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.


Mother’s Day 2014

I know so many hard working moms. Single, married, partnered, complicated. Holding the family together, raising their kids, earning money, making choices, afraid of the future, working toward the future, blowing it, drinking wine, reaching for a hit o’ that if you would, trying to be better than their own childhoods, trying to be half as good as some moment they remember, crying over mom, wishing it were different, knowing it’ll never be different, buying their own mom something to keep her feet warm, dancing to Thrift Shop, dancing to Major Lazer, spitting wine when they laugh, purple teeth, a weakness for just one more pair of boots, a weakness for booze, a head for philosophy, concerned with social justice, hoping to save the bees, reaching out, taking care of children they didn’t give birth to but you’d never know, they will forever love them like their blood, and why not? So many moms screwing up, sorting it out, getting it right, letting their hearts open. I could go on with this list forever. Happy mother’s day, everyone, wherever you fall on the continuum, even if you’re the man in charge, the man who is the dad. Oh, hell. Even if you’re Jonathan Franzen, who thinks “Love your mother” is the worst environmental slogan ever, because he has a hard time with it. Let’s take care of each other, and of this place, what we’ve got. xo

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.

Relative Value: We’ve Got Stuff!

My daughter would like her own couch, in her bedroom. She’s seven.

A couch is expensive! I love couches, I really do, but they cost money, and to get a good one  involves a financial and material commitment to furniture. I’ve hauled couches from one house to another. Not easy.

We have a couch I scored off Craigslist. A twenty-something put it up for sale, and when I went to pick it up, she  and her friends milled around their apartment off Belmont Street. They kept looking at each other with glances I couldn’t interpret–definitely awkward, possibly guilty? Those furtive glances may have said, You’re really going to sell your mom’s couch? Or maybe they said, We didn’t stash pot under the cushions, did we? Maybe they only meant, God, this lady! I tried to ask all the right questions.

Our second couch was salvaged, then recovered. Older frames are better made than moderately-priced newer versions of the same. But even to recover a couch takes an investment, and we just can’t buy another couch, I tell my daughter.

After a heart-to-heart about lack, quality, money and delayed gratification, she and I take a walk to the park, and pass at least three couches out at the curb. There’s one in an alley. It’s hard to believe a couch ever cost money, to see the way they’re trashed, dumped, offered up, always for free. They litter the streets like cigarette butts, only way bigger.


Couches grow in the compost fallen from Portland’s recycling bins. They wander off from their owners, marked as “illegally dumped,” like stray dogs. They line the way to the playground, and just miss the bus stops where they’d actually be useful.

Who wants to sit on a couch like this?

A couch is expensive, and a couch is garbage, and it starts to feel like a demarcation, the rich/poor split. You can find a couch in Portland. You can find a mattress on the street. You can find a television, a stereo, a chest of drawers. I used to find a lot of typewriters at the curb, but that particular crop seems thin now that hipsters have discovered the app-free tool. Still we have a wealth of material goods, all for free, all the time. But chances are, you don’t want the ones strewn along the walkways.

We’re a city compulsive about never throwing anything away.