Sunday, February 2, 2014

Why I'm single.

On OkCupid profiles, they ask "What's the most private thing you're willing to admit?"

One woman answered: "Um, I don't like fabric softener?"

So I wrote her.

Dear Miss: 

I must protest your anti-fabric softener stance in the strongest possible terms. Fabric softener is one of the few areas in which the United States maintains a position of undisputed dominance. Please do not think of me as an unthinking patriot, as I fully support our migrant fabric softener workers as well. I even think of them as fellow countrymen, beating down endless rows of hard-water conditioned apparel with their well-worn softening sticks. They are a proud people, each with their own stories of hardship and hope. 

But I digress. I would ask you to consider your words more carefully in the future. Just because Big Fabric Softener's image is seemingly unassailable, led by the universally-revered Snuggle Bear, we must remain vigilant in our support of this all-too-fragile industry. It should be a source of pride for everyone within our fine nation's borders. 

Yours in truth, 


Monday, May 30, 2011


My paternal grandmother died this morning after a long illness. She was 94.

Virginia Miller Belcher was always G-G to me. She and my grandfather (but especially she) had no interest in being GrandMAW and GrandPAW, so my Aunt came up with G-G ("Grandmother Ginny") and G-Pop as hipper alternatives. It was 1970. They were starting a well-earned retirement, having survived the Great Depression and WWII privations to become self-made millionaires.

My grandfather was a well-mannered Southern gentleman ("Open the door for your grandmother"), but G-G sealed business deals with well-planned parties and dinners. She wasn't doing it to land the cover of Southern Living, either. Ginny Belcher had a journalism degree from Northwestern and, as she was proud of saying, had been the third-highest female employee at Illinois Bell before she got married. She saw potential in their partnership. She and G-Pop loved and doted on each other, but they were also driven people who stressed hard work and education as keys to success.

G-G and G-Pop helped raise me when my parents didn't have their acts together, which was most of the time. My grandparents were a stable influence during weekend visits. Rolling up the long driveway to their house was like passing into sanctuary. I knew there would be no angry yelling there.

I could count on a comfortable routine at their place. There were trips to the beach and shopping for decent clothes and dinners at the country club and church, always church. Say "Yes, Sir" and "No Ma'am." Stand up when people approach your table. Look don't touch. Is your homework done? They had a lot of patience, especially when I was a teenager with raw emotional nerves. They should have gotten medals.

It may have been another chance for them to get parenthood right, or it could have been penance for their son's behavior while married. But it doesn't matter to me. G-G and G-Pop were a badly-needed second set of parents and I loved them for it.

G-G was always my number one fan. Her rallying cry was "Well get to it, kid!" I'm 41 now and G-G's gone; her cheering will have to come from my memory.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Mom died a year ago this week. She was kind of a slob, and one of the byproducts of that was that she would buy something and then lose it under a pile of other stuff. Then she'd buy another. As a result of this behavior, I inherited six rolls of dental floss.

I just used the last of it. I actually consider a year's worth of dental floss to have been a pretty practical inheritance.

Monday, February 1, 2010


It's easy to romanticize a distant train whistle. Up close they're loud warnings: Get Off The Tracks. I prefer them at a remove.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Why I Chose Stumptown

Since I moved from New York City to Portland Oregon four months ago, the top question I've been asked is "Why?"

Willamette Week, the top local indie paper, just released its annual Best of Portland poll. These answers sum up why I now call Stumptown home:

Best Reason to Love Portland

A strong plurality of you folks said the friendly, caring, weird and otherwise great people who live here are the best reason to love this city. You know what? We agree.

Runners-up: The Portland Timbers, craft beer, the food, the bike culture, the weather.

Some other notable suggestions:

“All the beautiful gardens people have in their front yards and parking strips.”

“Big-city resources, small-city community.”

“Bull Run water—fresh and natural.”

“Cafes, bikes, vintage stores, people and Forest Park (and days that take advantage of it all).”

“Casual attitude in a beautiful landscape.”

“Girls in miniskirts on bicycles!”

“Great gardening! Neighbors have chickens!”

“Hot, curvy tattooed chicks as far as you can see.”

“Is this even a question? Liberals, gays, green, and good music!”

“The best Argentine tango community in the U.S.”

“Its like Amsterdam but cleaner and with better bud.”

“It’s my hometown, motherfuckers! And bikes.”

“It’s the best parts of every Urban Utopia you’ve ever heard hyped, mashed together and slightly drunk.”

“Least-scary city ever—how times have changed.”

“No sales tax!”

“Rectangle glasses.”

“So many great restaurants, even though everyone would rather eat at food carts.”


I worry about the permanent record as it shifts from paper. China already does a number on a billion+ people with The Great Firewall. What happens if (alterable, revisionable) digital texts leave comparatively permanent paper behind? Ray Bradbury's firemen wouldn't need flamethrowers, just a figurative delete key.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Facebook in real life

Hi, how are you?
And what type of work do you do?
I see. And what type of 18th century literary figure are you?