Noises Off!

Our neighborhood isn’t exactly quiet. Well, it’s quiet most of the time, I guess. But on evenings and weekends, there are a lot of people outside laughing and shouting.

There are also a lot of people playing their music. The renters in the brown house across the street like to blare KGON and its classic rock. Curt and Tammy next door like contemporary country music. Behind us, Harvey and his girls tend toward oldies.

In a way, it’s fun when one of our neighbors has the music on at high volume. I wouldn’t normally choose to listen to any of these types of music, but I don’t hate them. Plus I feel like this gives me a glimpse into their world.

I even contribute to the din from time-to-time. If I’m working in the yard, I’ll turn up the workshop stereo. My music of choice is usually the two-disc Johnny Cash anthology (though I’ll often play big band or new wave or Indigo Girls). I’m sure the neighbors are sick of “Five Feet High and Rising” by now.

All is well and good in our noisy little world. Or was good until the other neighbors behind us joined the fray.

We think that the little red house is being rented by some college students. They seemed to move in during the late spring, during which they held loud bonfire parties well past bedtime on weeknights. No big deal. Easy enough to wear earplugs.

Now, though, they’ve found an even more annoying habit. On weekdays (and weekdays only), they begin playing their music loudly at about 9am. They keep the volume cranked until into the evening. This wouldn’t be so bad except for two things:

  • The volume is much higher than anyone else in the neighborhood uses, and
  • They listen to gangsta rap and bad hip-hop.

Ugh. Call me an old man, but this is like a torture one might devise for terrorists. Fortunately, I spend my days up at the office. If I were working from home, I might have knocked on their door to complain by now. I still may have to do so. We’ll see.

Or maybe I could make a request. Everything would be fine if they’d just play Johnny Cash.

In Dreams

Because I have sleep apnea and spend my nights strapped to a C-PAP machine, I don’t dream very often. If I remember to take my melatonin before bed, I’ll sometimes have dreams, but mostly my nights are a blank slate. (I’m sure I’m actually dreaming, of course, but I just don’t remember the dreams upon waking.) A couple of weeks ago, though, I had a fine pair of dreams. Very vivid.

Dream #1

Kris and I were joining Chris and Jolie to see a movie in northwest Portland. For some reason, we were meeting them at the Mini dealership in southwest Portland. When we met, there was an hour before the movie began, so I suggested we walk over to the theater. We did. As we were leaving the dealership, we passed through a coffeeshop attached to it (which doesn’t exist in reality), and I accidentally knocked a newspaper from some lady’s hands. Chris caught it as it fell, and I was all apologetic.

The four of us walked to the (imaginary) theater in northwest Portland, but we were way early (which wouldn’t be true in real life — the walk would have been just the right amount of time). Fortunately, the theater was attached to a large used bookstore (not Powell’s). Also fortunately (or perhaps unfortunately), the bookstore contained a huge stash of comics-as-books that I’ve been hunting for. And for cover price (instead of marked up at collectors prices). I was ecstatic, and set aside a stack of them to purchase.

Then I saw that my brother Jeff was there. He and I began to talk. Jolie came to tell me that it was time for the movie to start, so I went to find my stack of books, but they were gone! I was frantic! I didn’t want to let these bargains slip away. I couldn’t find them anywhere. I looked under a bed (why was there a bed in the middle of a bookstore?) but they weren’t there. (There were, however, other comics-as-books that I wanted, so I grabbed them.) Ultimately, I had to leave without my books, and I was very sad. I did not enjoy the movie.

Dream #2

The four of us are coming out of a building (the theater in dream #1?) and we see a puzzling sight. We’re in southeast Portland now, over by Woodstock and 39th. All of the buildings are shifted off their foundations. In fact, most of them are collapsed and demolished. “Was there an earthquake?” we keep asking the people, but they’re wandering around in a daze and not answering us.

Chris and Jolie go their own way while Kris and I ride the bus (?!?!?) home, looking at the devastation as we ride. “I wonder if our house has collapsed,” I say, but we decide that it probably hasn’t because the foundation is embedded deep in the earth (not true). When we get home, the house is fine, but all of the houses around it have collapsed.

Bad Haircut

Out of sheer laziness, I’ve begun to get my hair cut at Great Clips. It’s right next to Safeway, so it’s easy to go there when I’m picking up groceries. I don’t particularly care for their cuts, but Kris likes them. They generally give me the same cut every time, too, which is nice, because they’ve put my preferences into their computer.

