There is a home-made straw bale building of some sort in our neighbors' yard, just over the fence from our side yard. It was one of the first things I noticed when we first checked out the place while house hunting. I was fascinated with the building and liked the idea of living next to it. On inspection day, after the home inspector had told us all the myriad things that were wrong with the house, I went in the yard and took a picture of that straw bale building because I figured I'd never see it again.
When we got the house, the dryer vent was on upside down, the hot and cold water was backwards in the bathroom faucet, none of the doors closed all the way, the plumbing was DIY in the worst possible way, and there was a plaque reading "World's Best Fisherman" mounted by the front door.
The fix-it guy who took out the old pre-fab fireplace in our bedroom and sheetrocked the walls back up and fixed our windows and put in our new lights was a whistler. Whistled pretty much the whole time he worked. On his last full day of work, I asked him what the tune was that he was whistling just then. He stopped, ticked his eyes upward to think, whistled a little more of it and then said, "Oh, that's a Confederate marching song."
After he took out the pipe that went from the fireplace, through the roof to the chimney, he stuck a plastic bag over the hole in the ceiling for a few days. The plastic bag hanging from the ceiling would gently rise and fall as air currents from the chimney filled and left the bag. It looked like it was breathing.
We were pretty scared of the kitchen for a long time. Its filthy stove and cabinets and old refrigerator. During the period we were fixing up the house, pre-move, while we were spending lots of hours working on the woodwork and painting, we fortified ourselves with daily trips to the Bipartisan Cafe, where we bought mochas and sandwiches. We ate sandwiches from Bipartisan every day for two weeks straight, Stephen also went to the store and got us what he called "ironic snacks." These were string cheese for me and a bag of mini pepperoni pieces for him.
On our first complete day working at the house, as we sanded the woodwork and scraped off the drips and cakes of old paint, the neighbors may have heard us singing along with the film soundtrack to Oklahoma. The most-often-played artist was Patsy Cline.
The professional cleaning woman whom we hired to clean the scary stuff periodically used our CD player when we weren't around and listened to country-western-style Christian music. Our fix-it guy, the whistler, held onto a tune, whistling that and only that for hours as he worked. The guy who put in the baseboards talked to himself [I wrote about that here]. Our plumber listened to the news and podcasts in the basement.
Some of the names of the paints we used are: Belladonna's Leaf, Coffee Shop, Bright Idea, Lickety-Split Dip, Mom's Love, Footy Pajamas.
We finally had the cleaning woman clean out the scary fridge. Most of the shelves were missing and one was broken. The cleaning woman took the broken shelf home and duct taped it back together. The duct tape she used had pictures of bacon and mustaches on it.
Then two days after we officially moved in, the fridge died.
In the basement is a small room whose walls are a strange reflective silver material. When we first saw the house, the man who lived in it and was giving us the tour told us that he used to have someone living in that little room and the weird reflective walls were to help keep the room warm for him. Later, during the house inspection, the inspector took a look at the place, leaned in to us, and said, "That's a grow room."
When we first checked out the house, the guy who lived in it and was giving us the tour showed us the very mismatched backyard fence and instructed us that if pieces of wood ever fell off of it, we should get a staple gun and staple the piece back in place and we'd be good to go.
During our move, while we packed up the last of our boxes and bags of stuff and the movers came to the old apartment to cart everything away and we cleaned the apartment, Nicholas was in doggy boarding. The place had a closed-circuit camera so I could watch him. Sad about leaving the apartment, stressed about the move, I'd periodically lie on a pile of folded-up bedding on the floor and stare at my open laptop computer where I could see a tiny image of Nicholas all alone in a room drinking from his water dish.
Spraying peroxide actually can lift some of the staining that your floor guy claims to be the worst animal urine damage he's seen in all his 27 years of working on floors.
The beautiful wooden columns and windows in the living room and dining room at one time had paint on them, but far before we looked at the house that paint had been removed by the then owner of the house, luckily for us. That woman now lives across the street from us.
House-hunting tip: If your realtor shows you a house listing that highlights the ugly chain link fence and the ugly red couch in the living room and the place where the bathroom door was taken out and the wall only partly patched but doesn't highlight the lovely columns and woodwork, don't overlook this house. Everyone else will be overlooking this house, and you will get a good deal and can do a little work and make it beautiful.
