Thursday, May 31, 2007

new take on an old theme

Bikes In Strange Places
Originally uploaded by Lady Vervaine.
Kind of thing that makes me wish I was there when it happened.

From the inimitable Lady Vervaine during her travels in Iceland.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

a cautionary tale

Originally uploaded by travísimo.
NOW you tell me.

Shot by travísimo at the Maker Faire.

BTW: this poster is rendered in Arial. But you knew that.

If you didn't, or if you thought that it might be Helvetica, you might want to give this a read »

(Because you never know when you're going to need to know.)

hidden skeins of music

a found poem about found music

It opens
With an audience murmur
A clarinet flourish
A few quiet whumps
From a bass drum
A repeated glockenspiel note

A woman laughs
A man says Excuse me

Snare-drum rolls swell
Tambourine shimmers
Timpani thuds

Beefy bassoon notes swirl

A trombone plays exercises
In different keys
Snatches of melodies

The volume of instruments
[Of the] crowd
Grows at a steady pace
A burst of applause [greets]
The concertmaster

The oboe sounds its tuning A

Silence erupts
[The] piece ends

Found in Daniel J. Wakin's piece The Concerts Found Onstage While Everyone Else Takes a Break in today’s New York Times.

The piece is about Christopher DeLaurenti of Seattle, who’s just released Favorite Intermissions, a recording (done up to look just like a Deutsch Grammophon release) of surreptitiously recorded ambient intermission “music”.

Limited run of 1,000 copies. Available at

Here’s an MP3 clip from the recording entitled SF Variations »

and now for a little neon

You know you're in Tahoe when the "Stardust" is a "Lodge".

Click here for a quickie »

Tuesday, May 29, 2007


hat head

Right around the time I started blogging I picked up a Raymond Savignac poster for an old Reynolds pen ad that read: écrit sans fin. Write without end.

I dropped a girlfriend of mine a line to tell her. When she and her partner split and wrangled with visiting privileges for their baby girl, she – and subsequently I – learned all about transitional objects -- and though I meant it half jokingly I felt, oddly, that this Savignac poster was mine. She had been giving me hard time for working myself into a grave and I wanted her to know that I had found my transitional object to help me transfer into something new.

I wasn’t sure what it was yet, but I could feel it coming. And come it did: within a month I had stepped into a new job and was blogging regularly, something that turned out to be good medicine.

Well kids, this last weekend I stumbled on another one.

Don't laugh.

Something grabbed me when I passed by a hat shop in Virginia City, Nevada over the weekend. I’ve always wanted a cowboy hat, and always felt foolish for wanting one. But for some reason this weekend, I just went ahead and did it.

I don’t know why, and I don’t know what, but I knew I had to have it.

It wasn’t easy: if it’s not yet obvious to y’all, I have a really big head. So it took some doing to find one that fit. And then I was headed in completely the wrong style direction – looking for something camel brown and sort of bowler-like. But the fellow working the floor – his name was Codger, and he was grey and grizzled just like he should have been – worked patiently with me, steering me to just the thing.

Black. Kinda caberello-like.

After a good twenty, twenty-five minutes of looking and deciding (long for me – I’m a dash and grab shopper) Codger pulled down just the one, and I knew that I was done.

At the register I shook his hand, thanked him for his help, and set the hat on my head. He wanted to know what I planned to do with it: did I ride? No, I said sheepishly, I’d be wearing it around Chicago.

“Well that’s all right,” he said, in that slow quiet tempo that only cowboys know like their own true religion. “That’s all right.” And then he paused before he delivered his benediction, saying: “You’ve got a good hat head.”

samurai with bbq

Shot on the South Shore of Lake Tahoe around dusk.

Monday, May 28, 2007


chicago fire dept

My cousin W is 15 now and wears that sweet shy hang dog face that boys sometimes get when they're crossing over from the territory of boys into men.

Hanging out with him and his family over the weekend (his mother is my mother's sister -- she's the youngest of the seven kids of which my mom's the first) I held back my favorite memory of him from him, because I didn't want to embarrass him.

But I course I told his mother later, just as we were leaving and walking to the car, and W was back at the house, out of earshot. Maybe she'll tell him herself, later, and maybe he'll blush a bit, but maybe he'll be glad to be remembered this way.

About eight years ago I passed through their mountain town of Truckee, where I saw them again yesterday. I was at a crossroads then that feels a lot like the crossroads that I'm at now -- trying to work up the courage to take the next big step into the abyss. And wondering if I'll ever find courage enough.

The four of us -- S and her two boys, who were closer to 7 and 8 then -- spent the day hiking around an old railroad line that had been supplanted by a new tunnel that bored right through the mountainside. After knocking around for a while we drove to the top of a nearby pass to take in the view of the valley.

On the way to the summit we passed a series of local firemen in full gear, hiking their way to the top, as some kind of training exercise. Their engine was waiting for them at the lot that we pulled into, staffed by another fireman, this one in shirtsleeves (SO fit -- lord have mercy), and after we piled out of the car and S got the Christmas card shot she was hoping for of her boys with Rosie, their Rottweiller, and the Sierra Nevada Range behind them, W's brother D went off to scramble on some rocks, and W clung close to his mother, all the while looking off longingly in the direction of the firetruck.

Finally he asked the question: "Mom: think I can see the firetruck?" I don't know honey, said Mom -- but you can ask them. "Mom: will you come with me?" I can watch you from here, sweetie -- go ahead. Ask nicely, and don't forget to say please.

W dragged his feet the short distance across the lot to the fireman by his truck, and all shy-like he asked his question, and he got his tour.

The fireman showed him the ins and outs of the truck, let him sit behind the wheel, then spotted him while he climbed up over the backside. We watched the whole thing from not too far away, watched the fireman at last lower him from the truck, the quick exchange (a thank you to go with that please, I'm guessing), and then the quick burst as he dashed back over to his mom to tell her in a rapid fire stream about everything he saw.

But it's the last little bit that stuck with me the most, and hit me then like something I needed to hear, after the storytelling was over and we were bundled back in the car and heading down the mountain and W had that weary happy look that follows excitement.

