Monday, November 18, 2019


Amazing views of Cascades coming into Seattle...

Robert picked me up at the airport 

... and we went through the new freeway tunnel that replaced the doubledecker previous highway that ran along and obscured the waterfront - and was as well earthquake-damaged - (very similar to the former Embarcadero Freeway, but SF constructed no alternative)
The tunnel has a very dramatic drawn-out history, including the tale of the one-of-a-kind giant drill, Bertha

Robert lives in a houseboat on Salmon Bay, an industrial area across the strait from Ballard

Breakfast next day was at my favorite greasy spoon near Robert's houseboat...if I were him, I'd get a rowboat and row over - it's directly across the bay and a short trip

Went downtown and just happened to be right on the same street as my Dad's building in Seattle (second in from left). He used to take us here after we had swim lessons at the Washington Athletic Club on Saturdays up the street. Those of you who know me know that I love to swim...this is where it began...another gift from my Dad....

We used to argue with him about the pictures he had of us four sons on his desk: "Dad, I'm 11- that pic is from 3rd grade!" But he liked it.....I get it, I like it too - now, anyway! Sometimes I miss him so much...feeling that today...good Dad, lucky me... he gave me food and a roof and never raised a hand to me, and always stepped up when called....forever grateful...

I was down there to meet Alex, a good friend, who does contract work for Amazon, but actually lives in LA...

There are these pods Amazon has built with cloud forest interiors (think Andes foothills, Costa Rica, so as to preclude the need for rain - so, no connection to Seattle)...some Bezos conceit that his employees benefit from being among nature (duh) and can come out and work here (sounds like a way to keep them onsite and increase productivity, which is just recycled ideas from Apple, Google, Twitter)... almost all these tech people's largesse embarrasses me for its disingenuousness, not to mention tone deaf approach (the local rainforest isn't good enough because it's too cold and rainy, so we'll just play at environmentalism to look hip?) I thought of Silent Running, a great film from the first wave of ecological consciousness... Bezos, of course, as the villain

Because the reality is that Bezos has essentially halved mine and every other writer's royalties due to his strong-arming small publishers into a 50% I guess this forest is actually mine (or I should say ours), but I was only able to see it because I had a connection to an employee. It can of course be argued that amazon increases sales for authors due to exposure, so why am I complaining? Because there's more! It ultimately pushes its self-publishing platform as a much more profitable option, and thus has its sites on eliminating the publishing industry altogether, which has the effect of dumbing down the whole culture considerably, if not fatally, not to mention increasing disinformation, propaganda, etc. I use the amazon platform for reviews and so people can learn about my books and then buy them elsewhere... remember, when you enjoy your amazon 'discount,' Bezos has passed on those costs to authors and publishers...I don't know why Amazon hasn't been broken up as a and facebook both need to be split up in my opinion... 

The security setup looked like a subway entrance...the rest was rather Disneylandish

Alex! I love him dearly... and try to be his good gay uncle ;)
I've known him since he graduated when he wanted to work internationally, and already he's worked in France and Japan and he's just 30

Great song from Silent Running...

Did some vegan cooking at Robert's houseboat...tofurkey pasta!

...after a Manhattan in honor of Dad....

Next day, jonesing for something a tad more Central American, we headed to a pupusa food truck ...of course I had Loroco because I like the idea of eating flowers - spicy ones at that. And the curtido is always so good...

The place was teeming with Latinos, so I knew it was gonna be good - and it delivered! Was able to talk to these guys in Spanish, who were part of a work crew - most from Mexico, one guy from Nicaragua

Alvin Orloff came up from San Francisco to read with me at Elliott Bay Book Company from his new book Disasterama! We had a good crowd and a lively discussion about life, death and history

Next morning I hopped the ferry for Whidbey Island to visit my friends Michael and Jim

They have this beautiful little house on Penn Cove...very Japanese, with round windows and a little guesthouse a short walk away where I got to stay a few nights.... super restful and sweet...did me good to spend some time among the slugs, the ferns, the mulching maple leaves

The mussel farms out in the cove...long steel cables descend from docks into the deep and eventually fill up with mussels

Michael and Jim when they met 30 or more years ago...and today....

They have two little Cavalier King Charles Spaniels....

This one has the funny habit of licking and scratching its reflection in the window brother, Terry, has a dog of the same breed....

Michael and Jim are just delightful, smart, creative and loving people. And good cooks! I never wanted to leave... and they also have a really beautiful collection of art....

Lots of Native American pieces, both contemporary and traditional

Bro Buddha

Frida Buddha

We visited the Island's Historical Museum where we saw canoes, baskets, photos, native dress, etc. Jim's family has been farming on this island for over a century. Sadly, the Native population, which was one of the largest in the area, was wholly relocated in the 1850s, which is hard to think about, and why most people don't... they were peaceful and often preyed upon by tribes to the north who would come down in raiding parties as this was one of the richest fisheries in the region

I found the clothing made from cedar bark (then lined with rabbit fur) most interesting...and also the cleverness of the tribal leaders who went to Washington D.C. dressed up as Plains Indians because apparently that got you more money from the Feds than the local Cedar look... conquerors like warriors...projection

We went for dinner nearby where some friends of Jim's and Michael's - two couples, Les & Brooks and John & Joel - were staying (Joel is a highly-skilled potter, Brooks is an attorney, and Les is a nurse who did huge amounts of HIV/AIDS activism in SF in the 80s & 90s)

Joel, Brooks, Michael

John, who ran the student health center at UW for many years

Michael & Les

... they made us a delicious bouillabaisse, the perfect island meal....

Had to chance to see Dina and Laura (on right) as well for a quick visit. Laura was one of my students at Saratoga Springs in Mendocino, where I taught a 5-day writing retreat about 4 years back...she was amazing and really exploded creatively...she's gone on to write and publish a lot of poetry since and is very close to doing her first book...

Back to Seattle too soon.....

...where I fortunately got to see my good friend Tom Biehl and his wife Libby, both old friends from college days at Berkeley (they'd been out of town for the reading)...bummed I missed Andrew, their son, when I was in Minneapolis, having know idea he is now living there. He has recently graduated from Carleton, that same college I mentioned in the Minneapolis blog where Shaun Kadlec studied. Anyway, Andrew came to my first reading up here in 2004 when he was like 7, so would have been great to have him at the Minneapolis reading all these years later :) 

Failed to take a pic, so I'm using his official Doc Tom photo from hospital website...:P (he's head of Thoracic Surgery at Virginia Mason Hospital)...among other things, Tombiehl (I always merge his name as I do Tindo) took me on my first backpacking trip to the Yolla Bolly Wilderness in Mendocino County (we saw a bear and got snowed on), the beginning of a lifelong passion

Here are Andrew, Libby and Stella a few years back...third child, daughter Joey, not pictured

... then it was off to SEATAC for a harrowing few hours getting Robert onto his flight for Palm Springs where he spends each winter. It included a rental car, a flight mixup, security drama, two cats, etc. I ended up with over $4 in change and the keys to a houseboat, so I guess I came out ahead :)

Off to Portland.....


Nov. 16, Sat., 11 am, Radical Faerie Coffee
Triumph Coffeeshop
201 SE 12th Ave.
(971) 229-1631

Nov. 17, Sun., 6 pm, - Stage Reading
Crush Bar
1400 SE Morrison St.
w/Daniel Elder
(503) 235-8150

Los Angeles

Nov. 22, Fri., 7:30 pm - Reading/Q&A
Skylight Books
1814 N. Vermont Ave.
w/ Alvin Orloff & Tara Jepsen
(323) 660-1175

Palm Springs

Nov. 27, Wed., 6–8 pm – End of Tour Book Party
Palm Springs Cultural Center
2300 E Baristo Rd.
(760) 325-2582


Dec. 5, Thurs., 7 pm - Reading/Q&A
E.M. Wolfman Bookstore
410 13th St, Oakland
w/Alvin Orloff & Brontez Purnell
(510) 679-4650


  1. What a lot of living you are doing on this trip. It's more than a book tour. Wonderful experiences of people and life.

  2. As always, a terrific mixture of photography and writing. Thanks again for sharing your travels with all of us.
    Bob Groves