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Archive for the ‘transportation’ Category

Hunting season, with my car instead of a gun

My newly married daughter is already a widow; a hunting widow that is. Her beloved is deep in the throes of hunting season, leaving her alone on recent weekends to traipse after the ever elusive deer with his trusty bow and arrows in hand. And the beauty of hunting with a bow rather than a gun is the extended season offered to the bow hunters. They can keep trying and trying long after the regular deer season has come and gone. And try and try he did, coming home an unhappy hunter in his first few attempts, with no trophy to show for his efforts. That is until last weekend, when he shot an eight point buck (the number having to do with the size of Bambi’s antlers) and he finally comes back home a happy hunter. But fear not, hunting season does not end just because of a successful hunt. No, my son-in-law is leaving right after Thanksgiving dinner to try for more; afflicted with the hunting fever.

And all this talk about hunting and deer brought back the memory of my first deer; that is, the first (and thankfully only) deer I ever hit with my car. I was so unprepared, as I drove home one night after aerobics class, oblivious to the suburban deer that decided to cross the road right in front of my car. And unlike my happy hunter son-in-law, I did not celebrate my first kill. Instead I felt sick inside – I had taken down one of God’s beautiful creatures, and a baby at that! Oh, the horror! Luckily for me, my big boat of a 1977 Impala just ran right over the poor creature, sustaining not a lick of damage except for the deer hide underneath my car that smelled worse and worse as I drove home. After I got home I called the police to tell them what happened, said a prayer so I would be forgiven, and swore that I would always scan the sides of the nighttime road with my “deer eyes”.

But as the years went by, I found that the best laid plans sometimes falter, and I had a few other run-ins with my car vs. nature. There was the goose I hit as it tried to cross the highway with what I’m assuming was its mate; I just wanted to pull the car over and cry. And to add insult to injury, after I got to work and told a co-worker about what happened with the goose, she proceeded to tell me that geese mate for life. Now all I could think about was the widowed goose, the poor little goslings I left without a mother or father, and how I managed to tear a lovely goose family apart.

Then there was the raccoon I almost managed to avoid. I swerved to avoid him on the two lane road in the way that they always tell you not to, but it was late and there was only me on the road at the time. But this poor guy must have been old and he was a bit overweight, even for raccoon standards, and his last minute decision to try and make it across landed him right into my front bumper. And unlike my old Impala, my newer Honda Civic didn’t do so well, and pieces of plastic went flying down the road along with the now very dead raccoon.

But by far the worst roadkill for me was when I hit a hawk. Yes, I hit a hawk that was sitting on the road in the middle of the night eating roadkill. What the hell was he doing there, eating food that was usually left for the crows to pick up, and what happened to his super sharp reflexes that should have had him flying away at the last second, like the crows always did? Maybe he had eaten some tainted meat and was brain addled, but I’ll never know because I killed him! And this really broke my heart, as I have a strong affinity for the raptors. I love to watch them soar in the sky, riding the unseen currents of air. I would always seemed to spot them when I was out walking or even driving, as if we had some sort of connection. And now, I had destroyed one, never to soar again.

I only hope that all those poor creatures I inadvertently killed with my innocent car can forgive me, as they reside in animal Heaven now, safe and sound from the perils of the roadways. And I am happy to be car-free now, no longer driving a weapon of destruction against nature. My hunting season has now ended.

My son-in-law, the happy hunter

Time to explore, once more

It’s been awhile since I’ve had a travel adventure; I would say the last place I really traveled to was Portland, last year when I moved here. And now I am happily settled in as a Portlander, and I have had adventures and explorations around my pretty city. But I could feel my soul, nudging me on a bit as I hemmed and hawed about attending an event in Seattle, about angels and the afterlife. Oh my, two topics so near and dear to my soul, and a chance to go on an out of town adventure – well, why not? So I purchased a ticket to the event itself, a round trip train ticket from Portland to Seattle, and made reservations at a hostel for two nights – that in itself would be a whole new experience! But after finding hotels in downtown Seattle averaging around $200 a night, I took a leap of faith in the $69 a night hostel experience – after all, I am an adventuress!

