The Narrowness of Stories

 
 I dreamed of mudslides shrinking Lincoln Park.
 A crumbled cottage made of stones. 
 Two eagles — too proud to scavenge
 spawned-out salmon choking in the foam.
  
 Dogs tore meat from a beachbound seal.
 A Jamestown Chief spit on a car – 
 The next best thing 
          he squeezed through sour teeth
 to wishing on a star.
  
 What’s history to the mud, anyway?
 What’s tradition to the sea?
 An upturned trash can on the beach –
 another homeless camp along the street.
  
 The Cascades turned their back on me
 and hid thunder from the skies.
 Olympic floods 
           just like that 
 choked to runnels.
 Tribal rage gone saturnine. 

Compass

The bear’s head points into the hills.
The horse clams sleep in Mutiny bay.
I drive a highway tight between the two,
I drive tomorrow into yesterday.

The boy found fire in the mussel shell.
The Thunder gifted him a spear.
I search for fire beneath my foot,
I search for Thunder in the gears.

The bullwhip kelp on the ha-ah-poos.
The whale flukes mute above the waves.
I find my fuel in their histories,
I find my future in their graves.

With some help from the Klallam story of “The Offended Hero.”

The PVP Diaries #88

On November 6 I wrote:

I think (says the guy who railed about guessing at things he doesn’t know) that the coronavirus gestalt is going to undergo a significant change here in the coming months. maybe even weeks, as Thanksgiving and Christmas approach.

This may be the only thing I’ve been right about from the start (remember if you will that my earliest predictions were for a couple of months of panic, then a return to normal). And I’ve been saying for a while now that the election was going to mark a change in both the public and the official/governmental sense of the plague. It has. We’re at a point now when everything plague related has been rising steadily – positive test results, deaths, hospitalizations, the reproductive number – all of it. And yet, we are loosening up. There has been the lip service done about limiting family visits and travel during the holidays, but there are no new restrictions, no new closures, nothing more than some slightly more insistent admonitions to wear masks and keep your distance. COVID is far worse in Washington state than it has been since the beginning, and now the Governor is talking about sending kids back to school by March. It’ll be just the K’s and 1st graders and any students with special educational requirements, but in a climate where every sneeze had the Capital boarding up another public window, starting the back-to-school process during peak pandemic activity is a curious move, to say the least.

And it may just be a function of time and complacency, but the public in general is less fervent about it. Comments on COVID articles aren’t as high-strung and vitriolic as they were two months ago. People are taking bigger trips (while of course checking all the plague-safety boxes they can), staying gone longer, having more visitors, etc. All, again, while the pandemic is worse than it has ever been. How do we explain this?

I explain it, of course, in the way that best highlights my prescience: by saying that the plague’s political expediency has evaporated, post-election, so the utility of high-visibility reactions and measures has disappeared almost completely. And you can’t prove a negative, so there’s no way to say what would have happened if Trump had won (HE DID WIN VOTER FRAUD STOLEN ELECTION NEVER GIVE UP BUT ALSO I CAN’T BELIEVE HILLARY DIDN’T JUST SHUT UP AND ACCEPT THE ELECTION RESULTS IN 2016 WHAT’S WRONG WITH DEMOCRATS ANYWAY), but I did say that the plague vibe would dissipate more quickly and completely with a Biden victory (HE DIDN’T WIN YOU LIBTARD HAVE YOU SEEN HOW MUCH AMMO I HAVE).

I remember October, when the kids went back to full soccer practice and had some games scheduled because the two week number of positive cases was below 25 per 100,000 people. Today it is 496.2 per 100,000. In June a jump like that would have had us locked down tighter than a frog’s butt, and yet the kids are going back to school, and nobody’s screaming, nobody’s protesting.

These little red triangles were all green, not too long ago. Here’s the rest.

I don’t know, maybe I’m wrong, but all evidence seems to point to COVID reactivity being strongly dependent upon election proximity.

Never Stop Laughing

The Boy wasn’t yet a year old, The Girl just shy of four. Whistler, British Columbia. Christmas, 2011.

“He looks out the window a lot, Papa.”

“He sure does.”

“Why do you think he does it?”

“Well, do you remember when I told you that his spirit was a miracle?”

“I think so. I think you said it was a miracle because it hasn’t done anything twice.”

