Thursday, May 31, 2007

Endings and Beginnings

I closed with my Gilda's group tonight.

Those of you who have read this blog for (coming up on) two years now, know that Gilda's Club is the national cancer support organization founded in Gilda Radner's memory. It was Sam's lifeline when she was fighting this fucking disease and needed to reach out to others in similar circumstances. It was what kept me sane when I was trying so hard to support a sick wife and raise two kids and run a company and give whatever energy I could possibly muster to my father in his battle. Sometimes I thought one or both of them would pull through - after all, the odds were surely against BOTH of them being diagnosed with these rare cancers so close together, right? ONE of them should have statistically pushed on at least for awhile. Nope. Sam gone. A month later, Dad gone.

Score at halftime: Cancer 2, Downings 0.

So the "alumni" group really helped me stay sane (or at least go insane in a relatively safe enviroment). Most of the folks at tonight's meeting were ones I'd come to know pretty well... and then there was a new guy. About my age. Lost the woman he'd been with for 17 years. Scant months ago. I knew it was still the right time to close, but I did give him my contact info, just so I can be a sounding board and grief "sponsor" for him. Everyone said some really nice things - how much I'd contributed to the group dynamic, how much they'd seen me grow and transform, and remain a dedicated parent throughout. All of that was great to hear. And my friend Carrie, who had closed last month, came back to be there for my exit. She said some very sad and wonderful and heartwrenching things which I won't repeat here, but it was very sweet, and I left on a bittersweet emotional high. If you've done any deep grief work, I think you know what I mean by that.

Anyway, I will still contribute time and energy whenever I can to helping the Seattle chapter of Gilda's Club. When the And Tears Fell CD is done, part of the proceeds will benefit Gilda's. I will always have the best things to say about the organization and the work they do. But I have moved on from active membership, happy to embark on the next chapter of my life, with solid friendships acquired through the group.

Yesterday marked two years since my dad died. I took the kids down to Alki (which was packed), and they waded around in the meager tide. Then we went into the Swell and had dinner with Ron. Raised a glass to Captain Bear. Miss you, Pop.

My family is gathering here for May Birthdays on Saturday. June 2nd was the earliest we could mesh the majority of schedules. So we'll celebrate mine (5/6), Tyler's (5/17), my stepdad's (5/18), and my sister and grandmother (both 5/29). That'll be fun. Then I get to prep for the arrival of my "big bro" Randy from California next week. I'm excited! We'll finally get the studio all hooked up and not looking like a Borg having sex with a Transformer.

Thoughts are kinda scattered right now, so I'll leave it there and post again when I'm more lucid.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Kid Stuff

In 5 days, my dad will have been gone for two years.

Yeah, we all know how I'm perpetually reminded of the continuity of life and my place in the temporal stream, but it's a lot more pronounced this year. I don't know why.

My stepmom and I went to Kayleigh's school band concert last night, and I was unsurprised and VERY proud to hear her play her clarinet so well. I am signing her up for summer band at West Seattle High, much to her delight. Summer band in the mornings, Oklahoma! in the evenings. Add into that the fact that the kids want to: a) go trail riding (horseback); b) go camping; c) go swimming every day... I wonder when I'll get any work done this summer. Maybe when they fly down to California to stay with Sam's folks for a week.

I'm reminded of my summers as a kid. Occasionally swimming lessons, camp, and spending a week here and there with grandparents or cousins, but mostly what I remember so fondly was just hanging out. Playing superheroes with the neighbor kids or, after we moved to Santa Cruz, walking with my buddy Josh to Deer Park shopping center in Aptos to buy junk food (remember candy cigarettes??). Riding bikes on the vacant school playground, having sleepovers and staying up late watching Creature Features or marveling at Wilma Deering's jumpsuit (which I maintain is a stellar name for a band).

