Thursday, August 31, 2017


The last couple of days I've been whittling down a 6000 word manuscript to just under 5000 words.  5000 seems to be a sweet spot in terms of short stories; when a manuscript gets much larger, it becomes more difficult to sell -- and you have to make sure those extra words are pulling their weight.

Some of my difficulty is that I can get baroque in my writing style:  playing with the lyricism until I've passed popular taste in convolution -- or else fixating description on and getting too detailed over minutia because I like verbal eye candy.

In this particular case, I managed to squeeze out about 450 words simply by looking for some of the usual suspects -- "started to," "tried to," "only," "was," and "it was," and "began to" -- and recast various weak, passive, or convoluted phrases.   The search function helped find places where I'd strayed into using danger words.   I got fifty to a hundred words out by noticing repeated phrases (usually describing the protagonist's heart rate or breathing) and removing extraneous ones.

Probably the most difficult cut was deleting the first two pages -- the original opening scene provided some nice setting and character background, but there was enough spread throughout the rest of the manuscript that I could justify it's removal (telling myself that if the story is ever re-published, I might add the deleted scene back).

The happiest moment was discovering during a read-aloud that I'd pasted in a section twice.  When I deleted it I got about thirty words, which I used to insert a particular detail I'd liked, but didn't provide quite enough character development to justify.

I'm going back and forth a little on the voice.  On the "it's working" hand, this manuscript has been making the rounds and getting "interesting-but-no" rejections; so I think it's serviceable.   On the "needs work" hand, I wrote the original version some years ago the beginner's craftwork shows.  But back on the first hand, the voice in the original is strong, and whittling it down has blunted the voice... which might be a good thing... even if the writing feels a little formulaic.

Anyway, it's reached the point where tinkering with it any more is either going to fatigue the manuscript or push it back over the word count.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Silver Creek Falls

Sunday we met with our friend, Nancy, and went for a six mile hike through Silver Creek Falls Park.  The day was pleasant for hiking:  walking along the creek beds or in treelined gorges we managed to stay cool and the smoke from various forest fires wasn't so concentrated there.  

There are a variety of falls; the water flows over basalt shelves and cuts through differing layers of rock, depending on the rock's hardness.  The usual configuration there is a crescent of hard basalt working upstream, with an undercut of softer rock forming a second crescent-shaped cave underneath the fall.  Some falls are cascades over basalt, others are trickles filling deep pools.  I don't remember every visiting before, which is too bad; there are many interesting falls and the buildings have a CCC and WPA charm reminiscent of the Timberline Lodge on Mt. Hood.

The valley has been smokey.   Everyone thought last May and June with all the rain that this would not be a huge fire year, but I guess it let a lot of grass grow, and there's been more fuel.  Monday and Tuesday the air quality has been certifiably unhealthy and daytime temperatures have been in the nineties.  The last few sunrises and sunsets look like some florid seventies poster or else from the planet Tatooine.

The family has gone on a short trip, so the cats and I have been staying inside.  I've been alternately cutting out words to get a story to spec, and Monday to Tuesday I threw together a 1000 word short story.  I tried a technique of writing the story backward, starting at the end, then going backward scene by scent (actually, just sketching in a paragraph) to the beginning.  Then I went forward, fleshing in bits.   The story was ready to read (barely in time), and I wish I'd read it aloud a few more times to polish out the rough spots.  I expect I can polish it more this week and turn it in next time.

After Wordos, I went to the gym:  25 minutes and 260 cal on the elliptical.  3x12x60lbs on the pec fly.  3x12x80lbs on the lat pulldown.  3x12 Roman Chair curl-ups (I'd been adding in some side curls, but I think they've been bothering my back, so I only did straight curls this time).   3x12x40lbs barbell curls.  2x12x40lbs reverse barbell rows.  

After the gym, I re-joined the Wordos at the bar and grill across the street and virtuously had a glass of water.

Sunday, August 27, 2017

I Have A Little Jar

When I go to the MET I often go to the Mediaeval Hall.  There are many stone statues here, and it's usually difficult to photograph them because the hall is dark unless the high summer sun is peaking in through the skylights.

