Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Seattle Folklife Festival, 2009

     No writing yesterday, the day before, or the day before that. The Seattle Folklife Festival has been taking precedence during my Memorial Day Weekends for 38 years now. Three full days
and evenings of widely-defined folk music, dance, literature, and food, which leaves me feeling as if I've had a three-week vacation.
     Seattle is unique in many ways. I don't know of any other big American city where 100,000 or more people can cram into an open space, with no violence, threats, or expressions of hostility. (Yes, I know that last year there was a shooting, but one crazy person in 38 years is not indicative). Men danced on the green with men, women with women, men with women, and vice versa. Guys with six inches of spiked hair and six pounds of metal in their faces danced with grannies in sun hats.  And the sun stayed out all day, for all three days.  In Seattle.  Really.
     Popular Seattle-area comic Kermet Apio showed the breadth of his talent, playing a fabulous set of Hawaiian slack-key guitar, and singing beautifully, as his daughter, wife, and sister (who
choreographed one of the pieces) danced to the music. Talk about genetic influences.
     Here you see Underground Swing, a great group which plays hip gypsy jazz and swing. After their set, I got to hear Howlin' Houndog and the Infamous Losers, with their Freaky-Ass Country Blues-Tonk. Really. You get the idea.
     Back to the book today. Only 362 days till the 2010 Festival.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

In The Dark, A Review

     From time to time, I'd like to give a heads-up on a book I've just read and thought well of. So here's a short review of IN THE DARK, by Brian Freeman.

     This story is one hell of a train ride. Thirty years before, on a Fourth of July night in Duluth, young Jonathan Stride first made love to his future wife, Cindy. On the same night, and nearby, Cindy's sister Laura was murdered. The case never was solved.   Now, Stride is a police detective, still in Duluth. Cindy died of cancer several years ago, and Stride lives with policewoman Serena Dial. He's happy in his new life, but can't get the unsolved murder out of his mind.
     Enter Tish Verdure, Laura Starr's best friend in high school. She's returned to Duluth, intending to write a book about the troubling case. The more Tish snoops around, the more clear it becomes that  she's threatening someone. A brain-damaged teen-aged girl drowns. Is there a connection?
     The plot is fast-paced and intelligent, and suspense is unrelenting. Nothing seems contrived. Characters are very well drawn, with flaws for the good guys and sympathetic points for the baddies. Dialogue is realistic, never cliched. Though there's abundant difficult material, including brutal use of a baseball bat, extreme child abuse, incest, voyeurism, and death of a very sympathetic character, the author manages to make none of it gratuitous or sensationalistic. Most of the actual tough stuff occurs off-stage. And the bittersweet ending is right on.  The nature of many of the characters is underscored by the striking (sometimes bleak) surroundings and harsh weather of northern Minnesota and North Dakota. This story wouldn't work in a temperate setting.
     Of the many arresting lines in the book, here's my favorite: Stride is talking to his former high-school geometry teacher about the two cases he's investigating: Laura's murder and the drowning of the teen-aged girl. He says he remembers the parallel postulate from geometry class: If two lines cross a third and form less than two right angles, then eventually the two lines will meet if extended far enough. "It's something I find in most of my investigations," Stride says. "Sooner or later, the lines always intersect."
     I have one question (not a spoiler). When a body is found out-of-doors, after a drenching rainstorm, the police discover semen at the site, but not right next to the body. Can someone enlighten me on how the cops might have been able to notice/discover this?

Thursday, May 7, 2009

The Big 70 Bash

Here's the writer, aided as always by wife Myra, about to cut the Fabulous Special-Order Chocolate Cake at his Big 70 Birthday Bash last Saturday evening. Thirty-some friends helped celebrate the  event, which featured a program of ragtime piano by Seattle legend Dan  Grinstead, and telling of snarky stories about the G. O. H. by his children and a few long-term friends. Emcee was son-in-law Peter Greyy, a standout Seattle-area standup comic.
Larry made the point that although Three-score and Ten is both the Biblical statute of limitations and the classic retirement age, he has no intention of heeding either injunction and intends to keep cranking out the mystery novels as long as mind and body hold out, and as long as son Casey continues his ready availability as Tech Support.