Wednesday, February 2, 2011


I'm still smoking cigarettes a bit. Cutting down but still having weak moments. But because I'm trying to quit entirely I have refused to replace my spent Bic lighters. So I've been reduced to going back to matches. You remember matches?

I'm old enough to remember matchbooks that had strikers on the front. Even those had the phrase "Cover Before Striking" but, appparently, not enough people were paying attention to this directive so the striker was moved to the back side. People were burning their hands and sueing the match companies. This was a disappointment for me because I used to, one-handed, bend a match in half whiole it was still in the book and light it with my thumb against the striker. How could I do that if the striker was on the back side?

It took some time for me to figure out but I managed. I bent the match over the bottom of the book and used the backside striker. I mention this because I thought it was a very cool thing to do. Something people who were watching would appreciate. And, somehow, I always did it in the presence of others. How cool was I?

So all these memories came back as I moved back to matchbooks from the ubiquitous Bic disposable lighter. There used to be more sulpher on the matchheads. When I was a child I used to suck the burnt ends of match sticks. Loved that sulpherous taste.

My Dad taught me to stand into the wind when lighting up. He also showed me how to take a match, place its bottom end between the ring and middle fingers of my right hand and with my thumb pressing against the business end of the match, strike it against the striker held in my left hand. Then I would have a lit match in my cupped hands protected from the wind. I thought that was pretty cool also.

So much about smoking cigarettes was cool. I miss the soft packs. Just can't find them anymore. The way you could shuck a single smoke out with the flick of your wrist. The whole unwwrapping part. The rituals.

Now when I buy smokes I'm almost always asked if II want "the shorts." That means the ones that are not 100 milimeters long. What we used to call King Sized or Kings.

I started smoking when I got a job as a box boy at Safeway. They don't call them box boys anymore. Because they're not just boys anymore and there are no boxes. There actually weren't any boxes when I did it, we were just called box boys. Now they're called baggers. And they're not that good at it anymore either. I think there are two reasons for this, maybe more.

One is the bags. Even if you were to carefully place, sort and stack the groceries in these plastic bags it wouldn't matter. These bags don't have any form to them to hold the groceries in place. You might as well just throw them in.

Secondly, with bar codes and scanning, everything happens too quickly. The baggers don't have the time and, sadly, we don't want to give it to them. We're in a hurry for God's Sake. I'm one of the most impatient people I know. I will actually bag my own if the allow it.
But it's time to leave all this behind.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011


So now I've, or rather my wife Seong, has come up with a new idea to get me to quit smkoing cigarettes - Acupuncture. I went for my first session yesterday and am going back this morning at 11:00. In fact I'm going back the next three days at 11:00.

Yesterday Dr. Jody put needles in my foot, ankle, knees, hands, mid-arms and five each in each ear. I can't tell if it's helping or not. I'd just really rather have a cigarette. They key for me in the enar term will be not to buy any. I've already looked all around the house for any loose ones I may have dropped or for some reason placed somewhere. I did have them stashed all over the house so if I didn't bring the whole pack with me I wouldn't have to go find it for a smoke. We live in a four-story (if you count the roof deck, and in the spring and summer months we do) town house so we always make a point of trying to reduce stair climbing.

Anyway, soon I'll be laying on a table getting needles put in me. Thney really don't feel like anything - mostly. Every once in a while there will be one that pains me a bit, but mostly no.

We do have some cigars we brought back from New Orleans.........

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Space is Precious

There's a song written by Cahn and van Heusen made famous by Sinatra (Frank Sinatra) called "The Second Time Around." I'm on the 'second time around' and deeply in love, but still a bit bewildered from time to time.

We live in a downtown Tacoma townhouse, a little closer to the Pantages than to Stadium Thriftway. To those living in condos/townhouses space is precious. Like living in a submarine - except we have more headroom. Everything has its place and there' s very little space for anything else. Yet whenever my wife returns after being out for more than an hour she brings another 'necessity' I have to find room for. Sometimes she leaves them in her car to bring out when I'm away, asleep or watching sports. In the beginning I took it as a good-hearted challenge. The quirky fun of new love.

Now I have nightmares, Now I try to run all the errands myself. Soon you'll hear or read about me in the news as a depraved sadist who chained his wife to the refrigerator (it's a big refrigerator). Then I'll end up in Monroe, another residence with limited personal space, but possibly with a roommate more minimalistic by nature if not necessity.

My folks live in a house with a double-car garage, an on-site shed and a sizable storeroom. Yet my mother has so packed their home with stuff (including a bedroom that is no less than a giant junk drawer)they have to have off-site storage as well. My wife was raised in South Korea and when we were first dating I thought it would be advantageous to disclose that I was not only rather familiar with some Asian cultures, but devoted to the Japanese concept of minimalism: One great thing is better than 20 not-so-great things. She was delightfully agreeable.

Now I'm afraid I've married my mother.

Every cupboard, closet and shelf at home is like a three-dimensional jigsaw puzzle. To get a particular item, say a vegetable grater, five to 15 things have to be removed. And, unless I want those things sitting around somewhere where I had to find room to put until I'm done with and cleaned the grater. Then taken back out again and replaced in exactly the same way when I'm done with the grater. I've even taken to outlining the places where things go on cupboard shelves and closet floors, like the anal retentive do for tools on the pegboards in their garages. It's alright in closets, but my wife is a little under-tall so the cupboards are problematic. Unless comp[any comes over we live where there are more slightly opened doors than there are city employees who orbit our blocks each weekday morning looking for free parking.

I think I'm prepared for the aging process. I think I will be able to handle the point in life when I'm not so swift of foot, so fluid, so agile. But not before my time. I'm back to baby steps already, trying to navigate my way from the television to my chair, from the bed to the bathroom. The stairs are still relatively free of adornment. Relative to empty stairs that is.

We have so much stuff that when she's away I hide things so there's room to use the cutting board on the kitchen counter. In a two-square foot area next to the range there might be five knick-knacks (of course they're not knick-knacks, they're instrumental in creating the ambiance in our kitchen). If I get rid of one 30 seconds after she comes home, five seconds of which is the common, but heart-felt, hello-and-kiss, she will scan the kitchen like the Terminator looking for Sarah Conner and ask (sometimes with an Austrian accent - and she's from Korea!): "Where's the Mason jar with the rice and candle inside?"

Then I will have to go to the closet where it took me a little less than 15 minutes to find room for it, remove the seven things I needed to take out so I could get it in, and put it back on the outlined place on the counter where it was before. I replace the other seven things in the closet mentally logging the fact there's room in there for something else.

I'm definitely bewitched, sometimes bothered, and frequently bewildered, but demonstrably in love.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Maxwell's and other stuff....

While scanning 133 today read that Maxwell's is moving down to Pac Av, near Hell's Kitchen. Sad, sad, sad. I have never lived across the street from a great restaurant (or a bad one) before and am really going to miss the convenience.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Been away for a while...

Things to catch up on....

The hope Obama gave many of us last year - the hope that replaced the well-earned and dishearteningly appropriate cynicism germinated in the 60's - is fading away.

Democracy these days is not 50% plus one, but 60%.

For the sake of Freedom of Speech the Supreme Court of the United States has undone 100 years of law and granted corporations and unions unlimited use of their dollars to promote the candidacies of their governmental representatives and policies. Of course this would not be a concern if the electorate was educated. But we continue to leave that to someone else, often anyone else.

Conscience-less banking companies continue to dole out incredible bonuses after using us to save themselves while, at minimum, one out of every 10 of us is unemployed.

