Thursday, September 27, 2007
And then there's the Democrats. Ugh! Would somebody cull the herd already. If only the — so called — front runners in that party would fail to show up to a few debates we might actually hear something interesting. Let Hillary and John and, yes even Barack, stay home for an evening and watch the fiasco called an electoral process that American citizens are subjected to. I caught the very end of the Democratic debate on MSNBC moderated by chubby Tim Russert. He asked the last question with much seriousness and gravity: There's been a lot of discussion about the Democrats and the issue of faith and values. I want to ask you a simple question . . . What is your favorite bible verse? I was aghast. I was waiting for someone to mention the verse about stoning women for being rape victims (Deut. 22:21), or the one about killing 50,000 innocent persons because a few looked into a box (1 Sam. 6:19.) Tim is of course referring the media's obsession with the idea that somehow only the Republican party can truly represent Christians. Imagine that! What does that tell you about the perception of Christians in this country? Republicans are constantly rewarding the richest and whitest among us. So much for not being able to get that camel through the eye of the needle, heh? When it comes to crime and endless war they're downright bloodthristy; but somehow calling a microscopic clump of cells a human being justifies a "culture of life." Sam Brownback used that exact phrase tonight during the debate on PBS.
I voted for Kerry in the last election and I still wake up in a cold sweat sometimes because of that. The Democratic Party hasn't had a candidate I liked since Jimmy Carter. Oh, along the way you may see Tom Harkin, or Dennis Kucinich, or yes, even Howard Dean. Someone not so greased up already by the corporate powers that actually run this country. But those "fringe" candidates are winnowed out of the field pretty quickly. I think the problem is the two party system. That and the fact the elections are not publicly financed. I'm still amazed that mainstream Democrats still blame Ralph Nader, because we now have that bumbling fascist in charge, stripping away our civil rights left and right. Somehow it's Ralph's fault that the supreme court is poised to overturn Roe v. Wade and many other longstanding landmarks of justice. Brown v. the Board of Education maybe? I'll probably return to the Green Party or Libertarian Party for the big elections, or write in someone with some sense of reason.
Oh, I believe the Mariners won. They were leading 4 to 1 the last time I peeked. Baseball has a very long season, and although the Mariners have had their best season in years, I'm ready to take a break from being a sports fan. Everyone on the team had a decent year, except for, um . . .Richie Sexson. Maybe Richie should have chosen his other dream of being a C.I.A. agent.
My son Justin has been teething for at least a week now. I think he has one of those horse-sized molars coming. (All the better to bite me with!) This means that he is up much of the night, whining and writhing. When he napped this afternoon I took advantage and did the same myself. I gave him a bath just before bed tonight. I always hope that will induce a more restful sleep, but that seems to be wishful thinking on my part. There's no shortage of that. As I was getting him dressed in his PJ's he leaned forward and bit me on the shoulder. I picture that moment from the beginning of the Dawn of the Dead remake, when the little girl next door rips a chunk out of the guy's shoulder. This wasn't that bad, but I don't want to encourage it. Maybe Justin has just a little vampire blood running through his veins. The biting and nighttime waking? I think I have some garlic in the kitchen.
Tuesday, September 25, 2007
Tonight Jen and I will be going to the Mariners game. They only have six games left, so we're getting in just under the wire. I was lucky enough to be invited to a game earlier in the year, but Jen hasn't been to a game in a while. We'll be dropping Justin off at our friends house and picking him up after the game. We just need to promise to babysit their son Daniel in the next week or so.
Yesterday I attended a matinee showing of David Cronenberg's latest film, Eastern Promises. I had a pretty good impression of the nature of the film going in, and it didn't do anything to exceed my expectations. I would have to say that I enjoyed it slightly more than The History of Violence, but the film seemed to have a cold heart at its center and the storyline of the Russian mob operating in London doesn't present anything new to the viewer. The film's mood is punctuated by Cronenberg's scenes of ultra-violence, but there was no passion between the scenes of brutality and blood to elicit any empathy from me for the characters passing by on the screen.
Saturday, September 22, 2007
Just before adopting Justin I was only listening to jazz and expanding my knowledge greatly in the musical genre thanks to my local library. Jazz and Frank Zappa. For some reason I could put on Ornette Coleman’s Science Fiction Sessions, close my eyes and all my cares and woes would drift away like the autumn leaves. I remember moving all 30 of the Frank Zappa albums that I owned into my office, so that I would have them close at hand. To some (like my wife) this type of music is a cacophony, but the seemingly chaotic music worked to counter my own inner turmoil.
Over the years I’ve listened to everything from twangy country to hardcore punk. Free-form jazz to big hair heavy metal music. I have a few thousand albums in my collection and there really is a little bit of everything in there. I could be in the mood to hear Tony Bennett’s Don’t Get Around Much Anymore one minute and then the Scorpions' Another Piece of Meat the next. There is part of me though, that worries that listening to the Scorpions…and Kansas, and Deep Purple, and Alice Cooper is some sort of latent nostalgia rising towards the surface of my psyche as I lurch towards the age of 50.
Thursday, September 20, 2007
Anyway, as I had stated in yesterday's entry, we hit a couple of the bookstores on the first day. That was after having lunch at Smitty's, which seems to be Canada's version of Denny's. Breakfast, lunch or dinner served all day. I had their special, a grilled chicken club. I don't think the term "special" could be applied to it. They also get another demerit for serving ice tea pre sweetened. I would expect that in Alabama, but not in the Great White North. Justin rejected his bacon and eggs, but devoured a bowl of fruit. And Jen seemed to enjoy her waffles. So, that was Smitty's.
After stopping downtown to purchase books, we returned to the Cedarwood Inn, where Justin and Jennifer proceeded to nap while I delved back into Sophie's World. That evening we ate at Theo's Greek restaurant, where we had also dined the first night. We had the same waitress again, who proceeded to sit us at the table we had the previous night. I switched from chicken to steak this time. I rarely eat beef, but this time I threw caution to the wind. Maybe just to see if I could still swallow the cooked muscle of a cow. I will not mention the desirability of the crew of waitresses dressed in black. Some things are better left unsaid. For legal reasons and marital stability. Just don't ask me what happened that time in Tucson.
On Tuesday we got out of our suite at about ten in the morning. (Notice how I said "suite" and not "room"? Picture the inside of a hunting cabin decorated in the 70's, but it has a microwave and cable TV.) After stopping to dump forty-seven dollars worth of gasoline into the Forester's tank, we drove south to Bucthart Gardens by way of the Butterfly Gardens. I always smirk when I see that I have to walk through a gift shop to get in or out of any kind of exhibit, but the Butterfly Gardens were impressive. Humid, but impressive. I think I lost five pounds in there. The majority of the specimens were from the tropics of South America, so the conditions had to be reproduced. Justin was asleep when we arrived, so we just transferred him to the stroller and went through the gardens. He awoke as we were exiting through the gift shop. We just had to go back through, so that he could stare agape at the varieties of butterfly. We then drove a few miles down the road to Butchart Gardens, which is set off in the woods. Lunch was our first priority and then, as we started to walk through the one hundred year old gardens, we realized that Justin would have to be constrained to the stroller, so that he would not pick rare orchids and otherwise trash the place. The gardens were quite crowded for an overcast September day in the middle of the week. I shuddered to think what it was like on a weekend in midsummer. The colors and contours of the gardens were alluring and all the more so on an overcast day. I pushed Justin through the paths, pausing occasionally to snap a photo. I couldn't help fantasizing having the whole place to myself on a cool fall evening. It just had this air of serenity, even with all the humans milling about. As we left I was able to avoid the gift shop by taking responsibility for Justin outside in the courtyard. Away from small breakable objects. As Justin and I loitered by a large water wheel, an older gentleman and his wife — whose combined ages probably hovered around 165 — came up to admire the mechanical wonder. The gentleman sported a faded blue sea captain's hat and a collection of broken blood vessels across his nose. He proceeded to talk to me about how amazing it was how little water it took to power the immense wooden wheel. Meanwhile, I was trying to prevent Justin from cracking his skull against the surrounding stone wall as he clambered over a bench. At one point the jovial older man's wife chimed in with a good humored barb at his expense and he complained, "You're always giving me a hard time." She replied with a poke in his ribs, "You used to enjoy it!" It brought a smile to lips, as I also watched my young son just beginning his own journey full of wonder and curiosity.
Upon leaving Butchart Gardens we decided to return to Sidney by the back way. This took us through the farm country and reservation areas that were spread along the northern side of the Saanich Peninsula. By the time we arrived back at the Cedarwood we were all quite exhausted and slept until the early evening, arising in time to dine at Carlo's Mexican Cantina in downtown Sidney. This will become known as the night we discovered how much Justin likes sour cream. After our meal we spent the rest of the evening relaxing at the inn, reading and filling in sudoku puzzles, while Justin slept. It wasn't until we decided to go to bed that he awoke with a glint in his eye. He wasn't fussy so much as giddy. Yes, giddy. Usually I can use my stern voice and command "lay down and get to sleep," and amazingly Justin usually falls over and goes to sleep. But this particular night he just laughed at me. That's right, he laughed!
Wednesday morning we arrived at the ferry terminal approximately 90 minutes before departure to deal with ticketing and customs. About halfway through our ferry route they stopped for a man overboard drill. Many people got up to watch the practice run. I remained in place, enjoying some reading time with a view of Mount Baker poking through the clouds. Jen and Justin were both napping in the car below decks and I had a chance to start reading Bearing the Body. The return trip was a straight trip to Anacortes (not counting the pause for the man overboard drill.) When we arrived in port we had to drive through U.S. customs for the second time that morning. The usual questions: How long was your stay? Where are you from? Any alcohol or tobacco? Do you kiss on the first date? Evidently, I passed the test because we were soon on the road back to Seattle.
So that's the meandering version of our three night stay in Sidney on Vancouver Island. I'm getting a little bleary-eyed and it's late. But first:
I was rereading The Story of Ferdinand to Justin today and occurred to me — not for the first time — that I longed to be Ferdinand the bull. Let the others run and butt heads. I'd rather recline beneath my favorite cork tree not be bothered with the need to succeed (whatever that is.) I also realized that the book wasn't being entirely honest. When Ferdinand enters the bullring it reads, "He wouldn't fight and be fierce no matter what they did." But it fails to mention that that includes him having his muscle pierced with lances and barbed sticks to get him fired up for the big finale. But because Ferdinand is a avowed pacifist he gets to return to the shade of his beloved cork tree to to while away the hours smelling the flowers in field otherwise filled with cow dung.
Wednesday, September 19, 2007
I just finished watching a Polish black comedy entitled Day of the Wacko (I prefer the original Polish title: Dzien Swira.) I'm still undecided as to my opinion. The main character was very annoying, but his neuroses were the central theme of the film. I also think I missed some of the humor, because I'm not more acquainted with modern Polish culture.
Well, I'm fading fast. Maybe tomorrow I'll have more time to devote to this trivial exercise.
Saturday, September 15, 2007
I can see my wife and I trying to use the power of positive thinking: We will be relaxed on vacation...we will be relaxed on vacation. At least Jen will not have to go to work the evening we get back. Even though she only works three nights a week, sometimes it seems like too much. Of course she work nights and those shifts are 14 hours long. I know that I wouldn't want to be the one performing a C-section on a dog at three in the morning . . . Maybe an ear lavage, but not a C-section.
I had the wrong music on while I was cleaning: The Pat Metheny Group (you may have heard them while watching the Weather Channel.) It's much too relaxing to be mopping floors by. I had the overwhelming urge to plop down on the couch with a big old glass of Merlot (Yeah, right!) Well, now that the cleaning is done I plan to pop a movie in the DVD player, while I pack my bag. I just realized tonight that Jen has recently claimed my travel bag. Something about "not being able to find" hers. Hmmm. I either have to crawl through the wreckage of what is our garage on a quest to find her bag, or settle for a smaller pack. Hmmm. I think I can pack fairly lightly, as long as there is room for a couple of books, the iPod known as Existenz, external speakers for said iPod, portable DVD player, a few DVDs such as Bob Newhart and Eddie Izzard, appropriate wiring and headphones for all audio and video devices, camera, binoculars, sunglasses, reading glasses, a few recent Sunday crossword puzzles, appropriate pens, clothing for three days, toiletries and other sundries. Whew! So, I should back away from the computer and begin to compile the items listed above.
Friday, September 14, 2007
My friend Adam called yesterday and asked if I might be interested in taking the kids to the Woodland Park Zoo today. Justin's calendar was clear today, so at about 9:30 this morning we were heading to the zoo. Justin has been there a few times, but I've only been there a few times to attend concerts on the lawn (Steve Earle & Pink Martini . . . separate shows.) I found that I had to put up an emotional wall while chauffeuring Justin from habitat to habitat. I've always found zoos depressing, especially the primate exhibits. I was shocked that they have a snow leopard at Woodland Park. The snow leopard is one of the most elusive animals known to man. And they have one captive. The animal was nowhere to be seen. I was happy after-the-fact that we had bypassed the elephant exhibit. I would have been reminded of Hansa's death earlier in the summer and my emotional wall would have crumbled, or at least fractured a little.
I have one more day to clean the house before we leave for Vancouver Island on Sunday. Jen did quite a bit of cleaning today (bless her heart) before collapsing and getting some sleep before work tonight. We have friends house-sitting during our short vacation, otherwise I wouldn't be so concerned about the neatness of my surroundings. Justin can so quickly erase an afternoon with of picking up and straightening. I was happy to find out that the town where we'll be staying, Sidney-by-the-Sea, has more bookstores per capita than any other town in Canada. I could always use a few more books. There's also a bug museum in Victoria. It's right down the street from the wax museum. I don't think Justin or Jennifer would enjoy the wax museum as much as I would. There's something about those life-like figurines that is so . . . meltable. Having Justin along limits us to a certain amount of outdoor free-form activity. He's under two and still in diapers, so afternoon tea at the Fairmont Empress is out. For Justin, as long as he can wander about picking up various rocks and sticks then he is a happy human. Myself? Just give me reading time and plenty of it.
- The Wizard of Oz (1939) - I've lost count of the number of times I've seen this classic. I used to be able to recite it line for line along with the film, but thanks to many hours spent with a therapist I don't do that any more. But if I were King of the Forest . . .
- Willy Wonka and The Chocolate Factory (1971) - Don't even talk to me about the remake. This was after Burton had the unmitigated gall to remake the original Planet of the Apes. WTF? The original film has great music by Anthony Newley and Leslie Bricusse. It has one of Gene Wilder's greatest performances. And I have the memory of seeing it at the Drive-in when I was but a wee child.
- Contact (1997) - My favorite Robert Zemeckis film (Yes, I enjoyed it more than Who Framed Roger Rabbit? or Romancing the Stone.) I love Jodie Foster as the impassioned astronomer Ellie Arroway with her quest to make the ultimate long distance call. I have to admit thought, that I get more and more annoyed with Matthew McConaughey every time I watch this film. I was a fan of the original novel by Carl Sagan and I thought Zemeckis did a nice job with the adaptation.
- Groundhog Day (1993) - It drives my wife crazy that I watch a movie over and over again that is about a man living the same day over and over again. It's also about self-redemption and the value of Right Action. Bill Murray is brilliant as the acerbic and melancholic Phil Connors (Yeah, like the groundhog Phil), with outstanding comic support from Chris Elliot and Stephen Tobolowsky. I still laugh enough to blow milk out my nose every time Phil Connors gets hit in the head with a passing snow shovel, while standing at the payphone . . . that's if I drank milk.
- The Bridges of Madison County (1995) - Yes, I've heard that the book is laughably bad, but whatever the book may be like, it inspired a wonderful movie scripted by Richard LaGravenese (The Fisher King, Unstrung Heroes, and Living Out Loud, which he also directed.) and directed with subtlety by Clint Eastwood. It also has yet another in a long line of amazing performances by an actress named Meryl Streep. I watch this movie again and again for those first scenes of dialogue between Eastwood and Streep. They feel so natural that I just want to step into that summer afternoon in Iowa and join them for a cold ice tea on the veranda. But Francesca (Meryl) and Robert (Clint) probably wouldn't want me along, since two's company and three's a crowd and all that. I also have a soft spot for Annie Corley, who plays Streep's grown-up daughter. She also has the role of John Turturro's wife in Box of Moonlight, another favorite film.
- It's a Wonderful Life (1946) - I'm a sucker for Frank Capra's films celebrating the common man and small town virtues, but this one is my favorite of the bunch. Whenever I'm in the mood to cry buckets (and yes, I do get in those moods) I play this movie. I don't believe in angels, or that the poor working-class will ever triumph over the Potters of the world, but this movie helps me to believe differently, if only for 130 minutes. Other Capra films I'd recommend: Meet John Doe, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, You Can't Take It With You, and Mr. Deeds Goes to Town.
I think that it's enough time spent on this inane list for now. I'll have to come back to this list, so that I can wax rhapsodic about Dirty Harry. I just love to gush about my favorite onscreen fascist, Dirty Harry Callahan. I know what you're thinking. "Did he fire six shots or only five?" Well, to tell you the truth, in all this excitement I kind of lost track myself. But being as this is a .44 Magnum, the most powerful handgun in the world, and would blow your head clean off, you've got to ask yourself a question: Do I feel lucky? Well, do ya, punk? I once traded my entire collection of Famous Monsters of Filmland magazines for an original one-sheet of Dirty Harry. That's when I knew I was growing up. The Smith & Wesson Model 29 .44 Magnum revolver and Ray Ban Balorama sunglasses became symbols of cool for me. I became that loner wearing an army surplus jacket and standing at the edge of the crowd. At least that was me through my three years of high school until I made the brilliant decision to join the United States Air Force at age seventeen. After the recruiter gave his presentation he asked if I had any questions. I asked, "Do you have any terms less than four years?" "No," he responded. "It's four or six years." I sighed, "Okay, four years it is then." All of a sudden I became just another shaved head in olive drab uniform. But that's a story for another day . . .
It is now past the midnight hour and I can feel my limbs withdraw and my complexion start to change to orange, as I transmute into the proverbial pumpkin.
Thursday, September 13, 2007
I gave Justin a bath just before seven o'clock and then brushed his teeth and put him to bed. I read him two books (that's on top of the three or four I had read just before his bath.) and then told him to settle in for the night. He's quiet now, but he has awoken a few times in the past couple of hours. My friend Adam called me earlier to see if I might want to do something with the kids tomorrow, such as the zoo. So I should be retiring soon if I'm going to get going early before Justin's nap time. I enjoyed watching the Mariners come from behind tonight to beat Tampa Bay 8 to 7. The Mariners came back with five runs in the 8th inning. It's the second game in a row that the Mariners have come from behind to win. Let's hope the winning is a trend. I'd love to read some more of Sophie's World. I'm about two-thirds of the way through it and I'm hoping that I might have enough free time during our stay on Vancouver Island this week to finish it. Vacations with toddlers (or, I suspect, children of any age) are not usually relaxing. More to come on the trip to Canada.
Wednesday, September 12, 2007
Tomorrow morning at eleven Justin will be attending his first co-op session at Victory Heights. Jen will be taking him to these Thursday morning meet-ups. She has also signed him up for another co-op class at North Seattle Community College. That class meets on Wednesday evenings. I've promised Jen that I would attend a number of those classes with Justin. I've also signed up for a lecture series this fall that meets on Wednesday evenings. The lectures are about the merging of right wing Christianity and the world of politics, specifically the current Bush administration. I will have just returned from the FFRF convention in Madison when I start those lectures. Freethinking (my preferred term at the moment) has been gaining space within my meager life as of late. I'm craving nonfiction in my life these days. I've craving meaning and mental sustenance.
This weekend we travel to Canada, more specifically Sidney on Vancouver Island. We'll be there for three nights. Enough time to check out the famous Bushcart Gardens, the butterfly and insect museums. Take Justin for strolls along the seashore. And just generally relax for a few days. We'll be back on Wednesday the 19th and Jen returns to work the next evening.
So we're managing to fit in some fun stuff this summer, with camping and traveling. Justin gets to enjoy all this stuff for the first time and that makes it extra special for his parents. Sounds mushy, and I suppose it is.
Saturday, September 8, 2007
Friday, September 7, 2007
It's now fifteen minutes until midnight. Time to rest up, so that I can do it all over again tomorrow. Oh, I almost to forgot to point out that today is my eleventh wedding anniversary. Eleven years ago, Jen and I got married in the waiting room of her cat hospital in the Berkshires. This was after her regular appointments on a Saturday. Both sets of our parents were there, invited a mere couple of night prior. My parents had been planning on attending a different wedding that day, but thankfully they chose ours when asked. My niece Amanda was also there. The witnesses and videographers was Tracey and Bil Greene. Tracey was skilled and friendly technician that was working for Jen at the time. We were married by a Justice of the Peace. We were in the waiting room, because it was raining that afternoon, but we still were barefoot as we would have been had we been standing in the green grass of the backyard. Now here we are 11 years later with a 19 month old son, who has brought much love and joy into our lives. We are looking forward to sharing the rest of our lives with Justin.
Goodnight John Boy.
Thursday, September 6, 2007
On Wednesday evening by the campfire we planned our trip back home and asked if anyone had an alarm clock. We needn't have asked. Daniel, who was asleep with his parents in the tent adjacent to ours, awoke about five o'clock this morning. It wasn't long before Justin also woke up and then we were soon breaking camp and rushing to make the 9:20 A.M. ferry back to Anacortes. The trip itself went well. After a while we became nonchalant about seeing deer wandering about the campsite. In fact, a doe practically ran into our car as we left town after eating breakfast at Chez Chloe. Justin spent most of his days with either rocks and sticks in each hand, or one of each. And he was always spotting a more attractive stick or rock that prompted him to drop the previously discovered treasure. On the first night we cooked our supper (pasta and salad) by the shore of Cascade Lake, while the two boys romped about. It was even warm enough for a swim the next evening, but Justin didn't think it was warm enough. He was soon standing knee deep in the lake and his entire body shivered as if he was stuck in a meat locker (ew, where'd that image come from?) But he was soon toweled off and in dry clothes scarfing down hot dogs and baked beans. What better camping food could there be?
I didn't think I had the energy to write about the trip tonight, never mind re size and upload photos, but carpe diem, eh? But I'm fading fast. Not even listening to the Scorpions Lovedrive can help. I need to brush my teeth and then crawl up to bed and hope that Justin is ready to sleep until at least 8 o'clock in the morning. He should be exhausted, but kids seem to have an endless reserve of energy. Justin is still pretty mellow compared to most boys I've seen his age. And that's a good thing. Maybe I'll write more details about the trip in the next day or two, but for tonight I'm spent.