Tuesday, June 30, 2009


A friend passed away last week. It was not unexpected. But it was entirely too soon.
She left this Earth the same day as Farrah, and Michael.
At first I found the coincidence disturbing. Absurd. As though it diminished her passing.
Another friend raged at the brouhaha surrounding Michael Jackson's death. Thousands of people die every day! Think about it!
I did think about it.
I think it's good that we care. No, there's no need for 24/7 video of ambulances and grieving relatives. But it's good that someone's passing hits us hard.
Being human is a terminal condition. The question isn't if, it's when.
Being sad, grieving publicly, is a way of observing that I'm behind you, my friend, I just don't know how far.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

People will talk

I try to walk different routes on my rambles around Seattle. This forces me to pay attention to my surroundings instead of lapsing into a blissed-out travel coma. It also means I do a certain amount of backtracking out of cul-de-sacs and old stone staircases that turn out to be entryways to private yards.

It also doesn't hurt to look up. To notice the graffiti tags and signs and private little posters affixed to nearly all flat surfaces and public objects. Conversations are being conducted all around us. People expressing themselves. Saying what's on their minds--cursing, celebrating, being goofy, talking about sex. All the things that make being a human being so great and so painful.

In the course of an hour, between the U-district and Fremont, I saw these 2 signs and a graffito, which range from Hallmark cheer to menace to despair:

Then I spotted this lovely creature pasted to the site of a utility cabinet. No commentary. No URL. Just being.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Overheard around town part V

Best overheard comment, at the Fremont Solstice Parade yesterday:
"Let's go over there to Taco Delmer," uttered by a well-upholstered fifty something citizen. I'm guessing he meant Taco Del Mar but the pronunciation made me giggle. Tah-co Delmer. It put me in mind of a sunburnt Iowan in overalls.

Second best overheard comment, on the 56 bus to Alki last night:
"Why won't he answer the damn phone? I just wanted to wish him a happy damn Father's Day."
Gee, I wonder.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Call me Chip

I picked up a pair of shoes from the cobbler today. The whole idea pleases me immensely--drop off an injured shoe--heel worn down, strap torn--and turn up three weeks later to pick it up. Besides the obvious draws--recycling, supporting a local small business--there's also the fact that my great-grandpa was a cobbler. We have a photo of him standing in the basement of the Kansas hotel where his shop was located, wearing a long leather apron, surrounded by dozens of pairs of shoes.
His son, my grandfather, loved to refinish furniture. My aunt told me this, in April. How did I not know? Maybe I did, deep down--a whiff of sawdust brings back a flood of happy grandpa memories, a madeleine a la Proust. When I was a kid, his daughter--my Mom--re-did an entire cherry wood upright piano, sanding and varnishing it completely by hand. Next winter, when I'm tucked away in the basement with my Dremel contour sander, sweat dripping off my safety glasses, I'll think of them and this wood-working DNA we share.
I also inherited another of mom's affinities. From the bus this morning I spied a pile of interesting junk on a corner, labeled with that magical word: FREE. Later, I detoured to that corner, and sure enough, the pile was still there. What I thought was a shiny red bread box was a strange square microwave, with a broken door latch. I walked on. Oh well. Free isn't worth extra radiation with my nachos.

Monday, June 15, 2009

All hoity, no toity

I loved this "no public toilets" sign at the place that used to be Matt's Hot Dogs on 45th and the Ave.
Not only are the generic man/woman in agony, the jaunty dawg--a holdover from Matt's, I think--seems to be enjoying it all.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Rejection Junction

Welp, it's been a three rejection week -- two for short stories, one from an agent. It's part of the job when you're a fiction writer and your last name isn't Eggers, Lahiri, or Sedaris. (Note to self: look into changing name?) Knowing that rejection comes with the territory doesn't make it sting any less.
I have started getting handwritten notes with my rejections. Cold comfort, you might think, but in a writer's world, this is also known as progress. The slush pile readers at two journals asked me to send them something else in the future. Another wrote, Much to admire.
Meager, yes. Like a saltine cracker when what I really want is the chowder. But for now it's what I've got.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

School, division, and snakes

Graduate is one of those words with meanings that seem at cross purposes, like cleave, or inflammable. This time of year, to graduate is to move up, to ascend from high school to the unknown beyond that is life, whether that's a job flipping burgers, bumming around Southeast Asia, or the lonely horrors of summer school.

To graduate can also mean to divide, and that seems appropriate too. It is a dividing up, a separation, a goodbye. Kids bidding adieu to their old schools, their friends, to being the big fish.

I attended my niece's high school graduation last night. Three-plus hours in a lovely old theatre, our seats front row balcony, craning our necks to catch her eye and impudently stick out our tongues.

This photo is from our April trip to Kansas: my 2 older nieces sitting on the steps of the schoolhouse my grandmother attended as a girl in the 1920's, and where my great-grandmother taught. Blue Hill, derelict now, the interior rotted and collapsing, windows busted out, the white magnesium limestone weathered and sooty. My grandmother wouldn't get out of the car . Watch out for snakes, was her succinct advice, as we clambered up the dusty steps. It made me sad to see the old building, where she had spent so many happy hours, so ill-used. As we continued on our drive toward Fairport, she told us that my great-grandmother--her mother--our Nannie--had once killed a rattlesnake in the outhouse behind the school.

The Blue Hill students have long since graduated. Many have lived out their days completely. My niece is at the beginning of that spectrum still. I see her fresh face, glowing with the excitement of the unknown, and think that if we remember what we share--the thirst for knowledge, the desire to see the world, to experience it and love it--we are never divided.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Go here now

Check out my friend Tracy's blog if you get a chance.
We met a few years back at the summer writer's program at Iowa.
Not only is she a talented writer and skilled editor, she also does a mean Scooby Doo impression.

On our last day of class, Tracy had the nerve to ask our instructor--the amazing Marilynne Robinson--if she, Tracy, was the future of American literature. MR blanched, stammered something, clearly trying to be diplomatic. Then I raised my hand. Am I the future of American literature? The next person at the table echoed the question: Am I...? MR's face cleared--thank the gods--realizing our class of pranksters had cooked this up, and laughed heartily.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Wud up dawg?

You may remember my obsession with street art, and the Tubs/FreeSheepFree project. (Go ahead, stroke my ego--"Remember, how could we forget?")

I love the humor in graffiti--it's raw immediate provocation, laced with wit, satire, and of course crudity. It's why I love hip hop, and hanging out with my little sister (hi sis!). It--graffiti--is also of the moment, thoughtful, sometimes comforting, often lovely. Which reminds me of my other sister (heya).

What I really want to discuss though is hot dogs. These dawgs appeared at Tubs. "Wud up dawg" is my favorite. I had to duck behind a city-use sign and break a couple of branches to get the shot. This cranky looking wiener combines two--no three--of my favorite things: graffiti natch, hot dogs, and phonetic spelling. I come from a long line of librarians, writers and English teachers; if there's one thing embedded in my DNA, it's spelling. So I take special, rebellious delight in the artfully spelled word.

And the fact that, despite this post, I'm again sitting here trying to remember how to spell "misspell" ought to be indicator enough that I fell out of the family English tree and probably broke a branch or two--on my way to take a picture of a dawg.

bsp videos don't sleep on 'em