Archive for December 2004


2004 has been our “30th” for several things.  In June, we celebrated our 30th wedding anniversary;  In October, 1974, we loaded up a 5′ by 8′ U-Haul, hitched it to my 1967 Pontiac Tempest, and left northwestern Ohio for a vision of Ecotopia in Seattle;  and, 30 years ago tonight, we did a “midnight move” from our apartment on Belmont Avenue, Capitol Hill to our current home near Greenlake.

We had signed a 6-month lease for the Belmont apartment in October, and faithfully paid our rent.  However, around Thanksgiving, the radiator system, which had been showing increasing signs of distress, finally just quit working, and we had no heat at all, day or night, for the month of December.

I had found work in what I then considered my “field”, as a bicycle mechanic, while Mrs. Perils was spending her evenings weaving rugs and her days trying to sell them at the Pike Place Market.  We were unused to the relentless damp and gloom of this northern latitude, and a depression of sorts settled in.  I don’t remember if we called the landlord about the lack of heat or not…perhaps we didn’t feel, as carpetbaggers and fugitives from responsible midwestern values, entitled to heat on demand.  My seldom-used Tempest, meanwhile, was parked in an inclined lot with its right side facing upwards, and once when I went to drive it, I found 2 inches of water on the floor and mold festooning then interior.

At that time in our strapping youth, we mostly bicycled for transportation.  We still felt, however, that we needed to do something for exercise, and often stopped at Greenlake to run its 2 1/2 mile circumference before bicycling back to our Belmont Avenue digs.  At some point, a friend of ours approached us about renting a house near Greenlake with him, and we jumped at the chance.  We went to tour the house, but were disappointed when it was rented to someone else.  Spurred by the cold and damp in our apartment, though, we started checking ads, and happened on one for our current house.  The landlady said we could have it, but we’d have to take it immediately, and not wait for our apartment lease to expire.

This presented a dilemma, as we felt bound by the lease, but really wanted the house and its proximity to our hallowed running venue.  We finally decided that enough was enough,  packed up our stuff on New Year’s evening and moved into the house.  It seemed cavernous compared to our apartment, as we had no furniture beyond my JBL 77 speakers and Mrs. Perils’ weaving loom.  We sat on the floor, ate a dinner hastily purchased at Dick’s Drive-In, and felt quite satisfied in our civil disobedience and the unimagined opulence of occupying an entire house (a letter of explanation to our Belmont landlord brought an apology and full refund of our deposit).

9 months later our landlady asked us if we were prepared to move out so she could put the house on the market and (subject of a future story) we ended up, after sweating bullets over signing a land contract and paying what seemed like a fortune, buying the place from her instead.


Last year in December I was here

A picture named LoretoMissonXmas.jpg

Loreto City Hall decked out for the holidays


Decked Out

OK, one more Hallmark moment, then I’ll get back to my mission statement of wry cynicism. I’ve often coveted this house in broad daylight - it’s 5 blocks away and often on my walking routes - but when I came upon it last night, I was especially taken.

A picture named WeddingCakeHouse.jpg

The Season, Finally

Our (or MY, anyway) preparations for Christmas were typically desultory. I had planned to somehow complete all my shopping and other obligations in a whirlwind of activity starting Sunday, when I got back from my road trip.  That whirlwind instead had to be redirected to bail out a client whose hard disk crashed last Friday, a client who hadn’t had a useable backup for two months. And knew it all along. Add this to other end-or-year chores to perform with accounting software and you’re looking at a shopping season telescoped, finally into an evening’s desperate surfing for e-gift certificates. My only outside-the-house shopping foray occurred Sunday, when we walked to REI’s flagship store on Eastlake, with a stop in at Feathered Friends. REI’s about 4 miles from our house, so we were feeling all virtuous, but, hey!  If you’re not a hiker, what are you doing shopping at REI in the first place?

While I was out of town, my wife had bought a Noble Fir at Green Lake Elementary (see previous post) and placed it in a bucket on the porch, awaiting my return last Sunday. We finally brought it into the house on Thursday, and the final ornament was hung right about midnight Friday.

Despite the compressed season, we had some good times, thanks in large part to our neighbors’ hospitality:

A picture named Carolers.jpg

Carolers arrive on our front porch.

A picture named Pickin and Bowin.jpg

We joined the carolers after they were finished, at a house down the street. To our delight, these two fellows pulled out their axes and gave a delightful bluegrass concert.

