Full and happy

Los Angeleno by birth, Northwesterner by choice, Second-hander by nature. Librarian, housebound chef, father, and lowly subject ruled over by the needs and whims of a very old house.
Partial to Mexican, Italian and Vietnamese cookery but will eat damn near anything. Collector of many strange things..the result is chaos and anarchy and a very pleasant place to live.
There is pleasure in accumulation, not just "collecting": music, books and film, in all their multi-formated glory. Outsider artists and those kinds of prints you would recognize if you took liberal studies classes in college. Cooking implements and gadgets for recipes still untried or those ventured. Glasses for most types of libations. Flowers in the garden, herbs in the pot.
It's a life of the senses and a good home life reflects that. Walking helps take in all the rest. Requires no special equipment, opens up the pores, brightens the taste buds, clears the decks for further adventures, puts on the miles, widens the eyes and helps fuel the imagination.

Live boldly, play graciously and love with all your heart knowing that true love comes only once or twice in this lifetime. Speaking of which..donde estas, Empress of my Heart?


"Lack imagination and miss the better story" Yann Martel

"Life is a great adventure and I want to say to you, accept it in such spirit. I want to see you face it ready to do the best that lies in you to win out. To go down without complaining and abiding by the result....the worst of all fears is the fear of living." Theodore Roosevelt, Jr.

"Not I - not anyone else, can travel that road for you
You must travel it for yourself" Walt Whitman

And above all, friends should possess the rare gift of sitting. They should be able, no, eager, to sit for hours-three, four, six-over a meal of soup and wine and cheese, as well as one of twenty fabulous courses.

Then, with good friends of such attributes, and good food on the board, and good wine in the pitcher, we may well ask,

When shall we live if not now?

-From Serve it Forth,
M.F.K. Fisher

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

The gold standard

We don't come from wealthy stock but our stock is running high. We seem to be more like a going concern than a couple that you would see going out, arm in arm, at the local mall. We treat the duo-ness of the two of us more like a company with stock options than as a pair of turtle doves with no options at all. We see the world as a place where our errant dreams can find a home rather than a place where all we can do is shop, eat at the newest nosheries and have little things to do and see just so we can talk about them later on.

We are an industry of sorts, manufacturing good will, honesty and devotion as opposed to widgets and gadgets and geegaws. Somehow we stumbled upon each other, not so much with stardust in our eyes but our eyes filled with much too much. We've seen too much hardship, heard all too much blather. We tasted bitter fruit, found out the that grass isn't greener on the other side, endured all that could be humanly possible to endure from silly people and for a while were content enough to leave well enough alone.

Funny how a road trip to Sacramento on the county nickle to attend a work related workshop can change the way you look at things, redirect the wind the wind in your sails, take your paradigms and shift them anew.

So now we now doing things that seem so normal yet have outrageous implications to take this sweet business of ours into the stratosphere. I find that busting kindling is a dandy thing to do again. Taking The Boy over the hill to doctors and dentists is a stroll through the park instead of another errand to run. We find that current movies and books and social networking tools are shunted aside to make time for picture books, meals made on the fly and to coyote listening sessions deep in the night.

We, this company of two, this growing concern of interest to a few and the idealized ideal of many, are doing great things. We take long country road walks on sunburst fall afternoons and in the midst of those country miles are finding ourselves taking those long dormant dreams of ours off the shelves and onto the road, too. We are eating well and finding ourselves, in all that wellness, eating a few too many gluten free desserts and are perfectly happy with the end results.

We are not knocking down the java but are doing what Starbucks' new tea venture recommends and are drinking way too much tea, never in my mind a bad thing at all. We are finding second hand champagne glasses to drink California sparkling wine out of, are working our way through home work assignments while gingerly discussing moves to far away places and are finding that pictures torn out of Dwell magazines are just as good a source of home decorating ideas as a Crate and Barrel store ever could be.

On some days we seem to build foundations out of cotton candy wishes but more times than not, after lots of hard thought, difficult conversations and a bit of time curled up by the side of a bed, find ourselves with trowels in our hands, our elbows deep in cement, putting the finishing touches on yet another layer of what seems to be a pretty dandy platform for the basis of a mighty fine relationship.

We are living the life, one filled with not a mountain of things but rather one graced with with more than just a taste of stability, durability and hope. Where that hope will take us remains to be seen. Will it be New York or Seattle or someplace in-between? That part remains unclear but in the meantime we have Long Beach, Disneyland, Seattle and Reno to discover and enjoy. Right now we are not being too picky or choosy about where thsi long range vision is taking us, just careful in our approach to the larger idea of the thing. You see, for us it's not the fanciness of the digs, the ritziness of the job, the high faluten-ness of life that matters. We found that it's how you treat one another that makes the difference, and when you treat someone with respect, dignity and love, it helps to set the standard that you live by. With that kind of standard we can do anything.

And right now, as far as I'm concerned, our life is being lived on the gold standard, indeed.

Muchos besitos, Mi Novia.


Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Long time coming

Two years ago this fall I went off to visit my pal Miguelito and his lovely soon to be bride in the grand city of New York. I don't know exactly what happened but it was a mule kick, a hard core bit of falling in love, one that resulted in me dropping apps all over the Eastern seaboard to find my way back there. Now, grant it, I took a sideways glance at Cleveland felt the warmies for that place, too, but nothing got in the way of that stricken feeling I felt for the Big Apple.

That is, until I set it down.

I felt after about a year that I should stop being a fool about it. Unrequited love. I let the city go. Stopped sending off almost daily supplications to the goddess of work, stopped peeking in on the NYPL website.

Then something  happened. A chance visit. I was tasked to review library websites for my Friends group so I visited San Francisco, Seattle, Los Angeles and....New York. Ah, I knew it was time to go back, update my resume, check in on my application, make sure all the pertinent information was up to date. It took a bit of work but I made it shine once again, put that gleam back into my eye for what I long ago considered a lost cause. And what should be waiting there in the careers section but a handful of teasing opportunities: three branch manager jobs and a part time librarian slot on Staten Island as well. Did I have anything to lose?

Heck no.

And what did I do?

Applied to them all.

As the days went by the chances grew slimmer. Not accepted for this one, another one filled. One by one they disappeared, no matter that I was being considered for this one, that one, too.

Then, to my surprise, a letter dropped into my email box last Thursday. Would I be interested in phoning in, setting up an interview? Would I be available to talk Tuesday morning at 7 AM?

And today, after a a happy nights sleep, after a good talk well done yesterday morning, what did I hear on my cell phone?

Ah, would you be interested in flying out to see us here in New York?

Would I? Would I?

Oh my goodness!

To that I say to myself, to the world: never lose heart. Dreams come to life. But more than anything else let something go every once in a while. If it's meant to be it'll come back to you.

Here we go, Nuevo York. Next month we'll see if we're as compatible as I think we can be.

Here's to good fortune for me and my crew.



What is?

A good hard walking sunny afternoon spent in the city on library business. A downtown farmer's market sans drama and filled with foodstuffs not normally seen in aisles of our local Mendo county markets. A vibrant and toothsome Mexican luncheonette filled with folks from off the streets and in and out of the local office buildings. A view of The Bridge, caught in sideways glance, after a looping trot through the gingerbread finery of the Fort Mason neighborhood. A bit of time spent in the galleries, dreaming of pieces we would love to own but know, that for the near and foreseeable future, are completely out of the question financially (but fun had in the looking all the same). Talks that go on and on into the night, complete with issues that are sometimes unresolvable then and there but then, after a rough nights sleep, are always handled with love, care and diplomacy in the light of the following day.

Food prepared in a kitchen that never seems to be too small in a house that lately has been filled with hard fall light in a room filled with the glee of a little boy learning the fine art of playing Go Fish. A movie that was, at the onset of this happy voyage, a source of conversation and enlightenment and has been finally watched through to the end (that makes two films now, mujer...). Walks that go into fields filled with cow patties and rough furrows and up to trees filled with gold, all taken into account with hide and go seek and bumpy bicycle rides built into their all too swift finales.

Indian food buffet chosen along side all too many different kinds of places to nosh, making us feel like country mice in the big city, no matter that the city we were visiting was a somewhat small one itself. Bookstores packed with novels and cookbooks and photographed nudes and new releases that needed to be not only on our shelves at home but back at home on our library shelves, too. A wild and wacky photo shoot on the edges of a busy tourist filled parking lot overlooking San Francisco Bay and the Golden Gate Bridge complete with a stiff breeze, an almost tossed tablet and a slight loss of decorum. A Mediterranean delight of a hotel, wee and tucked away on 101 as you head onto Lombard on the way into the City, a true gem tastefully appointed, with nicely grouted tile work, a full out kitchen, comfy comforters and a enough charm to have us put it on the favorites list indefinitely (we will be back).

Dancing to songs only heard in our heads as we stood in line to take the cable cars downtown at sundown (and with the line moved up and the crowd, delighted, not telling us to move up as well...). A hard walk through the Tenderloin in the dark of night that ended across the street from the next day's destination and in a kabab place that served a delicious lamb platter, complete with fresh baked bread that neither of us could eat. Two burger baskets served up Protein style..ah, to know that this little slice of heaven will be left behind should we ever leave the state! The discovery of a decent Pinot tinged Rose, a happy surprise out of the icebox. A good morning's long distance interview that turned into another good morning's phone call today that says to me that New York is a mighty good possibility not only for yours truly but for Mi Novia, the Boy and a boat load of dreams as well.

