Monday, December 23, 2013

God bless us, every one

So there I am at the post office today. I know, I know, but I figure, how crowded can it be? Stuff that needs to make it somewhere by Christmas should have been sent out already, right?

Umm, yeah.

I’m standing in the long line with all the other procrastinators, and things are moving along surprisingly quickly, even though there are only 2 mail people. Then along comes Herbie, our bottleneck.

Herbie is an elderly gentleman who decided that today of all days would be a fine and dandy day on which to take care of his mail being transferred to his home in Florida for the winter. Okay, no problem. This seems to be a quick thing. Just hand over the form (that you didn’t bother to get out of your bag until you were at the counter), confirm everything, and be on your way. Ho ho ho!

Umm, no.

Because first he wants the postal woman to explain everything to him in great detail, down to what he should do to his own mailbox back home so they don’t put mail in there. She tells him to just rubber band it shut.

Herbie: What? What do you mean?
Postal Woman: You know, the clips at the top, just take a rubber band and twist it around them.
Herbie: Oh, so they can’t get it open. Rubber bands. Huh, how about that.

The line is building.

But he seems to be done, so that’s okay.


Herbie: So just to make sure I understand this process, let me explain it back to you.

This is when the lady 3 people behind me starts muttering. “No, let us NOT try to get more understanding about this process. I think we get it. I think there’s a long line here.”

Herbie: The mail leaves here, then it goes to Tennessee, where those machines there do something with it….blah blah blah.

I kid you not. This is where he’s going with this. He keeps going until he has literally gone through the entire thing until his mail winds up in his mailbox in Florida.

Lady keeps muttering, louder. “You have got to be kidding me.”

PW: Right, and then you have your mail!

Yay, we’re done!


Herbie: Wow, that’s fascinating. Tell me, is this a new process? How long ago was this type of service enacted?

I am seriously not making this up.

The woman is going to lose her mind. Herbie. Keeps. Talking. I start laughing. Really, laughing. There is going to be a mutiny. Then word comes in from the street that a car parked in front is going to be crushed by a big mail truck, which also appears to be backing its way directly into the post office building.

In the meantime, the woman in the other line is trying to find some package that a girl is insisting is back there somewhere.

PW #1 to PW#2: Does this look like a 7 or a 2 to you?
PW#2, momentarily taken away from Herbie, who, yes, is still talking: A zero.


PW#1: A zero? Hmm, I guess it could be. I’ll just keep looking in back.

She eventually comes back with something that looks like a postcard. Herbie seems to be winding down, though of course he takes his time packing up his stuff so as to free up the line. I finally head to the counter, and hear poor woman in line comment “All this and all I need is two stamps!” And she holds up her stack of Christmas cards, with 2 bereft, stamp-less denizens.


Suddenly I’m doing my best Mary Bailey imitation, where she holds up a fan of cash in Toddlers & Tiaras style, to avoid the foreclosing of the Crappy Old Bailey Building & Loan.

Me: Stamps! I have stamps!
Irate Woman: Oh no, I couldn’t…….
Me: No really. There’s still a line, and you never know when someone else is going to want to discuss the entire history of the postal system.
IW: Well….
Me: I insist.
IW: I’ll give you a dollar..
Me: Don’t be silly. Here you go.

We exchange our Merry Christmases, and off she goes, happy. Whew, disaster averted!

And that, my friends, is what the true meaning of Christmas is all about.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Christmas tree tips from Miss Tasha

I think we’ve pretty well established that on rare occasion, yours truly gets some pretty damn stupid ideas. Rare to be sure, but it happens. Most recently, this involved my brilliant idea to get a freshly cut Christmas tree, because, you know, Oregon! Trees! Seriously, you can just pull your car over basically anywhere and stumble across a tree farm.

Of course, my scheme revolved around not just getting a freshly cut tree, but cutting it myself. What the what? Yes, this seemed appropriately Christmas-y and lovely and the height of Oregonianness, fa la la and ho ho ho and all that shit. Besides, who knows how fresh the trees at the lots are? They could be days old! And somehow I’m still able to find friends willing to go along with me on my excursions into madness, hence, dear friend Sarah. “Sure, that sounds like a great idea!” Luckily – or not, as the case may be – friends are reluctant to tell me what a total idiot I am, complete with asinine ideas.

So. We set off for a Christmas tree farm that seems to be open on Tuesdays, based on their website, and has both “u cut or we cut” options, based on their handwritten signs dotting highway 213. But hell, even if it’s only  “u cut,” how hard can it be, right? Right. Sarah’s brought her truck, so we’ll just saw that puppy down, pop it in the truck, done!

Our tree farm seems a wee bit deserted, but hey, there are trees! And a couple of puny saws by a little shack, so clearly we can just have at it. I assume. Luckily, the owner of the farm comes out of her house, and gives us a bit more direction.

