Normally I’d post a photo of this year’s Christmas tree with a count of the number of lights we installed (it was 2800 in recent years)—in fact by now that photo’s usually been posted for a few weeks. But this year we decided to observe the holiday in a pretty low-key manner.
No Christmas tree, for example—I’m sure our electric meter is pleased with that, no lights making it work overtime to track power consumption this month. We did lighter decorating with candles and some small lights, a lighted garland over the fireplace with our Christmas stockings. Also did some baking and we hosted a small group of family and friends at dinner on Christmas Eve, a tradition we started about 10 years ago to leave Christmas Day relaxing and uncluttered.
In that spirit, then:
Here’s to a warm and happy Christmas to you and yours, and the best wishes for the upcoming New Year and into the future.
My father died last week. Not entirely unexpectedly—he had some recent serious health problems—but it was still a shock to get the call the morning of August 8 that he had died the day before.
This is the story of three different men, all of them my father, each living a distinctly different part of one life.
This morning Katharine had to confirm her password when she logged into Google Mail. She uses Google’s two-step authentication on that account — when she logs in, Google sends her a confirmation code by text message. I use the same authentication method for my own accounts.
Pretty routine, entirely unremarkable.
Until this exchange just now.
Katharine: [mumble mumble] “‘...phone number ending in 96.’ It never does.”
K: “The number. It never ends in ‘96’.”
D: [looks over at her screen, sees the Google logo] “Oh, the 2-step authorization thing?”
K: “Yeah. It always says ‘enter the verification code sent to your phone number ending in 96’. But the phone number never ends in 96.”
D: [brief stunned silence] “Your cell phone number ends in 96. It means *your* phone number*.”
K: [audible click of The Getting It] ”OOOOooooohhhhhh.....!”
A couple minutes of laffter [D] and head-hanging embarrassment [K], then:
K: “So then yours says ‘phone number ending in 07’?”
D, whose cell number has ended in 09 for 6 years now: “No...?”
K: [second audible click of The Getting It]
D: [more laffs!]
My sister outdid herself with her most recent post. First two paragraphs:
As I sit here at the end of this day that is set to remember Martin Luther King, Jr. I find myself wondering what he would say to all of us if he were alive today. I think he would be disgusted. I think he would find the continuous spending of money that we don’t have to be irresponsible. I think he would point out that bailing out companies and banks only teaches children that they can spend what they don’t have.
So many of his speeches mentioned the future. Here we are in that future and while we have made many improvements, we have lost a lot. America has lost its pride. I don’t mean the pride of being an American. That is living strong. I mean basic pride in your work. Wanting to do a good job, just for the sake of doing a good job.
Run over and check out the rest. It’s well worth the read.
Friends and family joining me shortly for dinner and hanging out. At midnight we’ll crowd out onto my balcony to toast the new year and watch the Space Needle fireworks display from 6 blocks away.
It’s like living a postcard each year. :-)
Happy new year!
Photo by Jim Bates / Seattle Times, via article Space Needle’s fireworks to welcome new year
Last week was good! Fairly normal work week, random signs of injury I can’t recall, absolutely smashing good weekend!
I think it must have been... Tuesday? Wednesday, actually, now that I think about it. Anyway, when I noticed on my right forearm a large(ish) bruised area, maybe two inches wide. Hurt a bit when I pressed on it, that first day, but the second day nothing but discoloration.
This is one of those bruises I cannot for the life of me figure out how I got. I don’t recall slamming my arm into furniture or bouncing hard off any walls. Nothing fell on me or hit me within the last 10 days, and I haven’t been in a physical fight in well over a year. The bruise’s shape gives no clue to its origin—there are no faint outlines of baseball stitching or backward sports-equipment logo typography embedded in my arm.
But the highlight of the week was a weekend jaunt to San Francisco with Katharine and Julie Anne to attend a live-album recording show by my favorite singer/songwriter, Vienna Teng, and her frequent collaborator (and producer of her last album, Inland Territory), Alex Wong.
