Tuesday, October 31, 2006


For the second year in a row, Lisa and I had a Halloween party to go to, which made me very happy. For several years prior to last year, we had no H-Parties to attend, and that always makes me feel like a loser. Halloween is by far the most fun holiday and I hate to miss out by sitting at home, watching reruns of "Star Trek: The Next Generation" and waiting for trick-or-treaters who never show up.

This year we went to a soiree chucked by one of A's linguistic professors. He and his partner put out quite a spread and it was a very fun and interesting crew to hang out with. I guess I just like nerdy, academic types.

Argotnaut decided to go as "a dude." The result was half biker, half "Derek Smalls."

I had several ideas, including shaving my head again, wearing my Bears jersey, putting some electrical tape beneath my eyes and VOILA! Brian Urlacher:

But in the end I went for the tried-and-true invisible man theme, which was easy because I still had a bunch of gauze left over from my hip operation:

...although the young son of one of the partygoers assumed I was a victim of bad plastic surgery. I could go with that, too. But as I was making myself up, A noted that the bandages brought back vague and unwelcome memories of The Calamity. Truth be told, I hadn't even thought of that, which I take as a good sign.

Next year, I think Argotnaut and Pepe should go as the Madonna and Child:

In other news, Buddy had a follow-up with our vet today, who bent and twisted him and did all sorts of other wince-inducing tests on the poor boy, and he's doing much better. He's even been cleared for five-minute walks rather than being banished to the back yard to do his doggy business. As you might expect, that has made Buddy extremely happy, and I think there's therapeutic value in happiness. With luck we can VERY slowly increase his walks back to something approaching normal.

No further word on the house yet, but we expect to hear more later this week. But now, I must hand out candy to little sharks, fairies, supermen, princesses, and just recently two little kids dressed in black cloaks, "Scream" masks and carrying nunchuks. Kids are kinda creepy.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Vicarious money pit

Progress in moving into our new house has screeched to a halt, or perhaps more accurately, skidded to a halt, as the problem is a suspect sewer line.

As a standard practice when selling older homes, our heroic Realtor suggests all potential buyers have a "sewer-scope" done, which involves the insertion of a camera into the sewer line to inspect the pipes. (I'd like to have that footage for a goth music video! "This is the pathway to my soul, dark, cold, encrusted with filth...") According to the findings on our prospective home, "concrete pipe broken with holes and missing pipe at 14' on the counter. Unable to proceed past this point."

Now if we already owned the home, this would be very bad news. But now it could actually work in our favor. We have already put an offer in on the house and that offer cannot be modified. So the trust that is selling the house has two choices: spend the $10-15 thousand it will take to fix the problem and still sell it to us at the agreed upon price, or back out of the deal. This second option is not very likely because now that the trust knows about it, the problem would have to be disclosed to any other potential buyers. And it's unlikely that other potential buyers would be as attractive as us due to our sparkling credit and available assets.

For US, the possible outcomes are backing out of the deal, thus avoiding a white elephant (or is it a brown elephant in this case?), or simply wait the two weeks or so it will take to resolve the problem. I'm hoping the latter, because I'd really like to have this backyard and Lisa would really like to have the "tea house" in which to do yoga:

We haven't gotten out completely unscathed, however, because we've started sprucing up the current homestead in advance of putting it on the market. Some landscapers came over yesterday and did a bang-up job on our hillbilly yard. Here are some before and after pics:


So for now, Lisa will have to keep doing yoga in the "Buddy Studio" here at home. But that has its rewards as well:

"You call that 'downward facing dog?' THIS is how you do 'downward facing dog!'"

Thursday, October 19, 2006

A whiter shade of pale

Several months ago, I requested information about the Queen Mary 2.
This was in response to a request by Argotnaut to find out how, if we were going to move to Europe in 2008, we could get there without flying, so that we wouldn't have to put Buddy in a cargo hold. A's belief is that, if you wouldn't stuff your infant in a breadbox and stow him/her down in the cargo hold where temperatures can fluctuate between freezing and halfway to boiling and Jesus-God-only-knows if there's any light down there, then you shouldn't have to stow your doggy down there, either. Tough to argue with that logic.

