Wednesday, January 28, 2009


As promised, I reward myself for my hard work yesterday by going to see "Frost/Nixon" at the Triangle Square theater last night. It was amazing; absolutely one of the best films I've seen all year (possibly the best, if I allow for a tie with "Wall-E"). The trailer doesn't do it justice at all. In the trailer, Frank Langella's Nixon seems overbearing and forced, more of a tired caricature than an impression. And I'll partially agree: at the film's beginning Langella's portrayal was a little distracting. But that's part of the point, I think: Frank Langella wasn't trying to imitate Richard Nixon, he was was trying to convey his essence. To do that, he had to break the audience's expectation for how Richard Nixon should seem onscreen. Once he did that, he was, I thought, incredibly convincing*. I quote Roger Ebert:

"Frank Langella and Michael Sheen do not attempt to mimic their characters, but to embody them. There's the usual settling-in period, common to all biopics about people we're familiar with, when we're comparing the real to the performance. Then that fades out and we become absorbed in the drama."

Go see it. 

*Disclaimer: Bear in mind, of course, that I was born twelve years after the Watergate scandal broke, so my ability to judge the accuracy of Langella's impression may be somewhat hampered. However, my ability to judge a good performance is not, and this was a very good performance, with an even better one by Michael Sheen. 


It's taken me a while to get these pictures up. My apologies about that. Visit here for some explanation. 

Anyway, over Christmas break Ross and I went rock climbing and camping at Joshua Tree National Park. That was my second time going and Ross' first (we've both since gone again, with my ward). I'm kind of a huge fan.
This was our tent. It took us forever to find this site: apparently, Joshua Tree is popular in the winter. Late at night (it must have been 11:00) we climbed up onto that rock to look at the stars. Life is hard when Ross is here. 

This is a Joshua Tree. Apparently, according to J-Tree's website, Joshua Trees were named by Mormon pioneers:
"By the mid-19th century, Mormon immigrants had made their way across the Colorado River [editor's note: take THAT, Colorado river!]. Legend has it that these pioneers named the tree after the biblical figure, Joshua, seeing the limbs of the tree as outstretched in supplication, guiding the travelers westward." 

Me, relishing life at the top of the hardest climb in the world. Rock climbing is a great experience: it's very safe if you're very careful, and there's absolutely nothing quite like making it to the top of a difficult climb. 

Ross part of the way up the hardest climb ever. 

Of course, he finished it like a champ. 
We climb in Hidden Valley, my favorite part of Joshua Tree. It's got a ton of fantastic climbing and really beautiful light in the late afternoon. 

I'm pretty grateful to this guy for teaching me how to climb. And some other things, I guess.  

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

what would liz lemon do?

As of this posting I am officially moving in two weeks and three days. Ross will fly down on Thursday the twelfth to help me pack and load up the car. Thursday and Friday we'll do that (celebrating Valentine's Day on Friday night, about which I am embarrassingly excited), and then early Saturday morning we'll drive up to Sacramento, where we'll spend a night and Sunday morning with my Dad and step mom, Judy. Then on Sunday afternoon we'll drive home. I've been thinking a lot about this decision. I suppose that's obvious: one doesn't typically move 1,000 miles on a whim. But what I mean is that I've been pondering why I came, what I accomplished and learned here, and why I'm going back. It's a daunting decision, for sure. Although I have some leads, I'm not 100% sure of where I'll work, or even where I'll live for the long term. But I'm sure (as sure as you can be while still harboring some doubts) that this is the right thing for me to do. I'm so grateful for the opportunity I've had to be here, but it's time to go home. 

In that spirit, I've been trying to productively fill my days (I still have my job, by the way, but Borders is not weathering the recession particularly well and my hours allotment reflects that fact). I find that I work best with a schedule, and that that schedule looks best on a catalog card. 
Having more-or-less stuck to this schedule today, I am going to celebrate by going to eat 100-calorie snack packs by myself at Frost/Nixon, a la my television alter ego, Liz Lemon

Friday, January 16, 2009

catalog card

This catalog card generator can be found (and endlessly and delightfully played with) here. For the library geek in all of us. 


I went out to gather lemons off of Grammy's tree today. This is my favorite tradition at Grammy's house because it reminds me, in a way that absolutely nothing else does, of my childhood. There's a certain type and time of day that is perfect for lemon-gathering, and today was that day. The sun had just barely sunk behind the trees across the street and darkness was beginning to gather at the edges of the yard. It was hot today, and once the sun had disappeared the dirt, the grass and the cement began to release their smells. Smell, by the way, is caused when the molecules in an object get warm enough that some of them move from a solid to a gaseous state and jump away from the object and enter our sinuses. That's why ice cream typically doesn't have very much of a smell. By the opposite token, though, it seems harder to smell things when it's very hot. I'm not sure exactly why that is, but my guess is this: just like our other senses, our sense of smell only works up to a point. Once it gets over-stimulated (which could happen if it was warm enough outside that too many atoms were finding their way into our noses) we wouldn't be able to smell as well. 


My point with all of this is that when I went out to pick lemons today I was fortunate to do so at the perfect time on a perfect day. Of all the senses, smell is the most emotionally connected to memory, and so picking lemons today made me feel like I was a kid again, with a lifetime left of lemonade and warm days at Grammy and Grandpa's house. 

P.S. My information regarding the cause of smell comes from reading this book. It's one of my favorites. 

Sunday, January 11, 2009

raising the white flag...

I've tried valiantly to avoid making too many lists on this blog, as they don't offer the creative challenge I feel I should submit myself to, given my degree and all. But this one I just couldn't resist. After all, 2008 was a year of lists for me (unlike every other year... only not); ergo, I suppose this feels somewhat appropriate. So, without further ado: 

2008: A Year In Bulletpoints

Q: What did you do in 2008 that you had never done before?
A: I went rock climbing on a real, legitimate, moss-covered wall. 

Q: Did you keep your New Year's resolutions?
A: Never, alas, alas. 

Q: What would you like to have in '09 that you didn't have in '08?
A: A studio apartment of my very own. Also, maybe a canary.

Q: What dates from '08 will remain etched upon your memory? 
A: Election day (what is that... the 20th of November? Dates are not my thing). Also, May 31st. 

Q: Did you suffer from any injury?
A: Bit of a broken heart, but it healed quickly. 

Q: Best thing someone bought for you as a gift?
A: A rosemary topiary. Best gift ever.

Q: Where did most of your money go?
A: To the races. No, actually, a sizable majority went to Christmas. Like every year.

Q: What did you get really excited about?
A: The election of (soon-to-be) president Barack Obama. Also (it must be said) the engagement of Jim and Pam. 

Q: What song will always remind you of 2008?
A: It's a toss-up tie between "I Will Follow You Into the Dark" by Death Cab For Cutie and "Yes We Can" by... a whole bunch of people, really.

Q: Favorite TV shows of 2008?
A: "The Office," obviously. Also "30 Rock," "Battlestar Galactica," and "The Daily Show." Also (and I'm not sure if this counts), "Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog."
Q: What was your greatest musical discovery?
A: Ross Dewey.

Q: Best book you read this year?
A: Questions like this make me profoundly uneasy. I read a lot. 

Q: Favorite film of the year?
A: Wall-E. Possibly the most quietly daring film I've ever seen (although a special nod to the inimitable Molly Pettis for introducing me to the haunting and memorable The Lives of Other People).

Q: Describe your fashion concept of '08:
A: "Maybe if I continue to dress like I'm from Portland no one will mistake me for an Orange County trophy wife... since that's so clearly a danger."
Q: What celebrities did you fancy the most?
A: "Fancy?" Kate Winslet, probably (although I haven't seen either of her two most recent films). Also, I fell madly, head-over-heels in love with Tina Fey this year. 

Q: Who do you miss?
A: This is a surprisingly poignant question. First of all, I miss Grandpa. I'm very grateful for the time I got to spend with him before he died, although the words written on the screen do a very poor job of conveying the way I actually feel. Second, I miss Amy, who died at the age of 22 from cancer. Amy and I graduated as creative writing majors together. We were never especially close (I can't claim that, which I regret), but we were friendly. She was--is--one of the most alive people I have ever met, and a truly, truly terrific writer. Third, I miss everyone in the Northwest. You know who you are. 

Q: What countries did you visit in 2008?
A: Orange County. 

Q: Biggest achievement?
A: Breaking up with Brian and graduating from college. 

Q: Did you fall in love in 2008?
A: You betcha. With life, with Portland, with the zoo (and the baby elephant Sam), with rock climbing, and--especially--with Ross. 

Q: What's one thing that would have made your year more satisfying?
A: Honestly? Not a damn thing. Happy New Year. 

Thursday, January 8, 2009

apartment lust

I found this place as I was dreamily looking at apartments today. It's a tiny little no-bedroom studio on the east side of Portland, not too far from the river. It's (not too far, but far enough) out of my current price range (unless someone hires me and pays me a lot of money, like, right now), but golly, Moses. Ain't she pretty.  

So this is love. 

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

you're gonna make it after all

I spent a long time organizing the cooking section of my store on Tuesday. I love the cooking section best of all. It's not that I don't love Fiction/Literature, with the tall, long racks of classic and modern literary fiction, or Travel, neatly laid out in a horseshoe and organized by an illogical geography, with Ireland next to Cuba: no, it's simply that the books in cooking are so ridiculously pretty. One of the perks of my job is that as I reshelve books I flip through them or look at the back. I worry about this a little: after all, I'm not really paid to browse through books, but my clever (and true) rationale is that doing so makes me a more informed bookseller. Plus, my job would be really boring if I didn't. 

Anyway, so I was recovering the cooking section the other day (I love that term: "recovering."It implies a recent disaster, which is what customers are for the organization of bookstores) when I came across this book in food reference: 

"While Phoebe Damrosch was waiting for life to happen, she supported herself by working as a waitress." That's how the book describes itself, and I thought about it the rest of the day. Is that what I'm doing? "While Haylie Swenson was waiting for life to happen, she supported herself by working in a bookstore." Am I also just waiting for life to happen? I don't love working at Borders. I love books, for sure, and I love making recommendations and helping people find something new. But that doesn't happen very often: mostly, I spend my time at the register or by helping people to find the latest short lived, badly written bestseller. This, obviously, isn't what I went to college for. 

I was discouraged--am discouraged still, sometimes, when I compare myself to my more successful friends and family. But then, suddenly, like a vision, I pictured the opening sequence to the Mary Tyler Moore Show, that part where she flings her hat in the air. Honestly? That's pretty much the only part of the show I remember (that and, inexplicably, the part where her boss asks about her religion in the first episode). I used to watch it on Nick at Nite, and I was always terribly impressed by how independent she seemed, how joyful.  

That's when it occurred to me: I'm not just waiting for my life to start, any more than Phoebe Damrosch was waiting for her life to start when she was waiting tables. After all, she wrote an entire (New York Times Notable) book out of it, right? So it couldn't have been that bad, although I'm sure she felt like she was wasting her time, too. Mary had a terrible job (I seem to remember that, too), but she still managed to throw her hat in the air at the beginning of every show. So here's to the Phoebe Damroschs and the Mary Tyler Moores and everyone else slogging away at a job for which you are underpaid and overqualified. 

And please: next time you're in a bookstore, put your books back where you found them. 

Monday, January 5, 2009

the woeful and lamentable tale of the forgotten external hard drive

So Ross and I spent the last week and a half having truly grand adventures. We went camping and rock climbing at Joshua Tree National Park, we celebrated Christmas, we went to a New Year's Eve Concert at the Walt Disney Concert Hall featuring my favorite band, Pink Martini, and we drove up to Sacramento to visit my Dad's side of the family, stopping overnight in San Francisco on the way to visit my step brother, Pete, and his partner, Kevin. Thanks for the hospitality, guys! And, thanks to Ross' mom, we took tons of pictures on her digital camera. All of which are safely ensconced in my external hard drive (I always call it a zip drive, But Ross says that's not correct), which is, in turn, locked away in my step mom's computer. Which is in Sacramento. Which completely sucks. 

For multiple reasons, really: First, it means I have to admit to my Dad and my step mom, Judy, that I've made another ditsy mistake. It seems so unfair, but I've found that there are people in my life (my Dad and Judy are the premier examples, but there are others, as well) around whom I can't seem to help but be constantly clumsy and gauche. I hate that. Second, and more importantly, forgetting my flash drive (is that correct terminology?) sucks because I deeply enjoy posting "The Adventures of Haylie and Ross" albums on Facebook. I love everything about it: writing the captions, the comments, and the opportunity putting together the album affords me to reflect on our relationship and how much I love the adventures we have together. Third, it means I have fewer pictures to add to this blog. I hate that, too. 

Anyway: thus concludes the woeful and lamentable tale of the forgotten external hard drive. Sorry this post is devoid of pictures. Devoid, that is, but for this one: