Tuesday, February 28, 2012

The Central District of the United States of Cold

It's cold in Seattle today.  Our Tiny Cottage rental, for quirky old house reasons, doesn't have heat in the kitchen or bathroom.  It's not enjoyable to be in either of those rooms at present.  Tonight I prepared dinner wearing mittens and took an hour-long shower so hot it nearly melted my skin off; it was the only way to make the cold a blessed relief.

The kids aren't happy about the chilly situation, either.  Lucien got out of the bath tonight and stood shivering hard and wrapped in two towels.  As he attempted to gain control of his violently shaking body, he said, "I live in the United States of Cold."

Oh God, my blog is turning into a list of things my kids say.  It's exactly what we feared.

Now I want to talk about my neighborhood.  I think it's a sign of a great neighborhood when people are as likely to greet a neighbor with friendly words as they are the homeless man who regularly pushes a grocery cart down the middle of the street. 

I love this neighborhood.  I love it for its proximity to downtown, for the diversity of its residents, the bright colors of its houses, and the deliciousness of its taco bus.  It's the C.D., baby -- The Central District -- all cozy and weird and occasionally urine-scented snuggled up next to downtown Seattle.

Houses like this happen in the C.D...

...as do shoe-covered poles

The Central District is a delightful mix of money and squalor.  Beautifully restored houses sit next to rundown saggy bungalows, and coffee shops and kid boutiques exist alongside shady looking establishments --  you couldn't pay me a million tacos to enter some of those places. 

Coffee shops with toys in the back.  God Bless the United States of Cold.

There are certainly some rough edges in the C.D.  As I've mentioned before, there are issues with racial tension and dog poop.  There's crime, as evidenced by my friends who've had their car stolen five bazillion times.  The car has always been found and returned but five seconds later they look out the window and dammit....gone again.   It's no rosy suburb, that's for sure, but I'm pretty sure it's more interesting.  It's just all us families and hipsters and criminals trying to get along.

One of the gems of the C.D. is the Central Cinema theater.  At Central Cinema, you can watch movies from the comfort of a booth while a server brings you food and beer.  I met up with Seattle Dad at Central Cinema Thursday for "Cartoon Happy Hour."  This is an inspired event where they play free cartoons for the kids and serve delicious cold brews for the adults.

 Our server had bright pink hair.  Not unheard of in the C.D.

(Central Cinema also hosts events such as sing-a-longs, quote-a-longs, and something called "hecklevision.")

For Cartoon Happy Hour, Seattle Dad and I shared a booth with our combined five children.  We also shared a pitcher of Mannys Pale Ale and a few laughs over Scooby-Doo.  Scooby-dooby-doo! Ruh-roh! Hilarious.

One little boy in front of us couldn't stay in his seat for all the popcorn in the world.  His parents would sit him in his seat and -- thunk -- that kid would go straight over sideways onto the floor.  Sit up -- thunk -- sit up -- thunk.  It would have been downright distracting if my own child hadn't been trying to drink milk through a straw stuck up his nose.

Coco staggering the long walk home, drunk on milk and cartoons.

Even if we don't get The Goddamn House, we will not leave the C.D.   This neighborhood just feels right.   We prefer neighborhoods (and people) with a few rough edges -- it really gives you something to hold onto.

Here's a song I've been listening to ad nauseum.  During these times of house uncertainty, it's cheered me immensely.  It's just about the most charming little thing I've heard. 

This is a live version at a house party, so it's not flawless sound-wise, but these people are so cute it makes up for it.  I especially like the party-goer who says, "Watch those beers, I bet they'll fall" at :36.

Central District, I belong with you, you belong with me, you're my sweetheart.  Let's do this, dammit,

Friday, February 24, 2012

When housewives go bad

Someone wrote "I love cock" in the dirt on the back of my car.  I'm not sure how long it's been there.  I wonder if it was there when I pulled up in front of the elementary school not long ago.  I got out of the car with a handful of balloons and waved at everybody.  If it was written there then, chances are slim no one noticed my grand arrival in The Cockmobile.

In further "universe out to get me" news, The Goddamn House purchase has fallen apart.  The ex-wife, who needed to sign a simple little one-sentence addendum with no downside for her, has refused to sign.  The moment I learned she wouldn't cooperate, my heart fell out and broke on the sidewalk.  Even worse, it broke on the sidewalk in front of The Goddamn House, where I just happened to be standing when our warrior real estate agent called with the news.  

But it ain't over.  We've still got some fight in us and a few more ideas.  Our warrior real estate agent, Susan, says "it isn't over until we give up" and we are not giving up, a fact that has earned us both admiration and threats of involuntary commitment from our loved ones. 

A neighbor recently discovered The Goddamn House is not difficult to get into on account of something being left unlocked.  Seattle Mom and I may or may not have taken advantage of that information to go back inside.  We may or may not have taken a bottle of wine with us for a Goddamn House Happy Hour while we brainstormed more ideas.

One idea that holds some promise is "Occupy Goddamn House" -- we could get pretty comfy in there with a generator, a couple sleeping bags, and some buckets.  It would be like camping, but illegal and surrounded by garbage and graffiti.  The other option is flying down to Texas to seduce the ex-wife, who is a lesbian (hence the "ex" part, I'm guessing).  Neighbors who know her say she is a "difficult, mean" woman.  I can't wait to sex up that scary gal. 

It's probably best to leave The Cockmobile at home for that particular mission.

There's some glorious graffiti in The Goddamn House --

I turned to Seattle Mom at one point and said,  "Damn.  I just can't shake the feeling this is our house."  Then we both turned and saw this --

Admittedly, that's damn creepy.  But how can I stop pursuing this house when the house itself is egging me on with ghostly messages, apparently from myself?

Yes, the whole house situation has put me in a bit of a funk. Thankfully, The Loosh is still around to distract me.  Recently I told him he had to pick up his toys before he could turn on the television.  He didn't like the idea and grumbled and sulked on the couch for awhile before slowly beginning to put his toys away.  He mumbled things under his breath the entire time he cleaned -- my favorite was, "Well, I guess I'm not going to be a paleontologist anymore.  I'm going to be too busy being a picking up guy." 

Thanks, angry son.  I really needed that laugh.

I'm going to be a little distant and distracted for awhile.  I'll still be around but my thoughts are decidedly elsewhere, mainly with our imminent homelessness and how to convince a mean Texas lesbian I'm irresistible.  So if I just suddenly trail off in the middle of a sentence it's because...

In it to win it, posse.
Cockmobile out,

P.S.  Has anyone else out there ever gone nuts over a piece of property?  Please?  Even if you haven't, just lie, and tell me an inspirational story that will make me believe in real estate miracles again.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Valuable People

Here we are at the neighborhood taco bus.  Again.  We may scrap our "buy a house" plan and move into the taco bus instead.  We pretty much live there already, and are accustomed to living in small spaces, so it's actually a reasonable and delicious idea.

I went out for dinner Friday with my old friend, Cavanaugh.  If you read my Paris blog back in the day, you may remember him; he's the friend who visited me on his way to butler school in the Netherlands.   He's got mad butler skills if someone out there needs a butler.

Here he's demonstrating his two-utensil one-handed serving technique.

Cavanaugh and I went to the much-acclaimed Italian joint, Spinasse, on Capitol Hill.  Spinasse has one of those menus that is short but dense; it uses language that makes it impossible to decipher what, exactly, it wants to feed you.  Cavanaugh and I dissected each item and said, "OK, I understand each of these words by themselves, but I no longer understand anything once they're placed next to each other." 

Confusing, perhaps, but it did give me some ideas -- next time I have friends over for dinner, I'm going to serve pickled dandelion soap flan with wood sauce essence and Tibetan crumpleberry foam.

I didn't get a picture of the dinner menu.  Here's the dessert menu -- not as perplexing, perhaps, but some questions nonetheless.  "Carrie's torrone gelato terrine?"  Who the hell is Carrie and how do I know her hands are clean?

It was a leisurely hours-long meal full of the most incredible Italian foodstuffs -- things like cauliflower anchovy ravioli, Brussels sprouts, beet salad, and rabbit meatballs.   Now that I've just written those words, I realize all those things sound disgusting.  Believe me, they were not. 

(We also had chicory salad with rabbit, leek ravioli, tajarin pasta with butter sage sauce, and a lot of wine.  Those sound better?)

I managed to refrain from using my patented "shove food in mouth using both hands, no utensils" technique and remained borderline socially acceptable throughout the meal.  I loved catching up with my old friend Cavanaugh but I secretly hoped he would go to the bathroom and get stuck there so I could eat his food.

Cavanaugh reminded me that back when we first became friends, we used to go to a specific Capitol Hill bar where I would drink orange beer.  It was a mandarin orange hefeweizen and I loved it so much, the bar always kept a few in the fridge just in case I showed up.  It was served in a pint glass with an orange slice.  Cavanaugh was so horrified by the whole thing at the time, it made him question our burgeoning friendship.

I'd completely forgotten about my former obsession with orange beer.  Aren't old friends valuable, to remind you how disgusting you used to be?

I went to see another old friend over the weekend.  I mentioned her before, guess I should call her Stock Trader Mom because I really have to start naming all these people with something identifiable.  Stock Trader Mom has a son similar to Lucien.  When we get together, our visits are full of half-finished conversations and lots of moving from room to room to escape the deafening noise that renders us unable to think.

I mentioned to Stock Trader Mom I was meeting Seattle Mom the next day for a "happy hour" at noon.  Stock Trader Mom raised an eyebrow and was like, "Noon?  Isn't that starting a little early?" but I assured her Seattle Mom and I had our reasons (we did, to be discussed in a later post).  About fifteen minutes later, Lucien let loose with an impressive amount of sound, frenetic activity, and wild-eyed facial expressions.  It left Stock Trader Mom speechless for a second.  When she recovered, she said, "No wonder you drink at noon."  Then she laughed so hard she cried all over the place.

Aren't old friends valuable, to remind you how much you should drink because your life is unbearable?  

Speaking of old friends -- I haven't known her as long as these other two clowns but please, we all know Virginia Mom is an old friend.  Paris years are like dog years that way.

I haven't missed Paris nearly as much as I thought I would, but I sure have missed the people we left behind.  So when Virginia Mom sent me this picture last week of her wearing a bracelet we both own, and trying to buzz into our old apartment building, with the caption "YOU'RE NOT HERE!," I had my first ugly cry since coming home.

 Damn you, Virginia Mom!

Virginia Mom was on our street because Virginia Dad is in a band now and they were playing a club seconds from our front door.  Virginia Mom said all French people in the club were sitting at tables and clapping politely between songs.  Her Anglo posse, however, was in the back dancing, singing along, and yelling.  I should have been there.  I miss those people, and miss sticking out like a sore thumb.  There was a lot of beauty in that.

Right back at ya, Virginia Mom Bracelet Twin...


Lucien got off the school bus the other day and it was immediately obvious something was upsetting him.  He was looking at the ground, kicking at the dirt, wearing a bothered expression on his punky adorable little face.  I asked him what was wrong and he said, with the weight of the world on his shoulders, "A big boy on the school bus said I don't know anything about dinosaurs."

Way to kick my boy right where it hurts, mean older boy.  You are never going to be a valuable old friend to anybody if you keep it up.

This isn't what I was going to write about today.  Not at all.  In fact, I'm really confused how I ended up here.

Sometimes blogging is a surprising journey,

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Inexplicable Gumby

We hiked our small children to the edge of a cliff over the weekend.  You can chuck those parenting awards right over here because they're definitely for us, folks.

Alex and I love the mountains and have been looking forward to the day we turn our city kids into hikers.  We chose an "easy" trail to start -- four miles round-trip with an 1,100 foot elevation gain and a killer view -- in the Cascades just forty minutes outside the city.

Our day of nature started off shaky, however, when Lucien eyed the destination peak from the parking lot and asked where the elevator was.  I told him there wasn't an elevator and he said, "Do I at least get a ladder, then?"  I began to suspect the hike was going to be an uphill climb in more ways than one.

I missed you, smell-good mountain forest

Halfway through the hike, Alex and I each had a frowny-faced child on our shoulders.  The kids hung in for as long as they could but the trail was steep and their legs are short and that was not a pleasing combination.  As I dragged Lucien up the last part of the trail by his arm, he detailed all the ways I was a horrible mommy for making him do this.

We reached the top and discovered the view almost completely obscured by fog and a sheer cliff staring us in the face.  We didn't stick around too long.  Good news is the way down was a lot of fun.  Lucien practiced counting to 100 about 100 times, which wasn't annoying at all.

That's a cliff behind my baby.  Gimme a mother award!

Despite the crabbiness and the fogginess and the incessant counting, Al and I were euphoric to be out there again.  There is nothing like the smell of the Pacific Northwest -- fresh and piney and damp earthy with an occasional whiff of red licorice.  (I had Twizzlers in my pocket.)

That evening, Alex and I attended a fundraising auction organized by our friend, Seattle Dad.  He's part of an organization whose members hit up their friends for money so they can take fancy vacations to Belize and Nicaragua and pretend to do "good work" but they are fooling no one.

While getting ready for the event, I became clothing illiterate.  I couldn't pull a decent outfit together to save my life.  At one point I looked like a Golden Girl.  At another point, Alex said, "You look like you're mentally deficient and you dressed yourself for the first time today."  There was an impressive mountain of discarded clothing in the corner.  I ended up in something safe and boring and am very fearful I've lost my Paris style mojo.

There was a silent auction and a live auction at Seattle Dad's event.  For the silent auction, I had my eye on just one thing -- a set of handmade Zambian chickens.  Unfortunately, several other people also wanted the handmade Zambian chickens so we circled and eyed each other for an hour.  The bidding got intense until I finally decided the Zambian chickens were too rich for my blood and walked away with head hung low.

In a related thought, silent auctions turn friends into enemies.  What was at first friendly wine-drinking and chit-chatting turned into, "B*tch, you best not be bidding on my spa package again."  Sleep with one eye open if you're ever a winner at a silent auction.

I have to mention Tuna Fish Girl.  Tuna Fish Girl was drunk.  I met her swaying in front of a case of 100 cans of tuna.  She really wanted that case of tuna.  She wanted it so badly she'd even outbid herself.  She'd outbid herself by so much, I didn't have the heart to tell her she could buy tuna for less than half that price down the street at the supermarket.  She said the tuna fish was going to be "the best gift ever" for her boyfriend.  I'm not sure what kind of kinky sh*t those two are into, but I do hope she won the cutthroat bidding against herself.

Alex was later handed his envelope of items he'd won in the silent auction.  He proudly pushed the paper towards me, and there was the undeniable proof my Al is the best -- he'd  won the handmade Zambian chickens, slid in there two seconds before the auction ended and outbid all those horrible chicken-coveting harpies.  I love that man.

We're Zambian chickens. Who the hell are you?

The live auction was a different kind of crazy.  It's a bad idea to have a live auction after everyone in the room has consumed large quantities of free wine at the bar.  I think a lot of people woke up the next morning and said, "Crap, I bid WHAT for that seven-day golf vacation?  I don't even golf!"  Maybe it should be a requirement people pass a breathalyzer before claiming their auction items, but then I guess there wouldn't be much money raised.

A friend at our table, Portland Dad (finally, someone with a different name on this damn blog) grabbed Alex's bid number several times and bid "for" him.  It got tense when Portland Dad bid $4,000 for a new heating system on Alex's behalf, especially when we don't even have a house to heat.  We mouthed to Portland Dad "We will keeeel you" and made strangling motions until, lucky for him, someone who actually had a house outbid us.  Then we all had the biggest laugh ha ha still friends, silly!

 It's Alex.  No idea.  It was late.

Alex and I won some great stuff.  In addition to the Zambian chickens, we won a V.I.P. day at the racetrack for four people, trapeze lessons for me and Al, private swimming lessons for Lucien with the coach of the Seattle University swim team, and a five-course Indian meal prepared at the house of our choice (it will not be ours because we don't have one) for six people.  Alex told me to win the Indian dinner "no matter what" so I bid my little heart out until I won.  Then Alex said, "OMG, you bid WHAT for the Indian dinner? OMG!" 

