Here’s a little background on the Space Needle in honor of this week’s celebration of the twenty-fifth anniversary of grunge music. The Needle was the symbol of the Seattle World’s Fair (the only one to show a profit), and it was designed with a flaming torch on the top. Washington Natural Gas supplied the fuel and was annoyed to discover that, as with any structure, it was obliged to pay for the pipe from the gas main. The pipe for the Needle was two hundred feet long, er, high.
At the time, the University of Washington was the epicenter of research in heart medicine, and the former PR director of the Washington State Heart Association arranged for the first pregnant woman to undergo open heart surgery to light the torch in a small ceremony held on top of the Needle. A hand holding a torch was the logo of the national heart association.
The honoree, PR director, a newspaper photographer, and hard hat rode an open freight elevator to the top of the Needle in a howling autumn storm. When they reached the small platform, the PR person said, she realized there were no safety rails and she fell to the deck in her “Mad Men” tweed suit and hat, frantically grasping for non-existent hand holds. The Heart Mother of the Year, who was eight months along, didn’t bat an eye.
No doubt today’s musicians, who will be performing atop the Needle in a live streaming concert, will more than make up for the absence of an open flame.
The Seattle Art Museum is showing a retrospective of Japanese clothing design that proves how fashion-forward the Great Big Hiking Co-op really is. The combination of high-performance fabrics and radical cut lives as surely on the trail and sidewalk as on the runway.
Kenzo was the first Japanese designer to show in Paris. His retail dress patterns fused Western convention with the undedicated simplicity of the traditional kimono. Subsequent innovations have opened door after door to convenience and ease.
The SAM show illuminates street style and gives me perspective on the endless wit and good sense of my fellow pedestrians.
I use business-card-sized slips of cheap copy paper to note individual shopping and clerical tasks. The shipping concierge/quick print place cuts them for me by the hundreds. It’s faster to sort and prioritize hard copies than to pick away at a digital assistant, and I can carry a dozen blanks in my wallet along with the minuscule ballpoint pen that the Co-op sells to weight-conscious hikers. Low tech listing means I can practice handwriting all day long.
Business writer Timothy Ferriss pointed out that clerical work uses a different part of the brain from other kinds of enterprise and that shifting gears takes a while. He recommends processing time-wasting tasks in batches. I used to try to do that, sort of, but the batch itself was indistinguishable from a paper midden. The slips helped, as did Ferriss’s comments.
I fished up a distant memory of library clerking and decided to restore an old paper handling system. My first task every morning was to sort hundreds of the book cards that were used before digital technology took over. That was the summer I really learned the alphabet as I built up speed inserting each card into its slot in a patented sorter.
The local academic book store sells old-school book pockets, the things that held the book cards the library used to keep track of its collection. The pockets are relatively cheap, and I picked up a dozen, double-stick taped them to the front of the accordion folder I use to hold paper files, and I found myself sorting a minor blizzard of paper slips as fast as I used to handle a fistful of book cards.
Now I know what I’m up against. I also bought several kinds of planner-the academic year starts in August-and it looks as if an academic format will give me both the overview I need and the daily menu. Ferriss recommends noting only two critical tasks for each day. I misremembered that advice as just one critical task, and attending to only one task by eleven each morning broke the log jam of the undone.
I fear losing a planner when I’m out and about, and one slip of paper is enough to structure a day. I shop on the last Friday of the month, and that day I carry a handful of slips with accumulated lists. When things are slow I shop every second month, on foot, with a rolling duffel bag. Now and then I place a batch of on-line orders that I collect from the concierge. When I owned a car, I often spent thirty hours a week rolling in second gear from store to store.
Eschewing standard practice, I usually avoid wasting breath commenting on areas about which I know nothing. This morning’s whale and surfer story out of Australia is not to be resisted.
For years, my favorite aunt posted a New Yorker cartoon of a dowdy matron waiting at a stoplight, leaning over the large fish she had on a leash saying, “Izzum mommie’s widdle carp?”
Twenty years later, I visited a koi show, leaned over a waist-high tank, and delivered the same line to a foot-long tri-colored character who promptly bit my finger and splashed me soaking. The experience was like putting a silver spoon into a wall socket (you don’t want to know). The amused owner stood by saying, “He does that.”
Seattle’s Ted Griffin was the first person to keep a living whale in captivity. Seattle was an epicenter of heart research, and the field was curious about whale circulatory systems. Griffin invited a prominent local cardiologist, perhaps Dean Crystal, to visit Namu with a stethoscope. As the doctor was grabbing his face mask, about to wade backwards into the whale pen wearing a wet suit, Griffin, the first person ever to swim with a killer whale, said, “Whatever happens, don’t panic.”
The doctor swam toward Namu, who raised a flipper and held him under water. Just as the man was about to lose it, Namu released him and allowed him to get on with the examination.
Local cartoonist Gary Larson captured the essence of disproportion in the panel that shows two spiders at their web at the base of a playground slide. The punch line is “If we pull this off, we’ll eat like kings.”
The surfer interviewed for this morning’s story, Bishan Rajapakse, said a whale the size of a mini-bus approached him. He wanted to relate to it as if it were a large dog. It was a friendly moment, apparently, and the surfer perceived the whale as attempting to high-five him with a flipper. The next thing he knew he woke up on the beach.
Five generations' keeping house in Western Washington know how to get the job done. Deft Home is the fruit of thirty years’ independent research with casual scholarship, deep-time experience, and no ties to commerce.
Deft home is about doing things the easy way, doing things you won’t get tired of, doing things in little specks of time, and doing things effectively so you won’t have to do them again. It’s also about working with things you already have or have scrounged, about respecting tradition and family legacies, and about making time to enjoy your living quarters. It’s about dignity, self-reliance, and innovation. Especially, Deft Home is about respecting the basics and the labor it takes to keep them right. Hope you enjoy the site as much as I enjoy developing the material.