Words For KK

Fun. Funny. A funny old bird. So inspiring, so fun, so funny and so exciting. A force of nature. Larger than life. An actual acid trip. They broke the mold. Remarkable. Eccentric. Unique being. Truly an original soul. Artistic crazy Norwegian. Bombastic in a good way. Bohemian with a capital B. A delightful force. A cool zany guy you could talk to. Seattle’s notorious prolific independent filmmaker. One of the most memorable characters I’ve ever met. An undeniable original. Truly a visionary artist. A creative genius, very much himself, and friendly to all. Absolutely bonkers. Mind blowing. Strange, but with a good heart, he made Seattle unique. He made life so much more exciting, and he seriously seemed like the most fantastic character from the most fantastic play. The word “legendary” is overused but in the Northwest he was truly, actually, legendary. Like a firecracker with wit and direction. Unconventional. A frenetic demeanor. The most human and useful insight on cinema. Neither pretentious nor patronizing. A true creative genius with classic maniacal sarcasm. A wizard atop his flickering castle. Without any exaggeration, I can say that he was one of the most exciting and inspiring people I’ve ever met.


Oceanfront Carnival, 5/9/05, ©Karl Krogstad

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No Strings Attached

True Tales of Terror From a Bow Re-Hairing Workshop in Ohio.

In an effort to get off my knees (gardening) while still working with my hands, I find myself in Ashland, Ohio, for a week-long workshop, learning to replace the hair on the bows that are used to play string instruments (violin, viola, cello, bass). Seemingly no one wants to do this job, possibly for a reason. Maybe I can work by myself and not with other people! Unfortunately, this experiment requires 0ther people.

Cast of characters:

•The Bowmaker and his Wife

•The Bowmaker’s Narcoleptic Daughter

•Texas Brown-Noser, who already part-owns an instrument repair shop. This class is supposed to be for beginners and newbies to hand tools. TBN is seemingly here to ask esoteric questions about varnish and tuning pegs and violin makers and talk non-stop, rivaled only by Narcoleptic Daughter, whose leg he wants to hump.

•Two more professional instrument repairmen, with ascending ratios of less talky = cooler.

•Junior Philharmonic, a Violin Weenie brown-noser from Erie, PA with a ZZ Top beard.We are not going to run out of hair this week. Conductor of the Erie Junior Philharmonic, whatever that is.

•Silent San Diego, tattooed cyber hacker, as sleep-deprived and aloof as I am. We could be colleagues, but neither of us wants to talk to anyone.

•Cleveland Man of Mystery, bearded man in his ’60s, firmly adhering to a vow of silence, says only, “I work in a lab”.

•A nice, quiet bluegrass bassist from Colorado. Three other women, from NYC, West Virginia and Arkansas, and me. These are mostly non-speaking roles, as we can’t get a word in edgewise.

Silent San Diego, Junior Philharmonic, Nice bluegrass bassist, Texas Brown-Noser, Bowmaker, Instrument Repairman #3.
Arkansas, Me, NYC, Cleveland Man of Mystery.
West Virginia, Instrument Repairman #2. (Photo by Narcoleptic Daughter).

Sunday: Pizza day. According to the syllabus we are to ‘meet our bench mates”. Prior to pizza, within 3 minutes of saying hi to the Bowmaker’s Wife, she has told me about her early career as a violinist, then becoming office manager for some B-list Ohio symphony, but it was so stressful she had to get on Paxil, and then she had to go to the ER because she thought she was having a heart attack, and depression and anxiety are not the same thing.

I put my face on its default setting and park my brain in a faraway land. It will not be the last time this week.

Over pizza, we go around the table, giving our stories, much like an AA meeting, I would imagine, if I had ever been to one.

“I’m Silent San Diego, I have a tech job and I’m interested in Bow Rehairing.”

“I’m Junior Philharmonic, I’m a violinist and conductor.”

“I’m Texas Brown-Noser, I went to Oberlin blah blah, I live near Denton, Texas where (name-drops Todd’s Bass teacher), I bought into an instrument repair business.”

Lest anyone doubt his not-beginner chops, he leaps up and, on the white board, diagrams the thickness of neck to strings of Sartory, Tourte, and Peccate violins. We have not yet been introduced to our chisels, but I taste blood.

NYC Woman says.”I live in New York City, I play bluegrass fiddle, and I work as a Chinese translator.” She has tattoos of the Treble and Bass clefs on her wrist.

“Oh, like ‘Godzilla’?” the Bowmaker’s Wife asks, irony-free.

Wince. That would be Japan.

“I’m Erika, I live near Seattle and I have an art background. I’d like to work with my hands and work for myself. My *husband* (slight massaging of the data there) is a bassist and teacher and says no one does this, and there’s a market.”

Thud. Perhaps my once-removed proximity to string instruments is uncool. The Bowmaker remarks that there are great Bowmakers in Port Townsend, WA, Bowmaking being an elite fine-furniture type thing, for whom re-hairing is beneath them. Port Townsend! One Bowmaker moved there, and invited all his pals over, and they all moved there, and now they live in groovy Victorian houses and spend their days making bows and cruising around on their sailboats.

