Archive for October 2005

Now, for Something REALLY Scary

Well, Halloween is almost upon us, and I don’t have a costume, mostly because my duties tomorrow night - operating the trap door on our front porch, pulling the lever just as the 3rd “t” in “Trick or Treat!” trips off of young tongues - won’t require one.  So, I’m providing a sampling of prior costumes I’ve donned, usually at the last second, during the years before I was put on the Liquor Control Board’s no-fly list, when we’d actually go out.

This first one was really impromptu.  I learned we were going somewhere just as I got home from work.  Brainstorming, I removed the sheepskin seatcover from my car, pulled it over my head through the hole where the headrest goes, and pondered.  I ended up wadding up newspapers and tape to form a pair of huge breasts, draped yellow ribbon over my head to represent blond hair, and went as the Dolly (as in Parton) Llama.  OK, the guy on the left is our neighbor, married to our dear friend, but the look on his face still creeps me out.  I have a ways to go before I apprehend that ”coquetry” doesn’t involve wickets and mallets. (Click each photo to enlarge).

This costume was actually planned - I purchased bits of it between the U District and Fremont, and wore it to a musical event, Ghoulbooty, that used to be held at the Elysian on Capitol Hill.

This next one was semi-planned. I had purchased the leather miniskirt at the Fremont street market with a vague idea of using it for a costume. Then, as we planned to go out, again, to Ghoulbooty, Mrs. Perils presented me with an array of accoutrement from her personal wardrobe. Sorry about the belly - I can see liposuction and bikini wax in my future. Sometime around this Halloween, a story broke about the availability, for mucho dinero, of eggs from supermodels for in vitro fertilization (one presumes they wouldn’t make much of an omelette). On our way into the Elysian, we encountered a statuesque young woman with a sorta Easter basket on her arm labeled “Supermodel Eggs”. Later that evening, as I was standing in line to order a drink, a woman behind me bit me on the shoulder. I was flattered, and a little tingly. That’s never happened to me when I wasn’t cross-dressing.

Pre-Halloween Walkabout

Halloween is approaching. I’ve always felt that Halloween helped a little bit to salve the sting of giving up summer. We took a walk down to Fremont yesterday and caught some of the early festivity. Click to enlarge.

Ghost Fish

This is part of a gang of zombies that was roaming around Fremont. While we were in Fremont Place Books, they started banging on the window in front and drew the vociferous ire of the woman tending the store. Those are real rats on the guy’s shoulder - we couldn’t figure out why they stayed there.

Away from the mayhem, it was an awfully pretty day.

High Ate Us

I was going to say I hadn’t posted recently because I’ve been pouring all my energy into my new s$x blog, but then you’d offer bribes and camp out on my parking strip trying to get the link.  Then you’d remember I turned 56 last Friday.

Yes, I indeed renewed my driver’s license on time, in the nick thereof, around 10 am Friday.  And we had a nice little celebration with a couple friends at Portalis wine bar in Ballard, followed by a terrific cake made by Mrs. Perils. (click to enlarge. an HTML trick I learned working on my s$x blog.)

The truth is, work’s been consuming me the last couple of weeks, and my sense of time’s gotten really skewed.  It’s meant weird sleeping, and some days where I barely leave the house, or my desk.  I’ve resisted, so far, hooking up the catheter in order to free up a few more extra minutes.  But it’s in the drawer.

I’ll come up for air this weekend, and get back to posting.

America’s Most Wanted - Fall Edition

Anyone else get a little thrill out of seeing the Yahoo! Reuters links juxtapose “Texas Court Issues Warrant for Delay” with “Saddam Pleads Innocent, Gets Into Scuffle”?  A cheap thrill, fersure, but a thrill nonetheless.

A Licentious Week

I got home from my week on the road Sunday night.  At almost every waystation on the trail last week that wound from Seattle to Minneapolis to Milwaukee to Detroit to Toledo and back, I was admonished by gate agents, airport club receptionists, car rental clerks and bank employees that my driver’s license was soon to expire.  Which it does, on Friday.  If you’re a betting person, you’ll run to your bookie and bet against my getting to the DMV and renewing on time.

The irony in this is that about this time last year, someone misread my license and warned me that it was due to expire.  I took them at their word. After a week of foot-dragging and brinksmanship, I headed to the DMV, took a number and waited fitfully in their germ-laden confines.  When my number was finally called, the woman at the window gave me a puzzled look and, though not very good with English, managed to convey that I was a year early and, no, they couldn’t issue a new license anyway.

