Monday, December 14, 2009

Loyal Dog

I have my blog's address on the bookmark toolbar of my browser. Lately I've been avoiding the place like the plague. I glance at the top of my screen and scurry my cursor away: to NYT or BBC. Not threatening, non-involving.

I feel guilty avoiding you, Blog.

I don't want to talk about it...quit looking at me like a loyal blog that's spurned.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

The beginning of my typical work day

My day starts about 4:30AM and I leave home a little over an hour later. It’s about ten minutes up and down the streets across the city's north end ridges to I-5, and ten minutes more until I arrive at school. I can always count on third grade teacher Annie getting here before me. Three years ago she was the one who guided me, in the early dark of what seemed like a thousand mornings, as I struggled to adjust to a new school, age group, and teaching philosophy.

Annie is generally the only one there, except for Bob who sometimes surprises me walking out of the foggy darkness from the bus stop on Lake City Way. If the outside lights are on, Bob is there, but I sometimes beat him to turning on the room's heat. I met Bob five years ago at my first teaching post, a quirky middle school. I'm not sure why he always takes the bus, but my theory is that it might have begun with a court order.

I park in my usual spot, juggle coffee, lunch and laptop as I key the car's remote and walk head down into the usual rain to my room’s outside door .
Annie's car is always there as I pull into the lot.
First thing I do is make a To-Do list while drinking kefir and munching the world’s best trail mix, Omega-3 blend from Trader Joe’s. I gather up yesterday’s strewn-about sheets of instruction and take the day before’s class- and homework out of the Purple Bin where, if I am lucky, it has been sorted by a revolving team of students doing the previous day's end chores.

I check to see who is missing assignments that will have to be made up during lunch recess study hall. I spend an hour or more grading the papers turned in, a mixture of multiplication timed trials, math homework, essay drafts and grammar work. During another hour or more, there are stacks of activity sheets to be made up and copied, and the mail to be picked up. I check for phone and email messages that need to be returned before the school day begins.

At least once a week morning is cut short by meetings beginning at eight and lasting up until the nine o'clock bell when it’s time to let the kids in.

Most mornings, as I post the daily schedule I can hear the class scout narrating through the gap at the bottom of the door’s blinds: “He’s writing on the board…turn in your social studies homework…no AR tests this morning.” Today it was, "Mr. D_____ got a haircut!"
Of course, by the time I open the door and get my first breath of daylight’s bracing air, this youngster has fled and blended into the two lines unaccountably jockeying to enter the classroom first, as if there was a mega-clearance sale going on inside.

Twenty-four ten-year-olds stream and straggle past my friendly "Good Morning" with a mix of drowsiness, exuberance, sniffles and juvenile jokes.  The day begins again.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Liveblogging Halloween, 2009

7:15pm PST. It's been dark now for 45 minutes and we've gotten 5 trick-or-treaters, including one who came twice and who said, "I want some candy" instead of the requisite "Trick or Treat" the first time here. He was wearing that white Scream mask called Ghostface for a killer in a series of splatter movies. So, what would you expect about the kid's character? When BFF queried about his previous visit, he denied it and then, after getting his candy, compounded his brattiness by bragging that he had been here before. This was a bad start..That was about 15 minutes ago, and I just answered the door to a nerdy, fair-faced boy, about the same age as the little shit, wearing a green hooded top, saying, as I opened he door, "Greetings from the land of Eragon, I am the young prince, [and so on and on with his quaint memorized introduction]." I reply, "Greetings, prince." He takes the candy and hops in a half-graceful/half-awkward way down the steps with a good-natured "Happy Halloween." Now, that's more like it.

7:17. I hear voices. The sweetest girl, by herself, about that same age (where are all the young ones?), dressed as Dorothy, blond pigtails, fresh-faced with a bright smile. She takes a Nestles Crunch out of the offered tray, and demurely chooses a Kit-Kat when I offer again. A bright, yet shy, "Thank you," is echoed more heartily by parent at the bottom of the steps, dressed as a lizard. I can't tell if this is mother or father.

7:07. Doorbell rings while I'm seated in the living room waiting for the oven to heat. A youngun'--fairy princess type--followed by her pre-preschool brother wearing a red onesie with a fire department insignia on the little male chest. I figure his dad, who is at the foot of the stairs, is a fireman. His mom is shepherding him along while holding the daughter's hand, cueing the three basic lines: "Trick or treat...Thank you...Happy Halloween." The little fireman is in no hurry, carefully wrapping his chubby hand around each of the wrought iron railing posts as he approaches the proffered CANDY, and me, on my knees. He delivers his lines late, mumbled and jumbled out of order, but this must be a pretty weird experience for one so young. It's charming as hell.

7:20. I spill some red wine on our ecru couch and launch into a shamefaced drill to remove it. BFF and I have both being feeling kind of fragile today...I hear 4th grader voices in the distance...passing by.

7:21. Coming down the street, an adult is whistling "Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star" which, for some reason, sounds ominous...From nearby I hear a parent say, "Do you want to knock on the door?" A little girl's voice replies. Door opens. I hear mumbles and "Do you want to say thank you?" More mumbles...They're coming here next--I feel the excitement and call BFF. I tell her this will assuage her disappointment with previous Toters [Trick or Treaters]. She comes and we crouch by the door, trying not to get our silhouettes between the light and the giant spiders we have posed on the screen. We wait, nothing...They've gone next door--the young couple's house with one 2-year-old and one on the way. We wait and I say, affecting brightness, "They probably know each other." It's nothing personal, I imply, that they've skipped our house. BFF walks back to her office...I've resume liveblogging when I hear voices on our steps. A shout to BFF and she hurries to open the door to another Dorothy, in sparkly ruby slippers, held by a thirty-something dad in a red fleece jacket and they are all smiles. Parents deliver the now-standard coaching of Things to Say to confused effect from little Dorothy. It's all good, though. BFF coos and proclaims over the little girl's beauty and intelligence and we agree that "Thank you" will come next year. We intuit that "Happy Halloween" is too advanced, so we do our part and say "Bye-bye." Parents prompt Dorothy, we all wait expectantly, hopefully, but hear nothing until as we are shutting the door, comes a baby "Bye," and then it's repeated.

7:25. From next door to south I hear "Bye...bye-bye."

7:34. Voices on the street. It's a crowd, adults referencing our spider with a mock scream. Two cute young pirate wenches. I coax them to say, "Thank you." From their clutch of parents, someone says, "Nice spiders."

7:36. Hard on the heels of the two families with pirate-wench daughters, our doorbell rings, catching me still fumbling with the laptop and BFF dancing with the candy tray. I hurry to push the arrow to cue the mpeg of the "Ghostbusters" theme while BFF talks about my butt being in the way. She gives candy to 3 appropriately aged Toters while I strain to hear from behind the door. Hard on their heels I hear her compliment those just coming up the steps on their good costumes. I edge from behind where I'm trapped with the laptop to see two 11-year-old boys in knight's costumes. One has a foamboard shield with a Y on it. I ask what the Y stands for, but he doesn't know. He says his dad made it. That makes 13 Toters.

8:02. This might be it. The two pubescent male knights have been the last Toters for almost half an hour. We're going about our business. BFF preparing burgers and relish. Me? I'm taking charge of the Alexis frozen fries.

Next morning. BFF and I had bet on the number of Toters we would see. She won, having guessed 20 to my 23. I had thought the actual total Toters was 15, but can't picture the last two and neither can BFF. We're feeling more hearty today, Dia de Los Muertos, and happy the weather is unexpectedly sunny.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Satisfying the requirements

Every five years, we teachers are supposed to have accumulated 150 clock hours of training. I recently became aware of this requirement at the end of my fourth year. Unfortunately, I had not been saving any of the paperwork to prove my adherence. I am currently taking a course in writing from which I will acquire 50 clock hours--so many because we meet on weekends and after school until March. Below is a piece I wrote during our first two meetings, in mid-September:

The boy can still feel the orange dust on his tongue that their car had bounced up from the rutted road. With his granddad, he wades now out of the shadows into the dappled sunlight, its reflections dancing on the underside of leaves that bend low over the creek. The boy looks at his granddad’s hairy arms beneath the rolled up sleeves, excited at this beloved man’s rare informality.

Later, the granddad rocks back and forth on the fly rod and reels in a fish. He passes the fish to the boy who slips its speckled green back through the narrow square of the woven creel. The trout’s desperate thrashing is so frightening in its intensity the boy distractedly puts his fingers to his lips and tastes the fishy slime.

The boy’s childhood passes with only a few of these summer idylls to remember.

On an afternoon, ten years and two hundred miles from that summer creek, the phone rings. The boy answers and hears his grandmother. Time in the narrow hallway becomes attenuated; space thickens. The boy calls his mother to the phone. He remembers later being surprised and proud that his mother, normally a nervous woman, keeps her poise so well.

The grandfather is buried in the Catholic cemetery at the edge of a town in the middle of Missouri. The boy learned the Hail Mary prayer from Burma Shave imposter placards posted where the highway passed on either side of the thin wrought iron gate to the gravesite. He especially remembers the pause between, “And blessed is the fruit…Of thy womb Jesus.”

Today the man keeps a picture in ritual remembrance of his grandfather. It shows a dapper, bald and white-haired Mick wearing signature suspenders and tie, posing a cigarette holder like MacArthur, and wearing a long-sleeved shirt buttoned at the wrists.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Fall's First Rain Tonight

We just installed a nubby 70's low slung easy chair, faded several unfortunate shades of burnt orange, with silver threads--but you can't tell the way it used to look because it's all covered now with an ecru cloth. It sits against a slate wall in front of the chaste, gauzey curtains for the window that overlooks our new street. It’s in what we call ”the office”—one of four rooms in our new house. They are each painted a subtle Ralph Lauren shade. Not counting the bathroom that’s tiled like a spa.

You can go from living room to office (through bathroom) to bedroom then kitchen to living room and round and around again. Which we do, over and over again, to our childlike delight. Trying not to trip over boxes.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

All Moved In

What a grueling week! I took Monday off from work to vacuum and finish cleaning the old house. It took Morrison 3 round trips to transport almost all the weird stuff at the margin of the move. Daughter #2 came over to help me clean and load the few remains from her old room for a cadged trip to her new place. Quid pro quo except that, at her new apartment Morrison wouldn't start. With the only tools I had available, a vice grip and screwdriver, I removed the battery leads and then scraped them and the battery terminals bright and clean. It was half an hour before I could get Van to fire up for the 6 miles down I-5, exiting at James (giving $2 to curbside beggars, for their luck and my own) and over the hill to John's.

John brought me back and we shared a final beer in the now empty house. John declined the gift of a cunningly constructed old wooden ladder so I tossed it over the eastern fence--payback to the market for all the early morning wake-ups by beeping delivery trucks. Back home, BFF had heroically made the kitchen available for dinner. That was Monday.

Tuesday and Wednesday after work I went back to the old house for all the dribs and drabs. On Thursday, I dragged the log holder from the patio to the curb and put a "FREE" sign on it--one I'd printed using the edgy "Cracked" font. The next night, on Friday's traditional trip to Mr Gyro's, I drove by the old house and saw that the log holder was gone. The last tie, removed.

We're getting used to the new place. I think BFF likes it more than I, but I'll come to feel at home, I'm sure. So far, the best thing for me is the view out the basement door where I can pee into the drain and look up past roses and hollyhocks to the big sky.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Last Days

The irony.

We have lived in this house for exactly 3 years. In that time, we have been continuously and increasingly bedeviled by cars and trucks crowding our driveway. Our side of the street is posted no parking, but that has never registered; there is almost always someone out front--no problem unless they make it difficult for us to get in or out. In those cases, we have grumbled, pointedly asked people to move, slapped an equally pointed note under their wipers, but generally, we adapted, because there is usually no other reasonable thing to do. This has been going on for 3 years, and since the market on the corner has been expanding, its construction has made this part of the block an occasional bottleneck.

One thing, though, that has never been a problem: we feel safe here. For us, early morning vandals, thieves, or worse have not existed. We lock our doors, of course, but even though we only live a hundred feet or so from a well-traveled arterial, I have seldom locked Fast Eddie, our car, feeling certain, albeit naively, that it resides within a circle of protection.

Last evening, we all thought our weather was the last reprise of summer—warm and still with a golden sun setting. It was our neighborhood’s monthly Artwalk and all the galleries, taverns and restaurants were doing booming business, beginning about six.

A little earlier my friend John had brought his old scabrous Econoline over for me to use transporting boxes to our new home. John was also going to take my faithful steed of many haphazard work years—good old Trucky, a small grey (I was opting for nondescript) Toyota pickup. I was giving Trucky to John. John is a mechanic, so I knew he could do the amount of work it would take to make Trucky cool running. I also wanted to keep Trucky in the family, so to speak, for that’s how I consider John. So he was dropping off his van—which BFF has since named Morrison—and picking up Trucky.

I had arisen early yesterday—not long after 4AM—just as I’d gotten up early the previous two days. Between the first week of school and this move to a new house, I had become tired and almost frazzled. BFF as well; she has been doing yeowoman’s duty, packing for at least an hour every day after work. Plus, when it comes to cleaning and organization she gets completely compulsive. So, when John came over, we neither of us had much gas in the tank, so to speak. John had recently injured himself again, falling downstairs at his semi-permanently under self-construction house, so he wasn’t at the top of his game either.

John was stoned when he came over and we started drinking beer and, after catching up on news with BFF, and giving me lessons on how to keep Morrison running (although he did not, I remembered later, remind me to lock Morrison), giving me lessons on how to run the rest of my life, after all that we went outside to smoke and drink another beer. A little later, by the time John had gotten around to trying to put legal tags over Trucky's illegal ones, we were both in a state. I was pawing through packed boxes from my workbench while he was swearing at a stuck bolt.

John was also late for dinner with his in-laws who were visiting for a few days from Back East. He didn’t like the old geezer who had married his mother-in-law (and been unspeakingly rude to John) so I guess it wasn’t a big deal for him. He did recognize the potential for a familial imbroglio, though, and at some point in the evening placed a call to his (often considered long-suffering) wife for an update before he he went outside again to begin cursing at switching the license plates. I spun around aimlessly, except twice when I had to politely--but pointedly--remind two different drivers that where they were planning on illegally parking (although the infraction was never enforced, which I did not mention) was also blocking my now overly full driveway. But finally, our own illegal deed done, and amid hugs and vows, John haltingly drove Trucky away. Farewell friend and faithful steed.

Now, I just had time to grab some money from BFF and hustle down to Mr Gyros, before it closed, for our regular Friday takeaway treat. The sidewalks were bustling on Greenwood Ave. but I was running on empty. Back home with the food I shook my head at all the cars crowding my narrow driveway and decided I’d have to eat before I had the fortitude to angle in next to Morrison. Besides, I wanted to mark the driveway as my territory so I paralled Fast Eddie to claim the front. I didn’t consider pulling in to block the sidewalk; with the overgrown chamaecypris there wasn’t any easy way around for pedestrians.

I stumbled upstairs with our orders and BFF and I collapsed into our somewhat Spartan folding chairs to eat. God, that food tasted good! Here it was, the final dinner in our beloved home! As usual, we spun stories about Ellen, Chester, Stormy and Cleanhead--elaborating on our fiction for their lives. They were out just then, in their driveway across the street along with the aging gay couple who run the corner gift store. They were all setting up for their part in tomorrow’s huge celebration of thrift at our annual neighborhood garage sales.

But something began to look out of place outside—a car idling, someone walking around purposefully in the street. I looked closely. It was a lady wearing pressed pants and a white shirt with some sort of epaulet on her shoulders. I looked more closely. She had the blinkers on her car, parked in the street behind mine. The car was white and looked biodegradable. The lady was from parking enforcement. She was leaving me a ticket. Without a thought, I rushed outside. She backed away from me as I prefaced my explanation and implied plea for relief with acknowledgment, which I hoped she would share, of the irony of this situation. How long we'd lived here and never seen anyone ticketed, how put out I'd occasionally been with illegal parkers, our last night blah blah weird person blah maybe a threat blah...

She did not appreciate irony, the ticket had been written, she said, and couldn't be taken back. For some reason she thanked me as she sidled to her flashing vehicle. I came back inside. The phone was ringing. It was John, asking me if I remembered the location of the restaurant where he was supposed to meet his wife, her mother, and her mother’s rude husband. We suggested Googling it.

Putting the long day and its strange ending behind us we went to bed and read and cuddled. We performed the ritual sharing of four Ricola herbal lozenges. As always, we turned on the Noise That Blocks All Other Noise--our air cleaner. We slept deeply and I awoke early, for this was the first day of our two day leave-taking. This was the day we would move all of the nearly 100 boxes arrayed along the walls of every room in the house. Leaving BFF in bed for a few more winks, and before putting on the coffee, I opened the front door to get a feel for the day. It was beautiful and peaceful outside in the early late summer morning. Stuck in the front door jamb, however, was a card with writing on it.

Officer Barron had left his business card dated 5:50 that morning, less than two hours earlier. An Incident Number was written in blue ink. On the back of the card was a straightforward recounting of inexplicable events that had taken place in our front driveway while the sun was still below the eastern mountains. This was so out of the realm of my experience here that it took me a few moments to make sense of what the officer had written.

What I later learned from the market employee who had called the police was that, on arriving to open the store, he had found an obviously disturbed woman pulling bags of ice from their outside locker. Asked for an explanation, she said she had "declared war on the neighborhood." She fled from him a short distance down to our driveway where he observed her opening Morrison. That was when he placed the call. She was gone by the time Officer Barron arrived.

What the officer and I both found on inspection was an odd assortment of objects taken from Morrison's dash and strewn on the van's floor and an obscene note scrawled on our basement window sill. After puzzling over some obvious questions, like, "What's this mean? Why us? Why now?", we concluded that this had been one of those Cosmic Messages. The events of the previous evening, it seemed, had been but part--a prelude if you will--of a small, but odd, and yes, ironic, concatenation of events that were clearly delivering the message: "You are no longer welcome here!"

It was, indeed, time to move.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Nine things I'll miss about where we live now:

1. That I can stand on the sidewalk between the chamaecyparis and the house and look to my left and see the Olympic Mountains’ sawtoothed outline amid a crowd of softer shoulders. And then I can swivel 180 degrees and extend my vision over the nearby University District Ridge and then some 40 miles to the nearest foothills and low mountains of the Cascade Range. What’s that? Seventy miles a second? I used to imagine, when I was the age of my students, that I could leap from any point to another on the horizon of my vision, teleporting.

2. The restful bright beauty of our bedroom. Painted white except for a ruby red alcove holding the couch and fountain. It is bounded on three sides by a bank of many-paned windows looking down on sidewalk traffic, giving a peak of the western mountains. On one wall hangs the quilt my dad made of my granddad’s colorful ties—best family heirloom. Our favorite piece of furniture, the bed, is across from those windows, against the southern wall. Sacred objects speaking of our love adorn dressers and wall.

3. Being able to walk around the corner in slippers and sweatpants to our small, well-stocked and unadorned grocery market. Being able to call in an order for General Tso’s Chicken and pick it up across the street and through the little parking lot. Or walking a block up Greenwood to an award-winning neighborhood tavern that serves major league gumbo and the best reuben sandwiches in town. The friendly corner hardware store is a block the other direction, down Greenwood and across the street from a little snobby video store.

4. The patio that is paved in brick, bordered by the house and two high, perpendicular fences that are festooned with clematis and backed by bamboo and a tall cedar. It’s comforting knowing that the neighbors are all close and that we all share the illusion of privacy.

5. The yellow desert orange of our living room, soft sage of my office and the kitchen’s three shades of ecru…not the lavendar, though, and not the Las Vegas bathroom.

6. Being able to drop in on Daughter #2’s utterly hapless but good-natured life.

7. The abundant white cupboards, faux granite counters and picture window of our kitchen, the house's entryway with its split stairs going half a floor up and half a floor down brightened by the puttin’-on-airs cathedral window.

8. The brutish crow brothers who sit on the phone line in front, or at the top of the neighbor's birch and scraw complaints. And the rustling and sideways scrambling of Sammy and Sally Squirrel who have a nest in the ash above our patio adn use the fence top as their highway. And finally, the occasional racoon and occasionaler possum and occasionaest cougar that BFF swears she heard scream in the night last week.

9. All the friendly homeless men selling their publication, Real Change, in front of the market. The small, blond parrot woman with the eponymous birds on her hand and shoulder, always willing to engage in friendly conversation about such issues as the herbal therapy one of them is taking for his obsessive feather plucking. Occasionally seeing my friend Coby, with whom I share a similar Heartland upbringing, at the market. Terry and Roger, with his fake tan and dye job, the couple who own the twee gift shop around the corner. Ellen and Chester with their imagined dramas.

I pray to God that I have some warning before I die and can feel the appreciation for my surroundings at least as much as I have sealed and stamped in my mind and heart the value of where we are living now, for the next 4 days.

Friday, September 4, 2009

I'm OK. I'm OK!

School--a great crew of good-natured, chatty and mildly motivated nine year-olds.

Living situation--lease signed on a fine workaday house on the crewcut Scandinavian flatland of Ballard--a neighborhood just down the ridge from us. It is owned by a sweet couple who got married not that long ago and are moving from this--her former house--to his remodeled home not much more than a block away from where we live now. Whew! We're moving next weekend. Tomorrow is my birthday.

Daughter #2 is taking to life away from the nest like a slug does to slime.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Moving Crazy Drama

The house which, for the past two weeks, we have been planning on moving into is no longer an option. We had made a deposit and paid first and last but decided to get out before we got any further in. The last straw was finding a corroded pipe leaking shittypee onto the washing machine in the basement just below. That and a prospective landlord who finally allowed that he was only interested in doing the minimum required by law.

Now we are suddenly scrambling to find a new place to live by September 15th. We love the owners of our present house and they, us, but they've just today made a commitment to someone else. So, we have two weeks to find a place and move in.

Slipping and sliding, trying to accommodate beginning the new school year with this rejiggered move of all our belongings, all along with daughter #2, the 18 year old, leaving the nest, God bless her heart.

Sunday, August 23, 2009


A smallish cream-colored butterfly just flitted from east to west in the sunny view outside my basement office windows. Coming from the opposite direction, a fly explored the possibility of those same window panes.

Our old neighbors

Now that we are moving, a description of our across-the-street neighbors comes to mind as a necessary part of the epitaph to three years of living in this beautiful home. We know the house matriarch’s given name but we've always called her Ellen. She is about 50 years old, has thinning mouse-colored hair, is a strong gardener and obviously well educated. As usual about this time of day on Sundays, she just left home carrying a large woven basket, driving her new two-toned Morris Minor, wearing a medieval re-enactor’s costume.

Ellen worked at Boeing, we think or infer somehow (something she mentioned or maybe she gave me her card), or maybe she still works there for all I know. Her job is a vague construct but I imagine her as a senior accountant with flex hours--

Before I get any further along on this half-imagined biography, I should mention that we never assigned the family a last name, their first names are our own invention, and although everything we have surmised about them has a basis in extensive observation, BFF and I are the ones who have established meaning and motive. For example, a typical conversation: "Come here. Look at this...When did Chester start using a cane?..I don't know. He only started using a walker last week...If Ellen had put a railing in he wouldn't have fallen in the first place. It wouldn't cost that much; with all the money she spends on--...Well, she doesn't like him...I wonder where that comes from."

Over the past three years, I have had half a dozen interactions with Ellen that went beyond a simple greeting--in the street, on the sidewalk in front of our house, or in the corner market where both her sons have worked. On two occasions we had a sustained conversation and she acted almost compulsively self-confessional, both odd and endearing...

When Ellen first introduced herself to me she described her housemates thusly: a man lived in the basement apartment with his two sons, and she occupied the top half of the house. We soon learned from observation that the sons must be hers, as well, and we never saw the alleged housemate father.

We did see a man who would occasionally double park in front of the house, lean over and give a peck on the cheek to the man who was his passenger. This fellow would come around to the driver’s seat, pull a U-turn and exit, stage left. Maurice would enter the house to come out a little later with the two boys, his posture and demeanor obviously indicating a paternal relationship.

BFF and I came to conclude that Ellen and Maurice must have been involved, at one time at least, to the extent of parentage and now Ellen, disillusioned with men, lived a celibate life—a common enough situation if you know where to look for it. What Ellen perhaps lacked in her ability to judge the sexual orientation of the man she chose to father her children most likely came from the confused relationship she has with her own father—Chester.

I’ll get to the evidence for that last supposition in a moment, but first I must address the question of why Ellen would deceive us about the man in the basement and her children’s father. I suppose for the same reason that I would engage in such innocent duplicity: a desire for the situation to be less messy and complicated than it actually is.

I could go on for an awfully long time with this elaborate fictional edifice we've built on voyeurism, but the more I think about it, the more I begin to believe that the more interesting question is what needs compels us to build it?..BFF says it's all about our need to tell stories. I say we're hardwired to try making meaning from ambiguity.

Thursday, August 20, 2009


The trek is now suspended and lower-cased.

These last 4 or 5 days, after nearly a week of rain, have been luscious. "The livin' is easy," as George Gershwin so descriptively wrote.

My generally good humor has been amped up on a few transcendent occasions lately. As easily as walking from indoors to out, I have felt a sense of well-being and rightness that cannot wholly be attributed to my stonedness. Or maybe it can.

Anyway, Gershwin is right.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Lake Union Trek, Pt 3

My long-time friend Bob joined me on this leg of The Trek that had us shaking as we crossed University Bridge along with a slew of buses and heavy trucks. Bob has run this route before. A marathoner the past 30 years, he regularly makes the 8 mile round trip from lower Phinney Ridge (BFF, Daught and I live on the crest about two miles north), to the U Bridge and then along Eastlake, Westlake and back home.

There has been a lot of development the past ten years along the Eastlake stretch south of University Bridge. There are fewer boatyards and marinas than Northlake and overall things are more upscale. This is also the area where houseboats begin getting serious. Bob and I wished we had bought ours back in the day when they were going for the low 5 digits. A few of them remain virtually unchanged today, their roofs covered deeply in moss and the cedar shingles turning soft. Looking at them reminds me of Tom Robbins, Morris Graves and Gary Snyder--all icons of downstream bohemia. It's a feeling I can taste, smell and feel on my skin, but it's awfully damn ephemeral.

Bob and I saw racing shells sprinting east into Portage Bay from under the bridge and two big rowing clubs nearby. A stretch of funky houses next to a bountiful p-patch garden front the road across from the lake. Nearby we we spot a sign advertising "The Enclave...a landmark collection of 21 waterfront residences...prices starting in the low millions." The sign's picture shows the new glass and metal development replacing the funk.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Lake Union Trek, Pt 2

I'm running out of steam for this project with the looming exigencies of looking for a new home both for BFF and myself and for the daughter who is leaving the nest. As the ship of my mind steams toward the new school year sitting like a rocky shoal surrounded by raucous seabirds, I shiver and clutch my gut.

Still, I managed a second leg of the trek on Thursday right after a physical therapy appointment. Pains in my neck have been bothering me for years. They've been virtually continuous the past 4 or 5 months. I never had this trouble when I worked mostly as a gardener. Then it was more likely to be my back that gave me a few problems.

Part Two of the Trek took me from Gasworks Park to just past the towering I-5 bridge over the neck between Lake Union and Portage Bay. In that area I found more houseboats, boatyards and marinas. Part Two ended at an iconic restaurant where, in the distant past, I had an obligatory parental visitation dinner with them and first wife, now dead 35 years--a motorcycle accident.

Along the way I also came across numbered waterways--small areas of public access to the lake where a street right-of-way continued into the water. Waterway 19 is an attempt to recreate the natural shoreline. Its wooded area had attracted a hobo's nest. Next to Waterway 16 is a small boatyard just west of the bridge that is the spine of our city's transportation system--I-5, the interstate that runs from Canada, not far away, to the Mexican border at San Diego.

Friday, July 31, 2009

Lake Union Trek, Pt 1

It came into my head to hike around urban Lake Union this summer. I figure it will be about 6-8 miles. I did the first stage today. This leg begins at Fremont neighborhood's drawbridge that goes over the cut between Lake Union and Salmon Bay. It continues past my physical therapist's and gastroenterologist's offices, each part of a huge campus-like waterside complex featuring high-end physical care, and software developers.

The first of two company picnics I ran across was in this complex--in a plaza at the top of broad steps going down to the canal, and then I passed the wrought iron, sculptured and locked gates leading into Adobe's cool and sunny gardens. I meandered under the towering gridwork of Aurora Bridge near where suicides land during the dreary months. Young men and woman sunned on docks and decks of houseboats and sailboats. Cyclists whipped by. A half dozen whippet-thin girls raised a racing scull onto its rack below their club's logwork spire. Yacht Sales, marinas and then the clanging Northlake Boatyard.

I passed the city cops' Zodiac and dive shop and came into the park as a Navy jet drill team loudly broke wind above the lake and then shot two thousand feet straight up over downtown.

I'm pretty familiar with this neighborhood. A quarter century ago I helped put together a large nighttime performance entitled "Dedication of Gasworks Park as a Spaceship Landing Site." It featured a bank of fog cut through by spinning lasers as a pitifully profane figure emerged and was greeted by two equally worshipful, but completely disparate and antagonistic groups, one comprised of grody female amazons and the other of entirely left-brained, goosestepping male clones.

One new thing I saw today was a statue of a local TV celebrity of the 60's--JP Patches, the dump-dwelling clown--in front of Adobe's (of Photoshop fame) campus.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

103.8 degrees

Yesterday we had the hottest recorded temperature in our city's history. Even the crows are panting, beaks open.

BFF cannot stand the heat. We drag the futon and TV down to the basement, watch 3 episodes of Due South. The fan keeps us cool and we sleep only half under a sheet.


This past weekend we celebrated the eighth year anniversary of our marriage. We didn't exchange cards until late in the day. I gave mine to her first and then she disappeared into her office and emerged with my card a minute later. When I asked, she said she hadn't wanted to embarrass me with her thoughtfulness in case I had forgotten.

The soft-colored card I gave to her had two children, a girl and a boy, holding hands on a beach and gazing out at the incoming waves. Hers to me: a small Airstream parked on a grassy overlook above the ocean. To its right are two swayback deck chairs under an umbrella; again, facing out to sea.

It's amazing to me the congruity of us picking different renderings of the same theme. The cards seem to represent our past and our future. The constant, abiding and timeless presence, like the ocean, is our love.

We first met in a love fever when we were both forty. She called in sick and we stayed in bed for a week. Our separation two years later was acrimonious. We had nothing to do with each other for almost 15 years until I, haunted my her memory, re-established contact (she had moved to an island a hundred miles away) and we have been virtually inseparable ever since.

When we get back home from revisiting that slow-paced island, it is hot, hotter than it's ever been in this town.

Friday, July 24, 2009


I just got back from visiting my mom, sis and bro in Virginia for a week. I spent a lot of time rubbing mom's head and holding her hand. She was in good spirits most of the time she was awake, though it's disconcerting to be mistaken for some combination of myself/my dad/her dad and Jesus--small price to pay for seeing her glow.

Bro got me high and I almost drank too much beer and tequila. He showed me Outdoor World which is Redneck Heaven and there's a little redneck in all of us. We went to Busch Gardens and rode roller coasters and saw the Commodore's ("Brick House")--fine entertainers.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Artful Slacker

A very enjoyable day was spent yesterday walking, smoking and drinking with my good buddy John, who is the same age as me and is living the bohemian dream, even if it's sometimes a nightmare. John is a prince: a down-to-earth, friendly and fun-loving guy. It's great being able to share old guy sensibilities within the artful slacker context.

John, Wally (the epitome of that friendliest breed of dog--golden retriever), and I walked from John's houses on funky First Hill, across Capitol Hill and it's many stately homes along chestnutted streets, down Interurban's green canyons to Roanoke. Then back through the cruising fields of Volunteer Park which is bordered by some un-fucking-believable mansions. We alighted at Elysian Pub and Brewery where we sampled bitter brews as Wally was watered by our friendly and easy-on-the-eyes waitress.