Tree Farm Lady: So those are the Nobles, and then there are the Grands, which are generally fuller, taller, and more fragrant…
Me: Whee!
TFL:…..but those are down that hill off into that valley way off there.
I look off into the yonder, trees stretching as far as the eye can see, and can’t even tell where the Grands start.

Me, to Sarah: Yeah, screw that, we’re not going that far.

Off we go, our lumberjack selves, and we soon run into the problem that all intrepid tree-killers face. Namely: trees! Everywhere! How to choose?? They all look pretty damn good, to the point that one has to practically make up flaws. “That one has a few brown needles, so clearly it’s defective.” Stuff like that.

Me to Sarah: It’s exactly like Sophie’s Choice, well, if the trees were children and we were trying to decide which one should die immediately.  Otherwise, same thing.

I really don’t know why Sarah sometimes looks at me so oddly. Nervous tic perhaps?


Luckily I thought to bring a tape measure as well, because I have zero depth perception. Four inches, 6, 12, 2 feet, whatever. Kind of all the same to me. I see a tree that looks like it would work. Yay, my tree! Umm, except that it's 12 feet tall, and I need one that's 9-10ft. Oops. 

And have I mentioned yet that sawing down a tree with a puny saw is really fricking hard? Because it is. In case that wasn’t clear. Or perhaps it IS clear to everyone but me. So for those other two people out there who didn’t know this, consider this a free but important tip from Miss Tasha: never try to saw down your own damn Christmas tree. Leave it to the professionals. There are roving bands of merry tree-cutters for a reason.

We start trying to saw the chosen tree down, and damn, it’s hard. We’re trading off, and in between collapsing on the ground to rest, trying to recall a time when we didn't have hours of sawing to contend with. I blame cancer surgeries – who knew that not having a lat muscle on your sawing side would be such a detriment? WHY was I not WARNED about this???? Hello, Dr. Fine? I have a bone to pick with you! Hmph.

Fast forward about 2 hours later, when we’re still sawing down – and cursing – this damn tree. As we’re almost done, who should come along? Yes, a lumberjack, or as commonly known, a guy with a powersaw.

Guy with powersaw: You ladies need some help?

We just look up at him, mouths agape, gasping, kind of like beached carp breathing our last.

Sarah: Trunk…..even…….

I think she’s trying to ask if he can even out the trunk where we cut it, but somehow, we’ve managed to make it pretty straight. Rock$tars!

Have I mentioned yet that 10-ft tall Noble firs are pretty damn heavy?

Because yes, now we have to carry this sucker to the truck, and get it in the back. As we’re doing this, lumberjack guy comes along, whistling merrily, having powersawed down HIS tree in about 5 seconds. Also at this point, TFL comes out of her house and asks us if we need help. Oh, and informs us that we should come on a weekend next time, when “my husband will have his 4-square (which I assume is an actual powersaw) running!”

Who knew? Apparently the entire population of Oregon other than me, that’s who.

Because we get back to The Manor, drag the tree into the house, and I get a text from Most Excellent Neighbor Laura.

MENLaura:  Tree delivery?
Me: Omg, that was the stupidest thing I’ve ever done! Well, one of. There are so many. Sawing down my own tree – never again!
MENL: What?!?!?!?!?!
Me: Omg, that was freaking hard! I cant’ believe my friends go along with my stupid ideas.
MENL: Are you kidding me?! You and your friends went and cut down trees….by hand??

As should be becoming clear by now, everyone ELSE in Oregon is too smart for this kind of tomfoolery.

Me: Yes. At a tree farm, with a puny saw. Freaking. Hard. More people need to tell me that I’m an idiot when I come up with shit like this.
MENL: You’re an idiot!
MENL: You’re an idiot.
MENL: You, my friend, are an idiot.
Me: NOW you tell me!

I must say, however, it’s a glorious tree: pine-y, fluffy, fragrant. In fact, I’ve already forgotten about what a total pain in the ass this was – maybe because the Tree Farm Lady promised us mulled wine next year.

Hmm, maybe I need another tree for the upstairs of The Manor……

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Happy Obamacare Day!

The day I’ve been waiting for is finally here, the day I can go to the Cover Oregon site and, lo and behold, actually shop around for health insurance. Huzzah! This means that I might have a chance of no longer having to pay $780/month for coverage alone, aside from prescriptions, co-pays, all that other crap. Which is really kind of a moot point these days, since I don’t go to the doctor, but that’s another issue.

But what I really want to say today is reserved for all of those so vehemently against Obamacare, including asshat Republicans willing to shut down the government because they haven’t gotten their way. (Hint: the ACA has been signed into law. Done deal. Get that? Done. Fucking. Deal. It’s the fucking law.) To all of you and to those who just don’t get what it’s about and don’t care to find out, because as long as you like what you have, that’s good enough, dadgummit! To you I say – you can all just go fuck off. Really.

