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A Moth and Mortality: Flying Back from St. Louis on the Day of the Massacre

Jun 14, 2016

It seemed to rest there, on the windowsill.

This Sunday I flew back to Seattle from St. Louis, MO. About half way into my return flight, so two hours in, a moth fluttered up out of nowhere and beat its wings against my window glass, then came to rest on the sill. I'd never seen anything like it before. It was strange, watching a moth try to get out--where there was no getting out at all. 

I was still reeling from the breaking news about Orlando. 

Just two days before, someone close to me told me he believes that homosexuality is wrong, that Jesus said it is a sin for a man to lie down with a man. When I lived in St. Louis twenty years ago, I was a progressive student activist, and a fighter by nature. My intellect had been forged by the rigors of a Jesuit education, I knew what was what, I was out to save the world, and I'd acquired a silver tongue for debate. Back then, I would have Taken. Him. Down. And I have--over the years, we've had some shut-outs, let me tell you.

But these days I'm more interested in being happy than I am in being right. In our limited time during my visit, I didn't want to spend it arguing about politics. I try to approach such differences with patience and expansiveness. I knew I wasn't likely to change his mind, so I told him I couldn't disagree more but that I respected his right to his beliefs, as long as he didn't violate any laws. I thought it was interesting that he said that if he were a baker he would gladly bake a cake for a gay wedding, as that's business, but that he believes homosexuality is a choice, and the wrong one.

It's hard when someone you love seems to judge others for their love.

I couldn't help but think of our conversation when I read the first reports about Orlando. But on my own social forums, I was speechless. My silver tongue had no words. Then a good friend posted to his Facebook page something beautiful and sad and just right:

  Screen Shot 2016-06-14 at 5.11.20 PM

A few nights before that conversation about whether or not homosexuality is wrong, I'd had this strange experience while driving around St. Louis late at night. Like a panic or anxiety attack, I felt a sharp pain in my chest, and my hands went damp. These symptoms coincided with a very clear realization: That I would one day cease to exist. Now it could have been triggered by the heady experience of being back in a part of the country where I practically grew up, having lived there from junior high up through high school, college, and for six years of adulthood. I kept comparing everything to twenty years ago--the city itself, which has changed dramatically, my family members, my friends. I've changed a lot, too, and not just in my penchant for debate. But it wasn't just that. I felt the unfairness of mortality. While I have no regrets about the choices I've made, I think like most people I've spent too much of my life in anguish over being hurt, or angry at those who've done me wrong, or worrying that I'm not good enough or skinny enough or I'm not this or that. There is so much I want to do, and I don't want to waste any more time in a comparathon or with people who don't return back the energy I spend on them or in berating myself for failings, whether real or imagined. Because it could all be gone, the time I have left to do the things I need to do. Like Ernest says, in the flash of a disco ball.

Today I read through some of the bios of the Orlando victims, looked at pictures they'd posted to Facebook and elsewhere. They were all so young, so beautiful. Did they know it? Did they feel it? They stare at the camera, some of them, as if to say, Do you see me?

I assumed the moth was just resting there on the windowsill of my plane, and I looked forward to seeing it flit outside with all of us when we exited. I'd even considered ways of helping it find the front door. But then I saw that it was listing unnaturally, off to the side. Its antennae quivered, then stopped. When it died, it lost its hold on the sill--and fell.

My husband tells me that when the police stepped into the club, there was a cacophony of ring tones coming from the cell phones of the dead. All those loved ones on the other line. Are you there? Are you OK? Please tell me you're OK. Please. I love you.

I think of the yogi's words in a video I've practiced to for twenty years. "Love is what's left when you let go of everything you don't need." Let's do that now, let go of everything we don't need. That's a lot these days, but look at what we'll have left.


My Stepson, the Rapper

Zar

We thought the kid would turn into a nerd like his parents, but he's following his own path. So I'm the proud but somewhat bewildered stepmother of a rapper.

He goes by the handle Zar, and as you can witness here at his SoundCloud page, he's got chops. I'm thrilled with his clever rhymes and smart poetics, like this:

But these flakes are

hurtin' me

ignorance from certainty

Let's face it

that's racist

fin to cop a bassist

Your girl be like basic

My aggressors are Asics

Get some cash and save it

Take a shot and chase it

--From "See Me"

I also like the way he's referencing and paying tribute to other rappers a few bars down:

My flow is raw though

Close to Diablo

It's like close to Picasso

Layered like tacos

His "flow" is his style, which is made up of his rhyme scheme and intonation. The last two lines reference a band called Nacho Picasso.

By the way, his passion for language and facility for lyrical rhyme gave him a love of Shakespeare, so I'm doubly happy. Zar knows the Bard was the rap star of his time. Rap is a real art form, and if you don't believe me, here's a great breakdown of rap innovations and progression over the past thirty years.

 

But yeah, as you can imagine, his passion for rap has raised some issues. He's (painfully) aware that, unlike many of the rap stars he idolizes, he's a white kid from the Seattle north side, with all the privilege that entails. All of his parents have had ongoing conversations with him about the sexist representations of women and glorification of drug culture and street life that are the genre's tropes, as well as the charges of cultural appropriation he might incur as a white rapper. 

I'm pretty happy to see him highlighting what distinguishes rappers from others in terms of stereotypes:

ZarTwitter

As for the drug stuff, yeah, that's been harder than you can imagine for us to stomach. For the record, the kid's totally clean, so his actual experiences of some of the things he raps about are strictly textbook. We're sort of at the mercy of the legalization of marijuana in Washington state on this one. Our beloved "Zar" will be a senior in high school this fall. Of course all the high school kids are obsessed with the whole phenomenon, even though they are not of legal age to partake, a point Zar's parents and grandparents have practically emblazoned on signs throughout our houses. It doesn't help that in Seattle the almighty weed is everywhere. When I was still working onsite for the company, I once saw a coworker light up a joint right after work, as soon as he got to our bus stop across the street. Dude, you couldn't even wait till you got home?

It's also common with creatives when first starting out that we often adopt the style of those we look up to, as the first stage toward developing our own voice. If you don't believe me, I'll show you my wanna-be Virginia Woolf journals from undergrad, with their stream-of-consciousness musings and overuse of the semicolon. Every male writer I knew back then tried to write his own version of Ulysses. When it wasn't Woolf for me it was Toni Morrison and Jamaica Kincaid. Like Zar looks to today's urban gods, I mimicked my own heroes. I keep telling myself--and my stepson--that his raps will progress into something else, maybe history or social issues! But you never know. Hip hop culture is what it is, and I'm no expert.