It was a lovely day that made up for a lousy trip we had during early spring's cool and rainy spell when John bore the brunt of me acting out some hard feelings. I've really been missing his company, so it's good to have that particular rough patch behind us.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Friday, July 10, 2009

Kleenex Tefillin

This past week has been a strange interlude. It began last Friday when I came down with a summer cold--a rare and unpleasant thing and so unfair only a week into vacation--and entered a fugue state from which I have been returning the past five days. Somewhere in there Farrah Fawcett died, within hours to be eclipsed by Michael Jackson (also unfair). I filled a shopping bag full of wet and twisted tissues. As evidence that necessity is the mother of invention, and inspired by a devotional practice of my wife's peeps, I came up with a Kleenex phylactery [see picture] which greatly facilitates the mucus from-nose-to-tissue movement. The weather turned cool and cloudy, but my health improved enough to allow me to attend a fantastic workshop on Bringing Theater Into the Classroom where I became more human while bonding with some 45 of my fellow teachers. A moth took up residence in our bathroom. The workshop ended joyously. Today the sun and heat are back. I captured and released the moth outdoors. Lord, let the funky interlude be over!

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Flags for the Fourth

Around here, at least, there's a laid back vibe on holidays. I took a walk through our beautiful, humble and liberal neighborhood this afternoon. I came down off the ridge heading east, meandered the streets almost to Green Lake. It was as relaxing and peaceful a stroll as I can remember. Here are pictures of the flags I saw.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

The Greenwood Auto Show's self acknowledged unofficial photographer

The Show: thirteen blocks of vintage, tricked out cars notable for the love lavished on their voluptuous, streamlined forms. Weather perfect. Garlic fries, tattoos and strollers.

The layers of paint and lacquer give incredibly saturated color. Geometry of many of the shapes is high art. Notice the same angles used in the yellow 'Vette and red Ferrari vents.

If American automakers want to compete, model these forms in a high mileage machine. Like the PT Cruiser, Chevy HHR and SSR.

I easily lose myself taking and editing photos. I made this collage using Picasa and sent a low resolution jpeg to the auto show's creators, asking them to contact me if they wanted to look at individual pictures. Maybe something work like this could work into a source of downstream bohemia income???

Friday, June 26, 2009

Work and Play

Screenshots showing the two activities in which I have been most engaged the past week...and now SCHOOL'S OVER!! I will remember this year as the one in which the good days finally outnumbered the bad. The one when I had not 1--which would be joy enough--but 2 students who absolutely loved learning. I had not one kid--but zero kids with a sneering attitude. When I took the class outside for an unsanctioned break they expressed their gratitude with a dash back to the room ahead of me. There they greeted me with their impression of every teacher's dream--all students sitting erect in their chair, smiling, hands folded on the desktop, "Thank you, Mr Dailey," said in unison upon my arrival. I got hugs. I got mash notes extolling me as the "Greatest Teacher Ever." I got lots of more-or-less appropriate jokesters. What's not to love?

Tuesday, June 16, 2009


Impassive face dull copper, he was dressed in white with bright embroidery trim. I read that his people come to the fishing village from their home in the mountains about fifty miles northeast, above Puerto Vallarta. I don’t know. His mask is a little scary, though, pulling away from it quickly at low shutter speed.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

We hardly knew ye

On Sunday, May 31, I put up a post about the activity of a nearby nest of alleged wrens. A week later I questioned the accuracy of our identification and put forward the blackcap chickadee as a more accurate choice (since, conclusively confirmed).

Mid-week we realized the inordinate amount of cheeping we had been hearing was undoubtedly due to the erstwhile presence of Squad Car [pictured above], our name for next door’s cat, at a window not 5 feet away from the nest. Although we regretted the wee birds' distress, it had been months since we had last seen Squad Car so it was good to know he was still around. That was 3 or 4 days ago.

This morning at breakfast I commented to BFF that I was just then seeing an awfully lot of chickadees flying around. Roaming the front pavement a few minutes ago I slunk up to the nest box and heard nothing. Rushing back inside I related this latest news and BFF said I should Google to find out when the babies fledge: “On about day 16 the young chickadees leave the nest,” I read; that's what I had seen at our morning meal!

They're gone, now, just like the baby chickadees raised by Bird--BFF's name--four years ago inside a wooden mask hanging in the carport of our old house in Wedgwood. We had grown so accustomed to Bird and her brood--the mask was right next to a much-used side door--that it was a shock when they all seemed to suddenly disappear. It took us a while to realize they hadn't died untimely, rather just abandoned their home.

"We hardly knew ye, wee chickadees," Squad Car says for all of us.

Doing a weekend chore while stoned

I was just sucking up dirt from the living room’s landlord-bought-Home-Depot rug, thinking of the timelessness of this homely activity when I realized what a marvelous, even revolutionary! machine is the portable electric vacuum cleaner. It practically makes possible the wall-to-wall carpet and totally obviates the need for a rug beater…Except among those Eastern cultures where one takes off one’s clogs, or whatever they’re called, upon entering the house...Which thought led me to images of several friends’ heaped and sprawling entryway collections of shoes, boots, slippers, et cetera.

Is there some constellation of behaviors, I wonder, more often engaged in by those who do, as opposed to those who don’t, have a household rule about taking off one’s shoes? What would they include? Separating the recycling from the trash?...insufficiently predictive; we separate our waste but don’t do the shoe thing…Having at least one item of clothing in a Guatemalan design? Maybe.

Which thought probably reveals in an unattractive way my own attitude toward these shoe-eschewers. They’re basically un-American, I think tendentiously. Lacking the pioneer spirit, left-coast-yoga-ish. Obviously new age. Poseurs. No-longer-radical chic...Now I've worked myself up into a state. So I relax...

On the other hand, for the more enlightened it might just be a matter of comfort and cleanliness in one's own home...Of course. That's what it is. It's just that I have an attitude, and now I feel defensive and embarrassed about bringing this whole thing up...One thing, though: the portable electric vacuum cleaner--widely believed invented in 1907 in Chicago by a janitor named James Spangler whose cousin married William Hoover--really is AWESOME.


