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03 August 2004 - (Link to this entry) (Comment)
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Meet Googley Eyed Jesus.   This odd mural adorns one of the largest Catholic churches in Portland.  The bulging eyes of Christ are looking directly upward...into the bulging thighs of another Christ directly above.  If the mural is accurate, then Jesus firmly believed in squats.

Just down the block from Googley Eyed Jesus is Susu's Studio, made famous in the 1980's by Phil Collins. 

Despite the warnings of people in San Francisco ("You'll regret leaving San Francisco!") and questions from people in Portland ("Why did you move to Portland?"), I'm finding the change delightful.

Portland, however, is not perfect.  In fact, Portland has two significant flaws:

Flaw #1:  The GymsClick for larger image

Portland has two gyms.  One gym is a high-priced place where women in matching leotards and leg warmers visit between arguing cases at the local courthouse.  The other is a Bally's Fitness that smells like a sex club when the air conditioning is working and an outhouse the rest of the day.  I chose the latter.

Unlike San Francisco gyms, where working out is largely a way to find a date for Friday night, people in Portland seem to exercise simply to fill the time between Boston Red Sox games.  Gym members rarely talk to each other.  This may be a New England habit or simply a stunned reaction to the bad 1980's hit music played across the high treble sound system.

When I joined Bally's, the salesperson asked for a local emergency contact.  She was stunned when I said I had none.  I said:  "It doesn't really matter.  If I drop dead, drag my corpse outside and tell the police you have never seen me before."  She didn't laugh.

Flaw #2:  The Too Fucking Polite Drivers

Drivers in Portland are polite.  Too polite. 

If someone standing on a street corner glances across the street, traffic in both directions comes to a halt while the pedestrian decides whether or not to cross.  Traffic on the local highways routinely operates at ten miles an hour less than the posted speed limit and drivers slow for turns hundreds of feet before their exit.  When confronted with a blaring horn, Maine drivers come to a complete stop, look around to make certain the road is clear, adjust their mirrors and then continue forward.  The city even lets you out of two parking tickets per year and you don't have to ask.Click for larger image

I routinely find myself clutching the steering wheel and screaming behind closed windows:  "Go you stupid motherfucker!  GO!"  I believe as long as I have California license plates I can maintain this behavior.  Once Maine installs Lobster-theme plates on my car, I'll have to smile nicely as I sit at the intersection and wait for a slow moving pedestrian to cross.

Fortunately, nothing in Portland is very far from anywhere else.  Even with traffic delays, I can drive anywhere in the city in under five minutes.  That gives me time to look around and ensure no one followed me off the freeway to hand deliver an anger management tract.

05 August 2004 - (Link to this entry) (Comment)
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Owning my own house comes with the responsibility of ensuring the trash cans are set by the curb on Wednesday night.  I never had this duty as a renter.  Trash dumped in garbage chutes or dumpsters in the basement of apartment buildings simply disappears without notice.  Santa-like, the sanitation workers arrive while I'm asleep, enter the building and whisk away the unwanted debris. 

The law prohibits placing trash by the curb before 7:00 PM on Wednesday night.  Neighborhood custom, however, requires the man of the house drag the cans to the curb no earlier than 9:00 PM.  I tend to lean more toward the earlier limit than the latter, so I sneak my cans to the curb at 7:01 PM, attempting to avoid the ire of my neighbors.  Unfortunately, the wheels of my garbage cans don't work and the cans make a terrible noise as they are dragged across my driveway.  Every neighbor within two blocks looks up and says: "There goes that Californian again, taking out the trash much too early!"

I was distracted last night and neglected to put the cans out.  I awoke at 6:00 AM with the knowledge I either had to get up or hope the cans had enough room for another week.  If I had this duty in San Francisco, I wouldn't bother dressing to take out the trash.  A naked man in San Francisco goes without notice.  I suspect my current neighbors are more easily excited; I pulled on shorts and wandered out into the damp morning air. 

I fell back into bed and thought:  "Auntie Mame never carried her own trash.  I need to find an Ito."

As I am writing this, UPS arrived with a package.  In San Francisco, all UPS drivers are really scary lesbians - the kind of dykes who play softball and engage in bar brawls.  In Portland, my UPS driver is a hot, muscled, tattooed, tanned boy who never leaves the package at the door, but always waits for me to come retrieve it.  I wonder if I could arrange a three-way with the UPS man and the Verizon installer...

09 August 2004 - (Link to this entry) (Comment)
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This happens frequently in Portland:  I walk into a store or restaurant and everyone falls silent, stares and watches me carefully until I leave the store or indicate I am not carrying a weapon.

If you think I am hallucinating, I call on the testimony of one local who observed this phenomenon last night.  We entered a bakery to purchase a lemon cake.  All five occupants of the bakery stopped moving and stared at me as if my face had been featured on a most-wanted television program.

I am considerably taller than most folk in Maine.  However, I am taller than most of the general population.  Yes, I have some tattoos, but so do the Hell's Angels who comfortably stroll up to the counters and receive a smile.  Since my appearance on the Swan, I would think the removal of the horns growing from my forehead would have a measurable effect.  This is not the case.

I tried smiling a big, toothy grin.  This only worsened the situation and made my mouth hurt. 

I do not want to speak ill of Portland.  People are generally friendly and overly polite once they understand I have no intention of boiling their heads or storing their remains in my refrigerator.  Perhaps I need a T-shirt stating:  "My Basement Floor is CEMENT" - to provide immediate assurance no bodies are hidden in under my house.

[Different subject:  I am experimenting with a new header graphic which you can see by clicking hereTell me what you think of it.]

10 August 2004 - (Link to this entry) (Comment)
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I spent the weekend wandering about New Hampshire and I created new section for Trains: The Wilton Scenic Railroad.

Should I be concerned my web logs show a large number of visits from the Department of Justice and most of these visits originate from Radiationworks?  If I disappear suddenly, write to me at

I discovered my email server has not been delivering a significant number of messages.  If you sent a note in the past ten days and I did not respond, I am not intentionally ignoring you.  Please send your note again or contact me by clicking here.

I mentioned yesterday I am experimenting with a new header graphic which you can see by clicking hereClick here to let me know what you think of the new image.

11 August 2004 - (Link to this entry) (Comment)
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On Saturday mornings, my father would purchase a "family box" of donuts from the local bakery so my mother could sleep in and avoid having to serve breakfast.  (Which on other mornings consisted primarily of dry cereal and powdered milk.)  To compete with my four siblings, I learned early to either ride with my father to the bakery or be the first waiting in the kitchen when he arrived home.  If I slammed the first down my throat quickly enough, I could grasp a second frosted donut, thereby avoiding having to eat one of the nasty buttermilk or plain cake donuts.

Thirty years ago, my favorite donut was a chocolate covered long-john.  These donuts are now called "bars", perhaps because the original name sounds more than a little pornographic and can be blamed for the blight of homosexuals interested in ethnic men.

Navy boot camp food is barely edible.  Eggs were served scrambled with the shells included, "juice" referred to off-brand food coloring in warm water, and meat came from failed government food programs.  Each morning, a Krispy Kreme delivery truck arrived at the chow hall to present no more than six dozen donuts for a camp with more than a thousand occupants.  A single, powdered-sugar donut would fuel a recruit for an entire day if you could arrive early enough at the chow hall to get one. 

After completing boot camp, the sight of a Krispy Kreme donut shop makes my stomach ache and I want to vomit on my dashboard. 

San Francisco has lots of donut shops, but not a single shop you might actually visit.  These shops feature signs such as "Vietnamese BBQ and Donuts", "Lucky Star Donuts and Burger", "Ping Ping Donuts and Chow Mein."  I don't like the idea my cake donut is floating in the same grease that recently boiled duck gizzards.

Portland, Maine, has at least a dozen Dunkin' Donuts shops.  Dunkin' Donuts is white trash, plastic signage, vanilla creme, cinnamon twist goodness.  Giant wire racks display thousands of donuts covered in coconut, chocolate, heavy glaze and sprinkles.  Unlike the dull and nightmarish Krispy Kremes that fall from an assembly line like a bad Eastern European cooperative, Dunkin' Donuts appear new, like babies dropped from warm wombs. 

I visit Dunkin' Donuts whenever I can.  I rationalize the vanilla creme must be healthy because milk has protein and creme must contain milk.  If I drink orange juice with my donuts, the Vitamin C certainly makes up for any nutritional failings of my sugary treats.  Anyway, a good donut takes me back to Saturday morning thirty years ago when my only concern was beating my brothers to the donut box. 

12 August 2004 - (Link to this entry) (Comment)
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You bastards killed the Crazy Helga Live Camera...and you did so after I spent an hour upgrading the firmware and installing a nifty new zoom lens.

For an old woman who putters about her yard and carries a plastic baby to mass, Helga was pretty popular.  The camera received so much traffic that it frequently overheated and dropped the network connection.  Despite my best efforts, the camera is now dead; only the decapitated tripod remains in the window.

I planned to announce the installation of the zoom lens today.  It provided a closer view of Chateau Helga in much better detail.  Alas, this must now wait.

I ordered a replacement camera today; purportedly an improvement from the old model which is no longer available.  The new camera streams using Active-X rather than Java, and I know nothing about Active-X.  Cross your fingers - perhaps Helga will return next week.

14 August 2004 - (Link to this entry) (Comment)
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Having my biweekly haircut today:

Suynam, the Korean Barber Chick:  "Why you have your hair cut so much?"

Me:  "I like to keep it short."

Suynam:  "What a waste.  Haircut are expensive.  You want highlights?"


Suynam:  "What you do today?"

Me:  "I was shopping for furniture.  I need a new dining room table."

Suynam:  "You no need dining room table.  You just need two of those stool things, you know, the stool things you eat off.  I never use my dining room table.  It is a waste."
Tropical Storm Bonnie passes over the Big Blue House
Me:  "But I like to have dinner parties.  People seem to dislike sitting on the floor."

Suynam:  "Why?"

Later yet:

Suynam:  "I have given up trying to be happy.  Now I just live.  It is much easier.  I am happier."

17 August 2004 - (Link to this entry) (Comment)
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The Olympics without the threat of nuclear annihilation are not very interesting.  Ever since the collapse of the Soviet Union, I find it difficult to muster excitement for medal counts and flame relays.  However, I do like the free soft-core porn delivered during prime time once every four years.

If we were honest, we'd all admit we really don't care who wins the shooting, archery and table tennis contests.  These competitions are relegated to back channels and late hours for a simple reason:  we want skin.

Although gymnastics provide a tasty glimpse of toned flesh in tights, aquatics rule the Olympic headlines.  Nothing says ratings like hard, muscled men waiting to get wet.  I may be hyper vigilant, but it seems to me the networks devote increasingly significant time segments to after-dive whirlpool shots, poolside full body images and interviews with athletes dressed only in Speedos.

I am not complaining.  I love the complimentary soft core titillation.  Even the right wing fundamentalists are plunking overweight butts in oversized chairs to watch the world's manhood on display. 

I am baffled sports such as Power Walking are added to the Olympic lineup while ballroom dancing and skydiving are up for consideration.  What about such worthy events as Turkish Oil Wrestling, hand balling and nipple torture?  Unless China emerges as a replacement for the USSR, the Olympic Organizing Committee would be wise to consider further sports that, for now, still require Adult Check memberships.  A gold medal for fisting might stir controversy, but the ratings would exceed anything the discus or long jump produce.

18 August 2004 - (Link to this entry) (Comment)
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Five drag nuns hurtle across San Francisco inside a tiny Toyota.  Glitter veils and pot smoke stream from the windows as the car careens around corners heading for the Castro Theatre.  It is Christmas Eve, Sister Sindy Vine holds the wheel of the car in one hand, a joint in the other, and never looks at the road as she cackles and laughs.

A photographer, Sindy fills the world with images of lashes and lads, glamour and glitter.  I cannot picture her face without seeing half of it hidden behind a telephoto lens, the other half revealing a constant smile. 

Sister Sindy died last night in San Francisco.  That drive across San Francisco is my favorite memory of her presence.

Farewell, Sindy.  Although I'm not a believer in an afterlife, I hope somewhere you are driving across the universe in a car packed with Nuns of the Above, pot smoke and veils streaming from your windows.

My goodness, a lot of friends have died this year.

21 August 2004 - (Link to this entry) (Comment)
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A slow, perfect rain:  the drops falling in perfect rhythm for hours, a steady white noise interrupted only by distant thunder.

The locals hate the rain.  They say there is too much rain this year.  There are tiny rivulets in my basement and although I suppose I should worry; I do not.

A small animal moved into my backyard, attracted perhaps by the greenery I've not had the time nor inclination to trim.  I thought at first it was a beaver, but I'm told there are no beavers in Maine.  Brown and the size of a house cat, it chews through the sunflowers and disappears under the porch when I appear in the backyard.  The cats, who will stare for hours at another feline twenty feet across the driveway, refuse to acknowledge the presence of this intruder.  Instead, they look in the opposite direction as if already bored by Maine and its wildlife.

23 August 2004 - (Link to this entry) (Comment)
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Most of Maine really does look like a postcard.  Along with Montana and Colorado, Maine is one of few states which live up to the images created by travel agencies. 

Maine is one of five states that ban billboard advertising.  The roads here are bordered by trees rather than ads for injury lawyers, real estate development, truck stops and churches.  Drive south to Massachusetts and the roadsides are clogged with signs.

People in Maine generally dislike people from Massachusetts. Mainers even have a name for people from our southern neighbor:  "Massholes". 

San Franciscan's joke about "DWA" - Driving While Asian.  The worst motorists are generally those who arrived recently (meaning in the past 30 years) from countries where the masses ride bicycles.  Older Asians believe the speed limit is 20 miles an hour to fast, younger Asians believe the speed limit is 40 miles per hour to slow.  People may take offense at this assertion; a single journey to Colma will quell their protestations.

There aren't many Asians in Maine, nor many other minorities.  While Mainers can't look at faces, we can certainly read license plates.  If the car in front or behind is driving poorly, you can be assured it will have green and white Massachusetts license plates.  Massholes.

I suspect more than one Mainer has glanced at my plates looking for green and white.  I still have the California plates and I'll take advantage of the anonymity as long as I can.

24 August 2004 - (Link to this entry) (Comment)
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My father was fond of backpacking in wilderness areas.  As a child too young to protest, I was forced along on these Bataan Death Marches. 

During an early Bataan Death March, I wandered into the forest to urinate.  I chose a nice log and started spraying.  The log, however, was not a log.  It was a giant porcupine which did not appreciate a golden shower.  It turned and flashed teeth at my exposed manhood.  I screamed like a girl until it ran away, all the time pissing in its face.

On my twelfth birthday I decided "roughing it" meant any hotel without room service and flatly refused to go hiking again. 

"So you want to stay behind with the women?" my father asked.

"If doing so means having a toilet rather than a hole to squat over, food that isn't reconstituted using water, and the luxury of daily showers, then sign me up for the chicks,"  I thought.  What I said was: "I'm not going."

My father offered to buy me a gun if I would go hiking.  I was unmovable. 

Click for larger imageMy backyard features a bit of wildlife I've named Ned.  I thought Ned was a beaver when I saw him from a distance.  Some locals told me there are no beavers in Maine.  Others disagreed.  Ned is camera shy and until today I was not able to take a good look.  Judging by the photos, I guess Ned is something other than a beaver, although I have no guess as to his species.

Ned is larger than my house cats, eats my sunflowers and lives under the back porch.  He is a reasonable guest and I'm not tempted to move him unless advised otherwise.  I may have once pissed on his distant cousin and perhaps this makes amends.

24 August 2004 - Later  (Comment)

Ned is a woodchuck.  Or a groundhog.  Two names for the same animal.

I revoke my earlier statement.  I discovered Ned has burrowed underneath my foundation and his tunneling is the likely source of water seepage in the basement.  I called a local humane trapper who pledges to trap Ned and take him elsewhere.  Sorry Ned, your lease prohibits remodeling without my written permission.

A blue sedan parked in front of my house this morning and the driver watched my driveway for more than an hour.  When I appeared at the window and then headed to the front door to say hello, the car disappeared down the street.  Twenty minutes later, it appeared again.  This time the driver stared at the porch for ten minutes before leaving.

When the car left, Crazy Helga, perhaps noticing the absence of the camera or the presence of the odd driver, ventured out into the warm sunshine wearing a stocking cap, wool socks and two overcoats.  She toddered down the street inspecting the license plates of each parked car.

25 August 2004 - (Link to this entry) (Comment)
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For conservative Dick Cheney this is large step

Democrats in Maine are attempting to have Ralph Nader removed from the ballot.  The underlying message:  "Vote for us, we're not as bad as the other guy."  When will the Democrats grasp that some of us voted for Nader because he offered some hope?  The Democrats used a similar tactic to undermine the mayoral bid of Matt Gonzales in San Francisco.  This nasty tactic of attacking liberal alternative candidates makes me angry.  I'd rather have another four years of Bush than allow the Democrats to continue on this third-party bashing spree. 

I refuse to vote for a candidate simply because I am afraid of the alternative.  Democrats are stupid to believe my vote belongs to their party simply because no other candidates appear on the ballot.

On a brighter note:

Take a look at Matt and Brian's site.  Their newly adopted daughter just arrived. Click here for a video that makes even my cynical smile quiver.

26 August 2004 - (Link to this entry) (Comment)
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I am in Washington Dulles airport waiting for a flight home.  I travel for business and I often find myself waiting for flights. 

Washington Dulles is an especially vile airport.  The remote terminals are connected by giant, airless, tank-like busses.  These beasts crawl about the tarmac crammed with sweaty, angry passengers screaming about fading telephone signals.  (As I write this, a handsome man with hairy, muscular arms sits next to me and my thoughts are momentarily interrupted...what was I writing?)

If I were to create a list of the worst airports, I cannot decide if Washington Dulles or San Francisco International would be the most abysmal.  Both airports feature security designed by near-retirement bureaucrats and staffed by high school dropouts.  Hordes of TSA employees crowd folding tables, scream profanity at passengers, and appear befuddled by the rudimentary metal detectors.  Simply clearing security at either airport is sufficient to stimulate a murderous rage.  If fewer humans shared genes with cattle, the TSA geeks might be in serious danger.

(The handsome man is eating frozen yogurt, which dribbles down his five o'clock shadow.  He wipes this away with a furry paw, gathers his rucksack and wanders away, trailing a perfect butt.)

27 August 2004 - (Link to this entry) (Comment)
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There must be a little extra crazy in the air.

Crazy Helga placed a sealed cardboard box on her lawn last week and topped it with a hand lettered sign reading "Tree Clothes".  Perhaps she meant "Free Clothes", but no one in the neighborhood appeared motivated to break the tape and peer into the worn box nor inclined to dress our trees in castoffs.  The box sat neglected near the "PRIVATE PROPERTY!" sign, the weeds deliberately covered in an odd mesh, and the flowers transplanted from my yard.

As the temperature rose past 80 degrees this morning and the sun shone brightly, Crazy Helga appeared on her front porch dressed for fall.  A woolen cap pulled tight over her head contrasted nicely with the pink bedroom slippers on her feet.Click for larger image  Helga tore open the box of Tree Clothes and spread them across her yard.  She piled clothes on an old shopping cart, pulled the screen off her front door and placed clothes on the frame, draped garments on lawn chairs and threw the rest on the lawn.  When she was done, she paced the street and glared at the houses.

The new Crazy Helga Live Camera is to be delivered today.  If it operates correctly, you can watch Helga offering Vegetation Prêt á Porter this weekend.

[Click either photo for a larger view of Helga or the Tree Clothes.]

27 August 2004 - Later

The Crazy Helga Live Camera is operational again.  Free streaming video of an old gal a few schnitzel short of Oktoberfest.


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