Thursday, March 20, 2008

A Whole New Category of Getting Away

Yesterday we picked up our new boat. Yes, it’s a ski boat. Yes, it runs on blood sucked from the veins of small Middle Eastern children. Yes, I do feel some ambivalence about that. What I don’t feel any ambivalence about is how fucking awesome it is to be out on the water, wind and waves buffeting me, cruising around Lake Union, racing around Lake Washington—whenever I feel like it. I have wanted a boat since moving to our house eight years ago, a mere six blocks up the street from Gasworks Park. I can’t go outside without seeing some of the water that makes Seattle such a superbly beautiful place to live—and now I can go on it, whenever I want. And I can go fast, which fills my soul with joy.

Don’t get me wrong—I love kayaking, with the hybrid human/duck feeling of it, the intense physical effort of paddling, the ability to explore the multitude of rock shores and teeny coves that are too small for any sort of power boat. There’s a unique satisfaction in being your own impulsion.

But I also love getting from one place to another in less than a day and a half. We’re looking forward to a summer in the San Juans, where most of the 450 islands aren’t accessible by ferry, and where we can now, finally, visit some of my favorite childhood state parks. Sucia, for instance, or James, or even tiny Clark.

I had another interesting insight into my psyche last night, as we took our new boat trailer from Seattle out to Maple Valley where M&M are kindly storing it for us at their place (the boat’s in a dry-stack storage facility on Lake Union, blocks from home, but they didn’t have room for the trailer). I was driving along I-5 through downtown Seattle, in traffic (of course, even though it was 7:30 pm), glancing at my mirrors periodically to make sure the trailer was centered in the lane behind me, and I suddenly, out of the blue, got all choked up. And I realized that, for some reason, I have equated owning your own trailer with adulthood. I’m sure we have more trailers in our future—at least a horse trailer, and perhaps some sort of flatbed or utility trailer as well. But this, our boat trailer, is our first trailer, and as such it represents this new phase of life into which we’ve entered. New skills, new opportunities, new challenges, new responsibilities. And, of course, new fun.

Hey—anyone wanna go skiing?

Monday, March 17, 2008

New Addition

For a while now Ian and I have talked about getting another puppy, in part so that Spackle would have a friend, but mostly because puppies are really cute and we’ve always known that we eventually wanted two dogs and we definitely wanted Spackle to help the puppy understand what we expect from a dog.

So: meet Hoover! He’s a lab mix (we’re trying to avoid the huge potential costs—actual in our case—associated with the dodgy hips of the purebred Lab) whom we adopted last week from the Humane Society in Longview, Washington (puppies in our home city of Seattle seem to be primarily pit bulls, and we just didn’t want to go there, regardless of the fact that it’s the training that makes the dog, blah blah blah.) I suppose it’s fortunate that a “friend for Spackle” wasn’t, in fact, our primary motivation in getting Hoover, because we would be sad failures.

Spackle hates Hoover. All Hoover needs to do is look at him and an almost subsonic, Mack-truck-downshifting-on-a-distant-I-5 growl issues from deep in his throat, his lips curl back, and his whole body tenses. This does not, in fact, deter Hoover one bit, so he races over, in his galumphing puppy way, right on to Spackle’s bed. This drives Spackle mad, and he lets out an infuriated, giant-dog bark, and lunges. Hoover dances out of the way, and approaches, maybe the slightest bit more cautiously, again.

We’ve ended up spending a lot of time with Spackle shut out of the kitchen simply so he can have a break from the endless prickly fawning adoration. Also, if Hoover is shut into the kitchen, we can monitor his chewing and piddling activities moderately well. His bed looks like a toddler’s favorite place to play—five or six different chew toys that he’s collected all over it, him (frequently, blessedly) conked out in the middle.

He’s been okay at nights—if one of us takes him out once (usually me, usually around 3am) he’ll piddle and poop and then sleep for several more hours until about 7:30 when one of us (so far exclusively Ian, bless his heart) gets up and feeds him and Spackle. Ian then lets Spackle back into the bedroom where he and I sleep for another two hours.

We’re starting puppy manners classes next week, which I’m hoping will appease my mother, who was a bit peeved that we decided to get a puppy knowing that she’s going to be stuck taking care of him when Spackle comes for his 2 ½ week summer vacation while we’re in Cabo Verde. But Hoover’ll be about six months old by then, and his bladder will have grown to grapefruit-size instead of lentil-size, and the needle teeth will be replaced, and he’ll be a perfect, farm-dog angel.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Not Technically Travel

Ian and I went skiing today at Crystal Mountain, a couple hours south of Seattle. With surgery and our intended—I mean actual although not to our intended destination—move last year, we didn’t make it to the snow at all. So today was our first trip to any mountains in 2 years.

It was spectacular. Perfectly clear, lots of snow, hardly any people, and a whole new steep bowl area opened up with a new lift since last we were there. I told multiple strangers that it was our first time up in two years . . . not that they cared. Our only notable conversation with a stranger on the lift was about this video, so that’s at least about travel.

We were smugly impressed with ourselves for looking at the map of the new section, seeing a sea of black diamonds and double black diamonds, and agreeing yes, we should totally check that out. Two years off? Nothin’.

Sunday, March 02, 2008

On a Clear Day

One of our blessings in the Pacific Northwest, in addition to all the natural beauty of water and evergreen hill and snow-capped, rocky mountaintop, is a small fleet of seaplanes to jump us from one exquisite vista to the next. The Kenmore Air seaplanes fly out of either south Lake Union or north Lake Washington, to all the destinations you really want to go up Puget Sound and into the Strait of Georgia in Canada (with the notable, and peculiar, exception of Port Townsend, which would be the perfect 40-minute jaunt).

I visited Victoria with my cousin last weekend, and had two clear-day opportunities to fly on one of the ten-passenger Turbine Single Otters for my round trip.

It was spectacular.

Some of you may remember from long, long ago that I was afraid of flying on big commercial planes. Fortunately, I mostly got over that, particularly considering all the flying we did last summer. But even at the height of my fears, the small planes didn’t really bother me. It probably has something to do with scale, I’m sure.

For one thing, although I know this isn’t true, it looks like I could probably figure out the controls in a pinch and land the thing if I had to. After all, there’s a lot of water around, so finding a flat runway won’t be a problem. (I conveniently forget the front page photo in the paper several years ago of a Kenmore Air plane floating upside down just off-shore from Gasworks Park . . . turns out it was a training flight and no one was injured, but still. The pontoons are meant to be under the plane.)

For another thing, we only fly at about 1,000 feet, and although again I know I’m wrong, it feels like I could pretty easily live through plummeting such a slight distance. So anyway, I accept that I’m deluding myself, and I enjoy the ride.

A nice feature of the Otter is that the windows are convex, so you can get an excellent view of the countryside trailing away under you. I spent both my one-hour flights with my pate glued to the deepest part of my window, staring straight down at the ground. Did you know trees are star-shaped from the top? Well, they are. And tide flats look like elephant skin. And much of Puget Sound is surprisingly clear. And much of the Strait of Juan de Fuca, right outside Victoria Harbour, really isn’t (although we’ve heard that, with the Olympics coming to Whistler in a couple years, Victoria is finally going to have to do something with municipal sewage other than pump it straight into the drink. Although the local fishing is good.)

My cousin S and I enjoyed our stay in a foreign country, even though with the dollars at virtual parity it wasn’t like being able to spend play money anymore, and we look forward to other getaways in the future.

And I cannot recommend the seaplane adventure highly enough.