November 10, 2015
When my grandnephew was a baby and did his best sleeping in a moving car, Newcastle Niece and I took a local driving trip to view all the new home developments. We called it “The Construction Tour.” Two years later, Jack can sleep without the rocking of a vehicle, but growth is still a huge topic of conversation. No less than The New York Times recently wondered if Seattle could keep its soul while it morphed into a Pacific Rim power, and we’re sitting right at the edge of it. Hardly a day passes that I don’t drive around a Newcastle corner and say out loud, “What the hell? When did that happen?” Previously, crane-spotting was relegated to the occasional Great Blue Heron at Lake Boren, but now there’s a crane where cows grazed and one where the Brick Plant bricked, while the new middle school currently looks like a stage backdrop for a Taylor Swift concert.
Given the confluence of current events, I understand that constant change and suburban density are going to be a part of our lives whether we like it or not. It’s inevitable. But rather than condemning it, consider the flip side.
June 4, 2015
Three weeks ago, a cougar was spotted in Kennydale. Not long after that, a bear was seen strolling up our very own street. I long ago accepted the wild kingdom that is our backyard and greenbelt: Raccoons who roll up our grass like old carpeting while looking for grubs, rabbits whose warren holes are just large enough to be a tad unnerving when I walk by them, snakes on the front stoop, bobcats on the fence, skinks in the garage, frogs in the family room, chipmunks in our rockeries, bear scat on the path. Live and let live, I say.
But this year … oh, deer.
If you live in Newcastle, I know you’ve had the deer experience. You learn to adapt. I only grow Hosta and Huechera in pots on the deck and fully expect fresh tulips to be beheaded before sunset. I finally gave up and pulled out a plant that had served as their salad bar for so many years that I could no longer ID it. California Lilac? Yum! Lemon Cypress Tree? Our compliments to the chef! I always ask the helpful garden folks at Newcastle Fruit & Produce if plants are deer-resistant before I buy them, but lately they just laugh. I understand why. If our local deer are hungry enough, there’s nothing they won’t eat. Except, unfortunately, Bishop’s Weed. Read more
March 5, 2015
When you drive over the hill toward 405 and see the VMAC, do you still feel blue blue about the Seahawks? Fear not.
There was another “Boom” in Seattle before the “Legion of.” It was the “Sonic Boom,” and I signed up for for a decade of fanaticism. I’d moved to Seattle in ’72 from small-town Illinois, where basketball was king, where winters were so harsh and bleak that the best option for entertainment was to be packed into frigid cinder-block gyms in the dead of January to watch sons of farmers play the game. I transferred my basketball fan punchcard to Seattle and started listening to Bob Blackburn on the radio, and daily scanned the sports pages for stories about the SuperSonics in all three newspapers. Yes. Three.
I was ecstatic when they began to win and make the playoffs, and I committed myself completely to the journey. In my saved box of Sonic history are newspaper clippings, a poem of mine that had been published (“Goodbye, Marvin; No Hard Feelings!”) and a front-page picture of myself and friends holding up a banner during the Denver playoff series (“We Got ‘em by the Nuggets!”). Read more
July 31, 2014
Jack and the ice cream man. Uh, woman. Truck. Small open vehicle.
I recently wrote an article about the overhyped tests that you can take to find out how old you really are. Who needs a test? While watching my 32-month-old grandnephew Jack a few weeks ago, I easily found out how old I really am, and discovered the same about him.
I am 8. Jack is 52.
Jack is a very smart, thoughtful and cautious child who went directly from observant silence to sentences like, “Mom, did you play with dollhouses when you were a little girl?” and who often begins conversations with, “Mom, I have an idea …”
I watch him every Tuesday for a few hours, and on that day several weeks ago, the stars aligned, the Summer Gods smiled and the ice cream truck came to our neighborhood while I had him. Jack was at the kitchen table eating blueberry yogurt when I heard the unmistakable sound of summer treats approaching. I popped up from my chair and cried, “The ice cream man! The ice cream truck!” Jack looked up from his yogurt. “Jack! The ice cream man is coming! The truck is on the way! Can you hear it?”
Jack heard something all right: me, yelling at full volume from three feet away.
Grabbing some money and heading out the door, I asked The Sainted One to keep an eye on our charge. I ran down our steep driveway and looked up the street. The truck was stopped at a cul-de-sac north of us, and our Good Neighbor to the West and her Lovely Daughter were paying for their purchases. I ran back up the hill, grabbed Jack from the porch where he was now waiting, and tugged him towards the street, but before we could get there, the truck took a tight turn and puttered away from us.
Hearing my wail of dismay, Lovely Daughter chased it up the street and around the corner but had no luck finding it. At the same time, The Sainted One was backing down the driveway to go to the store. Or so he thought. His new mission was to follow the sound of the truck and bring it back.
