Where We’re Going

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22406517_804767663034849_4851821486155431141_nOnce we decided to pull the plug on Portland, which happened on June 24 (our wedding anniversary) we set about selling our house. And since everyone told us houses sell much better in summer, we were on a very tight timeline. We had to get rid of a bunch of stuff to make it presentable for showing, as they say in the real estate biz. Together, Ric and I have been acquiring things for 137 years. And that acquisition has been taking place at Madison Pond for a collective 60 years. We have a lot of stuff. Way too much, as it turns out.

So we had a sale to remove a bunch of things. And a second one to remove even more. Since we didn’t yet have a new place to put stuff, we hired a moving/storage company to come take away things we wanted to keep. That made the rooms in our home empty enough to look like real people didn’t live there, which is apparently what realtors strive for when they show homes. But of course that wasn’t really possible at Madison Pond, because we have an excess of personality that shows up in the color of our walls, the quirks we employ when we improve things in our environment.

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Not everybody would keep plants in their parking strip that resemble engorged erect penises, for example. Whatev.

The best we could hope for was that someone would be taken with our sense of style. Failing that, they had the ability to erase slates in their mind’s eye so they could start over. I’m not sure which we got, but we got an offer on our house almost immediately, we accepted it and the laborious closing process ensued. As it turns out, the buyer is an artist, so we prefer to think he appreciates our aesthetic. But who knows. He grew up in the neighborhood, so it is a kind of homecoming for him.

So where are we going? Well, for now, we are on the road. You can follow our adventures on our Riding in Rigby Facebook page. It will be an extended road trip because we don’t have anywhere to go yet. But we will.

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seabrook-avenue-streetscape-photo_gtIf all goes as planned, sometime in early January the moving/storage company will once again pack up our belongings and move them to a new house in the little village we visited for Father’s Day. We bought a house that is being built there. Our official address will be Pacific Beach WA because it is the nearest post office. We will actually reside in Seabrook, the new little place we were drawn to which does not yet appear on maps. At this point, there are fewer than 350 homes there, and only about 100 permanent residents. (Most homes are vacation homes that are rented out when the owners aren’t there.)

22449889_10155744832552512_5341950295959736043_n.jpgWe’ll live in the Farm District. It won’t have a view of the ocean, but when it’s quiet we’ll be able to hear it. And we can always smell it. And that will give us life. It’s quite near the wondrous wilderness of Olympic National Park. It will get dark enough that we’ll have a view of the night sky. When it’s not raining, of course. It gets twice as much rain as Portland, a rather sobering stat. But the Pacific Ocean. We can walk beside it every day. We can feel it in our bones. It will become part of us.

It will soothe and calm us. It will help us heal. I will take Blaine with me, but there will be space for something new there. My heart will be able to open, slowly at first, but then wider. Our family and friends will come visit us. We plan to return to Portland often.

But our hearts will belong to Seabrook. Even though it’s remote and isolated, we can arrange it so everything we need on a daily basis will be within a five minute walk. Medical care is much further away, which is pretty risky considering our age and certain health issues. Despie all that, we’re sure living there will extend our lives. We can feel it already.

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How We Got Here

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I guess I should have known the traffic would be this bad driving out of town on a Friday afternoon. Portland wasn’t going to let go without a fight. My car wouldn’t start when I got in to drive away after one last emotional saunter through the first floor, lingering  in Blaine’s room the longest.22552769_10155744807792512_7149001438550373069_n

So many memories. So many lifetimes. So much work. We hadn’t had enough time in the newly remodeled kitchen. Wait, what? It’s been five years?!? Impossible! Feels like a few months ago. How did that happen? Well, it’s been a time. Pretty much a nightmare scenario, to tell you the truth.

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You cannot begin to imagine what it is like to lose a child before you lose one. Trust me on this. However bad you think it is, however much you think it hurts, multiply that times infinity and do that infinity times. And you’re still not even close. And when it’s your only child, and you have been closer that most humans can ever be, it’s even worse. Way worse.

Surviving it is a miracle. For me, it’s not that I ever thought about ending it all, it was just that I had a hard time caring about whether I lived or died. Or much of anything.

When the biggest part of you goes missing, you’re not sure what’s left inside. You feel numb. Removed. Distanced. Comatose. Any expenditure of energy leaves you feeling sucked dry, Desiccated. You try to go through the motions, but you’re not sure it’s convincing. Even to yourself. I realize now I pretty much retreated from the world, all the while desperately trying to find a way forward. Finish a book and promote it. Make a pile of quilts for new babies born with spina bifida. Talk with other grieving parents. Try to learn and practice self compassion. Keep trying. Failing. Trying. Failing.

