Thursday, December 28, 2006


i miss my dogs.

i know this because occasionally i get all mushy thinking about them. this unwelcome occurrence doesn't even have the decency to announce its arrival. it sneaks up on me and covers me with emotional goo.

yuck. frickin' emotions.

a couple days ago, in the park with the children, another family came along with a golden retriever puppy. she was amazingly well-behaved and affectionate and endearing. and i immediately flashed back to my dogs. how they were different, how they were the same.

the pup leaned up against my legs and insisted on a good scritching, just like my dogs...

stop it. go away, good dog. i have no time for you or your puppy kisses or your happy grin or your big ol' goofy paws.

later i was driving along, minding my business, listening to a cd in my car...and stumbled across this lyric...
I've tried so hard to tell myself that you're gone
But though you're still with me
I've been alone all along
boom. thinking about my dogs again. frickin' song lyrics. why do they have to annoy me so. no more songs for me. from now on this a song-free zone. i can't hear you, la la la la...

so anyway, it's occurring to me that i might entertain the idea of another dog. some day. i don't know why.

frick. frickin' dogs.

why do they have to stay with me this way?

Saturday, December 23, 2006


we're in the throes of remodeling our life.

which is to say, in this instance, that our living room now features a fireplace. with a new tv above it. kinda like the picture here, except totally different.

imagine our space without the cut stone surround. or the corner placement. or the knotty pine paneling. or the naughty movie on the tv (as far as you know).

aside from that, it's identical. squint a can see it, right?

anyway, it's an HD tv, and it's mesmerizing. almost like watching real life, except in HD. in high definition you can see things onscreen that you've never seen onscreen before. some of which you could probably do without. unruly nose hairs. scars. makeup. it's like getting right up in somebody's grill with a magnifing glass. sometimes up-close is just too close. sometimes aura and mystique can't stand too much scrutiny.

anyway, we weren't going to get caught up in the whole huge flat screen tv thing. we were quite happy with our 10-year-old-school 32-inch model. the picture quality was perfectly fine, and it was way paid-for. but with the installation of the fireplace it was either go with the flat screen or go sans tv in the living room.

and while our viewing commitment has diminished over the years (we only went dvd last christmas), we weren't prepared to cut it off entirely. so we went flat, we went big, and we went lcd.

it's all relative, i know. we have a 40-inch display, which is much smaller than some in-home family theater multiplex cineramas. but it holds a dominant position up there above the fireplace, and damn if it doesn't get your attention. if you pay attention to such things. if only the available programming was as HQ as the HD.

ah, well.

our ongoing, big-picture, life reconfiguration continues. we can't wait to see what happens next.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

blame it on bing

colorado will be having a white christmas.

probably a white new year, too. meanwhile, our seattle christmas just went south.

it was all gonna be so perfect.

my parents were flying in from denver for the holidays. the children were going to be doted on and spoiled with grandparent presents. my wife and i were taking time off from work, and we had sly plans to take advantage of some free babysitting.

win. win.

notice: perfect plan cancelled on account of blizzard.

as of today, colorado is closed. no driving to the airport, no holiday flights, no more fun of any kind. and the forecast for tomorrow doesn't look much better. so flights are stacking up, everything is booked for days, and no one's going anywhere any time soon.

my mom is beside herself. my dad is beside my mom. my family is beside our new gas fireplace, upon which stockings are hung with care.

the weather channel just filled those stockings with coal.


could be worse. could be raining. is raining. and thousands in the puget sound region are still without power after our 10-year storm of 6 days ago. this on the heels of a major snow event in november.

thank god global warming is just a hoax. no telling how crazy things might be if it were real.

so, here we are. the guest room is set up, the fridge is stocked, and we have several bottles of cloyingly sweet white wine for my mom. who's gonna drink this stuff now?

we're dreaming of a dry christmas.

bugger off, bing.

Sunday, December 10, 2006


well, come on over here baby
'bout to gimme a heart attack
wanna wrap my lovin arms
around the small of your back
yeah, I'm gonna pull you, pull you, pull you
pull you right up close to me
--don henley

company christmas party last night.

the guys, predictably, wore suits and ties.

the women made more of an effort.

one, kinda like this...

career-limiting move, or brilliant stratagem?

Thursday, November 30, 2006

with love

There were times I thought he was bein'
Just a little bit hard on me
But now I understand he was makin' me
Become the man he knew that I could be
And everything he ever did
He always did with love

And when I feel alone
And I think I can't go on
I hear him sayin' "Son you'll be alright
Everything's gonna be alright"
Yes it is
--keith urban

my son and i are butting heads. again.

actually, "crashing skulls" may be a better descriptor. and it occurs to me that when he's older, he won't remember me saying, "son, you'll be alright. everything's gonna be alright."

instead it'll be, "what on earth were you thinking?!" and "you don't have a brain in your head."

i'm off message. time for a course change.


Friday, November 24, 2006

i couldn't eat another bite

whew, that was some thanksgiving, huh? turkey, mashed potatoes, cranberries, rolls, asparagus, pumpkin pie.

and wine, some good wine, too.

at least, that's what i hear.

me? i didn't eat a thing. in fact, i offloaded some calories. for the first time in my life, i was sick on thanksgiving.

a virus? some sort of food-borne illness? i don't know. come to think of it, i did have sushi the night before. and at breakfast, some turkey bacon that may have been slightly undercooked. what i do know is, a whole lotta people around here ate like royalty whilst i hung out by the throne.

i'm feeling better today. thank goodness for leftovers.

and healthy children.
and a financially solvent household.
and a new direction in the land.
and friends who get it.

thank goodness for all those things. and more.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

once more, with feeling

if you had the chance, what would you do over?

i'm not talking about wistful regrets or a rhetorical "gee whiz..."

knowing what you know now, knowing what you did and what happened because of it...what would you change?
If his experiment with splitting photons actually works, says University of Washington physicist John Cramer, the next step will be to test for quantum "retrocausality."

