Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Goodbye Summer

September 23, 2009

I waived goodbye to summer at sunset last evening in front of the Eiffel Tower.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tD46xTNhpv8

So what, if anything did I learn, confirm, or accomplish with this carpe summer exercise? Well, the following things, among others, and not necessarily in the order of importance.

DRAFT 1:

1.Perhaps I enjoy most a good home made dinner with beloved friends and family.
2.With free concerts, sometimes you get what you pay for.
3.Try to have something fun or positive in your day, even if it's small, to help balance out whatever negative stuff you endured.
4.While I cherish spontaneity when it comes to fun things, I cannot rely on serendipity. I have to plan for fun things, such as buy concert tickets in advance and look at the entertainment calendar for one month in advance instead of picking up the A & E on Friday and expecting something good.
5.I need a creative outlet other than writing law memos.
6.I should be better at plugging into what is happening in Portland today, rather than Paris from the 1920s or 1700s. Who are the good Portland artists? Besides Tin House publishing, what other literary resources are there in town? Where are the creative people and what are they doing?
7.A good attitude can infect others, just as a depressing attitude can. One helps spiral up.
8.Not everything I do needs be justified in the context of accomplishing or learning.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Night cruise on Seine

Night cruise on the Seine. Tower lit, as were the other major buildings: Notre Dame, Louvre, Orsay, etc. Very pleasant way to spend an hour with Allyson.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Fashion in Paris: Priestly robes to Mini dresses

Sunday

in Paris began with the short walk to Notre Dame for a part of the Gregorian Mass. The blue tunics of the women singers and the green robes of the priests reflected the blue and green of the faithful depicted in the stained glass windows high above. The cathedral was packed with the attendees in the seats and with the tourists along the edges. When the stocky man in a suit came by with the offering basket, he apparently did not get the joke when I showed him the museum pass and he backhanded my temple. No, just kidding; I tossed in some coins.

I can see why more people dress fashionably here than other places. Fashion is everywhere. We spent most of the day close to home, in the Marais. The streets were packed with people wandering around, poking their heads into the shops and the open public buildings / monuments. (It was the rare weekend when the buildings open for the people.) Designer shops are everywhere, and many of the styles are terrific (some not so). Mostly, prices are pretty high, especially when one adds in the conversion rates from Euros to Dollars.

In addition to the fixed shops, 90 "créatures" filled an exposition hall with booths, showing and selling their wares. With all of these choices, it's easy to understand why you see some unique clothing on people, particularly women. By contrast, the choices in Portland are so limited that even if someone wanted to look beautiful, and sexy, she would have a hard time doing so in an elegant or stylish way. Instead, we get some young people who randomly take things out of the second-hand stores, mix them up, and dye their hair fuschia.

Sometimes, the most simple outfit can be quite memorable. As we walked down the street Friday, an older business man, with his suit jacket hack slung over his shoulder and briefcase in his other hand walked ahead of us with a younger woman. We assume these were just two business colleagues. They acted like it, with absolutely no hint of anything but a formal business relationship. She wore high heel shoes, out of which arose long, white legs with no stockings or legings. Not muscular, not fat (not yet). Her bare legs continued up and up and just when one would expect to see something other than legs, the "curtain" of the bottom of the mini dress blocked the view. The mini dress, was white or off-white with pencil-thin, black lines creating squares of about 1 ½ inches. Tailored perfectly, the skimpy dress probably cost more euro than what the man spent for his suit.

Other women in town dress elegantly, while covering more of their skin. Although, one sees a lot more cleavage here than in Portland. But it's not the cleavage, it's usually a slight tweak on an existing fashion that catches the eye. For example, one of the fashion booths had a long woman's jacket that could work for a lawyer in Portland. It was gray, but had rolled out cuffs with a colorful pattern that matched the fabric on the right shoulder (like a shotgun shooting patch). Instead of a straight line up for buttons, the top couple pulled over the center, suggesting a shawl. Stylish, professional, classy and about 340 euros.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Near Perfect Saturday

Saturday in Paris

was a beautiful late summer day: warm but not too warm. I wore shorts to Versailles in the morning, (noticing that no other man seemed to be wearing shorts. Perhaps that's not fashionable.)

Like the Alhambra in Spain, Versailles provides a good lesson in history to those of us who missed that chapter somewhere along education's path. "So that's why French was the language for international diplomacy for 200 years. . . ."

The Hall of Battles was the most thought provoking. This ridiculously long and tall room is lined with huge paintings depicting important battles in the history of France, from the 400s to the 1800s. Most have the french hero mounted on his horse. Many had the heroic dead or dying common soldier down in the corner. I'm glad many painters (or the man who commissioned the work) did not let us forget the lives stilled by wars.

In the afternoon, we walked the shopping areas of St. Germain. Saturday is the busy shopping day because stores close on Sunday. We took a breather at the Rodin museum, eager to take full advantage of our 4-day museum pass. The cafe in the sculpture garden provided the peaceful oasis we needed before heading back to the even busier shopping area of our own neighborhood. At the department store down the street, it felt like the mad rush before Christmas.

A nap recharged me for a lovely evening in Paris.

This time, I tried to dress a little more like a frenchman, with a collared shirt and a sweater tied around my neck. We strolled down toward the historic heart of the city, Ile St. Louis. On the way we stoped at a quiet wine bar along a very old street. Then we crossed the River Seine and found a restaurant recommended by a friend.

Many restaurants are a scene: crowded elbow to elbow with people looking toward the street to see and be seen. This restaurant, Le Caveau d l' Isle, was full but not crowded, with only a 2 minute wait for a table, and the focus was not the street, which is perhaps a good sign for the quality of the food. While the toursit attactions on the island are to the right, this restaurant was to the left, making for a quiet atmosphere. There we enjoyed our best meal of the vacation: very well prepared salad, lamb, salmon, and a chocolate cake with molten chocolate spilling out from within.

After dinner, we walked toward Notre Dame. Still warm after 11:00 pm, we took our time to take it all in, the softness of the air, the lit monuments, the water, the boats, and, at Notre Dame, the litter (nothing is perfect). There, many others also sat, talked, ate and drank to enjoy the evening. Down below, along the river, there was a festival of sorts: booths with businesses from Southern France offering their cheese, wine and other things. We walked through the crowd. Again, many people sat next to the water, across the river looking up at the lit Notre Dame, enjoying a picnic dinner with wine bottles in various states of consumption.

Back to our neighborhood, where people spilled out of the cafes and bars that, although numerous, still could not handle the numbers of people enjoying a warm Saturday night in September, the last Saturday of Summer.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Triumphal Climb up the Sprial Staircase


Friday, September 19, 2009

Living in an apartment instead of a hotel is great. We can relax in the morning with coffee and our own breakfast. We can spread out and relax. Television and internet are here, if we want to plug into the world, which we really do not. We can waste time in that manner in Portland.

Having breakfast does not necessarily mean a person can pass a patisserie in the morning without stopping for a treat, which we did on our way to the Metro stop. When we arose from underground, there it was, the Arc de Triomphe. We climed the 283 spiral stairs toward the top for our view of the Eiffel Tower and the rest of Paris. To commemorate the moment, I had the picture taken in my "Always have Paris" T-shirt, which was the t-shirt of my nephew's band by the same name.

Then, it was down the Champs were, eventually, we saw a classically old French mansion, noticed it was a public gallery, entered, and found a cafe for lunch.

Then, it was on the Metro to the Louvre, and overwhelming, crowded place, where the printed maps seem to have little relation to the reality of the exhibits. We quit there after a fairly short time.

We walked through the gardens and found the much more enjoyable Musee l'Orangerie. It houses more impressionist works. The centerpieces are two large, oval rooms displaying Monet's waterlilly murals. These are very large rooms, and the paintings must be 30 or 40 yards in length.

