Wednesday, October 31, 2007


The child went trick-or-treating, then trunk-or-treating. The wife and I tagged along.

Saturday, October 27, 2007


Mac & Jack's African Amber Ale, an Amber Ale by Mac & Jack's Brewing Company

The wife, the child, and I wandered down to Trackside Pizza for a family event. Troy's Work Table indulged in great pizza and great beer. And, even though they deliver, and the service is not always stellar, the restaurant has to be experienced. The restaurant is a few feet from the train tracks, which means that the entire building shakes whenever a train passes by, especially one that is westbound to Tacoma. The brickwork of the original building was kept and adorned with old metal railroad signing and advertisements. The booths are painted black and the lighting is low enough that the atmosphere feels like some of the pizza joints my family frequented when I was growing up. There is something to be said for nostalgia.


On tap. Mac & Jack's African Amber was delivered to the table in a sixteen-ounce shaker. It was a brilliant pumpkin-orange, with a gold aura. The head was thick ivory in color, and hung around. The lacing was good, as was the lively carbonation. The nose was primarily fruity and floral.

The ale felt good in the mouth—present, solid. The flavor is primarily biscuity and nutty, with some raisin. There is a faint grapefruit flavor that makes itself known. Also, light floral and grassy notes. It reminds me less of other ambers I have had and more of a hybrid of a brown ale and an India pale ale. It definitely is an ale of its own and I wouldn't want it any other way.

Mac & Jack's African Amber is only available by the keg, which is a good excuse to make more trips to Trackside.

The pizza I had to accompany the Mac & Jack's was the B&O, minus the mushrooms. That meant a medium crust with a slightly sweet, slightly tangy tomato sauce, with generous portions of mozzarella cheese, black olives, pepperoni, Black Forest ham, and sausage. The Mac & Jack's, itself being well-balanced, was also a nice balance to the flavors of the B&O—in other words, a great pairing.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007


An inheritance: Grandma's glassware, clockwise from upper left: (1) chalice, (2) "tulip," (3) "stange", and (4) snifter.

On the day of the memorial service for the maternal grandmother, the uncle and the mother decided to let all of the grandchildren visit the apartment of the maternal grandmother and see if there were any mementos that we would like to take and keep. I was immediately drawn to a small squeezebox—a miniature accordion that only has three buttons for chords on the side played by the left hand and seven buttons for a single diatonic scale on the side played by the right hand. It seemed out of place in the maternal grandmother's vast collection of knick-knacks and things, just as the maternal grandmother oftentimes seemed "out of place."

The next thing that caught my attention was a hutch whose top shelf was filled with various glasses, most related to alcohol of one sort or another. This is ironic, in that the maternal grandmother was an alcoholic who was "made" sober by cancer that got "out of hand" because she was in a state advanced alcoholism when the cancer first appeared. The cancer that made it impossible for her to drink any longer, and gave her another twenty years of life as a sober cancer survivor, changed her life. But, her love of hard liquor and beer must have still been harbored somewhere within her. Did she keep the glassware as a reminder of who she once was? Of who she was no longer? Of who she had become? Because she was a packrat? I will never know.

I decided to take four of the glasses that were best suited to my exploration of the world of beer. I chose the chalice for the Belgian ales that I hope to explore in more depth—dubbels, tripels, quadrupels, and others. I chose the stemmed "tulip" glass for some of those beers that just don't work as well in other glasses—Thomas Hardy's Ale or Traquair Jacobite Ale. I chose the Seichen "stange" glass because it is so different than other glassware I own, and it also allows me to enter new beer territory—trying the alt and kölsch styles. I chose the brandy snifter for increased pleasure with one of my favorite styles of beer—barleywine.

Now my collection of beer glassware is better able to handle some of those ale styles that I stumble across in my wanderings here and there. And, all thanks to Grandma!


If anyone can better identify the "tulip" and "stange" glasses then please let me know...

Tuesday, October 23, 2007


"In my mind I watch each word of this hurtle upward, bounce off one of earth's halt-atrophied prosthetic moons, fall back down, hit my crown, and break into its constituent letters, which slide down my neck and arms, through the bus floor, and are crushed by its tank tread into the earth, where each then merges with the genetic material of the single-celled organisms those pre-annihilation Cassandras warned would be earth's sole post-annihilation forms of life."
—page 27, Jamestown by Matthew Sharpe

Jamestown is one of those strange hybrid novels that is somewhat hard to categorize. It is part historical novel, part present-day social commentary, and part dystopian near-future science fiction. The narrative revolves around a company of "explorers" from post-annihilation New York City who are sent to see what resources are available in the Chesapeake Bay area. There they encounter "natives" who have decided to live as the original native peoples of the area did.

