Happened to see this spontaneous face on one of our end tables and thought it was cute.
This weekend I celebrated a birthday that pushed me into a new decade. By “celebrated,” I mean that I did some chores and did some things with and for my lovely family and finished a book I was reading and read the first third of another book, which is all pretty solid stuff to have done.
There were cupcakes and there was pizza and there was grocery shopping and sweeping and vacuuming and a little bit of saying “clean your room or you can’t go outside and play with your friends for a week,” pretty typical old man fare.
We finished a family read of a book I wasn’t much enjoying reading, which cleared the decks for Animal Farm, which I’m really pleased (and also horrifed) to be rereading (to my children, to my goddamn children — all Americans are equal, some are more equal than others).
My family and some close friends gave me some nice gifts. I have a device now that will let me pour beer from cans and bottles as if from a tap, which is kind of neat. I have a set of whale bookends, which are pretty well-placed given my penchant for Moby-Dick. For a while now, I’ve wandered about the house saying things like “Alexa, pour me a beer” and “Alexa, cure my back pain” and “Alexa, vacuum the whole house, thou cursed varlet” after a friend got an Amazon home intrusion device a year or two ago and I was introduced to the voice-activated home. We got the little dot device for my daughter this year, and now I have this giant soundphallus on my mantel that answers my every vocal command. Although I was really being absurd and not actually hinting when parading about shouting fake commands (I was more like pretending to channel Star Trek), it is kind of cool to be able to holler “Alexa, play the theme song from Gilligan’s Island” and have that venerated show’s music fill my house or to ask generally “why, Alexa, why?” and have her say in soothing tones something about white guilt and the rising tide of stupidity and something something trumpstinction of the masses or to say “Alexa, is the NSA listening to my every word” and have the device kind of do this sort of nervous bloooop sound and seem to shut down (this has actually happened a couple of times). So but seriously, it’s kind of neat to be able to say “Alexa, when was Balzac born” or “Alexa, play Silversun Pickups” and have her/it (It. It’s definitely an it and not a her, right?) respond appropriately, and I’m pretty ambivalent about the surveillance aspect (like, I’m sort of afraid to say “Alexa, could you contrive to make Trump suck on his own anus until, Ouroborus-like, he becomes sort of a singularity or disappears into his own anus-like mouth and we never have to hear his inane honkings again” for fear of being SEEN IN COURT). Anyway, so I got an Amazon echo, and it’s very neat when I compartmentalize and don’t think about how creepy it is. Makes me feel like I’m living in the future, though I STILL WANT MY GODDAMN HOVERCAR.
But maybe my favorite thing I got is the head scratcher thing depicted above. I know a couple of people who’ve had these things for a few years, and I’ve always liked them, though as a person not super stoked about sharing scalp detritus, I’ve not always loved sharing them. You position this device sort of hear the crown of your head and then press it down, and it opens and gently tickles your scalp, sublimely. Makes my eyes roll back in their sockets. I love it. I had mentioned this thing to my son as a possible gift back in November, during the obligatory period of dropping oblique hints to your loved ones about the things you hope they’ll think later to purchase for you. I didn’t get this for Christmas as I had sort of expected, given what was essentially a directive for him to tell his mother to get me this delightful appliance should nothing else emerge as an obvious pick, but the fact that two months later, he remembered, warmed the cockle (I have only one) of my heart. I keep it on my desk and used it maybe two dozen times today to soothe myself when I felt the urge to primal scream.
Had this lovely dish at a restaurant in Vegas on a work trip last week. Underneath the probably two pounds of meat was a bed of mashed potatoes, and if you look closely, you can see some caramelized cheese too. It was really good and would easily have fed my whole family of four for a dinner, with some leftovers. I had debated getting a nice salad instead, and the sudden shift and juxtaposition of choices amused my colleagues.
