May 18 2010

434 Calories of travel wisdom.

May 17th, 2010

A glass of wine would have been fewer calories, but it didn’t come with these quotes.

Don’t eat anything you cannot lift. Miss Piggy
All you need is love. John Lennon
You are what you are when no one is looking.  Robert C Edwards
Life is too important to be taken seriously.  Oscar Wilde
Do or Do Not.  There is no try. Yoda
Hope is a waking dream. Aristotle

Lots of wisdom for 434 calories and a couple of bucks (American. Canadian coins are no longer accepted).

I am in the dining car of Amtrak’s Cascade Express.  My seatmate in car 9 had the look of a seasoned traveler; a nice way of saying he was smelly. Before I could decide how to deal with that I was sharply whacked on the head when the fellow in front of me declined his seat as I reached in the bag at my feet.   A swift kick to the head might be in order some days but the last time I bet on No. 9 was at a Derby Day party.  I raced for the comfort of a window seat in the bistro between cars 2 and 3.  So I’m watching the scenery, craning my neck occasionally to see what is around each bend, with an oatmeal cookie and hot coffee at my side.   The sun is poking through the trees.  I am on my way home after a weekend in Seattle.

The gypsy in my soul is waking up with each sip of java.

My sister recently repeated the advice she had bestowed on me in the early 1980’s.  “Settle down and you’ll meet someone.”  The encore was prompted by me sharing Buz’s comment about my two-city status. I reminded Shelley I didn’t follow her advise then; probably wouldn’t now.  Besides, I’d argue today, I met lots of people the past two days.

First there was the bicycle taxi owner on the waterfront.  He offered me tips on where to ride my recently inherited bike upon my return to Portland.  It was fun to hear him call out “Hey Portland” whenever our paths crossed later in the day.  A real gem was Jan, a Seattle Opera Volunteer, whose last name I should have caught. Her telling of the first act of “Amelia,” while we hovered close to a small theatre monitor in the lobby, was as engaging as what the audience heard inside. (I was uncharacteristically early to the theatre but had been given the wrong show start date by the hotel concierge so row G had a vacancy until intermission).  Jan also supplied added color with local production tidbits not in the program.

There was also Michael, the music history professor waiting tables at Tavolata, who promised he’d like nothing better than to email me suggestions for new music to download via iTunes.  And who can forget Desmond at the hotel front desk when by day two he was blowing me air kisses as I stepped off the elevator.  This after I handed him his head for botching part of my Sunday plan.  We indeed kissed and made up.

And least you think the trip was just brief, new encounters with no threads to my past or future, Tavolata is one of four restaurants (see the link below) owned by Chef Ethan Stowell, the brother of Portland friend and Oregon Ballet Theatre Artistic Director Christopher Stowell.  I also meet at noon on Sunday with Tulsa friend and caterer Angie Johnson of eat2u.  Connecting by phone Friday on business alerted us to the fact we’d both be in Seattle for the weekend.  Her ex-husband of 19 ½ years bought us a drink and took our photo near Pike and 4th. (I wish we had a photo of Dean taking the photo; he did quite a back bend to get my lime green walking shoes in the photo.)

There is one person I didn’t meet this time in Seattle but we still got to know each other better through the trip.

Where to next?  After work tonight I am going to get out a map and consult the Whippets.

What about you?  Will you travel by boat, train, car or plane?  Where to?  And with whom will you share the journey?

I hope you’ll post photos! Lots…   Traveling is great.  Sharing makes it better.

As always, Trix

May 17 2010

Good questions.

May 15, 2010

I picked him up in a parking lot.

That’s the story John and I tell when people ask how a fellow from LA (Glendale to be exact) and a woman visiting Portland from Tulsa got to be friends after the briefest of chance encounters one night in late September 2008.

Actually it was a valet parking/taxi line.   Once upon a time there was an elegant south Waterfront restaurant known as Lucier until a wicked restaurant critic wrote a poison pen review that closed its doors.