I simultaneously love and hate YouTube specifically for making it possible to rediscover the media of my childhood. In the process of thinking about my formative preteen years, I'm reminded how absolutely goofy the 1970s were. Just look at what passed for entertainment and toys:

Mego Superhero Action Figures
I had almost ALL of these (except the chicks, cause that would be… you know). Notice how progressive the advertising was in 1976. “The Falcon – that great BLACK superhero!” (yeah, like being Captain America’s 2nd tier sidekick was a great move forward for racial equality…) I also like “Conan, the Barbarian – with his Sword of Justice!” (WTF??) and “Thor – using his Viking Power against evil!” (HEYYY! I want Viking Power too!)
Mego Planet of the Apes Action Figures
Mego Star Trek Action Figures
Because much of our television in the early to mid-'70s was syndicated stuff from the '60s, like Star Trek and Batman. Notice that the Klingon's sidearm is just a regular phaser molded in red instead of blue. I was rockin' a pretty complete set of ST figures when I was 6 or 7. Plus G.I. Joe!
Action Jackson is his name! Bold adventure is his game!
OMG, this was totally my first action figure, before I even got my first G.I. Joe - I had the frogman stuff and the "remote control" motorcycle, which really was just a battery pack with 2 buttons and a 3-foot cable connecting it to the vehicle.

Now here's some of the TV that saturated my brain as a young American boy in the '70s. Keep in mind this does not include the sitcoms and guest-star-of-the-week Love Boats and Fantasy Islands. Just the action-adventure fare, and it's by no means complete...

The Six Million Dollar Man
I was RIVETED to the TV when this was on. Best theme horn swell ever. I can't decide if it's pathetic or awesome that they just shot Lee Majors in slow-mo whenever he was supposed to be running super fast... and we totally bought it! When he fought robot bigfoot for 5 minutes in slow motion, it was teh r0Xx0Rz.
Patrol cops in LA, long before The Shield owned my soul. I also watched Ironside, Kojak, The Mod Squad, SWAT and Quincy with my dad. But never when my mom was around.
Randolph Mantooth - 'nuff said.
Wonder Woman
Lynda Carter totally triggered my puberty early. Waaaaay early. Let's just say that when the TV movie aired in 1975, I knew I was straight.
Buck Rogers in the 25th Century
Erin Gray kept those hormones churning. Dig the disco soundtrack.
Kung Fu
David Carradine as Kane. He walks without fear of rhino or tiger.
The Bionic Woman
Lindsay Wagner - smart, sexy and superhuman!
Korg: 70,000 B.C.
Hanna-Barbera show about a family of Neanderthals - loved it!
Charlie's Angels
I caught this whenever I was allowed to stay up late. Came in after Farrah, so I was a big Cheryl Ladd fan.
Battlestar Galactica
Again, riveted to the opening narration by Patrick McNee. So cool. I totally thought Apollo's sister was hawt.
Land of the Lost
Dinosaurs, monkey people, sentient lizards and really bad effects (even by 1970s' standards). What's not to love?
The Incredible Hulk
Bill Bixby's performances often gave the show a lot more legitimacy than the cheesy formula was worth.
Project UFO
No occult, cryptozoology or UFO lore was off limits for pop culture.
Space: 1999
Disco pants and haircuts - in spaaaaaace! Careful, or Martin Landau will shoot you... with his... industrial stapler.
Grizzly Adams
The aptly-named Dan Haggerty was like Cousin It in dungarees with a fake John Denver theme. I even had the action figure. What was THAT about?? And of course, it co-starred UNCLE JESSE from...
The Dukes of Hazzard
My buddy Josh and I stumbled across this show while on a sleepover - a scene where Bo and Luke are shooting explosive arrows and blowin' stuff up REAL good, and, well, there you go. Explosive arrows, Catherine Bach in those tight shorts. Plus, they had characters named "Enos" and "Cooter", which is genius in and of itself. Done deal.

Perhaps someday I'll go into the cartoons... dear LORD - the cartoons.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Dearly Beloved

Kayleigh and I drove out to Whidbey Island on Saturday for JD's wedding. It was a beautiful, simple, traditional ceremony presided over by JD's dad (one of the benefits of being a preacher's kid, I guess). It was good to meet some of Alison's relatives, who had flown in from England. Nice folks. And an honor to be on the very small guest list!

I won't deny that there were moments of acute emotional discomfort. I think it would have been impossible to attend a wedding - my first since Sam died - without thinking of my own situation. You're supposed to reflect on your own marital state at a wedding, after all. I didn't let any of the pain show. The day was not about me or my path - it was about JD and Alison and the start of their life together, and I would never display anything but my utmost support and love. And once again, the stuff I felt was not about missing Sam specifically - it was about missing what I shared with her. That whole business of being married and together and forming the giant robot, becoming greater than the sum of our individual parts. It was just tough, some parts.

JD met Alison when he was hauling bodies for a local funeral parlor (she's a nurse), and my been-through-hell dark sense of humor was given a high-five when JD toasted the dead guy over whom they'd met. Wouldn't that be a cool legacy, to know that your final act was to bring two people together who would fall in love? That would be the best.

