Archive for the ‘Seattle’ Category

There’s a song that’s been on my mind lately. It’s called “Sunday,” by Les Friction†, a group that’s been on my tight rotation playlist‡ ever since I discovered them in 2011.

I love this song for several reasons. It starts out with a distinctly “Eleanor Rigby” vibe—a string octet playing a clipped ostinato with a tin-can percussion back—a lovely ariose melody drifting downward from the opening notes, singing of how “she” always wakes up late on Sunday mornings, takes her coffee, and heads out the door to a street populated by flower vendors and serenity. The lyrics take a turn toward longing, a searching for love, and feelings of hope, as we wander (at least in the music video that plays in my head) the streets, down from the Pantheon toward Notre Dame. And then BANG!, a chorus with full orchestra, chimes, and a pulsing rhythm section. Another verse and back to the chorus, followed by a 4+2 instrumental bridge that throws in strings and brass (clarino trumpet!) and even a glockenspiel (I’ve always been a sucker for a well-placed glockenspiel part), all building building building to a climax that breaches heaven before it stops . . . and the Rigby octet returns, recapitulates the quiet opening notes, and fades out to silence.

At its heart it is a love song, complex in structure and orchestration, but simple in its message: two souls seeking, destined to meet, to find, and to share the rest of their allotted time, to “live like every day is Sunday.”

Yeah, I’m fond of the song.

It has been, ever since I first heard it, how I’ve imagined my retirement. Living like every day is Sunday. Lazy Sunday. Sleepy Sunday. The Day of Rest.

But ever since I broached the T-minus one year mark toward my impending retirement, that outlook has changed. Sunday? Every day like Sunday? No. The closer I get to my last day of work, the more I have come to appreciate not Sundays but rather, Friday afternoons. (I mean, let’s be honest. Sundays come with some baggage. Sure, it might be a day after all the errands and have-to’s are done, a day when you can sleep in a bit, but it’s also a day that comes with the knowledge that the morning brings a return to work, a malaise we here call “Sunday-night-itis.”)

Friday afternoon, though—especially if you get off work a tad early—it comes with a feeling of freedom, of release, of celebratory drinks and the promise of the whole weekend ahead. If you manage it right, a properly used Friday afternoon can make it feel like the first day of a three-day weekend. Yeah. Friday afternoons are great, and while I won’t complain of the occasional lazy Sunday type of day, given the choice, I’d like to live each day like it’s Friday afternoon, with all the joy and hope and expanse of future time that it brings to bear.

Oh, I still love the song “Sunday,” and I’ll listen to it over and over in the coming years, but it is a song that speaks to the time-sense of the working stiff.

And in relatively short order, I won’t be that.

So, I’ll take Friday afternoons, please.

And thank you.


† Les Friction is an outgrowth of the group E.S. Posthumus (also on my tight rotation playlist), formed by the Vonlichten brothers, Helmut and Franz. The sound they created was heavily orchestrated and driving, used for many movie trailers and the NFL on CBS theme. After Franz’s sudden death in 2010, Helmut eventually returned to music and created Les Friction.

‡ Other similar groups on my tight rotation playlist include Two Steps from Hell, Thomas Bergersen, and Jo Blankenburg. Just sayin’.

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When looking back on my life, I tend to see it as a series of chapters. Sometimes the chapter ends in a cliffhanger, and at others, it’s a smooth segue to the next part of my tale. The cliffhangers are rarely fun as they generally involve uncertainty, but the smooth segues are just as likely to be bittersweet as they are to be happy endings. This week is one of the latter, a quick flurry of activity that wraps up a major facet of my life, a transition for which I am ready but which still is tinged with sadness.

It was my father who infected me with a love of old cars. He was a fan of the MG-TD, a British car manufactured in the early ’50s, and he had one throughout my early years. For most of those years, it spent its time in the garage, unused, gathering dust, waiting for the funds that would bring it back to life. But while it never left its bay beneath the dark rafters, it took me around the world. Often I’d climb in, breathe air heady with the pungent smell of wax and gear oil, lean back into the creaking seat leather, run my hands across the smoothness of the polished walnut, grip the knurled ring of the gigantic steering wheel. I’d press buttons, move the stick shift around, sitting tall so I could see over the dash and out the windscreen into the darkness, and drive off into my imagination. I drove past pyramids and leaning towers, through canyons and forests, across countries and continents, all from the shadows of our garage.

