Sunday, December 31, 2006


Originally uploaded by suttonhoo.
Fire. Water. Air. There's nothing like traveling through the backcountry of the third world to serve as a reminder of how elemental these three things are for survival -- and how completely first world industrialism has despoiled them (at least the last two) for the rest of the planet.

Saturday, December 30, 2006

new year petition

new year petition
Originally uploaded by suttonhoo.
I sat under this pine today and listened to a Mayan shaman petition Don Juan, the Earth Lord, for renewal. He built a roaring fire at mid-day and cast great big handfuls of corn and salt and multi-colored candles into the flames.

He spoke in Qui'che so I don't know what he said, but it was with such strength and confidence -- so clearly outlining the terms of their agreement from way back -- "look Don, I'm doing the thing with the candles and the beer like we agreed -- now it's your turn to make the world new again" -- that I sat there for over an hour, watching him circle the flame like he was winding a watch, hoping for the first time in a long time that maybe such a thing really could be possible.

Posting by cameraphone from Chichicastenango.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006


Originally uploaded by suttonhoo.
On the road to Izapa, Mexico

Monday, December 25, 2006

dios mundo

dios mundo
Originally uploaded by suttonhoo.
Visited the pilgrimage site of San Francisco near Baul in Guatemala where an ancient stelae and giant stone head, flanked by two giant acacia trees (this is one), overlook the volcano Atitlan in the distance.

Today is Christmas and there were signs of a fresh offering -- candle wax on the stelae and a thoroughly charred chicken in front of the Dios Mundo.

marked man

marked man
Originally uploaded by suttonhoo.
Near the Zocolo, Guatemala City.

Posting by cameraphone.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

at the national gallery

at the national gallery
Originally uploaded by suttonhoo.
Posting by cameraphone from Guatemala City, Guatemala


Originally uploaded by suttonhoo.
No luggage -- it went MIA at MIA. No quetzals -- the banks have run out of currency. No Kathyrn -- usually the den mother of these glyphin' trips, she passed away in July.

Day one in Guautemala City: The trip begins.

Friday, December 22, 2006

and a happy new year

Give us a steady light, a level place,
A good light, a good place,
A good life and beginning.
Give us all of this, thou Hurricane,
Bearer, Begetter,
Grandmother of Day, Grandmother of Light,
When it comes to the sowing, the dawning.

~ Invocation from the Popul Vuh, the Mayan Creation Story

gone glyphin'

Heading down to Guatemala to do Guatemala-like things and mess around with Mayan hieroglyphs for a little while -- moblogging as the cellular gods allow.

Upon my return prizes, honor and esteem will be awarded to the clever individual who figures out what's so special about this particular variant of the Na Balam jaguar glyph shown above.

Here's a hint for you: It's right in front of your nose.


Thursday, December 21, 2006


I allowed life to give me presents, and everything just sort of happened the way it was supposed to happen. I did not pursue anything. It more or less pursued me.

Photographer Ruth Berhnard, who died this week at 101, as quoted in today’s New York Times.

Ruth Bernhard became a photographer “in 1935 after a chance meeting with photographer Edward Weston on a beach in Santa Monica”. Bernhard was a member of Group f/64, a group of modernist photographers in the Bay Area who included Ansel Adams, Imogene Cunningham and Dorothea Lange.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

taliesin west

through the glass to the stepsoutdoor sconcebeacon
silhouettetaliesin westfrank's books
powerlinesroof detailbuffalo

Unlike the gem box that is Mies’ Farnsworth House -- where visitors are asked to remove their shoes and don surgical booties before they cross the threshold – Frank Lloyd Wright’s Taliesin West is roughshod and frayed from all the foot traffic that shuffles through, leans on the walls, and sits on the furniture.

It’s either that traffic or the fine layer of Arizona desert dust that covers everything and acts like a sort of sandpaper that has left it looking tattered and tired – or maybe it's a combination of the two. But it’s certainly this same quality that makes it feel like the older, tired, worn at the seams college professor – the one that you’re just a little bit afraid to approach because he’s so well known in his field – only to find that he’s perfectly accessible once you work up the courage to ask him a question.

Any question will do: because the story he tells on the way to the answer is the reason that you came.

