Thursday, May 31, 2007

It Depends on What You Mean by "Evolution"

Republican Presidential candidate Sam Brownback (R-Kansas) is presumably not a huge fan of the Clintons, but nevertheless he has appropriated a wholly Clintonian political approach on the subject of evolution: pretend to issue a clarification by so carefully choosing your words that people on both sides of the argument think you agree with them.

In a New York Times Op-Ed today, imaginatively titled “What I Think About Evolution,” the senator attempts to defend raising his hand during a recent televised debate to indicate that he did not believe in it.

First, it is important to understand that Sen. Brownback is a Catholic, and not, like many of the louder voices on this issue, a Christian fundamentalist whose theology is anchored in the belief that the Bible can only be understood literally. The official Catholic position is that people “are at liberty to believe…according to how they see the evidence.” Christians, at least as far back as Justin Martyr, writing in 155 CE, have been open to at least the possibility that the timeline of Genesis did not refer to six literal twenty-four hour days. Augustine (early 5th century), one of the most influential figures in Catholic doctrine, specifically argued against a literal understanding of Genesis.

There are two things about the theory of evolution that tend to bother opponents: contradiction of the literal Biblical timeline, and the notion that we are descended from and related to apes. Brownback makes no mention of the former; his discomfort seems to stem entirely from the latter.

Most of his Op-Ed sounds like something I would have written: a passionate defense of faith as complement to science, and maintaining that “People of faith should be rational, using the gift of reason that God has given us.” He decries the false choice between evolution and creationism, which “does a disservice to the complexity” of the issue, and points toward a middle path, where “the process of creation – and indeed life today – is sustained by God in a manner known fully only to him. It does not strike me as anti-science or anti-reason to question the philosophical presuppositions behind theories offered by scientists who…venture far beyond their realm of empirical science.” Brownback believes mankind is not some freak accident of history, and that there are disciplines outside of science to help us ponder why inorganic chemicals arranged themselves in such a fashion as to be able to contemplate their own existence.

“On the questions of the origins of the universe,” he continues, “I am happy to let the facts speak for themselves.” I find this a remarkable statement from a man who just weeks ago raised his hand on national television when asked who did not believe in evolution.

In his Op-Ed, the senator alludes to more complete remarks he made on the Senate floor in the summer of 2001, when he defended the Kansas School Board’s much-criticized position on the teaching of evolution. He argues that micro-evolution can be regarded as scientific fact, since we can directly observe it. Macro-evolution, on the other hand – “the theory that new species can evolve from existing species over time,” in the senator’s own words – is “scientific assumption” because it is “impossible to observe.” In a nutshell, Brownback will allow for minor genetic changes in a given population that become dominant, but he denies the common ancestry of life on earth.

His explanation for this is that man has a “unique and intended place in the cosmos,” an idea which seems (to him) to be threatened by the belief that modern humans evolved from apes. Ultimately, this Op-Ed doesn’t really illuminate a clear position on the issue of evolution. What it does show is another Republican who, like the President, makes a show of objectivity but isn't one to let a substantial body of evidence stand in the way of ideology.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Bigots' Last Gasp

Though currently only Massachusetts recognizes committed same-sex couples as “married” in a legal sense, the political battle over gay marriage has already been fought and won. It is now simply a matter of time.

Like stranded Japanese soldiers lost in the Pacific after VJ Day, the only people still fighting this war are those cut off from reality, unaware that they’ve lost, and resorting to whatever desperate final tactics are left to them in their willful isolation.

Less than a month ago, the Oregon Legislature completed the process of approving a bill that, among other things, would grant committed same-sex couples “domestic partnership” status statewide, a parallel legal structure giving them all the same rights and protections as married opposite-sex couples, with the exception of the right to use of the word “marriage” itself. Governor Kulongoski signed the bills last week, and they were meant to be effective January 1.

Oregon, like Connecticut, has the distinction of establishing relationship protections for gay people without being ordered to do so as the result of a lawsuit. California tried it in 2005, but Governor Schwarzenegger vetoed the bill, saying marriage was an issue to be resolved by the courts. (I’d love to have read the email he received moments later from Karl Rove.) When judges in other states fulfilled their constitutional obligation to protect the civil rights of their citizens, they were lambasted by conservatives purportedly outraged by this affront to democracy. Adopting the phrase “activist judge” as a political mantra and promoting their theory of “strict constructionism” even as they failed to realize that an independent judiciary empowered specifically to act contrary to the will of the majority is one of the lynchpins of democracy, while choosing to ignore that gay folk have constitutional rights, too, the anti-fairness movement claimed that gay people were not entitled to redress by the courts.

Anti-equality court briefs on the marriage issue repeatedly stressed (in Washington, New York and New Jersey, for example) that the courts simply didn’t have standing on this issue, that marriage has historically been regulated by the legislature, to which the court should defer. (Washington and New York bought that argument.) But now that legislatures are independently acting on behalf of their disadvantaged constituents, desperate bigots are left to claim that no, in fact, civil rights should be decided by popular vote, demonstrating that they have no concept of what the phrase “civil right” actually means.

