Wednesday, February 28, 2007

ratings update

i've added some ratings to the book section. the new books include:

i will add some new film ratings later in the week.

andrew david. "a bear" jasper/banff national park, alberta.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007


i'm researching the possibility of founding a co-ed soccer team for the spring or summer season and i've already got some possible candidates. if you, mysterious web surfer, might be interested, leave me a message, and i'd be happy to tell you more. my motivations for this rare burst of leadership are the following:

  1. i like to play sports, especially soccer.
  2. playing regularly on a team guarantees at least one night a week of certified good exercise.
  3. i'm currently subbing on sean's soccer team. the players are nice but there's a very distinct difference between playing as a substitute and being a full-fledged member of a team. as a sub i'm very hesitant to give a position preference, to direct others (e.g., verlach, are you playing left forward? get back over there!), or to offer strategy advice. this is all compounded by #4.
  4. i enjoy team sports, but for some reason i tend to lose confidence when i'm thrust into a team atmosphere. if i build my own team from scratch, i'll know my fellow players, and be a bit more comfortable and perhaps confident.and, if i know the players on my team, there's a greater chance that i can round them up for scrimmages.
  5. my lack of confidence isn't helped by the fact that i'm still rather rusty. at the moment, i feel like i'm neither an asset nor a liability; just another guy out kicking the soccer ball. scrimmages will help this....

the s.o. "andrew at rest; andrew and his soccer dreams 1 & 2" jasper/banff national park, alberta.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

free sonics tickets!

leave me a message if you're interested in free (lower bowel) sonics tickets. the catch is that you'd have to go to olympia (with me?) on monday evening.

if you're thinking "maybe...but why would i go to olympia?" well, there's a legislative hearing about the $300 million tax proposal to keep the sonics in washington state, and the Save Our Sonics/Storm organization is giving out free tickets, shirts, and food to people who come and show their support for the sonics. if i find someone else that's crazy enough to drive south after work, i'll probably go.

this website has the details:

forward this to anyone you know that likes the sonics (and free basketball) enough to drive (or carpool) to olympia.

random gusts of rain keep triggering the motion sensor on the light outside my bedroom window. instead of sleeping, i find myself thinking about aurora, soccer, and the sonics. more particularly, i've been imagining myself renting a room in one of those nasty hotels down on 85th, wondering how many new friends it would take to assemble a king county soccer team, and betting that i won't find any takers on my olympia adventure, which will probably make me happy in the end, because i don't really want to meet a bunch of sonics fans and hobnob with politicians....

Friday, February 23, 2007

a post is coming...

i'm going to write about ash wednesday, babel, breach, she's come undone, white noise, and twilight innings, but not tonight. i may also say something about lost (i've finished season 2!), traffic (are we doomed?), tribal casinos (should they be taxed?), soccer, and the sonics, but probably not. i may even start training for a half marathon, but i can't do that here.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

travel writing (5)

by the way, everyone, i'm not currently in italy. the story that i recount (which i begin here and conclude below) occured in the spring of 2002 and was written as part of a 1 credit writing course. indeed, i'm an adult now, and the problems that bother me today are much more profound than anything that i may have imagined as a college youth. for instance, i recently agreed to review twilight innings for imageupdate, a book that i borrowed some time ago from the editors at image, and after a long day at work, i settled in for a first glance. but the book was nowhere to be found: not in my library, not on my desk, not in the cute kitchen nook that lacks pretty pink pillows to make it properly homey, not under my bed, not in the truck cab, not between the boxes of cap'n crunchberries and honey bunches of oats, nowhere. i suppose that moving from lost train tickets to a lost book of essays isn't really a great leap of maturity after all. well, read on, perhaps you'll see something of yourself in my foolish antics, i certainly do!

...Hustling uphill toward the train station, I am reminded of the tortoise and the hare. We laud the tortoise’s persistence, training each new generation of young folk that “slow and steady wins the race.” But really, what choice does the tortoise have? He’d like to hotfoot it into the sunset, but he faces the hapless logistical nightmare of running around with a third of his body weight strapped to his back. Nonetheless, I awkwardly try to sprint up the stairs to the station—unlike the tortoise, I can’t curl up under my load and call it home.