He said "Mom?" And she said, yes W? And he said: "I'm always going to ask."

spindle and whirl

spindle and whirl
Originally uploaded by suttonhoo.
The 1896 "Three Spindle" slot machine, manufactured by Charles Fey of San Francisco, aka "The Thomas Edison of Slot Machines". (A designation that, frankly, cracked me up.)

Fey started manufacturing slot machines in 1894.

On exhibit with a bunch of other really cool and curious antique slots at the Nevada State Museum in Carson City.

desolation wilderness

desolation wilderness
Originally uploaded by suttonhoo.
Hiked up to Horsetail Falls in California's Desolation Wilderness the day before last -- or almost. The trailhead is just before Twin Bridges off HWY 50 headed out of the South Shore of Lake Tahoe, and the first part follows the effluence of the falls, where it scatters broad and bright across granite stairsteps and churns up full of light and air.

The hike itself is mostly a hard rock scramble across broad granite slabs, interspersed with a few brief dirt trails. Wayfinding changes all together when you're climbing right on rock -- there are no footprints from the folks who went before to reassure you that you've found the right way, no worn tracks to indicate direction.

On this trail there was a periodic marker on the occasional tree, but mostly the way was marked by cairns: those stumpy little piles of rock that signal human intent and seem so generous and kind when there's nothing else to show you the way.

At the top of the loop, about an hour in to our hike, the good folks from the Park Service have posted a second box, like the one at the first trailhead. But this one asks you to fill out a wilderness permit, and sign to indicate that you realize you're about to enter an area where the trails are not maintained, where the risks are higher and where extra caution is required.

Having planned for only a day hike we were entirely unprepared to forge into the wilderness, and being reckless and (relatively) young we thought "sure: why not" and filled out the form and headed up the trail.

Okay, here's why not: because it's frickin' wilderness.

In a terrain where what few markers you had have fallen away and you're left with only rock and rivers and the rare dirt path you need a topographical map to get you through something like that. And a better compass than the one we had.

We had the Falls in our sights and used that where we could to stay in line with our destination, but it did us no good when suddenly the rock would fall away where it had been cleaved centuries before by some strong freeze cycle or glacial action. We'd double back, and double back again when we encountered the next big drop off. By this time others were hunting and pecking their way up the same trail, using pretty close to the same methods we were.

At one point we spotted a party who were being led by a fairly confident looking fellow, so we started up after them -- only to have them circle back on us when they hit the next steep drop-off.

If we'd had 1) all day 2) a topographical map and 3) provisions enough to get lost on, we might have stayed at it a little while longer. But we had a wedding to get to before too long, and our whole lives ahead of us, so after 30 minutes or so of scrambling through the wilderness and progressing only a few feet we called it a day and headed out again, picking our way through the cairns.

The moral of this story: It's good to get lost in the wilderness sometimes, but it's better if you give yourself plenty of time and pack some snacks.

Posting by cameraphone from the South Shore of Lake Tahoe.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

great expectations

They came West seeking a new life and found misery and death.

From a Park Service placard at the Donner Party Camp Site in Truckee, California.


starry night

Spending the weekend in Tahoe, here to see an old friend get married, in another one of those strange intersections where my past life collides with my present.

I lived here once before, just married, to a man I'm no longer married to, and who was, inadvertently, the reason I fell out of touch with (for a time) the friend whose vows I had the privilege to witness here last night.

But that's another story for another time.

The story for right now is how I met R while I was wrapping up high school and running drive-thru at McDonald's. He worked there too, in a kind of in-between state between H.S. and the next big thing. We got to know each other better the following year -- I wasn't working Mickey D's anymore, but I was still working, saving to somehow try to get my butt through college (pulled it off in the end), and he was playing Ultimate Frisbee with my boyfriend, J -- my first real I-think-this-is-it sweetie (it wasn't).

Our friendship was solidified the night the three of us were hanging out at his place and he put on an album (CD's were *just* coming out) with a "you're never going to get this" look in his eye and said "guess what this is." I listened close and took a swing: The soundtrack to Godzilla?

It was.

He looked at me differently after that (and pestered me a hundred times: "how did you know that? how did you KNOW that?!") and I looked at him differently too -- as odd as it might be for a 17 year old hippie chick to know something about Godzilla soundtracks, it's even odder to run into someone else who cares about those things.

Time passed, I headed up the hills to school in Boulder, and R continued to work at his in-between place, working a marriage into the mix to see if that might do the trick.

It didn't, and we both wound up getting our hearts broken around the same time. J did mine in, R's wife did his, and one night during all that R drove up to Boulder to do some hanging out.

We probably hit the Last American Diner for dinner and some bread pudding -- I don't remember that part of the night the way I remember the last part of the night, but I was pretty keen on their bread pudding so I expect I talked him into something like that.

It's the last part of the night that I remember best, like it was one of the best nights of my life, because it was.

I remember that we drove up Flagstaff Mountain, but we drove past the usual turning off spot, way way up and over the ridge. And into the darkness.

Finally we pulled off the road onto a little sidespur and got out. It was chilly, the way the mountains get at night in the Fall, and I was wearing my old jean jacket (before it was all that old) so I wasn't nearly warm enough.

R had the idea that we should lay down on the hood of the car, which was still hot from the ride up, and turned out to be just the thing to chase away the chill.

And, of course, it put us directly in line to see all those stars.

There was a Rocky Mountain ridge between us and the city, so the seeing in that night sky was tremendous. A big thick carpet of stars -- stars that aren't ever like anything else you try to describe them to be -- diamonds, points of light -- no, goddammit, they're STARS. With unknown worlds swirling around them. And there's nothing like lying on your back with something warm beneath you looking up at something that intimate and magnificent and vast.

The conversation was vast, too. We talked for much longer than the heat of the hood lasted, about all the things you talk about when you've just had your heart broken and you're still young enough to believe that the next time you love you'll love just as wildly, just as free, just as full of everything you have to give. You won't. But it's something to believe you might.

Still is.

