Sunday, December 23, 2007

ba-rock star

i worry about barak obama.

in fact, i've worried about him for more than a year now.

the closer we get to november, 2008, the more he resembles another charismatic candidate, at another crucial time in our history: robert f. kennedy.

especially on occasions like this...

The closing anecdote is based on an incident at a rally in Greenwood, S.C., where, on a miserable morning, with a meager crowd, a single black woman in the audience first revived Obama's spirit by shouting out encouragement and then got everyone chanting, responsively, "Fired up!" "Ready to go!"

As he tells the familiar story, Obama segues from a conversational tone to a shout and explains that the chant has now become his trademark and slogan. So, he tells his listeners, "I've got one thing to ask you. Are you FIRED UP? Are you READY TO GO? FIRED UP! READY TO GO!"

And then, as the shouting becomes almost too loud to bear, he adds the five words that capsulize his whole message and sends the voters scrambling back into their winter coats and streaming out the door:

"Let's go change the world."

And it sounds as if he means it.

In every audience I have seen, there is a jolt of pure electric energy at those closing words. Tears stain some cheeks -- and some people look a little thunderstruck.
at a time when political audiences are deeply suspicious and cynical, obama possesses the rarest of gifts: the capacity to inspire. his words are direct echoes of kennedy, whose campaign rallied millions in his drive for the 1968 democratic nomination. kennedy's momentum looked unstoppable in los angeles, during an event at the ambassador hotel...
“We're a great country, a selfless country and a compassionate country, and I plan to make that the basis of my running. And now on to Chicago and let's win there.” – Bobby Kennedy, June 5, 1968
moments later, kennedy was shot.

i met obama in chicago in october, 2006. more accurately, i watched him work a crowd outside the chicago tribune building, and got to shake his hand a couple times. what stood out to me was how charged the atmosphere was around him, and how vulnerable he seemed.

near as i could tell, he was accompanied by just one bodyguard. more importantly, the soon-to-be-candidate was fearless in approaching people, stopping to talk, extending a hand. it was a thrilling moment, but also disconcerting. anyone with an agenda and a gun could've put him down, then and there, with little trouble. given u.s. history, that prospect is not so far-fetched.

since that day obama has became more than just a democratic presidential candidate. he's now the frontrunner, or nearly so, in several states. as a result, his security has improved dramatically--in such matters, the secret service doesn't take chances.

even so, the concern is real. it may be unfounded, and the parallels with rfk entirely superficial...but america is a troubled nation at a volatile time. torture is being done in our name, and we are being spied upon by our own government. what other machinations might be in the works? there are, after all, a lot of powerful people out there who don't want anyone to "go change the world."

if you're the praying sort, you might want to add a few words on the subject tonight.

i'm not the praying i'll just continue to worry.

Saturday, December 15, 2007


i'm not asking for anything for christmas.

there is nothing mrs. spaceneedl could buy at fred meyers or world market or nordstrom or rei that i actually need. she'd basically be throwing money at a vast retail wood chipper, and getting nothing of significant value in return.

my children, however, want everything they see on the kid-advertising cartoon channels, of which there are dozens and dozens. a riotous digital barrage incites them to spend mommy and daddy's money on an array of extruded-plastic with a half-life of 5,000 years and a useful life of five seconds.

they're children, of course, and therefore defenseless against aggressive, amoral advertisers turning them into wide-eyed, drooling, chanting shopping zombies...just like most adults, come to think of it.

this is not a post about rampant consumerism and tinsel-plated holidays. one might just as effectively stick their head in the ocean and yell at fish. which i would gladly do if the water here were 35 degrees warmer.

no, i think it's a post about limited resources of all kinds, and how we're encouraged to use them up in the most frivolous ways. psst, hey bud, you got 20 bucks in your pocket? here, i'll trade you for this string of blinking red chili pepper lights.

psst, hey lady, you got a couple free hours? well, sit down right here in front of this electric box and let the artificial images and sounds wash over you. trust me, your brain won't feel a thing.

mind you, i do not stand in judgement of those who spend 20 bucks on chili pepper lights or a couple hours in front of the 42" hi-def lcd video monitor. i am many things, but "transparent hypocrite" is not one of them. most of the time.

i'm just observing that it's way too easy to fritter away our way-too-finite resources on such things, knowing full well that time spent watching a ball game played by steroid-fueled sociopaths is time we'll never get back and will have a hard time rationalizing when we're looking back on a lifetime of poor consumer decisions.

just as few will say, "i wish i'd spent more time at the office," fewer still will say "i wish i'd seen roger clemens throw more 'roid-rage fastballs at people's heads."

mrs. spaceneedl laments the dearth of "holiday spirit" at our house. she misses the idyllic holidays of her childhood, and spends much energy this time of year trying to recreate them. i ask, "do you suppose the holidays were great fun for your parents, or were they just as exhausted as we are and making the best of it?"

the question gives her pause, and gives me time to put up a string of chili pepper lights on our charlie brown christmas tree.

holiday retail question: why hasn't the estate of charles m. schulz ever marketed a line of "charlie brown christmas trees"? i bet they'd make a fortune.

anyhoo, i'm not asking for anything for christmas.

but neither will i object if a bottle of veuve clicquot champagne with my name on it shows up under our tree. and if that's accompanied by a gift certificate for a thalassotherapy massage for two at the wickaninnish inn, who am i to be ungrateful?

if 'tis the season to fritter resources...we could do much worse.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

oxygen, stat

fat and out of shape is no way to go through life.

so i've joined the Y.

this is part of the my "live on one side of the world, work on the other" dilemma. as noted previously, until i remedy that situation, i'm obliged to make the best of it.

what i've missed most about not being on the seattle side is the basketball. well, that and my family, i guess i should add. not necessarily in that order. family, then basketball. okay? may i continue? thanks.

the no-longer-new job precluded the hoops games i was accustomed to over the past several years. since i'm old, it didn't take long for me to fall way out of basketball shape.

i missed it. there's nothing like being fit enough to play basketball. you feel like you can do anything, fitness-wise, attitude-wise, and wise-guy-wise. if everything is harder when you're tired, everything is easier when you're in basketball shape.

anyway, my company recently moved into new space--even further from home. that's the bad news. the good news is, the Y is practically next door.

which means i can now occasionally sneak out at lunch for a game or three. which i did this week, twice.

it wasn't pretty. my conditioning is pitiful and i have no game whatsoever. the fact is, i have no natural aptitude for the game--but i am willing to try really hard.

what i don't understand is how the people i'm playing against keep getting younger while i keep getting older. is that fair? that's not fair. how old are you, junior? 23? got any kids? a house? a job?

didn't think so. and, it doesn't matter. you either run with the big dogs or you stay on the porch. i'm tired of being on the porch. i'm not a porch guy. yet.

that day will come soon enough, and when it does, it's forever. though i'll delay it as long as possible, inevitably it'll hurt more to play than to wish i were playing.

until then, however, i can still run up and down the court, play adequate defense, box out, and put up some bad shots. i can try really hard, and get back into basketball shape.

if that's as good as it gets, i'll be perfectly content.

because for me, that is as good as it gets.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

all i want for christmas

three bedrooms, two baths, 1,800 square feet, and a water view.

somewhere in the san juan islands.

mind you, the same configuration in hawaii would be better still. but there's a little matter of access. and by that i mean access to a bank vault full of thousand-dollar bills.

case in point: behind the oahu property we recently rented was another home up for sale. it was, basically, a double-wide with an awning and an attached deck. it wasn't waterfront, and near as we could tell, may not have even had a water view.

it was, by any standard, a ridiculously humble abode, and it could've been ours (or yours, or anybody's) for the low-low price of $1.75 million.

the fact is, there aren't many places in the world that are warm, waterfront and within our means. so, like most people, we're required to manage our vacation expectations. and by that i mean, "rent."

that said, mrs. spaceneedle and i have decided it would be nice if we had a family vacation home somewhere--a place to which we could retreat on short notice, a place we could get to know over the course of years, a place we could live, perhaps, in our rapidly approaching old age.

somewhere like the san juan islands.

we spent the thanksgiving holiday on orcas island, and found it agreeable. not too close, not too far, not too crowded, not too desolate. we took the ferry out of anacortes this trip, but spoke to some folks who jump on a kenmore air flight that departs from lake union and drops them off an hour later, right in front of the rosario resort.

sounds pretty good, right? yeah, as it turns out, orcas island property (and old age, apparently) is beyond our means. so we're looking for investors.

if you have a love of the san juans and a quarter of a million dollars you can't decide where to park, we need to talk.

we need to talk about 3 or 4 months a year, at least one month per season, on one of the most scenic islands north and west of seattle (but south and east of, say, vancouver island). we need to talk about our mutual love of marine mammals in the wild, and grilled salmon on the table. of pristine water views and bucolic wooded woods. of an investment that will secure our place in the annals of family vacations and our place in the sun when global warming really takes hold.

if you don't have a $250 large on hand, no problem. we'll entertain the idea of undeveloped land, upon which we can pitch a nice tent, until such time that we can afford to build something slightly more permanent. like one of these.

keep in mind, the clock's ticking. water-view real estate ain't getting any cheaper, and we ain't getting any younger. i can feel old age settling into my joints as i type.

act now! buy now! location, location, and that third thing, whatever it is!

hyperventilating. must. find. paper bag.


okay. i'm fine. thanks for caring.

we now return you to reality, and our regularly managed expectations.

* * * * *

update: when we find our spot of land, we'll start by building one of these on it. maybe a whole compound full of them. yurts rule.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

to boldly go where others have gone before

i ain't down with this. not one bit.

paramount studios is gearing up to shoot a new "star trek" movie, featuring the characters from the original series.

not the original actors, mind you. same characters, different faces.

i'm a big fan of the star trek franchise. i have been, i realize, for decades. so i should be happy to see another installment, with an all-new (old) enterprise brought to life with the latest digital legerdemain.

but i'm not.

kirk should always be william shatner. sure, he was overwrought, but that was part of the fun. spock and leonard nimoy are indistinguishable. and no one, but no one, will ever replace james doohan in his signature 'scotty' role.

i know, it's silly. it's just hollywood fiction and now completely about the money. i should care about this not one bit.

can't help it. it feels like they're trying to take something valuable from those of us who embraced the originals for all their quirks and flaws. it feels like they should just leave this fond memory of my childhood well enough alone.

it feels like i'm getting old.

take a look at the actors in that link. cripes, they're children. they don't have the chops of deforest kelley or george takei. they have none of the gravitas of patrick stewart or kate mulgrew. to quote shatner from one of the star trek movies, "i don't think these kids can steer."

creatively, i also object to the completely derivative nature of the project. as if the failure of upn's retro 'enterprise' experiment weren't instructive enough. why would anyone want to go down the "butch and sundance--the early days" road again?

it's pointless. and lame. and it diminishes the franchise.

i know. i should wait to see the damn movie. it might be the greatest thing since klingons and tribbles. and maybe i'm just afraid i might like it. because, really, i don't want to like it. i like the old characters, and the old characterizations. the idea of throwing them over for a bunch of upstarts feels, i don't know, disloyal.

after years of watching the plot lines mature, and the actors grow old, and the series itself evolve in myriad directions, i'm loath to let go. then again, enjoying the premise all this time requires a certain suspension of disbelief. perhaps resistance is, in fact, futile.

we'll see. maybe the old magic can happen--one more time.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

the narcolepsy machine

evenings at the spaceneedl household...

we eat dinner. we drink wine. we watch a bit of tv.

and we fall asleep on the couch. or in the chair. or just about anywhere in the vicinity of the fireplace.

it's warm. it's mesmerizing. it's just too darn comfortable.

hours later we wake up, barely coherent, and complain about the fireplace.

we trudge off to bed, and complain that the bedroom is just too darn cold. "it's like the arctic tundra in here," mrs. spaceneedle laments. so we bundle up and we snuggle up and we go comatose for a few brief hours.

the following day, it happens again.

it's become a routine. not an ideal routine, perhaps, but a routine nonetheless.

Saturday, October 27, 2007


this is getting out of hand.

i sat down with a calendar yesterday and realized i'll be in the office 5 days in november.

that's one day the week of the 13th, three days thanksgiving week, and one day the last week of the month.

i'll be traveling the entire rest of the time. it's very safe to say that'll be a personal, single-month globetrotting record.

admittedly, a week of that will be vacation time. no complaints about that. and really, i'm not complaining about the business travel either. it's a busy time at spaceneedl sprockets*, and the company is doing well. which means everyone is running around like crazy.

compounding the hubbub, we're relocating to new offices the first week of the month. three separate facilities will be thrown together under one roof, for the first time ever. that'll create its own excitement, in many and unpredictable ways. it'll be a weird experiment in sociology as the new product development people learn to interact with non-engineers, the marketing team gets crossways with the finance folks, and the famously cranky IT types field frantic calls from everyone.

but that fun will have to begin without me, for the first little while, anyway. i'll be in boston and washington, d.c., and points beyond, attending trade shows and telesurgeries and sitting behind two-way mirrors drinking bad coffee and stress-eating m&ms.

okay, that sounded a little complain-y. which i don't mean to do. really.

fact is, this upcoming field work is important and necessary and part of a big "strategic growth" thing. yada yada. i'm glad my superiors feel my contribution is at least semi-essential in the big scheme of things. it's nice to be appreciated.

this doesn't exactly dovetail, i realize, with my previous epiphany about work, and my need to be closer to home. but these issues will continue to be kind of intractable for awhile.

as noted, november's booked...and it's historically impossible to get anything accomplished between the first of december and the first week of january. our national sales meeting is mid-january, so in effect we're jumping from late october to february. wheeee!

this is getting out of hand.

* not the company's real name. nor is it, strictly speaking, "my" company. i just work there.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

now, where did i leave that heart...

oh, yes. now i remember.

mrs. spaceneedl and i lived in san francisco, back in the day. it was a good run, for awhile, if you overlook the incredibly high cost of apartment living. and the occasional earthquake.

one quake in particular, the 7.1 loma prieta event, stayed with us a good long while. we were living in the marina at the time, and if you recall anything about the news coverage, much attention was paid to fires and the buildings toppled into the streets.

most of that footage came from the marina district.

we were fortunate. our building, while heavily damaged, was still standing. after a few days, we were able to retrieve our belongings and move to firmer ground, in mill valley.

i had earthquake dreams for a long time thereafter. i'd wake up in the morning, certain we'd had another big one. never turned out to be the case, thankfully. then we moved to minnesota, where the tornado dreams started. fun with the subconscious mind.

once we left the bay area, we rarely looked back. we visited a couple times, briefly, for a wedding and a trip to monterey, but spent very little time in the city.

so my current trip here has been a fascinating experience. so much has changed, and if i had time to venture out to some old stomping grounds, i suspect i'd find that much remains the same.

yesterday would've been the perfect day to climb up to the marin headlands for a view of the bay and the golden gate bridge. it was a perfect day, sunny, warm, crystal clear. the kind we had too few of this year in seattle. so it would've been nice to sneak off and take advantage of it.

unfortunately, my schedule is slammed. i'll be wearing a path between the hotel and the moscone convention center, and not much else.

this afternoon, if the weather holds, i'll go for a run somewhere around here...maybe relive the glory days of my bay-to-breakers run of a few years ago.or, maybe something slightly less ambitious.

san francisco is a great city...and somehow i had lost touch with the reasons that's so. but all it takes is a brief walk through these streets to set things straight.

home will always be seattle, but in many ways my heart is still here...

Saturday, October 06, 2007

see at last, see at last...

...thank god almighty, i can see at last.

i had lasik yesterday. today my vision is 20-20. it's a miracle.

of medical science.

there was no pain, very little discomfort. the procedure took less than 15 minutes. i went home and slept through the night, and when i woke up...there it was.

the world, in HD.

lines are crisper, colors are brighter. if i didn't know better, i'd say the world tried a new detergent.

as a result of my reconfigured lenses, i may need reading glasses. if so, i'll opt for something unsubtle. something from the elton john collection, just for the hell of it.

okay, maybe not quite that extravagant.

but something that celebrates my newfound vision.

let us close with a few thoughts on the subject from brother murphy..
I can see! I can see! I have...I have legs. I have... Oh shit, look at this. Legs! I can walk. Jesus, praise Jesus. I appreciate this. Oh, this is beautiful. I can't believe... Thank you. I don't know what to do it's...Look at me, this is too much.

What a happy day!

Saturday, September 29, 2007

the other side of the fence

i love my job. i hate my job.

i'm so confused.

no, i haven't changed my mind. i really do enjoy my job. i like the work, i like the responsibility, i like the money. most days, i even like the people.

these are not small things, as i spend more time working (and getting to and from work) than anything else in my life.

work ain't optional. well, work is, but the money isn't. so off i go, day after day, leaving behind a long list of things that i know nothing about.

mrs. spaceneedl and i attended curriculum night at the kids' school this week. the teachers talked brightly about this project and that assignment. they asked about the amount of homework, and encouraged us to help copy edit the little essays the children are doing.

"it helps them start to get their thoughts organized, which of course is the key to good writing."

that's when it hit me: i'm a writer. i get paid to write every day. and i've taught my kids exactly nothing about writing. zero. i didn't even know they were writing essays.

there were other things the teachers talked about that i was oblivious to. the particulars are less important than the realization that my work is over there (points a long way thataway), but my life, the reason i work, is over here.

and there's no way to reconcile the two.

i should be getting a lot more exercise. i should be spending more time with my family. i should have some rudimentary idea what goes on in my children's lives, don'tcha think?

a comparable job will demand a comparable commitment, but i could add a couple hours to each and every day if i wasn't obliged to drive so damn much. the risk is giving up a job i truly like (for the first time in forever) for the unknown.

these are grown-up problems that require grown-up decisions, to benefit two people who will be grown-ups in the blink of an eye.

and while i love my job, it will never love me back.

i just had an epiphany.
(painting courtesy of leif nilsson, nilsson studio)

Saturday, September 22, 2007

whether you're having fun or not...

it seems like just a couple weeks ago that i was sitting here, looking out the window, surprised to see bright green leaves on our japanese maple.

today, same window, same tree...and the leaves are turning. deep red on this side, some yellow on the other.

how did this happen? how did five months go by without so much as a by-your-leave? where did that time go, and what filled it up? i'm not sure, but it feels like it was a lot of something.

the takeaway is that time flies, and times are a-changin', and time is (not necessarily) on our side. i know this, in a very personal way, via a follow-up note from my primary care doctor.

i had a physical last week. my first one in, oh-i-don't-know, a few years. why do i need to go to the doctor? my diagnosis is, "i feel fine." this assessment was confirmed during the appointment, where the blood pressure was on the low side, the resting heart rate was lower still, and the doctor said, "you're in great shape."

for the record, i'm not in "great" shape. i'm in "good" shape, maybe, for a middle-age guy trying to compensate for too much work and not enough basketball. but i've been in much better shape, and not that long ago.

bygones. the current report is here in my hand, where it says my total cholesterol is 228 and my LDL is 156.

that's not great, but it's not the worst of it. that comes from the same doctor who said, "great shape" just a couple days ago.

"mr. spaceneedl, your LDL is a bit high. try to work exercise into your schedule, cut out/down saturated fats (full fat dairy, red meat, fried anything) eat oatmeal; let's recheck in 6-9 months."

okay, that's uncalled-for. full-fat dairy? are you kidding? i have skim milk on my cereal and eat low-fat yogurt. okay, i like a little brie and bread now and again. once a month, tops. but that's it.

red meat? i stopped eating that in college. now i stick to chicken, turkey, and fish. no red meat. zero. same with fried food. no french fries, no fried chicken, no fried calamari. nada. i haven't even had a donut in years.

i'm incensed. my cholesterol level is not a lifestyle issue, doctor. i still work out three or four times a week. it's not enough, but it's not chopped liver, either.

what's happening here? where is all my time? why is my cholesterol too high? when did i become a health risk?

and who's gonna rake all those damn leaves?

calm. deep breaths. no need to elevate the blood pressure. wouldn't be prudent in my weakened condition.

frickin' doctors. they did this to me. i was fine before i went in. i'm ok. nothing wrong with me a re-write of this post wouldn't cure. a couple of good jokes is what i need.

no more doctor appointments. ever.

Monday, September 03, 2007

assorted sordid sagas

this is the story of mr. X, mrs. X, miss Y, and something i wish i didn't know.

it's a case of TMI (too much information) writ large -- it may as well be spray-painted on the side of the neighbors' garage.

mr. and mrs. X live right up the alley from us, and we've been friends for about three years. we've drunk wine together (sometimes lots of it), shared numerous dinners, even talked about vacationing together. their daughter is the same age as our girl, and they've had more play dates than you can count.

the takeaway is, we know the X family pretty well. or so we thought. because, as it turns out, mr. X has been having an affair with miss Y the entire time we've known him.

miss Y lives across the street from another family we've become friends with...we'll call them the Qs, for no particular reason.

the Qs have two children roughly the same age as ours, and our kids spent lots of time at their house this summer.

so to give you a sense of scale, this little drama takes place within about three minutes of our door, in either direction. it's right in our back yard. it's practically in our kitchen. which is to say, it's too close for comfort.

a few weeks ago, over a glass of wine at the Q residence, mrs. Q casually mentioned that she didn't think much of mr. X, because he's a bit of a womanizer. "he'll screw anything that walks," i believe were her exact words.

it was kind of a non-specific observation, and we didn't disagree with her. mr. X does seem to think the ladies find him interesting...we're not sure why. but, as i said, it was a non-specific observation, so we weren't obliged to take a position on it one way or the other.

then, a couple weeks ago, over still more wine, mrs. Q got specific. that mr. X is over at miss Y's place several times a week. that the affair has been going on for five years. and that his car was parked in miss Y's secluded alley driveway. right. this. second.

and it was.

now, we can rationalize a lot of things. we can overlook the obvious, when it suits us. but it's hard to explain away the neighbor's car, in another neighbor's driveway, when said neighbors are alleged to be getting busy, if you will.

at this point i'm not sure where the story goes, except to say i saw mr. X after work this week, and it was very awkward. it's not that i care, really, about who he's boinking. i don't know what goes on at the X household, after all. maybe mrs. X is celibate, or maybe they have "an agreement," or maybe mr. X is just a dog. i don't know.

what i do know is that this has been going on for a long time, and i was completely oblivious. it makes me question my own judgement, my own powers of observation, and that makes me uncomfortable. what else might be going on in this neighborhood, or, say, at my office, that i'm blissfully unaware of?

am i that blind? am i that naive?

no, don't tell me. i'm pretty sure i don't want to know.

Saturday, September 01, 2007

the quiet poetry of action

i talk a lot about the desperate state of our nation.

and while it may be therapeutic to vent about the eye-popping stupidity afoot in the land, it's hard to imagine that howling at the moon is an effective agent of change.

so i recently made a donation to the democratic national committee. it felt good, like a small but smart investment. or maybe like a single brick in a low wall between reason and chaos.

it felt so good, in fact, that a few days later i made a similar donation to the campaign of darcy burner. burner, in a local '06 congressional race, lost a by a razor-thin margin to bush sock-puppet dave reichert. the '08 season is well underway, and burner is back to try again.

this time she wins.

on an unrelated note, this morning an escalade blew past me at the ballard bridge. the guy had to have been going 20 over the limit, which is a bad idea approaching the grating on a drawbridge. he began to slide toward oncoming traffic when he hit the bridge deck, and barely recovered in time to avoid a head-on collision.

heading down the approach on the other side, there sat one of seattle's finest on a motorcycle. brake lights were coming on all around, but the escalade never slowed until the cop pulled him over.

to sum up, the guy in the huge suv thought the law didn't apply to him, and he didn't change his behavior after putting other people at risk. he would've kept right on going if the cop hadn't been there to stop him.

pure poetry.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

we have ink

ladies and gentlemen, honu are in the house.

which is to say, i'm in the house, and the honu are on my arm. four of them. the largest in green, a smaller one in maroon, two, smaller still, in blue and orange.

the girl's name curves along one side of the vignette.

i got an orca tattoo to celebrate the birth of the boy, more than nine years ago. i said all along i'd get one for the girl as just took a few years longer than expected. now that it's done, my inking is complete.

there was more pain involved this time. or, more pain than i remembered, anyway. more color this time. more area covered.

tattoo people, i decided while waiting, are outliers. i don't count myself among them, even now. i'm talking about people who have ink all over their bodies. ink sleeves on their arms, spider webs on their necks, elaborate murals on their backs. often there is a direct correlation between ink and piercings. ears, of course, but also tongues, and noses. lips and eyebrows have gone mainstream as well. scalps were new to me, as was the sternum stud on the girl at the front desk. i wanted to ask, "where does that anchor?" but i didn't.

others in the shop had large disks in lips and ears, like africans last seen in national geographic. i have no insight on the existential purpose of such fashion, across cultures, across continents. i don't feel part of whatever clique this describes. they have their reasons. i have mine.

a young man nearby, he must've still been in his teens, was having a major, intricate creation done on his side. he looked to be an athlete, a basketball player, by his build and his accoutrements. he was clearly in considerable pain, wringing a rolled-up towel in his strong hands when the needle was particularly pernicious. "always loved, never forgotten" his tattoo said. someone close to him had died, i not-so-cleverly surmised. if it's true, then why would the tattoo be necessary? pain on top of pain. i suppose we all have our ways of commemorating our humanity.

my tattoos, i like to think, are life-affirming and joyous. a lifelong reminder of unpredictable events set in motion long ago.

for more than nine years, owing to the presence of children i never dreamed i'd have, one day has rarely resembled another. but then, change keeps us young, lest we get too set in our ways. and it's good not to be too predictable.

so, after a long wait...there are honu in the house.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

things i can almost see

early in the morning, watching my son yawn sleepily at the table, i can almost see the very young boy he once was.

back then he was kinda round, with blond hair that stuck up in every direction and a smile that melted hearts. he was guileless and carefree, with an endearingly close orbit around me and his mom. he also had a hint of an independent streak, which was only slightly worrisome. surely he would always be this boy, and life would always be so good.

today the boy is getting tall. he's skinny, like his uncle was at the same age, and like his uncle, the independent streak is strong. it will probably serve him well, one day. down the road. i can almost see that. until then, i see a boy who has to do things his own way, no matter the cost. it's now slightly more worrisome.

our back yard has changed dramatically in the last six months. gone is the grass and half a foot of topsoil, taken up by the shovelful and hauled off one wheelbarrow at a time. there is a verdant array of trees and plants in this small area, linked by an expanse of two-foot pavers. at about 60 pounds apiece, the pavers are unwieldy; they nestle heavily into the fine gravel hauled in, dumped and wheelbarrow at a time.

i can almost see the haven this little oasis will become. it'll be cool and quiet, hidden from the outside world by a delicate lace of greenery. in summer, a bamboo shade on our pergola will provide all the cover we'll need from the sun settling behind the olympic mountains. in fall, a propane patio heater will let us extend summer's warmth just a bit longer, before the rains come.

my dogs spent lazy, languid days back here. i can almost see them now, curled up in a shady spot near the deck. they would've liked this purlieus, i think, had they the luxury of just a bit more time. it would've been nice to share it with them, for a little while.

even now, their collars and leashes hang patiently on the garage wall. their familiar, big-dog scents still linger on the faded canvas, filling the moment with warm memories.

but things happen and time passes. it's now a year that they've been gone, and many changes have come in the interim. as easy as it is for me to revisit the end of their time with us, i think it would be healthy if i did something forward-looking instead.

the boy and a new dog now roughhouse in the front yard. he smiles and laughs, feints and dodges, as she gives chase on little-dog legs. time does strange things as i watch them through the kitchen window, flashing forward and back, stitching together something important and intangible. surely he will always be this boy, and life will always be so good.

and now i recognize the loose end untied in my heart. it's a ritual i've put off for a year, and it's time to take care of it. today, amid the work and the change and swirling of time, i'll add my dogs' ashes to the haven we're creating out back. there they'll be in a well-loved place, and underfoot. as always.

it's merely symbolism, but sometimes symbolism is important. and necessary. and healing.

this feels like one of those times.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

mahalo, maui...

...aloha o'ahu.

maui was very nice. it doesn't live up to the hype, but how many things in this life do? except alice cooper, perhaps, whom we saw at the makena golf club. but besides him, not much.

so, i'd go back, but rather than be redundant, we'll head to o'ahu, in november.

never been to hawaii in my life, now we're going twice in 4 months. go figure. but mrs. spaceneedle scored some cheap tickets online, and it's too good an opportunity to pass up.

o'ahu has a reputation for tourists, traffic and some other t-word to be named later. as long as it isn't "temperance."

we'll do our homework a bit more diligently this time. we've already bought an "insider's guide" to the island, which may be a joke the natives play on tourists. no matter. whatever we learn will be more than we know now.

i'll also head into the nearest dive shop to update my gear. turns out the equipment purchased second-hand in 1993 is slightly out of date. worked perfectly well 4 years ago.

time flies, whether you're having fun or not. i need more fun in my life.


Saturday, July 21, 2007

the more the maui-er

photo | maui

you know what you hardly ever hear?

"you're going to maui? tsk, that's a shame. we went there a couple years ago, and we'll never go back. it was awful."

no, the reviews of maui are universally, insistently rapturous. "ohmigawd, you're going to maui i'm so jealous you're going to have a great time it's so beautiful and the weather and the sunsets and the water and are you taking the kids oh they'll love it come here and let me hug you."

i'm pretty sure the mauians slip a little something into every mainlander's poi, causing intensely euphoric flashbacks for years afterward.

and so it is with these immodest exhortations ringing in our ears (counterbalanced by our own chronically, cynically low expectations) that the physically exhausted and emotionally overwrought spaceneedl family departs on monday for maui.

the spaceneedls have never been to the hawaiian islands. mrs. spaceneedl visited honolulu on business many moons ago, but we'll arbitrarily not count that. how much fun can it be, after all, to visit a fabulous tropical destination without squabbling children vexing your every waking moment? no fun at all, obviously.

despite this, i've cobbled together a personal vacation itinerary so ambitious, so grandiose, so preposterously child-free that its dreamy perfection inevitably will be matched by heart-rending wailing and agita when mrs. spaceneedl gets wind of it...

scuba diving: two dives, two different days, four dives total. a night dive, while intriguing, would probably interfere with happy hour.
golf: one round (ea.) at two world-renowned maui courses, royal kaanapali and kapalua bay.
deep-sea fishing: half day, with the expectation of boating a tuna the size of a volkswagon.

by my count, that's five days out of seven during which the little spaceneedls are left with their mother, or to their own devices, likely ruining maui for everyone for at least a generation. and we haven't even begun to contemplate the enduring ruin administered by an irate and formidable mrs. spaceneedl.

now, ordinarily i'd avoid getting on the missus' bad side. when mama ain't happy, nobody's happy, yada yada. but i'm feeling the need, lately, to do something a little, oh-what's-the-word, unilateral.

something to balance the scales, if you will.

put another way, and to borrow a quote from one of the all-time great movies: "i think that this situation absolutely requires a really futile and stupid gesture be done on somebody's part."

and i'm just the guy to do it.

if anyone needs me, i'll be at the driving range.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

my night

preparing dinner for two six year-old girls, a mariners game on in the background.

cook spaghetti noodles, drain, rinse, serve.

get up in your chair. eat your carrots. you may have water to drink.

mariners lead, 2-0.

what kind of door handles would i like downstairs? something that works, preferably. something that complements the cabinet door pulls.

can we have dessert when we're done? how many carrots did you eat?

ooh, we got invited to peter and lynne's wedding. can i see can i see can i see? when i'm done looking.

