Tuesday, December 25, 2012

No More Lies

By now most of you know that Beth and I have parted ways.  It’s a long and somewhat sordid story, of which I shoulder the blame.  Without going into details, I made choices that I should not have made…and of which I am more than a little ashamed.  Not the least of my transgressions are years of lies.  Beth even said in the midst of all the revelations that had we talked earlier…years earlier, things may have been different.  She’s right, of course.  Yet hindsight is something we don’t have at the time we make those choices, or we surely wouldn’t.  Instead there are little steps that beckon us into a world of secrets and omissions.  We are slowly lulled into a sense of false security in the thought our secrets are safe, and that they won’t be discovered.  We create double lives that we pray will not cross into each other. 

Yet they inevitably do.

I have spent the past several months contemplating this.  It is not easy admitting one’s shortcomings, especially when they manifest into a breakup of a marriage of many years.  It is also not an easy thing to see the worlds of those close to me crumble, and to see the disappointment in others’ eyes.  I would like to say it’s because of the pressures of life, my state of mind at the time, or other circumstances that in the end are merely excuses that demean even those to whom they’re offered.  When all is said and done, the responsibility rests squarely upon my own shoulders.

And I accept that.

So what happens from here?  Time will tell, and the one redeeming aspect of this is my own determination to change.  To never put myself into a circumstance that will cause another to hurt in the way this has hurt so many.  Three little words continue to echo in my mind since that fateful Sunday morning in October, and have become a motto of sorts.  It is ironic that such words need to be reinforced, yet it seems to be the case for me.

No more lies.

A friend told me recently that she would rather hear the truth despite how hard it may be, than to be subject to a lie.  She would rather make up her own mind and deal with the repercussions as long as it is the truth.  I don’t think I could’ve said it any better.

Another friend said that one shouldn’t look too long in the rear-view mirror, because that “ain’t the way you’re goin’”.  Though it is easy to dwell on what happened, and a certain post-mortem examination is good if we are to learn from our mistakes, life does eventually move forward. 

No more lies.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

A Phantom Ship on the Desert

My work often takes me to out-of-the-way places, not often traveled by the majority of people, which has given rise to my Off the Beaten Path series. In August I went to northeastern Arizona for a project site visit. Previous trips have brought me close (but not close enough) to a unique geologic feature called Ship Rock, in northwestern New Mexico near the Four Corners area.  This formation has always fascinated me, and I finally happen to pass nearby.
These remote sites are usually far from the nearest airport and one must drive great distances to catch a plane...which in this case was a 3-hour drive between Chinle, AZ and Durango, CO.  This view above greeted me as I descended on the east side of the mountains, and Ship Rock rises above the desert floor like a sailing ship moving across the sea.  The Navajo call this Tse' Bit'a'i, or Winged Rock. Not surprisingly, the Navajo consider this a significant spiritual place and one cannot help but feel a sense of awe or presence at this rock.  

These formations are called inselbergs and are formed by volcanic intrusions that remain after the surrounding ground has eroded away. Ship Rock rises more than 1,580 feet above the desert floor, and the adjacent ridge bears the evidence of a seeping of lava along an ancient fault line.

Since I was driving, there was a plane to catch in Durango which would hopefully bring me to Denver and then home to Portland...and I was behind schedule, I didn't have the luxury of time to stop and explore.  These images were taken from my rental car as I hurtled down the highway...thank goodness for automatic settings and focus!  (Yes...I've already been chided that this practice is not safe)

For more information on this interesting formation, check out this link:

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

A Life Well-Lived

August has always been a month of mixed blessings.  These are the dog days of August...that time between the patriotism and fireworks of July, and going back to school in September.  I love the summertime and I always associate August with those times whiling away in grassy fields, playing at the beach, and generally not doing anything.  Alas...those days are long gone for me, yet those feelings still remain.

It is also a month of remembrance for my family.  August 17th of this year is the 100th anniversary of my father's birth, in Amsterdam, Holland.  August 21st is the anniversary of his passing, in 1999.  I also learned that August 30th is the anniversary of when my mother met my father, in 1945 in Scheveningen when Holland was liberated by the Allied Forces.

So August is a special month for me.

Dad was a civil engineer, so it seemed natural for me to follow in his footsteps.  Yet my life seems so simple and uneventful when I look back at his life.  Granted, I didn't have to contend with a world war, an army occupying my homeland and resisting that army as an underground warrior.  More on that in an earlier blog I wrote: http://musingsbypaul.blogspot.com/2012/04/to-drive-out-tyranny.html

When the war was over he left Holland to work for Royal Dutch Shell in Maracaibo, Venezuela.  Mom followed shortly thereafter, which is an incredible story in its own right.  Their time in South America was clearly an exciting time, and a complete opposite in comparison to the war years.  My mother still looks back at that time as the best years.  It was not much different than the romantic era of expatriots living in a colonial environment, and the late 40's and early 50's were filled with change.  It was then that my brother and I entered their lives...and yes, that's me being hoisted by my dad in the photo above...probably around 1953.  I also noticed that "Hawaiian" shirts were popular even then.  I may rethink my lack of those shirts in my own wardrobe.

We left Venezuela for Canada in the late 50's, mainly because my parents didn't want to send my brother and I to a boarding school in Holland, as was the practice for many of the Dutch Expats.  My mother's family had also emigrated from Holland to Vancouver, BC.  It was a big move for us, and mom and dad gave up a good life for my brother and I.  Some years later we then moved to the US. 

Though Dad's wartime heroics will never fail to impress anyone, I think it was their sacrifice for us kids for which I am most grateful.  It also seemed fitting that this would be a good time for a tribute to a good man.

Dad...you led an amazing life, and I am thankful for all that you have done for us.  Happy Anniversary!

Monday, July 30, 2012

Tattoos...and the Story of a Rhino

Nothing will reveal a person’s propensity to stereotype and leap to conclusions more than a good old-fashioned tattoo.  Seeing someone with body art (which is how I prefer to call it, as you will see shortly) conjures up all sorts of reactions in people, often of a visceral nature...both good and bad.  Someone will say a particular tattoo is really cool or really gross.  Note the adverb “really” gets thrown into the comment, often leaving little middle ground in which a coherent discussion can take place.  Minds are made up, assumptions drawn, and stereotypes promulgated.   Women with tats are sometimes seen as tramps and immoral, and a man must be either a biker, spent time in prison, or an otherwise less than savory character. 

How do I know this, you may ask?  I tell people I just had a tattoo placed on my bicep…and wait for the expressions. The immediate ones are either pleasant surprise and genuine curiosity, or a frown of disapproval.  Some take a little more time for the thought to register, largely because on the surface I don’t seem the type to have a tattoo.  Yet, that is precisely one of the reasons I did get one.  Among other things, I take a certain pleasure in shaking another’s impression of who I am.  On the surface I may look fairly traditional, with my hair (or what’s left of it) cut short in a conservative style and my dress mainly of a business nature.  I adhere to the philosophy that one cannot…should not, judge a book by its cover.  We are often admonished that beauty is only skin deep and we should look beneath the surface to find the real person. 
People get tattoos for a multitude of reasons.  Many do so to memorialize important events or others that had an effect on them (hence the plethora of “Mom’s”).  Butterflies are popular among young people to symbolize surviving a difficult period of life through the emergence from a cocoon.  Aside from the delight of shaking another’s perception of who I seem to be, I also like the idea of a symbol that represents a special time, or in my case a special trip.  Many of you recall I travelled to Kenya, Africa in 2009.  Without going into the specifics of that trip, I was deeply moved.  One of my traveling companions on that trip had many tattoos, and I was intrigued by them.  Before I boarded the plane to return to the US, the seed had been planted that I would want one to symbolize that experience.
The challenge then became what the symbol should be.  Of the 1200-plus images I took on the trip, I settled on a photo of a rhinoceros…one we had driven far to find, and a rare sight even in the Kenyan wildlife reserve.  That photo became the symbol, pictured here:

Now that I had settled on the image, what should it look like?  Would it be a simple profile or something more elaborate?  Living in the neighborhood that I do, I have had the pleasure of meeting many who have amazing body art…and I truly mean art!  I asked around, and I was told Rowan at Bless This Mess was the person I should talk to.  It would be yet another several months before a happenstance meeting at the Montavilla Street Fair, that Rowan would enter my world.
Rowan is a tattoo artist.  Like many artists, she looked at me somewhat askance when I introduced myself and explained what I wanted. (Remember what I said about appearances and how I don’t necessarily fit the image of a tattooed person?).  However, her interest and later excitement grew after I showed her the photo.  A few days later she sent me a sketch of how she would do the tattoo.  A few more exchanges and we set an appointment.

I would be untrue if I said I wasn’t nervous.  A tattoo is permanent…and then there is the prospect of possible pain…or of a design gone awry.  What then?  But Rowan is a true professional.  Watching her procedures before I even bared my arm was impressive and helped allay my fears.  There are so many safety precautions, many mandated by the State and others that just seem a part of her professional demeanor.  Before becoming a tattoo artist, she was a graphic designer (which explained the quality of her sketch).  Her excitement grew as the image slowly manifested itself on my bicep…as did mine.  (Yes, I took the photo, with my iPhone.)

Thoughout this process I learned a lot about tattoos and tattoo parlors.  Most of us think of a place we walk into and choose a design out of hundreds on the wall or in a book.  Those are called flash shops.  Bless This Mess (and Rowan) is not one of those, but instead a custom shop in which a design is specially created that is unique to the customer and to the artist.

Almost four hours later, we were done. I am still carefully applying my skin treatments as the skin heals, but each day the initial redness abates and the true colors become more apparent.  It is difficult to see but the colors are basically grays, black and a hint of golden grass in the foreground.  What is particularly interesting is the shading and detail in the image of the rhino. 
I am thrilled!

In case you are interested, here is a link to my blog about the trip to Africa, and a link to Rowan's shop:

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Ode to an Awesome Neighborhood

I am very lucky!  I live in one of the awesome neighborhoods of Portland.  This city has always prided itself on livability, and Montavilla has seen an amazing resurgence over the past ten years or so that exemplifies that quality.  My past posts have raved (perhaps ad nauseum for some of you) about the Montavilla Farmers Market, and it certainly is an integral part of the neighborhood's livability.  Yet there is so much more, such as the local businesses, stores and restaurants, not to mention the cultural opportunities. 

For the second year, the Montavilla East Tabor Business Association (METBA) organized a street fair, where streets are closed to traffic, tents erected and music abounds.  Even more delightful is that the weather cooperated this year (as opposed to the record rainfall at last year's inaugural event).

Meet Nicole (on the left), who owns Union Rose, a women's clothing store that celebrated it's 5th anniversary this weekend.

Montavilla (which is a shortened version of Mount Tabor Villa) was a small community dating back more than 120 years on the trolley line that connected other towns to Portland.  As you drive down SE Stark Street, the architecture is reminiscent of those bygone days. 

This is Bethlehem.  She owns Salon 419, just off Stark St.  She cuts my hair...yes, what's left of it still does need cutting.
Around the corner is PastryGirl, a bakery that makes the most amazing cakes and desserts...and blowing the bubbles is Laura, the owner.

Down the street is Milepost 5, a collection of artists and performers, who graced us with their version of Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet.

 Music abounded, with guitars, banjos, keyboards...and yes, even a saw.

Portland is known for being a dog-friendly city, and that means dogs of all sizes, from ones you could hold in a pocket...

 ...to ones a little larger.  This greyhound used to be a racing dog but now has been adopted.

The Humane Society also had representatives with adorable puppies.

Could you say no to a kid holding a little dog?? They knew what they were doing....every dog found a home here.

 Meet Duke.  No, he's not up for adoption.  I met him walking on the sidewalk, and I'm not sure if he was expecting a treat from me when I called his name.

 ...and then you have pets who don't require much feeding at all.  In fact, this one seemed a lot more agreeable than my two cats, but then there are some strings attached.

Meet Lulu Moonwood Murakami (left), owner of Lulumoon featuring art dolls and mixed media art.  I loved his hat.

This is Rowan, from Bless This Mess, our local tattoo shop...and no, the young lad is not getting a tattoo but a painting. 

Of course, this is an election year and our two candidates running for Mayor paid a visit.  Above is Charlie Hales standing with Beth, Treasurer for both METBA and the Montavilla Farmers Market and Emily, the Market's Volunteer Coordinator.

 Mayoral Candidate Jefferson Smith (middle) also paid a visit.

 There were kick-boxing demonstrations...
 ...and a hula hoop contest.

This is Finn Doxie.  He plays the guitar, and she a celtic harp.  Together they played contemporary music in a new and delightful way. 

 And yes...there was dancing in the street (though mostly mothers and daughters).

All was well until a balloon escaped and sought freedom into the clouds...much to the chagrin of this little girl who until that fateful moment danced with great exuberance. 

The market still ran during the fair, and so did the Chef Demo with Abbey Fammartino of Abbey's Table. 
This day was Michael's last day as the Market Chef Demo sous chef, before he takes a position across the country.  He was presented with a gift book, and his apron will be retired.  (Actually we're letting him keep an apron as a memento of his time with us.)

Montavilla is a collection of small businesses, fabulous restaurants, bars, shops and even our own theater.  The Academy Theater had closed decades ago and saw a number of uses until its resurrection a few years ago.  It has been faithfully restored to its former glory that dates back to the '20's.  It's nice to sit in a comfortable chair, watch a movie while sipping a beer and eating a pizza...and get to walk home.

Yeah...it's a pretty awesome neighborhood.

(A note to those of you who graciously posed for me as I pestered you with my camera, but didn't see your pic here...be patient.  I took more than 300 images that day and not all could be put into this blog.  I will find another way for you to access them.)

Some links, for your viewing pleasure:

Saturday, July 21, 2012

The Wisdom of Razi...and Flowers

My travels brought me to Denver, Colorado this past week, for a series of meetings and other such stuff.  As usual I also try to get away and sightsee a little.  Rather than simply post nice photos and give boring descriptions, I also like to wax philosophical on these occasions.  The opportunities simply abound, and it was during my cab ride back to the airport I had such an encounter.

The driver's name was Razi.  He was from Casablanca and has lived in the US for 20 years.  Being an immigrant myself, I am always fascinated with the stories of others and learning about their journey.  Somehow our discussion went from Moroccan influence on Spanish architecture, to the contributions of other civilizations over several millenia.  Though he didn't say so, I suspect he follows an Islamic tradition, and we discussed Arabic contributions to our English numbering system...an important thing for us engineers.  That's when he made an interesting comment, about how each civilization's contributions makes the next one better, and so on.  Were it not so, he said, it would be as if all the flowers look the same and are the same color.


I had visited the Denver Botanic Gardens earlier, and Razi's comment brought the deliriously beautiful displays back into my mind.  It is true, you know. As I wandered about the Gardens and the tropical conservatory, I was treated to a vast array of plants, insects...and yes, lovely colors.

Inside the Boettcher Memorial Tropical Conservatory one finds an amazing collection of colors and shapes. 

The Conservatory is a structure of interlaced concrete arches, and made possible through the estate of Claude Boettcher, of the Ideal Cement Company (hence the concrete, of course).  It is the largest single tropical conservatory in the US, and my images don't even do it justice.  It's a beautiful place.

The surrounding gardens have all sorts of themes.  The water lilies are in the Monet area, in which I could've lingered for a long time.

 I've heard this referred to as a "Chocolate Sunflower", and the backlighting by the sun apparently pleases the honeybee.

Of course, gardens need water, and water attracts insects, which become food for larger insects like this Dragonfly (and yes...I'm certain someone will correct me in saying this is something different.  Please do.  I don't mind learning more about these gorgeous creatures).

Visiting a garden such as Denver's, and meeting philosophers like Razi are truly the spice of life.  Especially when we are faced with the tragedy of the shootings in nearby Aurora, Colorado (which occured not long after I left Razi's car), it is good to be reminded of the beauty of our world

See the links below for more information on the gardens.

Monday, June 4, 2012

The 100th Market...

One hundred market days...that means some of us have volunteered to schlep the canopies, chairs, tables, water canisters and other market accoutrements from the storage shed, and back...100 times.  As the Montavilla Farmers Market opens its 6th year, it is good to reflect and see where we've come on this dusty lot in SE Portland.  From a bunch of neighbors with nothing more than a vision for a grass roots market in the neighborhood to this first market of the 2012 season...and it is impressive!

An army of asparagus meets the eye as one goes to the Maryhill Farms stand.  They have been one of the Market vendors for many years and offers some of the finest sustainably raised produce.  The asparagus pictured here made it to our dinner table this evening.

As you can see, the Market specializes in local sustainable produce, such as from Fiddlehead Farms in Corbett.

If I may brag a little, this little market is big in many ways.  We pioneered the "Durable Dish" program, which uses real plates and flatware for food eaten on the premises.  Thanks to Thatcher's on SE Stark, who allow us to use their dishwasher.  It's all part of reducing the market's carbon footprint.

What Market is without something to quench the thirst during a hot summer day?  What could be better than Liquid Sunshine?  Well...probably some real sunshine for starters, but this is Oregon and yes...it does rain...a lot.  Luckily, this Sunday stayed dry though the sun was filtered through a layer of clouds.  And being true Oregonians, we still drank our lemonaid and ate our ice cream.

I'm not sure of the final tally of people who visited the market, but I've heard estimates of more than two thousand...and judging by this scene (which is how it was throughout the day), I suspect that's close. 

This being the 100th market...and we being a neighborhood always in search of a reason to celebrate (you know, it doesn't take much.  Sometimes just having a dry day is enough), kids are invited to draw, color, plant seeds in paper cups (biodegradable, of course).

Cookies, in the shape of carrots, pears and other fruits and vegetables were given out (a huge thank you to Laura at PastryGirl, just down the street on Stark Street).

The booted flower pots are courtesy of the kids at Vestal Elementary School, not far from the Market. 

Remember what I said about kids and potted seeds? There is something magical about fingers in dirt...especially good clean potting soil, and dad's supervision. 

Old House Dahlias is barely 12 blocks away from the Market. (Hey, you can't get any more local than that!)

No, this isn't Amsterdam, but it is said that Portland is one of the most bicycle-friendly cities in America, if not THE most, and yes many either walk or ride to the market.

Skin & Bones is one of the market's newer vendors, with some of the most amazing treats.  They also have a restaurant on E. Burnside and NE 55th Avenue.  (I must check it out now that I sampled their delicious stuff!)

The festivities also included drawings for many items including this basket of produce (won by Rory, with the thumbs up).

Each market day also features a chef demonstration.  Today's is Marliese Franklin, a local radio host and Mindful Eating coach.

Chef Marliese made a dish of cooked greens, using ingredients from various vendors at the market that day. 

There is nothing like the wonder of a child, savoring a fresh strawberry...wearing her finest ballroom gown, of course.  What I found surprising is that I was able to catch this image without any fruity decorations on her white fabric.  That wouldn't have been me.

To learn more about the Montavilla Farmers Market you can visit http://www.montavillamarket.org/