I don't remember how we said goodnight that night. I suspect my shivering got to be too much and we had to pack it in.

I'm sure as we headed down the mountain I thought "what a wonderful night", but I suspect it didn't occur to me, for even just a moment, that I wouldn't have hundreds, even thousands, of rare and remarkable nights like this one.

Of course I haven't. There have been a few since then, but not nearly enough.

So R and I lost touch for awhile -- my fault entirely, and it would take a whole other post to explain how I so easily evaporate from the lives of the people who matter to me the most. It took the death of a friend to bring me back to him and to the brothers b1-, who I met through R, and who I lost touch with at the same time.

Not a trade I would have asked for, but the kind of thing that has to happen only once for you to realize how sparsely populated this planet is with rare and remarkable people. How hard it is to cling to that vastness, and how important it is to try.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

dew point

dew point
Originally uploaded by suttonhoo.
My uncle sails and sometimes races, and he told me once about an overnight run: about the peace of the moon on the water, the still quiet, the way the wind can run soft through the evening. He told me about bundling up to keep the chill off, but he said it's no use when the dawn comes, because with the dawn comes the dew, and "there's no escaping the dew."

That's because you can't ward off the dew like you can slack off rain with a slicker: the dew soaks surfaces without ever first passing through the sky. Tiny droplets, always present in their potential, that appear spontaneously when the right temperature and moment collide. Demanding your notice. Soaking you to the bone.

Posting this a little after dawn from the South Shore of Lake Tahoe. Sitting on a rickety old rustic porch, drinking strong coffee, where only a few regal Ponderossa and a couple of geese separate me from the shore. Was down there walking at the water's edge just a little while ago, bathed in the scent of the pine woods.

Redolent. Constant.

Friday, May 25, 2007

move along. nothing to see here.

Passing through the friendly town of Virginia City, NV.

Charming folks.

Posting by cameraphone.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

one more flower pic. then I'm done.

And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.

~ Anaïs Nin

The peonies are just starting to bloom.

superfluous beauty

The World’s Best Mechanical Engineer (don’t believe me? Ask Google.), he who brought you the largest pinhole camera never realized, is back with something real: the coolest Romaine and Greenleaf Lettuce Harvester ever.

Not that I know from lettuce harvesters. But here’s what makes it the coolest: Not only is it, I’m sure, better at harvesting romaine than any other harvester out there (I stake this assumption on my confidence in the engineer – the world’s best) but it does that one step better, because it does it with a splash of beauty.

There’s a grill on this hulking beast, and b1-67er (aka the world’s best mechanical engineer) dressed it up right in Art Deco style, with a nod to the age of the machine, and designed something entirely superfluous, and entirely right.

Just because.

I love that.

wondering about persephone

Pomme de Granada
Originally uploaded by The Department.

a found poem

I wonder now about Demeter and Persephone

Maybe Persephone was glad
To run off with the king of death
To his underground realm

Maybe Persephone thought Hades
Was the infinitely cooler older man
Who held the knowledge she sought

Maybe she loved the darkness
The six months of winter
The pomegranates
The freedom from her mother

Maybe she knew
That to be truly alive
Death had to be a part
Of the picture

Just as winter must

Another one found in Rebecca Solnit’s A Field Guide to Getting Lost.

I’m a chapter away from putting this book to bed and I still can’t decide if I like it. But I’ve enjoyed the ride – highly meditative, impressionistic. Not sure that we’ll arrive anywhere in particular by the time I close the cover – but the read is like a long desert ride -- good alone for what it is, just then, and for the way it takes you places off the map you didn't quite anticipate.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

and now for a little schmaltz

Because you can't have a funeral without flowers.

Shot in my backyard this morning around 7.30 or so.

the client

Originally uploaded by underbunny.
I don’t remember when I realized that my grandfather buried people for a living.

I didn’t learn that they were called “clients” until just recently when I helped my grandmother typeset her book, and she wrote of staying home on Friday and Saturday nights, playing board games with friends in their little walk up apartment over the mortuary. They stayed in, couldn’t go out, because they might get a client call.

By the time they became clients they couldn’t call, of course. Someone else would place the call to come for them, to take them to the small stainless steel room in the basement with the cement floor and the large drain to be primped for their last party.

My first memory is of the hearse that my 16 year old uncle parked in the dusty and barn-like garage. Long and black, something from the 50s or 60s, it was the first car I loved for its lines alone. (Later I’d fall in love with classic cars, and collect four dollar models the way my brothers collected matchbox cars. I set them on my bookshelf alongside my horse figurines, until I figured out that girls didn’t like cars, and I gave them all, regretfully, to my brothers, who threw them into the smash up derby that was their matchbox collection, while I packed that part of myself away and tried to be a normal girl.)

But I remember the hearse, and I remember my aunt telling me it was long and low to carry coffins with dead people.

So I knew something was up, but I didn’t think anything strange or unusual about it. Maybe because dead people were always someone else, someone unknown to me. Old, usually, and strangers.

But that summer day when I was four? five? and running wild on my grandparents’ farm – I don’t know where everyone else was, I don’t know why I was wandering alone, but back then you could be four or five and do that. Or maybe that was just us – hippie kids – maybe the other kids weren’t running wild in quite the same way. (I have very few memories of my mother being present in the Sonoma chapter of my life, unless she was sleeping, or drinking at a party, or chatting with someone else. She was in the middle of her divorce from my father, and separating herself, even then, from the children that made her married. Becoming, even then, someone new.)

I remember a few things from that summer day when I was four or five and wandering wild on my grandparents’ farm, and I can’t remember if they all happened on this one day, or in an amalgam of days that came together over time in my memory.

I remember standing by the honeysuckle trellis and pulling off the white blossoms and sucking out their sweet nectar. I remember standing still when a bee buzzed by, convinced that if he thought I was a statue he wouldn’t sting me for fear of breaking his stinger.

And I remember that I decided for some reason to be terrifically brave and cross through the pasture where the bull lived. He was no where in sight, which may have had something to do with my courage. Or it might have been that I liked the terror he stirred up in me, liked the way his strength made me shake, the way the full potential force of him made my heart pound.