“That’s right. Because for a tiny moment, it was the only thing in the world that had not done anything twice. And now there’s a world full of things that he hasn’t seen even once. Turns the world into a kind of miracle for him.”

“That’s why he laughs at it?”

“No, he’s laughing when he looks out at it because he wants to do everything he can with it to make it laugh like he is. He doesn’t know where it comes from or how it starts or anything about it except that he wants it to keep going. That’s how you feel when you are tiny, and new, and haven’t done things twice or seen things once, and it’s the part of it that’s the same for him as it is for us.”

“If it’s the same, Papa, then how come you don’t laugh so much?”

“Jeez, how old are you again?”

“Three and a half.”

“Hm. Well, I guess I don’t laugh so much because after a while you find out that some things don’t laugh back. And after a longer while, after too many things don’t laugh back, you just get tired.”

“Too tired to laugh?”

“Too tired to laugh, baby. But we remember that the world was a miracle for all of us, once. We remember that we saw new things everywhere we looked, and we expected everything to be laughing just because we already were, even though it has been too long, sometimes, since anything up and laughed with us. That’s what Christmas is, sweetie: Being old and tired and still laughing, for a day, like we did when we were still playing with miracles.”

“But I’m not old.”

“No, you’re not. And you never have to be, because to your brother you are everything he sees when he looks out the window. And laughs.”

Librarian

 The orca’s tongue is tattooed in crowblack ink
 with the whole history of the Hoh
 and the names of Nisqually who hunted there
 in the sacred space between hawk and bear – 
 hung to cure in a frozen smoke.
  
 In the blackfish grin, written on salmon skin, 
 lives the library of the Lummi
 and the forgotten words to S’Klallam songs
 sung in the fog from which they’re drawn – 
 then gone like a dream’s unblooming.
  
 But the orca speaks, too, the newer words
 of submarine and ferry boat
 and the sharp dialect of high skylines
 that replace the flesh with the crystalline – 
 concrete terms being asked to float.
  
 A blackfin ripple loops cursive in the bay
 as the orca pens the Pacific tome
 and writes Sound verses beneath the surface
 in a Salish hand whose arc is perfect – 
 the scrimshaw line of tooth and bone. 

The PVP Diaries #87

There was at least one firm that was looking to do something innovative and beautiful with the West Seattle Bridge:

Is a wooden bridge in the future for West Seattle?One local architecture group is proposing the idea as a cheaper, more efficient alternative to traditional materials.

It’s called mass timber, and there are some gorgeous examples:

It would be a nice contrast/offset to the concrete and cranes of the port. Visually speaking, this section of downtown is drab, frantic, ugly, and uninviting, and that’s putting it mildly:

Mayor Durkan aims to repair and reopen the West Seattle Bridge by mid-2022.  Can the work move faster? | The Seattle Times
I live somewhere down the back side of that horizon. Not exactly a tourism photo, eh?

That’s the bridge as it currently stands. The camera is pointed generally southwest, with the bridge heading into West Seattle. SoDo in the foreground. SoDo is one of those decaying industrial areas that has a few clubs, craft cider breweries, and artisanal, small-batch, hand made trucker hat and candle companies trying to survive even in the best of times, and is therefore considered “good” by people savvy and perceptive enough to have eschewed the strictures of mass commercialism and the creep of the suburban mindset. Me? I’ve lived in the suburbs. It’s very nice there, if occasionally stale. But stale in the way that is more of a sustained, unbroken, and therefore rather unexciting, comfort and warmth. So of the suburban mindset, I say creep on.

The Burbs GIFs - Get the best GIF on GIPHY

I have taken the internet browsers off of my phone. A one point there were three of them. Sometimes you open a site and things are wonky, so you try it in a different browser. Redundant systems, etc. I had Safari, Edge, and Firefox. I was tired of going to my phone all the time, so I deleted them. It’s been 3, maybe 4 days, and it’s amazing how much less time I spend looking at my phone, reaching for my phone, stopping by the phone when I walk past it in the kitchen, etc. It’s a nice piece of freedom. There is still email on there, and a host of other apps, of course, but I’ve turned off notifications for almost all of them. My connection to the phone has decreased far more than I expected, just with that little change. I was actually thinking about getting a basic flip phone next time around, but there’s an awful lot of texting going on for actual, necessary communications, and I remember what it was like to do that on the alphanumeric keyboard. No thank you. Plus, pictures. I have a real camera, but by God it’s as big as a, well, a real camera. It’s not for all occasions. There are those who will say that we need to enjoy moments without introducing our technology to them. Without pulling our phones from our pockets, snapping a picture, adding a filter and a clever comment on instagram, and then moving on. I agree, and that’s why I don’t have social media (except this). I don’t have a Facebook account, so I don’t have a cognitive link between a sunset and a Facebook account*, such that I cannot look at the former without thinking of the latter. I just have the sunset. Also, when those moments are real enough, big enough, you don’t tend to think of your phone when you’re inside of them. It helps, also to not be living forever on the cusp of your next tweet.

