Wednesday, November 16, 2016

He is the Worst. Ever. #ISitBackAndReflect

Lately I have been seeing some conservative posts on Facebook that declare that President Obama is the absolute worst president.  Ever.  The arguing between friends is possibly as bad as the arguments were/are about Trump and Clinton.  Well, perhaps not quite, but it gets a bit heated.

So I am reading the multiple/diverse opinions and those voicing this opinion that Obama is the worst are so adamant about this claim that I thought perhaps I should check their conclusions based on comparisons to other presidents.  I decided to look into history a bit to see how the rankings of "worst president" come about.

It is easy to rate the best presidents.  I mean, political historians, history buffs, and population surveys all tend to agree.  Abraham Lincoln rates first or second, with George Washington alternating with him.  Both did remarkable jobs in the face of adversity.  Both showed incredible bravery.  To round out the top five best presidents according to scholarly surveys are FDR, Thomas Jefferson, and either Teddy Roosevelt or Andrew Jackson.

So yes, finding the top best presidents is not a difficult job.  But what about the worst presidents?  Much harder.  What is the criteria for a bad president?  Bad to whom?  Liberals?  Conservatives?  Political historians?  General population?  How do you rate, for example, President Nixon who had great world political savvy but brought the nation to shame from what has  been labeled the "greatest and most sensational scandal in the history of American politics."  Impeached.  VP impeached.  Henchmen sent to prison.  

So, finding the worst president throughout history isn't as easy as finding the best.  One thing is clear according to scholarly political historians, President Obama isn't generally seen the worst president in history.  Even Jimmy Carter isn't the worst.  Both rank somewhere in the far.

Here are the historical worst contenders:
James Buchanan--He was our 15th president.  He had a little problem standing up for ideals.  He refused to challenge the growing bloc of states that wanted to secede from the U.S.; therefore, becoming the Confederacy.  To his credit, he believed secession was illegal, but he also believed going to war to prevent it was illegal.  He also refused to stop the growth of slavery.  When asked of historians what he did well as president, not much is recalled.

Warren G. Harding--He was our 29th president.  At the time of his presidency his popularity was high but after his death all these ugly truths came out.  He was involved in the Teapot Dome, a scandal where his Secretary of the Interior was caught taking bribes from oil companies.  It is said that he was an indecisive president who played poker while his friends plundered the treasury.  He was also taken to task for his poor handling of the Great Railroad Strike of 1922, where at least ten people, most of them strikers or family members, were killed in connection with the strike.

Andrew Johnson--He was the 17th president, taking office after the assassination of Abraham Lincoln.  He favored a quick restoration of the seceded states but in this, didn't protect former slaves.  He opposed the 14th amendment, which gave citizenship to former slaves.  He is often seen as one of the worst for his strong opposition of federally guaranteed rights for Blacks.  And yet, other historians admire Johnson for his strict constitutionalism. 

So you can see, ranking any president as The. Worst. Ever. isn't as easy as just making a taunt on the playground.  Opinions abound on all sides.  Justification seems true as we speak.  But let's compare our opinions to these bottom-possibly-worse-ever-feeders for a reality check.  And then smile, shake hands, remember we are all in this together.


Tuesday, November 15, 2016

What's On My Design Board?

Sewing curves is always interesting.  I decided to take class while I am down in Southern California to learn how to use a new curved ruler.  A few years ago I made a Drunkards Path quilt.  That's when I discovered how simple are curves.  So I had no doubt that the pattern with the class would be a good one as well.

The ruler is the Quick Curve Ruler by Sew Kind of Wonderful
The pattern is their Metro Rings.  

Okay, so I was sent the supply list for the quilt top.  I had decided to make it another Quilt of Valor, so I wanted red/white/blue fabric.  I needed a "jelly roll" (40 pieces of fabric, pre-cut pieces 2.5 x width of fabric) and a background and some highlight fabrics.  So of course I wanted my jelly roll to be red and blue, with the background white, with red and blue highlights.  I searched through the sets and finally found one roll that had blues and reds and whites, plus a couple greens.  I figured I could remove the greens and have a great QOV.

Day of the class I opened my jelly roll in order to start sewing the strips together and what a surprise!  The fabrics were Christmas fabrics!  Ahh well, still red white and blue...still a QOV.  Perhaps for someone who loves the holidays.

All pieces are cut and waiting to be sewn together.   Give me a few days...  What are you working on--quilting, sewing, painting...Eh?  What's up, Buttercup?

Monday, November 14, 2016

And Then It Hit Me #allweneedislove

Lacey Peters' Early Education Class, New York
It was finally over.  The hate-filled mudslinging from both sides of the election.  It was hard to sit through the presidential debates, listening to both sides sling enough mud on the other to build that wall we kept hearing about.  But even harder for me was sitting through the lies and accusations and seeming hatred flinging past me on social media from my friends to other friends.  Disagree?  Think your side is better?  Then listen to me shout ugly words, post ugly memes, quote others on social media about you and your candidate.  I voted early in order to stop the ugliness in my line of vision.  Somehow this helped.

But then the election happened and it didn't stop.  The ugliness didn't stop.  The lies and memes and quotations didn't stop.  Protests against the election results broke out in major cities.  Portland was the most passionate, it seems.  Yeah, we like to keep things weird.  But it isn't just the unhappy losers spreading...the gloating winners have continued their own brand of ugliness.  Calling out to the Losers...whiners, babies, get over it bitch.  No one can claim gracefully winning or losing.

I was very disappointed with the results.  I had to go to bed early before I saw the final results.  Tummy ache.  Headache.  Sadness.  And I woke up determined to make the best of it.  I declared the day "Positive Energy Day" and made a quilt for someone out there who is cold and alone.  I kept saying, "Okay.  Our job is to continue to be a voice for the voiceless, continue to stand up for social justice, for safety for all."  I reminded people that these have always been our jobs, our responsibility.  We don't have the luxury to sit back on our laurels; we must be vigilant.  I tried to send out a positive message--I am pollyanna, after all.  I told people that we can survive anything because there are safeguards in place throughout the government.  Worry wasn't healthy.  I felt like I wasn't perhaps grieving properly when I talked with Clinton supporters and tried to ignore any politics with everyone, with Trump supporters.

My grandchild woke up sobbing the night of the election because Trump won.  He--he prefers the he/him pronoun--is struggling to find his place in the world, in his body, at 13.  He thought he had a safe place to grow and try and explore his gender.  Now he was afraid.  I thought I could comfort him with simple words of reason.  The system is in place.  We have had bad presidents in the past and the U.S.A. hasn't imploded.  We will get through this.  I knew it wasn't enough, wasn't what he needed to hear, but I had no idea what else to say.

Today I woke up very early, eyes open and wide awake.  I settled down to read up on what has been happening in the world around me.  Something that I read hit me in my heart. I knew I was a safe place for everyone but did they?  Did my wonderful glorious grandchild?

And then I read farther.  A teacher had posted a large poster in her classroom that she said would remain up as long as she taught students.  And then it hit me.  I started crying, great gulps loud wailing tears flowing.

Yes, we have always had to be a voice for the voiceless, to fight for social justice, be a safe place for those who are harassed abused.  Yes, racism/sexism/heteroism (did I make that one up?) has always been there, supported by the very government that accepts protests against it.  We have always had to fight hated and abuse.  But this is harder.  Looking at this poster and realizing that everything on here has been fought for hard and fairly.  Everyone listed on this poster is dear to my heart, has been fought by me and millions of others and we have have just slipped back 50 years...because we have to tell ourselves these things are true rather than accepting and moving on.  Fifty years of hard work and toil and labor...  Half of the population has said that things need to change...but these things?  Not the progress we have made for human rights.  No.  It breaks my heart.  So I cried.

