Oct 15

At the 2009 walk which was an amazing experience

As a supporter of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention and its annual Out of the Darkness suicide prevention walks, I’m disappointed to write this post. I’d like instead to have seen something better today; something better for the walkers who’ve lost somebody to suicide, for the passersby whose awareness is increased as they witness the walk, for the cause which reduces the stigma attached to suicide and supports education and prevention.

Until last year, the Portland Out of the Darkness walk began outside the World Trade Center in downtown Portland, an area receiving sufficient traffic to be noticed, but not so much traffic as to deafen participants to the activities and events going on within the spot, including information booths and speakers to share their knowledge and experience with the community both before and after the walk. There were tables set up so that families could sit together prior to and after completing the walk. There was even a small cheer squad applauding walkers as they made it through the finish line.

This year’s event headquarters was the Main Street Plaza on the Eastbank Esplanade. Never heard of it? Located under the Hawthorne bridge in one of the premiere hotspots for Portland’s homeless population, the Main Street Plaza manages to find itself directly below every major freeway, or so it seemed. We could barely hear ourselves speak, let alone the event’s speakers, including Senator Ron Wyden. Their voices were effectively drowned out by the traffic overhead.

And the venue could not have been more hidden had we decided to hold the event in a coat closet. Nobody but the walkers themselves, and the homeless people camping out in the midst of the event, would have found the event. And by no means is this a criticism in any way of the homeless population, considering that 20 – 25% of the adult homeless population suffers from some form of chronic mental illness, according to the National Coalition for the Homeless, and can benefit from suicide education and prevention. This is a more broad criticism of the decision to hold the Out of the Darkness walk in the darkness. This is a criticism of the decision to uproot its location from an area in which the general population could be confronted with the reality of suicide. This is a criticism of the decision to hide the grief of suicide’s survivors under a bridge when the survivors were brave enough to come out of the darkness to honor those they loved and lost.

And it’s true that none of us came out to the walk this morning for the accommodations. Nobody came out into the cold so that they could sit at an outside table, or so that they could score free coffee. Everybody who was there came for the cause. But after having been in a semi-covered area in the past, with tables at which families could sit, particularly elderly and young participants, warming our hands with a good cup of coffee, listening to speakers we could actually hear, many participants are going to be sufficiently disappointed as to consider forgoing next year’s walk and donating more time to other organizations. I understand that cutting corners on the venue saved the organization a good amount of money, but given the downgraded quality of the event, I have to ask at what cost?

I would like AFSP to keep in mind when planning next year’s event that if it is to sustain the walk, its top priorities should be providing a quality walk for participants so that they return, and placing the event in an area in which those who are less informed about suicide and its prevention have a chance to witness the event. Let’s bring the walk back out of the darkness and give it some staying power. So that people considering suicide get the help they need to have the power to stay with us.

–Troi out

Dec 30

Dear Readers,

We are all bonded by one thing each New Year —- The ill-fated New Year’s Resolution. Undivided by race, religion, or politics, the New Year’s Resolution is unlike the forty days before Easter known as Lent, where Catholics give up a desired food/drink item or behavior for five of those days but with the honest intent to make it the entire forty, nor is it akin to the fast taken on during daylight hours among Muslims observing the month of Ramadan. These practices are confined to select groups of people who share similar cultural or religious beliefs. The New Year, on the other hand, is universal. Indeed, all mankind will observe the passing of the old year, and even those who fall asleep before midnight will undoubtedly wake to the subsequent year.

And it is likewise universal that nobody rings in the New Year with the sentiment that perfection was achieved in the old year; typically one recalls what was deficient in that past year and resolves to change it in the New Year; whether it be eating less, exercising more, quitting smoking, being kinder to others, eating more raw yak, crickets, and ostrich sandwiches, or creating loose ends for others to have to tie up.

The problem, if you will, with these resolutions is that they all require willpower. Willpower (n): The power I will one day have to successfully fulfill a resolution, but don’t currently appear to have (ref. The Dictionary of Troi). And when our willpower fails us, we often feel guilt and/or shame at having failed ourselves.