There are some changes to the syllabus. We’ll be starting at 8:30, not 8 (5 am Pacific). It said we can’t leave for lunch and must order in, but now we can leave for an hour. (These are excellent developments.) And that business about how dinner’s at 5 and then you come back for “practice and troubleshooting” afterwards and if you have a drink with dinner you’ll be sent home and/or expelled has been amended.

“You can have one beer,” the Bowmaker says. “Not six.”


Monday. We are going to learn to cut the piece that fits in the pointy “head” of the bow.There’s another piece that goes in the ‘frog”, where your hand would go, if one played a string instrument. The “frog” can get pretty gnarly, Narcoleptic Daughter says.

“Hand cheese on bows is disgusting,” she says. “Bass players are the worst.”

Narcoleptic Daughter likes to make grand pronouncements. “I hate all modern art and all performance art.” No broad brush, there. She lives with her parents and knows her way around Bowmaking, Repair and Re-Hair, but prefers to talk than teach.

Narcolepsy, she says, is such a big bummer! You can never sleep well, so you’re tired all the time! (This sounds to me like menopause, but I would not dream of boring a roomful of strangers thereof.) Fortunately, she tells us, she has a new prescription! She asks the West Virginia Woman, who works in a clinic, “Do you know anything about Schedule B Medicaid pharmaceutical benefits?”

“I work with patients with Lyme disease and shingles,” West-By-God says.

(Editor’s note: if one grew up in northern Virginia in the ’80s, and listened to DC-101 on the radio, there was a redneck shock jock who referred to our neighboring state to the west as “WEST BY GOD VIRGINIA!”, which became as imbedded as classic rock itself, not to be confused with “NORTH KAAAAKALAAAKEE” for North Carolina, to the south).

Now we are going to remove some parts and cut a “mortice” for the “head” (the pointy part of the bow) with our chisels. The Bowmaker cuts a complex 4mm angled piece that looks like an upside-down flat-topped pyramid with asymmetrical sides in approximately 20 seconds. Is he teaching, or showing off? He remarks that he has done this “at least 40,000 times.”

I can’t wrap my head around it, nor have I ever used a chisel before. He gives me a tiny display model to copy. I tape it on my cutting board with blue tape, like a tooth of God.

This is tedious, tiny, frustrating, tricky work. It would be so, so nice to have some quiet. The Texas Brown-Noser is like some barky-dog-baby, and you sit there thinking, surely they will run out of breath? But he, like the dogs and babies, never does. He, the Bowmaker, and the Narcoleptic Daughter have this gross, esoteric cooler-than-you, name-dropping banter. He follows Narcoleptic Daughter to lunch like a puppy dog.

“How long does a re-hair take?” someone asks.

“As long as it takes,” the Bowmaker says. “Some are hand-to hand combat.”

At no point does the Bowmaker go around the room, as a good waitress might, asking, “You doing ok? Do you have any questions?”


“I had a professional fiddle player bring in her bow. She said she was careful, but I hear she smacks guitars with it.”

“Daniel Majesky, principal of Cleveland, played 24 caprices with one intermission!”

“Cleveland, Chicago, Boston. I think a lotta symphonies hurt themselves with endowments. Pittsburgh had a $100,000 endowment.”

“There was a tone winner, but his craftsmanship was lacking.”

After (not-beer) dinner, we return to the classroom for “practice and troubleshooting”, and the Bowmaker HAS THE TV ON. And leaves it on, ignoring us. A large-screen TV, with a program about a guy who makes rockets. Not having, or watching, TV, I feel immediate shock and profound irritation. So we just paid $1100 to watch the Bowmaker watch TV!

Like the rockets themselves, we’re just gonna sit here and wait for the trickle-down glitter.

Tuesday. Narcoleptic Daughter’s recurring, daily dramatic monologue is about two things: Narcolepsy and Greyhounds.

I picture Narcolepsy as a funny Monty Python thing where  you fall down randomly at parties and the grocery store for 40 winks, but her stories are always about sleeplessness and prescription drugs. I could weigh in on this, being on Pacific time, and I can’t sleep either. I asked my nice naturopathic doc for a week’s worth of some Judy Garland-grade sonic-boom pharmaceuticals, and she relented, but they don’t, in fact, work.

As for Greyhounds, well, people are trying to shut down Greyhounds because they’re worried about gambling, not animals. Besides, Greyhounds are meant to race! It’s about gambling, not animals! I am getting so, so, sleepily very tired of her talking. Maybe Narcolepsy is catching?

Today we are learning the ‘frog” mortice, another wood 4mm flat-topped inverted pyramid, but narrower and different. I ask  for another display model, and the Bowmaker gives me one, with a “T” for top and an “H” for where the hair will go. But alas, a capital H, upside-down, still looks like a capital H, so I spend the morning making it upside-down. I have been imagining it backwards. I try to explain the honest mistake of the H. Now I see that this flat-topped pyramid, inverted, has a ski slope in front and not much going on in back. The Bowmaker, clearly, thinks I’m an idiot.

