Friday, December 18, 2015

One Day In Oregon

This past weekend, we took a little vacation to Portland, OR to see a few of the (apparently) many friends we have who live in that city.  I say "apparently" because it came as a complete surprise to us just how many people we actually know who live there.  We didn't advertise ahead of time that we were going because we thought we had gotten in touch with the few people we know there.  But once I checked us in to PDX on Facebook, we received several notices from other friends who are also living there without us being aware of it.  Suffice is to say, we may need to make a second trip back soon.

True to form, Kevin and I murdered our vacation.  By that, I mean he and I pack more experiences into a trip than anyone else I know.  We are not ones to sit around.  Rather than recount our entire vacation, let me just give you 1 day as a sample:  Monday, December 14th.

That morning, we woke up and drove to Tillamook Cheese Factory in Tillamook, OR.  It was a sometimes-dicey drive through the Tillamook State Forest due to rain, fog, and even a little snow.  But once we arrived, it was lots of fun.  In the factory, you can actually watch some of the cheese making and wrapping process.  It was actually fun to stand over top of the workers like a boss and watch the processes as the cheese made its way along conveyor belts.  What was cool was to watch the automatic weight devices kick out any block of cheese that didn't meet expectations.  And of course, there were lots of free samples to try, too.  That always makes a trip better!


Once our bellies were sufficiently loaded with lactose, we drove onward to Cannon Beach, OR to photograph the Haystack Rock, or as Kevin knows them, the Triple Stones from Kevin's favorite movie, The Goonies.  Once that was accomplished, we drove a bit further into the town of Astoria, OR to see the "Goonies House" used in the film.  There have been many reports lately of how the current owners, despite originally greetings movie buffs, are now vehemently turning people away.  There are several "No Goonies" signs near the house to keep spectators away.  They've even previously covered the house in blue tarps to dissuade movie fans.  But we got lucky on the day we were there - no tarps.  We got as close to the house as we felt comfortable doing while still respecting the owner's privacy.

Triple Stones & Goonie House
When we take trips, I do most of the driving while Kevin scours apps like Atlas Obscura and other Roadside America to see the weirdness that is the world we live in.  On our way to see the World's Largest Frying Pan, the road we were on closed due to mud slides.  So we re-routed to see the next best thing, the World's Largest Egg in Winlock, WA.

World's Largest Egg, Winlock, WA

After which, we drove on to Olympia, WA to have dinner with friends Peter and Suzanne and their son, Stewart.  Kevin and I have a thing about visiting State Capital buildings (it's a fairly new thing we've started.  So far we have Wisconsin and Texas under our belts).  We popped into the capital building and snapped a few photos.  That would be Kevin sitting in what I assume to be Santa's chair at the base of the tree. 

This whole vacation was a great opportunity for us to see some of our dearest friends who all seem to live in this same part of the world.  Peter is one of Kevin's oldest friends, having gone through high school and college together.  This was also a chance for me to meet their son, Stewart, who I've been watching on Facebook since he was born 3 years ago.  We rounded out dinner with Pete showing us Olympia's Artesian Well at the Artesian Commons, which also has its own Facebook Page.   Both Pete and Kevin had to sample the water.  So far, no cholera!

After our goodbyes, Kevin and I drove the 114 miles back to Portland to our hotel.  All total, this one day we drove about 500 miles round trip; went from sea level to about 3,800 feet above; 
drove through sun, rain, sleet and snow; passed through two states; walked through a state capital building; saw the sites from a movie; ate cheese and sampled many flavors of ice cream; saw the World's Largest Egg; ate seafood; drank from an Artesian well; and saw dear friends.  THIS is how you vacation.
Oh, and the next day?  We climbed a waterfall.

Tuesday, December 08, 2015

Christmas Songs That Annoy Me

I love Christmas.  I love everything about it.  Even the songs that I've heard every year for the past 50 years still somehow make me feel warm inside.  Every song, that is, except three.  There are three Christmas songs that 1) fortunately only get played once a year, 2) don't really have anything to do with Christmas or the holidays, per se, and 3) are just plain stupid.

The Christmas Shoes
I hate this song so much.  First of all, I can't stand forced sentiment, like when someone writes a song that's supposed to be a tearjerker.  There are lots of country songs that fall into this genre, like Tim McGraw's "Don't Take The Girl" and Kathy Mattea's "Where've You Been?"  But back to these freaking shoes.
So somewhere in the world around Christmas time, a man - and quite possibly other extended members of a family - allow a little boy of undetermined age (let's say 11 or 12?) to break his piggy bank and leave his dying mother's bedside (hospital?  living room sofa?) so that he can go out ALONE to buy a pair of shoes for his mother before she succumbs to whatever illness from which she's been suffering.  She is, I surmise, moments away from potentially "meeting Jesus".  This mother who, apparently, also never allowed her child to believe in Santa Claus since she always "made Christmas good at the house" and "did without" most years. Instead, she chose to teach her child that God only loves you if you sport expensive, material things and show up to meet Him while wearing only your best holiday footwear.  The smelly robe she will most likely die wearing must be inconsequential.
The song even comes with a snooty retail clerk who is not about to demonstrate any Christmas spirit and puts the weight of the purchase back on other consumers when the kid comes up short in the cash department (which we all KNEW would happen). The best part of the song is that the singer seems to have gleaned some kind of Christmas message from the whole experience; an understanding of what Christmas "is all about": sending your kids on a fool's errand to the mall in times of stress so that you don't have to deal with them, thus making them someone else's problem.
Baby It's Cold Outside
Have you ever actually listened to or read the lyrics of this song, specifically the lyrics that are traditionally sung by the woman?  I'll sum them up here: she's being drugged and kept against her will.  Her constant pleas to leave are simply ignored by her selfish date.  She's worried about her family, the neighbors, and her hair.  All he cares about is his pride, his fireplace, and how fast he can dump another "drink" into her.  He won't even lend her a comb!
Yeah, it's a song about date rape and kidnapping. REAL Christmasy, this one.  It's one the creepiest song out there, holiday or otherwise.  And for some reason, it keeps getting recorded by artists and DJ's keep playing it on the radio over and over.  It's in heavy rotation during the holidays and I've no idea why?  "Think of my lifelong sorrow" of having to listen to this song for another couple of decades.

Twelve Days of Christmas
This song is essentially the holiday equivalent to 99 Bottle Of Beer On The Wall.  It's. So. Boring.  And for some reason, it's hard for people to remember.  Which is understandable because it makes no sense.  If my true love showed up at my house at Christmas with a marching band, dancers, and geese, I'd kick him in his holly and berries.   
And what exactly ARE the 12 days of Christmas?  When does it start or end?  And who thought up that Christmas list.  Would the giver really be your true love if they gave you all this stuff?  Is the true love an ornithologist?  What's the fascination with fowl: swans, geese, turtle doves, calling birds, french hens and a partridge??  Can you imagine the stick from all of those things?  How fast would you be packing your stuff and running out the back door?
So that's my cringe-worthy list.  Every time these songs come on the radio, I grunt my best Grinch-grunt and roll my eyes.  I'd love for all three of them to be removed from rotation.  But alas, they are part of the fabric of Christmas.  Perhaps easy to overlook in the grand scheme of things.

But still...

Thursday, December 03, 2015

Keeping "X" in "Xmas"

It's that time of year again: time for Christian extremists to start posting their hatred for the term, "Xmas".  Why?  Because, as they will assuredly tell you, “Xmas” is a non-religious name/spelling for “Christmas”.  To quote: "It take Christ out of Christmas".  Turns out, though, that “Xmas” is not a non-religious version of “Christmas”. 

The “X” is actually indicating the Greek letter “Chi”, which is short for the Greek, meaning “Christ”. So “Xmas” and “Christmas” are equivalent in every way except their lettering.  Even the fact-checking website Snopes and the world's online encyclopedia, Wikipediahave gotten in on the action of assuaging Christian extremists.

Although writing guides such as those issued by the New York Times, the BBC, The Christian Writer’s Manual of Style, and Oxford Press discourage the use of Xmas in formal writing, the use of Xmas was at one time a very popular practice, particularly with religious scribes, who are thought to have started the whole “Xmas” thing in the first place. Indeed, the practice of using the symbol “X” in place of Christ’s name has been going on among religious scholars for at least 1000 years. Eventually, this shorthand trick spread to non-religious writings where nearly everywhere “Christ” appeared in a word, the Greek letter Chi ("X") would replace that part of the word. For example, in the 17th and 18th centuries, there are numerous non-religious documents containing instances of “Xine”, which was a common spelling for someone whose name was Christine.  

So while using Xmas is really more about personal choice and nothing to do with blaspheming Christ, extremists will simply just have to accept that the use of Xmas is, well, acceptable.  I'd like to suggest that instead of arguing about keeping Christ in Christmas, perhaps they could work a little harder at keeping Christ in Christian.

Tuesday, December 01, 2015

November Almost Doesn't Exist

Back in 2013, I undertook a huge project by ripping apart all my scrapbooks and photo albums and scanning all contents in order to have my visual history kept digitally rather than physically.  It was time consuming and, at times, monotonous work.  But I loved every minute of it.

I loved going through each picture and recalling the memory of when it was taken, what I was feeling, what was IN the picture and, sometimes more fun, what was NOT.  I loved the categorization of the project.  I love to organize and categorize, so while it was labor, it was a labor of love.

The funny thing I recently noticed about the completed project is that I rarely - and historically - take photos in November; at least photos that I'd wanted to keep anyway.  Of the 5,606 images that are currently scanned on my removable drive, only 63 of them were taken in November. It is by far the least amount of any month.

To the contrary, October and December mark some very active time in my photo-taking.  I'm sure this has everything to do with the holidays that occur in them.  But November seems quite lazy in the memory-making department by comparison despite having arguably the most nationally-recognized holidays: All Saints' Day, Election Day, Veterans' Day, Columbus Day, Thanksgiving Day, and Black Friday among them.

Ultimately, this all means nothing.  It's not like I can go back and correct something or do anything differently.  The the Novembers from the time I was born are now gone forever.  So I guess I will need to make November some kind of priority going forward; that November needs to be more exciting somehow.