Figure out how to bring Blaine back. There has to be a way. Keep everything in his room exactly how it was the last time he was there so he can just take up where he left off. The half finished sudoko. The newly started crossword. The pen he was using. Don’t let his wheelchair sit so far from his bed that he can’t transfer. “See, we were waiting for you! So glad you’re home!!” Create a special shrine in the living room. Cry yourself to sleep. Love Ric. Make more quilts. Spend time with friends. Love the grandchildren. Get new plants. Create a little memorial garden. Spend time outside. Rest beside the waterfall. Smell the roses. Plan excursions. Go places. Get a puppy. Make him your constant companion, feel his little nose on the back of your leg when you move though the house. Love him like his life depends on it. And yours.

Some of these things work a little sometimes, but never forever. I just flat out miss Blaine so much. He was my reason for being his whole life. In many ways, we shared a life. We depended on one another. And this wasn’t just anybody. This was BLAINE. The best soul I’ve ever known. Quite possibly the best the world has ever seen. Really.

There is no escaping this kind of grief. The best you can hope for is that you survive it. You endure. The milestones are excruciating. Birthdays. Family gatherings he’s missing from. Anniversaries of things. Mother’s day is brutal. The cards and flowers are life giving. So grateful to those who give them.

This might seem like a detour on the drive out of Portland, but it’s very much a part of the journey. And how we got here.

So Amy and Gary (our beloved daughter and son-in-law through Ric) bought a beach house on the Washington coast last year. It was in a town I’d never heard of and couldn’t find on a map. Very curious. On Father’s Day this year, we got to go visit them and see the house and town for the first time.

It’s in an out-of-the way place because the main N-S highway in the western Washington coastal area is Hwy 101, which does not actually run directly along the coast. There’s another highway that does that, Hwy 109. It ends in the Quinnault Indian Reservation, so you have to aim to go there to get there, if you catch my drift. So we left I-5 near Centralia, drove west to Aberdeen, then over to Copalis Beach, where we spent the night at an RV park. The next morning, we drove north some ten miles and turned in at the entrance of the little town. After a few yards, and I’m not even kidding, I turned to Ric and said, “I think we just entered Pleasantville.” The movie town where everything was perfect, except it really wasn’t.

The town actually looked perfect. I can’t remember seeing a more attractive town anywhere ever. I’m using the word town loosely because it’s not actually a town in the legal sense. It’s not even an official Census Designated Place. It’s like none of the above. A small village really. The architecture is at once classy, attractive, sturdy, solid, quaint, brand spanking new, everything exactly in its place and perfectly appointed but anything but cookie cutter. There’s no litter, nobody would ever even think of littering. The streets curve in pleasing ways, every view is picturesque. It’s unreal, really. As in this cannot really exist in our increasingly crazy and tainted world.

Normally, I’m down with taint. I don’t trust things that look perfect. Because they never are, of course, and I don’t like people trying to fool me. Too old, too much history. So my skepticism meter was going to 11 and I was poised to find flaws. We took a walk around town with Amy and Gary and Ellery and her friend, and our pups of course, and before long we came across a fenced dog park. Prince and Drifty had been cooped up in Rigby and then on leashes, so they were ready to spring loose, which they did with wild abandon. This was a good sign! We toured the streets, visited a couple of retail shops, and then ate at the pizza parlor before heading back to the RV park overnight.

The next morning we returned to town and indulged in some delicious pastries at the bakery, then went on a tour of the town with the founder, something that happens every Saturday morning at 11:00. He described his background and his vision… and I had to admit I was totally impressed. If I were ever to design a town, it would be a whole lot like this one. Built for pedestrians and bikes, best views are public spaces, pretty much everything within a five minute walk, including the ocean. The design encourages community interaction rather than individual residents retreating into their own backyards, etc. Of course I asked about tsunami danger, as it’s an obsession of mine. Following the tour, there was a sales pitch but we left to go about our business. We breathed in that life-giving ocean air. We basked in the peace. The quiet. The open sky. The Pacific Ocean. Is there anything better on the planet than the Pacific Ocean. Ric enjoyed a great Father’s Day celebration and we drove back to Portland Sunday afternoon, a little less than a three hour journey.