Predictably, a group has formed in Oregon to put this new law before the voters. Calling themselves Defense of Marriage and Family, AGAIN!, the group is attempting to gather the 55,179 signatures required to turn this into a referendum for the November 2008 ballot. (Hmm…isn’t there a Presidential election around that time?) This would also automatically put the law on hold until after the election, further delaying already long overdue recognition.

Marilyn Shannon, a former state senator (R-Quelle Surprise), explained to The Oregonian that the new laws “defied the intent of Oregonians who voted for Measure 36, a constitutional amendment approved by voters in 2004 that declares marriage legally valid only between a man and a woman.” It’s a flimsy argument, since the bills approved by the Governor and the Legislature establish “domestic partnerships,” not “marriage,” so it’s clearly within the letter of Measure 36’s law. But Shannon is right: it does defy the intent, which was to trivialize the meaning and dignity of relationships formed by gay Oregonians.

Arguing that the state’s legislature is controlled by “Portland Democrats,” Shannon said, “You cannot believe how upset the voters are that Portland pulled this off.” (The bills passed with a substantial majority, 34-26 in the House and 21-9 in the Senate. “Portland Democrats” apparently don’t represent actual voters, or maybe liberals only count as 3/5 of a person.)

How upset are they, and why? Yesterday I attended a Memorial Day barbecue with two couples, one male couple legally married in Canada who have been together for several years, and a lesbian couple, both educated, sophisticated professionals who’ve been together long enough to raise two daughters now in high school. What difference will it make in Marilyn Shannon’s personal life, how will her day be impacted, if these couples – and their children -- receive the same kind of recognitions and protections extended automatically to any heterosexual couple? For all intents and purposes, these people are already married. Why should Shannon care if the government chooses to recognize that simple fact?

Research shows clearly that public attitudes toward same-sex marriage are changing rapidly. What strategy will be left to conservatives once anti-gay initatives start failing at the ballot, as happened in Arizona last November?

Yesterday I confronted a young woman in the parking lot of the Beaverton Fred Meyer. She had a “One Man + One Woman” bumper sticker on her car, so I followed her into the lot, parked next to her got out and said simply, “I find your bumper sticker offensive.”

She was taken aback, and said simply, “Oh…sorry.”

Afterward I felt bad, thinking perhaps I had been unnecessarily intimidating. But then I changed my mind. I am not some abstract issue floating around the ether for random people to pontificate about on the back of their car. I am a human being. I am a tax-paying, church-going, voting American citizen. Just where do you get off advertising to the world that you think your relationships deserve government protection and mine deserve scorn and derision? Perhaps when people start to realize that gay folk aren’t just “out there” somewhere, that they’re in the car behind them at the Fred Meyer parking lot, when they start to confront the idea that gay people are REAL and have families and children and relationships, just like anyone else, they will rethink some of these positions.

Apology accepted.

Monday, May 28, 2007

Sunday Photo Blogging: Now with Pictures!

There's still lots of work to do on the apartment; lots of boxes lying around and some desperately needed furniture, hence some limited indoor shots. But hopefully this will give you some sense.

This is the rear exterior of my apartment, showing my living room window and my little patio.

This the view out my living room window. (Yes, that's a port-a-potty behind the tree there; my outhouse isn't finished yet.)

The kitchen is a major upgrade from New York.

There's a nice bay window next to the fireplace.

Rocky loves the chair I apparently bought him.

So yeah, the bedroom looks out on the parking lot, but it faces west so I get spectacular sunsets. There's a lot of work left to do, but it's coming together. More photos to come, I promise!

Sunday Photo Blogging

I took a bunch of pictures of the new apartment, but left the cable that connects the camera to the computer at my mom's house. Oops. Stay tuned.

I love my new home. It is sooooo quiet. I hear the wind in the giant pine trees outside the living room (they must be 50 feet tall, at least), all kinds of birdsong, my windchime on the patio, and the distant drone of a lawnmower.

Today is dedicated to being lazy. After the last couple of weeks of running around like some kind of crazy gay guy with a new apartment and no furniture, I reserved today to NOT THINK ABOUT EVERYTHING I STILL HAVE TO DO. Instead I slept in, then did some yoga, walked to the nearby market to get some coffee (ulterior motive: there's a very cute checker), and finally caught up on my blogreading.


Yesterday I finally had my cable set up, so I'm able to access the internet from home again. The "window" that Comcast gave me was between 12-2. My installer first arrived at 5:45 and then realized he'd forgotten to bring the DVR, so he went away and came back an hour later and finished up at 7:30. I missed my nephew's birthday party. On the plus side, he was wicked hot, so on the customer satisfaction sheet I checked "yes" under "Did the installer arrive on time?" and tipped him $10.

So now as part of my dedicated Day of Laziness, I'm going to watch something on my brand-spanking new 26 inch hi-def television before I head off to an afternoon barbecue with some friends who live in Portland's hip new DUFBO district. (It's not really called that, they just live in a super-swank townhouse under the Fremont Bridge.)


