Thursday, October 29, 2009

Mice and Cookies

I'm about to leave to see a performance of "If You Give a Mouse a Cookie" at the Seattle Children's Theater. The highlight will be watching my son's face as he sits enthralled by a live interpretation of one of his favorite books. The theater will just be crawling with toddlers with their parents in tow. This is the first family event that Jen and I will be attending since our divorce.

I'd like nothing better than to sleep in on this rainy gray Seattle morning, but I will not have that opportunity again until...Monday, I think. Tomorrow morning there's a rumor that I will finally be moving an armoire over to my apartment. Tomorrow night I will be caring for Justin until Sunday afternoon. That arrangement immediately signals a lack of sleep.

Out of the Office

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Tuesday, October 27, 2009

First Lines

I bought six more books tonight. (Gasp!) My rationalization is that 5 out of 6 books were used with prices hovering in the $6.99 range. I then get 40% off that price. So a $6.99 title ends up costing me $4.20, plus tax. The other integral element to my well-thought out rationalization is that tomorrow is the finalization of my divorce. Buying books has always been something I do to cheer myself up. Having new books to browse through is an luminous activity for me. Don't get me wrong, I like to buy books when I'm happy too. I've said to my parents when they marvel at my book collection, "It could be worse. I could be spending all my money on heroin." That puts it all in perspective.

So tonight, with my marriage dissolution to occur at approximately 1:30 pm tomorrow afternoon, I bought six books; five novels and one book of philosophy entitled The Duck Who Won the Lottery. I usually read the first few lines of any book to see if it hooks me, or if it at least has elegant prose going for it. Here are the first lines from each of the six books I brought home tonight:
a.) For some time now the road had been deserted, white and scorching yet, though the sun was already reddening the western sky.

b.) I don't know whether I should tell you my dreams.

c.)She shook him awake into the quiet darkness.

d.) Joe "Kong" Allen's lifelong stepfather massaged his shoulders and said, "Son, this is your first big one. Watch your Temper!"

e.) Yes, of course I can come straight to the point and start with a sentence like: The telephone rang.

f.) No one in their right mind could read Cernan's testimony and deny that NASA must be giving its astronauts training in advanced rhetoric.

I don't know about you, but to me "b" seems the most mysterious and inviting of the six lines. I also realize that "d" is actually two sentences, but it just read better that way, and read more like a first line. When I worked at Bailey-Coy bookstore on Capitol Hill we would choose a first line each day and post it on a sign outside. Anyone who guessed the book correctly would 20% off any one book. Of course, with iPhones and such these days, it's easy for people to quickly research something trivial like a first line. In the bookstore we had a couple of books behind the counter that were nothing but first lines (last lines too!) We also had the freedom to just pick a random book off the shelf and use its first line.
* * * *

As I mentioned above, my divorce will be finalized tomorrow. This will be my second divorce. I realize that in the eye of the beholder the phrase "twice-divorced" would conjure up certain judgements and imaginings. I myself start to feel like Eddie Fisher, or Richard Burton. They both had been married five times, and share the fact that they were both once married to Elizabeth Taylor. Actually, Richard Burton married Elizabeth Taylor twice! I've never been married to Elizabeth Taylor, although my first wife's name was Elizabeth.

In reference to an earlier post: I do not have a bottle of champagne chilling in the refrigerator, ready to pop tomorrow upon becoming an ex-husband. The occasion is bittersweet, to say the least. I will be dealing the the emotional residue for months (and years) to come. We have child to co-parent, so that demands attention to feelings and respect for alternative points of view.

I haven't seen or heard from my first wife in well over a decade. It was one of those we-married-too-young kind of things. At least that's the veneer of it. I was 23 years old, and not long out of the air force. I look back and it seems like another version of myself that lived that life. Actually it was, since all of the cells in my body have regenerated a couple of times since then; sloughed off on couches, in showers, and just sitting in the car. Now it's a different Me being divorced from a different wife.

To honor the occasion of my divorce (and speaking of Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor), here is a scene from the classic Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?

