I’m back and I thank you for your unreasoning faith in my ability to write something worth reading. I hope you’re all having a summer filled with invigorating sunshine and refreshing cold drinks, unless you’re one of my Southern Hemisphere readers, in which case I hope you’re having a winter filled with, well, if it’s winter where you are you’d probably enjoy a hot afternoon and bottles of beer in a tub full of ice.

I have traveled and done and seen much since I took my break at the end of June, including my birthday, a trip to the Old Country (Massachusetts), a road trip into the mysterious green half of Washington state, the annual Clarion West Write-a-thon, a tidal wave of new music, the Prince Project, the  never-ending story that is my novel, and a freelance client who acts rationally and pays promptly (I can’t figure out what con they’re trying to run on me).

I’m going to take the time this week to catch up. To get going, and to stretch my brain with something easy, here are some shout-outs:

The Rue De L’Espoir on Hope Street in the old section of Providence, Rhode Island, is supposedly French but serves a four-star U.S. American breakfast. When you’ve finished eating, you can walk around the beautiful urban campus of Brown University with its many 19th-century buildings and of course Wilson Hall, where I played chess in high school.

There’s not much to recommend in my hometown of Somerset, Mass., except for the ice cream, my favorite English teacher, and my parents:

60 years
And yet I am so young…

When Loyal Reader Gravel Ax was a high school student in Bellingham, Washington, she had a friend who wanted to be a writer. He didn’t want to stay up late trying to write at home, where he had his parents and siblings to contend with, he wanted to go to a café the way Hemingway went to a café in Paris in 1922. But in Bellingham in that medieval era, this poor boy’s only option was the Denny’s by the freeway. At least they gave him free refills on the coffee.

These days in Bellingham you’d have no trouble spilling your tortured soul all over town because Bellingham no longer shuts down so everyone can go home and eat meatloaf for dinner. Special D and I found this out at 9pm on a Monday when we tried to buy ice cream downtown and were confronted with a line of 100 hip Bellinghamsters in front of us.

At least three of my Loyal Readers are more expert in Bellingham culture than I am, including Gravel Ax and Seattleites Accused of Lurking and his no-nonsense sidekick, Katzniss. But here are two places to remember:

At Blue Fin Sushi, the atmo dial is stuck at zero. The place is located in a minimall on a Gasoline Alley sort of thoroughfare (the Denny’s from three paragraphs ago is nearby). This space used to be a nail salon, or a dog wash, or an auto insurance agency, and if Blue Fin does well and moves to swankier accommodations, it will be again. But the sushi is terrific, generous, and cheap!

Bellingham has plenty of great restaurants now, but The Table is still one of my favorites, particularly in the winter. Do you like pasta? If you don’t you’re no good!

Bellingham may change but the Cascades are pretty much the same, not counting the occasional volcanic eruption. If you can’t get to Mt. Rainier, Mt. Baker will pinch-hit. As part of our continuing project to revisit hikes we haven’t done in 20 years, this summer we took on Heliotrope Ridge. The view was stunning and the water in the three creeks we crossed stunningly cold. These creeks are fed by glaciers, and as the sun warms the ice the creeks rise and run faster. (The creek you crossed in the morning is not the same body of water when you encounter it again in the afternoon, on your way down.) Naturally, once the sun sets, the creeks drop and run slower. After all these years of hiking, it finally occurred to me that snowmelt has tides.

Other Mt. Baker hikes we can vouch for: Railroad Grade and one we re-hiked last summer, Skyline Divide:

Skyline Divide 18 years later Aug 13
Run-DMSteve conquers the wilderness.

That’s all for today. When I return in a few days…we’re gonna get dirty.

Random Pick of the Day
Cream, Disraeli Gears (1967)
This is a very British album, eccentric and sly, more like The Kinks or Sgt. Pepper’s than Led Zeppelin’s blues-based storm and drain. But when Cream gets heavy, they reinvent gravity. “Sunshine of Your Love” is that rare thing, a love song that would also fit the soundtrack of the apocalypse.

Random Pan of the Day
Ginger Baker, Why? (2014)
Years ago, the first answer in any pop trivia contest was “Ginger Baker.” (Just as the first answer in any baseball trivia contest of that era was “Ron Santo.”*) The years have passed but Baker drums on, mastering any genre that strikes his fancy, this time jazz. He’s assembled a good group of musicians, and his drumming is impeccable, but I wasn’t moved by Why? and the many extended jams. On the album cover, Baker makes Peter O’Toole look like a supermodel.

* Unless it was Sal Bando.

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