Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Freddie's Big Day

Yesterday I took Freddie to the doctor. To get his balls cut off. He wasn’t allowed to eat or drink water after 10 p.m. the night before, so he spent all morning racing to the kitchen cupboard that houses his kibble, stopping to look at me, and then racing to his bowl where his food normally goes at breakfast time. He didn’t whine or cry; he simply continued this spectacle until I packaged him up and said, “I’m sorry, but it’s time.”

He looked terrified, like he knew what was coming.

My heart ached for the little fur ball, but Jeff reminded me that neutering not only alleviates pet overpopulation but also contributes to a happier home, and that we were doing the right thing. (His exact words might have been, “Be strong! Young Fred will be fine. Less of a man, but fine.” But I knew what he meant.)

After work, I retrieved Freddie from the animal hospital expecting a groggy, weak little kitten, but instead I got a more rambunctious one than I had before. He illustrated his hunger by shredding an entire roll of toilet paper, knocking over an expensive, full-length mirror that stands in the hallway (which I can’t even lift on my own), and running full-speed through the apartment for the better part of the evening.

Jeff was right. He’s more than fine.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Portland's Pros and Cons

Keeping with the theme of moving back to Portland, I’ve come up with a short list of the Rose City’s pros and cons, as pertaining to—you guessed it—moi.

Winters are dreadful—I’m tempted to crack my own skull open at the sight of rainfall day after day—but Portland’s hot, cloudless summers and crisp, colorful falls are well worth the January and February blues. In San Francisco, you can pretty much bet a month’s pay that any day of the week will be sixty-three and foggy. (Bleh.)

I don’t have to pump it myself. (Or pester the poor attendants with questions about how to pump it.)

Now I drive to work, to the suburbs. My travel time is cut in half, but I miss the daily drama of commuting in the big city: watching a homeless man take off his dirty shoes and socks on Bus 19, for example, and wave them in peoples’ faces while cracking a toothless laugh and wandering the aisles barefoot.

THE JOB {pro!}
Sitting at a desk all day writing about performance-shoe technology and sweat-wicking fabrics doesn’t do much for the imagination. It also doesn’t do much for staying skinny. Other than that, it’s a great gig. (At Luxury Condo, a typical day involved sprinting across slippery marble floors in heels, which is a fabulous calf and thigh workout I took for granted.)

THE PEOPLE {pro} {con}
I miss my girlfriends and coworkers from San Francisco terribly, but I'm surrounded by family and lots of friends from high school and college. It's a win-loss sort of situation.

THE RESTAURANTS {neither pro nor con}
It seems Portland boasts funkier eateries—from waffle windows to fried-chicken-and-ice-cream carts to gourmet mac-and-cheese restaurants—while SF offers trendier, spendier spots (although it's not without its hole-in-the-wall Thai restaurants and greasy pizza joints). I love both scenes.

THE APARTMENT {double pro!}
A cheaper cost of living means fancier digs, which means zero basement-dwelling rats, zero trips to the laundromat, zero fat Asian men staring at me from across the alley (because our living room windows directly face one another), zero ear-splitting ambulance sirens at 2 a.m., and enough space to raise a rambunctious little kitten. (Who, unfortunately, is getting his manhood chopped off today. I dropped him off at the pet clinic for his neuter appointment a couple hours ago, and he looked terrified.) (But I suppose I would, too.)

Sunday, January 23, 2011

One Year Home

By 9 a.m. on January 22, 2010, I’ve crammed my Jeep with everything I own: a large closet’s worth of sweaters, dresses, T-shirts, jeans and high heels; photos of friends and family in hand-crafted picture frames; a keyboard my uncle shipped me from North Carolina in hopes I’d start playing again; a rocking chair my grandfather carefully built and surprised me with after my college graduation; years worth of scrapbooks; and boxes of San Francisco newspapers and magazines, which graciously published some of my first real news articles.

But when all that’s left to do is walk out the door and drive across the Bay Bridge and over the border and into Oregon—I cant. I forget how to breathe. Overwhelmed, I sink into my leather couch and set down my over-sized, overpriced vinyl purse, which explodes with the smaller items that don’t have a place in the car. I’m alone in the quiet loft, the excitement from just a day earlier vaporized. All I feel now is empty. Sad. Cold, like the concrete floor of my condo. What will I do in Oregon?

Tears drown my tired eyes.

The decision to move home was sudden, and now I’m questioning it. I’m about to close the door to a life I’ve worked so hard to build. A life with good friends, a great job, and a beautiful place to live, all in the most electrifying, romantic and refreshing city I’ve ever known. But why?

Now the tears skate down my shivery cheeks.

From my wallet, I pull out a crinkled, hand-written letter from my dad. He gave it to me before I was even a year old, when he was just 28, and I’ve carried it with me for as long as I can remember. I scan the disintegrating piece of paper for my favorite part: “My only wish for you is that you be happy. Life is a smorgasbord, an adventure, so don’t be a bystander—jump in with both feet. If that jump ever turns out to be a mistake, Daddy will always be here to catch you. Always. I love you.”

I’ve never been a bystander. Suddenly I realize leaving San Francisco means starting an entirely new chapter of this adventurous smorgasbord, and I’m excited again. After a few deep breaths, I snatch my car keys from the coffee table, walk outside, close the door to my condo—and to the beautiful City by the Bay—and open the door to my perfectly romantic, incredibly industrious, absurdly happy life in Portland, Oregon.

This is one jump that's not a mistake.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

The Grilled Cheese Grill

Ah, cheese. There’s nothing much like watching an ooey, gooey sandwich—two buttery bread slices stuffed with melted cheddar, Swiss and jack—slide off the frying pan and onto my plate, wet with grease. And there sure as heck is nothing better than biting into it.

Except, I suppose, not having to fry it myself first.

One Saturday afternoon, I venture the short distance to Portland’s Alberta Street, where I nearly drive smack into a big yellow bus. (Like the kind kids ride to school.) But this one isn’t a school bus, really, because it no longer transports children to and from elementary school; it’s a restaurant called The Grilled Cheese Grill.

My mouth waters.

I meet eyes with the man behind the counter. He’s rugged and dirty, but cool. His hair explodes from his once white beanie, which looks as though it hasn’t been washed in decades. (My first year back in Portland has taught me this is chic, not disgusting. So I don’t judge.)

(In fact? My hairdresser practically orders me to stop washing my hair. She says all hair looks better this way, dirty and kind of crusty.)


The menu features items like “The Kindergartner”—the classic grilled cheese, however you like it, with white or wheat bread and American or cheddar cheese—and “The Pre-Schooler”—the same as “The Kindergartner” but with the crusts cut off. It also has more grown-up sandwiches such as “The Pops”—tomato, havarti and honey mustard on Dave’s Killer Cracked Wheat—which is exactly what I order.

I sit in the school bus, which is loaded with tables and chairs and has a lot more room than I remember it having eighteen years ago, even though I’m twice (or three times?) the size as I was then. Underneath the glass tables, photographs of school-aged kids from the seventies, eighties and nineties are plastered in a row, offering a charming yet unnerving ambiance. The walls pop with brightly painted murals.

I savor my cooked-to-perfection sandwich while wondering how and where the owners store all that cheese—and still have room to cook!—in their little cart right outside the school bus.

Then I think about how much I adore these quirky little eateries that can be found only in Portland.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Snotty Snottenberg

I've been home the last two days, sick and stuffy, which isn't how I wanted to start the new year. Actually, I ventured into the office today, but after my boss called me Snotty Snottenberg multiple times, I took the hint—and the afternoon off. (Turns out no one likes an office-mate who blows her nose every two minutes and has her space heater on full blast.) On the upside, I've had a chance to sleep, sip steaming chicken soup, and watch lots of movies with the kitten on my lap. Hoping tomorrow brings a full recovery!

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Cheers to a New Year (and to no broken bones)!

Good news!

(Besides the fact that I made it another year in good health, with fabulous friends and family, and with a job.)

Get this: I made it a whole week in Sunriver without breaking a wrist, an arm, a leg—or even a baby toe. (So far, I like 2011.) Our group planned to ski on Tuesday (Jeff's 26th birthday!) and Wednesday, but the weather was super fierce on Wednesday. The wind slapped our cheeks and turned them red, and the gray sky dumped buckets of snow on us all morning and afternoon. Because we couldn’t see even ten feet in front of us, we opted to spend the day at the bar instead of on the mountain.

On Tuesday, we celebrated Jeff's birthday with juicy burgers and a round of Old-Fashions—an elaborate cocktail made with whisky, bitters and fruit. And on Thursday, when the rest of the group went home, we stuck around Bend. Ten friends met us in Sunriver, in a new house, and we played in the snow and toasted to a New Year with $12 (not $3.99!) champagne. (I can't taste the difference.)

As for my resolutions?

{1.} More water, less wine

{2.} Get my lazy butt to the gym—to the first stinkin’ floor of my apartment building— four times a week

{3.} More fruit, less crackers

{4.} Send birthday cards to my friends and family around the country (on time) via snail mail

{5.} And laugh every day

{Happy New Year!}