I am not alone. The departure schedule suggests a surplus of night trains. Assuming punctuality, I’ve got about twenty-five minutes until the arrival of the 9:05, more than enough time to find a telephone booth and save the sinking ship of my first night in western Italy. It seems that the rest of Italy has the same idea. Actually, the line to use Vernazza’s only detectable phone is like a little dose of Americana. Inside, a young teenage girl can’t wait to get off the phone with mom and go grab a few drinks. Ahead of me, a pair of twenty-something women from Virginia, giant packs on hand, anxiously scramble through a list of possible accommodations. They look as a frazzled as I feel. We compare notes.

They might have the inside track on a room here in town—an apartment with an extra bed. If so, they’ll let me know. I explain that I’m considering a last ditch effort in the small town of Riomaggiore. Then, I’ll either wind up under a bush somewhere or catch the late night train to the larger, out-of-the-way city of La Spezia.


My train pulls wearily into Riomaggiore. The Virginians were unable to make contact with their Italian associate, and my phone card didn’t work. I exit the train into the warm Italian night. Like Vernazza, Riomaggiore is a curious little town of many-hued buildings that spill dangerously into the sea below. Unlike Vernazza, Riomaggiore fills two tiny ravines, not one. According to my guidebook, the station is banished in the ravine opposite the city center. Thus, I merely need to take the station elevator up the hill that separates the two slices of town and then make my way down Via Colombo, the main street, into a Mecca of vacant hostels. No such luck; orange cones encircle the elevator—construction! Just like home!

Adjusting my pack, I pick a random set of stairs and start chugging uphill. “This feels like the Alps,” my legs protest. Occasionally, I see arrows painted along the path. Optimistically, I assume they’re representative of more than uninventive graffiti, perhaps even signs of impending sleep. Finally my stairs terminate in a little parking lot at the apex of the hill. Trees, dark buildings—where’s the city center? Uh-oh. In times of crisis like this, I turn to prayer and the always-infallible travel guru, Rick Steves. There must be a map of Riomaggiore somewhere in here…

“Where are you going?” a voice bellows from another staircase.

Turning ninety degrees, I search the night for the voice. There—leaning on an iron railing some twenty feet above. “Ummm…” I struggle to recall that street name. “The main street. Via Colombo,” I shout back.

He turns slightly and points through some thick brush in the direction I was headed. I better not have to hike through that, especially in the dark. “But where are you going?”

What’s with this guy? “The Via Colombo. Riomaggiore.”

“Si. But where are you going?”

I try an address of one of the apartments: “Via Colombo 94. To sleep.” Remembering the supposed similarity between Italian and Spanish, I try and recall my junior high Spanish class—what’s 94? Uno, dos, tres, quatro, cinco…

“Roberto Fazioli?” he asks.

I think so. Fumbling through my travel pages, I search for the listing again.

“I am Roberto. I have one bed. Do you need a place to stay?”

Do I need a place to stay? Of course! “Si, signore!” We walk together to the little apartment, sharing a setting sun and simple conversation. At the apartment, I slump down on the bed, toss my bag aside, and sigh. Like the old tortoise, I finally made it. I’ve been stumbling, bumbling, teetering, and generally miss-stepping from one place to the next, but despite Rick Steves and in spite of myself, here I am.

this ending always makes me frown. it strikes me like an oreo--forgettably fine. in fact, if writing were a works-based faith, i might consider the 17 point scale as my work of atonement for the conclusion of this very essay. the massive let-down of my 9 page italy tale is one reason why i blog. but more on that later, i just found twilight innings, and it's time to get to work. (by the way, it was carefully packed in my laptop carrying case.)

Saturday, February 17, 2007

travel writing (4)

in the next installation of my travel essay, i sling some mud at a local travel hero, the edmonds native, rick steves. when i returned to the states in 2003, i discovered that this was a rather unpopular decision. in fact, i was a little worried that my friend pam clark, a devoted fan of the antique roadshow, the gods must be crazy, and (you guessed it) rick steves, might stop speaking to me if she caught wind of my mocking tone. these days pam lives in prosser, and i hardly ever speak to her, so i suppose that i have nothing to fear from pam.

to read the preceding chapters of my desperate travels in the cinque terre, click this link.

Hours later, without warning, our train unceremoniously emerges from a tunnel to that fabled city of Vernazza. Hoisting my pack, I happily stumble through the door and onto the platform. The haggard locomotive burps, coughs, and finally rumbles from the station, allowing the distant lull of laughing voices to fill its wake. An expectant smile flickers across my face. I can almost taste the gelato. But first things first: I must secure a place to stay. No worries, my friend Rick Steves already allayed my apprehensions concerning the night lodgings: “The town is honeycombed year-round with pleasant, rentable private rooms, […] simply show up by morning and look around [….] Any main-street business has a line on rooms for rent […] no reservations taken, just show up at restaurants” (Steves 578).

So, down a flight of stairs and into the busy breathing city center. In Vernazza, the city center consists of a single pedestrian-populated cobblestone street that empties into a small cove well suited for sailboats and small fishing craft. Forming an artificial canyon of sorts, apartments, boutiques, Internet cafes, and restaurants are stacked one atop the other all along both sides of the avenue. Tourists are everywhere, sipping the local white wine—after all, where else but in the Cinque Terre is wine cheaper than coke?—and languidly reclining on apartment steps, all in all pretending to be Italians well practiced in the art of the siesta.

Following the natural progression of the boulevard toward the harbor, I eagerly approach the waterfront. Sidestepping some sunbathers, I lean forward for my first touch of the Mediterranean. Instead of experiencing a transforming moment where all historical references to this great body of water suddenly converge into one epiphany about my place in time—that’s how I imagined my first meeting with the Mediterranean—the great big bulk straddling my back lunges forward as if to leapfrog my shoulders. I somehow catch my balance, roll to the side, and narrowly escape a refreshing dip.

Shrugging my shoulders in mild defeat, I cautiously walk along the beach toward the first candidate for a good night’s lodgings: Gambero Rosso. I’m not quite sure how this works though; apparently all the harbor-side restaurants set their diners outside in a sea of plastic patio furniture. In fact, the various restaurants seem to encourage their tables and chairs to mingle amongst one another. Perhaps waiters from the various establishments compete, racing one another to each new guest: speedy service, guaranteed! While the lack of indoor seating ensures a marvelous view, it also makes it difficult to determine the best manner of approaching a restaurant proprietor. After a moment of indecision, I head toward the door from which the food seems to be flowing.

Passing through some dangling beads, I step into a dim smoky room. Contrary to my initial impression, this appears to be some kind of a bar. I spot a woman behind the counter and prepare for first contact.

“Uhhh…buona sera!” I greet her enthusiastically. That’s “good evening,” I think.

“Prego…” She says as she polishes a glass, inquisitively searching me with her dark hazel eyes. Apparently yet another use for the term “prego.” With my three word Italian vocabulary exhausted, I turn to the standby communication tool of all oblivious travelers: my hands.

I point to myself, bring my hands together against my right ear in the manner of a pillow, and ask: “Where place to stay? Sleep?” My English grows choppy. I even try a little French. Then, in a rare flash of inspiration, I conceive the perfect gimmick to illustrate my sorry plight. I pull the crumpled page from my Best of Europe 2001 and point to two boldface Italian words that preclude Rick’s explanation of places to stay. She squints at the worn page, shakes her head “no,” and mumbles something I take to mean that they’re+full. As a consolation gift of sorts, she nods and points across the square before returning to her dirty china.

Threading in and out of tourists, I cross the square. Outside the indicated apartment, a few men lounge idly about, laughing heartily through wispy clouds of cigarette smoke. I approach one, about to speak, but he motions me inside. I enter, make eye contact with a young man in an apron, and launch confidently into my new routine. As I thrust the page under his nose, I glimpse a sparkle in his eye. I think he understands. I’m a pro! Perhaps those games of charades really paid off.

