Friday, November 30, 2018


I thought “place” posts would be easy, but I don’t even know where I am right now. I’m not sure I’m even really in my body. I seem alienated from everything, not connecting, not here.


How does the world work? How does anyone make a living, let alone an artist? I sit in a music venue, very small crowd, listening to a great blues guitarist who will always have a day job. He’s easily as great as “greats.” I know many who are as great as greats. Beyond the small stage, I can see, through the plate glass, people walking past not knowing how great he is or even that he is. There are so many other things to do, to know. How does one get known? Why this one, not that one?


The elementary school playground was huge. I preferred the swings at one end, and the merry-go-round. Midway was the jungle gym, and I liked climbing to the top of that too. Far off at the other end were bars for pull-ups and chin-ups (ha!), but I would flip myself over the shorter one like a lower uneven parallel, or I'd skin the cat. The six-classroom school closed decades ago. That playground space looks so small.


We’ll always have Paris.


Who is president? Who’s shot whom today? More fires, floods, ice storms, blizzards? Where the hell am I, anyway?

Thursday, November 29, 2018


I am in Portland again, in an airbnb, which is OK, nice in fact, but not quite as convenient as being in a hotel, and there’s no gym, and I’ve forced myself to stay in all day today and work, except to get lunch, and I didn’t manage to get enough to eat, and even though it’s technically a basement apartment, it’s full of light, much more light than my Victorian house, and I’m not sure what I’m saying here although it’s almost the end of the workday and I’m still so far behind in this damn 365 project. Still.


That place with the angry Latin American had a fire escape at the end of the hall. I was on the third floor, and I have trouble with edges and seeing through stairs and stuff, so fire escapes make me nervous, but while I was there I made it a habit to use the fire escape to get over feeling that way, and by the end of my stay I was running up and down that thing like it was nothing. But it turns out those things don’t transfer for me. I only felt that way on that fire escape.


. . . she was a bit unstable, and she would often be in the hall yelling “I’m very ang-a-ry,” or we thought so, unless she was yelling “I’m very hung-a-ry,” and to our sad, untrained gringo ears, they sounded the same, and it’s likely both were yelled at one time or another, but I mention it because I always think of her and that when I think of that place.


Once when I was in college and I got a little too depressed and took a term off, I volunteered at a small peace-and-justice-related organization and lived in a dorm on the campus of this multi-organizationed place and had good friends on my floor and an occasional weekend visitor with whom I was in love and it was good to have my space there away from everyone and all the pressure, but there was a refugee on my floor from a Spanish-speaking country, likely Central America, and . . . 


The grocery store closest to me is 7 miles away, but I’m more like to go to the one 22 miles away when I’m at work. The close one is in a lower-class neighborhood, and the far one is in an upper-class neighborhood, and since these trips to my hometown began and needing to buy groceries given my sister’s diet, I’ve had some sort of PTSD reaction in the parking lot at the closer grocery store, which for some reason reminds me of needing to shop in my hometown. It doesn’t happen at the farther one. I don’t know why.


I loved my museum office back in the day, in the old building, before the expansion, when John and I shared the attic room, editor and designer, and the crinkle of cellophane would invoke the other’s immediate “What are you eating?”


I was a fat kid who hated gym class so when the annual required fitness tests came around the two gym teachers were gobsmacked when I’d score the fastest time in short sprints.

Saturday, November 24, 2018


Middle class. I’m not rich. I’m not poor. Likely there are both poor people and rich people who would say otherwise.


Clad in a open-in-the-front hospital gown, I waited for the ob/gyn, but instead of relaxing in a chair or on the exam table, I stood by and stared out the window, where I saw a pair of large birds flying, so far up that it took awhile to realize they were herons, and I wish I’d brought binoculars with me—but why would I?—and then, at the woods at the far end of the field, I saw the belly-white flash of some raptor, who eventually landed in branches, and who was much too far away to identify.


Montana is spring creeks.* It’s sleeping in a house-shaped tent on a cot and peeing outside in the middle of the night, for once thanking the gods for a midsize bladder because there have never been stars like this anywhere, ever. It’s an outdoor shower. Montana is watching storms from way across the valley. It’s Tim painting watercolors by the river. It’s a B&B, run by a couple of fabulous women, where we can dip toes into the Yellowstone River before dipping down into Yellowstone Park. Montana is floating and fishing the Missouri and, when mayflies rise at dusk, being surrounded by feeding nighthawks swooping in as close as prayer.

Montana is that scrape on my wrist, deep and diagonal enough to become a tiny scar, my souvenir.