A couple of days later, I had to take our pups to a grooming appointment in NW Portland, a distance of maybe 3 miles from our inner SE neighborhood. It took me 45 minutes. In the middle of the day, no rush hour action. Here’s the deal. Traffic in Portland has become unbearable. The population has increased dramatically in the last decade or so, rampant construction is interfering with traffic all over the place in the inner city where we live, the inner city was not originally laid out for cars and it is on its way to returning to a place where movement is accomplished by foot, bike or transit but it’s not there yet. And won’t be for a number of years. The transition phase is brutal, I assure you. And for us elderly folks, whose balance and strength isn’t what it used to be, riding a bike on city streets among this traffic is just about the scariest thing we can do on a daily basis. I’ve fallen from my bike into the street when I’ve lost my balance and only luck kept me from being run over by a car. As there are more and more cars, the Portland politeness is giving way more and more to road rage. Termpers are shorter, nerves are frayed, people are pissed. I regularly get honked at for driving too slow. Bite me.

Now our location mitigates a lot of this because our house is located one block from the most frequent bus service in Portland, we can walk to most services we need. That’s because I bought this house in the 1970s, shortly after the gas crisis caused by the oil embargo. People sat in hours-long lines just to get gas in their car. Only us older folks experienced that. It was not fun. So I vowed to live where it would be possible to exist without gas. For many of my early Portland years, I was without a car, until Blaine was about a year-and-a-half old and it became clear a car was necessary to get him to all his medical appointments, his early intervention classes, therapy, etc. etc.

So for those in Portland who insist that a car free lifestyle is not only possible but desirable, please restrict your mobility to a wheelchair for a month and then come back to talk to me.

Anyway, getting the dogs to the groomer is one of those “a car is necessary” times for me. After spending an hour and a half to travel six miles getting to and from the groomer, I suddenly realized that was half the time it took to drive to a remote little village on the northern Washington coast. Say what?!? Is this any way to live?

So things tumbled around in my mind for a while, as they always do, And I continued to tear up and my throat constricted whenever I passed by Blaine’s room.  Within a day or two, one evening I turned to Ric and said, “How would you feel about moving to the Washington coast?”

Ric’s jaw literally hit the floor. He asked me to repeat myself.

See, my mentioning the notion of moving from this house and Portland is literally unthinkable. My attachment to where Blaine lived his whole life is unbreakable. My love for Portland is unreasonable. I wrote a damn book that was kind of a love letter to the city, for Pete’s sake. Portland is all tied up in my identity. Not as much as Blaine is, of course, but a whole lot. Ric grew up here and lived here most of his life. He even wrote a song about Portland being his home.

I never thought any of this would change. I thought staying where Blaine lived was right and necessary. It would keep us together. And I so wanted to hang on to anything and everything he touched, he represented. It was part of my survival plan.

But spending a few days beside the Pacific must have opened something that I had locked away. What if I allowed myself to think differently. What if the approach I had chosen was actually making my grief worse. What if a different outlook was possible? What if I spent my final years close to nature as I had done as a very young child in the woods of southern Oregon? What if I let myself reconnect with people rather than withdraw from them? What if reaching out helped me heal inside? For sure the retreating from the world deal I’ve adopted for the last couple of years hasn’t worked. What if I tried something new?

When I asked myself that question, I felt a kind of weight lift. I didn’t know how Ric would feel, we’ve both put so much of ourselves into our home, Ric has worked his tail off fixing it, we’ve spent a lot of money on improvements, we turned our backyard into an oasis in the central city. We finally had pretty much everything the way we wanted. NOW we would move? Hardly.

But after reattaching his jaw, Ric enthusiastically said, “YES!!” He’s been going through his own grief journey… and he’s getting older and his list of handyman projects he thrives on looks more and more daunting as his body aches come more often and more painfully.

So we called a realtor, put the house on the market, it sold, and that’s how we ended up driving out of Portland. That’s how we got here.

Next Up: Where We’re Going

Why I am petrified

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The whole pack was together then

“He says what we’re thinking.”

Hearing that petrifies me. I feel a panic rising and sometimes it hurts too much to move and I think I’m turning into petrified wood.

