June 29, 2009

Motorcycle Diaries

You can't be a real country unless you have a beer and an airline. It helps if you have some kind of a football team, or some nuclear weapons, but at the very least you need a beer -- Frank Zappa

Our weekend in Port Townsend started, as it should, in the Water Street Brew Pub with the above quote, but before I sit down with a cold frothy one, let me tell you how we got there.

The boyfriend and I decided that a weekend road trip on the motorbikes was in order and our anniversary was just the excuse we needed. We tossed a few destinations around (and ditched the idea of Salt Spring Island as the ferry alone was going to be $90 each -- for motorcycles!) and decided on Port Townsend, having passed through years before on our way to LaPush (the boyfriend also surfs -- what a dude!) and wanting to go back.

We were eager to take the bikes as we are planning a week long trip to Idaho in September, and wanted to do a small trial run. I got my motorcycle license in September and had never tackled an overnighter, rain, or the I-5. All very daunting, let me tell you. We found a babysitter for the pooch, bought a cargo bag for the bike and checked the weather forecast every day. As Saturday morning dawned to sunshine, things were looking pretty good. And then the rain started. And stopped. And started. And stopped. And started. Talk about messing with my mind. The boyfriend suggested we go anyway and take the Jeep, but that would negate the whole point of the trip (well, yes, there was our anniversary and all, but...) so I ignored my apprehension and made the call. Bikes it was! And thank god. The rain lasted for about 15 minutes and never really materialized again.

Passing through Customs was a breeze thanks to our Nexus cards, and next thing I knew we were cruising at 70mph on the I-5. I was doing it and it felt great! The motorists were respectful, no tractor-trailers were on the road and it was smooth sailing all the way to the ferry at Whidbey Island. We paid a whopping $4.50 each for the 30 minute ferry crossing to Port Townsend.

While waiting for the ferry to arrive a few more bikes showed up. Two older men (60s) got off their respective Harley's, looked at our license plates and asked, "What the heck is British Columbia?". After we explained that we were from Vancouver (which they had heard of) and they offered they were from Mississippi, we spent the wait-time discussing the merits of bikes, the fear of death, and the thrill of the ride. There is an unspoken code among bikers that when you pass you wave, but if you don't ride a Harley, don't expect a wave from a Harley. But the two Harley riders were anything but arrogant. They were just thrilled that we were riding, it didn't matter what kind of bikes we were on.

Docking in Port Townsend, we were first off and headed to our hotel.

The Palace Hotel was built in 1889 by Captain Tibbals and defines the beautiful turn-of-the-century architecture that P.T. is known for. In the 1920s it was known as "The Palace of Sweets" due to the fact it was a brothel, and now in 2009 its rooms have been renovated and named for the girls who used to work there. We had Miss Abigail's room. We dropped out bags, slipped into something more comfortable and explored the hotel. It was incredible. But all that exploring lead to a mighty big thirst.

Which brings me to the Water Street Brew Pub and the Zappa quote. We seated ourselves at a table and the waitress came right over with the menus. Zappa's quote was front and centre and in my blissed-out frame of mind, one of the most profound things I had read in days. We ordered two beers, two Strongbows, a plate of calamari, and two oyster shooters (don't ask). And the bill came to $25 including tip. We were in heaven.

We spent the rest of the day wandering around town, peeking in stores, watching romance take flight, and looking for a great place for dinner.

Which we found at The Belmont. We shared halibut stuffed with crab, artichoke and capers drizzled with a lemon butter sauce and salmon with capers and tomatoes sauteed in a garlic, white wine sauce. We had a bottle of Hugue Fume Blanc (a delicious Washington white wine) and coffee. When I asked what kind of coffee they had (with a Starbucks on every corner in Vancouver, I figured this to be a normal question) the waiter mumbled "regular and decaf". We definitely weren't in Kansasa anymore Totto.

We dragged our stuffed bellies out in to the evening and found a little coffee shop to hang out in for the rest of the night. It was to be one of those weird, other-worldly experiences. About 10 people (none over 25 years old) were sitting at a couple of little tables, sipping organic juice while their eardrums were being blasted to smithereens. And it was fantastic. The band "As the Devil Dances", a blues-rock trio, sounded surprisingly good even in the acoustically-challenged coffee shop. We stayed until the end and the permanent hearing loss was worth the experience.

