Sunday, February 28, 2010

A Strange Fascination With Degrees

I really like north Texas. It's an odd place to like; there isn't much there, and it's dusty and hot. But the sky is impossibly large, and the sheer amount of space just captivates me. I'm looking forward to driving through it again.

My favorite places in the United States are the extremes. I love the big cities and the vast empty stretches of nothing. If I had to make a blanket statement, I would say that the best of the U.S. is in these places, and the worst is in the suburbs and exurbs. I don't know if that's one hundred percent true, but I think it's at least a fair thing to say. If you want the great things this country has to offer, your best bet is to get off a subway stop in NYC or park your motorcycle by highway 60 in Willow Springs, Missouri. Anything in between will be degrees of compromise. Everything I like about this country, certainly, I have found in either small towns or big cities.

One reason, perhaps the reason, is we are an extreme nation. There are few in-betweens. Traveling through Europe or Japan, the other places I have experience with, and I see towns as smaller cities. Not that they don't have their own personalities and quirks, but they aren't made up of different people. The degrees of separation between Milan and Torino are in culture and scale. They're real differences, but understandable. NYC and Elmira are worlds apart.

So, I'm excited about north Texas, Oklahoma, and Missouri. I'm ready to see those empty, vast spaces and meet the rare person who chooses to live there. I'm nostalgic for that huge, heavy sky pressing down on me. I wonder what the kids will think of our extremes.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

All New Wayward Cafe

Jaime, the kids and myself went to the opening of the new location of Wayward Cafe today. It was everything yummy and delicious and good. Apparently everyone thought so, since the place was packed. We even ran into a few friends. It was a delicious, delicious afternoon. Their menu has expanded, they're in a nice big new location. Wayward just keeps getting better. And look at this lovely stolen image of their food!

Wayward Cafe is my favorite restaurant on Earth. It serves food in the afternoon, too, but what makes it my favorite is that it serves the best breakfast and brunch I have ever had. I'm a big fan of brunch; it's the greatest meal of the day, and it's ambiguous enough that I can gorge myself or eat light, whatever my mood. It's one of the few times I can drink cup after cup of coffee and not get yelled at by Jaime! For some reason, probably coffee and fat based, brunch is my happy place.

Today, thanks to the expanded menu, I had french toast, tofu scramble, and vegan sausage. I stole some of Arkaedi's hash browns too, just to round out the edges. (Pretty: "My food!") Viri had some pancakes, and Jaime had a breakfast sammich. I managed to steal some of that as well. As busy as they were, the wait wasn't too bad, and the food was perfect as usual. I'm going to miss a lot of food things in Seattle: vegan cinnamon rolls, Mighty-O doughnuts, multiple vegan Chinese restaurants. But I will definitely miss Wayward most of all. It's just so damn cozy.

After Wayward, we wandered over to the Sidecar Pigs For Peace shop, a nice little all purpose vegan shop, and got myself a new belt. Finding cool vegan belts is always a challenge, but I found a nice one today! I just need a nice buckle to snap on, and the pants-holding is complete! I'll miss Sidecar too. Seattle is a great place to be a vegan. It's a dangerously fattening place to be a vegan. But great.

Vegan family brunch at Wayward will be missed. We'll need a nice replacement in Ithaca. Maybe I can convince Jaime to just open a place. And let me have never-ending coffee. And she can make doughnuts! It'll make the pain of leaving Wayward ease a little, and my waistline slowly expand. Everyone wins!

Friday, February 26, 2010

Thanks, Medium Large!

Love Takes Wing And Craps On Us

I wrote a few weeks ago about my problems as a demographic nightmare. Today I got a particularly egregious reminder of this fact. I ordered shirts, and received a nightmare of my own. It was an ad for a little doll, complete with porcelain horror and disgust. Witness the photo.

To begin with, I have to explain my problem with clothes. I've always had trouble finding clothes to wear. I repeatedly have wished for a national uniform policy, just to save me the worry of selecting pants and shirts. I solved this by just creating my own uniform. It comes in two varieties, a home and away version. The home version is black t-shirt, black dickies, and trail running shoes. I'm partial to Keen. It's simple enough, and it gets the job done without drawing undue attention to myself. The away version is slightly showier, to impress the crowds. It's a black button down, black dickies, and boots. Cowboy or motorcycle, depending on my mood.

It's worked for me for a few years, except I've never been totally comfortable with the button down shirts. I finally found the perfect shirt, all black, vaguely cowboy style. Meaning it's tailored in, and shows a vaguely more masculine shape than my doughiness would suggest. I'm muscular AND fat, you see, not just fat*. The company apparently caters to people looking to recapture a mythical west of happy and lovely native women, eager for the love of doughy white guys**.

It made me concerned about what mailing lists I got myself on. Am I going to get mailings from people selling American flag macrame? Is it the other end of the spectrum, and am I doomed to get emails from shamanic healers selling medicine bags? Which one is worse?

Either way it goes, this kind of bland and horrible whitewashing of history is awful to behold. It's bad enough we've stolen land and marginalized the population; now we add insult to injury. Unless this is a casino style thing, and the people are getting new cars and cashing our checks, laughing all the way. If there is a native woman somewhere profiting off of this, then, hey good on you. But is the punishment really fitting? Do even we, heirs to murderers and thieves, deserve "Love takes wing?"

Maybe. But it's a low blow. I'd rather they take back the midwest***. Much rather.

*You don't have to believe that.
**Not like me. I'm not that doughy. Seriously.
***Talk about doughy.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Trip Plotting And Driving With Kids

We're planning our massive journey from coast to coast. (For the sake of an easy description, I'll actually just christen the Finger Lakes part of the Atlantic Ocean, and say it really is coast to coast. There, done. Coast to coast it is.) We've got some exciting stops planned, some lovely scenery, some hauntingly beautiful stretches of road to cover. I'm incredibly excited to see my good friends in California, my family in Tennessee and Iowa, my friends and family in West Virginia. I'm less excited, somewhat seriously less excited, about crossing huge swaths of the country with two little ones in tow.

I'm not sure how they'll handle it. They are fine in the car, but this is a huge trip. They'll enjoy seeing friends and family. But we have no one from California to Tennessee, given that we're taking a pretty southern route. The desert will be interesting for them, I imagine. But how interesting? And will Arkansas derail us entirely, forcing us to disband and join other families? Will Jaime kill me the twentieth time I make reference to the Boggy Creek creature?

We have a mix of distraction and sleep planned to get us through the trip. We plan on early morning drives, evening drives, and a portable dvd player. I'm less worried about Viri, since he can draw and talk, and more worried about Arkaedi, who can throw crayons and scream. (And sing. Many a commute has been made hilarious and long by a chorus of "My poop!" from Pretty Sue.)

The trip is going to be amazing, however it turns out. Interesting, exciting, and insane, most likely. Some of my fondest memories are of trips just like this. Breaking down in snow covered fields in Iowa. Laughing at nothing in Arizona with Jaime because we've been driving for days. The biggest a sky could possibly be in Texas.

If nothing else, this could be the trip I reference when I'm boring my children with tales of the Boggy Creek creature.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

A Walk, Or A Trot

The kids and I walked around Seattle's downtown today, enjoying the nice weather and downing a doppio and a cinnamon bun.

Well, the kids and I shared the bun; I just drank the espresso. (Arkaedi Sue: "Papa coffee! Not my coffee!")

It was a lovely morning, and I just drank in the Seattle downtown. I miss living in the middle of the action. I don't think it's the best place for small kids, but I do miss it. One of my dreams is to eventually live in the downtown of a city again. Perhaps in the near future.

One of the perks of being downtown today: we saw the Harlem Globetrotters. Jaime had a seminar at some fancy hotel, and the Globetrotters were there! It was fun. They have really hot girlfriends. It pays to globetrot, I guess. Good for them.

I'm not much of a celebrity person. But it was fun to see these guys. I'll add them to Lance Armstrong, and some random Seahawks players whose names I don't know to the list of athletes I have seen in person. I've never seen a Mariner out and about in Seattle. I have friend who've sen Ichiro, but no such luck.

Being in this lovely city today though also made me excited to move. I'm not sure why, except that walking the streets, carrying Arkaedi in a backpack, and holding Viri's hand made me feel like we were traveling. It was a nice feeling, and I am enthusiastic about exploring a new town with them. I found out my basic schedule for the next year, and it's busy, while not overwhelming. It should be manageable. I'll have time for my three mental health exercises: coffee, brunch with Jaime, and parks with kids.

I doubt I'll see any famous sports figures. Maybe we can play spot the tenured Cornell professor. And then mock his Prius.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Spring In February

Today is exactly the kind of day I will miss when I leave Seattle. It's warm, sunny, and spring-like in February. It's wonderful. Viri took Biscuit, Arkaedi and I out for some doughnuts, and we had a grand time. Even with Arkaedi Sue terrible two-ing and making a mess. (Biscuit was exceptionally well behaved.)

