Ramblings - 1
March 13, 1999
Last Sunday the sun came out for the first time in what seemed like weeks. It was very warm, around 48 degrees, and I decided to take my little dawg for a long walk through the neighborhood and out to the shores of Lake Washington down at Magnussen Park. I wasn't sure how to dress 'cause I hate to be too hot and if the day warmed up any I didn't want to be carrying my jacket home. I have this thing about not liking to carry things in my hands. I want them free and unencumbered, sort of how Kramer feels about his "boys". Way back when I first read Carlos Castaneda in the late 70s I recall Don Juan telling him not to carry things in his hands because he would lose energy that way. To walk with the hands held down, fngers slightly curved, was a way to absorb energy as you walk. Plus, I just like to have my hands free in case there is anything I want to steal, (you know, toys from yards and stuff) you just can't run away fast if you have too much stuff in your hands.
We reached the breezeway, wind still whipping sideways rain upon us even as we stood under a roof. I was floating in my shoes and I could not seem to get Bungee to keep her head inside my jacket. I'd tuck her back inside and she'd wriggle her sopping wet little head back out again. This dawg wanted to know where the heck we were going. I reached for the first door and was almost shocked when it opened. We were finally inside out of the icy weather. I yelled out to see if anyone was there. The huge building was silent. Then a fellow leaned out of a doorway, looking a bit disturbed to see us. I think, had I not had a sad-looking little drowned rat of a dawg with me he might have been afraid of me and who could blame him? I looked like big ol' drowned creature myself. I explained that we were stranded in the storm, miles from home and he looked outside to be sure that I was not lying about the weather. I couldn't believe that he had missed this thunder and lightning and the wind pounding rain against the glass but my soggy appearance seemed to be the first sign he'd noticed of inclement weather. He showed me to a phone and hid around the other side of a little cubicle, probably to be certain that I did not call Australia or steal any paperclips. I began to call friends who were nearest my part of town. After my 4th attempt was unanswered I remembered that one of my friends likes me to call with a specific number of rings so that she'll know that it's me. I tried the complex mathematical series of rings and she picked up the phone! Wheee! We were saved. She knew exactly where I was calling from and we agreed to be waiting for her inside the bus stop at the main road.
It was a sweet sight, seeing her round the corner in her little pickup and though she was kind about it, I saw her look somewhat shocked that I was such a scruffy, rain-drenched ragamuffin. I'm getting one of those little battery-powered blow-dryers in case this ever happens again. Nice hair in a rain storm is a must.
Well, we'd walked across the top of the hill where I live and down the long slope towards Lake Washington. It's a long walk and now and then I'd reach down and lift Bungee up to carry her for a block or two. We reached the grassy meadows of Magnussen Park and walked down to the water, along a path that circumscribes the lake. It was so beautiful and lots of people were out walking and biking, up on the hill there were several kites flying and a crowd of people below watching them. We wandered further on past to an area where there is a group of sculptures called The Sound Garden. You can stand quietly here and listen to the wind play through long metal pipes and fans. Just about that time I noticed that the sky had quickly darkened. I felt my first sprinkle of rain and thought, "oh shit, don't tell me we're going to get caught out here in a rain storm." No sooner had I said that to my little dawg than the bottom ripped out of those black clouds and sheets of icy rain began to pour out across the tall grasses and upon the darkening waters of the lake. I had on a thin pair of running pants, a tee shirt and a thin jacket with no hood. Me, the man known to my friends as Mr Preparedness, Man of a Thousand Jackets, Mr Comfort, yes, I was caught pretty much with my pants down. I ran with my dawg under my arm to the nearest large bush and crouched down as much away from the heaviest rainfall as possible. My poor little dawg was starting to shiver. She only weighs 7 pounds and it doesn't take much to get her cold.
We were a dismal sight, as I'm sure the few people left on the trail would agree. Amazingly, the only 4 people I saw at this point all had on nice dry (inside) Goretex parkas. We were crouched like two sad criminals under a wimply bush, thinking maybe some miracle would happen and we wouldn't have to walk five miles home in this freezing rain. I prayed for a miracle, some change in the weather. It happened but not like I had anticipated. It started hailing. Wheee! What a pleasure it was! My hunkering muscles were starting to give out, I realised how seldom in recent years I've been in a hunkering situation and well, I guess you could say that's a good thing.