I skirted through the pasture, breathless (not from running), and headed for the outbuilding where my grandfather worked. I stepped from the heat of the summer day into the cool of the shed, where dust danced in the sunlight coming through the windows, and the world felt quiet, like it was lined in padded satin. That impression probably came from the bolts of batting that stood on end along one wall, and were used to line the coffins.

The room was full of them, boxes and boxes, mostly shells waiting to be finished – to be lined with soft fabric, to be fitted with the hardware handles that would allow their loved ones to lift and carry them to their grave.

There was a buzz of activity and the hum of noise. I don’t remember who else was there, or if my Bumpa worked alone. He was at the far end of the room, buried to his elbows in some assembly task. He was profoundly hard-of-hearing from birth, at a time when you didn’t acknowledge those things for fear of appearing weak. He read lips mostly to get by, and his deafness made him louder than most, more brash, more goofy even, because his words were rounder, softer, not as crisp. He capped almost everything with a wonderful belly laugh and wasn’t afraid to roughhouse – he’d always steal my nose. I was a little bit afraid of him, the same way I was afraid of the bull.

He didn’t hear me come in and wouldn’t look up until I had more than halfway crossed the room, surrounded on either side by the boxes that would house the strangers that I would never know.

He didn’t look up, he didn’t shout out his hello, until I came to a full stop in front of a coffin that was just my five-year old size.

This was new information.

A conversation followed. I don’t remember the details. There was me wondering what and him telling me, confirming that yes: that one’s for a child. The coffin was complete – the wood was pale, the liner was yellow -- and I remember having the sense that it already had an owner. But that might have been me, filling in the blanks, trying to get my head around the fact that people like me – my size, my time in the world – that people like me died.

That I could die.

That I would die.

The rest of the memory from that summer day is more of that amalgamated sunshine, green fields, sweet smells, and wandering. But a heavier kind of wandering, and a weighted kind of wondering.

I spoke with my grandmother the day after my grandfather died. She was tired, but content. He had a good death, surrounded by his family, with none of the tubes or interventions that he dreaded might disrupt his passage. He was ready to go, and talked in the days before of being tired all the time. Of being tired of all this.

His last requests were simple, almost Spartan: Dressed in casual clothes, no suit, but go ahead and dress me in those $300 shoes that I just bought. (They’re nice shoes.) A simple box – the second most simple coffin available for sale at this place. (“We always wondered about the people who bought the cheap coffins,” my grandmother laughed. “I guess now we know.”) Then cremation, and a ceremony in Napa later this summer, when the kids are all out of school, and the most people possible are able to attend.

My grandmother, always one for details, articulated for me the biodegradable cardboard “pillow box” that they’ll package his ashes in, the note that they’ll give her for the plane ride from Phoenix. “The kids were wondering – did I want to do that? Did I want to carry his ashes with me?” she said. “Maybe it’s because we were in the business,” she said to me, “but it doesn’t bother me at all.”

Tuesday, May 22, 2007



It's midway into the flight now -- it took this long to find the word to describe it. Up until just this minute the sensation of sitting beside her escaped description -- how this woman's thick thigh spills across the allowable barrier of her airline seat and rests repeatedly, gently against mine (there is nowhere else for hers to go) until, startled, she realizes her transgression and snatches it back.

It will be only a moment more before it settles back, and her thigh grazes mine (the seat can't contain all of it); only a moment before the armrest between us will rise up and bob, buoyant on the tides of her flesh, spilling like too much cold serve in too small a cup.

There it goes.

And there it goes again.

Earlier, as we prepared for takeoff, the flight attendant forgot her canned safety message, pausing for long passages while she searched out the story in her mind (Don't they store the flotation device procedure on notecards, stashed among the compact drink trays? Can't they read the evacuation plan to us from the laminated safety message stowed in the back of the seat in front of me? Is none of this documented somewhere? Stowed in its full upright locked position?).

She never found it again (the word she needed), and instead instructed us in all the ways a lavatory smoke detector might be disarmed, destroyed, dismantled, unmanned -- without ever naming the object of intent, without ever inserting a noun within the litany of destruction.

She spoke only of the swift repercussions of justice for this nameless act of undoing. And then, undone, she wished us all a wonderful flight.

Home soon. Reasonably successful trip.


outbound to Atlanta

The only good thing about these little
puddle jumper planes is boarding straight
up the steps from the tarmac.

Makes me feel so presidential.

Monday, May 21, 2007


Way out.
Originally uploaded by p2wy.
Patrick's been to London -- let's go play »

a new feed for your bloglines

Jezebel: A new blog from the folks who brought you LifeHacker.

I especially like this post for the title alone: Botox Will Make You Batshit Insane.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

getting all crafty-like


There is something that you need to know about basket weaving, and that something is that basket weaving rocks.

David Rakoff gets crafty in today's Sunday New York Times Style Magazine (special Travel issue, with "sea change" on the cover).

If Rakoff's doing it, you know crafty's cool. (Like anyone needed to tell you.)

shooting the Bean

shooting the Bean
Originally uploaded by suttonhoo.
There's an unspoken rule in Chicago: If one is near the Bean with a camera in hand, one must shoot the Bean.

No ifs ands or buts about it.

The Bean at Millennium Park, Chicago

Saturday, May 19, 2007

secret garden

Alongside the Art Institute
Chicago, IL


Originally uploaded by suttonhoo.
Alumnus Nat King Cole on the wall of Wendell Phillips High School in Chicago's Bronzeville neighborhood.

Harlem Globetrotters also started here as students -- they were known then as the Savoy 5.

The walls that run over the kids lockers are jammed packed with photographs of illustrious alum who have made their impact in American arts, letters, politics and business.

Posting by cameraphone from Bronzeville

gon out


~ C. R.

From Chapter 5: In which Rabbit has a busy day, and we learn what Christopher Robin does in the mornings.

Digging me some Places and Spaces.

Friday, May 18, 2007

parting words

shadows on stone

This means we have barely
disembarked into life,
that we’ve only just now been born,
let’s not fill our mouths
with so many uncertain names,
with so many sad labels,
with so many pompous letters,
with so much yours and mine,
with so much signing of papers.

