Thursday, August 31, 2006

Summer slide

We're about to bust from delight. Good energetic day for my mom, and a bonus early evening outdoor climbing session with our son, down at the UW climbing rock. Lots of quiet young climber dudes, who seemed to know one another, clambered about and traded stories. Then a bunch of fat-assed fellers appeared, farting around with golf clubs and plastic golf balls. Another of their buddies showed up in a gigantic Cadillac Escalade SUV, blasting Country-Western crap music. They moved a bunch of garbage and recycling containers and put up a huge open tent for a tailgate set up for...Saturday. It's Thursday. Goddam, ya gotta get you a good parkin' spot early. Waal, these good ole Huskie fans, guzzling can after can of Bud Light, were jes' whoopin' it up well in advance of Saturday's game. We over at the Rock had a good chuckle. Bunch of eastside wannabe-rednecks. At one point, they looked as if they were going to tear a tree branch off a large beautiful pine tree because it was in the way of their tent. I'm surprised they didn't whip out a chainsaw from the SUV.
The Huskie marching band could be heard rehearsing over in the stadium. That was far more preferable to the crap music the tailgate guys were blaring.
We left a bit before sunset, washed in cool air.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006


August is, almost. The neighborhood farmers' market was brimming with every kind of fruit and vegetable ever desired, as well as handmade pasta, fish and meat, baked items, and tempting stuffs such as flavored hand-churned butter. Of course some of these things can be grown or made at home, but it's a small capitulation to consumer temptation to pick up one little container of chipotle/lime/garlic butter, or a little box of perfect raspberries. Or a couple of old-fashioned big pretzels studded with kosher salt. Dramatic clouds threatened rain, but only delivered about four score heavy drops.
The Robert Penn Warren reader is providing a good look at his development. He surely was Faulkneresque in his early days, probably an influence difficult for a young male Southern writer to dodge.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006


Nice long breath of coolness, maybe some relief for all the forest fires, including one at Mount Rainier National Park, something I've never heard of in all the years we've lived out here.
Interesting evening at the political gathering. Talked at the end of the night with a man who does lobbying work; he was keenly focused on the need to counter GOP propagandizing. He gave a clear message about progressives needing to discard their concerns about having to be - oh, unscrupulous, arrogant, whatever terms one could use to describe the GOP spinmeisters - and rather to be effective and relentless in everything they do. Makes your blood run cold.

Monday, August 28, 2006

Day to savor

We keep saying, my mother and I, we want to bottle these late summer days. Supposedly we're getting a big change tomorrow, but more heat will follow. The marine air that pushes in after a hot stretch is a relief for a while, but one of these days, it will blanket us long term. So we seize the time for her walks, and enjoy the end of the summer's flowers.
Got in a workout at the climbing gym, which was cool and quiet. Not the intense outdoor experience our son is having, but better than none at all.
Another night time walk along the lake, which buckled and shone; ducks laughed just offshore. Many people were out savoring the air, quietly marching along or talking in low voices; reverential appreciation.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Warm night

We have to be coming to the end of this ecstatically lovely weather pattern. There have never been so many blood temperature nights. Nights during which you have to get out of the house and seek places where cooling is possible. Lake Union looked like blue velvet, and the air was silky.

Saturday, August 26, 2006


It's been fun to watch the nephews interact. I gotta hand it to my sister and her husband, they are so brave to take this on. The new nephews are cute, and very full of energy. Their older brother, the biological son, seems very patient about dealing with them.
We have been entertained by one of the adoptees learning to do card tricks. Very sweet.

Friday, August 25, 2006


Busy morning, procuring injera and miserwat for my adopted Ethiopian nephews; the spongy flat bread and spicy red lentil sauce are favorites of theirs, and come from a tiny store/deli called Zuma. As I waited for the women there to put together my order, one came out and asked if I would like coffee. I'd heard that Ethiopian coffee is amazing, so I accepted. She brought back a lovely demitasse full of dark brew and a bit of cream, from a pot they'd just made for themselves. They roast green coffee beans, grind them, and brew them in a special pot, a design that's been used for a very long time. Could not be much fresher. It was a gift from them, no charge.
Family arrives this evening, and it will be fun to see the boys.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Moving along

Through the week, through the summer; it's finally sunny this evening, after a patchwork day.
Homemade pasta with vegetables, and a walk after dark; the lake was completely calm.
Done with "Istanbul", and on with a Robert Penn Warren reader. I'm not familiar with his earlier work, or anything other than "All the King's Men", so I'm eagerly diving into this sampler.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006