Back on the metro. The metro is terrific. The trains run constantly and are fast.

In the evening we found a neighborhood restaurant with a lively restaurant and walked around the Marais neighborhood at night. Lots of people out and about on a pleasant summer evening. After walking awhile, we stopped upstairs at the apartment and then went on a quest for desert, settling on gelato.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Paris, Day One


September 18, 2009

At the steps of our Paris apartment, the woman in the broad, colorful straw hat greeted us with news that the plumber locked the top lock, for which she did not have the key, and we would join her for coffee at the restaurant two doors down.

An artist, she is, who helps manage apartments for extra cash. Sweet woman of 59 years whose bottle-black bangs, parted in the middle, are carefully tucked over where some women have crows-feet and held in place by the hat. The colorful shawl over the flowing, untailored dress completed the look of a French country artist, despite the fact that we were in the urban and urbane Marais district, and Barbara Navarro was an American transplant of 32 years, now a dual citizen.

One can't be an (uncommercially successful) artist in America. Here, they get their health care. In the United States, artists cannot not afford it.

With great enthusiasm, she told us about her life. Barbara spends her winters in the Amazon jungles of Venezuela and spends her art energy on creating and burning art to draw attention to the issues of deforestation.

The apartment is quite nice, displaying a creative use of small space. Purchased by a Portland Lawyer just two years ago and then remodeled, everything is new, even though the crystal chandeliers and furnishing carry forward the classically French style. The building was constructed in the 1600s, and during the remodel, they exposed the 400 year old support beams to open up the room. The plumber did not complete his work, and there is a bit of a leak under a drain, and the washing machine is out of order, so I write this paragraph in the Laundry across the street.

In the laundry, a nice colllege professor, fresh from his PhD in Boston, showed us how to use the machines and gave us a couple of visiting suggestions: Notre Dame for music on Sunday, and Normandy as a day trip.

Back to yesterday.

We got our 4-day museum pass and enjoyed the Orsay yesterday, where I completed my trifecta of posing with Vincent in Chicago, Amsterdam and Paris. Forget art history classes, the only way to appreciate art and learn art history is go visit the great museums. The audio guide did not have to tell us that a 19th century artist was influenced by the Dutch Masters, we were just in Holland viewing their work.

We found a busy restaurant in the Marais for a later dinner and slept soundly in a very comfortable bed.

Goodbye Bruge

September 17, 2009

On a speed train about 20 minutes out of Paris, we caught up to the gray skies that snuck out of Bruges in the wee hours. Certainly, the Gods do this as a welcome mat for Portlanders.

Bruge contrasted from Haarlem as follows.

Bruge Market Square is more dramatic than Grote Market: Grander medieval buildings. Bruge is packed with foreign tourists, and there is the tourist infrastructure to meet it: the horse carriages and the menus posted around the square in 4 languages. (I wonder what "Lukewarm Salmon" was before it was translated?) Haarlem was great because we felt like we were one of very few foreigners. We liked that. Better to get the flavor of the town.

Bruge was a pleasant stop in the road, but I would not recommend it as a destination. I want to re-view the move "In Bruges" to see if it is an allegory for the screenwriter's love-hate with the town. There's the big bad guy, who thinks Bruge is this charming beautiful place that Colin Farrell should see before he dies. Then there's Colin's character, who hates the place, even before he knows that he was sent there to get killed.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

In Bruges

Arrived in Bruges 9/15 by train. Sampling chocolates and waffles. Marvelling at the Disneyland-esque Market Square architecture.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Vincent & Me, Part Twee

September 14, 2009

Travelling in Holland is easy, in part, because everyone speaks English. Also, Dutch words often look like misspelled English words. Can you guess what the following Dutch words mean; koffie, melk, centraal, Portugees? Twee means two.

In June, Ann, Pat and I enjoyed hamming it up with Vincent Van Gogh's self portrait in the Art Institute of Chicago. On this date, Allyson and I made it to the Van Gogh Museum, which contains some 200 works that no one wanted to buy in his lifetime. They fell to brother Teo, who died six months after Vincent shot himself in the chest. So Vincent's sister-in-law had all of these paintaings, and she started to promote them.

She released letters between the brothers. As with John J. Audubon, it is the writings that illuminate the life and works that help create the interest and increase the value. The paintains stayed in the family until 1962,

It's a pleasure to see the arc of the painter's work. The audioguide and the arrangement of the art in the museum permits a person to see Van Gogh's evolution, and how what her learned from one phase influenced a later phase.

For most of the rest of the day, we walked the lovely neighborhoods on a gorgeous early-fall day. Brisk and clean, the air was refreshing. We poked our heads into several boutiques and had the obligatory pancake and walk through hookerville.

Again, it is amazing that such a big city has such limited auto traffic, at least where we walked.

European cities and their museums are history lessons for us Americans.

For dinner, we found the place where they used to give free meals to the poor, Now, it provides cheap meals to locals, cafeteria style: a plate full of potatoes and either sausage or meatball.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Day 2 in The Netherlands

September 12, 2009

The Vermeers in the Mauritshuis museum have been inspiring artists for over a century. Van Gogh fawned over the technique in Vermeer's painting of Delft. Of course, The Girl with the Pearl Earing inspired a contemporary screenwriter. One can purshase her immortally-young face in about every size. Only about 33 Vermeers, worldwide, have been authenticated, so seeing even three in one place is rare.

Rubens, on the other hand, was more of a business man, subcontracting some parts of is own canvass out to other artists more skilled in certain types of paintings.

On to Delft, which was packed with the Saturday-Market crowd walking past vendor's tents along the canals and populating the plazas and other places. On this September saturday, it seemed like almost entirely Dutch people and not tourists: just folks looking for something to do on a the weekend.

Back in Haarlem, the plaza, too, was packed by people. The cultural weekend here included middle ages tents, foods and activities in the plaze. At the Philharmonic, free concerts drew people.

After dark, the fun moved to one of the canals, where boats paraded on water and people promenaded on shore. On one end, a live band played Stevie Wonder hits. On the other end, large speakers pumped out disco versions of Michael Jackson hits.

The atmosphere here is very comfortable. People are normal looking, clean and polite. No beggars; no pushy vendors, we are left alone to do as we please. Everyone seems healthy and content.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Bicycle-land

September 11

Yes, Netherlands has the canals and the quaint architecture. Bicycles, however, provided the most striking memory from our first day here.

The population of the city centers of Haarlem and Amsterdam employ more bikes than cars, to my eyes. No one wears a helmet, and the style of bicycle riding is more upright: the spine is vertical, not leaning forward. Some are specially equipped with seats or double seats for tiny children behind the pedaller. Some have what look like deep-narrow wheelbarrows in front of the pedaller, which sometimes carry other children. But mostly, we see single riders riding upright, hair blowing in the breeze.

At the Haarlem train station, the demand for bicycle parking is so great that there are double-decker bike racks.

Portland wins accolades for being bicycle friendly. But painting a few extra stripes on streets is nothing like the construction around Haarlem to facilitate bicycles.

We took the bus from the airport to Haarlem. At one point, I noticed a paved lane for cars going in one direction, separated by grass from the lane going in the other direction, separated by grass from the bicycle lane, separated by grass from the pavement dedicated for two-way, bus-only traffic. In that stretch, each mode moves without the distraction, danger and interruption from the other modes.

In the 400 year old city, with the narrow lands, some bike lanes are denoted with a slight depression in the brick, just an inch or so. On those streets that are wide enough for pedistrians, bikes and cars, the cars are at one level, the bikes are an inch or two higher, and pedestrians are an inch or two higher still.

As a pedistrian, crossing the street in Amsterdam can take some time, because one needs to wait for a break in the bike traffic, as well as auto traffic plus the rail traffic.

