Sunday, September 30, 2007

One must carry on

Challenging pep talk conditions, what with monsoons lodging over the area; we run and workout and walk, with golf umbrella rampant for the latter activity. Once it gets colder, I'm going to need some kind of football coach routine to rally the squad.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Fun in no sun

Further attitude adjustment today, as I got another climbing gym workout with a good friend. No upsidedown time, but plenty of effort; we managed to feel some kind of pleasant exhaustion. The day grew darker and windier, and rainy by the evening walk.
Most happy to retire with a collection of Margaret Atwood's nonfiction, called Writing with Intent. I appreciate her work, her voice, her intelligence and dry humour; there is a very good piece on what led up to her production of The Handmaid's Tale. The novel is a dystopia, and her's one thing Ms. Atwood has to say:
"Utopias are often satirical, the satire being directed at whatever society the writer is currently living in - that is, the superior arrangements of the Utopians reflect badly on us. Dystopias are more like dire warnings than satires, dark shadows cast by the present into the future. They are what will happen to us if we don't pull up our socks.
What aspects of this life interest such writers? To no one's surprise, their concerns turn out to be much the same as those of society. There are, of course, the superficial matters of clothing and cuisine, partial nudity and vegetarianism making regular appearances. But the main problems are the distribution of wealth; labor relations; power structures; the protection of the powerless, if any; relations between the sexes; population control; urban planning, often in the form of an interest in drains and sewers; the rearing of children; illness and its ethics; insanity ditto, the censorship of artists and suchlike riffraff and antisocial elements; individual privacy and its invasion; and the administration of justice - if, that is, any such administration is needed."
( emboldened text my emphasis)
The Handmaid's Tale was published in 1983, and this piece around the same time. If you consider each of the issues mentioned above, I think we can clearly diagnose our country, and this world, as already well on the way to a dystopic condition. And we are almost another quarter of a century down this slide since Atwood wrote this. Small wonder so many dystopic works are coming out, including Atwood's own Oryx and Crake. Large wonder that they're permitted to be published; guess it's because they're labeled as fiction.

Friday, September 28, 2007


Got to go to a different climbing gym with our kid; he works there, gets me in free. His preferred workout is doing laps on a long roof route, most of which one does hanging from the ceiling. I managed to get up most of it, on toprope, which probably took more energy than just leading it in the first place, but I am a bit unconfident on harder problems lately. The upsidedown nature of the effort did wonders for my ailing sinuses.
Oh, it's cold and getting crummy. Perfect pizza night.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Magic beans

Yesterday was the last neighborhood farmers' market for the year; now we'll have to go farther to the bigger more crowded ones. My favorite beanmongers had organic soybeans in the pod, which we'll try as edamame, the steamed-in-the-pod and salted version we get as a complimentary appetizer at our favorite sushi place. They also had more shelled black turtle beans, which cooked up beautifully the last time I got them. The potato guys were there, and the fish purveyor. All will be at the bigger markets, so I guess I'll have to suck it up and head out early to avoid the pressing crowds.
Rains started tonight, making it feel right to hop into bed with a book.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Moon over lake

We managed a lovely evening walk, lit by a nearly full moon. The cat's been behaving oddly, maybe due to the lunar phase, but more likely it's owing to the altercation he was involved in with a cat from a street over. He'll be confronted, and can't seem to resist chasing the interloper off his patch; then he huffs and gimps like some old farmer who's just run off a watermelon-stealing varmint. He's 58 in "cat years"; he's getting into that ornery bachelor stage.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

In remembrance

It took a little digging, but we managed to recall this date and piece together its significance. On this date in September of 1948, my parents were wed, and headed off to Quebec for their honeymoon. It was unusually cold that fall, so they were able to go cross country skiing. My mother remembers staying in a small hotel and going to the Hotel Frontenac for lunch; it was far too expensive for them to stay in. She also recalls eating so much during those two weeks that she gained about ten pounds; all that nice heavy cream on the oatmeal was one cause, as well as plenty of French pastries. We found their wedding photo in an album, and they did look young and handsome.
Some time this summer, while hunting for works of Eliot, I found a David Lodge novel titled Paradise News, which I've started. He's a wonderful writer, an intelligent, eloquent yet sassy Brit who has a trio of novels set in academe, Changing Places, Small World and Nice Work, which are comic yet fine and smart. His little book of literary criticism, The Art of Fiction, is a work anyone who is serious about well-written fiction should have and re-read from time to time.