Last year, I recorded having read 74 books for a total of 25,500 pages. I fell a little behind this year, logging 67 books and 22,107 pages, which I suppose is still respectable enough. Last year I padded my book count some by reading the 13 books in the Series of Unfortunate Events series to my kids and participating as fully as I could in the Tournament of Books, which required a sort of mania to manage. Much of this year in reading to the kids was consumed by reading Brandon Sanderson’s Mistborn trilogy, which contributed to the page count (these are 800+ pages apiece if I recall correctly) but added a paltry three books to the list. This year I read almost all things that were new to me (To Kill a Mockingbird was the exception, though I hadn’t read it in 25 years, so it was sort of new all over again), and I tried a different approach to picking what to read.
When writing last year’s summary of my reading, I noticed that I was reading mostly white American men. Since I am a white American man, I suppose this makes a certain amount of sense, but I figured it was time to broaden my horizons a bit, and the best way to do that is intentionally. So I made 2016 the year of reading people who weren’t white American/English/Canadian dudes. Brandon Sanderson and a late read of a Heinlin book (which gets logged on 2017 anyway) aside, I managed to avoid white guys. My failures were concessions to my family, who didn’t necessarily want to go along on my personal journey, though I dragged them along for some of it. The Sanderson at least featured a strong female protagonist; the Heinlein was a late break for my wife, who couldn’t bear another soporific read-aloud of Agatha Christie (who my children oddly really like).
So, how did I pick all these books by non-white men? Sometimes it was more or less at random. I actually browsed a little local bookstore a lot (enough that they got in the habit of thanking me not for my purchase but for my “contribution,” as if the sometimes not insignificant purchase was an act of charity) and read book covers to see what looked interesting. The store — Union Avenue Books — has a small new paperback collection (I’m generally not charitable enough to buy in hardback) that rotates frequently enough that I could stop by and pick up a stack of six or eight books to last a month or two and find a fair few different books on my next stop. I basically profiled authors by looking for names that seemed unlikely to belong to white men, and when possible I would confirm by looking for an author photo or bio. It felt a little weird to physically profile people, and I consoled myself that it was ok since it was in the service of expanding my perspective to include the perspectives of people whose work I had not actively sought out before, but I’m still not sure it was actually ok. In any case, what’s done is done.
One thing I found was that when trying not to read white dudes, it’s very very easy to read white women. I read more white women than I really wanted to, to the extent that it felt a little cheaty, since though they do have a different experience of the world than white men, it seems very probable to me that overall, the experience these (I suspect largely entitled) women have of the world is probably very much more like the experience I have of the world than the experience of, say, a Nigerian Jesuit.
Now a word about my GoodReads rating system. First, I wish they allowed partial stars, as often I find five-star granularity to be insufficient for expressing how I feel about a book. Some books are better than three stars but not quite 4 stars, and it’s frustrating that I can’t express that in my quantifiable review. I tend to rate down, I guess because I’m a little snobbish and don’t want to elevate a book that didn’t really do it for me. So, a five-star book is basically transcendental for me; it changed my worldview or offered a perspective or a beauty of writing that made me really want to put it in a very small group of favorite books. A four-star book is very good and I liked it a lot (maybe even loved it a little) or found it exceedingly worthwhile even if not altogether enjoyable to get through. A three-star book I liked just fine. A two-star book I didn’t like much at all. A one-star book I pretty much hated. An abandoned book is very very rare for me, and I abandoned one this year (The Night Circus — irredeemable, and I wish I could bill the author for my time).
