After a disappointing perusal of seemingly more abundant-than-usual manufactured kitsch that had me feeling transported to a unique sort of Etsy Hell (such as the vendor who papers old maps and atlases over light-switch plates, I guess homey hardware featuring microscopic detail of backroads and small towns from each of the fifty states) downunder in what doubles as parking garage the rest of the week, the boys and I spotted a vintage, Super-Flex Smokey Bear and I was torn for a little project I’m assembling except his dirty polyvinyl armpits and neck were liquefying into sticky goo in the Sunday morning sun and the price was just not right. The irony was not lost, come to roost as it were, this awfully desiccated Pacific Northwest summer upon that iconic, lovable stooge of the United States Forest Service. In summers to come, many thousands more acres will burn for old Smokey. At any rate, proprietor was ornery cap gun guy who was in a far cheerier mood than usual and later we crossed paths with him while looking amongst the sterling silver for Oliver, who lost his beloved peace ring at the dock on South Manitou Island in Lake Michigan country earlier this summer.
We made our rounds in the antique mall where the boys smirk at the vintage Playboy magazines next to hideous Starter team jackets (for the few remaining ironic hipsters in Seattle?) but Adam begged us to go back to the market so he could get the Venus fly trap he had his eye on. He insisted on paying for it with his own money: Venus fly trap was delicately transported home in the back seat on his lap, Adam was like those nervous parents relieved-yet-terrified to be out of the hospital with baby. Except when they’re yelling and screaming bloody murder in concert with their little brother each time they spot a lime-green, orange or pineapple-yellow bicycle. Adam was up 32-15-3 (I wasn’t really trying) before I invoked the bequeathment clause for Oliver’s sake and snagged a half dozen bikes between the hospital and the football stadium but this raised Adam’s competitive ire and he would spot the usual trio of bikes parked in front of Montlake Market and Oliver basically gave up and we spent the rest of the ride home peacefully thinking up names for numerous Venus fly trap children (little brother and I each got the honor of naming one). I don’t know who exactly this is featured above but it’s clear she has a refined palate when it comes to fruit flies of which there are billions in the house at this time flying scared.
So it was with dutiful tenderness tonight that Adam played Oliver Fern to sleep with Mr. Brahms’ Famous Lullaby and A Minuet for Mr. Bach’s Children. Lately, the boys and I’ve been on our own quite a lot as their dear mother is highly sought-after in the Boring People who Frame their College Diplomas community for advice-giving, inside of which she occasionally must endeavor teaching adults how to act like big kids and will utilize downhomey, impossibly-true stories (corny) regarding gentle cows named Betsy, red snowsuits and deranged roosters (you can’t take the country out of the girl which is one of the things I’ve always loved about her). Before dinner, Adam and I played catch in the driveway. The baseball ricocheted dustily several times off the barbecue grill and once went rolling a block down the hill where it came to a halt next to the green fire hydrant. While the driveway is not an ideal place to play baseball, one could hope the narrow passing lane and spectre of neighbors’ broken windows eventually will translate into pinpointy Madduxish control.
Oliver Fern rode his bike sans training wheels for just the second time last Friday night and before we knew it he’d made it around Green Lake. Also, he is reading now. I mean really reading. He and I’ve worked hard together on it. Adam has been methodically guiding me through a chess match and I’ve been introducing him to David Bowie, the Japandroids and Camper Van Beethoven. About WordPress: I miss it a lot (still faithfully reading behind-the-scenes that output by my handful of dear compatriots). I’ve been replenishing the birdbath, reading (Francisco Goldman’s Say Her Name and The Interior Circuit: A Mexico City Chronicle followed by some insufferable Didion) and indexing copious notes, among the most writerly things a writer does without actually writing. This post is mostly a scribbled-message on recycled envelope tucked in the jamb of the front door. You didn’t see the note until you’d shimmied your way in……… one of the grocery sacks was slipping through the crook of your arm.
postscript: I thought about trying to pass this evening’s entry off as today but the truth’s somewhere in between. After one of the longest days of the year, the night on which I returned to this was clear and breezy in the city. The boys and I’ve still mostly been on our own. Little brother was already asleep when I sent Adam up the hill to 19th Avenue East for a couple of local weeklies (in the hopes of a good feature but usually to see which bands are in town) and I waited outside for him, trimming head-high fennel and lanky Shasta Daisies away from the neverendingly-prescient Black Lives Matter sign in the hellstrip.
