Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Almost Wordless Wednesday

Second beach on the Olympic Peninsula at Sunset.

i will wade out
till my thighs are steeped in burning flowers
I will take the sun in my mouth
and leap into the ripe air
with closed eyes
to dash against darkness
in the sleeping curves of my body
Shall enter fingers of smooth mastery
with chasteness of sea-girls
Will I complete the mystery
of my flesh
I will rise
After a thousand years
And set my teeth in the silver of the moon

-e.e. Cummings

Friday, November 12, 2010

Anime at its Absolute Best

When you were a child did you ever watch something that was beyond your years? Something that you couldn't yet understand or analyze but that somehow resonated in your memory even years later? Often when I've tracked these bits of the past down as an adult- a scene in a movie, a cartoon, etc, I find that I can no longer find the significance that my child mind attached to them, that I can only relive their power by remembering who I was and what I felt at the time that I first saw them. But there are those others that prove to be even greater treasures when they are finally recovered, and the magnificence that you only saw hints of in the past can finally be fully realized and comprehended. Its an odd sort of consummation between the pure experience of the child and the intellect of the adult.

Within the past year, thanks to netflix and youtube, I have been lucky enough to find two of these half remembered experiences that have haunted me for some time. I'd like to share them with you now, simply in the hope that you might appreciate them as much as I have.

Both are anime shorts. The first aired as part of MTV's Liquid Television program in the 1990's. Its director, Yoshiaki Kawajiri, went on to make such cult classic films as Ninja Scroll and Vampire Hunter D Bloodlust. But I would argue that none of his later work can touch this early short.

The second piece was part of a trio of shorts produced by the great Katsuhiro Otomo (director of Akira and Steamboy). This short was directed by Koji Morimoto, who later contributed to The Animatrix. I think I saw it when it aired on the scifi channel...back then they actually had good programming and showed alot of obscure anime on the weekends.

Enjoy and please dont blame my mother for letting a kid watch such heavy content, she had no idea what I was up to. ;-)

Here is part 1&2 of Running Man

I've included parts 1&2 of Magnetic Rose, you can go directly to youtube for the other 3 parts (I promise its worth the effort!)

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Almost Wordless Wednesday

Just one of those lovely bits of syncronicity that we stumble upon now and then.

Fast forward to time stamp 3:44 and watch until 4:13

Now watch this entire scene from Nagisa Oshima's 1999 film Gohatto (Taboo)

Maybe Carl Jung was right....

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Taking back Oatmeal: Steel-cut oats with pumpkin

I don't know about you, but when I was growing up the only oatmeal I had ever experienced was the kind that came in a little paper packet and cooked up in a few minutes flat. Convenient as hell yes, but about as gloppy and spiritless as wallpaper paste in execution. Only generous additions of brown sugar and cream could induce me to eat this gluey mess, and when I grew up and learned to cook 'proper breakfasts', I happily removed oatmeal from my table. I felt justified in this decision, superior even, for I perceived oatmeal as a standard-american-diet peasant food; an easy but tasteless mound of sticky carbs, with little redeeming value beyond its ability to quickly fill up a hungry stomach.

But oh how benighted I was! I had no idea that instant oatmeal, and its slightly more respectable cousin, flaked or rolled oats, were but the tip of the breakfast iceberg. I had yet to learn about that which every self respecting British isles dweller has known intimately since birth: steel-cut oats.

In case you have never succumbed to curiosity and picked up one of those lovely tins of John McCann oats at Trader Joes, or poked into the bulk bins at a coop; steel cut oats (also known as Pinhead Oats, Irish Oats, or Coarse-cut Oats) are whole-grain goats (the inner portion of the oat kernel ) which have been cut into pieces by steel rather than rolled. In other words, they are minimally processed. They take a bit longer to cook because of this (about 15-20min longer), but the result is a chewy, nutty delectable porridge that bears little resemblance to what I ate as a child. Steel cut oats also have a lower glycemic index than instant oatmeal, which can be a boon for those of us that have difficulty controlling our blood sugar levels.

The extra cooking time is worth it, but if you want to save yourself some labor you can soak the oats overnight in warm water. This will greatly decrease the cooking time and will also neutralize most of the phytic acid that the whole grains contain. Phytic acid is an organic acid found in the outer layer or bran of grains which many nutritionists caution can combine with minerals in the intestinal tract and inhibit their absorption. Thus, eating large amounts of untreated whole grains can lead to mineral deficiencies and bone loss. However, some sources suggest that phytic acid also binds to heavy metals and thus could have an antioxidant or detoxifying effect on the body.

It sounds to me like yet another case of moderation being the best tactic. Untreated grains are fine now and then, but if you have a diet that is very high in whole grains, you might want to think about putting the extra effort into preparing them properly for at least the majority of the time. For more information on the practice and benefits of soaking grains, check out this link or this

Anyway I digress as usual, you probably want to hear about the recipe portion of this posting, not continue to listen to my musings.

For a tasty breakfast for two you will need 1 cup of steel-cut oats*, 2 1/2 cups of water, and a 1/2 cup of pumpkin puree (I used the fresh puree that I had leftover from when I made my pumpkin pie- yay recycling!).

Bring the water to a boil and add the oats. Turn down the heat to a gentle simmer and cover. Cook until the oats are al dente but not overly chewy-about 20min. Add the pumpkin (and whatever spices you might like) a few minutes before the oats are done.

Season with brown or musovado sugar and cream, and voila- peasant food fit for a king!

* If you wish to soak your oats the night before, add one cup oats to 1 1/2 cups of warm filtered water and 2 tbs of lemon juice or whey. Cover, place in a warm place, and let sit for at least 7hrs. The next morning, bring 1 1/2 cups of water to a boil and add the water/oat slurry. This will only take about 10-15min to cook.

Friday, November 5, 2010

How to kick the can: Making Pumpkin Pie from scratch

Halloween is over and all of the jack-o-lanterns are moldering (In my neighborhood they are also being devoured by giant slugs). It amuses me that most of us have had intimate knowledge of the innards of a pumpkin at one time or another, that we are quite comfortable vivissecting these symbols of autumn for halloween, or eating them in a pie at thanksgiving, and yet very few of us (myself included) have ever followed one all the way from its natural state to the dinner table. I have cooked pumpkin in various incarnations over the years but that main ingredient always came from a can-even when its jack-o-lantern brother was staring me right in the face nearby! Its not that I never made the connection, it just always seemed like too much work and afterall, the ingredients on the can just say "pumpkin", there are no additives to be frightened of, its pretty damn close to scratch right?