Today, however, I got something…a little different.

When I walked in, I was pleased to discover there was no wait. Alexis was able to cut my hair right away. “How would you like your hair cut?” she asked, which I thought was odd, since the info is right there in the computer.

“Well, I usually get it clipper-cut on the side with a Four, and then I like it longer on top. Basically, I need a standard businessman’s haircut.”

“So you want about half an inch off the top?” asked Alexis, holding up my hair to illustrate. It was about two inches long.

“Sure,” I said. “That sounds about right.”

Alexis began to fuss with her implements. “I hate this chair,” she told me. “It’s too far away from my stuff. My cord won’t reach.” To make things work, she had to spin me around so I was facing the back of the shop. We chatted briefly, but not much — just the way I like it.

“Do you use product?” Alexis asked a few minutes later.

“Not much,” I said. “I have some at home, but I don’t use it often.”

“Would you like me to put some in your hair today?” she asked.

“Sure,” I said.

“And do you part your hair?” she asked.

“Yes,” I said. “To the left.”

“There you go,” she said. “I think we’re finished.”

When she spun me around to look in the mirror, I just about died. My haircut was not at all like we’d talked about. Alexis didn’t take half an inch off the top; she left half an inch. She didn’t give me a standard businessman’s haircut. She gave me some hipster doofus cut. I looked like…like…well, like this:

O, my fragile heart. What could I do, though? I tried not to look shocked, thanked her, and left a two-dollar tip. I walked over to Safeway to do my shopping, but the whole time I felt mortified, as if everyone were snickering at my new hair.

“It’s not so bad,” Kris said when I got home. How could she say that? For years, she’s been refusing to let me get a short haircut. And now I have one by accident and she likes it? It makes my head look like an enormous melon!

“It’s really not so bad,” Kris said again.

“I almost don’t want to go to the party tonight,” I said.

“Don’t be silly,” she said. “Go to the party. In fact, I’ll make a bet with you. I bet nobody says a thing about your hair.”

I went, and Kris was right. (Kris Gates is always right, isn’t she?) Nobody said a thing about my hair. But I know that they were snickering on the inside!


As a life-long Oregonian, you’d think I would have learned by now: you don’t leave the windows down on your car in spring-time — not matter how clear the sky is. And if you have a brand-new (used) Mini Cooper, you most definitely don’t leave the sunroof open while you run into the comic book store for a few minutes.

But no.

Apparently I’ve learned none of this.

So, yesterday afternoon I made a quick stop to pick up some Star Trek comics (unsuccessful). I didn’t close the sunroof. During the five minutes I was inside, the heavens opened and the sky fell in. I came out to find pools of water in the bucket seats.

I went back into the store to bum some paper towels.

Lesson learned — I hope.

Mini Mileage

We’re home from another great weekend trip to Sunriver. We do this trip every year with the MNF group, and it’s almost always fun. We’ve finally found a house that seems to facilitate group interaction, which is awesome. This was our fourth year in the same spot, and since Kris and I are planning the trip next year, you can count on a fifth year, too.

One of the best parts of this year’s excursion was driving my new (used) Mini Cooper, which we’ve dubbed Bumblebee (or simply Bumble). Kris was very patient with me as I toyed with acceleration in spots. Fun.

As a stats geek, I love the onboard computer. I suppose most cars come with these nowadays, but they’re new to me. Bumble can display his real-time fuel consumption and calculate his average usage. He can do the same for speeds. (And, best of all, Bumble can tell me how far he can go before he needs more gas!)

I’ve always been curious which path to Sunriver is quicker, over Mt. Hood or over the Santiam Pass. This year I tracked our numbers:

  • Our trip to Sunriver took us from Oak Grove to Sandy to Madras to Redmond to Bend. We covered 169.2 miles in three hours and thirty minutes, for an average speed of 52.9 miles per hour. Bumble traveled 34.0 miles per gallon.
  • On our trip home from Sunriver, we went from Bend to Sisters to Stayton to Silverton to Oregon City to Oak Grove. We covered 180.0 miles in three hours and 45 minutes, for an average speed of 51.8 miles per hour. Bumble traveled 39.8 miles per gallon.