Because what I’m realizing as I read more and more coverage is that most people are too stupid to actually try to figure out what the law DOES, so rallying against it is a knee-jerk reaction. Get that gubmint outta my health care! Umm, the government isn’t in your health care.  Let’s sum up a bit.

To those who read that the companies in the exchanges are in some cases limiting the doctors you can see, and are thus screeching about how “we were told we could still see the same doctors we always have!” You’re all idiots, because if you HAVE insurance and have a job, you won’t be getting insurance through the exchanges. Your plan won’t change. Those going through the exchanges are the uninsured or underinsured or those like me, paying ridiculous amounts of money for independent insurance. I guarantee that most of the people in those groups will be happy to have A doctor to see, not necessarily a specific one. Oh, your premium might go up $10 or $20? Boo fucking hoo. Pretty sure that would have happened anyway.

To those who rail against how expensive the plans through the exchanges will be. AGAIN, repeat after me – unless you’re uninsured, etc., it doesn’t matter to you. You already have insurance. For those who need to go through the exchange and find that insurance is still expensive, there are subsidies depending on your income. If your income is too high to get a subsidy, then you don’t need it.

To those who have been on state plans and are bitterly railing against Obamacare because your plans are going away: fuck you all. The only reason your plans existed is because they were high-risk plans for those who were uninsurable on the private market. That will no longer be the case, so the state plans aren’t needed. But what really galls me about this group of people is the “I got mine” mentality. Because most people can’t get on those state plans. The one for Oregon? Yeah, it was full in February and not accepting new applicants. I know people in this group who are concerned and wondering what the new plans will look like, and I get that - but those who want to deny other people the chance to get healthcare because you’ve already got your government-run plan? That’s just selfish.

To those of you right-wingers who follow party lines and are against Obamacare because of stories floating around about ER doctors pointing to blinged-out so-called welfare queens as “what’s really wrong with the healthcare system” – yeah, I hope when you get insurance at a reasonable price through the ACA that you actually admit how wrong you all were. Don’t get me wrong – people who abuse the system clearly ARE a problem, but that doesn’t mean we don’t need serious, major reform to healthcare.

To people of all walks of life who don’t bother with health insurance because you don’t want to “waste” money on it – suck it up. Everyone will get sick or have some kind of ailment at some point in their lives. Everyone. When that’s you, I don’t want to pay for it because you have no insurance and rack up huge bills. And these are not just the stereotypical po’ folks that most people seem to reference in discussions about this. The WSJ has run a number of articles over the years, and one in particular I recall, that wrote about yuppies Bill and Jane, or whatever the hell their names were. They didn’t want to “waste” money on health insurance because they were young and healthy, doncha know, and that was money that could be better spent on their 2nd Escalade. Idiots.

To those of you who have employer-provided insurance and want to know what’s in it for you, guess what? There’s actual stuff for you too! Here’s a summary, from Slate: “About half of all Americans—about 160 million people—already have private health insurance, mostly bought by employers. If this applies to you, Obamacare matters only if your plan was stingy. Under the law, insurers must now pay for many things that used to be optional, like prescription drugs, having a baby, and mental health care, among other services. The law also blocks any extra charges for routine checkups, cancer screening, and some other stuff. Obamacare also limits your yearly out-of-pocket fees, such as co-pays for going to the hospital. It also forbids insurers from kicking you out if you get sick.”

I could go on, because there are so many people to rant about in all of this, but I’ll start to bore even myself. I won't even go into how the rest of the world thinks we're crazy and selfish for not thinking that everyone should have access to health care. Or the fact that if you don't have insurance, no you do NOT get health care - you get to go to the ER for stop-gap treatment. 

But since everyone else has been looking at the ACA through a lens of “what’s in it for ME?”, I’ll do the same. And since right now healthcare/insurance is THE biggest item in my budget – yes, more than housing or anything else – you can damn well bet I’ll be toasting my man Obama tonight. In spades.


Update: Just went to the BCBSIL site to use their tool to see what new insurance through them would cost, exact same plan using my current stats. It would go from my current $780 to...........wait for it.......$322.  A whopping $322 fucking dollars, without any subsidy from the government. Gee, price-gouging much right now?

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

The spirit of canning

People who are scared of such things (read: Kim) have asked me if my glorious house is haunted. To which I always say, hell yes! Though that could be wishful thinking. After all, what could be wrong about sharing a cup of tea in the morning with Geneva Allen, matriarch of the Allen clan and original owners of The Manor? The Allen clan, or, as I call them, the Clampetts:


And I mean that in no bad way, but seriously, just look at that picture! Yes they were the land barons of their time, but you do expect them to load up the truck and head to Beverly Hills at any moment, no?

Anyway. I’m torn between envisioning Geneva as a stern God-fearing woman, or someone who seemed buttoned up but loved her boozy cherries on the side. I’m thinking the latter, because it’s clear that I – me, personally – have been inhabited by the spirit of Geneva Allen herself.

