Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Out of tune

Off my usual track. Skipping weeks of route-setting and climbing at the gym. Things must change.
We went to our local chapter of Drinking Liberally, partly to meet one of the six Democrats running for the open state rep seat in our district. I liked her; she's a community college psychology teacher, and her main focus is on publid education, which is deteriorating here in Washington State. Also had an exchange with Joel Connelly, a columnist for the Seattle Post Intelligencer, who held forth on a few different topics. Later we talked with a couple of local political bloggers, one of whom is a freelance journalist who has been at it for several decades. He has a blog which keeps an ear to talk show radio, Blather Watch, and says the right wingers spew pretty nasty stuff. Another younger guy breezed up, and waxed enthusiastically about some candidates he's working for. He sounded as if he relished the workings of politics, and has done some kind of radio work. Another guy told us about an event in mid July, a meeting of the six state rep Democratic candidates at Town Hall, which is to let us 43rd district voters meet them and find out about them. He thinks all six are good, but was backing someone other than the woman who came last night. My first thought was too bad the six can't be spread around somehow, and all put to use, but then perhaps it can also be said that it's good we have such a showing. Getting people revved up for the slogging ahead...

Monday, May 29, 2006

Outta town

We decided to take the chance and go off for a kayaking weekend. Spent three days at a small county park on one of the San Juan Islands. Whatever bit of "rain shadow" action there could have been, considering the dismal long range forecast, was in play. It rained at night the first two days, stopping late morning and staying clearish until evening, long enough for drenched tents to dry out on top, and for soggy paddling gear to lose most of its sogginess. First whole day we got in a nice paddle and saw some orcas out beyond us. The organizers of the outing were disappointed; they have experienced being surrounded by three pods, close enought to touch from their kayaks. I wouldn't have minded if the orcas had been a little closer, but these are enormous wild animals, and although supposedly there have been no incidents of kayers being attacked by them, and I would like to think they are intelligent and don't want to confront humans, I don't want to be an irritant to them. They're large, and if for some reason one breached over a kayaker, it takes no imagination at all to picture the results. Twenty-foot, many-tonned sea mammal, little bitty kayak...
Next day we were out most of the afternoon, and I never got out of my boat. We paddled south, saw Dall's porpoises, harbor seals, eagles, other shore birds, but no more orcas. After we turned around, we encountered some interesting tidal rips and strange currents, all affected by tide, boat wakes, and wind. This translated into following seas, or stuff coming up from behind as you entered a tide rip. Nothing really threatening, but it made me paddle creatively, shall we say. Sometimes it was fun, kind of a surfing feel to it, and sometimes the kayak stern wallowed back and forth weirdly. The boat I was using has no rudder or skeg to keep it tracking, but is a bit heavy so it can sort of be held to account. My overall sensation was one of lowering my center of gravity to keep things stable.
We had two delicious communal evening feasts, Mexican-themed one night, Northwest fish dinner the second. There were two six year old boys, best school buds, and an almost three year old kid brother, all of whom did very well. There were also two young women colleagues of one of the moms, who were very good company. The last afternoon the two dads and my beloved spouse took off for a couple hours' long paddle, and the womenfolk ferried cars and extra boats around to the landing point. Somehow we all managed to meet up simultaneously, as well as get a late afternoon ferry back to the mainland after a brief wait. We got home to hear that Seattle had had miserable amounts of rain, and counted ourselves fortunate to have face the Memorial Day challenge.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

it's pouring, must be Memorial Day weekend...

We successfully dodged raindrops all day, getting in a couple of walks for mom and a run for me. We chatted a bit with the neighbor on the corner who keeps some rose bushes; we usually pick up interesting gardening tips from her. Not that I'm applying this acquired wisdom prodigiously, but I'll know what to do when I get around to doing it. This person was throwing away a fair-sized lavender shrub she thought had gotten too leggy, so I rescued it, planted it in our parking strip, and it still seems to be alive, a few weeks later. There are several plants I've gotten via this plant amnesty, and they're doing fine.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Misty and chilly

