Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Citation 304535586

Dear Officer:

I did indeed park illegally, and I’m sorry. I am writing to ask for mercy in the form of a reduced fee. I am new to the neighborhood, having come from the comparatively rural Port Townsend in February. I’m still getting used to the way cars squeeze in on the streets.

I have visited the site, but been unable to find specifics on the legality of the kind of parking that occurs in my new neighborhood. City people park right on the sidewalks! and so close to fire hydrants! and every-which-way on both sides of the street! (But please don't come look -- I'm sure it's perfectly legal.)

Anyway, the only yellow painted on driveway curbs on my block is at the spot where I parked, and it was after dark, and I didn’t see it. “You should have noticed you were pretty darn close to the driveway,” you say. Well, yes, I did, but that seems like the norm around here. I did look, and it looked to me like a car could get through there without a problem.

To tell you the truth, I was pretty devastated when I saw, not only the ticket, which was bad enough, but an unsigned note from someone in the nearby apartment building, saying, “You are blocking our driveway. We will report you.”

They gave no name or phone number or address, so I can’t respond to my indignant neighbors, who wrote the note on the back of a page of their one-a-day Get Fuzzy cartoon calendar. I am disheartened to think I have made enemies of people who have a humorous calendar in their home, and there is no way for me to locate them and apologize.

As a result, I feel I have suffered enough. I would really appreciate your waiving the fee. I have certainly learned my lesson.

Mary Davies

Sunday, April 26, 2009

The Husband Store

I checked a favorite blog yesterday, First Person Singular, and found a list of 94 Reasons He Isn’t Right for Me. Author Wendy said she’s looking for a total of 100 reasons, and I blithely added one to the list.

But I was cycling with a man yesterday, and mentioned the list to him, and he said (but not in a mean way), The only reason he’d need for a woman he’s dating not to be right for him would be that she makes lists like this. Reminds me of a favorite joke (or is it a parable?):

The Husband Store

A woman visits a new store in New York City where you may go to choose a husband. Instructions are posted at the entrance:
You may visit this store only once. There are six floors, and the value of the products increases as you go up. You may choose any item from a floor, or choose to go up to the next floor, but you cannot go down, except to exit the building.

The woman starts at the first floor, where a sign reads: These men have jobs.

She is intrigued, but continues to Floor Two: These men have jobs and love kids.

“That’s nice,” she thinks, “but I want more.” She continues upward.

Floor Three: These men have jobs, love kids, and are extremely good looking.

“Wow!” she thinks, but feels compelled to keep going.

At the fourth floor, the sign says: These men have jobs, love kids, are drop-dead gorgeous, and help with housework.

“Oh mercy me,” she exclaims, “I can hardly stand it.” She keeps going.

Floor Five: These men have jobs, love kids, are drop-dead gorgeous, help with housework, and have a strong romantic streak.

She is very tempted to stay, but goes to the sixth floor, where the sign reads:

You are visitor 31,456,012 to this floor. There are no men on this floor. It exists solely as proof that women are impossible to please. Thank you for shopping at the Husband Store.

Please note: To avoid gender bias charges, the store’s owner has opened a New Wives store just across the street. The first floor has wives that love sex.

The second floor has wives that love sex, have money, and like beer.

The third, fourth, fifth, and sixth floors have never been visited.

I shared my reaction to Wendy's list in a comment on First Person Singular, and this is her response:

In my dating experience, women AND men make lists. (And how lucky to find someone who doesn’t.) The challenge is to leave your list at the door. “94 Reasons…” makes fun of the writer, because it eliminates any mortal man (no hair, too much hair, too big, too small). And the last item, “he’s always complaining” is the ultimate projection.

See why I think she’s so good?

Friday, April 24, 2009

Dinner Date

I don’t often eat out. But in my new sixty-single-Seattle life, I have looked longingly into the windows of a couple of local eateries, like 35th Street Bistro, down at the end of Fremont Avenue. White tablecloths, shiny wine glasses, people in conversation.

I’ve had some good dates since I got to Seattle: art museum, concert, bike rides. But no dinners.

Last week a good friend from Port Townsend, where I used to live, was coming for an overnight visit. Normally I cook; we both love greens. I could set before her the same pile of kale with feta that I myself enjoy when dining seul, and she’d count it a treat.

But I was thinking of taking her out. And thinking. And thinking.

I don’t know how to spend money, how much is okay to spend, where the line is between profligate and skinflint. My usual strategy for posh eateries is to order no appetizer and the cheapest plate of food with an affordable glass of wine. Share a dessert. No coffee.

But I don’t need to live like this. I can afford the occasional splurge. I decided I was willing to spend $100 for this meal.

From the moment I booked the table, the folks at the Bistro were warm and capable. My friend and I walked down the hill, went in, and chose a table well-suited for talk. We ordered moules frites -- mussels and French fries -- and a posh salad, and -- my dream food -- garlic spinach, and a roasted game hen -- a capon, I think it was.

Our plan had been to go afterwards to the nearby shop called Desserts where you can get layer cake until 11 pm on weekends (I love this neighborhood!). But we were deep in conversation, and they were treating us so well at the Bistro, we decided to stay put and split a lemony Napoleon for dessert.

It was worth every penny, and it didn’t even take the whole hundred bucks. Almost, though.

What If You Found a $100 Bill...

Before she moved to Seattle, Mary was a columnist for The Port Townsend Leader. This was published there in late 2006. So you gotta wonder, Will she ever learn?

I took myself on vacation last week, biking the San Juans with a friend from California. I had researched where the guided bike tours go, then booked us into comparable places. I went to PT Cyclery to rent a bike for my friend, get new tires for me, and borrow Bob’s book, “Touring the Islands,” for bike routes. Anneke and I took the 9:30 ferry to Keystone on Monday morning on our bikes. By bike and bus, we went on to Anacortes, then to Lopez Island and Orcas, four nights in all.

I was pleased about my budget trip and all I’d be saving as my own tour operator. Nevertheless, when I sat down to dinner at the Bay Cafe in Lopez Village, I clutched. Thirty bucks for the special! Plus $7 or $8 for a glass of wine! Not to mention tax and tip! “Simmer down, Mary,” I said to myself. “A bike group would have cost double.”

I kept saying that to myself the rest of the week. And it really helped. But I believe Somebody Up There must be trying to send me a clear message about abundance, because I kept finding money. I won’t bore you with the little sums, the dime and nickel just before Deception Pass or the quarter in the ferry parking lot. But I’ve gotta tell you about the $100 bill!

We’d just biked in from the ferry on Orcas to the Kingfish Inn in Westsound. I went inside to be sure they were expecting us, then back out to get my paniers. There lay a crisp bill, never folded, in the parking lot. $100. Ben Franklin. When you’re not used to them, they look fake. (I just checked it again.)

Good girl that I am, I marched right back inside to find the owner. Foolish girl that I am not, I didn’t mention the sum. Just, “Anybody lose some money?” I asked. Nobody did. Still, I owned that money lightly for a day, because who knew if someone would come back looking for it? But no one ever did.

I figure it belonged to someone rich. Why? In the first place, poor people don’t carry around hundreds. Plus, it must have lived in one of those fancy leather things you don’t fold. Maybe some tycoon used it as a bookmark, and it slipped out of his brand-new, full-price hardback, or maybe a rare first-edition of The Great Gatsby.

Anyway, it’s mine now, and it completely took the sting out of paying for beds no more comfortable than mine at home and meals no better than I can cook myself.

You know how fun it is to sit around with people dreaming of what you’d do if you had a million dollars? If you won the lottery? I’m telling you, a hundred dollars is just as fun.

I’m still thinking about it. Oh, at first I thought I should give it away. Put it in the offering plate at church, say. Then I thought, no. It’s not like I’m tight with making contributions: I’m not. But this $100 bill feels like a gift someone gave me; how rude to give it away.

I don’t want to fritter it away either, on a loaf of bread here, a head of garlic there. I want to be able to remember where it went, like when I sold my inn in California and bought a lavender cashmere cardigan sweater to celebrate. I want to spend it in a way I would not spend “my own” money.

Art! I should buy art! I’m thinking of that eclectic gallery down by Swain’s Outdoors, and how it always makes me think any old Joe can own original art. I’m wondering if those two somewhat expressionistic sailboat paintings, oil on masonite, for under $100, are still there.

Isn’t there some urban legend of a rich person who goes around handing out $100 bills? If you are he (or she), please know how much fun you’ve bought somebody with that donation. Or if you’ve been considering handing out hundreds, I hope you’ll find this report encouraging, and get started right away.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Dear Mary...

Dear Mary:

I'm enjoying your blog, but do you realize you misspelled "intellectual" in your intro? Where you wrote, "She fancies herself an intellectural"? Or was that supposed to be some kind of a joke?

Your loving brother,

Whoops! Thanks, Tim. Fixed it.

Why Am I Doing This?

I need to write this down.

I need to write down why I’m writing this blog, and the reason is, that I need to write everything down -- for Mom, sibs, kids, for Ric and Rita and Ron, and whoever else may have somehow found me -- but even more so, for me.

I keep a journal, but blogging is different. It may seem, dear reader, that I unload my seething brain directly onto my blog, but it isn’t true.

I reflect and revise and rethink and revise. As my beloved coach and mentor whom I’m never met, Mary Pipher, puts it in Writing to Change the World

"When I wrote about what I had expected to write, I bored myself. I discovered that one path into original thinking was to ask myself, Okay, that is your first idea. What are your second and third ideas? At the end of the day I would reexamine my work, and think, Can I honestly argue something even more daring and unique?"

Sounds kind of highfalutin', Mar, for your kind of blog. But there it is.

For example, work in progress: something about taking myself and a friend out for a posh dinner. Marginal notes to myself: Why not go alone? How do you decide what it’s okay to spend $100 on?

What about writing so personally, when the secondary characters are real? Sometimes I fictionalize them, combine many into one, invent somebody I wish I knew. Again Mary Pipher, describing her writers’ group and how they respond to each other’s work: “There are no rules, really, except to be kind and brave.”

I’m sixty, and single, and Seattle is my new town. Those are the accidentals of my life. Wherever I am, whatever age, whether on my own or not, I guess my job is to keep writing, and to be kind and brave.

It sure would be nice, though, to figure out how to make some money at it.

Monday, April 20, 2009 The Novel, Chapter Four

Blurb for the jacket cover: Mary Davies is sixty and single. She moves to Seattle looking for fulfillment, but she’s not averse to a little love in the meantime. She signs up for Her friends think she’s a catch, but nobody in cyberspace does. And initiating a contact turns out to be the kiss of death! After several frustrating months of hoping her “favorites” will contact her, she chooses a likely prospect and starts emailing him. Daily. Without response, other than what she invents. Is she out of her mind? 

Dear Ardent:

I like what you wrote about Nabokov being so good, not just at writing, but at seeing. Like Proust, who was so good at smelling.

Had a good bike ride today along the Green River, then cozied in at home with that Ethan Hawke/Julie Delpy sequel, Before Sunset. I saw it in the theater when it came out, then got it at the library today. I really like it, at the same time as I'm embarrassed to be my age and still such a soppy romantic! I also really like Dirty Dancing and the Richard Gere remake of Breathless, which I think I'm the only person who has seen. Ah well, the body crumbles, the heart beats on.

I've been thinking about astrology. I think your profile says "don't believe in astrology." And I sort of don't, but to the degree I sort of do, it's just the kind of hackneyed astrology real astrologers would scoff at. I believe in stuff like, Okay, I'm a Libra, which means I'm straightforward and balanced, so when I meet a guy who is, for example, a Cancer, which I guess is, like a crab, protected on the outside and likely to go at things sideways, I figure it's hopeless. 

