Tuesday, August 26, 2008


It seems to me that there are two kinds of Americans. You are either a Washington or a Lincoln. I have discovered that I am definitely a Lincoln. Okay, this shouldn't come as a big surprise to anyone. But, being in the presence of the major monuments and memorials of Washington DC made this more manifest, more real for me, than I could have ever imagined.


Lincoln on his brooding throne, staring out over the Reflecting Pool at the giant phallus of power that was erected to Washington, seems more my kind of guy. I can relate to the melancholy, the loneliness, the feeling of having to pick up the pieces for others, the brooding, the weariness. I know the sadness in his eyes and his slight grimace.


I can understand the words that are engraved into the wall of the Lincoln Bay of the National Cathedral.
"Abraham Lincoln / whose lonely soul / God kindled / is here remembered / by a people / their conflict healed / by the truth / that marches on"
They speak to me in a way that stories about the valor and vigor of Washington cannot.


I stumbled upon Lincoln wherever I looked. The Union and Confederate cannon on the battlefield of Manassas (Bull Run). The gravestones of Arlington National Cemetery. The National Archives. The Library of Congress. The monuments and memorials to the Union dead and the Confederate dead, known and unknown.


I even stumbled by happenstance upon the grave of Robert Todd Lincoln, son of Abraham Lincoln, in Arlington National Cemetery. He is buried there with his wife and son. I stood there for some time staring at the the words on the sarcophagus: "Abraham Lincoln II," grandson of Abraham Lincoln I. Here the son and the grandson lie, looking out over the city that Lincoln's Army defended during the Civil War.


The city may be named after Washington, but the ghost of Lincoln haunts its streets, its fields, its people. I am certain that he walks there at night when we are asleep, dreaming.

Sunday, August 24, 2008


Washington DC is as though a fever dream. I dream of hot, humid air that fuels further dreams.

I dream of books. The Library of Congress. A recreation of the original collection of Thomas Jefferson's books. The main main reading room. The National Archives. The foundational documents that a country's own dreams were built upon. Magna Carta. Declaration of Independence. Constitution. Bill of Rights.

I dream of art. Sculpture. Paintings. Multimedia extravaganzas. Lichtensteins and Warhols. Oldenburgs and Giacomettis. City planning. Architecture. L'Enfant. Pope. Tuscan, Ionic, Doric, Corinthian, Composite columns. Gargoyles and adornments. Mosaics. Statues, mythical and historical and both. Poseidon. Gallatin. Jackson. Washington. Lincoln.

I dream of beer. Saranac Trail Mix. Pale Ale. IPA. Amber Lager. Brown. Black Forest. Black & Tan. Capitol City Brewing. The original downtown DC location. Belgian Boysenberry. Amber Waves. Capitol Kölsch. Prohibition Porter. A Capitol Rib-eye steak, with its beer bourbon glaze to accompany.

I dream of wandering amongst monuments and memorials. Jefferson. Washington. Lincoln. World War II. Korea. Vietnam. The resting places of dead presidents. Washington. FDR. Wilson. Kennedy. The battlefields and cemeteries of dead soldiers. First Manassas. Second Manassas. Confederate. Union. Arlington National Cemetery. The Tomb of the Unknowns. The sound of cicadas drifting through deciduous trees. Magnolias.

I dream of flying six-and-one-half miles above the earth. Seattle to Washington DC. And back. The patchwork of America below. Itself dreaming.

After a week, the fever breaks. I am back in my library. Reading. Writing. Typing.

Thursday, August 21, 2008


Newly born into the world, your water has been sampled, your pressure has been checked.

Cylindrical. Freshly painted yellow by the Pipe Cowboy. Metal. Water. Erect.

The signifier of the new water loop. The central point.

Guarding a bevy of posts and poles that diagnose and monitor, report and alert, you alone allow access to the main. You stand firm, basking in your importance.

You point skyward to the clouds that drip their essence onto soil and pavement and roofs, to be gathered in gutters and gullies, delivered to swales and ponds and aquifers, whereupon their waters will return to you, where you point skyward.

Lather, rinse, repeat.


(And then they secretly wrapped you. For safekeeping.)