Ah, marriage...

a.)The Orchard Keeper by Cormac McCarthy, b.)The Man of Feeling by Javier Marías, c.)Outer Dark by Cormac McCarthy, d.)Doom Fox by Iceberg Slim, e.)The Procedure by Harry Mulisch, f.) The Duck That Won the Lottery by Julian Baggini

Monday, October 26, 2009

Pining for the Fjords

Yes, I admit it. I'm starting to obsessively think about my upcoming trip to the Olympic Peninsula. Who can blame me? My divorce will be finalized this Wednesday. I'm having to pack away all my cares and woes. Actually, that's not true. I'm actually packing away all of my material possessions that will not reasonably fit into my tiny apartment (AKA the "freezer.") The days are becoming shorter at an ever-quickening pace. Rain is a frequent visitor to the area now. All I can think about is being ensconced in a cabin by the sea, with a certain passionate lover, who has the uncanny ability to take away all my cares and woes. (So that's where all my cares and woes go!) I just need a three nights by the sea, and the ability to leave the city and it's attendant stress behind.

I'm about 75 pages into A Wild Sheep Chase by Haruki Murakami. It's his first novel, and, so far, I'm once again enjoying his characters and easy-going prose. Let it be my literary diversion until I'm ready once again to plunge into life's big issues. Tonight I will head to the old homestead after work to care for Justin overnight. He's home sick today, and I wish I was there to sooth his fevered brow. While there tonight I will undoubtedly pack away more books. It feels like I'm starting to make some headway, but my deadline (my line in the sand) is November 11th, Veteran's Day. With my second divorce in sight I guess I qualify as a veteran in that respect.

Here is a short promotional video for the Kalaloch Lodge. Two and a half months will seem to stretch into two and a half years, before the four hour drive to paradise begins. Until then here's just a teaser:

Friday, October 23, 2009

Odd Moments

I just logged onto Facebook for the first time in a couple of weeks. I don't really use the site to socialize, which makes sense since I'm not the most social person in the world. I mainly use it to update my reading lists, music likes, and so forth. I also check in on my relatives that use it. I saw the photos of my niece's new baby mere hours after the birth. I have co-workers that check their Facebook page frequently throughout the day, and update it: "I just ate a cookie!" Me? I'm old fashioned. I still communicate via e-mail. Call me a Luddite, I know. I just cannot seem to get out of the habit of actually forming paragraphs filled with these things called sentences. I can almost count the number of times I've used emoticons on both hands.

The rain is pattering outside my door, drops slapping down onto the pavement entryway. I was laying in bed with my headphones on, listening to Ben Folds. Rock and roll with a smirk. I actually got up and turned my computer back on. I was having problems logging onto Blogger earlier, and I guess I was just aching to write a post. It's been a week, and so much has gone on in my life.

At about four o'clock on Wednesday morning -- I was still awake, but about to retire -- I heard someone very noisily stirring their recycled glass. I thought that maybe someone was going through the bin outside of the apartment house, but I peeked out my doorway, and could not see anybody in that direction. When I opened my door a cat immediately appeared above my head atop the parapet that borders the neighbor's property. The feline appeared to be begging for entrance into my abode. I mentally told him It's four o'clock in the morning! What the hell is going on out there? I never did find out what all the glass clinking was about, and the cat wasn't letting on.

Later on Wednesday, I took a short drive to the nearby Subway sandwich shop to buy my usual: turkey on whole wheat, hold the mayo. On the way back home, as I was turning south onto 99, I saw three police cars across the way on 100th st. by the custom upholstery shop. The cops were out of their cars with their guns drawn. I didn't have time, nor the inclination to see the suspect in their sights. I drove back to my apartment thinking, I'm about to enjoy a turkey sandwich, and there are police a few blocks away, threatening to end someones life.

So, a couple of weird events in amidst a week of work and some play. Not enough play mind you, but some.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Rainy Day Feelings

It's Friday, which seems to have some significance for some people. Tonight is my last shift at the bookstore until Monday evening. I'm ready for a break. The computers, and credit card connections at work have been protesting the recent wind and rain. Their protest has taken the form of a work-strike. The rain has only intensified today, and I glanced at the forecast with the idea of taking Justin somewhere tomorrow, only to see the next five days decorated with rain clouds. I may venture out with him to see the film "Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs." Only fitting during a rainy weekend.

Other than keeping my son busy, and entertained, I will attempt to get a little farther along in my reading of The Intuitionist. I was able to read another 20 page chunk last night before retiring for the night. For whatever reason, I'm a little anxious to get through this particular novel. I'm enjoying it, but I feel that there are quite a few other titles I'd rather be reading at the moment.

I've had my most recent rental from Netflix for a couple of weeks now. It would be good to get that watched this weekend. It's a film called "Carla's Song," directed by Ken Loach, and I've been wanting to see it for some time now. One hesitation I have with the DVD is that it's lacking subtitles, and the Scottish brogue is quite thick. I know that I'll miss quite a bit of the dialogue, but I will hopefully get the gist of it anyway.

Well, it's time to microwave some lunch before heading east to the bookstore for the afternoon.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

One Man's Funny...

I remember as a teenager seeing "Monty Python and the Holy Grail" with my father. It was the second time I was seeing it, and it certainly wouldn't prove to be the last. I think that I was hoping to turn my dad on to, what to me was, one of the funniest movies of all time. We were seeing it in the university district, so the crowd was fertile ground for Monty Python.

My dad did not laugh once during the entire movie. In fact, during the "killer rabbit" scene, he leaned over towards me and whispered, "This is stupid." Meanwhile, the rest of the theater is in stitches. It's not that he didn't get British humour, because at home he would laugh his ass off at Benny Hill. But Benny Hill was all pratfalls and boobies. There is certainly a lot of what passes for comedy these days that I do not find funny. Funny to me is the Marx Brothers, Mel Brooks, Woody Allen (especially his early, funny films.) I've also enjoyed the whole Judd Apatow/Seth Rogen/Jason Segel/Paul Rudd miasma that's been happening over the last few years.

So, here is the funny "killer rabbit" scene from "Monty Python and the Holy Grail." Or maybe it's just stupid.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

A Philosophical Bent

"I can't believe that!" said Alice.

"Can't you?" the queen said in a pitying tone. "Try again, draw a long breath, and shut your eyes."

Alice laughed. "There's no use trying," she said. "One can't believe impossible things."

"I dare say you haven't had much practice," said the queen. "When I was your age, I always did it for half an hour a day. Why, sometimes I've believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast."

There is an interesting tidbit of information that blew my mind when I first heard it: "you can't measure anything without changing it." I recently read a book called The Mysterious Flame, in which Colin McGinn postulates that we will never know the mystery of consciousness. That we as humans do not have the mental capacity — or more importantly the concepts — to conceive of the manner in which our brain matter attains consciousness. I have a book on my “to buy” shelf called Ignorance that sides with Descartes theory that the only fact we can truly know is that we are conscious: I am a thinking thing that thinks. Whether life is just a dream, or that I’m really Keanu Reeves plugged into the matrix cannot be known for sure. What can we truly know? All I can know for sure is that I am thinking these thoughts. I may awake one day to find that I’m a leopard slug in the rain, who has just awoken from a very weird dream

Who bothers to think about these things? Philosophers. Thinkers that think. In Buddhism one is trying to attain a silence of mind during meditation. A state of non-thinking. In philosophy, one ponders the Big questions, and ends up in a non-thinking state. Questions like: Does God exist? Is there life after death? How do the mind and body work together? Am I (as in my personal identity) just a collection of electrical pulses, and chemical reactions? Human beings have been hashing and rehashing these ideas for thousands of years. I would be so bold as to state that we are not any closer to answering these basic questions than when they were first posed.

Some claim the power of faith. The idea that one believes in an idea, because their gut tells them to; or because people of their ilk have believed the same thing for thousands of years. Maybe they believe certain things because the evidence persuades them. It may not be peer-reviewed, double-blind evidence, but it persuades them nonetheless. As I heard Bill O’Reilly say to Richard Dawkins about the creation mythology: “It’s true for me.” Can something only be true for you? I have always believed that there’s me…there’s you…and then there’s the cold hard truth. But then what is truth?

When I’m in a particularly good mood (as I was today) food tastes better. Colors are more vibrant. The driving rain seems like a good thing! Hell, I may even glance in the mirror on a day like today and think that I’m handsome, in a worn and unrefined kind of way. On a day when my mood is as dark as a midwinter day in Seattle, then everything else takes on that gray hue. My perception changes based on my inner state of mind. If I’m happy, healthy and horny then life is good, and the world seems bright and shiny. If it’s a down day I start to think that Glen Beck and Rush Limbaugh have a persuasive influence beyond a few brain-damaged yahoos living in their mother’s basement.

So, those are my random thoughts for the evening. My post-work, write-to-relax, blog entry. To celebrate my good humor, here is something humorous:

I'd Rather be Reading

A few years back I was reading a book a week. These days, with a full-time job, and parenting responsibilities, I’m lucky to get in a book a month. Anything over 250 pages starts to seem daunting. I’m about one hundred pages into Colson Whitehead’s The Intuitionist, and the story is drawing me forward, but the pull is not quite strong enough. I find myself admiring the New York of his alternate universe, where the world of elevator inspectors is highly politicized. The main character of the book, Lila Mae Watson, is the first black woman inspector. The world of elevator inspectors is also divided into empiricists and intuitionists. Needless to say, the intuitionists are viewed as practitioners of voodoo, or some other hooey. The intuitionists are more liberal, and in touch with their emotions. The empiricists are the old white boy network. A tough nut to crack. I think I would enjoy the book more if I could devote more time to it. I cannot get into the rhythm of the words, by reading it in twenty page chunks; on lunch breaks and just before falling asleep.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Death to Nostalgia

I survived the mediation meeting on Friday morning. We did manage to finish all necessary paperwork, and were out of the office ten minutes early, which was not bad, considering that we showed up ten minutes late. We were pausing outside of the office before beckoning an elevator, when Jen realized that she had only reported half of her income. She had mistakenly given the amount on her bi-weekly pay stub as her monthly amount. That made the disparity in our incomes that much more glaring, and my chance of having my necessitated payments reduced by one hundred dollars that much more likely.

I loathe hindsight, and nostalgia. Events passed are already blurry within my memory cells. Even photographs lie. A mere momentary smile in amongst a lifetime of grimaces. Looking forward seems just as futile. The horizon is unknown to me, and forever out of reach.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Nothing But the Funk

It’s Thursday evening, which can have different meanings for different people. Some folks feel a buoyancy of spirit due to the fact that tomorrow is Friday. Friday is sacred to the worker of a standard work week. It’s the beginning of the weekend. The symbolically needed excuse to begin to drink, and PAARTY! For years I worked on Saturdays (one of the evils of retail), and so Friday felt like just another work day, or it possibly felt like Thursday. Now for me, Friday means that I will be caring for my son from the end of my shift at the bookstore until sometime Sunday afternoon. This Friday has the added meaning of yet another meeting with a mediator to finish up the paperwork necessary for the divorce. Two weeks ago I was on the eve of another mediation session, and feeling quite verklempt. I took the night off from work and went back to bed. I slowed down my day and started to right myself.

This is my second divorce. The second time around does not make the experience any easier. This current marital struggle has been ongoing, and stressful. The divorce is a sad dénouement to a relationship that always had a strong basis in friendship and trust. It’s just that life got in the way. Priorities got skewed. Of course, there is much more to it than this. There is a child involved, which makes us both want to be extremely mindful and respectful of his interests. There is a good possibility that, once the legal smoke clears, Jen and I will have a better divorce than we did a marriage. Everything changes.

So, the morning mediation is slightly on my mind, but the toughest paperwork has been hammered out. The parenting plan, and property settlement. The rest is just icing on the cake of dissolution. Maybe just a little bittersweet though.

I traded in a box of books today, and received $60 worth of credit, which I immediately used tonight. I have a few new titles sitting in my bin, and I wanted to clear them out. I came away with six new books — actually one was a remainder priced at $3.98 — In the Valley of the Kings by Terence Holt, The Philosophical Baby by Alison Gopnik, Today I Wrote Nothing by Danil Kharms, Jakob von Gunten by Robert Walser, Letty Fox: Her Luck by Christina Stead, and Memories of the Future by Sigizmund Krzhizhanovsky. The last three titles are published by New York Review of Books, and I collect those editions. There is also some Russian absurdism, philosophy, and a debut collection of Poe-like short stories. I traded in books that I had for years, but hadn’t read. My reading tastes have changed somewhat over the last five years, and I have different interests to occupy my thinking time. Plus, my reading time is so precious these days, that I hate to waste it on bad books.

I got some Funkadelic going on in the background here, so I’m going to close up shop, and let my motor wind down. Peace and love…and Oh! And understanding! Yeah, almost forgot about understanding. What's so funny about those things?

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

No Time

I just do not have the time to write about the things I'd like to cover tonight. I got home from work at about 10:30 pm. I decided to finish reading The Mysterious Flame, since I had less than thirty pages to go. I've also been going through fiction withdrawal, so I was ready to close off the heavy thinking, and move on to some escapist fare. I'm not sure how The Intuitionist is going to fill that need. My guess is that it's the type of novel that writers admire, which doesn't always translate to readers in the general public. I've heard raves and I've heard "pretentious!" I'll have to make my own literary judgements when I'm through.

I've love to have time to jot down my feelings about the moon. Yes, that's right...the moon. There is something magical about the moon in the fall and winter months. It's more significant in the sky, larger and brighter. There was some smattering of fall colors over the past few weeks, but a recent brisk wind has caused their downfall. Soon the long season of darkness will begin.

No time left to discuss music, or movies, or telepathic lizards. Just enough time to..

Monday, October 5, 2009

Hello October

Fall is here in the Great Northwest. That usually translates to leaves turning bright colors, and then being dashed to the ground by a wind storm. It's such a short-lived season compared to the fall in New England. The days are already getting noticeably shorter, and soon the rains will sweep in, and summer will seem like a lifetime ago.

This being Monday, I am about to leave for my shift at the bookstore. My co-worker, who has only been at the bookstore for about three weeks, will depart our employ in just under two weeks. He was lucky enough to have a dream job created for him. This means that there will be a new hire starting soon. Someone I will have to guide and train. As long as the person has book knowledge the rest of the job usually comes pretty easily. If you're a right-winger, who only reads paeans to Ronald Reagan, or worships the drool cup of Glenn Beck, then you will probably not fit in at our store.

I wish that I had more time to write today, but free time is at a minimum these days. Maybe for Christmas I'll get a stocking full of time.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Wasn't I Just Here?

The weekend has arrived again. This translates into one more evening of work. Friday night at the bookstore, and there is a light drizzle in the air. It's hard to predict whether the store will be busy today, or not. Sometimes the rain keeps the customers away. Personally, on any rainy day I'd rather stay home and read the books I have on hand, rather than go shopping, but I can certainly understand the need for new books. I brought home three new books last night. At the end of my shift I will be heading north to "the house" to care for Justin until Sunday afternoon. I slept in today, knowing that I would not get that opportunity again this weekend.

A week from today, my wife and I will be attending our last session with the mediator to finalize all necessary paperwork in order to dissolve our marriage. The divorce will be final at least fourteen days from the date of filing. We have had to write up many contingencies in case our working relationship ever "goes south." Not being a big fan of "the south," I'd like to avoid that direction if at all possible. It's no fun, sitting in a corner office with a view of the Olympics, and coming up with which of the parents will have Justin on Christmas, New Years, and St. Swithun's Day. It's also a little disheartening to hear the woman you've loved and lived with for over 14 years declare that she will donate any of my belongings still at the house after 30 days. Ah well...there is more life to be lived waiting in the wings.

There is a picnic tomorrow at the co-op, where Justin attends three days a week. It appears that the weather may frown upon that activity. My only concern is what to bring to this potluck. I suppose that I could choose a recipe tonight, and try and throw something together before it starts. Or I could take the lazy route and pick up something at the grocery store. I'm sure that if I brought a big bucket of "Nemo fish" Justin would be more than satisfied.