Archive for November 2008

The World Stops For a Day

Happy American Thanksgiving, everyone, if a bit late. I lurched into the weekend from a hectic 3 days of triage (quality triage, for those readers who are also clients) following my South Carolina sojourn last weekend.

Mrs. Perils was preoccupied with dinner preparations yesterday and, after a perfunctory query (you have to practice this for 34 years to get it just right) asking if I could help, I set out on a pre-dinner walk down to Gasworks Park and Fremont, trying to earn Calorie Credits against what I knew would be a sumptious repast.

The day was overcast and, once I got to Lake Union, pretty blustery. Only one intrepid soul was flying a kite on Kite Hill at Gasworks, but it was a pretty cool kite (click on photos to enlarge):

I hustled on to Fremont, not for any particular reason other than to pad the mileage of the stroll. I had brought along my current read, Interpreter of Maladies (Jhumpa Lahiri), however, on the slight chance that I would find a coffee shop open and - wish fulfillment! - the Starbucks in Fremont was not only open but pretty busy.

It’s gotten to the point where I actually feel somewhat naked if I walk into a coffee shop and take a table without a laptop. I’m not quite sure what to do with my hands, and I wonder how the internet can function without my input. I took a deep breath, opened my book, and slowly synchronized my breathing, my sips on my drink and, at last, my reading cadence.

I read until the manager announced that the shop was closing at 4, and that was the perfect time to depart for my 2-mile walk uphill to home, and our feast.

And a terrific feast it was. Mrs. Perils had prepared:

  • an 11-lb turkey, a perfect size to feed 4 of us (me, her, my MIL, and our son)
  • brussels sprouts sauteed in olive oil and something delightfully savory
  • homemade dinner rolls
  • gravy (against her better judgment)
  • mashed potatoes
  • (I must be forgetting something)

Our son chimed in by slicing a yam into strips and broiling them in olive oil.  We’ve had something similar in Squamish, BC, that they called “yammer-jammers”.

Mrs. P and I took a short post-prandial stroll down to Green Lake to try to show all this food who was boss, but the results were already in.

I’m off for a kayak adventure tomorrow south of Tacoma. Weather is less than accommodating, but I’ll try to get some photo evidence.

Shellfish Shenanigans

So we met at my middle brother’s place near Charleston, SC to roast oysters and watch the Ohio State-Michigan game last weekend.  The weekend sped by, and I could do no more than hold on for the ride. I mean, nominally it was a 4-day weekend spanning Thursday through Sunday, but so much of my time was taken up on airplanes that I only got 2+ days of ground time with my peeps.

I arrived in Charleston on time, but at midnight on Thursday. On Friday, my middle bro, the host of the festivities, and I went shopping at the oyster store and (natch) the liquor store, then stopped at what used to be a rice and indigo plantation adjacent to man-made Lake Moultrie. His employer now owns the grounds, and entree to the place is an employee benefit. It was chilly the whole weekend, and on Friday there was a 20-knot wind. As we strolled, the sun was lowering and the angle of light was making the sea oats and Spanish moss look like it was on fire (click photos to enlarge):

My youngest brother and his entourage arrived Friday evening and, after going out for a gala dinner, we stayed up late drinking his home-brewed beer around a campfire. Saturday, Gameday, arrived all too soon, and I dragged myself out of bed just in time for the noon (Eastern) kickoff.

Even though Michigan has had its struggles this season, I had expected the usual nail-biter. Instead, the Buckeyes finally fulfilled the potential that seemed imminent early in the season, and won the game easily. We usually watch the game outside, back by my brother’s garage, but the chill, and the presence of a new wide-screen TV in the living room, kept us inside for the first half.

My SIL was the first to notice it - my bro’s have finally devolved to watching the Buckeyes in rocking chairs, and spending time-outs in barcaloungers.  Eventually, in the second half, we tentatively migrated outside to start the grilling marathon.

