Sunday, July 29, 2007

1990 Match Sprint World Championships

This is for Becca. If you ignore the fact that it is 1990 and hence the steroids are practically dripping out of these guys (especially Mr. East Germany), this is a good example of match sprinting. It's got a little bit of everything.

Another Sport I Am Bad At Watching

I consider myself a highly visual person, being a painter of canvases, and a hater of auditory devices such as the telephone. But when the action speeds up, such as in sports, I can't seem to keep up. I like my visual stimuli to stay put while I process.

A lot of my action-watching retardation comes from a lack of participation in sports as a kid. Being a bottle-cap glasses-wearing geek, I was useless at sports involving balls coming at me. I would invariably miscalculate the spot at which the ball would land, and swish at the air frantically. I'm sure it was the huge refraction caused by the bottle caps, but even with later contacts, I was never able to catch up with my peers. I stuck with non-ball activities such as cheerleading and goofing off.

Where was I? Right - it seems that experience in playing a sport helps one to watch it later on. I enjoy football, and I've gotten much better at watching the plays evolve, but I'll never match Drew's ability to watch the entire field and predict the outcome of a play long before it is over, as well as catching all the holding, blatant cruelty and other hijinks that non-players like me never catch.

The same holds true for track racing (cycling, not running, you rubes). I'm getting much better at spotting the hooks, chops and other mischief involved in a good, brutal sprint. But I'll never be able to watch it at the same level as those who have participated in it. Again, Drew must explain some of the stuff I miss.

Soccer wasn't a big sport when I was growing up. Not that I would have enjoyed it enough to pursue it. The few times we played it in gym class, I developed a serious disinclination to having my shins kicked. We ventured into Portland a few times to watch the first (NASL) Timbers play when we were in high school, and that was fun, mostly because it was a night out in the city for a group of young hicks. I doubt that we paid much attention to the game.

Now that the Timbers are back and Dean has attempted to bring me up to speed regarding both the Timbers and European futbol competition, I have been trying to watch fast enough to keep up. It's easier on TV with the magic of instant replay to understand stuff like offsides calls, and to catch the sneakier fouls and more dramatic dives, but at the ball park (or the pitch, as you cricketty types might say), I am left two steps behind.

I like soccer. I like the mass drunken singing, the fast pace, the small crowds compared to football, and the cozy atmosphere of PGE Park. I just need to see more games to develop faster eyes. Mine tend to drift around aimlessly until I miss something important.

Saturday night was perfect for soccer. Perfect weather. Fun friends. Alcohol. Cracker Jack (you really should try a little Cracker Jack with your Pinot Grigio). Easy hypothetical access to the field if you were inclined to practice a little streaking.

And the capper: a win over an English team. Sweet.

Friday, July 27, 2007

I Feel Gritty

So I wander into the Magic Ring of Origins Salespeople today, a safe enough adventure as long as you have your wits about you. Normally, I can get in and get out with a nice tub of moisturizer without succumbing to their assurances that my face wouldn't look quite so disastrous if I were to use some of their make-up. But since my skin rejects make-up like a mis-transplanted liver, I can usually fight them off.

Unfortunately, lately I've been weakened by the spectre of an upcoming wedding - a happy enough occasion, but one in which I must smile for pictures - something that makes my face seize up into fright masks worthy of a tribal art display.

An hour and a half later, I've been facialed, massaged and painted until I open my wallet and just let them take what they want.

Jacque tried valiantly to make foundation look like anything other than cheap latex paint set too close to the heater. When she had done all she could think of, she gave me the mirror with a really nervous look on her face. She had just never seen make-up try to escape a face before.

I felt so bad for her I bought everything but the foundation.

My face currently has so many layers of goop on it, I'm going to have to take a bath before bedtime so as not to ruin the sheets.

Man. I'm still working on this "being a woman" thing. I should have it down by the time I hit menopause.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Welcome Back, Decemberists

The Decemberists are back in Portland. They rocked Troutdale Sunday night. I know because I was totally there.

They could use a better whale puppet, though. I could make one for them.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Oh, Right, THAT'S Why I Don't Ask for Help in the Garden

We bought four large, round, fluffy, expensive pines today to go in the front yard. So large that I would still be out there digging holes next week if I didn't get some help. Actually, I probably would have been the first recorded death by pine if I had tried single handedly to get them out of the back of the truck as well. They would have found me, eventually, in the driveway, under a large potted pine, half eaten by wild bunnies. But that's not the story.