Lots of people moving. And that's the key word, moving. In Bangkok, gridlock prevails as cars fill every square foot of road. Here, cars seem a tertiary mode of transport, after public transit and bicycles. Maybe statistics would prove me wrong on this, but that was my first impression of the city centers of Haarlem and Amsterdam.

Bike friendly - but in some areas, pedestrians must beware and walk at your own risk.

Monday, September 7, 2009

No cheescake for Ken

September 7, 2009 Labor Day

Blustery wind and lots of rain yesterday previewed fall. But, despite what schoolchildren say, despite fashion's caution against wearing white tomorrow, it remains summer until the night of 9-22.

I've lost a bit of the carpe diem fire this past week. Work and preparations for the rest of September and October have focused my attetion on tasks rather than on entertaining or entertainment. Yet, yesterday was a good combination of both work and play.

Ken and Ann joined us for dinner, and it is always a pleasure to prepare for guests. Even better when guests are family, because there is no pressure: if things are not quite right- they don't care. We enjoyed getting together, conversation and sharing food. Ann brought down a delicious homemede chocolate swirl cheesecake. Ken is back on his diet of virtually no carbs, so we tortured him by enjoying bread, cheesecake, and wine. He was stuck with water, green beans, and lamb.

Thank you, Ann and Ken.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Full days of work

September 3, 2009

It’s been a busy week. Working hard on several fronts to be ready for the grand finale to summer. Law cases are harder than they should be, with opposing attorneys not seeing things as I do. Also trying to get things done for the remodel project on the home and for the website. Another few days of pushing hard will, hopefully, make for a relatively care free vacation.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Indian Heaven Wilderness


August 29, 2009

We left a sunny Trout Lake to drive just a few miles west to one of our favorite trails, which leads to Indian Heaven Wilderness. There, we found a more classic Pacific Northwest feel: damp, green and overcast.

The first ½ hour of the hike is up, up, up, until reaching a promontory with a 270 degree view that, normally, includes Mt. Baker and Mt. Adams. Because of the clouds, we had more of a 90 degree view of the vast forrests below. Then, we marched on, through huckleberry bushes, bear grass, meadows and evergreen trees. We made it to the pure mountain lake, pictured above, were we paused for awhile before walking back.

It had been nearly three years since we hiked this trail.

More photos at:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/39474118@N06/sets/72157622187829984/

Trout Lake Zen


August 29, 2009

Travel to Thailand provided my initial exposure to Buddhism. The ornate temples are irresistible tourist attractions. Then, a traveller notices the beautiful and gentle spirit of the people of Thailand (or Laos), where the vast majority practice Buddhism. No one ever started a war in the name of Buddha or Buddhism. So, Allyson and I were curious about the opening ceremonies for a Buddhist Abbey here in Trout Lake.

(Among the ironies of Zen Buddhist Temple opening here is that an evangelical neighbor is currently in Thailand trying to teach them they should worship Christ. Today, a Thai monk was among those participating in the opening ceremonies of the abbey.)

Buddhists do not worship Buddha or any one or any god. It's more about teaching yourself to remove the clutter of life and focus on the moment and do good works. Meditation goes hand in hand with Buddhism, and we were there at a time when they did a group meditation of 30 minutes of silence.

Here's the drill. The goal of meditation is to rid your mind of thought, which is impossible. It was suggested that we view a thought as if it were a stick in the river: acknowledge it and let it flow down. We were instructed to sit with a straight and engaged spine, as if we were holding the celiing with our heads. Cast our eyes down about 45 degrees, but do not close them. Place our hands onr our laps, with left over right, and thumb-ends touching. Deep breathing in through the nose is encouraged.

Casting my eyes down 45 degrees caused me to gaze upon the name of the manufacturer of the chair in front of me: LIFETIME. I failed at acknowledging the name and letting it float away. Instead, I started playng Scrabble ® with the letters: lift, melt, fee, etc. Many many words. That mental exercise took up at least ½ of my meditation and confirmed me as a failed meditator.

However, I may have redeemed myself, at least in part, with my approach to he young fly that became enamored with me. On the nature shows, wild lions seem to tolerate flies all over them, but most humans will try to brush a fly away, or swat it with intent to commit flyocide. Nevertheless, I thought this fly might actually provide me a good exercise in mental discipline. If I could maintain my position and not let the fly bother me, that would bode well for not getting distracted by jerk-like tactics in court or other places.

So, when the fly landed on my shirt, I acknowledged it and let my thought about the fly drift away. When the fly landed on my face, I thought, "So what? It's just a fly, and the cow pies in this valley are organic." When the fly wanted to explore my nostril, well, that was a bit too much for a meditating neophyte, and I had to exhaust a big breath out my nose. I trust the sound was not perceived as a disrecpectful sigh.

With the fly pestering someone else, my mind was free to notice more words out of LIEFETIME, including meet, tile, file, feel, etc. . . .

Actually, the 30 minutes passed quickly. It was probably better for my mind and spirit than sitting in front of the television for 30 minutss clicking through commercials, sports, old movies, and nature shows, which, I sometimes as a night-time sleep aid to clear the mind.

We are pleased to have the Abbey as another resource in Trout Lake. The work they are doing on their farm is quite impressive, with the vegetable guardens, fruit trees, egg-laying chickens and other things. The prior owner converted the barn into a wonderful space, which is now used as the temple. Also, it will be nice have the option to explore Buddhism if we chose to.

©2009 by JM.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Trout Lake morning


August 28, 2009

A pleasant drive east through the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area and then north long the White Salmon River and bucolic farmlands got me to Trout Lake yesterday.

This morning, it is peaceful, except for the gang activity in the neighborhood: first one deer then all seven trespassed on our property and scavanged their way through the neighborhood, taking whatever they wanted. I figured photo documentation might help in the prosecution of their criminal acts. Lord knows, we've been victimized by the theft of bird seed and the torture & murder of store-bought plant life. ;)

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Jackson Browne Concert


August 22, 2009

We're pleased that a new Brew Pub with good food opened on the Washington side of the river, in White Salmon. It saved us from cooking before driving, east, up river, to Maryhill Winery for the Jackson Browne concert.

Another gorgeous night in the Columbia River Gorge: perfect temperature, pastel sky and dramatic scenery that changes every few miles: from fir covered slopes, to rocky outcrops and oaks, to no trees and golden grassy hills. The Maryhill venue is terrific, and we plan to go next summer, too.

Photos at: http://www.flickr.com/photos/39474118@N06/sets/72157621998795737/

Friends Tim and Michelle and their neighbors had tickets for the general admission grassy amphitheater, so we hung out with them before the concert and during the break. It's always a pleasure to spend time with them. They work hard and smart and are enjoying the fruits of their labor, including a private airplane to transport them without hassles to the great parks of the Western United States and Canada.

Jackson Browne and his band performed without a warm up act. (Thank goodness, because warm up bands can be tepid, and we don't seem to stay awake past 10:00.) The band cosists of talented professionals, who put on a great show lasting nearly three hours. Jackson Browne mixed his ballads with some high-energy favorites that got the crowd going. His backup singers can knock out some great lyrics with power and beauty. Too bad they were featured less this concert than the one in September. I suppose that JB knows people at summer concerts want old-time favorites, and the women have more to sing in his newer songs.

Unlike last month's Counting Crows concert, the reserved-seat crowd took a long time to get out of their seats and dance in front of the stage. I attribute that to the artist, music and crowd all being more mellow. It's hard to videotape unless there is a crowd for cover. Fortunately, the timing was right for me to capture "Cuba", (link below) and a couple other good ones.

