Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Ciao 2008

I can't say I'm sorry to see this tired old year go.
Ciao ciao 2008.
Don't let the door hit you in the arse.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Cold, but pretty, but cold

More snow is coming, and now there's supposed to be wind, freezing rain, and sleet, too.
I think it's Mother Nature's way of forcing us to spend more time with each other. The malls are empty. People speak to each other as they clomp by on the street. My dog romps in the cold stuff as though it were a version of doggy heaven.
Something about the vicious weather brings out our humanity. A couple of days without power might change that.
Still, it's beautiful. Cold, but pretty. But cold.

Winter in Seattle

Seattleites are pretty unflappable when it comes to Mother Nature.

Eskimos have forty words for snow? Well, we have at least forty ways to talk about rain.

We slog through earthquakes, mudslides, 30+days of drizzle--no problem.

But snow throws us for a loop. Forecasters predicted snow yesterday and every school district in King County closed down pre-emptively. And it snowed everywhere but King County.

Today though it's been snowing. It's beautiful, but treacherous. I waited in vain for the 73 bus this afternoon, so I started walking bus stop to bus stop, and eventually walked the 40 blocks home. Others had it worse: one of my co-workers spent most of the day on Sound Transit buses.

Home, with hot chocolate and a warm dog, I turned on KING-5 and had my first real indicator of winter: Jim Forman, reporting from the bottom of an icy hill!

He's a Seattle tradition--KING-5 reporter Jim Forman, blown around by hurricane force winds, wading through two feet of water, standing on overpasses, braving the elements in his Gore-Tex and shouting into a microphone.

The calendar hasn't caught up with us yet but yup, it's winter in Seattle.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Sunday Dog Blogging

The pooch, after a slog through icy, snowy streets. Note the hillbilly missing tooth!

Wednesday, December 10, 2008


Some member of the commentariat posted this Mike-Moore-type figure onto pedestrian signs on the Burke Gilman Trail.



Saturday, December 6, 2008

Overheard around town, part deux

Out walking along the Burke-Gilman trail this morning, I watched a kid skateboard past. It was a rough section of pavement, coated with leaf mush, so he was zig-zagging around quite a bit. Brave kid, I thought, then heard a thud. Up ahead he had swerved to miss a bollard and somehow parted ways with his skateboard. One of his sneakers had parted ways too. He limped along in one sock foot, retrieved his shoe, and skateboarded away, dignity damaged but intact.

Last night at a bar along Roosevelt, a woman in a glittery headband and brick red lipstick waited to place her order. The bartender was busy making Jaeger bombs for a couple of pool players. Shot glass brimming with chilled Jaegermeister? Check. Tall glass 3/4 filled with energy drink? Check. "I killed a man after drinking two of those," the woman said. The pool players wordlessly downed their 'bombs. "Did they ever find the body?" the bartender said, in a tone that suggested he pretty much knew the answer already.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Why refinishing furniture is like writing

I'm an old school tightwad (thanks Gram!) and one of my favorite hobbies is refinishing furniture I pick up at thrift stores or from salvage yards, like Earthwise or Re-Use. A couple of weekends ago I found a table at Goodwill for $5. It's solid and made of hardwood, but it's also dusty and smudgy and coated with a dull shellac. So most nights, after writing and dinner, I go out to a corner of the basement, slip on a mask and work gloves, and work on the table. When I'm working on a piece of furniture, there's usually this moment where it transforms from the grubby piece with good bones to something with actual potential. With the table, the moment struck when I was working on the legs. I was sanding away, sweat dripping into my eyes, my arms getting tired, when suddenly I saw it, the grain of the wood, silky and voluptuous, emerging from beneath the thick, ugly old shellac.

Writing is like this. You have this awkward mass of words, and you know that somewhere within lurks the gem of an idea, but how to get to it? You tinker, you edit, you think and chop and put things back. And if you do this long enough, and thoughtfully enough, there is this moment where you see it, the thread, the beauty, the idea you were writing about and you didn't even know it.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Overheard around town

No pictures today. My camera is dead. My camera phone is also dead. So let's do this old school.

I have been practicing the lost art of eavesdropping.

At Fuel coffee shop this morning, a young guy, unshaven, in jeans with a very strategic hole on one rear pocket (and proof he was going commando), flirted with the baristas, a pair of twenty-something women. How much did they weigh? 95, one said. 130, the other one said. Everyone registered shock. 130? No frickin' way. Way. I chanced a look at Ms. 130. Skinny. Tall. You make a cute fat chick, Commando Boy said.

Later, walking down 45th, I passed a clump of five or six people, brunch-bound, I'd guess. They kept bumping up behind a blond guy, then sorted themselves back into rank and file. The guy in front said, as though defending himself, I'm walking as fast as I think anyone should want to walk. A masterfully circuitous piece of dialogue.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Vive la femme

I love this picture of my great-grandmother Jessie, smiling and barefoot in her bloomers. I only knew her as Nannie, my grandmother's mother, a rather stern presence in her horn-rimmed glasses, and a determined genealogist whose idea of a family vacation was tramping around old cemeteries looking for Kerr family headstones.
As I think about her, I'm struck by what she accomplished. She raised a child alone in a day when being a single parent was looked upon with raised eyebrows at best. She worked a paid professional job, wrote novels in longhand in Steno pads, and labored over the aforementioned genealogy for well over a decade. We still have many of the letters she wrote to fellow investigators in Ohio and North Carolina and Iowa, looking for a great uncle who fought in the Revolutionary War, or somebody's second wife's birthdate.
Nannie would be proud of the women in this family, I think. Her own daughter achieved her master's degree in her 40's and went on to teach learning disabled kids, retired in her 70's, and then took up a third career which is still thriving. My mom recovered nimbly from a bad divorce to find a new career, to remarry and live happily and fully.
My sisters and cousins and nieces can take lessons from these women. To work hard. To follow our hearts, and our passions, regardless of what society might have to say about it.
Sometimes, when I get discouraged, I think about Nanny and Gram and Mom. They inspire me. They keep me going.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Thank you, Dusty

Today is Veteran's Day. In Canada, it's Rememberance Day (and was observed yesterday).