The requisite Flickr slideshow from last weekend’s visit to Taliesin West »

the glass house

a found poem

I had never been to the house
There was a big dinner
And I said rather loudly
Oh, I’ve never seen it

Phillip said
well why don’t you come tomorrow

It snowed overnight
We were received
As he was finishing lunch
He was a bit frail

We had a long conversation
Then he handed us a ring of keys
Two pairs of galoshes
And said I’m going for a nap

The place is completely empty
And we’re on the other side of the hill
Looking back at the house

There was only one thing
On the table
A Grapefruit
In a transparent bowl

You could see it a mile away

It was this white landscape
Glass cube
And this yellow spot

Almost like the sun
In the middle of the house

Found in the November 2006 issue of « Metropolis », in a tribute to Phillip Johnson's Glass House.

speaking of divorce

everybody hurts (sometimes)

Spent some time with one of my favorite aunts over the weekend, whose marriage of 18 years is ending. Had an interesting conversation about what it’s like to divorce in America. We agreed on a couple of things, chief among them being that even though divorce is frequent and common, folks who divorce are shunned in lonely silence.

Probably because no one knows how to talk about it.

Here’s a tip for you the next time you come across someone who’s going through one of their own: treat it like a death in the family. Even if the ex- is an asshole (someone once told me there are two sides to every divorce: Yours and the Asshole’s) the whole experience hurts like hell, because you’re losing more than just a partner. You’re losing community, your familiar place in the world, and your financial security can be unsettled as well.

A girlfriend of mine who lost a baby in utero and grieved terribly for him, once told me: “people think I don’t want to talk about it so they don’t bring it up – but it’s all I think about. I wish someone would bring it up.”

Try this when you run into your friend: “I was really sorry to hear about your divorce.”

Simple. Straightforward. Those who want to talk will talk. Those who don’t will look like they’re about to burst into tears – but if you deliver it with compassion they’re not going to fault you for it. Either way they’ll be relieved. And they'll feel a little less lonely.

I sure did.

more thoughts on stuff

frank's books

Now that Amazon the online megastore knows everything there is to know about their customers through the stuff they buy, I propose that they introduce a dating service in which they would match customers through their material affinities.

The algorithm could be straightforward: Title for title -- and once a certain critical mass of overlap is reached a match is made.

Or it could be more complementary: You bought a Weber from Target -- I bought a grill spatula. We're made for each other.

Many of us have already been privy to Amazon's extraordinary affinity matching -- I, myself, while going through a difficult divorce and loading up on titles designed to get me through the worst of it (it was only after checkout that I realized the irony of purchasing Miles Davis' Kind of Blue recording alongside "surviving your divorce" titles) -- received one of Amazon's "People who bought also liked..." email promotions.

The title they recommended to me at a time in my life when I felt like I was taking it in the *ss?

The Ultimate Guide to Anal Sex for Women.

True story.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

front row center

Inside the theatre at Frank Lloyd Wright's Taliesin West in Scottsdale, Arizona.

an eye unprejudiced

Imagine an eye unruled by man-made laws of perspective, an eye unprejudiced by compositional logic, an eye which does not respond to the name of everything but which must know each object encountered in life through an adventure of perception.

How many colors are there in a field of grass to the crawling baby unaware of ‘green’?

Filmmaker Stan Brakhage as quoted in Vertigo Magazine's online edition.

An anthology of Brakhage's works has been released by Criterion. (The release date is a puzzle though -- Amazon says 2001, Tower Records says 2003, and Vertigo's just getting all worked up about it now.)

something sumac-like

open letter to anyone else who wants a piece of me

Nothing left. Nothing to see. Move along.

hometown pride

AdAge named OK Go's homemade treadmill video the number one viral video for 2006. (Yes, okay, I spent too much time reading AdAge today [see previous post]. I find it a fascinating expression of American culture -- much the same way I find bottle blondes with boob jobs fascinating.)

As any WBEZ junkie knows, OK Go has been gigging for our local cerebral celebs for the last half a dozen years or so.

What a bunch of cuties.

If you sign your life away to AdAge's marketing list you can log in and see the other nine top ten viral videos »

situational context

Don't you and your hands have better places to be?

Banner ad tagline for Ford Motor Company's "Bold Moves" campaign, which ran in close proximity to "internet photos of the private parts of Lindsay Lohan, Britney Spears, Paris Hilton and others", according to an article in today's online edition of AdAge.