The mountains were out, and everywhere you looked there were snow covered peaks. I really love the mountains. It's hard to explain to people how amazing they are, when the clouds allow you to see them. I grew up around lovely hills, and there is a certain charm to the rolling green of West Virginia. But nothing beats the intense, hard glare of the Cascades, or the Olympics, staring down at you. It's like being watched by the gods of Mount Olympus.

As much as I'll miss the nice weather, and the morning trips to Mighty-O, I won't miss the calories. In fact, one of the big pluses of moving to Ithaca will be the relative lack of vegan junk food. Maybe my gym trips will be more than damage control, for once. (I could start running again. But the fact remains that I'd rather bench press my body weight than run. This way I'm strong enough punch whatever others are running from.)

My first step upon moving to Ithaca will be finding a good brunch place, however. Maybe I'm doomed to find unhealthy fare wherever I am. Compared to an addiction to crack or reality shows, vegan junk is pretty tame. I still imagine that Jaime would rather I had an addiction to... making tinctures, or something. Actually I don't know what she'd recommend. It'd be work, though.

Regardless, I'm taking a lot of pictures of the places I like in the next month. I'm keeping a record. When I'm miles from fried sugar I can eat, the memory can sustain me. Jaime will be sustained by the belt sizes decreasing.

ADDENDUM: I forgot that Cheese the penguin was there too. He's so quiet, Biscuit gets all the attention.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

All You Need Is A Bat, A Ball, And God's Green Earth

Pitchers and catchers report. The baseball season's spring training has officially begun. For the first time in six years, I will not see a Mariner's game for the entire year. I'm a little upset about that.

I will get to see the Triple-A Binghamton Mets. That'll be fun. But no Major League games, no Ichiro, no cheering what is likely Junior's last season. I'll have to watch online, read the Mariner's blogs, and envision green grass and cool summers in Seattle as the Mariner's roll to a probable division title and lands beyond. It's sad.

I've always rooted for professional sports teams near where I live. I watched what games were on, and didn't concern myself greatly with who won. It was about the game. It's still about the game, but years of going to the ballpark and watching and hearing the history of the Seattle Mariner's means that I am hooked. This is my team. The kids were born here, and I will always love Seattle. So, I'm a Mariner's fan.

It's like my college. I'm going to a different grad school, I've not lived in West Virginia since 2000, but I went to WVU. That's my undergrad school, so that's the college team I follow. There's no way around it.

It's different with baseball anyway. I like watching sports. I just finished a curling match (match? game? I don't even know) between the US and Japan, and I enjoyed it. Women's curling caught my attention for a few minutes. I like sports. But baseball is special. Baseball is geometry and statistics. Baseball is patience and speed. The defense controls the ball in baseball, and the pitcher and batter duel dozens of times a day. It's the greatest game in history.

And I'm going to miss my team's season.

Well, if Seattle is in the World Series, I'm flying back here. And staying in a hotel, and watching every game.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Ode To American Palates: The Taco

As yon penguin here does show us
the lowly taco is more 'et
When shining vegan yummies are
easier for mine mitts to get

A stew is fine, or sushi good
a delicate salad suffice
Though when hearts yearn for olden time
vegan white trash food digests nice

Some snobbish compadres may balk
at soy meat or faux sour cream tub
I maintain the joys of my youth
In pretend fowl or fake deli sub

O! To glorious day beneath
rusty bleachers in squalid hole
Devouring what my mère sent
imagined grub of Mexico.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

It's The, Year Of The Tiger, It's The Thrill Of The Fight

Happy year of the tiger!

Unfortunately I couldn't find the awesome skit about Survivor that I wanted. But we did have a nice dinner with our friends Jeff and Kelly, complete with tea and Buddha's delight and mochi. It was a great deal of fun, and it reminded me of how important it is to get together and have a good time with good friends. We don't make nearly enough time for it.

Arkaedi was very impressed with the cat, and spent a part of the day chasing it around and being a general spazz. Good to know that Viri doesn't monopolize the family spazzing. When it comes to kitties, she can hold her own. "Kitty say meow! Kitty say meow! AHAHAHAHA!"

The prospect of moving has brought up the problem of friends. We have friends in Ithaca, of course, but I'm sad to leave my good friends here. We've been here six years, and between school and jobs and all, we've made some great friends. Especially our couple friends. We're at that strange age when basically all of our friends are couples. Many of them with kids. Moving so far across the country means we'll have a hard time seeing them, at least for a while. The trip from Seattle to Ithaca is going to be daunting enough with two kids, making it back here a few times a year is impossible. We may move back, certainly, but until we move I think we'll stay back east.

The move makes sense, and we need to do it. But there is a sacrifice, and I'm sad to make it. All of our friends, the kids' friends, Viri's school and social circle... they'll be sorely missed. I hope that we can meet some good friends with kids in Ithaca. I think we will, of course. But we'll miss everyone here badly. Until we find a way to come back.

Or kidnap them.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

The Plans©

As I obliquely hinted at with my previous post and map, we are moving across the country. I am starting a Master's program in Education at Ithaca College, NY. The one that isn't the home of Odysseus. (Funnily enough, I am sitting in Herkimer Coffee as I type this, named after Herkimer NY, a few miles up the road from Ithaca. Synchronicity!)

This is probably happening sooner than expected, due to money and schedule and other issues. It looks like we are leaving at the beginning of April, and moving slowly across the country, stopping to visit and camp. (With tents. Though we will enact a scene from Hairspray, if you like.)(I am more parenthetical when I get nervous and excited. I eat more too. Danger.)

Jaime and I are both exceedingly nervous about this. It's a big change, and an expensive one. But, for our long term careers and well being, it is necessary. We may, actually, even end up back in Seattle when the program is done. We like Seattle. My Pretty was born here. My boy has friends here. We like Seattle, and will miss it. We may find our way back. It depends on where I can find work, and what Jaime's practice looks like in New York. There are a lot of ifs, at this point.

Honestly, I'm fine with that. Through my nervousness and concern is a deeper strain of joy at the change. I always tried to learn from the experience of growing up in a horrible little town, and appreciate the greater world out there. I've lived in a fun big city, little suburbs, a college town. I've lived in two different countries, and traveled through a half dozen more. I've made an effort, at every turn, to soak up what was around me, and breathe in life. I started a family, and cared for my kids, and learned to see the world from the eyes of a little human just entered into life.

This is the next stage in that growth. I'm wise enough to be open to it, and not expect to predict it. At 33, this is a good place to be in, and I'm lucky to be here.

ADDENDUM: Case in point. I had to run to the restroom, and a couple of nice middle aged ladies watched my computer, joking with me about it. This happens a lot of places, but there is something casual about it in Seattle that I love. Jaime and I discussed it yesterday. Seattle is fleece, quiet, calm. Seattle is vegan food and no fancy dress. Seattle is polite and private. Seattle is US. I hope we do find a way to come back.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Crazy Plan Of The Decade

My Seattle friends will tell you that I am an expert crazy plan maker. I come up with them, and get a few steps, and the cold fist of reality smacks me back into place. I have, however, planned myself into a somewhat-less-crazy-than-usual plan, that actually seems likely to happen! It's a great, career advancing graduate program, complete with relocation and a vacation type trip!

I'm asking for some help, here. This is a map of the "return to the big east" trip, and it includes some family and friend destinations. People who I assume are okay with my cadre of four humans staying and visiting for a day or two. (Or six. Sorry Gramma and Bebe! And sorry Kacie! Your kindness is repaid with visitors!)

View Larger Map

The question I have is this: we wish to do some camping (it'll be spring) and visit some fun locales. (Fun locales for the Barker family mostly mean nature and farmer's markets.)

Any ideas? We'll be rolling across the country in April or May. Savvy, well traveled folks that my friends are, I imagine you have a better idea on this than I do. I haven't traveled over this country since returning from Japan in 2003, and I'm woefully ignorant of most of the middle of the country. And the south. And the north.

We're not positive this is all going to come together, but that's what planning is for. If we get some good ideas together, if money issues coalesce, if many ifs, we'll be making a cross country trip this spring. One can hope and dream. Dream along with me! You know you want to!

Awake And Present

Well, now I am ready to jump back into this thing. I took some time off, got my head together, and feel a lot better. To be honest, I think I was a little depressed. Which is odd for me; I'm a pretty positive and happy guy. But life events, money worries, career worries, and our little friend's accident conspired against me. Well, she's doing remarkably well and is back at the daycare, I got accepted into a great Master's program that I am incredibly excited about, and I'm feeling fine.

These next few months should be really exciting. It's getting warm, and knowing that we're most likely moving away from Seattle makes me want to go out and do all the fun things that I normally put off. I'll be going to the beaches, eating some donuts, walking around downtown, and trying to wring every last exciting moment from this city. This city that I do love, despite sometimes being frustrated with it. It's a great town, my kids were born here, vegan donuts live here. You gotta love it.

The enthusiasm with which I head back east is powerful. I'm starting a program in childhood education, which is my dream career. I moving to a nice town where I have a great friend. I'm almost sure we can make the move without going bankrupt. Almost.

I'll be back on a reasonable schedule of these posts now. Look forward to moving and planning posts, complete with maps!