Oct 5, 2010
The Indian Summer that arrived yesterday continued through today. Not wanting to miss what might be my final chance at lovely weather, I took a bus out to Discovery Park for the afternoon. It was not as enjoyable as it should have been. Everyone and their dog was out and many of the owners regard the park as nothing more than a huge kennel run. The ca-nines are unleashed to sniff around and frolic about. I picked up a long stick to use for walking and self-defense (though it did not come to that). Then there was the poor black rabbit whose tameness clearly suggested it had been abandoned. Less than twenty feet away was a sign prohibiting people from doing just that.
This is a side of do-your-own-thing Seattle that has always troubled me: the disregard for the rules if they in any way impede upon one’s chosen lifestyle. Want to keep a dog in the city? Let it run loose in the parks and ignore the lease law. Tired of caring for that rabbit? Dump it. Like to cycle? Ignore those red lights. And if one were to be so bold as to con-front these people, they’d receive an indignant response.
Anyway, entering from the east side of the huge five-hundred-acre park, I gradually circled around to the old parade grounds. (Much of the area was once the site of Fort Lawton and some military families still reside there.) Just beyond the place where almost a century ago young cadets used to march in formation is a worn, paved road that I like to amble back and forth on. This time I spent a good forty-five minutes, savoring the mellow autumn sun while letting my thoughts meander. The tran-quility made it hard to believe I was actually in a bustling metropolitan area of over three million people.
This place has had a few special moments for me such as the time I and a friend took advantage of a rare celestial event to see all five naked-eye planets above the western horizon shortly after sundown. Because Dis-covery Park looks out over Puget Sound towards the Olympic Mountains to the west, there’s not much light pollution in that direction. We were able to locate the quintet of heavenly bodies in the clear evening sky with no trouble. On another occasion, when I was considering returning to Japan to teach English again, a contemplative amble along a deserted path choked with blackberry bushes helped me to realize I’d become ill-suited for that kind work (and that I did not much care for thorns, either). I no longer had the enthusiasm and in fact needed to let go of that rigid country.
For today’s visit, there was no grand revelation awaiting. I didn’t require one. When the time came to return to the hotel, I simply headed down to the South Gate, refreshed. Passing century-old trees, I turned and faced the parade grounds for a last look. I’ve always made a pilgrimage to this park prior to departing on one of my winter trips. I believe at some level it recharges my spirit. Who knows if this will ever happen again?
Oct 7, 2010
This morning I made a trip up to the Ballard area of the city to drop off a batch of DVDs at Rain City Video. I’ve been a loyal customer there ever since I purchased my first VCR way back in the fall of 1996. I would stop in on Thursdays after work (half price days) to load up for the week-end. It was an inexpensive form of entertainment with a wide variety of movies to choose from. I would always take home four: a foreign flick, horror, drama and maybe a few shows from a TV series. That pleasant tradition has been revived this past summer and in the past few weeks I’ve begun splurging to use up my remaining credits. Today was the final time I would be stopping by so I decided to commemorate the occasion afterwards with a sentimental stroll through one of my old neighborhoods just a few blocks away.
The first stop was at the Nordic Heritage Museum. I’d last been inside three years ago — October 11 — which would had been my Norwegian grandmother’s 100th birthday. A kind of tribute to her. The next day I left for my Round The World expedition. I view the museum as the starting point for that ambitious, historic trip. Already, I have trouble imagining myself doing it. How did I ever muster up the energy?
I was not interested in going through the exhibits again, so I spent some time in a playground area adjacent to the parking lot, taking advantage of yet another nice day by learning to read the sundial there.
The apartment on 24th and 67th where I resided from 2000-2002 was a two bedroom affair on the top (fourth) floor with a killer view. There I played my guitar and piano, prepared delectable meals in my crockpot, rode my bike to work, and was active in the church. I had no car. With most of my needs just down the street (a QFC grocery store, the Ballard Branch of the Seattle Public Library), I could easily get around on foot. Those were what I consider my Seattle Renaissance Years, a time when I came the closest to actually putting down roots.
Why, one might wonder, did I not stay in that pleasant habitat a year or two longer and enjoy the agreeable lifestyle I had built? Because there were other adventures I wanted to embark upon. It was not yet time to kick back and relax. Maybe it will never be that way for me.
The apartment building still looks the same, eight years after I moved out and cycled off to Iowa (see America Bike Ride). No wave of nostalgia hit me as I gazed at up at my bedroom windows. Too many years have snuck by. I caught the #18 bus back to my hotel.
Oct 7, 2010
My long-time acquaintance Tom started at Airborne Express (a freight forwarding company) way back in 1983, a year before I did. Initially, we were part of the same programming group and did a few lunches together along with a couple of the other fellows. Always agreeable, and quick to see the humor in even grim situations, Tom is one of those people who never seems to have gotten up on the wrong side of the bed. Perhaps a bit too well-adjusted for the anal retentiveness of computer programming — some six months after I arrived, he opted to leave the IT Department and pursue a new career direction one floor up in International. Airborne not being a large company, I would on occasion bump into him and we’d inevitably share a laugh. (Eventually Tom would realize the error of his ways and return to IT.)
As the years passed, and that original group of young programmers grew smaller (and grayer), Tom and I began having semi-regular lunches once again. I think it was because we both liked having a fellow long-timer to share the latest company news with rather than one of those newly hired twenty-somethings who had no recollections of the good old days. (I still remember humorously scheduling him for our meals, using Microsoft Outlook and keeping track of whose turn it was to pay. Always his, for some strange reason.)
Our favorite lunch destination became a bar called T.S. McHughs (“The Irish Pub of Lower Queen Anne”) and when I got back in touch with him recently to catch up, it was only natural we’d meet there for old time’s sake. Dinner this time around.
It was the same routine it’s always been with us: I ordered a large bowl of the clam chowder, while Tom had one of their sandwiches with fries and a pickle, which I stole. Since he did not need to return to the office, he added a beer as we settled down to compare notes on how life has been treating us. In Tom’s case, there was some bad news: Group Health, a company where he’s been doing programming/consulting work for the past two years, is laying him off at the end of the month. Given the dearth of COBOL jobs here in Seattle and on the West Coast (COBOL being a programming language, the tools of our particular trade), he’s begun considering working back east. Maybe Chicago, or even Philadelphia. It’s obviously a stressful period for him, but he’s keeping his chin up, having been through this before and under equally bad circumstances. Like me, he’s been thinking of getting out of Seattle, so this could be the “kick in the rear” (his words) to properly motivate hime. I admire his at-titude.
Afterwards, I found myself feeling a bit melancholy, which I at first at-tributed to Tom’s situation. But when I got back to the hotel, I realized it was something more than that. Those T.S. McHughs lunches during our Airborne Express years were very enjoyable affairs, our humor being on similar wave-lengths. Tonight’s dinner, given the new directions our lives appear to be heading in, probably marks the end of our Irish Pub get togethers.
Oct 9, 2010
Well, it’s my last day as a monthly resident at this hotel. During the seven years since I checked in for my first long visit, it’s proven to be a fairly good place to stay. The location was perfect: two blocks to my private mailbox; a short bus ride to my storage unit; and during the end of my career at Airborne Express (when it was taken over by DHL), but a seven minute commute — on foot. The monthly rates have been reasonable, and the flexibility invaluable. When my parents began needing help, or I was ready for another overseas excursion, all I had to do check out and head to the airport. It was a perfect fit for my nomadic lifestyle.
It’s therefore fitting that the preparations for my upcoming Final Odyssey took place here. The previous six months have in fact been some of the busiest and most demanding of my stays at the Mediterranean because of some health problems I’ve tried to tackle and the details of the move to Thailand. Nevertheless, I hope I’ll someday look back at this place and time with a degree of nostalgia.
Mr. Sol has been fighting a losing battle this week. His appearances have become less frequent as the Rainy Season gathers strength. I have never been enamored with the gloomy Seattle fall afternoons, but knowing I’ll soon be making my escape gives me a perverse kind of pleasure this time around. It’s like I’m giving Mother Nature the middle finger.
“Someday you’ll find that I have gone.
But tomorrow may rain so, I’ll follow the sun.”
Lennon & McCartney
And a Happy 70th Birthday John, wherever you are!
Oct 15, 2010
Here I am doing an entry at the Seattle Central Library with my Thailand luggage piled next to me. I checked out of my hotel around noon, leaving me with a few hours to kill before getting on a Community Transit Bus heading up north for a final get together with some friends.
There was one final act of closure today. At lunchtime, just before check-out, I walked over to the Seattle Center to have a meal at one of the many restaurants that circle the food court in the main pavilion. I deliberately chose a location where I’d once had a Friday dinner after work twenty-six years ago, soon after starting at Airborne Express. (I only did this a single time, which is why I remember it — Vietnamese cuisine. Now, ap-propriately enough, it’s a Thai eatery.) I had my first paycheck with me that November night and was initially baffled by the amount — it was barely enough to get by on for one month. Then it hit me: I’d be getting these every other week. An opportunity, if I was miserly enough, to stash away some serious dough.
And so I did. Coupled with some gutsy investing, in a little over two de-cades after that Vietnamese meal I was finished working for a living. I owe a lot to that young fellow who set a course that placed me in the pos-ition I am today. (Unfortunately, the food this time around was quite for-gettable.)
Time now to gather the belongings that will sustain me for the winter and beyond, depart this glassed, quirky building with its spiral floors (which I’m actually going to miss), and catch that bus.
Next entry will be from the Land of Smiles!