Wednesday, August 20, 2008


Clockwise from upper left: (1) Weekly Volcano's Lava Tube black light poster display; (2) a knit creature installed on utility pipes near The Helm's Whale; (3) a paper bag hat/mask; and (4) chalk art by Aimee Zhou.

Showcase Tacoma was filled with so many sights and sounds and smells (such as Hot Rod Dog's mozzarella bratwursts, supplied by Blue Max Sausage Company of Puyallup!) that it boggled the mind. The child and I wandered and viewed and participated in the wonders of this local arts festival for its two day run.

We will return next year for more.


Pictures of additional Showcase Tacoma goodness are available at the troysworktable Flickr page.

Monday, August 18, 2008


InTransit by Justin Gorman was another site specific art installation that utilized an existing landmark, in this case a bus stop. Pierce Transit even closed the bus stop for the two days of Showcase Tacoma, so people could experience the multimedia installation without buses pulling up and departing every so often.

Photographs from Justin Gorman's "Reflections" series were attached to the glass of the bus stop shelter in order that they could be viewed from both sides. The "reflections" are pictures of the reflections of bus passengers as "seen" in the windows of the buses, in other words, the way that the buses "view" their riders before or after they embark on their journey. When I reflect upon it, I find this to be very fascinating. In addition to anthropomorphizing some of the machines we utilize, it also gives us a different perspective on our quotidian, and oftentimes banal, journeys.

The photographs were accompanied by videos of various bus rides and train rides (on SoundTransit's Sounder Commuter Train) Gorman took during his commute to and from work for a year. There were also blog entries kept, that were published in hard copy for the installation. Lucky "passengers" at the exhibit were treated to the artist reading from the blog while they watched videos and viewed photographs, seated on an old bus seat beneath the shelter.

It was truly a wild ride. You can take part of it online at the InTransit website.


You can view more pictures of InTransit at the troysworktable Flickr page.

Sunday, August 17, 2008


House & Home was a simple, yet evocative, installation by artist (and University of Washington Tacoma professor) Tyler Budge. He was tying the idea of home to the flooding that was occurring in the Midwest at the time of his application for the event. I liked his use of the "urban river" of Tollefson Plaza.

I also liked his use of neon orange sandbags, which echoed the orange windsocks of his to wend installation. The orange seems to depict multiple purposes. In to wend, the orange is not only a warning of the strength of the wind, but also a signifier of direction. In House & Home, the orange is not only a defense against the strength and determination of the water, but a support for the structure.

The first time I viewed House & Home, Tyler Budge was circling the sculpture, taking pictures of it from different vantage points. I was tempted to approach him to discuss the piece with him, but he seemed so intent of purpose that I decided to leave him to his work.


I also especially liked this piece because its simplicity and utilization of space reminded me of the work of Lead Pencil Studio and their Maryhill Double. I kept finding myself drawn back to it again and again.


You can view more pictures of House & Home at the troysworktable Flickr page.

Saturday, August 16, 2008


Oliver Doriss Designs & Fulcrum Gallery Art Space
Dreamtime Tacoma
a par five odyssey

Dreamtime Tacoma was probably the most fun piece of art at Showcase Tacoma. It was an installation sculpture consisting of the topography of Tacoma. At the last minute, Oliver decided to also make it into a miniature golf course. There were various places to tee off from and the hole was located in Tacoma's Hilltop neighborhood, where Fulcrum Gallery sits.

All of the elements of the "map" were made to be durable and withstand being walked upon, hit with a golf club, and hit with a plastic golf ball. A glue gun was at the ready to reattach any of the wood block skyscrapers, tin can buildings and warehouses of the Port of Tacoma, or green sponge and foam trees that were accidentally removed during swings of the club.

The child especially liked this. She did as well during her turn playing the hole as Troy's Work Table, which was "not very."


You can view more pictures of Dreamtime Tacoma at the troysworktable Flickr page.

Friday, August 15, 2008


Clockwise from upper left: (1) A River & Sound Review was part of Showcase Tacoma's Poemporium & Lit Fair; (2) singer-songwriter Scott Andrew; (3) RSR emcee Jay Bates and Tacoma poet laureate William Kupinse; and (4) award winning Spokane novelist Jess Walter.

"I love telling stories more than anything."
—Jess Walter at A River & Sound Review

What if you had a show, a performance, a literary entertainment extravaganza, and no one came? Well, it happened. A River & Sound Review had its most recent show at 5:00 p.m. on Friday 08 August 2008 in the Vicky Carwein/Keystone Auditorium at University of Washington Tacoma as part of the Showcase Tacoma arts festival, and no one came.

Well, that is not completely true. Out of the fifteen people present, three were performing, nine were members of A River & Sound Review or related to a member, one was a William Kupinse fan, and two looked completely confused about where they were. So, in an auditorium that has a capacity of approximately 120 people, three people came to see the latest RSR offering.

Everyone else missed the best show that RSR has produced.

Scott Andrew played his guitar and sang as though he were in front of a packed room. He produced enough rhythm and beat by tapping his foot that it sounded as though someone was accompanying him on drums.

William Kupinse read many poems about nature and our place in it, as well as a few about Tacoma, which made sense, since he is Tacoma's poet laureate.

Jess Walter read a poem, which he said he must be crazy to do on the heels of Kupinse. Then, rather than read from his most recent novel The Zero, a National Book Award finalist, he spoke about what it means to be a writer. He spoke about his writing relationship with Kurt Vonnegut, who acted as a "distant" mentor to him.

The best part, however, was how the three principle performers interacted with one another and improvised their individual performances based upon those of the other two. William Kupinse referenced one of Scott Andrew's songs, Jess Walter read his poem with a sense of play and a nod to William Kupinse's reading, and Scott Andrew played a song that dealt with some of the same themes of the reading of William Kupinse and the talk of Jess Walter. It was all unscripted and unplanned and perfect.

It is just too bad that you missed it!


You can view more pictures of show #21 (RSR comes of age!) of A River & Sound Review at the troysworktable Flickr page.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008


By happenstance, the child and I wander into the midst of an act, a scene.

The drunken monster Caliban lies passed out in the middle of the street. We sit near him as his drunken cohorts, Stephano and Trinculo, circle him, conversing, plotting.

The child sinks deeper into my lap, seduced, intrigued. Members of the cast marvel at her intensity, her devotion to the story, as she watches the action unfold.

There is magic at hand. And threats.

We sit too close, but it is too late to move.


You can view more pictures of Shakespeare in the Parking Lot performing The Tempest at Showcase Tacoma on the troysworktable Flickr page.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008


I dream of musicians who live for their music.

I see a drummer who adopts a "musical autism" when he sits behind his kit, the world replaced by the beat, the rhythm, the melody. His mouth shuts and closes with the movement of his hands, the drumsticks. His body lurches and leaps, herky-jerky.

I see a vocalist who in the past shredded his vocal chords, only to be plunged into silence, and having to learn to sing again. His voice is strong once again. He is happy to be here, celebrating his twenty-eighth birthday with the city of Tacoma. His guitar quivers at his touch, his harmonica bleats its mournful tune.

I see myself twenty years ago in the kids that crowd the stage.

My ears ring.

I am happy.


You can view more pictures of The Helio Sequence performing at Showcase Tacoma on the troysworktable Flickr page.

Monday, August 11, 2008


Chalk drawing by Kim Durkin, Tacoma School of the Arts, day one of Showcase Tacoma.

Chalk drawing by Kim Durkin, Tacoma School of the Arts, day two of Showcase Tacoma.

Surviving inclement weather. A "dark" Alice, perhaps?

Sunday, August 10, 2008


Leviathan is beached between the Keystone and Science Buildings of University of Washington Tacoma, resting upon the railroad tracks. We approach from its head, circle its immense carcass, as we walk the tracks. We pause near its eye, its flipper, its tail, its opposite eye. We climb the stairs to the pedestrian bridge between the buildings to view its enormity, its grandiosity, from above.

Day two brings decay of the carcass. Wind and rain have begun to remove some of its scales. We peek inside the whale. We see bones and meat.

We dream of nearby Thea Foss waterway. We dream of wind and rain, which visits us every fifteen to twenty minutes. We dream of sky and filtered sunshine.