I am not a worrier.  I don't want to spend my limited energy on things that maybe might be, but on things that are being.  But my grandchild woke up crying because he doesn't feel safe.  My son called upset and almost inconsolable because his health insurance may be gone.  How will he pay to see his oncologist?  His psychologist?  His dermatologist?  My sister, my mother's aides, my do I console them?  Console and continue to see my world as hopeful.


Saturday, September 17, 2016

When the Skin Grows and the Bones Stay

Dad used to say there were two times in life: when the bones grow and the skin stays; when the skin grows and the bones stay. 

My mother fought her weight all her life, as did my father in those middle and later years.  As has my sister and myself.  My sons, too...

I'm sure many people can relate to the pattern.  Mom and Dad would lose, gain, lose, gain.  Dad could eat one of those really large chocolate bars on his way home from work every night.  Then he would stop eating much, quickly lose the weight, and gain it back.  This battle was especially difficult for Mom.  She tried many diets and would lose weight only to gain it back plus.  She would go on another diet and then eat a bag of barbecue chips in a sitting in the afternoons.  In about 1990, she joined Weight Watchers, reached goal, and stayed there for many years.  Slowly it crept back up again.

Mine has been the same struggle.  Lost weight in high school...gained weight when pregnant...lost weight after babies...gained weight...lost weight in my 40s.  Kept it off for a few years and gained it all plus another 75...apparently to even it out.  Whole numbers are better, right?  I have been maintaining a substantial loss for a couple of years, but still have a great deal of weight to lose to reach goal.

Since Mom has been in nursing care, she has lost over 25 pounds.  A year previous to her stroke, she fell and had lost another maybe 20 pounds over the next year.  So since she has been semi-now-totally disabled, she has lost nearly 50 pounds.  According to Weight Watchers, her goal weight is 155.  She now weighs about 120--up a couple and everyone gets all excited; lose a couple and the worry comes out.

I recently told her that she could now return to Weight Watchers for free (Lifetime members, if they stay no more than 2 pounds over goal, do not pay for meetings).  The joke was when she was a bit heavier than goal, she said she had not wanted to return until she lost her weight again.  I laughed.  Now she could, if she could :)

The day I learned she had lost more weight and was down so low, she had not eaten lunch.  She said she wasn't hungry, too tired to eat.  We were sitting in her room, she had been laid back into bed, and I watched her so tired and weak, not hungry, not caring about things, drifting off.

I said to her, "You have fought your weight all your life and now you are skin and bones, sadly underweight, people worried about your weight loss."  She nodded.  "Just seems like all that angst and worry, all that struggle to lose, maintain weight...all that battle was for nothing."  She nodded.

I left that day just not caring about weight issues.  I left that day realizing that life is ironic, a cruel joke sometimes.  I watched all my nursing home friends as I walked down the hallway to my car and no longer saw my friends.  I saw old people just waiting...waiting.

I looked at myself in the mirror and thought that this weight struggle was not worth my energy.  Life was too precious to waste time worrying about this stress and struggle.  I am healthy.  Blood pressure is low.  Cholesterol--good and bad--are fine. Heart rate is good.  I exercise every day and move.  All it has to do with is looking good?  Who cares?

I stayed with this attitude for maybe three weeks.  I continued to attend Weight Watcher meetings, but I just didn't care anymore.  One of the leaders asked why did I initially join (she asked everyone at the meeting, not just me, although it is really all about me, right?) and I remembered my goal for joining.  Of course ultimately to lose weight, but I wanted to lose weight in order to be able to move better.  And I was moving better since I had lost 50 pounds.  I still have movement issues, but am much better. Perhaps I was not wasting my time, but reaching toward the real goal--better movement.

Mom is 25 years older than I am; she will be 91 in a couple weeks.  She is simply waiting...waiting.  I am a robust 66 years old.  I am not waiting but living.  When I get to be 91 and waiting, I might remember to reevaluate the battle.  But for now, I'm back in the game.


Sunday, July 10, 2016

That Kid Who Frequently Came Asking for Support

Friends of Children
He started coming to my house when he was just a tyke, asking for donations that would help him travel to different schools for debate contests.  He was maybe junior high.  Cute kid; at the house representing his program, Friends of Children.  He told me he was a kid "at risk" and this program invited him in to help him.  He loved to argue and started in their Forensic program.  He, along with his team, traveled throughout Oregon and other near-by states to participate in debates.

