July 28, 2009

back east

north carolina:

main street

a blast of humidity upon setting foot outside the airport. driving to the beach house, the road was lined with myrtles. we stopped at dunkin donuts on the way -- we don't have it on the west coast and after years drinking iced coffees in college, I miss it -- and then we took the old familiar roads back to the island, watching for alligators in the golf course water hazards.

in my summer away from the beach, construction began on the new bridge, which will eventually replace the old, beloved, single lane pontoon bridge that connects the small barrier island to the mainland. other than the new bridge pilings, the island existed as a near-perfect replica of the image I keep in my memory. it makes the place feel eternal, somehow. the old dilapidated pool hall building is still on the corner; the rain still puddles on the side of the road. inside my bedroom the wood paneling is the same, and there are still the same wall hangings, the same green cot folded neatly in the closet.

five days, distilled: showers outside, in the outdoor stall nestled between the house's stilts; mornings on the beach -- by 8:30, some days -- carrying the chairs down the new walkway, watching the sun grow brighter over the still-empty beach as early morning runners pass by. afternoons biking from the house to the end of the island, where we comb for shells and on one adventurous day I swim across the intracoastal waterway that separates our island from the one farther north; I emerge from the water and wave to my aunt and cousins, who remain on the opposite shore. a singular feeling, the sensation of swimming across a body of water and surfacing on a different island. vaguely like columbus.

sunrise

at night we eat shrimp and steamed crabs, standing at the kitchen counter; we sit on the porch and paint our nails or borrow someone's wifi on our laptops or, in my case, sit in rocking chairs with one bare foot pressed against the porch railing, listening to the locusts in the trees and watching the approaching thunderstorm. we joke about the real estate we will purchase nearby (trailers in trailer parks, mostly) and amuse ourselves with long strings of "do you remember" stories, which are of particular interest and delight to my oldest cousin's 11-year-old daughter. do you remember the night my cousin and her friend ended up in jail, after the friend was pulled over on I-40 in clinton for reckless driving and couldn't pay the $200 fee? do you remember how beth jumped into the dunes that night we ran from the police after the party on 12th street was raided and we were all found to be underage and loaded up with beer? do you remember the year we walked barefoot to the far end of the island each night for four nights, in search of sand dollars -- a trip that we only just learned is a total of 6 miles?

Ann, Jess, and Nub

my cousin stephanie and I left the beach quickly on wednesday morning, in order to beat the bridge, which opens to boating traffic every hour on the hour. There was none of the usual lingering goodbye, none of the usual attempts at imprinting everything indelibly to memory. after so many years, those attempts are unnecessary anyway. on the ride home, we stopped for boiled peanuts and homemade peach ice cream (the ice cream stop, off Hwy 701 in tiny Newton Grove, NC, is tradition). I heard the details of her upcoming wedding as I watched tobacco fields slowly give way to traffic.

Nub in the pilot seat

maryland was snowballs with an old friend whom I don't see or talk to often enough; a reunion night that lasted until 4 AM; the first morning of my life where I awoke hungover at my mom's house, walked into her bedroom, plopped on her bed and said, "I don't feel very good." it was a daily thunderstorm; riding roller coasters at hersheypark; playing card games with my brother; watching my mom's new chickens peck for bugs in the backyard. sunday night we stood for a long time in the backyard, watching the fireflies hover over the neighbor's 10-acre soybean field.

"If you'd never seen them before," my mother says, "they would seem like magic." they don't live in oregon or in syracuse; I haven't seen them in years. they do.

July 15, 2009

flash mob

"How's your sense of adventure tonight?" I ask Cristina on the phone on my way back from (still) hauling boxes from the old apartment.
"It's good. what's up?"
"There's a rumor going around that Dave Chappelle is going to do an impromptu stand-up routine in Pioneer Square tonight at midnight. I think we should go."