*A state revisit for Bridgett.


There’s something about New York City that makes me completely relax. I emerge from Penn Station and skyscrapers surround me. Like mountains, they feel like a warm embrace, a hug. All my preparing/getting-there anxiety melts away. (Obviously I couldn’t feel this way if I had to pay rent.)


It isn’t officially summer until I’ve had that gin and tonic with Paul on his perfect screened-in porch, ice clinking, glass sweating.


When I was on Skye, we attended a ceilidh, not the dancing kind but the music-and-story-telling kind, and it got out late, and on the drive home the dark outline of the mountains felt ominous. I had never felt that way looking at mountains before. I knew they could take me down.


When I was on Orkney, I visited the Standing Stones of Stenness, which were beautiful, but it was the Ring of Brodgar I went to each of my three days, a couple of times at sunset, because it kept calling to me, and once there, it was nearly impossible to leave.

Monday, November 12, 2018


Just up the street, on the same side, past the McCormicks, the Nesses, and the Falkensteins, was a mansion-turned-doctor’s office with a cherry tree in front, behind the high hedge, a beautifully climbable cherry tree, and in season, we’d do that, and sit and eat.


Before I lived in this house, I lived in the one across the street, which friends now own. About six weeks after I moved in, Jerry Garcia died. I remember hearing the news, then lying on the couch near the fireplace, waiting for Tim to come home from work. When I walk into that room, I often think of that day. Still.


Among some of the beautiful buildings in my home town is a brick one, and when I pass by in the car, I look up at the second floor corner window and think “There’s where I almost had my first kiss.”


Even in the finest restaurants, I want to be sitting in a bar stool: the bar a perfect height, the level of service sublime, the bartender willing to deal with this high-maintenance cocktail chooser, the sharing of small plates (or even large ones) easy, and often great banter, not just with the bartender, but with our fellow barmates.


When I go to Portland, and if I’m staying at my home hotel or near it, I try to walk the Eastern Prom all the way out to the water treatment plant, where one of its retaining walls hosts the best graffiti in town.

Thursday, November 8, 2018


I’m back at the Hilton Garden Inn on Commercial Street in Portland, my home hotel. We can’t always stay here anymore—it’s gotten too expensive in season. Sometimes, like this time, I get a room with a view of the bay, and I can turn my chair away from the computer (like now), look over my shoulder, and there it is. We’ve been coming here more than a decade, and these rooms are a familiar part of my work, my life.


“It’s foreign but familiar. Or is that familiar but foreign?” Mali phrased this reaction to Europe so perfectly. The one time I seriously considered the possibility of past lives was my first time in Venice, when it all seemed so familiar, but in a way beyond what I’d seen in paintings, photos, films. I felt like I had personal history there. But does the mind play tricks? If I really had history, shouldn’t I be able to say more than due espresso, per favore?


On Facebook, I saw that Kim was in Toronto, and Mark told her to go to the CN Tower and stand on the glass, and she said she was planning to, and I said that I made out with someone up there once, which I did (Leyla’s boyfriend Bill’s friend Kevin), in 1979, right after I heard Trudeau speak at Leyla’s school and right before he was voted out for a short bit, and this Kevin was a really cute socialist, and the breeze from that height at night and the city lights gave some rare joy to seventeen.


The first time I went to the Adirondacks, specifically to Osgood Pond, I felt that I had always been there, that it had just taken years for my body to catch up. But even then, I wasn’t sure I could live there full-time. There is a quiet there that is both embraceable and intimidating. The aloneness almost pushes into loneliness. So far I stay in love. But I’d be scared to try always.


During my early Adirondack years, I bought a stuffed-animal loon, stuffed with balsam. I thought taking a whiff of it would remind me of walking through the northern woods. I quickly discovered that it didn’t. The inhale was missing temperature—the coolness in the back of your throat from the surrounding air. That coolness was my companion at White Pine Camp and on my nostalgic hike on the red dot trail. It was all there.

Thursday, November 1, 2018


I’m a grand sufferer of FOMO,* and yesterday I had to make a choice. Do I stay home, greet trick-or-treaters, have a cocktail (likely a Corpse Reviver) with Lynda, and attend Eve’s afterparty with Martha (first time I’ve been invited!) OR do I get in the car (leaving my house dark, uninviting, un[wo]manned), miss the adorableness, drive 3 hours, and join Tim on his photo shoot at a great camp on Osgood Pond—my home pond, the one we went to for 22 summers—and stay at White Pine Camp for free? Two great places. It was a last-minute call. 

*fear of missing out