A picture named Masher.jpg

Christmas dinner was hosted by our long-time neighbors across the street. Our son flexes his forearms mashing potatoes.

A picture named Dinner Served.jpg

Dinner is convivial and delicious, turkey and numerous yummy dishes punctuated by an archipelago of wine bottles.

A picture named Corrupting Youth.jpg

What’s a holiday dinner without somebody’s show-stopping cute kid to corrupt with chocolate and jumping-on-someone-else’s-sofa activities? Mrs. Perils does the honor here. I can categorically say she’s not hoping for grandchildren, but..she’s sure having fun, isn’t she?

Have A Wonderful Holiday, Everyone

A picture named Xmas Tree 2004.jpg

Habitat Dislocation

A picture named Raccoon Invasion 1.jpg

I opened the door tonight to check something on our front porch, and was surprised to see a large raccoon climbing the cedar tree that nestles against it. Another raccoon was hulking down on the parking strip, seemingly standing guard. This is not exactly an everyday occurrence in our urban neighborhood, and I ran in to grab my camera.

A picture named Raccoon Invasion 2.jpg

When I noticed that the other one had come up and started climbing the cedar, I ran upstairs to our son’s bedroom and opened the window to get a better photo, and saw that there were three of them just hanging out on the tree branches.  They started advancing towards me, either because they were interested in coming inside, or were simply preparing to eviscerate me while I squeezed off just one more shot.

Since the cedar is a convenience that our cats use to come up to the roof and importune my mother-in-law to open her bedroom window and let them in at night, we taped a note to the window reminding her not to open it tonight, or at least to make a friend-or-foe check before offering our hospitality.


After two weeks of too much travel, I spent Saturday at my mom’s place near Toledo.  Over the last few years, I’ve been fortunate in being able to tack a visit home onto a business trip to the midwest.  Indeed, these trips became almost routine, and I believe I’ve popped in more often than I might have if I had lived across town.

This was the first such visit, however, since my dad died in October, and it was strange not to have him greet me at the back door when I came dragging my bags in.  Since October, I in many ways just went back to the parallel “me” life in Seattle to the “their” life in Toledo that has existed over the 30 years we’ve been out here, and I’d catch myself seeing something or reading something in the paper and thinking, “Dad’ll get a kick out of that - I’ll email it to him.” 

Being there last weekend was a way to see that life has rotated a few degrees on its axis, my mom taking entire responsibility for the house and financial affairs, making incremental changes in the daily routine.  I set up an Excel worksheet and she and I worked through a monthly budget, trying to list all the expenses she and I could think of, matching against her income, seeing how things shake out.  She’ll have enough left over to travel to pester her sons, go out with friends for bridge, plays, etc.

A picture named Mom_Xmas_Tree.jpg

We went out Saturday and purchased an artificial Christmas tree, did some other shopping and had lunch at Chili’s.  I strung lights on the shrubbery outside, assembled the tree, and we decorated it, sort of prosaic activities that seemed convivial and festive.  We took the dog for a long walk, and later made a reservation for her to visit her brother in Phoenix, a startlingly spontaneous thing to do when compared to the level of politicking she’d had to employ to maneuver my dad into a trip, especially to see HER relatives ;-)

A picture named NWA dark prince.jpg

My plane left Detroit for Seattle early Sunday morning, just beating some of the nasty cold that enveloped the eastern half of the country this week.  I wish this picture was a little clearer - this guy on the DTW ground crew had a Freddy Krueger-like mask on his face, and, with his light sabres in hand, looked like a minion of the Dark Side.

Another Trip Down The Rabbithole?

The Alice in Wonderland world of the Washington state governor’s race is approaching its climax, and the rhetoric and legal maneuvering are intensifying.  To recap, Republican Dino Rossi led Democrat Christine Gregoire by 261 votes after the initial tally.  A machine recount lowered that lead to 42 votes.  The Secretary of State certified the election at that time, but either party had the opportunity to request - and pay for - a “hand” recount, which the Democrats did.  That “hand” recount is nearing completion.

Rossi has picked up a net of 32 votes in this latest recount, but King County, the largest county and Democratic stronghold, has yet to report.  During the hand recount, King County found that about 550 ballots had been rejected in the initial canvassing because the signatures on them were missing from an electronically-scanned file of voter registration signatures.   A King County councilman was shocked to see his name on the list of rejected ballots, and his complaint disclosed that the votes in question had valid signatures, and were rejected simply because the county elections board hadn’t scanned their registration signatures into the matching file.

