Tuesday, June 26, 2007


Nothing happened today. And if anything did, I'd rather not talk about it, because I didn't understand it."
—page 105, The Savage Detectives by Roberto Bolaño

Book 1 of The Savage Detectives is entitled "Mexicans Lost in Mexico (1975)." It could easily stand alone as a short novel.

The somewhat aimless wandering through the streets, bars, and homes of Mexico City on the part of Juan García Madero, seventeen-year-old poet and college student, drives the storyline. I make love to this storyline in the same way that García Madero makes love to Rosario or María Font. It is new. It seduces. I lie. We rest. I return.


I think The Savage Detectives functions for Bolaño in a fashion similar to the way that On the Road functions for Kerouac. Autobiography blends with fiction. Story emerges from the self. If this is true, then it is interesting that the story casts Arturo Belano (Bolaño's alter ego) as a supporting character, and not an altogether likable one at that. And, what does that say about García Madero then?


The Savage Detectives has been a good place to turn during health issues—a calm in the storm—when I am able to concentrate enough to read. The entry of García Madero quoted above describes my life right now, and that is okay. Not preferable, but manageable.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007


The Northern Pacific Railway Museum of Toppenish, Washington is a collection of old dreams. Dreams of commerce and communication. Dreams of metal and machinery. Dreams of luxury sleeper cars and Great Baked Potatoes.

Then someone else had a dream to make the other dreams available for public consumption. The Toppenish railroad depot was resurrected on a dream foundation. Then they dreamt of keeping the line alive.

Someone else smelled money and dreamed of mansions and nice cars and beautiful women and hot sex. The dream was shattered for a nightmare of greed. A nightmare of political maneuvering. A nightmare of collusion on the part of for-profit motives and corrupt county commissioners. A nightmare that attempted to wipe away the other dreams for its own sake. A nightmare in dream's clothing.

Monday, June 18, 2007


Troy's Work Table needs to invest in a ghost-writer for those times that it becomes ill or goes on a road trip, especially if both occur in the same week! All apologies, dear reader.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007


"A poet can endure anything. Which amounts to saying that a human being can endure anything...The opening assertion is true, but that way lie ruin, madness, and death."
—page 26, "Enrique Martín," Last Evenings on Earth by Roberto Bolaño

A confessional tone. A blend of autobiography and fiction. The themes of loss, exile, mortality. Restless wandering. Writers confronting each other. Writers confronting themselves. Writers confronting their audience. Relationship. Loneliness. Habits that ground us in our humanity. Routine. The unexpected. Distraction. The voices that whisper to us in the dead of night. The voices in our head. The Voice.

Sunday, June 10, 2007


Redhook Long Hammer IPA, an India Pale Ale by Redhook Brewery

This is an ale that squanders its promise. On the pour, it appears as though a glass of apple juice, with a thin white head that quickly dissipates. The aroma is complex and enticing. The main scents are citrus, floral, and toffee, with a light yeastiness and a hint of freshly-cut Granny Smith apple as nice surprises.

The aroma was very promising, setting expectations high. The flavor and palate do not follow, however. The palate is weak, and there is something missing in the flavor. First, it doesn't match the aroma. Second, the main flavor is a weird citrus combination—a cross between orange and grapefruit—but rather subdued. The other flavor is a slight alcohol edge that should not be present. Overall, the flavor that is present is mostly lacking, and very one-dimensional.

I had this with dinner two consecutive nights in a row, to ensure that I did not come across a bad bottle. The first night was king salmon with puff pastry. The second night was chicken piccata, which should be able to handle most bad beers. Long Hammer IPA was slightly better with the chicken piccata, but the difference was not enough to change my initial reaction. It is too bad that Red Hook couldn't brew this IPA to be as interesting as the design of its label and bottle.

Friday, June 08, 2007


"I prefer not to say anything, she wrote, there's no point adding to the pain, or adding our own little mysteries to it. As if the pain itself were not enough of a mystery, as if the pain were not the (mysterious) answer to all mysteries."
—page 103, "Anne Moore's Life," Last Evenings on Earth by Roberto Bolaño

I have been awash in short stories, works translated from Spanish, and typography and book design for the past few weeks. Some of my literary explorations have included more than one of these three categories.

