Old Town

Old Town
Pioneer Square

Thursday, October 1, 2015

A Heartfelt and Buoyant Farewell

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Since March 2014 this blog has been several things to me:
--For the first six months, it chronicled my cross-country move: from packing to planning to parring down my possessions to a trunk and just four boxes...
--During that same stretch it served as a motivational force and an illustration to readers of how one man set a long-distance goal and kept himself on track.
--The blog transformed, after my arrival in Seattle in September 2014, into The Seattle Rock, a monthly online 'zine exploring the city and and describing my adventures: finding and furnishing a studio...searching for a better job and greater success in the ebook arena...

For eighteen months, the blog's had a good run. I've chosen to stop now while it's still at a manageable size for new readers: six months of preparation and 12 monthly editions of the Seattle Rock.

Thanks for your support and your interest in my Seattle adventure. As I begin my second year in the Cool Gray City of Uncommon Funk, I wish you the best on your own quests and adventures.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Reb MacRath's Seattle Rock: V. 12: 09/01/15

Nuts and Bolts

It's time, at last. You know it. But are you prepared for September and the frightening chance for rebirth?

The year's fourth quarter now begins. I began with a series of steps: some small, some not--all decisive. I began, Seattle-style: with a fine-tuned blend of passion, strategy and faith. The fourth quarter is the time for bigger and bolder decisions. And so...
--I dealt a major blow to one personal flaw that disgusts me: a tendency to surrender when dreams begin drifting away. Now, it's good to be a dreamer--but not a wan and listless one, the kind that used to populate bad 19th Century romances. The slipping dream that most tormented me was my plan to re--begin traveling by train as often as I can. Though I moved cross-country last autumn by train, I'd traveled in coach and had been anxiety-ridden. The last time I'd traveled properly--and I mean first class--on a train? Almost thirty years ago. Soooo...last month, like Caesar, I did it: made reservations for a first-class, cross-country trip next year. Destination: Buffalo. My first visit there since...I cannot recall. Next: I'm looking into a visit to L.A. Another dream I've drifted from: a reunion with an old school friend. Reb MacRath, train travelin' man.

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--I manned up and admitted that my vaunted, self-made daily planner wasn't working for me: too bulky and too high-maintenance: the blank journal required designing the pages for each new week. Since I hate admitting that I'm wrong, I admitted I was wrong. Proof: I hardly looked at it. I need something I can carry and look at through the day. And so this sometimes penny-pinching honorary Scot paid the bucks required for the planner he'd come to love best:

--I decided to stop stalling and begin exploring other employment opportunities. Goal: to reach the salary I'd had in mind when I moved here (at least $15 an hour), plus holidays and Sundays free--in a less stressful, non-call center setting. Secondary goal: to work fewer hours a week. Through a coworker on the present job I learned that the Mayor's office has a program devoted to finding work for Slightly Older Guys and Gals. Am filling out the forms required prior to my meeting them.
Seeking a far better balance between:

City Beats

Seattle is:

--Walgreens. The legendary 3rd and Pike location.

The country's grungiest Walgreens has had a major face lift this year. Two floors now instead of one, with an escalator and an elevator. Hardwood floors instead of filthy, cracked linoleum. And a layout less conducive to smash-and-grab gangs of thieves. The corner itself is undergoing major reconstruction: sidewalks closed, bus stops moved further south, alleys closed or monitored, newspaper boxes (drug drop-offs) removed, etc. But is the city's favorite steal-from store really now predator-free? Not likely, since the staff are forbidden to stop known thieves or even demand return of clearly boosted merchandise. Anyone who's worked there will tell you their own stories: violent brawls at the entrance, a female security guard who was shoved and then fired for daring to hit back, an assistant manager punched in the face, cashiers receiving death threats, huge men snatching shopping bags and loading them up with high-end merch, then threatening to kill anyone who stood in their way...Good luck to Walgreens in its effort to transform this location from a dangerous hole in the wall to a toney site with sushi bar. It may prevail. But thieves who've been looting the store for years won't give up easily, though they may have to wait a while. The safe money's on betting that the tough cops now manning the entrance won't be there forever or even day and night. Not unless the face lift is something more than a face lift: say, a step up from exclusive thoughts about the bottom line.

If you think I'm joking about the massive 'shrinkage' at the store, check out the following link to theft deterrent procedures at a branch store in San Francisco's Haight. At Third and Pike, thieves wouldn't care--they'd smash the cases, load up and run.


--Barnes & Noble, 600 Pine Street, has earned its place a second time in the Seattle Hall of Shame.

