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Saturday, December 11, 2010

Poe poetry

With thanks to Honey, who just did a huge project on Poe.  Then she xtranormaled a Poe poem.  I've always loathed this poem, so it seems perfect for xtranormal.

Laryngitis, thoughts on having

So Honey doesn't want me to talk because I have no voice.  She's right, of course, but it's hard.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Thanksgiving, vegetarian

The Honey/animated dogs are back. Now with more talk of food!

Edited to add:

Quorn secured!

I must say I find the color a little disturbing.

Friday, November 12, 2010


King Tut brought me to New Orleans the first time.

Kids in the gifted and talented program at my elementary school did not usually get to take out-of-town trips until the 5th grade. The exhibition of King Tut's treasures in New Orleans prompted a year roll-back and I came--petrified and overwhelmed--to New Orleans. I do remember the exhibit vaguely and the alarmingly gold t-shirt I bought at it.

Some years later I saw plaster of paris replica of said exhibit at the Luxor in Las Vegas. The "best authenticity money can buy," or so I'm told. Standing in LV looking at the plaster did make a vision of my nine year old self come rushing back. I remembered the crowds and the gold.

I didn't come back to New Orleans until my drive from Georgia to California as I departed for programs PhD. That time, I had a po boy, some beignets, and went to Preservation Hall. I came back later with the folklorists.

Ten years or so ago, I came back again for an education conference. I was involved in creating a new kind of undergraduate education program at Commuter State and one of my colleagues suggested we present a paper about it at a big education conference here. The feeling of being at a big conference outside of your field is not unlike being a third grader in King Tut's Egypt. I remember wandering around the city (it was just before Mardi Gras) and watching parades and feeling out of place and out of sorts.

At the end of my stay, I went to check out of the hotel and discovered that I had been charged $1000+ for some equipment. I protested that I had not rented any equipment and the fees were removed. I flew home. A few days later, I got a letter indicating that the charges had been placed on my account again. I called and was assured they would again be removed.

Then I received my American Express card bill. Lo, the charges were once again there.

I switched tactics and protested via American Express. They removed the charges and "investigated." Sure enough, I got a letter from them indicating that the hotel had satisfied them that the charges were legitimate and I was re-recharged. I asked for the "evidence" that the hotel had presented. I was sent a copy of an equipment charge signed by someone named Buffie who has my last name. Buffie. I am not Buffie.

I then had my dad, an attorney who recently compared himself to a late-year Grover Cleveland. Apparently President Cleveland in has late life got rather large and started shooting people when he was cross with them. Anyway, dad wrote a sufficiently threatening letter, mostly referencing his ability to sue and disparaging Buffie and all named Buffie. The charges were reversed and stayed that way.

Sometimes lawyers help when reason does not.

I came back about a year later (and stayed in the hotel across the street). That trip was marked by a missed flight that kept me from driving out to Baton Rogue to see Patti and Tom. I never saw Tom again.

I've been back since that incident, but only briefly when Patti took my mother and I on a post-Katrina view a couple of years ago.

So I'm back now. On the 35th floor of Buffie's hotel. Looking out over the river. It's not a great time for me to travel. The conference I'm attending is fine and interesting and has not reminded me of my King Tut self, for the most part, but I wish I were in the other LA.

Last night, I went to dinner with a whole bunch of folks from my University system. One of the attendees has left the system and is now the vice-president of the college across the street from my high school. The college where Patti was the chaplain for a while. I listened to her tell another person about her experiences. After she talked for a while, I said something about what she was saying, and she said, "I keep forgetting you know all about the places I'm talking about."

Yes. I do know about them. The memory of the past is strong here. It's written on the landscape.

I guess I'd rather start over with New Orleans. Go all the way back to the kid in the gold t-shirt and give her different experiences of this place.

But I'm here now, with all that I do know. So, I'll have a beignet, I guess. And drive to see Patti tomorrow. Then, I'll go home.

Honey has never been here, so I can come one more time sometime. We'll make new memories. And none will involve Buffie.

Sunday, November 07, 2010

I know, everyone's all up in it...

...But I kinda love Xtranormal.  So, here's my first try at it.  Honey and I before Trader Joe's today.

Oh, and I'm saying Vanana and she's saying Banilla.  It's a Trader Joe's yogurt flavor that combines, well, banana and vanilla.

I may have to do more of these.  Fair warning.  Just saying.  It's my blog after all and don't nobody blog no more.  Might as well animate the mundane.

Edit to add:

Ok, I did another one.  :)

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Freedom and loyalty

I'm a pretty loyal person, when you come right down to it.  I'll stick with you, for the most part, if I've decided to be with you in the first place.

As I've gotten older, I've become more willing to admit that I don't always benefit from just doing what I've always done.  I don't use Scott toilet paper any more, because Honey convinced me some time ago that it was terribly uncomfortable.  I'm happy with Trader Joe's tp, but don't feel some unending bond with it.  If something better came along, I'd go with it. 

The same thing happened with orange juice.  Tropicana didn't deserve the loyalty I gave it, and now I am happier with unpasteurized from Trader Joes, or, preferably, Fresh and Easy.  See how flexible I've become?

My loyalty to products is now more carefully given to those I perceive as truly worthy and exemplary.  Whole Foods fudge bars, Noah's jalapeno cream cheese.  The latter has become so difficult to obtain--Noah's having stopped producing it in to-go tubs--that I have to beg bagelistas (that's what bagel people are called, right?) to dispense it for me into soup containers.  Having tried last week to be "brave" (as I referred to this trial) by having plain cream cheese on Trader Joe's bagels, rather than jalapeno cream cheese on Noah's bagels, I succumbed to "loyalty" and went to Noah's today.  It was with a sense of real relief that I walked away with my jalapeno cream cheese soup cup well packed by the bagelista.

My loyalty extends, of course, beyond the bounds of products to people and more ineffable things.  A recent crisis--which is best left off blogville--has led me to wonder about others' loyalty to me, but, fortunately, that is not a subject I wish to engage with today.

I remember many years ago driving a group of folks to the airport.  I was working in my first adult job, as the manager of the circulation desk of alma mater library.  My boss, a wonderful and kind woman whose death a few years ago from breast cancer grieves me to this day, had asked me to drive her and some other librarians to the airport.  For those folks not familiar with library things, librarians are the professional folks who went to library school.  They are faculty at most universities, including alma mater.  Should I call alma mater 2nd tier liberal arts school?  No, best not at least not in a post about loyalty.  People like me, who checked out the books at the desk (and managed the checker outers and shelvers and such) were not librarians.  We were staff.

Anyway, there I was, in my early twenties, driving these folks to the airport and one of them starts asking me about music.  He was cool and I liked him.   (So did my boss, I think, but she didn't date him, since she was dating this even cooler librarian who drank single malt scotch and was kind to her son).  I was then in a deep Indigo Girls fan zone and cool librarian was talking to me about them.  He said something that stuck with me.  "I bet you'll keep buying all their albums, even when you don't like them any more.  Some bands are like that for people."

He was right, for a while.   I kept buying their albums.  Seemed obligatory.  I didn't buy the last one or two, though.

Now, though, I mostly listen to podcasts and music I already know.  I'm hopelessly out of date on music, though occasionally discover a band I like by listening to Terry Gross.  Which, of course, makes me one of those middle aged liberal NPR listening types.  Still, the Carolina Chocolate Drops are awesome and just because I "discovered" them on Fresh Air, doesn't mean anything negative about them.  Or me.  Plus, mostly I listen to podcasts and am more of a fan of Planet Money than I am of any band.  Which still makes that whole bit about NPR true.

Which brings me back to the ostensible subject of this post.  I just finished Jonathan Franzen's Freedom.  I know, I know.  Oprah.  The National Book Award snub.  The Time magazine cover story.  Blah Blah Blah.

Thing is, though, he's one of those writers.  Can't put the book down (even at 561 pages).  Feel all the emotions that are there.  Savor all the wonderful bits of writing.  And the characters.  And the story.  And the structure.

Feel genuinely sad and happy about the end.  Put it on the shelf and look wistfully at it.  Think about how much I remember (still, eight years on) of Corrections.  Still sort of regret having sold my true first edition of same with the erratum on ebay.  (Pages 430 and 431 were reversed and FSG put a slip of paper into the first printing indicating the error).

I think I got about $50 for it, but whatever.  I want it back now.  I suppose I could buy another, but it wouldn't be the same.

My point, I guess, is that I fell for Franzen like very few other authors.  He writes it.  I read it.  Then I wait for the next one.  The waiting isn't active.  I don't go to fan sites.  But it's there, somewhere in my brain.  It gets rekindled when I read an essay of his.  Or someone brings him up.  Or asks if the "great American novel" is possible.  All of this for a guy who writes about families.  And the Midwest.  (The bird content of Freedom did make it even better).  So, I'll wait until 2018.  Or whenever the next one comes.

I guess Patrick (the librarian) was right, but about the wrong thing.  I let the Indigo Girls go.  As yet, Franzen (and a few other writers) get the bucks every time the publish.  No kindle on iPad for them either.  The real book.  On the shelf.

If you like American literary fiction, ignore the noise over Oprah, Time, and the rest.  Go buy Corrections and Freedom.  Read them.  Be prepared to give some of your time away to them.  In the end, though, if you're even a little like me, you'll be glad you did.

I can't lend you my copy of Freedom, though.  It's staying here.  I learned my lesson letting the last book go.  It never came back.  But I'm still loyal and I still miss it.

Saturday, October 09, 2010

Disrupting "normal"

Living in a large city like Los Angeles and taking things for granted from the good (there's bahn mi available near my work) to the once-would-have-been-extraordinary to the now ordinary (there are also lots of Starbucks around) to the banal (how many very ordinary pharmacy chain store outlets do we need exactly?) makes it easy to be lulled into a kind of complacency. Things disappear (Chris and Pitts, for example) and things persist (Philippe's). Why am I hung up on restaurants today?

A couple of weeks ago I was at a celebration of my university's (commuter state) founders day. It was very hot (in what passes for Fall in Southern California) and we had been in the celebration tent for far too long. The speaker, when he finally arrived, was decent. He's the author of a book about the sub-region in which commuter state is located. He talked at some length about the history of the place. Much of what he said I knew, but some of it was new to me. The following weekend, Honey and I happened to be near campus and I drove her around a little telling her about the new information I now had lodged into my brain from the talk.  About the fair and the horse races and about the now disappeared football team.

I like thinking about the history of places, both recent and distant. I'm especially intrigued by that living in Los Angeles. Because I grew up in Atlanta, the places were all new and exurby. Post Sherman, Atlantans love nothing more than tearing down and redoing.

Los Angeles, on the other hand, keeps some (but not, by any means, all) of its history around. You can see Victorian homes, mid-century ranches, Greene and Greenes, missions, and new mcmansions.  There are even restaurants (see how the brain makes loops) that date back 100 years. Beef French dip, hot mustard, chili with, and a custard at Philippe's please.

I've always liked that about LA. I love our O'Keefe and Merritt brown stove with its NuTone copper hood.

I loved learning last week that the area our laundry room and half bath are in is properly (in SoCal) called a "service porch." And so it shall be henceforth in my mind.

Ok, so we don't live in a mid century architectural masterpiece.  No one was selling a Lautner for the mid-200s when we bought our house.  Still, it's got some fine mid century touches.  And laminate flooring.  You don't get laminate flooring in a Lautner.  Nope.

Anyway, I was thinking yesterday, while waiting in traffic about these things we don't pay attention to until it occurs to us to do so.  I was not far from commuter state, where the preserved orange groves remain and I noticed a sign waver.  Sign wavers are not an unusual sight in LA, so I looked, noted that he was holding a sign for a Halloween store and wearing a mask.  He was dancing and waving the sign, as was to be expected.  But he was also occasionally stopping his dancing and moved in a threatening manner at particular passing cars.  I'm sure he was doing this because of the scary mask he had on.  His intent was, no doubt, benign.

The effect was chilling.  Really.  I felt relieved when he did it to the car in front of mine and accelerated quickly through the intersection when the stuck traffic allowed me to.  I thought most of the way home about why he seemed so scary.  It was, I suppose, the juxtaposition of his easy dancing, the sign, the normal street corner, and these quick, sudden violent movements that kept intruding on that scene.  Normal.  Then not.

It happened that I had been at another campus in my University's system earlier that day.  I had not been to that campus before, even though it's our closest sister campus.  It, in fact, started as a satellite campus of ours.  (I am aware, by the way, that this level of detail makes figuring out which campus is which pretty easy.  Since I don't think I have many non-friend readers, I'm going to persist with the semi revelatory.  Non-California friends are welcome to ask privately for details in case you don't want to figure out which campuses are which).

Anyway, sister campus has a lovely setting.  It's in a valley, near the ocean, surrounded by mountains and touched by sea breezes.  Commuter state, on the other hand, has a hot tent.  No, let me be fair, it's a beautiful campus, just in a hot part of SoCal.

Sister campus was a long time coming and many many sites were considered.  Several of them were met by strong community opposition.  Finally they settled on the site of an about to be closed mental hospital.  A rather notorious one.