Since she doesn't have a blog of her own, I wanted to give an E-shout-out to frequent commenter KR, and to congratulate her on the birth of her son!

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Wind Beneath the Pitch

I am hoping that my present temp assignment is the equivalent of employment purgatory. Cut off from all daylight, at the bottom of a corner cubicle with walls so high I feel like I've been dropped down a well, I'm sitting here counting the seconds until the day ends. My time here is truly agonizing. I think I'm rather hoping that I get "caught" blogging and dismissed. The potential repercussions are preferable to sitting here for another week in the headache-inducing fluorescent light of compensated solitary confinement.

I did two interviews this week, including one yesterday morning for a job that I think might be a very good fit indeed, so I am keeping my fingers crossed. They said they'd make a decision early next week.

The apartment continues to come together; I conducted what essentially amounted to raid on Target last night, picking up a new microwave and a cookware set, among other things. Finally I can stop doing take-out and live like a real suburban person. (Yes, tongue firmly in cheek there.) I also bought the most awesome cocktail shaker ever at Pier 1. You can take the gay boy out of Manhattan, but he's still going to make cosmopolitans.

After my extensive retail therapy session, I had time to catch the last hour of American Idol. I think the right person won. Memo to Randy Jackson: check it out, check it out, dawg, it's not "a singing competition." If it were, they'd compete behind a screen or just submit tapes. The "Idol factor" requires presence and charisma, in addition to singing ability. In pure terms of vocal endowments, Melinda Doolittle is a phenomenon. But in person, her star power is of lower wattage than the natural radiance of Jordin Sparks. Between Sparks and Blake Lewis it was not an easy choice, because he's clearly the more engaging entertainer. Still, I think Jordin's career trajectory is higher and farther than the two runners-up. She is not now nearly the artist I think she has the potential to become; the same cannot be said of Blake or Melinda.

Slate's Katherine Meizel wonders if there wasn't something technically amiss at the Kodak Theater that prevented performers from being able to find their pitch. Intonation was a disaster for most of what I saw, beginning with the adorable soloist from the African Children's Choir and culminating in the black leather catastrophe that was Bette Midler. As a gay man, it's hard for me to write this, but I had to get up and leave the room for a while. It was like a housewife who'd had one too many glasses of wine and found the courage to try karaoke; the tune was nowhere to be found. Surely execrable Idol contestants have been publicly ridiculed by Simon and tossed out on their ears for lesser offenses.

Because the temp job is a little slow, they're giving me the day off tomorrow. Hurray, four day weekend! Time to continue to put my new life together and also, hopefully, to relax a bit.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Nice and Short

All is well.

I don't have internet access at the new apartment yet; I have to find a time to get the cable guy out there. At my current temp job there is no access to internet mail, so my usual prompt email responses are significantly delayed; I can only check mail at my mom's house in the evening for the time being.

Despite that little inconvenience, things are good. Every search firm I interviewed with has called at least once with an opportunity to run by me, so I feel like there's great momentum on the job front. I'm presently temping in an open position, and trying to set up at least one other interview for this week.

The apartment is great. I have taken some pictures but don't have time to upload and edit them for the 'net just yet. Rocky absolutely loves the new place. He just trots around behind me everywhere I go with his tail straight up in the air, meowing happily, and head-butting me whenever he gets the chance. Starbuck, as per usual, is less demonstrative with her affections, but has quickly taken to sitting on the windowsills squeaking at Oregon's vast array of birds.

Hopefully I will be back up to full blogging speed soon.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Literally Pathetic

It's been a long week. I've been very busy at this temp job, but it was a great assignment. Now, at 4:00 on Friday afternoon, things are pretty slow. I'm not sure why, but I decided to check in with The Rapture Index to see where things stand.

The Index, for those of you who don't follow Christian dispensationalist theology (and, frankly, it's better if you don't), is meant to alert fundamentalist Christians of a certain stripe to the imminence of Christ's return, as foretold by the Book of Revelation. According to their narrative, carefully stitched together from hundreds of disparate, unrelated verses ripped from their contexts in Revelation, Matthew, Daniel, Ezekiel and other books, Jesus will return after certain historical events come to pass. This, dispensationalists will tell you, is based on a literal reading of the Bible.

For example, one of the pre-conditions of Christ's return is the re-establishment of the nation of Israel, at least according to the dispensationalist reading of Matthew 24, which contains the parable of the fig tree. Jesus says, when the fig tree puts forth leaves, you know summer is coming.

The "literal" reading of this passage is that when Israel (the fig tree) becomes a state again (puts forth leaves) -- which it did, in 1948 -- then Jesus (summer) is coming. See? Literal.

Never mind that in the very same chapter, Matthew records Jesus as saying, "The Son of Man is coming at an unexpected hour." It might say "unexpected," but what that literally means is that it's only unexpected by those who don't understand that fig trees literally mean Israel and summer literally means Jesus. If you read it literally, you know full well when Jesus is coming, even though the Bible says you don't. Part of the fun of dispensationalist theology is that you get to ignore any Bible verse that proves inconvenient.

