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Monthly Archives: May 2011

I’m sentimental. I can’t help it.

Not having a job does have its perks. Today, for example, I was able to take off in the middle of the day to go to an open house at a historic courthouse downtown. Would have probably missed it if I’d had to work.

I like old stuff. I especially like old buildings. Many of you know I worked at an old hotel a while back, one that once housed the Multnomah County Poor Farm. It was pretty awesome.

I love old buildings because they impart a sense of history, perhaps even a sense of immortality that only architecture can. This building was here before I was and, with a little luck, it will still stand when I’m long gone.

So, I drug myself out of the recliner before noon today and headed downtown.

The Gus J. Solomon Courthouse was built before I was born, before my mom was born. I’ve been there twice before: once when Judge Solomon was still on the bench and once just a few years ago at a reception for Greil Marcus after a reading he gave at the Schnitz.

They’ve done quite a bit of renovation since, mostly in the form of putting it back the way it should have always been. If I’m to believe the tour guide, they used 50 lbs. of carnauba wax to restore the wood in Judge Solomon’s courtroom alone.

Of course, neither he nor I am completely sure if that was the Judge’s actual courtroom, but we agreed to pretend it was just for the day. This is the influence I can exert over tour guides when I ask questions for which they’re not prepared. I can make them believe what I tell them. It’s my superpower. It’s not terribly useful on a daily basis.

It’s a beautiful space with incredible oak paneling and high, arched windows that let in more light than you’d get from any silly light fixture. If you want to get a glimpse at it, it’s been featured in a number of movies. The one they tout on the tour was the Tommy Lee Jones/Benicio del Toro vehicle “The Hunted.”

Anyway, while I was there, standing there like an idiot, staring up at the incredibly detailed ceiling, another woman came in.

“Let me ask you this,” she said to the tour guide. “These courtrooms aren’t used anymore, right? Why did you bother to restore them?”

She asked in such a way that, I kid you not, I wanted to knock her teeth out. I mean, why bother to come see them if you doubt their necessity as a part of keeping our shared history alive? You didn’t have to come into the building. You didn’t have to pick up the self-guided tour map. You didn’t have to get in the elevator and ascend six floors and then walk all the way to the end of the hall. And you didn’t have to come into the Honorable late Judge Gus J. Solomon’s very courtroom to ask such an asinine question.

The tour guide said simply,”Look around you.”

I didn’t stay to see what the woman’s reaction was. I just thanked the tour guide and left.

The Solomon Courthouse is available to rent for private events starting at $75 an hour depending on the space you need. I’ve got the info if you need it and I’m sure there’ a website somewhere that can help you book it.

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Posted by on May 19, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

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Confessions

So, I have a little confession to make.

Sometimes, I don’t think of myself as a writer.

Oh, sure. I write things, but I rarely put them out there into the world for people to read. It seems they’re never good enough. They might be good enough for other people, but never for me.

I went to a writers’ fair thing a few weeks ago. It was a last minute decision, on my way to something else. It was a room full of other writers and small presses and writing programs (“Our program is $3000 and we’re very picky about who we accept.” “Well, I’m very picky about who I give $3000.”) all hawking their wares.

It would have been fine, I would have written it off as a wasted hour, but for my reaction to the question,”Are you a writer?”

I was asked several times. The answer should have come simply, without thought. “Yes. Yes, I am.”

But it didn’t. I stuttered and stumbled over my words apologetically. Am I a writer? “Sometimes,” I heard myself tell one particularly lovely little old lady.

“Oh, dear,” she answered. “Aren’t we all?”

Are we? Am I? Being a writer, to me anyway, has always been intrinsically linked to being published. You can call yourself anything, but unless you’re doing it, it’s not true, is it?

But I am writing. I’m just sans agent, sans publisher, sans finished work. Can I just go around telling people I’m a writer? I published that little short-story-that’s-not-really-a-short-story on Smashwords. Does that count?

Ugh.

If I do, the next problem comes immediately. Tell someone you’re a writer and they want to know what it is you’ve written. So, I stumble and mumble and fumble my words again.

I’ve got a couple projects I’m working on now, interrelated and terribly confusing to try to distill into just a few sentences when people ask. Do I tell people that I’m writing one thing with a werewolf and the other deals with some theological issues in such a way that I half expect to find a representative from th Vatican on my doorstep any minute? I rewrote the beginning of the world last night, from the perspective of a fallen angel. How’s that? Yeah, I think I hear the doorbell.

Okay, with all of that said, I have another confession.

Sometimes, I think I’m an amazing writer.

I read what others have written and I think,”I could have done that better.” I read what I’ve written and think,”Damn, I’m good.”

I imagine a time when my dentist will see my name on the NYT Bestseller list and think,”Yeah, I’m her dentist.”

Then I remember how far I still have to go with the two big projects before they’re remotely readable. How far? Ima guess 700 pages on the big, scary one; a couple hundred with the werewolf.

Maybe when I’m done, I’ll be a writer.

 
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Posted by on May 10, 2011 in Master Plans, Writing

 

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life and death.

Osama bin Laden is dead. I feel obligated to write about it but I’m having a hard time organizing my thoughts.

I’ve been admonished by friends for taking a swipe at the “Mission Accomplished” banner. It was eight years ago that it was hoisted and we were told to celebrate. But we were not done then.

And many are referencing that ill-timed speech and silly banner tonight, though I doubt that they realize this mission is still not over. One man is dead. An evil man who caused the deaths of thousands of people and changed our lives forever, to be sure. But he is still just one man. Evil resides in the hearts of more than just him.

People are gathering across the country, at the White House, at Ground Zero. I imagine these gatherings will pop up daily for the next week. People will cheer and wave flags and light candles and sing songs. But we are still not done. We. Are. Not. Done. And we are not safe, no safer than we were a week ago, a year ago, ten years ago. And the death of one man will not bring back the thousands he killed or who were killed trying to root him out.

Instinct should have told us that, when the White House announces a Presidential address at 10:30 p.m. on a Sunday night, there’s something big coming. And then it broke on Twitter: bin Laden was dead and U.S. forces were in possession of his body. Twitter blew up. Facebook followed closely. The Big Three networks, as well as CNN, went into scramble mode.

I felt a little sick. And a little joy. And a little apprehension. And a little anger. And I remembered where I was nearly ten years ago when the Twin Towers fell and the Pentagon was on fire. I remembered the shock and the fear of that day, that week, the year that followed.

Over the course of the evening, I’ve accumulated a number of quotes from a variety of people. Admittedly, most are stolen from Twitter and Facebook feeds, but they’ve touched me nonetheless.

Do not rejoice when your enemy falls, and do not let your heart be glad when he stumbles.”Proverbs 24:17

I will not cheer for death, but instead I will mourn the death grip violence has on our world and put my hope in the Prince of Peace. Nate Paquette

I’ve never wished a man dead, but I have read some obituaries with great pleasure. Mark Twain

There is some good in the worst of us & some evil in the best of us. When we discover this, we are less prone to hate our enemies. MLK, Jr.

I am not so wise to think, that I can point my finger at someone and say, that without a doubt, the world is a better place without them. William York

bin Ladin is dead. We as a nation can celebrate; and we as people of faith can mourn that we find it necessary to kill one another. Matthew Bolz-Weber

I fear what we face in the coming days. I fear not the retaliation of our enemies. Instead, I fear our disappointment upon realizing that we are not done. Our soldiers are not immediately coming home. This was one man. We are not done.

There were two men who played significant parts in my life that week of September 11, 2001. One called me the morning of the attacks, but I was too stunned to answer the phone. His message was simple, calling to check on me, to make sure I was okay though we were both thousands of miles from the tragedies and violence of the day. I worked night audit at the hotel that night and, just after midnight, he arrived and stayed in the lobby with me until daybreak. He read his paper and I read my book and watched the news on the internet. Very few words passed between us.

His presence was a comfort to me then. It settled me and quieted me and I’ve never forgotten. Every year, on the anniversary of 9/11, I make sure to thank him again.

The second reached out to me with a tenderness I hadn’t known he possessed. He simply put his arms around me and said softly into my ear, “Be safe.” I doubt he remembers it now or recognizes himself when I write this about him but that gesture was (and still is) greatly appreciated.

These are now the words I say to you. Be safe.

 
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Posted by on May 2, 2011 in World stage

 

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