Archive for August 2008

Belabored Day

 Hectic and compressed week.  I mean, it’s always a gong show after I’ve been  out of town, but this is a 3-day work week for me, as I depart tomorrow morning on my annual haj to Columbus, there to pray at Mecca on Saturday.  I will again play and march with my Ohio State alumni band, and mingle with my mom and brothers and their wives.

I’m not sure if I actually have a new reader or two since the last iteration, but just in case: I was in the Ohio State marching band while slouching towards my accounting degree, as was my youngest (10 years younger) brother.  The alumni band celebrates a reunion each year, and the athletic department allows us to either cavort or waddle through pregame and halftime shows at an early-season football game.  My family has been using this occasion as a family reunion as well, and we have a fine old time.

Something like 700 of us alumni bandsmen return each year for this event, and that’s about 100 too many to be able to participate in our signature formation, the venerable Script Ohio.  So, they conduct a lottery to see who gets the coveted marching spots for the halftime extravaganza.  I had to sit out last year, but I’m on the field this year.  Here’s a nice video of what we do:

The game itself is a snooze to contemplate - against Youngstown State, ferchrissakes.  It annoys me that teams like Ohio State pack their schedule with cupcakes like this.  And it’s not like you can’t lose one of these (see Michigan vs. Appalachian State last year).  But, whatever, the weather is supposed to be good and it’ll be a fine way to spend an afternoon.

On the way, I’ll be finishing A Heartbreaking of Staggering Genius by Dave Eggers.  I’ve had the book around for a year or two, but it only made the traveling team because it was on top of a pile, and I grabbed it as I ran out the door to the airport a couple weeks ago.  It’s a strange book, a rambling memoir that details a young person’s launch into adult life in the 90s.  What would have been a fairly unremarkable journey of a suburban Chicago kid graduating from college and dipping his toe into the world is complicated immeasurably by the unlikely deaths of both of his parents from cancer within a month of each other, and the consequent need to care for his middle-school brother.  Not the usual path to becoming a single parent.  I’ll say more about it when I finish.

Terra InFirma

My ride home was on schedule and uneventful.  The recent DC9/MD80 crash in Madrid was a reminder that these things still occur, and was part of my awareness as I boarded a DC9 for my Milwaukee-Minneapolis flight.  As we rolled for takeoff, it seemed they were “babying” it into the air instead of the brash “rotate up and leap into the air” that I always anticipate and even now sort of thrill to.  I fancied FAA airworthiness directives, dialogue in the pilots’ lounge, lots drawn, losers getting the DC9 assignments.  Probably my imagination.

On the MSP-SEA leg, I was #3 on the upgrade standby list, but there’s no bronze medal in that event.  All of them showed up, and I trudged back to my seat in coach.  Not a bad seat, exit-row aisle, but still.

The woman seated next to me - petite, thankfully, eschewing the arm-rest - noted to her daughter that we were taking off at 9:30 and arriving in Seattle at 11:00, “an hour-and-a-half flight”.  In her 50s, reading a Ken Follett book that, OK, it’s thriller-stuff, but there are a lot of words and pages and you might presume that a person with an interest in such world-ranging, technology-intensive material would be at least dimly aware of the existence of time zones.

It’s one thing for your airplane seatmate to be geographically stunted, it’s another for your airport shuttle-driver to lack basic knowledge of your city’s layout.  There were 5 of us in the shuttle making four stops.  We had chatted amongst ourselves and with the driver about our addresses, etc, before we left and were having a lively conversation about our various neighborhoods.  We were arrayed in a fairly straight line northbound from SeaTac, and we passengers had settled the sequence of our drop-offs.

Then the driver consults his onboard computer and named the first stop.  It happened to be a guy who lived somewhere in the middle of that northbound line, and would have required passing right by two others of us who were further south.  One of us, turned out, worked for the Postal Service (and was returning from a work-related gathering in Las Vegas?  Just for that event, I can imagine, chips came in multiples of 42 cents, with the option to buy 1- and 2-cent chips if the house announced an increase), and I’m completely certain that he could hear your address and accurately spit back at you your zip+4.

