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

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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.

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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

Not Montana

I was in the kitchen at work the other day and one of the RMs walked in for a cup of coffee. “So, I hear you’re moving!” he said to me. “Montana, is it?”

I corrected him, but couldn’t help chuckling over it later. I get this all the time; people know I’m moving to the Midwest somewhere, but can’t quite put a finger on the proper state. They’ll guess all the states surrounding South Dakota, but never seem to land on that one. It’s like they’re throwing darts at a map of the northern U.S. and seeing where they land. I have heard that I’m moving to North Dakota, Wyoming, and Minnesota, too. Even my good friend Heidi mentioned how different Grand Rapids, Michigan, is going to be. More than once. But she later admitted to thinking of the Midwest as “one big glob” anyway.275_5564b464d3a0c7.40098105_mw-map-poster-white_1500x

And maybe it’s just my imagination (running away with me), but I’d swear there is often an underlying note of pity in their voices, as if I’m being forced into something I do not want. Like I’ve drawn a short straw and am being exiled to a far-off land where it snows a lot and there are more bison than people. When I tell them no, this is a good thing, I’m leaving on purpose and looking forward to the change in scenery, a glint of relief appears in their eyes, followed by the inevitable question, “Why there?”

It’s okay. Everybody is well-intentioned, and I understand their curiosity. People in the PNW tend to be snobs about where they live. I don’t begrudge them for this; the upper left corner of the U.S. is beautiful, the climate temperate. A lot of people want to move here, while those itching to leave are in the minority. This makes me the weird exception to the rule.

By now I can recite my stock answer in my sleep. It goes along the lines of, my dad was in the Air Force, I went to high school there, loved the area, I want a simpler and cheaper way of life. That does the trick nicely.


Tara is headed home today and should be back by early afternoon. I’ll be glad to see her. A friend asked me today how I enjoyed my bachelorhood, but really, it was uneventful. I mostly watched a bunch of documentaries and cooked foods she would not like. This is what a forty-something party animal looks like, I guess.

My Saturday hike was definitely the highlight. While my last post might give you the impression that the whole hike was one big winter wonderland, that’s not the case. The first couple of miles were green and damp. Here’s proof.

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Countdown: 87 Days

Hamilton: The Mountain

I’m sitting in my living room drinking a Bloody Mary and listening to an Acoustic Covers playlist on Spotify. Imagine “Girls Just Want To Have Fun” slowed down 90% and sung in a breathy whisper and you’ll have a pretty good idea of what the music sounds like. I am planning on a very chill day because yesterday nearly killed me.

Or at least my knees, which apparently are not used to being worked out to such an extreme. I am grunting and wincing in pain every time I get up. I sound like an old man, much to my own dismay. But it’s totally worth it, because yesterday turned out to be a near-perfect day.

I decided to go climb a mountain. All week I’d debated what to do with myself this weekend; Tara is in Nevada for her grandfather’s funeral (RIP Cecil) and I couldn’t take that much time off from work before our move – PTO is like gold at this point – so I stayed behind. I finally settled on the idea of a good ol’ fashioned hike. Ironically, I ruled out the one I really wanted to do up by Mount Hood because I thought the weather might be bad. Ha.

I got to Beacon Rock nice and early, 9:30 a.m., and set my sights on Hamilton Mountain, a 2,438’ peak that I’d climbed a few times in the past. I could not help but notice that the peak was covered in snow.

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My destination: the top of Hamilton Mountain.

This wasn’t entirely a surprise; it’s been cold here the past few days, and we’ve had some snow in the foothills, so I’d come prepared with my Stabilicers® shoe traction devices and gloves. The trail started out wet and muddy, but as I climbed in elevation snow started to appear on the trail and blanketing the evergreen limbs. By the time I reached the summit, I was trudging through foot-deep snow, and everything was covered in white. It sure was pretty.

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Trail to the summit.

