Case of the stolen car, part 2: identities lost and found

Part 2 of the story I started here. I have to give credit to my husband Matt and his memory for lots of this story.

On our way moving to Portland in 2006 during a stopover in San Francisco our car was stolen.

First thing we did was call the cops. They told us that stolen cars always turn up. Usually within three days.

Next call went to our insurance company, Unitrin Direct. That first call was wonderful. ‘Wow, they’re really worried about us. They’re really helping us out,’ we thought. That wonderful feeling didn’t last very long. As each day passed, they got more and more frustrating. They questioned whether or not we’d left the keys in the car. They implied it was an ‘inside job,’ that we had stolen our own car. (Later we got notice in the mail that we eligible to participate as part of a class action lawsuit against Unitrin for their shady practices. Tsk, tsk.)

While we waited for new of our car, we were holed up at our friends’ place cataloging as much as we could remember about what was in our trunk. It was shockingly much more than we realized, about $8,000 worth of stuff including a laptop, new camping gear and luggage (which we had gotten as wedding presents).

Plus, because at that moment we were without a permanent home,  all our most important paperwork was with us in our car instead of in the POD storage unit we had packed with the bulk of our belongings. The irony. Passports, birth certificates, social security cards, financial info. So, yes, those waiting days in the beautiful, fun city of San Francisco were also filled with many traumatic phone calls canceling credit cards, stopping checks, etc. We were losing our identities.

Oh, one bizarre episode in the ordeal was a phone call from someone who found a pile of some of our paperwork on their street. Literally, on their street. Matt went to find our stuff on the street in a nearby neighborhood. He recalls that it looked like they had picked through our files and then hucked them out of the car. But when we looked through the paperwork, there wasn’t really any of our important stuff in there. Just a sad, creepy pile of stuff that had been rifled through.

Two days passed. Three days passed. Four, five … finally after seven days with no car we got fed up. We were in limbo and just wanted desperately to start planting some roots in Portland. Before our car was nabbed, we had been on the road and couch surfing for about two months. The charm of nomadic living had worn off. We wanted to find ourselves a new home.

In reading the not-so-fine print of our car insurance we realized we were eligible for a rental car. Unitrin begrudgingly approved it.

Willamette Highway

We took what belongings we had and packed them up into that rental. We headed straight for Portland, bypassing our originally planned stops at Blue Lake (where Matt’s old hippie theater school Dell’arte is) and Crater Lake (we no longer had any gear to camp with).

We landed in Portland and our kind, wonderful friends took us in. We immediately set to looking for a place to live. Like I wrote, we were so done with living in other people’s spaces. We wanted a place of our own. (It wasn’t so easy and ended up taking a few more weeks to find an apartment.)

After another day of no word about our car, our friends whisked us away in their cherry red VW bus (welcome to Portlandia, before there was Portlandia) and off to the awesomely hippy Bagby Hot Springs.  Some welcome relaxation.

As we drove back to Portland and got back into cell phone range, there was a message on my phone. Finally, after 10 days, our car was found.

Matt hopped on a plane, flew to San Francisco to retrieve it. At the impound lot, he found the car. It was beat up pretty bad. They’d jacked ignition, ripped out dash. But it was driveable. And the thieves missed one valuable thing in the car: the stereo speakers. Ha! Matt immediately turned around and headed towards Portland with no stereo and no stopping.

Ah, if only it was that simple! On the way out of San Francisco, during morning rush hour, Matt got rear-ended by a giant truck. The truck driver was apologetic, terrified about potentially losing his job over the accident. Weary from the entire ordeal – especially dealing with the a–hole insurance company, who at this point in the mess was not returning any calls – Matt just told the guy to forget about it. To his glazed over eyes, the damage seemed minimal, if any. The panicked truck driver hugged him and went on his merry way. Only later did Matt realize, not only that he had whip lash and an achy hip, there was more damage on the car than he first thought. Oy.

With all this trauma and loss, though, came some really formative moments in our relationship. On that 10 hour drive in the rental car from San Francisco to Portland, Matt and I made some big decisions.

We were in the middle of an identity crisis. We’d lost nearly all our identifying documents, were recently married and undecided on what to call ourselves. Ten hours in a car together gives you a lot of time to talk some shit out. And talk some shit out we did. We talked about starting new, starting fresh. We talked about the type of family we wanted to be. We talked about what we would do if they never found our car, or if they found our car on fire.

On that trip we decided what our family name was going to be. Matt had wanted me to keep my name. Matt was even okay with our future kid having my name, too. That seemed weird and not right. I wanted to keep my name, yet I wanted to have a family name. We toyed with the idea of blending our names Tabora and Roberts. (‘Robora’ was the front-runner, ‘Taboberts’ was considered, for the comedy.) But after a lot of chatter with family and between us, we decided that just wouldn’t work.

