This is the blog of writer Meryl Williams (me). In 2016, I moved more toward using TinyLetter to sharing my work. You can subscribe to that personal newsletter, also called The Sleeper Hit, here.
I am not making new year’s resolutions for 2016, but I am setting some goals. Many of them are writing-related, but not all of them are.
In 2016, I’d like to see the following happen:
- Get bylines in five big wish list publications
- Triple the number of The Sleeper Hit TinyLetter subscribers
- Get a literary agent by summer
- Query 20 publishers by fall
- Have a commitment to publish by the end of the year (even if it’s me, committing to self-publishing)
In non-writing goals, I hope to:
- Adopt a cat
- Keep in closer touch with friends, be it through email, text, or travel
- Bike 500 miles
- Learn to play the ukulele
- Either get the tattoo I’ve been thinking about for my 30th birthday or decide it’s not for me
- Have an additional $3,000 in savings
- Send more mail to loved ones
- Collaborate on at least one creative project with someone whose work I admire (any takers?)
I also hope to stay active with the Rose City Wreckers and keep in great shape, but for the first New Year’s in a long time, I don’t have a weightloss goal/scale number in mind.
What’s on your 2016 agenda/to-do list?
I ended it in a better state than I started it.
January: Told friends and family I was going to move to Portland, likely in the summer if not sooner. Started my intro level roller derby practices in Oak Park.
February: Started my Feminine Comique intro to stand-up comedy class. Took a sexual harasser to court. Hosted a fun Galentines Day brunch with 20+ women I like being around. Adele and I found out our apartment was being sold, so I had to find a new plan of where to live between April and July.
March: Did my stand-up class’s final show. Told my company I was moving and asked to keep my job remotely. Started the Addison Recorded podcast with Gina, a six-week project. Turned 29. Got rid of most of my belongings in preparation for the Portland move. Set a move date for July.
April: Started a video project in which I took two-second video clips of my last 100 days of living in Chicago. Visited Portland during the rainy season to make sure I wanted to live there, AND saw the Rose City Rollers play for the first time. Concluded the podcast. Started a personal email newsletter. Moved in with Christina and John, bookending my time in Chicago in the house where I began those five years.
May: Started an ASL class with Christina, who was interested in learning. Saw my first USARS bout. My brother visited Chicago for a work conference, and then came back with his whole family a couple weeks later. Did a radio interview with WGN about Shine Theory. Saw Jenny Lewis play. Went home to Ohio for Memorial Day.
June: I got to officially announce that my company was letting me keep my job, six weeks before my move date. Did two live lit shows. Threw myself literally five going away parties. Saw Best Coast play. Gave away and sold more of my stuff.
July: Spent most of 4th of July weekend with Stef, who was planning a move to Boston just weeks after my Portland move. Put most of my new remaining belongings on an Amtrak shipment with the help of the Beans. Went to a music festival with Liz. Picked my dad up from O’Hare and drove west for 2,400 miles. Bought a couch.
August: Made new friends at a coworking space. Wrote a bunch of my book. Started writing for The Billfold. Got an essay accepted for a print anthology. Hung out with Brianne in both Oregon and Washington. Saw Jenny Lewis play twice in one weekend. Went hiking a lot with Betsy, Christina, and Kiernan. Drove to Olympia to see Paul.
September: Saw Horse Feathers play with Sam. Went to Wreckers orientation so I could start skating for Portland. Wrote more of my book and had work published more frequently on HelloGiggles. Hosted the first of many girls nights with my new Portland lady friends.
October: Went to Chicago. Went to Salt Lake City. Went to Ohio. Attended three weddings in 10 days. Jeanne came up from San Francisco to stay with me for a week. On a plane between SLC and PDX, wrote an essay about the summer I worked as a hotel housekeeper. Laura came out to celebrate Halloween the Portland way.
