Saturday, December 31, 2011

the end of the beginning

this is it.

unless something really interesting happens (let's hope not), this is the last blog post of 2011.

the last one by me, anyway.

i know several people who, for an assortment of very good reasons, did not enjoy their 2011. "i can't wait for this year to be over," they say, hopeful that adding a digit to the calendar will bring better results. or at least some breathing room.

i hope it works.

of course, 2011 wasn't bad for everyone. the 1%, for example, got richer. sure, the 99% got poorer, but the tide may be turning. the 1% really hate that prospect, which is in itself a good thing. #occupy 2012.

the spaceneedl family managed, once again, to keep heads above water. that too may change in 2012, when the missus quits a job she can no longer tolerate and goes in search of a new career. while i'm not eager to be poor, i'd rather be poor with a happy wife than comfortable with an unhappy wife (because, really, there's no being comfortable with an unhappy wife).

besides, i am fortunate in many nonmonetary ways. for example, i have the great good fortune to work with some of the most fiercely intelligent women i've ever met. they amaze me every, they make me laugh, for which i'm very grateful. i live with a couple females who fit that description, as well. the older one continues to be my best friend, as has been the case for many years. the young one continues to keep me wrapped around her little finger (and every other fiber of her being), as has been the case for all of her eleven years.

i do know a few intelligent males, but they're fewer and farther between. maybe it's because men are rumored to think of sex every sex seconds (which would certainly make concentration difficult, if that were true, which i'm sure it's not). i happen to live with an intelligent young male who tries hard, every day, to convince me he's not very bright. so far, i'm not buying it. but for the record, he is very persuasive.

collectively, we are healthy, we have enough to eat, and we have a roof over our heads. this makes us far more fortunate than many. we are grateful for our good fortune, and empathize with those who are not so lucky.

moving on...

at the end of last year i did a review of my itunes downloads for 2010. it was cathartic, and served to remind me that not every idea that pops into my head is a good one. yes, i needed the reminder. this year, instead, i offer the following random observations on the pop culture i stumbled across in 2011. make of them what you will. but try the wine...

movie of the year: (tie) "the help" and "midnight in paris"

album of the year: low country blues, gregg allman

song of the year: "god loves me" melissa mcclelland (2009)

wine(s) of the year: (red) 2008 tres picos garnacha; (white) 2009 chateau montelena chardonnay

chocolate of the year: coconut milk & caramelized ginger 55% dark chocolate (madre chocolate, honolulu)

best fitness-related decision of the year: stop playing basketball, start running. for real. as a demonstration of this zeal, today i was about to blow off running. late, a thought occurred to me: "LAST CHANCE TO RUN IN 2011 !!!" that got me moving. three and a half miles as the sun w
set over the olympic mountains.

best running shoe ever: new balance baddeley 890 (bought on a whim for $45.00 at nordstrom rack)

top projects for 2012: finish "the rally," start "the midlife wife." also, goad brenda into starting "deadwood SD" (or maybe "secrets of deadwood." still thinking about that one)

that's it. bring on 2012.

and don't make me regret it.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

why so serious, son?

"You know what I've noticed? Nobody panics when things go 'according to plan.' Even if the plan is horrifying."

so, apparently the war in iraq is over.

you might have heard about it last week~~but then again you might not. the 'news' didn't get a lot of play in the press, and celebrations were muted.

VJ-day it was not.

"The last convoy of heavily armored personnel carriers slipped out of Iraq under cover of darkness and strict secrecy to prevent any final attacks. The 500 soldiers didn't even tell their Iraqi comrades on the base they were leaving.

"The fear spoke volumes about the country they left behind - shattered, still dangerous and containing a good number of people who still see Americans not as the ally who helped them end Saddam's dictatorship, but as an enemy."

officially, the last u.s. soldier killed in the conflict was a young man named david hickman, from greensboro, NC. speaking about hickman's death, and the outcome of the war, a friend said, “There aren’t enough facts available for me to have a defined opinion about things. I’m just sad, and pray that my best friend didn’t lay down his life for nothing.”

if we don't find horror in that kind of numb ambiguity, it's likely our souls are full of novocaine.

and sadly, plenty of facts are available. to recap, there was no link between iraq and 9/11. there were no WMDs. in fact, there was no justifiable reason at all to wage war there. in the end, there was just a surfeit of carnage. huge deficits. and a middle eastern country left wide open to the kind of threat we were warned to fear beyond all rationality.

did you know: the u.s. spent twice as long fighting in iraq as it did fighting WWII. would anyone like to make the case that saddam hussein was twice the threat of hitler, et al?

in lieu of that, it would seem that a langourous conflict in iraq, along with an endless "war on terror" was actually part of someone's mind-boggling plan.

and we haven't even mentioned afghanistan (aka, the place empires go to die). that plan, ten years later, is still reaping grimly, with no end in sight.

in both cases, despite all evidence to the contrary, there are still plenty of people who insist not enough time, money, and blood have been squandered. as if a pyrrhic nonvictory that laid waste to three countries (yes, the u.s. among them) isn't enough. what would satisfy them, one might wonder?

particularly since the u.s. is leaving behind a significant military presence, in the form of nearly 53,000 military contractors. plenty of money still to be made on that front.

to sum up, the u.s. spent nearly nine years at war with a third-rate dictator; hundreds of thousands of people were killed and trillions of dollars were spent. america became known for torture, prison without trial, and irradiating/strip-searching hapless air travelers.

for that horrific cost we earned the opportunity to sneak out of iraq under cover of darkness.

not to worry, though. it was all according to some sort of plan.

In the end, many of the departing troops wrestled with a singular question: Was it worth it?

Capt. Mark Askew, a 28-year-old from Tampa, Florida, said the answer will depend on what type of country Iraq turns into years from now - whether it is democratic and respects human rights.

"People are asking themselves: `Was this worth it?'" he said, speaking to his troops before they set off to Kuwait. "I can't answer that question right now."

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

ajax, au revoir

bubba's days are running out.

he's 20, see, which is old for a cat. it's hard to say if the liver failure or the kidney failure will get him first.

what is certain, in the meantime, is that bubba's light is dimming. his back legs no longer work very well...a far cry from the smoothly athletic stunts he used to pull, like leaping from the bathroom counter to the top of the door. or flying up the trunk of a large pine just ahead of two pursuing dogs. he was a sight, back in the day.

these days, bubba doesn't stray far from the space heater near his bed. his eyes are clouding, and his coat is perpetually full of mattes, despite the fact that i brush him every day. he's tired, mostly, and you can't really blame him. we should all be doing so well when we're the equivalent of 100 years old.

still, it's a little heartbreaking. some days, if i'm overly tired or stressed or otherwise out of's a lot heartbreaking. we've been together a long time~~and though i can see a future when he's no longer around, that prospect doesn't feel real, or possible.

denial is a remarkable thing.

there are other, parallel endings imminent. for the wife of a good friend. for an uncle in hospice. strangely, there are more just outside our orbit. they resonate here, adding to the disquiet.

time slips through our grasp, not like sand or water, but like hard radiation, desiccating everything it touches.

and the simple, obvious, inescapable fact is this: at the end of the day, no one gets out alive.

Sunday, December 04, 2011

we're having a run on sand...

running on the beach is different.

for one thing, you're running on sand.

sand, as a base, is notoriously unstable. thus, "a house built on a foundation of sand" historically is considered "not a good investment."

but we digress.

running on sand is difficult. particularly in bare feet. bare feet tend to sink in sand, requiring significant additional effort to push off and ambulate forward in the rapid manner often associated with running. also, beach sand may be fraught with seashells, coral, driftwood, jellyfish, shark teeth, pufferfish, buried treasure, mermaids, kraken, and other dangers. so, caution is always advised when running on the beach.

beaches typically slope toward the water. sometimes precipitously. when running on a beach, therefore, one foot is almost always lower than the other. indeed, one entire side of your body is lower than the other. unless you are genetically or otherwise mutated, your body is not accustomed to this kind of imbalance. it complains and resists and may try to ambulate in a circle. or it may sustain "trauma" consistent with an "injury." plantar fasciitis, strained iliotibial bands and severed achilles tendons are examples of such injuries.

the water associated with many beaches often appears in the form of waves, or surf. these waves sometimes ascend the beach in an uproar of spray and sand. running at the edge of the surf sometimes morphs into running through the surf without any prior agreement on your part. a wetsuit or other protective gear may be advisable in these conditions.

