Sunday, January 31, 2010

Slow News Day

And today in other stories: Americans will continue to be disappointed in our government leaders, the national and international media, and by products created by Apple computer.

The weather will be chilly and wet in Seattle, except for those brief moments when it isn’t, and most of those will be entirely forgotten by the time locals haven’t seen blue sky and sunshine in more than two weeks.

Teams with the highest payrolls in sports will inevitably finish higher in the standings than those that offer more modest salaries, except in the case of the Seattle Mariners, who seem able to spend way more than anyone else relative to their success in the won-loss department.

Nearly every movie that comes out will feature car crashes, gunshots, and computer-generated mayhem; once in a while someone will produce a film with a script that reveals something interesting and/or poignant about the human condition; no such films, though, will earn as much as a single day’s receipts for James Cameron’s Avatar.

Before the day is out, a dog will bite a man; in all likelihood, that dog will be some form of pit-bull; even more likely, the “man” will be an elderly woman.

Church groups and conservative politicians will be offended by something on television; hateful hate-mongers will monger hate publically but still manage to get people to pay attention to them in spite of being unworthy even of contempt.

Several major corporations will report unprecedented losses on their balance sheets; home sales will decline, unemployment will rise and yet somehow, some hudge-fund managers on Wall Street will make more money in holiday bonuses than most of us will earn in our entire working lives. And no one will really mind.

A B-list celebrity will do something despicable and be made fun of on the internet for a couple of days; a politician will do the same and still get re-elected.

327 words will be written, a few might be read.

Friday, January 29, 2010


Apparently, this was the theme of the theme of the night.

I missed the human version, but I was there when we all got to experience a moment that we all got to experience simultaneously.

Somebody—teh Jobies, I think—threw the Heineken mini-keg onto the fire.

The irony, of course, is that it took all night to get the fucking flames hot enough to boil water, what with the wood that was wet and the part about nobody being able to leave it alone long enough to really catch, but anyway, by then, the tipi-shaped conflagration was putting out enough heat to make it worthwhile to stand by.

And that’s why it’s so amazing that nobody got decapitated or at least had an eye put out.

The moment was kind of hilarious, actually: all of a sudden, ka-boom! And I mean it! We were all drowned out. Nobody wasn’t called to attention.


And then, in the following seconds as people regained their hearing and composure, there was nothing but laughter, both the ha-ha and “I can’t believe I’m still in one piece” kinds.

I showed up late and left early, but still got to have that burst; all set to make it to Westlake on time, I was called away unexpectedly to responsibilities I’m responsible for, which wasn’t so bad, all things considered. At least I didn’t have to have some software fixed before 5:30 in the morning.

The exploded projectile was found a good fifteen yards down the hill and looked like a giant spinach can opened by Popeye’s mighty grip; later, its power was mocked, as at least one person wore it like a hat that looked like the hairdo of Kid n’ Play, but when it was first discovered how far the thing had gone, I know that I, at least, was thankful I hadn’t been clobbered by something that just came out of nowhere before I could see it.

Same as everyone.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Sunrise, Sunset

Is there anything cornier than an old guy going on about how sentimental he is about the past? (Well, sure, there’s schmaltzy old vaudeville routines by the Sunshine Boys or a medley of songs by Doris Day, but other than that, the old guy’s reminiscences have got to be close to the top.)

Anyway, I don’t care and besides I can’t help it.

This morning, as I was riding onto the UW campus, I saw a guy, probably a decade or two younger than me, carrying his little girl, probably a decade younger than Mimi, on his shoulders as he walked down the path and it all but brought tears to my eyes as I thought about all the times I carried my own daughter like that and how, now that she’s essentially as tall as my wife, those days are long gone. Not that carrying her around like that was always what my mom used to refer to as an “unalloyed pleasure,” but still, I can’t help feeling a sense of loss and longing over the fact that I’ll never again get to do so.

I guess this is why old people start lobbying hard for grandkids—but even I’m not that old yet.

Then I was thinking about my dog, Becca, who—at almost six—is squarely in her middle-age dog years. While she hasn’t started losing control of her bowels yet (a point at which I’ll probably be in the minority among my family when it comes to the prospect of ponying up big bucks for veterinary care), she’s no longer the puppy we have tons of photos of in our iPhoto library; she’s even got gray around her muzzle, just like me!

