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November 28, 2012

A Hidden Dimension of Ballard

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Ballard is a Seattle neighborhood.  A former student of mine has a riff where she describes the two faces of Ballard:  There’s the old Scandinavian community, the fishing boats, brick houses, and the Nordic Heritage Museum.  And the new Ballard that sits at Cupcake Royale with their Macs, looking important and saying, “I am so much better dressed than you.”

In a hidden dimension of Ballard live the writers.  A year ago, as far as I knew, there was a Yahoo group of Ballard writers who occasionally got together at the public library. Then along came literary provocateur, Peggy Sturdivant, who has so much energy, I feel tired just typing her name.  Simultaneous with the publication of my memoir, 99 Girdles on the Wall, was the birth of the Ballard Writer’s Collective–time coincident but not causal, as my physicist friends would say.  The Collective  had an immediate presence, thanks to the Secret Garden Book Shop, Ballard’s local independent book store, and Peggy.  She immediately organized a Writer’s Jam at Sunset Hills Community Center.  A week after my book came out, I was on a stage reading to a packed house.  It was a delirious moment for a brand new author.

A year later, the Ballard Writer’s Collective has a website and a Facebook page.  We read each others’ books, help publicize each others’ individual events and participate in our own, that is to say, Peggy’s Big Ideas.  There are a lot of writers in Ballard.  I think it must breed.  Here are some I have gotten to know:

Rita Bresnahan.  She read my book, lavished praise on it and invited me out for coffee.  She herself has written a book about her mother’s final years of Alzheimer’s with the touching title, Walking One Another Home.

Jay Craig describes himself as “more fun than the Dalai Lama and not nearly as creepy as the pope.” He wrote The Scottish Buddhist Cookbook.  I loved it.  It told him it was borderline obscene and he wanted to know what he could do to make it full blown obscene.

Joshua McNichols is a “freelance journalist obsessed with finding food outside the grocery store system.” Besides co-authoring The Urban Farm Handbook with Annette Cottrell, Joshua is a presence on KUOW, Seattle’s  NPR station.  Joshua did the story about me that made me a radio star.

I had the pleasure of interviewing and writing an article about Nancy Schatz Alton whose lovely blog is   She is the author of The Healthy Back Book and The Healthy Knee Book.

I think of Jennifer D. Monroe (The Erotica Writer’s Husband and other stories), Alison Krupnick (Ruminations From a Mini-Van) and Christina Meyer Wilsdon (articles about science for kids) as three funny ladies.  I get on a Facebook thread with one of them and my day is shot.  Alison also writes a blog and Christina writes, a blog about a little of this and a little of that.  If you ever get a chance to hear Jennifer read, she is double funny in person.

This past weekend, the Ballard Writer’s Collective had The Big Event on the anniversary of last year’s Writer’s Jam.  It was an all-day book and gift fair with raffle baskets, tasting events, and demonstrations.  In the evening a bunch of us read 3-minutes pieces we had written.  We had been given the task of using the words slump, jingle and interlude in some way in our pieces.  Because creating all these live links is really tedious, you can read what everyone else wrote on the group’s website.  You can read what I wrote right here.  The words in bold print were to help me when I read the piece aloud.  They are in no way meant to insult your knowledge of current events or to expose your (or my) preoccupation with titillating details of the past election campaign.  If you are of a different political bent than I am, please don’t write me off.  I’m a good person.

Post-Election Re-set

I spent the night before the 2012 election fretting about the Florida voting machines but by Wednesday morning, I was over the moon about the election results.  In the interlude between the election and the following weekend, I stopped gloating and my sleep stabilized.  By Sunday morning, I was finally focusing on other concerns, such as my little church choir, which was singing “On Eagles’ Wings” in a few hours. The election was forgotten, a thing of the past.

So—that Sunday morning I got a call from our lone but capable alto that two of the three sopranos were sick.  The third, healthy, soprano warbles an indeterminate part–she takes a breath but the notes don’t come out of her mouth the right way.  The lone alto wondered if I wanted to cancel the anthem since we would have not just one, but two empty chairs.  “No, “I told her. “I’ll sing soprano. We have binders full of tenors, and one of them can sing the melody an octave lower. We’ll have 47% of the choir there.”

We can win this thing,” I thought as I walked up the church steps. “Arithmetic.”

I enjoy walking into a quiet church on the Sundays that the choir sings. Thanks to the church ladies, it’s warm and smells of flowers. But on this Sunday when I pulled open the door, I was greeted with a blare of nasty piped-in, electronic, illegitimate music. Gahh! 

The sound originated in the back of the church and from an imposing black box with knobs and carbuncles on it.  When I turned its largest knob, that musicky thing stopped. But apparently I had just hit the re-set button because as I hung up my coat, the poopy, jingling started again as though God intended it to happen. I took off my glasses to squint at all the buttons and levers before I finally found the way to shut that whole thing down. They say women have a way to do things like that.

The choir showed up for a short rehearsal. In the middle of the first run-through I stopped playing the piano in order to check the balance of voices.  The tempo fell into a bit of a slump, but the harmonies were lovely. And though I had not asked for a stimulus, a church member who knew the song offered to sing soprano with me.  With good heartedness and generosity from others, “On Eagles Wings” soared.

Hey–Choirs are people, my friend.

It’s so good to have my mind cleared of the presidential campaign, and to be thinking of other things.  If they get those damn voting machines in Florida fixed before the next election, it’ll only be 16 years late.








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