The game won, we turn to developing a hot bed of coals for roasting the oysters. The pets don’t escape the madness (the dog is from Columbus, and is named “Beanie Wells”.  Go figure). After eating way too much, we hang out around the fire despite temperatures in the 20s, savoring the win, my brother’s excellent hospitality, and each other’s company.

This Is Just Ridiculous

Three yards and a cloud of dust?  Try 25 yards in the clouds.  Beanie Wells channels Edwin Moses against Illinois last weekend.  The guy’s 235 lbs without the pads.:

It’s ON!

As you can perhaps discern from the banner change, it’s officially Michigan Week, the 6 days of ratcheted insanity that precede the Ohio State-Michigan football game. The game this year is in Columbus, with OSU’s record at 9-2 and a trip to a BCS (major) bowl at stake, while Michigan is having a miserable year at 3-8 and going nowhere except Columbus. Most of the time, this game is played for the Big Ten championship, and frequently both teams are in the top 10 nationally. When we’re heavily-favored, as we were in the heartbreaking 1969 game, is generally when we get our asses kicked, and I expect the game to be played with even more than its usual ferocity.

I’ll be flying out on Thursday not to Columbus, but once again to Charleston, SC to meet up with my mom and bro’s, where we’ll roast oysters in my middle brother’s field. I was going to gloat here about the relative temperatures between the two venues, but it looks like it’ll be sunny in both places, with a high of 40 in Columbus and just shy of 60 in Charleston. Game-breaking performance: we’ll have a bonfire and, since they added metal seats in Ohio Stadium, you can’t have one there.

Since football is the theme for the week, and I mentioned Brett Favre in my previous post, I’m posting the following quote from an excellently-written article on Favre by Jeff MacGregor of the NYT:

For 25 years in the N.F.L. — roughly parallel to the rise of the computer — the System has been ascendant. At once a weapon in the coach’s battle against chaos and a holy talisman against chance and the random bounce, the System is intellectual insurance against human confusion and statistical weakness. It offers a coach not just digital predictability but plausible deniability. The System promises to abate risk, to assuage a coach’s nervous uncertainty. And to assure that he’ll have a job next week. The System is what coaches whistle as they walk past the graveyard…This is Favre’s element, and he moves through it as happy and unflappable as the Dalai Lama. But he is also the captain, the leader by example, the ancient Hall of Famer and the prankster king of the well-placed rubber snake and the deftly hidden turkey carcass. And he’s already in command.

The end-of-the-week trip means a hectic 3 days ahead.


Flying home to Seattle from a week in Milwaukee, and in recovery from a night on the town with my client’s sales guys and other folks from out of town who flew in for a planning meeting. The salesmen often include me in their plans, the poor orphan kid alone in the hotel.

The evening started here for a beverage (Click if you dare):

and headed inexorably downhill for dinner and post-prandial libation. The evening wound to a close as the NY Jets beat the NE Patriots in overtime. The angst in the hotel bar was a heavy dew in the air, as the Jets were quarterbacked by Brett Favre, whom Wisconsin still obsesses over like a lost high-school love. Half of my client’s office shows up on Friday wearing #4 Packer jerseys.

No monumental weekend plans. There are a couple of tasty kayak trips on my email boards tomorrow, but my plane lands in Seattle at 11:30 PM, and I can’t visualize myself catching a 9:30 am ferry tomorrow. I’ll probably be lucky to roll out of bed in time to see the 9:00 am kickoff of the Ohio State-Illinois game.

I understand I’ll be coming home to a new Kenmore gas range in our kitchen.  It replaces a 1978-vintage Caloric which has been reluctant to light, and which has taken to dropping parts on the floor when the oven door is opened.  Repairmen advise that it is nearly impossible to procure parts for it, so off to appliance Valhalla it goes.