The day was beautiful, the couple top-notch, and the ferry rides were brief respites in a very long and emotionally draining day.

Friday, May 18, 2007

I Was a Teenage Teenager

Tyler turned 13 yesterday...

Jeez. I don't feel old enough to have a teenager. Probably a byproduct of starting parenthood so young. Anyway, I don't have much to say, except... Jeez. We went to Red Robin, by Tyler's choice, for birthday dinner (and may have accidentally wandered into Cold Stone afterward).
Tyler's best friend since kindergarten came along, as did Kayleigh, my brother and stepmom.

After we got back, I zoomed off downtown to Gameworks for the first leg of JD's bachelor party. Couple Kilt Lifters in the bar there and some Tekken 5 had me sweating by the time I left to pick up my SIL at the Seattle Art Museum. Then home to tuck in Kayleigh. Tyler stayed up playing his new Spider Man videogame. Today I get to take my kids and 2 or 3 friends of Tyler's to the Spider Man 3 movie. And tomorrow I get to drive out to Whidbey Island to JD's wedding. Busy weekend ahead!

But of course. I'm now the parent of a teenager.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Why Must You Be So Meme?

Beth tagged me with a meme, which I would not ordinarily do so soon after just completing another, but it's wholly different from the last, and contains some interesting questions dealing with a matter in which I'm severely out of practice. Please keep in mind that the majority of the following answers apply to my 20+ year relationship with Samantha.