Fantastic time. We had VIP tickets for the Sunday evening early show at The Independent, got us some face time with the musicians while they were doing their sound checks. Also I’ve a newly signed poster I need to get framed at some point. It was a fascinating crowd, too, all ages (21+ only) and just about every type of person you could imagine, all clearly fans of the music and really into the show.
No idea when the album comes out, but I’m hoping to hear my voice among the whoops and hollers from the crowd. Maybe it’ll list where each track was recorded as well so I won’t be one of those fools who says, “That’s me clapping first,” only to be told that song was taken from a recording made in New York, where I’ve never been.
San Francisco was lovely otherwise. We flew in Saturday morning, took BART from SFO to Powell Street Station, checked into our hotel with no fuss (our rooms were available even though check-in time was still 4+ hours away), and were out wandering the city a little after 10:30. Spent the afternoon at the California Academy of Sciences in Golden Gate Park, marveling at the planetarium show and chuckling at the penguins’ antics and bemused by the free-flying butterflies in the rainforest globe. Beautiful building, they pack a lot into a relatively small space, but it isn’t at all claustrophobic—the exhibit spaces are thoughtfully laid out with plenty of room for people to move around, and the exhibits themselves are an engaging mix of old (dioramas, animal enclosures, blocks of descriptive text on wall signs) and new (Surface-style computer-driven information about the California coast and such, an all-digital planetarium with a 75-foot projection dome, a state-of-the-art living roof, the works).
We flew home this morning, allowed an hour for bag check and security screening and barely made it onto the plane for the 09:20 departure—and, as it turned out, only because the TSA agents handling the lengthy security lines were canvassing the crowds for departure times 40 or so minutes away at any given time. The bag-check agent had claimed a 45– to 60-minute wait in security; if we hadn’t jumped the line at the TSA agent’s behest, we would have missed our flight, and we had a bit over 60 minutes from bag-check finish to our entry into the security line.
The flight back to Seattle was packed tight. The Alaska Airlines check-in kiosk had even asked us if we would be willing to accept booking on a later flight (with a travel voucher to be used in the future) because our flight was overbooked, and the crowding aboard clearly indicated it would be a busy travel day all around. I think we ended up among the last half-dozen or so passengers to board, which meant that my laptop bag flew home overhead row 18 while our seats were in rows 23 and 24 (in a 27-row 737-400, oh joy).
We did get to enjoy the log-sawing stylings of the Western Conference Champion snorer. This guy could go pro, probably get taken high in the second or late in the first round. He had snorted himself awake five times before the plane was even off the runway at SFO, and several times during the flight—each time, his rowmates would all flinch with the surprise of it.
Sometime during this flight I also noticed the couple of bruises on my right upper arm, a couple of little quarter-inch dark spots on my biceps.
Seems parts of me were beaten senseless over the last several days and I’ve no memory of it.
Anywho. Back home now, all is good and I have a two-day work week because of the Christmas holiday—we get both Christmas Eve and Christmas Day off, for some reason I absolutely am not questioning aloud but still wonder about frequently. Bag is unpacked, cats won’t leave me alone, the wind is rattling my balcony door, and the weather forecast calls for rain and chance of snow tonight and tomorrow.
Just as things should be for December in Seattle. :-)
So how was your week?
Tags: airport security, Alaska Airlines, Alex Wong, BART, bruises, California Academy of Sciences, Christmas, Golden Gate Park, Hilton San Francisco Union Square, Inland Territory, San Francisco, San Francisco International Airport, SEA, Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, SFO, snoring, sound check, The Independent, Transportation Security Administration, TSA, Vienna Teng
So today’s The Big Day.
Julie Anne and I sneaked into your office last night and did some decoratin’, complete to photographic proof.
First the whiteboard:
We had to range far and wide to find the right combo of dry-erase markers for the faux confetti effect. ;-)
And then the desktop:
So here’s to the Big Four-Oh, and to many more.
I love you :-D
Everyone else: Go wish Katharine a happy birthday at all of her sites....
Been a while since I had a non-photo, non-posted-by-mobile something-to-say prattling. Figured I’d catch things up a bit, in no particular order.
Had my eyes examined twice in four days. Bright lights shone INTO MY EYEBALLS at various times, some after I had been given eye drops that would prevent my eyes’ normal response to bright light to safeguard my vision. Institutional evile, it is.
Eye exams are such an odd thing. A bunch of tests designed to safeguard and even enhance our visual acuity, each test resulting in its own odd killing of vision for a short time.
Today’s tests involved digital photos of my retinas. The pics were cool, blood vessels in a circular cut-out on the computer screen, but the method kinda blew. The technician had me watch for the little red blinky light, just focus on the light, she had to make some adjustments and get things just so, don't worry about blinking, just blink like you normally would and keep focused on the red light, almost there, keep watching the light, another slight adjus—ZORCH the camera flash detonated INSIDE MY EYEBALL, practically. Pretty photos, but I saw the flash afterimage for almost an hour.
And within that hour I got to take an extended field-of-vision exam—I stared at a little yellow light and pressed a button each time I saw, somewhere in my field of view, a little secondary spot of light appear briefly. At one point I got a little button-happy and they had to repeat the test for my left eye because I spotted roughly 12,000 non-existent light blips, but I think it was just the machine getting annoyed with my predictive capabilities.
All of that took only 26 minutes. I think that’s like the old cigarette thing, the one where they say each ciggie cuts something like, what, 7 minutes or 23 hours or 800 years off your life? Yeah, that 26 minutes of eye exam from hell cost me 100 hours of sensitivity to light.
Sometimes at night, when I close my eyes really hard, I can still see the spots.
In other news:
We had a thunderstorm over Seattle tonight. I was on the phone with my friend David, because I LAFF AT DEATH and ignore the old saw that you should never use the phone in a thunderstorm, and also I only have a cell phone so if I managed to get zapped by the phone lines, it would definitely be newsworthy. But anyway, I was chatting with David and gazing out over the city, watching the storm move across town and thinking, definitely a good night for Safeco Field to have a retractable roof, eh wot?, and there was a lightning strike atop the Space Needle.
The Needle is maybe 6 blocks from my apartment, so it was roughly, well, NO TIME AT ALL before the thunderclap sounded. But it was quieter than I expected, and though my usual thunderstorm freak-out nerves were jangling, I was fascinated to see a building strike so closely and so uneventfully. Right at that moment David was talking about his recent visit to Cotton Eyed Joe (WARNING: Flash site, loud audio), how crazy it was and how much fun he had, and I was doing all in my power not to run into my bedroom and shimmy under the bed if for no other reason than I will NOT appear that unmanly in front of my cats, both of whom sat at the balcony door watching the storm and didn’t even twitch when the thunder rumbled over us.
Speaking of phones:
My Verizon Wireless contract ended Saturday.
First time in my personal-cell-phone-having life—thanks to the miracle of Palm devices, I can tell you that’s been since March 11, 2000—that I’ve hit the twin milestones of
See, I’m usually hell on phones. I’ve damaged or outright killed a couple myself, drops and bangs and general use-and-abuse, and then there was the time my RAZR got smacked out of my hands and shattered into pieces on the tile floor of a downtown restaurant when I was only, what, a month shy of the end of the cell contract I was on at the time. So my keeping alive for (so far) 2.5 years a device that’s both a phone and a PDA is something of achievement in my little world.
Even more than that, I’m not running right out to replace the phone. I’m sticking with the current plan on month-to-month for now, because it suits me and I have a couple of ideas on phones I may want to try, but I’m holding off until I know more about them.
I really hope this isn’t some hideous sign of maturity. I’m only 37, I can’t be grown up yet.
So then, what else?