We met in sister campus' spectacular library, the only modern architecture building on campus.  It looks out across this series of smaller Spanish colonial buildings.  Some of them have been converted into office and classroom space.  Many of them sit empty, waiting to be retrofitted with modern HVAC (rather than steam heating through asbestos laden walls) and ADA compliant entrances and bathrooms.  As a colleague from sister campus said to me yesterday, "it costs a million dollars to walk into one of these buildings."

My boss and I walked around a little after the meeting and I bought Honey a t-shirt from the campus with their cheesy mascot on it.  (Not that commuter state's mascot lacks cheese-factor, mind you).

I realized that I had taken that the normal that was a quiet Friday at a small University for granted.  But somewhere in my head and in that space there were other echos.  Echos of people whose lives were trapped in that place.  Of the past that is being written over with each of the million dollar entrances into each of those unrefurbished buildings.

It's the same kind of echo that I have always tried to make myself hear on the battlefields of the Civil War.  It's easy enough to stand in Sharpsburg or Mannassas and think that Antietam and Bull Run are theoretical battles where theoretical people died.  (Speaking of the Civil War and battlefields, I cannot recommend enough the recent Slate series on touring them.  Go read it when you're done with me today).

Same building, different purpose, different era.

A lot of these building were built with New Deal money.  The Great Society indeed.

Seems innocuous enough on first glance, right?

As one commenter on a 2002 Los Angeles Weekly article said about this place, where he had been confined as a child:

Now and then, when I think about those days, I Google the names of the people I knew there. So far, only two staff members have shown up--and no patients. It makes me wonder whether I'm a rarity because I'm still alive. Another possibility I've considered is that they've changed their names and don't want to be found. It's hard to face the ghosts of such a twisted past without someone who shared it to reflect with.

Since I don't share that past, I can't know what that person experienced, any more than I can know what Sullivan Ballou thought as he wrote his wife before the First Battle of Bull Run, where he was killed:

But, O Sarah! If the dead can come back to this earth and flit unseen around those they loved, I shall always be near you; in the garish day and in the darkest night—amidst your happiest scenes and gloomiest hours—always, always; and if there be a soft breeze upon your cheek, it shall be my breath; or the cool air fans your throbbing temple, it shall be my spirit passing by.
Sarah, do not mourn me dead; think I am gone and wait for me, for we shall meet again.

What I do know is that when I stand in these places, rich with the sacrifices and mistakes of the past, I would do well to pay attention to that small voice echoing in my head or in the space.  I should have stopped and looked more closely.  The interactive map of sister campus has all the unrefurbished buildings in gray.  They don't "do" anything when you click on them.  But standing near them, they do speak to what was once there.  I will go back to sister campus soon and look at them again, I think.  And listen.  

I am not nostalgic for the time of service porches, copper fixtures, and steam asbestos heating. 

Things go away, sometimes, for good reasons.  Sister campus is surely and better use for that space than its previous incarnation.  Soon enough, Halloween will come and go and the guy with the mask will leave the corner.  

And we will all remember.  And all forget.

Sunday, September 05, 2010

The Middle Room

We moved into our house in 2002.  February of 2002.  We hired terrible movers (we didn't mean to) who put everything into the room we then and now call the "middle room."  By everything, I mean every box and every bag.  The furniture basically went where it was supposed to.

The exception to the "everything in the middle room" request was supposed to be the bags and boxes (there were four or five) on which we had written "PERISHABLE!  PLEASE PLACE IN KITCHEN."  The requested exception was not made.  An overfull two bedroom apartment's worth of stuff was, therefore, placed into a room that measures 10' by 10'.  In the middle of this, um, pile, was rotting spoiling stuff.

From that moment forward, the middle room was not treated with respect.  For months, perhaps years, it remained the repository of all things placeless.  Some of that, of course, is necessary.  You've got to put the gift wrap and Christmas stuff somewhere.  Some of it, though, was a function of fear.  Perhaps ennui.  Certainly a function of objects at rest tending to stay at rest.

Some years ago, I tried to transform it into a "den."  It had a love seat and a chair.  It was functional enough, I suppose, but there was still a lot of stuff.  Relaxing was hard in there.  Once, while reading the paper, I noticed flora, specifically vines.  In.  The.  Room.  They had grown in through the window.

It was a Grey Gardens moment if I've ever had one.

I have had spates of organizing the house.  (I was just going to post links to a previous post about it, but now realize that all my picture links from my wordpress days are broken since has expired.  Ah well, trust me on it, won't you?  I've organized things.  The middle bathroom.  The utility closet.)

So, flash forward to a couple of weeks ago when I purchased a new chair and a work friend came over to my house to help me move the old one.  I showed her around the house and realized my horror at the state of the middle room.  There was stuff in there that had literally been moved in with the rotting spoiled perishables and had not been touched or seen the light of day since.  Eight plus years.

(Does it need to be said that the perishables were disposed or properly?  Perhaps.  They were.)

There's another factor at work that I should mention.

Honey has started graduate school.  She's in the super intense program wherein she takes seven classes a term.

I have a D of Ph and I took two classes a term mostly.  So, Seven.  Whew.

I want her to have as much freedom as she needs to move around the house.  Living room, office, dining room.  Most of the time, I am perfectly happy to be around when the graduate school peripateticity happens.  Sometimes, though, I might want somewhere to go.  Somewhere that isn't our bedroom where my choices are to lie on the bed, sit on the bed.   Or take a shower, I suppose.

Mostly, though, there was the whole business with showing someone that room and thinking, "um, time to get this sorted."  Past time, really.  Well past.

Yesterday morning I announced my intention to tackle two projects.  The first was a sock organizing project.  The second was the middle room.  It was a bit like saying, I think I'll read Fox in Socks and then see how I get on with Remembrance of Things Past.

The socks went fine.  Most are reunited with their mates.  They're now all in the same drawer and much more accessible.  I've got a bag of unwanted ones to leave for the folks that come around looking for recyclables on trash day.

After the sock success, we ran some errands and got some lunch.  At 4pm yesterday we got home and I got started on Proust.

Honey says I sometimes push past my limits.  I certainly did last night (and this morning).

Here is most of what was taken out of the room:

Let me take a side moment in praise of my car.  I've had it almost a year and it replaced a succession of two SUV type vehicles.  SUVs really.

It has accepted every single containment task I've asked of it.  The new living room chair?  Check.  A new office chair and our weekend luggage?  Check.

All the crap from the middle room?  Check.

America, listen up, you don't need SUVs.  You need hatchbacks.  They do what SUVs do.  And, if you're smart like me, you get one with good gas mileage and it's superveryfun to drive.  Thank you Wolfsburg. 

