Saturday, July 28, 2007

I am a fantastic grandmother.

My grandson, the Goonybird, and my girldog, Jett, are seated in the middle of the kitchen floor eating kibble off the carpet.
I's not one of the brands on the 'chinese melamine' list.
So it's ok.
Carry on.
Whats more fun than a three-year old running around the house wearing a large pillow and cargo shorts? Handing same a giant tub of Kool-Wip and a spoon for breakfast, and watching him pick cheese fragments off the coffee table and drop them in. It's like a garnish. It is.

The Goonybird has walked into the kitchen and asked for an ice cube, and I gave him one. He put it down the back of his underpants and walked away.
I swear to God I never dropped this child.

While we were outside picking blueberries I taught him how to hear the eagles calling down the valley. 'They're yelling and yelling!' he was delighted with this. 'Do they have breakfast?'
"I guess so. They have fish for breakfast' I replied.
He thought about it.
'No, they eat cowards,' he stated.

He removed his shorts and his underwear, and his sandals. The sandals have been replaced each on the wrong foot, and the underpants and shorts carefully turned around. 'Did you know those are going on backwards?" I asked him as he tugged them up over his butt.
Yes', he said. 'They're better this way."
He has taught the dog how to eat blueberries.
They are lying on the floor in the kitchen sideways eating blueberries.
off the carpet.
With their faces.
Lying sideways on the carpet eating blueberries, scooting themselves along after the rolly berries with their hind legs.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Umber Whippet Is Vexed !

Finally we get to go on vacation! We are heading towards Eastern Washington late next week. This is the great thing about drive a couple hundred miles or so in any direction and you're in a completely different environment.*

For the first ten years we were together we vacationed on the Peninsula, which is a kind of Tolkeinesque fantasy land. Morning fogs, huge trees, ferns like lace, hanging mosses and perfect lakes...but ten years was enough, and when we decided on a change, we changed big time.

Eastern Washington looks exactly like the setting for every Western movie you've ever seen, with rimrock, sagebrush, brown rolling hills and green valleys full of Ponderosa pine. This is more than likely because it IS the West. The REAL west.
OK fine, the Northwest. Still.

Many of the old boom towns are still inhabited, although those inhabitants might number 30 or less and the town be nothing more than a sign by the highway. You can drive through rangeland and see cowboys and their dogs herding animals using atv's and small helicopters, sometimes horses too. Fields of late snow high up on the hillsides get up and wander away when you crack the throttle, surprising you by being fifty or sixty sheep.
Granite cliffs and sudden basalt towers plunge out of the ground through the brown hilltops. Swifts and swallows stunt dive and circle in the updrafts they raise. Buzzards sun on fence posts with their dirty wings held half-open. They watch you with one freaky blue eyeball as you go past, hoping you'll crash.

Besides rangeland, there are unimaginably vast stretches of land out there where nothing but wheat grows, rolling out from you in all directions, filling the air with a smell like bread and grass. Wheat grows out of the crevices of the rocks. Stunted wheat grows by the side of the road as a weed. In wheat country night never gets black because the stars illuminate it with diamond dust from horizon to horizon. A falling star out here will make you completely step outside of yourself for a few moments, more dramatic than a hundred fireworks would be.

On a motorcycle travelling though wheat country you pass through invisible streams of temperature and smell. The cool of the shade on one side of a hill follows you a few seconds into the heat of the sun side, and you can smell the superheated blacktop just around the next bend before you drive into the shimmer coming off it. You know beforehand when you're approaching creeks and rivers, cattle and horses, towns, truckstops and gas stations. The background of it all is dust and a distant sweet hint of wellwater.

Some road cuts reveal banks filled with clam shells and scallops, snails and marl, a dry ocean bed that's landlocked now, uplifted past the pavement with a crown of windblown topsoil. If you stop to examine it, you hear nothing at first. Just the ticking of the exhaust pipes cooling. Heat rises in blooms from the pavement all around you. You can stand in the middle of the road and turn in a circle, put the bike on it's stand. No cars for miles. Not a dog barks. All you can hear is the wheat sliding past itself in waves as the hot air slips through it.

We usually stay in the town of Wenatchee on the Columbia river. Wenatchee is literally central to everything east of the mountains. It's a wonderful place. The town has preserved it's heritage and architecture, the public spaces are beautifully maintained. What I like best is that Wenatchee is filled with gardens and those gardens are filled with roses, every rose you can imagine, all enjoying the perfect climate. Every evening, when the sun goes behind the hills surrounding the town a wind begins, coaming like surf down from Mission Ridge, gathering dust and leaves up high, rising and rolling down the length of town, carrying the smell of all those roses with it. One night it caught us as we were riding. It was perfectly quiet. The warm wind came up from the ground behind us, rising against our backs and up past our faces, heavy with the smell of roses, and moved over us and past. We sat at the light at the top of town and watched it slowly lifting papers up past the windows of the office buildings on it's invisible crest as it rolled towards the river in the bottom of the valley.

In the evenings we cruise around from neighborhood to neighborhood and down the main drags which crisscross the town. Everywhere you go tiny quails break cover and zip around, all in a row, biggest to smallest. They look like little grey bowling pins gliding around on ball bearings, and each one has a little black flurp on top. They never seem to have a specific destination in mind, but it seems ABSOLUTELY IMPERATIVE for the whole family to dash out in front of speeding vehicles at random, at the last possible moment, to get there. I've have yet to see a dead one.

Downtown is full of vintage advertising signs, many of them pure boomerang Googie and at their best all lit up and grooving. Stopped at lights you can hear the sounds of dishes and glasses and feel the air conditioning from the open doors of restaurants. Motorcycle riders wave as they pass. In your lane they pull up alongside to see what you're riding and where you're from. Goofy kids wave at you from the rear windows of cars, and crack up laughing and hide when you wave back. Grinning dogs bark and wag from the backs of pickup trucks. Guys in cowboy hats driving trucks make traffic part around them when they stop to talk to their buddies passing by in the opposite lane of traffic.

When you cross off onto a residential street from the middle of town the sidewalks are shaded by trees. Men sit on their front steps and smoke cigars, women sweep their yards and water red geraniums in pots hung from the fences. Big dogs watch you from the end of chains and medium dogs run out to jump and bark. Kids stand in groups around their cars with the stereos up loud. Halfway down the block in someones front yard is a statue surrounded with silk flowers and votive candles. Everyones dinner smells like heaven.

Up another street everyone in the neighborhood is sitting in lawn chairs out on their driveways, watching kids play basketball in the street. Horses with riders walk along the sidewalks plucking overhanging fruit off the trees. Laughing groups of people sit on their porches, burning incense stuck in between the cracks in the stairs, passing joints and paper plates of fried chicken and potato salad. Teenagers bomb around stuffed eight into crew cab pickups. Retirees mow their lawns. Sprinklers pop up and rain. Neighbors sit on blankets near the sidewalk, shouting to their friends as they go by. Everyones' door is open. Coyotes come shadowing down the arroyos and sneak across the streets, acting suspicious, stalking cats. Chihuahuas yap at them from up on someones shoulder or out open windows turned blue from television light. Meanwhile the rich folk booze cruise up and down the river, laughing and smoking.

Commercial tree fruit is grown everywhere in the Wenatchee valley on whatever land hasn't been sold to developers, even within the city limits. When the fruit is ripening each grove gives up its aroma in rich currents that are amazing to ride through...apples, peaches, pears, nectarines, plums and more. The whole Wenatchee valley is rolling full of things growing and ripening in August. For me the tomatoes are the worst... beckoning you with indecent tomato promises and making your mouth water as you pass through the smell of them.

Most of all, underlying everything, you can smell sagebrush. It's almost a perfume yet almost unpleasant, something like lavender but also like burning paper, soft but pervasive. You can smell it in the dry cold air pulled through the air conditioning. You can smell it in the clothes hanging on the racks in the stores, faintly. You can smell the sagebrush over the hot coffee you're drinking in the morning.

Three days isn't going to be long enough. It never is every year.


*or maybe in the ocean or a lake or something, or at the dump, or maybe in a big mudhole. be careful.

UPDATED: Yellow Manta Ray Execution Day!

Go here
and read the post entitled 'She Shines'

This is my Podling, and he is a miracle.

When I was a kid I rode my bicycle everywhere. This made me a target for the neighborhood bullies, because the bike I was forced to ride was a huge dorky clunker of a thing*, made even dorkier by the addition of apehangers, banana seat, and a sissy bar by my father. It was slow, it was fat, it looked like clownshoes and unfortunately, it was indestructible. I used to go over to the lot where the kids had build a dirt course and 'accidentally' leave it lying around. Pretty soon one of the boys would 'steal' it and start doing jumps with it and letting it go down the hills by itself and crash at the bottom. Not a scratch. Not a dent.
Rotten, unkillable bastard bike.

What the thing did, between having to make fast escapes from marauding kid gangs and simply trying to keep up, was give me legs like a draft animal. I had to work twice as hard as the spiderbike kids just to make the big, heavy sonofabitch move, and we lived in a hilly neighborhood. When I finally, finally got a normal bike (a white Schwinn Suburban 10 speed) I could make that thing FLY.
But here's the bike I really wanted, little design whore that I was:
pix from this site:
go here NOW.

...A Schwinn Stingray. And to this day I want this bike. Unfortunately, so does every collector out there, and they're being bought up and cut apart by the dozen to make these:

...Lowrider bikes. Something I also desperately need.
What can I say; once a design whore, always a design whore.


I went to Seattle with the Stainless Steel Amazon a few weeks ago for a nice 'girls day out'...and it was nice. Seattle is still cool. It's still recognizable as the town I once lived in. Except for one significant absence: where did all the winos go?

I keep coming back to this at odd times ever since I got back. It really bothers me.

Back in the 80's, Seattle had a very visible, very large homeless population. You could see them on the hillsides beneath each highway ramp, underneath each bridge, inside and next to every abandoned building and tunnelled beneath every overgrowth of blackberries on every vacant lot. There were entire villages, with pathways. It was like a city within a city, a third-world one.
Not now.

Seattle has turned it's commercial downtown into an enclave of shiny, happy condominiums and cheery street art. There are nowhere near the number of abandoned properties that there once were, and very little land goes unused nowadays. That might have something to do with it...but how much? Seattle is a huge city. The police are finite. I wasn't spanged once, and as I've advanced into middle age I have become a bum magnet. Nobody. And I saw schizos, no shopping cart people, no urban campers, no bums in doorways, nobody. It was strange.

I won't lie and say I miss them because I don't. I was a single woman with an infant (and no car or income) trying to navigate the streets back when Seattle was slap-full of predatory homeless. I was easy prey and made very keenly aware of this fact every minute I lived there. It didn't matter if I was on the sidewalk, riding public transportation or inside my 'secure' building-ha!-or not. I resented it like hell.

But nonetheless, a huge population of human beings has simply disappeared off the face of the earth, and whether or not I liked them I'm still weirded out by it. Really weirded out.
Can anybody answer this for me?

Anybody with something other to say than 'Soylent Green is peeeeeeepul" that is.


*this bike:

...of course nowadays the stupid thing's worth beaucoup buckolas because it's a 'classic'. the picture doesn't really indicate the sheer mass of this monster, was like a fucking parade float and it was made of solid pig iron. and you know what? i'd still have it crushed. bastard got me beat up more than once. quite a bit more than once, in fact. they wouldn't even let me park it near the cool bikes in the bike rack at school. *snif*