Of the books I read this year, I gave no books five stars but gave these 18 books four stars:
- Bastard out of Carolina, by Dorothy Allison
- Swing Time, by Zadie Smith
- The Song of Hartgrove Hall, by Natasha Solomons
- A Wizard of Earthsea, by Ursula K. Le Guin
- Epitaph, by Mary Doria Russell
- The Round House, by Louise Erdrich
- The Secret History, by Donna Tartt
- The Shipping News, by Annie Proulx
- The Vegetarian, by Kang Han
- Arcadia, by Lauren Groff
- Salvage the Bones, by Jesmyn Ward
- A Lesson Before Dying, by Ernest J. Gaines
- To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee
- Native Son, by Richard Wright
- The Monsters of Templeton, by Lauren Groff
- The Bluest Eye, by Toni Morrison
- Wild Nights!, by Joyce Carol Oates
- In Country, by Bobbie Ann Mason
There were a few surprises here for me, notably the presence of some genre fiction in A Wizard of Earthsea (I wanted to continue the series but my daughter wasn’t digging it; I’ll likely revisit on my own later) and Epitaph, which is a loosely historical novel that isn’t at all the sort of thing I tend to pick up. Groff was a new find for me this year, and what a great find. The Vegetarian was more of a 3.5, but I rated it up rather than down because it was a bit of a puzzler for me, and I’m intrigued by puzzlers even if I don’t strictly like or enjoy them. I was glad to find Mason’s book so good, as I had read her Feather Crowns many years ago and found it merely ok. I would cheerfully recommend almost all of these books to just about anybody with the exception perhaps of The Vegetarian.
I gave three stars to these 37 books:
- Miss Marple: The Complete Short Stories, by Agatha Christie
- The Bell Jar, by Sylvia Plath
- The Education of Dixie Dupree, by Donna Everhart
- Who Was Changed and Who Was Dead, by Barbara Comyns
- The Little Friend, by Donna Tartt
- The Blue Flower, by Penelope Fitzgerald
- The Final Empire (Mistborn #1), by Brandon Sanderson
- The Well of Ascension (Mistborn #2), by Brandon Sanderson
- Black Boy, by Richard Wright
- The Green Glass Sea, by Ellen Klages
- They May Not Mean to, But They Do, by Cathleen Schine
- Say You’re One of Them, by Uwem Akpan
- God Help the Child, by Toni Morrison
- The Jam Fruit Tree, by Carl Muller
- The English Patient, by Michael Ondaatje
- Playing in the Dark: Whiteness and the Literary Imagination, by Toni Morrison
- Sula, by Toni Morrison
- Housekeeping, by Marilynne Robinson
- Interpreter of Maladies, by Jhumpa Lahiri
- Eileen, by Ottessa Moshfegh
- Anne of Green Gables, by L.M. Montgomery
- Delicate Edible Birds: And Other Stories, by Lauren Groff
- The Girl Who Fell from the Sky, by Heidi W. Durrow
- One Crazy Summer, by Rita Williams-Garcia
- Orhan’s Inheritance, by Aline Ohanesian
- The Left Hand of Darkness, by Ursula K. Le Guin
- Running in the Family, by Michael Ondaatje
- The Giant’s House: A Romance, by Elizabeth McCracken
- Invisible Man, by Ralph Ellison
- Music for Wartime: Stories, by Rebecca Makkai
- The Goldfinch, by Donna Tartt
- Boy, Snow, Bird, by Helen Oyeyemi
- The Book of Speculation, by Erika Swyler
- Notes of a Native Son, by James Baldwin
- The Fishermen, by Chigozie Obioma
- The Sellout, by Paul Beatty
- Swamplandia!, by Karen Russell
Lots of the family reads made this list. I hadn’t expected to like the Mistborn books as much as I did (and the third was kind of bad and thus got only two stars). Sri Lanka is well represented here in the books of Ondaatje and Cummings, thanks to recommendations from a colleague and friend. Africa makes a couple of appearances, largely because I so enjoyed Half of a Yellow Sun (a rare five-star) last year and wanted to read a bit more from Africa (which, I know, is a very reductive thing to say). The Sellout was a big disappointment to me, enough so that I fear that the defect is in me as a reader and not in the book (it failed to connect for me in the way that a lot of Barth fails to connect; there’s something very smart about it but also something over-labored and thus tedious and annoying about it). Tartt delivers solid books consistently (two this year netted three stars for me and another four). I would recommend these books with less confidence. Some would surely land for some readers, but this cohort of books on the whole didn’t wow me.