sand, water, slope...what are we forgetting? oh, yes: people! walking people. running people. fishing people. surfing people. small, digging-in-the-sand people. and not infrequently, dog people. which is to say, people with dogs. all vying for the same few yards of navigable beach. it's like nascar, minus the cars.

the running people generally are not a problem. they share your concern for the local conditions, and will invariably give you an empathetic little wave or smile as they go by. one caveat to this is the bikini-clad runner, who often presents a significant distraction hazard. appreciate the young, fit, ridiculously hot bikini-clad runner(s) briefly, and at a distance, to avoid injury.

walkers are slower versions of runners, and can be avoided by veering inland, or into the surf. going the surf route causes significant splashing, however, which many walkers prefer to avoid, even at the beach. go figure.

surfing people are generally not a threat when offshore. they can, however, become obstacles when carrying their surfboards into the water. avoid them by veering toward a corporate environment.

fishing people tend to cast lines into the water, then plant their fishing poles in the sand. this can create a "clothesline" hazard if the lines are low, or if you happen to be tall. be careful to avoid decapitation by ducking under the lines or veering inland. veering into the surf to avoid the lines is not recommended, as you may become entangled or impaled by a fish hook. decapitation and being impaled by a fish hook are additional traumas consistent with injury that are not conducive to finishing your run.

note: fishing people who cast-and-reel, cast-and-reel, etc. should be avoided by veering inland~a radius of a half-mile is recommended (see "impaling" information above).

small, digging-in-the-sand people (often "children") should be avoided. parents tend to object if you trip over or otherwise become entangled with their progeny. also, holes created by digging are hazards associated with tripping, falling, and trauma consistent with injury.

dog people at the beach often throw sticks, frisbees, tennis balls and other dangerous items. also, dogs dig holes in the sand (see "sand-hole digging" information above). dogs (and less frequently their people) have been know to bite a passing runner without any prior agreement on the runner's part. veering inland or into the surf are not viable avoidance techniques, as the dogs (and sometimes their people) are capable of herding you back to the danger zone. consider carrying a large stick with you while running; in an emergency, it can be thrown into the surf as a diversion, enabling you to retreat and escape. alternatively, it may be used to inflict trauma and injury.*

at this point one might reasonably wonder why anyone would ever want to run on/at/anywhere near the beach.

by way of response, consider the following quote from the great louis armstrong, used completely out of context:

"if you have to ask, you'll never know."


note: this is not a complete list of beach running hazards. your results may vary based on local conditions. past returns are no guarantee of future results. see store for details.

* for defensive purposes only. no dogs or people were harmed in the creation of this post.

Thursday, December 01, 2011

surf and smurf

at low tide there's thirty feet of sand between the seagrass and the line where the waves reach, falter, and retreat. in that expanse, tiny, translucent crabs skitter sideways, back and forth, occasionally disappearing into the holes they've dug. there must be some purpose to their nonstop activity, but whatever it may be is indecipherable.

further out, into the waves, the girl is on a short board, working in the gaps between the swells. every so often she, the board, and a wave connect in a long, frenzied ride to the sand. spent, the wave slides back dejectedly. the girl, meanwhile, gathers her board and sprints back into the fray.

the low waves are often taller than she is, but she is relentless. she drives into them, dives through them, dances between them. her energy matches theirs, surpasses it, until she emerges in the relative calm behind the breakers. in the surf, her movement is purposeful and powerful. her arms and legs are strong beyond her years. in the waiting green water past the sand bar she is watchful, impatient, eager to throw her board into another headlong rush toward the beach.

a muscular wave rises behind her, and the girl launches herself into the midst of it. she and the board accelerate down and ahead, into an uproar of spray and sand.

at the end of each ride she smiles, rises, and turns. again. again. again. the churning water batters her. she is unperturbed. the waves, in turn, are implacable, innumerable, inexorable. everything they touch they inevitably wear down.

eventually the girl picks up her board, absorbs yet another wave, and hesitates. she shakes it off, turns and walks out of the surf. she is smiling.

behind her, on the horizon, a two-masted schooner moves smoothly, gracefully, at full sail. between clouds, the sun catches the white canvas, turning it incandescent for a long minute.

gradually the sails sink below the horizon, then disappear.

running like water

running is different here.

for one thing, you can go out wearing very little. shorts. shoes. smile.

it's much easier to get through the first mile. i mean, you're already warm.

and soon, you're sweating buckets. it just pours off of you.

rain, when it comes, is a relief. it too is warm, so rather than curse it, you welcome it and invite it to hang around awhile.

on you go, covering ground much more quickly than you're used to. the usual aches and pains are conspicuously absent~~apparently your body likes being warm like this. it's so much better than the alternative.

before you know it, you're done.

and rather than walk to cool down or immediately jump in the jump in the ocean. one step, two steps, dive. ahhhhhh....

is this heaven? it might be heaven. it sure ain't iowa.

Friday, November 25, 2011

beachy keen

"New day. New outrage."

~~Bil Boyd

waves on the beach.

they never stop. one pretty much like another. with the occasional tsunami to break up the monotony.

it could get damn tiresome, if people didn't love the beach so much.

you know what else people like?




thanks to our nonstop news cycle and general obsession with celebrity scandal football reality survival dance-offs, we're in a constant state of uproar over something or other. every day.

this is, in part, because the 1% who own our media find it profitable to continually stir us up. they broadcast something provocative and loud, we howl at the moon. or the television, as the case may be.

this is also, in part, because of our collective tendency to react to whatever perceived threat is most immediate. back in the day, it was the saber tooth tiger prowling outside the cave.

now it's a politician or some foreigners or a former assistant football coach. lather endlessly, rinse, repeat.

for those who do the stirring, there is no limit to the exhausting supply of outrages. not a day goes by that someone somewhere is doing something illegal, reprehensible or otherwise objectionable. should that day ever come, a suitable outrage will be manufactured.

if you, like me, are prone to regular fits of high dudgeon, the only way to reduce your dudgeon levels is to remove yourself from the line of fire. take the pot off the stove. unplug. decontaminate.

trouble is, doing so also takes you out of the game, civic responsibility-wise. if you don't know that your elected officials are rigging the game in favor of their wealthy benefactors, it never occurs to you to protest.

which, of course, sets in motion counterprotests and chain reactions and fresh outrages, during which most with short attention spans forget what was being protested in the first place. they just know that it all hasn't been wrapped up in time for the next very special episode of "dancing with NFL survivors," and there's no quick fix or happy ending, and they find it all very boring and annoying.

and so it goes.

it's a very successful formula. just like waves on the beach. one pretty much like another. on and on.

with this in mind, there is a hawaiian proverb that is strangely applicable across a multitude of life's little adventures: mai juli’oe I kokua o ke kai.

"never turn your back on the ocean."

Friday, November 04, 2011

there's a hole in the bucket...

turns out, i have a bucket list.

i wasn't even aware that i had one one until a couple days ago, when i realized i can't remember buying groceries in minnesota.

the missus and i lived there, north of st. paul, for about three years. and while i'm pretty sure we bought food on more than one occasion during that time, i can't remember it. i have no memory of grocery stores near our house, nor any grocery chains in the state.

this is weird. i mean, i have distinct memories about every place i've lived since i was about five years old. i remember the childhood homes, the dorm rooms, the apartments, the condos, and the houses my wife and i dumped loads of money into. i can clearly see many of the avenues we drove, the offices we complained about, the restaurants we loved.

i have vivid mental pictures of multiple grocery stores in every one of these places...except minnesota. maybe because the entire state is a vast frozen food aisle.

which brings me to my bucket list, such as it is: i want to revisit our old haunts north of st. paul and see if there are, in fact, grocery stores there. my theory is that there are.

moreover, i want to revisit the significant places i've lived from age five on. i want to see the houses, the neighborhoods, the mountains, the lakes and the bays. i want to eat at the restaurants and tip a glass to the people and the places gone by.

i want to refresh the memories, one last time, before they disappear from my brain altogether.

ideally, i'd do this in chronological order, starting with the little house on albion street, from which i walked to lewis ames elementary school. we moved from that house when i was eight, but i still remember the phone number: 771-2868. see, nothing wrong with my memory.

from there we'd head to apple valley, minnesota, where the snow drifts on the north side of the house were as tall as the garage. you could build some great snow caves in those drifts. also, i'd visit the baseball fields where our little league team won a championship. and woman lake, where we fished for walleyes and (unsuccessfully) hunted ducks.

