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Monthly Archives: October 2012

October and everything after…

October has felt strange and unfamiliar to me this year.

I’ve written about her for more than a decade, her traditions, her quirks, her unique personality. But this year, she was quiet. She didn’t whisper to me as she has in the past. She didn’t give me the words I have shared with you over the years.

Part of it, I’m sure, is that October and I embraced so fully, so completely last year. Pumpkin patch trips and a day in wine country and, on the very last night of October, a few hours spent communing with restless spirits in an historic cemetery, October was a gracious hostess last year.

I had a few moments this year when I felt her spirit, but for the most part, she remained elusive. I kept waiting for her call, for her to arrive on my doorstep, but she never did.

I’ve seen hide nor hair of a scary movie. Where are the Draculas, the Frankensteins, even the Freddys and Jasons? Where are the ghosts and goblins and the things that go bump in the night?

Bats and black cats and orange plastic pumpkins with handles that cut into our hands when they are filled too full of candy begged from neighbors. Haunted houses filled with dry ice smoke, strobe-light illuminated zombies and gallons of oozy, sticky fake blood.

Where were they?

Apples baked with walnuts and brown sugar, those horrible peanut butter taffies wrapped in black and orange waxed paper, T. Marzetti’s caramel dip with crisp green Granny Smith apples. The scent of hot apple cider, of wet fallen leaves turning to mulch, of the pumpkin spice latte from that coffee place from the north whose name we dare not speak.

I feel like I missed most of this. I’ve often said that October is a state of mind, an emotion too big to be contained in 31 days in the fall. I’m hoping that’s true. I’m hoping that, as has happened in the past, there will be a day in January or in March or in the dead of summer when something will strike me as being incredibly October.

Until that time, I’m operating on the assumption that the few October Thoughts I put forward this year, lackluster though they were, may be the last ones.

My writing has turned elsewhere, my heart was dizzy from trying to keep up with my two major blog subjects at the same time while also trying to prepare to write – seriously write – a novel in November. As a result, all three suffered. And, as it turns out, October, with the tens or thousands of words I’ve written about her, was the easiest to leave behind. I have no doubt she’ll forgive me. She did quite fine without me before.

Thanks to all who’ve come along for the ride, and especially to those who were there at the very beginning, in that big blue van with the red Fender fender somewhere in Wisconsin, when October was all apples and fallen leaves and a gigantic bag of Chex Mix.

Happy October.

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Posted by on October 31, 2012 in October 2012

 

October 26, 2012: Great literature of October

The key here, of course, is that not all great October literature involves stories that take place in October.

When October rolls around, there are three obvious choices at the top of my list.

Bram Stoker’s Dracula

Stoker’s Dracula was certainly not the first literary vampire, but is undeniably the one that has had the greatest influence on modern vampire lore. Prior to Stoker’s telling of the tale, the vampire was a monstrous thing, but Stoker made the vampire a creature of (albeit bloodthirsty) romance. Without him, we don’t get Anne Rice’s vampires or, regrettably, Twilight. Bram, will brilliant, owes us a bit of an apology, doesn’t he?

Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein

Shelley’s Frankenstein predates Dracula by almost 80 years. I hadn’t realized this until just now and I’m awed by it. Written during a rainy holiday near Lake Geneva in Switzerland, it is arguably one of the first instances of what we now term “science fiction.” If you haven’t read it, I would suggest trying to find a copy of the 1818 version rather than the more common, heavily-edited 1831 publication.

Washington Irving’s Legend of Sleepy Hollow

For all of you ‘Merricuns, Irving’s book of short stories offers a glimpse into early-American life and are some of few pieces of literature from that period still in print. And how can you not be scared of the Headless Horseman.

Speaking of the Headless Horeseman, I’ll just leave this here:

Happy October.

 
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Posted by on October 26, 2012 in October 2012

 

October 25, 2012: From the vault

I know, I’ve been slacking on the October stuff this year. How many years can one continue to write about candy corn. So, here’s a little something from the vault:

When I look back over my years of writing about October, it’s easy to see a pattern.

What makes October special?

Is it the sound associated with October? The howl of the werewolf at the full moon, the crinkle of cellophane as you pull it away from the caramel apple, the wind moving fallen leaves?

Is it the smell of October? The dark earthen musk of those same fallen leaves after the rain, the scent of the freshly cut jack’o’lantern, the sweet spiciness of hot cider?

Is it the flavor, the texture, the anticipation of a holiday waaaaay at the end of the month? What is it?

It’s more than that.

I won’t speak for anyone else, but when you read this, look back. October, for me anyway, is a month-long remembrance of my childhood.

It’s camping out on the floor in front of my friend Holly’s tv to watch the Legend of Sleepy Hollow. It’s the Halloween carnival at school. It’s the Halloween party when I was 7 (?) with the plastic spiders strung on fishing line. It’s trick-or-treating in Palm Springs and, yes, trying to shove those popcorn balls into that little plastic pumpkin.

It’s the awful, muddy trips to the pumpkin patch with my cousins when we first moved to Oregon. It was in October so long ago that I found myself in Portland, a city I now proudly claim as my own.

It’s the memory of a simpler time in all of our lives. October, even as fantastic as this one has been so far, will never compare to the Octobers of our childhood.

Happy October. Remember.

 
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Posted by on October 25, 2012 in October 2012

 

Okay, listen up, Portland sports journos.

Let me make this simple for you: the Timbers, a Major League Soccer franchise located here in the City of Roses, are here to stay.

You can bitch, you can moan, you can become whiny and cranky and stomp your feet and shake your fists at the clouds above and kick puppies but the fact remains, the Timbers and their Army are not going anywhere.

That said, I think it’s high time you started to learn a thing or two about the Timbers and the culture that surrounds them. When you’re ready, I’ll be happy to point you to folks that can give you insight into our history, our passion, our commitment to this team and this town.

In the meantime, I’ll offer a few words about the Cascadia Cup.

Established in 2004 by the supporters groups of the three Cascadia teams – the Timbers, the Seattle Sounders and the Vancouver Whitecaps – the cup is awarded to club that takes the most points from the other two Cascadian teams. It’s not hard to understand. The not-terribly-complicated rules can be found, spelled out in their simplest form, at http://www.thecascadiacup.com/. You’re professionals, you should be able to Google this stuff.

What might be harder to understand is the importance of the Cup. Especially to Timbers fans. Especially after this mess of a season.

See, we started our season with the highest of expectations. The arrival of Kris Boyd. An exciting pre-season tournament. A win for the home opener. “Playoffs in the second year,” Merritt told us. And many of us believed him.

But it wasn’t long before things started to unravel and before the halfway point in the season, we’d lost to an amateur team and our coach had been fired. We had a nine-game stretch during the summer when we didn’t win a match. There were three games in a row during that stretch when we didn’t score a single goal.

What I mean to say is this: it hasn’t been the easiest of seasons. But we’re still here. We still line up hours before every match and sing until every player is off the field. We travelled en masse to Seattle to face an arguably stronger, playoff-bound team in their home stadium. Over 1,500 of us, Steve, on eighteen buses, on trains, in dozens of cars. People flew in from all over the country. This girl came from Wisconsin to see a team she listens to on the radio but never gets to see in person.

So, Steve, when you say stuff like this, it isn’t entirely accurate:

The lonely corner of the planet where you can never hope to attract unique coaches, talent or brands. The moss-backed abyss where no one dares to dream big or loud or fast or …

We did dream big. We still dream big. We’re just occasionally disappointed. It doesn’t mean we stop dreaming. It means we have more time to dream bigger.

In those two weeks between the ridiculous loss in Seattle and the Cascadia Cup win in Vancouver, we had plenty of time to dream. And lament. And rage. And laugh. And recharge.

We got tossed unceremoniously from the US Open Cup in May. We saw the team crumble mid-summer. We’re saddled with an interim coach who doesn’t seem to get that the season didn’t end in July. The Cascadia Cup was the last thing within reach.

We could have taken it during the Sounders’ visit to Portland in September, but we didn’t.

We could have taken it during our trip north to the Emerald City two weeks ago, but we didn’t.

We were forced to go into Vancouver, to play against a team fighting for a playoff spot. In order to secure the Cup, we needed to win on the road, something we hadn’t been able to do all season.

And, when it came right down to it, the importance of the Cup is what pushed our boys forward, what inspired them to perform at the level necessary to get those three points. They wanted it not for themselves, but for us.

And now we have it. It doesn’t erase the stupidity of this season, but it gives us much-needed a reason to celebrate.

So, Dwight, you can scoff if you like. It doesn’t change the fact that this Cup means something to us. It’s more than a trophy. It’s a covenant between the players and the fans, the acknowledgement that this season has been difficult for all parties involved and a promise that things will get better.

I have to wonder, in your years of writing sports professionally, if you’ve become so jaded that you don’t remember what it’s like to be completely committed to your team. Beyond that, I wonder if you ever had a team to which you were fully committed.

I have to admit, the experience is relatively new to me and has been, at times, alarming. How did I find myself so in love?

And then I look around me and realize that I’m surrounded by others – thousands of others – who are just as enamored, just as in love as I am.

And then you, Steve and Dwight and John (whom I haven’t previously mentioned, but seems to fit in perfectly here), just seem sad and lonely and desperate when you lash out at things you obviously don’t understand and are unwilling to learn about.

We don’t need your approval, gentlemen. And your derision is unwelcome.

 
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Posted by on October 23, 2012 in Timbers

 

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October 23, 2012: An embarrassing confession

I am absolutely not sitting here watching “Practical Magic” on the ABC Family channel.

Except that I am.

It’s one of a couple dozen movies that pop up this time every year and, because I’m a sucker for a crappy movie on a family-oriented cable channel, I’ll watch it every time it’s on. I waste so much time this way.

Anyway, it, in a very Disney/Hollywood/contrived manner touches on a bunch of October topics, the most obvious is the icon of Halloween: the witch.

I’ve known witches for years. Not the Disney/Hollywood type, but followers of what I have long referred to as the Earth religions: Wicca and the like. It’s all interesting stuff if you’re someone with an open mind (which many people sadly do not possess), these old belief systems and their newer, revised counterparts.

I love that many of them revolve not around feast days that celebrate individual humans or specific events, but instead follow a more organic calendar, tied to the passing of the seasons.

October 31 not only marks the more commercialized holiday that we know as Halloween, but is also still celebrated around the world as Samhain (or, in the southern hemispheres, Beltane). It the most common terms, it is the New Year for many of the old religions, Wicca and Druidism at the forefront.

It is, as has been so often written, a time when it is believe that the veil between this world and the next is at its thinnest, when we can most easily communicate with those who have gone ahead of us.

I’ll write a little more about all of this over the next few days as many of our Halloween traditions stem from the observance of Samhain.

Happy October.

 
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Posted by on October 23, 2012 in October 2012

 

Kings of Cascadia

First apologies to my October folks. We’ll be back to normal Tuesday.

I know you’ll be SHOCKED to hear that I’m feeling a tad emotional this evening.

Until very recently, I’ve been borderline insane in my optimism where the Timbers are concerned. It’s been said that despite talent or depth or conditioning, any team can take any game on any day. It’s all a crap shoot.

But this year has left me wondering if there was some sort of cosmic grudge being held against our boys. So many last minute losses, so many things have gone wrong, so much damage has been done.

I’ll admit I’ve shed more than a few tears over this season.

And I shed a few more tonight.

I didn’t know what to expect and, to be perfectly, painfully honest, I didn’t expect much. I love these boys, I love this club, but there is a limit to how much I can hurt before becoming numb.

Missing the last home Seattle match was fifty times more painful than I thought it would be and not being able to celebrate a Cup win immediately after was another blow.

Joining a traveling contingent of 1,500 to the Seattle away match only to find that our GM/manager had stopped taking the competition seriously absolutely brought me to my knees. I’ve become increasingly restless and angry since Spenny was removed from his post. And Gavin’s quotes over the last few days (rather, last few months) have put me on edge.

I knew, for the sake of my own mental well-being, that I needed to be among people who understood all that this game meant. The last shreds of hope for a completely blown season hung on this one match.

I went to Bazi, a lovely Belgian beer bar in southeast Portland, a bar where I often watch games, but also where I’ve never seen a winning result for my Timbers. I was lucky to be able to gather a fantastic group of folks who don’t mind that I’m a wreck during games. Actually, they probably didn’t even notice.

The line-up was announced and, while my Boyd-in-the-eighteen prediction was proven wrong, it didn’t look bad.

And it wasn’t bad. It was scrappy. It was not pretty. At best, it was mediocre football played for the first half hour.

And then Jack. Jack whom we shouted down at the CalFC match. Jack who many of us have repeatedly called on to give up the armband. Poetically, if it wasn’t going to be Boyd, it had to be Jack.

And then we just waited as the minutes ticked away. The longest hour of our lives. Six minutes of stoppage.

And then it was over.

Kings of Cascadia.

And my first thought was to go to the stadium.

It was my first thought when Spenny was sent packing, my first thought when Perkins was traded: a moment outside the stadium, to touch the outside of the cathedral, to pay homage to those who came before, and then a trip across the street to the Bitter End.

This will potentially be the last Cascadia Cup we celebrate at the Bitter End. Bittersweet, but sweet nonetheless.

And, thankfully, I was surrounded by folks who are every bit as sentimental and ridiculous as I am and we all piled into cars and went: long-term fans, bloggers, a capo, one of the founders of the Timbers Army and me.

I’m forever amazed at the series of events that has brought me to this place, to stand among these folks, in the shadow of what has often been described as our fortress, our cathedral.

Somewhere to the north of us, our boys and our Timbers Army brothers and sisters celebrate with the Cascadia Cup. And sometime in the next few days, the Cup will make its way home to Portland.

Nothing has really changed. This has still been an absolute mess of a season. We still have a GM that we desperately need to replace. We still have just one more game to play before the long, dark offseason commences.

But I saw heart out there on that field. I saw heart and passion and desire and all the things we’ve been hoping to see all season. The difference tonight is that we saw that heart and passion and desire from every player that laced up his boots to play.

Thank you, Timbers. Thank you all. You’ve done us proud, you Kings of Cascadia.

 
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Posted by on October 21, 2012 in Timbers

 

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Lost in translation, part two

What have we established thus far?

We have a team of talented guys who’ve been hung out to dry.

We’ve got a black hole where a coach should be.

We’ve got…I don’t know what else we’ve got.

And where do we go from here?

We’re being set up to believe that our savior is coming, that Caleb Porter is the answer to all of our problems, our roadblocks, our inadequacies.

Guess what? He’s not.

He’s a guy who was offered a job, a seemingly pretty good job, and he took it. He thinks he knows what the job is but I imagine he’s going to be very surprised at what he finds. I have never wanted to be wrong about something more than I want to be wrong about this.

Someone asked me the other day what I would like to tell Porter before he gets here.

I’d start with two words: I’m sorry.

I’m sorry because this mess has been getting messier for a very long time and there’s little chance you’ll be able to get it cleaned up before the Kiwi finds a way to blame you for it. In fact, all signs point to him already finding ways to pin his poor decisions to you, Mr. Porter, before you’ve even arrived.

***

We’re coming up on the end of the season and, as I told the gentlemen at TheAxePDX yesterday, I’m not sure I have much more to say about the Timbers that hasn’t already been said. This, of course, was right before I wrote 1,200 words in the dead of night.

And it was before the next rounds of quotes came out. No, not yesterday’s video clip from The O. Newer.

Here. Please read.

When I was in high school, I took my first journalism class. I hated sportswriting. There were so may cliches and all the quotes from coaches were the same, regardless of what questions you asked them. I started to see patterns. A running joke among my friends and I – that continues to this day – is “Well, it’s a young team. It’s a growing year.”

So, here’s Gavin:

“We’re the second-youngest team in MLS and we hoped some of our younger players would mature a lot quicker this year.”

It’s a young team. It’s a growing year.

The end part of that quote is Gavin talking about how they, perhaps, should have been looking for older players, more rugged players. I take this to mean players with a bit more experience.

And then the train leaves the rails.

“Bright Dike was given the opportunity to play and he scored. Then we had a decision to make and decided to reward performance.”

Okay, let’s rewind a bit.

)Feel free to stop reading at any time. I’ll be straying into my fan-crush territory here. I willingly admit my biases lest they be pointed out to me later.)

Kenny Cooper. Older. More experienced. Perhaps not exactly rugged, but he’s turned out to be quite the goal-scorer, hasn’t he? Picked up by Man U, played in the reserves when he couldn’t quite make the first team, a couple years with Dallas, a couple with 1860 Munich. Ten international caps and four international goals and, after a bit of a bumpy period midseason, finished as the Timbers’ leading scorer last year.

So we trade him and use that pile of cash to buy someone with even more experience who is decidedly more rugged: Kris Boyd. (Yes, I know the most recent injury is not an indication of ruggedness, so here, remember this.)

Do I need to recite his resume? Again? Kilmarnock, Rangers, eighteen national team caps (if you don’t count the B squad or U21s). Here’s the big one: all-time leading scorer of the Scottish Premier League.

So, we brought him here and, like Kenny, sent him out to work by himself and then just couldn’t understand it when he wasn’t getting it done.

And then we went back to youth and (arguably) less experience.

Don’t get me wrong. I dig Dike. I dig Dike as a late-game sub who, freight-train-like, runs at keepers and scares the crap out of them and barrels over defenders who dare get in his way. But, despite his time with the Timbers (both USL and MLS), he’s still shockingly green.

This will be the question going into the offseason. We have all these forwards, young and green as well as older, experienced and, sigh, rugged. Will we follow the formula and blame the failure of the team on the biggest name and shuffle him off somewhere in January (or, more likely in this case, simply cut him loose)? Or will we stick with what we’ve got and try to make it work? Because it can work.

***

The Cascadia Cup.

Do you remember the anticipation, the expectation you felt in the preseason? I do.

The preseason tournament was a homecoming, a gathering of the tribe. I felt…lovestruck. There was such possibility, such joy, such hope. The preseason tournament, the first home win, such promise.

And the slide began. But it wasn’t that bad. It was early. Everybody just needed to calm down. We had a couple stupid losses, but we had them in between beating teams we had absolutely no business beating.

And then CalFC turned everything. We turned. We shouted down our own players. I hope I never see that have to happen again. I choose those words carefully. I know it had to happen.

I watched that game alone. Looking back, it feels less like a game I went to and more like a trial I endured and survived. It will become, perhaps already has, one of the legendary matches we look back to and tell new fans about for decades to come. Frustrating and necessary for the development of the team and, for me as a relative newcomer, for my understanding of the culture that surrounds the club.

A win against Seattle, losses at Colorado and RSL and then the world imploded.

Like many of my fellow bloggers, I’m looking back, rereading old posts and news articles and other ephemera. I’m listening to old soundbites and rewatching interviews. I’m trying to piece it all together, to make some sense out of what’s happened over the course of the season.

And I can’t. When Gavin implied that the importance of the Seattle match two weeks ago had somehow been lost in translation, he may as well have said the importance of the entire season had been lost as well.

The curve as I see it was confidence followed by disbelief followed by frustration and then confusion. Confusion lead the way for more frustration and then resignation.

I saw some sparks along the way, times when individual players spoke up or acted out in such a manner as to remind me that they were just as troubled on the pitch as we were in the terraces.

But mostly what I see when looking back is a team without direction. A team that could never figure out how to work together in a cohesive manner, most recently lead by a manager that had absolutely no desire to see them succeed.

I don’t understand that at all.

So, here we are, on the eve of our last derby, our last road match and our last shot at salvaging anything of tangible value from this emotionally wrenching wreck of a season.

And I have no idea if we’ve even got a shot at it.

***

I woke up early one morning this last week completely convinced that Boyd will be in the eighteen in Vancouver. And I woke up this morning knowing the boys would be flying out today and, for a brief moment, I considered camping at the airport in an attempt to find out who’s making the trip.

But I didn’t. I’m looking forward to the surprise.

Will our fate be sealed by Wallace and Palmer? Or will we find hope in Smith and Alexander?

Three points will salvage this season. Does this team have what it takes to get them?

 
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Posted by on October 20, 2012 in Timbers