I gave two stars to these eleven books:
- Welcome to Braggsville, by Geronimo T. Johnson
- The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend, by Katarina Bivald
- A Tale for the Time Being, by Ruth Ozeki
- Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood, by Marjane Satrapi
- The House of Mirth, by Edith Wharton
- The Hero of Ages (Mistborn #3), by Brandon Sanderson
- The Morgesons, by Elizabeth Stoddard
- The Heart Goes Last, by Margaret Atwood
- All Souls, by Christine Schutt
- The Monster War, by Alan Gratz
- Tales of Burning Love, by Louise Erdrich
The Erdrich was a real disappointment (I really liked The Round House), as was the Atwood, which I picked up randomly because it was on a table at a bookstore and I hadn’t read much Atwood and I was sort of feeling like maybe the U.S. was heading toward a Handmaid’s Tale-like future. My daughter liked Persepolis, and I was glad to learn more about Iran but didn’t really care for the book itself. The Stoddard and Wharton books were mostly just boring. Sanderson should have given up while he was ahead, and the Gratz was a real dud in my opinion after a more enjoyable first two books in that series.
I read but didn’t rate The Girl in the Well is Me by Karen Rivers because I’m very vaguely, tenuously acquainted with the author, and I feel weird about rating or commenting on books when I know the author (even though really I don’t — it’s a very very teensy, old connection, but enough of one that I feel weird about rating the book anyway).
Usually when I finish a book, I leave a very brief review on GoodReads, mostly just enough to tell a future forgetful me generally how I felt about a book or why I thought it was or wasn’t good. These micro-reviews aren’t really worth reading on the whole, but if you’re curious why a book landed in one pile or another and want to gamble on whether there’s useful context or not in my little review, click the link above and look for my review (easier to find if you friend me on GoodReads, I believe).
So, that’s 2016 in books for me. I’m glad I tried branching out. It was hard sometimes to avoid picking up a book by a white guy (there’s new Lethem, for example, and I got a book for my birthday that didn’t meet my criteria and has sat on my nightstand for 11 months), but I’m glad I mostly avoided it, and I’ll continue trying to keep an eye on how homogeneous my reading list is, and strive for heterogeneity. I think it’s probably more and more important to do so in a changing (or maybe merely acknowledged?) political climate in the U.S. that more than ever seems to favor the entitled and terrorize the rest.
I got this growler a few months ago for “free” when signing up as a member of the Brewmaster’s club (basically I pay a monthly fee and then try to drink enough beer to get my money back) at my local Casual Pint. It’s billed as a $40 value, and it looks like a sort of scepter, so it certainly appears to be at least a $40 value. I feel a little silly and ostentatious carrying the thing around, but boy does it keep my beer fresh. I can pour a glass from it and clamp the lid down and leave it for a couple of days (though that’s a rare occurrence) and it just about bursts open with pressure when I unclamp it again. Every other growler I’ve had loses pressure after the first open and leaves me feeling like I’m racing against the clock to drink the beer before it loses its head. So, silly as it looks and as much room as it takes up in my fridge (the growler itself and not just its big fancy handle is a lot bigger than your typical growler), I’ve sure liked this one.
I got another for Christmas that’s much more streamlined, a vacuum thingy that purportedly keeps things at temperature for a day or so, and I’m looking forward to giving it a proper test drive too.
I’ve had a couple of Kindles over the years, but I always find myself going back to paper books. More and more, I’ve been trying not to accumulate books, though. I mean, I love them as artifacts and as decor, even, but I’ve recently begun getting rid of books I didn’t love or that I figure I’ll never read again, keeping only the really good ones.
Since I’ve tried to stop keeping as many books as tangible items in my home, I’ve thought about trying to read more electronically. Reading on a tablet or Kindle is pretty convenient when running on an exercise machine, for example. You just situate it on the control panel in front of you and flap a hand up to tap the screen when it’s time to turn the page. Compare to the dismal experience of trying to wrangle a big thick floppy paper book with sweaty hands while running. It’s an infomercial in the making.
This week, I finished the last in my current queue of paper books and debated trying again to make the switch to electronic books. Because I’m a miser, I thought pretty quickly about the cost difference. I can pay $10 – $12 for an electronic book and sort of maybe have it forever, whether I liked it or not. I can pay $8 – $16 or so for most of the paper books I’d want, and then I can sell them to a used book store at a significant markdown for store credit to get more books. If I don’t like the book that much (which has been the case for a lot of what I’ve picked lately), I can sell it to a used book store for (based on a recent experience) about 17% of the purchase price. That’s a pretty stiff markdown, but it still seems like a better choice for me given that I go through a lot of books and am fairly adventurous (I try things I don’t know for sure that I’ll like). The alternative is to have a bunch of electronic books I don’t like and for which I paid nearly as much as and sometimes more than I would have paid for the paper copy. If electronic books were significantly cheaper (say they cost $5), I’d buy a lot more of them. At the current price of electronic books, the trade value and the risk mitigation of buying paper books that I can at least get some money back for makes electronic books a bad choice for me.
I also still just generally prefer the tactile experience of reading a paper book. Call me a Luddite. The financial angle and the personal pleasure angle combine to keep me still firmly in the paper books camp.
This week, I binge watched the Netflix series Stranger Things. It’s not something I would necessarily have gone for had I not seen it billed as pretty great by a few friends and colleagues. Here are some random thoughts on the series, in more or less chronological order from the time I started the series until now, starting maybe halfway through.
- Steve is an asshole. He’s like Brendan Frasier meets maybe Johnny (sweep the leg!) from Karate Kid and every other entitled shithead kid from every 80s movie ever.
- Is Nancy a riff on the female lead from Ferris Bueller’s Day Off?
- The kid missing his front teeth is great, sort of a highlight of the show for me, basically Gertie from E.T. meets Chunk from The Goonies meets, I dunno, kid Jeff Goldblum?
- The title graphic is so perfectly Stephen King/all-horror-authors-from-the-80s that I can hardly bear its perfection.
- Little twinges of Twin Peaks in the title music.
- Look, these walkie talkies aren’t actually the ones we all had as kids (you know, the gray ones with the black and orange buttons). Get it right or go home. Also, they said at one point to tune to channel 6, but later we see that they’re three-channel walkie talkies. Are they counting by twos or is this a mistake?
- Oh god, please don’t kill the black kid when he’s up in the tree watching the evil people at the nefarious science/whatever facility. We see enough murder of black kids by authorities in real, daily America.
- Look, is this show for real or are you, with your super duper promiment 80s kitsch “background” details, just trying to appeal to my nostalgia for my childhood?
- Who the heck are the Duffer Brothers?
- The El actor is kind of horrible, but she’s also a kid and this is probably pretty hard to pull off.
- Steve’s sidekick is the most freckled brown-headed kid I’ve ever seen. (It’s ok, I can say it, since I’m a freckled person.)
- Ah, the good old 80s, when a 17-year-old and his nemesis’s girlfriend can buy a bear trap, some gasoline, and a bunch of ammo and nobody bats an eye. ‘Murica, Fuck Yeah!
- The (uh, maybe spoiler?) isolation tank bits seem kind of right on.
- Look, Winona puts on all the makeup except eyeliner when she’s suddenly not feeling like an isolated raving lunatic and is tramping about in an (uh, spoiler) alternate universe looking for her kid.
- I swear the Matthew Modine character (the evil white-haired scientist guy) reminds me of some other guy who starred in a like WB show a decade or so ago about a widowed dad and his kid (One Tree Hill? — checked, and nope), but the only name that comes to mind is “Chut,” which isn’t a real name.