Ah, to normal! We kicked around the idea of "normal" one afternoon in Santa Rosa and have been asking ourselves almost every day since then about what we feel would constitute normal life. Every day we look around us, see what there is to see, see something truly grand and then ask each other that pertinent question: "does this qualify as normal?". Sometimes we just declare, yeah, that's normal, lets build that into our lives. Gelato out and about. A quick trip into a new and unknown market. An afternoon nap. A simple meal made on the fly. Breaking up wood after a sweaty afternoons worth of romping. Sipping an inexpensive wine watching the sun go down. Watching Star Wars for the millionth time and knowing in our heart of hearts that it is a good thing because the Boy thinks so, too.

We are on a voyage of discovery, Mi Novia and I. We are learning, after years of riding the fence, of being out in the boondocks, of weathering sometimes not so great times with not so great people, to understand what would be considered normal everyday kinds of life. We see it, we gauge it, we talk about it, we feel it and then, if we like it enough, we vet it.

This place here, this blog, these writings, are close enough to normal to be a safe  and okay place to bounce off of. This is the place were we can vet ourselves in front of the world. We are finding out that we pretty darned normal, folks, and we are loving it.

More normal stuff to come. Bring it on.


Thursday, September 19, 2013

Moon man moment

I heard it beckon and I chased it to the edge of the continent.

Tonight is my Esteemed Companion's moon gathering there in the valley. I had my own a moment ago, right up at the edge of the sea.

I was sitting, well, not comfortably at my kitchen table, cat under one arm, writing a letter, juggling a cup of tea and bowl of oats in the other, when I noticed, not for the first time that night, the moon in all it's majesty, staring regally through my window. My bedroom was flooded with a glaring bright white light last night and this morning the kitchen lamps were fairly outclassed by the last of it's shine.

I said enough to the cat, who's constant nudging was making a mess of my letter to mi novia and set my repast down. A quick pressing, a fast bath and I was out the door, and just in time, I might add, as the moon, fractured and split by clouds, mist, mayhem in the atmosphere and the rising of the sun, was just about in the drink when I arrived at the beach. Others, few and far between, were out there to witness what I was anxious to see, but there was no race in their steps, no sense of urgency to make it to the coast. I made my way down to the softly crashing surf, stood among the sea weeds and bits of cast off foam and watched as the tail end of the evening's light finally dipped into the far end of the ocean.

I called my dear on the phone who let me know in her sighs that she was with me there. What a time we live in to be able to bridge the distance in the way that we do...the timelessness of a moon set, the immediacy of the shared moment over the miles with the help of modern technology. A moon gathering ala mode. The druids would have been scandalized! No stone monuments, no glowing gowns, just two minds, two hearts, one celestial body, one moment of time across the ether.

Moon maiden, moon man, one with the moment.


Sunday, September 8, 2013

Rescuer on the coast

I am an accumulator, a gleaner, a picker up of things, a man who scans the side of the road for pennies, old screwdrivers, salvage, things tossed from the windows of moving vehicles. I am a fixer, a man with tools in the pantry, a repair guy who finds ways to keep things on the road, ticking, tocking, sometimes right up until the moment the wheels fall off. I am a rescuer, a listener, a quietly patient analyzer of souls, hearts, minds, but only analytical up a point, to the place where I will look at you and say, ah, now, how can I help you?

I am not boasting of some arcane ability to keep boats afloat, cars on the highway, toasters toasting, no, I am a troubleshooter only in the way that I can be and that is that I see things as they come to me, needing to be salved, listened to, worked with and then I go from there, aiding and abetting, greasing and applying strength, swatting on occasion with a ball peen hammer, duct taping and splinting and staying up until the wee hours working with, cajoling, praising, dreaming along side those that need their tales to be heard, listened to, understood. I see what I need to see and go from there. Hopefully we all go in the same direction after that.

I see the good in things that others don't, bring home paintings or toys or books that have been cast aside, seek out wonders in places that others pass by in their hurried way to be some where else. I wear clothes that are completely out of fashion, as malls and current tastes astound, thrill and sometimes perplex me. I am always late catching up with current best sellers, keeping up with anything hip, staying abreast of things new and cool and marvelous except the news. I always have my eye on the horizon, my hand on the New York Times and my ears open to NPR and yet I don't rush out to taste the latest taste sensation, hear the newest song, watch the latest bit of celluloid unspool at the local cineplex. Now see there, I just dated myself as only the most out of date theaters still screen their movies in that format. I still prefer light sprocketing through actual film stock as opposed to pixels but hey, that's just me.

I am a watcher of light, a listener of needles hitting the vinyl, a man who is always keen to view something new on iron oxide tape. I think that those things we possess and loan here in this place, this grand and wonderful palace we still call a library, this holy house of books, are still of immense and practical value. I am a wanderer in the stacks, a fixture in the aisles of second hands, a ragged blissed out less than holy man in the midst of malls and big box stores, places filled with things new, sleek and disposable. I am thankful that I can be in the midst of it all, look around, see what others see, be happy for them, be detached and still be amused by it all.

I am happy to find that we, she whom I hold close and dear, are equally devoid of being star struck by newest of the new and are not filled with awe of pricey things, things that make the world go round for others, things that we will see later on the cut out racks at Savers . We hold fast with teas and herbal potions, we find that slow is much more relevant to our needs than fast. We find that late night talks are critical to us as those talks help propel and process our dream state but even more than that it gives us things to wake up to, to jot down, to fuel our letters, ignite our hearts, inspire our love.

I am an eater of soaked oats, of slow cooked beans, of meats that have been forever known as "variety". I am a man who values the cast off, the underdog, the ones who have been shunned, kicked around, marginalized, made to feel small, not of their own minds. I am a gatherer, a father, a sidekick, a partner, a planter of seeds, a planner, a dreamer, a keeper of secrets, a man who knows where the line is drawn, the one who knows where the mud is that I must hold. I am curator of sunsets but more one who knows what that dust means on the horizon, what the fires foretell, what the tea leaves on the bottom of the cup say (they say that we need to pour more tea!).

We, my Esteemed Companion and I, are the ones who are somehow finding a way to dash the crystal balls that were given to us and yet are still seeking ways to find answers in the stars, in comet trails, in the coolness of the air that is ushered in by the coming fall season. We are using words less but actions more to see what we need to see. We are using play and hard work to understand one another, not new clothes or the latest sitcom to verify what is what. We are finding our way through tough subjects with love, not heat, with compassion, not correction, with respect, not combativeness. We are walking slowly, taking our time to react, to watch the birds take flight, to see which way the wind blows, to take in sunsets, to gather ourselves together, tea in hand, arms entwined, robes tightly clutched, to see what the new sunrise has in store for us and for our day.

I am a man who sees the good in those things left behind by others. I am the giver of salve, the issuer of bandages, the cook with a ladle filled with broth, the one who hands out the tissues, the warm blankets, the pieces of chocolate to soothe the soul. I am a healer without a license, a brigand with a mission, a rogue with a golden heart, in short, a man who has been over hill, seen the elephant and sometimes, without malice aforethought, brings that damned elephant home with him.

I may sometimes fail to take as good a care of myself as I do others but I believe in what goes around comes around and know that others will watch out for me as I do for them.

In salvaging things, I extend their lives. In helping salvage others lives I extend my own.

Enlightenment only comes after many admission tickets to this rough fair known as life have been paid for up front.

This life, aaah, what a wonderful thing it is, I say, gazing down at the many torn tickets littered by my side.

Let's go look for that next best old thing, my dear, let's seek out that beater, that fixer upper, that three legged cat, that bald tired ride. We know how to do it, how to make things whole, repaired, complete, at rest. Oh, yes we do.Andale, pues, love, time is of the essence!


Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Some things learned, hopefully never forgotten

*The Perseid meteor shower comes around every August whether you have a clear sky to watch it by or not. Catching the tail end of it all scrunched in the back of a station wagon at a rest stop off a high desert highway in Nevada in the middle of the night was a good thing but not as much of a good thing if we had caught it on the coast, my Esteemed Companion. Damn those clouds, that marine layer. Next year. Bueno.

*Stuff left behind in an estranged spouse's garage seems to grow in size over the course of a year yet diminish in meaning relative to the time spent away from it. It's amazing how much stuff I've managed to unload this year and not miss. Where is the passion, the attachment,  the full out craziness that made the accumulation of all that junk the big point to begin with? Outside of art will I ever need to find a place in my home and heart for that kind of massive accumulation ever again? I think not.

*Children and their toys, their play, their imaginations, come and go. Those moments that they want you to get down on the floor and play pass by so fast that you are left in the dust of memory if you don't get down there and play with them right then and there. It was almost fifteen years ago that my oldest (happy 21st, kiddo!) wanted me to play Hot Wheels with him when I stepped in the door after a long commute home from Seattle. I said I would and disappeared into the kitchen to make supper and I never made it back. That moment, the one not taken, has haunted me ever since. Thank goodness for my youngest, for the arrival of that high spirited little boy of my Esteemed Companion! A pray that a moment of good play will never escape me again.

*Traveling in the high desert in the summer time at the break of day is one of the finest things a man driving solo can every experience. Driving that same stretch fatigued under the noon day sun is pure hellishness. Choose to leave early, drive early, get where ever you're going rested. Stay hydrated. Bring plenty of snacks. Leave the chocolate at home. And be sure to bring along plenty of tunes worth listening to over the miles. Those songs will stick with you the rest of your life.

*On that note, never hit the road after a wild night of lovemaking thinking you're going to make your destination on time and in good shape. It'll never happen. Get plenty of rest the night before or leave a day later, or better yet, bring the mujer along to switch hit on the driving. Much better plan I am sure.

*Always remember to do your heavy talking when well rested and over a cup of tea, not late at night and never when red wine is flowing, least ways, not if you don't want to have a morning full of heavy tummy. I have a feeling that next time we face that kind of thing we will leave the talking alone and go play acey ducey, or watch a movie, or retreat like wild rabbits to our burrow, instead.

*Beach play with kids is fabulous and not to be forgotten as a cheap and plentiful source of fun at the end of summer, especially when you live only minutes away from the surf. I forgot how much fun tag, hide and go seek, building log houses, writing in the sand could be. See the world through the eyes of the child and find yourself magically transformed again into that wonderful child you were long, long ago.

*Remember: ..if in doubt, eat dessert first. Especially in the morning, even if the breakfast dish is a pan of mighty good stir fried rice. Always serve sparkling wine well chilled, unless you are at a concert and dragging it out of a picnic basket and then, well, what the hell. Bomb your place for fleas before guests come, not afterwards. Do dishes in the morning especially if more pressing things await the night before. Always have matches, candles and good chocolate on hand when and if you are wondering what to do next but most of all be real. All else is meaningless if you aren't being real.

*Live in a town or a city that has a strong sense of culture and fun about it. This past weekend we had galleries, parades, fresh churned ice cream, gem shows, good super markets, second hands and good hardware stores to bounce off of and never had a moment to ponder "what next?" and come up empty. Sure, I dream of Seattle, San Francisco, Cleveland or New York but I will settle for any place that gives a boy plenty of room to romp and the two adults at hand plenty of things to oooh and aaaah about. Anywhere is fine by me, my Esteemed Companion, truly. Let's plan and let's go.

*A good meal at home, served up with care, consideration, love, tenderness and skill, on mismatched plates, with good music in the background, with laughter and good vibes all around, will beat a five star restaurant out in the town hands down every time.

*Once again, always remember to be real. Remember to back up your words, your oaths, your promises with real deeds. But more than anything, remember to be present, in the moment, right here and now. Donde esta, mujer? Let's go play!


A form of busy-ness

Seems like a quick pit stop is necessary here. I have been jetting around, it seems, to places faraway and close in, and in the midst of that I have forgotten my duties here, to update, enlighten and astound my famished and curious readers.

 "So, where you been, Accumulate Man?" you might be asking? Well, I went a long ways out to Boise to attend a conference, but that was a disguise of sorts as my lovely children live there and I was able to camp out on the couch in their mother's house, saving my Friends group a bundle on hotel fees. Visiting the Estranged One was somewhat painless and easy as she was in and out with work and other pleasures. The kids, well, gawd bless 'em as they all found time to talk with me, sup with me and keep me entertained as I sorted (once again) through the junk and treasures I had left behind last year. Once again the piles grow shorter and smaller and for that I am thankful. Left behind a pile of things that I feel I am running out of time to enjoy. Movies, books, music, well, we just have what we have and what I have is enough. Besides, my Esteemed Companion and I make music of our own and whatever we spin in the background is a plus, no matter what shape or form in comes in.

Otherwise I feel that my life is moving along in a grand fashion here on the coast. The temps have been super warm for us these past weeks, highs in the mid 70's, bringing forth an outbreak of fleas, much to my surprise and chagrin. I have been treating the carpets with salt and baking soda, bathing the cat almost daily (much to her dismay) and have been vacuuming my humble abode up and back twice or more a day. I feel that I am being proactive but no matter how much I stay vigilant the damn critters still come at me. I can feel tales of the Korean war in mulling around in the back of my well read head, thinking of those poor Chosen reservoir bastards holding back the roiling masses in the frozen northern wastes. In my case it's the never ending onslaught of cat (and ankle!) hungry fleas leaping forth from Berber carpeting! Bummer!

But those are small things. We manage, the cat and I., to still stay friends. Work is work, with the crew moving though the masses of books and patrons like the pros that they are. I am working hard to find a good position elsewhere, all thanks to the machinations of current administration, and after my wonderful time at the PNLA conference I feel confident that someday I will find that position of my dreams somewhere along the shores of the Puget Sound. But those dreams might land me elsewhere, as I have been peppering the Pacific Northwest with applications for a couple months now. I have to wonder if my dreams, grandiose as they are, will come to fruition without an MBA. Director? Could I, should I, dream that big? Yes, and I must. In the meantime I wait for my opportunity to interview with Seattle in November and see whether or not they will find a place in their pool (hiring kind) for me.

The road trips never end as I have a few upcoming jaunts to take that include another trip with my Esteemed Companion to Sacramento, a flight with her to Seattle for a look-see before the interview, a one day conference together in San Francisco and a long weeks worth of conferencing in Long Beach, California. For that one I will drive so my novia and I can take a long and leisurely drive back home along the fall studded 101 highway. Can you say Pismo Beach? Steinbeck County? Fisherman's Wharf? Well, we can and we will if the gods so deem it.

So there you go, a nice long list of things done and things to do. I manage to make my way over the hill now and again to share the driving, the twists and turns of the road. Make my way to the lawless country of the Round Valley. Wake to the lowing of the cows and the howling of the coyotes, to smell the deepness of earth and soak in the richness of the sunrises. We, my lovely and I, have managed to find a pace that suits us till our ship comes in. In the meantime we make guacamole, tabboleh salad and lemonade with those lemons that we're given, groove on the short amount of time we are given together and make due with the time apart. My goodness, how cool letter writing is! How wonderful it is to find something waiting for you in the mail!

Okay, time to let this fly, dear readers.

May this find you happy and well!


Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Old school

I don't have a single contemporary hot wireless device and somehow I am happy.

Some folks just don't get that. How could I possibly be happy and not be hip at the same time?

Well, let's see what I don't have and then we'll look at what I do. I don't have a smart phone. What I have is a fairly dumb phone with a battery that is failing. It takes photos, sends texts, probably has other functions but I never use them. I don't  have a personal computer of any kind although I do wish and dream about Apple products and hope to someday graduate to a really nice desktop model. I currently do not do much in the way of social media but know all about Twittering, Face Booking and the like. I don't download books or transfer stuff to a devices so I can listen to them every where I go. I don't do digital movies, which, for me, is a travesty anyway.

I don't have a lot of things that seemingly make life worth living, least ways by contemporary standards. But the funny thing is that I really think all those devices and the lifestyles and conveniences attached to them are really great and I am happy for those that have them, use them and make their lives more fulfilling because of them. That is, until someone's cell phone goes off at a concert. Or a tablet lights up in the middle of a movie. Or when someone comes up to the desk and talks and talks and talks to someone other than me on the phone all the while expecting me to serve them as if I am Redbox kiosk.

I think that someday I will move on past this old school way of thinking and get some of those new cool toys but then again, perhaps not, well, least ways, not right away.  I still like to spin my music on a turntable, watch my tunes unspool on my reel to reel. I still thrill to iron oxide tape and buy cassettes and VHS tapes whenever I see a title I don't own on disk. I still cook from scratch and avoid most convenience foods like the plague. I love to line dry sheets, I love to take public transit whenever I can. I still think reading a newspaper in it's paper and ink format to be one of the best reading experiences going. I love to get someplace slow, like on a train or on a bike or on foot. I love to explore someones mind with real letters, share thoughts over the phone or talk face to face. Emails are dandy but there is nothing quite the thrill of opening up a letter from someone you cherish.

I think that certain things, things not necessarily hip, are vital and real. I think of the things my grandmother taught me, manners and courtesies, "yes sir" and "yes ma'am", things that sometimes irk people because they worry that the things you say a reflection of their age and not one of respect. I think of tolerance, of discipline, etiquette, knowing that eating properly at a table, opening doors, of offering someone your seat, those marks of being well brought up, those gentlemanly arts, never go out of style.

I think of my Esteemed Companion in the midst of all this talk of old school courtesies and know that when she gets to sample them from me she knows that they are from the heart, that they are there to show her that she is worthy of that respect and care that goes along with those things that others might eschew to be too slow, clunky or old fashioned.

Whenever she thinks of me I hope she'll be able to say, "now there's a man who has the sense to be courteous, a man who knows how to hold his mud, how to open a car door, how to write a decent love letter, who knows when and where to ask the right questions, to be open and when to hold back. He is a gentleman through and through and after they were done making him they broke the mold".

I know that having all the cool toys and being hip and ironic are the hallmarks of a new age man., but baby, if I get to have a choice know that I will be old school till the day I take leave of this lovely place.

Care to take a stroll and leave those cell phones behind, anyone?


Monday, August 5, 2013

Thankful for the small things

Sometimes, when you look at it through scratched lenses, you think, "man, it's a tough life". My prayers are rarely answered, and my requests aren't necessarily honored; my wishes aren't always fulfilled, and my dreams, well, let's say that that most of the time they remain unfinished only because the dawn comes and I wake from my slumber.

But really, that's so much nonsense. Life is hard sometimes, sure, what's life without a bit of rain? Without the rain you have no rainbows. Same for spiders, bogey men and unsolicited phone calls. Spiders make webs and eat pesky insects and leave their webs behind for me to groove on on misty fall days. Bogey men give a reason to cuddle close during scary movies or cling to my sweetheart on walks through the night streets. Unsolicited phone calls are a drag but when you are feeling a bit mean and a bit cranky they're just what the doctor ordered. Give back a bit of what you get.

My prayers. Whoa. What do I pray for anymore these days? A small parcel of happiness? Not one wrapped in bows or paid for on credit. Not a big slug of it, either. Small doses here and there, thanks. A sincere smile. A quarter on the sidewalk. A long sought for record in the ten cent cassette bin. Good news on the phone. My children, healthy, strong, happy. My health. Those things are prayers answered enough.

I suppose I don't make too many requests these days either. Quiet in the late hours. A bit of meaningful work at the branch. That the toilet is flushed and that beds are made. Someone else washing the dishes would be nice once in a while, too. But in requesting we must remember to only ask for so much. And to honor those requests made of you.

Wishes. Ah, wishes. I remember when they were aided by shooting stars, or petals on a flower. When I would think really hard and believe that those things I wished for would come true. Wishes have grown up quite a bit since then. I can wish for world peace, for an election to play out favorably. I can wish for a beautiful sunset, or a long morning in a warm bed. I can wish for a few extra dollars to play with on payday, or even wish for something like love to be as beautiful as I think it should be. I wish for many things: my children's happiness, for peaceful resolutions, for hearts to heal. Those kinds of wishes are not necessarily easy to fulfill, but they are wonderful behold when they are.

But my dreams. Now there I excel. I dream of many things, not too much unlike Rip Van Winkle did before he ran into that strange bowling game up in the hollow and got his priorities straightened out. Mind you, I'm not out flying kites or napping under trees when there's work to be done, but I can relate to the desire to while away the hours, to play with my kids, to see rainbows on the horizon instead of storm clouds. I dream that my life will be a positive note in the lives of my children, that whoever I end up with as a partner cherishes me as much as I cherish her. I dream of a good life..not necessarily well appointed, but comfortable. I dream of happiness, but again, of the small "h" variety. Little dreams. A nice garden. Walls painted in pleasing colors. Of a trip now and then. Of a pantry full and a stove burgeoning with delights for family and friends alike.

Small things.

I suppose those prayers and requests and wishes and dreams are answered and fullfilled everyday in small ways. For that I can be thankful for, and I am.


Storytellers guild

We are getting ready to wrap up our summer reading program here on the coast and so far it has been a mighty good one. I came onto this post last year with a program in place and it was not quite what I was used to, but, hey, it wasn't mine to control just to monitor. Programs were attended, prizes given out, treats eaten. Attendance is everything. This year it's been a bit different, a bit more like what I am used to: reading logs, gauges of measurement on the walls, programs reaching far and wide and an ice cream social coming up on the heels of it all.

But I was able, in the midst of all the children's librarian planning, to slip in a couple things I felt were important to do. I did fit in a moderately well used Farmer's Market Bingo program. I like what they around the county and what they represent and wanted a tool to somehow get kids down to the market, interact with the growers, the vendors, all that.With the program theme revolving around food I felt it was a good match. But my big wrap up for the summer, since the idea of outdoor "drive in" style movies didn't really fly well here on the cool in the evenings coast, was to push for storytelling in the park. The park across the street from the branch, in the end, was booked but I managed, here at press time, to secure two tellers who promised to share their art with family and kids here at the branch later on in August. I am beyond pleased as it is bringing back to me a bit of my early library career history. Once a storyteller, always a storyteller.

I have been fascinated with the art going a long time back. Maybe it was the sea stories I heard back in my days with the fleet. Maybe it was all the tales my parents and grandparents told of 1940's LA and of Pancho Villa and growing up in Mexico during the Revolution. Maybe it was my penchant for cinema, for good stories, for a tale well told. No matter, I was sent off to workshops right at the beginning of my time doing children's work and thought to myself, man, I could do that, too. And so I did. Gathered up tales by Lang and the Grimm Brothers, learned a few good paper folding stories, picked up a few magic tricks and songs and I was ready to share my tales, too.

It was a happy time, that first librarian assignment. I had a great manager who believed in the power of good programming, was game to let me do whatever I conjured up, so long as it reflected well with the branch and brought up our monthly statistics. I kicked around the idea of a guild with colleagues and friends, and after a few months of fits and starts, got together the first incarnation of the South Coast Storytellers Guild at the Costa Mesa Branch Library. Those first few months felt as if we wasn't going to launch but by our final show in August Susan, Nancy and Jim and I were able to drag in a full house which pleased me and my manager immensely.

I took that talent on the road and performed all around the region, worked good times with Make a Wish, with church groups, at birthday parties. Went up north to Oregon and started another guild, the Jefferson State Storytellers with the Ashland Branch children's librarian. Did storytelling in the park, a llama backpacking trip, told tales in a staff gather for the State Librarian, hung out with magicians and built up a crew who went on to do great things. By the time I got to the Puget Sound I was almost ready to stop awhile as the competition was heavy and storytelling began it's shift from an small regional, ethnically tinged, locally cultural art form into a major source of entertainment, bucks and egos. Did a bit of telling with Everett and then, years later, after disillusionment and much too long of a sabbatical, began to tell tales to my kids. Back to the roots of it all, a blazing fire, good mood lighting and a fist full of tales to share with wonder filled children.

The idea of the guild came about mainly from my connection with the regional Renaissance Faire but it eventually took off and went it's own way. I looked them up this morning and was happy to see that they are still associated with Costa Mesa and are still performing and conducting workshops regularly in Orange County. And while it has been years since I have stood in front of an audience and wove a tale I have to admit that this latest effort to gather tellers at the library to tell stories to family and friends sounds like a mighty good time, but more a possibility to possibly enter into the art once again.

Once a teller, always a teller, indeed!


A bit of contemporary South Coast Storytellers Guild scheduling:


Sunday, August 4, 2013

Old posts amidst the new words

"What's with all the old posts, Accumulate Man?"

I was sifting through my blog posts the other day, looking for things to share with my Esteemed Companion, who is now an avid reader of this wild and wacky blog and thought, goodness, there are over 600 drafts in my files, why do I have so much stuff in there? Why hide it when I have a new reader eager to see what my life was like five or so years ago?

Yes, it was a bit of slog at first, dredging up all those old worlds that were so cleverly illuminated by those tired old words. Those posts brought up days that were truly hard, tough times, filled with too much change, too much sorrow, too much, too much, but then, when all is said and done, is the basis of what I am all about now, today. We cannot change in a world filled with same old, same old, it requires a down right revolution at times, times filled with paradigm shifts, hard decisions and a ton of self cleansing unloading. Hold onto too much and your craft goes down with you in it. Create a lighter craft, get more buoyancy and learn to sail further, safer, longer, faster.

I found that these old words still work as they are filled with mental imagery and times that I almost forgot about, times that I happily shelved and stopped thinking about. It's good to remember old times, but better, to place those freshly reviewed times into a sort of working memory file and then keep on moving forward.

My Esteemed Companion is welcome to review these things as she can see where I have been and better understand where I am coming from. The rest of the world, too, can weigh in and see if this wild and wacky Accumulate Man is worth following.

You have so far. Stick around, read awhile and know that only better things are up ahead and around the bend!


A good pie settles everything

Standing under the stars last night I was given a gift of grace and I'll be forever thankful for it.

We've had an interesting time of it lately, my dear Esteemed Companion and I. We had been entrenched in a long slugging match with others, something not of our choosing, a truly fruitless event, a much too time consuming slice of  what I've come to call The Covelo Crisis, one that, for a moment it seemed, was out to wreck our wee fragile craft. But being that our  hearts are young, that our vision is set, like good lovers should be, on the future and not on the past, we were able to dispel the shadows that have been lurking about and instead do fantastic things with a day. Berries were picked, a library was run, supper was barbequed, Legos were played with, ice cream runs and pies and laughter were shared, all of it, happiness and joy and silliness, were all brought back into the room, set up and played with as if those things, our hallmarks, had never left.

But it was under the stars later on, after the pie and the chat and a bit of sweetness, that made me realize how wonderful and mysterious the ways of the world are.We were standing under timeless skies, under stars and planets and moons and suns that had seen everything and remembered nothing and now there we were, throwing our mere mortals selves into the mix. Would we pass beneath those celestial bodies, like so many others, unheralded, or would we somehow find the way to have our story told and remembered? I couldn't quite get out what I was trying to say that night but I think that being remembered, having our tale told, was what I trying to find my way to.And what better way to have that story told is to show the world that what we have...shining, bright, filled with happiness and joy, something unmatched and unseen in this neck of the woods in a long, long time....is worth commenting on, remembering, sharing, talking about.

We are more than mere public servants, more than parents, more than children of our people, more than just folks out and about in our communities. We are purveyors of an important message and that message is that if you are sincere and approach life with joy, respect, passion and grace your gifts to the world will be reciprocated. And luck, if one's luck holds and finds its way through the thickets of all that its normal and wild and strange in this world, is finding that one singular person who recognizes this prized self that we hold so dear, that finds that connection, that balance, to all the things that are worth cherishing in this world.

Ah, to this grand kind of luck! Thank god for it for we seemed to have found in the other someone who is willing to share in kind, piece by piece, word by word, these quiet and excited exchanges of equity, selflessness and wonder that we thought were lost to us.

Grace is in the little things, the unbidden blessings, the ones that sneak in under the stars and answer the question, Why Me? with more than mere declarations of love, but more declarations of recognition, of acceptance, of belief in the other.

In the midst of the grand silliness we were dealing with it was easy to set aside the simple things that filled us with joy and instead concentrate on all the things that were true ship wreckers. Pie, a bit of play, fewer words, a lot of quiet, somehow restored all that was missing, supplied us with the kind of grace we needed to move comfortably once again in the world.

Here's to gifts of grace found only under the stars on a practically moonless night in a grove deep in the heart of Covelo. Here's to those things that make life, this one and only pass of ours under the stars, truly worth living.


The old pirate's trading card!

Not everyday that Topps passes up an opportunity like this. Maybe they'll wake up and smell the book paste before it's too late.

I know that Babe Ruth and Hank Aaron and Mickey Mantle all have their respective values as far as baseball cards are concerned, their ball playing histories aside. I know, too, that the Disneyland bubblegum cards that I collected as a boy are mighty precious to Disneyania collectors these days as well. Heck, there's not a commercially minded individual out there worth his or her salt without a trading card contract these days. Face it, trading cards are good clean fun, help promote destinations and sports and hobbies, and helps to keep the chicle gatherers of the world in business, too.

So instead of lamenting that my image can't be swapped at the local card store I decided to do the next best thing: make my own trading card. Sure, it's not wrapped up in fancy metallic paper, and those that need it are not going to get that hard stick of noxious flavored bubble gum along with it. But you are going to get a thrill, that much I'll grant you. "How's that, Accumulate Man? What kind of thrill are you talking about?" you may ask.
Well, to make the trading card splash even bigger I joined up with the powerhouse Flickr group Librarian Trading Cards. Hot bunch of folks, let me tell you. Better than a bus load of ball players. Heavy hitters. Techno folks, first amendment rights advocates, brainiacs and book geeks and wild cats all around. Who could resist trading cards of such a motley group? Not me, buddy. I posted my card right away.
No home run info, no stats, heck, no clues to where to buy a great pizza or what my favorite color is. The information posted is consciously vacant of hard particulars and is made purposefully vague. But it's the image, sport's fans, that matters. The old pirate is finally unmasked! Contact Interpol, the FBI. Post it around town when you put up those missing dog posters. Hide it from the kids as it will promote nightmares. It's there to admire or villify, but no matter, because now when you see out and about in town you can say "Hi there, Accumulate Man! Loved that snazzy suit!"


Cooking with Jane: Don't piss off the cook!

It was a cornucopia kind of cooking weekend. Food fairly flowed out of that kitchen of mine. Chalk that up to one cancelled trip, a couple nice grocery runs, a wealth of wine in the basement and bunch of cookbooks dying to be used. The weather helped quite a bit, that's for certain, for rain and wind and uncertainty made being inside a cozy and practical thing to do.

Not that The Boy and I didn't get in our walks or our errands. There was just enough sunshine and just enough cash flow to make that part of our weekend easy, fun and necessary. But eating well is necessary, too, especially when your heart is heavy, your mind is preoccupied and cooking becomes the only way to banish the demons from the house.

Worked out pretty much okay. The demons were pretty much held at bay right up until dinner time Tuesday night. That's when they rose up and snapped at The Boy for lollygagging. Too bad for him. He now is in charge of dinner dishes for life. But I am getting ahead of myself.

It seemed that the whole weekend was about groceries or shopping or cooking. Friday after work was a major store run, and in ended with a nice run in with a big pan of pork chops. Saturday, chock loaded with meaningful runs out in town to banish the ghosts of road trips not taken, started off with homemade french fries with garlic and parmesan and Cajun spices. Our travels took us out and about but brought us back home in time to whip up not just one but two extra large homemade pizzas.

Sunday was a better day, no shadows or misdeeds coloring our good fortune, just a good walk, a bit of yardwork well done, and nice round of Mexican food pulled off with aplomb. Monday seemed to be more of the same...a high level of enthusiasm getting work done, for curry and for pulling off a wet, late afternoon walk. There was even energy left over to pull off a poundcake recipe found in Donna Hay's The New Cook cookbook. Yup, thank goodness for Hershey's kisses. Who needs frosting when you can let the cake do the melting for you?

Monday. Ah, Monday. Coffee in the morning, a nice antipasto for lunch. A nice bit of experimentation with roasted herbs and chilies that resulted in a firey adobo sauce. A bit more time and patience resulted in a grand pot of Boston Baked Beans and a even bigger pan of scalloped potatoes for dinner. A quickly simmered pot of peas rounded out the menu. Nice supper to be had all the way around.

But tired was a word that was going round and round in my head that needed to be fully examined and experienced. There had been too many other words spread around that weekend about weekend drives not taken, too many talks about cats not purchased, too much worry about money. Too many nights in a row where waking and reading and movies took the place of sleep. Too much disappointment about not even seeing a bit of your shadow about. So what did I do when The Boy failed to answer the dinner call? I fumed, pouted and went upstairs to read and listen to music. Left him to eat his supper alone. Then came downstairs and came down on him hard for blowing off his one basic duty: the dishes. Pure silliness, but there you go.

So, I ate a bit humble pie with my coffee for breakfast this morning. That and a big bowl of leftover curry and rice. Love that homemade curry powder. Love that whole homemade thing. So lunch, what do want to eat for lunch? Maybe pork chops marinated in adobo sauce? Maybe a nice reprise of last night's dinner? Maybe I should just quit wearing myself out in the kitchen and try my hand at "boily" bags and microwaving for awhile? Only kidding there, Jane, only kidding!



Donna Hay, The New Cook: Pound Cake

Reed Hearon, La Parilla: Adobo Sauce

Betty Fussell: I Hear America Cooking: Bean Town Beans

James McNair: The New Pizza Book: ideas

Sunset Magazine, October 2008: Petco Field Fries

Let's all slow down a bit, shall we?

I had a great things to do list going for the day: sweep and mop out the kitchen, scrub the bathtub, do a bit of cooking, take on the back house in order to get that pigsty into shape before spring break. I knew that I wanted to get in a bit of baking, as I've had a half a pound of butter sitting out for a day getting soft. I also knew that I had to crank out a loaf of bread or two, as I've been pretty low on cash and figured that kneading a loaf of bread would reduce my need for bread at the dinner table tonight.

But wouldn't you know it! The sun came out today and that completely and totally blew up any and all initiative to get things done, least ways, for the time being. It wasn't quite a "go out and fly a kite" kind of moment, but that sunshine did tell me that I was way behind on one of my annual things to do list points, and that was to go walking as often as possible. I figured a good brisk trot down to St Vinnies to check out the day old bread scene would qualify, so off I went. That is, after a presspot of coffee, and a small breakfast, and a chat on the phone with The Painter. Priorities are important.

But it was good thing, that walk. I love that my car is down, and I love that I have no cashflow at the moment. I truly am glad for that credit card moratorium, and I infinitely happy that The Boy has a weekend off in Boise so that I can have a weekend to myself. When he is here I feel a distinct obligation to get out and about and do something as not to squander our time together. Today I felt all those old "selfish" muscles were being stretched. I didn't mind that all too much, but it did remind me of that very long year I had last year that I got to know myself again. And that was one year, while instructive, that I am not too keen on reliving again any time soon.

So I took my walk and realized that the little trot that I had planned was not going to be enough. Somehow I have let my walking jones atrophy, and I knew that I needed to break it in again with a longer walk in the sun. I took in the sights at St Vinnies, and wrestled for a moment with a Vita-mix commercial mixer for a hundred bucks. I can picture what it goes for new but then I knew that I had to come to terms with the fact that I had no way of paying for it or no way of getting it home. Thank goodness for both of those things. But I must admit I did do some psychic jujitsu on a mom and her kids over a Tupperware popsicle maker. They hemmed and hawed over it and finally put it down and walked away. It was all of a quarter and pretty much new. I can see them now in the summer time, arguing over which flavor popsicles to get on a shopping run at Safeway. Too bad for them. I figure I will send it along to my kids in Boise next week. It's too cold at the moment to appreciate it, but come summer it will be a godsend.

The sun drew me out of the store and down the highway and up towards Goodwill. I had a buck and two quarters left to spend for the day. Amazing what you can find to buy with that kind jingle burning a hole in your pocket. I didn't really care for hauling much home, so I spent it on cassettes, which of course I have precious few of. Twelve tapes, a buck thirty. I felt good and took that bag filled with a popsicle maker and loose tapes up over the highway, past the high school and down the road towards home.

What I loved more than anything about that walk was how cozy it made this little town feel. Sure, it's a small town to begin with, both in size and population, but when you work close to home, spend your money close to home and keep a lot of your activities near by as well, well, you tend to run into folks that you know on a pretty regular basis. I ran into Ross, my local used book merchant, and Ernie, my old barber and Rod, a landlord and former owner of a downtown pawnshop. I saw my United Way handler, Jo, pass me by on the highway, waved at a number of shopkeepers as I passed, said hello to clerks here and there, and checked out the pulse of the local economy as I walked.

I found out that that new juice bar and vegetarian restaurant is now open on Bay Street, that Pedro's Sombrero Taqueria is now serving an all you can eat buffet, and that the local cutlery shop is going out of business. I got to walk in the sun and feel the heat, check out the lay of the land and appreciate the gleam of sunlight on the water. It was a good walk and has helped make for a mighty good day.

Sometimes those things that we think are true hassles turn out to be one mighty fine gift. I may not have had a car to drive or a bank account to exercise this weekend, but my heart is a lot happier and my soul a bit lighter for the lack of it. All well and good. Hope your day was swell as well.


"It's bad times"

"Everything must go". A true sign of the times.

I will have to think twice about dickering at a garage sale these days. For years it was the staple event of our summer weekends, that is until I started working for systems that plugged me into Saturdays on a regular basis. I have to admit that was a good thing for someone to do to me. The whole summer went by this year and I never once stopped at a garage sale.

But maybe, right now, I should. I know don't have much cash to spare these days but maybe it's time to spread a bit of that wealth around. Maybe my gas bill will show up a week late, or maybe my grocer will feel me tighten up at the register, but I know that if I don't drop some real cash around town somebody in my neighborhood might feel that pinch a bit deeper than I, or the grocer, or the gas man ever will .

Reading the article posted below gave me my own California foreclosure flashback. I lived through a big boom back there in the early nineties, one that had housing prices skyrocketing out of sight and folks scrambling to secure loans in order to get in on the next "big thing". I was no different. I had a GI Bill loan burning a hole in my pocket, I had a chance to buy a nice old house in a quaint neighborhood, and to top it all off, I had no sense at all about the realities of monthly household finances. Some things never change, or sometimes they change for the better. With the purchase of that house I learned a very hard financial lesson, yes indeed.

In those days I was somewhat young, fairly stupid, flush with hubris, and very puffed up with myself. I just having secured my MLS from UCLA and had just married my latest wife, one with a degree and a nice paycheck to boot. The house we were renting in Santa Ana was poised and ready to go on the market. It was a charmer, an old 1920's bungalow, recently remodeled, freshly painted and very nicely landscaped. A real beaut, but a very pricey beaut. I still remember thinking how cool it was to be able to buy a house and not have to put a down payment on it. All I had to do was show that I was working, plonk down that GI Bill guarantee that five years worth of service bought me, and viola! instant home ownership! I never really looked at what that house was going to cost me on a month to month basis. I was too enamored with my success and what thought I had. I was looking at rainbows and ignoring the rain. IN the end what I had was a dream resting on shifting sands but no amount of convincing would get me to see it.

An old house is an old house, no matter how pretty it might seem from the outside. The porch pillars had dry rot, the furnace had a gas leak. The bathroom was too small, thermostat didn't work come winter, the pvc piping and the pop-up sprinkler heads didn't cooperate in the summer, and the closet space, which seemed so ample when we were renters, just didn't take us very far once we were owners. The bloom was off the rose almost from the start. Too bad, as it was a mighty cute house.

But the biggest problem was the not so much the size of the house but the size of the payment. I know that 1800 dollars a month is a lot of money to blow on rent today, but it was a mountain of cash back then. And it was even more once my relationship fell apart, when I was saddled with that monstrous payment alone. No amount of garage sales could have staved off defeat back in those days. One month went to the bills, one month went to the mortgage, the next month went directly into panic and by the time I made the house payment again I knew that all was lost, and so was the house.

I have to wonder if I had started putting everything I owned out the door if it would have mattered. I know that whoever bought the house that year got a better deal than I did, especially if they got it through an auction. But I know, too, that whoever bought it lost money on that thing. Housing prices in the Southland were way too high in those days, and the market tanked hard. It recovered about five years later and is once again doing what it did to me and countless thousands of others seventeen years ago. It's falling out of the sky like a burning Zeppelin and taking down the "American dream".

I suppose I'm lucky. I have a house I bought on the cheap. I put it back together and refinanced when the rates were right. My "rent" is low and I can afford it. You would think after all I went through I would have learned some sort of valuable lesson. I didn't then but I sure am now. I still wonder what could happen to my house if things went suddenly south again, the way they did in SoCal. Because of those days I play everything close to my chest and close to home.

Experience has shown me that it's only one short hop from success to "everything must go". Yeah, I know all too well. I've been there.


The garage sales of Manteca:

Saturday, August 3, 2013

"The lives of the dead"

We're already talking about Dia de los Muertos at work, kicking around the idea of setting up a display with all our cool celebratory skulls and paper cutouts and masks and all. I think it's great to bring our patrons into that very sacred and yet very public celebration. It's important not only for cross cultural purposes, but to help those that are afraid of, for whatever reason, the Halloween/All Souls/All Saints Day festivals to live alittle, celebrate life for the moment and celebrate the lives of those people that came before them.

I still remember the night being alive with the scent of five foot josh sticks when I was day tripping in Singapore years ago. My ship pulled in during the Hungry Ghost Festival and the world was alive with the spirits of the dead. I know that when I put up an altar in my home for All Souls Day that I feel the house become alittle bit more alive with the ghosts of my parents and abuelos and all the wild Mexicans and border crossing Indians and Southern fools out of my past. The house becomes damn near crowded with the drunkenwhoops and etheral nortenos and wails of remorse. But I like it that way. Fill my life with meaning, show me the way through your mistakes, your joys, your discontents, your pleasures. Let me show you a good time, don't let that enchilada plate go cold, don't let that Budwieser get too warm. Eat, while I spin big band and CCR and mariachi and burn incense and candles and the midnight hour in your memory.

So I read with interest the last chapter of The Things They Carried. It was a paean the dead, a remembrance, a love letter. It was a moment of celebration, celebrating love and life and loss. Unless those who came before us were monsters and without a shread of redemptive qualities about them, how can it not be a bittersweet moment when we set up those photos and candles and momentos? Those things are as important, but not as important as the stories we tell about our people, for without the stories, without having someone to pass the stories down to, those photographs become as meaningless as tombstones in an abandoned graveyard. Someone stumbling on those photographs someday might ask "Who those people? What ever became of them? What kinds of lives did they lead? Were they good? Kind? Wicked? Or were they alittle bit of all of that?"

Tim O'Brien put stories about the dead this way:

"But this too is true: stories can save us....in a story, which is a kind of dreaming, the dead sometimes smile and sit up and return to the world....The thing about a story is that you dream it as you tell it, hoping that others might then dream along with you, and in this way the memory and imagination and language combine to make spirits in the head. There is the illusion of aliveness" from The Things They Carried

I am ready once again for October to come, to celebrate my people. In the meantime I want to do something even more important, and that is I want to celebrate life.

As Tim O'Brien and his comrades would say, there it is.


An appreciation for whistling

"I really believe that if there's any kind of God, he wouldn't be in any one of us -- not you, not me, but just this space in between. If there's some magic in this world, it must be in the attempt of understanding someone else, sharing something. Even if it's almost impossible to succeed, but who cares, the answer must be in the attempt." Before Sunrise

You know you don't have to act with me, Steve. You don't have to say anything, and you don't have to do anything. Not a thing. Oh, maybe just whistle. You know how to whistle, don't you, Steve? You just put your lips together and... blow.” To Have and Have Not

Two nights, two different films, two completely satisfying moments of pure cinematic delight. Last night was a crisp, clean copy of To Have and Have Not, tonight was a pan and scan but fresh VHS copy of Before Sunset. If there ever were two movies to bookend a Valentine's Day Weekend film fest, it would be these two. One film filled with classic lines, rejoinders and double entendres, the other a wish fulfillment that arrived in real time on the streets of Paris and finally answered the "what if?" question left behind in the recently viewed Before Sunrise.

Once again I thrilled to the "you know how to whistle, don't you Steve?" moment between that young, fresh and feisty Lauren Bacall and a lovestruck, wizened, chuckling Humphrey Bogart, but even more important was listening to the Celine character in Before Sunset sing her waltz tempo love song to the long lost Jessie, a song filled with heart, soul and not just a little bit of longing. Certainly one thing those two movies share, incredible moments of song. Bacall's "How Little We Know" duet with Hoagy Carmichael is a complete and total knockout!

Two timeless films that speak to the optimist in all of us. Laugh, cry, thrill to the joy of wonderful film making and know that in movies like these time is meaningless when it comes to fulfilling fated love. How grand! When can we un-spool them again?


A word about To Have and Have Not:

A bit about Before Sunset:

"Bird Show"

Two years ago Punkin and I ran down to Portland to catch the Saturday Evening Bird Show. "Bird show". That was her term, but funny how apt it was, and what an event it turned out to be.

I had only heard about it only a few days earlier at the Kitsap Audubon monthly meeting. It was at the beginning of the meeting, that part where folks could share their latest birding events or sightings. One of the officers had just come back from a weekend in Portland with his wife. His wife handled the shopping part, he handled all the birding events. But that whole vortex thing the Vaux Swifts went through really spurred on my interest. I had to see this flock going down the chimney drain thing for myself.

Well, not by myself. I had to take Punkin. She was, at that time, all in love with her Papa and anything, as far as outings were concerned, was good with her. We fit in a stop at Goodwill for a bag full of books, a quick stop at Krispy Kreme for a bag full of fresh glazed donuts and then played innumerable games of sugar induced I-Spy as we sped down the road towards Portland.

We got there with plenty of time to spare. The Chapman elementary school site is right up against a city park, so playground time was in order. The school is set the middle of a somewhat toney neighborhood, nicely nestled up against a hillside, providing a somewhat expansive theater type viewing arrangement, so all city view seats in the field were good ones. What struck me most was the grand cross section of Portland's citizenry that turned out for the gig. Sure, for them it's an every night extravanza in September, but for those of us new to the deal it was a pretty far out way to blow a Saturday night.
The hillside was covered with picnic blankets, families out with friends, wild packs of punks with their hair all spiked up, hillside sliders with cardboard sheets, wagons and snow sleds. It was full carnival effect, a wild city fair with Mother Nature the star of the show. Meanwhile, the sun headed towards the west and I had to wonder what the hubbub was all about. The occasion siting of a Vaux Swift would send the crowd into rapturous applause, but as we got closer to that down-the=drain moment the birds began to gather in mass. First close in to the school, then winging their way out over the river, to return and depart over and over again, gaining in numbers, bringing in hawks, upping the cheers and commotion in the crowd to near pandemonium.

But it was that moment when the swifts started to go down the chimney where the crowd went completely and totally wild. You would think that those bird were practiced performers out to please a crowd the way they gathered and joined together in sky, Busby Berkley style, for their final dance of the evening. They gathered together and swirled and within moments nearly all had disappeared down the old brick chimney, a genie bottle in reverse. A few hawks darted about trying for snacks, and more than a handful of swifts had to flit off and find lodging elsewhere, but it was a performance and a half and the crowd roared as the swifts finished up and retired for the night.

Punkin still refers to that night as one of her "most special" moments and asks fairly regularly to go back to watch it all over again. I recently read about a couple of sites here in Washington that favor largely in the Swift's annual migration story, but what was even more exciting was to read about a school in Monroe that has a big "bird show" happening, only because Monroe is much closer to me than Portland. I don't mind the two and a half hour run to Portland only because I like to drop into Powell's Books to pick up some some quality used titles and I like to grab some pizza at Rocco's for that long drive home. But when time and money and gas prices are working in the favor of a shorter trip, who am I to argue?

This go 'round I will be taking The Boy, who I think, after hearing about his sister's adventures forever now, is game to go along and experience the event for himself. It's a happening that everyone, not just birders, should witness at least once in their lives. So, see you in Monroe. Maybe we can even do a stop at Krispy Kreme, too, just for old time's sake.

Chapman School, Portland: Home of the real deal "bird show":
Washington Vaux Swift page:
The Seattle Times article that rekindled my interest:


David Carmack Lewis' page: What incredible paintings, including the one posted above:

Soft grey rain

Looking out through the window today I have to wonder where that weather pattern went to, the one that shed rain and cancelled my big porch project so easily on Saturday. I woke and heard the rain falling softly on the roof, and came downstairs aching for more sleep but knowing I had things to do. Taking a look out the window confirmed that "doing" that day was going to be different than what was on my things to do list. I was pleased and not in a small way.

Rainy day activities such as movie watching or reading are part of the "standard operating procedure" thing here in the Northwest, but it wasn't in the forecast for the weekend last week. I had a raft of things to accomplish, all of which were outdoor related. I had to scrape and primer and repaint the porch, the one that was so nicely done only a year a go. But then there was a handful of other tasks, mostly revolving around those pesky plants and vines and trees that were trimmed back only a month or so ago. I suppose we haven't hit fall yet and trimming is just one part of the deal of home ownership. I had things to put away and berries to pick and wood to haul and stack from a friends house. Yep, a ton of stuff. A good two days worth. Then the rains came. And all that was put aside for another time.

Not that it rained all weekend, just that Saturday, but it was enough to put me in the long run fall/winter/spring mindset. Seems like months since I've been there, in that "where's my couch, where's my novel, where's the comforter hiding?" kind of mindset that seems so darn natural around here nine months out of the year. So, that's what I did with the meat of my day, after I helped my boy with his science homework and sent off a handful of bills. I grabbed an older William Gibson novel, Pattern Recognition, a large mug of water and a comfy cotton throw. Plopped myself on the couch. Read. Napped. Got up to pull together two distinct and fully wonderful meals: green chili enchiladas/sopa de arroz/black beans and later on, a pasta dish with loaded with vegis and meat and nice cheesy cream sauce. Not much more than an ample slice of peace, quiet and nap induced serenity. How nice is that?

Let me tell you, pretty darned nice.


The joy of sick days

Well, make that "sick day", singular. Let's also add to that that one of our volunteers called me "Andromeda Strain" for coming in and dragging along my healthy virus after me during last weekend's working party. I should have looked him straight in the eye and corrected that. "That's MISTER Andromeda Strain to you, buddy!". Or something like that. All I could do was laugh. Laugh and then cough up a handful of lung.

At that point I knew it was time to go home. But going home in the middle of the work day is tricky. You must display some sort of "sign". that you need to go. It could have been that "serious face" that my colleague pointed out, or maybe that "flush" that my boss spied, that did it. But no matter. I said "to hell with it" and went home to bed.

Sort of.

I had to hit up the market for citrus fruit and assorted grocery items first. Then I had to step into Goodwill next door and due to that timely stepping found music and movies for my "convalescence". Some bed rest. By the time I got home and sorted everything out, including a snack, it was damn near time for The Boy to come for his lunch. Which I ate along side him. Starve a cold, feed a fever. Or it is starve a fever, feed a cold? No matter, it was leftovers and we both grooved. Especially him. He got the rest of that afternoon off at home.

So, what did this sick boy do the rest of the day? Stayed in bed and rested. Made a big difference. Finished up The Hacienda by Lisa Teran. Started The Yiddish Policeman's Union by Chabon. Popped in Stripes with Bill Murray. Funny how many comedies Ivan Reitman has made that I've seen. Seen recently. But finished up with a film that was meant to warm up my system. The Punisher, another great Marvel comic to the screen gun fest. "What? No cookbooks?" you might ask. Not last night. Saved myself for Thursday and the bibliography I generated for the upcoming food program we're going to have at the library. Attached it to Cookstalk! More than made up for my lack of cookbooks on Wednesday.

Ooops. That was a lie. Found a risotto cookbook yesterday, too, and dived into that as well. Risotto. Looks easy peasy to an old pilaf maker. Add that arborio rice to the ol' shopping list.

So that sick day, rather, sick afternoon, served me well. I just felt that after ten days straight labor that my body, which has had that hitchhiking virus along for well over a week now, needed a bit of down time to rest it up for the upcoming weekend. We all need our strength for the weekends, eh?


Dia de los Muertos

I know that Halloween is coming, if anything, from the candy displays and costume sales at the local supermarkets and discount emporiums. Freddies had a Halloween themed corner by the front door this last Sunday at 40 percent off filled with ticky tacky things to place in the home to help celebrate the season. The second hands this month were filled with all the same kinds of junk folks bought at Freddies last year and the year before that to help fill up their doorways and tables and such to help make them more "scary", to help put people in the mood to unload scads of candy and don rubber masks and mangle pumpkins. It's a jolly time of year and I love it so, not only for the sacred right to scare children witless but because I love the colors of the season, the scary movie rite of passage that I put my children through, and the peaceful melding of the pagan and the Catholic issues that seem to battle within me all year long.

Bringing the Dia de los Muertos celebration into my home is a relatively new thing for me. I know that we didn't give that celebration a nod when I was a boy. It was enough just to do all the "traditional" Anglo things that went along with our suburban lives. My mom shed her Mexican-ness long before I ever had any inkling that she was one, and so my connection to all those kinds of things only came to me sideways when I went to visit my grandparents. I can still picture an altar of sorts set up in my grandparents' bedrooms, with votives burning year round and a multitude of saints adorned by their various charms and flowers. But in my house it was enough, it seemed, to do tamales once a year at Christmastime and to embrace the foods of my ancestors. Yep, that's as far as it went. Celebrating the dead just wasn't done and it certainly wasn't hip.

But Dia de los Muertos is, that for certain. And by doing it I'm not trying to take the "hip" road, that's for certain. No, the reason why I break out the photos and get out my calaveras and things is because I want to do right by those that came before me. I like to set up that altar because, love them or not, somebody's got to give them their due.

Mind you, Halloween is still a big deal in my house. The Boy and I will certainly be doing the candy thing, don costumes, set up that nasty cobweb stuff. I have a plastic cauldron filled with carnival type toys and chocolate Kisses and such to hand out. We'll set up some sort of freaky deaky thing on the porch, not enough to scare kids to the core but enough to make the younger ones who make the climb quake a bit. That part of it should be there, it's the scaring season.

But inside the house, on a cabinet by the kitchen, I will set up my altar for the year. Old photos will be dragged out and set up. One of the old plaster saints from my grandfather's collection will be brought out. I'll be sure to cut the last flowers from the garden and set them up just so, and cook a meal with some favorite items to set out as well. I'm sure that I have beer or two in the fridge for Senior, as well as a pack of Marlboros, and I'll be sure to place some chocolate and some sunflower seeds out for my mom, too (maybe she can get back to smoking whereever she's at these days, who knows). Maybe I'll get in the mood and bake something that looks like those skulls I've seen photos of, the kind that they make down in Mexico, or maybe not, but at the very least I'll try my hand at some paper cutting. It is a celebration, you know.

It'll be simple, but with one thing apparent: those folks, my mom, my dad, all the elders that have passed before me, they will be thought of, talked about and celebrated. And believe me, The Boy will know all about them through this celebration. Yeah, it's through the remembering that the dead stay alive. And, baby, there's nothing scary in that at all.


Conscious decision

Walking is overrated as a form of transportation. Least ways, that's what I was lead to believe when I was a young man out and about in the wilds of Southern California. It was my understanding that if I didn't have a car I was a loser, a joke of some sort, a blight on the lives of the car lucky, a lesser strain of man. Funny how that goes, though. Without a car I still managed to have a great social life, hold down jobs, be a regular consumer, get a degree and grab a couple wives out of the deal. I have come to believe that those periods of my life when I went without a car were more fulfilling, more jam packed with life than those times when I've had four wheels to take me around town.

I'm still without a car. I went through my cash reserves and overspent on groceries and such. Decided once again that the starter for the Honda was not going to happen this week. Or next week for that matter. The Boy won't be here for a month yet, so, with three block commute and groceries a couple miles away, what's the hurry to fix those wheels? I still manage to make meetings, socialize with colleagues, grab provisions and find really great second hand finds. Unless I'm talking furniture, which I don't need, or a run to the airport, which I can't see happening any time soon, what do I need a car for?

Today I took a walk with a shoulder bag and a debit card with a balance. I found time to get a haircut at Ernie's Barber down on Bay Street. His shop is always busy but today I went in and got a haircut almost right away. I checked out movie times at The Orchard Theater, found a nice Croatian cookbook to pass along at St Vinnie's, took to the hills by the high school and found my way to Save A Lot. I did a massive amount of grocery shopping last night, but who can pass up ten limes for a buck? How can you turn you nose down at two avocados for a dollar? Not me, baby, not me.

So, what's a man to do but saunter over to the Goodwill when it's on his route back home? I had intentions of buying that starter at the beginning of the day, but I was having too much fun being on foot. I passed two patrons walking about on my way to the market, saw one of the deputy directors driving by on her way to an errand, and, in the end, had a blast walking home in the sunshine hauling home my treasures. And what did I find today, you might ask? Oh, let's see. How about a...

..a shrink wrapped VHS copy of Orson Welles' Macbeth? Or a clean digital print of Lord of the Flies? I also came across Short Cuts, Goldfinger, Godard's Sympathy for the Devil, and Lewis/Martin's Scared Stiff. Left behind Horse Feathers and Dr. No. Maybe I'll swing by there tomorrow and see if they're still around.
..copy of the San Francisco's Junior League cookbook, circa 1987? Or a copy of Beard Award winning Jamison's Born to Grill? Or even this strange British paperback publication on How to Make Good Curries? I even found an oversized copy of the latest version of The Little Engine That Could for my youngest. Cool.
..great condition cd copy of Led Zeppelin IV? A handful of tapes including Beck's Gold and Green Day's Dookie and Smashing Pumpkins' Siamese Dream?
..a really nice deal on a long handled, two gallon industrial sized brass pot for seven bucks? That was my big WOW of the day, hand's down.

So, I've had a grand day out. I got a good walk in. I caught a matinee of The Wrestler and managed to come out of the theater into a sunny afternoon. I passed along that cookbook to my colleague and she loved it. Some things are not meant to be bought and put on a shelf but passed along to those who would really appreciate them. She did. How nice for both of us.

So, there's a snapshot of a day of a man without a car. Sure, location, location, location. But still. It's a matter of mindset and desire and knowing what you can and what you can't do without a set of wheels. Right now I feel I can live without a car. Things will change and then we'll get that car on the road. Just not at the moment.

But as far as living without a cat? 'Nother matter altogether.

Here, kitty, kitty, kitty...


Dead battery woes

I've been heading to this crossroad for days. The cold weather could not be ignored a moment longer, for it finally took it's toll. I went out to fetch my car after supper in order to get back to work on time. I had a box of books that needed to be loaded up for a program at the local J high tomorrow morning. One quick trip down the street, but alas, it not meant to be. A slight and subtle turn over, then nada. Zip. A few lights to let me know that battery had a bit of juice but not enough to turn the beast over.

Just when I thought that my extra tour of duty was going be cancelled my boss came to my rescue: she'd supply the truck, all I had to do was get there. Not a problem. Now I can get myself over to Sears, exchange that wonky car battery of mine and get my act on the road. Good thing The Boy has already come and gone to Boise. No pressing engagements outside of entertaining a bunch of 7th, 8th and 9th graders in the morning. Regail them with tales of graduate school madness. Make them salivate at the thought of being an underpaid and underappreciated professional.

Don't get me wrong. I love my work. But when it comes down to compensation I have to wonder what I was thinking when I signed up for that librarian degree. But, really, what does money matter when you love what you do?

Besides, it's been great for my private life. Almost all my friends, wives and lovers over the last twenty five years have come into my life due to my choice of work. Libraries. Who needs to hang out in bars when you can wow friends with books and hand puppets and such?

So, the back to the battery. Haven't had a car die on me in a long time. Fuel pump issues, sure, but that was last summer. I suppose that's when the battery got worn down. Did I have some sort of sense throw at me somewhere between now and then? Nope. Instead of buying bags of groceries or dvds you'd think, especially after the snows of December, that a battery would have been high on my wish list. I couldn't fit it in. Too busy. Not enough time. Not on the things to do list.

Not until it failed, that is.

I have a five minute walk to work. I have a full larder. I am pretty much spent out this paycheck. In a world where there was just me to answer to I'd let weeds grow up and around that car of mine. As much as I love that beater of a car, I wouldn't mind having a car free life for awhile. Walk to the market, spend more time around the house, find a way of making my neighborhood work for me.

Hmmm. I don't think "fibbing" was on my list of 51.

So I won't do it. Fib anymore.

Okay, face it, I'm a road warrior. I love my car and the freedom it brings. I love to get around and I love the fact I don't have a car payment. I like my low insurance fees and I love my little itty bitty tag fees. I love everything about my car.

Except for moments like these, when it decides to abandon me in the midst of winter.

So next time I do Goodwill, instead of looking around for stereo speakers or Mexican masks or for things the kids will enjoy maybe I'll see if someone's unloaded a battery charger instead. At the very least, maybe I'll just join AAA.

As for now: cables, anyone?



Woke early, messed about. Pulled together a sponge for bread, washed last night's dishes, padded about with a pot of hot coffee in hand. Goofed around the house until the last minute. Thank goodness for bus schedules! Caught the 10:30 foot ferry to Bremerton and started the day's adventures.

The water in the sound was awash with light, the air dense with fog. I found myself talking to one of my branch "regulars" on the way over. One of those folks who come and go, fill up our time, take up all too many word moments, fill the air with need. So it feels from the other side of the desk when they come in waves and all of them want something.

Today I found myself out and about and in the midst of my public. I am public librarian, as you must know by now. I serve all those that come in the door, well heeled or mad, clean or the great unwashed. We make no distinctions about our patrons, we only ask that they are kind, and if not kind, at least courteous. Today I found that my people were all about me in the world, a world I have chosen to stay and live in, to work in. For that I was glad.

When you drive you see things all around you, but primarily you look straight ahead to help maintain that subtle balance of sanity on the road. Once you leave a car behind and take to the streets on foot or with public transit, all those niceties and barriers disappear. I found myself on the wrong bus across town first thing and was reminded by several of my fellow passengers when I went to pull the stop alert cord that there were no stops, least ways, not until we hit the East side transit center. Wow. Suddenly my day of adventures was filled with choices. Just like life. Turn a corner and find either circuses or car bombs. Today I found that I could go to the mall or back again to the transit center again. So I disembarked and started my trip from the beginning.

Men love to get lost, or so it seems. To women it must seem maddening, but for men it's a return to boyhood. We love to wander, find secret places, turn over rocks. My bus trip was like that. I saw three or four of my "regulars" while on that bus route, either outside walking on the streets outside my bus window or riding along with me. I sat in the back where all the wild ones tend to congregate. I sat with an old stripper and a meat cutter, a couple or three folks that were deeply crazed and marginalized by society, almost all plugged into music players of one kind or another. The meat cutter was deep into a loud public chat, and he engaged us all. By the end of voyage we all wishing him well in finding a new gal, since his fiancee broke up with him recently and he couldn't find anyone new to sit next to him on the bus.

I know that by walking about in the community that I serve that I expose myself to new avenues of approach, not only by making myself more approachable at the desk, but by making myself more visible in their lives. I saw my black spiritualist riding along in the bus with me..it was all I could do to go up to him and ask if he had any further insights about God. I saw my cowboy hatted homeless gal ride across from me..we smiled as she continued with her knitting. One gal I had seen before asked me if I was a bus driver.. I told her, "no, I'm a librarian"..she said, "oh, that's why I recognize you". Others reflected immediately on our service, one told me that we were a godsend, as her husband was always out to sea and she needed to do things with her youngster outside of the house. Unlike other WestPac widows I have known, at least she was filling up her time with books and craft shows instead of stray men.

So, know that I am one with my community. I walked back to the ferry terminal from the east side of town, a good two or three miles, with bags of groceries and movies and such hanging from my hands. It was a sunny day, pleasant and somewhat warm. I had made a few life decisions by the time I finished that walk, caught the ferry, then helped my friend Ross with his book store windows, and by the time I hit home figured in a few more critical decisions as well.

As The Painter just told me on the phone, the fact that The Boy is still gone this weekend is a sign, a sign that those things that I feel so strongly about, strong enough to move on them, that God, or, at least, a sign from one of his lesser minions, is taking an interest in my behalf. I'm not sure about God but I do know that my little saints tend to look out after me. I think that this is one more little footnote that they are interested, that they are somehow riding herd, and instead of watching the whole pack of cattle of my life go over the cliff, this time they'll go off and find those cows a new patch of grass to whittle down.

Right now I am tired, happy and filling up on a bottle of inexpensive Syrah from Grocery Outlet. I have a pot of pork broth and pot of pintos on the stovetop, and a couple loaves of sourdough bread ready to pop in the oven. I have new music on the deck, new movies to watch later this evening and a couple plans to put into action. All is well in the world for the moment.

Know that I am thankful for the actions of my little saints, for that gorgeous sunshine, strong hands and a heart, that despite all I've thrown at it, manages to keep on ticking.