With him as our bulwark, we performed an intellectual hijack of the shuttle from the computer and the driver, and verbally instructed the reluctant driver on required lane changes, exits, etc.  Through a combination of steely insistence cloaked in a tone of cheery helpfulness, we got at least as far as Chez Perils, where I grabbed my bags and wished them well.


I’m chillin’ at the Northwest Worldclub at the Minneapolis airport, waiting for my 9:30 flight home to Seattle. A hectic Friday, as usual for these expeditions.

The last couple of times I’ve gone to Milwaukee, I’ve been checking Craigslist to see if anyone’s selling a bicycle for a reasonable price. The area where I work and stay (Glendale/Fox Point/Whitefish Bay), north of town, seemed to be a great place to bicycle, and I often see serious training going on there.

So, last Saturday, I saw a likely candidate on Craigslist.  I stopped at the seller’s place on my way to my hotel from the airport, test rode it, and plunked down my money and drove away with it!

It’s a little bit bigger than I would ride if I had been shopping for a main squeeze sort of bike, but I had a great time cruising around on it this week.  It’s my first “modern” bike, with brake-lever index shifters and a 9-speed cassette in the back, triple-chainwheel in front.  I locked it up at my client’s when I left tonight, but kind of hated to leave it behind.  I’ll get good use out of it through the fall, and it adds some zest to the humdrum life of the road warrior.

Have a good weekend, everyone!  I’m glad to be headed west.

Found Art

I thought I had things sealed up pretty well, but summer’s leaking away through fissures I never knew existed. I’m spending another precious week of it in Milwaukee, where I’m watching helplessly as the days noticeably shorten.

Last week in Seattle, we got out into the ‘hood for some quintessential summer walks. One night, we walked down to Greenlake and, on our way back, turned a corner and found a Night Out Against Crime block party in progress. Now, we’d had our own Night Out the week before, when the rest of the country had theirs. We asked a woman how they managed to stage their event a week or so later, and she said, “bad planning”.

Well, it might have been late, but it seemed to have been impeccably planned. There was, to our delight, a band, Six of One, playing some vintage rock on a parking strip, while kids rode trikes and skateboards and harassed each other with light sabers.

I had the S3 IS along, which takes pretty good video with stereo pickup. Here’s a rendition of the Allman Brothers’ tune One Way Out, with a bunch of cute kid-action shots:

This one is Del Shannon’s My Little Runaway.  At the beginning, you can hear me and Mrs. Perils guessing cluelessly at both the artist and the song.  Mrs. Perils, however, could probably get a degree in 60s musicology.  She partially saves her reputation by nailing the song title before the first word is sung, but we both strike out on the artist - we’re sure it’s The Ventures.  Some nice vocal cameos from Mrs. Perils here:

And this last number is CSN&Y’s Long Time Gone, with some delicious guitar work and, again, (possibly reluctant) vocal cameos from Mrs. Perils.  I think they’re darling:

We’re glad we discovered this little gathering, and we’ll look for the band whenever they’re giggin’.

Out To Lunch

I was working downtown on Tuesday and had a couple of hours between meetings.  It was a lovely day, and I took the opportunity to stroll around at lunchtime.  Harbor Steps is a sweeping staircase leading from the Seattle Art Museum down to the waterfront, and is a very “happening” place on a summer afternoon.

I arrived at Harbor Steps just in time to catch the last number in a lunchtime concert by Seattle R&B group Choklate.  We’d seen the band at the Bumbershoot festival several years ago.  My interest was also piqued as I recognized the keyboard player, Darius Willrich, from several other bands and jamfests that we’ve been around in the last decade.

As an added bonus, we were treated to some…eccentric…white-lady booty-shaking.  You get a glimpse of her as this video opens, and then at the end, I get a more robust lens-full.  I had the A720 and not the S3 IS, so the sound pickup is mono instead of stereo:

Honey, I’ve Lost My Keys

Do you think you could give me a lift?

