I am writing the follow-up piece on portion control for tomorrow, but my wife and children have just returned from a visit with my wife’s parents, so I’m engrossed in hugs and happiness right now (as well as a bunch of wonderful conversation about all of the amazing things I was able to read in the absence of our 1-year old and her older brother – but I missed them like you wouldn’t believe. It is apparent that talking to myself for a week has not improved my conversational ability; it’s just made me sound a little strange(r) than usual, I think. <grin>).
At any rate, I’ll be posting part 2 of this article, tomorrow:
In the mean time, check this article out on one of my current favorite blogs, Whole Food and More – its on the importance of sunlight in fighting (and sometimes helping to reverse) some of our most insidious diseases:
It’s exceptionally informative, and well worth the read.
Also, if you’re interested, I recently wrote a personal article on the benefits of sunlight from an Oregonian’s perspective on my personal blog (Metroknow.com), here:
Thanks for your patience – I’ll be back tomorrow. Time to play with these little ones, who should be in bed right now, but they’re just too much fun.
In fact, here’s the Metroknow article, just to save you the click. Hope you enjoy it.
Yes, my fellow waterlogged Portlanders, it is time. Visions of Kurt Russell riding a spray-painted Nishiki out of this city with a sustainably produced rain jacket and ergonomic reclaimed toe clips should be coursing through your soggy mind right about now.
Because in case you haven’t noticed, we are in the midst of the usual, sloppy winter in Portland, a time to hole up in our matted dens, burn large amounts of fossil fuels and abundant timber reserves using large mechanical blowing devices or alcoves in our living rooms formed out of stone, knit sweaters and art pieces out of those plastic bags that can’t be recycled (you know, the ones you were going to use when you actually walked the dog several months before the rain), and get sucked into DVR-ing episodes of Anthony Bourdain, Project Runway, and the Dog Whisperer.
February is the time of year when natives of the Northwest stop looking hopefully to the sky for inklings of a ray of sun; If the sun does accidentally step between the rafters and through the dense, smothering cloud pillowed ceiling above, Portlanders and Seattleites alike barely acknowledge this hand-breaking-through-the-heavenly-ice with little more than a stoic grunt.
When I was young, I didn’t have the means or the inclination to escape when the winter started to get to me. For a good portion of my life (including birth) I lived in the San Juan islands, learning what it means to live in a climate that includes a daily endurance test for the seasonally depressed, compounded by the unrelenting threat of drizzle and light wind, all before it gets dark each day at 4pm. We learned invaluable lessons sometimes the hard way, like how you should not stack things like baseball cards in your closet against exterior walls for fear of black mold; Or, despite their rugged disposition and devil-may-care attitude, Doc Martens are Not waterproof; And last but not least, the Legend of Zelda was and is the God-given natural substitute for actual exercise (unless you know of any caverns where they teach sword play and pyromania in exchange for rupies).
Now that I am in the early phases of middle age (which will last, mind you, for the next 40 years) I do have both the means (barely) and inclination to escape. Preferably by plane, and even more preferred, under the influence of the free samples of Rainier Ridge Cabernet that are refilled by the friendly but professional flight attendant.
We decided more or less on a whim to pack up the troops and head south for a few days, based on an excellent winter fare from Alaska Airlines and a strong desire to clear the condensation from the insides of our mental windshields.
On our way out, Portland weather was at its fiercest with whipping wind and heavy rain pounding the barely-above-freezing tarmac that would facilitate our escape.
It was as if the Rose city’s heart was breaking, yelling angrily in the wind, “So you wanna’ leave me when times are tough? Fine – I don’t need you anyway – GET OUT!”
And get out we did.
We have now returned, and we have rekindled our passion for our city – slugs, Uggs, and all. But that doesn’t mean I won’t reminisce about my recent time spent under the influence of the golden rays showering down upon the Santa Monica mountains.
Here’s a summary of our sun soaked escape, a treatment I highly recommend.
Southern California is winter perfection
Ah, sunny Southern California in wintertime. Our trip included stays in lovely Pasadena, Palm Springs, and Los Angeles, complete with mid-60′s temperatures, perpetual sun, snow on the tops of the mountains, a spa treatment for my wife and a music creating session for me.
And let me tell you: It was the best thing we could have done at this time of year. I had to work part of the time, but even that was enjoyable with a view of the Pacific from our new 2nd floor office digs in Culver City and the company of my hearty Angelino coworkers, both native and imported, jaded and unjaded.
On the health side, not only did we get to enjoy the company of our best friends and close relatives, but we were able to recharge our depleted reserves of Vitamin D, preventing mild dementia and apparently, a potentially wicked case of Rickets.
I had no idea that I could get Rickets from lack of sun. But this year, friends, from this I am safe.
It’s Palm Springs, baby
For me, our trip was filled with tremendous personal highlights, but I think my most interesting broadening of horizons is a newly discovered appreciation for Palm Springs. I have visited Palm Springs several times before, ridden the Tram and all that sort of thing, but those trips took place primarily in the deathly hot summer months.