Monday, September 24, 2007

More delights

Running in shorts today was an unexpected treat, but we're getting a shift tomorrow. A date keeps running through my mother's memory, and we finally figured out that tomorrow would have been her 59th wedding anniversary. I think a big flowering plant will be in order.
Zipping through a recently written novel loaned to me by a friend; it's titled Water for Elephants, and although it's a pretty good story, I'm struck by the lightweightedness of fiction these days after a summer of reading George Eliot. The book seems like one tiny idea, fluffed out like cotton candy and spun like its ready for the movie derived from a best-seller stage. Sweet, but mostly insubstantial; there's one character who really amounts to anything solid. Not a waste of time, though, if you're wanting something that goes quickly.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Hail the autumnal

On a walk yesterday we started noticing leaves changing color, on huge oaks, small maples and a line of sweet gums along the lake. Summer lingers in a cooler version, more lovely than it was a month ago.
I've finished the main text of Felix Holt, and have gone back to the introduction, which was difficult to get engaged in before. There is also an appendix which contains something called "Address to Working Men, by Felix Holt", written by George Eliot. She was urged to write this by a fellow writer, in the persona of her main male character in the novel. It could serve very well now as a rallying effort for USA workers who are being robbed of their livelihoods by corporate plunderers. Too long to quote, but was written in 1870. Worth a look.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

The actual last day of summer

Some of us seem to be fighting off a summer cold, its final bequeathment. Nothing like a bit of sushi to celebrate the last lovely evening.
Nearing the end of Eliot's Felix Holt. Another fine bit of character revelation:"A doomed animal, with every issue earthed up except that where its enemy stands, must, if it has teeth and fierceness, try its one chance without delay. And a man may reach a point in his life in which his impulses are not distinguished from those of a hunted brute by any capability of scruples. Our selfishness is so robust and many-clutching, that, well-encouraged, it easily devours all sustenance away from our poor little scruples." I'd say this reminds me of the likes of Dick Cheney, but he hasn't evinced possession of scruples in a long time, if ever.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Skipping along

Such glorious dregs of the summer, it's easy to miss a little jotting now and then; we're more embedded in daily existence lately. The other day my cancer surviving friend called to set up a climbing session. We've been talking about getting out in the wilds somewhere all summer, but it hasn't materialized, with her crazy schedule of surgeries, work, and keeping track of a couple of teenagers and a spouse. Maybe later; for now we have the gym. She's had an interesting response to her disease; she said that after all the tribulation, it's left her in a frame of mind where things don't seem to bother her so much. She's always been damned positive, and this confirms it. Nothing like a full-on mastectomy to put things into focus.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

next-to-last market day

The farmers' market within reasonable walking distance is ending next week. It is small, and probably if you went out to "the country" and picked your own produce, you'd pay less per pound for freshly shelled black beans and such, but you'd have spent almost two hours driving to and fro, and used some of your billable hours in hard labor. I'd rather walk. For the rest of the fall season we'll have to do some urban hiking over to the Ballard market on Sundays, which is a crazy scene of strollers, dogs and often pushy people. Or down to the U District, which seems to sell out of stuff owing to people who get up at ungodly hours on Saturday morning to rush over there and buy up everything. Those of us inclined to relaxed late morning activities get shut out. Yeah, yeah, the race goes to the swift and all that rot; some of us are swift and not so competitive.
Another session of climbing, with a different friend. Interesting how many approaches there are to the same basic activity. I don't compete with my friends, but some of them are quite intent on some kind of contest, with themselves or others, hard to tell. Once in a while they kind of rope me into the game, but I'd prefer to just go until I drop. It's a great form of therapy.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Fake climbing

Hitting it on a daily basis lately, since it's convenient; in and out in about two hours. It's difficult to get a whole day to go out on actual rock.
We squeeze out the last drops of sun and warmth; only a day or so of summer's left.

