Category Archives: General


Not a misspelling. It’s a neologism I’ve coined to describe the paradoxical combination of restlessness and boredom that can afflict me deep in the doldrums of summer. One characteristic is the feeling that although I very much don’t want to be outside doing something, I feel that I ought to want to. Today, when the temperature is going to 107 in Portland, restledom hit me earlier than its usual midafternoon onset.

Summer has always been my least favorite time of year. I don’t like hot weather. Day after day of glaring sunshine oppresses me. It’s partly a mood thing–the opposite, less common version of Seasonal Affective Disorder–and partly medical. Years ago I had a couple of minor skin cancers excised and would prefer not to have more of the same. I also sometimes break out in itchy solar urticaria after time spent in heat or sun.

When I moved to Portland thirty years ago, the balance of weather I love (gloom, short days, rain, mist, and fog) with weather I don’t (sun, heat) was fine: just enough of the latter to allow for outdoor adventures, and plenty of the former for coziness. Now summers are getting longer and hotter, and I’m spending more time indoors in this season. But hey, I’m finally getting my books (a tiny slice of my office bookshelves is shown here) sorted and packed so that the room can be refloored and repainted. And I’m getting plenty of exercise toting boxes of books downstairs for storage.

Touched by the Crumple Fairy

One of the oddest things that’s ever happened to me happened this afternoon in the Sellwood neighborhood of Portland.

Brief background: In May 2020 I bought a new Outback. It was the first actually new new car I’d ever owned. Just a month or two later, my friend Ron called my attention to the right corner of the rear rubber bumper. Its pristine newness had been marred by a grapefruit-sized dent smack in the crumple zone.

Either I’d backed into something without feeling it, or something had hit the car when it was parked. The Subaru dealership told me the crumple couldn’t be pulled out with a suction device. The whole bumper would have to be replaced, at a cost of $1000 to $1200. But the car was perfectly functional, and I decided to live with the crumple. After all, every new car gets its first ding sometime. Mine just happened sooner than expected.

Today I met my friend Kathleen for lunch. I found a parking space at the corner of SE 13th and Miller, outside Nama Ramen, about half a block or so from the place where we were going to eat. The car was parked in the last space at the end of the block, with the crumpled bumper facing the street.

After a lovely long lunch, Kathleen and I strolled back toward my car; she had parked nearby. As we approached that intersection, I joked about how I can always tell my car from the million other silver Outbacks in Portland by looking for the crumpled rear bumper. Kathleen had reached the car before me and was standing behind it. “There’s no crumple,” she said.

It was definitely my car. Not only was it where I had parked, but it had my custom Yakima roof rack on it. And my plates. But Kathleen was right: there was no crumple. The right rear corner of the bumper was now smooth and rounded, with just a couple of tiny, all but invisible scrapes below where the crumple had been. (The scrapes had appeared at the same time as the crumple.)

I was thunderstruck. I knew the crumple was there as recently as this past weekend, because I had looked at it, wondering if I should get it fixed after all.

“Maybe some change in air pressure . . . .?” I speculated based on nothing.

Then Kathleen pointed out what I had failed to see: the rear of the car was pretty dusty. I hadn’t washed it since a recent day trip down some dusty roads. The bumper was dusty, too–all except that right corner, which was spotless. Someone had clearly wiped it clean and then, apparently, removed my crumple. Did they use magic, or a suction device they just happened to have in their car, or what?

We looked all around for a few minutes, wondering if the fixer would make an appearance, but nothing happened. Eventually I concluded that I had been touched by the Crumple Fairy of Portland and went gratefully on my way.

Crumple Fairy, in the extremely unlikely event that you see this, please accept my heartfelt thanks. In your name I gave $20 to a homeless man on the way home.

Floating in a space pod

Yesterday was my first float-tank experience. Remember those?

Back in the day they were sometimes called “sensory-deprivation tanks” or “isolation tanks,” which makes them sound torturey. They were popularized by John C. Lilly; I knew people who tried them in the 70s.  The 1980 film Altered States showed William Hurt regressing to a primal beastlike state under the influence of psychedelic drugs and a tank.

I underwent no such regression. Nor did I levitate, hallucinate, meditate, or have anything that could be called a cosmic or profound experience. (Promoters say, though, that after 40 minutes or so in the tank, many people enter a theta-wave state analogous to the brain-wave activity of long-time meditators during meditation.) What I did have was an utterly relaxing, very pleasant sense of timelessness and floating. Well, I was floating–in eleven inches of water saturated with about 380 pounds of epsom salts, heated to skin temperature. You lose the sense of your body and its boundaries. My only strange (but not at all unpleasant) sensations were proprioceptive: At times I felt that I was very, very slowly whirling (which would have been completely impossible inside the box) or tilting to one side, or that one hand and arm were floating a foot higher than the other, or that I was resting on a firm surface. Occasionally one foot would twitch, and I’d be surprised to feel tiny ripples moving through the tank.

My friend Bonnie and I used this place, which was great. They have a total of six rooms, two with fairly open float pools (all floats are one person only), two with enclosed float rooms, and two with completely enclosed, 100-percent dark tanks, which look like hyperspace pods–you cannot step into them upright. I chose one of the pods. Someone with even a touch of claustrophobia might not care for it, but I liked it. Bonnie chose one of the float pools.

When the soft chime sounded to tell me that my session was over, I was surprised that 90 minutes had passed. Will I do it again? Probably. I left feeling as refreshed and relaxed as after a massage, although floating leaves you salty rather than oily.



What I’m reading: The Supernatural Enhancements

I hadn’t heard of Edgar Cantero’s The Supernatural Enhancements, which was released last August. I picked it up from the “New Releases” shelf at the library because the title and the Goreyesque cover art drew my eye. I was hooked when I read this back-jacket copy: “Cantero pays homage to Bram Stoker and H.P. Lovecraft and The Shining, but he’s no less enamored of The X-Files, fax machines [the novel is set in 1995], and punk girls with dreads.”

At 50 pages in (out of 353), I’m enjoying it but wondering if it will sustain my interest. On one level it looks like a modern variant of the haunted-house story; the title is from Edith Wharton’s phrase “a house with supernatural enhancements.” On another it’s a formal exercise: a clever–perhaps too clever?–mishmash of letters, diary entries, transcripts of security-camera footage, and so on. That mixed-media, semi-epistolary structure and the eerie-house setting recall Mark Z. Danielewski’s 2000 novel House of Leaves, which I loved, so I am going to keep on with this one, despite already being a bit tired of one of the two main characters. (The other one is growing on me, so they balance out.) And I’ve gotta say that, post-Shining, if you put a hedge maze next to a huge spooky building, something damned original better happen in that hedge maze. I’ll let you know.





I’m still angry about my car getting trashed by some jackass last night.

But I did get one smile out of the affair. When the police came to fill out a report, one of them took a look at my rear bumper and wondered whether my “got cthulhu?” bumper sticker might have offended someone sufficiently to provoke the attack. After I told them who Lovecraft and Cthulhu were, they discarded that theory.

Probably just some idiot walking down the street, was their verdict. Sounds plausible to me.

Monday morning I will commence the tedious business of putting in the insurance claim and lining up the body work.

The poor old Taurus. No panel left unbashed.

The poor old Taurus. No panel left unbashed.

Too bad CSI: Portland can't match this print to the miscreant's footwear!

Too bad CSI: Portland can't match this print to the miscreant's footwear!