Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Darkness

SO I am sitting here typing away watching a movie cleaning up a Quickbooks file being a general dork not being nearly able to comprehend the thoughts that six months from now I am usually gearing up to head out for the evening to watch the sun set with two hours of the day remaining - the best part of the day; today I am deep in the throes of winter feeling inclined to already wind the night down at 7:25pm. I got nine hours of sleep last night and hope to get another nine tonight. I am following the lead of our resident dog, Magilla. She seems to be sleeping twenty hours a day versus her otherwise active summertime of sixteen hours of sleep.

I think all mammals fare better by getting more sleep in the winter.

I found some old pictures. The one below is the wall a few blocks from my house (behind the high school) where there used to be a graffiti wall. A free form canvas allowing kids to express themselves in one of the few places where it was tolerated. They now occasionally scribble something there and it soon gets painted over. I really miss the old wall.

(click to enlarge)

Monday, December 28, 2009

Fear

Maybe I'm getting a bit too soft and liberal up here in the land of moisture, but isn't it odd that this latest terror effort occurred (and just when I thought flying couldn't get any less pleasurable, as I am planning to go to the other corner in few weeks) on the eve on Mr. Obama asking Congress for another quarter trillion to fund the increasingly futile effort in Afghanistan? (Sorry...I heard this on the radio recently and can't even find a link.) Or the additional quarter trillion that the Treasury offered the FNMA and FHLMC to further "nationalize" them while their top managers are compensated millions while their "companies" fail? Another false flag? Another distraction? Be afraid America. And stay tuned to CNN and FOX.

I (really) could go on, but I won't. The truth is out there and all it requires is turning off the television and seeking news elsewehre. For the amount of information literally at our fingertips, we are a very ignorant and homogenized society.

It was a great day of shuffling papers, listeing to WWOZ and a pleasant drive again to Anacortes. The more I go to Anacortes, the more I like it. A wonderful little seaside town that still retains a lot of its charm. And before I moved here, it was the closest I'd ever been to Bellingham, as we (married at the time) decided on moving to Bellingham in 2005 before ever visiting. But that's another story for another time.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Barred

I wish I could say my weekend was action packed, but it was generally without much excitement. And for the first year in many (maybe ever?) I didn't purchase any gifts or send out Christmas cards (does chicken feed for the hens count?). It was a season to reflect, make plenty of phone calls, and realize I need to get outside a bit more when the weekend weather is just wonderful (like today and yesterday and Christmas too) with the temp around fifty and nary a cloud in the sky.

So let's see, yesterday was a trip to Anacortes and a leisurely drive back up Chuckanut Drive, remembering how absolutely beautiful the area is in which I live. I remember living in cities back east longing to escape elsewhere and wondering about life on the West Coast. For much of my life it was a fantasy world that existed out here and now I am living this dream, but not without its bumps and bruises along the way. And I've never lived in a town where people continuously comment on how much they love it, until now.

So the culmination of the weekend was learning how to replace shingles on the roof of my garage. It looks like a greater project lies ahead for the aging, moist wood beneath the roof (two layers), but that will be another project for the summer. Today was a quick fix, and again, I was distracted by the 1972 VW Weekender in the garage. Some progress has been made. Pictures will be posted once I wrangle the camera from my housemate and get some fresh shots.

But that's all the excitement, other than the neighbors' Barred Rock hen hanging out with our RI Reds, and they seem to get along quite nicely.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Sun

Although I took this picture from this site, the boardwalk is where I spent my afternoon biking in the wonderful sunny weather. And although it was Christmas, hundreds of others had the same idea. I never saw this walkway so crowded with so many people.

At any rate, a wondrous day - I met someone on the trail (it happens more than not) and we chatted for quite some time. And the family phone calls. And some quality time with the dog.

It's amazing how much I eat when I just dawdle around the house. Oh well, the computer battery is beeping, so nothing more to say for tonight.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Driving

So was driving down I-5 on Tuesday wondering why the mayhem of dangerously aggressive drivers in such a hurry - cutting people off, driving like Californians (or worse yet - New Jersey drivers) - oblivious to the grandeur of this normally gentle interstate winding through the mountains and valleys of this beautiful land, and suddenly realized that it was because it was a holiday week - an inordinate amount of license plates from BC (notoriously aggressive drivers, yet a cash cow for the local law enforcement coffers, as our northern stretch of I-5 is very heavily patrolled and the Canadians are very easy pickings; I remember getting pulled over - on the Oyster Run in Bow, Washington for exceeding the speed limit, and twice, by two different cops, I was asked if I was Canadian. I was let go with a warning), and those with Lynnwood, Bellevue, etc. plate holders on their expensive cars with tinted windows and empty, harried faces inside.

We often times discuss why the urban set in always in such a rush, and concluded that that is the way of th lifestyle in those parts: spend more, eat more, consume more, want more, make more; get richer, fatter, sicker, needier, further in debt - and I really do not know why. Thank goodness that I've broken from that mold. Over my lifelong experiment (on myself), I've shown that there is an inverse relationship to wealth and happiness. Launching my business over that past year, my earning were equal to what I made back in the pre-Clinton years. But I am more satisfied and fulfilled than I've ever been. But that could be maturity too.

Oh well, another Christmas, and wishes to everyone a Merry Christmas also. If you're not a Christian (I guess am, albeit very loosely), I wish it to you anyway. I've celebrated holidays like St. Patricks Day with fervor, event though I have not a drop of Irish blood in me. I still wish people a happy St. Patty's Day, and take no offence when they wish me good tidings too. How silly and watered down our society has become. No wonder we incresingly lack such depth and meaning in our communications - any more it's one size fits all, and that's too bad.

