Thursday, July 21, 2016

Last year, after blissfully working in downtown Seattle for more than 20 years,  I found myself banished to the Hinterlands, aka SoDo.   Since that time and on more than one occasion I have wondered what Cosmic forces I offended, because if there is Karma, I'd be instead working for the Smithsonian American Museum on a endless grant to investigate  Manifest Destiny or some other such malady of European-Americans, as opposed to working in the industrial armpit of Seattle.   But I digress.. back to SoDo.

Why I am traversing to SoDo five days a weeks? Well, the reality is that I was offered a job I just couldn't turn down.  Hence, my self-imposed banishment to the dreaded SoDo..... 

SoDo: “How do I hate thee?  Let me count the ways”.   These are the words Elizabeth Barrett Browning would have most definitely penned had she ever  had the misfortune to come to SoDo.

SoDo- South of the Kingdome-- Well, like lots of things in SoDo, the Kingdome was a shoddily built piece of crap that was demolished after only an extremely short-lifespan of 24 years, mostly due to the reality that people attending events there took a dim view of tiles from the ceiling falling a couple of hundred feet down on their heads.   And unlike the Coliseum in Rome and other arenas those talented Romans built and that have stood almost 2 millennia, the Kingdome shuddered to an early and dusty demise, only to be replaced by what can only hope is an arena that will last longer than the TV series, "Wheel of Fortune."

Taxpayers of Washington Unite!  You were fleeced by King County and the builders of the Kingdome!  Demand a refund and use the money to build low-income housing (see my rant about homeless people below).

 Just a Few Things I hate about SoDo:
1) Potholes- As the Beatles once wrote, “Now they know how many holes it takes to fill the Albert Hall.”   According to Paul McCartney (or was it John Lennon?), the city of Blackburn, Lancashire has four thousand holes, whereas SoDo has just as many or more, all strategically placed to do the most damage to your wheels and tires on your car, bike or motorcycle, not to mention jarring one’s psyche in the worst possible way.

2) The Light Rail- Years in the making, millions of dollars in cost over-runs, but finally (several decades behind the fair Portland, Oregon to the south), we have a light rail that runs from Sea-Tac airport to the University district.    While I’m a BIG fan of mass transit, I do really, really hate that SoDo is one of the few places on the rail line in which the tracks aren’t below ground.   As a result, pedestrians, bikes and people in cars (that would be me!) are continually and constantly halted from our appointed rounds (well, truth be told) to Starbucks or food.   I don’t know about you, but when I only have a 30 minute lunch break and have to get in my car and drive 10 minutes at a minimum each way to get anything half-way resembling decent food, one can get pretty steamed waiting for the light rail to come and go and come and go, all in a 10 minute time-frame.  In addition , more than one poor SoDoer has had the misfortune to be stoned out of their mind or mentally impaired and/or lacking the usual survival skills to comprehend that a speeding train will beat you out every time you venture across the tracks.  Unfortunately, some Humans fail to notice the clanging bells,  flashing red lights and a big barricade allegedly there to keep them from jumping out in front of it.    All the above notwithstanding, just ONCE I’d like to leave my office to go to Starbucks and not get nailed by the light rail blocking my way coming and going.  By contrast, those lucky folks in downtown Seattle walk and drive wherever they want, clueless that below their sidewalk are multiple light rail trains are racing north and south quickly and unobtrusively under their feet, but alas, not in SoDo (of course!)

3) Homeless Encampments--- A pox upon the Earth (especially in my beloved Seattle).    One doesn’t have to traverse very far into SoDo or anywhere in downtown Seattle in order to see first-hand the blight and plight of homeless people in our fair city.    Having worked downtown for the better part of 25 years, I can personally attest that the number of mentally ill, drug-addled and/or homeless people has increased significantly to inhumane proportions.    What kind of community and government continually turns a blind eye to the reality that so many people are homeless and that sluffing them off to being relegated to sleeping under our freeways, overpasses and empty lots is unacceptable in the 21st Century.   Too many of our fellow citizens live year after year in filth and despair in lawless communities in and around Seattle that are unpoliced, unserved and forgotten, except when they’re cleared out to wander on to SOME OTHER place in our city (i.e. this week’s option—Airport Way in SoDo, of course!).  There’s a simple rule of physics that states, if you move homeless people out of one encampment, they will most certainly move to someplace else, most likely nearby, as hey, they don’t have cars, so how far can they actually go with their shopping carts full of their meager, filthy possessions?  Thankfully, that’s all I know about physics, so readers of this tirade will be spared further lectures on the study of matter and its motion through space and time, along with related concepts such as energy and force, but will NOT be spared my feelings on a country, state, county, city, and neighborhood (actually, now that I think about it, almost no one lives in SoDo, other than homeless people), that turns their backs on the homeless.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Return to Nebraska resurrects special vacation memories

In December 1935, my father left depression-ravaged Nebraska to join the Navy for three square meals, a paycheck to send back to his mother and a chance to see the world beyond the flat prairie where he had lived all his life.

During his many years in the Navy my father saw a lot of that world.  And then, like millions of other war-weary vets after World War II, he and my mother headed for California, the land of opportunity.

However, as he was a dutiful son, we returned to Nebraska every summer to visit his family.
The trips we took required that we cross the desert in the blazing heat of summer — in the days before air conditioning was standard in cars. I remember my dad installing this weird metal contraption that hung on the outside of my mother's window. It was allegedly an "air cooler," however, if memory serves me correctly, it just ended up blowing hot air everywhere. I still have memories of sitting in the back of a 1956 Chevy for hours with my two sisters, jockeying to avoid the hump in the middle of the backseat floor and my mother's dog drooling on us.

In those days, there were no interstates. Instead, country roads and highways led us through the small towns and farms.   The towns were so small that myy sisters and I would chant, "We're in, we're out!" as we motored through towns that were only a few short blocks.  

As with every trip, our final destination was my grandmother's house in Lincoln, which is on the eastern side of the state. It seemed as if almost every city along the Platte River, in fact the entire width of Nebraska, had one of my father's aunts. We visited all of them. And no matter what time we pulled up to their modest homes, we would find them dressed in their Sunday best, chicken and mashed potatoes on the stove, ready to feed us.

The culmination of our trip was arriving at my grandmother's house. She lived in a big, roomy place close to the University of Nebraska. My cousins also lived in Lincoln, and we spent our time catching lightning bugs and eating ice cream. We would munch on my aunt's famous German potato salad, runzas (hamburger and sauerkraut wrapped in bread dough) and German chocolate cake. I didn't like coconut, so whenever she wasn't looking, I would scrape off the frosting. I'd kill for that recipe now that she's gone.

The last time I went to Nebraska as a kid I was about 17. My parents uncharacteristically bagged the usual trip back and went to Europe, leaving me in the care of my aging grandmother. Unfortunately for both of us, I had just fallen madly in love — a summer romance that I thought would last forever! (It didn't.) Needless to say, I was considerably less than pleased to be shipped off to Nebraska in the midst of all this.

What could have been priceless time with my grandmother, instead was two weeks of excruciating phone calls to my boyfriend and a really bad attitude on my part. Little did I know that the years would roll quickly by and that my grandmother would die before I realized what a treasure she was.
This past Fourth of July I returned to Nebraska. Before I left, I thought little will have changed since my childhood. But things were different. I was told that my grandmother's house, belonging to someone else now, is in poor repair.

My parents weren't there with me — my mother has Alzheimer's and doesn't even know who I am, and my father's been dead and very much missed for more almost 40 years. My cousin and I are now in our early 60's.   I doubt if she's up for catching fireflies now.  Regardless, I can still remember the sound the wind makes as it drifts through the corn fields and the smell alfalfa in the air, all these years later....

Monday, June 20, 2016

What is about white guys in trucks?   I commute downtown and every day I find myself unhappily sharing the road with white guys  storming down the freeway as if they were on their way to Navy Seal try-outs.    These guys live in the suburbs for God's sake and I'm wondering... What could they possibly use their truck for?   Perhaps they REALLY need it to buy bark at Home Depot or to take their lawn mower to the repair shop?

I, of course, wouldn't mind if they drove trucks, but the sad truth is, the same nice guy that coaches T-ball for 1st graders gets behind the wheel of his truck and turns into a total ass!   Apparently, there's not a no-bullying class for applicable truckers.

On a daily basis I see them swerving in and out of various freeways lanes or wait till the carpool lane runs out and THEN cut you off so they can squish in.   They ain't making any friends sitting behind the wheel of their truck, I can tell you!

Hey guys, get a SUV like everyone else and chill out.  Save the truck in the extremely unlikely event you move to Colorado and start raising cattle!

Until such time, please tone down the testosterone and try remembering you're an average white guy, not Arnold Schwarzenegger. 

Just sayin'.  

Monday, September 02, 2013

Saying Good Bye to a Dear, Dear Friend

Below are a few thoughts I would like to share about my dear friend who passed away suddenly...

Sadly, only a few, special people will be aware that recently the world lost a kind and gentle soul named Jean Marie Eklund.   A woman of many, many gifts, unfortunately she was the victim of forces internally and externally that sometimes thwarted her genius and well-being.

In 1971, thanks to the Fickle-Finger-of-Fate, I was lucky enough to have my path intersect with Jean’s. Or perhaps a more plausible explanation is that a nameless, faceless worker in the Cal Western housing office thought it might be quite the joke to assign two 18 year old girls with the same name to the same small freshman dorm room. Oh, if only I could thank that worker, as by his or her random act, I was thrown together with Jean, a girl who would become my dear, dear friend, and who shared four really tacky yellow dorm room walls with me. College was a new adventure for both of us and my freshman year was very, very special because I shared a once-in-a-life time experience with Jean who was an incredibly gifted person and wonderful friend.

I consider Jean to be my Cosmic twin as not only did we have the same name, but we were also born 3 days apart. We had many other things in common that sealed our friendship which sadly, for reasons of pure distance of geography (Jean in Santa Barbara, me in the Pacific Northwest) was not as close as I would have liked once our freshman year was over.

Jean was a brilliant and beautiful person. She was a kind and funny, despite facing adversities that were sometimes almost insurmountable. An outstanding writer, a talented musician, a poet, an artist, she had so many gifts. I was often in awe of her many gifts and was jealous of an intellect and creativity that made her shine in ways that mere mortals like myself can only envy.

The Jean Marie I remember was lithe, funny, brilliant, and so very gifted. I am heartbroken that so many important people in her life, including me, were not there for her when she needed us. I do however, take solace in knowing that her soul-mate Dave was incredibly devoted to her and she him. Truer friends there never were. I am so hoping they are together again for all eternity.

I like to remember her the way she was when we were together at Cal Western in 1971…. We had so many good times, decorating our dorm room to commemorate the Massacre at Wounded Knee and in the process, horrifying most of our dorm-mates as it was Christmas time and our decorations were not what our dorm leaders had in mind!   We enjoyed many an incredible sunset off the cliffs overlooking the ocean in Point Loma, talking late into the night while listening to records in the dark…..the brief time we shared one small spot on this Earth will always be a happy and memory for me and for the others who were lucky enough to also share that special time with her.

Just a few months before Jean and I met James Taylor wrote an incredible song called, “Fire and Rain.” I’ve listened to it a million times over the years, but now it holds special meaning for me as I will, from now on, always think of Jean when I hear it.

Just yesterday morning they let me know you were gone
Suzanne the plans they made put an end to you
I walked out this morning and I wrote down this song
I just can't remember who to send it to

Oh, I've seen fire and I've seen rain
I've seen sunny days that I thought would never end
I've seen lonely times when I could not find a friend
But I always thought that I'd see you again

I am sorry I couldn’t attend her memorial service but in my heart and soul I have said a reluctant goodbye to her. My deepest sympathies to her mother Annette and to her friends who loved her as I did.

Goodbye dear friend.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Born Fighting

"If defeated everywhere else, I will make my stand for liberty among the Scots-Irish of my native Virginia".---- General George Washington

Cracker, Redneck, Hillbilly. Yea, like several million other Americans of European descent, I've got Scot-Irish ancestors.   In fact, on my mom's side alone I have dozens and dozens of tough, hard-scrabble Scot-Irish ancestors!  Guess the fact I don't have any on my dad's side is my saving grace as like former senator, Jim Webb's book details, the Scots-Irish are/were "born fighting" and have been for generations and generations, not only in the U.S., but in Ireland and before that in Scotland.

Wikipedia has this info on my ancestors: --->  Scotch-Irish (or Scots-IrishAmericans are the descendants of Presbyterian and other Protestant dissenters from the Irish province of Ulster who migrated to North America during the 18th and 19th centuries.[2] Most of the Scotch-Irish were descended from Scottish and English families who colonized Ireland during the Plantation of Ulster in the 17th century..[5]

If you have Scots-Irish ancestors I highly recommend James Webb's book, "Born Fighting, How the Scots-Irish Shaped America."  It does a great job of defining who and what the Scot-Irish are/were and how they shaped the course of America.   Here's one description of the book:

"Born Fighting shows that the Scots-Irish were 40 percent of the Revolutionary War army; they included the pioneers Daniel Boone, Lewis and Clark, Davy Crockett, and Sam Houston; they were the writers Edgar Allan Poe and Mark Twain; and they have given America numerous great military leaders, including Stonewall Jackson, Ulysses S. Grant, Audie Murphy, and George S. Patton, as well as most of the soldiers of the Confederacy (only 5 percent of whom owned slaves, and who fought against what they viewed as an invading army). It illustrates how the Scots-Irish redefined American politics, creating the populist movement and giving the country a dozen presidents, including Andrew Jackson, Teddy Roosevelt, Woodrow Wilson, Ronald Reagan, and Bill Clinton. And it explores how the Scots-Irish culture of isolation, hard luck, stubbornness, and mistrust of the nation’s elite formed and still dominates blue-collar America, the military services, the Bible Belt, and country music. "

You can find it on Amazon (see below) and also view the documentary on the Smithsonian Channel.

If you read the book you'll find out the true origin of the word Redneck, as well as why Scots-Irish have willfully volunteered in droves for every war the U.S. has fought and their impact on our country and way of life.

And while I have been a little irreverent about my Scots-Irish ancestors in the blog post, the reality is I'm really proud to be part Scots-Irish and admire my many Ulster ancestors who were some of the toughest people to ever to walk this Earth.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Here are a few photos from our recent trip to Paris, Normandy, Mont St Michel, Provence, Carcassonne, and rural England.   If you click on each photo you can see a larger version.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Italy- Why Did I Wait 56 years to go there and what was I thinking to wait so long?

Friends, Romans, Countrymen, lend me your ears; I come to praise Italy.

For reasons I am only partly responsible for, it took me 56 years to get to Italy. I mean for God's sake I went to Finland BEFORE Italy. What's with that? I plead temporary insanity and ignorance. However, now that I have been to Italy, I understand why tourists have been going there for 2,000 years.

If you click on these photos you can see high resolution versions that are pretty cool if I do say so myself!

A Room With A View

This is the view from the apartment we stayed on the Cinque Terra. And while we didn't have a view in Florence, we did have a view worth every penny and effort it took to get to a rather obscure destination on the Mediterrean Sea.