See, I’m one of those people who’ve had complete strangers come up and tell me my child would be better off dead. I’ve heard them refer to him as a “pathetic little thing” as they walk by. When my son was born with severe disabilities that affected every single part of his body, I found I pretty much had to prepare myself to hear and see anything when we left the safety of our home. When I wrote a letter to the editor of the Oregonian describing the need for services for children with disabilities many years ago, back when the paper published a letter writer’s home address, I got a letter in the mail telling me I should have had an abortion so I wouldn’t be burdening society with his existence. I saw people mocking my son’s unusual movements behind his back. I heard people laugh at him.

Over the years, especially after the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act, fewer people said cruel things and the mocking diminished. Or went underground. I chose to believe our society was becoming more accepting of and kinder to those born with disabilities. And that we had reached a kind of civic agreement that society would include them because it was right and just and good for everybody. (Even then I was admonished by a boss to stop bringing up my son as an example of lack of equity.)

A few months ago, I watched a presidential candidate openly mock a person with disabilities, to the delight of the crowd. Later I saw a video that captured someone kicking a child in a wheelchair being removed from the same candidate’s political rally, while those standing nearby cheered.

“He says what we’re thinking.”

The candidate who made fun of the body position of the person with disabilities will soon be president. He will have the support of both houses of Congress, whose leadership have made it clear for years that they want to reduce/end/privatize government programs designed to help people who can’t equally compete in the system that promises to provide “liberty and justice” for all.

We paid the extra costs we faced to accommodate our son’s disabilities (e.g. an addition to our home with a wheelchair accessible bedroom and bathroom, a 70-foot concrete ramp, vehicles that would accommodate lifts, etc.) with no government assistance whatsoever. We did this because we knew our son was as valuable as any other person on earth and we would do whatever it took to give him a wonderful life. We gladly made sacrifices to do without things other families had. But in order to do this, he had to have access to medical care that we could not begin to afford. Insurance companies were allowed to exclude people with pre-existing conditions then. When you are born with his disability and need surgery within hours to save your life, you are never without a pre-existing condition. The marketplace does not take care of people with severe health care needs because they are not profitable.

The Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) prohibits this and makes insurance available to people who used to be assigned to high risk pools that were outrageously expensive and inadequate. Publicly funded health insurance like Medicare and Medicaid is efficient and affordable because it does not have to cover exorbitant executive salaries, huge advertising budgets, and maximize profits to shareholders. That’s why large group participation and government requirements are needed for those the marketplace will not support.

If these health care needs are not met, people die. In other words, they are aborted after they are born because their existence is deemed too much of a burden to society.

I lost my son nearly two years ago, as his health challenges were finally too much for his body. I miss him so much I can hardly make it sometimes. There is a hole in my heart that will remain the rest of my days.

I’m not the only one who misses him. While he was here, he made the world a far better place.

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The day Free Geek celebrated Blaine’s 10th anniversary

Blaine worked at Free Geek for more than 11 years, teaching people who couldn’t afford to buy computers how to build their own for free. This is what the person who was his supervisor wrote me on what would have been by son’s 37th birthday last summer:

“Not only did it turn out that Blaine was interested in teaching, but what was incredible and so out of the ordinary at Free Geek at the time, was the way that he did it.  He was so generous with his knowledge, as well as so kind and patient.  He never belittled a person for not knowing something, or for making a mistake.  If someone needed extra help, or extra time, Blaine never was frustrated. He stuck by that person and worked with them, with kindness and encouraging words, until they got there.  He was open and giving with all that he knew. 

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The Blaineversary cake

 

Blaine quickly became a star. Volunteers loved him. They felt comfortable asking questions and asking for help, when in the past they would often get gruff responses, or actually yelled at for doing something incorrectly.  I know it to be true that Blaine was the number one factor for volunteer retention in the Build Program. Not only that, but with his kindness and generosity the culture at Free Geek started to change. People started just being nicer to each other. When people are treated with kindness, they too start being kind to others. It is infectious. This is what Blaine brought to the organization.  It became a more welcoming and kind organization. It became a place where anyone could come to learn and not be afraid to do so. I have heard you say how much Free Geek meant to Blaine, but I want to make sure that you know how much Blaine meant to Free Geek, the organization.  He changed it in such a profound and positive way. He made Free Geek into the organization that it set out to be.” 

So you see, he and others with disabilities are not a burden on society. Mocking them is a travesty and should bring so much shame to the mocker that he dares not show his face until he apologizes and convinces us it will never happen again. If given a chance to be, people with disabilities can make all of us better. Just like all of us can. But what kind of world do we live in when a mother feels she has to justify her son’s existence so he gets to have one?