While you’re at it, do you think you could bring $30 grand?

Neighborly Natterings

Yesterday, a neighbor came to the door and asked if I had any gasoline he could borrow.  He had rented a pressure washer and was removing the exterior domestic encrustations that his wife apparently finds unsightly, the same natural encroachments that Mrs. Perils and I conveniently find add rustic charm to our place.

We’ve been using electric lawnmowers for about 15 years, and I doubted that I had any canned gasoline in the garage, but the spirit of discovery that the question engendered led me to pry open my infrequently-used garage door to re-acquaint myself with the 35+ years’ worth of stuff that I and at least 2 previous owners thought was too useful to throw away.

Well, “garage” is sort of gilding the lily regarding this “Appurtenant Structure” prized alike by tax assessors, insurance underwriters and neighborhood rodents.  Within its dank confines reside:

  • an unfinished pre-hung front door that I purchased ca. 1978 when I was just getting up the courage to engage the major remodel of our house that I finally launched in 1981, at which time didn’t conform to our enhanced architectural vision;
  • storm windows that once installed over the windows that I replaced in 1981;
  • Scads of bicycle parts and tools that I accumulated in order to repair the generations of bicycles that we’ve owned since we first moved in here on New Year’s Eve 1974
  • paint cans saved so that we could retrieve the color numbers for tints that we long ago covered with colors we like better, from paint companies long since bankrupt
  • Oil changes that may have come out of my 1967 Pontiac Tempest and/or my 1973 Gremlin (don’t ask - I’ll post about it sometime)
  • Paint brushes that we might be able to use to excavate for a new foundation or a bomb shelter, but that will never again be used to create deft brushstrokes on a quaint wood surface
  • partial, tattered bags of fertilizer or some other substance that was once intended to enhance either soil or flora somewhere on the estate, but that would now expedite our application for membership in Al Qaeda or the Tim McVeigh Memorial Militia

You get the idea.  It took me mere seconds (because, actually, I’m sorta scared to go in there in the first place) to locate two rust-encrusted 1-gallon cans that said “Gasoline” and seemed to be mostly full of liquid.  I thrust them into the hands of my neighbor (whom I had fastidiously shielded from even a remote vision of the interior of the Appurtenant Structure) with the caveat that I (a) had no idea what was in them and (b) had no idea how old said substance was.

Later in the day, having heard no explosions or sirens, I ventured up the block to inquire about the efficacy of my largesse.  My neighbor said that whatever it was had worked fine, and he’d used it all up.  My first reaction was one of approval, a sense of relief that the Appurtenant Structure would house 2 gallons less of the engine of its inevitable demise.

Then I got to thinking that, damn!  that gasoline had originally cost, probably, $.95/gallon.  Over the weekend, gasoline was selling for $4.39/gallon here in Seattle. My attitude changed from one of relief to the feeling I might have if I ever break into my 401(k) prematurely, one of having vaguely compromised my family’s future.

We’re having a block party tomorrow evening here on North 52nd Street, part of the national Night Out Against Crime.  We’ll be munching and sipping within sight of said neighbor’s pristine concrete stairs and retaining walls.  If he’s packing a righteous Northwest microbrew, I might get even if I work fast.

Water Musing

 OK, which one of you let August in here?

I got out in my kayak for about 13 miles on Saturday, taking a ferry boat ride across the Sound to Bremerton and launching from Keyport, near Poulsbo with a group from the Tacoma area. We paddled through Agate Pass (between Bainbridge Island and the Kitsap Peninsula) to a beach near Indianola, where there was a sand sculpture competition. There were some terrific entries, and I ran around in my GoreTex space suit snapping photos.

It was also SeaFair weekend in Seattle, which features unlimited Hydroplane racing and appearances by the Navy’s Blue Angels. Here’s an interesting perspective on the Blue Angel show from the beach across Puget Sound:

Here’s a complete slide show, featuring lots more cool sand sculptures.