- Awww, Steve’s an ok guy after all. Pretty bad (ironic? I think maybe not) taste in sweaters, though.
- Please please end this and move on. Like, let there be closure and let us understand that, sure, there may be a second season, but it’ll be a whole different problem set with maybe whole different people. Please for the love of all things pleasant in the world don’t do some stupid bullshit thing where you give us a hint of some vague continuation of the next season, which’ll just be a like pandery pale shade of the current reasonably tight 8-episode season just because. Please don’t have one of the main characters under sort of mysterious, shady circumstances find some mystery box in the woods in which to place some food for the maybe disintegrated sort of beatified terribly acting numerically named character who all along I’ve thought of as sort of a surrogate for his tragically dead daughter and who happens to horde Eggos oh fuck my life, you’re putting Eggos in the box aren’t you Elliot Hirsch neé David Harbour?
On the whole, I liked it. I’m glad it was short, and if there’s another season, I hope it’s not a continuation of this season, though it seems like it will be. Everything doesn’t have to have a sequel.
From July 8 – 15, the family went out to Oregon to see some lovely things and to visit with my sister-in-law, Ashley. We landed in Portland on the afternoon of Friday, July 8, and wasted little time in going out into the drizzle of rain to visit a toy store called Fegan’s and of course Powell’s Books, which was magnificent. We pushed our son’s culinary boundaries a bit by going to a Persian place for dinner (his verdict re the beef kabob he ordered was an unexpected “amazing”). Ashley had taken the bus over from her city a couple of hours away by the morning, and we went to the Waffle Window for breakfast (another “amazing” from our son, who had the lovely fruit-laden waffle pictured below).
From there we went to the Chinese garden in Portland, which was nice. We were most taken with the mosaics covering the floor of the place.
We took our leave of Portland for the time being and headed west to the beach at Newport, stopping at the Otis Cafe on the way. It was a cute little (semi-famous?) place with magnificent cheesy hash browns and tasty breakfast and sandwich fare.
I didn’t get many pictures at the shore of Newport beach, but I can report that on Saturday evening, it was chilly and rainy. We dipped our feet into the Pacific ocean (a first for three in our party), and the kids waded a bit more before we called it quits. We swam a bit in the hot tub and heated pool as the rain ebbed, and then we retired for the evening to play games and have a healthy dinner of popcorn and marion berry pie from the Otis Cafe.
In the morning, we tried the shore again. The water remained frigid, but it was a little sunnier, and we waded and splashed a little before packing up and heading to the Yaquina Head Lighthouse and the nearby tide pools. I grew up going to beaches in North Carolina. A tide pool in my experience had been basically a little pool on the sea shore where you might find a few stranded creatures. At Dog Island off the coast of Florida a few years ago, the kids saw such a tide pool. My expectations of encountering a similar pool on this visit were way off. Here we found stones leading to rocky land in which pools formed offering us views of sea anemone, sea urchins, various mussels, hermit crabs, and a few star fish. It was really unexpected an lovely, far beyond what I had hoped to encounter and a real treat.
As we were leaving, we heard cries that a whale had been spotted, and sure enough, we saw a spout off in the distance a few times. We also passed an overlook from which we could see a few dozen seals lounging and lumbering about in their sealish way, which was a nice farewell bonus. After a yummy seafood lunch a few miles away at the bay, we got back in the van and headed south to Gilchrist, which would be our home base for three nights as we explored Crater Lake and the Newberry caldera.
The cabin we rented was huge and nice, with foosball, ping pong, a pool table (under the ping pong table top), and no internet or cable (a plus in my book). We roasted marshmallows one night and I read aloud to the family each night as is our habit generally. It was a great home base, and I’d love to go back should I visit the area again (and would gladly recommend it to anybody planning a similar vacation).