Video at: http://www.youtube.com/user/merrick792#play/all/uploads-all/0/ZY2zLUCOYzI

Bird Creek Meadows


August 22, 2009

In 1855, we took control of most of the land in the Oregon Territory, which then included the state of Washington. One of the treaties included a map for Yakama Nation land. Someone "lost" the map for decades, and a phoney survey cut the Yakama Nation out of another 121,000 acres. Decades after they found the map, Richard Nixon returned to the Yakamas 21,000 acres on the east side of Mt. Adams, where lies Bird Creek Meadows.

Over the rivers and through the woods we went today to hike in that gorgeous wilderness area. It includes everything from shady forests, to delicate streams decorated with tiny wildflowers, to the most massive rock in the Cascade Mountains, Mt. Adams. Along the way, we can see 60 or so miles south to Mt. Hood.

Powerful rivers can be found in many places, including where we were today. But one of the things that makes Bird Creek Meadows special are the gentle, fragile streams that could not withstand grazing by cattle..

The diverse hike is one of the highlights of an area full of great trails. More photos from today are here.

Thank you, Yakama Nation, for keeping it mostly pristine and open to us. Thank you, Dr. Sparling, for returning to me my ability to hike.

Friday, August 21, 2009

The Undersea World of Carl the Pirate


August 20, 2009

Underground in Portland, where no natural light enters, there’s a strange world. It’s an imaginary world. Walt Disney created Disneyland. Dolly created Dollywood, and Michael Jackson had his Neverland. Just think what any of them could do if you said, “build a playland for children, but your budget is $100.”

You might end up with miniature golf in the dark, with black lights providing just enough illumination to see the florescent underwater world of long-dead pirates. Carl’s 40th birthday provided the excuse for adults -- with, otherwise, relative sound minds -- to enter this world. It was Olivia’s brain child to keep her husband (and the rest of us) feeling young at one of his decade birthdays. It was fun for all.

We returned to their well-lit home in the woods to enjoy dinner and conversation, some of which included people sharing their latest apps for iphones. John B. has 70+ on his phone, including children’s books and one that measures the distance on real golf courses between himself and the hole. Unfortunately, it provided him no advantage in the undersea world of Carl the Pirate.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Funky Lake Oswego ??


Wednesday, August 19, 2009

On a word association test, a local psychologist would raise her eyebrows if she said “funk” and you said “Lake Oswego.” The two words go together about as well as “Cynthia McCain” and “Hip Hop.” Nevertheless, the nearby park in Lake Oswego hosting tonight’s free concert offered up what was billed as funk music. As someone who has a playlist entitled, “Too Funky,” I had to go and drag Allyson along.

The “Sonic Funk Orchestra” describes itself as a “12-piece horn-driven party machine.” “Time machine” might be a better description of the disco play list that included K.C. & the Sunshine Band, Kool and the Gang, and Donna Summer. The band was good at what they do. I’d agree with their own description of the “tight and choreographed 4-piece vocal section” and a good horn section.

But it was disco, not funk.

On the way home, Allyson made the mistake of asking me what the difference was, which give me the opportunity to imitate James Brown and Parliament and play some Chaka Kahn, Isley Brothers, and Nikka Costa.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Jay & Gloria's 50th Anniversary



August 16, 2009

In Hollywood, they award lifetime achievement Oscars®. For the rest of us, 50 years of marriage is a lifetime achievement. My wife and I have been married for16 years, (six GOOD years to each other) so we know that longevity is not a given. It takes compassion, love, patience and many other virtues.

Today, we celebrate the lifetime achievement of Jay & Gloria, which includes, not only, 50 years of marriage, but the upbringing of three children, who carry forward the positive virtures inclulcated over the decades. Even today, although their children are fully grown, Jay and Gloria establish standards by their example.

The party was excellent. Perfect weather, great venue, great food and a loving crowd.

photos at: http://www.flickr.com/photos/39474118@N06/sets/72157621955098401/

Shel's 70!


August 15, 2009

Uncle Shel is 70. A good excuse for a party and family gathering. So, Aunt Bobbi rented out the UC San Diego Faculty Club for a great event. A roomful of dear friends and family of Sheldon. Good food. Testimonials.

The event gave Allyson and I a chance to reconnect with cousins and her Aunt Arlyne. Many say Allyson and Arlyne look alike, and there is a family resemblence. Cousin Nicole was there, as were Cousins Todd & Alison, Elan & Jill, Derrick & Gene. Derrick & Gene live very interesting lives, going all over the globe to study and teach. Their upcoming 6 months in Israel might tempt us to take a trip there, too.

The Long Beach contingent arrived late for good reasons outside of their control. That's another story for another time.

Sibling Dinner


Pictured Above: Carol, Allyson, Linda Scott, Steve, Todd Deann


August 14, 2009

At 7:00 am on Scott and Carol's back patio, the first sound I notice are the caw, caw, cawing of gulls across the calm water. Next, a few cars drive along the other side, the road between this inlet and the Pacific Ocean beyond. Next, I notice the quiet disturbance of water: two single-woman sculls cruise by. More gulls, crows, and the neighbor's sprinkler system gets going.

It turned out to be a great day. We had some quality time with niece Rachele along 2nd Street. Of course, we enjoyed time with Carol, Scott, Steve & Linda. I even got a quick “hello” out of niece Zara.
We topped it off with a sibling dinner: no kids or parents, and another walk (not necessarily in a straight line) along 2nd for frozen yogurt.

Travel to California


08/13/09
  I was able to snatch the exit row seat with no row in front.  Then, one of the last people to board was the woman who was assigned to 13F.  She kindly let me stay.
The couple-to-be-celebrated, Jay and Gloria gathered us from the Historic Long Beach Airport, and we selected Koi Japanese Restaurant for a hello dinner. Much later, after a trip to Laguna Woods, we drove back to Long Beach and join Carol, Scott, Steve, Linda. We even got a quick hello and goodby from our nieces Zara and Rachele.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Home cooked > best restaurants.


August 12, 2009

Eloping means that one side of the family does not have to meet the other side of the family. So, it took 6 years for Steve & Linda to finally meet Ann. They hated her. No, just kidding. Like everyone who knows Ann, they really liked her and could see that she is a sweet person.

I have to say, we’re doing better all the time at home-cooked meals. The food tonight was better than even the good and expensive restaurants. Of course, the atmosphere of being at home and everyone pitching in makes for a better experience, too. Linda made a terrific ravioli dish; Allyson made a great chicken dish; Ann made a great blueberry crisp for dessert. Everyone helped clean up and put things away.

Steve, Linda and I also spent some time in Lake Oswego today.

Family fun balances work and other responsibilities

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Family in the Pacific Northwest.


August 11, 2009

At times, we can feel isolated living in the upper-left corner of the country with family scattered all over. This summer, Allyson and I are feeling like family is just down the road. First, Lorie and Pat came to our corner. Now, Steve and Linda are in town, and we are enjoying their visit.

Last night, we visited Washington Park with our lawn chairs, food and beverage. There, we drank in a beautiful summer evening with a thousand or so other people listening and dancing to the Patrick Lamb band. Patrick Lamb made sure to mention “Patrick Lamb” about a dozen times during the Patrick Lamb concert.

It was a great atmosphere, and we enjoyed the evening. Although, I might not agree with Patrick Lamb’s suggestion that when you want party, hire the Patrick Lamb band. Good but not great.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Outdoor movie


August 6. 2009

When I bought tickets for the outdoor movie at Hotel Deluxe, I did not realize that the park district offered free movies in the park. Of course, the park districts probably do not offer booze or have a warm-up band. The booze and the price of admission probably keeps down the number of children from dozens to zero.

Before the movie, we met John and Kim and Steve for dinner at Gilt. Always good to see them. John and Kim joined us for the movie; they left before we did. We left before the end, too. The movie was too campy, and it was getting kinda cold.

I’d seen the ads for these movies-in-the-parking-garage before and wanted to try it. So, we did. A planned night out is good, regardless of whether the actual night rates a “10” on the scale of 1 to 10 or something less. Looking forward to (presumed) fun bouys ones attitude. Any excuse to get out is probably good, especially when it involves others.

The band, Black Heart Moon was pretty good. Movie was bad, but I guess we knew it would be. Event was interesting.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Happy to help those who try.

On West Burnside and 4th, a guy with towels and a squirt bottle offers to wash windshields for $1. We tire of grungy panhandlers, whose outlandish looks disqualify them in the eyes of many employers. This man differed: clean clothes and an aura of dazed determination. Unemployed family man? Fifteen minutes after my “no thanks,” I circled around for a $2 cleaning. I respect – and want to support – a person who tries.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Vagabond Opera trumps weasel lawyers.


August 4, 2009

Yesterday, I spent too much time dealing with jerk lawyers. Today, I brought their conduct to the attention of the court. Then, it was time to do some positive things.

A workout was good.

The free concert at Washington Park was good. It is a wonderful amphitheater, and the walk through the Rose Garden is always lovely, not to mention a reminder of our wedding. It is a great night, with the heat wave broken.

The band was a talented hoot. Vagabond Opera is its name, billed as neo-bohemian cabaret. Very original look. Interesting sounds. Good musicians who seem to wink at their audience. At times, they are reminiscent of Pink Martini, substituting accordion for piano. At other times, they were reminiscent of a klezmer band.

After a quick peak at the concert, a home-cooked halibut dinner helped get the bad taste of weasel lawyers out of my mouth.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Papa Haydn X 3


August 1, 2009

After enjoying a delicious crab salad with fresh ingredients from Portland Farmer’s market, we went to Cathedral Park to enjoy another of the dozens of free concerts around town this summer. Tonight’s music was courtesy of the Portland Festival Symphony. In its 29th season, this summer’s concerts are devoted to “The Genius of Papa Haydn.” This reminded us of the restaurant named Papa Haydn, on NW 23rd Avenue, which is known for its desserts.

After listening to two Haydn’s and a Beethoven, we crossed the bridge over the Willamette River, and went directly for dessert. Afterwards, we joined many others who were walking around on a hot summer night in Portland.

Heat Wave


July 31, 2009


We’ve had the hottest weather in the Willamette Valley since I moved here 25 years ago. People were going nuts, waiting in line for over an hour to buy fans and air conditioners. I’d never wanted an air conditioner up here until this week, taking pride in the cool night breezes that scrub out the heat from the bedroom.

Like every place, movie theaters provided relief. I saw "Away we go” and “Public Enemies.” Then, I decided it was time to take advantage of the Oregon Coast.

When I arrived at the Cape Lookout trailhead, it was 60 degrees and foggy. I decided that would not work with my shorts and t-shirt, so I drove a few miles south to Pacific City, where sunshine and 70’s lured people to the beach. Maybe Oregon’s ocean is too cold for swimming, but it’s great as an air conditioner.

On my return, I drove through Oregon’s wine country, with a quick stop in the cute town of McMinnville.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Quick trip to Seattle


July 25 & 26, 2009

“Seattle reminds me of Portland, only bigger,” said Allyson. “Seattle reminds me of Chicago, only smaller,” said Lorie. Yet, all are drawn to the features that give Seattle its character: Pike Place Market and views of the Space Needle and ferry boats plying the sound.

I like the neighborhoods, and we took a mini-tour of Queen Anne before heading home.

We tend to like those things that are both unique but, at the same time, comfortably familiar.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Notes on Portland & Lake Oswego


One tends to talk about the pros and cons of your home town(s) when enjoying visitors. Here’s what’s being said.

Portland Downtown: Don’t go there. Panhandlers, empty storefronts, it’s kind of depressing.

Portland Restaurants: Excellent and ever changing. Go to the neighborhoods.

South Waterfront: Ghost town. Slashing prices.

Pear District: Good, if you like busy.

Mayor Adams and City Government: It’s not that he was grooming a 17-year-old for sex after age 18; it’s that they waste so much time and money on projects that appear cool to teenagers while streets go unpaved, storefronts go empty, and scary panhandlers take control. Quit playing to the crowd and political special interests and take care of the basics!

Lake Oswego: Well run. Pleasant. Maybe too “Stepford.” Businesses that don’t want to pay Portland and Multnomah County taxes (and cannot stomach Vancouver) move to Kruse Way.


Copyright 2009 by JM all rights reserved

Friday, July 24, 2009

More time with family!


When a married couple's families are mostly from out of state and region, it's a treat to get together. And for me, a visit from out-of-region sister gets me together with local loved ones, too.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Memorial service serves to remind.

July 19, 2009

Memorial services for those who pass are reminder services for the living.

The woman honored today made her mark by encouraging others – giving them courage. Husband, children, grandchildren, friends, acquaintances cherished their time with her. For people like this woman, if they could live without suffering, we would want them to live forever. Even at 77, those who knew her say she left humanity too soon, not so much for her, but for those who loved her and had the honor, pleasure and benefit of her acquaintance.

Only children and morons can attend a memorial service without examining their own lives and values. There are many paths to a life well-lived. Regardless of religion or not, or profession or not, an essential element of a life well-lived is giving to others, working for others, and caring for others.

The moving and selfless testimony of the decedant’s friend and clergy urged all to follow her example and reach out to people today and every day. The purpose is not so that you will avoid remorse if someone passes, but so that they can benefit from your love.

Trout Lake Arts Festival


July 18, 2009

The annual Trout Lake Festival of the Arts always draws some very good artists. Each year, we end up buying something, even if we did not intend to. The only thing that saved us this year is that we rode bikes to the fair, and A’ did not bring money.

Each year, we enjoy getting on the farm, listening to the pretty music, and admiring the skill of some of the people who call this general area their home.

Photos at:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/39474118@N06/sets/72157621563708465/show/

In the evening, we stopped by the Nights in White Salmon, which is billed as an “Art and Wine Fusion.” The idea is that in each of the towns few art galleries or work shops, a winemaker would offer samples. We ate at the new, good, brewpub in town and walked around, running into Alexis from Domain Pouillion.

Counting Crows & Augustana: Great show & great place.


July 17, 2009

“One bottle limit per person,” said the sign where they sold wine to patrons of the Counting Crows / Augustana concert at Maryhill Winery.

It’s a great place for a concert, especially this night, when the weather stayed warm until the end. Maryhill Winery is a green oasis on the dry, steep banks of the Columbia River about 100 miles east of Portland, Oregon. A few miles outside of the designated scenic area, where the trees stop growing, the white wind generating turbines stretch along the golden hilltops for miles.

The stage looks out onto a lush, green, grassy area, with white reserved seats below and terraced open areas higher up, where people brought their own lawn chairs and blankets. Those of us with reserved seats could walk right up to the stage, close enough to read the faces of the band members.

Lead singer Adam Duritz was self-assured. Having slept away from his home 174 of past 193 nights, he, the bands, and the crew put on a professional, solid show. His confidence and personality shined, from a knowing twinkle signaling he was about to do something to get a cheer, to what looked like sincere feelings when he sang his heartfelt songs.

Augustana’s lead singer, Dan Layas looked like he either forgot to take his medication or took something supplemental. Despite his peculiar ticks, he sounded pretty good and his timing was accurate throughout. Instead of a warm up band followed by the headliner, Counting Crows started off, then tansitioned with Augustana, so they could have a break, then came back.

The sign broadcast, “Traveling Circus and Medicine Show.” Duritz said the show is to help cures what ails you. While explaining the theme of the Circus, he gave permission to take pictures and film.

