Wandering Around With a Notebook

Aberdeen, Washington: Not the Lying-Down Kind

The city’s bridges sag over their rivers like hunchbacked men carrying too-heavy loads for too long. On the streets, tired, dim-eyed cars float into mist as a foreign country’s nighttime overtakes everything. Orange lights glow in pub windows, the buildings thus resembling cooling embers from a scattered fire. They’re the secret hearts of this world carved out of fog, those pubs. Their walls thump with rock, pop, and hip hop. A tortured, mewling voice echoes faintly through the alleyways. “Come…

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Talking Ghosts at Alfred’s Haunted Cafe

Interesting Conversation One of the great things about being the Northwest Nomad is that I have a permanent excuse to drink beer and chat with strangers at bars. It’s what I call “conducting research,” and I’ve found all kinds of interesting informational nuggets out there that way. A couple days ago I had such an encounter at Alfred’s Cafe in Tacoma. I was drinking a beer and talking with the bartender and a fellow patron. Before getting into ghosts, this…

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The Weirdest Damn Building in Tacoma, Washington

I have no idea what the place is. I have no idea who built it. I have no idea what purpose it serves, if any. I only know that, just outside the south side of the Tacoma Dome parking lot and on the north side of the Bull’s Eye Indoor Shooting Range, there’s a building advertising dentistry for 25 cents. It is, in short, the most beautifully bizarre thing in the city of Tacoma. The only possible competition I know…

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The Tacoma Book Center: So Many Corners

A tousled-headed man wandered into the horror section of the Tacoma Book Center with an armful of books and a chagrined look on his face. “Jeez,” he said, looking around the stacks, “another secret room? This place has so many corners, I keep getting lost.” His turn of phrase struck me as strangely poetic. So many corners. It’s the sort of vaguely surreal wording you might find in a Borges poem, or a Tom Waits song ­ – the sort of…

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Watching Crows at West Bay Park, Olympia, Washington

Crows at Olympia’s West Bay Park I was at Olympia’s West Bay Park when I caught a couple shots of crows. West Bay Park is a nice little spot in a quieter section of Olympia. I visit it often to read or just look out over the water and think, but today I wanted to make this post specifically to share a couple shots of crows that I got. The crow on the ground was doing some of the strangest things…

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The Mysterious Suspended Bike of Ruston, Washington

Oh, mysterious suspended bike of the Ruston waterfront, who made thee? Who shaped thy strange handlebars? Who bound up thy body in wood and left thee, as though in flight, suspended over the Sound? Where did you come from, you weird artifact? From the depths of someone’s imagination? Or from some place darker? Are you drawing us toward madness, or bliss? And is there a difference, mysterious suspended bike of the Ruston waterfront walk? Oh, your strange character has confounded…

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Ruby in the Mist

Walking Ruby Beach in the mist is like walking some orphaned strand stretching out between two dream seas. Great rocks, calcified husks of ancient sea giants, loom out of the water to one side. To the other, ancient trees stand tall and blind, patiently marking the moments in a world cut loose from time. Driftwood, bones of nightmares, twisted and deformed. Ocean waves climb over each other in a desperate bid to escape the sea. They grasp and claw at the…

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Family of Ducks Braves Rapids

Sit still in nature long enough and there’s a good chance you’ll be treated to something spectacular. I was reminded of this unfailing truth last spring on the shore of the Big Quilcene River, just off the Falls View Canyon Trail. I was there with my sister in July. It was a weekday, so even though the sun was shining we had the area to ourselves. We were just relaxing, dangling our feet in the water, when we saw a mother…

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Strange Conversation at Irely Lake, Olympic National Park

So it was I found myself on the shore of Irely Lake, talking out loud to a tree…and I’ll be damned if the tree didn’t talk back. It was one of those days of common desperation. Common for me, anyway, the man who never outgrows his existential angst. No matter how old I get, the nagging doubt remains. What am I supposed to be doing here? Why do the answers fade as fast as they arrive? Is there a reason…

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