We try to give him some leeway. And all that said, it's incredibly exciting to see him grow and develop his talent. If you can get past all of the above, they're quite good. If you're into the music, and even if you think you're not, give Zar's tracks a listen. There are six here, some done in collaboration with others.


What I'm Reading: The Game of Love and Death

The Game of Love and DeathThe Game of Love and Death by Martha Brockenbrough
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

What a brilliant premise for a novel, a game between Love and Death, two supernatural beings who can inhabit human form. The author, who loves games and has written for Cranium and Trivial Pursuit, pulls this off with an engaging drama that is both poignant and satisfying. Though the chapters are unusually short, the reader comes to read them as "moves" in the game. The game itself is riveting, the moves of both players almost never failing to surprise. Set in 1920s Seattle, this is also an historical novel, and Brockenbrough's recreation of the time and place seem deeply authentic. Both pawns in the game are heroes well worth rooting for, but darned if you don't end up caring about their crafty, strategizing players as well. A highly recommended read.

View all my reviews


I'm Speaking at U of Florida's Digital Worlds Institute

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I was invited to participate in this summit on digital entrepreneurship, which is pretty damn cool. That week I'll be a guest lecturer in a digital design class (I've done this once before, remotely), a speaker at the summit itself, and a judge of student work at the salon. Here are the summit details:

International Digital Entrepreneurship Association Summit (IDEAS)

Presented at the University of Florida Digital Worlds Institute’s Research, Education and Visualization Environment (REVE) - March 25th, 2016, 9:30AM-5:00PM

Come join us for an amazing day of exploration & innovation with premiere guest speakers from around the world.

IDEAS is an inspirational event offering a day of learning how to succeed in the digital media business landscape. This one-day summit promotes the confluence of traditional entrepreneurship and new technologies, with an emphasis on new business forms and the opportunities created by these technologies. Guest panelists — academic and real-world practitioners — will link theory and practice, in a dialogue with participants, as they share their innovative stories, techniques, and ideas that have established them as leaders in their respective fields and industries.

Event page:  https://www.facebook.com/events/973184246099902/
Contact info:  
marko@digitalworlds.ufl.edu

The event is free but RSVP’s are required: rsvp@digitalworlds.ufl.edu

Event schedule, March 25th:

  • 9:30AM to 10:00AM – Coffee and registration
  • 10:00AM to 10:50AM – Key note (Ofer Zinger)
  • 11:00AM to 11:50AM – Panel discussion 
  • 12:00PM to 12:50PM - Guest speaker presentation (Nestor Gil)
  • 1:00PM to 2:00PM – Lunch
  • 2:00PM to 2:50PM – Guest speaker presentation (Lisa Brunette)
  • 3:00PM to 3:50PM - Guest speaker presentation (D.A. Jackson)
  • 4:00PM to 4:50PM- Guest speaker presentation (Taqi Shaheen)

Guest Speakers:

Ofer Zinger, Entrepreneurship - Hands-On

Being an entrepreneur is exciting, however, extremely risky;  more than 90% of the startups fail.  As a serial entrepreneur in the digital space, Mr. Zinger will cover the common pitfalls as well as the shortcuts to startup success that are often missing from standard textbooks, using real life hands-on examples.

Ofer Zinger has founded several companies in the digital space such as TLV Media, Dynamic Yield, Cedato, Ilivid (Acquired), Bundlore (Acquired) and others. Consultative to the Israeli Intelligence (8200), IAF, Iron dome project, and various companies in homeland security and medical devices sectors. Ofer Zinger is currently the Chairman of Feature Forward, a programmatic video advertising platform.  (https://www.linkedin.com/in/oferzinger

Lisa Brunette, Crafting Games for a Mainstream Audience
The current market is flooded with mid-core games targeted toward a male audience aged 18-35, while the audiences outside that demographic remain underserved. Learn how to craft game stories for women, older players of all gender identifications, and children in this talk from a recognized expert in premium casual storytelling.

Lisa Brunette has story design and writing credits in hundreds of bestselling video games, including the Mystery Case Files, Mystery Trackers, and Dark Tales series for Big Fish and AAA games for Nintendo and Microsoft platforms. She is featured in Boy’s Toys, a documentary about women in games. She earned an MFA in Fiction from University of Miami, and she is the past recipient of the AWP Intro Journals Project Award, a grant from the Tacoma Arts Commission, and the William Stafford Award. (www.catintheflock.com)

Nestor Armando Gil, Labor Under Alternative Economies
Social practice art takes as its starting point relationships and dialogue, two elements crucial to a successful entrepreneurial enterprise.  By producing research, commodities, and performances in a social context, Nestor Gil addresses memory as a series of negotiations that are personal, cultural, and political. 

Nestor Armando Gil was born in Florida in 1971.  He received the Masters in Fine Art degree in 2009 from The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.  His performances and visual work have been exhibited throughout the United States and internationally in Spain, and the United Kingdom.

D. A. Jackson, Making Something Out of Nothing:  Independent Filmmaking in the Digital Age
Award winning director D.A. Jackson discusses the ins and outs of film production in the 21st Century.  Topics covered will be, how to use available resources, budgeting, directing, writing scripts, producing, VFX, and distribution.

D.A. Jackson has been working in the film industry for the past 18 years.  During his career, he has worked as a director, stuntman, fight choreographer, actor, and producer.  He has directed commercials, music videos, television shows for SPIKE,  and won numerous awards  for his independent feature films and shorts . His passion for storytelling  and unique approach to filmmaking has led him to be an often requested speaker at colleges and film festivals.

Taqi Shaheen, Being Digital: The Chinese Way

Born in Pakistan, and currently lecturing in Shanghai, China, Taqi is uniquely positioned to present the complex system of entrepreneurship as it exists in Asia today. From art works, to information technology and video games, Asia has been a hotbed of production and innovation. 

Taqi Shaheen is a filmmaker, visual artist and art educator whose work crosses mediums and defies genre distinctions to fashion witty and curious observations of contemporary Asian cultures and their urban landscapes. He graduated from the National College of Arts, Lahore, and uses hybrid digital video and film formats to research and construct non-fictional narratives collaborating with various visual artists, musicians and performers.) (http://www.taqishaheen.com/)

IDEAS is sponsored by UF Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation in the Warrington College of Business Administration, supported by the UF Division of Sponsored Research, presented by the UF Digital Worlds Institute, and organized by Prof. Marko Suvajdzic.

Prof. Suvajdzic is a diverse thinker with 17+ years of achievement in academia and the creative digital research and production space. Marko’s experience includes a wide range of digital startups and educational projects. He has lectured internationally at schools and conferences in: U.S.A., U.K., India, Serbia, Norway, and China.


Audiobook Sneak Preview: Framed and Burning

Framed_and_burningBLOG

I'm reviewing the sound files for the audiobook version of Framed and Burning, which is narrated by Patricia Morris. She has 40 years' experience as an actor and singer. Her career began right out of high school when she toured with a national theater, and she has sung and acted professionally with theater groups and playhouses all over the U.S. Her credits include audiobooks, film, and TV.

Here's the prologue and first chapter, which I think she read beautifully:

Prologue

Chapter 1

 What do you think? Feel free to comment below.

 


The Joy of Movement and Mandalas

Cherie_mandala

Yoga teacher Cherie Althauser makes elaborate mandalas using Sharpie pens.

In case you missed it, I'm writing for a new site called LewisTalk, and my first article is a totally new, fresh take on 'Granny' Award-winning yogi, Cherie Althauser.

In this piece, I delve into Althauser's emphasis on the joy of movement at any age and condition, tell the story of her connection to Embody, the studio where she teaches, and describe her nifty hobby of making mandalas like the one above.

Here's the story:

Cherie_side_plank


Ask most people to describe what a yoga teacher looks like, and it’s likely the image doesn’t include grey hair.

Or a chair.

But both are part of the yoga life for Cherie Althauser, whose side plank could be the envy of the most youthful yogi. At 65 years and more flexible than many twentysomethings, she’s a walking advertisement for staying active past retirement. Read More

I really enjoyed talking with Althauser in person and corresponding with her further after she left the area for her fall travels. She's humble, but strong and centered about what she has to offer others.

When I met her in that first yoga class this summer, I realized she'd be the perfect recipient for the Granny Award. And that was before I found out she creates mandalas out of Sharpie pens and plays a lovely harmonium!

Namaste.


Cat in the Flock on Audiobook

Audible screen shot CITF

I'm thrilled to announce the audiobook version of Cat in the Flock, featuring noted radio personality Angel Clark as the narrator. With 100 audiobooks under her belt, Angel's a real pro. She also hosts a talk radio show on the subject of liberty. During auditions, we thought her voice for Cat McCormick was perfect!

And doesn't she kind of look like she could play Cat on TV? 

Angel clark
Photo courtesy of Angel Clark.

You can download the audiobook now from either Amazon or iTunes.

 


Wine and Needles

I've got some talented, inspirational family in Walla Walla. During a recent trip there, I got to tour not one cool place but two: Tertulia Cellars and Thompson Acupuncture.

Tertulia Cellars is staffed by my brother-in-law Thomas, my husband's little brother. After a long career as an indie rocker, Thomas went back to his home town to study viniculture, and he's been deep in the wine barrel ever since. 

Thomas took us behind-the-scenes where they process and ferment the grapes. Thomas' work is very hands-on, and yes, it involves some sampling to get the process just right.

Although Tertulia is a small, boutique winery, in my head I kept contrasting it with the Adam Puchta Winery I toured in Missouri, with its old-fashioned, hand-cranked equipment. Adam Puchta is the oldest continually operated winery in the country. Not many people know this, but Missouri was the first wine district established in the U.S. Compared to the Adam Puchta Winery I remember from the early 90s, Tertulia seemed sleek and modern.

Thomas and Tino Wine1 Green5

Of course, as much as I think back fondly on my Missouri wine-sipping days, I know those grapes and the quality of the wine aren't on par with the world-class wine made in the Walla Walla Valley today. We tried wines at both Tertulia and Mansion Creek Cellars, which keeps a small tasting room in the Marcus Whitman Hotel in town.

The barrels are distinct, and pretty much the same as they were when wine was introduced in this country by Thomas Jefferson. Yeah, that Thomas Jefferson. Here's my gorgeous hunk of a husband among them:

  Tino_barrels

And me, too.

Me and tino barrels

At Tertulia, wine is taken very seriously. There's even a lab:

  Wine_lab

I've always liked that word, "mouthfeel."

Lab2

Because wine weaves its way through everything in Walla Walla, we attended a chamber music concert one night, and it took place inside Pepper Bridge Winery. This "portrait of an artist" featured a soloist on harp. Memorably, she covered "Stairway to Heaven."

Speaking of music, Thomas has returned to the stage recently as the bass player for the Poetry Assassins. In another life, he's also the Mighty Malbec Man.

Sign

Thompson Family Acupuncture is the brainchild of my sister-in-law, Lindsey Thompson (aka, Thomas' wife). She was an artist and snowboarding instructor before finding her calling in this Chinese healing practice with ancient roots.

  Door

Let me just say that if it weren't for Lindsey, I'd still be on inhalers and allergy meds and casting around for a diet that might heal my gut. Before I met her, I thought I was vehemently opposed to acupuncture... because NEEDLES. 

But her passion, knowledge, and conviction won me over, not to mention her assurance that the needles were so thin I wouldn't even feel them. And she was right. I was lucky to get a couple of cracker-jack acupuncturists in Seattle, and over a year of treatments, my allergies, asthma, and digestive issues cleared up.

Lindsey and I talk about acupuncture often, and I find the Chinese philosophy behind it especially fascinating. Lindsey writes a blog about her work called Stick Out Your Tongue, where I'm always learning something new. For example, there's a specially designed cup she can use on your jaw to treat TMJ.

Lindsey_cupping
This photo by Brittany Yunker. All others by Lisa Brunette.

I'm proud of Lindsey for starting her own business and couldn't wait to see her office, which turned out to be a gem of a space. It's in a mid-century modern building that is so cute, not only would I go there for treatment; I'd live there!

  Entry

  BlocksJPG

I commented on her use of orange and blue paint, which seemed to both awaken and soothe the senses, and Lindsey explained she'd done some research on the psychological effects of color before making her choices.

Her practice has really taken off, and it's easy to see why. I'd let Lindsey stick needles in me any day.

Now if we could just figure out a way to combine wine and acupuncture...

  


Cat in the Flock Excerpt: Training with Granny Grace

CAT-IN-THE-FLOCK

Chapter 2

Cat was sitting in full lotus, with both legs crossed, a foot resting on top of either thigh. It was a position she had never been able to do; she knew right away she was dreamslipping in her grandmother's dream. All around her on the floor were bills Granny Grace couldn't pay: the heating bill, another in an exorbitant amount for her cell phone, a medical bill, and others, along with receipts for the money she continued to give to charity. But Cat could feel that she shared her grandmother's thoughts and attitudes in the dream, as if her and her grandmother's minds were fused, so despite the bills, she felt at peace. In front of her was a Buddha statue, and in his palm were coins. He winked and said, "Bless the bills, my Grace. Bless them."

Then the paper bills on the ground around her morphed into hundreds of butterflies--orange and black monarchs and viceroys, pale yellow swallowtails, iridescent blue sulphurs, and delicate cabbage whites. They flew up and covered the Buddha statue, where they sat flexing their wings in the sun. She watched them there, a feeling of peace flooding through her. Then the butterflies rose into the air as if they were one being, circled around her for a time, and then flew off into a ray of sunlight.

Cat woke early, still on St. Louis time and worried about her grandmother's financial situation, despite the odd feeling of peace the dream gave her. Was the dream accurate? Was Granny Grace having financial trouble? She tiptoed down the hall to her grandmother's study. She knew she shouldn't snoop, but the quiet in the house told her Granny Grace was still asleep, and she would have to do a bit of detective work on this one, as her grandmother wouldn't tell her the truth even if she asked. Granny Grace had an overdeveloped sense of pride; she carried herself well and was never one to accept help but was always helping others. Cat certainly had no intention of sponging off her grandmother forever, but if she were having financial trouble, there was no way Cat was going to accept her help in getting the PI firm started, no matter what cryptic, New Agey messages Granny Grace got from the Buddha.

Cat was seated at a rolltop desk, absorbed in the saga of her grandmother's financial life and didn't hear the septuagenarian enter the room behind her.

"I thought you came here to train as a PI, not serve as my personal bookkeeper," Granny Grace said.

Cat turned with a start. "Gran, why didn't you tell me about this?" She held up the cell phone bill, which included calls all over the world, with a balance upwards of five hundred dollars, most of which were past due amounts carried over.

"My cell phone habits are none of your concern, granddaughter," said Granny Grace, ripping the phone bill out of Cat's hands. "Besides, I'm in negotiations with them right now to get that lowered. They're going to fold it under a special 'international friends and family' plan."

"Grandmother," Cat said sternly. "You're giving money away, and at the same time, your bills are piling up." Cat pulled out the statement from her financial advisor. "And judging by this, your investment accounts took a huge hit."

Granny Grace ripped that statement out of her hand, too. "This is none of your business, Cat. And you should know better than to use a dream this way. You've got a lot to learn."

Cat took a step back, realizing how far over the line she had crossed. "You're right," she said. "I'm sorry. Let me make you breakfast, and we can calm down and talk."

She toasted sourdough bread and put out preserves, butter, a bowl of fruit, and a pot of tea. Her hunger satiated and her grandmother cooled down and seated across from her, Cat had to ask, "What exactly does 'SPOETS' stand for? You gave them a couple hundred last year." 

"Specialist Pogoists of East Tacoma," Granny Grace quipped. 

"Grandmother," Cat groaned. "Be serious."

"Sound Patternists of Elementary Tea Services." 

Cat giggled, and Granny Grace smiled. "They're a group of citizens devoted to the study of the largest earthworm in North America," she said.

Cat stared at her. "Earthworm?"

"That's right," she replied. "It's the Society for the Protection of Earthworm Triticales Somas."

"Triticales somas?"

"Yeah. T. somas. That's the Latin name. I'll have you know it's several feet long and almost as wide. It lives entirely underground on the Washington Palouse."

"I didn't know you had a soft spot for earthworms."

"Only this one. It's special. Not to say the ones you use in your garden aren't special as well, but this one is unique."

"But Granny Grace, why didn't you tell me you were having trouble?"

"I'm not. Weren't you there, in the dream, Cat? I could feel your presence. So you know that bills are to be blessed."

Cat wouldn't be put off so easily. She pressed her grandmother further. "But why do you give so much away when you're not in a position to do that? You gave another small amount to a group that studies a rare type of moss that only grows on the eastern side of the Olympic Mountains. And the Dykes with Bikes? Do they really need your help? I think there's even a Bisexual Basket-Weaving Bar Mitzvah group in the mix."

"Oh, I only wish. If there's one thing a bar mitzvah could use, it's more bisexuals weaving baskets." Granny Grace crossed her arms and leaned forward on the table. "Look, Cat. I'm seventy-seven years old. This karmic approach to money has held me in good stead for many years. You get back what you put out in life. It works. You wait and see."

"Okay, but listen," Cat said. "You told me I could stay here for free and that I wouldn't have to work while I trained for the PI exam. But I don't think that's practical. I can't do that. I'm going to get a job."

"You'll be putting everything off that way," Granny Grace countered.

"There's no way I can let you support me," Cat said. "I'll keep training with you and working toward my goal, but I'm going to pay my own way." She nodded her head affirmatively, as if to seal the deal.

"Well, if you insist..." her grandmother replied.

"I insist," Cat said. 

There was a long silence while they sipped their tea before Granny Grace changed the subject in a tone that meant she was resuming Cat's training there and then.

"You broke the first rule of dreamslipping this morning," she said. "Don't ever use the information gleaned from a dream to invade the privacy of someone you love."

"But isn't dreamslipping by its very nature already an invasion of privacy?"

"Yes, it is," Granny Grace said, a shadow of sadness flickering across her face. "Why do you think I live alone? That's why you can't ever use what you learn like that again. I know you were doing it with concern in your heart, but you crossed a line."

"I'm sorry," Cat said.

Granny Grace reached over and squeezed her chin. "Don't be sorry, Cat. Just remember the rule."

"I will."

"Good. By the way, don't chide yourself for invading the privacy of your dreamers. That's a waste of time. This thing is involuntary--it's not like you can turn it off. Believe me, I've tried. That's why I call it dreamslipping. We can't help slipping into other people's dreams."

Cat sighed, feeling pressure inside her chest release. "Thank you for telling me that," she said.

"Our first appointment today is with a meditation guru," said Granny Grace, clapping her hands together. "Your training has begun."

The guru--Guru Dave was his name--held meditation classes on the top floor of a record store, so in addition to the singing bowls he employed, there were the ever-present strains of whatever music the clerks downstairs happened to be playing. For Cat's first class, it was polka music, which the hipsters must have been playing ironically. So when the guru asked her to empty her mind of everything and to cultivate nothingness, she couldn't help but picture a bunch of men in lederhosen and women dressed as Heidi hefting huge beer steins into the air.

When Guru Dave spoke, he drew out his syllables so that it took him twice as long as everyone else to say the same thing, but the effect on the listener was trancelike. "Let goooooooo of attaaaaaaaachment," he intoned. "Reeeeeleeeeease your eeeeeeegooooo."

The only thing Cat felt herself let go of was the contraction in her lower abs, the "root lock," as Guru Dave called it, which she was supposed to hold, it seemed, for an eternity.

At the end of class, which consisted of sitting cross-legged (Granny Grace was in full lotus, of course) till her lower back hurt and her brain was screaming insults at Guru Dave, he asked what insights she had to share with the rest of the class.

"The rhythm of life is in everything," Cat said. "Even beer."

Guru Dave thought this was profound, and Cat inadvertently became his star pupil. But nothing got past Granny Grace. After class, she teased Cat. "You've been to one too many Oktoberfests."

"I could use a little bit of the rhythm of life after that class," Cat said. "This tea isn't quite cutting it." They both burst out laughing.

That first couple of weeks in Seattle were a whirlwind for Cat. She accompanied Granny Grace to more meditation classes, and while nothing broke through her skepticism about them, she did find herself enjoying both the time to sit and think, as well as the strains of music from the store downstairs, which ran the gamut from classic rock to folk to R & B. They practiced yoga twice daily--an energetic round in the morning at a studio near the house and a slower style called yin that Granny Grace led in the Yoga Yolk each evening to wind down. 

Her grandmother also took her shopping, and over protests that they didn't have the money, she helped Cat create a wardrobe "more befitting a PI." Granny Grace had a knack for how to find deals at consignment shops, cobbling together a selection of well-made pieces with less expensive accessories, so that the overall look was sophisticated and fun.

There were more direct lessons in dreamslipping as well, but Granny Grace took her time. Instead of showing Cat how to do "fancy tricks," as Granny Grace called them, they were taking an inventory of Cat's dream life up till now, which for the most part meant excavating through some awkward revelations Cat had had about her various boyfriends and how the dreamslipping had interfered with her ability to have what she called "normal" relationships with them. For example, she'd dated an emotionally unavailable soccer player for far too long, mainly because he wasn't an active dreamer, and there were no issues to confront. Prior to that, she'd dated a psych student whose own dreams bordered on disturbing, and he was only too willing to spend hours analyzing them, to the point where Cat felt she should be charging him for her therapy services. 

"You can use the information in dreams to solve a mystery or catch a crook," Granny Grace said, "but healing someone like that--that's a different kind of work."

"Yeah, and I'm not cut out to be a psychotherapist," said Cat.

"It's really hard to know things about people that you can't talk about with them," said Granny Grace, as if she were thinking about her own past. But then she shook it off, changing the subject, and Cat didn't want to press her.

Cat also immediately set about looking for a job, with dismal results. She tried to find something as close to her chosen profession as possible. She sent out more than fifty résumés, interviewed with six recruiters, and heard nothing in return. She couldn't even get a part-time job at a supermarket, as the hiring manager there said she was overqualified and would be gone at the first opportunity. She sent résumés into the ether, and she imagined them evaporating into ones and zeroes in some large central database where bored clerks sat typing all day.

What finally got her a job were her grandmother's connections. 

Granny Grace took Cat to a fundraiser for one of her favorite charities, City Goats, which promoted goats as an alternative method for removing noxious weeds from vacant lots, as well as a more environmentally friendly way to trim back grass lawns. The fundraiser was at a hotel on the Seattle waterfront. Dale Chihuly glass sculptures tastefully referenced the shapes of goats everywhere you looked, from the horned chandelier above the ballroom to the bearded chin sinks in the bathroom. 

Granny Grace was busy networking for future PI clients; Cat could hear the melody of her laughter across the room. Cat took a breather from the talk to stand at the window facing the Sound. She watched as two green-and-white ferries, their lights reflected on the water, passed each other on their ways to and from Bainbridge Island. She remembered her first ferry ride in Seattle, when she and her parents came to visit when she was six. She thought Puget Sound was a river like the Mississippi, but it startled her for being so blue. The Mississippi was muddy, like coffee with lots of cream.

"We hear you're starting up Grace's PI firm again," said a voice that brought her back into the room. It was Simon Fletcher, one of her grandmother's best friends. Following close behind him as usual was his partner, Dave Bander. The two were never separated; they seemed to function in every respect as a unit. They both wore immaculate tuxedoes that looked tailor-made for them as opposed to rented, and both men's hair was close cropped and spiked slightly with gel. 

But it's not as if they were truly twins. Dave worked for a nonprofit with a creative, accepting environment, and, particularly at fancy events like these, he wore makeup--a little "manscara," as he called it, and sometimes "guyliner." Simon, an architect, had a Roman nose, stylish frames perched gallantly upon it, as if he'd personally designed the sweeping features of his own face.

"Hello, Simon!" Cat said, giving him a hug. "Word does get around. Yes, I'm hoping to take over Granny Grace's firm. But she's training me first."

"I bet she is," said Dave, who gave her a kiss on the cheek. "There's no better teacher than Amazing Grace."

"What did she ever teach you?" Cat asked.

"Didn't your grandmother ever tell you how we met?" asked Simon. 

"No, she didn't."

"Well, Dave here went to her for spiritual guidance. He was forty-two, unhappily married--to a woman, let me add--and working as a corporate lawyer for a chemical company. After a couple sessions with your grandmother, he filed for divorce and quit his job. I met him two years later at one of Grace's legendary cocktail parties."

"My grandmother, the matchmaker. And now you're helping those in need," Cat said, finishing the story. Dave was a lawyer who represented women pressing charges against abusive men.

Dave put his hand in Simon's. "But most importantly, now I'm happy." The two smiled at each other.

"I didn't know Granny Grace counseled people," she said. 

"It was part of what she did as a volunteer for a meditation center," Dave explained. 

"Yes, that was back when Dave was dabbling in New Age spiritualism, trying to find himself," said Simon, a teasing hint to his tone.

"Don't mock it," Dave said. "It led me to you, didn't it?"

"True," he admitted. Then, turning to Cat, he asked, "Has your grandmother taken you to her meditation class?" 

Cat laughed. "You mean, have I sat in the presence of Guru Dave? Yes, I have. And my spirit has transcended the physical sphere and is entirely without ego attachment."

Simon snickered. "Oh, God. It's all over once the chanting begins."

"At least I don't have to shave my head," Cat said. "Guru Dave thinks shaving hides what the divine has created."

"I once had my chakras realigned," Dave said. "My heart chakra slipped down to my butt." The two men roared with laughter.

"Now, how are you really doing?" Simon asked once the laughter died down.  

