December Blast...

This time it wasn’t funny. We were hit last week by the worst windstorm I’ve ever seen. My little town of Woodinville was blasted. We slept downstairs that night, listening to the cracking and booming. Trees fell onto – and into – numerous houses in my neighborhood. One neighbor’s truck was smashed.

I have to drive over a dozen downed power lines to get home. They’re dead though; there’s no electricity in my neck of the woods. We lost power at around 10:00 Thursday night and it’s still out with no sign of returning. Puget Sound Energy is telling us now that we’ll probably be dark until after Christmas.

The power in my parents’ area was restored last Friday so we’ve slept there the past two nights. It is great to have a warm and hospitable haven. Today I went back to our very-cold abode and built a fire in the fireplace. I just wanted to be there. One of the many things this interruption has revealed to me is how much my house and property are connected to my soul, and vice versa. It is viscerally troubling for me to drive away from my house while it is in a sort of coma. It seems so fragile, vulnerable, lonely… it looks vacant.

So I’m not snickering up my sleeve this time; I’m not making fun of anyone. As strange as it is to say, this is an actual disaster. And I was not very well-prepared for it.


visible invisible

Humans are called to attend to both the visible and the invisible. By nature, the visible pieces carry expectations and urgency. Invisible things have not yet emerged into the world; they can be seen only by the person to whom they are given. Because of this, gravity tends to pull them to the bottom of the priority list.

But it’s imperative that we resist such forces. Anybody can be replaced when it comes to managing visible actions, whereas the invisibles animate our personal contributions with true uniqueness. This transcends job-security and reaches into the realm of spiritual responsibility.


November Blast!

Winter Storm 2006 has come and gone. Life slowed nearly to a stop for a few days, but we’re off to the races again this morning.

Up here in the Pacific Northwest we prefer not to shovel, per se. Snowplows are rare and road-salt simply isn’t done (it’s just so “red-state”…). These things would be too disruptive to the ecosphere, so we allow nature to take her course. Normally, that means waiting for every scrap of snow and ice to melt away; a process that can take as long as two or even three hours.

Occasionally, though, Alaska exerts its chill and the whole place freezes over. This is the signal for every idiot with access to a motor vehicle to hit the streets and go berserk. It’s a time-honored tradition around these parts to take a couple of inches of snow and turn it into a state of emergency. It is, after all, one of our few ways of making the national news.


Confucius on governance and wealth

In a country well governed, poverty is something to be ashamed of.
In a country badly governed, wealth is something to be ashamed of.



Freight Elevator

I used to produce music in a third floor office space, tucked behind the freight elevator of an old brick warehouse in Seattle. It was south of Pioneer Square, kitty-corner to the Kingdome.

Since I routinely schlepped my gear out to studios and editing suites, it was the freight elevator that made the third floor space feasible for me. It opened on both sides: into the main hallway and into my office.

The seasoned elevator had another fine virtue in addition to saving my back. The west wall of my office was exposed brick, which was perfect for funky urban chic. But there was nothing but the Alaska Way Viaduct between those bricks and the afternoon sun. Clear summer days were brutal...

The only remedy was to slide open the heavy door and send the elevator all the way down past the loading dock to the basement. The shaft fell through unremembered histories into the sediment of blue collar workdays. It was a well of hardworking ghosts and cool air. Both helped me meet more than one deadline.


Beach Trees

The trees along the beach bend eastward
like brown and green waves

The wind has gotten into their makeup

Even when the salted air is dead calm
these trees lunge inland
as though pressed by a gale

Movement playing stillness



On Thursday afternoons I do power yoga. To be more exact, I approximate it. You might say that I re-imagine power yoga with my own angular and brittle je ne sais quoi.

So far, most of the feedback is negative. My body hates it and lets me know. There’s the sheer physiological pain, of course, but there is also the soul-pain of ineptitude and frustration. My ego would prefer that I cut my losses and escape to a guitar shop or bookstore or artsy cafe.

I try to stick to things that I’m good at as much as possible. It’s really not fun to wander outside my sphere of competence.

Did I mention that I’m no natural at yoga? My form doesn’t elicit admiration; the flow of my line fails to inspire other yoginis and yogis.

