Ugly Hat


Neil Diamond, and the smell of bread baking.  My hands smell of hard red whole wheat flour, and olive oil.  Three times I let the dough rise, three times I rolled it out, three times I oiled the bowl and let it rise again.  I’ve got little scraps under my fingernails and stuck to the hairs on the back of my hand. 

I need to get a book – so far I’m shooting from the hip – I need some instruction.  I make it cause I like kneading dough, I like peaking at it while it rises, I love eating it with butter and jam, minuets after coming out of the oven.


But now I must wait . . .




. . . bread won’t be ready for quite a while.


And so I sit, listening to Neil sing, wearing an ugly hat which I thought I had lost – which I had tried to loose.  I’ve heard it said when you let something go, hold it with an open hand – if it should return to you than, indeed it is yours – if not, well then – you never did posses it.  Well a year later this hat – as warm as it is ugly has returned to me.  A large shapeless thing, knit by a well meaning woman with more heart than fashion sense.  She had a booth at a farmers market – I bought the hat, asking her and the friends I was with if it looked good. 

On their recommendations I bought the hat – only to have my faith in the human race rocked when I saw myself in the mirror.

I have never had luck buying hat’s – I never look good in them.  This would not bother me nearly as much but for the fact that so many other people look so good in them.  It is this fact that prevents me from thinking that the whole hatting industry is filled with mean spirited who wish to shame those who would endeavor to wear their products.


Turkey Legs and Applewood Smoke


Joel comes over sometimes, I grill, we hang out and talk.  The first time he came he was not quite sure which apartment was mine – but as he later told me, he could smell the food from the parking lot.  Tonight he could smell it from inside his car in a parking lot down the street.  Turkey legs and apple wood.  With a little sea salt rubbed on skin before I grilled them. 

Savory smoke poured out of the grill for over an hour.



I really like cooking for people.

Cooking for friends, cooking for strangers, cooking with sisters.  You can hide behind a grill, you can avoid eye contact, talking while you flip burgers.  You don’t have to mingle but rather people come and talk to you.  There is a shy Neil.  He lurks in corners, and leans against walls. He gets really interested in your book collection or in scratching your dog behind the ears.  He’ll offer to do the dishes – cause for some reason it’s easier for him to talk to people when he’s busy with something. 

Shy Neil . . . he just shows up sometimes. But thankfully less and less these days.


Grandma Davis


I’ve returned home to Yakima, and life seems to be returning to normal . . . Darjeeling Tea a bit over-steeped, and needing lots of honey to level it out.  Baking lunch for the rest of the week, editing possible logos for friends, while listening to a lecture on Newton’s little known Detective Career.  Taking a break I start to fold my Christmas socks.  10 pairs of new Kirkland Signature Athletic Socks with “Sorbtek” Technology – and as I paw thru the cluttered drawers of my desk looking for a Sharpie I realize that for the first time in 28 years I don’t need to mark my socks.


I don’t need to mark my socks . . .

. . . I don’t need to defend my sock stash from my Father. I don’t need to hogtie and brand my wandering and roving herds of socks to protect them from roommates.  I don’t kneed to mark them anymore . . .


. . . Not sure how I feel about that . . .


Grandma died on the Sunday 19th of December at 12:05 am.  I was able to be with during the day and late into the evening on Saturday.  It happened really fast - I’m not even sure if she was in the Hospital for 24 hours.  My Grandfather died when I was a young teenager, and He was a man I did not know all that well.  Tall and dark, a man of few words.  He had brain cancer, and we visited Grandma and Grandpa weekly, I saw this man deteriorate, physically and mentally.  I remember when he did not come home one night.  I remember my Father searching the dimly lit streets of Seattle for my missing Grandfather.  I remember when he was moved down the hall to the Farm bedroom.  I remember sitting on the Grandma’s bed watching TV when I heard my sister Katie and Him singing – singing a song about his beautiful Katie, and moonlight and kitchen door’s.  I remember silently wishing I had a memory like that.  I remember years later loosing one of his poles over the side of the boat while fishing on the Sound and sobbing all the way back to shore, the sort of sobbing where your breath comes in ragged gasps, where you are on the verge of hyperventilating and your head starts to ache – I sobbed and sobbed, in front of my Father and his co-workers.  I do not remember much about the day we buried Grandpa – only one strong memory stands out – my Father – I was surprised by the level and sincerity of his grief.  Over the following years I visited Grandpa’s grave every now and then. A few rows back away from the road, in line with a tree on the opposite side.  I’d visit him on idle Tuesdays or empty Fridays.  I’d scrap dirt and mud off of his stone, or wander around by myself looking for the oldest graves I could find.