Anyway, the Rapture Index for today stands at 158; get ready, because an index of 160 or higher is marked "Fasten your seatbelts!"

Possible reasons, according to this website, that we're not at the 160 mark yet might be, among other things, declines in activity relating to teen drug use, ecumenism, a lack of leadership over Iran's nuclear program, and a distressing paucity of floods. But the good news is, a long dormant volcano erupted in Colombia and there has been a sharp increase in globalist activity. All of these come from a checklist put together from "literal" readings of Scripture.

The intellectual incoherence of rapture fantasists is well illuminated by the "fasten your seatbelts!" label to indicate our proximity to the Rapture. Were the Rapture anything but pure horsehockey, and were someone whose theology was grounded in centuries of Christian doctrine rather than 150 years of hucksterism to tell me that it was nigh, the absolute last thing I'd do is put on a seatbelt.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Back to Plan B: Our New Home

It's a good thing I'm not running for president this year, because I have more flip-flops to defend than a store clerk at a K-Mart summer sale.

On Monday I called the management of the second apartment I had applied for and said I had changed my mind. I apologized, but said I had decided that without steady income, the rent on this apartment was perhaps more ambitious than I should be aiming at right now.

They called back a little while later and asked if it would help at all if they knocked $25 off the rent. In truth, no, that's not really a huge help, but I thought it was a very nice gesture. I mean, in New York, if the apartment is any good at all -- no, actually, as long as it's vacant, that's often the only criterion -- before you'd be able to finish saying, "I'm not sur--" someone else would have signed the lease. Landlords in New York say things like, "Buh-bye," not, "Can I offer you a discount?"

This threw all my many hours of contemplation all into chaos again, and I had to re-visit my decision. Before I had a chance to call them back, they called again and said another apartment had just come available and that they could offer this one for an additional $25 less. So I agreed that I would at least go and look at it.

After talking to my parents and some friends whose judgment I trust, it seemed no one thought it was particularly insane to take an apartment even though I don't have a job. In fact, all of them thought it sounded like a reasonable gamble, as it does solve a number of immediate problems. (And the truth is, my parents don't want me living with them any more than I do.) The location is great, the apartment is beautiful (and so new that if you google-map the address for a satellite photo, all you see is a dirt lot) and the rent is reasonable for what I expect to be earning.

I wasn't as impressed with the cheaper apartment they showed me, so I said, "You know? I'll take the first one." I sign the lease on Thursday after work.

It still seems a bit spendy to me for this area, but then I consider that it has a patio, washer and dryer, dishwasher and a fireplace, is in a complex with a pool and a gym, is 212 square feet larger than my old place, and yet is $200 a month cheaper. Looking at it that way, it's a steal.

* * * * *
I have a job interview today.

* * * * *

I'm not really an American Idol fan, but I'm hoping it's Blake and Jordin in the finals. Melinda is supremely talented, but she doesn't have the charisma of the other two. Her performances are restrained and mannered. Jordin, perhaps because of her youth, hasn't yet discovered how to unleash herself fully onstage, but I think she is a "total package"performer. Blake...well, he's just so adorable (short, soft-tummied and dorky...sigh). I thought his "Roxane" last night was beautiful.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

This Candidate for Entertainment Purposes Only

Rudy Giuliani is not a serious contender for the White House.

I can't even believe I have to write this post, but I keep coming across people in the blogosphere who are certain Giuliani is the candidate to beat. Utter rot.

Because he was the two-term Republican mayor of ultra-liberal New York, he appears to have broad, bi-partisan appeal. In truth, Giuliani could have run a strong campaign as a Clinton-style Democrat, appealing to liberals hungry for a decisive, focused leader with a discernable pulse and personality (we're still mad at Iowa for John Kerry) as well as to swing-voters and Republicans who are disenchanted by their current party leadership. But throwing his hat in the ring as a Republican was his campaign's death knell. He'll never get the nomination; furthermore, he just might shatter the Republican party in the process.

Thanks to Karl Rove's cultivation of a Republican Party "base," the two main "bring out the vote" issues among conservatives are abortion and gay marriage. Of late, Giuliani has attempted to equivocate on both. While conservatives may be fools,* they have ears and they know what they like to hear. Equivocation isn't it. They are still smarting from what they view as Bush's betrayal: the failure, after 6 years in office, to overturn Roe v. Wade and to get a Constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage.

If abortion is your issue, you are not going to be seduced by a candidate who says of Roe v. Wade, "It would be okay to repeal. It would be also [okay] if a strict constructionist judge viewed it as precedent, and I think a judge has to make that decision." The GOP base doesn't think it's "okay" to repeal Roe, they think it's a moral imperative. To them, a "strict constructionist" by definition means one who won't view it as precedent.