On that long drive from the place we’d met to the place that was to be our home, we decided to both change our names to our new, hyphenated last name: Tabora-Roberts. That’s the name we used on our replacement social security cards, passports, credit cards. When we got to Portland that’s who we became, the Tabora-Roberts family. And thus began the Tabora-Roberts adventure.


The case of the move, a stolen car and a lake

Crater Lake

Panoramic winter view of Crater Lake in Crater Lake National Park, Oregon, from Rim Village. Credit: WolfmanSF via Wikimedia Commons.

When I saw Wikimedia Commons’ ‘Picture of the day’ earlier this week of Crater Lake, it reminded me of our journey to the town we now call home, Portland.

It was 2006. Matt and I were living in Davis where Matt was finishing up grad school. We had recently married in August 2005. After considering some other West Coast cities — including Seattle, Ashland and San Fran (we can call it that, because – though we once were – we’re no longer locals)  — we’d settled on Portland as the right place for us to try and make some roots.

School ended in June. Our rental lease ended in July. But we managed to fill a couple of months with gigs and travel so we didn’t plan to land in Portland until October. Instead of trying to move anywhere temporarily, we would live rent free and make do with gig housing, house sitting, couch surfing and camping. It would save us precious post-grad dollars and be a fun escapade.

So, we packed 90 percent of our belongings into a ‘POD’ and the remaining, carefully selected items would be part of our mobile living space. Items like clothing, a cooler, camp gear, books, laptops, important paperwork to help us with necessary paperwork when we arrived in our new city.

Originating point: Davis. Destination: Portland. In between, we intended to hit Berkeley, San Francisco, Blue Lake, Crater Lake, Ashland.

The adventure was a lot of fun. We stayed with a whole bunch of different friends and at different places. By the time we got to San Francisco we were starting to tire from living out of our car. But we were having a wonderful time staying with our good friends in the Glen Park neighborhood. They have a lovely house that happens to be on a busy thoroughfare, but we were able to park right in front (where they park their cars every single day). We did unload the main part of the car, but left a bunch of stuff — including all our camping gear and our most important paperwork like social security cards, passports, etc. — in the trunk. (You can probably see where this is headed.)

We met a bunch of friends at the bar for one last farewell, and the next morning, up at a reasonable hour, we showered and got ready to tackle the next leg. ‘Hmm. Our car was parked right out front, wasn’t it?’ A few moments of denial were quickly followed by a feeling of dread and slight sense of panic. I stared blankly at the space formerly known as our car’s parking spot. Matt walked up and down the street looking for our car, knowing full-well that he was not going to find our car. Yep. Stolen. Our tried and true Corolla was no longer in our possession.

To be continued …



Books on the table

I’m feeling rather tired and boring tonight, but nagged by NaBloPoMo commitment. So, like any good improvisor I’ll look for a little inspiration where I can find it. Tonight my coffee table will have to do.

I’ve got a stack of New Yorkers and these three books sitting on my coffee table:

Oregon Curiosities: Quirky characters, roadside oddities & other offbeat stuff by Harriet Baskas

Ilustrado by Miguel Syjuco

Not Your Mother’s Slow Cooker Cookbook by Beth Hensperger and Julie Kaufmann

coffee table books

Longing, a list inspired by my coffee table books

I long to have space for travel and to travel in space.I long to learn more about the place I live.
I long to show my daughter the joy in exploration, discovery, getting lost.
I long to be creative create.
I long to stop feeling like an imposter.
I long to be daring.
I long to know more about my family history, my cultural history, my country’s (real) history, my local history.
I long to read more.
I long to write more.
I long for an ‘instant tidy’ button.
I long see my parents.
I long to have time to luxuriate in making a meal.
I long to listen.
I long for stories, words to tell the story.
I long for the complexity of simplicity.
I long to long for less.

A few moments

It appears I have a few moments of down time. Lilz is in phase two of her nap. Started in the crib. Then transferred to her low bed. She’s not the best napper, usually 45-60 minutes. But when I’m able to take the time and have the right timing to nurture her mid-day rest she will sleep for two hours. It feels nice and luxurious to take that time and yet she really needs it.

We’ve also taken some luxurious time off — from vacations.

From the moment Lilli came to us we were on the move. As an adoptive family, we didn’t have the traditional dynamic of mother recovering from birth/breast-feeding. As Mama and Daddy we were fortunate and able to really take turns and split duties and sleep equally. That also made it easy to travel.

baby in car seat

Lilli on her first road trip – to her new home in Portland at age 5 weeks. Not sure we even knew how to strap her into the car seat correctly.

She was born in Eugene, so our first road trip was literally the day of her placement, five days after we met her. We drove to Portland, to her new home. At three months Lilli was on her first plane ride, international at that, to Mexico. (Yes, she already has a passport with several stamps in it.) The trip was one we had already in the books before Lilli was born, before we knew of her existence. One of the reasons her birth parents chose us as adoptive parents was because they liked how we were always on adventures and how close we are to our families. So, this was the beginning of our family adventures with Lilli. She did great! Three months is a pretty easy age to travel with babe.

In her first year it seemed we were always venturing on the road or by plane or hosting visitors. A necessary predicament to see our far and not-so-far flung families.

One year in, as we celebrated her first birthday in October 2012 – which included an intense (and groundbreaking, wonderful) visit to Eugene to visit with some of Lilli’s maternal birth family – and then going into holiday season with more planned travel and hosting of visitors, we all started to feel a mild, but consistent sense of over-stimulation and under-sleeping. Only then did it occur to me that Lilli had not had a boring, routine month ever in her life. And as much as it was wonderful and adventurous and necessary, it was also necessary to pause the madness.

Matt and I had some serious talks about how to break our restless cycle. The lack of routine + constant travel was always a part of our marriage, with our family all over tarnation, and an underlying constant pressure to see each other. That feeling is especially heightened now because we are very close with our families and want our children to know their aunts, uncles and cousins well. But, I was starting to feel like I was on eggshells with Lilli’s sleep and routine. I wasn’t confident I was getting the hang of the parenting thing and I was worried I was not getting to know Lilli as intimately as I wanted. I didn’t have the, “ah I know what will work,” instinct when you know your kid so well. We were constantly in transition from travel/visits to normal. But what was normal?

We didn’t really have a normal. Which got pretty exhausting.

toddler travel

Mama trying to entertain toddler for the final leg of a long trip home.

So, we agreed to stop traveling after a trip to Las Vegas to see my family in mid January 2013. The deal was, we would not travel out of town until June – not even a weekend road trip. We would still host people who wanted to visit, but otherwise, we were staying put.

Though we ended our travel sabbatical a bit early (I had a work trip to Seattle in late April and we felt fam was ready to tag along) I’m happy to report that the experiment was, in a word, awesome. We managed to get Lilli on a very predictable routine, which then allowed us to vary it from time to time – to meet friends for dinner, or be out during the day near nap time – confident that we could get schedules back on track. We began (and often manage to continue) to do meal planning to maximize our food spending, cooking time and eat healthier. Matt and I have each motivated to go out for independent adult time with friends.

In June we’ll have our first major trip since January – a week long visit to Cleveland (including a nonstop red-eye flight – eek!). Should be fun, hectic, relaxing, exhausting. And then we’ll come home and start it all over again.


I finally had a chance to catch up reading my friend Sarah’s blog avventure. She’s a professional clown who is in Florence as a pedagogical knight (read more about that on her blog) for a brand new international clown school Helikos, founded by her mentor Giovanni Fusetti. Not only is she blogging wonderfully about her own process as a teacher in training and a witness to the “emergence” of a new school, she’s sharing a lovely portrait Florence.

In one of her posts – giocavamo [we have been playing (imperfect)] – she shares one of the teacher’s lessons on LeCoq’s Twenty Movements. The one that resonated with me was “eclosion” or the verb “eclose”

Definition: “Emerge as an insect from the pupa case, or of a larva from the egg.”

I love that essence of emergence. And as a concept for movement… very interesting. I’ll be checking out more LeCoq.

the boneyard

When Matt and I went to Las Vegas back in March, the one thing I wanted to be sure and see was the Boneyard. It’s part of the collection of the Neon Museum, an organization preserving, salvaging and restoring old signs so they just don’t end up in the dump. They are also all about celebrating the “neon sign” as a uniquely Las Vegas artform. For now, the Boneyard is a big lot (actually two lots) where they store all the signs that they’ve salvaged. In addition to neon signs (many of which also also use incandescent bulbs) the museum ends up salvaging all kinds of other large signs. I thought it was pretty dang groovy, and a great Vegas activity if you’re not much of a gambler or need time away from the regular action. You can only visit by appointment only, so don’t forget to call at least a week before you want to go.

Here’s a few of my favorite photos from the Boneyard. My whole set is up at flickr.

Next time, I’ll be hitting the Liberace Museum.

when in doubt, make a list

oy, i’ve been so busy that i’ve had little energy for blogging. so, what to do? time to make a list. here’s a list of places i’d like to see, based on recommendations or inspiration from trusted friends. domestic sites for today; i’ll go international another…

the boneyard: a part of the neon museum in las vegas, the boneyard is a a lot filled with non-restored signs of all kinds. seems pretty surreal, industrial, nostalgic.
(photo by angie1611 on flickr, creative commons license)

Neon Boneyard Vegas

grand canyon: what can i say, i’ve never been.

high desert test sites
: from their website – “The High Desert Test Sites are a series of experimental art sites located along a stretch of desert communities including Pioneer town, Yucca Valley, Joshua tree, 29 Palms and Wonder Valley. These sites provide alternative space for experimental works by both emerging and established artists.” andrea zittel is one of the artists who founded it. rad stuff.

sequoia national park: hamblog recently made the trip, and it inspires. big, old gorgeous trees in the amazing sierra nevadas.

mother tongue

apa compass is a radio show i help produce as part of a collective at kboo. shameless plug: we’re on today at 9:00am pacific at kboo or on the FM in portland 90.7. in case you miss it we’ll have an archive (and podcasts soon!) at today we’re talking about language and identity and community.

i long to speak another language fluently. my parents’ first language is tagalog (filipino) and they never taught it to me and my brothers. when we were young, they thought it would hinder our ability to learn english and possibly leave us with an accent which might make it more difficult for us to fit in. and now as adults we all realize that loss and my mother tries to speak to us in tagalog at random times as if it might still seep in. and it might.

in fact, all these years, i’ve claimed that i don’t know tagalog. but the truth is that i actually understand a LOT of tagalog, but can’t open up my mouth and speak it.

in honor of our show today, i want to share a funny experience from when my husband and i went to the philippines last year. it was his first time and my first time with a “guest” who was not filipino. we were on our own a fair amount at the megamalls, the museums, tourist sites etc. i quicky found myself interpreting for matt. that’s right, i was actually interpreting, much more than i thought i ever could. it was a delightful discovery and has changed my perspective on my relationship with my parents’ mother tongue.

and another bizarre thing occurred, a story matt loves to tell. people would speak to me in tagalog. i understood the gist of what they were saying. then i spoke back to them in english. they understood me. we communicted back and forth in two different languages. i actually barely realized that it was happening, but matt, as an observer pointed it out. it happened all the time during our two week stay.

i’ll keep working on my tagalog. but next i’m going to tackle me some espanol…

long time no see…

it’s been forever since i’ve posted. guess i just got overwhelmed with life, weddings, projects. my brother mark married his sweetie kimmi in chicago last weekend. it was a fun, exhausting, hot weekend. of note were the neo-futurists’ too much light makes the baby go blind a fun dada-ish show in which they attempt to perform 30 plays in 60 minutes. always an interesting range of things from comedy to political to satirical. and every week they roll dice to see how many new plays they’ll write/pull for the following week’s show. (the particular show we saw was fun, not the best of theirs, but always worth a look). i also loved the cloud gate at millenium park (better know as the “bean” because it looks much more like a bean than a cloud). a simply designed yet, wonderfully engaging and compelling scultpure that somehow pulls you in.

i also started working part time at kboo community radio as outreach coordinator. it’s fun and hectic for sure. i’m also part of the apa compass collective and we’re currently looking for new members who are interested in helping produce our monthly asian pacific american public affairs program.

more locally some great stuff happening… i’m helping to organize the portland grassroots media camp a weekend-long event of skills trainings and workshops designed to make media creation more accessible taking place august 24-26 at various locations around portland. matt and i are teaching a workshop at scarlet star studio called generate, create, communicate: using improvisation to unleash the story inside. also, matt and i are trying to organize an improvisation share/playgroup which will probably come to fruition sometime in september.

Sunday, no day of rest

Matt and I spent the weekend with a bunch of cool new friends at Nehalem Bay State Park in Manzanita on the Oregon Coast. As soggy as it was, we loved being by the ocean again. The beaches around there are quite beautiful. And for a coastal state park, Nehalem is pretty damn cool. About 30 of us shared yurts which in just about the most luxurious camping experience I’ve ever had. The yurts were large, well-sealed mini-cabins that slep 5 comfortably on a bunk bed and a futon. The skylight brought brightness into the room, despite the cloudy skies. Plus each yurt has heat, electric (yes you can plug in your cell phone and even get reception for the most part, but I would recommend just turning the darn thing off), a small deck with picnic table and parking for two cars. Call this super-deluxe, cush, car camping. Our group also rented out the meeting hall for just a few more dollars which included a full sink, tables and chairs inside and out (for non-rainy days), so we had a nice gathering place out of the rain. From camp, we walked out to the beach, up and through dramatic sandy dunes. It is gorgeous beach there, dramatic yet peaceful. Apparently this part of the coast is pretty unpredictable and they have plenty of signage for emergency tsunami action. Yes, tsunami in Oregon, USA. Who knew? Manzanita, is about 5 minutes away from Nehalem and offers quaint coffee shops, galleries and markets. Like I said, this is cush, almost like non-camping, camping. But it’s fun and it is the ocean so you just can’t beat it.