Happy Holidays 2023: The Annual Christmas Card Letter

OK, so maybe I’m posting it in 2024 this year, but it took USPS some extra delivery time this year for the physical cards, and I wanted to make sure those arrived first. Now that they have, here’s my annual look back at the year for 2023 – well, what I remember from it anyway…

16 December 2023

Greetings from Portland, and at very long last, a one-bedroom apartment. Yes, that is a new return address this year, even if just the apartment number changed. Having badly outgrown my studio last year, I started seriously looking for a one-bedroom earlier this year, still in Portland. I got very lucky that the unit literally right next to my old one was going to be coming available for a reasonable increase in rent.

Because it would be available exactly within a month of my lease on the studio ending, I would not have to pay a $1,000 transfer fee either. That seemed like a no brainer to me for double the space; it’s technically a one-bedroom with study and balcony. So, over the course of a weekend in July, I made the move with the help of some friends from work – and I definitely would not have been able to do it without them. This move proved that yes, I own a lot of books (as in over a thousand.) What can I say? Portland is a dangerous city to live in if you love books; there is no sales tax here, we have the best library system I’ve seen in the US, and you’re never more than a 15-minute ride on the train from a bookstore. Jiji especially is enjoying the extra space to run around in and the excellent views of the birds on the roof from the new apartment. I am enjoying not tripping over books anymore, just still tripping over Jiji.

As for work, you’ve probably heard by now that Kroger is looking to “merge” with Albertsons (we’re the ones actually with the money). It’s certainly made this past year an interesting one with a lot of uncertainty. We got an email last week to begin planning for a return to the office in February, which thankfully the VP of my department is fighting against, because we literally do not have the office space to return to. I suspect many others not in my department will be making plans to leave Kroger; more than a few people saw the return to office as a strategic move for a voluntary headcount reduction. Kroger expects a ruling from the FTC on the merger some time in mid-January, which would be when my team finds out if we’re going back in the office or not. Kroger expects the merger to be approved; I hope it doesn’t. I don’t see it benefiting consumers nor Kroger or Albertsons employees, but I’ve also been primarily shopping at Whole Foods for a year a now…

As for Portland news, Streetcar finally has all three trains that were ordered back in 2017 from Brookville, and they’ll be entering service next year. TriMet has been taking delivery of its new trains from Siemens throughout the year and has begun retiring the original 1986 cars from Bombardier.

Downtown is continuing to struggle badly to bounce back from the pandemic, but the Ritz-Carlton finally opened at the end of November, and it’s a very nice space that is bringing a lot of jobs to downtown. The cost of a night’s stay – let alone the cost of one of the Residences – has not been without controversy as the wrong building at the wrong time, but I agree with the city it’s exactly the kind of revitalization attempt Portland needs right now. Kudos to Marriott for taking a nearly billion-dollar risk on Portland.

Like last year, this year flew by too (I swear they’re actually getting  faster.) Because being involved with the public transit here wasn’t enough to keep me busy outside of work (that’s sarcasm by the way; it keeps me plenty busy), I do also staff our local Japanese pop culture convention, Kumoricon. I was the Assistant Secretary this past convention season and it was like having a second full-time job, just unpaid. All of us on staff are volunteers, and we’re currently in a transition period getting ready for the 2024 season. Con went better than expected for us, especially when we were the week right before Thanksgiving.

I’m sure I’m forgetting something, but with how busy this past year was, I think that just about covers everything. Jiji and I are both overall doing well, and we’re both loving having real space in the new apartment. But now I must pop up to the Oregon Zoo to drop these in a very special mailbox. If all goes to plan, this card will be hand-canceled by the last railroad in the US to do so, The Washington Park & Zoo Railway. After that, it’ll be off to downtown to hand out candy canes on Streetcar; we’re doing caroling onboard today. 

Jiji and I hope you have a joyous holiday, and a happy new year.