If the "homosexual agenda" is what keeps you up at night, you're not going to be satisfied with a candidate who's okay with domestic partnerships and civil unions but stops short of endorsing marriage equality. You might as well vote for Hillary. If you think the proper role of a limited government is to rescue and defend heterosexual marriage but leave your pocketbook alone, you aren't going to settle for a candidate presently on his third marriage to a woman who is also on her third marriage with a record of open infidelity. There's almost certainly other scandals waiting in the wings; you think Bernie Kerik was the only nogoodnik Giuliani did business with?
If the best the Republican party can do for 2008 is a pro-gay, pro-choice, cross-dressing, thrice married social liberal, I'd say the Democrats are in good shape.
If these are your issues, you're not going to choose a Johnny-come-lately waffler when you have bona fides in Mike Huckabee, Sam Brownback and Tom Tancredo. You're not going to vote for someone who twice ran for Mayor in New York both on the Republican and Liberal party lines but pointedly not on the Conservative line.

(I'm not sure Giuliani's Catholicism is an issue; ex-senator Rick Santorum remains wildly popular with predominately evangelical conservatives. I think it's less of an issue than Romney's Mormonism.)

Then there's that whole cross-dressing thing.

But let's say he manages to win the Republican primary.** Let's look at his so-called "broad appeal."

On foreign policy, Giuliani has adamantly and consistently supported the Bush Administration in its war on the people of Iraq. He continues to assert that occupying Iraq was the correct response to 9/11, does not feel that things in Iraq are going badly, and maintains that we need to stay the course there. This puts him at odds presently with about 74% of the American public. Buh-bye, bi-partisan appeal.

Then there's his personality. Put him onstage with the charming, earnest Barack Obama and John Edwards or the politically savvy and polished Hillary Clinton,*** and you basically have comic relief.

I'm telling you, Giuliani is not the guy.

* If you are more upset about gay marriage than you are about Iraq, you are a fool.
** If he gets the nomination, you can count on an ultra-conservative independent candidate.
*** Hillary Clinton's supporters consist entirely of Republicans who hope she'll run.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Back to Plan A

Or maybe it's on to Plan C. Or D. I can't remember.

I'm calling off the active apartment search for a while. I've spent a lot of time thinking about all the stuff I spent a lot of time thinking about in New York the past several months, and I've decided it's wrong to try to rush into a new life here. Yes, living at home with my parents for a while longer is going to be inconvenient and irritating for all of us. How the cats and dogs will interact is a worrisome mystery. But.

It just didn't seem wise to be committing myself just yet to a regular major expense (rent) when there is no regular income in sight. It would be nice to have an apartment of my own, sure; and someday, I will have one. But it doesn't need to be today. Both of these apartments I was interested in were in the price range I hope to be able to afford, but hope doesn't pay the rent. Also, remember that whole purge I went through before I left? I have no furniture, which means no bed, no sheets, no blankets or pillows, no cookware, no towels (okay, one towel), no silverware. If I can settle for a year in an apartment that's $1-200 less a month, then that's well over $1,000 in rent that I could spend on other things, or, worst case scenario, $1,000 less I have to borrow from my parents.

So for now, we're going to wait and see if we can make this "living with the parents" thing work. I just see no real point in spending money I don't have. If the cats and the dogs together prove disastrous, we can go back to Plan B. Let's all hope a job opportunity comes along quickly.

Tomorrow is my first full day of "work" in a month. Mixed feelings. Yay, money! Boo, must put on clothes and no napping.

Today was a good day. I think I've figured out where my church "home" is going to be. It's the obvious local choice, but I've been investigating other parishes for comparison's sake. Nothing is going to be St. Bart's in New York, but it doesn't look like there's any other Episcopal church in Portland that has such a large, active congregation combined with something that comes close to the "high church" fussiness I came to love in New York. (Like Jews, Oregon Episcopalians are a little different than their Manhattan cousins.)

Afterward I went for a long walk at Hoyt Arboretum, 185 acres of forested land in the hills above downtown Portland. It was overcast, so it wasn't ideal for picture-taking. Still, it was nice to be surrounded by tall trees, with the only sounds being birdsong and wind rustling through the leaves. It gave me a chance to attain some clarity on this whole apartment thing.

Then I came home and got all butch and domestic. First I mowed the lawn, and presently I'm watering. You should have seen Rocky and Starbuck sitting in the living room window watching me struggle with the mower in the ankle-high grass. They looked very skeptical.

Now, if you'll excuse me, before I cook dinner (salmone alla griglia), I want to finish this horror short story I'm working on, based in part on true life events: The Zit that Would Not Go Away.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Mantra of the Day: It's Better than in New York

Apartment hunting sucks.

My challenge at the moment is to try to find a place that's available now that seems like a reasonable rent for the salary I expect to be able to earn in a neighborhood that's convenient to the areas where I hope to work, but that's a lot of unknowns in play. No telling how long it will take me to get a permanent job, or where it will be.

I've been concentrating on the West Slope area because it's so easy to get everywhere from here, but the rents in this neighborhood are at the upper end of what I was hoping to be able to pay. It's still less than what I paid in New York (although not by much), but of course what you get for your buck (washer/dryer, dishwasher, fireplace, deck, new appliances, room to turn around) is a lot more bang.