Perhaps not. “Sorry,” he says, clear as can be, “You have no reservations? We have no rooms left.” Either I suddenly picked up Italian, or he’s speaking English. “It be tough to find room this time of the season without reservation. Try Paolo at Trattoria del Capitano,” he says, pointing next door at another restaurant.

I try next door. “No, no rooms.”

I try next door to Trattoria del Capitano but am referred back to Paulo. Like the Mary and Joseph of past millennia, I’m faced with the harsh prospect of no room in the inn. Unfortunately, there are no stables either. All these tourists, I belatedly realize, have places to stay. Quaint little Vernazza is brimming with hotel patrons. By eight in the evening, it’s an entire village of no vacancies. I am Cinderella at two strokes till twelve; catch my coach now, or things will get ugly. However, this is no fairy tale: there may be no night trains out of here.

to be continued....

known traveler. "and here is life with reservations" venice, italy.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

travel writing (3)

i'd hate to find matt's brains splattered across my blog (see the comments from the previous post), so here's the third installment of my adventures in the boot:

(if you're thinking, 'hey, wait, what do you mean
third post? i've only seen two!' then you're kind of right--i posted three paragraphs on the appendix. so this link will take you to the first two installments in one bigger chunk.)

...I could probably write a darn good travel essay from a dank prison cell in Timbuktu, Italy.

The train is rumbling now, but still no onboard announcements or any sign of a conductor (or a rail pass). Groaning, the train flexes its tired mechanical muscles and jettisons forth from the station. Saying a quick prayer, I realize that if necessary I can probably purchase a ticket onboard. Besides, the other passengers, pretending to ignore my antics, have no tickets in hand ready for collection. I sit back and concentrate on the movement of the train, but its faded caramel seats, jarring motion, and cranky grinding of gears conjure unpleasant images of rickety old roller-coasters. Unconsciously, I reach for a lap bar and wonder uneasily if trains cave to the same barometric conditions as humans. Might our car suffer heat stroke and leave me stranded in Genoa?

But the train keeps going. And stopping. And going. And stopping, stopping at every little space in the tracks wide enough to accommodate a few benches of worn commuters. There! Beyond the benches and stucco high-rise apartments I can see thin strands of beach. With any luck, that’s the Mediterranean. But as each fresh likeness of tropical paradise rolls slowly by, the city names elicit no sense of familiarity. Still, these towns look nice. I could cut loose from my itinerary, barrel blindly from the seasoned advice of other travelers, and land myself in some obscure Italian village no one’s ever heard of, besides the Italians, of course. Some ordinary coastal community sifting wages from the sea rather than the wallets of tourists. Rent a raft and float away into the Mediterranean sunset…but seriously, maybe this is the wrong train. I ask a few passengers.

“To Vernazza?” I ask. “Vernazza?” And point to the train.

Someone says the word for floor. Others shake their heads. One woman, obliging this strange foreigner, takes the lead, and offers me a helpful bundle of insight. Unfortunately, the rushing wind carries her words far away to the opposite end of our car. While Italy seems privileged to have experienced parts of the industrial revolution, like this train putting deliberately down the sun-soaked coast, other modern conveniences apparently have bypassed Europe’s boot. Despite the pressing humidity, Italians on the West Coast lack the crucial life support system we know as air conditioning. Thankfully, my train utilizes the predecessor to AC: wide-open windows. But in the context of conversations, Italian AC makes communication nearly impossible. Oh, well, her insight amounted to nothing more than Italian gibberish anyway.

“Prego?” I ask. I’ve often been told that when in Rome, do as the Romans do; in this case that means speak Italian. Earlier, as I crossed the border from Switzerland, a benevolent tour guide explained that the word “prego” serves at least a million functions, ranging from “may I take this,” “you’re welcome,” and “excuse me,” to a brand of spaghetti sauce. Thus, if lost for something to say in Italy, like now, “prego” might work. It does. She repeats her explanation. Great. I muster one last try, putting careful emphasis on each of the syllables. “Verrrr nahhhzzzzz uhhh?”