The world where “he says what we’re thinking” now feels like a death sentence.

People with disabilities are not the only ones petrified by “he says what we’re thinking.” I write this because it is what I know best. Please listen to all the petrified. Think about what they are all hearing and feeling. You may not be in any of these vulnerable positions right now, so please find it in your heart to imagine if you were.

I can’t see and hear “he says what we’re thinking” any more right now. To survive, I have to take a break from television, Facebook, twitter and other places that scare me to death. I hope to be back sometime, but for now, I just can’t anymore…

 

This is the universe speaking. Are you listening, Marie?

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I know the universe is talking to me. And I’m listening, but I need help figuring out what it’s trying to say. These are the things that happened when we tried to take our first ever undeadlined trip in our RV Rigby this week. Yeah, it didn’t go so well. I’m writing this from my sickbed.

1. Last week, I didn’t feel good all week. Had a sore throat and a cough. But mostly just wiped out. Still managed to do all the things I had scheduled for the week, but otherwise just felt like dried snot. However, I thought I was back to my old self by Sunday, and was good to go.

2. I found all the paperwork for reservations and background material I had gathered for the scenic drives. But had the nagging feeling I was forgetting something and I just never felt all the way ready, if you know what I mean.

screen4web3. The evening before we left, I dropped my four year old iPhone and the screen shattered. Now mind you, I got my first iPhone the day they became available in June 2007. I didn’t exactly wait in line, because when I saw the line in Pioneer Place, I decided we should eat dinner and come back later. Which was just as the line was tapering down, and they still had phones! I’ve dropped my phones a bazillion times, at least. They never got even a ding in all the prior drops. Yes, I do use one of those small bumper cases on it. But this time it fell screen first on the edge of a Fiestaware plate. Believe me, you do not ever want to go up against Fiestaware. That shit is solid as the Pre-Cambrian shield. (Geography nerd joke, don’t worry if you don’t find it funny. You pretty much had to be in a Geomorphology class.)

4. We were on a tight timeline for leaving Sunday so I didn’t have enough time to make a reasoned purchasing decision or Apple Store encounter before we left, so I decided to make do by getting a clear cover to hold the glass screen pieces in place and protect my fingers from the sharp glass blade edges. Mind you, this was not even an adequate stop gap measure because the screen cover made it hard for pressure to be detected by the phone and there were psychedelic picture shows whenever I pressed down on anything. I pretty much gave up trying to type and depended on Siri for pretty much everything.

5. We went to my dear brother’s 64th birthday/retirement gathering and all was well. Afterward, we went to my mom’s to spend the night in Rigby outside her house. All of a sudden, I felt like I was going to collapse and laid down and the next thing I remember is regaining consciousness a few hours later. Felt much better but it was so weird.

6. Started coughing again that night and Ric said, are you sure we should do this, and I said, yes, the clear forest and mountain air is just what I need.

7. Had three warning dreams Sunday night. The warnings were about three really different things, none about camping, but it felt like they were all delivering the same message: Do not go about your business as you have been. Watch out and be very careful. Danger lies ahead and you don’t even know it.

8. Monday morning, all the outside electrical source power in Rigby suddenly stopped working when a circuit breaker blew in mom’s house. Nothing Ric tried restored it and the lights showed we weren’t getting anything in. Whatever that means. My cough was getting worse.

9. When we stopped to get gas, some got on Ric’s shoes, and my cough got ever worser.

10. The ride over the hills along the road and river where I grew up was wonderful and the air smelled so good. Hope was rising! But nothing from my childhood really remained. It’s become a ghost town. Well, it was never a town really. It’s a ghost zone. Businesses gone. Buildings boarded up. Structures collapsing all around. The whole place is actually for sale. It’s hard to see a future there. It felt really ominous.

craterlakeforweb11. We made it to Crater Lake early afternoon Monday and it was just as stunning as I remembered. The weather was beyond gorgeous. I sat and stared into the blue. Loved watching Ric see it for the first time. But after walking a few steps, I had to sit down and rest because I was out of breath. Must be the altitude, I thought. Been at sea level all these years, I forgot how to act at elevation.

12. Even though it was the off season, we had to wait quite a while for dinner. During dinner, my voice went missing. You could watch it happen in slow motion.

13. We had no cell phone coverage whatsoever. AT&T, have you not yet discovered areas outside cities? Wifi was expensive. A private company charges for wifi in national parks? Seriously? But never mind, because a phone with a screen so broken you can’t really touch it isn’t all that useful when you don’t have a voice to talk to Siri.

