a good year

and so 2008 thunders to a close. can i say it was a great year? it was, for us anyway. a momentous year of change, sucess, actualization, attainment, process, travel, movement, death, (re)birth, breakthrough. here we find ourselves, on the lip of so many glorious things, on the edge of living the lives we've dreamt for ourselves, on the margin of something so beautiful. {note: i'm a little prone to overdoing it here, in no small part b/c i'm still riding the high of the blazer victory over the celtics last night - wow, what a game. that said:}.

ride like the wind, like a glorious unicorn leaping from mountain-tops, across ravines, illumined by the glow of the star-scape! ride man ride! on to 2009!


"...disproportionate, indiscriminate mass violence..."

i'll say it loud and proud: (yet again) i agree w/ dennis kucinich. Diproportionate is the understatment of the year.

b e l l a

been dog-sitting bella for A & S. it's been great to have a dog in the house again much less one who knew maxwell. she's been a great bridge between our sense of loss and our hope for the future. thanks bella...



4 years ago today i had the first mri, the one that kicked the party off. it wasn't until tonight, en route to dinner, that either of us recalled that. we toasted to forgetting and remembering, to our great fortune, to the miracle(s) of drawing breath. so easy, too easy, to forget.

sentence of the day 12.27.08

"hey, bananas get hung."

mm on my unskilled unpacking of grocery bag


winter sketch

weather extraction and munificent burdens, uncloaked and then rebundled, toe to toe.


woke to a loud noise early in the am

the snow ripped the awning from the porch, a task we'd been meaning to get to ourselves...


william stafford interview excerpt

Once you said, "It would be too much to claim that art, the practice of it, will establish a 'good,' a serene, a superior self. No. But art will, if pursued for itself, bring into sustained realization the self most centrally yours, freed from its distortions, brough from greed or fear or ambition."

I remember that.

I don't quite understand the distinction you're making, because a self that is more centrally yours and freed from greed, fear, or ambition, sounds pretty good to me.

I probably ought to tone that down a bit, but I forgive myself for saying that partly because I was coming out on that skate from avoiding the other skate. The early part of that is I didn't want to claim that one should assume that one is creating something worthy of the ages. Not at all. So the product is expendable, but the process is precious. This is what I'd like to say. I keep meeting poets who say something like, "Well, I'm trying to do something that is worthy and lasting and beyond my lifetime," and so on. I think that's just frivolous. That's something only society decides and I don't see that it makes any difference anyway. But the process is the process of living centrally and paying attention to your own life. Surely that's worth doing. If you don't, who will? That's what living is about, and you can be distracted from living by trying to create things that will last in the terminology and the mode of society that may or may not be harmonious to your life. So I want to shrug that part off.

I think it is a big claim, and if it hadn't been an interview, probably, if I had been carefully phrasing it, I would have tried to accomplish the same thing without making such forensic claims for art. I don't want to make claims for it, but I'd like to recognize what I think I see in it and that is that real art, genuine art, comes not from hammering out something for posterity, but from making the discoveries that are yours to be made because of your unique constitution and the unique encounter you have in experience.


fun w/ redaction

snow from my work window, 12.17.08

lost, then found

on the trip to yosemite in july i lost my camera. it's nothing fancy. 4 m-pixels. i used it to take pix and shoot low-grade video. i lost it sometime after i shot an exit sign that said Maxwell, somewhere near a gas station maybe an hour outside san francisco. or at least that's the last time i remembered seeing the camera. we stopped in san fran for a couple days b/f our yosemite hike and i could not find the camera. this was a good thing in a way b/c it made me less reliant on the crutch of always shooting things as a way to make them meaningful. it made me appreciate the moment(s) in a deeper way.

still, i missed the camera. summer moved to autumn and we went on a couple trips that i couldn't document. autumn moved to winter and the streets are sudden icy death traps. yesterday i pulled out my long-forgot hiking shoes (better traction) and tucked inside was...my missing camera. i thought back to july, to pre-yosemite, remembering that i hiked in my running shoes instead of hiking shoes b/c they were lightweight and on a hike of that stripe every ounce gets noticed. so that was it, i must have, in a moment of quick i'll get this later that can happen in the swirl of travel, tucked the camera into my shoe and completely forgotten about it.

everything for a reason, right? (maybe wrong? maybe utter random confluence of timing, misfiring, dimness? maybe the mere belief in everything for a reason is the contemplative equivalent of thinking that a moment is meaningful if you take a pic of it?) undetermined. must return to this idea later.

today i uploaded all the pix on the camera and went thru them. recalling events from 7 months ago. the margin between the camera-toting me of then and the the freshly-reunited camera-toting me of now. maxwell had just died. we went to the japanese gardens, seeking a balm. kmac and adog got married. our cat got a bath.

i find meaning in these pix even as i mock my own need to document them. is the meaning in the reunion w/ them? w/ the nostalgia for lost time? are they meaningful the second the pic is taken or only months, years later? today these are the things that vex me, perplex me.


and you are (t)here...

