31 December 2008

Amateur Hour

"Another New Year's Eve,
lost in obscurity,
lost in melodrama..."

- Wordblender, "Another New Year's Eve" (2003)

I generally loathe New Year's Eve.

But I wasn't always this way. I remember when I was younger I always had such high hopes for New Year's Eve. The barrage of images and stories from TV and movies always had the New Year's Eve Party as the 'be-all, end-all' party. The BIG one. The Ultimate. The party for the ages. In reality, this just never happened. I've been to a few OK New Year's Eve parties, some lousy ones, but never a knock-down, drag-out party like Hollywood led you to believe would materialize. For years I kept trying, to no avail. I slowly began to realize that there are several reasons for this.

The first, as I've explained already, are the unreal expectations foisted upon us (well, at least on me) by Hollywood. Nothing could ever really live up to some of the parties shown in the movies.

Next is the fact that there are way, way too many Amateur Drinkers out on New Year's Eve. My friends and I sort of considered ourselves professional drinkers. We were well-seasoned and practiced. We savored anything vinted, brewed, or distilled. Tipping them back throughout the year. I was always amazed at the amount of lunatic drinkers out on New Year's Eve going absolutely nuts. It seemed as if they waited all year to let loose all at once on one night. Recipe for disaster. Practice makes perfect.

Another factor in the Meh-New-Year's-Eve mix, is that fact that most of the time there were too many options. I remember a few years of flitting from one party to the next all night long (searching for the motherlode). With that many options, it's too difficult to get everyone together in one place, so you end up missing some of your best friends, or only seeing them for a brief moment.

A final nail in the coffin is the driving. You certainly don't want to be drinking and driving ever - but especially on this night. Not only does every police force in the country have increased patrols and checkpoints, but remember all those Amateur Drinkers I was talking about earlier - well invariably a large percentage of these idiots climb behind the wheel after being well into their cups and careen around the city. They're lucky if all they do is get arrested or crash into a lamp post or parked car. Every year far too many people die on the roads on New Year's Eve. It's a busy night for the Reaper. 

41 percent of all traffic fatalities during the New Year's period occurred in crashes involving a drunk driver or motorcycle rider. This compares with 31 percent for the year as a whole*. Even if you have a designated driver you still have to watch out for the drunk behind the wheel meeting you at the same intersection at the same time. And taxi cabs? Whew, that's a job in itself on New Year's Eve. I've waiting almost three hours for a cab on New Year's Eve. And if you're trying to get one on the street downtown it's survival of the fittest. Fist-fights are not uncommon.

All this has led me to believe it's better to leave this night to the fools and clowns. A couple of years we've just watched movies at home, stepped out onto the back deck at midnight to watch the fireworks over Capitol Hill, then slip back inside for another glass of wine. One year Stacie and I were in New York City over New Year's Eve. We had plans to go to Times Square and watch the ball drop and ring in the New Year with about a million other people. The city began gating off Times Square early in the morning and people were lining up to get in by 9AM. This meant that you would have to either wait in line or wait inside Times Square for over 15 HOURS before the ball even dropped. We quickly decided we had better things to do in NYC all day long than stand in line. By early evening the lines were over 12 blocks long. Times Square is on 43rd & Broadway. Our hotel was on 56th. By about 8PM we weren't allowed to go back down 56th to our room - the block was closed because the line for Times Square was taking up all the room! We took the subway to the Village, had some pizza, and went to a movie. We rang in the new year in NYC inside a theater. It was one of my favorite New Year's Eves. By the time we got out the madness was much subdued and we hopped into bars and cafes all the way back to our hotel.

Another time or two a good friend of ours had wine and cheese parties at her place on New Year's Eve. A wide selection of artisan cheeses paired with great wine, fresh baked breads & crackers, olives, prosciutto, and other delectable antipasti. These have been great, mellow parties that I very much enjoyed. But again, trying to get a cab home from these parties was a chore.

I'm just not a fan.

KJT - Seattle (2008)
(Martini-Eye painting by artist
Rick Klu, from Wordblender's "Tainted Ambrosia" CD, 2003)

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28 December 2008

That Smell

"Ooh, ooh that smell
Can't you smell that smell
- Lynyrd Skynyrd, "That Smell" (1977)

This is a story relayed to me by my mother...

A little background first...
I grew up on the Front Range in Colorado - in Fort Collins, just north of Denver, in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains. While growing up many, many family trips were made up and down the I-25 corridor. North to Cheyenne, Wyoming and south to Loveland, Longmont, Greeley, Boulder, and Denver. Greeley is a town out on the plains east of the mountains and it is surrounded by untold numbers of feedlots and a beef processing plant. These produce quite a ghastly stench in Greeley itself at times, and occasionally to the surrounding areas as well. As I grew older I knew that on the rare days that we could smell this all the way in Fort Collins (roughly 30 miles), we would refer to them as "Greeley Days."

On one of our various journeys, we were on our way back home from Denver to Fort Collins. The year was probably 1973 or 1974 so I was quite young. My mother was driving and I was buckled (or not - it was the 70's after all...) into the passenger seat.

We had left Denver some time ago and were making our way up the interstate towards home. We passed the exit for Greeley. Soon my mother noticed that I seemed to be scratching at my nose and rubbing my face. I would scratch my nose and rub it and shake my head. Then I was still for a bit. But soon both hands were working my nose scratching and picking and rubbing at it. This went on for some minutes as my mother watched.

After a while I turned to her with a forlorn expression and said sadly,

"Mom, I think I have B.M. in my nose..."

KJT - Fort Collins (1974)
(Picture of my sister and myself in 1974, taken by my mother)

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23 December 2008

11 Inches... and counting...

"Oh! the snow, the beautiful snow,
Filling the sky and earth below,
Over the housetops, over the street,
Over the heads of the people you meet.
Skimming along."

- J.W. (Joseph Warren) Watson, "Beautiful Snow" (1870)

Eleven inches and counting... that's how much snow we have received from the series of storms that began on the 13th of December. The last two days have been clear and cold (hardly any melting), but we are supposed to get another storm starting late tonight that should last through Wednesday. Maybe another 1 to 6 inches in Seattle. Truly bizarre weather. The dogs and I are having a blast. The Seattle D.O.T. less so. (Perhaps they should try plowing, no?)

And then the temperature is supposed to jump a bit and it looks like we'll get rain or freezing rain through and past Christmas. That, combined with all this snow that hasn't gone anywhere yet, brings to mind one word: flooding. If all this accumulation melts in a relatively short period of time it's going to be chaos. Basements will flood, sewers and and storm drains will back up - we'll be swamped. Reminds me of a time from 1996, the year I moved out here, and another big storm we got that Christmas... I'll have to blog about that at a later time... but it's an ugly story - in the sewer sense of the word.

Glad we live at the top of a hill...
KJT - Seattle (2008)
(That last picture was taken by Stacie.)

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20 December 2008

Sorel Weather

"I'm looking California,
And feeling Minnesota."

- Soundgarden, "Outshined" (1991)

With apologies to Soundgarden, I'm feeling Colorado. And I love it.

We've been socked with some unusual winter weather the last week or so up here in Seattle. We hardly get but a few dustings of snow each season, but this year has already been exceptional. Two things I brought with me when I moved here from Colorado in 1996 that I haven't had much use for are the 4-wheel drive option in my pickup, and my Sorel boots. Both have been getting a workout lately.

One thing for sure, it's a good thing it doesn't snow much, because the people out here cannot drive in it. Damn flatlanders. Even those people with 4-wheel or all-wheel drive seem to be creeping along at 2 miles an hour. On the flats.

C'mon people, I realize you bought that big 4x4 SUV as a status symbol, and the closest you've come to driving it off-road is up Queen Anne hill in the summer, but please... at least get the hell out of my way.

Other than that minor annoyance - I love this weather. And the dogs love it too. Been taking them on super long walks through the neighborhood and through the wooded trails in Seward Park on Lake Washington - just a few miles from our house. They go crazy. Here's a brief video of them romping through the park a couple days ago...

And we're getting socked with another storm as I type this. Maybe 3 to 8 inches in Seattle tonight. We've already got almost 2 inches of new powder at our house so far and the dogs are going nuts chasing each other around the backyard.

Definitely makes me feel like Colorado - but sure gives me a warm California smile.
KJT - Seattle (2008)

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17 December 2008

Don Hertzfeldt: Damn Genius

"For the love of god, 

and all that is holy,

- (Chicken Nugget? Cloud? Wha?)