There came a day, though, that my father had to face the facts; every year that the old car sat in the garage only added to the cost to make it roadworthy, and with a growing family, it was an expense he could no longer even plan to justify. And so there came a Sunday when a burly man with a tow truck showed up on our suburban street. I stood in the door from the kitchen to the garage, watching. Through the open garage door I could see my father and the man, standing in the harsh sunshine, talking in low tones. My dad nodded, the two men shook hands, and then the tow truck was backed up into our driveway. I went out into the blinding sun and stood by my dad; he stood there, arms crossed, brow creased, jaw set. Chains and straps and bars and hooks were attached and wrapped around our old friend, and with the sound of winches and whining motors, the back end was lifted, suspended over the smooth concrete slab of the garage floor. The driver said something to my father—I don’t recall the words but the tone was one of thanks—and then he climbed into the cab of the tow truck and started the engine.

What happened next remains a visceral memory, for that old MG had been one of the few constants in my life. In the few years prior to that day, we had moved from the only home I’d ever known, my mother had died, my father went through a period of grief, had eventually remarried, and then my twin brothers arrived. Nothing I knew was dependable, nothing was permanent, nothing except that car. So when I realized it was going away, not for repairs, but forever, the twisted rope of my emotions tightened toward breaking. And when the driver began to drag it out of the garage, the car’s front wheels locked, as if it didn’t want to go, as if it wanted only to stay, wanted me to drive it around the world, again and again. The tires squealed as it was dragged out of the garage onto the driveway, and screamed when they hit the asphalt. The car screamed as it was towed away, down the street, around the corner, and out of our lives. I looked up at my father—a man who never cried—and saw one great tear fall from his eye. Without a word, he turned, went into the garage, and closed the door on the empty bay.

I stayed there, standing in the driveway, sun hot on my head, the echoes of the car’s defiance still ringing in the air, until it faded from my ears. From my ears, but never from my heart.

I think of this day now because I am doing something similar. Pepper, our 1962 Triumph TR3-B roadster, who has been our joy for a decade, has been sold. Soon, a truck will arrive at my driveway, and a driver will, with chains and straps and bars and hooks, winch Pepper onto a flatbed truck for her journey to Beverly Hills where she is sure to find a new home. I, too, am likely to shed a tear (or two) as she is taken away, but unlike my father, I’m ready. She was tons of fun, and with her we explored the backroads of Seattle and Puget Sound, enjoying the 360° panoramic view from her open air cockpit, but now, with retirement looming, the costs and discomforts of keeping and driving a car that has no windows, no heater, and minimal shock absorbancy, well, let’s just say it’s time to turn the page.

So long, old girl. May the road rise up to meet you.


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Between work, weddings, and assembling IKEA furniture, it’s been a busy week, but somewhere in there I also managed to wrangle an invitation to an “author appreciation” festival put on by a local independent bookstore (details below).

Kent is a town south of Seattle, and Page Turner Books is a used/new bookseller in the downtown area. PTB takes pride in being a “by the nerds, for the nerds” business, specializing in speculative fiction of all stripes, plus gaming, collectibles, and comics. They often have author and convention-like events, and next weekend they’re putting on their Fall Festi-Con Fair, with (so far) about a dozen authors and artists hanging out to sign books and chat with readers.

Now, anyone who knows anything about me knows that I heartily dislike public appearances and speechifying. Back when I did attend conventions, I went through a lot of preliminary psychological prep, and a ton of after-action recovery. Signings were even worse, in that I wasn’t sharing the stage with other writers; it was all me, and the (usually) empty ranks of chairs were a reflection of that.

Not that I haven’t done the occasional event in the years since then. I even got invited to a panel on writing historical fiction (also in Kent, if I remember correctly . . . hmm) that was a good day, but in general, no.

In short, as an author, I don’t get out much.

But sharing the venue with a dozen creative artists is definitely something I can manage, and so, if you’re interested (and in the PacNW), here are the details:

Fall Festi-Con Fair
presented by Page Turner Books
Saturday, 24 Sep 2022, from 2-7pm
314 West Meeker Street, Kent, WA 98032

Event Page on Facebook
(includes list of authors and artists, plus details)
Event Page at City of Kent
(details, map, etc.)

Bring your books or pick up a new one (I’ll have some from my stash), or just drop in to say Hey.


