Benicia CA – May 2011

On one of my business visits to Oakland I meet Alex after work on a Wednesday night for dinner. It had been August since I’d seen him and it was great to find a new way to keep our friendship alive, and to continue shooting photos together.

We tried to explore a well-reviewed pub in Port Costa but the kitchen was only open on weekends, so we crossed the bay to Benicia and found excellent Mexican food and an incredible sunset over the bay from Benicia’s marina. You can see the Golden Gate Bridge shadowed in the fading sun in several of these shots, as well as a stray calico cat that made friends with us as we walked the shore.

Gallery is here – slideshow button is at the top-right corner.

21-Gun Salute

Today I sent an email I’ve been composing in my head for quite a while, telling the members of the NWImports car club that I’m officially disbanding the club. It’s something I’ve known was inevitable but still dreaded doing, and which I’ve discussed laboriously with my trusted advisors at what has surely been agonizing frequency. Even as I’ve been attempting to motivate the dwindling membership, speaking (perhaps aspirationally) of the club to interested potentials, and trying to build a new type of club that was more difficult to outgrow I’ve also been carrying on an internal dialogue wherein I slowly admit to myself that it’s ok to throw in the towel.

When I took over the role of Team President three years ago, it was an act of desperate resurrection. The outgoing leader had exhausted his willingness to battle the apathy, resistance to change and general malaise that eventually sweep through any stagnant organization, even one as informal and self-organized as ours. The group had devolved from ambitious event planners to infrequent attendees, and from a circle of tightly-knit and loyal comrades to a room full of old friends fighting over money. I didn’t then and still don’t blame anyone for choosing other things in their lives, for wanting to save their money for things other than intercoolers and spend their Saturdays elsewhere besides in a parking lot looking under each other’s hoods. I may not have been starting a family or diving into a new career at the time but I fully understand prioritizing precious time and resources for the things and people that matter most. My own job has often been full of tough prioritization decisions and I have learned to evaluate as objectively as I can, choose resolutely and proceed with confidence, trying never to look back and give the ugly monster that is regret a chance to see my face. I do think it’s unfortunate, though, that the group did not persist the way I first encountered it – close friends, constantly together, building and driving their cars, supportive of each other in their common hobby, promoting their team and the local tuner community with ambition, passion and generosity. At its peak, the NWNismo group had begun to earn local fame for being exclusive, respected, organized and well-managed, with members that had well-kept cars and who were respected, experienced members of the local tuner community. Membership was granted with solemnity and great consideration, often after a trial period lasting a full year’s season, and the matching shirts, hats and car-mounted vinyl graphics were a proud advertisement of inclusion in something special, something elite. I arrived to the group late enough to have missed that peak of prosperity, but still early enough to witness sufficient glimpses of it that I shared the group’s anguish at its decline.

The group of friends – split across lines of conflicting loyalties and separated by geography, stages of life and increasingly diverse interests – were in general agreement only that the group’s original mission was no longer being fulfilled. The team name (NWNismo) was an homage to Nissan’s Nismo racing division, and yet less than half the members still owned or had plans to build a Nissan. In my disappointment to see a good thing end – and perhaps my naïveté to the challenges faced by the outgoing leader – I was determined to adapt the structure of the NWNismo team into a less-formal aficionados club that I hoped would be more resilient to the members’ life changes and at the same time more appealing to new recruits, especially ones facing the same perpetuity challenges in their car clubs that we were facing in ours. After many intense evening discussions over mozzarella sticks and Long Island Iced Teas at an Applebees in Lynnwood and with support from a few other determined-not-to-be-former members, I won a consensus from the group and diverted the resources of NWNismo into a new club, NWImports.

On April 8th, 2007, I registered the domain, and soon after called the first meeting of NWImports. With a new charter open to any make of imported car, truck or motorcycle, stylish new logos and promo materials courtesy of an equally-motivated former NWNismo member who is a talented designer by day, and a new camaraderie created by welcoming several non-Nissan members in from the perpetual fringe, we had a new club with what was hopefully all the best from NWNismo and enough newness to rise phoenix-style from the ashes.

It might be that the spirit of NWNismo was not the best foundation on which to build a new club, as perhaps its slowly-deflating end poisoned the new group with skepticism. Where I had hoped the memories of good times past would be a motivational cornerstone around which to build something new, perhaps the disappointing reality of what NWNismo became at the end provided a sandy foundation rather than a granite one. For three summer seasons I fought to find a sustainable balance – between exclusivity and membership growth, between affordable dues and sufficient budget to offer “free” benefits, between planning frequent events and still allowing members to have other priorities without seeming left out.

It wasn’t a balance the group was able to find, as by the third season even my own determination was waning, my ambitions clouded by drudgery and frustration. I knew I didn’t want NWImports to end the way NWNismo had, in a fizzling arc of disagreements and lost friends. The hard work, pride and fond memories of NWNismo had deserved an honorable burial when the club finally met its demise, so it was important to me that the end of NWImports at least be recognized with some degree of formality as a way to also give NWNismo some closure.

