo.

It’s my turn to ask the question. What kind of genius thinks it’s a good idea to package shaving cream and toothpaste in the exact same type of tube?? In my defense, it was late and I thought I had fished the shaving cream from my toiletries kit and set it on the edge of the tub out of reach. Oops.

Let me tell you, that is one disgusting flavor even if the label dubs it “mint.”

Our Friday in Seattle was perfection. Riding the bus downtown, we had all day to play, taking photos, shopping and being touristas.

Of course, we had to visit our favorite shop, the John Fluevog shoe store, and er, um, yes we each found a pair to take home. Near Pike’s Place Market, we tried an African restaurant and ordered, you guessed it, goat curry. Yucky! It was mostly all bones and what little meat there was tasted exactly what one might imagine goat to be like; fat, tough and gristly. The sponge bread was rather curious, though.

If you ever find yourself in Seattle and you like coffee, by all means, treat yourself to the Italiano hand-crafted by Roland at Ancient Grounds. Not only is it likely to be the best cup you’ll ever encounter west of the Tiber, but the scintillating conversation and fabulous collection of art will knock your socks off.

One of the oddities of the weekend was a display window for an eyeglasses shop. Hmmm, doesn’t sound quite right, but when I typed “eye glass shop” the word combination evoked images of a boutique specializing in glass eyes. Then, when I try “glasses shop,” that made me think of fragile drinking cups.

The macabre display was in a window for eyeglasses. Two full shelves of white doves (stuffed, plastic, felt?) lay on their sides with eye glasses positioned over them. At first glance I thought, “Uh-oh, the shopkeeper doesn’t realize the birds look dead. Maybe the birds couldn’t stay upright.” I voiced my concern and Groom says, “Uh, honey, lookey there.”

I follow his pointed index finger and sucked in my breath. With the arrows impaling the birds, I changed my mind. I came to the quick conclusion that the shopkeeper did indeed realize the birds looked dead. That’s Seattle for you.

We considered attending the Kurt Cobain and Andy Warhol exhibit at SAM (the Seattle Art Museum), but honestly? we didn’t feel like spending the $15 each for entrance tickets. We’ll probably kick ourselves later, but looking at the poster, I asked Groom if they dug up Cobain’s bones?
“Nah, that’s from an album cover,” he informed me, but the gruesome imagery, knowing he committed suicide, made me want to stay outside in the sunshine, smelling all the gorgeous flowers and nibbling on the chocolate pasta samples at the Farmer’s Market.

As for U-District, the street fair was pretty good, although it began quirky enough. Up at 5 o’clock, we were on site by 6am navigating the parking gauntlet. We unloaded our booth and accoutrements, parked, then spent the next two hours setting up. By this time, we were hungry and breakfast beckoned. Returning before 10am, we were greeted by a young woman with an official looking badge. She introduced herself and apologized for what she was about to impart. “I don’t know anything, except you might have to move your booth.”


Looooong story short, after waiting a nail-biting amount of minutes, the fire marshal appeared and explained that the fire department needed access to the water source hidden behind our booth and a U.S. post box. Well, the post box was cemented and bolted down, so our booth was the issue. Um, but that was the 10’ X 10’ space the show told us to set up in, so now what? Having to move is NOT what an artist wants to hear 15 minutes before a show officially opens, especially when everything is already in place and getting it that way took two hours.

When we removed our “back door” (white tarp) and showed them that our fabric was attached with Velcro, the fire chief allowed us to stay with a warning; that if a fire broke out, the firemen would bust through our booth. I calculated the risk. If a fire broke out that close, then I probably wouldn’t be staying in it anyway, looking quickly for the nearest exit.

Unbeknownst to me, the same thing had happened to another vendor across the lane while we were at breakfast. She had been forced to move and the vendors were now waiting for us to return, anticipating how we might take the news. Apparently, this whole little drama was playing out around us and I had no inkling that I was being observed. Throughout the weekend, the vendors in our neighborhood introduced themselves one by one, telling me what I looked like from their perspective. Gulp.

All I can say is thank God I was in a good mood! I did not panic, yell, get aggravated, but as one candle maker described, “You were solid.” I think that’s a compliment? She imitated my body posture and mimicked my impassive expression. It was a queer feeling to learn that a number of people were watching for my reaction while I had no idea.

Other highlights included selling the Exlax necklace to a University of Washington Professor (Whoo hoo!), sipping Bubble Tea with tapioca balls from our favorite place, Oasis, and hanging out with my author friend (her book is rated second to Harry Potter by popularity).

We concluded the trip Sunday night with an overnighter at God’s Minion in Portland, sharing a lovely visit and good food and then driving home to Eugene on Monday.

