Archive for October 2007

Show & Tell

We’re not doing anything tonight except handing out candy and trying not to think of ourselves as the scary old people of the block whose house the kids are daring each other to patronize. Just to show that we’ve been sports in the past, here are some shots of us dressed up to go to parties or music clubs:

That night I was wearing the red wig, leather miniskirt and fishnet stockings, we went to a club on Capitol Hill where a couple bands were playing. While I was standing in line at the bar to buy a drink, a young lady standing behind me bit me on the shoulder. That’s never happened to me before or since.

Possibly, however, the best costumes are those we throw together impromptu. One Halloween a few years ago, I came home from work to find that some neighbors wanted to dress up and head down to a local lounge. I had nuthin’ in the closet. I went out to the car and liberated the sheepskin seat cover from the driver’s seat. It pulled over my head perfectly where there was an opening for the headrest. I made up some huge fake boobs, donned one of Mrs. Perils’ skirts, made some sorta metaphorical blonde hair and went as the Dolly (Parton) Llama.

I can’t believe it’s going to be November.


After that dramatic lead-in, sorry if this sounds mundane. I had a wonderful time at dinner Thursday night. My friend’s wife, also a Jordanian/Palestinian, had worked much of the day preparing what amounted to a feast, consisting of:

  • Adas - a soup of pureed lentils, lemon, rice and spices
  • Kufta - savory meatballs served over white rice in a stew-like sauce of tomatoes, potatoes and carrots. The meat was ground beef. They said that they had pretty much switched a lot of their cooking from lamb to beef because more of their American guests prefer it to lamb.
  • Kapsa - a rice concoction laced with spices, raisins, nuts, etc baked, and then topped with grilled chickens
  • Dessert was Qatayef - dainty crepe-like pancakes filled with goat cheese and folded into a crescent, then served drizzled with a honey-like syrup
  • Arabic or Turkish coffee - finely ground beans boiled with cardamom and a bit of sugar, served in small porcelain cups.

My friend’s two daughters from his previous marriage were spending the night, and helped set the table and serve the food, and were model children. (When I said as much to their mother the next day, she was moderately incredulous). The girls did say that they were happy that we were speaking English at the table. Apparently, when their father and stepmother have Arab guests for dinner, everyone speaks Arabic, and they’re left to fend for themselves.

Over the course of the evening, I learned a lot about the evanescent sense of domicile in the Middle East. Of course, the Palestinians have multiple layers of displacement. I also learned that other nationals there become displaced because some accept contracts to work in one of the oil-rich gulf states, and end up residing in Oman, Bahrain, UAE and Saudi Arabia for basically a 30-year career. But, at the end of their contracts, they must re-patriate to their countries of origin for their retirement, which causes a significant social dislocation. They are paid well while they are working, but they can’t really meld into the community because they will eventually have to leave.  And when they get back to “home”, they have no friends, and perhaps not many relatives left either.

So, after the dramatic build-up of last night’s post, I have to say that the evening was so convivial that I have nothing to “dish”. We talked about so many disparate things that I wasn’t at any risk of stumbling into the subject of work at all.  My friend’s wife is a physician trained in the Czech republic and working through a residency here in Milwaukee. She’s fluent in English and a delight to converse with. My sense is that there isn’t much that my pal can put over on her.

Charades, Anyone?

So earlier in the week, this Jordanian/Palestinian dude I’ve been working with here for a couple of months (we’re both consultants, working on several projects for this firm) invited me to his house tonight for a home-cooked Arabic dinner. He asked me if I’d ever eaten Arabic food, and, feeling all worldly, I told him about our neighborhood Afghan restaurant, and various Lebanese and Moroccan restaurants we’d patronized. He sort of scoffed and insisted that I had yet to experience real Arabic cooking, and I really couldn’t argue the point, so I gladly assented. I like the guy.

A minor complication arose today that may render the evening even more interesting. My host’s ex-wife works here at our client’s plant, a fact that I was aware of. But just a while ago we were worrying some detail about our project, I had other things to do, and I said we could resume our discussion tonight at dinner. He got kind of a funny look on his face and said, no, we couldn’t talk about work at his house, and I thought, fine, must be some kind of old-country custom or other. No, turns out his new (a couple of years?) wife doesn’t know that he’s working here in (by my observation) chilly but cordial proximity with Mrs. Ex (who is also remarried).

“So, where’d we meet?”, I asked him, since approximately 100% of our relationship is suddenly off-limits.

As I say, it might be interesting. Film at 11.


A week or so ago we saw a play by Steven Dietz called Halcyon Days at a little theater down by Greenlake, a couple miles’ walk from the house. We’d seen a play of his about 10 years ago called Lonely Planet, a two-man play about dealing with the AIDS epidemic. I remembered the snappy dialogue and droll humor, and so looked forward to seeing something else by Dietz. As an example, here’s a speech from Lonely Planet by a guy named Carl, who claims to have several occupations, each of them a total fantasy. What he really does with his days out in the community, we eventually learn, is a much more sober mission. Here he is talking about one of these fantastical occupations, a reporter for a tabloid newspaper:

Continue reading ‘Culchah’ »

Day of Infamy

58 years ago today, a pretty young woman cataclysmically complicated her life by heaving forth barely 6 lbs of quivering protoplasm in the form of Yr. Obt. Corres. (In the years to follow, the poor thing made two more attempts to balance the cosmic damage, with mixed results at best.) Thanks, mom, I’ll be thinking of you at about 11 tonight.

