Nobody Cares

I’m writing this post while kicking back in a vintage travel trailer on the Washington coast. It’s the same trailer Tara and I booked in 2014, when we came out to Long Beach on my birthday weekend for the Astoria Crab, Seafood & Wine Festival. Deja vu, ’cause we are here again for the same festival on the same weekend. This is also the place I holed up back in 2016 to kick off NaNoWriMo. What can I say? We love the Sou’wester! And the crab fest, apparently. I’ve been coming here, on and off, for the past 20 years –  five or six times total – so this is one of those bittersweet occasions because it’s our last hurrah. We haven’t even hit the fest yet, and we’re already having a blast!

My birthday began on a less than auspicious note with the following text from my mom.

nobody cares

Ha! I know she didn’t mean that. Tara and I (and about 50 other people on social media) got a good laugh over it.

I took the day off (Friday) and headed out to the Columbia Gorge for what has become a tradition – a birthday hike. I’d always wanted to check out Dog Mountain, one of the most popular hikes on the Washington side of the river; it’s known for brilliant wildflower displays in spring. I’m sure they were awesome, but there wasn’t much of a view because of the low clouds that obscured the peak.

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Let’s talk about that wind, though. Above the tree line, there was a steady wind blowing at what I estimated to be 60-70 mph. No exaggeration. It was so strong it literally knocked me off my feet at one point. Between the dense cloud cover, hurricane-force winds, and bitter cold, it wasn’t a particularly rewarding hike. I definitely consider it the toughest one I’ve ever done, thanks to a 2800′ elevation gain over eight grueling roundtrip miles. Two days later, my knees and quads are still aching. But at least I proved to myself that, despite being another year older, I can still complete a difficult-rated hike. I doubt I would do this one again, though. Good thing we’re moving – there aren’t any Black Hills hikes nearly so steep!

Saturday we set out for Long Beach, making the trip via Highway 4 on the Washington side of the river. We’d never gone that way before, but I’m glad we decided to try a new route – it was quite scenic. We made a stop in Gray’s River to check out the last covered bridge in Washington state, and decided to check out a cute little Irish pub in town for a cocktail and a bite to eat. Looks nice from the outside, right?

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Little did we know of the dark secrets contained within its walls. Turned out to be one of the most bizarre experiences of our lives, from the overly earnest proprietors who slid a handwritten, food-splattered list of specials under our noses to the cornflakes on Tara’s cheeseburger. Most disturbing of all, though? The extensive display of Nazi memorabilia scattered throughout the bar.

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You know that movie The Hills Have Eyes? Let’s just say we felt fortunate to walk out of that place alive.

We checked into the Sou’wester around 4:00 and, once we got settled in, headed across the street to Rod’s Lamplighter, another dive bar (this one free of any Third Reich associations, thankfully). We killed a good four hours there drinking, playing pool, and filling up the jukebox with good music. Tara looked at me askance when the Bee Gees and ABBA started playing, but by then it was late in the evening and I was beyond caring. Came back to our trailer, heated up some pizza from the night before, and watched Sixteen Candles while rain began falling on the roof. It was pretty much perfect! A little too perfect perhaps, because I basically passed out.

Time to get ready for the Crab Fest!

Countdown: 54 Days

 

 

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Fox Paw’s Coming Home

When we lived in South Dakota in the ’80s, my parents bought an ice scraper. Not just any ol’ ice scraper, mind you; this one was special. It was called the Fox Paw and came wrapped in faux fur, so your hand would stay warm when scraping ice from the car’s windshield. Pretty ingenious, actually.

Sunday they had me over for an early birthday celebration since they will be traveling on the actual day. The grilled teriyaki chicken and potato salad were delicious and the carrot cake divine, but the real joy came when it was time to open gifts. They handed me a wrapped package and said, “It’s time to pass this on now.” I had no clue what that might possibly mean, so I tore open the package and found…

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Wait. Could it really be?!

