29 September 2020

A Long View Down Market St With Low Clouds


This view was taken two days ago; I was pointing Olivia east down SE Market St at 113th, same place (more or less) as the wildfire smoke photos but this time I was entranced by the way the overcast (scattered fog the order of the day) broke in the distance and gave a glimpse of the sunrise sky.

The red light in the middle distance is the flashing red over the intersection of 117th and the smaller red light in the farther distance is the traffic signal over 122nd and Market. The angle and the zoom communicate one thing I love about my corner of town ... even though it's near everything, it seems cozy and just a little bit remote.

It's comfortable, here.

The First Clear View of Wy'east In A Very Long Time


I usually kind of am indifferent to clear blue skies, much preferring the variegations of the cloudy and overcast but after the wildfire-choked Western sky of the past couple of weeks, even overcast-loving me is enjoying the clear blue.

Still, it took a little longer than I thought for the mountain to present. Precipitation followed by foggy mornings (well, it is getting into Fall). But here ... for the late Brenda Balin and all those others who happen by here for a view of Oregon signature peak ... is Wy'east at sunrise, taken from the stretch of NE Killingsworth St just west of I-205 I pass hither and thither through every working day:

The peak is in silhouette but that's mere apparency. The sun this day was rising off to the left, to the north (as is appropriate for this time of year), over Larch Mountain, to be exact. One can just make out the pattern of glaciers on the flanks of the volcano (no snow, as of yet).

Here's a wider view of the scene:

That distant humpback on the left there is the aforementioned Larch Mountain. And again it strikes me how hard it is to frame a picture so that the psychological weight of the mountain communicates. Seems rather small, here. 

We all have a different vision, and that applies to the indifference of the sensor of the Canon camera I use. Such is photography, I guess.

21 September 2020

"Bearly Surviving" No-Spill Mugs - Totally Calfornian, Totally Nautical


I continue to try and figure the wizardry The Kid Sister used to locate the replacement to my beloved old warrior of a no-spill coffee mug (see missive the last). But, along the way, I found a thing that filled in the historical narrative a bit, and I found it in an unexpected place: a site in New Zealand.

On the site New Zealand Pottery, an enthusiast site for Kiwi lovers of all things pottery, a user named Jeremy Ashford on the 21st of February, 2016 (I'm guessing at the year; the post is merely dated Sunday, 21 Feb with no concession as to year and the most recent year I can find is 2016; crossing that datum with the 2011 sign-on of said user and the only Sun 2/21 I can find during the user's term of residency there would be n 2016 AND MOVING ON) posted a rather interesting article beginning with the sighting of a model by the stoneware maker Crown Lynn (which defuncted in 1988), a model 1448, which shares the same low-center-of-gravity profile as my mug and all the Bearly Surviving mugs I've seen.

His informal investigation of the lineage of the design lead him to the brand Bearly Surviving and to one of the creators and marketers of the original design, Tres Feltman. It was his partner, Dirk Langer, the both of them grad students in Design at UCLA, who created the first design on the potter's wheel, and it went on from there.

From the article, in Tres Feltman's own words of reply to the author:

Dirk and I met while attending graduate school at UCLA. While pursuing our graduate degrees in Design we  began experimenting with different mug shapes to bring to market. Dirk actually created the first No Spill No Slide mug on the potters wheel. The original mold was made off the mug he threw on the wheel. We put decal graphics of surfers and surfing on the mugs and sold them to surf shops up and down the California coast. We originally sold the mugs under the name "Bearly Surviving" and later we incorporated under the name Feltman Langer, Inc.

We soon realized that the Surf Industry, at that time, was very small and most surfers didn't have the disposable income they have now. I was crewing on a sailboat at the time and realized sailers had more money than surfers and the boating industry was immensely bigger than the surf industry. That's when we began putting nautical graphics on our mugs and our little company really took off.

I have also subsequently found out that their company's mugs were marketed both under the Barely Surviving and Feltman Langer brands.

The practicality of the design to anyone in both the worlds of surfing or yachting is self-evident. The savvy of divining the right market is admirable, and the success of the design is well-attested to by the fact that it's still being traded heavily on eBay, almost as a collectors item, and that a twenty-something finding himself in Seattle in the mid-80s who will come no closer to sailing in his life than watching Gilligan's Island found the design appealing enough to own for thirty-five years. 