Then it dawned on me that my mom, a favorite person of mine, is a Cancer and Dad was a Libra! My mom, who really doesn't believe in this stuff, still kindly said to me, Think of these things as talking points.

My dad died five years ago. Thinking of him as a Libra, thinking of how he and mom related -- 56-year-long loving marriage, but not without its issues -- is making me want to get to know Dad better. I always thought he was a little too excited about it when he had posh friends, but they say it's a Libra trait, and I have to admit I was pretty jazzed when a friend took me to lunch on Tuesday at the posh University Women's Club. Dad was always more ready to spend money than Mom, and liked having quality things that would last. I guess I like quality things that will last, but I already have them, and when I was lucky, got them at the thrift store.

But probably this is not what you meant when you asked about my childhood. I was born in Tampa, and we moved a lot, so most of my growing up was in Michigan. Then we moved to New York State, where my folks are from, when I was in 9th grade.

I moved from a rural school to a scary city school with a thousand students who considered me a hick and I was so unhappy, and cried so much, that all the shine left my hair. Then we moved to a more rural area, where I got to be the city girl, all teased hair and white lipstick. We were kind of poor. I remember it was my goal to, by mixing and matching, wear something different to school each of the five days of the week.

I'm the oldest of five kids: the big girls, the boy, and the little girls. I'm the furthest west; everybody else stops at or before the Mississippi, but we stay in contact and we love each other.

I graduated from the University of Minnesota, then moved to California to marry a guy at Stanford Law School. We split up after 5 years, but I stayed in California, married again, ran an inn for 20 years at Point Reyes (I think I told you that), which was the point of departure for the RV odyssey. And on the trip, we made friends who moved to Port Townsend, and then, so did we.

And now, thank God, I'm in Seattle!

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Going It Alone, Without A Phone

I’m sixty. I’m single. I’m new to Seattle. Sometimes I feel pretty vulnerable in the world.

And I’m doing it without a phone.

Oh sure, I own a cellphone. I even turn it on by prior arrangement, and I’m glad it’s there in case of emergencies. 

But unlike most of the people I see, I’m out there with no implied buddies attached to my ear. Though I understand the appeal of it.

It’s been two months in Seattle now, and I rarely experience any more that stiffness in the legs you get when you’re walking through unfamiliar territory, trying to look like you belong. 

I first felt it at Green Lake, an urban outdoor paradise, a nearly-three-mile pathway around the lake for walkers and bikers and skaters and joggers. How hard could it be to fit in, walking around a lake? Well, everything’s harder when it’s unfamiliar. And what if you’re in the wrong lane?


And then, people are always coming at you, the ones walking counter to your clockwise. So, why aren’t they smiling back? Aren’t you supposed to smile?

Oh wait, here’s somebody saying something to me. What? Oh. She’s talking to one of those phones attached to her ear.

No phone at hand, I decided to pretend I’m The Queen of Green Lake, that it was once part of my family estate, until we donated it to the city of Seattle, for all to enjoy. And I’ve been comfortable there ever since.

More challenging than Green Lake was posher-than-thou University Village, the  shopping mall. I kept trying to arrange my face to convey the idea that I could too afford to buy stuff here. 

It wasn’t so bad in the organization store, with its file boxes and closet accoutrements, but MAC, the cosmetics store! All the staff under thirty, exuberantly painted, including their hair, including the guys. The last time I bought blush it cost $5; now it’s $20, and lipstick is $16 and I’m usually so unnerved that I buy a lipstick you really can’t see at all on my lips. I did it again, but I like my new lipstick, which must mean I like my old lips.

Nevertheless, if I ever have to go back there, I’m taking my phone.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

What To Do with the Portrait of the Ex?

So, here I am, single and recently moved to Seattle with all my earthly goods, including, oddly, the portrait I once painted of my then-husband. Because I like it. But I can't exactly hang it up, can I?

