Sunday, August 23, 2009

A Saturday Oregon Outing

I have been tossing around the idea of setting up a full 'Regency Retreat' weekend sometime in 2011 for the Oregon Regency Society and any other folks who are interested in participating. It's been a project I've been dabbling with for a few months. I thought about 2010 first, but realized that the Jane Austen Society of North America were having their big shindig up here in Oregon in 2010, and I didn't want to compete with that event. They have folks coming from all over the country for their yearly general meeting... they'll host a ball and have folks in costume all during the event. So I thought the following year, I'd offer an event that is all-regency, all weekend and offer workshops, like lace-making and embroidery... sewing, penmanship perhaps, and all number of lovely activities; and I have wanted to find a setting that would be at least a little bit appropriate, with lots of garden space and relaxing features to make it worthwhile for participants.

So on my hunt for retreat centers, I found Menucha. This place is in my top three of possible venues for the retreat. The other is Cedar Ridge; whose owner never followed up on my query by sending the requisite information; and the last is the Chateau at the Oregon Caves, which is really cool because we can rent the whole lodge for ourselves... the only downside is that it's clear down near the California state line. I'm still working on it.

I'd been meaning to check out Menucha for months, but each time I arranged for a viewing, something would come up and I couldn't go. I think the manager got impatient with me, frankly. So Saturday, Hubby and I, on some weird whim, got in the car and decided we finally wanted to go see Crown Point. I've lived in Oregon going on seven years and I've never been to Crown Point (not to mention other 'must-see' locations like Crater Lake and such), I know, ridiculous. It's really not very far from Portland at all. I was surprised how close it was to our neck of the woods too.

Oregon's History is young. It's earliest settlement was Astoria--a tiny city on the mouth of the Columbia River where it opens up to the Pacific. This settlement; hugely Scandinavian by heritage appeared smack in the middle of the Regency period, very early 1800s--just around the time whem Lewis & Clark came tromping through to see the coast. I'm too lazy and uninspired to research it all, frankly. But Oregon does have a few nice little 'historic' spots that feature the state's incredible natural treasures. Oregon, and much of the Northwest goes 'big' on things. The trees are taller, the rivers wider, the volcanoes soaring... it's a place where nature is generous in her heapings of beauty. The Columbia Gorge is one of those really awe-inspiringly beautiful spots. And you can get a really great view of it as the Columbia leaves Hood River and winds its serpentine way towards the Pacific, meeting with Portland and the Willamette River as it does.

It's a huge river, and the dams on it provide much of the power for the NW and not to mention California (those moochers). Crown Point sits over a cliff on the Oregon Side (the opposite bank of the river is the state of Washington). It's a little round observation house, screamingly art-deco, that sits on a loop of the switchback road that that clings to the side of the steep hill.

The view is breathtaking.

They have a little gallery and shop and such inside... and hubby thought I was crazy when I got more excited about the lovely 20s walking jacket and suit; and the boots! So pretty.

On our way up, I noticed that Menucha was right near the point, so I called to see if I could get a quick look-see of the facility.

It was wonderful. So far, I'm thinking Menucha might be the place. Its proximity to Portland, its beautiful, peaceful setting, the spaces available (one is particularly pretty)... We shall see. Hubby captured some really pretty pictures of the day, including two from Menucha's gardens which I adore, the flower and the bumble-bee and the cool nasturtium leaves.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Some whining and raving.

I have to confess I felt very alone this weekend. I’ve been going through a significant amount of personal stress. For one, I have been facing the very real and inevitable decline of my father, who was hospitalized recently for dehydration, and who subsequently went into rehabilitation care. Yesterday he was readmitted to the hospital for pneumonia and a UTI. He is very confused before this bout, disoriented and bellicose to the nursing staff. He was even upsetting other nursing home residents by walking around naked ::snickersnicker:: Apparently, even now in his weakened state he is combative and he tore out his IV this morning. It’s good to know he’s still showing some strength of will and vitality, even if he’s sick and dotty. I’ve been trying to figure out ways to get out there to see him. I’m worried that in this climate of layoffs, that my work would use my taking family leave as an excuse to get rid of me. I am also wondering where the money is going to come from... and who will take care of my dogs. I don’t want to spend the rest of my life regretting never seeing my father again just because of a job and fear of expenses. I have some weighing and balancing to do.

My father is 79 years old. I know it’s natural for this to happen, but I don’t care what anyone says, nothing can prepare you to see your parents age, become ill, and then approach the ‘d’ word. Nobody can be ready for that. I selfishly want my father to stick around so we can foster the little treasure of a relationship we’d managed to form in the past two decades. I don’t want to lose that. It’s taken so long to get there. I know it’s not all about me, but when you’re losing someone you love, that’s what grief is. It’s about you and what you’re losing. Daddy seems ready to go; he’s even welcoming it to some degree. I can’t handle that he’s so eager to deprive us of him.

Secondly, I am fighting a particularly strong bout of depression; having no husband around during this time is hard. I have been feeling extremely isolated and without a support system. I reached out last week trying to find people to do stuff with this weekend to keep those two days from becoming a glut of sleeping, and rampant self-reflection, and everyone had plans or was working. That really sucked. Meanwhile, my husband is actually doing a lot of cool things at his current assignment. He’s in upstate New York and has in his time there, already visited Niagra Falls, Orange County Choppers, NYC and did a boat tour of the thousand islands and castles of Virginia Bay. I haven’t had these feelings of being left-out since I was younger and my sisters got to escape and have lives, I got to stay home and take care of my brother and father. Damn it ::whine::. I wish I’d been there doing those things with Hubby. ::pout::

Saturday was a lost day. I spent most of it sleeping and doing little to nothing except occasional houseworky things. I only went out to walk to dogs. I didn’t even change out of my pajamas. Sunday, I slept in, but Hubby told me I should go out for a late breakfast, so I did. I took my netbook with me and sat at the Cozy Cabin for almost three hours, drinking tea and playing Diner Dash. I got an email from a friend asking if I wanted to go see a movie—YAY! I jumped on it. So I hit the hardware store for squeedle (squirrel as pronounced by my Puerto Rican mother) food, filled the feeders, did a quick load of laundry, took a shower and off to the movies I went.

We went to see Julie & Julia. I dare say, I adored the movie. Adored it. Meryl Streep is effing brilliant. The stories were both delightful; although one more fiction than the other. I sat down after the movie last night and checked out this blog by Julie; and it’s definitely well-written and engaging, but it’s not the ‘voice’ that was portrayed in the movie--the movie portrays a sweet-albeit self-absorbed type of person; and the blog personality is definitely more abrasive and frank; not a lot of sweetness there. Nonetheless, it is a delightful movie, we laughed, and I shed a few tears. Very few movies these days make me forget my life, forget the moment, and forget I’m watching a movie. This one did; for approximately two hours, I my brain was completely absorbed in the movie, and daddy and everything else was quiet for a bit. I exited the movie loving Julia Child even more. I highly recommend it.

In the meantime, I promise to blog more and stop wallowing in lonely self-pity. I will create a new office special today (I don’t know what happened to my last one... it probably got thrown in the recycle box and shredded to smithereens by Iron Mountain.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Buy toilet tokens and check your baggage and get 20% off your leg-room.

A couple of years ago, my husband and I flew out to upstate New York to visit my sister for Christmas. In my day, I’ve flown a lot; I was however mostly fortunate to do most of my trans-Atlantic and Domestic flying during the period before airlines started operating with a WalMart attitude, and they still gave people snacks and drinks, did real hot meals with a little fork and knife... handed out hot towels, showed movies for free and provided and those lone-ranger masks to put over your eyes to sleep. Nowadays things have changed quite a bit. Discount airlines have taken the experience of air travel and stripped it down to the skeleton, and are now gnawing at the bones.

That time, we were enjoying the ‘hospitality’ of an airline that has a cattle-call boarding system and charges you for the little snacks and your soda--I was surprised not to find myself seated next to third-world mountain sheep farmers, carrying chickens in cages on their laps; the airline was so ramshackle and bus-like. Humorous flight attendants will never make up for the craptasticness of the airline’s service.

On the plane, we joked about other creative ways airlines could financially gouge their customers. We started predicting what we would see as future charges… we discussed the charge simply to check a bag (which came true), a rental fee for use of their kotex-like pillow and the little shrinking square of fleece they call a blanket; we joked that they would add a coin-slot onto the bathrooms so you’d have to pay to use them on the plane (from what I understand a few airlines are considering this). However this morning, one of our more wild predictions from that day has apparently also come true. My husband used the self-check in for United Airlines, and the little screen began to prompt him through the process. It notified him that they would charge his card $20 just to check his one underweight bag… and then a screen popped up…

“Add 5 inches to your leg room for $39.00 or $79.00 for the complete flight including connections!” I could not help but burst into raucous laughter right at the counter, and if you know me, you know how obnoxiously loud and merrily I can laugh. I laughed all through the check-in process and laughed all the way to the restaurant where we had breakfast. So the gist of it is, you will be uncomfortable unless you pay SUCKARS!! LOL!

Apparently, if you’re tall, you’re screwed. Sorry Aaron! Don’t fly United unless you have some disposable income. If you don’t want to be folded up like an awkward crane, dish out the cash people.

This is out of control! I’m all for good healthy capitalism now and again, but holy butt-rape, Batman! This is too much! The following screens also asked my husband if he was willing to give up his seat for another flight--they are obviously routinely overbooking planes as well. Get their money first, then we’ll deal with the consequences and shift them around when they find out that we never had room for them on the plane to begin with!

Poor Husband. This is his lot… he travels so much that this sort of ridiculous uncaring ‘service’ is what he is destined to face every month, again and again. It’s horrific. No wonder he’s angry at the simple notion of travel. He’s even taken to shipping his stuff to the site before he gets there so he can avoid the astronomical costs of having an extra bag, or an overweight one… $50-$120. It's cheaper to send it via UPS... really. That's funny, isn't it? Maybe people will start shipping themselves in trunks through global delivery services to save a buck when airlines start charging you for the oxygen you're breathing, or the time you occupy a seat in their gate waiting area.

I heard on NPR the other day that a small airline pulled itself out of bankruptcy on the earnings from charging for bags alone. Nice. It’s amazing to me that any of these airlines are permitted to fly without a SUSTAINABLE plan to survive as a business. Fewer flights, fuller flights, angrier passengers… this whole thing is going to implode one of these days--I can see it coming.

Anyway, I wanted to share this little experience, and I was able to today thanks to my husband’s gift to me of a Toshiba Netbook. I am using it at my local coffee place where I can mooch bandwidth, blog, and scarf a tuna sammie. This little guy is SO cute… 10 inch, crystal clear screen, full version of windows, it’s a full-blown PC except it has not CD/DVD in it… who cares!? I can use it to write (I loaded my software on here with a fat thumb drive (naughty me). Have a lovely week, despite it being Monday and all. ;)


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