Our realtor was a dream who not only helped us hunt down the right house and endured all our pickiness and obsessiveness along the way but made us feel comfortable and taken care of in the process, which, in this stressful market, was so helpful. She also hooked us up with all the professionals who took that neglected house and whipped it into something beautiful. If you're ever in the market and want a good realtor, check Molly Starr out. While we were fixing up the house we went one night to a wine bar to hear her sing with a jazz combo. She sang God Bless the Child.
During the whole process of finding and buying the house, I mourned the loss of our ten year apartment, and among the things I grieved losing were the sounds of the streetcar going by on the street below the apartment, the sounds of train whistles from the nearby train station, and the beautiful, little touches of our old neighborhood, including the old apartment buildings and the lovely horse rings all along the curbs. While going back and forth between homes, fixing up the house, I used to stare out the car window all along Burnside, looking for horse rings and seeing only naked curbs. It wasn't until we were moved in that I saw, here and there along our new street:
October 11, 2017, is the official first birthday of City of Weird. And October 12th is the first anniversary of our book launch at Powell's.
I kind of can't believe it. A whole year.
Bear with me. I'm feeling very nostalgic.
I thought I'd pull together a bit of a photoplay on the life of the book. I have far too many pictures and don't want to go on and on, so I'll just choose a smattering, mostly from the many lovely events we did. A couple writers who lived out of state didn't make it to events, so I don't have pictures of everyone, but I'll try to get as many in here as I can.
^When books arrived for the first time.
^Powell's put us up on the marquee!
^Karen Munro talks with Ken Jones, host of KBOO's Between the Covers
^Suzy Vitello on Between the Covers.
^Octopus cupcakes for our book launch at Powell's City of Books, October 12th, 2016.
^Octopus swag on all the chairs.
^A nice, big crowd for the Powell's launch. This is when we had contributors in the audience stand for applause.
^Powell's readers answering questions during the Q&A, left to right: Dan DeWeese, Brigitte Winter, Mark Russell, and Rene Denfeld.
^In the signing line. Left to right, contributors Brian Reid, Brigitte Winter, Mark Russell, Rene Denfeld, Doug Chase, Kirsten Larson, Adam Strong, and Brad Rosen.
^Jonah Barrett and Jonathan Hill.
^On the right, our primary copy editor, Sharon Eldridge.
October 26th was our event at Broadway Books. We encouraged people to come in costume and there was more octopus swag and a City of Weird doughnut cake donated by VooDoo Doughnut.
^With Broadway Books co-owner Sally McPherson.
^My costume was this big hat that I had to take off halfway through because it kept falling off.
^Leslie What in a fabulous giant squid costume.
^Stevan Allred, in the costume of a well-dressed man, reads from "Notes from the Underground City."
^And my favorite costume of the night, contributor / reader Kevin Meyer dressed as a Carebear, along with audience members Colin and Aubrey.
On November 4th, we were part of Wordstock's Lit Crawl®, reading alongside Lauren Kessler at the Oregon Ballet School.
^Jonah Barrett reads from his story "Alder Underground."
^Leni Zumas reads from "Tunnels."
^Sean Davis congratulates fellow contributor Susan DeFreitas on the upcoming publication of her novel Hot Season.
^Kevin Sampsell brought the house down with a hilarious and moving performance of his story "In Transit."
The next day was Wordstock. City of Weird contributors Jonathan Hill, Stevan Allred, and Karen Munro read at a pop-up event but sadly, I didn't get any pictures as I was moderating.
Our event at Annie Bloom's was on November 16th.
^Look at this fabulous window display they put up!
^Doug Chase reads from his story "Squatty and Weasel Boy" as Art Edwards and Suzy Vitello look on.
^Justin Hocking had everyone laughing.
^With Linda Rand and Justin Hocking in the signing line.
^Readers and contributors posed outside in front of the window display. Left to right, Justin Hocking, publisher Laura Stanfill, me, Suzy Vitello in jaunty hat, Doug Chase, Brad Rosen, Linda Rand, and Art Edwards.
On December 6th, we were invited to read on KBOO's Bread and Roses, the country's longest-standing feminist radio show.
^Susan DeFreitas reads from her story "The Mind Body Problem." Behind her head: Don't take equipment! Don't take equipment!
^Goofing off with the microphone. Susan DeFreitas, Leigh Anne Kranz, B. Frayn Masters and me.
On December 7th we were part of the Plonk Reading Series at Corkscrew Wine Bar, with a winter/Christmas themed show. Apologies for the less-than-clear pictures. I took these, and my phone does not take good pictures.
^Nicole Rosevear reads from her story "This Many Lost Things," set in Portland in wintertime.
^Brian Reid, whose story is about a SantaCon gone bad.
^Brad Rosen dressed up as his narrator from the story "Yay" and played the waldteufel, an instrument that has the power to ward off the Krampus.
December 13th we went to Longview, Washington, for Wordfest. As host, I sat behind the authors, and I took a few discrete pictures, but, yeah, they were all from behind. Still, at least I got something.
^Kirsten Larson reads as host Alan Rose looks on.
^B. Frayn Masters, who read and also favored us with a very skilled rooster impersonation.
^Special guest Stephen O'Donnell read Justin Hocking's story "Vampire."
Our event at Another Read Through was March 11th, 2017. Every reader read from their own story PLUS another favorite story from the collection.
^The whole crew. Left to right: me, Leni Zumas, Art Edwards, Doug Chase, Suzy Vitello, and our host Elise Saphier, owner of Another Read Through.
^Brad Rosen listens to Doug Chase read from his (Brad's) story.
^Portland writers Steve Arndt and Dan Berne.
^Art Edwards, Doug Chase and Suzy Vitello. That little drum-and-stick thing on the table is a waldteufel, which I mentioned before is an instrument that wards off the Krampus and other evil things. The drum is on a string connected to the stick, and you twirl it around to make a sound that, according to Brad's story "Yay," sounds like a thousand and one wet frogs singing.
^I did a demonstration.
^Another Read Through has a cool reading tree, which we gathered around after the reading. That's publisher Laura Stanfill tucked into the hole in the tree.
On March 7th, Mark Russell and I were invited to speak to Willamette Writers.
Our final reading event of the book launch was April 17th at American Legion Post 134, which was the setting for part of Sean Davis' City of Weird story "The Fixer."
^Sean Davis reads from "The Fixer."
^Leigh Anne Kranz.
This event was supposed to be a winter event the year before, but big snows postponed it. I'm glad we ended our readings here, a favorite event space because of its warmth and its connection to the book. But more than that, I'm glad we ended here because our last reader was Adam Strong, whose story is the last story in the book.
^Adam Strong reads from "Always."
^Readers and contributors on hand: Sean Davis, publisher Laura Stanfill, Doug Chase, Linda Rand, Nicole Rosevear, Adam Strong, me, Susan DeFreitas, Leigh Anne Kranz, Karen Munro.
But then the Willamette Radio Workshop took four City of Weird stories and adapted them into radioplays, which they performed on stage!
The first was at the Kiggins Theater in Vancouver, Washington.
^The stories they adapted were "The Fixer" by Sean Davis, "Transformation" by Dan DeWeese, "Letters to the Oregonian in the Year 30,000 BC" by Mark Russell, and "A Code for Everything" by Andrew Stark. The above image is from their performance of "A Code for Everything." I was extra excited that they adapted this story, as Andrew lives out of state and was unable to attend any reading events.
^Another thing I was excited about: they also showed and provided sound effects for "How Do You Say Gentrification in Martian," by Jonathan Hill, our one graphic novelist contributor.
^And lastly, they performed at UFO Fest in McMinnville, at McMenamins Hotel Oregon. What a blast.
^A UFO Fest makes book signing extra fun.
Gosh, that was a lot of pictures even though I really held back. I'm sorry we don't have pics of authors Jeff Johnson, Stefanie Freele, and Andrew Stark. Their contributions to the book are wonderful, but they just happened to be out of state / unavailable during event time.
Anyway, I want to say happy birthday to our little book. I've been thankful for every minute of this year in the life of this collection.
And with all the excitement of readings and performances, one of the sweetest things is just seeing it live in the world.