i am quite certain i'm unable to fully articulate the range of what i'm driving at but i'll attempt it nonetheless: for seven yrs in los angeles i was fueled by a sort of epic ambition to achieve something. that unnamed something was codified and entwined in the Film Industry and there was - to me - zero percent chance of me achieving it w/o setting myself in LA. yet at the same time i internally separated myself from everyone else in LA: i simply wasn't that superficial, my artistic aims were more esoteric, more indie, more off the map etc so much so that any naked ambition i had was - i thought - neutralized by the 'purity' of what i outwardly pursued. but inwardly you see it was the exact same thing i was driving at. inwardly it was the exact same thing fueling me as fueled everyone. you can argue that this element is present to varying degrees in every single person who writes, draws, paints, makes movies, plays an instrument. i don't know if that's a sound argument or not but you can certainly make it. at my most honest i can confess that driving much of my pursuit in LA was the hunt for acknowledgment and celebration on an epic scale.

now, much like a cancer survivor (ha) i am nearly 5 yrs out of there.

hiking up runyon canyon on an LA visit a few days ago and a pea-soup of smog hung over the basins and valleys and i realized we're all - in los angeles that is - drawing oxygen from the same pool. its ubiquity and pervasiveness makes any type of self-distinguishment farcical. Whether or not you claim you are at least not them you are still forced to acknowledge their presence. you are still intaking identical oxygen and water (bottled or not) - you are there.

my point, and i don't really have one, has something to do w/ relief. gratitude that i made it out, that now - by leaving - i'm closer to what i wanted , that i had to 'fail' there to 'succeed' here. as mm always says i am a lucky sob and i am ever so lucky that i had no real taste of 'success' in los angeles b/c it would have broken me. i would not have been able to shoulder the burden. i would have crumpled, imploded, shrunk down, been hollowed out. now the codified part of what i want is the same as it was back then but what lies under it, what fuels it, has been altered. it comes from an entirely (mostly) different place and that is a good and beautiful thing.


new moon cafe, olympia wa

a snowstorm necessitated an overnight in olympia, wa. in the AM, we woke b/f hitting the rd b/c we wanted to give the sun time to melt things and trucks time to clear paths. walked down sidewalks in icy chill. we ducked into the new moon café for tofu benedict, chevre omelette and coffees. we wrote in the notebook that was placed on our table, right b/t the homemade blackberry jam and the napkin dispenser. photographs from a local photographer lined the walls. our server wore earrings made by a local artisan. figure 8 (the album) by elliott smith was playing. the menu boasted of locality and sustainability and an admirable number of hand-peeled potatoes per week. we hatched several creative proposals, among them documenting cafés in small towns. we walked up the street and found our car. we hit the road back to portland.

(note: above photograph not mine, found online, but you probably figured that out since there is foliage in the shot)


sentence of the day 12.11.08

"in the winter they put poop on the grass"

mm on s cal aroma

la in thumbnail sketch

long drives, late flights, traffic, breakfast, hike to observatory, glorious sunset, traffic, catching up, old great friends, traffic, hike to runyon cyn, thick smoggy blanket, breakfast, wedding reception, live music, traffic, new spatial and temporal relationship(s) w/ old self, old ambition, old definition; the sense of interconnection and saturation: you are this here even if you claim to be not this. you are still forced to react.
more later, still here



wknd in thumbnail

busy as per usual, planning to go out of town as per usual. this time los angeles for a wedding. we should encounter some ghosts and their proxies and extensions as well as some good things too. despite all this planning, pre-planning and plotting, we decided this wknd would be the wknd to paint my office, which necessitated taking every item out, dismantling and dissembling my albatross of a desk, moving the futon to the middle of the room, covering w/ a drop-cloth, waking early sat am to go for a run before we go to buy paint which naturally lead to a whole host of other considerations, factors, variables, and details. after round one of painting yesterday i flopped my self on the couch to watch a movie and mm called down to me mister, get up here right now so i could see the sunset you see above.


fell, destroyed

the loss of a camera birthed excavations to retrieve an older one...

sentence of the day 12.4.08

"...so as you're listening to stars what you're looking for is changes in the modulation of the radio [signal] that are not nonsense, are not white noise..."

dr. pamela gay on astronomy cast re the search for extraterrestrial life


sentence of the day 12.02.08

"there are few things in life that can't be improved by a chili dog, except maybe a clogged artery"

mm on the subject of her dinner


"I'm going to go pajamatize myself"

mm on her nightclothes


...train sketch...

only a few minutes to jot these items down before heading out the door for a run and then heading out the door to meet w/ the endocrinologist but these thoughts are jostling in my head and i want to put them somewhere.

freshly returned from san fran for the t-giving holiday by amtrak train. something about the process of travel that is accentuated by the length of a train trip; there is someone's sad dog tied up in their sad back-yard, there are culverts and drains and ditches, there are majestic forests, there is mt. shasta dipped in snow like a donut glowing in the sunrise. train travel is intrinsically contemplative (for better or for worse).

had a lovely time (mostly) in san fran. got to see gh, a couple movies, spend some quality time w/ the in-laws and their extensions. i qualify w/ 'mostly' b/c hanging over the trip was this doctor meeting i'll be at in a couple hours. the past four xmas-es/holidays have all involved travel to san fran and have all involved me waiting for some type of medical verdict. 4 yrs ago it was the 1st MRI, 3 yrs ago the anniversary of said MRI, 2 yrs ago the same, last yr the verdict on that growth on my thumb, and this year the verdict on how my pituitary gland has fared after 2 brain surgeries and radiation, w/ the expectation that it has suffered some loss of function. It is, for me, near impossible to attend family gathering(s) of any stripe and engage in the requisite holiday chatter and small talk w/o this sort of white-noise radio-signal background hum; i am hyper-aware of my medical history and hyper-aware of how much the person in front of me knows or wants to know and hyper-aware of how to read the signals they're transmitting. this can impact a vacation.

