I spent last week in Maui, as a combination tenth-anniversary trip and Thanksgiving. Sorted through the photos, vaguely, but I’ve been too busy to get any words down on it.

Looking back, I guess I haven’t written about my previous visits there, but we went in 2013 and 2015. Pictures of the previous visits are on Flickr, but I’ve all but given up on these stupid travel updates.

The vitals: we stayed in Kapalua instead of Wailea this time, at the Ritz-Carlton. It’s a bit more isolated, which is nice, but it also meant we had to drive like an hour to get anywhere. We had a kitchen, which meant I could avoid the 5000-calorie buffet every morning and make my own breakfast.

I went zip-lining, which was a first and a lot of fun. Six zips across Pu’u Kukui and the West Maui Forest Preserve took a few hours, with a bus ride on a muddy dirt road, then an uphill ATV ride up an even muddier road. The rain held out until the last zip, and then it felt like I was being pelted with rock salt. Still, awesome stuff. If you’re ever out there, Kapalua Ziplines are the folks to use.

Went to the Maui aquarium again, but it was a bit more crowded with school-holiday traffic. Ate a lot at a few different places. Didn’t go to Target. Coincidentally ended up at a dead mall connected to a Safeway, which was a truly surreal experience. I didn’t do any swimming or try to kill myself paddle-boarding like last time. Lots and lots of walking and hiking, although no volcano this time.

Anyway, pictures posted on Flickr for you to ignore: Dragged along the DSLR and a bunch of lenses, and ended up taking twice as many pictures with my phone. Go figure.


Giving thanks for the products of Chinese slave labor

Thanksgiving. It’s another one of those things I don’t really care about either way (other than the day off of work), yet other people get completely bent out of shape over. Everyone that is a complete and utter prick is converted into a Nice Good Christian that acts like he cares about his family. Everyone gets all worked up into a frenzy over the idea of waking up at three in the morning to go stand in the freezing cold outside of a big box store, so they can get a $40 DVD player made in China by slave labor that scratches disks and will go completely dead by March. You have to have these specific foods. You have to watch the floats. You have to watch football. You have to gorge until you pass out. And then on Monday, you have to waste 200 man years of labor by telling every person within shouting distance that your grandma’s secret recipe for sweet potatoes involves Mountain Dew, as if we give a fuck. And all of this is to celebrate a group of puritanical, evangelical fuckholes that aren’t my ancestors and probably aren’t yours, who basically stole this country and are used as a touchstone by bigots who waste our time and money by going around and saying it’s okay to beat the shit out of gays, and by the way, the earth is only 47 years old, and it’s proven because it was in a Mel Gibson movie.

So yeah, I have no great love for T-day. I don’t like the attire (“let’s dress up so we can go to grandma’s and pass out!”), I don’t really care for the food (turkey is the one thing that’s the most easily fucked up that you could cook. Hint: if the meat is as dry as a piece of cardboard, you fucked up, no matter how much gravy you hide it with), and I’m not into the whole gorge thing. Thanksgiving does not offer me much in that respect.

My fondest memories of Thanksgiving were going to my former stepfather’s parents for the day. His mom could not cook worth a shit. She seriously couldn’t make a glass of water without fucking it up. If you remember the movie Better Off Dead, the mom cooked this shit that was like a green slime; that’s basically her deal. And since she had 50 years of people lying and saying “everything’s top notch!” she kept making her marshmallow green bean jello oyster surprise. So we’d load out there every year, where my stepfather and his brother and their dad would get completely fucked out of their minds on manhattans, which they drank like I drank Cokes on a hot July day. The other adults would engage in mindless gossip, and if I was smart, I brought a book or something else to do. We then endured the minefield of food, I got a lot of shit because I didn’t eat 29 pounds of overcooked turkey, and then everyone passed out or whatever. The TV had to remain on football; if I touched it, everyone would wake up. Also, the step-grandfather was a blazing racist and would not allow anyone to watch a TV show with “colored entertainers” in it. (Seriously.)

And so I guess that soured me on the whole nostalgic memory thing. And it got even worse when I was required to shell out the gas money and waste hours of driving time to get back to Elkhart for this memorable occasion. And so now, I guess I like some of the idea of food, but not the usual stuff. We had indian food last year, and that was great. New York doesn’t shutter itself down for the holiday – plenty of Jews and Hindus and Chinese to keep the thing running. I just went out here to grab some pre-dinner McDonald’s, and I had to drive about ten miles to find one open.