For the entire trip (which included some time puttering around Sunriver and Bend), Bumble traveled 430.6 miles and used 12.225 gallons of gas. That’s total fuel efficiency of 35.2 miles per gallon.

One drawback is that Bumble does require Premium fuel. Ouch. That stuff’s expensive. However, I ran the numbers for the final 30 days I owned the Focus and compared them to my first two weeks with the Mini, and it seems the Focus was actually just a hair more expensive to run. (Well, comparing fuel costs only, that is.)

Now, however, it’s time for bed, even though it’s only 7:20. I’ve returned from Sunriver sick as a dog. Ugh. Why me? Why now?

p.s. This is odd. I just re-read my old posts about Sunriver. I came home sick from the 2006 trip, and again in 2009. Kris returned home sick in 2007 and 2008. “Why do you think that is?” I asked Kris. “It’s because those people are germ factories!” she said. I thought that was pretty funny.

Parallel Universe

As I mentioned at Get Rich Slowly the other day, I’ve discovered the bus.

I can recall riding the bus when I was just a boy (so before the age of two — right, Mom?), and I rode it once in high school to visit Paul Carlile when he was in foster care, but I’ve never ridden it as an adult. I’ve been on buses in other cities — just not in Portland.

What took me so long?

I was sort of in a panic Wednesday when I learned that the routine service on my new (used) Mini would keep the car in the shop overnight. How would I get home? Eventually I realized I could take the bus.

And I rode the bus back into the city on Thursday. A fifteen minute walk to the bus stop at Oak Grove and McLoughlin, a twenty minute ride, and bam! There I was at 4th and Washington.

I love it.

I had a sense of exhilarating freedom as I sat in O’Bryant Square just killing time. I know this probably sounds lame, but it’s liberating to not have a car downtown. I didn’t have to worry about parking. I could wlak where I wanted and take as long as I wanted. I could watch the skateboarders, and the mounted police (and the bicycle police), and the businessmen eating Chinese takeout on the park benches. I could sit there and write.

Sure, I could do all of those things if I’d driven downtown, too. But I wouldn’t. I’d be in a completely different mindset. It’s as if when I stepped on that bus I entered a different world — a parallel universe.

Later in the day, I met my friend Ramit for lunch at Kenny and Zuke’s. He was in town from San Francisco to promote his new book. I lingered a long time, chatting with our readers (especially Davy and Kinley), and then walked up to the Mini dealer to get my car.

The whole time, I felt like I was in a strange and wonderful alternate universe. All because of public transportation.

(I’ll admit, though, that it felt good to drive home!)

Salt of the Earth

“Why did you buy a bag of potato chips?” Kris asked me the other day. “You shouldn’t be eating those.”

“I know,” I said, “but I was craving salt.” It’s true. I was craving salt — although “craving” puts it mildly. I was driving home from running errands when I felt an urge to eat raw salt in large quantities. I stopped for a bag of the best chips on earth: Kettle-brand salt & fresh ground pepper potato chips. These things are salt bombs.

My love for salt is nothing new. Many of you have sat with me in restaurants or at fancy dinner parties and marveled as I ate raw salt. I do it even more when you’re not looking. One reason I have a variety of salts in the cupboard (seasoned salt, garlic salt, herb salt, sea salt, bacon salt) is that I eat a lot of it and therefor want a variety on hand.

Why is this? Why do I love salt so much? Why do I need it? I’m not sure. But I’m very glad that, so far, I am not salt-sensitive. I would hate to have to reduce my sodium intake.

This morning I had a grapefruit for breakfast. But that wasn’t enough. When I’d finished both halves, I felt my longing for salt coming on strong. I spied the bag of potato chips on the counter. I poured myself an ounce of them, and then threw in an ounce of smokehouse almonds for good measure.

Ah, salt, how I love you.

Saturday Morning

On the way to book group last month, Kris and I stopped to pick up pastries at Marsee Bakery in Westmoreland. I found the following scene amusing:

Bakery Men

Five old men, all seated at the back of the store, each with a newspaper. (And you can see Kris reflected in the mirror…)

20-Year Anniversary

Kris and I have been together for 20 years now! Though sometimes we bicker (as all couples do), mostly this has been a wonderful experience. I am overjoyed to be spending my life with a partner I love, trust, and respect.

