Home for the Holidays

Spending six weeks in Southeast Asia turned out to be way easier than I anticipated. Two side trips, first to Laos, then later to South Viet Nam, bracketed the time. Back at Tim’s apartment, I had fun rearranging his life, his furniture, his artwork. It was challenging to work with the embassy-supplied North Carolina-made fake Chippendale upholstered in Dijon colored fabric. In the end I sent two chairs and the faux gold leaf lamps back to the embassy. I had great fun designing new lamps from Asian lacquered boxes and pounded brass urns that I hunted down in the Russian Market and combined with red silk shades. Tim got to keep his Portland decor in his bedroom, where I moved all the family photos. And the spare bedroom became the “Georgian Room,” where I grouped all his memorabilia from Tbilisi.  Have I enticed you to consider a visit?  Hope so.

As I dig back into mortgage files and settle into the culture shock of my rainy Portland home, I can’t help daydreaming of warm nights, 75 cent happy hours along the Mekong River and all the joy and laughter without the holiday madness and freezing rain.

Perhaps next winter I’ll try an Asian Christmas, but for now I’m hunkered down in front of the tree, wrapping up 2011, a year of great change, indeed.

May you enjoy a peace-filled and mirthful holiday season and a happy and prosperous new year!


My Little Girl’s Getting Married!

Celeste and Joshua

My daughter’s getting married in less than three weeks.  Such a short bundle of words, but oh, the implications! First let me say that I keep thinking, “the apple falls not far from the tree.” Naturally Celeste has planned a wedding on the banks of the Zig Zag river on Mt. Hood, in the dead of winter, in a former campsite built by the Civilian Conservation Corps.

Of course we’re not doing this in July, what fun would that be?


As I pondered how the whole thing is going to work, I realized that I really have no experience to draw on. Sure, I got married: no attendants, no church, a small bouquet, no honeymoon. I made my dress.  My daughter, on the other hand, will have a traditional wedding, with a professional photographer, beautiful long gown with a trailing veil, lavish flowers, and a jet-away honeymoon.

And this being twelve years into the “new millennium,”  weddings these days have their own websites. This one is called ThatShowsHowStrongMyLoveIs, and it’s beautifully done down to the last detail, including a photo gallery, directions to the wedding site, link to “their song,” online gift registry and a darling heart favicon that shows up on your browser tab when you visit the site. Awww!

Tough Love?

With over 100 inches of snow accumulated in just one weekend this January on Mt. Hood, I know you are all wondering what the mother of the bride wears to such an event.  I decided to “think local” and asked, “What would Gert Boyle wear?”  I got this email response from her assistant: “Mrs. Boyle reviewed your email, and her suggestion is that you wear a warm dress, along with a Columbia Sportswear raincoat and boots. She wishes your family all the best for the wedding!”

Mother of the bride apparel

Uninspired by Columbia Sportswear’s wedding division, I’m opting instead for a traditional Pendleton Native American blanket-style cape, wool “walking” skirt,  fur-lined over-the-knee leather boots, and long underwear. I think I’m set.

Wish me luck! With only three weeks left to go, and no solution for how to safely get all the out-of-towners from the ceremony at Camp Creek Campground to Timberline Lodge for the reception, I’ll need all the well-wishing I can get!

The Portland/Southeast Asia Connection

I’m writing this from steamy Cambodia, a favorite place for some R & R.

While my husband Tim and his pal hunt out and frequent the Western style restaurants, I sneak out to get the Asian breakfast – basically chicken noodle soup with all the appropriate spices. It doesn’t get any better as far as I’m concerned. And the noodles aren’t what Campbells drops into their canned and flavorless product.

Yesterday, after losing my way back from the gym and trying to hunt down a store that imports from Burma, I got lost; names that I couldn’t read and landmarks I couldn’t place.  Could I re-trace my steps?  No, I had made too many turns.  But just as I turned one more corner, there was Sok, my Tuk driver – a sweet moment.  Back in familiar territory, and the reward, another bowl of soup.

I imagine about now your mouth is watering and you’re wondering how you can have your own little slice of Southeast Asia right in Portland. Well then, I’m thinking about the little place that my kids and I still refer to as Soup and Soap. It’s on Mississippi, on the back side of a laundromat. It’s called Monsoon. I go there because I can order Larb Gai, even though it’s not on the menu. They just smile and check to see if I also want Tom Yum Gai with that, which of course I do. And the fried catfish in red curry mixed with broccoli – Pla Dok Pri – or some such exotic combination of letters and vowels – it brings me back to the simplicity of a Cambodian seafood meal.

On the way back from my adventure through the charming but completely foreign streets of the shopping district, I had vegetable soup for lunch. Keeping with the theme of the day, the only vegetables I could identify were a few slices of onion.  Lots of green stuff – leaves, pods, stalks, and pea-like items rolling around in a thick stew served in a clay pot.  With a tall glass of cold tea, and an Angkor beer, in steamy Cambodia, or chilly Portland for that matter, it doesn’t get any better than this.

The Politics of Water

I first learned of the federal regulations on water when I was a homeowner living on Mt. Hood and using a community water system. Our spectacularly beautiful, clear, cold water came down the hill from the Huckleberry Wilderness area, and it tasted fabulous. As a community water system, we were required to have filtration in place, as well as regular testing.

It was always interesting to go to water board meetings, and to hear from our hired engineer how our system – we decided on the cheapest form of filtration, a sandbag arrangement – was working, and what the test results showed. It was equally interesting to learn that, thanks to our private system, we controlled our urban growth.  A nearby undeveloped lot had been sold to an unsuspecting buyer who dreamed of building a home in our idyllic setting on the Salmon River. But when she petitioned the water board to allow her to join, the group denied her request.

We owned the gold.

Since that experience, I have been thinking about water in terms of politics.  The privatization of water and sewage services is indeed a fascinating story of power and oppression.

Read more on this topic, including a university scholar’s argument against the privatization of water, an IPS story about who controls the water in South America , and particularly disturbing, what one global corporation is doing to control the water rights of  unsuspecting communities around the world.

“Water promises to be to the 21st century what oil was to the 20th century: the precious commodity that determines the wealth of nations”
– Fortune Magazine, May 2000

I admit I was angry after doing the research on global water politics. But shortly afterward I found myself enjoying a walk in the Bull Run Watershed. I’d been on the list to do this hike for three years and was finally getting around to it. As I walked, I kept thinking, we are so lucky.  SO, SO lucky. Our publicly-owned watershed is now in the process of conservation, thanks to the efforts of many full-time activists. For more information about the conservation of the Bull Run Watershed, visit Portland Online. And don’t forget to give thanks next time you pay your Portland water bill.