OK, home now.  New range on the right, a glimpse of the old one , sporting a killer pizza my son was making, on the left. Yeah, new cabinet doors are on the list.:

Catching Up On Last Weekend

Flying into the midwest was quite a bit different on Sunday than it was last month.  From the vertical vantage of six miles, the riotous reds and golds of the deciduous forests have given way to a uniform pall of dog-fur brown.  Last month, the Minnesota lakes were a froth of frenzied last-minute water sports, myriad white slashes carved into the chilling blue water;  Sunday, the only thing stirring the water’s surface was a persistent arctic wind that rocked my plane as it made its final approach to MSP.  The marina berths that had hosted the summer hierarchy of local aquatic social distinction are now barren, windswept lattices overlaying water for which freezing is an imperative as urgent as childbirth.

I retrieved my Wisconsin bicycle from the custody of my client’s owner, but the 1-mile ride from my hotel to the gym where I purchase a-la-carte workouts left my fingers in a mind-bending agony as they relived their Toledo Blade winter paper-boy abuse.  The euphoria that accompanied the bike’s purchase in August begins to look like a mortgage for which the collateral (the pleasure of evening bike rides) is insufficient.  (anyone have Secretary Paulson’s email address?)

We attended a wedding Saturday night of a couple who are great friends of our son’s, and climbing companions of Mrs. Perils.  The wedding ceremony was held at a Methodist church near the University of Washington, and later we attended a reception and dinner in the Chinese Room in the Smith Tower downtown.

The ceremony was unapologetically religious, officiated by a woman minister.  We tried to remember the last time we’d been inside a church for any reason, wedding or no, with inconclusive results.  Perhaps for that reason, I tracked the syntax of the ceremony closely, marking the iconic stuff that I used to accept as general cultural commonplace, but that is now part of the geologic edifice of our cultural divide.

The language of scripture and sacrament employed was mostly elegant and often, even to a non-combatant, stirring.  I was raised as a Methodist, but I’m not sure I ever attended a Methodist wedding.  I tracked its layered progression of commitment, the invocation of Christ as progenitor of the institution and as a benevolent third party.  I noted the unambiguous (but not strident) assertion of marriage between “a man and woman”.  I actually thrilled at the climactic vows of devotion unto death, and the challenge to us as friends and witnesses to nurture the union.

I came away thinking that it would be impossible (for me, at least) to participate in that particular ritual perfunctorily, if I knew beforehand what bargain was being struck, either to accommodate my partner or to placate relatives.  I couldn’t stand there bathed in the sincere aura of a particular commitment not only to an enduring contract with my partner, but also the stark acknowledgement of the Christian brand on the entire process, if I were an iota less than convicted.

This is not a criticism or the condescension of a cynical non-believer (which I can evince at times);  rather, it’s a revelation to me, delivered via a close attention to the language and solemnity of the service, that one must, at certain pivotal moments, unambiguously examine the essence of his/her beliefs and character and act with truthful vehemence.

The reception was held on the 35th floor of the Smith Tower downtown.  Built in 1914, it was the tallest building west of the Mississippi for decades.

The crown jewel of the Smith Tower is the legendary 35th floor Chinese Room. The room’s name derives from the extensive carved wood and porcelain ceiling and the elaborately carved blackwood furniture that were gifts to Mr. Smith from the Empress of China. The observatory’s furnishings include the famed Wishing Chair. The chair, product of the skill of a Chinese carver and quite likely the skill of an early day virtuoso publicity man, incorporates a carved dragon and a phoenix, which when combined, portends marriage.

The night was unseasonably warm, and there were doors leading outside to a promenade around the perimeter of the building. A few (well, probably too many) photos (Click photos to enlarge):

This is the ornate elevator bank in the lobby.  I hadn’t been in the building in easily 20 years, and wasn’t sure whether they still had human elevator operators.  They do.

Here’s the view from the observation deck.  On the left, looking north down 2nd Avenue; on the right, looking up at the pyramid top of the building:

On the left, Qwest Field, where the Seahawks play. The shot on the right was pointed out to me by a professional photographer who admired the perfect circles of light. I told him I was totally going to steal this bit of intellectual property, and he graciously assented:

(Update) One more - a shot of the ceiling of the Chinese Room:

Feliz Cumpleanos

To Mrs. Perils today. I won’t divulge her age, but I will say that she misses Truman.