The rain and hail did not seem to be letting up. About 100 yards away were some government research buildings. Being Sunday, I assumed it would be hopeless to try to get inside to a phone but at least we could stand under the breezeway rather than to continue this silly hunkering. I tucked Bungee further inside my sopping wet jacket and started walking briskly out toward the nearest building. Man, it was quickly apparent that the little bush was better cover than I'd realised. Within a minute I was about as soaked as a man in the pool after a shower. My forehead began to throb as if I had eaten a quart of Ben and Jerry's in half-a-minute. I wondered if there was a chance that me and my dawg were both going to get pneumonia. It seemed the brightest of the scenarios I could concieve of at the moment.
April 23, 1999
Way back when I first rented this house in the mid-eighties, I had house mates and I lived in the basement. We'd have wonderful, rowdy backyard volleyball games and give our teams colorful, vulgar names. We reserved the right to name visiting teams and they almost never overcame the humiliation of the monikers we gave them. Since those years, my backyard keeps getting smaller and smaller, due to the rhododendron bushes, apple trees, cedars and Douglas firs. To say nothing of the ever-attacking black-berry bushes. There's no longer room for volley ball but we still give visitors nasty names.
If you don't live where there are black-berry bushes, you have no idea what it is to be attacked every summer by a shrub that actually moves fearlessly before your eyes. Being from the plains of Texas, where plants of most types are rare and stunted, I've always been reluctant to prune bushes or trees of any kind. But I let those black-berry bushes go for a few summers and I'm telling you, they nearly got my house and car. They will send out long, arching shoots that spear through the limbs of a tree, tough, thorny spires that can be twenty feet long. This can happen in a weekend while you are gone camping. Because they are green like all the other plants, you may not notice that they are encroaching on trees, bushes, dog houses and fences until it is too late. The only think you can do is to don armour and leather gloves and wade forcefully into the mass of barbed branches. I have these full-body, padded coveralls from my days working at a Montana ski resort. I put them on, some serious leather gloves and take my long loppers and go to work on them vicious vines. It's not pretty and no matter what I wear, I always have trickles of blood running down my shins and forearms when I'm through. I've found it best to get a good running start, roar like a wild beast and dive deep into the darkest part of the bush. When neighbors hear my roar immediately followed by anguished and cowardly yelping, they assume that I've cornered some creature. I'm pretty sure no one knows I'm doing both the roaring and the yelping.
Well, enough of that. This morning the world is far gentler. I'm sipping coffee, laced with honey and chocolate soy milk. My little dawg is asleep in my lap and I'm floating gently in my sky chair (which is a wonderful canvas chair which hangs from above and moves gently in the wind, I love mine. I'll even give them some free advertising and give you their website - www.skychairs.com ). In a little while, I'll maybe crawl back into the covers but I just wanted to say howdy and let you know that I'm still alive and well, regardless of what you may have heard about my deadly black-berry accident.
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May 25, 1999
It's been an interesting time here in my Seattle neighborhood. We have a wonderful little grocery store, Matthew's Red Apple Market, that is like something from a bygone era. Matthew's is really the meeting place in our community. We don't have a town center in this area, no particular park where everyone meets and visits. We have this small market where the employees are like family, they actually like each other and they're kind and friendly to those of us who shop there. It's not at all unusual for them to send a bag boy several blocks to carry an elderly person's groceries home. Where have you ever seen that happen in the last few decades?
Anyway, a gigantic corporate chain, QFC, (owned by Kroger's along with Ralph's, Fred Meyer's and several other chains) announced two weeks ago that they have won the new lease and will destroy Matthew's, a couple of other stores and The Wedgewood Broiler, a restaurant that is the favorite of seniors for miles around. Our community was stunned to hear this and immediately began to talk to each other and look for a way to do something about it. Many of us began to write letters and make phone calls. We expressed to the corporation how we already support their many stores but that we do not want this in our friendly neighborhood, that we really value our community the way it is.
Last Saturday, a rally was held by the community in front of Matthew's Market. Over Two-Thousand people showed up in peaceful protest of the take-over. All three local news channels were there. It was one of the most uplifting things I've ever been part of. People of all ages had come together to simply say that we love this store and it's employees, we want to keep it here and we do not want a mega-store in this location. I was so moved by the people, the kids that had made signs, the humor and genuine good-will in the crowd.
So far, QFC has disregarded us and says that Matthew's will have to close by Memorial Weekend. I refuse to give up and many others do too. In this quiet, peaceful neighborhood, we collected over 10,000 signatures for a petition to let QFC know what we feel and these were delivered to them two days ago. The management refused to acknowledge us or the petition and would not come outside to accept it.
