Sunday, December 30, 2007

Wedding Day

Sublime. People kept asking us to get married regularly if it meant an event like last night's. The ceremony was brief but moving:
We chose "In My Life" to commemorate Mark and Laura as well as to express our feelings for each other. 

More tomorrow, when I can publish the dinner menu. I can't say enough about the dinner and celebration after, though. For now, I am blessed with health, two great sons, two great stepsons, and someone to spend the rest of my life with whom I love as a wife, dear friend, and trusted confidant. 

Last night, I asked the hotel receptionist for an extra room pass for "my wife." I haven't been able to say that in over seven years. It sure felt good. And right.

Saturday, December 29, 2007


M-Day! Three of my four bros arrived yesterday. I'd just picked up Dad and Rosa when Jim called to tell me that he, Joe, and Frank were here and on their way from the airport. And Bob should be here this morning. 

While cleaning out my closet earlier in the morning, I found a wonderful picture of Mom, Dad, and Frank's daughter Phyllis when she was a baby. Mom would love T. (and vice versa). So much has happened since Mom died -- the MS scare and cancer; Laura's death; the boys' growing up, graduating, and leaving for college; T. coming into our lives -- that it's as if a lifetime came and went. 

At four, off to Cafe Juanita and the rehearsal. The chairs reconfigured. A song incorrectly downloaded. But the room looks right and we're ready. After, a nice dinner at the Pomegranate Bistro then off to celebrate my last night of bachelorhood with my brothers. Except that I'm worn out and they're done in from a day of flying. So I watched reruns of The Rifleman and Oz, took a Xanax, and went to bed. Tonight, my third life begins.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

T Minus 2 Days and Counting...

Christmas was great. We went to T.'s for dinner; her in-laws joined us. No need to remark on the excellence of the prime rib or the decadence of the desserts. Suffice to say that they were all of the above.

We filled yesterday tying up wedding loose ends: Assigned dinner seating, selected vows, sequenced the service, bought wedding party gifts, and managed to sneak in the final episode of the first season of Dexter. How do we do it?

Laura's sister and her family arrived last night and came over for lunch today. I haven't seen her in seven years. They look so much alike that it gave me a bit of a shock. Emmy, their newly adopted 10-year old daughter, came, too. What a beautiful little girl, and very shy. Andy, Bill, and PK started talking as if they saw each other every day. The cousin bond is something special.

Dad and Rosa arrive tonight and the bros drift in tomorrow. This is really happening!

Monday, December 24, 2007

Bedford Fallen

PK and I inaugurated a new holiday tradition this afternoon: The Sopranos Christmas Eve marathon. Hey, it's the little moments like these that are worth remembering.

Now, we're immersed in It's A Wonderful Life while Bill is out with friends. Charles Lane, the actor who plays Mr Potter's rent collector, died earlier this year at the age of 102. His movie and TV career spanned over 75 years and he made over 600 appearances. Now that's a working actor. His final credit was earlier this year, a reading of "The Night Before Christmas." Next year, his particular wonderful life will be the subject of a documentary, You Know The Face. No word on where it will be shown.

Meanwhile, PK and I have been imagining Bedford Falls in 1968, 22 years after the events at the end of the film. The men all have sideburns and hair over their ears. George Bailey and Violet have been having an affair for years. (George originally strayed because of Mary's addiction to prescription drugs.) Harry Bailey has been married and divorced three times; his current mistress just graduated from high school. Sam Wainwright is winding up a prison term served for insider trading. Zuzu is a flower child; brother Peter is the local drug dealer. Potter disappeared mysteriously after the Mafia infiltrated his empire. Also, the Cosa Nostra have taken over Martini's restaurant for use as a front. (Nick has become a low level enforcer.) George has fended off their attempts to move in on the Building & Loan, but they're threatening to whack Peter for nonpayment of drug loans. Meanwhile, Ernie the Cabbie's hack has been pulled out of Lake Bedford with Ernie's sodden body slumped over the steering wheel. Bert the Cop, now a corrupt police chief on the take, is no help. And everyone is concerned about the plans of neighbor Max Yasgur to rent out his farm next summer for use by a rock music festival. Can Clarence Oddbody help straighten this out, or is he too in thrall to the teachings of Timothy Leary?

Anyone who wants to fill in more blanks, please do.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Marble Cake

Today's email brought this drop of love from a friend of 34 years:

A widowed friend is marrying
A woman who lost her husband
Four years ago
I picture batter in a bowl
Chocolate marbling into white
Flavors blending but retaining
Separate integrity
As the mixture stirs and rises to a cake of marvelous height
Layered in the variegated texture of memory
All-over iced with future sweetness
Melting on the tongue
-Nita Lou Bryant

Friday, December 21, 2007

What A Day!

And it all started last night! T. had a neighborhood Christmas party with about 20 guests. Reilly designed and prepared the menu, Nelson and Carly served, and a splendid time was had by all. I can't possibly do the menu justice (and I'm sure T. describes it in her blog) and won't try. I will say that the neighborhood took up a collection for the chef and that he did quite well for himself. Everyone in the neighborhood thinks so highly of T. I know that she will miss them and be missed. But they've welcomed me from the get-go, and I know we'll stay in each other's lives.

This afternoon, the two of us did a bit of last-minute shopping at Costco, then went to the King County Courthouse to apply for the wedding license. Then, we celebrated with lunch at Cafe Paloma. I told her that I couldn't imagine my life with anyone else but her, and I can't. That love has happened for me twice is a blessing beyond words.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

No Country For Old White Men

West Texas is a violent lawless place, but according to No Country for Old Men, it's also filled with lots of good folks under siege. We know they're good because one of them (Josh Brolin) wakes up in the middle of the night to risk his neck bringing water to a drug runner he left for dead earlier in the day. We know this because Tommy Lee Jones loves his wife (Tess Harper), and there are no greater icons of cinematic rectitude and probity that those two. Plus, there's a wizened store owner whose integrity won't allow him to call a coin flip until he knows what the stakes are, and a mobile home park manager so bent on protecting her tenants' privacy that she stands firm in the face of the fiercest intimidation Javier Bardem has to offer. 

Sadly, it's also 1980 and hordes of badass Mexican heroin smugglers have begun an incursion into this bucolic nirvana. Of course, as Barry Corbin reminds us, as recently as "nineteen-and-oh-nine" treacherous Indians wreaked barbarous havoc on good white folks who never had a racist bone in their land-grabbing bodies. No Country picks up just as the Golden Age of 1910-1979 winds down. It's a shameful time, one when smarmy Mexican gangsters take easy advantage of terminally ill white women and a murderous thug with an unpronounceable Eastern European name (a surplus of lame jokes make this point) operates with impunity.

In most ways, No Country is typical Coen brothers fare: Inventive violence, excellent cinematography and location work, good acting across the board, memorable set pieces, and all adding up to not very much. The final 15-20 minutes are as baffling and inexplicable as the many accolades this disappointing film has garnered. In fact, throughout the movie, characters appear and disappear without explanation. Sloppy transitions from one plot element to the next give the impression that whole hunks of the film were lopped out as wantonly as Anton Chigurh dispatches another victim. (The director's cut will no doubt fill in the gaps, but that would mean watching three hours of this claptrap.) And whatever happened to that pickup truck bed full of heroin?

In truth, No Country does add up to something: Racist, xenophobic drivel tarted up as art. All the long shots of llano estacado and Tommy Lee Jones' laconic wit can't change the final image of the sociopathic Chigurh pressing on like a zombie from Night of the Living Dead. The immigrants are coming and, well, as Chigurh might say, the Coen brothers think they know how it's going to end and it won't be pretty. Praise the movie if you will, but call it for what it is, friend-o. 

