I love this place. Why are there so many chiropractors?

YES!!!!!! FINALLY! After my prolonged & totally unacceptable ABSENCE, I am BACK!!!

AND It’s official!!  My family & I are now MAINERS**.

**NOTE: We really are transplanted Philadelphians now living in the guise of MAINERS, but I’m giving it to us anyway.

SO HOW’S THINGSS??!  I KNOW.  It HAS BEEN A LONG TIME< HASN’T IT??  OOoh, I am sorry to hear that.  How awful.  My next-door neighbor’s dad got laid off too, but then they called him up a week later and offered him another job.  Yeah what a crap fest.  Good thing he decided not to jump. Huh?  ME??  Ohh. well you know how it’s been total craziness the past few months.  The whole “packing up the house and moving to a 2 bedroom apartment in a completely new city” thing.

I guess it’s to be expected, but this move is taking a little getting used to.  You can take the girl outta Philly, but you can’t take the Philly outta the girl. Right?  RIGHT. SO. The first night we arrived.  We’re outside unloading the U-Haul.  It’s really dark out – we didn’t get here until after 7 – so we’re unloading, and a car sloooowwwwly drives by.  Then another.  And of course we’re all thinking DAMN! They’re totally casing the joint – just waiting for us to be inside so they can help themselves to our stuff.  But then, another car drives by… slowly.. slowing.. to a virtual stop.  The driver looks at us.. we look at her.. and.. and.. then she smiles and WAVES!  Because people here aren’t thieves. They’re just NICE.

SO>As you can imagine. There’s a whole mental adjustment taking place. No one is trying to cart off our belongings.  No one is skulking in the bushes waiting to stick me up or show me his “thing.”  This Portland.  It’s a whole new world!  And, lest I forget to mention, after just one week here in Portland — (hold your breath) — we get OUR MAIL!!!!  Can you believe it?!  I KNOWOOOO.  We’ve only been here a week.  ONE HONKIN WEEK.  And we’re RENTERS!  No matter.  Our friendly mail carrier does her job like a PRO.  We actually had mail WAITING for us when we arrived.

HAHHAHAHHAHHAHHAHHAHHHH!!!

Back in Philly – where we’ve owned a home for ALMOST EIGHT YEARS, we STILL DON’T GET OUR MAIL

PS: Thanks for that awesome card, Curly babe! Love ya! xoxo

BUT BESIDES THE MAIL, there are some other things I’ve noticed about Portland.

Number One: Portland is clean.

As long as you don’t mind cigarette butts and dog shit.  B/c BOY ARE THEY EVERYWHERE.  But other than that. This city is pretty clean, at least in comparison to Philly.  Seriously, the day before we moved, I had to go to Target to pick up a few things.  As I waded through ankle-deep trash in the parking lot, I noted the number of empty garbage cans just begging to be used.  Here in Portland, I can’t find a trash can.  Not even outside people’s homes.  I am convinced everyone here stuffs garbage inside their clothes to keep warm.  And this theory isn’t just crackpot.  NO, it’s backed up by HARD EVIDENCE.  You see, here in Portland you have to pay for special blue *CITY OF PORTLAND* trash bags to put your weekly garbage in for collection.  I KID YOU NOT.  AND. Not only are these designer bags expensive, but they are EXPENSIVE.  $7.50 for FIVE.  F-I-V-E.  YET, you don’t see dingbats dumping their garbage in random lots – or dropping chicken buckets out car windows while waiting for the lights to change.  Nuh-uh.  Garbage in Portland “appears” to be a dirty little secret no one wants to air.  People hide it away until trash day when they are FORCED to put it out on the street – B/C THEY HAVE TO.  THANK GOODNESS for those pretty blue bags.

Number Two: Portland is home to a population of roughly 65,000 – 3,893 of whom are Chiropractors.

On every corner in Philly, there’s either a pizza/take-out beer place or some sort of mini-mart bodega.  Here in Portland there is a chiropractor’s office.  Sometimes two.  On one stretch of Congress Street, I’ve actually counted 3 chiropractors in a row.  With another just a block or two away.  All this adjustment raises several questions.  First.  If you are working as a chiropractor in Portland, how can you possibly be making enough to buy trash bags?  And Two.  What the hell is happening up here that warrants so much manipulation?  I’m hazarding a guess with snow shoveling> but .  BUT?  ANYONE??  Can someone help me out here.  Please>??  I am stumped.

Sorry I’ve been AWOL..

The past few weeks for me have been interminably long. In a good way, though. Somehow, it just feels as though time started and stopped mid-October, and although days keep progressing on, I’m somehow fixed within the calendar. Three weeks ago, I was in New York. The night was blustery, raining, just plain ugly, but I was giddy inside. John and I had gotten tickets to the premier of a movie we’d discovered a year before. A Cricket in the Court of Akbar. The tale of a white guy from Texas, who discovers Indian music and falls in love… with the sitar. He learns to play, and eventually goes to India – to win a music competition – not once, but twice. TRUE STORY, by the way. I’d stumbled upon the trailer on youtube months and months ago, it struck such a chord (no pun intended). When I found out the movie was premiering at the Rubin Museum of Art in Chelsea October 25th, I bought tickets w/out hesitation. That night, girls safely deposited at John’s grandmother’s, the weather miserable, I was elated. Few things matter to me more than a truly compelling story, and I was not disappointed. After a meal of sushi & Sapporo, we made our way to the museum. John got seats in the front row. We watched as the star and director sat directly beside us. WOW. The movie… just plain amazing. Captivating, start to finish. Afterward, Andrew Mendelson answered audience questions. We got home late, tired, bleary eyed, and happy.

The next week wrought another tremendous surprise. As a lifelong Philadelphian, I know I fall prey to the mentality of doubt which pervades this city like so much garbage. A year ago, Philadelphians were rumored to be the ugliest people in the nation, according to a poll conducted by Travel & Leisure Magazine. Before that we endured the whole FAT THING, with the American Obesity Association ranking Philadelphia in the top ten for overweight people SIX YEARS IN A ROW. In sum, Philadelphians have long succumbed to being the less worthy, less interesting, less sophisticated shadows of our cosmopolitan cousins to the north and south.

Until October 29th… when somehow, someway this city rose above its tarnished image to win the title of WORLD SERIES CHAMPIONS. No longer would Philadelphians be the has-beens, the not-quites, those sorry sacks incapable of sealing the deal. We were WINNERS! and BOY was victory sweet. We turned out by the millions to celebrate on Halloween Day. To cheer on our beloved Phils, and to embrace something not felt for 28 years. The thrill of success. And that collective charge made us – as a city, and as a people, ONE.

Last week, fate parlayed Philadelphia’s victory onto the nation. NO LONGER WILL THE WORLD SCORN – B/c November 4th 2008, Barack Obama made history. His election, like Philly’s World Series Championship, has restored the faith of – not just millions of people across the Delaware Valley, but BILLIONS WORLD WIDE. By becoming the 44th President of the United States, and the first of hopefully many of color, Barack Obama proved – for once and for all – that we are not prisoners of our checkered history.

In the ensuing days I have done many things on a personal level. Hours of work went into the upgrading of my eponymous low sodium recipe site, THE DAILY DISH, which launched the same day as the election. I’ve spent nearly every day since in the kitchen, testing recipes, taking photographs, and having an exhausting but grand ole time reacquainting myself w/ what it’s like to be creating art on a daily basis. Last Thursday we took in an unbelievable lecture by the world famous Dr. Irene Pepperberg, whose African Grey Parrot, Alex, changed the world’s perception of what a “bird brain” really is. You KNOW I was first in line for the signing too, tears in my eyes. “To Christy & Kiwi, with kindest regards, Irene & Alex.”

My dad spent last weekend with us – leaving Tuesday morn. And now my beloved sister and her brand new & FABBBBULOUS boyfriend are coming Saturday afternoon. Leaving me two days to get the house in order for the ensuing chaos, once again. To meet with the girls teachers for parent conferences, to assess direction and performance. To commune with nature and spot another Ruby-Crowned Kinglet . To do all the schtuff that one needs to do, always.

Having spent many, many days now listening to the radio, to people’s opinions, to stories of what is happening to our nation, to the world’s economy.. Listening to the election recap, hearing how people are being slaughtered in the Congo, how the civilian casualties are rising in Afghanistan.. I can’t help but wonder.. WHERE ARE WE HEADED NEXT? As bad as things seem – and they do seem dire for a whole lot of people – sitting here typing away in Philadelphia. I remain hopeful. Things which seemed impossible even a month ago, today are reality. I cannot help but wonder, WHAT NEXT??

Barack Obama accomplished something the critics never thought possible. And unbelievably, Philadelphia did too. Can you imagine what could happen if we as a collective envisioned victory in a way we never had before – and MADE IT HAPPEN? The possibilities are endless.

Does a dog sh*t in the woods?

I am a city dweller. and I have a 150 lb. dog.

Having such a big dog in the city requires due diligence. I have to keep him leashed. I have to watch him. And I have to pick up his crap WITHOUT FAIL. If my dog Max leaves even the barest trace of doodie on the sidewalk, I address the situation. So no unsuspecting soul will fall afoul. City sidewalks – as I have mentioned before – are busy places. People walk on them. Children play on them. And yes, dogs do their business on them. The city sidewalk may be a dog’s toilet. But everyone needs to flush. So, w/out fail, I curb my dog.

Having a big dog in the city requires additional planning when it comes to exercise. Our virtually nonexistent and unfenced yard is simply insufficient to meet Max’s needs. We joined a local dog park to allow for off-leash playtime. But Max likes to walk. Really WALK. So once or twice a week I take him to a local nature refuge for a 4-mile hike through the woods.

Yesterday morning we went to the refuge.  The walk had barely begun when we encountered an older woman coming toward us on the path.  GOOD MORNING! I exclaimed cheerfully.  HOW ARE YOU?  To which she acidly replied, “I’d be better if you’d pick up your dog’s poop.”

Well. Hold the PHONE.

As detailed above, I am fastidious when it comes to feces. NEVER would I leave crap near an unsuspecting foot! But when I take my dog to the woods, we are not on a public street.  We are on a trail. We are not someplace where an infant may pick up a turd and stick it into his or her mouth.  Where someone’s $500 pumps may be ruined. We are surrounded by the natural world. And I do not allow Max to ever dump on the trail itself. Oh no. But I do not see any problem w/ him pooping on the side in the grass and leaves. After which I take whatever large stick is handy and push/scoop/or fling said poop out into the woods – where it will not harm a soul.

I am not talking about letting my dog poop on a playing field.  Where children or lovers – or anyone – would be meandering.  That is just plain gross. But the only meanderers in this case would in fact be deer.  Or groundhogs.  Foxes, snakes, turtles, rats, birds.  YOU GET MY POINT! And no living soul is picking up their scat in plastic baggies to deposit in the trash. As I responded to the woman yesterday, it is natural. Left there, excrement (my dog’s included) will decompose and return to the earth. It is recycling in its most primitive form. Something beautiful in its perfection and simplicity.

She tried to explain to me that the ecological burden on the wildlife refuge is great enough. I have been visiting this refuge for 11 years. The acres are sandwiched between the city, I-95, and the airport. Oil pipelines run beneath it. The burden is great but the burden is ALL MAN-MADE. I simply fail to see how dog poop is going to push this land over the precipice.

There is nothing natural about bagging poop. Nothing. Though I do it, living in the city, w/out fail or hesitation. WHY? Because it is a matter of courtesy and b/c it is the law. But in the woods? No. I will not pick up poop. I will not. B/c it doesn’t make sense. If left to the air, excrement will decompose naturally w/in weeks or days. It is a matter of natural recycling. What is UNNATURAL is picking it up, sealing it into a bag, and placing it into a trash can. Where it will have to be picked up by a waste truck, carried miles to a landfill, to be dumped and sit festering for years to come. Where it will not easily – if ever, decompose. THAT, to me, is insanity.

I may be the only person thinking this, but I do not care. B/c in my heart it makes sense. In my mind, every dog has a right to take a crap on the soil and not feel like he or she is doing something wrong. I for one have pooped right there in the refuge behind a bush and I didn’t blink twice. WHY? B/c I had to go. And when nature calls, I answer.

Mantid Love.

We have a large butterfly bush in our front yard which attracts a huge variety of insects.  Butterflies (of course), as well as all types of bees, flies, – this year we even had a hummingbird!  Pretty darn rare in the city.  Anyway. b/c of the number of butterflies, this bush is also home to a large cadre of praying mantises.  Mantids LOVE butterflies.  Their tender juicy middles in particular.  After gobbling them up, they drop the butterflies’ colorful but otherwise unappealing wings to the floor below.  So all summer long, while I’m weeding the garden, my daughters are gathering up the wings like so many discarded petals.

When I was a kid I never saw a praying mantis.  But I clearly remember people saying they were endangered, and telling me never to kill one.  I believe it was illegal at the time (the 1980s), but I haven’t been able to confirm or deny that.  All I know for certain is that mantids are thriving in 2008 – at least in our yard.  If a postage-sized stamp of a garden in the middle of a city is any indication of the greater picture, I’d say they’re doing fine.

And yet each time we find a praying mantis, you’d think it was the very first time.  We drop everything.  Holla to each other.  COME QUICK!  B/c we all want to see.  Their thoughtful eyes and slender grace are fascinating.  My daughters found a small one several weeks ago – of all places, beneath a checkout in Trader Joes.  They scooped him up, and carried him out of the store.  He seemed happy to be free.  But rather than hop off outside the exit, he rode for blocks on my older daughter’s hand.  Only once we reached the Market Street bridge did he fly off, soaring stories into the sky.

We’ve been fortunate enough to capture several others over the years.  Not in any box, but on film.  My skillful husband took these photos a couple weeks ago of a pair mating, and I just had to share them.  They are beautiful.  The text is excerpted from the North Forty News.  Many thanks for sharing.

PS: We now have a large egg case on one of the branches.  Here’s to next year’s offspring!

This brings us to the delicate subject of mantid love – or, more precisely, mantid sexual behavior.

Slender adult male mantids, smaller than the female, usually feature brown tones in contrast to the female’s greens. They display rather slow, deliberate care around prospective mates, often approaching from the rear and leaping on the female’s ample back when close enough. Females warrant this caution, even though their substantial weight keeps them grounded while males can fly, because a female may hunger for a substantial meal more than sex.

Sometimes she wants both.

Even attached and fully engaged, a male may literally lose his head servicing his chosen female. The female can swivel her head in a disconcertingly human-like gesture and decapitate her suitor. This may not even interrupt the act at hand. One author states that “removal of the male’s head, the bit which the female eats first, releases the male’s genitalia from nervous inhibition from the brain and leads to incessant copulatory movements.”

The smartest–or the luckiest–males avoid this circumstance, however, leap off their temporarily groggy paramour and run quickly away. Such mortal danger may insure that only the smartest males live to mate again.

Once inseminated, a female searches for a plant stem or fence post suitable for making an egg case and laying her eggs. Usually she selects a location 1 to 4 feet off the ground and constructs a case that resembles tan foam with the texture of a roasted marshmallow. Chinese mantids build round cases; the Europeans flatten theirs on one side.