Yesterday I posted one of my favorite things 
found on the world wide web.
Well today I'm posting my 
The cartoons of Don Hertzfeldt. 
In my mind, it just doesn't get any better than this.
I had to buy the DVD...
More info on the damn genius here:
Don Hertzfeldt: Bitter Films

KJT - Seattle (2008)

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16 December 2008

Charlie the Unicorn

"It's a Liopleurodon, Charlie. A magical Liopleurodon.
It's gonna guide our way to Candy Mountain."

- Charlie's companions

This is one of my absolute favorite things that I've ever found on the world wide web, maybe even better than the bacon-cheese roll.

It's so random, so weird, so bizarre that I still can't believe it. I've been annoying my co-workers with it for over two years. For some reason it popped back into my head again today. You'll probably think it's stupid - but it's so stupid it's beautiful. Wait for the end!

I'd like to know what kind of drugs you have to be on to create a masterpiece like this.

Shun the non-believer, shun, shuuuuuuun-nah...
KJT - Seattle (2008)

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13 December 2008

Simple Pleasures, part 4

“The first fall of snow is not only an event, it is a magical event.”
- Unknown

I guess Andrew Sullivan (link) liked the above picture from my back deck too...

Simple Pleasures haiku:
first snowfall this year
brand new backyard for the dogs
romping and chasing

KJT - Seattle (2008)

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Simple Pleasures, part 3

"If you go to New Orleans,
You oughta go see the Mardi Gras..."
- Professor Longhair "Go to the Mardi Gras" (1959)

Simple pleasures: 
A leisurely Saturday morning with a strong, 
hot cup of French Press coffee & chicory, 
ordered and shipped in directly from 
Café du Monde in New Orleans.

The smell and taste take me right back 
to time spent in The Big Easy (link).

Playing some Professor Longhair to round out the mood.
The only thing missing are some beignets...

KJT - Seattle (2008)
(Ordered from

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12 December 2008

The Rapture

"Whenever I'm at a brunch buffet and they have that big metal tray filled with the 4000 pieces of bacon, I always think, 'If I was here by myself...I would eat only bacon. I would steal this tray, 

go lay down, and eat bacon all day.'"
- Jim Gaffigan, American comedian, bacon-lover (1966 — )

I think I've just died and gone to bacony-bacon heaven.

Behold, the beauty of the BACON-CHEESE ROLL.
Two great tastes, that taste great together!

I think my arteries are hardening just looking at the pictures...
Imagine that thing smothered in SAUSAGE GRAVY!!
That would surely produce the infamous Fat Roll!
The full, glorious story can be found here at:


KJT - Seattle (2008)

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11 December 2008

Animal Art

"Every child is an artist.
The problem is how to remain an artist once we grow up."

- Pablo Picasso, Spanish artist (1881-1973)

I love these. The work of Swiss artist Geoffrey Cottenceau.
Whimsical; they make me very happy.

They remind me a bit of the simplicity of Picasso's 1943 sculpture, 

"Head of a Bull" - made from a bicycle saddle and handlebars.

More work by Cottenceau found here: Geoffrey Cottenceau 
and here SuperNaturale. 
Tip again from Sullivan at The Daily Dish.

KJT - Seattle (2008)
Picasso image courtesy Musée Picasso, Paris.

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09 December 2008

Ummm... What?

“Life isn't weird: it's just the people in it.”
- Unknown

This is, uh, weird. 

So say you're shopping in the mall (not that you should ever be in a mall, but for the sake of argument, you're shopping in the mall) and it becomes apparent that you really need to go. And not just numero uno. You need to jettison the horses (probably all the edamame hummus...) but you've got the kid with you. What do you do?

Well, here is the answer to what I can only guess must have been a burning question for parents down through the years (well, at least since malls have been around): The Baby Hanger.

Is this really the kind of stuff I'm going to have to worry about in seven months?!? God help us.
Tip & pic came from Sullivan's blog, linking here to Book of Joe.
KJT - Seattle (2008)

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07 December 2008

BOOM - A Long Walk...

"Edamame, 'The Wonder Veggie' is a complete protein containing all nine essential Amino Acids. Edamame is the only vegetable that offers a complete protein profile equal to both meat and eggs in its protein content. Edamame is rich in calcium, iron, zinc, and many of the B vitamins. Edamame is also the richest dietary source of isoflavones, which act as Phytoestrogens that may help protect against cancer, osteoporosis and menopause."

- from the web

Attended two (count 'em, two) movies today. Went to the 1:00pm showing of "Milk" at the Egyptian with Stacie. Amazing film. Great acting, great writing, great movie. Go see it. Gay rights now!

Later in the evening, made plans to meet my German friend GB for the 8:00pm showing of "Quantum of Solace," the new James Bond flick. I had planned on taking the bus, but as soon as I stepped out of my door I saw the #2 glide past and sail down Union. Somewhat annoyed I began walking down the hill, thinking I'd either hail the first cab, or catch the next bus that passed. Well, that wasn't to be and after walking for 45 minutes I turned the corner on Pike and Broadway and caught the #49 down to the Pacific Place Mall. We met at Gordon Biersch Brewery, next to the theater, to toss back a couple before the movie. I'm not a fan of Gordon Biersch beers - they're all too sweet and they don't taste real to me. Unfinished, or ultra-sweetened, or something. Blech. I had to have a Jameson rocks to kill the taste of the beer.

The movie was great (although not as good as 'Casino Royale') and we learned the hard and fast truth about Daniel Craig's James Bond: You Don't Fuck With Bond. He'll kill yah without thinking about it twice. Multi-national criminal master-minds be warned.

After the movie I decided I needed to wash the sweet/nasty taste of the lingering Gordon Biersch blech out of my mouth, and so decided to walk up the hill from downtown to the Satellite Lounge on Capitol Hill. Drank a nice, cheap Pabst to wash the yetch away and then went back outside. Across the street was a relatively new Asian/Thai restaurant/bar called "Boom Noodle." A sign out front said "Happy Hour: 4-7 and 10-Close." Since it was comfortably in between "10" and "Close" I decided to stop in. I bellied up to the bar and perused the Happy Hour menu. I ordered a Sapporo Sake Bomber (a tall glass of Sapporo beer with a sake shooter to dunk into it) and pork gyoza. I then noticed an appetizer that the fellow next to me was eating. I inquired about it, and was informed that it was an edamame puree (which they called a hummus) with taro root chips and marinated cucumbers and Japanese eggplant. This sounded absolutely heavenly to me and I immediately ordered one, along with some hot sake. I was astounded with the complex, yet wholesome flavors. The edamame hummus was like nothing I'd ever tried before, and the fried taro root chips were the perfect accompaniment. I commented on how much I loved the marinated Japanese eggplant, and when I ordered my second helping, the beautiful barkeep made sure I got extra (I think she was fishing for a bigger tip). It was a truly divine appetizer - and is now one of my top favorites in the whole city. I can't wait to go back.

Once settled with the tab, I made my way back up the hill toward home, with the thought of catching the bus at 12th for the journey back up to 32nd. At the bus stop I had to make a brief acquaintance with the bushes to relieve some of the sake. As I turned back around the #2 glided by once again. I couldn't believe it. Cursing I walked the rest of the way up the hill to 19th - once I was at 19th I was determined to walk the rest of the way home because a) I could see our house from the top of this hill, and b) I just had to walk downhill to 28th and then up a few blocks to 32nd and I was home - an easy half hour.

Just as I made it home, the wind picked up and a sputter of rain began. Visions of edamame hummus will lull me to sleep as the rain whips the windows.
KJT - Seattle (2008)

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06 December 2008

Journey to Verdun, part 2

"And there went out another horse that was red: 

and power was given to him that sat thereon 
to take peace from the earth, 
and that they should kill one another: 
and there was given unto him a great sword." 
(Second of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse - War) Book of Revelation 6:4

After the long journey from Paris, the train finally pulled into the station.

The city of Verdun was built along a shallow valley of the Meuse river, with gradual bluffs climbing up on either side of it. Under the reign of Charlemagne it was part of his Frankish empire. After his death it, and the area now known as Lorraine were given to his grandson Lothair in the Treaty of Verdun in 843. From the 10th to the 11th centuries a series of walls and towers were built which would eventually encircle the whole town. The city and surrounding countryside would change hands many times through the centuries, swapping from Frankish to Prussian control and back. In 1552, the French King Henri II occupied Verdun, Metz and Toul, marking the beginning of majority French rule. From 1624 to 1636 Henri IV's engineers built a fortified 'city' into the high bluff in the center of Verdun: La Citadelle Souterraine (the Underground Citadel).

