Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Elliott Bay Book Company

About a month ago, on a cloudy Saturday, I was bored and broke and cranky at home. I knew I had only a few hours that afternoon to pull myself out of this funk before the Sunday night blues set in, but I was restless and listless at the same time. "Self," I said, "we need a vacation. We can't afford a vacation, but surely we can do better than this." So I put on a hat and the suede jacket I'd just picked up at the thrift store, a jacket that makes me feel like pretending to be an English professor (I swear I even stand up straighter when I wear it), and headed out like a homing pigeon to a place I could find books.

Back in July, the first leg of Seattle's light rail system started service between downtown and the airport. The Spouse and I had been looking forward to this for years: in 2007 we bought our first house just blocks from one of the light rail stations in south Seattle. For almost 3 years we watched the construction progress, literally right out our front window: the road widened, the lights improved, the tracks laid, the stations built. And now we are lucky enough to be able to stroll to the station and zip away on a light rail train.

I love it because I am fond of trains, of course--but I also love the way it's opened up the city to me a little more. Yes, I could always have chosen to take a bus downtown. But the bus only ran every half an hour, and was notoriously unreliable, and took much longer to run the same distance. Now that the trains are running, I've started making more trips downtown for fun. In particular, when I discovered that Elliott Bay Book Company was only a few blocks from the Pioneer Square station, I started revisiting that grandly cozy bookstore again after years of neglecting it.

So that's where I pointed myself, that gloomy Saturday. I watched Seattle glide by out the enormous window of the light rail car, daydreaming about longer trips and feeling my mood lighten at the thought. When the train plunged into the tunnel below Beacon Hill, I craned my neck to gawk again at the lovely, luminous glass sea creatures suspended above the station platform. I tried to spot new details on the murals along the warehouses along the tracks in the SoDo area. And even the wet walk uphill to the Central library was suddenly just part of the fun, a damp interlude in my miniature getaway.

The library seduced me, as always, to stay longer than I'd intended. I had one book to pick up, but of course I found myself wandering up the book spiral, a scribbled list of Dewey Decimal numbers in hand. John Barry's The Great Influenza was checked in, and I pounced on it. One of Cherie Priest's earlier books was available, too. And I made a side trip to the children's section for a book by Sylvia Cassedy, having just re-read my copy of her book Behind the Attic Wall for the first time since probably 1988. (It's a strangely bizarre, otherwordly, sad story; I had forgotten everything except the sadness, which is what vaguely kept me from picking it up again, I think. I'm glad I held onto it all these years, anyway.)

Books safely in backpack, I strode back down the hill toward Pioneer Square, where I ducked into the Cherry Street Coffee House to use up the balance on a gift card. It was my first time at that location, and the cozy basement sitting room proved to be the perfect accompaniment to my rainy day excursion. I ordered my coffee and sat in the dim, quiet downstairs across from the fireplace, reading about influenza, with only a few people scattered at other tables.

When my coffee was gone, it was time to visit my final destination before I took a train back south. Elliott Bay Book Company's warmth welcomed me in from the drizzle, and I browsed happily there for awhile, heedless of the time--the true mark of a vacation. I ended up with an updated day planner for 2010, a postcard for a friend who moved away a few years ago, and a far more contented outlook than I'd started the day with.

I learned today that the bookstore is moving from their Pioneer Square location to Capitol Hill early next year, citing their declining business in the last few years. Though I'm glad they're only moving and not closing, I have to admit to a twinge of disappointment at losing such a convenient and delightful "vacation" destination of the last few months. I'm sure I'll still make the trip to their new location whenever I can--and I hope lots more people can spend lots more money there than I can afford to. But I'll always harbor the fond memory of my desperate in-town Saturday excursions to EBBC these last few months, and the way my visits there always seemed to put my head back on correctly again. Here's to a few more of those before the move--and to many, many more years of EBBC, wherever in Seattle they may go.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Day: late. Dollar: short.

Yes, a day late and (always) a dollar short, as me auld dad always says.

Nevertheless, here I am for another Holidailies!

It's been bitterly cold in Seattle this week. Didn't get above freezing today, nor (I think) yesterday, and they say it'll be down to 16 degrees tonight. Even on nights like these in our old house, the single overworked gas furnace in the hallway is turned down low, because otherwise I feel like we're burning cash all through the night. We have a down comforter and two warm bodies, and the Scrooge McDuck in my brain says that's all we should need to survive the night. To be fair, it is generally more than warm enough that way. It does make getting out of the cozy bed and stepping out onto the cold hardwood the next morning an exercise in gumption, though.

The Spouse and I try to be firm about keeping the dog off the bed, but let me tell you, on these cold nights when we first slip into bed, the sheets still cold, we urge her up onto the bed to help warm us up. That's right: she's our own personal furnace.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Recent Fantasies

1. Deserts.
2. Disappearance.
3. Defection.
4. Disengagement.
5. Debuts.
6. Deliverance.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Grace in small things: ten

1. Two-stamp Tuesdays at Fuel Coffee.
2. Co-workers who treat me like a competent, knowledgeable professional.
3. Sleet pellets bouncing off the ground in a quiet susurration.
4. Tight-clenched prickly pine cones which, when brought into a warm office, unfurl and collapse to spill into individual seeds across a windowsill.
5. Wool yarn that allows itself to be spit-felt together, eliminating all but two loose ends to be woven in at the end of a large project.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Grace in small things: nine

1. Eating beef tacos with onions and cilantro from the neighborhood taco bus.
2. Uprooting ridiculously long ivy vines at a neglected edge of the house.
3. Finding, beneath the ivy, an ancient rotting wooden planter in which a rose bush is still stubbornly growing.
4. Learning (slowly, slowly learning) how to knit an entrelac headband.
5. Having paid sick leave available so I could give in to my sore throat, call in sick, and sleep an extra three hours this morning.
6. (Bonus grace!) Remembering how to code the break at the end of each list item so the list looks right!

Monday, January 26, 2009

Grace in Small Things: eight

1. Tealights burning inside large vases.
2. The hollow echo that the heels of my brand-new thrift store shoes made as I passed an open garage on my walk at lunchtime today.
3. A wild romp outside on the hill with Chloe the codependent German Shepherd as the sun set on this cold day.
4. The hearty scent of cooked garlic and onions and spices that was drifting out of a neighbor's house as Chloe and I walked home from our romp.
5. Stovetop stuffing.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Grace in Small Things: seven

1. Sasha Obama's playful thumbs-up to Barack Obama after he was sworn in as the President of the United States yesterday.*
2. The Q-size crochet hook that is allowing me to crochet a blanket within a week's time, using yarn I've had on hand for about 5 years.
3. The sensation of flying while looking out from the I-5 bridge over the thick fog that blanketed Seattle on Sunday.
4. Tiny grey-green crabs scattering for cover on a rocky beach when their sheltering boulder was turned over.
5. A productive trip to Value Village on Saturday which resulted in new shoes, a beautiful handbag, small decorative shelves, and ten brand-new picture frames.

*I wanted to list "President Barack Obama," but let's be honest: that's no small thing. It's the most incredible moment of grace in politics in my adult life, if not my lifetime. Let all those who do justice and love mercy say "Amen!"

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

If those two can do it...

Oh, this is adorable. I am shamelessly going to post it here for my own future reference.

2008 Books

I seem to have fallen dismayingly short of reading 50 books in 2008, although I have the nagging feeling that I read a book or two during the summer that I forgot to document. (This always seems to happen...ah well.) Plus, not everything that I re-read is on this list--just Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell, because it took me so long to get through it again. Still, I read (and re-read) some excellent books last year.

Favorites: Neverwhere, Robin Hobb's Liveship Traders series, Whipping Girl, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, Un Lun Dun (which I loved utterly, and which made me want to get back into good young adult fiction--and then the excellent The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian redoubled that desire), and Empire Falls, which technically bridged the gap into 2009. The Other Boleyn Girl was on my grandma's bookshelf; I read it over a couple of days while I was staying with her before Christmas, and liked it more than I expected to, enough that I would check out Philippa Gregory's other books too.

1. Neverwhere
2. The Subtle Knife [re-read]
3. The Ladies of Grace Adieu
4. Shade's Children
5. Harpy's Flight
6. Shaman's Crossing
7. Forest Mage
8. Pride and Prejudice
9. Ship of Magic
10. Solstice Wood
11. Onion Girl
12. Mad Ship
13. Ship of Destiny
14. Renegade's Magic
15. The Dragonbone Chair
16. The Stone of Farewell
17. To Green Angel Tower
18. The Gypsy
19. Shapechangers
20. The Song of Homana
21. Shadowmarch
22. A Game of Thrones
23. Whipping Girl: A Transsexual Woman on Sexism and the Scapegoating of Femininity
24. Sophie's World
25. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time
26. Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell [re-read]
27. Un Lun Dun
28. What is the What
29. She's Not There: A Life in Two Genders
30. Small Wonder
31. Magic Hour
32. The Other Boleyn Girl
33. Empire Falls
34. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Grace in small and big things

Last Tuesday morning was a bummer. I had something that needed to be sent overnight to Olympia. After some minor adventures getting the thing prepared in the first place, I went up to the postal shop near work. Their sign said they open at 9, but their door was still locked at 9:10, so I gave up and drove to the post office.