Ford Motor Company denies any knowledge of the strategic placement and is "investigating the situation thoroughly to determine exactly what the facts are."

Mies' Farnsworth House

Mies' Farnsworth House
Originally uploaded by suttonhoo.
I suspect, but can't confirm, that Flickr has been a bonanza as a free source of imagery for the publishers of architectural books.

I was approached by a Swiss publisher for permission to use one of my Farnsworth pics in a book on the Foundations of Architecture. My payment is like before: a copy of the book.

God I'm easy.

shadow and light

Originally uploaded by suttonhoo.
Shadows are part of my architecture.

~ Frank Lloyd Wright

Monday, December 18, 2006

winter cactus

Somewhere in the Arizona desert. Near end of day.


Originally uploaded by suttonhoo.
You can tell a lot about a country from its cars. Motor vehicles will one day prove as useful to archaeologists as potsherds and inscriptions. Their rapidly changing styles make them superb chronological markers. But they are more than that: they reflect the social pyramid; and when you add some statistics as to who owns what kind of car, you have a steel allegory of the human world.

The telling thing about Guatemalan wheeled fauna is that there are so few species between the vermin and the exotica. If you are rich, you’re filthy rich; if you’re not, well a ’58 Chevy or a ’66 Datsun is as close as you’ll get to wheels.

The fincas, which cannot afford to pay their peons more than about $1.20 a day, support flamboyant jeeps equipped with magnesium wheels, balloon tires, roll bars, extra lamps, and bucket seats in the truck box, filled with giggling señoritas. Urban businesses – coffee and cotton brokerage firms, soft-drink bottling plants, arms suppliers – nurture Cadillacs and luxury German sedans with smoked bulletproof windows, as dark as the faces behind them are pale.

The army officers who make all this possible seem to have rather adolescent tastes: Blazers and Broncos with chromium rams and prancing horses. Similar vehicles, devoid of ornaments and license plates, prowl the streets at night, looking for subversios to “disappear.” (A Guatemalan I know claims that disappear was first used as a transitive verb in his country.)

Ronald Wright in « Time Among the Maya: Travels in Belize, Guatemala, and Mexico »


Home is a place that has a right feel
The right smell
The right sense of coolness when you touch the walls

Ofelia Zepeda, Tohono O'odam

Sunday, December 17, 2006

my whereabouts

If I should disappear suddenly and all at once it's because I've either run off with the sword-stealing man in the fur hat to my complete barren and utter ruin -- or we've had some luck and have conceived on a tropical island while dancing and waving flowers in the air.

Either way, please don't panic on my behalf.

But I would be ever so grateful if you would think of me fondly once in a while.

This holiday prognostication brought to you courtesy of Mikkel at Shädy Äcres »

american landscape

Video arcade, Scottsdale, AZ. Cameraphone shot.

frank's spire

frank's spire
Originally uploaded by suttonhoo.
Frank Lloyd Wright designed this spire to sit on top of the State Capitol Building that he drafted for the good folks of Phoenix, Arizona, pro bono. The good folks turned him down and the building was never built.

The plans for the spire -- which should have topped the building, far from street level -- were dusted off recently (2002, I think) and it was built to adorn a shopping mall in Scottsdale where, like some LED infused unicorn, it now graces the entrance to Maggiano's, an Italian chain restaurant that serves really large portions. American-style.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

indian school

indian school
Originally uploaded by suttonhoo.
Indian food is bad for me. I will not run away, it's dangerous.

Lesson plan from a U.S. Government run "Indian School" -- many of which dotted the US beginning at the turn of the last century and continuing into the 1970s. The children were expected to copy these phrases, and others, to practice their penmanship.

In its earliest incarnations some kids were not permitted to return to their families, homes, and tribes for upwards of five years. One of the slogans adopted by the program was "kill the Indian to save the man."

Phoenix's Heard Museum has an excellent exhibit that uses the stories and voices of students who were subjected to this form "education" to reveal it for the barbarism it was.

According to our docent, 19 Hopi were imprisoned on Alcatraz for not sending their children away to the boarding school as mandated.

Friday, December 15, 2006

eat it up yum

eat it up yum
Originally uploaded by suttonhoo.
As a Rocky Mountain girl I used to look down my nose at Arizona's Camelback Mountain.

Not any more, baby -- now, as a transplant to the flatlands of Chicago, this sweet little bump on the ground is like water after a long dry spell.

Posting by cameraphone from Phoenix, AZ

deviant thoughts

In a progress report to [DARPA], a company said in September that it had completed development of a portable, wearable system of sensors that assess cognitive function, producing a readout showing how a brain's pattern of thought related activity deviates 'from that of the normal population'.
From Sharon Begley's Science column in today's Wall Street Journal

useful things

I think with my hands. I design things to be touched -- not for a museum. A piece is ready when it has the shape of something to cherish.

Modernist and ceramacist Eva Zeisel, who just turned 100, as quoted in this week's New Yorker. One of Zeisel's ceramic collections was a best seller for Crate & Barrel in 2005.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

ambient anxiety

Have you been breached?

the ambi-pant

The Ambi-pant is a strange hybrid trouser that prevails in the menswear department of REI in which two-thirds of each pantleg can be removed through a zipper affordance, effectively converting the pants to shorts.

The Ambi-pant bears a resemblance to the mythical unicorn (known to reveal itself only to young virgins in tranquil forest settings) in that it can be found cavorting only under certain conditions (like -- somehow, miraculously -- during a rushed lunch hour shopping excursion), but cannot be located through either a Google or REI on-site search query.

So dominant is the Ambi-pant species within the REI menswear department that the probability of finding men's pants that are NOT all ambi-like is about as likely as, well, a well-travelled old dame like me stumbling across a unicorn.

on the auction block

Now the plane will be put up for sale on eBay.

The plane in question is a $2.692 Million Westwind II jet purchased by the former governor of Alaska, Frank H. Murkowski. The new governor, Sarah Palin, wants nothing to do with it. As reported in this morning’s NYT.

No sign of the jet as yet under the State’s moniker “stateofalaskasurplus” on eBay. Palin would be wise to heed research by Adam Galinsky of Northwestern’s Kellogg School of Management which showed that, in online auctions, lower starting prices lead to higher final prices – reversing the anchoring effect that drives general haggling in which “value is judged (or misjudged) by the first number mentioned.”

Gallinsky’s research (based on eBay data) shows that:

Low starting prices reduce barriers to entry, tempting even idle browsers to place bids. The increased traffic then generates higher final prices as more buyers bid against one another. Psychological forces play into it as well.

Low starting prices entice bidders to invest time and energy in the auction, and while every M.B.A. student knows it’s dumb base decisions on sunk costs, the eBay bidders did just that, escalating their commitments to their previous bids.

Finally, the researchers showed that traffic begets more traffic because later bidders take the number of earlier bidders as proof of an item’s worth.

Originally published in the June 2006 issue of The Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, and recapped in the NYT Magazine’s 6th Annual Year in Ideas published last weekend.

Update: The jet sold for $2.1 Million -- a loss of half a million from the original sticker. That's some serious depreciation.

Additional Update: Turns out the plane sold, but not on eBay. Here's the Washington Post story »

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

speaking of stuff

In ancient societies, people gathered to ritually slaughter the fatted calf in an effort to renew the strength of the tribe for another year. After the sacrifice, which bonded them around loss, came feasting, which bonded them in fulfillment.

Today, when we arrive at the mall and hand over a portion of the money we’ve worked for all year, and then break bread at the food court, we likewise renew our optimism for the year ahead.

From Why We Shop in today's New York Times

I'm not buying it. I'm sure there are plenty of good reasons to buy stuff for the people we love -- but I suspect that grieving fatted calves has little to do with it.


I grow old
Originally uploaded by suttonhoo.
My grama and I used to come to just short of blows when it came time to pay the check. We’d laugh about it, wrestling over the bill, and she’d usually win, because she’s my grama.

But not this last time. She let me pay for our dinner at a little fish shack on the pier without a peep. There’s less money in the bank now; there’s less opportunity to be generous.

Over another salmon dinner last night, this one with litwit, who’s stripping the trappings of her life down to just the essentials to make a hugely courageous move to the city where she’s always wanted to be, we got to talking about the two flavors of wealth: experiential and material.

Amassing both is entirely incompatible, I think. Too much stuff requires too much caretaking and too much expense – which means you can’t get out enough to build up your brain, body and soul with experiences.

Talking here about stuff above and beyond the material stuff you need to stay well, of course -- adequate food, shelter, clothing.

My darlin’ companion is a champion of running lean and mean. If I bring something new (and sometimes ridiculous) home (a poker table top comes to mind) -- he looks it over, says fine, now what are you going to get rid of? And expects that I will shed something of equal volume and mass.

Better now than later. My grandmother has lost most of the precious things that she gathered around her in her life – peeled off to make the transition to her new smaller digs at an assisted living facility. Just a few anchors of memory are left – photographs mostly. A few pieces of jewelry. A shrinky dink of a colt that I made her in the fifth grade.

But the memories remain, and although her short term memory is shot she can still pull up stories from her past – stories of doing, seeing, being alive.

She's a rich lady.

He who possesses little is so much the less possessed.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

slow and steady

Originally uploaded by aquanerds.

a found poem

Turtles are built for hard times
Famine, flood, heat wave, ice age
A predator’s inspections
A paramour’s rejections
Turtles take adversity in stride

Miserly [of] metabolism
Tranquil [of] temperament
Forgo[ing] food and drink for months at a time

[Behind a] redwood burl of a body shield
A turtle’s organs do not break down
Or become less efficient over time

Their heart isn’t stimulated by nerves
It doesn’t need to beat
They can turn it on and off at will

Turtles resist growing old
They resist growing up

Benign and slow

From All but Ageless, Turtles Face Their Biggest Threat: Humans in this morning’s New York Times.

daley to run

Chicago's Mayor Daley has announced that he will seek a sixth term in office, like his father before him.

What a surprise.

Monday, December 11, 2006

pinochet is dead

As Lolobola pointed out yesterday (and MGL toasted), Pinochet died, ironically, on Human Rights Day.

Worldview, on Chicago Public Radio's WBEZ, ran an excellent show this afternoon considering Pinochet. As I post this they haven't yet updated their audio links, but I expect they will be posting the broadcast here »

Update: Permalink

strangers in the night

solo rio
Originally uploaded by suttonhoo.
Flickr friendships are something strange and wonderful.

The site construct allows for several things that make them immediate and at the same time safe: Pictures being worth a thousand words, you immediately discover an individual's inclinations through the images they post.

On the creepy side, it's easy to spot the perv because he posts pervy pics (or caches pervy contacts) -- on the discovery side, it's marvelous to discover folks who share your affinities for subject matters, patterns, colors, light -- shared visual interests that would never come up in a "getting to know you" conversation, but are immediately apparent when you browse someone's stream.

One of my favorite contacts, Corydora, posts lovely idyllic images of English country life. She has a unique way of revealing a place that I came to love as a student of English literature -- we got to know each other slowly over time, mostly sharing an interest in green growing things -- and then something strange and wonderful happened.

I posted some old pics from a trip to Honduras, and she sent me an email telling me all about how she used to specialize in Mayan polychrome ceramics, but encountered a bad bout of illness (that hit her after eating lettuce in Honduras, I think) -- after which her doctor warned her that she couldn't tolerate another bout, and probably shouldn't travel to the area again -- cutting her work short.

She hadn't seen my Mayan set, didn't know of my interest in all things Mayan -- it was the image of an traditional oven that triggered the conversation. How strange. How wonderful.

I recently received an email from another Flickrite about another cool association -- ReyGuy, aka Guy Reynolds of the Dallas Morning News, is a recent acquaintance who fast became a favorite given his gorgeous Holga and Holga-like Canon shots:
your grandfather shot was precious. it made me pull some stuff from my archive that I found really interesting. My dad gave me three rolls of old film that was exposed but never processed that he bought at a flea market or antique shop. I had them for 12-15 years sitting on a shelf with some of my antique cameras and just decided to develop them but they were old sizes that haven't been made in some time so I couldn't find reels. I just put developer in a large printing tray and did what I could. Here's a story about the results I did »

Of course, for every Corydora and ReyGuy, there are characters like this one fellow, who I will call only George, who recently got in the habit of sending to me, repeatedly, an invitation to join his "private erotica group". I repeatedly declined until it got to be too much, and I dropped him a FlickrMail (the internal email system that contributes to keeping Flickr safe):

ME: Hi George: You've invited me to join your private erotica group about three times now -- and I've declined three times -- no need to invite me again. thanks much.

GEORGE: I apologize!

ME (who should have just let it be at this point): No worries -- I thought perhaps you had lost track. ;)

GEORGE: No, but I am sorry to have bothered you with it so many times.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Article 25

She has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of herself and of her family -- including food, clothing, housing, medical care and necessary social services.

And the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond her control.

So do you, per Article 25 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Today is International Human Rights Day. Knock yourself out.

(Think I'll send Georgie a postcard with reminders re Articles 5, 9, and 10.)

the territory of embrace

a found poem

The topography of an open book
Is explicit in its erotic associations

Sumptuous twin paper curves
Meet in a recessed seam
Page turning is a series of gentle
Sweeping gestures
Like the brush of fingers on a naked back

We dress up to go out and look at art
Undressed, in bed, we read

We seek greater comfort
Than museum or concert halls
Will ever grant us

When we read
We become the lectern

Chest, arms, lap, thighs

This proximity
Is the territory of embrace
Of possession
Not to be entered without permission

Found in The Fetishism of the Book Object, in The Book Maker’s Desire by Buzz Spector as quoted by Bookslut

stroll with traffic cone

Port of Seattle, early morning.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

perfectly adequate

a found poem

All sorts of things may be written
In perfectly adequate prose

Editorials, history, philosophy
Even lasting novels

But there is no such thing
As a perfectly adequate

Because a poem into which
Some strange
And surprising excellence
Has not entered

A poem that is not
In some explicable way
Beyond the will
Of the poet

Is not a poem

It comes so infrequently
It remains beyond our will

From the perfectly adequate prose piece In Praise of Rareness in the December 2006 issue of Poetry.

do it for jane

dying breed
Originally uploaded by suttonhoo.
You can be forgiven for not knowing that today is Jane Addams Day -- after all, it's only the first one ever.

But can you be forgiven for not leaving your comfortable life and heading to the inner city where you might provide education and social services for those whose government and society have failed them -- like Jane did?

Can any of us?

Here's a random act of kindness that might help take the edge off the guilt that accompanies living a comfortable wired (or wireless) life -- buy someone some voicemail this Christmas from Community Voice Mail.

And yeah, okay, I'm plugging CVM in part because the director of this non-profit is one of my favorite people on the planet -- but that shouldn't stop you from doing this because maybe you, or someone you know, has been phoneless once because the bills were too much to pay, or maybe because there wasn't a home to wire that phone to.

And maybe you know what a bitch it can be to be without that simple conduit -- when you're looking for a job, trying to find childcare for your children, or just want to get in touch with a friend.

And if that's never been you, maybe it'll make a difference to know that that was me.

And it is a bitch. And it would have made a difference.

Maybe not as big a difference as Jane made -- but you gotta start somewhere on the road to that Nobel Peace Prize.

Friday, December 08, 2006

pussy whipped

Junku loves cats too much.
(Not that I mind.)

everything's going to be okay

For those of you who are angst ridden (like me) a little relief, courtesy of Shady Acres »

baidu it

Do you know baidu? I didn't, until today -- it's the leading Chinese language search engine -- and #4 in terms of global traffic (just after Google and right before MySpace) according to

In keeping with the Chinese fondness for piracy, the interface is entirely Google-esque -- but it's not -- or is it?

(Anybody know?)

When I went looking to try to figure it out I found an article that implies there's no connection to the site that it emulates. The article also served up this tidbit:

In China, the Baidu logo, a dog's paw print, trades on a common local mispronunciation of the word 'Google' – which makes it sound similar to the Chinese for 'dog'.

a wink and a pat

During a routine vote yesterday morning, Obama and Clinton brushed past each other on the Senate floor. Obama winked and touched Clinton on her elbow. Without pausing, she kept walking.

From today's front page Washington Post piece For Now, an Unofficial Rivalry

Cracks me up that this sort of thing made the front page of the Washington Post. These are the kinds of signals that you usually parse to try to figure out if two colleagues are having an affair.

If that were the question on the table -- instead of all this wondering about who's going to saddle up for a presidential run -- I would guess that there's an 85% probability that Mama's doing Obama.

Hilary's unseeing stare is the give away -- but I think Obama's wink and elbow pat give away too much. A cheater wouldn't touch the cheatee. Not while folks are watching. (But maybe I'm wrong: Bill did it.)