Blah. A bunch of other stuff is going on. We got two cats last weekend. One is about a year old, all black, and she gets into absolutely everything. The other is about six months old, a mackeral tabby, and is very sick. She had an upper respiratory infection, plus conjuctivitis, and wasn’t eating. She’s almost better, but we have to give her antibiotics and eye medicine, and if any of you have experience in doing this with a kitten, you know our pain. Also, she is almost litter trained, but will occasionally decide to piss all over for no reason. So the house smells wonderful, and we also have this two-front war going on, in that we have to keep the small one in the bathroom or our bedroom 24/7 so she doesn’t piss all over and to keep her germs from the big one. We also have to keep the big one away from the little one, while also keeping her out of the laundry room, the computer room, the outdoors, the trash, the sinks, and so on. And I am certain that the big one thinks she owns the house now, so when we have to let the little one out in a week or so, it will be world war 3. So that’s pretty much been my week.

Not much else. I am slowly reading Denis Johnson’s new one, and I’m digging it. It makes me want to keep writing on my current (I think) project, but I’m not. I need to figure that one out. But John Sheppard just posted a clip of that awful Star Wars thanksgiving special, and I can’t not watch…


Goodbye Astoria

The last of the Astoria move-out was completed on Saturday. Now all I need to do is send my keys to my landlord and get ripped off for my entire security deposit. Saturday’s work involved a last trip to the Neptune Diner, and then about three or four hours of clearing out every remaining item in the place. I had some grand scheme of donating things to some charity, selling stuff off on craigslist, listing stuff on freecycle, or whatever else. But when it came down to it, I simply couldn’t deal with waiting on other people and whatever else, so it all went to the curb or in the garbage cans. And as quickly as we could put stuff out there, it vanished. It was like christmas for some poor bastards that hauled that stuff out of there.

The worst of the last stuff were the loveseat and single chair that I bought back in 2000. Because of the weird s-curve layout of my front door, it was like a very bad 3-D tetris game trying to get the couch out of there. It was too wide and too deep, and the depth of the curve made it impossible to take it out long-ways at an angle. I can’t even really describe it, but it was a horror to get that thing out. After clearing everything, we did a real quick sweep of the place with broom and swifter, just to get the big chunks up. Like I said, the landlord’s going to fuck me on the deposit anyway, so there’s no reason for me to get out a toothbrush and go OCD on the place.

As we left, it hit me that I’d never see the place again, and despite all of the horrific problems with it, I’m sort of sad to see it go. I lived in the place for six years, which is longer than I’ve ever lived in any place since my parents’ house. A lot’s gone on there. Every book I’ve published was cranked out while I lived there. (Some of them were started before then, but the ISBNs hit the jackets while I was living in Astoria.) I crossed the millenium there. It was a good run, I guess. I didn’t like the place as much as, say, the 600 7th Ave place in Seattle, but I’m glad to move on, but shit, that’s a sixth of my life. Leaving didn’t blow me away as much as it did to leave the Mitchell Street House in ’93, or leaving Seattle in ’99, but still. End of an era.

We had a good Thanksgiving, too. We went up to Guy and Scott’s, Sarah’s friends, up in upstate New York again. Sarah went up on Tuesday night to help with the shopping and the preparation, and I worked on Wednesday and then took the bus up. The Port Authority looked like some kind of apocalypse disaster movie on Wednesday afternoon, but once I got on a bus and headed north, it wasn’t a bad run. I think I made it to Rosendale in under two hours, door to door, and was greeted at the bus stop by Guy and Sarah, who then took us to a shopping center where we got Chinese and pizza from two different places, and I headed into a Dunkin’ Donuts for a dozen of those, just in case.

Guy and Scott’s friend Beth was there with her two-and-a-half year old son Ian and her dog Gus. Guy already started the dinner preparation, and we all ate and hung out that night, knowing the oven would get fired up in the morning for the big bird. We crashed somewhat early, and in the morning woke to find a couple of inches of fresh powder covering everything outside. Given that this is in the middle of nowhere, it meant there was virgin white snow all over everything. When you live in the city, where snow is immediately smooshed by busses and trucks and turned horrid colors of black and grey by pollution, you really appreciate the pure white of a real snowfall. Gus, a collie/alaskan husky mix, enjoyed it too. He spent a lot of the day outside, running through the drifts, trying to chase the wild turkeys and deer that cross through the yard. He was so happy, he would roll around on his back in the snow and jump around like a kid on Christmas morning.

Guy’s dinner was perfect. I’d put Guy up against anybody’s pefect grandmother’s cooking dinners anyday. He’s totally into cooking way too much food and making all of it great, so you don’t want to get in his way when he’s cooking, but you totally want to be there for the product. Guy’s pre-dinner dinner is better than most dinners, and it’s just a long onslaught of food. It’s like the iron man triathalon of food. I had to pace myself and quit early, before the handmade pies happened. We stayed Thursday night again, and then I had bacon and eggs before Beth drove us back to the city. We got back before 2:00, which meant we had the rest of Friday plus the whole weekend to chill out and do nothing, which we did.

I should throw out a few book reviews for good measure, since I’ve been reading a lot. First, Andrew Smith’s Moondust: In Search of the Men Who Fell to Earth. I’ve been reading a lot of space stuff lately, but this really put a new twist on things, by trying to catch up with the nine remaining Apollo astronauts who walked on the moon. Smith chases after the elusive lunar explorers, trying to bring out more than just the stock NASA facts, but to really determine what happened to these men who had the great apex of their life happen at a young age, and then had the entire country’s interest in space exploration collapse after the moon walks. Some guys are still trying to champion space missions, like Buzz Aldrin, while others turned to religion, philosophy, art, or private industry ranging from beer bottling to football team management. Many divorced and had family problems, many felt betrayed by their country for dropping the ball on the space program. Overall, the backstory is excellent and a great page-turner.

An impulse purchase I greatly enjoyed was Sam Posey’s Playing with Trains. Posey, a former Grand Prix race car driver and long-time race commentator, also spends a lot of time playing with HO trains down in his basement, something that goes back to his childhood and a Lionel train set around the Christmas tree. The first half of the book goes through the fifteen-year saga of Posey restarting his hobby as an adult when he has a baby boy, going through the construction of a massive layout in his basement. During the steps of this journal, we learn a bit about the industry behind the hobby, and the various steps you need to go from a little loop of track to a full-blown system. In the second part, he gets his journalistic background fired up and starts to go out and meet the other people with his obsession, as well as the major suppliers and magazines covering the hobby. He also goes out and tries a 1:1 scale steam locomotive, and makes a few field trips to the crumbling remains of the once-mighty rail system in this country. While I never re-started the hobby (no basement, no attention span), I had the Tyco starter set and a bunch of Life-Like buildings nailed to a piece of plywood when I was a kid, and always dreamed of a giant 1:87 reproduction of some Santa Fe freight line rumbling through a scale city. The book reminded me of all of that, and I’m sure if I did have a basement, I’d be down there right now with $700 of new HO-scale equipment.

Another great one was Michael Harris – The Atomic Times: My H-Bomb Year at the Pacific Proving Ground. Harris was drafted back in the fifties, and spent a year of his two-year commitment at the Eniwetok Atoll. He was there in 1955 for Operation: Redwing, a series of some of the biggest H-bomb explosions ever. He spent the first part of his stay editing The Atomic Times, a little mimeo base newspaper, which reminded me a bit of John Sheppard’s stories of Army journalism. He later spent time typing requisition forms and destroying carbons for top-secret shipments of nuts and bolts. On the day of the tests, with no morning, the enlisted would get pulled out of bed and ordered to stand at attention, facing away from the blast, while 20 megatons of test-device vaporized islands and ocean water. Much of his story deals with being stuck on a tiny island in the middle of nowhere (a lot like Lost, but no hot chicks) and dealing with the stupidity and pranks of various draftee-quality Army privates removed from their small towns for the first time. A minor caveat on this one is that Harris tends to be a little choppy and informal in his writing, and loves to use incomplete sentences. But the subject matter is great, and it’s a unique look at the history behind the H-bomb.

