Thursday, July 19, 2007

From the "Who DOES That??!" File

If you grew up in Seattle, and spent part of the mid-eighties sitting on the pavement on Broadway, looking up through your teased and starched bangs, sullenly muttering "Spare change?", then moved away for college and never looked back, you might not recognize this as the park near the reservoir right off Broadway. You might look at it and think "Wow, things have really changed around there!"

And in some ways, they have. There are people with strollers and readers and even parks department maintenance people in this park now. There's a swingset and play area and the field where you used to pick gravel out of your knee after soccer games, back when you played soccer, before you refused all sports on principle, well, that field is a lot nicer now.

Some things haven't changed though. The dirty kids on the lawn still have a kitten that looks too small to have been taken away from it's mother, and no doubt keeping this kitten alive is one of their dramas for the week. And if you stood in the long line outside of Cafe Versace today at about 10:20, you would have seen a guy across the street do a full clothing change while sitting on the sidewalk next to the Jack in the Box. When he's done, he will be wearing a black Metallica t-shirt, a belt with grommets and tight tight jeans and no underpants. If you had been there, you would have been made aware of things you maybe didn't want to know about, like what the balls of a guy with an obvious drug habit look like. And even though you didn't want to know these things, you wouldn't be able to help feeling slightly guilty for knowing them, as though simply glancing across the street while standing in line could be a knowing violation of someone's privacy. All of which reminds you of what it was like being a teenager on Broadway in the mid-80's. Being that kid sitting on the pavement was all about knowing that you were bringing this rough knowledge on yourself by looking at the things you were looking at, things you you wanted to be tough enough to know, but weren't.

If that had been you, in line at Cafe Versace at 10:20 on a Thursday in July, your reason for standing in line in the first place would have also been a reminder of how things may look a lot prettier now in certain places on Capitol Hill, but how there's still some bad shit happening. Like the ultimately minor, but still crappy vandalism that went down last night at the non-profit where you've been volunteering lately. The non-profit that you have developed tender warm feelings towards, and where one day, a couple years ago, the day before your birthday, you stood in the lobby and were told that there was room for you in the writing group that would change your life.

Okay, fine, we aren't talking about you. We aren't talking about a fictional person who moved away and never looked back either. We're talking about me. Me. The me who lives here in Seattle again, who has come back to Capitol Hill and loves the ways it has changed and some of the ways it has stayed the same. Except the crappy vandalism. That just made me tear up, and want to bring Kate and Brian presents and food and all kinds of things to tell them how nice they are, how nice it is that most of the time that house on Capitol Hill where they work is inhabited by people who are funny and kind and love words and want to put them together in a way that will entertain you or make the world more beautiful or just tell you what it's like here, among people who have something to say to each other, and who work hard to find the right way to say that something.

That's why I was standing in the ten-deep line at Versace, waiting to bring Kate what I hoped would be the best cappuccino in Seattle, and why Monday after the writing workshop lets out, I will take Brian's order for something tasty from Baguette Box. I'll still feel like that's really the least I can do, and just hope there isn't some saggy-balled guy changing his clothes across from 1203 Pine Street anywhere close to noon. I can really live without that.

But if he is there, at least it'll make a good story, about a slightly-veiled version of me, which is pretty much what all my stories are these days. You don't mind, do you?

9 comments:

B said...

Love it! Can’t believe you say a drug addict’s balls and a pile of human shit on a carpet in the same day. What is this world coming to? Or better yet, who DOES that??

Dana said...

This is so smartly written. Yes, bring on the slightly veiled stories anytime. I'm sorry about the vandalism and that the drug addict has floppy balls.

Dakota said...

wow! eventful and gritty!...but I'm really sorry to hear about Hugo House...I hope it's nothing too major!
p.s. I worked on the drawings for that park (Cal Anderson/Bobby Morris Field when I was an intern ;)

Kristin said...

That photo looks like a postcard of what the park WILL look like, when it's built...

And when did street lamps get to be so round? surreal!

Barb said...

Wow. I love it. This is just further evidence that you should be writing more, not less. And it explains why I miss reading your fiction so much. When do I get to read more of the novel, damnit!?!

Heather said...

Shhh! The novel is resting. She needs her sleep!

Actually I wasn't kidding about the slightly-veiled version of myself stories. Oooh! Maybe that can be the title for a collection. I've been writing a ton, mostly things like this little ditty, only blown up and fictionalized more freely.

Barb, you better look out or I'll send you one of them!

Heather said...

Oh, and Kristin, I know, aren't those lights crazy? They used a ton of them, all around the park, so everywhere you look, you are surrounded by these perfectly round flying saucers trying to land. You would think that might create problems for certain people. Hallucinating people.

Dakota said...

ehem (one of the designers, more like drafters, of said park hat on)...those lights were used because the park is part of the original Olmsted Bros. plan and The Berger Partnership worked with the Friends of Olmsted Parks to pay homage...the lights are the official Olmsted lights...much like the ones on QA Boulevard.

Heather said...

Dakota, I just love it that you know that.