November 10, 2015
When my grandnephew was a baby and did his best sleeping in a moving car, Newcastle Niece and I took a local driving trip to view all the new home developments. We called it “The Construction Tour.” Two years later, Jack can sleep without the rocking of a vehicle, but growth is still a huge topic of conversation. No less than The New York Times recently wondered if Seattle could keep its soul while it morphed into a Pacific Rim power, and we’re sitting right at the edge of it. Hardly a day passes that I don’t drive around a Newcastle corner and say out loud, “What the hell? When did that happen?” Previously, crane-spotting was relegated to the occasional Great Blue Heron at Lake Boren, but now there’s a crane where cows grazed and one where the Brick Plant bricked, while the new middle school currently looks like a stage backdrop for a Taylor Swift concert.
Given the confluence of current events, I understand that constant change and suburban density are going to be a part of our lives whether we like it or not. It’s inevitable. But rather than condemning it, consider the flip side.
September 30, 2015
NEW — 2:41 p.m. Sept. 30, 2015
Beginning in October, microchips will be embedded in our credit cards like they are in the rest of the known universe, and instead of swiping them, we will be inserting them into a slot and pulling them back out. In the near future, you still may need to sign your name, but at some point in time that will no longer be necessary.
Soon, in fact, your very presence during checkout will be considered an outdated redundancy, and you’ll be vouching for payment via hologram, wherein you will mentally assure the clerk that you’re good for whatever you’ve purchased and will neurotransmit the money owed directly to the bank. And when the drone drops off whatever you’ve bought and flies away, you’ll also be able to use that same neurotransmitting ability to make it explode into a million tiny pieces. I’m really looking forward to that.
September 4, 2015
NEW — 10 a.m. Sept. 4, 2015
I mentioned in a recent column that we would be road touring the vast and empty spaces of southeastern Oregon and jumping the borders between Washington and Idaho before heading home. It was a great trip. The vistas were endless, and road signs that declared “No service for the next 45 miles” were abundant. It was paradise.
But here’s what was not paradise: the fact that we’d planned the trip as a series of one-night stands. It seemed like a great idea when we looked at the map, but in practice, we realized that the Wake Up/Pack Up/Leave model was not for us. From the start, it was clear that this was going to be a trip to the Land of the Lost. Witness:
August 7, 2015
NEW — 10 a.m. Aug. 7, 2015
On July 8, I turned 65. I made my usual trip to the Y and headed to an elliptical machine, deciding to commemorate the first time that I put my new age into the program by taking a picture of it. I punched it in and started moving, but looking through the phone viewfinder, I realized that I was bouncing up and down too much, so I stopped. By the time I focused and clicked, the message had changed from a benign “65” to a blinking and insistent “Pedal Faster!” in red capital letters. An excellent mantra! I think I’ll have a T-shirt made.
July 2, 2015
Most of our friends are world travelers, people who fill up their passports and have to get fresh ones before their expiration date, folks with high-six-figure frequent flier miles who go to Singapore for a weekend of shopping and lead tours to Italy, Argentina and South Africa to enjoy food and wine. These friends have family abroad, think nothing of flying over the pole and visit Kenyan orphanages after starting nonprofits to benefit them.
On the other hand, The Sainted One and I are quite excited about our summer vacation. We’ll be celebrating our 30th anniversary and my 65th birthday with a road trip through Eastern Oregon and Washington, with stops at the Painted Hills, John Day Fossil Beds and a microbrewery festival in La Grande. We’ll spend two nights in Joseph and our last night in Wenatchee. As our virgin passports gather dust at home, we’ll be making dust of our own, following thin dotted lines on maps in search of something interesting, visiting small town bars and chatting with the regulars, searching for geocaches, and because we’re Vacation Book Bingers, plowing through two or three books apiece. Read more
June 4, 2015
Three weeks ago, a cougar was spotted in Kennydale. Not long after that, a bear was seen strolling up our very own street. I long ago accepted the wild kingdom that is our backyard and greenbelt: Raccoons who roll up our grass like old carpeting while looking for grubs, rabbits whose warren holes are just large enough to be a tad unnerving when I walk by them, snakes on the front stoop, bobcats on the fence, skinks in the garage, frogs in the family room, chipmunks in our rockeries, bear scat on the path. Live and let live, I say.
But this year … oh, deer.
If you live in Newcastle, I know you’ve had the deer experience. You learn to adapt. I only grow Hosta and Huechera in pots on the deck and fully expect fresh tulips to be beheaded before sunset. I finally gave up and pulled out a plant that had served as their salad bar for so many years that I could no longer ID it. California Lilac? Yum! Lemon Cypress Tree? Our compliments to the chef! I always ask the helpful garden folks at Newcastle Fruit & Produce if plants are deer-resistant before I buy them, but lately they just laugh. I understand why. If our local deer are hungry enough, there’s nothing they won’t eat. Except, unfortunately, Bishop’s Weed. Read more
April 30, 2015
It’s time for a new picture.
I’ve had newspaper columns for nearly 15 years, and I’ve always promised myself that I would try to keep the picture accompanying it fairly current. This the result of having won a charity auction get-together with a columnist and being surprised by the lined face of the person I saw at lunch versus the smooth face that I saw in the paper at breakfast.
April 2, 2015
I’m in my mid-60s and am descending the gradual hill that leads into Crotchety Valley, where all sorts of negative thoughts spontaneously pop into my brain, things like “Why do it this way? It’s stupid!” and “When did THIS change? I don’t like it!” and “I didn’t even know that hair could grow there!” I’m well-known to embrace all manner of colorful expletives, but because this is a family newspaper I’ll refer to these collective thoughts as the “What the Heck?” — or WTH? — Files.
Lately I find myself having more and more of these WTH? moments, many of them caused by a world far too informed, too digitalized, too connected and overmarketed, where data is king and content his queen, and bandwidth must be filled. Thus:
> WTH? A weather app on my phone informed me:
Feels like: 75
> WTH? I went shopping, found shoes that I liked, and went to the checkout.
Clerk: (Not making eye contact, tapping at a screen.) “Do you know your rewards number?”
Clerk: “Can I have your rewards card?”
Me: “I don’t have one.”
Clerk: (Frowning, as if this news has made my purchase incredibly complex, perhaps even impossible.) “Hmm. Ooo-kaaaay then. Give me your phone number and email address.” Read more
February 6, 2015
When the weather is miserable here we head to warmer climes, specifically the Palm Springs area.
Although neither of us are shoppers, when we stay in Rancho Mirage with my sister (who is a shopper) we visit the College of the Desert Street Fair, which is a walk away. It’s really not a street fair at all. It’s a “parking lot” fair, and there must be a hundred booths where you can buy clothing, golf accessories, hats, visors, art, jewelry, specialty foods, sunglasses and obviously, given the number of them that you see there, male senior citizens wearing high-waisted shorts.
While visiting about five years ago, The Sainted One bought a short yellow jacket with navy trim, unremarkable in all respects except for the ability to unzip the sleeves and create a vest, something that we would forget unless we picked it up at a certain angle when washing it, whereupon we would declare, surprised once again, “Hey! You can take the sleeves off this thing!” and then would promptly forget. He adored it, wore it to death, wore it until the wrists frayed, the pockets became sieves and the stand-up collar wilted. Read more
October 3, 2014
This is a sad time of year for The Sainted One, and it’s not because he’s turning 75. He’s melancholy because he will no longer be wearing his beloved cargo shorts. Read more