Naturally, the two "civilizations" misunderstand the motives of one another, or, perhaps, they understand the motives of one another too well. Conflict inevitably comes, although love does as well, with Pocahontas and John Rolfe becoming the native Juliet and the explorer Romeo. Their love happens in the midst of violence and bloodshed amongst their respective "tribes"—some of that love sent in text messages sent upon precious wireless communications devices, some transmitted out into the ether for "us" to catch.

The familiar pieces of the "historical" story are intact. Pocahontas saves John Smith from execution by her father Powhatan. The explorers miserably try to establish Jamestown. The natives help them survive at the outset. The explorers alienate the natives through misunderstanding and exploitation. Warfare ensues. John Rolfe and Pocahontas express their love for one another. Rolfe and Pocahontas return to Rolfe's homeland—in this case Manhattan rather than London.

There are unfamiliar pieces that transport the story to another time and place, though. The explorers head south in their armored bus/personnel carrier, fleeing in the wake of the terrorist bombing of the Chrysler Building—which takes place at the hands of another New York company/gang. Telecommunications are through the aforementioned PDAs. The natives are able to raise and catch edible food in a radiation-saturated environment due to filtration technology, that ultimately is not theirs, but garnered in trade with Japanese-Americans living in the same area.

Sharpe's writing is great. At times it is gritty and low-brow. At times it is elegant and poetic. But, it is always moving us along, playing with language, showing us things we didn't see at first glance. Jamestown reminds me of another novel tackling the same subject matter—William T. Vollmann's Argall. Although Argall is an historical novel and Jamestown is an historical novel transposed into a desolate time-yet-to-be, they both play with the story. They also both play with language while telling that story. (And, how many different ways can you spell and pun and play upon the name of Pocahontas?)

I finished Jamestown a few weeks ago, yet bits and pieces of the book keep boiling up from the soup of my unconscious. I think that is telling; it means that the book is still alive within me, in some way. There are still times when Argall bubbles forth unexpectedly and I believe that Jamestown will continue to fuel my imagination in a similar fashion.

Friday, October 19, 2007


RSR master of ceremonies Jay Bates and poet Casey Fuller.

Thursday evening saw the latest live production of A River & Sound Review at the Puyallup Public Library. This was the best production by far. The room was set up to be smaller, which pushed the audience into closer proximity to the various performers on stage, and made the space and event more intimate. The program was mostly scripted, rather than overly spontaneous, which helped to maintain a good pace. This is partly due to the fact that they also podcast the production once they edit it, but, in any case, RSR has become very good at simultaneously "playing" to both their live and podcast audiences.

Poet Casey Fuller read four "prose" poems that notice what others often overlook or wouldn't even bother to notice in the first place. Each of the poems was filled with a comical, humorous, quirky sense of the world, that also allowed the darkness and despair of the same world to show through. This rich palette of emotions and experience allowed me to relate to each of his poems in some way. I enjoyed his first three poems—"Postcards," "You're My Guy, Blue," and "The Fort from 12"—but was especially impressed by the final poem "After Which We Only Watch the Ground." He claims it is a new direction for his writing, and it is one that I hope he continues to pursue.

Singer-songwriter Wes Weddell.

Local musician Wes Weddell played three numbers throughout the evening, as well as helped out with sound effects for RSR's "continuing saga of writers in crisis" entitled "As the Publishing World Turns"—a soap opera of epic proportions. Wes is obviously in love with his guitar and with performing. When he played and sang, he was usually looking skyward or "through" the audience, as though peering into another realm. He seemed very confident in his music and stories, as well as being comfortable in just being who he is.

He was equally adept on the harmonica as on the guitar, and the narrative tales of his songs rival many written pieces because his storytelling is so vivid and detailed. He is definitely a singer-songwriter whose career and music I plan on keeping an eye and ear upon.

Novelist Karen Fisher.