That's science talk for saying he hopes to find evidence of a photon going backward in time.

Roughly put, Cramer is talking about the subatomic equivalent of arriving at the train station before you've left home, of winning the lottery before you've bought the ticket, of graduating from high school before you've been born.
c'mon, you know you've done it at some point in your life. made a wrong turn into the path of a bad relationship. drank out of the wrong bottle. slept with the wrong person.

okay, they're all the right person, but sometimes at the wrong time.

anyway, here's this guy who says he can make photons defy conventional wisdom on the linearity of time. next thing you know people will be walking around with i-time pods, going back and doing things over willy nilly. what a fabulous free-for-all that would be.

your boss didn't like you being late for work? go back and do that morning quickie a little quicker. you think the leader of the free world is a low-IQ loser? go back and slip some rat poison into his frat party cocaine. you have a problem with the ethics of murder? go back and re-write some religious dogma.

and it's all good, because if people don't like what you've done, they can go back and re-do it. the world will be a continually changing, time-warping, flux capacitating party.

and if you don't like everyone traveling back and forth, messing up the decor in your waterfront go back and take out the photon-splitting scientist.

win win.

i've gotten carried away again, haven't i. no problem.

control+z. undo typing.

hey, check this out. some guy at the university of washington thinks he can make photons travel back in time. what an interesting concept.

you know, if you had the chance...what would you do over?

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

a fork in the road

And you may ask yourself
How do I work this?
And you may ask yourself
Where is that large automobile?
And you may tell yourself
This is not my beautiful house!
And you may tell yourself
This is not my beautiful wife!

Same as it ever was...
Same as it ever was...
Same as it ever was...
—talking heads

i'm in the midst of a strange existentialist quandary.

this is odd, because i'm not really conversant in existentialism.

but i am conscious of it. i think i'm in a quandary, therefore i am.

i seem to be heading down an alternative path. usually, in science fictiony stories, the characters are unaware that their path has diverged. but i'm feeling it.

i look out the window at my car, and it seems like someone else's car. i commute to work each day, and it seems like someone else's job. i'm oddly disconnected from events that should make me happy or proud. it's as if they're happening to someone else.

as if i'm having an out-of-body experience while still living in the moment. but it's not quite the right moment.

this unbalance has me off balance. and, though i've described the symptoms badly, my diagnosis is a divergence in space and time. i'm off the track i'm supposed to be on.

having established a diagnosis, what's the prognosis? what do people generally do in these situations? is it possible to get back on track, and is it advisable to do so? or is it better to press ahead and hope for the best? i wouldn't want to end up like this guy, for example...
Descartes is sitting in a bar, having a drink. The bartender asks him if he would like another. "I think not," he says, and vanishes.
equally important: is everyone else off their appointed tracks because i've strayed off mine? am i dragging others along on this digression? the ramifications of that are too profound to contemplate.

since i seem to have no choice, i guess i'll stay on this track for awhile. i enjoy driving the car, and the job is not bad. and my wife...she got her navel pierced. that's kinda hot, actually. no complaints there.

but i'm wary of this new path. it feels tenuous and maybe dangerous. uncertain. once, i knew how much i didn't know, and that we have only the illusion of control. now i have no idea how much i don't know (just that it's a lot) and even the illusion of control is gone.

it's like i'm driving with my eyes closed, the cruise control stuck, and the steering wheel has come off in my hands.

hope the road goes wherever i'm headed...

addendum: i went out to the garage this evening, and there was a raccoon, washing his hands in the cats' water dish, next to the cat food. i had interrupted his meal preparation. he decided to leave, but didn't know which way to go, as i stood between him and the door. he started one way, stopped, started toward me, stopped. i stepped away from the door, and he hurried out.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

aura of vincibility

There's a light at each end of this tunnel,
You shout 'cause you're just as far in as you'll ever be out
And these mistakes you've made, you'll just make them again
If you only try turning around.

Cause you can't jump the track, we're like cars on a cable,
And life's like an hourglass, glued to the table.
No one can find the rewind button, boys,
So cradle your head in your hands,
And breathe... just breathe,
Oh breathe, just breathe
--anna nalick

this morning i woke up with a remarkable migraine. it was exquisite in its sharp, searing relentlessness. if it were comparable to the discomfort inflicted by the cia, this headache would have been condemned by the red cross.

was it barometric? chiropractic? sinuses? too much red wine? probably all of the above, and then some. at turns i was sweating, nauseated, cringing at loud noises that weren't really all that loud. at one point i was convinced that i must've been having a stroke.

i actually started thinking about the things i would miss out on, would never do, owing to my impending demise. i staggered to the bathroom and washed down some ibuprofin, not really believing i'd keep them down. then i fell asleep.

when i woke up later, i was still alive. i could still move my extremities. the headache was still there, but it had receded to the point of being manageable. and just in time, because i had committed to picking up a treadmill from a colleague at work. she and her husband never used it, and i would use it often. in a world, that is, where i can actually get out of bed and take a deep breath without puking.

'cause, see, i want to be healthy and live to write another day. another headache like that one, however, and i might have to re-evalate.

cleaning up

geez, look at this place.

what a mess. all kinda dust and cobwebs and...hey, who left the empty wine bottles on the floor? ain'tcha heard of recycling?

see, this is a good example of what happens when you let a buncha trivial stuff turn into priorities. next thing you know the minutia takes over, and there's no time or room for the important stuff. like a personal blog, ferinstance.

i need to take better care of this place. i need to treat it like a second home, the one you retreat to when the world gets a little too loud.

if we actually had a second home, that is.

if we did, it'd be on the water, on a promonotory, with lots of land behind it and nothing but horizon in front. there would be trees protecting the approach, and a goat trail down to the water. you wouldn't even see the path from the water; it'd be hidden by boulders and cut-backs. when the tide was in, all you'd see is a steep granite face.

the house would have a distinctive scent about it, clean but enveloping. something like cedar, but not quite so easily identified. every time you'd walk in the door, that spicy attar would welcome you, and when you were away you'd yearn for it. on a very good day you could pick up, say, a shirt you last wore at the house, bury your face in it and be transported there, for a few moments.

to the north and south of us would be mountains, and storms would bank from one massif to the other. you'd be able to see the storms approach, and learn to time their arrival by their position on either side of the house.

it'd be a good place for the family, and a teriffic place for a couple of dogs.

which brings me back to where i started, which was the inattention and neglect hereabouts. my last post here was difficult. every time i came back, there it was, and i couldn't help but read it. when i was done reading, i essentially turned off the lights and closed the door behind me.

but i'm back now.

it's time to get things back in order.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

lessons learned, and gunnar

Hello old friend, it's been awhile
All our old clothes are back in style
We went our separate ways, only to return
To face a lesson we failed to learn

We didn't understand the truth
We were blinded by the eyes of youth
But time kept on moving
And a change has come
You think that I don't know
Where you're coming from

But I feel just like you
And I cry just like you
But I heal just like you
And under my skin
I'm just like you

You gave your love and your innocence
And they took away your confidence
Well I'm not those women
And I'm not those men
Put your arms around me
I am your friend
--keb' mo'

every once in a great while i get nostalgic for people and places gone from my life. such moments don't happen often, which is probably best, since they're quite a distraction.

more often, i'm totally caught up in the moment. there are children to herd, meals to fix, meetings to make and deadlines to sweat. cumulatively, such things tend to overload my substandard wiring, causing me to spontaneously fall asleep on the couch.

occasionally, though, i have moments of clarity. such moments have power. the power to remind me that where i am is a far better place than where i was: geographically, as a human being, as a student of life. i know so much more than i once did; there are so many things i would do differently.

relationships that ended that need not have. angry words, angry silences. ducking responsibility, taking too much responsibility.

all leading inexorably to today, a time when that which i know disappears in the shadow of that which i don't. when so much has been determined and yet somehow so much is still undecided.

i don't know near enough to be making the important decisions i'm making for myself, for my family. but who else is gonna volunteer for the job? so decisions are made, actions are taken and reactions accumulate. layers of complexity intertwine, inextricably, weaving an indecipherable pattern.

last night i was tasked with ending my dog's life. it was an easy decision--gunnar, our old golden retriever, was desperately ill, and deteriorating quickly. he was in distress, and our options were all used up.

easy call...but not for me. someone led him into the exam room, and left us alone. he had no strength left in his legs, and, with me holding him, he slowly sank to the floor.

i talked, never above a whisper, because my voice wasn't working properly. he was listening, i know, because his blind old eyes widened when i asked if he wanted to go for a walk, or go for a ride, or go see raleigh-dog.

i thought back on the short arc of our 10 and a half years together, and reminded him of the times we went to the beach, to the park, the golf course. we reminisced about his first cross-country trip, from north carolina to portland, and our last, from north carolina to seattle.

i thanked him for being so good with our children...except when he ate their toys. i gave him a hard time about that. i reminded him about the little song he'd sing when he was waiting for me to get his breakfast and dinner.

his breathing slowed, and the vet asked if we were ready. we're ready, i told her, though i've never been less ready. for anything. i told gunnar he was okay, that he'd feel better soon.

the end was quick, peaceful. the vet spoke softly, i cried quietly. for half a moment i wanted to go with gunnar, wherever he was going. but that time will come, soon enough.

the vet said there are no right or wrong answers in situations like these. but i made a decision, and gunnar's life was over. what kind of friend am i? i don't know.

action, reaction. indecipherable complexity. there's something to be learned here.

if only i can figure out what it is.

Saturday, July 29, 2006

the important stuff

Robert Spritz: David, sacrifice is... to get anything of value, you have to sacrifice.
Dave Spritz: I know that dad, but I think that if we continue down this road, it's gonna be too detrimental for the kids. It's just too hard.
Robert Spritz: Do you know that the harder thing to do and the right thing to do are usually the same thing? Nothing that has meaning is easy. "Easy" doesn't enter into grown-up life.

i recently took a job i didn't really want.

it's not that i didn't want a job...i just didn't really want this job. well, that's half true; i wanted this job, but i wanted it in seattle, not in freaking bothell.

bothell, and the job, are far from home. far enough that a high gas-mileage car is not a "nice to have" but more a "have to have."

far enough that if i leave work at 5 p.m. i have to worry if i'll be on time to pick up the kids by 6 p.m.

with the salary these people are paying me (did i say it was a good job?), the day shouldn't necessarily end at five. i should probably stay until six or beyond, as needed, to get done what needs to be done.

but my wife, who also has a new job, has to travel. at least through the summer she'll be gone 3 weeks out of 4, every month. that puts the parenting responsibility on me. it also puts the pressure on me to leave the new job and show up at summer camp by six.

this arrangement is decidedly un-optimal.

given our financial obligations, we are a two-income family. there's no way around it. as much as i enjoyed being a semi-employed stay-at-home dad, that arrangement wasn't sustainable. so, we're sacrificing.

we're sacrificing having a parent available for childcare and activities and all-around stability. if one of the children gets sick, i'll have to stay home. we have no back-up plan. no contingency for emergencies. there's no telling how this will go over at the new job.

doesn't matter. i've bought a new honda civic, a nice little car that gets good gas mileage. i've joined the little workout facility near the office so i can get some exercise at lunch (sometimes). and we're crossing our fingers that everyone stays summer colds, no broken bones, no bad hair days.

we've even found a summer camp in bothell, so i can stay at the office 'til 5:45, as needed.

it ain't optimal. but it's important.

Monday, June 19, 2006

big dog

raleigh died the day after my birthday.

as i turned 45, he turned into an angel. at least, that's what my daughter said.

i sit here, looking out the window, and the sunset has me thinking about the inexplicable. it has me wondering where my dog is. he's not in his familiar spot by the door, or by the back gate, or on the deck. i can see him there...but he's not there.

raleigh was our "big dog," an oversized golden retriever with a big smile and the most endearing personality i've ever encountered.

when our children were tiny, raleigh was their jungle gym. when our other golden went blind, raleigh was his wing man, leading so gunnar could follow.

raleigh never asked for more than to be with his people, and occasionally to have his ears skritched. if you stopped too soon, his nose would duck under your hand, hoping for just a bit more.

raleigh unexpectedly collapsed a few weeks ago. the ER vet removed his spleen, along with a tumor. as it turned out, the cancer in his body was malignant, and the prognosis was "a few weeks." during that time he was resolutely cheerful, to the point that we could almost forget his time was running out. toward the end, as the vet predicted, he began having more bad days than good. still, with the help of some potent medication, he was stoic, even when he must've been in pain.

there were several nights when i was sure he wouldn't be there in the morning. somehow he always bounced back, ready for another walk, another day in the sun. yesterday morning he joined us at the park, rolled in the grass, chased down a tennis ball. he looked at me as we returned home, and he had that familiar smile on his face.

last night, though, was different. he wouldn't take his pain meds, and i had to carry him to his bed. he could barely hold up his head as i brushed him. i told him he'd feel better in the morning, and we'd go for another walk. and that i loved him.

this morning, he was gone.

and suddenly i find myself in a strange place. unmoored, unfamiliar. his big heart has stopped, and mine doesn't know what to do.

a voice in my head says, "he was just a dog." but it isn't true. he was a constant, joyous presence in our family for more than 10 years. he moved with us from one side of the country to the other, and back again. he set an example in life, and in death, that puts me to shame.

raleigh wasn't just a dog...he was my dog. and he was my friend.

and i can't seem to stop crying for him.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

borderline schizophrenia

george bush is terribly conflicted.

on the one hand he wants to let illegal immigrants stay because they're nice folks. on the other, he wants them to stay because they're cheap labor that big business can exploit.

on yet another hand, he wants to build fences and surveillance zones and send in the national guard.

in other words, do not enter, but please don't leave.

poor george. it's got to be tough knowing that no matter what he does, it's wrong (then again, he's been dealing with that problem his whole life).

let's take a look at the president's recent random-words-strung-together event, which he solemnly delivered from the oval office. perhaps some analysis or a translation algorithm will help clarify whatever it was he said.

"There are differences between an illegal immigrant who crossed the border recently, and someone who has worked here for many years, and has a home, a family, and an otherwise clean record."
the difference is...well, one is a criminal, maybe even a terr'ist who we can deport or rendition, depending on what kind of mood we're in. the other is working a subsistence wage, padding the profits of american business, and for that we reward them by letting them exist outside the system, without healthcare or benefits.
"The vast majority of illegal immigrants are decent people who work hard, support their families, practice their faith and lead responsible lives."
this, apparently, is according to the same poll that karl rove cited when he said, "americans like this president." that notwithstanding, if illegal immigrants are so darn nice, why should we keep them out?
"Every human being has dignity and value no matter what their citizenship papers say."
that's just an out-and-out lie. dick cheney has no dignity or value. neither does scott mcclellan.
"The United States is not going to militarize the southern border."
we will, however, send thousands of people with guns and military training to the southern border, but only during the winter months when it's cold up north. it'll be a vacation type of deal, a reward for their multiple tours of duty in iraq.
"A temporary worker program would meet the needs of our economy."
ah, now we're getting down to it. because american business loves illegal immigrants, george bush loves illegal immigrants. the availability of illegals who will work for a non-living wage is the engine driving many a u.s. industry. without them, bush's have-and-have-more base would have less. they can't have that, so neither can george, 'cause he's their boy.
"As the border patrol stands up, the national guard will stand down."
that's not an exact quote, but it was implicit. and why not recycle this golden oldie, since it's worked so well in iraq.

bush is getting ready to crank up the military industrial complex and aim it at mexico. notice, however, that never a word is spoken about the canadian border. we must have that situation under control. mexicans are good/bad, but canadians (or whoever is coming across the northern frontier) apparently just don't exist.

tsk. tsk. a classic case of selective schizophrenia. just what you like to see in the "leader of the free world."

