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.