Karen Fisher, the author of the novel A Sudden Country, was the guest writer for the evening. She read an excerpt from her novel. Her prose is infused with the cadence of poetry. The language of her writing is likewise rich and ambitious. She is as great a reader as she is a writer, with a soothing, solemn voice that entices one to continue to listen to her voice, her words.

All in all, a great evening of poems, reading, music, literary games, and short skits. It truly was a review in the sense of some of the old variety radio programs. I just wish that more members of the community would attend and show their appreciation for such a great offering to us.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007


The hand of the Lord came upon me, and he brought me out by the spirit of the Lord and set me down in the middle of a valley; it was full of bones. He led me all around them; there were very many lying in the valley, and they were very dry. He said to me, “Mortal, can these bones live?” I answered, “O Lord God, you know.” Then he said to me, “Prophesy to these bones, and say to them: O dry bones, hear the word of the Lord. Thus says the Lord God to these bones: I will cause breath to enter you, and you shall live. I will lay sinews on you, and will cause flesh to come upon you, and cover you with skin, and put breath in you, and you shall live; and you shall know that I am the Lord.” So I prophesied as I had been commanded; and as I prophesied, suddenly there was a noise, a rattling, and the bones came together, bone to its bone. I looked, and there were sinews on them, and flesh had come upon them, and skin had covered them; but there was no breath in them. Then he said to me, “Prophesy to the breath, prophesy, mortal, and say to the breath: Thus says the Lord God: Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe upon these slain, that they may live.” I prophesied as he commanded me, and the breath came into them, and they lived, and stood on their feet, a vast multitude. Then he said to me, “Mortal, these bones are the whole house of Israel. They say, ‘Our bones are dried up, and our hope is lost; we are cut off completely.’ Therefore prophesy, and say to them, Thus says the Lord God: I am going to open your graves, and bring you up from your graves, O my people; and I will bring you back to the land of Israel. And you shall know that I am the Lord, when I open your graves, and bring you up from your graves, O my people. I will put my spirit within you, and you shall live, and I will place you on your own soil; then you shall know that I, the Lord, have spoken and will act,” says the Lord.
—Ezekiel 37:1-14

[Ezekiel 37:1-14 is also the text that we read aloud immediately before the maternal grandmother was removed from a ventilator.]

But, we cannot, we must not, let the story of my grandmother's life end in that hospital room. We cannot, we must not, let a life of eighty years be defined by a final day. That is not, in any way, to deny death. If we deny death, then there is no point in gathering here today. If we deny death, then my grandmother's life is meaningless. One of my grandmother's pieces of advice was “Trust in him who keeps the faith.” Therefore, we must keep that faith. Therefore, we must speak boldly and truthfully, as everyone in this room knows that my grandmother had no problem doing, even at the cost of being ignored by everyone around her, even at the cost of having people mad at her.

The truth is that my grandmother wandered in the valley of the shadow of death her entire life. She wandered amidst the dry bones of a life filled with hardship—both those presented to her and those she created for herself. My grandmother was no stranger to sin. Yet, she continued to live her life, taking opportunities, especially in her later years, to try to right some of the wrongs that she allowed to foster. I believe that she would be the first to admit that those moments of grace, made present in her weakness, where she was able to help a friend in need or restore a relationship soured long ago, were not hers, but gifts of God. They were those moments when God was stitching sinew and muscle back onto the bones that she had left scattered in her wake.

And, now, as we stand here today, we hope in faith that God is going to literally build her again—bone set against bone, tendons and ligaments to hold them together, organs to give shape, skin to keep it all contained. And, we hope in faith that God breathes his Spirit once again into the body that he gives her—a new body that will not suffer the pains of this world, a new body that will not long for a taste of liquor to make it through the day, a new body that will not know the pains of cancer and heart failure and labored breathing. The promise that this is true comes not only in life being breathed into dry bones, of life being breathed into a scattered people, a ravaged nation, but also to my grandmother, and to all of us gathered here. The promise of the breath of new life from God comes also in John 14:18—“I will not leave you comfortless, I will come to you.” We don't have to do anything, other than accept it.