John is like a big brother, the best kind: Caring, wise, confident. He’s the kind of person you wish you could pop in your pocket and take everywhere.  From the lobby of the Wyatt, as I watched him getting out of his car on Northwest 12th Avenue,  I thought how I like everything about him, everything except maybe his choice in dogs (basset hounds) but I got used (even attached) to cats this year living with Judith during Tulsa visits.  All in all, John is pretty perfect.

One of the first things I learned about him is he has a practice of meeting at least 10 people a day, from which he’s sure to get a respectable quantity of quality contacts.  Want to go to the Oscars, looking for a hotel recommendation in Seattle?  You should have John’s number on speed dial.

“Were you falling short?  It was pretty late that Saturday night when I struck up our conversation. Had you not met your quota for the day?” I’ve asked him, when referring to why he emailed the following day.

After a couple of decades as a hospital administer, John now owns a search company, traveling the country interviewing executives for open management positions at hospitals.  Naturally, he is in the business of asking good (revealing) questions.  He even does it in a way that makes you feel you’ve found the answer without being asked the question.   I have an epiphany following each of our chats.

Late in April we were having breakfast at Lovejoy Bakery.

“I ask but I don’t know the answer.  They die on me.”  John said.  “But I have seen couples handle it lots of ways. Some make a firm rule:  no contact for six months.”

What John wasn’t saying is, “I’ve not really seen your approach before.”

John is happily into his second decade with a partner that still curls his toes, someone in many ways different from him… think classical music meets show tunes, scholar meets life of the party, pianist meets rower type pairing.   His is a “happily ever after” following the death of his first great love.

John was gently, but pointedly asking me about the wisdom of regular, social exchanges with Joel, and doubly so, but to a lesser degree, Jake.  Was it keeping me tethered to the past?  Was it having a negative effect on “moving forward?”  Friends come and go.  Many reconnect periodically.  I have never been involved in severing a relationship. I believe I’m still on good terms with everyone but the mean-spirited, incompetent school director that made Clay’s fourth grade experience a living hell for all three of us. Even we made no plan to never set eyes on each other again.  I’d actually like to see her once and slap her.  I can forgive injustices done to myself, never my child.

Acceptance, responsibility, appreciation and forgiveness.  When your brain and heart work together through these emotions I find anger gets crowded out.  And isn’t that the emotion that dictates harsh endings?

I have always recoiled at hearing a couple “spilt.”  With the intention of remaining whole versus fractured, maybe I have actually prolonged the healing process – removing the bandage slowly.   If I’d walked away sooner what moments would I have skipped?   Would important things have gone unsaid?

Thursday night after a closing tour of “Disquieted” at Portland Art Museum, I visited the gift shop.  There I came across a book titled “Dear Old Love.”  Compiled by Andy Selsberg from postings to his site of the same name ), the book features anonymous notes to former crushes, sweethearts, husbands, wives and ones that got away.

What has been left unsaid in your past?  Post it here. Maybe it will get read by the person it is intended for, maybe not.  I bet you’ll benefit from writing it.

Maybe these from the book will inspire you:

Touchdown:  I root for the Giants because of you.  My husband has no idea.

Rocky Road: I got fat after we broke up, but don’t let that swell your head.  It was more because I was working at the ice cream store.

Near Miss:  I wish I missed you, so I could do that instead of just feeling empty.

Go Figaro:  Thanks to the tragedy of our breakup, I now love opera.  But I cannot find anyone who will go with me.

Pet Peeved:  I don’t care that you miss my dog.  When you cheated on me, you cheated on him, too.

Nude For Nothing:  Your tepid response to my naked pictures means we are never speaking again.

Not Quite A Regret:  On one hand, I should have kissed you.  On the other hand, I’ve had thirty good years imagining that kiss.

Whatever has gone unsaid, don’t leave today unlived.  As always, Trix

May 9 2010

New scence of scent.

May 5th, 2010

On the west side of the Wyatt, the distant sound of traffic on the 405 eleven floors below is what I hear before falling asleep at home in Portland.

Growing up I contently drifted off to sleep with a hardworking window unit in the tropics, Perry Mason episodes on the black and white TV in Palo Alto, or (in all our homes) the glamorous, musical, inviting tone of cocktail parties.