next stop, colorado, and the house where my parents still live (hi, mom). this trip would include tours of isaac newton jr. high and the high school i haven't visited since graduation. i'd like to play golf at south suburban golf course (even though i haven't golfed in years), or better yet, just walk the stream that meanders through the course, looking for golf balls. we spent many hours doing that, back in the day, and every ball we found was a thrill. it never got old. i bet that'd still be true.

we'd have to spend a couple days in boulder, taking a quick look at the williams village dorms, wandering through campus. i'd really have no choice but to knock on the door of w-7 at the grandview apartments. it's safe to say there's nowhere on earth that i laughed more, or harder, than that apartment. good lord, we cracked each other up. apparently the older one gets, the fewer things one finds amusing. or maybe too much unfunny stuff begins weighing on the scale. either way...i miss laughing like that.

i lived in phoenix for three and a half years, in five different apartments. strangely, i don't feel the need to revisit any of them.

skipping around now.

san francisco. i visit the city once a year or so, and never have time to see anything but the inside of hotels and the moscone center. i would so like to see our apartment at chestnut and broderick. with beautiful tilework and lots of room, it was a lovely place...if you could get past the deafening tour buses and the earthquakes.

the condo we moved to after one such quake was nicer still, with stunning views across the bay to the city. truly idyllic..if you could get past the squabbling skunks in the crawl space and the midnight sprayings that rolled through the ventilation system.

raleigh, north carolina. our first house was on a golf course, where we'd take long evening walks with the big dogs after the golfers had gone home. the lot (and the one we bought behind us) was quiet and dense with trees...many of which landed on and around the house during hurricane fran.

our second raleigh house was on an acre lot heavily wooded with loblolly pines. it was less wooded after several ice storms snapped off the top-heavy pines 50 or 60 feet up the trunk. it made quite a ruckus in the middle of those winter nights: snap! {silence} crash! we would've fled to a hotel, except that it was the middle of the night and, you know, the roads were covered in ice.

come to think of it, the carolina house i'd really like to see again is one where we vacationed on the outer banks. preferably not during hurricane season. first stop, provisions at the weeping radish brewery, after which...well, it doesn't really matter.

now that the wheels are grinding, more places are flooding to mind. some i'd like to see again (like the splendid house near paia on maui, and an outrageous cayman island villa); some, not so much (sorry, laramie, wyoming).

i think if i started now, and if money were no object, and if the irony gods didn't go all medieval on me, i might be able to check most of these places off the list before i'm done.

but since i can't just pick up and start now, and since money is a factor, and since the irony gods are just so hilariously ironical...there's no telling how many of these little visits will be achievable.

in which case, i'm willing to stipulate the existence of grocery stores in minnesota, in exchange for tickets to any of the aforementioned beaches.

check, please.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

on the night shift

"The dream is always the same. Instead of going home, I go to the neighbors. I ring, but nobody answers. The door is open, so I go inside. I'm looking around for the people, but nobody seems to be there. And then I hear the shower running..."

~~joel goodson, risky business

the act of living is fraught with anxiety. mostly about dying.

which would go a long way toward explaining recurrent anxiety dreams. what it doesn't explain is why those dreams are so bizarre and disconnected from living or dying.

for me, anyway.

i have at least three such nightmares, and while they never end in death, they also never end well. plus, the symbolism in these nacht-shades is odd to say the least.

one is a classic that many report: it's final exam day, and i've not attended class all semester. somehow i just forgot to show up until this very moment; it's far too late to drop the class, and failure is inevitable.

then i get distracted by something more important~~like the plane i'm aboard, which is flying extremely low, between power lines, just above rush hour traffic. how did i end up in a pilot's final exam nightmare?

i've also dreamed about playing tennis with jimmy connors. i find myself across the net from him, racquet in hand, with a very important problem: i don't play tennis. i used to, many years ago, but i can't even figure out how to toss the ball for a proper serve. and, it's jimmy connors.

then i get distracted by something more important, like actually crash-landing in a plane. my friend mike ditzler is usually traveling with me on these flights, and typically we walk away unfazed, as if this kind of thing happened all the time. then we wander off to begin a vacation somewhere.

somewhere like the pebble beach golf club. where it's late in the afternoon, verging on dusk, and we haven't teed off yet. there's no time to go to the driving range for a practice swing~~we have to get to the tee straight away.

inconveniently, i no longer play golf, and haven't swung a club in years. i swing badly (much like when i did play) and the ball heads into the rough in the trees on a hill next to a winding dirt path. or some variation thereof. i go to look for the ball, and darkess is falling. groups behind us are playing through, so i rush back to the fairway and try to play on. but we're now hopelessly behind.

a chance to play at a golfer's dream course (a very expensive opportunity) is frittered away forever.

what kind of anxiety dreams are these? golf at pebble beach? tennis with jimmy connors? flying, unflying, mike ditzler?

maybe these are just the symbols through which the fear of death whispers in my ear. and really, the specter could be much worse, much more perhaps i should be grateful.

but just once...can't i stare across the net and fire a rocket down the line? can't i stand confidently over the ball and send a beautiful drive down the middle of the fairway? can't i show up for the final having attended class and actually done a useful bit of studying?

apparently not. the arc of the dreams is always the same, and i'm chronically unprepared. then i get distracted by something more important.

weirdly like real life.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

ringing endorsement

it was particularly uproarious recently when my phone began ringing just as i was walking into the men's room. at the moscone convention center. in san francisco.

my ringtone...

hilarity ensued.

Sunday, October 09, 2011

running on...

looking out at the road rushing under my wheels
i don't know how to tell you all
just how crazy this life feels
i look around for the friends that I used to turn to
to pull me through
looking into their eyes I see them running too
running on, running on empty
running on, running blind
running on, running into the sun
but I'm running behind

~jackson browne

i still don't like running.

but i'm hating it less, recently. especially today.

the difference? for one, this morning my daughter ran with me.

it was the inaugural "run the bluff" 12k/5k event held in our very own neighborhood. i ran the 12k~~she and a friend ran the 5k.

the day started rainy and cold, but improved by race time to chilly and misty. the precipitation stopped for the start, but restarted before the finish. which is to say, we got wet.

this seems like a good time to mention that 12k is 7.456 miles. if you're cruising the highway at 65 mph or so, it's nothing. it's 7 minutes of your life that you don't notice going by at all.

if you're running those 12000 meters, however, it takes a lot longer. and me, i noticed every mile.

i noticed that it's easier to run with several hundred people than to run alone. i noticed i'm not the only one who struggles on long uphill climbs. i noticed it's impossible to drink water out of little paper cups when you're running, and trying to do so will empty the cup all down your front. and onto your shoes.

i noticed that i don't like people passing me. and after the first several minutes of sorting things out, no one did. the faster people stayed in front of me, and the slower people stayed behind me. i mean, obviously.

a couple people tried to pass, but after i tripped them and told them to stay on the ground, they lost interest.


but really, between mile one and mile seven, no one passed me. i was feeling pretty good about this...right up to the point, with a half-mile to go, where the twenty-something mom (and her child) blew past me with the baby jogger. the moment was deeply symbolic of something, but i'm not sure what.

anyway, i ran, i finished, i didn't fall down, i didn't have a cardiac event. which means it was a very good day.

the girls, meanwhile, had an even better time.

did i mention, they're ten years old and were running their first race? they are, and they were. totally nonchalant about the whole thing, running ahead of me for the first several hundred yards (even though we started together).

they finished 80th among the 171 girls/women running the 5k. the average finishing time was 36:00 minutes, they finished in 34 minutes.

they got their picture taken and their names announced as they crossed the finish line. the only thing missing was al michaels saying, "do you believe in miracles? yes!"

ten years old.



update: several hours later, i'm tired. mostly from two hours shopping with the missus, i think. though it's possible the running may be a contributing factor.

the girl, conversely, is unfazed. smiling, wearing her event t-shirt, her race bib number pinned to her bulletin board.

we're talking about running the "seattle jingle bell walk/run" in a couple months.

it may actually be possible to enjoy running. who knew...



bib number: 1813
age: 10
gender: F
location: Seattle, WA
overall place: 131 out of 248
division place: 11 out of 19
gender place: 80 out of 171
time: 34:18
pace: 11:03

