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Jon still in paint, Ernest Dummkopf in The Grand Duke
July 17th, 1999

Seattle Saturday
Rain, a Seattle rain this time without the thunder or lightening. Up before seven, mother and aunt still asleep upstairs, which is unusual since in the past they've always been the one's up at dawn, while I was the one sleeping in. It is grey and cloudy and sprinkling out, the kind of rain where you turn the windshield wipers on in intermittent mode and think, well, that's almost too much, so you switch them off. And then on again. With everyone still in bed I get into the car and take a drive down 15th through Ballard.

I was surprised to see the mileage on this rental car, a Nissan something or other, 18 miles on the odometer when I picked it up at the airport. My guess is I'm its first paying customer. I don't know how large the gas tank is, but the gauge reads 1/4 empty with 123 miles on the trip odometer. My poor old '78 Toyota, living and running beyond the expectation of man and mechanic, gets about 12 miles to the gallon so I fill the 15 gallon tank up every 140 or 150 miles. With the driving I've been doing in Oakland, I could fill the tank on this Nissan once a month and never come close to empty. Assuming it has a tank of 15 or 20 gallons.

Not much traffic in the rain this early in the morning and I drive through town looking for something, I'm not sure what. There are places serving breakfast, but I'm not hungry and nothing appeals. This is odd. Food, more a neurotic noise in my life than anything pretty, has lowered itself in the last year to the level of an almost bearable background chatter and I often actually eat only when I'm hungry. I believe this is due either to the achievement of psychological well being or the acquisition of a wasting disease that will quickly shrink me down into a pine box. I've been watching this happen, skeptical, testing its boundaries and last week I decided to see if I might not stop drinking coffee and Coca Cola. For a while. You know, just to "see" what happens. Something has been telling me to stop or slow down or skip out altogether on the daily intake of caffeine and I've been thinking for the first time, well, why not? Other, less interesting or believable sources like doctors and Oprah have said the same thing, but, you know, they aren't there in the morning when you strain to make out the image in the mirror and your mouth feels like blackboard chalk. And it's cold.

Small wood shacks, room enough inside for two servers, sit at the side of the road touting "espresso". Seattle is serious about coffee. Eateries with a lumberjack clientele are featuring "espresso grandes". Not much else seems open. Shops that once advertised donuts are now donut "espresso" shops, letting you know that your specialty ground caffeine fix is ready, piping hot on the burner, come in and rest your bones, Mr. Jones, keep your feet off the furniture. I am immune this morning to blandishments. Tea, one cup, for health purposes only. The caffeine in tea doesn't count in my bargain.

Vic and Fran and Vickie are due this afternoon, driving up from Salem, Oregon. Vic is my uncle, my mother's brother, Fran my aunt and Vickie, their daughter, my attractive cousin. Vic and Fran and less often Vickie stay at my aunt Vivienne's for the family parties so I get to see them once, generally twice a year. One or two days is just about right to say hello, talk over the things that have happened in the last six months, reacquaint ourselves with the fact we are members of a larger family and then go back home to reality. Vickie and I are two of the cousins who have chosen to live some distance from the homestead. There are other cousins who have made the same decision for other reasons or for the same reasons, I don't know, we don't talk a lot about it. I'm not sure we know. Maybe there's a book we can order.

A call from Vickie. She is still in San Francisco and aunt Fran is driving up with Vic from Salem. Complications. Vickie wants to know when the show starts this evening, Gilbert and Sullivan, my cousin John singing one of the leads, wife Ann in the chorus. Aunt Vivienne is out shopping with my mother and I have not the slightest clue when it starts. The ladies say show, we go. When? They'll tell us. I didn't realize it was happening until yesterday when it was mentioned we had tickets. Is this weird or is this normal or am I too old or too naive to be asking? I need that book. If only for my own illucidation.

The banner photograph was taken after the performance of The Duke this evening. All went well. Vickie arrived on time. Aunt Fran kept it on the road and arrived with uncle Vic in one piece. All is as it should.