Monday, December 21, 2009

The Time Has Come

Dear 29 Followers.

Thank you so much for your love and support in 2009. Just knowing that you were out there was an inspiration as we prepared for our final mission.

Now the time has come for us all to realize the Master's dream and board his galactic love pod and head to our promised destination in the Nebula Constellation. Remember to pack only 13 lbs in a small blue duffle bag, wear your Fruit of the Loom underwear on the outside and shave the upper half of your body. We will meet at the ordained coordinates at 2:34 AM when I will light the 12 Birthday Candles in honor of LeBron James and then we will board the spacecraft in groups of three.

Backti Shalamakti


Thursday, December 17, 2009

347437 Oak Street

I don't get it. I move to a home in the middle of nowhere. Our house in at the end of a 3 mile dirt road populated by maybe a dozen homes. Our mailbox is 4 miles from our front door. Our closest neighbor is a 20 minute walk. Looking out the living room windows I overlook hundreds of thousands of acres of completely undeveloped National Grasslands. Honestly, I could sit on my patio for 100 years and the only thing I would see are some hawks, mule deer and rabbits.

So how do I end up with an address like 17965 Mountain View Road? Where exactly are the other 17953 homes? Are they planning a huge development? Are they worried about future growth? My address should be something like 8 Mountain View Road. Or there should be no number at all. Just Mark at Mountain View Road.

I don't know, maybe it all goes back to my childhood growing up at 1 Taunton Hill Road. Now that was an address.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

And Ladies, He's Single

I'm sure there are lots of great people from Red Bluff, California. But this is the guy I will always think of anytime someone mentions that small Northern California town just outside of Reading.

He-or should I say the sound of his truck- arrived about 30 seconds before he did at the gas station where I was filling up. The thumping bass from the 1000 watt stereo and the crackling roar of a pair of shortened mufflers announced his arrival.

His white Ford F250 was lifted far beyond any practical need and his tires were the size normally reserved for giant trucks that crush cars on ESPN 6. When the door opened I expected to see a guy the size of the Brawny man but instead a guy about my size leapt from the driver's side door. The fall was so far that a small parachute wouldn't have been impractical. It was like watching Yosemite Sam make an entrance in a Bugs Bunny cartoon. After landing, he pulled down his tank top, checked out his triceps in the chrome bumper and strutted over to the pump. It was then that I noticed the huge pair of testicles hanging from his rear hitch.

And the finishing touch. A bumper sticker that read, "It Ain't Gonna Suck Itself."

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

I Love LA

Travel and Leisure magazine just released their 2009 ratings of the best cities in the United States. Cities were rated in categories such as Best Restaurants, Best Museums, Most Intelligent People and Best Overall.

As usual, Los Angeles was mostly ignored, even in the category of Best Looking. Really? There are cities with better looking people than Los Angeles? They certainly aren't showing up for the focus groups.

The reason I mention this is that it got me thinking about one of the reasons I have always loved Los Angeles. The people in LA just don't give a shit about that sort of thing. I'm not sure if it's confidence or apathy or maybe illiteracy, but it works for me.

People in other cities seem to be convinced that they are in some sort of feud with LA. Go to San Francisco and you'll frequently hear a group at a cafe table going on about how much better SF is than LA. Same for New York. And Seattle. And many other places. The funny thing is that they seem convinced that people in LA are doing the same thing.

I got news for you guys, they're not. You're in the ring alone, throwing punches at someone who never even knew there was a fight going on. Or could care.

People from LA are lovers, not fighters. They love LA. But they also love San Francisco. And New York. And Portland. They love your restaurants and museums and bagels and all your smart people. They can find something to love about most places and most people in the world. And they would rather focus on those things than on the stuff they don't like.

No professional football team in LA. Again, the only people I hear bitching about this are from other cities. How bizarre is that?

In LA, we all just go out and enjoy another day on the beach with all the other ugly people. Oh look, there goes Giselle roller blading by in a thong. Yuk.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

First Ding

Well it finally happened. Our new house got its first official major ding last week.

Some lunkhead managed to back his ginormous delivery truck into our carport roof. Even though I was pissed off I must say there's some small part of me that was glad to get it over with. Like when you get that first door ding on your new car. Now I can just get on with my life and stop wondering when it's going to happen.

Building a new house is an amazing experience for a lot of reasons but I never realized how strange it would feel when all the workers had left and it was just Melanie and me sitting in the middle of this brand new, never lived in... thing. Alone and afraid to mess anything up. Out in the middle of nowhere.

Every time I stood up I was careful not to scuff the brand new red oak floors. When I went to a cabinet I took plates out very carefully and set them gently down on the table. God forbid I should nick one of the beach cabinets.

In the beginning, the house was so very empty. Not just physically empty but emotionally empty.Nothing had ever happened there, good or bad. No one had ever fallen in love, had a fight, screwed on the patio under a full moon, cooked a huge meal for friends, vomited, laughed, cried, sung, danced, received great news or horrible news.

It was our job to breath the first life into that house, to start the never ending process of turning a house into a home. Someday, we'll sell the house and someone new will move in and add their own stories to the history of the house. But it will be cumulative. Some of us will always be there.

It's been about a year since we first sat at that dining room table in our empty new house. Today it feels like a completely different place and I'd like to thank all the friends, new and old, who've helped get us on our way.

I may even thank that driver someday. But not just yet.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

6,307,200 Minutes

This is my Anniversary card to my wife.

There's a little practice I do to help keep things in perspective. I imagine I was just informed that I have only one minute to live. Just one minute. Sixty precious little seconds.

What would I do for that minute? How would I pass the time?

I try to ask myself this question in as many different situations as possible. When I'm home alone. While I'm stuck in traffic. Sitting in a long, boring meeting. Watching television with my family.

Go ahead, do it right now. I will.

(sixty second later)

Today was an easy one for me. I stopped blogging, walked into the kitchen and on the way I looked out the window one last time at the beautiful world I inhabit; the sky and trees and clouds and sun. I gave my dog Taiga a good scratch behind the ears and planted a kiss on her nose. Then I hugged my wife for whatever time I had left. I smelled her hair, planted a kiss on her cheek and told her I loved her for the last time.