Photos are posted at: http://jeffallyson.shutterfly.com/42

One of the videos is at:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QrbZHDu11Ic

Overall, the crowd was pleasant, good-looking, and mostly older. I noticed very few people in their twenties. Toward the end of the concert, we began to wonder how some of those, who could hardly walk, would negotiate the dark roads home on this moonless night. Perhaps sobriety checkpoints could help close the budget gaps for the Washington State Police.

We left with the first wave, missing any encores and drunk drivers. By 12:20 a.m., I was in the hot tub in Trout Lake, admiring a spectularly starry night.

The hit lyrics wonder, “maybe this year - - will be better - - than the last.” So far, so true.

© 2009 by JM, all rights reserved

Friday, July 17, 2009

'Tis the season for music

July 15, 2009

Music is everywhere in the summer. Free evening concerts at parks, noon concerts downtown, summer tours by big-name acts, and bands at fairs and rodeos fill the calendar.

But just as the cloudy Pacific Northwest winters enhances our appreciation of glorious sunny summer days, so-so bands help us appreciate how difficult it is to create good music.

This date, I attended a free concert at Dawson Park. The rhythm guitar player was great. The drummer and base slapped together a good groove, but the vocals and the electronics (e.g. feedback) were a bit off. There was no denying the band’s enthusiasm, and it was a pretty evening. Many people showed up for an enjoyable night out of the house and picnics on the lawn.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Another day of beauty


Tuesday, July 14, 2009

The 11-mile loop around Trout Lake is flat and easy for bicyclers but a challenge for photographers. What to shoot? A bucolic working farm? One of six dozen great views of two striking mountains, Hood and Adams? One river racing over rocks between tree-lined banks or the other flowing through mini-canyons? Maybe a llama or a kestrel? How about an historic house or barn?

Good food, good people, and a happy dog.


Sunday, July 12, 2009

Clouds promised rain to the towering firs in the Wind River Valley. A few miles east, where firs mix with pines in the White Salmon River Valley, sun and clouds played peek-a-boo. About ten miles further east, atop the Klickitat River Valley, scrub oaks, golden grass, sun, two young winemakers and their contented dog greeted us for lunch with smiles, a dry Gewürztraminer, and a wagging tail.

Alexis and Juliet own and operate Domaine Poullion on their 20 acres of wine country outside of Lyle, Washington. Alexis studied soil science and interned with winemakers in France’s Rhone Valley. His mom used a psychic (also used by the FBI) to help make their match, and it is a joy to see a young couple pursue their dream. Yes, there are hundreds of wineries in Oregon and Washington. Not all of them produce very good wine. I like Domaine Poullion wine, and I joined their wine club. Our friends, Tim and Michelle, who possess more sophisticated palettes than I, sincerely complimented the wine and collected a case of it.

This was the second of three wine lunches offered to wine club members. Relaxed and casual was the atmosphere: unfolded chairs, outside, with good cheese and home-cooked food paired with their wines. Home-cooked means Juliet and Alexis cooked it; I’m not referring to homey comfort foods, such hot dogs on the grill. A creative chilled soup and a quinoa-corn salad were among the courses. It’s a smart way for them to build word-of-mouth, have fun (if the guests are fun), and make a few dollars. Alexis and Juliet each headed a table of eight, so it was an intimate gathering where we could learn about them, their wine, and how they actually make it.

The lunch provided a good opportunity to get together with our friends from the Wind River and a great cap to a weekend I’d love to bottle and cellar. We all returned to the park & ride by the Hood River Bridge, where I said good bye to my bride and my friends, and we went our three separate ways for the week ahead.

© 2009 by JM, all rights reserved.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Hike and Fun with Friends


July 11, 2009

Visitors and neighbors make a vacation home worthwhile. Kim & John joined us Friday & Saturday nights. We hiked the Shorthorn trail in the Gifford Pinchot Forest. Stunning bear grass delighted us. Acres of it in bloom made portions of the trail seem otherworldly, with its lamplight appearance.

The trail was well-maintained and free of bugs, making it a good workout for Kim and me going up gradually for about 3 miles and then down for three miles.

More hike photos here:

http://jeffallyson.shutterfly.com/

After naps, Kim and A’ prepared a wonderful meal, followed by games and laughs.

John & Kim have two young children. They are smart to have their date nights, or, in this case, adult weekends to maintain their relationship as husband & wife, and not just as dad and mom. It’s healthful for the parents, and, I opine, healthful for the kids to know that, although loved dearly, they are not the center of the universe.

Just Reading: a rare luxury


Trout Lake,
Friday, July 10, 2009

How many Robins have I seen? Thousands. How many have I seen eating from a bird feeder? Zero. That thought occurred to me as a Stellar’s Jays took full advantage of three feeding stations in the yard. Hummingbirds found their feeder, too. Juncos, towhees, and chickadees are not above living off the dole. Then, a proud American Robin appeared above the feeder, with a big bug in its mouth, before flying off.

I have not moved from the back deck. Blue sky, warm breezes, and wildflowers in the yard delight the senses. I actually picked up a book and am reading.

It is the 6th anniversary of our marriage. This weekend, we look forward to sharing our home with Kim and John.

Right now, after a frenetic yesterday, I am content to continue sitting on the deck for another 4 or 5 hours, expecting A’ to arrive in and then Kim and John, giving me company and an excuse to open a bottle of beer, wine or rum.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Respect your Elders

I’ve reached the age where I have been studying the law, considering the law, and reading the law longer than some of my opposing counsel have been reading, period. I took my first law class in 1977. I started law school in 1980. Perhaps that’s why I find it irksome when an opposing lawyer confidently and smugly takes a stand that I am even more confident is wrong. The dispute means a waste of my time to resolve it. More irksome is if the lawyer makes some flip comment that I interpret as disrespect, then I have a tendency to waste even more time to teach the person to respect his or her elders.

Yesterday, a judge helped me slap down the opposing counsel who was sure he was right and I was wrong about what the Rules permit. Before I asked the court for help, I tried to reason with the attorney. Apparently, my comment that I used be on the committee that writes and revised the rules carried no weight; he did what he wanted, anyway.

The day before, I had to call a judge on the same attorney so that I could conduct a deposition as the rules permit.

I don’t know what will happen with the actual lawsuit. Many things can determine the outcome. The actual facts often – and should – be more important than the work of the lawyers. However, a lazy and ineffective lawyer can make the facts less valuable while a diligent lawyer can increase the value of the case. I will make sure that my client is not out-lawyered. The more an opposing lawyer challenges me, personally, the harder I tend work.

So the lesson to young lawyers is to respect your elders and / or let sleeping dogs lie.

7-9-2009

Monday, July 6, 2009

Jazmin

July 5, 2009

This afternoon, we got our first look at Jazmin, Michelle & Shanon’s baby who, at 7+ pounds is double her birth weight. It amazes me that a 3 pound, 4 ounce baby has all or the miniature organs needed to survive and thrive.

It was fun to play with Jazmin’s cute half-sister, Tara, who joined us for dinner on the deck in Portland.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/39474118@N06/sets/72157620917193179/

July 4th Hike and Wine

Three years ago, I hiked the Monte Cristo trail in the Gifford Pinchot National Forest. It was a terrific hike, with abundant wild flowers, open top-of-the-world views, and shaded forested portions. Among my goals for hip surgery was to again hike the trail. On Independence Day, we did. Photos follow:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/39474118@N06/sets/72157621053396000/

When we returned home to Trout Lake, we found a camper van with an empty bike rack in our driveway. Mark & Elizabeth made an unannounced visit and were out bicycling 33 miles around the valley in the heat. It was a great surprise. After lunch, we visited three wineries out in the Lyle, Washington area.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/39474118@N06/sets/72157620916629129/

As for fireworks, I sat in the hot tub and watched what neighbors shot up in the air.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Favorite Combo: good people, good food, & good drink

July 3, 2009

It’s hard to top good friends and good food.

