Sunday, March 28, 2010


I’ve been following two photo blogs a lot lately, “The Blue Hour” by Brian and “This is Naïve: Miscellany of a Girl’s Life” by Tommy. Both of them live in London and take melancholic pictures of evocative objects and scenes. They take a lot of pictures of food, British food.

So I was really happy to eat at Smith today and try their “Full English Breakfast” while J. and her old Canadian friends had their fill of the best poutine in Seattle and round after round of perfect coffee in narrow brown mugs. A Full English Breakfast involves 3 eggs fried, ham, baked tomato, house-made sausage, baked beans & fry bread. It is big enough for two and the beans are the best. A perfect understated breakfast in a dark cavernous room surrounded by taxidermy and odd portraits of American presidents.

I like it so much when objects are presented in a simple but particular and thoughtful way, when designs evoke cultural history, when the mystery of composition carries the viewer, or in this case the eater, through to a new appreciation of texture, atmosphere, and the actual colors of abstract ideas. That sort of thing.

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Monday, March 22, 2010


Outside the Cocoon

We go to the North Shore because it’s wild and cold and the atmosphere is electric and wet. It’s an absolutely unforgiving place where things, giant trees, abandoned tin cans, are pounded smooth. We saw stone-crusted gray whales and ratty bald eagles and thought that sunny days and purple flowers are nice but not the same as Edmund Burke’s sublime which is found in “terror, obscurity, power, vastness, infinity, difficulty, magnificence and darkness.”

We are always looking for things that “unlock the valves of feeling and therefore return the onlooker to life.” Walking in the blinding rain with your chin tilted to the wind using the Pete Seeger method you feel something like this.

Out here in the pre-verbal world things seem slow and uncomplicated, just brute elements really, but then when we laugh and swoop along, back to our future and past, things get very fast and there is music in the air pushing us on.

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Sunday, March 14, 2010

We Want a House With a Porch Too
Today we went to one of those vegetarian brunch places where they frame limited edition signed copies of Michael Pollan’s “eater’s manifesto” inside the main entrance over basket woven chairs comfortable enough to sit in for hours. This Café Flora is in a part of town we don’t get to much, so we were especially gawky. And when we tried to find parking we ended up next to a deep brown cedar-shingle-sided house on the edge of town, with a cedar shingle fence around what seemed to be an intimate courtyard. A Subaru station wagon with a “War is Terrorism” bumper sticker was parked in the lane. We spent the next ten minutes deciding that we wanted a house just like it. A house with a broad and deep front porch just like the one Brian Snyder says is worth a lesser-used body part. A house with a children’s garden so Olivia will not go bananas when she comes for meaningful visits.
We’ve tried to make the best out of our hole in the ground, but it’s not a place to invest more than a few cheap pictures and manufactured statues of repurposed junk. Someday, eventually, we’ll have a beautiful wood house next to a hip brunch place too, just like all our friends.
Growing old together, J. and I will cave in and find a family dog when our kids move away for the “college experience” and I’ll sit on my porch with the dog listening to birds and muttering about the way the voles are tearing up the yard. Later, in the afternoon J. will shrewdly power up the Drone with tears in her eyes.

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Sunday, March 07, 2010

Go to China

I hardly ever write about China even though it is the main thing I think about and think around. Now after 7 years of not living in China I’m going back. Just three days ago I talked to my friend Chad in Shanghai about the possibility of chatting up the owner of a wood-fired tofu factory in Fujian at 2 in the morning and sniffing rare Oolong Tea in the Wuyi Mountains during the last week of May. I’ve done this “talk of China” thing with Chad since we first noticed each other in an Asian geography class in McGilvery Hall and talked about Daoism through three pots of tea in his chaotic house. Hilariously, I moved in that night and spent the rest of the year sleeping on his couch.

So yes, in answer to the question you must be pondering, after 7 years of not living in China I’m going to live there with Chad. And since we both speak Chinese (sort of), and both still solipsisticly study Chinese culture, it will be fun to plan escapades inside the pictured red roofed tea house tucked away in the Wuyi mountains.

That’s right, Jenn and I are both going to China for the next year: we took our visa pictures and eyed some tickets. We’re going to travel everywhere, sleep on the steppe, read dense books, joke around in bazaars in childish Uyghur, find new ways to mangle Chinese, and play cards with new friends. Like everyone else we’re going to try to find our own way, but, dangerously, we’re going to do it in China. And so the excitement is building.

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