Today is our 12th Anniversary and when I woke up, for some reason, I figured out that those 12 years translated into 6,307,200 minutes. That's how long I've been married to my beautiful wife Melanie. That's how many opportunities I've had to do with her what I just did. So far, I've wasted a lot of those minutes filling my minutes with anger, fear, pettiness and so many other useless things.

I'm sure I can do better. Happy Anniversary Mel.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

I'm Tired. So Tired.

Since moving to Central Oregon, car tires seem to define my very existence. I have spent more time at the Les Schwab tire store than just about anywhere in Sisters. Right after we moved here I needed new tires for the Audi and the Prius. So I bought a new set for each car. A few weeks later, winter blew in with a vengeance and I found out I had to buy studded tires to handle the icy roads. So I bought a set for the Audi and a set for the old Jeep I had up here. Then I found out I had to travel back to LA for a month so I had to take the studded tires off the Audi again because they're illegal in California. Then when I got back to Oregon I had to put the studded tires back on. And then when spring came around I had to put the regular tires back on the Audi again. I also had to put the regular tires back on Jeep and, at that time, I noticed a bubble in the side of one of the tires. They were getting old anyway and it was going to cost almost as much to replace one of the existing tires as it would to replace all four and I needed 6-ply tires for the backroads here so I bought another new set of tires. Now I'm selling the Audi and buying a new Toyota so I'll have to get new snow tires for that one. And, of course, I'll have to put the studded tires back on the Jeep.

Now I understand how Les Schwab, the owner of the Les Schwab Tire Stores- and one of the richest men in Oregon -got an amphitheater named after him.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Heard Any Good Books Lately

She lay on her back fastened by leather straps to a narrow bed with a steel frame. The harness was tight across her rib cage. Her hands were manacled to the sides of the bed. She must have dozed off because she did not hear the footsteps but she was wide awake when the door opened. He came closer and went around the head of the bed. He laid the back of a moist hand on her forehead. The cold point of a knife grazed her throat.

Outside the car window, in a grassy field, an adorable baby deer nuzzled its mother.

He tightened the harness across her chest and leaned over her. His stale, smoky breath filled her nostrils. She twisted suddenly to the left, pulled up her knees as far as she could and kicked hard at his head.

The dappled sunlight illuminated the Columbia River as it gracefully twisted through the canyon, like liquid gold shimmering.

He was out of reach. The sheet had slid off the bed. Her nightdress had come up above her hips. She could sense his gross excitement pulsating in the dark.

A sweet breeze was blowing across the endlessly beautiful fields of alfalfa causing it to slowly sway back and forth.

He undoubtedly had an erection. She knew that he would reach out and touch her.

An early snow had fallen in the evening and left the highest peaks frosted. Hawks and eagles rode the morning air currents doing their graceful dance in the canyons.

It was her twentieth day as his captive.

And that is why I hate audio books. I don't get it. How can anyone listen to these things and drive through beautiful country at the same time. They just don't mix.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Lawyers, Bears and Casinos

Montana has a lot of things to offer but from what I can tell, it mostly has lawyers, bears and casinos.

1. Bears. I spend a good amount of time in the wilderness and I'm not particularly spooked by the idea of an encounter with a wild animal. It's part of the reason I walk in the woods. I have been camped 100 yards from hunting lions, crossed paths with angry elephants and water buffalo, dived with sharks, swam with crocodiles, stepped on rattlesnakes and even run into the occasional bear. But after a week in Montana they had me so edgy about bears that I was afraid to go to the bathroom without a can of bear spray for fear that some bear would swim up the sewer and bite me on the ass. Here's a typical conversation in Montana. "Good morning, how are you?" "Fine. Have you got your bear spray?" Every conversation we had eventually worked its way around to the other person asking if you had bear spray, wanted bear spray or knew where to buy bear spray. Every sign I looked at had some mention of bears, bear attacks, how to repel bears or where bears like to hang out. The only time I recall someone not mentioning the danger of bears was the ranger who asked if we had anything orange to wear. "For the bears," I asked. "No for the bow hunters."

2. Lawyers. They say people in California are litigious but, believe me, Californians have got nothing on the Montana folk. From the amount of lawyers and law offices we saw in tiny Whitefish, Montana people must be suing each other for entertainment. And by the way why is it called Attorney at Law. Is there something else you can be an Attorney of?

3. Casinos. The only thing you'll find more of than bears and lawyers in Montana is casinos. I saw a graph the said that Montana had more casinos per capita than any other state in the US. I wouldn't doubt it for an instant. It seems like every business in Montana is part casino. The Coffee Shack and Casino. Superior Car Wash and Casino. Dr Adams Proctologist and Casino (this one made sense actually) The Dress Barn and Casino. I went into the bathroom at a mini mart outside Kalispell and the urinal claimed to have the best payouts in Montana.

Now it seems to me that the number of casinos in a place is usually indicative of the number of losers, idiots and assholes there as well. But that's not the case in Montana. Far from it. In fact, the people in Montana are incredible. Probably the most sincerely nice people I've run into anywhere. It was impossible to find an asshole anywhere in the entire state.

I guess they're all at the casinos, in court or the bears ate them.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Caveman TV

A few years ago I was sitting with a Patagonian guide watching glacial ice crack and fall into the ocean. After watching this amazing scene for a few hours without a moment of boredom Christian turned to me and said, "Caveman TV". I always loved that term.

I have seen three amazing electrical storms in my life. The first was when I was driving home from freshman year in college. I was attending school in Denver and my roommate and I were headed home and crossing Nebraska. It was night and for about 5 hours we drove through a powerful storm. Each strike was like a giant light going off that lit the flat landscape around us for miles in every direction. The second memorable storm was in northern Spain. Melanie and I were staying at a small pension in the mountains when that one hit. The thing I remember most about that one was the amount of electricity in the air. You could literally feel it in you body. Probably like seeing Barry Manilow live in Vegas.

The third storm happened a few weeks ago and I watched it right from my living room. It had been a hot day with temperatures hovering around 103 degrees. I was sitting in a bookstore when things started to change outside. The skies darkened, the wind picked up and the rain started to fall. In a matter of minutes the temperature dropped to 63 degrees and during the ten mile ride back to my house I watched the thermostat in my car bounce between the 60's and the 80's at least five times. At home I cracked open a beer and plopped in my favorite tv chair to watch the show. Over the next three hours I watched at least 150 lightening strikes on the ridge across the canyon from where my house sits. Huge, wildly shaped bolts that tore through the sky vertically, horizontally and diagonally. Then the sky turned yellow and the wind started to gust. I expected to see Dorothy fly by but, instead, hundreds of birds in groups of twenty or thirty bounced by the window riding the wild air currents. A brilliant rainbow than appeared shooting straight into the sky as a few remaining bolts of lightening hit around its base.

Caveman TV. Reality TV. Call it what you want, it was almost as good as America's Got Talent.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Twinkle Twinkle Little Star

About 30 miles into the desert east of Bend sitting on top of a mountain you'll find the Pine Mountain Observatory. Operated and maintained by the University of Oregon the three massive telescopes are capable of peering deep into our universe. On weekends, the public is allowed to visit, camp out on the mountain, attend a lecture and look through the telescopes. Even without the telescopes the sky is blanketed with more stars than most people will ever see. It's exactly the kind of experience that can truly expand anyone's intellectual curiosity. Or so I thought.

The lecture was held in a tent and was moderated by an astronomer and volunteer at the observatory who obviously loves his field and had put a tremendous amount of time into preparing a show that would be stimulating, entertaining and educational. After the lecture we headed up to the telescopes. On the way up the hill, our astronomer stopped and directed everyone's attention up to the magnificent star filled sky. To help us locate points in the sky he was explaining he used a green laser pen he had in his pocket that we were able to follow to exact points in the sky. When he was done pouring his heart out about the wonders and expanse of the universe he asked if there were any questions.

The lady next to me: "Wow. That laser is really cool"
Our intrepid teacher: "Thanks"
Lady: "So how does it work?"
Teacher: "I don't really want to get side tracked about the laser right now. Any questions about the lecture?"
Lady: "Yeah, where did you get the laser?"
Teacher: "I really would like to stay on track here."
Lady: "Sorry...But it really is cool."
Teacher: "If you all look up this way you'll see Polaris. Who knows what other name Polaris goes by?"
Lady: "Do you sell those lasers in the gift shop?"
Teacher: "No. We don't sell them in the gift shop."
Lady: "Can I get one online?"
Teacher: "I don't know."
Lady: "Really. You don't know. I thought you were an expert. You can get almost anything online."

Eventually we got to one of the huge telescopes. This thing had to be about 20' long and 4' in diameter and must have cost millions of dollars. We were waiting in line to take a look and, naturally, it was very dark. The person operating the telescope introduced himself and explained how the telescope worked and told us we were especially lucky to be there that evening because Jupiter was visible and we would be able to see not only some of its moons but also its rings. An incredibly rare opportunity. "Any questions before we get started?" he asked.

From the pitch black darkness beside me. "Yeah. Do you know where to get one of those lasers? The other guy didn't know. They're really cool."

Just kill me now.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

I Like Um Big and Dumb

Central Oregon is known for it's gorgeous weather and mostly insect free living. In fat, the only bugs we had attracted most of the summer were these big, fat dumb flies that were so listless I'm pretty sure even former heavyweight boxer Jerry Quarry could have hit one. Or, as P.J. O'Rourke once said about the challenge of making fun of the visitors to Dollywood. "It's like hunting dairy cows with a high powered rifle and scope."

Bottom line. I could pick them off at will. That is, until a new breed of fly appeared around late July. Smarter, faster, smaller. Like when those German Messerschmitts first showed up during the war. These little bastards seemed to know what I was going to do before I did it. Jab, jab, right hook. I couldn't touch them even with my new state-of-the-art fly swatter from Bed Bath and Beyond.

I think I'll just let them eat until they get fat and dumb.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Nurple. It Rhymes With Purple.

I don't know about the rest of you but I've had it up to here with the word purple. "I'm so cool. Nothing rhymes with me. Go ahead, try. See, I told you so. I'm special, so special." Well, fuck you purple. That's right, you heard me. Fuck you. Now that I'm living up here in Oregon in a state of semi-retirement I finally have time to do something about this grammatical oversight. It's not like it's such a difficult problem that we've had to wait how many hundreds of years to solve. Let's just come up with a few new words that rhyme with purple and start using them. Write a few poems, pound out a few songs. It's easy. Here are my first two new options to get things rolling.

Churple: The sound a person makes when they let out a small, quick laugh. Like a bird chirping. For example, "Upon hearing the punch line, the young lady churpled".

Nurple. A man doesn't have a nipple. Of course not. That's why we're allowed to look at them in movies and in pictures. A man has a nurple. For example, "I could see Juan's nurples through his fishnet tank top".

Done. And don't think I don't see you hiding in the corner orange. You're next.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Chitty Chitty Bang Bang

It's easy to get depressed when you see what's going on out there with war, famine, drought, the economy, pollution and crab grass. But every once in awhile you come across something that is so positively life affirming that you just have to smile and think to yourself, "We just might make it after all".

Melanie and I had a night like that recently. We were visiting the Oregon coast and when dinner time arrived we knew we wanted to find a slightly tacky, nautically themed restaurant with great food. A toothless old guy who was wearing rubber overalls covered in blood and fish guts directed us to The Sea Hag in Depoe Bay. Wedged in between about 20 gift shops that all sold pirate paraphernalia The Sea Hag was exactly what we were looking for.

On the walls were fishing nets and star fish. Hanging from the ceiling were fake blowfish and lobsters, each table had its own captain's wheel and the floors were covered in saw dust. To cap things off, there was a blind piano player in the back playing things like "New York New York" and "My Way" while tipsy locals and tourists danced and sang along.

After we had settled in a bit I became aware that there was only one waitress in the entire restaurant and she was serving about 11 tables as well as taking and making the drinks, chatting up the customers and handling the cash register. That's a huge amount of work for one person but she wasn't finished.

I was watching her go about her busy routine when the piano player stopped for a break. On the stereo the song 'Chitty Chitty Bang Bang' started to play. Without missing a beat, our waitress walked behind the bar, picked up two padded drum sticks and started to play along on all the glasses and bottles. There were even some bells and cymbals and whistles tucked into the bar for extra effect. She travelled from one end of the bar to the other playing it like it was some sort of huge musical instrument. She had it all perfectly time out so that when she reached the end of the bar the song ended, she put down the drum sticks, picked up her pad and went off to take an order from a party of four that had arrived in middle of it all.

It was impossible not to smile. And to top it off, the meal was the best seafood I have ever had.

Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. We love you.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Smokey the Mortgage Broker

If you live in an area prone to fires like Southern California or Central Oregon you've probably heard the term 'prescribed burning' or 'planned burning'. Basically, it's the practice of setting smaller fires in perfectly good forests or letting naturally occurring fires burn without interference. The theory is that this will keep the "fuel" from getting too thick which can lead to fires that are harder to put out and much more catastrophic in the long run.

Personally, I think it makes sense. More importantly, I think this same practice just might be what we need to rescue the housing market in the United States and get the economy back on track.

Here's my proposal. I call it 'Operation Smokey Freedom'. The government needs to go into certain overbuilt areas and start burning a set amount of the new homes (aka undergrowth) that were overbuilt during the last 10 years. This would help reduce the inventory and get the prices (trees) growing again. Employment would rise as construction workers would be needed again to build new homes and that would help all the retailers who depend on the construction industry. And people wouldn't have to look at all those empty houses with price reduced signs on them. So write you Senator or Congressman and let them know you support this idea.

And remember, 'Only You Can Prevent Mortgage Meltdowns.'

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Does Anyone Know The Meaning Of This Word.

SOLD. I was driving down a street near here yesterday and I passed a house that had this word written on it. SOLD. It sort of rings a bell. I'm sure I used to know what it meant but I just can't put my finger on it. Like high school Spanish. SOLD. Any help would be greatly appreciated.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

For Sale. Quaint 850 sq. ft. home With 23 Bay Garage

In Los Angeles, no one uses their garage. At least not for their car. Garages have become workshops, gyms, hydroponic marijuana farms or a place to store your mother-in-law. Anything but what they were actually created for. Cars, on the other hand, stay in the driveway or out on the road making parking even harder to find. But at least the proportions are right. The house is bigger than the garage.

In Oregon, it's the complete opposite. Garages seem to tower over the homes to which they are attached. 5 or 6 bays, two of which are big enough to store the families 85' RV and their 36' pontoon party boat.

I don't get it. We don't even have a garage. Of course, I have no idea where to put the kayak.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Brewed Awakenings

That's the name of the little coffee shack I just passed. Brewed Awakenings. Earlier, I passed The Human Bean, and Bean There Done That. I guess that makes it official. Coffee shops have surpassed eyeglass stores and hair saloons as the biggest offenders in the 'how silly a name can you come up with for your business' race. Don't feel bad about this turn of events. I certainly don't. The hair and eyeglass outlets had a good long run. Who can forget Sheer Madness, For Your Eyes Only, Hair Today Gone Tomorrow, The Clip Joint, His And Hairs, Loose Ends, The Mane Event, A Cut Above, For Eyes, Specs Appeal and so on . Hey, if it weren't for these pun pioneers, there may never have been a Daily Grind, Brews Brothers, Common Grounds or Bean Around The World.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Population 0

Disney likes to sing, "It's a small world" but I think Steven Wright was closer to the truth when he quipped, "It's a small world. But I'd hate to have to paint it." Melanie and I just returned from a road trip that took us from Sisters, Oregon to Boise, Salt Lake City, Aspen, Colorado Springs, Santa Fe, Taos, Moab, Provo and back home again. But what stood out during this 60 hour plus driving epic wasn't the cities and people along the way but, instead, the incredibly vast and unpopulated spaces that still make up the American west. Speaking conservatively (and I rarely do), I would have to say that for about 50 of those hours there wasn't a single house or person to been seen in any direction outside our windows. Nothing. Zero. Zilch. Nada. Just land, land and more land. I guess what I'm trying to say is, go ahead and have all the unprotected, whiskey fueled, Bristol Palin crazed-monkey sex you want.  There's plenty of room.

Monday, June 8, 2009


On a recent road trip Melanie and I were driving through New Mexico and we were out in the middle of nowhere when we drove by a sign that read "Bump". 
A bit farther down the road we passed another sign that read "Bump".  And then we hit the bump. It was just a small depression in the road, nothing major at all. But it got me wondering. At some point two guys had to get in a truck, drive to wherever they store the "Bump" signs, load them in the truck, stop for a danish and coffee, drive out to where the bump was, mix cement, dig a hole, put the sign in, put the other sign in and go home. Why didn't they just fix the bump?

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Please Don't Tell Melanie

I'm in love. I didn't plan it, it just happened. I was at a beautiful Japanese spa in Santa Fe called Ten Thousand Waves and decided to get a private soaking room before my massage. When I walked into the room, there she was. Small, with delicate porcelain features.  Her name was Toto.  She was a toilet but not just any toilet. To be honest, up until now, my relationships with toilets have been pretty one dimensional. You know what I mean. But this was different. Toto seemed to know what I wanted, sometimes before I even knew I wanted it. Sure, she did all the obvious stuff, the things you expect but there was so much more. Push one button and her lid went up and down. Push a button for a big flush, push another for a small flush. And that's when things really started to get interesting. Push the right button and Toto would also shoot a spray of warm water... well...I'm not one to kiss and tell.  Sometimes the warm water would oscillate, sometimes it would pulse.  I never knew and, frankly, I didn't care. At this point I was too far gone.  And when it was all over, Toto would blow dry everything.  She even had a tiny built-in sink that would come on automatically.  What love, what consideration, what ecstasy.  Isn't that what a relationship is all about.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Good Will Exiting

I just drove through Salt Lake City recently and whatever moron was put in charge of writing the exit signs should have six of their wives taken away. Every sign looks like the math equation that Matt Damon solved in Good Will Hunting.  This is sort of what you have to decipher as you're traveling 70 mph.