Number of Finishers: 248
Number of Females: 171
Number of Males: 77
Average Time: 36:00


bib number: 190
age: 50
gender: M
location: Seattle, WA
overall place: 89 out of 338
division place: 8 out of 15
gender place: 62 out of 127
time: 1:02:49
pace: 8:26

Number of Finishers: 338
Number of Females: 211
Number of Males: 127
Average Time: 1:12:14

Thursday, October 06, 2011

today, one dot at a time

“you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in the future.” ~~steve jobs

an amazingly poignant essay on how to live.

conditional certainty...

these times are so uncertain
there's a yearning undefined
and people filled with rage
we all need a little tenderness
how can love survive
in such a graceless age
the trust and self-assurance that lead to happiness
they're the very things we kill, i guess
pride and competition cannot fill these empty arms
and the work i put between us,
you know it doesn't keep me warm

i'm learning to live without you now
but i miss you, baby
the more i know, the less i understand
all the things i thought i figured out, i have to learn again
i've been trying to get down to the heart of the matter
but everything changes
and my friends seem to scatter
but i think it's about forgiveness
even if, even if you don't love me anymore

~~don henley

two things we know with great certainty: amanda knox is free, and troy davis is dead.

foxy knoxy, apparently the victim of a flawed murder conviction in italy, is now meandering the streets of seattle. also, she is alive. davis, apparently the victim of a flawed murder conviction in the usa, was recently executed. ergo he is dead. and not meandering.

let us stipulate that neither you nor i know if knox was innocent and davis was guilty. or vice versa. or some shade of red in between. what is clear is that the perky, affluent white chick survived the flawed conviction, and the permanently affected black guy did not.

when knox was incarcerated, many americans howled that the italian justice system was a sham. now that she's been freed by that system, we assume its image is rehabilitated in their eyes.

the u.s. justice system, meanwhile, continues to kill people whose guilt is in doubt. rehabilitate that, with a straight face.

curious, too, how many people are feting knox's return to seattle. though there's no certainty about her participation in a grisly crime, she's received a celebrity's welcome.

which is fine. she may very well be innocent.

but if you stumble across her using a butter knife in some secluded coffee shop, it might be prudent to keep a safe distance.

davis, meanwhile? dead. despite real doubts about his participation in a grisly crime. which should raise doubts about which legal system is more of a sham.

knox soon will be sorting through book deals and screenplays. her four years in prison will be worth millions. you know many people would make that bargain without batting an eye.

with great certainty we know troy davis would take it. if he weren't, you know, dead.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

thanks a lot, ann...

In a 1954 interview, George Plimpton asked Ernest Hemingway what was the best training for an aspiring writer. Hemingway replied, "Let’s say that he should go out and hang himself, because he finds that writing well is impossibly difficult. Then he should be cut down without mercy and forced to write as well as he can for the rest of his life. At least he will have the story of the hanging to commence with."

admit it: you get tired of setting a good example sometimes.

but you've got kids looking up to you or people reporting to you or the fate of the free world relying on you, so you do what you've been conditioned to do.

the right thing, that is. or your best impression of it, anyway.

but oooh, how good would it be to get all up in some unacceptable behavior every now and again? it's okay, you can say it. we know already.

you'd start with the alarm clock. it goes off in the morning (or worse, in the late afternoon), and instead of shutting it off and rolling out of bed, you pick the thing up, gently unplug it, and throw it into the nearest brick wall. where it explodes into a confusion of disconnected pieces.

there. didn't that feel good?

but your bad example day is just beginning.

instead of your usual healthy breakfast (the most important meal of the day!), you go to the bakery and pick up a cinnamon roll dripping cream cheese frosting. you bring it home, heat it in a 325-degree oven for five minutes or so...then throw it in the trash and pour yourself half a bottle of really expensive syrah. and go back to bed for five hours.

when you wake up, you do a quick assessment and realize you're not feeling at the top of your game. so you slam down a couple e*mergency's and advil and fish oil capsules and go for a run.

it takes twenty minutes before your neck and knees and hips stop complaining, and by that time you're long past the point where you wonder what the hell you were thinking by setting out in the first place. so you go on for another two minutes. then you puke.

after walking home the rest of the way (in the rain), you think maybe food would've been a good idea. fish is out of the question, but a leftover chicken enchilada with extra cheese sounds pretty good. with guacamole. and chips with a hint of lime.

nom nom nom nom.

you look up and realize it's been raining pretty steadily for the last hour. you notice the sunroof on your car is open. you nod and say, "fuck it," and leave it open.

by now the dogs need to be fed. you feed them. because it's one thing to set a bad example, it's another thing entirely not to feed the dogs. then you're just an asshole. they seem to appreciate the difference.

someone's calling. who is it? doesn't matter. you don't pick up. they leave a message. you delete it. if it's important, they'll call back. and leave another message. which you'll delete. because, you know, fuck 'em.

you realize you have a headache. since you threw up the advil, you take some aspirin, just in case you're actually having a stroke. you wash them down with the rest of the syrah. soon thereafter you understand why this combination is not recommended by healthcare providers.

you turn on the weather channel to see how much rain your car will be filling up with. quite a bit, it turns out. you still refuse to close the sunroof. it's a SUNroof, dammit.

looking around the kitchen, it occurs to you that some things go bad if they're not refrigerated. you throw the bananas into a ziplock bag, and throw the bag in the freezer. it doesn't seem to help. they remain black. you notice they closely resemble the leftover fish you threw in previously. you close the freezer and walk away quickly.

it's time for bed.

the bed is covered with clean laundry, which you sweep onto the floor.

you don't brush your teeth. but you do floss, for some reason.

the dogs settle onto the clean laundry.

tomorrow is another day. you think maybe you should go back to setting a good example.

this seems like a good idea.

you sleep, and dream of sandra bullock and a werewolf.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

orion's svelt

i can't find my belts.

this is starting to be a problem.

i distinctly remember packing them at the bottom of a box...a wardrobe or some other nondescript cardboard container. and since i personally moved said boxes, i know the belts are here...somewhere.

but all the likely candidate boxes have been searched. apparently i'll have to move on to the, "no, they couldn't possibly be in there" candidates.


coinciding with our move, summer arrived in the pacific northwest. this brief barometric bacchanalia is too rare, too fleeting to go uncelebrated. once our eyes adjust to what in other parts of the world is called "sunlight," we get a little crazy here. we go outside in "shorts" and "t-shirts," completely uncovered by fleece and gore-tex. if you can imagine such a thing.

i confess, i participated in the blasphemy. i wore summer-type shirts (untucked! at work!), conveniently covering my lack of a belt. also, i ran at lunch (outdoors! not on a treadmill!), soaking up the free vitamin D. it was glorious.

and apparently in the interim i lost a little weight. because my pants are now too loose in the waist. i actually need my belts for something other than decoration. despite this, they remain stubbornly missing.

and now summer is missing, too. fall has descended like a dark-ages castle gate. one day it was 80 and sunny, the next it was 60 and medieval.

the hawaiian shirts are re-relegated to their sad little corner of the closet. and i seem to have a choice. buy new belts or, you know, put the weight back on.

but as some anorexic runway model once said, "nothing tastes as good as skinny feels." and while i'm nowhere near skinny, i like the way i'm feeling. which is to say, lighter.

time to shop.

* * * * *

update: according to, we may get indian summer this year. they're predicting three days of sun and 70s this week. the shopping trip will be delayed until winter's inevitable arrival next weekend.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

loose canons

jesus is disappointed.

he can't figure out how he came to be associated with "conservative christians."

like the people responsible for the latest gop debate (if by "debate" you mean human-looking creatures throwing feces at one another, each toss applauded by the fox news crowd).

the audience (and by "audience" we mean bloodlusting zombies ravening for human flesh) at one point cheered like coliseum romans over texas governor rick perry's affinity for executions.

perry, a self-acclaimed christian, characterized the 234 executions during his governorship as "justice."

jesus, however, would like gop christians to know that he is not down with the executions.

nowhere in the bible does it say, "...and the lord jesus saw the multitudes on death row and proclaimed, 'father, these sinners have trespassed against us. you have said we are to forgive them, but we've decided instead to flay the flesh from their bones, nail them to a cross, and call it ultimate justice. hope you're okay with that.'"

perry the pious and his merry minions must be reading from a different bible.