stop chewing on the table, rat-dog.

marinate tuna steak in soy, garlic and ginger. cook garlic black bean noodles. drain, rinse, wait. fire up grill.

no, you don't need more salt on those noodles.

one swing of the bat, mariners trail, 3-2. time for wine. bocce pinot grigio. it would go well with the tuna, if it were still around by then.

do we have any sesame seeds? why can't i find them? what the hell is cream of tartar? we have a lot of red pepper flakes. found the sesame seeds. best if used by: 6/02.

i'm full. put your plate in the sink.

tuna is done. the mariners trail 8-2. well the hell. buxom neighbor stops by to retrieve her daughter. dog pees in the entryway.

have a glass of wine? what a fabulous idea. children go berserk. running screaming. too loud. go downstairs to your room! out!

good wine. something french. cotes du rhone. mariners lose, 8-3.

sink full of dishes. leftovers in the fridge. too tired for a hot tub.


repeat, repeatedly.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

it's good not to be too predictable

i got an e-mail recently from, well, from someone who sends e-mail.

at its conclusion was a word i'd never seen:


i googled it, and came across a translation, among others, that i found unexpectedly pleasing...

to pay homage to the inner light in all living things.
i like the idea of namaste, even if i don't actually practice it. there are too many living things whose inner light is not, shall we say, top quality. think about how many people you know whose inner light is akin to neon in a pristine wilderness. or a black hole at the edge of a playground. which is better, garish, artificial inner light or no inner light at all?

you know things are bad when a hopeful, holistic discussion of inner light somehow leads to darkness.

attitude is a zero-sum equation. the more you know, the less blissful you're apt to be. put another way, "if you're not appalled, you're not paying attention." true enough, but a steady state of appall is exhausting.

if you pay attention to things that responsible people are supposed to pay attention to, it's easy to go to bed tired, wake up tired, and slog through the day tired. or maybe that's depression. and maybe the two are interchangeable. you got one, you got the other. and they conspire to wear you down.

until, one day, you stumble across something startling, something that gets your attention in a different way. something truly namaste.

and for awhile you think something else may be possible. you could do worse, you imagine, than to embrace the life force in others -- as opposed to choking it out of them. and shouldn't it be possible, perhaps, to nurture back to spiritual health those whose light is neither warm nor glowing? yes, it should be possible, you unilaterally conclude.

it follows, though, that you have to start with yourself.

to that end, there's another definition that bespeaks equipoise and harmony and perhaps even an interlude of, um, mutual affirmation...
The God/Goddess within me acknowledges the God/Goddess within you.
this use is an accessible combination of secular and spiritual and salubrious. it is, at once, high-minded and familiar. it's versatile as a pair of black jeans -- you can dress it up, you can dress it down. if you find yourself entwined in a particularly reverent moment, you can undress it entirely.

it's good to learn new things. it's refreshing, this deep into an unpredictable lifespan, to be pleasantly surprised by the unknown. what are the chances that a single word in a simple e-mail could be so compelling? perhaps we are witnessing something here that is larger than ourselves. something healing and restorative and transformative. or, you know, not.
The word "namaste" is often used as a closing notation in written communications similar to "sincerely," "best regards" or "love."
indeed, it is.

namaste, everyone. namaste.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

break out the butterfly nets

my wife is base jumping off the cliffs of insanity.

no, actually she's bungee jumping. again and again and again. boing boing boing.

meet the new dog, nothing like the old dogs. it has a breed, but i can't bear to say it, let alone type it out here. if you must know, it's a cross between two dogs i'd never acknowledge in public, let alone bring into my house.

it has a name, but i refuse to use it. for the next 15 years or so it'll be "your dog." as in, "your dog just peed on the rug."

and "your dog was attacked today by a bald eagle."

my wife made a unilateral decision, and i have to live with it for 15 years? are you kidding me? i make a unilateral decision about where to get take-out for dinner, and i'm a totalitarian. "we didn't want suchandsuch for dinner, we wanted pizza!"

yeah, well, i didn't want a long-haired rat in my house, either. get over it.

going forward, i've decided to make a lot more unilateral decisions. i'm going to do things i've deferred or declined, because i thought i was in an egalitarian relationship. for example, i'm going to...

hang on a minute, i'll think of something.

i'd say, "play golf" or "go scuba diving" or "go to the indoor climbing gym," but i really don't have the time to do those things any more.

i'd say, "buy a red convertible," but i don't really want a red convertible. i'd say, "get a tattoo," but i already have the latitude to do that. nothing gratifying there.


i make the decision to make unilateral decisions, and i can't think of anything to decide.

please help.

Saturday, June 30, 2007

urban chick seeks mental health

my wife has lost her mind.

and by that i mean, she's crazy. in a white-coat and padded room kind of way.

girl is nuts.

get this: she wants to acquire some chickens. urban chickens, as she calls them. avian flu incubators, as i call them. chickens. in seattle.

she's got it all planned out. they'll inhabit the space behind our garage, next to the neighbor's koi pond. they'll lay little blue or green eggs, and we'll have fresh omelets every day. or something.

when i object, when i suggest the possibility she hasn't completely thought through the ramifications of the urban chicken plan, she tells me i've lost my sense of spontaneity. and, by not endorsing her lunacy, i'm infringing on her fun.

mind you, i didn't say "no." i just said, "what the hell?" or words to that effect.

the story doesn't end there. in addition to the urban chickens, she wants a new dog. cruelly, she has recruited our children in this pursuit. "daddy, we'll take care of the puppy. we promise."

yeah, here's the thing about animals at our house: i end up the sole caretaker. each time and every time. starting with two cats, a big dog, then two big dogs. all my responsibility. including the inevitable mortality of each, for which my wife was out of town every time.

somehow i'm supposed to forget all that because my wife is taking the summer off and thinks she'll have the time and the desire to raise a bunch of animals.

again, i object.

but, as with the damn chickens, i didn't say no. i don't make unilateral decisions in this relationship. that prerogative belongs to my wife, apparently.

did i mention the semi-serious remodeling projects going on at our house? they involve, in no particular order, a backhoe/front-end loader, the removal of concrete walls, and the creation of a walk-out basement from the space currently occupied by our bedroom.

it's a significant amount of change and turmoil without factoring in urban birds and puppies.

and still i didn't say no. i did, however, mention i would have nothing to do with such a cockamamie scheme. i made it crystal clear i wouldn't be getting up in the middle of the night to take a dog out to pee, nor would i field complaints from the neighbors about rogue chickens eating their fish. or whatever.

i spelled out all these things. but you know how it'll go. eventually, inevitably, there'll be a collision between my objections and her expectations, and something will have to give.

any predictions how that's gonna turn out?

my wife is deeply, deeply disturbed. and in failing to dissuade her, i am at least complicit.

if not equally loony toons.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

at your fingertips

some folks you find speak a mighty good line
they charm you all away
they take you along on a sweet sweet song
then they steal your heart away
but blessed be the one who can understand why
people have to act that way
'cause if I knew I wouldn't even want to sing

but have a little peace
just a little peace of mind
give me some peace
peace of mind
-- jim messina

yesterday i had my first facial.

to be precise (because it feels necessary at this juncture to be precise about this experience), i had a "deep cleanse, tone, exfoliation, steam, extractions, application of custom mask, moisturizer, and a massage of the hand and arm."

okay? are we clear about what transpired? can i get my story in now? thank you.

anyway, in advance of my birthday and father's day, my wife hooked me up with a spa treatment.

it was deeply deeply gratifying as a paid-for hour of intimate and uninterrupted attention can be. as far as i know.

while i was laying there, savoring the gentle-yet-firm manipulation of my overly impressionable sensibilities, it occurred to me that the feeling one derives from such exchanges never lasts very long.

i mean, the before and during is great. the esthetician (we'll call her "annalie" because that's her name), hovers over you, speaking softly, soothingly, in a way that you rarely hear outside a room lighted mainly by candles. you can feel her breath on your face (i believe she had a vanilla latte for breakfast), which has the effect of heightening your senses to the point that you can actually discern the swirly contours of her fingerprints.

