Sometimes a Great Notion


I first read Ken Kesey’s Sometimes a Great Notion, one of my all-time favorite novels, just after I moved to Seattle in 2007. It wasn’t easy. The reading, the dreaming, the living. But, looking back on it, Kesey’s depiction of the Pacific Northwest (specifically Oregon) was the perfect introduction to my new geography. I, too, dreamed of moss covering my eyelids in my sleep. I, too, watched rust appear on metal objects even though I couldn’t remember ever seeing rain. Yes, that lumber-cutting, slumber-abbreviating, log-chipping, calf-rearing, Hank’s bell-ringing, bootless book I assume was both only ever written and read in the dark got me good.

Of course, I wasn’t wading through any rivers or hauling lumber or even sleeping under the stars. I was eating trail mix in a dorm room and tossing textbooks up to my top bunk and passing out without remembering to remove my glasses. But at night–and in the mornings when the sun took its sweet time to rise–I thought I knew exactly what he meant.

I was reminded of Kesey’s novel when we passed through Oregon and stopped to visit my brother, Tim, in Ashland. Sometimes because of the scenery, but more often because of Kesey’s braided narratives; the swift switching of first person between characters done so seamlessly you lose yourself in a melange of thoughts and voices that eventually become one tired, restless mind in the wilderness.

Years from now, looking back on this trip, I don’t expect any of us to remember who said what. Llama Del Ray or fairy ponds? Pot-holed, backwards truck rides into town? I don’t know. But I am fairly confident we will recall how we all felt, in this place, in this time, all braided and bound up together in Ashland with Tim.

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“Look…Reality is greater than the sum of its parts, also a damn sight holier. And the lives of such stuff as dreams are made of may be rounded with a sleep but they are not tied neatly with a red bow. Truth doesn’t run on time like a commuter train, though time may run on truth. And the Scenes Gone By and the Scenes to Come flow blending together in the sea-green deep while Now spreads in circles on the surface. So don’t sweat it. For focus simply move a few inches back or forward. And once more…look.”

– Ken Kesey, Sometimes a Great Notion


that evening was a blur

So I have some seriously blurry photos from “Dinner at Mia’s” , a spin-off of “Breakfast at Tiffany’s”, the never-before-published Capote.  A genius way ahead of his time, he blogged.

The photos below are the ones that clearly show humans were in attendance. Except for the chandelier, that’s just to feature Jake’s introspective side.

Fair Weather for the Seattle Antiquarian Book Fair

About this time last year, I envied people like me. I would scuttle into a coffee shop on a rainy Sunday and stand in line with one arm hoisting a pile of overdue feminist geography library books with titles like “In Her Place” and “Spaces of Desire,” and another arm holding my “ol’ turbo” laptop that looks like something straight of Weird Science. Waiting for my daily double Americano, I scanned the room.

There were people doing non-student things everywhere. People young and old with fingertips black from perusing through the Sunday NY Times or making the always bias decision between the Stranger and Seattle Weekly. Oh how I envied them. And as I sat on a bar stool behind my blue computer screen, I would watch as the city of Seattle carried on with its lovely, lazy Sunday afternoon without me. I envied those people even more.

Today, I grabbed my lovely, lazy, post-graduation Sunday by the horns and took it to the Seattle Antiquarian Book Fair.

I started out on foot with this girl.Last year, I was fortunate enough to attend the 2010 book fair with two book collectors. It was one experience to go with two people who know as much as there is to know about books. It’s another entirely to go with a friend, simply ooing and aweing at whatever happened to catch our eyes or touch our hearts.

There was just too much to see, including delightful Sendak illustrated mini-sets and Edward Gorey galore, but what really just got me were the charming botanical and natural history hand-painted lithographs from Lowry-James Rare Prints and Books in Langley, Washington. These scanned images don’t do them justice.

And then, with about 12 minutes before the exhibition closed, we found Ampersand of Portland, Oregon. If I had my checkbook handy, my apartment decor would be drastically different. But alas, I guess I’ll just be making a trip to Portlandia soon.

What I loved about the book fair is being able to reach and touch antiquarian tombs and artifacts that should probably belong in museums. I also love how a single children’s book illustration can set-off an onrush of memories like Proust’s madeleines.  But Mia commented on feeling like part of history; here is a book that someone wrote, someone bound, someone sold, someone owned and treasured, that you then bought and eventually will pass on the same. In this way, perhaps, they are never really ours to begin with at all.

We finished a perfect Sunday with bouquets from Pikes Place and a slow, lingering walk back up Capitol Hill. I intend to spend the rest of my evening inking my fingertips with reading and staring out my window, watching the city of Seattle say goodnight to its lovely, lazy Sunday.


So cool to be Freshly Pressed! A big cyber hug and sincere thank you to WordPress. And thanks to everyone for the comments and support. Also, having spent way too much time this week on WordPress reading all of  your blogs and looking back through old posts, I’ve become more than a little nostalgic for that travelin’ feelin’.

My dad likes to tell me that his favorite way of getting to know a city is simply to walk its streets.  The 19th century french philosopher Baudelaire agrees. Not that he told me personally, but he used the french word ‘flâneur‘ to describe a person who walks the city in order to more fully experience it. Like my dad, I enjoy introducing myself to a new urban geography by walking a city’s streets, emulating its movements with my own, and discovering all the little spaces for human expression  etched out across the cityscape.

I also enjoy a good street hot dog.

But this week, reflecting on not-so-long-ago-memories, made me really miss that flâneur feelin.

2 Hours with a news clipping and camera in Gamla Stan, Stockholm’s Old Town, to find the right spot, August 2011

36 Hours in Stockholm” New York Times, June 2011

Surprisingly similar outfits, right? I wish I could say that part was planned.