"I think Americans are clearly in the vast majority of cases, supportive of capital punishment, "Perry said. "When you have committed heinous crimes against our citizens, and it’s a state-by-state issue, but in the state of Texas, our citizens have made that decision, and they made it clear, and they don’t want you to commit those crimes against our citizens, and if you do, you will face the ultimate justice.”

it's justice, perry insists, even when those who haven't committed heinous crimes are among the dispatched. he tried to hide one such case by disbanding the investigation and burying the findings. just as jesus no doubt would've done.

if we're being honest here, and we are, let's just call capital punishment what it is: revenge killing. a primal reaction hard-wired into human DNA to perpetuate the survival of the individual and the tribe.

and since we are being honest, let's acknowledge that this instinct isn't reconcilable with the finer sensibilities of jesus's philosophies.

the point here, to state the obvious, is that there's no having it both ways. you can howl with delight over 234 executions in texas, but you can't simultaneously call yourself a christian.

you can't love your crucifixions and love you some jesus, too.

that said, let's try to give these folks the benefit of the doubt: maybe they rationalize this revenge business another way, say, as a matter of fiscal policy. that's not really a moral foundation for state-sponsored killing, but perhaps it's enough for some.

and...durn it all. it actually costs more to kill someone than to put them away for life.

moving on, maybe some believe the prospect of ultimate justice prevents the kind of crime perry was referring to. and...wouldn't you know it? turns out capital punishment doesn't deter crime, either.

interesting note: the same people who think government is completely incompetent still trust said government with the power to execute people.

another interesting note: the death penalty is disproportionately applied to non-white people. that's probably just coincidence.

so, upon further review, it appears that today's "conservative christians" cheer for execution by the hundreds simply because...they like executions.

and we've come full circle, to a place where jesus, a well-known social and fiscal liberal, finds his face on banners waved by people who thoroughly despise those ideals.

and lo, as a matter of intellectual and spiritual integrity...jesus is not amused.

Monday, September 05, 2011

dollars for dick

unjustified war. torture. treason.

for most people, these would be a ticket to prison.

for dick cheney, they're source material for a book tour.

which demonstrates that justice in america is little more than a child's fairy tale.

the time has passed when we could sit here in our comfy chairs and still believe the myth. and unless we agree that cheney should at least stand trial for his assorted transgressions, we really can't complain about anybody else's criminal activity.

we can't, for example, howl about michael vick killing dogs. or bewail the fat cats of wall street killing the economy. we can't get steamed over (insert your most outrageous injustice here), unless we agree cheney should, at minimum, be forced to answer for the crimes he has confessed to in his book and his many fox news promotional confabs.

also, he should give back the taxpayer-funded medical hardware keeping him alive.

where were we?

oh, yes, the false premise that the USA is a nation of laws. what we are, at the highest levels, is more like a band of pirates. and not the charming, funny, johnny depp kind, either. more like the kind that cuts off your hands and throws you into shark-frequented waters. take what you can, give nothing back.

or, put another way: kill one, you're a murderer, kill thousands, you're dick cheney.

"Waterboarding is a war crime, unwarranted surveillance... all of which are crimes. I don't care whether the president authorized him to do it or not, they are crimes." ~~lawrence wilkerson

wilkerson knows of which he speaks. as chief of staff to secretary of state colin powell, he was privy to and even complicit in many of the crimes of the bush administration.

like a war ginned up under false pretenses. authorizing torture. disappearing people into secret prisons for the purpose of committing torture. outing a CIA agent in a time of war (that's treason, for those of you scoring at home). if you or i committed these acts, it's safe to say we would be doing something other than peddling a book on fox news.

and yet cheney is doing exactly that, with a sneering smile on his face, and barely a whisper of protest from most americans.

why is that, do you suppose?

are we really that apathetic? or are we now okay with activities that we
prosecuted, many times, when they were perpetrated against us?

question for christians: does it offend you that these crimes were committed whilst george bush waved the jesus banner? that he very publicly proclaimed islam to be a religion of peace, then turned around and killed hundreds of thousands of muslims for no good reason?

and really, what reason would suffice for such a slaughter? so halliburton could make its annual numbers ten years straight? well, then...mission accomplished.

did you know: throughout his years as veep, cheney had a little-reported, very profitable stake in halliburton? the company raked in uncounted billions from no-bid/no-audit government contracts in iraq and afghanistan, as well as on the u.s. gulf coast, post-katrina. but, you know, oh well.

these days, death, destruction, and botched reconstruction apparently are what we're willing to accept.

and if you're dick cheney, they're just good business.

Saturday, September 03, 2011

true, but not comforting

dad: ...well, it sounds like you've got everything under control.

me: no, nothing is ever really under control. but i don't think we're in any immediate danger.

dad: okay. have a good weekend.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

home is wherever we are, together

it's empty now.

and in the silence i can finally hear the seven years of life that fill this house.

amid the walls and empty floors, it vibrates like a tuning fork pitched at a frequency only we can feel.

relative to the actual years, it seems like we've done a disproportionate amount of living and dying here. transformed are two very young children, replaced by a wary, irascible teenager and a brash, unabashed contessa in a leotard. the quiet air is full of their angst and energy and electricity.

passed on are a couple high-revving hamsters, an affectionate adopted cat, and two well-loved, still-missed dogs. they were all part of the ship, part of the crew~and when their time came, they were mourned as part of the family.

their life force is here, entwined with that of three more dogs and the very-old cat who is still with us and has been, seemingly, forever.

so many creatures, so many bright lights showing us the way...somewhere.

if only our souls could be still long enough to follow.

this is a happy place, mostly. made that way by the person who insisted she liked the house the least. with relentless resolve, the missus eventually turned an awkward, outdated little abode into a confident, elegant home. the house purred at her touch, and it occurs to me that you can't infuse a place with this much joie de vivre without loving it deeply.


it's taken five days to disengage from here, a herculean effort i'm not sure will be manageable again in this lifetime. the days of hefting tightly packed boxes melted into late nights emptying a large truck long after dark. our fatigue is physical and metaphysical and to the bone.


the walls echo every sound now, complaining of the emptiness.

i feel it, too.

Monday, August 15, 2011

crazy is as crazy does...

could it be?

is it possible?

could michelle bachmann (R-unreality) be the next GOP nominee for president of the united states?

yes! she could! she really could!

she loves america so much, she'd like to see the country default on its debts, leading to global economic turmoil. iowa GOP straw poll voters loved her so much, they made her the straw poll queen in their recent straw poll vote.

but wait! could the nominee eventually be...rick perry? perry (R-schizophrenia) loves america so much, he'd like to secede from it! plus, rick is very pious. he uses his position as governor of texas as a prayer pulpit, leading the faithful in prayers for rain, and for the economy. he also prays for an end to healthcare reform and the environmental protection agency.

he could be the GOP nominee! he really could!

based on the recent debate in iowa, any number of really, um, interesting people could be the GOP nominee. it could be rick santorum (R-manondog), the former senator with a google problem and a host of other quirky-adorable views that endear him to the hard right.

it could be newt gingrich (R-annulment) and his marriages and affairs and messy divorce from a cancer-stricken wife. yes, it could!

could it be herman cain (R-incoherence), the fast-food financier? no, it could not. herman cain is an african-american. no matter how much money he's made, or how many fast-food pseudo-meals he's foisted on our unhealthy electorate, GOP primary voters will not make a black man the GOP nominee. no, they will not!

nor will it be tim pawlenty (R-narcolepsy). in a world where crazy is the coin of the realm, tim is entirely too placid. besides which, after a somnolent showing in iowa, the former governor quit the race. rarely do voters embrace a former governor who quits. unless her name is sarah palin. and tim, for all his quitting qualifications, is no sarah palin.

who are we forgetting? oh! mitt romney (R-youkidding)! well, to be fair, everyone forgets mitt romney. even mitt romney forgets mitt romney. there have been so many mitts over the past few years, it's hard to keep track of them all. GOP primary voters recently songified mitt's many morphs to the tune "which mitt are you?"

are you massachusetts mitt, creator of the state's beloved romneycare healthcare program? are you revenue romney, who badgered standard & poors to boost his state’s credit rating after raising taxes during an economic decline?

or are you anti-mitt, who disavows any knowledge of any other mitts, if in fact it can be proved they ever existed? that'd be the mitt who insists corporations are people too.

could this mitt or that mitt (or anyone named "mitt") be the next GOP nominee? or is the very idea too crazy? tsk, this is the GOP! nothing's too crazy!

but wait, isn't mitt a mormon? yes, yes he is.

