An afternoon at the waterfront park

ship canalI recently made the mistake of drinking mimosas at a friend’s brunch. The rest of the afternoon I wanted nothing more than to sleep. Because naps are something I don’t do at all well, there was nothing else for it than to head out for a lazy afternoon reading, picture taking and people watching in a park.

As waterfront parks go around here, the one I chose was relatively unpopulated. Very late on a Sunday afternoon notwithstanding, I’m the only one sitting in this particular part of the park. I suppose it’s because this park is a little hard to find by car. Most people access it from the Locks and the larger park on other side of the channel, but I know the road that leads here.

I situate myself under two big trees on a bit of grass between walkways, facing the channel that leads out to the bay. Boats slowly pass by, as do people. Tourists aimlessly wander, occasionally stopping to read the interpretive signs and warnings to keep far away from marine life. Locals are out for a brisk walk with the dog or a bike ride. A couple of bicyclists stop to pull out their phones and take pictures of the passing boats. In the distance, at the end of the channel, I spy cruise ships in the bay, headed out for a week’s trip to Alaska. I count four.

Two young hipster men stroll by, deep in conversation. Everything about them is carefully styled, from shoes to hair. One is overdressed for a hot afternoon stroll through the park—narrow slacks, rumpled white button-down, ‘European styled’ leather-soled dress shoes and skinny tie.

“I guess watching the people would be OK,” the overdressed one says.
“You aren’t missing much,” the other replies.
“Yeah, and they let you smoke in the casinos. Try getting that smell out of your clothes.”
“You aren’t missing much.”
“I wonder what the future of Las Vegas is. World’s largest reservoir…”

They stroll beyond my ability to hear anything more.

An East Indian or Pakistani family comes by in the other direction. Two aunties and one grandmother are in traditional dress. Father, mother and two teenage girls are in western garb. All speak their native language. Father and mother point out things of interest. The teens drag behind, their gate not much more than a shuffle. Clearly bored out of their minds. I note they are not holding iPhones. These days, it’s a strange site to see teenagers not bent over a smart phone.

A middle-aged man with a long-lens camera appears out of nowhere. He checks his watch and faces out toward the bay. In the distance, a train’s whistle blows. The man checks his watch again and repositions himself, and aims his camera at the train trestle over the channel, just as the trestle lowers from it’s upright position. He adjusts focus, checks settings, and again raises the camera to ready for the shot.  The train passes and the man takes several shots. He reviews his shots and then moves on.

Not just the one train passes by on the trestle, but several: The regional commuter (must be taking people home from a baseball or soccer game downtown), a mile-long Burlington Northern Santa Fe cargo train with many graffiti-festooned containers, and an Amtrak, probably headed for Bellingham or eastern Washington.

A giant modern pleasure boat with an almost equally giant pink inflatable dinosaur lashed to its bow, like some sort of masthead, heads in the channel from the bay. As it passes I read the name on the stern: ABSOLUT. Can you say, “party boat”?

The photographer returns, this time with two other photographers. They consult, aim their cameras at various things, and consult some more, then go back the way they came.

Suddenly, I’m alone. No passers-by. No boats. Not even squawking gulls or crows, or cars driving on the road just behind me. It’s a strange experience to be entirely alone, if only for a minute, in the middle of an busy, busy city.

Three state fisheries outboard skiffs swoop in from somewhere up the channel, obviously checking in on the “salmon stairs” nearby. The men are dressed in wader overalls and rubber boots. They deftly handle the outboard motors as if they learned to drive a boat long before they learned to walk.

A large vintage yacht, a Chris-Craft maybe, pulls up to the sea wall to wait for the Locks to open. A woman on the bow holding a bow line, yells to the man on the fly bridge, “There’s none!” He says something to her and she yells back. “None I tell you. Only plants. They’re gone or something.” The woman on the stern has the same issue. The captain, unhurriedly, which is disconcerting, descends from the fly bridge to the bow, calmly takes the line from the woman and loops it around a piling. He goes back to the helm to nudge the stern back in, then in the same unhurried manner, walks back to the stern to loop that line around another piling. “You didn’t say to loop it!” the woman on the bow scolds.