I have the sweetest kids in my class this year. More third graders than fifth, still, in their attitude. But a smart, fun-loving group. Sometimes their earnestness trumps even my mildest sarcasm. We are winding up the year and our Medieval Times unit of study with a readers' theater production of Laura Schlitz's great Good Masters! Sweet Ladies! It's a series of 19 monologues and 2 dialogues delivered by the children from all social strata in a medieval manor. Because of their good nature and sense of responsibility I've been able to involve my students in half a dozen productions before both life audiences and the camera. After the inauguration of President Obama I spliced together a video of each of them reading their hopes for the future. Here is a clip from one of my sweeties:

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Significant behavior infraction

Quoting verbatim from the second notice of an Incident Report filed recently by a supervisor at our school on a second grade girl [names redacted and substituted with "Girl" or "Boy"]:

Other children at the lunchroom table complained that Boy and Girl were not talking appropriately to each other. Girl told Boy that he "invented the fart;" she told him to "shut his piehole" and "talk to the foot." Boy told Girl that "there was a butt on the back of her head." When I talked to both of them about this, they were giggling and not taking the issue seriously."

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Lush Life

This is what we currently imagine as the Downstream Bohemia of mobile home living: our Airstream on a narrow lot that's fenced in (like all the others) and looks just like our rented patio. It's paved with old bricks and occasional concrete chunks. That's a 6' high fence you see, with two 2X6 horizontal pieces at 8'. These timbers support a flowering clematis vine trained to also cover an arbor in the back corner where I work and la-de-da and sometimes relax on a really funky couch. Party lights. For music--a Cuban son. Laughter.


My sweetheart emails me today at work with a link to Cape Town's swank Grand Daddy Hotel that features seven vintage Airstream trailers, each with a different decorating theme. "The two-person Airstreams are situated neatly around the rooftop bar [emphasis added]." I guess said bar may, or may not, resemble this establishment: the Apollo Lounge at South France's Belrepayre Airstream & Retro Trailerpark "nested in the foothills of the Pyrenees [emphasis added]."

Monday, June 8, 2009


I've heard there is, or used to be, a cable TV show around Christmas time that consisted entirely of hours of a fire crackling in a hearth.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Wren or Chickadee?

Another stakeout for the Bewicks Wren and this time it doesn't take long for the payoff. There must have been some kind of food in her beak because as soon as it shows inside the round opening I hear a chorus of tiny cheeps. Wife and I examine the photo and she isn't convinced it is a wren, thinks it's a blackcap chickadee. I can't tell.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Birthday Date Night

At a restaurant named Cactus in a part of town where everyone, even our age, has perfect teeth. The food is great, like Mexican culture: vibrant, earthy.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

A Nasal Shoutout

To all my allergic compadres, especially those for whom the horror is pollen. So far the number of incapacitating days this spring is three. Only lying comotose on my back with a cold washcloth over my eyes and nose offers any relief. Is there a geographic solution?

Wednesday, June 3, 2009


This business card was made about 16-17 years ago. I argued with the trolly guy who was in charge of graphics. And he had a hell of a time with the script. I wonder: is their* space in Downstream Bohemia for a traveling theater?

*[sic. I mean "there," of course. Before I took up my current occupation, I never confused these homophones. I guess it's called reverse-teaching...of course I didn't used to know what a homophone was either.]

Monday, June 1, 2009

Livin' Largely

My sweet wife told me about pictures and an article on tonight (with links to other small spaces sites) featuring a freestanding $6000 8X10 studio. We're both moving in that direction, but she is much better than I am at living simply. "I personally am going to move into an Airstream trailer which you, with your difficulty in giving things up, are going to have a hard time moving into," she warns me. I don't think "Livin' Large" and living simply are necessarily mutually exclusive if you splash the sides with color and put some jolly tropical sculptures on the roof. Although it's gotten less over the years, I still do accumulate.

Sunday, May 31, 2009


My wife tells me that a bird out back is making the prettiest tweeting but she isn't sure what kind it is. She imitates the sound while finishing dinner. At breakfast this morning I saw another unidentified bird swooping beautifully through a gap in the trees and then around to the side of our house. It looked like a medium-sized grey/white blur. We see this bird again during dinner and surmise it must be building a nest. After watering the garden I investigate, see its house and, briefly, the bird. While lying unsuccessfully in wait for an action wildlife picture I hear the squawk of our neighborhood parrots and take advantage of my camera to photograph this colorful pair. Back inside we discuss bird identification and, after Googling, decide tentatively that the tweeter and swooper are one and the same: a Bewick's Wren...Yesterday our local crow dived at a fellow walking past our house. I didn't mind as I'd never seen the guy before, he was scowling and had odd patches of bristly facial hair. The crow on the other hand is a neighborhood fixture, as are the parrots but only in fair weather.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

sun and breeze

spring allergies all day until late afternoon i sneezed over and over again my left eye wept continuously and nose wouldn't stop running while lower back ached so much it was hard to lift my neck throbbed with pain meanwhile the pinwheels turned merrily in the sun and breeze

Friday, May 29, 2009

Party lights

I just fell asleep in front of the television. Warm night. Party lights strung over neighbor's yard. Purple bearded iris beginning to melt. Friday. Thank God.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Wednesday, May 27, 2009


Today at work I walked down the hall toward the young woman with whom, this past year, there has been the endearing camaraderie of arriving together at the same early hour. Two weeks ago she was RIF'd...a moment of silence...and then, as your eyes stare vacant-mindedly into the near distance, you finger your shotty and you wonder: