Archive for July, 2011

Dear Bruce…

Monday, July 25th, 2011

It’s been just over a month since Clarence Clemons died.

I was thinking about it today…what are you going to do?

But actually, I was thinking about how hard it all must be even four or five weeks later. You probably have no idea.

My suggestion…go acoustic and just pop up wherever.


The Ditch

Monday, July 25th, 2011

My great grandmother had a completely over-hyped impression of my abilities. She would give me gigantic books and old coins and civil war doo-dads and books and more books, and more weird knick knacks that she always said, she’d “know I’d appreciate.”

The fact was, I did grow to appreciate them. I read the books. I learned about the artifacts and coins. And, you know, it was actually kind of interesting. I read Sandburg’s Lincoln, well, two and and half volumes of it, before I was 12. (Honestly, Volume I and I didn’t agree until about half way through.)

But the book she gave me of which I have never forgotten was “The Path Between the Seas: The Creation of the Panama Canal.” It was written by David McCullough in 1978. I think I was about 14…so my great grandma would have been around 86 (she lived by herself into her 90s, only to die in a kitchen grease fire baking chicken).

What I remember is the way she explained why the Panama Canal was important.

Let me digress…

My great grandma was awesome at this type of story telling when she was on her game. She taught me all I needed to know about faking things in Scrabble into her late 90s. Her dog was named Oggie (even the next dog, and the dog after that), and she was as tough as sandpaper about some things.

So, back to the Panama Canal…

She told me the story from her perspective…

Theodore Roosevelt was the greatest president that ever lived. The only great feats of anything were because of Democrats, she said. And (now remember this is the 1980s, so we had put a man on the moon and won two world wars, etc.) “he made that Panama Canal happen before I got married.” (Actually, no, but close…she got married in 1917, and the Canal was completed in 1914.)  She declared it was still more important than anything else that has happened in her lifetime. I mean, this was a passionate rant that I listened to…nothing was more important than the Panama Canal. And (as she called him) “T.R.” was the last great POTUS.

But I won’t bore you with the whole discourse. She was pissed off that it all went to hell when Woodrow Wilson got into WWI and sent her husband off to Europe. And the last great president was T.R. because of the Canal.

(I just saved you about 45 minutes of her diatribe…)

But the gist was this: The Panama Canal was the greatest thing that had ever happened and great things only happen under Democrats. And she didn’t vote for another Democrat until Johnson. But she never voted, ever, ever, ever, for another Republican…because Wilson promised to stay out of WWI. (Actually, it’s funny as I type this, because it might have been around January 1986 when I had this conversation with her, because I remember that she said Johnson wouldn’t have let the space shuttle blow up…but I digress.)

Anyway…I read the book. I’ve read it twice since then. I even just bought the post-hand over edition to see how that played out.

I had to see it.

There are easy routes to this. I had my chances. I could just figure out how to skim off a business trip and pay my own dime and be in Panama City and take a tour boat through the locks.

But no. I wanted to, as a friend of mine said, “Do it like it was meant to be done” and go from one coast of the United States to the other. I have read the books, I know the history. Heck…you can stream it on Netflix with a PBS special.

In my head, I checked off the other stuff in the meantime. Man-made icons of the modern world. I went to the top of the Brooklyn Bridge. I took a train across the country. I went down in the London sewer system. And I’ve been inside the Hoover Dam (pre-9/11, of course).

So about five years ago, I really started to push on this. My wife had no interest. In fact, no one had any interest.

Basically, it’s 14 days and nights on a giant cruise ship with me going from one coast to the other. And to make it work, we’ll just have two twin beds with a couch in between and a shower in the bathroom.

But I was serious about this.

And here’s were it gets me. My grandma said that the only people she had ever met which had been though the Panama Canal were soldiers. She hoped people would someday go through it just because it was “neat.” (Her exact word.) In grandma’s head, T.R. was the reason Woodrow Wilson didn’t screw the country up too badly, because people came home faster from the war.

So I asked around. And I asked some more. I even had a little savings account. I was going to go through the Panama Canal from one U.S.A. coast to the other because it was  ”neat.”

This went on for years.

And then, one day, I was chatting with a friend and I asked, “You want to take a two-week trip through the Panama Canal?”


“How about September?”

“Doesn’t work for me.”

“April 15?”

“Sounds good. Let’s do it.”

It took as long as it took you to read that. I spent the next 10 minutes doing all of the “are you sure” stuff. Discussing costs, blah blah blah…and we were on.

Within 48 hours I had our room from Miami to LA on April 15, along with flights.

I’m scared as hell…I won’t lie. Two weeks is a long time to share three beds and a cabin. But I’m not going to war…and I like my travel mate. An old friend and foe that has known me long enough to know me long enough.

I know there are a whole bunch of great things that will happen on this trip. I am going to see stuff in Colombia and Costa Rica and Mexico, etc…but I will think of my great grandma and the reason I really, really have always wanted to do this.

Just because it’s…



Good bye my loves…sorta

Saturday, July 23rd, 2011

Now, you have to understand something about me and books.

I don’t just love them, I have surrounded myself with them. I buy books all the time. I own a bar code scanner. I have built two different rooms around being libraries for books. And then I have hundreds and hundreds of books in boxes.

I specialize in world almanacs, history books, biographies…pretty much all things really old and non-fiction. But I have some kind of cool Zane Grey first editions and old Beverely Cleary and Madeliene L’Engle…etc…I pick and choose my fiction. But I read them all.

Here’s the thing…I like reading a books like I like reading newspapers. I want to carry it around and plow through it. It could be a 150-year-old history book recounting the Civil War and I will read it. I don’t sit and and think about getting a good deal, or if I damage it more, or any of that…I just love books.

(NOTE: I have the same attitude with cars. I just love the history and the feel and just driving them…if you bump them up a little while you enjoy them, oh, well. You never be reckless with them, but enjoy them. I feel bad, for instance, for any person that ever puts a book in a case to “seal its condition.”)

So I am up in the middle of the night because I feel like I just stabbed one of my best friends in the back…I bought a Kindle.

I even had two beers of courage to do it.

Here’s how it came about…

I am doing a trip this next spring and I started doing research. I found all of the stuff in my library that I needed to read. So then, I looked at Amazon to see if there was any new stuff, since, in this particular case, things had changed recently. There were a number of them. So I bought a book. It cost $20 plus tax. (I had something else I needed in my “want box,” so I got the free shipping.)

It arrived and I realized…this is sick. It was 700+ pages and weighed about four pounds. It’s not collectible. I only want to just read it. I want to be able to refer to it, too. (I have 30 days to return it…which is really important now that I can’t just take it back to Border’s.)

Here’s what I thought…this same book is going to cost $1 in about five years at some library sale. Why am I doing this? It’s no first edition Zane Grey baseball book or something. Or a 1929 World Almanac from the New York Herald Tribune.

I just wanted to read the book.

So I called my local librarian and she said, very kindly, that they are on a 12-24-month cycle for putting new books into circulation. You see where this is going…

I wanted it now. Now.

So then I fudged around on whether to buy a $189 Kindle or blowing my whole savings on an iPad for hundreds more. That was a short but intense debate. I love my iThingy Laptop…it fits in my coat when I want it to, and I have no complaints, and I still think the iPad is a toy. (Hey, I just noticed, this is a MacBook Pro.) Then, I got down to business looking at the Kindle…

I am skeptical.

But I was also thinking in terms of reading a book a month for three year. Let’s figure $200 for the Kindle and $10 per book. That’s $560. Now let’s figure the same cost of the hard cover at $20 a book (generous) and that right there, without tax or shipping or time, is $720.

But I didn’t budget for this, and I was hemming and hawing and blah blah blah…

And then I saw a great story on CNN about a study on the human brain. And they had the author, and I was really into it…but I didn’t have a pen handy…

And then he came up again on a radio station…I was driving.

I still can’t tell you the name of the damned book.

And I am not sure if a Kindle will solve this…but I want to read the brain book and I bet that I could find it quickly if I could just search for it.

My point of that? I jumped the shark.

I was not going to wait around for the library to stock it. And when I did find it on Amazon it was $30 for the actual book and $10 for the Kindle.

I hate this…when I buy it on the Kindle, the Kindle becomes the sole purveyor of that text.

But I need to grow up a little bit about this. Let the book love go. Be free from them. (Well, the new ones, anyway.)

But I saw a L.A. Herald-Tribune Almanac from the 1950s on ebay that I just have to have…

I love this statistic…

Tuesday, July 19th, 2011

Seattle has only had 78 minutes of weather above 80 degrees all summer…I can vouch for this (see previous post).

The fact is that it’s become water cooler buzz about how cool this summer has been. Love it!

Actually, I like the fact we’ve only had about 18 hours above 75 degrees…eat our shorts you easterners.


Play Me Some Happy Weather Blues

Sunday, July 17th, 2011

I would like to say that this summer has been going by much too quickly, but the fact of the matter is, here in the Puget Sound, it hasn’t yet felt like summer started.

For example, tomorrow it’s suppose to be partly cloudy and 75 degrees. This would make it the second warmest day of the year so far. Our five-day weather forecast for the rest of the week is filled with periodic rain drops and temps in the upper 60s.

For some people this would be a problem. I love it!!!!

No real humidity, no thunderstorms, no giant downpours (say for once or twice here and there), and, in fact, nothing severe about any of it. I just live someplace that is having a 70-degree-or-so summer so far.

Granted, this isn’t normal. Nothing is normal about it. It’s usually dry and hot by July 1. (When I say “hot,” I mean mostly in the 80s.) But as the rest of the country seems to suffer from severe heat, lightening and hail, I revel in the fact that I can hit golf balls for an hour without breaking a sweat. Or, just put the top-down on the car and not worry about UV exposure so much or needing my air conditioning. I don’t use sprinklers and still have to mow my lawn every week in the middle of July. (As an aside, I have always known I live in the perfect convertible car climate, and the last three years have done nothing to assuade me from that.)

People think of “Seattle” as being wet and weary all year around. Some years that’s true, no doubt.

But as someone who has lived here most of my life, I know the little secret that’s coming. We are going to have a great summer from mid-August to mid-October. Then we’ll get a big windstorm, and then it will be 45 degrees and drizzly for four or five months, and then next year will be “more normal.” It always happens when we have these weird years.

The only thing that makes me a little nervous is that years like this have produced some of our biggest snows the next winter. (Which for us means that once-in-a-decade 18-24-inch “blizzard.”) And, actually, I don’t really mind those when they rarely come along. (If I want snow, I drive an hour to ski or 30 minutes to sled. (Speaking of skiing, Crystal Mountain, which is about 65 minutes away from my house, was still open for skiing up until yesterday, July 16!)

Yep, I like our weather. I honestly don’t know if I’d trade it for any other year-around, year-in-year-out micro climate in the world that I’ve ever been to, actually. It makes me happy.