Monday, September 17, 2007

grayer still

Dodging rain all day; we managed to get our heart rates above a flatline. A very colorful chapter in Felix Holt deliniates hubbub on an election day which degenerates into a riot. Only men of property, from a minimum level on up, were permitted to go to a polling place to publicly voice their votes. Along the way, as the day wore on, various factions massed, making heading to the polling place a literal running of a gauntlet. Missiles were thrown, such as raw potatoes, and then harder items; a couple of men were trampled to death. Ah, dignified England, our gleaming standard.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Receding into mist

The summer, and its peculiar interrupted quality this year, is gone. Summer interruptus; short tantalizing stretches, interspersed with unpleasant patches, but now it has changed into chilly rain. Maybe we'll have to chase it somewhere.
Our almost ninety year old denizen is following the same direction as the season, and I'm hoping the shift won't be unbearable for any of us.
Another little tidbit from George Eliot's novel Felix Holt. There is an election in a place called North Loamshire, and one of its inhabitants, a tenant farmer, is described thusly: "poor Mr. Goffe, of Rabbit's End, considered that 'one thing was as mauling as another', and that an election was no worse than the sheep-rot;" The next one coming up for the US is looking worse than sheep-rot.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Swell time

Brief but good trip up to the San Juan Islands; we went out on a wildlife tour boat, and spent quite a bit of the sunny, breezy afternoon exclaiming over the two pods of orcas feeding and swimming around us. Our young and enthusiastic captain and the very young woman who was his first mate and the naturalist/narrator for the trip were terrific. He got us out in the viewing area for the orcas, cut the engines, and as we sat the legal distance from the feeding orcas, the animals turned around and came right out past us, porpoising and feeding alongside the boat. If your craft is just sitting there and the animals approach you, everything's fine; if you stalk them like one small boat was doing, there are some folks who come over in a fast little inflatable and inform you about leaving the animals alone. At one point, some jerk in a fancy cruiser came bombing right into the waters where the orcas were feeding, on a possible collision course. Our intrepid captain blasted a warning to them with the ship's horn, and the whale protection boat took off after them, eventually catching them and giving them what-for; a stark and depressing example of the low caliber of so many humans.
The day was well-spent, and the orca observation beyond any expectations I'd had for the boat trip. We finished it with a good seafood dinner.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Off on a winger

Out of town family guests, and we're heading out for a couple of days of tourguiding. A whirlwind in the San Juan Islands; hope all goes well.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Mucking out

When it's in the 80's here, we get out and work on our cardiovascular systems; it surely beats housekeeping. We can save that for a rainy day.
My elderly mother knew this was a significant date, but couldn't recall why. We discussed it briefly on one of our walks, and she observed that she thought it was dreadful for our "leaders" to be out starting unnecessary fights. Amen, mamacita.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Hot and wonderful

We're hitting another sweet spot of summer around here. When it's in the high 70's, low 80's, with cooling breezes, I always wonder why we have to go anywhere else for pleasure. Maybe some hiking somewhere; I keep hearing the High Sierras down in California are amazing.

Sunday, September 09, 2007


We're taking the day to catch up on sleep, and other things, such as baking blueberry coffeecake for breakfast, and oatmeal molasses bread for general consumption. Nothing like whacking on that dough to work out the crotchets in the psyche. Sweet evening walk, not even needing a second layer for warmth; the coolness down by the lake was delicious.
Here's a wonderful bit of description from Eliot's "Felix Holt" of a small boy named Job Tudge:
"Job was a small fellow about five, with a germinal nose, large round blue eyes, and red hair that curled close to his head like the wool on the back of an infantine lamb. He had evidently been crying, and the corners of his mouth were still dolorous." Felix Holt and his mother had taken in this "orphin child". Felix describes Job a bit more: "This is a hero, Miss Lyon. This is Job Tudge, a bold Briton whose finger hurts him, but who doesn't mean to cry.
The beauty of Eliot's writing continues to amaze me.