From another angle:

That, friends and neighbors, is a lot of crap.

Three hours of clean out lot of crap.

The result?


Look, a usable, crap free room!  Forgive the bright spider fleece throw.  A gift, don't you know.
I'm really pleased.  

There may be some tweaking

Imagine all that stuff in the car in the room and in this closet.  It was so shudder worthy that I couldn't even take a picture of it before or in process.

RIP old middle room.  2002-2010.

Welcome new middle room.  2010-

Now, if you'll excuse me the Sunday paper awaits me in the new space. 

Sunday, August 15, 2010

A craigslist interlude in time

Late last week I came down with yet another cold. This makes about four (maybe five) this calendar year. I'm sick (ha!) of it if truth be told, but there's not much to be done about it other than suck on zinc tablets and stay home. I've given up on trying to power through it, especially during the summer. Things are quiet enough that I can stay home and watch the celebration of Norma Shearer on TCM and the world and university will not come to a screeching halt because I'm not there. Besides, if I stay home and actually watch old movies on tv, then I don't have to sit I my office mad at myself for not being productive and I can just try to get better. This strategy basically worked. Instead of being sick for ten days, I've managed to mostly feel better by the end of day five. I also haven't needed to take much OTC medicine, which I don't like doing in some weird throw back to puritanical ancestry. (That and my Dad has always resisted OTC medicine, so my reluctance could be linked to a more recent forebearer.)

I did decide yesterday after having a bad taste in my mouth and coughing up little chunks, which turned out to be called tonsil stones, that I needed to have my tonsils out.  I haven't backed up that conclusion with any member of the medical establishment other than

I didn't want to go anywhere yesterday and we were expecting a handyman to come fix our faulty drainage tube for the HVAC.   (Should I take a potshot at Sears? I have not been happy with Sears vis a vis our HVAC installation.  Not even a little bit.  So there.)

This conspiracy of forces (HVAC, sickness, Norma Shearer) coincided with a little craigslist focus in our house.  Last weekend, I had a fit of pique wherein I decided my customary chair was no longer the least bit comfortable and that I wanted another one.  After going to some unholy number of furniture stores, I had come to the conclusion that the only chair that might do as a replacement was an Ekornes Stressless recliner.

The problem?  They're a little spendy.  The Ekornes recliners.

Then I had a thought; why not check craigslist?  Sure enough, there was one listed for 1/4 of retail in Bell.  In case you're not wildly familiar with Southern California, Bell isn't exactly a vacation destination.  Currently in the news for wildly inflated salaries of civic employees, it's down off the I-5 in an area near, well, Commerce.  And Downey.  Yep.  That's the LA everyone knows and loves.

Nevertheless, down to Bell we go last Sunday night and I procure the chair.  The ever versatile GTI accepted it willingly into the hatch and we headed home.

(Not that there weren't any subsequent moments of concern.  I did have a near panic attack the next day that it was a fake.  Also my bank was pretty sure someone had stolen my ATM card because I kept going to the ATM to try to get money, not knowing what my daily limit was).

The chair was duly installed in the place of its predecessor, which now lives on campus at the Women's Center.  As my friend and co-worker who helped me get it over to the Women's Center noted, "they won't know it's not comfortable any more.  For them, that's how comfortable it's always been."

So, this weekend, what with the cold and the handyman, we decided to list some stuff for sale on craigslist ourselves.

On offer:

1) Two of our six bicycles.  We don't need six.  We probably don't need four.  But we certainly don't need six.

(That's the one of mine we're selling).

2)  One of my Timbuk2 bags (I admit that the pile of them in the front closet seems to consitute a collection at miniumum and an obsession if honesty is in my heart).

I have two sort of like this, briefcasey with a laptop compartment and I like the other one better.

3) My Tony Little Gazelle Elite.

You remember Tony Little right?  Screaming guy on the informercials sliding his feet back and forth on this thing?  Circa 2003 or so.  I bought it off craigslist.  Now, when I work out at home, I ride one of my bicycles (not that blue one above henceforth, to be sure).  The gazelle has been folded up, next to the hutch in our already small dining room.  It needed to go away.

4)  What Honey calls my barbie motorcycle helmet.  That "calling" goes sort of like, "it's a barbie helmet, barbie, barbie helmet."

I bought it online and didn't think it would be so, um, well, barbie.

Nice, huh?

So, we pop these things up on craigslist.  (Or should I quote "Your Mama" The Real Estalker and say we "heaved" them up on craigslist)

Honey starts getting e-mails about her bike right away.  The ratio of annoying to not was about 2/1.

I get an e-mail about the gazelle.  Could he come tonight?  He has lots of questions.

Now, it's time to tell you how much I was asking for the gazelle.  $25.  Yep.  And he was offering $20.  Which I said was fine.  But still, he had lots of questions.  I answered and tried to be nice.  He said he'd call and come get it in the morning.

He did not.

So, I listed it in the free section.  Which prompted an hysterical e-mail from a woman asking that I hold it for her.  She also called it an elliptical.  Um, no, not an elliptical.  Something you stand on and swing your legs in the air on.

Anyway, I went out to check to see if it was still there, though I was not inclined to hold it for her.  That mf was so hard to move that my shins got bruised just looking at it.  It was gone.  Probably for scrap metal.

No e-mails whatever on my bike.  It's now on ebay.  We'll see.

The Timbuk2 bag has gone back with its friends in the closet.

The barbie helmet is bound for Goodwill next time Honey goes.  (That will be this week, I'm sure).

On the upside, she does have interest in her bike, and not just from the guy who didn't want to raid his daughter's "colleg" fund.  I think she'll sell it soon.

Here are some lesson I learned:

1) My panic aside, people don't counterfeit Norwegian chairs and then try to sell them one at a time from their living room in Bell;

2) No one feel responsible for following up on their e-mails.  Civility and the social contract don't really exist on craigslist;

3) No one much uses full sentences, proper grammar, or punctuation in e-mails.  They don't even make a pretense at doing so;

4) Modelling grammar, civility, etc. for people in your communication with them will not result in their reciprocating;

5)  People are way too willing to give out their cell phone numbers;

6)  Teresa has better "taste" in bicycles than I do;

7)  Gazelles are played;

8)  Everyone has better taste than I do/did in motorcycle helmets;

9)  Everyone wants a bargain.  Perceptions of bargains are not shared across brains.

I'm glad our time with craigslist is coming to a close.  I won't miss it.

I did like the generosity of the woman who offered the fat from cooking her cats' dinner to anyone who wanted it, but wasn't sure she'd have any takers.

