Category Archives: ramblings

Please Pause for Station Identification

Holy sunset, Batman

Spring is crazy. There’s an electricity in the air. I can feel it humming in my bones. The trees are singing. Storms sneak up on the horizon and explode the sky with unexpected rainbows.

I’ve been walking, taking it all in. Spongy moss bed beneath my feet on Summit. Heavy sweet smell of Lilacs on Roy – coupled with the unmistakable scent of dark roast coffee grounds and soil. Fresh tilled earth, acidified by Starbucks.

I spent most of Saturday at my (still unnamed) workspace in Frellard. Had a few minor epiphanies. I’ve been getting bogged down in the business part of “doing business,” paralyzed with little energy for doing. Continue reading Please Pause for Station Identification

On Having Arrived

I had an appointment downtown the other day. It’s on the very top floor of one of the skyscrapers towering above the city, one of the sleek and mirrored ones that reflect blue sky and white puffy clouds on clear days. The top floor has its own elevator; you have to take the regular elevator up to the 33rd floor and then get on a separate elevator which whisks you upwards 12 feet to the penthouse above.

As I exited the elevator at the top, I passed an office with enormous glass doors. I could see right through the office and out the floor-to-ceiling windows cradling this executive’s suite. I saw it out of the corner of my eye, and did a physical double-take when I realized the shaft of white I saw was the Space Needle. I backed up three steps and stood there, mouth agape.

The enormous windows framed the Space Needle perfectly and the office was the same height, so level with the observation deck. It was unreal. It seriously looked like a fake picture.

There was the guy with his desk abutting the window, talking on the phone. On a crystal clear day, sun streaming in onto the floor of his office, the Space Needle sparkling like some real estate ad in Architectural Digest.

And I wondered – when this guy walked into that office on the day he was hired, did he say, “Okay. NOW I’ve arrived”? Was that a watermark morning for him? Such a lush and tangible proof of accomplishment?

I keep wondering what my moment will be. If I’ll have one of those moments. If it will come slowly, if it will sneak up on me while I’m busy doing dishes or writing another rough draft.

Or if I, too, will be handed the keys to something so undeniably full and bright. Unlocking the door to some proverbial room to discover the Space Needle wrapped up just for me.

Labradoodles for Obama

While clearing off the hard drive of a laptop I’m lending to a friend, I came across some great files this morning. The laptop is the one I began using for National Novel Writing Month in 2008. I didn’t really want to participate at the time but went along with it due to peer pressure.

I had this idea for a long time that I wanted to turn into a novel. It came from watching my cat Nevadelia, who has some very strange, though typically feline, habits. Occasionally she sits in the corner of the room, facing the wall, ears flat against her head, motionless for ten minutes or more. One day, when asked what she was doing, I said, “Oh, she’s just downloading from the Mothership.”

And I started building this funny sci-fi story in my head – what if cats were really sent here to spy on us or control us? Like cats were the ones really running the show, and the humans were allowed to have the illusion of control, just to keep us occupied? The animal shelter would be their headquarters, their version of the CIA. I thought it would be a blast to write a story like that.

So when day 1 of NaNoWriMo came along, I ran with that idea.

I discovered the first chapter this morning while clearing off the laptop. I’d never re-read it after writing it over a year ago, and it’s totally unedited, but it cracked me up so I thought I’d share it. It was highly entertaining to write. I may have to continue it.

It’s clearly evidence I was watching too much X-Files at the time.

And it doesn’t have a title yet, but I might have to call it “Labradoodles for Obama.”

Continue reading Labradoodles for Obama

Maslow, in Reverse

The world is exploding, a million brilliant colors above me. I discovered that the tiny cardboard tube I cherished for so long is just the beginning. That if you strike a match and hold it to the wick on that tube, it rockets into the air and fills the sky with a thousand shattered diamonds, lime and magenta, a whistle and a snap, followed by the trickling sound of ash in the trees. Cinders the only remnant of the gift I held so closely, in its bland paper package, not realizing all this time it was meant to be set on fire.

The Universe has learned that kindness and support is not always the best way to guide me in the right direction. Strong willed and self-sufficient, I’m not one to take advice or read the map. I’m inherently bad at following directions.

This is why it’s important to relish the upheaval life throws me. A painful encounter changes my course much more efficiently than softly spoken counsel. I call it my “golden brick to the forehead.”

Twice you burned your life’s work
Once to start a new life
Once just to start a fire

So the New Year begins and I crawl out from beneath the table where I sought refuge, wide-eyed, staring at the multicolored fireworks in the sky. It takes me a minute to realize the fireworks are the result of lighting my works on fire.

My little world right now appears in list form. My thick artist journal, which I carry with me, littered with snippets of dialog, ephiphanies, impulses and desires:
I saw Avatar in Imax 3D for the third time on Saturday. Kerry and I compared notes – we cried at different parts this time. I have always felt that connection to the animals. Even without an awesome braid-portal.

I spent MLK day in Joni’s living room, talking about journaling, art, and connection. Eating clementines, grilled cheese and tomato soup. Link sleeping belly-up in front of the fire. I dyed my hair a version of strawberry blonde, “red penny,” and afterward, Joni helped me highlight it because I couldn’t see the back. I laughed outloud that night when I saw Ruby Fuss documenting her newly-acquired hair color. 3,000 miles away we still end up with the same ‘do, endlessly.

We’ve been watching Fringe on DVD and it makes me miss Boston. All the shots of Cambridge, the Pru, and snow. My old job is open at Harvard. I loved it there. It would be easy to go back.

But I’ve finally got a room with a view. I can see the Space Needle from my couch, through a frame of leafless trees. How could I possibly give that up? Even for all the Dunkin Donuts salt bagels and iced hazelnut coffee in Somerville?

The sun is out in Seattle today. In January, that’s front page news. I’ll likely slip out of work early and roll around in it. I have to turn my plants weekly or they grow lopsided, like me – stretching toward the silver sky, a failing attempt at synthesizing growth in the absence of light.

Hauntings

The layout of my tiny Mexican apartment is such that the bathroom entrance is directly across from the bed. And in another brilliant feat of architecture (along with cabinets that cannot be opened fully because they collide with ceiling fixtures), the light switch is outside the bathroom. One cannot turn on the lights for the bathroom without casting harsh illumination on unsuspecting sleepers.

I thought I would be smart and plug in a nightlight above the toilet, which could be switched on once the bathroom door was safely closed. Then I discovered that the power outlet was not active unless the main switch was on, returning us to the problem of flooding the darkened bedroom with bright light.

I remedied this problem by installing a battery-operated LED nightlight. And to sidestep the issue of searching for a tiny switch in the windowless pitch black, I found a light with a motion detector that turns on when the door is closed. Brilliant. Voila! Problem solved.

I mounted the light on the wall down low so it wouldn’t create a glare. A side effect I found amusing is that the cat turns on the light when she goes in to use the litter box. I don’t know why, but that cracked me up endlessly when I first discovered it. I wondered if she thought about it at all, if she made the connection. (Like the connection she’s made that if she sits in a certain spot at 7 AM, a bowl of food magically appears.) If I was lying in bed and saw the cool glow of the LED kick on, I’d turn toward the bathroom with a giggle and watch her feather duster plume of a tail disappear like a question mark into the shadows.

Then one night, soon after installation, the light went on and I turned to see no litterbox-bound feline. No toilet-bound human. Nothing having fallen off the shelf to trigger the motion sensor. Just – randomly-generated light.

I figured a scrap of tissue or something must have quietly fallen before I could see it to trip the sensor. Obviously.

Until the Page mentioned it the following evening, wide-eyed. “I think we have a ghost.” And we went on to speculate the various forms this ghost might have, including a cat-ghost who waited until nighttime to use the litterbox in the bathroom.

I’ve tried in vain to pinpoint a rational reason for this phenomenon. Others whom I’ve consulted, in possession of a similiar device, have not experienced these hauntings.

My main confusion is that ghosts traditionally float off the ground. If the motion sensor is nearly flush with the floor, wouldn’t a ghost bypass it without triggering the light? Or are cat-ghosts different – perhaps still earthbound on all fours?

The errant night light remains an unsolved mystery. The Page, insatiably curious, has posed the question: “Do all motion sensor lights detect ghosts – or just ours?”

The Problem with #6

A good friend of mine told me about a Native American proverb that goes something like, “If you don’t understand my silence, you won’t understand my words.” I sat with that one for a few days after I first heard it.

My whole life I’ve had an overwhelming list of interests, many of them even categorized as “passions.” Had I not developed a minute degree of discipline over the years, I’d still be a professional dabbler – and likely still in grad school. The mythical but unemployable “Jill of all trades; Master of none.”
Five is a limit that has long worked for reining in my scattered attentions. So I keep a list of five facets on which to focus. These areas of interest change several times a year; some rotate based on the Pacific NW seasons (raining/not-raining). I try to save indoor activities for winter and outerworldly pursuits for our brief but hedonistic summers.

Drawing and Playing Guitar are two hobbies that have long held the #6 and #7 spot on my list. Always there, always tempting, always out of reach. When I decided to Start My Own Business this year, that single line item took up a hefty #2 on the docket. Which means Blogging, after a seven year run in the top five, was pushed out to #6.