In Tacoma the council caved to Putnam & Crew regarding first-floor retail at Park Plaza South. Putnam was losing money and strongly suggested at a council study session that his group would go under if he was not allowed to rent to the State AG. He would also lose a grocer who would take the north end of the first floor. He made the point that renting to the AG would put 'feet on the street,' somehow neglecting to include the AG's office was already in Tacoma and all he was doing was switching one Tacoma tenant to another building, his own. And this all had to be done before the end of 2009. Time was of the essence for both the AG's office and the nameless grocer. Also, to let it continue into the new year would have put the decision in the hands of an almost entirely new council. Finally the council must have forgotten the city was alreay deeply involved in another project a few blocks away that also needed the presense of a grocer - The Elks Building.

Friday I saw a lease sign in the grocer's space at S Pk Plaza for "Restaurant Space."

Hollander Investments - The Marriot that hides the Convention Center? - has updated its plans for a waterfront hotel between the Esplanade and Thea Foss. I'm sure the rendering in the TNT does not do it justice but it is not the quality structure one would normally associate with a waterfront hotel, anywhere. But desperation can be a strong and persuasive motivator.

I hear it repeatedly in 98402: "It's better to have something than nothing." I will not deny this reasoning can be unassailable in certain contexts.

"It is better to have air than no air."
"It is better to have food than no food."

But it is not better to settle for something that you will have to live with for decades to satisfy quickly something you will regret when times are better. It is not better to have a modest hotel on choice waterfront property when you are trying to distinguish Tacoma as a destination city. And who among us doesn't regret the Marriot? Other than Hollander Investments that is.

Monday, September 28, 2009

The Past Returns

For some reason I got a hair up my ass and decided to 'google' Dustin Langan. He is my son who I didn't know I had until he was 15. He's 35 now.

I used to work at a horse race track named Longacres in Tukwila Washington. I was walking through a bar there to join some others for breakfast before when when a young woman approached me and introduced herself. Her name was Ann Hoffman. She was a waitress at the track and we hadn't seen each other four about seven or eight years, when I was 19. She has passed several years back, from complications with cocaine addiction. We said hello, I learned she had divorced Tim Langan but had two sons, whose pictures she showed me, and that was that.

We didn't see each other again for another six years.

Back story: Ann was the girlfriend of a very close high school friend of mine - Tim Langan. After a car accident I had (that resulted in a little settlement money) and after Tim's had finished basic training in the Navy, Tim convinced me to come with him to Idaho Falls and live together while he trained for work in nuclear subs. Ann convinced us both that she should come along too. Tim was away from the little single-wide mobile the three of us shared. One thing led to another and Ann and I had a brief affair. Even though I promised Ann I would not tell Tim, I did. He was angry but calm, typically Tim. A day later he thanked me. He said he didn't know how much Ann meant to him before, but now he did and they were going to get married. They even invited me to the wedding to be held back in Edmonds, Washington, where we all went to high school. They got married and we never talked again, not until Ann and I met at Longacres.

So after about six years after Ann and I ran into each other at the track I got a phone call at work. By that time I was an examiner for a title insurance company in Seattle. The call came out of the blue and Ann asked if she could meet with me as soon as possible. I was 35 and was two months into my first marriage. It turned out she lived in Snoqualmie and I lived just a few miles away in North Bend. We arranged to meet at my house that evening.

She came to our house, very nervous. She looked a bit haggard; pale, shaky, and unhealthy film on her face. She carried a huge bag-purse and when she set it down I could hear pills in bottles rattle inside. She hadn't told me over the phone what she wanted to see me for but she did now.

Her oldest child was mine. His name was Dustin and he was 14. She showed me a current picture and I had no doubt. She said she didn't want any money or support other than I meet with Dustin. He had never made a connection with any of the men she had had in her life, including Tim. Even though he looked so different than Tim, Tim had raised him as his own and never really questioned Ann about Dustin until her second son, Sean was about two. That didn't change anything for tim however. Dustin was his son. But Dustin's frustration of feeling an outsider had boiled over about a week before resulting in an extremely heated and emotional arguement during which Ann told him Tim was not his father. His father's name was Rick Jones, she didn't even know if he was alive but she would try to find him.

Dustin and I did meet. It was exciting for a ferw months. Then my wife and I moved, he sought us out, we connected with Tim (who was working at the Puget Sound Shipyard in Bremerton - we lived in Port Orchard), and Dustin came to live woth us for about six weeks.

