Friday, December 26, 2008

The end of the ice age

Work finally opened for business today after a week of closure, unheard of in all its history, during which I was confined to the fireplace with cookies, two cats, my favorite person in the world, and a pile of books. (It's been horrible. I'm thinking of suing for damages.)

But this morning reality fell upon me like melting icicles divebombing into pavement. I kept calling the county weather hotline, hoping for a more pessimistic update, but no luck. So changing out of my pajamas and into a Perky Attitude costume, I set off intrepidly on my bike, determined that if I had to return to life as usual, it should be really as usual.
Linda snapped a couple of pictures from the front porch with her camera phone. Repeated attempts to pedal resulted in wheels moving independently of the bike, which failed to create the necessary momentum for forward movement.After a few blocks of dragging the useless pile of metal through the slush alongside me in search of dry land, I abandoned ship four blocks from home, moored to a stop sign, and trudged forward on my own steam, unencumbered for wading through intersections like this one.By the time I reached the MAX station, the temperature had risen ten degrees and slushy icicles inched their way off the tin roof, waiting for the perfect moment to dive down the back of a warm jacket. Gresham was in better shape than yesterday, and in better shape than Portland.
I heard the mayor of Gresham declared a state of emergency and the National Guard was called in. They must've brought snowplows because (unlike in Portland) most streets were clear. Deep snow still covered the sidewalks though, and the snowplows left huge berms that you needed ropes and crampons to climb over to get from the sidewalks to the pavement so that you could walk.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

The World is My Snowglobe

I used to collect those things but after this I don't think I'll need to. This afternoon's fat-flake-flurry felt like some form of torture. Shut UP!!! Stop it! Enough already!

We ignored it and managed to get to my parents' house for tea and cookies, though our niece's car got stuck on the way over and we had to chip away at an ice floe underneath it with pitiful inadequate instruments. We left tea by five to avoid risk of a rerun of same in the dark.

At least we did that much for Christmas. Mum's been holed up for ten days making batches of cookie dough, but she's fresh out of dinner food. Christmas dinner's been postponed till next Tuesday to give her time to stock up at the grocery store. It's all the same to us.

Last night we took the MAX train to the airport to meet my sister, Texican-Mexican just in from Africa, and another niece. Picking them up by car was out of the question, so we just showed up to say hello and stick them into a cab. After several aborted attempts, the cabbie finally found a way to get them almost to my parents' house, but they had to drag their suitcases uphill through the snow for the last block.

In all these snow days, I've seen three bicycles. All had knobby tires and were riding with visible trepidation.

Here's Knott Street, well-travelled enough to have tire ruts worn into it. The side streets are still just a buncha snow. Driving on it, your car moves like a rubber raft.

Merry Christmas everybody!

Monday, December 22, 2008

We're totally buried

It snowed even more during the night. Look at our front steps. And our plants. And Lindi's car, almost up to the top of its wheels.
This never happens here. I think Portland owns about three snowplows. Nothing to do but sit in front of the fire with our cats and read. (Darn.) And of course, blog -- at least while we have electricity.
There's power outage all over town. I hope it's fixed soon, because people who are old and/or ill really really need it. Usually they're very quick about fixing it. I love that about American infrastructures. So efficient. I think that's my favorite thing about the States.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Help. The whole city is becoming encased in ice!

A ski trip to the store a mile away earlier this afternoon turned into a two-and-a-half hour expedition ---- partly because I kept stopping to take pictures, but also because it's hard to get anywhere. If the world quits hearing from Portland, somebody out there might want to send in a few helicopter loads of ice-ax-wielding rescuers. Here's some of the evidence. And look at this poor tree over by the Hollywood movie theater. This is palm tree abuse if I ever saw it. There's a reason we don't try to grow these here, people. What were they thinking?

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

You can still see ice on most streets in residential areas. I would never drive on this because 1. I don't know how to drive on ice; 2.the other people don't know how to drive on ice either; 3. I don't have a car. remember?

And I don't bike on ice either. On occasion, and with assistance of some sort, I have been known to try walking on it.

Lindi and I have been holed up for the last two days. We've ventured out once on each day, made it as far as the gym and back, holding onto each other the whole way. I took this picture on the way back.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Weather Headlines Blanket Area News

Well, shoot. Just when I was going to post my report on Friday's bike-car collision (someone else's), this happened. Snow. I don't know about your part of the world, but in Oregon, "news" about weather supercedes all news about everything else. Had there been a snowstorm on 9-11, our local news would've been all over it and we'd have had to wait till it was over to hear about the World Trade Center. So, not to be upstaged by our local obsession, I'm giving in and posting today's weather photo instead.

(You Minnesota-heads, quit laughing. Yes, this is what we call snow here. It happens ONCE every other year, and we're not going to invest in an army of snowplows just for that, I am so sorry. Besides, you can't see the lethal layer of ice underneath it all.)

Trudging along a desolate row of semi-residential blocks in Gresham I came upon this abandoned effort by some frozen soul trying fruitlessly to venture outside his skill set and equip this horseless carriage for the impending blizzard.

One partially installed set of chains hung lifelessly from the tire. The instructions, spread out on the ground with the best of intentions, lay flapping in the wind, held down by the second set of chains left there hastily still in its plastic wrapping.