*OMG that’s right, I do have a FB account, but it’s only there for messenger – still my best way to stay in contact with Coronafornia.


Speaking of Coronafornia, what’s the virus doing, you ask?

Same. Lots of positives, no deaths, negative correction to hospitalizations. If we reacted this way to every mostly harmless inconvenience, the government wouldn’t allow us to schedule our own oil changes anymore, much less do them ourselves in the driveway. We’d get a text from the state notification system the moment the oil light came on in our cars, and a window of time within which we must check in at the nearest DOT staffed service station in order to have our engines replaced by windmills and a one-month unlimited light rail pass.

-Is mass timber a church for trees, Comrade Citizen?-

We Don’t Have Time for Beauty

Here’s what I’m learning on piano right now. I’ll give it to you in Spanish, because it’s French:

La Candeur translates to frankness, candor, sincerity. So I will be frank with you: I have not found my inner virtuoso. I do like it though, practicing and playing the piano. The repetition doesn’t bother me, and playing even a simple thing well is very gratifying, satisfying. The combination of the sound with your own fluid movement is, well, beautiful.

Yesterday, Gerard had a video up that spoke about beauty, specifically in architecture:

The same has been my position on our West Seattle Bridge situation from the beginning. On October 14th I wrote:

I think it’s high time – and an absolutely perfect opportunity – to be ambitious. This thing’s gonna cost a fortune no matter what, so let’s be bold and creative and build something beautiful.

It won’t happen. The Mayor is announcing the decision today on whether to repair (so much faster! Mildly positive groans of approval rise from the zombies) or replace (muh take too long say large-browed, cave dwelling, non binary life form with no defined gender roles). We’ll wind up getting most of the original bridge still standing, but painted with rainbow flags and BLM slogans, because those are the glue that holds societies together (just ask the rioters):

As it (tentatively) stands.

People say repair now, because speed is of the essence – COVID won’t last forever, and the commute will become untenable (I’m joking, they don’t know that word. They say “shitty”). But let’s face it, there will be no sudden throwing of the switch. There will be no COVID Friday where the Governor or the President says “every restriction ends midnight Eastern on Sunday,” and the roads flood with commuters at the same levels as last January. Thousands of people (Tens? Hundreds of thousands?) will never go back to the office again, certainly not with the same regularity. And most of them are the ones who are already doing it. And I’ve been a part of this new West Seattle to downtown commute. It’s bad at times, yes. Awful. But it was awful before, too. Now it’s just awful with a different view and more present disdain for the Mayor.

Ok, ok. Off to get groceries. Trader Joe’s is the cheapest place in town to get them, and by noon it’ll be picked over. Plus, getting there early is the only way to avoid having to wait in line to enter. I’m so sick of this.

The PVP Diaries #86

“But I was not a domesticated animal. The dirt and grit of a city, the unending wakefulness of it, the crowdedness, the constant light obscuring the stars, the omnipresent gasoline fumes, the thousand ways it presaged our destruction … none of these things appealed to me.”

– Jeff VanderMeer, Annihilation


Confession: Sometimes I don’t wash the coffee pot between uses. I just give it a good rinse and get on with it.

The Italian decided to start getting the Sunday Seattle Times. She said that it has better international news than what she gets from CNN. Of course I’ve suggested that she could get better news than CNN by studying the dregs of her tea, but the blackest habits are hardest to break. Last Sunday I came downstairs to see The Boy laid out in front of the fire, propped up on his elbows and reading the Sunday funnies. It was a sort of grand and old fashioned sight, almost Rockwellian, full of the sense of nostalgia, but also a little decay. But what is nostalgia if not a willful, wistful forgiveness of rot? It gave me memories, yes, because I read the Sunday funnies as a boy as well. I looked forward to them. I’d sit at the table, hunched behind the box and over a bowl of Cheerios (with a few spoonfuls of sugar added) or Honeycomb cereal or Raisin Bran (two scoops!) and I’d read them all. I used to take special care – and satisfaction – from deftly folding the sections cleanly back against their creases in order to keep the sprawl of newsprint manageable. I felt grown up giving the paper that adroit two-handed snap in order to pop out a little inversion.

My favorite was always Garfield. Something about his casual sarcasm always worked for me. And I had a predictable soft spot for Odie. For some reason Andy Capp stands out in my memory as well, though I doubt very much that I had any real idea what was going on with him and his ruddy nose that always preceded him back into the house, where an angry wife awaited. Wiki’s got him summed up:

“Andy is a working-class figure who never actually works, living in Hartlepool, a harbour town in County Durham, in northeast England. The title of the strip is a pun on the local pronunciation of “handicap”; and the surname “Capp” signifies how Andy’s cap always covered his eyes along with, metaphorically, his vision in life.”

I also remember The Family Circus – classic single panel comic. There was Cathy, but I think my status as not an angsty, self-obsessed girl kept me from enjoying it too much. And for some reason Fox Trot, though I remember little of it. I get the sense that it was a new comic when I was a kid. Lemme check…yep, April 1988. I don’t remember anything about it, I just remember it.

Anyway, the other part of the funnies was the word scramble, and I loved it. I was always good at that. I think the crossword was kept somewhere around there also, and I always did as much of that as I could. It was how I managed to feel kinda smart before going back for a second laugh at Garfield falling asleep in a plate of lasagna.

Today’s Andy Capp is serendipitous:

The first comment even references Garfield. It’s like the internet woke up and brought me the paper today.

The Italian said that she always called them “the comics,” and her parents told her they used to call them “the funny papers.” That’s what it was in my house, I think, though usually just “the funnies.” The Sunday Funnies. I never had a paper route, but I often was sent out to the driveway to bring ours in. I remember the perfect little button-drops of rain on the orange plastic baggie it was wrapped in, the dusty smell of newsprint, of insubstantial lightness, that sighed out as the paper was removed. I don’t know if I pawed through it and grabbed the comics myself, or if I waited for them to be handed to me, but that hardly matters. And I’m sure I did what The Boy does now – read my favorite parts out loud to a bunch of people who I was sure thought it was all as funny as I did. And, just like now, from my siblings I probably got a “nobody cares, shut up,” and from my parents a charitable chuckle. But what do I really know? Memory’s not much different than nostalgia – just a theatrically generous reading of expiration dates. That same charitable chuckle at a joke that’s only really funny somewhere else.


As far as coronavirus goes, in order for this post to earn its title, I’ll just say this: at some point my attitude is going to make the full shift to “screw it, let’s all get sick and get this over with.”

-The newspaper’s been nothing but comics for decades, Comrade Citizen.-

The PVP Diaries #85

I cannot graduate to full paranoia. I just can’t. When the Governor or his office or whatever) says this:

“We recognize this will cause financial hardship for many businesses and the governor and staff are exploring ways to mitigate the impacts.

I cannot make the leap to that popular skepticism that says it’s a lie, a verbal palliative that’s meant to ease us unknowingly to our demise. When I read it I believe it, and I actually do have some sympathy for the people, including the Governor, who has to figure out where to get another 20, 50, 100 million dollars to help people, from a populace that is deep blue, deep democrat, and yet growing loudly dissatisfied with the ever-increasing taxes coming down. Here in Seattle we’re already waiting anxiously to find out what kind of a tax increase (likely a hike in the vehicle tab fees) we’ll be facing to help pay for our West Seattle Bridge repair and/or replacement.

Ultimately, I stand on what I said in a previous post somewhere: that it’s fun to rend garments and imagine a tyrannical government peopled by power mongers who want to see our human faces under the boot, but it falls apart when you realize that nobody wants to rule that particular world. Power is powerful, and intoxicating, and without a doubt politicians become entranced by it, seduced by it, but nobody wants to govern poverty and illness.

Anyway. The kids will still have soccer practice, they just have to wear a mask throughout. That’ll be fun. I can’t get caught up pointing out inconsistencies and contradictions, in wondering with intentional verbosity why this activity is ok, but that one isn’t. Why we think it’s fine to put in our cart an apple that has probably been touched by half a dozen people in the past hour at least, but that if we don’t follow the one-way signs in the aisle we are in grave danger. In the end, the only time someone is complaining about any particular restriction is when it impinges on something he really wants to do.