The problem with #6 is that I don’t do it. The idea of blogging becomes swiftly annotated with the sentence, “I’d love to, but it’s not in my top five right now.”

(I make it sound as though I run my life like a corporation. I guess in some ways, I do.)

Honestly, it might be the official coining of the term “BLOGOSPHERE” that was the final nail in the coffin for me. When I heard M’ichelle Norris on NPR stumble over the term for the first time, I slammed my laptop closed in defeat. “This marks a momentous day,” I said aloud, to no one in particular. And taking out a mechanical graphite pencil, I erased Blogging from its slot in the top five.

I am painfully conscious of the meta-irony and humor evident in writing about not writing. I make fun of people who write about not writing. But that’s not why I’m here. Part of this is thinking out loud. Part of this is an excuse note, in a way. “Please excuse K from her absence; she was out playing in the sunshine.”
The thing is, this morning I was leaving the house and stopped, stunned in the doorway. The pre-dawn sun was backlighting the pink mountains, frosted with whipped-cream snow. An enormous, pale full moon slung low over the city. The Space Needle proudly hoisting its Christmas tree toward the heavens. A Disney skyline sparkled. The glittery city shone, some fantastic set before a play begins. I took a photo. I wrote about it in my head. And then I went to work.

I miss the depth of experience that comes with sharing moments like this. Explaining it, painting it for you increases my enjoyment of the original scene. It becomes more memorable to me. This tiny slice of simple joy colors the rest of my world — the rest of the top five.

Self-serving? Yes, a little. But more accurately, it’s symbiotic. Or perhaps even mutually beneficial, to put a little marketing spin on it.

Whatever the reason, I think my chronicles serve as an enrichment exercise for the rest of my life. If nothing else, they are an archive of time and place.

The second reason I’ve found myself drawn to this locale almost urgently this week is that I really hate Facebook. I hate Twitter. They’re like this crowded high school cafeteria where everyone is vying for attention, strutting and preening and spouting constant self promotion.

I’m well aware that this is not a popular stance to take. But I honestly believe all this Tweeting (guh – the word itself makes me gag) and Facebooking is degrading the nature of our interactions. Disintegrating our attention spans. I feel empty after “social networking” – like reading Oprah Magazine. “It’s so shiny and glossy! It promises so much!” And after reading it cover to cover, or likewise spending empty time online, I feel hollow and lacking.

I also am highly resentful of the distraction this digital masturbation causes in my real world relationships, when spending time with friends is broken up into two minute blips by the checking of email and Twittering our whereabouts. It’s all unbearably un-zen.

Be here now.

Now.

and Now.

Returning to this space feels like a refuge from the din. Maybe I just don’t like the competition. Could be. But it’s so quiet and serene here. I don’t get interrupted. I’m not limited to ejaculatory bursts of words. I can take my time to weave my narrative. I can take my time.

So I’m considering either adding a slot for #6 on my list or amending another interest to include Directionless Digital Ramblings in Wishville. Maybe I could add line item “B” to #3, Morning Pages. I still get up at least an hour early every morning, still write longhand before I start my day. I feel like blogging, at least here, at least for me, can be a similar exercise in creative discipline and stirring the pot. Refilling the well.
Because creativity is abundant, and the more you use, the more is generated. I need to stop treating it like some precious resource. It’s exponential. It’s big and dynamic and can be banged around, stretched out, and never used up. Not like time. Not like Now.

and Now.

Wish You Were Here

I’ve been sending you postcards – did you get them? All my little snapshots posted at random intervals… greetings from Des Moines, thinking of you in Ballard, wish you were here eating cupcakes on Alki.

My attempt at staying in touch and letting you all know I’m still live and kickin’ like a Beantown lobstah.
Truth is, I’ve moved again. Capitol Hill is my life support system and even the draw of beachy sunsets and cheap rent could not keep me away. It’s back to Volunteer Park time, in fact, let me step out on to my balcony and wave to the Aloha Cabana, a hundred yards away. I’ve moved back within a block of my former abode. I’m nothing if not consistent.

In related news, I have at long last acquired a houseboy. And I must tell you — if you are going to acquire a houseboy, *do* be sure you enlist one that is a gourmet cook. Perhaps even one that brings home large bags of wild-picked chanterelle mushrooms from which to fashion free-range omelets with goat cheese.

Princess Nevadelia Lotus Blossom has finally aclimated to the move after projectile vomiting for a week straight. She is pleased as punch to have not just one but two channels of Cat TV — Channel East and Channel West. Cat TV West offers a view of the courtyard and the street, with constant Labradoodle traffic and a fleet of small tabbies wearing bells. Channel East is mainly a parade of squirrels and Metro buses.