Their official listing is as impressive as its location, near the ritzy Pike Place pavilion: The world’s largest bookseller offers a vast selection of titles, with more than 10,000 publishers. Shop here for an variety of books, NOOK and the new NOOKcolor, NOOKbooks™, eclectic accessories and gifts to enhance any book lover’s collection and reflect on their personal style. Barnes & Noble is a great place to relax and read, with a comfortable cafe, unique children’s section, and calendars of events featuring author appearances and discussion groups.  We have free Wi-Fi, allowing customers to surf the web. 

BUT...Huge BUT: As mentioned in a previous edition, their really huge cafe has just two pairs of outlets--on a single post. Others who need to plug in for Wi-Fi are just plumb out of luck. AND: The bastards have walled off their washrooms. That's right: not restricted their use to paying customers or required tokens for their usage--no, they have completely walled them off, as in a tale by Poe. So shop and spend hundreds...savor the cafe's delicacies...and enjoy the Wi-Fi if your battery still has some juice. But if you or your kids need to pee? Hit the road.

--Then again, there is a choice.

ELLIOTT BAY BOOK COMPANY That guy was browsing and taking photos, calling it the most beautiful bookstore Ive ever seen.

The world-famous Elliott Bay Book Company, in Capitol Hill, has a superior assortment of books, staff who really love their jobs, a terrific cafe--and bathrooms. Keys for these are obtained at the cafe register.

SOS's of the Soul

September is the time to listen to SOS's of the Soul. Spring and summer have left us again, as they do every year, bringing us annually closer to the winter of our lives. This year we have the short stretch of this fall to get it right while there's still time.

My own SOS's are legion: terrifying thoughts of losses that might become fatal if I quit on my dreams or give less than my best...or simply drift too far from goals. Financial SOS's. Creative SOS's. Social SOS's.

For me, in the fall of 2015, the greatest SOS is this: the fear that, unless I am careful right now, the sense of romance will be squeezed from my soul by new practical concerns. And so I focus with all of my might on images like these that help me stay on track:

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Entertainment Kick of the Month
Eureka! New DVD tactic. To keep up with the movies I've already bought, I'd have to watch one a night for a while. But I don't have the time to watch more for than an hour a night, sometimes less, whereas some of the films run to three hours--and contain hours of extras. Sad to say, but some evenings I can only afford half an hour.

Weekly combination strategy:
1) Watch two 2-hour film per week, each film broken down into two viewings.
2) Select two fave TV shows. Night 5: one episode from #1. Night 6: #2. Running time per episode should be about 45 minutes.
3) On my Tired Night, one episode of a classic half-hour show.

Starting September lineup:

Week one's movie:

The Big Red One - The Reconstruction (Two-Disc Special Edition)

TV shows: one episode of each per week:

Prison Break season 1 dvd.jpg  

Am nearly through each of these. So will need replacements in October.

Tired Night's half-hour classic:

I own several seasons. And they'll last me a long time at one show a week!

Finished reading: Darkness by Bill Kirton. Very aptly named. A riveting, gut-wrenching mystery that's left me in need of a break. No more reading till October.
In the works: Caesar's Ghost, the novel that came to me on my March visit to San Francisco. I've just begun the third draft of this real genre blender. Or let's call it a Mhistory that's also a tale of possession. And then repossession. Oh hell, enough of that, Let's just call it Caesar's Ghost

Deep Thoughts
--I like even a bad book that is what it is. But when a bad book seems not what it isn't--watch out.
--Abstinence makes the fond grow harder.
--Poverty ennobles the spirit, they say...between sales of Florida swamp land.


Saturday, August 1, 2015

Reb MacRath's Seattle Rock: V. 11: 08/01/15

Nuts and Bolts

July was hot but August, ah, is in a league of its own. It is the month of quiet fire...reassessment....and plans for rebirth. August is the month of hope.

We're in the very middle now of the year's third quarter--while I'm also at the end of my first year in Seattle. Time to set my clock to yours and examine what I've accomplished in 2015...and also where I've fallen short. After that, I'll strategize to keep my first year in this city on track.

It's the apt month to remember the Roman emperor Augustus, who left a terse but telling list of his main accomplishments. In the Augustine spirit:

1) After six hellish months at The Joint, corner of Third and Pike, I said goodbye to the drunks, drug dealers, degenerates and dilettantes I'd put up with for too long. I also said goodbye to a loser salary and a company I'd stuck with for nearly six years, starting off in Charlotte.
2) Within 3 weeks I found a job in a better part of town, at a far better salary. My escape from retail.
3) I began investing in my quality of life, beginning with a decent TV and DVD player, and other home essentials.
4) I began to build a world-class DVD collection, including as many Criterion classics as I can afford, also buying types of films that I don't usually watch.
5) I weathered a family brouhaha with dignity and honor. Life is too short to be little or to be belittled.
6) I bused to San Francisco in March and met with an online friend. A chance remark during the visit inspired my next book--whose subject I'd never considered till then.
7) While I worked on it, my formatter, Yvonne, scanned the paperback version of my third novel, Mastery. And I went on to proofread and rewrite it, a project that took me four months.
8) I had my first tattoo done, tired of thinking about it. No truer words were ever said than these:  no pain, no stain.
9) I continued to build my first savings account.

Not too shabby, all in all, though not at all Augustine. Still, I need to own up to my failures so far:
1) No social life.

2) No love life.

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3) Dismal sales on Amazon.

4) Failure to return to Gold's Gym.

City Beats

Seattle is:

--The changing face of Third and Pike. Since my arrival I'd been told that it would never change. The Scourge of Seattle, they told me, couldn't be solved or removed. Walk by or pass through at your peril. Night or day, here or there, you were just a blink away from a shank in your ribs or a hammer on your skull. And God help you if you noticed a bruiser selling drugs or got in the way of a thief on the run. In 2014, 10,000 complaints were received regarding this one area.

But, lo!

Per Seattle Times, 4/21/2015, Seattle Times Daniel Beekman and Steve Miletich:

"Acknowledging the presence of open-air drug dealing and associated crime in Seattle’s downtown core, city and police officials and business leaders say they are embarking on an ambitious effort to shut down the markets and take the most violent offenders off the street.

Bus stops will be moved, alleys restricted and newspaper boxes used by drug dealers removed as part of the new “9½ Block Strategy,” which refers to the small section of downtown between First and Fourth avenues and Union and Stewart streets where much of the city’s crime is concentrated."

The new look, they say, may be something like this:

Let's make our groovy city safe for shoppers at Nordstrom and Pacific Place! And send all street musicians who sing between the cracks to either Oakland or Portland.


The late summer/early fall curriculum will focus on the complex art of spending dough to make more dough. So step right up and meet MacRath, Career Investment Student.

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1) Today I invested in a Vidal Sassoon haircut by the director of the shop. Since I don't have the dough I should have at my age, all the more reason to look like a mil. I recall one Charlotte photographer trying to build up his business while cutting his own hair at home with a bowl and buying his cigs with rolled pennies. No, dude, we don't need to to look to know we know your work.
And a special word to all you SOGs (that's right, Slightly Older Guys): love the hair that you're still with.
2) I began consulting with my ebook cover artist, Jean, about creating a new branded look for my Boss MacTavin mysteries. They should be selling better, but readers haven't a clue what they 'are'.. They need to see that at a glance. Whatever this costs will be money well spent.
3) Furthermore, I began checking out online operations that can help promote my books and, maybe, help gain more reviews. Folks can't buy what they can't see in the daily blizzard of signs.

Entertainment Kicks of the Month

A new cinematic passion has brought me unrivaled hours of joy: the films of Brian De Palma. Why would I spend 16 hours on a plane to see the Sistine Chapel when I can view wonders like these in my home?

Dressed to Kill [Blu-ray]Body Double (Special Edition)Blow Out (The Criterion Collection) [Blu-ray]

Casualties of War (Unrated Extended Cut)Carlito's Way (Collector's Edition)The Untouchables (Special Collector's Edition)

Currently reading: Darkness by Bill Kirton. My third encounter with the charismatic Aberdonian cop, Jack Carston. A highly addictive, and recommended, series.
In the works: MonsterTime--scanned from the original paper novel Mastery, and rewritten/jazzed/tweaked/and proofed, will be released by August 15.

And this will free me to resume work on Caesar's Ghost for release by November.

Deep Thoughts
--She had one of those faces we're doomed to remember as one of those faces we don't wonder which.
--I'm sick of books I can't put down. I want a book I can, and must, and will put down repeatedly: to gather a tan in the sun of its style or savor a tryst with a foxy young phrase.

--Image result for deep thoughts by jack handy\\

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Reb MacRath's Seattle Rock: V. 10: 07/01/15

Nuts and Bolts

You all know what July means: now the heat is really on.

It's not always pleasant. But what better time than when your body reminds you to bring the heat to your game? The year is half over. So pause to ponder where you stand in relation to the goals you set at the start of the year. Or even goals you have set several (many?) years ago. Whatever else I've accomplished, I reached a new level of intolerance for goals that I had drifted from...or not even dared yet attempt. In that spirit, I:
--Had my first tattoo done on 6/28.
--Arranged for a three-day trip to Portland over Labor Day Weekend.
--Opened an account at a different bank and began to save for a trip or two back east next year: Buffalo and Atlanta. Am also working on saving for unforeseen emergencies.
--Turned up the heat on the MonsterTime rewrite, planning to complete by July 4 and launch by mid-July.
--After this, I resolved, to begin having something resembling a Life in Seattle.

