March 31, 2009


Heather tweeted this link today, and I just have to share it because I burst out laughing every time I read it.

p.s. speaking of that:

blurry, sent to me by a stranger. me & dooce! perhaps some famous blogger dust will rub off on me.

the last supper

I cannot get over this list of final meal requests from inmates on Texas's death row. This was posted on the Portland Mercury blog the other day, and I haven't been able to stop thinking of it. Or reading it.

Two 16 oz. ribeyes, one lb. turkey breast (sliced thin), twelve strips of bacon, two large hamburgers with mayo, onion, and lettuce, two large baked potatoes with butter, sour cream, cheese, and chives, four slices of cheese or one-half pound of grated cheddar cheese, chef salad with blue cheese dressing, two ears of corn on the cob, one pint of mint chocolate chip ice cream, and four vanilla Cokes or Mr. Pibb

Never mind the sheer volume of food requested: that's easy to understand. Why not, after all? No worries about getting fat, no worries about the health implications of your diet; no worries, even, about feeling sick later. But how sad those thoughts are.

Heaping portion of lettuce, a sliced tomato, a sliced cucumber, four celery stalks, four sticks of American or Cheddar cheese, two bananas and two cold half pints of milk. Asked that all vegetables be washed prior to serving. Also asked that the cheese sticks be clean.

I'm just as fascinated by the things people chose, which, along with indicating favorite food preferences, also hint at family background, ethnicity, and tell a tiny story of their own about each of these people and the food memories they have.

Justice, Equality, World Peace

Reading them, I wonder if they all got what they requested. There's no way to know. A disclaimer on the list reminds readers that "final meal requested may not actually reflect final meal served." I hope in most cases it did. Although these men were put to death for horrific crimes, that fact doesn't obliterate their basic humanity: their childhood memories, their feelings, their fears at being put to death. Their personhood. And who's to say we should be in the business of ending their lives, despite it all?

Chocolate birthday cake with "2/23/90" written on top, seven pink candles, one coconut, kiwi fruit juice, pineapple juice, one mango, grapes, lettuce, cottage cheese, peaches, one banana, one delicious apple, chef salad without meat and with thousand island dressing, fruit salad, cheese, and tomato slices

March 30, 2009

out & about

packed house

the blogmama herself

went to hear Heather of dooce speak tonight at Powell's; as expected she was hilarious and insightful and it was a great evening. she read two chapters from her new book, apologized to the dudes in the room for talking about milk leaking from her boobs, apologized to everyone in the room for her hair ("I got a little out of control with the curling iron"), and reminded everybody that "crayon" is pronounced "crown" and not ... "crayon." (I was raised with that pronunciation, too, and in college had to translate for a waitress in Syracuse, who tried valiantly to understand when my stepdad kept asking, "do you have crowns for the kids?"). It was a packed house but I still stayed to get my book signed and, I'm kind of embarrassed to admit, have a photo snapped. on a stranger's camera. who will hopefully remember to email it to me.

on my walk to Powell's a man sitting on the street asked me for cash, and when I apologized and smiled, he thanked me and said, "wonderful smile!" sometimes it's the little things.

things are happening here. april is very promising: a ski trip with Cristina, a weekend in Utah (without snow -- do you hear me, weather gods?), and then rehearsals start in earnest for Rigoletto. did you know I get to be a concubine in that show? I had to rearrange most of my month to be able to make rehearsals. today was my first costume fitting. even though I handle the music for every production we do, somehow having my neck to shoulder line measured took being a part of the opera to the next level.

March 29, 2009

march 29

it is two months today until my twenty-eighth birthday. I love birthdays. I have never yet been able to understand the people who lament being another year older. aren't we lucky? I think birthdays are chances to celebrate the lives we have been given. I love to make a big deal about other peoples' birthdays, too. do you know birthdays are one of those things about people I never forget? I could still tell you the birthdays of every girl I've ever called "best friend" (feb. 5, feb. 2, may 20, sept. 15, dec. 5) or boys I had crushes on in elementary school (kevin: may 17; matt: may 4). once I know your birthday, I promise I won't forget it.

some birthdays to remember:

age 10: upon waking, I discovered my mother had set up a complicated scavenger hunt for my birthday present. it took me all through the house: in the closets, outside in the yard, down in the basement. in the end, the gift was under my own bed. I still remember seeing it there, by itself on the hardwoods. it was my first Nintendo.

age 19: both of us recently home from college, my high school friend Chris took me out to my favorite little cafe at the time, a tiny restaurant nestled in a local bookstore. afterwards we meandered through the stacks, ending up in the kids' section, where we sat on the steps of the tiny play area and he read to me from a Berenstain Bears book, inserting dirty words and scenarios into the narrative. on our way home we listened to country music, all the windows cranked. 'do you know how to two-step?' he asked me. when I shook my head, he pulled into the parking lot of the high school track, cut the engine, and turned up the radio. and then we danced, clumsily, laughing, our feet crunching the gravel, in the headlights of his car.

age 21: my actual 21st birthday -- at a bar, with my boyfriend at his friends, drinking pitchers of beer -- was typical. but my mother and I celebrated my birthday later that summer. her gift to me was a trip to NYC, and tickets to a Yankees game, where we sat in the bleachers in right field, listening to New Yorkers cat-calling the Blue Jays' fielder, eating hot dogs, and drinking beers. we spent the weekend in the city, where in addition to the ball game, we got our palms read ('you'll live to be 96,' the palm reader told me, 'and will have three children'), and my mom bought me a much-coveted black bikini that I still have and wear.

