An orange flower near an old wall in Kyoto

Orange flower near Japanese architecture

Here’s to getting sidetracked.

Three of my friends at a crosswalk, wearing adventuring gear

To taking friends somewhere new.

A tree and a giant Japanese gate

To wandering around a city so rich you can’t escape the history.

Rolling green tea fields outside Uji

To rolling fields of tea nestled among forested mountains.

Ancient Japanese building at golden time

To having too much to see.

This was a good weekend.

The sun shining behind a Japanese rooftop and trees

2009 is over. With that, the first decade of this new millennium is over– as well as my first semester at Whitman College.

It’s certainly been an unusual ride, and one filled with many great stories and experiences to boot. Although I can’t possibly hope to retell every one, I figure the least I could do is make up for my sparse and uninteresting blog posts during the semester and give you a notion of the many things I learned during my first semester at Whitman. Continue reading

Dear Spencer:

Congratulations! I am delighted to inform you that you have been admitted to Whitman College for the class entering in the fall of 2009

So began the process, almost nine months ago. Or, perhaps, so began another step in this journey, a journey that started years ago as I sat on my couch opening envelopes from various colleges, trying to pick the gems out of the garbage.

Whatever. Continue reading

To the few people who read this blog, here’s a challenge for you.

As I wrote about in my last entry, I’ve been going out every couple of days and picking up trash off of the streets. It needs to be done, unfortunately, but it’s not that hard to do, and it’s incredibly rewarding. You can get an immense sense of satisfaction from doing the right thing, and if you’re careful enough, you can make a visible impact. I could walk my route and notice the spots that are cleaner– but maybe that just means I have a dirty neighborhood.

Since I can’t clean up the entire Milwaukie area by myself, though, my challenge is thus: In the next week, spend a little bit of time and pick up trash around your neighborhood. It doesn’t need to take long. Half an hour will even make a difference. You don’t need any fancy stuff, either– I wear gardening gloves and take along a black plastic garbage bag, though I’ve done it with a grocery bag and no gloves, as well. The important part of this challenge is that you just do it.

Here are some tips:

  • Gloves are a good idea, but regardless of whether or not you wear them, be mindful of what you’re picking up. Always be sure to wash your hands when you’re done, even if you were wearing gloves.
  • Be mindful of other people’s property. Try not to stray more than five feet from the edge of the road, and less if you can help it.
  • If you might encounter blackberry bushes, long pants are recommended.
  • I also recommend close-toed shoes. I’ve had to step into piles of dry twigs and leaves and kick down renegade blackberry vines– things that aren’t too fun to do with open shoes.
  • Try to pick up everything you see– even cigarette butts or things that are slightly buried. As a rule of thumb, I tell myself that if I see trash, I will pick it up unless it’s too far on someone else’s property or is too dangerous/ridiculous to pick up (such as a bunch of tiny shards of glass).
  • Obviously, do this while it’s light. I really don’t think this town’s a very dangerous place at night, but it is safer to be out during day. Besides, how well can you pick up trash when it’s dark out?

When I was in Japan, my group met with a man named Mr. Imai, who lived on the beach and made salt. He told us that we are all connected by the oceans; what we put in to our seas washes up on someone else’s shores. No one in this world is isolated– the Pepsi cup on the side of the road may wash into a drain, where it may flow to a river. Perhaps that cup will wash up on the banks of a forest. Maybe it will float to sea.

Every little thing counts. If you walk somewhere– to a friend’s house, perhaps, or to the store (becoming less and less likely, I’m aware, as more of us get our licenses and cars)– take a spare grocery bag in your back pocket and pick stuff up as you walk along. The aim of this challenge is twofold; picking up trash cleans the world we live in and helps the environment, but hopefully we’ll help others realize that they can take action and make a difference.

Sleep, and dream a troubled dream. Intruders on the property, invisible in the darkness. Sour waves of ill intent ignite the adrenalin powder keg, and you have panic. Call for help, but how do you say it? You’re no longer safe. There is no safety. Your world, your order, your chaos, they crumble; and you have no safety.

Wake, blink it from your mind, and cautiously edge your way back to sleep, ensuring yourself you won’t dream it again.

It’s Day One of a one-and-a-half day-long trip. They’re out of town, looking for a future house. Back tomorrow, of course, but today’s the boys’ day. Dinner comes, a little less gourmet than expected, but it cures hunger. A shower, finish your homework, and dry some dishes, then go upstairs to draw. Cathedral halls in pencil claim the virginity of a new sketchbook, quickly sketched with the illusion of detail.

A sharp crack on the window not three feet from your head scatters your thoughts. What was that? Freak sound of the window, perhaps, or the weather. Before you can relish that calming concept, another sharp crack, the gristly sound of stone on window, at once impacting and scraping and knocking. A third, and now there’s no doubt: someone is throwing stones.

Holler to your brother downstairs, even though you know he’s on the computer: “Are you throwing rocks?” No, of course not, so race downstairs.

Pull the blinds across the glass door before you realize that you’re standing in full view of all three facets of the bay window. Rocks came from the backyard. The bay window faces the backyard. Don’t look out; you might see a face. Oh, god, there’s someone out there.