See the painting and read the piece I wrote about it, About Face, which was published this morning on The Elder Storytelling Place, sister to a favorite blog, Time Goes By. 

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Expectations, oh how they limit us...

Okay, I learned how to make this link live, so you can just click and see this performance. It's a 47-year-old British woman, stocky and plain, who knocks everybody's socks off with her singing performance, just because they never expected that performance from that body.

You know what really got me? She's says she's not married, "never even been kissed," she says, with a laugh. She probably never got a kiss because nobody expected good kissing out of a body like that either. Oh, such a loss!

I suppose if she goes on to have a fine singing career, they'll pluck her brows and fix her hair, and find her a better dress, maybe talk her into a gym.

But I hope not!

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Martha Stewart: The Road Not Taken

Okay, so we know Martha had her youthful modeling career, then the stockbrokerage job, then the husband, then the catering and the cookbooks, and then, Martha as we know her. (Okay, I skipped the prison years, but why be negative?)

But to the degree that I coulda been a Martha, Martha could so easily have been me. I’m guessing she’s my age, and we know she’s single. Say the modeling career was as big as she ever got, and then she was a caterer, and now she’s moved to Seattle. She doesn’t have the empire, but she has the know-how, and the can-do spirt.

She awakens, as I did this morning, after a meaningful and splendid Easter Vigil last night at her Episcopal church. She liked it so much, in fact, she’s decided to go to Easter services this morning as well, which ranks as above and beyond the call for Episcopalians. She is experiencing a vague sense of unease, but she can’t put her finger on it.

As she sits in the service, surrounded by families, she thinks, “I’ll bet that guy I’ve been cycling with would have come to this. There’s a tuba, for heaven’s sake, in the motet! And he used to play a tuba. He would have loved the music, and the service would have been, at a minimum, of interest to his archeological soul. Oh well. Too late.”

As she drives home from church, she realizes she has forgotten, in the excitement of moving to Seattle, Rule One of Single Holidays: Make a plan. Sure, she’s going dancing tonight -- alone, of course -- but what about all the hours in between?

She gets home and calls a neighborhood woman: Yes! Scrabble at 4! But it’s only 12:30. Thankfully, she has no regrets about not getting an Easter basket. As for eggs, she yearns neither to color them nor to hunt them. But what about Easter Sunday Dinner?

Perhaps Martha as we have come to know her could confidently invite guests for Cooked Cabbage with Dumplings; I couldn’t do it. Even though it was merely the accompaniment to that chicken the restaurants saute in a skillet with a brick on top. (I use a plate and a trivet.) I did feel a little bit like my own Grandma Miller as I cooked it up, such old-fashioned food, but it sure was good, especially with two glasses of Chardonnay -- in the daytime, yet! (Rule Two of Single Holidays: Have a second glass.)

For dessert, I had the gingerbread I made a few days ago. So far, I’ve had it with fresh sliced oranges, with blueberries from my freezer stash, and now with homemade lemon sauce and vanilla ice cream. Anywhere else in America, gingerbread might seem more Christmas than Easter, but here in Seattle, it’s cold and rainy, the way we like it with our gingerbread.

A Martha project occurred to me as I cleaned up the kitchen. I bought another one of those boxes of wine. The first one, the red, is almost used up on my kitchen counter -- it’s been there weeks and weeks, honest -- but the new one, the white, is too big to fit between shelves on my refrigerator. I couldn’t find any ideas on for clever ways with your box wine.

So I took the almost empty plastic red wine bag out of its box, then cut down the box to fit the fridge, and put my new white wine in it. I’m looking now for old wallpaper scraps to decorate the box, or maybe I can cut up an old fur coat to make a little jacket for it? Something with real class like that, I’m thinking....

As I continued my kitchen cleanup, I was enjoying once again my cleverness at turning a short piece of Formica countertop between my fridge and stove -- the perfect place for cutting up vegetables -- into a butcherblock workspace. I’d bought an Ikea cutting board and found a guy at a dance who knew a guy who had a table saw who agreed to cut a slice off my cutting board so it fits snugly between fridge and stove. Clever me!

But wait! Look at that big gap on the other side of the fridge...
Oh. I guess I could have skipped the saw and moved the fridge. Okay, it’s embarrassing, but thank God, my ex will never know.

And honestly, after the two glasses of Chardonnay, nothing looks that stupid.

Friday, April 10, 2009 The Novel, Chapter Three

Hi Ardent:

You mention your Anne Tyler-ish digs: Like Macon's or Muriel's in Accidental Tourist? Or somebody in Patchwork Planet? Early Anne Tyler was so great; then it seemed to me she lost her voice. A friend told me she's back, in her recent stuff. I can't think of her without thinking of a wonderful line in AT, about how the marriage had failed because they never became partners; instead, each was always trying to demonstrate to the other the right way to live. Astute, and heartbreaking. Time to re-read AT.

I had a lunch meeting yesterday with a designer who turns out to be a consultant as well on -- hang on while I check my notes, Oh, here it is -- "social marketing." When she said it, I thought, How nice for you, but why are you telling me this? Which is how I learned that social marketing is the broad term for what I'm trying to achieve, replacing my old newspaper column gig with a blog.

I tried to talk her into meeting me on University for Indian buffet lunch, but she didn't want to stray that far from Green Lake. I always try to talk everybody into Indian, just as I always try to suss out the Scrabble players :-).

I like eating out by myself -- though in fact I usually eat at home -- but Indian seems sort of social to me. For sure at dinner, when you can't get all the different things you want unless you have a number of people ordering plates, but also at lunch, when you can have anything, but since it's a buffet, you like to stretch it out and eat and eat and talk and talk. And Indian wasn't available in Port Townsend; I have a deficit.

So I may just have to get myself a buffet lunch today, since I'm heading for the U, to check on the cherry tree bloom situation. There's a journalist-expert on Palestine/Israel speaking at 3:30 whom I want to hear, on campus, then I need blue cheese for waldorf salad at Trader Joe's, a roll of quarters from my bank (for laundry), and to pick up TC Boyle's latest, The Women, on CD, which awaits me at Wallingford Branch Library.

I hope you're having a day this good! Tell me about it.


Tuesday, April 7, 2009 The Novel, Chapter Two


Dear Ardent:

Darn! If only I'd got your email half an hour earlier I wouldn't have tried the pecan roll thing! You are so right: 450 degrees is way too hot for anything involving brown sugar! Still, I did just nibble a little blackened edge and, apart from the apparent cancer risk with eating charred food, it's oddly compelling.

Off to bed with the Jan 19 New Yorker from the library, since a friend told me it has a Scrabble article in it -- but honestly, it's not my only interest -- and two novels. Rain here. Is it raining soothingly on the roof where you are?


PS: It's not that no one ever contacts me on Match; it's just that if I write first, it turns out to be the entire correspondence.
Oh, in that one photo, I'm not calling a dance; that's my teensy cheat sheet with the words to La Porte d'en Arriere, a Cajun song I learned from Christine Balfa herself at Voiceworks, Centrum, Ft Worden, Port Townsend. I'm the girl singer with the band! Just that one song though...


Hi Ardent:

"Nom de plume" and "affected" -- in the same sentence! What a great email!

Just got back from a foray into downtown Seattle: My first trip to the Frye, for the German Secessionist show, then downtown for the first of four classes on evolution, courtesy of UW's OLLI program. Took the 328 in, the 5 back home; I own a car, but there's nothing like taking a bus to make me feel grown up and cosmopolitan.

La Porte d'en Arriere has four verses! Maybe I'll sing it to you sometime. The plot is this: The protagonist's behavior is so bad -- drunkenness, chiefly -- that he always has to sneak home via the back door. His dad warns him, A day will come when you'll regret this! And Dad is right; the final back door is the one to prison! (Hmm, but not to Hell, so maybe it's the penultimate back door?)

