Revisiting – a brief travel diary

Friday, August 28, 2009

Mt. Hood

I am having a blast in Portland-Vancouver area actually getting to play tourist.  When I lived here going to school and training at the temple I didn’t really do too many tourist things, although I certainly saw many things.

It is really special when you can re-visit with friends you have made from the past and newly made friends.  I always get a treat out of trying to get my friends together so that they can all meet each other.  It seems just kind of special when I can get people who don’t know each other but who know me all in the same room.  It is especially nice when, as usually happens they all get along together.

Tim & Angel

On my first night here the couple I am staying with and whose wedding I will perform the service for humored me by going to a nice restaurant in downtown Portland that I had developed a hankering for called Mother’s.   It is one of the first restaurants another good friend of mine introduced me too when I first came to Portland.

Diane and I (self portrait)

I had met over Facebook, an online community of people, a really remarkable woman who recently moved back to Portland after living in Alaska for a number of years.  We had exchanged several, many actually, on line snippets and short conversations and it seemed we kind of got along.  She is a Jodo Buddhist priest so we did have some things in common.   Well, I invited her and her son to come along and meet my other friends.

It was a whole lot of fun, though I wish we could have sat at at round table, because that does make conversations easier.  Any way, I had a lot of fun and it did seem that the others did too.

All of that was Wednesday.  Then Thursday I had set aside as my one day to just do some of the things that I had wanted to get done before the wedding stuff kicked in.   First on my list, since I was staying in Vancouver, WA was to visit the old fort here.

So I got in my rental car and took a drive across the city and did that.  I wasn’t overly impressed, there really wasn’t much there, but it wasn’t a totally unpleasant experience.  It was a nice little walk around and they did have some neat things.  But honestly I have seen so much of the same sorts of things at various historic houses and national sites on the east coast.  After you have seen a hundred such historic places you pretty

Mill Stone

much have seen them all.  Again it was a nice walk and a pleasant way to spend the morning.

In the afternoon I had wanted to go visit a place with the nickname, Witch’s Castle.  It is formally called the Stone House.  I guess they try to down play the witch part to discourage some elements of society from attaching too much importance to it.

Diane and I at Witch's Castle

It really is just an old partially destroyed public restroom.  It was built back during the depression era as a public works project to be a public restroom on one of the trails in the northwest part of the city of Portland.  Some time back it was damaged during a storm and never repaired.  So now it sits in the hills on a trail in the NW of Portland.

Well, it was nice little hike , I managed to get Diana to bring her son along, that took most of the afternoon.  We had a good time, saw a snake, lots of moss and ferns, lots and lots of people and finally a very not-scary un-haunted broken stone building.  Fun though and we did have some nice quiet time to walk, think and do some talking.  Those are always good things, yes?

Oh my, what I hadn’t taken into account when I was planning all of this stuff was traffic.  I was stuck in rush hour traffic on the way home.  It does seem to me like the traffic in Portland has gotten worse that it was when I was here two years ago.  But maybe it is just that since the economy is so bad and there are so many people out of work that they just drive around more.  Who knows?

Bathroom ceiling at Rimsky's - the entire bathroom is as if you are underwater

Thursday night was dessert night at Rimsky’s.  It is hard to describe Rimsky’s to someone without referencing Alice in Wonderland or the Mad Hatter’s Tea Party.  I first was introduced to

Rimsky’s by Max’s mom.  Max, a remarkable young man that I met when he attended the Portland Nichiren temple, and his Mom and I were going to see a play one evening and since it ended up being sold out we all went to the place.  They only serve dess

ert and is only open from 8PM to 2AM.  Since that time I have been numerous times.

They have two special ‘trick’ tables there that are neat to have unsuspecting friends sit at.  One table slowly revolves around so gradually in degrees your

Bathroom at Rimsky's

drink or dessert creeps away from you and ends up in front of someone else

.  The other table slowly, ever so slowly, sinks into the floor and then rises again to almost shoulder height.

The movements are so gradual you can’t re

ally perceive them unless you are actually sitting at them for an extended time.