City Beats

Seattle is:

--Fifth Avenue, a vivid reminder of my four years in New York City. A walk here's the perfect antidote to the horrors of Third and Pike and the stretch known as The Blade. Ah, hello, Fifth Avenue!

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--Pioneer Square, at once the polar opposite and the perfect counterpoint.  We stay in touch with our roots here and it helps to keep us real.

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With the completion of MonsterTime by July 4, I'll ramp up my workout schedule to prepare for the Portland reunions in September. Goal: a greatly reduced version of this:

Advance preparation: at work I now snack on cut-up apples and carrot sticks...lunching on a small Starbucks Protein box lunch and a bottle of carrot juice.


So then, the lifelong Bohemian--who's scraped by from payday to payday, working at menial jobs while he wrote--finally grew tired of that. Not just tired, sick and tired. S&T of ramen noodles...not being able to visit family or old friends...not being able to afford a really spectacular haircut...etc,

The Bohemian saw an old mantra of his in a startling new light: Pay the Man--or, If you want That, you must do This. I'd escaped from a miserable job and a rock-bottom salary into a high-stress position in a better neighborhood--and for a decent wage. Instead of spending money like a drunken sailor, I saw how to Pay the Man in an exciting new way. The better I am at my job, and the better my attendance and attitude, the better my chances of getting a raise. I can buy better covers for my ebooks, pay for help promoting them, get more and more of the things I've never been able to have.

But also--Pay the Man!--I have the chance to save. Save for the security, power and dignity of having an adequate stash. The power to pay my own way and realize my dreams.

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Celebrate Your Independence

Protect your freedom with a strong financial foundation. But also affirm your dignity with this solemn vow: wherever you go and whatever you do, always make sure--if the goings head South--that you can get up and leave. Leave with a smile, but be able to say: "That's it, dude, I'm out of here." 

Example: Years ago, in the South, I attended a party deep in the heart of the country. I'd needed a ride to get there and I hadn't the means or the money to leave when the host became rude and abusive. Couldn't hit him--he was crippled and deeply alcoholic. Couldn't catch a bus--there were none. Cab fare: probably the price of a plane to Bermuda. Tried not to ruin everyone's evening--but failed, glowering and sulking. It's taken till now,with the start of a nest--along with F.U. money--to regain the self-esteem I lost.

Trust the Rebster on this one: always be able to leave a bad scene. And depend on nobody for your escape.

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Entertainment: Kicks of the Month

--Yes, I know, this will strike some as silly. But one new monthly kick for me is a decent clock alarm/radio. For the last ten months I've used my cell phone alarm. Before that, in Charlotte, my income allowed me a cheap clock alarm that worked half the time. Nowwwww...I use this:

Advantages: dual alarm that accommodates my split work schedule: different hours on the Saturday half-day....USB ports for charging cell phone and/or Kindle...variable screen brightness...resonant radio sound...a snooze alert that graduates from the softest of beeps to a beep guaranteed to get your full attention...and a genie that pops out for a body massage.

--I continue working on my DVD collection. No, I'm nowhere near here yet:

But I continue building. And I've learned along the way to only purchase films I know I'll want to watch again. Anything in question, I'll check out first on Amazon Instant View or Prime.

Changing Time

I've reset my Vidal Sassoon appointment for:

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My hair's still too short for them to cut, at least at the prices they charge. I want them to feel proud about dipping so deeply into my savings. And I plan to present them with an infernal challenge: transform my thinned, Slightly Older Guy hair into a 'do that is enviably hip. Come on, VS, let's see how close we can come to:

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or this:

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or this:

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Uh, just kidding on that last one. 

--As for the right forearm tattoo, here it is. Thanks to Ludvic Pitre at Under the Needle, 2118 2nd Ave., Seattle, WA 98121.  I'll write about the experience next month.


Now reading: Spirit of Place  by Dennis Hamley. It's the damndest thing I've ever read: part literary history, part novel of ideas, part mystery and part ghost story. I'm loving it. And I recommend it for anyone who doesn't fear first-rate writing that gives the brain a workout.
In the Works:
1) MonsterTime has a terrific cover by Jean Schweikhard and the book will be ready to launch around the middle of July after a three-month rewrite.

If you dig time travel novels--and vampires with a real difference--you should find this one worth your while.
2) Caesar's Ghost, my new Work in Progress, will be completely second-drafted by the middle of the month. I'll begin typing the second draft's changes over the July 4 long weekend.

Deep Thoughts

--It's not what you don't do with what you haven't got that counts. It's how you feel about the feelings that you can't imagine.
--Petty acts are emotional food stamps for the spiritually unemployed.