I got a nice early birthday present yesterday, as my Buckeyes staved off a furious comeback by the opportunistic Michigan State Spartans to remain #1 in the nation. Comcast was kind to me this time, delivering the game for free on ESPN2, although I couldn’t be sure until game time, as their menu kept saying, “Either Ohio State-Michigan State or (insert name of inconsequential ACC game here). I wasn’t about to call them to find out.

A funny thing happened during the broadcast. In recognition of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, referees at the game sported pink whistles, and at least one announcer was wearing a pink tie. At one point in the broadcast, one of the announcers was pointing this out, and (I’m sure I heard this right) said, “in recognition of Breast Awareness Month.” What ? Suddenly, I’m supposed to ignore them for the other 11 months? In the guy’s defense, he was stuck working with Bob Griese, easily the worst color commentator now that Keith Jackson no longer soils the airwaves.

Also for my birthday, I’m off to Milwaukee this morning to work for the week. More later from Cheeseland, or points in between.

Schmooze News

The weather here has been pretty wild this last week, involving hail, high winds and, of course, plenty of rain.

I attended a splendid soiree on Thursday night to honor one of my clients (and 99 other firms) at Qwest Field, where the Seattle Seahawks play football. I took this photo from one of the decks outside, showing the dramatic cloud activity on a particularly stormy night, when winds actually closed the 520 bridge across Lake Washington for a spell.  I had spent 1 1/2 hours crossing the bridge back to Seattle from Redmond just prior to the closing (Click any photo to enlarge):

It was the first time I’d been at Qwest Field since it opened in 2002. It’s built on the site of the old Kingdome multipurpose stadium. You’ve probably seen the famous Kingdome implosion video. Here’s the view from the room where our soiree was held:

If I were ever to attend a Seahawks game, I think there couldn’t be a much better place to watch - the entire field in view, and the city skyline in the background, wine and canapes within reach.

Spurious Content

Short on time, so I’m going to let some photos do the writing. Sunday afternoon, we got out for a stroll down to Gasworks Park (where else?) and Fremont. Gasworks was busy, and we happened upon two unrelated role-playing groups. The first we’ve seen before. They’re guys that dress up in Medieval garb and engage in various fight scenarios. The group on the right we’ve not seen before. They seem to be involved in some sort of anime scene (Click any photo to enlarge):

Wandering on to Fremont, we dropped into Puget Consumer Co-op to top off Mrs. Perils’ supply of Maple Butter, then down to the ship canal to watch boat and people traffic. This vessel I found particularly intriguing. Apparently, the boat is operated by a non-profit organization and operates educational voyages around Puget Sound.

The Burke Gilman Trail runs alongside the Ship Canal at our lounging point, so we also got to observe all manner of bikers and skaters. These two on the Segways, however, caught our attention in a negative sense. I know there are those who are downright messianic about the Segway and its supposed potential to get people out of cars for middle-distance commuting, but I just don’t buy it. The only people I’ve seen on them have been joy-riding. People who would be eminently better off walking or biking.

If Segways have so much potential to reduce car trips, then cut out a lane of car traffic on every arterial and devote it to the legions who are dying to Segway instead of drive. But allowing these things on already-inadequate sidewalks and bike trails is bad engineering and bad public policy. Right now, I see them as no more than JetSkis of the sidewalk, inconveniencing and endangering pedestrians.

A while ago I read some correspondence with the Seattle parks director to the effect that Segways, as motorized vehicles are not allowed on the Burke Gilman.  I’m hoping that this is enforced, especially if they, like their brethren JetSkis, become more numerous.

On the way back up the hill, we stopped at the venerable Fremont coffee kiosk Espresso To Go. There are always tempting baked goods there in addition to the excellent coffee, and we engaged our inner poseurs as we lounged along the sidewalk. The treat, which we bought only for research purposes and merely tasted and then spit out, was a pumpkin cake with cinnamon or cardamon, raisins and white buttercream frosting.

On the way home, we noticed many households preparing for Halloween. This was a particularly creative presentation:

I Didn’t Die Of My Chicanine Dream…

Light posting lately as I’ve been touring coast-to-coast performing as my doppelganger, the enormously popular middle-aged white rapper known as Travis T. Or not. More likely, I’ve been feeling that sort of lackluster that I get when I’m inundated with projects and phone-stalked by clients with justifiable grievances. And since a couple-three of them venture here sometimes, I feel funny about taking time to post when their projects are going begging. Not that I’m at all out of the woods right now, but I’m claiming the hours between 2am and 4am as my own, dammit!

