Monday, August 22, 2011

The List

My good friends Kat and Eliza and I created a google doc of all the things we wanted to do together this summer.  Or I did.  I guess that's the kind of thing you have time to do when your friends all have jobs and you don't.  But if you knew Kat, you'd know that if its "not on the list, it doesn't get done".  We thought we'd have a lot longer to do some of these things, so I'm a little sad that we only got to cross two things off, but here it is.

The first thing we crossed off was the Washington County Fair.  Kat had never been to a county fair before, which I could not believe, nor had she ever had a corn dog, which I also could not believe... so off we went.  It was a hot, fun-filled day with delicious corn dogs, not-so-delicious fried twinkie (gross), lots of animals, lots of... conservatives, and a ride called The Viper.

traffic stopper

gross deep fried twinkie

I chose not to find out

Yesterday, for our final adventure we chose to go to the Columbia River Gorge.  We parked the car along the side of the road and hiked up the horsetail trail.  It was a short hike that took us uphill and under a waterfall.  Through the trees there were views of the Columbia River and unfortunately the highway.  When we were driving back I could see where people were getting into the river with their tubes and I had a sudden urge to get back to California and into the American River...

The Columbia River

Eliza under the falls

Three silluoettes under the falls

At the top

Looking down from the foot bridge

Oregon sure is pretty

The beer at the end of the tunnel, courtesy of McMennamin's Edgefield

Now that I have to finish packing and pick up my car tomorrow morning at 6am to drive back to California, the list is going to be left unfinished... for now.  But I have a very strong feeling that I will be back.  Katherine and Eliza have been my anchors this summer and I will miss them dearly (Memphis too).

Saturday, August 20, 2011

If I Were An Old Man

If only I'd had a cigar...
If I were an old man, this is what I would look like.  My fabulous, curled up gray mustache is called "The Grandpa".

Why am I wearing it?  Because I'm in Portland, and that's what we do.  And because my housemate David and three of his friends have been organizing a monthly pub crawl for a few years now and last night's was the mustache edition.  This is something that I just don't think would happen in SF, or if it did, it would be something that I would probably roll my eyes at.  But not here.  We went to several bars and everyone either took it in stride or was just really happy to see us.  I got several compliments on my mustache from complete strangers.

The thing about pub crawls is that you drink a lot.  I am not a big drinker.  So, my method is to meet them out after they've already been to a few places and then try not to play catch up.  I was really excited about the first drink I had because it was at a place called The Whiskey Soda  Lounge and it was made with one of  Pok Pok's drinking vinegars, which my friend Kim had told me about.  I was skeptical.  I once used different concentrations of vinegar as my "acid rain" variable in a science fair project (who knew the effects of acid rain on grass would not be so good?).  I spent a lot of time with the stuff, and I don't think it smells very pleasant, nor would I want to drink it.  But this was a honey vinegar.  I don't know what they do or how they do it, but it was amazing.  My cocktail was called the Hunny: honey drinking vinegar, grapefruit juice and tequila.  It was really, really good.

I met some really cool people at the two monthly pub crawls I attended (the first was the patio bar edition), including a new yorker who recently moved to Portland from Amsterdam to work for Wieden+Kennedy and is expecting his second child soon.  He was super dedicated to his mustache.  He had grown out a beard and at each bar we stopped at, he shaved part of it off with some clippers until he was left with this.  I only wish I had gotten taken some photos at each of the different stages.

Corey and I and what was left of Corey's beard.

On another topic, I went to lunch today at The Grilled Cheese Grill, a food cart on Alberta dedicated to Grilled Cheese.  It's a hot day today in Portland, so grilled cheese may not have been the most obvious choice, but after last night's crawling around it was perfect.  I ordered the Jenny Lou- bacon and havarti between two slices of maple bread, grilled.  It was like eating maple syrup-soaked french toast with cheese and bacon.  This might have topped my old favorite, the bacon, cheddar, green onion pancakes at St. Francis Fountain in SF.

It doesn't look like much, but it was.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Decision Making Gives Me Ulcers

Last week, my three year old niece asked me, "Aunt Katie, what do you want to be when you grow up?".  This was funny because I really don't know what I want to be when I grow up and also because I just recently discovered that I am now, currently grown up.  According to some.  I laughed and said I didn't know and asked her what she thought I should be.  She tilted her head to the side like she was thinking, looked me in the eye and with the infinite wisdom of childhood said, "A Pirate".

Now as we all know, pirates live in San Francisco.  They walk around the mission with their parrots on their shoulders, doing what pirates do.  The thing is, I just moved to Portland.  I said goodbye to San Francisco.  I even wrote a poem about saying goodbye to San Francisco.  I started a blog so that I could write all about my adventures in Portland... not all about my adventures being a pirate in San Francisco!  But who am I to argue with the wisdom of a three year old?  So, because I really didn't see any better options, I decided to listen to the iphone wielding prophet and pack my bags, leave the glorious Portland summer weather and return to the cold, grey fog of San Francisco.

I'm excited to go back, but I'm also sad to be leaving Portland after such a short amount of time.  It wasn't enough to figure out if Portland is a place I'd want to return to after I'm done with my pirating. There are so many things I didn't do because I thought I'd have more time as an unemployed poet/candle holder maker.  I'm also sad because I've met some really fantastic people and there is potential for great things and unknown possibilities that I'm not going to be here to see the results of.  I was just starting to shed my skepticism and get excited.  I mean, how do I know that in approximately 43 days, something amazing wasn't going to happen?  Do I really think that being a pirate is right for me?  Am I ready to give up my leisurely life here?

Well... I don't know.  But, Portland will always be here and I feel the need to go check out what this new and unexpected opportunity might have in store for me.  In the meantime, I'm going try to do something really fun and exciting every day before I leave (in four days).  Starting tomorrow I'm going to post whatever it is I do up on here and then I'll have at least accomplished one of my goals.  I'll start right now with a photo of my first trip to Voodoo Doughnuts.  I said to the man who was waiting in line for the whole group, "Get me something with bacon!"  It was... amazing.

Cream-filled maple bacon bar

the man who waited in line

*Oh and because this conversation wasn't only about me, I asked my niece what she wants to be when she grows up and she said BATGIRL.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

From the Woodpile, Part 1

You may be wondering why I have decided to call my blog the woodpile (I'm just going to pretend that you are).

It all started one day when I was studying at one of my favorite coffee shops in San Francisco, Matching Half.  There are many reasons why I love Matching Half.  Of course the coffee's great, but the baristas are friendly, the ambiance is calming and clean, they play music I like and they always have great artwork.  Sitting at the counter, I noticed a roughly cut wooden votive candle holder, which I assume was made across the street by Kelly Malone of my favorite place to take crafty classes, Workshop.  Because anything's more fun than working on your Performance Assessment for California Teachers, I sketched the candle holder and decided to figure out how to make one.

The next time I visited my friends, The Wolds in the east bay, I brought my idea with me and was introduced to the woodpile.  The woodpile is outback, next to the stickle shack, in front of the incinerator and is a glorious pile of old, some rotting, some salvageable, and some very old wood.  I was then introduced to my new friend, the drill press.  I can't tell you how much I love that drill press.  It was picked up by one of the family members at a garage sale and it works beautifully.

My new friend, the drill press.

After measuring a votive candle I made a trip to the hardware store where I purchased a 1 1/2" paddle bit.  I didn't really think it would be that hard, but I also didn't really think it would be as easy as it was.  First you cut some wood (or if you're afraid of the table saw like me, have a friend cut some for you), measure out the spaces where you want to drill your holes, clamp your wood down and go!  The most difficult part, or time consuming anyway, is the sanding.  I wanted a rough finish, so I didn't sand too much on the outside, just enough to make the wood not splintery and make it look nice.  The tedious part was sanding the inside of the holes.  I still have a pile of candle holders that I made just before I left California, waiting to be sanded.

That large piece of wood has been on the Wold property for at least 40 years.

Thinking that maybe I could spend my life making candle holders, Polly suggested that I reserve my Etsy name now, even if I'm not ready to sell anything.  I thought of some okay names and then I came up with The Woopile. Well, The Woodpile is already taken.  After an exchange of ideas that included "the woodpile out back by the incinerator", I settled on "the woodpile outback".  The woodpile now represents a place of creative refuse, learning new skills and of being inspired by something and making it your own.  Interestingly enough, I ran into the same problem when I was trying to name this blog.  Apparently, The Woodpile is also the name of someone's novel that they've self-published on their blog.

First batch, completed.

Gift for my mom.