Don't mean to be a downer on a very upbeat day, but I've been thinking about these things over the past few days.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Small

I recently started a business here in Washington in tough economic times, and the task in one of the most daunting challenges that I've ever face in my entire ever-lengthening life. And most of the businesses that I encounter seem to be struggling noticeably. Bills get paid late, cash flow restricts, and the effects ripple through the entire business continuum. I wonder how much longer some of these businesses withstand this nonexistence of capital? And how can these bankers sit there so smugly as the small businesses decay?

As we all know, small business create most jobs, while large businesses shed jobs. The fact that the small business lacks any and all support in the form of capital (as the banks continue to defensively shore up their reserves instead of lending the money as their charters and purposes suppose while they strangle business owners - and I probably am speaking for many of the mid-sized businesses in this country also, as they too are impacted by much of the receivables owed to them by the small businesses - again, the ripple effect throughout the economy, but I digress).

And I live in a part of the country with one of the stronger economies. I can only imagine how those cities of post-industrial decay located eastward fare. I hate to be a doomsayer, but I think the real tough times are still ahead for this country and its economic and social stability and viability.

But I do feel grateful for the opportunities bestowed upon me in this life and by my ability to escape from my scrapes relatively unscathed. But sitting here in a coffee shop whittling away at 6:29 on a Monday night - doing just about the best I can do, as well as a sweet 1979 Spectrum show from Philly - the golden years, and I really need little more.

I wonder of The Spectrum is still standing? I was there once. Fall '88.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Holiday

This picture was taken last summer of a park sort of close by.

So I failed to send out Christmas cards this year - probably the first year in many that I did not do this. Oh well. Instead, I will try to phone everyone that sent me one, and then some.

Spending a weekend indoors, tinkering around on my '72 VW camper, reading, eating, sleeping, drinking coffee, getting caught up on work, napping,... it was a relaxing weekend. In a few weeks I head to The Keys for a few days, but until then I hope to do little but work and relax and starve myself of Vitamin D.

But tonight I biked down to the Firechouse Cafe in Fairhaven to see a friend's performance of music and storytelling called Ladders to the Moon. It's great to have these things in Bellingham, and I was surprised to see so many people in attendance (standing room only).

A wet dog returning in from outside and the rain dappled windows mean the drizzle has returned, which is quite refreshing.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Clean

Here is the bridge and creek right next to the post office in town. A picture obviously not taken today, although I recall something called the sun; just wait until the deep throes of winter - still ahead - and Solstice has not even hit yet (although I was invited to a celebration on Monday at a friend's house).

Some days when I am at peace, I walk along this trail. Most days however, like today, I biked to the post office and then to the bank, and forget about this gem nestled in the bosom of Bellingham.

Another winter day where much was planned, but some extensive cleaning took place, especially in the kitchen. It was never that messy, but sometimes you need to get the toothbrushes, Brillos and Comet out. Having a clean house always makes me feel a bit better.

And a Ry Cooder CD, I, Flathead, keeps getting played again and again on my CD player. Another musical door I've opened on a fluke: There's a cute librarian that I see all around town and I whimsically grabbed this CD so I could check it out and talk to her. A great choice.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Fuel

Yesterday I was able to travel to many points south and once again realize how lucky I am to return back to Bellingham to my 1928 coal miner's house. Renton, Tukwila, Kent, Auburn, Seattle,... in my trusty little pick-up with my laptop by my side with Mapquest guiding me over hill and dale.

After a general day of stressful traversing King County, I headed north on the interstate and jumped off at Everett at a fueling depot. Staring up at the soulless concrete bridge of US2 high above - starting here and heading all the way across the country (much of this route I've traveled in Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, New York and Minnesota). Another guy pulled up in a panel van - he was heading south and I was heading north. A friendly exchange of words and I was on my way.

I guess people as a whole are wonderful and warm. It's too bad we live in such a fear driven society. My day's dénouement at a CFN in Everett.

And weather wise it was a typical Pacific Northwest day, with only only one cloud in the sky: It stretched from Kelso to Ketchikan.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Radio

I try to listen to the US morning radio, but have become increasingly dismayed. It's usually the same sequence: A few vague news stories, advertisements, menial opinionated banter, weather, repeat every fifteen minutes (including the same exact news stories). Yes, I am speaking of the local AM station KGMI. And I am lucky that I don't need suffer through the screaming pundits that seem to take up bandwith throughout the day. I find KGMI painful to listen to, even though its homey feel is quaint for a small town like Bellingham.

My father worked in radio for virtually all of his life, and we frequently lament this dismal and further declining state of radio in this country. He's been a radio broadcaster for most of his life, and although he still does in on and off part-time, it's all computer driven and pre-programmed, so there's no reference to real work events, since it will be broadcast at a future date. But that's another story.

So instead, I find myself tuning to a much higher caliber of radio from our northern neighbors, which includes CBC Radio 1. This is a slightly better quality of programming and more varied than, say, NPR. And more objective too (although I've grown away from NPR as a news source). So I find myself more abreast of Vancouver's news than Bellingham's or Seattle's (did you know that Vancouver's apartment vacancy rates increased to 2% this year versus .5% in October of last year?), even though we're much closer to Vancouver than Seattle.

And since I don't watch the television, I find my nights spent reading and relaxing to CBC Radio 2, which is a pretty mellow station with music that is very fresh and varied. And good to wind down the night with.

But not to bash all US stations, there is of course the lower end of the dial where the gems like KPLU and KUGS reside. And WWOZ in New Orleans but that's far, far away.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Cold Rain and Snow

Caleb Bowe said they "thought we would do something different this year," when he and his girl friend Melissa Escareno-Sanchez built an upside down snowman in Blaine Sunday , Dec. 13, 2009.–Philip A. Dwyer|staff photo]

One time when I was working as a yacht broker (hardly a glamorous job in Bellingham unless you've made lots of money somewhere else) I met a Norwegian couple up in Blaine to look at a steel forty-something foot Angelo Lavranos that had seen better days. (But that's another story.)

