August 26, 2009

the ongoing adventures of Nub the hedgehog

where to start?

three weeks ago a group of us went out to Departure, a restaurant on top of The Nines Hotel in downtown Portland. Departure has two decks that overlook the city, and because it's known as one of the swankier places in town, we had planned on a fancy ladies' cocktail hour and dressed accordingly.

Of course, I brought Nub.


Three of us got there right as happy hour started, and ordered a bottle of prosecco, which was their happy hour bubbly special. By 5 PM another friend had joined us and we had ordered two more bottles. Then the whole group arrived, and -- well, it was downhill from there.

our first mistake

Our numbers swelled. More prosecco arrived. We ordered food in great quantities. It was a great time. Nub got to visit with everybody.

a serious discussion

Nub's group photo

It got dark, and grew chilly. It was already an overcast day, and not terribly warm. The waiter generously brought out blankets for us to cozy into. Glasses were continuously refilled. We drunkenly called a colleague and talked him into joining us. Kids, this is how accidents happen.

Somewhere in those blankets, Nub got lost.

It was a long night. I won't get into the details. The weekend that followed was rough. When I awoke the next day, my clothes from the previous night were either missing or soaked, someone else's dress was on my floor, and I had mysterious bruises. And Nub was missing.

I figured right away that either he had been forgotten at the bar, or someone else had taken him home. Neither Cristina nor I had our cars at the apartment -- we had both gotten a ride home. So we walked to pick up our cars, and then we went back to Departure for a rescue mission.

Let me tell you: there's nothing like saying, "I was here for happy hour last night, and I think I may have left my hedgehog."

After having to repeat "plush hedgehog" several times, they went on a search. Cristina and I stood at the desk for several minutes, and the hostess told us how she had a friend who liked to walk around with an actual human skeleton named Mr. D. Bones. After that, I didn't feel so strange. A lot of staff came and went, but no talk of the hedgehog. Finally, a guy came out and strolled over.

"Are you girls here for the hedgehog?" he asked. We nodded. "Well, we found him last night, but we didn't know what to do with him, so we gave him to security and he's locked up downstairs. We don't have a key and nobody will be in to open it until Monday. Can we mail him to you?"

I was so relieved that he'd been found -- and so amused by the idea that Nub was in lockdown -- that I didn't volunteer to come pick him up. I wrote down the opera's address, my cell phone number, and then scribbled "Nub the Hedgehog" on top.

"Do you take him places, like a traveling gnome?" the guy asked.
"Yup," I replied. "He even has his own Facebook page. And Twitter account."
"No kidding!" He scribbled something on the paper. "That's hilarious! OK -- we'll send him out on Monday."

We left and I was incredibly relieved. I was afraid I was in very real danger of bursting into tears if he hadn't been found. We went home and I looked forward to Tuesday or Wednesday, when he'd arrive at the opera.

Then, a week passed. No Nub.

The following Monday I drove back to the bar, figuring that he'd just been forgotten in the daily hubbub of running a restaurant. I was dismayed to discover that Departure is not open on Mondays, but the guys working the front desk of The Nines told me that since security was actually on the 8th floor, I could go talk to them. I made my way upstairs and once again had to explain that yes, I'd left a toy hedgehog at the bar a week ago. They phoned security but got no response. Will you be here for awhile? the girl asked. I said no, but left my name and phone number, and the word "hedgehog" at the top of the note. I went home and kept my phone on me all night. No word.

A few days later, I called The Nines. It was mid-day, and Departure hadn't opened yet. The girl at the desk didn't know anything about a hedgehog, but did let me know that actually, the bar had its own lost and found, so the hedgehog wouldn't be in security anyway. Then she suggested I leave a message at the restaurant, but I didn't, since they hadn't called me back before anyway.

Then, last Friday, unbeknownst to me, our friend Bob made an attempt at hostage retrieval. He showed up at Departure and demanded the return of the hedgehog. He was mailed yesterday, they told him, and he reported that he had reason to believe there may be photos included in his return box. I was bolstered. He was really on his way home! And the hotel staff had played along!

Monday morning I anxiously awaited the mail. I mean, it was really like a kid on Christmas. But no Nub. The same on Tuesday. And yesterday. When I left work yesterday afternoon, I went back to Departure. I arrived to discover that there was a private party being hosted in the restaurant, and it was closed to the public for the entire night. When I told the girl working the elevator that actually, I just needed to retrieve a lost hedgehog, she didn't bat an eye. "Oh!" she said. "I thought we mailed him!"
"It's been a week," I said, "and I'm a half-mile from here, and I haven't gotten him yet."
She frowned, and suggested I ask the guys at the front desk to call up and let me speak to the staff in the bar. It took several minutes of wrangling them -- well, you can't go up there, there's a private party .... well, security's on the eighth floor ... well ma'am, I don't know of any lost and found in Departure ... we only work down here, we don't know what goes on up there -- before I got someone on the phone.

Then the guy on the phone was a royal bitch. I explained that, though it was starting to feel like a joke line, I was calling about my lost hedgehog. He immediately put me on hold, and when he returned a minute or so later, he said he couldn't find the hedgehog, and he believed it had been mailed.
I was losing my cool. "Okay, see, here's the thing. I either want to speak to the person who put the hedgehog in the box, or I want to walk out of here with the hedgehog in my hand."
"Well, the person who mailed him isn't here, and I don't know where the hedgehog is." Long pause. "You can leave a message."
"See, here's the thing," I said. "I've left my phone number like four times, and nobody ever calls me. So no thanks."

And that was how I had to leave it. I wanted to be able to stand at the desk until somebody gave me a direct answer. A direct answer like HE WAS MAILED ON THURSDAY, or WE ARE VERY SORRY WE'VE BRUSHED YOU OFF FOR THREE WEEKS or best of all, WHOOPS, HERE'S YOUR HEDGEHOG. Instead I had to turn around and storm back to my car, angry that because my lost item was a stuffed hedgehog rather than a purse, nobody cares to give me a straight answer. Angry enough that when some passing panhandler asked me for money, I replied NO SORRY like a fire-breathing dragon, and when the stupid clipboard nazis on the street corner accosted me I yelled I AM NOT INTERESTED! Because that's about as rude as I can get.

Today I had to tell my sister that actually, I would not be bringing Nub to my cousin's wedding this weekend, despite the fact that I have been threatening for weeks to find some way to stash him on the altar. She was audibly disappointed -- after all, she gave him to me. But I can't lie to her, and I'm not sure what else to do.

we miss you, buddy.

Nub's happy hour

August 19, 2009


my youngest brother and sister turned 12 today.

album cover, volume 1

as you might have guessed, they're twins. my brother turned first, at 8:58 this morning. my sister had 21 extra minutes to keep on being 11 before her time came.


have I mentioned that they're awesome? then again, I'm biased. my sister is just like me. in fact, she's more like me than I am. she's even more athletic, even more of a tiny feminist. she called me proudly in the middle of the last school year to boast that she'd done more push-ups than anybody else in her gym class, boys or girls. she didn't know I had accomplished the same feat in the seventh grade. a year later than she did! the student surpasses the master.

how many? I asked her.
I don't remember the exact number but it was staggering; it was well over the 35 or so I had done. it was so many the gym teacher had to tell her to stop, because she was holding the class up.


my brother is a wild story-teller. he'll tell you anything; he busts at the seams with things he's heard, read, seen, thought about. he couldn't wait to tell me the bouncing Tosca joke he had heard from a teacher at camp this summer. he has a great sense of humor and is already a great master at the art of the pun (his stuffed porcupine, for example, is named Quilliam).

happy birthday, peanuts. I can't believe you're just a year away from 13. god help us!

what a pair.

August 18, 2009

6. Hike Beacon Rock

seriously, don't forget the caution

Cristina and I went for a drive through the gorge on Sunday, and hiked up to the top of Beacon Rock. It was a long drive for a short hike, but what can I say? It was a beautiful afternoon.

the rock.

The rock is supposedly the second biggest free-standing monolithic rock in the world -- second only to the Rock of Gibraltar. A man named Henry Biddle bought the rock for $1 in 1915, and single-handedly went about crafting the heavily switchbacked trail, along with its handrails and bridges. Cristina and I agreed that we felt like characters in Donkey Kong.

chutes and ladders

the view, like most views from trails in the gorge, is lovely.

reaching the top was a little unsatisfying, but only because the trail is short and it felt as though we hadn't earned the summit.
unsatisfying summit

From Beacon Rock I spotted the tiny peak I climbed in the fall, when I had hoped to climb Table Mountain but had miscalculated my route. Next time?

August 17, 2009


here's a poem I came up with today.

Cleaning The Computer Keyboard

]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]\\\\\\\\\\\==============--------------------------------------p[p[ppppppppppppppppppppo9oo00000opopo888888888888888888888888898888888888,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,m, m,m,mmmmm,m,,





August 16, 2009


yesterday, walking back from the farmer's market, I encountered a small older lady walking her fluffy white dog. as I passed, she commented on the pint of tiny orange cherry tomatoes I was carrying.
"nice tomatoes!" she said. she was asian, with a pronounced accent.
"thank you!" I replied, and offered her one.
she politely refused. "you get them at the market?" she asked, pointing south. I nodded. "I go every week," she continued. "a little expensive. but good quality!"
I agreed. we chatted a little about keeping our money local, and about where I lived -- you walk? she wanted to know, and I shook my head. I reached down and pet the dog, who was sniffing my boots (I was dressed for riding).
"ah, ok!" she said. "well, it was nice talking to you!" and she smiled and waved, and continued on her way.

I walked about ten feet -- just as far as the next intersection -- and all of a sudden I realized: it was the lady who asked me to help her cross the street during the snowstorm last december. the universe is such a wonderful place. I thought about running back to confirm with her, but in the end I continued on my way. what would we have said, anyway?

August 9, 2009

lately I find myself uncharacteristically wearing red nail polish. the weather's turned from roasting to chilly -- july to october -- but the nights are refreshingly cool and I won't mind so much if the sun comes out soon. it is nearly mid-august, which means the summer is nearly officially over, a fact that I never can grasp or accept. it was just memorial day; the pools were just opening, we were just pulling out flip flops. the season is never long enough for my taste and I never feel as though I've adequately reveled in it, even if I've flown to hawaii and lain on the beach in north carolina, even if I've had beers outside, and milkshakes, and burgers; even if I've sweated through my running clothes and worn sunglasses and dark nail polish. still, I haven't sung out the car window enough; I haven't been to the market at all for fresh peaches or chocolate milk; I haven't eaten a cucumber lime jalapeno popsicle, made by the local solpops folks. I haven't hiked in the gorge; I haven't tried pathetically to swim briefly in the frigid waters of the north pacific. there are a lot of things on that list. time is almost up.

also, Nub is missing.

August 4, 2009


my life recently, in pictures.

still life: stranger with dinosaur

this woman was waiting at my gate for our plane from BWI to St. Louis. Beneath her lay a discarded plastic dinosaur. I wondered if she knew about the dinosaur. I felt a little badly for the dinosaur. Maybe it was hers? I didn't stop to check if it was still there as we boarded the plane.

close up of the dinosaur in question:
close up of the dinosaur friend

the girls
I finally got to meet "the girls," which is my mother's fond nickname for her new chickens. Of the four she originally brought home from my sister's middle school poultry club at the end of the school year, only two remain: Ella and Genevieve. Rita and Sue are now in the great chicken coop in the sky, Rita having succumbed to a nameless chicken disease, and Sue having been swept off by an unknown predator as she was free-ranging in the backyard. My mother loves having the chickens there. "Doesn't it just seem natural to have them?" she asks, and it does. We moved to the house 15 years ago and nothing has ever lived on the 10 acres of land except us and a lot of bugs.

gleeful reunion gang

my 10-year high school reunion was at the end of July, and I scheduled my trip home so that I would still be in town to attend. I'm not sure how much I enjoyed the reunion itself -- no nametags, for pete's sake! -- but it was good to catch up with the handful of old friends I don't see very often.

Nub and the Kettleman's dude

the guy working at Kettleman's (a bagel shop nearby) met Nub the other day when Cristina and I stopped for lunch. I had forgotten my wallet.
"All I have is Nub!" I wailed to C.
"Do you take pictures of him around town?" this fellow inquired.
We affirmed. "Do you want me to take your picture with him?" I asked. He did.

More pictures of Nub's adventures, including sightings around PDX, and his trip back east, can be found on Nub's flickr page.

My travel is mostly over for the year. I have a quick jaunt back east for my cousin's wedding at the end of this month -- a trip so quick I'll spend more time on the plane and in the airport than I will in Maryland -- and then I'll certainly go home for the holidays in December. But for now it's back to the slow opera grind. The season's officially begun, albeit gradually: the children's chorus for Boheme begins rehearsal tomorrow. I'm in the throes of marking orchestra parts, and soon we'll be up and running again. Summer is so sweet, and so short. But there's something magical in the back-to-school feeling, too.

August 3, 2009

fireflies: cecelia woloch

And these are my vices:
impatience, bad temper, wine,
the more than occasional cigarette,
an almost unquenchable thirst to be kissed,
a hunger that isn't hunger
but something like fear, a staunching of dread
and a taste for bitter gossip
of those who've wronged me—for bitterness—
and flirting with strangers and saying sweetheart
to children whose names I don't even know
and driving too fast and not being Buddhist
enough to let insects live in my house
or those cute little toylike mice
whose soft grey bodies in sticky traps
I carry, lifeless, out to the trash
and that I sometimes prefer the company of a book
to a human being, and humming
and living inside my head
and how as a girl I trailed a slow-hipped aunt
at twilight across the lawn
and learned to catch fireflies in my hands,
to smear their sticky, still-pulsing flickering
onto my fingers and earlobes like jewels.

August 2, 2009

life in list form

nearly one month after first opening the door to our new apartment, I've finally unpacked my bedroom. mostly.
it took all weekend
my back and feet are killing me
and I'm still not sure I like it.
money is very tight, and very, very irksome
it reached 108 degrees in Portland this week, and continues to be warmer than most peoples' comfort level
I usually love the heat but given all other circumstances I find myself as irritated as everyone else by it
because all week I wanted to be running, riding my horse, and unpacking boxes in our un-air conditioned space
I have a writing desk for the first time in one million years
and no desire to write

I did take a video of the kittens which I will leave you with since this list is unsatisfying to everyone, including the author. it's cockeyed -- you'll have to rotate your skull 90 degrees to the left. my apologies.

kittens, inspired by kittens: