Friday, June 29, 2007

Moving is for the birds...

...literally, as we spend our last few chaotic days up in Washington...

Our birds are presiding over it all, from the serenity of their perches.
Little Paquito has just begun trying to say "are we there yet?"
It sounds more like "rweyeryet?"
Tango, unfortunately, has mastered the shrill/stark sound of packing tape being stripped from its roll.
And they are both learning starling-ese, as the nest in the roof of our balcony sees birdie-babies maturing...

When we've moved before, it was either across town
(or across the hallway, once, from one corner to another in that Capitol Hill building)
or we just packed some belongings in a suitcase when we moved to and from Nicaragua.
But now as we pack up for the moving truck which arrives next Tuesday, we're realizing just how much work it is to wrap each thing carefully, label boxes, etc. etc...

The parrots-in-the-back-seat-road-trip should be interesting...

On the day after the movers take away our things, we plan on cleaning up, then driving down a couple of hours to stay with my wife's sister and her husband...
The following day--the 5th--we'll begin the long-drives.
Day one should take us down to the northern CA coast near Eureka.
We've always wanted to see the giant redwoods near there...
After that, we plan on driving across the Golden Gate bridge before driving down the central California coastal mountains, reaching the ocean again around Santa Barbara, driving down to stay with friends in San Diego before the final trek across the desert to Tucson. We should arrive there the 10th or the 11th.


I thought this cartoon in this week's news was interesting,
given all the current debate about immigration,
and the fact that we are about to move to a state that has one of the highest percentages of Native American and Hispanic populations in the nation:
...a bit of factual food for xenophobic thought, perhaps...

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

the long & short of it...

I can't believe I'm finding time to do this in the middle of packing...

But, since tomorrow is the summer solstice, the longest day of the year, and since I'm slightly obsessed with the amount of daylight up here winter vs. summer...

...well, an article in today's paper had the following clipping that I just had to clip, scan, and include here...

As you've repeatedly read, I will miss the long summer days of this northern latitude--16 hours between sunrise and sunset...and the lingering twilight on the northwestern horizon...

...and part of the reason of our exodus from here are the dark months--November to February when hope goes south...

Perhaps there are other northern souls who count the minutes from solstice to solstice...

...and then, part of this obsessive 'listing' that comes along with moving, someone forwarded this list to me--I'm not entirely sure of the factuality of everything, but it's trivially diverting:

========life a hundred years ago=================

THE YEAR 1907 This will boggle your mind, I know it did mine!

The year is 1907.

One hundred years ago. What a difference a century makes! Here are some of the U.S. Statistics for the Year 1907: ************************************

The average life expectancy in the U.S. Was 47 years old.

Only 14 percent of the homes in the U.S. Had a bathtub.

Only 8 percent of the homes had a telephone.

A three-minute call from Denver to New York City Cost eleven dollars.

There were only 8,000 cars in the U.S., and only 144 miles of paved roads. The maximum speed limit in most cities was 10 mph.

Alabama, Mississippi, Iowa, and Tennessee were each more Heavily populated than California. With a mere 1.4 million people, California was only the 21st Most populous state in the Union.

The tallest structure in the world was the Eiffel Tower!

The average wage in the U.S. Was 22 Cents per hour. The average U.S. Worker made between $200 and $400 per year .

A competent accountant could expect to earn $2000 per year, A dentist made $2,500 per year, A veterinarian $1,500 per year, And a mechanical engineer about $5,000 per year.

More than 95 percent of all births in the U.S. took place at HOME.

Ninety percent of all U.S. Doctors had NO COLLEGE EDUCATION! Instead, they attended so-called medical schools, many of which Were condemned in the press AND the government as "substandard."

Sugar cost four cents a pound. Eggs were fourteen cents a dozen. Coffee was fifteen cents a pound

Most women only washed their hair once a month, and used Borax or egg yolks for shampoo.

Canada passed a law that prohibited poor people from Entering into their country for any reason.

Five leading causes of death in the U.S. Were: 1. Pneumonia and influenza 2. Tuberculosis 3. Diarrhea 4. Heart disease 5. Stroke

The American flag had 45 stars. Arizona, Oklahoma, New Mexico, Hawaii, and Alaska hadn't been admitted to the Union yet.

The population of Las Vegas, Nevada, was only 30!!!!

Crossword puzzles, canned beer, and ice tea Hadn't been invented yet.

There was no Mother's Day or Father's Day.

Two out of every 10 U.S. Adults couldn't read or write.

Only 6 percent of all Americans had graduated from high school.

Marijuana, heroin, and morphine were all available over The counter at the local corner drugstores. Back then pharmacists Said, "Heroin clears the complexion, gives buoyancy to the mind, Regulates the stomach and bowels, and is, in fact, a perfect guardian Of health."

There were about 230 reported Murders in the ENTIRE U.S.A. !

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Yes, we have no bananas... more banana-tree, that is.
And no more avocado-tree...and no more poppies...and no more night-blooming cactus...

A good friend came over tonight and took some of our plants from our balcony.
The green adoptees will have a good home with our ami cambodgien, since they can't go to Tucson in the moving truck...

Last summer, when we moved into our apartment, we were thrilled to finally have a balcony--and a big one with a view! Then we found a great nursery in Burien that specializes in tropical and subtropical plants--especially bamboo and banana trees. The tree that began last year as a foot-and-a-half-high plant spent the winter indoors and then went out on the balcony a couple of months ago, a good five feet tall! The avocado pit that I patiently sprouted in a glass of water last fall grew to five feet as well...
...and they're now in our friend's car on the way to his house as daylight finally fades at a quarter til ten on this June evening.

The boxes are piling up slowly around our place.

Tomorrow our piano goes away as well.
(Thank you co-worker-of-my-wife-who-wants-to-buy-a-piano!)
A bittersweet parting, but I'll look forward to a desert-seasoned instrument once we get down there...

And an extra bookshelf went away today--ah, the beauty of
During my lunch hour, I posted a 'free bookshelf to take away' ad...
before I even had to return to work, several people had replied, and then not long after I got home, one guy drove over in his truck, and adieu to the particle-board étagère...

Things are moving along.

Saturday, June 9, 2007


Less than a month left before we leave...

The inevitable lists--
--lists of things to do
--lists of address-changes to make
--lists of things to teach the parrots in preparation for the road-trip.

Yep. Road trip. With birds.
We'll be driving down from WA to AZ.

For better or worse, we thought it would be 'cute' to teach little Paquito the de rigueur phrase:
" Are we there yet? "

We may regret it a couple of hundred miles down the road.
But the little green-and-blue parrotlet is just so darn cute.

A year ago, as we prepared to leave Nicaragua, I remember writing, inspired by a friend, lists of things we would miss, things we were looking forward to, etc. etc...
(I've included those lists at the end of this posting for those who care to (re)read them.)

So now, a year later, as we prepare to leave Seattle, here are a few listed thoughts:

Things we'll miss (aside from the obvious people-factor; friends and family, of course):

--seeing Mt. Rainier, unobstructed in its glaciated glory, from three rooms of our apartment
--l-o-n-g summer days; already, it's daylight before 5 a.m. and not completely dark until after 10 p.m.
--cherry blossoms in April
--the fact that fleece-shorts-socks-sandals is 'normal'
--organic-soy-whatever is easy to find
--bookstores and Italian espresso in Pioneer Square on a rainy day
--H-Mart (see Sept. 30 2006 post) in Federal Way

Things we won't miss:

--not being able to see Mt. Rainier--from anywhere--due to low grey clouds for weeks on end
--l-o-n-g winter nights; darkness lasts from 4:15 p.m. until 8 a.m. the next morning
--the fact that fleece-shorts-socks-sandals is worn to the symphony and the theater
--organic-soy-whatever is a religion; the 'holier-than-thou' vegan mentality
--the fact that the median home price is almost half a million dollars
--the complaints of 'oh, it's SO hot' when the thermometer climbs above 70 degrees

Things we look forward to in Tucson:

--October-through-May; the weather
--desert sunsets
--summer monsoon downpours, with rainbows to follow
--hearing/using Spanish in everyday life
--bicycling among saguaro cacti
--Mexican food
--seeing roadrunners dash across the street
--naked geology, vast skies
--they have Trader Joe's!!

Things we don't look forward to in Tucson:

--June-through-early-September; the temperatures
--the lack of H-mart
--the lack of a mid-city freeway
--elevated skin-cancer risk
--'snowbird' traffic
--occasional duststorms
--there are no Fred Meyers stores

Those are just a few things that come to mind...

And, neither here nor there...but we went to a very cool concert the other night: THE POLICE at Key Arena! Hard to believe the band disbanded over 20 years ago...But the reunion tour seems to be off to a kicking start. Some people brought their kids to the concert; other young people 'in the know' came as well; it was fun to see people who could have been my parents dancing in the aisles along with multiply pierced young people who can't even buy beer yet... May we all age like Sting...

=======lists written in Léon, Nicaragua, June 2006===========


--lanes on the road that MEAN something
--snowcapped mountains on the eastern and the western horizons
--bodies of water—both salt- and fresh-, EVERYwhere
--clean parks where trees are allowed to grow to their natural height...where trash isn’t burned...
--Elliott Bay bookstore and the international newsstand at Pike Place Market
--the plethora of good bread and coffee
--...and places to eat phŏ!
--kayaking by the houseboats on Lake Union and Portage Bay...and the pseudo-Mexican food at Agua Verde near the University
--the fact that I look part-‘chino’ is completely ‘normal’ and not worth bringing up EVERY time I meet someone
--reading the paper at a sidewalk café on a cool June morning, while wearing socks-AND-sandals! (much to Sara’s dismay...)


