Monday, December 21, 2009

Stately Steinways and their Kin

Students live the life. On a random Tuesday night we're known to ask our friends "Sooo, what did you get up to today?" Then they look at us blankly and say "Um worked." "Oh right," we think. We fail to remember that some people don't get to sleep in until eleven and then saunter into some class on philosophy. But now, I'm on a break so this phenomenon has only worsened. This equates to having excess time. This means doing Nothing. And doing Nothing feels GREAT!

So while I was doing my usual Nothing routine around noon Constituent called me and said "Yawn...yawn..morning, I just got up ("wow, me too" I said)...I dunno...wanna go to Goodwill or something...or, I dunno, we could get Thai food yawn.." We both managed to wake up and bring ourselves to the thrift store for a morning of nothingness that quickly turned into an unforseen adventure.

Well, at the Goodwill, there was an old piano for sale for $200. There was a big sign on the piano that said "Do not play the piano!" I decided to ignore that and I began to loudly and proudly play "Fur Elise" one of the three songs I remember from years of piano lesson torture (age nine). When promptly an attendant got really aggressive and ran towards me and said, "Hey lady! Didn't you see the sign? It's there for a REASON. NO playing the Piana!" Well I had seen the sign but I decided it was optional to follow the rules.

It was at this point that I developed an attitude. A) I was playing a very beautiful song for all the shoppers to enjoy and B) I'll play the piano if I jolly well want to, it's a free country pal! and C) what if I wanted to buy the piano? Am I not allowed to know if it is even in tune? Whatever dude.

I sulked away from the piano like a teenager with a bad attitude and I gave the man a sour face.

We left and Constituent and I conversed (in a very immature and juvenile way) with one another about the lame store attendant and how pianos are meant to be played. It was at this point that we decided to go piano shopping. Constituent had come into a large amount of money from Hanukkah and so Constituent could take piano shopping seriously. I was just along to make us look legit because I know how to play like two songs.

Anyways, this is the best part. I love piano stores. They smell good and they have pianos everywhere. I have never seen so many pianos in one place in my whole life. I felt like I was at a piano family reunion. The digital pianos are the younger trendier generation in their skinny leg jeans. The big grand pianos are the rich uncles smoking cigars--they make great loud and grand sounding noises. The upright pianos are the chirpy aunts and great aunts who make amazing pies etc and like ragtime music. And that gorgeous piano over there is the adopted and well-loved son from Austria--his name is Steinway. Anyways, pianos are like families and are super cool; they come in all shapes, sizes, colors, sounds, personalities and ages.

We chatted with Mr. Piano Expert, tested a few digital painos and then we left. But before we left, I made a point to ask a really lame question "Do you have to keep the building at a specific temperature?" (duh)

I had noticed it was very warm and toasty and I was enjoying that. "Yes," said Mr. Piano Expert, "Pianos like warmer temperatures." I then thought to myself "I wonder what else pianos like..I wonder if they would like some of the candies I have in my car, or if they like would like it if I took him on a walk around the neighborhood" Because Mr. Piano Expert told me pianos like things a certain way.

Pianos have preferences. I didn't know that. Did you?

Monday, December 7, 2009

Crazy People Versus Chatty Strangers

Upon leaving the library on the hunt for nourishment, I walked out in a blustery cold December day. I had a thin scarf on my neck and a semi-warm jacket. Nonetheless, I was freezing. As I was walking to a venue that sells food, I subconsciously made a look on my face that said "I'm fr-freezing." When suddenly, I had a peculiar encounter. A man approached me from behind and began to carry on a dialogue with me. I felt very uncomfortable and I gave him the "go away-don't talk to me-leave me alone-Cancha see I'm busy?" look.

He began analyzing my attire which only made me stiffen up even more.
"You look cold."
"You need to wear warmer clothes. I recommend boots."
"What kind of socks are you wearing?" "
"You need those Swedish socks. Do you like that dog over there?"
"That's a Saint Bernard, right? Like Beethoven."

I responded vaguely by saying things as tartly and curtly as I could. "I'm fine." "Uh huh." "yeh..."

We ended our conversation when I confirmed his suspicions of a dog being a Saint Bernard by concurring, "Yup, that's a Saint Bernard, like Beethoven."

Then we entered the grocery store and went out separate ways. He headed towards the produce and I headed towards the bagels.

I began to ponder my rude behavior to this young man (who was properly dressed for the temperature). I was, in fact, rude and cold with him. In retrospect, I analyzed the encounter and came up with the following conclusion.

You might be surprised to hear me say this, but I think he was fairly normal (despite him carrying on a conversation with a complete stranger who happened to be improperly dressed); he was just friendlier than most. And that puts people on edge when they're taking walks to the supermarket.

He actually wasn't one of those crazy people who want something--money, sign this petition, are you registered to vote? etc. I think he just wanted to make random small talk on the way to the grocery store. But I, like so many people who live in cities (small town behavior is something entirely different when it comes to long conversations in the streets with strangers), have a Wall up complete with electric barbed wire on top. Immediately I question their motives. They must want something out of me and I will do my best to ignore them by giving them short answers and body language that says "Get lost bozo!"

However, in some rare cases, people just want to talk about wool socks with strangers and comment on the frigid weather.

The problem lies in that it is difficult to distinguish who those people are. One just has to follow their gut feeling. But keep in mind, that gut feeling might transform after the encounter has terminated.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

A Potato Aficionado in Unusual Form

Maybe I shouldn't mention this. After all, it is a dirty family secret. Well, anyways, my parents have a dog. He is an exceptional yellow lab bursting with personality and facial expression. When you play fetch with him, his enthusiasm for the sport activates laughter and induces smiles. He barrels towards the ball at an appalling rate. Then, he cannot stop in time and finds himself on the ground with his head under his hindquarters and his paws strait up in the air conducting an imaginary orchestra in the sky.