Junior Philharmonic, one of my bench-mates, must leave early today to go conduct the Erie Junior Philharmonic. Foolishly, like a journalist asking a boring person questions hoping for a good quote, I ask about it. My sweetie Todd coaches the Junior Symphony, which is part of the Seattle Youth Symphony, so,  I ask if  Junior Philharmonic’s orchestra is high schoolers?

“IT’S THE ERIE JUNIOR PHILHARMONIC!” Junior Philharmonic says.

I still don’t know what the hell that is.



“If Stradivarius was a blend of coffee,” Narcoleptic Daughter asks, “what would it taste like?”



“Notes of tobacco and perfectionism.”

“No subtle notes of anything.”

“Wine. Anxiety.”

“Would you drink it?”


Later in the day the Narcoleptic Daughter brings in her Greyhound.I love dogs, but I’m so annoyed, I won’t look at, or acknowledge, either one of them.


Wednesday. Junior Philharmonic is furiously recapping the events of last night.

“And I’m like, you’re playing accidentals! This is MINOR! You’re in MAJOR!”

It is 5:20 a.m. Pacific.

Green Tea time. Silent San Diego also drinks green tea. We are waiting for the mysterious hot water heater’s red light to come on, which, on this particular day, it never does. So I have trapped potentially the only cool person.

“Does it feel like 5 am?” I ask. “Because it is.”

“Yeah,” he says. “It’s a lifestyle thing. I like to get up at 9.”

9 would be early for what I like.

Silent San Diego says he works as a computer hacker, helping companies find holes in their systems. I ask if he gets to travel anywhere exotic. “Korea,” he says. So I ask about Korean food, which I know nothing about, and what exactly is Bimbimbap?

He says he has Celiac disease, the unfortunate gateway to a boring gluten-free diet, so this mysterious meat-egg-rice concoction served in a sizzling stone bowl remains a mystery for now. Sigh.

The young woman from Arkansas bursts into tears with no notice.

OH NO, are you hurt?

“I BROKE MY PLUG!” she says, sobbing.

Narcoleptic Daughter thinks it would be fun to hip NYC’s ‘Godzilla’ woman, who grew up in China, to the worst American ear-worms. She puts on the Muppets’ “Mahna Mahna”, on the big, loud TV, while we are chiseling tiny blocks, and then endless variations thereof including the Apricot Hellbeast.

I remember my OUTSTANDING  BoseTM Noise Canceling Headphones, possibly one of the best gifts I have ever received, from Todd, and I put them on, with a little Charles Mingus ‘Blues and Roots”.

Todd and I had traveled to Guyayabitos “Little Papaya” Mexico, and on the flight back from Puerta Vallarta, in the seat behind us, was this drunk, loud-ass, talky-ass guy with two cute-as-hell little exotic puppies under the seat in front of him, thus enabling endless chatter. And then, on the next flight to Seattle, he was behind us ONCE AGAIN, after now-unrelenting Jack Daniels,  And I went, embarrassingly, I suppose, off, on his ass, East C0ast style, and asked him if he could keep his  voice down, which did not work, and the third person in our row, a smart woman, immediately snapped on her BoseTM Noise Canceling Headphones in a stroke of sheer inspirational brilliance. Allow me to suggest we all do the same.

In the way that you mention something in the presence of your phone and then start getting ads for the thing, Narcoleptic Daughter says, “I have sound-isolating headphones because my ADD’s really bad.” And I think, I have them for you.

“It’s a Bowmaker thing,” she says, randomly. “You wouldn’t understand.”

Having figured out the Frog Mortice, it is time to put hair in our bows. The tail-hair of the massive tail-hank is clamped with a pipe clamp and glued, looking exactly like a horse’s tail. Most would-be client people want white hair, but real white hair is yellow at the ends, old hair. So, you know if it’s perfectly white that it has been bleached. Beware.

Sometimes people want “salt-and-pepper” hair. They are dumb, as textures vary.

I forgot to tell you about the flies. This is some Plague Of Locusts shit. It is October, but it is weirdly in the 70s in Ohio (I had to go to Goodwill and buy T-shirts, having packed sweaters) and there are these flies. They land, itchily, on your arms in droves, as if trying to cut tiny 4mm blocks with a chisel while listening to endless yammering is not irritating enough. They especially favor Junior Philharmonic. I switched back to long sleeves yesterday.

“These flies!” Narcoleptic Daughter says from time to time.

Now dig this: as opposed to Fine Woodworking, I actually have done lots of hand sewing and embroidery, and now it is knot-tying time and I slay like a Girl Scout while these fat-fingered guys flail.I comb the hair, dampened, out like Barbie. In fact, I RE-HAIR A BOW.


I show the Bowmaker. “You have hair in your bow,” he says.


“So,” the Bowmaker asks Junior Philharmonic, who is some sort of music teacher, “do you have to use, like, 70 special pronouns now?”

A few white men cackle about how we’re just so oversensitive and PC nowadays.

“Can’t we just break people up into Musicians and Singers?” Texas Brown Noser cracks, to snickers.

