Wednesday, July 07, 2004

Ouchy Grouchy

Just got back from the beach. Picked up three nice greenling, two females and a male. They're pretty fish. Google: Kelp Greenling.

Caught a little bullhead, and was not happy to find out I'd left my pliars at home. I was not happy digging the fishhook out of his mouth. It was too big a hook just to snip and leave in him, and I had to bloody up his mouth to get it out of him. And he had inch-long bone spines on his head I had to duck. Laid him carefully in the surf to give him time to recover with each receding wave. He swam off fine.

While pulling the hooks out of the big female greenling, jabbed myself twice but good with fishhooks (well, with my idiot double-rig, why not? It catches fish. It catches PEOPLE). Missed the pliars again.

Hadn't been paying attention to Rocko the big lab or Rebel the blue heeler. They were right up on my butt, as I bent over studiously wrapping a mess o' mussel booger around the hook rig.

Suddenly -- and I know it was Rebel -- somebody did a bite. And there I was, pinned down under a dog fight in the middle of my back, with hooks and mussel in my face.

Next thing I was on my feet, scared to death and madder than hell. I started fire-hosing handfuls of pebbles at those dogs, and chewing them out at the top of my lungs. They QUIT. Then I let go at full volumn. I flayed both dogs like a roaring bear with my tongue for about 8 minutes. We're talkin' Marine drill sergeant.

"You will NEVER fight on a human! You will NEVER do that again! I catch you coming near me when I'm fishing, and you're both going to be too sorry damn hounds! We're talkin' you two idiots will be happy if you have four legs and an eye left to walk on or SEE out of! You will never ever ever EVER fight near a HUMAN!!!!"

I mean, I laid law down like it was cobblestones. You probably heard it.

Rebel took off for home, and Rocko just looked like I'd beaten him. Which I might as well have done. He was one sorry make-up-to-mommy dog for the rest of the time he was on the beach. And it wasn't even his fault. I ended up throwing him cleaned mussel shells to keep him busy. He was so happy. Master was happy again! Dogs. It's all it takes.

Later sliced myself good with the fish knife. It was like a First Nations grandma reached out and gave me a good slice to say "No, bad child! That's not how you fillet a fish! It's sloppy and dangerous and wastes meat!"

Blood just everywhere. Fish and mine.

BUT will never forget to bring my pliars again. Or fillet fish THAT way.

We live and learn. You should see the nice clean pretty fillets.

Fish fry tonight!

And hopefully better-behaved dogs.

Tuesday, July 06, 2004

The Lost Weekend, Day Two, Part Two.

Okay. Time for the evening activities, including -- ta da! -- The Fireworks At Neah Bay.

Dan gets cleaned up, and I get a nap, and we wait 'till about 7:00 on a beautiful sunny afternoon, with a cool breeze coming off the Strait of Juan de Fuca (Mapquest it). I recalled I hadn't cornered Ken Dehnert yet, and since I'm taking the camera anyway, we drive up and stop off at his house. It's easy to recognize. With a view of the Strait, Ken has filled his yard full of 1/2 life-size wooden, painted killer whales, swimming and diving through the grass like water.

I wanted to do an interview about Ken and his work, but he doesn't want any more publicity -- he gets enough from people just driving by. He's happy doing gnome-style trees and selling a few paintings. He's been through the gallery thing and the agent thing, and he doesn't want that again. And that's why a lot of these people are up here -- whatever they do, art, fishing, writing, you name it -- they want to enjoy what they do, have a bit of a day job, and be left alone. Ya gotta respect that. And if there's anyplace you could do that, it's here.

Just be on the lookout for Ken's killer whales. Because the first time you see 'em, you'll nearly drive off onto the beach. They're that great. Slow down, and you'll catch the two harbor seals and the sea lions poking up out of the grass sea and watching the pod.

So we go ahead and drive up on up the coast to Neah Bay. The light is limpid on the water and the Kalakala, the streamlined ferry, quietly rusting away in the outer harbor. We didn't quite know where the fireworks were, so we looked for someplace that might be open. On the left side of the road was a fry-bread stand, homemade, out of plywood. We pulled onto the right side of the road. I hopped out of the car and walked toward the stand. A group of people was sitting across from the stand, in front of our car, and a young woman in an apple-leaf-green jacket jumped up and came running toward me.