Besides ball playing, long walks on the beach and meaningful glaces, this dog also has an insatiable passion for food. Dog food, cat food, Cuban cuisine, French food and anything else. And, my mom discovered something very peculiar about this canines unusual tastes. Although he eats all manner of food, he enjoys potatoes. it turns out he is a potato connoisseur, a very distinguished on, in fact. He likes Russet potatoes, Idaho potatoes, Ruby Norland potatoes and any other variety of potatoes. This canine can describe to you, in unintelligible dog dialect, what makes them distinct, unique, and delicious.

How do I know all this? I've observed him in the process. My mom is his personal chef and she bakes him potatoes. That is the dirty family secret part. And no, they do not set him a place-setting at the dinner table with a little name card that says "Honored Guest." And no, they do not frequent that fancy dog bakery in the Pearl district. (hey, have you seen the price of dog food these days? Why, it's simply astronomical! But potatoes are cheap).

When it comes to homemade baked potatoes, fresh from the fields of Idaho, this dog takes his time. He receives his potato from his master. Then he carefully holds it in his mouth and takes it to a secret corner of the field. He waits until the ambiance is just right, until the sun is at the right place in the sky, until the birds are chirping sweet calls to one another and then he indulges in a romantic dinner with nature. But, he indulges very slowly, like that of a seasoned restaurant critic eating at the restaurants in the winding streets of Mo mart in Paris. He savors each chomp with care and thoughtfulness. And then he floats off into a fantasy with the taste of potato fresh on his tongue.

He truly adores potato's. When he gets standard dog food he woofs it down (get the pun? A real knee-slapper, eh?). He is scarfing it down at such a supersonic speed that it's unlikely he even tastes the stuff. But perhaps that is why dogs eat so fast, the food is unpleasant to the palate. If you give them carefully prepared Coquilles St. Jaques, baked brie in a homemade pesto sauce, some escargot, and coq au vin perhaps they would eat slower and enjoy the food because it is cuisine to be savored and enjoyed. Dog food is not.

My speculation is that dogs eat so fast because the food is simply too unpleasant to want to savor and enjoy.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

The Crisis of the Treacherous Tap

It is recommended to drink eight glasses of water per day. And after physical exercise, there is nothing like a glass of water to quench the thirst. We just go to the faucet, put a glass under it, fill it up with tap water and swig it down. After that, we rub our stomach, grin and make a satisfied "ah" noise. Our needs have been met.

But last night, I was informed that my needs will not be so easily met in the coming days. While I was working, I received two text messages saying "Don't drink the water! It's contaminated" At first, I felt alarmed, I had been drinking water all day. But, then I got bits and pieces of information regarding the crisis and learned no one had gotten sick yet, just the levels of contamination in the city's reservoir were higher than acceptable.

So, those living in west side Portland (that's me) get to play "third world country" for the next few days. Gone are the days of going to the faucet when we want water.

I promptly went out and bought precisely 24 bottles of water. Now, hear me this, bottled water I have always felt is a waste of money. You can just enjoy tap water and it fundamentally the same thing. However, today it isn't the same thing. I paid $4 for my water. Water should be free, shouldn't it?

I hopped in my car and drove home. When I got home, I parked about a half a block away from home and lugged my water home. I struggled opening doors, but I finally made it home. And, I only carried the water a mere half block.

I've been in situations where the water was not safe to drink, but that was never at home. I'm used to living in my sanitized world with clean drinking water. So, this is a bit unusual. However, not having water really isn't that bad. It's even mildly exciting (obviously my definition of excitement is pretty tame).

On the matter of clean water, I have this to declare, I'm extremely thankful for it. But even more than that I am extremely thankful for convenient water that requires no transport.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

The Grievances in Bicycle Ownership

I had a moment in my life when I considered myself vaguely hipster. Yes, it was one of those moments when I found myself living in a cool vintage apartment with over painted white walls and hardwood floor. Sigh, those days are gone. But, during this time, in order to validate my hipness, I had a bike to ride about town on. A Peugeot. The name meant nothing to me, as I am an American and that brand is not well-known here. Nonetheless, I talked it up and bragged.

I rode about town on this old contraption and was quite content with it for some time. But, all good things must come to an end. And this thing wanted to bring itself to an end. The thing just started falling apart. And, eventually the gears broke and it was stuck in the most difficult gear. The chain was rusty and it became very uncomfortable to ride. The only way one could ride comfortably on it was at a frightening speed of 80 miles per hour, otherwise it was too much a trial to the quadriceps.

I had someone comment on how they had seen me riding through Tienanmen Square (not the real name of the square I was in) and the I was just zooming by. "I think it was you," they said. It was me, we talked about the day and time they saw me and I was, in fact there. They probably saw a flash or orange and recognized my orange coat. Well, I really had no choice but to ride fast and shout to the masses "Save yourselves!" My bike only rode fast and it was not preferable, even for me.

Anyways, one day, I went on an evening bike ride with Friend around the lake. We decided to stop and put more air in the tires. So, I let the air out of the tires and lo and behold, the pump Friend had didn't work with this thing called a "bike." So there I was with a crappy bike, that was as complicated as a Soviet Union microwave oven--circa 1967. So, what did I do? In another moment of frustration with this bike, I tied the bike to a post and left it there. I wanted to hurl it into the river as my way of saying "thanks for nothing!" As, it was a source for frustration and argument. But I didn't, I somehow had enough self-control. As I walked away from that post, I felt a great burden lifted from me. I jumped with joy and mused at my new found freedom. I was so glad to be rid of that bike! I've often wondered if the bike is still locked to that post.

Okay, enough of resurrecting old stories from the past. We're in the present now. But, I have a bike again. Yes, I am the proud owner of an old sturdily built bike.