November: Went to the Bookmark Ball with Sam. Attended a memoir writing workshop at Wordstock. Wrote a huge chunk of my book. Took a slightly-impromptu trip to Seattle to attend an investigative reporting seminar. Crashed with Evan, Blue Star donuts in hand. Got to interview the Gilmore Guys. Got walking pneumonia but didn’t figure it out for a while. Ran a Turkey Trot, kind of. Had Thanksgiving with Yeng.
December: Went to Chicago. Went to Boston. Went to Ohio. Went back to Boston. Got to interview Ann Friedman. Hung out with Eileen, Margaret, and Liz in New Bedford. Saw Death Cab for Cutie. Bought everyone on my Christmas list a book. Spent New Year’s with Stef.
This was the year in which I finally started taking freelancing seriously, and decided to stop feeling anxious about pitching publications, large or small. I made a joke on Twitter at some point this summer that I was getting rejected by the biggest names in the biz, and I said it half-pridefully. Putting myself out there and dusting my shoulders off made a difference, and that boldness landed me some big wins. I have to wait until 2016 to share some of them, but for the coming year, I look forward to a bigger and better showing of my work.
As of today, in 2015, I have had 38 paid bylines in 8 publications – I’ve got up to four more that might still run this year. At the beginning of 2015 I was mostly doing local listicles for Chicago NewsCastic. I stopped writing for them in March when, as my client list grew, I decided I could do better. At first this gamble didn’t feel like it would pay off – I hit a dry spell over the summer, between my cross-country move and getting turned down by a handful of big publications from my dream wish list.
Then at the end of that dry summer, I got scooped up by The Billfold after pitching an editor I’d long admired and whose career I’d been paying close attention to. Around that time, my newsletter list started to grow more and more. I got essays picked up by Little Fiction | Big Truth (print anthology coming in 2016) and Story Club Magazine. An editor at HelloGiggles saw potential in me and asked me to start pitching her directly. I began landing interviews with people I admire and got to do pieces I cared about, more and more.
In the first quarter of 2016, I will have not one, but two pieces, on a site that has long been on my dream list; I am slated to have a piece in a print, local Portland alternative weekly, after months of hoping to find a place in the local scene; and a piece for which I got to interview women writers I admire will run the first week of January. I still have my dreamlist of publications, and I hope I can crack into three to five of them in the next 12 months.
Also this year, I wrote a (nearly finished!) first draft of my book, which I expect to take up most of my brain space in the coming year as I try to find an agent and publisher. I hope to get some excerpts from the book published on sites early on, so hopefully I can achieve a couple 2016 goals at the same time.
To round things out, a list – since that is the format in which this site’s 2008 origins are rooted. Here are the published pieces I was most proud of in 2015:
- 14 Reasons Women & Children First Rocks (Chicago NewsCastic, February); I got to promote an incredible independent feminist bookstore and work closely with store co-owner and my friend, Sarah Hollenbeck.
- How I’ve Put Shine Theory Into Practice (HelloGiggles, April); This one landed me an interview spot on WGN Radio in Chicago, and was included in HelloGiggles’ fourth birthday celebration post as a favorite piece.
- What It’s Like To Be A Hearing Impaired Skater (Little Anecdote, June); I pitched a Portland author I’d never met and asked to write a guest post for her roller derby site. She and I are on a first name basis now and swap interviewing tips. I’m so glad I reached out to her.
- A History of My Life Through Movies (HelloGiggles, August); This is the HG piece that got me on an editor’s radar, and now I work with her directly for everything I write for the site. She loves bouncing ideas off writers and is quick to respond – always a plus.
- The Cost of Getting Your Car Booted by the City of Chicago (The Billfold, September); This wasn’t the first piece I did for The Billfold, now one of my most popular clients, but it was a fun piece that got a lot of response.
- A Season of Housekeeping in Ohio (The Billfold, November); I sent this 2,200+ word essay to Nicole Dieker, my awesome editor at The Billfold, unsure it would be a good fit for the site. She liked it and made it work, and it got kudos from the site’s editor. This essay on loss and friendship is the piece I am most proud of this year.