Gee, think this is long enough? If you read it all the way through, congratulations. Hope you enjoy a few of our photos from the trip and we’ll see you next time.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Never approach a goat from the front, a horse from the back, or a fool from any side.
- Jewish proverb

Oregon has many interesting places to lay one’s head. There’s a bed and breakfast in the trees called Out’n’About Treesort near Cave Junction, the historic lodge at Crater Lake (which has bragging rights as the deepest lake in the United States and is considered a natural wonder), the writerly-themed Sylvia Beach Hotel at the coast, the purportedly haunted Heathman Hotel in Portland or a Tudor style Inn near the Shakespearean Festival in Ashland. But there’s no place quite like Goat Mama and Papa’s.

To recapra (ha ha, Capra means goat in Latin), our friends in the Rogue Valley have rescued two baby goats that live part time in their house (the other part in their customized garage-stable or sizable yard). Of course, a couple years have passed since the adoption and those darling kids are now full grown behemoths, no longer wearing leopard print customized diapers, having been somewhat house broken.

I say somewhat, because the parents still have to be cautious, making sure the girls’ horns don’t puncture the artwork on the wall while playing on the back of the couch, they don’t nibble poisonous plants or eat the kitchen sink.

I just had a thought (surprise!). If Capra means goat in Latin, is a Capricorn a mix between a goat and a unicorn?

I’m not sure what a “spiritual enticement” is, but we saw this sign while visiting Grants Pants over the weekend. We had our own woo-woo moment the first morning we woke up at our friend’s house. While I fumbled with the coffee pot, Groom suddenly pointed to the reflection on Goat Mama’s cupboard.

As plain as you can see, there was a cross shimmering on their newly installed cabinet. I lunged for the camera as Groom waved his hands about trying to figure what in tarnation was casting the shadow. It was a comical scene, me snapping away as a pre-caffeinated hubby did his best to find the originator. Along with the garlic braids, we felt very safe from Vampire attacks, and, Blessed.

Follow me while I jump ahead a few days…

On Sunday evening, after taking down the booth and loading the van when Art In Bloom had finally closed, we walked back into our friend’s house. All the lights were off and it was unusually quiet. Uh-oh…

Phew! Everything was “normal.” They were all curled up on the couch together, cuddling and cudding. There’s nothing quite like the sight of two full grown goats ruminating (chewing their regurgitated food) on the couch while watching television. I take that back, one of the goats was on the couch while the other was stretched out in the recliner, each with an adoring parent petting or combing the pampered lassies.

With five cats and two goats, it’s a common occurrence, although a tad unsettling, to find any one of them on our air mattress, or perhaps discover a “present” they’ve left behind. Creatures of habit, these cloven hoofed beasties require all manner of food and snackies practically around the clock.

In addition to the fresh hay in a manger, the grass in the back forty, and what else can be rooted, foraged and cleverly grasped, Goat Mama provides them with various and assorted treats. They are ga-ga for the almond butter she slathers on her index finger and bravely inserts into their mouths. Baby is gentle, while Honey Bunches of Goats prefers a bite of dactyl to go with her nut spread. Ouch!

They are cuckoo for dried oats served in silver bowls, mushed bananas to the point of liquification, pumpkin innards, and special organic alfalfa hors d’oeuvres. To say these goats are spoiled, well, that would simply be stating the obvious.

Raised in the country, Goat Mama had horses, donkeys, dogs, cats, guinea pigs, and skunks as playmates. Well, the skunks were actually squatters, making their presence odiferously apparent, but the point is she grew up around a variety of animals and is more comfortable around them than the two-legged kind.

She has her own language and patter and can be overheard clucking, bleating, purring, barking or growling. Goat Mama has amazing animal intelligence and can nurture any species. They instinctively know this and untold numbers of wounded critters have managed to find their way to her house so she will take care of them.

As a two-legged varmint myself, I don’t fascinate her the way I would if I had tusks, talons, beaks, wings, fur, feathers, tails or paws. I do have whiskers, but that’s a personal issue that requires tweezers and a magnification mirror.

It was a precious gift to spend Mother’s Day with my folks, see old friends, try new restaurants, and go treasure antiquing. We found some very cool vintage pieces to retrofit into our new line of necklaces, and while we’re on the momentary topic of neck girdles, we successfully sold more, breaking another record, so we’re doing the happy dance about that!

In the aftermath of relishing our visit, I am also glad to be back in our own house, sleeping in our own bed, snuggling with our own cat. As the enduring wisdom of Dorothy rings true, “There’s no place like home.”