I'm rather excited about embarking on a new life with this bike, it's a ruthless yet feminine bicycle. It has a cute basket where I can put a salad, some nickels or a teddy bear. It has a mirror, so, if you're behind me, well, I'm watching you but you can't tell because I don't have to turn my head...(I plan on using this bike in my detective career).

And it's blue. Blue is a color of power and serenity--a both powerful and serene bicycle. (I'm not mentioning the mod sheepskin cover on the seat, the retro rain guards or the kitschy kickstand).

The only drawback to the bike is that fact that it does not have a cup holder or seat warmers. But, I suppose I'll manage, I've been through more unsettling experiences with other bikes.

But, with ownership comes responsibility. Am I responsible enough for a bike? My previous bike ownership history points directly at "No!" When I'm frustrated will I just lock the bike to post and forget about it forever? I hope not. But we don't really know what we will do in certain situations until we are actually in the situation, now do we?

(Please enjoy the photo taken from my brother's album of his trip to Japan in 2007. This is an authentic Japaense bike and a proper Japanese dog).

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

The Purpose of Trendy Streets

I dug up an old post that I meant to post about three months ago.

I have been on a sabbatical from my social life. I just need a moment to sit and stare at the wall whilst I think about what it would be like to live in an avocado tree in Maui, or what the difference between clams and oysters are. So, I'm taking it easy and declining most social invitations.

This resulted in spending much time at home relaxing, writing, doing homework, reading, unloading the dishwasher and studying. I began to feel restless so I thought I would drive somewhere in my car.

I found myself on what was unquestionably one of the trendier streets in this town. A street with an buffet of vintage stores, coffee shops, book stores and micro-breweries.

The people there are trendy and don clothing that hasn't quite caught on to the masses (as they are too weird and can only be found in vintage clothing stores in three sizes too big). Some of the people there I would like to politely ask "Um excuse me, but what gender are you?"

And of course, it wouldn't be a truly eclectic street without the environmental activist approaching people saying: "Can I teach you about clean energy?" to which I reply "No thanks, I prefer fossil fuels." (Okay, that isn't true, I don't prefer fossil fuels, but I secretly imagine myself saying that to the those people who accost me just to ruffle some feathers and give them an answer not to be expected).

I wandered into a vintage store selling all manner of doodads, knick knacks, lamp shades, vinyl records, telephones (Who uses those anymore? With the affordability of cellular phones), rocking horses, and various relics of the past. I also bought a foofy coffee with whipped cream whilst I wandered around a used bookstore (I didn't buy anything as I am a fan of the library).

This brings me to the whole point of this discourse. The purpose of trendy streets is to cure to boredom for both individuals and groups. They are to be utilized and enjoyed by everyone. Note that I said "used," this means, go there and wander around.

I know it exists where you live. A trendy neighborhood that all the guidebooks mention. It's one of the places all the tourists go, but since you live there,well you've never bothered visiting this place. Well, go there and enjoy it!

Sunday, October 18, 2009

An Impolite Accumulation of Leaves

After several years of life experience, I have finally figured out what the problem of modern western society is. Leaf blowers.

I know, it's a pretty astounding realization and you're probably going "Whoa, yeah, you're right...huh, never thought of that culprit. There was the answer right in front of me all along!" Thanks.

This week, I had two objectionable encounters with leaf blowers.

The first, I was walking from class to my house to have lunch and then take a nap and not do my homework. When on the way, there was a man blowing leaves all over the place and a bus coming at the same time. Well, as you can imagine, there was dust everywhere, as well as leaves and bus exhaust. It was then that several flecks of dust flew into my eyes and I experienced minor discomfort. I gave the man a look of pure unbridled rage. He turned off his leaf blower and forlornly looked away, knowing he had caused minor discomfort because of his machine.

I got home and washed all the junk out of my eyes whilst simultaneously saying less than complimentary things about leaf blowers.

The second objectionable incident occurred today, I was walking in a beautiful neighborhood that had gold, orange, brown and purple leaves scattered everywhere. It was quiet and I was enjoying the "crunch" sound I was making when stomping on the fallen leaves. When, once again, I came upon a man with a leaf blower. I experienced more discomfort with the loud noises the machine was making. These offensive machines are just so loud and unpleasant and wreck any intimate moment one might be having with nature. "Hrmph" I thought to myself "I'm writing to my senator about this!"

Shortly later, I stumbled upon a woman raking leaves in her yard. And, it was just so much more pleasant. The scratching sound of the rake and the whooshing sound of the leaves going in a pile--very politely and non-offensively, I might add.

Rakes are just better than leaf blowers. Here's why.

Leaf blowers: They...

1. are uncivilized, loud and obnoxious.
2. are leading to America's obesity epidemic because they require no physical activity.
3. require batteries which is probably mined in a third world country using forced labor.
4. have plastic parts, which comes from petroleum, which causes the price of oil and other goods (like food) to go up.
5. cause health problems (specifically respiratory) because of the smell and fumes they emit.

Rakes: They...

1. are handcrafted with love.
2. require a rigorous workout and leave one with a sense of worth and accomplishment.
3. promote a positive outlook on life.
4. can be used for beautiful decorations in your barn.
5. give your life meaning.

There, plenty of evidence that leaf blowers are the cause of the problems our modern society faces and that rakes are superior. Next time you feel a need to remove the leaves from your lawn or sidewalk, please be civil and use a rake.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Will the Original George Washington Please Stand Up?

It's a picture all Americans see on a daily basis. When we reach into our wallet to hand the cashier at 7-11 money for a Gatorade, there it is. Or when we struggle to get a bill into a parking-machine, there it is again. When we throw some bills on the table for the waitress, there it is yet again. It dots our currency--we can't avoid it. I'll give you another hint, it's the picture that has been on our one-dollar bill for over a century. Yes, it's the famous image of George Washington, the United State's first president. (Okay fine, so the picture kind of gave it away).

And who was the artist? Anybody? Anybody?

Gilbert Charles Stuart: the hand that painted this iconic image.

A famous portraitist, he was praised for the naturalness of his painting and his subjects found him, well, agreeable. Even John Adams said so.

"Speaking generally, no penance is like having one's picture done. You must sit in a constrained and unnatural position, which is a trial to the temper. But I should like to sit to Stuart from the first of January to the last of December, for he lets me do just what I please, and keeps me constantly amused by his conversation." – John Adams

He didn't use sketches, rather he applied paint directly to the canvas and yet he came up with these amazing portraits. He painted portraits of George Washington, King George III of England, King Louis XVI of France, John Quincy Adams, Abigail Adams, and even Philadelphia socialite Catherine Brass Yates (well, how about that?). All these portraits kept him busy and highly paid for years as he was able to make a profit off the prints.

The image on America's one-dollar bill is called The Athenaeum. And, get this, the original was never finished. Nope. Began in 1796, Stuart left the image unfinished at the time of his death in 1828. However, Stuart and his daughters painted and produced over 130 images of The Athanaeum.

Stuart had a stoke and continued to paint despite being partially paralyzed. When he died, he was buried in an unmarked grave somewhere in New England due to having left his family in so much debt that they couldn't afford a proper cemetery plot.

And that is the man who painted the famous George Washington image.

It's a couch, a carpet's a coat!

The other day, I was at lunch with an aunt of mine. After we chatted over some paninis and ravioli we wandered up the street to see what there was to see. We walked into an import shop and admired the jewelry, the gypsy skirts with bells and whistles on them and Mayan masks. But then. Ah, but then...we went into a vintage store.

Vintage stores have historically been my weakness. However, I have managed to repress that aspect of myself for several years simply by not walking by one. But on that day, there was no escaping it—we were going to go in. And in we went to be greeted by retro music and all that old clothing. I dug through all the reams of fake fur coats (circa 1964), 70’s bridesmaid dresses, 50’s sweaters with pearls, hippie jewelry and old plaid shirts.

Then I spotted the most hideous coat I’d ever seen. I just knew I had to have it. I took it off the hanger and tried it on—it fit me good, my wise aunt even said so. I looked in the mirror and decided I resembled an old couch; I liked what I saw. The flowers on the coat were totally retro, it was lined and even had a genuine old-fashioned-looking tag on it. I tartly bought the coat and we scuttled away with me feeling confident about my new purchase. I don’t think anyone else will be wearing the same coat as me this Fall.

And that, my friend, is the benefit of shopping at vintage stores. You can find coats that make you look like a couch and no one else will be dressed like you.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Teenage Delight

There comes a time in one’s life when they must decide “What shall I do this evening?” In a quandary as such, I have something to say on the matter. An ideal solution to such a problem, if such a problem exists, is quite obvious. A trip to the arcade is in order.

You guessed it (smartypants!). I went to the arcade. No, I’m not a teenager anymore, but as an avid player in the game “role playing,” I feel I acted the part to a T—the role of a teenager, that is.

Armed with six dollars, I paid an admission fee of $2.50 and obtained, for another $3.50, a bag of nickels. I went around spending my nickels on various forms of entertainment and role playing activities—shooting things, driving race cars, throwing balls at targets (and not hitting the target, I might add) and riding a bike on a machine that was all in Japanese.

Arcades are like gambling for kids. They give you tickets, which you can trade in later for astonishing prizes. For example, there was this jackpot machine, where the participant hits the button when the light lands on the spot that says “jackpot,” they win a large amount of tickets which function as currency in arcade territory. It’s probably like the arcade version of the casino game roulette. Well, I got really addicted to this and I kept wanting more. So, I continued to reach into my bag of nickels for another round…and another…and another. After losing several times, I gave up and ambled over to the machine where one pretends to be jump roping; I learned I have more aptitude with pretend jump roping than I do with arcade jackpot games. I could even have a promising future with pretend jump roping, were it done competitively.

For my efforts, I was rewarded with some tickets. I went up to the counter and began to think about what desirable items I might enjoy. Should I go with the lizard key chain? The spider ring? The plastic daisy? Or, a bouncy ball? I ended up getting a bag of candy and some very tame fireworks (such as pop-its).

After the arcade, we decided that the best way to top off the evening would be to go to the 7-11 for a slurpee. But, we spied a coffee shop instead and ended up getting pink lemonade and mango sorbet. We had a frightful amount of sugar, which is what most teenagers do. Right?

So, if you’re bored and wishing you were a teenager, I have this advice to bestow upon you—the arcade.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Canada: The Sleeping Giant

Recently some constituents and I decided to have a Canadian themed night. Well, I happen to love Canada (America's rather non-offensive and considerate northern neighbor). And, I've even managed to do some international travel to Canada about four times. So, you would think I would be the expert, right? Er, no. I had a hard time thinking of things distinctly "Canadian." In fact, I couldn't even think of a single movie filmed in Canada (besides some rubbish Bollywood film I once watched in a moment of weakness and boredom).

My idea was that perhaps we could sit around, wolf down some ketchup flavored chips, say "eh" lots, enthusiastically exclaim about hockey, and pretend like we live on farms. But ya know, I just knew there was more to Canada than their ketchup flavored chips.

So, here are a few things that I can think of off the top of my head that are Canadian:

1) The sport 'curling'
2) Celine Dion
3) Roots Clothing
4) Maple Leaves
5) Lots of natural resources (like petroleum)
6) Canadian Bacon (Is it really 'Canadian?')
7) Very badly marked roads in British Columbia
8) The world's biggest meteor crater lake (I once had to do a research paper on crater lakes)

Hmm, I realized my knowledge of Canada was distressingly diminutive. So, I executed some extensive research and unearthed the following facts.