i may not know biometrics, but i know what i like.

i'm straying off point here, which is that the after-glow of these too-brief interludes is pitifully short. as the last, lingering touch slips off your skin, your inner infant cries out for more, not wanting to leave the birth canal.

even so, it is possible that with some mental distraction techniques and compartmentalization you can take a few halting steps during which you might still feel one with the universe. and because it's so good, so right, you fight to carry the effect with you forever, and you do -- if by "forever" you mean "until you leave the parking lot and a police car pulls in behind you, and you hope the officer doesn't ask you if you've been drinking because it kinda feels like you have, even though you haven't, because it's ten o'clock in the morning."

poof. just like that your bought-and-paid-for peace of mind is flayed. and that, really, is the gist of this entire digression. for it is peace we seek, because it is peace we lack, if i may inaccurately paraphrase james earl jones in field of dreams, (and i very well may).

we could spend the rest of our blogging lives enumerating the ways we lack peace, and about 9 minutes counting the ways we find it. maybe less. with the exception of a few prescription medications, a few more non-prescription varieties, and some really good cabernet sauvignon, there are damn few means to find your bliss and hang onto it in a meaningful way.

the religious among us say jesus is the way, or buddha, or muhammad, or alicia witt. but let's face it, some of the least peaceable examples in history are provided by rogue advocates of some religion or another.

no. there are too many ways to sail off the edge of the earth, from a peace of mind perspective, too many examples of the timeless warning, "here there be monsters," alicia witt notwithstanding.

if, in fact, it is peace we seek because peace we lack, it occurs to me that after millennia of searching, humans were not meant to achieve a mental steady-state of serenity. if we were, we would have done so long ago.

so we pay for fleeting moments of it, we search longingly for glimpses of it, we google the digitized aggregation of it. and, occasionally, we experience a moment so perfect, so transcendental, that we breathlessly chase after it no matter how foolish it makes us appear.

i had a facial on saturday.

and in a secular, hedonistic kind of was divine.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

sea change

my wife is quitting her job.

actually, technically she's taking a two-month leave of absence. but she has no intention of going back.

it's an old story. new boss, no appreciation for ten years of successful service. boss is disrepectful, employees leave. or leave of absence, as the case may be.

the record will show that my wife is not the stay-at-home type. at first she'll enjoy being out from under the thrall of an imbecilic supervisor. then, for awhile, she'll revel in the quality time with our children. she'll breathe in the summer and breathe out the bitterness. we'll spend a languid july week in maui, and a seattle week in august with her family. that's a seductive combination by any standard.

but come september, the children will go back to school, and the diy home projects she can tackle will be thoroughly subdued.

that's when she'll look out the window and wish she were heading off to work.

it'll be about the camaraderie, the challenges, the success. and let's be honest, it'll also be about the money. we have children and a house and more improvement projects than we can afford. we are a two-income family, and since we're being honest wife is the smart one in the family. she makes the big money at our house.

so, come september, when the children are in school and she's surfing the internet for items we absolutely must have if we are to remain civilized, the never-denied, merely deferred reality will become irresistible.

there will be a new job, new routines, and a different set of problem-solution opportunities.

waves of change are lining up behind the spaceneedls. we better hope we can learn to surf.

Saturday, June 02, 2007

the quantum mechanics of time and memory

the night before we left for arizona, i dreamed about joan.

we chatted about nothing i can remember, but when i woke up it felt like i had just seen her, heard her voice, given her a long-deferred bear hug.

when we got to her house, several hours later, she wasn't there.

i mean, of course she wasn't there, she's been gone nearly two years. but last time we visited, she was everywhere. you couldn't open a kitchen cabinet or walk around the back yard without her next to you.

this time, though, it seemed she had moved on.

she wasn't at the door to greet us. the rosemary that once lined the east side of the patio was in full retreat. her kitchen, a model of manic efficiency, was simply clean and quiescent.

my father-in-law, so fragile during our last trip, has found his equilibrium. he doesn't live in nearly as much of the house as she did, but he uses as much of it as suits him. the rosemary may be in disarray, but the pool is crystal clear and inviting. he's not sure what's in the spice cabinet, but he knows his way around four grocery stores.

early one morning we hiked through dreamy draw recreation area, one of joan's favorite desert spots. the air was cool and calm, the saguaros were blooming, the songbirds were doing what they do. my daughter, wearing one of joan's baseball caps, was an intrepid hiker. she kept up the pace, kept her eyes open for wildlife, and kept her composure when we startled a rattlesnake right in front of us. fearless, the girl backed away, hopped down a little rock wall, and made her way around the beast.

just like granny joan would've done.

i didn't think much about it at the time, because the girl is an audacious little character. even so, in retrospect her poise was remarkable.

in my dream, joan was as real and immediate a presence as ever. i could hear her voice, smell her shampoo, feel her wiry strength. for that i'm grateful, because that same presence, which i fully expected to encounter in arizona, was missing.

except, perhaps, for a moment on a desert trail, when her granddaughter would've made her proud.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

water world

i've always liked the idea of breathing underwater.

i recall being a kid, diving to the deep end of the pool and looking around, thinking how cool it would be to just hang out down there and not have to go up for air.

eventually i granted myself that wish, and got scuba certified. the goal at the time was to head to belize to dive the world's second largest barrier reef. that trip never materialized, but many others have (belize, one day, for sure).

the highlight of the indra, a WWII-era ship turned artificial reef off the north carolina coast, is a huge barracuda that quietly patrols the wreck. i've heard no reports that this big fish has ever been aggressive...but he keeps your attention from the moment you see him until you leave the water. prolly he's bored by the multitude of divers that swarm his ship.

sand tiger sharks are common on carolina wrecks. once, swimming the caribsea, a spearfisher on our boat had his game bag snatched off his bcd by a 12-foot sand tiger. the shark came out of nowhere, grabbed the bag and yanked it away with a quick little twist of his head. then it turned and was gone. the whole encounter lasted less than 10 seconds...but at the time it seemed to go on forever.

the hebe, a dutch freighter, was sunk in 1942 off myrtle beach, SC. conflicting stories say it was torpedoed by a german sub, or it collided with one of its own escort ships. either way, it now sits in 110 feet of warm, crystal clear gulf stream water. the hebe is a fascinating, beautiful dive, surrounded by sealife. i don't want to call them schools of fish...they're more like swarms of clouds of schools.

the smaller fish pivot and dive and climb willy nilly, scattering bright silver light in every direction at once.

the bigger predators cruise more deliberately, showing off impossibly intense colors. further away the barracuda hover, always present, never out of mind. off the ship's starboard hull lies a field of bottles from a venezuelan brewery. 65 years ago they were litter. now they're artifacts, a couple of which sit in my office.

in aruba, offshore from oranjestad, is the wreck of a smallish pilot vessel inhabited by a huge moray eel. you swim around the perimeter of the boat, then up to a portal on its starboard side. the hold is open to the light above, so the eel is spotlighted in all its green, gape-jawed glory.

p.s., the thing had big damn teeth.

this july i'm getting into the water again, somewhere around maui. a night dive sounds like fun, as i've never done one and i'm kinda nervous about the idea. i'm not wild about the prospect of some creature from the depths rising out of the darkness to drag me down.

with one notable exception...

Saturday, May 12, 2007

that's how we role model

i see all these heroes
with feet of clay
whose mighty ships
have sprung a leak
and i want you to tell me
just what do you believe in now?