Friends of Children is a unique mentoring program for kids at risk--poverty or lack of education or parents too young.  All races, genders.  It has a unique approach to helping at-risk youth.  From their website, "We commit to every child for the long term, from kindergarten through high school graduation. 12 ½ years. No matter what."  Their model:
Each child gets a dedicated, one-on-one Friend who spends a minimum of 16 intentional hours per month with them. We develop a road map for each child and design activities to build life skills. We create meaningful experiences to explore each child’s unique talents and interests.

On hot summer days, I would offer our young man something to drink.  If I had just baked something, I would offer him a treat.  Sometimes I had to ask him to return a different day because we had no cash on hand.  He always had a smile.  This great sweet smile.  Once in a while he would bring along a friend he said he was mentoring.  Always polite.  Always respectful.

During the school year, he would come every other month.  They were going to University of Washington.  They were going to Eastern Oregon.  They were going to University of Oregon.  I watched him through four years of high school.  I watched him grow, change, become a handsome intelligent soft-spoken young man.

Today he came by just to say hello.  His last debate will be in August.  Then he is going to take a trip to Las Vegas with friends.  Then he will begin college.  He is going to move to eastern Oregon to attend the university there.  He wants to get out of the city and try new things.

I feel like he is one of my kids in a way and I am so proud of him.  I told him this today.  He beamed.  I laughed and as we were parting, I shook his hand and told him of how much he did for himself all these year...and I didn't even know his name.

He grinned and softly said, "I'm JaySean."  I gave him a hug and he strutted away, off to meet the world.  Good on you, JaySean.  Good on you.

Wednesday, July 06, 2016

Weird Portland Wednesday: The Wishing Tree

It started one day when Nicole Helprin and her kids were heading out of town for the weekend.  They posted a few wishes on their tree and left.  When they returned, the tree had bunches of wishes on their tree.  The whole neighborhood became involved with wishes.  Nicole thought it was wonderful.

So she set up a sign, clipboard, markers and a plastic bag of shipping labels so that passersby can contribute.  She leaves the wishes up until they become crumbly or blow away. 

The wishes are anything.  This wonderful tree has people wishing for cures to cancer and wanting a pony for everyone.  It wishes for a doll to peace in the world.  And all that is asked is that you write down your wish and read another wish, hoping for the wish to come true.

Located at NE 7th & Morris, you are invited to come by and make a wish.  Or you can come by and see if you can grant any wishes.  Of course, all the wishes are posted anonymously, so that might be a big order...but you can grant the wish that there be more kindness in the world.  You can grant the wish that people could let go and be free.

Just one more delightful way we try to keep Portland connected (and weird).

Sunday, July 03, 2016

Fidgety Hands

Her hands rarely stopped moving.  I watched her take the towel on her lap, rub it together and then squeeze it between her fingers.  I watched her bite the towel and try to pull out a piece of nub from the terry cloth.  Throw down her towel.  Use her foot to try to bring the towel back up to her hands.  Shake her head in frustration and then pick at the pillow.  Just constant movement.  She never seemed calm, comfortable.

Michele Bilyeu and friends
Long before I knew anyone who might need them, I read about fidget blankets from my online friend, Michele Bilyeu from With Heart and Hands.  She had lost her mother to Alzheimer's Disease and found something that helped those with fidgety hands.  Memory quilts, fidget blankets, whatever you call them, have been around for a while.  Many have lots of items attached to them--toys and ribbons and zippers and pockets and stuffed bears.  Anything that might keep a person with dementia busy for a while.  Michele's were different in focus.  Hers were more plain with textural/tactile differences for busy hands. 

