Monday, June 26, 2006

Johnny_Mango's Sunday Wallpaper: Buchart Gardens...Victoria, B.C.

SEATTLE, WA--MaryAnn and I stayed for 3 days in Victoria. I had never especially wanted to go there. I have changed my mind. What a wonderful part of our world! We took a shuttle bus to the Buchart cost (including bus and admission) was $35 each. Worth it.

The Sunday Poem: Keith Althaus, "Homecoming"

American Life in Poetry: Column 065


Visiting a familiar and once dear place after a long absence can knock the words right out of us, and in this poem, Keith Althaus of Massachusetts observes this happening to someone else. I like the way he suggests, at the end, that it may take days before that silence heals over.


We drove through the gates
into a maze of little roads,
with speed bumps now,
that circled a pavilion,
field house, and ran past
the playing fields and wound
their way up to the cluster
of wood and stone buildings
of the school you went to once.
The green was returning to
the trees and lawn, the lake
was still half-lidded with ice
and blind in the middle.
There was nobody around
except a few cars in front
of the administration. It must
have been spring break.
We left without ever getting out
of the car. You were quiet
that night, the next day,
the way after heavy rain
that the earth cannot absorb,
the water lies in pools
in unexpected places for days
until it disappears.

Reprinted from "Ladder of Hours: Poems 1969-2005," Ausable Press, Keene, N.Y., 2005, by permission of the author. Copyright © 2005 by Keith Althaus. This weekly column is supported by The Poetry Foundation, The Library of Congress, and the Department of English at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln. This column does not accept unsolicited poetry.

Saturday, June 24, 2006

San Juan Island: We See Orcas From Our Campsite

Marysville, WA--We're back on the mainland. Here are some shots of some of what happened during the last week. If you have any questions, just ask.

The sun seldom shone, but it only rained once in the 10 days we were on our bikes. San Juan Island has some steep hills and a little more traffic than Lopez. The scenery was beautiful...including seeing a pod of orcas one evening. No pictures...they were pretty far out in the water. One kayaker camped nearby, however, was right out there among them.

Every campground out here has a designated shared campsite for hikers, bikers, and kayakers. The cost is something like 5 bucks per person. What this means is that, even if the campground is full, no "hiker-biker" finds himself SOL. Such was the case for us at San Juan County Park. All the sites were reserved, but we used the hiker/biker campsite.

We rode to the campground using the northern route across the island by way of Roche Harbor. Roche Harbor is so picturesque you could call it Disneyland for Millionaires because of all the yachts. We rode back to Friday Harbor using the southern route past the lighthouse at Lime Kiln. Here we bought ferry tickets to Sidney, B.C. The ferry didn't get into Sidney until after suppertime so we spent the night there.

The ferry system is used to bikes. They have tie-downs for them and lots of bikes make the trips. The real neat thing is that for inter-island travel (not to Sidney) the ferry is FREE to pedestrians and once you get to an island you could spend all summer going back and forth FREE as long as you don't have a vehicle.

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Johnny_Mango's Sunday Wallpaper: Salmon Berries on Lopez Island

SIDNEY, B.C., CANADA--Surrounding our campground at Odlin State Park on Lopez Island were thousands and thousands of ripening salmon berries. As beautiful as they looked, however, they were extremely sour tasting. Beauty, I guess, does not apportion itself among all five senses equally.

The Sunday Poem: Lola Haskins...Don't miss this short piece!

American Life in Poetry: Column 064


Storytelling binds the past and present together, and is as essential to community life as are food and shelter. Many of our poets are masters at reshaping family stories as poetry. Here Lola Haskins retells a haunting tale, cast in the voice of an elder. Like the best stories, there are no inessential details. Every word counts toward the effect.

Grandmother Speaks of the Old Country

That year there were many deaths in the village.
Germs flew like angels from one house to the next
and every family gave up its own. Mothers
died at their mending. Children fell at school.
Of three hundred twenty, there were eleven left.
Then, quietly, the sun set on a day when no one
died. And the angels whispered among themselves.
And that evening, as he sat on the stone steps,
your grandfather felt a small wind on his neck
when all the trees were still. And he would tell us
always, how he had felt that night, on the skin
of his own neck, the angels, passing.

Reprinted from "Desire Lines: New and Selected Poems," BOA Editions, 2004, by permission of the author and the publisher. Copyright © 2004 by Lola Haskins. This weekly column is supported by The Poetry Foundation, The Library of Congress, and the Department of English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. This column does not accept unsolicited poetry.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Loved Lopez...But Left for Friday Harbor on Thursday

FRIDAY HARBOR, SAN JUAN ISLAND, WA.--It was an exciting time as we boarded the ferry at Anacortes bound for Lopez Island last Tuesday. MaryAnn had never carried panniers before...except for two times around the parking lot just before we got on the ferry. And I had never been on a boat without getting sick. But the short 30 minute voyage went okay.

We went to Lopez Island first because it was the flattest and had the reputation of being the most laid back. We loved it. We camped at Odlin State Park which was only a mile and a half from the ferry landing. By the way, no matter where you go on any island the ferry landing is always the lowest point. Everything is uphill...and in this case we had a steep mile before we hit the campground. Odlin is beautiful. We stayed two nights, touring different parts of Lopez each day.

The first day we just went down the road to Lopez Village because MaryAnn's bike wouldn't shift into the smallest chainring. No wonder that hill seemed so steep! Lopez Bicycle Works fixed it. It was a stupid thing. MaryAnn's second bottle cage wouldn't let the derailler move over enough to get into the small chainring.
The Handlebar Facts (Day One):
  • Distance: 12.3 mi.
  • Ride Time: 1:32
  • Avg Speed: 8.34
  • Max Speed: 29.5
  • Trip: 12.3
The second day on the island we went in a big loop to Spencer Spit, down to Shark Reef, up to Lopez Village again and back to Odlin. It was a beautiful ride on roads that were basically free of traffic. The only road with any significant traffic was Center Road. Most of the traffic is shortly before or after the ferry docks.

We met two Canadian couples at the campground. Both couples were biking, but one of the couples, Marlene and Dave(?), was doing fully-loaded touring like we were. They lived right across the water in Victoria, B.C.
The Handlebar Facts: (Day Two)
  • Distance: 23.5
  • Ride Time: 2:53
  • Avg Speed: 8:33
  • Max Speed: 30.8
  • Trip: 35.8
We ran into Marlene and Dave again as we boarded the ferry for Friday Harbor on San Juan Island. I'm not going to list any data for today because it was only 1.5 miles to the ferry and less than half a mile from the landing to our hotel in Friday Harbor. We got rooms in Friday's Historic Inn. We got the smallest room they had...but it did have a balcony and wi-fi. The price was $99.

But the big story of the day has to be MaryAnn's anticipation of tomorrow's loaded ride to the County Park on the other side of the island. You see, although I have called it "loaded" touring, we have actually covered less than 2 miles while loaded. Such are the ironies of our happy lives. Well, tomorrow will tell.

But MaryAnn is certainly looking good over here. What is hotter than a biker chick? Nada.

Monday, June 12, 2006

Betting It All On Two Bikes and a Ferry

ANACORTES, WASHINGTON--Two weeks ago I had never heard of Anacortes, and two years ago I had never heard of the San Juan Islands. Yet here we are, after more than 3 days of driving, waiting in Anacortes for tomorrow's ferry ride to the those small islands north of Seattle, the San Juans.

Our plan is this: we are leaving our vehicle in the Anacortes parking lot and taking only our bikes. We plan to bike our way through Lopez, San Juan, Orca, and Shaw islands. We figure to spend about a week doing this...camping out, drinking coffee, staying in b&b's, staring at the ocean and sunsets. Our rides each day will only be about 10 to 20 miles. MaryAnn is carrying all her own stuff in a pair of panniers and a sack bungied to the top of them. I'm pulling my trusty little Yakima trailer.

Meanwhile, we spend the night in Anacortes. Our bags are packed...but I'm sure we will have to repack them in the morning. We'll get to the ferry early because I'm going to have to assemble the trailer and prepare the bikes before we go. We have eaten everything in the cooler, including a giant portion of improvised chicken florentine with vermicelli.

Did I mention that it is cool here? The bank thermometer says 64 degrees at about 9:00. We took a walk down to the marina. It is only a block away from our motel. I have always dreamed of ships ever since I was a little boy. I would search the dictionary for types of sailing vessels. The dictionary would always have a picture of each type: schooners, sloops, catboats, yawls, ketches, brigs. I loved them. My tendency towards motion sickness tempers my enthusiasm at this point in my life.

On the way here we went through the Tolt honor of The Artist Ken Saville, who talks of this place often. He comes up here almost every summer to do art workshops with school kids. I called him on the phone as we did it. He urged me to get a hamburger from the stand in Fall City. We did. And it was pretty darn good.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Johnny_Mango's Sunday Wallpaper: The Nob Hill Growers Market

NOB HILL--Thursday afternoons are a community shopfest at Morningside Park right in back of the new Aliso lofts. Half picnic half market, small but "growing," this is going to last all summer. We picked up some mushrooms and a bunch of golden beets.

The Sunday Poem: David Tucker, Poet of the Newsroom

American Life in Poetry: Column 063


Remember those Degas paintings of the ballet dancers? Here is a similar figure study, in muted color, but in this instance made of words, not pigment. As this poem by David Tucker closes, I can feel myself holding my breath as if to help the dancer hold her position.

The Dancer

Class is over, the teacher
and the pianist gone,
but one dancer
in a pale blue
leotard stays
to practice alone without music,
turning grand jetes
through the haze of late afternoon.
Her eyes are focused
on the balancing point
no one else sees
as she spins in this quiet
made of mirrors and light—
a blue rose on a nail—
then stops and lifts
her arms in an oval pause
and leans out
a little more, a little more,
there, in slow motion
upon the air.

Reprinted from the 2005 Bakeless Prize winner "Late for Work", by David Tucker, Houghton Mifflin, 2006, by permission of the author. "The Dancer" first appeared in "Visions International", No. 65, 2001. Copyright © 2001 by David Tucker. This weekly column is supported by The Poetry Foundation, The Library of Congress, and the Department of English at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln. This column does not accept unsolicited poetry.

Saturday, June 10, 2006

Love-In at the Hilton

BOISE, IDAHO--Downloading the pictures from my little Nikon, I ran across these snapshots taken at Tuesday's election night party at the Hilton in ABQ. These parties are always called "victory parties" no matter the outcome. The word IRONY pops into my head whenever I see the mortal enemies of an election hug each other during or right after the vote count. Such was the case last Tuesday.

In the biggest throw-down, Messrs. King, Martinez, and Zamora called each other's sanity into question amid accusations of being soft on child abusers, DWI, and rapists. On Tuesday night we find them ready to make nice even before all the votes were counted. Enough had been counted, however, that they were all aware that Gary King (on the left) was the winner.

Ray Powell and Jim Baca smiled at each other...but I can't recall an actual embrace. Maybe it was because the race was so close that nobody knew until the next day who the real winner was. I think that these two races, AG and Land Commissioner, point out how rich in candidates the Dems are in New Mexico. The Republicans, on the other hand, are having a hard time even getting people to run for the state races.

There is one exception: the House district for ABQ and central New Mexico has a Republican encumbent, Heather Wilson. Her challenger will be Patricia Madrid, who had no opposition in Tuesday's primary. Democratic party leaders say she has the best chance of beating Wilson of anybody they have ever run. Well...maybe.

Meanwhile, Governor Bill Richardson hung around the Hilton long enough after his speech to have his picture taken with my gf, the Beautiful MaryAnn. I'm sorry the picture isn't too good...I was feeling some time pressure. At any rate, the Gov was in Las Vegas this weekend addressing political bloggers at their convention.

I am not at the convention. MaryAnn and I are on vacation. We are driving up to Washington and British Columbia. So far we have made it to Boise. More later.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Chess Master Punches Out Rival for Dancing With His Queen

TURIN, ITALY--This just in from The Times of London. British Grandmaster Danny Gormally punched and shoved the world's number 3 player Levon Aronian at the Chess Olympiad in Turin Monday. They ended up rolling on the floor. At the heart of the dust-up was Arianne Caoili, 19, Women's International Master playing for Australia.

Apparently Gormally had struck up a serious email exchange with the Philippine-born Caoili and got incensed when he found her dancing with the leading light of Armenian chess. The next day, in retaliation, Gormally was attacked while drinking coffee at a cafe by a band of Armenian chess hooligans.

Things went south for England in the tournament...they were eliminated while Armenia, emboldened by the taking of Gormally's queen, came in first.

Gormally, 30, found Caoili dancing "energetically" with Aronian at a party held in a local nightclub called “Hiroshima Mon Amour.” He apologised for braining Aronian the next day to the Armenian team leader...who also happens to be Armenia's defense minister. After losing, Gormally went home to London where he lives in a house with his parents.

Ariane Coaili is ranked no. 3 in Australia. She is also one of the featured personalities of a website called "World Chess Beauty Contest." Although she is sometimes referred to as the Anna Kournikova of the chess world, her rank at the WCBC is No. 7. God, I love chess.

She released the following statement in the Italian chess blog, Scacchierando.
“ I only danced with my friend Aronian, that I know since I was child. I was dancing salsa and nobody of us danced provocatively. I think that Gormally became violent due to assumption of medicine and alcohol. This is cause of sadness, because I know both from many years.”