The clouds were darkening to the west, and I could tell a storm was moving in. Sure enough, right as I began the 3.5-mile trek back from the summit, it started to snow. Just a few light flurries at first, but the storm picked up in intensity and suddenly I found myself traversing an exposed ridge in the midst of an honest-to-god snowstorm. Talk about a rush!

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Table Mountain, from the summit of Hamilton Mountain

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All signs point to snow.

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I was caught on this exposed ridgeline in a surprise snowstorm.

Luckily I was prepared. My Stabilicers® (love the name, btw) gripped the trail confidently, and I was able to enjoy the majesty of a winter wonderland in March. You east coasters might be sick of snow by now, but I was one happy camper. I figured I was getting myself acclimated so those brutal South Dakota winters don’t kill me.

The closer to sea level I descended, the less deep the snow was. Eventually it gave way to a wet and muddy trail. Seven miles after setting out I arrived back at the truck, my thighs and knees screaming in agony from the effort. I drove myself ten minutes to Stevenson, where I stopped by Big River Grill for a late lunch and cocktail, figuring I’d earned myself a nice reward.

I drove home afterwards and the first thing I did was took a long, hot shower. It felt amazing. Talked to Tara for a bit, and even got to join in on a toast to her grandfather via the magic of video. I mixed myself up a Moscow Mule and parked my ass on the recliner, where I watched a Netflix documentary on WWII. Made myself dinner – a fried pork chop, paprika potatoes, and spinach, an old favorite I hadn’t cooked in years.

Because my muscles were screaming at me, I decided to borrow an Advil PM from Tara’s stash, but wasn’t thinking clearly and for some reason took two. I didn’t even realize my mistake until I woke up this morning at 7:30 – late for me – and was feeling super groggy. It took a good couple of hours until I actually felt awake.

So today is going to be a rare relaxing day for me. I’ll watch some TV, work on editing my book a bit. I’m craving Mexican food so I think I’ll walk down to Muchas Gracias later to pick up a quesadilla or somethin’. Otherwise, I’m not budging from this very comfortable spot.

Here are some more pics from yesterday’s adventure.

Countdown: 90 Days

Aloha? Oy!

Things are starting to feel real now that our countdown has reached double digits. Further proof: we scheduled an appointment with a moving company for a quote. The estimator can’t make it out until mid-April, but we are in no hurry. Hopefully by then we will have gotten rid of some stuff anyway. Hey, anybody need a couch or coffee table? I’ll make you a good deal!

Speaking of moving, as in hey, that’s something I did a lot of growing up, I had a request from Bijoux, a longtime reader, to write about my experience living in Hawaii. I think that’s a great idea, as I’ve talked about my time in South Dakota and Ohio while growing up, but have never really mentioned Hawaii in anything more than passing.

I guess the reason I haven’t talked about Hawaii is, quite frankly, I am not a fan of the 50th state. Hawaii may be paradise to some, a place where people aspire to vacation, but I’m okay with never setting foot there again. I’m sure a big part of the reason is that I spent nine years of my life on the island of Oahu. Considering I’m moving to a place that experiences cold and snowy winters, and am excited about that, this shouldn’t come as a shock to anybody. Since we were in Hawaii for three separate tours of duty, I’ll break this down into sections for each assignment.

Tour #1: 1967-1970

I remember nothing about these years, since I wasn’t alive for most of them. But I was there, and I’ve got proof:

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Woo-ee-ooh, dad looks just like Buddy Holly! And I’ll be damned if mom doesn’t have a Mary Tyler Moore vibe. Rivers Cuomo would be proud.

What I know, because I’ve been told, is that my parents lived in a small apartment in downtown Honolulu before securing housing on Hickam AFB. One day I decided to take a tumble down the stairs thanks to a faulty gate that may or may not have been latched correctly. At some point Neil Armstrong took one small step for man, and then we moved to Trenton, New Jersey. End of chapter one.

