Tag Archives: dogs

Oregon Chronicles: A PDX Christmas in the Year of Our Lord 2018.

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We moved to Oregon on August 25th 2018 and were met by one on the mildest and most beautiful falls I have ever seen. Fall as in the season, not the water that drops over cliffs—although those are quite splendid and abundant in Oregon as well. We moved into a house off 18th and Killingsworth in the NE neighborhood of Portland. The neighborhood is extremely walkable and within a five minute walk we can walk to Hat Yai (Thai Fried Chicken), Pine State Biscuits, Proud Mary (Aussie coffee shop), Podnah’s (bbq), Barista, Handsome Pizza, Salt n’ Straw (ice cream), The Bollywood Café (Indian)—a plethora of bars I will probably never visit based on my current Dad situation—and a dog store called The Filling Station. I think we ate out every night the first week we were there. The eating out couldn’t last forever though, and so we started ordering a few Blue Apron meals every week to lessen the load of cooking w/ child.

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For the first month Portland felt like an extended Airbnb vacay. We didn’t really feel like we “lived” there. But once I started working and Cat started her internship at Randall Children’s Hospital two days a week, a routine began to develop. I had trouble finding work at first and though I am busy now and working more than I’d like to, I have already forgotten that it took me over a month to find a job and have almost forgotten how endless the search once was—a futile time suck of days spent emailing resumes and developing a CV for jobs you may never have a shot with. All the coffee people were confused as to why I was the owner of a coffee roasting company in Utah applying for barista jobs in Portland. I also applied for jobs at Nike and PSU on the whim that they decided to hire a completely unqualified person to do the job. They had no such whims. We’d like to buy a house soon but will probably need to wait until Cat goes back to work as she has the type of jobs that look good to lending companies, my barista job …. not so much.

I finally found work with a coffee shop called Con Leche and Smalltime Roasters—a Mexican-American owned coffee shop in their second year of business that was started initially to raise funds for Dreamers. My main goal has been to help build their wholesale and roasting operation, but I also work barista shifts four days a week at Con Leche—which is a shared space with Frank Wine bar in the South Waterfront district of Portland. I have to work weekends, but this also gives me some flexibility to take Tuesdays off while Cat works at her internship at the hospital.

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However, just last week I accepted a position at Sustainable Harvest, a green coffee importing company. I will be working with a woman named Yimara from Colombia as her quality specialist assistant in the lab as we sample roast, cup, and evaluate coffee from around the world—along with helping with some minor logistics. It really is a dream job come true and sort of the next level for me in the coffee world. In February I plan to get my Q Grader, which is like a sommelier or cicero certificate for coffee. I will still be helping Smalltime out on the side but probably drop my barista shifts. The new job at Sustainable will also be good for me because I think I will finally have to quit smoking…but we’ll see.

The move to Oregon has been a combination of excitement and adjustment. Exploring a new city (more so for Cat, less for me) and starting a new job, living in a new neighborhood, new house, new neighbors, friends, and most importantly, family. Though not new, this is the first time in ten years that Cat and I are living in the same state as family. And while the opportunities are exciting, a new move also brings with it a bunch of SLE’s, or Stressful Life Experiences (as this new book I recently bought at the Portland Book Festival called This is Your Brain on Depression calls them) and I still find myself lapsing into similar vices and frustrations I wish I could have left behind in Utah. But as the saying goes, “Wherever you go, there you are.”

IMG_7650 Cat misses her friends from Utah and is excited to start work again in the summer, but she is cherishing this time with Evangeline so much. Overall, she is adjusting to life in PDX beautifully.

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Evangeline turned six months on November 23rd and now is almost seven months old! Everyday she seems to get more and more active and interactive. She started pulling at our face and nose and glasses and my beard. She pulses her legs, laughs and smiles, and she can practically sit up (though not roll over, not yet). She has been pure joy. Her rosy red cheeks shine bright, and her brown eyes seem to emanate with a purity and light that must be beamed from heaven straight into her little soul. She is 99th percentile in height and whatever is in that formula must be good because she’s growing fast.