Although I could play hard-to-get, let them know that they had a shot and blew it, it’s probably wiser to get dressed and head over there again.  Sometime in the next 48 hours.

Hi, Mom

For some reason, blogging really suffers when I’m working in Milwaukee.  Work is pretty intense while I’m there, but I still have evenings in the hotel.  I usually work until 6:30 or 7, then go running and hunt down dinner to bring back to the room, or drag my laptop down to the hotel lounge and order from the cafe menu.  So I have a stretch of uninterrupted time each night, which I might not always get at home.  I guess the biggest reason for fallow blogging there is that not much interesting, besides work, happens to me there.  Interactions are cordial but not of any depth or pith.  I may try paying closer attention to my fascinating internal monologue, and try not to be too disappointed at the result.

So now I’m here in Perrysburg to visit my mom for the weekend before flying home on Sunday.  I’ll assay some “job-jar” tasks around the house, watch the Buckeyes’ noon kickoff against Michigan State at noon, and not in the middle of the fricking night as I would in Seattle, and, if discipline completely slips, nip at the USC-Notre Dame game at 3:30.  Something should stir up blogging material here.

Content-Free Book Report Ahead

Well, I promised Dick and Kathy that I would expand on Joyce Carol Oates’ review of Cormac McCarthy’s latest book but, really, I’ve read so little McCarthy that I have nothing worthwhile to add.  I sort of feel like this one time I signed up to sing Frankie Avalon’s “Venus” for some grade school pageant.  Then, a few days before the performance, I cued up the 45, stood in front of a mirror and realized there was no way in hell I was going to sing that song in front of anyone.  I ended up playing Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star on my ocarina/tonette, and badly.  Mrs. McGuffin, the music teacher, was not amused, but then she never was.

Anyway, here’s the skinny on the review.  First of all, I didn’t realize McCarthy had a 4-novel Tennessee period after attending, then dropping out of, University of Tennessee:

the dreamlike opacity of Faulkner’s prose pervades The Orchard Keeper (1965)and Outer Dark (1968).  These are slow-moving novels in which backcountry natives drift like somnambulists in tragic/farcical dramas

Blood Meridian (1985) was his fifth novel, and

marks the author’s reinvention of himself as a writer of the West: a visionary of vast, inhuman distances … (and) is the author’s most challenging work of fiction.

…Admirers of Blood Meridian invariably dislike and disparage McCarthy’s “accessible” best-selling Border Trilogy as if these novels were a betrayal of the solemn rites of macho sadism and impacted fury of Blood Meridian, for which the ideal cover art would be a Hieronymus Bosch rendering of some scenes of Zane Grey.

So, that’s the crux of the “fault line” I described in the previous post.  Looks like I’m committed, now, to finishing the Trilogy and Blood Meridian to satisfy the solemn rites of macho faux-literary blogging.

Toward the end of the article, Oates gets around to commenting on the book she’s reviewing, No Country For Old Men.  It’s set in contemporary Texas instead of the dying frontier of the Border Trilogy, and “reads like a prose film by Quentin Tarantino.”

Shorn of the brooding lyricism and poetic descriptive passages that have become McCarthy’s signature style, No Country For Old Men is a variant of one of the oldest of formula suspense tales: a man discovers a treasure and unwisely decides to take it and run, bringing upon himself and others a string of calamities…

So, there you have it.  This proves nothing about my literary self except that I can type while reclined on a Hilton hotel bed.  I mean, they put 5 pillows and an upholstered bolster on this sucker for purposes that are lost on me.  I’m supposed to be the West Coaster visiting flyover country.  Wonder if I could get them to take two of them back and install a trapeze.  Just so they’d put it on the secret part of my HHonors profile for other hoteliers to ponder when I make a reservation.

Air Time

Off to Milwaukee again today.  7:00 am flight from Seatac meant my shuttle arrived at 4:30, which meant that I got up at 3:30 to finish packing after being up til close to 1:00.  The shuttle company errs on the side of caution, so I was at the airport before the gate agents opened their kiosks.  It was kind of strange to stand in front of the checkin monitors and watch the Windows 2000 logos flash on them as they booted up for their day’s work.  You forget that the myriad devices in your life are made of the same mortal clay as your trusty laptop.