Exhibit A: I’ve never canned a damn thing in my life. Haven’t even cared to. Oh sure, I think there was the one time I tried to put up some tomato juice, but the jars got some weird floaty things in them so I tossed them. It’s like I wasn’t even trying.

But what do we have now? This:

Yes, the Jam Cellar of Terror, thus named because when a friend from (ahem) Wharton came visiting with her family, I thought it would be cute and quaint to get their picture in the Jam Cellar. That is, until the pic turned out to look like something from Silence of the Lambs, with Kate clutching her daughter in hopes of keeping her safe. As if.

I of course decided to embrace this, and have been imprisoning visitors in the Jam Cellar of Terror ever since. I think I’m up to 7 captives by now, which includes Normal Brother and his wife Angela. Sometimes at night while Kone and I are tucked into bed, I imagine I can hear their screams echoing through the walls…..

But I digress. The point being, this canning thing is NOT normal behavior for yours truly, so of course the only explanation has to be spirit possession. And I’m okay with that. I haven’t had any jars exploding on me yet, so Geneva must be giving me some good advice at least, right?

Her assistance means I can focus on other things as well, like being the town curmudgeon when it comes to running a tight ship in our little community. Clearly someone has to.

Next up: Whereupon Miss Tasha takes on the Silverton Police Dept.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Catching up

Okay, so it's been a while. That's why I'm going to sum up everything that's been going on since my last post via pictures. First though, the story:

Bought Manor house, whee! Met Tomato Guy, bought lots of tomato plants. Moving Day at the Manor. Immediate tomato planting. Finding Butters, lost and alone at the dog park in Portland. Butters and Kone guarding The Manor. (I do eventually find Butters' people, lovely people at that.)

Kone's Big Fun Days at the Silverton reservoir. Winning Pancho Corna at the Marion County Fair. Miss Tasha paints! Seabrook and Hossa show up regularly at The Manor to eat the apples, and all the other shrubbery. Happy Hour Pie. Kone discovers the raspberry patch.

THEN, of course, Miss Tasha discovers that Oregon is just one big Fruit Mecca.....and that's when things really get crazy.....

(Next up: whereupon Miss Tasha becomes possessed....)

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Making enemies!

I’m a bit inordinately excited about this, as I wasn’t sure it was even possible to have enemies in this town of uber-friendly denizens. So friendly, in fact, that when my own smiley, I mean curmudgeonly, self encounters a disinterested or even brusque clerk, I take that as a personal affront. The nerve! Then I comfort myself with the thought that they must be from Salem.


As I said, this is big stuff here. I think it could be the beginning of a glorious long-standing feud, along the lines of the Hatfields vs the McCoys, with townspeople choosing sides until everything ends in a shootout or hanging in the town square. Well, or something almost exactly like that. Come to think of it, my Most Excellent Neighbor Laura has a bit of a head start on me with this, as she has a good and deserved feud with the Crazy Busybody Lady who lives down the street, and apparently feels it’s appropriate to tell people their property isn’t edged properly.

I kid you not.

But I digress. Up until now I’ve been living in this halcyon haze of Silverton splendidness, though I’ve had moments of thinking this is all a big front of some kind (that’s the Chicagoan in me). That behind this insanely nice façade is a cauldron of simmering malcontent going deep down to the town’s roots. I’ve been blissfully unaware of this seedy underbelly……until yesterday. Oh yes.
So yesterday Kone and I are on our new morning routine, which instead of drive-to-dog-park/coffee-shop-coffee-and-scone, now consists of neighborhood walkie. Kone doesn’t seem to miss the scone, which is great because it was getting to be a bit difficult to find the damn things (stash of individually-wrapped madeleines in the freezer, I’m talking to you).

Our walk is a lovely jaunt around the neighborhood – or it would be lovely except for one thing: the damn cats. Yes, there are literally billions of free-range cats wandering about, and we generally see at least one on our walkie, at which point Kone goes ballistic and pulls my arm out of its socket trying to go after it, and looks like something out of a cartoon as his legs churn frantically but he’s not moving much because I’m holding him back.

Fun times.

Of course this isn’t his fault – even though he’s basically people, he still has a dog’s instincts, and that instinct is to chase furry things. So needless to say, I direct my rage at the people who own these cats but let them wander around freely, killing billions of songbirds and antagonizing The Kone. INSIDE, people, keep them INSIDE.

It was against that backdrop that we went on our walkie, and stopped to chat with Steve, a nice older guy who lives a street over and has a beautiful pear tree and flowers in front of his house. When I see him I stop to talk, usually waxing eloquent about the greatness of The Kone, and he’ll say something about the deer eating his roses, and then we cheerfully part ways. So yesterday we’re talking, and suddenly Kone yanks my arm out of its socket and I watch in horror as Kona, his leash, and my arm go flying into someone’s front yard after one of those blasted cats. I go after him, and he’s barking up a tree, though it’s not clear where the stupid cat went. Then an older lady comes out of the house, pinched face and all, and at this point I’m still prepared to be nice, even though she’s a Stupid Loose Cat Person.