Exit 258-B
ISB25S     SW East 203 21st 2000/45 3 miles
ISBA/3    20443   IA200/BB345W 2.5 miles
HWY229  1002/2003 1/2 E 4   miles

Is anyone out there from Salt Lake.  Can you explain this to me? Is it like those old cities where they made the streets like a maze to confuse invaders? Are they just smarter then me in Salt Lake? 

Thursday, May 28, 2009

They Want To Pump You Up

A little tip if you're traveling by car to Oregon. Don't try to pump your own gas. It's against the law. No shit. The first time I drove up there I got out of my car and started pumping like I always do and all I heard was, "Sir, stop right there. Put your hands up. And step away from the pump." They really get freaked about it. Which can be scary because most of the people who are qualified to pump your gas in Oregon are crack addicts or survivalists who have left the compound and come down off the mountain to make a little money so they can buy more bullets and Spam. It's a pretty wacky system but I've mostly gotten used to it.  The only problem now is when I leave Oregon and have to pump my own gas.  More than a few times I've forgotten to take the hose out of my tank and have driven away.  Not a pretty sight. 

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

They Loved Me In Burns

'Getting a laugh'  in a foreign country has always been a great challenge for me. And, until recently, making that tuk tuk driver in Bangkok spit water through his nose has been my greatest achievement. In many ways, Oregon is like a foreign country, especially when you get into the eastern part and towns like Burns. Known mostly for its onions and manure, Burns is populated by what I consider a 'tough audience' for my brand of humor. Cowboys, ranchers, cow inseminators. (Thanks Rich) But as those posters say in card stores, 'Face your fears and watch them disappear.' So I did. We had just pulled into a Sinclair gas station.  It was early Sunday so there wasn't a lot of action in town and several of the local boys had gathered at the gas station to talk crop reports and maybe hope for a city boy to stop by that they could throw in back and beat on the kidneys with sticks for awhile. Enter me. As I pushed through the door and stepped up to the register I picked up on some of their conversation. Apparently, one of them had seen something on the tv about traffic and commutes in Los Angeles.  He said, "I heard that there are people in Los Angeles with a three to four hour commute to work." My heart started to beat a little faster as I knew right where to go. I turned to the group and said, "I just moved here from Los Angeles and that was about how long my commute to work was."  Wait for it Mark. Wait for it.  Now.  "And I only lived 10 miles away." Huge laughs.  As I walked out the door to thunderous applause and laughter I could only think to turn and say,  "Thank you. Thank you. I'll be here all week. Have a great time and be sure to tip your waitress."  Crickets.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Wheel Men Don't Eat Quiche.

I started to notice it as soon as we moved to Oregon. I'd be at the store, or in traffic, or getting gas. I'd turn and catch men - and sometimes women- looking my way and snickering. Usually they'd turn away quickly and go about their business. After this had happened a few times, I realized they weren't looking at me but something slightly lower. No not that. They were looking at my tires. How odd I thought to myself.  What could be wrong with my tires. When I was at home in the privacy of my carport I examined my tires but couldn't find anything out of the ordinary. I went through my tire checklist and everything seemed normal. Round, check. Little nozzle, check. Then one day I got a flat and when I went to the Les Schwab Tire Center the tire guy told me that I might want to consider a 6-ply tire for my Jeep instead of the 4-ply pussy wheels I presently had. So that was it. I was 2 ply shy of being a real man. Of course. No wonder women weren't throwing themselves at me like bugs to a windshield. I signed up immediately for a brand new set of Federal 6-ply light truck utility tires. I could hardly wait to try these bad boys out so the day I picked up the Jeep, Melanie and I headed out for a tour of the dirt roads. We drove for hours then headed down a particularly steep, rocky and treacherous piece of road until we came to the river crossing at Alder Creek. It was gorgeous. A pristine place only accessible to brave men and rugged machines equipped with 6-ply tires. On the other side of the river, men just like me had gathered with their bitches and beer to party.  The music of Charlie Daniels drifted across the river along with the sweet scent of marijuana. I drove home with the feeling that I was finally being accepted in this rugged new world. Which is why is was so disturbing when, two days later, I was filling up and, once again, I turned and caught someone snickering. "What, what is it?" I screamed. "What are you laughing at? These are 6-ply tires."  "Yeah," he replied.  "But they're from Korea."

Friday, April 24, 2009

Holy Shit 2

Well today was interesting. If you read Holy Shit you know that a mountain lion killed a deer behind our house two nights ago. Today I had to figure out what to do with the body. After talking to a few locals and then calling the Central Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife I quickly surmised that a mountain lion killing a deer 50 feet from where you're eating nachos and watching the Laker game gets about the same amount of interest as if you called the Southern California Department of Fish and Wildlife to report that you have mice. No one cared and no one had much in the way of advice on what to do with it. So I was left to use my own wits. Always a dangerous proposition. After devising  and throwing out several elaborate plans involving harnesses and helicopters I decided to go old school.  I bought a rope, tied it to the deer's legs and then dragged it down the hill about a quarter of a mile where the wild turkeys, in what I thought to be ironic, would be able to have their Thanksgiving. As I was hauling this thing down the hill my first thought was, "How in the hell did I end up here. I used to run a major international advertising agency. I have an Emmy." My second thought was realizing just how strong a mountain lion must be. I was having trouble dragging this deer downhill using a rope and my entire body.  The lion had dragged this same deer across flat land and uphill...with its mouth. Let's just say I'm glad there's a 12" concrete wall between us when I'm sleeping.

Holy Shit!!!

Last night Melanie and I were watching television and we heard a strange noise coming from outside. Like a donkey yelling at someone who cut him off in traffic. This afternoon I'm walking up the driveway and I see a drag mark across the driveway about 50 yards from our house.  The mark is pretty big and evenly contoured so I know it's not from my dragging tree limbs around. So I follow it out into the woods a bit and find a dead full grown deer that has been taken down by a mountain lion then dragged about 100 feet and feasted on. I will be double checking all the doors and windows tonight.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

This Just In

As some of you may know I haven't watched the news since December. No television, no newspapers and no online. Here's what has slipped through the net so far. There was a tea party tax revolt. Blagovioch and Specter were convicted. Some guy at Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac killed himself. Valerie Bertinelli looks great. Citibank and GE reported good earnings. Obama is a Socialist. Mirror Pond needs to be dredged out. Texas wants to secede. A woman from England named Susan Boyle can sing. The Obama Administration is proposing a high speed rail system. A man saved his dog using cpr. Obama's girls got a Portuguese water dog puppy. Mel Gibson's wife got $500 million. AIG execs aren't getting anything. The Big 3 car execs flew in separate private jets to a meeting in Washington. Madonna tried to adopt another baby from Malawi. The Queen of England groped Michele Obama.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

One Good Thing About Smoking

Unfortunately, with all that negative press about poison and people dying I think we may have thrown the baby out with the bath water when it comes to smoking. The action of smoking may have been the only time most people really focused on their breath.  The long, slow inhale followed by holding it in and contemplating life then slowly exhaling it all out.  Totally meditative. Try this next time you're sitting alone.  Pretend you're smoking.  Really. Put an invisible cigarette in your mouth and smoke it.  By the time you're finished with your first invisible cigarette I guarantee you'll feel better and more relaxed.  I recommend starting with three packs a day and working your way up from there.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Rutt Row

Back in October of 2008 I was sitting in a market in Bend having a meal and thoroughly enjoying watching Scooby-Doo on the tv. Everything was going great... until some putz asked if he could change the channel. What was I going to say? So he picked up the remote, switched on CNN and to my horror the stock market was in a free fall and had already dropped over 800 points.  I looked around and the place had come to a complete stop.  About 25 adults were clutching their fresh baguettes and starring in horror at the carnage on the screen. At that moment I decided not to watch, read, surf or ask anyone about the news. I was going cold turkey. Granted, the first few weeks were tough and I had the shakes  but with the love and support of my family I was able to make it through to the other side. These days I'm feeling happier, calmer, smarter and better than I have in years and I believe a lot of that has to do with not being buffeted by the endless stream of news that is force fed down our throats on a daily basis. I can't even say that I feel less well-informed. But I am left wondering whether any of these horrible economic events would have happened if we had just left Scooby- Do0 on. 

Sunday, April 5, 2009

I Need More Readers

Sex, sex, sex, titties, sex, sex sex, explosion, fiery crash, sex, sex, sex, ass, corruption, sex, mistress, Lindsay Lohan, sex, babysitter, nanny, sex, throbbing, politician, quiver, Hugh Grant, massacre, plane crash, sex, cheerleader, two cheerleaders, entire squad of cheerleaders, pool boy, breasts, strippers, lap dance, sex, ferret, divorce, hotel room, brawl, leather, chains, handcuffs, hard, wet, pudding, whip, chains, riding crop, bondage, jello, nipple, bicep, tricep, buttocks, zucchini, cigar, Puffy, nude, exposed, foreplay, orgasm, hello kitty, Bangkok, ping pong ball, slap, bite, nibble, sex, cream, lollipop, nylons, bustier, Martha Stewart, panties, prison, gerbil.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

I'm Being Followed By A Deer

We left the house this morning to go for a walk and a small deer stepped out from behind a wall no more that 3 feet away from us.  Naturally, I assumed the deer would turn and bolt like every other deer with any common sense but instead, he just stared at us and then, incredibly, started to approach us. Naturally, Taiga started to bark and move towards the deer and still nothing.  The deer walked up to me and pushed his nose under my arm. In an attempt to lose the deer, we started our walk. Every now and then Taiga would turn and bark and the deer would also turn and look behind as if to say, "What? Is someone following us?"  This went on for about 3 miles with the deer always about 25 feet behind us. When we got back to the house and I felt I had to do something drastic to get rid of this deer so that he would leave and find his pack. So I ran towards the deer waving my arms and screaming like a banshee to scare him off once and for all. He licked my hand. And right now, as I write this, he's standing outside the living room window just staring at me. Smiling I think. Now I know how the British must have felt dealing with Gandhi.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Lights Out

A couple of years ago I happened to fly into Bali on the evening of one of their interesting holidays.  I forget the name of the holiday but everyone on the island was supposed to turn off all their lights and stay quietly inside their homes so that the Gods who flew over the earth on that evening wouldn't notice them, swoop down and eat them. Fortunately the Gods had given Hilton hotels a special waiver so there was at least a bus that could take us to our hotel without fear of ending up on the menu. I was most impressed that, while some small practical exceptions were made for tourists, everyone was expected to honor the occasion. So there were no lights on in the hotel only candles, there was no music playing live or recorded, and no one was allowed off the hotel grounds even to go walk on the beach. There was nothing to do but sit quietly, watch the flickering lights of the candles, talk quietly and slow down. It was one of the very best memories I had of an entire year traveling around the world. I was reminded of all this last night while Melanie and I participated in Earth Hour. Even at our house which is in the middle of nowhere and as dark as can be at night, consciously turning off all the lights and sitting quietly with just a few candles on is an amazing experience. In fact it would have been perfect except for that one house I can see at night about a mile away on the other side of the canyon that had all their lights blazing away. I hope the Gods enjoyed their meal. 

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Elk Profiteroles

As an animal lover and an aspiring vegetarian I feel I have to stand up and let my voice be heard when I see an animal being mistreated.  In this case, one of the proudest, most noble beasts in the wild has had to suffer not just the indignity of being hunted and killed but then to be served up as a dish called Elk Profiteroles.  What kind of callous idiot would turn an elk into a profiterole and then drizzle chocolate sauce on it. Show some respect. Grill it at least and lay a nice pile of mashed potatoes next to it. Maybe some asparagus. But don't dainty it up like some Christmas goose.  Why don't you just run out into the woods and put a tutu on a grizzly bear and force it to perform Swan Lake. 