Who wants to begin a perfectly promising New Year anticipating guilt and shame? Well, Readers, you can resolve to feel guilty and ashamed no more, by following my easy steps for New Year’s Resolution success!

Step 1: Make Realistic Resolutions. Eating less can be troublesome for those of us who are very hungry, but eating less between the hours of 1:20 – 1:27am each day feels very attainable. I am usually asleep during these hours, which decreases my likelihood of snacking and therefore increases my likelihood of success! Take another example. Being kinder to others in general can be challenging, but being kinder to the people we already like is really quite easy! You’ll find that you rarely have an urge to be unpleasant to the people you like the most, and you can continue to berate and belittle the people you don’t much care for while still achieving your resolution.

Step 2: Make Resolutions Vague. Never quantify resolutions. For example, don’t say, “I’ll go to the gym twice a week this year,” but instead say, “I’ll plan on heading to the gym this year.” Chances are, you’ll end up driving past the gym at least once by default, thereby successfully satisfying your resolution.

Step 3: If At First You Don’t Succeed, Try, Try Again, For Up to 365 Days. Technically, the new year lasts for a whole year, so even if you fail to eat vegetables for the first 364 days, you can still eat a carrot stick on the following New Years Eve and meet your goal of “eating more vegetables this year.”

Step 4: Compare yourselves to bigger failures. If you follow Steps 1–3 and you still find that you don’t meet your resolution, just find somebody who failed on an even larger scale. I like to laugh at this guy who resolved to lose thirty pounds in the New Year but fell off of his exercise bike the first day and fractured his leg, leading him to gain weight.

Readers, I hope this helps you on your way to achieving your New Years Resolutions. You can do it! (But if you can’t, follow steps 1-4.)

–Troi out

Disclaimer: Troi does not presume to believe anything she writes, nor write anything she believes. She does not endorse the 4-step resolution program. She encourages you to read her blog, and please subscribe, but discourages you from following her advice. She also wishes you a Happy New Year blessed with joy and love and kindness.

Jul 31

5:47pm PST
Newswriter: Troi

Dramatic Increase in Water-Related Accidents and Deaths of Portland Residents in Seaside, OR

Seaside, OR

Seaside was devastated this past week when the usually cheery tourism of the sunny summer season was dampened by repeated water-related accidents and deaths. Having identified the victims, near-victims, partial-victims, and survivors, officials are puzzled to find that all of the affected parties are from Portland, OR, a city less than two hours east and just south of Seaside.

Investigation into the sudden insurgence of Portlanders, generally considered too good for smaller cities, into the town of Seaside, has uncovered that Portland has of late been visited by an extreme heat wave the likes of which no Portland resident has before seen, with temperatures reaching a high of 105 degrees Fahrenheit on Wednesday and a low of “F@#$, it’s still too hot out there!” These extreme conditions have led the otherwise unwavering Portlanders to leave their fire-advisoried nests and venture out even farther west than NW 23rd street.

While some of the survivors of the Seaside Water-Related Incidents declined interview, several residents of Portland’s sophisticated Pearl District consented to share their harrowing tales. In the Pearl, residents typically sip grande soy no-foam lattes and turn their noses up at passersby.

One such resident, who came solo to the interview since her husband works during the day as a high-profile lawyer to support her shoe-buying habit, explained the reasons behind her day trip to Seaside as well as her near-death experience.

“I’ve never swam in public water because of the germs and diseases spread by people outside of the Pearl District and in smaller cities. Well, except at the Pearl salon and day spa, where I swim in the jacuzzi with other rich people, who don’t have germs or diseases,” explained the resident, who asked to remain anonymous. “But it’s been so warm outside, and somebody mentioned that there’s an ocean just a few hours away called the ‘Pacific.’ It just sounded so cool and refreshing.”

Unfortunately, this resident wasn’t told to remove her six-inch snakeskin heels lined with rare precious jewels before entering the Pacific Ocean at Seaside, OR. She plans to sue Seaside for emotional damages plus the price of a new pair of overpriced heels. But, she admits, she would be remiss to stop there.

“I also plan to sue the people responsible for this ‘Pacific’ Ocean death trap, for not posting a visible warning regarding the need to remove my heavily-weighted heels prior to entering the water,” she explained indignantly, while examining her newly-painted nails. “I knew my shoes felt a bit heavy, but I wasn’t about to take them off and leave them prey to the degenerates that live outside the Pearl.”

Another survivor of the Seaside, OR water-related incidents, who also declined to give her name, sat at a Starbucks across the street on the north-side sipping a iced venti nonfat hazelnut mocha without whipped cream while preparing to share her story. She acknowledges she had heard of the Pacific Ocean but felt that it would be akin to the jacuzzi at her day spa at the Pearl, except with slightly enhanced proportions.

“Sure, I assumed the ocean would be a bit bigger than the recently constructed water park that spans nearly half a block here at the Pearl,” explained the resident, whose husband couldn’t make it to the interview because he works long hours at the hospital performing surgery and other frivolous escapades. “But nobody told me it would be deeper!”

This resident is also preparing to take legal action against Seaside, and declares that Seaside “should replace that salty Ocean water with a jacuzzi,” to protect other Portlanders from similar near-death experiences.

Authorities in Seaside, when asked to respond to this glaring gap in safety advisories near water-related settings, such as the Ocean, simply stated that they hope Portland’s temperatures drop as soon as possible so that residents of the Pearl return to their familiar niches of riches.

While Seaside scrambles to repair itself and move forward in the tragic aftermath of these water-related incidents, reputable reporters can only hope that in the midst of ever-changing climate conditions, it better prepares its waters for the return of Portland’s best and brightest next summer.

Jun 25

Dear Readers,

What follows is my review of the Bagel Biter, a product gifted to me after a recent incident in which I inadvertently lopped off small, I daresay insignificant, portions of the cutaneous regions of my left thumb while slicing a bagel on Monday. And then proceeded to—-really, it’s hardly worth mentioning—-slice off minimal cutaneous sections of my right thumb while slicing a bagel on Tuesday. My mother, fearing for the life of her only child, decided that the Bagel Biter might be a useful addition to my kitchen accoutrements. The Bagel Biter acts as an intermediary by slicing the bagel for the victim/hopeful bagel consumer.

At least, that’s the claim of the Bagel Biter manufacturer.

After firsthand contact with the Bagel Biter, however, my concerns regarding its safety run deeper than my concerns regarding weapons of mass destruction overseas. That is, I suspect that weapons of mass destruction have not been found overseas because they are here in the United States, and they are called Bagel Biters, and one was just shipped to my house. It caused massive destruction to me personally when I attempted to remove it from the box, and suffered a third cutaneous stab wound as its blade hurled itself uninvited at me.

After which I thought I’d observe the warning label on the box, which, to my great dismay, announces: CAUTION: Sharp Blade Handle With Care!

Which begs the question: Why would a company make a bagel slicer that requires such a warning on the label? Wouldn’t you think that an invention tailored specifically to the person so inept—-me—-that she can’t so much as slice a bagel without also slicing off valuable appendages in the process should protect against similar hemorrhaging by providing a safe, blade-free alternative? Shouldn’t it sense when invaluable extremities, like the middle finger, are nearby and feature technology that repels anything that doesn’t take the form of a bagel?

Of greater concern, perhaps, is that the Bagel Biter is billed on the packaging as “The Original Bagel Guillotine.” Again, I must voice my displeasure at coming face to face with a product that bears the name of a device historically used for carrying out executions by decapitation. Now not only are my fingers threatened, but also my head, which I use from time to time when all else fails. My body also relies heavily upon my head to promote its overall aesthetic appeal. Why would I invite a guillotine into my kitchen? How will that look to guests*??

*Guests: (Plural Noun) People I would invite over if I knew how to cook.

Finally, the Bagel Biter features a multitude of fancy parts featuring big words (polycarbonate safety shields, non-stick coated serrated blade, removable stainless steel fasteners, etc), which is greatly disappointing to the consumer who has little time for (translation: cannot understand) big words like polycarbonate, serrated, and safety. Similarly concerning are the “directions” regarding how to use the suspicious weapon. Obviously the consumer who couldn’t coordinate knife and hands sufficiently to cut a bagel in the traditional manner will be overwhelmed by these instructions, and will disregard them in favor of more hands-on, tactile-kinesthetic approaches to learning (such as the ever-popular cutting oneself in the process of removing the product from the box, and then cursing oneself for having shredded the instructions with the big words).

Based on the aforementioned concerns I have brought to your attention regarding the safety and efficacy of the Bagel Biter, I am awarding it one star out of five. It has earned one star because it sits proudly on my counter, and is distinguished by its singularity as the first and only cooking utensil that I own.

–Troi out

Jun 22

Yeah, right. Great title though, right?

So this morning I decided that after four years of not making breakfast*, it was time to do so. (*This depends on your definition of “making breakfast.” I have always felt that unwrapping my energy bar and placing it carefully into my mouth constitutes “making breakfast.” Others disagree.) At any rate, today’s breakfast was to be a nutritious delicious creation of pancakes, smoked salmon, and, most importantly, coffee. After obtaining most of my items at Trader Joe’s, I danced to the Safeway dairy case to purchase International Delight White Chocolate Raspberry creamer. In horror I witnessed the absence of all White Chocolate Raspberry creamers. I said a prayer for their passing and whispered a small curse on the Coffee gods (big mistake) before settling for Coffeemate’s Chocolate Raspberry.

I came home and set all of the optional ingredients (pancake mix, salmon) for breakfast aside and immediately prepared to brew the single crucial necessity. I happily reached into my cupboard for a paper filter and came to find that…..they were ALL GONE. That’s right, the Coffee gods stole my LAST paper filter! What was I to do?

Now I know what you’re thinking….Troi, is there REALLY such a thing as Coffee gods? And to that I respond, How would Starbucks be the powerhouse it is today without the support of the Coffee gods? Do you really think that Starbucks singlehandedly ran so many of the smaller coffee shops in Portland into the ground all of its own accord? Certainly not without the Coffee gods! And now you’re asking me, Troi, are they Coffee gods, or Coffee devils?? And to that I answer, I guess it depends on who you’re working for. 🙂

At any rate, these Coffee gods exist. God created the world in seven days, which was an impressive feat that to this day has not been exceeded. However, the Coffee gods have made their own place in history by creating the Coffeemaker, the espresso machine, coffee beans, foam, chocolate syrup, half and half, styrofoam cups, all-nighters, ulcers, and the omnipresent Starbucks that is ten steps in any direction you might be headed. I daresay the Coffee gods have outdone themselves.

That is, until this morning when my ultra uncaffeinated self cursed the Coffee gods and they plundered my final precious paper filter. You can imagine my panic as I tore through the cupboards looking for any object that could possibly double as a paper filter. And then I found it, right under my eyes, the glorious thicker quicker picker-upper: A Bounty Paper Towel. I gratefully tore Bounty from his roll and explained to him that today he was not a picker-upper but a filter. Bounty misunderstood, and my thicker quicker picker-upper tore a bit in the filtering process, leaving grounds and a curiously strong paper taste in my Chocolate Raspberry coffee.

But it didn’t matter. Nor did it matter that I’d lost all motivation to make the rest of my breakfast and that it could perhaps be another four years before the motivation strikes me again. What matters is that I could use my brains and Bounty’s braun to enjoy a cup of coffee despite unforeseen circumstances. And even the Coffee gods are smiling on me again. My second cup of coffee was definitely less papery than the first. And I think the third cup will be perfect.

–Troi out