Me: Oops, I’ll just grab his leash.
SLoCaP: (pinched face, is looking around)
Steve: Imelda, this is a new neighbor – she lives over on Pine!
SLoCaP: (continued pinched face)

Then she speaks, sourly:

“Where’s my cat? Do you see him? Where’d he go?”

I’m about to tell her where she can stuff her cat, when she really says the fateful words:

“Your dog chased my cat! Where’d my cat go?”



Look lady, there are a few incontrovertible rules in life, and chief among them is that we don’t diss The Kone. No one disses The Kone.

Oh wait, I lied. There are no other rules.

Needless to say, this was enough to send me into full-on Mama Bear mode, as the crazy parenting blogs like to call it.

“Well MY dog is on a leash – your cat is just running around willy-nilly. Dogs do chase cats you know,” I tell her, with a baleful glare.
Poor Steve is still trying to do an introduction – “yep, lives over on Pine” – and SLoCaP is still walking around muttering and I’m still glaring at her. I think she’s waiting for an apology, which will occur when the inner bowels of Hell freeze over and start churning out sno-cones for everyone. She finally wanders off – and hasn’t said a single other word during this time other than cat-related muttering – so it’s just me and Steve. I firmly tell him that I am NOT ever going to apologize to someone who lets their cat run loose, and I think my Mama Bear fierceness scares him, though he rallies by bringing up what we all should know, about the billions of birds and other critters killed by cats every year.

So yeah, I didn’t see Steve this morning – I think he’s in hiding. SLoCaP doesn’t show herself either, lucky for her.

To sum, my first sworn enemy in Silverton, only a block away. Score! This is a festering outrage that I’ll nurse over the many years that I’ll live here, escalating it to hatred and “accidentally” dropped bags of dog poop as needed. We’re not there yet, but stay tuned…

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Life in Mayberry

The other day The Kone and I went to the Silverton Reservoir for the first time, and much hilarity ensued. Kone went leaping into the lake after a duck, then didn’t know what to do. I stood at the ready to jump in and rescue him, good momma that I am, but luckily he made it the foot to shore. Whew. Then we went along this precarious path along the lake and BOTH almost fell in – until we realized that oh, there must be another normal path somewhere, because this is nuts. Yes there was. Duh.

Anyway. All this fun was a mere $2 for parking, though I discovered that one could buy an annual pass at City Hall. Now, much as I like to be a scofflaw – and these fees are basically on the honor system – I certainly don’t mind paying for park usage and such since I figure the money is going for a good cause, especially when the fees are so miniscule. So off I go to City Hall, with utility bills in hand to make sure I can get the “resident” cost for the parking pass. I fret. Will 2 utility bills be enough? Should I bring something from the title company?
Umm, yeah. The clerk didn’t ask, didn’t care. I must look trustworthy? Then I asked her if they had gotten my paperwork to do an automatic deduction for the water bill. Oh yeah – there was the paperwork sitting on her desk.

I skip back to my car, parked right in front, for FREE! No meter, I get free 10 minute parking there.

I’m not quite sure this town really exists, or if I’m in some kind of Truman-esque reality show. Really.

Next up: Boozy goodness in Silverton

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Life in a small town

Really, I should just rename this blog, to something like The Small Quirky Town Route to Kona or Happiness or Whatever. Because I’ve been here less than a day, and am already racking up the charming little experiences that make life great.

But I get ahead of myself.

So, I’ve been in the process of moving into The Manor over the last couple of weeks. Having all my crap trucked here from Chicago, then my crap from Portland. The official closing was May 21st, and on May 23rd I was out here trying to figure out what to do about the (overgrown weedy) garden, and showing the fence guys where to put up Kona’s fence. One problem – the water had already been turned off. Damn, these people are fast!

So I went over to the neighbors in back of me to see if the fence guys could use their water spigot to mix the concrete. Lo and behold, I met the Most Excellent Debbie and Karl (MEDAK), who not only let us use their water, but Karl also drove me over to City Hall to see about getting the water turned back on.

As you would expect, dealing with City Hall was a long cumbersome process, being shuffled from one office to another, no one knowing who was in charge, being told the water shut-on would take weeks and I’d need to pay extra because it had been turned off, etc.

Wait. That’s big city life. It actually took less than 5 minutes, and they promised to send someone over in the afternoon to turn the water back on.

Anyway, during all this back and forth, not only did I meet MEDAK, but also the next door neighbors, Laura and her husband Dan. Where I learned about this quirkiness in marking property lines, that’s called “let’s put a penny in the concrete and call it a day.”

Yes, it’s true. When I asked my realtor Michael (who lives across the street from me, of course) about the property lines, his response was “oh yeah, the listing agent told me that there’s a penny in this concrete marking the lines.” Say what? Yet somehow this came as no surprise to anyone around here, who would just nod sagely when told about the penny. Okay then.