Last Saturday afternoon, Adam’s bat finally made in-game contact with the baseball: A blazing, gravity-defying rocket emitting the most satisfying aluminum ping I may have ever heard in my life. Later in the game, he caught a few innings behind home-plate and got the ball back to the pitcher.…most of the time. During one agonizingly long inning of the game in which the casual observer could have completed several chapters of a more difficult Tolstoy work, I stretched my legs with a walk to the Columbia City Bakery for a box of ludicrous brownies (immensely high in price as well as taste) and on the way back down the grassy hill, having decided even a lightning-quick visit to the library en route was a tad self-indulgent, observed the diamond below and duly noted the issuance of another bases-loaded walk- but superb timing insofar as the opportunity next inning to cheer for Adam’s upcoming at-bat. Calling it cheering would be a stretch. Mainly, I nod. Adam generally disapproves of outward public displays of parental boosterism and would rather we keep quiet.
The boys were tuckered out in the evening- the three of us attended the rowing races and boat parade earlier that morning. The University of Washington’s best boats (ladies as well as gents) notched course records in utter demolishments of the jet-lagged, smog-choked visitors from China. The parade started on-time this year but to be honest we found it a little dull, Oliver observed the proceedings at certain times with that certain detachment of the bus rider. The best part was (and always has been) when the police and fire boats putt-putted up the Ship Canal with their water-sprayers on full blast.
A shortish walk was taken Sunday to the top of Index Town Wall. The boys were alternately fascinated, revolted and amused by the foil doo-doo bags (instructions included) provided trailside for sporty rock climbers who can’t hold it. The path to the top is steep for a pair of four year old legs but Oliver Fern made easy work of it. We had the main ledge to ourselves for all of an hour and this was good because my favorite regular cranny was off-limits due to winter windfall. Sixty minutes is plenty long enough for divvying milk chocolate Easter bunnies and watching clouds drift past, it was a glorious afternoon with my family.
At the conclusion of Friday night’s little league practice, Adam and I scrammed straight out of town for the following morning’s long walk through sagebrush and tickly ticks: Throughoverdown the Cascades, eventually backupalittle onto the desert plateau- that portion which doesn’t get watered for potatoes, corn and timothy hay and shelves neatly above the neutered Columbia. It’s olive green country right now with pretty speckles of flowers but that will be changing soon enough with a scorching summer on the way.
By lunchtime, the bluebird morning had turned into a watery sun and pretty soon the sky was a drab, dentedmetal gray (if I hear another florid description of a gloomy day including the goddarn word gunmetal I’m gonna go bonkers) afternoon sky portending Saturday night’s weather. Later in the day, we got outta the coulee and wandered a sprawling rim for a long time. I took pictures while Adam collected shotgun shells in a variety of colors, so many of them you will find.
A case of the blahs at the Fremont Sunday Market: Lackluster-looking and not least of all because Sinister Guy cryptically warned Adam (who was being exceedingly careful and polite with the rusty piece of junk in his hands such that it bordered on comical) in the event a piece in the assemblage of old-time cap guns was broken when its hammer was pulled back could possibly turn out to be worth upwards of $200. Ugh. The boys blushed and nodded graciously. The looking may have been so-so this particular morning but golly we fixed that browsing the basement of the Fremont Vintage Mall- that’s always fun! We like it there. The ratty settee I almost brought home a couple months ago was gone. Wish I’d gotten it. Currently, we have a furniture-falling-apart problem starting with our twenty year old sofa. At any rate, the boys had fun goofing off with a Speak and Spell in the shop before we departed for a social engagement across town on Beacon Hill.
It was the day before we headed upstate along the Wasatch Range to visit the boys’ uncle thereabout Salt Lake City for the weekend, Adam and I took a thrilling walk along the eastern rim of Zion Canyon. The path was characterized by relentless exposure and dizzying switchbacks- I found it to be one of the more enjoyable trails I’ve explored the past few years. By certain measures (there’s an elevation gradient of 5,000 feet in the park) our journey was a tame one but the journey was more fantastic than I anticipated.
By the time we pulled ourselves up and over (and then traversing to edge’s end) morning was getting on and light was a tad bright. There was just enough sidelight for a handful of scattered, nice exposures. The end of the walk wasn’t really the climax, however. It’s about hidden slot canyons and dark pools under towering sandstone walls in the early morning cool.
Yucca can be deceptively bayonet-like and unyielding, as I have found out in the past when behind distorted cover of super wide angle lens. Rest assured, I was very careful here. It was the edge of a long way down!
