Wednesday, July 25, 2007

A Different Kind of Crazy Dream OR Let's Call It a Short Story Because It's Not Quite A True Story

Ode to Kozy Shack, bathroom self-portrait, Copper Gate, 7-20-2007

You don’t have to be at all sure what you’re looking for in order to find it on the Flickr pages. I don’t really know what I am looking for when I find Pete, Carrie and Rabbit. It’s late, and I’m home, sitting in my bed with my computer on my lap. I want to go somewhere but it’s too late for that, so I am searching. I do this sometimes, after I’ve fussed with my own photos on my Flickr page, arranged them in sets and labeled them with the kinds of tags that someone else might find in a search of their own. Tonight I have photos of Susan in her new summer dress with baskets of fried food, in the new bar in the old neighborhood where I used to live when I was still cool. Well, still young at least.

I wander off into search terms and thumbnails. Seattle, Ballard, coffee shops, favorite bars… bored, bored, boring boring, photos of people I don’t know, cafes I wouldn’t go to… until I get to the skee ball shots, from the new bar where they have a wall full of old photos tacked up in fluttering layers, like peeling paint covering one whole side of the bar. They serve retro beers and baskets of sliders even though none of us who grew up here ate sliders as teenagers, or even knew what they were. The jukebox is filled with albums I don’t expect Pabst-drinkers in hoodies and dice tattoos to sing along to, Peggy Lee, Heart.

Not that you can see all that stuff in the photo that catches my eye. This photo is simple, just the skee balls lined up in their narrow chute, ready to be pitched at the target, the rough brick wall next to the game, and off in the upper left hand corner, the round circles labeled 10, 20, 30, like a paint-by-numbers sun. The other photos that come up when you search for that bar are mostly bad-flash snapshots, someone’s buddy all pasty with a face-full of booze, sticking out a tongue or hands all over the chick with her eyes half-closed. But the photos that turn out to be Pete’s aren’t like that. What Pete has posted are the skee ball close-ups, the chalk board with the score, titled “Ass Whupping”, and a photo called “Lunch Date,” - Pete and Carrie lit by the yellow of a little barrel-shaped table lamp behind them, Carrie in braids, Pete in beard, looking right into each other’s eyes and smiling the closed-lipped smile of the deeply satisfied.

Then there are the self-portraits. Bathrooms and elevators. A washed-out shot of Pete, wide-eyed, his flannel shirt matching the faded flower wallpaper of the bathroom in a lake house where a friend is house-sitting, Carrie straight-faced with a single braid, in front of a poster of puppies playing piano. There are sets of graffiti and found “faces”, in food, on hardware, made by rust and knots in wood and the way two windows flank a door. A set of the dog, Rabbit, labeled “dogsimus maxsimus. best. dog. ever.”, photos with flying ears, white belly, pink tongue on Pete’s soft-serve ice cream cone. Another set titled “Music”, subtitled “Music is the only redeemer.” There’s a blue-lit Chan Marshall dancing in a fringed dress, Joan Jett sweating and raw at the Marin County Fair, tracer-laden, flaming orange Willie Nelson.

Willie Nelson is where I stop at 1:13 AM. It's July 4th now, 2007 and I am giddy with the sight of the Jing Fong dim sum extravaganaza, Rabbit, “The Rabbit”, as they call her, in an elevator in Portland, brisket at Memphis Minnie’s in San Francisco, the set called “Pete is My Bitch” - Pete in a bib, in a monkey hat, in a hairnet, in latex gloves. I am giddy from the way Pete labels all the photos of Carrie and her braids with the tag “love”. So I stop at the Willie Fillmore, SF, 1.25.06 photo and click on the “Add Your Comment” box. Here’s what I write, the first time I stalk someone on the internet:
“Okay, see, here's the thing about Flickr. You put your little tags on things, and then people somehow find your photos, maybe by searching on skeeball or something, and sometimes these people are even in your own city, so then they want to look around at your photos and see where else you've been. And then turns out you've been to the Greenwood Space Supply place, and then you have all these photos in bathrooms, and at someone's lake house with crazy wallpaper, and you're looking for nutria, and then the person who has found all these photos starts to wonder "God, are there any three creatures on earth who have more fun than Pete, Carrie and Rabbit?" because surely that cannot be, and you start to wonder, do I know someone who knows these people? and you think about your own field trips, like you need to go see those eyes at the sculpture park, and maybe have some pancakes with lingonberries, but then you really really need to stop looking at these photos no matter how good and funny they are, because you are supposed to be packing to go see Willie at the Gorge tomorrow, and that's a pretty good field trip in itself. Thanks for all the entertainment. Love your photos.”

