OK, here's the last post of 2013 - Happy flaneurish New Year!

A spur-of-the-moment trip to Chehalis, Washington provided a chance to see this fabulous old drugstore wall.


Ghost of Christmas Past

Here's a little holiday post in light of (among other things) this week's Sepia Saturday theme.

Xmas tree lights and the baby grand
I (perhaps inappropriately) confessed to my local barista that holiday music, which they were playing (somewhat prematurely, I felt) at the coffee shop always made me rather sad.

Perhaps it's because I'm no longer a child. Or that my own are pretty much grown up. Or perhaps the following explains...

The time machine

The abstruse cloak of the Pacific
undulates, adroit ultramarine,
below a band of fermented light where sun
has not long been down. My window's
ajar; above the fire-noise of hiss
and kindling-crack is the rush of turning tide.
Earlier, a family and hell-for-leather
pooch strode Moolack Beach; I heard the flailing
dogtag's clink even here atop the bluff.
Their reflections ghostly underneath,
they crossed a wet place on the sand, patrolling
what seemed the world's nether edge, the sky
smoke-red as Wells' fraying end of history.

I've typed the hundred hieroglyphic pages
of my father's final reminiscent poem.
He recorded his closing life, his dogged faith,
up until he could write no more, until
he could live no more. In earnest, recurrent images
enduring from childhood, he detailed his world:
vacations here in Newport, the rosy sky,
the lamp-green sea. I imagine a few of his ashes
in this water, drifted down the coast
from where we scattered him among
red-green anemones and barnacles in the La Push surf.
One year less five days since his death.

The Beyond is out beyond the window screen.
As I write by burnlight, minding the fire
like a baby or like my father in his last,
obscure, helpless days, the flames are safe
behind their own screen. Sticks and sap explode,
though tinily as stars. Each log will crush
itself. Each rages faithfully, little ash.
I attend the blaze, keeping happy flames
as wood successfully works out its own demise
and its essence billows up the flue. Last year
there were no further logs we could put on
to restore his heat and light. He kept the embers,
growing paler as the year grew to a close,
lucid through one last Christmas Eve.

My dim reflection in the window is projected
on the breakers, off-black under clouds,
(my flesh flinches) that eye some varmint's, baffled
in fiery headlights. I know that shape is me,
despite its unclear resolution. In fact,
it's more familiar than my articulate image
in the mirror often is -- or the me gray-haired
in candid photos, startling distinguished fella.

I crack open the window, snout to the screen.
I smell outside: the shore with its dead things;
the clean sea air shouldering the smoke I've made.
Three stars are excellent in their places.
I know if clouds were gone the sky would be
rigged with a whole resonant tribe of light.
But now these few are staked out like those folks
on the beach this afternoon: sentinels
at the start of something nebulous and equivocal.
Stoking resolutely their own sufficient glows.

Newport, OR 1991

(This poem is from my 1996 collection Grace & Desolation, which miraculously is still available from the publisher or Amazon.com.)



This week's Sepia Saturday theme is aprons, and (now that the purists have been satisfied with the above 1947 Thanksgiving at my grandparents' house, replete with proper apron) given my deep knowledge of warehousing, I hereby offer these studies of, well, aprons -- the concrete area where trucks maneuver up to a loading dock.

And for your vintage listening pleasure, a barely relevant song about aprons. Or their strings at least.


Black Friday

Bicycle police on guard

Man with a mission

Belting it out


Political ranters

Yet more security

Art and entertainment

Religious ranters


'Tis the Off Season

A few shots from the periphery of this year's neighborhood holiday fair, held at the local swim and tennis club.
Kiddie pool
Court 1
Court 2
The season to be jolly


1963: JFK and the French Mouse

It is, as is abundantly clear from the media blitz, the 50th anniversary of the assassination of John F. Kennedy, and that is also this week's Sepia Saturday theme (please visit that site for links to other thematic explorations!).

I was nine and a half when Kennedy died, and in the third grade. I remember the teacher, the white-haired but tall and sturdy Mrs. Geraldine Perry, in her typical peasant blouse and Mexican skirt, gathering the class around her that morning, and telling us that the president had been killed. One little girl burst out crying, and a few of the more churlish class members laughed at her. They got a very severe talking to, as I imagine Mrs. Perry, tough as she was, was probably close to tears herself.

As the grim spectacle unrolled on TV over the next few days, from the killing of Oswald through the long funeral proceedings, I was, I think, more concerned with the Kennedys' daughter Caroline, on whom I had rather a crush despite the fact that she was three years younger than I. In fact I had written a sort of cryptic paean to her just that summer, in the guise of a chapter of The Adventures of French Mouse. This was a project that I and my father had been working on for some months. Once a week or so we would sequester ourselves, and alternately he or I would dictate a story to the other, which I would then illustrate. The stories revolved around Pierre Souris, the French Mouse, with a supporting cast of my other Steiff animals, as well as a large sock monkey, named Uncle Monkey.

I now present for your Sepia pleasure the chapter in question.

"Queek, Caroline, open the you-know what!"
The cat looked terrible.
He made a death-defying leap.
He landed in the fountain.
French Mouse was peeking down the laundry chute when something struck him full-force in the nose!
A pink and blue sign on the door: No Mice Allowed.
The illustrations were dawn on the backs of class handouts for my father's Bible As Literature class at the University of Washington.
The text was written on the backs of a handout for his Intro To Poetry class.
Allow me to say in closing that the perennial trotting out of the JFK assassination "party line" irks me no end. I have just read a brand-new, phenomenal book, JFK and the Unspeakable, which thoroughly blows the old "lone gunman" theory sky-high. I cannot recommend this book too highly.


The Lost Photograph

For Sepia Saturday #201, a collection of photos of my father's house in Elm, Michigan, and a poem of his that evokes at least the interior very well.

Lost for twenty years now that large photograph

Of my father in his long room at Golden,

Colorado, in 1901, surrounded

By books and sunlight.

The young teacher from Michigan, his forehead

High and broad, his fine black hair center-parted,

Rugged and hopeful as Lincoln, at his desk,

Shakespeare beside him.

Before he taught at Victor or Cripple Creek

Or had Lowell Thomas as a start student,

Or won my mother’s hand away from Ralph Carr

And the music store.

In one corner of the room, piled high with books,

Was the slatted wood, metal and leather trunk

Brought to take all his books and clothes from Detroit

Clear to the Rockies.

On my last night in Michigan, he and I

Climbed to the spare bedroom long used for storage,

Where my mother’s dress dummy stood among toys,

Found the old trunk there,

Unmoved since I was born, carefully removed

Teddy bears, dolls, games, and three children’s clothing,

And carried it with ceremonial joking

Down the long staircase,

Past the ceiling-high cases of well-read books,

Past faded paintings of six great composers,

Past the two old stoves and the battered table,

Out through the kitchen,

Down the back porch where all of our dogs had slept,

Across the yard full of oaks, maples, and pine

Where we live in photographs of forty years,

Past the old red barns,

And loaded it into Ramsbottom, the Dodge.

My train was to leave at dawn for Seattle

From the ornate red brick depot in Ann Arbor

Where he had arrived

In 1896. Across Middlebelt,

Beyond the fragrant pastures of horses and Holsteins,

Half a mile away stood Elm Woods, flower-filled,

Venus above them.

I could hear far off, down at the Beech crossing,

A Diesel, not an old steam locomotive,

Coming on the Pere Marquette. Then my father,


Standing in the back door in Indian summer

Twilight, his children gone, my mother long dead,

But in his old aura of steadfast love, gave one

Understated wave

As Beth and I drove off into the future.

On the way to Seattle, on the Great Northern,

On the far side of the Rockies, I remembered

The lost photograph.
Nelson at bat in the front yard

The Bentleys at Elm

The red barns

Middlebelt Road, Elm Woods

Dapper in the side yard

The house coat and the house

Mike, the house dog


The Market at 10 PM

Apologies to Giacometti.

Hardly a palace, especially at 10 PM -- let alone 4 am -- Seattle's normally bustling Pike Place Market does settle down a bit at night.

Took these on my circuitous way home from a neighborhood "Harvest Festival."

Lurkers at the Gum Wall
The Night Watch
The Crafts Bazaar
This Way Down
The Sanitary Market