-- don henley

soon, probably in the next month or so, henry aaron will be second on the all-time major league home run list.

he'll be passed by a player who, by many accounts, used steroids to amass big home run totals.

hank aaron never was an imposing physical presence. at six feet tall and 180 pounds, he derived his power from a fluid swing and a big heart. the other guy, in contrast, went from a normal-looking athlete to a massively muscled freak of nature. he did this late in his career, when most players are on the statistical and physical downslope.

i remember when aaron was pursuing babe ruth for the home run record. as he closed the gap, aaron was dogged by racist taunts, hate mail and death threats. but he maintained his poise and his focus, setting a standard that the haters didn't have the IQ to understand, let alone emulate. to this day, aaron is an embassador for the game of baseball, an example too infrequently followed by current professional athletes. or anyone else.

the other guy is the poster child for everything wrong with professional sports (and often college sports as well). spoiled, arrogant, hostile, and a cheater. quite a combination. borderline criminal. maybe even over-the-line, pending an investigation of steroid use, trafficking, and alleged perjury.

not to mention the spectacle of his huge, misshapen, gelatinous head. something about that should be criminal, too.

the player and his apologists attribute animus toward him to racism. quite a claim since both he and aaron are black. also interesting is how few current players speak out against him.

the loaded question usually goes something like, "soandso is about to break hank aaron's all-time home run record. how do you feel about that?"

the answer, typically, is a variation of "great! very exciting! he's still a great hitter, and has hit a lot of home runs, which i think is great!"

it's nauseating. someone needs to explain to me why breaking a record this way is anything but a desecration. and why these players are so okay with that.

i shouldn't care, i know. in the big scheme of things, a sporting record is inconsequential. but there's still enough boy in me, enough idealism, to get worked up about it.

all these years later, i have nothing but admiration (and a little bit of nostalgic awe) for henry aaron. he respected the game, and accomplished something remarkable within the boundaries of fairness.

this other guy? none of the above. no respect for the game, its history, its fans, or the ideals they represent.

his 756 will be a record without honor. instead of cheers he should hear silence.

soon, probably in a month or so, someone on espn will exclaim that there's a new home run king. at my house, that's when the tv goes off.

Saturday, May 05, 2007

body oddity

herve villechaize was an annoying little man -- never moreso than in his big (make that little) breakthrough role as 'tattoo' on fantasy island.

"boss! de plane! de plane!"

somebody should've tattooed him upside the head.

how jarring would it be if someone got a tattoo of villechaize in his little fantasy island white suit? think about it. a tattoo of tattoo. kind of like looking in a mirror reflecting in a mirror, if you follow the metaphor to its infinite, incomprehensible conclusion.

all of which is prelude to saying, i'm not a big tattoo guy.

despite this fact, i'm about to get my second. tattoo, that is. crazy, huh?

yup. i'm not sure why, except to say it's parenthood-related (it was something my father would never do). i got my first piece of body art after my son was born; i have an orca on my left shoulder, with the boy's name underneath it. i was an emotional wreck at the time, and a tattoo seemed like a logical response. quibble with my logic, if you will, but i've never regretted it.

in the intervening years betwixt then and now, my wife and i had another child. and in the interest of symmetry, i've always intended to get another tattoo. but things happened, time passed, and somehow the second tattoo never materialized. mostly, i just couldn't think of anything interesting to have permanently added to my body.

recently however, after 6 and a half years of two-childedness, i had a body art breakthrough. a pigment epiphany, if you will. i'm ready to get tattooed again.

the inspiration, if you can call it that, was a window decal on somebody's car. i know, that doesn't immediately suggest "inspiration," but this is not your tattoo, so i'd ask for some latitude. thank you.

it was something so simple and so obvious, i can't believe it didn't occur to me long ago. it's sealife-related, but not redundant (i had considered a native american iteration of an orca...but it seemed too been there, done that...besides, i don't need to be 'the orca guy').

a mermaid was considered, owing to my daughter's one-time infatuation with ariel...thankfully the idea never took hold.

this, that, bla bla bla...and then i saw the decal. it was a sea turtle family -- a hawaiian honu interpretation. two parents followed by two babies. just like that, the years of indecision were over.

this time, i'm not an emotional mess. or maybe i am, but in a different way. more manageable, maybe. doesn't matter. i've sent a jpg to the renowned ballard body art parlor, "slave to the needle." actually, i don't know how renowned they are, but they are in the neighborhood. and they have a web site.

i'm one step away from new body art. at least i think i am.

if it takes another 6 and a half years, we'll assume i wasn't ready.

Sunday, April 29, 2007

sunday surprise

if this were a survival situation, i'd be in deep trouble. because things are happening around me that i'm not entirely aware of.

for example, i was sitting here this morning, tapping at the computer, and i glanced out the window. there it was. the big, old japanese maple in front of our house was totally leafed out.

when did this happen? and what else happened while i was sitting here?

thankfully this is not a survival situation, it's an arboreal situation. a surreal arboreal situation, if you will. but still. when the foliage status of large, nearby trees escape notice, it's time for concern.

in his book stumbling on happiness, daniel gilbert describes the difference between experiencing an event and being aware of it. his example is of distractedly reading and rereading the same paragraph without consciously assimilating the words.

in his book stumbling on happiness, daniel gilbert describes the difference between experiencing an event and being aware of it. his example is of distractedly reading and rereading the same paragraph without consciously assimilating the words.

yes, like that. but when refocused on the paragraph, we become aware that we have, indeed, already experienced it. maybe several times.

me, i drive to and from work 10 times a week, in a soporific stupor. this is, in fact, a survival situation, yet the experience rarely rises to the level of awareness. similarly, it's fortunate the japanese maple in our front yard is not, say, a mountain lion, else i'd be experiencing death. or a maiming i wouldn't soon forget.

the takeaway here seems to be that there's a lot going on, all the time, and even the most innocuous confluence of events might be a threat to our wellbeing. it's the butterfly effect gone wild, for example, when the invention of the wheel and the invention of the shoe can lead to the invention of heelys, wheeled shoes that currently threaten the wellbeing of my children.

our only consolation is that the reverse may also be true. that even the most obnoxious confluence of events (say, the ill-starred coupling of george h.w. and barbara bush), may lead to a better world. eventually. a long time from now.

we can only hope we're here to see these eventualities as they unfurl, and that we do more than just experience them. because once in a while survival demands we rise above blissful unawareness and notice there's a mountain lion, wearing heelys, in our favorite tree.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

saturday soap opera

decked out in her purple uniform, our daughter looks like a real little leaguer. and when she gets hit by consecutive line drives at shortstop, she reacts like a little leaguer.

she cries.

"why do they have to hit it to me every time?"

in little league, "the ready position" doesn't really mean anyone is ready. hands on knees, eyes toward home plate, and the hit! whack! oooh, that's gotta hurt.

mind you, our daughter is a tough chick. she's not given to tears over scrapes and bumps. we taught her long ago to pop up and keep going. and she does. most of the time.

but back-to-back line drives are more than anyone should have to absorb. even so, after half an inning she had recovered sufficiently to go out and get a couple base hits.

that was last saturday.

today she's ready to go again, looking cute as she wants to be in her color-coded jersey, socks and hat. the hat's got a big M on it, for magnolia. just like all the other hats.

"a.g., do you know what to do if the ball is hit to you today?"

"try to catch it, i guess."

my girl.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

the cascadia aesthetic

the waters of the pacific northwest are cold. even in the heat of the summer, such as it is, puget sound and the waters to the north, past the queen charlotte islands, stay bone-chilling cold.

the occasional fantasy of 85-degree water is moderated by the reality that our corner of paradise would be overrun by folks who know and care little about quiet, solitude and a few square miles free of fast-food opportunities.

no, better to sit and be still, looking out over the clear, cold surface, or walk along its edge, picking your way between tidal pools and driftwood, up onto rocks where the tide presses inland. carrying some strong, steamy coffee, perhaps, on a misty morning.

within 7 minutes of our house is a rocky beach where it's possible to walk, completely alone, within sight of downtown seattle. harbor seals sometimes swim just offshore, popping up their heads to take a look around, then diving under again. closer to home, a nesting pair of bald eagles occasionally perch in the trees above our house. they're a marvel of survivability; an anachronistic, metaphoric, hopeful phoenix.

the san juan islands lie not too far to the north. pitch a tent in san juan county park, and you can paddle your kayak to the next sandy beach, encountering an extravagance of animal and plant life along the way. wild turkeys, bald eagles, ferrets. giant pacific octopii, clouds of migrating salmon, harbor seals, dahl’s porpoises and the resident pods of killer whales. occasionally, migrating humpback and gray whales will venture through.