I can see the worth of such blankets with zippers and buttons and belts.  Pictures of family.  They give the person things to do with their hands and mind.  I can see the worth of buttons to undo and zippers to unzip.  But I liked the simple ideas that Michele presented: different textures, different colors including reds and oranges, ribbon tabs.  For her mother, she said, too many things would confuse her, plus washing the blanket would be more difficult.  Michele's idea was to give the person some tactile pleasure as they calmed the agitated hands.

See, people with dementia and/or Alzheimer's disease can easily become agitated for many reasons.  Perhaps they are hot or hungry or upset...they have less ability to understand the emotions or feelings but still somehow want to take care of the discomfort.  So perhaps they take off all their clothes to cool down or they fidget around for long periods of time trying to find the solution.

So I started making a few of these simple fidget blankets to give to the nursing center where my mother lives.  And then for a few of my friends to give to their mothers or aunts or uncles, their friends.  Each "batch" had more things added.  The first ones were a simple quilt of four nine-patch blocks and ribbon tabs.  I made sure each ribbon had a different texture. I then added lace and satin binding.  And buttons.

I rarely was able to see someone actually use one of my blankets until Ora Lee.  She adores the blanket.  She pets it.  Holds it like a kitten, like a baby.  She takes her fingers and weaves them through the ribbon loops.  She lightly scrapes her fingernail on her pointer finger across the different fabrics.  She also tries to poke her fingers into the lace and pulls quickly in order to rip the lace holes larger.  She will work at a seam in hopes of finding a weak spot that her fingers will go through.  She ignores the blanket and fidgets with her dress or the towel.  She bites at the fabric to make a hole.  This blanket calms her and also allows her to act out her frustrations.  

It was watching this delightful woman bite and pull that I decided to no longer add the buttons.  As nice as they were to add texture, I could see someone like Ora Lee biting at them and swallowing them.  I returned to making plain blankets with some lace and tabs.  Always tabs.

I use flannels, washable silks, fleece, soft fabrics such as Minkee, cottons--one of my favorite fabrics was the kerchiefs we received when we walked to end Alzheimer's.  My newest fabric I love to use is chenille.  I always back the blankets with Minkee or something similar in kitten-softness.  Most of the off-usual fabrics I use--the silks and the chenille and some of the Minkee--have been donated to me from my quilting friends.  I find interesting fabrics in the remnant area at the fabric store.  I pick up ribbons from the sales racks.

Fidgety hands need things with which to fidget.  Uncomfortable or agitated minds need things with which to calm them down.  I am glad some people can be comforted by something as simple as a fidget blanket.

Donations to the Alzheimer's Association can be made here: Alzheimer's Association

Friday, July 01, 2016

A Moment of Nostalgia

1939 Malheur County
I live in what is thought of as one of the most progressive states in the union.  We think of ourselves in this way, anyway, especially those of us who live in the cities along central and northern I-5 corridor.  Roseburg, Eugene, Salem, Portland.  We embrace diversity, thrive on liberal ideas, enjoy the fruits of the state while guiding that state into the newest century.  President George W. Bush called Portland "Little Beirut" as we protested the invasion of Afghanistan and Iraq; we proudly accepted this title.   I am sure President Nixon wasn't any happier than Bush while we protested the war in Vietnam.  I love living in Portland and am pleased to be surrounded by those who easily accept everyone as they are.  It gives us such depth and variety.

But today as I was reading the Oregonian, it was seemingly news after news of bad breaks.  Murder and robbery and beatings and break-ins all over the United States.  In Milwaukie, Oregon, an 80 year old woman was shot and killed when a young neighbor had a fight with her boyfriend.  In a dramatic stance, she pulled out his gun, held it to her head, then instead of firing it on herself, she opened the door and shot it randomly out into the neighborhood.  It went through the wall of this delightful old woman's home and killed her.  Things are changing in our society.  More and more people are coming out as gay, lesbian, transgender.  We are once again discussing where to pee.  And technology has brought the world closer to us where we must pay attention to other cultures, societies, different ways.