A significant portion of last rainy weekend (both Saturday and Sunday) was spent in the foothills meandering around boulders, waterfalls, creeks and humongous patches of trillium. In the woods on one of the mornings, we met Squirt Dog (Lucy doubtlessly must have been channeled from on high) who had an extremely pointy tail that was fun to pet. Also, the boys played on old mining equipment. Afterward, we gorged ourselves on cheeseburgers and donuts. Late in the afternoon on Saturday, Adam caught a few innings behind the plate for the big game. I was worried maybe he got worn out walking in the woods so long but he played a decent game. He led off the first inning with a walk and even scored a run.
Big brother arrived home from school yesterday: As usual kicking off his shoes in the middle of the front porch to the chagrin of the latest out-of-breath United States Postal Service mail carrier trainee to get stuck in our neighborhood (one of the notoriously least desirable, most transient routes in the city owing to the relentless hilliness) and immediately reported upon the abrupt relocation of physical education class to the gymnasium as a result of the lunatic screaming of a roving naked (waist down) inebriate on the school playground. Adam recited the litany of hazards which may result from the chronic overindulgence of alcohol and after the sanitized tome (phys ed teacher written all over it) for good measure Oliver Fern added his two cents that pirates were a perfect example of the troubles of the quixiotic beverage, what with all the hijacking and maiming they get up to.
We were on our way to the university for the flowery spectacle of Yoshino cherry blossoms a couple of Saturdays ago but on the way I had a change of heart for as I contemplated the more I couldn’t bear the idea of rubbing shoulders with big-rig baby strollers and selfie sticks so when our bus arrived to the stadium the boys and I switched to the train and headed south for Kubota Garden. From the Othello Station to Kubota via foot on the Chief Sealth Trail is approximately 1.1 miles. Little old Vietnamese ladies with scoliosis regarded us with scornful amusement as we threaded our way through used condoms and discarded mattresses on the side of that first hill (rampant public dumping) which nevertheless affords an interesting view of the valley and power lines behind. An angry, barefoot woman struggling with an overloaded shopping car on the side of the hill nearly ran us over. Soon this was left behind and the paved path offers wonderfully voyeuristic views into large backyards with chickens, herbs and veggies.
Kubota Garden was lovely despite practically nil bursting of the bud. Greenness, at least. The Little Heart Bridge is peeling, it needs a paint job something bad. There were no security guards stalking the premises in search of tree-climbing ruffians! The boys loved hiding under the pines which have been poodledogged into elvish canopies with holes for children to stick their heads out like prairie dogs, they find Kubota enjoyable in spite of the questionable manicuring. On the way home, we stopped for a quick snack at the pizza place on Rainier Avenue and the boys dragged us into a hipster rummage sale that was just awful. Following this, brownies at the Columbia City Bakery. Not just regular brownies……. ludicrous brownies. What couldn’t be eaten without making ourselves sick was carried in a brown paper box down the street to the Columbia City branch of the library where we loaded up heavy. My library card was maxed out (fifty items) so Adam pulled out his card like a high roller and we did a lot of beeping and bipping at the self-checkout.
Moving closer to now, some time last weekend finally should have been the family outing to the university’s famed spectacle of cherry blossoms (that first time would’ve been too early) but upon receiving additional reports of partypooper campus security protecting old trees from the children not to mention a record-breaking number of selfie-sticks, Adam and I decided this was a job better tackled by the junior varsity: So we dropped Oliver Fern and his mother off at the Montlake Bridge. They had a lovely time of it on campus though there was the minor incident involving Oliver who being tall for his age yet still learning how to read, caused a temporary ruckus in Red Square after reaching up a metal pole to press a button for emergency assistance customarily reserved for those who have been assaulted by fraternity brothers or fans of the notorious recent Greek demagogue.
All the while, Adam and I engaged in early spring baseball on a mushy diamond at Dahl Playfield. This morning was the occasion of his first little league game, a tedious affair of base-on-balls rivaled perhaps only by the Cricket World Cup. I knew this would be the case and so Oliver Fern and I had taken our time arriving to the game via bus. While we waited for our ride to Garfield High School, lo and behold the proprietor of the best ice cream shop in Seattle stopped and shouted to Oliver and he informed me it was so-and-so’s mother from school. On the bus ride to the field I contemplated how wonderful it must be to have a mother who runs an ice cream shop. At any rate, about the game: Having receiving a mere two at-bats for his hours-long efforts on the splintered bench (stir crazy utility infielders started a round of fungo in the dugout) Adam was starving for catching and batting someplace and I ignored the disapproving glances from Wedgwood soccer moms unnerved by the bowlegged, werewolvish hoss throwing batting practice to the nerdy boy standing in a butterscotchy puddle at home plate in the raindrops. One hundred pitches was all I could manage (not counting just catch) but it was worth it- Adam was beaming at the end. Baseball fever! Before returning to the other side of the Ship Canal we stopped at the bookstore in Ravenna to treat ourselves to a handful of titles (despite reserving a certain enmity for this bookseller, the cause of which was a dictionary purchased from there some years ago which contained approximately 75 pages upside down).