I intend to confuse things,
to unite them, make them new-born,
intermingle them, undress them,
until the light of the world
has the unity of the ocean,
a generous wholeness,
a fragrance alive and crackling.

~Pablo Neruda
(sorry -- forget the translator)

Lolabola's getting married, and she's looking for readings -- you can submit yours over at Chipompompom.

being a grown up

more on this side

Rolled out of bed today to a feeling of dread.

I need to tackle something that I don't want to tackle, don't feel the love for, don't think will fly.

But this is what we do, in our grown up world.

Get behind it. Put your shoulder into it.

Make it fly.

Then get back to being alive.

[Update] Wow. Flew. Far. (How 'bout that?)

Thursday, May 17, 2007

habits of repetition

a found poem

By the time I worked out
the style of our death
the leaves were back on the trees

The journey in search of rubbish
had taken the whole winter long
and now I was here with the bins

The evening it was all over
I emptied the latest rubbish
onto some newspapers spread out
on the kitchen floor:

A cornflakes packet
Old razor blades
Apple cores and cotton buds

Looking through the stuff
I felt how secret the story had been

I’d gone looking for the end
but had always been brought back to this

the rubbish on the floor
appearing grave and autobiographical

The seasons are like that
and so is our trash:

you examine their habits of repetition
for long enough
and you begin to think of lost time

Found in the Things We Throw Away by Andrew O'Hagen in the 24 May issue of the London Review of Books


1. observe and describe characters in situations;
2. use simple words to convey rich thoughts;
3. deal frankly with those people otherwise dispossessed of song;
4. carry a hint of the subconscious at play, or shrewd implications about personal identity and social anxieties;
5. possess a dry humour, finely balanced between satire and cynicism.

Richard Witts deconstructs the obligations of the songwriter. From his book The Velvet Underground as reviewed in the London Review of Books by Mark Greif.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

wagamama this

wagamama this
Originally uploaded by suttonhoo.
There is nothing better than hanging out with two people who are madly truly deeply in love for the very first time in their lives.

Quick dinner in Boston with my godson and his this-one's-forever sweetie before hoping my flight home for Chicago.

Just breathing that air made me believe in magic.

And the noodles weren't bad either.

Posting by cameraphone from Logan International. Homeward bound.

new york state of mind

new york state of mind
Originally uploaded by suttonhoo.
That's my kind of New York evening: catching up over dinner with the lovely litwit at Angus McIndoe before the show; Liev Shreiber tearing it up on stage as Barry Champlain in Eric Bogosian's Talk Radio -- the same day he received his Tony nod -- with a stellar off-stage cast of voices (on stage the talent was strong too, but once again the pretty girl was the weak link -- why do they cast pretty? why don't they just cast strong and passably pretty?). And then an aftershow "talk back" with the cast and the visiting Reverend Al Sharpton.

Regrettably, with Al there, the questions from the audience skewed toward Al's political decisions over time rather than the actual play (does anyone still remember the Tawana Brawley incident? Apparently, around here, they still do.) Still. Fun night.

And the capper was giving litwit a quick hug goodbye and spinning around to head in the other direction -- and nearly colliding with Al as he chatted with some well-wishers just beside me. No handlers that I could see -- just Al headed to his ride at the curb. Back at my hotel I tuned him in live on Larry King, talking about Falwell's passing, which must have been where he was headed next.

Just another unremarkable evening in New York.

Love this town.

just don't.

Don't block the box.

Street signs that appear regularly around NYC. Still haven't figured out what box they're talking about -- the bus stop maybe?

Posting from JFK. Outbound to Boston.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007


Originally uploaded by suttonhoo.
Longacres Theatre, NYC

lyceum, all lit up

lyceum, all lit up
Originally uploaded by suttonhoo.
Dunno what I like better -- plays on Broadway, or old school Broadway playhouses.

Inherit the Wind's playing here at the Lyceum -- I'm heading down the road to the Longacre for Talk Radio.

leftovers at laguardia

leftovers at laguardia
Originally uploaded by suttonhoo.
I can't spot an old abandoned airplane hanger anymore without thinking of b1-67er's idea to turn one near his home into a giant pinhole camera.

What would the world be like if every cool thinker executed every cool idea they had?

Infinitely cooler, I think.

That said, the Chicago Art Institute ran a show not too long ago of pinhole camera images taken in darkened hotel rooms -- the photographs were as big as the wall of the room, and depicted the scene just outside the curtains.

That was a nice dose of coolness, anyway. I'll look up the artist and try to post a link when I get home.

Posting by cameraphone from 45th & Lex, NYC.

Work day's done -- gonna go see a show.

saddle up

saddle up
Originally uploaded by suttonhoo.
Four airports in two days, and:

+ Two business meetings
+ Two dinners with friends
+ One Broadway show
+ One airport hotel
+ One chatty seat companion who narrates her every move

Monday, May 14, 2007

at the gates

I've gotta go shoot something. It's been awhile.

Leftover from Stanford: Rodin's Gates of Hell. This time by daylight.

[Update] Found the little bit of text that I copied down from the placard that lives alongside this baby and thought it was worth noting here:
No other single work of sculpture known to me can so attach itself to a person for life, making constant claims on intelligence, intuition, and feeling and yet remain so fresh, changing as one changes, rewarding age and experience. You don't outgrow The Gates, you grow into them.

~ Scholar Albert E. Elsen commenting on Rodin's Gates of Hell in 1985
I'm tired.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

the indulgence of appetites

a found poem

Pleasure is a beautiful word.

That s in the middle
like the z in azure
gives a little thrill to the mouth

The meaning in the noun alone
runs 26 pages in the O.E.D.

including the indulgence of appetites
to take one’s pleasure
a lazily elegant way of saying

Pleasure is a beautiful word.

Found in At the Pleasure, this Sunday's On Language column by William Saffire in the New York Times Magazine.

potential urge

You have a potential urge and the ability for accomplishment.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

wishing outloud

I Ching II
Originally uploaded by MGL.
Every once in a while wishing outloud pays off.