I also bought the new Vonnegut book, A Man Without A Country. Vonnegut said he’d stop after his last one, Timequake, but he came back to cash in a bit with a thin little volume of retread material. If you’ve seen Vonnegut speak in the last 10 or 15 years, take that stock speech and add in a bit of whining about George Bush, and there you go. Vonnegut’s always been a favorite writer to me, and I love all of his novels and books, but there wasn’t much to this collection except maybe a sly way to get the Air America crowd to rush out and buy it and say “best book ever!” because he compares Bush to Hitler. There’s a really funny example (or 40) of this on the Amazon reviews for the books; all of these people’s reviews are like “Hi, I’m 23 and a college graduate and I’ve never heard of Kurt Vonnegut, but I saw him on the Daily Show, which I think is a real news program, and rushed out to buy his book.” It’s also somewhat sad to see that Vonnegut has been preaching this “the world is ending tomorrow” luddite viewpoint, but he’s been doing it for 40 years now, and the world hasn’t ended. Oh well. Three out of four ain’t bad.

This entry is far too long. Sorry.



Thanksgiving’s always weird. I’m not one of those people that ironically scoff about how the pilgrims raped the indians, and I’m not the kind that gets all weepy and talks about being thankful for the baby jesus or whatever the hell else. I have problems eating large amounts of food, so eating 8000 calories of turkey and then passing out isn’t my style. Both parades with floats and football bore me.

To the introvert like me, Thanksgiving is a nice day to not have to be around people. I woke up at the usual 7:30 or so today, but then went back to bed and enjoyed drifting in and out of sleep, feeling the cold outside and hearing the rain and wind, and being nice and comfy inside my fortress of blankets and pillows. I did get up to drink juice, take medicine, use the restroom, then go back to bed. I kept repeating the cycle until about two in the afternoon.

On a work day, I rush through the whole teeth-shave-shower cycle as quickly as possible. But on days off, I almost savor it, and spend a lot of time on small details. I spend forever going over my teeth with floss, inspecting each gap and gumline. I usuaully clean the bathroom as I clean myself, spraying the scrubbing bubble stuff and rearranging the things in the cabinet to find some optimum order maximizing storage space and access to frequently-used medical products. I spend too much time with q-tips and peroxide, dousing out my ears. And then, once in the shower, I spend forever under the hot water, never wanting to get out again.

I got dressed and considered going out for lunch, but it looked like hell out: thunderstorms dumped rain from the dark sky, and cold winds tore across the streets, blowing the rain almost sideways. I didn’t need to be anywhere, so I watched a show on PBS about old railroads and played Ace Combat 5 for a while. Finally, at about 4:00, I got the wise idea that maybe I wanted to cook dinner. I figured the stores would probably close at 5:00 (city that never sleeps, my ass – crap closes here like a small church town with blue laws, and meanwhile in Goshen, Indiana, you can go to Meijer and shop for groceries at three in the morning if you want) so I bundled up and headed out.

The rain stopped, and the sky looked dark, but it was that kind of perfect bad weather, the eye of the tornado kind of stuff. Once again, another reason introverts like me love Thanksgiving is because I get the city all to myself. Everyone else is passed out in front of the tube or has a day off, which means nobody is on the streets and I can roam around without running into the usual assortment of derelicts, idiots, yentas, bad drivers, and everyone else that make this neighborhood a pain in the ass. It was absolutely quiet and still. I loved it.

Even the normally idiotic Key Food store wasn’t that bad at all. A few stragglers were in there, buying last minute stuff or stopping in on their way home, probably. But I got to wander the store with no screaming kids, no people leaving their carts blocking the whole damn aisle, none of the usual madness. I didn’t even have to wait in line.

I spent the evening alternating between watching the tube and doing various household crap like washing dishes and working on organizing my CD collection. It feels nice to spend the evening getting stuff done, relaxing, and eating a bunch of food I just cooked. It’s also nice to know there will be three more days of this ahead.

I guess when I spend Thanksgiving doing nothing, I feel slightly guilty in some weird way, that some relative or person will get all weepy about “oh my god he’s all by himself and he’s building a gallows in his bedroom” or whatever. But the truth of it is that I’ve always been alone on holidays like this. At any family gathering, there’s always the group of men, who want to eat their weight in turkey and drink a bunch of beer and watch football and pass out, and then there’s the group of women, who want to talk shit about all of the members of the extended family that aren’t there and exchange their voodoo/gossip, and there’s the group of kids running around like tasmanian devils. That always left me in the middle with nothing to do, and I learned from an early age that the best way to deal with family dinners was to bring a book. (This was long before the days of the GameBoy or portable DVD player.) So even though I had a dozen people around, I was essentially alone. Actually, I was alone but wanted to really be alone, but instead I was in a basement sitting at a card table or whatever, reading my Fiend Folio or something, wishing I could be away from the people passed out or catting out upstairs, except my parents usually drove. And okay, my maternal grandmother was an excellent cook, and I had enough cousins on my mom’s side that I could find someone to hang out with. But we didn’t go to Chicago that much, so Thanksgiving and many Christmases were spent at my stepdad’s folks’ house. And his mom could not cook. Imagine the mom from Better Off Dead and her grotesque cooking, and that was it. So sitting at home, cooking my own food that I chose, changing the channels on my own TV, and enjoying myself, that’s cool. What I did today made for a good day.

Okay, this Seinfeld thing is on TV, so I am going to watch that.


The ghost of Thanksgiving past

Happy Thanksgiving. I give thanks that my heat is now working, and I celebrated by staying up until four in the morning working on a short story. Now I’m eating breakfast/lunch before I go to my friend Julie’s house for a thanksgiving dinner later in the day.

This is the eighth year I didn’t spend Thanksgiving back in Indiana with my folks. In Bloomington, I managed to get back north every year, even though some years were a total bitch, especially when I didn’t have a car. And when I made it back, I spent most of the time watching TV and getting slow, not really talking to anyone except maybe my sisters and of course my friend Ray. On the way back each time, I felt ripped off that I put so much time, money, and effort on the line to make the trip, and there wasn’t anything for me.

Once I got to Seattle in 95, I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t spend a thousand bucks and two full days on planes just to eat a turkey dinner and then watch TV on a couch for 48 hours. So I laid down the law, and said I wouldn’t come back anymore, which caused some hysterics on the parent front. But even the stock Thanksgiving dinners went away; my mom’s parents were both dead, so the classic trip to grandma’s in Chicago was now just a memory. And the backup, dinner with my stepdad’s family, was also nixed, because my mom divorced him. Even if I did come back, I don’t know what would have been there for me.

In 95, I had dinner with Bill Perry, his wife Jen, and the then-infant Liam. They were also stranded from family back in Indiana, so they cooked a great dinner and we ate in Mountlake Terrace. Nice, small, comfy, and not a bad transition from family to friends.

In 96, I just started dating Karena a month before, so that dinner in Southwest Washington was of the meet-the-parents variety. What she didn’t tell me was that her parents were moving the next day, and needed some manpower to help them dig a few decades of still-unpacked stuff into vans. This was the worst possible move imaginable; every appliance had to move, and her parents were collectors of everything imaginable, all of it still unboxed. It’s hard to pack and move someone else’s stuff, when you don’t know what’s trash and what’s treasure. And it’s even harder when the apartment is a second-floor walkup, and it’s 38 degrees outside. We made at least three or four trips with a caravan of trucks and cars, and the capper was that her dad drove the truck into some grass and broke a water main for the whole subdivision on a Thanksgiving weekend. But after that complete hell, her family had a good respect for me. We had 97 thanksgiving at their new place, and had another great dinner of home cooked food and joking around with her brothers.

By 98, I was dating Marie, and she flew in to Seattle the night of Thanksgiving. We couldn’t find any place to eat, and ended up at IHOP. I think that was her second visit to Seattle, and after I went to her place for Halloween. I was well on my way to moving to New York at that point, and I did in the spring. In 99, we went to her brother’s in DC for thanksgiving, and ate dinner at a fancy Indian restaurant. Turkey Vindaloo – it’s pretty awesome.

In 2000, there was no girlfriend, but me and my friend Rob Reynolds went to the Neptune for dinner. And in 2001, Michael and Marie came into town, and we also hit the Neptune. And now, it’s 2002. That’s the history of the post-family thanksgiving, and I’m surprised I can remember all of that.

Crap, I need to get a move on and haul out of here. Have a good holiday, and don’t eat too much.