- The Cab Driver (Story Club Magazine, November); I wrote this essay in June for a live lit performance in Chicago. One of Essay Fiesta’s co-hosts encouraged me to submit it for publication, and it found a home with Story Club Magazine. Big props to editor Rosamund Lannin for working back and forth with me to get this piece in its best final version.
- How Gilmore Guys Do Money (The Billfold, December); I pitched this to my editor fully owning up to the fact that I wasn’t sure I could make this interview happen, but that I’d do whatever I could. She took me up on it, and the co-hosts of my favorite podcast agreed to speak with me.
It was a pretty great year. I can’t wait to see where my work ends up in 2016.
As a reminder: I blog here less and less, but you can still keep up with everything I’m doing and writing by signing up for my email newsletter. It goes out every two weeks, usually on Wednesdays.
Last month I took a look at the New Year’s Resolutions I set for myself in January and was pleasantly surprised – I haven’t done too bad this year. Definitely not 14 for 14, but that was a pretty ambitious number to set. Since it’s the first day of the last month of 2015, here’s an update:
- Do as many live lit shows as I possibly can this year
- “As I possibly can” was a nice caveat to throw myself. In 2015, I did three live lit shows, but that’s still more than I did in 2014. Remember when I used to be too scared to get on stage and read my writing? I’ve had a lot of great performers around to encourage me to share my stories, and I’m thankful for them.
- Complete intro roller derby class at Derby Lite
- Check! And then some – I went on to do Level Two at Derby Lite and now I skate with the Wreckers here in Portland. It basically shaped a big part of my life.
- Do Feminine Comique training
- Done! It was a wonderful, terrifying experience, and I met a bunch of bad ass ladies through this February class. A DVD of my final performance exists, but no one has viewed it, including me.
- Volunteer marketing services to at least one nonprofit
- I came in real close on this one, but in the last month I volunteered some Instagram assistance to my friend Becky’s employer (a synagogue), and I am also reprising my role in volunteering press release writing and marketing services to Slow Roll Chicago for their toy/coat/bike drives.
- Bike 500 miles by year’s end
- Hahahahaha nope
- Lose final 9 lbs for a total of 30 since May 2013
- I haven’t weighed myself once since August, but I feel/look great. If I haven’t lost those nine pounds, they’re not troubling me.
- Re-visit ASL skills, even if just via YouTube video practice
- I re-took a level one class with Christina this spring, since she was interested in learning. I bought a fingerspelling app in October but I need to use it regularly.
- Take an intro ukulele or fiddle class at Old Town School of Folk
- While I technically have 30 days to buy a ukulele, I think this will be a very fun thing to try in 2016 when I’m not on book deadline.
- Mull over possible tattoo idea for at least six months
- Much to my dad’s chagrin, I am 80% sure I’ll be taking the plunge in March, to celebrate my 30th birthday. I’ve had my design idea for a year now, and I still want it.
- Have the best Chicago summer ever
- It was so great. I even have the video to prove it.
- Travel to visit Eileen and Margaret in Massachusetts
- This is HAPPENING! Twice! Both in December! When I made this resolution I had no idea Stef would eventually move to Boston too, giving me additional incentive to go. In a week and a half, I’m flying there for a party at Eileen’s and I’ll be there again for New Year’s Eve with Stef.
- Write for DNAinfo, NewsCastic, and other sites as much as I can
- While I no longer write for either of these local Chicago sites, 2015 turned out to be a huge year for me in terms of freelancing. I’ll be doing a summary/year-in-review on that topic alone in the coming weeks.
- Make a plan for better savings
- Hmm. Well, there’s always 2016.
- Ring in 2016 from Portland, OR
- I did it! I actually moved to Portland. I’ll be physically ringing in 2016 from the east coast, but that sure seems like a technicality.
How’d you fare this year?
Last summer I’d successfully moved from Chicago to Portland, but my dishes were in the next state up. My cousin Paul had them, and had since May. The china belonged to his parents, a gift from their wedding thirty years earlier. A place setting for 12, it consisted of dinner and salad plates, bowls, tea cups, and saucers, all decorated in a delicate blue and yellow flowered pattern. Too formal for regular use, they went mostly unused for three decades. But two years ago, when my Chicago boyfriend and I broke up and he moved out, he took his dishes with him. My aunt gave me hers, and they were precious to me in my time of sudden need.
A year and a half later I drove them from Chicago back to her house in Columbus a few weeks before I moved to Portland, thinking she would want them back. She was surprised to see them, but I told her I was too nervous to move them in an Amtrak shipping load with the rest of my things. She offered to send them with her sons on their upcoming road trip and suggested I go get them from my oldest cousin’s house at some point once I was settled in Portland. Olympia was only a two-hour drive, after all.
My three cousins left Columbus, Ohio the weekend after the youngest’s high school graduation and the brothers headed toward Washington. Paul had lived in Olympia since he was 18, having attended Evergreen for school. That was six years ago, and he showed no signs of leaving the Pacific Northwest. I remember feeling surprised that he had chosen to go to college so far away, but it was clear the move had suited him. He moved into a group house full of other college kids after his first year there, and the housemates would often host house shows for local bands and ones traveling through on their way to Seattle or Portland. The Guest House, they called it. It was a little green ranch-style house, which I’d only seen in pictures.
I had never expected to end up in the Pacific Northwest myself but nevertheless, I moved to Portland in July, into a tiny but comfortable studio apartment in the northwest quadrant of the city. In August, I decided to go see Paul in Olympia and retrieve the dishes. I texted him to ask if he was around the weekend of the 21, and he called me in response, taking me by surprise. My dad is the only person I still speak with on the phone — everything with everyone else is communicated via text. We made plans for that weekend, when I would drive up to Olympia after work on a Friday.
“Leave as early as you can,” he advised. “Traffic is so bad.”
He wasn’t kidding. A million other cars competed with mine for space on I-5 toward Seattle. Eventually I made it the 100 miles north to Olympia and parked outside the little green house. He gave me a hug and we walked over to a bar nearby for dinner. We smoked his Marlboros as we waited for our burgers out on the patio in the August sun.
Paul is tall, with curly brown hair and an extremely rueful smile. He has always seemed to me like the type who could start a cult and probably get away with it for a while. His brain likes math and art equally, a combination I’ve never been able to relate to, but one that is common in our family. He is a musician, an artist, and braver than me. In high school he would sneak out of the house and attend literary parties with people much older than he was, and would have probably done so for longer had he not been spotted by friends of his parents.
He loves to play devil’s advocate. I remember him once getting into a debate with one of my girlfriends from college about the ethics of hunting. I can’t remember who was on which side of the argument, but I do remember my friend’s frustration at being so challenged by a 14-year-old.
Since my own mom’s passing, his has become a mother to me, the woman I go to with questions about ovarian cysts or new guys in my life. His father has given me career advice and served as a sounding board for my complaints about bad edits and bad editors.
Now Paul works on websites during the day, from home, and on his art in his spare time. Over dinner, he surprised me and told me he was leaving Olympia. He’d found a large one-bedroom in a town called Hoquiam, more than an hour away, on the coast. He talked about how few people lived there, and that seemed to appeal to him. I wondered what had changed his mind: A house always full of people, or the state of the house itself?
His lease in Hoquiam was for six months, and he was leaving Monday. He said wanted to be alone. He wanted to get a cat and have his own space and make his own messes and clean them up himself. He wanted room to draw, and the time and solitude to create. I understood these feelings and thought about how freeing it had been to live by myself for the first time, in my small Portland studio.
I nodded sympathetically. It felt nice catching up over a beer, both of us finally grown ups, and glad to see each other in a new place.
After we ate, we walked to a corner store for more cigarettes so I wouldn’t be bumming off of him all weekend. Then he took me to Cafe Vita, a coffee shop in Olympia. The walls of the coffee shop were devoted to Paul’s drawings for the entire month of August, and they were for sale. I looked at them for a long time as he sat and read at one of the tables. I picked out a drawing I liked and told him I wanted to buy it. He told me it was funny I’d picked the one I did, because it was one out of only two or three that had been drawn in Portland. While many of his drawings were in black and white, the one I’d picked had a splash of yellow. I liked it.
I told him I had cash, but he told me I would have to wait until the show was over to claim it.
“Oh,” I said, feeling stupid. It hadn’t occurred to me that buying a piece of art on display wasn’t like picking up something you needed on the way home from Target.
We headed back to the Guest House, and the inside of it was a lot like I’d pictured it. A small crowd of early 20-somethings were gathered in the kitchen, the air thick with the smoke from a pan of slightly burnt fried eggs in oil. A girl there was baking a pie and offered me a slice.
One of their friends had been visiting all week from the Midwest but was leaving that night. Paul offered to drive her to the airport and I went with them, sitting alone in the backseat of his 1982 Mercedes Benz. With her leaving and him moving, I realized I’d stumbled upon a week of goodbyes among friends. He and I talked the whole drive back, about books and music.
I slept in Paul’s room and he took the couch in the common area. I woke up the next morning when I felt a slight thump on the bed. I rolled over to face the window and saw that a small cat had leapt deftly from the window sill onto the bed where I slept. She walked up to me gingerly, sniffed my chin, and hopped down toward the partially open door. She slipped out, and I wondered blearily if I was actually awake.
I crept outside the door a few minutes after the cat, but the house was quiet. I saw Paul curled up on the couch under a blanket, and saw his phone on the coffee table next to him. I texted him to let him know I was leaving to get coffee in case he woke up, and I went back on my own this time to Cafe Vita. A Chicago man I liked sent me a picture of his coffee mug without comment, and I texted him back a photo of my Cafe Vita cup to go.
As an afterthought, I took a picture of the Portland drawing and left.
I brought back coffee for Paul and one of his housemates, and we stepped outside to drink it and smoke. The backyard of the Guest House was populated by found objects and assorted chairs. We sat for a moment, and then Paul asked me if I was dating anyone. I surprised myself by being honest with him instead of shrugging off the question. I told him about the Chicago man and mentioned hopefully that he was planning a visit to come see me in Portland. If Paul thought this was ill-advised or an unlikely event, he didn’t say so, and nodded without judgement.
“If you’re moving an hour away, I’m guessing you’re not seeing anyone,” I ventured, hoping he wouldn’t be annoyed with me for prying. He wasn’t.
“No,” he admitted.
Paul went back inside and started messing with the record player in the living room. He put on the White Album and played “Blackbird,” which made me laugh. He always remembered that song as played by our dads’ friend, Buzz. I don’t remember Buzz playing that one on regular rotation the way Paul did, but whenever I hear it, I end up thinking of Paul thinking of Buzz.
The house was slowly waking up, so I took him to breakfast at a restaurant where one of his housemates was working. I dropped him back off at the Guest House before going to meet a couple of friends of mine downtown.
When I walked back into Paul’s room a couple hours later, I saw it was half in boxes. He’d been packing while I was out, and working quickly. I tried to help, but felt unsure of what went where. Instead, he let me help him unstick some of his photos from his walls. There were dozens of them. He explained that a wall full of them had been from his most recent birthday in March, a party at which he’d given everyone a disposable camera and asked his guests to fill them up that night. He developed them later and hung them up with tape. I watched him pull them down one by one and gather them in a box. I wondered if he was sad to leave or excited for change.
Not asking which, I quietly left the rest of the pack of cigarettes I’d bought on his desk chair.
A while later, we walked out to the porch with my things and he gave me a hug.
“I’m glad we’re family,” he said.
I blinked back sudden tears, moved. I said the same to him, and walked back toward my car.
I opened the driver’s side door and suddenly realized I was about to drive away without even asking about the dishes for which I’d ostensibly drove there. I laughed at myself and walked back. I sheepishly re-entered the house, and Paul looked surprised.
“The dishes,” I said simply, feeling ridiculous.
“Oh!” he said with a laugh. He led me to his car, parked near mine, and we transferred them from his trunk to mine. I drove off with a little wave.
I left feeling glad that he was there, or at least that he would be nearby in Hoquiam. We talked about going camping in the Cascades before it got too cold but we never did. I could wait until spring to visit, I suppose, but I like the idea of a rainy winter drive to a town of almost no one but my cousin, to an apartment by the ocean.
The troubles with my ears, both my real ones and my fake ones, seemed to pick back up the week I left Chicago. I thought at the time that the crossing of mountains and changing of altitudes had messed with my inner ears, displacing pressure and unbalancing sound more so than usual. The week after I moved, I had the worst summer cold I’ve ever had. I was out of commission lying on the floor of an unfurnished apartment, talking to no one.
It wasn’t until after I recovered and began talking to other people again that I could not help but notice things were all around quieter to me than usual. Still, our brains can let us sit in denial for longer than we ever think they can, and I ignored it a while longer.
Then my right hearing aid started eating up batteries like candy. They’d last less than a day, instead of a little more than a week. I simply stopped wearing that hearing aid. It wasn’t the first time. For those who know me well, you know I don’t think much of that right ear anyway. No one can walk on my right side and expect to carry on a conversation with me. It’s been that way since 1997. And on top of that, that right hearing aid was never quite right. The man who sold it to me three years ago failed to adjust it properly and I, an irresponsible almost grownup, failed to get it set right by anyone more capable.
Finally I made an ear appointment with an ENT in my neighborhood, one that also had an audiologist on staff who could look at my hearing aid. One morning at the end of August, I went in to see both. The audiologist conducted the standard hearing test, and while she was flabbergasted at how terrible my right ear is, I was more concerned with whether or not the left one had gotten any worse. I stared at the chart she printed out, trying to tell from memory of seeing past charts.
After the test I went in to see the ear specialist. He too was more preoccupied with the worse ear. I tried to explain that I have all but written that ear off — I was there to see if they could fix my hearing aid.
But also, I was there that morning because I needed this doctor to tell me that my worst fear was not currently being realized. I needed him to tell me that the tumor that had been discovered on my left eardrum in 2012 had not come back. I needed him to tell me the answer to this thing I was afraid to ask out loud.
It has been almost a year since my last check-up with my Chicago specialist, the doctor I trust more than any doctor I ever had as a kid. He found the tumor back then and removed it in a two-part surgery I wrote about at the time. It was a dark period and a terrible, isolating recovery.
This new doctor in Portland didn’t see a tumor. I breathed a sigh of relief, and that is when he told me he recommended I have surgery conducted on both my ears, starting with the right one. I stared at him and tried to see things from his point of view.
Too many ear doctors have seen my right/worse ear as some kind of challenge. I am so sick of it — All I care about is preserving the hearing I still have. The Chicago doctor did what he could to improve my better ear, and that failed. If he can’t do it, I don’t think I trust anyone else to go in there, poke around, and give it the old college try.
I politely told the Portland doctor I would be seeking a second opinion with my old Chicago doctor at the end of September, when I will be back in the city for a work trip. I made an appointment immediately and have been waiting impatiently ever since for October 1 to roll around.
This past week, my left hearing aid, the one I depend on every day in every interaction with another human being, stopped working. I am not sure why, but I do think it’s been through more wear and tear than usual in the last few months, mostly thanks to roller derby. My new audiologist can’t fix them herself, but she can send them away to be fixed far from here. For $200 each, they can be gutted and re-fitted with brand new inner workings. $400 for refurbished hearing aids isn’t bad, really.
“How fast can they do it?” I asked on the phone.
“They do it pretty quickly,” she assured me. “We always get orders back in within seven to 10 business days.”
I held the phone, silent.
There will never be a 7-10 business day window during which I don’t need to interact with another person.
Tomorrow I will go and drop off the left one at her office, and ask her to send it off alone. I’m keeping the right one, the one that has been killing batteries by the day, and using it on my left ear even though it’s programmed completely differently. It’s a flawed back-up plan, but it’s the only one I’ve got. I leave for Chicago in a week, and after that, I’ve got visits from friends planned and a trip to Ohio for a wedding I’m in. I can’t not hear during that time.
The doctor here mentioned that my good ear’s eardrum appears to be sinking — the one that had a the tumor. I am pretty sure that was the case this time last year, but I won’t know until a week and a half from now when I see my Chicago doctor if this is cause for concern. It’s almost all I’ve been able to think about since the end of August, and more so this past week.
With my ears, there is either peace or complete turmoil. There is so infrequently middle ground.
2012 was my year of ear surgeries, a year of depression and futility; but at least I had support. My ex-boyfriend and Christina got me through the first surgery, and my dad traveled to be with us all for the second one. When I made my plans to move, it never once occurred to me what it might be like, or how scary it would be, to have to deal with it all over again on my own from across the country.
Hopefully that never has to happen. I guess I’ll find out when I’m in Chicago.
It’s crazy to me that I’ve lived in Portland for more than a month now. A lot has happened, and while the first couple weeks were a little slow, I’ve got a ton of stuff coming my way soon. Roller derby tryouts for the Rose City Wreckers are September 5, and I joined a writers group. I’ve made a handful of awesome lady friends who have been so great to include me in what they’re up to on weekends. I’ve traveled and seen so much of Washington and a little bit of Oregon — more to come, for sure.
However, regular readers may have noticed I haven’t been posting much on this site. I have good news and bad news on that front — the good news is, I am working on a book, getting more paid writing work, and curating a growing newsletter! The bad news is, that’s where I’ve been focusing my time and energy.
First, that damn book: I haven’t been writing about roller derby here because that’s what my book is about. (Let me know if you’re interested in being a test audience!) Second, those essays: It’s basically been my dream to get paid to write about myself because I am a narcissist, and now that dream is a (small) reality. Third, my newsletter: If you like what I post on this blog, you should by all means sign up for The Sleeper Hit TinyLetter. It’s where a lot of my thoughts and observations are going these days.
I’ll still be posting here — just less so. For example, I am working on a post about going to visit my cousin Paul, and I’m excited to share it here just like I normally would. It’s just that the articles I am getting paid to write had to take priority, and if I’m lucky, they’ll continue to in the future. I won’t go so far as to say blogging is dead, as others have been crying for a while, but I do feel my posts are going to become less frequent.
I started this blog almost eight years ago, and I’m not ready to stop writing for it. I’m so glad so many of you found me and my writing and kept with me through break ups and moves, break ups and moves. Thank you for reading and supporting me, always!
As of this week, I finally feel pretty settled in the new apartment. A woman from Task Rabbit came by Monday to put together my IKEA bed frame for me, and it was worth every penny to not have to tackle it over the course of six hours. It took her four, and she knew what she was doing.
Some people have asked, and so here’s some photos of my new Portland apartment — a place where it’s just me and lots of lovely blue things.
Weekdays aren’t so bad for me in terms of getting out and talking to people. I’ve been good about going to Collective Agency, a coworking space here in Portland, to work remotely. There’s always a group of people working there, happy to walk to lunch at the food truck pods nearby together. I like them a lot, and it’s interesting hearing what other people do for work that allows them to do it from wherever they like. It’s interesting hearing why they choose to do it where they do.
Most evenings I go to Coffee Time, which I said in a previous post is at NW 23rd and NW Johnson when it’s actually at NW 21st and NW Irving. The people working there recognize me already and are friendly. There are always tons of people inside and outside, so I can sit wherever I want to listen in on other people’s conversations and chess games. I don’t really talk to people there, but it’s nice to be around them.
Weekends have been harder; My first weekend here, I frantically ran errands and made my summer cold and cough worse from overexertion. The second weekend, I wrote in my TinyLetter about getting very emotionally invested in Bojack Horseman on Netflix and being unreasonably sad when there was no more of it for me to watch by the time Monday night rolled around.
This past Friday, I went to a couple of bars by myself, but felt strange in both. I stayed out at the second one a while, listening to music, but never talked to anyone. I went home and slept for nearly 10 hours in a baking-hot apartment that still doesn’t have the AC unit I ordered last week.
I wasted away Saturday. I keep doing this thing where I leave my apartment and wander aimlessly before giving up and going home again. Part of it has been the heat, but part of it has been a frustrating lack of direction. My brother was home when I called him around 8 my time that night, meaning it was after 11 in Ohio. It felt so good to talk to him, and he offered some advice on how to set up my furniture after I gave him a video tour. I admitted I’d been having trouble making myself go out and talk to strangers.
“There’s an ice cream place two blocks away, where there’s always a line out the door, like Jeni’s,” I told him. “People complain about the wait, but I’ve gone there three times since I got here. I’ve got the time to wait in line for ice cream.”
I woke up Sunday morning, late. It was 9, but I saw I already had a text from my dad saying a friend of his was in Portland on business with his son, who is my age. They might want to meet up, he said, so I decided to get ready for the day in case they called. While I was in the shower, Betsy texted — the girl who is the daughter of a friend of my dad’s I mentioned. She wanted to know if I wanted to get brunch, and just like that, I had plans.
I met Betsy at a cafe in her neighborhood. After we ate and got caught up on the last 20-something years, she asked me if I’d been to Vista House yet. I told her I didn’t know what it was, and she asked me if I wanted to go. I did.
She drove us west on I-84, the way my dad and I had come in a couple weeks earlier. We took a winding back road to a gorgeous structure on top of a peak, which overlooks the Columbia River Gorge and everything else around. It was breathtaking.
“I’m glad you asked,” I told her.
She wanted to see how bad the congestion was at Multnomah Falls, probably the most famous waterfall around, and a huge tourist attraction. I’d spent months double-tapping photos of the falls on a range of Instagram accounts, and I wanted to see it in person. On the way to the waterfall, we found another, one neither of us had seen and one I’d never heard of. Latourell Falls was easy to get to and you can get even closer to it than you can Multnomah. We stood at the base of a giant, beautiful waterfall and felt the spray from it hit our legs and our faces. It was already the first non-90-degree day in several, but right then, I finally felt comfortable.
“This might be even better than Multnomah,” Betsy admitted.
I’m glad she said that, because it turned out we couldn’t see Multnomah that day. Too many people had had the same idea, and there was nowhere to park. I’d never have guessed parking would be a concern at a natural landmark, but welcome to Oregon, I guess. We headed home, glad to have seen what we did.
I’ve been thinking about Latourell ever since.
I told Betsy in the car about how my dad had a friend in town, who I was supposed to meet up with later. I mentioned that he had yet another friend, with yet another daughter our age, who had just moved to Portland.
“It’s so strange,” I said, “I feel like Portland must be made up of all of these daughters of hippies who migrated here.”
“That seems fitting, actually,” she said.
I’m going to Astoria on the Oregon coast on Saturday with my Chicago-turned-Portland friends, Christina and Kiernan. Then I’m going hiking with Betsy on Sunday. It’s nice to have trips and conversations to look forward to.