Mt Rainier never fails to make me gasp. It’s an involuntary action – my ex- used to tease me about it (before he was my ex-) – the clouds would part and we’d round a corner where the mountain would come into view. My jaw would drop and I’d audibly take in a rush of breath, startling anyone unlucky enough to be nearby, who for a moment would be certain something horrible was happening.

No. Just something astonishing.

If you’ve seen it, you know: A not-entirely-dormant volcano that rises heads and shoulders above its peers in the Cascade and Olympic mountain ranges at almost 14 ½ thousand feet – higher than K2 – it’s Washington State’s Mt. Fuji.

My Bompa loved the mountain too, and one day as we were driving into town together, and he heard me gasp involuntarily when it came into view, he told me the story of how its original name was Tahoma (Wikipedia tells us that it was Puyallup name meaning “mouth of the waters”) and there was brief period when he was a kid when they thought about rolling back to that name -- but the white folks would have none of that (probably, he thought, the Seattle folks didn’t like how close it was to “Tacoma”, their rival city to the South), so Rainier stuck.

But once he told me that story I held on to the name, and when I was alone my gasp would transform into a greeting. “Tahoma.” It fit.

When my Bompa died one Seattle Spring, two events ushered in his passing. The first: The cherry trees that he loved and took us frequently to see in the University of Washington’s Quadrangle bloomed early.

I passed by the Quad just the day before I got my grandmother's call in the early pre-dawn, when she said: “He’s started his death rattle. My mother did this. Go back to sleep – it’s too early – but I wanted you to know.”

The day before when I had passed Quad, the day before I got her call, the blossoms caught my eye and made me turn my head. I gasped, of course -- they were so beautiful and bold and full of life.

Of course I didn’t go back to sleep the morning I received her call. Of course I pulled on the first thing I could find and piled myself into the car and drove the brief distance to Des Moines, where my grandparents were living, from Seattle, where I watched the slow passage of the barges across the Sound during the course of the day beside the hospital bed that we had set up for my grandfather in the living room, looking out over his long loved Three Tree Point.

We sat together all day, I read him the paper, fed him ice cubes, and later that afternoon he would die, in a passing that felt like a birth. I felt a powerful urge to take off my shoes, because the whole thing felt holy. I wish I had, but I was embarrassed because I had holes in my socks. They were the first ones I could find in the dark.

I suspected when Grandma called that Bompa would pass that day. But I knew for sure he was taking his leave when I drove through the Rainier Valley in the dawn, just as the sun was rising and a low fog obscured the strip usually populated with warehouses and shopping malls, and the sun rising reflected fiery and pink (the color of his cherry blossoms) off the low lying clouds and the white peaks of the mountain, Tahoma, calling him home.

The Mountain never looked so beautiful.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

freeze frame

Overlooking Fourth Avenue, Seattle, 1.18 AM


Originally uploaded by suttonhoo.
There is a deep sadness to American poverty, greater than the sadness of any other kind. It’s because America has such an ideology of success.

Will Self again, same article

portside sunrise

Port of Seattle, 7.30 AM

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

where I am

People don't know where they are anymore. In the post-industrial age, this is the only real form of exploration left. Anyone can go and see an Ituri pygmy, but how many people have walked all the way from the airport to the city?
Writer and walker Will Self in A British Literary Visitor Ends His Journey With a Stroll In From the Airport in today's New York Times.

another country

another country
Originally uploaded by suttonhoo.
My grandmother thinks I'm a stewardess. This is what she told the kind woman at the front desk at the assisted living facility where she lives. I suspect she strung this together when I explained to her that yes, I've been in town since Sunday when we spent that nice day together. Remember Grama, when I took you to church? And then we hung out all day, telling stories and laughing and then crying because I live so far away? She doesn't.

But she knows I'm here now, and she's excited to see the marzipan pastry that I've brought her from the pirogi place in Pike Place Market. She remembers when we flew to Norway together and ate chocolate covered marzipan. It's just remembering this week that's tough. I've been working Grama, and now I have to go to the airport. I suspect that's where it came from -- work, airport, stewardess.

Old age is another country from which she occasionally dispatches postcards -- some make no sense, as if she's touched by the fever, others are perfectly clear, like when we seated ourselves next to the Christmas tree in the lobby and she talked of their tree, the one they set up with the kids, her kids, one of them my father. "Your Bompa was so particular about his tree. You know your Bompa." And her eyes fill with tears, a smile crosses her face.