Today it was a bit overwhelming, all this news.  I noticed an ad that featured photos of old-time Oregon and I realized I was nostalgic for these times--the early 1900s, 1920s.  And I came to a realization of how some people can yearn for these times--seemingly more simple and calm.  Things were as expected.  Life was good.  And I realized I wanted those times again.  I wanted to have life calm again.  And I could understand why people would say they wanted us to be "great" again.

But this didn't make sense when I actually thought about the emotions I was having.  The United States is already great.  The "again" is simply nostalgia...and with nostalgia we forget about all the other stuff.  Times weren't simpler; there were just different things new and changing, things we are used to being, having.  We know more now because technology has brought us news faster, more often.  We can read TWEETS faster than reporters can send out the information.

And reality comes: earlier times were not glorious.  Oregon was, and is still, one of the whitest states in the union.  We forbade Blacks from entering unless they were slaves and were needed for working.  The Oregon constitution, adopted in 1857, banned slavery but also excluded blacks from legal residence. It made it illegal for blacks to be in Oregon.  The laws made it clear that Oregon was a hostile destination for blacks contemplating a move west, and they proved to be remarkably effective.  Oregon had the largest Ku Klux Klan chapter west of the Mississippi River.  The KKK's focus in Oregon was against Catholics and Jews because our population of Blacks was so small the Klan could keep them as a secondary target.

And we brought others into the community--Chinese, Japanese, Chicano--to do our labor.  Forestry, building bridges, railroads.  And we treated them just as "special" as Blacks were treated.

But times changed.  I can imagine when the Black community started fighting back--the first NAACP chapter west of the Mississippi River was organized in Portland in 1913--how the people of Oregon nostalgically wished for those earlier, simpler days of the 1850s.

At this time, we do have one of the most progressive states in the union.  Do non-whites still have repression?  Of course.  Do we still practice racism and sexism and homophobia, xenophobia?  Of course.  We are still part of the United States.  But we are constantly working on changing.

So yes, let's keep America great.  Let's lower our shoulders and breathe in and out a bit.  Then we can accept that we are at times suffering from growing pains--knowledge and size and information--and that change is part of our life.

 Come join me on the porch.  We'll have some lemonade and biscuits, talk about life, occasionally yell at the kids walking past, and be part of our great community. 


Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Weird Portland Wednesday: Would You Like Doritos With That?

In a town that has every type of food cart available, it only makes sense that we would have a mobile marijuana dispensary.  This clever business dispensary was built by local North Portland residents, Larry and Jessica.  They traveled all around different neighborhoods dispensing their wares.  Just because marijuana is now legal doesn't mean we don't still like to purchase it on street corners....

Unfortunately, the Oregon Health Authority said the Smoke Buddy cart was illegal. Operating a mobile service or a medicine delivery service is not allowed under the state dispensary rules so the dispensary was closed.  

Good try, Larry and Jessica!  Your clever idea is just one more way for us to keep Portland weird.


Monday, June 27, 2016

Put Your Right Foot In...

I took a spill last week.  Oh it was a real header, stubbing my toe on the sidewalk seam and went faceplant into the cement. I grabbed for my grandgirl and pulled her down, too.  Fortunately she kind of fell on me...  My right leg got caught on a sidewalk chair and my left arm on a table.  Knocked off my shoes and skinned off my ankle.  I was a bit of a mess.  And for over a week now I have been finding bruises that are still just coming out.

This is not the first faceplant fall I have taken over the past few years.  One time, again on the sidewalk, I smashed my chin and broke my glasses.  Once was out walking the dog and turned wrong and landed on the ground.  The pup tried to come to my rescue.  I tripped on the carpet in my Upland apartment.  And Macy's...that was a huge header right at the entrance.  And each time I find myself falling I try to catch myself, so I stumble forward, trying to remain upright, moving speedily along until I can no longer stand up.  SPLAT  Sometimes I fall back into the chair as I try to stand up...I am actually up, actually standing and I just lose my balance and sit back down.  

Now understand I have never been graceful.  Mom sent both my sister and me in the early 60s to "Charm School" at Sears...twice.  I have always had a habit of walking through the door before actually opening the door.  I would get out a ladder to work on the gutters of my house in SE Portland and the neighbors would come running out to offer to do it for me.  I have owned my own pair of crutches since 1985.

