At some point, I found myself at the motel.

I stood in front of the blinking neon tubes that outlined the shape of the flamingo on the motel’s sign: The Flamingo Motel in Roswell, New Mexico. A few years earlier, my mom had told me a story about this motel.

“I remember once when I was a teenager,” she said as we drove past the broken down adobe structure, “I was walking down the street and right there – right in front of that sign – I saw a spaceship. It was up in the sky, not far, and perfectly clear. I was scared.”

“Really?” I asked, excited. “Were you alone? What was going on?”

She wrinkled her forehead, concentrating. “I may have been on acid,” she said.

Portland Oregon is a city of overeducated, underemployed white people who have forgotten to leash their dogs.

It’s true, and absurd, and there are a thousand other true and absurd stereotypes that fall short of capturing the city.

IFC’s “Portlandia” is an attempt at sketch comedy based on the peculiar nuttiness that emanates from the City of Roses, which is a difficult proposal, because the people who best reflect that nuttiness are offended, and everyone else is annoyed that their particular tribe wasn’t included. Then there are those things that only outsiders find funny. Yes, in Portland 30-something men ride skateboards to take their kids to school. I only notice this as part of the natural landscape, like a resplendent fall Chinook, writhing its way upstream to spawn and die.

Gloria Harrison:  My summary of Tron: Legacy is this: it was a visually beautiful, highly entertaining Lady Gaga video.

Cynthia Hawkins:  I like that summary. I think anyone who thinks Tron: Legacy is either a good or bad movie based on its story is missing the point. It’s more than its story. Let me ask you this. What did the first Tron mean to you?

Tuesday is the winter solstice. The shortest day and longest night of the year; the sun’s daily maximum position in the sky is the lowest. This, apparently, is more evident to those in high latitudes. Portland may not be the highest latitude, but when it’s dark outside by 4:00 PM and I go to work in the dark and I come home in the dark, I’d say we’re high enough. According to Wikipedia, “worldwide, interpretation of the [winter solstice] has varied from culture to culture, but most cultures have held a recognition of rebirth, involving holidays, festivals, gatherings, rituals or other celebrations around that time.”

For me, this year’s winter solstice marks the end of a ritual, not the start.

 

TNB Presents:

The Nervous Breakdown’s Literary Experience – Portland

Boxing With Elephants (Like AA, but with Alcohol)

Two Hours of Laughs, Lounging and Litertainment brought to you by Portland-Area TNB Contributors:

Gloria Harrison
Meg Worden
Art Edwards
G. Xavier Robillard
Quenby Moone
James Bernard Frost
and more

My daughter, Sierra, was seven when she read Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. It was summer of 2000 and I was hearing great things about the books, as the fourth in the series had just been released. I bought Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone for my daughter, eager to get her involved in actual chapter books that didn’t have 14-point font and knowing that she was reading books far below her comprehension level. By Christmastime that year, Sierra had read the entire series.

“Read them, mom,” she insisted. “I think you’ll really like them.”

I wanted to, but one thing or another kept me from doing so. Finally, when Jim, my soon-to-be husband, read the first book and agreed that Sierra was onto something, I read it. Within a year, Jim and I had both read all four books as well.

Jim and I were married in June 2001 and Sierra was adopted into the family by the end of that year. I gave birth to my twin sons on Valentine’s Day 2002. Life went on. A long festering tension between Jim and Sierra developed, especially as she entered into adolescence. 9/11 happened. Distances grew.

As you may know—but may not, because of my Scorpio predilection for Dick Cheney-level secrecy—I am a semi-professional astrologer.*For many months, I have been quietly collecting birth data from TNB contributors** whenever the topic came up on the comment boards, a sort of horoscopical scavenger hunt that netted quite a few charts for my burgeoning collection.

On October 9, 2010, I had the privilege of sitting down with Dennis McCarty, PhD to discuss drug and alcohol addiction treatment in the US. I have the great fortune of working with Dennis, mostly by turning his printouts into PDFs and booking the conference room for him, and I’ve always been fascinated and heartened by the work he and his team does; I’ve secretly always thought of him as a bit of an unsung superhero – out there fighting the good fight. After reading some posts about drugs, addictions, and treatment here on TNB in recent months, I asked Dennis to share his thoughts on all of it from the angle of policy. Here’s what he had to say.

I’d like to just lie in my bedroom. Not this one. I fantasize about the one that I’ll be in – above some bar where I’ll wash dishes on Main Street in a small town no one has heard of in one of the less interesting United States – right after I run away from it all.

I was visiting with my friend Katie the other day. She asked me how reading Harry Potter to my eight year old boys was going, as I’d mentioned to her a month or more ago that they were growing weary of reading about the same characters night after night.