Well...those of you that are interested in nutrition might be surprised to learn that because of the high heat, etc required by industrial canning processes, the food being preserved is in danger of being denatured. In other words canned foods can have significantly less of the vitamins and enzymes that we require. Pumpkin and other squashes are a wonderful source of carotenes, which the body uses to produce vitamin A, but when they are eaten in processed form, you may not be getting the full dose that you expect. So due to this, and the fact that I wanted to finally be able to say that I had cooked the elusive from-scratch pumpkin pie, I ditched the can and bought myself a sugar pumpkin.

* Fun pumpkin fact: Pumpkins are believed to have originated in the Americas and seeds from related plants have been found in Mexico dating back to 7000 BC.

The type of pumpkins that we love to carve are mostly unsuitable for cooking. They are bred for the quality of their shells, not their flesh, and they can be rather stringy and dull in flavor. Sugar pumpkins are smaller, deeper in color, and contain a much larger amount of flesh in proportion to their shells. They are also extremely easy to peel and, as I soon found, relatively easy to prepare.

Cut off the top and bottom of your pumpkin and cut in half. Scoop out the seeds and peel with a vegetable peeler.

Cut the pumpkin into 2in chunks and place in a steamer basket over 2in of boiling water. Cover and steam for 15min.

Let the pumpkin cool and then puree in a food processor or blender. The result was just as smooth as the canned version but significantly brighter in color. The pumpkin I used made about 2 and 1/2 cups of puree.

From what I have read, culinary historians have discovered recipes for pumpkin pie dating back as far as the middle ages. Now days you can find a simple recipe on the back on any can of pumpkin, but since I was kicking the can, I decided to adapt Sally Fallon's recipe from her book Nourishing Traditions. This recipe omits several processes ingredients that I have been trying to avoid such as condensed milk and large amounts of refined sugar.

1 batch pate brisee
2 Cups pumpkin puree
3 pastured eggs
3/4 cup Turbinado sugar
1 tsp ginger
1/4 tsp sea salt
1/4 tsp ground cardamom
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1 Cup sour cream or creme fraiche (I used Zoe's organic cultured sour cream)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees
Line a 9-inch pan with pate brisee and pinch edge to make a border. Cream eggs with sugar and gradually blend in other ingredients. Pour into pie shell and bake for 35-45min.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Ode to the Used Bookstore

Magus Used Books, one of my favorite haunts in the University District of Seattle

Dear readers, I would like to alert you to the plight of a very special endangered species. It isn't exotic or lovely...except maybe in that understated wabi sabi way, and supporting it isn't trendy, but saving it just may help to save your own life (or at least your intellect).

It is the used bookstore. You know the place, that little shop that always seems to be crammed into a space with odd corners down a side street, where the ceilings are high and furry with the dust of millenia, where the aisles are narrow canyons, and the books are a hodge podge of colors and textures organized by seemingly esoteric systems of logic. You wont find glossy best sellers or Operah recommended self help texts here....and if you do they will likely be be well-thumbed, their covers softening around the edges, and their pages dog-eared. In fact you often wont find what you came looking for at all, but will be led willo the wisp fashion into titles and genres that you never dreamed you would set foot in before.

Staring down one of the daunting canyons of books at Magus

Here the shiny smell of fresh ink and plastic that characterizes chain bookstores is replaced by the intoxicating odors of dust, earth, stale cigar smoke, decaying paper, and age. Every book already has a history, and in purchasing one you must acknowledge your place in a long line of owners. You wont be the first and you hopefully wont be the last. It can sometimes be a bit sobering, even eerie, to uncover evidence of past use; old photographs jammed in between the pages, a heartfelt dedication scralled on the title page, finger prints, food stains, and in older books, the marks of mother nature herself; the rust colored splotches known as foxing, mildew, water damage, and fading and crumbling from long exposure to sunlight or atmospheric pollution.

Family photos found in the back of an Oaxacan cookbook

Everything that you buy in a used bookstore is a relic of some sort, and for those of us with slim wallets, it can be exciting to buy a piece of history for only $5.95. But beware, you likely wont escape entirely financially unscathed. After hours of browsing in dim lighting you might emerge blinking mole-like into the sunlight, with an odd amount of money missing and a heavy stack of books that at an outsider's glance, appear to have no relation to one another. You will feel dazed, confused, and ridiculously happy. Everyone will know what you have been up to by the vacant, dreamy smile on your face and the way you keep dipping your hand into your bag on the way home to caress your discoveries.

A wonderful dedication from one man to another.

A very non-pc book from the 1950's about Westerners trying to understand Japanese culture

An out of print edition of an amazing scifi/horror novel

Im lucky enough to live near the University District of Seattle, where used bookstores flourish and are allowed to roam free, but there are many areas where the only bookstore to be found is one of those awful sprawling corporate edifices that always appears to be well-stocked but where you can never seem to find a thing worth paying the exorbitant price for. Its difficult to resist their glittering allure in favor of the quieter dun-colored pleasures of the used bookstore, but do it if you can. We cannot allow these treasure-troves to succumb to gentrification and fade out of existence. So support your local used bookstore or the one in the next town over and for those of you that still need convincing just consider- its the green thing to do. ;-)

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Making The Best Of It

The glaciers are melting, the air is filling with greenhouse gases, our fuel reserves are on their way to being depleted, the economy is crippled, and the future is uncertain. Everywhere I go, I hear this forecast of doom. I was even pointed to a blog where eco concious parents where debating whether it was responsible to bring a child into such a troubled world. The idea of intelligent people refusing to reproduce out of fear and despair is truly depressing. One might ask what kind of a terrible time and place are we living in where we feel the need to make decisions like that. But I would argue that in spite of our troubles the future is not bleak and that in fact we are entering a period of tremendous potential.

The economic and eco crisis that we are experiencing is forcing us to change the way that we live and the way that we view the world. I say, good! We needed this kick in the ass to make us realize that the American Dream is no longer sustainable or satisfying. We have less money to spend, we have less fuel, and we cant ignore the fact that every bit of waste that we produce impacts the environment. But neighbors this is not something to fear, it is something to embrace, for by making the changes that we are being forced into we may discover a healthier, happier, more connected way of life.

The teaching garden at The Good Shepherd Center in Wallingford

Ever since the stock market crashed and the bubble burst I have seen gardens popping up in countless backyards and public lots. Thousands of people are rediscovering the joy of growing their own food, helping their neighbors and being able to provide for their families in a very real way. The DIY movement has taken off, there is a renewed interest in traditional food preservation, forgotten Americana, and slowing down the pace of life in general. Permaculture, Sustainability, Locavore, and Slow Food are becoming common buzz words. All of these changes tie communities together. Privation is leading us to draw closer to our friends and families, to eschew materialism, to focus on quality over quantity, and to be more aware of the world around us. In my mind this cannot help but increase our quality of life for we have certainly all already learned that a big house, a fancy car, and money to burn does not equal happiness.

Demonstration on fermenting vegetables at the Wallingford Urban Harvest Fair

Artist's design for a sustainable, eco concious Cul de sac at the 2010 Northwest Permaculture Conference

Community garden in a previously unused bit of space outside of Om Culture in Wallingford

Helen showing off her home garden in Wallingford, where she grows and sells produce to neighbors

So be excited about bringing a child into this world because they will have so much to offer each other. My only real fear is that once the economy recovers people will forget what they have learned and fall back into the same senseless mass consumption that has characterized the American way of life for far too long. I guess the best that we can do is build strong foundations for a better life now and hope that they will continue to stand come what may.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

French Press Coffee

You've probably heard the famous Turkish Coffee proverb at least once in your life:

'Coffee should be black as hell, strong as death, and sweet as love'

Well, I'd like to offer up my own addition of 'rich as Croesus' to that recipe. Too many times I have been served a sour and watery brew that went by the name of coffee but seemed to have more in common with tea. Good coffee should be opaque, it should have a nice mouth feel even without the addition of cream, and it should never ever have a sour aftertaste. The drip machine and the K-Cup may promise efficiency, cleanliness, and speed but I tell you that what they deliver is but a pale caffeinated shadow of true Coffee.

Purists prefer to follow the ancient Turkish technique of boiling coffee in a pot over a heat source but this method requires a watchful eye, often produces as gritty result, and is far from portable. So ladies and gentlemen, I present the solution to your problems- The French Press. As with the Turkish method, ground coffee is steeped directly in hot water for several minutes. This allows all of the wonderful natural oils clinging to the beans to saturate the water, and produces a drink that is more full bodied in terms of both flavor and texture than coffee made by simply passing water through the grounds. The plunger filter eliminates much of the dregs that most westerners find so distasteful, and the small and light glass reservoir is easy to carry. Lastly, this is obviously a low tech mechanism so it can be used while traveling and even while camping. All you need is access to boiling water.

I myself was introduced to the French Press on my first long camping trip. I had drunk ungodly amounts of alcohol the night before and was blearily trying to figure out how I was going to face another day of 'getting back to nature' when one of my friends pulled her Press out of her backpack. I watched in amazement as she boiled water on her camp stove, added it to the pot, seasoned with sugar and creamer, and then suddenly I had a cup of real coffee steaming in my hands. It was like handing water to someone who had been crawling through the dessert for days on end. That coffee- emblem of civilization, of comfort, was here, all the way out in the mountains of New England. I was sold.

After returning home I soon bought my own French Press and I have never looked back. If you aren't convinced yet, visit a restaurant or coffee shop that offers Pressed coffee and you'll soon see what I mean. But I warn you, most coffee will soon seem like water to you and you'll find yourself joining the ranks of coffee snobs before you know it.

For the uninitiated, below are some simple instructions on how to use your own French Press:

Remove the lid and add the ground coffee of your choice directly to the glass reservoir. We have the standard 17oz Chambord by Bodum, and I typically use about 2 full spoon-fulls plus one more 'for the pot' ( as the friend who first introduced me to the French Press used to say). Making coffee this way is more of an art than a science so after some experimentation you may find that you like to use more or less depending on your taste.

If you buy whole beans and grind them at home or at the store, there is a recommended setting for French Press pots but I have found this grind to be a bit too coarse and the coffee does not steep as well. If you use the setting for a drip machine the results are much better, but beware, there is a greater chance of some of the finer grounds making their way through the pot's filter and into your cup.

Pour boiling water into the reservoir, until the water line reaches the bottom of the chrome rim around the pot. Again, these are directions for the Bodum line, so other models may use different measurements. Give the water/coffee slurry a good stir and then replace the lid, making sure that the plunger is in the fully extended position.

Set a timer for 4min and let the pot sit undisturbed. After the time has expired, give the coffee another stir, replace the lid, and gently push down on the plunger. Turn the lid so that the filter is facing the spout and pour out your coffee.

Voila, the perfect cup!

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

We Cant Stop Here....

...this is Bat Country! Just had to shamelessly plug a new band that Jeff and I have recently gotten into. Their name is, Im assuming, a reference to Hunter S. Thompson's Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas and they describe their music as Doom Americana, which seems very appropriate given the retro feel of their aesthetic and the nature of their lyrics. They can say it better than I can though, so here is a blurb from their bio:

Seattle's one and only licensed purveyors of guaranteed, genuine, undiluted, 100-proof Doom-Americana, Bat Country are currently waiting outside your window with rusty shovels to bury you in the creeping existential dread of their pretty, pretty melodies. They are influenced by, in no particular order: The life stage, vaudeville, silent film stars, speakeasies, film noir, dive bars, minimalism, over-complicatedness, over-thinking, wide open spaces, hypocrisy, smoke and mirrors, constant vigil...

Bat Country at the Can Can in Seattle 8/15/10

I often feel that it does a disservice to both artists when you compare the music stylings of a new band to a more familiar one, but analogies and metaphors are the steam that the English language runs on, so if you like Tom Waits or The Peculiar Pretzelmen, you will probably like Bat Country. The lead singer's voice sounds delightfully as if it were forced out over a gravel road, but is saved from its own harshness by the combined rich and airy tones of the two accompanying female singers. Their songs range from ribald to melancholy and the band's use of the accordion and bass cello is not just charmingly retro, the instruments provide a strong supportive foundation to their music.

They dont have a CD out yet, but here is a little sample of what you can expect from the band. If you see their name on a club or bar's event list make sure you come out and support them!