This is what C and I did with our Tuesday night. All day, rumors of a show had abounded -- primarily on Twitter, though it spread to other corners of the internet -- but no one could confirm. We went back and forth about whether it was worth it. We'd both spent a good chunk of the day hauling stuff into the apartment, and we were tired. But at 11:15 I said, get your shoes on, we're going to the party.

We could not possibly have foreseen how crazy it was. Downtown, people were flocking to the square. It was hard to drive; pedestrians were all over the place. Drunk, stoned hipsters on skateboards were coasting down the sidewalks. Cops lined the block, standing idly by in anticipation of trouble. It was unbelievable: a couple of Dave sightings (we knew he really was in town) and a truckload of unsubstantiated rumors were all it took to bring thousands of people into the city. Above the square was a giant cloud of smoke; the air smelled like cigarettes and pot. We made our way into the throng at about ten minutes to midnight and stood around in awe. Behold: the power of Twitter.

"I kind of think this would be funnier if nobody showed up and we'd all been punked," Cristina remarked. In front of us, people kept running into other people they knew. This town! A girl with an epic bleached-blonde mohawk sat on one of the pillars behind us; in the forty minutes we waited, we watched as clusters of people scaled the exterior of the Starbucks to sit on the roof. People lined every available surface. Occasionally, someone dropped a beer bottle. There were a lot of cell phones. There were a lot of cameras.

"This has the potential to turn really nasty really fast," I said. Someone shook the sides of the stage in protest. I wodnered if the crowd would turn ugly. Occasionally groups of people within the mob would begin to cheer, as if Chappelle had showed up, but we didn't buy it. At one point a skinny black dude climbed up onto the stage (a stage which had been set up for a noon concert) and pumped his arms in the air in celebration, as though he were about to give a show. We were all momentarily duped, and subsequently disappointed to discover it was an impostor.

Cristina and I decided we would leave by 12:30 if nobody had showed up. I was reluctant to go but obviously we couldn't wait forever. By that point we really assumed it had been a hoax. There was a slow trickle of folks who had come to the same decision. We were still glad to have come, though, just for the sheer ridiculousness of it, the sense of community.

"Crazy, huh?" the parking attendant said, as I left the garage. "I was just down there -- it's nuts. He still hasn't shown?"

When we got home we pretty much went straight to bed. As I climbed into bed I checked Twitter one more time and groaned.
"What is it?" Cristina asked, plopping down on the bed.
"He showed up!"

Dave had apparently taken his sweet time -- not realizing in any way how big the mob had become -- and hadn't arrived to the square until just before 1 AM. According to the story, he only told 4 people at the gym, and the rumor spread like wildfire. He had only come armed with a practice amp and a small mic, so no more than the first few rows of the crowd could even hear a word he said. They struggled for an hour to get better sound before finally calling it quits.

Here's apparently the best video, from The Oregonian. I took some photos of the crowd but god only knows where my camera cord is. Buried under 500 pounds of unpacked boxes, probably.

Dave Chappelle at Pioneer Square

July 13, 2009

I can't help but blame the knife

on friday, just after getting home from my half-day at work (the opera works half-day fridays every july), I was in the middle of making myself my favorite sandwich -- fried egg, gouda, tomato, avocado, and a huge helping of black pepper -- when the knife slipped as I was slicing the gouda and I cut my left index finger wide open. I tolerate pain pretty well when it's sports-related injury or bruising, but I'm a baby when it comes to sudden trauma. I ran the cut under water and then wrapped it in a ball of paper towels as I shakily looked up "how do I know if I need stitches?" on the internet, and whimpered to myself. finally I called the advice nurse at Kaiser and they made an appointment for late afternoon. the advice nurse was very sweet and talked me through what I should do in the meantime. ("OK, do you have band-aids? wrap it in a band-aid -- tight -- and then DON'T TOUCH THE BAND-AID. now just wait and keep it pointed up to heaven").