Two reinforced forts stand on a bluff overlooking the river valley near the city, Fort de Douaumont and Fort de Vaux. These combined with La Citadelle Souterraine made the area one of the strongest in the French line of defense at the start of the Great War in 1914. The German armies wisely skirted these defenses and crossed the Meuse on the left bank in their bid to reach Paris. The Battle of the Marne halted this advance. Throughout 1914-1915 the two countries fought for control of the high ground, and as the front lines stabilized the armies dug underground trenches to try to get some protection from the constant shelling and machine gun fire. In an effort to outflank each other, both armies began to extend their trench lines in each direction, north and south - the race to the sea. Eventually this resulted in a series of trenches stretching from the English Channel in the north, down through Belgium, France, and ending near the border of Switzerland in the far south. Roughly 400 miles...

At daybreak on February 21, 1916 the Germans turned 1,225 guns on Verdun in an attempt to break this stalemate. By February 25th Fort de Douaumont had fallen, and in June Fort de Vaux also fell into German hands. The French still held the high ground of the hills called Mort-Homme (Deadman) and Cote 304, defending the city and preventing the Germans from actually taking Verdun itself. With help from their colonial Moroccan troops, the French retook Douaumont in October. By November 2nd Fort Vaux was back in French hands, and the battle of Verdun ceased - for a time. In 1917 the hills of Mort-Homme and Cote 304 were taken by the Germans, and the city would surly haven fallen but not for the reinforcement of American troops in 1918. On November 11, 1918 an armistice was signed in a railroad car in the Compiègne Forest, ending the actual fighting between nations. Seven months later, in June 1919, The Treaty of Versailles was signed in the Hall of Mirrors in the great French chateaux - formally ending World War I (and unwittingly laying the very seeds for World War II).

With all this swirling around my head, I made my way from Gare de Verdun into the city proper under a cold drizzle. At the Porte de St. Paul I turned right and walked past Rodin's actual bronze statue "La Defense," showing the agony of triumph in bloody battle. I crossed the Meuse and stopped at La Monument aux Enfants de Verdun (Monument to the children of Verdun) - a huge statue of five French soldiers, one from each of the French armies in full military dress, standing shoulder to shoulder - their chests forming an impassable wall.

I made my way into downtown, hoping to pay for a tour of the battlefields and monuments. At the tourist office I was informed that there were "no more English tours." Of course. It was a re-occurring theme that had followed us almost every step of our European journey. Where ever we went, the tours given in English had either been the day before we arrived, the day after we departed, or had been canceled or were non-existent. "Ce n'est pas possible" (It's not possible) - this was another common phrase we heard far too often.

Frustrated, I bought a ticket to get into La Citadelle Souterraine, and took a mildly cheesy, but still respectable tour of the underground city - still laid out as it had been during the Great War. I still longed to walk through the forts and battlefields and decided to try to walk and hitchhike. The forts are about 10km from the city and I began trudging through the mud and rain, fields and ditches. After about half an hour a car pulled up as I held my thumb out. I managed to get my point across that I wanted to go to the battlefields, and the kind old man behind the wheel acquiesced.

He let me off near the Mémorial Ossuarie (the Ossuary), near Fort de Douaumont. The memorial houses the remains of 130,000 unknown French and German soldiers who died during the battle. Small windows open on alcoves containing the bones. A sobering site. The day was now dark grey and windy, as rain slashed sideways. To the north, I walked to Les Tranchées des Baïonnettes (The Trench of Bayonets). On June 12th, 1916 a part of the French 137th Infantry Regiment was caught under heavy bombardment as they huddled in their trench. After the battle cleared it was discovered that the entire trench had been covered in with earth from the explosions and just the tips of the soldier's bayonets could be seen sticking up out of the ground. They had been buried alive, standing, still holding their guns. A concrete memorial now housed this gruesome reminder of the horrors of war.

By now it was pissing rain and the wind was howling and I was soaked and a bit miserable. I caught another ride back to Verdun where I stepped into a small café and shivered to the bar. I asked for an espresso and as the bartender was preparing it he poured me a small glass of cognac. Smiling as the liquor warmed my belly and the coffee perked me back up, I made my way back through the rain to the train station. I would soon be back in Paris. C'est Possible! (It is possible).
KJT - Verdun, France (1998)

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