went w/ mm's dad to the de young museum in gg park. incredible exhibit on modern asian art, anchored by maya lin who is truly amazing. i don't know anything about art really - not in any academic sense anyway - but i know that she is great. the museum also had some other modern stuff like the above, a sculpture by cornelia parker called anti-mass, featuring actual charred wood from an arson-ed black church hanging in space, seemingly mid-explosion. it speaks to me in ways that i cannot fully articulate.

gotta run.

update: several hours later.
went to endocrinologist. my pituitary gland is not failing. in fact it looks just like it did last year this time. we're gonna meet w/ him again in a year's time and monitor levels w/ a blood draw then. in case it's hard to interpret what i'm saying, let me put it this way: this is a good and beautiful thing.


sentence of the day 11.27.08

"...her handwriting is pretty but she uses it as an instrument of malice..."

mm's mom (just after thanksgiving dinner)


"...Buck nut? What's a buck nut?..."

the same


sentence of the day 11.23.08

"Let's open some wine now that she's passed the almond"

mm to bp, on the occasion of our cat excreting a
troublesome nut


sentence of the day 11.21.08

"...I don't care who's having a baby I want that chocolate-factory out of the house.."

overheard at jaciva's


best music video ever

i give thanks

Many warm thank you's to all those people and events in the past 24 hrs that have summoned my buddha nature.

let's start the roll call off w/ the safety class i had to take last night at legacy emmanuel, which goes back to a traffic infraction i made in july (ran red light on bicycle in front of law-enforcement enforcer) the veracity of which i think is dubious but i ultimately need to take responsibility so i will. the class, while pretty much exactly what you'd suspect 2 plus hours of 'instruction' led by a bike-riding judge, a trauma nurse, a crunchy bike alliance guy about sharing the road in portland would be like still had moments of wit and insight. To handle the wit-less, insight-less moments you simply take breaths, take inventory and arrive at a platform of gratitude that this class is a welcome substitute for the $242 penalty of your violation. thank you class, even though attending meant i missed the Blazer game last night. thanks Legacy emmanuel too. the last time i was there i met with a radiation oncologist. comparatively speaking, i'll take a boring class any day of the week...

next up let's give thanks to pyramid taproom at the rose garden, where i arrived after class to meet my wife. i found a decent parking spot a few blocks away and walked thru the windy chill to the arena, planning to sit my fat seat in a chair and watch the game on TV while downing a handsome quanitity of beers. I tried to enter from the plaza/promenade at the door that said "Enter" but the employee/guard told me i had to go thru the arena instead. I walked into the arena and 3 red-vested ushers met my request (to go sit in the pyramid room and drink a beer while waiting for the game to end and my wife to come join me) w/ a glazed bafflement. "You don't have a ticket" they said. I explained that no, i did not have a ticket but i wasn't entering the arena, i was merely going to be in the pyramid room drinking a beer and that i didn't see what the big deal was b/c last summer my dad and my wife sat in there before a game and had dinner but they were unimpressed by this claim. There was 4 minutes left in the 3rd plus the whole 4th which translated into at least 45 minutes of real-time for me to kill. I went outside and sat in the wind and chill, staring thru the windows at the patrons and felt a burn in my stomach. I acknowledged it and took deep breaths, grateful to be drawing them at all and listened to this american life on my ipod. eventually the game ended and i saw my wife through the glass in the restaurant, wondering where i was, and we were happily reunited. thanks to all involved.

now, let's give a warm and generous shout-out to henry and strunk - our cats. On the drive home margaret and i joked about how they were going to be upset that we were coming home so late and that they didn't get fed dinner. I said "they probably shit on the bed". Well I was wrong, they did not shit on the bed - they pissed all over the bed, in two giant pools that necessitated stripping, soaking, washing and drying of bedsheets and linens. thank you kits, for making me laugh. It was very instructive indeed.

major shout out to norman who has reasons of his own that may not be visible to me. his refusal triggered a familiar swell of gut-burn anger that i've been breathing into and exploring for the past hour or so. maybe i'm looking at the small not the big? who knows what's underfoot?

the fact is that in meditative reflection and spelunking of the inner variety one encounters terms like 'obstacle' or 'challenge'. Those are abstractions. The above are specifics. Losing your toolbag out in space is specific. The junction of the sublime and the mundane is near. In fact, right here.