I like this particular statue (Saint Mary Magdalene or Holy Woman) because it's not stiff or dreary.  First of all, whoever sculpted her knew how fabric drapes.  Second of all, you can tell this statue is doing a coy little dance underneath all those clothes:  her shoulders are swaying just a little, and one hip is raised higher than the other.

Her little jar is tilted as she lifts the lid, and you can almost hear her singing, "Oh ho ho ho ho! / I have a little jar / and in my little jar / is a surprise for you..." while she does a little sashaying shoulder-tilting dance.  "Oh ho ho ho ho! / I have a little smile / a secret little smile / my jar's not filled with unguents / (well, not just any unguents...)"

When I was describing this statue's song to some friends, they thought she was singing about a jar full of ungulates.  Which would also be cool, in a happy meal kind of way.  Looking over the list of ungulates, I'm thinking she has a jar filled with giraffes, or maybe rhinos (I'm not sure if unicorns are ungulates); but certainly she would dance and sing her little song, and open the jar, and a herd of giraffes would run out and grow full sized, and she would leap up onto the back of the largest one and sing -- the giraffes would prance in a circle while she sang enchantments, and then they'd all ride off into the forest.

Saturday, August 26, 2017


Although I've gone to the gym ... I've fallen behind in logging it (which was supposed to be motivation for going)... so..

Saturday (8/26) 30 minutes and 350 cal on the elliptical.  3x12x60lbs on the pec fly.  3x12x80lbs on the lat pulldown.  3x12 Roman Chair curl-ups.  3x12x40lbs barbell curls.

Um... let's see, I went last Thursday I had just finished the elliptical, when I realized that I hadn't really eaten lunch and I felt a little shaky.  Not sure what happened there, whether it was an electrolyte imbalance, or a blood sugar thing.  Unfortunately, it made the rest of my workout wonky, and I did the usual routine feeling odd and doing reduced weights.

I think I went Monday?  Probably Saturday.  And I was actually fairly good about going last week.

Adams Vase

Let's discuss the Adams Vase, because, OMG! it is so over the top!

It's supposed to look like a cotton flower, but it looks more like the warm-up for a bacchanal.  First of all, it's gold.  And covered in amethysts, pearls, and tourmalines.  And it's got semi-naked gods all over it.

 I'm not sure what Mercury is wearing here, but it looks like a sheer veil.  He's thinking about something, probably, "If I shimmy three steps to the right and then two the left, I can loop my veil over a hottie; but which one?"
The youth on the right is warming his hands, or else making an offering; I think the other youth has an oar.
 Mr. Adams was apparently an industrialist in the cotton oil business.  I had to look up the uses of cotton seed oil and it was essentially the high-fructose corn syrup of the late 1800's.  Only for lard as it was a key component in Crisco.  And potato chips.
I don't know why these birds are holding up garlands.

I'm thinking there's a message here, but I'm not sure what it is.  I'm pretty sure that Oregon State University hadn't incorporated at the time of this vase's construction, so it can't be a symbol of school pride.

What's That On Your Head?

 When I was at the MET, I saw this wig in the Egyptian Wing.  I'm not sure how authentic the style is, as I think the conservatory staff had to reconstruct the wig based on carvings and paintings.  However, I like the triangular negative space defined by the wig, and the intertwined locks look nice.  There's something refreshing about the simplicity of the metal bands interweaving in the hair.

I tried to take a picture of me as if I were wearing the wig, but it didn't exactly come out the way I expected.   I guess they really couldn't have duplicate wigs out for the thousands of visitors to try on.

Friday, August 25, 2017


Sunday morning we traveled to my folk's house to be in place for the total eclipse of the sun which would take place the following Monday morning.  The Oregon Department of Transportation, the state police, and various news sites had been forecasting epoceclipse, with dire warnings that the event would turn into a combination Woodstock and hurricane Katrina.  Millions were expected to descend upon Oregon like a plague of locusts, eat all the food, buy all the gas, and start a zillion forest fires.