They chuckled when they found that the cafe was closing early because of the weather. The weather that winter day a few years back was similar to yesterday's: a thin layer of snow that instantly created a sheet of ice on every roadway surface, including the interstate. Cars were strewn about - a common site being the SUV with BC plates in the median or ditches. But coming from a country where everyone has health care probably makes them more prone to take chances; or they're just worse drivers.

But I guess my point is that the roads really do get treacherous up here in this corner of the world for the relatively little amount of snow that falls, and I've live in the Poconos (and other parts of Appalachia) and Sierras where much more snow fell with less treacherous conditions. Fortunately the temp will continue to rise, as the welcomed beads of rain coat the window tonight.

It was a day from hell today, so I am glad that I can write here and reflect upon the things in life that bring things into perspective. Now if only this stressed- and self-induced work related headache would go away.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Customs

So today was a drive in the treacherous NW ice on I-5 up to the border to find out some information about crossing into Canada with some equipment to do work in Point Roberts. After visiting the border today and yesterday, my cursory assessment is that the Canadian side of the border should be adequately prepared for the incoming Olympics traffic where thousands upon thousands will flock into Vancouver in two months. Unfortunately, the US side had (although what appeared to be fully staffed) lengthy lines and long waits for what seemed like a typical Saturday.

I hope people that stay stateside for the Olympics don't expect to be whisked through customs unless there are some surprises by the US border officials. I've waited for hours to cross into the US on an average Saturday, so it wouldn't surprise me of the waits exceed three or four hours to return into the U.S. A much wiser choice would be to stay in BC, although many murmurs can be heard here about how tourists will fall in love with Bellingham and its everpresent low cloud cover, drizzle and darkness beginning to fall at three p.m., and decide to move here en masse, only to stay for a few winters and sell their house at a sizable loss (once the next wave of recasts and resets hit) to move back to warmer, sunnier climes.

I'm not really a fan of the Olympics, so it is really a non-event for me. It stinks of more corporate subsidies burdened by taxpayers, and not really a whole lot of benefit to the community. But I am sure that a handful of well-heeled Vancouver businesspersons stand to profit handsomely from these games.

Time to take a nap. A fun, fun party last night followed by too little sleep.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Escape

Behind my house is a business where one of the chickens - I think Gracie (I still don't know their friggin names, all I know is the bigger one lays her daily egg in the morning and the smaller one lays around eleven) escaped to yesterday. But one of the workers chased her from their yard and fortunately I was out back and he let me know she flew the coop (which is a first for either and I hope not an evolving trend). We talked for a bit about chickens, and although he didn't have any, he grew up with them.

I need to add some fencing to the top of my wooden fence. Someone told me that where chickens can discern the top of a perch (like my wooden fence five feet up) and that they will fly to it, whereas something like chicken wire is much more effective as there is no defined top to it. So basically, the two feet of chicken wire works much better than the five feet of wooden fencing for the chickens in my yard.

The picture was taken an hour ago. The clouds have returned to Bellingham, and it must've been above freezing yesterday, as there was no ice on the chickens' water.

Looks like Tahoe is getting pounded as we speak. After living there for two ski seasons, a four foot dump was not uncommon.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Clouds

So for some odd reason I chose to bike to my morning meeting versus drive. I guess not so odd - given adequate slep the night before, I would much rather be cycling versus trapped in a car, even at 6:45am in the dawning day of a crisp December morning.

But the clouds rolled in bringing its cloak of cover that will retain the heat of the Puget Sound and push the temperatures back into the forties. And rain too. But I am indifferent to the rain. It's either rain and warm or sunny and cold, and increasingly I prefer the former.

This picture was taken last summer as the sunning was dipping low in the sky. Not much more to say, other than a friend dropped by to watch the new Johnny Depp movie with us. A good day, and a fun weekend lies ahead.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Cold

A cold day by Bellingham standards, and I look forward to the clouds and forty degree weather returning. The cloud cover acts as sort of a blanket to keep the heat trapped, so you take the good with the bad: Clouds and drizzle mean a more temperate climate. But since I am always cold in the winter here (in my woefully underinsulated 1928 coal miner's home), so I accept this discomfort and seek out warmer places like coffee shops or my less drafty office or bedroom. Tonight was my weekly work at the food bank, which is always a welcomed festive time.

But with the temperature in the twenties for much of the day, the chickens seemed to fare well. For them, it's another day and they seemed to not be bothered by this chilly weather at all.

But lethargy sets in at this time of year, and I think the warm bed beckons at 9:30pm. I look forward to the returning rain - hopefully this weekend.

The picture above was taken from Mt. Constitution on Orcas Island the summer before last.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Mountains

Today was cold by West Coast standards. But when it's cold in Washington, it's usually clear also. So I was glad to point my little pick-up north on I-5, drink lots of coffee, and return to Bellingham. But the vista of the surrounding mountains were amazing and I was able to see Mount Adams, Mount Hood, Mount Saint Helens, Mount Ranier, Mount Glacier and Mount Olympus in all their grandeur on my drive home.

The drive up the highway took me through all sorts of interesting and bland interstate towns in Western Washington, behind kind enough to name the land after the Indians from whom we stole it: Seattle, Snohomish, Tacoma, ...

I'm glad to be home in chilly Bellingham. And this cold spell should snap and moist temperature climates returning soon.