...(re)cycling thoughts, assessing damage...

so at the risk of boring my own self, as i've been on this topic multiple times over multiple months, i find myself still extracting lessons from brain-tumor land, still discovering that as far as i've come there's still ways to go even when the last time i realized i came a long way and didn't think i could go any further. these moments, these realizations (if that's even the right word, emergences maybe, these flashes of clarity) are not linear. there's no logical progression or footpath to follow. There are triggers but they're not absolute, they're not guarantees.

over drinks the other night w/ a dear friend, an old friend, a friend who knows me from the life of pre-brain tumor says how i look different lately, how my teeth can actually be seen when i smile, that i look like myself. i know what she means b/c i do feel diff lately for a variety of reasons (most of them creative). it was a tacit reminder of how large a chunk was extracted from me, not merely from my cavernous sinus (brain tumor joke for those in the know about the vagaries of the skullbase tumor) but me, my identity, who i was/am, how i feel, how i relate to people, spanning years.

the other night we (re)watched a film, one of those ten-best, seminal life-long films that not only shaped who i was but who i wanted to be, a film that was always a litmus test for a relationship's possibility -this is a film widely-regarded by any and all who have any connection whatsoever to cinema as capital G great but for me, this time, nothing. it meant nothing to me. it felt like a relic from a bygone era. stripped of all meaning, it sat there making points and jokes - and sputtering around, empty and irrelevant.

3 years ago this week mm and i and maxwell got in a van and headed out of boston after 2.5 long months of living in a hotel-room and getting proton beam radiation treatment. i recall a moment driving out of town along the charles river thinking "okay, now time to deal w/ X" (X here referring to a situation w/ a once-dear friend who said the absolute wrong-est thing to us at the absolute worst possible moment imaginable). But we didn't deal w/ X 3 yrs ago - somehow rearriving in portland and just managing day-to-day life was impossible enough, disorienting and alienating, like deep-space exploration - and we still haven't. It isn't punitive, it isn't rational, it just is. For the longest time I've placed most of the blame for X in the hands of the once-dear friend. Yesterday for the first time since X occurred I found myself getting angry at the brain tumor itself, recognizing my skullbase chondrosarcoma tumor - and all it subtracted - as the true villain. This is not some excusing of the friend's misdeed as much as it is channeling my emotion(s) to the appropriate place, recognizing the breadth of repercussion(s), seeing the great swaths of destruction in the wake of the explosion, dust and fragment still raining down, swirls of smoke beginning to lift. from this vantage, X was only a sliver. from this vantage, X was collateral damage...

all by way of saying: it's taken me nearly four years to get to this damage-inventory state. four years ago at about this time, i was having blurred vision, excruciating headaches. nearly four years ago at this time i was diagnosed. just look how far i've come, i find myself screaming to myself. moments later, i'll feel and scream the converse - that i'm only just now emerging from a cocoon that i was unwillingly (but self-defensively) forced to seek shelter in. Being in there for so long it became home (and part of it always will be) but slowly, steadily i feel myself returning to a different home, a welcome, familiar place...


peach state, the

no offense to all my old high school co-horts, but why oh why are dipshits like this guy always from georgia? and why oh why are they always un-travelled, illiterate and offensively stupid? or does that answer question number one?

you'd expect a flare-up of dipshit chatter w/ the ascent of obama (confirming their worst ignorant fears) so i guess there's that. rats scurry into the light as the ship sinks below the water. still seeing them gives you that queasy pit in the stomach. just how many disease-carrying vermin are there down there anyway? reminds me of a s. king short story i read in high school...

man and hat, reunited

i've had the same blue knit hat for years and right around this time of year is when it always comes out, just as the season turns from sunny autumnal to rainy cold autumnal. this week i could not find it. our detective work led back to last saturday, when mm and i went the laurelhurst to see a matinee of The Muppets Take Manhattan - which if i may diverge here slightly still works as a film and is better than 99% of the movies being produced these days, not just kids' movies but all movies. end of divergence...

All week mm said 'call the laurelhurst and see if they have the hat' but i've always not liked talking on the telephone - probably some authority issue - and refused.

cut to friday night, we're on 28th post-having dinner w/ C & J at navarre, en route to some bar for drinks and mm points up the road to the laurelhurst and says "go. go now" to which i respond by trotting off into the autumn night. it was a long shot. frankly i may not have lost it there. Could have been anywhere really. What's more, even if i had lost it at the laurelhurst the odds of it finding its way into the lost and found bin and waiting there for me, quietly hoping for my return, were slight at best.

movies were ending and there was cleaning going on. all the popcorn was out of the popper and a man stood reading a periodical waiting for people to clear out. He told me he couldn't leave his station as he was the only person out front. A moment later another employee materialized. The magazine-reading man asked her to check the lost and found closet for my hat. She turned to do so. I stood nervously - full of halibut and belgian stout beer from dinner - waiting, preparing to say goodbye, thinking about loss, the ephemeral, the transitional.

and then she walked out from the closet w/ my hat on her hand and i was suddenly out the door, running to meet my wife and friends at a bar, hat on head.


wishes, symbols, omens

mm's 35 bday is fast approaching.
well, pretty fast - 9 wks or so. It just
happens to be the day after the inauguration
so what better way to ring in 3.5 decades
than to be in DC for the birth of a new era.
yes, we're going. we're wait-listed for tix courtesy of rep. e. blumenaeur
and the odds may be stacked against us
actually being on the mall that day but it doesn't really matter.
hey, you know what? i just had a thought: you should come w/ us. don't say yes or no right now. just think about it. history and all that. think on it...

yesterday a.m. we saw a hummingbird at our feeder.
a startle on a grey lonely morning but a welcome
one. a harbinger of good things coming....