We opted to drive the day before the eclipse.  The traffic along 99W was fine, with the occasional, mandatory, slow farm truck.  We had a lovely day with my folks and my sister's family.  At 1:15PM  I laid down some painter's tape (aligned with the meridian sun)  on the deck to get a feel for the cardinal directions.  My folks' house is on a north-east by south-west axis, which has more to do with the slope it's on than with any solar alignment.  I double-checked it later that evening off of Polaris and it was close enough.

Monday morning, I woke up before sunrise and went out to see what could be seen.  There are a lot of forest fires going on around the state, and Sunday had become hazier and hazier as the day progressed.  Also, it's not unusual for the night to bring clouds in from the coast.  The sky was dark blue, which progressed to a kind of purple and to orange on the eastern horizon.  A bank of low haze hid the Cascade Mountains.  I took a few pictures of Venus.

When the sun rose, it was much more north than I'd expected.  I put down some more tape to mark where I thought the sun would be at 9 AM, set up a tripod and cameras, and made breakfast mimosas.  The family gathered for bacon and eggs and panckakes, and then it was time for first contact.

The local amber alert system sent various messages to everyone's cell phones warning people to 1) pay attention to the road, not the eclipse, while driving; 2) to watch for falling rocks while climbing during the eclipse, and; 3) to not look at the sun without proper eye protection.   In their driveway, the neighbors next door, laughed a lot, and we joked about throwing rocks at each other.  We also bet that the next amber alert would be about fireballs and the end times.

Through eclipse glasses, the sun's disk showed a little nibble out of it.  We tried various methods of projecting the crescent.  The binoculars produced the largest, most study-able image, while a colander produced the most artistic image.  I went back and forth on how much I liked looking through the eclipse glasses at the sun; at the beginning it was like looking at an eclipse of the moon, only more boring because the sun's disk is featureless and the moon has craters.  Also, I hadn't practiced, so I didn't figure out how to take a picture of the sun with the eclipse glasses over my camera: so those shots were odd reflections between the Mylar and the lens.

When the moon had the sun about half-way covered, the quality of the light was odd.  It was sunlight, but the intensity was down; in retrospect, I'd say it was like moonlight on a bright full moon night, except it was day.  At the start of the eclipse, the morning promised to be hot -- and I'd been sweating on my folks deck.  But now the sunlight shining on my arm didn't heat it at all.

We spotted two white objects.  At first we thought one of them might have been Venus, but they turned out to be weather balloons.   The kids were surprisingly nonplussed about the crescent sun, and roped Mark into a game of Monopoly.  We did get them out as totality approached.

It got darker and colder.

Mark saw the shadow bands first: squiggly waves running up the wall behind us.  Faster than a cloud's shadow, and more subtle, they broke the illusion that the house is a fixed object in space, and is actually a moving point on the celestial machine.  On some level, we knew we were seeing the portents of the swift and massive dance of the heavens.  The sundial motto, "Light is the Shadow of God" never felt more true at that moment.

Totality was upon us.  Things happened in quick succession.  The crescent sun became a fingernail, became a hairline, and winked out.   We whipped off our glasses.  I said, "Oh wow..."

A huge black disk hung in the middle of a white corona in a midnight blue sky.  I stood in a circle of quiet; distantly, I heard the kids jumping up and down and shouting that this was the coolest thing ever, neighbors whooping, and fireworks going off.   I snapped some photos.

"I think I see Mercury," I said, "at about eight o'clock."   The corona stretched away from the disk in asymmetric loops, like long silvered hair given life by static electricity.  There was a faint dot tangled in the corona, near the black disk--later I wondered if I was actually seeing Regulus.  I said, "Oh wow..." again.

I fiddled with the video camera's zoom.  Through the distance, I heard Mark and The Child making a quick video.  I looked up again at the blue, black and white spectacle.  A shadow of red tickled my eye.  I wasn't sure if it was really there.  Then a red pinprick appeared, like a small ruby set on a ring.  "Oh wow...  I'm seeing Bailey's Beads!" I said.   The ruby grew to a coal.  Brighter.  "Glasses on!" someone said.  Totality was over.

The moon's shadow raced away from the house, and the valley below brightened.  I looked for shadow bands, but they weren't visible.  The sky was still dark; it was still cold; and we all thought that was the shortest 90 seconds of our lives.