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Most of all, he enjoyed pruning the Japanese maples.

They stood beneath the canopy of evergreens–spruce, pine, fir, cedar, cypress–the giants of his garden. The tall conifers took the brunt of the weather, snarling into the winds, sacrificing muscular branches heavy with sap and resined scent to protect the more delicate growth at their feet. There was little to prune on these living towers; mostly he just carted away what the ocean-birthed storms snapped off, trimming back broken stubs, fulfilling his custodial chores while they, aloof and inscrutable, heads in the louring clouds, faced the southwesterly winds, ready for the next gale.

The other maples, the vine maples, were not his favorites, being a bit too boisterous, sending up trunk after slender trunk, reaching outward with multiplicative hands, begging for alms of sunlight. Pruning these, even the eldest of them, was like wrangling twelve-year-olds on a class trip. Just retrieve the one and you find that two others have ranged away from the pack. He loved them for their fall displays, though; their sudden, explosive shift from simple summer green to riotous fires of autumn could happen during a single night’s slumber. He was especially fond of the precocious one in the back, tucked under the pendant drapery of the grandmother spruce, because that maple was always first to change clothes, eager for colorful sweaters and winter’s onset.

But most of all, he enjoyed pruning the Japanese maples. Not the winter’s pruning, but in summer.

In winter, when they slept naked beneath the grey blankets of somnolent skies, he would trim them for shape, for strength, for optimal overlap and layering, and with an eye toward the tripartite growth that would come in spring. This, though, this was straightening the curled hand of a sleeping child, tucking them in beneath the covers. It was the trees, and it was him; two species, separate, unattached, isolate.

In contrast, the summer pruning–he could think of no other metaphor–was making love. The leaves of the Bloodgood–deep magenta, finely serrated, with thin, questing tips–rustled as his hands moved through the branches. The Autumn Moon’s leaves–pale green, delicate, so sensitive to light that a week’s sun would make them blush and August’s searing gaze could shrivel whole branches–bent to his ministrations, be it to rub out the dried tip or snip off a sere frond.

The two of them, though they were as old as others he’d planted, were barely half as tall. Theirs was a patient habit, a measured expansion, with each branch testing the world in three directions: one twig right, one left, one forward and upward. As his fingertips moved down each limb, each branch, each twig, he could divine their logic. They knew their limits and worked within them: send out scouts, read the reports, proceed only if conditions are favorable. He loved their caution to the point of emulating their unhurried approach in his own life. Knowing that his eyes could sense things they could not, knowing where the dappled sunlight would be best, he would pinch here, pluck there, and encourage them toward the unseen goal. Of their failures, his gentle caress revealed the abandoned twigs, stiff and pale where successes remained supple and green, and he would thumb them off. The snips were a last resort, for each leaf was a gem in the rough.

For when Summer packed its bags and Autumn came home to do its laundry, the evergreens remained dark and disinterested columns and the vine maples played frat-boy pranks on one another. But between the constancy and the chaos was the slow flood of color of his Japanese maples. The Bloodgood’s leaves crept from maroon to red to rust to scarlet to a crimson so sharp it could cut, while the Autumn Moon caught fire, dropping green for chartreuse, adding dry-brushed pinks, until October’s cold hearth brought the touch of orange hearthfire to each leaf.

He was aging, now, knees creaking, back growing stiff, while for these trees their youth was barely begun. He wondered–frankly, he worried–about what would happen to them once he’d passed. “Scatter my ashes on my trees,” he’d often say, though he only dreamed he would die while still near them. For as long as he could, he would remain there, caring for them at the same tempo they lived.

Because, most of all, he enjoyed pruning the Japanese maples.


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From waterfront to high market
the climb wends upward through the city’s memories,
from old brick painted with faded names
to new concrete laid at the feet of giants.

Gulls cry below, scudding along the shore’s hungry limit,
wings suspended on the taste of salt and kelp,
while above, the rumble of metal and power
and the chatter of caffeinated urbanites.

My breath rasps with each tread
as I climb the twisting caverns,
Orpheus returning to the light
through tunnels rank with piss and sorrow.

From beyond the turning, a note sounds,
pulled, tightened, anxious, lonely,
until another twangs in, rising too,
birthing tentative harmony.

The notes repeat, nearer as I climb,
others come to shimmering life,
intervals congealing out of tortured dissonance
as sympathetic strings pull into focus.