Max, Arnesto (Diane's son), and Diane

Well, anyway, last night I got Max and his family, Diane and her son

, and Tim and Angel all together there.  We had a great time.  Again it was neat having some of my friends who don’t know each other all get together in the same room and meet.  I don’t know why I like doing that, it just seems really neat.  I guess I like being the six degrees.

So, today is a day of meeting the bride and groom’s families and then a lunch, a practice in the afternoon and then a bit of free time.  I think I’ll head to Voodoo donuts tonight another thing I had wanted to do.

Diane & Ann (Max's mom)

I’ll post more of this later on in installment 2 after I leave on Sunday.  I do have some more friends I’ll be hanging out with so it will be all fun.  I may even have some photos from the wedding to share as well.

Stay tuned, if you want.


Baking on a cold winter day

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Baking this afternoon.  After working half a day because of a large job that came in to the shop I have been going non stop this afternoon.  The pup and I went for a long walk first then I came home and did a load of laundry.  

A batch of yogurt was the first item on my list of things to make.  Then I made a loaf of banana-raisin bread which is finished baking.

bread-116091

Banana-raisin bread 1/16/2009

 Next I mixed up a batch of chocolate cake to make cup-cakes, and now they are baking.    Well the cup-cakes are done now, the timer is going off and begging me to respond.

It is freezing cold outside today, literally freezing, but inside here in the kitchen it is quite toasty now with the baking that I have been doing.  They say it may sleet or snow tomorrow morning, I hope it does, it would be so nice.  It would be even better if it would snow several inches, I could get a picture of the front of the temple covered in snow.

Soon I’ll have to make a decision about what I’ll fix for dinner, I suppose I do need to eat something healthy, but all of these sweets surely are tempting me.  Maybe I’ll make up some curry Japanese style and have that over rice….yes….that is exactly what I’ll do.

See you later.


Medical Insurance

Friday, January 16, 2009

Today I was notified that the company provided health plan made a mistake in billing for my account for the past year and I now have to ‘make up’ the difference.  Grrrrr…….

I guess I wouldn’t mind as much if it weren’t for the fact that the deductable is so darn high that when I had surgery in July of last year virtually none of it was covered, yet I had to pay insurance.  On top of that, two of the medications I use to help with breathing problems are not covered so I pay almost full price for those, which I have stopped taking because it just is too expensive.

So, I am paying for insurance for what?

Waiting room doctor's office - by Ryusho, 11/2008

Waiting room doctor's office - by Ryusho, 11/2008

I am not alone by any means.  A good friend just lost her job, she is eligable for COBRA, but being eligable is not the same as being affordable.  Having a pre-existing condition make insurance almost an impossibilty and yet who, when they get to be our age, doesn’t have some kind of pre-existing condition.

I am not sure exactly what the answer is, but there has to be something better than what we have now.

There is such an uneven distribution of medical care that something needs to be done to even it out some or else make it equally available to everyone.  I wouldn’t want to deprive anyone of the best care possible, and yet a whole bunch of people suffer with almost no care.  I am at least fortunate that I can get care, even if it isn’t affordable.  Many do not have even that.

Some are fortunate because they have access to the latest and greatest in medical care with no regard to expense, either because they are very wealthy or because they have very good insurance, again probably wealthy.

Insurance companies don’t want to have as customers those who have conditions that may certainly require treatment, they also don’t want to handle those who can least afford it.  The insurance companies decide what treatments it will cover and how much they will pay, demanding doctors lower their charges and consumers pay larger portions.  It just doesn’t make sense.

Looking at the two major hospitals in Charlotte you see large campuses with many new buildings.  They both advertise the best of medical technology available, yet both are reluctant providors of care for the indigent or those least able to afford it.  And I know from a couple of friends accounts that this is the case because they have experienced it themselves.

Of course nothing I have said here hasn’t been said someplace else, I guess it is just my turn to rant some.


Number Six

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Yesterday Patrick McGoohan passed away.  I can’t say I was a big fan of Mr. McGoohan, but I was captivated by the character he played in the series “The Prisoner”, Number Six.

Andersonville National POW Cematery

I can’t say specifically why that show caused such a lasting memory, but it did.  Perhaps because when I was growing up in the 60’s it was the only TV show that I really enjoyed watching.  For many of my years growing up we did not watch TV.  I think the first spell with out TV in the family lasted about 3 years.

