Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Fasten your seat belts

As I write this, my mother has been stuck at the Dallas airport (currently in a plane on the tarmac) for six hours.

The site Flightstats.com is allowing me to monitor the situation as it deteriorates. I've been making periodic phone calls to Zorg as we reconfigure the schedule for picking my mom up this afternoon/evening when her plane arrives at SeaTac.

I have her car, and the original plan was that I would to pick her up and drive her to her condo Edmonds, where Zorg would pick me up in time to drop me at my dance rehearsal in Fremont.

With the plane delayed, it soon became apparent I'd miss the rehearsal, meaning I'd need to attend tomorrow evening's rehearsal, creating a conflict with a dinner I'm supposed to be hosting tomorrow for my mom and some rarely-seen cousins who are in town for the day.

As the flight's departure time inched later, the problem shifted to Zorg having to pick me up late at night in Edmonds, when he needs to get up tomorrow at the crack of dawn for a bike ride. We've now shifted things around so that he'll come home early, we'll take both cars to Edmonds, leave her car there, drive back home, drop him off, and I'll take his car to my dance rehearsal, then rush from the rehearsal down to Sea-Tac to get my poor mother.

The summer is off to great start.

Checking Flightstats.com, I see that the plane is now delayed another 30 minutes, meaning I can take my time on the way down to Sea-Tac after the rehearsal.

My mother, who started traveling at 4 a.m. Seattle time, is going to be berserk. I'll bet she'll have talked American Airlines into giving her a free round-trip ticket; if they're smart, they'll buy her one on a different airline.

Folklife, now tea

It's midnight. I'm sitting at my desk sipping a fabulous cup of Yorkshire Gold tea (amazed that I managed, somehow, to make it 24 hours without a cup of tea) while Zoe eats my last arrowroot biscuit. She missed me during Folklife, and has been bringing me stuffed mice all evening.

I said at the start of Folklife that it was going to be the least dramatic Folklife weekend on record. Since my 24-year record at Folklife includes one divorce, several severe migraines, a lost car, a screaming fight on my lawn at 2 a.m., a couple of bizarre house-guest incidents, and one ghost sighting, that was a pretty ambitious prediction. And, as it turned out, spectacularly wrong: For the first time in Folklife's 27-year history, there was an episode of violence and an arrest.

But, from my personal viewpoint, the prediction was right: No big drama. I did, however, get to introduce quite a few of my favorite people to each other, and encountered several folks from my far, distant past, almost all of whom I was delighted to see.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Chicken feathers and tales of Folklife

"What side of a chicken has more feathers?" Bob McQuillen asked me this morning as the early risers at Folklife milled about the Harrison Street entrance, unloading instruments and gulping coffee. I was working the first greeter shift, and pianist McQuillen, in town from New Hampshire, was already entertaining.

"The north side?" I guessed.

He gave me points for trying, but the answer was: "The outside."

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Folklife weekend

I'm heading off to Folklife tomorrow morning for my 24th year at the festival. I've volunteered all 24 years, performed (with Nonesuch English Country Dance) for a half-dozen years, and was even on the board for a few years in the early '90s.

If you are a visitor to Folklife, three things will amaze:
• The breadth and depth of the performances, particularly the ones on the indoor stages.
• The fact that all the performances (with the exception of one benefit concert) are free.
• All the opportunities to jump in and participate — at the Roadhouse dance hall and the Center House dance venue, and at dozens of small specialty workshops.

As a volunteer, what amazes me year after year is the way the festival runs itself, with the vast majority of the work being done by experienced volunteers. The Folklife staff plans the event in meticulous detail (see photo, above) but when the festival goes live, their work becomes coordination of the volunteers, who are out there emcee-ing the stages, manning the info booths, asking for donations at the entrances, and performing on the stages.

Folklife is an organizational wonder.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Not yer daddy's square dance

The (mostly) Monday night square dance with The Tallboys is back at the Tractor Tavern (which a few of us old timers still think of as The New Melody Tavern). It's a great time, and I heartily encourage you to attend, keeping in mind that it's not quite the way we remember it.

Square dancing to Southern style music has swept through the Seattle folk dance scene periodically since the 1970s, and the Tractor's Monday Night Square Dance is the manifestation of the latest square dance craze.

It's loose, it's fast, and it's very old-timey — no smooth New England quadrille influences here. And it's extremely physical and active, in part because the people doing it are in their 20s and 30s.

Get a taste of this style when The Tallboys play for dancing in the Folklife Roadhouse 9-10 p.m. Friday.

Monday, May 19, 2008

They're grey, not green

Renee's Home and Garden in Bellingham is selling a 10'-high space ship and 10 little grey aliens. Spaceship seats seven — perfect for your next garden party.

You have no idea how tempted I am...

Meditations on cats, present and past

I've been sick with the flu for much of the past week, and spent a lot of time with our cats. Well, perhaps not much more time than usual, but instead of trying to get them to quit pawing at me and meowing to be let in and out and in and out, I paid attention to them.

Though tiny Kaylee still looks and moves like a kitten, she is beginning to show some signs of common sense. She has also recently become a bit more affectionate. Sitting still for more than a few seconds has always been a problem for her, but now she seems to be able to sit on a lap and have her head scratched for a minute or so. Oddly, in view of this, Kaylee is very good companion when I'm sick. If I run a fever, she is on me like glue. We've had cats like this before, that just "take over" when someone is significantly ill, and then wander off to resume an aloof lifestyle as soon as the owner recovers.

Large-tabby Zoe, who is perfect happy throwing her 13 pounds of fur and apparently un-retractable claws directly across my chest and going immediately to sleep, doesn't seem to differentiate between sick owners and healthy ones. They're all nice to sleep on.

Sheba, whose deafness contributes to her feline self-centeredness, didn't seem particularly concerned that I was sick. She snored right through some particularly miserable episodes.

But I noticed that instead of yowling and knocking things off the furniture to wake me up at the usual time, all three of the cats slept in when I did.

As the weather gets warmer, the tabbies are starting to refuse to come in at night. Sometimes one comes in, and in my sleepy and increasingly inept attempts to capture the one out on the patio, I let the captured one of the pair out again and have to start all over.

I was up quite a bit in the middle of the night this week. One night I found myself in the kitchen with the cats (they were hoping for a handout) and glanced out the glass door at the back garden. Suddenly a big fat raccoon ambled up the back stairs onto the little porch and put its nose against the door. Zoe hissed and whined. The raccoon was unimpressed. I walked over to the door, and it remained unimpressed. I think it was looking past me at the cat food bowls in the kitchen. It's probably going to report to its clan that they should try back in the afternoon when I'm out gardening and tend to eave the door open.

The lawn went unmowed much of the week (until Zorg got into gear on Sunday) and the tabbies were hiding in the long grass like lions, and springing out at each other. Sheba, being bright white, has no illusions about being able to hide in greenery.

This led us to think back on poor Socks, a big long-haired tabby we had at the old house in Wallingford. In Wallingford, we lived next to "the house" on the block — you know, the type of run-down, overgrown place with six cars that you'll find on most older North Seattle streets. The owner of the house (actually, the owner's black sheep son) went months, perhaps years, without mowing. The local cats, possums and raccoons (mice? voles?) had created a network of paths through the back yard. When we put a second floor on our house, we gained an aerial view of the feline Ho Chi Minh Trail and amused ourselves picking out the various cats hiding in the foliage.

One afternoon Zorg looked out the window of the upstairs office and panicked. The lawn had been mowed to a stubble, and what appeared to be the dead body of a cat — Socks — was in the middle of it. He grabbed binoculars and saw it truly was Socks. But when he rushed out the back door and into the neighbor's yard, he realized Socks was alive and perfectly fine — at least physically. Socks was laying out there in the sun because he thought he was still hiding; he was too dim to understand the implications of the grass being gone.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

One tough day

Everything today was just a bit tougher than I thought it needed to be.

Recovering from one illness, I got hit with a touch of something else.

It seemed like everyone I tried to lean on for balance (and I rarely do that) was out of town, heading out of town, coming down with something or just wasn't answering the phone.

In short, I had some reality experiences I could have done without.

But I made it through. I delivered proofreading work to a client, gave an adequate training session at Folklife, made tapioca, and got some writing done.

And summer is finally coming. It still feels cool to me, but the cats know. They don't want to come in at night when I call them!

Sunday, May 11, 2008

House guest, entertain thyself!

I'm not wild about out-of-town guests of the tourist variety.

Friends who are in town for business (such as our musician friends) are more my style—they have transportation, agendas, and plenty to do. Plus invites for us to all the best parties.

It's the ones who bounce in to breakfast and chirp brightly "Well, what are we all going to do today?" who strike fear into my heart. My cruise-director skills are...negligible.

So I want to thank the Seattle Times for today's brilliant article listing dozens of inexpensive tours and sights for out-of-town visitors of every age and interest. The article also lists how many hours you can expect to have the guests out of your hair while they are on each tour, for instance:"


They get: To see the harbor, see the sky, see the wildlife swimming by — from Elliott Bay into Lake Union via the Ballard Locks on an Argosy cruise; 206-623-1445 or www.argosycruises.com/publiccruises/locks.cfm.You get: 2.5 hours, more if they're stopped by the feds for a random safety inspection.

Oh, where was this guide when I really needed it 15 years ago?

Friday, May 09, 2008

Is a kitty looking for you?

Purrfect Pals is having their Average Joe Cat Show, which includes adoptions, tomorrow (Saturday) in Shoreline. Details here. This is an agency that goes to great lengths to match cats to your home environment to assure a successful placement.

Sunday, May 04, 2008

What a great day!

I got up this morning, put on gardening clothes, and rushed out to work on the front garden. Zorg went off bicycling. There was plenty of time to wander from task to task, giving the Japanese maple its "Farrah Fawcett" haircut (the layered look) and training a winter groundcover.

After I was sufficiently blissed out, I got out the tools and wrestled with the second of the two nightmarish cast-iron chairs, assembling it with the better-quality hardware I'd purchased after my melt-down with chair #1. So, the chairs are done and there's a place for us to sit out front when you drop by for iced tea this summer.

Zorg returned from his bike ride, and John came over to go to the Puget Soundkeeper Alliance first annual Oyster Roast. I changed clothes, and we headed down to the event at the Golden Gardens bathhouse. The beach was just packed with people.

The oyster event is a nice mix of folks concerned about the local marine environment and folks interested in...oysters. They served oysters, roasted and raw. Actually, the raw oysters were better than raw. They were alive. One of the experts showed us how to shuck a few. I found it helped quite a bit to do the shucking standing up, holding the oyster steady on the table while twisting the knife to pop the shell. There were a few self-inflicted stabbings at our table; we decided that the Tabasco sauce was a good way to treat the damage.

One of the beverages at the feast was the Firesteed Pinot Gris that was such a smash at the oyster event at Anthony's Homeport last year. It's one of the most full-bodied and flavorful white wines I have ever tasted.

Got back from the oyster event with plenty of daylight remaining, so went back to gardening. I edged the lawn with the weed-eater for the first time this year, and a neighbor and his hulking teenage son came over to help me reassemble the concrete bench that had been in the front yard in its new position in the back yard. Then I removed grass to expand the shade garden, and then got to work on the ground cover in what will be the tomato garden. By this time, I was dashing around in the dark. I had dirt in my Keens, dirt in my hair, and grass clippings on my glasses. Wonderful!

I got in around 9 p.m. and now I'm starving. I'd kill for a chocolate cupcake with chocolate frosting. Too bad Verite doesn't deliver.

Saturday, May 03, 2008

Getting surly about name-calling

[NOTE: Names have been changed for reasons that will become obvious.]

I belong to an online group of women who share an interest in the arts and are involved with local arts activities. Discussion is allowed to go off-topic, and it's not uncommon for people to share tips on insurance agents, contractors, and such.

Recently a woman asked for a recommendation for a shoe repair person, and one of the replies referred to a local craftsman as "Surly Bob." The writer went on to vent her unhappiness with his "vibe" and his "shoddy" craftsmanship, which she did not describe in any detail. Several messages later, another woman chimed in describing "Surly Bob's" refusal to take on a repair job that involved a creative idea she'd dreamed up. A third woman later mailed the list to ask for the address of "Surly Bob" so she could "be sure to avoid" him—as if he were roaming the streets, snatching women's shoes off and repairing them ungraciously.

This really pissed me off.

I know the shoe repair person in question, am a highly satisfied repeat customer, and am also aware of the many contributions he has made to the neighboring business community. He does have a somewhat ironic sense of humor, but he'd pretty much have to. I've seen women (sorry, it's always women) rush into his shop, stand in line impatiently rolling their eyes and exhaling like yaks on a cold morning, and then ask him to do things like take off the three-inch skinny high heels from one pair of shoes and attach them onto a pair of flat sandals. To which he is likely to respond "You're kidding, right?"

Oh, and they want it done like this afternoon.

I think what truly discouraged me about the "Surly Bob" discussion on the online list was that the woman who started the name calling is herself a businessperson. One who did a less-than-impressive piece of work for me several years ago.

Now if the gals in the online group had been discussing local artists, or local fine woodworkers, and they didn't like someone, they might have made some negative remarks about the person's pricing, or workmanship, or attitude. But they wouldn't have labeled someone who makes $5,000 buffets "Cranky Joe."

The labeling and name calling reveal a pathetic lady-of-the-manor attitude on the part of these college-educated women toward a working class man—even though the working class business person may have a far higher-grossing, more profitable, and more demanding business than anything they've ever run.

I'm disgusted. I'm disappointed. I'm not posting my views to the list because I have never once seen any of these women disagree with each other on the list. Either it's simply not done, or perhaps the moderator just vaporizes any posts that might make someone reach for their smelling salts.

Meanwhile, my shoe repair person has a highly successful business with a wait list of work nearly one month out. Somehow, I don't think the mesdames in the list will have any trouble "avoiding" him. Though they may want to avoid me.