The four hour train ride to Seattle was very pleasant, and after sinking into a good book I brought with, I was there before I knew it. I love traveling by train, and Amtrak once again proved to be a mode of travel I am very comfortable with. My skills in acting as my own travel agent proved to be quite proficient, as I found myself situated only five blocks from the hostel I had found, and less than five minutes by city bus to the convention center where the angels & afterlife event was being held. I had to pat myself on the back for that bit of perfect planning!

I do have to admit though, that as I walked through the heart of Seattle’s Chinatown to get to my hostel, I was a bit nervous. There is a Chinatown in Portland that I have walked through many times, and it just doesn’t seem quite as “gritty” as the Chinatown in Seattle. But I do have street smarts, that tell me to be back at the hostel before dark, and to try and not look like a tourist – in other words, only look at the big bright fold-out map of Seattle before heading into a “questionable” area. The hostel itself was warm and welcoming, and the staff very friendly and helpful. I had to laugh though when I saw my room. I don’t think I quite understood the whole hostel experience, as I just thought it would be like having a very basic hotel room. Imagine my surprise when I opened the door to my room (and I had booked a private room) and saw basically, a college dorm room – a metal frame bunk bed, a sink, and a tiny wooden table in the corner. But you know what, it was all I needed, and the whole time I was there I felt completely safe and comfortable. What a deal for only $69 a night – and I got breakfast to boot!

My room at the hostel

Time to explore Seattle! I didn’t plan on going too far, but I had enough time to make my way to the waterfront and to a place called Pike Place Market. The waterfront area was pretty, looking out over an expanse of water called Elliott Bay. I spotted the huge Ferris Wheel from a ways back, so tempted to take a ride and see everything from high in the sky. But when I found out it would cost $15, my budget minded self thought it may be better spent elsewhere, like on food. And Pike Place Market had plenty of that – from fruits and vegetables, to chocolate and cheese, and of course the amazing array of seafood that Seattle is so known for. The fish vendors are half the fun in the marketplace, as they toss fish back and forth, making up crazy rhymes and chants as they go along. I settled on some great bread and delectable cheese, going a bit European, with a cheesecake truffle for dessert – perfect!

Elliott Bay

The Ferris Wheel that I didn’t ride

Fish stall at Pike Place Market

More food at Pike Place Market

The next day was my biggest concern, as I needed to navigate the free downtown bus system to get me to the convention center. This free bus ride takes place in what is called the “bus tunnel”, and it is just that – a tunnel, much like a subway, that has both buses and transit trains running through it. But thanks to a helpful employee I found in Union Station, I was able to get on the right bus and get there easily, as well as getting back – phew! That was honestly my biggest concern about the whole weekend, and I conquered it.

The event itself, the catalyst for getting me to visit Seattle in the first place, was very nice. The speakers were John Holland, a well known medium/psychic, and Doreen Virtue, a woman who connects with the angelic realm and is equally well known in the metaphysical world. I didn’t really come away with anything I hadn’t already heard or knew, but the energy was lovely, and the speakers were very interesting. I was able to walk around the downtown proper during the lunch break, and it seemed very nice – but not as nice as Portland!

When I got back to the hostel, I found a celebration going on in Chinatown – the Moon Festival. What luck for me to be staying in that part of the city during this festival, and I was able to satisfy my craving I had for weeks for sweet and sour chicken – it was delicious! I watched some displays of martial arts, as well as dancing and drumming in the Chinese way. Then I saw something called a mooncake, and just the name alone enticed me. It is a decorative pastry, filled with sweet lotus paste – but the duck egg in the middle was too much for my uncourageous taste buds, and I had to just say no when I got to that part!

Martial arts at the Moon Festival

Drumming at the Moon Festival

A mooncake

All in all, I had a delightful time in Seattle, happy to be able to visit this city that is really so close to me. But honestly, when the announcement on the train came, “Next stop, Portland”, I had my bags gathered up and I couldn’t wait for my feet to touch the streets of the city I have come to love the best, my beautiful Portland.

New Music Day

As soon as I read the e-mail about the annual sidewalk sale at Music Millennium,  a great independent record store here in Portland, I knew it was time for New Music Day once more. I try to limit this exciting event in my life to every few months, so that way I am not spending my hard earned retirement money every time I walk past a record store, although it isn’t always easy to resist the pull of buying whatever is on my constant list of cds that I feel I just have to have. I do update the list every so often, listening to little snippets on i-Tunes from each album I have on my list, making sure I really have to have it. I grabbed a bus ticket and my current list of ten cds, and headed east across the river to whet my voracious appetite for music once more.