“Si, si.” So much for blending in. After a few “graci’s,” my bag and I ride the remainder of the trip in self-conscious silence. Cover blown, I discard any pretense of acting indigenous and pull dog-eared pages from a used copy of Rick Steves’s Best of Europe 2001. Staring at the map, I note how close Vernazza should be to Genoa. Barely a centimeter! Oh, well. I stash the map in the front pocket of my shorts with a camera, some German receipts, and a rail pass. A rail pass?! Hallelujah! I nearly jump out of my seat. My Italian train-mates must think I’m loony, or perhaps I’m behaving like a typical American. No wonder we have such a poor reputation abroad. After daring a last glance at my fellow passengers, I turn my gaze to the window and stare at the passing towns—in part to avoid further eye contact with the locals but more importantly to somehow verify that, yes, I am on the right train.
continued at this link (sorry matt--we're at about the half way point now).

unknown traveler. "the 40 pound pack and i" somewhere in switzerland (before i ventured to italy).

Monday, February 12, 2007

travel writing (1)

i don't have much to say today, so i thought i'd share an old travel essay that i wrote. the story narrates my crazy adventures in italy during the spring of 2002. on the whole, i'd say the essay is an unpolished literary belly flop. however, it's humorous and true...

Minding the gap, I pull myself aboard, struggle through sliding doors as they close, and shimmy onto the platform. I ping-pong from wall to wall toward the next seat. Boarding trains with a forty-five pound pack is like playing human pinball. The advantage to train travel may be its ease—the conductors and crew appear to do all the work—but for a novice traveler, things are never as easy as they seem.

To my credit, I maneuver clear of fellow passengers—or they from me—flop my pack onto an empty seat, and slide across to the adjacent bench. With considerably less exertion, other riders take their seats too: scruffy olive-skinned men in slacks and open-chested flannels, women cradling the fixings for tonight’s pesto surprise, and a couple of intellectuals with noses buried in books. Everyone looks tired. It could be the weather; I’ve never known somewhere so humid. Where else can one make small talk like: ‘looks like another sweaty day.’ I’m melting, and maybe everyone else is too. Or perhaps everyone is aggravated at this American and his bulky pack—he’s certainly tired of it—filling an entire seat and muttering to himself in some foreign dialect.

[continued on the 17 pointscale appendix - let me know if you followed this link and the text colors, size, or formatting seem obnoxious]

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

faking the news

as many of you know, i work as an editor for the UW department of psychiatry. as the only editor in my department, i wear many different caps. one day i'm the copyeditor and the next day i'm rewriting an entire manuscript. in the morning i may find myself navigating the obscure nuances of the question mark and then return from lunch early to teach exasperated faculty to use endnote, the handy reference manager that makes citations a breeze. but apparently there wasn't quite enough variety to my day.

earlier this week i received a phone call. "we've found something for you to do during your down-time."


"we'd like you to create a newletter."


after meeting separately with four MIRECC heads of state, i determined that they actually want me to develop three or four newsletters, each with a different audience and slightly different content. and get this: they envision me toting a tape recorder to work so i can interview the top brass for the lead stories. that's right, the newest incarnation of andrew the editor will be as reporter, writer, and designer. yikes! i'm not sure what i think of this; several adjectives have crossed my mind--interesting, cumbersome, challenging, harrowing--but the overwhelming thought is something like "what the crap do i know about newsletters?"

anyway, if you have any newsletter advice, feel free to leave me a comment.

Monday, February 05, 2007

cheaptickets (part 2)

this post represents the bittersweet conclusion of the 17 point scale cheaptickets disaster (i.e., my consumer report of, the website that neglected to send beth and i our plane tickets and then shirked all responsibility for this oversight; see the link above). when last we left beth, the crap-slinging travel corp had instructed her to pay some fees and sort out her difficulties directly with taca airlines. thus, early last monday afternoon, beth wearily recounted her story to a taca customer service representative. the taca rep guffawed, and pointed an accusing finger back at the cheaptickets buffoons. then beth spent a courageous 2 hours haggling with a ridiculous crop of cheaptickets personnel. the nightmare turned several shades darker when the batteries on beth's land line died and she lost her connection. she scrambled for her cell phone and dialed customer service, but the cheaptickets minotaur refused to reconnect her with her specialist--she was forced to recite her dilemma to yet another inane service rep. thankfully, the rep finally promised to send beth her missing ticket, and--this may be the biggest shocker of all--it arrived last friday!