I do, Grama, I do. And yes, so do you.

[Found this Seattle Times clipping among my grandmother's things -- it was shot at some kind of fundraiser in 1947. That's her in the middle. My beautiful grama.

Posting by cameraphone.]

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

blind spot

Originally uploaded by suttonhoo.
I can't see Seattle like I see Chicago.

In Chicago everything feels new and lends itself to abstraction.

In Seattle, the city that is family to me, every corner harbors a memory -- some great outpouring, some casual comment or quiet catastrophe, one or two whole new beginnings.

How do you photograph something like that? How do you look beyond it long enough to make it something new?

Monday, December 04, 2006

two lost souls swimming in a fishbowl

There's a goldfish in my hotel room. This is one of the things that the Hotel Monaco always does -- he came with a little card with his name (Charley) and the reassurance that housekeeping would look after his feeding -- that he's just here to keep me company.

But as many times as I've stayed at a Monaco it always backfires, because I can't spend any length of time shacked up with a little creature like this and not wonder, "aren't you hungry little guy? Can I get you anything to eat?" He's supposed to comfort me -- instead he makes me feel wretched and neglectful.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

the house that bompa built

the house that bompa built
Originally uploaded by suttonhoo.
Shot of my grandfather's shadow cast against the house that he designed, back when it was originally being framed out. He built the house out slowly over many years, bit by bit, in a style that incorporated Frank Lloyd Wright's prairie style and Mies' modernism. God I loved that house. And, of course, so did he.

Found this shot in a small photo album that he originally took with him to Guadalcanal in WWII -- the first dozen or so pages were filled with shots of my young grama -- mostly in shorts and a halter top (pretty sexy for the 40's) -- and their young son, my father. Clearly, he continued to fill it with the things that were most precious to him, even after he returned.

Posting via cameraphone.

hopelessly metric

"We're hopelessly metric."

Jovino, last night over dinner as we were discussing Seattle's recent weather and oscillating between Centigrade and Fahrenheit. Their household is a Brazilian/Swiss mashup.

Dinner was divine; seeing old friends was even better than that.

Saturday, December 02, 2006


Originally uploaded by suttonhoo.
Does it count as a business trip when they send you home?

Outbound from Chicago O'Hare to SeaTac.

you must take the A-train

Copyright (c) 2006 Aric Mayer

The Renaissance.
The A train.
Langston Hughes.
Richard Wright.
Bill Clinton.
Al Sharpton.
Zora Neal Hurston.
Amateur Night at the Apollo.
Art Kane’s tremendous portrait of Jazz greats.

As a white kid from out west this is all I know of Harlem -- and for years now it's been enough to make me want to know the place better and walk the neighborhood and look for the history that lives there now.

I've spent some time in NYC. Since moving to Chicago I’ve visited more frequently, and I even lived there for a little while as a kid, but my feet have never taken me to Harlem, and all I know is what I learned from reading, from watching, from listening.

I could explain that as just not yet having had the time -- and expecting that soon, I'll take the quickest way to Harlem, go to Sugar Hill way up in Harlem, and see what I can see.

But I’m a white girl, and white girls in America don't just go to Harlem like they go the East Village or the Upper East Side. Like they go to Central Park or Soho. Or Brooklyn. We just don't. It’s farther from me than Bangkok – but of course, I’ve been to Bangkok.

It’s Harlem that’s a different world.

And of course there's something wrong with that.

Aric Mayer, a Kenyan born Brooklyn based photographer who I’ve written about here before, was commissioned over the summer to photograph Harlem by The Studio Museum Harlem in the borough. The collection is called HRLM: Places. Seventeen of these images can be seen in the upcoming fall issue of the museum's journal, STUDIO – a smaller subset can be seen online now at Aric’s Digital Railroad site.

In this smaller selection the human landscape of Mayer’s Harlem is largely un-peopled – but the impress of the folks who have shaped this place today, yesterday, and years before yesterday -- is hugely present in the monumentality of the place.

The frames progress at the street level, and it’s almost like I’m there, walking the walk I haven’t yet walked, taking in the art, the spirit, the decay. His images make me hungrier than my nameless fear, to see more, to understand better why I’ve never been, and to travel in the direction of that fear – because it’s doing exactly that, that is the only thing that has ever gotten me anywhere.

Take the A train »
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