Saturday, September 13, 2008

Mark Mader, 1948-2008

I met Mark for the first time in his temporary apartment near the Space Needle. He was living at Pete Gross House, an apartment building for people receiving care at Seattle Cancer Care Alliance. He was about to undergo an experimental treatment for multiple myeloma, a type of blood cancer. Greg and I were meeting with him to learn about the treatment, and how we would support him as his 24/7 paid caregivers over the next several weeks.

Mark was tall. Really tall. He said he was around 6'5", but had shrunk since he had been ill, originally measuring in at 6'9". He had that shrugging, curved posture of the very tall, compensating for everyone else's depleted altitudes, often shining up there with a bright, welcoming, open-mouth smile.

Mark was a lifelong friend of my partner's mother, and brother to Gregory. My partner, Gregory Mark, is the namesake of this brotherhood of dry-land farmers in the Palouse in Eastern Washington. Now, what comes to mind when you think "farmer"? Overalls and pitchfork? Well, replace those overalls with a Speedo, add a bald head, lean frame, and that big smile, and you'll get closer to the picture.

In spite of Mark's 'be here now' presence, he would have always rather have been in the water. When the crops lay fallow in the winter, Mark was happily swimming in the warm ocean waters of Kona. He was a world-class swimmer in college, and continued coaching young swimmers for the rest of his life. Greg and I were appalled when he told us that he scuba dived solo, a no-no for divers who follow the rules. But Mark would have rather died out there than here on land, unencumbered by a buddy, washed out in the tepid seas. My theory is that Mark decided to live long enough to catch the swimming events of this year's summer Olympics. Only then could he rest.

Mark liked the Toyota RAV-4, which could accommodate his height while hauling a load. He liked the organic yogurt that he got at the co-op, the one with active cultures. He like pretty women, and he always knew what the weather was in Pullman. He liked to be prepared and equipped. He liked a good soft-boiled egg. Once, not long after his second round of treatment began, I made him a lunch of canned chicken noodle soup and saltines. You would have thought I had just perfectly grilled a grass-fed steak from his favorite rancher. At that point, he was just happy to have an appetite and the facility to eat and enjoy it.

I didn't know Mark well at all. I'm hardly one to write a remembrance. But so many people around the country did know and love him well. As Greg and I stayed with him during his treatment, we spent much of our time listening to him on the phone, updating his vast network of friends who devotedly checked in on him and wished him well. I'm grateful that Mark didn't suffer for long, and I'm sorry for the loss that his friends and family must endure.

Mark died in his home on September 4, 2008.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Cork in it

When I started a blog, I vowed to never apologize for lapses in blogging, a pet peeve of mine as an avid blog reader. I'm not gonna start now. But Tasha said she was tired of rereading the Tosca post, yo, so I'm dusting off my Blogger password.

This month's hobby, and for a few months to come, is sorting through my belongings and paring them down to the essentials. We may be moving in the fall and after living here for eight years, longer than I've ever lived in any home, I'm not underestimating the scale of the task at hand.

Today's disposal: wine corks. As a crafter, I harbored the believe that something aesthetically fascinating would eventually come from these bite-sized beauties. But no such project has revealed itself. So when I read about this company in Missouri that makes tiles from wine corks, I knew my orphan corks had found their destiny. I'll send off my little shoebox-o-corks on Monday, but I'll hold on to the memories, fuzzy as they may be, of the many bottles we consumed to make those tiles.

Saturday, March 1, 2008


We were fortunate to take in another highly anticipated evening at the opera this week. This time, Puccini's Tosca at Seattle Opera.

We thoroughly enjoyed the performance, which featured Lisa Daltirus in the title role, and some dude in the orchestra who really got to blow his trombone. Not quite the light-hearted romp that was La Boheme, which was sweet and funny in spite the whole fatal illness thing, it nevertheless delivered with drama and exceptional musicianship. Tosca is an opera singer, and as in La Boheme, the lead tenor plays an artist. The drama features the requisite gruesome twists to the evening's entertainment: there's murder, attempted rape, prison torture, execution, and suicide, followed immediately by giddy applause as the curtain falls. It's a lot like headline news, but with fabulous costumes and beautiful music.

My only complaint was the two 25-minute intermissions. Perhaps the $8 glasses of wine and $2.50 "honor coffee" comprise an important revenue stream, but these long intermissions seemed excessive. Granted, my attention span is large, as is my bladder, so perhaps I'm better suited evolutionarily to endure the long performance. But perhaps the second intermission could be a bit shorter, say 15-minutes, especially considering that the third act was shorter than the intermission.

In any case, all this quality time allowed us to brainstorm innovative alternatives to intermission, revisioning them as halftime activities for fan interaction. We've both served stints in the world of non-profit development, so we're sensitive to the monetary challenges that face arts organizations. Greg offered that the opera might employ halftime entertainers that we enjoy at NBA games. Anyone who has seen Red Panda at a Sonics game can testify to the spellbinding entertainment she provides by balancing bowls on her head while straddling a Yao Ming-height unicycle.

But our key contribution to solidifying the allegiance of Seattle Opera-goers is the t-shirt cannon. It's just what the doctor ordered for an audience wearied by arias of tragedy. The man-beast for the job, of course, is Squatch, who may be looking for work soon. Furthermore, the t-shirt cannon, in addition to delivering exhilaration, can also deliver any soft promotional item, from hot dogs to logo lap blankets, all the way up to the nosebleeds, I mean, the second tier. Add some pumpy "hooked on Wagner" music and young dancers in Spandex, and you've got a recipe for maximum donor excitement.

(BTW, if anyone at Seattle Opera is listening, offering tickets to a young blogger might provide an innovative approach to attracting the interest of new audiences while generating discussion about opera as a vibrant, contemporary art form. Just an idea...)

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

National Pancake Day

Now that I've got your attention, it's time to talk turkey, or rather, pancakes. That revered NGO, the International House of Pancakes, tipped its hat to the United States' presidential primaries and unilaterally declared that National Pancake Day would be moved back a week so as to not detract from this most important of democratic processes.

So let's take this opportunity to sit with our friends and neighbors to discuss the future of our nation over a FREE short stack of flapjacks next Tuesday, February 12 at IHOP. That's right, free. Oh wait, it's better than free. If you pay for your pancakes like a decent human being, and you happen to be sucking down those carbs at a Seattle IHOP, all proceeds will go to support Children's Hospital and Regional Medical Center's mission to prevent, treat, and eliminate pediatric disease. So go ahead, get some bacon on the side, take in that bottomless cup of coffee, and chat with your buddies about your political proclivities, your favorite new band, and what you'll do with your magic refund or lottery ticket, whichever comes first.

Sunday, January 6, 2008

More sauce, less pasta

This is my credo for the new year. The literal interpretation suffices, conveying an important concept for the enjoyment of even the simplest Italian dish. When I saw Mark Bittman's video illustrating the point, I literally stood up to cheer. But there are other messages in there that resonate, yet to be revealed. In the mean time, if you see a t-shirt with my new favorite aphorism, let me know.