I'm eager to get my own place, for all the obvious reasons, but I'm also nervous about getting "stuck" somewhere with an inconvenient commute (again, nothing's going to be worse than an hour on the A train) or committing myself to a rent that could be more of my paycheck than I'd like to part with. (Not to mention, right now there aren't any paychecks.) There are cheaper places around, but they can be kind of sketchy. I don't envision myself fitting in well in a complex with a lot of low-riders with tinted windows, chrome hub-caps and BadBoy decals. Or a lot of tricycles. (Shudder.)

After work yesterday I just drove around neighborhoods I like and inquired at nice-looking complexes. One really great place has nothing open at the moment, but they said they could take my number and call me, so I gave the young woman my information. When I said my name, she squinted at me and said, "I think I know you...did you go to Cedar Park?" "Ermmm...yeah..." "It's me, [name redacted]!" She looked marvelous. Small world.

Then I went to look at an apartment in a brand new development that is still being finished, in an absolutely perfect location. Ten minutes to downtown by car (either freeway or two different "back ways" over the hill) and within walking distance of the light rail.

I explained to the leasing agent that I had just moved here from New York, and she said, "Oh? What part?" "The City," I said. "Yeah, what part?" "Ummm...Washington Heights?" "Get out! I used to live at 184th and Broadway!" Seriously, the agent and I had lived on the same A train stop. She wasn't missing Washington Heights, either, and had come back for all the same reasons I did.

The apartment was awesome. Chic, simple, modern and urban. Great light, great layout, and the biggest damn bathroom I've ever seen. It was really exactly what I wanted. I filled out an application.

Overnight, however, my mom dug up some comments posted on a website by current and former tenants of the place: a consistent litany of complaints about poor construction, thin walls, unresponsive management and a chronic mold problem. I decided it was too much money to risk, so I backed out this morning. (Thanks, mom!)

I called another place I had visited and asked if the unit was still available. It was, so I went to look at it again and then I applied for that one. It's huge (812 sq. ft), has lots of light and a great layout, and really feels more like a small house than an apartment. It's still on the high end of what I want to pay, and it's not my first choice of location, but it's still closer in than most of the other options.

Right now I'm just throwing it all up into the cosmos and hoping the pieces fall down in the right place. I'll know early next week if my application was approved; there is, naturally, some hesitation over the fact that I don't have an income. If it falls through, then I guess we'll just have to see how the cats and dogs get along together and we'll all just have to deal with a cramped house for a bit.

Friday, May 11, 2007

The Gates of Hell?

There was a time, I confess (and not so long ago), when I spoke the word suburbia under my breath, with a shudder of disdain. I have come to see that not all suburbs are created equal, however. While some may well be worthy of cringe-inducement, Portland's west side is pretty great.

I had my first day of training at my temp job yesterday, which lasts through next week. It's an executive assistant position with a medical technology company and, as Austin Powers might say, "This sort of thing is my bag, baby." It's all the kinds of tasks I'm accustomed to doing, just in a more relaxed setting than many of the investment banks or advertising agencies I temped for in New York.

It feels pretty damn odd, I have to say, to get in the car and drive to a suburban office park to go to work, after all these years on the A train. Yes, the office park and the office itself is largely as soulless as the image that phrase conjures up, but the people seem very nice. This office park at least has a path with picnic tables and a duckpond.

The big news is that I've decided to go ahead and try to get an apartment now. The parents -- and with them, the dogs -- are coming back next weekend. Rocky is doing much better, but I think throwing the dogs into the mix is a recipe for a major setback. I don't anticipate any kind of fights or anything, but I think the dogs might just be asking too much of him right now. Plus, my mom's house is pretty small. It would be nice to actually unpack my suitcases.

Ideally I wanted to get a job first and then pick a place with an easy commute. The reality is that no matter where I end up, as long as I'm somewhere here on the close-in west side, my commute isn't going to be that bad. It will surely be better than two hours a day on the subway. I'll get a six-month lease to start; it would suck to have to move again, but it's also going to suck to stay here much longer. I'm working another half-day today for training, and then this afternoon I already have some appointments to look at apartments in the area. My goal is to "move in" next weekend.

Since there were requests for photos of the neighborhood, I'm posting a few more below. This is my mom's back yard. Wow, it is really nice to have a back yard, especially when the weather is as nice as it has been.

Everyone knows Oregon is "green," but it's so much more than that. There are so many different kinds of plants and trees here that it's a very colorful place; and it's not just that we have "a lot" of plants and trees, there is a density to them that is unique among urban environments.

Here's a shot of a typical street in the neighborhood.

Rocky, I don't think we're in Washington Heights anymore. Thank God.

Thursday, May 10, 2007


That is what the transcontinental move cost me. Not bad, if I do say so myself.