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Humbug, Not

Fifteen years ago, Laura and I took Bill and P.K. -- then aged 8 and 6 -- to the ACT Theatre for their annual production of A Christmas Carol. They loved it, and we've been going ever since. Some years back -- when the ACT moved downtown -- we added a steak dinner apres-show at the Union Street Grill. (When the Union Street changed its menu, we switched to Ruth's Chris.) Somewhere along the line, we began the evening by viewing the Gingerbread Village in the Sheraton Hotel. The last three years, T. and her sons have joined us. We have all come to eagerly anticipate the evening.

Maybe it's me, but last night's outing was especially nice. For starters, the performance was the best in years. The director made some subtle alterations to the script that freshened things, the actor playing Scrooge portrayed him as a real person and not a caricature, and the Jacob Marley was the best we've seen. (Marley has the best scene, and we usually analyze the performance to death.) And at dinner the six of us were so comfortable together. Since there were five men, the conversation veered from literature to sports, movies to video games. T. more than held her own, and pointed out that every year we close the evening with a discussion of boxing. My new family!

After, Bill met up with some friends leaving the Queens of the Stone Age concert. I dropped PK off and went home. Before hitting the sack, I pulled out the DVD of the Red Sox' game 6 triumph over the Indians. Just as I hit the Start button, Bill and Pete walked in, followed not long after by PK. The four of us watched the highlights of games 6 and 7 contentedly, past, present, and future seeming for once assured.

Monday, December 17, 2007

A Day in the Life...

...of a soon-t0-be-married man:
  • Go to the gym and lift weights. There's plenty of time to slack off and go to seed after the wedding;
  • Drop off wedding suit with a tailor. I've actually lost weight since I got the suit, so it needs taking in;
  • Print out song lyrics for a wedding favor and get them printed and trimmed;
  • Take wedding shirt and wedding trip shirts to the cleaner for pressing;
  • Stop by a friend's house and unsuccessfully try to get her television to work. My theory is that the male gene that makes us one with consumer electronics begins a process of gradual feminization once we turn 30. Of course, it doesn't help that I can barely read the print identifying the ports in the TV, Tivo, and receiver;
  • Get a cup of coffee and read from this very good book that I'll write more about later;
  • Order pizza.
Killian's Downloads:
Everybody's Brother (Billy Joe Shaver)
Draw the Curtain (Will Hoge)

Sunday, December 16, 2007

La Familia

Bill arrived last night at 9:35 and P.K. showed up this morning. A friend of Bill's has already dropped by. Energy! I like having young people and small children (the brother and sister across the street are gems) around, and I've never understood people who don't. 

Bill woke up early and assembled the Christmas tree. I got out the ornaments. Bill, P.K., visitors, and I will slowly but surely add them to the tree over the next 10 days. It's a nice way for the tree to take shape. After Laura's death, it wasn't easy for any of us to do the traditional buy-a-tree-one-night-and-decorate-it-the-next-morning thing. But, we all want a tree, so we do it this way. A few years ago, I found a great artificial model with lights already installed. It opens like an umbrella. Plug it in and -- voila! -- we have our tree! Sometimes, ingenuity trumps tradition.

Killian's Read: Drama City (George Pelecanos). Hard hitting novel about "the life" and those who try to escape it. Pelecanos -- a regular writer for The Wire -- produces one of his best and evokes sympathy for even the most reprehensible characters.

Friday, December 14, 2007


Weird, hallucinogenic dreams fueled by yesterday's meds, a martini, and oysters. I'm not sure whether I recommend them or not. Lost in a combination of Disneyland and a World's Fair in San Antonio, Texas. Unable to find the way out, I keep getting deeper in. At one point, I'm trapped in an installation honoring a British artist. (Where are the rides?) The access points to a dome-like room becomes smaller and smaller until I am in a room with an Easter Island-like bust comprised of layers of papier-maiche as thick as egg cartons. It is quite striking, with the technique inspired by Chuck Close . And as good as the sculpture is, it would be nice if I could find a way out of the room. There are false doors and exits that lead nowhere. Eventually, I do escape -- if that's the word -- and wind up visiting my old college, which has changed beyond recognition: All of the lower campus parking lots are now filled by retail space and lecture halls.

This is not the first dream I've had about some truly excellent original art or music. Once, I dreamed of an original symphony. Of course, I awoke and couldn't recall a note. Even as I write, the details of the installation fade. It's like the dream mines some deep creative inspiration that I simply don't have the talent to realize. (The art or music is invariably someone else's work.) Well, we can dream, can't we?

Thursday, December 13, 2007


Broke a tooth two weeks ago. Dentist today. Two shots of xylocaine. Then three. Then four. Ugh. Thank God/Allah/Buddha/Higher Power for Xanax is all I have to say.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Whose Child Is This?

Some friends have taken in a baby boy via the foster care system with the intent of adopting him. He came with nine broken bones from abuse he had suffered. A baby. It's not that I didn't know that such things happened, but the sudden proximity has left me still shaken. But in truth it's not merely the nearness -- it's the knowledge that I've been there. No, I've never assaulted my children or anyone else's. But what parent -- stressed from a difficult day with bills overdue -- hasn't come close to snapping?

As a culture, we have in effect discarded far too many of our children. They live in poor neighborhoods, attend ineffective schools, receive inadequate health care. For the most part, their crime is to have been born into poverty. Indeed, it seems as if there is no worse crime in this country than to be poor. 

Sadly, inexplicably, Jesse Jackson's words to the 1988 Democratic party convention ring even more true today: "Most poor people are not lazy. They're not black. They're not brown. They're mostly white, and female, and young. Most poor people are not on welfare. I know they work. I'm a witness. They catch the early bus. They work every day. They raise other people's children... They clean the streets... They work in hospitals... They wipe the bodies of those who are sick with fever and pain. They empty their bedpans. They clean out their commode. No job is beneath them, and yet when they get sick, they cannot lie in the bed they made up every day. America, that is not right. We are a better nation than that..." Would that we were...

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

July, July

Killian Read July, July (Tim O'Brien). A group of college friends (Class of '69) meet up at a class reunion for a long weekend of reminiscing and recriminations. Whether they achieved their dreams and remained true to their Sixties' ideals or not, all are uncertain, disappointed, and haunted (literally) by false hope, roads not taken, and ghosts of their own making. (One character is even named "Spook.") The novel takes few chances and is held back by stock characters such as fat and homely class clowns and unfilled suburban wives and mothers, not to mention deep dark secrets that turn out not to be so deep or dark after all. On the other hand, O'Brien writes well -- beautifully, at times -- of the folly of relying on other people to fulfill one's hopes and dreams. 

Monday, December 10, 2007

Home Sweet Home?

Today, T. and I actually saw a house that we could get excited about. It's in Seattle's Leschi neighborhood, sort of up in the trees. The location reminds me of the communities on the central California coast outside of Santa Cruz. A giant fir rises above the house, its branches a lavish canopy. The top floor looks onto the lower branches, which seem to comprise a world of their own. Lake Washington idles gently in the near distance. The house has room for and space for the kids when they're visiting. On the other hand, it's not too big. One thing that comes with middle age is a great desire to downsize and discard the detritus of years of acquisition. And there's a lot of detritus.

I think of all the Christmas gifts I got for L. through the years. She most treasured a small tree ornament from the Armadillo Christmas Bazaar. A ceramic Santa emerged from a ceramic chimney toting a ceramic toy laden sack. A pair of ceramic stockings dangled from a ceramic mantel. The stockings detached and doubled as earrings. One holiday season, she misplaced the earrings in the party shuffle. She searched until she found a pair to serve as a replacement, a pair that even attaches to the ornament. All those, I'm keeping.