I also saw the huge caravan of police vehices stretching the entire secondary road from Puyallup all the way to its terminus at the Tacoma Dome. The memorial service was a moving site to experience for the four befallen officers, even though Mount Ranier to the east and its beauty distracted me. An interestng day and glad to be back sitting in a coffee house on Railroad Avenue.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Portland

So I haven't been to a trade show for quite some time, and this week I am exhibiting with my company on Jantzen Beach. Funny thing is, all these trade shows have the same feel, even though the content is entirely different. But attending this show is good exposure, and excepting my continued absence of any semblance of sound sleep that goes hand-in-hand with building a company, it's been enjoyable.

I wish I could say that I enjoy Portland, but I really miss Bellingham very shortly after I leave there. Yeah Portland is nice and hip and has a great vibe to it, but it's not unlike the many cities that I've visited all over the US. The part we went out in (the NE quarter) on Saturday reminded me of Ohio City in Cleveland, although my Portlander colleagues seem to receive that comment disdainfully. Clean, friendly, mountains and trees - a typical PNW city.

Maybe I need time to warm up to it, similar to the time it took me to appreciate (albeit, not entirely...yet) Seattle. Right now though, it's a place I get to leave in exactly twenty-four hours to return to Bellingham. And there's nothing wrong with that.

Cold, cold, cold today. Temp in the twenties.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Funk

Last night I was only going to stay out until midnight. First dinner at Jalapenos, then to a gallery for the art walk. Then home for a night which easily could have been getting tio bed around ten. But that was the time I was to meet friends out a the Wild Buffalo, although I only was going to stay out until midnight. Well until midnight came around, then it turned into hearing a fabulous band - Five Alarm Funk - play into the wee hours of the morning. A night where town was full of people and the (cold) weather didn't seem to keep many at home.

This morning I need to shove off to Portland for a trade show on Monday and Tuesday, although I could easily spend it here n Bellingham doing stuff around the house and relaxing. But once I'm on the road, I am sure it will be enjoyable driving the 250 miles to Oregon on I-5.

I've made many cross country trips and other long journeys by car in my day, but after not owning a car for a few years, I find driving to have lost its luster. And besides, crowded highways full of angry people in rush to get nowhere as fast as possible is not very enticing. But traveling the grey ribbon of open road is, and I haven't been south of Tacoma in almost a year.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Death

Well I won't show any pictures, but I've resorted to the springy-type mouse traps that cause a pretty effective means of ending its cohabitation of my home. And it makes me sad that these gentle, docile creatures can be a nuisance. But death don't have no mercy.

It's funny how humans beings are the only species that has a notion and attempted postponement of death (for the most part). Death is usually painful, and any organism avoids pain. But the concept of death and dying is beyond their psychological grasp, the fear the drives the species to avoid conflict is thus self preserving.

At any rate, it is silly that I instill human qualities and levels of intelligence upon these modest mice. We love them as pets, we hate them as vermin, and they are no longer welcome in my home. And all they wanted was to share a warm place inside. Life is fragile, and I am glad that I'm much closer to the top oof the food change as opposed to my little fallen nemeses (five so far, I believe). And I swear I tried the route of the humane trap, but it proved futile.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Gangs

I can follow who searches this web log using certain words and phrases. Over the last two days, all the searches bringing people to this site were for seeking information on gangs. For a brief while, my career included working as a senior marketing executive (ie, moonlighting as a convenience store clerk in Happy Valley) and an older woman used to come in and tell me how "the gangs" moved into her neighborhood nearby, when all I really got from her story was a few black people moved in from LA and frequently used foul language and played really loud music.

I am sure that gangs exist, although I am out and about all the time in town (including the last few days walking Magilla) and I've never felt threatened anything like I'd experienced in numerous situations back east.

But enough of that.

This morning on my bike at 8:30 riding down my street - the deep blue sky and sun and dry air from the north felt just like a Lake Tahoe day. The only difference being that in Lake Tahoe it's that way pretty much every day of the winter - unless, of course, a front blows through and dumps three inches an hour for two days straight on the Sierra Nevadas - but with the altitude and arid air holding a much, much deeper blue.

And tonight a beautiful full moon (as I write this at 12:20am it is 100% full) and a ride into town to drop off the movie turned into a ride up Holly to Broadway and I really didn't want to come in (akin to the days of yore when a fresh snow had fallen and it was a school night but the sledding was so good and you prayed that you wouldn't have school anyway in the morning) but things needed to be done (like writing aimlessly here) and now it's time to sleep.

I regularly get eight-plus hours of sleep per night these days (except for yesterday), and it's nice to never really be tired. I think it's been quite some time since I yawned, but I really don't think that I'm too cognizant of my yawning tendencies anyway.

Sleepless

When one starts their own business - unless supported by generational wealth or others with deep pockets - you invariably hear about the sleepless nights. Last night was one such night. Well not entirely true: I recall losing touch with the conscious world around 3:15am and waking up at 7:50am.

Business matters are usually the last thing on my mind when I finally find sleep; these thoughts quickly return to my mind's forefront when I awaken in the morning. And the stress I experience fortunately cycles through and I think I've become hardened with the onslaught of the waves of challenges with which I am faced.

"Breakers crash on the beach
I count them like lambs in my sleep
They come at me steady
They know I'm not ready
They pound on my mattress door
Have they got a big one in store."
- Neil Young

But fortunately I have rekindled my old friendship with William Faulkner. And his writing sweeps me away to a long forgotten place and time in Jefferson, Mississippi. Oddly enough, I cannot read his complex writing style unless I am relaxed and unencumbered by the externalities and complexities of life. I sought his writing as a refuge in life's maelstrom as I enter middle age and a new entrepreneurial pursuit. I need to withdraw from life, and reading of a bygone era in simpler times in Yoknapatawpha County. Am I relaxed and unencumbered? Or losing my mind? Either way, it's fun.

And writing here on this web log helps too. As does a 1973 Denver Coliseum show.