I suppose I can glance through that window into modern American Internet humanity now and again.  There's certainly something to learn.  Perhaps a bargain to be found.

Still and all, why do I think it's safer over at Etsy?

Saturday, August 07, 2010

Water and grapefruit

I've been thinking some lately about water and the desert.

I grew up in the east, where the humidity made you wish for a little less water and a little more seersucker.

That's what roads usually looked like as I stared out the window in the cars of my childhood.

I've lived in Southern California a long time now and am still amazed at how adaptable I am to the dry.  I say that in what, admittedly,  has been a very mild summer with lots of "June gloom."  That's the marine layer hanging around the morning and keeping the afternoon cool.  Thanks so much Pacific.

I've been doing a little writing (of the academic type) lately about the "real" desert here in SoCal.

(That my paper proposal was rejected for my annual professional conference did give me pause.  I've decided to interpret it as a failure on their part, not mine.  My annual membership renewal for said society languishes in the mail basket, perhaps to go unpaid.  Oh, yeah, deny them that $100 and THEN they'll see!)

Honey and I have been frequenting an inn in Desert Hot Springs for a couple of years.  And, yes, I do mean frequenting.  Eight times in two years counts as frequent.  :)

Sigh.  We've just been back a week and I'm ready to go back.  I think the GTI has a homing beacon now.

The innkeeper, a man of considerable charm, refers to his pool and hot tub as filled by water from a "fissure."  He means, of course, that Desert Hot Springs is sitting on a big old fault in the earth.  Those tricky faults that cause all the quaking also can cause the water of spring.

Desert Hot Springs has all the water it needs and can use.  It's good water, too.  It's good to drink.  Lovely to soak in.

Elsewhere in the region, there's less water.

Looks dry.

One of my current fascinations is water of a decidedly undesirable sort in the desert.

That's the Salton Sea.  Formed by inadvertent flooding from irrigation canals in the early part of the 20th century, it was once hailed as the new playground to the stars.  Now it's a salty mess, that kills fish, smells bad, attracts shorebirds, hosts some odd communities, and just generally sits ignored (as best as people can) in the middle of the Imperial Valley south of Indio.

The kingbird probably has a better idea than the sandpipers.  Don't get in the water.

I got to thinking about water closer to home this morning.  When we bought our house eight years ago, I planted a very small grapefruit tree.  And small it stayed.  Mostly because I didn't water it.

When we did landscaping a few years ago, we had a bubbler put on it.  I thought it rebounded quite well.  Then Honey's mother pointed out that the "rebound" was what she called a "sucker plant" and not the "tree" at all.  Today, I looked outside and commented to Honey that a sucker plant had once again attached itself to the little grapefruit that couldn't.

We agreed to plant something else.

A little later in the morning, I decided to feed the backyard birds, something I've gotten a bit out of the habit of recently (for monetary reasons, mostly).  Nyjer costs.  Don't let anyone tell you it doesn't.

Everyone wants "wild canaries," but I'm here to testify that if you want goldfinches at your feeder, you got to pay for nyjer seed.  (Current price about $2/lb.)

Anyway, as I filled the feeders, I glanced at the grapefruit tree and thought, "what the hell, I'll go ahead and shovel it out today."  I figured we could replace it in the fall sometime.

So, after I put away the seed implements (bird feeding is complicated, don't you know).  Visit a Wild Birds Unlimited near you to find out just how money you could be spending!  Don't forget the nyjer is obligatory if you want the little gold ones.

I walked over to the grapefruit "tree."  Let me give you a sense of scale.

That's it on the left.  The tree (no quotes) on the right is the tangerine.  It has had many fruit every year, water or no.  Bless its over productive heart.

There's no doubt that water helps these trees.  Here's the orange tree that didn't produce more than a dozen in the non-water years.
See all those fruit?  We'll be up to our elbows in oranges again this year.

Did I mention that they're navels?  Yum.

So I'm standing over the grapefruit and I glance down.

Yeppers, those are actual grapefruits.

Water.  I tell you what.  Eight years on and the little tree that couldn't has four grapefruit on it.  And lots and lots of new growth.  I'm giving it another chance.  Redemption comes when it does, I suppose.

Now, if only it would rain.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

On the eve of a trip away

Back when I started this blog, there were lots of blogs.  I suppose there still are.  My RSS feed certainly suggests that the blogs I track keep getting updated.  I even find new ones to read occasionally.

What is gone now (and I think for good) is the community of bloggers who I felt part of who read and commented on each other's posts.  There may be tweeting now, for all I know.  There's certainly facebooking.  What we've lost, though, is medium to long form ideas and the exchange thereof.  I suppose I'm not anti-tweet per se, but I come close.  And every time I update my status on facebook, I am both careful and a little unsure if my "friends" need to know what I've just said.

All of which is to say that I was thinking about vacation blogging this morning.

My morning gave me time and space to think, in part because I do not need or want to run in errands.  If Saturday is normally about going to the cleaners and getting bagels and getting the car washed, I have decided none of those things are necessary this particular Saturday.  Honey and I leave for vacation Monday.  I'm thinking this weekend should be:

bike, riding;
dogs, hanging out with;
movie, seeing;
meals, eating.

Not necessarily in that order.  And to be sure, some things need to be repeated.

We were to have gone to Lassen National Park to go camping.  (File under: recession, vacation)

It's not really our National Park, but sounded really wonderful.  It's only accessible in the summer.  I'm pretty sure it's summer, what with the heat rash and all.

So I had turned camping into a bit of a research project.

Tent: check, REI Hobitat 4, vestibule, and footprint
Sleeping platforms: check, cot, zero gravity chair
Coffee: check, titanium coffee pot and individual plunger mugs

I could go on and on.  Maps, GPS, hotels.  I had it sorted.

Then, we got a phone call.  They'd be chainsawing at our campground from 7am until 4pm everyday.

Noise sources expect, National Park camping:

Noise sources unexpected, National Park camping:

Serendipity intervened.  I like to think of Serendipity as a person.  She's out there somewhere.  Sometimes she's hanging around with me.  Other times, she's occupied with someone stuck in a tight spot who just happens to have the right tool to get out of it.  This may be one of the reasons I buy so many stupid tools on  Just trying to help Ms. Serendipity out.

I had, the very morning of the chainsaw phone call, gotten a notice that our most favoritist place we have gone to (a lot) over the past couple of years, the fabulous (truly truly) El Morocco Inn and Spa in (not so) fabulous Desert Hot Springs was running a special.  More than half off high season rates.  Half off low season rates.  As cheap as camping.

So instead of a very long drive, followed by very loud camping, we have a much shorter drive followed by a really nice bed and real mineral springs.  And massages.  All of which (despite the triple digits) will clear the heat rash right up.  Also maybe some of the current ennui.