My grandpa Dusty served in the Second World War. He never liked talking about it, although in his later years he told us a few stories, about a near miss in north Africa, and guarding Nazi prisoners after the war was over.

He was a brave man, capable, outgoing but never flashy, and I miss him a lot.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

I'm only happy when it...

You'd think Seattleites would be good at driving in the rain. We're not. Traffic snarls up like knotty thread every time the drops start falling.

I don't mind the rain though. In fact, I like it. If it's warm rain, the air takes on a certain earthy heaviness. When it's cold, the mist hits your face like a spritzer. It's refreshing. It's enervating.

Seattle partied like I have never seen Tuesday night.
After the news that Obama had won, people ran and yelled and danced in the streets. It felt genuine and spontaneous.
On the bus, in coffee shops (btw, sayonara Stickman), people are still talking excitedly about Obama. There's this collective feeling of relief. As though we'd been carrying around this shoulder pack of worry, and now, for the first time in awhile, we've set it down.
Don't get me wrong, I'm a pessimist, that backpack of worry is still handily nearby and I'm sure I'll be picking it up again at some point, but for today, I'm breathing in the sodden air and I feel good.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Beauty is everywhere

Someone regularly paints interesting graffiti in the alleyway next to Trabant, a coffee shop in the University District. I'm not the hippest chick in the pack so these may just be advertising or a secret coded message from Xenu, but I found them fun and vibrant and cool.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

My new favorite abstract expressionist (sorry Max Ernst...)

Catching up on the Sunday New York Times, I ran across an article on Beatriz Milhazes, an Brazilian artist. I'm still digesting but go here now and allow this colorful, crazy art to flood your eyeballs. and we'll talk more later.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Friday Dog Blogging

Here's my pooch, he's an 8-year-old Lhasa/poodle mix. A loodle, somebody said today.

Not the sharpest tool in the shed but a good boy nonetheless.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

HBD BKres!

17 years ago tomorrow, my niece was born. I have watched her grow from a chatty two-year-old to a smart, stylish teenager who is already starting to think about such serious things as college and animal rights and the Jonas Brothers.
This is one of my favorite pictures of her, standing in Times Square on a cold March midnight in 2007. The rest of the family was passed out our hotel, but BKres and I roamed the city, in search of hot chocolate and adventures. The picture is tiny but I'll never forget that night.
Happy B-day BKres! I love ya lots.

Thursday, October 16, 2008


Fall in Seattle is gorgeous.
I know you're thinking, what could be attractive about drippy gray days, where the streetlights glow all day like giant night lights, and you feel the damp chill deep in your sinuses?
I have one word for you: leaves.
You have to love a thing that is named for its behavior. In the fall, a leaf--well--it leaves.
Seattle's silvery gray autumn light makes the changing leaves light up, illuminates them as though each one is a little lamp. The leaves on the tree outside my window are a riot of golds and yellows and peaches. At dusk, they become a sunburst of light against the surrounding gray-green cedars. Our maples turn a deep ruby red, as intense as pomegranate seeds, or aged port.
This morning as I was out walking the dog in the cold dark mist, I spotted this leaf, a brilliant yellow, bedazzled with raindrops, plastered against the sequiny black pavement.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Ironic Irony Department

Yesterday Senator John McCain called comments by Congressman John Lewis, an African American, "beyond the pale."
Okaaaa-a-a-ay then.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Who is your style icon? (And why this is not a silly question...)

One of the silliest things I've ever seen was an entertainment reporter (oxymoron?) asking some flava-du-jour starlet, "Who is your 'style icon?'"
Let's think about this for a minute. You're asking this question of an insipid twenty-year-old with a handbag budget larger than the GDP of some foreign countries. You're asking the star of "Scary Movie" and a grainy sex tape who she looks up to in the style department.
It started me thinking, though. I'm an old-fashioned girl. Sit me down with a black-and-white movie and a champagne flute and I couldn't be happier.
Jane Alice Peters -- you might know her as Carole Lombard -- is one of my style icons.
Sure I'm a Hepburn fan (Katharine, mostly but Audrey too) -- and I love Bette Davis, and Isabella Rossellini before her Prince Valiant haircut, and I'll watch Cary Grant and George Clooney any ole time.
But Ms. Lombard is in a category all her own. Maybe because she left us so young, I don't know. But I could watch her in "My Man Godfrey" daily for the rest of my life and never stop admiring her style and wit and grace, the way she gazes at William Powell or glowers at sister Cornelia, somehow managing to both sparkle and smolder against the Art Deco set.
You can watch this 1936 classic movie any time you want, on You Tube. I recommend that you stick with the black-and-white version.
Today is in color. But yesterday, and forever, is in black and white.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

I Heart Lists


Who's there?

Control freak.


Say Control Freak who? Say it! Say Control Freak who?

It comforts me deeply to find other people's lists. Grocery lists left in shopping carts. To-do lists blowing around on the street. Finding a list tells me that I'm not alone. That others have the same need to quantify life, to order it, to write down pieces of the puzzle and then (oh this part is satisfying), check them off. Here's a list I found today in the grass off NE 75th. It's a checksheet I guess. On the back is written in black marker, "WF."

bsp videos don't sleep on 'em