March 28, 2009

drip drip drip

I still have not ridden Cookie in weeks, but we have started groundwork, which I think we'll continue in earnest. Today after running around loose in the arena like a happy, crazy monster, she did some work for me on the lunge line, tossing her head already less frequently than yesterday (though still seeming to say, despite trotting before I even asked, "I can't believe you're making me work!"). I intended to ride her around bareback, at a walk, to let her cool down, but the wind was howling and life in general was a little spooky, so instead I just clipped the reins to her halter and stood on the mounting block next to her. Moving off while I'm trying to get into the saddle is her number one worst habit. She stood quietly and let me scratch her from the block, and then she did the funniest thing: as she stood, she turned her head so her nose was touching my leg and she began to nicker insistently at me. It was like listening to a low-grade diesel engine. I couldn't discern if she was trying to boss me around, or if she was whispering sweet nothings into my leg. She repeated the behavior later in the afternoon, while I was putting her blankets on. Funny, funny horse.

Otherwise, this Saturday has consisted of very rainy, very cold stall cleaning, and the repeat and consistent drudgery of bowing Rigoletto as fast as I can manage. As of right now I'm halfway through the second violins; I've bowed 512 pages so far. My hand hurts.

March 26, 2009


violin I

as of 3 PM today I am officially tethered to Rigoletto. orchestra parts arrived by the world's slowest post this afternoon; the official deadline to have them to the orchestra is the end of next week. ordinarily a set of parts takes three weeks to mark. you see the problem here.

in the meantime, be inspired by Maira Kalman's ode to abe lincoln. I've been meaning to post it here for a couple of weeks. I found it utterly charming.

March 25, 2009


pretty face

this is the pretty face that greets me at the barn. she's finally lost most of her winter coat; I had forgotten how pretty her summer coat is, lighter and more silvery than the buttermilk color she takes on in the cold. hopefully soon we will be able to dispose of the blankets for awhile. she likes to reach around and unhook the velcro on hers (she had already done that when I snapped this photo).

because of my hectic schedule and because I've gotten out of the habit, we haven't been together much lately, Cookie and I. I see her when I clean stalls, and when I'm there I always take off her blankets, brush her, and give her a carrot, but I don't ride. starting this weekend I'm headed to the barn every day for at least a week, to see where it takes us. two weeks ago I had two lessons in three days; in the first lesson she was a jerk, but in the second she gave in. I'm curious how much better she will be when she remembers what it is we do.

number six


number six, done. Cristina & I meandered over to le happy for a late dinner tonight, and were not disappointed. crepes! crepes with tofu & peanut sauce; crepes with apples and hazelnuts; crepes with roasted chicken and goat cheese. our dessert crepes with strawberries and nutella. so, so full. so, so satisfied. what an adorable little place.

March 23, 2009

today, standing with my cart in the produce section, I was walking idly, checking my list, when suddenly I realized that a woman shopping nearby smelled just like an old boyfriend, one whom I have neither seen nor heard from in over 3 years. instead of absently fondling the swiss chard, I suddenly found myself back on the st. lawrence river, the darkness pressing in on the cool glass of the cabin's back door. oh, those few days are nothing but a blip in the history of my life, hardly any time at all, and yet they were so important to me then; even now I look back with a quiet but delicious fondness. the day I got there -- after my last performance as a graduate student, on the first hot day of the summer -- I sat out back on the deck in a black bikini, even though it was not quite warm enough, and dipped the tips of my toes into the frigid, clear river. it was just the two of us and the dog, a border collie called Furio. I got drunk from one delicious margarita and when we hopped into his truck to go grab some groceries from town, I leapt onto the driveway and impaled the arch of my bare foot on a small sharp rock, incurring a blood blister which stayed there for months afterward.

the next morning I awoke to fried eggs and thick slabs of peppered bacon, coffee in glass mugs. I set up shop on the kitchen table, writing a paper due that evening for the last final exam of my school career. he left me with the dog so he could go work on the family boat. I left in the afternoon to take the evening's final, which I completed easily, and walked out into a mild May evening, the sky fading through indigo to black. when the 90 minutes' car ride landed me back at that door, I arrived to find the house warm with light. the dog ran out to greet me. "I made dinner," he said simply. "I waited for you to come back." that night on the pull-out couch we built a fort out of pillows. "no girls allowed," he said, from beneath.

later that summer I would sit on the floor of my studio apartment, the phone cradled damply to my ear, and describe how I had felt listening to Chopin in the back room of the staffing agency where I worked. "my boss came in during the first movement. I love that piece so much; when she saw me listening it felt like she had seen me naked."
"wait, the F minor?" he said, and there was scrambling on the other line. "how does it go, how does it go? hum me a few bars" -- and suddenly from the earpiece, the opening motive of the concerto bounded forth from the piano on the other end of the line.
"shit, I'm rusty," he said.