"Honestly speaking," Cat admitted, "I'm having the hardest time finding a job. I can't even get work as a barista. Of course, it would help if I'd ever made something besides my mom's drip coffee."  

"It's rough out there these days," said Simon, and Dave nodded in agreement. 

"We've halted construction on one of our condo projects," he continued. "The irony is, we have to pay to have a security guard on the premises."

"Say," Simon faced Dave, looking as if a lightbulb had popped up over his head. "Maybe she could be our booth guard."

"Yeah, yeah," agreed Dave. "The guy they've got out there now just sleeps all day. Cat would be great!"

They turned to her. "We know it's beneath you, sweetie," Dave ventured, "but think about it. We'd love to have you as our rent-a-cop!" 

As they moved to greet some friends of theirs, Dave, the bigger jokester of the two, squeezed her arm. "Hey, Cat, did you see the satyr in the bathroom? Crazy what that Chihuly can do with glass, isn't it?"

Simon pulled him away, making tsk-tsk noises. "Dave, I think that's only in the men's room." Then turning to Cat, he winked and said, "We'll call you about the guard gig."

And that was that. Cat had her first full-time job. At first she thought it wouldn't be so bad. She imagined she would be like the security guards at the hospital where she'd been a candy striper: sit in an office all day, maybe even watch a little TV, walk around the building every hour, piece of cake. 

But when she showed up for her first day--make that first night, since she'd been given the highly despised 11 p.m. to 7 a.m. shift--she met Tony, the security company's general manager. Tony only came up to Cat's shoulder in height, and he had a row of broken, crooked, yellowing teeth. He smelled of cigarettes and mothballs. 

"I'm here to guard the building," Cat said by way of introduction. Conscious of favoritism, she didn't mention Simon and Dave.

"You're not guarding a building," Tony barked at her.

"I'm not? Well then, what am I guarding?"

"A construction site."

"Well, yes, I know they're not done building it. Am I guarding the equipment?"

"No equipment," he replied. "The contractors cleared that out already."

"Um, I don't understand," said Cat. "What is there?"

"About three floors of an eight-story condom project," Tony said. He leered at Cat to see if she had heard his mispronunciation. 

She decided to ignore for a moment his attempt at wit, and the fact that this constituted sexual harassment. "I know that, but what am I protecting? Are they afraid the copper pipes will get stolen?" She knew copper was sometimes stolen out of abandoned buildings and sold for scrap.

"Yeah, that's part of it, smart girl. The other part is liability. Someone gets hurt there, they sue your fairy friends." He made a little flying Tinker Bell motion with his hands when he said the bit about Simon and Dave.

So Tony already knew her ties to the owners. This was not going in a good direction, and Cat hesitated to ask the next question--after all, this was Seattle, and it had been raining for the last three days. 

"Is there a roof?"

"Only in part of the building, but that don't matter none to you. You'll stay outside the condo in the hut."

Tony hadn't lied about the booth, and she thought maybe his word for it, "hut," was more accurate. Cat spent her first week sitting in a four-by-four hut with one tiny window. She had a radio that ran on batteries, her flashlight, and a clipboard of papers on which she was supposed to record her rounds. The bathroom was a port-a-john about ten feet away. 

To make the job even duller, Tony had carefully instructed her about how this security thing worked: "You make your rounds every hour on the hour. You take ten minutes to make the rounds, no more, no less. The rest of the time you stay in the hut."

"Won't that make it kind of easy for someone to avoid security?"

Tony looked at her with contempt. "Listen, smart girl, here's how it works. We contract with the client to provide security. In the contract we specify exactly what we will do, and we do exactly that. If a representative from the company comes by to check on you at five minutes after the hour, and you are in the hut, you are fired. On the other hand, if he comes by at fifteen minutes after the hour, and you are not in the hut, you are fired. Do I make myself clear?"

"So what if someone steals something at half past the hour?" 

Tony had a surprising ability to convey disdain with his expressions. "It's an empty building. And you'll spot the thieves before they ever get around to ripping out any copper, trust me."

The only bright spot for Cat was that Granny Grace let her drive Siddhartha to work, since by bus it would have meant three transfers and more than an hour-long trip to the Eastside. Granny Grace had taken Cat out in the old Mercedes for an instructional test run. The car handled beautifully; it was the smoothest ride she'd ever driven. On Cat's first day of work, Granny Grace had been on hand to bid her bon voyage. 

Cat sat in the driver's seat while her grandmother assessed her from outside. "The only thing missing is your attitude," she observed. "You look like someone borrowing a Mercedes for the day. You need to drive it like you own it."

"Now how am I supposed to look like that when I'm wearing a rent-a-cop uniform?" Cat asked.

"Put these on," Granny Grace ordered, handing her a pair of her Jackie O. shades. 

"Gran, it's dark and rainy outside."

"So what? Now stick your chin out."

"There. That's my granddaughter." Granny Grace smiled her approval. "Don't let the birds poop on Siddhartha," she added, patting the car's fender as Cat started it up. "He's used to the garage."

 

 


Bye-bye, Bartell... And Seattle, Too

Bartell

I don't know why this one hit me so hard. I knew they were going to close my favorite Bartell store - they'd been letting us know in their characteristically customer-service-centered way for months. And it's not like there isn't a replacement Bartell nearby. The new one is in fact a Bartell on steroids, all swankified with New Seattle features like a place to refill your microbrewery growler. Plus, the building isn't special in any way, not Googie architecture like the Denny's they tore down or a beloved, Old Ballard 'third place' to hang, like Sunset Bowl.

But hit me hard it did. I was walking down the street, wondering if I needed to pop in and get something from Bartell, and there it was, already fenced up, a construction backhoe poised to begin ripping into the establishment like an angry beast.

For the past decade, I've popped into this Bartell thousands of times to fill a prescription or fulfill a chocolate craving. I've loaded up on discounted vitamins and bottles of salad dressing. The photos of smiling family members on my walls are framed by the high-quality but reasonably priced picture frames I've purchased here.

And I've been a long fan of the locally owned Bartell chain. I once pitched a story on it to an editor (rejected), and I tried to swing a gig writing the Bartell corporate history (scooped). See also: Making a living as a writer.

Oh, I know that all things must change, that the only constant is change, and that arriving here as a newcomer myself ten years ago, I was part of this change. Bartell had already changed apiece. I've just recently come out of mourning for the retirement of my favorite crew of elder statesmen pharmacists and their assistants, who knew me by name, treated me like a respected neighbor, and delivered on the best customer service I'd experienced at any drug dispensary, anywhere. Their youthful replacements are poster children for the Seattle Freeze, and they wouldn't know customer service from The Postal Service.

So many of the things that drew me to Seattle's Ballard neighborhood - its Scandahoovian fishing culture, the working class set of its jaw, its annexed-small-town vibe, seem to be slipping away. The sky used to be filled with seagulls; now it's construction cranes. A newspaper once listed each Seattle neighborhood by its residents' most likely attire, and Ballard's was something like "the jeans I left on the floor the day before." Now I think it would be "the $200 jeans I bought online." It used to be I couldn't wait on a street corner without having an overly polite driver insist on my pedestrian right-of-way. Now, I fear for my life in crosswalks even though they're brightly painted and marked with flashing lights.

I had a conversation recently with a woman who's moved from Ballard to Everett. "I can't afford to buy a house here," I whined to her, and she replied, "I can't afford to buy the house I just sold here." The house next door to hers had been sold to a developer, who promptly put up a block of four three-story homes, what I refer to as "stacks." The stacks blocked the light to her backyard, and the garden she'd cultivated for years could no longer grow. So she decided it was time to leave, even though she runs a business out of Ballard, for how much longer, I wonder.

For the past four years, I've been weighing the advantages and disadvantages of staying put. In the end, going won out over choosing to stay. My husband and I didn't think we'd be leaving for a couple more years, but opportunity elsewhere knocked at the same time that Seattle seemed to be shouldering us aside. In a couple of weeks, we'll be moving to a city with a population that is one-sixth the size of Ballard's.

I have no illusions about what small-town life will mean for me. So you can spare me the lecture about how isolated I'll feel, how bored I'll get of the handful of restaurants in my new burg, or how much more conservative it will be. 

But what I do have is hope. Hope for a more sustainable lifestyle where a person can afford to purchase a home and save for retirement without over-leveraging herself on a micro condo, its fancy "community room" full of partying techsters.

And maybe a friendly pharmacist who remembers my name.

 


Delicious Patterns #FridayPoetry

 

Dmikephoto
David Michael Ramirez II

My Interview with David Michael Ramirez II, the Breakout Translator of Yoshinori Henguchi's Poetry

Yoshinori Henguchi is the author of Lizard Telepathy, Fox Telepathy, published in 2014 by Seattle indie publisher Chin Music Press. Henguchi founded Gallery Iris in Osaka, Japan and regularly exhibits photography and poetry. His poetry collection, WMMWWMWWWMWMMWMWW, was published under the imprint nobodyhurts. He was also a 2006 winner of the Canon Corporation New Cosmos of Photography Award. David Michael Ramirez II translated Lizard Telepathy, Fox Telepathy into English, a passionate process that transpired over many years, after he met Henguchi at a gallery opening in Osaka in 2008 and made it his mission to bring the poet's work to an English audience.

Lisa Brunette: Henguchi employs repetition to an incredible degree in this collection. Is repetition more tolerable/soothing in Japanese culture? Or would you say it's the same as English?

David Ramirez: It's unnatural–unnatural to the point of distinction, and maybe distraction. But it allows for a kind of psychological effect reminiscent of ellipses and gives an overall baseline for other sensations to contrast with. When you get done reading, if you're not paying attention, you're not sure what you just read, and the repetitive part eventually recedes, and the objects in the poems have a chance to stand out, whether they're part of the repetitive statement or nestled alongside it. There's also the question of just how much our own psychological existence is repetition, and how much is change. I guess I'd hope to liken Henguchi's repetition to a syncopated ideaphoria. 

Lisa: I could see that. I'm impressed even that the spacing is preserved, the gaps and pauses in the prose that give the lines internal breath. By the way, it's lovely to look at the Japanese typography. I'm struck by the beauty of the characters, which retain their symbolic origins, in contrast to English, which is purely a signifier.

David: Preserving the gaps and pauses during the design process was an incredible headache. There were revisions made to the original as we were editing, and as the translator and one of many proofreaders and editors, I would not be notified about changes beforehand, so I would discover them after finalizing the English, feel like screaming, and then calm down and write an email to revise the master document, which I didn't have access to. We communicated design corrections through emails with color highlights, footnotes to word docs, and a rare Skype to Tokyo. Eventually we came up with a system to preserve and localize the gaps in English. This felt like a major achievement.

Lisa: I note the first poem in the collection, "Nihongo," is about the Japanese language itself. Can you talk about the decision to foreground that?

David: There are so many challenges in translation, and bringing the reader into a language they're not familiar with, in a language that they are familiar with, was the goal of the work. "Nihongo" does that by practically giving the language, Nihongo (Japanese), a personality, a dynamic, and a sense of being something that you grapple with. It's a feat even in the original Japanese, and torques the minds of many traditional poetry fans. I was even asked by one reader, "What's he trying to do! Is he trying to destroy Japanese?" and this is not the case, far from it in fact, but riding that line between destroying language and breathing life into it was what made it contemporary. 

Lisa: So many of Henguchi's observations are, well, Tweetable--you'll notice I've been quoting him on Twitter as I've made my way through the work. For example, "In our house grandfather lit grandmother's cigar and passed it to her. Women smoke/men light." I'm curious about what initially attracted you to his work, and if it was this distilled observational wisdom of his.

David: Oh, boy, this is my favorite topic. It was really Henguchi's love of word and passion for expression that popped off the page and grabbed me. His line, "I want to burn Nihongo and turn it into smoke" got me hooked. A language full of convention such as Japanese is not something you're supposed to "smoke" or "burn," but I've certainly felt both smoked and burned by language, so turning it inside out was exactly the kind of near-hallucinogenic experience I was searching for in literature.  

That, and that the subtle messaging was not singularly nihilistic. It doesn't seems to revel in failure or rage, but seems to skip to a beat that feels contemporary. I guess you could say that it was fast enough, flexible enough, and has that "something" that turns language inside out and doesn't flinch; that's what hooked me. It was love at first sight. There's also his ability to really speak about Japan in a way that doesn't lose cultural relevance but doesn't over-romanticize it either.  

Lizardtelepathyfoxtelepathy

Lisa: Henguchi reminds me of the L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E poets, the way that he is calling attention to the pleasures and pitfalls of language itself. His prose poems in particular called to mind Lyn Hejinian's autobiography My Life, both for the examination of language and the examination of self, as Lizard Telepathy is full of autobiographical references, which even if they aren't truly autobiographical have that feel. I also think of the work of Seattle's own Stacey Levine, and I note that Gertrude Stein's Tender Buttons was helpful to you in this translation process. Who does Henguchi cite as his own influences?

David: The Language Poets are an excellent analogue to Henguchi's poems. His method for writing does start with sight and sound. The one thing he does feel confident about is that regardless of convention or lack of it, Henguchi wants his poems to be fun. That, I abide by. If you can re-invent fun, you've got something. 

As for influences, Henguchi hasn't recognized a contemporary movement or artistic influences, and has recently found poetry to be one of his main creative impulses. He's interested in how he is intrinsically indebted to being born as a human and the life that this brings. Stylistically, he feels a kinship to photographers Araki Yoshinobu, Kyoichi Tsuzuki, and painter Shinro Ohtake. In Japan he's been asked about connections between his artwork, Japanese hip-hop culture, and the work of Miranda July and Harmony Korine. Again, more than anything, he's cognizant that because of the essential, shared human condition, all artwork is related, and every similarity is fair game.

For my part I see Henguchi as a poet who's developed something special at the right time, part of a Japanese renaissance that's just beginning to come out. The older generation who made their waves in the 60s and 70s is just beginning to pass the torch. And I feel Henguchi's work is part of sloughing off the past. I was lucky to meet with a scholar at the UW who pointed out that due to the flexibility and ubiquity of the Internet we're seeing linguistic stylization that hasn't been part of the average writer's repertoire since the early 19th century. 

Lisa: Part of Henguchi's project seems to be acknowledging what can and can't be captured, whether in photography or writing. In "Gone Insane," for example, there's a stanza that begins, "Can meet when we can   can't meet when we can't." The stanza ends with, "I don't even catch a glimpse of that boy." What are your thoughts on this?

David: My thoughts on this are - exactly! You got it. That's the most wonderful thing I can say about his poems, that they leave you with a sense of loss and fulfillment at the same time. In his writing Henguchi is not a nihilist–but–there is the sense that we've all experienced losing something important. But even with loss and destruction, our pain is something rare and beautiful, admirable, and a source of strength and a sign of life. That's what drew me to Henguchi, and that loss is there and life is full of it, but we are still alive, and hungry, and passionate, even in a whirlwind of sight and sound where we can't catch everything no matter how hard we try. Maybe every once in a while we catch the wind in our sails, and maybe we don't know exactly just what that wind is, but it's there.


#FridayPoetry: Noise

This is first in a series of poems I'll be posting on Fridays. 

 

Noise

 

Girls weren’t supposed to make noise, 

but I wanted to join the grade-school band. 

 

At Second-Hand Blues, 

my parents turned over price tags, 

steered me toward a pair 

of two-dollar drumsticks. 

I laid my hand on a snare’s taut skin,

pedal-beat a bass.

I came home with a practice pad— 

slant wooden board sheathed in rubber. 

I tapped the table instead, 

to hear the noise, feel 

the rhythm in my head. 

 

Go to your room, Mom said, 

but out I went, flam-tapping 

on mailboxes, drumrolling 

the porch railing. 

 

Mr. Silva told the boys 

to mark time like me. 

They had drum kits at home 

and wanted to be Tommy Lee. 

They’d switch grips on their sticks 

when Mr. Silva wasn’t looking, 

rush to solos, 

miss a beat. I felt 

the note they didn’t hit 

the silent 

second.

 


WTF, harem pants, Barcelona?

Maybe I missed something in fashionista-land, but I was a bit bewildered to find that every woman in Barcelona was wearing harem pants, and every store was selling them.

Harem pants dummy

Yeah, I'm talking about the 1980s, M.C. Hammer, drop-crotch variety. You know, the kind that are flattering on exactly no one. And by no one, I mean me. I was only too glad to see harem pants fall by the wayside in like, oh, 1992. But not Barcelonans! They're bringin' 'em back, baby!

Harem pants back 2

And harem pants apparently go with any type of footwear, including Chuck Taylors.

  Harem pants with chucks

Another strange thing about being in Barcelona is that everywhere we went, we heard early 1990s music, especially Enya. You remember Enya. What? You don't? Well, this should refresh your memory.

 

Between the harem pants and Enya, I kept flashing back to my 20s. Which is a weird thing to have happen on your honeymoon, when you're, um, a long way from your 20s.

OK, maybe the harem pants are kind of cute. At least on the hanger. Look, pretty colors! And patterns, wow.

Harem pants rack

 

And I bet you can't resist these twinsies.

Harem pants twins


Why You Should Always 'Keep Looking Up'

Palau looking up

 After battling jet lag and a formidable language barrier, conquering a few annoying ailments, getting scammed at an ATM, being yelled at by an indignant Catalan waiter, and finding ourselves in the middle of a street protest, we could have called our honeymoon a disaster. We could have moped around like a couple of Mericans, wanting our money back or cutting our trip short. But we didn't.

Instead, we kept looking up.

It's a valuable and simple message, "keep looking up." PBS' Jack Horkheimer, AKA "the star hustler," used to sign off every episode of his show with that mantra. The man could rock a Members Only jacket AND knows his Betelgeuse from his Van Allen Belt, so he's worth paying attention to, even posthumously.

 

It's a good thing we took ol' Jack's advice, or we would have missed the Palace of Catalan Music. Or in the local tongue: Palau de la Musica Orfeo Catalan.

I was twice moved to tears by sights in Barcelona, and this was one of them.

Especially for a structure as old as the Palau, which was finished in 1908, it's full of whimsy, as if a pastry chef dancing to the music of "Fantasia" were let loose in a concert hall with a bag of icing. Life-sized pegasus horses emerge from the corners. Chandeliers tilt at jaunty angles. A row of musicians are rendered half in bas relief and half in 2D on stage, as if the drawings have somehow come to life. Those who perform here describe hearing these musicians behind them.

Palau X rosettes

Palau pegassus

Palau X chandelier

Palau X musicians

And above it all, a globe of stained glass, like a giant sun, illuminates everything, allowing natural light and color to make the theater glow.

Palau X dome and sweep

Like La Segrada Familia, the Palau exists solely on private donations, and also like Segrada, it is an example of the cultural pride and passion for the arts that exemplifies Catalonia. The grand choirs of the turn of the last century were the inspiration for its creation, and a roster of world-class performances continues to fill the space with sound befitting its visuals.

I'd go back to Barcelona just to see a concert there.

By the way, I once saw Jack Horkheimer, the star hustler himself, in person. I lived in Miami at the time, and he was the director of the planetarium there. I'd noticed his Member's Only jacket in front of me in line at the Winn-Dixie, and when I walked outside, there he was. It was nighttime, and you know what he was doing?

Standing there in the parking lot, looking up.