I'm not normally a big protest person, I believe in inner change and that if we tend our own gardens that the overflow of goodwill will gradually create a more peaceful and harmonious community and world. But in the face of mega-mergers that effect us all every day, take-overs, monopolies that force us to pay higher prices and buy only select goods, I think this kind of situation is an important opportunity to let those who sit behind the mask of a corporation know that they cannot run over a community if we are united.
The next time you check out my site I'll probably have one of my silly stories up again, I don't mean to burden you with tales of doom, I just wanted to share what is going on in my neighborhood and to tell you a story of a remarkable community that is banding together to have some say in what becomes of our neighborhood.
If you have any interest in emailing your support, you can send protests to firstname.lastname@example.org or access these websites and mail from there. www.qfconline.com www.krogerco.com Just tell them you want Matthew's Red Apple to stay and that you won't support their stores anymore if they don't honor the people's wishes. Also, here's a fax # for Mike Huse, the president of QFC. (425)462-2214
Thanks alot for bearing with me today. This just feels very important for our community and I wanted to share it.
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July 5, 1999
I've been in the studio the last few weeks also, recording a new solo-acoustic CD. It is not named yet but I'm really happy with the direction. I've written 6 new songs for it and I'm doing variations on some of my earlier songs with just guitar and vocal. After so many folks continue to tell me they love At Your House, my first solo CD, I decided it was time to do another. It is always a bit unnerving to trust that it is enough to sing solo without a band but now that I've started, some of these sound so good I'm really excited about the project. For years, I would always give friends and relatives a solo acoustic version of the songs that I would record for each CD. I still record them bare like that just to see what I have, how long the songs are, if I need to make some changes before recording with a band. Unfortunately for me, most of the time, after I'd finished the full band version everyone would say, "That's nice but I really like you just by yourself." Now, I know that's probably a compliment but all I can usually think of is the $50,000 I just spent in the studio to sound worse than just myself singing with guitar. So what I do now to remedy the situation is this; No one gets a copy of my pre-production solo tape. Not one single human being. Then everyone is surprised by all the great new songs and I get to be excited and happy to play them my new record.
It's interesting isn't it, that you learn over time to not always give people too many choices. Too much data is hard to decide upon. I used to travel with tour tee-shirts to sell at my concerts. We'd have two or three designs and S, M, L and XL. People would stand there for 15 minutes trying to decide. So I started carrying only L and XL and one style of tee-shirt. Sales actually went up since it was easy for people to decide upon what they wanted. I try to remember that in everything I do. I just decide what I want to present and I figure that if I instill it with heart and humor and intelligence, people will like whatever it is that you are presenting.
July 11, 1999
I'm in the middle of a big challenge in my life right now. Have you ever had one of those? Probably not. I know most people who have time to peruse the internet have pretty hunky dory lives. Wheee! Anyway, I've lived in this simple little wooden house in Seattle for 15 years. I've rented it all that time and amazingly, that's four times longer than I have ever lived anywhere. (As a kid I went to 11 schools, we moved constantly.) Anyway, I love this place, it's a peaceful, friendly neighborhood called Wedgwood and there are tall trees and mostly quiet streets all around. I have probably twenty different routes I run and endless walks I take.
Well, sadly, I got word last weekend that this house is going to be sold. My heart just about broke when I first heard that. I have such roots here now. In fact, every single record I've ever released into the world, from Run This Way Forever on, has come through this house. And most of the songs on my seven CDs have been written right here in this little house.
But now, with the shock over and some time having passed, I feel that whatever happens, I'll find a way to make it good and I've never seen a time in my life that a year after a change or decision, I wasn't glad about the choice. It's just hard to picture it when you're first going through the dramatic changes.
It's probably highly unlikely that I'll be able to buy this house because Seattle real estate is so exorbitant that I'd probably need over 25-thousand dollars just to pay down on it. Still, I'm looking for daylight and some way to remain here. If I cannot, I'll just take lots of deep breaths and start looking around for other places to rent. (One thing I'm sure of, after renting from him from 15 years, the owner will be happy to give me the highest recommendation possible.) If I can't find something in Seattle, I'll probably start looking out toward the small towns east of town towards the Cascade Mountains, Monroe, Fall City, Snoqualmie or North Bend. If you live up here and are familiar with anything available, I'd appreciate hearing about it.
In the meantime, I'm still in the studio and I couldn't be happier with how my new CD is coming along. It's going to be a nice surprise and I'm not giving it away just yet. I'll tell you about it in my upcoming newsletter so be sure and sign up on my mail list if you haven't already.
I'll be sure and update you on my house situation and whether the new Desert Rain headquarters is in a tree house or cave.