14. The more my voice went, the more my cough came. I’m sure it kept poor Ric from sleeping too. My throat started closing up and my chest was tingling all over. At 2:30 am, he sat up and said, “We need to get you home. You stay in bed. I’m driving us now.” I didn’t object. Objecting is hard when you can’t make a sound.

15. On the way home, Ric called my doctor’s office, only to learn the whole building had flooded and they were in crisis mode. He tried to get an appt at urgent care that takes Medicare, but appts were booked for two solid days. So we went to the ER. It was so busy that they were no longer accepting ambulances. Several hours later, the person who saw me asked, “Did you try to call your doctor instead of coming to ER?” and I tried to explain about the building flooding but that’s really hard to do without a voice of any kind. I tried to mime it, but she just said never mind.

15. I’m on my second day of bed rest and it, along with codeine cough syrup, is starting to help. I still can’t make sounds, but I can type. I had to write this down because someday I will forget that this many things can go wrong at once and run the risk of rinsing and repeating.

I know you’re talking to me universe, but what is it exactly that you are trying to say? Don’t ever leave home? Don’t even think of taking an actual real vacation? The end is near? You’re out to get me? I need to learn yet another hard lesson? You’re messing with my mind?

It feels like you’re being a little passive aggressive here, universe. Can you please just put it into a plain old sentence, using direct words with unambiguous meanings? I’m getting too old for this.

As the crack widens…

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The crack in Blaine’s ramp is widening. A companion is beginning to appear at an extrapolated line in the next segment. I wonder what is happening beneath the surface. Surely there is something going on down there.

Some 15 years ago, downslope from the ramp, a deep hole suddenly appeared in the parking strip next to where the driveway lowers to meet the street. A woman walking her dog stumbled when her right leg disappeared into it. Later, Ric poured potting soil into the hole. After several bags had been swallowed, it reached a state of equilibrium and has been level ever since. It still holds up, even when you step on it. But i keep a watchful eye.

When the crack in the ramp grew to a width that couldn’t be ignored, I wrote to the city. I raised a question of perhaps some kind of underground leak from the water main or sewer pipe, with the resulting flow carving out a cavern under the street. I told them about the potting-soil-swallowing hole just downslope too.

The city never responded. I wonder if the web contact system they use actually works. I wrote to a woman in another city department about another issue and never heard back from her either. Maybe my name has gone on to an internal list of people who write to the city and should be ignored, like they used to check your name against a list of people who had written bad checks at the grocery store.

The cracks in the driveway are expanding as well. My concerns continue to grow at the same pace. I have a sense of a coming calamity. That surprises me because I can’t imagine a calamity worse than the one we experienced a year ago. Nothing can be worse or even as bad as Blaine leaving us too soon. Shouldn’t the cracks have stopped growing then? I’m certain his passing made the earth wobble.

My geographic training takes my mind to the Big One that is coming. Later today or in 300 years. Nobody knows when. So we live our lives with that in mind while we yearn for understanding and acceptance. That’s what I’m still seeking from the calamity a year ago.

I didn’t see that calamity coming, though others have told me it was to be expected. I didn’t expect it. Would I have lived differently if I had? I don’t know. How could I?

I do expect some calamity to come of the crack in the ramp. And I’m trying to waylay it but so far my actions have come to naught. I have visions of my car resting at an uncomfortable angle of repose at the bottom of a sinkhole that swallows part of our street.

I guess I shall try the city again… I think they should burrow one of those snakes with a camera on the head to check what’s happening where we can’t see. Maybe we could avoid a sinkhole calamity if we nipped it in the bud.

That won’t really do much about the larger calamity it could be warning about… are we safer in the long run with such a visible caution? Only if we figure out what to do, I’m guessing. And only if there is something that can be done.

Is is better to know what calamities are coming? Or to just live and have them clobber you out of nowhere and try to survive the aftermath? Is this a question for an engineer? A geologist? A fortune teller? Or the knowing that lives inside me?

Maybe I’m cracking up.

My 2015 Baseball Observations

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So I don’t follow baseball (I retired from the game on principle when Curt Flood did), but I share a home with a sports-watching dude-hub. So I can’t help but absorb some of it from time to time.

And when I do, I notice things. Probably not the things everybody notices. But there they are, just lying there waiting to be shared.