It's gonna be alright.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Consume

So "The Economy" in this country is generally measured by the Gross Domestic Product. And roughly 70% of the economy is driven by retail sales. I heard this morning on KGMI that one fifth of all retail sales are generated on Black Friday (an even I fortunately missed). And although all consumption is not solely retail sales, spending on retail goods plays a pick part in the composition of consumption.

I heard that the anticipated results of this year's numbers point to a 1/2% increase in retail sales, year-over-year. I guess this is good from a capitalist standpoint (the GDP needs to increase yearly in perpetuity), I find it surprising that these numbers do not fare better, as the United States becomes more of a service economy. Production, by definition, includes producing, designing, marketing, distribution of a good; everything else tends to fall into the Consumption bucket.

So my musings on a Sunday morning evoke these thoughts:
- As the production base continues to erode in this country, more and more of the economy will be based upon consumption versus production.
- Production jobs (ie, trades) historically have paid significantly higher than service jobs, hence the conitnued decline in wages and the consequent taxes.
- Sickness, natural disasters, litigation, inflation, etc. all drive the GDP. Is this a healthy metric for our country as a whole?

These are all things I can ponder (as I see a patch of blus sky) this afternoon as I do some chores around the house and garage.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Saturday

Here is a picture taken nearby, although I do not recall when.

Another wonderful day to sleep in, read all day, with the single task of the day being to get to the library to swap Annie Proulx novels (this new one being Accordion Crimes, although I lost energy on the first page and instead started the last of Faulkner's writings set in Yoknapatawpha County that I've not yet raed).

And I randomly picked up a movie that might quite make it to my "list of most depressing movies ever": Before the Devil Knows You're Dead - a movie that I picked up because Ethan Hawke is in it. To this list I might add Requiem for a Dream (watched last night), Midnight Cowboy (although it ends with a glimmer of hope) and Deer Hunter, About Schmidt, or The Ice Storm. I've been compiling a list of depressing moview lately, although I know not why.

Yesterday was clear and the darkness came at 4:30pm. Today it seemed to be pitch black at that time. Funny how much of a difference cloud cover makes. It can be quite relaxing to spend a day on the couch with a good book or two, strong coffee, and a warm, happy dog at your feet.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Thanks

It's been a few days since I've written. And that's alright by me. Yesterday was a perfect day: Wake up, lay on the couch with the dog at my feet, drinking coffee, nap here and there. A bike ride down to the water filled a chunk of the afternoon, where I talked to my sister in Pittsburgh for quite some time as the sun peeked in and out of the clouds very intermittently. A wonderful meal was prepared, which was accompanied by the playing of Alice's Restaurant.

Other than work, so much hasn't been going on in my little world. I don't know how glamorously I can portray the drive down to Seattle. Once you hit the Skagit flats, it generally turns into an increasingly congested and uneventful trip. But I'm sort of spoiled being able to bike most places and not being confined to a car. How unhealthy.

So my housemate went down to Texas, and it's me and Magilla for the weekend. Fortunately I stumbled upon another Annie Proulx book from the library. She's like the Flannery O'Conner of the High Plains, and once I pick up one of her books, it is virtually impossible to put down.

But in the spirit of the holiday, I am very lucky to have my health, wit, family, wonderful friends and community, food in the cupboard, money in the bank, and a roof over my head. And ugly dog that just got taken for a walk.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Coffee

A day whence the stresses of starting a company in trying economic times can be maddening, it is always nice to encounter the cute, cheerful girl at my favorite coffee stand in Alger and to have the brief incident change my day or the better. These are the days that I cannot have enough warm coffee. And familiar smiles too. Moist, chilly, dark. Night begins to fall at four o'clock, and we're still a month away from the Winter Solstice.

On another note: I need to set my monthly Yahoo calendar to remind me to take out the garbage. I pay to have one big can emptied per month. The rest of the weeks the recycling can be picked up for free. Most months, I don't even fill the can up either. But I guess I don't really buy a whole lot.

Although I find communities that don't recycle appalling, recycling really isn't the answer in my opinion. Reducing one's level of consumption is. And living in a city where the mean wage is eighteen bucks an hour, you set your wants/needs bar pretty low, and realize that you don't need a whole lot of stuff. Good quality, and less of it. And oddly enough, I find living with less to be more fulfilling. I wonder if I will feel the same way once my business and its earnings mature.

I stumbled across this picture of the summer that I took last summer, and set as my wallpaper today.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Dock

I really wanted to take my camera today on my sojourn around town, but forgot it and regretted it, so I took this picture form here, taken last month. It was a day of not doing much: visiting some friends, riding down to Fairhaven, spending time sitting on a bench on the boardwalk (above) doing absolutely nothing but watching the world go by. I need more days like today to recharge.

Clouds today, rain and wind tonight.

On another note...
One of the searches that I consistently see that brings people to this blog is for people searching on Bellingham gangs. Now I'm sure there are a few gang members in this town, but I haven't really seen anything exhibiting any great presence here. I knew people in places like Happy Valley or Alabama Hill that talked about a house where gang members lived, but not a whole lot more.

Yeah, drugs seem to be preent here due to being a border town and being so close to BC. But there's virtually no violence in this town and it seems that compared to the first-hand accounts of what I hear in place like California, it's really a non-event up here. Maybe the gangs too are more mellow in Bellingham. So unless they are gangs of benevolence, their dealings in drugs, weapons and violence (am I missing anything?) seem to be either insignificant or effectively beneath the radar.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Mist

I searched for some pictures on Bellingham Mist and this is what came up. It's from a local photographer, Peter James, a very nice person whom I've met a few times and I believe has a studio right down the ay from where I am writing tonight - The Anker Cafe on Cornwall next to the Pickford.

But this morning I was faced with a dilemma: ride or drive. I go to a breakfast meeting on Thursday, which entails leaving my house at 6:45am in the near darkness. Add to that the rain, wind and cold, and the warmth of a vehicle can be rather enticing. But this morning I opted for the bike, which surprised even me on this early, damp dawn. And I appreciated that the rest of the day, even though I was able to get out and run errands a few more times into the afternoon in the increasing southerlies, anticipated to subside over the next day. Thankfully.

Might head to the Nightlight (no cover) to see a friend's band open up for a bigger act. I should run becuase I'm sure they've gone on already...

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Florida

I find that it's rejuvenating to seek sunshine some time in the thick of winter. This year I scored a flight to Fort Lauderdale to around two hundred bucks and arranged to stay with a friend who needs some work on a condo that he is renting (the past tenant just moved out). So I work by day and find some time to lay on a beach and then have fun all night. And build up my Vitamin D stores. And hopefully relax, although my computer and wireless card will probably never be too far away.

But today is another day spent at the desk. Versus yesterday, which was spent up and down I-5. And tonight a pot luck - meeting a new group of people, which is always fun. Not much more going on here. The wind is picking up again. It smells like snow, and today was the first day I needed to wear gloves out and about on my bike. I guess winter is here.

The picture was taken a few weeks ago heading towards town by the library.

Monday, November 16, 2009

More Wind

DANIEL JOHNSON | THE BELLINGHAM HERALD

Christal Taylor of Bellingham struggled with her kite at Little Squalicum Beach on Bellingham Bay, Sunday afternoon, Nov. 15, 2009. Taylor came out to enjoy the rough weather at the beach with her boyfriend, Wyatt Winston, of Bellingham and dog, Aspen. The National Weather Service has issued a high wind warning for western Whatcom County until Tuesday, Nov. 17, afternoon.

I frequently take pictures from The Herald to post here. Their photographers frequently capture essence and moment of the Bellingham experience. So now that I have the ability to drive more in Bellingham, I find the bad weather much less burdensome. But yet I am clamoring to get outside in the rain, as was lucky enough to run some errands around town in the steady rain. Most times riding one gets moist from the incessant drizzle and you arrive at your destination with damp khakis; today it rained hard and warranted the full rain suit.

But the drive up through the Alger Pass (that's what I call it) was again magical where the mountains touch the sky and disappear into the clouds and this aura enshrouds the towering lush conifers. Although wet, windy, cloudy and dark by four in the afternoon, it was a beautiful day.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Weekend

The grand opening of the Whatcom Museum Lightcatcher Building Saturday, Nov. 14, 2009, in Bellingham.–|PHILIP A. DWYER | THE BELLINGHAM HERALD

This weekend was a great one to do little. The list of house chores grows shorter overall after this weekend (although I did need to add "fix broken storm window" to the list - but that's another story). I helped a friend move this morning and spent a blustery afternoon in the yard. The wind continues to blow hard on a Sunday evening, with the current speed of 27mph from the top of the Bellingham Cold Storage roof. Not too bad, I guess. Seems like more.

Tomorrow begins another work week. It is the first time in a long time that I have been able to take a day or two to not be enmeshed by work. We launched a business a few months back and it is finally gaining traction and will (thankfully) not continue to be the cause of inordinate stress in my life. But it's still the predominant thought in my mind, but fortunately the headaches are going away.

So hopefully more exciting things lie ahead. Hopefully I'll report on the progress of the VW Weekender. A little progress is being made on that front. Working on the interior now, and a carburetor rebuild is not too far off. I should see if I can get it running before we take the transaxle out of it (that's one of the reasons I got such a deal on it). Another day...

Friday, November 13, 2009

Hens

The chickens have turned out to be a real treat. And they are young and producing a fine clutch of eggs. I was told that this will diminish over time, but that's fine. We'll add two more next year. Tomorrow is a tour of chicken coops and I happened to get my house listed on the tour. And I'll probably join some people to catch a ride to the others located around Bellingham.

Not much more than that happening here. A cold front blew through and it's time to get the gloves out. And put the storm windows on. And those little pieces of wood that cover the crawl space vents. The joy of home ownership. But at least having a small home is quite manageable. And as I've said before, the quality of a coal miner's house built in 1928 from old-growht cedar will probably outlast anything built today.

Those are my musings from the coffee house across from the farmers' market on a drizzly Friday night. Tomorrow is the night to go out; tonight is scary movie night.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

War

Too much education makes one too liberal minded. So does living in the Pacific Northwest. So does the juxtaposition of working in the corporate world and then foregoing the riches in an effort to achieve a higher caliber of quality of life, versus the endless pursuit of 'stuff.' But I digress.

I have always felt that the US was in a downward spiral with its increasing military overstretch around the world to the benefit of the private sector. Not only is this country in an unwinnable war, but the cost is staggaring and retarding any real growth in this alleged economic rebound as we continue to pour money into a highly into a mono-/oligopolistic industry that is not driven by market forces at all.

Here is an interesting link that drives that point home: The United States, while it continues to pour money into a highly inefficient industry the benefits few, will never see the economic resurgence versus if that same money were spent here on domestic programs, such as education, health care or our much needed infrastructure improvements.

Our country crumbles, as we continue to throw money into this futile campaign in the Middle East. And I won't even go into the bank bailouts - "the collapse of our society if we don't bail them out" sounding eerily familiar to the "muchroom cloud over Manhattan" if we didn't intervene in the Iraqi affairs. What a mess. I wish I felt the world was a safer place after the trillions spent since 2001. But I don't.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Eggs

So the chickens continue to lay eggs at a rate of roughly one a day each. I was told that chickens, like women, are born with a finite number of eggs, and that hens (I am not really sure about women) will lay eggs less frequently over time, although they do get bigger.

Here is my housemate displaying one of the daily treats.

I've been told the Rhode Island Reds are a pleasant personable (can a bird really be personable - ie, have the favorable attributes of a person?) bird and love to be petted. I think I will add more next spring. Maybe two or three more.

A long day down in Kent and Anacortes. Fortunately I drove down with a business colleague, which was a nice change and plus, he's a nice guy. There is an army of us worker bees out any about in the world driving in white Ranger pickups keeping the gears of capitalism grinding along (in spite of all the efforts of our taxpayer subsidized corporate banking system to crush small business, but that's another rant). I've never been aware of all the tradespeople out and about. And now I am one. I think. And I never knew how many people drove white, stripped, fleet pickups until I started driving one.

We are everywhere.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Speed

Another Monday. And a day to drive down to Anacortes. I have grown into a driver that takes in all the scenery and doesn't understand why everyone is in such a rush driving up and down I-5. Today was one such magical day when the evergreen cloaked foothills were enshrouded in a smattering of clouds.

Don't get me wrong. I wasn't always a slow poke on the road. I remember in the eighties making the drive down to Philly on the PA Turnpike's Northeast Extension from Clarks Summit. My friend estimated our speed at around 130 miles per hour. I thought that was a bit high, but now that I think of it, we regularly made the 108-mile leg in under an hour. And still had time to pull off for a few minutes and each smoke a Chesterfield King around the Mahoning Valley exit.

But now I am still soaking all the wonderful vistas on the short jaunt down to the Skagit Valley. Tomorrow is down to south of Seattle. It looks like that will hopefully be the extent of my driving for the week. Having a car is certainly convenient, but I miss being out in the elements of Cascadia.

The picture is from somewhere off the Redwood Highway (I think that's what it's called) from I-5 towards the coast on my housemate's recent trek home.

And to think it's been twenty years since the Berlin Wall fell. Tempus fugit.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Northwest

video
Here is a short video of nothing really. But when you haven't had a car for two years, driving and other mundane tasks can be rather enjoyable. Fortunately, I haven't gotten into the habit of driving all over yet. The bike is still my primary means of transportation. This is a video taken driving down Northwest Avenue through the Birchwood neighborhood. A typical day in Bellingham: clouds, dizzle, rain, heavy rain, wind, rain, clouds, and then the sun peeks through and a striking sunset ends the day.

But yesterday I needed to go to the dump us in Ferndale in an effort to free up space in my garage. That was a big step. The next will be to get rid of the myriad chemicals and fertilizers that the previous owners left in the garage.

That's about the extent of the excitement this weekend so far. Today will be a day of visiting friends over in Birchwod and later work at the coffee shop. Tonight I hope to see Southern Culture on the Skids at the Nightlight. A Sunday night is always a fun time to go out. And tickets are only twelve bucks. And I've wanted to see this band for years. Looking forward to it big time. It's nice to live between two world-class cities - far enough away that you escape the constant maddening rush of the urbanites, but well placed to see these acts that are traveling between these two point. (Actually, SCOTS is heading back to Virginia after this show, although they did play Seattle the last two nights and Portland before that.)

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Wind & Fire

Today I awoke to the sound of helicopters outside my window. It turns out that a school built in 1903 caught fire around one o'clock a.m. and burned through the night. It was only about ten blocks from my house and roughly 600 students attended middle school there.

I haven't heard yet for certain, but it was said that there were welders on the roof until late in the evening. Imagine being one of those works and the feeling of waking up this morning hearing of the news and thinking "holy shit, I forgot to turn the _________ off last night before I left the job site." And the worst of my concerns right now is making payroll for my emerging company next Monday that recently hired a few more guys. But I'm the east coast finance guy, so I am naturally conditioned to be stressed. Fortunately, I've set some benchmarks for this company and will convince myself to relax and mellow out once this company is on a steady course and even keel.

Geez, it's Thursday night at 6:50pm and the gusting wind is hardly beckoning me outside. But I do feel compelled to ride around in the blowing drizzle. Or maybe just relax tonight and listen to the rhodedendron branches rubbing and rain pattering against the windows. A good night to stay in and listen to some James Taylor. Or go brave the weather and rent a movie.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Food

"I like how everyone is commenting on it, says Grady Hewlett, 11, as he parades around Fairhaven collecting candy Saturday October 31, 2009 in Bellingham.–|ANDY BRONSON | THE BELLINGHAM HERALD

A day of getting caught up and being anchored to my desk all day. Somehow I've grown to like the ring of being called a business owner here in Bellingham. But so far, things are shaping up on the business front and I really don't have a whole lot to say tonight.

All during the day I think of things to write and by the time the evening rolls around, my mind draws a blank. The time change is taking its toll, and my effort is to get more sleep throughout the winter as the sun starts to sets around 4:30 and by seven you're thinking it's time for bed. But keeping active in the winter helps, and Wednesdays is the night to volunteer at the food bank. Geeze, this will be my fourth year working there. And it's always plenty of fun and I look forward to helping out a few hours a week. Fortunately, the community offers plenty of support for this wonderful place.

And besides, it's one of the few consistent things in my week and offers an anchor for the rest of my tumutuous life.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Train

How odd that I was driving down the interstate and I saw this rail car on a trailer at the truck scales around Exit 212 and I thought of these train cars down in Fairhaven and wished that someday someone could make a viable business out of these relics. It looks like it won't be in Bellingham though, as they are headed somewhere south of Stanwood.

One of the neatest things to do in this town (although I rarely do) is to walk the alleys and see the underside of people's lives by the things they have out by their garages. Many, many VWs can be found in the alleys, and it still amazes me how many I still see up and down the highway running in solid shape. A guest Saturday and Sunday and another last night. Time to relax and get my desk cleaned off. But as is indicated by my writing presently, procrastinion prevails.