okay, then no. GOP primary voters will not make a mormon the GOP nominee. but what if they did? rhetorical/tactical question: would mormon mitt consider making african-american herman cain his running mate? it would be an interesting approach to taking on barack obama, wouldn't it?

and it raises a corollary rhetorical/book of mormon question: if an irony tree falls in the woods, do the elders hear it?

we digress.

straw poll queen bachmann says wives should be submissive to their husbands. for example, she submissively became a tax attorney at her husband's insistence, and against her wishes.

questions about biblical patriarchy theology make her squirm, and not in a good way. which in turn raises interesting questions about roles if, say, she were president and rick perry were vice president.

bachmann: mr. vice president, i need you to go to new york for the ceremonial dissolution of the united nations.

perry: madame president, given the severe distress of our economy and the unprecedented heat wave broiling the midwest, i think it's important that i go to the heartland and lead a prayer festival and re-election fundraiser.

bachmann: but...

perry: madame president, remember, "submit yourself to your husband as you would to the lord..."

bachmann: but, you're not my husband.

perry: marcus and i were wrestling, um, with this subject just a few minutes ago, and he told me to tell you that you should go to new york. he and i will go to the heartland for the prayer thing.

bachmann: well...okay. i guess that'll work too.

so many candidates for hyperzealous right-wingers to love. how will they ever choose? what litmus test will suffice? previously it would've been the willingness to borrow trillions for war and torture and tax cuts. in jesus' name, of course.

now? if iowans are a barometer, it's a willingness to suspend disbelief and sidle up to the crazy like it's closing time at the 24-hour church salad bar.

which is to say...lettuce spray.

Friday, August 05, 2011

the nature of change

"the hopes of the little girl who goes to a crumbling school in dillon
are the same as the dreams of the boy who learns on the streets of LA
we will remember that there is something happening in america
that we are not as divided as our politics suggest
that we are one people
we are one nation
and together we will begin the next great chapter in america's story
with three words
that will ring from coast to coast
from sea to shining sea
yes we can
yes we can
yes we can
yes we can..."

the song still inspires.

even now, and even after the candidate who would change everything has mostly changed our expectations by lowering them.

during the soul-on-fire days of 2008, everything was possible--and expected. because the man doing the campaigning (and those who supported him) demanded it.

in 2008, millions of people voted for more than just change--they demanded a reckoning. an exorcism of the bush demon and the damage done to a nation.

two years later millions of those same people voted for a change back to bush-brand lunacy. dozens of newly elected democrats were replaced by even newer right-wing zealots. which caused much cognitive dissonance and many questions about the intelligence of american voters.

and the president who would change everything changed as well...into a moderate
republican. snapping heads back like a right-of-center cross to the jaw.

"yes we can heal this nation. yes we can repair this world." ~~barack obama

we believed it, in 2008. we believed we could wrest the control of our destiny from those who would violate our inviolable principles. those who advocated and implemented fear and torture and unnecessary war. not to mention economic seppuku.

but a mere 24 months later we veered away from rationality and back toward darkness. since then there's been little healing, less repair, and much self-destruction.

as standard and poors put it in downgrading america's credit rating:

"The political brinksmanship of recent months highlights what we see as America's governance and policymaking becoming less stable, less effective, and less predictable than what we previously believed."

shorter standard and poors:

"america can no longer be trusted to do the right thing--or the smart thing."

as it turns out, we are actually more divided than our politics suggest. we are no longer one people, or one nation.

"nothing can stand in the way of the power of millions of voices calling for change." ~~barack obama

this is true. and when those voices call for a weakened president undermined by timid democrats, tea party radicals, and economic hostage-takers? we get the government we deserve and the instability we set in motion.

"we have been warned against offering the people of this nation false hope...but in the unlikely story that is america, there has never been anything false about hope."

candidate obama never hit a false note. his campaign messaging was exactly what a dispirited, disillusioned nation needed to begin believing, once again, in its better angels.

president obama, in contrast, has fallen well short of the promise and the promises. instead of a reckoning, there's been incremental wreckage. instead of exorcism there's been exasperation.

it's as if the president, once elected, forgot (or blithely discarded) the electricity that swept him into office. instead of rising to the voters' mandate, he receded to opposition punching bag. not surprisingly, the hope and dreams and yes-we-can followed.

given the derangement on the right (and the bipolar nature of the electorate), it's possible that reason will re-assert itself in 2012. it's possible that a second-term obama will rediscover his savvy and his stride.

but "change we can believe in" is no longer an option, for the nation or this president.

what's required now is action we can count on.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

for our next magical trick...

we sold our house.

and sitting here this moment, we officially have no place to go.

the situation not *quite* dire. yet. i mean, we do have until aug. 21 to relocate our stuff. a rental house, perhaps, somewhere nearby.

or a really big storage locker.

but still...holy sh*t. we sold our house.

after six days on the market and a breathtaking rush of traffic, we ginned up three competing offers. all for full asking price and one for a wee bit more.

(note: we took the highest offer~we're going to spend the extra 50 bucks on a bottle of wine or two. or four.)

we weren't expecting this. if that's not already obvious.

background: mrs. spaceneedl never liked this house. she routinely ruminated on its shortcomings, even as she transformed it into a thing of beauty. during our seven years here, rare was the day when some update, upgrade, or upheaval wasn't underway. and honestly, it was a pain in the ass.

the metamorphosis was tedious and debilitating and costly. also, totally worth it. i would be remiss not to acknowledge the sweep and nuance of her vision. particularly now that it's been completely validated by the quick sale and the lavish praise of nearly everyone who toured the place.

well done, wife.

that said... holy sh*t. we sold our house.

and we have to find someplace new to live, ASAP. someplace that'll accommodate four people, three dogs, a geriatric cat, and a hamster. not to mention an unusual amount of accumulated stuff.

how hard could that be?


update: we found a place to go. it's about a hundred yards kitty-corner thataway (pointing northeast). a nice house that our nice neighbor was kind enough to offer up since she's getting married, and her fiance has an even nicer place.

as a result, we don't have to entertain new neighbors, the children don't have to leave their friends, and the dogs don't have to trek thousands of miles to track us down after we move, accidently leaving them behind.

so, several problems solved all at once.

on a related note, the new place is slightly smaller than the old place. we need to host a garage sale, stat. not everything must go. but the stuff that must go can't stay.

anybody wanna buy a hamster?

Saturday, July 16, 2011

the almost exorcism

every time i think about it, it makes me ill.

maybe if i tell you about it, this gut-punch reaction will go away.

back in the day (make that way back in the day) on a warm summer afternoon, a friend of mine drove up in a new car. it wasn't new-new, of course. our parents didn't have that kind of money.

but it was new to him, and more importantly it was a set of wheels, which was pretty damn cool no matter how not-new it was.

i no longer remember what kind of car it was. if i had to bet, i'd say it was a 1969 chevy impala. yellow, with a black hardtop, and black vinyl seats.

but, you know, that's a guess.

the car wasn't in perfect shape. it needed some body work and some paint and four new tires. it eventually got the paint. didn't matter. my friend (we'll call him "tyrone," even though that wasn't his name, and i've never had a friend named "tyrone") was fired up about his new ride. teenage independence, and all that.

so here was tyrone, in front of my parents' house, showing off his car. we walked around it, we sat in it, we cranked up the AM radio. eventually tyrone popped open the hood so we could peer in at the engine, which looked like it had been power washed. which it probably had.

full disclosure: i'm not a car guy. never have been. i subscribe to donald sutherland's philosophy about tanks in kelly's heroes; "oh man, i only ride 'em, i don't know what makes 'em work." (his character's name was "oddball," if you appreciate the irony of such things.)

my ignorance, however, doesn't explain away what happened next, or why it's haunted me all these years. did i say it makes me ill? it really does.

tyrone was investigating something low on the car's grill, a ding or some other minor flaw that no one else would ever notice. his hand, supporting his weight, was above the grill, his fingers gripping the edge of the frame.

at that point i think i may have said something like, "are we done here?" and i think he may have said yes. so i pulled the the hood down.

heavy, spring-loaded, the hood dropped like a detroit guillotine. microseconds before it sliced through his fingers, tyrone blithely moved his hand off the car.

he wasn't even aware the hood was in was blind, preposterous luck that his avulsed fingers weren't at that moment twitching atop the engine block.

i don't really remember any more details of that afternoon. i'm sure i had a shocked look on my face, and i'm sure tyrone was equal parts relieved and annoyed. outraged, maybe. like, "what are you, fucking stupid?!?"

can't say i'd blame him. but at the end of the day...nothing really happened. and since that's true, i'd guess tyrone has long-forgotten about the whole thing.

me, i still think about it. not often...but when i do, it's as if his fingers actually had been lopped off. i get the same sick, shuddering feeling, all over again.

i think it's because i did something really stupid, something with disastrous consequences for someone else. the fact that they were almost-consequences is completely irrelevant.

when i started this little exercise, it was in hopes that i could purge the memory of that day, and never have to think of it again. second-best would be not to have to deal with the lousy feeling in my gut every time it pops back into my head.

but now i'm thinking something else. now i'm thinking maybe tyrone and his not-lopped fingers are a great reminder to wake up, pay attention, and always be vigilant about what i'm doing.

and the fact that i get this reminder without anyone actually having been hurt is a ridiculously generous gift from the cosmos. or, you know, whomever.

now that i've told you about it, i hope it doesn't go away.

having said that, i still advise caution if you drive over one day to show me your new car.

you can't be too careful.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

fabulous free advice, worth every nickel...

her sensual and easy motion
seems impossible to chart
in a world that needs more dancing
she's still a hula girl at heart.

