Moving to Ellensburg, Part III

At the end of Part II, I mentioned my “we’re outta here” letter. Here’s what I sent to Ellensburg Property Management:

Dear [redacted],

I am writing to you on behalf of Prairie, as she does not currently have internet access. Thank you very much for your assistance with the problems Prairie had with the unit yesterday and throughout today. Unfortunately, due to those issues and others that she has discovered, we are giving formal notice that she will be contacting you tomorrow morning (Wednesday, Jan. 5th) to make arrangements for leaving the property at 606 Tamarack, Unit #1.

The following is a list of issues we have discovered with the property over the past 36 hours. Some we might have noticed during the initial walkthrough if we had had more time, but many, including the most serious issues, would not have been noticed until we had taken possession of the unit.

  • Apartment-wide:
    • Frozen pipes (only partially thawed after 4 and a half hours of intensive work by Roto Rooter, requiring a team of three technicians and two specialized thawing units). Because the pipes were only partially thawed, water pressure is extremely low. In addition, Roto Rooter recommended leaving the apartment heat on high so that the pipes do not refreeze, making the apartment unbearably hot.
    • When water started flowing from the pipes, metal shavings were ejected along with the initial flow of water. Due to the metal shavings, the age and type of pipes, and the water quality, the Roto Rooter representative recommended that the tap water not be used for drinking or even for cooking.
    • The fuses seem unable to handle electrical loads. Four fuses blew over four hours, exhausting the supply you provided and requiring Prairie to buy the entire stock of appropriate fuses from Fred Myer to ensure she would not lose power.
    • Dust and cobwebs throughout the apartment show that it has not been cleaned in quite some time. Cobwebs even exist within the vents of the gas furnace, potentially a serious fire hazard.
    • There is no fire extinguisher provided (though this may not be an issue, as we admit we’re not positive on the requirements in this instance).
  • Exterior:
    • The odd extension cord that terminates inside the main room of the apartment appears to lead to some exposed wiring near the floodlights for the parking spaces, which may present a fire hazard.
    • Though a mailbox key was provided, Prairie was not told which mailbox it belongs to.
  • Living room/kitchen:
    • Once the pipes thawed, it became apparent that the pipe leading to the sprayer nozzle on the kitchen sink has a steady leak.
    • The kitchen stove top was dirty.
    • The electrical socket underneath the kitchen counter is not physically attached to the wall, and requires cautious steadying when attempting to plug or unplug anything.
    • There are no brackets for the shelves in the living room closet, so the shelves (currently laid against the wall) cannot be used.
    • The refrigerator is powered by a jury-rigged system consisting of an extension cord (plugged into the loose electrical socket) with a triple-socket adapter that the refrigerator plugs into.
  • Bedroom/bathroom:
    • The bathroom window does not open.
    • The water heater is ancient, filthy, and has areas that are apparently plugged with paper towels.
    • The shower head literally fell off of the pipe when we first touched it. When we attempted to replace the pipe (to attach an extension pipe along with a new shower head), the threads of the pipe broke off inside the pipe within the wall, requiring a call to a plumber before the shower was useable.
    • The bathroom door does not close properly due to a loose upper hinge.
    • The doorknob to the bedroom closet is loose.

Due to these issues, quite a few of which seem to question the safety of the unit, Prairie was uncomfortable staying there a second night and has left to stay with a friend from work. Because she will not be present overnight, she was uncomfortable leaving the furnace set at its maximum, and left it set to 65°. She has also left the water slightly running to keep water moving through the pipes. We sincerely hope that this will prevent the pipes from refreezing overnight. She will be contacting you at her earliest convenience tomorrow to make arrangements for leaving the property and getting her rent and security deposit refunded. Thank you very much for your kind understanding in this situation.


Michael and Prairie

Wednesday morning, Prairie went off to begin the transition that should have started the day before, and I split my time between homework and hunting down every apartment listing I could find for the Ellensburg area. Things weren’t looking good for a while, as the town tends to revolve around the school year schedule, and every apartment complex I called either didn’t answer (and didn’t return calls) or was entirely full. Finally, though, I got a hit off of a Craigslist ad, and left a message for Prairie with the details on how to contact the landlord.