1) California has more inhabitants than Canada, 36 million people, whilst Canada has only 33 million.
2) Keanu Reeves used to manage a pasta shop in Canada before becoming an actor.
3) Canada's east coast is closer to London than it is to it's west coast.
4) It' massive--the second largest country in the world.
5) There are more recreational golfers per capita in Canada than in any other country (including Estonia oddly enough).
6) Superman was created by a Canadian.
7) Pamela Anderson is from Canada.
8) Canada has the highest per capita immigration rate in the world.

Well there you have it. Useful information in regards to Canada to add to you vast knowledge of the country of caribou.

So, next time you're playing a passionate rendition of Celine Dion's "My Heart Will Go On," on your guitar, or you're pretending to be Superman, or you're participating in that odd sport of culring, just remember Canada--an often looked over country with more to it than meets the eye.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Traipse at the County Fair

Some weeks ago, I was visiting my parents and pondering what to do. I'd already engaged in the various activities I generally engage in whilst visting them. I had thrown my arm out by playing fetch with the dog, gone for a stroll, watched TV, surfed the web, and admired my dad's impressive book collection.

So, I sucked in my breath and furrowed my eyebrows and gave a good genuine thought about what to do. When, out of the corner of my eye, I detected the local newspaper. Inside was a brochure announcing the weeks activities of the county fair. The county fair? I hadn’t made an appearance at the county fair since I was a teenager. I gave a jolly leap of excitement and made an enthusiastic declaration to my parents that I would like to attend the county fair. We exclaimed to one another what a terrific idea it was and that we would go the following day.

We drove to the fair and parked in a dusty parking lot and rode a cart, pulled by a green John Deer tractor and a man in a cowboy hat up to the fairgrounds. Once there, it all came back to me. The smell of fried food, hay, animal manure, and people enjoying themselves. As a teenager, I used to pass my summer getting ready for the fair and then I would spend every day at the fair, as I used to compete in horse showing contests whilst wearing showy and flashy clothing.

We meandered through the building that housed the craft contests—the flower arrangements, knitted items, home-sewn clothing, photos, baked goods, woodwork, and even place-settings. Not only that but it hosts vegetable growing contests and the miscellaneous booths with people promoting their political ideals, selling jewelry and newspaper ads. I was reminded of my sister, who once entered some boxes in the fair. She dug up some old boxes, covered them with wallpaper, called it art and declared them a form of self-expression (perhaps not). She managed to win “honorable mention,” with a note from the judge saying “Next time use glue, not tape.”

We enjoyed a honky-tonk duo singing country songs about strong cowboy coffee in tincups and wrangling wild farm animals (such as the welsh pony). It made me want to give up this city life, move out to the range and spend the days taming wild mustangs, wearing cool belt buckles, and speaking bad English (Such as "He done diddly done me wrong")

We walked through all the barns housing farm animals sponsored by kids participating in FFA (Future Farmers of America) and 4H (4 H’s—hands, health, heart and head). Kids are expected to keep the animal pens neat, show them in contests, wash the animals and feed them too. At the end of the fair, the kids will auction their animals off and earn some money. We bumped into some people (who my dad knew) and they introduced us to their 11-year-old daughter. She showed us her animal—a massive steer weighing about 1200 pounds. I was quite impressed with this gangly girly girl who managed this monstrousity of an animal

Some kid allowed us to pet his duck and say endearing things to it like "ducky duck! A boo!" A very charitable thing to do indeed.

My favorite part of the animal exhibition at the fair is, of course, the horses. They come in all shapes, sizes, colors, and personality. What I like about them is their multiple psychological conditions: some spook out of paranoia, others chew on their stall because of depression, some bite because of anger issues and many just feel self conscious that they have multiple embarassing noises coming out of their bodies simultaneously. Yes, they are the most interesting.

When at the fair, one must eat accordingly. I decided I would have the unhealthiest thing I could for lunch: a corndog. As I was eating my corndog, some kids (who were sitting near us at a different table eating hamburgers) were enlightening us about all the animals in the petting zoo: goats, a miniature pony, pigs, ducks, little cows and more.

There is just too much to see at the county fair: the hypnotists, the cutest baby contest, the pig-racing contest, the human cannonball, carnival rides, the magicians, the has been aging rockstars (suck as Village People) and lumberjack contests (men racing up trees and taking their chainsaws and cutting off half the tree--a must see for anyone who is anyone).

After an exhausting day walking around the fairgrounds looking at animals, bean-growing contests, eating snow cones and smelling the smell of animals, I asked myself why I happen to like the annual county fair.

This is why:
a) it's about the most American activity I can think of
b) it's a celebration of rural life
c) it gives kids a healthy hobby and responsibility
d) it enhances community

Rural life is an aspect of American life that does not often get recognition, but once a year, the annual county fair will give it the recognition it deserves. So remember to spend that $10 and go and support your county fair.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Solution to Humdrumery

I finally drummed up the energy to move my place of residence. Now I can be one of those hipsters who tend to always be moving their place of residence on the weekend. Just ask any hipster what they got up to on the weekend and they will tell you that they moved. Okay, maybe not a hipster, but I am now a resident of downtown Portland and I live very close to the university--it's quite convenient. This move has had some implications which might make some feel relieved and others dubious.

The primary implication is that I have become confoundingly lazy. I live in a diminutive world. A world from home to the university (five blocks away) and then maybe two blocks farther, to the supermarket. Everywhere else is just too far. My world has a frighteningly small radius.

It's very safe and sheltered. And maybe I shouldn't leave my tiny world 'cuz ya know, I might see something new. Eek! That my jar me or I might become surprised. Who knows what might happen. So, it's best that I live in my minute world.

But after all this safe and comfortable living, I'm a bit bored. I'm sick of walking by the same bum everyday. I'm sick of seeing the same sites. However, the solution to this quandry is quite simple. Just mix it up a bit and get out.

So, if you're finding unfulfilled with a vapid life, if you're tired of walking by the same bum everyday, or the same statue, then mix it up a bit--make it fresh and au courant. Take a new route to work, for example. If you're tired of your usual restaurant, go to a new restaurant. Sick of going to the mall? Shop at a flea market or a bazaar. Do you always wear "Party Pink" lipstick? Give "Shameless Crimson" a go. Had it with your job? Get a new one (okay, um, I think I'm getting a bit eager here, I'll stop) and full stop.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

On Matters of Unfashionable Raiment

Last night I was chatting with my sister on the phone. Somehow we stumbled upon the topic of childhood and a particular story came to mind that I thought I might share. And yes, there is a moral to this particular story.

One day, when I was in kindergarten, I was barreling at an alarmingly fast pace of about 70 mph towards the school from the school bus. Whilst carelessly cantering, on a typically rainy Astoria day, I managed to slip and I plummeted into what was unquestionably mud. I was unsure as to what to do next, so I thought crying would be fitting for the ocassion. I sat in the mud whimpering whilst all my schoolmates ignored me and sauntered into the school. After awhile, I mustered up the guts to arise from the mud and I toddled into the school.

When I crossed the threshold into the building, the school teacher looked at me and my muddy jeans and said in shock, "What's happened to you?"
"I I f-fell down in t-th-the m-mu-mud," I managed to sputter out through tears. I had no idea what to do. What does a five year old do when they've found themselves wearing muddy jeans? Life was just so overwhelming.

She took me by the hand and brought me upstairs to a room stuffed with old clothes. Perhaps I was in the lost and found. Puffy turquoise coats, old Nike high-tops, and stirrup pants. Remember the 90's? 'This is going to be fun', I thought happily to myself—new clothes! Little did I know, I was in for a bit of a rude awakening.

Well, most of the clothing up there was meant for 2nd through 5th graders and I was only a kindergartner. The teacher scrounged up some jeans for me to robe myself in. Hot-pink acid-wash jeans two sizes too big for me. "There you go now. Much better!" she probably triumphantly said.

I stood there frozen with traumatization. Those jeans were traumatizing. As if my little-falling-down-in-the-mud-accident hadn’t left me in a an uneasy twitter. This was just too much. But, there was nothing else available and I couldn’t walk around with any pants on, now could I? These trousers were my only option.

I have to admit, I distinctly remember feeling quite self-conscious in these hot pink acid wash jeans. Or perhaps, they were more of a crushed-strawberry pink pair of acid-wash jeans. Yes, that's it—crushed-strawberry.

I entered my kindergarten classroom about twenty minutes late. Oh gosh, all my little friends had seen me fallen down in the mud crying—how embarrassing. And I'm late and everyone is going to notice me because I'm late. And to top it all off, here I am in these hideous pants.

I joined my comrades on the floor to say the ABC's, recite the pledge of allegiance and count to twenty.
"Hey, ya get some new jeans?" Someone asked me.
"Wow, cool pants," another girl said.
"Um yeah", "Uh, thanks," I blubbered sheepishly, with a quivering lip, in response. This was going to be yet another challenging day in kindergarten.

For the rest of the day, I felt out of place and self-conscious. But how was I going to explain to my parents what happened to my original jeans and why I was wearing these ludicrous crushed-strawberry acid-wash jeans?

When the bus dropped me off at home and I sulked my way up the grass to my house, I came into the house and just stood behind the chair, not really doing anything—just ya know, standing.

That was my tactic. If I just stand there, maybe they won't notice and eventually, I can make good an escape and put on some other jeans. Then I'll bury these pink jeans deep in the earth. No one will ever know.

"I don't know why she's just standing there," my mom said.
"Hey, why don't you come out from behind there?" my dad probably said.

The moment of truth had arrived.

So, I stepped out from behind the chair and revealed myself. There I stood, swimming in my big huge crushed-strawberry acid-wash jeans, dreading the prospect of explaining myself.

And then I warily told them my super embarrassing morning mishap. I explained the jeans, being late for class, crying and the unpleasant tumble I experienced. And my parents raised their eyebrows in amusement as if the whole matter was comical.

Well, I certainly didn't find it comical at all. That day was one of the more objectionable days of my life.

So, the moral? Life is hard when you're five. Little incidents can really make for less than pleasant day.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

A Bad Choice

Yesterday, I made another bad choice in a series of bad choices.

Because I have been so busy for the past...oh three years, I have seldom made it to the grocery store. So, in my typical muzzy morning state, I searched through the cupboards for some breakfast. But, they were empty with the exception of some uncooked pasta, brown rice and quinoa.

'Alright, option two,' I thought to myself. I opened to the refrigerator to scrounge up something edible. Hmm, some maple syrup, super salty green olives, raw onions, and an array of salad dressings. Well, no luck there either. Oooh, wait, what was that. Ah ha! I spied some coffee creamer which was set to expire tomorrow. "I know what I'll do," I excitedly thought to myself, "I'll have coffee for breakfast on an empty stomach. What a brilliant idea; yeah!"

And so, I proceeded to make myself a giant pot of coffee. I poured it into a cup and away I went.

After having gotten about four hours of sleep the night before (due to too much excitement or just perhaps general restlessness) I was already in a funk. So, all day, I felt horrible. It felt like there was some sort of black hole in my stomach. My eyes did not want to stay open and my mind was foggy. Luckily, I managed to escape from one of my classes an hour early because I felt funky.

What's the point of this exposition? I just want to teach you something so that you don't make the same mistake/bad choice that I did. Please, don't drink coffee on an empty stomach after having gotten very little sleep. Just don't do it.

Ooh but on a positive note, I was inspired to go grocery food shopping—a habit I highly recommend one starts.

A Distraction Worth Mentioning

I have to warn you, this shall be a very strange post. Only meant for only the most adventurous of blog-readers.

So, this is the scoop.

I made a bad choice this morning as I was getting dressed; I chose tight jeans, a cardigan and a light scarf. Consequently, I was overdressed on this muggy Wednesday. So, I was quite relived to enter an air-conditioned street car to take me to the university where I planned to twitter away my time.

I sat down by the window and hoisted my heavy book bag onto my lap. I chose not to read my Spanish newspaper. Perhaps the weather had sapped away all my mental energy. So instead, I averted my sun-glasses eyes out the window to entertain myself. But then, I become quite distracted from this activity.

Sitting directly in front of me was a young man with incredibly nice hair. His head was only one foot away from me. I wondered what kind of shampoo he used; did he "rinse and reuse" to get such nice hair? The bottle always says "rinse and reuse for best results." I never do that, but now I've been inspired to follow the directions. Suddenly, I had a very strange urge--to run my fingers through his hair and give his head a nice scratch.

And then it hit me. What a bazaar thing to want to do. I mean really! Pull yourself together, girl! Run my fingers through a complete stranger’s hair on public transportation! What if a stranger did that to me? How violating!

Ahh, perhaps I should have given into this peculiar compulsion. Maybe he would have appreciated it. Or perhaps he would have thought I was someone who was very very abnormal.

One can only surmise…

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Exceptional Photo

I enjoy superior photography (although, I cannot claim that I have any talent in that arena whatsoever). Sometimes I come across a photo that just really strikes a chord within me. I stole this picture from the BBC website. I thought it was such a wonderful picture that I just couldn't keep it to myself.

The Caption: Julia Greenwell-Green: "This is my daughter shaking her hair about as she had been high with energy after supping several spoons of syrup which she was having with her breakfast of pancakes in the morning."

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

A Water Bottle Manifesto

We Portlanders know the importance one's water bottle has on one's image. If we carry around re-used Snapple bottles, what would people think? They would think we're the recycling and reusing types bent on conservation. And, we would be quite content with such a characterization. Water bottles are yet another way which set us apart as individuals.

I remember my first official water bottle. I happily forked out $10 back in 2002 for a plastic Nalgene water bottle with the Tullys Coffee logo on it. I toted this 18 ounce water bottle around my high school and regularly filled it up with tap water. I felt quite cool. As I looked around my classroom, my desk was one of the few adorned with a giant Nalgene bottle. Indeed, I felt ahead of the game. But soon, everyone else started buying these over-priced water bottles. And then, I became like everyone else. Just another person with a Nalgene water bottle. Ho hum.

So, whilst we hydrate ourselves, we also want to celebrate our individuality with out water bottles. Hence, stickers have come into play. Some people slap a sticker of their favorite bands logo on their water bottle. Others display political slogans. But in any case, we make an attempt to spice up our water bottles and make them uniquely our own.

Although Nalgene water bottles were nothing but a fleeting fad, water bottles are still a popular accessory. But they have morphed in style, shape, color and now material.

To keep up with the ever-changing times, I have purchased a stainless-steel water bottle. With a flowery design set against the royal blue stainless steel, it truly is a beauty. However, once again, I have noticed that I am not the only one with the bright idea to have a stainless steel water bottle; everyone else has one too. So, I might make mine more distinct by ornamenting it.

Perhaps I will utilize that sticker I was given that says, "I only drink tap water." But then again, everyone else might start to do that also. Sigh.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

I Never Met a Chocolate I Didn't Like

I reach for the chocolate the way Sherlock Holmes reached for the opium.

Why, just the other day as I was doing my shopping at the very prestigious Winco I came upon some Lindt chocolate truffles. “I’ll take 16, thank you,” I said to myself as I generously shoveled them into a plastic bag and foamed with excitement at the prospect of enjoying them. Well of course, on the short drive home, I just couldn’t resist and I promptly popped three of them into my mouth. They were the first victims to my irrepressible craving—they never even had a chance to make it to the cupboard.

I’m not sure what exactly makes chocolate so appetizing. All that Cacao mixed with sugar and then just a touch of milk makes ones taste buds positively brimming. Additionally, there are so many types to pick from. Chocolate mixed with…English toffee, creamy mint, peanut butter, almonds, marzipan and even chilies. Just when one gets sick of one flavor, well there's a new flavor on the market.

But lately my chocolate vice has been worse than normal. I find that it gives me energy to plow through some boring text for say a Social Research class. I’ve been keeping it in my (very trendy) messenger bag and allowing myself several morsels at around one in the afternoon. And lately, I’ve even been fooling myself into thinking that it’s healthy.

“Oh, but you need the antioxidants to fight off all those free radicals in your system. Plus, it's really a fruit, after all, it grows on a tree. So, it must be nutritious. Why, it's practically a vitamin."

This is a very helpful tip for one’s justification on the consuming of chocolate.

The Novelty of Cutlery

Cutlery, Silverware, Farberware…Call it what you want, but there is no mistaking that it’s a fabulous invention.

Cutlery: It may seem trite, but it’s nothing to take for granted. Some people eat with their fingers. Now this is a very efficient and practical way to eat. However, one has to be careful to keep one of their hands clean, so they always have a nice sanitary hand for the task of eating. That’s the downside.

And then animals just use their mouth and tongue for the action of eating. This method is very cheap and it eliminates all costs of goods expenses. However, side affects for humans include chronic sloppiness, social awkwardness and general weirdness. So please, consider the cons.