Here goes:

  1. I think somebody did something funny with the ball or the bat in the off season because what is with those high scores?? Many many double digit scores. Like 22-11 or something. That’s a respectable football score, that’s not a baseball score.
  2. Some of the uniforms are just complete puzzlements. Like I swear I saw a team wearing tunics and pedal pushers the other day. If you are under 50, you have no idea what pedal pushers are, I know. I didn’t witness it myself but someone tweeted that a team was wearing onesies in a game. Surely a sore for sight eyes.
  3. It also seems that players are muddying their uniforms more often than I remember in the past. What’s going on? More sliding into base? Have we achieved kamikaze baseball? Where’s Dick Harter?
  4. Baseball players are getting really really big. Massive. Like Sequoia tree big. Some look like football players. Now that there are tests for performance enhancing drugs, is there some kind of breeding program underway?
  5. There are a lot of empty seats in the stands for many games.
  6. With the little box that shows exactly where the pitch crosses the plate, video review of calls of plays on the field, how much longer till we have robots for umpires? I don’t see umpiring as a career of the future.
  7. I don’t really approve of rule changes in baseball. Partly because I’m old school and it just doesn’t seem right to change things. I’m looking at you, designated hitter. But partly because I’m old and I can’t remember the changes. Like I was going to comment on one here but, see, I can’t remember what it was. Your loss.
  8. On the subject of rule changes, stop trying to speed up the game. I like the leisurely pace because it’s possible to relax and enjoy the view. Talk to your seat mates. Be mellow. Calm down. I don’t know why everything has to be so quick quick wiki wiki every minute of the damn day. Allow us at least one option during which can be enjoyed at a Mary Jane mellow rate of speed.
  9. I love how international baseball has become. It seems like a lot of the best players increasingly come from other countries. Wonder how long it will be before they stop coming to the US to play because the game will be more popular and well attended in their home countries.
  10. Have the Mariners set a record for blowing leads this season?

I think there were more, but I forgot what they were. Maybe I’ll add them later. Or not. Talk amongst yourselves.

The Whole Nine Yards

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I’d like to bring up a point that I haven’t seen in the discussion of the demolition of homes in Portland, to be replaced by gigantic houses or apartment buildings that use up pretty much every square inch of buildable space on a lot. In the interests of density, we are told, we have to build structures as large as we can to house as many people as we can. I get that increasing density inside the city can avoid increasing the extent of the urban growth boundary and eliminating farms and green space.

But here’s the thing. I spent a lot of the last year and a half studying and writing about Portland in the book–Pieces of Portland: An Inside Look at America’s Weirdest City (see piecesofportland.com)–that was published in June. While doing that, I thought a lot about what makes Portland such a special place to live.

One of the best things about Portland are the yards surrounding houses in our neighborhoods. We live in a gardening mecca. Our long growing season and temperate weather make for more gardeners per capita than most any other place. In my Buckman neighborhood, there’s been a big move away from lawns to other kinds of plants, some ornamental, some food-producing, some that are both. Walking along our neighborhoods’ streets, we are treated to a variety of beautiful sights…flowers of all colors and sizes, green leaves that turn crimson and copper and gold, an array of flowers and seeds and fruit that attract birds and bees, beautiful bark in winter, and so forth. And the fragrance when plants and trees bloom! Have you swooned under the spell of the scent of Linden tree blossoms lately?

The temperature under a canopy of trees on a hot summer day can be double digits cooler than a street without trees and provide great relief, especially in a summer like the one we have going this year.

When the houses are demolished, the yards go as well. Oh maybe there’s a little strip of ground around the edge of the giant new building left, planted with boring contractor plants that all look alike and hold little interest. Or not, as is the case in the multistory apartment buildings that are rising in our midst. And neither do these buildings accommodate the big old street trees, whose canopy extends from the middle of the steet and over the more modestly-sized house that has been affordable to so many Portlanders up until now.

When Portland loses perfectly fine old smaller homes, it also loses the greenspace that makes neighborhoods livable. I bet someone smarter than me could calculate the net increase of carbon dioxide when that happens… all these plants consume carbon dioxide and produce oxygen. Some plant-filled yards in Portland actually might qualify as carbon credits.

A Portland without yards is hard for me to imagine. It would be a completely different city, by any yardstick.

They are disappearing a yard at a time, and if we don’t watch out, before long it will be the whole nine yards. And that bothers me as much as the loss of homes because they are so closely connected.