But this is different than it used to be.  This is becoming a problem.  And then I thought about my feet.  See, I have neuropathy of the feet.  Slowly over the last 10 years I have lost feeling in my feet.  Started with the right big toe and now it is in both feet, numbness through the ball of the feet.  My right foot is worse than my left but the competition is fierce.  After all the tests, it is found there is no reason.  The neurologist said, "A small percentage have no reason for the neuropathy.  No diabetes, no rheumatoid arthritis, no weird stuff going on."  Just lucky I guess.

Some people lose feeling in their feet or hands and that's all there is; some people have severe pain that goes along with their numbness.  That's the weirdest part.  I can't feel much but pressure on the bottom of my feet and toes, but the pain is at times excruciating.  Like tons of pins sticking into my feet while the toes and soles are on fire.  I can't wear closed shoes or straps across my ankles.  I must have a soft sole to cushion the foot.  And I think that this is why I am falling so often.  Where is my foot going?  

Also, my right leg has never been straight since I had my knee replaced.  It doesn't bend as well either (but MUCH better than before the replacement, both the bending and the straightness).  It is a lack of lifting my foot high enough that is part of the problem along with not knowing what the foot is doing at all times.  So I stub my foot.  I try to catch myself.  I stumble forward.  I move speedily along.  Alas, I can no longer stand up.  SPLAT 

My newest idea is to work on balance.  I will not recover the feeling in my feet; it will only continue with loss.  But I can work on balance.  I am thinking of trying tai chi.  And one of those balance balls thingies.  Good thing I have a walker down in the basement to hang onto while I work on this balance thing, eh?  Otherwise no one will be able to save me--not my grandgirl, my pup, myself :)

And so we go, sharing the thrills of aging.  Not always as fun as it sounds ;)

Thursday, June 23, 2016

TBT: Disco Fever

written 1978
The excitement of dancing fills the room.  The wooden dance floor is waxed to a glistening shine, reflecting colored lights like a Christmas tree on moonlit snow.  Each tiny light flashes on and off on and off to the rhythmic beat of rock-and-roll, music that pounds its way out of the amplifier and into the people's heads.  High in the center of the dance area spins a giant mirrored ball that catches the glint of each glittering sequin, each shining bangle, each shimmering bauble worn by the dancers and tosses them back in one constant motion of electrical flashes.

The dancers are alive with throbbing music flowing through their veins, pounding its way to each section of their bodies, setting each limb in a vibrant reaction.  Nothing stops--not the music, not the lighting, not the dancing--overtaking even their breathing patterns--in and out in and out--until the excitement causes a type of hyperventilation; energy overloads the circuits.

Little round tables are scattered around the room to provide pit-stops for the dancing machines.  Model-thin girls dressed in the latest fashions of size-four clothes take orders for drinks as performers join those not shod as well or those not as adept at dancing.  While these performers recharge their systems with liquid fuel nothing stops--not the music, not the lighting, not the dancing.

When their loins have been strengthened and glow revived, the actors rejoin the others in the limelight, providing the means of continuation within the dance hall.  In doing so, they once again leave those seemingly inept at disco to stay behind, only able to smile, to bop to the beat of the sounds.

These wallflowers are important for they provide an audience to the rendition before them on the waxen floor.  They bring the ultimate contrast to the reigning disco queens as portly maidens once provided for bikini-clad beach-bunnies.  They sit in their chairs, laughing and nodding, hoping no one will notice they are not asked to dance and lacking the confidence to be the asker.  They are having fun, caught in the excitement that surrounds them.  If the tall, the dark, the handsome men parade past their tables without stopping, they laugh and nod to one another, telling jokes to remind themselves they are having fun, secretly saying inside, "Please don't notice my rejection, please don't notice my hollow smile; please don't notice me."  And all the while nothing stops--not the music, not the lighting, not the dancing.

