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Today’s Earworm

Push It by Salt-N-Pepa.

Not sure when it started, but it’s been well over a year. Every morning I wake up and I have an earworm. Every morning it is different and every morning it defies any effort to remove it. The only constant seems to be a song that I haven’t actively listened to in recent years or is a song from a band I actively dislike, such as yesterday’s selection, Living on a Prayer by Bon Jovi. It eventually fades as the day’s activity consumes my attention.

My brain is doing something with this and my first waking hours are, while not acutely painful, certainly annoying at a low level. I suspect some part of the SSD that is my brain is just doing a bit of housecleaning. I cannot determine, at this time, if there is any deeper motivations behind my brain’s desire to annoy me so. My only respite occurs during my morning meditation session.

I do want it to end. If this truly **is** my brain’s way of clearing up extra space, well, then I have 45 years or so of active and passive music listening to look forward to. This fills me with some level of dread. I really don’t need Right Said Fred tomorrow.

A Sense Of Place

Where is your Place? Your Place is some city or town, maybe a neighborhood, that fits you deep down in your gut. It is a lock and you are the key. The minute you arrive at your Place, you can feel the key turn in the lock and you just know that Place is where you are supposed to be. Maybe you’re one of the lucky ones and your Place is your home town. Maybe you spend your entire life looking for your Place and you move from city to city every few years. Maybe you find it on your first try.

I was born in Southern California, in the OC. For the first 38 years of my life, it was my home. I lived and worked a commuter’s lifestyle. I had the two car garage, 5 bedroom home on a postage stamp bit of land in an older section of Irvine. I drove my car to work in Aliso Viejo during the week, and I drove my car everywhere else as well because walking wasn’t a means of transport in Irvine, where destinations were measured in miles and blocks were defined by the size of the strip mall. The car and all of its attendant wants are one of the defining, and dominant, characteristics of living in Southern California.

Southern California is a desert. It’s not a bone dry desert like Death Valley or the Sonoran Desert in Arizona, but it is a desert nonetheless. It was made fertile by the toil and sweat of man. It has beautiful stretches of coastline and gentle beaches, temperate weather throughout the year. It has everything to draw people and just enough of a default setting that living there is easy and can be made better with little or no effort. As my life progressed through all of the usual stages, so too did the OC. I grew and my life expanded and the OC grew and expanded right along with it. When I was a kid, there were great swaths of land my friends and I would explore and play in that disappeared under the hand of development by the time I was in college. Even then, I could drive south on a mostly empty Interstate 5 and there would be rolling hills of grass from Irvine to San Clemente. But by the time I was in my mid-thirties it had all been swallowed up by prefabricated suburban sprawl in made-up towns like Aliso Viejo.

A part of me watched this silent and steady encroachment on my home turf and felt uneasy. The other part just went about my day, silently adapting to the slow increase in traffic on the streets, avoiding the beach because parking is a bitch, not wanting to go to the park because we got up too late on Sunday and the crowds would be insane.

Regardless, I had a good life there, good friends and work colleagues, family. But it wasn’t my Place. I didn’t really know that until I visited Portland and we made the decision to move. Even then, I wasn’t sure, I just knew that I HAD to get the fuck out of The OC. The place of my birth had become intolerable to me and I needed to leave.

My sense of place kicked in within a month of moving to urban Portland. My unease disappeared. We settled in the Pearl, an upscale, trendy area of downtown Portland full of condos, art galleries and restaurants. Blocks are measured in feet here and more people walk or bike than drive. There was a vibrancy and life in this dense population that was lacking in Orange County. The colors are radically different, green and emerald shades replaced brown and salmon (fucking salmon, just call it watered down pink) and towering, majestic pines replaced anemic, soulless palm trees. The air here is clear, from my bedroom window right now, I can see Mount Saint Helens sixty miles away. The light has a crispness to it that takes my breath away at least once a day even now ten years in. The people here are open and friendly. They know the privilege of living where they do and know every day is a blessing.

I feel the life in this Place. I feel it in the vibrant heat of July, the crisp cool of November, the raging rain storm in January, and I see it in the glowing spring rain of May. I feel it walking along a sun-dappled trail deep in Forest Park. It touches me in the deepest parts of my soul. I know this is my Place. Where is yours?

The Rule of Thirds

Three different people stopped me to ask questions on my walk to work today.

The first was a drive-by ask on SW Park. A guy driving a truck stopped in the middle of the road and yelled, “Burnside?” at me. Despite his lack of forward motion, he seemed to be in quite a hurry.

I didn’t waste words. “Turn left,” I said.

The second was a walk-by ask. A homeless dude asked me for a light as we crossed by each other on SW King. He was holding what I can only assume was a cigarette, but might have been something else entirely. It certainly wasn’t machine rolled if you catch my meaning.

“I don’t smoke,” I said.

The third was a stationary ask. I had stepped off the MAX train and walked around behind it to cross 1st Street. As I stepped onto the curb, a young woman, wearing a white hoodie and a diamond chip in her nose, pushed a paper at me. She pointed at some yellow highlighted text. “Where is this? Is that the SmartPark garage?” She pointed at the building on the other side of the street I had just crossed.

I looked at the text. “Yes,” I said. “The entrance is right over there by that guy in the green shirt, I think.” I pointed at a guy walking towards us on Davis.

She thanked me and we separated to cross the streets we had to cross, she 1st and me Davis. As I walked along toward the office, I realized I might have steered her wrong. The entrance she needed was on 1st, behind the MAX stop, not on Davis, near the parking entrance. “Ah fuck it”, I thought. “She’ll find it now.”

Your morning sinus headache

So you get a sinus headache. There is a metal spike being driven into your head right between your eyes and your nose feels like it’s full of cotton. You take a prescription dose of ibuprophen and go to bed.

You wake up a half hour before the alarm is set to go off because now all of the pressure is on the right side. You lay on your left side so that things will drain and they do slowly. The headache creeps back just enough to be annoying and you can’t do anything more that doze now. Laying on your left side is not something you ever do. It is uncomfortable and distracting. So you lay on your back and turn your head to the left. That helps but the headache is there just enough to be a dick about it.

Five minutes before the alarm is set to go off, you get up and take a hot shower, hoping the steam will give you a bit of relief. And it does, just enough for you to go through the rest of your morning routine. You go downstairs and break open a Advil Congestion Relief tab and swallow that baby down, chasing it with two regular Advils. Now it’s just a matter of time because, even though the stuff in the congestion relief isn’t the good shit they banned because of all the tweakers, it works pretty damned well.

You kiss your wife goodbye, gather up your stuff, walk all the way down to the garage, which is empty because you parked on the street last night, walk back up three flights of stairs to the front door and out to the car.

You feel it just as you reach the car door. That palpable moment of relief that makes you sigh with joy. The release of pressure you’ve been waiting for. Your nose starts to run, a lot. It’s like your sinuses were sponges, corpulent with snotty juices, and they just got squeezed.

So you spend the first ten minutes of your drive blowing your nose. You don’t want to sniff it all back up because you don’t want to get your nose stuffed up again. And really, it doesn’t work anyway.

After a while your nose dries up so that’s good, but there’s still a bit of pressure right behind your eyes, so you sigh and get on with your day.