Friday, December 30, 2011


A few weeks ago I was in a Ross store buying some tights, and the clerk, who was -- maybe -- 12, looked at me and said in a monotone: "Are-you-55-or-older." No question mark. Just a statement. Something she said to all the old people, I guessed. But why was she saying that to me??!!

I stuttered, "Well, I'm 55, but not older!"

She replied, "Okay. You get the Tuesday Senior discount."

There's a first for everything, and this was the first time I saved 46 cents for being "55-and-older".

Obviously, this is not my path to riches.


On a brighter note, my friend Robin and I walked the trails of Cougar Mountain this afternoon, awash in pale winter sun: a universe of ferns and alders, big-leaf maples and cedars. The stream was high from last night's rain, and spilled over a cliffside onto rocks draped in lush moss, slipped under a lashing of windfall saplings, vanished beyond our vision into second-growth forest.

It's been too long since we've shared this pleasure of walking these trails, but thank god we figured out the world in that hour and a half. There are few secrets left between us, I'm guessing.

And weren't we just in our twenties, when we were certain the world was a knowable entity? I admit a certain sense of thanks for reaching 55 (and not 555, which I just typed but corrected) and realizing that the world needs figuring-out on a regular basis. A daily basis. An hourly basis. Minute to minute. Right now!

I don't know about Robin, but I certainly didn't feel 55 or, for that matter, any age. But then, just what does 55 feel like? I think it feels like this (which was in my head this morning upon waking):

Rain City

I possess an unwavering affection for Seattle, especially in the rain....

Monday, December 26, 2011

Reality Check

After the fuzzy la-la-la-chorus-of-angels-humming scenario I posted yesterday (stars a'twinkle) the oven overheated and the parchment nearly caught fire, the bread burned, the Kabocha squashed charred (but what was scraped free was incredibly sweet) and the baked garlic-mashed-spuds formed a crisp blackened carapace, which, though nearly impenetrable, did reveal edible potato within.

The smoke alarm BLARED AND BLARED AND BLARED and we opened all the windows and a door and it didn't stop so we got out the Giant Fan and cranked it up to hurricane force. My son and I engaged in a shouting match on the subject of the pizza stone in the oven and the general lack of oven space because he'd decided to make candied blood orange slices (which he should've done the day before, not an hour before dinner), and we were forced to yell REALLY LOUD to hear each other because of the gale force winds blasting through the kitchen.

He retreated in a pissy huff to his room (are we two years old again??!!), abandoning his remaining dinner prep.

I poured myself a tumbler full of punch, with extra vodka.

My guests were mercifully late.

Sunday, December 25, 2011


I managed to slip away just now for an hour or so, to the silence of my upstairs room-amidst-the-trees, with bread set to rise on the stovetop and pork shoulder slow-cooking in the flame beneath. Riles is attendant in the kitchen, setting his white-chocolate ice cream to spin in the electric ice core. Friends arriving in a few hours.

Yesterday evening, before heading down the street for Christmas Eve with neighbors (aka My Chosen Family), both boys were in the house: R. was shaping strips of red & white dough for candy-cane cookies, N. was wrapping. I was funneling my homemade vanilla bean liqueur into small bottles, and then corking them. R.'s holiday music sampler included some Jimi Hendrix:

I admit I didn't know who was playing, and I don't think R. takes greater delight in anything more than when I have to ask him who we're listening to, especially when it's someone from my generation. (I was too busy, as a teenager, working out on the piano the most mournful of Chopin pieces.) I'm discovering the music of my youth three+ decades late, but that's okay. For some reason, it makes more sense to me now.

Anyway, as I was exclaiming how f---ing fantastic this electric guitar was, I couldn't help notice that the flavor of this Christmas -- from the week-to-week buildup (which contained, astonishingly, almost zero baking) to this moment with the three members of my family unit in the family house at the same time -- was decidedly different from any other Christmas. Few, if any, of the old rules remain. The prime directive is to eat well & laugh often. Other than that, it's open to anything.

And I thought: this is it -- a moment of absolute contentment, where, for that tick of the clock, the house quietly humming with filial activity, all is as it should be in this planet we claim as home. In this house that's seen more than its share of heartache and yet is still the best place I can be, and the place where I can just be best.

You know what I'm saying?

I didn't expect this, long given-over to worry and a pervading sense of perpetual sinking doom. And yet there it was, wave upon wave of well-being -- and I was afloat, head above water, not gasping for a damn thing.

I may need reminders of this fleeting, flashing moment on the afternoon of Christmas Eve, when January grabs hold and threatens to pull me under the icy surface of winter.

But for now, there's dough to punch down and a cranberry punch to spike up.

And a Happy & Merry Etcetera to every last one of you!

Friday, December 23, 2011


There exist days where the schedule is lickety-split sewn-up, everything happens according to its location on the list. And then there are days like yesterday, when my car wouldn't start, then almost started, then went dead dead dead. Called AAA, called the mechanic, and then the car started with all kinds of Warning! Lights! Lit! Egads.

I managed to get it to the shop, then headed back home afoot, 28 degrees and a hint of sun easing through fog. Plugged in my earbuds, cranked up Handel's Messiah and set out on a route I've only ever driven, down the long decline from the top of Beacon Hill, across the light rail tracks, back up another hill, through a neighborhood that some would think of an unsavory but I look at for the diversity. My zip code is the most ethnically diverse in the nation, and I passed elderly Asian men on their morning constitutionals, African-American teenage boys in their oversized coats and butt-saggy pants, Muslim women with little skin unswathed. A storefront church with JESUS SAVES painted on the plate glass. My Vietnamese dentist with his red neon tooth in the window. Lots of empty storefronts: "For Lease". A corner store with a large HALAL MEAT sign painted on plywood.

As I neared the small business district of Columbia City, everything suddenly became tidy, swept, minus the peeling paint and tired disuse visible just two blocks prior. Gentrification seems to have strict boundaries sometimes, edging out from a few core businesses. Signage goes from hand-painted to factory produced. There's a not-so-interesting Starbucks, and an even less-interesting Subway, and about ten independent restaurants, all relatively new. A co-op gallery, a used bookstore, a florist, a butcher. People were out, but not in any great number.

It was the first day of winter, and despite the below-freezing temps, with Handel piping into my ears I was content in my wandering back home. And flowers -- what a surprise! I counted eight
different varieties in bloom in front yards or parking strips -- nothing I'd ever notice while driving:

It continued, one surprise agenda following another, about which I will not bore you, except that while waiting for a prescription at Costco (where I had to park [in my son's car] in The Outback: Costco was very tiny in the distance), a woman sat down beside me and commenced to talk about back fat. WTF?!

The car was repaired for less than a thousand dollars, which is a Big Deal.

I was treated to a martini and a bowl of French onion soup at Cafe´Presse. Heavenly comfort.

I participated in a lengthy debate about the women's movement, which in the end, turned into a semantic argument more than anything. Words!

And Christmas! I nearly forgot about it.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011


My computer is achingly slow. I come here to respond to comments and the whole damn thing goes Rainbow Wheel. So that's my excuse.

Edging closer to Christmas, the solstice. Can it just be spring already?

I'm theorizing that if I can just keep cooking I can get through this year. Three more months to come full circle, to begin what will be my new year. This grieving sometimes gets its teeth into my neck, the bones of the vertebrae, and shakes me until I'm ready to fall down. And damn it if I just don't crawl back up. One millimeter at a time. Slowly slowly slowly.

Yesterday I hung old glass ornaments on the skeletal pink dogwood arching above the sidewalk. Some are handblown and not old, and if they're stolen, may they find a good home.

Riles has cassoulet on the stove, and I just pulled two loaves of sourdough baguette from the oven. Old friends -- from the beginning of time I do believe -- are coming to share in the feast.

I don't really know how to be divorced.

Monday, December 19, 2011

My weekend of funk....

Not one, but two live performances (unquestionably better than dead performances) by Seattle groups, two nights in a row.

Hard to choose which I liked better, so I'll say I loved them both.

First up: The Balls Out Booze Band --

The curly-topped, hip-spectacled guitar player on the left is Gus, aka P.J.Williker, who spent a good chunk of his early years at my house. He lived down the street, and was the best buddy of my boys. (I claimed him as one of my own.) So how in heck did he go from his Ninja-Turtle-cowboy phase to this ultra cool guy on stage with idiosyncratic style and uber-confidence? All I can say is dayam. I knew him when.

And to add frosting to this already marvelously sweet evening, BABB performed at a new music venue a mile from my house: The Royal Room. I am SO lucky to live here!!

Funk event #2, plus a family Christmas party --

My late-husband Mark's family hosts an annual event at the local community club, and this year included a performance by the reformed (minus several band members claimed early by hard living) Acapulco Gold, a seventies-era Seattle funk band. This is the best part: before I knew this family, when I was in high school in the suburbs, this band was the one to get for school dances. (And also the most difficult to get, they were so scheduled-up.) I remember listening and dancing to them at a club when I was in college.

When Mark and I were first living together at the eponymous "109" (former neighborhood grocery store building), his brother and an ever-transient assemblage of musicians lived downstairs. Those were some sweet days, albeit with all the glassware tinkling in our apartment because the volume emanating from below was, well, at times deafening. My favorite music memory from then is of entire afternoons of Mark's brother Paul doing riffs on his electric guitar: a mightily talented man.

Several times Paul borrowed Mark's car, and while we were at work, Paul and his friends -- perpetually cash-poor artists -- came up to our apartment and helped themselves to breakfast, leaving a mess of dishes that made it appear as if an entire touring roadshow, groupies included, had converged in our tiny kitchen for a feast. It wasn't long before Mark caught on to the trick, and lent the car minus our apartment key. I don't think either of us would have minded so much if that had just cleaned up after themselves, damn it!

Bittersweet moment last night, sitting with my two sons listening to their uncle perform. Life has completed a circle, despite fewer of us sitting in the warmth of the extended family beside the Christmas tree. There was delight and elation in the listening, as well as a wrenching of the heart that Mark wasn't with us.

And even more bittersweet in that, had I still been married to NoGoode, I most likely wouldn't have been sitting there, wouldn't have made the Sunday evening trek alone across the lake to Southeast Seattle. (His interest in anything Seattle was/is marginal, at best, even as colorful a piece of history as Acapulco Gold.)

Big sigh.

Here they are in a cheesy iPhone video, but trust me, these guys (even with a noticeable decrease in hair) are HOT!

And finally, cousins....

Saturday, December 17, 2011


I was shopping at the Seward Park Clay Studio Sale yesterday afternoon when a woman came in the door and announced: there's a head in the lake. Of course, all five of us inside immediately turned our attention to this messenger and voiced a unified what? Right away I pictured the grisly remnants of decapitation: the sawn neck, bulging eyes, the skin bloated and discolored. I thought -- this is Seattle's latest incarnation of Ted Bundy (who once used Seward Park as a dumping ground for one of his victims, and indeed decapitated 12 of his victims), or of Gary Ridgeway -- the newest murder-and-dismember modus operandi.

I was soooo relieved to be wrong. This instead turned out to be a case of "guerrilla art repositioning": someone had taken a clay head that was on display outside the studio and placed it ever-so-carefully in 5 inches of water. Eerie, but benign. Phew! And good for a damn big chuckle. I LOVE stuff like this.

Thursday, December 15, 2011


3:30pm, and every street locked up tight with stopped cars, so I did a u-turn in the apartment building parking lot where my former step-son once lived and where his father bought him out of his lease because he heard gunshots at night. Welcome to the city. Ho hum.

