Very Well Then

Contradicting myself, always contradicting myself

Archive for November, 2008

You’re My Favorite Thing – XC Skiing

Posted by verywellthen on November 12, 2008

When it rains here in Blue Heron Valley, it can sap one’s soul.  The clouds diffuse the already weak winter light, the wetness makes you shiver.   My strategy to stay sane in all of this is to think, if it’s raining down here, it’s snowing up there.

Up There is the Cascade Range.  Within a 90 minute drive of my house are several skiing areas.  Most winter weekends will find me heading that way for my favorite of all outdoor activities — cross-country skiing.  

I’ve downhilled.  I’ve snow-shoed (is that the present perfect tense verb of shoe?).  I’ve skate-skiied.  I’ll take an xc tour any time.  Workout, range, efficiency of snow travel, it’s adventure, fun, invigorating.  It’s also a fading sport.  Snow shoes have given a no-learning-curve option to snow exploration and few take the time to learn the basic skills of xc.  It’s not all that tough, but it takes a few outings to figure out a balance to at least trudge along.  I’ve been doing it over a decade and am hardly graceful — especially if you throw in some downhill.  

I take beginners up to the mountain as often as I can.   I endure the slipping and falling and the simplest of paths, so that others might engage in the sport.   I’m finding fewer takers.  

My one constant, never complaining companion is the Dog Electric.  She’s been amazing all these years doing double digit miles in deep snow without the benefit of skis.  She’s getting old enough that the hip pain sidelines her for days after a deep snow or long day.  If it’s both a long day and a deep snow, there can sometimes be trouble getting her home, and painful-just-to-watch gloom of seeing her try to get around the house the next day.  But I don’t want to stop taking her.  The joyful motions in the wayback of the WAYBAC machine when we hit snow line and the unbounded joy of her first hitting the snowpath means she loves it.  

I learned long ago that things to do that make my dog happy, make me happy.


Posted in Blue Heron Land, You're My Favorite Thing | Leave a Comment »

It’s Better Than Turkey — A Thanksgiving Poem

Posted by verywellthen on November 9, 2008

At Thanksgiving Dinner with Brother 3, you have to sing for your Thanksgiving dinner.  Or perhaps read a poem.  The weekend before Thanksgiving Brother 3 and wife give “assignments” to their guests, with the homework read/performed out loud between dinner and dessert.  A few years back, I came up with the poem below (I’m sure the “assignment” asked for something Dr. Suess-ian).   A few touch-ups and it’s ready for a November posting.  


It’s Better Than Turkey

Copyright 2008

At the International Order of Odd Fellow Turkeys
Gathered two hundred Toms, nervous and quirky.
It was Thanksgiving Season, the time of the slaughter
Where every Tom had lost a son or a daughter.
They told horror stories of where stuffing got stuffed
“How do we stop it?” one of them huffed.
“Petition the president”, “Incite a riot”
Then somebody yelled “Everyone, Quiet!”
It was Murky the Turkey who stepped out of the fray
All cool and collected with his new MBA.
“It’s a modern world,” he said, ” and until legislation passes,
We need the power of the media to save all our – tail feathers.”
You may need an economics degree to understand why
But if we lower the demand, we save us, the supply.
So Murky set up the projector and set up the screen
And rolled the slickest infomercial these Toms had ever seen.


[roll projector]

[cue music]

America, America consider your choices
America, America please hear our voices.
You have beef, you have chicken, you have duck, you have goose.
You have quail, you have venison, you have elk, you have moose.
I don’t give a damn if you lamb, ham, a clam or spam.
Pork is renowned for being so sweet
So eat, eat the other white meat.
You have steak, you have burgers, you have liver, you have jerky
All of it, It’s better than turkey!
It’s better than turkey.
The Indians gave that first Thanksgiving treat
Honor their spirit: eat buffalo meat.
Start the countdown to Christmas from truelove to thee
Eat roasted partridge from a roasted pear tree.
If you’re so hungry you could eat a horse, then of course, eat a horse.
It’s been 400 years since Standish and Squanto
Eat back-bacon by god like they do in Toronto.
Or eat posada like your amigos down in Albuquerque
Si, It’s better than turkey
It’s better than turkey.
Just don’t chop our heads off with an axe.
Don’t freeze us and thaw us, that’s all we ask.
Don’t pluck our feathers, we don’t look good naked.
Treat us like cows in India, you know: sacred.
How now, brown cow. Aren’t we holier than thou?
Can’t we all just get along
Can’t we hold hands and sing a song
and eat Tofu and sprouts like your friends out in Berkley
Dude, It’s better than turkey
It’s better than turkey.

[end projector]

In the Odd Fellow Hall, the Odd Toms were all flapping
The idea had merit, they all stood up clapping.
They pledged money for air time and called it a night,
But one Tom was heard on his way out of sight,
“I  hope that it works, but I’m kind of suspicious
Vanity may be insanity, but I know I’m delicious.”



Posted in Walking on Eggshells | Leave a Comment »

A poem — inspired by Billy Collins*

Posted by verywellthen on November 9, 2008

On the Next Line


I do not like it when poets finish their sentences

On the next line.  My reading eyes have a

Carriage return — a tiny hand reaching up and

Pushing them from the right side of

The socket back to the left, down one line.  Time

To pause.  Writer, your pause can be my pause – the end of a

Phrase, a

Thought, a


You don’t know how long it took me to accept

that rhyming wasn’t necessary.  And the lower case letters and poor punctuation. 

I’ll give you modernists credit for stopping the use of words like o’er and morn.

But please, finish your thought on the line you started it.  

I won’t think of you as anything other than





*It seems to be his humor.  I don’t mean to imply that he’s the type to abuse the use of the carriage return.  The carriage return — it’s a responsibility.  Use it wisely.

Posted in Walking on Eggshells | Leave a Comment »

Portland Tap Water in Autumn

Posted by verywellthen on November 8, 2008

my-favorite-liquid-scan-3-croppedJust as Daylight Redistribution Time (taking from the daylight-rich part of the day and giving to the poorly-lit hours) ended here in Blue Heron Land, the rains hit.  A double-dose of extra darkness for non-morning people.  Autumn had been phenomenal this year, and the leaves were almost New England worthy.  But that all ended with the rain.  

Soggy leaves began clogging the civic plumbing, which brought to mind this piece I wrote more than a decade ago, as a newbie to this town.   It was in response to a contest in the local alt-weekly.  The subject was “my favorite liquid”.  I tied for first place with a tribute to urine (true).   

The badly scanned thumbnail is the artwork that accompanied the piece in the alt-weekly.  It might have been the only piece of visual art I’ve ever inspired.  Thoughtful Girlfriend of the Time hunted down the artist (Dennis Hauth) and procured and framed the original for my birthday.  


Historical Note: Henry’s –  in the piece below — refers to Henry Weinhard’s, a mid-sized brewery that dispersed a Grape Nuts essence of malted barley over downtown until its long-standing urban brewery closed in 1999.  Full Sail Brewery now brews beer under the Weinhard brand.



My Favorite Liquid : Portland Tap Water in Autumn.

Copyright 1995


            Shortly after the autumn rains began in full force, I heard an announcement on the radio from the Portland Water Bureau reassuring customers that their drinking water was safe, even if it was slightly off-color.  The color from the autumn leaves choking the storm drains of the city had bled into the water supply.   Upon hearing this news I went straight to my kitchen sink and poured myself a glass of city tap water.    I held the glass up to the light, swirled it a little as if I was judging a fine wine.  Sure enough: a pale yellow, the color of old scotch tape. 

            Perhaps, I thought, this could be color from the corroded city pipes, but the tinge seemed more golden than rust — more the color one would imagine if you leached the pigment out of the entire bio-mass of the cities’ leaves and diluted it with all the rain of a Portland autumn.  I left my doubt behind, I knew I was staring at a magical liquid, a spiritual tea of Portland.


            The tea is born of the life-giving rains of the Northwest, vapor blown off the sea and condensed by the Cascades.  In this solution, the rain is the solvent and fundamental  to the solute.  From it springs the lushness of the forests and the spires of tree lined avenues.   As these trees withdraw in the chill of the diminishing daylight, the chlorophyll-life of the leaf retreats with all its greenness, exposing the true colors of dying: the pumpkin-orange of oaks, the speckled gold of  maples, the blush red of cottonwoods.  The winds of change rip the leaves from their branches and blow them about without peace. 

            In time they settle.  In the streets, turned to paste from the tread of Goodyears and Michelins.  In the parks, raked and stuffed into man-size plastic bags.  In the forests, falling so lightly that even if someone is around to hear, they do not make a sound.   And also in ravines where running water can extract their essence and in rain gutters where backed up water can stew their juices. 

            Brewed in the clogged storm drains of the streets of Portland,  drained to the water table, pumped into the waterworks of reservoirs and water towers:  it is a grand industrial brewing process, on a scale that dwarfs Bridgeport, even Henry’s, and perhaps approaches Anheuser Busch. 


            I walked outside with my glass of water, to the misty rain, pelting me like gamma rays.  I plucked a couple of tumbler-size leaves from an oak tree and garnished my water with them.   While the leaves cold-steeped,  I stood in the drizzle, in the damp mood the makes necessary two other formidable Northwest liquids, beer and coffee.   When the drink was ready I raised my glass to the trees and beyond to the clouds,  and toasted this quintessential liquid of Portland.   Skip the Evian and the water purifiers, I said to myself as I gulped down the water, just give me this fluid essence of pure autumn.

Posted in Blue Heron Land | Leave a Comment »