Thursday, April 30, 2009

"Tweets" from Today.

8:30 AM: I remember that my car's brakes, starting Monday night, are suddenly working at 25% capacity and I should do something.

8:45 AM: Oh yes. I remember again. Brakes. I have plans tonight, so I should get those fixed. Sigh. What a task; I have work to do!

9:15 AM: I call the mechanic, who was recommended to me by the chaplain where I was a hospice volunteer. He is, then, trustworthy. He says come over in an hour.

10:15 AM: I drop my car off, saying, please keep it to less than $200. I am saying goodbye to this car in a month and if it's more than that, eh. Junk it. I'll bus/MAX/cab it for a month.

11:45: AM: Mr. Mike the Mechanic (haha, get it?) calls me to say, $150 with parts and labor. It's all good. See ya after 2!

2:50 PM: I pick up my car, having spent the day productively working from Redwing Coffee, a bomb pastry/coffee/sandwich/everything place. My brakes bill is $151.57.

2:55 PM: My brakes are like new! Wow! So sensitive and, like, ab-fab'ly working.

7 PM: A realization: in Costa Rica, this would have taken two weeks, a bunch of cash, fifteen phone calls, two FedExs for parts, translating, waiting, begging, waiting and more. My lord. Life is SO easy. Problem solved in less than a day!!

*thus concludes the Costa Rica-themed posts. (maybe. probably.)*

Monday, April 20, 2009

Wimp Post.

OK so first you have to watch this YouTube clip:


I got a huge laugh from this, and gave a nice snide, smug knowing laugh at the guy on the airplane who says, "This is bullshit!"

But we get our comeuppance, don't we?

Sign on my door on Friday reads, "On Monday April 20, the water will be shut off from 9 AM to NOON for repairs. We apologize for any inconvenience."

So today, at 12:10 PM, when it wasn't on yet, I was thinking, "This is bullshit!" And then immediately remembered that in Costa Rica, sometimes the water just turns off. Or slows to a trickle. And if the power happens to stay on, sure, you can call someone to complain. But the problem? There's just no water. There is too much development - houses, condos, malls, businesses, pools, lawns - without urban planning or zoning or environmental impact studies.

So, am I going to complain about the water being off for 3 hours and 20 minutes? No, I will not. I will remember that I had three days' notice and everything returned to normal in time for lunch.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

But... Really?

I had a prescription delivered via the mail-order pharmacy yesterday. It's much cheaper, inexplicably, to have it FedEx'd to me than to pick it up three blocks away... literally, $20 instead of $90.

But the invoice inside says, "Payment Due Upon Receipt."

Now, um, really? Because in Costa Rica, that means the guy will stand in your house till you pay him. Or, if he gets bored, he will leave and then send a courier service every single day (always at the MOST inconvenient time) to request payment until you DO pay. (Sometimes twice a day. Also, lots of phone calls.)

Somehow, I doubt they'll know if I put payment in the mail today, tomorrow or even - gasp - Tuesday!

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Interesting Side Effect #2.

The degree to which weather/climate affects culture/society is endlessly fascinating to me. John pointed out in Costa Rica that, "the weather has all the energy for you." It was true... the sun rises at 5:15 AM or so. By 5:45, it is completely light. It sets at 6:00 PM and by 6:30 it's pitch black. The rhythms of life are much more about conserving your personal energy in the face of hot sun, humid air and day after day of sameness.

You see, today the sun came back out in Oregon. It was out the first few days I was home and then has been in hiding, for, oh, over a week.

And when the sun comes out in Oregon, people are nice. They drive faster. They go out to eat. They smile and wave and walk faster. They sit on park benches and laugh louder. There is an incredibly palpable energy boost in the air, which only increases by being around more people. (As in, my house is lighter and more energetic. But my neighborhood is even more so. And downtown is even MORE so.)

So, I wonder today, would I trade it in? Would I trade in this buoyancy, this mood enhancer, this little gift... for a consistent 12hours of daylight and 12hours of night? For a "slow and steady wins the race" sort of attitude? Now the siesta (which Ticos don't take) I could adopt. In rain or shine, it's, as Martha says, a good thing. But I wouldn't trade it. I wouldn't trade the feeling of bracing against the cold, drearily staring at the rain, turning on lights at 3:30 because it's getting dark or cozying up with homemade soup. Because as old as those feelings get, their opposite is too good to pass up.

Sun! Heat! BBQs! Tank tops! Flip flops! And crisp, cool-almost-cold, blankety nights. THERE'S the kicker, and the reason I love the 45th parallel and my adopted home of Oregon.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Interesting Side Effect #1.

(There may or may not be more than one to report. But maybe this a small series for APoS.)

So, I was aware there would be some changes in my world outlook upon returning from over two months abroad. The ones I expected are not there, and some things I never expected have shown up instead.

Sunny afternoon, I'm standing on the train platform to head downtown. Two young men are standing next to me. They're tall, loud, about 19 years old, swaggering and intimidating people around them. Normally, myself included.

Same afternoon, I'm walking through Chinatown and get approached by a couple panhandlers - probably mentally ill and definitely homeless - and I would normally feel guilty, embarrassed, uncomfortable.

But I find... after living in a place where I could barely communicate... after seeing how stark the line between middle class and working class can be (not to mention the cliff between working class and poverty)... I am wholly unintimidated by pushy, swaggering punk kids. I am observant but not guilt-ridden in the face of poverty. I am, admittedly, a little annoyed at both: the display of false showmanship and the refusal to seek help from a sanctioned [government, charity, etc] source. I find myself saying, "Please. C'mon. Seriously." to things like this, and that may not be the best attitude ever, but it is some sort of rise in confidence and it feels good to not retreat quickly and mysteriously into shame or discomfort, as I used to.

I think this is a lens through which I am seeing the comforts of the United States. The cushions we have for when our neighbors fall. (Far, far from perfect, but far, far from living on a riverbank and bathing, cleaning and defecating there.) I am seeing how much easier it is to just stay home - 'home' being your own country, sure, but also your comfortable routine... be it job, relationship, friendship, sleeping pattern, exercise habit, communication style or anything. It is so hard to leave home, but I'm wont to say, today at least, that it is worth leaving home if only because when you come back - when I come back - you remember what's good about it, what's great about it, and see where you were stuck. And what to bring back from the foreign land.

These days, I am cooking healthier and more consciously, I am eating with awareness and for different reasons. I am getting up earlier and going to bed earlier. I am remembering to read a book everyday, and not just stuff on the computer screen. I am procrastinating less.

But my fuzzy blanket on the couch? That's just pure 'welcome home' and I love it.


Wednesday, April 8, 2009

A Hiatus of Indeterminate Length.

I've been hemming and hawing about how best to post this, over the last ten days or so, but let's just say first: it is cold.

I am back in Portland, a bit early, and man! The water from the tap is freezing and when you sit on the toilet seat, it's downright chilly! There's all this carpet in people's houses, stores, the mall, and everyone - or 99% of people - obey traffic signals!! It's insanity!


So a combination of personal reasons and 2009 funding for the organization I work for (yes, I still work for them, just from Oregon again) mean that it makes more sense for me to be here than there. Partially, The Big Grant (that some of you already know about) is still up in the air - three months late and counting - and so the global economic crisis hits home for me; primarily, coming home now means I may be able to go on a film shoot in Belize later this year. And the other part is for personal reasons, learning that expanding your heart and your love isn't easy work and I'm more present to it when I'm... uh... present.

So Oregon is welcoming me back, with a little sunshine and lots of blooming cherry trees, dogwoods, daffodils, crocuses and the first lilacs, too. I have all kinds of work to do, and I'm happy to be home, and the post title here is a question for you, my one or five or twenty-five readers.

I've enjoyed blogging much more than I thought. It's a whole new genre... neither travel writing nor journaling, neither entirely public nor entirely private. It's confessional but it is also entertainment and a type of new dialogue. Should I continue? Now that I am not jet setting around the globe, at least not for a while, what kind of focus should, or can, A Pig of Success take? Funny, emotional, slice of daily life, news-item reactions/essays, political commentary... there are twenty blogs for every possible angle. (See The Dog Blog or F@$% You Penguin for surprising and favorite examples.) So as I wonder this week, let me know what you think... do I stick the blog on hiatus until my next adventure, or do I walk the tightrope of being self-indulgent and bloggery while amusing and engaging a public audience?

Suggestions heartily welcome, and ideas most certainly considered.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

The Rest of Panama.

The hiatus for John's visit is now over... and I resume with Panama City photos. This is Casco Viejo, the old part of Panama City. It's actually the second-oldest version of the city, but the oldest surviving barrio.

This is a monument to the Frenchie who had the idea for the Panama Canal. I'm a tad surprised that his failure has such a great monument, but hey, the Casco Viejo needs some open space.

Here it is, sunset, before dinner... you can see the Bridge of the Americas off in the distance. The ocean all around Panama City is mudflats, not white sand beaches, and the feel is sultry and hot - humid and full of tropical flower smell, dank fishy mudflat smell... The concrete walls here were lined with lovers, old and young, kissing and watching the sun set, there were Kuna vendors and jewelry makers, it was pure lovely.

How I managed to not get any canoodlers in this shot below, I'll never know.

This is what all of Casco Viejo looks like... very French, very Cuban, crumbling and romantic, with plaster and iron and flowers and music spilling out of doors... people live half-outside, with cooking smells and kids flowing from house to house, and if you fixed up the cracks in the walls or made it all match, you'd devastate it.

This is my favorite pic from the whole trip:

Casco Viejo is blocks and blocks and blocks of this. With bars and restaurants and little parks of grass and benches, with homes and cars and music and hostels and clubs...

Loving the Panama skyline from Casco Viejo.

Goodnight Panama. We went in for a dinner... oh my. Tapas with no menu. They brought 11 courses, with no description beyond "today's fish" or "dessert" or "from Chef Juan". I was stuffed beyond any level of comfort, and the meal was $25. With not-sweet-but-perfect sangria, white walls, wood tables, and conversation around us in at least four languages, it was quite a dinner. If I can find the website, I'll post the link, it's worth it.

A final note... the old version of Lonely Planet, from 1998, says that Casco Viejo is unsafe at night, and only has low-end hotels. Things must've changed a lot in ten years, because there were families, older people, lovers, all walking around past 10 at night, and some of the hotels would practically be called glamorous. It's not centrally located, the area, but it's the original part of Panama, it feels like Cuba, and even if you're sweating up a storm, get some sangria and listen to the sounds of an international city. Two thumbs up, as they say, and highly recommended.