Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Brilliant day

Small spooky tree, festooned with reject Christmas light strand, out on the front porch; it was a cheerful little red rhodedendron decades ago, purchased from Chubby and Tubby, a discount odds and ends place on Aurora Avenue - idyllic name for a blighted fourlane - a little shrub that withered away. It was transformed into the Halloween Tree, and has spent many years in our basement gathering patina on its fake cobwebs and construction paper bats, to be hauled out once a year. There have always been carved pumpkins illuminating it from below, but this year, white squash adorned with ghost cat masks accompanied the tree. We had a mere dozen or so costumed kids this year, maybe due to the cold. The posse of preschoolers who live on this block were out in force, and looked cozy in their fleece dinosaur, black cat, and other outfits.
Too much lousy candy left over!

Monday, October 30, 2006


For Halloween, but we're catching up. We're trying something different, illustrating those small white pumpkins that are available lately. I wonder if they're edible. My mother's considering them, to see if she has any inspirations. It's been a cold beautiful day, and will continue thus through tomorrow. Wonder what interesting fleece costumes we'll see.
Edith Wharton's introduction of a character: "Anson Warley had had his moments of being a rather remarkable man; but they were only intermittent; they recurred at ever-lengthening intervals; and between times he was a small poor creature, chattering with cold inside, in spite of his agreeable and even distinguished exterior." This is the opening to an excellent story called "After Holbein."

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Bipolar meteorological conditions

Pouring ice cold rain; no, sun shining as if it were brillig. Looks like it will clear; no, rain on the roof like a ship at sea in a squall. Home from a climbing workout, and the cat is blown across the street in an alarming blast of wind. Next thing you know, blue skies whisk in from the north, and the theme music is that happy part from the Peer Gint Suite, the bit which brings to mind Bambi and Thumper hopping around in a meadow full of posies.
Off to delve further into Wharton's short stories. Odd to me that she, evidently an intelligent, well-read and written woman, would have any urge to write about supernatural doings. Same with Elizabeth Bowen. It seems discordant that such acute intellects would bother with things that go bump in the night.

Saturday, October 28, 2006


It's as if nothing had ever happened; we had a good long walk, savored the sunshine and calm air, visited neighbors and chickens. Perfect day for everyone's endeavors. Grabbed a bite with some friends - first time I'd tasted ostrich, and although it had a nice gamey tang, I don't think I'll be clamoring for it.
Utterly impromptu migration later in the evening with more friends to a Halloween party; the hosts embraced the event with open arms, legs, and rib bones. Their haunted house scenarios were impressive, particularly the Clown Butcher's domaine. He is a chef in real life, and was merrily frying up what he said were fingers in a deep black cauldron, and though they did resemble severed digits, were some kind of egg roll or lumpia. We noticed the most terrifying decorative flourish of all as we left his abattoir: A large placard informing us of the growing national debt...

Friday, October 27, 2006


It was, but that didn't do us much good. We had a medical emergency late this morning that ate up pretty much the heart of the day. All ended well, but the most we saw of the lovely clearing sky was out of a window in an ER room, from what seemed like the bottom of a well. We did watch quite a bit of Animal Planet, which was featuring a show about a chimpanzee group in Tanzania. Man, the ousted old bully who continued to harrass the family sure looked a lot like Dick Cheney in an ape suit. My mother observed how horribly their behavior resembled human males'.

Thursday, October 26, 2006


So windy today they are blowing away, and too windy for a particular delicate flower in the household, who chose to declare it a rest day. We watched the World Series game sporadically, and I was sorry to see the Tigers lose. Since that Cardinals pitcher appeared on a GOP -financed ad against stem cell research, I've thrown in with the Tiges. That Card better hope he never gets beaned too hard.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006


There was a clutch of them in the produce bin of our refrigerator, and I'd been holding onto them to figure out what to do with them. Sauted with similarly diced fresh tomatoes and chopped garlic, they made a delectable sauce for roasted chicken breast. Tomatillos are an unknown to me, I don't know how to tell if they're ripe, since they are always green, and obscured by their dry caul of a husk. Someone suggested they be chosen by their softness, but the one I picked out for that feature seemed to have spoiled on one side. Wonder if they can be slcied, dredged and pan fried with any success.
Onward with Wharton's short fiction, and a peek into Frederick Busch's "The Night Inspector."
I was not pleased to see that the Wall Street Journal liked it.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Fine chocolate chases clouds away

There's a newish little place on the main street of our shopping district which specializes in many things chocolate. They have an array of hot chocolate choices, ranging from their basic "house chocolate" through all sorts of variations. On a gray and drizzly late morning, it's a delight to pick up an eight ounce to go, with a complimentary mint atop the lid.
Managed to line up all the book group picks, used and new. It's hard to abandon Wharton, however, and her keen skewering of various characters. One would not liked to have gotten in her crosshairs...can you say merciless?

Monday, October 23, 2006

Late to the salon

We're overdue for a hairdo. No chance today, so we'll walk in the endangered sunshine instead.
Just finished Pamuk's "Snow", am rustling about for something to read. The pick: The Collected Stories of Edith Wharton. Her era was similar to ours, in many ways, and her writing is an acidic delight. I've never read any of her short fiction, just novels, such as The Age of Innocence, The House of Mirth, and The Custom of the Country, which was excellent. These short stories range from 1899 to 1937, and according to the introduction by Anita Brookner, offer a good sampling of Wharton's work.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

A day of rest

Once we got our climbing workout in, and adjourned to our homes for homemaking activities; and a couple of friends are off to Italy for a little bit in honor of one another's birthdays. Sweet people, the kind who share their enthusiasm for and experiences of traveling without being arrogant and condescending. It's strange, I've run into people who seem to think their trips to Europe prove they're a superior breed. The old saw states that travel broadens a person, but there are some people who don't appear to have been improved by their experiences.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Cake kind of day

Building a nice tall birthday cake for someone in the house having a "Heinz" birthday; it's always a winner.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Hiking in REI

As the rains have arrived, we were not hitting the wilderness trail. Got mom out to REI with her trekking poles, and meandered all over the store for an afternoon. She used to take us school clothes shopping when we were teens, which we disliked; turns out she didn't like shopping herself, a point of view we didn't consider back then.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006


Got a family member in from outta town. Doing some catching up.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Snow in Ohio

We heard from family back there that the first snow flurries have fallen. That I do not miss. It's hard enough to get used to the first cold rain around here. Of course, we do get them in August sometimes, but still.
Off to an early musical performance by a friend of our son's. He plays guitar, has a couple of associates who play drum and bass. They've joined forces with a vocalist who writes her own songs. Another generation of troubadors is coming along.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

'Shroom weather

The Puget Sound Mycological Society had its fair this weekend, and the season is nigh. Years ago I went to see one of these events, and was amazed by the variety of fungi set out for display, like a school science fair of yore. Still have my mushroom identification guide, and still get a touch of fear when I look through it, since there are so many ways to go wrong with these curious growths. A friend told me she'd been to this year's fair, had joined the PSMS, and was taking a field trip soon to start learning how to ID edible mushrooms. My dad used to like to pick field mushrooms, also called "pink bottoms", which are the wild cousin to the ones we buy at the supermarket. Someone saw my mother and him gathering them on a deserted baseball field, and warned him he could be poisoned if he picked the wrong ones. My dad just chuckled and told the guy he thought that would be an interesting way to go.
We're getting a taste of the rain needed to set off the fungi explosion.

