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Sometime in early 2013, I entered into a state of pop culture suspended animation, an under-publicized side-effect of the phenomenon known as new parenthood. Sleep deprivation and midnight diaper changes grab the headlines, but in the end those are mechanical things. You too can learn to make a pot of coffee in the murky pre-dawn with one hand, while finding a dry pair of pajamas with the other, all without ever opening your eyes. It’s basic biology; we were born to it.

But this gradual, insidious, ever-growing disconnect between new parent and The Entire Rest of the World? This is a profoundly more impactful thing. Because by the time your child learns how to sleep through the night, by the time you manage even to contemplate a night out with your partner, I can pretty much guarantee you will have no idea what the hell is going on outside your own four walls.

A simple example: before the new Star Wars forced my hand, the last movie I had seen in an actual theater was the Hunger Games.

The first one. In 2012.

New parenthood: fall asleep one night watching Skyfall; wake up three years later listening to Caspar Babypants.

Fortunately, there is Amazon Video. And thanks to the double helping of Mockingjay I gulped down over the last couple of weeks, there is one pop culture franchise I am now caught up on, for I too know all there is to know about the goings on in the wonderful land of Panem.

There’s just one problem. It’s not like I don’t still read books, listen to music, even watch the occasional video. They’re just a little different, now. Pitched for a slightly younger audience.

An audience for whom the law of diminishing returns Does. Not. Apply.

Now look: I’m no different than the rest of you. I’ve seen the original Princess Bride a lot of times. I like me some Monty Python; can quote Ghostbusters, chapter and verse.

But that is as nothing compared to the depth of my newfound familiarity with the canon of work that is Winnie the Pooh.

And not to put too fine a point on it, but that shit gets in your head.

Imagine the following scene. It is a Friday night; the child sleeps; my partner and I enjoy a rare moment of relative calm. Mockingjay Part I plays on the iMac, what passes for the “big screen” in our home. An open Newcastle rests on the desk front of me, condensation trickling down its side, gradually soaking the work papers scattered on my desk. All is peaceful in the house, as peaceful as can be while Katniss does battle with zombie mutts in a subterranean lair deep beneath The Capitol.

And running through my mind?

“Winnie the Pooh… Winnie the Pooh… chubby little cubby all stuffed with fluff…”

And then it hit me.

This actually kind of works.

Well, good news. Thanks to my shockingly substandard iMovie and GarageBand skills, as well as an abundance of video clips on YouTube to which I possess nothing even resembling the copyrights, it’s going to hit you as well.

I apologize for nothing. The quality of what follows isn’t the greatest, and if any of you want to put serious time and effort into it, by all means forward me the link when you’re done; I would love to watch the MockingJay part Pooh, or whatever you come up with. Hell, I’ll just put it on infinite loop, and slumber away the next three years in my pop culture freezer quite contentedly, here… in the hundred acre… woods…

In the meantime, my friends, I give you:

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The Pooh Games

I am going to use this space to begin archiving a particular class of news events that seem to occur with ever-greater frequency: reports of unusual creatures washing up on beaches, appearing in surface waters, or being found or caught far from their historical ranges. I will reserve for the moment all thoughts on what I intend to do with this information; for now, it will suffice to collect it in one place. I do want to go back through the last couple of years and add in as much as I can, so if you have links to similar articles, please share them in the comments below.

We’ll start here:

5.24.2016 – Blue Lobster off Canada

http://www.cnn.com/videos/world/2016/05/24/blue-lobster-caught-canada-pkg.ctv-network

12.28.2015 – Giant Squid surfaces in Japan

http://www.cnn.com/videos/world/2015/12/28/japan-giant-squid-orig.tv-asahi

12.22.2015  – Sea snakes in California

http://www.livescience.com/53182-venomous-sea-snake-california.html

http://www.latimes.com/local/lanow/la-me-ln-el-nino-sea-snake-20151219-story.html

11.21.2015 – Blue Dragon in Australia

http://www.iflscience.com/plants-and-animals/beautiful-and-rare-blue-dragon-washes-ashore-australia

