Ripening: Reflections on Fading Youth and Regretful Aplomb

Is youth wasted on the young?

Sometime around one’s 30th birthday, to be certain, one realizes with a start the astonishing measure of self-absorption and small-mindedness that has defined one’s first decade as a card-carrying adult.

Post-adolescence is a time of vanity, ignorance, selfish pride. Of breaking hearts and being heartbroken. Of exploration, excess, and ego, and immortal pretentions.

And then, blessedly, it ends. One grows, and one reflects back with regretful aplomb. There is shame in the recognition, yes, and some measure of cold relief, too–one has, at least, improved and grown enough to recognize the degree of petulance with which one formerly moved about the world; to reject youthful notions of moral infallibility and to criticize them roundly.

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Willing Flesh, Weak Spirit: Are We Being too Hard on Underachievers?

Do you ever fantasize about your own personal Path Not Taken?

I don’t mean the path that would have led you to a better-paying career, or a nicer partner, or a different, cooler city to live in. That’s boring. Everybody fantasizes about those things, for obvious reasons.

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A History of Pop Culture Subversion: Nine Food-and-Drink Mascots Who Totally Ruined Your Life

Hey, you! Humanoid American of non-specified ethnicity or gender born between the years of 1980 and 1985!

Are you suffering from a low-grade case of of pre-midlife malaise? Are you currently jobless, newly dumped, or suffering a case of the existential snifflies? Are you beginning to suspect that maybe you’ve totally flunked your own life?


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Good work, career crap factors, and the “Is-ness” of it all: Thoughts on finding meaning in a creative profession

Two full weeks here in Barcelona and I’m finally settling down to the primary task I’ve set for myself during our time in Spain: rejiggering my worklife, and rethinking entirely what I want out of my career as a writer.Yes. So. What do I want? It’s such a huge, bloated, amorphous, nebulous, terrifying, wonderful, impossible, fascinating and inevitable question, isn’t it?

So grand, and yet so essential, to put one’s wants – not one’s needs – at the center of things, to shout them out to the huge, busy, noisy universe and confidently, cosmically await a reply. Just who do you think you are, asking for all that happy, being that you are so very tiny, and in case you didn’t notice, this is the Milky Way, not the Hilton, thank you very much; you knew that long before your birth and you chose this galaxy anyway and just what do you expect the gods to do about any of your carbon-based woes?

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At 2 p.m. on Valentine’s Day of this year, I am sitting in a coffeeshop in Milwaukie, Oregon. I am doing some writing. I am watching the world go by.

A tweaker stumbles in the door. He’s carrying a small, crumpled bouquet of flowers. He orders a very large cup of coffee and then he twitches his way to a table near mine. He sits down, but he can’t hold still. He’s jumping and wiggling all about and slurping at his coffee. He keeps clearing his throat, and so violently that I develop sympathetic neck pains.

The Tweaker is clearly feeling the love this holiday. He cries out “Happy Valentine’s Day!” to every person who walks past. He strikes up a conversation with the wall.

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A January Visitor


2014? Is that you? Oh my goodness! Hello, hello, yes, yes. Have you been here long?

Oh, my, of course, yes, you have, haven’t you? Almost 24 hours you say? Well, this is awkward, isn’t it? But you see, I have my excuses. I was so terribly busy this past month on vacation in Mexico City and then doing battle with strange tropical viruses and editing deadlines and I totally spaced the fact that you were on your way at all.

That sounds terrible doesn’t it? And you just standing there all this time waiting for me to notice you and all. You should’ve rung the bell again. You should’ve yelled louder!

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On my Birthday’s Eve

Hello, late summer. It has been a season of way too much work. I’ve been kept busy 6-7 days a week with freelance writing and photo projects and have mostly been quiet and industrious since I got back from the East Coast at the start of July. Did run a half-marathon in there, though, which must count for something.

Tomorrow, I turn 32.

Last week, I flew down to San Francisco. I caught up with my little sister and then met up with E on his way back from his adventures in Ecuador and Colombia. Que chilero! We saw the shit out of SF, ran a bit, and ate copiously. The highlight: lunch at Chez Panisse, the petri dish for farm-to-fork dining and a Berkeley stalwart. Fresh squid with beans, shaved squash, chicken, collard greens, hazelnut ice cream, berry spritzer. Best $90 I ever spent. Then it was on to Sacramento to catch up with E’s extended family.

Yesterday, I drove back up to Portland from Sacramento with E and his dad. I am potato salad from 11 hours in the car and a long day of catching up on work today.

A few selects from late, great California. I just had my little handheld Canon on this trip. As always, I am fascinated by the minutiae of cities. Graffiti, old signs, windows and mirrors. That, and cheesy preloaded camera filters. What can I say? I picked up some cool pieces of random garbage, too, for my collection. Mostly scraps of old notes and parking tickets and fortunes and stuff.