"I'm sorry!" she grinned. "We're still warming up the oil!"

I said, "No, I just wanted to know where the fireworks were."

"Oh, they're down by the elder center, down by the beach. It's really something if you watch it from there, but all the smoke is hard on the breathing. This is my family," she said, and swept an arm at them. "And we just sit here across from our house, and watch from here."

"It's about 10:00?"

"Yup. You want to join us? We're just bone-gaming. Have a seat!"

"Hey, can I go get my husband?"

"Of course!"

I went back and got Dan. We slipped in on one of the raised logs that were set up around the folding chairs where the family was sitting. They were drumming and chanting, and using what appeared plastic thread spools as "bones." What looked like thick chopsticks with sparkly blue ends were the ten counting sticks. Maybe they were made of bone, bleached white. The point of the game didn't so much seem to be the count of sticks, as how much fun they could have doing complicated fake-out hand-movements and chants, to the rhythm of a hide drum. I kinda sorta started to figure out the rules, with the help of one of the guys, while I petted a "Really Stinky" dog, as he was called, a handsome friendly guy -- "He's always finding something stinky to roll in," said the guy, rubbing the dog's head affectionately. The dog's name meant "Lightning" in the Makah language, but they used a short version (my apologies for my bad memory, as usual). The funniest, liveliest member of the family was the grandmother, in her baseball cap, brightly patterned blanket, and big smile. She was good at winning the sticks.

The man with the drum across from her who kept losing sticks to her said, "I'm respecting my elders, is what I'm doing. See? This is respecting my elders," he said, and threw Grandma another stick while she clapped and hooted at him and told him to keep right on respecting them elders.

The woman who had invited us chatted with me, and turns out she's a teacher at the Neah Bay school. Pretty quick, we'd exchanged phone numbers. Neah Bay has plenty to say, culturally, socially, and politically. Nuee V. Ward says she has dances and cultural events I need to bring my camera to, and write articles about. Good things!

Dan had had to leave to find a restroom, but he was gone for a bit so I thanked the family for their hospitality, and took off with the car to find Dan. I found him walking back. He hadn't found a restroom, but he'd walked off his stomach cramps wandering out toward the Kalakala, and he felt better.

We drove on toward the beach, and at the far end of the beach area, parked in front of the Elders Center. Porta-potties! Whee! I'm always glad to see those. I grew up traveling in the woods and using those old rotten wooden restrooms. I'm sorry for being such a plastic person, but them old restrooms reeked. Americans don't know how to compost human manure cleanly and safely, without filth and smell. We're not Koreans or the Chinese, after all. The best we can do is use a lot of chemicals to stop the stink and the infective capabilities of what comes out of our own bodies. I apologize for using Porta-potties, but I wish I had stock in the franchises.

We wandered out on the beach and the kids around us were beginning to set off good ol' Fourth-0f-July Fireworks. Big dogs wandered calmly around, grinning, helping out. The kids all had big long lit punks in their hands, and were hauling handfuls and backpacks of fireworks down to the sandy beach. The beach was already full of burnt out firework bits. There were rockets of every size. And burning whirly things, and spinning things, and huge explosive things. Whoa. You couldn't buy these brutes back in Seattle, I tell ya. We got off the beach so the burning bits didn't end up on our heads and set us on fire.

By now, we realized we should have brought something to eat and drink, because this wasn't some kind of fair or public display. This was a family get-together, and most places were closed. People were there to enjoy themselves, blow off fireworks, sell a couple sweatshirts for funding for Makah Days, and have cookouts on the beach. We were definitely getting the munchies, and we were quite a ways from Nuee's family -- we wouldn't have wanted to infringe. Though, come to think of it, they would probably have been proud to share; "Makah" means "People who will feed you" on the Northwest coast. We could always have bought some of that good coffee and frybread from them. Maybe next year, we could bring something nice along, and join in. We had to hunt around to find a place still selling food, and got lucky.