A cloudy, moist day. And a Grateful Dead concert from a few decades back that I am pretty sure I attended will hopefully help lead me to a productive morning. Tuesdays are great, as I get to settle into the work week. Hopefully no further distractions will ensue.

Across the Rio Grand-eo
Across the lazy river
Across the Rio Grand-eo
Across the lazy river...

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Halloween 2

"Well, I used to be a woman, you know
I took you for a ride,
I let you fly my airplane
It looked good for your pride."
-Neil Young, Last Trip to Tulsa

The craziness of Bellingham never ceases to amaze me. Last night's Halloween happened to coincide with a Saturday night which meant thousands and thousands of people in costume out and about. Bellingham's downtown is rather compact, so the main night clubs are no more than a five minute walk.

So it was a night of revelry and excitement and I was lucky to have danced with every hot woman at the Wild Buffalo last night. Not to mention the nubile sprite the flew into my little world and we danced and danced and then she kissed me passionately and flew off into the night, vanishing as quickly and magically as she appeared. (I had to come clean with her and tell her I was was really a man. She giggled and said, "I knew.") Was she ever there at all? Or just a dream?

The night was surreal and magical, even more so than Bellingham typically seems to be.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Halloween

After not participating in the antics of Halloween for, say, the last wenty years or so, last year seemed to be a good opportunity to re-enter into this night of craziness and debaucherous behavior in Bellingham. Considering the relatively small size of Bellingham, it was heartening to see the sheer numbers of crazies out and about in full regalia.

So the weather - 60% chance of showrs and the temperature in the mid fifites (It'll take that) - looks promising for tomorrow night. I have much of my costiume put together, which entails dressing in drag. Now I've never dressed as a women before, so maybe it will be interesting to walk a mile in their shoes. But actually, I could't find a pair of 10.5 women's shoes, so that is the one thing I'll need to forego.

I like the line from the Frank and Ernest cartoon: "Ginger Rogers did everything Fred Astaire did, backwards... and in high heels."

But the women at the wig shop said I could get away cross dressing with my body. I do not know if that was a personal affront or an underhanded compliment. At any rate, the notion of dressing in drag is somewhat awkward to me, but hey, it's only Halloween in Bellingham once a year.

Here is the video to the Trhiller dance they did last year. Something like this will probably happen again this year, as I saw dancer practicing last week across from Boundary Bay in the parking lot are where the farmers market is held. Should be fun.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Business

Here's a picture taken from Western's campus looking towards the north. I stole it from this web site. I hope they don't mind. I'll try to get some pictures soon, but the days are busy and the night falls quickly so far north in the fall. Still, a beautiful time to be out and about in Bellingham.

On a business note, it's been interesting trying to launch a business in these trying times when capital is virtually non-existent for the small business owner. I've mentioned it in the past, but the smaller companies are the ones that create jobs in this economy, while the larger companies are those continuing to shed workers. This will not bode well for the society as a whole, as more and more candidates apply for less and less jobs. That is one of the reasons we've seen a steady erosion of real wages over the past few decades. I read the the number of jobs shed by the companies comprising the S&P500 offset any real job growth by small business (15m lost versus 16m created since 1990).

But we've doubled our headcount since we launched our company and have fortunately had access to creative financing. Unfortunately, the average person unlikely will have to ability to acquire any of the capital to start a small business, furthering the slide of the US standard of living as fewer jobs emerge. At least the banks are doing quite well thanks to our subsidies. We, as Americans, will need to get used to earning less and doing with less.

I am fortunate to have the luck and fortitude to have remained ahead of the curve for most of my life, even in my slacker days. I feel sorry for the millions and millions of Americans that are getting pushed into the lower class as the middle class gets squeezed. I heard recently how the top one percent controls more wealth than the bottom ninety percent. Not a big surprise. And yet we - the dumb-assed Americans - plug into CNN and FOX and believe every word we spoon fed. I wonder when the pain will become so great for the average American that they demand change from our crippled political system? Is it too late?

The United States that I grew up to know and love is no longer. Or maybe it's always been broken, but I've just grown more aware.

Back to the salt mines. Today we are buying more equipment and hiring another employee. I wonder how many worker bees will lose their jobs today in our heavily subsidized financial sector while the mom & pops languish?

Monday, October 26, 2009

Monday

"When the winter rains
come pourin' down
On that new home of mine,
Will you think of me
and wonder if I'm fine?
Will your restless heart
come back to mine
On a journey thru the past.
Will I still be in your eyes
and on your mind?

Now I'm going back to Canada
On a journey thru the past
And I won't be back
till February comes
I will stay with you
if you'll stay with me,
Said the fiddler to the drum,
And we'll keep good time
on a journey thru the past.

When the winter rains
come pourin' down
On that new home of mine,
Will I still be in your eyes
and on your mind?
Will I still be in your eyes
and on your mind?"
- Neil Young, Journey Through The Past

So I have very rapidly become a person wearing Dickies, Wolverines, Helly Hansen rain jacket and a baseball cap driving a simple white ranger pick-up with greying sideburns in a small bord town on the Puget Sound in Northern Washington. That is what I have become in life. And it's not so bad.

Sometimes I think for a moment "where the hell am I and how did I get here?"The end of the line here in Bellingham.

The trip to Vancouver was tremendous fun, as always. To spend Saturday all dressed up and dancing the night away in some club that was great but not really worth the (two hour) wait to get into. But as always, it is nice to leave that urban tail-chasing lifestyle to return to the mellowness of Bellingham, the City of Subdued Excitement. Time to put the chickens away. I hope the rain stopped. Hail today too.

And to continue my fragmented meander, I found a Stevie Wonder CD that my ex left behind and have been listening to it repeatedly. What talent.