Since I’m living the high life gallivanting around the country, I’m going to make sure to save her some extra snacks from the airplane on my way home Friday night.  Perhaps our son will do something festive in my stead.

It’s nice that it falls on the Veteran’s Day holiday.  Way back when I worked for the state, I even got the day off.

Have a fine day, dear!

Voting With Our Feet, For The Last Time

We exercised our franchise at midmorning, almost certainly for the last time walking over to the Good Shepherd Center (a former Catholic home for “wayward girls” now owned by the City) and down to the basement, where the voting booths have been for decades in the Wallingford Senior Center.  Although we live in a large city, this electoral experience resolves the compound equations of society into their elemental x’s and y’s, and there’s an unmistakable small-town feel to the activity. (click any photo to enlarge).

The polling place has generally also been manned by seniors, often the same folks keeping the book for the same precinct year after year.

We’re one of the last counties in the state to still have polling places to go to. Next year, unless there’s a glitch, we’ll most likely be voting 100% by mail. I’ll miss the Shirley Jackson-esque ritual of walking to the GSC with a cheat-sheet in hand and the serendipity of running into neighbors I haven’t seen in months, neighbors who, despite whatever they’ve got into their houses or their driveways, are brandishing that same single vote in their pockets that I am, a precious coin granted by parents and grandparents and legions of forbears who’ve made that same quotidian trek to the voting booth.  Looks like others feel the same way.

For the last couple of years, I’ve been receiving an absentee ballot anyway, because I’m so often out of town, but, when I can, I carry it over to the polling place on election day instead of mailing it, just for the feeling of physical participation.

Results are starting to roll across the country towards us in an inexorable wave, and I’ll try not to stay up past midnight waiting for just one more state to fall.

Kayaking Dungeness Spit

I welcomed November by getting up uncharacteristically early for a Saturday and heading to the Olympic Peninsula to kayak along the Dungeness Spit, a 5-mile-long sandspit that extends into the Strait of Juan de Fuca near Sequim. It’s a National Wildlife Refuge, and I’ve been wanting to paddle there for some time, but it’s a longish trip requiring a ferry ride.  One of my email paddle groups, South Sound Area Kayakers, had the trip on their schedule and provided an excuse for me to haul my butt out there.

Turns out it was a good thing I was in the company of experienced paddlers, because the wind kicked up from the northeast and sent 3′ - 4′ waves to bedevil us.  I’ve never been kayaking in wave action like that, and I actually found it exhilarating.  Paddling in it was more like rock climbing, as I watched the waves coming at me and picked where to sink my paddle.  On the trip back to the launch point, winds were gusting to 30 mph, and I had a tough time keeping my boat tracking on course as the wind came from the side.  At one point, I was almost pushed ashore, but I got myself pointed directly upwind away from shore and clawed my way back out to sea.

(Click any photo to engorge):

The spit was teeming with birds, including this rainbow assortment of species all taking advantage of this avian park-bench:

At the end of the spit, there’s a nifty lighthouse you can visit.  As with most lighthouses now, the Coast Guard doesn’t staff it - we encountered several folks who were members of the Lighthouse Keepers Association.  They were there for the week, giving tours and doing light maintenance (well, not maintaining the light, exactly - cutting grass, etc.).

Here’s a view of the spit looking south from the top of the lighthouse.  Those are the Olympic Mountains in the distance:

For all the unnerving weather we encountered, we were treated to a nice sunset at the launch point:

Here’s my GPS track for the trip (click on the “Larger Map” link for a better view).  I was thinking it might register a lot of elevation gain cuz of all the bobbing up and down I did, but it wisely registered 0.

And here’s a slide show with a lot more photos.


Halloween arrives on our porch:

And a neighbor punk(in)s the Republican ticket: