Wednesday, December 01, 2004

Sunday, October 31, 2004


Things are now running a bit more smoothly. I have the dog in check, and have learned that it is easier to distribute candy by the handful, instead of straining to carry the handle-less cauldron to the door with each ringing of the bell.

I have systemized the quantity distribution of the candy. Most kids get two. The kids with the superlative costumes get three. Older kids who barely try only get one. (In 1995, when I lived alone, I gave teenagers who did not bother to wear any costume at all single-serving packets of Sanka, out of spite.)

I must admit I am enjoying the costumes. I find it refreshing that the costumes thus far have not all been licensed by Disney. Not a single “princess,” thankfully. (I could go on at length about the “princess” craze, but this is neither the time nor the place.)

Mostly tonight I have seen more traditional Halloween costumes: a legion of witches, three devils, a lion, a horde of ninjas, seven Spider-Men, a parrot, two bears, one Super Man, a mish-mash of zombie types, a few vampires, more than a handful of masked ghouls, and most peculiarly, a kid in whiteface with fangs wearing a Spider-Man costume. I guess the idea was that somehow Peter Parker, having already been bitten by a radioactive spider, was also bitten by Lestat.

The biggest disappointment of the year: not a single Bat Man among them!

Halloween - 6:26 PM

The first Trick-or-Treaters have arrived! I was alerted to their presence on the stoop not by the doorbell, or the taunts and giggles of mischievous children without, but by the low growling of the black Labrador standing watch in the living room.

With great enthusiasm I rushed to the front door, the growling Labrador in tow, and was greeted by witch, a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle and a well-attired toddling bee, all of whom excitedly cried out, “Trick or treat!”

Taking the giant, over-full plastic cauldron of candy in my hand by the handle, I opened the door.

Two things, then, happened simultaneously, both of which got tonight’s Halloween festivities off to a poor start.

As soon as the door was open, and I was hovering over the stoop with my cauldron of chocolate candy, the dog went for the bee.

I cannot blame the dog entirely. I myself dislike bees and their cousins, hornets and yellow jackets, and I can only assume that Polly was attempting to protect her master, as all good dogs should.

At the same time, the cauldron’s handle, stressed as it was by the enormous weight of the candy within, gave way, and all nineteen pounds of chocolate bars spilled out onto the stoop.

I then attempted, at the same time, to both control the dog and to rescue the grotesque mound candy from a possible rush by the witch and the turtle; the bee, sensing that it was the focus of the 75 pound dog’s inner rage, took flight.

Chaos ensued.

It is 6:30 PM now, by my clock. Things have been more or less restored to normal (I have all but abandoned trying to re-attach the handle to the cauldron) and Polly and I are awaiting our next group of unsuspecting costumed freaks.

Halloween - 6:06 PM

Tonight is Halloween, and I am alone in the house with a large black dog and an enormous kettle of chocolate candy. My wife and daughter have elected to drive to the home of friends in another neighborhood to have chili and dress in costumes and Trick-or-Treat.

I am therefore on my own, tasked with the dissemination of nineteen pounds of candy to any and every errant costumed kid that might ring my bell.

To enhance the mood of the occasion, I have illuminated a jack-o-lantern that I carved just this afternoon from a pumpkin, and have dug up John Carpenter’s soundtrack to the film Halloween which I have on vinyl. A few carefully placed candles have completed the mood I have chosen for tonight’s costumed Trick-or-Treaters.

So far, business has been slow. Nonexistent, actually, and that worries me. Though it is just after six o’clock, it has been dark for some time now, and the costumed candy hordes have yet to come. The reason I am concerned at this point is that I went a little overboard while purchasing the treats. Safeway had them on sale, and I loaded the cart with every conceivable chocolate bar - Twix, Payday, Butterfinger, Hershey’s, Nestle Crunch, Baby Ruth, and so on.

There is a lot of chocolate here.

More than I could consume in six months if the costumed rascals fail to turn out in great numbers.

I hope they come.

Tuesday, October 19, 2004

The Verdict

Sitting on a jury was, for me, a humbling experience. A form of service to the community that is vastly under appreciated. Many people gripe and complain about jury duty, or joke about it, and I suppose I, too, have been guilty of the same. But the simple fact of the matter is: while I and my eleven colleagues on this jury in King County, Washington, may have found ourselves inconvenienced with the time we spent away from our jobs and our homes, and while we may found ourselves woefully underpaid for what is such an important obligation for society, the fate of a defendant was solidly in the hands of myself and eleven others.

How can anyone take such a grave responsibility lightly?

In our criminal case, the accused had already been arrested and charged. He had one shot at justice: the twelve men and women in the box, listening to the evidence.

In the end, the prosecution failed to prove its case and the defendant was acquitted.

After the trial, the judge, prosecutor and defense attorney spent a few minutes in the jury room with us discussing the trial. Both the prosecutor and the defense attorney were candid in explaining their strategies to us, and were interested in how we as a group went about coming up with our verdict.

The conversation was informative and enlightening, and I was reminded again that the process works in this, the greatest free society in the history of the world.

Tuesday, October 12, 2004

Voir Dire

On Monday the 11th I reported to King County Superior Court as a potential juror.
I can say that as of today I am sitting on a jury hearing a criminal case. To say anything further would violate my charge as a juror.

Here is what I can tell you:

During the voir dire I managed to get a laugh out of the courtroom. The question posed to me was to relate to the court any prior jury experience I had. Here is my response:

“I served five days on a jury in a civil case in which homeowners filed a lawsuit against the builder for shoddy workmanship. I again served five days on a criminal case, a defendant charged with aggravated assault and attempted murder. I also played Juror Number Seven for several weeks in a community theater production of Twelve Angry Men.”

These days I am known as Juror Number Eleven.

Sunday, October 10, 2004

A Frivolous Response

I was engaged yesterday in paying for merchandise I had won on Ebay, and the seller, located 2,400 miles away, requested that a check or money order be received via US Mail by Monday, essentially one mail day after bidding closed on the item.

I received an email from the seller, signed Stacey, wondering where her check was. She needed it to arrive immediately. I suppose she was in dire need of the $3.05 I owed her. Out of courtesy and for reasons of protecting this troubled woman's privacy, I have not reproduced her email to me. I am, however, posting my own excessive and frivolous response, for what it's worth:


I am at a loss to understand why you would pounce upon me so crossly; I am stung by your words. I am sorry that you are so angry. I wish that I could help in some fashion. Send you an Ethiopia Yergacheffe.

Of course I have made payment. I am not without honour.

Yet I am not surprised that you have not received it; I have only just tended it to the United States Postal Service. But I wanted to alert you that that your customer HAS MAILED PAYMENT to the address you provided, although if you are expecting to arrive by Monday, October 11th, you have been undoubtedly misled by what one might assume to be opponents of the United States Postal Service.

This is how the envelope was addressed:

[Last Name and Address Withheld]
Deerfield, NH

The envelope was printed for the sake of clarity, as opposed to handwritten. I read somewhere that the postal service machines can read zip codes printed on envelopes more easily than those that are handwritten.

Do you know your "plus four?" Juan asked me about that. If you knew your "plus four." I do not know your "plus four." Why would I? Juan only laughed. “Ha ha.”

PLEASE ADVISE AS SOON AS POSSIBLE IF YOU DO NOT ACCEPT PAYMENT BY U.S. MAIL. If this is indeed the case, I do not know what to do; ring up the Postmaster I suppose and plead my case to have the envelope returned. There are courier services out there, and I suppose FedEx, options I could explore if you force me in that direction. My Uncle Mortimer refused to accept anything from the U.S. Postal Service his entire life. He was picked up by the Dekalb County Sheriff's Department twice in his adult life for failing to appear for jury duty.

You post in your listing that you accept money orders, but there is nothing in there about not accepting mail. Standard mail will take many days; priority mail takes three or so days. I paid for First Class Mail, which is a registered trademark of the United States Postal Service. The envelope is on its way to you in Deerfield, although even with First Class TM postage affixed, my mail carrier, Juan, assures me that it will not arrive by the 11th of October. "You confuse with those other guy," he mumbled to me yesterday out by the mailbox in his customary broken English. "Ha ha."

Your demands have shaken me in ways I prefer not to be shaken; indeed they are a bitter pill to swallow. But I digress.

I can only hope and pray that my money order sent First Class TM via the U.S. Postal Service is sufficient. I will make inquiries with a friend who is a Postal Inspector in Wichita, to see what he can do about moving this thing along. I figure Wichita is about half way to you, maybe not quite half way. There is a place near I-70 near Garden City there that makes the most succulent potato cake I have ever tasted. If you are ever through there, stop in. It's called The Moses House. Ask for Duke.

Do you like potato cakes?

I will close with the words of L.A. real estate developer Dominick McSwain, spoken to the House Un-American Activities Committee in 1947, "How about a little smile, comrades? Hides the wrinkles." (The quote has often been misattributed to Bertolt Brecht.)

Sign me,
Distraught in Seattle

Saturday, October 02, 2004

Watching the boats with my daughter at Lowell's in Seattle

Grits with my Salmon

When I moved from the heart of Dixie to the Pacific Northwest in 1998 I was prepared for many changes. And there were quite a few, both expected and unexpected.

After moving here I traded up on many things. Life got better. So did the view from my apartment. There were many things to be thankful for.

Yet there were other areas of my life in which I took some hits. And I did my best to stay thankful!

For the most part, though, it's pretty much the same. I am still the same person I was, with more or less the same likes and dislikes, beliefs, fears, and so on. And life in the Pacific Northwest is pretty much as it was back east. Except for, of course, the utter lack of oppressive summer heat and humidity.

Oh, and the rain. Can't forget all this rain.

And the beautiful trees they've got out here. Special Agent Dale Cooper was on to something, I believe.

And geoducks. Certainly no geoducks back east.

Did I mention the rain?

In fact, everything here is different. Completely different.

I'll come in again.

When I moved from the heart of Dixie to the Pacific Northwest in 1998, I traded:
  • Batchelorhood for the married life
  • Sunny days for rainy ones
  • Fried flounder for baked salmon
  • "Coke" for "pop"
  • Maxwell House for Starbucks
  • Sweetened iced tea for unsweetened ice tea
  • Tropical storms and the occasional hurricane for earthquakes and volcanoes
  • Mustard-based barbecue for...whatever it is that passes for "barbecue" out here
  • Shoney's for Shari's
  • A "mean-and-three" for sushi and rice
  • Panthers for Seahawks
  • Bombers for Mariners
  • Gamecocks for Huskies
  • Hootie for Pearl Jam
  • Grits for hashbrowns

Well, no. No on the hashbrowns. For some things, there just are no substitutes, no matter where you are.

I'm keeping grits on my plate, thank you very much.