Saturday, September 08, 2007


The hike was moderate in length and pace, and pleasant. We made it back in time to take a look at a local harvest fair, put on every year for some time now by an organization called Seattle Tilth. They offer education and information about organic gardening methods. This year the fair wasn't as full of local growers, who I think might be busy at all the neighborhood farmers' markets that are springing up all over the city. There were some interesting items, though, such as the pale purple and white striped eggplants of a variety called Purple Rain, the beautiful yellow Romano beans, and the redskinned, pink-fleshed spuds called Huckelberry.
We wound up the evening taking a friend out for dinner at one of her favorite places which has a wine bar. Her frisbee golfing partner and all around best boyfriend was out of town, and it was good to have her company to catch up. Recently read of a wine bar in San Fran called The Bubble Bar, which obviously specializes in champagne. That's one I could visit now and then.

Friday, September 07, 2007

Fueled up

For a little hike tomorrow; just a shortish one, due to time constraints,and two college football games in town within hours of one another, which pretty much fouls up the freeways in certain directions all day. Any time out in this rare weather is precious.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Thrashing of a Thursday

Another climbing gym session, with a couple of friends who used to be a couple and have remained cordial for many years; he recently found out he's got cataracts, and is facing surgery. He was joking about being full of extra bits and pieces, since he had a hip resurfacing some years ago and has metal in his joint, and velcro in his gut, and will soon have some kind of ocular device implanted in his eyes. Gad, we are not so old, but perhaps we should not dwell upon that, since we're still fit and able to do a great many strenuous activities. As my friends observed, we arent' young and crazy like many climbers, but rather, older and reflective. (with a good portion of irony there...) These two people and their friends have scores of years of mountainieering and rockclimbing experience. I'm appreciative to spend time with them, and hear of their adventures, which will probably have to serve as vicarious ones for me right now.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Strange day

The eldest among us awoke on a bad side of the bed today. From the getgo, things were not right, and upon reading her alumni magazine, in which she discovered a 1939 classmate who had just died at her same age, things went downhill. Nothing seemed to cheer or buoy, until we managed a hair and toe do appointment with her stylist, who's been out of commission for a bit here due to allergies. Allergies are a widespread affliction in these parts, some more imaginary than others, but it's hard to confirm or pin down. Well, a good foot massage and a nice hairdo seemed to set things right again. The day was absolutely lovely, hard to conceive of depression in such beautiful surroundings, but like Hamlet said to the gravedigger...
I am going to make sacrifice to something or other to deny the Shrub any further enrichment. For speeches, he thinks he can make money. I shall dog him. He shall NOT profit from a single word falling from his sinful mouth. Any of you out there who dare pay this poor excuse for a human being one more cent, be damned.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007


Lovely reunion with the beloved spouse, who's been away for more than a week; we had a celebratory beverage and some spicy corn bread at a local watering hole. The evening was breezy and clear when we went home, but round midnight, thunderstorms hit the area, waking me up. I moved to another room to read, and fell asleep, only to be rousted at about three ayem by a strong tapping on the window: A family of raccoons, a big one and three smaller ones, lined up and looking in. I got up and smacked the window, which sort of got to them, and they climbed into the big cedar tree at the edge of the porch roof. It poured all night, and into the morning.

Monday, September 03, 2007

Urbanized exercise

Off in search of smoother foods for an aging throat; there's a PCC branch not far from here, down a big hill, which usually has more options than the local supermarket. The neighborhood it's in was thronged with people, some almost Fellini-esque in their garb, evidently from striving to met some fashion standards from another dimension. Maybe the Sunday Market drew them, although they didn't look as if they'd buy anything at the various clothing vendors in the street market: Lots of women in very thick facial make up, all different ages; guys in odd layerings of leggings and shirts, accessorized with messenger bags; and one young woman, in a little black dress with not much material in front to support her breasts, walked along shoving them back into the dress. Her two male companions seemed vaguely intrigued. Lots of loud whining about buying stuff filled the air. It was a relief to get to the used book store, where no such people were around.

Saturday, September 01, 2007

Day gone by

We were richly rewarded for our chicken minding with wine and a fresh batch of brownies. The weekend is too quiet, with the menfolk gone.
Felix Holt is certainly grounded in the politics of the day, which per usual smack of the bullshit going on today, in any town or city.