So, About Today’s Video

I like Macklemore, the personality, more than I like his music. It’s not that I dislike Macklemore’s music – it’s just that it doesn’t speak to me or my life. So, today’s “Video Tuesday” might seem like a puzzling choice to those who know me.

I was going to post a link to the blog post from the day “Corner Store” was filmed. It would explain why I chose this video, but I couldn’t find the post. I eventually discovered that I had written the story on Facebook, but hadn’t written a blog post. I have no idea why I did it like that. WordPress is my medium for story telling, not Facebook.

Here’s what I posted to Facebook on December 12, 2017:

So we walked over to Summit Foods this evening, to buy some Diet Coke. There were several panel trucks, and one black VIP-style SUV, on the street. Someone was setting a catering tray on the corner. There were a lot of people standing around, including one fellow in “old man” makeup. We started to walk in, and a guy told us, in a friendly manner, that the store was closed. I asked what was going on. He said they were filming a commercial. We don’t think it was a commercial. (Is Macklemore filming a new video??)

It was actually Phillip who came up with the believable theory that Macklemore was filming a video. It was also Phillip who theorized that the fellow in obviously fake “old man” makeup who said “Hey, fellas Evening, gentlemen” as he rushed past us, was Macklemore himself. (Edited)

Phillip later confirmed with the store owner that it was, indeed, a Macklemore video being filmed that evening. (The store owner, by the way, looks nothing like Macklemore in “old man” makeup.)

I was bouncing around YouTube last night, when Macklemore’s “Corner Store” video showed up as suggested for me. Phillip had been right about everything.

We like our corner store. The family that runs it is always friendly and helpful. It has a good selection of just about everything except fresh produce. It has a very good selection of micro brewery beers.

Phillip especially likes our corner store, because it is the only place in our neighborhood, including QFC and Rite Aid, that sells Caffeine Free Diet Coke.

My not-serious theory that night was that it really was a commercial – a commercial for Caffeine Free Diet Coke.

That night, after we were shooed away from Summit Foods, we walked over to Thomas Market and bought regular (caffeinated) Diet Coke. This is why Phillip says that Macklemore owes him a Caffeine Free Diet Coke.

So, in past and future blog posts, when I mention going over to the corner store, you will know what the place looks like.

As for the rest of the video, I don’t recognize the park or the alley, but I recognize the lights behind the security officers’ heads as the Rite Aid on the corner of Broadway and John. (The building was a movie theater before it was a drug store. The marquee was left in place for the preservation of history.)

Decades ago, the street I lived on was blocked off by a movie crew. As I walked home one evening, I saw Gene Hackman sitting on the stoop of an apartment building two buildings from mine. I learned, later, that it was the movie Twice in a Lifetime. I used to say that that was my only brush with celebrity. Now I know that Macklemore once said “Hey, fellas Evening, gentlemen” to us.

(Edit: Phillip says he remembers the quote as “Evening, gentlemen”. I’ll trust his recollection. I was talking to the guy at the door, who was telling me they were filming a commercial, when the “old man” passed behind me, and in front of Phillip. I was more distracted than Phillip was.)

Riding To The Group On The 10

Today was Writers’ Group. I hadn’t written anything. Phillip had purposely not planned on anything that involved him needing our car, so I wouldn’t have to walk up the hill.

I got up this morning and took some painkillers. I sat on the couch and tried to finish reading a book. I realized that I was spending quite a lot of time staring at nothing in particular. The painkillers had kicked it. I decided it was best that I not drive a car.

I walked over to the library, dropped off the book I managed to finish, and caught a 10 bus up the hill. (So, I didn’t walk all the way up the hill, and I avoided the steepest part.)

Writers’ Group today was Barbara, Mariah, Russ, and me.

Russ has a friend, a self-published author, who’s been interested in joining the Group. The problem has been that Sundays don’t often work for him. We decided today that there’s really no reason we have to meet on the second Sunday of the month – it’s just a tradition left over from when Writers’ Group was a church activity – and there’s no reason we couldn’t meet on a Saturday sometimes. So Writers’ Group will meet on occasional Saturdays from now on.

I read my blog post about taking our car in for an emission test. I think it went over well.

I rode the 10 back down the hill. (Russ would have offered me a ride, he told me, but he’d already given the free seat in his pickup to Mariah.)

