Monday, December 5, 2011

So, Hawai'i...

Things I'd heard that were really true: Gas is expensive (over $4.60 a gallon), milk is expensive ($5 or $6 a gallon), everything else is expensive (everything), and the weather is reliably good (if you don't mind your warmth occasionally very windy).

Things I'd been given to believe that were not so true: Snorkeling is always great on Maui. Of course, my first and only experience of snorkeling was in the John Pennenkamp Coral Reef (underwater) State Park near Key West Florida, so that'd be hard to match with wade-in-off-the beach reefs, I suppose. And maybe we just picked the wrong time to go, but we got only one good morning in before the aggressive waves murked up the water so much we could barely see or stay off the rocks ourselves. Oh, well. It was water we could swim in; don't get that at home.

Also, I never knew I liked Hawaiian music until I went on the dinner cruise that I admit I thought was a cheesy idea. A young man started singing and didn't stop for most of the two or three hours that we mostly just rocked on the water and scanned for the occasional accommodating whale. It was the best part of an excursion that was in every way quite lovely. That language that can all be written in 12 letters (13 if you count the ', the glottal stop consonant that really should be in the word Hawai'i) is so musical. When I heard that the movie "The Descendants" was entirely scored with Hawaiian music, it was a new reason to see the movie, more even than GC himself.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Can you correct this breach of etiquette without being, well, impolite?

I tend to leave the office latish on Fridays. After catching up calls, reviewing lengthy old records from patients' previous doctors, etc. I walk down to the MAX station, avoiding the rush that I imagine exists at 5:30 or 6. I was having an impromptu visit with a nice (previously unknown to me) lady who works at the Salvation Army youth center when a large pleasant man in a red T-shirt, longish hair, and a baseball cap asked us if we knew which train to take for North Interstate and Lombard. We told him that would be the yellow line and I told him that was my stop. He said, "Thanks, ladies," and walked off. Ten minutes later he came back and asked if he could go on with us and make sure he got off at the right place. The other lady said that wasn't her train, but I told him, sure, I could show him where to get off. He said, "Thanks, darlin'", and I said, almost reflexively, "Please call me 'Ma'am'". Don't misunderstand, I can't tell you how gentle and unthreatening this guy seemed, but I really, really don't like people who are not my friends calling me "Hon", "Sweetie", "Dear", "Darlin'", or any other term of endearment when I am not endeared. It feels disrespectful, and I used to not let it go by uncorrected when it came from a man, but I don't think I'm saying it well, because there is always a chill that descends. I follow it with "You can call me Kim, if you like", to try to communicate that I'm not trying to be snobbish, but I think I need a better line than, "Please don't call me __________", or "Please call me Ma'am".

It may be that "Please don't call me (Sweetie)" is better. One gas station attendant I remember saying that to said, seemingly sincerely, "What should I call you? Honey?" The episode that left me feeling saddest was when the really sweet resident oral surgeon who was taking the screws out of my mouth, seeing this was painful, said, "Oh, I'm sorry, hon!" and I said (yes, at such a moment I decide to be Ms. Manners), "Please don't call me hon. It doesn't feel respectful." After another screw or two came painfully out, I managed to commit my own faux pas--which maybe wouldn't have been one if I hadn't just corrected him--and patted him on the arm, so much as to say, "It's okay, I know you can't help how much it hurts", and felt the need to apologize for that. It just didn't feel we ended the visit as warmly and it had started and I wished I'd just taken the "hon" on the chin and kept quiet.

Anyway, suggestions welcome. I'm clearly in need of my own etiquette advisor.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

The Meeting of the Waters

Sunday Merlin and I rode out to Kelley Point Park, about six miles from our house, to see the place where the Willamette River flows into the Columbia. It is not as dramatic as the meeting of the waters of the Amazon and the Rio Negro in Brazil, where it looks like cream being slowly poured into black coffee. In fact, the marker says Lewis and Clark failed to notice the Willamette as they went down the Columbia and again as they came back up it, even though they'd been told there was another great river right in the neighborhood.

That point is also the spot where the city of Portland ends. Even though we now live in the big City, we live at the extreme end of it, and it is a place where extreme beauty and extreme ugliness can be seen with just a quick turn of the head. Or without turning even. To get to Kelley Point, you ride a bike path with Smith and Bybee lakes on your left, a beautiful wildlife area, and the rather sci-fi-ish Marine Drive industrial landscape on your right. Over your left handlebar, woods, waterfowl and fish, over your right, large square buildings, all deserted for the weekend (or WERE they?), and railroad tracks. It's eerie.

Our own home is barely south of Columbia Boulevard. So we are surrounded by an old Portland neighborhood (not a fancy one, but kind of a cozy one), yet one block away to the north is an area that will never be residential and is covered with railroad tracks, a water treatment plant, heavy manufacturing. That area is also home to the Columbia slough, a great place to walk and see wildlife, provided you don't mind your wildlife against a backdrop of aging warehouses or the Portland International Raceway. (It's also home to the lost city of Vanport, which washed away 63 years ago last weekend, about which we've been reading and Googling obsessively lately, more about which another time.)

Oddly, I don't mind too much. It's surprisingly quiet here despite all that so close. And train whistles sing me back to sleep when I wake in the night. I live where humans live, and we are unfortunately a messy species. And really, you can't spit in this place and not hit some sort of a park (I have no idea how we pay for that!), so I take the blessing with the curse and try not to add too much to the latter.

Saturday, April 30, 2011

The Old Homestead Goes on the Market

Today we signed all that paperwork you sign when you are about to put up a Realtor's sign in front of your house. Yes, funny to think it, but that big green house in Dallas is still ours, even though we no longer sleep there or cook there. It is now all various shades of beige, neutralized for the next couple who walks in, so they can picture making it their own, and maybe give us lots of money for it. I did leave the crayon-red room crayon-red, because it was too beautiful that way to paint over so soon, and because red is really hard to cover with beige.

Our real estate agent Yolanda was impressed. She saw it at its worst last fall and helped us set a tentative price; before she came over Friday, she tried to prepare us for a possible down-pricing as the market keeps slipping, I guess, but when she saw it she decided to keep the starting price where we first decided it would be. It definitely confirmed our conviction, formed long ago, that it would be a much more attractive house with us out of it.

It still makes me sad. I loved that house, and especially the things I thought I would do with it 10 years ago, but never did. Now I am in a much smaller house with all kinds of Ikea ideas about what I want to do with it; we'll see. But I hope that now that I live here full-time, I'll dive right into what I want to do most, even before I paint over the depressing Spanish Moss green walls: Fill it with people once every week or two (it won't take many to fill it) and feed them with the non-foodie food I know how to make, and thus, and in many other ways, fulfill the law of Christ.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

The Bus

I ride the #4 bus now. I haven't ridden a city bus in the US for over 25 years, and now I have a bus. It's the 4. It picks me up two blocks from home, and after 45 minutes it lets me off 10 blocks from work. Or vice versa. That doesn't sound like a good ad for public transportation, and I still get driven to work by the love of my life most days, but I like the 4. It makes me feel like I live in a more diverse city than I do live in.

Today, about a mile into the ride, a whole class of 7-year-olds from Boise-Eliot school got on at one stop, with what looked like 2 adults. This made me smile. They were noisy and well behaved. Except for one of their supervisors who kept yelling at them to stop talking: "ZERO TALKING." "How much talking did I say? ZERO." She did eventually almost succeed in silencing them. I liked the chatter better.

My husband goes to Dallas every Friday to cut the grass, work on the house we are about to put on the market, and play volleyball late into the evening with his friends. He drops me off at work and I go home on the 4. I do what everyone else does, find a seat, pull out my faux-pod (a cheap Sansa MP3 player my kids found me on one of those websites where you have 24 hours to decide) or my book, and leave the driving to a very nice man or woman who is, I hope, paid well to put up with us all. I watch people of every color, age, and capability get on and off. I watch Portland go by. I pull the string. I walk the two blocks home. I feel kind of like I live here.

Monday, April 11, 2011

In case you know someone else who...

Can't open her mouth, I have a few observations and suggestions that I wish someone had given me a couple of weeks ago:

Safeway Signature soups (the kind that come in a refrigerator case and cost about $4 for 24 ounces) blend better than anything else that tastes good. Coconut Thai Chicken Bisque is incredible. My mother justly termed it a "beautiful soup".

If you've ever thought you only like food and drink really cold, or really hot, this situation will change your mind. When you can't sip and everything has to go past your teeth, tepid has its virtues. Oddly, Ensure is better fairly hot.

Ask for that wax they give people with braces. Buy Anbesol and Biotene. And those little plastic toothpicks with green rubber tips. And Benefiber. (It really does dissolve completely in liquid, and you may be sorry if you don't use it, because juices, it turns out, don't contain much fiber. Especially that stupid "Green Machine" which has the look of virtue and the fiber content of pudding.)

It's surprisingly easy to turn away from real food and just not think about it when you have no real choice. And I love, love, love real food. I will run back to its arms as soon as they let me. But now, I just turn a cold eye and keep moving.

I have not found anything that helps me talk better. I know someone has tips, I just don't.

You will be tempted to think and talk about this condition all the time because you are inevitably obsessed because it affects almost all you do. It would be wise for everyone's sake to resist the temptation as much as possible. I have failed. As you can see.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

I Fracture My Jaw

What has finally driven me back to the blog is this: My jaw is wired shut and two things I most enjoy doing most (yes, deliberate use of two "mosts")--talking and eating--have suddenly lost about 3/4 of their attraction for me.

I earn my living by thinking and talking, and I think in part by talking. Since I tripped on a piece of Portland sidewalk 10 days ago, landing squarely on my chin and breaking my mandible, talking is tiring, a little painful, and seriously embarrassing. I have been grateful for all the people who have said to me, "I've tried talking through my teeth to see what that's like for you, and it's awful!" The effort to empathize warms my heart, but I know they know trying it out is nothing like having it imposed on you. I sound slushy and sticky. Apologizing to the few patients I've seen or talked to on the phone is how I start my visits. And the muscles of my face constantly tighten and try to force my teeth, already as close as they can get, closer.

This happened at a time I wouldn't have chosen, at the juncture of two jobs. While I'm thankful for COBRA (health care portability law), and a new employer who is willing to give me a light schedule and several more days off than I'm sure she wishes I had to take, some of my anxiety is that I am now dealing with people who don't know me, who don't know that I never take sick time, and who don't know how much I really want to dive in and learn the new job. (Also, at my old clinic, my patients would have patted my hand and said, "There, there, we don't mind that you sound like you're talking through mashed potatoes, we're just glad you're okay". Probably in Spanish. My new ones probably won't. And actually if they did, it'd be weird.)

But you don't get offered choice in this kind of thing, only in how you respond. So I am off on a hopefully brief adventure of character building and ego adjusting and perspective acquiring, trying with very mixed success to use my shamefully frequent self-pity as a trigger to pray for, oh, say, quake victims in Japan, women with rectovaginal fistulas in rural Africa, girls being sold on the street in Portland, and people with real, intractable pain who will come into my office and for whom 2-6 weeks of eating slurry will not make things all right again.

Put up with me if you can, call me if you want to, and remember to give thanks that you can, any time you want to, lick your lips.