Children went to bed a lot earlier in those days and as the youngest in our small clan, I was the first to retire.

The household was well established when I came on the scene; no one tiptoed around or whispered after I closed my eyes.  The noises of a household still buzzing were comforting.  The nights my parents entertained (which were frequent) were especially magical.  JR smoked the occasional cigar and laughed easily.  My mother’s perfect hostess duties included  breezing through my bedroom for a goodnight kiss,  the absolute  vision of elegance  dressed in a black cocktail dress.  The image was rounded out with the finishing scent combination of Shalimar, cigarettes and bourbon.

Those were the nights Pops didn’t sit near my bed, singing to me until my eyelids got heavy but all was still right with my world.  When music was in our routine, his hit singles were “You Are My Sunshine” and “Red River Valley.”  Outside bedtime rituals, his quiet, partial participation in songs during Sunday mass regularly had me swallowing fits of giggles.

Today I arrived at the perfume counter of Saks Fifth Avenue.  My bottle of Channel No. 5 was in need of a refill.

I’ve worn Channel No. 5 since JR (my dad) and I bought my first bottle at Joskie’s in Houston.  I was 11 years old. There have been others during the past 40 years but there was always Channel No. 5, even when JR returned from overseas trips with  Chanel No. 19 for me  and when Clay gave me Coco Chanel.   There were also the gifts of White Shoulders (very New Orleans), Halston, Pheromone, Lauren, Youth Dew (heavy, despite its name), Opium, Dior… the other names will come to me. Most you’ll remember.

Back to Saks.  Two perfume consultants, a fellow shopper and I connected instantly over the topic of scents.  We could have talked and reminisced about perfumes until the store closed (enthusiastically, I would add).   One of the Saks consultants was a walking dictionary of all bottled scents.

I shared with them my impulse to add “a new fragrance to differentiate this new period in my journey” or to  at least add a dimension, a layer.

We arrived at a fairly swift committee decision.  Safe to say we were a complimentary mixture of classic appreciating old souls and young rebels bonded for an instant in  sisterhood.  I was predisposed to be decisive.  Too many choices are simply too many, plus I was asking for coffee beans (and Saks had them) to sniff after inhaling just the first two sample sprays. (If I may add at this point I overlooked an important step in the process of selecting a new fragrance: trying the final fragrance candidates on your own skin.  The store consultants spray the scents on a sample card that looks like a slightly porous business card).  A fragrance takes on different nuances, paper to woman and woman to woman.

What smells like roses on you might not be so nice on your best friend.

And if I might leave you with the most critical of reminders when it comes to fragrance… don’t marinate in it!

We’ve all experienced someone’s presence from blocks away.  We have gasped for fresh air in an exercise class, on a crowded plane and not infrequently pulled the covers over our heads after an overwhelming dose of fragrance has triggered a migraine.

A scent should be a whisper, something that draws a person closer to you to communicate, to take in your essence.


May 2 2010

Community connections

May 2nd, 2010

What is a neighborhood?  A collection of houses with lawns? Blocks with children playing and dogs barking?

There was a time when a neighborhood had very clear physical boundaries and emotionally encompassed community, friends and family.   I think for many of us that has changed.

How well do you know who is living either side of your front door? While your facebook “friend” count hovers near 2000, who close by would you call when you’ve made too much beef stew and would welcome dinner guests or locked yourself out or just need a cup of sugar? (not being a baker I never stock sugar nor have I gone knocking on doors for it but you get the idea).

For the most part I grew up overseas. Never have I returned to a childhood home but when I visit Tulsa each month I experience the closest thing to it.  For the past seven months I have stayed in MapleRidge-Sunset Terrace, a midtown neighborhood with a woman who has become one of my dearest friends.  It feels a bit like “going home” – actually a lot like it.  In the early 90’s I lived just a few blocks away in a house Joel, Clay and I  had for ten years, a time span still roughly twice my stay in any single residence. It was the house Clay remembers best; his experience leaving it was more profound than departures I experienced. To his one, I experienced nine places called “home.”