March 22, 2009


hey guys? I just watched Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid and now I decided when I grow up I want to be Etta Place.

yay outlaw ladies

"Eyewitnesses indicated years afterward that Place was one of only five women known to have ever been allowed into the Wild Bunch hideout at Robbers Roost in southern Utah. Those who had met Place claimed that the first thing noticed about her was that she was strikingly pretty, with a very nice smile, and that she was cordial and refined, but an excellent shot with a rifle. She was said to have spoken in an educated manner, and she indicated that she was originally from the East Coast, although she never revealed an exact location."

March 21, 2009

the heaviest weight

"What if some day or night a demon were to steal into your loneliest loneliness and say to you: 'This life as you now live it and have lived it you will have to live once again and innumerable times again; and there will be nothing new in it, but every pain and every joy and every thought and sigh and everything unspeakably small or great in your life must return to you, all in the same succession and sequence -- even this spider and this moonlight between the trees, and even this moment and I myself. The eternal hourglass of existence is turned over again and again, and you with it, speck of dust!' Would you not throw yourself down and gnash your teeth and curse the demon who spoke thus? Or have you once experienced a tremendous moment when you would have answered him: 'You are a god, and never have I heard anything more divine.' If this thought gained power over you, as you are it would transform and possibly crush you; the question in each and every thing, 'Do you want this again and innumerable times again?' would lie on your actions as the heaviest weight! Or how well disposed would you have to become to yourself and to life to long for nothing more fervently than for this ultimate eternal confirmation and seal?"

the gay science, book four: st. januarius, 341: friedrich nietzsche

March 20, 2009


current grievances with today:

felt sick when I woke up
canceled stall cleaning this morning because I felt sick
felt completely awful for canceling stall cleaning
backed into another car in the opera parking lot last night and felt terrible about it this morning when I parked my car
there's a big hole in my bumper now (the other car is fine)
the zipper of my pants won't stay up and I have to wear them until 11 tonight, including to work a show
I have to miss the first softball meeting of the season (read: drinking party) because of the show
missing brunch club today :( :(

the show goes on

during this weekend of shows, I thought I'd share this with you. Kim over at the Wolftrap Opera blog posted this last year. "No matter how exciting it is here," she writes, "it's obviously more exciting somewhere else." I think of it every time we do a show.

(12:16:06 PM): just doing Siegfried
(12:16:15 PM): we had 2 feet of flooding in the basement
(12:16:22 PM): but the electrics still work
(12:16:28 PM): firemen everywhere
(12:16:31 PM): pumping
(12:16:40 PM): and a bunch of really wet rich people in the house
(12:16:55 PM): we left our office through the window
(12:17:02 PM): but just were able to come back
(12:17:05 PM): quite something
(1:58:14 PM): they pumped the lower stage and we’re doing Act II

March 19, 2009

the stars sparkle and blaze

overheard at work: applause and laughter; the stage manager's voice talking low from backstage into the intercom system during the quietest moments of the show; a soprano warming up in the stairwell; sirens outside; footsteps upstairs; the soft hum of the lirone.

tonight: an opera. tomorrow night: a baroque orchestra concert. and so it goes, back and forth. outside they keep calling for rain, but instead the air borders on mild. cristina and I walk for dinner without our coats, pleased.


overheard at work: "Does your wife want to be a concubine?"

March 18, 2009


standing bravely against the cold

that tree by the church where PBO rehearses is telling anyone who will listen that soon it will be spring.


things I wish I were doing today: planting a garden, rocking in rocking chairs on a porch, talking about other peoples' bathing suits on the beach with my cousins, riding a roller coaster, eating homemade peach ice cream, riding in a crappy car with vinyl seats on a hot day with the windows down, drinking wine at an outdoor symphony concert, hiking near a lake, riding my horse across an open field, adopting a dog with Cristina. in other words, being warm, dirty, and outside.

my next day off work is Sunday, March 29. god help me.

March 17, 2009

road trip

did you know: listening to an organ being tuned is like having leeches living inside your brain? but on the flip side: on my walk to the church this morning for rehearsal, I came across a tree unapologetically in bloom. it's covered in pink flowers. I had to do a double take.

this morning, Annalisa, our lirone player, was the first one to arrive. I bet you have never heard a lirone. it looks like a cello, but has more strings. pitched higher than a cello, it's bowed the same way, but played in chords like a guitar. it's a divine noise, sweetly restful and plaintive. I would have liked her to keep warming up all morning.

I'm in and out of PBO rehearsal all week, splitting it this time with my full-time hours at the opera. (it's exhausting). this morning, true to form, I spent the better part of rehearsal reading old stuff on my computer. here's more from the archives -- farther back in time this go-around -- for your reading pleasure.