You can view more pictures of Whale by The Helm at the troysworktable Flickr page.

Friday, August 08, 2008


The Helio Sequence black light poster from The Weekly Volcano's "Lava Tube" display (in the back of a Penske truck), at Showcase Tacoma.

Benjamin Weikel, drums and electronics, and Brandon Summer, guitar and vocals, of The Helio Sequence performing in Tacoma's Tollefson Plaza as part of Showcase Tacoma.

The Helio Sequence performing the encore of "Hallelujah" as dusk descends upon Tacoma this evening. My ears are still ringing.

Thursday, August 07, 2008


The twenty minute in-class writing exercise for this week's Writing House workshop was...

Copy this text and then continue:
"What God thinks about, most of the time, ___"


What God thinks about, most of the time, is his collection of people.

He places each new one that he gets upon one of the neatly dusted shelves in his library. Some are still in their blister packs, in mint condition, untouched. Others have been battered and weathered, paint scuffed away near joints. Some are broken, a forearm gone missing, or a head that won't stay in place, popping off because the hole is larger than the pin. But, he loves each and every one of them.

He dotes on them, painting color back onto their clothes with a fine-tipped brush, polishing their exteriors to a brilliant shine.

He takes down a few of his favorites and has them play in mock battle—red and yellow, black and white—one from the shelf labeled "American" versus one from the "Middle East" shelf, Iraqi or Afghani.

New people arrive every day. A tiny one, having succumbed to leukemia. A slow one, hit by a bus. A thin one, malnutrition or asceticism.

He picks them up and turns them over, examining them in detail. They squeak back at him with tiny chirps of voice. God likes these small noises. He finds them soothing, even though he doesn't understand them.

When he feels sad or mischievous, God pulls the labels from the shelves and mixes his collection up. Women with men, adults with children, followers of Jesus or Buddha with followers of Mohammed or Moses.

Occasionally, he opens a blister pack. "It's not worth having if I can't play with it," he bellows to himself.

At night, when he crawls into bed, he chooses one that he will hold close as he sleeps, that person tucked between pillow and the roughness of the cheek, his breath warming him or her as he snores and dreams of tomorrow's delivery, tomorrow's toys.


Another writer said he liked the idea of the "nerd collector" god. It was just fun to write something fun for the workshop since my work to date therein has focused on various meditations on death. This brought a little levity to another serious topic.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008


"One of us will live to rue the day we met each other."
—from "One of Us" by Wire, as found on the album Object 47.


For the record, I must state that I am a Wire fan.


My first listen to material from Wire's Object 47 album was the free download of "One of Us." I knew that Bruce Gilbert, Wire's guitarist had left the band after more than thirty years with the band. I tried to keep that from influencing how I felt about the song, but couldn't. It felt like something was missing, although I wasn't sure if it really was or if I was grieving a loss.


When I went out to seek the album, no local brick-and-mortar store had it in stock. Wall of Sound in Seattle told me that they would order some and have them in a few days. That worked out perfectly since I would be back in a week for another session of my writing group.

When I returned I didn't see Object 47 anywhere, so I inquired about it. The clerk told me that he had already sold out of the few he had ordered and that "you wouldn't want it anyway because it sounds like all of their '80s stuff." What? You turned down a guaranteed sale due to your aesthetic judgment of the album. Needless to say, I will never shop at Wall of Sound again.

So I trudged up to Everyday Music on Broadway with the help of my trusty cane. They had three copies in stock and no objections to my buying it. In fact, their clerks seemed generally happy that I was buying an album, and one of them even asked me my general opinion of Wire.


There are Wire fans, of which I am one, and there are Wire snobs, one of which the Wall of Sound clerk was.

Wire fans like all of the periods of Wire's creative output—Mach I: 1976-1980, mostly punk and post-punk; Mach II: 1985-1992, pop and dance-floor tracks, along with a lot of experimentation; Mach III: 1999-2004, a return to their punk roots, very loud and abrasive; and Mach IV: 2006 to present, a mature sound that encompasses everything that went before, including the myriad of offshoots and solo projects. Wire snobs are stuck in the Mach I period and seem to have disdain for anything else. Some of them will also admit to liking Mach III period Wire, while others will not.

The Wire snobs are really the ones that lose, especially since Wire themselves is always trying to change their sound, challenge themselves, remain dynamic and vital. Wire snobs are static, stagnant.

Object 47 is definitely not for them.


Track 1 > "One of Us"
If there were still such a beast in existence, this would have been the first single of the album. Wire released it as such on their own Pink Flag website, as well as their MySpace page. The bass guitar and drums really drive this pop track with dark lyrics. This is classic Wire, even with the absence of Bruce Gilbert.

Track 2 > "Circumspect"
This is a slow Beatlesque track that shows the influence of the Beatles upon Wire. It slows the tempo down before it takes off again in the next track.

Track 3 > "Mekon Headman"
This track either samples from or lifts a riff from "Outdoor Miner" on Wire's second album Chairs Missing, which seems appropriate since "Outdoor Miner" is probably one of the most covered Wire songs. The echo is more sophisticated than that, but the borrow is completely in keeping with the games that Wire plays with both its lyrics and instruments. Another great game in "Mekon Headman" is the backward sampled guitar lines. The vocals may also be backward samples, although it is difficult to tell. It could just be Graham Lewis's delivery on this particular song is affected to sound as though backward. Some wild stuff.

Track 4 > "Perspex Icon"
Echoes of Colin Newman's solo album A-Z, which contains much of the material that would have been Wire's fourth album of the Mach I period, if the members of the band hadn't driven each other crazy. At first listen, I thought that Colin's wife, and oftentimes collaborator, Malka Spigel, was singing with him, but it appears not. Colin is just singing toward the upper reaches of his vocal range.

Track 5 > "Four Long Years"
Another song that sounds as though stolen from session tapes of a Colin Newman solo album, this time Or So It Seems. That is, until you really listen to it. Graham Lewis's filtered background vocals playing against Colin's lead vocals playing against Colin's background vocals, and all of it corralled by the cymbals of Robert Grey's drum kit, show it to be much more mature and complex than an album of twenty years ago.

Track 6 > "Hard Currency"
This is ready for remixing and then the dance floor. It is hypnotic. There is some kind of wild sound collage buried deep in the mix below drums, bass, guitar, and vocals. It rises up ever so briefly in the middle of the song. Try to catch Graham's quiet chanting, which may or not be part of the same murky layer.

Track 7 > "Patient Flees"
I think of this as the "drunken Western soundtrack." It takes slow, plodding, anxious steps as it approaches hangover at High Noon. Colin's "quiet" and "sung" verse vocals rub against his "loud" and "spoken" refrain vocals, which amplifies the tension that the band is trying to achieve with the music itself.

Track 8 > "Are You Ready?"
This is the requisite song of "questions" that seem to appear on most Wire albums, and are usually sung by Graham. This one is no different. It's pop sensibility and dance-friendly grooves would make it a likely candidate for remixing for the dance floor, the album's second single, or both. If some of the other tracks feel like they could have easily fit on Colin solo albums, then this is the one that could have easily been found on a Graham/He Said album.

Track 9 > "All Fours"
I get goosebumps every time I hear this track. It is loud and abrasive. The pulsing drone of guitar and bass and drum anchor the sound. Colin and Graham play off of one another's vocals. Page Hamilton (of Helmet fame) provides a feedback storm of guitar that is very similar to that of departed guitarist Bruce Gilbert's similar feedback storm on "Spent" from Read & Burn 01. This is the huge, over-the-top send-off for the album, shooting us skyward, taking us into orbit, as the layers and noise and controlled chaos increase. And then the brief, quiet beauty of breaking free of gravity's grasp hovers before us for a few seconds, until we are absolutely certain of our freedom and left floating in absolute silence.


Object 47 stands on its own as one of Wire's best albums, even with the absence of Bruce Gilbert. I would assume that my early fears were more grief than anything else.

Monday, August 04, 2008


Fire Hydrant Hefeweisen, a Hefeweisen by Fire Station 5 Brewing Company

Fire Boat Amber Ale, an Amber Ale by Fire Station 5 Brewing Company

Golden Brigade Blonde Ale, a Blonde Ale by Fire Station 5 Brewing Company

Portland Brewing Company brews Fire Station 5 ales exclusively for Fred Meyer. (I'm not sure that is necessarily a good thing. When was the last time you think that a subsidiary grocery store supplied by a subsidiary brewing company was concerned about the quality of the beer that was provided?)


Three examples of "meh!"


Stu Stuart of Belgian Beer Me! told me not to get too hung up on the particular style of a beer. I believe it to be good advice. If the label states it to be a porter but it is really more like a stout, and I thoroughly enjoy it, then does it really matter that the label states that it is a porter? Probably not.

That is one of the problems with Fire Station 5's Fire Hydrant Hefeweisen, however. The term "hefeweisen" conjures up an image, an aroma, and a flavor. I expect it to be unfiltered and hazy, with notes of both wheat and citrus.

The pour delivers an ale that is mostly clear. The bottle claims that it is unfiltered, but it appears to be thoroughly, even meticulously, filtered. The body is clear yellow, capped by a large white head for a few brief moments. There is almost no lacing to speak of.

The aroma and flavor are both of wheat and lemon. The flavor also has a bit of graham cracker hidden within. Then, pulses of alcohol and metal unexpectedly punctuate the flavor at irregular intervals.

This is completely different from other hefeweisens I have had. It was definitely not what I expected. The bottled claims it to be a hefeweisen and RateBeer claims it to be a wheat ale. I claim it to be neither.

My recommendation it to pass on this one.


Golden Brigade Blonde Ale is the weakest of these three.

This one begins with light aromas—grain, an indistinct fruitiness, and sweaty leather jacket. The flavor that follows kicks off with a harsh "bite" and ends slightly metallic. There is not much in between except for a hint of a piece of hay dipped in melted caramel.

It is not very good. Would I have it again? In a word: no.

My recommendation is to pass on this one.


Fire Boat Amber is the best of these three, but that is relative.

The pour delivers an amber, almost orange, body. The white head that forms is average, but quickly dissipates. There is virtually no lacing.

The aroma is of Honey Nut Cheerios and of damp soil after a light rain. The flavor presents earthiness, a touch of caramel, and an ever-so-minute nuttiness that is so much so that it almost isn't.

It is nothing spectacular. It is nothing bad. It is mediocre.

My recommendation is to drink this if it is offered and the only beer present. But don't purchase it. But something else.


The answer to my initial parenthetical question is "probably never."

Sunday, August 03, 2008


Nathan Golden is the good friend of my good friend D. Nathan is also a brilliant photographer. I am constantly amazed by how he is able to capture the humanity of people who are not necessarily powerful or glamorous or beautiful, at least in the traditional senses of those words.

(For me, he takes pictures in the same way that William T. Vollmann captures scenes in words.)

Platform 22, his photo essay that currently headlines Vewd, an online documentary photography magazine, is spectacular. You have to see it, without delay.

My friend D. occasionally sends the family and I notecards that have small images of Nathan's prints on them. One has been framed and sits on the top of our wood stove. One is tacked up above my desk at work. One is a landscape, and the other a portrait of a child taken during the same trip to India that Platform 22 documents. I receive comments and queries on both whenever people see them. They are that powerful.


Picture number 15 (of 15) of Platform 22 haunts me. The small child who is portrayed in the midst of the hustle and bustle of the other passengers of Howrah Railway Station haunts me.

How come the other people don't see him? How is it that only the camera captures him? Is he even there?

He doesn't seem to be "present," especially if he is high on glue, although he is "there."

Is it any different than the homeless that are scattered across our urban and suburban landscapes? Do we ignore them in the same way?

Sometimes I notice them, but I usually try to quickly avert my gaze. Or, preferably, never look their way to begin with. Am I any different than the other passengers in the railway station? I fear not. What does that say about me? Us?

Saturday, August 02, 2008


Alice from Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass, both by Lewis Carroll, was spotted hanging out at the Puyallup Farmers' Market with her friend the Cheshire Cat. Let's just say that the child was equally intrigued and intimidated, but, nevertheless, went and said hello.