A Book By Two Authors

Mannen som gick upp i rök, by spouses Maj Sjöwall and Per Wahlöö, was first published in 1966. It was translated into English by Joan Tate as The Man Who Went Up in Smoke, in 1969. It was the second book in the “Martin Beck Mystery” series.

The first sentence is: “The room was small and shabby.

The Man Who Went Up in SmokeThe first chapter is amazing. It begins with detailed descriptions of a crime scene. The victim lies dead on the floor. Then it’s revealed that these are descriptions of photographs of a crime scene. The photographs are being examined by Inspector Martin Beck. He and the rest of the Stockholm Homicide Squad are discussing convicting the suspect on technical evidence. Martin Beck enters the interrogation room just as the suspect begins confessing to the crime. What seemed, at first, to be the beginning of a murder mystery is actually the conclusion of one. The first chapter ends on page 8 with Martin Beck leaving on his month-long vacation.

Martin Beck takes a ferry out to an island in the Stockholm Archipelago, where his wife and family have already started their vacation. Less than one day into his vacation, Martin Beck is called back into Stockholm, where Chief Inspector Hammar tells him to meet with a man at the Foreign Office.

The man at the Foreign Office tells Martin Beck that a journalist named Alf Matsson vanished ten days earlier, while on assignment in Budapest. The magazine that employed Alf Matsson doesn’t want an official investigation, in order to kept its exclusive rights to the story. The Foreign Office is afraid of the impact from a story about a Swedish journalist disappearing while in Hungry. Martin Beck is offered the assignment of working for the Foreign Office, just long enough to discreetly find Alf Matsson. Of course, he’d have to postpone his vacation.

Over the angry objections of his wife, Martin Beck cuts his vacation short and accepts the impossible task of finding a man who went up in smoke. He doesn’t care about the assignment, and he doesn’t care about Alf Matsson. Martin Beck accepted the assignment only because of his “policeman’s soul”.

The Man Who Went Up in Smoke is a good, old-fashioned mystery. While Martin Beck is in Budapest, undercover, claiming he was looking for a missing friend, it also felt a little like an international espionage thriller. It’s a story of detailed clues and observations.

I enjoyed this book a lot. I had no trouble jumping into the series, while not having read the previous book.

Why I chose this book:

I found this novel while I was doing an internet search for “Nordic noir”. I found a lot of choices, including The Man Who Went Up in Smoke. I’d never heard of Maj Sjöwall, Per Wahlöö, or Martin Beck. It was obvious that finding Nordic noir would be a lot easier than finding a book with two authors. This book was the first one I put on my “For Later” library self, for the 2018 Reading Challenge, and the search for Nordic noir continued.

Seen And Not Seen

Last night, I made the decision to start seeing a chiropractor. I know of one near where I work, but I wanted to establish care with one close to home. I was sure there must be some in my neighborhood, but I didn’t know where they would be.

I did a search on Google Maps, and found two chiropractors in my neighborhood. The first one shocked me. It was a place I’ve been walking past for years. I walk past it at least twice a week. Its sign has appeared in photographs I’ve taken of the neighborhood. I’ve seen it and not really seen it.

The location of that first office was better for me than the second one. Unfortunately, it’s open only on Monday and Tuesday, Wednesday morning, and Thursday and Friday. I’d have to take a lot of sick leave from work if I started going there. The second one opens at 8:00 on Saturdays, and stays open late on weekday evenings.

I woke up this morning a little before 8:00. I took a quick shower (in case they could see me right away) and then called that second chiropractor. The phone rang and rang, and then a recording told me that they were closed for the three-day weekend, and would be open on Tuesday. I sent an online message, asking that they contact me, and then I went back to bed.

Meanwhile, we could hear trees being cut, somewhere down the street. It continued for most of the morning. We couldn’t see what was going on, but we both hoped it was tree limbs being cut back, and not trees being cut down. There are a lot of very old trees in our neighborhood.

We took a walk up to the library this afternoon. We walked past the tree work site. The workers had finished, and had left. No trees were missing.

A Book I Meant To Read In 2017 But Didn’t Get To

Turtles All the Way Down, by John Green, was published in 2017.