He had not graduated from high school so we made him get a GED. He had a vision of going to Mexico and working with David Lynch, who he had met when Lynch was making Twin Peaks in North Bend. Eventually we had a parting of ways and I think he went to Mexico.

But now he's a graduate of the University of Washington and has a Masters Degree from Northwestern and is a translator in Iraq. At least that's what I found out from his MySpace page circa 2007. And he's writing a book called "Freedomization Files."

What a life, eh?

Thursday, September 17, 2009

A few things I find interesting

Last Saturday we took a day trip to Poartland to see my daughter (who flew up from Chico to see her friend). It was hot and a bit muggy. My duaghter, Brianna, has known her friend since second grade. So, counting our dog, there were five of us walking around in downtown Portland. We had lunch at a sidewalk table of a restaurant and then the girls started shopping. We also ran into the friend's (Hillary) college room-mate making six. While the human girls shopped Yumi (our dog) and I walked around and stood around waiting for the women.

Yumi's a six-month-old cockapoo. Very cute and just loves people. She's an excellent example of a being who is absolutely without prejudice. She loves everyone. Whether you're Bill Gates or a homeless person near death, she doen't care. Every human is her next best friend. And she brings out the best in others. People - all kinds - just love her. If 10 people walk by us, five will stop and pet her and three will smile at her. That's an 80% positive response.

At one point we were waiting at a corner across the street from Buffalo Exchange (it's actually a used clothes store, we have one called Urban Exchange here in Tacoma. For some reason this one was named Buffalo Exchange. No one came out of this store with a bison or parts thereof but...) in the shade. I was leaning against a lamp post and could hear people walk up behind us. I could hear them because many would begin to "Ooooh" and "ahhh." Although I've been accused of being less than humble I knew these people were not ooohing and ahhhing because of me. It was Yumi. When seeing Yumi people abandon all self-consciousness and reserve. They laugh, they giggle, they tell her how cute she is, they pet her, all with real joy.

Why don't we treat others as well as we treat dogs? I do quite a bit of walking downtown and say "hello" or "howdy" to everyone I pass. Very few respond with any enthusiasm. Mostly grunted replies. And about half don't respond at all! Don't even look at me!

While on the same little day trip we were rear-ended. At the intersection of Market and Broadway in downtown Portland we were stopped in traffic just two blocks for the entrance to the freeway, on our way home to Tacoma. We would make it easy by 8:00 and have a nice quiet Saturday evening at home after a day in Portland. While stopped we were slammed by a Land Rover which drove us into a Ford Explorer, especially it's trailer hitch. It was the trailer hitch that casued the real problem. It drove through my bumper and smashed the radiator, which meant it was undriveable.

After about an hour of exchanging info and waiting to talk to our respective insurance companies, the drivers of the cars ahead and behind me left. We had to get a tow to get my Element off the road and a cab to drive us to a car rental office. On Saturday evening in Portland there is only one place to rent a car - the airport. So Seong (my wife) took a cab with the dog to the airport to get a rental. I stayed and waited for the tow truck. After my car was towed away I was left to wait for Seong.

Now it was about 10:00. Still warm and muggy. I crossed the street from where the wreck was and stood under a street light against the wall of the AAA building. I stood there in tha night for about an hour and waited. I had my little backpack and my jacket. I put them on the sidewalk next to me and waited.

I began to consider homelessness. I felt the need to let everyone who passed me know that I wasn't homeless, just waiting for a ride because I'd just been in a wreck and didn't have a car. Of course no one really cared so I didn't tell anyone anything, just stood and said hello as they passed.

So how is it to really be homeless? I knew eventually seong would come and pick me up and in a couple of hours I'd be in our downtown townhome. But what if you're homeless? No where to go, no bed to sleep in, no tv to watch or refridgerator to open. And I pass these people every day.

Shouldn't I try to treat them just a little like others treat our dog?