A bottle of wine was waiting for us back at Miss Abigail and we finished the night off with a toast to us and a perfect day.

We caught the 11:15 ferry back to Whidbey Island Sunday morning and rode the windy Chuckanut Drive to Bellingham. The weather was glorious, the traffic sparse and we made it home in just over four hours.

Port Townsend was everything we had hoped, no expectation went unmet. And the experience of riding the motorbikes was worth a little rain. I can honesly say that I am now a biker-chick. I loved the companionship of riding with the boyfriend, but the solitude of my own thoughts and not talking, just observing, was the clincher. It's definitely the way to travel -- lightly, in more ways than one.

June 25, 2009

haiku 84

at my kitchen table
buried under a pile of work
please send help

June 20, 2009

haiku 83

at my kitchen table
rain or not?
do we take a chance; take the bikes?

June 18, 2009



June 17, 2009

haiku 82

at my kitchen table
planning a motorbike trip
to Port Townsend

June 16, 2009

haiku 81

at my kitchen table
perplexed; where is this windy road
leading me?

June 15, 2009

Until One is Committed...

“Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back, always ineffectiveness. Concerning all acts of initiative (and creation), there is one elementary truth the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, the providence moves too. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one's favor all manner of unforeseen incidents, meetings and material assistance, which no man could have dreamt would have come his way.”

William Hutchinson Murray (1913-1996)
“The Scottish Himalaya Expedition”, 1951

Whatever you can do, or dream you can do, begin it.
Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it!”

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749-1832)

Murray's quote has often been wrongly attributed to Goethe. It's one of my favorites -- it speaks the truth to me. Murray is quoted as saying that he was inspired by the Goethe quote above (though this quote too, seems to be a very loose translation).

The Scottish Himalaya Expedition details the first Scottish expedition in 1950 to the Kumaon range in the Himalayas, between Tibet and western Nepal. The expedition, led by Murray, attempted nine mountains and climbed five, in over 450 miles of mountainous travel. The book is out of print and can cost over $100 from used book sellers. (I’ve just ordered one from the UK – fingers crossed it’s still available.)

June 12, 2009

Does the carpet match the drapes?

I had a call from a dear friend earlier this week asking the best way to wash curtains. She has those little metal hooks in hers and she wasn’t sure if she needed to remove them before washing. I’m not an expert on draperies and all things hanging, but I figured it was probably wise to remove the hooks as they are really sharp and would probably shred anything they came in contact with in the washing machine. Also it would be a really noisy load of laundry.

She took my advice and they came out beautifully clean and intact. But she posed a good question: What is the difference between a curtain and a drape?

My friend is from another country and English is not her first language. We have many great conversations about linguistics and the oddness of my native tongue, and she has taught me just as much about my language as I have taught her. Every now and then she uses a word which doesn’t actually exist in English but so better describes the thing or situation. Take the word “balmy”. We use it to describe a particular type of weather when it feels warm, moist, and tropical (yes, even here in Vancouver). The dictionary defines it as: “having the quality or fragrance of balm; soothing.” What is balm you might ask? Again the dictionary defines it as: “any fragrant ointment”, “a Mediterranean perennial herb”, or “a pleasing aromatic fragrance”. When my friend heard the word being used to describe the weather she didn’t hear “balmy” but “palmy”. Which to my mind, more accurately describes the type of weather we are talking about.

So when she asked what the difference was between curtains and drapes I had to admit I had no idea. Who better to ask than Better Homes and Gardens.

According to BH&G, "Curtains are generally lightweight, unlined and suspended from a rod by simple tabs, rings or rod-pocket casing. A rod-pocket casing is simply a sewn flap at the top of the curtain where you push the rod through to hang. Curtains are decorative and casual and easy to make yourself, if you were so inclined.” (Love that – if you are so inclined – ha ha. I have the urge to whip up some curtains; be right with you).

Drapes are typically lined and floor length and again, according to BH&G, "...often attach by hooks to a traverse rod. A cord mechanism that hangs behind either the left or right panel draws both of the panels open and closed. Here we've moved into a more formal, mechanized window covering, as opposed to curtains which you would open and close by hand. Drapes are typically pleated, though not always and offer a much fuller, richer look.”

Who knew?

I hope this answers my friend's question. And because she had to remove hooks before washing, it’s now that clear she was washing her drapes.

Next week I’ll discuss the difference between carpet, rug, broadloom, and wall-to-wall.

June 11, 2009

... post script

Well, my suspicions were completely unfounded. I swear, the guy looked guilty of something, though maybe nothing more than the fact that he was throwing his huge bag of garbage into someone elses dumpster.

Someone beat me to the dumpster and the bag was alreay ripped open (which made it alot easier for me). Here is a list of the some of the contents:

banana peels

egg shells

clock radio (the kind where the numbers flip over)


a box of used hair colour

assorted girly magazines

underware (or panties -- hard to tell)

a necktie

bicycle pump

I see why the guy was skulking in our back alley, looking for a place to dispose of his wares. I wonder if he is married? I wonder if his wife knows his predilection for hair colour? I wonder who gave him the necktie? I wonder what the person who first tore open the bag took?

June 10, 2009

Am I the only one who thinks this way?

So, I'm out walking the dog. She's pretty much done what she needs to do but being a dog she likes to sniff and get a sense of what's happening in the neighbourhood. And back alleys are her favorite. Lucky for her Vancouver is a city of back alleys. More often than not she finds something so irresistible that she has to throw her little body onto the hard asphalt, roll onto her back and waggle her legs up in the air (I can never tell what she finds so appealing). It never fails to make me laugh. Anyway, we are in the back alley and she's dawdling. I'm enjoying the time too; just looking around at the buildings and the things people have put out to the garbage; when a vehicle approaches, really slow. I look at the driver, wondering if I know him, but he passes me by. Then pulls over. Now is when I get suspicious. Generally I recognize most vehicles that drive through our back alley. I don't recognize this one. I pretend to look everywhere but at him and what he's doing, but he gets out of his vehicle and removes a huge green garbage bag from the back seat. He tosses it the nearest dumpster, gets back in his vehicle and drives away.

My first and only thought is, "Oh My God, he's murdered someone and the bag is full of body parts."

I will be going back out tonight, under the cover of darkness and checking out that green garbage bag -- you can be sure of it. And if you know someone who drives a white panel Jeep Cherokee, license BKU 292, please don't tell him I'm on to him.

Up for a Challenge?

Six-Word Stories

As legend tells it, Hemingway scribbled his famous six-word story on a paper napkin in New York City’s Algonquin Bar. Later, he named the six words among the best he had written:

For sale: baby shoes, never worn.

Others, since, have tried the form:

Longed for him. Got him. Shit.
—Margaret Atwood

From torched skyscrapers, men grew wings.
—Gregory Maguire

Well, I thought it was funny.
—Stephen Colbert

Revenge is living well, without you.
—Joyce Carol Oates

Narrative Magazine's Literary Puzzler invites you to try your hand at a six-word story. They are looking for lines with artistry, entertainment, creativity, and entire worlds formed from just a few words. They will choose a first-, second-, and third-place winner from all submissions received by Monday (June 15th) noon, Pacific Daylight Time, and publish their names and entries next Tuesday. All winners will receive a three-month pass to Narrative Backstage.

Share your Six Word Stories here and I'll post them next Tuesday (and send them to Puzzler for a chance to win).

haiku 80

at my kitchen table
beautiful flowers
from my beautiful friend

(thanks Michelle -- have a great time in NYC)

June 9, 2009

haiku 79

at my kitchen table
locking the doors as
the boyfriend's sleepwalking

June 7, 2009

Are You Serious?

I went to Meinhart's today (a somewhat pretentious, upscale grocery store) to pick up a jalapeno. When I got to the cash, handed the girl my single item and asked if I could have a bag she lost it. "ARE YOU SERIOUS???" she said. Good for her, I thought. I told her I was kidding and she said that I'd be surprised the number of people that would be serious.

Total cost for the jalapeno? $0.04

Total cost for the homemade salsa? $4.03

Reaction of Meinhart's cashier? Priceless.