Tour #2: 1973-1977

My earliest childhood memory is sharing a cup of Campbell’s cream of mushroom soup with my grandfather, out of his Thermos I think, shortly before we went back to Hawaii. This time around, we lived on the bottom floor of a two-story house in Aiea; the owners were a friendly Filipino family named the Macadangdang’s, who resided on the second floor. Mrs. Macadangdang took a real shining to me and my brother Scott; this was a recurring theme throughout our second tour, when Japanese tourists frequently asked us to pose for pictures. I guess the sight of two little Caucasian boys with blond hair who dressed alike was a rarity. I often joke that we’re B-list celebrities in Japan, gracing the pages of many a random photo album.

Mrs. Macadangdang would often serve us peanut butter and jelly sandwiches in the little courtyard out back. One time the family dug a hole in the ground and roasted a whole pig, luau-style. We all welcomed 1974 with a New Year’s party upstairs. There was a giant slide at an amusement park in Aiea Heights we used to visit. I’m sometimes amazed by the snippets of memory I still recall.

Eventually we moved onto Hickam AFB again, into base housing. Ours was the single story end unit on the right; the green Dodge Dart in the carport was my dad’s.

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I started kindergarten in 1974, and walked to Nimitz Elementary, a few blocks away, all the way through second grade. It was a different era, and we were safely confined to an Air Force Base.

My close friends, Andy and Julie, lived a few houses down. I am friends with them to this day on Facebook, which is sort of amazing. The life of a military brat means never being able to forge lasting friendships because inevitably your existence in any one place is temporary. They are the exceptions to the rule.

My dad has never been one to sit around idly, even now, and so we spent most of our weekends exploring the island. This meant frequent trips to the the beach in Waikiki,  snorkeling at Hanauma Bay, hiking in bamboo forests, going to the zoo. Things I was really into: M.A.S.H., Godzilla, the Dodgers, The Six Million Dollar Man, and a Japanese superhero named Kikaider. My parents loved bad (or groovy, depending on how you look at it) ’70s fashion and decor.

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In 1977, it was time to leave the island behind again. My dad was assigned to Wright-Patterson AFB in Fairborn, Ohio. I thought I’d left Hawaii behind forever.

I was wrong.

Tour #3: 1980-1983

I’ve long spoken of my fondness for Ohio, so when I learned we were once again going to Hawaii, I wasn’t real happy. I preferred actual seasons to the constant heat and humidity of the tropics, but had no say in the matter, of course.

We ended up in a corner house on the same street we’d lived on during that first tour of duty. Sixth grade was okay; Hickam Elementary was located on base, so I got along fine with all the other Air Force kids. And then junior high rolled around, and it all went to hell.

First off, I had to take a bus into Honolulu. Aliamanu Intermediate (now Aliamanu Middle School) was a mixture of cultures, and let me be brutally honest here: the local Hawaiian kids despised us haoles. I was teased, tormented, and bullied, because of the color of my skin. It was a sort of reverse racism I had never known existed, and turned my middle school years into a sort of hell.

Add in adolescence and boredom, and you’ve got a volatile mix. I’d never gotten into much trouble before, but that changed during our third tour. I am not proud of my shenanigans, but they are tame by today’s standards, at least. I became withdrawn and sullen, and my parents were worried. I don’t think they ever fully grasped just how bad it was for me or the extent of my unhappiness. Those years just weren’t pleasant ones and will forever cloud my view of “paradise.”

When my dad announced, in the summer of 1983, that we were moving to Ellsworth AFB in Rapid City, South Dakota, I was elated. As bad as middle school had been, I dreaded the idea of attending high school in Hawaii and am thankful I never had to do so. My life was infinitely better in South Dakota. Is it any wonder I’m so eager to go back?

