I bet you thought this blog was going to fade into obscurity now that I’m working full time again. You probably figured that once I returned to a routine of working, working out, cooking, cleaning, and watching Law & Order SVU, this little writing and drawing project would just fall by the wayside.  If you did, you were right to think so. You still might turn out to be right, but I’m going to try and stave off the weeknight lethargy a bit longer.

Last week, Kim and I found out that Portland is somewhat of a suitcase city. I suppose most people have family either in the suburbs, down in California, or back on the east coast, like us. By Wednesday, I didn’t see a single car or bike on my commute downtown to my office.

On Wednesday night, Kim and I went to Mission Theatre for dinner and second-run movie. We saw “It’s Kind of a Funny Story”, which was essentially “Garden State” meets “Girl, Interrupted”. It wasn’t mind-blowingly good, but it had a few cute moments, and the moral of being grateful for friends, family, and other blessings was fitting for Thanksgiving eve.

The next day, Kim and I celebrated our first Thanksgiving together by making enough food for both our entire extended families…then eating all of it ourselves. Check it out.

After eating, we commenced three days of lounging, shopping, and movies. I almost let a four-day weekend come and go with nothing to show for it but about 6 added pounds and a disturbingly firm grasp of college football’s BCS rankings, but I managed to make it out for a hike on Sunday. Kim and I went up to Angel’s Rest, a ridge along the beautiful Columbia Gorge.

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A Misty Morning Hike

This morning Kim and I went on what I’m sure will be the first of many wet winter hikes just outside of Portland. We returned to Multnomah Falls but this time climbed 700 feet to the top of the cascade, then hiked along the stream a ways.  Believe it or not, it led to a lot more waterfalls.

I think I’m finally getting used to the idea that my winter won’t be so much white as green. Incredibly green, actually. Every rock, every long, every single forest surface we saw on our hike this morning was fully enveloped with green moss. Observe:

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One Safe Place

“Everybody talks about some fateful day
And I guess that this was mine
I may be here to tell some kind of story
But I think it’s gonna take a little time”

–       Ghost Train, Marc Cohn

I spent a good portion of the week with an acute case of the birthday “blahs”. I spent the day wondering how much longer I’d be able to say I was in my “mid” twenties, and started wondering if I had accomplished enough in my first quarter century. Fortunately, I had a concert to look forward to.

Last night, Kim I went to see Marc Cohn perform at the Aladdin Theater.  I’ve mentioned him on this blog before, but for those unfamiliar, he’s best known as the guy who sings Walking in Memphis. Yes, this was our second Portland concert in which we were the youngest people in the audience by 20 years. Fine by me. There will be plenty of time to see some younger artists.

Marc was going to go with a Justin Bieber haircut, but went with this look instead.

Cohn is a talented and nostalgic songwriter with such a profound respect for the power of soul and blues music that most are surprised to learn that the man behind the voice is a white Jew from the suburbs of Cleveland. His self-titled album, his first and his best, was one of the most-played CDs in my household growing up. My dad used to accompany Marc with back-up vocals as he prepared dinner, and I distinctly remember my mom softly swaying her head to the lyrics with her eyes-closed. Every song on the album is image-laden and deeply personal.

Years later, in college, I was driving to the Lewisburg farmers market in my green Jeep Cherokee with a cute blonde in the passenger’s seat. It was the early spring of my senior year, and I had only been dating Kim for about a couple weeks. I was hyper-aware that every gesture, joke, song choice would inform her in impression of me. When Cohn’s True Companion starting coming through my speakers, I was nervous she’d find me saccharine and overly sensitive. After all, was tune about finding the love of your life. To my relief, Kim turned to me and said, “I love Marc Cohn!” It was one of the many moments that spring that I realized Kim and I would be together for a long time.

Given our long history, I had expectations for the show last night. Early on, I was worried that a letdown might be in store. Cohn began his set seated at the piano with Ghost Train, a personal favorite, then began Perfect Love, when he promptly broke his guitar. While his stage crew scurried about trying to find a replacement, the 51 year-old Cohn told us he was battling a larynx infection, and was doing his best to put on a show anyway.

Fortunately for us, Marc and his band proved to be a group of wily veterans. I should have known better, considering that five years ago, Marc survived a botched carjacking in which he was shot in the head (no I’m not kidding). A bad cold kind of pales in comparison.