I had intended on using the afternoon to finish packing all the dumb stuff that was left over in my apartment, and to dismantle a couple big pieces of furniture that couldn't be moved intact. instead I sat and read a book and held my finger in the "I'm #1" position for 2 hours as I waited for my appointment. at the doctor's office I was a big baby when I had to take off the bandage -- the adhesive was very strong and re-opened the cut -- but it was cool to get a nerve block on my finger (weird! just like novocaine) and kind of awesome to watch my skin get sewn up. now I'm sporting a spongebob band-aid and 3 stitches. baby's first stitches!

July 7, 2009

p.s.

Michael Jackson's memorial service -- what I've seen of it so far -- is really great, but it makes me sad in a way. it's great to celebrate somebody's life, but why can't we support people in this way while they're alive?

a recap.

life lately:

1. moving.

moving.

cristina will be here by the weekend, and we'll spend the time lugging our heavy furniture from place to place. my things -- or those that can fit in the car, at least -- have been trickling over day by day since the weekend. so far I've avoided the soul-crushing feeling that ordinarily accompanies moving, though I'm not exactly sure how. you know the feeling? when you know you can't stay but boy, you don't feel like moving one more damn thing. I guess it helps that I have a two-week overlap between getting the new place and leaving the old one.

the new place is two miles from work, rather than my current ten; it's down the street from a couple neighborhood bars and a japanese restaurant. we're eleven blocks from trader joe's, and not far from acme donuts. I'm looking forward to living in a neighborhood that's good for walking, rather than next to the mall and on a very busy commercial street.

Nub likes it too.

Nub surveys the new living room

it's a little bittersweet, leaving my current place. I've lived there for 2 1/2 years, which is as long as I've lived anywhere since leaving for college. I've always liked the apartment -- just not the location -- and I'll miss having my sweet little space. it's been over five years since I last lived with anyone else, so although I know we'll be fine together, cristina and I, I'm a little anxious about that, too. this weekend was my college roommate's birthday; I called her to say hi, and I mentioned it.
you'll be fine," she said, and then stopped to think. "you know, I don't think we ever had one fight in two years."
we used to sit on my bedroom balcony and smoke cigarettes; we used to walk up the street to dunkin' donuts every weekend and eat breakfast sandwiches and drink iced coffee. we never fought; we never disagreed; we never had to have any ridiculous house meeting. we split groceries and never put our names on anything. I had forgotten how much fun we had, walking down to the bar, commiserating about guys, decorating the apartment.

cristina has acquired some other new roommates, too. I hope she likes presidents.
windowsill guardians

presidents

2. cuteness. there's a new puppy at the barn. her name, after much deliberation, is mylie. she actually belongs to my instructor's fiance, but she pokes around with us from time to time. I'd forgotten the sheer heart-rending cuteness factor of a 9-week-old puppy.

Mylie

3. more julie goodnight.

Julie Goodnight commercial shot

after the shoot I emailed with a couple of questions about the bridle and bit used for my episode; julie emailed me back today. I definitely made the cut; my episode will air in mid-october.

4. hawaii

lei'd

blog, I know that I still haven't told you about hawaii -- about the hiking, and the beaching, and the drinking, and the wii bowling, and the delicious (often raw) fish, and the day I spent stuck in honolulu when I was supposed to be back in portland. here's the gist: it was great to see my friend, whom I hadn't seen in four years. I got along famously with his wife. they have a beautiful house in a beautiful place. they have crazy, hilarious, wickedly mischievous cats. every day we hiked, beached, and ate local food. I saw a huge amount of the island. I did not learn to surf, but that's OK. I did go on a couple of epic swims -- half a mile at one point -- and I had forgotten how satisfying it is to do that kind of swimming. I got tan. I drank mai tais. I ate raw ahi, and raw baby octopus, and pineapple and some weird breakfast food that involved a hamburger patty and gravy.

my flight home was delayed by an entire day and I slept in a hotel one night, and then awoke to eat a nice quiet breakfast, watch the news, and then go to the pool and read the newspaper. at the airport I bought the lei that's now quietly singing a swan song on my desk. it's mostly brown by now -- it's only lasted this long because I've kept it in the refrigerator -- but it still smells like heaven. I am 100% glad I decided to go. this summer is turning out to be as incredible as I had hoped.

plumeria

July 3, 2009

on set with Julie Goodnight

my time with Julie Goodnight was awesome. On Wednesday, after a frantic morning bathing Cookie, prepping myself, and packing the trailer, my friend Allison and I arrived at Tanz-Pferde, the beautiful Oregon City dressage barn that served as our shoot location. What a place! A huge, beautiful indoor dressage arena, immaculately clean stalls and walkways, a REAL bathroom, amazing paddocks -- I could go on and on. While we love our boarding barn, Allison and I couldn't help being beside ourselves with envy. I mean, AIR CONDITIONING!!

When I arrived I was greeted by a grip, June, who brought me up to the arena viewing room (complete, may I add, with leather couches and a KITCHEN), where I signed one billion waivers and received the first of several free gifts -- a shiny new Troxel Reliance helmet! I have been desperately in need of a new helmet -- mine actually has SKID MARKS on it -- so I am totally thrilled.

There was a ton of time between our arrival and the start of our episode shoot, so we walked out to the upper outdoor arena, where they were in the process of taping episode 4 (I was episode 6), about a 15-year-old girl whose horse was, basically, a giant asshole: bucking, rearing, crow-hopping, and doing everything he could to avoid actual work. To her credit, Claire rode the crap out of that horse, but it was clear she needed help. Her problems also eclipsed any problems I had brought with Cookie. (Allison turned to me, wide-eyed, and said, "I feel so much better about my horse now.") It was fascinating, and great fun, to watch the process of taping the episode -- the number of takes they had to do, the way they would call out to the rider what they wanted to see ("okay, pick up the canter at that corner, please"), and how Julie was busy making her verbal assessment at the fence line, murmuring into her body mic.

Later, we watched as Julie worked with Claire's horse in the round pen, doing some fundamental ground work exercises to get him to submit to her authority. To our surprise, very early on in the process the horse, in a last-ditch attempt to avoid work, turned and jumped the fence, stopping immediately on the other side as if he had startled even himself. (The action had momentarily stunned all of us into silence). He was easily caught and maneuvered back into the pen, and we watched as, for the next ten minutes, Julie put him through his paces, making him change direction and gait frequently to mimic the way a dominant horse will control the movement of the submissive horse in a herd. Finally, the horse's head dropped in contrition, and from there on out he was a much better worker.

The rest of the afternoon was mainly spent waiting around and observing others. When it finally came time for me, I slipped quickly into my clean, staff-approved riding clothes and headed up to the arena with Cookie. I had been very nervous that she would be a perfect angel, making it difficult to justify even being there -- she's shown drastic and sudden improvement in the last week -- but fortunately it was decided, in the end, that we would work on her head carriage and on my equitation, both things I had wanted most to address. We shot the first day's footage quickly, because it was late in the evening and the shadows were lengthening so fast in the arena that multiple takes were just not possible. My interview was done in one take, and we were released.

The next morning we arrived on the set at 7 AM; I tossed some hay to Cookie and walked over to the barn, where they asked permission to use her for a few commercials they were shooting in the afternoon. (These are very brief segments shown in the middle of the program, as well as, I think, on the internet). Obviously, I complied! As before, there was a great deal of waiting around, but Allison and I were glad to watch the conclusion of Claire's episode. Because they worked so much on groundwork, they didn't address her problems under saddle at all in the "after" footage, but once they were done with her, Claire threw on her saddle and tested her horse. What a difference! I had been skeptical that just two days of groundwork would do anything for her under saddle, but he gave just one little buck and then acted like a dream. It was a really emotional moment. She was cantering around the ring, doing flying lead changes every other lap. Her mother turned to us and said, "She hasn't been able to do that in a year and a half." It made me feel so good about the whole process. I felt a little teary-eyed. I'm sure Claire was home today, riding her heart out!