Therefore, I picture a day when Christ comes again, and my grandmother rises from the grave, and we all rise from our graves. This is a day of judgment, when the joys and sorrows of our lives are laid bare before God. This is a day of forgiveness, when our sins are cleansed, put away forever. This is a day when illness and death and sin are finally conquered, when our broken lives are put back together, our weaknesses no longer matter. And, on this day, I imagine us meeting my grandmother again. I can already hear her words to us: “Why has it taken you so long to visit? I'm glad you get to see me.” I will throw my arms around her and thank her for being who she was, as unique as that was, and for the pieces of her that I recognize in myself.

So, I will leave you with this thought today. There is a time to mourn, and a time to dance. I hope that we can do both today. I hope that we can remember the life of mom, grandma, [name], [nickname] as it was lived, with all of its foibles and flaws and quirks. I hope that we can celebrate that life, even as we acknowledge that it is over for the time being, and even as we hope in faith that it is restored to wholeness in a new place and new time. I hope that we can carry a love for my grandmother in our hearts. She would have wanted that.

And, if we can do that then we have an answer to her question of “When will I see you again?” In our hearts we can answer: “Soon.”


Eulogy is by Troy's Work Table and was delivered to a standing-room only crowd at the maternal grandmother's memorial service. The picture was taken by the sister-in-law at the same.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007


When it was noon, darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon. At three o”clock Jesus cried out with a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?” which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” When some of the bystanders heard it, they said, “Listen, he is calling for Elijah.” And someone ran, filled a sponge with sour wine, put it on a stick, and gave it to him to drink, saying, “Wait, let us see whether Elijah will come to take him down.” Then Jesus gave a loud cry and breathed his last. And the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. Now when the centurion, who stood facing him, saw that in this way he breathed his last, he said, “Truly this man was God’s Son!”
—Mark 15:33-39

It was in those moments of watching my grandmother die that I felt honored to be her grandson. I felt the love of family, both the love of those present in the room and the love of those we kept in contact with by telephone. It was a time of tears and weeping. It was a time of laughter and remembering the good and great moments that we had with the woman who was dying just feet away from us, struggling in her stubbornness, her orneriness, to continue to breathe. We stroked her hair and held her hand. We talked to her. We told her that it was okay to go, that she was loved, that she had lived a good, full life.

And, in the midst of this, I witnessed one of the most tender moments that I have ever had the privilege to experience so far in my life. The nurse, on occasion, would come in and remove a sterile sponge on the end of a stick, dip it in a cup of water, and gently caress my grandmother's lips and the inside of her mouth with the sponge. My grandmother would involuntarily close her mouth against the cool and moist sponge, in a reflexive action. My uncle, the son of this dying woman, started to take over this role, attending to his dying mother a couple times each hour, with tears in his eyes and with gentle hands, a reversal of roles—the son attending to the needs of his mother as she had once did for him when he was an infant.

The image that kept coming to mind as I witnessed this love of a son for his mother was the offering of a sponge of sour wine to Jesus as he dies upon the cross. And, in this moment of immeasurable sadness and grief, I felt a holy peace that filled the room with warmth. Christ was made present to me in these two people, as I watched them enact their relationship with one another. Christ was made present to me in the dying woman, my grandmother, in the very act of her death, in her weakness, in her passivity, in her vulnerability, in her frailty. Christ was made present to me in the caring man, my uncle, in the very act of his care, his compassion, his tenderness, his attendance to the needs of another, his love.

I would not describe my grandmother as a religious woman. I would, however, describe her as a woman of faith. The Methodism of her childhood, and the Lutheranism that she inherited from my grandfather, were deep roots that had been planted in her life. And, the person she said she most admired, other than her parents, was, strangely enough, Martin Luther. She told me a few years ago that she wasn't quite sure what to think of God, especially when she saw so much pain and violence and hatred in the world. She had questions about the world and the way it works. She had questions about why there is evil and suffering in the world. But, I think she would appreciate the beauty of that holy moment in a hospital room, even amidst the pain that it calls forth, even now, if she were able to be here today.


Eulogy is by Troy's Work Table and was delivered to a standing-room only crowd at the maternal grandmother's memorial service. The picture was taken by the sister-in-law at the same.

Monday, October 15, 2007


For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven: a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted; a time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up; a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance; a time to throw away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing; a time to seek, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to throw away; a time to tear, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak; a time to love, and a time to hate; a time for war, and a time for peace.
—Ecclesiastes 3:1-8

I am sure that everyone here has experienced the following scenario with the person that I call grandma, and that you, variously, may call mom or [name] or [nickname]. Soon after she answered the telephone or the door, the following words issued forth from her mouth: “Why has it taken you so long to call, to visit?” A few minutes into the conversation or visit came the next question, regardless of how long you intended to speak or stay: “When will I see you again?” And, then, inevitably, at the end of the call or the end of the visit came these words: “I am glad you got to talk with me.” or “I'm glad you got to see me.” I imagine that these were the words that the doctor or the midwife heard from the infant [name] right after she took her first breath of life.

[Name] was born into the world on [date] in the town of [place] to a farmer, [name], and his wife, [name]. She was the third of eight children, a family of ten in a house of too few rooms. She speaks of the homes that she grew up in: “[There were] too many to count and most of them were dumps and very small. My fondest memories of lived in houses are best forgotten. They were usually shacks, drafty and cold.” It was a life of relative poverty, especially by today's standards, and one that was crowded with the other members of the family, with little time to one's self. Yet it was also a time of life on a farm, and the freedom of not being fenced in. It was a time of catching a moment alone to nap on the trundle bed or play hide-and-seek in the hay loft with one's siblings.

I believe that it was this family of origin that helped form [name] into the individual that she was, and I use the term individual in both its positive and negative connotations. My grandmother could be both very loving and very ornery, a word that she used to describe herself. I suppose that you need to be both in a family of ten, trying to define who you are, to carve out your own niche in life, to stand out from the crowd, so to speak. As a child she dreamed of being a doctor and of someday traveling to Brazil, because as she says: “The first time I heard the word [Brazil] as a place in the world, I wanted to go there and see it. [It] sounded so romantic.” She enjoyed geography class. She was an avid reader, devouring literature and poetry, and in later years crime novels, and even tried her own hand at writing. She learned to drive at the ripe old age of 29, and never really liked it. She attended Moler Barber College in Bremerton, becoming one of the rare female barbers, a woman in a man's profession, cutting the hair of men. She was, to put it kindly, a lovable eccentric.

She married my grandfather, [name], whom her parents disapproved of because “he'd been married before and he was a Lutheran,”at the [place] courthouse in what she described as “not a traditional wedding” on the day of her father's birthday. She divorced him at a time when divorce was frowned upon. She remarried and lived with her second husband, [name], both of them often oblivious to the world as they drowned their lives, individually and together, in their addiction to alcohol, until his death from cirrhosis of the liver. In the haze of her own advanced alcoholism, she missed the warning signs of the colon cancer that was growing in her intestines until it was rather advanced. It nearly took her life. Her body was ravaged by the surgery, radiation therapy, and chemotherapy that were necessary to save her.

[Name], later [name], and, still later [name], sometimes known as [nickname], was many different people throughout her life—daughter, sister, wife, mother, grandmother, great-grandmother, barber, alcoholic, cancer survivor, friend. The alcoholism that defined a majority of her life, ironically, gave her a new opportunity to live, to repent of the life she had led, and renew and restore relationships with many of the people gathered in this room. Her body could no longer digest and absorb the liquor and beer that she so loved. That didn't mean that she didn't want to not drink. I asked her about ten years ago, in a candid conversation, if she would still drink if she could. She emphatically answered “yes!” with a longing in her eyes. But, she valued life enough to decide to remain around. The last quarter of her life, the past twenty years, were lived as a sober cancer survivor. She became the mother and grandmother that she had not been for years. She volunteered her time at the Cancer Thrift Store until her health wouldn't allow her to remain on her feet for long periods of time. She spent the last few years of her life in failing health. Yet she did so with little complaint. Instead, she spent her time baking and doing crossword puzzles. She played Skip-Bo with her friends. She drank coffee and enjoyed her unfiltered cigarettes. She read books and watched television in the evening. She emailed many of us in the wee hours of the morning when she couldn't sleep, oftentimes sending pictures of family members living in the Midwest or what amounted to electronic chain letters.

And, then, came the mini-strokes. And, then, a few weeks ago, came the heart attack and congestive heart failure and the news that she could not be operated upon, so she was sent home with medication and good wishes. And, then, just over a week ago, came the stroke that in mere hours would take her from lucid to incoherent to unconscious to hooked up to a ventilator at Harborview Medical Center, where she had been airlifted, to being removed from the ventilator to breathing on her own, which was unexpected, to thirteen hours of a death watch by members of her family to her last breaths taken in this world. It was the escape of these last breaths on Friday, October 5, 2007 in Seattle, Washington that brought the life that began in [place] eighty years earlier to an end. It is the escape of those last breaths that have brought us here today to mourn the loss of one loved, to mourn the death of mom, grandma, [nickname], [name].

My grandmother was asked, What events during your lifetime changed the world the most? Her reply was: “Cars, planes, and, in the last 50 years, science—transplants and that stuff. I don't believe in prolonging life like that. There is a time to die.” And, in that, she speaks a great truth that many of us find difficult to own like she could.


Eulogy is by Troy's Work Table and was delivered to a standing-room only crowd at the maternal grandmother's memorial service. The picture was taken by the sister-in-law at the same.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007


"I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; that I know very well."—Psalm 139:14

"And so what, if I hadn't been born, and so what, if my brother faded away and said goodbye so soon, as if the world's weak wheel lacked the strength to include him fully in its revolutions and time lacked the time to take in his enthusiasms and affections and grievances, or rushed to rid itself of his incipient will and forced it to cross over to its opposite side, its dark back, transformed into a ghost. There is time for so many other people, time to take in my life, but not his, it's only an example."—page 225, Dark Back of Time by Javier Marías

I just need things to remain quiet and uncomplicated for a while. Simple equals rest. Rest equals peace. Peace is good.


Sunday afternoon, the wife and I went to a memorial service at Woodbine Cemetery for babies lost to miscarriage and stillbirth. We went to mourn and grieve the two children of ours that never were. Yes, they did exist in some sense, even though they were never born. Yes, we made them real as we imagined the lives they would have, and the life we would have together as a family. Alas, their lives are only dreams now, memories of times that never will be.

The service was cathartic, touching upon dark places within us. We were not alone. There were other people present who have also suffered pregnancy loss, mostly women, although a couple of men were present with their wives. The weather reflected the sorrow and the loss that was individually and collectively made known upon the faces of those gathered—blustery wind, brooding clouds, damp mist that threatened to become a torrent of rain yet never did.

The names of the lost children were read at one point in the service, a bell rung after each name. The sound of the bell was comforting, a cry to the heavens.


We were gathered around a bench that Good Samaritan Hospital installed and dedicated three-and-a-half years ago for those who have experienced pregnancy loss. It is good to have a place to go and reflect and weep, to surrender the dreams of lives never lived. It is good that there are people who envisioned a place for others to mourn, who can see those who are suffering and respond rather than simply passing by.

And, we were gathered here the same weekend that my maternal grandmother died. We mourned not only the loss of two children in less than a year, but the loss of an eighty-year-old matriarch only two days prior. The beginning of life and the end of life, the death of the life not lived and the life well lived, collapsed into one another in this field of gravestones and buried coffins.


Sometimes it seems as though this will never end. But it too will pass away. The pain will change. The memories will linger. We will age, and, then, find ourselves as the ones buried under gravestones and grass, with others hopefully gathered and weeping, mourning the lives that we lived.

Monday, October 08, 2007


Some of us gathered at Fritz European Fry House to eat Belgian fries and drink Belgian ale. This was planned well before the death of the maternal grandmother, but now it was a refuge from the world for a few moments—a place to gather in order to retreat and remember and be in the presence of one another.

Here I was, ale in hand, with the brother, the sister, the niece, and the child, toasting the life of a woman who was not only our grandmother and great-grandmother, but an alcoholic for a majority of her life. The irony was not lost upon us.

Saturday, October 06, 2007


"It's a beautiful day, the sky falls. And you feel like it's a beautiful day. It's a beautiful day. Don't let it get away."
—from "Beautiful Day" by U2

"Your body may be gone, I'm gonna carry you in. In my head, in my heart, in my soul. And maybe we'll get lucky and we'll both live again. Well I don't know. I don't know. I don't know. Don't think so."
—from "Ocean Breathes Salty" by Modest Mouse

The maternal grandmother was in the habit of sending out birthday cards at the beginning of the month for everyone who has a birthday within that particular month. The child received hers on the day that the maternal grandmother suffered a stroke, hit her head in a fall, or both. That part is still unclear. It would also be the day that the uncle was put in the position of deciding whether or not to remove life support. The trauma that the maternal grandmother suffered, whatever its cause, was severe enough to fill her skull with blood which shifted, shoved, and damaged her brain.

According to the postmark of Monday 01 October 2007, the card should have arrived at our house on Tuesday 02 October 2007. Instead, the maternal grandmother placed the wrong address on the envelope. It was obviously delivered to some other residence, whereupon an occupant of that house wrote "wrong address" on the envelope and promptly returned it to the postal service. It then arrived at our house on Thursday 04 October 2007, the day that the maternal grandmother began to die.

The wife and I opened the card and read it to the child through tears.

Dear [the child],
Love forever & ever.
Grandma Great.
[the maternal grandmother's name]
May all your dreams come true.

I myself felt dead. Of all days for this card to arrive, this had to be the day—the moment that I was waiting for other family members to arrive so that we could drive up together to be present when the maternal grandmother was removed from the ventilator she had been placed upon just hours prior.

The anger that welled up in me was so violent, so present, so furious that I didn't even have time to rage. It collapsed any framework of action within me in its flames. Rage became weeping. The cosmos collapsed in that moment.

Coincidence? Plan? Synchronicity? It ultimately doesn't matter. I just wish that I understood.

Friday, October 05, 2007


The maternal grandmother died this morning around 7:00 a.m. She continued to live and breath on her own for thirteen hours after they removed the ventilator that was breathing for her. I was able to be with her until 3:00 a.m. in the morning. This is an open letter to her.


The city of Seattle sleeps, and beyond it the suburbs, and beyond them the farms and pastureland of the Cascade foothills. The evening is covered by a blanket of clouds, but there is no rain tonight—this is the respite from the rain that came and the rain that is to come. The night air is crisp and cold, and I have forgotten my jacket in the rush to get to the hospital to see you one last time before you depart. The cold air that I draw into my lungs makes me feel alive, and reminds me that I am in a different situation, a different place than you. The air you breath is warm, hygienic, delivered via a tube to your mouth that awaits it, held slightly agape.

The attending nurse swabs your lips and inside of your mouth with water on a sponge. When she doesn't do it, your son, my uncle, tenderly does the same. I cannot help but think of the sponge of vinegar and water offered to Jesus during his execution. This is your moment to die.

For us, it is a moment of weeping and lament. It is a moment of remembering who you are, even as you are still present to us. It is a moment of laughter, briefly, and, once again, it is a moment of tears. We talk to one another, and then we are silent, absorbed in our own thoughts. We meditate on our own deaths, our own mortality. In you we see ourselves. We weep for the loss of you, the impending loss of our selves.

We are lulled into brief moments of sleep by the ragged rhythm of your breaths, the hum of the oxygen in the machines attached to you.

The city sleeps, too easily, from our perspective. You sleep, welcomed and warmed by a morphine haze, by the damage done to your brain. We awake, tired and weary, watching the neon blips and lines on the monitor above you, trying to interpret their meaning, when we know what they mean. However, it helps to pretend otherwise.

There is no pretending, though. This is real. These are the hours and minutes of your death.

May God bless you and keep you in his care Grandma.

Monday, October 01, 2007


Elysian Night Owl Pumpkin Ale, a Spice/Herb/Vegetable Ale by Elysian Brewing Company

22 ounce bottle. The pour is a mostly opaque orange ale, with a thin white head that quickly dissipates. The aroma is a rich earthiness bolstered by the smell of pumpkin flesh and whiffs of spices—perhaps cloves, cinnamon, and nutmeg.

I drank this cold, fresh from the refirgerator. The flavors were from most to least intense: earthiness, pumpkin, dark green vegetation (spinach, collard greens), and light spices. Initially, the flavors didn't seem to work for me. However, I really enjoyed the mouthfeel. The ale sat heavy on my palate and tongue in a good, solid way.

As the ale warmed, more flavors became apparent and the previous flavors became more balanced. A touch of carmel was apparent, which worked well with the earthiness and pumpkin flavors. The spices, although still subtle, came to the forefront a little bit and worked very well with the flavor of the dark greens.

My previous experience with pumpkin ale has been Buffalo Bill's Pumpkin Ale, which I definitely enjoy, even though it is a little over-the-top in sweetness. Elysian Night Owl is even better, especially since it is more restrained and complex. I recommend it, but after warming for a few minutes, in order to fully appreciate its flavors.