It was!!

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The Fox Paw is coming home!

Scoff if you will, but know this: when it’s ten degrees below zero and snowing like mad, my hand is going to be nice and toasty while I clear my windshield. (Actually, when it’s ten degrees below zero and snowing like mad, my whole body is going to be nice and toasty because if you think I’m venturing outside in that shit, you’re crazy. But, if I did, then yeah. My hand would be nice and toasty.)

There’s a beautiful symmetry to something coming full circle, don’t you think?

They also got me a gift card to Murphy’s Pub & Grill in downtown Rapid City. We stopped in for dinner and cocktails after our whirlwind Saturday there last October and loved the place. So the gift card is greatly appreciated and sure to get used. After all, they’ve got fried pickles there.


This past Saturday, we met up with my coworker Candace and her husband, Devon, for a day of cider tasting in Portland. And when I say “day” I do mean that in the all-day sense, as we ended up hitting three cider houses and a distillery over the span of seven hours. It was a lot of fun, though. And something we’d talked about doing for a long time.

The rest of the weekend was spent packing. I’m trying to strike a balance between getting as much stuff as possible boxed up early so there isn’t a last-minute scramble while still trying to make the apartment feel homey, but with three empty bookshelves and nothing but nails on the walls where photos and artwork used to be, it’s inevitably starting to look a bit barren now. On the plus side, since Audrey’s bedroom is empty, we are able to use that as a staging area for all our boxes. When we were preparing to move from the townhouse four years ago, we were surrounded by piles of boxes the last two months we were there. Out of sight is out of mind; at least now it just looks like we’ve embraced an extremely minimalist lifestyle.

Also, we’ve decided on going the U-Haul route as it’s the most economical way to move. Because of that, we’ve altered our plans slightly and will now be leaving one day earlier than originally scheduled – June 22 versus the 23rd. This is a significant date for reasons I’ll get into another time (hint: more symmetry). The bottom line is, our countdown has jumped ahead a day, which means every other post on the blog is now technically inaccurate. My inner perfectionist wants to go back and fix all those numbers, but I’m going to resist the urge. The date was never truly set in stone anyway.

Countdown: 59 Days

 

A Love Sleeps Deep

I feel sorry for all the Midwest folks who are still waiting for spring as they dig out from a seemingly endless parade of snowstorms. You guys are my peeps (or will be in a couple of months), so I feel your pain.

However, I am not yet a Midwesterner, so I may feel your pain but I am certainly not experiencing it. Because spring is going nuts out here.

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I like fall the best, but spring is no slouch.


We had a moving company representative come by on Tuesday to give us an estimate. It was far higher than expected: $7,300, which is about 2.5 times more than we budgeted. I guess we vastly underestimated the cost of an interstate move. (Actually, that’s not true. In reality, we had no freakin’ clue how much it would cost. I think we just hoped it would be under $3,000.)

Considering we can rent a U-Haul and hire a couple of helpers to move our heavy stuff down three flights of stairs for roughly $1,800, we’re most likely going to go that route. It’s hard to argue with the economics of the situation, especially given that I’m the only one with a job locked up. We’d have to haul one of our vehicles on a trailer and the trip would take a bit longer because of physics (and that pesky Continental Divide that will surely slow a heavy truck down), but it’s do-able. We might have to leave a day earlier than planned in order to make up some of that time, because we’ve already got a week’s worth of lodging booked in Rapid City. Would I rather just hire somebody to do the dirty work? Of course. But I also really happen to like saving money.

Nothing is set in stone yet. We’re still weighing our options.

After the estimator left, we celebrated Audrey’s 18th birthday with my parents. BTW, she moved out last week, renting a room in a house with a coworker/friend. Kids grow up so fast!


