Captain Creampuff and the Angry Letter To The Bank

Tuesday was just a typical day at the office.

First, I wrote a nice letter to the local bank and included it with my mail-in deposit.

Then I had lunch in the International District.

Then, I went down the street and picked up some snacks for my afternoon client meeting.

At a place called "Beard Papa's". That's right. The name of the Cream Puff place was BEARD PAPA'S. What the hell, right?

My first impression was that the marketing team behind Beard Papa's had decided that French pastries were synonymous with kindly sea captains. It made me wonder: are these pastries filled with creamed cod? Were they harvested from the sea floor? WHAT THE FUCK, JAPAN? WHO'S IN CHARGE OVER THERE?

Anywho, they were delicious. I got the standard vanilla kind (and green tea for my client). The woman who filled them right before my eyes was wearing a get-up not unlike the pour souls at Hot Dog On A Stick have to wear, but unlike the HDOS people, she looked incredibly proud to be wearing her yellow puff hat and yellow cravat. There was a bit of a language barrier, so I had to do a lot of pointing and smiling to get my stack of cream puffs in a cup. Also, she did a little mini-bow of gratitude at the end of our transaction. I bowed back. How culturally aware of me, right?

I had to find out what this place was all about, so I Googled Beard Papa when I got home. Weirder than buying French pastries from a Japanese woman dressed like an American hot dog vendor clown? The "Beard Papa Story". Prepare to have your mind blown. Seriously, Japan. I will never understand you. Thanks for the cream puffs, though.

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Walking For A Cure (For My Stone Cold Heart)

After my walk on Sunday, I came home, guzzled some water, and put my feet up.

And then it was time for the closing ceremonies at the Three Day Walk For The Cure. Because, you know, it's not a real crying jag unless I'm suffocating on my own sobs.

Walk For the Cure

Time to get my cry on....

Walk For The Cure

You've never seen so much pink in a football stadium before.

Yep, bawled like a baby. BUT.

I have to admit something here. I am not a fan of walks, or runs, or giant, public awareness campaigns that involve banners and those inflatable clapper tubes. I've always thought that a majority of the money raised for those things went into printing cheap sponsor t-shirts and caps and keychains and the like. I also, having lost two grandparents to cancer, one twenty years ago, and one ten years ago, and Burdy's uncle nearly seven years ago, find it hard to believe we are any closer to finding a cure than we were decades ago. Many years ago, during a college class I was taking on Nutrition, the teacher asked everyone in the room to raise their hand if they personally knew anyone who had died of cancer. EVERYONE in the room raised their hand. The image of our class (more than 100 students) with their hands in the air haunts me to this day.

So, I'm a bit of a defeatist when it comes to cancer. I admit I don't know much about its history, or how long it's been with the human race. It seems to me a very modern disease, one made permissible only by our stressed-out, sedentary, addicted to convenience and chemicals, Western-diet lifestyle. It seems like finding a cure for cancer mandates that we find a "cure" for our modern lives.

But something happened to me this year when Victoria announced she would be walking again for her cousin Patty. Something shifted in me. The walk was no longer about raising money to find a cure for a disease that I didn't think curable. It was about honoring someone who meant a great deal to a great friend of mine.

When I saw those women and men walk into that stadium Sunday, filling it with their excitement and their indefatigable energy, I thought, this isn't a fundraiser; this is a ceremony to honor the dead and celebrate the living. This has nothing to do with the color pink, or the millions of dollars raised. This is a funeral march and a parade all at once.

As a culture, we don't publicly honor our dead with pom-poms and clapping. We do it quietly and in private. It was utterly transformative to see pictures of the dead pinned to clothing, to see women's names spelled out in glitter and held up on poster board, with the words "Mom" and "sister" and dates of birth and death next to them in a public place. This was a beautiful reminder that death is not an end, but just a transformation in the way we live with a person's energy.

Victoria talks about her cousin all the time. She tells me while we listen to music sometimes "Patty would have loved this song", or "Patty would be dancing on the tables with us right now!" She has taught me to redefine my relationship with death. She reminds me not to keep the memories of the dead to myself, but rather to shout them from rooftops, to proudly wear pink and endure the torture of blisters and bad weather to make sure that everyone knows that the dead are still with us in spirit.

Burdy's father passed away this summer and it was wholly shocking and fitting all at once. He was an older man, one who'd lived a fulfilling, challenging, and long life. His death was fitting because he was nearly 90 years old, but shocking because we just took for granted that he'd be with us forever. I still feel him with us every day. He laughs from his corner of the room when we tell jokes, he prods us to hurry up and have kids already, he tells us "It's okay" when we make mistakes. He is as alive to me as Patty is to Victoria.

So, this year, I went to the closing ceremonies of the Three Day Walk For The Cure to honor Victoria and Patty. And I cried so hard I couldn't catch my breath. Seeing those breast cancer survivors walk in at the end was moving beyond words. I wondered about chance, and strength, and the willingness to overcome, the power of positive thought, and the randomness of death. And it made me want to don a pink tutu and be there next year to clap my hands off when they crossed the finish line.

Something came over me inside that stadium. I realized I'd been looking at this whole event through very jaded eyes. Here in front of me was the real reason people participate in this event year after year. I swear to you, I had a moment where I felt like the Grinch when he hears those Whos singing on Christmas morning. My cynical little heart grew to three times its size. I was filled with something I haven't felt in a long time: love for perfect strangers. THAT'S the effect this thing has on people. It's the effect it had on me, anyway.

Perfect strangers touching the lives of others, reinforcing the power of positive thinking, reminding us to revisit all that we cherish in our lives, renewing our faith in the human spirit and in the mysteries around us. That's what this was about, wasn't it? The money, the pink hats, the motivational music and banners... those were incidental, weren't they? Those walkers, and all the people they represent when they walk...they dare us all on a daily basis to dream and to hope... even as we all face down the inevitability of our own mortality.

The Grinch gets it now.

Thanks, ladies.
-Your Future Cheering Section

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An Urban Walk: A Mini Photo Journal

Back when Tara used to live here, back when a popcorn bowl full of old maids passed for a "drum" during an impromptu roommate jam, back when the furniture didn't match and nobody cared, we used to go on long walks.</p>

We walked all over the city. Usually ten miles at a time. Usually after a night of heavy drinking. Those walks were magical.

Yesterday was the Susan G. Komen 3-Day Walk for The Cure. My friend Victoria walked for her cousin Patty, who passed away from breast cancer a few years ago. As a sort-of homage to Victoria, and to Patty, who I've felt I've gotten to know over the years, and to Tara, who I miss having aroung in my daily life, I did my own little walk around town. I took my phone along.


I just love the unambiguous nature of old signage.


Old buildings, too, have a purposefulness about them. I love old advertisements painted directly onto the brick.



There's a famous nursery rhyme that goes with this one. It goes something like: "There was an old woman who lived in shoe/ Who had so many offers to buy her property she didn't know what to do/ So she stood her ground, and ignored their demands/ And she whipped them all soundly, because her house, it still stands." Or something like that. There are enormous new buildings looming around three sides of this little house. You can read about the whole affair here. It's not surprising that someone has already attempted to hitch their money-making wagon to this star. The banner is an advertisement for, you guessed it, a real estate developer. Tasteless.

I'm on my way...


The Fremont Bridge. Apparently, it is the most opened drawbridge in America.


The Aurora Bridge

Toxicity never looked so beautiful in the sunlight. The city's about to start churning up the soil underneath these old tankers to test for lakebed contamination. Any guesses as to what the results will be? My money's on Level "three-eyed fish" Contamination.


A rare and fleeting glimpse of Fall 'round these parts. It doesn't last long.


QUINT. E. SSENTIAL. Seattle in a nutshell right here, folks. All the rumors about us being nut crunchin', tree huggin', bubble blowin' hippies are true. When we the Seattle Tourism Board asks for a local representative, we send this guy.

The University Bridge. It was a beautiful day for sailing. The bridges were getting their workouts.


You don't see these much anymore. It was just so charming, I had to take a picture.


If I was on a walking team for the Three Day Walk, this would be it.


The upside down tomato planter. Proof to disbelieving Taller Younger Brother that these things really do work.</p>


I'm not a fan of graffiti on public signage or buildings... But this was a departure from the usual (lame-o) tags I've seen. Is that Klingon? Xhosa?

On the door of one of the most amazing little clothing stores in my 'hood. Check out The Frock Shop. And then check out The 350Project. Support little businesses like this when you can.

Art by Henry

I'm not sure what this guy's story is. All I know is that, paid or not, invited or not, this guy is making my neighborhood a whole lot more whimsical. He's Henry. And I like that he makes me feel like I am living inside the pages of a children's storybook.

The chestnut

This chestnut: the preferred ballistic of warring children everywhere ages 5 through 12. Burdy used to hurl these things at his neighbors growing up (don't worry; the targets eventually became his best childhood buddies). I remember hucking them onto the steep slope behind my friend's house, seeing who could get them to roll the furthest. I don't know what is is about them that makes them so throw-able. It wasn't until I was an adult that I found out that these things are FOOD. Chestnuts are edible. They're part of Christmas song lore, and New York City street carts in the Winter, for godsakes. And here I thought they were just kid-sized naval mines.</div>

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Big Box, Bigger Disappointment

Major chain stores have always smacked of a certain defeat to me.

Inside the big box bookstore, Glen Beck's new novel is displayed rather prominently, but there is nothing for a counterpoint, nothing in the "Radical Progressive" category, laid out in neat stacks on nearby tables. I put down the two books I have picked up in the last half hour and have a little debate in my head, weighing the merits of buying the books I have chosen for my mother's birthday present. The Plus? I can buy them and wrap them tonight and mail them tomorrow and it won't look entirely last-minute. The Minus? I have to buy them from this heinous chain store, with its whole sections on vampire lit, which is right past the stand of teen magazines, all of which feature Justin Beiber on their covers. I put the books back in their stacks and make a vow to visit my local bookstore tomorrow on my way home from work.

At the big box electronics store, the fiance mistakes my foot dragging and grumbling under my breath for not wanting to “nerd shop” with him. I consider this for a moment, that gadgets in general do nothing for me unless they had limited usefulness and were rendered obsolete by incumbent technology and were generally patented in between 1865 and 1985. No, I tell him, it's not that I mind shopping for nerd stuff with you. It's that we're here. For effect, I fan my arm out to take in the scene before us.

A man is holding an iPad no less than 3 centimeters from his face and clutching and unclutching his fist at regular intervals at chest level. I presume he is legally blind, but after he does not move (save for his hand) for a few uncomfortable minutes even as the family of five children around him go absolutely apeshit over the iPads THEY are holding, I am convinced that perhaps his fillings have interacted with the iPad's inner workings and that he either believes he is receiving messages from outer space, or he has become simultaneously magnetically suctioned to it and repulsed by it, a la Superman to Kyrptonite, and is acting out a very dramatic tussle with it, but all the effort of holding the iPad with one hand and clutching his fist with the other has left him with no energy to work his jaw into saying “Please help me. I need help”.

Somewhere, symphony music dripping with that the-underdog-is-running-his-field-goal-in-right-now-and-the-crowd-is-jumping-to-their-feet-in-slow-motion feeling is playing over a stereo system's speakers. Indeed, right around the corner, in the TV section, a live football game is being broadcast and it works, with eerie coincidence, really, really well, with the music. This, of course, clashes with the sound of Uzis emptying their clips and tanks rumbling over ravaged landscapes in the video games department. Occasionally, a sonic boom rattles the atmosphere as an RPG meets its target. I don't know which is more unnerving: the sound of the war scene being broadcast to everyone within earshot (including children) or the fact that I am actually considering the melodramatic music to be more offending to my eardrums.

The cash registers are noted by giant lighted cartoonish “price tags”; the place has all the charm and style points of a rodeo-sized arcade, which, it sort of is. There are buttons to press, plugs to pull, and screens to squint at. It's all here: Guns, sports, machinery, and the occasional flash of exuberant yellow logo to remind you that you are still in a retail environment, and not, say, a twelve year old boy's version of Heaven.

In the Wireless Devices Department, an overweight middle aged male employee looks absently ahead, then down at his cell phone, then up again, then down again. As far as I can tell, this is what he does for exactly eight hours a day every day here in the Wireless Devices Department. The fiance emerges from around a corner and says to me: Did you find what you were looking for? But, with my eyes transfixed on the carpet pattern (because the overhead fluorescent tube lights are making me nauseous) I mistake his good-natured inquisitiveness for the scripted lines of a sales associate and I am about to grumble FUCK OFF when I look up and realize it is my beloved. Oh, I say. Hey. No, I didn't. Can you find it for me? I'm tired of looking.

The truth is that I haven't really been looking so much as just passing my eyes over the rows and rows of protective glass and silicone condoms for cellular devices. They are all packaged in black boxes, and, were I illiterate, I might be forgiven for thinking they were boxes of or steroids, or bull semen, or nuclear waste or something so potent and volatile, the manufacturers had to package them with no less than three multipointed, starred warnings and five exclamation points each. One brand claims to have been developed and used by the US military and promises a lifetime guarantee against scratches, which is pictorially exemplified on the back of the box with a photo of a key being held to the screen of a phone. It's as if the marketing people didn't think the consumer would believe the words "SCRATCH RESISTANT BARRIER" or "LIFETIME GUARANTEE" but would once he saw the key on the back. "I didn't think you could make such a material, but here you have shown me this picture of a key being held up against the glass and NOOOO! Oh. Wait. I forgot it's protected with your space age technology! WHEW!"

It's not that I am anti-technology. Quite the opposite. I couldn't do half of what I enjoy in life without it: taking pictures, writing on a computer, talking to my brother every day on the phone. And overall, I am quite taken with it all. It is endlessly fascinating how it all works, and all works together. I can use my phone as wireless hotspot in places where none exist. I can take pictures with my phone, then upload them to another device that will store them infinitely, and then I can make copies and either print them, via a trip to the drug store with a storage device the size of a hair barrette, or post them to my blog. It's all so beautiful and synergistic, a ballet of a million pirouettes going faster than light.

It's the peripherals that I could do without. And the people who sell them. When I put my question, earlier in the night, to the sales associate at the store where I bought my phone, about whether or not they sold a wired headset to work with my phone, I am answered with a self conscious shake of shaggy hair out of eyes (only to have it fall back in, it IS the style, after all), and a mumbled Um... I don't have one right now. So, they make one, you just don't have one, right now, I clarify. And he answers in Finnish. Or Welsh. It's something I can't make out and there is more hair tousling and eye contact has been broken and I am left there, a thirty something unable to communicate with someone who is only, no doubt, a mere seven or eight years younger than me. A deep yawning divide has opened between us. On one side is me with perfect diction and forthrightness. And on the other side: a young man who has styled his hair to fall into his line of vision and who has lost the ability to focus on anything further away than the length of his arms.

Eventually the fiance calls over a sales associate and asks if they make a wired headset for my type of phone. Bluetooth devices seem so incredibly obnoxious to me and I have had, on more than one occasion, to turn my head and point to the pulsing blue light sticking out of my ear canal to kind strangers who simply want to know if I have signed this petition they are carrying clamped to a clipboard. My flagrant pointing says: Umm... Not now? Okay? Dummy? Can't you see I'm on the phone?

And their raised, apologetic eyebrows and mouthed “Oo! Sorry's” say: No, lady. Being ON THE PHONE would imply you have a phone to be on. What you have is a wireless signal being shot through your optic nerve and out your nose holes to your phone, which is in your coat pocket, which will then be shot into space and to another person's phone, probably in another time zone, how's that for a mind fuck, thank you very much? So, you are not ON the phone, now are you? If you were, I'd be able to see it, and I probably wouldn't have bothered you. But I guess “I'm receiving a satellite signal which I can hear in my one inch ear slug” doesn't have the same, shall we say, ring to it, now does it?

I'm opting for the wired headset because my hearing is pretty bad these days and two ears plugged (instead of one, Bluetoothed) just seems like it will provide more volume. I'm going for more square footage here. The sales girl points the fiance to a section of more black boxed and neon highlighted packages containing earbuds and wires. Which one for the Evo? he asks, mentioning my brand of phone by name. She fans her arm out to a small section of boxes and proclaims, “Any one of these”. The fiance thanks her and we both crouch down to get a better look. I feel like I am moving in slow motion. Suddenly, I am overcome with the urge to lay down on their swirling blue carpet and take a nap. I am so. Utterly. Bored.

So, how do you like your new Evo?, she asks the fiance. I finally look directly at her. From my crouched position, I shoot her eye-daggers that say “ I am the one with the phone, lady. Just because we're in this overlit rabbits warren of Chinese manufactured doodads doesn't mean there isn't something in here for us romantic types who just who are more interested in your carpet patterns than your merchandise!”

Oh, I really love it”, I tell her. And I smile wickedly.

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Look At The Size Of The Fangs On This One

*Sound of garage door opening and closing, Burdy climbing up the stairs to the living room.*

Burdy: (excited to finally see his fiance after a long day) Hi!

Me: (not looking up from laptop) There's a spider that behind that plant that I need you to get rid of.

Burdy: Um.... What?

Me: Yeah, behind that plant

Burdy: How was your day?

Me: (Pointing with chin) Right there. That plant over there.

Burdy: Ok a a a a y.... so your day was okay, then? (excited energy fading to confusion)

Me: I put a glass over it last night but I forgot to tell you about it. You need to take it outside. Right now.

(Burdy grabs a piece of paper from my desk to slip under the glass)

Me: No! NO! NO! Don't use that piece of paper! It's huge and disgusting!

Burdy: (Sighing heavily at fiance's tendency to exaggerate). Okay. (Reaches for a different piece of paper) It's behind which plant agai.... WHOA!! HOLY CRAP THAT'S BIG!

Me: (hopping from foot to foot and nervously chewing on knuckle skin) I TOLD YOU! GET A DIFFERENT PIECE OF PAPER!

Burdy: Wow! (slipping new piece of paper under glass and holding drinking glass/spider bio-dome up to eye level) I think that's a hobo spider.

Me: What? (adrenal glands throbbing at the thought that spider with legs the length of human pinkies and capable of causing anaphylactic shock in humans might have slept in my shoes, or- WORSE!- in my bath towel overnight and subsequently torn a chunk out of my neck with its ugly hairy mouth parts had I not thrown a glass over it.) *gulping nervously* A hobo spider?

Burdy: (squinting at glass) Oh, wait. It's not.

Me: How do you know?

Burdy: It's not carrying a bindle stick.


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