I should probably note that I write this on the heels of Governor Inslee’s address yesterday, announcing a return to some of the restrictions we had in the Spring and Summer. Nothing earth-shattering, really. As I have been doing since this so-called “third wave” began, I continue to look at the rates of death and hospitalizations. And still, while the number of positive cases generally screams upward, those two numbers do not follow suit:

On April 17, deaths were at 6.7% of all positive cases. 2.4% today. The degree of severity seems very definitely to have declined. Getting COVID no longer carries as high a likelihood that you will need the hospital or the mortician. It was never all that high to begin with, but even less so now. Whatever. This all sounds like so much inconsequential blather. But hey, posterity, The Record, and all that.

I put some poly on the new floor. Now we’re done.

-Time is short, Comrade Citizen!-

The PVP Diaries #84

Freakin’ cat’s been meowing like crazy today. Just looking for attention. I think it was Lileks who defined (or at least tipped me off to to it) a dog as an animal that always believes itself to be on the wrong side of a closed door. Today it is one of the cats. Rae. She’s upstairs where two rooms are occupied with people who have their doors open specifically to admit cats, and one room, also occupied, but with its door closed specifically to deny cats. That, of course, is the door outside of which Rae is sitting and mewling, insisting on admittance. I have no doubt that once The Boy finally lets her in (though he knows he should not, because the cat is a notorious and unwelcome Zoom distraction), she will walk into the room, sit somewhere almost close enough for him to reach her for a chin-scratch, then when he finally gets up to give her some attention, she will shrug and walk out of the room.

That’s how you know there’s nothing wrong.


I watched the saddest movie in recent memory a couple of nights ago. A Monster Calls. It’s aimed for younger people, somewhat, though it’s heavy enough that I would not foist it on either of my kids just yet. It’s from a book that has illustrations and all the markings of a children’s story. It is no chintzy modern manipulation packed with twists and surprise endings. Everything happens exactly the way you expect it to, and perfectly so, and I think that’s why it hit me so bloody hard in the end. I had spent the whole movie more and more worked up about what I knew was inevitably coming, trying like hell to not look towards the ending – trying to pretend you know, that everything was ok – and instead of being rescued by too-clever story-writing that re-jiggers the emotions to something more superficial before they get a chance to fully develop, it simply delivers on its promise. And crushes you with it. And the plain, obvious simplicity of what the monster is trying to drag out of the boy throughout the movie is exactly what’s so powerful about it. It’s profound like reading the lyrics to a song and realizing you’ve been singing one word of a line wrong for 15 years. And it makes the song a thousand times better.

And who knows, maybe I was just there that night, in a place where that kind of story was going to work so well. Could be that if I watched it a day earlier or later, it wouldn’t have had that effect. Good thing I got to it when I did.


We’re back to hanging on Governor Inslee press conferences. They’re coming in fast and furious these days. Last night he appeared with his wife, presumably because the focus of his remarks was family holiday plans. They stressed the importance of staying away from family this year, for Thanksgiving at least. I would imagine there are plenty of people relieved to have that excuse ready at hand this year. “Sorry, mom. I know we only live 20 miles apart, but the Governor said no.”

They keep pumping out charts and graphs, of course:

Well that’s alarming. If you’re into being alarmed. It’s not really my thing. The data is a mess, though, and you can look at a table and a graph on the same page and find different numbers for the same category. New positive test results, for instance, are either 622 or 462, depending on what you look at (and again, on the same page). Hospitalizations are either 19 or 2. I could probably look harder and find the reason – maybe a day’s lag between the two charts, who knows. Not that it matters. Having an explanation for the discrepancy doesn’t excuse it from existing. Inconsistency breeds doubt and mistrust. But hey, if everyone trusts you, who will you mock?

Speaking of hospitalizations (this one from a different page, same source):

No matter what numbers you find, we’re still way below anything alarming. The red line is the target, set at 10% of all King County hospital beds. According to this, we’re at 2%. A different page says 2.5%, but we’ve been over this.

Also, in his address last night, the Guv forebodingly mentioned “further measures” to be announced in the coming days. I can’t wait. Nothing scares me like the confluence of earnest mediocrity and low-grade tyranny. Legacy chasing is always a solo act, except for the casualties.