Of course, getting old is preferable to the alternative and you may as well enjoy your memories—even if they’re bittersweet—as long as you can since, it’s only a matter of time (not much!) till you won’t remember them, anyway.

Monday, January 25, 2010


Way back when in the year 2007, when it still was cool to have a weblog, I had this fantasy that I’d get famous for my project—like Julie Powell, of the Julia Child cookbook project—of going 327 days in a row writing a 327-word essay. It was a noble—and by that I mean self-centered and misguided—effort and while it didn’t earn me the riches and acclaim I had hoped for, it did get me pretty well habituated to the practice of writing essentially pointless little pieces about essentially pointless things, an endeavor I continue to this day, although not quite with the abandon that I did before Obama was elected.

Now, I’m content to conceive of the ongoing project as my continuing effort to write the world’s most boring blog, an aspiration that, if you ask my daughter, I’ve sewed up, even though her assessment depends entirely on speculation since, as any self-respecting 12 year-old would attest to, she wouldn’t be caught dead even accidentally running across this site.

But if, by some chance she did happen upon these words, her judgment would certainly be confirmed by today’s offering, which chronicles no less exciting an activity than an excursion Jen and I took yesterday to buy a new refrigerator and washer/dryer combination.

Sounds pretty mundane, but as a matter of fact, we had a reasonably good time, riding the tandem in the rain downtown to Sears in SODO, then north along the waterfront to Albert Lee near Eliot Bay where, in the spirit of buying from the local provider, we shelled out a small fortune for home appliances that, unlike the ones we have now, were built after our daughter was born and which, allegedly, won’t cause our electrical meter to spin so fast when they run.

We got soaked riding back towards home, but warmed up from the inside out with mid-day drinks at the Alibi room.

If that's boring, I'll take it.

Friday, January 22, 2010


My impressions of the evening are like a deck of cards that I can shuffle through backwards, in the vein of one of those plotless movies like “Memento,” in which the director compensates for the paucity of the storyline by running things from finish to start, so a “mystery” unfolds where there wouldn't be should you have rolled things in the normal direction.

So, there I am locking up my bike at home and coming inside, but before that, I’m sure I had a pleasant ride back from 9 Million in Unmarked Bills where we’d gone after the abortive attempt to reanimate the most traditional of fire pit choices, albeit, apparently, too early in the evening.

But all that was missing from that trifecta of emergency services was an ambulance; both the police and the fire department managed to show up, the former even pulling off the requisite “good cop/bad cop” schtick—admittedly sorta half-heartedly once they realized we weren’t going to push back too hard and were even willing to engage in a clean-up of our mess while they watched; the firefighters, by contrast, were all business, dumping two huge buckets of water on the tiny conflagration we’d only just gotten going, boo-hoo.

Before that I’m sure there was the Nickerson Tavern, filled up, by the time we were ready to depart, pretty much entirely by cyclists—no wonder there was such a hurry to leave.

A lovely evening for a ride: lost in conversation with the Major, Esquire, along the waterfront and then, surprisingly, east towards Fremont rather than straight to the Boxcar.

The preceding shuffle has me seeing and smelling the fabric dumpster experience; I keep thinking we must have been there longer than we were, although apparently, the whole thing lasted but a moment.

Then, look: here’s Westlake Center, can that be all? And how, I still wonder, did things manage to arrive at the end with no one arrested or even fined?

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Avatarred and Feathered

Took the family to see the megablockbuster hit, “Avatar,” the other day.

Here’s my capsule review:

Visually stunning, kinda preachy, but with a message I can more or less get behind, but in the end, I think the film embodies the very values it sets out to critique.

While it purports to send the message that cultural imperialism in the name of monetary profit is bad, isn’t the very essence of a James Cameron film the full-on promulgation of corporate entertainment values to the destruction of anything else?

Where was the nuance, people? The real humanity? It’s ironically amusing, as I’m sure many critics have pointed out, that the main characters are simulations; Cameron’s conception of the inner lives of human beings (and their non-human analogues) goes about as deep as a digital representation of the real thing; the only actor that I thought showed any real life was the guy who played the boss of the earthling operation; and even he was a kind of cardboard cutout of the evil chief executive, right down to his golf-putting during office hours.

But maybe this is all because I didn’t see it in 3-D.