(written 3/5/07, about a road trip taken July 2006)

those mornings of the road trip last summer, the middle of july. we'd wake up and sometimes we'd shower, we'd find breakfast in the lounge of the hotel -- cereal, mostly, or those little regulation muffins, or toast -- and then we'd get in the car. sometimes we'd have cleaned it out the night before, but it was always jam-packed, with things overflowing out of the back seat, and the front grill was covered with mangled bug carcasses. some mornings, in arkansas and tennessee, and in nevada especially, you could already feel the heat in the air, the way it was going to be steamy by noon. we'd all hop in the car and take our places: mom at the wheel; me in the passenger seat, my bare feet on the dash, braids in my hair; my sister behind me, her pillow up against the window, ready for a morning nap; my brother behind the driver's seat, his hair growing long and blowing in the breeze from our open windows, rummaging for his gameboy. there was this whole routine: we'd hop in, and my mom and I would have coffee in to-go cups from breakfast, and we'd start the car and back out and then we would shuffle through the CD changer for Willie Nelson, and we'd start the day with a rousing live rendition of "On The Road Again," the lyrics of which we had all learned by the time we finally reached North Carolina a week after we set out.

that drive up Pike's Peak. you know, I kind of didn't want to do it. It seemed so out of our way. but once we were on it there were so many things to think about, to look for. "Bigfoot Crossing," one sign read. "Hot Brakes Fail," said another. The road was paved to a point, and then it turned to dirt. There were no guardrails. You could not look over the edge without a sense of panic and vertigo. I wondered aloud how many people a year drove over the edge. In the backseat my sister sang "America the Beautiful" at least four times in a row. It was hard to believe that what we were seeing was real, after we hit ten thousand feet. The scenery below was too far away to fathom. It was like being in an airplane, before you break through the clouds and lose your view of earth. We clocked the temperature change. It was 72 degrees when we started out at ground level. It was 47 at the top.

I remember that we were in the gift shop -- the gift shop! god, what a very American thing, a gift shop at the peak of a mountain -- and my sister was considering buying a shirt for herself and a matching one for our seven-year-old cousin, Kaitlin, but she suddenly decided against it. We didn't understand at first why she hurriedly put the shirts back on the rack. She was suffering from altitude sickness, and I think she was feeling suddenly claustrophobic as well, after a huge group of people from the mountain train had entered the store. She ended up waiting for us in the car. My mom understood my sister's heart at that moment, and bought both shirts. Later on that day -- or maybe it was several days later, I can't remember -- she presented them to Ashley. My sister was so grateful. It seems like the most wonderful thing, looking back.

Or the way we sat at a Waffle House in Oklahoma, each of us enjoying our own gigantic waffle, and our waitress, whose name was Karen, was so talkative, baffled and eager about us, amazed that we were driving all the way across the country. She told us about how we were in Garth Brooks' home town (we happened to be on Garth Brooks Boulevard), and she asked us about the trip, and she mistook my brother for my son. I could tell my mom was beginning to want to be left alone, but I found it charming, the way she was unabashedly interested in the foreign concept of this family with two children just taking off and seeing the country. Later on my brother threw up that waffle in the backseat, somewhere in Arkansas.

Or when we decided to get off the highway in Lovelock, Nevada, in search of the Tufa formations, a hundred-acre section of land in the middle of nowhere where giant lumpy red-brown rocks sat. It was the middle of the afternoon. There was no one around. The formations were speckled around an old motocross course. There was almost no road; the only sign of where to go were occasional dirt tracks. We plowed into the middle of the field with our car. We decided we didn't want to get out; the grass was up to our knees, and there were lizards everywhere. We worried about rattlesnakes, and we were all wearing flip flops. We counted jackrabbits. Three times the car got stuck and we had to back out the way we came. When we finally left, half an hour or more later, we pulled back onto the main road, which curved around through the mountains, empty. We stopped the car and my mom got out with the camera. She stood on the center yellow lines with her hand on the top of her head and just stood there, breathing. She took the most remarkable pictures that day. Then she got back in the car and we drove back through town. I stopped the car in the middle of the road and got out to mail a letter in a nearby mailbox. I walked across the street in my socks. We had a special pair of 'driving socks' stuffed into the driver side door, which we needed because the floor air conditioner was relentless. We'd wear both socks on our driving foot.

Before we even left Oregon we passed Prehistoric World, and it was the kind of hokey, 1950s amusement site I'd been craving. It was fifty degrees and drizzling, a miserable day. It was our second day on the road and we had not yet even broken into California. I wanted to walk through the tiny park but I felt bad because it cost almost ten bucks a person. I started to say that it was OK if we didn't, but my mom said, "Are you sure you don't want to?" in that way that meant she knew I did, and so we went in. It was back in an old growth forest, and we had the place to ourselves. We made dinosaur faces and learned about fossils. One dinosaur was being rebuilt and painted.

In Texas we stopped in Amarillo in a strip of hotels and restaurants, and we ate at a huge but empty barn-like place, where we had calf fries -- deep-fried calf testicles. The baked beans were delicious. The girls had thick accents.