Here's the breakdown, for anyone who's interested:
  • $999.11: Shipping costs from the post office and UPS; altogether I sent 58 boxes (at an average cost of $17.23) to Oregon. That might sound like a lot of stuff, but they were usually pretty small boxes, as I was mostly sending books. I lovingly carried most of them in my little rolling "granny cart" the three-quarters of a mile to the post office (where I would wait in line 30-45 minutes each time) or six blocks to the UPS store. The only exceptions were the final 11 boxes, the bulk of my CD collection, for which I arranged a ground pick-up. All 58 boxes arrived, with the notable exception of #14, which apparently succombed to the rigors of being transported across the country by media mail through the postal service. No word yet on the missing contents.

  • $823.71: The rental car, including taxes and fees, for a full 7 days. I had a nice, dark red Dodge Grand Caravan, which easily accommodated everything I decided to bring but not ship. It was a comfortable, easy ride. If you're interested in renting a car for a cross-country drive, you can probably get something decent for as little as $450, but obviously I needed the maximum amount of cargo space.

  • $352.99: Gas. Oof. Well, good thing I went when I did. Right now gas in the Portland area is going for as high as $3.49/gallon, so I guess I got off relatively lucky. The Dodge got about 26 mpg in the flat, open places, and 21 mpg going through the mountains in Montana.

  • $310.52: Motels for six nights. Here I think I did pretty well. It helps to have low standards (and also to get military discounts). There aren't many places in New York City you can stay for even one night at that price. All of them were pretty decent, but I really couldn't recommend the Guesthouse Inn in Spokane by the airport.

  • $259.16: Food and miscellaneous. This figure is too low, probably by $150 or so. I'm sure there's about $60 in packing materials from Staples that I didn't record in my ledger, and also I didn't keep up with all the cash receipts from McDonald's/BurgerKing/Dairy Queen/etc. during the drive itself.
I think I made the best choice for myself. The initial moving quotes I got ran about $3,000, but those were probably low, first because they always are (to get your business) and second because I'm sure I underestimated how much crap I had, now that I've seen how much I threw out or gave away. So, $3,000 or so would have gotten all my stuff here and would have saved me, according to my ledger, nine trips to the post office and five trips to UPS, but it wouldn't have gotten me and the cats to Portland. By the way, mad props to the staff at the UPS Store on W. 181st Street, those guys are awesome, some of the absolute best customer service to be found in the entire city. Nine trips to the post office means I spent somewhere between 5 and 6 hours standing in line there. Ugh.

Neither U-Haul nor anyone else will let you rent an actual cargo van (one of those nice Ford Econoline things) one-way; they are all in-city only. The cheapest truck U-Haul will let you have on a one-way rental is the 10-footer, which was quoted to me at $2,700 for a week. This truck gets 12 mpg, which would have doubled my gas costs. Also, they don't go real fast, so it probably would have necessitated an additional night on the road.

The bill for the credit card on which I put most of this came in yesterday. I've been saving and planning for a long time, so it felt nice just to write a check and be done with it. Paid in full.

Now, I just need to buy new furniture. Hello, debt! Whoo!

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Employed! (Temporarily)

One of the search firms I registered with is sending me out on a temp assignment covering someone who is going to be on vacation the rest of this week and next week. Yay, paycheck! It's an encouraging sign.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Are there Hot Tubs in Heaven?

I had a couple requests via IM and email for an update to make sure I'm okay.

I'm fabulous, there's just not a lot to report on, nothing particularly blogtastic to make for fascinating reading.

I've done three interviews so far, with a fourth one scheduled for Friday. At today's interview, I was clocked at 100 wpm. Fastest blogger in the west, I tell you whut.

So, my days right now are fast-paced and stressful. I wake up around 6:30, walk down to my old elementary school to warm-up and stretch out, then I jog on their nice soft track for a mile, and then walk back home, where I enjoy a leisurely cup of coffee while reading the news online and checking email. Around 9:00 or so, depending on what time the interview is, I hit the shower. One interview was in Lake Oswego, about an 11-minute drive, or, roughly the amount of time it took me to walk from the A train stop to my office on Wall Street every day. The second interview was downtown, so I rode the local light rail train (known as "MAX"). Today's interview was actually in an office building two blocks from my mom's house, so I just walked.

Afterwards I typically swing by the grocery store to pick up things for dinner, and then, because the weather has been clear and sunny in the upper 70s/low 80s the last two days, I spread a towel out on the deck and have started working on my summer tan so that when I go to the beach, Greenpeace doesn't try to rescue me (hence also the jogging).

While I was spreading out the towel today, a squirrel yelled at me from one of the pine trees in the yard. I thought Oregonians were supposed to be friendlier; I can't recall ever coming across a rude squirrel in New York. I told him to fuck off.

I just cleaned the kitchen while a load of laundry is in, now I'm having a beer and blogging all about it. I may take a short nap with Rocky in a few minutes before I head downtown to have dinner with new friends (also recent NYC refugees).

My evenings generally wrap up with me sitting in the hot tub for 20-30 minutes sipping a beer, then I relax in my mom's Sharper Image massage chair for another half hour or so, and then stumble half awake into bed, nestled in between the two cats.

Rinse, repeat.