now, this tragicomedy suggests three quick morals: (1) do NOT buy anything from; (2) if you do accidentally purchase something from cheaptickets, contact their customer service reps immediately--something is bound to go wrong, so you might as well have a manager's ear from the get-go; and (3) be persistent, the evil schemers at cheaptickets will eventually cave (and then they'll call you back and pretend that they never acquiesced, so you will have to spend another week on hold, and only then will they really grant you justice, once you're to the point of staying home and cancelling your exciting airplane adventures).

by the way, does anyone know if there is a better business bureau for online companies like cheaptickets?

andrew david. "water" jasper/banff national park, canada.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

obama and i

some of you have complained that my creative nonfiction is a bit too creative. apparently you want me to warn you whenever i plan to stretch the truth. well, okay. the following story is completely true. this really happened*.

yesterday morning, senator obama and i were carpooling. well, to be more precise, i was escorting baraka--that's what i call him; he laughs and calls me andrewgah; then i frown and return to my story. anyway, the senator has a driver's permit, not a license, and he needs another forty hours before he can take the driving test. thus, as a happily licensed driver, i was obliging baraka with some extra drive time before work.

i climbed into his sleek black lexus and buckled my seat belt. baraka threw it into reverse, peeled out of the driveway, and thrust the car into drive. then, after we barreled along the highway for several minutes, the senator asked me whether the red camry on our bumper looked familiar. i turned my head back and looked at the car. no, i said, i've never seen it before. we were approaching a red stoplight, but instead of braking, he pressed hard on the gas. the lexus leapt through the red light. stunned, i glance back at the camry. it edged into the intersection and then burst after us. baraka was right; something was amiss. as we darted through traffic, baraka warned me that things might get a little messy.
he had the look of jack bauer. i closed my eyes as he reached for the hand-brake, sending the lexus into a 180 degree spin. i heard the sounds of scraping metal and shattering glass, and inquired, am i dead?

'the camry hit a tree,' explained the senator. but now there was a honda on our tail. the car chase resumed in a busy shopping mall lot. baraka weaved through parked cars, old ladies, and shopping carts. somehow he managed to lose the civic as he skidded into a parking space at the local gas station and mini-mart. i took a breath and considered our position. there were no cars or buildings within 20 yards of us; nothing obstructed us from the view of that shopping center or the lights of that prowling civic. obama has his head bowed and his hands are rattling in his lap.

we're a bit conspicuous, i thought. searching the grounds for a plan, i spotted my good friend john brawner chatting with a gas station attendant. i figured that if we're being followed, the perps wouldn't suspect us if we're in a larger group. i stepped out of the lexus and waved at brawner. oblivious to my panic, he walked over and blessed me with one of his characteristic bear hugs. and then life slowed down. mid-hug, i saw obama bending over outside our car, i heard the desperate buzz of a floored honda, i felt john's arms tense as he sensed that something was awry. then time snapped back into the frenetic pace of real life. the civic tore through a yellow caution sign, jumped the curb, and slid to a stop 10 feet away; baraka, brawner, and i backed toward the lexus and scrambled into its black leather seats. angry screams burst from the honda and were muffled by the staccato of rapid gunfire. instinctively, i ducked, perhaps hoping that the engine block might somehow impede our assailants rounds. out of the corner of my eye i swear that i saw baraka obama smile and then mumble some wise words of passing. i shut my eyes and began to pray.

on the other side of my eyelids, the world erupted into bright colors: orange, yellow, red. a heavenly welcoming ceremony perhaps. but i was could still feel my legs bunched up awkwardly in the front seat. the fiery plumes of color faded to grey.

i opened my eyes and looked at baraka. instead of seeing a smoking corpse, i watched as the senator dusted himself off and turned the radio dial to npr. i straightened my body and surveyed the scene outside our car. a smouldering wreck sat in the place of the honda. obama grinned *and then i woke up. and, yes, that's exactly how i dreamed it.