Wednesday was our Moondoggies concert at Mississippi Studios. My favorite part of the evening occurred two hours before the show even began. Tara and I had arrived early and were seated by the window of Bar Bar, the adjoining bar and grill, enjoying cocktails and a burger and fries, when Kevin Murphy – their lead singer – walked by. He spotted us and waved. Then he came over, shook our hands, and chatted us up for a few minutes. I eat that shit up, not gonna lie. I love that he knows us (by name even) and doesn’t consider us stalkers, even though we’ve been front and center for eight Moondoggies shows over the past six years. Later he and the band signed a copy of their newest record for us, and even personalized it.

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The show was great, of course. Beforehand I realized that the very first time we went to Mississippi Studios was to see The Moondoggies, so it was only fitting that our last show there would also involve them. Unless something last minute comes up, that is, but we’re running out of time. And I’d kind of like to end it on that high note anyway.

The band played until 11:30 so it was a late night, and we had to go to work the next day, but in the end it was totally worth it.

It always is.

I’m not going to change my countdown app until we have solidified our moving plans, so we might have one day less than indicated, but for now…

Countdown: 64 Days

What’s Wrong with 69?!

69 days to go!!

Speaking of 69, about a month ago I decided to create a new gmail account because the one I’ve been using for years was getting a lot of spam. And I don’t mean the good kind that comes in a can! So I chose first name last name 69 at gmail dot com. Deb and Not A Palindrome at work were all, “No, don’t do that!” When I asked why not, they said, “69, Mark? Really?”

Now, I’m no dummy. I know full well there is a sexual connotation associated with the number 69. But I figured my coworkers were blowing things way out of proportion and over-exaggerating the negative response such an email address would receive. 69 is a perfectly respectable number and, conveniently, the year of my birth, so it made sense for me to use it. Throwing caution to the wind, I set it up and messaged all my contacts, asking them to update my information.

And then the emails started pouring in.

I fired up Ye Olde Internet and learned that Deb and NAP were correct. Using 69 in an email address is a no-no.

Don’t ever use the number 69 in your email address, even if that’s your birth or graduation year. Assume readers will think the worst.

Well, crap. Quit thinking the worst, ya perverts!

For the record, you should also never use 420 or 666. Who knew?!

I walked away from the experience pretty embarrassed after so many people had a good laugh at my expense. And also, I might add, feeling sorry for the number 69. What did it ever do to earn such a reputation, anyway? Other than look like…well…umm…

Never mind.

Anyway. 69 days until we move. One month ago was our STP concert and the next day our countdown dropped into double digits and I thought, holy shit, 99 days. It’s coming up fast. Well, folks: now it’s coming up really fast!

With this in mind, yesterday we started packing. We spent 3+ hours boxing up a whole bunch of stuff – mostly books, but also miscellaneous living room, bathroom, and kitchen items. On the surface it doesn’t look like we did all that much, but step into Audrey’s vacant bedroom now and there’s a pretty good pile of boxes there. It’s a process, one that we will devote a few hours every to weekend between now and late June. I’m glad for the early start. Breaking down the work into manageable little chunks like this makes it feel much less overwhelming.

By evening we were ready for a break, and embarked upon a date night. It’s been a while since we’ve had one of those. I wanted to treat Tara to a nice dinner to celebrate my impending remote employment opportunity, so we settled on a little French bistro in Portland called Verdigris. Dinner was good from start to finish: an asparagus soup amuse bouche with crumbled bleu cheese; sea salted dinner rolls; lobster bisque and scallops for her, a mushroom tarte and duck two ways for me. Plus a couple of pineapple and rosemary greyhound cocktails.

We drove to Powell’s Books next, and I got a little choked up when we walked through the doors. I love that place and have many fond memories there. I consider Powell’s the single best thing about Portland. We wandered around for close to an hour, which is barely enough time to scratch the surface, really. Inspired by “Hamilton,” I picked up a couple of books on the American Revolution. Ahh, Powell’s. I shall miss you dearly.