Halfway through my wait in line, it occurred to me that I needed a copy of the document before I sent it. I crossed my fingers that the post office would make a copy for me, and stayed in line. When after a long wait I reached the counter, I asked hopefully. Would the post office make a copy for me? No, most certainly not.

I trekked out and retraced my drive back to the postal shop. No parking, though. I drove in an ever-wider circle around nearby blocks, finally finding an open spot several blocks away. The slush still frozen on the sidewalks made for a tedious struggle back to the postal shop.

Now open (and with a copy machine too), the shop took care of my petty mailing needs at last, an hour after I'd set out on what I supposed would be a quick errand.

Photocopy in hand, I tucked my wallet into the pocket of my jacket and headed back toward the car. About halfway back, I stuck my hand in my coat pocket to get my keys. There were the keys, but wait--where was the wallet?

I swore in a whisper for some reason and turned to retrace my steps at a run, scanning the ground for my wallet. It had just been in my hand mere moments before; it must have fallen out of my pocket when I shoved it in. Surely there hadn't been time for anyone to snatch it--

"Wait!" a woman's voice jerked my attention up. She stooped over at the intersection half a block ahead of me, where I had just been. "You dropped this!" Straightening up, she held up her coffee cup in one hand, my wallet in the other.

I thanked her with passionate relief. "I saw you through the window of the coffee shop," she said, "and I thought, 'What's that she just dropped?' So I just came running out after you."

After thanking her again, I started back for the car, wallet securely in hand. When I got there, while I was I unlocked the door a car horn beeped nearby. "Ma'am! Ma'am!" a woman passenger called from a passing vehicle, the driver slowing to a stop just behind me. "Did you get the thing you dropped back there?" she asked with great concern. I assured her that I had, and thanked her for checking.

She waved, satisfied, and her car pulled away.

I can be a little cynical about people. To have two separate folks running after me to reunite me with my dropped wallet, on a day otherwise full of frustration, was a nice bit of evidence for the way it's also possible for us to all look out for each other.

Monday, January 05, 2009

Grace in small things: six

1. The sleek cleanliness of a wooden floor in the ten minutes between the time it's cleaned and the time someone tracks in a new smattering of fir needles.

2. The single snowflake that fell on my cheek last night, which made me catch my breath and hold very still as if it might flit away like a butterfly.

3. The Mae Ploy yellow curry paste I used for the first time last night to make a perfect, delicious meal of vegetables in yellow curry coconut sauce over rice.

4. The seemingly everlasting nature of the enormous tin of cocoa I bought at Costco last year.

5. The silkiness of the cowl (my first) I finished knitting on Saturday. I am still unconvinced of the utility of a cowl / neckwarmer, but this particular garment is certainly delicious against my skin.

Sunday, January 04, 2009


This is weird: for two years in a row, now, I have both put up Christmas decorations and taken them back down again on snowy days. I've only lived here for a dozen years, but I feel like this is unusual. OR! Maybe it's like I always suspected, and Ballard's geography was cheating me out of snow all those winters.

This evening I packed away the ornaments and the lights as the snow began to fall again. This snowfall isn't expected to last like the last one--it's supposed to turn to rain by midnight or so--but we have a solid 2 inches on the ground now at 10:00. I'm just happy to see it, however short-lived it may be. I love watching the layer of white slowly sift in over the mud. The three of us took a little family walk down the block, Chloe snorfling about at the end of her leash. Then I took her alone up Chief Sealth Trail a ways, enjoying the way the snow-covered fields reflect so much light that the whole trail is visible, dusk-like.

Thursday, January 01, 2009

Welcome 2009

I have a good feeling about this year. There's nothing concrete to substantiate this optimism, really (aside from the enormous relief and excitement I feel about the new President taking office on January 20th). In fact I'll be celebrating my thirtieth birthday this spring, and that's stereotypically one of those somewhat dreaded benchmarks--crossing over from the footloose and carefree twenties, right?

But everyone I know who is older than 30, without exception, has assured me that they enjoy their 30's more than their 20's. And those that are older than 40 are adamant that their 40's are better than either. And those above 50 say something similar about that decade, so...well. Apparently my friends and loved ones are all either sunny optimists, or chronic liars.

Anyway, I'm not dreading it. And I'm looking forward to 2009. I kicked it off by celebrating with some folks who were once new acquaintances, and are more and more becoming old friends. 2009 rang in with dancing and hugging, fireworks and champagne in the rain. May new old friends, and old new friends, never be forgotten; may the good cheer that began 2009 seep down through all the months ahead.

Really, I have a good feeling about this year.