--people who talk on their cell-phones while aggressively changing lanes on said highway
--not being able to see the mountains for half the year, due to the low grey skies
--the fact that the water is almost never warm enough to swim in
--having to be at work when ‘the mountains ARE out’
--the fact that lattés are THREE dollars!!
--having to fight, tooth-and-nail, the omnipresent propaganda of ‘I buy, therefore I am’
--the cultivated ugliness of ‘fashion’ on Capitol Hill
--the fact that hardly anyone greets each other on the street


--the ‘air you wear;’ the incessant humid heat
--the omnipresent trash, especially plastic, and the toxic smoke from the numerous burning piles thereof
--being called ‘chino’ or ‘chele/a’
--Sara being leered at; and the fact that so many men on the street feel obligated to make audible remarks to every passing female...
--the fact that ‘clock-time’ has NO meaning whatsoever
--seeing small children throw rocks at (and often kill) skeletal street-dogs
--the frequent ‘bad haircuts’ for shade(less) trees
--seeing the friendly chocoyos (parakeets) being kept in miniscule ages
--the tyranny of skin-tight fashions for women, regardless of shape or size, ahem...
--dim, overhead fluorescent lighting in homes
--having to do all our laundry by hand
--the fact that I can’t eat flavorful, homemade, and inexpensive tortillas with a ‘clean conscience’—must explain: almost all tortillas in our city are made by illiterate women who never had a chance to go to school, over wood fires in kitchens with inadequate ventilation which almost inevitably leads to lung and eye problems by the time they are in their 50’s. And then the children who walk around selling the tortillas morning, noon, and evening don’t go to school...and end up, like their mothers, illiterate. Makes eating tacos the equivalent of buying cheap clothing made in sweatshops, eh? Ay...


--learn beforehand to enjoy the sensation of being warm and moist ALL the time
--talcum powder: use it, use it, use it!
--know that any fluctuation in your personal appearance CAN and WILL be commented on
--‘ahorita’ (‘right now’) really means ‘when I get around to it...maybe...’
--cotton is THE extra cotton underwear before coming...the stuff you buy here is cotton/poly...
--noise is ‘in’ here...bring earplugs, or learn to ‘enjoy’ the ‘ambiance’ at all hours
--‘why’ often has no good answer; learn to appreciate living in a surreal environment—you’ll understand why ‘magical realism’ in literature was born in Latin America; think of it like living in a Salvador Dali painting...just with more litter in the background...and the foreground...
--‘all you need is love’....but a LOT of’ll do you good
--seek out any little piece of beauty...and FOCUS on it...


--the ‘zanate’ birds singing in the trees at sunset
--fresh fruit ‘frescos’ from the corner-store
--being invited inside to sit in rocking chairs when visiting people
--in the evening, seeing families sitting in those same rocking chairs, pulled out on to the sidewalk so they can catch a breeze while they ‘shoot the breeze’...
--the line of active volcanoes on the horizon
--“aguacate piña papaaaaaaaaayaaaaaa”—not just the abundance of fresh tropical fruit, but also the ambulant vendors who carry their produce in giant baskets on their heads while they walk around the neighborhoods, calling out in sing-song-Spanish what they have for sale
--fresh, cheap, sun-ripened tomatoes ALL year-round
--hammocks in the shade
--the abundance of gregarious parakeets (‘chocoyos’)
--the fact that small children are trained to greet adults with an outstretched hand
--the uninterrupted time to listen to music while doing laundry (by hand)
--the fact that most people are not ‘high-maintenance’ when it comes to personal comfort—long-suffering but WITH A SMILE and a ready laugh! It goes without saying that we will miss all our friends here terribly...

And that’s enough for lists today...
Obviously, we have mixed feelings...

This little example might illustrate the conundrum of our relationship with Nicaragua.
One morning I saw a guy doing some work in the street—he was chopping up some big tree-limbs into smaller pieces to make it easier to transport. Most likely, the limbs and branches (from a ‘public’ tree) were going to become firewood (to cook tortillas)...At any rate, he was hacking away with his machete...and nearby his little boy, who couldn’t have been more than five or six years old, was helping out. The little kid had his own ‘mini-machete;’ I didn’t know they came in ‘kid-size!’ I was simultaneously impressed and dismayed—impressed that the kid was able to effortlessly handle a machete and ‘help dad out’...and perturbed that a parent would entrust such a potentially dangerous tool (I mean, come on, a MACHETE) to such a small child...
Who am I to question, eh?...Not my world...

But we’ve spent a year down here in ‘this world’...and it will always be part of us...
...We ask you in advance to forgive us for the inevitable comments we’ll be making, all too often, that will begin with “Back in Nicaragua...”