It turns out that the penny shows that neighbors Laura & Dan have a shrubbery and part of their garden bed on my property – so of course, in typical Chicago fashion, I plan to put up a 7-foot privacy fence bisecting their garden and so that I never have to see any of my neighbors.

Okay, that’s a lie – I really don’t care about the property line, especially since the penny cracks me up so much. Plus I like Laura’s husband, who said he’d take care of the problem by putting in a new penny. Now THAT is how a Chicagoan would do it.

I also love the fact that all my new neighbors saw my letter in the local paper, which I wrote after being enthralled by the actual parking meters all over the city. Faithful readers will know about my hatred of the parking meter sell-off in Chicago by corrupt and useless former Mayor Daley, and hence my delight at seeing actual parking meters here in downtown Silverton.

This is all well and good, but is all background bringing us to yesterday, a day from hell when I had poky movers taking all day to move my stuff in from Portland, a day ending with me driving around town to recharge my phone since I had forgotten my charger in Portland, and spying – what else – but a Russian and Argentinian food truck. Of course. I pull over, and find out that the food truck came here to coincide with my own arrival, probably just for that purpose. It’s been here 5 days to my half. There’s a woman working there, and 3 guys sitting at a nearby table.

I chat with the woman in Russian, and then her husband pipes up from the table.

Husband: So how long have you been in Silverton?
Me: A day. I just moved in today.
H: Oh! Welcome to town. If you need a plumber, talk to this guy here, and here’s my card, I do painting and contract work.
Me: Cool, I’ll probably need all of the above – I just bought an old Victorian on Pine street.
Plumber: Oh, you wrote that letter in the paper! That was really nice.

Well. My fame precedes me.

Plumber:…..and you should know the secret, that the locals don’t have to pay the meters.

I’m skeptical. Is this some Silverton initiation rite, where they feed new people this stuff to see if they’ll buy in?

Me: I’m skeptical.
Husband: It’s true, the locals don’t pay. 
Me: Wait, how….
Plumber: See, they don’t enforce them – with budget cuts there’s no one to give tickets, and only the locals know that. So the out-of-towners are the only ones paying the meters.
Me: Aha! Well, I’d still pay since it goes to the murals, but that’s nice to know if you’re just dashing out for a few minutes or don’t have change.
Plumber: Yeah, they still pick up the money – Dan collects it once a week – but no one gives out tickets.

Well. So there you have it. Not only does writing a letter to the paper mean everyone knows who you are (which actually reminds me of Wharton, where I wrote so much for the Wharton Journal that people would regularly greet me with “Oh, you’re the one who writes everything for the paper!” Hmm.), but they know the meter-change-collector by name, and you make instant friends.

Oh, and in a rare form of kismet or karma or what have you, I also seem to have been magically transported to one of the last cities in the country – if not THE last at this point – that still has penny meters

I’m going to like it here.

(Note: As I’ve been checking out places in downtown Silverton, I’ve been putting quarters in the meters….just because I can. Take that Chicago.)

Friday, May 24, 2013


So we all know that I moved to Portland last October, based in large part on a sign from the PattyPan Squash Gods. Well, plus Kim lives here, and she swore to me (liar) that it never rains (big liar), that it’s really just “cloud mist” that envelops the atmosphere (did I mention that liar thing?). Right.

But The Kone and I have been settling in, in spite of the many quirks that Portland is home to, including an inability to have any single street actually go through more than, say, 4 blocks. They might as well rename this city T-Stoplandia, or OhAreYouLostLandia, or perhaps HaHaGoodLuckGettingThereLandia. I think that might be next on the county’s docket, a renaming to a more accurate moniker.

Still, in spite of our newfound love for this strange land, The Kone and I had no intention of buying a house here. None. Zilch. Zip. Nada. After all, I’m a Midwestern girl at heart, and sometimes I pine for my endless cornfields, blazing hot muggy days, feet of snow, and oh yeah – houses that have some actual square footage. Mainly that.

Because my mom has been determined that I should buy a place, so she sends me listings, I go to the occasional open house, then back away in horror at the paltry size of basically everything in Portland. 600-800 sq. ft on the main floor? Umm, in the Midwest we call that a closet. Even the classic bungalows in Chicago – the housing that to my mind is parallel to the ubiquitous Craftsman houses here – have way more space. Maybe we have more stuff. Maybe we like keeping open the option of having our Midwestern cattle or corn grow inside the house. Maybe the City of Big Shoulders isn’t just a cute nickname.
I have no idea.

All I DO know is that these tiny wee houses were damn expensive, like $350K and up for a shoebox. So I humored my mom by looking at the listings, going to the occasional open house, but having no intention of buying anything – also because I didn’t know the different areas of Portland enough to know where would be a good place to buy.