And, finally, pieces started to fall into place.

Since detailing things working the way they’re supposed to isn’t nearly as interesting (or, frankly, as fun) as complaining about things falling apart, this part will be a little bit briefer.

The new place is great. It’s a little more expensive and not nearly as big as the first place, but those little details are so far from being issues that they’re not really worth mentioning except as comparisons. It’s in a building directly off the CWU campus, just about five minutes’ walk from the Writing Center. While it’s an older building, it was originally owned by the University, has been very well kept up over the years, and was remodeled just a few years ago. Even better, the unit that Prairie got was remodeled even more recently to make it ADA compliant for a former tenant, so it has everything from a ramp up to the door to a shower big enough to fit a wheelchair in (or, as Prairie pointed out, four people at one time…though we seriously doubt that anything like that will ever be going on). It has relatively new appliances, even including a washer and dryer in the unit.

Another good sign: Andrew, the landlord, is very connected to CWU. His firm gives a scholarship to the university, the majority of his tenants are faculty, staff, or grad students, and he’s often recommended by the university as the person to talk to for off-campus housing. Prairie even had one of the Writing Center staff hear a little bit of her story of apartment woes and come up to her to ask if she’d talked to Andrew yet! He’s been much easier to work with and get ahold of than the other landlord was, and in general, has helped make this apartment experience be the exact opposite of our first try.

The moral of the story? If you’re looking for rental properties in Ellensburg stick with Andrew at Hatlestad Investment Group, LLC. He’s great. Highly recommended (and obviously, not just by us)!

Update: We need to strongly withdraw our recommendation. While I haven’t gotten around to detailing our experiences (and I do need to), we had problems when it was time to leave the apartment. We do not recommend renting from Andrew Hatlestad and the Hatlestad Investment Group.

I took some pictures of the new place while I was there this weekend, and will get them posted eventually. As it is, I’ve taken too much time making these posts when I need to be getting caught up on my reading for this week’s classes, so I’ll call this the end.

And that’s the story of our adventures (so far) in moving to Ellensburg.

Moving to Ellensburg, Part II

Okay. So at the end of Part I of this little adventure, I’d left off with ominous words about how moving in to the new apartment did not go smoothly. That’s actually something of an understatement!

(Facebook people: most, if not all, of this post is copied directly from my original Facebook note. You can probably skip it, unless you really want to re-live the drama.)

When all of this began, we started looking for one bedroom Ellensburg apartments for Prairie, searching real estate websites and Craigslist from our place in Kent. Since we were calling around on Christmas Eve day, we weren’t terribly surprised when we couldn’t get ahold of many offices, but we were able to get ahold of one of the most promising looking places: a 1-bedroom unit, half of a duplex, that was listed on Craigslist. The landlord sounded decent on the phone, and was willing to do a short-term four-month lease, so we set up an appointment to look at the place while we were in Ellensburg so that Prairie could have a few meetings about the transition to her new job.

We got there, and while it’s an old building and the place looked kind of funky (in a fun, quirky kind of way), it was actually quite a bit bigger than we expected, and we agreed that it would fit our needs perfectly. We signed the lease, got a key, put the utilities in Prairie’s name, and (after the work meetings) came back home to pack for the move.

On Monday the 3rd, with the help of Prairie’s dad, we schlepped all the stuff she’d packed out to the new place…and it wasn’t long before things started to look a little pear-shaped. There was an extension cord sticking out of one wall that could be plugged into one of the few interior outlets, and les outside, apparently to the floodlights for the parking spots, but it didn’t seem to actually do anything. We weren’t entirely sure why that was, but Prairie’s dad looked at it and said that it looked like there’s some disconnected and possibly exposed wiring. The electrical socket in the kitchen underneath the counter was kind of falling out of the wall, and because there’s no other socket close to the refrigerator, there was an extension cord (just barely long enough to reach) with a plug doubler on the end running from that socket to the fridge (I added a power strip to the mix so that the cord wasn’t quite so stretched, and so that we could plug in the toaster and microwave). There were cobwebs in a number of places around the apartment, indicating that it hadn’t had a good cleaning anytime recently. When we touched the shower head in the bathroom, it literally fell off of the pipe. Initially, this wasn’t a big deal, as we were planning on putting a newer shower head on anyway, but when we tried to remove the old pipe, the threads broke inside the socket, rendering the shower unusable. However, even the unusable shower paled in comparison to the realization that the pipes were frozen, and there was no running water.

