(#11) Camping

July 25th, 2013 | Liz Gold

So I went camping this past weekend.

Turns out, I don’t think I’ve been camping before quite like this.

I mean, yeah sure, I went camping at Salmon Falls in Buxton, Maine back in the day when I was straight and hanging out with the other counselors I worked with at the Jewish Day Camp, drinking Zima around the fire and wearing overalls. Or the time I went camping in Provincetown at a populated gay camp site and a skunk decided to sit underneath the lawn chair I was sitting in. Or when I stayed in a cabin in the Maine woods with a former girlfriend. All valid camping experiences.

None like this. Turns out I forgot that with nature comes critters and with camping outside comes darkness. Turns out I’m a bit freaked out by both.

V. took me to this really gorgeous campsite about two and a half hours away from Portland. While there were people occupying the sites, it was by no means crowded. We had a neighbor near us the first night, which I appreciated.

We took a walk to the edge of the lake, which was more like a large clear swamp, and as I was walking these creatures were jumping out of the dirt right near the shore. Turns out they are baby frogs. Baby frogs. Tiny. I mean, so SMALL. And blending in with the dirt. I was shocked. And then my shock turned into fear – what if they touch my toes, what if they jump up my shorts’ legs, what if they touch my skin? I tried to play it cool, but as V. was wading in the water and trying to entice me, I was like BUT I have to get through the frogs?! And I just couldn’t find a way to do that.

So we drank white wine out of coffee mugs later in lawn chairs near that same spot and watched the sun set over a steep mountain of trees that were left over from a forest fire. Geese were swimming on the lake and blue dragon flies were flickering their wings around us. It was genuinely beautiful and I was excited about the opportunity to be out there, out of civilization as we knew it. Out of the corner of my left eye I see a brown body moving. Turns out it’s a buck.

We have dinner back at our site and it’s dark and I’m starting to feel a little nervous. I’m not good in the dark, I like light and seeing what’s before me but I’m trying to remain open and just be present. I’m trying to bring my breath down. While we are eating, I see another deer off in the trees just in front of us. I feel my heart beat quicken and V. and I watch it as it moves and watches us. It’s dark now and I catch her eyes and we are staring at each other. Next thing I know she is closer, at a tree near our picnic table. We are saying hi and greeting her and also not trying to be too friendly as we are not going to feed her like many probably do.

At some point, I decide I’m going to bed. This is probably right after S’mores and I can’t take the anticipation of watching this deer circle our campsite. I get into the tent and V. finishes cleaning up the site and comes in to join me. We are lying down trying to sleep when we hear something brush against the side of the tent. There is stomping and heavy breathing and I can almost feel her snout inverting the nylon wall near me. I am freaking out. V. is trying to sleep. I’m trying to practice savasana and am still freaking out. Every time I heard something I would sit upright in the tent and say Did you hear that! waking up V. just as he was dozing off. It was not pretty.

Turns out I don’t like that kind of wildlife interaction. And it turns out V. has never had that kind of experience with deer. We came up with a variety of different theories about why she did what she did – the main one being our tent was in her path and because she has a baby, she saw us as an aggressor and therefore a problem. V. did tell me she had already experienced the deer last year when he was here before. Somehow that information was lost on me.

The next night we moved our tent to the site over and while she did return, and yes, sniff our tent, her energy was a lot less aggressive. She returned a third night and did the same thing. She was curious and it appears we may have been afraid of each other.

Our tent

Our tent

The experience actually taught me a lot – one, I think I have been operating out a fear place when it comes to new and uncomfortable things. This also maybe the influence of yoga on my life as of late, but instead of greeting the deer with curiosity and excitement, I was just scared and freaked out. Instead of thinking those froggies were cute, I just saw them as an obstacle to getting in the water. I think that says something about how I perceive and engage with life. While I did receive validation from a couple of different people that that encounter was pretty intense and uncommon, and that I probably handled it well given my own experience is limited, I did receive that message.

The trip was beautiful, though. We sat by water holes and sunned, drank beer, talked, ate good food. The simplest acts like washing my hands felt luxurious and it was nice to be able to experience day turn into night living outdoors, even if I was scared of the darkness.

Not one lick of make-up. Just bug stuff and sunscreen.

Not one lick of make-up. Just bug stuff and sunscreen.

On the third night we were there it was a SuperMoon in Aquarius. The next morning I wrote this in my journal:

“4th day camping or third night. Stayed up a little later last night and had two smores. The deer came early showing us her presence in the field. She later made her way closer and even later when I was in the tent, the deer sniffed V’s sneakers which were drying on the rock in our site. On the way to the bathroom (there was an outhouse in the area) we saw a big frog or toad that hopped out and then when we were done it hopped with us a little on our way back. I also saw a wood rat (a few). An inchworm was also on our picnic table at one point. V. says everything was out because of the moon. Maybe it was. The moon was the 3rd SuperMoon of 3. It was gigantic and so bright and had moved in the sky since we got here.

It really is beautiful here. I just wish I weren’t frightened of every little thing. Yesterday when we found that swimming spot and I was lying on the rocks/shore waiting for V. to park the car a flock of geese swam up pretty close. I didn’t realize it at first but I grabbed my backpack and walked up the stone stairs to wait for them to pass. Once I saw they saw the space occupied by humans they began swimming off. I was relieved.”

I’m back at home. We got back yesterday and I was in desperate need of a shower and some salve for my numerous mosquito bites. I got pretty tan. But I’m grateful for the experience. For the slow pace, for the pure enjoyment of doing basic tasks, for being in my body in a whole new way that made me feel sexy and alive despite wearing no makeup and having no shower, for hearing the sound of my old boots on the dirt road, for the sun at different times of the day and for quality time getting to know someone I love in a new way. It was all good.

(#9) The number one question that I get asked here

July 19th, 2013 | Liz Gold

Technically. I am not ranking the questions people are asking me here after they learn I hail from Brooklyn, but I will admit, it’s a question that strikes me in the moment and leaves me sort of dumbfounded.

I can honestly say I don’t know Portland well enough to answer that question to my liking. But if it matters, here are some things that I like about this city so far (in no particular order):

* The weather here right now is pretty fantastic. It’s nice and sunny everyday. I especially like right before dusk when it seems to get brightest and fuller in color.

* I like the food trucks. There are a lot.

Cute, right?

Cute, right?

* I like shopping in boutiques that are housed in vehicles.

* Sauvie Island on the Columbia River is pretty cool and beautiful and queer and naked. And there is an ice cream boat. We have not gone yet this year, though! It’s on our list.

* Pok Pok wings. They are am-a-zing.

* Bikram Yoga. Yes, I know I can do this in any large metropolitan city and probably some small ones, too, but I got into it here. It’s a friendly studio and they know me by name and I just completed my 21st class.

* Beer is cheap. I mean $3.50 for a pint of local IPA. In general, everything is cheaper here.

* Grocery Outlet, aka Gross Out. We can get good food here for cheap. Like decent $4 bottles of wine and a package of 6 Klondike ice cream sandwiches for $1.99.

* The air is clean. So are the sidewalks for the most part.

* The sky. I like looking up at it and seeing the expansiveness, the blue, the clouds (sometimes). The star and moon look different here.

* I drive.

* I regularly water a garden. (Again, both this and the last few are things that are not special to Portland, but I am doing them here so they are special to me.)

* Venae is here! I am saving the best for last. It’s so nice to be with him without the pressure or frenzy of a five day visit after weeks and weeks apart. We crack up a lot and have fun, low-key dates.

This is by no means an exhaustive list. It’s a list in progress I’ll say. But it’s always an interesting question because it makes me freeze for some reason. What are the reasons I like Portland? I don’t know, it’s a new city? My boyfriend’s here? It’s not New York? All of those things yes and more.

I’m happy being here.

(#8) Go see this.

July 18th, 2013 | Liz Gold

By this I mean Frances Ha.
It’s a film about a 27 year old New York woman trying to figure it out.

Frances Ha.
Written by Greta Gerwig & Noah Baumbach. Gerwig stars in the leading role.

Basically Frances is best friends with Sophia. They live on Vanderbilt Ave in Brooklyn. They are like lesbian girlfriends without the sex. They have dreams of each making it big in their own right. Then Sophie decides she wants to move to Chelsea with a friend of hers. This begins the downward spiral of Frances’s life. It’s not really a downward spiral, though. Frances does accept Sophie is choosing something different for herself. And therefore she tries to make the best decisions she can for herself, albeit reluctantly and guided by faith.

I could totally relate to her epic aimlessness

I could totally relate to her epic aimlessness

Frances has a way of making her life sound better than it actually is (it’s a trait I admire actually) … she’s a dancer, but not really, dates but not really, but the thing is whatever she does, she’s present and vibrant and has this youthful quality … it’s a believable story, especially when she leaves this apartment she’s sharing with these two trustfund type artists in Chinatown for her parents’ in California. She’s totally being taken care of and living it up knowing full well she has to go back to her own reality soon. She’s sort of in denial about a lot in her life, but I see it as more hopeful. Hopeful things will shift in her direction.

I think Frances Ha is a movie about spirit and taking yourself seriously. It’s about love and friendship and jealousy and about how you just have to go with life sometimes. It’s about money and class and how that changes relationships and it’s just plain funny.

We saw this tonight at the Laurelhurst Theater where we got chicken pizza and beer and popcorn and watched someone’s vacation photos interspersed with the ads while we were waiting for the movie to begin. $4 for a ticket. I love Portland for that.

(#6) Yesterday, reaching towards righteousness

July 15th, 2013 | Liz Gold

Yesterday is still with me, like it is for a lot of people.

I watched in awe online all the people flooding Times Square to speak out against George Zimmerman’s verdict the other day. I don’t get it. How can they get away with this and say they are protecting the people?

Racism is alive and well in this country.

Yesterday V. and I went to Penninsula Park for a rally in honor of Trayvon Martin. There were many speakers. Though it was organized by a white man, there were many people of color present and speaking. I was not interested in hearing white people talk. It made me uncomfortable. I wanted to hear from the African Americans in the neighborhood, the residents, the community leaders. One African American minister who spoke for a while used the phrase “reach towards righteousness.” I sure hope our country can turn this around and do that. I do have faith that the power of the people will overturn the hypocrisy and institutionalized inequality this country is buit upon. Eventually. I just hope I get to see it in this lifetime.

I was pretty emotional marching. We marched up to NE Killingsworth to Vancouver Ave. back again to the park. I have always felt uncomfortable marching and protesting but it was not OK to attend a queer “Chunky Dunk” (what I intended on doing that day) in leu of showing up for this. I was pretty silent but I was there, walking around, feeling moved and defeated and fearful all at the same time.

(#5) No Justice. No Peace.

July 14th, 2013 | Liz Gold

I don’t have a lot of words for how I feel regarding the verdict of the George Zimmerman trial. But I feel heavy, ashamed of this country’s justice system and angry that we are still so entrenched in what bell hooks describes as the “white supremacist capitalist patriarchy.” Trayvon Martin was a 17-year-old unarmed kid. I feel disgusted and not surprised even though I am utterly appalled.

But mostly my heart goes out to Trayvon’s parents.

It’s them who I am thinking of today and their family and extended family and community.


(#4) Finding New York in the most unexpected places

July 13th, 2013 | Liz Gold

I already feel challenged by the 30-day challenge. But! I feel it’s necessary to say that I will offer up a variety of posts on any given topic going forward. So here we go.

Last evening I had the opportunity to go to services at a liberal congregation called Shir Tikvah. I don’t consider myself religious but I enjoy a good service every once in a while. I don’t think anything can compare to CBST in Manhattan but who’s comparing? I could use a spiritual boost and my new friend and neighbor was going so I went with her.

It was held in a church which didn’t bother me and the environment seemed more like a gathering place than anything else and the crowd was older and casually dressed. I felt a little over done in my heels and white dress but I got over it pretty quickly. Everyone knew each other by name and the service was lay-led because the rabbi was on vacation.

Still, it was sweet. The people who took turns leading it all had their different twist to reading and shared random stories and tidbits of insight. The congregation has its roots in social justice and it was nice for me to sing the prayers I recognized out loud and not care. I didn’t cry, which I often do at services, but there were moments I was moved.

I wrote this on the back of a business card because it stood out at me:

“The world was created with much yet to do. We are called upon to be partners with G-d in the ongoing creation of all that we are called upon to do.”

As the service was ending one of the individuals leading said, “Introduce yourself to someone new,” and before you know it my friend and I were surrounded. It was a very friendly scene. I especially liked talking to Michelle who asked me about my interest in learning Hebrew and Torah reading (very slight, I will admit) and who told me her alter ego was Spiderman (hence the photo of him on the other side of her name tag) and Naomi in animal print who told me I looked pretty and who is really from Brooklyn but living here now because of her five-year-old grandson. She splits, though, come October when it starts raining and heads to Charlotte or one of the Carolinas (can’t remember exactly) to visit her sister. But the last time she went to NY she took in five Broadway shows and the ballet. Whew. She made me smile and made me miss New York and my mom.



Next week they are having services in the park and I just might go. The rabbi will be back then (everyone said we have to come back when the rabbi is there). We can bring beer and there will be bluegrass music from a band called Stumbleweed, so it’s a definite possibility…

(#3) Everything I need to know I learned from Penny Jean

July 12th, 2013 | Liz Gold

I’ve been trying to come up with something deep n contemplative to write today but the only thing my brain is going to right now is Penny Jean.

Penny Jean is a dog I know from Brooklyn. I’m not gonna say she’s the coolest dog ever cause I’ve definitely met and loved some cool dogs, but she’s pretty damn cool. Yesterday I texted Penny Jean’s mom and was like, “I need penny jean pictures PLEASE” and this morning I got a bunch to enjoy.

Penny Jean is more than a handsomely cute puppy. I feel like I have learned a lot from Penny Jean.

Way back in the day when Penny Jean was a wee pup. She knows to take advantage of a snuggle when she came across one.

Way back in the day when Penny Jean was a wee pup. She knows to take advantage of a snuggle when she sees one.

When she needs to talk things out, she is not ashamed to visit a professional.

When she needs to talk things out, she is not ashamed to visit a professional.

She takes really good care of her teeth.

She takes really good care of her teeth.

She's serious. But she likes to have fun.

She’s serious. But she likes to have fun.

Obviously there is more to Penny Jean that meets the eye. At first glance she may look like just another dog hanging in Greenpoint, but she’s got a wisdom about her, I tell you. She may hold the answers to some of the world’s most troubling questions.

She's also practices humility on a regular basis.

She’s also practices humility on a regular basis.

Love you Penny Jean!