Then I read it again and maybe I feel a little embarrassed but still I add a second comment which says:
“Okay, I realize I have all the you's messed up, but that's what happens. That's what happens when you spend too much time looking at someone else's flickr photos.”

And I like it. I like what I wrote, and I like liking Pete and Carrie and Rabbit and secretly I think it’s kind of clever even though I’m considering never ever telling anyone that I’ve done this. Until Pete writes back seventeen minutes later and says:
“Wow. this is pretty much the best comment we've ever received on Flickr. Certainly from a stranger. Such lovely words...thanks. It's really so good to hear that all the great times that we're having come through in our pictures. Definitely jealous that you're going to spend the fourth with Willie, too. That guy's my hero. Should make for a wonderful celebration of independence, whatever that might mean to you. Thanks for the lovely words. Maybe Rabbit can meet the wolfhounds one of these days. Those dogs are beautiful, and have fantastic names. ~p + c + r”
And when I read this, it’s like someone has suddenly discovered that I have a beautiful singing voice, or the most lovely toes in the world, or the highest number of taste buds found on the tongue of a human anywhere ever in the history of the world. Mostly that last thing, though, because while that comment from Pete seems strangely spectacular to me, after I read it, I sit there at the computer and don’t really know what it was all about. What was I doing, with this search for the new bar in my old neighborhood, and what does it mean, what I found - people who it seems like I should know but don’t?

But then I just think "Pete is nice. Like I thought."

I leave my email inbox and go back to the main page for Kozy Shack AKA Pete, Carrie and Rabbit, and go to the album titled 3.4.6. There they are at their wedding, with Carrie wearing a red dress and deeper dimples than I’ve ever seen and there are hula hoops and the limbo and a tuba and cupcakes and musical chairs and Pete’s shirt comes untucked from dancing, and it seems like the only thing that’s missing for a lifetime of happiness is Rabbit the dog.

After the limbo, and Carrie tying Pete’s tie, and their wedding dance, and dances with relatives, I go back to my own page, where Pete has written a comment admiring Tintin the French bulldog puppy. I look at my photos of the wolfhounds, Rosebeast and Fenton and MaryEllen and baby Liam, and wonder what Rabbit’s life was like before she met Pete and Carrie. On my Flickr page, none of the dogs Pete has admired are mine. The wolfhounds are a two-day drive away, and will probably never ever meet Rabbit and suddenly I feel defeated and weird.

I turn off the computer and lie in bed wondering which of the wolfhounds’ names Pete liked. Rosebeast, MaryEllen the Supermodel, Fenton Johnson. The only one I named was Lovable Irresistable Adorable Me, the puppy we call “Liam”, for short.

I also wonder if I will ever meet Pete and Carrie, and I sort-of wonder if I want to, the same way I’m not always sure I want to bite into a piece of really good-looking cake because it might turn out to taste like food coloring or dye your tongue blue. I wonder if Carrie has already started to hate me, or if she’s wondering what I’m up to. But in my head I’m already writing them an email challenging them to skee ball, even though Carrie might hate me, because as long as I’ve gone this far, I might as well keep stalking, and anyway, they can always ignore the email. I fall asleep telling myself that might be better anyway, because I can’t even really play skee ball, and I don’t have a date to bring, and because even if I was the kind of girl who had a dog of her own, I would have no idea what to name him.


Anonymous said...

Put this in your book, please. The incredible book of short stories you are going to write. I love this. I love, love, love this in the way I love something so much I transfer all that love to the person who engineered it, which means I love you. Like a friend, of course. Nothing kinky.

And, Pete, Carrie and Rabbit are those people ~ the ones I talk about whose lives are better and easier than mine could ever be, and so I love/hate them. Like friends/enemies, of course. Nothing kinky.

Allison said...

This was so nice. I feel like that's a really inadequate way to describe it, but it just gave me a really nice feeling, so that will have to suffice.


Andrea Leigh said...

You have inspired me to be as candid as I want in my blog! Thanks!

pam said...

Okay, for a copy of one of Heather's mixed CD's even I will leave a comment. I listened to Sky Blue Sky all the way to Creede, and I have to agree with all superlatives....