Yesterday didn’t go at all well, so today I’m bright and early, hard at work, whittling down my giant to-do list. Just now, though, I’m at Sawtooth Bakery, enjoying an inexpensive breakfast, buying bread and having fun peoplewatching.

Sawtooth is another Grand Central Bakery that I’ve driven past several times. It’s new, fresh and inviting in Portland’s inevitable industrial homeland kinda way, and has its own little community. The construction guy next to me in line grins and says, “Oh, good, we get Sheila. She’s a hoot.”

Sheila grins back from the register. “The boss says ‘no hooting,” so all Mark gets today is coffee and cookies,” she teases, “What can I get you, hon? You like sausage? The sausage is real good today.”

Obediently, I order sausage, along with an egg and toast, plus the bread I came in for. “Give her some berries, too, Sheila, she’s new,” says a chunky lady with kids in tow. Her husband is already ensconced at their table, coffee in one hand, Oregonian in the other. He grimaces at the headlines and sets the paper down. “World’s going to shit, Sheila,” he calls.

“Yeah, but there’s always coffee cake,” she returns, “I’m just a poor little baker. I don’t pay attention to no world shit. You want more coffee?”

Hubby nods and she turns back to me, “We’ll call you when your order’s up.”

“You’ll be lucky,” says a guy with a thick South American accent. His smile grows wide as I grin back at him, “By the time you hear them call you, I’ll have eaten your sausage. Maybe your egg, too. You watch the counter.”

I find a table, next to a window where bakers are tossing dough, swapping cookie sheets and cracking up, and I watch the counter. It’s nice to just sit and take in the vibes for a change. This is a happy place, and it’s smoothing out my wrinkles.

Yesterday I indulged; I let myself sleep in until 10:30, and paid the price all day. Couldn’t wake up properly, I was achy, grouchy and nothing–but NOTHING–went right. Messed up a mold, wasted silicone, splashed hot wax on my arm–ouch–and tripped twice over Ernie.


Ernie’s so laid back he just grumbled and got out of the way, and rewarded my apologetic offerings (a brushing and crumbled bacon) with purrs and headbutts. I’m gonna miss him; he’s headed out to Atlanta hopefully next week, to become shop cat and chief advisor for Siyeh Studios.

Ernie’s true history turns out to be quite different from what I was told originally–I’ll have to tell it sometime–and he’s been through a lot. He’s also quite a bit older than he looks, at least according to a vet who once saw him, so I’m making travel arrangements with care. If any cat deserves a great, stable, loving home with a huge fanclub, it’s Ernie.

I have a lot of trouble believing that Ernie is 11 years old; despite a hefty monstrocat belly he moves like a cheetah when the mood takes him, and it takes him two or three times a day. He’s especially adept at dashing out the front door, which nearly gives me heart attacks.

Ernie doesn’t know the neighborhood, and cars whiz past just behind the house. Besides, the family of raccoons living under my deck was well-trained by my last cat, Rajah, to think of cats as sparring partners. Ernie’s probably tougher than he looks–a notch in one ear attests to that–but I don’t want to test.

The first time he headed out the door, about 90 miles an hour, he ran straight down the front deck steps without stopping, made a hard right and dashed underneath. My friend Kat was visiting, and she stood guard while I ran inside for some chicken. Together we coaxed him out and got him back in the house.

He’s done it twice more, each time running back to me when he sees the chicken. I’m beginning to think this is a ploy to get treats…

But he’s terribly affectionate, too smart for his own good, and full of quirks, which makes him a fun (if puzzling) houseguest. This morning he scratched and yowled at the studio door, desperate to get into the garage, and when I let him in he made straight for the kiln. He plopped in front of the controller, grumbled at me (Ernie grumbles a lot) and started to wash.

Right then I noticed the controller read “784F,” which was odd; according to my calculations those castings had another 8 hours of anneal soak at 900F. I’d started the casting cycle after midnight the day before, using the same program I always use for pate de verre, but when I reviewed it the program read “900F for 0 hours” instead of “900F for 12 hours” as it should.

Damn. I shut down the kiln, reprogrammed a correction–back up to 1500 for an hour to mend any cracks or breaks in the pieces from a too-fast cooldown, then my standard anneal–and restarted. It’s dangerous–molds aren’t meant to take seesaw heating and cooling and they may very well come apart and spill glass all over the place–but the alternative is certain ruin of a lot of work.

How that program–which I have saved in the controller–got messed up is beyond me. I must have sleepily changed it instead of simply hitting the “start” button, but I don’t remember doing it. I do remember that Ernie was right there but…naaaaah.

Ernie just grinned.


He’s so far killed two computer mice, rebooted my computer three times and before I left the house this morning was trying to save a Word document
(it said “mmmmmmmmmmm///////////mmmmmmmmm/////////mmmmmmm//////////////mm”
which so help me sounds like Ernie grumbling). I wouldn’t put it past him to have figured out the Skutt controller, but more likely it was me and my rotten day.

So THIS morning, I was up at the crack of dawn, showered and stretched and blown dry, up so early that Stephenson’s Pattern Supply hadn’t opened yet and the bakery looked like a good bet while I waited.

I glance through the paper as I munch–the swifts are massing at a local elementary school, and every evening thousands of birdwatchers gather on residents’ lawns to watch, which is ticking off the neighborhood. There’s a new strip club that promises high-class ecdysiasts who “aren’t fat” and yet another music festival is coming to town. None of that looks excrementally awful for the world, but then I’m not reading hubby’s front page headlines, either.

Across the way the chunky lady’s family is being typically modern: The earphoned teen looks inward, ignoring everything for his music. Hubby’s returned to his excremental headlines, the mom’s reading her phone, and the youngest is playing a video game. I guess they’re together, but I wonder if they notice?

My egg is covered with cracked pepper, which I carefully remove with a bit of toast, and the lady perched on a stool beside me disapproves. “Pepper is good for you,” she admonishes. I wonder why it is that the only thing Portlanders and New Yorkers seem to have in common is this “in your business” interest in whatever your neighbor is up to. It’s completely small-townish of them, usually charming and kind of comforting, and most days I join in.

This morning, though, it would take too long to explain my pepper allergy and answer the myriad questions typical of Portland. Have I tried this amazing naturopathic physician who cures allergies using hair analysis, am I sure I’m allergic to JAVAN pepper and maybe not just Sumatran, what about taking a special herb tea with my pepper, etc., etc? So I forestall further explanation by smiling broadly and nodding, as if she’s suddenly opened my eyes to pepper’s healthful qualities. She returns, satisfied, to her breakfast.

The sausage is good, the toast is dry, butter being bad for you, I suppose, and the cafe mocha probably one of the worst I’ve had–gummy sweet and grimy with cocoa powder. Still, I really relish my newcomer berries, savoring them one at a time and wishing there were more. Then it’s time to get moving, so I clean up my bits, deliver my empty plate to the bus bins and move to the counter to pay for my bread.

Turns out my credit card expired yesterday–figures–so I pay with cash and head out the door. “Don’t forget your bread,” calls the South American charmer, “Otherwise, the guy behind the counter will rebag it and sell it on the black market.”

I give him a grin, gather up my sourdough, and head off on my errands.