Positives about Hawaii? Hmm. I will always remember with fondness the fresh starfruit and bananas we’d buy from villagers in less-traveled sections of the island, not to mention the passionfruit my mom would collect during jungle hikes and turn into fresh-baked cookies once we got home. Boogie-boarding at Bellows Beach was fun. Matsumoto Shave Ice on the North Shore is awesome. The food there is fantastic, whether it’s huli-huli chicken we’d pick up from locals barbecuing in parking lots, or Chinese food in the mall. Most of all, I liked getting away from Oahu and visiting the other islands. Maui is cool, and the Big Island was always a blast.

So there you have it. A snapshot of my Hawaii experience in 1,300 words. People always tell me how lucky I am to have lived there, and it’s kind of cool to tell people that I was born in Honolulu, but I’ve had my fill of the place. You might be surprised to learn that I did actually go back, some nine years later, for my honeymoon. The trip was a gift from my parents, who actually went with us, so how could I refuse? I will say, being there as a tourist was much better. It helped that I knew I’d be going home again in five days.

Countdown: 94 Days

 

 

Time’s a Wasted Go

I have no idea what inspired me to make corned beef and cabbage for dinner last night. Yes, it was St. Patrick’s Day. I get that. But I am not Irish and have only ever made the dish once before in my life. It’s hardly a tradition in my household. Nevertheless, there I was, cooking a corned beef brisket and assorted veggies in the crockpot. I’m glad I did, too: dinner was delicious. I didn’t have any potatoes since this was not a well thought out plan so I ended up subbing sweet potatoes. I was not sure if these would work, but they soaked up flavor from the brining liquid and were great.IMAG5530

I know what I’m making next year.

Then again, Deadwood has a big St. Patrick’s Day parade and pub crawl complete with a Leprechaun Olympics and live music, so maybe we’ll don the green in 2019 and head out there. I have a feeling we’ll be making a whole new bunch of traditions once we move.

The rest of the weekend was pretty laid back. Tara wanted to get some stuff done around the apartment, so I headed into Portland for lunch and some record shopping. We are taking Audrey out to dinner tonight. Not much else of any consequence is taking place.

I had my annual checkup on Thursday, and my doctor officially declared me diabetes-free. He’s been reluctant to call me “cured” but admitted that my A1C levels have been normal to low for 2.5+ years now and I am not even borderline diabetic, so he removed the diagnosis from my chart. Hallelujah! Now I can start mainlining Lucky Charms again. They’re magically delicious!

I kid, of course. I’m not suddenly going to call a truce with sugar. But I might allow myself a root beer or something, once in a blue moon, now that I know it won’t kill me. Mostly I’ll stick with the diet and lifestyle changes that have been so successful for me. My doctor jokes that I am the poster child for the rest of his patients, and it was a little bittersweet to say goodbye to him. But he shook my hand, wished me well in South Dakota, and made sure I had enough prescription refills to last me six-nine months, so I’m set.

After my doctor’s appointment, Tara took me out to dinner and a concert at the Roseland Theater in Portland. She had bought me Stone Temple Pilots tickets for Christmas, knowing I was always a big fan of the band. Even though Scott Weiland has passed on, they put on a great show with their new lead singer, Jeff Gutt. Played lots of ’90s grunge classics from their oeuvre, to borrow a big word, as well as a few songs from their just-released new album. It was a fun night, and we got to check out a venue we’d never been to before. The Roseland is definitely a bit rougher around the edges than, say, Mississippi Studios. I would say the same thing about the crowd, come to think of it.

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We still have several shows on our calendar before we leave: Hamilton: the Musical, The Moondoggies, and Paul Simon. Knowing us, we’ll probably add another couple to the mix, as well. Gotta take advantage while we can.

Now that our countdown has dropped to double digits and spring – our final season here – is days away, we’re starting to get serious about the move. I’ve contacted a moving company for an estimate to see if we can afford to have somebody do the dirty work for us. Otherwise, we’ll be driving the U-Haul ourselves.

Countdown: 97 Days