Welcome to being unemployed in suburbia. If I make it to heaven, I hope it's something like this (except hopefully I won't be alone in the hot tub, unless I want to be).

Friday, May 04, 2007

Call Me "The Flash"

I feel like the interview went pretty well. It was with an executive search firm, so I think we're on the same wave-length about what I'm looking for and that I'm willing to wait (for a little while) for a good fit, rather than just take the first thing that comes along with my salary goal.

I don't recall saying anything too stupid (like the interview I once had in New York where the lady offhandedly mentioned she was trying out a new diet and I said, "Is it working?").

There was a math test! Quel horreur. I can't remember the last time I had to do long division. I had a momentary panic attack over whether 8 times 8 really is 64 or not, and then on the grammar section there was a question about whether California is further or farther than Idaho. I tried to think back to Battlestar Galactica when Boomer explains it to Helo ("Farther describes actual distance. Further is more figurative."), but I couldn't remember exactly. I think I got it right.

The typing test...well, let's just say I finished the text sample before the timer ran out. "I'm out of words," I said. The attendant said, "Oh...well...start over from the beginning, keep going!" I didn't get my actual score, but I think that probably suffices for their needs.

And now I'm going to relax and have a nice weekend. I'll be in the hot tub, if anyone needs me.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Oregon: Yay for Gays

Following the 34-26 vote in the Oregon House two weeks ago, the Senate decided yesterday by a margin of 21-9 to approve domestic partnership status for same-sex couples within the state, granting them all of the same state benefits as opposite-sex married couples. The Oregonian hailed it as "the biggest advance for gay rights in state history," and says Oregon now ranks "among the most gay friendly [states] in the nation." (Note please, how I am now linking to The Oregonian instead of The New York Times.)

This puts Oregon on par with New Jersey, where same-sex couples are entitled to exactly the same rights, privileges and responsibilities as married couples, with the sole exception of the use of the word "marriage" itself. In Oregon, however, it didn't take a lawsuit to force the legislature into action.

This is all very encouraging. Many of the social conservatives have built their strategy on the argument that legislatures have historically been responsible for the regulation of marriage, and that for courts to step in and "redefine" marriage is "judicial activism." They never thought they'd see the day when state legislatures would act of their own volition to remedy this imbalance. I suppose now maybe they'll try to argue that marriage can only be "redefined" by popular vote (even though the legislature, being directly accountable to the voting public, unlike most judges, is generally understood to represent popular sentiment). That's fine, I guess. Can I vote on your marriage?

It further underscores that civil marriage is an inevitability. As politicians and regular folk see that the sky doesn't fall, God doesn't hurl thunderbolts and heterosexuals don't go gay when you legalize protections for committed same-sex couples, the supposed rationale for keeping the term "marriage" exclusive to opposite-sex couples is simply going to vanish. Oregon's law establishes "domestic partnerships," even though that comes with legal protections and privileges far beyond what is known as a "domestic partnership" in California or New York City, for example. It is identical to the legal status for same-sex couples in New Jersey, but there it's termed a "civil union." This serves to highlight the silliness of maintaining a pretense of distinction between terms. If an Oregon domestic partnership is the same as a New Jersey civil union, and both are (within their respective states) the same as a marriage, why not just call them a marriage?

* * * * *

Things are going well so far. Starbuck has quickly assumed alpha-cat status and is running the household. Rocky is still a little depressed, but is coming along.

I've had a pretty full social calendar. On Tuesday I met up with Hot Toddy for happy hour, and was introduced to his pal Pony. Together they produce a series of hilarious podcasts, which for some reason (inexplicable to me) are called The Todd & Pony Show. I am pleased to say that I was a paragon of restraint and refined social graces on my first night out as a resident of Portland. At least, that's the way I remember it...

Tonight I was treated to a lovely homecooked meal by Quinn, with whom I've maintained a friendship since fourth grade. (I even briefly dated her in high school; why didn't that work out, I wonder?) She has a beautiful home and an even more lovely family, and everything is just going so well for her right now, it's like a fairytale. I guess I'm the fairy.

* * * * *

I've been sending out resumes like some crazy unemployed person. Tomorrow I have my first local interview! It's not for a specific job, it's with a staffing agency I sent my information to. I like that, though. It's an opportunity for me to go in and explain to them that, for the moment at least, I'm not looking for "a" job, I'm looking for "the" job, and I'm willing to be patient (errmmm...for a little while...I am living at my parents' house) to find just the right opportunity. Hopefully they will have access to leads you can't find on Craigslist. So, here's to hoping I don't say anything stupid, or, if I do, that I recover brilliantly.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Ecce Cordo

The power cord arrived today for the printer. I wish they'd said "It will probably be there tomorrow," rather than "It's scheduled for delivery on Friday." I'd have had less of a snit.

At any rate, I'd already emailed the resume to Kinko's, which is fine, because they can print it out on nice bond paper.

The printer seems to work great! And, I sent in my first resume and cover letter this morning. Whoo!

Here endeth the least interesting post I've ever written.