sentence of the day 11.9.08

"don't make me not say what you smell like"

mm to bp



you kind of wish the blazers would stop getting in these last minute situations (you know, by blowing leads in the 4th quarter) but this one is cool to watch. brandon roy. of course.


as if you needed another reason to be joyous

and so after a historic and brilliant campaign and an electrifying, momentous, jaw-dropping day - a day where new worlds are created, where old paradigms shatter, where the globe sits poised and watching, where millions and millions of hearts soar as they contemplate the meaning of true possiblity, true change, the kind you feel in your molecules, in your very soul -
what do the obama's do?

that's right:

they eat pie.


crazy week

the past 7 days have been one of those exhausting on-the-go weeks, moving from one
high-pitched event to the next - pretty much all of it good. the basic highlights are thusly:

- after years of chatter and speculation on sunday i finally got off my fat can and directed something. granted it was just a couple scenes, bare-bones, nothing flashy. but i did it.
- saturday km and af had their baby. congrats!
- friday went to the rose garden w/ mm and dad to watch a great game. mm dressed up (of course!) and i being my fuddy-duddy self did not.
- thurs mm learned that her essay is getting published in the missouri review. very exciting. (this is the same essay that got rejected a couple wks ago by a publication similar in stature. it's about the first week of my brain tumor diagnosis). way to go mm! oh, and it's for their issue in December. Meaning next month you can read it. whoo-hoo! i am biased naturally but the essay is spectacular.
- we got home internet.

well those are the broad strokes. doesn't look all that revolutionary typed out like that but it felt like progress on multiple fronts; the crossing of various thresholds. keep in mind it's all against the backdrop of an historic election, the whiff of promise in the air, change coming, transformations, becomings...


all oden, all the time

and so starts another nba season, w/ prospects looking favorable for the trailblazers. it's not just oden - you can't merely plug in talent and expect miracles - it's everyone and everything: roy, lamarcus, nate, the fans, portland, and the abiding sense of what this article calls 'citizenship' among the players. things feel warm and fuzzy. or at least approaching warm and fuzzy.

game tonight is in LA. first game at the rose garden is friday, halloween night. happy to say that we will be in attendance w/ my dad. bring it.


triggered star formation

eventually gravitational collapse breaks immense mollecular clouds down into fragments. the fragments rotate into tiny gas spheres. when those spheres are strong enough to push back against gravity they become protostars. After a gaggle of other processes involve themselves hydrogen begins to fuse and hence it becomes a star. it takes a real long time.

granted i'm condensing and paraphrasing but that's the gist in a nutshell.

point being thusly:

that's kind of how things have felt lately. the book, after years of percolation and marinating, is at last revealing itself, taking form, becoming. some other processes yet to play their role but it is gathering mass and heat. (thanks in no small measure to the astute notes and perspective of CS. thank you!) we are growing confident that we can actually pull this off or, at the very least, be done with it in the foreseeable future (note: referring to the astronomical timeframe of course).

so too w/ the movie (which i don't think i've mentioned here yet). i've been working on this movie in some way and to some degree every day since we moved to portland 4.5 yrs ago. bit by bit, inch by inch, particle by particle. the movements were often on the micro scale, unable to be seen w/ the naked eye. but it's coming, it's coming...


the beards

if you look closely you'll see me getting kicked and yelled at by mm about 100 yrs ago in los angeles. actually it was 2003.



mm and i have started a new sort of ceremony wherein when either of us receives some sort of creative blunting or rejection (be it for a grant, a publication, a contest)that we will celebrate. this is not merely to be ironic or to keep us from self-pity but also to in fact celebrate the fact that we're still trying to do what we want to do.

yesterday's celebration was a sort of benchmark in a way b/c we were both flummoxed and agitated by the rejection of mm's essay, not just her. Granted the essay involves the first wk of my diagnosis and how we handled it so i am probably over-protective since i'm in it. Also, it's taken from our memoir-in-progress and getting the essay published in a respected literary journal would be a boon so i have a stake in its success. All that aside though, it was the note they put on mm's rejection email, citing how impressed w/ the caliber of the writing, how stunning her 'scalpel-like insight's were to them but that ultimately they had to reject it b/c the essay was 'too familiar'. Familiar? Too freaking familiar?! Argh, my rage is rising as i type this out. Isn't every possible topic for an essay or a story familiar? It feels like a cop out. A dodge.

i mean, it's certainly their prerogative to reject whatever they want to reject. Of course. But to single out mm's insights and talents as particularly compelling and then reject them b/c of subject matter? What is she supposed to do w/ that information?

i am certainly biased in favor of mm's writing (and prone to both hyperbole and mythologizing) but these buffons are the Decca Records of the literary world. They will be sorry. They will rue the freaking day.

okay, i feel better now.


m e r c u r y

new color photography of mercury. (you know, the planet). as always for me, all things astronomical are crushing reminders of our
(in)significance. the size and scope of infinity always does a number on me. what's all this for anyway?


the corridor, revisited

3 days into october and i can feel a familiar tug at my emotional resolve. a low-grade sort of hum that heralds (or could herald) impending greyness and/or depression. maybe it's seasonal, after all it's been grey and rainy for the past couple days, but that feels reductive. i've long been a champion of all things rainy and autumnal and would like to think that it's more reasoned or complex than some knee-jerk mammalian computer-chip reaction.