I had my iPod with me, and sometimes I'd plug it in and we'd listen to mixes I had made specifically for the car; huge playlists with old singable classics I thought everyone would like. My siblings developed a fondness for Jeff Buckley, and although my sister thought I was crazy at the outset of our trip, when in a gleeful morning moment I sang "Loveshack" to her at the top of my lungs (out the car window), she soon came around. One night we were -- where? Colorado, maybe, or I think just outside the Nevada border, after that dreadful night driving through mountain passes and past landslides -- and my mom had run in to a hotel manager's office to inquire about a room. We sat in the car waiting for her, all of us tired and at the edge of being grumpy and overextended, but we started singing, for some reason, "I'm A Believer." It was such a moment. She got back in the car and we were on the last verse; my brother was getting into it in the backseat, and all of us were belting it out. It was a moment of incredible unity.

There was the day my brother got carsick, when he threw up the waffle in the backseat. It was barely afternoon, and we didn't know whether to stop or press on, so we pressed on. We tried a million different places, looking for ginger ale, and not a single place had any. It was 104 degrees outside, in Arkansas. We pulled over to the side of the road twice. In a McDonalds parking lot my mom washed off my brother with a large bottle of water bought at a nearby gas station. Then he threw up again on a turnout on the side of the road. He dry heaved for two hours in the backseat, while my sister pressed herself up against the opposite window. Finally my mom crawled back to be with him, and I drove. I was so tired but I felt like I had to keep it together, like if I could keep it together somehow we'd all be OK. We drove until we were just outside the Tennessee border, on the west side of the Mississippi. We carried Travis inside and he fell asleep immediately. The next morning he was jumping on the bed.

On the exit ramp in Taos, New Mexico, my mom threw the car into park and we leapt out of the car to switch places. We thought no one would come. I was barefoot. When we got back in we realized there was a car behind us. I pulled over to one side of the ramp so they could pass, because my mom wanted a picture of the I-40 sign.

Our second night driving we found ourselves on Rt. 20, going through the mountains in eastern California and, eventually, western Nevada. There was no guardrail, and we were hundreds of feet up. It was pitch dark. It felt like any moment we would be pitched over. Semis came roaring past us in the opposite direction. We passed landslides, lit by high-wattage halogen construction lamps. We shivered. In the backseat both kids were asleep. We were tired. I wasn't ready to drive the huge SUV. There were no hotels of any kind for hours. We approached town after town with tiny populations. We thought we would have to drive all night. Finally, at nearly midnight, we found a nice motel and nearly fell out of the car. The following morning I awoke early to a beautiful sunny day, and I went for a three-mile run down the main road, my hair braided. Running in Nevada! It felt like a miracle, somehow. I came back and showered, ate Cheerios in the lobby of the hotel, swinging my legs. My sister took a bowl of them, dry, in the car with her and promptly spilled them in the backseat.

Graceland! The way the Mississippi was slow and full of sediment, so different from the wide, deep river we had each seen on the Wisconsin/Minnesota border (I had seen it a year earlier; for my family, only two weeks had passed). The dread we all felt as the terrain narrowed once again, in Arkansas and especially in Tennessee; how everything seemed to be more drab, how it all matched what we knew from the East Coast. The fog through the Smoky Mountains, and the way it felt to enter the time zone of our extended family, who were waiting for us in North Carolina. Driving across ranchland in New Mexico, no one behind or in front of us, and nothing around but low shrubs and fences, a two-lane road, not even a single electrical pole in sight. Or the redwoods, those giant monoliths, how we expected to be stunned into silence and we were, we were. Trees as old as the Magna Carta.

I don't think I realized how special that road trip was until this very moment. it is touching me all the way down to the inside of my heart. I very much wish we could do it again this summer. it seems like even if that road trip were the only good thing that ever came out of my living in Oregon, it would be enough.

March 16, 2009

There is a moment just before
a dog vomits when its stomach
heaves dry, pumping what's deep
inside the belly to the mouth.
If you are fast you can grab
her by the collar and shove her
out the door, avoid the slimy bile,
hunks of half chewed food
from landing on the floor.
You must be quick, decisive,
controlled, and if you miss
the cue and the dog erupts
en route, you must forgive
her quickly and give yourself
to scrubbing up the mess.

Most of what I have learned
in life leads back to this.

the meaning of life, nancy fitzgerald


hi, blog world. I've been MIA and so much has taken place in absentia that I have nothing to say.

March 9, 2009

things I did today:
woke up on time; drank coffee; wore orange striped socks; listened to the radio; believed my car might not start; wore fingerless gloves; checked out a giant pile of heavy books; carried a giant pile of heavy books from the library, in the sunlight; got my hair cut; passed a beautiful mottled great dane and a pyrenees; admired the tops of the trees in the park blocks; ate an apple; called something a 'clusterfuck'; talked about grammar; attended two rehearsals; walked past a statue of abe lincoln.

things that are blue:
the ocean sometimes, the top of this computer window, my fingernails in the cold, the sky without clouds, the car I drive, the car I used to drive, my roommate's hair as a college freshman, socks (occasionally), the rocking chair on the balcony, my cousin Hope's eyes, my first leased horse's left eye, my eyes, a lot of eyes, winning ribbons, people who are sad, the moon in some songs, creme de menthe, certain gemstones, veins, my favorite color as a child.