Overheard in Portland: Girl Talk


One of the great perks of being a writer: I get to spend copious amounts of time in coffee shops, “working” and eavesdropping on other patrons. Come mid-week, I often get a bit antsy from all the hours spent toiling away alone inside my house, so I’ve taken to venturing out among the cafes of Northeast Portland with my laptop and my crap Sony headphones, so that I might dodge my solitude and work awhile amongst the vox populi. The subtly buzzing crowds of students or moms or unemployed or creatively employed or service industry employed folks who frequent such spots of an idle Tuesday afternoon alongside me never fail to fascinate. Often, I’ll work with my headphones on but no music playing just so I can listen in totally undetected.

By far the most consistently interesting snatches of conversations I pick up are those that occur between female friends. Women have a charming knack for turning any social setting into a makeshift confessional booth. Bathroom stalls, phone booths, side by side stools in a busy bar, then, later in the evening, the broken curbs outside of said busy bars – some news just can’t wait. And I don’t judge. I’ve performed the perambulation many, many times myself and find it to be an enormously comforting ritual. There is nothing in this world quite so soothing or ministerial as the ready ear of an old friend, tuned finely to your most secretive rumblings as you reveal the workings of your inner soul in some very public place or other.


Thusly, two conversations overheard in Portland. Both between female friends in Portland coffee shops. Both their own kinds of age-appropriate Hail Marys.

One pair of female friends looked to be about 20. One pair looked to be about 30. Can you guess which is which? I think you can.

Anna Banana’s Coffee Shop, Alberta Street, Portland

May 21

You were like I just wanna have fun wanna have fun. And we were like you are having fun and now it’s time to go home. And you were like I wanna go home to San Diego. No one here understands me.

I had a little bit of that tequila. I had a beer at home. The place we went to I had two beers.

And shots.

No I didn’t.

At the show.

No I didn’t! I had beer.

And shots. Right before we left.

No way.

You did. And then you did three shots of fireball at Shanghai and one other shot.

Barista Coffee Shop, Alberta Street, Portland

July 09

My ex-boyfriend had a baby. 

I’m sorry.

It’s ok. I knew his wife was pregnant. We’re not friends, but I want to see what it looks like. I hope it’s ugly. Although I know that all babies are cute.

That’s not true.

I know. 


Notes on File

Notations from my somewhat mixed up files as of late … I am bursting with weird and questionable ideas for creative projects.


• It would be cool to make little stop motion videos spelling out things with stuff like beans and macaroni pieces. I got the idea when I introduced my slightly younger roommates to The California Raisins the other day, and I felt my age for sure. Also, gave myself a mohawk a few weeks ago and noticed some little gray hairs coming in around my temples. I guess I don’t really care because I still get carded for everything from lottery tickets to beer, but …


• I’ve got this genius idea for a serial blog where I post conversations I’ve overheard in Portland. I think I’ve got nearly enough to make my first post, but I’m always accepting entries, so send your weird, wacky wonderful Portland overheards my way. EG:

Overheard at Anna Banana’s on Alberta, April 23, between a chunky female barista and a sorta femmy middle-aged patron:

“Different is Good”

Guy: My parents were the original hippies from the ‘60s.

Girl: Mine were too. Mine wore flowers in their hair.

Guy: Well I spent four years living in a colony in Southern Oregon.

Girl: Oh.

Guy: My mom told me I was this close to being named Sunshine Freedom.

Girl: That would be kind of fun though!

Guy: Yeah. Two names I always liked were Cassipoea and Orion.

Girl: Different is good.


• Author Ray Bradbury says he doesn’t mind getting old because he’s “collecting truths” along the way. I really, really dig this.

• What if we have it backwards when we see ourselves as living forwards? What if we’re all of us just reverse engineering everything all the time?


• I gave in and bought an iPhone the other day. I am the last Portland Creative Type within a 20-mile radius to do so, which makes me tragically uncool, I know. What can I say? I am cheap and poor. However, my terrible, terrible Samsung Galaxy had turned on me in recent months, and I felt I had no choice when it began to actively sabotage my text message conversations. For example:

Changing the word “Lego” to “legislation” repeatedly. As in:

“Eli is wondering if he could possibly play with your legislation today.”

Which sounds weird and pervy although I’m not sure why. And, yes, my text conversations do occasionally involve discussion of Legos.

Also, in an infinitely more disturbing development, every time I tried to type “I went” autocorrect changed it to “I queefed.” So not cool, phone.


• Finally, from a piece I am working on about love:

“This morning was the first day of May. The sun came up too soon and I couldn’t sleep, so I got up early and I went to the kitchen and I decided to make myself a poached egg.