more likely is the connotative value of autumn: almost 4 yrs ago, at almost this time i began to get the headaches, followed soon by the blurred vision. this whole stretch of autumn, october thru xmas, was the preamble and backstory of the brain tumor year. then, the following october (2005) i found myself living in a hotel room in Cambridge, MA for 2 months as i received proton beam radiation at Mass General. While the tale has a happy ending (meaning i'm still alive, typing this out) just remembering it summons the emotions of that time, the fear, angst, dread and above all, the uncertainty.

here's another reason, going hand and hand w/ the above, (based on a recent blood draw) my pituitary functions are likely beginning to slow and fail. this was predicted and not a surprise. "not if but when" b/c of the radiation treatment. i'm meeting w/ endocrinologist next month to look at options which, as i understand it, means i'll be on some type of drug(s) for the rest of my life. not only can lowered pituitary function cause depression on a chemical level but for me the mere contemplation of the pituitary failure promotes it. ugh.

i am doing my best to remember that when we were in the corridor, the one of 2005 where we didn't know what would happen or what to do or if i would even live out the year, that we would have paid any price. we would have made any bargain and from that vantage point (ie, the abyss) taking a drug for the rest of my life was the sweetest most benign option possible.

it is all - the autumn depression, the pituitary news - a flashing reminder that no matter how 'normal' my life may feel now, no matter how gloriously mundane things like going to the movies, paying a bill, reading a book may be, no matter how much time i put between myself and 2005 that i am not returned fully from brain tumor land and i never will be. Some strand of my life will always be tethered to it.


can you read?

to palin's credit, this is a classic 'gotcha' journalism move. for shame madame couric. for shame.


fugazi, long division

tickle of depression

sat out in the autumn sun on my lunchbreak today which was a beautiful thing (bonus: mm driveby) except for the fact that i'm reading an incredibly disturbing book about invented illnesses and the egregious medical marketing techniques used to promote cure of said illnesses except that often the word 'cure' is misleading at best, utterly false at worst.

so anyway, that's not enough to ruin someone's day. but that combined with the idea of drinking rocket fuel is. plus that and the idea of the regulatory agency (the FDA of course) set-up to protect us from the dangers of say, BPA, being utterly useless could start to tug at your mood. (particularly since the FDA's lack of regulation in the pharmaceutical industry is featured in the book i'm currently reading).

but then reading about pigs being abused and raped in factory farms. yep, that'll do it. all these things congeal and harden and leave me a little glum. what kind of a freaking place is this?

update: mm just informed me about cannabalistic polar bears. mood not improved.


ghost dog

max has been dead for 3 months now and it still isn't any easier. the grief has the same force and power. it pulls us under. i suppose the only thing you could point to as a means of indicating progress is that the grief is more familiar.

For our anniversary I made mm a book about max but rather than neutralize the sensations it's merely put contemplating him at our fingertips. There he is on the trip to Boston. There he is as a pup. There he is in the field in Western Mass.

also, on saturday we baby-sat for B & C (4 and 2, respectively) at our house. The question "Where is max?" arose immediately. They knew he died already of course but where was he? What happened to him? There he is, we said, in that box on the mantle. They inspected his ashes not fully certain what to make of our allegation that the ashes were indeed max.

That night, I dreamt of Maxwell running up to our back door. There he was bounding across the backyard, tail wagging. I couldn't believe it. (When he was actually inside it became clear that it was actually a different dog). At or about the same time, Margaret awoke to find herself ripping Max's dog tag off the chain on her neck (which she's worn for months now). She swore to wear it for a very long time and there she is involuntarily tearing it off as I'm dreaming of him (re)visiting us.

Is it max? Somehow reaching us from the golden field where he now runs, saying: that's it guys. time to move on.

to be determined...


the (anniversary) wknd in thumbnail sketch

saturday we left seattle after a good night of drinking and a great breakfast (thanks blake and michelle). headed toward snoqualamie. had cherry pie at diner from twin peaks. drove to the falls. long drive to winthrop from there. we drove past and then returned to first Stafford poem ("time for serenity anyone") just outside Pateros on state road 20. decided to alternate reading them aloud. i went first. back in car, twelve minutes later we found the next one ("from the wild people"). marg read as a nearby helicopter dropped water on what looked like a controlled burn.

we drove along the methow river, which looked like this:

found our way to our cabin and went to dinner in nearby town of winthrop. fields aswarm w/ feeding deer.

the next am, the birds were like television. we found poem 3 ("ask me") right there in downtown winthrop. you'd never know it was there but it was, quietly sitting, waiting, a perfect little provocation.

a couple hours later we were on top of horses, riding up a steep ridge. it felt steep to me anyway. my heart thundered and was later quieted by IPA. ended up back in winthrop for dinner where we discussed the merits of provocation, the necessity of idealism, and the disbelief that we somehow engulfed a whole pizza.

next morning on way out we could not find next poem. had momentary urging to drive on but we stuck it out and turned around. parked at a trailhead and walked down a mountain path. found it ("where we are") beside a suspension bridge.

the last one was way up, at washington pass. when we got there the road was closed.
we parked the car and walked around the obstacle and headed toward where the poem must be. it was most difficult to find and most rewarding. "a valley like this".

we got in car and made the long drive home...

some pix are here


be a person here

mm has long been a fan of william stafford. She and i are approaching our 8 yr anniversary and this wknd, in honor of this glorious event, we are going on a pilgrimage to WA, to track down his methow river signs

here is one of them:

Ask Me
Some time when the river is ice ask me
mistakes I have made. Ask me whether
what I have done is my life. Others
have come in their slow way into
my thought, and some have tried to help
or to hurt: ask me what difference
their strongest love or hate has made.

I will listen to what you say.
You and I can turn and look
at the silent river and wait. We know
the current is there, hidden; and there
are comings and goings from miles away
that hold the stillness exactly before us.
What the river says, that is what I say.

- William Stafford


the future

on saturday the ny times wondered about the approaching nba season, in particular to the advent of greg oden and what he means to the trailblazers. nice to see some love in the press for portland, and to see shoutouts to lamarcus aldridge, travis outlaw, and martell webster. brandon roy praise is to be expected. interesting that oden is technically playing his rookie year this yr. also interesting that the playoffs seem to be a given.



it's been a busy few wks, what w/ guests in town for every single wknd in august, and me and mm both battling colds and with various projects in various states and stages of being. i'll attempt to speak to them in the coming days but for now just enjoy this pic of the mars rover opportunity finally climbing out of the victoria crater. onward!


a tiny break

we have mercifully arrived at the ½ way point of our book. It’s taken us years to get this far for reasons I think I’ve spoken to before (ie, reliving the unpleasant nature of the topic, having full-time day jobs, 2 writers both w/ different styles of working etc). Another reason is that it’s a freaking labyrinth. Each memory is emotionally charged for both of us and has sub-floors and flashes of instant connotation and suggestions that create ricocheting memories held up in a mirror that make it nearly impossible to step aside and evaluate whether the book is even working on a fundamental level. Is this even interesting? Does it even make sense? These are the questions that we cannot answer.

In keeping w/ that, we’ve elected to stall the project momentarily and get some opinions. We’re going to show it to a) someone from the ‘writing world’ b) someone from the ‘brain tumor world’ and c) someone who knows us and our story but wasn’t here in portland for the nitty-gritty day-in-day-out. Hopefully some consensus, however meager, will emerge. I was home sick yesterday and took the opportunity to read what we have so far in its totality in one sitting. It was a trip, providing faint flickers of what the book might really be like but yet a slippery thing. Reading a passage will remind me of something else that happened but that isn’t in the book at all. So my interpretation is informed by something that exists in memory but not physically on the page. Follow? You see our dilemma…


philip glass - metamorphosis 4

man, i love p. glass. i stumbled across this performance from 0ct 04. used the opening of this piece under my marathon video. oh, that's not p. glass playing mind you...


y o s e m i t e, concluded

we ate breakfast and packed up our packs. the first three-quarters of a mile were lovely, crossing clear mountain streams, through dark woods. we knew the ascent was coming. and so it did. the dirt path gave way to a rocky staircase that criss-crossed an enormous hill in steep switchbacks as far as we could see. nowhere to go but up.

since this was our third day of hiking we had begun to get a handle on things - when to stop, when to drink water, when to eat something – almost on a molecular level. Even though it hurt, our muscles were beginning to feel conditioned. The shoulder burned a little bit less. The wear on the legs was manageable. All this was to our advantage during this part of the day – the straight-up part. We would walk a little bit then stop. Walk a little bit more then stop. To further aid our progress we devised a game: each time we stopped we would alternate remembrances of Maxwell. It helped keep our minds busy on the walking part. Still, we were covered in sweat in just a few minutes and drank most of our water on the way up.

At long last we crested, finding ourselves in a stunning canyon, girded by a stunning meadow. The sky was pure blue. The grass was green, undulating in rolls as the wind blew through. Also, it was flat.

We made our way across the meadow. We had to take off our shoes and socks to cross a stream but the water was so cold and refreshing that we hung out there for a few minutes before putting our shoes back on.

After a couple hours of a progressed and gentle ascent – it had to come back – we arrived at Vogelsang HSC. It was the most stunning of the 3 camps we stayed in, surrounded by mountain lakes and staggering vistas. We found our tent-cabin and here, finally, it appeared we would be sharing a tent for the night. We said hi to the couple inside and then went to a nearby lake for a quick dip (no showers at Vogelsang). It was freezing cold, naturally.

We went back to our tent and learned that the couple in our tent was going to leave. Apparently they’d gotten cell-reception up there
and discovered some emergency at home so they were going to walk all the way down to Tuolumne Lodge. So we were able to have all 4 nights in Yosemite to ourselves, which was not common. We felt lucky. And glad.

At dinner, we met a family who were having a reunion of sorts. A dad, a brother, a sister. All lived in different parts of the country. They flew in to Sacramento together and drove up to Yosemite and hiked up together to Vogelsang to celebrate the mother, who had recently passed, a recurrence of breast cancer. The mother and the father had been there many years before and it had always stayed with her as a place of transcendence. Seeing them together like that was a beautiful thing. I can’t say it better than that.

