The amphibious car

I first caught a glimpse of this car a couple of weeks ago. I automatically made some assumptions about the owner. He or she must be the kind of person who frequents a place that they call The Lake. As in, “What are you doing this weekend?” “Oh. We’re going down to The Lake.” But I saw it again a few days later, the canoe was still attached. I puzzled over that a bit and presented a new theory to some friends. “It’s amphibious,” I told them. As soon as I spoke, I saw the flaw in my logic. I had only seen the car twice and it’s possible that its owners may have been on their way to the lake the first time and on their way back the second time. Hardly conclusive.

I saw the car again today. The canoe is still attached; and I’m convinced that my theory is rock solid. This car is obviously a homegrown amphibious model. When the driver needs to take it out onto the water, they simply drive onto a pier and flip the car over into the water. The driver, and hopefully at least one other paddler, get into the canoe, ducking their heads so that they don’t hit them against the Volvo. They paddle around and when they get back to shore, they simply flip the car up out of the water and drive away.

200th Entry Extravaganza

Robert came by earlier than usual, in tears. He sat for awhile, recovering somewhat over a pot of tea and a bowl of corn flakes. I eventually shooed him out, and we walked down Broadway a bit, untalkative. I could see that he was barely holding himself together, weighted down by his bag, a pained expression, his occasional comments barely lucid. I imagined that once we’d parted, he’d be alone like this, lost on Broadway, crying again, with eight dollars to get him through the day. “What are you doing next?” I asked him. “I’m going anywhere that has coffee,” he laughed bitterly, “But I’m so confused right now – I don’t know where to go.” I rearranged the vague plans in my head and took him down to Bauhaus. He selected the donut with the most colorful sprinkles and then chose the most out-of-the-way table to sit at upstairs. He slowly perked up as he worked his way through two cups of coffee and as he let the words tumble from his mouth. Soon after he’d reached the point where I could picture him making it through the day without crumbling, I got ready leave. “Take care of yourself Robert,” a hand on his shoulder. It was the wrong thing to say, he looked hurt. I tried again, “It sounds like you have a couple of things in the pot brewing?” He answered briefly and we parted ways.


A woman is wailing in Spanish at one of the reserved busker stations in Pike Place Market. She expertly works the strings of a tiny guitar with her bare fingers. I’m surprised that her fingers aren’t bleeding – I’m surprised that the guitar isn’t bleeding. Her voice is loud and confident, amplified by the acoustics of the cement walls around her. If these walls don’t crumble in the wake of a sustained note, then they’ll withstand an earthquake with no problem. I think I recognize her voice, she’s the woman with the unlikely last name, a city or a country. (Yves Las Vegas.) She was in a short-lived band with Krist Novaselic. Her hair is cut close to the scalp and she’s wearing a heavy jacket, she could almost pass for a boy. Her guitar case, open in front of her for donations, is guarded by a trio of naked Barbie dolls. She has a pile of homemade CDs and a little sign that says “Breast-Reduction Surgery Fund – Really”. I listen from upstairs for awhile. Everyone who walks by is compelled to stop and listen for awhile. Eventually after she’s finished a song, I go downstairs. She’s already ringing out the next song. I hold up a twenty-dollar bill before dropping it in the guitar case, to show that I’m paying for the CD that I’m taking. She doesn’t see me, her eyes are squeezed shut. I doubt she’d see me even if she were playing with her eyes open. She’s somewhere else entirely.

Until Someone Gets Hurt

Yesterday after a game of Sorry!, which we decided leads children (ages six and over) to lives of cynicism and insincerity, Ingrid walked down to the waterfront with me to take the daily picture. I got a new camera a few days ago and I’m still pretty tentative with it. So I was kind of self-conscious whenever I took it out to snap a photo. At the beginning of the walk, I started rambling on about future ideas for Horizon Line. I told her that I wanted to have the little horizon picture open up into a page with a collection of photos from that day and I started talking about some half-baked ideas I had about how the other pictures would comment on the main horizon-picture. As I tried to articulate this for the first time, I realized how neurotic I was getting with all of this photography business. In my mind, I’ve overblown the scope of the thing into some big conceptual thing that’s beyond my abilities. I should just be having fun, taking pictures, and if the one’s I like fit somewhere on the site, then great. If not, then too bad. (It was a good walk though.)

Take the pictures, worry about the picture frames later.

Give that kid a spoon!

My brother Justin responded to my story about family folklore (scroll down a bit) with a meticulous (if not always clear) description of how he eats an ice cream cone. He writes off the time that he ate an ice cream cone from the bottom up as a failed experiment.

I was a little worried – Justin doesn’t have any younger brothers or sisters to tell stories about. But since he’s giving an account of something that he did when he was three, I’m guessing he has no shortage of young Justin anecdotes.

Not Me

My sister Karen mentioned that her son likes the Uncle Jeff stories that she’s been telling him.

I tried to imagine which Uncle Jeff stories might appeal to a five year old. “Uncle Jeff stories? Are these stories that I tell and that you’re repeating or are they stories about me?”

“Well,” she hesitated, “his favorite is about the time you had an ice cream cone; and you ate the cone first and got the ice cream all over everything.”

“What? I remember that. That was Justin!”
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Then again, it could have been the allergy medicine.