A’ found recipes in Cooking Light magazine as we drove east through the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area toward Hood River. We did our shopping and crossed the river toward our vacation home in Trout Lake, Washington.

There really is no lake, but years ago town leaders thought Trout Lake sounded better than Guler, Washington, so they changed the name. As the snow melts in Spring, it looks like a lake, so it was not completely false advertising. We like the serene beauty of the farmland under massive Mt. Adams. The surrounding Gifford Pinchot National Forest provides great hiking in the summer and cross country skiing when it snows.

Last night, A’ prepared whole trout, berry cobbler, a terrific salad with cucumber, tomatoes, feta cheese, and arugula (and who knows what else). Our neighbors, Randi and Dale joined us with tasty garlic bread ready for the oven. All of it turned out better than the best restaurants.

We always enjoy their company, and we visited for several hours before calling it a night. Yes, observing an artistic masterwork in a museum is interesting and sometimes inspiring. But few things in life can top spending a night with good friends, good food and wine.

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Portland Waterfront Blues Festival 2009

Portland Waterfront Blues Festival

I returned to my Portland home about midnight on 6/30, so July 1 was a catch-up day for laundry, mail, bills, etc.

July 2 was mostly a work day. Among my favorite activities as a lawyer is preparing to take the deposition of a corporate witness adverse to my client. I figure it takes about two or three hours of preparation for each hour of deposition. I enjoyed about six hours of reviewing documents, lining up questions, and thinking: How do I corner a witness into telling the truth? How can I get past their prepared lines? Where can I get some ammunition to help my client? How can I shake the confidence of the other attorney by developing areas of inquiry that he or she never even thought of?

Then it was time for the Blues.

Portland’s Blues Festival is a big deal. A fundraiser and food-raiser for the needy, it has grown tremendously. 20 years ago, or so, when I went on an afternoon, the grassy “bowl” sloping down to the Willamette River was relatively empty, so one could easily drag a chair from the stage on one side to the stage on the other. The format is to alternate bands, so the music never stops - hour after hour, day after day after day after day. The festival now runs four days and nights.

There are the two main stages in the Bowl plus two other stages, so there are times when three bands blast out the music at the same time. Even the first afternoon and evening – on a workday - gets crowded. I set up between the stages. Two chairs, some water, food, and a couple of books made it seem like a backyard hangout with good live music and many thousands of friends and neighbors.

The afternoon was hot and dry, but beautiful in the shady spot. An armada of partiers floated in the adjacent river, drinking, sunning, hula hooping, etc. Some people are smart enough to camp on their boats for several days to soak in the sun and atmosphere.

Photos of boats and stage right follow:
http://www.flickr.com/photos/39474118@N06/sets/72157620869861223/

Allyson walked from work to join me, which was a great way to unwind from a work day: music, people, and food. And here are a couple notes on 2009 technology: (1) A’ reserved a hotel room in Europe with her iphone as we sat there in the open air, and (2) I took a photo of A’ and E-mailed it to her dad with a “hello” and a short music clip.

Keb Mo headlined today’s event, filling in for an ailing Etta James. YouTube has video his music and our 360° view:

http://www.youtube.com/user/merrick792#play/all/uploads-all/0/icNqWf3NNNI

090704

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Chicago is family & fun.

The main attraction in Chicagoland is not the Art Institute or the Field Museum. It is not da White Sox vs. the Cubs, or architectural wonders, or Michigan Avenue. For me, visiting Chicagoland means enjoying the love and the current snapshot-happenings of my sister, Pat, Kevin, Kent, Lauren & Cara. Ann was in town, too, making the group lots of fun.

Don’t get me wrong. I enjoyed tremendously the other aspects of being in town, but I would have visited even if they lived in the emptiest place in the world. That we could take advantage of some highlights from a great city was merely berries on some sort of magnificent semi-fredo.

Our tickets at the Sox – Cubs rubber match was just 4 or 5 rows behind Cubs dugout, close enough to hear Giovany Soto greet Sox fans with heartfelt “F*** off.” It was late in the game, the Cubs played awfully, and Sox fans enjoyed seeing his pain. Giovany could not have provided more inspiration to Sox fans or made them feel better than to hear verbal confirmation that their rival had been beaten up emotionally as well as on the scoreboard. As the Sox crowd poured down the stadium ramps, they sang with joy.

Game Photos: http://www.flickr.com/photos/39474118@N06/sets/72157620578074111/

Video: Last Pitch, fireworks & song:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jm-VMQ2ODN4

Ten months ago, A’ pushed me in a wheel chair around the Art Institute of Chicago. This year, I walked around on my own two feet, able to see eye-to-eye with Vincent. Pat, Lorie, Ann and I then walked through Millenium Park to marvel at the kid’s fountain and “The Bean.” For people with the eye of photographers, such as Pat and Ann, it was a special treat to see how the large mirror “jelly bean” creates interesting views of people, skylines, and sky in odd juxapositions, distorted enough to catch one’s eyes.

On to Kent’s new apartment one block from the Trump Tower. 20-something and living downtown. . . . sounds like fun, despite lacking income as he continues his schooling.

Kevin and Lauren are leading the hyperactive lives of young professionals working two careers separately as they build a third together and manage to keep even busier with friends & family.

Pat’s eye-popping photos from his travels around the world inspire, as does his patience with the relative chaos that seems to swirl around their home.

And Lorie remains Lorie, thank God.

Photos: http://www.flickr.com/photos/39474118@N06/sets/72157620678057853/

Monday, June 29, 2009

Dessert and a view

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Heavy rains during the wee hours into the morning raised hopes that maybe the water level will rise enough so that K’s boat can float next to his dock instead of being mired in the muck that the birds so enjoy. Perhaps my crab walk down the steep, grassy reservoir slope last night served as an effective rain dance.

Yesterday, I joined K and Kai on their Friday morning ritual of garage sale-ing. Later, we all enjoyed lunch in Hudson, WI. Then, we dropped the boys off at art class, and K, Sarah and I walked to the beach at the end of the road on the shores of the St. Croix River, which was filling with young bodies in swimsuits, (not that I noticed).

When we all returned to Lake Elmo, we enjoyed another boat ride and swim in the sun.

After we situated the boys for the evening, we had to take our sentimental journey to Macalester College. The years have been good to the school. Square footage under roof increased dramatically, including impressive new sports facilities plus more dorm rooms and a center for international studies.

We found the Heartland Restaurant about a block away from where we used to go for taco night and beer. In addition to one last night of conversation with dear friends, the highlight of the dinner was one of the desserts: white chocolate sambucca semi-fredo with black currant curd, Chambord sabayon and fresh blackberries. That may have been the most subtly flavorful dessert I’ve ever tasted in my ½ century on this planet.

One last thing I needed to do before leaving the area was to go our spot to see the twin cities. So, we found and scaled the steep, grassy reservoir. On top, in the warm breezes of the black night, we looked to our left to see the lights of the Minneapolis skyline and turned right to see St. Paul.

Today, I said goodbye to 4/5 of the K family, wishing we lived close enough to make visiting a frequent occurrence. Thank you, K, Sarah, Kai & Eric.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Good Hearts, part 2.

It’s morning on Lake Elmo. Red-winged blackbirds, robins, cardinals and other birds sing out as great white egrets look for breakfast among the lilly pads. The view from my comfy chair in the bedroom is a rare one, because about one-half of the lakeshore is public land. Yesterday’s (6/25) little swim confirmed that the water temperature is just right, which is always surprising to me, knowing that people can drive cars on the lake during winter.