The first sentence is: “At the time I first realized I might be fictional, my weekdays were spent at a publicly funded institution on the north side of Indianapolis called White River High School, where I was required to eat lunch at a particular time – between 12:37 P.M. and 1:14 P.M. – by forces so much larger than myself that I couldn’t even begin to identify them.

Turtles All The Way DownThe narrator is 16-year-old Aza Holmes.

As the story opens, Aza is having lunch in the school cafeteria with Mychal Turner and Daisy Ramirez. Mychal is The Artsy One. Daisy is Aza’s Best and Fearless Friend. Aza sees herself playing the role of The Sidekick.

Over lunch, Daisy points out that Aza once went to camp with Davis Pickett. Davis Pickett’s father, Russell Picket, is a billionaire, and a fugitive from justice. There’s a $100,000 reward for information leading to his capture.

Daisy talks Aza into reuniting with Davis, in order to solve the Case of the Missing Billionaire, and collecting the reward. That’s the story that ties the other stories together. Turtles All the Way Down isn’t a mystery story, however.

Daisy Ramirez writes Star Wars fan-fiction. Turtles All the Way Down includes snippets of Daisy’s work.

Mychal would like to be more than just friends with Daisy.

Davis would like to be more than causal friends with Aza.

Aza Holmes gets caught in thought spirals, mostly involving the microbes in her body. Daisy, her Best and Fearless Friend, understands.

Aza Holmes has anxiety disorders. She gets by with the help of medications, her mother, Doctor Singh, and Daisy.

There’s a lot going on it this novel. It’s a story about friendship, understanding, loss, and privilege. It’s a positive story of good kids who obey the rules, do their homework, and try to do their best. It’s a story about a girl with mental illness trying to deal with all of this.

I absolutely loved this book. I loved it a lot. Turtles All the Way Down may have overtaken Paper Towns as my favorite John Green novel. It’s tragic and funny and weird and believable. The characters – all of them, even the Tua the tuatara – were interesting and fun to get to know.

Why I chose this book:

John Green is one of my favorite authors. When I learned, last October, that he’d published a new novel, I immediately put in a hold on Turtles All the Way Down at The Seattle Public Library. There were a little over 300 holds ahead of me.

I could have canceled my hold and bought it at a book store, but our bookshelves are already overflowing. So I waited. Besides, I had plenty to read in the meantime.

Then December arrived, and I saw that one of the categories for the 2018 Reading Challenge was “A book you meant to read in 2017 but didn’t get to”, I realized that Turtles All the Way Down fit this category pretty well.

Right about that time, I discovered that the book was sitting on the shelf at the Capitol Hill Library, among the “Peak Picks” books. (This is an awesome program The Seattle Public Library has in which copies of high demand books are set out on a first-come-first-served basis. These books cannot be placed on hold. They can be picked up only in person, and checked out for two weeks, with no renewals.)

I could have stopped into the library, checked the book out, and canceled my hold, but my position in line was down to 30-something, 2018 was just weeks away, and I had enough books lined up for the Challenge. There was plenty of time.

Then, right before the new year, the status on my hold changed to “In Transit”. It arrived during the first week of 2018. I really did think my hold would come in during 2017. I could have read it in 2017, but I just didn’t get around to it.

The Next Book In A Series I Started

Saga, Volume Eight, by Fiona Staples and Brian K. Vaughn, was published in 2017. It includes Chapters Forty-Three through Forty-Eight.

The first line of dialogue is: “Howdy, Stranger.

Saga v 8I am going to give only a vague review of Volume Eight, to avoid spoilers for those of you who have not read the first seven volumes. It’s a continuous, ongoing story, and going into the specific plot at this point will give away what’s happened in the story.

Saga is a story in which no one is safe from harm. Characters we’ve grown to love can die on any page. For this reason, I won’t even tell you who’s in this volume, aside from Hazel, Alana, and Marko.

As the cover art and the opening dialogue suggest, the story takes a rather Western turn. It is still, however, a story of Science Fiction Fantasy.

Hazel, the baby who was born on the first page of the first chapter, is now a six-year old girl. She still occasionally narrates the story from a future time. She’s filled with wonder and curiosity, and she’s seen a lot in her life.

Hazel’s mother, Alana (a deserter from the Landfall army), and her father, Marko (a military prisoner from Wreath, whom Alana had been assigned to guard), are still fugitives. They are being hunted by the wizards of Wreath, the robot royalty of Landfall, bounty hunters, and journalists.