So back to blogging trips.  I like blogging trips.  See, for eg:

Bear Aware


The Geese of Hawaii

Hmm, maybe I like blogging trips that somehow involve animals.

Anyway, trips happen whether I blog or not.  I may or may not blog on this trip. 

If I do blog about it, I will assuredly write medium to long form.  Spa-tels cannot be tweeted.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Heat rash: 2010 edition

Some years ago I wrote a short story called "Heat Rash."  It was "published" in a "Journal" that I helped produce while a graduate student at UCLA.  Lots of quotes in the previous sentence.  An acquaintance/sort-of-friend of mine decided she wanted to create a student journal of LGBT, (um, what's the word?), stuff.  She asked me to help.  She and her gay bff took credit as editors-in-chief.  This other guy, Kirk, and I really did the whole thing.  Kirk did the layout and the design.  I did all the editing.  In exchange we got credit as the "editorial board."  The acquaintance/sort-of-friend didn't really want to publish my short story, but she had the good sense to know she wouldn't get all the free work from me if she didn't.  So, we compromised (there was more give from me, truth told, than her).  I was to write a scholarly introduction to my story.  Um, ok.

I just reread the introduction (I can't bring myself to do more than skim the story).  I cite and discuss Walter Ong's Orality and Literacy.  Go me.  Remembered something from my oral narrative seminar.  Of course, I don't remember the seminar very well now, other than the cute girl who always brought pop tarts to class, but that's another matter. 

Anyway, I will quote (with some chagrin) from the story:

"It is April and it is Thursday and I have a heat rash under my left arm that has been bothering me all day.  It is red and bumpy and will soon cover my entire body....  The best solution I can come up with is to keep my right hand in my armpit at all times.  Left handed only, I am proceeding."

The story is a somewhat autobiographical account of one spring and summer I spent in D.C.  Re-skimming it now, many of the things I recall happening that summer seem to be in there.  I'll spare the plot to all concerned (mostly myself).

I should make a side note about the acquaintance/sort-of-friend:  she moved to D.C. to attend my Alma mater for graduate school.  When she did that, she broke up with her girlfriend and left her behind.  That girlfriend is sitting behind me now at her own desk, some 16 years later.  So something very good came out of the "journal" after all.

Oh, and I do still have the short story on my c.v.  I cited Walter Ong, after all.

The acquaintance/sort-of-friend lives in--of all places--Albania now.  She and her partner are undoubtedly having adventures of a very Balkan nature.  I do not envy her the life she has.  I expect the same is true of her in regards to me.

I have what I think may be a heat rash now.  It's not where the old one was.  Regardless, it hurts and itches.

It does bring to mind the overwrought heartache of young summers.  They seem very long ago indeed.

I ran into a former student of mine last night, who immediately began asking if the things she knew about me from before were still true.  She twice asked if we had gone to any Angel games recently.  I said no both times and refrained from launching into my lament about the unused and guilt-inducing "Angel Bucks" we have sitting in a drawer.  I said that sometimes we have to move on from the things we loved.  I liked baseball a lot once.  Now, less so.

Things change.

The heat rash made me think about the past, but did not make me want to return to it.

One more quote:

"The tendency, according to Ong, of a literate culture is to emphasize the individual, to have linear plot structure in a story, an to view fixed text as the norm."

If heat rashes aren't fixed, then how can plots be linear?

Somebody pass the cortizone.

Saturday, July 03, 2010

The iPad, the girl out the window, and my future

So, for some time I've been wanting, but resisting, the latest piece of kit from M. Jobs and co.   I even ordered the new iPhone to keep me from buying an iPad. I justified the iPhone purchase by telling myself that work would pay for it, so it was "needed." (I should note that though it has not yet arrived, I have secured one of the hard to find "bumpers" for it).

Now, I will take a slight detour.  I currently have a job that I like and am good at.   I also really like the people I work with.  I don't want to do my current job forever--indeed it is one of those jobs that I should not do forever lest I be viewed as "stuck." At any rate a job has opened up that I don't think I want, but there are people who want me to apply for it. I am even led to believe that if I did apply, I would probably get it. It's more money, more responsibility, more pressure. It also takes me--I think--in the wrong direction. So, I decided not to apply. Then I got a call.  My boss got a call.  I was asked to rethink. I am supposed to be rethinking as I write.

So, being me, I cried a little and I processed a lot. And then I decide to buy an iPad after all. Do you follow that? I'm not sure I do either, but there was the compulsion. Being compelling.

So I stop by Best Buy and ask. Nope. They only have 3G ones. Don't want 3G. One data plan with AT&T is enough, thanks. So, this morning, I commence to calling.

Apple Store #1: get on the waiting list

Best Buy #2: we don't carry ipads

Apple store #2: how about a 3G?

Best Buy #2: How about a 3G?

...some time later...

Apple Store #5: we have a 64mb wifi

So, without much thinking (or any crying), I head out to points east and emerge with the biggest wifi iPad there is.

Honey goes off to the gym to let me play with it. I start to lose myself in app land. The worries of the moment recede.

Then the dogs begin to bark. I look up from Honey's desk (where iTunes lives) and see two kids walking in front of the house heading to our front door. I say (through the window), "I'm sorry, but I don't want to buy anything from you."

The older one immediately responds, "you are a racist."

I said something in protest, but she was gone. It burst my iPad bubble to be sure. And it made me mad. I did refrain from walking outside and giving her a piece of my mind. I don't have to take the lies in. But they do deflate.

What will I do next, job-wise? I don't know, though I suspect I'll stay where I am.

In the meantime, in case you're wondering, the iPad works fine for first draft blogging. (Final edits requires the MacBook Pro.  I did mention my official Apple fangirl status, right?)

The iPad may save me from something. I just don't know what yet.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Moving back

Remember the 1340s?  We were doing a dance called the Catapult.
You always wore brown, the color craze of the decade,
and I was draped in those capes that were so popular,
the one with unicorns and pomegranates in the needlework.
Everyone would pause for beer and onions in the afternoon,
and at night we would play a game called "Find the Cow."
Everything was hand lettered then, not like today.

So here I am, back at the old digs.  They look a little different.  Good for you, Blogger, for making things a little less the same.  Still, the familiar is so familiar.

Where has the summer of 1572 gone?  Brocade and sonnet
marathons were the rage.  We used to dress up in the flags
of rival baronies and conquer one another in cold rooms of stone.
Out on the dance floor we were all doing the Struggle
while your sister practiced the Daphne all alone in her room.
We borrowed the jargon of farriers for our slang.
These days language seems transparent, a badly broken code.

