Friday, August 27, 2004

Didn't I say my Uncle Dale was famous? In September, my mom and all her siblings are going to Seattle to watch him throw out the first pitch at a Mariners game.

Thursday, August 26, 2004

I shudder to think of the amount of toxins I have breathed in over the past couple of days. I've spent a significant chunk of time in a decaying building full of mold, mildew, asbestos, lead and god knows what else, documenting it for an architectural description I'm writing. It's actually a nice old building, a 1906 school built in a small town east of where I work. I guess it's more correct to say it WAS a nice old building. It's falling apart now, mostly because of a deliberate policy of neglect.

We're on the wrong side of the preservation question with this one. We should be documenting the school before its rehabilitation. Instead, we're documenting it before its demolition. The owners somehow convinced the State Historic Preservation Office to let them tear the building down and put in a parking lot. I'm not saying there was anything underhanded in the process, but after spending two days in the building, I'm certain that it could have been rescued, especially if someone had started paying attention to the water damage in the 1980s. Old school buildings are ideal for adaptive re-use strategies, and while this one definitely has some structural issues (my boss calls the trusswork supporting the auditorium roof "the most optimistic construction [he's] ever seen"), it could be rehabilitated. It just takes desire and a whole lot of money.

Monday, August 23, 2004

How I Spent My Summer Vacation.

One thing is true: Catherine and I do not take lazy vacations. And if anyone is wondering why there's a hole in the ozone, I can probably explain: we (I) drove 1900 miles while we were gone. Fly 2000, drive almost-2000, fly another 2000 home. I am single-handedly depleting the world of its fossil-fuel reserves.

The trip started out fairly slow. We flew into PDX on Saturday afternoon, and arrived at Catherine's parents' house right after lunch. Highlight of the day: the plane didn't explode.

Most of my time in Portland was divided equally between eating, reading and sleeping. We did get out some, though. On Sunday, for instance, we went into town to the Portland Art Museum. Nice museum, but if you go, be prepared to spend as much money as it would cost you to visit the Guggenheim--no kidding. Same price as the Seattle Art Museum, and the SAM is better (sorry, Portland, but it's true). Highlight of the day: paintings from the "Northwest School" in the permanent collection.

Monday, Catherine and I went out to the coast. Perfect weather, we both got sunburned walking on the beach. We stayed out until the fog came in around 4:00. Highlight of the day: lunch at the Nehalem Dock Restaurant, owned by Tom "Wally" Inouye (Pool Service). If you skateboard, you know who that is. If you don't, you probably don't think that's cool. Second highlight of the day: I found a children's book I've been looking for at an antique store in Nehalem. Nehalem apparently rocks on many levels.

Tuesday, we had an incredibly late breakfast (our fault, we had to go running before we ate), then went up to Pumpkin Ridge for lunch almost immediately afterward. We dined w/some friends of the family, and it was really, really fun. Highlight of the day: that meal.

On Wednesday we left Portland and drove to Goldendale to spend some time at the observatory. We timed our visit to coincide with the Perseid meteor shower, which made for a really late night. Between our afternoon viewing and our evening viewing, we had nothing to do, so we drove to Bickleton. It's like starting out from the middle of nowhere and driving 30 minutes just so you could look over the edge to make sure you really were in the middle of nowhere. Highlight of the day: The billboard in Hood River had a huge picture of John Kerry as a windsurfer. Second highlight of the day: Looking at Venus through the telescope in the middle of the afternoon. Third highlight of the day: sweet and sour tomatoes. Fourth highlight of the day: the meteor that left a smoke trail. Anti-highlight of the day: the sliver I got in my thumb from the bench behind the observatory.

I'm not sure how many miles there are between Goldendale and Okanogan. My estimate is "too many." We compounded the damage by adding more miles on, taking a detour to Vantage so Catherine could visit the Ginkgo Petrified Forest. Being petrified, it hasn't changed much since I was there in college. It was really incredibly hot and the air quality was bad (we drove through a brush fire just south of Toppenish, and later saw the Fisher Fire blow up), so we didn't spend much time on the interpretive trail. We did acquire--legally--a few chunks of petrified wood to bring home. Highlight of the day: the cheese and tomato pastry my mom made. Anti-highlight of the day: heat and smoke.

Spent Thursday night w/my mom and dad, and then on Friday, we went camping up the Twisp River w/all the aunts and uncles from my mom's side (except my famous Uncle Dale, who was out fighting fire). Highlight of the day: not getting eaten by a cougar. Second highlight of the day: the swimming hole. Anti-highlight of the day: yellow jackets and heat.

Too hot to hike on Saturday, so we went driving in the backcountry w/my Uncle Ernie. He really needs a mini-van w/four wheel drive. First we went downtown to the farmer's market, then took the Poorman's Creek cut-off up to Black Pine Lake. Then we came back down around and went to Roads End, looking for Gilbert. It's amazing how difficult it can be to find a place when a) it consists of only two old cabins; b) the driver hasn't been there for 35 years; and c) nobody has a Forest Service map. Highlight of the day: relatives. Anti-highlight of the day: relatives.

Sunday, Catherine and I needed some time out (see "Anti-highlight of the day," above), so we drove up to Falls Creek Falls, up the Chewack/Chewuch. It was nice and cool in the spray of the falls. When we came back through Winthrop, we stopped to look at my grandparents' old house. Not even recognizable. Highlight of the day: being given a good deal at the fruit stand because of my family name. Anti-highlight of the day: pizza.

It was really crowded at my parents' house after this because my brother and sister were both visiting. We stayed in a tent in the backyard. Monday we went down to Brewster to visit my grandmother. Tuesday I drove to Tonasket twice. On the first visit, we saw my cousins Wayne and Sheryl, my cousin Ron, and my Great Aunt Pearl and Uncle Emert. On the second visit, we went out to dinner with Shawn and Marsie. Highlight of the day: watching a two-and-a-half-year-old trying to sweet talk firefighters in the Whistler's parking lot. Quasi-anti-highlight of the day: visiting a lot of people I might never see again.

The drive from my parents' house to Mt. St. Helens felt really long, but I guess it was only about 350 miles or so. We drove down through Ellensburg and over White Pass because I'd never been that way before (at least not since I was an infant). It's a very picturesque drive, but not particularly speedy. It was good to get out of the Okanogan Valley and all the smoke. The smoke got A LOT worse around Entiat/Orondo because of the Fisher Fire, but once we were actually in Wenatchee and heading toward Blewett, the air quality was much better. Highlight of the day: the spectacular view of Mt. Rainier.

We spent the last few days of our trip at Mt. St. Helens. I think we liked this part of the trip the best because it involved a lot of reading and thinking, but also a lot of outdoor time. Although we weren't exactly stupid about volcanoes in general or Mt. St. Helens in particular, it's true that we gained a lot of knowledge in the three days we stayed near the mountain. Part of what we learned came from the exhibits at the three visitor centers at the monument. The rest came from the books we lugged across the country to read as we went. We also talked to a lot of locals while we were there. You'd think they'd be tired of talking to tourists after 24 years, but it really didn't seem that way. Highlight of the day: watching the glass blowers @ the gift shop. Anti-highlight of the day: Weyerhaeuser.

We did some hiking on the Boundary Trail and the Hummocks Trail on Friday. The Boundary Trail is really hot and exposed (and steep and rocky in places), but the Hummocks Trail is mostly shady, going through wetlands formed by the eruption. We went back up to the Johnston Ridge Observatory after we were done outdoors and just hung out for awhile, asking the intrepreter questions. Highlight of the day: the boreal toad. Anti-highlight of the day: Weyerhaeuser.

Mt. St. Helens is w/in spitting distance of Portland, so we didn't have to get up at the crack of dawn to make it to the airport on time. It was a nice quiet trip home, I did some of the studying that I'd been putting off all vacation, and had a good pasta salad on Concourse C of the United Terminal in Chicago. Highlight of the day: the plane didn't explode. Anti-highlight of the day: vacation ended.

Saturday, August 07, 2004

Confirming my current state of detachment from everything in my life, I decided to go for a run instead of packing tonight. That is freakishly unlike me, given we were w/in twelve hours of departure and I hadn't even started putting things together. I always start packing 48 hours ahead, ALWAYS.

But tonight I went running instead. It was probably a bad idea, since I had scarcely had time to digest dinner, I had a million things to do, and it was starting to get dark. But it turned out to be my best run in months, fast and strong (for me), so I'm not going to second-guess my decision. I'm starting to feel more confident about racing in September. The calf muscle is still wonky, but not painful. More of an absence or emptiness than anything else. Anyway, it has a month to fix itself.

And now I'm packed, and I've done most of the things on my list, including checking my anger. It's still there, so I guess I'll take it with me on vacation, at least as far as the airport, then we'll see.

I can hardly wait to be gone.

Friday, August 06, 2004

Box parts/groove plane to garage.

Move door back into garage.

Piano box up.

Backpack.

The Fountainhead.

Call home.

1 or 2 study books? 1. Or both.

Car wash?

Dinner? Running?

Check yellow list, too.

Check anger.

Cell-phone charger.

CDs?

Gas cards.

Blanket.

Sunday, August 01, 2004

Catherine gave me my birthday present today, several weeks early: she put a down payment down on an electric piano. We had to move some furniture to fit it in, but it is way cool, and if I had to throw away a couple hundred books to make room for it, so be it. I haven't had a piano since I left home in 1985. We've been talking for years about getting one, but they're so damn expensive. Even electric pianos are usually well beyond our budget, and I'd more or less accepted the fact that it would be another twenty years before I ever got anything acceptable. But suddenly this one showed up on the market, and it was a really good deal, and when Catherine came to meet me after drumming today, she filled out the paper work, wrote a check, and said, "Happy Birthday."

I like it because it's got 88 keys instead of just 76, and also it has "touch," which means it feels and reacts like a piano instead of a synthesizer when I play. Also, there's another dozen or so reasons why I like it, but I'm too tired to write about them at the moment. I'll come back and say more after I work my way through the 108-page instruction manual. I'm probably going to play it in grand piano mode 95% of the time, but it won't hurt to figure out what else the thing can do.