It became apparent after a few months of circular discussion that agreeing on the way to end the club would be as difficult as agreeing on the way to operate it. The remainder of the team’s bank account was enough to rent a cabin for a weekend, but planning a weekend event for a group that couldn’t manage to meet in person for an hour per month was too discouraging for any of us to seriously consider. Aside from a half-serious suggestion to triumphantly throw our team shirts into a bonfire, nothing arose that led to a consensus. Finally, somewhat on a whim, we pooled the remains of the team fund with money of our own and filled two overflowing carts in an epic Toys R Us shopping spree for the annual NW Toy Run supporting Toys For Tots. It may not have been a 21-gun salute but I felt satisfied that my final duty as Team President had been fulfilled. This pair of organizations that had nurtured our common hobby, that had been incubators for lifetime friendships, and that had played a role in defining who we have all grown up to be would leave their unspoken legacy at one last parking lot meetup and be one final source of pride for anyone lucky enough to once wear the colors.

Richmond Beach Sunset – August 25, 2010

Alex and I camped out with our tripods in the sand at Richmond Beach in time to see the sunset over the Cascades and try to capture it on film. We chose the spot with little discussion – I hadn’t been there before and it was close to home for both of us – and we chanced upon an idyllic summer sunset over Puget Sound, as well as an appropriately-bittersweet final Seattle photo adventure. Alex and his wife leave for California next week and while my occasional business trips south will hopefully cross our paths again, this chapter of our friendship has sunk beneath the horizon to be risen tomorrow as a long-distance one. In the past year since we both stumbled into the same photography meetup and instantly hit it off we’ve ventured out to see the world through each other’s eyes and lenses only a half-dozen times, perhaps because it seemed there would always be time. Now, however, that our time is up I realize how much I’ve both enjoyed his friendship and missed an opportunity to learn more from him – from his easygoing self-awareness, from his steadfast dream to be a writer, from his life lived so differently than my own. It seems this life, like the shimmering sea in these photos, is forever washing new people onto our shores and then washing them away just as quickly, off to their next adventure just as we continue down the beach to find ours.

Alex, I wish you nothing but success in Sacramento and beyond, and I hope to see you on the beach again soon.

Gallery is here – slideshow button is at the top-right corner.

Seafair Weekend – August 2010

My awesome parents spent the week in Seattle, and as Danielle is in Toronto for the weekend with Jordan I had them all to myself for the past few days. They are two of my best friends and I am so lucky to have the relationship with them that I do. I know it’s a rare arrangement between parents and children that we have and I cherish it; I soak up every day and appreciate every chance I have to know them better as friends, confidants, mentors and equals. I also love to spoil them now that they are enjoying their retirement, and especially when they are in my town and I can show them the best of it. What better week to do that than Seafair week? It’s the height of Seattle summer (sun sometimes optional) and one of my favorite times to be a Seattleite. .

We raced up to the Smith Tower observation level Thursday afternoon, hoping to catch the Navy’s Blue Angels practice laps over the city. While we missed the aeronautics show the view from the 35th floor was pretty great, and I can never get enough urban aerial photography. Friday we took a picnic to Madison Park to catch some Blue Angel fly-overs and people-watch, and Saturday we joined the crowds of raingear-covered fans in Genesee Park for another, much closer look at the air show, the hydro races and the general mayhem that is Seafair. Someday I’ll get them on the lake for the truly authentic experience, and hopefully that someday will be soon and a little sunnier than today, but Mom and Dad are great sports – game for anything and easy to please – and we had an awesome adventure together. I took a few marginal pictures of the air show through the binoculars that I posted, along with a lot of Seattle’s streets from 35 floors above Yesler Wy, and a few shots of the two greatest people I’ve been blessed to share this life with. Thanks for a great weekend, you two!

Gallery is here – slideshow button is at the top-right corner.

Pray for Galveston

Thanks to my Mom’s diligent news-watching, i realized tonight that Hurricane Ike swept right through Galveston, home to my best friend and his family. I’ve been scouring for news or information online while trying to reach them – I haven’t heard back yet. I really hope they’re OK.

I found this youtube video taken from a Coast Guard helicopter flying over Galveston:

I cut a few frames from it and tagged them:

Approximately where their house is at:

Moody Gardens, where Clint, Lillian and I spent several days:

The NOAA research facility where Christi works:

Webcam from the Commodore at 37th on the Seawall, dated Friday the 12th, before the storm surge was supposed to land. Webcam from the Commodore at 37th on the Seawall.Link to that spot on the map

A webcam at Galveston Harbor. The oil derrick in this picture is the one Clint and I toured.

Downtown shopping district known as “The Strand”. Link to approx location on the map

What is usually a pier in Galveston Harbor. The Starbucks we walked to is a block to the left of this. Link to this spot on the map

A shot I found here that I matched to one of my photos from July for comparison. Again, this is *before* the actual storm surge is supposed to hit sometime on the 13th.

An even closer-to-submerged shot of that same pier, which is here on the map, about six blocks west of the NOAA facility.

I found a few more photos on Here’s the Flagship Hotel on the seawall, which is located here on the map.

I’m going to quit looking for more pictures because there’s only really one piece of news that I care about… Clint, call me back.

A world of difference

First off, a huge thanks to my painting crew two weekends ago (seen here relaxing in front of the Seahawks game after a hard day behind a brush) for all their help.


I had an excellent crew – they did very thorough work and even brought their own equipment!


After a day with them (and a whole week with Mom and Dad here) my house looks amazing, a complete transformation. This is even before I’ve finished replacing light switch covers, installing trim and molding, and setting Danielle loose on the decorating. I’m working on a more Trading Spaces-esque before and after, but here’s a few previews:






As you can see, there are a lot of finishing tidbits to do, a lot of which I’ve done since I took these photos weekend before last, but in general it’s become a place that feels modern, classy and – most importantly – mine. Thanks again to everyone who helped – you rule!

Seattle: The City That Loves You Back

It’s 5.30am and I’m just getting home – a feat I haven’t accomplished in quite a while. Although I’m sure I’ll regret it tomorrow when I wake up at 2pm feeling like the victim of a savage beating with a burlap sack of potatoes, it’ll be the perfect ending to a great week.

All the Halloween parties I was lucky enough to attend initiated this movement in a fun direction, Dave’s annual bash being the first, biggest and best of them. My costume was a huge hit – note to self: future getups should continue to employ flashing disco lights and homemade clothing; the chicks really dig it – both after hours and at work, where it snagged a 3rd place and a gift cert during the company’s costumed brewfest. I don’t begrudge the 1st and 2nd place winners at all, especially Andy, who’d been growing his hair for months in preparation for shaving it into the Mr T mohawk that completed his Halloween look. I’m definitely not going to be topping that any time soon.

All week there have been happy hours, dinner-and-drinks, costume parties, birthday parties, even going-away parties, and while we’ll all be sad to see BrianO not at work monday, I can happily report that all those events were a great time, and I feel socially recharged after it all (despite being physically drained, I’m sure). I spent quality time with at least a representative from nearly every branch in my web of friends, and I feel like a better person tonight because of it.

Several times this week – as I was running through the pouring rain downtown tonight, bolting between doorways and awnings, jacket held over my head; as I was driving friends (new and old) around city streets that I’m starting to know like the back of my hand; as I was waiting for Charla in Occidental Plaza friday night, the orange streetlights illuminating the fallen leaves in the temporary silence during a break in the downpour – I felt at peace with my life and this place. I feel like this is my city, that it’s home, and that I’m not alone here, and not alone in life.

A birthday smoke-show

My devious little sister set me up last night, tricking me into happy hour drinks where Josh, Julia and Steph showed up out of nowhere. Then, she had the gall to lure me out to dinner, where Jason, Clint, Christi, Travis, Dan, Jonathan and (better late than never) Sean joined us completely out of the blue. The smoke and mirrors continued even after dinner, as when i turned away from my seat a milkshake appeared where my empty plate had been. Gifts emerged from pockets and bags. Thankfully, the surprise i feared most never arrived – a dozen clapping members of the waitstaff degrading themselves with an occasion-specific group chant.

Final scores for the evening:

    Good surprises: 10

    Bad surprises: 0

    Bonus points awarded to my devious little sister: 1 meeellion

Thanks, Danielle! I love you. You’re the best little sister I could imagine.

Draw! You have 30 seconds.

Such an eventful week, i don’t even know where to start. Let’s use pictionary categories to keep things straight.

People: Mom and Dad spent a long weekend, and headed home tues morning. Danielle and i had such a great time with them. We’re very lucky to have such happy, caring, generous parents.

Right as Mom and Dad were headed east across the droning expanse of eastern WA, Ann and Aaron were experiencing the same exciting drive headed westward. They checked into their downtown hotel tuesday nite, and i tried to fit in as much time between work shifts with them as i could, touring around the city to some of my favorite places. They headed home today, but i managed to get Ann excited about Seattle and Aaron addicted to C89. Mission accomplished. πŸ˜‰

Places: The Summit at Snoqualmie is the r0x0r5 in my 80x0r5. That’s your headline and your 133t-speak dose for the day. In case you missed it in the wireless blog, they’ll be honoring all 04-05 season passes again in the 05-06 season. You’ll recall i have an 04-05 season pass and unless you’ve been living under a rock or on the east coast you’ve probably noticed a decided lack of snow that has prevented me from making much use of it. This is just about the coolest news since, well, the next piece of news. Hang on, i’m getting there…

Things: My Z is back home where it belongs. It’s been almost a month (5 days shy) and way more money than, apparently, i can charge in one 24 hr period on my debit card, but i’m very glad to have it back and excited to log those 1000 miles on it (only 983 to go!) until the engine is broken in and i can see if that extra .06 liters makes a difference. πŸ˜‰

Looking back at the pics today of the engine build i did last winter, it makes me a little sappy and disappointed that all the work i did (and all the help from everyone) was sort of in vain, and had to be done all over again this year. Don’t get me wrong, i’m very glad it’s turned out so well, and that the means were available to make it happen, but i still feel kind of let down in a small way. I dunno, maybe i’m just melodramatic and need more sleep. πŸ˜‰