Lying in bed one recent Sunday morning I listened to songbirds, barking dogs, passing cars and bouncing basketballs. Wrapped up in my roommate’s Super Bowl XXII terry robe, I sprinted across the lawn for the morning paper as patrons of All Souls Unitarian Church began to park along Woodward Avenue.  I took a second to feel encouraged by this sight; cheered to see a wave of moderate church goers practicing tolerance and compassion. In this part of the country politicians are more often members of  the extreme Christian Right and they are voted into office.  Inside I brewed Chicory coffee, feed my roommates cats Raffles and Violet and efficiently polished off other household tasks.  I wanted to fit in a brisk walk before brunch with my parents and son.  Such a Sunday routine hardly differed from what Joel and I did in the 90’s.

Was it different experiencing it solo?  Certainly. If anything, I was more attuned to the experience as I blended memories with the present.  I am now only a visitor, a historian of a past decade.

A block to the north I tossed newspapers in the collection bin at Channing School, where Clay attended kindergarten plus a year of preschool dedicated to twice-weekly field trips with six classmates “double-buckled” in Ann Barry’s Volvo wagon.  I looked at the low brick wall tracing the outline of the entry walkway, remembering fondly how Clay navigated it each afternoon before leaping into my arms, safely out of sight of the director who insisted he was too old to be carried.

Then as I did a week before when orienting a friend in real estate less familiar with midtown, along my brief walk I identified the past or current occupants of most houses – the red-brick bungalow that once belonged to our Sophian remodel general contractor and then the dental hygienist I’ve seen for 20 years (who also spent some time living in Indonesia as a child). The multiple car garage of a Mediterranean Villa owned by a Porsche collector and the IT consultant for Norvell-Marcum, the multi-level landscaped garden begun by a well-known landscape artist and later cultivated by Blue Dog Market owner, Paige Martin.  Around the curve at 28th and Cincinnati where we lived was the traditional style home with detached garage occupied by the principal of Clay’s Catholic middle school (which made putting wine bottles at the curb for recycling a questionable practice), the charming brown brick one-story called home by the prematurely gray supplier of plantation shutters for our first home by Holland Hall, the east-facing house of the manager of KoKo & Ellis, a Brookside children’s store that sold our Harvard Bound jams and shoebags.  Other houses I passed belonged to Dana Gilpin, the artist chosen for one of the early Festival of Trees commemorative pins, concert pianist Peter Simon, MAPCO colleague Mike Ward, the late Saks’ general manager Debbie Palazzo, granite and marble counter top supplier Carl McMahon, TV reporter Michelle Lowry, fabulous watercolor artist Laura Shafer and her husband John, the current president of the Porsche Club, Phillips freelance team member Myna Burk, chef Phillipe Garmy…

And our former house in the neighborhood?  A maintenance free place we under appreciated!  An infill project we outfitted inside to look like our condo at the Sophian Plaza, where we had lighted for only 18 months.  Not really emotionally ready to leave our two-bedroom at the Soph, we listed it for sale because a gaggle of siblings for Clay seemed possible and mortgage rates dipped to single digits for the first time in our experience.  Instead of a larger family, our house on Cincinnati gave birth to Joel’s teaching career, first in ballet, then yoga and to my company, Arts Society.  It was a place we entertained foreign visitors, family, Clay’s first girlfriends, WAFALs and many dear friends.  We launched fundraisers, held meetings, conducted school science experiments…

It was what a house should be.  It was a place where dreams where hatched, disappointments endured, accomplishments celebrated, Lego villages built, Easter eggs hidden, Christmas trees decorated, a rose bush (A Lucille Ball Rose!) planted.

A somewhat nomadic childhood made it easy to adopt the expression, “home is where you hang your hat.”  What I really believed was home was where Joel and Clay were. But did some of what made us a couple and a family get left behind when we left our house on Cincinnati?  In general, do we need to seek old-fashioned neighborhoods for families to thrive?  And what setting is best for empty nesters?  What makes a house a home, a neighborhood a community? How much of what we call home is it tied to a physical location? I don’t have the answers.  I live in two cities.  In some ways I feel connected to both, at other times I feel completely detached because I am an unmarried woman negotiating life solo.