Saturday, July 14, 2012


    Among summer's most delicious moments are mountain hikes.
     This week, I was blessed by the company of four young guys who offered to climb to the ridiculously named Poo Poo Point.
    Eight miles, up and back.
    It turned out to be one of the hottest days of the year. 87-degrees. For the Pacific Northwest, that's scorching.
    I used to run this same hike after completing my weekly word-quota for the Raleigh Harmon books. It was a badge of sorts. But time is proving it marches with even greater determination: Now the boys left me in their dust.
     Left me with my thoughts.
     I wish I could say some brilliant insights hit me. The paltry truth is cliches came, unbidden yet with the stubbornness of stupidity.
     How the deep forest reminds me of growth, eternity. How climbing a mountain is like meeting life's challenges.
    Nothing revelatory, I know.
    But when we reached the top, I took this photo.
     Years from now, I hope these guys understand its greater meaning.
     Each one of them is on the cusp of manhood.
    And just past their feet, the mountainside disappears as though sliced by a guillotine. Most summer days, hang-gliders are launching themselves from that spot, flying into thin air, giving a whoop, and trusting God as if they were nothing more, and nothing less, than birds.


Saturday, July 7, 2012

Have You Seen Your City?

I've said it before: I love a good hunt.

     Today The G-Men and I went on a scavenger hunt through Seattle. Sponsored by City Solve, the clues proved challenging, mind-bending and demanding of some good hard walking. We saw our city with fresh eyes and discovered previously unexplored parts of this hip, smart and frequently odd town.
     We also deciphered nearly all ten of our designated stops -- with one kick-me exception.
Westlake area. A bonus clue. Find a drink with ice cubes.
And for once, Seattle needed cooling off.
Temps hit almost 80 today.
      The clue was to combine the name of a Mediterranean toy dog with a bird of prey. We decided on "Maltese Falcon." The second part of the clue said that the designated stop was on 2nd Avenue "in the north end of Pioneer Square."
     We saved this clue for the end, since it was on our route back to the race's finish -- at 88 Keys, a dueling piano bar (not kidding). But by the time we got to 2nd Ave, we'd already spent nearly four hours hiking Seattle's notorious hills, and now, as we wandered up and down 2nd Ave, our spirits flagged.
    Finally, we stopped a cop on horseback.
    "We're looking for The Maltese Falcon."
    He scratched his head. "Only thing that comes to mind is a statue," he said. "It's of some predatory bird."
    It was possible. After all, Seattle has a statue of Vladamir Lenin. Why not the the bird of Bogart fame.
    But the tatue wasn't in Pioneer Square.
   "And," the cop added, "I don't think that bird is a falcon."
One of the funnier clues.
Spoofing the Tom Cruise divorce: Find L.Ron Hubbard's
book, Dianetics. The guy in the Scientology Center
was NOT amused. 
    My husband continued to grill the cop, picking his brain for anything named Maltese or Falcon -- a restaurant, bar, antique store -- anything!
     Meanwhile I gazed longingly down a side street. Heaven was right there -- down Cherry Street. Seattle Mystery Bookshop.
     If only we had time for tangents! Go browse, lose myself in the stacks . . . .
      But the clock was ticking, and we were losing.       After wandering 2nd Avenue some more, we finally decided to this stop would be one of our allowable "skips" that the rules allow.
    Heading down to 88 Keys, I started banking the good memories. My kids saw -- really saw -- their city. From crowds and tourists and street musicians to sweet and helpful city residents joyfully helping us whenever we got turned around to chain-smoking addicts outside recovery clinics. All of them intriguing characters, providing teachable moments.  And we probably walked a good five miles, from Pioneer Square and the waterfront to Belltown, Capitol Hill, south Lake Union, through downtown and Pike Place Market and back to Pioneer Square.
     Yet despite all that, I felt haunted.
     Somewhere -- right under our noses-- that blasted Maltese Falcon was mocking us.
    At the finish, a girl checked our photos, making sure we actually found each clue and that all four of us were in every picture.
       I glanced over her shoulder, reading the answer sheet.
      Maltese Falcon, it read. Seattle Mystery Book Store.
      "What?" I cried. "It was the book store?!"
      She nodded. "Not a lot of people got that one."
      Fine, I wanted to say, but I'm a mystery writer. If there was one clue we should've gotten, that was it! And my heart had been pulling me to go there-- and I ignored it.
      I could get all philosophical here -- about following your heart, thinking less literally, not watching the clock -- but I'm frankly too tired.
    I want to put my feet up and celebrate with the G-Men.
    Because next year, we'll be out there again.
     And beware, mystery clues. I'm coming for you.
     City Solve holds races around the country. Check to see if there's on in your your area. 

We were SUPPOSED to find a sign with the word "love."
We finally resorted to changing Move to Love.  The guy painting this sign took our picture.
You can see an incomplete green blob, on the right, which we interrupted.
Nice guy -- nice city.