Martin has developed his lovely I Ching stills into a full-blown series of rich, resonant photographs.

Thanks, Martin.

Here's the set »

From there you can trigger a slideshow.

So. beautiful.

So just what I needed right now.

if then statement

IF you like movies with dialog – real dialog, the kind that changes people, the kind that reveals more than anyone knew when they first got started – and if you like to see the way words create? unmask? invite electricity between two people – and if you ever loved someone a long time ago only to see them again – and if you don’t mind a titty shot or two, or watching two actors working the best of their craft,

THEN you might really dig Conversations with Other Women.

(I did.)

p.s. The sole track for this film -- Carla Bruni's J'en Connais -- beautifully captures the mood of the piece. Here's a sample if you'd like to give it a listen »

Friday, May 11, 2007

trash talk

Capsule trash 2
Originally uploaded by lasse22.
  • Number of garbage trucks that would be required to contain all the annual road debris of California’s highways: 8,750

  • Number of miles those garbage trucks would stretch down the highway: 45

  • Lives lost in 2006 to trash on California’s highways: 155

  • Amount per year that the State of California spends cleaning up highway trash: $55 million

  • Percentage of trash along the highways that was “unintentional” (gum wrappers, cigarettes, soda cans) in 1986: 66%

  • Percentage of trash that was “intentional” (mostly from unsecured loads – mattresses, sinks, produce) in 2006: 66%

  • Number of pieces of plastic trash, on average, found in the average Georgia highway mile: 464

  • Number of traffic accidents in North America caused by litter that is dumped by motorists or falls out of vehicles: 25,000

From Debris on Nation’s Highways, Long an Eyesore, Is Growing as a Hazard in this morning’s New York Times.

“It’s really a problem of individual motorists not understanding the aerodynamics of what wind can do to a mattress," says Scott Osberg, the director of research for the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety.

I knew those cuts in school funding would come back to bite us.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

the world is blue at its edges and in its depths

a found poem

For many years
I have been moved
By the blue at the far edge
Of what can be seen

The color of horizons
Remote mountain ranges
Anything far away

The color of that distance

The color of emotion
Of solitude and desire
Of there seen from here
Of where you are not

Says the poet Robert Hass
Because desire is full
Of endless distances

Found in Rebecca Solnit’s A Field Guide to Getting Lost

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

polymorphous perversity

Got my haircut tonight by my buddy Vance. Michael is his given name, Vance is one of his middle names, the other, he tells me is “too ghetto – I don’t know WHAT my mother was thinking” and so he refuses to give it up. I plan to get it out of him before too long. I’ll keep you posted.

Decided to go and pretend that my grandfather hadn’t died today; that I hadn’t come home mid-day and fallen into a hard sleep, because that’s what grief does to me. Knocks me flat and makes me want to nap. Cried a little, made some calls to family, wished I’d packed it up for Phoenix sooner; hadn’t realized I’d be waiting so long to see family and get some hugs. But now it won’t be until July.

Then I dried my eyes and stepped out and kept my secret, so I could hear the gossip and not have to talk about it; deal with it. I love Vance and all that we have every eight to ten weeks or so, but I didn’t want to be talking about my grandfather while my head was wet and stringy.

He was running behind, per usual, so he had a new gal shampoo me. She was tentative and failed miserably to give me what I want from a shampoo, and what I especially wanted today: strong, firm strokes. Scrub me. With confidence.

I can’t entirely blame her. When I was an undergrad I found myself shampooing strangers’ heads one summer without much warning: I signed on as a receptionist and bookkeeper in a Boulder hair salon and the owner was having trouble with his hands. Some kind of scaly eczema thing. So he asked me to shampoo his clients. No training – just dive in. How hard could it be?

Tactically: piece of cake. Lather, rinse, repeat.

What I wasn’t prepared for was the erotic impact.

Their head prone in a bowl; my hips right up close; and then the contact of my hands in their hair. The water. The suds. I had shampooed the heads of boyfriends – those who relented at my request – so I should have expected that it would be charged. But this was more than I had bargained for. I didn’t know these people. I didn’t want to broadcast how unnerved I was. But I suspect there was no hiding it.

The gal who shampooed me today attacked my head with short staccato bursts designed to minimize contact, and it reminded me for all the world of how I felt that summer, slowly working the suds into the pates of folks I had never met before. Trying not to feel what I was feeling.

But her poor attentions made me realize something else: Feeling all that? Doesn’t scare me any more.

What terrified me before attracts me now – or maybe it always did, and I’m just old enough to be brave enough to take it. Not the desire to shampoo the heads of strangers – but the desire to feel life happen, head to toes, in a way that’s open and alive.

in passing

Happiness is: grandparents die, parents die, you die.

Zen koan as told by b1-66er

My bumpa -- my mother's father, the man who calls all 5 feet 12 of me "Sky" -- just passed. He spent his last days in Hospice care, going out gentle and slow, with his whole big brood of kids around him.

He passed in Phoenix, but we'll scatter his ashes later this summer in Napa, were he raised his children and assorted livestock, and buried half the population of nearby Mill Valley, as the owner and operator of the Russell & Gooch Funeral Home.

Safe home, Bumpa.

p.s. here are a few stories about Bumpa:
Bumpa and the hobos »
Crabs for lunch »
Bumpa in Robin Hood »


Many of the world’s leading scientific institutions today announced the launch of the Encyclopedia of Life, an unprecedented global effort to document all 1.8 million named species of animals, plants, and other forms of life on Earth. For the first time in the history of the planet, scientists, students, and citizens will have multi-media access to all known living species, even those that have just been discovered.

When completed, will serve as a global biodiversity tool, providing scientists, policymakers, students, and citizens information they need to discover and protect the planet and encourage learning and conservation.

From: A Leap for All Life: World’s Leading Scientists Announce Creation of “Encyclopedia of Life”: Biodiversity, Science Communities Unite Behind Epic Effort To Promote Biodiversity, Document All 1.8 Million Named Species on Planet, a press release issued today by the Encyclopedia of Life project.