You should know by now, Al, that when you tell Mama to win, MAMA IS GOING TO WIN, WIN, BEAT THEM ALL even if it means certain bankruptcy.  

After the auction, unfortunately, there was karaoke.  As the place cleared and people gathered their loot and went home, everyone we knew was still there being obnoxious and terrible.

Al and Portland Dad doing "I'm Too Sexy."

Gumby suddenly and inexplicably showed up, which made me nearly pee myself.

I didn't ask either Al or Portland Dad if I could use the following footage because I was afraid they would say no.  It may disappear suddenly one of these days when they discover it so let's enjoy it while we can.  The guys are horrible but it's Inexplicable Gumby that really sends this one over the top.

Happy Valentines Day, all.  Fingers crossed you receive Zambian Chickens from your loved ones, too,

Friday, February 10, 2012

Don't stand so close to me, MJ

Lucien is trying to convince me today is a "special" day at Kindergarten so he gets to go to school naked.  He's pretty adamant about it.  I don't want to think too hard about what kind of person wants to show up in a public place naked because I have to raise that kind of person for a long time yet. 

I realized while riding in an elevator yesterday I've forgotten U.S. elevator standing distance protocol.  In Paris, you were lucky to have that tiny elevator at all, so everyone crammed on with joy, brushing up against each other's body parts and breathing coffee/cigarette breath down each other's necks.  It was a packed, sweaty, writhing mess; Parisian elevators were unfun clothed orgies.

Now when I get on an elevator in the U.S, I'm so used to getting uncomfortably close to my fellow riders, I automatically gravitate to the nearest person and start poking them with my elbows.  Yesterday I got on an elevator and, not realizing it, stood right next to a dude.  He was visibly uncomfortable.  I attempted to ease his elevator anxiety (must be claustrophobia, I thought) by looking up at him and saying "howdy!" That did nothing to alleviate his elevator agony, now completely focused on the small smiley woman standing next to him.  He really hustled off the elevator at his floor.

I realized I'd made an elevator gaff so studied the elevator dynamics closely as I rode the rest of the way to the 24th floor.  Here are the rules -- if you're the first one in the elevator, go stand in a corner.  If you're second, go stand in the other corner.  Third person, pick one of the remaining corners but don't block the buttons unless you're willing to be on button-pressing duty; otherwise someone will brush against you uncomfortably on the way to their button.  Fourth person, go to remaining corner.  Fifth person, stand in the middle as awkwardly as possible.  If any more people than that get on the elevator, the tension becomes palpable.

You should only look at the ceiling, the floor, or your smartphone when riding the elevator.  If there's a dog or small child on the elevator, you should look at them with a bemused expression on your face, even if it's forced.  For the love of God, don't look anyone in the eye.  If you don't obey all these elevator rules, you are a pervert.

OK, I think I got it.  Just give me some time to get used to it again.  I swear I'm not a pervert.  I just lived in Paris for a few years and their ways rubbed off on me, literally, in their elevators.

Other than that, let's see what else is going on... I almost got a parking ticket outside FedEx Kinkos, which was pretty exciting.  The guy only let me off because I came flying across the street with arms waving and put some money in the pay thing.   He shook a pointy finger at me and said, "No one parks for free!  No one parks for free!" and I replied, "Some of us try!  Some of us try!"

Lucien has been selected randomly by Seattle Public Schools to be a participant in a physical fitness survey.  He has to wear a pedometer to count his steps for the next week.  So I was wondering, can pedometers explode?  Because this kid moves in ways this pedometer has likely never seen before.  I don't know how, but The Loosh even manages to run while sitting down. 

He's going to skew the data.  SPS is going to be scratching their heads like, "How come kids are still fat when they're taking a gazillion steps before 9:00 a.m.?"

Good luck out there today everybody,

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

I wish I was anonymous

I am caught in the eternal dilemma of the blogger.  I am surrounded by outrageous people but feel very limited by what I'm allowed to write about them.  So, do I write the funny, often bizarre, rarely appropriate stories of what these people do, or do I preserve friendships and save my house from being burned down by the crazed madman friend who said he would do exactly that if he ever recognized himself in the blog?  (There's seriously something wrong with that guy.)

It's harder in Seattle.  In Paris I wrote primarily about French people, none of whom were ever going to read what I wrote.  Here I'm writing about people who know about the blog and sometimes even read it if they are trapped in a small space with nothing else to do.

If I write the stories, I could lose all the friends.  If I don't write the stories, I could end up with a lame blog full of things my kids say.  So I guess the question is, how much do I really like these people?

While I ponder the importance of friendship, let's talk about people who definitely do not read the blog.  Let's start with Supermodel Neighbor.  Supermodel Neighbor is not yet my neighbor and probably never will be since The Goddamn House purchase is uncertain, plus Supermodel Neighbor may move to Portland.  I finally met Supermodel Neighbor last week while out walking the neighborhood with Seattle Mom.  He came out to say hi.  Super friendly guy.

I, of course, had my usual response to him, the thing I always do when confronted with a very good looking person -- I immediately went into a coma and declined to say anything at all, instead staring at the ground and muttering occasionally about the nice weather.  I think I also mentioned I used to put Lucien on a leash when he was younger.  Ain't I a charmer?

Looks like we have another Hot Thing One situation on our hands, posse.  Dammit, I thought I was free from the sorcery of beautiful people.

Supermodel Neighbor invited Seattle Mom and I to come see all the work he's done on his house.  Twice the visit has been planned and twice it's been postponed by Supermodel Neighbor, quite possibly because he's found out about the blog and is terrified of me.  I'll fix it, though.  I'm going to hang around outside his house, possibly dangling from the eaves and staring into the windows.  When he sees me, I'm going to say, "I'm not going to be ignored, Supermodel Neighbor."  That should show him I'm harmless.  Then we'll have tea.

Chamomile for me, please
(Nope, still not really him)

Let's see... I'd also like to mention our downstairs neighbor.  She's renting the studio apartment in the basement of our Tiny Cottage and we met for the first time over the weekend.

I apologized to her about the noise, as I'm sure it can't be easy living below us.  She said it was actually a pleasure for her to hear little feet running overhead.  It reminded her of growing up with seven brothers, and of her large family full of nieces and nephews.  She told me to let the kids run around the house without worry because it brings her great joy.

At that moment I blurted out "I love you!"  It was awkward, but sometimes you just can't fight the feelings anymore.

Sunday was the Super Bowl.  It was so deliciously American, all those beefy guys running around showing off their tight butts and tackling each other all sexy-like.  We watched the game with a handful of friends at a bar in West Seattle. 

There were, of course, lots of beers consumed and lots of unhealthy foods eaten, including bacon-wrapped dates that looked like testicles.  I waited until no one was paying attention before I put one of those in my mouth -- last thing I need is someone taking pictures of me shoveling balls into my mouth and then "leaking" them online.  It would destroy my good name as a goddamn family friendly blogger.

this table is full of cheese and bacon

While waiting in the bathroom line, I heard a man whooping and screaming and carrying on obnoxiously out in the main bar.  The girl next to me suddenly turned and said, "Yep... that loud guy is totally my boyfriend."  The moment struck both of us as hilarious and we laughed so hard we had to sit down on the bathroom floor.  Don't you love it when stuff like that happens out of the blue with total strangers?  I live for it. 

There's a taco bus parked within a walkable distance of Tiny Cottage.   Having a taco bus parked so close means we eat Mexican food pretty much every single day.  It also means I sing "Taco-Flavored Kisses" from South Park pretty much every single day and let me assure you, Alex is indeed being driven up the dang wall.

But the great part is the weather -- it's been warm and crisp and clear in Seattle recently.  We've been eating delicious Mexican food sitting in our yard in the sunshine in February while the kids run around and there is not much better in this world.

Here are some pictures of the friendships I am trying to protect by not telling any of their stories.  I'm still not convinced they're worth it...

...dammit..... they totally are.

Your ridiculous secrets and lives are still safe with me, people,