  1. Is sex best in the morning, afternoon, or night? D. All of the above.
  2. On which side of the bed do you sleep? The topmost lateral surface. After Sam died, I slowly edged from my customary left side of the bed (as you face the headboard), and took the middle. Now I find I've returned to the left.
  3. Pork, beef, or chicken? Depends on what you're cooking. Generally choose chicken over the others.
  4. Have you ever had to pull over on the side of the road to puke? Only as a passenger, only as a child.
  5. What leg do you put in pants first when putting them on? I alternate. Gotta keep those crafty pants guessing!
  6. Candles or incense? Both. Sometimes simultaneously.
  7. Do you dance when no one is watching? No, but I do the pommel horse for small groups of German tourists.
  8. Did you play doctor when you were little? Pretty consistently, and it was usually the girl who instigated it. There was this one girl... the things she did to my G.I. Joe! No, my actual G.I. Joe action figure. And that was just the action figure. Ah, the suburban '70s.
  9. Stove top cooking or microwave? They each have their uses. Try cooking microwave popcorn on the stovetop (or vice versa).
  10. Would you rather your car or your house be dirty? Car, although I usually give both of them a weekly shoveling.
  11. When shopping at the grocery store, do you return your cart? At least to the nearest cart corral.
  12. Shower or bath? Daily shower, hot whirlpool bath when needed for stress relief.
  13. Do you pee in the shower? Why get the bathroom floor all wet to step out and use the toilet?
  14. Mexican or Chinese food? I love both equally when prepared well, but am more likely to eat crappy Mexican food than crappy Chinese as a matter of course.
  15. Do you want someone aggressive or passive in bed? Depends on what's on the agenda. I'm natually more of an alpha male, but it gets old calling the shots all the time.
  16. Do you own sex toys? No.
  17. Corn dogs or hot dogs? Ideally a bagel dog from the deli, but it's hard to find them anymore. Short of that, corn dogs I guess.
  18. Your favorite restaurant? Locally, Vatsana's (Thai), Pegasus (Greek/Italian), Maharaja (Indian), Celtic Swell (Irish), Puerto Vallarta (Mexican), Elliott Bay Brewery (beer & burgers), Charlestown Cafe (home cookin'), Spiro's (Greek/Italian), Tellarico's (Gourmet pizza by the huge slice, and a full bar), Husky Deli (sandwiches and homemade ice cream).
  19. What did you have for lunch today? About to heat up some leftovers.
  20. When did you last fall down? Indianapolis, 2003. Hit the curb and did some kind of funky aikido spin, skinned up the knuckles on my left hand and tweaked my back. When you are a giant, falling is never preferable.
  21. Have you ever wished someone were dead? Hell no. Happens too often on its own, when we least expect it, and to those we would rather keep around.
  22. Love or money? Do what you love. The money will come.
  23. Credit cards or cash? Debit cards. Easier to track and more convenient than cash, but not expensive like credit.
  24. Has there ever been anyone in your family you wish wasn’t? I more often wish people who aren't in my family WERE.
  25. Oreos or vanilla wafers? With a glass of milk or a bowl of ice cream? The answer might be completely different depending on context. In general, Mother's Circus Animals, thank you.
  26. How do you like your steak cooked? Don't eat steak all that much, but when I do, I like it nice and dead. Little to no pink at all.
  27. How do you like your eggs cooked? Scrambled dry (not runny), fried (hard over), omelette (with ham, cheese & mushrooms), hard boiled, deviled.
  28. Have you ever knocked someone off their feet in a fight? I succumbed to peer pressure and in 6th grade pounded the shit out of another kid in "the gully", which was kind of like the preteen Santa Cruz version of Thunderdome. The sad parts were: 1) we were friends and the fight had been manufactured by a third party; 2) the kid I beat up was the one who did the calling out. We became friends again after the incident.
  29. Would you rather go camping or to a five star hotel? Got camping out of my system during my years with the SCA. I'd much rather disappear in a quaint B&B in Wales.
  30. Would you rather have a root canal or minor surgery? Never had a root canal, but I have had minor surgeries. So I can't really judge which is worse. Ideally neither.
  31. Would you shave your entire body (including your head) for money? Absolutely. I already do some extensive manscaping and have been considering when to buzz down to a pinfeather cut on the noggin.
  32. Would you rather have lice or an STD? The closest I've come to the latter was a UTI in high school, but I have dealt with an outbreak of lice from the kids, and while it's a hassle, I think the discomfort of the UTI was worse.
  33. What’s your favorite hard candy? Toss up between Werther's Originals and Butter Rum Lifesavers.
  34. Ever been to a strip club? Couple times. Once in Hollywood, once in Seattle. Both times with and for friends. Never saw the attraction of it, personally.
  35. Ever been to a bar? Have you MET me?? Of course I prefer the Old World ambience of a public house. I don't go into dive bars, and I generally don't go into pubs to drink alone.
  36. Ever been kicked out of a bar or a club? Only at closing time.
  37. Ever been so drunk you had to be carried out of somewhere? Dragged back to the tent, or led to bed, but just try carrying me anywhere, especially passed out dead-weight.
  38. Kissed someone of the same sex? In a family or acting context, yes. In a romantic context, no.
  39. Had sex in the car? Oh heck yeah. God bless the big back seat of the Olds Cutlass Supreme and the bed of the Isuzu pickup and, and, and...
  40. Had sex at the beach? Not ON the beach, but in a car AT the beach or IN the beach house at Pajaro Dunes.
  41. Had sex in a movie theater? Are you kidding me? Like, while there's a MOVIE playing?? Heck no! It would distract from the movie.
  42. Had sex in a bathroom? Quite often. It's a great party game.
  43. Have you ever been in an “adult” store? Not recently, but yup.
  44. Is there anyone on your friends list you would ever consider having sex with? Which "friends list"? Is this the universe where I'm "friends" with Jennifer Connelly, Catherine Zeta Jones or Jordan Ladd?
  45. Have you been caught having sex? :) A lady cop at the Baylands in Palo Alto tapped the steamy car window with a flashlight and after making sure Sam & I were a) both willing participants and b) not junkies or dealers, smiled and told us to go home. I think I was 17 or 18. There were many times when being caught was a distinct possibility, but other than the above, no.
  46. Have you ever kissed a stranger? Sort of. We'd never met face to face, but had traded many emails and phone calls. Not a real great time in the being-smart-while-dating department. Fortunately everyone got out alive.
  47. Does anyone have naughty pictures of you? Randy has a picture of me at age 14 dancing with a paper grocery bag over my head at a high school cast party. Other than that, hopefully not. That porn shoot was so long ago... ;)

Oh, and I tag Lotti, Andrew, Stacy and Lisa. Not that anyone ever listens to me.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Dear Dad,

I dropped your granddaughter off at school this morning and went down to Alki point to await my 11AM chat with Carrie from my Gilda's group. I walked along the pebbly beach, warm with sun, watching the birds pick through the offerings of the low tide, watching the boats come and go. I saw the morning overcast burn away, the islands displayed in all their green springtime glory, and the Olympic Mountains poking up in the distance... and I realized I really missed you at that moment.

You know I miss you all the time -- that's a given. But it was that moment when I stopped and thought to myself, I really wish Dad was here to share this. And maybe you really were there, sharing that moment. Maybe you have gone out into the ether and have become a part of all of that beauty and natural wonder that I was taking in.

What made it most acute was the fact that, were it not for your legacy, I would not be afforded the luxury, the opportunity to be walking along the beach at Alki at 9:30 in the morning on a weekday. Since there's not much I can do about the fact that you're gone, taken decades before your time, I can at least be thankful for that.

I've lived in this community for 15 years now, and for the first time, I actually stopped to read the monument to the first European settlers in Seattle, the famous Denny Party, who made landfall in 1851. 108 days from Illinois to Portland via the Oregon Trail, then 8 days to Alki by clipper. The first Seattle settlement, the oldest Seattle neighborhood. What a legacy these men and women left behind (both good and ill).

I guess any legacy has its good and its bad. Yours came with too high a pricetag. It means we are separated by the Veil, and for the rest of my mortal life, whenever I look out over the Puget Sound at the Foss tugs pushing a barge, or a yachtsman on a leeward tack, or a mob of gulls and sandpipers picking over the carcass of a crab at low tide, I won't be able to share the moment with your mortal eyes.

Throughout my young life, I learned what it meant to be a man, gentle and strong and appreciative, from observing you. Rest assured I observed your less attractive habits as well -- lest you think I'm deifying my father. We all have our share, and you were no different. What was different was how you chose to rise above everyday bullshit, well before you were ever diagnosed with cancer. For that, I honor you and continue in that tradition.

As I walked along the beach, I flashed back to a 3rd grade field trip to Elkhorn Slough near Santa Cruz, and remembered thinking, as I rode atop your shoulders, that this was the best view in the world. How we spotted blue herons and frogs and dragonflies. And how we ate wild pickleweed along with our PB&J. The thought was appropros of nothing, and yet I now walk along the beach at almost the same height and perspective, sharing wisdom and fun and memories with my own children, your grandchildren. That wisdom, that clarity, that sense of wonder and fun, those things are also your legacy.

You will have been gone for two years in a couple weeks. I just wanted you to know that you are still missed and loved and honored, and that will never change.

Love, your eldest boy...

Monday, May 14, 2007

Carrot - The Crunchening

So here it is, over a week since my last post. Phew. And what a week. Here are the highlights:

  • Received a response to my challenge of the school district's rejection of my appeal for Tyler's placement, despite currently having the situation in hand. I don't think they tell each other what they're doing in that particular bureaucracy, but then again, life would be boring if bureaucracies were efficient.
  • Screened Ordinary Angels for Shandalla, who had not yet seen a finished cut. She's given a director's thanks for child care while we were shooting. We also watched Luther, which is a great historical biopic with Joseph Fiennes and Alfred Molina and Peter Ustinov, which tells the story of the origins of West Seattle culture. That's a little joke, you see, as there are so many Lutherans in West Seattle...
  • Worked on the Mattress DVDs - it's giving me more trouble than I really care for right now, but hopefully I can get them done before Oklahoma! opens.
  • For some reason, our Red Dwarf RPG has been enjoying a sort of resurgence in popularity. Not bad for a game that's been out for four years, but... what's THAT about? A gamer podcast is going to do a full-on playtest, review and interview this summer.
  • I screened Free Enterprise and The Specials for my 12th Night buddy Raff, and he agreed that the Rob character in Free Enterprise was completely unredeemed by the end. He is saved by the girl and does nothing whatsoever to make good on his past immature behavior. We also agreed that Judy Greer as Deadly Girl in The Specials is super hot.
  • Shot footage for a 30-second web spot for a private school in north Seattle.
  • The old And Tears Fell remastered CDs are now up for sale on my online store. I make no claims as to their brilliance or lack thereof - they are simply a time capsule of Samantha's and my artistic collaboration in our college years and young married life. I kept the price point low, as this is old, lo-fi music recorded for an indie label and should not be construed as any sort of new release. Putting these albums back out into the virtual marketplace is simply a way to keep a small part of Bay Area alternative music history alive - to keep Sam singing as it were.
  • Made my first new electronic solo music since releasing Impetus - Triskelle in 2005. I decided to re-embrace the Starbug identity of my past releases: funky, experimental, an homage to the pioneers of pop electronica (Bill Nelson, Kraftwerk, Art of Noise, Yello). But this is not the old Starbug. So the project is now called Starbug2.
  • Put together the DVD menus for the OA DVD. Now just need to tweak the end credits.
  • Conor sent me a mix of "Good Night My Love" with Julie, a vocalist friend of his, singing the lead. I love her voice, but it's important that the words be sung by me on the released recording, so he is going to remix the track to put Julie's vocals on the chorus and leave mine on the rest. Conor is really growing as a producer. This walkabout of his is going to be really productive for him, IMHO.
  • Wrote two more scenes for an audio drama project for podcast. More on that later.
  • Talked to two lawyers today about representing my non-covered losses from the fire, and hopefully working a settlement with RestorX's insurance carrier.
  • This morning I noticed that there had been a power failure to the security system and when I tried to reset it, I got a blast of auditory trauma and a phone call from ADT. They're sending out a tech to fix the chronic problem with the mysterious Zone 3.
  • Miscellaneous financial hoo hah that's not anyone else's business.
  • Bought my Mother's Day cards a week in advance, and as of yesterday afternoon, they were sitting on my desk. So I called and/or emailed my moms and let them know they were loved, and I'll send out the cards this week. No such acknowledgement from the kids this year, after all the hubub about me being their mom AND dad last year. I'm not whining - it's just interesting how things change in a child's mind over the course of a year.
  • Went out to lunch with my stepmom and got to see her new condo/apartment in Ballard. Nice building, 1960s construction, beautiful views.
  • Considering writing a new play for directing in spring '08 for 12th Night at Youngstown. The artistic director and I have been discussing options for next season. If I did, it would be something simple with no more than 4 cast and a single set.
  • Need to go get a new lawn mower and edger, as my yards are beginning to resemble the Brazilian rainforest.

