Saturday, April 30, 2011

In Which I Raise a Crumpet to the Happy Couple

Well. That was lovely, wasn't it? Two happy people setting out on a grand adventure together...and what better way to begin an adventure? I always like to have cherubic choir boys lauding me when I start my adventures, personally. Also shrubberies. And fabulous hats. (Especially hats that resemble the entire female reproductive system.)

I don't know how Kate managed to make it through that ceremony without bawling her eyes out. I was a watery wreck at my own wedding (ended up wiping my nose on my roses when I hoped no one was looking). Heck, anyone with that kind of poise deserves to be queen.

But the best that can be said of the wedding has, of course, already been said by my sister, who is infinitely smarter and wittier and charming-er than moi. As she so elegantly put it:

"Everyone is going on and on about how this is a sign of hope, a celebration of the potential of the next years, a way for the Church of England to attract some people back into the fold, or a chance for the monarchy to make amends to its people for its past mistakes. A tall order for two young people who just want to get married. And, for all the pageantry, for all the songs, for all the tears, I am less than sure that the wedding accomplished any of these things completely and I doubt that the new princess or her husband set out with those goals in mind. I think they just wanted to get married. However, what the wedding did do was, for two hours, unite two billion people around an event that wasn’t a war, a riot, or a natural disaster. Instead, it was an act of sweet love and a moment of true happiness. As a global community, we haven’t gotten one of those lately. I’d kinda forgotten what they looked like. Who knew happiness came with so many hats?"

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

In Which I Observe My Surroundings

Since we moved to Oregon everyone's been telling me, in reference to restaurants, stores, coffee shops, attitudes, hairstyles, and cars, "That's so Eugene." I never have any idea what they mean. Do they mean that something is local? Distinctive? Trendy?

In my quest to understand the essence of Eugene, I have made the following observations:

  • While walking down the street one frequently overhears something like the following: "They had a baby girl but they're raising her gender neutral." (How does one do this?) 
  • There is a fair here--the Oregon Country Fair, held every July--in which visitors are politely requested to cover their genitals before 5 p.m. Please note that paint counts as a covering. 
  • At the Saturday farmer's market, vendors dressed as Pilgrims (probably not intentionally--they're just wearing a lot of blankets, which seems Pilgrim-y) sell hemp onesies, ugly scarves, and stale bread. 
  • Every fall the city crowns a Slug Queen. (I think Slug stands for something, or perhaps it's just in reference to all the slugs littering the sidewalks here.) Apparently this is an honor. 
All of these things are, irrefutably, so Eugene. And here's just one more story that, I think, neatly illustrates the culture in this city. (Or possibly throughout the Northwest? I'll need to continue my research.)

There's a woman I work with who is just the most lovely, tender-hearted person in creation. She's soft-spoken, gentle, and unfailingly generous. She's the sort of person who can always be counted on, who, you sense, would maintain her calm in the worst kind of crisis. She's the sort of person who strips away all your illusions about what a lovely person you are, because she's just so good. 

For the past week or so she's been growing one of those little ducks in a jar full of water on her desk. You know those things? It's a little pellet, and you drop it in water and after 48 hours the pellet turns into a slimy, dense heap of duck. Or T-Rex. Or Christmas tree. Whatever. The duck (I named it Butch) has grown to its full size, and it was sitting out on a little plate. I went to look at it today, and we both sort of tilted our heads as we looked at it.

"Don't you just want to rip its little head off?" she asked. 

I stared. "No, not really. No," I said. 

"I'm used to dead animals," she shrugged. "My husband owns a fish hatchery, and he's just got a menagerie of carcasses in his freezer. I told him to throw me in there when I die, but to make sure to pose me nicely."

"Pose you nicely," I repeated. 

"Yes. We found a dog on the road once that was just about gone, so we took it home and called the vet. It died before we could get it there, though, so we brought it back to the freezer and posed it nicely."

"You don't freeze a carcass," said I. "I think you're supposed to bury it or incinerate it or something."

"But the owners might have been looking for it. And they did come around just a few days later, and it was good for them to see their dog. It was posed so nicely, they said." 

I must have been giving her quite a look because she laughed and patted my arm and said "It's not that weird around here. Trust me." And I thought, You are so Eugene. 

Thursday, April 14, 2011

In Which I Get Good at Bureaucracy

We moved to Oregon a few months ago and have, ever since, been putting off making it legal. (It's the residency equivalent, I suppose, of knocking someone up and fleeing the state before her pa can tell you to make an honest woman out of her.) (I feel like this metaphor is going to fall apart on me soon, so best to abandon it here.) 

But the hubby's Michigan license was set to expire soon, so off to the DMV we went. 

The Oregon DMV is a wretched little building populated by bored people. The flippy-hair chick at the information desk is bored, the scraggly-hair lady at the computer is bored, and the unwashed masses of people clutching their checkbooks--some of whom have been there long enough to actually begin decaying--are also bored. (We fell into this last category.) (Not so much the unwashed part.) 

The flippy-hair chick--somehow I remember her chewing gum, although this cannot actually be the case--added up the costs for us. Sixty bucks each for licenses. $173 for the license plates. Some other large amount of money for the registration. Five bucks each to take the driving test. And seven dollars--this amount sticks in my head--for a VIN inspection. The VIN inspection consisted of the flippy-hair chick leaving her desk, walking outside, looking at a set of very tiny numbers hidden on the car, and then returning to her desk. Seven dollars for this. Do you know how many lattes that would buy me? (Two.) 

After the VIN inspection (which, I've just got to say, the car passed with flying colors), off we went to sit in the chairs. After the length of an ice age scraggly-hair lady called us up, looked at the eighty-seven identifying documents we'd brought along, and concluded that we had insufficient proof of address. 

It was around this point that I started longing for cake. I figure when people move to a new state the least its DMV can do is provide a party of some sort. Would welcome balloons really have killed them? 

Scraggly-hair lady seemed disinclined to provide balloons.

So Hubby ran home to get extra proof of address. (Looking the lady squarely in the eye and saying very sincerely, "I promise you I live here," didn't seem to do the trick.) He returned, documents in tow, twenty minutes later. In these twenty minutes the scraggly lady had already forgotten us, so we had to begin the process all over again. But finally she let us take the test. 

Here are some things you need to know in order to get a driver's license in the state of Oregon:
  • The exact distance at which you should flick off your brights when another is approaching from the opposite direction. (I just turn them off when I see the other car's headlights. Apparently you're supposed to wait until they're within 400 feet. Maybe it's just me, but I'm not very good at judging distance when it's pitch black out.)
  • The amount of your fine should you not provide proof of insurance upon an officer's request. 
  • How long after a move you have to provide the DMV with your new address. 
  • What you should do when you see a big red sign that says "STOP." 
I got one of these questions right, plus a few others, but was ultimately declared a menace to society, and scraggly-hair lady refused to grant me a license. Hubby got many more questions right than I did. He got his license. 

So back I went the next day to re-take the test. Same bored people in the same wretched building. I passed this time--fewer stupid questions--but the powers that be (scraggly-hair lady was nowhere in sight) once again refused to grant me a license because I'd neglected to bring all fifty-eight thousand pieces of documentation. 

But I returned, still valiant, on the third day, every piece of paper that has ever had my name on it in hand, and presented them to the scraggly-hair lady, who was now wearing a pair of badly ripped jeans. She took my picture and asked me if I wanted to be an organ donor.

"Everything but my eyes," I said. "I wouldn't wish my vision on anyone. Ha ha ha."

"Um, there's not really a form for that?" she said. (Did I mention that she was an up-talker?) 

"Never mind," I said. 

"Well, welcome to Oregon," she said, and cracked what may have been a scraggly-toothed smile. It wasn't a welcome cake, and it certainly wasn't a bunch of balloons, but I felt like we'd become friends by this point. I smiled back. 

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

In Which I Instruct the Reader in the Virtue of Patience

Birthday tomorrow. I was all geared up to make a birthday pie, but once I was up to my elbows in soapy water from the dinner dishes I lost all my oomph. So the birthday pie is going to have to wait until the weekend. And anyway, it seems silly to celebrate before I receive the birthday package my father hinted at so darkly the other day. Apparently it includes a copy of Dick and Jane and Vampires. I already have Yiddish with Dick and Jane (“See Jane schlep. Schlep, Jane. Schlep. Schlep, schlep, schlep.”), so this will round out my collection nicely.

If I had my own Dick and Jane story, incidentally, it would go something like this:

Kathleen needs tea. Drink, Kathleen. Drink!
Now Kathleen can talk. Talk, Kathleen. Talk!
So many emails. Delete, Kathleen. Delete!
Too many proposals. Reject, Kathleen. Reject!
Way too many adverbs. Erase, Kathleen. Erase!
Now the day is done. Goodnight, Kathleen. Goodnight!


Sunday, April 3, 2011

In Which I Return

It’s been four years since I shut down my old blog from college—shut it down because my life consisted of (a) playing French nanny to a four-year-old and (b) sitting on my fiancĂ©’s couch addressing wedding invitations, and neither of these things do a lively blog make. But since that time I have done the following:

  1. Married the fiancé
  2. Burned a few dinners
  3. Landed a job in which I was never called on to produce the names of dinosaurs in French
  4. Quit the job
  5. Snagged another job—this one far away from home, and …  
  6. Blazed a whole new Oregon Trail

We’ve been here a few months and it’s starting to feel like home. We’ve found the best trails to hike, the coziest coffee shop, the grocery store with the most dependable produce, and the best waffles in creation. And now that those big priorities are taken care of, I have a little more time to indulge in telling the whole world what I think about, oh, everything.

So here’s my new forum for musing about literature, science (the portion of it that’s accessible to English majors), current affairs, and my quest to find the perfect pastry dough. Welcome.