But I’ve been a resident of the planet long enough to know that feedback can’t always be taken at face value. There’s often a quieter voice with something healthy to say, and it speaks with the homey drawl of commonsense. It encourages me to reinterpret the pain and humiliation.

The pain in my muscles and joints is the voice of future flexibility. An expanding range of motion will make aging a little easier to handle.

And the humiliation of sweating against impossible poses is humility in seed form. When full grown it will counterweight my self-assurance and sense of importance.

Balance. It’s good to inhabit my clumsiness, to be present to my awkward and inflexible self, and to accept the comedy of it all.


Departure & Return

The journey of faith is a conscious, perpetual departure from cynicism and return to wonder.


Casualties of Perception

Playing with modeling clay was one of my favorite childhood pastimes. I could spend hours at a little table in my room, creating, deconstructing, and reinventing story-worlds. My friend, Bill Sass, was usually across the table from me. We had various riffs we’d cycle through. More than one involved tiny human figures at war, either with one another or aliens or mythical monsters.

I came home from school one day to find that all of our little men had been squashed; carefully pressed flat by a large thumb. Needless to say, I was furious: it was okay for us to mutilate our creations, but not someone else!

I registered a high-pitched complaint with my mother, seeking some sort of justice from her. But she had no idea what could have happened to the little warriors. The only person who had been in my room that day was Mary.

Mary was my grandparents’ Haitian maid, or “cleaning lady” in my grandmother’s parlance. My grandparents had arranged for her to clean our house while they were away on vacation. This was supposed to be a special luxury for my mother, but I think it just stressed her out. She felt she had to have everything perfect before Mary arrived.

My room must’ve been fantastically clean that afternoon, having gotten double coverage, but it was wasted on me. All I could see were the smudged remains of my people. I couldn’t fathom what would possess a person - especially a grownup - to do such a thing!

When we told my grandmother about it, she was also puzzled at first. But then an idea occurred to her. “Mary is very superstitious” she said, “in fact, sometimes she talks about Voodoo...” My eyes got very wide because everything I knew about Voodoo came from cartoons and movies: Nobody really believed in it, did they?

It made sense, though, the more we thought about it. Here was a tableful of miniature human figures, along with our clayworking tools - including a bent-open safety pin. The sight of it must’ve given Mary quite a shiver!

The experience taught me something at the soul level that didn’t coalesce into cognition for a long time. Perception molds the meaning of things.

What was for me an intersection of artwork, role-play, and rainy-day recreation was for Mary evidence of malevolent spiritual practices. I wish I could say I’ve never jumped to similar conclusions.


surface noise

an industrial diamond
extracts Villa-Lobos
from spirals lathed into black vinyl

thirty-three and a third
revolutions per minute

surface noise and Segovia

five junior composers
trade hometown stories
over Peak Freens and Red Zinger


Got Around

[DEAD END] meant nothing
when sneakers & bikes
were how I got around


Flashlight Tag

Puberty had just begun insinuating its fascinations

Sparking daring acts of bravery
Like holding hands with one of my sister’s friends
Under the contrived cover of flashlight tag
As awkward as it was secret
And sweet as breakfast cereal
Better than television


Tiny Sirens

On hands and knees I enter the loft
Drawn into the slow motion
Of floating dust and bale debris
Leveraging breaths like rubber
Stretched between shoulders and ribs

The price of my admission is asthma
Which is psychosomatic
According to my grandfather

My wheezing is a descant
To the tiny sirens that guide me
Deeper into the straw world
I’m creeping through ochre shadows
To find a crèche of infant kittens



Blame is legion
Seeking a herd of pigs to waste

Fuelled by a fifth of something
And targeting half of the truth

Impossibly bent on absolving itself
Of itself


Spark & Muse

The rhythm of poetic verse
Is not a prison – not a hearse
It frames a space for spark and muse
And fits the truth with walking shoes


The Adhesive is Failing

Cubes of cold marimba
Clatter against the shallow sides
Of a thick-bottomed glass

My grandfather grips the Manhattan
Like a handrail
Beads of condensation
Blink between his tanned fingers

His black Oxfords tread
Worn-out linoleum
Stuck to farmhouse floorboards

The adhesive is failing


Porch Piano

Unboarded for summer
June bugs thumb heavily
Against rusted screens at night

Cigar clamped in his unshaved smile
Cocktail nearby
Eyes the color of sea foam

His right hand pets a melody
While the left strides
Between chord comp and bass line

From a never-tuned piano
Whispering, Stardust, and Blue Hawaii
Drift nightward like spirits



In the Mid-Seventies, I sang and played guitar in a high school rock band called “Storm”. We were dedicated; we rehearsed three nights per week, and we drummed up our own gigs. We built a strong reputation and worked hard to keep it. Our set-list provided a four-hour, danceable, concert-like experience.

In addition to school dances throughout the Mid-Hudson Valley, we played just about any other gigs we could find: Fourth of July picnics, birthday parties, Christmas parties, pool parties... even a Halloween party at the Sawkill Firehouse.

Given the occasion and the era, it made sense that we would play the gig decked out as KISS. As the front man, it fell to me to be Paul Stanley. I didn’t have the chest hair for the role, but I thought that big black greasepaint star might look pretty damn cool painted over my right eye.

As with many of the best-laid rock-band plans, it was a girl that caused this one to go awry. Her name was Leslie; needless to say, she was beautiful. She was also smart. Honestly, she was out of my league. But she was a sophomore and I was a senior, and that evened things out just enough.

Leslie’s grand vision for the Sawkill Firehouse Halloween Party of 1976 was that she and I would attend the event as Harpo & Groucho Marx. It will hardly come as a surprise that my bandmates did not welcome the idea with enthusiasm. Peter Criss on drums, Ace Freely on lead guitar, Gene Simmons on bass, and Groucho fronting the foursome just didn’t strike them as a commanding lineup. But Leslie’s leverage was significant, so that is exactly how we appeared.

“I want to rock and roll every night and party ev-er-y-day…”

While I threw myself into being the Paul-Stanley-est Groucho that ever strutted a stage, Leslie was cavorting with a guy named Joe. He was a confirmed lover-boy, rarely solo, but uncharacteristically dateless that night. I watched them chatting, and laughing, and dancing… And then I watched them leave together. She honked her little bicycle horn and waved to me as they exited. I couldn’t blame him really – she was adorable in that curly yellow wig.

Through the lens of retrospection, train wrecks often seem so cleanly inevitable.


Manure & Ice

I don’t remember why I was chasing the butterscotch cat. It darted out of sunlight into the dusty shadows of my cousins’ barn. I followed at breakneck speed.

My grandparents kept a tidy barn with a floor that wasn’t slick with a film of silt, hay, and manure, but my cousins didn’t hold to such standards. So imagine my surprise when my feet slipped from under me and I found myself falling forward with arms outstretched Superman-style. My flight was not sustainable and I hit the floorboards with a smack and a splat and a long, messy skid.

Perhaps surprisingly, it wasn’t the last time I would rush into a place I didn’t need to be, chasing after something that wasn’t mine.

I also had a wintertime adventure at that farm. There was enough of a hill for sledding, and we made the most of it. With a running start, we could get up enough speed to make it across a flat stretch of yard, and then out onto the frozen duck pond.

The more we sledded, the faster the track became, until we were getting as far as halfway across the pond. Late in the day I decided to really throw myself into it and see what would happen. I hit the packed snow at the perfect angle and velocity. I gripped the steering wings of the Flexible Flyer, and held my boots up to keep from dragging on the track behind me. The sled’s red blades kicked up bits of snow and ice that pelted my face and made my eyes water.

When I reached the edge of the pond I could feel that I had enough speed to make it all the way across the ice. I squinted into the stinging draft, scanning for a good place to stop. The far side of the pond was thick with dead reeds that poked up through the mottled ice like big brown straws. It was swampy and not solidly frozen, but this realization crystallized in my mind a blink too late.

I crashed into the reeds and broke through the ice into scummy pond water. Fortunately, it was too shallow for anything disastrous to happen. I was drenched and chilled, and done sledding for the day, but otherwise none the worse for the wear.

Bookend stories of reckless abandon that ended badly, but not catastrophically: I keep retelling them, trying to decipher their meaning. Does wisdom require me to attenuate my adventurous impulses? Should I frame my curiosity within the bandwidth of safe outcomes? Can I touch the sacred without making direct contact with the stuff of the earth? Is there any faith without danger?