At stairs’ end, a cavern of poured stone;
a sunbeam paints harsh shadows of two men,
one seated, one who steps close,
beckoning, wide-eyed, his smile broad.

The seated man shifts,
and his guitar catches the light,
its varnish a Renaissance craquelure,
its strings twelve lines of fire.

I draw closer to the player, unsure;
his companion encourages me
and with beatific confidence instructs,
“Listen, and believe.”

When the chord is struck,
the world retreats, sirens stop,
pistons grow still, the machined ostinato
becomes a heartbeat bass.

We three form a tableau,
the creator, the disciple, and the skeptic,
as the divine is released by dirty fingers
and earthen hearts are lifted.




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first light begins its
slow creep toward younger hours
dreaming of new life


I wrote that haiku yesterday or, more accurately, I copied that down yesterday, as I awoke with it fully formed in my brain. All Things Natural have been “front of mind” lately, as this week we had our first real break from the rain, and I’ve been spending time outside.

Every afternoon this week, for an hour or two, I’ve been out in the gardens—pruning, raking, trimming, clearing, gathering—in a futile attempt to complete all my cold-weather chores before the season warms and the now-dormant plants awaken. While this is arguably less of a workout than time on the elliptical, I keep at it longer, so I’m calling that a wash.

One thing I cannot do while gardening, though, is watch a video (my go-to for indoor workouts). So, because I’m a over-achiever by training and cannot do merely one thing at a time if I can do two (or three), I indulge in the next best thing: I listen to podcasts.

I’m relatively new to podcasts. I’ve tried audiobooks, but since I have no commute and thus no regular activity where I must remain eyes-alert but idle-eared, I usually got a few chapters into a book and then didn’t have a chance listen to it for a month or more, disrupting the narrative.

Podcasts, though, are perfectly suited to this task, even the hour-long ones. Encapsulated, whole, pithy, geared toward the audible rather than the visual, I can set them up in a row and burn through them whilst puttering with ferns and maples, roses and lupines, listening and working simultaneously.

The two I’ve been listening to this week are both language-oriented, and I recommend them to writers and readers of this blog.

Science Diction:
This podcast is an offshoot/subset of the more well-known Science Friday podcast. I’ve never liked Science Friday, as the faux banter they use to tie together the various “articles” is—sorry guys—cheesy and painfully obvious. Science Diction is a subset of those “articles,” was hosted by Queen of the Vocal Fry, Johanna Mayer (at least through 2021), and focuses on the meaning, etymology, and historical context of science-y (and not-so-science-y) words. Ambergris, jargon, hurricane names, gene names, robots, mercury, these have all been topics of this 12–20 minute segments, and I’ve burned through them all, loving each one.

The Allusionist:
Helen Zaltzman hosts this language-centric podcast, with a voice that is the perfect juxtaposition of posh British tone and working-class American idiom. I’m only a handful of episodes into this (working from 2015 toward the present), but already they’ve covered the origins and history of words/phases such as “bra,” “going viral,” and the c-word. As with all good (IMO) podcasts, they spiral outward from the base topic a bit, to give a broader view of the surrounding context, showing the wider connections to the world at large. They vary in length from 10–30 minutes, and come out once a fortnight.

There are other language-focused podcasts out there, but I haven’t spent time with them so cannot recommend. If you’ve listened to any, please leave a recommendation in the comments. I expect I’ll be burning through a lot of them this season.



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I was born in fog
welling from the coast’s cold waters,
mariners’ mournful cautions
echoing ’round my infant hollow,
earth-bound cloudbanks
tumbling over the ringing hills,
billowing down our mist-slick street,
infusing my new world with ancient distance.

I grow old beneath rain
birthed by distant, tropical seas,
cooled by winds scented with
salt and sand and sun-warmed kelp,
sped by sky-high rivers
to beat upon these tree-clad shores
and wash down to feed the tidal flats
with burbling, silted waters of myriad streams.

Between them is stretched a life
where my limbs grew fast as springtime rye
beneath shadows chased by auspicious suns,
where towering guardians of wood and stone
surrounded the humid masses or arid wild,
where my heart tasted honeyed love and sharp-tongued disdain,
traveling inland altitudes redolent
of mineral earth, verdant crops, and heady loam,
but never the cold, deep cradle
whose primeval memory flows in my veins.

Bound by water,
I have slept in many places,
but only near the sea
have I lived.

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