The summer in Palm Springs often includes 120+ degree temperatures. I tend to whine when the temperatures approach 85. So as you might imagine, I could not understand why anyone would choose to live in the middle of the desert in this odd, surprisingly small town.
I also could not really grasp why you would willingly build your house directly, literally, on top of the San Andreas fault, which is where my brother-in-law’s rental used to be. The neighborhood kids played in the fault line cave-in in the backyard. I’m not joking.
Has nobody in Palm Springs seen Superman? Lois in the car, anyone?
This time however, we saw a side of Palm Springs that has changed my mind. My brother-in-law’s new place is very spa-like, complete with views of the mountains, a master suite and bath with a walk-in travertine-tiled shower, and a veranda – and is much further from the fault line (as if that made a difference – but I’ll take it). With access to a pool and hot tub, very little traffic, and a view of the very trees under which Cary Grant spent many a winter’s sunny 70-degree afternoon lounging in the company of film financiers and Hollywood starlets, we were poised to find the rejuvinative qualities of the famous desert oasis.
She gave me the day off, with hopes that I would be restored from the more grueling elements of fatherhood with a toddler and and a 1-year old, where sleep is hard to come by and patience rules every breath. The first order of business was to acquire something that I have lost recently for lack of use in Portland – my sunglasses. I needed a new pair, and found them easily.
Driving through town to find a sushi restaurant, the mood turned surreal when I discovered a radio station that was playing 60′s “Champagne music”, which Lawrence Welk made famous by pumping bubbles across the stage as he orchestrated the string-heavy predecessor of Muzak. I cranked it up with a complete disregard for the health and resonant qualities of my rental car’s speakers.
The thing is, listening to The Maestro blasting while cruising through the old stomping grounds of Hollywood and political icons like Bob Hope, Frank Sinatra, and Gerald Ford, the surreal nature of a place like Palm Springs seeps up from the desert floor. I suddenly saw the quiet, desert flower-like quality of a place so protected from the rest of the world by a 40 mile-wide arid moat. Ah, sweet irony.
The only thing that I lacked was a convertible Cadillac, my Grace Kelly-like wife in the passenger’s seat, and a picnic basket that included martinis and fried chicken.
After Palm Springs, we returned to L.A. and enjoyed every second with our closest friends that they had to spare. Our original plan included 5 days in the Southland spanning a weekend, but after the 4th day it was clear that an extension was in order. We stayed for an additional 3 days, which was definitely the right thing to do.
Back to the rain, footloose and Rickets-free
Returning to the Portland airport, on the way to baggage claim I noticed a portly balding gentleman in a dark trench coat, shoulders covered with a thorough sprinkling of fresh rain drops, hunched over the Starbucks counter having just stirred in his 2% milk. Cradling his 20 oz. coffee in his overstuffed fingers while his eyes shifted right and left, his mouth and nose hovering inches above the rising vapor, it was as if he was inhaling the contents of a jar of Vicks Vap-O-Rub to snap himself awake. A coffee huffer, if you will; a familiar sight in a city addicted to legal and illegal stimulants.
The man looked not unlike myself before we left. He stood as if he was inches away from escape with only a briefcase, a damp boarding pass, and an awareness that he is one of the lucky ones preparing to leave his jilted lover-like city for a few days of relief from the incessant outpouring of moisture. Here was a man in need of minerals and vitamins with the ability to restore vital and dwindling bone matter; a man desirous of a warm, soothing hand of sunlight gently working the tension from his shoulders and back; a businessman who wanted to feel the comfort of standing in his favorite wingtips, dry for a change.
At the time I didn’t pay much attention to him, mostly because at that very moment, Jonah decided to drop his little red-strapped blue backpack and bolt for the escalator in a fit of 3-year-old bliss. Yet somehow, as we dragged our bags off of the carousel and onto the parking shuttle where you are allowed those brief limbo-like moments of inner contemplation of what you have just done and what you are about to do in the coming days, my thoughts returned to that man at the coffee counter, executing his escape plan as I had done days before. I imagined a pleasant rapport with this person that I had not met, his endurance of the winter and his exit on a whim, only to return days later with a revived spirit and a little bit of work accomplished.
Seeing others, like this man, with the same idea of leaving for a while, oddly made me realize that I was happy to be home. I think in large part because the city offered me the freedom to leave for a little while to have some time to myself. While Portland’s ever-increasing grip on my urban sensibilities is strengthening with each passing day, I am also coming to view the city as a confident companion with a heart that understands that sometimes I just need a little sun.
And while I can’t honestly say that I’m reveling in the rain as our friend Sharon does, I can say this: Having returned to the quiet sophistication and hearth-warmed comfort of Portland, I am anxiously waiting for my drink’s prescription to be called out by a barista at the next caffeinated speakeasy. Hopefully this, followed by a stroll down the street to Powell’s, and then some time in the company of the hints of spring and farmer’s markets, which are now, in mid February, within my emotional reach.
I have the sense that Portland and I are going to make it work, with a little help from my Southern California friend, Rickets-free.