As expected, the weather's gone to wrack and rain. Coaxed my mother out for four blocks in between drizzles. Also talked with a neighbor who's an occupational therapist about strengthening exercises for the elderly. It seems increasingly important to get some more activities developed as her walking endurance declines. She seems better than she has been lately. I think both of us have been suffering the effects of all the tree pollens wafting about. I sweep thick yellow coatings off the front porch, and you can see it all over parked cars.
Strange developments on the neighbors' remodeling. There was a city car parked out front, and we saw that a "Stop Work" sign had been posted on the front of their house, so he had not obtained a permit. Since there have never been any posted, that was a likely conclusion. I didn't turn them in, having decided there wasn't much point to it with the project so far along. Maybe the city guy was just driving by and saw it. Who knows. So they have to get a permit. Well, that's what people are supposed to do, and I wonder why they think they can flaunt laws. It affects whole neighborhoods, especially if there are height limits violated, which I wonder about in this situation. Not much to do, except maybe build a lighthouse.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

More energy for all

Seems we're mending around here. Good walk this morning, lots of cheeriness. Clouds came in, and we got a run and workout in before it turned on us.
Salmon for dinner, though not the astronomically-priced Copper River variety, which can go for as much as thirty bucks a pound. Perhpas the fish I bought was from the Pot Metal River.
Thunder and showers this evening, and off to bed to read.

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Heavy weather

In me; sleepless, restless, useless. By the time my mom was ready for a walk, the sun was out, but she was feeling shaky. All she can say is that she feels very old today, and at 88+, she is at liberty to say this!
Late afternoon ramble with the beloved spouse for a macchiato for him and some hot chocolate for me. We stopped at the neighborhood patisserie run by a sweet Japanese guy, and had a nice chat with him. We managed to resist all his gorgeous pastries, except for one delectable oatmeal raisin cranberry cookie, which we shared. Hey, the oatmeal's healthy.
Visited some friends for wine, good talk and photos of their recent trip to Zion National Park. Nice end to a miserable day.
The siege of Leningrad is over, it appears, although Vollmann seems to want to circle back. I'm 250 pages into 752 in Europe Central, and still engaged.

Friday, May 19, 2006

Cooling trend

Our sunny hot spell is over, and I got the lawn mowed just before the first drops started to fall. Even got a few mosquito bites in the process; they were lurking in the jungly clumps along the fence on the western edge of our yard. Yard maintenance hasn't been a priority lately. I guess we're reaching some kind of critical mass around here for house projects. Not doing the sunroom thing, since the neighbors usurped any possible view, but there are innumerable "deferred maintenance" items, as beloved spouse calls them. And my fricking Cuisinart toaster convection oven just croaked. No toast for a while.
Have to keep the deteriorating world situation out of my mind, so focusing on very immediate problems is worth a shot.
Out for a little walk late.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Ready to roll

People up a bit earlier today, mom raring to get out for her walk. Lovely sunshine, breeze, and the neighbor who has a little rose garden along her retaining wall is starting to get some blooms. The bushes get full sun and are backed by a darkish cement wall, so they're already popping. We keep smelling them in hopes of a pleasant reward, but oddly, these early ones aren't very fragrant.
A low key day.
Back to Europe Central.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Jungly hot night

Hard to sleep well when even the sheets feel too warm. The cat that usually snuggles with us could not bear to do so, and wandered around looking for a comfortable place to sprawl. Perhaps I should have followed him, because today I am exhausted, depressed and feelin' not groovy but grousy. My mother seems to be all right today, no sweaty outbreaks of dizziness, and has been commenting about the NYTBR's "Best American Literature of the Last 25 Years" piece. Says she hasn't read one of them. Looking at the list, I see Helprin's crapola A Winter's Tale, similarly shitty Underworld by Don Delillo, and a few others I read and loathed. Toni Morrison's Beloved which they picked as the best of them all was all right, but there are other writers I have appreciated far more. Oh, but they're not American. Not such a big surprise.
The day ended with a late dinner of crab cakes and salad.
Off to bed to venture a few more pages into the siege of Leningrad, via Vollmann's Europe Central. Reading about fascist Germany and the dictatorship of the Stalinist USSR, there seems to me to be littel funcitonal difference between the two regimes. Much as our country is sliding into some kind of fundie-swayed system, which will be embattled with other fundie-swayed systems in the Middle East. What's the difference, when the results are the same? The plunder of war, the death of innocents. At some point, it's hard to distinguish the players from one another.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Gotta bust out