...and that's all I can think of for now. I'll try to be more prompt with the posts this week. Sometimes it just gets away from you.

Sunday, May 06, 2007

Cinco de Piratas

Had a great little partay last night with about 20 or so friends. Darlene is pretty much Julie Your Cruise Director in life, and arranged some great activities - from skull bowling to Mexican pirate flag making to a treasure hunt for the kids. Between Darlene and her boyfriend James, we were well set up with tacos pescados, fresh guacamole (muy caliente!), fresh salsa, Mexican sodas, and an aqua-blue jello mold full of gummi-seafood. Kayleigh built the fresh fruit skewers, and I made a rum punch and a virgin punch for the kids.

Darlene also arrived with a case of Pacifico, and I added my Full Sail. I think I drank 8 beers in 5-6 hours, but never felt impaired, nor did I have a hangover this morning. I'm so used to drinking dark ales and stouts with high alcohol content that a light Mexican cerveza hardly makes it to the radar - it is merely the refreshment it is meant to be. :)

Also ended up with a couple bottles of spirits as gifts - huzzah!

We had movies going on the big screen and plenty of pirate smack-talking going on. And I discovered that if I don't normally keep an earring in, my piercing shrinks up and hurts when I actually do wear something. So I'm back to being pierced 24/7. Just a small gold hoop - nothing outrageous. Oh, and I did the math and realized that if 40 is the new 30, then I must be 29. Or is it that once I hit 40 I back up to 30?

Anyway - must be off. Time for birthday dinner with the kids. Pegasus for some ravioli, please!

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Home Sweet Home

I received this 8x10 glossy photo of my home from King County today. I ordered it last week and it made good time. It's not often I get the chance to say nice things about a municipal bureaucracy, so don't blink, or you might miss it! Anyway, this shot was taken in 1937, a good 15 years after it was built, and 8 of those during the Great Depression. It's a fascinating look back in time, considering the poor "Dust Bowl" like condition of the structure and the lack of just about anything in the vicinity. No Westwood Village, no government building, no giant locust tree in back - even my neighbor to the north appears to be missing (but it could just be a very tricky angle, and the lack of a car port can make the space look more expansive than it really is). The roads out here weren't even paved yet, and, while the house had water to it, it had no sewer hookup - occupants used an outhouse in back and the gray water just ran out behind the structure. King County also sent a copy of the appraisal file, containing copies of documents dating back to 1947 with much earlier references.

There is a sign of some sort on the front of the house which reads: H.C. PETERS HOUSE 858 EMPIRE BLDG. In looking at the file, I see that H.C. Peters is listed as the "fee owner" and "contract purchaser" with the dates 5-22-25 and 6-9-25 in parentheses. The name is listed on an improvement document listing upgrades to the property in 1947.