2006 I started this thing.  Four plus years and lots of changes.

Two jobs come and one gone for me.  One gone for Honey.  New trajectories for us both, to be sure.

The 1790s will never come again.,  Childhood was big.
People would take walks to the tops of hills
and write down what they saw in their journals without speaking
Our collars were high and our hats were extremely soft.
We would surprise each other with alphabets made of twigs.
It was a wonderful time to be alive, or even dead.

I moved the blog to its own domain late summer of 2007.  We were over at treecup's house.  She and sly were together then and they helped us both buy domains, set up blogs on them.  They both worked generously well into the night.  By the end of it we had our own websites, our own virtual spaces.

Now, they're both gone from the place I call my own.  The sprawl in which I have lived more of my life than any other.

Sly doesn't need on his server.  I don't need it there either, I realized.   Still, thinking about that night makes me sad.  Best to let the website go.  The past doesn't come back, or so I understand.  Sometimes it also doesn't go away.

I am very fond of the period between 1815 and 1821.
Europe trembled while we sat still for our portraits.
And I would love to return to 1901 if only for a moment,
time enough to wind up a music box and do a few dance steps,
or shoot me back to 1922 or 1941, or at least let me
recapture the serenity of last month when we picked
berries and glided through the afternoons in a canoe.

I don't reread this blog much.  There was a period when the blog had community.  Reading it reminds me of that, too.

More recently, I write when I feel moved.  Curling, it seems, was the last thing that moved me.

Even this morning would be an improvement over the present.
I was in the garden then, surrounded by the hum of bees
and the Latin names of flowers, watching the early light
flash off the slanted windows of the greenhouse
and silver the limbs on the rows of dark hemlocks.

So, I'm back.  And determined to post more.  We'll see what happens.  Using the blog to move forward rather than look back seems an ambitious goal.  I'll count it as one at which I might succeed.

As usual, I was thinking about the moments of the past
letting my memory rush over them like water
rushing over the stones on the bottom of a stream.
I was even thinking a little about the future, that place
where people are doing a dance we cannot imagine
a dance whose names we can only guess.

I'll see how it goes.  But moving back is not necessarily about moving backwards.  It's just about moving.

No chickens this time, which is fine.  The next thing is always just a guess.

The poem is by Billy Collins and is called "Nostalgia."

If you don't know Collins (even if you think you hate poetry), check him out.  You won't be sorry.

Look, a link to buy the book:


Oh, and welcome back to whatever (on fire).

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Canada curling, my brief fandom thereof


Recently I've been listening to Slate's really good sports podcast, "Hang Up and Listen."  I came to it because I've liked Stefan Fatsis on NPR and in print (Word Freak and A Few Seconds of Panic are both terrific books.)

They've done a couple of nice segments on the Winter Olympics and one of them (I think it was Josh Levin) mentioned that lots of the sports shown by NBC on the Olympics just aren't shown very well.  The sliding sports (luge, bobsled er, bobsleigh, skeleton) are simply a series of cameras at different parts of the track.  You see pieces, but not the whole.  They do a better job with the big ticket sports like figure skating and alpine skiing and even manage to turn biathlon into something of a story.

I have, as some of you probably (don't) remember, been an every-four-years fan of curling for a little bit now.  I really like watching it.  NBC did figure out, bless its corporate heart, that curling couldn't be highlighted and it couldn't be narrativized.  What it could be was shown in its entirety with experienced curling commentators.  On CNBC and USA.  Ok, so I have to live with no primetime curling.  But I've got dish and a dvr.  Dish always gives you CNBC and USA.  It's like a woman I know says about grits in South Carolina.  You don't have to ask for them, they just come.

Anyway, there's a lot of curling on, actually.  Several hours every day.  Since I don't actually have several hours to turn over to the sliding granite stones every day, I had to figure out my own approach to watching.  By the by, I love that I got to do that.  That's what's wrong with NBC's coverage on primetime.  I've got to take what they give me.  That's all well and fine the night the show the women's long program, but less so during ski jump after ski jump or, heaven forfend, ice dancing.  For curling though, I make my own rules.  I set my own schedule.  How to do that, though?

Don Duguid and Colleen Jones (the curling commentators) are enthusiastic about the sport to such a degree that it's hard to sort out what to be excited about and not, so, at first, they weren't much help.

I happen to be an American who finds the Olympic American hometown rah rah thing a little annoying.  I also suspected that the American curling teams weren't very good.  (Quelle Suprise!  I was right).

I first came across curling during the Salt Lake City Olympics (sorry, Olympic Winter Games) where I watched the Great Britain women's team take gold.  I toyed with rooting for them.  I guess I should acknowledge the given that I'd be focusing my watching on women's curling.

Then, I hear (from Colleen--who was ready to guide me after all) about Cheryl Bernard and her Canadian team.


It seems that Canada lets its best club teams compete against one another to represent the country in the Olympics.

Cheryl and company (Susan O'Connor, Carolyn Darbyshire, and Cori Bartel) were good enough to make the trials, but no one expected them to win.  They were, by all accounts, the 4th best performing team in Canada.

They did win the "Roar of the Rings."  Thus were they Team Canada.

Then there was all this drama about their not having enough international experience and should Canada change the system and blah blah blah.

Cheryl and her team came to Vancouver (their club is in Calgary) and beat pretty much everybody in the preliminary rounds (they lost once to China) and then won their semi final against Switzerland by which time everyone had stopped talking about whether they should have won and whether to change the rules.

I watched most of their games.  I read up on curling and how to make the stones (a complicated process) and even looked to see if there were SoCal curling clubs (yes, but in Orange County, which isn't close enough).   Still I'd like to touch a curling stone.  And wear those cool slidy shoes.

Cheryl and her team were, in a fundamental way, my Olympics.  Honey and I have watched lots of primetime.  It was curling I looked forward to.  I rooted for them.  I imagined them singing "O Canada."  (Side note:  Canada has a MUCH better national anthem than we do.  It's rousing, it's singable.  I'd take "God Save the Queen," too.  I can't hit that high note in ours and neither can you, so don't act like you can).

I followed the controversy over the supposed swimsuit photos she took.  Worried about her cold.

I wasn't the only one.  Canada went a little curling mad.  They wore those curling hats. People stopped Cheryl on the street and asked for her autograph.  Guys held up signs asking to marry her.  Her husband borrowed one of them.  They were in the gold medal game.

Then Friday afternoon they faced Sweden.  The Prime Minister of Canada was there.  So was the King of Sweden.  I was too.  It was a state mandated furlough day for me.  Curling and furloughs go great together.