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

dearth of democrats

photo | overdrive

the democratic party is dead.

it was killed by neocon audacity and its own cowardly dissonance.

democrats fancy themselves the party of intellect and high-minded, multilateral, quasi-secular humanitarianism. but when faced with a minimally clever but relentlessly repetitious opposition, democrats had a come-apart of historic proportions.

post-clinton, the democrats' failure was multifaceted and spectacular, a cascading disintegration that continues to this day. throughout five years of bush administration crimes and excesses, democrats have registered nothing of importance. not a peep, not a fraction, not a hint of relevant resistance. they have, in fact, skulked away from every republican treachery and treason, sometimes whining, "this isn't right," but more often shamed and silent.

knowing what they know now, too many democrats would still vote to invade iraq.

knowing what they know now, most democrats have no plan to get the u.s. out of iraq.

knowing what they know now, most democrats can only snivel about their impotent complicity in cutting taxes for the rich, a federal budget that steals from the poor, an energy bill that increases our dependence on middle eastern oil, and the de facto endorsement of torture of helpless prisoners.

the democratic party, and its most visible leaders, have made themselves invisible in american politics. republicans, while corrupt and incompetent, still frame every issue and drive the process. they may be driving it off the road and over a cliff, but americans go along for the ride because democrats fail to provide a credible and definitive alternative.

democrats, apparently subscribing to the "fight the battles we can win" philosophy of leadership, fight no battles and amass no victories. having abandoned the country to the disloyal opposition for five years, they now have adopted the pose of another would-be king, napoleon bonaparte: never interrupt your enemy when he is making a mistake.

that's a fine tactic for a party pursuing its own grand ideas, but a poor substitute for core beliefs and independent initiative.

hillary clinton? booooo!
harry reid? hissssss...
howard dean? eh.

there are two, maybe three dems with the backbone and intellectual throw-weight that thinking progressives can unflinchingly support. they are, in no particular order, russ feingold, al gore, and barak obama.

feingold and gore have established their integrity and credentials. feingold has been rock solid in his opposition to the administration's many egregious policies and blunders. gore, once perceived as a lesser-light, has done an admirable job of defining his positions, sharpening his edge, and attacking republican malfeasance.

obama has outlined and delivered some stirring progressive messages, leading many to believe he can continue to rise in prominence and stature on the national stage.

okay, a couple more...nancy pelosi, the house minority leader, and jack murtha. pelosi is a shrewd leader, strategically and tactically, and she has a steel rod for a backbone. murtha almost single-handedly brought the administration to its knees when he denounced the debacle in iraq.

so, in retrospect, perhaps the democratic party isn't dead, but merely deeply comatose. because where there's hope, inspired by people like these, there is life.

Sunday, May 07, 2006

that was the moment

"You know, we just don't recognize the most significant moments of our lives while they're happening. Back then I thought, well, there'll be other days. I didn't realize that that was the only day." --moonlight graham
what's significant, really, from one day to the next?

this week, for example, i made a joke in the kitchen, a silly play on words, while the children were eating dinner. i wasn't expecting a response, but my 5 1/2 year old daughter stopped for a moment and said, "good one, dad."

i was surprised, and i laughed, and she laughed. it was nice. in fact, i'd go so far as to say it was significant...except i can't even remember what i said. and neither can my daughter. at the time i thought it was pretty clever, but the moment passed, and life pressed on.

also this week, our big yellow dog, raleigh, underwent emergency surgery. this followed a walk during which he laid down and seemed unable to get back up again.

he did, eventually, after considerable coaxing, and we slowly made our way back home. i was worried enough to take him to the emergency clinic, where an x-ray revealed a large mass in his abdomen. the vet said, "tumorous growth" and recommended immediate surgery. after a few minutes' deliberation of the prognosis, the $3,000 estimate, and a hurried call home to my wife, i told the vet to go ahead.

as raleigh walked through the doors to the OR, i felt as if we might've taken our last walk together. it was all i could do to keep myself together long enough to get out the clinic door.

later, at 1:30 a.m., the vet called. she said the procedure had gone well, and raleigh was resting comfortably. that was vet-speak for, "he's whacked out on anesthesia." she said there had been some internal bleeding, which had caused his walk-stoppage, but that the growth was contained.

the prognosis, she repeated, was good.

the rest of the week was spent doting on the big dog. he stayed inside all day every day, except for bathroom breaks. i slept on the couch to keep watch over him each night, and at the end of the third day he started to bounce back. he regained the spring in his step and ate hungrily. the fourth day the vet declared that his red blood count was climbing nicely and that he could resume his twice-daily walks.

in another significant moment, we breathed a sigh of relief that the wolf had, temporarily at least, passed our door.

such things are not always as they seem. in the last significant moment of this little story, the vet called back today. the mass, she said, was an angiosarcoma, an aggressive, malignant cancer. currently there's no effective treatment, and the prognosis, once promising, is now measured in weeks. or days.

it's hard to believe, because today raleigh seemed like his old self again. he has energy, he's smiling, he wants to play.

you always think there will be other days. most often it's true.

but for our little family, a significant series of days is running out.

Sunday, April 09, 2006

judas priest

what does this expression mean, "judas priest"?

my dad used to say it when he was angry with me, which is to say, often. but not being a church-going kind of family, i was short on context to determine exactly what he meant.

other than, "you're in trouble, mister."

now, it seems, there's a whole new "gospel according to judas" to help me figure it out. perhaps.
"I think it's much ado about not exactly nothing but much ado about not much at all," said the Rev. Jim Bretzke, chairman of the theology department at the University of San Francisco.

"It's well known that in the time of the early church, there were a number of different accounts of the life of Jesus," Bretzke said. "The church decided that some of those accounts were truly inspired by God. Those are the Gospels we have in the New Testament. Not every letter was included. So, this is another example of what we call an extracanonical account."
sidebar, your honor: who decided which accounts were "good" and which were "bad"? the church? in other words, people with extracanonical agendas? hmmm, isn't that divine...

but it doesn't answer my little query. nor is a google search particularly enlightening. lots of hits for the eponymous band, of course. and this...

Anything that is morally beyond the pale has often been ascribed by Christianity to Judas.

He is a serial murderer whose victims include his father, killed so that Judas can have sex with his mother.

'Judas the Jew', with his hooked nose and bulging purse (one of the gospels tells us Judas was the treasurer of Jesus's movement), is a stock character in medieval mystery plays and in paintings of damnation found in ancient churches.

[Or], as Monsignor Walter Brandmuller now says, Judas may just have been the victim of the longest-running miscarriage of justice ever, a potential patron saint for all those who have been libelled, imprisoned or damned unjustly.

If Jesus could forgive his betrayer, [Brandmuller] says, we should be able to follow suit with all who betray us.
yes, but if judas were merely a foil in someone's morality play, how culpable can he be? if, as it's been suggested, judas was just following orders from god, he's in the clear. right?
The Rev. Alan Jones, dean of Grace Cathedral on San Francisco's Nob Hill, believes it's always good to have another voice from the past. "There are people who are literalists who will say this proves this or that," Jones said. "To me, it proves nothing. It proves that someone wrote a manuscript. It was written more than a century after Jesus and Judas died. Why was it written, and what did the person want to say? Those are interesting questions without easy answers. Religion, like history, is untidy."
religion is untidy? that'll come as news, i bet, to bible literalists all over the world. and how, philosophically speaking, is the judas manuscript any different than the gospels that didn't end up on the cutting room floor?

and what in the name of god does this have to do with my father saying "judas priest" as prelude to a beating?

as with most things metaphysical and metaphorical: beats me. i'm sure he acted with my best intentions in mind. a variation on the judas kiss, if you will.

at the end of the day, and the end of the post, the Barnhart Dictionary of American Slang proclaims thusly:

JUDAS PRIEST interjection by 1914. An exclamation of surprise, dismay, emphasis, etc. [a euphemism for ‘Jesus Christ’].

yeah, that seems about right.

Friday, April 07, 2006

i am jesus

illus | water walk

i mean, i think i may be jesus. i base this on the fact that, like the guy in the bible, i've walked on water.

sure, the water was frozen at the time, but why should that matter to the faithful?
Combining evidence of a cold snap 2,000 years ago with sophisticated mapping of the Sea of Galilee, Israeli and U.S. scientists have come up with a scientific explanation of how Jesus could have walked on water. Their answer: It was actually floating ice.
look, when it comes to OR (organized religion) i'm as skeptical as the next guy...if the next guy is charles darwin. but is the walking on water thing going be the basis upon which we decide whether jesus was, in fact, the progeny of god?

say it isn't so, jehova.

either he walked on water, or he didn't. either he was/is the alpha-omega dog, or he ain't. but if anyone makes up their mind one way or the other based on 2000 year old meteorology, they need to retake christianity 101.

was jesus a metaphysical being capable of suspending the laws of physics willy nilly? or was he simply a wise philosopher whose teachings are ignored by millions of good christians every day?

good questions. and as jesus, i would probably be expected to provide some answers. bear in mind, when i hear the word "rapture" i think deborah harry. when i hear "loaves and fishes" i think pike place market.

but don't rush to judgement.

because as god is my witness, i can walk on water any time, anywhere.*

* disclaimer: water must be frozen. global warming may affect results. see gospel of spaceneedl for details.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

i love harry taylor

and to think i used to live in north carolina.

close enough to harry taylor's house in charlotte to drive over and give him a big ol' man-hug.

instead, i'll just add him to my list of guys i love, for his recent quiet, dignified evisceration of george bush.

Harry: You never stop talking about freedom, and I appreciate that. But while I listen to you talk about freedom, I see you assert your right to tap my telephone, to arrest me and hold me without charges, to try to preclude me from breathing clean air and drinking clean water and eating safe food. If I were a woman, you’d like to restrict my opportunity to make a choice and decision about whether I can abort a pregnancy on my own behalf. You are –

THE LIAR: I’m not your favorite guy. Go ahead. (Laughter and applause.) Go on, what’s your question?

Harry: Okay, I don’t have a question. What I wanted to say to you is that I — in my lifetime, I have never felt more ashamed of, nor more frightened by my leadership in Washington, including the presidency, by the Senate, and –


THE LIAR: No, wait a sec — let him speak.

Harry: And I would hope — I feel like despite your rhetoric, that compassion and common sense have been left far behind during your administration, and I would hope from time to time that you have the humility and the grace to be ashamed of yourself inside yourself. And I also want to say I really appreciate the courtesy of allowing me to speak what I’m saying to you right now. That is part of what this country is about.

THE LIAR: It is, yes. (Applause.)

Harry: And I know that this doesn’t come welcome to most of the people in this room, but I do appreciate that.
good god, have you ever heard anything more beautiful, more poetic, in your life? you'd almost think harry taylor was kin to andy taylor, wouldn't you? same kind of pleasant, patient, implacable resolve.

it's a shame that bush couldn't offer up a coherent response. harry deserved that.

but then again, don't we all?

p.s. watch the video here.

i love patrick fitzgerald

it's a shame special prosecutor patrick fitzgerald isn't a buxom blonde.

the kind of gal who can whip up a nice apple pie with one hand, while tearing out the still-beating heart of a rogue presidential administration with the other.

but no, patrick fitzgerald is just a guy--albeit the guy who's going to launch the bush administration into a frenzy of legal contortions for its grotesque, criminal, anti-american behavior.

our hero recently revealed that the administration, at the highest levels, authorized the leak of classified information, leaving a covert cia agent twisting in the wind.

remind us, patrick, what's the penalty for treason during war?
[Scooter Libby] testified that he had been "authorized" by Cheney and other White House "superiors" to disclose classified information. Of course, Libby didn't have many other superiors, besides Cheney and Bush. But this is the first time it's been directly alleged that Bush himself was involved.
while poor, hapless scooter is facing felony indictments, bush and cheney are still walking around free, spinning and disinforming like tasmanian devils. but at the end of the day, libby is just the fall guy.
Libby apparently had serious qualms about leaking classified intelligence to the press, but he was quickly persuaded to drop them. There was pressure from his boss, Vice President Dick Cheney, who advised him that the president had authorized Libby to do so. End of discussion.