No other sign of human life for miles around. You could still hear the swear words, frozen over the scene like icicles.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Car-less-ness Meets Reality

Early morning yesterday I had to meet someone across town over near the Montgomery Park building, about a twenty five minute ride (for me) from where I live. The day before had been wicked cold (to us, anyway-- you Canadians quit laughing), and I'd just about talked myself into making an exception just this once and taking the car. Then I remembered that I didn't have a car.

You would think that realization would produce a sinking feeling and an "Ooohhh NOoooooo!" But not. Instead my attitude changed instantly to "Oh yeh. I'm one of those people now." and I immediately started hurrying so I could leave early enough. It wasn't like bad news, it just WAS.

I am amazed by this. Once you don't have a choice, it's actually easier to ride your bike instead of harder. You're spared the whole tedium of indecisiveness and you just move forward.

On the way home I stopped downtown at my favorite store, Oblation, and browsed for almost an hour without a thought about the parking meter. I carried my Brompton in with me, very carefully so as not to knock against any of the displays, and they let me tuck it into a nook in the back.

You know how some people love to luxuriate at a spa for hours on end? For me, this store is that. You want sensuous, go to this store to smell and feel the tablets, the paper, the beautifully bound journals. Class. I couldn't help buying a few items for Lindi to put in my Christmas stocking, since Christmas shopping isn't her favorite thing. (I'm only trying to help.) If you like paper, cards, books, writing implements and other stationery accoutrements, just go there. Oblation Papers and Press. And don't rely on their website because it's lame compared to being there. It's on NW 13th at about Glisan.

Then on the way home from downtown I rode up along side this intrepid mother on an XtraCycle -- and here's a perfect example of what you might need the extra for. I didn't get her name, but wow. Maybe they'll write in, tell us what it's like. (I gave them my card.) You can get these bikes at Clever Cycles, the same place I got my Brompton.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Self-assisted Vehicularcide

A few days later the mechanic called with an estimate of over a thousand dollars. Lindi and I had already decided way last year that "no heroic measures" were to be taken to save either of our cars. I called Mr Flatbed and said my car was up for sale again, but no deal. So off it went, to auction for OPB. Somebody will buy it for parts. It's probably in several pieces already, providing organ donations for similar cars.

It's ok. Weep not for my loss. It was time. I feel unburdened, and so does Lindi. Just yesterday while we were buying windshield wipers for her car, we realized we were saving twenty bucks by not having to replace the rotted ones on my car as well. Not to mention an extra $400 a year on insurance, etcetera etcetera. Now, after these two years of practice and preparation for this moment, I can achieve my lifelong ambition and step into my coveted role as: The Car-less Wonder.

The Carless Wonder? Hello? Tomorrow I'll post a pictorial example I snapped today of the kind of commitment to car-lessness you can find in exponentially multiplying numbers all over Portland. It'll make me look like a rubber raft in a sea of schooners.

Friday, December 05, 2008

Two ducks, sitting in the night

I puttered over to my parents' house, where Lindi met me with a complete change of clothes and Mum provided dinner. Afterwards, we cleverly decided that L should follow me home, and lo! --another poop-out, right in the middle of NE 39th and Division. This time, instead of being stranded in a desolate parking lot, we huddled wedged between cars whizzing by us on all sides. Without even a flicker from my electrical system, I would have been a sitting black duck waiting to be clobbered had it not been for Lindi's flashers parked behind me. Unlike the dispatcher's earlier prediction of a long response time, this time a speedy response was promised due to our perilous situation. Not. While waiting, we had time for the police to come and push us into a gas station, and to compile lists of essential car safety equipment neither of us had, such as flares and flashlights and blinking triangles.

When the tow truck finally came, we sent it off to a mechanic in our own neighborhood recommended by Jessica. My old mechanic is too far away, which has always been a pain, and I've been in the process of localizing all my needs. As my father used to say when you asked for too many things at the dinner table, "Eat something near you."

We followed in Lindi's car, dropped the key into the shop's mail slot with an introductory note, and drove home to a late bed time. It would be several days before the mechanic had time to look at it.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Evidently moved to pity, Jessica insisted on driving me back to the break-down site, where a mountainous flatbed towtruck idled in a dim halo of rain shards. Since the presumed occupant showed no interest in the great outdoors, I climbed up uninvited to join him in his cozy dome-lit cabin, slamming the door against the damp enemy. Toasty in there! Like Jessica's house, only without the tea. I couldn't blame him for hesitating to emerge. We chatted for five or ten and I'd halfway sold him the car as a fixer-upper "A to B car" for his daughter when, struck with some unforeseen sense of duty, he got the idea to try jumping it. Darned if he didn't get it going first try!

Will no one rid me of this beast?

Tuesday, December 02, 2008


If this car thing was going to majorly change my plans for the evening, I had to at least make it to Jessica's and back before the tow truck came. I'd promised interesting snacks, things her sick self would actually be able to eat, and I'd stopped at the store to buy said items. No way was I not delivering.

Tow truck dispatch said an hour. I start walking -- or might I say wading. No worries about saving anything since I was already so drenched. I slogged through lakes and streams and fjords in my leather shoes.

I arrived just as the paper bag clutched under my arm reached its saturation point and dissolved completely, ejecting its contents as I tripped into her living room when she answered my ring. Piping hot, innard-warming tea appeared in seconds, I know not how since I was the one who'd brought it, still in leaf form, dry inside a glass jar.
The oaten cakes with apple butter immediately followed. And then, harshly truncating our splendorious visit to the most condensed tea time in history - ten minutes -- the tow truck driver called.