Oh, I started a 3-person carpool a few weeks ago. Doesn’t matter so much on the drive to work—we use the SR 520 floating bridge to get to Redmond, and there’s no HOV advantage eastbound.
Westbound, however, the HOV lane between I-405 and the floating bridge on SR 520 is a 3+ lane, and we sail past all those fools in their 1– and 2-person cars as they sit in traffic, mostly idling but occasionally moving forward by a car length or two, and I have to discourage my carpoolers from laughing maniacally and pointing and otherwise possibly causing road-rage incidents even though I secretly want to laugh and point as well.
But I was one of those non-HOV fools until earlier this month. Now I’m routinely home less than 40 minutes after I leave the office, and that includes dropping two people off when I’m driving.
Nice to be home by 5 each day, especially when there are still 3 or 4 hours of daylight to go.
I always want to type Wolvering. Have to correct it every time.
Anyway, two movies at the cinema in one weekend is a lot for me. Usually I’ll see two movies at the cinema in a span of several months, and I’ve realized why. It isn’t the opening-day (or even –weekend) crowds, or the occasionally shoddy projection or the sometimes uncomfy seats or whatever. It’s the people sitting immediately around me who act like they’re in their personal living-room THX auditoriums with the talking and the crinkling plastic and the God knows what other noises are emanating, to say nothing of the occasional dipshit who didn’t silence the cell phone.
I’d usually rather wait for Netflix to deliver the film experience in my own living room, where I know when I’m going to make crinkling noises and I can ignore myself easily.
But yeah. Loved loved Star Trek. I saw it courtesy my friend Matt, who turns 27 tomorrow. (Had to get that in there, of course.) He was dying to see the movie, already had tickets to an IMAX showing on the weekend, but he scored us seats at the 7pm showing on Thursday, May 7th, because he just couldn’t wait two more days for the IMAX showing on the 9th. Good loud visually exciting popcorn movie I’m sure I’ll see at least once more in the theaters and then at least once more on DVD, if I don’t end up owning it.
WolveringWolverine entertained me but didn’t wow me, or even strike me as a very compelling story. Hugh Jackman was good, he’s made the part his own, but I couldn’t buy Liev Schreiber as Sabretooth. Something just didn’t ring true, and in a summer blockbuster of mutants with retractable metal claws and sharp fangs and the like, if you can’t buy an actor in a part, something’s just not right there.
And if I never see Will Ferrell again, it’ll be too soon. They showed the fucking trailer for Land of the Lost FOUR TIMES in those two movies, and I’m sure all the remotely funny bits were in the trailer.
OK, I’m done for tonight.
Have a good Wednesday, everyone.
Tags: catching up, cell phones, David, eye exams, Hugh Jackman, Matt, movies, Palm Treo, Sabretooth, Star Trek, Verizon Wireless, Wolverine, X-Men
Katharine: I think you should go to India.
Me: I don’t really want to go to India.
Me: I would go to India, though, if it was necessary.
Me: Why don’t you want to go?
Katharine: Because I’ve already been on a business trip for this group, and you’re male.
This is the type of iron-clad logic that drives our world.
The recent weekend was pretty full, socially speaking. Events planned for each of the three weekend nights, it was kinda nice to have a stacked weekend for the first time in a while.
But it was also nice that the weekend started out with a big chunk of quiet time, a whole lounge day in fact.
I had planned to slip out a little early so Julie Anne and I could play some pool and have a beer or two before we met Katharine for dinner tonight, but ended up leaving work right at my usual time when Julie Anne picked me up. We headed into Bellevue for a few rounds of pool at The Parlor Billiards & Spirits in Lincoln Square. Place has been open for a few years now but somehow we’d never tried it, a shocking oversight. They have something like 20 pool tables arranged to allow plenty of space on each side so players won’t encroach on other games (very often, anyway), and an extensive bar and food menu to keep you fueled up while you scratch your way through a few games of pool.