As I leave the nightclub amid a frenzy of action, I take deep breathes of cool damp air.  Reality slowly flickers into my brain like a tongue, soothing the pulse-beat that nearly exploded inside the electric atmosphere.  It was entertainment.  It was exciting.  It was fun!  I remember it was fun--the smiling and the nodding and the laughter.  And no one noticed, god no one even noticed for behind me nothing stopped--not the music, not the lighting, not the dancing.


Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Weird Portland Wednesday: Darcelle XV

Darcelle XV

Every city has a welcome wagon to greet newcomers to their little town.  I remember when I moved to Grants Pass, I was brought this big basket of goodies to welcome us into the town.  The Willamette Week has claimed that here in Portland, Oregon, our "unofficial welcome wagon" is the delightful Darcelle.

Darcelle has done much for our city and in 2011 became the Grand Marshall of the Portland Rose Festival's Starlight Parade.  It was the same year that she was awarded the city's Spirit of Portland Award.

Darcelle was born in November 1930, as Walter Cole. He grew up in Portland, joined the military to serve in the Korean War, was married and has two children.  With his money upon leaving the military, Walter opened a coffee shop downtown.  He then moved it to southeast Portland and opened a little jazz club in the basement.  He sold this spot when Urban Renewal came alone and with that money, he bought a tavern on northwest Third and Davis in Portland.  Walter then came out as gay, left his wife and met his lifelong partner, Roxy Neuhardt.  His tavern later became the Darcelle XV Showplace and an iconic drag queen was born: Darcelle.

With the closing of San Francisco's drag venue Finocchio's in 1999, our beloved Darcelle became the oldest female impersonator on the West Coast, and Darcelle XV Showplace was then recognized as the oldest continuously running cabaret in the United States.

Willamette Week's Kelly Clarke described Walter Cole/Darcelle as "an energetic businessman whose desire for a life less ordinary catapulted him from a job at Fred Meyer to become the proprietor of a counterculture coffee shop, an after-hours jazz club, a rough-'n'-ready 'dyke bar' and, finally, a nationally known drag revue, without ever leaving Portland."

We love ya Baby!  Just keeping Portland Weird.


Sunday, June 05, 2016

I'm pollyanna...Fly Me

When I was ready to leave high school, I wanted to be an airline stewardess.  I wanted to travel the world, see things I had never seen, go places I had only heard about.  I knew I could do the job and wanted this so badly.

Now this was a major jump from the desire to be a hair dresser the year before when I was a junior.  I cut all my girl friends' hair...the fact that I only had one style I could cut didn't matter...we all looked cute with the same basic style.  Gina kept that style the longest.  She looked great.  I wonder if she still has that cut?

Anyway, I had wanted to be a hair stylist until I watched some movie--can't even remember the title--that had airline stewardesses traveling the world.  It looked exciting.  It looked fun.  It looked perfect.  

At the time, I was dating a young man who was in the Marines.  When he was deployed, I thought about how I could fly to Hawaii in my job and we could spend his leave together.  This career for me was sounding more and more perfect.

So long before graduation, I checked out what I needed to do in order to get this career off the ground, so to speak.  That's when my great disappointment happened...  I was too tall.  

This height thing had been part of my life since I was two years old.  At that time my parents doubled my height and found I would be perhaps six foot tall or more.  They couldn't believe their little toddler would ever grow that height.  But I kept growing until I actually reached that pinnacle.  I was taught to hold my head high, never slouch, and (apparently) look over people's heads.  It has, over the years, kept me from being asked out, had strangers ask "how's the weather up there?," and got me sent home from school because my skirt was too short (although no shorter than other girls only longer legs).  That "sent home thing" was just fine because I just didn't return that day :)  Anyway, all those things were less a disappointment than the realization that the career of my choice was not possible for me.  What happened to the "you can be and do anything you want to be when you grow up?"

So, I gave up my dream of being an airline stewardess.  It went the way of being a dancer (too clumsy)...singer (not that great of sound) stylist. 

Apparently I  got pregnant and married instead.  And that's a whole 'nother story.