Years went by – I got to know my Grandmother better.  Our weekly visits tapered off, and soon I was off to college.  I called her every now and then, telling her about life, school, and girls.  When I graduated and started looking for work she bought me a suit.  I wore that suit when applying to job’s all over the Northwest as far north as Bellingham and as far south as Portland.  I wore it to two rounds of interviews with the City of Seattle, and I wore it when interviewing in Yakima.  I wore it to her funeral on Thursday, I wore it as I struggled to button the white gloves a stranger gave me, gloves to wear while I helped to carry her to rest. Gloves to place on the light blue casket – and there I stood, next to my Uncle’s and my Cousin and my Father.  We placed our gloves, and our roses, and I was able to watch the others as they placed theirs.  The faces of family, the faces of friends, the faces of people I’ve never met – people whom my Grandmother had taught years ago in her Sunday school.  I thought it odd till I thought of my old Sunday School teacher Mrs. Sally. 


Last Saturday was a whirlwind – I had been up late the night (Friday Night/Saturday Morning) before – I had much to process and even more to do, so I stayed up and did neither, rather choosing to go for a long drive with a fellow who is fast becoming a good friend, we ate corn nuts and late night Jack in the Box – which is the best sort of Jack in the Box to eat.  I did not think that in less than 24 hours I would be hurrying a hospital for a second time.  I did not expect that the doors to the lobby would be locked at 12:15 in the morning, and I did not think I would be searching in a wet and empty parking lot with my sisters for the emergency room entrance.  I did not expect to see a laminated post card of a poppy in full bloom on the doorframe to Grandma’s room.  I did not expect to see a quiet vacant look on my aunt’s face when I entered the room.  My Grandmother’s daughters -  tired and strong. My Mother, her youngest, was with her at the end.  My Grandmother is gone – and the sight of her – I knew she was gone when I entered the room - the sight of her stays with me. Not as a painful thought but as a stirring fact.  My little sister needs air, needs space – we go out and find the top of some empty stair well and process – we talk, we cry.  I hold her as she talks and remembers.  A night guard on his rounds passes us on the stairs and does an excellent job of giving us a respectful supportive smile.


And my timer is going off – this weeks lunches are done. An off the cuff creation.  There is an old jazz song sung by whom I do not know about the boogie-woogie at a place down the street being better than chicken fried in bacon grease.  So I fried up some bacon – seared three chicken breasts, tossed three cups of brown rice, two cans of mushrooms along with the mushroom water, salt and pepper a cup of heavy cream along with three cups of water into my amazing enameled cast iron stock pot.  Three-ish hours at 350 degrees and the rice is done, the chicken is done – it smells amazing.  I’m walking to and from work these days so the added flavor will work itself off I’m hoping. 


The lecture on Newton has been replaced with Ravel’s Bolero – a piece which I hear is as maddening to play as it is enjoyable to listen to.  My mind is all over the place – I’ve just been asked to be in a wedding – I’ve still got a pile of unmarked socks to fold and put away.  There are several new buds on my fichus, and I’ve got trash to take out. 




And like that life seems to move on . . .


. . . quietly . . .


. . . steadily . . .


. . . naturally . . .




And maybe this is why death is sometimes compared to a boat ride – cause the past seems so often like the shore, as you pull away – you don’t love the land any less, you don’t forget the shade or the smell of the trees, but eventually - bit by bit the coast line shrinks, and as the deck heaves and rolls beneath your feet you eventually gain your sea legs.  You learn to lean and step in time with the ship.  Again the land is not any less real – and you miss it – but the coast line shrinks away.  Every now and then you see a sea bird or a bit of log or plant and it reminds you of the land you’ve sailed away from.  And the scariest part of sailing, is venturing out of sight of the land – trusting that you will not forget how to return.


So we want an epic-ish/awkward-ish house photo


Can you do that???

Well I thought I could.



So I drove over, and we woke up early.  Early enough to catch the predawn light.  We could see our breath – the November waters were frigid.  Water adds a new dynamic to the process – you can’t undry.  It’s cold – there are whoops and WHOOPS, and loud cries – loud enough to interest the park ranger.  The sun is rising – the Sound is flat and still – and the water is frigid.  I’ve got my foot in a brace and it’s starting to rain.  Out comes the umbrella.  350 shots later we head back to shore – wet and shivering.



Epic and awkward? 


You tell me . . . .



Finding focus in the early predawn light



Metering - early in the shot, notice the water level at mid calf



Think "Cover art for Christan Boy Band" 


This IS their Christmas Card



Screwing their courage to the sticking point



To emerge - you must first submerge



This was considered to indecent for the Christmas card


~ ~ ~ ~ ~


In my element


Saturday Mornings


Some Saturday mornings you arise, up and doing with a heart for any fate.

And some mornings, some mornings your sense of adventure needs . . . . inspiration.


So I spend my morning with Christian Bale, Charleston Heston, Oliver Reed and Christopher Lee – and I keep a weather eye open for a sea-faring man with one leg.  The best – and by far the best rendition of Robert Louis Stevenson's Treasure Island.