The alternate trainer -- there to help while Julie is busy filming -- came over later in the morning and worked with me on the stuff Julie had suggested. We worked primarily on getting Cookie to hold her head in the correct position -- tucked in rather than with her nose poking out -- and also on my equitation, which has clearly gotten sloppy over the years. She left us to practice as they began to film the last segments of episode 5. After a LONG wait -- more than two hours -- we came up to the arena to film the last part of our episode. Cookie was a dream for the pre-film practice session; I beamed inwardly as Julie walked past and said, "She looks beautiful! Much better." We had to film several takes, and after the first one Julie turned to me and said, "Hey, hop down, let me school her a little. She was so good for you in practice but she kind of lost it in that take." So I watched as Julie rode my horse around in a picture-perfect head carriage and frame. Ah, if only my camera battery hadn't died! It had occurred to me only the day before that never once had I seen another rider on Cookie; literally no one else has ridden her since the first day I rode her last August. It was so gratifying to see how beautiful she is and how wonderful she can look. Clearly the problems I'm having are rider-related and not horse-related!

We shot several more clips, going back to redo certain sections, and took a couple of still shots, and then my portion of the episode was finished. We untacked, and as I let Cookie crop grass I listened as they shot Julie's intro of our episode, "about a lovely part-Arab mare who just needs a few extra tweaks," and then they fitted Cookie with a gaited Western saddle for one of several segments they shot with her and Julie for commercials. As we stood there the wardrobe gal asked me where I had bought Cookie. "I just love her," Cheryl said. "I would buy a horse that looked just like her. I love that refined face! I have a dun but she's darker. Your horse is just beautiful." It never gets old to hear!

And then we were finished. As we were walking back, Heidi, the show's producer, asked me to come see her after I had everything all put away. "We have a little something extra for you," she said. At the barn, she came out with the saddle pad they'd had me use for day two, a nice black Toklat pad, and handed it to me. "We don't usually give all this stuff away," she said, "but you've been so patient, and such a trooper in this heat" (it was 95 degrees on both days) "that we wanted to send you home with a little something extra." She paused. "So please take this ... but you might want to take it home and put it right in the wash. There's nothing wrong with it, it just ... might be a little stinky."
I smiled. "Did the cat spray it?" (A barn cat had been spraying everything in sight.)
She smiled sheepishly and nodded. "Maybe?"
Then she handed me one of Julie's DVDs, on collection and refinement -- what we'd been working on. She explained that Julie had asked them to pass it on to me, as an extra thank-you for letting them use Cookie for the commercial shots. "We didn't have another horse to use," Heidi explained. "None of the horses at this barn would have looked right in a Western saddle."

And that was a wrap. What a crazy two days! It was hot; I got sunburned; we waited around forever; I wasn't even sure I should be there. In the end it was just what I needed and it really helped. Amazing how much you could accomplish in just two days. Today I went back to the barn to clean stalls, and ended up joining a pre-existing lesson. I was wearing shorts and a tank top, and sneakers. Not dressed for riding at all! Everybody was impressed with how much improvement we had already made. At the canter, Sarah, one of the 4-H girls, cried out in anguish, "Ahhh, she looks so beautiful! I'm so jealous!" I can't wait to keep working on it, and to try our hand again at another show.

The show, I believe, airs in August. I can't wait to see it!

July 1, 2009

flirt

blog, I am stringing you along. I am here to tell you that it's 11:30 and I've been bathing/trailering/tacking/handling/riding my horse since early this morning, on set with julie goodnight. which is to say, I still have to tell you 2340985 things about hawaii, and now I also have to tell you about julie goodnight. HOLD YOUR PANTS ON

home

I bought a lei in the Honolulu airport today, while I was waiting hours and hours for my delayed flight. I'm finally home, tucked into bed. let me tell you something, people: this ring of flowers smells like heaven. I wish I didn't have to take it off.

hawaii was fantastic. I'll tell you more once I've gotten some sleep.