The sunlight grew stronger, but it wouldn't be another half hour or so before it would be able to warm my arms.  The sun's crescent swelled.  Already the memory of the corona faded to unreality -- something fantastic one might dream, something looming too huge and dominating to have been real.

I poured myself a second mimosa.

We gazed up at the growing sun, and tried to predict when the eclipse would end.  The disk looked like a hat's bill; it looked like Ms. PacMan.  It looked like a chipped plate.  It had a bird peck out of it.   Ten minutes past all of our predictions, it was an almost perfect circle.  The disk shone, climbing in the sky, with a rough patch along one point, as if the moon had abraded it.   It was perfect once more.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

MET Day!

Tuesday, Aug 7

Today was MET Day!

In a pleasant reversal of the beginning of the trip, I managed to figure out each train's direction.  I also managed to look like I knew what I was doing, so no cousining vagabonds sidled up to me with schemes to offer local guidance in the hallways of the Port Authority Terminal.  The subway corridors weren't that confusing and only had a few proselytizing Christians.  It was if the day conspired to be an advertisement for Friendly New York City:  the woman I asked for help with the 7 train (I normally take the S train) and I had a friendly chat; and the engineer of the 6 train was looking out for me when exited at 77th street (I guess smiling when asking, "Does this train stop at 77th street?" and shouting "Yay!" when the answer is yes goes a long way).

There was a long line to get into the museum when I arrived before the doors opened... and then we were off!  To Egypt!  It's true, I'm a sucker for Egyptian stuff.   It's been two years since my last visit, and I visited all of my MET Friends.  What was strange was that various objects had moved around.  On one hand this is good, because you can see things in a new light.  On the other hand, I thought a few pieces were no longer shown to their best advantage.

The challenge now is to find something that I haven't photographed before.  When I'm in the Egyptian Wing, I try to get sharp photos of hieroglyphics, snakes, Anubis, and Thoth.

This box caught my eye because it looks like something from the arts and crafts movement.
This sarcophagus always confounds my camera's ability to take up-close photos of the hieroglyphics covering.  Something about the lighting and the flat matte color confuses the heck out of the auto-focus.

After traipsing about for about two and a half hours, it was time to leave the land of Egypt.

 I took over a hundred pictures and it's hard to include them all in a single blog post.

I nearly died (twice) from sticker shock at the MET's cafes; I remember that their food is always on the spendy side, but my goodness prices have jumped in the last two years.

I wandered through the American Arts and Sculpture.  At the clearance sale I picked up an iridescent tie based on a Tiffany peacock feather.

At the Fertile Crescent Wing, the displays looked wrong because The Elamite Cow was on loan! I wandered into the Medieval Wing at the right time for the sunlight, because my camera seemed less confused by the low lighting during this visit.

At the far end, there was a giant, way-over-the-top painting from the 1500's by a self-taught Mexican painter.  Smaller paintings by him were exhibited in a back gallery.

I wanted to go to the Music Wing, but it was closed for renovations.  Overall, the museum was not crowded, although there were a number of times when other patrons would step right in front of me as I was looking at the art.

Near the end of the visit, I went to the Gift Shop to look at the Sale Books.  I could easily drop $300 on art books there, but my main limit was the knowledge that I'd need to haul any finds through the airport on my return.  I restrained myself to some family gifts, a monograph on paleolithic cave art and a book on 3D pop-up construction.  In a continuation of Friendly New York, the clerk was from Oregon, and we chatted about living in different states.

After a short traipse through the exhibits under the grand stairs, I ended the visit in the Roman sculpture garden.  This time around, the visit was more about seeing favorites again, and less about finding new objects to learn about and appreciate and photograph.  While it was fun to go to whatever gallery I wanted and linger as long as I wanted, I did miss the banter Mark and I had had yesterday a Bear Mountain.

The guards threw everyone out.

So I went to buy chocolate.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Bear Mountain Lodge

Monday, Aug 7

Originally Mark and I were going to have a date in New York City. I  had hit upon the plan to visit the Brooklyn Botanical Gardens so Mark could show me his favorite plants from his last visit; and then we could visit the Brooklyn Museum to see their Egyptian Wing, which I've only seen for about twenty minutes over a decade ago.  But they were closed Mondays.  Mark didn't want to go to the MET or The Cloisters, which were the only museums in the city which were open.

Mark suggested that I go to the MET by myself, but I said that I had been looking forward to seeing something with him.  We were further constrained by needing to be at Kevin and Jackie's this time to actually meet with Jackie and their older boy.

The Internet came to the rescue with a picture of the Bear Mountain lodge, which looked like the Mt. Hood lodge and which was not on the other side of the state (actually, we'd driven close to it when we'd gone to Storm King).

Off we went.  It was raining.  Mark said that he'd actually run around Bear Mountain Park when he was on the high school track team, and later attending dance (and drinking) events in the lodge.  As we visited various locations I could hear the partial recognition in his voice.

The weekend had not been kind to the grounds; abandoned garbage was strewn about grills, picnic, and parking sites.  Mark suggested that we should create a photo exhibit of the site as patrons left.  I added that we should print the pictures, crumple them up, and litter them around the site so that patrons could participate in an interactive art installation.

Mark was worried that a kid's camp (or ten) might be having a field trip, but we pretty much had the park to ourselves.  It's possible Bear Mountain Park was also a state troop headquarters, as there were a number of state and police vehicles parked there.  We got out and tried to not look suspicious.

The mascot of Bear Mountain Park is a black bear with a (walking?) stick.  The Arts and Crafts buildings were mostly built by the WPA during the 30's out of river and glacier stones.  The impression that we were looking at a relative of the Mount Hood lodge was much stronger now that we were seeing the buildings in person.

We wandered around a carousel building; I took photos through the glass windows.  The carousel had panels along the rim of its canopy which appeared to be moments in Bear Mountain history.

From the outside, the lodge looked like a rustic version of Rivendell.  As we walked toward it, we saw a flock of large black birds roosting on the roof.  At first we thought they might be ravens, except they had necks like water fowl.  When some glided from the roof, they more like cargo planes.  It turned out they were black vultures.

The inside had had a face-lift in the eighties or nineties, and was kind of bland.  There were a couple of places in the stone walls where arched doorways had been filled, and a new square entryway had been cut out.   The main dining hall, however, still retained most of its Arts and Crafts charm--I especially liked the fireplace.  The furniture was rustic and cute.

We had lunch -- unfortunately, the sound system was tuned to a 24X7 Grateful Dead channel.  Mark remarked that we were probably the only two Eugenians who wouldn't appreciate the music.  It became more painful to listen to as lunch progressed, but at one point it was instructive as I explained to Mark how some Deadheads would be "Waiting for a Miracle" outside of live shows.

Afterward, we strolled through the Zoo and Historical Park.  Probably the funniest signs were for the Rattlesnake Display ("What would you do if it broke?") and the Clovis Hunters display with a gropey mastodon absconding with a busty Clovis woman.  I'm pretty sure we alternated damsel-in-distress versions of "Oh Halp! Halp!" with fits of giggling for about five minutes.

I'm trying to think of what in Oregon is like Bear Mountain, and the only think that comes to mind is the Eastern Oregon Nature Interpretive Center...or maybe Wildlife Safari...  except you walk everywhere and there's a swimming pool.  So I guess it's like a cross between a summer camp and a natural history museum.

We saw bobcat, weasel, several types of owl, brown bears, coyote, snakes, frogs, bald eagle, red-tail hawk, and all sorts of trees.   The brown bears were particularly interesting because the older one looked like a two dimensional Native American bead.

There was hardly anyone else at the park; every five minutes or so we'd bump into one or two other people.  The park is on the Appalachian Trail, so a good portion of them were hikers with giant packs.

At the far end of the park we came to a toll bridge.  The toll booth and highway maintenance building next to it reminded me of a German Schloss and an an Arts And Crafts Studio respectively.  Hiking was free, so we walked along it, singing "Yodel hey hee hoo!"

The gorge fell away and we were suddenly five stories above a river.  Stickers on the girders directed the suicidal to a hotline phone nearby.  I wondered who would jump off of the bridge--were they local townsfolk, and where was the nearest town, anyway?  Any how many were enough to justify an outdoor, on-the-bridge hotline?

I almost took a picture of a large butterfly resting, somewhat sheltered by the wind and rain, on the railing next to the bridge's walkway, but I opted to just enjoy it.

Back to Suffern

Saturday, Aug 5

We woke up, finished straightening up, said "So Long," to Maria and Mike, and drove away from the beach house.

Mark said, "There go the Canadians" as a white SUV with Montreal plates passed us on the Garden Parkway.   We then re-worked ABBA's Voulez-Vous into a song about geometry and beaches:  "...We've drawn it by the sea, it's intricate geometry  / drawings in the sa-aand. / triangles, circles, squares, arcs, hexagons and pentagrams / lure Canadia-ans! / Voulez-Vous, uh-huh... "  

Back in Suffern, it was a day settling in with unloading, laundry, napping, and reading.  I'm continuing to enjoy "The Golem and the Jinni."  Of course, as a writer, it's hard not to notice the occasional turn of phrase that stands out to me and watch the characters' emotional characters (which I wish I could do better--I'm seeing how, if this were my story, I'd clutter it with eye-candy and technical asides about the magic).  

The Ascendant Moon

Friday, Aug 4

Today was a beach day. Because I had a sun burn in my back, I tried to stay out if the sun more.  I read "The Golem and the Jinni" in a kind of hot tent.  The Child wanted to go into the surf, and at one point we'd gone out farther than the lifeguards wanted (Mark called us rebels afterward).

I did more compass work, a spiral made up of six circles.  I didn't use the yardstick for straight lines because my quads were sore from the previous day crouching and squatting.  I had tied a large beach towel over my shoulders because I wanted sun protection, and a shirt felt too hot.  I also wore a large floppy hat.  I'm not sure, but I think the combination of apparel flapping in the breeze made me look like some Beach Vagrant Version of a William Blake Painting of God the Architect.

The late afternoon wound up into a house-cleaning frenzy so we could leave early Saturday.

Late in the evening, Mark, Mike, the kids and I went to the south end of Ocean City to look for ghost crabs and horseshoe crabs.

The waxing gibbous moon cast pale light over everything, and the kids scurried with small flashlights from button-sized hole to hole, occasionally chasing a bolting flurry of crab legs before its owner disappeared into the darkness under the dunes.

They ran ahead.  My sore legs were improving, but would catch at me every other step with a sharp reminder of how I'd cramped them up yesterday.

I stopped to be alone with the moon ascendant over the rippling tide.  A persistant breeze out of the south pressed into me.  Polaris, Arcturus, Spica, Antares, and the other stars shone like beacons for the small cloud wisps sailing across the sky.  I felt as though I stood at the prow of the Earth as it plunged around the hidden sun, and the wind of our passage in my face was the same wind blowing against the moon.

I softly sang "Center of the Sun" and wondered how the moon would look in Eugene:  possibly rising over the eastern hills in a sky that would be blushing into twilight.  I supposed that it would be oppressively hot, as the Willamette Valley was at the tail end of a 102F heat wave, and I worried about our cats.  Smokey would probably snub us; Cicero, already with the aloofness of a barn cat, might have reverted to semi-feral savage (although there had been a photo of him hanging out with his brother, Spencer, on a neighbor's roof).

Then the others' flashlights became too distant for good hiking ettitquette, and I resumed walking.

In My Secret Bargain

Friday, Aug 4


I was following a young girl in white to a secret garden, which was located below my folk's swimming pool, and across Heather Drive.

I'm not sure how the garden was secret, as it was screened on only one side by a fence of broad, grey weathered planks.   But the girl in white was stealthily walking down the hill (which may have been more wooded than it is in real life) and I could tell she was hoping that I'd miss seeing the secret garden.

I didn't, and had just entered it when (I think it was my sister) appeared on my folk's lower deck and said, "I think he's around here somewhere."   It sounded like there were several people with her.

I hid behind the fence, but I was still pretty visible.  The girl in white and I had a wordless exchange of glances that went something like, (her) "great, now they're going to find the garden," and (me) "don't worry, I'll distract them."