Saturday, October 14, 2006


Trying to get my mom to be able to go out, even if just for short bits, in less than idyllic weather conditions; can be a challenge, but we're working on it. It isn't paradisically warm any more, but it isn't snow-slammed Buffalo, either. Cool enough for heartier foods; reading about restaurants in Istanbul made me hanker for Middle Eastern fare. Out with the Syrian-Lebanese cookbook.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Misty, then amber gold

We enjoyed another amazing day of contrasting weather. Watched a David Attenborough program about amber, its origins, and how incredible a tool it can be in reconstructing environments from 10 to 140 million years ago, based on what's trapped within its golden body. There was a sensationalist nod to Jurassic Park, cloning dinosaurs from mosquitos trapped in amber, blah blah, but primarily it was a fascinating glimpse into a branch of biology that's getting attacked by religious fanatics, which was not mentioned. Those folks who believe the planet is only 6,000 years old, and that fossils were planted by Satan to throw them off the holy trail.
Religion is a disease sometimes, when it's used as a bludgeon and not like, oh, those Amish families have been doing lately.

Thursday, October 12, 2006


Good for Orhan Pamuk, he deserves a Nobel Prize for literature. He's a staunch defender of free speech, a splendid writer, and he has put his ass on the line in a country which is so warped by nationalism it goes after anyone who dares to say so. Hmm. A situation to watch, since we have similar makings in this country.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Continuums, political variety

We met a young woman who is running against a longtime politician, a man who's basically been a lifer Dem for this state, and whom many people think isn't effective, other than his solid voting in D.C. This woman wants to see a completely non-partisan system emerge. I'm still mulling over what I think of this. I suppose it could be considered an ideal, in that everyone of every stripe would have a voice, but the works get gummed up badly enough currently with a two party system. A scene from Orhan Pamuk's novel "Snow" come to mind, in which representatives of every description meet to draft a message they want to send to a Western newspaper regarding a peculiar coup that has taken place in their snowbound city somewhere in Turkey. The coup was carried out by a traveling theater troupe, whose leader seems to be in ill health, days numbered, and was motivated by delusions of grandeur - maybe. Or maybe he's a front for some other power. It isn't clear. Anyway, there are young unemployed Kurdish youths at this meeting, old radical nationalists, a former Communist or two, an old Kurdish granny whose grandson was taken in the night, a political Islamist leader - that's what Pamuk calls the militant Muslims, political Islamists - his beautiful mistress, who's a Muslim contemplating removing her head scarf as a protest, all manner of individuals, each with an agenda. Involved in a non-partisan effort, a scene Pamuk handles with instructive satire. The wrangling might have continued longer if the political Islamist hadn't made a scene and stormed out. It seemed a good depiction of how far any group of people are from productive nonpartisan political efforts.
Also eye-opening to me, the diversity in Turkish politics.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006


Going about some errands which required driving, we hit a lucky patch on the freeway, but bombed going through downtown, which my mother likes to do to look at the buildings and people thronging the streets. Depending on one's mood, the experience can provoke oaths about never doing it again. Seattle's a wannabe L.A. in the gridlock department, but we're getting there. May have to reinstall the grocery baskets on my bike.
Seattle's continuing to miss the train on mass transit options, solutions, anything.

Monday, October 09, 2006

The sweetness of light

On a fall day; time for a family hike, and handfuls of tiny late blueberries. Wound it up with a family dinner at my mom's favorite place. She loves the noise and activity every so often, and was always the one to urge our dad to go out for a bite.
Back to a fictional town in Turkey, snowbound and dangerous.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

How gray the day

Until very late in the afternoon, with a fine sunset, at least what we can see of it. Late night, listening and dancing to world music in aid of some kind of immigration relief benefit. My favorite radio DJ, Derek Mazzone of K-EXP, celebrated his birthday by spinning for this event. I have learned to appreciate a wide variety of music from all over, everything from Tibetan hip hop to sexy songs sung in Portuguese, listening to Mazzone's Wo Pop slot on Tuesday evenings, from 6-9. We shook hands with him and wished him a happy birthday. He has a sweet and, I wish, more powerful idea that world peace can be attained via sharing music. When I listen to all that he offers, I truly wish it were so simple.

Saturday, October 07, 2006


The ever delightful Ferrari brothers and their mistress dropped by, trotting about the house industriously, and happy to sniff out the neighborhood during a walk. Their owners work consistently to train them out of barking at every little thing, which evidently can be done. They're the calmest little dogs I've ever encountered, now that they're both fixed, love hiking and bouldering, and are affectionate and observant. It's nice to see them for a bit, then let their owners take over.
Off to a musical evening with friends.

Friday, October 06, 2006


Stronger coffee in the morning was required, and the skies cleared gradually by late afternoon. We did some chores, and pondered many more. Caught a nature program new to us called "Meerkat Manor." Odd, kind of anthropomorphized observations of meerkat colonies in the Kalahari Desert, but it elicited chuckles and appreciation, as well as rapt attention from our cat.
The New York Review of Books has been on a roll lately, with solid reviews of books I want to add to the TBR pile.
Pamuk's "Snow" grows increasingly nightmarish, but reading it is like looking into a distorted little world based on a mixture of historic currents and future projections. Or something like that.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

At a snail's pace

We've been moving in slow motion lately, not sure why. Maybe it's to soak up what warmth we can this week. The weather's changing. Would that the climate of the country really were.
We watched an old episode of "The Crocodile Hunter", Steve and Terry Irwin's show. The theme was invasive animal species, which seem to go bonkers in Australia. One bit had them in a grain storage building, which had, literally, close to a million mice infesting it. They were teeming, and giving new horror to the word. The Irwins were scooping up the little critters, any one of which could have been deemed "cute" by itself, by the handsful, bucketful, sackful, to show how difficult it was going to be to clear them out. His wife, usually so cheerful and brave, looked as if her skin were crawling, which it may have been, for at one point she had a mouse or two under her shirt. Even a big carpet python they brought in to do some hunting freaked out, and slithered away. Irwin claimed that mice in those numbers will go after live pigs.
We saw another nature program about orcas, also known as killer whales. Our cat, a black and white short hair, sat on my mother's lap and watched the orcas intently. We wondered if he thought they were relatives of his, owing to their similar coloration. He probably would have been horrified at the sight of the endless, boiling streams of mice in the previous program.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

back on track

My mom's miracle-working hair stylist is back in action, in a swell little place with a fish tank by the waiting area. She seemed so much happier, giving us hugs and smiles, which was unheard of in the old location. She's so quiet, but we could tell she was stressed and unhappy over the past few weeks. We hope she's going to be able to keep her business going, since visiting her has been the high point of many a week.
Maple butter reserves are getting low; contemplating tank storage in the wine cellar.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Where has our hairdo magician gone?

The little salon where my mom has been going since she got here got forced out of its space, owing to a tripling of rent by the landlord . "She's a real asshole," declared the older European stylist fellow who informed us about their trials. Two of them had to bail to a place up the street, not so far away, but the other two had to find space in another neighborhood. Ah, the results of our crazy real estate market. Greed abounds. It's doubtful if the rent gouger will really be able to make more dough, unless she plans to tear down the building and go up into condos, a possibility. More little businesses are drowned in the bathtub.
Off to the weekly Drinking Liberally this evening, with a few local political luminaries on hand, Jay Inslee, Jamie Pedersen, whom I've been skeptical about, but he's working against I-933, so that's enough to put him in my good graces. I met a friend, who was so tired she left before the main attraction appeared, Cindy Sheehan. I was just heading towards the door when she arrived, so I got to shake her hand and exchange a few words. She has a firm grip, and looked sad and determined.

Monday, October 02, 2006

How long can this keep going on?

As long as there are no voices calling for moderation, a slowdown of using up everything to make more of nothing anyone needs; but there is no demand for less demand, or not enough to staunch the hemmorhaging.
The front porch floor is dry, and the house seems to be done. My mother likes it and even wrote the painters a thank you note. Hers is a generation that insisted upon such gestures, part of a gentle art which seems to be disappearing along with the people who practiced it.

Sunday, October 01, 2006


Something done to one's style, or a pie crust, or very small climbing holds, the latter of which we did this afternoon for a bit.
Finished the Sherwood Anderson volume, and started Pamuk's novel "Snow." It's looking, even early on, to be engaging. The setting, mostly Istanbul, is imbued with ancient layers of political, religious and economic history. Pamuk taps into this deep background so fluently.