The flies are too fast to slap, but don’t bet on the rest of this group.

My mantra is There is no wine in prison.

Narcoleptic Daughter shows up around lunchtime and starts talking about Greyhounds in .05 seconds. Silent San Diego has some pretty major allergies, perhaps she might have thought about that before bringing her dog to the classroom.

“It’s not the hair,” she says. “It’s the dander.”

But here it is, after lunch, and there still has been no talk of Narcolepsy. My little Bic lighter from my toolbox, for burning off the ends of my impeccable knots, is seemingly dead, however.

Narcoleptic Daughter shows me a trick where you rip off the silver head of the lighter and a tiny adjustable wheel resides within. A life hack, but with a price, as ever.

While she works her magic, she says, “I’m going to be in a sleep study. I have Narcolepsy. Possibly Sleep Apnea.”

Narcolepsy is now 3 and 0.

Thursday: This is the BEST day, for the Bowmaker has taken the majority of the class to see some Amish woodworking, and Silent San Diego, the Cleveland Man of Mystery, and I, have demurred, preferring to practice than be in a car for an hour plus with the rest of the class, and Narcoleptic Daughter says “I will honor that.”

She has brought two boxes of Danishes, a box of donuts and a bag of Halloween candy, although it is just the four of us until noon. That stuff gives me heartburn, and Silent San Diego is, of course, gluten-free.

“If I eat that stuff,” Cleveland Man of Mystery says, “I’ll go to sleep.”

“I can sleep anytime,” the Narcoleptic Daughter sighs.

And now I must tip my hater hat, because without the pesky distractions of her father and the Texas Brown-Noser, Narcoleptic Daughter is actually VERY helpful. And she asks if anyone has any questions, and here is my chance.

“I have concerns,” I say. “This is supposed to be a beginner class, but there are working professionals in this class. They should have their own class. Texas Brown-Noser and his endless brown-nosing, grandstanding and name-dropping is very distracting, yet you pander to him, constantly, to the detriment of all the other students who paid a lot of money to be here, plus travel and lodging.”

“He paid a lot of money too, and we can’t control the personalities,” she says, which is some classic HR bullshit, right there.

“No,” I say, “but you can manage your classroom dynamics. A good waitress would go around the room, checking on people.”

I’ve decided to re-hair a dreaded Bass bow. The Bowmaker hates them. But at least it’s big and beefy and not some wimpy little Violin thing. And this venture is made grander by the rare gift of conversation with the silent ones.

Cleveland Man of Mystery, the quietest guy, is my bench mate that sits to my right. He said that he “works in a lab,” but he casually drops, in an offhand way, that he also MAKES Violins, Mandolins and Guitars. The Guitars are his favorite. He worked in a Guitar factory for awhile and there was a guy who was making counterfeit Les Pauls as part of a big crime ring and that guy got spectacularly busted and went to jail. I ask if he has a shop in his house, and he says, “my house is a shop.”

If anyone should be some preening, cock-of-the-walk String Weenie, IT IS THIS GUY. But that is not how the Cleveland Man of Mystery rolls.

He says that he is from Ohio, and went to college in Cleveland. He tells us that during the steel-car-factory boom, which has now died and left Ohio as a desiccated old husk of a dead locust, once upon a time, there was a rubber factory in Akron, for tires. Lots and lots of people moved up from the South. Lots of Baptists. And this would explain Ohio’s religious, women-hating, Mississippi of the Midwest political values, which I’ve never understood, geographically or otherwise.

Cleveland Man of Mystery says that when he was in college he took a class on Comparative Religions.  He had to visit, and report on, a variety of Ohio houses of worship. There was one church where the ministers were handling snakes and people were speaking in tongues and writhing in the aisles. He quickly determined that he could write a good summary without needing to stay. The faithful gave him the stink-eye as he walked out.

Over lunch, which I don’t eat, because I’m so excited to be finally turning a corner on this Bow Re-Hairing process, and digging, for once, the conversation, Silent San Diego talks about crows. I love crows too. He says they love peanuts in the shell above anything else, and that they and Blue Jays are both Corvids, and are known to be backup for each other in times of trouble. He has a Crow call whistle. See, I knew he was cool.

And then everyone comes back from the field trip at noon. Sigh. The silence was golden.


Now we will talk about Homeschooling. Narcoleptic Daughter, it turns out, was Homeschooled.( And your parents are…mmm-kay, copy that.) Come to find out, Texas Brown Noser and his quiet Instrument Repairman bench mate were also Homeschooled.

“I’m hearing a lot of people in this industry were Homeschooled,” Narcoleptic Daughter says. This would explain a lot.

I hate the way I have to approach the Bowmaker’s bench, meekly, him not looking at me, and be like, “Excuse me?” to ask a craftsmanship question. To which he likes to respond, “Look at your booklet.” Our “booklet”, a “Step-by-step guide” features too-dark photos and the vaguest language. So, it’s like I have to learn this by just sitting there doing it over and over and over. 

Like music itself.


Friday. Now, all of a sudden, on the last day, I’m a rock star, because I’m the only one to Re-Hair a Bass bow. I’m not having it, that I’ve all of a sudden dazzled the Bowmaker with my magnificent craftsmanship. Obviously the Narcoleptic Daughter told him I complained.

Waiting for the Green Tea red light to come on (today it works), I hate to make conversation before caffeine, but our time is short.

“So,” I say to Silent San Diego, “you’re a computer hacker. Are we hosed for the next election?”

“Yeah,” he says. “It started with the printing press, spreading information, then disinformation, then propaganda. That’s how we got World War II. Now we have the internet.”

“Is it Russia?”

“It was, but China and Korea saw how easy it was and how well it worked,” Silent San Diego says. “We’re in for a good half-millennia of strife and warfare.”


Don’t you wish you were as cool as my cool-ass Bass Bow? “You’ve done a yeoman’s job,” the Bowmaker says.

That’s like something my Dad used to say. “You’ve done yeoman service.” Like the Junior Philharmonic, I still don’t know what this means.

Texas Brown-Noser has begun to kill flies. He’s gotten six so far in about as many minutes. The random WHAM! of the kill is a little disconcerting while handling a chisel, but as always, he is a super-achiever. There is something wrong with the Texas Brown-Noser.

“Why,” asks Junior Philharmonic, the first and foremost favorite victim of the flies, “didn’t you do this, like, eight days ago?”


“Anyone want to go in on goat skin?”

“The stuff I’ve been getting is not as nice.”

“Wurther’s shop sells kangaroo grips.”

“He thought it was Oak, but the box was beautiful.”

“What’s your ratio of shellac flakes to alcohol?” the Texas Brown-Noser asks.

I waste a lot of time trying to psychoanalyze my bullies, like the Bowmaker. What was it about me that made you hate me on sight? What was it that you perceived as weakness? Why rudely condescend to me all week, so that I had to learn Re-Hairing to spite you?

And then it comes to me! Ohio.


Descendants of the rubber factory snake handlers. The twin poisons of bad religion and bad food, constipating. The aforementioned Mississippi of the Midwest “values”.

And I’m a woman, artist, gardener, from the West Coast.

He thinks I’m a witch!

He is not wrong.

One thing I will say for myself is that I am seasonally appropriate.







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Costume changes

We can do this, my friends. There is a stain among us, and we need to rise above it, and join forces to do better. This thing has become so overexposed and bloated, it is an absurd mockery of itself. This is a time for precision, not laziness. Every time I see it, I wince. It needs to be removed from the main stage, post-haste, and put in solitary confinement.


I am referring, among other things, to the overuse of “y’all”. It’s just not cute anymore.

Still cute…unlike..


A psychotic Georgia coworker turned me against this turn of phrase, for in her mouth it became a signal marker for “EVERYTHING I’M SAYING IS BULLSHIT.”

As far as Georgia goes, I much prefer the Jameses, Carter and Brown. “I may not know Karate, but I know Ka-RAZY!” as the Soul General would say. End of rant, you all.


So, I went to the beach for my 52nd birthday, as I have done, minus a couple, for the past 25 years. In 1994 my then-boyfriend Dave and I went for dinner at the nearby Tokeland Hotel for dinner. We were the only young people in there (25 years ago), and our waitress was bursting with breaking news. “Guess who was here yesterday?” she asked. “The greatest rock star ever!”

Tokeland Hotel.

“Jagger?” we wondered. “Michael Jackson?”

No, it was Robert Plant from Led Zeppelin, who had just played with Jimmy Page at the Gorge. How, or why, he wound up at the Tokeland Hotel is still one of the eternal mysteries, as it is well out of the way of ANYTHING, and…shared bathrooms? But the story is true, for there’s a picture of him wearing some sort of purple cape with his famous hair. Like a bird of prey clutching a fresh and tasty morsel, our server was eager to show off the bag of “tea” Plant had given her, which looked like the succulent green buds befitting a different High Tea.

I was feeling strapped for cash this time, but traditions must be upheld, so I went to the Hotel for my favorite breakfast, a Crab Benedict and a mimosa. I saw a couple friends there and we chatted briefly. I decided to get a slice of cake for later, too. And then, when I was ready to pay, I was told it had all been taken care of.

“Maybe Robert Plant bought you those treats,” my friend Ed suggested. And then, riding high on my excellent, if mysterious, good fortune, I went for a long walk on the beach.


Traditions must be upheld, and it was clearly evident on the beach that the time-honored Erosion Control Techniques are still being faithfully deployed, effective as ever.

Scenic as Stonehenge.

“Pitch in! Put trash in its place.”

The crabs, ever classier, have done their miraculous costume change. Imagine being able to crawl out of your pesky exoskeleton and start afresh. Which, I suppose, is a thing for us too. We just don’t know what fresh is.

My Mom showed up in my dream last night, in a black-and-white checked suit and pearls, coming out of Grammy’s apartment, #202, at the Letterman House in DC in the ’70’s. She looked beautiful.

Some traditions will not continue unless we remember to celebrate them.


Don Pickinpaugh, Washaway local legend, driftwood chain-saw furniture maker: “Stump Tables and More! Oceans Of Fun!” recently passed away. He would drive on the beach in an ancient Jeep Cherokee collecting logs for his pieces. His license plate said “PIC-N-PA”, which is how he signed his work,  He was in his 80’s but spry and sassy, and he had a way of making you laugh and making you feel special and important at the same time. He was the driving force behind the relocation of the Pioneer Cemetery in the 70’s, whose tenants had begun to fall into the ocean. He wrote many letters to the Army Corps of Engineers, state officials, the Governor and the Seattle Times, trying to make anyone care.

Pic-N-Pa and Mildred, 2011.

“You and your family enjoy our beaches as much as anyone else in this corner of our great nation, and I know we can’t let this happen,” he wrote to then-Governor Dan Evans.”To clam or picnic in this area with headstones, bones and bits of caskets protruding from the sandbank just sickens me.”

Pic-N-Pa bench at Pioneer Cemetery.

Evans was replaced by an eccentric woman Governor named Dixie Lee Ray, who paid the Boy Scouts $25,000 to relocate the pioneers across the highway in 1977, and Pic-N-Pa maintained the site and cut the grass ever since. (You can read more about this on my “Erosion Control Techniques” post). I am very happy to own one of his pieces. Like the man himself, it is an irreplaceable treasure.

Shifting sands.


Another great loss is my friend Teva Harrison, who recently died of breast cancer at 42. When she was diagnosed she vowed to “live like a tornado”, and she did, traveling the world. She drew and wrote a graphic novel called In-Between Days  that became an award-winning best-seller, for its beautiful message of living fiercely with the gravest of uncertainties, the Washaway of the body, and still finding joy in life, in living.

Her husband David sent me a message. He’d been looking through her notebooks for a phone number, and found this note to the future:

“I am the earth beneath your feet. I am the flowers and the trees. I am eternal. When I go, I’ll slip away carried out by one last rasp–one last gasp–before the air goes out forever. When I go, hold onto these moments, walking in the bright of the morning.”

I am not a morning person, but it might be time to start.


Posted in Beach Access | 1 Comment

Ides of Marching

“It was the kind of March day when the sun shines hot, and the wind blows cold, when it is summer in the light, and winter in the shade.” -Charles Dickens

And I thought to myself, “Chaz-Dick, who you tellin’?” while sitting in the Airstream, listening to my jazz records playing a duet with howling wind, rain on the metal roof, sleet, sun breaks with birds chirping, rinse and repeat. The perfect schizophrenic accompaniment to wondering what I should do with my life, what my next caper should be! (Pro Tip: Not Landscaping!)

“When you die,” my friend Roberta told me, “no one will care what kind of gardener you were.” Man! Those were a lot of wasted years. Except for the therapy of working with plants and the funny other gardeners. And then, lest we forget, the not-funny ones.

The bloom is off the rose, Seattle-wise, you betcha. I treat my Seattling like I live in the Yukon territory and I’m making a rare visit to town for the goodies. Because, that’s it. Heads-up to you types wondering where to open a new, good restaurant!

It’s a joy to be a world apart, although I certainly have had to step up my game, food-wise. But what is scenic by day is scary by night, being West. I never thought I would say I miss the freeway. I don’t! But there’s something to be said for knowing where the hell you are. Shelton? Belfair? or a horror movie? Impossible to tell. I decided this is not a drive to do in darkness or bad weather. Being winter, I was disinclined to come down for awhile.

Besides, it snowed. The most epic snow ever, in fact! That was less than optimal, as my newspaper-photographer pal Jeff used to say.

Baby, it’s cold outside.

Putting the E in frEezing.

So, in my absence, there were some high tides. It’s been four years, so we really are due for some Doom. But the rocks, the dumping of rocks! Are they working? The Rock People say yes. In fact, they drilled certain rocks and put in ‘transponders” to track them, true story. So I ask, Where Is the Rock-Cam? I want to watch! You know, like the Panda-Cam at the National Zoo, except, uh, more boring?


And, how nice if we could control nature! I think of that every time I’m in the “Garden” section with the Moss-B-Gone and Slug Killa.

Certainly it was amusing, working in the Palace of the One-Eyed Artist, where the corporate types would wring their hands over the marauding rats, bunnies, raccoons, seagulls and the like. “How much money do we have to spend to control nature?” they asked, checkbooks open.

Meanwhile, Nature laughs its ass off. I heard (reliably, from my SAM sources) that the Seattle Center “gardeners” have been trapping said Space Needle bunnies and releasing them, down the street, in the Seattle Art Museum’s Sculpture Park. Catch and release gone corporate! Seemingly, the low-hanging fruit is in pest “control”.

But my money is still on Nature.

My friend Kenny is close to the water. Willy B. Next? Or will the rocks work? He recently bought a spiffy new car with a plate that says YBLIKEU.



“Hey Ken, how’s the good fight?” a man walking by asked.

“Who cares?” Kenny replied.


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December, remember?

Breathe deep, the gathering gloom, the swirling melancholy mists of malaise!

What the..? Oh, yeah, December.

Well, this grey is why we live in the Northwest! So there must be some other factors conspiring to make me sad. I have some conspiracy theories. Let’s let ’em rip!

Well, the news is so bad, and so sad, that it is reason enough. But it conjures up another falsehood, another bit of fake news, namely, Christmas.

Is your family the most awesome thing ever? How nice for you. For others, the drumbeat of “Family family family, fa la la la la la la la la” this time of year is as infuriating as a Salvation Army bell-ringer. I think of my Mom, a Christmas lover who always tried to make everything perfect, and, in the wake of her passing, the revelation of the train wrecks that are my closest relatives: narcissistic, damaged, toxic people, incapable of love.


I find it helpful to remember that my true family are people I chose, and to whom I am fiercely loyal. It certainly saves a lot of time, energy, effort, trouble, travel, and Christmas shopping.


But what else is wrong with December? We are quickly approaching the four year anniversary of the loss of my property, of all my neighbors, of a whole, special world that is gone. If it weren’t for pictures, I would wonder if everything was a dream.

The same week of the three big storms that washed everything away, December 8, my friend Regnor died. He was a master potter who grew up in Norway and spent his life on fishing boats. His father was lost at sea, and he told me he liked being on the water so he could spend time with his Dad. According to his theory, I decided to take a pottery class, to spend time with Regnor through working in clay. And, in a way, it worked. Some things are more real than photographs.

But, other than my retroactive grief and readiness to hibernate, let’s discuss a glimmer of would-be-hope, namely, rocks.

As I told you in my post, “Dynamics”, a local cranberry grower, who conveniently is also head of the Drainage District, with help from the Shoalwater tribe, got Washington state, for the first time ever, to put up $30,000+ to dump rocks along the shoreline. Dumping, then compacting, rocks of different sizes is called “Dynamic Revetment.” Bore your friends!

One nice thing is that the rocks are being dumped not just by the cranberry bogs and the highway, but in actual residential areas, like at the end of my old street, Blue Pacific. Will it work? Or will it be like dumping old cars in the ocean in the ’60s, with the same intent?

Of course, some traditional erosion-control techniques endure, though they have never worked. Tires, for example. Rope, for another.

And, the inspiration for all boulders is what I call the Rockpile Peninsula Project, which has held for years, albeit with constant, costly reinforements.Will it work? Part of me wants to be a hater, because it’s too late for me. But there are still some people whom it could help: my hosts, Marcy and Bob, who generously let me move my trailer to their property, so I can still go to the beach; Roberta and Dave, who are on their second Washaway house, as are my friends Ray and Juanita; and, most critically, Kenny, who is on the edge and thus, the strongest candidate for Willy B. Next. And lots of people who I’ve never met. So, in otherwise dark times, I am going to put my hopes for others on a big ol’ pile of rocks.

“Nothing ventured, nothing gained,” as my Mom used to say.



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Summery Summary

July5 fireworks 1

Picking up firework garbage in a Seattle park on July 5, I wondered if I was being delivered a sign as I noted the top firework names. Was this some kind of barometer of the USA?



Zombie War

Hell In A Handbasket

Ypo are loved

Gone Bananas


Turning Heads

Adults Only


Sexy Girl

Wassup Homie


Seattle crawfish


Banana slug


We Want You



Of course, many of the familiar wrappers reminded me of wallpapering the old Cookhouse. It’s such a shame it fell into the ocean. Those “Pissed Eagle” fireworks with the eagle chomping the head of Osama Bin Laden would really be collectibles now.

Now, more than ever before, my life is ruled by water. This is not a bad thing, but it does require both time and planning to work in Seattle, an hour across. The ferry beats the hell out of driving in traffic. My car is set up as both bed and truck.

              ferry front

Seattle is now a few good people and some exotic food marinading, like tender vittles, in a rolling boil of inequality.  The “Let Them Eat Cake” mandate is horrifying, and it feels good to have gotten out. But, of course, that’s where the money still is. I don’t recognize the place where I spent half my life.

For the time being, I’m enjoying being back at my park. There’s an old guy who likes to go  tearing around on a rusty old bike, cane attached to the handlebars like a battering ram, shouting, “OUTTA THE WAY OF MY CADILLAC!”

“Are you cleaning up the park?” Cadillac asked me.

“I’m trying,” I said.

“There’s no such thing as trying!” Cadillac said. “There’s only succeeding! There’s no such thing as trying.

I’m lying, I’m dying.”

Driftwood menagerie

At a Parks Department retirement party, the guest of honor noted, “I want you to know that I’m standing here today because I had both knees replaced by the City of Seattle.”

There’s a staffer with a coveted gig who has cultivated quite the persona. His car is painted with a folk-art flair best described as “Pull Me Over, I’m Insane!” His license plate is a derivative of “SNUGGLES”, and his car is full of very large stuffed animals. I’m told he shaves, shirtless, in the Men’s room at Headquarters while grunting impressively.

No one can deal.

“Hollywood couldn’t make up a better serial killer,” a coworker noted. “What if it’s all a really good act? He gets to roam around freely, like the Sasquatch.”