As is my custom, I decided to make a game of this excersise...how could we not only NOT fly, but make the trip really cool. Enter the QM2. It makes the trip from New York to Southampton in six days, and NY to Hamburg, Germany, in eight. The ship has a kennel on board, which is kind of akin to the poshest doggy prison one can imagine, but still better than a 10-hour Auschwitz-like boxcar ride in the hold of a jet aircraft bookended by one's pet carrier being long-tossed by baggage handlers who may or may not be aware that there's a live (and scared poop-less) animal in there!

"There is no reason to be alarmed little dog! It is merely a de-lousing chamber!"

So now I occasionally receive in the mail brochures about the QM2. And they are a riot. Being a recovering marketing puke myself, I can see what Cunard's market analysis has revealed: that everybody traveling aboard the QM2 either ARE Thurston Howell and Lovey from Gilligan's Island, or fancies themselves as much.

You've never seen so many photos of picture-perfect, natty, wealthy Caucasian retirees in your life. Not a person of color to be seen. Even the waitstaff is a bunch of honkies! (Well, there might be a wog in there, but it's hard to tell in the lighting of the photos.)

Now I'm sure that there are wealthy (or, like us, just unwisely profligate fun-seeking) minority types on the boat. But it wouldn't do to indicate such in the brochure.

I'm not making a judgment against Cunard on this score. I just think it's kind of funny. Just wait til the Howells get a load of the Heckmans in their Homestar Runner t-shirts accompanied by their hillbilly dog.
Just one more reason (besides the jettisoning of the despised W. Bush) to look forward to 2008!

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

It's Been 2 Years, Time to Move!

I pity all of you who have tried to keep track of our address over the years. Argotnaut and I seem to pick up and move about every 20 months or so for various reasons. And now we're doing it again!

For much of our time in Portland, we lived in the Southeast part of the city, near the Hawthorne Street district which apparently was originally named "Asylum Street." That remains appropriate because its denizens are a largely unconventional lot of artists, hippies, slackers and non-conformists.

When Argotnaut and I bought the place we live in now, I was working in Vancouver, WA, and so we looked on the northeast part of the city in order to reduce my commute time. But during our time here, we've both had the distinct feeling that the neighbors regarded us as unwelcome intruders, what with our non-very-manicured lawn, our lack of window treatments, our sidewalk which remains stubbornly festooned with pine needles and our dogs who occasionally dare to bark three or four times when we let them out in the back yard.

Now, the Beaumont-Wilshire 'hood where we are now is a very nice, quiet place, but it's just not "us." When A and I almost accidentally discovered that we both felt the same way, we discussed it for all of five minutes and decided, "let's move back south."

So I called the wonderful Realtor that we used when we found our current place and BAM! we found the perfect house the first day. It's in the Southeast (naturally), a two-bedroom ranch with a basement and French doors on the tuck-under garage so we can ride in and out on our bikes in style! Best of all, it has a very low maintenance yard of raised beds and bamboo, complete with a little "tea house" in which A can do her yoga and I might do some writing, a koi pond and hot tub (!). Here's some pics:

Wow! I feel now as if I must dress like Kwai Chang Caine!

Things have gone quickly and it looks like we'll close as soon as next week and be in the new place in time to celebrate Thanksgiving there. But first, we must install a new cat coop for Buster because he's not getting his claws on those koi!

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Da Bears

That last post was pretty depressing, so I'm going to do a quick post about something that I'm really enjoying right now -- my mighty Chicago Bears! (That clanking sound you just heard is the metal "sports baffles" slamming down over my wife's ears. Argotnaut and I have a shared vision, which is a 1930s black-and-white cartoon of a cow and a pig dancing and playing fiddles to "Turkey In the Straw" -- this cartoon plays in her mind whenever I talk to her about sports and in my mind whenever she talks to me about technical linguistic jargon.)