Sunday, March 15, 2009

This Could Give The DMV A Good Name

Someone needs to let the DMV know what's going on at the Bend, Oregon branch before things get out of hand.  Here's what happened. At 9AM I entered the DMV in order to register my Jeep in Oregon and get a set of those really nice plates with the green tree in the middle.  I walked up to the counter and took a number, 26. Before getting back to my seat, my number was called. I approached the counter cautiously and was greeted by a friendly and helpful women. I became suspicious immediately. She persisted to treat me in a courteous manner then came around the counter and asked to go outside and see the vehicle in question so she could help me fill out the paperwork. This was at 9:02AM.  At 9:03 we re-entered the DMV (or so she claimed) and I was asked for $60. The woman turned and walked to the back wall and returned moments later with my new Oregon plates, said thank you and have a nice day.  Five minutes from the moment we walked in until I hand my new plates in hand. My wife and I left and went to the Pancake House to decide how we should handle this. 

Monday, March 9, 2009

The Sisters Are Doing It For Themselves

In Oregon we are extremely proud of our diversity. Sisters, the town where I live for example, is about 50% white and 50% black. Cowboy hats, that is.  To honor that open-mindedness I have recently been collecting signatures to petition the state to rename the Three Sisters Mountains. The "Sisters", the three gorgeous mountains that dominate the landscape here, are presently known as Faith, Hope and Charity. Nice, but a bit 18th century. I'm suggesting they be renamed Beyonce, LaToya and Lil' Kim. Who's with me?

Saturday, March 7, 2009

All This Buttoning And Unbuttoning

Those were the words left in a suicide note by an English aristocrat in the 18th century. I used to think he had managed to sum up the futility of being human as well as anyone. Now I think he may have lived in Oregon and was speaking literally. All this buttoning and unbuttoning indeed. I'd be afraid to put a clock to the time I spend putting clothes on and taking them off.  Layer upon layer upon layer every time I go outside and return. I'm sure I must have done this growing up in New England, then living in Colorado, London and upstate New York but after living in Los Angeles for 30 years I got used to my jeans being the only things I had to button and unbutton. Well I'm off to dinner. Hmmm.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Just Gay Enough

It just kind of happened. Slipped out.  My wife and I were walking through some hip store on the 3rd Street Promenade a few years ago when I looked to my right, noticed something and blurted out, "Those are some really nice chenille throws." After an appropriately awkward pause when I'm sure my wife was trying to figure out who I was and why she married me but than realized that her last boyfriend had a sex change so this wasn't so bad, she turned to me and said, "Just gay enough." I took it as a compliment. After all, I grew up in a blue collar city in a blue collar family and, since moving to LA and entering the advertising field, I've had to adapt.  Become more open minded. So the fact that this statement just slipped out naturally was a sure sign of progress. Like when you've been studying Spanish for years and one day you just respond in Spanish without thinking about it. Or you dream in Spanish. So how has this all manifested itself in my new Oregon lifestyle. Today I baked chocolate chip cookies in the morning than fired up the chain saw and went outside and took down a few trees. Possibly one of the best days of my life.  Talk about balancing your masculine and feminine sides. Anyway, I think I'll go put on some flannel panties and toggle between monster trucks and 'Steel Magnolias' tonight on the tv.  Ciao.

Monday, March 2, 2009

I'll Have The Leg Of Copywriter

One of the things I've had to come to terms with is knowing that if I were in a plane crash and ended up on a deserted island with any random group of people and we ran out of food, I'd be the first one they'd eat. Not because I'm particularly tasty or loaded with meat but because as an advertising copywriter I have absolutely no useful skills whatsoever.  Doctors and nurses would be vital to survival. Anyone who can build or fix things is going to last. Hunters and cooks will last. Even a mime could provide some entertainment. If I'm honest with myself I have to admit that even an art director would last a little longer than me because at least they could design a nice, readable HELP sign. Of course, if they're a particularly fussy art director they might try to make the sign too small and get eaten immediately. But that would only buy me a day or so.

Saturday, February 28, 2009

Something Is Missing At Mount Bachelor

Snow. Check.  Chairlifts. Check. Base lodge. Check. What's missing here? Holy shit, where are all the condos? How did the developers miss this gorgeous swath of nature in their quest to pave paradise. Mount Bachelor is like the 8th largest ski area in the US and there isn't one single, itsy-bitsy house on it anywhere. Now that I think about it, the last house I saw was 20 miles down the hill in Bend.  Maybe that's what's so nice about skiing here. You actually feel like you're visiting nature instead of some new development outside of Simi Valley. Excuse the pun but it's really a breath of fresh air to look around while you're skiing and see nothing but endless vistas of trees and mountains.  And not have to worry that if you hit some ice and ski off the trail you might end up in Paula Abdul's bidet. I give Mount Bachelor 5 scimitars.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

5 Days And No Movie Deal Yet

This is unbelievable.  I have poured my heart into this blog for almost a week now, exploring and charting hitherto untouched parts of my soul and not a single, lousy phone call from one studio executive or star who wants to turn my blog into their 'Slumdog Millionaire', Oscar-winning future.  All my life I've heard that if you are willing to work hard and dedicate your life, or a least a week of it, to your dream than nothing can get in the way of making it happen. Now here I sit day after day by the phone waiting for Geffen, Spielberg or Lucas to do their part and, frankly, they could give a tinker's cuss for the struggling artist. Well I'm not sure how much longer I can hold out.  

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Bought A Wheelbarrow. Moved Some Rocks.

That's it.  Some days just don't generate much in the way of news.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

When It Absolutely, Positively Has To Be There..Eventually

So today we got a call from the Fed Ex guy while we were in town having breakfast.  Apparently he was running late and didn't think he could get out to our house and finish his route so he called to find out where we were so he could deliver our package to us there instead. I'm not sure if this is really great service or really shitty service.  Anyone?