But, let’ explore the method of using cutlery for our duty of eating. I get the privilege of using a fork and knife (and chopsticks if I am feeling especially adventurous). It’s quite nice not to have to spread cream cheese by means of my finger. Not only that, but were I to eat a steak, I would definitely utilize a fork and knife, it’s much more pleasing than the other option—picking up the steak the way one does a sandwich, and sinking my teeth into it. That would be weird— ‘tis not how I was reared!

And, that is why I am thankful for cutlery. Just imagine what means we would have to employ if we did not have it.

So, to Mr. I-invented-the-fork, I humbly say “thank you.”

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Snug as a Bug in a Coffee Mug

I like, I mean, love coffee. So, several years ago (five to be exact), I bought this totally awesome coffee mug.

It had a map of the world and on each continent it said the word “coffee” in the local language. Now, this was my favorite mug. I could muse at how people in Indonesia, or Latvia might pronounce coffee. “Kopi,” or “kafija” I would say to myself on any quiet morning. This mug made me feel smug and snug.

When I wanted some coffee (or tea) I would reach for this particular mug in the cupboard. I liked the smooth sandy feel of the ceramic as my lips touched the rim to partake of that sweet nectar. It was an ideal size and it fit in my hand so nicely. This mug and I were great friends. I must have employed this mug nearly every day for the task of being my portal in which I would enjoy coffee from.

The other day, in my usual groggy-morning-mood, I opened the cupboard, yawned and reached for my favorite mug. There it was on the top shelf. I took it down and as I was putting the kettle on, somehow it escaped my grip. Gravity pulled it down to the floor and it exploded in a crash. All that remained were the bits and pieces of a once loved mug. And ya know what? I don’t even care. It’s just a stupid mug. That’s why.

It kind of made me realize the silly value we put on our material goods. Sure, they’re cool and we like them, but they’re nugatory. (Aha! An opportunity to use the word “nugatory”).

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Camels are Pets Too

Camels are the coolest animals.
• They can survive on thorns and dry grasses.
• They can drink 95 liters of water in ten minutes.
• They have this uncanny memory for where desert water holes are.
• They store fat in their humps as a reserve against scarcity.
• They don’t really go to the bathroom that often, or lose water through sweat.

All of this enables them to plod across vast deserts without food or water for days on end.

So, when you’re watching a movie about Arabia and you see someone walking across the desert at dusk with their robes blowing in the sandy wind and you’re thinking “Wow that Bedouin is pretty neat,”or “Nomadic people are so exotic. Neato burrito!” Well, they couldn’t be nomadic or exotic without their pet camel.

What I am trying to teach you all is this: don’t take camels for granted!

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

The Treatment of a Footgear Addict

There are some people (of whom you have probably become acquainted with, they're everywhere) who are absolute shoe fanatics. They're advanced connoisseurs of these things. Now, I don't market myself as a shoe connoisseur although I would very much like to be. I do have a small well-worn, well-loved and eclectic congregation of shoes. But, I'm more of s shoe addict than a connoisseur. I've been addicted to one particular pair of shoes for a whopping five years.

I was quietly observing my shoe collection. I noticed my favorite pair of shoes. If you've ever met me, you might know them. They're patent leather red clogs. I like rare things, such as patent-leather-red-clogs (and tabby cats too). What's so great about them, well, they're patent-leather-red. Do you have a pair of patent leather red shoes? Didn't think so... And, get this: they do not require lace-tying or doing up Velcro. All one is required to do is slip their feet into them without much effort at all. I know I'm no big fan of effort, but perhaps there are people out there thrive on effort. If you're like me, I would recommend clogs as proper footwear.

But, as I was looking at these much loved shoes, I observed two tiny slits in the toes. Yes, each shoe is now complete with a hole in the toe. Very classy, indeed. Although, not entirely unexpected, given them and I have been dear dear friends for five years now.

So, through alligator tears and much wailing, I made the difficult decision. The shoes must go! Away with them. I proceeded to put them in the corner of my closet with some other clothing that has been eliminated from my wardrobe. I had to tell myself "Girl, stop dressing like a bum!"

Well, although I would very much not like to look like some sort of street dweller, I gave into temptation. I dug to that very dark corner in my closet and slipped my feet into my old friends. And, it hurt so good.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

You! In New York.

Upon impulse and tanking airlines, my friend and I decided to head off to the Big Apple for a weekend. Now, this is something I don’t do. Oh yes, I am spontaneous (or, at least I try to be). It’s just a matter of finances that ceases me from being even more spontaneous. But, on this occasion, we tossed aside other obligations and decided to go for the apple. And for the apple we went!

New York is an overwhelming, bustling metropolis complete with everything you could ever possibly dream of. Do you want Bantu cuisine? New York has it. Have you always desired to see street preachers, in white suits with big blow-dried blonde hair? Who hasn’t? Well, you can see them in New York. Ever wanted to try one of those New York hotdogs? I know I have. And now, I did.

Yes, we had hoot-nanny, if you’ll pardon my unrefined west coast slang. Up the Empire State Building we went to feast our eyes upon the sprawling concrete jungle below. Then over to Rockefeller Center to see what there is to see. We sashayed along Fifth Avenue, rubbing shoulders with the ultra rich. Down to the smelly subway to mingle amongst the working class. Over to Little Italy to get abysmal service at a mafia run restaurant. Across the ancient Brooklyn Bridge to view Manhattan from a new perspective. To Wall Street to witness the nucleus of the financial crisis. We tootled our way around Central Park. A trip to New York is simply incomplete without a proper mosey up and down and through the nooks and crannies of Times Square. And one can’t go to New York without seeing a show. We saw Marry Poppins, but I don’t think she saw us; we were sitting way in the back, amongst the commoners.

Yes, it was a truly exciting weekend, complete with little sleep. New York is worth a visit if you’ve a free weekend. You can plan on non-stop excitement, hilarity, fabulous food, stylish people (that’s you, of course) and a handy Starbucks anywhere you look.

If I can do it, well, you can too.