So, by noon Monday, we’d had electrical weirdnesses, cleaning grumbles, broken plumbing, and frozen pipes. We called the landlord, and I (reluctantly) left Prairie to wait for calls from the plumber and Roto Rooter (since the plumber didn’t have the equipment to deal with frozen pipes) to let her know when they would be arriving, and Prairie’s dad brought me back home to Kent. That evening, Prairie let me know that the plumber made it out that afternoon to fix the shower, but all she’d gotten from Roto Rooter was a statement that they’d “probably” be out to her place between 8 and 10 Tuesday morning, though they wouldn’t actually make a definitive statement.

By 9:30 a.m. Tuesday, Prairie’d heard nothing from anyone, and was justifiably pissed (especially because she was supposed to be on campus beginning the transition process for her new job, but was stuck at home trying to get the apartment livable). After filling me in, she made another round of calls to Roto Rooter and the landlord, and Roto Rooter finally showed up just before noon (perhaps coincidentally, but perhaps not, just before the 24-hour window where landlords are legally required to respond in instances where apartments lose water or heat). As the Roto Rooter guy started to try and work, he wasn’t sure where the pipes came into the building, so Prairie called the landlord…who didn’t know. The Roto Rooter guy went over to ask the neighbors in the other half of the duplex, who weren’t sure about where the pipes were, but did say that frozen pipes are apparently a pretty regular occurrence for the building. Great.

So, as the Roto Rooter guy got to work, Prairie went off to the store to find space heaters, as one of the things tenants can do to avoid problems it to keep space heaters near the interior pipes during cold weather. She got back home with the heaters, plugged them in…and not much later, a fuse blows and the entire place loses power. And, of course, these aren’t circuit breakers, but old screw-in style fuses. So, another call to the landlord…and that’s when I asked Twitter about whether there is such a thing as the rental equivalent of a “lemon law” or “buyer’s remorse” clause. At this point, it was looking like if things didn’t improve fast, we’d be better off just getting out while the getting was good, and finding Prairie a different place.

For a while, things seemed like they were improving…or at least on the way to improvement. By Tuesday afternoon Roto Rooter hadn’t succeeded in getting water flowing, though they were certainly trying: they’d gone from one guy to two vans, three guys, and a “big scary machine” working on the pipes. More importantly, though, when the landlord came by with more fuses, Prairie was able to get him to agree that after all the problems, if the water didn’t get going soon (by Tuesday night or Wednesday morning) then he would be willing to let Prairie out of the lease so that she could find another place. At that point, we were still hoping that it wouldn’t come to that — there were enough good aspects to the place (price, size, the short-term lease, etc.) that we were hoping to keep it if it could be made livable, and the process of finding another place (quickly) and moving (quickly) again wasn’t terribly appealing — but at least we had been assured that we wouldn’t be locked into a lease on an apartment that wasn’t actually livable.

As the evening wore on, though, it became more and more clear that staying there just wasn’t tenable. When Roto Rooter was finally able to get water flowing, it was clear that the pipes were only partially unfrozen, as it was only a small trickle of water. Futhermore, when water did start coming out, it was an unpleasant color and was spitting out small metal shavings. The Roto Rooter guys told Prairie that the pipes were really old and in bad shape, and recommended that not only should she not drink any of the water, but she shouldn’t even cook with it. When they left, water was still just trickling, and they’d advised Prairie to keep the water running, the heat in the apartment cranked as high as it would go, and the portable heaters she’d purchased trained on the exposed pipes, in the hope that this would keep them from refreezing overnight.

Of course, constantly running water plus the heat on high effectively turned the place into a sauna, and then to top it off, Prairie discovered a leak underneath the kitchen sink spilling water across the kitchen floor.

At that point, enough was enough. She called me, we talked it over, and (after putting a pan under the leak), she got ahold of her old boss (who she’s also good friends with) and went over to stay at her place that night, and I wrote a “we’re out of here” letter to the landlords.

Here’s a small video that was originally shot the day we first took a look at the apartment. At the time (and as evidence in the audio track), we still thought that it was a funky but functional place that would work for our needs. As that was far from the truth, I’ve added subtitles pointing out some of the more egregious issues.

Next up: Getting out of the slums, and into an apartment worth living in.

Moving to Ellensburg, Part I

We’re moving to Ellensburg!

Bet’cha you never expected those words to come from me, did’ja? But you did, and this is the point where I can finally publicly ramble on about what I haven’t been allowed to talk about until now.

(People who know me on Facebook know some of this already, since I could ramble there and lock the posts away from the public eye. Feel free to just skim over to look for stuff that doesn’t look familiar.)

Here’s the deal.

For the past two years (for those of you who don’t know this already), Prairie has been working as the Assistant Director of the Central Washington University Writing Centers. Though CWU’s main campus is in Ellensburg, it has a number of branch campus spread along the I-5 corridor on the west side of the state, and Prairie has been overseeing the writing centers at each of those branch campuses.

Sometime in December, Prairie found out that her boss had received a very generous job offer from another school, and was planning on accepting the position. We knew that this was going to create a fairly major shakeup, we just weren’t exactly sure how major or what the final outcome would be. Prairie and I discussed a number of possibilities, and far down at the bottom of the list, filed away under “longshot idea that’s kind of fun to think about but would never happen” was, “what if they offered Prairie the directorship?” We briefly discussed the idea, but didn’t give it a whole lot of thought.

As it turns out, we probably should have put a little more thought into it than we did, because that’s exactly what happened. On December 21st, Prairie got a call from her boss’s boss offering her the directorship on an interim basis, with the option of applying for the formal search process. Of course, this is a huge boost for Prairie’s career, so it didn’t take a whole lot of time for her to accept the offer. However, there were two “catches” that have created no small amount of upheaval in our lives.

Catch number one: She’d have to move to Ellensburg.

Catch number two: She’d have to be able to start her new position on January 4th.

To put this into some amount of context, she was getting the offer on Tuesday, Dec. 21st. That gave us just under two weeks between when Prairie received the offer and when she had to be available in Ellensburg for a rapid one week transition. As if that wasn’t crazy enough, those two weeks included both Christmas and New Years, both of which removed a couple days from actually being able to get anything substantial done. And if that wasn’t crazy enough, one of Prairie’s sisters was getting married on New Year’s Eve! Prairie was helping with flowers and parties, and I was the photographer, so we had to be in the Vancouver/Portland area from the 29th through January 1st for all the wedding festivities (bridal shower on the 29th; rehearsal/family dinner on the 30th; final setup, decoration, and then the ceremony and combination reception and New Year’s Eve party on the 31st) — and that’s four more days that weren’t available for the Kent-to-Ellensburg transition.

Oh, and one last little thing: Because I’m in the final quarter of my bachelor’s degree and as the lease on our current apartment isn’t up until the end of April, I can’t move to Ellensburg with Prairie right away. While she’s moving to Ellensburg and jumping headfirst into the directorship position, I’m staying behind in Kent and living a pseudo-bachelor lifestyle for the next three months. It won’t be until April that we get to close things out in our current apartment and schlep me over the pass to join Prairie in Ellensburg.

So…things have been a little bit crazy. Actually, they’ve been a lot bit crazy.

In the week after we got the call, we managed to get the ball rolling quite quickly. That Tuesday was the initial offer and the day we took to talk things over with ourselves. Wednesday Prairie formally accepted the offer, and Wednesday and Thursday we started the process of figuring out what Prairie would need to start things in Ellensburg on her own, checked Craigslist for available one-bedroom apartments, and called and set up a viewing on one for after the Christmas weekend. Friday was Christmas Eve and Saturday was Christmas Day, so we took those two days to rest as much as possible and have a quiet Christmas for ourselves. Sunday we took down all the Christmas decorations and prepared for the next week of running around.