If Gregoire’s 60-40 trend in King County holds for that batch of votes, she could become the winner.  Predictably, the Republicans are suing today to block counting these votes for a whole panoply of reasons.  No one knows, or has disclosed, at any rate, whom those votes favor.

Another interesting development is that some Republicans are now saying that this election is so tainted that we should vote again.  It’s interesting because

Democrats scoffed at the proposal, saying Republicans were raising it only because Rossi’s whisker-thin lead appears in jeopardy.

“Last week the Republicans were saying we need to resolve this as quickly as possible,” Democratic Party spokeswoman Kirstin Brost said. “This week they’re saying we need another election.”  (Seattle Times)

There’s real peril for Democrats in a new election.  First, while Republicans will have no trouble mobilizing their base, Democrats will have to once again round up the students and other first-time voters, people who arguably are probably disillusioned with the results of the Presidential election that got them motivated in November.  Second, the Democrats spent something like $750,000 to fund the recount, though I believe they’ll get it back if the recount reverses the election.  Still, there can be little doubt that Republicans can much more quickly funnel money into a fast-track campaign than Democrats, with their comparatively ragtag sources, can.  I just don’t like our chances in a rerun.


I broke down and replaced my cell phone Sunday, sort of a surrogate for actual Christmas shopping.  My old one has been misbehaving for several months now.  It receives and sends calls just fine, but the display doesn’t work unless I squeeze the phone a certain way and press a button a couple times.  The worst part of that arrangement was that I couldn’t see who was calling me when the phone rang, and I found myself simply letting all my calls go to my voice mailbox during those periods when there were one or more people that I wanted to duck for various reasons, usually because I didn’t have something done that I’d promised them.  That actually turns out to be most of the time.

Turns out that my Verizon contract renewal period is up, so I get a free phone for re-upping for two more years.  I’m delighted with their service, so I had no qualms.  My choices of phones are constricted a bit because I want a tri-mode phone, capable of receiving calls in either analog or digital areas. I have clients in eastern Washington, and also tend to hie myself, either on foot or in a kayak, to areas with pretty sketchy reception.  I have one of those national plans where I have no roaming charges anywhere, even if I’m in some southeastern US haunt connected to Jimmy Sue’s Beauty School and Wireless Service.  So, that requirement cuts out a lot of the sexy phones with melodic ring tones, cameras you can use to take pictures up skirts or down blouses, and optional laser attachments to perform field appendectomies.  All I want is a solid phone with decent battery life that gets reception anywhere I happen to wake up.

Having a new phone, however, is a lot like being a new parent and bringing a baby home from the hospital.  You’re not sure what appendage to plug into which orifice to nourish it.  It makes unfamiliar sounds when it wakes up, goes to sleep, or wants some sort of response from you, and, as often as not, the button you push in response makes things worse instead of better.  And like a newborn, it surprises you with how much behavior is preprogrammed and irreversible, as opposed to lovingly instilled by you, the doting new owner.  Beyond “nature” or “nurture”, they’re preternatural.  Fortunately, the phones don’t last long enough to become teenagers.

So, if you’re trying to call me, have a little patience as I acclimate to this thing.  Except if I owe you any work.  In that case, I’m out of the office or away from my desk - leave a message at the bong.

Off to points east and south this week: Milwaukee today, Atlanta midweek, Toledo this weekend to visit Mom, back to Seattle (pant, pant) Sunday to buy the gifts and send the cards that you won’t get until New Year’s.

Hot Stove League

I’m a fairly indifferent baseball fan, so I’m not following the baseball winter meetings with ‘bated breath, but can you imagine the atmosphere in the hotel where they’re being held?  General managers and player’s agents circling each other like sharks, a whispered tete-a-tete between a pair of them causing anxiety and suspicion in all those not privy?

But this struck me as the funniest thing:

One possible barrier to wheeling and dealing here: The Anaheim Marriott is a cell phone dead zone. The front drive is littered with people trying to get a signal

All those type-A dudes reduced to an arcane technological dance step in the driveway.  And you can bet that, in the fine print of the Guest Services Directory, it says, “Outgoing local and long-distance calls: $3.50 per call”.