The story is that we only needed three large, round, fluffy, expensive pines. But my need for help required the use of Drew, and the use of Drew required the purchase of a fourth pine to replace the one that he broke. How do you break a pine? You drop it on its head while forcing it out of its pot by turning it upside down and shaking it. Turns out that when you drop a 100-pound pine on its head from a height of about three feet, many of its limbs break off. Then you have a pine stump. An ex-pine, if you will.

The best part of the experience was listening to Drew try to explain to the garden center helper, who speaks English less than fluently, how he broke the pine. The poor fellow could not comprehend how Drew did such a thing, because it never seemed to occur to him that someone would treat a plant that way. All of a sudden, it was like Drew was shopping for a second puppy because the first one wouldn't wake up after he squeezed it too hard.

We promised him to take better care of the replacement pine, but by then he had written us off as another couple of bizarro Americans.

Guilty as charged.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

All In

So Dean and Jenny are going all in.

Putting it all on the table.

No guts, no glory.

No pain, no gain.

Insert poster phrase here. My favorite: New Zealand Rocks!!!!

Oh, to be young again. And brilliantly talented. And now, motivated.

The earth shudders under his feet.

Can you feel it?

Wet Cats

Wet cats are funny.

Sunday, July 15, 2007


Today on Wild Kingdom, I learned that wombats are under siege. Under Siege! Apparently they dig tunnels, sometimes in pasture land, and the owners of the horses/cattle/sheep get all huffy about it. Get a grip, Aussie pasture owners! The wombats were here first!

In fact, one of the kinds of wombat, the excellently named Northern Hairy-Nosed Wombat, is critically endangered. There are only like 90 of them left.

This is a baby wombat in a hat. An "embattled wombat" according to Wild Kingdom. So get off his case. He's fricking embattled.

I enjoyed watching a group of "wombat crusaders" (Wild Kingdom's words, not mine) catching Southern Hairy-Nosed Wombats at night for a study. Three rather round crusaders and one skinny one. Guess which ones stayed in the truck and which one went chasing after wombats with a butterfly net a total of 24 times?

Yeah, the skinny one.

Wild Kingdom. Exciting. Wombat rich. And crusading. Catch it.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Second in our Series of Life Lessons

Brought to you today by Annie and Scotty.

Oh, you could just take off. Find the fence gate ajar one night and realize that there is nothing between you and bottom-dwelling debauchery of the blackest kind.

So you take off running. Hey, your friend is doing it. Never mind that your friend there has never been quite right in the head - fears cats, hates exercise, and humps guys. But you go along for the ride.

And soon you are the one in the lead, diving headfirst into a long, hard night of partying, howling at the moon, chasing tails, and getting burrs stuck all up in your short hairs.

In the morning, feeling shame, hunger, and thirst for something wetter than water, you head for the light right ahead. It's a church. And there are children. Loud, loud, happy children. It hurts. But kids are a welcome change from some of the characters you met last night, so you smile and lick faces as expected.

Until you hear the unmistakable sound of the law. "Are these the strays you called about?"

Then the sound of the steel door slamming shut behind you. You are pretty sure you deserve this, as bits of the night's depraved offences pop up in your damaged memory, but you are scared nonetheless. You've had it so easy. You don't know the rules in the Big House. And the noise! You are afraid the noise will surely kill you. Or in some way lead to your death.

And then there she is. Your savior. You didn't think she could forgive you this time, and yet there she is, asking you to get in the car. She doesn't look happy (how could she after bailing you out of jail?), but she doesn't have that scary look either.

The hangover will not go away, your feet hurt, and you don't know where all these scrapes and bruises came from, but you are home. She feeds you and lets you go out again, to the same fenced yard you took advantage of last night. But it hurts so bad, you just lay down in the soft grass and sleep.

Monday, July 09, 2007

A Belated Graduation Speech

The Proper Sacrifice.

Since the times when we were still puzzling over whether our bear skin made our butts look fat (and delicious on a spit), it has been common human knowledge that if you want something, you have to sacrifice something for it. Whether it is a goat, a bushel of wheat, your money, all your free time, or all your energy and some of your skin, sacrifice is the only thing that brings us closer to our goals.

The only problem is that there are no guarantees in the sacrifice game.

You could spill the blood of all your goats onto the dry, cracked, dusty ground in honor of your rain god, and yet he may still be angry about that crack you made last winter about building an ark and he may just spit on you and your dead goats instead.

You could spend your whole life training to win the Tour de France, repeatedly pulling some other schmuck up mountain after mountain, waiting for your big break, and when it comes, your handlebars may just come right off your bike and send you to the hospital and to the back of the line.

Especially for those of us of the younger persuasion, the sacrifices asked of our goals can sometimes be enormous and the payoff seem beyond the horizon.

And yet, to give nothing means to get nothing in return. No gain. No prize. No food. No money. In the end, when you line up your sacrifices with what you have gained, it is clear that the more you give, the move you get.

So every day we weigh our sacrifices. How much to give. How much to keep. How much to expect others to give. It's a tricky equation, and the answer is only given after the test is over.

In the end, you always get something from your sacrifice. You may not get what you asked for, but spit is wet. And Tour de France fitness and paychecks are nothing to sneeze at.

So get up early again. Go to practice again. Study more. Volunteer more. Give more. It's all sacrifice, and everything comes of sacrifice, and nothing comes of no sacrifice.

I think God likes the smell of sweat.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

A Clark County Fourth: Shucks and Awe

The house is ever so gently pulsing from the huge "Biggest Show West of the Mississippi!" downtown. Meanwhile, I'm guessing somewhere in the range of $100,000 is going up in smoke around me in north Clark County tonight. Explosions the size that used to serve as the big community extravanza in my home town of Vernonia. Here, they are being lit by kids. And enough firecrackers in between to sound like automatic gunfire. It's constant and from all sides. If I circled my house from outside, there would be no direction I could look where I couldn't find a big, local, fiery blossom in the sky.

Annie is handling it as well as can be expected. I'm just waiting for it to end. And listing the things they could have done with their money. Like buy a clue.

It Was the Worst Chris Isaak Concert Ever; We Had a Great Time.

I remember first hearing Chris Isaak on the radio around the time of the first Gulf War. David Lynch used Isaak's song Wicked Game in his really slimy, slimy movie (and I mean that in a good way), Wild at Heart, and the song got some good air play. We've been fans ever since.

Rockabilly is not my kind of music. There is no other music on my iPod that matches the Chris Isaak tracks (with the possible exception of some early k.d. lang), but when somebody has an exceptional voice, I put aside my ever-so-sophisticated tastes and listen.

I don't remember when or where we saw him in concert for the first time. It might have been out at Chamboeg Park, where they had a beautiful outdoor amphitheater that was a great concert venue until either neighbors or the Clear Channel Evil Empire closed it down, but that's another rant.

The point is, we have been to maybe five Chris Isaak concerts, anywhere from the pompous Schnitz to the Spirit Mountain Casino Bingo Hall, and this was the worst, but only for one reason: it was about 90 minutes long.

The concert started at 6:30 , which seemed early for an evening concert, but it was another outdoor venue with, I'm sure, its share of fun-killing neighbors. I thought maybe the early start would give us plenty of time, but they closed the place down at nine sharp. Nine! And since Isaak did not take the stage until the first act had whiled away about an hour, that left very little time for monkey business.

Isaak has the best stage chatter of any musician on the circuit today, and probably half of the stand-up comics. But the shortened concert left no time for the usual highlight of a Chris Isaak concert: the long, winding, deadpan and salacious saga, told with a sense of pity and understanding, usually starring a band member, and involving any or all of the following:
  • a flesh-colored Ford Probe;
  • a local dive of questionable repute and cleanliness;
  • a double-wide trailer;
  • suspiciously orgasmic noises;
  • cool whip;
  • what seem to be poodle hairs; and the inevitable closing with
  • (Baby Did a ) Bad, Bad Thing.

Despite the missing stage chatter, the band was on top of their game, Isaak's voice was smooth and effortless, and the crowd (due in some part to the fact that it was held on the grounds of a brewery and the drinks were delivered to your blanket by lovely beer/wine girls) was ready to celebrate.

It was great while it lasted. It just didn't last.

My view. I stood up a lot.
The view to my right.

Monday, July 02, 2007

Photo Essay with No Redeeming Value Whatsoever

Here I am relaxing on the patio this evening and enjoying the view of my new shoes. They are so cute, they (a) make my feet look TINY and (b) take the focus away from my white (as the god of the Celtic people intended) legs.

Here is Coco, trying (and failing) to relax on the patio. She meows and meows to be let out, and once she gets her wish, she decides (understandably) that the world is a messed-up place and she wants back inside where it's safe.

Here is Drew enjoying the view of me on the patio in my new shoes. Again, understandable.

Here is one of the blooms on my hydrangea bush, which is sadly hidden from view in the side yard. I post this here to help to rectify the injustice.