Today after a morning of foggy-headed encounters and social gaffes, I sat down at the crowded counter at Bauhaus cracked open my book and sipped my tea. The sun was shining with an intensity that hasn’t been seen for weeks (though the temperature made no concessions, barely creeping above forty degrees). The window in front of me acted as a magnifying glass. A concentrated beam of sunlight drilled itself into my head; while the people lounging outside were bundled in jackets against the cold.

The fog inside my head slowly burned away. I blinked my eyes. The muscles in my back relaxed. I sweated and felt my nose burn. I recharged.

I left reluctantly as the end of the Beatles album that was being played approached. Walking back up the hill, I looked down at my green shoes and felt like running. Though I risk turning up baggage associated with the word, I’ll say that I felt a sense of clarity. Clear mind, clear body, clear skies.

My environment has been a bit rough for the last few weeks. I’ve been suffering through hay fever season. My building’s furnace died a sudden death and I was sleeping restlessly through some cold nights. And finally, the weather has largely been nothing like it was today. That’s the big one, the weather.

Yes. I recommend the sunlight . . . and the Beatles. The sunlight and the Beatles are both very good today.

An ambulance driver wakes up in a Dairy Queen.

I was going through some old notebooks yesterday and was reminded of a habit I used to have. I would sit in the window at Espresso Roma (and later at Habitat Espresso) and take notes about everyone who walked by.

5/4/98 Bushy white mustache, 2 inch heels. Pete on his bicycle, pulls over and locks it to a parking meter. An EMT takes a sip from his Pepsi. Garbage truck driver has his name painted on the door of his truck, “Nick”. Pete’s reading Ghost World! Two guys, one in flannel, the other a hooded sweatshirt, carry pieces of ornate iron fence. Preppy boy walks past talking on his cell phone, two minutes later walks past from the other direction. A divorced PhD explains his taxes to a friend. A tulip in an eight ounce Coke bottle full of water.

5/11/98 Yellow shorts carrying black shoes. Vertical stripes, running with his hands in his pockets. Yellow tinted glasses, fuzzy bag. Brow furrowed, flushed cheeks, hands clasped in front bag hanging from elbow. Vertical stripes zips past from the other direction, green backpack over one shoulder. Khaki shirt jogs across the street against the light, cuts the corner, and walks the next crosswalk with the light. Cute girl scrapes the last of the cream cheese out of the packet for her bagel. Leather jacket, baggy corduroys, hitting palm with stick. Former barista, green jacket, blue bag, crosses street with arms folded. Dyed hair, rushes urgently to baseball cap, questions baseball cap, who answers casually, she calms, comes inside to get coffee. Baseball cap hails cab or waves to someone across the street. Teacup handle is made for smaller fingers. Short girl carries motorcycle helmet between visor and chin guard. Cute girl finishes bagel, goes outside for cigarette. Other cute girl, who I noticed twice before walking in both directions, is sitting outside, eating pastry. Mike (bearded), carrying bag of groceries, stops at corner to talk to guy with leather jacket slung over shoulder, when finished, he talks to two others. Bus blocks my view of that corner, when it drives away he’s moved on. Huge orange and green umbrella. Bleached moussed hair. Black coat, hair joins girl in opposite window. I think it’s just about time to go.

I’m enjoying reading through some of them now. I’m surprised by insignificant details that I remember, like Mike disappearing after the bus obscured him from my view (maybe he got on the bus). But I’m also surprised by every detail that I don’t remember; how could I forget the garbageman with his name painted on the side of his truck?

I think Espresso Roma was the only place where I regularly took these notes. That space is Bleu Bistro now and is slightly less conducive to solitary lingerers. I don’t think that’s why I stopped though. I’ve been more of a navel gazer lately, staring and zoning-out more than watching. Since I’ve started blogging, I’ve been consciously trying to crystallize anything I write into a cohesive piece I’ll be able to use here.

The other thing that pops up in those notebooks a lot (aside from attempts to draw myself and friends as Peanuts characters) are outlines and strategies for a hundred different never-started projects – mostly mini-comics, essays, and paintings.

For the moment I think I’m as satisfied with everything in the little pile of old notebooks as I am with everything I’ve typed into the blog-o-matic machine.

What the Neighbors Said

The meals I give Robert are barely helping him sustain himself. I buy him lunch and give him a five or a ten dollar bill for “coffee money” every day. I can spare it. But he comes back every day, lost and hungry. And I see no end to this. It has really been weighting me down.

For a couple of weeks Robert was showing up constantly – tracking me down at coffeeshops, finding me on the street. He was dialing my apartment from the building intercom several times a day. He only knows the numbers to press to reach my phone, he doesn’t know the code to hang up and can’t read it off the instructions. So he’d stay on the line through my voicemail message, past the beep, waiting silently. When the intercom system hung up automatically after a minute, he’d redial immediately.
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forbear! keep off, hands off! sauve qui peut! devil take the hindmost!

This is why I’m starting to really like A search for “recoil” brings up pages and pages of carefully categorized words and phrases in categories like “relating to the voluntary powers; individual volition”. It’s like having access to the source code behind a traditional single-threaded thesaurus. I end up rattling off on tangents as often as I find a more suitable or more flashy word.