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.
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.”
There was at least one firm that was looking to do something innovative and beautiful with the West Seattle Bridge:
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:
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.
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?-
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):
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.
“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.
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.-
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.
“Behaviour lawless as snowflakes…”Still Walt Whitman, still Song of Myself
It’s been that part of the movie, where we’re all in the operating room, staring at the screen on the EKG while the tone flatlines and the doctor says “clear” one last time. Five, ten seconds pass, there seems to be no hope, and then there’s a blip:
The house has the heartbeat that it’s been missing. The last piece went in yesterday – I let The Boy nail it down. Obviously the baseboards still need to go back up, but the big chore is complete. And after I cleaned up and put the tools away, I had the Spring Break feeling of freedom, of vast expanses of unclaimed time laid out ahead of me. I immediately folded laundry. But nobody told me how to fold these two garments:
They have a knack for teleportation.
I release this one annually, a small revision or two each time. It’s the sort of poem that “real poets” would not “take seriously.” But serious poets are generally a sad lot, and afraid. Maybe one day I’ll stop messing with it, I don’t know. It’s a little late coming this year, but reading the “lawless as snowflakes” line from Leaves of Grass made me realize that it was time for theft:
Summerthieves Autumn starts for me like this: an evening's cold, capricious kiss, chiding me to stay alert that I don't miss my turn to flirt. Leaves come down like lawless clocks along no route that rules can watch. They’re shouldered first, then tickle sleeves - those brittle-falling Summerthieves. Ah! Here the hub of town comes near, with its public houses pouring beer colder even than the air. But it's so close and warm in there That I go inside against the cold, where I like to think we're men of old, and on every wooden bench and stool sits a girl - an honored golden rule. The Boys can leave their coats on hooks - The Girls will keep them warm with looks. Suggestive stitches, hopeful hems. October stalkings, autumn gems. In here we work with noble tones toward a sense of coming home. Because man is tempted to his best when woman is so smartly dressed. When everything to do's been done, we wrap the prizes we have won as close to us as we are able, and leave the rest upon the table. Warm within and cold without, It’s easy to forget about The weathers we're supposed to know, And on our brazen way we go.
“Hurrying with the modern crowd, as eager and fickle as any…”Whitman, Song of Myself
I looked at the pile yesterday and thought “I don’t know if that’ll be enough to finish.” But I pretty quickly recognized the thought as vanity. As me wanting to believe in myself as clever and discerning. But there’s one very important thing to consider, to remember, and to take very seriously, which is that I don’t know. I have only done this once before, and that was a long time ago, and the circumstances were different. And anyway, even so, twice in 20 years is not enough experience to stand before the remaining wood, hands on hips, orange foam earplugs sitting askew in the canals, and declare, “no sir, I don’t think that’s gonna cover it.”
But we like to do that, don’t we? Near the end of a large jigsaw puzzle, when we’ve scanned and hunted a dozen times for a piece that we really want to find, but can’t seem to locate, we say, “I think there’s a piece missing.” It’s almost never true. The flight’s delayed and we say “It’s probably gonna be canceled.” It rarely is.
We like to predict failure. So we come to expect failure. It’s probably a defense mechanism. A desire to not be caught off guard when the world comes up short or our preparations prove insufficient. Nobody wants to look the fool. Except that it’s foolish to forget reality. It’s foolish to forget the limits of what you do and can know. It’s something that I’ve started to take very seriously as I’ve gotten older, something that I’ve embraced rather than resisted. The fact that, as my Dad is fond of saying “I don’t know what I don’t know.” Or something very similar. I don’t mean that in a layered ignorance kind of way. I am aware of the things – I know full well that I don’t know calculus or which gauge of nail to use for framing a wall. I can learn, but at the moment I have no idea. And it’s the moment that matters. I’m not going to waste any of it by looking at a differential equation and pretending I can solve it without first learning the steps, and then carrying them out.
In this moment I have no idea whether there’s enough wood stacked in the dining room to finish this flooring job. There’s no point guessing – that’s just a pantomime of discernment, and meanwhile the floor isn’t getting any more finished.
Be content to start looking for another piece, to work the puzzle until the end and find out then if you’re missing anything. You can always crawl around under the table or look for it in the vacuum bag at that point. But don’t bother until you know. Be content to keep laying the planks, pulling piece after piece from the dwindling pile, without guessing at square footages and pretending that you can out-think the ignorance. You can’t. You can only out-learn it.
“The report, the third in a series by IDM, affirms that while there are still risks associated with returning to full in-person instruction, the risks could be significantly reduced through school-based countermeasures, hybrid scheduling, and a phased-in approach that brings back K-5 grades first.“
The report has quite a bit more to say. I’m always a careful reader of tone – I usually measure the things I say to my kids based not on what I mean, but how I expect they’ll receive it. There’s always a difference. I tend to read intentionally in the mode of how my kids listen subconsciously: picking up cues from the language, scanning for subtext. This report is all very cautious and non-committal up front, but it marks a shift from the message that “the risks are far too great,” to the message that “the risks are there, but we may be able to work with them anyway.”
Here in King County the positive cases continue to climb, and I think we hit some kind of a state-wide record in one of the last couple of days. But the election’s over – at least the part where leverage matters – so the doomsday attitude is probably going to abate to some extent. Especially if Biden wins. But even if Trump winds up winning somehow, his hardest detractors aren’t going to hold their constituents hostage for another four years – or I suppose two, in order to reach the midterms – over this ersatz plague. 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.
But maybe that’s just me being unrealistically hopeful. What do I know?
– For the love of God, learn to lose gracefully, Comrade Citizen –
Happiness…which whoever hears me let him or her set out in search of this day.Whitman, Song of Myself
As nice as it may be to believe, the fact is that it won’t be over any time soon. There are too many layers, too many complications. The dust simply isn’t going to settle on this one until, well, I’m gonna say Thanksgiving:
It’s hard to get into a rhythm with this job. I have doorways to go around, floor vents to negotiate, and all the forced stoppages that occurred whenever The Boy starts a Zoom class. The banging and the compressor were understandably no good for his schoolwork. It’s possible that I’ll find my flow here, and make swifter progress, but I am asking myself for patience.
My biggest worry was that I had to start in two different spots, and hope that as I built up both sides they would prove to be aligned when I got to a point when I could join them in the middle. It worked, and my confidence definitely took a boost. I did as much as I could today without making any special cuts, thinking that, well, thinking that I was friggin’ tired and didn’t want to start a bunch of complicated (for me) measuring and cutting.
It helped to start things off with breakfast on the grill:
I saved some of the sausage for other people. Really.
I’m really looking forward to the stack of wood in our erstwhile dining room disappearing. Everything is out of place. What I couldn’t move to the garage just keeps getting shuffled around the vast kitchen/living room/open concept cave. It’s hell on habit. The Boy does his schoolwork from a new spot every day, and my morning chair is sort of floating in space. I have always come downstairs to it – the first one awake whenever possible – and had coffee adjacent to the fire, facing out from the corner, while I find new ways to bore you. This morning the chair is near the geographical center of the room, one arm touching the kitchen table, and as I sit in it I look over the top of my laptop to a view of the coat closet door, six feet in front of me. My chair hasn’t properly seen the fireplace in weeks.
Environments conduce to moods. This one conduces to little, though no doubt Walt Whitman would criticize my slavery to difference.
Coronavirus? I can’t even. But it’s kind of a thing here, and maybe one day I’ll be glad I did it:
So it looks like hospitalizations are seeing a slight increase. Ok, doesn’t look particularly dire, though. And death remains a difficult sell.
– It’s a race to Thanksgiving, Comrade Citizen! –
This is the trill of a thousand clear cornets and scream of the octave flute and strike of triangles.
I play not a march for victors only…I play great marches for conquered and slain persons.
Have you heard that it was good to gain the day?
I also say that it is good to fall…battles are lost in the same spirit in which they are won.Whitman, Song of Myself
I suppose today the internet will be less sufferable than usual. I had an American Government teacher back in 2016, when I started my college re-engagement tour, who was a Palestinian named Jihad. Really. He was obsessed with government, especially the courts. He would go to the court house when he had the time, just to watch trials. On the Friday before the election he said, “please raise your hand if you think Hillary Clinton will win the election.” I was in the front row, and didn’t turn to look, but I figured it was unanimous. He then said “now raise your hand if you think Donald Trump will win.” I put my hand up and this time I looked around. There was a young Asian kid, probably too young to vote, who was wearing an Army field jacket with a German flag on the shoulder. He had his head down and his hand up. Nobody else in a room of 30-ish people. I assumed that what most people thought they were doing was indicating not who they believed would win, but who they wanted to win. And that the fear of raising your hand for Donald Trump would make you appear to be supporting him, to want him to win, which would have been social suicide.
That’s the sort of small life skill that I wish people would develop. The ability for rational discernment. The ability to say “I want outcome X, but I anticipate outcome Y.”
I don’t know that I want any particular outcome today. I know what I grudgingly prefer, and I know what I expect. I know which query from Dr. Jihad would get my hand in the air today. I know that no outcome will result in grace or dignity, and that I will be sad for people and a little afraid of them, for a long time to come.
Democracy is no place for heroes. We should stop looking there for them.
An email has just come from The Girl’s school, saying that it’ll be hard to wait for results, that they should be sure to show their families /teachers/etc. kindness and patience today, in order to be respectful. I can say with some confidence that my daughter would have no reason to believe that there was any need for increased levels of patience or kindness, that she wouldn’t have a hard time respecting anyone, that she wouldn’t believe in election day as an excuse to slip into poor character habits or a time to be afraid, if her school wasn’t making sure she saw it that way.
We go so far, we work so hard, to sow unease and uncertainty into our world. To undermine our harmony and placidity. We harvest woe, we band great sheaves of blight. We pack our silos with spores of fear, to be spread against times of abundance and health.
The COVID thing has been interesting here. The number of positive cases reported has been on a solid upswing, causing The Fear in the people. But deaths and hospitalizations are on a solid downswing, which isn’t getting much coverage. My armchair conclusion is that the severity of the thing is proving rather insubstantial.
I’m getting sick of masks, sure. But I tire most quickly of narratives, of dull repetition, of tropes and conversational tics. Hearing “2020” or “COVID times” or any declaration about how good or poor a job that people were doing of “observing social distancing” at the store or the park or the beach, or most recently all the proud announcements of everyone’s clever ways of safely passing out Halloween candy to people who “probably shouldn’t have been trick-or-treating anyway,” just makes me want to go home and close the door behind me. At this point I’d rather just talk about the election, which is absurd.
–I, for one, don’t give the tiniest shit who votes, Comrade Citizen–