Then came Silverton. Where Hated Cancerchick Friend Kathryn lives. (Kathryn is lovely in every respect – sharp, funny, uberwitty, kind, genuine – but she’s also on occasion wittier than I am, hence she must be hated.) The first time Kim and I went down to Silverton to see HCF, it was a dark rainy night, but even through the pelting rain, I could see the town all twinkly with Christmas lights, and I thought, wow, it’s like Bedford Falls!

Me: Look, Kim, it’s just like Bedford Falls!
Kim: You’re so weird.

Anyway. This meant that one time I mentioned Silverton to my mom, and she latched onto that like Kone on an Italian beef sandwich, which is to say quickly, determinedly, and while I wasn’t looking.

Which is how sometime in April, my mom sent me a listing for The Manor, as I have since christened it. Fate conspired to keep me away, perhaps to see if I really wanted it – the guy who sent the listing to my mom never returned my email, and then there was some confusion on the part of the listing agent and we didn’t get to see the inside as planned. I was ambivalent – it was probably a mess inside, or at least kind of meh.

But what was probably an errant pattypan put the thought in my head that I must see the inside of this house. So I went back down to Silverton, and as soon as I stepped inside, I knew.
This was my DreamHouse.

High ceilings, gorgeous original woodwork, and oh, that staircase. The staircase! Swoon. Straight out of IAWL, my friends. AND! The house came with an entire extra plot of land – room for my tomatoes and for The Kone to run around!

Really, I had no choice.

So after the usual bargaining and back and forth and rigmarole, which I won’t bore anyone with, my offer was accepted, the inspector said that out of the hundreds of houses he’s seen of this age, this was the one in the best shape, and my mom started ordering furniture.

It’s a historic house  - the Timothy-Geneva-Allen House, built in 1890 – and I am its latest steward who will bring it back to perfection. Oh, it’s pretty close, but let’s face it, the ugly 1970’s wallpaper in the stairwell has to go, and the renters of the last few years didn’t do the place any favors.

There are 4 bedrooms upstairs, including the Anne Frank room which has a wee door that leads to an odd hidden room big enough to fit an entire Guatemalan family in there. There’s a garage-barn (henceforth known as The Carriage House), 2 extra sheds, and a canning room/wine cellar in the basement. There is apparently a family of deer that ambles through the yard most mornings on their way from the transgender mayor's house (he lives on the next street over) to the nearby creek, and possibly a skunk family that tries to take up residence under the porch.

It is perfect.

You are all welcome anytime. Croquet and mint juleps on the lawn will be forthcoming.....

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Miss Tasha, Upset Again

So I recognize that I’ve been a little, shall we say, lax in writing my usual charming and witty blog posts, to keep my legions of fans entertained and enthralled. What with buying The Manor and all that, some things fell by the wayside.

No more.

Especially since the purchase of The Manor - my very own 1890 drafty old house -  means that I’ll have many tales to tell, as we all know that everything falls apart under my watch. Always.

Today though, we’re going to revisit one of Miss Tasha’s favorite topics: health insurance. Favorite topics to rant about, that is. Because BCBS has provided some major suckage over the years, in many stupid and fascinating ways, that have left me in tears many a time.

But now that it looks like I’m staying in Oregon for the duration, I decided (fool that I am) that I should look into actually getting health insurance in OR, as opposed to continuing to pay for insurance I’m not using in IL, but am too paranoid to let go of. With good reason, as it turns out.

Because last week I called Kaiser, and spoke to 2 perfectly lovely agents who were OH so helpful. And nice! Bending over backwards! This in spite of the fact that the VERY FIRST words out of my mouth when I talked to each of them were:

“I’ve had cancer – is this going to be a problem as far as my getting insurance?”

Oh NO, I was told. Certainly NOT.

Fool that I am, I believe them. And filled out their stupid and annoying 20 page form detailing every bit of my medical history. And waited.

And there was my response, 3 days later: denied. For what? Why, The Cancer of course!

What. The. Fuck.

Had they told me before I filled out their Stupid-Ass Form that it would be pointless, I would have been slightly annoyed, but that’s it. That was kind of what I expected. But now?

Now Miss Tasha is pissed off. And bitter. Oh so bitter.

So I assure you, come January 1sr 2014, when the Affordable Care Act takes effect as far as pre-existing conditions, I’ll be back on Kaiser’s doorstep, thumbing my nose at them, oh yes.

And you know how right now I barely ever go to the doctor? It’s true. I stopped seeing my oncologist, since she’s of the “no scans without symptoms” school, doesn’t believe in the use of tumor markers, and doesn’t even do any blood tests. So I basically go to her to get felt up, which, quite frankly, I can do on my own well enough. Hence, no more onc, and I just go for my mammo once a year. Simple enough. Trust me, the last 3 years, BCBS has made WAY more money on me than they’ve paid out.