“Did you switch to something else after you finished the third book?” she asked.

“No,” I said. “It turns out that toward the end of the third book, when Sirius Black became a more prominent character, the boys became super involved with the story once again. So, we started the fourth book straight away. That Sirius Black character sure seems to be a thing that boys relate to – the teacher archetype. Not a dad, necessarily – a teacher.”

“Well sure,” Katie said. “Everybody wants his Obi-Wan Kenobi.”

“Sure,” I agreed, then paused. “I wonder what the equivalent of that for girls would be.”

Dear Gloria circa August 2000,

I am writing from the future. Ten years ahead in fact.

I’ve seen all the movies and read all the cautionary tales that warn about the negative effects altering the past could and most likely would have on the future, so I want to be really careful here. It’s important that I impart a few words of advice, but, though there are aspects of my life today that I would love to undo, there are many aspects that I wouldn’t change for the world. I have no desire to try to alter your path. I wouldn’t wish any of your choices be different. My goal here isn’t to warn you against doing what I’ve already done, but to arm you with tools that I’ve only just begun to collect and use.

A couple years ago, when I was working as a receptionist at a chemical distribution plant, I was at a company picnic at a local amusement park. My twins, Tolkien and Indigo, who were six at the time, were off riding rides with their fifteen year old sister and I was standing around talking with the warehouse guys. It was later in the day. The picnic had been going on for a while. One of my coworkers, Edward, who was about four beers in, suddenly said, “Well, I’d better go make my rounds while the single moms are open to suggestion.”

“Hey!” I said.

“Oh, sorry, Gloria,” Edward said. “Didn’t realize you were there.”

Having spent most of my life as one of the guys, I’ve developed a pretty thick skin for the things guys say to each other when ladies aren’t around. I laughed off Edward’s comment and, really, it didn’t bother me; I happen to know that Edward is an especially nice person, and I understood he didn’t mean me specifically. Yet, his words stayed with me.

In part two of my interview with Storm Large, Storm, Quenby Moone, and I continue our discussion about pretty much everything: feminism, Sarah Palin, every possible euphemism for a woman’s girl parts, and werewolves. Storm also shares a simple and delicious recipe for pot candy, called Marijuana Meltaways.

This part of the conversation picks up where part one left off, which was at the end of an anecdote involving Prince’s management team and hypocrisy.

Some of you may have become familiar with Storm Large when she was a contestant (and finalist) for lead singer on 2006’s Rockstar Supernova, which, according to Wikipedia, was “a reality television-formed supergroup consisting of drummer Tommy Lee (Mötley Crüe), bassist Jason Newsted (Voivod and ex-Metallica), and guitarist Gilby Clarke (ex-Guns N’ Roses).” As many of you know, Storm has continued to build a name for herself as an independent musician, stage performer, and, soon, as a novelist. Storm’s 2009 one-woman show, Crazy Enough, which featured the song “8 Miles Wide,” was a smash hit, with all shows sold out.

On April 30, 2010, I had the pleasure of sitting down with Storm Large and TNB contributor Quenby Moone at a local taco joint here in Portland. Storm, who showed up in a pair of jeans and a well-worn white hoodie, sans makeup, was gorgeous, gregarious, generous of spirit, foul mouthed like a long-haul trucker, well-spoken, and hilarious. Storm gave me over an hour of her time, answering any question I asked with tremendous honesty peppered with frequent F-bombs. We discussed her music, sex, her recovery from a heroin addiction, growing up with a mentally ill mom, her book, the future of the publishing industry, sexism in the music industry, boob jobs, an amazingly simple recipe for pot candy, and so much more.

I am firing my ego on the summer solstice. At least, that’s what I’m going to tell everyone when they ask.

“Hey, Gloria,” they’re going to say. “I couldn’t help noticing you’re bald now. Interesting. And what caused you to make such a noticeable and off-putting decision?”

I know I’ll be asked and that I’ll need to have a pat answer ready. I could tell them that I’m in solidarity with a friend who is going through chemo. I could tell them that it was a dare. Basically, I could lie. But I don’t want to lie.

This is what I’ve decided to say, “Why yes, coworker/associate/check out clerk/person on the bus, your astute observation is correct. I am in fact bald now. I’ve also quit looking in mirrors between now and December because I have a book to write. I had to fire my ego.”

I figure this answer is esoteric enough to preclude further interrogation, yet full of enough truth to satisfy. They’ll nod their heads knowingly, as if fully understanding that one must shave her head to accommodate the muse.

At least that’s what I hope will happen.