But to the point: I was enroute to yet another meeting with the Big Bank re: $$$, and, finally freed from gridlock, made a quick escape down Yesler Street, a hill which careens almost vertically into downtown Seattle, and which gives one the impression of being dumped into Elliot Bay aka The Salish Sea. Luckily I managed to hedge dunking, and zipped up 3rd Avenue, only to be greeted by a Do Not Enter 3-6pm sign: buses only. Feck!! And late, to boot.

Downtown Seattle is made up of one way streets, crazy steep streets, a freeway which slices through everything, and water. One would think that I'd have it all under my belt, having lived here since the previous millenium, but I try to avoid driving down here and WHY IN HELL DIDN'T I TAKE THE LIGHT RAIL? (Because The Bank was offering validated parking and I thought piece of cake lickety-split. Wrong.)

And then this story came onto NPR about the 1500 grebes who crashed into a snow-covered Wal-Mart parking lot at night, mistaking it for open water. I thought: I can't listen to this. It's too sad, I'm too anxious about this f---ing meeting. No stories about dead grebes. I wanted to cry.

The entrance to the free parking lot was down a one-way street on Mars, as it turned out; and after driving around first one block, then another, and driving under the freeway, encountering yet another Do Not Enter, Do Not Pass Go, Do Not Collect $200, I parked on the street, grabbed the leather briefcase that my deceased mother-in-law gave me 14 years ago that I've never used, and high-tailed it down the sidewalk to the highrise (floor 17) (did I get the correct bank of elevators for god's sake?!).

Jesus Mary and Joseph: life shouldn't be this hard.

And all in vain.

(Did I mean: Life shouldn't be this hard and life shouldn't be all in vain? Maybe.)

Getting back to the car, my parking expired, I switched on the radio, and there it was again: the dead birds, trying to find safety, only to crash-dive onto Wal-Mart blacktop.

This is our world, folks.

No matter how hard you try to follow the migratory patterns proscribed by your specie, you are doomed to end up beak-down in a parking lot with a Price! Rollback! special on a Disney Cars Lightning Mcqueen Twin Bed just footsteps (or wingbeats) away.

I felt the doom of every last grebe, heading for a safe port in a storm, only to be smacked to death by corporate America, by greed.

(Now put your glasses on [this is not victory, but compromise, and so must be whispered]:

Upon returning home, I called yet another functionary of the above-mentioned Big Bank, who, months back, had offered me a see-no-evil-speak-no-evil refi, and who I'd kept on the back burner if all else failed.

Within about ten minutes I was approved: Merry X-Mas to me. Ho.
It's not as good as I wished, but for us poor slobs making less than $200k per annum, it's almost acceptable.)

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

George Whitman and Shakespeare & Co.

From the NYTimes:

PARIS — George Whitman, the American-born owner of Shakespeare & Company, a fabled English-language bookstore on the Left Bank in Paris and a magnet for writers, poets and tourists for close to 60 years, died on Wednesday in his apartment above the store. He was 98. Read more here.

I had the good fortune, in the summer of 1979, to sub-let a Paris apartment with a college friend. When we weren't idling away long afternoons-into-evenings lingering over a single glass of Côtes du Rhône (very limited budget!) we could often be found at Shakespeare & Co., amid the musty books shelved, stacked and piled floor to rafters. It was a maze and all quite amazing, and we felt like a part of some secret society, like characters from a page of French history. Once George Whitman, who I remember as somewhat cantankerous, gave me a vintage Parisian address book, circa 1900, with marbled end-papers and written in elaborate fountain-pen script. (I still have it -- when I dig it up I'll post a photo.)

What I've seen of this film is marvelous (I admit I've jumped around in it) -- but I'd venture to say that it's worth all 52 minutes if you are even remotely interested in Paris, literature, or quirky characters.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

At four o'clock this afternoon I was outside (wearing a dress and an apron), Sawz-All in hand, tree propped ready for lopping when my phone rang, and I stood out there in the cold and talked to my friend Jeff until my fingers began to lose feeling and I thought why am I standing outside? It's f---ing cold out here!

Because the phone rang while I was out on the deck, I felt like I had to carry on the conversation in the same location where I answered the phone. Still rooted in those old habits: as if tied to a cord. Uh, walk inside, dolt! Go towards the heat!

Nonetheless, the tree got its trunk trimmed and I shimmed and propped the damn tree in the stand BY MYSELF and tightened the screws and untightened the screws and repositioned the tree and stood back and looked at it and said damn. It's crooked.

And it's still crooked: crooked with white twinkle lights and about twenty ornaments.

My poetry group came over and I made crème brûlée and seviche and yam chips and a chili lime dip and cocktails. Lots of candles. Five minutes before people were scheduled to arrive I went out to the yard in the dark and cut strands of ivy and snipped the tips of the lowest branches of the Douglas fir. Inside I prised open a pomegranate and took the last of the satsumas and twirled the ivy and the fir snips around the candles and nestled the oranges in with the ripped-open pom. Lit the candles.

I took three old apples, leveled the bottoms of each, took a melon baller and scooped flesh from the stem-end, making enough space for a votive candle in each. Onto the windowsill with these.

Cava, cranberry-pomegranate juice, triple sec: swirled ensemble in a pitcher, poured into wine glasses, slung an orange twist over the lip of each glass.

Damn it was FESTIVE.

And what a great group of people: poets and poets and poets.

My element.

My people.

In my home.

On my turf.


Lap of Cats.... the Life of Reilly.

Sunday, December 11, 2011


I could not have imagined, before today, the ease with which one picks out a Christmas tree by oneself. No yackity-yack, no dithering, no opinions. Just look at a few trees, walk around for a few minutes, look at the trees again and then bam! Done.

No more tree lots on every other corner, no Boyscout troops raising funds. I succumbed to Lowes (Home! Improvement!) -- a couple of miles from my house, a minimum of carbon fuel burned in the process. Everything bondaged-up in a plastic mesh and crammed into my trunk.

The romance of it -- I used to love tree-shopping -- is just plum gone.

I forgot to have them lop off the trunk end so I have to lug up the Sawz-All and get all butch with my boy-tool.

There were two or three charmed years when we picked the kids up from school, stopped for some hot chocolate, and headed east to Hobart, in the Cascade foothills, to a tree farm. I recall the boys running slap-happy down a rut-pocked hillside, choosing first this tree, then that, every last one of them too tall and frightfully broad at the hips (the trees, not the boys). We found one, of course. Draped with lichen, mossy. An honest-to-god tree. Alive.

So fleeting, those years; and also at times interminable. It all ends: the shape-shifting of time.

Which brings me to here.

Blogging about it.

The tree, as yet un-Sawzed, lies in the front yard.

(And admittedly, solitary pseudotsuga menziesii shopping is dreary.)

Friday, December 9, 2011

Surrounded by hydrangeas still, in various stages of losing their blue. Two stems have taken root in their glass vase, sprouting bright leaves as if spring were upon us. One small sprig I've let dry completely on a shelf in my bathroom.

Ice fog this morning.

The kitten is back from the vet, snipped clean of all her internal girl parts. Sad incision up her belly. Subdued. All her minx seems to have eked from her. Nothing but sleep, a limp purr.

I intend to succumb to a Christmas tree this weekend.

Thursday, December 8, 2011


My red binder, repository of years of research, has thankfully resurfaced. It's been missing since August, when I lent it to a friend. (Stupid thing to do.) And why would I do such a thing? Because she wanted to make a load of cookies, and my red binder has all the secrets: every last instruction of all my best formulas for personal happiness, perfected during my tenure as The Baker at Two Tartes Bakery.

I paged through it tonight, and relief and joy bubbled up. Old friend! Everything was as it should be.

Some of the pages are so stained and tattered, I'd surmise that entire microscopic plant/animal kingdoms exist on the paper. I could do tissue samples! (Eww.) (How utterly unappetizing!)

The day I made my final exit from TTB -- the day I discovered that there was something fishy going on, and confronted my business partner -- I had the presence of mind to grab the binder. I found out later that she wanted to sue me for what she considered to be her intellectual property (figure that one out), but her attorney told her not to bother. The recipes were mine, and she possessed no rights to them.

(She turned out to be a criminal; I had managed to expose only the tip of the iceberg, it turned out. And although I was summoned to testify on behalf of her husband at their divorce trial, she's managed to evade prosecution.)

I haven't written much here about Two Tartes, and stories are simmering on my back burner. Those few years there -- beginning with the building of the business until the demise of the partnership and long-friendship -- are best summed up by Dickens:
It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us....
Ah. Yes.


(But the red binder: all mine.)

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Post has been deleted by blog administrator.
(That would be me.)

Monday, December 5, 2011

Tuesday Poem: Seamus Heaney

From Clearances

When all the others were away at Mass
I was all hers as we peeled potatoes.
They broke the silence, let fall one by one
Like solder weeping off the soldering iron:
Cold comforts set between us, things to share
Gleaming in a bucket of clean water.
And again let fall. Little pleasant splashes
From each other's work would bring us to our senses.

So while the parish priest at her bedside
Went hammer and tongs at the prayers for the dying
And some were responding and some crying
I remembered her head bent towards my head,
Her breath in mine, our fluent dipping knives--
Never closer the whole rest of our lives.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

The Other Woman

It never fails to stun me when a woman betrays another woman. I don't care what the story is, the bottom line is: we are sisters. We are sacred. We honor each other, and we honor the relationships that each of us nurture, and that sustain us. Period.

Recently I rendez-vous-ed with a high school friend who I hadn't seen for many years. She told me that her ex-husband left her for her best friend. WHAT???!!!! I was dumbfounded. What woman would do this? Is any man worth this?

The answer is a resounding "NO!" I don't care how "in love" you profess to be with someone else's husband, you just don't do this. End of story.

No matter what he tells you about how bad his relationship is, remember that you are hearing it through his filter. There is no way of knowing just what kind of damage your hijinx may prove to cause. And another thing -- if he can cheat on his current wife to dilly-dally with you, you can be certain, and I mean certain, that he'll do the same to you. It's just a matter of time.

So women, if you're entertaining this idea, let it go. Not. Worth. It.
Consider your own sense of self-respect.
Consider the potential for long-term harm down the line, and on and on. The fall-out from your actions most likely will go farther and hurt deeper than what/who you can, at this time, imagine.

If you are reading this, and feel perhaps just a little uncomfortable, well then perhaps you should feel a lot more uncomfortable. Yes, I'm talking to you.

And shame again.

Friday, December 2, 2011


As the afternoon glowered down on me, my paint colors got brighter and brighter. Payne's grey gave way to cadmium yellow and alizarin crimson.... The darker it gets outside, the more challenging painting becomes, everything shifting with the light, losing intensity, going dormant.

Our annual studio sale is this Sunday and the next, and Melinda and I have been cranking out the work at a manic pace. Post-Thanksgiving reorders are trickling in -- yay! Job security. But the big push is getting all our seconds in sell-able shape -- it's the big draw for this sale. So it's been out to the sheds in the cold, digging back into the webbed corners and lowest shelves to extract boxes and boxes stashed all this past year.

It's a little like reliving the past twelve months -- an evolution becomes visible in the painting style, the color choices. As Melinda comes out with a new line each year, there's always a handful of the early versions of whatever it is that's currently in demand. I have just a moment to feel wistful, then it's on to the next thing.

I'm rather bleary and just a bit dizzy from this pace. There's not a lot of breathing space in a small business like this, especially in these unpredictable times. If all goes well at the studio sale, there's a chance that M. will take her work to the NY Gift Show in January -- a new venue, potentially new clients. Keeping fingers crossed. We're ready to grow into the next phase.

Thursday, December 1, 2011