Cuban Mimes

One night when I was barely twenty I went–alone, I think? Maybe with a friend–to see a performance at Cafe Oasis of a Cuban mime troupe. Cafe Oasis, up on NW 23rd, more often hosted open mic poetry, acoustic tunes. It was a narrow venue in an old wooden building with warped floorboards and mismatched ceramic mugs, a small spot for a group traveling from Cuba, but how much stage would mimes need? I didn’t have any idea.  I took the bus then walked a ways in the dark. The mimes never showed up though. Cuban mimes, gone missing.


Shakespeare and Didion

My mother, daughter and I went to see a production of Othello. My daughter is young, but she’s seen at least three Shakespeare plays so far–Falstaff (fat shaming), Othello (domestic violence) and then Romeo and Juliet in a few different forms.

In the middle of Othello, my mom whispered, “Why is Iago evil? Do we know?”

Some people ask, I think. I never ask.

It’s a quote from Play it as it Lays, by Joan Didion: “What makes Iago evil? Some people ask. I never ask.”


I tell my mom, “We don’t know.”


On work and writing

I’ve worked at Burger King.
I’ve been a secretary.
I’ve worked as support for home health care, typing up admit forms of symptoms for the dying, one after another eight hours at a time.
A waitress and a hostess,
I’ve sat at the bar, eating my free meal, once the rush ended.
Walked home in the small hours, late night almost morning.
I’ve made deli salads on a large scale, stirring in the mayonnaise, the noodles. The chopped chicken bits.
I’ve made sandwiches. “None of that grass, on there!” the old rich geezer used to yell at me, his name on half the buildings downtown.
And I’d slowly lift a handful of sprouts, just to see the color rise in his
very pale face.
I’ve been a clown
and a professional cake cutter.
I’ve worked in art installation, driving the van, Art4You,
decorating law offices, beach condos, telling them where to put the
stork sculpture, the big painting, the work to match the couch.
I’ve hung art for major car dealers, the names you see
around license plates.
As an underwriter, I’ve seen the stories credit history tells,
medical records, grades.
The backside of the life story.
There’s more. There’s always more.
But mostly, I’ve been writing, the whole time.

A Perfect Planet

OMSI is running way late in opening the planetarium doors, parents are yelling at staff, the line is out of control and a staff person says,”Hey, we’re all adults here!” He looks maybe 20. At least half if those in line are under 10.


On the way to see “A Perfect Planet,” about how nice it is to live on Earth.


Portland? So cold, dark and wet.

That might sound sexier than it is….

Back when I was an undergraduate, when nobody much paid any attention to Portland, Oregon, and somehow got the place confused with Portland, Maine (tiny!) when we all wore old 501’s with long johns underneath, when we wore flannels and drank cheap beer and rode bikes and that wasn’t codified yet into the marketing of “hipster”-dom, but came from a genuine place of resisting consumerism, resisting Hollywood images of what it means to be human, back when we were inadvertently paving the way for what was later called then packaged as grunge, but had an organic root in climate and politics….back then, I had some reason to stop by the apartment of a woman I barely knew. She was from Columbia. She’d come to Portland to go to PSU and had an apartment downtown.

I had to pick something up.

Something? Columbia? I know what you’re thinking…

I stepped into her apartment. She was barely dressed, with long, brown legs and a tiny silk camisole. I was in maybe six layers of cottons, all shades of black, and had a bike chained to a wet stop sign down on the street. She was in florals. Her apartment was so hot, it was insane. It was an old building, too. I always lived in cold houses, drafty places. She probably spent more on a month’s heat than I paid in rent.

I thought of her now, this week, as I stepped off the plane from Maui and walked back into Portland’s cold, wet streets. She wasn’t crazy. She was homesick. I get it. I’m from this cold, dark place, but still, I understand. back from maui


Once I had tickets to see k d lang, in Tucson, Arizona. Something happened, I got there late, they closed the doors, I wasn’t allowed in! Okay, they let me in after the first song or two.

Now, though I don’t sing, I shared a stage with her. Amazing! No way would I interrupt the voices of Colin Meloy & k d lang as we were meant to share a microphone, but still, she pulled me forward. So kind. Lovely show, lovely evening. John Wesley Harding always brings good energy when he comes around. You can see the grand finale here:

Cabinet of Wonders, Music Rx, John Wesley Harding & crew–what a great time!


As far as I know there’s no official recording of the show. If anyone out there in the world has my segment, my short reading…I’d love to have a look. Lidia kd and me