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Taking Your Vitamins

The job search continues ad nauseum . I cant imagine a more frustrating endeavor than to send resumes and carefully crafted cover letters out into the void and almost never even receive a word back. Would it really be so hard to dash out at least a quick line or two in response like 'Sorry, the position has been filled' or 'Thanks for applying, we will let you know if we want an interview'? Then I have to remind myself that I'm not unique, there are countless people out of work right now, many in far worse situations, and they are all scrambling desperately for the same small pool of available positions. No company, no matter how kindhearted, could ever hope to respond to each and every applicant in such a faceless mass. But oh, if only this were a physical fight, instead of one waged in cyberspace, and if only I had my trusty harpoon.....

Anyway, the upside is that the usual sense of futility in job searching is often punctuated with moments of pure amusement, little bits on insight into the current human condition. For example, did you know that in Seattle, you dont just have to be an ordinary barista, you could be a cowgirl barista, or a bikini barista, or a lingerie barista. Wow, gives that cup of morning joe a whole new meaning....and moves yet another formally reputable job position just a little closer to sex worker.

Then there was the ad I came across entitled 'Do you like juicy hot dogs in sweet buns?'. Yes, this was a posting for a cook at a hot dog stand, but the unsavory innuendo in the title would likely put most people off.

On the other side of things, I have come across postings for sales jobs at adult novelty stores that somehow make both the store and the position sound as wholesome (and boring) as wonder bread. How professional can one be when directing a customer to the leather harness section or demonstrating the use of nipple clips?

There are ads that are obviously for exotic dancing positions that are never so crass as to mention the nature of the position, but that locals can decipher when they see the name of the employer (a well know gentleman's club)

I usually laugh when I see these job ads but I often find them depressing. Not because I'm upset by the objectification of women or anything so political as that....its just disheartening to really see sex sold so baldly as a commodity. On the consumer end you are at least fed the illusion that a real exchange is taking place, you have the right to a fantasy, but on the production end there can be no glitter, no gossamer, sex work is a business like any other and must be run with the same cutthroat organized professionalism.

I really started thinking about this today when I came across a posting that called for the submission of erotic stories. Of course my mind was immediately filled with images of Anais Nin toiling away over her typewriter for her mysterious 'collector' but no....there could be no such shady romance here, the company was looking to acquire as many cheap stories as they could for their online system. Each story had to be of a specific length, and since they would be sent to client's phones, they had to contain break points every 300 words so that the information could be sent in chunks. The goal was "a very manageable tidbit to read on the go, while still creating some intrigue and arousal". erotica is now something that people would like to get in quick efficient doses, just like that morning cup of coffee. No fuss, no time wasted, just your daily allotment of arousal.

So in the not too distant future (as in later this week) you can grab an espresso from a half nude barista, ride to work while reading the latest short erotic story, then finish the day off with a visit to the local sex shop where a sales girl dressed like a stock broker will explain how quickly one can orgasm when using the new Vibro 3000. At no point would you become more than briefly aroused but by the time you go to bed you will have the same satisfaction as someone who remembered to take their recommended dose of cod liver oil three times a day.

If this dreary forecast is not to your liking, then ditch the iPhone (and the vitamin supplements) and curl up with a real book. You wont receive your information in quality controlled, easily absorbed chucks, and you may waste some time, but I think you'll be happy rather than just satisfied.

In the meantime I'll keep searching...

Friday, July 23, 2010

Climbing The Penrose Stairs

This past week I finally gave in to all the positive reviews, the flashy previews, and the endorsements from friends and family, and went to go see Christopher Nolan's new film Inception. Mostly I was afraid that the longer I waited to see it, the greater the chances would become that a friend would drop an unintentional spoiler and the whole thing would be ruined for me before I could even set foot in a theater.

I was not disappointed. One reviewer described Nolan's film as an elegant piece of origami, and I couldn't have said it better. I had trouble at times remembering where we were in the many layers of the film, but trust me, if you are as jaded as I am by formulaic plots, the challenge is most refreshing. I was also impressed by how skillfully the director was able to weave action, cerebral story writing, and human interest together. Basically just about anyone would be able to find something to like in this film, which much as I like inaccessible sleeper hits and cult films, I could definitely appreciate.

All of that aside though, what really grabbed my attention the most was the musical score. It is easily one of the film's strongest features and almost literally carries the viewer along through the story. (I have no musical education, which means I have a very limited vocabulary for describing it, so all you music aficionados out there, please have patience with my fumbling.) The more I listened to it the more the techniques that the composer was using began to sound familiar to me: repeating harsh, almost sawing strings overlaid with smoother soaring tones. The score has no climax, just a continuous build-up, promising eventual resolution but never delivering. This theme is carried out throughout the film, often played over dialogue, and sometimes during scenes where there is no corresponding dramatic action occuring.

The effect is that one is kept in a constant state of light tension, alert, and interested throughout the duration of the film. Even mundane events and situations seem to be imbued with significance. The mind is arrested, cannot help but try to tease out, to reach for a conclusion. It is an incredibly clever and effective method of using music to enhance a film's dramatic content, and I realized at once that this is not the first time that I have encountered it. Nolan's previous film The Dark Knight contains the same musical technique, which is not surprising since Hans Zimmerman composed the scores for both films, but Soderberg;s Solaris (music composed by Cliff Martinez) has it, as does Duncan Jones' Moon (music composed by Clint Mansell).

I have included a sample of the theme from each film below. Listen to them one by one and the similarities will fall into place.

Start by listening to the theme for Inception (dont worry, if you haven't seen the film yet, this wont ruin it for you)

Now The Dark Knight (this is the same composer-Hans Zimmerman)

Then for something slightly different, lets listen to Cliff Martinez's theme for Solaris. Quieter, less energetic, but a similar idea...

Lastly, we have Clint Mansell's piece from Moon....

As you can see the effect in each is of constantly ascending or progressing tones but with no real climax or resolution. Interestingly enough, there is actually a famous aural illusion called Shepherd's Ascending Tones in which the same two notes are played over and over but create the illusion that the tone is continually ascending in pitch ad infinitum.

I cant help but also be reminded of the Penrose Stairs - an optical illusion wherein a two-dimensional depiction of a staircase makes four 90 degree turns as it ascends or descends, and yet appears to be a continuous loop. In other words, a person walking on such impossible steps would climb forever and yet never get any higher. There is a reference in Inception to the Penrose Stairs which ties in nicely with both the central plot of the film and also the musical techniques that I have been describing, but I cannot say more for fear of spoiling the story for the uninitiated.

So whats my point with all of this? I'm not quite sure...except to say that a: next time you really feel carried away by a film, take a good hard listen to the music and find out who the composer is, for they deserve your thanks just as much as the director. And b: nothing interesting exists in a vacuum, every detail ties into a larger theme, a bigger picture and one of life's chief joys is finding out how those pieces fit together.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Some Wolves Are Hairy On The Inside

Last Thursday I went for a short hike near Tiger Mountain with Jeff and his brother. It was early evening, most of the hikers and mountain bikers had departed, and the sun was just touching the tops of the trees, leaving most of the forest in shadow. At the trail-head, where tips about avoiding bears and hauling out garbage are usually pinned, there was a wanted poster.

On April 24th a female employee of the Department of Natural Resources was working alone on the trail and was approached by a white male in running attire. He engaged her in conversation, and when she turned her back for a moment, he shocked her with a taser and and pushed her to the ground. The woman was strong enough or lucky enough to fight off her attacker and was able to run back down the trail to the safety of her co-workers. The wanted poster warned us that the assailant had not been caught, that he was 40ish, average height, average build, and neat in appearance. In other words, he was no slavering maniac that could be registered as 'evil' on sight, he was completely ordinary and rather nondescript as most human predators seem to be.

Needless to say, after seeing the poster I couldn't quite manage to enjoy our hike. The shadows seemed too deep, the forest smell of moisture and decay was too ominous, too suggestive. It was as if I was viewing the negative of a color photograph, where all the tones are reversed and a scene of utter banality becomes mysterious, dangerous, and full of portent. I kept thinking about how far we were from help and how many others might have encountered beasts on that mountain and had not escaped, had not found help, had never themselves been found at all.

Even days afterwards I was troubled by this and I finally realized that the incident had so lodged in my mind because it was so terribly iconic. A young woman, alone in the forest, attacked by a monster who at first glance did not appear to be one. Its a story that we are all familiar with, that has been fed to us from infancy; the fairy tale of Little Red Riding Hood. A girl leaves the safety of the path and faces death in the form of a charismatic wolf. The metaphor appears obvious, an inexperienced female disobeys the rules that (male)society has set up to protect her, is tricked into trusting a creature that we, the far more knowledgeable readers, know to be evil, is devoured (one cannot help but see the sexual connotations here), and is then 'saved' (or not, depending on which version your grandmother told you) by a virtuous man. Its enough to put any feminist into a tizzy.

But read some of the older versions of the legend, or Angela Carter's wonderful modern retelling and the story transforms. Little Red Riding Hood is no fool, she left the path out of curiosity, not ignorance and she immediately suspects that the charming character she meets is but a facade. In the end the wolf is conquered or tamed and the girl loses her innocence, not her life.

I believe this story is so appealing to us because we have all experienced our own dark forests, whether they be in the mountains, in the city, or only in the depths of our minds. There are monsters there, but if we have the courage we can recognize them for what they are and avoid becoming their victims. The woman on Tiger Mountain was not swallowed by the beast, she escaped. She will never see the woods as a safe and familiar place again, but she will now enter them with awareness, as hopefully will I.

A wonderful take on the Legend where Little Red appears perfectly capable of facing her wolf.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Culinary History With a Sense of Humor

Ever wondered what it was like to live in a time period when water was unsafe and people of all ages drank ale with every meal? Or have you seen illustrations of the fabulous beasts laid to rest on medieval tables and wondered just what a cockatrice actually tasted like? These are the small personal details that all of us curious foodies want to know about, but somehow those dry historical tomes that painstakingly list who ate what and when always fail to satisfy. Fear not, BBC's television series The Supersizers is here to save the day. Inspired by the infamous American documentary Supersize Me, wherein filmaker Morgan Spurlock charted the disasterous results of eating nothing but McDonald's for 30 days, The Supersizers places Giles Coren (he's a restaurant critic) and Sue Perkins (she's a comedian and radio broadcaster) in a different historic time period each week wherein they must eat, dress, and live according to the style of the chosen era for a full seven days.

Each episode begins with a trip to a physician where Sue and Giles are given a full work-up and then advised on the possible health consequences of the diet they are about to adopt. For example, when Giles and Sue travel back to Elizabethan times they are warned that the copious amounts of sugar in 1500's cuisine will likely cause them to become hyperactive, while the correspondingly high levels of protein will make them lethargic. In other words, constant mood swings. (Hmmm, maybe thats why Shakespeare wrote both comedies and tragedies...)
Likewise, they are both warned that their livers will experience some additional stress as they adapt to consuming only alcoholic drinks at meal times.

Afterwards the pair dress the part and take up residence in a period house. There they are attended by a contemporary chef who introduces them to the typical foodstuffs they will be consuming (all laid out in charming still life fashion on a table) and then attempts to recreate the exact recipes and dishes of the chosen time for each meal. You will be amused by the similar reactions between the different chefs when they have to boil an animal's head for the menu. Apparently the smell is indescribable.

At the end of the week Sue and Giles make a follow-up visit to a physician to see how they have fared. Usually their high sugar, high alcohol diets have taken their toll, but after spending a week in the 1970's they discovered that they had actually become marginally healthier. Who knew? I guess it was the aerobics that did it.

Supersizers will give you an informative crash course in food history (learning about a culture's diet allows the viewer an incredible glimpse into the overall mindset of the era), but it is also highly entertaining. The chemistry between Sue and Giles is priceless, with her deadpan delivery constantly playing off of his acerbic wit. So far I have only been able to find the episodes on youtube (where you must watch them in segments) but perhaps you will have more luck than me. Either way, the hassle is well worth it, but I warn you...this will dash all hopes that you might have had of adding accurate period appropriate meals to your next Renaissance reenactment. The real thing is simply too time consuming and too ghastly in most cases.

It's Hot!

I know, I know, I shouldn't complain; the East Coast is experiencing record temperatures and brown-outs are rampant. I have single poignant image in my head of my friend Emily holed up in the chill cave of her bedroom (the only room that has an AC unit), trying to get her baby daughter to sleep through the worst of the heat. So my heart goes out to you East Coasters, we at least have our constant breeze off the water here. But oh, I had become so used to moist vagaries of Seattle spring weather...the mountains engaged in their usual disappearing act behind clouds, the misting rain, the cool nights when an open window was all that was needed .

Now the air turns tepid at dawn and is stifling by noon. A water glass set down on the counter immediately begins to sweat. The body is overcome by torpor and seems to thicken, while the heart shrinks and wants nothing more that to retreat salamander-like under a cool damp stone. Where are all my clear thoughts, my goals, my aspirations? All wilted and sluggish, all melted and overcome. Im reminded of a Shel Silverstein poem that I read as a child. I always found the last stanza to be sinister and yet accurate.