I had promised Paul and Amy Jo that I would share the “application” I completed to become Kris’ boyfriend 20 years ago, but she’s asked me not to share it. I did find it, and it’s fun to read, but I’ll respect her wishes. I will, however, reveal that her number one concern at the time was that I wasn’t serious enough, that I was just too glib. Twenty years later, that’s still her top concern (well, that and cleanliness). Kris often says: “I’d laugh more if you weren’t so funny all the time.”

To celebrate our anniversary, we spent a day together on an extended date.

“You need new shoes,” Kris told me recently. “Especially if you’re going to be doing public speaking, you need a new pair of dress shoes. Quality, not something cheap.”

I am not a shopper. As has been established here and elsewhere, I buy most of my clothes at Costco, supplemented by an occasional trip to Goodwill. “I don’t know where to go to buy new shoes,” I said. “Nordstrom?”

“No,” she said. “Nordstrom is too expensive. Why don’t you call Chris Flick? He has nice shoes.” Chris Flick has nice shoes? How the hell does she know this stuff? I couldn’t tell you which of our friends wore what kind of footwear — nice or not! Shoes just aren’t on my radar.

I called Chris Flick. “This is kind of an awkward question,” I said, “but where do you get your shoes?” Chris laughed, but he didn’t hesitate. He told me that the best place to buy good shoes at great prices was Nordstrom Rack, Nordstrom’s outlet store.

Kris and I drove downtown to buy shoes at Nordstrom Rack. It was overwhelming. Their were aisles and aisles of shoes, most of which looked the same to me. “What kind of shoes do you want?” Kris asked. I didn’t have a good response. The shoes I want are my Timberland boots that I wear around all the time. (These boots are actually the root of the shoe dilemma — it’s my insistence that I can wear these for all occasions that led us to the point of shoe shopping.)

So Kris picked out several shoes for me to try on. We discussed color and fit and comfort. My eyes grew big at the prices. ($60 for a pair of shoes?!??! I’m accustomed to spending $20!) I was taken aback when Kris suggested we buy two or three pairs of shoes. “We’re not going to solve all of your shoe issues with one pair of shoes,” she said.

In the end, we bought four pairs of shoes. I can hardly believe it.

After shoe-shopping, we continued our 20th anniversary extravaganza by spending too much on popcorn and a movie. (Good grief, but I’ve become a skinflint in my old age!) We walked up to the Fox Tower 10 to catch a showing of Slumdog Millionaire. Slumdog Millionaire is about a young man from Mumbai whose own life provides him with the knowledge necessary to answer the questions on the Indian version of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?

There is much to love about this film — the music, the actors (especially the children), the style — but I felt parts of the story were, well, formulaic. And if you know even the barest outline of the plot going in, then the climax is telegraphed from the very beginning of the film. Foreshadowing is too subtle a word for how clumsily this is handled.

Still, it was good. Best Picture good? Meh…

For dinner, we headed down to Dan & Louis Oyster Bar. The food was okay, but the atmosphere was ruined by the man urinating on the front steps as we entered the restaurant. (It’s located on the edge of a sketchy part of town.) I was bold and ordered the crab. I love crab meat, but I’ve never ordered a whole crab before, and I was lost. I was also messy, splattering butter all over myself. Kris just shook her head.

In the end, it was a fun day. Kris and I rarely do dates anymore. We should do them more often. Just not to buy shoes, and not to spend a small fortune on a movie, and not to eat crab. I think that cheap pizza and a discount theater are more our style!

Update: Yikes! A few hours later, there was a deadly shooting just around the corner from the restaurant. As most of you know, I’m not one who believes in the supernatural, but as we were walking to the restaurant last night, I had a terrible foreboding at this spot. I’m not kidding. But it was about bodily harm to me, not others. Just coincidence, I know, but still freaky.

A Land Without Pleats or Cuffs

Kris has been helping me pare my wardrobe from unwieldy to manageable. She’s not entirely pleased with some of the garments I’ve elected to keep, but she hasn’t been shy about voicing her opinion. Here’s an actual quote from a recent “discussion”:

What about these pants? These are heavily pleated. Why are we even keeping clothes that are ugly? They’re pleated and cuffed. They’re out of here!

I’m needling her, I know, but I really do appreciate the help. Though I once was keen to follow fashion, that is no longer the case. As most of my friends know, I dress for comfort and not for style. (Translation: sometimes I look like a slob.) Kris is helping me to find a happy middle ground — a middle ground without pleats or cuffs.