Peak oil, peak people, peak planet. Too much drek out there. Walking the dogs gets you back to earth. The Ferrari brothers have been hauling me around their neighborhood this week, and leaving no bits of anything unsmelt. They're keen little observers, noting every squirrel, crow and cat as they trot or run along, heads swiveling, but not barking. I'm sure they would be effective little hunters. In their owners' back yard, branches of a large old plum tree hang over the fence from next door. I have license to pick as many of these Italian prunes as I like. They are enormous blue purple fruits, just soft to the touch and warm, with that musky odor of perfect ripeness. If the results weren't so dramatic, you could sit there and eat until gorged. I bring them home and share them.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Under cover

Of clouds and cool air most of the day; sudden breakthrough of the sun in late afternoon seemed impossible.
Walked over to a place next door to the pub that hosts Drinking Liberally. It was an Italian restaurant, where we had a delightful dinner before checking in with the progressive political folks. Oddly enough, I found myself drawn into watching the Seattle Storm's sad last hurrah of a play off game. Usually I am indifferent to pro sports, but this women's team was trying to rally at the end. They've been some hard-working athletes during their time here.
Long conversation with some people we're getting to know who have taken in a high school age kid from Southern Lebanon for the next year. He'll be going to the public high school nearest to their home. He just arrived from a neighborhood under attack, and you have to wonder how entering life over here so abruptly is affecting him. He appeared to be calm, polite, soft-spoken. It will be interesting to hear how his year goes.

Monday, August 21, 2006

endlessly exquisite

Day after day, no rain. Nice, but our air quality is starting to suffer. We're L.A., sans glamour.
Off we go tonight for a constitutional and conversation.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Market time

Perhaps I was hoping for more dramatic results with the sweet little sundew plants. The flies are not exactly drawn to them in droves. There has been a gradual build up of corpses on the sundew leaves, but I am reserving judgment on their effectiveness...
A friend and I made a noontime trip to a nearby farmers' market. It was jammed, but there was food enough for all, despite the strange kind of passive aggressive behavior of many people. Every time we approached a stall where there was no one ahead of us, we would suddenly be swarmed by people pushing in to get ahead of us, and usually they were large people. Kind of reminded me of going to Yellowstone, stopping at a deserted viewing area to look for wildlife, when suddenly the parking area would be overflowing with camera-toting yahoos, chasing after the moose or bison. We managed to get some tasty items, such as "doughnut peaches," which resemble large red blood corpuscles in shape, but are delicately textured and sweet, with a tiny pit. Also scored some huge red raspberries, small but wonderful heirloom tomatoes, yellow wax beans, green string beans, and a big hunk of sparklingly fresh-looking troll-caught king salmon. The vendors almost all had generous samples out for our enjoyment, so we could get a taste of the lightly smoked salmon, the flavored pecans, all kinds of fruit, baked goods, and English toffee. It beat the hell out of Costco.

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Floating along

We are still plagued with fruit flies, and the fly strips have been useful, but I read about a more "natural" method of controlling them: Sundews, carnivorous plants with leaves bedizened by many little beads of nectar that shine and sparkle and supposedly attract fruit flies to fatal contact. We marched down to the Indoor Sun Shoppe, which used to be a small store front crowded with exotic plants and grow lights down in the University District. In our early years here, I often stopped in the Sun Shoppe in the bleak midwinter to soak up an instant tropical vacation feeling. The store is now down in the Fremont area, not far from the Ship Canal, and is much larger and even more crammed with plants and accessories, such as a device one can use to clone plants, and all manner of lighting systems to treat S.A.D., or Seasonal Affective Disorder, which is an intense bummer condition people up here in the Pacific Northwest can develop in the long gray Not Summer months. I picked out a couple of adorable sundews, and we carefully ferried them home in a big paper bag.
Passing Lake Union on our way home, we spied the silhouettes of a group of what I think of as the Ultimate Croquet crowd up on the big hill at Gas Works Park. We've seen people playing this way before, with wickets going up and down the side of the steep kite flying hill. There were a few teams representing, and when croquet balls got "sent" at the final wicket, croquet mallets got tossed in anguish.
Out on and above the lake all kinds of crafts skimmed, flew and floated. A pseudo pirate ship motored along, with oddly-shaped small sails up for show, and at one point, let go a fake cannon blast, complete with smoke. Undoubtedly thrilling for the nearby small boats.
The sundews were installed on the requisite window sills, and I do hope they will put a dent in the fly swarms.