There, too, was the all the international and Olympic experience the people of Canada had worried about in the person of Anette Norberg, Sweden skip.

It was a tense match.  Colleen even said so.  Sweden looked like they would win and then Canada came back and stole two ends.  (Basically they won points they shouldn't have).  It looked set for my girls.  Cheryl needed to make one shot in the 10th (and last end).  She missed it and Norberg tied the game.

Then, in the (extra) 11th end, Norberg made a spectacular shot at the end and Cheryl couldn't match her.

I was heartbroken.  Not as much, I'm sure, as Cheryl was.

You can look around the web and you will find lots about how she messed up and lost the gold.  There are Canada fan sites and curling sites.  Newspapers and blogs.  There's a lot of talk about choking.

For me, it wasn't about any of that.  She was an underdog who got everyone on her side.  When she lost she walked (ok slid) over to her team and they embraced.  Most of the pictures of them on the podium with the silver medals around their necks show their dissapointment more than anything else.  She seemed to handle it all with class.

As I watched her Friday afternoon, I remembered why I still like sports sometimes.  I remembered that sports should always be about winning and losing and heartbreak and triumph.    (Not money or contracts or steroids or whatever.)

Cheryl Bernard broke my heart today.  Two weeks ago I didn't know her name.

Cheryl did manage a smile over the silver medal at the end of a lovely two weeks of curling.  Thanks for letting me follow along.


Sunday, February 21, 2010

Alone in a downtown

Pre-entry note:  I've been thinking some lately about this blog and how much I was engaged with it during the last Winter Olympics.  It was a different time in my life, to be sure.  Four years seems both quickly gone and very recent.  I'm not going to feel badly that the blog has lain fallow.  But I found myself (with only my iphone at hand--no laptop) thinking about an entry while on a trip this week.  So I wrote it down (pen and paper!) and submit it to the the blog maw for anyone's consideration.

What is it like to be alone in an unfamiliar downtown?

It depends on the city, really, doesn't it.

Some (most) have the obvious thing to do.  To wit:

Denver--The Mint

Louisville--The Bats

Seattle--The Needle

Don't read this as pejorative in some way.  I'm usually up for the obvious.  The more factual and historical, the better.  So picture me, then, bereft outside The Mint, unable to get a ticket and learn about all those coins.

Two Nevada coin asides:

1) Honey and I go to the site of the Carson City Mint after a breakfast of pancakes, after a truly hellish night in Virginia City.  Unless it's the Irma in Cody, WY, give 19th century hotels--however quaint you think they'll be--a pass.  They will be hot or cold or startlingly both.  They will be loud.  You will not sleep.  All of what I have said is especially true of The Silver Queen in Virgina City, NV.  Virginia City MAY be worth a drive-through look at the Bucket O'Blood casino and saloon, but not more.  Not even a little bit more.

I wanted more from Carson City, mint wise, but I was tired and perhaps compensatingly over-carbed.

2)  During the early days of the Mandalay Bay, Las Vegas was in a period where high-end properties were all about museums as part of the experience.  Museums make thing high class, don't you know. The Bellagio had Steve Wynn's own art collection.  Not to be outdone, Mandalay Bay opened with a featured museum to money.  Appropriate?  You bet.  (Ha!).

So, Honey and I dutifully paid our admission and were given those hand held recorder sticks.  Wands.  Whatever.  You push the number of the display and a deep voice intones from the stick about the coin in front of you.  There was a coin set off by itself in a glass case.  When we approached we discovered it was a nickel.  The stick then began what seemed like 90 minutes of narration about the nickel.

We both gave up on the nickel before it was done.  It was a rare and important nickel.  It was also--there's just no getting around this--a nickel.

(Ok, I just looked it up--because being snotty about a nickel doesn't mean it's not important.  It was a 1913 Liberty Head Nickel, one of only 5 known in the world.  They were not supposed to be in circulation, but somehow 5 of them got into collector's hand.  Liberty Head nickels were regular nickels from 1882 to 1912.  In 1913 a rouge Mint employee stuck five 1913 Liberty Heads.  One of the five most recently sold (2007) for $5 million.  It's quite the nickel).

To rejoin me alone in downtowns...

A few years ago, I had a trip to Denver.  The Mint Tour was full.  I "replaced" it with a tour of Molly Brown's house (she of the unsinkable) which I left halfway through.  My trip to the Louisville Slugger bat factory paled next to the massage at the spa Treecup found that trip.

I try, you see, to be a good conference attendee.  I really do, but somehow I am compelled to wander away sometimes.

So, Thursday I wandered Seattle.

I had high hopes.  No rain.  A cool Pacific Northwest City.

And then, well, there's the Space Needle Dream.  I've had it for years.  Not every night.  But once or twice a year.

Here's how it goes.  I'm in Seattle.  How do I know?  I just do.  It looks like my brain thinks Seattle should look.

When I touched down at SeaTac on Thursday, it was my first moment in Washington State.  Why have I been dreaming of a place I'd never been?  I'll leave that to the symbolgists and psychologists.

Anyway, in the Space Needle Dream, I need to get to the top of the Space Needle.  I can't get there.  I try and try and can't even get close.  There's something important up there.  A Space Needle Dreamsecret.

So Thursday afternoon, I landed and took a cab with a colleague to the hotel.  She left to meet her sister for dinner, so I feel ok about missing the opening talk and head off to the Needle.  I take the mid-60s monorail to get there.

I paid my $17 and rode the elevator (41 seconds) to the top.  The sun was setting behind the Puget Sound.  I circumnavigated the outside deck, the inside deck and stared off into every direction I could.

I then called Honey.

"Will I know the secret message when I see it?"

"Maybe it's in the needle part"

"Well, that's problematic, because I'm in the round part and can't get there."

I do like modernist architecture.  I enjoyed the monorail ride back, where I looked at the Needle from below.

I then walked several hundred vertical miles (ok, 12 blocks) up a mountain (ok, up Capitol Hill) to buy some good coffee.  (Victrola, Stumptown (a Portland import), and Vivace) for enjoyment back in the blessedly flat San Fernando Valley.

I enjoyed my beer and burger for dinner and wrote this blog in my moleskine with a blue gel pen.  (How quaint).

It was a tiring afternoon (no lunch didn't help), but the people seemed nice and everything was open.  (Take that, Denver!)

The next day I went to Pike Place market and to REI mothership.

The secret is still out there somewhere.  Problem is that now I don't even know where to look.  But I'm sure I'll find myself in another downtown at some point and I'll wander.


As for the Space Needle Dream™, maybe I was wrong.  Maybe it wasn't Seattle after all.  Could the secret be in Brussels at the Atomium?  Do you think they have any conferences there?