The weather's a tease today, climbing up into the low 80's. After a walk with my mother, getting her back inside before she passed out - she had a dizzy spell, got too hot in her fleece hoody which I tried to get her to take off, but noooo... got more electrolytic fluid in her, got her some lunch and a dark chocolate truffle, which I believe was the ultimate antedote - I hied me off for a walk down to the UW Rock, an outdoor bouldering site. Not too many people there in mid-afternoon, and the surfaces in the sun had kind of slippery footholds, but it felt good to traverse around and up and down outside. Refresh my memory.
We went to our nearest Drinking Liberally site this evening and talked with some people about politics, social issues, this and that. There was a columnist from one of the local papers who, when I spoke to him positively about his pieces, responded to me in a most curmudgeonly fashion. Wouldn't have killed the guy to be gracious for three seconds. Fucker's on my list...
Also a local political blogger who has been getting some coverage lately, and who had a fun idea about having a "political slam," similar to a poetry slam, mano a mano with someone idealogically opposite. Hey, why not. The people in power now have no sense of "civil discourse," they cheat and lie constantly so why not confront them in a direct and dynamic fashion?

Monday, May 15, 2006

Spring fever

Maybe "spring fever" is really allergies kicking in. Why, when it's so lovely, sunny and warm, would one feel tapped out and dreary? Perhaps it is the article in our morning paper from a local health official advising us to "be prepared for the bird flu." Can't even start on how I think that's just another big fake panic button the White House demons are using against us.
The scab construciton workers are back next door, continuing to put up Mad Ludwig's Castle. Don't want to think of that, either.
Okay, walk, run, throw the weights around. Order a veggie pizza, and chuckle at Stewart and Colbert.
My current reading material is dark, too, but I took a gander at Marilynne Robinson's novel "Gilead", and it didn't appeal to me.
So I'll get my mom laughing, and put her through her paces.

Sunday, May 14, 2006

A day to appreciate the woman who borned you

What, just one day for this? Come on, this is truly important work we've done here! Birthin' babies; problem, though, when they grow up to be greedy dishonest bastards.
Swell day for a long walk to a kayak outfitter down along the shore of Lake Washington. While beloved spouse was trying on a dry suit, I was thumbing through paddling guides and admiring lightwieght paddles with ergonomically shaped shafts. The guys running the place had on some local rock station, palying more ads than music. One advert featured a young woman's voice bleating,"Well, I'm going to Canada for cheap drugs and mounties!" No idea what they were pushing.
A fine family dinner was had by our household, and my request for a couple of "Lost" episodes was honored. We figured the producers killed off two of the female characters because in their real lives, they'd both been nabbed DUI and speeding. Their storyline seems to be one they're winging as they go along. It beats fretting over politics once in awhile.

Saturday, May 13, 2006

Sunny Saturday

So the sun is out; it's a bit breezy for my elderly mother so we keep on the leeward side of the street. We made two chicken coop visitations today - their mistress is away for the weekend, so they're -cooped up! - and getting increasingly whingy about it. Not just whiny, there's a desperate edge to their vocalizations.
My run to the weight gym was pleasant. As I was finishing my workout, the guy who manages the place, always jolly and full of bonhomie, was trading marathon stories with one of the members. He said during one of the Seattle Marathons, which are held in late November near Thanksgiving, not usually a pleasant time of year, he and another fellow who used to work there, a really big guy, were slogging along in particularly rainy and chilly weather. At Mile 18, two guys had set up a little Weber grill on a picnic table in a streetside park, and were grilling bacon. They had put out a big sign that read,"Free Bacon!" The gym manager said his companion, a fellow afficionado of fat and grease, nearly lost it on the spot, smelling the wafting odor of cooking bacon. The two sadistic bacon purveyors were evidently having a wonderful time tweaking passing marathoners with this gambit. I told the manager he should put together a collection of his sports and fitness related tales. He always has some jolly tidbit to share, and I bet he could sell it. He's really a great guy, has his heart and political affiliations in the right place, and people would get quite a bit of enjoyment out of his stories, I'm sure.
Late-breaking walk with the beloved spouse, who just got back from a business trip down South.
The Seattle skyline was lovely at the far edge of Lake Union, just as the sun went down.

Friday, May 12, 2006

Whither human nature

In the wee hours of this morning, after I woke up in a sweat out of a nightmare, I had a distinct memory of hearing my dad saying,"Nothing in the world is going to change unless human nature changes." He actuallyused to say that. Sort of a simple wisdom, but basically it's valid. Human nature keeps showing signs of changing, oh, you know, like people sharing food - major forward progress for us! - but any forward progress is soon eradicated by the likes of the people in power now, and pretty much all over the world. And those pitiful little areas where we cling together and try to break out of the eternal mode of greed, selfishness and dishonesty seem constantly to get overtaken by the bad behaving ones. It's as close as one's own neighborhood. If we can't keep it from rearing its vile head on that small of a scale, how to thwart it on a global one?
Slow pleasant day, enjoyable evening. My dear friend who can make vegan food delectable had me over for dinner. I watched her put together a wonderful pizza and a spaghetti squash saute, as well as baked apples with chunks of ginger cookies, caramel swirl tofu ice cream and multi spice brown sugar and substitute butter sauce. I brought a bottle of Sicilian white wine, and we had a great repast, even with fending off the pizza-crazed chihuahuas. Sharing food good.
Her partner, my son and a good friend of theirs appeared a bit later to polish off the rest of the dinner.
To bed again with Vollmann's Europe Central. One of the things about it that gives me the horrors is the parallels it shows between the WWII years in Germany and the Soviet Union and today. Vollmann calls Hitler "the sleepwalker," a moniker I'm trying to decipher. The quality of the writing is very good, so I will continue to hew away at its 780+ pages.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Strangely quiet on the western front...

What? No pounding, radio blaring, guys yelling, saws whining? Weird. It sort of sprinkled this morning, but only enough to wet the grass, especially that nice long stuff in our yard. It's so green and lush-looking, I can't bear to mutilate it. Can no one else hear the silence of the lawn?
After my mother had lunch, we determined it was nice enough to go for one of her walks. She did a solid six blocks in one go, very good for her these days. We ran into a neighbor from across the street, we paid a call on the chickens, who were whining to get out of their coop, and taking dust baths. We talked about things of yore for mom; I often feel like a translator for her, as I am about the only one who remembers the answers to most of the queries about the past which she puts to me. Kind of a low key day for her.
Ran, worked out, watched the weather go to hell and back again.
Early to bed with Vollmann's Europe Central. It's starting to give me nightmares.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Sad fog

The prettier the weather gets, the darker my mood. Got out to get supplies, decided to go around the western edge of Green Lake to hit PCC. The weather's changing, there's a ring around the sun, and there were little white caps on the water. By the time I'd loaded my backpack and continued around the lake to my exit, it was clouding over. Two foursomes of brand new ducklings bobbed along with their parents, undeniably cute. Another set of four were piled up on the shore, poking and preening each other while their mother kept guard; a few big-bellied guys with pitbulls and other large dogs stomping along, letting go of the leashes and letting their animals run amok. I stopped to have some of a pink grapefruit drink for a little refreshment, and watched women in all stages of pregnancy and maternity go by. What a hopeful or perhaps oblivious bunch we are.
Watched a bit of a special on John Wayne; had to leave when it showed a clip of him waxing nostolgic for them thar good ole days of bloody yore. Sounded way too familiar...

Monday, May 08, 2006

Fresh hot bread

Nothing like little rolls right out of the oven, even if they were a bit misshapen. With enough dough to make a little chubby baguette for later. Combined with a good night's sleep - except for the three ayem poking by one of the cats - a double cappucino with milk and foam, and plenty of butter and maple butter, one can face about anything.
One headline and blurb from this week's Washington Post Weekly: "Pay Them What They're Worth" - "Some corporate executives have run companies into the ground and still pull down hefty salaries, then walk away with nice severance packages. But some activist shareholders are fed up and not going to allow that any more...They're trying to link executive pay with performance, holding the top people responsible for their actions. The movement is gaining steam at businesses nationwide."
Well, doesn't that sound familiar: It's the way Cheney/Bush& Co. are working over our country: running it into the ground as they scavenge the dying body politic. Of course, we citizens as shareholders aren't making the demands for performance that corporate shareholders evidently do, and the rising up to make such demands doesn't happen as quickly with the federal government as it does in private businesses. Also the USA shareholders aren't all as savvy or sharp as people making moeny on investments in corporations. But it seems to me it's a similar model, and as I've observed previously, the middle class should be more than fed up with the destruction of the USA, they should be hollering for "severance packages" that hurt.

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Cold beverages on a chilly night

The three of us traipsed off last evening to a cafe specializing in New Mexican cuisine, but we weren't there for the comidas. A round of margaritas, the best this town has to offer, and we engaged in a detailed discussion of severe weather and its origins and manifestations. Beloved son has become fascinated with meteorology lately, and offered a discourse on tornadoes. We walked back home through the dark drizzly woods, where vague shapes of rabbits fled before us and crazy guys jockeyed their vehicles in the parking lot, preparing for anonymous gay assignations. Crazy, because they're playing Russian roulette with their health. This phenomenon has been going on for years in Woodland Park, with varying degrees of cessation, but I haven't seen much police presence lately, so once again the mute forms are out there, waiting for fellow risk-seekers. Frightening and pathetic.
Finally got in some climbing, even if it was just at the indoor gym. A friend and I spent a couple of hours getting reaquainted with climbing movement and techniques on pretty easy routes, and I feel so much happier and physically tuned up.
Too tired to stay up and form the bread dough; it'll have to bake in the morning.

Saturday, May 06, 2006

More on Thought

In Aristotle's "Poetics", he states that Plot is the first principle of tragedy, and Character holds the second place. "Third in order is Thought, - that is, the faculty of saying what is possible and pertinent in given circumstances. In the case of oratory, this is the function of the political art and of the art of rhetoric: and so indeed the older poets make their characters speak the langauge of civic life; the poets of our time, the language of the rhetoricians. Character is that which reveals moral purpose, showing what kinds of things a man chooses or avoids. Speeches, therefore, which do not make this manifest, or in which the speaker does not choose or avoid anything whatever, are not expressive of character. Thought, on the other hand, is found where something is proved to be or not to be, or a general maxim is enunciated."
He's addressing the construction of poetry, but his words address a national malady: There is little or no productive thought coming from the leaders. There is much avoidance and lack of choosing anything whatever to explain what's happening. There is a screaming lack of character, with multiple counterfeit maxims spouted.
Such gloom today, inside and outside. Reflects my state of mind, but I must buoy up to keep my mother perked up.
Out this evening with my beloved menfolk.

Friday, May 05, 2006

The principle of Thought

While the Heretik was honoring National Poetry Month in April, and has continued his tributes for the whole year, I got out my slim little copy of Poetics by Aristotle to revisit what the old boy had to say about the art. Early on he discusses the principles of Tragedy. He says:"Tragedy is the imitation of an action; and an action implies personal agents, who necessarily possess certain distinctive qualities both of character and of thought; for it is by these that we qualify actions themselves, and these - thought and character - are the two natural causes from which actions spring, and on actions again all success or failure depends." We got tragedy over to the Oval Office, where daily - no, hourly - we are inundated with imitations of actions from W. Behind his imitation actions are the actual thoughts and actions of his regime, but the ones perpetrating them have no intention of conducting successful governing. You have to ask, what do they think there will be for them to do when all is bankrupt and lies in ruins? I don't believe they care. They're feathering their foul nests. This has happened in other times and places, and the results have been similar: The ripped-off eventually find the fat and well-larded ones, and divest them of their ill-gotten loot. Revolution or invasion, results are similar. The endangered American middle class is the group that should be rising up, but we are too cowardly and/or polite to ever do so.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Random images

Re-entry to regular life after a break has been relatively painless. My mother always seems a bit discombobulated when we've been apart for more than a couple of days. She keeps a notebook to jot down brief impressions of her days; on Monday, the day we got back, she wrote,"I think I need more supervision." When I asked her about it, she said she had no idea why she'd written that. Probably has to do with the diminished coffee ice cream supply in the freezer... well, a good Hairdo Day appeared to have restored her equilibrium.
Last Sunday, we left Myrtle Beach, SC, and drove down to beloved spouse's middle brother's place in Summerville, which is not too far from Charleston. Along the way, we stopped in a little twon called Georgetown. It had a little historical district along a river, with restaurants and little shoppes off the boardwalk. One place, Big Tuna, was a "raw bar," which is what the locals call a joint that serves oysters. It was closed, and a couple of fellers were out on the patio puttering around. I noticed an enormous multicolored parrot sitting on the back of a chair, and requested a photo op from beloved spouse. The owner noticed, and ambled over with the bird. Older guy, maybe pushing 50, with a bar room tan.
"She's a bar bird," he said. "Grew up in the bar. Sunday is her day off." He talked quietly, barely moving his lips.
"So she talks?" I asked.
"Yeah, but you probably wouldn't want to hear what she has to say," he replied. He looked at us obliquely. The parrot nibbled at his ear. Later beloved spouse told me he'd been trying to get the back of the guy's teeshirt into the picture, as it read,"Fresh Yankee served up daily." Undoubtedly our accents hadn't gone unnoticed.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Back from Dixieland

By the skin of our teeth; our flight out of Charleston, SC, was truly a clusterfuck due to a mechanical problem, truly Kafka-esque lines for rebooking passengers, dueling gate agents. The only elements missing were climactic threats and human violence, the latter of which simmered close to the crowd's surface. We made our connection in Atlanta to get back to dear cool Seattle, which is of course what mattered most.
We spent several hours on Monday rambling around Charleston, along the harbor walk, through live oaks and past the occasional scantily clad heroic war hero monuments in Battery Park. Why Roman-looking fellers with wings and tiny figleaves were used to honor the Brave Soldiers Who Defended Charleston and Fort Sumter from the goddammed Yankees mystifies me. What's even more amusing is the teensy weensy leaf over the front figure's l'il brass balls. Not even ballsy enough to just let it hang out; I suppose it would make the womenfolk faint in horror. We
ambled around back streets and byways, peeking into numerous secret gardens full of more naked statues and gorgeous plant life. My beloved spouse and I agreed that we could probably spend a whole day taking photos around their historic district. Many religious groups represented - well, Catholic, with Our Lady of Ransom, Unitarian, several Protestant varieties, and the temple for the first Reform Jewish congregation anywhere, which had a sign in one of its driveways that read,"Thou Shalt Not Park Here."
We'd spent from last Wednesday through Sunday with Beloved Spouse's two brothers and their wives, as well as my mother-in-law and one of her sisters, in Myrtle Beach, in a couple of nice condos on Pawley's Island. I'd been fretting that it would be suffocatingly hot, but the weather was like summer on Long Beach, WA: Cool and breezy to very windy. We got in several good beach walks, everyone included. We managed to come to agreement on where to eat, if not always when. In one of the Litchfield lakes or huge ponds, we observed Harvey the alligator, who is nearing the cutoff size of eight feet, at which size a gator is removed and taken to an even bigger pond somewhere there aren't any tempting little fyce dogs to consume. Harvey was sunning himself on someone's lakefront property, and only slipped into the water when the owners drove up in their deluxe SUV. He motored off at at impressive speed into some back creek to satisfy his unthinkable needs.
There were many kinds of songbirds and waterfowl flitting, flying and lurking around the landscaping and out by the shore. We didn't spot any dolphins or sharks this year, but the usal assortment of jellyfish were stranded upon the strand. There was about half of some sort of good-sized ray with a huge bite out of one side, as if something had chomped into a big cookie and spit it out. Mainly there were clear skies and relatively warm air for us Pacific Northwesterners to savor.
And no in-laws were harmed during the reunion; we had a good time.