Crater Lake was breathtaking. The kids grew weary of hiking and generally had kind of a crummy attitude about the lake itself, but it was really beautiful. The trees in this part of the country are a lot different than what I’ve grown up with (not only the bright Ponderosa pines, but the huge pointed pines in general, and the vastness of the forests we drove through), so the short hikes were like seeing nature afresh for me.
The lake itself is so blue that it looks fake, and even in July, you see snow pack a foot or more deep (which the kids did like sort of skating around on). This is a place that makes me wish I were a better photographer, that I knew how to edit my pitiful little phone snaps to bring out the vibrancy of what I saw with my eyes, which has been lost in translation in the photos below.
This takes us through Monday. On Tuesday, July 12, we drove north from our cabin to explore the Newberry volcano and associated parks. First, we went to a lava tube — a cave that in this case was about a mile long carved out by a lava flow whose exterior cooled more rapidly than its interior, so that as the hot lava continues flowing and the exterior stops flowing, a hollow is formed. Although there are restrictions on who can enter the cave because of a fungus that can be spread by people and that hurts bats who live in the cave, we saw no bats. Mostly it was a long, chilly walk in the dark. That undersells it a bit, I suppose. It was neat to see, and to imagine the elemental forces that worked to create such a wonder, but as caves go, there wasn’t much in the way of scenery: A few places where there were pencil-thin stalactites, pits in the ground formed presumably by dripping moisture, and some neat narrowing and widening of the cave, but not as magnificent in terms of scenery as, say Luray Caverns in Virginia. L pouted through the whole walk, claiming that when she saw cracks in the ceiling, she was afraid it would collapse and we would die.
Next we went to a basalt flow nearby, which was neat. After a picnic by the basalt flow, we drove into the Newberry caldera itself, to one of the two lakes contained within. We rowed a sort of excruciatingly and unexpectedly long 35 minutes across to the other side of the lake to try out the hot springs, some of which were very hot indeed. There were a few other people there, but not so many as you might have expected. We tested out some of the little holes dug out already and dug one of our own into the pebbles that formed the beach. I was amazed at how cold the clear blue/green water was even right up to the shore in contrast to how very hot some of the springs were just 3 or 4 feet deeper into the land. The kids liked this a lot. I may have gotten into trouble for farting in one of the springs and blaming the bubbles and the sulfurous smell on the springs themselves.
After a tough row back across the lake into the wind, we drove up to the rim of the caldera, which afforded us beautiful views of the surrounding forest, both lakes in the volcano, and an obsidian flow on one of the interior faces of the volcano.
After viewing the Newberry caldera from its rim, we made the sort of treacherous drive back down and went to an obsidian flow. This was one of the highlights of the day for me, as I imagined a 100-foot wall of lava advancing inch by inch and cooling to leave behind porous pumice and glassy obsidian. A path snakes through the rocks, and it was fun to spot huge chunks of the shiny black rock. L started looking for rocks that would make neat little stone chairs, and she reports this as one of the highlights for her as well. At one point I picked up what looked like a chunk of regular old pumice, but it turned out to be a darker, sharper type, and for the pleasure of looking like a strongman who could hoist a big rock over his head, I bled a lot from one of my palms for the remainder of the visit.
The obsidian flow seemed like the landscape of a dead planet but for the occasional little tree or splash of wildflowers here or there, and the seas of trees flanking the flow. My photos don’t do the site justice.
Wiped out after a very full day, we stopped at a great Mexican place in La Pine on the way back to our cabin and then retired for the evening in our usual fashion, prepared to head back north to Corvallis the next day.
We drove to Corvallis to a soundtrack of Mumford and Sons and the Milk Carton Kids and then hung around at A’s house for a while before hitting the riverfront and then the town for dinner followed by beer (for the grownups) and corn hole on the rooftop of a bar. On Thursday morning, we hit a rock shop in Corvallis to get some souvenirs and then a book store just because before grabbing a yummy vegetarian lunch at Nearly Normal and driving to the Columbia River Gorge, where we parked and hiked to 5 or 6 waterfalls.
We wrapped up our waterfall tour (several falls not pictured above) with ice cream cones and a drive back to Portland, where we relaxed a bit and ordered in some pizza before sending Ashley home on a shuttle and going to bed to travel home in the morning.
Although L had flown before when she was 8 or 9 months old, neither kid had really flown before, so this was sort of a landmark trip for them. They enjoyed the flights and the train ride between terminals at our connection home at DFW. In addition to the many miles we traveled by air, we drove 991 miles in a rented van as we toured the eastern third or so of Oregon. It was a great trip, affording us the opportunity to see many things very very different from what we’re accustomed to seeing in our day-to-day lives.
Occasionally over the last few years, I’ve gone to a co-working space near downtown to work mostly by myself. Although it’s sort of a co-working space and sort of a community technology center, I seldom run into people there, and it amuses me to co-work alone. When I go, it’s not for the social angle, though. It’s usually because the kids are home for the summer and have a bunch of other kids running in and out of the house, which makes it hard for me to focus. Every once in a while it’s because my internet fails. Sometimes it’s partially because I’m craving a sandwich from Holly’s Corner, which is a short walk from the facility.
In the last year or so, I’ve gone a lot less frequently, and a craft brew pub has opened up across the street in the mean time. The other day, I knocked off work a little early to stop by and see the place, hoping to get a growler filled. The Crafty Bastard is a neat place. I always feel self-conscious about taking photos, so I didn’t get shots of the big local photos framed for sale on the walls. I didn’t get photos of the I’d guess 4-story ceiling. I also didn’t snap any pictures of the barrels and kegs and buckets lining some of the walls in various states of the brewing process. I did quickly snap a shot of the unassuming line of taps and the beer list.
They brew their own beer and bill themselves as a nanobrewery. I wasn’t able to get a growler filled because if they poured out growlers full, they’d run out of stock too fast. Items on the board with a pink dot are brewed in-house, and the others are contributed by local brewers (I read this somewhere but can’t now find the reference).
I tried the Tessellation IPA in spite of the mention of notes of mango (I don’t generally like mango). Only after ordering this one did I see the Samoa Cookie beer, which seemed weird and interesting. So I had one of those too. I liked them both but preferred the Samoa to the other. I quipped that they should garnish the beer with one of the namesake cookies, and the bar tender said that when they premiered the beer, they put a box of Samoas on each table.
This is definitely a hipster bar. As the photo suggests, there’s kind of a DIY vibe, and one of the bar tenders changed the vinyl record he was playing while I was there. There were tattoos and beards and pomaded hair, and I felt very much out of place as definitely the squarest person in the room. At 4:00 on a Wednesday afternoon, it wasn’t very crowded, though, and that’s always a selling point for me, though it was 4:00 on a Wednesday, and I’ll bet that it hops a little more during the more traditional heavy drinking hours.
For my birthday this year, M got me a guided fly fishing trip. I had gone on a guided trip on a work trip in Utah a couple of years ago and really enjoyed it. I own some fly fishing gear but don’t really know what to do with it, or where to go with it, and I think I need a couple of guided experiences would help me get a better understanding. Fly fishing seems to be a lot more technical and require more arcane knowledge than just dropping a cricket or worm into a pond and pulling in bluegills. So having this guided experience was a real treat.
It was well below freezing, so it wasn’t always the absolute most physically comfortable experience. We didn’t have much luck with flies rods (too cold for the fish to be hungry, maybe? surely that, rather than incompetence on the part of the fishermen, was the cause), so we wound up using spinners to try to get reaction strikes. I landed one fish and had a few more on the line but failed to land them. Dad landed two or three, I think. In spite of the cold, it was fun, and I’m eager to get back out there sometime and see if I can catch a few fish on flies.