Monday, February 23, 2009

A Truckload of Gravel

Recently Melanie and I were invited by our neighbors to attend a concert to benefit Sisters High School. It was a great evening with Michael McDonald from the Doobie Brothers performing in the high school's incredible auditorium.  (Nicer than most venues I've been in anywhere.) My favorite, and the most telling part of the evening, though, was when they announced the auction prizes we could bid on.  Prize #1. Three nights at the gorgeous Salishan Resort on the coast with all meals at their award winning gourmet restaurant, two rounds of golf and spa treatments. Polite applause.  Prize #2.  A handmade acoustic Breedlove guitar crafted of the finest wood, inlaid with mother of pearl, finished in gold plate and autographed by Kenny Loggins and Michael McDonald.  Mild applause.  Prize #3. A truckload of gravel delivered anywhere in Central Oregon. Wild unrestrained applause, screams of ecstasy, small children crushed in the stampede for the door. 

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Jesus Gets Better Internet

In Sisters we have a choice of two coffee houses,. They are on either side of town and on either side of the political spectrum. Angelines is our liberal choice and features lesbians and lots of colorful art on the walls.  The Sisters Coffee House is our conservative choice and features religious reading materials and lots of dead animals on the walls. Normally the choice would be easy for me except for one thing.  Jesus gets better internet.  Way better.  So, for the few weeks until we got hooked up at home, we hid our Obama buttons and pretended that Sarah Palin was a breath of fresh air. 

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Eat, Sleep and Drink in Portland.

If you find yourself in Portland and you don't want to spend a fortune on your hotel check out the Ace, a great little place right in the heart of town.  I'll start with the only negative and get it out of the way.  It's really noisy so make sure you get an inside room or you'll be down at the desk at 3AM begging for ear plugs. (they had them). Rooms were only $110 mid week and they're small but well equipped and perfectly adequate. The best part of the hotel is the common areas.  One on the second floor which is ideal for working or just napping. Be sure to open the drawers in the large chest and read the notes guests have been stuffing in there for years.
The other common area is in the lobby where there's a huge couch that seems to attract interesting, friendly people at all hours.  On one side of the lobby is Stumptown Coffee. Great coffee.  On the other side is the restaurant Clyde Common. Great food. We ate there both nights it was so good.  Seating is at huge tables and the flank steak is a religious experience. Sometimes, when you travel, it's better to go a little downscale.  The people are usually friendlier and the experience a little more interesting. Such was the case at the Ace.

Friday, February 20, 2009

The Deschutes River Trail

About 2 miles outside of Bend, Oregon you'll find the Deschutes River Trail, reason enough by itself to move to Central Oregon.  For about 10 miles the the Deschutes River cuts through ancient lava flows, towering pine forests, grassy meadows and moss covered rocks. Because of it's low elevation the trail is open almost all year long and today, with temps reaching the mid 50's and not a cloud to be seen, it was as close to perfection as you can get.  Melanie, Taiga and I spent about 4 hours out there today and, at one point when we were all laying in a meadow by the river, I thought I could actually feel some of the poison draining out of my body and flowing down the river.   

Thursday, February 19, 2009

This Post Rated R

You know what really burns my toast?  When a movie is rated R but there's no nudity in it. 

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

5 Inches Of Totally Naked Calf.

I wasn't expecting it. I wasn't hoping for it. I could barely remember what it looked like. But suddenly, there it was on display right in front of me.  5 inches of totally naked calf emerging from a car as we drove down Main Street in Sisters. No Sorrel boots, no thick ski pants, no heavy fleece. Nothing. Just totally naked calf basking in the 41 degree heat.  I slammed on the brakes sending Melanie and Taiga crashing into the windshield and just stared.  5 inches of totally naked calf.  I became aroused.  My breathing increased. My chest heaved. I felt like Daniel Day Lewis when Michelle Pfeiffer took off her glove in 'The Age of Innocence.' What kind of debauchery can I expect when we hit 50 degrees?

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

A Small But Amazing Moment

If you've ever lived in a home with large windows you've experienced that occasional, horrible thud of a bird crashing into your house.  It happened here yesterday.  I came home, looked outside and saw a lifeless form.  Upon closer inspection I saw that this bird was larger than the usual birds which have an otherwise great day of flying interrupted by my house. It was a young golden eagle. My heart sunk. If you've never seen a bird of prey like an eagle or hawk up close it's worth the effort.  There is a confidence, beauty and focus in their gaze that is amazing.  And their bodies have a strength that sets them apart from the birds we are used to seeing. And now I had killed one. But what could I do?  I grabbed a plastic bag to pick up the bird and went outside but as soon as I opened the door, he stirred. My heart leapt. But my brief moment of elation was tempered by the sudden realization that he might be badly injured. Now what? CPR. Bandage him up.  Take him to a vet, the ranger station. Strangely, 25 years of advertising hadn't prepared me for this. Then the worst thought of all passed through my mind. Would I have to kill this beautiful creature rather than see him freeze to death or suffer the inability to fly and hunt?  I decided the best thing to do was to make him a little home where he could rest the night without freezing and hope for the best.  So I got a box and put some shredded paper in it.  I put some water in a dish. I wanted to feed him but we were all out of mice.  Gathering up my makeshift emergency room I headed back to the bedroom. When I looked outside he was there but had shifted his position and was now standing on his feet but hunched over like a stone gargoyle on a skyscraper.  How would I get him in the box?  Would he try to peck my eyes out if I touched him?  Anyway, the moment I opened the door he turned to look at me, stared a moment of two, then took off and flew into the canyon. He had only been stunned. I stayed outside and watched him soar through the canyon then went back inside feeling very, very happy.  

Sunday, February 15, 2009

A Letter From The Editor

Today we begin our first subscription drive.  At present, The Lost Angeles Times has only one reader but I see very little difficulty in doubling, or even tripling, that figure in the coming year. Our mission at The Times will be to cover and interpret the world scene from our worldwide headquarters in Sisters, Oregon. Or not. We haven't really decided yet.  But we are planning an offsite soon. Maybe I'll just let you know what's going on in Sisters.  With over 1500 residents, including Dwight Schrute, Dan Fouts and Dan Weiden, there should be no end to the fascinating topics available. So please join us on this incredible journey to the heart and soul of America and become a regular reader of The Lost Angeles Times.

mark monteiro  editor