In a little blue building, built within the last year, we discovered Raven's Corner, the art gallery, had moved out of its house and into a business cubicle. The art's gorgeous -- nothing naive or primitive about this. It's modern developments of the living, breathing Northwest Coastal Art. If this stuff was good in 1895, it's even more vibrant today. An "exploding" Raven mask, opened to show the inner beak lined with turquoise-painted filigree, and the Sun in bright beaten silver. Price: $3000.00. That was a lot of work, in carving and metalwork and painting, and a lot of precious metal. Worth the price. And it will appreciate. Wish I had the money.

We found, in the same building, a little pizza place. Smelled good. So we went in and ordered one, a large with one topping -- pepperoni -- and a couple soft drinks. Root beer and -- lord knows why, for me -- strawberry soda.

We went outside to sit on a picnic table, smoke a clove cigarette -- I wasn't used to tobacco any more and would have a hangover the next day -- and watch the clouds go golden, and the fireworks come out bright against the tall forested hills. A couple guys speaking Makah stood in the dusk. In a half hour, we figured the pizza was ready.

Not quite. But we'd gotten pretty chilled, and it was nice to stand in the warm shop. And it smelled good. A handsome 80-year-old woman was listening to soft native pipes, on a CD played on a big bright silver-colored tapedeck, radio and CD player. She and her daughter, who ran the shop, said their mother/grandmother had died at 100, and they both planned to do the same (so there!).

Here came the pizza. We headed back to the picnic bench. We hadn't had a pizza in a while.

That was the best pizza I'd ever eaten, including homemade. The base was a big, thick, rustic white flour crust, cooked slowly until it was perfectly dry and light, slightly browned. It was brushed with just enough savory tomato sauce, and sprinkled with just enough fresh cheese, to fill your mouth with flavor, and there was one layer of pepperoni over the top. There was no grease dripping off the filling, and the bread wasn't soggy. It was like a big fry-bread "Indian Taco," but baked instead of fried. It was so delicate and greaseless you could have eaten it and then picked up a book and read it without wiping your hands. We were both well-satisfied. Price, pizza and soda and tip? $14.50. We know what we're eating next Fourth of July. And we know where we're going to be. Man, the First Nations got ahold of white flour and just do these amazing flatbreads with it; talk about fortuitous cultural combinations. It's all good.

We're going to be in Neah Bay for the Fourth because of the fireworks. We settled down on bleachers near the community dance-floor above the beach. As it got darker, a man came up and said to everybody on the bleachers:

"We got the kegs right down here." He pointed to the beach, about 50 feet away in the deepening dusk, where we saw a few dozen big black kegs with silvery sealed tops, standing out against the water. "So if anything goes wrong, get ready to run."

Not "You have to move back," or "This isn't a safe zone," or "State law requires you leave this area." Just: this could be dangerous, but you're an adult, and if you're here, keep your wits about you. And watch that little girl you got with you.

One guy said, "Does this mean we're not quite bright?"

I said, "Well, maybe it means that some of us are just near-sighted."

We watched the kids' fireworks growing in intensity and color. Dan blinked and grinned and said, "Mad moment," referring to wild shootouts in Vietnam.

Some fireworks bounced across the water. "Dat'll wake dem salmon up," said a guy on the bleachers behind us.

Pretty soon another guy comes up and says, "We're setting off a line, now, so we're gonna start. So be ready."

Down on the dance floor, about 30 feet from us, they were laying out a row of big dark-red crackers about 25 feet long. And when those things took off, crackling loud in a myriad of white flames, well, I knew my hearing wasn't going to be the same for a few hours, and I was going to be seeing purple spots for the next fifteen minutes.

The fireworks started up from the kegs, and I started trying to take photos with my lousy little digital -- missed practically everything -- needed a faster shutter speed. Nemmind. I've never gotten to sit this close to professional fireworks. It was stupendous. One green short round blew up too close to the ground, and a shower of golden fire rained down all around all of us on the bleachers. Everybody was ooing and ahing until we realized this was a mistake, and an almost-better run. It was chilling and glorious.

After innumerable explosions, including fancy fireworks the like I'd never seen, the finale came -- a flaming Old Faithful of spiraling white fire. Backed by dozens of red and orange and green round blasts. Fire was raining down like mad, right in front of us.

The colored blasts and the white columns died out, and the audience was completely silent. They were waiting for something. And it came.

From the water, side-by-side, like a mined and sunken battleship, came three huge gouts of red-orange-and-pink flames. The effect was -- no, you had to see it. You just had to see it. I can use all the damn adjectives I want, and you're not going to get it. Mark TWAIN couldn't make you do more than imagine it in soft focus. It was just… incredible.

The white columns went up again. This time they were accompanied by screaming bee-blasts of metallic gold and silver, exploding by the thousands nearly simultaneously, like stars and comets trying to imitate the Big Bang. Those of us on the bleachers were gasping and laughing and howling like idiots. It was unbelievable. Just unbelievable.

The columns and bee-blasts went out, leaving the audience dizzy and hardly able to cheer.

And once again, up went The Fireworks From The Water, and I'm no more able to get an idea of those things across now than I was the first time. Everybody finally got up and yelled and cheered -- and then everybody went for the trucks to get home and have some more parties. The Makah evidently do Party real good.

Dan said the only time he'd seen better fireworks was in Vietnam, and those weren't as pretty. He also said he was glad he hadn't brought a folding chair – just in case he had to Run.

Dan was worried about all those trucks and cars rolling around us, but I said, "Well, you'd have to worry if those were pushy white people, all standing on their rights and privileges, but these people's attitude is that if you're driving, you're responsible for your vehicle, and you'd better not run down a kid or a grandma. Think of the trucks as Indian Ponies. They go around people."

We kept running into Makah who were asking people what they thought. All I could say was "unbelieveable." "Just unbelieveable." They were pretty proud of the display. Wouldn't you be?

Anyway, that's why I spent most of today in bed, freezing and hungover from tired; I have to let my heart and circulation get up and running again. Doing perty good now. Tea and rest and comic books – the gods' little remedies.

The Lost Weekend, Day Two, Part One.

Part one was Saturday. The next two parts will both be Sunday, but they're in two different towns, about 50 miles apart, and one of them is officially in another sovereign nation.

Drove down to Forks (Mapquest it) before 9:30, having been told the BIG Fourth parade started at 10:00. Of course, when I got there, I discovered that it was at noon.

So I gassed the car. The power toxin is cheaper, the closer you are to the hot heart of civilization, and even Forks is warmer than Clallam Bay. Saved about 2 cents a gallon. Then went down to the Thriftway and picked up things we couldn't get in Clallam Bay -- like adhesive strips to keep people from killing themselves in the guest tub and suing our asses, and fish hooks Greenling size (all I can get are trout and salmon jigs). We'd already picked up the toilet valve (not ball-cock, thank you, why do they still make those crappy things?). Anyway.

The parade entries were gathering out in the Thriftway parking lot. Well, I thought I'd at least try to take photos for the Peninsula Daily News with my crappy little digital, so I wandered around seeing what I could get.

The Kids Run For Life (American Cancer Society) was very cooperative, them AND their bubble-blowing. The Quileute sang and gave a drum chorus, and held the baby up for a photo. The Red Hat Society was there, two chapters out of three -- The Red Fedoras and the Scarlette Ladies. "We do a lot, so this is how we have fun," said their leader. "We built this float out of whatever we had that was sparkly in an hour and a half." There was a Mexican Folklorico group, the girls in the most brilliant ribbon-decorated rainbow-colored dance gowns. They kept running back to use the restroom in the Thriftway, and I lived in fear of them spotting those satin dresses when they washed their hands.

Finally took the car and ran it down the road a bit, and in a line of trucks and teenage stock junkers, and found a perfect slot for Honig, my 1970 beige VW bug. Dug out the ancient Marine blanket Dan and I have used for picnics for 30 years. If we'd know the military was going to stop making those warm, light, thin olive-green blankets with the black Hudson Bay stripe, we'd have stolen a bunch more of them. The one we have is almost a family member; worn places and holes have been repaired with red felt heart-shaped appliqu├ęs sewn as back-to-back patches. Call it irony. I folded it up and placed it on the front of the bug; any of you who have ever sat on a bug know it is one of the most comfortable car to lean back and relax on. It gets warm -- and that's good, on a chill windy 4th of July.

The kids to the right on the red stock junker are pretending to shoot their classmates with a pretty good replica of a pistol. The kid with the pistol keeps telling the "victims" that they are lucky they don't live in Tacoma, because this would be real. The kid points the pistol at a bike cop, but only when he's passed by and his back is to the kid. Welcome to Columbine.

The parade finally gets started. Right behind the Sheriff's posse comes a Chinese lion-dance group. The above-mentioned floats are in the line, but most of the entries are stock junkers being dragged by somebody's truck with a logging chain, and some shiny Classics. The junkers were scribbled on with bad paint jobs, some of them done with markers. And damn, I'm trying to remember the great line somebody had drawn in black across a yellow top. I'm going to have to write all this stuff down. The drivers were teen boys, girls and one woman with a little girl. There was a 1928 Ford tractor carrying a calliope and shooting clouds of stinking black smoke into the air. The other shiny oldies had fake power plants in them, but this guy was proud of using the original clunker. Up ahead, logging trucks kept pulling into the line, carrying the old-growth forest logs they've had to keep for all the parades; they can't find any new ones, so they have to keep these for show. Hell, they should just name those logs. The four biggest I'm calling Sue, Phineas, Pitty-Patt and Joshua.

At the very end of the parade came the entry from The Peninsula Daily News. Their basic outfits were based on the paper's logo, blue and white. First came John Brewer, Our Fearless Reader. Leader. Oops -- Freudian slip. Anyways, he's carrying a roman-style banner that says -- deep breath -- "The Grateful Deadlines." Behind the PDN white van is a group of the pressroom people, with homemade kazoos made from orange newspaper delivery tubes. They started a routine based on Tequila. Well, it was kinda like a train-wreck. And they weren't even ashamed or anything. John was over there with his banner, while the Deadlines did the dance, and John... hey, wait! John IS on the other side of the van where he can't be photographed with the Deadlines.... Hmmm....

What are those photographs worth? What is the CHIP worth?

Then I drove home, cuz I was going to the Neah Bay (Mapquest it) fireworks display that night. Where The Fireworks Come Up Out Of The Water.


Stay tuned.

Monday, July 05, 2004

The Long Weekend (Part One).

I am a wreck today. The following is the description of just Saturday.

The following involves comic books stores, parades and fireworks. Scroll down to whatever interests you (not everybody is into fireworks) (Actually, check out upcoming posts. This became a post all on its own).

Saturday, drove to Port Angeles for a signing, at The Odyssey Bookshop (Mapquest it, and the following places).

Craig Whalley runs a nice little shop, very plain raw wood shelves, brightly lit, in what was once a frontier bar, that retains walls and ceiling lined with the original tin tiles, painted bright white. Very attractive.

Craig used to own Pulp Fiction, the only comics shop in PA. But when Marvel shot itself in the foot (and how many of us could have told those fanboys NOT to mess with the actual book market if they didn't have the margin to take the burn?), Pulp Fiction, in Craig's words, "Crashed and Burned." Marvel, of course, doesn't respect its retailers, and that is always a BIG mistake, because those guys interact with the all-important customer. Marvel is a putz. And a bunch of amateurs. But that's enough of that, why beat a dead AND rotten horse?

Along come Diamond Comics Distributors Free Comics Day. I managed to get myself together enough to be a Bronze Sponsor. Yay. But I did NOT get myself together enough to figure out there were no local commie book shops. Hey, we moved, we had leakage and woodstoves. Whadaya want? And I was learning to fish and dig giant horse clams (after years of being away from water, I had a SERIOUS seafood deficiency, and your health comes first).

At the last minute, called Craig, and asked him if he was interested. He was very tentative, and that's when he used that "crash and burn" line. Ow. Damaged goods. Would have to be very gentle with this poor little whipped puppy (I can so! No, I can. Really). Kick Marvel here.

Since I'm the semi-volunteered West West Side stringer for the Peninsula Daily News, I cobbled up an article and a photo of me, and got it in. Well, things happen. My editor, John, has had a bit of a crash-and-burn in his own life (it's serious stuff, and he needs major slack cut), and the press release just didn't happen.

Anyway, Dan and I drive around Lake Crescent on Saturday (always lovely!), and I turn him loose in town (and he heads for the local nice Irish pub and a pint of Guinness), and settle down at the little outside table Craig has provided.