Moving back to Capitol Hill has afforded me the luxury of walking to work once again. I feel the Stress-o-Meter® going down; no road rage and an extra 30 – 40 minutes a day to listen to new music. It’s the little things, I’m discovering. Like having the sprawling Broadway QFC back on the map. Picking up rainbow chard and Tofutti cuties on the way home. Dropping off library books. Grabbing a new release at Big Gay Video. (Who, by the way, is having a smashing porn sale this week.)

This weekend I am off to the wilderness of Maury Island to partake of a cottage vacation I won during last year’s charity auction at work. Now that I finally have internet, I will post some new photos. I’ve been shooting a ton, but no way to get them out into the world thanks to broadband-lag.

Hope you all are well and enjoying our last days of summer. Autumn arrives next week — historically, my favorite season. Let the pumpkin soup and cranberry bread begin.

August and Everything After

twohearts

I am engaging in my seasonal flurry of purge and renew, a time when I usually drag most of my furniture out to the curb, cut off all my hair, start a new novel or get a tattoo. I’m fresh out of furniture and have pledged to grow my mermaid locks to my waist. Not feeling up to more ink, I decided instead to purge and renew by tackling my unwieldy cache of writing in attempt to tame that feral beast and get the obscene volumes of prose under control.

In some ways it’s too bad I can’t compose on my laptop like any other self-respecting writer. I even have a diminutive notebook computer that weighs less than a pound and fits in the glove box of my scooter. But no… for some reason I feel the need to do creativity old school style — pen and paper. This daily habit has left me with a colossal collection of notebooks that are beginning to take over my apartment and drain my resources every time I want to move.

I say all this with a note of warmth, similar to when I’m driving down Hampshire St. and it dead-ends without warning at a park, and I quietly admonish, “Oh Seattle, you silly goose.” I want to be angry, but really — how can one get her panties in a twitch over the inherent nature of things?

While wrestling with my notebooks the other day, I came across a hefty stack of rough drafts of novels I have written, and decided to scan them and store them electronically. Doing so would lighten my load by several pounds and make them more accessible.

I pulled out August in Winter Hill, and after unbinding the manuscript, found the scanner couldn’t feed the weathered pages automatically. I was left placing each of the 200 pages on the glass, one at a time.

Although an obvious manifestation of OCD, this task gave me the opportunity to re-read the novel that has taken up residence in the bottom of my bookshelf for nearly 10 years.

I was stunned. I found myself falling in love all over again, standing in the copy room at work and crying into the machine, defending myself to no one in particular, “This is good. This is a decent book!” Nobody was arguing with me, but I’m protective of my embryonic literary efforts and the criticism of days past still stings. Note to Self #147: Don’t show your fairy tales to a molecular biologist.

(Note to Self #148: Stop dating molecular biologists.)

My vain neuroses tell a story as old as time. At least four of the six people who’ve read this particular work loved it. Two out of three molecular biologists agree: it’s somehow lacking. Whose criticism I dwell upon is my choice, and in the past I chose poorly, focusing only on what was wrong with it. So it took up residence in the bottom of my bookshelf and gathered dust.

I’ve pulled this book back out half a dozen times and briefly entertained a rewrite, but was distracted by other bright shiny things — usually writing projects without a heavy emotional history. Time, however, has given me an interesting perspective on it, and I think it may be worth looking at again. It makes me nostalgic for Somerville in a big way.

In other news, I’ve finally got a P-Patch after being on the waitlist for eons. A P-Patch is a community garden, and you get a little plot to grow stuff on. Great for those of us living in an apartment sans yard. The only problem is that it’s not built yet. As soon as we finish the retaining wall and other necessary tasks, we’ll be able to start planting. I’m hoping for pumpkins this fall. It’s too late in the year to start planting sunflowers, which I will save for next summer.

Speaking of summer, yesterday broke every record in the history of the world for heat, leaving most of Seattle around 103 degrees. We don’t do heat well here. If you live here long enough, you turn into a total wuss. Below 35 degrees and the schools close, above 90 degrees the libraries close. I can’t quite figure it out.

The temperature at Alki was mercifully 10-15 degrees cooler than everywhere else in the city, due to the ocean breeze I’m sure. I didn’t find it terribly uncomfortable yesterday, especially after the Page and I got real crazy and jumped into Puget Sound. It literally took my breath away, and I was struggling to get oxygen back into my lungs as my limbs went numb. Once I lost feeling in my body, it was rather pleasant. I felt like a floating head. And then I started getting sleepy and we realized hypothermia was imminent so we crawled out of the salty sea to dry out on the hot beach.

Today is supposed to be close to 100 degrees again. It’s not often I choose to stay at work longer than necessary, but the air conditioning does make it tempting.

Be cool.