March 8, 2009


yesterday: I got to the barn early so that I could turn Cookie loose in the arena and let her run around for awhile, get rid of pent up energy. but when I got there, one of the half-leasers was already there, tacked up, and riding. (It was 9 AM). because I couldn't exercise her in the arena without other riders there, I opted not to have my lesson. this is my biggest flaw as a rider, and it's also my barn's biggest flaw. mine: that I don't have the confidence to lunge my horse while there are other riders in the arena, because sometimes Cookie gets it into her brain to momentarily bolt on the line and I am afraid I can't hold her. my barn's: there is no turnout, so the horses are stall-bound and pent-up. if I rode every day she would be better, but these days that's impossible. in the end I finished my stalls, watered, and went home to get out of the cold & damp.

last night: in rehearsal one of the theorbos exploded. maybe because of the climate in the theater (or maybe not), the face popped right off, turning the instrument into a mess of string and wood. I was in the production office at the time -- not in the theater -- and so I neither saw nor heard it.

today: I opened the envelope my ex-boyfriend sent to me this week (I got it in the mail yesterday but I was already cranky enough) and discovered, along with the video game I was expecting (one of mine he'd borrowed ages ago) an envelope full of symphony tickets for the rest of the season. "I haven't been able to bring myself to go to any this season," he wrote on the flap. he wrote me an email last week that I have still not responded to.

now: shower, rehearsal, library, haircut, rehearsal, rehearsal, rehearsal. at least I finally did my dishes.

March 5, 2009

just a thursday

today: brunch club (biscuits & gravy, a bloody mary)
Phase 10
pub quiz
more Phase 10

now: tired, up past my bedtime, about to have Garrison Keillor read me poetry as I fall asleep

March 4, 2009

two of pentacles

wednesday night. the final room run-through before we take this dog & pony show to the theater: theorbo, gamba, lirone, harpsichord, guitar; Jonathan's Giove coat has been transformed to gold, and we all fawn while Brendan, standing in his top-of-opera 'dress' makes a face of mock affrontery. the tiny audience claps.

and now: at home with south park and a glass of $4 trader joe's wine. my back aches from a knot in my piriformis, and I am in a state of reclusion, turning inward to myself. I've been reading but not writing much, and eschewing time out with friends not because I don't love them but because I feel like I'm searching for something and have to search alone. or maybe I'm just tired and a little scattered and a little stressed, and still recovering from those weeks during our last opera when we were out too late every night of the week.

I'm bringing you another selection from my tarot project. I can't decide whether or not I plan to make a habit of raiding my old journals & archived writing. something about it feels wrong, dangerous: like I will stop writing in my journal for fear that my future self will come and drag my private musings into the public light. but I really like some of this stuff. I wrote this one on a night completely unlike tonight.

two of pentacles

lately I'm experiencing life in the way I imagine an extrovert experiences it. I don't at all mean that I've suddenly bloomed, come out of my shell, stopped being shy. it's just: life is so busy right now, and I don't have time to grocery shop or do laundry; I just go to the office, and then I go to the theater, and I eat dinner with amber, and afterward I go home and it's nearly midnight, or I get a drink with the cast, and then I sleep. in the mornings I am happy there is sunshine, but I am thinking of nothing in particular, of nothing at all. people live their entire lives like this: never looking inward, never focusing on one's own thoughts, always in motion, always projecting outwards rather than in. it feels glamorous, active and young, happy, vibrant.

I have a massive crush on our conductor, who is young and has messy reddish hair, seems shy or at least tight-lipped, and is just nice nice nice. the fact that I have a boyfriend is one of the thoughts I have not been attending to.

it is really happy. I can hardly stand for it to change. it feels like it's balanced on a wire, all of it; the thin tensile of tech nights, drinking cappuccinos, beers with friends, laughing with amber as we clutch sodas and walk down first avenue to the theater. it all seems so easy. I phoned her from a state park at the beach yesterday. we'd been talking about making a road trip of her upcoming move to southern california. "let's drive the coast road," I said, meaning highway 101. I imagined feet on the dashboard, the windows down, laughing at nothing, stopping at kitschy stores for tacky souvenirs. at the end of the jetty the waves of the pacific slammed against one side of the rocks; the columbia river lapped at the other. the graveyard of the pacific. later there was a shipwrecked boat on the beach, its ancient rotting hull jutting from the sand and fog. I ate two ice cream cones for lunch, and drank coffee, and sang songs in the car on my ride back to the city. when I arrived at work there was still sand on my legs. this is it: knowing that life is good and worthy of trust.

March 3, 2009


hey, it's March. not much to say lately. I am in rehearsal, or I am in my office, or I am in transit. yesterday I ran five and a half miles and midway through I passed a small black dog, ostensibly waiting for his owner; as I ran by he hunkered down into a puddle, limbs splayed in four directions. he looked intensely contented. today in my midday break I went to the barn to work and ride. Cookie was sweet on the ground but wanted nothing to do with working; the moment I was on her back she was fiddling with the bit in her mouth, tossing her head, jigging around in no direction whatsoever. I got so mad I actually called her names. I tried to end on a good note but we couldn't even walk in a straight line. it's okay. we all have those days.


here's a dream I had last summer, mid-july; I typed it up in bed, without glasses, in the middle of the night, almost directly upon waking. it's more real than anything else I could say right now:

big thunderstorm tonight. the thunder woke me up and I felt compelled to stay awake, since we hardly ever have them, but I was too tired and instead slept fitfully, waking at each rumble of thunder. only when it started to rain did I get up, emerging to check on the plants on the railing. in the end it was a pretty great storm. I had been having a dream about ralph; he showed up to the house or something, out of the blue after two (nearly three) years, and wanting to renew everything, only there was aaron. he told me that aaron had tried to contact him, had sent him a postcard or something, and how all the folks who had graduated in his class in utica had ended up in portland. 'aaron looked me up in my yearbook,' he said, 'and underneath my picture it says 'plays pool, lives in portland.' I don't know what it is in me that refuses to let that lost thing go. it's as though I want some retribution, or ... what is the word? acceptance? forgiveness? absolution, maybe. I will never in my life forget that moment, so late in the cold, wth the patterned lines of frost from the roof of my car melting slowly into my arm; that moment where he said that unforgettable line: 'jess, if you didn't have a boyfriend, i'd plant one on you right now.' what is the real truth behind our story together? the nights of smoking and fucking on his dining room floor; the piles of food he made for me; that night after it had already gone wrong once, when we watched a movie and he let me put my feet in his lap. these are the great mysteries of my universe. is he here in this thunderstorm too?

in the dream I wanted to kiss him but also I did not. aaron was coming to take me on a date. when he knocked on my door ralph was there; I was terrified of what it would seem like even though I had not (yet) been unfaithful. but when I opened the door I suddenly remembered with great clarity how it felt to be deceptive to the person you truly love, and I wanted nothing to do with it. only there was still the problem of having one man on one side of the door, and one man on the other.

March 1, 2009


inventory of today's sore body parts:
upper arms
right hand (my sprained thumb still has not healed completely)
lower back
right piriformis (always a problem)

yesterday my feet were also bad, because I go through periods where my toes cramp spontaneously and badly, and they're worst when I'm in the saddle. last night I couldn't flex my left foot without pain. geez! getting older sucks.

did I ever tell you about the marathon? I didn't write much after I ran the Portland Marathon in 2007. there was too much to say and I couldn't figure out how to say it. I think there is no soreness on earth -- no self-inflicted soreness, at least -- as agonizing as the day after the marathon.

I ran the PDX Marathon in 2007 with Team in Training; I raised about $1700 in honor of my childhood friend Ann, who had died of leukemia in 2005. When I signed up, I honestly didn't believe I had a marathon in me. I was a high school sprinter whose favorite, and strongest, event was the 200m. I'd never run more than a 15K, and that distance only once. Even a 10K was a stretch. I don't even know what I was thinking when I signed up, except that if I was ever going to run a marathon, it was with a giant support system behind me. I tried to do it alone in 2004 and didn't get past that 15K.

We trained all summer. Early on I made a friend, a very lanky, tall, and quick guy who had caught up with me during an 8-miler and had chatted with me for the entire run. Listen. There are few things as great as the perfect running partner. Jay was it. Faster than me, but more interested in cameraderie than speed; willing to wait if I had to stretch or use the bathroom (of course I afforded him the same benefit); talkative and tireless. We used to get together once or twice a week outside the scheduled team training sessions to grab a run together, and sometimes a burger. I'll never forget an evening run -- 8 miles -- where we got talking so animatedly about something that for probably 10 minutes I completely forgot we were running. The fact came back to me with a jolt. "Hey!" I said, amazed. "We're still running!"

In the middle of the summer he asked me out and I declined, citing a real but never discussed long-distance boyfriend.

We talked about race day a lot. It was the first marathon for both of us. Over burritos one night we made a pact. "You're the kind of person," I said, "who would stick with me if I got hurt, even if I didn't want you to. And I'm the kind of person who would leave your ass in a heartbeat if you fell. Let's promise, then, that if you get hurt, I'll stay with you, and if I get hurt and I want you to keep running, you'll leave me behind."

Training went by like a breeze. We were unstoppable. We were famous within our running group for always leading the pack and for sprinting to the finish, a habit that, no matter how far I've run, I cannot eradicate from myself. I was, in fact, the quickest girl on the team, a fact which astounded me and consistently made me feel like a superhero. We were, for the most part, without injury; I had a testy achilles and he had a grouchy knee, but both injuries were mild and rarely plagued us. We were hardly even sore after our token 20-miler, the longest training run of the season. We thought we would recover quickly from the race, maybe even in time to run a half-marathon two weeks later.

On race day I left the house at 5 AM. My car's check engine light had come on the previous day and I was terrified of being stranded and unable to run. (The car drove without a hitch, and the light went off at the end of the weekend, never to return). We met our team at a downtown hotel lobby and walked/jogged the few blocks to the starting gate. We were chilly, nervous, excited.