It doesn’t embarrass me to admit to you that I almost couldn’t believe in myself enough to do it it. At the last minute, I almost backed out of the endeavor and reached for the frying pan. It takes such a leap of faith, every time, to poach an egg. A second of magical thinking before you have the guts to crack the shell and let the messy contents drop into the bubbling water without losing heart. How does the water know to hold the egg together so gently? How can one substance will another into a new form so entirely without the whole thing just dispersing into nothing?

I stared at my poached egg awhile before I ate it: the pure white edges unfolded like messy petals, the middle membrane so thin and delicate you could see right into the yellowy heart of it. And then I gobbled it up, without time for regret or delay.”

Letter to a friend: Life since J-School

So I wrote this letter to an old professor of mine.

Professor Vos:

So I’ve been thinking the past week or two about the request you made in your previous e-mail – for to tell you about my travels since I left the J-school.

I’m always sort of baffled and intrigued by the premise of Summing Up. As you may recall, my grad thesis was 178 pages long, when 78 may well have sufficed. Brevity has never been my strong suit. Despite that, or perhaps even because of that, distillation in any form strikes me as a useful, if slightly maddening, exercise. So I sat down and started writing out an answer and I guess in the end it was mostly a letter to myself but I’m going to send it along to you for posterity and whatnot. Onward!

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… And a happy VD to all!

Yesterday, on 2/13/2013, I did two things that are, for me, vanishingly rare: one, I went to a mall, and, two, without blinking, I dropped $130 on lingerie.

Not because I have a hot Valentine’s Day date (I don’t), and not because I’m upset that I don’t have a hot Valentine’s Day date (I’m not). Just because, well, the bras and panties were there and I was here and I’ve been working out and have a nice tan from my trip to India and I sorta liked the idea of titillating myself just a bit.

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Summer in the city

I have news.

There’s probably no really easy way to say it except just to say it, so that’s what I’m gonna do. Here goes.

I am moving back to Portland in a few weeks. And yes, I’m moving there alone.

I’ve watched more than a few relationships publicly implode on Facebook as of late and I just don’t have the cojones for that noise right about now so I’ve been mostly silent about the whole affair, but confused friends keep texting and messaging me asking what’s up, hence this post.

Truth will out: Morgan and I are breaking up. Or, I guess, to be more precise, we are broken up already.

I’ve found a place in the Alberta neighborhood and plan to move away from Cannon Beach and back to the city the first week of August.

It’s hard to know how much it is appropriate to disclose without offending any parties, so I’m going to err on the side of brevity, for blessed once in my life.

It’s just this: I miss Portland and have lately found myself feeling lonely and bored here on the coast. It is so beautiful, but I don’t have any close friends, I can’t charge very much for freelance writing and photo work, it’s rainy, there’s no tasty food, etc., etc.

Boiling it all down: I’ve been wrestling with the revelation that I’m not quite where I want to be anymore. Funny how that happens.

One thing that’s loomed large for me in early adulthood has been that old “Lead with your heart” saw. Every time I ignore this advice, I regret it. So I’m trying to be a better listener/agent for change in the hopes that the universe will more often deliver my instructions in the form of gentle nudgings and proddings as opposed to bricks and rocks and smacks upside the head. Not sure how flawlessly I executed the mandate this time around, but ancora imparo, right? Yet I am learning.

Here’s a shot of a cool Spanish sign in my new hood. Did I mention that I’m moving in with two cool teachers, and that we’re going to gun for a Spanish-speaking household? How cool. That’s almost too much cool for one short paragraph, but not quite. Never quite.

I counted backwards and I haven’t actually, really really lived in Portland since before I left home for college 14 years ago, aside from short-to-longish stints being a bum at my mom’s house throughout my 20s. This is, by my shocked estimations, my 28th move in those 14 years. My, the time goes by.

I am full of mixed emotions at the moment, but feeling mostly hopeful and positive about what’s ahead. My friends and family are, thankfully, a deep and refreshing well of wise counsel.

A few of the best pieces of advice I’ve gotten lately:

• There is no formula except the one you make.

• Every relationship is different.

• Guilt is a destructive emotion.

• You usually know what you need to do awhile before you are ready to do it. That’s OK.

• Don’t get caught up in other people’s expectations of how you should manage your life. Most of the time, they are too busy with their own tiny disasters to spend much time judging you anyway.

• Love is like baking. It’s hard to get the recipe to taste good if you’re missing even a few of the key ingredients.

So that’s that. Oh, and I love you all. A whole crazy lot.

Portland homies, get ready to hang, because your prayers have been answered: After 14 long years on the road, Erin is heading home!

And here’s when something was really funny at Swift. Love you, LML.