Astoria Review


I enjoyed this book, though the end seemed a bit abrupt and then here I was in the epilogue. I would have liked a little bit more of an ending, but otherwise, a very good read. I spent my first 8 years in Astoria and frequently go back as I still have family in the area. I learned a lot that I didn't know and confirmed some I had suspected. What strikes me most is how Astor simply decided he should be the one to build the "Western" empire. He laid it on the line financially, but nothing physically and then chastised his men for failing after they had been through such horrific experiences. That seems to be a consistent way with most of the richest people and those who specifically were involved in the start of our country, and most of those being white men. Though he started from not much, it does not seem he had any clear idea of the absolute difficulties they faced or maybe he figured if he did it, so should they be able to. I have no idea. I definitely would recommend this book if you like history and to learn more about the first American outpost on what is now the West Coast.
 

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I Hate Mother's Day

It is true.  I hate the build-up, hate the commercials and hate the fact that is a multi-million dollar industry.  As if you could put a price tag on a mother's life.  I hold my breath waiting for the day to come and exhale when it is over.  Pick any other word: loathe, despise, abhor, detest.  I feel all of them.

I hate Mother's Day because it reminds me of what I have lost, my own mother.  On good days, I imagine us sitting on a beach in Ireland at sunset, wild horses racing back and forth on the narrow crescent of sand, my head on her shoulder, her arm around me, sitting up against an old log thrown up on the beach.  She lets me talk and talk and gives me advice and I feel stronger.  On bad days, in the dark I lay in my bed alone, silent tears slip down my cheeks and I wonder what I did to deserve this.    

It wasn't supposed to be like this.  She should have had more than 2 years with my nephew Connor, more than 6 years with my nephew Canaan, more than 19 years with my brother Benj, more than 30 years with my brother Jason.  And certainly more than 33 years with me. She will never get to know Audree, my little 3 year-old spitfire great-niece. Sometimes, like now, when I think about it, the tears well and I become overwhelmed with sadness.  

This is not a ploy for pity.  It is how it is.  Those of us who have lost our mothers know what this feels like.  Most days are good days, now, almost 14 years later, but still I cannot ask why for more than 2 seconds or I become quagmired in a question never to be answered.  I choose not to be stuck and move forward, though most times I am never sure of my place in this world.

Our mother equals our first home in this world.  And all of a sudden the ground beneath my home gave way and I started falling an endless fall into an abyss and I am not sure that fall will ever stop.  Perhaps most forms of grief are like this when you lose someone you love.  I wish I could go to lunch with her, buy her flowers, take a walk with her.  Some days I could really use her wisdom.  I would trade 10 years of my life for one more hug from her or one more day with her.  My rational mind knows it to be impossible but the child inside keens for her.

They say I will see her again.  Perhaps that is true, but fuck platitudes.  As if that is supposed to give some relief or some comfort that maybe someday, when I die, I will see her again.  It is what people say when they have no idea what to say.  And I don't blame them because it is hard to know what to say.  Most things come to an end, but this, for me, this will never end. I am glad Mother's Day is over for another year, because I hate it.  

 

 

Happy Birthday Dad.

Today is my dad's birthday.  In honor of you Dad, I intend to consume a slice of carrot cake and a tall glass of cold milk.  My brother Benj thought we should write you letters and mail them to you for your birthday but of course I did not get it done.  And I decided it would be better to post it publicly on my blog.  It is my first blog in over 7 months and I can think of no better way to get started again than to say "Thank You" to you Dad and wish you a very public "Happy Birthday"

Keith Urban sings a song, "Song For Dad", off his "Golden Road" album.  I heard it again a few weeks ago and it hit me.  One of the lines reads "he did the best he could".  As children I used to think you and mom were superheroes.  And of course, I know now that is not true.  But it takes a long time to recognize that as a child.

One of my very first memories with you was when we went to the fireworks in Seaside, probably with Grandma and Grandpa. I may have been anywhere from 2-3 years old, I am not entirely sure.  I hid in your chest and I remember feeling safe as you gathered me in your arms and shielded me from the loud and scary sounds and lights.  Now I love fireworks!  

I remember when you guys took me to get my first bike and Jason got his first Big Wheel and mine was a bright shiny red Schwinn.  I was so excited!  It took me forever to learn to ride, but I did.  We lived in Astoria and about the same time you had this old motorcycle that never worked but you would give us rides around the yard and try to get it started by running it down the big hill in our back yard of the house on Grand Avenue.  It never worked, of course.  You and mom and Uncle Pat and Aunt Linda would play Millebornes and one of my favorite Christmases ever was in that house.  Mom made candy and I got fashion plates.  

We had the real 8-track tapes and vinyl and you let me listen to classic rock bands like the Eagles, Fleetwood Mac and the Doobie Brothers.  You had this album of Cat Stevens and it fascinated me.  I would spend what seemed like hours looking at it mainly because there was some sort of spider on it.  We moved up to Forest Grove and then Banks after a series of logging accidents forced you to train for a new career.  You had been going to school during the week and then coming home on the weekends.  Honestly, I don't know how you did it. 

I started playing t-ball and softball and was so excited for my new cleats I ran back and forth outside Grandpa's apartment in Forest Grove the night I got them just to prove my cleats made me run faster.  We moved to Banks and I played softball and then volleyball and then we moved on to Portland because you had to move into the city because you started working for the city.  I really, really wanted to go to Grant High School because I had met some guys who went to Grant that came to wrestle at Banks Jr. High. One weekend, my parents blindfolded my brother Jason and I and drove us through the Portland to show us where our new house was.  2 blocks from Grant High School.

I could go on and on with memories and I think what I am trying to say is even through all the difficulties, and there are lots, I would not trade you for anyone else.  I can honestly say I love you with all my heart.  Last summer we had such a great time with you and I miss you!  I felt sad when you left and I can't tell you how many times when I'm driving I'm looking for places you could move to so you could be closer.  Benj and I have even talked about coming to visit you in Montana.  And if you ever do want to move, you know you already have a moving crew.  

I am proud of the way you have persevered, if I can say that, and I just want you to know that.  I have so many good memories and you taught me so many good things.  My love of music, the written word, teaching me to be independent, my quirky sense of humor, my heritage and I am proud to say I am your daughter.  So watch this video, and listen to this song, and though he talks about being a son or man,  you can insert daughter or woman in there.  Happy Birthday Dad, I love you so much!

American Gods and Neil Gaiman

I finished American Gods and penned this little review on Goodreads

"I thoroughly enjoyed this book. Loved it, for many reasons. The history, the mythology, the taking of something familiar and putting it on its' head and looking at it in a different way. There is a lot going on in this book, but not too much to keep up with. I was there, with Shadow, every step of the way. I didn't want to guess at the end, but, as with all well-done stories, the seeds were there early on. This book is satisfying to me, like a good, rich meal, taken in slowly, paired with the right wines for each course. Take your time with this one, it's a good one! Neil Gaiman, at present, remains my current favorite author."

Neil Gaiman.  I love his writing because he works across so many genres: film, graphic novels, comic books, tv, children's books, young adult books and probably some I'm missing.  He takes the notion of fantasy and sci-fi and horror and mashes them up and turns them on their heads and does it in a big way.  I saw "American Gods" first on Starz, then had to wait a loooonngggg time to get the book from the library.  Let me tell you, worth the wait.  So, check it out.  It is a bit of a longer book and so worth reading.  It has won many awards and I am looking forward to moving on to reading "Anansi Boys", I think.  

And, when things get tough, I remember this quote, always, and it gives me inspiration: