Friday, July 24, 2009


Part I

Bellemaison is awash with preparations over the impending arrival of house guests coming for Bellefest. Club Chow has undergone an extensive renovation, even getting a new dock which Sylvie Ruth promptly ordered painted Provence blue. You don’t see that too much around here. The potting shed has finally come into fruition but it is doubtful the potting bench itself with a concrete counter top and recycled cast iron sink from Brown’s rehabbed into a dry sink will be finished. No matter. We won’t be taking cuttings or dividing iris during Bellefest anyway. The pool has been refinished and outfitted with a brand new, super fast slide and we have quietly laid in an impressive inventory of cold beer, barbecue spice, mountain bikes and beach towels. We B Redi n Stuff.

Yessir, the pinnacle of livin’ easy around here: the first weekend of August. Since these particular guests come from east of the Mississippi, heck never- even- been- to- Chicago!- east- of- the- Mississippi the Chows have planned an itinerary that will Idaho these boys up and send them ticking on the right track back to Noo York Citty with new ambition, aspiration and credo. We can’t wait.

We’ve decided to go para sailing over Lake Coeur d’Alene; listen, we know the definitive para sail experience in this area is Pend O’Reille. Green Libertarian has provided highly evocative and convincing expert testimony on this matter but once the logistics were analyzed and all was said and done, the drive up there and back took up way too much time. So we’re going with Coeur d’Alene, lunch at Huddy’s, and a beer afterwards at Bardenay, alongside the man made lake. What? A man made lake in Idaho is a novelty! Besides, we know the guy that designed the whole Riverstone project and executed the building of that lake and he will debrief us once we get there. It’s possible that we may walk the boardwalk of the Coeur d’Alene Resort—but if we have our choice, we will walk the dike road behind the junior college, okay, okay, NORTH IDAHO COLLEGE and end up at the Fort Sherman Chapel, going back down Military Drive to the lake. Maybe the best walk in the history of civilization. Anyway, that’s our Coeur d’Alene day; we’ll head back to town for dinner with Monsignor On The Porch at JBelle’s, that tried and true uber comfortable restaurant set in that fabulous garden. We’ve arranged for them to serve Pacific cedar planked salmon cooked in their charcoal barbecues as well as cinnamon ice cream and Green Bluff Peach Pie. Bobby Flay has yet to discover JBelle’s and that’s the way the Chows like it because they still can get a table there anytime they want. And they treat you right at JBelle’s

The next day is when we show them why we here in The ‘Kan EWA don’t need no Walt Disney, Steven Spielberg, Broadway, Fenway, Blue Man Group, Fountains of The Bellagio or Smithsonian Institute to be the ultra destination entertainment experience in all of the world. That’s right, the whole world. We lay the smack down with the North Idaho Come Ride With Us Day. First, we rack them out at dark thirty, seducing them downstairs with lovely strong coffee steaming over the rims of thick handled heavy mugs, huckleberry buttermilk pancakes with dainty pats of sweet cream butter alongside hefty chunks of perfectly fried Kansas City Bacon, all tucked in their little sleepy mouths in the most expert of motions. We lure ‘em in, feed ‘em fast, get ‘em outside and then buckle them into the back seat of our Ford truck and head out on I-90.

The sun comes up and by the time we cross Centennial Bridge over Beauty Bay, Lake Coeur d’Alene sparkles as a million diamonds, spilling out of the windows as far as the eye can see, tumbling and running towards Mica, Harrison, and Chatcolet; a scene, a feeling, an impression that Sworwaski could plan and plan but never duplicate. Good Morning Coeur d’Alene.

We keep humming along the freeway pulling our trailer jammed with bikes and coolers past Wolf Lodge and the Rose Lake Exit, past the Cataldo Mission, past Kellogg, through Wallace until at last, finally, we are in Montana. We take the second exit. Now we have the full complete attention of our captives; they did not dream it was possible to be in Montana shortly after breakfast. We’ve bought no tickets; we’ve consulted no timetable. Never even turned our phone on. Gasp! No service anyway! They are not in Noo York Citty no more.

They have nooooo idea....

The 'Kan EWA

Monday, July 20, 2009

The Cosmopolitan Club New York, New York February 2009

"I appealed to my mother. I told her it wasn't fair the way the whole family was invading my dreams and she said, Arrah, for the love o' God, drink your tea and go to school and stop tormenting us with your dreams. " — Frank McCourt

The 'Kan EWA

Friday, July 17, 2009

Talked to Mike the Parking Garage Guy this morning and he says he's not going to the Nordstrom Anniversary Sale.

Mike! says I, it's the biggest sale of the whole year!

Nope, he says. Not going.

MIKE. You can't live here and love clean air, clean water, blue sky and pine trees and not love the Nordstrom sale. It's not possible Mike!

Not going, JBelle.

Whoa, doggies.

Good Lord! The anniversary sale is like Safeco when Boston is in town. It's like dark, pungent coffee at Pike Street Market. It's smoked blue back out of Lake Pend O'Reille. It's huckleberries and mushrooms off Marble Mountain. It's golf at Indian Canyon, the ducks at Manito, biking the Centennial trail. The Nordstrom Anniversary Sale is the 4th of July Parade in Coeur d'Alene, a boxing match at the casino, rollercoasters at Silverwood, fly fishing on the North Fork, a concert in Sandpoint and a big, nasty hamburger at Rockford Bay. How in the world could you not like it, not love it?

Sad and shocked but undaunted, I stopped in at the office, returned a few calls, wrote a few emails, chatted up the State of Idaho auditor in visiting a client's records and headed out. As if to affirm my earlier discourse with Mike the Parking Garage Guy a different guy walks toward me, bare chested, in cut offs, Chuckies, and a beat up baseball cap, with a huge trout on a stick and his fishing pole over his shoulder, headed for where? Certainly not my office nor the bank.

Wherever he was going on this hot, sunny morning in July he was a cosmic message from the Gods, telling me that all was well with the world, that the Nordstrom Anniversary Sale must never be denied and that the faithful will always congregate and pay homage. And I, a repentant pilgrim, am reverent and compliant. I positively trotted down the street towards Nordstrom and almost kicked in the doors when I got there, waving my Platinum AmEx in greeting.

There was an ugly swarm around the handbags so I skipped those altogether in a move that just wasn't that hard after reviewing the catalogue last night. Ugly handbags, ugly shoes this year. I instead moved in on the jewelry, the silver jewelry, and tried on bracelets and earrings to my heart's content. yum. yum. yum.

I shook my head in disgust at the horrid shoe situation, noted that there was not a Swatch watch for sale at any price, then went straight to the men's department. I'll let you in on a little secret. I like buying men's clothes more than any clothes on earth. Love men's clothes. I think it's the tailoring and the fabric and the unfussy, razor sharp lines. And they smellll soooo good! But men's shoes? Not so much. Women's shoes all the way. I moaned when the manager of the accessories department told me that they didn't get the Tory Burch shoes on the sale; but giggled when she leaned over the counter and whispered, We've got Tory Burch at the Rack, though. We raised our eyebrows at each other with firm, teethless wide smiles and now, she is my new best friend.

And this is the transfiguration of summer and the Nordstrom Anniversary Sale in the Great Pacific Northwest.

Go in peace to love and serve the Lord.

My take: two pairs of jeans, a sweater, a blouse, two pairs of earrings and two pairs of tights

The 'Kan EWA

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

My Own Private August

August is coming up, maybe my most favorite month of the year. The livin' is easy and life and the world around me weaves itself into a hazy tapestry of sunshine, blue sky, tomatoes, raspberries, and dahlias hypnotizing me into believing that summer will go on forever. The seduction of the soft air and navy blue nights gets me every time. And I love it still.

In My Own Private August, I would have lunch with four people who have walked this earth then and now and have inspired me, provoked me, stymied me, made me laugh and yes, soothed me into insight and understanding as I stumbled along my own path, groping for a foothold . I believe they would form the most perfect of companions for good food and sparkling conversation; we would laugh and argue; eat; listen; argue some more. And listen. And laugh. And laugh. And drink icy cold vodka from Finland in exquisite Baccarat crystal glasses. There would be Irish linen on the table with Jaclyn DuPre roses and tulips in a magnificent crystal ice bucket, Royal Doulton china and of course, Gorham silver. What else?

Our table would be set dead in the center of the massive courtyard of Ataturk's magnificent tomb in Ankara, Turkey, where we will nosh on succulent lamb, jasmine rice with saffron, cucumbers, tomatoes and feta and that outrageously fabulous dessert they make in Turkey with the shredded wheat. Only the extraordinary Piazza del Campo in Sienna, Italy, supposedly the most beautiful public square in all of Europe, can be said in the same breath as Anit Kabir. The architecture is stunning in the true sense of the word as is typical of all Islamic art and architecture and the skyline of Ankara peeks into the edges, creating an on top of the world, Perched-Atop-Everest-In-The-City setting. It is the only venue appropriate in all of the universe for My Own Private August and the meeting of the most special of my companions, a theologian, a writer, an outlaw, and a poet.

The first invitation would go out to Thomas Merton. I am quite proud that as a Catholic priest, early on in the American civil rights movement of twentieth century Brother Merton championed social justice; embraced interfaith understanding and integration; explored and mined the depths of the human experience while the papacy in Rome carried out business as usual. Thomas Merton was one of the reasons I converted to Catholicism and in reading him, I have found a consolation and guidance that has helped me immeasurably. On love he said, "The beginning of love is to let those we love be perfectly themselves, and not to twist them to fit our own image. Otherwise we love only the reflection of ourselves we find in them.” My children were small when I began reading Merton and both very strong-willed; Thomas Merton showed me that it is morally unacceptable and outrageously destructive to break their will, even though my own mother swore to me over and over in fits of rage that she would succeed in breaking mine. And I realized that if I was not careful, my own self-loathing would become a part of these two little pink-cheeked curly headed Tasmanian Devils. How could it not? Even today, when I see a lack of discipline or a weakness in my children, I spot myself in a second. In those instances, I know The Dark is about and my footing is slippery. I know then, too, that if I love them perfectly, I will let my children be perfectly themselves. And from where I came from, this was a hard earned lesson. I would love to sit at lunch with Brother Merton and talk about this more and hear what William Shakespeare has to say about perfect love and how he responds to Merton's teachings on mystical theology and contemplative prayer.

So Shakespeare would be my second invitation because of course, he is civilization's all time greatest writer. Shakespeare believed in the fatal flaw that is in all of us and probed and manipulated that flaw that is the human condition into both the most tragic and comedic scenarios ever known on paper. I know that most likely he'll show up at lunch hung over and without a shower, but nevertheless will be riotously funny, keenly insightful and contribute laser-like thrusts and parrys to Merton's assertions, wise cracking, hip checking and eating like a pig the entire way. I know the bar bill will probably double, triple, if he is there but I'd by lying if Shakespeare was not included in My Own Private August. My favorite if I absolutely had to name one? The incredible Love's Labour's Lost. Harold Bloom, another one of my favorite sassy guys, called it "a festival of language, an exuberant fireworks display in which Shakespeare seems to seek the limit of his resources, and discovers that there are none." This piece is a fire in the sky that lights a fire in my soul. Every time. I want Shakespeare to talk about it and how it is that he himself stumbled into completion of this masterpiece so early in his career. Was it his pinnacle? Was everything else just so much billable time after he finished Love's Labour's Lost? And I want to get him good and drunk and find out about Anne Hathaway and his muses. And those limits we supposedly all have. I cannot wait for August.

Up until recently, I would have invited Bill Gates to talk about innovation and competition; two hallmarks of his contributions to mankind but lately, now that Bill is an old married man, he seems to have mellowed remarkably. I think he'd be reverent and respectful to Brother Merton and gush at everything Shakespeare had to say so instead, I'd like to play a wild card and invite another sassy guy that's come up on my radar screen. This guy writes a editorial comments for the local newspaper and is a bad, bad boy; I love to read Gary Crooks. He is a smart ass with no equal and as an accomplished blogger, will devilishly argue and pursue a point well past any modicum of discretion. Not an easy feat for a journalist, most of whom prefer to reside in the ivory tower of the newsroom, putting the receptionists and the secretaries up front to do all the actual talking. While I would not call Crooks' linear train of thought elegant, I would call it sturdy with endless strength and stamina. He can hold his line as if he were an Ironman Marathoner. But it's his wicked sense of humor that belies a keen intellect and the near flawless construction in his writing that makes him irresistible to me. Gary Crooks is a never-miss-must-read part of my week and I think he would be fabulous company at lunch. I would love to see him respond when Shakespeare tells him to find the poetry in his soul. And when the other guy that will be there gives him permission to lay his fears aside and plunge into love, ending the separation of him and his ultimate destiny.

So who would that other guy be? Well, of course, it would be Rumi. How could I not want Rumi? Erotic, sensual, honest, timeless, soothing and deeply loving, and a mystic as well, Mevlana must come and read my very favorite aloud:

If anyone asks you
how the perfect satisfaction
of all our sexual wanting
will look, lift your face
and say,

Like this.

When someone mentions the gracefulness
of the nightsky, climb up on the roof
and dance and say,

Like this.

If anyone wants to know what "spirit" is,
or what "God’s fragrance" means,
lean your head toward him or her.
Keep your face there close.

Like this.

When someone quotes the old poetic image
about clouds gradually uncovering the moon,
slowly loosen knot by knot the strings
of your robe.

Like this.

If anyone wonders how Jesus raised the dead,
don’t try to explain the miracle.
Kiss me on the lips.

Like this. Like this.

When someone asks what it means
to "die for love," point

If someone asks how tall I am, frown
and measure with your fingers the space
between the creases on your forehead.

This tall.

The soul sometimes leaves the body, then returns.
When someone doesn’t believe that,
walk back into my house.

Like this.

When lovers moan,
they’re telling our story.

Like this.

I am a sky where spirits live.
Stare into this deepening blue,
the breeze says a secret.

Like this.

When someone asks what there is to do,
light the candle in his hand.

Like this.

How did Joseph’s scent come to Jacob?


How did Jacob’s sight return?


A little wind cleans the eyes.

Like this.

When Shams comes back from Tabriz,
he’ll put just his head around the edge
of the door to surprise us

Like this.

Can you just imagine what Mr. William Shakespeare will have to say in response to that and how the two mystics, Thomas Merton, a Zen Catholic, and Mawlānā Jalāl ad-Dīn Muḥammad Balkhī, a Sufi Muslim, will process through repentance, redemption and resurrection:

"...Ours is not a brotherhood of despair./Even if you have broken/Your vows of repentance a hundred/times, come."

At this point, Gary Crooks will undoubtedly be on his feet, ordering more vodka.

The 'Kan EWA

Monday, July 06, 2009

More Roses of Bellemaison



The 'Kan EWA

Sunday, July 05, 2009

I think separation in families is one of the most heinous tragedies of civilization. My great great grandmother's sisters were devastated when she emigrated to the USA, grieving that they would never see her again. And they never did see her again after she left Prussia with her husband and five sons for a new life as an American.

In my own family, we have separation. I grieve for my brothers and their children. We are estranged and some of us are exiled. I miss them terribly after all this time. I do not think this separation will ever be cured. The last ten years have challenged me to build muscle in being alone and being strong. But mostly, it's been my challenge to find beauty and the face of God in each and every day. It still isn't very easy and I still have plenty of days where I just cannot bear up under the challenge.

My blog buddy, Billy the Bad Boy of the Classroom regularly celebrates 3 Beautiful Things and I have loved reading about the simple and exquisite moments of clarity in his life. He's honest, he can be brutally honest, and I cherish his model of being grateful and working hard to be whole.

Out of the blue, in the last year, two different members of my family from two different corners, reached out to me and we met and laughed and joked about the old times. And marveled at the new times at hand and looked at each other with wide eyes over the times ahead. In both instances, I was surprised and wary; but each meeting unfolded with a pure, innocent love that only people who share a gene pool can have for each other.

I think some wounds never will heal. Just don't think they will. So it's our job to be grateful for the knowledge of the reality that exists; savor and cherish those moments of beauty that do come our way in the most random of encounters; and marvel at the love and beauty of God's own face. And find joy. Find some joy. And continue hoping that out of that joy will fall peace.

The 'Kan EWA
The Ballerinas of Bellemaison

With Permission of Edgar Degas

The 'Kan EWA