10.27.2015 – pufferfish in Monterey County

10.16.2015 – Dolphins, Turtles, others in Mexico

http://www.thesun.co.uk/sol/homepage/features/6694685/Mystery-surrounds-swathes-of-dead-rare-sea-animals-washed-up-on-beach.html

8.22.2015 – Fin whales in Alaska

http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2015/aug/22/alaska-fin-whale-die-off-mystery

7.27.2015 – Sowerby’s Beaked Whale in Plymouth, MA

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/morning-mix/wp/2015/07/27/rare-deep-sea-whale-washes-ashore-in-mass-offering-a-glimpse-into-a-world-away/

7.16.2015 Manatees in Connecticut and Massachusetts (nb: while manatees are known to roam north, reports like these seem to be trending these days)

6.30.2015 – Beaked Whale in Russia

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3144451/What-mysterious-furry-dolphin-Remains-bizarre-looking-creature-washed-Russian-coast-baffles-scientists.html

 

6.2.2015 – Oarfish on Catalina

1.7.2015 – dog snapper near LA
11.7.2014 – whitespot sandsmelt in Taiwan
9.4.2014 – wahoo at Orange County
4.13.2013 – Fin Whale in Seattle

PHOTOS: Body of Fin Whale Washes Up at Seahurst Park Beach Saturday

2013 – 2015 – Dolphin morality events along Atlantic coast

http://www.nmfs.noaa.gov/pr/health/mmume/midatldolphins2013.html

2010 – Present – Unusual cetacean mortality events in Gulf of Mexico

http://www.nmfs.noaa.gov/pr/health/mmume/cetacean_gulfofmexico.htm

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When we were kids

We played with plastic pieces

Tanks

Airplanes, ships

And men

 

We moved them with such great purpose

Conquering and re-conquering the world

Plucking the casualties from the board carefully

So as not to disturb the pieces that remained

 

Adults now

Plastic gave way to pixels years ago

Dice to random number generators

But the games are much the same

 

There is a volcanic crater

Overlooking a city of pearls

Where grass grows over lava

And the men that died are lined up in rows

Orderly

Categorized

Sorted

 

You can search them with an aging computer

Touch screen kiosk that still barely registers the human hand

 

There is a man there

With the same last name as me

Though he died at less than half my age

 

All those little plastic pieces lie unmoving in boxes now

Unopened for years

Resting in my upstairs closet

 

While the great uncle I never met

Lies just as still

Under the banyan trees

IMG_1682

As we rejoin the action, the Yamato Argo has just visited unholy destruction on a Gamelon carrier that foolishly ventured within range of the main guns.  I’ve always wondered what those guns actually fire – looks like a plasma beam, recoils like an artillery shell, sounds like short-wave radio bouncing off the ionosphere on a cloudy Friday evening.

In any case, the score is now Star Force: 1.  Gamelons: 0.

For his part, Leader Desslock (the Gamelon’s supreme commander, for the uninitiated) is not, shall we say, overly concerned.  A “foolish gesture”, he sneers, his slender fingers tracing delicate patterns in the hot, radioactive Gamelonian air.  Even better, his generals on Pluto have a plan:  use the Yamato Argo Star Force as a test target for their new super-weapon.

The weapon in question?  None other than… wait for it…

The Ultra Menace Missile.

Image

This is what happens when the Gamelons build a forward base in your solar system.

Not making that up.  Also, don’t speak Japanese, so cannot assess the quality of the translation for you.  Still, you have to wonder.  Was there a first generation weapon called the Menace Missile?  Followed by the Extreme Menace Missile?

Whatever the case, the Ultra-Menace Missile (UMM) is nothing to sneeze at.  Don’t believe me?  Let’s break it down with some basic math:

Fact #1:   It is between 2.7 and 4.7 billion miles between Pluto and Earth, depending on where the planet and planetoid in question are in their respective orbits at any given time.  We’ll split the difference and call it 3.5 billion miles.

Fact #2:  We know it takes less than one day for the UMM to travel from the Gamelon base on Pluto to Earth (we know this because every episode ends with an update of the doom counter, the number of days until Earth is uninhabitable.  All the action described herein happens with the clock stuck at 364 days).  Here again, we shall split the difference and assume the UMM is in transit for 12 hours.

Fact #3:  The speed of light is 186,000 miles per second.

Image

Math Problem #1:  3.5 Billion Miles / 12 hours = 81,000 miles per second = 44% of the speed of light.  That’s the average speed, which doesn’t even take into account the acceleration profile.

Fact #4:  Though we don’t know exactly how big the UMM is, we do know that its large size is one of its distinguishing characteristics.  Is it the size of a bus?  A Saturn V rocket?  An aircraft carrier?

Well it doesn’t really matter, does it?  It also doesn’t matter what sort of explosive power that thing is packing – it could be none at all.  Because the real “ultra” in “ultra menace” is the fact that it travels at relativistic velocities!  Never mind the planet bombs the Gamelons have been raining down; the UMM hitting Earth is going to make the asteroid that did in the dinosaurs look like a bottle rocket bouncing off the side of the Golden Gate Bridge.

Except… well, except there is the Argo to consider, with none other than Derek Wildstar on the guns.

I mean, dude never even blinks. The UMM hits Earth’s atmosphere, with a remaining expected transit time of let’s say (300 miles  / 81,000 miles per second) = a little less than .004 seconds.  The Star Force sees it coming on radar, somehow, never mind the fact that the UMM would be, like, RIGHT BEHIND the returning radar reflection since it’s traveling ALMOST THE SAME SPEED RADAR GOES.

Wildstar?  He just eyeballs it.  Growls “finally” at the camera once that idiot Mark Venture actually gets the wave motion engine started, and calls out some instructions for the gun crews like a seasoned veteran.  “Turn twenty degrees!  Adjust sightlines!”  The gun barrels swivel slowly in response; Venture orders the Argo 15 degrees to port; the camera pans back, and we see the ship veer off… to the RIGHT.  Damn rookie bridge crew!  But it don’t matter.  Wildstar don’t care.  He takes a breath, pulls the trigger, those weird plasma beam thingies lance out, and BOOM!

This happens:

Image

That’s right, “Leader” Desslock.  It’s gonna take more than several tons of hardware traveling near light speed to take down the Star Force.  Because, you know, STAR FORCE!!!

And then, finally, this:  the Argo deploys its single most bizarre feature, its in-atmosphere wings.  Even in cartoon land this is just plain silly; it’s like putting a squirrel suit on a semi truck.  But atmospheric wings the Argo has, so atmospheric wings it deploys, and then sails blithely away, leaving the laws of physics weeping softly in its wake.

There are only 364 days left.  Me?  I’m bullish on their chances.

I’m watching Star Blazers again.  Not, mind you, Space Battleship Yamato, but the actual American version, the honest-to-God Star Blazers of my youth.  Season One:  The Quest for Iskandar, with its unspeakably awful voice acting and crazy translations, Derek Wildstar, Captain Avatar and Leader Desslock – the works.

And I’m going to blog about it, and there’s not a damn thing any of you can do to stop me, other than of course to sprain your right index finger trying to click “back” on your browser as fast as humanly possible.

No?  Still with me, and up for the journey?  Then let’s jump right in.

First, ship naming conventions.  I had  forgotten that in Star Blazers the ship itself is called the Argo, not the Yamato.  Not a bad choice, if we accept as given the need to remove all the scary Japanese-sounding names for American consumption (remember this was 1979, seven years before Datsun would suck it up and rebrand itself the far more ominous “Nissan”).  The Argo was of course Jason’s ship in his quest for the golden fleece, so given that the Star Force is questing after the Cosmo-DNA from Queen Starsha of Planet Iskandar, it makes sense.  

Still, though:  

Image

We’re off… to find a fleece…

 

VS

Image

That’s more like it.

 

It definitely loses a little something, doesn’t it?

Image

Aw yeah!

And speaking of Queen Starsha, this does have to be addressed.  Aware of the plight of the humans, she dispatches a ship which covers the astronomical distance from Iskandar to Earth, somehow runs the Gamelon blockade out at Pluto (more on that in a moment), reaches Mars – only to crash land (because, y’know, faster-than-light travel easy; making successful planetfall hard), but then be found, and thus succeed in its mission in delivering to the Earthlings:

Plans, and a map.  

Plans, as in, how to build a wave-motion engine (and gun!), and a map, as in, how to get to Iskandar, and Queen Starsha herself, who has the Cosmo DNA, which can rid the Earth of all the horrible radiation imparted by the Gamelon’s planet bombing (remember:  Japanese cartoon!  The world’s experts on nuclear-nightmare-inspired science fiction.).  

Why, you might ask, didn’t Queen Starsha just send the Cosmo-freaking-DNA on the ship itself?  Why put the Star Force to all this trouble?  This plot point is in fact addressed, although the answer is basically she just couldn’t so stop asking.  Why do I have the feeling this came up in a production meeting somewhere, way back in the day, one of those aw-shit moments where everyone in the room suddenly realizes the whole thing makes no sense at all?  Sort of like that why-doesn’t-Gandalf-just-have-one-of-the-eagles-drop-the-ring-into-Mount-Doom-as-soon-as-he-even-suspects-just-on-general-precautionary-principles moments we’ve all had in retrospect? 

Anyway.  She just can’t.  There is a whole line of dialog that makes this clear.  As this is all of course being written from a place of love, we shall take it it as given, and move on.

Next up:  The Ultra Menace Missile!

 

I went to the Banff film festival a few days ago, which this year seems to be having a debate with itself.  A big-picture debate, one of those “what’s the point of it all” kind of affairs, at the heart of which were two films with diametrically opposing viewpoints.

1.  “The Last Great Climb”:  Our world is infinite!  There is always another peak to climb!  We must go forth and conquer!

2.  “North of the Sun“:  Um, no.

I presume you know the story of the race to the South Pole?  Scott vs Amundsen, snowmobiles vs dog sleds, England vs Norway and all that?  If not, never a better time to get your Masterpiece Theater on than right now!  (Spoiler alert:  Amundsen wins.)

Well, the Brits and Norwegians are at it again.  Except this time, while the UK is busy sending its most badass climbing team to Antarctica to seek out and conquer one of the last great unclimbed peaks, the Norwegian rebuttal was offered by a pair of kids in their twenties, who journeyed to a remote beach on an island north of the Arctic circle, to see whether they could build a shelter from the trash that washes up there, live on free food that had passed its expiry date (scavenged from the island’s one grocery store), and learn something about themselves in the process.

For an entire year.

The contrast couldn’t have been more striking, and as the days have gone by and I’ve sat with the experience of seeing these movies back-to-back, I find myself increasingly inspired by the latter, and at the same time growing more resentful that the first was even made.

Put bluntly, “The Last Great Climb” is one of the most self-indulgent adventure films I’ve ever seen.  A friend of mine called it masturbatory; I’m inclined to agree.  Even while I was watching it I was rooting for one of those famous Antarctic storms to weather those fools right off that peak, so they’d at least be a bit humbled by the experience.  Because honestly, as far as my own psyche is concerned, all that film left me with was a vague sense of depression that these guys, with all their money and gear, managed to make the world just that much smaller.

And after all was said and done, watching the conquering heroes stare at the camera, and tell us there will always be another peak to go find and conquer – and another, and another after that?  Pity’s sake, even the name of the film puts the truth to that lie, and you could tell they didn’t even believe it.  If anything, I think the experience left them flat; like a month later, they were right back home, and now what?  I hope so, anyway.

(In fairness:  the one saving grace of the film is the peak itself, the real hero of the story.  Its name translates to “Wolf’s Fang”, and it looks like something Lovecraft had in mind when he wrote “At the Mountains of Madness”.  I can’t guarantee there are shoggoths living in caves at its base, but if not there then nowhere, y’know?)