Our TV broke and my parents just decided not to have it repaired.  So we lived with out it.  I suppose at first it was a bit strange.  I do remember occasionally needing to explain to friends in school, when they spoke of a program, that we didn’t watch TV.  I don’t recall ever being really strongly attached to watching and don’t recall ever really missing not having one.

After a few years, three I think, we did get TV back for a while, but then we went without for a couple more years.  Since those times I have never enjoyed TV and even now don’t own one and haven’t owned one in over 8 years.

With my limited exposure to TV growing up The Prisoner stands out as my favorite show and frankly the only one I can remember from that time period.  I don’t even remember what was on TV at the time.  I can’t say I am a Prisoner Culty but I have gotten a hold of copies of various episodes over the years and revisited them.  Again, it is the only show I have ever done that for.

I suppose there were times, especially during the 60’s in my adolescence, I really did feel like a ‘Prisoner’ in the Village of my life.   As time went on and I converted to Buddhism at age 19 I began to feel less and less like a Prisoner but still could relate.  Now I approaching age 60 being a Prisoner is the furthest thing from my view of life and the potentials and possibilities.  Still though, almost romantically, I look back on those memories and experience certain kinds of fondness.  I wouldn’t want to go back though.

Frequently over the many years when leaving a message on someone’s answering machine in response to “leave your number” I’ll just say “my number is: six”, and my ex-partner and I would offer as our parting words to each other the “ok” sign and say “be seeing you”.  Does that make me a culty?

I wish they had made more of the series, for me it could have gone on forever.

So long Patrick, you are no longer a Prisoner.

Andersonville National POW Cemetery – Andersonville, GA; photo by Ryusho, September 2008

Microlending/Microcredit

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

From Wikipedia – Microcredit is a financial innovation which is generally considered to have originated with the Grameen Bank in Bangladesh.  In that country, it has successfully enabled extremely impoverished people to engage in self-employment projects that allow them to generate an income and, in many cases, begin to build wealth and exit poverty.

I recently have made several small loans using Kiva at Kiva.org.  At Kiva you as a potential lender can select from a listing of individual or lending groups and make loans as small as $25.  You choose who you want to lend to and how much.

You may lend as an individual or you may join a community and add your loan information to the communities (your loan remains yours regardless and not the community’s)

Here is just a small bit of information from the Kiva web site:

“Kiva’s mission is to connect people through lending for the sake of alleviating poverty.

Kiva is the world’s first person-to-person micro-lending website, empowering individuals to lend directly to unique entrepreneurs in the developing world.

The people you see on Kiva’s site are real individuals in need of funding – not marketing material. When you browse entrepreneurs’ profiles on the site, choose someone to lend to, and then make a loan, you are helping a real person make great strides towards economic independence and improve life for themselves, their family, and their community. Throughout the course of the loan (usually 6-12 months), you can receive email journal updates and track repayments. Then, when you get your loan money back, you can relend to someone else in need.”

I encourage anyone to look into making a small loan.  If you would like you may join our temple’s community by entering Myosho-ji.  But more important than joining our community is just making a loan.

We benefit greatly from the properity of our society.  Consider giving back. (photo by Ryusho; Houston, Oct. 2008)

We benefit greatly from the properity of our society. Consider giving back. (photo by Ryusho; Houston, Oct. 2008)

Please consider this opportunity to give back some of the prosperity, no matter how small, that you have benefited from living in our very affluent society.  Many many things have come to us and have been made available to us without our ever asking.  Behind each of us is a tremendous economy from which we have benefited, even if only minimally.  This is a chance to put some of those benefits out to other people in the world.

This is not charity, these borrowers work hard to repay these loans, and indeed they are loans.  You can check out the repayment statistics.

Please consider this.


Woke up late

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Yawn, woke up a tad bit late. Fortunately still enough time to relax into wakefulness and wait for kitchen to warm up. No rain today.


Starbucks Red Card

Monday, January 5, 2009

I like the idea Starbucks has with the Red card. I just wonder, since I can’t stand the taste of coffee is there a way for me to participate