Prior to this cinematic event, the most recent film I’d seen in a theater was “The Fantastic Mr. Fox.” Strange how the stop-motion animals in that movie had more depth of emotion than anyone in “Avatar,” isn’t it?

I have no doubt, of course, that Cameron’s film will win the Oscar for best picture; and it certainly deserves high praise for its production values and the way in which it represents a technological leap forward in film-making. But then, “Tron” was pretty cool in its day, too.

By my perspective on this, I’m once again, I realize, illustrating what an old fogey I’ve become; probably somebody wrote a similar review about “The Jazz Singer” when that, the first “talkie,” came out.

Sound, though, made films more like life; “Avatar,” by contrast, does the opposite.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Heels Over Headwinds

On the sweltering days of summer back in Pittsburgh, we always used to say, “It’s not the heat, it’ s the humidity.”

When I lived in San Francisco in the early 80s, during the rare SF heat wave, my friend Brooke was regularly quoted as saying “It’s not the heat, it’s the homosexuals.” (It was funny then, and especially because Brooke himself was gay.)

Here in Seattle, during these chilly days of winter, the analogue is something like, “It’s not the rain, it’ s the headwind.” (That was a long way to go for so little, but in any case, it’s true.)

I don’t mind so much getting soaked on my bike—especially during the ride home; after all, I’ve got lots of gear that—although it’s really begun to smell like cheese after being damp for so long—keeps me reasonably dry and which can be depended upon to keep my ride from being too terribly miserable, at least from the standpoint of the drowned rat.

On the other hand, I’ve got no clothes that keep me from being pushed back against by the headwind that inevitably seems to be working against me in whatever direction I’m headed.

On Thursday’s ride home, for instance, especially during the flat part around Husky Stadium at the UW, I was pedaling with all my might (admittedly, not exactly what you’d call a lot of wattage), but even so, I was practically standing still. It got so bad that I began looking forward to riding uphill, where the wind would be more apt to go over my head than push so powerfully against my chest.

Two more reasons I prefer hills to headwinds:

First, with the former, you can see an end in sight; even the longest hill eventually has a summit.

And second, wind is invisible. I much prefer the challenge I can see to the one I can’t; like Brooke said, give me homos over humidity any day.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Good Theater

Tickets to “The Lion King” on Broadway are like 300 bucks for an orchestra seat and you’re not nearly as close to the performers as I got to be to the star of the show last night; I mean you’re never in nut-punching range of the actors on stage, are you?

So, it was money well-spent to see Derrick in such rare (but not unusual) form; you’d have thought it was all over after we realized the bar at the airport Holiday Inn isn’t that glowing orb on top, but when 10 shots of Maker’s appeared, it was obvious things were just beginning and when he rode away straight into the parking lot gate, you knew your entertainment dollar was going to go a long way.

And although it kinda burns my mind’s eye to recall it, I can still see the upright dog pile on the dance floor at the joint I will refer to fondly now as The Trud where the bartender, at least, so loved us that she raced outside for photos as we were leaving.

It sure makes the ride to the airport a lot shorter when you take the train out there and International Boulevard isn’t nearly as steep if you only ride it downhill, so we were on Fourth Avenue and at the Orient Express before anyone could even sober up which meant that whatever promises were made were unlikely to be kept, although there’s no question that the costs on all sides were higher than expected.

Still, it was money well-spent and if you think of it as a kind of local disaster relief, maybe even justified, even if we never go back there—as if they’d ever let us.

I finished up with a nightcap at Waid’s where I commiserated with my friend, the owner, about his family and loved ones in Haiti; his night was dealing with a real catastrophe; mine, a traveling roadshow of what that’s like.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010


First off, fuck Pat Robertson. Hard. In the ass with the devil’s red-hot pitchfork.

Guy goes on TV to blame the victims of the earthquake in Haiti for the terrible catastrophe that has befallen them; surely any god with the least iota of intelligence—not to mention one that’s allegedly omniscient—reserves a special place in Hell for such insanely hateful dickheads.

Second, give some money or something to help out. Sometimes people say stuff like, “Well, we can’t just throw money at problems,” but, as Jonathan Kozol has observed in regards to public education, let’s try first before we come to that conclusion.

Third, count your blessings.

