please stop tickling me

In which we laugh and laugh and laugh. And love. And drink.

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Location: Portland, Oregon

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Sunday, February 08, 2009

King City Diary


When the rest of the country was on that crazy kick of naming major-though-generally-economically-depressed thoroughfares after Martin Luther King, Seattle got off easy by already having a street named 'King'. They wisely stuck an 'M.L.' in front of it, and dusted off their hands with an easy finality.
When you see it, you've just passed Tukwila, and have not yet seen Boeing Field. It always gives me kinda a thrill: I love approaching that skyline.


First stop: Physical! I rolled into the industrial section of downtown, found a pretty nondescript-looking building that had a parking lot I wasn't sure I should park in, and made my mandatory appointment with ten minutes to spare.
"The city's doing lots of hiring, aren't they?" the nurse asked/said. It's true. It looked like the majority of the others in the waiting room that day were there to do what I was there to do. A hearing test -amazingly- showed that despite many years spent around loud music, early chronic eustachian tube infections and a hereditary propensity toward ear wax, my sonic sensitivity is actually pretty good. My formerly 20/15 vision is now 20/25 (the right eye recently was injured in a stupid kindling-wood-chopping incident), and I don't seem to have blood and/or excessive amounts of sugar in my urine.

Then the actual doctor arrived. He seemed rushed. Too rushed, if you ask me. "Squat down! Stand up with your feet together! Grab my fingers! Push back against me! Drop your drawers!"
Here we go, I thought, and was thoughtfully starting to turn around for him when he said, "No; I'm goin' in through the front!"
I beg your pardon, I almost said, but it quickly became clear that hernias were what he had in mind, not the health of my prostate.

After, a trip to Ballard. That neighborhood is pretty much my default when I'm in Seattle. Met up with Disco Boy, discussed a number of things, including his discomfort with writing when so many other people do it better, or at least have already said it all before.
Been up against that one myself. Strange though; pretty much everyone whose writing I enjoy seem to do it so little. And writing, like any art, is simply for its own sake: get into originality questions and you'll never do anything.

Thence over Wallingford over to Kirkland. A visit to The Baron, and his swanky condo overlooking Lake Washington. Kirkland strongly resembles a much larger version of the town we attended high school in, except it's on an actual lake as opposed to an artificially-enlarged sink hole. More like an inland sea, really.
It's a douchebaggy place of massive proportion. If you wish to cross the street, there are these little receptacles of neon-colored plastic flags affixed to each sign post, and you become your own crossing guard. The coffee place that wasn't a Starbuck's or Tully's was filled with overfed dudes boasting loudly about their Microsoft stock profits. It featured barristas hired -certainly- for their looks, not their skills.

For instance, my request for 'one of those english muffin things' in the case was met with the correction, "They're breakfast sandwiches!", to which I replied, "Whatever. I'd like one." And I was repeatedly asked if I was staying or going, with emphasis on my need to go. I didn't get the americano I asked for until asking for it again, as those who should have been at work making the damn thing were too busy flirting with other awful people..

The Baron's place is sad. It has a lovely view; the eastern-facing Seattle skyline twinkling invitingly in the lake waters at night, lit all gold and orange first thing in the morning. But it also is a stunningly empty place; great knife set, beautiful pots and pans, clearly never used. The place would be perfect for entertaining, but I'm pretty sure all it ever sees are endless role-playing-game tournees and...I just kept wanting to ask: "So...Prostitutes, is it?" I don't know how he manages sex when he's spent the last fifteen or years locked into the highly profitable but ultimately soul-killing corporate world, where you can get anything but don't necessarily have anything resembling a social life.
In any case, we drank whiskey and watched "House", made fun of teevee culture, etc. It was good to see him.

The next day I drove back into Seattle proper, tried to kill a couple hours on Capitol hill, couldn't quite work it out. I was trying to diarize on paper, just like I used to, especially when travelling.
I spoke to Disco Boy, who encouraged me to check out a small used record concern located in a used clothing shop right up "past the fish fry". The entry in my notebook reads:
Where de fuck's de fish fry? Wandering around a town that's not quite yours can be a heap of fun, or not. Especially when you've got the limited funds, and don't especially relish wearing the sign that says, "I'm not from around here."

I guess I was expecting some sort of open-air seafood festival. The Fish Fry is in fact a small restaurant. I was writing the above in Oddfellow's, which is a pretty okay restaurant, though crowded at lunch.

So back to Ballard, then, and Hattie's Hat, where I always feel at home. Conversations there included comic books, the music of The Animals and Van Dyke Parks, and how condos are evil. I drove out to Shilshole Bay around sundown, and just sat there for a long time, finally napping a bit.