--jimmy buffett

free advice...

when your wife is having an argument with herself, don't get involved.

this may be difficult, since in your role as a caring and concerned life-partner you'll likely want to help, or at least referee, as the discussion heats up.

big mistake.

because at some point you'll be compelled to pick a side (say, the side of "logic")...and that's when you lose. even though it wasn't your argument to begin with.

as it turns out, logic isn't necessarily useful (or welcome) in cases of conflicting emotions and contradictory conclusions. input that might, under different circumstances, be perfectly reasonable or obvious, may now be misinterpreted and mischaracterized. this invariably leads to said advice being tragically underappreciated. or ignored. or used against you later.

pithy observation...

as has been documented countless times in clinical studies and romance literature, women most often don't want the man to solve the problem for them. they just want the man to listen, and to empathize as appropriate. men, however, are hard-wired to help, to solve the problem as efficiently as possible (so as to more quickly move on to the sex).

this dynamic is brilliantly described in the underrated movie "white men can't jump." (note: dialogue paraphrased)

she: honey, i'm thirsty.
he: (gets out of bed, leaves room, brings back glass of water) here you go, honey.
she: why did you bring me a glass of water? did i ask you to bring me a glass of water?
he: you just said you were thirsty...
she: when i said i was thirsty, that didn't mean i wanted you to get me a glass of water. it meant i wanted you share the experience of being thirsty with me. it meant i wanted you to understand my dry-mouthedness.

at that moment, woody harrelson's character becomes angry and confused. he doesn't yet understand a woman's innate need for empathy; he only knows there's a problem to solve, and he leaps up to solve it. the poor bastard. in doing so, he demonstrates he lacks the sensitivity and depth of soul necessary to sustain a meaningful relationship with a fabulously intricately spontaneously complex woman.

to his credit, he later goes on to write a poignant song about sharing the dry-mouthedness experience, which wins back his lover's heart. temporarily.

history lessons...

there are plenty of things every guy just knows how to do. okay, a handful of things. okay, come to think of it, there might not be any. case in point: you'd think that over the millennia we would have learned something intrinsically and persistently true about the most important half of our species. other than their relentless and often-spectacular splendidness.

but generation after generation, instead of learning from our collective experience, men stagger around executing the same pratfalls over and over again. instead of handing down hard-won (and useful) knowledge, we pass along disinformation and bewilderment.

and still, to this day we can't imagine why our cheerful offers of help are not-so-in-demand. i mean, aside from a history of uniquely male behavior like misogyny and institutionalized oppression and war and other activities not compatible with life, what's not to love?

"darlin', stand back and let a man handle this [________] business. you just sit there and look pretty."

breaking news...

we're different. just as women are generally predisposed to nurture and sustain and cultivate, men are hard-wired to ejaculate. from words to weapons to wetness, we just~~plahhh~~all over everything. nothing any of us can do about it, really. it's a biological imperative writ large in crayon letters. if we were smart, we'd stand aside and let the women take charge (michelle bachmann and sarah palin excepted).

but as history demonstrates...we're not that smart.

which brings us full circle.

if i were smart, i wouldn't have insinuated myself into my wife's existential dilemma. i wouldn't have seen her plaint as a problem for me to solve. i would have maintained eye contact, nodded at the appropriate times, offered a hug now and then, and kept my mouth shut.

except to say, "dear, i trust you to follow your instincts and make the right decision. do what you think is best. meanwhile, i'll just sit here and look pretty."

Wednesday, July 06, 2011

after zat, zen what?

"now, my girl quickly said to me
man you better watch your feet
lava come down soft and hot
you better love-a me now or love-a me not
let me say now, i don't know, i don't know
i don't know where i'm a-gonna go
when the volcano blows..."

~~jimmy buffett

the missus and i are unaware of any current volcanic activity on oahu.

unless you count the prospect of our heads exploding.

whatever we lack in zen and sigh and ommm, we make up for in steady pent-up stress.

which means we fit in perfectly with the rest of the mainlanders as they arrive in the islands.

you've seen them. you recognize the signs. the pinched mouth, the crease between the eyebrows, the shoulders drawn up like a crooked shade. that's how they get off the plane, fresh from their corporate cube farms. cringing, squinting, shading their eyes, as if they're emerging from a submarine or a root cellar or the set of "pot zombies."

and yet within hours, no matter how severe the symptoms, the process of recovery begins. one early morning walk on the beach and the tension in the neck eases. one dive into the waves, and a layer of angst washes away. one sunset something-with-rum at a barefoot beach bar elicits a spontaneous little smile and a deeply satisfied sigh that feels like the first breath after several months underwater.

in the days that follow, pieces of negative karma and dark aura and bad attitude fall off, leaving behind something fresh and clean and healthy. relatively speaking.

not coincidently, little epiphanies start happening about the same time, rolling in like gentle surf, mixed in with the occasional rogue wave to make sure you're paying attention.

"constant cold and overcast is not mandatory."

"maybe there is such a thing as a healthy tan."

"people actually live like this."

"tick tick tick tick tick..."

full disclosure: i have no idea if other mainlanders share this experience. it's quite possible they find this kind of overanalysis completely unnecessary.

what i do know is that the water is warm and blue, and the sun is shining. the missus and i are slathered up with sunscreen, and there are a couple stand-up paddle boards down there with our names on them.

less talk. more ahhhh.....


update: paddle surfing is not as easy as it looks.

watching from shore you say, "stand up, paddle, repeat. when a wave comes, paddle faster in the direction of the wave. how hard can that be?"

tsk. i am so dumb.

at least one layer of something has been efficiently exfoliated. shoulda worn my rash guard...

Sunday, July 03, 2011

china syndrome

according to some web site, a 20th wedding anniversary is the china anniversary.

not to be confused with the silver, pearl, or ruby anniversaries, which imply significantly more commitment, time-wise and gift-wise.

no, it's china. symbolizing "...the beautiful, elegant, and delicate nature of 20 years of love."

sure, okay. you could make a case for that. you might also make the case that once it's unwrapped, you put the china away and never use it again, leading to dust and decline...and what fun is that?

regardless, in hewing to this fascinating wedding tradition, the missus and i will commemorate our 20th anniversary with a fabulous trip to...

...not china.

because we didn't really have the time or the inclination to go to china. and we're not slaves to tradition at our house. plus, have you seen airfares recently? china is really far away, which means it's probably really expensive to fly there. which i'm sure we would've discovered, had we bothered to look into it.

we had just a couple mandatories for our momentous occasion: it had to cost somewhat less than a second home on montserrat, and it had to be warm.

we entertained monterey and santa barbara and san diego. vancouver island and banff and the okanagan valley. italy, france, spain. cabo.

long story short, and for various reasons, we decided no, no, no, no, no, no and no. and not likely.

not saying they're not all fabulous options. not saying we wouldn't love to visit all of them at some point. just saying too boring, too cold, too much, and are you kidding? $1700 to fly to cabo? in the middle of summer? what's spanish for "don't be ridiculous"?

so, after much ado...aloha, y'all.

we'll be watching july 4 fireworks from duke's barefoot bar on waikiki beach.

they don't do china at duke's. they do surfboards and mai-tais. and they do them very well.

that'll do for us.

just fine.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

extinction distinction

let's pretend.

let's pretend your house is on fire, and there are pets and children inside.

that's some serious shit, right? i mean, this is not the time to debate the size of the fire and who started it and what to do next.

you drop what you're doing, wade in, save the kids and the animals, and put out the damn fire. right?

are there other options i'm not aware of? is there another decision tree that makes more sense? if there is, now is a real good time to share it.

because the house is on fire, and wouldn't you know it? we're all inside.

it seems that climate change, pollution, and over-predation by humans is about to trigger an "unprecedented mass extinction event" in our oceans.

according to a report by people who don't find science to be too "sciency," countless marine species are disappearing at a much faster rate than the watered-down, politicized predictions previously estimated.