Why I left PT: When I arrived in 2001, I was still married, and at the end of an 18-mo USA RV odyssey. Three years later, after 25 years of marriage, we split up as amicably as could be. I was glad to be in a town that sort of held me in its arms.

But three years later, that wasn't enough. Moved to Fremont on Feb 2, for a bigger life. Have since seen two plays, attended three author events and innumerable dances, cycled to Alki Bakery and, on another day, to Kenmore, and am now on my third OLLI class. I'm always walking around Green Lake or over to the U. It takes me almost exactly the same time to walk to my Fremont Branch library as to my Wallingford Branch.

Hey, you mention Door County. Mom lives in Menominee, MI, where we look across to Door County; I spend most of July in MI, and my memories of my days there -- cycling, swimming, reading, Scrabble with mom, front-porch picnics, reading in the swing -- are where I go when I can't sleep at night.

Do you use a pressure cooker? I love mine; risotto in 5 minutes.

Your new pal,


(Yes, my real name. I guess I should use yours, but I’m loving "Ardent." Especially with all your exclamation points!!!)

Monday, April 6, 2009 The Novel, Chapter One

Blurb for the jacket cover: Mary Davies is sixty and single. She moves to Seattle looking for fulfillment, but she’s not averse to a little love in the meantime. She signs up for Her friends think she’s a catch, but nobody in cyberspace does. And initiating a contact turns out to be the kiss of death! After several frustrating months of hoping her “favorites” will contact her, she chooses a likely prospect and starts emailing him. Daily. Without response. Is she out of her mind?


Hello: just sent you to me, as one of my “matches”. (Does this mean they sent me to you as well?) Unfortunately (and I’m sure U advises never to say such a thing), when I contact a man, he doesn’t contact me back, so I'm taking a big risk here. But there was just so much in your profile of interest!

For example, I have a loaf of that Bittner bread on the rise at this very moment. In fact, since I discovered it last summer, I've made all my bread. I use 2/3 whole wheat flour, and still get a chewy, holey loaf. My vintage Better Homes & Gardens cookbook is open at this very moment to "rolls": ever try your Bittner dough as caramel pecan rolls?

Also, I have stood on that same Coupeville dock where you stand in your photos. I, however, was sweaty -- but sleek! -- in my biking duds. I used to live in Port Townsend, and Whidbey Island is a favorite cycling destination.

I too am a maniac reader. Just finished Mary Pipher's Seeking Peace and Tiziano Terzani's A Fortune Teller Told Me, and Tim Winton's Breath, and Scott Spencer's Willing. You say you like Egan: he wrote the dust bowl book, right? The Worst Hard Time? Loved that book; I hadn't realized we MADE the dustbowl!

Looks like I'm older than the woman you're hoping for, but you don't have to love me; finding a pal who reads would be a treat for me. I moved to Seattle on Feb 2, and still haven't found a Scrabble buddy. Any chance you play?


Saturday, April 4, 2009

Voluntary Danger

What is this?! Are these books hunting me down? Because I assure you, I am not on a search for books about the philosophy of risk. Oh sure, I like a good adventure yarn as well as the next guy, but this is the third book in two weeks that reflects on voluntary danger.

It’s Tim Parks’ novel, Rapids.

Setting: Tyrol region of Europe, group whitewater kayaking trip, while powerful protests in favor of the Kyoto protocols are going on in Germany. Global warming is palpable in that frighteningly hot European summer, there in the mountains where ice sheets are visibly receding.

The river guides are political activists as well. One of them, a young woman, says near the end of the novel to a bank executive client,

I many of these people who do dangerous things on rivers and mountains are afraid....Afraid of dying, afraid of settling down. Afraid of life beginning really, and afraid it will never begin. These sports are something you do instead of life...Really, you should tell your bank to invest in all these high-risk sports because it’s what everyone really wants....To feel they’re really living, when they’re not in danger of living at all.

There's a lot of death in this book. And a lot of people trying to figure out what to make of life. I'll be thinking about this book.

All material copyright © 2009 by Mary Davies