On the Sunday following the baseball game, Oliver Fern and I boarded a ferry and crossed Puget Sound for an easy hike to the woods to a small lake and a pleasant sliver of salt water beach. The path in question has a reputation for bloodthirsty owls notorious for utilizing walkers’ noggins for portable helipads. At the beach on Port Orchard Narrows, we ate cookies and found what we decided was an early historical railroad spike (from the Puget 49er Bonanza Brilliant Diamond Mine which heretofore has remained secret in the annals of history) garnished and crusty with barnacles although it’s entirely possible the thing was thrown overboard from a tugboat in the 1970s.
This afternoon, Adam and I pushed Oliver Fern’s bike up the hill to school in short-sleeve sunshine. While preparing to cross the street so we could head back down to Miller Park (Adam and I played catch while Oliver drank a huge bottle of chocolate milk) an elderly man lay down in the middle of the street with one shoe off and traffic came to a standstill. Internally debating the rendering of assistance (but how) with shaky Oliver tipping back and forth on lopsided training wheels, the problem was solved when the fellow stood up and his pants drooped down to reveal a horrific old man wedgie and the geezer cackled and shuffle-darted to sidewalk safety. Thus was necessitated that thrice-yearly talk with the boys which spans mental health doozery, the straw-breaking craziness of real life and those frequent, curious going-ons at Seven Hills Park.
We played catch at Miller Park for a short duration. Adam has a surprisingly good arm but his glove is atrocious when we’re warming up so I had him stand against the brick wall of the community center so he wouldn’t have to chase every third miss. Ah, spring was in the air! Maybe it was the grass-stained baseball? Oliver finished his chocolate milk and rode his bike home the rest of the way (we spotted him on the hills). I preheated the oven for dinner and tucked the ice packs in my shoulders.
Anyone around here worth their salt knows Chuckanut is a native word for “throws badly and foolishly hits in the back of the head she-who-is-hormonal-and-has-the-temper-of-a-jilted-sea lion” although colloquial, muddled translations exist owing to blockheaded imperialism. We took the boys for a walk up north in the Chuckanuts on a blue sky Sunday, last weekend.
This low range, an extension of the Cascades and backyard to the mossy college town of Bellingham, slopes downhill (precipitously sometimes) to picturesque rocky coves on salt water and offers views of gigantic cargo ships and blue-green islands. Our path was muddy as heck at first, so much rain this winter on the whulge. After several miles of walking later, whilst nibbling on lunch at a small, brushy lake we discovered a disheveled little bat clinging to the tree trunk at our backs. The poor thing gingerly craned its neck a handful of times to peer (forlornly, I thought) at the chewing, chomping rovers who dared so rudely disturb the dire predicament which it found itself in. One could only imagine the acute disorientation of its echolocation sensors in the presence of this strange, bickering family. We left the bat in peace, hoping it would see fit to not bite as moving wasn’t an option as we had been talking about cookies for the past two and a half miles and nothing was standing in the way (even rabies) of them and the precious curtains of sunlight which warmed our faces. Adam traded places with Oliver on the lunching log so as to better studiously observe the critter and you could almost see the bat breathe a sigh of relief. Oliver was the fastest hiker on the way down which meant there was time in the evening for playing on the beach below the trailhead. On the way home, we worried more about the little bat.
The morning following this walk in the Chuckanuts, the first day of spring dawned. My shins were excruciatingly sore despite the seemingly gentle downhill the day before- far too many easy beach walks this winter but ah the spirits were soaring from sunshine! Two days in a row! After several hours of gardening (mostly, cutting back a motley collection of perennial grasses left overwinter for birds and critters) Oliver Fern convinced me to stagger after him on his rusty bicycle for three miles around Green Lake for my Canadian Goose Monster Turd merit badge. Alas, the badge was earned but horrors for the absentminded, pigeon-toed albino duck which nearly collided with Oliver’s bike. Never such twisty-nifty maneuvering did you see. The squawking, jaywalking quacker shot a beeline for the bushes and Oliver was crestfallen as his Hubba Bubba bubble gum went flying through the air. The gum was promptly sniffed and gobbled up by a typically non-discerning pooch.
On the subject of Puget Sound: Finally, I’m partaking of Daniel James Brown’s The Boys in the Boat: Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics after being asked by the 752nd person if I’ve read it and although I’m enjoying it quite a lot I have to be honest and say I’m getting awfully tired of the author repeatedly referring to Puget Sound as the Puget Sound. The jet-set, millennial Carpetbagger iPhone Tip-Tapper Nervosas flooding Seattle the past couple years from places like New York and Pennsylvania are one thing (it takes a while to learn the local lingo) and I’ve been tolerating this sort of shitty copy editing from the The Seattle Times for the past few years (newsrooms across the country are doing more with less these days and it shows) for the sake of democracy but the umpteenth-whatever sold copy of a New York Times bestseller by the Hoity-Toity Publishing Group? Then again, my nine year old finds mistakes in his grammar books every other week (he gleefully reports them to me so we can rage together). As Weenie Arbiter Supreme of WordPress Dweeb Blogs and the Run-On Sentence Club I may not have the firmest moral ground upon which to stand but does this sort of thing bother anyone else? Am I turning into one of those lonely, batty old coots who pencils letters to the editor on looseleaf notebook paper?
Of the handfuls of younger children moving through the convention in shimmery-green capes, Oliver Fern (pictured here) moved with uncommon aplomb and funny panache except when getting barreled over from time to time by enthusiastic fat guys wearing spandex superhero costumes (or nearly getting stepped on by a seven foot tall Chewbacca) but still there was plenty of breathing room in Artist Alley during the last few hours of 2017 Emerald City Comicon. The show was painfully unwieldy as ever, continuing its risky spiral into ever-higher levels of vainglorious bigness but each year we peel back more layers for nice surprises and decide being spun around in a human blender is mostly worth it. We split the convention into two days, this year.
The off-gassing of polyvinyl chloride from toys and related memorabilia gave me a handful of unpleasant, dull headaches. It’s hard to believe how both astoundingly realistic and expensive fantasy paraphernalia is getting- give me a scratched-up, big head variation of the Kenner Han Solo, anytime! On the subject of off-gassing, the degree of stealth farting at the convention approached comically gross proportions. It’s unavoidable the engaged conventioneer will variously lean, bend and contort in order to more closely peer upon comics, books and related art and it isn’t a stretch to imagine these low-grade calisthenics must have the mechanical effect of squeezing and kneading the colon like silly putty, henceforth producing stimulative gastroenterologic effects. Speaking of special effects, the cement floors of the exhibition center killed my feet which as you can imagine only increased my fondness for carpeted areas of the convention and often I would feel the urge to curl up into a ball on the floor and purr like a cat. Inadvertently (I hope) I was groped a half dozen times by several large medieval characters on their way to cosplay and while tattooing was not available at the convention this year you could get a pair of elf ears or the usual variety of steampunk accessories (the intended uses of which frequently eluded me, much as they appeared oftentimes similarly designed for either the head or buttocks region, the weird holes made it hard to tell). The last thing we did at this year’s comicon was make the acquaintance of Kazu Kibuishi, author of Amulet, the series of books which are regularly unshelved by the boys out of the second-from-the-bottom spot of the living room bookcase during the occasion of not infrequent dinnertimes during which their hardworking mother is not present to enforce a certain degree of sociable manners. The boys are descended from a long line of shameless but very productive reader-eaters.
Before I conclude this amalgamation of words which sadly has exceeded five hundred in number and is going to be a grizzly bear to decipher (and how can I blame my dear loyal readers upon rejoicing at the news that I’m very slowly transitioning the site to more of a classic photo blog?) let me just say that last weekend also marked the conclusion of my foray into the world of Hogwarts as I turned to the last page of the final book in the Harry Potter series. I found all of the books rewarding but I have to be truthful in saying I’m relieved to be done with the wizard and magic business. We took the boys to Lincoln Park in West Seattle on Saturday morning for several hours of beach-combing and bluff-strolling and Adam unleashed a barrage of pent-up editorializing and analysis regarding characters such as Voldemort, Snape, Dumbledore, Dobby, Black and Lestrange. Oliver Fern joined in as we discovered magic wands that had been inexplicably lost on the beach and we practiced spells on each other. Expelliarmus!