Overfishing, pollution, run-off of fertilisers from farming and the acidification of the seas caused by increasing carbon dioxide emissions were combining to put marine creatures in extreme danger, according to the report from the International Programme on the State of the Ocean, prepared at the first international workshop to consider all of the cumulative stresses affecting the oceans at Oxford.

The international panel of marine experts said there was a "high risk of entering a phase of extinction of marine species unprecedented in human history."

well. that's kind of alarming, isn't it? because if you follow the mass extinction on up the food chain, where do you suppose it leads? to the children and animals in the burning house, if you'll pardon the mixed metaphor and the abstractified analogy.

so, where is the alarm? where is the immediate response to this imminent disaster?

why, silly, it's nowhere, of course! rather than save anyone, let alone put out the fire, we're arguing about the existence of fire, and whether it has any negative side effects if, in fact, it were determined to exist. this is thanks to a huge, years-long campaign of disinformation by the lovely folks who started the fire, and profit greatly from the flames. hi exxon! hi bp! hi u.s. energy policy!

this campaign is helped along by politicians whose lips are so fastened to the ass of energy-producing corporations that helping the people in the house will never come to a vote, let alone actually happen. hi rick santorum, gop presidential hopeful!

never mind the volumes of peer-reviewed research documenting the effects of pouring billions of tons of greenhouse gasses into the atmosphere. or the fact that sea levels are rising faster than at any time in more than 2100 years.

nonono. none of those studies were sponsored by big oil, so therefore they must be discounted as the work of crazy environmentalists who only want to...only want to...wait, what is it the crazy environmentalists want?

oh yeah, they want to put out the fire. rescue the living creatures. maybe prevent future fires.

real subversive stuff like that.

but when there's lots of money involved, you get a certain sort of people saying, "environmentalists are evil and crazy and un-american! they want to take away your 56-inch TVs and your football games and your gas-gargling SUVs! don't mind the screams coming from that house...they'll stop real soon."

similarly, never mind the millions of dying fish washing up on shores all over the world. don't worry about the thousands of dead birds falling out of the skies. ignore the texas-size island o'trash meandering about the pacific ocean.

but the politicians and low-information voters flopping all over themselves denying the existence of fire and other sciency stuff? take their word for it. because if it ain't in their version of the bible or the constitution, then shirley it doesn't exist.


meanwhile, and almost certainly coincidentally...

Two unusual dolphins that have never been seen in the state have been spotted cruising in waters near Olympia.

The long-beaked common dolphins were spotted off Boston Harbor, near Olympia, said Annie Douglas, a biologist with the Cascadia Research Collective in Olympia, a marine-mammal research group.

Douglas doesn't know what prompted the dolphins to cruise so far from home. She said it might have to do with water temperature or storms. "It's one of those things that's hard to say right now," she said.

"These are animals who aren't normally here and their chances aren't very good," she said.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

ephemeral milestones in an existential world

If you believe it, darling, then I
believe. Being young can be just
as confusing as being old. The
things that happened to me fifty
years ago are more on my mind than
what happened yesterday.

But I'm remembering the future.

Right now you're just browsing
through time. Choose the things
you'll be proud of. The things that

this bit of quality writing from 'peggy sue got married' always gets me. it demands that i imagine similar conversations with loved ones who went before me, and those who might follow. what priceless advice would they give? and would i have anything useful to offer?

the premise is deeply moving. moreso recently, given my proximity to what some people consider a significant personal milestone. i'm not sure how significant it is, but it'd probably be unwise not to consider the prospect.

unless you're really determined, you can't help but learn a few things in 50 trips around the sun. and while my library of wisdom is pitifully limited, i have retained a handful of things...


people are mirrors. have you noticed? they tend to treat you exactly the way you treat them.


all women are beautiful...even if it's not immediately obvious. you can sometimes see it in a shy smile, or an arched eyebrow. or the clever, subtle things that elicit a laugh. or the closed eyes and slow-swaying to a smoky blues tune. or the quiet strength and poise summoned when things go sideways. regardless of her looks, that beauty is always there.


it's better to participate than spectate. but the longer you participate, the more likely you'll be injured, forcing you to become a spectator. excessive spectating, however, invariably leads to increased morbidity and early mortality. either way, no one gets out alive.


god doesn't hate fags. so she's not thrilled with the westboro baptist church. coincidently, the westboro baptists apparently will visit their vitriol on seattle's mars hill church...causing god to sigh and roll her eyes.


the aarp REALLY needs to stop sending me membership offers.


don't rush through today. it'll be over soon enough, and who knows how many more there'll be? (plus, rushing around quite often is correlated with crashing into things.)


whether you're the windshield or the bug, there's still a mess to clean up.


rioting in vancouver, bc, is like civil unrest at disneyland. nookie in the middle of the road in vancouver, however, is just kinda riotous.


missing three yoga classes in a row is similar to saying "beetlejuice" three times fast. bad things ensue. today was just such a day.


pepsi or coke? mcdonald's or kfc? halo or call of duty? what are you, kidding? none of the above. geez.


"An existential crisis is often provoked by a significant event in a person's life. Usually, it provokes introspection about personal mortality, thus revealing the psychological repression of said awareness."

i don't know what this means, but it doesn't sound good. better to avoid that kind of awareness altogether.


yes, i will have some more wine, thanks.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

the only constant

change is good.

it may take years to recognize it as such, exacting a shocking toll along the way, and leaving people looking like they've peered through the very gates of hell.

but the premise was "change is good," not "change is easy."

we're such silly creatures of habit. we love our routines, and we fight like honey badgers to preserve them. even when they're not particularly good for us.

we drink, we smoke, we send ill-advised photos of ourselves on the internet. not because it's smart (hi, congressman weiner!), but because we derive comfort and a false sense of control from the rituals.

and since the entire world is out of our control, sometimes we get a little nutty trying to establish order in our little corner of it. we call it "being organized," or "keeping a schedule," or "obsessive-compulsive disorder."

if we stray from our morning rituals, for example, bad things happen. we lose our car keys. or neglect to put on our makeup. or forget to drink our morning coffee, causing an extreme bout of lethargy, headache, and irritability, also known as caffeine withdrawl. and throughout the day we think maybe we're coming down with the flu or having a stroke or experiencing demonic possession.

and just as we're about to slog home, hoping not to fall into a catatonic state on the way, we remember, "no coffee today! have i lost my mind? no wonder i've felt like such utter crap for the last ten hours!"

file that under, "change is not easy, but it will help you view life in inaccurate and drama queenish ways."

when we're young, we slip in and out of routines like jeans that actually fit without saying "loose fit" on the tag. change is no big deal, because our brains are still adept at processing new information without insisting it conform to our world view. we see gays getting married and we say, "cool, people should be able to marry the person they love." and we know this is true in the same way we know the universe is continuously evolving, sliding into and out of itself, vibrating with a constant thrum of cosmic ethereal rhythmic velvet. it just is.

when we get older, however, routines become habits, and habits become health risks. our ability to dodge conventional wisdom loses a step, then two, and the next thing you know we're doing a slow, insensate waltz in the cold, rigid arms of dogma. we hear people say, "healthcare is bad," and we say, "yes, healthcare is bad, we should keep it from as many people as possible." we know this is untrue, because it feels false and contrary to every impulse we know, and yet we find ourselves locked into it without really understanding why.

file that under, "change is good because it keeps you dancing fast."

metamorphosis is inevitable. the really smart ones among us constantly reinvent themselves to stay ahead of it, surfing on the aeonian waves. the rest of us typically stand there in the surf, sometimes rising up with the surge, sometimes getting slammed into the sand.

if we're resilient (according to the japanese proverb), we get knocked down seven times and get up eight.

if not, well then we're seaweed.

file that under, "never turn your back on the ocean."