After dinner, we walked up to a viewpoint to watch the sunset. Margaret took some pictures the old-fashioned way, where you expose light to emulsion on a negative, and they’re probably awesome but we haven’t developed them yet so I can’t post them. So take my word for it. We were rather thankful at that moment that we’d purchased the mosquito nets at Merced Lake as swarming clouds buzzed around our faces. We saw a deer. The family we met at dinner were out walking, drinking in the sunset. We stopped briefly and chatted with them, feeling some unspoken connection to their story, and headed back to the tent.

That night we played scrabble by candlelight and took nips off the flask. We drank to our good fortune, both to see the things in Yosemite that we’d seen and also to be drawing breath at all. Life is a gift.

In the morning, we hiked down to Tuolomne Lodge. It was mostly downhill and relatively short. We found our way to the car.


y o s e m i t e, pt 4

we checked in at the merced lake camp lodge. we drank from their tin of lemonade. we bought mosquito netting in anticipation of the next day’s hike to Vogelsang HSC as the rumor was it rivaled Sunrise camp for mosquito infestation. We stumbled back to our tent. There was no one else in it but we didn’t think our luck would last, surely someone else must be coming. We stopped at the lodge, en route to the facilities, and asked. We couldn’t believe it. There had been several cancellations and we would have the tent-cabin to ourselves that night. We took blissfully hot showers and hand-washed some items in the laundry. We stumbled back to our tent, in a fog of exhaustion, collapsing on our cots. I fell immediately into a deep nap.

I woke some time later. Since we still had a couple hours before dinner I laid there and finished Dog Years, weeping through the last third. My resolve was broken by the hike sure, but the writing was lovely and – dealing w/ the death of a golden retriever – made me ache for Maxwell.

At dinner we sat w/ an older couple from Arizona. Turns out they live in the city where Margaret’s father was born. I had the fish, Margaret was the sole vegetarian in the camp, which seemed odd in this day and age. After dinner we walked along the edge of Merced Lake.

We played scrabble by candlelight in the tent, taking intermittent sips from our flask. We discussed tomorrow’s hike, both of us fearing the 3100 ft elevation gain. Today’s hike was a 2250 ft descent and it destroyed us. Granted it was 10 mi (and the trip’s longest hike) and tomorrow was 7 but the way our legs and shoulders felt was unpleasant to say the least. We hoped for the best, expected the worst….


y o se m i t e, pt 3

we set out from Sunrise HSC after breakfast, slathered w/ bug cream and sunblock. We went back across Long Meadow for 9/10’s of a mile to where the trail split. We followed the sign to Merced Lake and began to ascend. The rise was steady but not too tortuous. Our shoulders and backs were aching and sore from the previous day and I cursed my over-packing. Necessity versus weight. I had a copy of Dog Years by Mark Doty w/ me which I’d thrown in as an afterthought, something to read perhaps at night – but now, as we hiked, it felt superfluous. Extra ounces to tote.

We crested over some granite hills and stopped to identify some flowers. [Another thing I brought was a guide to yosemite wildflowers and wildlife. I understand that this makes me sound 83 but there it is]. We moved onward, descending now, the landscape changing with the altitude. We could hear the Merced River to our left, far far below.

After awhile the sun came out and it got hot. There was some cloud cover to neutralize but it was there and it made the hike harder. We crossed a meadow and then an extended area of dead charred trees, remnants of a lighting fire a couple years previous. We descended further and crossed a footbridge that spanned the Merced River. Here the trail got dusty. We’d been at it for several hours and our energy was starting to ebb. We continued to descend, finally stopping at another footbridge for lunch. We took our shoes and socks off and soaked our feet in the water. Freezing naturally but refreshing and welcome.

Afterward we headed onward. We had no pedometer or gauge to determine how far we went or had to go but we felt it couldn’t be too much further. We finally came to a sign saying that we had 2.9 miles left, just as the path appeared to go straight down. You would presume going down is easier than up but it’s just as challenging, particularly for anyone w/ knee issues. MM’s knee chose today to get wonky on her so she was popping advils like candy to help w/ the pain. Still, we were glad to be going down and not up, as it was a steep and serpentine staircase.

At long last the staircase ended and the ground leveled. We knew we had to be very close but a sign revealed we’d only gone 8/10’s of a mile. We couldn’t believe it. Our bodies felt spent, exhausted. Our water supply was down to a few drips. But we had no choice but to keep going.

After about 45 minutes or so we stopped. I ate an apple. We were both red and sweaty and tired. We were going alongside the Merced River now, on our right hand side. We were walking like zombies sort of, no thought but getting there and flopping down, our feet moving by computer chip.

At long last we saw Merced Lake and I thought I could see the white canvas of the tents. I realized a few minutes later that I had only seen the water reflected and that I was hallucinating mildly. We kept walking. Heavy clouds rolled in and it looked like it was about to rain. The lake was large and we were on a path that skirted the thing. Could it be possible that we’d have to go all the way around? We put that thought out of our head and kept walking, one heavy foot in front of the other. MM thought she saw a camp structure up ahead through the trees but it turned out to be nothing but an optical illusion. We kept walking, one heavy foot in front of the other. We were in a sort of a fog of exhaustion, unable to really think, cogitate or process but finally, at long last, we saw the Merced Lake camp up ahead.

We headed to the lodge and checked in…