While we were playing, Julie Anne, who was vibrating in joyous anticipation at the gift she had arranged for me, suddenly could take it no longer and insisted I open her birthday card. Inside were two concert tickets for Vienna Teng on December 13.
My first thought was: How in the world could I have missed a Vienna Teng concert date in Seattle? I have the tour-dates feed in my regular reader, the last time Vienna Teng was in town I had tickets 12 minutes after the concert date was posted to the feed!
Then I kept looking at the tickets and two things struck me:
So I’m 37 today, which doesn’t faze me in the least because in my brain I’m still maybe 23 or 25 at most and that means I won’t be a grown-up for, what, 10 years at least?
Halfway through, then, here’s how the day has shaped up:
Seems like such a more happenin’ life when it’s listed in 15 items like this, go figure.
Tags: 98020, 98037, 98109, Alderwood Mall, Anthony’s Beach Cafe, Batman, beautiful weather, Bell Street Diner, Borders, BYU, Coca-Cola, Cougars, Diet Coke, Edmonds, foot-long sub, football, Huskies, late summer, Lower Queen Anne, Lynnwood, Macaroni Grill, Matt, Seattle, The Dark Knight, TiVo, University of Washington, UW, waterfront, white chocolate mocha
My cell phone (the only phone I have right now) rang just after 09:00 Friday. I glanced at the external screen and saw Katharine’s smiling countenance (picture caller ID rox!); I figured she had a morning update from her business trip to Irvine.
So I flipped open the phone and greeted her in my usual way of late: “’Sup, chica?”
Her reply: “I fell and hurt my ass!”
When the laughter died down, she told me the whole story, paraphrased:
Walking from hotel out to car with backpack over left shoulder, duffel bag over left arm, orange muffin in right hand. Shifting bag on left arm to right hand, missed a stair, went down, landed on ass. Smashed muffin by reflexive grip motion of right hand; bruised ass on stair.
She did the “Did anyone see this happen?” glance as she stood up, but happily no one did see it. So her ego at least was intact, if her breakfast and her ass didn’t fare so well.
Hmm, an hour ahead of schedule this time.
My grandmother, Eloise Sadler Hills, would have been 95 today.
:: • :: • :: • :: • ::
We grandkids called her Gammy, and she called us Gammy’s Lambies. She was always fond of lambs.
She died September 15, 2001, after a long life full of love and family, friends and acquaintances, good times and bad. The ups and downs of a life that spanned the amazing changes of the 20th century: Two World Wars; the Depression; the Baby Boom; the astounding social and economic progress of the post-World War II era and into the 1950s; the even more amazing social change of the ’60s; the cultural insanity of the ’70s and ’80s; and the winding down of a century and a life well lived in the ’90s.
Gammy was 62 when I was born. (I’m named for my grandfather, Donald Lynn Hills, who died before I was born.) I remember about the time I was 6 or so, she was so vigorously alive—enjoying her daughter and her grandchildren, her friends and extended family, the daily activities that filled her life. She lived in the Los Angeles suburb of Arcadia then, so it was a really special event when we’d pile into the car for the overnight drive to visit her. We usually spent a week or two, made a visit to Disneyland each trip, had so many wonderful times with endless happy memories that still warm my heart.
My grandmother experienced many hardships just in the final 20 or so years of her life, those years I most clearly remember about her. In the mid-1980s Gammy’s husband Bob died, and she moved to Salt Lake City to be closer to her daughter (my mother). And then Gammy ran into other troubles.
She endured a series of medical problems—cancer and its treatments, an intestinal blockage, a few other things—and eventually she began slipping into the initial stages of senile dementia. She could no longer live alone, so she moved into my parents’ house. Mom went to extraordinary lengths to make sure Gammy felt at home there. When she first moved in, she was the vibrant woman we’d known our entire lives, a bit worse for wear but with the light of life shining brightly still.
We were fortunate for that. She’d tell us stories of life in Salt Lake City “back in my day,” of life in the greater Bay Area (Menlo Park, Pebble Beach, Carmel-by-the-Sea) and the Los Angeles area (Santa Ana!). We lived those stories with her as she reached deeply into her memories to bring them to life for us.
But she slipped further from us. Eventually she needed more care than we could provide. Then came another medical emergency, and it was time to find an extended-care facility where she could go after her latest hospital visit and where she would receive round-the-clock attention from professionals who did the work because they had extraordinary passion for it and were damned good at it. We searched for several days and eventually found Highland Care Center near 4500 South on Highland Drive. It was a godsend.
By this time Gammy spoke but rarely. When she did talk, as often as not it was to tell whomever was with her that she didn’t know where she was, or who was with her; she needed to get home right away, she didn’t recognize this place. She had starkly vivid memories of life on 1100 East in the first half of the 20th century and she retreated into those memories, taking comfort from the images of a life that existed only within her own consciousness, 70 or more years in the past.
Of course we had trouble with it. It was difficult to watch this vivacious woman slowly waste away and withdraw further into her own mind. Sure, she had lucid moments—she always recognized my mother, and pretty often she knew me because she held on to the name association with my grandfather—but other faces she knew only sometimes, never predictably.
We always assumed she was suffering, and I suppose she was in some discomfort now and then, but we overlooked the fact that in her retreat to memories of her life so long ago, she’d found a part of her life that was well worth reliving.
She was enjoying a moment forever.
:: • :: • :: • :: • ::
I’m sorry to say that I stopped visiting Gammy regularly after she moved into Highland Care. I’d been the most adamant about finding a good care center, and I did the research and asked all the questions when we visited the place the first time. Once that was done, I stepped back and became shamefully reticent about visits. Oh sure, I visited regularly, several times a week at first, but over the next several months it became an occasional drop-in and the regular visits for birthdays and holidays.
It was hard for me to see my grandmother changed so much from the smiling, talkative, warm woman of my youth to this quiet shell of a person, the suggestion of recognition flickering only occasionally across her face when her family visited.
:: • :: • :: • :: • ::
In September 2001 I traveled to Chicago on business. I flew into O’Hare on September 10. The next day saw the terrorist attacks in New York City, Pennsylvania, and Maryland; and the day after that marked the start of my grandmother’s descent toward death. Mom called me Wednesday to tell me Gammy wasn’t doing so well, might not survive much longer, and three days later Gammy was gone.
I couldn’t get back to Salt Lake until the 16th, by which time my sister, my aunt and cousins, and other family members had come together.
We held no funeral. Instead we gathered on September 17 for a long dinner at a beautiful restaurant, Tuscany, where we cried and laughed and told stories and toasted the memory of a woman who had brought so much joy and love into our lives through times good and bad.
Gammy wanted to be cremated, and in October 2002 we made a trip to the Bay Area to realize her wishes. We scattered her ashes in Monterey Bay and drank a toast to her memory at Coit Tower, in remembrance of her trips there with my grandfather and my mother, when they’d offer a toast as they gazed out on the city from the top of the tower.
:: • :: • :: • :: • ::
It’s funny how our emotions reveal themselves as time passes.
I made my peace with Gammy’s death a few years before it happened, for she had long since ceased to be the person I’d grown up knowing.
She was still physically there, certainly, but the emotional process of grieving the loss was already complete.
Now, as I finish writing, I feel a lump in my throat and a tightness in my face, and I’m surprised by them. But now I know even more the strong effect she had—still has—on the people, the events, the places that made me who I am today.
I take my name from a man I never met. The name was a true honor for me long ago when I’d heard stories and seen photographs and had some sense of the history of my mother’s family, but the honor is magnified immeasurably now, for my name became the most solid connection I had to my grandmother in her final years.
My mom would say, “It’s Donald here to visit you,” and Gammy’s eyes would light up like the sky at sunrise.
:: • :: • :: • :: • ::
Happy birthday, Gammy.