It's hot!

I've tried with 'lectric fans,
and pools and ice cream cones.
I think I'll take my skin off
and sit around in my bones.

It's still hot!

That right there is the difference between the dog days of summer and the freezing nights of winter (though both are equally uncomfortable). When you are cold you can easily put on more clothing, but when you are hot you can only take off so much before you are left with no recourse. It gives you a nasty feeling of futility. And trying to see the bright side, as I always do, I think to myself, maybe that is the lesson in it. There are many things in life that the human will cannot overcome, that sometimes we must put our heads down and give in to inertia, maybe even enjoy (on some level at least) the idea that for once, nothing can possibly be expected of us, and that we have nothing that needs accomplishing. We must simply sit idle, and indulge in a sort of bizarro hibernation.

In closing, here is a recipe for a cool and refreshing sandwich that will at least get you through the afternoon. It is reminiscent of a British tea sandwich, but sized more towards lunch proportions.

Asparagus and Prosciutto Sandwich

1 small bunch fresh asparagus
2 tbs good thick sour cream (Im crazy about Nancy's Cultured Sour Cream) or creme fraiche
1 green onion or several chives, finely chopped
2 slices of bread (homemade preferred of course)
1/2 a lemon
2 slices of prosciutto

Trim and peel the asparagus and cook for 4-6 minutes in a pan of boiling salted water. Immediately plunge into an ice water bath and set aside

Spread one slice of bread with the sour cream or creme fraiche and sprinkle withe the chopped green onions or chives.

Arrange the asparagus spears on the bread and squeeze a bit of lemon juice over them.

Drape 1-2 slices of prosciutto over all, top with the second slice of bread, and voila!

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Restaurant Review: Noodle Boat Thai

I’ll admit it, I haven’t had many happy experiences with Thai cuisine. Several times I have followed an excited friend to a restaurant that supposedly had ‘great thai food’ only to find myself staring down at the same tropically sweet coconut curry swimming with the usual assortment of coarsely chopped mixed veggies. Somehow I always got the impression that the chefs were simply cleaning out the back of their fridge and mixing the lot with canned sauce. True, coconut milk covers a multitude of sins, but it cant turn leftovers into a gourmet dish on its own. Still, in spite of such experiences, I have remained hopeful, so when a friend of a friend who works for the Seattle Times invited Jeff and I on a culinary expedition to a Thai restaurant that has been garnering amazing reviews, I couldn’t help but feel excited.

At first sight, Noodle Boat Thai doesn’t appear very promising. Its name isn’t particularily evocative (not that this is ever much of an indicator of a restaurant’s quality) and it is squeezed into an out of the way strip-mall in Issiquah, next to a nail salon. Even with the GPS in tow we had a hard time spotting it at first. But trust the reviews, inside this place is a jewel box , its tiny space crammed with richly colored statues and tapestries that the owners have collected over the years. Walk through the restaurant to the right and you will find yourself surrounded by umbrella shaded tables, lush foliage, and gilded shrines in the surprising oasis of the outdoor patio.

We set up camp outside and were promptly presented with copies of the restaurant's menu; a heavy hand-made tome that looked like a veritable necronomicon of Thai cuisine. Our attentive waitress gave us advice on what to order and which dishes were best served hot or mild. We started with Thai Iced tea which arrived in charming terra cotta pots. I’ve always had mixed feelings about Thai Iced tea; on its own it can be overwhelmingly sweet, but if consumed with a spicy meal it has the same soothing effect as Indian raita. In this case, I was wise to order it for just such a reason.

For our appetizer we chose Mieng Kum; an incredible array of condiments ( chopped ginger, dried shrimp, minced red onions, dried chilis, toasted coconut, limes, and sugar palm sauce) in separate small blue and white saucers, surrounded by edible leaves called Cha Plu. The leaves were mostly bland on their own, but one is meant to fold them into cup shapes and then fill them with the items of one’s choosing. The effect is an explosive mouthful that runs the gamut of salty, sweet, sour and spicy all in one bite. Because of the dish’s small size and potency, it is truly an appetizer in the original sense of the word- not filling but very effective at stimulating the appetite for things to come.

Next up, the oddly named Queen of Banana: Steamed banana blossom with chicken, shrimp, lime leaves, mint, onion, and cilantro, tossed with coconut milk and chili paste. This was an amazingly tart and fresh dish, pleasantly dominated by the mint and lime. The steamed banana blossom had a tender and juicy texture not unlike artichoke hearts, which the chewier notes of the chicken and shrimp, and the crunch of the other vegetables balanced out nicely.

Our second entree of Lard Nha was the only one we ordered with a medium level of spice (Im ashamed to say that I have always been rather a light-weight when it comes to hot dishes). Wide, silky noodles were stir fried with brocoli and beef in a rich and spicy black bean sauce. This was one of the more savory dishes that we ordered but it still contained a subtle hint of sweetness.

For our third dish we chose the Halloween Curry (so named because it contains Thai pumpkin). This one was the big one for me, would this be just the sort of curry dish that I had been dreading? Judging by the previous dishes, all signs already pointed to no. The curry arrived in a ceramic pumpkin dish (they do not skimp on presentation at Noodle Boat) and was so delicious that I was literally shocked. I have never been a big fan of the squash family, but each golden nugget of pumpkin was so perfectly cooked-soft but not mushy, and had just the right balance of salty and sweet that I may become a convert. We ordered the curry with pork but the meat was rather lost next to the pumpkin so I would keep it vegetarian next time.

Our last dish of Volcano Gem Hen was something we ordered simply because the description on the menu contained the admonition 'Volcano not lit for customers under 21'. How could re resist finding out what that was all about? A tiny roasted hen (about the size of a cornish hen) was drenched in alcohol, briefly set alight by the waitress, and then doused in a sticky sauce. Since we were out on the patio in full daylight, the intended visual effect was somewhat lost, but the resulting extra crispy skin was delightful. The salty hen was the perfect foil to the preceding sweet and semi-sweet dishes, it almost acted as a sort of palatte cleanser in that regard. Not the most complex thing we ordered but definitely flavorful and tender.

All three of us regretted ordering so many dishes (or at least our stomachs did) but when you are trying out a new restaurant you want to sample as many offerings as possible, there is simply no avoiding it. I would most definitely return to Noodle Boat despite it being a half hour drive from Seattle (Jeff and I have driven much further in pursuit of a good meal), as far as my limited knowledge of the cuisine goes, the menu was authentic, surprising, and delicious. I encourage those who are more familiar with traditional Thai dishes to make the effort of visiting Noodle Boat, as I would love to hear your opinion! Dont be daunted by the drive or the location, critics praise the hidden gems of the restaurant world time and again, and this is definitely one of them.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

True Grit

I was out walking today, as I am every day, rain or shine, and found my originally purposeful stroll transforming into more of a wander. Wandering, that is walking with no purpose or destination in mind, is one of the best ways to get to know a city in my opinion. Its plan is allowed to unfold in an organic fashion, rather than in geometric fits and starts, and one can see some of the spirit that lies beneath the familiar constellations of shops and galleries.

Artifact from the pre-internet porn days; the soon to close Lusty Lady peep show sits shoulder to shoulder with its high class neighbors.

On this occasion I was struck by how visible the myriad historic layers of seattle are, each stratum layered one on top of the other in a jumble of eras and textures. Boston is like this, but even Boston's crazed streets appear reasonable when compared to the exuberant mess of hills and buildings that is downtown Seattle. Victorian edifices of genteel brick are sandwiched between brash new apartment buildings with mirrored sides, streets carry on more or less straight and then plunge alarmingly to sea level, past tipsy earthquake cracked warehouses, and under the giantess legs of the viaduct. Rusting iron and corroded stone slump beneath the glowing tubes of neon signs, and the rain forest encroaches wherever it can; slimy moss on sidewalks, ferns clinging tenaciously to alley walls like terrestrial mollusks. And then there are the encircling mountains, the lares and penates of the city, who only show their timeworn faces to us mortals when they choose, but whose mercurial weather moods shape the pattern of our days. So many tiers of time and place, it can be dizzying

The hidden world beneath the viaduct.

I would like to compare all this to the concentric rings of a tree; a legible timeline reaching back to the city's beginnings, but that is far too orderly of a metaphor for this great gritty place. Seattle is an eroded cliffside, where the young soil has been washed away haphazardly to expose layer upon layer of ancient rock. It is transparent new skin stretched over old bones, it is a tide wrought wharf where many colored woods shine beneath clusters of armored sea creatures. It is beautiful. The eye is never made weary, but is always intrigued anew by the mysteries each bit of architecture and landscape promises.

A post apocalyptic scene; the sun sets behind a crumbling wall near the wharf.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

A Modern Pilgrimage

As you can surmise from my last posting, Jeff and I have left Boston. After years of procrastination, worry, and dreaming, we are finally taking our relationship with the city of Seattle to a new level. We dare to believe, you see, that this lovely, quirky city ruled by mountains and sea will eventually become a place that we can call 'home' in all senses of the word. This is the first time that either of us has chosen a place to live- not for school, not for work, not for family, but simply for pleasure. Its an exciting choice to make but it carries many burdens. We are both further away from friends and family than we have ever been-even phone calls require more thought because of the three hour difference from the East Coast. And we have to start our lives over again in may ways, which is terrifying....but also liberating.

We have been here for about two weeks now, having left Boston on May 21st, and what a long and strange trip it was to get here. (Please excuse the haphazard nature of this post....its not an easy thing to tidy the experiences of several weeks into a few neat paragraphs.) We somehow condensed all of our possessions into two 5x7x8 crates (its frightening to see your entire household fit into two flimsy wooden boxes and equally disturbing to see just how much random stuff two people can accumulate in 8 plus years) and had them shipped on ahead of us to Seattle. We put our very angry cat into another crate (dont worry, this one was designed for animals) and waved goodbye to him at the airport. It was strange to think of so many details of our lives arriving before us, but I guess the thought was that our new world could start to take shape ahead of us and all we would have to do was show up.

We then embarked on what I can only call a modern pilgrimage. Ten days of driving, from coast to coast, across a portion of the United States that was entirely a blank for me before this. We decided to drive instead of flying for practical reasons (we needed some way to get our car to Seattle) but also because we had never done the fabled 'cross country road trip' before and we felt that a more gradual transition from one city to the next would make the change less painful. It is true that the lengthy trip made adjustment easier on some level...after just a few long days on the road we began to feel like gypsys, with no past, no future, just an endless present, and with no goals except to drive, always keep driving, mile after mile. Our usual comforts were stripped away and all of our desires regressed (or evolved?) to basics: sleep, food, gas, beer, coffee. And strangely, we were never lonely. Our trip was an instant conversation starter and we found ourselves chatting with locals all across the country. Our city aversion to conversation with strangers was soon eradicated and we found friends in the most unexpected places.

And the land....oh the land. I hate to sound so tritely patriotic, but somewhere along the way I fell in love with America. Such rugged beauty, such timelessness and all there, right under my nose. In the mornings I witnessed the gentle mating of earth and sky as clouds embraced the mountain tops, and at night the sky became our theater; a bowl of stars upended over the road. I watched the colors of the land change from the vibrant spring greens and yellows of New England to the watercolor tints of the Midwest: subdued ocher and russet cliffs, pale gold and sage green fields, and milky aquamarine rivers. In cattle country where the soil was rocky and dry and the hills were wild, I saw the importance of the overstated ranch gates, how they stood like symbolic shinto thresholds, keeping out the chaos of the wilderness and demarcating the human cosmos within. In the mountains I saw burn zones, where incinerated pine trees stood like strokes of charcoal against rocks coated in brilliant orange lichen. Later, I watched as those jagged peaks transformed into gentler hills; bunched folds of green velvet along lazy rivers. I saw endless fields of glistening obsidian, where a 2000 year old volcano had erupted, and I faced my own fear to explore the caves that lava flows had carved.

Most importantly, I saw a bit of the essential difference between the East and the West. In the East, everywhere you see the mark of man's hand and the passage of human time: how cities were birthed and evolved, how industry subdued the land, how paths became roads. The countryside is familiar, gentle, and nonthreatening. In the West, the cities are fewer and farther between and everywhere you see the mark of Nature's hand and nature's history; how ancient rivers carved valleys, how the earth heaved up and became mountains. The West has a terrible beauty; it makes you feel small and powerless, but somehow it also makes you feel whole, makes you realize that you cannot exist independently of the natural world that birthed you.

So I guess this trip was not an ordeal, it was a learning experience. And all poetic appreciation aside, here are some of the concrete lessons that I learned:

1. Coastal cities are not the only depositories of culture in the United States.
2. People are the same everywhere...but they seem to get friendlier that farther you travel from the East Coast.
3. Coffee in the morning makes everything okay
4. Laptops and GPSs are not examples of evil technology, on the road, they are your best friends.
5. The purest things I have ever seen are the roadside signs that read simply: Beer Gas Food. Thats the holy trinity on a road trip man, thats all you need to feel human.
6. No matter how intellectual you think you are, after six straight hours or driving, all conversation will regress to baby talk and belligerent babbling.
7. A bull Bison can and will fuck you up if you mess with him
8. Chicago has the best Mexican food
9. Beer can be used as a bartering tool
10. Home is not a fancy house with a picket fence, it is wherever you can put down your bags and lay your head at night next to the person you love.

We're here Seattle, are you ready for us? Are we ready for you?....

Thursday, May 20, 2010

A Love Letter to Boston

Last week I made one final trip into the city to say goodbye before the chaos of the moving process really took hold in earnest. As I have always done over the years when feeling out of sorts, I paid a visit to the historic wing of the Boston Public Library. The elegance and timelessness of the baroque architecture and Sargent’s beautiful murals have never failed to make me feel calmer and more centered when Im feeling run down, overwhelmed, or even just sad. In the dim, womblike enclosure of the upper level I almost always find myself alone, which is truly a rare thing in downtown Boston.

At this time the library was hosting a retrospective exhibition of Jules Aarons’ photographs of Boston Neighborhoods during the 1950’s and 1960’s and it felt appropriate to check it out and make contact with the city’s history one last time. But looking at these incredibly intimate and candid shots of street life during a time before I was born, I had a hard time relating what I saw to the Boston of today, the Boston that I know. I realized just how much the city must have changed over the years and how little I was aware of those changes. My presence here for these last 8 years has been little more than a blip on the city’s radar. So I started to wonder….do I really ‘know’ Boston at all?

Maybe that is a part of the sadness of leaving that I hadn’t counted on…this feeling that I have nothing to hold on to, that I cant take Boston with me because it isn’t mine, was never mine, at least not in the way that the people who have been born and raised here feel it in their very bones, feel that it belongs to them and they to it. I have loved my life here but in some ways I have always been just visiting, an eternal interloper or tourist. It seems that I have never had enough time to see everything, to learn everything, I was just passing through.

But Boston, I love you. I love you so very much. I love that your streets distain the thought of a grid, that they meander in organic madness and make walking more efficient than driving. I love how mom and pop stores from another era still cling to business in the midst of your most gentrified areas. I love the way that slick steel and glass skyscrapers sit shoulder to shoulder so companionably with crooked townhouses of aging brick and stone. I love your back alleys, where some of the best restaurants hide. I love your river that divides you from Cambridge, but never manages to keep you apart. I love your graveyards where the stones have been washed clean of memory by rain and wind. I love your suburbs, where each town retains its own unique identity, while still remaining loyal, and I love all of the amazing, challenging, and wonderful people that I have been privileged to call friends.

I love you for what you were, what you are, for all the things I have seen, and all things I have been blind to. You took me in and nurtured me, even though I wasn’t your own and now you are letting me go, sending me on my way to a new destiny. And maybe I have actually been privileged because I have never belonged to you….your sights have never become mundane and you have never ceased surprising me. Often an outsider can see things that a native cannot. So I hope because of this, you’ll let me carry just a part of you with me. Goodbye Boston, I will never forget you, and Im sure we will meet again one day.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

The Cat Came Back

I truly love living in a city (or at least within shouting distance of one). Yes, its noisy, the traffic is atrocious, and its hard to find personal space when you are out and about, but a city is so varied, so multi-layered, so full of stories and textures that it can attain an almost magical quality if you look at it the right way. Read Italo Calvino’s Invisible Cities and you’ll see what I mean. He understood that what we think of as one city, as a single organism is actually many worlds, all crammed together, all coexisting. Some of these worlds are obvious and some can only been seen in the right light or when you are in the right mood.

I grew up in suburbia and for me cities were once places where one went on vacation….as some people go on safari. You gawk, you keep a map close at hand, and when you leave, its almost with a sigh of relief. Oh yes, I’d say, I love to visit, but I could never LIVE there. So when I first moved to Boston for Grad school about 7 years ago, I was so terrified, that I literally didn’t leave my apartment for several days. I sensed that the city was a beast, that it wanted to absorb me, digest me, and I wasn’t ready to give myself up to something bigger than myself that I couldn’t understand. But over the years I learned how to do just that and it was only then that I was able to see past the big picture and pick out the tiny facets beneath.

I’m writing about this now because of one of these tiny facets that I noticed last week, the type of little incident that seems unimportant but manages to tenaciously stick in your mind.

When I was working in the South End, I used to take the commuter rail into South Station early every morning. Right before the train heads into the station, it crosses a sort of wasteland of access roads, construction sites, and rusted heaps of metal. Every time I passed through this spot on my morning commute, my eye was caught by the same thing; a sort of make-shift dog house sitting right there in the middle of this industrial dumping ground. It was really no more than a box with a small door cut out of it, and there was often a bowl for food or water placed out front. I always wondered what sort of creature lived there, but never gave it more than idle speculation. Then, several weeks ago I was taking the train into downtown on a shopping trip and saw that the house was gone. Suddenly I felt very very sad…, as if instead of a mystery being solved, it had simply been blotted out. I was surprised how much this little bit of a story and its disappearance had affected me. A few days later I was again riding the train, and there it was, a brand new house, this one very obviously hand crafted. Sitting next to it was a large grey Persian cat.

It sounds silly I know, but the sight of a domestic cat, out there in a place that is the closest to the middle of nowhere that you can come to in a city, was almost shocking to me. I thought wow….this is it, this is the animal that has been living here all these years. Someone that works on the trains saw this animal, fed it, built a home for it, and has cared for it all this time….and probably very few other people are even aware of its existence. It is tied to the city as much as the train, the station, all the other large blatant parts of Boston are, but it exists in another world that can only be seen if you are looking for it. It made me wonder….how many other things are living and happening that I don’t know about. Things in odd corners, in back alleys, or maybe even right out in front of me? This is what it is to be part of a city, I mused,….it’s a constant discovery, an eternal exploration. Who knows what those canyons and jungles of cement and steel have to offer. I guess that’s why its so important to always fight for the window seat on the train. ;-)