My Photo
Location: PDX, United States

Friday, September 28, 2007

Speak, Memory

I remember exactly where I was the moment I learned that Santa Claus wasn’t real. My third grade class had just finished P.E., and we were lined up on the stairs leaving the gym, waiting for our teacher to pick us up. Some ass who had probably just learned the news himself decided to share it with the entire class. I went on to make the usual connections, and discarded my belief in elves, reindeer, the Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy. Years later, I became the librarian at the same school, and every time I used the stairs to the gym, I remembered how shattered I felt

When I was 21, flying home from Denmark, I was seated next to a woman from Sweden about my age. We drank a lot of champagne, and she made an off hand remark about reindeer. I thought she was joking, and called her on it. She assured me she wasn’t, and when I got home, I announced to my whole family that reindeer were actually real.


Thursday, September 20, 2007


When I was four, my family moved from Seattle to Bainbridge Island. Regrettably, it has since become a suburb; even ten years ago it was impossible to get a salad for under $10 in one of the numerous restaurants that have sprung up in the town of Winslow.

In the mid ’70’s, Winslow was a tiny town with one traffic light. I loved the Scotch Broom Parade that went down the main street every year, and was really excited the year I got to be part of it, riding in the back of a truck filled with hay and throwing candy at the crowd. There was a little diner my family used to go to occasionally, The Lemon Tree, and I wanted to be a waitress there when I grew up.

The only other restaurant I remember was The Island House. My parents would go there for their anniversary, and it was on one of those anniversary dinners they got the call from my babysitter informing them that I had stuck a peanut up my nose and couldn’t get it out.

The Island House saved buckets of leftovers for our pigs, who always had the same names: Sausage, Bacon, Ham and a name I can’t remember. We got four pigs every year. They were cute when they were young and ran all over the garden, which took up an acre of the property. When they got older, and the garden no longer needed rotatilled, we moved them in to a much smaller pen. Retrospectively, this seems unfair; while they were small they had a ton of room to run around, and when they became bigger, we stuck them in a really confined space.

I didn’t think about this at all at the time. By the time they had been moved to the smaller pen, I hated them. They were much bigger than me, made a lot of noise, and were really intimidating.

I remember the slaughtering days as really exciting. We got to stay home from school and invite a friend over to watch. I have no memories of ever knowing I was eating our own pigs. It was something that if my parents talked about all, they did it when they were alone.

We moved back to Seattle when I was nine and our pigs, chickens, rabbits and horses were replaced by a series of Springer Spaniels, all of whom were named Sam.

I’ve dabbled with becoming a vegetarian for a month or week or day at a time off and on occasionally as adult, but I always come back to meat. I don’t eat a ton of it but sometimes I really love a medium rare steak and there is nothing like the combined smell of bacon and coffee in the morning.

When I was in Vietnam last winter, I had a couple of experiences that made me again question my animal consumption. The first was seeing the baskets of live puppies and rabbits for sale as dinner in the markets in Hanoi. From Hanoi, we headed out to Halong Bay to stay on an island for a couple of nights, and I began to seriously envy my vegetarian brother and mother. We weren’t able to order food, it was all served family style and we were divided into carnivore and vegetarian groups. Each lunch and dinner for the meat eating crowd included whole grilled frogs. Maybe if it had just been the legs it wouldn’t have been a big deal, but I just couldn’t do it, and longed for the greasy vegetarian alternatives being served at the next table.

As soon as I returned to Portland, I dismissed my brief flirtation with becoming a vegetarian. I didn’t even think about it until a couple of weeks ago, when I was in Tillamook and visited a couple of cheese factories that won't stop haunting me and makes me question the orgin of everything that I eat.

The first was the Blue Heron, which I have recently learned is the state bird of Oregon. The Blue Heron has a petting farm of goats and visitors don’t actually go into the cheese factory, just a little store full of seasonal decorations, a deli, and a cheese tasting counter. I really enjoyed their smoked brie.

I headed to the Tillamook Cheese Factory next. I walked into the factory in a great mood that took a nose dive as soon as I started the tour. I was horrified that the workers were entirely visible to the public, that the glass wall that allowed us to observe the cheese making and packaging process put the people who worked in the factory on display, as if they were in a zoo. I was incredibly saddened to be confronted of the full reality that goes into cheese making. It requires the factory workers to spend the whole day on their feet doing monotonous tasks like placing blocks of cheese into slicing machines. I was so depressed by the time I left the factory that I couldn’t even eat the ice cream cone I bought on the way out.

Labels: , ,

Wednesday, September 19, 2007


Last week my one of my aunts was in town. A couple versions of my life ago, we lived on different floors of the same crumbly old Victorian house and knew each others lives inside out. Now catching up takes a really long time and we were both struck by all the change in both of our lives since the last time we'd talked.

We talked about life change in general, and decided that ideally, everyone should have a social worker an and editor. In this new world, it would be determined at some age which role you would take on. My aunt is clearly the social worker type and I am an editor. I don't mean editor in the traditional sense, but in helping others navigate what they should and shouldn't say and do. I am constantly amazed by the shitty things people say to each other without thinking about how they sound. Some things are better left unsaid and hard news can be shared in thoughtful ways.

My new society could change all this. Groups of individuals and their editors and social workers would be matched; each individual in each triad would be part of another triad. For example, I might be one person's editor, but I would have my own editor and social worker in another group, and those editors and social workers would also have their own editors and social workers. All the conjoined triads would form a giant sphere.

Imagine the amazing people we could all become and how much smoother the world would run.


Sunday, September 16, 2007


I can be really loud when I want to be. I developed this skill as a kid; having three siblings forced me to learn to project if I wanted to be heard. Working with large groups of kids makes me practice this skill all of the time. My coworkers are amazed that such a loud voice can come out of my body. I reserve my loudness for the workplace and am on the quieter side in my personal life.

I became really sensitive to noise when I lived with B., who somehow was loud even when he wasn't saying anything at all. I knew the mood he was in by the way he would close the door when he came home. A certain kind of slam would ensure that he would head straight to his office to blast music that I hated, like Melt Banana, Mr. Bungle,and No Means No. When he was in an exceptionally angry mood, he would scream "JOY!"

When I moved out, I lived in almost complete silence. I couldn't really play any music, since almost all the cds had been B.'s. I didn't even have a couch for five months.I spent a lot of time crouched on the floor in front of the heater, holding my own body, trying to get my mind around what I'd just done.

Ironically, during this time, I lived above the most noise sensitive people I've ever encountered. They complained to my landlord about the noise I made multiple times, referencing nights I wasn't even home, saying they could even hear what television show I was watching. I didn't have a television. I became paranoid about even walking around in my apartment. I was overjoyed when they finally moved out. I wondered a little about where they moved to and a shitty part of me that knew they'd never have a quieter neighbor than me hoped their new neighbors were really loud and not as easily intimated by them as I was.

I still live pretty quietly. I know how noise travels in my building, and part of my dislike of the neighbors in apartment four is their noise level. They speak at almost a shouting level. I am constantly overhearing phrases like "DO YOU WANT ANOTHER BURRITO?" spoken so loudly and delivered with such intensity that if I didn't speak English and just heard the sounds, I would think they were fighting.

Labels: ,

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Inside The Lighthouse