The sidewalk in front of the store was teeming with music, in vinyl as well as cd format. I had long ago jumped on the cd train when it came along, wiping out vinyl, or so we all thought at the time. Now it seems to be making a comeback, all those large lovely vinyl records, but I followed the flock and sold all my wax so I could turn it into plastic discs – one of those decisions in hindsight I wish I could rectify but I just say, oh well and stick with the shiny plastic music now. I carefully made my way through the bins and boxes of $2 cds, many of which I used to own but traded in at one time or another. After carefully looking through all the offerings and telling myself I really didn’t need to repurchase music I had once gotten rid of, my only discovery of cheap music was a cd of bagpipe music for my daughter, but nothing for me. So into the store I went, my list in hand.

So much music! I could get lost in a place like this, but I only had another hour on my bus transfer and I was too cheap to not make use of it. So I managed to eliminate the albums they didn’t have, the ones that weren’t on sale or used, and managed to find two off my list – one a newer album by an artist named Young Hines and another album by Built To Spill from 1997. Now it was time to catch the bus and head back to my home for a listening party.

The album by Young Hines has many different flavors, from more pop oriented songs to those that ring with a strong blues influence to a couple that just flat out rock. As I listened it sounded familiar, like another artist I have heard. Once I realized that Brendan Benson produced this album, the influence of his touch on this album was clear, although he still left room for Young Hines’ individuality to shine through.

But it was the album by Built To Spill, titled Perfect From Now On, that has me listening to it over and over. It was recommended by a friend who really loves it and now I can see why. Normally I am more a fan of the two to three minute pop song, not really enjoying overly extended musical jams. But with the average song length of these eight great songs at around six minutes, I find that each one comes off so perfectly orchestrated. It is a sprawling, swirling mix of sounds within each song; changing beats, going from loud to soft and back again, taking the listener on a crazy fun house ride. And this is what I call a “headphone” album, one that can only be fully appreciated with the headphones on, so as to not miss every little nuance of sounds coming together. Finding great timeless music like this makes me hope that in my next lifetime, I will come back to work with music in some way, shape or form – it fills my very soul.

An art crawl of bridges

One of the things I love most about Portland is the Willamette River that runs through the city, and the bounty of beautiful bridges that span the river, reaching across like arms made of steel. There is a uniqueness to each bridge, which creates an art gallery of massive metal sculptures. They vary in color; ranging from the gun-metal black of the Steel Bridge, to the brick red of the Broadway Bridge, or the celery green of the Fremont Bridge. They vary in shape; the Fremont Bridge arches in a back-bend, the Broadway Bridge rolls in waves like the ocean, and the St. Johns Bridge pays tribute to her sisters the Brooklyn Bridge and Golden Gate Bridge. Each is lovely in its own way, and I try not to play favorites. But the Steel Bridge, with trains above and trains below, as well as a walkway that is far below the bridge traffic, is my bridge of choice when crossing the Willamette on foot. If you ever visit the lovely city of Portland, be sure to walk across the Steel Bridge from west to east, and take a walk along the Eastbank Esplanade. I promise you will not be disappointed as you gaze up and down the river, able to view the art crawl of bridges.

Steel Bridge

Steel Bridge

Broadway Bridge

Burnside Bridge

Hawthorne Bridge

Eastbank Esplanade

 

Sharing stories

I had coffee with a friend this morning, and she was relating to me a story about an adventure she had this past weekend with her daughter while they were out of town. The writer in me found it delightful, wanting to capture it and share with others. The sharing is the storyteller that I believe is in all of us, although in our modern era we seem to have given it the back seat of our lives. Our ancestors were wise and perhaps blessed, in not having so many distractions that deterred them from taking the precious time of the telling and retelling of stories; stories that both delight us and help us to find a commonality that we can share in.