Those of us in Seattle, especially, have to accept the fact that it’s just pure chance an earthquake hit there instead of here (and it’s probably only a matter of time before one does shake us up) and anybody who lives anywhere else has to admit some other disaster—hurricane, tornado, space alien invasion—is a possibility and consequently, ought to feel a sense of gratitude that they are, like me, able to sit on a couch in a warm, dry home and face no challenge more difficult than trying to figure out how he’s going to find time to grade all the papers he’s assigned to students over the weekend—a long one at that.

I wonder what Seattle’s going to be like when a 7.0 hits here; my assumption is that many of our earthquake-reinforced buildings will hold up better than many of those in Haiti, but of course, it’s going to be really ugly when the Viaduct collapses and the 520 bridge sinks.

I have this unreflective hope that it’s going to be useful to have bicycles and bicycle trailers; I hope I can make myself useful riding around for supplies and perhaps carrying injured people to safety on the Haulin’ Colin rig.

One thing I know for sure, though: I won’t be blaming the devil.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Puncture Wound

Everyone knows that pride goeth before the flat.

In fact, the most reliable way to ensure you’ll get a puncture in your bike tire is to go on about how you never get flats; usually, all you have to do is mention to someone that it’s been a while since you had to change or patch a tube and before you know it, there you’ll be, feeling that familiar mushy feeling beneath you as the air escapes from your pneumatic friend and you’ve got to pull over and fix it if you want to resume pedaling any time soon.

So, I was a bit surprised this morning when I went to take the Saluki out of the shed for my usual Sunday morning cycling and shopping expedition and found my rear tire to be completely deflated; after all, I’d totally refrained from saying—or even thinking—anything about how fortunate I’d been so far this winter to have yet experienced any punctures, even though they tend to happen more often when the weather is wet and little sharp things are more apt to stick to rubber.

But I was glad that the air had escaped on my home turf, since it makes for an easier repair; I took the bike down to the basement and replaced the tube easily, while patching the flat one, no problem.

I then set out on another errand, only to have the tire go flat again about two miles away. Fortunately, I was close to a bike shop, so I didn’t have to use my lame frame pump to re-inflate once I’d changed tubes. But in no further than two blocks was my tire flat again, but at least this time, while changing tubes I finally located the tiny piece of glass that was causing the problem.

But my last “good” tube had a slow leak, so back at home, it was one more change.

See, I get flats ALL the time!

Friday, January 08, 2010

El Fuego

It was a night of firsts:

• First time I ever had a guy in a car heckle me on my bike as he drove by with the exclamation, “Smells nice!”

• First time I ever affixed the top of a noble fir to my trailer flag and first time I ever carried more than one—make it three!—Christmas trees in the Haulin’ Colin trailer, (and I probably could have done one more if I’d have had more bungees).

• First time I’ve ever seen a parade of trees on bikes stretched out before me for hundreds of yards, pointy tops swaying, branches fluttering, and trunks, on at least one occasion, sounding a bass drum on a car mirror extending too far into the road.

• First time I ever got to see in person the conflagration that ensues when the dried remnants of the holiday season are piled together and set aflame and first time, from what I hear, that Lee refrained from restraining the pyromaniacal impulses of the Jobies so that it all went hotter and higher than ever before.

• First time the kid ever got to toss a dry pine onto an outdoor fire and stand back as the flames shot up into the air, igniting a showering plume of sparks to descend like ochre snowflakes against the backdrop of charcoal sky.

• First time I ever got to mingle not only with the bike gang but the family, too—and later fellow teachers—on a Thursday night mayhem; such abundance is rare.

• First time I’ve ever had anybody ask for my autograph on a photo of me—something I could sort of get used to, although I’d draw the line at carrying my own Sharpies.

And a night of nonsense of which I’m quite familiar but just never tire of:

• Douchecock sonzabitches pedaling like mad, drinking too much, wreaking havoc (to themselves, mostly), burning brighter and brighter, on fire.

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Groan Up

Peter Pan was right: growing up sucks.

Once you’re toilet-trained, there’s really little reason to advance: school, work, paying taxes, shaving, being a responsible parent—they’re all way more trouble than they’re worth.

Given the choice, the wise choice is to remain a kid for as long as possible; all this nonsense about growing up and taking responsibility for yourself is just that: nonsense. If I could still get away with somebody else making my bed and going to work so I could stay home and putter about—even if it meant having to go to school for a few hours a day—I’d take it.