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After shopping for books, we drove across the river to Rimsky-Korsakoffeehouse for coffee and dessert. I’ve mentioned this place before; we took blogging friends from Texas there when they were visiting Portland in 2016, and have gone a few times on our own. It was definitely on our list of places to visit again before moving. Besides having a very clever name, it’s the very definition of “keep Portland weird” – dim lights, flickering candles, creepy piano music, tables that move on their own accord, and a bathroom that defies description. I had a slice of warm ginger cake and a cinnamon latte, Tara got the chocolate pot de creme and a cinnamon mocha. Both were superb. We got back home around 10:00 and declared it a perfect night.

Today won’t be nearly as exciting, but also, we aren’t packing. So there is that.

Countdown: 69 Days*

*quit snickering

Lipstick on a Pig

As far as Friday the 13ths go, this one is anything but unlucky. The Moondoggies’ new album, “A Love Sleeps Deep,” came out today. It’s been five years since their last record; that’s basically an eternity in the rock ‘n roll biz.

If you are unfamiliar with our history with the band, let’s just say much like sleeping love, it also runs deep. They are basically the soundtrack to our relationship, and against all odds, I’ve developed a friendship with their lead singer, Kevin. I am not name-dropping, by the way; hardly anybody knows who The Moondoggies are! If I were going to do that, I’d talk about the time I shook Bruce Springsteen’s hand, lol.

Seriously, though. The new record was on heavy rotation for me today. And it’s awesome. Harder and heavier than their last album, and more topical. These are good things. Kevin embodies all that I appreciate: he is an anti-Trump, feminist, socially conscious rocker who plays in a band because he loves music. He doesn’t care that his band isn’t very well known. (Having said that, you should check out the album. He might not care about fame, but I’d love it if more people “discovered” them!)moondoggies-alovesleepsdeep

We’re going to see The Moondoggies play a show at Mississippi Studios next week. It’s bittersweet; it’ll be our eighth (and final, at least in the immediate future) time seeing them live. We’re not quite stalkers, but close. Unless they happen to play in Rapid City on some future tour, of course. Doubtful, but I do plan to run that by Kevin after the show on Wednesday.

I can also see us planning a trip back here timed around a show of theirs someday. This isn’t a permanent goodbye, guys.


Leave it to me to be a medical anomaly once again.

On Monday, I had an appointment to get my eyes checked. As far as I can recall, this was the first time I’d ever had a vision exam. There was no overriding reason for me to have one this week – I’m sort of the black sheep of my family, the only one who does not wear glasses – other than the fact that I’m covered under Tara’s plan and figured I might as well take advantage of what amounts to a free exam before we move.

I walked in there wearing sunglasses and proceeded to stumble around, bumping into walls and such, while making a general commotion. The front office staff laughed and Tara, who had arrived before me and had no idea I was going to make a grand entrance by faking blindness, said, “See what I have to live with?”

I considered that a compliment.

Because I’d never had an eye exam before, I was caught off guard when they puffed air into my eyes. For the record, they did not warn me in advance. After I jumped a little, I told the assistant to assume I knew nothin’ about what was coming next. Because, well, I knew nothing about what was coming next. The assistant apologized and told me she should have told me what to expect.

No shit.

Anyway. She asked me next if I wanted dilation (no charge) or hi-res photos of my eyes instead ($20). I asked her to tell me more about this dilation thingy, and she rattled off a laundry list of not-pleasant-sounding side effects that included sensitivity to light, dizziness, and nausea, but promised these symptoms would “only last 4–6 hours.” That was a no-brainer for me. I told them I would happily fork over twenty bucks to avoid that nonsense.

So they took some crazy up-close pics of my eyes, which the doctor put up on his monitor. He pointed out my retina, optic nerve, etc. Trippy. Everything looked good, though.

This was followed by the good ol’ fashioned eye chart. At least I knew what was expected of me at that point. Afterwards, he broke the news to me.

“You’re an unusual case,” he said.

If I had a nickel for every time I’ve heard that…

Turns out I am nearsighted in my left eye and farsighted in my right. Together, my eyes compensate for each other. I personally like to think of myself as having self-correcting vision, but the doc didn’t see it that way.

“You probably haven’t noticed any problems with your vision,” he said. A true statement. But then he had me cover one eye, followed by the other, and read more lines from the chart while trying out various prescription strengths on me. I couldn’t help but admit it: they made a difference.

So, the bottom line is this: he wrote me a prescription, but I don’t need glasses. At least not for regular, everyday use. He suggested a few different options: distance glasses for driving, especially at night; reading glasses; or progressive lenses to help with both. Now, I wasn’t falling for this sugarcoated “progressive lenses” crap and called him out on it.

“You mean bifocals?!” I shouted asked.

“We don’t usually refer to them in those terms,” he replied, stealing a page right out of the you-can-put-lipstick-on-a-pig-but-it’s-still-a-pig book.

Fine. WHATEVER.

Really though, I’m okay with this. I have nothing against glasses, per se. The doc said it’s unusual for somebody to have reached this advanced stage of life without needing any sort of corrective lenses, so I should just count my lucky stars that I’ve gone this far and been able to see fine.

Oh, also, the eye doc really needs to work on his bedside manner.

So Tara and I will take a trip to Costco at some point and I’ll go ahead and order up a pair. They will probably spend most of their time gathering dust in their case, but I’m willing to try them out in certain situations.


Work has been pretty busy, which means the days are chugging along quickly. We only have a little over two months before our move now!

Hardly a day goes by where a coworker doesn’t comment about this. One young lady happens to have grown up on a farm in a small South Dakota town nobody has ever heard of, and her family is still there. She came in yesterday and asked, “Did you see the weather forecast?!”

She was referring to the blizzard in Rapid City today. 🙂

I just smiled and said yes, I had. I check the weather there on a daily basis. Surprisingly, I still want to move there.

Even though a blizzard in mid-April is hard to fathom. It hasn’t exactly been summer-like out here – cool and wet – but that’s typical. Winter feels like it ended long ago. Meanwhile, in my soon-to-be hometown, the snow is piling up and the winds are howling. Good thing I like the white stuff, huh?

Countdown: 71 Days

Commence Downsizing

I think I might finally be coming down from my Hamilton high. Good thing, seeing as how it ended its Portland run on Sunday. Even if I had the inclination to see it again (I do) and money weren’t an issue (it is), I’d be SOL anyway. I do see it’ll be playing in Des Moines, Iowa, of all places, in July; or in road trip terms, a mere 8 hr. and 33 min. drive from Rapid City.

Hmm.

Tempting, but I suppose we’ll be busily settling in then.

Speaking of the move, I’d been meaning to mention that my employer officially approved my telecommuting proposal. Feels like a huge weight has been lifted! Tara and I were fully prepared to move regardless of our respective work situations, but I have to admit, keeping a job I love is highly preferable. And working from home will be so beneficial! I’m not worried about my productivity; if anything, I bet I’ll get more done without the constant interruptions and distractions that are a routine part of the whole open office concept. And if I start to crave human companionship, our favorite coffee shop (Harriet & Oak) is downtown, and they’ve got a wi-fi connection. I can see myself going out there to work for a few hours once or twice a week.

Plus, the place has an actual VW Bus inside.

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How can you go wrong with that?


The weekend was super productive – and we didn’t even go anywhere!

My big coup was selling our coffee table. We are downsizing prior to our move, a process that entails getting rid of a bunch of furniture, because

  • It’ll save us money, whether we rent a U-Haul or hire movers
  • Tara wants to upgrade some of the stuff, which predates her arrival

I’m not too attached to anything, so this works for me. The coffee table was nice; I’d scored it from a coworker years ago, who unbeknownst to her husband offered it to me for $35. She learned later that it had cost them $500 brand new a couple of years earlier. Oops. It took me about two weeks to sell it on Craigslist and I had to drop the price twice; I ended up letting it go on Saturday for – get this – $35. Which means I broke even a dozen years later. Not a bad deal, eh?

The guy who bought it looked to be all of 19 years old. He was probably moving out on his own for the first time. He was a super nice kid, very friendly and polite. I helped him carry it down three flights of stairs and loaded into his SUV.

As soon as he left, I posted an ad for our couch. I bought it new from Fred Meyer maybe seven years ago, and it’s in excellent condition. But Tara has never been a fan (she calls it “too soft,” as if such a thing is possible!) and we never use it; we spend all our time on the reclining loveseat, so it makes no sense to haul a couch 1,200 miles. I mean yes, at some point we will need a couch for the basement, assuming we have one, but we can always pick up something out there. I am motivated to sell and have it priced at $75, and it has already generated some interest. I just dread thinking about muscling this bad boy out the door and down those stairs, though. I plan to warn any potential buyers in advance to expect a little work getting it down to their car, and to bring help.

In any case, this is exciting. Things are feeling more and more real with each passing day. We’ve got a moving company coming out on Saturday for an estimate, and the following weekend, Audrey is moving out. Oh, yeah – guess I haven’t mentioned that either. She’ll be turning 18 and renting a room in a friend’s house. We tried to talk her into coming with us to South Dakota, but she’s not interested in that, at least not at the moment. Can’t imagine why – I just assumed all teenagers were super excited over the prospect of life on the high plains. Apparently not. In any case, we realized that we’ll be able to use her empty bedroom to store boxes in, which is great. I hate living amongst moving clutter. I imagine we’ll begin packing in earnest then.

Also over the weekend, I swung by the leasing office and picked up a NOTICE TO VACATE, which I will be filling out and turning in today. They require a 60-day minimum notice even if your lease is expiring, and since we are sitting at 75 days today, we figured we might as well hand it in. I was also given a sheet of paper listing our many pre-moving responsibilities, which seems excessive. Among other chores, we are expected to:

  • Clean all walls and ceilings
  • Wash all windows, window sills, tracks, and mini blinds
  • Clean out stove hood, exhaust fan, and filter
  • Replace drip pan beneath refrigerator
  • Wash all cabinets inside and out

Tara was freaking out a little, wondering how we were going to get all this done when our plan is to leave the morning after the moving truck is loaded and even talked about pushing our departure out so we could get busy cleaning. I told her that the list we were given is excessive; we’ve lived here for over four years, and there is a certain amount of wear and tear to be expected. In any case, Tara is a clean freak anyway, and keeps the place looking better than most. I just flat out refuse to spend more than a day tidying the apartment up, so we can either have the movers come a day earlier, or hire somebody to clean for us. Maybe both. It’s just not worth delaying leaving or knocking ourselves out; worst case scenario, they bill us and we deal with it later.

No wonder they say moving is so stressful!

Countdown: 75 Days

 

Never a Duel Moment

I’m on a Hamilton high today.

Last night Tara and I went to see the hit Broadway show, which is currently playing in Portland March 20 – April 8 as part of its national tour. I was lucky enough to snag a pair of tickets, probably because I was online the second they went on sale. Literally. We are fans, and this was a Christmas gift for Tara. One that I also benefitted from!

How was it, you ask? So awesome, I have no words. But I am not throwing away my shot at trying to describe it anyway.

I’ve listened to the soundtrack a million times, but seeing it in person was a completely different experience. The way the cast members interacted with one another brought a whole new dimension to the experience, adding a bit of comedic levity to the show. The original Broadway cast might have moved on to bigger and better things, but these guys were no slouches. Much to my surprise, King George stole the show. We were also super impressed with the actors portraying Hamilton, Eliza, Angelica, and Jefferson. It was all so entertaining, those three hours flew by. I can easily declare this the best show, on- or off-Broadway, that I have ever seen.hamilton

Granted, I’ve never actually seen a show on Broadway, but I’m sure I’d still feel the same after last night.

Getting there proved to be a little stressful. We started out with a nice dinner and pre-show cocktail at the Doug Fir Lounge, our favorite music venue in Portland. I’m pretty sure this was the first time we went there for a meal only, and it did not disappoint. It was rainy though, and rush hour, so we crept and crawled over there. I was nervous about the time, but we arrived a few minutes before 6:00 and were actually the first ones there for dinner, so service was quick. We were out of there in less than an hour.

Then, on the drive to Keller Auditorium, we ran into a few delays, most notably a pair of emergency vehicles that came screaming past us, lights flashing and sirens blaring, and screeched to a halt, nearly blocking the entrance to the Hawthorne Bridge. Which we had to cross because the show was on the opposite side of the river. The nerve, right?! I was ready to jump out of my car and challenge the paramedics to a duel if they didn’t get out of my way pronto because Alexander and Aaron were scheduled to go toe-to-toe in only 20 minutes, but fortunately I was able to inch my vehicle around them and made it across the bridge without incident. Good thing, as these duels rarely end well. Plus, I suppose there was probably somebody who needed medical assistance. Fine!

In any case, we got there with about 15 minutes to spare. Whew! I was unable to buy a $9.50 glass of wine because the line was too long, but on the plus side, I saved $9.50 on a glass of wine. I pay $7.99 a bottle at Trader Joe’s. I’m no economics major, but I’d guess the vendor is making a killing.

Soon enough the lights dimmed, the crowd roared, and the ten-dollar founding father without a father who got a lot farther by working a lot harder, by being a lot smarter, by being a self-starter, took to the stage with his ragtag volunteer army in need of a shower who were focused on defeating a global superpower, and the mad dash to get there was quickly forgotten.

Told you I was on a high.

In the end, we loved it! I’d go again tonight if I had tickets. Tara could not thank me enough for her gift; the evidence was right there in her happy tears.

The show ended at 10:30 and it took us a while to get out of the parking garage, but we were expecting this. I really wanted to stop at Voodoo Doughnut on the way back (this is on our farewell tour list and a midnight maple bacon bar would have totally hit the spot), but navigating Portland’s one-way streets after dark and trying to find a parking spot close enough to the doughnut shop but far away from sketchy people proved to be an impossible task. Oh, well. There’s still time.

But not much.

Countdown: 78 Days

Tentucky, Anyone?

I was reading an article the other day about states with the most appealing shapes. This piece declared Montana the winner. I’m a little suspicious though, because the article in question was printed in a Montana newspaper.

Conflict of interest much?

I have actually given a lot of thought to states’ shapes over the years. I used to work in an office with a giant map of the U.S. hanging on the wall, and my eye was often drawn to it. One day I was gazing extra intently and made a few observations about America. Our states may be united, but they are not equal – at least when it comes to their shapes and sizes.

Take Tennessee, for starters. The poor thing looks as if it’s been squashed beneath somebody’s foot, a fate deserving of a cockroach perhaps, but not the Volunteer State. It certainly doesn’t have the vivacious, full-bodied look of an Ohio. How ’bout they volunteer to annex Kentucky? That would be one pleasant-looking state. Tentucky, maybe?

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Introducing Tentucky.

Tennessee is far from the only state to have drawn the short end of the geographical straw. At least it isn’t Rhode Island, so tiny it looks like it was tacked onto Connecticut as an afterthought. Plus, hello: it isn’t even an island. Our forefathers were either naive, drunk, ironic, or sarcastic when they named it. Possibly some combination of the four. Delaware, with size issues of its own, is a relative giant in comparison.

At the opposite end of the spectrum, why is Texas so big? You could fit approximately two hundred Rhode Islands within its borders, and still have room for a Delaware or two. Do you think Oklahoma ever looks at its neighbor to the south with anything short of derision? Texas already spills over into a good portion of what should rightfully be the Sooner State, leaving it with a thin little sliver of a panhandle. By the way, panhandles are stupid. They’re like a consolation prize or something. I’d be insulted if I were stuck with a panhandle! Whoever cooked up that idea must have been begging for ridicule.

They say Idaho has a panhandle, but it looks more like a chimney to me. Unless you’re balancing your pan on its side, in which case all your food is going to spill onto the stove, leaving you with one hell of a mess to clean up. Like I said: stupid.

At least Texas has an interesting shape. Colorado and Wyoming are just squares. Yawn. New Mexico is spared their fate by a little hanging piece in the southwest corner, which by all rights should be a part of regular Mexico. Speaking of that, I’d be offended if my name were lifted from someplace else. Sorry, all you “New” states. That doesn’t disguise the fact that your name has been recycled.

Nevada’s a freakin’ trapezoid. How badass is that?

Wouldn’t a perfectly round state be fun? Imagine driving around it. You’d just keep your steering wheel turned to the left or right the whole trip!

Do you think Florida ever gets lonely, dangling out there all by itself in the bottom corner of the country? They always say California is in danger of breaking apart and floating away, but if you ask me, Florida’s the real trouble spot. Especially with the constant threat of hurricanes pounding at their door. If any state is going to break off, it’ll be the Sunshine State. Hey, if that happens, maybe they can swap names with Rhode Island.

What’s the deal with Michigan, anyway? It’s like somebody with Parkinson’s disease was tasked with drawing the outline. While sitting in the passenger seat of a car traveling down a bumpy road. And, it’s like two states in one – an upper and lower peninsula. Are they even connected? Hawaii, for that matter, consists of seven islands, yet it’s a single state. And one of those islands is named Hawaii, but the others are…not. Somebody was smoking Maui Wowie that day.

Finally, answer me this. There are two Dakotas and two Carolinas, both distinguished by North and South. Why, then, is there a West Virginia, but no East Virginia?

And you thought geography was no fun…

Countdown: 80 Days

From Chinook to Chislic

I came across an article in Portland Monthly last week on bierocks, a Midwestern staple that resembles a glorified Hot Pocket. Apparently I am not the only one who has never heard of them because Microsoft Word doesn’t recognize the word, underlining it in red and suggesting I really mean “bureaux.” I do not, MS Word, but thank you for assuming I am an idiot.

In any case, the article was an eye-opener. It made me realize that not only will the climate in South Dakota be quite different than what I’m used to; the food scene will be equally foreign.

I’d already learned of chislic when researching the area. No, MS Word, I do not mean “Chasidic.” Get over yourself already. Chislic is a dish of deep-fried cubed meat served on toothpicks. It’s like a shish kebab, but without the fancy skewer or vegetables. Chislic is a regional specialty of our soon-to-be home state.

chislic

Can’t wait to dive into a heaping plate o’ this!

I’m kind of excited to try some new foods I’d never heard of before. There is a wealth of Midwestern cuisine just waiting to be discovered. Thrillist came up with this list of the most popular dishes there (bierocks and chislic are both represented) and I have to admit, I’m genuinely curious.

It’s a good thing I like meat and cheese. Just sayin’.

Regional cuisines have always fascinated me. No childhood trip to New Jersey was complete without tomato pie or Tastykakes (butterscotch Krimpets, please), and in Hawaii, kalua pork, huli-huli chicken, and hot malasadas were staples. The PNW has its own go-to foods; salmon, huckleberries, hazelnuts, and the infamous geoduck. Trust me, if I can choke down something that phallic-looking, chislic will be a cakewalk.

I’m curious what some of my Midwestern readers’ favorite local dishes are, so if Jess Witkins and Bijoux care to weigh in, I’d love to hear their thoughts!

Actually, I want to hear about your favorite regional dishes, wherever you hail from. What is something you enjoy eating that the rest of the country might not be familiar with? Bonus points if Microsoft Word tries to correct you.

Countdown: 83 Days