So, a little summing up. Of course, I spent a lot of Saturday watching football. It was like Pickett’s Charge, half of the top 15 teams disemboweled and gasping on the greensward. The most stunning of which was Stanford’s regicide of USC. That game gave Jim Harbaugh, Stanford’s first-year coach and former Michigan quarterback, instant street cred and deflected some of the attention he’d gotten when he made these peculiar remarks about his alma mater. (An aside of astounding relevance: I delivered the Toledo Blade to Harbaugh’s house when his dad coached at my high school).

The Buckeyes’ game with Purdue was shown to 85% of the country, but here we got the unsightly spectacle of UCLA allowing Notre Dame to once again breathe air in the same time slot, so I sucked it up and bought the game PPV from Comcast. You’d think they’d make it easy for a strung-out junkie to buy a hit of ESPN crack, but nooooo. You can order all manner of depravity from the cable company with just a couple of flicks of your (unoccupied) wrist and the remote, but you can’t order ESPN Gameplan - you have to call Comcast. Which is what I did a half-hour before kickoff. It was a rude awakening to apprehend that they were woefully understaffed, and my only option was to accept a call-back in 40 - 45 minutes. I fumed, cursed, and did exactly what they asked me to do and paid them everything they asked me to pay.

I only missed about 4 minutes of the first quarter. When I watch a game at home, Mrs. Perils takes the cat and disappears to a safe room somewhere where the paint won’t peel when I scream. My companion for these events, oddly, is my 90-year-old mother-in-law. She spent a lot of Saturdays watching football with her husband, and I think it has a familiar feel for her. She’s got some cognitive issues, and it doesn’t help when I flick from game to game during time-outs. She follows it for the most part, though, and every now & then has a moment of clarity, like when I do a drive-by of a Penn State game, and she exclaims, “Is Joe Paterno still coaching?”

Then there was this priceless moment a couple of weeks ago. Mrs. Perils had alighted briefly among us, and I was saying something to her about a player. She said, “what year is he?” And my MIL grinned and said, “he’s a fifth-year freshman!” We looked at each other with a “where’d that come from” look, but it’s not that far-fetched. She (my MIL) has been pondering all the various increments of academic/athletic status like “red-shirting” and, one of her favorites, “true freshman”. She was a school-teacher and a parent of two valedictorians, and her view of academic progress is decidedly less malleable than that of a college athletic department.

Channeling Garo Yepremian

I woke up the other morning with just an awful pain in my left foot. I’d been dreaming about - jeez, I don’t know, I rarely ever remember any of my dreams, but in this one I was walking down a sidewalk when several chicken-sized dogs ran at me out of some shrubbery, barking and apparently intent on biting me. They really did look like chickens, though, especially with the feathers. Except for the teeth. And the barking. Enraged, I started kicking at the closest one, but couldn’t make contact despite the fact that my foot appeared to be going right through its..chicken head. But it was barking, I tell you.

But anyway, I stepped forward and just started kicking the bastard as hard as I could. I woke up the second time I nailed the coffee table right on the corner. Damn, that hurt. I was hitting the coffee table instead of Mrs. Perils because I had bolted awake sometime during the night and wandered downstairs to read and crash on the couch. I suppose I was lucky not to have damaged anything on top of the coffee table. I was also lucky not to have been kicking Mrs. Perils. I probably wouldn’t be alive to type this.

And Then It Was Gone

Dang, in a couple of hours I’m going to be dragged kicking and screaming into October. And the weather is doing nothing to ease the transition - it’s turned from the benevolent warmth and sunshine of the previous post to a mean-spirited rain siege that forced us, finally, to turn the heat on today for the first time, I believe, since spring.

It’ll be another brisk work week. Month-end stuff added to regular workload. Here’s an amusing bit, though -Two of my clients have experienced bookkeeper turnover. For one, we have run ads, contacted personnel firms, done scripted behavioral interviews and had people complete testing. After 2 - 3 weeks of this endeavor, we have one candidate that we have only a lukewarm interest in, and we’re about to repeat the entire process this week with new ads, etc.

The other client precipitously hired a young woman that a friend of the owner met in a bar, where she was working as a server. She has a newly-minted accounting degree, but absolutely no work experience. When I arrived to give her some training, I smelled the perfume first, then saw the petite blond sitting there. I thought, “Cool!” and “Oh, no!” simultaneously, and steeled myself for the worst. To my delight and relief, she was very attentive, took meticulous notes and, most importantly, displayed good instincts for both accounting issues and the accounting software. That’s been the only training session she’s needed so far, though I’ll return for month-end and see how much clean-up has to be done. Turned out she just hated working in the bar, and embraced the opportunity to start working in her field.

Ya never know. I’ve hired my share of doozies (current readers excepted, of course!), enough to be fairly humble about my ability to judge accounting horseflesh. I’d much rather recruit over margaritas than resumes and cover letters, and I might not do any worse.

Have a good week, folks, I’ll be in touch.