It also explains why so many of these mugs have nautical attire. 

So. A bright idea by two UCLA grad students in the 70s goes round the world, copied by a NZ manufacturer and maintains ... and even makes its entry into science fiction television ... what? Yes. It's reputedly been seen on Star Trek ...

But they who are interested can read the whole of it at the author's article at https://www.newzealandpottery.net/t7237-no-spill-no-slide-californian-origins-of-the-1448-mug. There are links you can copy and paste but I won't testify to their effectiveness; consider it an adventure, thrillseeker!

Also, get a load of what I was able to get on a Google web search of bearly surviving mug under the 'Shopping' tab. Four pages worth. And here's one for feltman langer mug. About as many. There's still a constituency.

I'm one.

19 September 2020

Meet The New Coffee Cup ... Not Quite The Same As The Old Coffee Cup.

It is by cuppa alone I set my mind in motion. It is by the juice of Coffea arabica that thoughts acquire speed, the teeth acquire stains, stains become a warning. It is by cuppa alone I set my mind in motion.

-- What Piter de Vries
actually meant in that movie


I have in front of me two coffee cups. To people of my self-styled bent, consciously continually inventing themselves in the DIY mold of the self-made artist/street philosopher king having a single dependable, 'companion' coffee cup is a thing of psychology, speaking to the needs of talisman and ritual. I've written about it before, back in 2015. The time has come, my friends, to speak of it again.

Why? because of a deed wholly unexpected, a pleasant and unexpected surprise having come my way. 

I don't write often of my family, not because we're terribly estranged, but we live kind of in different worlds (or, to be more precise, they live on Planet Earth while I've always lived in a sort of dimension of my own, a thing which has been known ever since I was a weird little kid in the then-rather-banal-and-normal Silverton). Currently my Mom, my kid sister and her husband and their kids live in Jackson County - same side of Oregon, different corner. Siskiyou Country rather than Willamette Valley.

During this time of wildfires we had occasion to think of them; when the phone call came from my sister, I didn't hesitate to pick up. As it turned out, their house and little town are fine and fire didn't come close. But she did want me to clarify my postal address, so I did, and all she said was that she was going to send me a box. 

It's at this point I'm hoping you followed the link three paragraphs up. If you don't feel like scrolling back up, here's the link again. Follow it. I'll wait. 

Back? All orientated? Good. The box contained a brief and dear letter, a repayment in gratitude, and the object on the right in the picture below:

On the left, the original edition acquired in Seattle in 1985. On the right, its successor, provided by my sister, who had noticed in my earlier sharings that the original warrior was in distressed shape, and she remembered how fond I was of that cup. And I am still wowing over this, because, as far as I can tell, finding vintage Bearly Surviving mugs (which seem to have become collectors items) that were originally sold thirty-five years ago is no mean feat. I mean, I've cruised the 'Web trying to find this particular model ... it's larger, about 21 ounces, than most of the non-spill travel mugs they sold back then. Vanishingly rare, as in, I've not found a-one yet. 

Several years ago, I shattered that mug, and managed to keep all the fragments, and held on to them until I found a glue I could actually use and since about 2014 or thereabouts I was drinking out of this beloved mug again. And, somehow, my sister, who now has my awe and respect for this, found another one just like it. I seriously can't even here. And I had no idea. Totally out of the blue here.

My life is filled with people, from the Brown Eyed Girl on down, who do little things that indulge me to make it possible for me to try to invent myself as the creative artist I should have always been. I don't recognize that enough. This'll be one of those things now that'll stay with me in that way.

The cup, it will be noted, has been christened (as see the picture that follows). And, away we go - for another thirty-five years? Who knows. It's possible!

And so it brews.

15 September 2020

East Down Division, Six Days Ago, Under The Smoke


Here's another thing about that ped overpass on Division at SE 136th: an incomparable sight line.

I got a couple other zoom shots which I'll share tomorrow or the next day so I don't tap myself out and, besides, I'm getting a little tapped out when it comes to blogging today and I want to go paint so there's that.