The first two miles blew by so easily I could hardly believe we were already in it. It wasn't until mile 4 that I even felt we were running. We high-fived fellow teammates, grinned at spectators, and watched the sun rise. It was great! We had run segments of the course a number of times, so all of it was old news. We buckled in and were fine through the 10K mark. At the 15K mark we dropped our cold-weather clothes (long sleeved shirts, gloves) at the team tent and kept going.

At the half-marathon mark Jay's knee began to act up. Going against advice, he was wearing running tights he had never worn before; they ended just below the knee. He had also taken a spill off his bike a week earlier, and had landed on his leg. As we wound our way into the hard, lonely miles between 13 and 17 -- down a long industrial road and up and over the St. Johns Bridge -- Jay's knee became a real problem. By mile 17 -- just over the bridge -- we were walking. We walked for 3 agonizing miles. I thought I would lose my mind. We watched as the 4-hour pace group passed us, and then the 4:30 pace group, their red balloons darting through the crowd. The runners gave way to walkers (distinguishable by the color of their bib).

In some ways the most difficult part of my marathon experience was staying on that course with my friend. Close to mile 20, a TNT captain from Seattle passed us and noticed Jay, who now could not even walk without difficulty. I could not imagine finishing the race at this snail's tempo. The coach advised Jay to stop at the mile 20 medical tent for assistance, and suggested that maybe it was best to let this race go: better to give up the race than to give up a knee, he said.

If at any point Jay had suggested I finish without him, I would have given him a hug and taken off without a pause. But he never did, and so I stayed. We sat at the medical tent. The nurses there suggested he call it a day. They gave him a space blanket, which we shared. In the sun, running, we were dressed appropriately for the weather. But we were in the shade, sitting in the breeze, motionless. We were freezing. An aide brought me a handful of gummi bears. I thought I would throw up. I had gone from running 3/4 of a marathon to stopping and sitting on a cold cot on the bluffs in North Portland. I could feel my legs turning to stone.

We sat at that medical tent for 45 minutes before our coaches arrived to take Jay away. "What are you going to do?" they asked me. I didn't hesitate a beat. "I'm going to finish the race," I replied. I ran off with a wave.

Starting up again was horrible, like trying to move rusted gears. It was excruciating. I thought for half a mile or so that I, too, would have to abandon the race. But I couldn't! I would have crawled across that finish line. I happened to catch up with members of our run/walk team, whose race strategy was to run a certain set number of minutes, followed by a walk break, for the course of the run. I stayed with them for a mile or so, and having that structure made it possible for my muscles to warm up and loosen up enough to get going again. I left them behind at mile 23 with a wave.

Then I flew. (Or felt like I flew. I think I hobbled). I probably passed 500 people in the next 3 miles. I was so happy to be running again that I was all smiles. I congratulated everybody I passed. My coach was taking photos at mile 24. "THAT'S the smile I'm looking for!" he said, as I grinned and ran by, and we high-fived. I ate everything anybody passed me and drank water at every rest stop.

After the last crossing of the Willamette, across the Steel Bridge, I passed the 25 mile mark and burst into tears. "I did it!" I thought. Picturing the end of a marathon was, for years, what had gotten me through long lonely runs; how amazing it would feel, and how jubilant. I still had over a mile to go but it felt like nothing. It was nothing. Nearing the last stretch, I passed one of our coaches, running with one of our veteran runners. I gunned by them and waved. They both looked stunned to see me roll idly by.

I started to sprint as soon as I made the turn into the finisher's chute, as soon as I had the finish line in sight. Looking at photos, I can tell I was in excruciating pain, but I didn't care, or even feel it. I recalled an beloved former cross-country coach, who used to tell me that if I had enough gas at the end of the race to sprint, I hadn't run the race hard enough. Wrong! I thought.

finishing the marathon

My crazy hope had been to break 4 hours; my realistic goal was to come in somewhere around 4:30. I finished the race in 5:59:52. If I hadn't sprinted to the finish it would have taken me over 6 hours.

There is absolutely no way to describe the fatigue and soreness of the day following a marathon. Laying in bed with my legs straight out, I could not bend them without using my arms. My muscles were so tired I thought I was literally going to be stuck in bed. Putting on clothes that day was a monumental task. I had taken the day following the marathon off work (it was a Monday), but still had to attend a meeting that morning for an upcoming opera. I arrived at work in time for the meeting but I was several minutes late because I couldn't walk from the entrance of the building to the meeting room any faster than at a crawl. I wore my finisher's medal under my shirt. The rest of the day Jay and I watched the Back to the Future trilogy and ate pints of ice cream.

Last year I trained for my second marathon, and got 3/4 of the way through the training when I developed a serious case of tendonitis in my left foot while running Hood to Coast. Just weeks after our 2007 marathon, Jay and I had a nasty parting of ways (after a brief and disastrous period of dating) and I was left without a running partner. Last year it wasn't the same; my heart wasn't in it. Making the decision not to run was a relief, although on race day it rained for the first time in 37 years, and secretly, in my heart, I was glad.

This year I had decided to swear off the marathon and instead focus on 10Ks and halfs. I've got a half-marathon on my calendar already. But I might have a marathon on there too.