That's the picture that emerges from court papers filed by the prosecutor in the CIA leak case against Libby, who is depicted as doing the bidding of President Bush and Cheney in striking back at administration critic Joseph Wilson.
i wonder how this will play with the gop base. will they give the administration yet another pass? will they agree with the ambulance-chaser general, alberto gonzales, that the president can leak whatever he wants whenever he wants?

or will they join me, appropriately, in fawning over patrick fitzgerald, cheering him on in his pursuit of truth, justice, and choking the life out of karl rove.

Monday, April 03, 2006

without further delay...

"I'm very proud of the fact that I play golf." --tom delay, announcing he will leave congress.

tom delay is going to jail, and he knows it.

his announcement that he'll not seek re-election in november is ample evidence of this inevitability. he delivered his news sounding like al capone, another criminal who couldn't believe he got caught...
Asked if he had done anything illegal or immoral in public office, DeLay replied curtly, "No." Asked if he'd done anything immoral, he said with a laugh, "We're all sinners."

that may be. but not all sinners are elected officials who promoted slavery, prostitution and mandatory abortions in south pacific sweat shops. not all sinners redefined bribery on the delay scale, taking in so much illegal money and swag that right wing apologists had to set up spread sheets to track his alibis.

not all sinners use their ersatz christianity to tongue-kiss the rich and powerful while simultaneously bitch-slapping the poor and vulnerable.

unless he's worshipping a different christ than most christians, delay's clearly no ordinary sinner.

"I paid lawyers to investigate me as if they were prosecuting me," he said. "They found nothing. There is absolutely nothing—no connection with Jack Abramoff that is illegal, dishonest, unethical or against the House rules."

now why, if delay were so sure of his ethics and integrity, would it be necessary to go to such lengths?

doesn't matter. delay is dead. with luck, a whole lotta mo of his republican soulmates will follow in his footsteps come november.

Monday, March 13, 2006

the light at the end of the tunnel

photo  best of times

"Shall I tell you what I find beautiful about you? You are at your very best when things are worst."

this otherworldly philosophy may be true, but it's problematic: things have to be at their worst for us to find out.

things have to get absurdly bad so you can say, "one day we'll laugh about this."

today, for example, i laughed about my wife's recent illness. nothing life-threatening, but not fun and games. at its worst, we were in an urgent care facility, and she was taking on IV fluids. the fluids were room-temperature, so my wife's body temperature dropped rapidly in a short time.

here she was, in a warm room, shivering uncontrollably as i piled blankets on her. meanwhile, it was snowing outside.

a hilariously unfunny situation.

better still, during the vacation that coincided with these events, i slept on an uncomfortable couch four nights, and alone in a twin bed one night. i slept with my wife, in a decent bed, one half a night out of a possible six.

it wasn't funny in the middle of the night, trying to find a sleepable position on a couch not built for comfort. but now? it's kind of amusing. in a dark sort of way.

but here's the real kicker...after being to only one in the family to be spared the intestinal flu, today i'm not feeling so well. i think i might puke.

beautiful, ain't it?

"even in the worst of times, i love you anyway..." --sheryl crow

Sunday, March 05, 2006

nobody told me there'd be days like these...

photo  cleaning woman?

I could be your 'heinamackafrau'.
Yes, you could, you could be zat.
What's that? What is it?
Tell him what it means...'heinamackafrau'.
Hhhheinemachefrau! It means she could be woman.

my mother didn't raise me to be a cleaning woman.

nor did she raise me to be a nanny. my mother raised me to be...well, i'm not really sure what she raised me to be, but it wasn't either of those things, i'm pretty sure.

and yet, at my house i am heinamackafrau.

my wife, see, makes the big money in the family. she is executive woman. she travels, she teleconferences, she e-mails with a vengeance. so at the end of the day, she doesn't have a lot of time or tolerance for domestic chores. can't blame her, and i don't expect it. girl works hard for the money.

besides, i've never believed females should be relegated to domesticity by the fact of their gender. i like women way too much to typecast them. having said that, any of you who want to drop by in a little french maid outfit, be my guest.

sorry, i digress.

me? i dabble in freelance copywriting and take care of the children. my schedule is built around the children's academic, activity and social calendars. i pick them up from school, i take them to karate and ballet, i deliver them to and from play dates. i yell at them to eat their dinner and clean up their room and get ready for bed.

i grocery shop, i cook, i do laundry, i spray clorox cleanup in the bathroom. i tend to the cats and dogs. the many and varied do-it-yourself home improvement projects concurrently underway? those are my fault.

come to think of it, i'm not just heinamackafrau, i'm june cleaver. or maybe edith bunker.

i don't know what to make of all this, but one thing i know for sure: i'd look ridiculous in a french maid outfit.

photo  maid

Saturday, March 04, 2006


photo  shower

the children just left the house.

they're on their way to the neighbor's to drop off a dvd and do a little socializing. it's the only kind of socializing they do, see, 'cause they're little.

as soon as the door shut, i experienced a small, electric thrill, like when i was a teenager and my parents left the house.

here i am, home alone with a girl. in this case, my wife, currently in the shower.

must hurry.

epilogue: the neighbors weren't home. thus endeth the thrill.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006


photo  phone

we don't answer the phone at our house.

too many junk calls. the phone rings twice, or four times, and the answering machine picks up.

sometimes, recently, in the silence that precedes a hang-up, i half-expect to hear a familiar voice: "hi, guys, it's joan. are you there?"

that's what she always said, and it always prompted us to pick up.

now, though, there's only silence, and the answering machine goes back to waiting.


Saturday, February 18, 2006

a whale of a tale

photo  no bull
from the cockpit of a sea kayak, the
dorsal fin of a bull orca looks like a sailboard.

the first time i saw orcas in the wild, off the west coast of san juan island, the lead male was about a half mile away. looking up from my paddling hypnosis, my eyeballs registered this data and dutifully passed it on to my brain. my brain, not adept at processing such things said, "sailboard."

and for a moment i actually went back to paddling.

then i performed a perfect cartoon double-take and stopped moving (i'm pretty sure i stopped breathing, as well).

as the kayak continued drifting forward, the orca pod (i counted 12 of them, but there may have been a million, or 5), tracked an intercept course with my little boat.

i considered panicking, but decided i didn't have time.

an unusually large bolus of adrenaline entered my cardiovascular system. my pupils dilated. water dripped off the end of my motionless paddle. i could feel it hit the water.

i looked toward shore, but it was a good 200 yards away--and the huge, crazed, roaring beasts were closing. i quickly went through the five stages of grief for my impending demise (angerdenialbargainingdepressionacceptance), and just as quickly became calm.

it is the same calm, i suspect, experienced by all prey moments before they pay for their unfortunate place on the food chain. can't fight, can't flee. may as well start planning for the next life.

map  map
my brain, rallying to its familiar semi-functional state, remembered reading, "...there has never been a documented attack by an orca on a human being." what does this mean, "documented"? that no one has survived to do the documenting? that they won't eat me unless i jump in the water and start making seal sounds?

suddenly this was important information.

illus  orca

meanwhile, i was about to become one with the pod.

in the brief time it took for the orcas to erase the distance betwen us, my kayak had turned perpendicular with their path. i had a spectacular view of a large whale zeroing in on the middle of the boat. he submerged about 20 yards away, and by my calculations he would resurface directly underneath me, capsizing the boat and turning me into the world's first water runner. i pulled back my paddle and peered into the depths, waiting for the inevitable.

dumb, silly human.

orcas, see, are intelligent creatures. they don't randomly run into objects drifting on the water. they swim under them, or around them, or jump right the fuck over them. but they don't run into them.

i felt more foolish than usual when the whale surfaced 20 yards past and well to the west of me. i turned to follow his path and realized that the pod was blowing past. not only did they not want to devour me, they weren't even slowing down to say, "hey."

i transitioned from alarmed to beruded. what's the hurry? where are you going?

i jammed my paddle in the water and stomped on the rudder pedal. turning directly into the current, i gave spirited chase to a pod of orcas. i don't know why i did this. it just seemed like a good idea at the time.

i paddled like i had never paddled before. i dug in and pulled, dug in and pulled. i liked being one with the orcas, and i wasn't going to give them up easily. guys, wait for me...!

photo  orca II
size counts
me + kayak: 275 lbs.
orca: 18,000 lbs.

i didn't really make any forward progress at all. did i mention i was going against the current?

the pod was pulling away faster than they had approached. going. going...


and i was alone. the silence on the water and in my head was deafening.

the whole event had taken maybe 7 or 8 minutes. the most exciting 7 or 8 minutes of my life.

next week is spring break. i think it's time my son and i did some kayaking together.

Tuesday, January 31, 2006

like father, like son

photo  f-s

here's something funny: i don't want my son to be like me.

in an ongoing, rolling epiphany, i'm realizing that i may be a lousy parent. and my lousy parenting skills are adversely affecting my son.

part of my job, i've told myself, is to protect my children. so when my son tries to perform some dangerous stunt (skiing a steep-but-short slope after his very first ski lesson) my reaction: "get down from there!" his reaction: "i can do this!"

me: no! walk down here, now.

him: [inarticulate rage]

this brings to mind a years-ago confrontation with my father. we had just set up a bench press in our basement, and i immediately loaded every weight on it. his reaction: "what are you doing, that's too heavy for you!" my reaction: "i can do this!"

him: you're going to hurt yourself. take some of that weight off, now.

me: [inarticulate rage]

the difference, i tell myself, is that i had been working out with heavier weights at school, and my father was ignorant of this fact.

but really, there's no difference. whether we were being protective or just controlling, we engendered contempt from our sons. and we returned rage for rage.

in both cases, these examples are tips of the iceberg. my dad and i never really liked each other. often, my son and i don't like each other. this is funny, because i promised myself that he and i would not have the kind of relationship my dad and i had (have). i was going to be hyperconscious of the mistakes i thought my father had made, and never repeat them.

funny. hysterical. i'm really thrilled the way things have turned out.

i'd love to break this cycle. because all too easily i can see him one day imparting these same "parenting" skills to his children. because he's just like me, in so many ways. and not in the ways i'd like him to be, usually.

i don't accept that it's inevitable that we repeat our parents' mistakes. but damn if i don't seem to be doing exactly that.

like father, like son.