Monday we went over the pass to Ellensburg, managing to dodge winter storms and make it over without any issues. We met with the landlord of the property we’d found, took a look at it, decided that it would work just fine and filled out the rental application, then got together with Prairie’s old boss for a nice dinner at her home. Tuesday Prairie had meetings with her former boss and new boss to hammer down as many details of the transition as they could, then we came back over the pass for a night at home. Wednesday we were back on the road again, and made it down to Prairie’s mom’s place in Vancouver to begin the wedding festivities. Finally, Prairie was able to sneak away to notify her west side writing center staff, and while we weren’t quite comfortable with announcing things publicly before the torch had officially been passed over to Prairie, I was able to make a private Facebook post to let some people know the basics.

Also going on during all this, and adding its own little bit of stress to our adventures, was the question of whether my new camera would arrive in time or not. We’d originally ordered it from on November 2nd, figuring that even with Nikon’s notorious supply line issues on new cameras, two months should be plenty of time for the camera to arrive before the wedding. We waited, and waited, and waited…. Eventually, about a week and a half before the wedding, we called one of the local Ritz stores to ask if they knew anything about when D7000s would start shipping out. As it turned out, the brick-and-mortar stores had been getting shipments to customers for the past month, and they had no idea why their online store (which is run as a separate company) was stalling. So, after checking warehouse stock to be sure, we cancelled the online order and placed an order with the store.

Unfortunately, we managed to hit the breaking point and swap things around just as the warehouse ran out of stock. Thankfully, the manager of the store was quite sympathetic to our frustration, and was willing to sell us the floor demo model to use for the wedding, and then allow us to return it afterwards and get our money back. We waited until the last possible moment, but once it was clear that my camera wasn’t going to show up on time, we took him up on his offer. So, part of that one night at home between Ellensburg and Vancouver was a quick run out to the Southcenter Cameras West to “rent” (ahem) a D7000 for the wedding. While I never want to deal with the online storefront again, Travis and the crew at Cameras West were wonderfully helpful.

Anway, back to Vancouver and the rest of the wedding festivities, which ended up going quite well. I haven’t started going through all the photos I took yet, but I have posted a short video of the bride and groom dancing during the reception/New Years Eve party. Saturday we drove back up to Kent, Sunday we packed Prairie up (and I returned the D7000), and on Monday her dad helped us haul what little she took over the pass. We got to her new apartment, started unpacking…and then began the next part of the adventure. Suffice to say, things did not go smoothly. That story will come momentarily, in Part Two of our Ellensburg adventures.

Thoughts on Inception

Prairie and I went to see Inception last week, and as I tweeted afterwards, I ended up really enjoying it, while Prairie didn’t like it as much. As she’s not as much of a sci-fi buff as I am, and has a lower tolerance for violence, that’s not a very surprising result.

As good as it is, I don’t find Inception to be a perfect film. Some of the things that bothered Prairie bothered me as well as I was watching it. Interestingly, some of these very things end up making more sense — or, at the very least, become less troubling — when viewed in the light of one of the more interesting interpretations of the film.

As Inception is still in its opening weeks, I’m going to go ahead and put the rest of my ramblings under the cut, for those who’d prefer to avoid spoilers…

Read more

Adventures in Holiday Weekend Driving

As mentioned briefly in the post about my fireworks video, family matters required an unexpected trip south to Vancouver over this past Fourth of July weekend. As we were returning home yesterday, fighting our way northward through last-day-of-a-holiday-weekend traffic, Prairie and I witnessed one of the most frightening near-accidents I’ve ever seen.

We’d left I-5 to take a brief lunch break in Longview, and after filling ourselves with pizza and the car with gas, were getting back on the highway. As we started to merge into traffic, which at this point was heavy but still keeping to the 70 MPH speed limit, a big dump truck towing a flatbed trailer with a huge tank on it passed by on our left, making an incredibly horrendous scraping noise that didn’t sound at all right. As I pulled onto the highway proper, directly behind the truck, I saw what was making the noise.

My best guess is that the tank on the flatbed was an underground septic tank, and the inflow pipe had been strapped to the bed of the trailer on the right side of the tank. At some point on the drive, however, the front of the pipe had jostled loose and bounced off the bed, letting the pipe drag along the road. Because it was the front of the pipe that had come loose, the rear of the pipe was still tied to the bed, so the pipe was being pushed forward against the asphalt, throwing up sparks, and it was immediately obvious that it could go swinging to the side at any moment, very likely snapping free of the remaining ties and flying loose into traffic.


“Wow, that doesn’t sound healthy,” said Prairie. As I quickly started changing lanes to get out from directly behind the truck and as far to the left as I could, I asked, “Didn’t you see the pipe?” “What pipe?” I briefly told her what I’d seen, and sure enough, just at that moment, we saw the front of the pipe swing out to the right, barely miss clipping the rear left tire of a small blue SUV as the pipe swung out until the straps that were still hanging on stopped it, leaving it sticking out to the right, still dragging along the road, and still frighteningly close to the tire of the SUV.


As soon as the pipe had started to swing wide, I’d started to brake as quickly as I could safely do so, as had a number of other cars who could see what was happening. A few of us had started to honk to warn both the dump truck driver and the driver of the SUV of the impending catastrophe. The dump truck driver didn’t seem to notice anything, but the SUV suddenly sped up and pulled away from the dragging pipe without getting hit. While many of us were slowing down, however, the people behind us couldn’t see what was happening, and just as the pipe started to swing further around to drag behind the trailer, making it even more likely that the straps would finally give and throw it loose, a little car full of teens whipped around our car and sped straight towards the truck.

More braking, more wild honking, and then we saw that car’s brake lights flare up as the driver finally saw what was happening and realized that there was a reason why we’d suddenly slowed down so much. He changed lanes to the left and pulled up beside the truck, and one of the passengers started waving at the truck, trying to get the driver’s attention; at the same time, a big pickup with a lightbar, either from WSDOT or from one of the construction crews scattered along I-5 sped up the right hand side of the road to pull along the other side of the truck, and also tried to get him to pull over.


Thankfully, one or both of those two people were successful, and the driver, still apparently clueless as to just why people were hollering at him, finally started to slow down and pull off to the side of the highway. Miracle of miracles, those last straps had managed to hang on, and the pipe had stayed attached to the flatbed trailer, though probably through more sheer luck than anything else. We passed by, and the last I saw of the incident was the truck pulling onto the shoulder right behind the official-looking pickup that had flown up the right side of the highway.

Really, really freaky — there were a few moments when I was sure that the straps were about to break, and I’d have to do my best to dodge a 20-foot length of steel pipe flying along I-5 at 60-some miles per hour in the middle of holiday traffic. Not at all a pleasant mental picture, and I’m very glad it never came to that.

Vancouver, WA Fireworks

While Prairie and I were planning on doing our usual hide-from-the-crazies-at-home approach to the Fourth of July, due to circumstances beyond our control, we ended up visiting Prairie’s family in Vancouver, WA this past weekend. It turns out that Vancouver is one of those weird places where fireworks are actually legal to set off within the city limits on July Fourth, and nearly every house in Prairie’s mom’s neighborhood was getting in on the action. Since this was something I’d never experienced, Prairie and I took a short walk around the neighborhood to see some of the local explosive entertainment.

Birthday Number 37

Yesterday was a nice day — not terribly eventful, but a nice, relaxing birthday.

The day started with a breakfast of Hawaiian style french toast, made with Hawaiian sweet bread, drenched in coconut syrup, and served with fresh-cut pineapple. Really good. Even neater, the one store around here that used to sell coconut syrup doesn’t seem to anymore, so Prairie bought some coconut milk and made the syrup herself.

The rest of the morning involved a bit of responsibility: Prairie went in to work for a few hours, and I went off to finish my Legal Research law library project, this time at the Maleng Regional Justice Center branch of the King County Law Library here in Kent. Once I was done with that, I picked Prairie up, and we headed home for lunch. Lunch was “Thanksgiving sandwiches” — good deli turkey and cranberry sauce on fresh baked rolls — and we were able to eat in the sun on the porch until yesterday’s wind started blowing the food around and we ducked back inside.

After lunch came the big project of the day: the cake. Last Christmas, Prairie’s sister H had given us a cute sandwich cookie cake pan set that we’d been saving for the right occasion, and this was it! Prairie had decided to follow the recipe that came with the cake pans, and the further we got into it, the more amused we got — this is a really rich, really chocolate-y recipe. Over a half cup of cocoa powder, seven ouces of bittersweet chocolate, 14 tablespoons of butter, almost two cups of sugar…wow. We mixed it all up, set it to baking, and then Prairie made up a double batch of her family recipe cream cheese frosting for the filling.

A little bit later, after cooling, frosting, and assembling…the cake was done!

My 37th Birthday Cake 1

And here’s a shot with a real Oreo cookie as a size comparison:

My 37th Birthday Cake 4

Now that’s a birthday cake!

After admiring the cake for a few minutes, we each went off to be responsible for a while, with Prairie doing some work for her job from home while I worked on homework.

Once the afternoon was done, we settled in for an evening of vegging in front of the TV, had pizza from CanAm Pizza (who we just discovered, they’re really good — last night I had their Tandoori Chicken Pizza, which is definitely worth munching on), and, eventually, did our best to work our way through a couple pieces of that cake. Amusingly, as it turns out, that monster is a little too rich for us — each bite is like four bites of normal chocolate cake — I checked on a scale, and it’s an eight pound cake! We’re going to do our best to get through as much as we can, but next time we’ll be using a more normal cake mix instead of the über-rich version from the box. It’s good — so very good — but oh, wow, so rich.

In other words, perfect for a birthday.

MiniBreak: Corvallis

Two weekends ago, Prairie and I headed down to Corvallis to visit my brother and his family. Emily, my sister-in-law, is just finishing her doctorate in oceanography, and has accepted a position doing post-doc work at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, associated with MIT. Great news, of course, but it does mean that they’re all moving across the country to Falmouth, MA. Since that’s going to be a lot harder to visit than Corvallis, OR, we wanted to make sure to get a visit with them in before they left.

The full set of photos is on Flickr, here’s a small sampling…

Noah can Ride! 1
Noah, on day two without training wheels on his bike!

Swimming 7
Me, Noah, Kevin, and Paul swimming at the campsite Prairie and I stayed at.

Coloring Time 4
Noah, Prairie, and Paul coloring.

Story Time 4
Me reading Noah a couple chapters of some of his current bedtime story (The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe).

We’ll miss being close enough to take a weekend to drive down and visit, but it’s a great opportunity for them and for Emily, and we wish them the best.

Jason Webley Elevanniversary

Poster for Jason's 11th Anniversary ShowLast night, Prairie and I went out to see Jason Webley’s Elevanniversary show, our first Webley show in a few years. We’d been skipping them lately, but between this being his eleventh anniversary show, having it at Seattle’s Town Hall (a venue we really like), and the guest list he’d lined up, we decided this was one we wanted to see. In the end, while it wasn’t our all-time favorite Webley show, it was still good, (mostly) a lot of fun, and we’re glad we went. I took a few pictures during the course of the night, and they’ll be up eventually, but as we sat towards the back and I was more interested in just enjoying the show, it won’t be among my most comprehensive sets of Webley documentation. I’m sure you’ll all survive. :)

We headed downtown a little early, in order to make sure we got a good parking space close to Town Hall and have time to get dinner before the show. Parking successfully obtained, we wandered down to the Cheesecake Factory for dinner, after stopping off to get a few pictures of what little is left of the Alfaretta Apartments at 8th and Seneca. As crappy as that building was, I liked my little apartment there, and it was where I was living when Prairie and I first met, so it was a little sad to see it reduced to just a few walls and a lot of rubble. After dinner we spent a while wandering around Barnes and Noble, talking each other out of spending money on new books when there are so many good used books available far cheaper, and then headed back up the hill to Town Hall.

There was already a small crowd of people milling about when we returned to Town Hall, and it wasn’t long before a table was set up to process those of us who had will call tickets waiting. (A quick aside: I’ve got to give props, this was by far the most organized and prompt Webley show we’d ever been to. Getting our tickets only took a few minutes, the doors to the lobby actually opened at, and perhaps slightly before, the scheduled 7:30pm, we got into the house and found our seats by 7:45, and the lights dimmed to begin the show at 8:05. Impressive!) Tickets in hand, we waited for the doors to open, and ended up spending a pleasant few minutes chatting with Paco, a burlesque performer from Baltimore who was in town for the weekend to visit Seattle and see the Elevanniversary show.

Once in the auditorium, Prairie and I grabbed seats towards the back of the house on the assumption that most rowdiness would be towards the front, and this would make it easier to dodge overexcited fans later on. As we were all entering and finding our seats, Seattle’s Orkestar Zirkonium was providing entrance music, their euro-klezmer-ish style setting a good tone for the evening to come, as balloons both big and small bounced around the room and Jason’s ever-present goddesses danced and twirled through the aisles.

The show itself was divided roughly in half, with the first half devoted to Jason’s friends and collaborators doing short sets on their own, and Jason coming out for the second half. This ended up having some definite pros and cons: on the plus side, we got some more exposure to the people Jason’s been working with over the past few years, all of whom had quite enjoyable sets; however that also meant that Jason himself had a somewhat abbreviated setlist, and many of the quieter, more introspective songs that Prairie and I enjoy so much were passed over in favor of the louder, more exciting, get-everyone-bouncing-around songs. As fun as those are — and plenty of people were quite rightfully enjoying them — we’re just not quite so bouncy, and missed hearing some of our old favorites. Still, different shows have different intents, and this minor grousing shouldn’t at all be taken to mean that we didn’t enjoy ourselves!

Anyway, the first guest performer up was Andru Bemis, who worked with Jason on the How Big is Tacoma EP, with three of his own songs. Jay Thompson (of Eleven Saints fame) read a few poems for us, then the Rev. Peyton came on (though without his Big Damn Band). Some of Jason’s goddesses did a silly Billy Joel “We Didn’t Start the Fire”-inspred pseudo-retrospective of Jason’s career, accompanied by only a big bass drum. Then the last guest performer, and for many people in the audience the most eagerly anticipated, Amanda Palmer, of both Dresden Dolls and solo fame, not to mention her work with Jason and Evelyn Evelyn.

After Amanda’s set, we were treated (after some slight technical issues) to a short, four-minute edit of video from Jason’s first public performance from eleven years ago, featuring songs from his first album, Viaje. It was fun to see — younger, shorter hair, a bit more unfinished, but definitely Jason.

After the video, out came Jason, along with his usual bandmates Alex (Sprout) Guy, Jherek Bischoff, and Michael McQuilken. They did a few of Jason’s songs (including possibly my favorite-ever rendition of Goodbye Forever, Once Again), and then he invited his guest performers up one-by-one to perform songs from their collaborative EPs. Before his collaborators started joining him, though, Jason invited onstage one of the first people to welcome Jason into the world of busking when he started all those years ago, Seattle legend Artis the Spoonman, who joined Jason for an incredible performance. Then, Jason’s co-conspirators: Andru, then Rev. Peyton, then Amanda. After this there was the one “WTF?” moment of the night for us — a short, bizarre, techno-Devo-ish piece that just seemed odd and out of place. Perhaps there was an in-joke that Prairie and I have missed out on, but it pretty much just confirmed for us that Jason doesn’t have much of a future in the rave scene.

Next up came a short word about Sunday’s Camp Tomato, along with indoctrinating (or, for many of us, re-indoctrinating) us all into the Tomato Scouts, with both the Tomato Scout Oath and the Tomato Scout Song. Jason read a sweet short story about a boy with a dream of feathers, boats, balloons, tomatoes, and lots of friends, only to wake up to find that the dream was still ongoing, and then he started inviting more performers on stage. Alex, Jherek and Michael came back on stage, joined by a string trio of two cellos and one violin; after a few songs, they were joined by the Orkestar Zirkonium; shortly afterwards, Jay Thompson came on for “Eleven Saints“.

Many more balloons were launched, both big and small, people got up and danced in the aisles, and the marionette version of Jason from a few years back floated around the room underneath big red balloons. Finally, Jason and company launched into “Music That Tears Itself Apart“, arms stretched upwards, fingers waggled, arms slowly dropped down, and much mass tickling was accomplished, and then finally, the concert was at an end.

Though there was a giant tomato cake over in Freeway Park, Prairie and I were ready to head home, and so we wandered up the two blocks to the car, leaving the post-show festivities to the younger, more energetic set, while we worked our way home and fell into bed.

Happy Elevanniversary, Jason. We’re glad we could be there.