*One problem that I found after bringing one to my mom in South Carolina is that either the wood swelled in the humidity, or the metal part of the votive candles expanded after the candles were lit and the melted wax rehardened, making it difficult to lift the candles out of the holes.  This either means that I need to use a bigger paddle bit or sand the holes open even more, which is what I did for my mom.  If anyone has any ideas on how to either make this not happen, or make sanding the holes easier, I'd love to hear them.

*Special thanks to David and Polly for supplying the wood, tools and instruction.

Monday, August 15, 2011

A Thought on Publishing

I recently spent some time researching different literary journals, both print and online.  I wanted to find out two things:  first I wanted to find out which journals my poetry might be a good match for, and second I wanted to find out what their submission process was like.  I've never submitted anything before, so it felt like this giant insurmountable wall that separated me from "real writers".  What I found was actually a really simple program that many publications share, in which you can electronically submit your work.  Once you've done it for one publication, it becomes pretty easy to quickly submit your work to publications that use the same type of format.

So I climbed that wall.  I submitted a few poems to some journals that seemed like they might be interested in the subject matter I had written about.  While I was at it, and feeling pretty successful and slightly overconfident, I decided to go ahead and submit to a couple of publications that would honestly, not be interested in a no name poet, like myself.  I've already received my first rejection email from one of them (thank you The New Yorker)!  Really, I should print it out and frame it so that when I'm a widely published poet I can look back at my early days in attempting to get published and remember a time when even The New Yorker didn't want me.

But really what I wanted to talk about was the issue of self-publishing.  Writer's write.  I'm not sure who said that originally, but its pretty much the definition of a writer, whether or not you're published.  For me, getting into the habit of writing everyday may not be as painful as trying to get into the habit or running after I haven't run in over a year, but it's maybe just as difficult as getting myself into that sport's bra and motivating myself to leaving the house.  Writing is a muscle that has to be exercised and time to write has to be made.  Well, I've got time.  Plenty of time.  That was sort of the purpose of moving to Portland and taking some time off.  I started out writing for about an hour every morning while I drank my coffee.  It didn't matter what I wrote about, so long as I was writing.  Then, when I wanted to carve out a time to write more creatively, I started going to the bakery around the corner that has a big outdoor patio.  That worked pretty well but I can't go to a bakery every day.  I just can't.  With plans to check out as many local coffee shops as I could to find the best writing spots, I thought about the idea of starting a blog in which I had to contribute a poem a day.  Having readers (ahem) to be responsible to, who would wake each morning, hungry for a new poem, would give me a good reason to write every day.  That was the idea.

After doing some online research, I found that there is a big debate in the poetry world about whether or not posting your poems on your blog counts as having been previously published.  Pretty much all of the journals I had researched specifically state that they only accept previously unpublished work- but they don't all say whether or not self publishing counts.  I mean, really, if I were to publish a poem here, would anybody know?  It's only slightly less debatable than a tree falling in a forest when there's no one around to hear it.  Who would read it?  Me.

In a world where poets can't just be poets, where typical book of poetry is about as thick as an issue of Martha Stewart Living (its sitting right next to me on my mom's counter), where actual print is becoming outdated, should poets have to hide their work from the public until some editor deems it worthy?  Artists can show their work at any number of galleries, why can't poets share their poems on a blog that has no sponsorship and even fewer readers than your average poetry journal?  It seems that editors are pretty split on this issue, and until I do some more research into journals that do accept work that's been published on a blog, I'm not going to share my poems with you (I mean "you" loosely, as I'm probably the only one who's reading my blog at this point). 

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Taking A Break

I'm taking a break from my break.  That's right, I'm on vacation from my oh-so-strenuous, unemployed (by choice) life in Portland.  The perfect 80 degree summer weather wasn't good enough for me, so I hopped on a plane to the Atlanta, where the humidity will make your face melt, and cause you to throw tantrums more suitable to my almost two year old niece.  I, of course didn't throw a tantrum.  I just quietly melted while enjoying my time with my brother and his family.  After spending a few days in Decatur, catching up with a good friend from culinary school and visiting various playgrounds and the Children's Museum in Atlanta with my beautiful nieces, my sister-in-law and I drove with the girls to Beaufort, South Carolina so that we could celebrate my parent's 40th wedding anniversary.  Now that they've gone the house is too quiet, the toys have been picked up and I have my hammock to myself.  I'll see you in a few days, Portland.