By this time, Julie and (I'll say) a 30-something businessman were walking along "the lower forty" below the deck.  I waited until they were turned away from me, and then I stepped onto Heather Drive.    Julie turned around, saw me in the middle of the street and said, "There you are; where did you come from?"

"Here I am!" I said, lapsing into a Zorro Quote.

I'm not sure where Julie went for the rest of the dream; Sarah and Gretchen, my former land-ladies, appeared around a corner.  "Oh good," Sarah said.  "We'd like you to meet Mr. Suit." (I've forgotten his real name, and in waking, this is obviously the Bad Businessman character who pops up in my dreams.)

Sarah and Gretchen wanted some land work done which involved a kind of chemical treatment--I'm not recalling if it was for my folk's land, their land, or Mark's and my property.   I was leery about spraying stuff all over, and I had some concerns that Cicero and Smokey would be poisoned.

"So."  I turned to Mr Suit.  "Do you use an herbicide or a pesticide for this treatment."  

Mr. Suit gave a condescending, "oh look, isn't that cute, the stupid hippy has read something on the 'net and is trying to ask an intelligent question" jargon-filled non-answer.   I asked again a few more times with similar results.

I lost my temper, said something along the lines of Mr. Suit was either dodging my questions or didn't know how his product worked and that his company should send a representative who knew what they were doing.  I think the dream-scape changed, and we were now in a college campus theatre.

Mr. Suit stormed away, angrily muttering about wasted time.

My former landladies were livid.  Sarah read me the riot act:  "Do you know how hard we had to work to get him to agree to come out here?"   They agreed that Mr. Suit had been rude and given non-answers, but apparently, I had derailed a complex arrangement of jobs that had to be done.

"I'm sorry," I said.  "This has been my day for challenging people who don't give me straight answers."  The dream went on... and when I woke up, I realized that I'd been dreaming about non-answers at least twice.

Yard Work and Bocce

Sunday, August 6

I woke up after erotic dreams involving a tree house and somehow being late to provide technical support for The Child's school...

I padded around the house and made tea.  Mark's mother's house has various singing floorboards, which are good for honing early-morning ninja skills.

I'm sure I wrote something...

Sunday was a yard-work day, Mark and The Child mowed the lawn, and I pre-groomed it by raking up all the fallen twigs.  Then I spent some time with an edging tool cutting away the grown over sod from rectangular marble pavers running along the side of Mary's house.  I had a vague notion that I'd do the entire path, but the sod was thicker than I expected and I only really got about five done.

That evening was supposed to be a home karaoke night, but somehow that didn't happen.  The Frullaney Family (three generations) visited for dinner and bocce.  Team Opera Glasses (Carolyn and me) beat Team Stooges (Joe and The Child) by about three points.

Sand Castle

Thursday, Aug 3

Today was a sandcastle day!  I went out to the beach around 9:30 with my compass, yardstick, and small bag of supplies.  Low tide wouldn't be for a couple of hours, and nary an umbrella could be seen on the wide, flat shore stretching away north and south.  The day stretched forward like the smooth sands around me.

First I made a net of circles--a tessellation of six circles around a seventh in the center.   It's a relaxing pattern that let me get a feel for how the compass would respond in the sand.  I continued the net out and then highlighted various circle sections to add some visual variety.

Then I made a simple spiral labyrinth; next a bird constructed of repeated circles on a line.  The bird came out vaguely flamingo-like, so I added a small hedgehog next to it.  By this time I noticed that I needed to hold the apex of the compass in my palm if I wanted to avoid having the rubber bands in the hinge flex and make different shaped circles.

The occasional jogger and one beach comber with a metal detector came by.  A woman asked me if it would be OK for her to photograph my labyrinth.  Later, a woman and her child stopped by; we tried to interest the child in walking the labyrinth, but she only wanted to watch adults walk the spirals.

A group of four teen boys set up the first umbrella; they had some musical device with them which was slightly annoying, but easy to ignore.   Mostly they sat in beach chairs looking out over the waves.

It was time to design the sand castle.  I wanted it to be more historical than random.  I drew a very large circle, then two interlocking squares for placement of eight outer curtain wall towers.  Then a smaller circle and square arrangement within for the inner curtain and central keep.  I suppose that historically, this would make my castle a late fourteenth century castle, with towers in corners supporting outlying towers from cannon fire.