Jack and I hurried up to the main street so that we wouldn’t be bypassed, with me jabbering the whole way about summer and ice cream men and trucks. Within minutes, the truck slowly approached us with my husband in the car behind it, pushing it along like a sheepdog herding Merino sheep. Jack solemnly held my hand as the parade approached. I could almost hear his thoughts:
“I’m pretty sure that’s not a truck. I can’t define precisely what it is, but it is not a truck.”
“That is not a man. I distinctly remember hearing ‘ice cream man,’ but that is a woman.”
“That is not ice cream as I know it. Where is the ice cream? I see only frozen treats.”
Because Jack remained mute, I followed the suggestion of the ice cream woman and bought him a cartoon character Popsicle featuring bulging blue jawbreaker eyes that scared the hell out of him. He wouldn’t touch it. The next Tuesday, I chopped it up, put it in a bowl and gave it to him with a spoon. He liked it just fine.
You can reach Pat Detmer — who also used to get very excited when Santa came by in the fire truck — at firstname.lastname@example.org.
July 2, 2014
I’ve said it here before: If The Sainted One ever tried to build a house, he would bleed to death from unintentional stabs and slices.
He is the Official Family Chef, but has knives that can’t cut through gelatin without effort because I won’t let him have anything sharper. There’s a secret spot in the garage where I’ve hidden a Japanese hand hoe that will chop the most stubborn greenery into submission, and although I could use help in the garden battling the weeds, I love him too much to let him near it.
Even the simple act of checking out a bed frame …
May 1, 2014
In September, we rented a large houseboat on Lake Roosevelt with my sister Susie and her husband. After taking possession, we cruised up the lake and found a perfect spot for the night: a protected little bay, embraced by wooded peninsulas. The Sainted One ran the boat on shore and we tied up.
That was the night the Seahawks game was delayed due to a freak windstorm, and to get to Qwest Field, it had to get across Eastern Washington — and Lake Roosevelt — first.
It was hot and still when we retired early, so I was pleased when a breeze blew through the open stateroom window until that breeze grew into something less appealing. Staggering out of our staterooms, we had to hold onto the walls to keep from hitting the deck. We turned on our phones and they began simultaneously ringing: High wind warning, the messages from the marina said. Batten down the hatches, because something wicked this way comes.
April 3, 2014
You might come to believe by reading this column that my life consists primarily of going to parties, drinking, and then doing something that I regret, and honestly, you would pretty much be right.
This particular column has to do with a recent “Paint and Sip” adventure. You may have heard of these: “paint and sip” or “paint and pour” or — my favorite moniker — “Arts & Carafes,” where a group of people recreate a painting under the tutelage of an artist and under the influence of alcohol.
For Christmas, my nephew gifted my sister Barb with tickets for one of these evenings, paying also for myself and our other sister Susie. It had all the elements for potential fun/disaster: my sisters, alcohol and a task best done sober, Jackson Pollock notwithstanding.
March 5, 2014
I don’t consider myself to be unlucky, but I also don’t think of myself as someone who wins a lot. In fact the only thing that I can remember winning was in grade school: an Easter bunny cake that the nuns raffled off to benefit poor people in China. I was thrilled when my name was chosen, but less thrilled when I realized what a month on display in the sunshine atop the radiator does to a bunny cake. The coconut fur was the consistency of steel wool, and you needed a circular saw to carve yourself a piece.
In time I became familiar with defeat, and always attempted to be gracious and magnanimous, so I feel especially comfortable in Seattle, the bridesmaid but never the bride, close but no cigar, loud but no Lombardi. The Sonics left, the Mariners disappoint and the Seahawks … well, the Seahawks …
February 6, 2014
When we moved to Olympus almost 24 years ago, our Good Neighbors to the South (the GNS) were already ensconced in their brand new home. Randomly Loud Son was a toddler, and Lovely Daughter was yet to be born. And sometime in the early 2000s, there was another addition: a puppy, a black Corgi mixed with Some Other Brand. His name was Lenny.
Lenny was the only dog in a string of three homes that included the GNS, ourselves and the GNN (Good Neighbors to the North.) He was generally a benign addition. I can’t remember ever chasing him from the yard, or replacing an upended plant or shoveling up his leavings.
January 2, 2014
During the holidays, I make pies. When my mother — an excellent baker — passed away, I inherited Christmas Eve and pies. I don’t how that happened, but my sisters are nearly as useless as I am when it comes to food and domesticity, so it may be that as the eldest I felt a misplaced sense of responsibility.
Knowing that we all sucked at it, 20 years ago we videotaped Mother in the kitchen making pies. I transcribed the session after the fact so that we would have 3×5 recipe cards for reference. In doing so, I literally wrote out exactly what Mom said as she did her demo, thinking it funny and assuming that we would remember what it meant. “After adding the water,” she said (and I carefully hand-printed on the cards) “Go like this.” The videotape has long been lost, and so whatever “this” is has been lost as well.