So freakin' cool.

And also notable for the fact that the f.y.i. video demonstrating the site concept incorporates the same furry lobster made famous on the paperback cover of John Hodgman's The Areas of My Expertise. (For more info see the Guardian article from last March »)

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

as you know

as you know
is sometimes

US Airways safety video

on shuffle

A couple years back my sweetie downloaded the entire SXSW music catalog for me to iTunes -- which was a whole lot of music. Which means I'm still finding stuff I haven't heard yet.

Yesterday was no exception: The iPod shuffled over to a track by Ojos de Brujo, and I was immediately hooked on their funky electronica flamenco sound (correction -- per Wikipedia -- they're all about "hiphop flamenkillo"), and headed over to iTunes for more.

Found a track that they put together with Gaudi that especially plays on the electronic end of things -- Techarí is well worth a listen too.

[through the glass]

[through the glass]
Originally uploaded by The Polstar*.
A photograph is a secret about a secret.

The more it tells you the less you know.

Diane Arbus

rough day.

Originally uploaded by JKonig.

tortino for enyasi

Bette à carde
Originally uploaded by Choui-Pok.
My friend enyasi is a brilliant gardener. She’s been doing it for years, and she has that cryptic knowledge of all things green and growing that would have gotten her a dunk in the drink hundreds of years ago – it’s almost witch-like. It leaves me in awe.

She rips up whole hedges and transplants them great distances; touches a plot of bare brown earth and green things bloom beneath her; recognizes tiny baby sprouts for the utterly unique creatures they will become.

I asked her once for her secret, and she paused for only a moment – not like she was looking for the answer, but like she was considering whether she should give the secret away – and then she said: “You can’t be afraid to kill things.”

Reasonable advice from a gardener, who sees the cycles more acutely than the rest of us – the coming and going of the season, the inimitable ability of the earth to give it up again after a long time of lying quiet, fallow, unproductive. Faith that the unseen will bloom up again, with or without our intervention.

Good advice, and not entirely limited to the garden.

Stopped by to see her new digs while I was in Seattle, was blown away by the very beginnings of what she’s laid down in her surroundings, and promised to share my favorite Swiss chard recipe in anticipation of the harvest that will soon enough spring up from the earth.

So here it is.

Swiss Chard Tortino
Tortino di Bietole

Serves 4 to 6.

1-2 oz porcini mushrooms I usually sub- in a couple of portabellos
2 bunches Swiss chard
4 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1 med onion, peeled and finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped
3 eggs, lightly beaten
4 tbsp freshly grated Parmesan cheese
6 tbsp bread crumbs, divided
1 tbsp chopped Italian parsley
Freshly grated nutmeg to taste
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Unsalted butter

If you’re using porcini’s, soak them in warm water for about 20 minutes. Then rinse under cool water to remove all the grit and cut into strips.

Wash the chard well, Strip the leaves from the stalks. (Reserve them for soup if you’re feeling ambitious.) Place the leaves in a large pan, braising them in the water that clings to them after washing. When tender (about 5 minutes in) drain and gently press out excess water with the back of a wooden spoon.

At this point I generally set the leaves in a colander over the sink to drain, quickly clean the pan with the swipe of a paper towel, and proceed to sauté the onions and mushrooms and garlic in the olive oil, for about 3 to 4 minutes. When all is tender and well, add the chard, stir, and cook for another 5 minutes. Set aside to cool.

In a bowl beat together the eggs, grated Parmesan, 2 tbsp bread crumbs, parsley, nutmeg, salt [1] and fresh-cracked pepper to taste. Mix in the chard.

Butter a medium-sized round baking dish or a 9-inch springform pan (I use a ceramic pie dish). Sprinkle with 2 tbsp of breadcrumbs. Add the chard mixture and smooth the top. Sprinkle the top with the remaining breadcrumbs and bake in a preheated 375 degree oven for 30 minutes, or until the tortino is golden.

Freely adopted from Viana La Place’s Verdura: Vegetables Italian Style

[1] We’ve talked about this, right? Sea salt. Big, coarse granules. You won’t be sorry.

Monday, May 07, 2007

gravedigging with grama

I'm just a shadow of my former skeleton.

My grama said this to me, half-laughingly, the last time I saw her. That was the time before this last Saturday; that was the time when she was still aware that pieces of her were ebbing away.

This time the ebb was more severe, the awareness not as acute. Her mood was mostly blue -- she admitted to a depression -- and her mind was severely muddled.

On that previous occasion she told me again the story of her dear Aunt Anna -- her dear, slightly nutty Aunt Anna -- who lived with the family when she was small (by one count there were three children and four adults who lived in that Seattle household when she was a child and got by on the $10/week that her mother made at the laundry where she worked[1]).

Anna was exceedingly beautiful. And a little bit daft. The crazy part insinuated itself after a reckless carriage ride when she was young -- her beau rented a horse and carriage from a local livery stable and the carriage got away from him. To hear Grama tell it Anna was the only one in the carriage when the horse went wild and careened recklessly until somehow, unknown to her, it came to a stop again. Anna was never the same after that and lived at home, beautiful but unsuited for marriage, for most of the rest of her life.

I've always wondered if something a little more untoward didn't happen on that carriage ride. Maybe it was the driver who careened recklessly and not the horse, and maybe Anna was undone in ways girls could be undone in those days, which decided in and of itself that she was wrecked for marriage. But that may just be me being a drama queen, assuming that my grandmother was handed a euphemism when she was small, and carried it with her as the truth.

The end of the story about Anna involves the death of Grandma Ingeborg (my great-great-grandmother), who is buried now at Lakeview Cemetery[2] alongside Volunteer Park in Seattle, under a pauper's stone -- a pure slab of cement with her name and dates impressed upon it. Her granddaughter Corinne, my grandmother's sister, who played the violin with a preternatural talent and died of meningitis when she was 7, lies at the other far corner of the cemetery under another, similar slab.