Once I’m covered by Kaiser though, I’ll be damn sure to get my money’s worth. Oh yes. Hell hath no fury like a woman who’s wasted her time filling out a lengthy Stupid-Ass Form, time that could have been better spent in a myriad of ways, like getting through level 273 on Candy Crush.

So those of you who insist we don’t need health care reform because you have your perfect happy little plans, well, I’m tired of it. Our system is broken. We need to do something, anything, to fix it, or at least start to.

This reminds me of states like Texas and Oklahoma, whose congressmen vote against federal aid for other states, but are there asking when suddenly it’s their state in trouble. Of course they are. Because no one gives a shit until the chickens come home to roost – and eventually, they always do.

Trust me on that.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Still in Morocco

And since it’s April already, this has apparently been the 5-month long trip. I’m thinking it’s time to wrap things up, as I have All Things Portlandia to write about. So, to that point, here’s a rundown of the key things from the rest of the trip:
* * * * * * * * * * * *

That evening, we stay in a lovely hotel with a fireplace and gorgeous view…..that gives us a heater on a brick. We do not freeze.

* * * * * * * * * * * *

The next day, I’m ready to bike like the wind! My cleats are fixed, I can clip in just fine, certain death no longer awaits me! Whee! Wait…..why is the wind almost blowing our van off the road? Uh oh.

Yes, the Santa Ana winds or whatever they are have kicked in today, and we all know that wind is #1 on Tasha’s Hierarchy of Cycling Suckiness. And this isn’t just wind, it’s Wind. To the point that I’m going uphill at a resounding 2 mph rather than my usual stellar 5. This sucks. I solider on through some stupid number of miles, with Khaled and Mohammed as my trusty sidekicks, with all of us joking around about how much this sucks…..until finally I’ve just had it. Done. Fini. We’ve been biking for hours, but I’m pretty sure if I squint real hard, I can still see the place where we started. Basta. (I think that’s Italian for “you’ve got to be freaking kidding me.”) Khaled suggests we take the SAG van, and I’m all for this – but instead of waiting for it, we decide to cycle back and catch up with it, and then we’ll get the tailwind.

This is how strong the tailwind is. I fly down the hills at breakneck speed, and when I get to an uphill, I decide to stop pedaling. The wind is so strong it literally pushes me up this mountain. No lie. It’s like being on a ride at DisneyWorld, Mr. Toad’s Madcap Adventure or along those lines. This is pretty damn excellent.

Of course, by taking the van some of us miss the “fun” that Stacey experienced, of being accosted by the Redrum children. Yes, three little hooligans – 2 girls and a boy – who stood in the middle of the road, prevented Stacey from passing, grabbed onto her bike, and kept chanting menacingly at her. “Bonbon bonbon BON-BON!” I guess Moroccan delinquency is a little different than what it looks like in the States.

* * * * * * * * * * * *

That night back in Marrakesh we go for a final dinner with the gang, replete with everything from tagine to pastille to platters of fruit. It’s all astonishingly good. At one point, Stacey looks at the dessert tray and asks, “Oh, are those the cookies we like? The Kristallnacht ones or whatever they’re called?”

Somehow I don’t think they have cookies named after the bombing of Dresden, but for better or worse, the nickname sticks, and for the rest of our time in Marrakesh, we’re on the lookout for the Kristallnacht cookies.

Speaking of Marrakesh, Stacey has found for us the most incredible riad to stay at, Riad Orangerie. You find it via a nondescript door in the souk, which opens up to a little slice of paradise, complete with expansive rooftop deck and a gorgeous courtyard. It’s such the perfect little oasis that we might stay here forever.

* * * * * * * * * * * *
The next night, we head out to meet up with Sayeed and Khaled for drinks. The bar we go to has a little couch sitting area, and we make ourselves comfortable – across from what seems to be a Moroccan gangsta. Who’s either terrorizing the people around him or keeping them amused, tough to say which. At one point, Khaled seems a bit concerned that we’re going to all get into a brawl. You see, Stacey has had one gin and tonic which consisted of a glass full of gin and a splash of tonic. Me, I’m not drinking much, but when Gangsta tells us something along the lines of “Motherfucka don’t know fuck don’t you know fuck he is went motherfucka,” I am immediately offended. Because of the poor grammar, of course. Those are probably the only words he knows in semi-English, but I give him a frosty glare, and am about to point out his grammatical shortcomings, when Khaled smoothes things over. Hmph. Maybe we should just head out and look for some more Kristallnacht cookies.

I believe this is the first time Stacey is told to “chillax” – and it’s amusing then. It’s shocking when she hears someone yell it to her the next day in the souk. Chillax, seriously?

* * * * * * * * * * * *

The flight back to the US was uneventful, other than Iberia being the least customer-service-oriented airline known to man, and their losing my bike somewhere between Madrid and Dallas. I would have been worried, except that they also left a couple of other bikes and a snowboard behind, so I felt my bike was at least in good company. And of course, she was delivered to me the next day, so all was well. Until the next Grand Adventure…..