Friday, August 18, 2006

finally Friday

Another urban hike to pick up necessities, down the hill and along the lake. Today's unexpected theme was abandoned items of clothing which appeared randomly along my route: A tiny pair of pink running shoes; a tangled skimpy black women's tank top; a small pair of plaid boxer shorts; assorted socks, from baby sized to men's dirty white ones; and a filthy "wife beater" sleeveless men's undershirt.
The Co op had piles of beautiful produce: jade green beans, garnet plums and grapes, speckled pluots and ruby raspberries, glistening greens. It's not a large store, but since we don't have our backyard garden up and growing, it's a pleasure to be able to pick up organic items. Next year I hope we will be gardening again.
Beloved spouse returned safely from Milwaukee, no transportation troubles.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Late night lit

Orhan Pamuk's memoir, "Istanbul", has been a fabulous book to read, especially if one happens to awaken in the wee hours and cannot immediately return to sleep. It's writing that is especially wonderful to me as it is not predictable, and often has a dreamlike or even nightmarish quality to it. Thus it fits into a sleepless patch of the night beautifully. About midway through the book is a chapter called,"Resat Ekram Kocu's Collection of Facts and Curiosities: The Istanbul Encyclopedia." The work in that chapter name was the unfinished effort by a writer who claimed he was creating "the world's first encyclopedia about a single city." Pamuk describes Kocu as " of those 'huzun'-drenched souls who helped create an image of a twentieth-century Istanbul as a half-finished city afflicted with melancholy. 'Huzun' defines his life, gives his work its hidden logic, and sets him on the lonely course that can only be his final defeat, but - as with other writers working in a similar vein - he did see it as central and certainly did not give it much thought. Indeed, Kocu Resat Ekrem Kocu, far from seeing his melancholy as proceeding from his history, his family, or his city, regarded his 'huzun' as innate.
As for the attendant withdrawal from life and the conviction that life entailed accepting defeat from the start - he did not think of these as Istanbul's legacy. On the contrary, Istanbul was his consolation."
"Huzun" is the Turkish word for melancholy, but Pamuk devotes a chapter to explaining its deeper meanings. It seems to tinge his memories and observations, from descriptions of school days, to the amazing photographs he chose to accompany his text. I regret being two thirds done with this book. I have learned much from it. His reflections in the chapter called "Religion" are worth the price of admission to me, in what they reveal about the results of the strong Westernization drive the country has been undergoing since Attaturk.
I'm now into the chapter called "Under Western Eyes", which is a fascinating look at the effects the work of Western authors' writings on the city had on Istanbul's writers, as well as on the city itself.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006


Funny day. Usual routine, with late-breaking socializing. In early evening light I walked the few miles to the cafe/wine store, through some neighborhoods on the west side of Phinney Ridge that I hadn't seen before. Over leisurely glasses of wine, one friend told us that some mutual acquaintances with family and friends in Lebanon have taken in a young Lebanese student for the year. He was airlifted out recently, and transported to Seattle. Not sure about the details, but the couple is childless, and wanted to help post-war; or is it mid-war?

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

What can I say?

Imagine cool nights perfect for sleeping, breezy mornings with cloud cover breaking up, seguing into delectable afternoons: this is the environment thus far this week. Running in it is fine, walking in late evening is akin to swimming through some clear medium which focuses and clarifies all it holds. Late evening walk was necessary, a big loop up the hills and past the northwest corner of the lake. Out in the grassy area sandwiched between Aurora Avenue and the lake, scores of rabbits scampered all over, clustering near some seated humans who appeared to be attempting to commune with the animals. Maybe there's some kind of rabbit cult developing. When there are "furries" out there emulating the real ones, then I'll be worried.

Monday, August 14, 2006

Starting up

Another week, a precious summer week rolls out. Caught up with a couple of good friends; went for a climbing workout with one of them, tonic for both of us. Watched The Daily Show and Colbert Report from last Saturday with my mom, who quite enjoys them both. Colbert was ripping, and had a hectic exchange with a young woman who has just published a book about overachieving kids. Not sure just what this woman's agenda was. She claimed to be a "recovering overachiever", being a Yale graduate. Maybe she was sincerely concerned about the young these days self-destructing. She had a good time quipping back at Colbert, even calling him a douche bag at one point, in a jolly way, of course. Well, the parents and kids caught up in the "race to the top" have always been around, and there will always be kids who get their educations and experience outside the Ivy League who will do great things. That is, if the people who hate public education don't succeed in gutting it.
Off to Istanbul, not Constantinople. Orhan Pamuk's memoir about living in the great Turkish city is feverishly excellent, and sprinkled liberally with intriguing photographs, some of which remind me of an old copy of The Arabian Nights we used to have when I was a kid. Once again, I am drawn into a depiction of a place that exists no longer.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Winding down

The weekend's running down, even for those of us who are outside the usual schedule. Walking down to Fremont to get some distance on an errand run, I went up the dark woodsy path, over Aurora Avenue, past the zoo and through the rose garden. Clumps of families were dragging themselves to and from the zoo, tired, pregnant young women with young-looking male partners, grumpy children in tow. It doesn't take much heat around here to wilt folks. I'm sure there were happier families out and about, but the stream I passed seemed glum, grouchy and quarrelsome.
The Fremont Sunday Market was a gauntlet of crafts booths, garage sale quality junk, and no edible produce whatsoever, with people dragging along and gawking. Down along the Ship Canal, the trail was delightfully empty. I was not a good candidate for any group tours this afternoon.
More news from my young correspondent outside Beirut: They are looking forward to the cease-fire, for what it's worth. "Imagine having a 9/11 every month," she told me. She described the attacks as "particularly heated" over the weekend. She signed off to go watch "The Godfather," which must have seemed rather like a fairy tale considering their daily existence.
The horse head scene may have lost its shock value.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Swell day

Delightful walks today, and visits with friends, human and aviary. Running along the lake was enhanced by seeing all kinds of crew shells out getting ready for races, in the midst of their heat, and winding down after. There is a Masters' Regatta going on this weekend, with athletes ranging in age from 27 up to some in their 90's. Seeing those shells flying along silently with such power is thrilling, even if you're not a keen competitor type.
Decided to go out for a bite of sushi after our son got home from work. Seems like we should enjoy fresh fish while it's still obtainable and safe. Raw oysters have been off the menu for most of the summer, due to toxic bacteria. Perhaps nothing to mourn about for many people, but we like them. Dead zones in the ocean off the Oregon coast are larger than ever before, which affects their Dungeness crab harvest. This is another seafood delicacy we have had for years. The image of an enormous scummy cesspool where the ocean used to be appears up in my nightmares. Out on Hood Canal, where oxygen depletion is spreading, this image is resolving itself all too rapidly in real time. Maybe we'll have virtual fish to look at and smell in the future, some kind of Odorama, while we sit in a lounger and look at projections of the sea.

Friday, August 11, 2006

Wag the world

Why, terrorists could be attacking us via our morning newspapers!! Today's Post-Intelligencer was wrapped in a plastic bag with a little side pocket on it that contained two harmless liquids, in separate packets. Dove Smoothing Frizz Control and Dove Define & Shine Control Gel; according to the blaring TV news last night, and the glaring headlines, terrorists can make deadly weapons by combining normally benign substances. Anywhere, any time!
It's a late-breaking perfect midafternoon, and I got my mother out for her second walk. We chatted briefly with the neighbor down on the corner whose tomato plants are now taller than we are, and just beginning to provide red fruit. We think privately that it needs to be hotter for them to really ripen, especially at night. Perhaps some thermal blankets around them would help.
Evening walk with my beloved spouse, just after sunset. It's feeling a bit autumnal these past few nights, and darker soon.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Bugs spitting

A tantalizing little wisp or two of rain passed over late this morning, hardly enough to moisten the sidewalks beyond the shade of the trees. When you've truly acclimatized to this neck of the woods, even these teases of coolness are relief from what feels like too much sun.
Do you believe the great powers really foiled a terrorist plot? I do not.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006


From dawn to dusk, clouds, blue skies, clouds again. The Wednesday afternoon farmers' market was just starting when I walked out for groceries, and provided lovely raspberries, a huge head of red oakleaf lettuce, an heirloom tomato weighing over a pound, and a batch of handmade spinach papardelle pasta noodles. Hey, we have dinner.
Evening walk with beloved spouse; we walked on a trail through Woodland Park and up past the Zoo. There were strains of music, and as we got closer, we realized it was a Zoo Concert. The featured group was Los Lobos, who were winding up their show. They played an encore, Neil Young's old song "Cinnamon Girl," which we listened to through the fence. Walking on, we passed a cafe having a Wednesday night margarita special, so stopped in for dessert. Back home, we saw herds of rabbits down by a lit up soccer field. It was a full moon, and the rabbits appeared to be dancing quadrilles to some music we couldn't hear.
The moon appeared briefly behind shreds of clouds, before they drew together and covered it again.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

We done the Do

Another hairdo event for my mother; I went down to the pet store nearby to look for some kind of different catfood for the surviving cat, and discovered the hair salon owner's daughter there with her little dog. She was confidently arranging items on shelves, and making note of inventory needs aloud to the owner, who said she is often there and most helpful. This 10 year old will have some impressive organizational skills upon which to draw in later years.
We attended Drinking Liberally, where the giant TV screen was tuned to the Connecticut primary results. Lieberman's disgusting and disingenuous concession speech brought on a few groans. Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson's highly visible countenances behind Lamont caused a few more. We decided we thought featuring the also present Maxine Waters would have afforded the Rove machine less ammunition.
Had some informative exchanges with some local political operatives, as well as good conversation with some previous acquaintances from the weekly event.

Monday, August 07, 2006

Heavenly hash

Routine again, in perfect weather; being out of touch with instant information for even just a handful of days was healthy. I found an FM radio station around Vancouver which was all in French, and played some very good music. All the commentary was en Francais, as were the news segments. Wonderful and tantalizing to only be able to pick up a word here and there. It seemed to be a public station. We listened to it coming and going while we were stuck in traffic and in range, which extended almost to the border crossing. Enjoyable to have a big helping of "world music". Otherwise, the choices were horrendous: C&W; numerous 80's options, all bad; so-called R&B, which is pretty much music by which to hump; rantin' preachers, and torrents of advertisements. And this was Canada, not just the US of Awful Music. Guess some of us in the USA have this unrealistic fantasy about Canada being a better place than ours. They're subject to the same consumer-driven depletion as we are, and which all the world is being programmed to covet. Global economy without end, until it ends.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Away from it all

We managed to arrange for in home car for my mom, and off we went to Squamish, B.C., "The Mother of the Winds", for a long weekend. Unbeknownst to us, it was also a long weekend for the British Columbians, Monday being "B.C. Day", commemorating the start of their province. Even though we left late morning on Thursday, this translated into clusterfucking traffic from hell at random times and places. We were able to meet up with our son and his friend who had gone up there earlier to climb, and treat them to a couple of good meals at the Howe Sound Inn and Brewpub. We also went bouldering with them, but his friend and I gave a few tries on the Chief boulders, and ended up watching the son get up several problems, including a terrifying-looking route which hung over ledges, under the arch of a huge piece of white granite.
Some of my climbing buddies had suggested we come up and stay at their recently acquired second home up there, which was most gracious of them. We did a bit of hiking, bouldering, climbing, and beloved spouse got in a kayak paddle. We did what turned out to be an exploratory seven plus mile hike with our hosts, up in Garibaldi Provincial Park. We made it up to a gorgeous alpine meadow, full of red heather, blueberry and huckleberry bushes - no berries yet - with a panoramic view of mountains, including those around Whistler. We never made it to the Elfin Lakes, which had been our intent, but they lay tantalizingly around the next bend or three.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Whooping monkeys

The siamangs were at it again this morning, and I always wonder what is driving their vocalizations. They're way up on Phinney Ridge, in the Woodland Park Zoo, over a mile away, and their whoops really carry. Sometimes you can hear them during softball tournaments, as if they were joining the fans in the bleachers. Other times it seems to be related to a full moon. This morning, perhaps they were expressing appreciation for the cool cloud cover and invigorating air.
I stopped by our vet's to pick up the cat carrier I had left for our cat to use for the brief remainder of his existence. His little old blue collar had been tucked inside.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006


Last night, beloved spouse and I ducked out for a spot of sushi and conversation. We stayed out too late, but had a good evening.
This morning, one of our two cats which are litter mates, who had looked as if he was gaining weight, showed clear signs of ill health. I got him to the vet, who found the cat had a large mass in his stomach, which the vet said very likely indicated a poor outcome. His words, not mine. The poor thing was sick unto death, so I chose to have him put to sleep. He was 12 years old, a strange, increasingly kind of feral little guy, and I think his brother is missing him. Hard to tell, because they had developed a kind of cranky relationship, but the surviving brother seems disoriented. No one to push around. So my last contact with him was to stroke him a bit as he lay exhausted on a towel on the exam table. Painfully sad.
We walked a couple three miles over to the Drinking Liberally get together, which as always provided worthwhile conversations.