Certainly, I’ve managed to extend certain aspects of my adolescence for as long as possible—riding bikes, enjoying the same mind-altering substances that made ninth grade palatable, wearing Converse All-Stars—but I’ve nevertheless had to succumb to certain unavoidable exigencies, including becoming a wage-earner, a tax-payer, and someone who goes to the dentist of his own free will at least twice a year.

I even have a pair of Hush Puppies shoes, although I don’t wear them all that often.

Grown up; it’s more like groan up.

Of course, I really shouldn’t complain. There are aspects of adulthood that make it somewhat worth it: the ability to walk into a bar and have a frosty cold beer at any time, the privilege of voting for government officials who inevitably let you down, and the fact that no one nags you about going to bed at a certain time. Certainly those benefits far outweigh having to get up when it’s still dark outside to go to work, or getting to lie awake at night wondering how you’re going to pay your mortgage, or being the one who gets to pick up all the dog poo in the backyard.

But we can all look forward to the inevitable reversion in old age.

“Life,” said Ronn Lehmann, “goes from dependence, to independence, to Depends.”

Sunday, January 03, 2010


No NFL team that has a losing record in their division deserves to be in the post-season. Nor does any squad that sustains a five-game losing streak at the most crucial time of the year. Nor does any that suffers losses to the Kansas City Chiefs, Oakland Raiders, and most ignominiously, Cleveland Browns. And certainly, any team that falls twice, count ‘em, twice in a single year, to the Cincinnati Bungals has a right to a spot in the playoffs.

Still, I was hoping that the stars would all align just right and that the Steelers would manage to squeak into the big dance in spite of meeting all the criteria just described; of course, relying on the Oakland Raiders to beat the Baltimore Ravens strikes me as something like counting on Rush Limbaugh to admit he’s a fat-assed lying sack of shit—sure, it’s a possibility, but only a logical one, as opposed to a legitimate probability, and, as it turned out, the Silver and Black succumbed to the Ratbirds, meaning that, the football season, as far as the Steelers, and by extension, me, is over.

Frankly, I’m relieved.


Now, I can get on with my life on Sundays, without having to importune the football gods with sandwiches and towels; I can perhaps take a few more bike rides than I did last year, and maybe even go skiing once or twice.

Moreover, I can now see how silly it is for anyone to care about what happens in the NFL; I’m able take the moral high ground and turn up my nose at fans who are painting their faces, waving their foam fingers, and otherwise demonstrating their allegiances to overpaid brutes running into each other in spandex pajamas.

There are, of course, many more important things to care about in the world and now that’s become apparent to me; for instance, baseball spring training starts in a month and the Mariners might be decent.

Friday, January 01, 2010

New Year's Re-Solutions

Back in the day when I was more apt to wake up January 1st underneath a table than in my own bed, it was easy to make resolutions for the upcoming year: all I had to do was plan to be less likely to repeat the mistakes I repeatedly repeated in the previous twelve months and then carry that plan through for a week or two; that was that.

Nowadays, though, since I’m such a responsible, upstanding member of the community, it’s far harder to develop a program that’s going to result in personal and professional improvement during the upcoming year.

Besides, I’m way too lazy and set in my ways to fulfill any plans I might haphazardly develop anyways.

Additionally, there’s something about the very idea of resolutions that bugs me. For one thing, it suggests I might be able to make myself do something against my own will, that I’d set my nose to the grindstone and behave as I think I ought to rather than as I’m inclined to.

Fat chance of that, frankly.

So, maybe instead of resolutions in that sense, I’ll imagine something like re-solutions, that is, finding or re-finding ways of solving problems I’ve already solved in one way or another already.

For instance, consider my “solution” to the ongoing challenge of entropy as it plays itself out on home and hearth. Generally, my strategy is to ignore things until they reach an acute state: like why fix the roof until it really starts leaking? A new “solution” might be to be more proactive; traditionally, then, I would say, “My New Year’s resolution is not to procrastinate so much.” Now, though, I’ll simply put it this way: I have no idea what I’m talking about, let’s just make it through today and worry about it tomorrow.

Or, in other words, Happy New Year, because after all, this one’s already better than last January 1, when the president was still George Bush.