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$6 to rent it online. Mocha and a tip. Well worth it.

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I’ll take the mocha, thanks.

By comparison – and there really isn’t one –  “North of the Sun” is a truly post-modern adventure story.  One that throughout acknowledges that our link with the natural world has changed, but the essential need to find and explore that connection remains the same.  The characters build a house from washed up palettes and plastic bottles, an oven from an old oil drum, even a wheelbarrow from the flotsam and jetsam washed up on their beach.  They clean up trash, and they surf.  Theirs is not a macho survival challenge, their goal is not to break a record, or be first somewhere; hell, one of them climbs the nearby peak so he can get cellphone reception and talk to his girlfriend in New Zealand, and they even go home for Christmas.

No, theirs is a voyage of self-discovery, pure and simple.  Which just happens to be the same reason all the rest of us mortals who are drawn to the natural world take that first step out our front doors, over and over again.

“Chasing time.”  “Few, but strong impressions.”  “How was the surf?  Cold, but good.”  This is the language of the film, sparse as the landscape that surrounds them, and as profound.

See this movie.  Six bucks and forty minutes of your time, and I bet it changes you too, just a bit.

And that… is how two months go by without a single blog update, or hardly a word written.  I blame work – but then, so does every struggling writer when they are struggling to write.

This will be quick today; just wanted to jot this idea down before I forget it, perhaps to be returned to later.  

Some facts:

Fact:  The White Sturgeon, Acipensur transmontanus, is an anadromous fish, meaning that it lives in freshwater, but migrates to saltwater to spawn.  In layman’s terms, it’s sort of an anti-salmon.  Or rather, an anti-steelhead, since it spawns multiple times in its life.  One imagines sturgeon and steelhead passing each other with a knowing look, each heading opposite directions, up and down the salinity gradient, but with very much the same destination in mind.

Fact:  Acipensur transmontanus, according to Wikipedia which I presume is now the definitive source for all matters icthyological, can live up to 104 years.

Fact:  The Hiren M. Chittendam locks – the system of locks that  makes it possible for large ships pass back and forth between Puget Sound and Lake Washington – became operational in 1917.  The locks come equipped with a salmon ladder – but not a sturgeon ladder.  Far as I know, when they were built, that was the end of sturgeon moving back and forth between the lake and the sound.  

sturgeon

The boater who found it “first thought it was a shark”. Now that would be interesting: bull sharks in Lake Washington? Don’t tell the SeaFair committee!

So:  does that not then mean that the youngest remaining sturgeon in Lake Washington is now 96 years old?  Such that, in a decade, the last of the Methuselah fish will have died?  The one in the picture above was found dead back in August.  I wonder how many are left?

Perhaps I’m wrong about this.  I have read that some sub-populations of this fish can in fact breed in freshwater, when forced to do so – though you do have to wonder about minimum viable population sizes even in that case.  Certainly I hope I’m wrong!  It’s a comfort to imagine these ancient creatures, somehow still managing to make a go of it, hidden away beneath the jet-skis and seaplanes.

Still, I wonder.  If they are doomed to local extinction, I wonder about the exact moment when the last one dies.  Will it happen during a rush hour commute, as tens of thousands make their busy way back and forth across our floating bridges?  Will there be some psychic nudge, interrupting just for a moment that never-ending rush from home to cubicle and back?  

Will just one person pause in their text messaging, just for an instant, and feel – just for a second – the loss of something magnificent that used to be?  

To this point I have been reluctant to say much about my running “career” in this space.  This is partly because so many real runners have written so much on the subject, so well.  Novelists, philosophers, ultra-marathoners, medical doctors, biologists – there is a vast and beautiful canon of literature, fiction and non-fiction alike, covering seemingly everything.  (A few of my favorites:  Murukami’s “What I Talk About When I Talk About Running“, Christopher McDougall’s “Born to Run“, and a very interesting book by Bernd Heinrich called “Why We Run: A Natural History” – a mix of evolutionary biology and a tale of distance running greatness that predates Scott Jurek’s adventures in the Copper Canyons by a couple of decades.)