Now Craig's all "We don't have much good luck with signings," and apologetic. I tell him, don't worry, a signing is a signing, it'll be all good. It's a bit windy, but I've pasted on my deal-with-the-public smile, and I'm all ready. So he goes back into the shop, and I wait.

It's pretty disappointing, and the wind is lifting. After all, nobody wants to talk to a writer just sitting at a table on a sidewalk. But that's what Craig wants, and we'll see what develops.

Pretty soon out comes Craig, looking kind of apologetic, and we get into a whole spiel on the commie book, the Marvel crash, and the future of the art form. Have we NOTICED the guy with the camera standing there? We have not. We're so intent on our own little industry history, we haven't even noticed he's taking pictures and got a recorder on. When we DO notice him, we find out if he's from the Peninsula Daily News, and he's "got everything he needs." And he extends John's apologies for not getting the press release in!

Welp. If you don't think Craig is impressed. And happy. Look at all the free PR! Whee! And I'm all "Whew!" but I'm not showing it. Now we'll get a good shot of me at work, with a good camera. And a better article. I'm a FICTION writer, damnit, not a journalista. I've never had any training in writing except typing millions of words. This is the ONLY training that counts in writing fiction, because trained fiction writers are boring as hell, and their training sticks out all over them (you can even tell which textbooks they've been reading) but journalists really do need school training (awright, Twain didn't, but journalism back then was more like fiction anyway).

Craig goes back into the shop, but pretty soon he's out to check on me again. The wind has gotten really sassy, now, and you can imagine trying to hold down an art-form that is enamored of flying air, anyway. So we set up again back in a nice little cranny in the middle of the store, and I get my own silk-brocade-covered Rococo chair, and I'm all warm and comfy now (summer up here is like winter in Texas, remember).

Craig is back chatting with me, and all of a sudden, John, the editor at PDN, shows up. Well, ain't this cozy? And John's funny and chatty, anyway. So now the editor of the damn paper has come down to see Craig's shop. Can it GET any better?

Sure can. Craig gets a phone call. A couple customers know about this Free Comic Book Day. They are desperate to find SOMEPLACE in on it. He says no, but he's got a writer here who is a Bronze Sponsor.

Anyway, John the Editor has fun talking to me about this commie book biz, and I give him a copy of THE DESERT PEACH, and he goes his way (and the contents shocks the hell out of him, and he starts kidding me later about what I write, trying to use humor to get his head around it, and this is why I'm now signing email to him, Donna Barr, The Woman who Writes About Nazis).

I find myself facing three potential fans – the ones who called? – and they're all delighted that there is SOME kind of comic book thing going on here. Pretty soon they're into my books, and they won't let me give them any. They buy 'em and I sign 'em.

Craig comes back, and buys the remaining Graphic Novels. We agree that now The Odyssey Bookshop will be the contact point for comics in Port Angeles and the whole region. And good ones – not those ratty spandex things. No. Instead -- Eric Shanower. Carla Speed MacNeil. Pete Sickman-Garner, if I can manage it (I LOVE that guy's "Hey Mister."). My humble self. And I've got this little plan to present him with a present from our industry…

The signing goes on for a bit, and at 3:00 Dan's ready to take off. Craig has had to leave. I gather up the remaining staple-bound books and hand 'em to his XO – "Seed stock," I grin. "Remember – the first one's free."

Comics are back in PA -- and NOT in a commic book shop, where "comics are for kids," according to the minds of benighted prosecutors and judges. They are in a book shop, where adults go to find books, and where children are supervised! I would like, in the end, to destroy the comic book shop and industry as separate from the book industry. And I would like to destroy the book industry as it is today -- including the idiot returns policies. I want everything available everywhere, under the umbrella of art and literature. Call me an activist anarchist, if you will.

First steps...


(On the way home, catch people wearing renaissance costumes, selling jerky by the side of the road, funding for a project. Do a quick photo-op and email pickup for later. There will be PIRATES and possibly a major guest star in Port Angeles in October – stay tuned!).

And drove home on 112. This time of year it's gorgeous. But those tight curves for an hour start a wrench in my left arm and back. I'm gonna pay for this.