Circling the City

     We had a whole afternoon to kill after checking out of our hotel. I wondered what in the world we could do in this city we had never been to that would keep a young teenage girl entertained, without hearing the strains of, “Mom this is so boring! Oh my God, when will we be able to get on the plane and go home?!” I had wandered around the city one day while Anne was meeting with a group of other prospective college students. To put them at ease the group was led by some student volunteers at the college, not much older than the visitors themselves, gladly herding the masses of those making the rounds of college visits. These hard working volunteers had put together a “students only – no parents allowed” time, designed to allow the group of oftentimes shy teenagers to feel more at ease without mom or dad standing nearby asking possibly embarrassing questions. In my sojourn of the city that day, I found plenty of restaurants, museums, and the sports stadium but to my surprise I couldn’t find anywhere to shop. I asked about this at the front desk of the hotel when Anne and I returned after her campus visit; where was the nearest place to shop? We found out that the mall 10 miles away was the nearest shopping experience, and was easily accessible by taking the number 19 bus. So after checking out by noon on our last day, I asked at the front desk if they might be able to secure our luggage somewhere while we went out for a little adventure before heading home. They graciously found a place behind the desk for our things, and out the door we went to find bus number 19.

We searched high and low for the bus stop, when Anne spotted the train stop. “Look Mom, there’s a train just like we have at home. Why don’t we just take that instead?” Oh, the unbridled enthusiasm and lack of fear that the teenager possesses. Well, why not? I thought. We were used to taking public transportation at home, and I figured it couldn’t be that much different than any other city train. So with tickets in hand, we boarded the next train that came our way. We found a place to sit, and I started studying the map of the train route. I thought I had found our stop, so we got off on the 1300 block. But as we started walking, I thought to reach into my pocket to double check the street address of the mall – a thought that had come to me before we left the hotel. In horror I realized that the mall was 4300, not 1300 – we were 30 blocks away! Much too far for us to walk, even if we had to time to do so. But once more my daughter’s keen eyes spotted the ever elusive number 19 bus stop. Finally! Now we could just hop on and ride the 30 blocks, do a little shopping and head back to the hotel in time to catch out airport shuttle. So once more with tickets in hand, we climbed aboard for another ride. After a time though, I started to wonder as we begin to loop our way around the streets, rather than making our way from 1300 to 4300. In all actuality, we seemed to be headed in the opposite direction! My fears were confirmed when I saw the familiar buildings around our hotel; we had just completed a very large circle of the city! All we could do was laugh it off, and pretend that we had really meant to take a tour of the city like any other tourist; and we walked off the bus empty handed of shopping items but full of the excitement and satisfaction of having survived an adventure in a strange city.

Getting lost

Time once more for the weekly 100 word challenge, brought to you by a marvelous blog, Julia’s Place. This week’s prompt was “it wasn’t my fault” – another fun group of words to play with. And here is what I came up with…

A typical scenario

          “It wasn’t my fault we missed the turn!” I shouted as we drove down the seemingly endless country road. “How can you not read a simple road map?” was the reply from the driver’s side of the car. “You call this simple?” I countered, “I need a magnifying glass to figure out which thin line of a road we are actually on.” I stared at my husband’s stubborn face, waiting for a response. “You could have stopped miles back and asked for directions.” Still no response. And I made a mental note – Valentine’s gift this year, a GPS unit.

Poems from my inner child

My first few poems were born from a tidal wave of emotions coming out, after going through some major life changes. But as I began to heal and started to feel more alive, I wanted to play with the words, not just use them as an outlet for my troubles. So one day I was thinking about my car, my amazingly reliable, always there for me Honda Civic (which I had named Little Car), and out came the words to a poem about my friend made of black metal. And I found it coming out in rhyme, with a rhythm like the jump rope rhymes I remembered from my childhood. My inner child had revealed herself! On another occasion, I was thinking of favorite foods, things I really crave at times, and realized they all begin with the letter C. Voila! Another tiny, simple and childlike poem, just for the sheer fun of it. Who says that all our writing has to be deep and profound? A bit of silliness is needed every now and then to remind us how to play, even in our writing.

 

Little Car

 

Little car, little car

You and I, we go so far

Traveling near or traveling far

Having fun no matter where we are

The road ahead looms large and long

But you and I, we sing our song

Of taking a chance on roads unknown

Then coming back to our sweet home

Without you I fear

I would have to stay near

And not venture to places

Where I can meet many new faces

So I thank you always

For taking me all those days

To new places I’ve longed to see

Traveling onward – just you and me!

The Letter C

Things I love

That begin with C

Cupcakes

Coffee

Chocolate

Cheese and

Crackers

There it is

Nothing fancy

Just some things

That I

Crave

Beginning with

C

 

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