K, Sarah & I met Ed & Ann at Mears Park in St. Paul last evening, which was a beautiful evening: hot in the sun but perfect in the shade. Mears Park is a terrific one-block sized urban park. A forest stream (man-made yet very pretty & pleasant) flows diagonally through it. A bandstand on one edge of the block fronts a concrete area, while grassy areas soften the other edges. A band supported a singer as she crooned some classics, providing us good background music as we all talked.

I met Ed in 1978 as he roomed with K. Ann has always been a very sweet and loving girl, now woman, who always seemed to know what she wanted and what was best for Ed. I think the years have proven her right, as Christmas letters told the story of raising their two children into a loving family unit. Ed was always her big lug of a guy, who could intimidate with his size and charm with his spirit. They both looked great, and I loved hearing the 25-year update of all that they have accomplished together and some of what they see for their future.

Eventually, we all found a shaded courtyard restaurant for dinner where I asked the question to both couples: “Where would Ed have been without Ann, and where would K have been without Sarah?” Despite the ups and downs that every marriage and relationship must have, these two couples found love, marriage, children and happiness. I feel sad for those guys who either are not loveable or, despite being loveable, never found someone to love them. We ended up at the “Happy gnome” for desert, driving around St. Paul’s magnificent cathedral, which still dominates the city, a century or more after it was built.

Earlier in the day, I got acquainted with Kai and Eric, K & Sarah’s sons. Kai joined us for a boat ride on Lake Elmo out to the public sandy beach on the far side. Kai was kind enough to let me join him on drums playing Eye of the Tiger on the rockstar video game. Eric was busy most of the day, but K and I had the chance to take him to his little league game, each volunteering our advice on how to bat. Later, we learned that his coach had elevated Eric to lead off batter because he is so adept at getting on base. He finds ways, despite being overmatched as a 7th grade batter facing 9th grader pitchers.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/39474118@N06/sets/72157620518996647/

City changed, hearts the same, part 1.

My time warp started in Portland on the airplane, when I overheard the gentleman across the aisle share his history as the actor from Dukes of Hazard who played the sheriff in the neighboring town. Later, in Minneapolis, I walked into a bar near the law school just as the Playmate from December, 1968, yes 1968, was concluding her two-hour appearance. In between, I took a quick look around the city I left ¼ century ago. New towers, new condos, new parks, etc. It took awhile to find much that I recognized.

The apartment where I lived for two years was razed and replaced. Grandma’s, the hot spot back then, looked long abandoned. Instead of cocktails at Grandmas, I found fashionable people packed into the new(er) Spill the Wine. Bullwinkle’s had not changed. Perhaps 20 feet narrow, but tall enough to have a loft, the bar’s only upgrade seemed to be flat-screen TV’s. First year of law school, classmates got to know each other at Bullwinkles. Who knew then which of us would be judges, who would succeed in becoming partners at big accounting firms only to have the firm dissolve, who would die of AIDS, who would help corporations with mergers, and who would represent people. Ghosts from 1980, sandwiched among the ghosts from the decades before and since.

This evening, I met K and S at the newer and nicer brew pub across the street, where we started our process of catching up. K was now clean shaven while I was sporting my graying goatee. K predated law school. We met in 1978 at orientation for transfer students at Macalester College in St. Paul, where I attended for a time in place of Stanford. To me, K & S looked the same, despite the passage of decades. Finallyy, four hours after landing at the airport, I finally felt like I was back to my former home, and not just another city.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/39474118@N06/sets/72157620659113530/

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Enjoying the familiar and what's new.

Old haunts or the new and untried? That’s the question I faced the last couple of days as I prepare to enjoy a brief visit with good friends in the twin cities.

25 years ago, I left Minneapolis for my one-year job in Oregon. 25 years later, the world has changed dramatically. Remember using “white out” when “typing” school papers? From the internet and E-mail to $11 cocktails, times have changed. Yet, as I use the internet to explore myriad entertainment opportunities in Minneapolis & St. Paul, I see that some of the same old bars and nightclubs still compete for business. Decades ago, some of these dives looked and smelled like they had not been cleaned since World War II. But as cash-poor students, we cared not, so long as the tacos and beer were the cheapest in town. We felt welcome and comfortable in grubby surroundings. I feel less so these days.

I’m eager to see my friends. I’ll be happy to combine the comfort of the familiar while I marvel at what’s new.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Solstice, Stonehenge, a King and my Queen

When I opened my eyes at 4:33 a.m., the skies were already lightening. The niggling question of the etymology of carpe diem, drove me to Wikipedia, and I had my answer well before the 5:22 a.m. sunrise on this longest day of the year. Carpe diem, as we use it to urge a robust and passionate life, derives from the last line of a poem that translates to: “Seize the day and place no trust in tomorrow,” Carpe diem quam minimum credula postero.

Wiki refers us to the parallel verse from Isaiah 22:13, “And behold joy and gladness, slaying oxen, and killing sheep, eating flesh, and drinking wine: let us eat and drink; for tomorrow we shall die.”

We divided our longest day into three parts, Portland Farmers Market (http://www.flickr.com/photos/39474118@N06/sets/72157620018562131/ ), home remodel project, and the road trip to and from Maryhill’s Stonehenge.

At milepost 54, the Portland clouds turned to Hood River sunshine, where we picked up some food and continued another hour to Maryhill. There was a great spirit at Stonehenge. The Portland Actors Ensemble was setting up in the blustery conditions. A group was picnicking in the shade overlooking the Columbia River Gorge. A motorcycle group rolled in, and many others filled the 200 seats. Then, probably another 100 people crammed into oddly beautiful monument. The group of women in front of us were having a grand old time finishing up their bottles of wine and mugging for the camera. Couples settled in with their food, and the troupe received a very warm welcome as the temperature cooled.

One can only appreciate the monument by sitting there over some time to observe how the arches, pillars, and “doorways” treat visitors with different light, shadows and dramatic views. My snapshots don’t do justice, but here they are: http://www.flickr.com/photos/39474118@N06/sets/72157620101418450/

The play was fun, and considering Father’s day, very appropriate as King Lear is driven to madness by his two rotten daughters. Intermission arrived just before sunset, and we took the opportunity to head home. Perhaps we’ll catch the rest of the play at Cathedral Park in Portland.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Summer starts at Stonehenge


Summer starts with the solstice.
Stonehenge in England has been a gathering spot for over a century, thanks to Druids and new agers. I’m still working hard to clear my calendar for summer, so a trip to England would be tough. Fortunately, there’s the scale replica in Washington State, along the Columbia River.

Wealthy utopian Sam Hill dedicated the alter stone for his Stonehenge at Maryhill, Washington on July 4, 1918. The stone's placement was based on calculations of where sunrise would be on the summer solstice.

(Here's and what happens when the druids celebrate on the solstice.)

Hill’s Maryhill Stonehenge was our first World War I memorial, for fallen soldiers from Klickitat County. The altar stone read "To the memory of the soldiers and sailors of Klickitat County who gave their lives in defense of their country ... in the hope that others inspired by the example of their valor and their heroism may share in that love of liberty and burn with that fire of patriotism which death alone can quench."

Why copy Stonehenge for the memorial?

Sam Hill had visited the original Stonehenge with Britain’s Secretary of War in 1915. Supposedly he told Sam Hill, "Here the ancients 4,000 years ago offered bloody sacrifices to their heathen gods of war"

Here are links to photos of the Columbia River Stonehenge: http://www.columbiariverimages.com/Images/stonehenge_2004.jpg

http://www.columbiariverimages.com/Images/stonehenge_mount_hood_2004.jpg

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Making up for lost time.

Summer 2008 was not my best summer. My hip joint deteriorated rapidly. I worked hard and lost sleep preparing for an important August trial. I was not much fun for myself or anyone else.

I got new hip parts in October 2008 and a new car a couple weeks ago.

My work load is light for Summer 2009.

I'm ready to start the best summer that I've had in years.