I know this because it used to be that my grandmother and I would visit in the Spring and uncover their graves with a garden trowel – necessary because poor peoples’ graves are not on the list of graves to be maintained by the groundskeepers, and in the rain of the Pacific Northwest it doesn't take long for moss and turf to overtake them.

I usually brought a bottle of water along so that after we dug up the graves we could splash the dirt away to reveal their names, and almost always my grandmother would say, as Ingeborg came into view, "There you are, my grandmother." Followed by a few more words in Norwegian, the tenderness of which was all I could understand.

When Grandma Ingeborg died my Aunt Anna was distraught, and somehow secured the carcass of a little white mouse that she carried with her everywhere and revealed, to those who inquired, that it carried the soul of her dead mother. She whispered her secrets to the mouse; consulted with it on her problems. I didn't learn from Grama just how long this went on, but I did learn that soon after that Anna took to wandering.

She'd step out the door silently and wander her way from near Lake Union, where they lived, to the downtown streets of Seattle, intent on some imaginary task. Fortunately she was returned home again by strangers, but soon enough this became more than enough, and she was institutionalized.

There's no happy ending to Anna's story, but it matters to me as one of those family fragments that records the characters in the family tree. And it matters to me because I can hear it being told, still, in my grandmother's voice.

She's given me so many stories.

She told me a new one this last time that was more dreamscape than true[3], about a dear friend of hers named Ken who died not too long ago. Ken was my Bompa's best man at their wedding, and later the godfather of all their children, and later even still the father-in-law of their daughter, my aunt.

My grandmother's story was of a large party that Ken and his wife Margie threw recently, because they knew that Ken was going to die. She went on at some length, painting the picture of this event that she believed she attended, and described it for all the world like what a funeral would be like if the corpse waited until the end of the evening to take up his spot in the box.

I didn't interrupt or try to inject reason into the proceedings, I just let her run, as she spoke of all the friends who were there to say goodbye and about how "socially awkward" the whole affair was -- he was going to be dead shortly, after all, although he looked just fine that night. But he was resigned. And ready. And it was what they wanted to do.

She cried as she told the story. She wrapped it up tidy, like she always does. My Grama has always had a brilliant sense of an ending. She knows just the right mood to strike, just the right punch line to leave, just the right inflection to frame it, off-set it, make it whole.

But I sense this other ending of hers -- the one in which she goes wandering off by herself in the hallways and then forgetting why, when she's asked what she's wandering for -- I suspect this one has got her stumped.

I had no answers for her, of course, and could do nothing more than to sit by her side and listen to her strange, changing stories, hold her hand, and think, as her mind wandered into worlds I couldn't see except through her curious painted visions: There you are, my Grama. There you are.

[1] The men who worked in that same laundry, at the same tasks as my great-grandmother, made $20/week.

[2] Lakeview Cemetery is also home to Seattle denizens Denny, Yesler, Chief Seattle's daughter Princess Angeline, and Kung Fu wonder boys Bruce and Brandon Lee.

[3] Which makes me think of something I heard once -- that all stories are true, and some even happened.

Sunday, May 06, 2007

delayed & medicating

delayed & medicating
Originally uploaded by suttonhoo.
'Cause nothing says comfort food like seaweed salad with itty bitty octopi when your flight's delayed out of Portland Int'l.


(Well, okay -- some things. Most things, actually.)

But it did make me wonder, and not for the first time: do I love sushi as much as I do because those little pencils remind me of putt putt golf?

Posting by cameraphone enroute.

Saturday, May 05, 2007

jovino at st clouds

jovino at st clouds
jovino at st clouds
Originally uploaded by suttonhoo.
Quick trip to Seattle for the weekend -- catching two-time Latin Grammy nominee Jovino Santos Neto at St Clouds in Madrona. Dig it.

Posting by cameraphone or I'd link to his discs. Definitely worth a listen if you like jazz, or a Brazilian sound, or both.

answers to your questions

Remember there is only one important time, and that time is now. The most important one is always the one you are with. And the most important thing is to do good for the one who is standing by your side. For these, my dear boy, are the answers to what is most important in this world.

Leo Tolstoy's answers to the three questions, courtesy of Joe-Henry, best six-year-old dramatic reader ever.

Posting from sweet anniemcq's in Vancouver, WA

Friday, May 04, 2007

parking private

parking private
Originally uploaded by suttonhoo.
Flickr'ng by cameraphone from Vancouver, WA

super cool flusher

super cool flusher
Originally uploaded by suttonhoo.
Lift up for #1; push down for #2. The quantity of water used is commensurate with the deed you do.

Come on -- that's cool.

Shot in the women's bathroom at the Portland International Airport.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

boarding pass

boarding pass
Originally uploaded by suttonhoo.
It's not hard to spot the homeless at O'Hare, once you know they're there.

They live in the shallow margin just outside security -- along the benches in baggage claim, the thin strip that fronts check-in, or as eternal passengers on the tram that shuttles travelers back and forth from long term parking to the terminals.

Their luggage would look like every other bag if it weren't a little too lived in, a little too long used.

They wear the traveler's practised weary look, and nap along window panes just like that guy with the delayed connection -- the one who will be home soon, where he'll unpack at last, after this last little minor inconvenience.

diagram of a blog

Missed this when it ran in the NYT on 5 April -- stumbled across is yesterday on Pentagram's Blog.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

dorothy got that right

Packing up for another round on the yellow brick road. This time I'm Emerald City bound -- taking the weekend to drive from my business meeting in Portland up to Seattle to check in on Grama and see some friends.

There will be much to say, and much to eat »

a strad is a strad is a strad

Or is it?

Researchers in Manchester, England, "developed an electronic device that takes the violin sound picked up by a microphone and alters it electronically to give the 'Strad' tone."

From How to get the Stradivarius sound from any violin (and better hi-fi) as reported in the Guardian.

So: Does a Strad by any other name sound as sweet?

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

eccentric varieties

a found poem

the cell phones
in the pockets of the dead
were still ringing

as the police cleared the bodies


in eccentric varieties
of ring tones

Found in The Talk of the Town: Shootings in the 30 April issue of the New Yorker Magazine
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