And partly because I am such an incredibly average runner that I have little to say with regards to the act itself.  I can summarize my lifetime of running as follows:  I’m forty years old, and, at six foot two and 195 pounds, have a body that was built more for sacking small villages in northern England than racing from Marathon to Athens.  I’ve been running with varying degrees of consistency since I was six, and the main difference between now and then is that everything hurts a lot more.

I should say, though, that along the way I have had the opportunity of training with a few genuinely gifted athletes.  Most of them are among the most beautiful people I have ever met:  humble to the core, individuals who truly appreciated the gifts they were given, did it all for the right reasons, and got everything their bodies had to offer.  I once ran a couple of relay races with a man who finished 5th at the Boston marathon, which was an amazing privilege.

And others, sadly less so; you can be fast and still be a jerk.  But this is true of anything.  I know of no activity which, simply by virtue of excelling at it, guarantees one’s essential humanity.

So why write this now?  Because I think just maybe my relationship with running is undergoing a long-overdue evolution, moving to what I hope is a healthier place.  I feel like I need this to remind myself later by, lest I get caught up in bad habits again.  See, the thing is, I used to hate running, but I did it anyway, mostly to burn calories so I could eat like a fool and stay somewhat thin.  Now I love it, and seriously don’t know how I could live without it.  The problem, though, is that love has often been unrequited – and nowhere more than in my marathoning efforts.

I’ve trained for four marathons in my life.  Three I actually started, two I finished, and one I ran well – the 2010 Seattle marathon, where I ran the race of my life (again, that isn’t saying much.  I ran a very humble three hours twenty-seven minutes, or 7:56 a mile.  Not great, but at least I would’ve beat Paul Ryan.  And seriously – who lies about their running times?  That’s as low as it gets.)

Paul Ryan

Dude – you just suck.

Anyway, it’s the race that I didn’t even start that I’ve been thinking about the most lately.  This was the summer of 2011, and I had made up my mind to build on the success of that Seattle marathon, and see if I could run even faster.  Instead, I wound up over-training, trying to ramp too much too fast, and getting seriously hurt.  I trained for 18 weeks, right up to the end.  The last weekend the schedule called for 10 miles on Saturday, and 20 more on Sunday.  My left shin was bad – I mean, I knew I was in trouble – but I did the Saturday run anyway, with the help of a couple of Advil (“vitamin I”, as my friends like to call it).  When I woke up Sunday morning I could hardly walk, but I was so worried that if I didn’t get that last twenty miler in I’d bonk on race day (two weeks away) that I took six more Advil, wrapped my leg, spent the next two hours and forty minutes limping through the run, drove home, and discovered I couldn’t walk up the stairs to my house.

In fact I didn’t walk right for six weeks – and for the first few, I could hardly put weight on the leg at all.  I’m pretty sure it was a stress fracture, though I never had X-rays done.

Acupuncture

Electrostim on the shins. Good times!

In any case, it was obvious something had to change.  At first I thought that something was just – hey, no more marathons.  And that very well may be true.  But really what needed to change was my relationship with the sport.  I had to find a better approach, to acknowledge that I couldn’t just force it, grit my teeth and power through, at least not anymore.

So in June of this year I officially began Not Training for a Marathon.  I have circled no race dates on the calendar.  I am following no plan of pre-ordained mileage escalation and structured workouts.  I have just two rules this time around:  no more than four days a week, because I know my body must rest, and run what I feel.  My only real goal is to get to a sustainable place, whatever that might be.  If I can get enough mileage consistently, in a healthy way, that I feel I can ramp up for a marathon, great.  If not, so be it; half marathons are fun too.

I’d love to tell you that this is all going swimmingly, that I’ve matured at last.  That I’m running for the sheer joy of it, and not the stopwatch.  That every time something hurts, I make a change, or stop and rest, or do whatever I need to do to take care of this body, of which I’ve asked so much, for so long.

That, of course, would be a lie.  In fact I have fairly bad tendonitis in my left Achilles, and have been pushing through it anyway – some of the time.  But in general I think I’m doing a better job.  And one of the joys of never having been fast is that I have no particular past glories against which to compare myself.  Who knows?  Maybe I can still run another race of my life.  Whether or not my body lets me, we’ll see – but in the meantime, I’ll be out there, four days a week, rain or shine, doing my best to run what I feel.

The stats thus far:

June 9 – June 30:  77.75 miles
July:  116.3 miles
August:  115.75 miles
September:  125 miles

Longest run:  13.5 miles

Highlights:  5:45 mile on the track (second fastest ever!), six miles at 6:52s (also on the track), eleven miles at 7:38s (roads, with hills)

Lowlights:  left achilles, right ankle, living on top of a hill, Seattle traffic (looking at you, white Volkswagen who swerved at me and then honked afterward), neighborhood dogs, blueberry-flavored Nuun (gack!)

Fall arrived this morning.  I wasn’t sure it would be putting in an appearance at all; the rainy September days have been warm in the Pacific Northwest so far this year.  But today’s coffee walk was decidedly crisp, and my usual Seattle techie uniform (shorts, hoodie, smartwool socks, and Keens) not quite up to the task.

I love the fall, for a whole host of reasons:  from carving pumpkins to watching football to drinking apple cider, to the leaves turning and the days growing short, to the anticipation of winter ahead.  Generally speaking my favorite season is whatever one we happen to be in at the moment, but fall is special, the moreso as its onset is no longer ruined by the dread of returning to school.  Such is life in the working world; the last of my summer vacations ended long ago.

Maybe it was having a five-month old (five!) strapped to my chest, but for whatever reason, a distant memory from my own childhood crawled up out of my subconscious as I was shuffled over to the Hi-Spot cafe.  This has happened more and more of late,  something about the triple-barreled process of divorce and remarriage and starting a family having left me feeling more connected to – and valuing – my own deep past than I have in years.

Anyway, what came to mind was this.  When I was growing up, there was a tradition in my family, whereby my dad would, sometime around Christmas, perform from memory the entirety of Robert Service’s “The Cremation of Sam McGee” for we kids’ benefit.

“There are strange things done in the midnight sun
By the men who moil for gold;
The Arctic trails have their secret tails
That would make your blood run cold…”

You are perhaps familiar with the poem – but if not, the link is above.  You’ll thank me later, I promise.

So.  Your humble author is no poet – but I was challenged to cough up a bit of doggerel once, as part of a class assignment.  I’d forgotten about it until this morning.  For no particular reason, I think I’ll share it here, with apologies to basically everyone, and Klee Kai owners* in particular.

Schip

Gratuitous picture of a Schipperke pup. Over-simplifying: this plus Siberian Husky equals Klee Kai.

*I got nuthin’ but love, guys.  Miniature huskies are a great idea.  Really.

The Klee Kai’s Lament

From Anchorage to Nome
Where Athabaskans roam
And March winds blow all unfettered

Four dozen proud teams
Paws twitching in dreams
Let’s find out whose alpha is better!

Tomorrow they’ll run
O’er land with no sun
All save this one – whose master won’t let her

For a cruel twist of fate
Keeps me locked in this crate
Like some uselessly floppy-eared setter

##

From Anchorage to Nome
Claws and teeth; fur and bone!
Legs churning and harnesses straining

Through cold winter’s night
They’re soon lost from sight
Running free after months endless training

Ten days, maybe twelve
Across endless ice shelves
Hearts taxed and strength slowly waning

While I lay back and growl
Snap at hands, bark and howl
Stuck here in the south where it’s raining

##

From Anchorage to Nome
At last, far from home
Raw meat instead of beef jerky

And there at the end
Victorious with friends
Deeds praised until time has grown murky

I’d run the Iditarod if I could
Race hard through Spruce woods
But I’ve missed my chance to make history

While I might look the part
With dad’s proud Husky heart
My mother, she was a Schipperke