I have greatly enjoyed novels by Spaniards Javier Marías and Juan Goytisolo. I have enjoyed short stories by Chilean exile Roberto Bolaño and Alan DeNiro. I am currently reading Modern Typography by Robin Kinross. Then there are the hybrid articles in recent issues of The Believer, and a few other books, that tie many of these novels and stories together in ways that I could not have imagined prior:
  • "The Savage Detective" by Rodrigo Fresán in the March 2007 issue of The Believer—a look at the brilliance of Roberto Bolaño.
  • "On the Art of the Disappeared" by Lawrence Weschler in the March 2007 issue of The Believer—an essay on twenty-seven Latin American artists who are attempting to deal with the violence associated with dictatorships, rebel groups, and reactionary militias over the past few decades. Weschler is always a great read, since he is always noticing—and sometimes creating—juxtapositions and associations that others do not, or would not.
  • "The Codex Seraphinianus" by Justin Taylor in the May 2007 issue of The Believer—personal and public tales about a mysterious book of art and beautiful, undecipherable text, The Codex Seraphinianus, that little is known about, even though the author/artist is still alive.
  • Short stories by Jorge Luis Borges.
  • Short essays by Lisa Robertson, in her role as The Office of Soft Architecture.

Now, I just need to figure out what the overlapping and importance of these three categories signify, if anything. I know that something is there, waiting further or deeper discovery. I am just unsure of what it is at this point.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007


Deschutes Hop Henge Imperial IPA, an Imperial/Double India Pale Ale by Deschutes Brewery

22 ounce bottle. The pour was a brilliant copper-orange, with a thick, foamy head of off-white. The aroma was citrusy, tending toward orange,with a slight grassiness to bolster the citrus. Hop Henge is pleasant on the palate. Flavors include orange, lightly buttered bread, a hint of caramel, and dark dried fruits—raisins or dates, perhaps. Not quite as bitter as I would have hoped for, but a good Imperial IPA overall.

And, at 8.1% alcohol by volume, this bottle surely packs a punch. It is a "punch" that sneaks up, though, since there is not a lot of alcohol "flavor" that I expect from ales with higher alcohol content.

Our friends had us over for homemade flour tortillas, rice, and marinated pork. This was an excellent complement to the food. I would definitely pair them together again.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007


Alan DeNiro has what is probably the greatest reading guide I have ever seen, as an accompaniment to his book Skinny Dipping in the Lake of the Dead.

The guide is entitled Cabana on the Lake of the Dead: Drinking Games and Reading Guide. Read the book, gather friends who have read the book, drink, and play games based upon the stories. Sign me up!

You can peruse Cabana on the Lake of the Dead here...

Monday, June 04, 2007


"The summer heat came. The eldest colonist swore he saw, while scything hay, a giant panther charging from the south. The panther had six eyes! And a tongue like a cat-o'-nine-tails! And had constellation markings on its fur! And spoke Basque! This was corroborated by others, although the language was debated. Fissures crept into the colony."
—page 194, "Home of the," Skinny Dipping in the Lake of the Dead by Alan DeNiro

Finishing a good book is like finishing a good beer or a good steak. It feels good to complete it, to swallow it, and digest it. Then, it lingers a bit. It is present, even though it isn't. There is also a sadness in the completion, because once the moment has passed, it is difficult to remember what the moment felt like. It is absent, even though a shadow remains.

Alan DeNiro's Skinny Dipping in the Lake of the Dead is a great book, as I stated earlier. This collection of short stories carves out a new mythos in the same way that Karen Russell's collection St. Lucy's Home for Girls Raised by Wolves recently did. Both are smart, witty, serious, funny collections that draw upon the ancient, the modern, and the postmodern to speak about who we are. Alan DeNiro obviously loves to read. He also obviously loves to write. He has the eye of a great prose writer, the ear of a poet, and the heart of one who lives life fully—research, observation, and rhythm are his strong suits.

I cannot recommend this book enough. I finished it a few days ago and stories are still haunting me. They linger. They tease. They cajole. I have had to return to a few stories to reread passages.


If you would like to read a couple of stories from the book, there is a "fun size" edition on Alan DeNiro's website. You can read the "fun size" edition here...


The just completed second half of the book includes the following stories:

*"The Caliber"—A high school senior has her own FBI agent, who follows her everywhere, for her own protection, of course. Her uncle is the leader of a cult. He contacts her through postcards. The FBI is trying to nab him through her.

*"The Excavation"—Archaeological digs in a relationship. Layers and layers and layers.

*"A Keeper"—A tale about art and power and tyranny and freedom. It all takes place in Brasilia under the monarchy of King Juan Juan.

*"Fuming Woman"—Circus meets riotous mob.

*"The Friendly Giants"—Xenophobia, voyeurism, the excitement of the new in the midst of the banal, time, geography, transgressions, and a car that is/that is driven by Death. What more could you ask for?

*"Quiver"—A modern-day "Robin Hood" robs a convenience store with a crossbow. One of the bolts he fires trims a lock of hair from the protagonist. She is determined to find him and discover the truth. She is going to be unhappy with what she finds.

*"Child Assassin"—Is it possible to balance work and family? Is it possible to survive mergers and acquisitions amongst the competition of the market?

*"The Exchanges"—This is a brief tale about how "flexible" our identities are. To tell you the truth, this story kind of "creeped me out."

*"Salting the Map"—Casey is finding out that his new job is not quite what he expected. "Of course, right out of college, he hadn't expected much with a quasi-useless degree in English." (page 161) But, it's not the work that is the problem—although that is a problem on some level—but what Casey is doing with the work.

*"Home of the"—A complex tale of chess and Wal-marts and Cathars in Erie, which weaves together pre-colonial and post-apocalyptic America. This is my new favorite story of the collection. It has short and clipped sentences peppered amongst longer sentences that hold them together, barely. The rhythm seduces as much as the tale itself.

Sunday, June 03, 2007


This is farmland that is being lost. But not to industry, as is the case with most farmland in Pierce County. Instead, it is destined to be a park in the City of Edgewood. Since the land is mostly not being used as farmland anymore, and since it was likely to be snatched up by industry or commerce, it is nice to see that a local city had the foresight to purchase the property for community use and enjoyment.

Saturday, June 02, 2007


"Long enough in the desert a man like other animals can learn to smell water. Can learn, at least, the smell of things associated with water—the unique and heartening odor of the cottonwood tree, for example, which in the canyonlands is the tree of life."
—page 131, Desert Solitaire by Edward Abbey

Phase three of Puyallup's Riverwalk Trail officially opened today. The three completed phases of the trail, with one minor interruption of eleven blocks of city streets, span the width of the city from west to east. It is no desert, but the entire length of trail is bordered by the river and its attendant cottonwoods.

Last night, the wife, the child, and I took a preview bike ride of the new section. The wife was on her bike and the child rode behind Troy's Work Table on his bike, in the child's newly acquired toddler bike seat. The child thought it to be very fun. When we rode on the city streets between phases one and three, the child declared: "We're like a car Daddy." When we coasted along the trail, the child declared: "I'm like a bird. I'm flying on the trail."

The new section of trail is the most beautiful of the three. There are a couple of stretches that are bordered by the river on one side and a split-rail fence, green belt, and wetlands on the other. If you were unable to hear nearby traffic on highway 410, you wouldn't know you were in the city. The other sounds along this part of the trail are heavy with birdsong. The child and I could pick out robin, towhee, sparrow, plover, and mallard duck. It was a great bike ride for the family through a wonderful city park trail.


This morning, the child and I wandered back to the trailhead of the new phase for the official ribbon-cutting ceremony. All of the local and state officials who played a part in the building of the trail were present. A brief speech was made, a plaque was unveiled, thanks were given, and the ribbon was cut. It was nice to see politicians, who have backed and supported recreation for the community, at a simple ceremony of dedication on National Trails Day, without all of the bluster that can oftentimes accompany such events. Once the trail was opened, people started "officially" hiking, biking, and rollerblading.

Friday, June 01, 2007


Dogfish Head Indian Brown Ale, a Brown Ale by Dogfish Head Brewery

The pour begets a beauty of an ale that is mahogany colored, with a halo of ruby, and a thin tan head. The smell of freshly baked pumpernickel bread and molasses wafts up from the glass. Upon drinking, the mouthfeel is adequately heavy, with a softness and silkiness that is unexpected.

Many flavors are present, some moreso than others. The most prominent are that of a dark bread, rye or pumpernickel, lightly toasted (the toastedness lending itself to an even lighter roastedness); molasses; brown sugar; a hint of raisin; and a minor alcohol edge.

A great example of a brown ale, and a reminder of why I like the style overall.