Saga, Volume Eight feels somehow darker than the previous volumes. There are scenes of torture, and discussions of abortion, and frank discussions of gender identity. Saga is a very adult comic.

I’ve read other people’s reviews that compare Saga with Game of Thrones. I think that’s a great comparison. Saga is a complex story, filled with politics, sex, violence, and naked people. Above all, it’s the fascinating characters that keep me in this series.

The quality of the story and the artwork has not diminished.

I’ve bought all eight volumes, so, obviously, I love it.

Why I chose this book:

There was never any doubt in my mind that I’d choose this book. The 2017 Reading Challenge contained a category named “The first book in a series you haven’t read before”. I’d had my eye on Saga, Volume One, on the shelf in Phoenix Comics and Games, for a while, and the Reading Challenge was my incentive to finally buy it. I loved Volume One, and over the next several months, I was stopping into Phoenix to buy volumes Two, Three, Four, and Five. In early December, I walked into Phoenix and bought volumes Six and Seven. I was then caught up with the story, until Volume Eight came out. Saga, Volume Eight was published on December 27, 2017, and the 2018 Reading Challenge contained a category named “The next book in a series you started”. It was a perfect fit.

Saturday Adventure

Our 2003 Toyota Prius turns 15 years old this month. It’s holding up reasonably well. Then again, it has only 66,000 miles on it.

A letter arrived from the Department of Licensing last week. Yeah, big deal. I know the license tabs expire at the end of January. I know how to renew them. I’ve been through it thirteen times before. I tossed the letter, unopened, on the “later” pile.

On Monday, New Year’s Day, I sat down in front of our computer, to renew online. I opened the letter from the Department of Licensing. In the upper corner was a black rectangle, with white letters reading, “Emission inspection required before renewal.” It was nicely punctuated with an exclamation point inside of a triangle. Yeah, whatever. Our Prius, like all hybrid vehicles, is exempt from emission inspections, and always has been. (For one thing, hybrid vehicles don’t idle.) I proceeded with the online renewal.

I got as far as entering the vehicle information when I was stopped by an error message: “Emission inspection required before renewal.” I couldn’t go any farther. That letter was serious.

What had changed? Are hybrid vehicles no longer exempt? Was it because of our car’s age? Had no one ever seen a 15-year-old Prius still running?

Phillip and I talked it over, and agreed to take our car in for its first-ever emission inspection on Saturday.

Over the past week, I did some online research. I couldn’t find anything saying that the exception for hybrid vehicles had ended. The Washington State DOL web site said, “These vehicles never require emission inspections:” and it listed Toyota Prius and Honda Insight. There are more hybrid vehicles out there than that, so maybe the information was outdated.

I did searches for where the nearest inspection station is, and what we’d need to bring with us.

We got up early this morning, and headed out the door.

Phillip remarked, “I wonder how they’re going to inspect a vehicle that doesn’t idle.”

I replied, “It’s going to be interesting. It’ll be like an adventure.”

We drove to the inspection station in South Seattle. We got there 15 minutes before it opened. We were first in line. We played on our phones, and didn’t bother shutting the car off. A line of cars formed behind us.

A guy came out to remove the traffic cone, and opened the place up.

Before I put our car in drive, the inspection guy walked over to us and signaled to me to roll down my window.

“Is this a Prius?” he asked.

“Yes, it is,” I replied.

“You’re exempt,” he said.

“Not according to this letter.”

“No, you’re exempt.”

“We tried to renew online,” Phillip added, “But it said we couldn’t.”

“You need to renew in person, then.” The guy was quite friendly about it.

We got onto the freeway and drove to the licensing office in the University District. We got there five minutes before it opened, and took our place in line.

I handed the letter to the woman behind the desk.

“You need an emission inspection,” she pointed out.

“It’s a Prius,” I replied.

“Someone made a mistake, then. You’re good,” She began entering information in her computer.

“We drove down the inspection station,” I told her, “And they told us the same thing.”

“You did?” She looked shocked.

She seemed to have no trouble renewing our license tab.

When got home, I said to Phillip, “And that was our adventure for the day.”

“Not so fast,” replied Phillip, “We still need to do laundry.”