The band carried on with some great covers, including Van Morrison’s Into the Mystic and The Box Tops’ The Letter. On The Letter, Cohn and band-mate Shane Fontayne (sweet name, right?) broke into a stunning guitar duel. These old guys could still wail.

My favorite part of the evening was when Cohn shared the origin story behind his calling card, Walking in Memphis. Marc was 25 years old and depressed that he hadn’t written a hit yet. He knew that James Taylor wrote Fire and Rain when he was only 20, and that most musicians’ careers were halfway over by 25. Cohn read an interview with Taylor, in which he discussed his process for overcoming writer’s block. James suggested taking a “geographic”, a trip to some place completely new.  Cohn said he immediately started booking flights to places with rich musical histories, the first of which was to Memphis. He did Graceland and other touristy things, but also visited Reverend Al Green’s Full Gospel Tabernacle Church, and performed gospel music with an elderly woman named Muriel at the Hollywood Café. Cohn said that while he’s Jewish, he felt something of a spiritual awakening during his time in Tennessee. The trip provided inspiration not only for Walking in Memphis, but for most of his first hit album. Muriel didn’t live to see Marc’s success, but he did have a chance to play his songs for her. She said she liked the one in which she was mentioned the best. She wasn’t alone.

Cohn’s performance of Walking in Memphis included a novel interlude with lines from blues classics like Midnight Hour, but retained its original luster. I guess your mid-twenties isn’t too late for a big break.

An encore included a heartfelt rendition of True Companion to end the night on a sentimental note, and Kim and I ventured out into the rain in search of a bus back across the river to northwest Portland. I couldn’t help but smile thinking about Marc’s quip earlier in the evening that, “if you hear a reference to rain and a mode of transportation, you’re probably listening to a Marc Cohn song.”

This morning I woke up to delicious homemade waffles and a brand spanking new digital SLR camera: the ultimate birthday present. Maybe this will be the year I write my opus. It’s certainly off to a great start.

I can haz a job?

Mid way through October, I was concerned with mentally preparing myself for the rainy season. I was also trying to reassure myself that moving to Oregon without a job or a long-term plan was a good idea. I expected to spend 4 to 8 months looking for work in a rough job market, but I was starting question whether my expectations were more optimistic than pragmatic.

Two weeks, a visit from an old friend, four interviews, and hours of research later, I find myself with an honest-to-goodness full-time job. What’s more, I landed a job that has me genuinely excited and inspired. I’m thrilled to say that as of Friday, I’m the newest member of the International Living Building Institute! I spent my sunny Friday afternoon walking home feeling something like this. It was one of those brief, elusive moments of victory that make life so fun. I did my best to savor it.

my new office building.

Now that I’m rejoining the working ranks, I’d like to thank my parents, my bro, my friends, my former colleagues, and everyone else who has sent me love and support from the east coast since Kim and I moved out here. You guys are terrific.

With a Halloween costume party to attend Saturday night, Kim and I didn’t have much time to celebrate. Instead we drove to a crafts store to buy materials for a couple of goofy homemade costumes. I decided to be Ray Lewis from his recent Old Spice commercial (the one where he’s wearing a uniform made of soap suds and rides a mechanical raven into outer space). Kim went with a much more modest version of the phoenix from Kanye West’s “Runaway” music video.  My fake soap material turned into a fluffy, hot glue-infused mess, so I eventually had to scrap the costume in favor of an old standby. Kim’s phoenix was a success though, and we had a great time at the party.

Sadly, I couldn't keep it together.

Our friends Liz and Andy took us to their buddy’s massive house in south Portland. The house was decked out with a haunted basement, a bonfire, hay bales, a DJ, and about a hundred costumed guests. We saw a handful of Chilean miners, a few Jersey Shore cast members, Gumby & Pokey, a satyr, a chicken, Harry Potter, and even Salvador Dali, just to name a few. I wish I had pictures, but amidst the stress of trying to salvage my original costume, I forgot to pack my camera.

Ahh, another great October come and gone. I’ve had a lovely fall, but I can’t help but feel like this year shifted into overdrive at some point in September. This year, I feel as if autumn has brought more change than usual for me and for my family. There has plenty of cause for excitement, as well as trepidation (but at least it hasn’t been boring).

Now it’s November, and just like every year, I’ll be too distracted by my upcoming birthday to notice that fall has dissolved into the cold, drizzly beginning of winter. Though this year, I think November weather will stick with me through spring. Now that I know I’ll have a steady source of income, it’s time to start planning a warm weather vacation.