Anyway, I've been a Bears fan since about 1979. Before that, I was a Pittsburgh Steelers fan purely due to their wild success in the 1970s. Being a free safety myself, I idolized Mel Blount, the Steelers defensive back who is now in the Hall of Fame. During that time, the Bears pretty much sucked dryer lint, despite having a running back you might have heard of: Walter Payton.

When I went to college at Northern Illinois University in 1980, I began to follow the Bears exclusively because all my dorm mates were from Chicago and were rabid Bears fans (and also because the Steelers, as was inevitable, finally dried up and blew away like the hair on Terry Bradshaw's head).

Much has transpired since those fateful days in 1980 when I embraced the Bears. Mostly the Bears have sucked. And when they haven't sucked, they've lost in the first round of the playoffs, thus breaking your heart while sucking. But they did enjoy one unforgettable season in 1985, culminating in winning the Super Bowl in January 1986. This begat much chest-thumping and, of course, a cultural phenomenon that I personally despise: "Da Bears" made popular by the "Superfans" sketches on Saturday Night Live.

The whole "Da Bears" thing to me seems disrespectful, like boiling down the uplifting story of the movie "Rocky" to the catchphrases "Yo, Adrian" and "Hey, I ain't no bum!" If you see someone walking down the street wearing Bears paraphernalia (which might become more common as the Bears are good this year and the fair-weather fans are crawling out of their slimy holes), do not shout "Da Bears!" We true long-suffering Bears fans will smile and wave but inside we will want to slap you upside the head. Acceptable forms of cliched solidarity include "How 'bout those Bears!" or "Bears, baby!" And if you're not in solidarity, just ignore the Bears gear, which is hard I know because it's navy blue and orange and invariably ugly, unless the Bears fan him/her self is cute.

Currently the Bears are undefeated (5-0) and look to remain that way through at least the first eight games of the season. Thus, they have been bringing much joy into my currently annoying life, and for that, I thank them. Bear down, Chicago Bears!

Wednesday, October 11, 2006


I haven't been posting lately because there hasn't been much to post about. At least not much positive. My back continues to be a bit problematic. Due to my stays in the hospital, I became quite familiar with this handy chart:

My back has moved from "3-4" to "1-2." Better, but still enough for me to stay off the bike, because recumbent bikes tend to place a bit more stress on the back than upright bikes do. It's been really tough because, as usual, we've had an absolutely spectacular October in Portland, with sunny skies, light winds and highs in the low 70s -- the best bike riding weather imaginable. Had my back behaved, I probably could have managed the Larch Mountain ride by now, but I don't want to make things worse -- "3-4" was bad enough and I don't want to try for "5-6" or higher.

Unfortunately, "5-6" is probably close to the pain Buddy's been feeling in HIS back for the last 10 days or so. He's had his worst back episode yet and I finally took him to a specialist to whom our vet referred us. Buddy's scheduled for an MRI this Monday to see exactly where the problem resides. Preliminary findings suggest a compressed disk between his shoulder blades that's pinching a nerve, causing a lot of discomfort and a tendency to favor his left front leg. Poor boy! It's heartbreaking to see him want to do his usual things but struggle and hobble. I feel your pain, my friend.

So I've been staying close to home and making sure the boy is well drugged up and resting, and we both have been looking wistfully out the window at the glorious sunshine and sniffing the autumnal, crackly-leafed breeze and feeling sorry for ourselves.

At least I had the nice break of my birthday earlier this month. My wife and some friends had a nice dinner and few hundred pints at Horse Brass Pub, where I enjoyed some welcome company and some fantastic Walking Man Black Cherry Stout. Awesome! And also, my lovely wife got for me the Toshiro Mifune Ultimate Collection.

What a good wife!

So Buddy and I will watch some classic samurai flicks and probably be healed up just in time for the monsoon to hit. Such is life. But we both like the rain and if all goes well we'll be in good enough shape to take some nice walks in it.