It is a beautiful time at the beach, the islands forming that I call the “turtles” smooth and round under bare feet, the inland waterways warm enough to swim.


spooky tree blur

Things everywhere feel very Washaway these days: perilous, precarious, a slippery creature writhing out of control. I continue to try to remind myself of the importance of savoring: delight, frolic, laughter, the natural world, my garden, and the joy it brings to love and be loved. Just as the ferry, while time-consuming, is preferable to driving, these things seem, while fragile and  needing some tender cultivating, vastly superior to the alternative.

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“You know, you’re looking for a ruby in a mountain of rocks, but there ain’t no Coupe de Ville hiding at the bottom of a Cracker Jack box.”

-Meat Loaf, “Two Out of Three Ain’t Bad.”


“There’s a growing trend among property owners along the north side of Willapa Bay,” proclaimed the Daily World . “Hope!”

Maybe hope can be one of my eccentricities, like liking crows or Meat Loaf. Certainly we go through this march every March, don’t we?  Spring scratching at the heart’s door, the songs of the froggies, flowers bursting through the scorched earth, my thinking my bone marrow would save my Mom, the promise of regrowth. And any good news is welcome these days.

So I am trying to figure out why I’m being a hater about the rocks.

“She prayed to no saints, but she believed in steadiness and luck.” -Louise Erdrich, The Bingo Palace.

Bye Chicken

Hope comes in the form of rocks. There were big trucks moving them around next to the highway in January. I stopped and chatted with a guy in a big truck. He talked about “four-man rocks” and explained the theory of “dynamic revetment” to me. Dumping rocks, or, officially speaking, “cobble” of different sizes, will “redirect the wave energy” and stop the erosion!

“That’s the theory, anyway,” he said.

“The ocean is a slippery creature,” I said. (Like hope.)

You will have to take my word for it that there were photographs of trucks and rocks that I took on my roadside photo safari, because I tried to upgrade my computer’s operating system and almost everything I shot in January went POOF! as surely as if the pictures had fallen into the ocean.

But, back to being the curmudgeon of cobble. I’ve been trying to read up about the project and it is pretty clunky reading. Essentially, cranberry growers, one of whom is the irrigation district director, the Shoalwater tribe, Pacific County, the North Willapa Harbor Grange and assorted citizenry banded together to get the state to spring for some rocks. $300,000 was “earmarked” for Washaway. Supposedly “dynamic revetment” has worked in California and Oregon. Why wouldn’t it work at one of the fastest eroding places in our hemisphere?

It is widely agreed that doing something is better than nothing. And, you know, I made a patio one time and I put 5/8 minus crushed gravel underneath it and it compacted very nicely. I was doing dynamic revetment before it was cool. But my little patio was not the ocean.

Erosion control techniques


So, back to me, because it’s all about me, my selfish Nope On Hope doubts are as follows.

#1: Why would it work?


You will recall that the town of North Cove has been falling into the ocean since the late 1800s. Millions of dollars have been spent, there have been wild ideas like dumping the car bodies in the ocean in the ’60’s. (See my post “Erosion Control Techniques”). There is the dubious “success” of the Rockpile Peninsula Project, where the ocean just carves around to where the rocks are not, and the guy has switched from rocks to chunks of broken concrete. I picture him sitting there with his mouth shut and his checkbook open, like the Mother of the Groom. I also will hypothesize that the past three winters here have been pretty mild, so the true test of a real storm has not yet occurred. We are about due.

I was chatting with Vern at my favorite hardware store and he thought a better and cheaper alternative would be to sink an old warship out in the channel, creating habitat for fish and pelicans AND a tourist attraction. “Maybe the Bremerton shipyard could spare one,” he suggested. “Maybe the Nimitz.”

Pelicans. I like pelicans. That’s how I roll.

#2: It’s too late for me! Like closing the barn door after the horse is gone. Like putting on hearing protection after using power equipment for ten years. I am not proud of myself for saying this, but Waaaahh, boo hoo, I miss my compound so much!

Vagabond and foxgloves

The cookhouse.

It does also seem as though the rocks’ placement favors the tribe, the cranberry bogs, and the highway. It is a work in progress, I suppose. Other areas, like my former street, Blue Pacific, have such laughable rock piles that I would not build a half-assed patio on them.

Of course, it would be great for other people if this really did work! Like my friend Ken, who is the likeliest candidate for Willy B. Next. It would be really nice if he didn’t lose his home. Or my friends Marcy and Bob, on whose property my Airstream resides, and abides. Or my friends Roberta and Dave. Or my nice friends who let me stay in their cabin sometimes. Or anyone else who loves this enchanted land, our boneyard of guests and ghosts.

#3: The shirts need improvement. (As does this photo). As they used to say at art school, “I’d like to see it taken further.” I think it would be so much funnier to use Pacific County’s own logo! Nothing says “Wash Away No More” like “Don’t try to outrun a tsunami while concurrently getting clocked on the head with a boulder!”


This could be silkscreened onto wife-beater tank tops, a la The Lusty Lady. I would totally “rock” one!




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