the san juans are remnants of an ancient continental terrane known as wrangellia. tens of millions of years ago wrangellia was a continent in search of a home. it wandered the pacific basin, like a drunk bouncing around an unfamiliar pub, before careening into the north american pacific coast. the collision was not widely noted at the time, but it did form a mountain range of some note, approximately where alaska, vancouver island, and the san juans are today.

geologic evidence of those mountains suggests they were quite spectacular. towering over today’s rockies, putting the alps to shame. and yet somehow, despite their magnificence, they still fell victim to time and gravity. the wrangellia range withered and shrank, until the highest peaks barely showed their noses above the glacial waters that rose to subsume them.

millions of years later those waters are clear, cold and deep. and inviting, just the same.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

the outlaw tree

"This here's Miss Bonnie Parker. I'm Clyde Barrow. We rob banks."

when you flout the law the way my wife and i do, it's just a matter of time before the cops show up.

mind you, i didn't want to flout the law. my wife made me do it. i protested, vociferously. but in the end her will was done. we became scofflaws.

the jackhammer we brandished in the commission of our crime will not help our case. it was a bosch brute, and it busted up the concrete in front of our house like butter going through a knife. there may have been some operator error involved.

but at the end of the day -- a very long day -- the deed was done. we vandalized the hell out of that concrete, moved it out of the way, dug into the dirt below...and planted a tree.

at one point our gladys kravitz neighbor sent her husband over to see just what we thought we were doing. we're making some room in front of this telephone pole to plant a tree, my wife said.

that's when the inquisition-by-proxy began. did we have permission? did the city say this was allowable? won't the tree get up into the lines? isn't the concrete holding up the pole?

my wife lied like a hardened criminal. oh, yeah, we called the city and they were fine with our little plan. they even gave us a list of trees to consider. cornelian cherry trees are particularly good in locations like ours. it's all good, and don't worry about it one bit, mr. kravitz. run along now, so we can finish before the storm rolls in.

my wife is an accomplished liar. i believed her, and i knew she was lying. the cops, however, may not be convinced so easily.

i fully expect them to roll up one of these days. they'll be cool at first, because we live in a nice neighborood and seem like nice people. on the surface.

but it won't take long for them to figure out that we flouted the law. we broke up 4 square feet of city concrete, planted a tree, and put down some shredded hardwood mulch. these are the facts, and they are not in dispute.
Bonnie Parker: What would you do if some miracle happened and we could walk out of here tomorrow morning and start all over again clean? No record and nobody after us, huh?

Clyde Barrow: Well, uh, I guess I'd do it all different. First off, I wouldn't live in the same state where we pull our jobs.
me? i intend to plead insanity. i was driven to dig by my scofflaw wife.

will it work? only a fool would hope.

i fully expect that one day we'll both hang from our outlaw tree.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

maybe baseball

This is a very simple game. You throw the ball, you catch the ball, you hit the ball. Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose, sometimes it rains. Think about that for a while.
the movie "bull durham" wasn't about parenting. it was about sex.

but quite often there's a correlation between sex and parenthood.

it's true. you could look it up.

i've been a parent for going on nine years. despite the insistence of some, parenthood is not always a jar of chocolate chip cookies. sometimes it's more like a pot of pickled beets. good for you, perhaps, but they leave an awful taste in your mouth.

i digress.

my son is playing baseball. for the first time. i mean, really, he's totally baseball-naive. because i'm a bad parent.

i played baseball for many, many years. sometimes well. i played until my junior year in college, in fact. at that point shoulder tendinitis and marginal talent combined to turn me into a spectator.

despite all that baseball experience, i never cajoled my son onto the field. didn't even try. we urged him into other activities, of course. karate, swimming, gymnastics, indoor climbing. he's quite good at all of them.

but no baseball. what kind of father doesn't encourage his son to play baseball, for gawdsake? that's what fathers and sons do, isn't it? go down to the local park, bat and gloves in hand, and learn some fundamentals?

nope. never happened. until this year. suddenly we're playing catch-up as much as we're playing catch.
the only church that truly feeds the soul, day in, day out, is the Church of Baseball.
turns out the boy has some baseball skills. he fields ground balls smoothly, and throws hard to first. he swings the bat and makes contact. he smiles at me, and i smile back. i tell him, "nice job," and "stay with it," and "just make contact." and he does, most of the time. when he's not turning his hat sideways, and digging in the dirt with his new cleats.

if it were important, i could teach the boy a lot about baseball. i could teach him things about the game that i never knew until long after i stopped playing. i could, maybe, help him appreciate being in the zone, the feeling that no matter what the pitcher offers up, you're going to hit it a long way the other direction.

if it were important.

baseball is simple. life is complicated. there's so much to learn.

and so little time.
Walt Whitman once said, "I see great things in baseball. It's our game, the American game. It will repair our losses and be a blessing to us." You could look it up.

* * * * *

update: game one in the boy's baseball career is in the books. game-time conditions were wet and cold, with temps in the low 40s. but the boy still wouldn't wear his coat in the dugout.

his line was one hit in three at-bats, several pitches hit foul, one pop-up almost caught, one knee abrasion from sliding into first on a ground ball.

his team won, 7-4. it was magnificent.

Monday, March 19, 2007

i'm born again

it's in me.

the kool-aid, i mean. i have drunk deeply, and i proclaim to you that i believe in the bush administration.

my faith is strong. yea verily, it is born again (okay, for the first time), because condi asks it of me.

"be patient," she beseeches me. "for the sacrifice is worth it."

most importantly, sister condi insists, "we will start to know relatively soon whether the Iraqis are living up to their obligations."

how soon is soon? according to our great leader, "...the Baghdad security plan is still in its early stages and success will take months, not days or weeks."

okay, that doesn't seem particularly soonish.

but to whom much is given, much is expected. i don't know how this fabulous dogma applies here, but i like the sound of it.

y'all believe me, right? that i'm all born again in the church of george?

is anybody buying this?

sigh. yeah, me neither.

i guess i don't have whatever "it" is that enables such magnificent leaps of delusion...

it just ain't in me.

Monday, March 12, 2007

you're with us or you're with the asteroids

About 20,000 asteroids and comets orbiting close to our planet could deliver blows ranging from destroying cities to ending all life.

this is a funny, funny story. well, not the destroying cities part. or that "ending all life" thing. those would be bad. often i'm fuzzy on the whole good-bad thing, but there seems to be very little ambiguity in this case.

no, the funny part is, our government doesn't have a billion dollars to spare for tracking killer asteroids. as one rocket scientist put it, “Should one nation, the United States, be responsible for the entire planet?”
William Ailor of the Aerospace Corporation, a not-for-profit Air Force research group that sponsored the planetary defense conference, said the problem of finding killer asteroids could be solved more easily if more countries were involved. Interest is growing, he said, noting that the European Space Agency is considering a mission called Don Quijote to test ways to deflect an asteroid.
don quixote, as some might innocently observe, was disparaged for tilting at windmills. that analogy segueways into the existence of an actual industry devoted to tracking and deflecting imminent meteor strikes. they even have their own trade show:

The objective of the conference is to develop a white paper that assesses the current state of our ability to discover and track near-Earth objects (NEOs—objects that could possibly impact Earth) and our ability to successfully deflect a threatening object should one be detected.
and there, literally, is the money quote. it will be significantly more challenging to deflect a "threatening object" if it is detected only after striking the earth. it'll probably cost more, too.

but that is SOP for our "we hate government" government. global warming? no such thing. hurricane katrina? never heard of it. some schmoe in the middle east with a slingshot? here's $100 billion for a fun-filled year of wanton slaughter. yay, government!

meanwhile, there's an asteroid out there with the name of every earth inhabitant on it. can we detect it and deflect it? we don't know, because the price is just too high to find out.
Building a dedicated observatory for finding and tracking hazardous bodies and launching a spacecraft to observe the space around Earth would cost more than $1 billion that the agency does not have.
this plea is not addressed to republicans, who don't believe in science anyway. note to democrats: peel off a billion dollar bill and get busy...quick.