Brother walks in from computer room, catching the panic. The dog is barking. They could kill the dog. Why isn’t he doing anything? They could be watching you. Do you tell brother to hide upstairs? They can’t reach upstairs unless they enter the house. God, they can’t enter the house.

They’re out of town. Call them for advice? Call for help? You should probably get low to the ground, that way, they can’t see you. You’re in the worst possible point in the house to hide. They can see you. What are they going to do?

Then a warm guitar chord is strummed, and your fears begin, slowly, to melt.



“Hi, Mom. What? No, about 2. I’m on my way–I’ll be there soon.”

Smack, went the phone, as soon as that last word was out of Michelle’s mouth.

We were driving back from Eastport 16 Cinemas on 82nd. We’d just seen Pan’s Labyrinth, an incredibly brilliant and beautiful movie. I had turned sixteen the previous night. The sky was blue, and even though the traffic had been jammed, we were both feeling great.

Michelle, however, really had to go to the bathroom. And though we had passed countless fast food restaurants and grocery stores that would have had public restrooms, we pulled into the parking lot of the Milwaukie Marketplace and stepped into the Starbucks. I perused the selection of coffee mugs and half-attentively dropped some eaves on what seemed to be a job interview. Michelle came out, and we drove to my house. We kissed in the driveway, then I got out of the car, ready to go inside and relax for a little while, maybe go out and get my new computer case.

And all of a sudden, a dozen of my friends came running across the lawn from behind my house, at the head of the group Floof, Mark, and Nick.

Like that, I fell into shock.

They paraded me indoors. Nick carried me on his shoulders, and I saw that they’d completely decorated my entryway with streamers and balloons. Food covered the kitchen counter.

And there were twelve of my friends hanging around my house, smiling and laughing.

Surprise parties just don’t  happen. They’re things of movies, of television. People don’t actually hold surprise parties; yet, here I was, in the midst of one.

So we laughed. And we ate. And we talked, and I opened gifts, and we played Risk.

It was grand.

To be honest, I haven’t felt nearly as loved by so many people as I did then. To realize that, for the last week, my friends had been planning this surprise party in order to make my happy for my sixteenth birthday… wow. It was spectacular, and I loved it.

My friends: Thank you, thank you, thank you. Due to my remarkable obliviousness, I had no idea anything was going on until you raced across my yard. It was a fantastic day, and an excellent sixteenth birthday party. I really appreciate that you took the time to put this together and then come to it. Thank you so much. You guys don’t know how happy that made me. :)

I’m truly blessed to have friends like you.

I was fairly stressed yesterday about the show. Lend Me A Tenor, the first play of the year, went up yesterday evening, and for once, I seriously felt worried about my personal performance. I was also concerned a bit about sound—we had dropped Hammerhands earlier that morning due to urgent, unforeseeable family matters for him, and trained Boy for most of the day.

I was freakin’ out.

I didn’t feel solid. My character was not set in stone, and things were still uncertain and unclear. I was going to be going to play with the character I had, not the character I wanted, and that really worried me.

But I figured that I would find a way to work things out. I talked to Kelley, the director, who helped me understand what my performances in rehearsal had been missing. With that understanding, I changed into costume, so that I could begin feeling comfortable as my character, who had just undergone a moderate revamp. I walked around stage as he would. I looked out into the audience, blurring details out so as to keep the fourth wall intact. I did everything I could to be comfortable and ready, and to sharpen my focus.

Then we started.

It can never be said that the department does not have dedicated, amazingly talented individuals in it. Boy pulled off the sound with impeccable skill, even though the job had been thrust upon him less than twelve hours earlier. There were a couple of mistakes, but nothing terrible. Boy did far better than any of us had expected, and I, for one, was absolutely awed and surprised. My hat goes off to that kid. He showed his true colours.

When I got on stage, things felt… right. The audience was laughing themselves to pieces, so the energy was naturally high. In addition. I had honed my focus and character to a spot so tight that everything seemed to work. Most of the problems I had been called on in rehearsal were all of a sudden brushed away. I was thrilled.

The show finished. We ran both curtain calls.

And then we were done, all with humongous grins of triumph and exhilaration on our faces.

Second show is tonight. :)

For the first time since its conception more than two months ago, Tie Day Friday will be observed in December!

Tie Day Friday is a holiday I thought up a while back. It’s observed on the second Friday of each month. Participation is simple—you just wear a tie all day. I had originally intended it to be only for neckties, but you can wear a bow tie or a bola tie if you so prefer. I personally find clip-on ties to be godawfully tacky, but if you really want to wear one, I can’t stop you. The holiday isn’t “Not Clip-On Tie Day Friday”.

Haven’t got a tie? Wander on down to your local thrift store. I’m sure you’ll be able to find one that’s either quite nice or horrendous, depending on what you want out of the holiday, for a rather insignificant amount of money.

Normally wear a tie? Wear a special tie, or wear a normal tie in a different way. Be creative.

No, there isn’t any reason for this, other than I just wanted to have fun this year. I think people get too tied up in routine, and fun little holidays like this may break the monotony in one way or the other. I’m still trying to think up more.

Hope you’ll celebrate Tie Day Friday with me this upcoming month, and in months hereafter!