Sunday, December 27, 2009

Taking Them Over
Christmas is the time to play exotic forms of Dutch Blitz late into the night. It’s when we listening to David Sedaris criticize the poor performances ubiquitous in elementary school pageants and have the excuse to buy truffle oil and try it out on any sort of bread and pasta we have. We can also buy really expensive pâté.
The day after Christmas is when we can stop listening to Christmas music and realize it is a relief, or that the new music we just received is really good! (Although coming home to a snarling Bob Dylan still wouldn't be bad.) We can also go to our favorite restaurant and eat the finest things found and made for the mouths of humans. This time around at Spring Hill, we had the best of December’s mussels from Totten Inlet (!), hen-of- the-woods over cheddar grits, potato croutons in a fennel puree, quinoa with subtle peppers and the most decadent burger known to me. According to Jenn “if it’s subtle it has to be good.” Except for the beef-fat fries, she says those are bold and flavorful and “I’m going to be mad if we don’t take them home. I don’t care if they’re going to be soggy, I’m gonna eat them.” Strong words for a vegetarian.
Christmas is the day when you realize who your good friends are and why family is important. You realize that you like it when your presents are a “big hit” and that you managed to give someone whose life is really full a little bit of extra joy. And it doesn’t stop, next week after all the hustling and rustling is over we can go to a cabin on the coast and listen to our good music, watch the waves and read Kafka for hours. Life is good when you make your own traditions.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Towards Always Vanishing Authenticity

Like everyone else we came to Seattle for the coffee and the old books. Old books without the feral cats they seem to attract (we have an allergy for that). Coffee without the corporate signs of global brands. Old books with hardcovers and perfect brittle pages. Coffee in big glass steins in an old brick building that has seen many lives which therefore makes its latest transmutation so interesting.

The coffee shop we finally rested on is in a block of buildings built in 1909 (a couple of years before Great Grandpa John stopped by) when Seattle was young. These days it is in an alleyway a few blocks down from where we live facing new apartment buildings behind a blank wooden door. It was used for a lot of things over the years -- as a store, restaurant, a bank branch, and a funeral home/mortuary -- before becoming the first espresso bar in Seattle, the proving ground for Starbucks. People that come here, artists, poets, intellectuals, hangers-ons, read Walter Benjamin or (like us) Franz Kafka and talk about village life in South Korea. They are the sort of people Annie Dillard writes about: "They are a people of profound beliefs. They treat cancer with tea. They have come here to abandon society to its foolishness. They believe in wood heat, unpasteurized milk, and whales. To everyone they are unfailingly helpful."

A few short steps away in our same alleyway is the best used-bookstore in Seattle. Best because they have the finest collection of mass market hardcover books from the 1940s and 50s and they play only the finest operas. All of the Victorians, all of the early American literature are there -- the rare books are on display in special cases. These books feel good in your hands and look good on the shelf and we're excited about taking them home for Christmas where we will transmute them into prize possessions.
"Can't you just smell the dead people?" Jennifer asks as she eyes the strange drain in our favorite morgue turned coffee shop.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

On the Catalogue

"...There is no end to the making and selling of things there is no end to the making and selling of things there is no end... Man, it occurs to me, is a joyful, buying-and-selling piece of work. I have been wrong, dead wrong, when I've decried consumerism. Consumerism is what we are. It is, in a sense, a holy impulse. A human being is someone who joyfully goes in pursuit of things, brings them home, then immediately starts planning how to get more."

I’m not as confident as George Saunders in The Braindead Megaphone where he reverses his position on consumerism and instead pines for it. It’s the selling part I’m not sure about (since it seems so easy to promote all sorts of falsehoods when selling is the purpose of making), otherwise though I think making and finding are two of the highest joys available to humans. Nabokov says without a hint of pretense in his book of strong opinions: “my pleasures are the most intense known to man: writing and butterfly hunting.”

We found a few new things this week: trundled sewing machine (White Rotary, Patented April 18, 1911) which folds into itself, Noguchi lamp (which I know is really a derivation from IKEA but it’s the original idea that counts). And all sorts of Christmas gifts which we cannot mention . . .

About the sewing machine Jennifer says: “I thought it was just a table at first and then I thought the top might open and then I thought it might be a sewing machine and then it was. It’s so beautiful! We’re so lucky! I'm going to sew like crazy!"

Sunday, December 06, 2009

From the Urban Craft Uprising

Although Seattle may not be one big craft show like Portland, it puts on a pretty good effort. Enough to get Jennifer pretty excited. Here she is excitedly scribbling little ideas (written in OT code) into her notebook:

1. Make Viking Darren needlepoint
2. Embroidered handkerchiefs
3. Make little book bags
4. Make funny cards
5. Scarf stiched w/ sm