I caught an hour or so of sleep on the flight to Minneapolis - I find it’s possible for me when I have a window seat and can prop my head against the window or fuselage.  Later, I perused the latest New York Review of Books, which hit the house on Friday and I whisked away from Mrs. Perils’ literery clutches.  There are some advantages to being up and out the door while the rest of the house is asleep.  I’ve been using plane time lately to read (I’m going to hate it when cell phone and email service inevitably invades that remarkable lozenge of time in the air), and a couple of hours spent with the NYRB is always such a learning experience.  Each issue is a series of kaleidoscopic peepholes into books and culture.  Yesterday, for instance, I read from the current issue:

  • A review of Cormac McCarthy’s latest book by Joyce Carol Oates.  I’ve often liked her reviews, but, considering how prolific she is, I’m ashamed to say I’ve never read one of her works.  It seems she publishes a full-length novel every other month.  As is customary with NYRB reviews, this one ranged far from the book in question - there was a nice biographical sketch, a discussion of the apparent fault line between Blood Meridian and the Border Trilogy, from which sprang All The Pretty Horses.  (It seems some view Blood Meridian as great writing and the Border Trilogy as popularized pandering.  I’ve only read Horses, and seen the Matt Damon/Penelope Cruz movie).

  • A review of Joan Didion’s latest, TheYear Of Magical Thinking, a non-fiction sort of journal dealing with the year after her husband, novelist John Gregory Dunne, pitched over dead as they sat down to dinner, a year during which her daughter also died.  I read a lot of Didion in the 70s - her “New Journalism” works The White Album and Slouching Towards Bethlehem, plus a couple of her novels, but I wasn’t compelled to follow her into Salvador or her other work in the 80s, and lost touch.  It’s interesting to be reacquainted, and be informed of your youthful misapprehensions of an author’s work.

  • Another reviewer took on two books about the evolution/creationism debate that crystallized many of the political and intellectual issues surrounding it. 

All of that in 2 - 3 hours.  I still have articles from the same issue on judge Roberts, Richard Feynman, E. L Doctorow and the Five Books of Moses to peruse over the week and on the way home.  I think it’s going to be a good week.


Last night we headed up to Capitol Hill to hear Zadie Smith read from her latest novel, On Beauty.  The event was held in what is usually a music venue, Neumo’s, and was sponsored by the alternative weekly The Stranger.

Smith’s first novel, White Teeth, was published when she was 24 years old, and was a major success.  I thought it was a terrific accomplishment for a novelist of any age - fully developed characters of all ages, in a range of plot situations that a 50-year-old who was a careful observer of life might not be able to write, delivered with a measured and humorous prose style.

She’s 30 now, and a veteran of these book tours, and is an engaging stage presence.  Some of the salient observations that I remember:

  • When asked if, in light of her early success, she would eventually tire of the “writer’a life”, she drew a comparison between herself and Ian MacEwan, whom she said reveled in being a writer and, if given a 150-year lifespan, would use the extra time writing.  She seemed to be acknowledging that the life may eventually fatigue her.

  • Asked if she were a feminist and whether she felt she has a responsibility as a black woman writer, she said that she was a feminist, but that she felt that, in her writing, she was only responsible to create honest and readable fiction.  From what I took away from White Teeth, that’s exactly how she writes.  There was opportunity and, probably, temptation to become preachy in that novel, but there wasn’t a whiff of it that I remember.

  • She called herself a “schematic” writer, in that she outlines a novel before writing.

  • She’s a little squeamish about writing sex scenes, and hadn’t written any in her previous two novels, so she made herself write a couple for On Beauty.

I always feel, after one of these readings, that I should run right home and begin my literary career.  The writers seem so human, and literary success seems so tangible in their presence.

A group I’ve been doing some volunteer work for, 826 Seattle, also had a presence at the reading, with a booth and volunteers taking donations.  After their pattern in SanFrancisco, LA and New York, they have opened a drop-in facility where kids can participate in writing workshops and publish their work.  There’s a party tonight for volunteers at their newly opened storefront facility, and we’re just about to leave for it.

Phamily Phone Phun

Last summer, my mom was thinking she should get a cell phone to carry with her when she was driving or walking.  It seemed silly to sign her up for a $50/month plan, so we bought her a phone and put her on our family plan, with the added benefit that she gets basically free long distance.  

She called yesterday with some questions about some financial correspondence, and while we were talking, there was a ringing in the background.  “Just a minute,” she said, “that’s my other phone.”  and I cooled my jets while she took the other call.

My mom put me on hold yesterday, folks.  It’s on my calendar.

The picture on the left has nothing to do with this post - just saw the truck today in front of the Ballard Starbucks and had to have a photo.  Click to enlarge.