Monthly Archives: October 2010

WILT #18, in which I show my true colors

Back in August, my pa-in-law was seated on the smooshy brown loveseat and facing a decision. “Should we order NFL Sunday Ticket?”

I looked up. “Would that mean we could see all the Packers games?”

Bill nodded significantly.

“Well, if we got the NFL Sunday Ticket, I wouldn’t have to find a Packer-backer bar. I could just hang here in my jammies and make snacks for everybody.”

Said Bill with gravity, “It’s decided.”

I never thought I’d tip the scales towards the purchase of a cable TV football package. Growing up in central Wisconsin, I was surrounded by pigskin enthusiasts. I was often the contrarian; as my classmates would filter in to our 3rd grade classroom with their Packers Starter jackets, I remember secretly wishing for a Cowboys coat. I think I would’ve been punched at recess. My dad had what amounted to a Packers man-shrine in his apartment. For the most part, I rolled my eyes and felt like the Other. And ate mixed nuts and chips and dip and took epic naps on Sunday afternoons.

I’m not sure when the switch flipped. I think I finished college and got myself into a fairly standard specialty medical office and realized that so many of my coworkers had Strong Feelings about the Vikings. These rural Minnesotan medical assistants, receptionists, and nurses were all “talking football,” and often the subject was one of the only topics they could share with the docs. As we approached the playoffs, the office would have Team Spirit Day, and the nurses would wear the ugliest scrubs I had ever seen.

I made a comment to Jesse during our first football season together–something about dumb jocks in Kevlar body armor. And he said, “You try throwing a ball to a guy running as fast as he can 50 yards away through the arms of a bunch of ogres who want nothing more than to crush you. That actually takes some skill.” I thought about that for a year.

And then I think I had the experience that put me over the edge and into football’s camp: I had a clinical rotation on a pediatric oncology unit in nursing school. Celebrities would come through every so often to visit the kids, sign autographs, and provide some much needed cheer and diversion to the wee patients and their families. From the Captain Jack Sparrow impersonator to Taylor Swift, these visits caused a buzz on the unit. Kids who felt like shit would get a chance to focus on something other than their chronic tummyaches and mortality. One day, Ben Leber, a Vikings linebacker, came to visit the floor. He’s a big strapping Korean-American dude (about Jesse’s size, actually, but with a tree trunk for a neck) with a wide smile, and after he visited with one of our little football-loving pale bald 3 year-olds with AML… he cried. He stood at the nurse’s station and got emotional.

Yup. My heart, in that moment, melted for the NFL.

I was caring for an adolescent boy, essentially paralyzed from the shoulders down, with whom I sat for half an hour while his mom ran out to grab some lunch. I had no idea what to say to this kid, and I *always* knew how to find common ground and make small talk with my patients. I asked him what his favorite subject was in school and then promptly ran out of ideas. And then I remembered–the Leber visit! I brought it up and asked if he got to meet the Viking, and with an excited yelp this child told me all about how much he loves the Vikings, and how he got a picture with Ben Leber and had him sign his purple and gold-painted back brace. We talked about Favre and his infamous team flip-flop. “He just wants to play football,” I remember my patient saying compassionately in Favre’s defense. Football took us from awkward silence to vibrant connection. I told him about how Jesse’s fantasy football team had done the previous weekend; he told me about his. “So Sundays and Mondays are probably your favorite days,” I said. “I always want God to just hurry up the rest of the week,” came the reply. I hugged him as well as you can hug a quadriplegic kid in a traction device.

So it’s a common denominator, if only in this country. Over the last year I’ve found myself more and more interested. There are no plot twists with which to keep up. The commentators are hilariously stupid. There’s the expected violence, but no more. Each player has a story. Many of them not only play the game but bring silly antics with them.

And I’ve found that seeing the green and gold up on the big screen gives me warm fuzzies. Watching the Packers now at 25 indulges a childhood pleasure I never let myself acknowledge when I was 10.

So. We have the NFL Sunday Ticket. My cats have football jerseys. This is where I live.


WILT #17, in which we make good-natured fun of LO

Lake Oswego is a notoriously tony and aptly named suburb south of Portland situated around a body of water known as Lake Oswego. It has many politically incorrect nicknames having to do with its purported lack of racial and ethnic diversity. But unlike many such suburbs, Lake Oswego was not established as a result of urban expansion and white flight.  First an outpost for lumber transport, LO became a center for iron smelting and production in the mid-1800’s. Big creepy stone smelting towers still stand in George Rogers Park.

Just before Jesse and I left Minneapolis, we found ourselves browsing the stacks at Magers and Quinn. I struck gold (iron ore?) when I pulled “Oregon Geographic Names” by Lewis A. McArthur. This 450-page blue hardcover volume was published in 1928 and includes 11 fold-out maps and illustrations. Mr. McArthur takes the reader alphabetically through each geographic name in Oregon whose history he can possibly describe. The entry for “Oswego Lake” goes like this:

“OSWEGO LAKE, Clackamas County. Oswego lake was known as Sucker Lake during pioneer times because of the fish of that name. Local residents objected to the name and it was subsequently changed to Oswego Lake for the town of Oswego nearby, and it is now universally so known. It is said that the Indian name was Waluga which meant wild swan. The name Lake Oswego is a real estate dealer’s affectation.”

No kidding.

But that “town of Oswego nearby” was rather boringly named after Oswego, New York, by an Oregon pioneer named Durham in 1847. Poor homesick pioneer.

I digress.

Jesse and his family lived in a little corner of LO for years. Jesse left for college and his folks booked it for the country. But! As a delightful vestige of their time in LO, they still receive the Lake Oswego Review, the precious Sunday suburb newspaper. So every week, Jesse and I fill up mugs with strong coffee and pick through the Review, in search of the Police Blotter. The Police Blotter fills, usually, about half a page and has headings including “Arrests” (that’s a short one), “Burglaries,” “DUII,” “Theft,” and our favorite, “Misc.”

Oh my God, we love Misc.

A sample:

9/21/10 4:51 PM. A pot smoker was seen lighting up while sitting in a beat-up old gray car.

9/22/10 10:34 PM. Following an argument with his girlfriend, a boyfriend refused to leave. Eventually a cab was called for the recalcitrant male.

9/23/10 12:42 PM. A man’s neighbor is parking in such a lousy manner that he can’t get out of his driveway.

9/25/10 2:09 PM. A deer got stuck in the mud in the lakebed of Oswego Lake, but eventually was able to get out.

9/25/10 9:27 PM. Water balloons were thrown at cars driving down Melrose Street. Kids are suspected.

9/26/10 4:04 PM. A cat that was previously missing showed up after giving birth to four kittens.

It gets better. It always gets better.

9/27/10 4:39 PM. A creepy college student selling magazines made a woman uncomfortable with his sales pitch and personal appearance (including earrings in both ears).

9/27/10 8:13 PM. The awful smell coming from a vehicle turned out to be a malodorous sleeper. The was no sign of foul play. Just foul odor.

9/28/10 1:18 AM. Suspicious sounds in the night were heard by a woman living in an apartment on Kerr Parkway. When she opened her door, she found a bag of spaghetti sauce.

Spaghetti sauce. Kittens. Recalcitrant males and foul odors. Seems like every metro area has its own Lake Oswego. Ours comes with a Blotter. WIL indeed!


Routines change. An evening shift at work means morning free time. Until my wedding, that free time was talk-to-vendor time. Coordinate-with-various incredibly-generous-family-members-writing-checks time. Wedding-reading-research time. Et cetera. After a while, it became no-time-to-blog time.

But we have turned that corner, and with a new social title also came a change in season. It’s time for fall cleaning, and for thinking about root vegetables and roasts. Baked goods with ground cloves. We’re in that in-between place with the weather that makes it hard to decide how many blankets to use at night. Routines are changing.

I think about that trip my dad and I made out here when I was 12. I remember being sad to leave the Pacific Northwest–we had come in July and had straight sun, clean heat, wind for kites and waterfalls. Had we come later, say in October, I think we would have had crisp air with late-season peaches and lots of tea in wood-paneled coffee shops. I would have had my journal and a special pen from Powell’s. I would have written stories about a brave outdoorswoman named Trapper Joanna (more on her later) and overdosed on cinnamon scones.

I think I’m going to make that 12-year-old Portland vision come true this fall. I’m adding a new element to my fall routine. It’s time for chai and cinnamon lattes in iconic cafes full of barefoot hipsters and jittery geeks. Time to WILT while peoplewatching. I have so much to tell you.