On Thursdays my mom drives down to watch Evangeline as both her and my dad now live an hour away in Hood River. Also in Hood River are my sister Alyssa, her husband Eli, and our two little nephews Eero and Bodie (who were born three days before Evangeline). I chose this picture because they both move so fast you can barely capture it!

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My favorite part of the day (besides coming home to E of course) is when I bike to work downtown in the morning. The air crisp and cool. The sun slowly penetrating through the clouds. So far it has barely rained this fall and so I can bike most days. I bike from my house in Northeast down Going, a bike greenway, to Vancouver which is a mini-bike highway. I have found one of my favorite things is mobbing down Vancouver in the early morning with a pack of cyclists all commuting into work. Sometimes there are so many bikers there is even bike traffic and I am forced to weave around slower bikers as faster bikers simultaneously pass me. Often, as I cross the Steel Bridge in the morning, the Willamette River will be cloaked in fog and mist and it feels as if I am biking through the clouds. As I don’t have a gym membership yet, to either a climbing gym or regular old gym, and running with a dog and a six-month old in a stroller just doesn’t sound like fun, biking is my only form of exercise these days. It feels like too much to ask Cat to watch E while I hit the gym for an hour after work after already being gone for eight hours and so biking it is. And I need to do it. Biking = Happy Levi. Not biking= Angry and Depressed Levi.

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I write often but have still not had much luck getting anything published on the level I’d like to be at. I’ve been working on a novel for the last few years that is just not working for some reason (my friend Mike says it might be a movie, not a novel, but the idea of spending another few years turning it into a screenplay just sounds exhausting to me). I’ve also been working on various short stories, essays, and perhaps, who knows, a new novel, along with tweaking a memoir-in-the-works. So, lots of projects but right now they’re all iceberg status, as in, lurking large underneath the surface of anywhere public. While my craft is developing, I feel like I still haven’t found my niche, or my voice, or corner, of what to write about. I now know and am doing my best to accept however, that writing is a long journey. I am ten years in so far of seriously pursuing writing and it might be twenty or even thirty years before anything happens with it. I feel as if it’s best to look at writing (for one’s own sanity) not as a career choice or even art form, but as a form of meditation/asceticism/monkish pursuit. On my best days I can view it in this very zen way—as a practice I will work towards regardless of outcome. On my worst days I chainsmoke and drink myself to sleep because the world is a depressing place and rejections and false starts and wasted time in writing is also depressing. So, I am still the same old Levi, for better or worse (even know, I can sense a creeping melancholy in these words in what should be an otherwise happy and cheerful season/letter).

Perhaps the most interesting thing about our moves is that our cat, Waffles, has really gained a lot of ground with this move and transformed from a scared, timid cat into a bold and adventurous one. She used to be afraid of everything, but this move has strengthened her resolve and moral character. Now she is the one who spends all day outside exploring and our other cat, Chicken, prefers the dry indoors. Both of them no longer hide when guests come over and are much friendlier than they used to be. Amelie, our dog, requires more attention and though I never thought I would say this, I find myself becoming quite annoyed with her at times as it seems a dog is the last thing I want to think about taking care of at the end of the day. It probably doesn’t help that for the past couple months her paws have been very red and irritable, and I find myself spending a lot of time soaking them in Epsom salt and shampooing them and making trips to pet stores to try and change her diet so we can figure out what’s wrong with them—yeast infection perhaps?

Anyways, it’s been an exciting year. For the first time in some time, I am looking forward immensely to what the New Year brings as we continue to explore the many opportunities Portland offers Cat and I as well as watch Evangeline grow.

Wishing you all the best this Holiday Season as the New Year approaches.
Hoping that whatever physical or mental demons afflict you will flee into the night like the spell from a Patronus.

Love,
-Levi (And Cat and Evangeline and Amelie and Chicken and Waffles)

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Amelie the Dog

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My wife and I recently got a dog. It was an idea I had been averse to for a while. It wasn’t that I didn’t like animals, I just found myself, what would the word be, indifferent to them. I could see why people liked animals, but if you’re like me, life seems to be enough trouble as is without worrying about cleaning up some other being’s feces. Not to mention those people whose lives practically revolved around their dogs, spending every waking moment talking about their dogs eating and social habits. I never liked going over to another person’s house where the dog would jump on you and bark at you and nag you until you pet it’s stupid head.

 However, I had been preparing myself for the inevitable. When Cat mentioned one day that we should go to the humane society after work I knew that we’d be coming back home with a dog.

On the way down we set some ground rules.

“We don’t have to get a dog tonight,” Cat says. “I just want to look.”

            “That’s fine,” I say. “But in case we do, we don’t have time to train a puppy,” I said.

            “Oh, yeah, obviously. And we both need to take care of it equally.”

“Agreed. And no dog that’s crazy. Something mellow.”

“Yes. And nothing too big. We live in a small apartment.”

“And no small yippy dogs.”

“Yes.” (I’m of the opinion that all small yippy dogs should be rounded up and shot).

On the way back home from the humane society:

“We’ll totally have time to train a puppy,” as the new dog we just bought bounds in and out of our backseat.

We ended up with an eight month old black lab-pit mix. We just couldn’t help ourselves. She was very medium sized with a cute puppy face and kept licking our faces. On the way home we stopped by Pets Mart and bought all the necessary items for our new housemate.

Growing up, my family had always had dogs. My first dog was a neurotic Border Collie named Panda we eventually had to get rid of.  I thought my parents gave her away because I wasn’t mature enough at the age of five years old to take care of her. My mom would always say to me, “Levi, if you don’t take care of Panda we’re going to give her away.” I thought when that day came it was my fault. But turns out, I learned twenty years later, it had nothing to do with me, but because Panda would get anxious around little kids and snap at them. Thanks for all those years of pet guilt mom.

My next dog was a husky-malamute mix named Denali. She was a wonderful dog besides being a master escape artist and killing our neighbor’s chickens. Eventually she got bad arthritis and hobbled around our house like a cripple. My dad called me when I was a freshman in college to let me know that they’d soon be putting her down. I don’t know why a pet’s death is so sad, but it really is.

Everyone who has a dog has a story. Some sad, some happy. My wife told me a story about her coworker who had a dog when he was still a kid. One day the dog broke its ankle and it had to have pins and needles inserted. But the dog picked at the sore and was in so much pain that it whined the entire night. The dad got so annoyed that he took the dog outside and cut it’s head off with a shovel. That was a sad story. 

So it goes.

This co-worker said that was the catalyst for his mom divorcing his dad.

My friend Nick once told me that he had the worst dog death story. His dad had backed up over their family dog as he was leaving their house. But it was the day Nick’s dad was leaving their house after him and his wife had divorced and he came back to pack up the rest of his things. 

We named our new dog Amelie, after the French movie. She turned out to be a little more high energy than we wanted as well as a professional chewer/destroyer of shoes, but we just couldn’t help but love her as she laid her head down on our lap or snuggled next to us in bed. She turned out to be one of the cuddliest dogs in the history of the world.

At first it added quite a bit of stress to our already stressful lives. This was the first year of our marriage and the infamous year of bed bugs, parents dying, business endeavors, and buying a house. Cat was an emotional wreck, I was depressed, we were both riddled with stress and anxiety. I guess somewhere along the way we just decided to compress as many life changing events as possible into twelve months. Get it all out of the way early.

But eventually Amelie did wonders for our household. It was pretty remarkable how much Cat cheered up with a dog in the house. If I would have known this I would have bought her a dog months ago, as soon as her mom died. Amelie also gave us something to focus on and turn our attention to rather than the inward petty fights we’d inevitably have. Sure, it would be annoying to come home and find your favorite pair of shoes and half the couch torn up, but we could now direct our frustration at some third party rather than at each other.

“Stupid dog” we’d say. Then she’d do something cute like nuzzle her nose on our shoulders and we’d let go of all our rage.

It also helped us get out. I was at this point, like most other points in my life, drinking and smoking heavily. It was a stressful year. But Amelie made me start going on these things called “walks” and I eventually started running. It was a good thing because recently because my heart had begun to “flutter” every now and then. I’d have moments of dizziness and lapses of breath, sometimes having to sit down before I might pass out. Cat told me it was probably due to all the coffee and tobacco and liquor and cheeseburgers, but I don’t see a medical degree in her name hanging on the wall. But the way I was going I might have a heart attack before I was thirty. Not that it made me stop. If life wanted me to stick around it could at least slow the fuck down for a few seconds.

That year I used to sit and day dream of the day when our puppy might grow up and chill out and people would stop dying and we’d have a house and maybe I’d quit all my vices and Cat and I would stop fighting so much.

Eventually a few of these things happened. We found a house, though it was quite the laborious process. We started to handle conflict with each other better and life did slow down a bit. I remember when we finally got the house though thinking that maybe it was a bad idea. I am almost obsessive when it comes to making sure I get things that need to be done, done. I can’t relax and watch a movie until all the dishes are done or the leaves raked or my laundry folded. I like to stack my days up heavy in the mornings. I won’t take a lunch until two or three in the afternoon when I’ve gotten most of my work out of the way. I’d rather just work hard and get everything done. That way I can go home an hour or two early and get stuff done around the house so I can truly relax for the evening.

 It’s very satisfying to me to cross all the items of my to-do list, to look at my inbox and see that I have zero un-read emails. But having a house is like having a never-ending to-do list. There is always something to do. It really freaked me out. I’ll never be able to relax, I thought. Even if I get all my work and writing done and take the dog out and spend time with the wife and clean the house, I’ll still have things like painting or yard work staring me in the face. Sometimes I’d break out the ole’ carrots and start rewarding myself with every little thing done.

I didn’t want a house to occupy my every waking moment. I remember growing up my dad would spend every Saturday and sometimes Sunday working on our house. Sometimes he’d try and wrangle me away to help him work on a fence or teach me how to use a saw. I’d oblige and looking back on it now I wish I would have taken the time to learn more from him, but I was in high school and who cares about those sorts of skills. I would ask my dad,

 “Doesn’t it bother you to work so much? Can’t you ever take a day off? Don’t you ever get tired?”

“It feels good” he’d say. “Better than sitting around an office.”

To my dad it was relaxing to work on the house on Saturday. To me it just seemed like more work.

I don’t want to spend my Saturdays “working.” I need a day where I can not put on pants and make a big breakfast.

Having a house and a dog sort of reminds you that there will always be something to do. Always another walk to take and another wall to paint. Probably another funeral to go to. A never ending to-do list of obstacles and tasks. Some days I like to sit back and day dream about a time in life when there are no longer tasks to accomplish and words to cross off. A time when life becomes more like a movie you can just sit back and enjoy. A stroll through leaves. Useless days and endless forays through unnecessary activities. A time when time itself no longer exists and we drift like wispy clouds across a tundra landscape, with less rocks to scale and more evergreens to smell. 

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Christmas Blues

 

He had to work the day after Christmas. It was cruel. Grotesque. Unfair. Gone were the college and school days of two weeks off for Christmas. Unmet too was the normal adult vacation days you would receive as you got older. He was now in limbo.

He woke up with the darkness. He lied in bed. Tried to shake the heaviness off. The world awaited him far away. He was still holed up in a cave, a womb of blankets and post-sleep weariness and possibly post-partum depression caused by the baby Jesus. Was he in a coma? Was he in a world far away? Was he in a cabin in the tundra, where snowdrifts piled up on the outside log walls creating an insulated sound? Was there a fireplace? He hoped so. But he could not hear it.

His wife had to work too. She was already gone. Left at 8:30 this morning. He was going to work from home. But as he lay there he knew that if he worked from home he would only feel the darkness more, probably end up spending the majority of his day looking at boobs on a computer screen. So he left for work. Put his pants on.

It wasn’t too bad. He had his dog and his cigarettes to keep him company. He had after all been expecting this. The post-Christmastime darkness. It was inevitable. All the build up and shiny lights and sparkly presents. The joyful nature in the air. The sense of peace and joy and being with loved ones. The days following were no match. After December there was quite the lull in days to look forward to. In the fall there was Thanksgiving and then Christmas and then New Years. But in January, what was there in the future? Easter? Columbus day? Valentines Day? Those were all pretty shitty holidays compared to Christmas. Not much time off either.

Even New Years wasn’t that good. In fact, he thought of New Years as the most anti-climactic night in history. Nothing happened. You drank champagne. Watched a ball drop from the sky. It was always disappointing. One night in high school he had snuck out to go to a party on New Years Eve. He never went to parties but he decided that he needed to go to at least one raging high school party before he graduated. He didn’t drink much. I mean, he knew how to drink, he just didn’t do it much. The guilt of lying to his parents and telling them he was spending the night at Adams almost made the party unbearable. He would have to get drunk. So that night he got drunk and wandered around and realized he didn’t know people as well as he thought he was. He tried to fit in. Who knows if he did a good job. It was pretty boring actually. Movies and T.V. have a way of making high school and college parties look epic. He had never been to one of these. Mostly it was just crowded. Sure, there were drunk people and the random girl who would kiss you but that was about it. Maybe he lived in the wrong places. The girl he liked, who had invited him to this party, kept ignoring him and everyone else said the same thing to him, “I didn’t know you drank!” Eventually he met some snowboarders and they offered to get him high, which he did, in the back of a green jeep. He had never been drunk and high. He felt like he was walking on the moon. He even tried to jump down the gravel road like there was no gravity. Then he got sick and stared at a wall for an indiscernible amount of time while everyone gathered to watch some “ball” drop. And this was one of the more memorable New Years Eves. He couldn’t even remember what he did last year.

He knew that the days after Christmas would simply feel empty. Not too much more than usual. But slightly. He couldn’t take time off. Not just because he was American and addicted to work, but because he was the owner of a small business. As the owner of a small business you don’t get days off. Very rarely. His only comfort was that, as the owner of a small business, perhaps one day he would receive the accolades of fame, glory, and hundred dollar bills, or an early retirement that might await him at the end of this venture. Otherwise what was it all for?

He didn’t know if he wanted to sleep or drink or watch movies or what. He should probably exercise. Work might actually feel good. Make him feel as if he was doing something.

His chemical pill was in his black jean coin pocket. He knew if he swallowed it with a glass of water it would make him feel dizzy. But if he didn’t take it he would go down a dark rabbit hole.

 He had to make this decision every day. Whether or not he wanted to feel the dizziness or the darkness. Some days he chose dizzy. Some days darkness.

He felt empty. Dizzy. Probably had to do with his relationship with The Father. Or The Mother. Or The Son. Or lack thereof.

He counted the days left. He was twenty-five. If he lived to be eighty that would be fifty-five years of life. 55 X 365=20,075 days left on this earth. Twenty-thousand and seventy-five days left.

Oh god, working the day after Christmas is so depressing. 

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Optimism

There are upsides to depression. For instance, say you are on your way home from a long day working at a factory somewhere and you find out your dog has eaten your favorite pair of shoes and/or your birthday cake. Most people would become furious, start waving their arms and raising their voices all shrill like. But you simply walk in the door, notice both the shoes and the cake, and just sort of shrug your shoulders because you don’t really care about anything these days. Your nihilism has reached an all time high. See what I mean? It’s not all bad having a chemical imbalance in your brain that makes everything as bleak as a Bergman film. Anger for instance goes away and the caring about small things like a pair of shoes and/or a birthday cake. Of course happiness goes along with it but no one ever said you could have it all.

Another upside to depression is that you never expect anything good to happen in life so when something good does happen well, it really makes your day. Like when someone offers to pay for your coffee or your parents remember your name. I mean, sometimes you wish for death and when that doesn’t happen it can be a little bit disappointing but this can also be a good thing because you don’t really fear death. You welcome it. And because you don’t fear death you are completely immune to the worries and fears of other people’s lives such as “What if I get hit by a train?” or “What if I get cancer and my balls get chopped off?”

Are there other upsides to depression? Probably not. But I one or two upsides is better than none. 

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