A retired engineer came up to see what I was doing, and we had a talk about castles and Oregon -- it turned out he had done some consulting on structures' abilities to withstand waves at various points along the Oregon coast and sort of knew Corvallis (where OSU has a wave lab).

I returned to construction.  One of the supplies was a simple tower sand-mold, so I placed some of the towers.  The resulting towers were simple, but towering enough.  Sand from the excavated moat was piled into the center for the keep.  Occasionally I would pour water onto the pile and pound it to consolidate the sand into a mass I would be able to carve.  In the back of my head, I recalled that sand sculptors said they started at the top of the sculpture and worked their way down.  The tower-mold helped a lot, and by happy coincidence, seven in a row was the length of the inner curtain square.

At some point, my legs were cramping from all of the crouching, digging, and inscribing in the sand.  The beach started to fill up.  I wondered where the Dwyers were.  More people joined the four teens, and I saw that they were Canadians.  Sure enough, Marc appeared, said hello, and then a bunch of them walked toward the ocean with snorkels.

Later, the Canadians, spurred on by Marc, broke out shovels and pails and in no time had two large mounds built.  A few towers dotted the mounds, built from the deep trenches.  Another family on the other side of me also had shovels, which they used to make a kind of sea wall between the now incoming tide and their encampment of beach umbrellas, towels, and chairs.

On the other side of the seawall folks, I saw the Dwyer camp.  I saw Mark and The Child and walked over to him and sang a re-worked song from Avenue Q, "Oh, I wish you could meet my boyfriend / but you can't, 'cause he lives in Canada!"

"Oh," said Mark when he saw Marc.  "I spoke with him the other day; he's just friendly -- I don't know what my family is talking about."  Mark then went on to point out to me that my back was beginning to sunburn.  Twice.

I gave Mark and The Child a tour of the sand-works so far. The Child seemed nonplussed, and was more interested in swimming.  They added a few towers to the outer curtain and then left.

Finally, the castle was finished, or at least as finished as I wanted it to be.  I worked on another design, which started out like a racetrack and then started to look vaguely sexual, so I added more half-arcs to make it less like a yoni-lingam and more like interlocked arcs, which then threatened to turn into a swastika, so I stopped and took all my tools to the Dwyer encampment.

The tide would be splashing over the sand soon, and I was tired from all of the construction.   I'd noticed a small boy running back and forth and he finally built up enough courage to ask me if I had done all the drawings, and how (at first I thought he was one of those monsters who stomps on unattended castles).

"Hold, on," I said.  "Wait right there; I'll be right back."

He rooted himself to the spot, and I returned with the compass and ruler.  I explained how the compass opened and closed and let him have a go at it.

"Hold it and walk backward," I said when he jammed the compass into the sand and couldn't move it farther.  He made a circle and handed the compass back.

A woman, presumably his mother, hovered on the edge of our conversation, nodded her head and made a calculated grimace which I interpreted to mean "OK, this middle-aged, bearded Oregonian appears to be not summoning demons" and then wandered away when all we were talking about was geometry.

"Circles like to make triangles and hexagons," I said.  "What's your favorite shape?"

This seemed to confuse him and he said he pretty much liked all shapes, but that squares were cool.  So I used the compass and ruler to make a square in a circle, then extended the diagonals to draw a second square around the circle, and went on to reconstruct the plan of the castle.

He watched, enraptured.  I was glad to show it to him, and wished that The Child shared the interest - but he doesn't, and I suppose he makes up for it by enjoying Monty Python with me.

Later on, the tide came in.  At first the lapping waves cascaded into the moat, and I thought the castle would stand for a while.  But, I'd left an opening in the walls for the gate and the water poured through it much more vigorously than I'd imagined, and the castle fell to the waves within minutes.

That evening, with some amusement, we realized the Canadians were renting a house directly across the street from ours.  This of course prompted more renditions of "I wish you could meet my boyfriend."

Dinner was casual.  Afterward the kids went to the boardwalk, and The Child had fun smacking into mirrors in a mirror maze.