Girly-Girl and I got some sandwich Cubano at a great -though tiny- place, and went back to the home of she and Disco Boy, where we sat around talking about everything until I just had to go to bed.

The next day was a paid orientation at Seattle Center. It was a whole lot of sitting there repeating the obvious-though-legally/ethically-mandated. Also present: two other Portlanders, one who suggested ride-sharing, as he had rented a car to get up there, and another who recently moved to Seattle but spends a lot of his time working in Portland, still. The reverse of my schedule, really.
The one who had rented a car was going on a bit, as is his wont: I can't believe more people in Portland don't take advantage of this! There's people down there who don't even know about this, and we should organize a whole bunch of people to come up here, and...I was looking at the faces of the equally work-poor Seattleites around him, and was quietly gesturing that maybe he should shut up, when one of them said, "No, you shouldn't do that."

Fergie, the one who lives in Seattle now, was ostensibly going to provide me with lodging that evening. But it soon became clear to me that he wasn't a hundred per cent sure of how to explain how to get to his house, and I said I'd go spend the night somewhere I could be completely sure of the location. This was during the tour that followed the orientation, in which we noted with some surprise that the loading dock for Key Arena isn't one big long windy drag from outside to center ice (a phenomenon which, at the Rose Garden, is known as 'The Pneumonia Hole'), but all semis either park by an enormous cargo elevator, or come down a ramp, park on a semi-sized slab of metal which then descends into the floor, allowing all present to offload with ease.
Fergie and myself noted how small the floor was at the Key, also how little in the way there was in the way of catwalks, upstairs. We talked about lots of things. I made plans to stay at Disco Boy's again, but told Ferg I'd be glad to meet up with him later.

And so we did. The Honey Hole, despite its borderline porn name, is a nice joint up on Capitol Hill. They have good food, and the people who work there are not assholes, which is amazing, kind of. Actually, I'm unsure if I can safely generalize about the quality of servers in Seattle vs. Portland. They might just be nicer up there.
Disco Boy and I were immediately beset by a guy with bangs that looked just like mine did in 1986, and another who had done that unfortunate just-growing-out-the-sideburns-to-beard-length thing. They were together, roaring drunk, and were overjoyed to see my friend.

Every few minutes, the one with bangs kept on yelling Disco Boy's name, which caused him finally to say, "It's like I keep sneakin' up on ya'." I had to remind dude of my name five or seven times.
Fergie arrived, looked at the fella with the bangs, looked at me, and stage whispered, "I think your friend is dr-hunnnk..." Eventually the three of us were left to discuss our various lives and fortunes. After this, Disco Boy's regular d.j.ing gig, mellow revelry and more talk of music, in which I sort of said something along the lines of...When you're geeking out on the arcana of music, you're telling the true story of the human race, or...Something. Did I mention the free drinks we got at that bar?

Down south, go see the folks, go see the kid...Strange stories there. Back up the next morning to Seattle.

Finally, a visit to the Convention Center, where I would be getting rid of Tech Ready '09, and where Bill Gates had recently exhibited his eccentric billionaire status by actually releasing a bunch of mosquitoes into the crowd. He reportedly said something along the lines of "poor people shouldn't be the only ones who have to endure this.." and as his employees looked at each other uncomfortably, I imagine he then screamed, "MOSQUITOOOES!" and threw open the fateful trap door. Great. Now we all have malaria. Well, it's a living.

But the people I worked with were very nice to me, and very professional. I actually recieved a compliment that I've been wanting to get for a while; that not only do I clearly know what I'm doing, I also don't spend great amounts of time telling other people (read: especially those senior to me) how to do their jobs. Folks appreciate this combination of attributes, turns out.

Escaped, but not for long: pestholey traffic caused me to crawl at twenty miles per from Seattle to Tacoma, and then again from Fort Lewis to Centralia. This weekend? Just goin' back up there again, for WWE. Wish me luck.

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2 Comments:

Blogger LadrĂ³n de Basura (a.k.a. Junk Thief) said...

Great travelogue and familiar stomping grounds, though I've never been to Hattie's Hat. Dick you stop at Dick's Drive-In while in Wallingford? They usually have really wonderfully snarky lesbians serving up shakes which adds to the experience. I met the original Dick while on Vashon Island last January. Seriously. For an old codger, he's surprisingly progressive.

3:37 PM  
Blogger reid said...

Agreed, a fun read. Writing truly is for writing's sake and finding a friendly joint in Seattle is a feat in itself (is Portland worse?) and working with pros is like...working with pros. Short but sweet atisfaction.

4:01 AM  

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