I grew up with this movie – loving it so much that I would purposely not watch it very often. And yet I have – even now, every scene, every shot and every cut memorized.  I love the men – the light – the language – the sounds.  It’s a low budget made for TV movie, the acting is not the best – the special effects are lacking.  But it sticks close to the story in special little ways – little moments in the book are played out in the movie in quiet ways.  You’ll see Israel’s body sink into the deep – Blind Pew being run down in the road – and the music – the Chieftain’s are amazing!!!

And the sounds – the sounds are just as good as the music. Jim is sent ashore to tell “Mr.Silver” that the ship will leaving with the morning tide, he finds Long John at the Spyglass Inn.  When he asks for Mr.Silver the loud and rowdy inn grows quiet and still – and from somewher4e in the back we hear the thumping of his peg leg long before we see him – a deep, low, steady, thumping.  And then for the next hour and forty-five minuets it’s classic Heston.

Only it’s not –  it’s better - it’s what you wish classic Heston could have been.


If you can find a copy – treasure it. It’s out of print – only on VHS that I know of.  I’ve seen going for as much as 189 dollars online. 

So if you find your Saturday mornings needing some inspiration, if you want to escape from the snow and the cold of the season – well I know where you can look.


“Hey Big One”


I’m back from the hospital – sitting at my Father’s desk, trying to process everything.  A whirlwind – and process is the wrong word.  Digesting is too detached. Resting is closer to the act.  Reflecting is what I think I will settle on.


This morning I was headed to California, I call home and get the news.  A trip cancelled and a trip planned.  Different clothes, different shoes, different stages of life. 


Ice chips and little square green sponges on sticks. Muted TVs.  Dim lights, and shared rooms.  Private rooms. Late nights.  Long nights.  The smell of acid and iron.






Labored shallow breathing.




I’m back at my parents house now, my sisters and I will clean and talk, and laugh and remember.  My parents are going to stay for a while longer.


~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Sitting in my old room at a card table in my Father’s new “office” and Mothers Ironing center.  A fresh coat of paint has covered most of the history I added over my formative years.  The door however still has the old Men’s Room sign I glued to it ages ago – I’m sure they love that . . . Looking at my Dad’s bookshelf I see what he’s been reading lately: Dante, Ovid, Homer.  A battered and well loved Harper Study Bible.  My Mother has re-sewn and rebound it more than once I’m sure. 


Do you ever pick up someone’s bible and read it? Do you ever look thru it and see what they’ve written, and underlined? Bibles are one of the few books we every write in.  I’ve started expanding the practice to other books, and found the practice valuable.  I see he stars chapters as he reads them,  I find his own cross-references, and read the passages he’s underlined.  And I begin to see a side of my Father I’ve never seen.  I see that we have many of the same passages marked, and I’m marking some of his.  I can tell he’s wrestled with stuff.


He’s got notes in Obadiah, passages highlighted and word studies marked with blue in Zechariah.  The gospel of Mark is full his commentary.



I got to get to know this Guy better . . .



It's been a while since I've been this tired. It has been rather it is the end of a long day - I've been going at it for 18+ hours.

A good tired. A sore back - long walks getting gas for a car with a fickle attitude about where empty should be.

Council's of war, a visit to Yakima's only co-op-esk store for malt sweeter (a secret ingredient for a baking project) mourning the death of my sourdough starter. Apparently you should not add flat beer to a sourdough starter even though the flavors would make for a perfect sort of combination.

Selling my camera - taking a break from pictures after the first of the year. I'm keeping a film camera - may make the switch to Nikon - a film Nikon. I've got to break the news to a few friends who's weddings I will not be shooting.

What once was easy and effortless and so enjoyable has become something different. Maybe it's because my I-pod died and now there is no music when I walk and think with my camera - maybe it because I don't have hours to wander and fields and city's to explore - maybe when spring returns and light and music return to my evenings, I'll go for walks and bike rides and to adventuring with friends, and maybe then I'll find things worth taking pictures of - moments worth capturing. A good picture grabs you - be it suddenly and forcefully or quietly stealing back into your mind hours later like a tune or a scent or a memory. It may make you cry, or smile, or feel something. It may have nothing to do with the actual composition and everything to do with the subject. A blurry poorly lit face, or a dim landscape which is a key to a huge repository of memories.

And so I'm taking a break from pictures for a while - not forever, but I want to be away along enough to rediscover why I love them. Like that fist crisp slice of watermelon in summer or the first smell of woodsmoke in the fall.

So who knows? The day's distractions are enough for the day. I'll take a stab at sourdough again and make bagels with friends.

I'll go for walks and make a bigger table for my apartment. I'll borrow Dad's bike rollers and prep for a century while listening to Chandler and DTS courses. Upstairs, peddling, putting on the miles in the confines of my apartment, away from the salt and the ice.

I'll tow the Mercedes home and see if I can rouse her out of her stupor. Belts and hoses and motor mounts. I'll road trip to California for a once in a life time trip with friends I love.

A good sort of exausted