Anyway! Division is an awesome street, really. There are tony parts, and working class parts, and it goes on forever, all the way from Portland through Gresham and doesn't give out until almost Oxbow Park, way out beyond Gresham. Urban, rural, farm, forest, Division will give it to you.

I return us, though, to that pedestrian overpass I was going on about in the last entry. I said there was a story regarding Birthday Hat, and here it is:

It was windy that day, and I was clicking away at the sky with the incoming smoky miasma, somewhat furiously as I had to get back down to the Dutch Bros where my latte was coming to completion and the Brown Eyed Girl would be waiting to take us on to the Franz store or whereever else it was we'd be going, and what I should have foreseen happened and a gust of a breeze (It was windy that day) plucked Birthday Hat off my head and sent it spinning down to Division Street below.

I got a glimpse of where it landed: in the left turn lane going from Division west to 136th south. A part of me was giving it up for About To Be Crushed, when a red car driven by a black man pulled into the turn lane, snagged my rogue trilby, looked up, saw me, I saw him and we somehow communicated that I'd make my way down and he'd meet me on the corner. Powering down my camera I made for the stairs.

It's fortune that the light at 136th seems to take so long to cycle and that the drivers on Division westbound were courteous that day because I made it down to that car and gratefully retrieved the hat. Either that, or I was terribly motivated. But the hat was gotten back and sincere gratitude expressed for this kindness that day.

And, I did get this shot:

Division under looming smoke, one of the last glimpses of blue sky we'd have for many days (we still don't, as of this writing) ranks of familiar Cascade foothills. 

And me, still in possession of Birthday Hat, which seems to have a sort of modest level of luck attached to it. Well, I may not have much faith in supernatural explanations, but I'll roll with this one for now.

Wy'east Over Division, Six Days Ago


Diving back deeper, I was finally able to coax a image to resemble things the way I remember them.

I do, as it happens, do a little manipulation of most of the images I post. I try to keep it to the absolute minimum, white balance, color enhance maybe. I suppose many photographers do same, but even though I've learnt a great deal about composition and framing over the years I've shot digital photos for fun, sometimes those cameras just don't pick up the image the way my eye and psyche do. 

Sometimes one feels one's telling a fib with the insane amount of photo editing that is available, but then, if every photo's a story and I'm trying to tell a moment, it's also a sort of integrity that I try to make that photo resonate with my memory of the moment. 

I guess.

Six days ago, before the smoke arrived for good, me and the Girl were out doing whatever it was we were doing, and stopped, as we have habit to do, at the Dutch Bros on SE Division just east of 136th. It's a verity for us. Very nearby there is a pedestrian overpass and I noticed that Wy'east was presenting interesingly under the incoming smoke (which I already visually explored here and here. It was here along Division, though, when I realized I had something visually worth capturing. 

There was a lineup at Dutch Bros, so out of the car I leapt, me and Birthday Hat. Short adventure with Birthday Hat, but that's for the next entry. 

I tried to frame the mountain, but when seen in the viewfinder it mellowed back so much it was all but impossible to compose effectively, so I seat-of-the-pantsed it using surrounding hills and other things that I could see. Eventually I'm here in front of my computer and I can play with curves and, even though this is not what the camera appeared to capture, this resonates with the memory of what I saw.

Old Wy'east usually presents well from this part of Division. Once I got the color where I wanted it, it visually imposes quite aptly.

Here I'll include a bit of pull-back for context. 

This takes in not only Division just below the overpass and the PGE substation at 138th and Divsion but also our insurance agent's office. 

Anthony Kondos. Nice guy. We recommend him. 

There is an endless internal dialogue with me going on when it comes to scenes like this, and its participants are constantly amazed that looking on something like this mountain, which I regard with almost a fetishistic intensity, comes out one fulsome way in the brain and the psyche but another diminished way under the indifference of the digital camera. Our brain really works hard at playing things up for us. 

This dialogue has no resolution, one supposes, and perhaps no end save sufficiently-advanced senesence or biological decease. 

So it goes.

Two Bridges, Five Days Ago


In the missive previous I mentioned our inbound and outbound travel. Two bridges were involved:

The Broadway Bridge, here seen from N Interstate Avenue back of the old Memorial Coliseum:

And the transport outbound was the venerable Steel Bridge. The smoke is not as evident in this, but the drabness of what is usually a fairly colorful shot should be obvious.


The Lloyd District In The Haze


I crave to be blogging but have nothing really to say at this time, so here's some more pics of Portland in the smoke from the 10th ... five days ago, when we were transporting me down to the OSU Food Innovation Center for the yummy taste test. 

I can neither confirm nor deny it involved some sort of seafood. I can confirm that I loved it all. 

Our route took us down the Banfield Freeway (I-84 for you out-of-towners) and Brown Eyed Girl decided we'd go through the Lloyd District then use the Broadway Bridge to cross the Willamette. I got it coming and going.

Inbound (approaching from the east) things looked like this:

This was five days ago ... five days, can you believe it ... and we were just beginning to get into the heavy part of this. At this writing, the smoke has abated somewhat. with AQI down into the mid-200s where they were still near 500 yesterday.

By now, the smoke seems to have seeped into our very bodies and is encouraging a headache, which is terribly glad to be here.

The view as we were leaving northwest Portland to go home. The treat was down the road a bit, a breakfast burrito from Jack in the Box (we like what we like). Nearly every one of those high-rises you see is less than a decade old (feel free to insert Old Portland-New Portland gripe here). The Oregon Convention Center has to do visual battles now it never even envisioned back when it was built.

14 September 2020

Clouds Are Back To Being A Thing That Exists


Seen out front of Chez Zehnkatzen, but only if you more or less looked straight up:


We're not out of the smog yet by any stretch; AQI numbers are still atrocious. But It's been a smoky pall filling the sky for more than three-four days now, and anything approaching what normal should be is most welcome.

Gender Reveal:1999 - Mistakes Were Made


It was with the best of intentions, but Commander Koenig and Chief Medical Officer Russell of Moonbase Alpha would like to extend sincere apologies. Although the International Lunar Finance Commission could be a bit more grateful that we finally got that putz Simmonds off your hands more or less permanently.

Theres A New Girl In The Studio, And She Noms Brushes


We do have a new addition to the Itty Bitty Kitty Committee, and she's a domestic shortair tuxie girl we call Tabitha, or Tabby for short. 
She's an adorable fuzz-head but she's been a little tough to get close to, but we're finally getting there, her and me, after about three months. She's claimed the windowsills of the studio as her domain and she's finally let me give her head skritches. And she has a unique quirk.
I keep my brushes on a little folding side table to the right of the drawing board. The usual path up to the window involves ambling across that board. She has apparently been intrigued by the handfuls of brushes I have there, and has investigated them ... but I get a little ahead of things.
A few days ago, the Brown Eyed Girl found one of my fan brushes up the stairs from the basement. It was a mystery; I don't usually wear any clothing baggy enough to hook a brush and drop it halfway up the stairs. And, of course, feline mischief must never be discounted, but we had no compelling evidence of it. But as it would happen, the culprit indicted herself.  

There is a built-in desk in my studio, it's part of the architecture. Because of its relative size and height compared with the drawing board we call it the 'knee-desk', and this is where I do my web-surfing and diary-writing and everything not having to do with putting graphite or paint on something to create a picture. And here comes Tabby, ambling her way obliquely across the board, aimed more or less at the jars and coffee can I keep the brushes arranged in. 

Next thing I know she's sniffing at the brushes, and leans in and, nip, tries to snag a fan brush. I take charge and find that, in this position, she seems willing to let me scratch the top of her head, do a little ear-fondling, and give her jaw skritches. 

So, some sort of amity seems in the offing. And, I have to keep an eye ont he brush bandit now. 

See how she is.

Same Street, Two Different Wildfire Days


Today in wildfire news, we've learnt that conditions for the endangered towns along the Cascade Piedmont have improved greatly. Some of the Level 3 evacuations have been reduced to Level 2; Level 2 to Level 1, and Level 1 to Level None. This is due in no small part to shifting weather; there's been cooling and the winds, which fanned the originally-small fires into the mega-infernos they became, have largely abated. 

What this means for towns like Oregon City down the Cascade Highway corridor through Silverton, Mt. Angel, and Sublimity-Stayton is that evacuation is no longer imminent at any moment and, since we expect rain starting tonight and into tomorrow, a comcomitant reduction in wildfire smoke pollution. It's still historically bad at this point, but the AQI, which was in the 500s and thus officially off-the-chart (the AQI's Hazardous designation runs from 400-500, above that, it's undefined) recently dipped to around 330.

In terms of peanut butter, the air quality has gone from chunk-style to creamy.

So far, from my personal point of view, the worst of it was yesterday, the 13th. I thought the 12th was pretty heinous, but the 13th kind of rewrote the book on that. What follows is a side-by-side of SE Market Street at about 113th Avenue looking east toward 117th, the same spot in both photos (give or take fifty feet), where things went from bad to holy freaking moly ...

On the 12th, AQI counts were in the 300s-400s. On the 13th, they were over 500. Any more stuff in the air after that and we drivers would have had to carry shovels to dig our way through, if we wanted to get anywhere. At least here in Multnomah County we didn't have to worry about the flames actually getting to us.

Things stand to improve, but for many of us, they can't get better fast enough.

10 September 2020

The Big Smoke is Thick In Portland City Center Today, and Wildfire Developments


Today I had an appointment for a taste test group at the OSU Food Innovation Center down on NW Naito Parkway. I can neither confirm or deny that it was in some way related to seafood though I did find all samples rather tasty.

It was worth $50 for showing up, so there's that as well. It's gotten to be a pretty big draw, but it's fun and interesting and they always pay you money for showing up so I recommend Googling that stuff up and getting on the list if you can.

Camera was ready of course because there is a flood of wildfire smoke images accessing the digital image part of the internet and I would be remiss if I did not contribute. Actually, I'm rather counting my blessings: chance could have made me a resident in an area that had to evacuate. Not a desirable outcome, as thousands of people would certainly tell you right now. 

This is downtown Portland as seen from NE Lloyd Blvd just west of Grand Avenue. Usually a very good view. It is a very good view, but of a rather bad thing right now. Taking in a homeless camp just makes the whole thing of a piece.

The air quality is atrocious, akin to just sticking an unsmoked cigarette in your bronchial tubes.

And this is the Lloyd District as seen from the Banfield Freeway (I-84), on approach to that area from the east:

As scary as yesterday's sky was, I'd prefer it to this.

Developments we've heard since yesterday:

  • The town of Detroit was largely burned to the ground
  • Mill City got smacked but not as hard as originally thought
  • The towns along the Cascade Piedmont in Marion County ... Silverton, Mt. Angel, Sublimity, Stayton, still remain on Level 2 evac status, one move away from having to leave
  • More than half of Clackamas County is now on Level 3 status: this includes Molalla and Estacada, and most of the way along Highway 213 down to the Marion County line at the Pudding River. 
  • All the major towns in Clackamas County - Canby, Oregon City, Gladstone - are also on Level 2 evac alerts. 

Wy'east Under the Big Smoke, Part 2: From Vancouver


As I alluded to last episode, we were up in Vancouver for personal reasons. The Brown Eyed Girl has a personal friend she visits up there, and she's helpin' him through a time, and she's seen these angles and knows them, and was thrilled to finally get to share them with me.

The previous was northbound on the Glenn Jackson Bridge which carries I-205 over the Columbia River between Oregon and Washington. This one was on Washington's SR-14 eastbound pointed toward Camas and, in this case, just about to pass the exit to SE 164th Avenue.

The lack of any snow cover on the great peak is remarkable, and a bit eerie considering the circumstances. I hope to get more photos of this view when the Big Smoke is gone ... and with some snow cover on.

Just a couple of very modest glaciers up there right now.

Wy'east Under The Big Smoke


While yesterday Portland was under clear skies while Salem suffered under the fire's plume, today the plume moved north and threw its blanket over us as well.

Today also I found myself going up into Vancouver for a number of personal reasons. Those reasons are not so important maybe but they did give me a chance to get a shot of Mount Hood, Wy'east, beginning to be obscured by it, from the Glenn Jackson Bridge.

This was Wy'east today:

The chance to use the mighty Columbia as a foreground doesn't present itself to me often, and when you get that chance, you use it. 

It's a scary time, but a visually arresting time.

09 September 2020

Darkness In Daytime: The Yaquina Bay Bridge


Here's another view. this one courtesy of Jamie Neal, a member of the Facebook group "Lost In Oregon".

Before I show this one off, it certainly bears mentioning the profoundly dense nature of the wildfire-generated canopy over parts of northwestern Oregon. Smoke from the Beachie Creek and Lionshead fires have been pushed west over Salem and points west and south, as far as Eugene and over to the coast. Also there are now a couple of fires in the Coast Range to contend with, all pumping thick smoke into the region.

The scenes we've seen today via those staccato signals of constant information call to mind the scenes in eastern Washington after Mount Saint Helens erupted: dusk came well before sunset to Salem, and it looked as dark as midnight by 7 PM.

This picture is of the Yaquina Bay Bridge at Newport, on the coast, so if one's even the least bit familiar with Oregon geography, one will know that this is a heck of a long way from the Cascades. But, yesterday afternoon, Newport's iconic bridge seemed to be on another planet.

 It's rather like sunset on Mars during a dust storm.

So that goes, and thank you Jamie for allowing me to post your photo.

08 September 2020

Beachie Creek: The Smoke From A Not-So-Distant Fire


This fire will go down in the same historic terms as the Eagle Creek Fire of 2017.

Marion County looks like a big pork chop. It's wide on the west and narrows to a sort of a rough panhandle on the east, where it delves into the mountains. And, just as everywhere right now, its tinder-dry.

Now, history will also indicate that northwestern Oregon had a remarkably potent wind event over the last 12+ hours (it's 1:54 PM on the 8th as I write this). A great deal of collateral damage has already occurred; multiple power outages, over 100,000 still out of power in the Portland Metro area in PGE's service area alone (we, fortunately are not one of those. The massive demand indicates waits for reconnection of service of possibly 1-2 days hence in some cases). Also, PGE decided to take a page out of the California playbook and pre-emptively cut power to the area along US 26 going up to Mount Hood, to prevent a possibly downed and shorting out power line from causing a wildfire up Rhododendron or Zigzag way. 

And that has largely worked. In Portland the worst of it continues to be the power outages, and last night there was considerable wildfire smoke from numerous conflagrations east of the Cascades not only in Oregon but also Washington. At the time of this writing the skies over Portland are back to that dreary clear blue we see so much of at the height of summer.

The issues in Oregon include two fires on the panhandle end of the Marion County pork chop, called Beachie Creek and Lionshead. Beachie Creek is in the Opal Creek Wilderness north of Detroit, and the Lionshead fire is somewhat to the east of that nearer Mount Jefferson. Before this weekend the Beachie Creek fire was a small fire but then the wind came though and it does what wind does to fires, and in this particular case, it's expanded it to historic proportion.

This morning, while on Silverton Road about two miles west of the eponymous town, our correspondent Gus Frederick showed the smoke from that not-all-that distant fire moving in:

The viewpoint in this photo is cardinal east. the smoke plume seems to indicate a source off to the east-southeast, which matches up with the general bearing of where that fire is. 

Checking with the Oregon Dept of Forestry, who embeds the Active Major Fires map from the National Interagency Fire Center, yields this salient information:

The map takes fire information from satellite overflights and compiles them. This big red and yellow patch is the area around the Beachie Creek fire where fire sign has been detected by satellite. The small detached area just  to the left of that region's left edge obscures the town of Lyons. Moving east along the lower edge of that patch are the towns of Mehama, Mill City, Gates. The small blue patch below the Hwy 22 shield is Detroit. The light green area around the highway shield form Hwy 214 is  Silver Falls state park. The edge of this zone is less than 10 miles east of Stayton and about 15 miles southeast of Silverton

And that's why the Santiam Canyon was evacuated earlier today and why the towns along the Cascade Highway are on Level 2 evac alerts.

That's the state of play of things right now.

04 September 2020

The Smoke From A Distant Fire, Summer 2020 Edition


This is a thing that seems to be more and more usual as we head deeper into the 21st Century.

A number of wildfires make the news each and every fire season now, and they've become so massive that smoke floats in from nearby states. Not so much today's, though. Here, at the height of the hot, we have two over on the eastern slopes, Lionshead and White River, near Madras and Bend, in that area. There's also one in far eastern Washington that may be contributing.

I was wanting of a picture of Wy'east as a salute to my departed friend Brenda, and I was able to get it, after a fashion. But the sky on the way to 122nd and NE Shaver was remarkable:


This is looking east down NE Prescott Street just east of NE 102nd Avenue, in the Parkrose neighborhood. Prescott Elementary school is immediately to my right. And just look at that demarcation in the sky there. As sharp as one can expect. 

Wildfire smoke, making its way into the Willamette Valley. Again, in 2020.

The view of the mountain was ... well, just look:

The corn on the Rossi farm was looking good, however. So there was that.

Brenda Balin, 1949-2020


The event we'd been anticipating has come and gone and our beloved Brenda Balin, she who sent me the fountain pen, she who was a fellow traveller from the days of the Harlan Ellison Art Deco Dining Pavilion (a/k/a "The Pavvy") is no longer with us. 

The sarcoma which was diagnosed as imminently terminal after a visit the emergency room a mere two months ago did its unrelenting job, more or less on-schedule, maybe plus a little. 

Yesterday, as I got my game face on for the morning, I did what I've done most days these last two months on Facebook, since we learnt. Brenda's son, Eli, posted it.

In answer, I wrote the following:

Vita brevis, ars longa.

At 5:45 AM today, Brenda Balin, born of New York and late of Waukegan Illinois, passed away at age 70 in hospice near Chicago, Illinois. She was my friend.

I will so very much miss her. We had a saying,her and I, that we shared between us, which I think is expressed in the Latin alphabet as L'Shana Haba'ah b'Portland ... "Next year in Portland", a turn on the closing of the service on Yom Kippur (as she told me), the wish to meet "Next Year in Jerusalem". It was her wish to eventually come out west and see us in person, something wished of the both of use over the decade of acquaintance, and a thing devoutly wished between us.

Sometime during the last couple of years old Moe Mentum reversed his swing imperceptibly, and there came a sense that that goal was receding faster than we could catch it, so we basked in each others' company online. She was one of the people I met in the Art Deco Dining Pavilion on HarlanEllison dot com, and it's a constant sense of amazement and pleasure to me that I still see a number of these friends online, and those online acquaintances ... and you know who you are ... are as solid, or even more so, than some people i know in real life. Harlan Ellison brought potential into lives. So did Brenda.

Just by living her life as she did she brought me so much as a friend. And now that supply is gone, and I wlll have to take what she gave me and nurture it as I penetrate deeper into middle age. She encouraged my writing and art, 'twas one on the people around me who see more potential in me than I see in myself, and one of the last things she said to me about that was 'put yourself out there'.

My condolences to her son, Eli, and her family, that they may mourn this loss, and to myself, now that I won't see her online responding to my profundity any longer. And my admiration to the decision not to leave her online presence up: one full of wisdom and a touch of bravery that shouldn't be uncommon in this time, but kind of is.

Ars longa, vita brevis.
בשנה הבאה בפורטלנד

That last part there, the Hebrew ... that was a sentiment between us that I'll miss greatly. My transliteration is undoubtedly errant, inferred as it was from what I could find, and I'm no Hebrew speaker

Brenda did always want to come out here. I got the idea she thought of Portland as one of the last good places left in America (current events withstanding or no). And she wanted to come out here and see the mountain. Wy'east. Mount Hood. She seemed to regard it as one of the most beautiful of things (you don't need to convince me) and wanted the chance to see it in person.

A chance that'll never be, alas.

We talked a few times on the phone. That wonderful east-coast accent; I could tell it came from New York. A little cawfee tawk. 

And with the knowledge that I'll never again see a ready response to some of my online profundity, that her updates and comments will never again appear, I think I can be forgiven if I get a little ... well, verklempt. Or maybe a lot.

As the Tralfamadorians say:

So it goes.