Now here's the fun part...

Guess what the appraised value of the property was in 1938. Combined value, lot and structure.


SOLD! Jeez, I just gotta get that time machine finished! What follows is a pretty interesting timeline of how the neighborhood has ebbed and flowed over the decades.

1948 - $350. Upgraded the same year to $600 after a remodel which included "good foundation + full basement. Plumbing roughed in for 24ft long basement. Also see new Lino." The value would not change for the next 10 years. I'm assuming the 1950s were not good to the Westwood area.

1959 - $760.
1962 - $880.
1965 - $1180. Finally breaks 4 figures!
1967 - $1390.
1971 - $1700.

Then it happened. In 1973, the owner(s) did a major renovation to the place, including landscape and the addition of the car port. They also finished a bedroom in the basement. According to our former neighbor who'd lived in his place since the early '70s, this would have been an elderly woman and her adult alcoholic son (apparently the basement bedroom, paneled in knotty pine, was for him). The County reassessed the value at $6260. Quite a step up from just five years previous.

The woman and her son lived in the house as late as the mid '80s, until her death. It's not clear what happened to the son, but the house sat abandoned for some time, and lack of care took its toll. Finally a husband & wife investment team bought the house in the low $50K range in 1994. They completed the basement into two bedrooms and a bath, with full laundry hookups. They replaced the roof, flooring and painted everything.

Then a young couple with a 10 month old son came along and purchased it for just under $100K in 1995. They doubled the square footage by building off the back of the house, adding a master suite downstairs and a dining room and family room upstairs. They leveled the back yard and fenced it. The value continued to climb between 11% and 13% annually as West Seattle became cleaner and more gentrified, and Westwood Village improved.

Then a flood and fire destroyed the place, and the rebuilt house now sits among vintage comps in the $350K-$425K range. When you factor in the fact that the flooring, wiring, heating, appliances, plumbing and insulation (including windows) is 100% brand new and there's coaxial cable and computer network hookups in all three downstairs bedrooms as well as the office and family room, I won't be surprised if my newly reappraised value comes back close to half a mil. While that ain't hardly nuthin' in, say, California real estate terms, it shows a remarkable history - of a home, a place, a quiet little street in a corner of West Seattle over the course of 85 years. A human lifespan.

Little City Farms, Division 5.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

And Now For Some Good News

I thought it was poopy that the Seattle school district declined Tyler's transfer, citing lack of justification. How much did they need? Tyler wasn't learning, he was being bullied (and getting into altercations), his homeroom teacher was dismissive and apathetic, and he wasn't thriving. The old school doesn't have adequate counseling facilities. The new school has a fully staffed wellness center, had room for him and wants him to attend. The principal of the old school supports the transfer. Honestly, why was there any question? Don't answer - it's a rhetorical question.

Well, I ended up filing an Intent to Homeschool form with the district just to get Tyler through the last two months of school. What's nice is that Uncle Gavin happens to teach middle school, and sort of unoffically added Tyler to his lesson plan. So Tyler is doing a combined language arts and social studies unit on The Diary of Anne Frank and the holocaust. The math is coming from an online homeschooling lesson plan. The PE is coming from brisk walks with Wiley.

So the good news is this: I got a call from the new middle school verifying that Tyler was #1 on their wating list for next school year and that they actually had room for him and did I want to move him off the waiting list and have him attend next year, guaranteed...

Uh... YES!

The kids and I went out to dinner to celebrate. I'm very happy. Tyler's very happy. Kayleigh will have sibling priority in another year when she's ready for middle school. And it's walking distance from home.

I went to Conor's bedroom studio on Tuesday and recorded Good Night My Love. It's not in any condition to share with the general public yet, so if I offer to play it for you, you must be pretty special . We also recorded a pretty raucus jam version of (It's) Frank Sinatra's World (And We Just Live In It) - a total throwback to my old garage band days with Dave Beach and company. That was some fun and frolic.

Ordinary Angels was declined entry into SIFF this year. I blame the fact that we didn't have the finished cut in time for the decision deadline. Anyway, there are a ton of alternative festivals - the more genre the better! Off we go!

Darlene is throwing a Cinco de Mayo pirate party, and I'm using my place to host the event, seeing as how I have a closet full of pirate costumery and a projector screen upon which to show The Black Swan and Captain Blood. Not a bad way to turn 39. Surrounded by friends, dressed like a pirate and playing the Pirate Movie Drinking Game.