Behind them comes a Police boat with a small weekender tied alongside it. Obviously the rescue of a disabled boat. The Police boat gives a formal horn signal to the Lock keeper. Other boats arrive, but choose to circle in the channel to wait for the locks, rather than tie up.

Somewhere in the distance, someone is playing a flute. I decide to pick up the book I brought and read a while before heading back home.

OLWG #10: “C” is for Cancel…

…as in, “Cancel that Cancer. All Clear.”

good news

TNKerr, the author of AOOGA-The Unofficial Online Writer’s Guild, as well as his own blog site, announced he received the good news that the year of treatment, positive thinking, listening to what his doctors, nurses, therapists, wife, children, friends and family told him to do, along with all the rest that goes into “battling cancer,” worked. He is fully on the mend.

Many of us are enduring cancer, either as a patient, or as someone providing additional care and moral support for another undergoing treatment. So, the news that someone made it through is uplifting.

The time was the prognosis was almost certainly fatal. As a child, I remember the overwhelming feeling of shock and sadness when we learned that a member of the family or someone we knew had been diagnosed. These days, the initial shock and sadness remains, but it’s followed by what would have previously thought unbelievable: A sense of hope, that, however awful, however trying the months ahead will prove to be, full recovery might just be possible.

I have to hold to this hope because so many in my life are, or have received cancer treatment. The most recent is my manager’s husband. His condition is such that she must take family leave. There are three other cancer diagnosis scenarios at my workplace in the past two years. A few years ago one of my sisters underwent a long 18-month ordeal with throat cancer. One of my brothers-in-law has undergone treatment for four separate diagnoses over the past decade, and currently is undergoing what can only be described as treatment for a cancer so aggressive, he must be routinely scanned and treated throughout each year of his life. He says all he can do is live life one treatment at a time. An old acquaintance has survived two bouts of leukemia and feels much the same way: Live life one day at a time/one treatment at a time and always hope for the best.

Of course, there are the losses, which is why we feel such dread when we learn of a diagnosis. A grandmother and an uncle were the ones to introduce me to the terrifying world of cancer, followed just a few years later by a brother. Cancer was thought of as something that happened to older people and chain smokers, not young men in their prime. Since my childhood, I can count on both hands the family, friends and others with whom my life has crossed paths who have succumbed to cancer.

I always dream of a time when disease of any sort can be, at best, eradicated, or at least, managed. I mean, who doesn’t dream of that outcome? Who doesn’t aspire to live life as best we can with a simple chronic condition, rather than a painful and debilitating disease, and with the hope that, when the time comes, we pass quickly and quietly in our sleep? Or die laughing, as my other grandmother did (Truly. While playing Pinochle with friends. Someone told a joke that really hit her funny bone. She let out a huge laugh and collapsed face down on the table of a massive stroke. Never knew what hit her).

Now, if you’ve read through the post to the end, you may wonder why I bolded a couple of words. The highlighted words are this week’s OLWG writing prompts: Unbelievable; Well, my wife told me…; I’ve dreamt that before.

Three cheers for my blogging buddy, tnkerr! I expect your celebrations involve something to do with NM, hockey, disc golf, drawing, family, friends, and, of course, writing!

OK redhead

(Looks nothin’ like me, btw…)

Where’s the Function Key for “Risk”?

When I saw the greeting card pictured here while out shopping with a friend, I busted out laughing so loudly, I gave my friend a start. The card now sits prominently on my desk at home (I wouldn’t dare display this on my desk at work. It doesn’t inspire confidence in those who are in positions that require they follow my lead).

I am not a risk taker for the sake of throwing caution to the wind.  In my humble opinion, to be that juiced is delusional. It seems not just careless, but indicative of a certain level of impatience and laziness. Nevertheless, I can’t help but envy those who exemplify, “with great risk comes great reward.” Actually, the people I admire are those who embody “with great risk comes no reward, in fact it completely failed, but, whatever, I’ll try again, or maybe just move on to the next thing.” They have a moxey I don’t.

When I’m inspired; not just daydreaming, but truly inspired, I am a risk-taker. I’m motivated to leap forward and take a chance. But mostly I fall into the, “I find the prospect intriguing, so it might be worth investigating” category, which means I’m a calculated risk-taker. I study, research, discuss, plan, and when I’ve exhausted all that effort, I take a little bunny hop into action. That’s why the greeting card cracked me up, because for all my planning, etc., I don’t hit the mark as often as I would like (plus, truly, I am bad with mathematics).

It’s not that genuine risk-takers neglect preparation. They just don’t use it like a safety harness, the way I do. If pushed, gamblers will admit to taking precautions, and will agree that skill—the kind that comes from a certain amount of preparation and training—is a solid foundation from which to set forward with taking risk.

But no one can call a genuine risk-taker, “calculated.” What sets apart calculated risk-takers and all-out risk-takers is spirit and confidence. Risk-takers are trail blazers. They give the rest of us the assurance that having faith in the untried is as important as the calculated risk-takers’ need to first assess the realm of possibility. For that reason, I am encouraged by genuine risk-takers.

Regardless my admiration, I will probably always remain as I am, for as Warren Buffet is credited as saying, “Risk comes from not knowing what you’re doing.”  However, I try to push myself, because I think the following quote attributed to Ray Bradbury embraces the spirit of having faith in one’s ability: “…risk is jumping off the cliff and building your wings on the way down.”

Rearrange the furniture and you’ll see a Sea Lion

sealionpuponcouchIronically, I cannot find the words for how happy I feel when I rearrange the furniture. Well, just simply stating how happy I feel are words enough.

Feeling stuck in a rut? Rearrange the furniture. Need a new perspective? Rearrange the furniture.

Park in a different parking spot at work. Take a different route. Even using a different lane on the freeway counts. Have steak, salad and potatoes for breakfast and pancakes with syrup for dinner. Try a bowl of oatmeal for lunch. Always pass on striped shirts? Buy one. Wear it. Never pet the friendly dogs that approach you in the park, or in your neighborhood? Give ’em an atta-boy. Always write non-fiction? Daily journal? Try “faking it.” Vacuum on a Tuesday instead of Saturday this week.

Keep your routine, because routines are comfortable and controllable, but every once in awhile, change it up, just a bit. Or, permanently, like, rearranging the furniture. Whatever. Just make your brain think differently.

As I said, my mood is better after taking the proverbial editor’s red pen to the furniture arrangement in my home. As a result, my mind is open to other things; little things. Like, not eating lunch in the staff lounge but driving to the fishing pier to watch boats come and go for a half an hour while I eat my turkey sandwich, and receiving genuinely gracious salutations from every other person walking by, asking if I’m enjoying my lunch, or the view, rather than scrolling through whatever crap app on my phone (WordPress updates notwithstanding).

The bonus was the walk back to my car. At the end of the pier a group of people hung over the railing, staring intently at something directly below them. I joined them, curious to see what was so fascinating. It was a Sea Lion pup, asleep on beach.

The local Beach Rangers from the city Parks Department had just finished setting up barricades to keep people on the beach and their dogs far away. They stood sentry, answering questions from passers-by. A little girl near me on the pier jumped up and down, yelling, “HEY SEA LION! WAKE UP!” One person wondered aloud if it might be dead. Just about then, it moved, a little bit, which sent a respectfully quiet wave of excitement through the gathered crowd.

The tide was coming in, so when a wave (such as they are on Puget Sound) washed up far enough to touch the little-fella’s back flippers, the Sea Lion pup startled. It raised it’s head and forced it’s huge sleepy eyes open. Obviously made uncomfortable by the stark contrast of the very cold water vs. the very warm sandy beach, it wiggled a little and then, with great effort (as one would do when one has been fast asleep), moved its body up the beach, just until it’s back flippers cleared the waterline, and flopped back down on the warm sand, settling back to sleep.

Precious stuff to watch, none of which I would see had I not rearranged the furniture this past weekend, giving me a much-needed brain shift that lead to the notion of taking lunch on the pier instead of the staff lounge.

Just sayin’. Every once in awhile, rearrange the furniture.

The irony being I don’t like ice cream

You guessed it: Another re-post of an old post. Editing can be fun!


Maybe I don’t like ice cream because it’s cold. I mean, I’m one of those people who prefers tap water to ice water. I’ve never liked Slurpees, Slushees, shaved ice, or frozen margaritas. I haven’t tried it, but my guess is I would prefer beer the way the Brits like it: at room temperature.

As a kid, I would always ask—politely, because my mother did not raise a wild urchin, as she like to remind us from time to time—to not be served ice cream with birthday cake. If there was one thing I hate, it’s melting ice cream all over perfectly-wonderful-by-itself birthday cake. I always get astonished looks. “Who doesn’t like ice cream?”

Well, me.

I’m also not a sweets-nut. I don’t hate sweets. No one really hates sweets. I’m just saying I can take dessert or leave it. I will eat the birthday cake, but not always the frosting. It used to crack my grandmother up to watch me eat around the frosting, mining out only the cake. One time when I was clearing out the fridge, I found a slice of cake way in the back. It had molded. I am not kidding. “Who lets a piece of cake mold?!” a friend of mine admonished (this is the same friend who asked the same question about ice cream). As I say, I can take it or leave sweet stuff, but I ought to make a more regular habit of cleaning out the fridge.

So, when I saw the prompt that asked to write about an ice cream flavor that is the essence of myself , I had to stop and think. Is it still “ice cream” if it’s not frozen and not sweet? What would that actually be? A bowl of Alfredo sauce? Perhaps. With lots of garlic. Sprinkled with roasted pine nuts and served over spinach fettuccine. Now, that I could eat a whole bowl of. Yum.


A slow news day

It’s fun to re-read posts from years ago. I had fun writing this one, so decided to repost:


In a statement released to The WordPress Press early Saturday, a local woman woke on Friday with a feeling that it was going to be one of those days.

“I just had a feeling it was going to be one of those days,” she said.

A longtime resident of the North Neighborhood in Big Northwest City, the local woman stated she was already running late for a lunch appointment 10 miles south of Big Northwest City when she recieved a text from the lunch appointment asking to reschedule for a another day.

In the local woman’s released statement, the text read, “I SUCK! It’s a s*** storm over here today! Just noticed the time! Can’t break away! Pls reschedule ASAP! [angry emoticon/weeping out loud emoticon/sticking out tongue and squinting emoticon/flower/sunglasses/pink poodle emoji].”

WordPress Press contacted the local woman for further comment. She stated she replied in a text that a rescheduled lunch appointment would not be a problem, but that selecting a new day and time would have to wait until she returned to her place of employment.

“I left my calendar at work. It was very stressful. All I could do was reply with another pink poodle emoji.”

According to the local woman’s released statement, another connection was missed later that same day. Just as she parked her car on a street downtown at approximately 5:30 pm, she received a frantic cell phone call from the friend she was to meet. According to the local woman, her friend was stuck in traffic far away from Big Northwest City and would be running very late to meet her.

“He was very upset.”  She went on to say, “There might have been an accident, or stalled car that caused the backup, but the radio said something about three major high school/college graduations taking place in town, so maybe that was the reason.”

The WordPress Press could not independently verify her statement. Requests for an interview with the friend went unanswered.

In her closing statement, the woman said, “Ya know, some days are just like that. Whatever.”