Monday, September 29, 2014

J.R. to the Rescue

A few weeks ago I rode my bike to Rainbow and parked near the temporary shopping cart enclosure; they are doing a major redesign and expansion. While I was locking up my bike, a woman returned a shopping cart, but instead of putting it in the enclosure, she just left it immediately behind my bicycle. I said, “Hey!”, but without tremendous force, and let her walk away.

A short, bare-chested, exotically decorated homeless fellow said gallantly, “I’ll help you!”, and moved the cart to its proper place. I thanked him, and he said, “My name’s J.R.” I told him my name. He said, “If you ever need help, I’ll be there.” I don’t plan to count on that absolutely—what if J.R. isn’t around when crisis strikes?—but was very touched by the sweetness of the sentiment, particularly given his own situation.

In contrast was the young lady driving a Mercedes convertible who attempted to pass me on 20th St. when there wasn’t time to do so before a red light. She ended up having to swerve into my lane, and I had to stop or be hit. I yelled “Hey!” for the second time that morning, this time with much more force, and she waved her index finger scoldingly in the air and said, “Buddy, you gotta pull over.” The lane there is nowhere near wide enough for a car and bicycle to travel side by side, so I was very properly in the center of it and responded, “That’s not the law. Learn the law.”

She had edged in front of me—maybe that was the most annoying part—so I was immediately behind her at the next light, and since she was in a convertible and theoretically available for conversation, I said, “If you’ve ever heard the expression ‘take the lane,’ that’s what it looks like.” She ignored me, so I added, “I have as much right to the road as you do,” and then the light turned green, and of course I spent the afternoon mentally rehearsing various speeches I might have made, some angry and some more professorial in tone, and now and then becoming explicitly aware of my thoughts and watching them vanish like the mirages they are. I would have done better, if I was going to spend the afternoon ruminating about the recent past, to think about J.R. and how much more excellent his character is than that of the convertible driver, at least going by the data I was able to gather, which I know is just a fraction of the whole.

I’m sure J.R. is a big jerk sometimes, like all of us, and I’m sure the Mercedes driver is in most situations a perfectly lovely person. I suspect she was having two thoughts that she didn’t recognize as just thoughts. One: “This cyclist shouldn’t be taking up the whole lane.” Two: “I really need to get to the red light ASAP.”

Nonetheless, I was struck by how the person who, in conventional terms, has nothing was so eager to identify an opportunity to give, while the person who evidently has so much, at least materially, was thinking only of what else she needed in order to be happy: to get to drive as fast as she wanted, to be first at the red light, etc. I suspect J.R. discovered long ago that acting in a kind and generous manner is a potent source of happiness.

Thursday, September 25, 2014


I started looking into the ten hours a month of volunteering required by the Sati Center chaplaincy program. In my phone interview, I asked Jennifer if the soup kitchen counts and she said cheerfully, “Everything counts!” But the main place you might see a chaplain is a hospital, so we’re encouraged at least to go shadow a hospital chaplain for a shift or two. I’ve long wanted to volunteer at San Francisco General Hospital, so I contacted Sojourn Chaplaincy, but their training program starts with three weeks full time and goes from there. I don’t have even one vacation day left unscheduled for this year, so that will not be possible.

On to Laguna Honda, another public hospital, where I spoke to the spiritual care coordinator, Bob. I told him I was in the Sati Center program, and he said I was welcome to volunteer there. The training would be informal, except that every volunteer must attend a general orientation session, which they do only once a month, and the next opening was not until January! I found this out from the volunteer coordinator, and called Bob back to let him know, and he talked to the volunteer coordinator, and they will try to get me into the October session, or November for sure.

I’m doing ten hours a month at the soup kitchen, so I don’t really need to do anything else, but I’d like to volunteer at a hospital, perhaps one evening a week, two or three hours.


A few weeks ago, I got a call from my best friend when I was 13, Mark. In the course of a 20-minute conversation, I learned that four people had died, three of them known to me: his mother, with whom I was friends in my teens; one of his two brothers; his father, whom I never met; and a classmate of ours, who committed suicide a couple of years ago, leaving behind three adorable children about five to eight years old. It was her children who found her body. Mark’s brother, who lived quite a rough and rebellious life, died a couple of months ago while living with their father in Chico, and while Mark was out here because his brother had died, his father died, too.

Mark said that he was coming out again, this time to scatter his brother’s and father’s ashes, and that his plane would be landing at 6:15 p.m. and then he and his remaining brother, Doug, would rush over to Golden Gate Park to play Frisbee golf, a venerable brotherly tradition, until it got dark, and then might we meet at the Toronado Bar in the Haight? I somewhat reluctantly agreed, as it seemed likely this might cause me to be outside my apartment after 8 p.m., and on the appointed evening, I didn’t hear from Mark until just about that magical hour. I was sitting in my chair reading Brideshead Revisited, and I said to myself, “I herewith declare I will not leave this house,” but when Mark said rather plaintively on the phone, “I just wanted to say hello,” I couldn’t bring myself to refuse. After all, he was my best friend once upon a time, and I hadn’t seen him in about 35 years. He comes this way from time to time, but stays with Doug in San Jose, and they normally only venture into San Francisco for Frisbee golf.

I went out to Valencia St. and hailed a cab and went to the Toronado Bar, which is a totally horrible place (though I’m sure beloved by its regulars). It was very loud and very, very crammed with people. I went in and looked around for Mark, Doug and Gabe, the latter being the best friend of the brother who died. I made my way through the entire bar and didn’t see anyone who could plausibly be Mark and Doug 35 years later, and was relieved to be out on the sidewalk again. It was now 15 minutes past the time we said we’d meet, and I almost wondered if they had come and gone, but no, here came two large, solid gentlemen and one small, elfin, very beautiful one with olive skin, this being Gabe. I would never, ever have recognized Mark. Doug looked a bit more familiar, but maybe that’s because I saw him on Facebook during my brief stint there a few years ago.

They stuck their heads in the bar and decided we should go eat instead, so we went around the corner to Squat & Gobble and had a riotous good time. Mark’s eyes are clear and he seems happy and relaxed. He has an infectious laugh, and is very affectionate. He frequently threw his arms around his brother and rested his forehead on his brother’s arm and said, “I love you, bro,” and just as often, one of them said to the other, “Shut the f*ck up! That’s not what happened! I was there! You weren’t. I think I know what happened!” Mark is easygoing. Doug, like me, likes things to be a certain way. They are very funny together.

Mark asked me, “Do you remember the time we smoked pot and you were lying in our driveway saying you thought your throat was going to close?” This I did not remember, but hearing Mark’s recollection of this event, I laughed harder than I have in ten years, probably. We were extremely ill-behaved teenagers. Now that I think about it, I’m sure I behaved worse than I might otherwise have, due to spending so much time with those crazy young men.

Mark, I’m happy to say, came out just fine. He stayed home with his and his wife’s three daughters, as his wife had the better job, and now that their girls are college age and older, he works, and bicycles, and plays Frisbee golf, and skis, and has dogs, and goes here and there with his wife. It sounds like he has a really nice life, full of things and people he loves.

Monday, September 22, 2014

I Ain’t Gonna Tell Nobody

I started reading How Can I Help?, the first of four chaplaincy books to arrive at Modern Times, and at first I didn’t care for it. It seemed hippie-ish and overly general and self-evident, but not far into it, I came upon something that really struck me: “Implicit in any model of who we think we are is a message to everyone about who they are. … The more you think of yourself as a ‘therapist,’ the more pressure there is on someone to be a ‘patient.’ … You’re buying into, even juicing up, precisely what people who are suffering want to be rid of: limitation, dependency, helplessness, separateness.”

The book is liberally studded with anecdotes and personal reflections. A few pages later was one woman’s story about a homeless woman she came to love so much that she eventually considered inviting the woman to live with her. She wrote about doing everything she could in her capacity as social services worker, but it wasn’t enough, and the woman finally said, “You know, dear, there’s nothing you can do for me anymore.” One evening, they sat together in silence in a rainy park as night fell, and the social services woman never saw her friend again. I could all too easily imagine that being me and B., and I cried and cried reading it.

My shift at the soup kitchen has a peculiarity, as I may have mentioned, which is that besides fetching second bowls of soup for those with mobility problems, we fetch second bowls of soup for everyone. Some volunteer just started doing this, and it stuck, and now every server/busser for this shift does the same thing. Most guests are pleased and grateful, a handful say, “I’ll get it,” and one or two, you can tell, are offended, which is probably because they feel they are being treated as if they aren’t capable of standing in line for another bowl of soup or of taking their empty bowl to the bussing station. Of course that is not our intention. It’s because we want our guests to know that they are not only welcome, they are special and they are loved.

I now know who the people are who always say, “I can do it,” and I don’t approach them, but I bump into this over and over with D., who walks with a cane. I most particularly want to do something for him, because I really, really like him, but he most particularly doesn’t want people doing things for him. It must translate to him as, “I see you’re a cripple and that you can’t do this.” I should have gotten that before, but now, reading this book, it has sunk in completely, and I’m going to try not to offer to fetch D. anything anymore.

The soup kitchen serves Sunday brunch, with regular volunteers for the first through fourth Sundays of each month. When a month has a fifth Sunday, they post a sign-up sheet for the 7-11 a.m. shift. I’m thinking about becoming a fourth Sunday volunteer, so I thought I’d do the fifth Sunday in August and see how it went before committing. I met several new people, all very nice, and spent maybe an hour unwrapping sliced bread and putting it onto big trays. Then I asked the crew chief if I could go hang out in the yard with the guests, and she agreed enthusiastically. I saw several regulars, though not D. or B.

The crowd was extremely light, and we were able to start serving a bit early. When the volunteer started calling numbers—“Up to 10, up to 20,” and so forth—a large man seated in a wheelchair and wearing a puffy fake fur vest, yelled, “Oh, hell no! It’s not supposed to start for 22 minutes.” Nonetheless, he wheeled over toward the door and the volunteer told him, “She’ll help you get lunch,” meaning me, and I accompanied the man inside. We were serving pasta with tomato sauce, salad, and fruit, and the man brayed, “Pasta only, lady! Pasta only, lady!” There were several women behind the counter, evidently used to this fellow and even fond of him; they smiled at him. One asked, “Would you like salad?” and he yelled even louder, “Pasta only, lady!”

I asked where he’d like to sit, and he said, “Outside, by the gate. You can wheel me.” With some effort, I got us over the bump in the doorway and outside, where the man began yelling, “I ain’t gonna tell nobody! I ain’t gonna tell nobody!”, which translated to, “It’s my hope you’ll take the initiative to get out of the way when you see I’m approaching.”

I joked, “We’ll see if we can pick up some speed,” and he said severely, “Don’t pick up no speed!” When we got near the gate, he stepped out of the wheelchair and walked smartly to his spot.


Later that day, Tom and I went to Dolores Park for a performance of the S. F. Mime Troupe. Charlie from Howie’s had said he might be there, and indeed he did come along and join us. It was hot and sunny, but the show was good.

Thursday, September 18, 2014


Amy and Jim at their new place

Ginny near the cafe where we had lunch

Lisa M. in Tilden Park

Random crank in Tilden Park. Looks grumpy!

(Click photos to enlarge.)

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Leisure Lifestyle Development

Four years ago, I considered applying to the Sati Center for Buddhist Studies’ Chaplaincy Training program. I was doing hospice volunteering at the time and thought it would be fantastic to hang around with old and/or dying people full time, which I still think, except that I now think it would be equally fantastic to hang around with homeless people. I decided that the job title most closely matching that ambition was “chaplain,” but was discouraged when I learned that to be an accredited chaplain, you need a master’s degree in theology (or equivalent thereof), which is the last thing on earth I want. There do happen to be two or three places in the country where you can get this degree in a Buddhist context. One of them is right in Berkeley, and it has a program that focuses on chaplaincy. Every person who graduates from that program gets a job in the Bay Area right away, according to the person who runs it.

Besides being a course of study I have zero interest in, the school in Berkeley is expensive and, while it claims to encompass the various strains of Buddhism, it appears to be slanted toward Japan and Zen, so I’m probably not going to do that particular program, anyway. There might be a low-residency degree program that would be a better choice if I decide I must be a professional chaplain. But you can also be a volunteer chaplain, and you can think of yourself as a chaplain whether you work as one or not.

The Sati Center program does not fulfill all of the requirements for becoming an accredited chaplain, but can potentially afford a handful of units toward the master’s in theology, and sounded like a wonderful thing in its own right. It is taught by Jennifer Block, who is a former chaplain and now teaches other chaplains; Gil Fronsdal, a vipassana teacher and also a Zen monk; and Paul Haller, a Zen priest who started out as a Theravadan monk. The latter is also my absolute favorite teacher from the Zen Center. Virtually every talk I ever heard there was utterly incomprehensible, except for his, which were clear, charming, and inspiring.

I started the application but the program requires ten hours a month of volunteering, which I concluded was not really feasible to add to my schedule. Earlier this year, I got an email about a day on chaplaincy at the Sati Center, which is in Redwood City, 30 minutes or so from here by City CarShare car. I attended, and got to thinking again about the Sati Center’s program. A woman who had done it spoke and said she had loved it so much, she wished she could do it a second time.

I brought home several pages of notes and pamphlets and then forgot about it, except that when requesting days off from work, I made sure to retain enough days to do the program, just in case. Somehow or other, before the deadline had arrived, I decided to apply. Probably something to do with the soup kitchen, wanting to make sure I am bringing everything I can to that service.

I sent in all my stuff, including a letter of recommendation from Howie, and got an email back about arranging a phone interview. I called Jennifer at the appointed hour and she said, “I can see from your application that you would be a good fit for this program, and we’d like to invite you to enroll.” I thanked her and said, “That wasn’t very much suspense,” and she said she doesn’t like to keep people in suspense, for her own sake or theirs. She was delightful to talk to, down to earth and very calm and thoughtful.

She sent an email listing the four main books the course will use, and one of them was How Can I Help?, by Ram Dass and Paul Gorman, which was published in 1985. At that time, I was attending San Francisco State University, where I took a class called, if I recall correctly, Leisure Lifestyle Development. A certain relative of mine who studied economics at the University of Chicago found that risible, ditto another who studied naval architecture, but it was one of the most important classes I ever took. It was an examination of values: what is important to me? How do I want to spend my time? How will I balance self-care and care for others? How will I handle stress? I remember we watched a movie about a speeded-up world, with everything rushing by. Some of the readings were from the newly published How Can I Help? It was nice to bump into that book again, and be reminded of that wonderful class.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Decluttering Successfully Uncompleted

I think I went too far with all this decluttering in that every day I miss certain irreplaceable objects, and the places where they were look sad and empty, so I’ve decided not to go ahead with the remaining sectors of my small apartment. The decluttering project is concluded and Barbara Reich has fallen off her pedestal. She was really talking about people with entire houses full of really too much stuff, which is not my situation.

I miss my mother’s gold casserole with a tiny crack in it and a certain butter knife, though it still seems OK that the ugly vase and many other things are gone. I still have my mother’s mechanical pencil and my father’s toy truck, and the last blouse my grandmother ever wore, found hanging on a hook on her bathroom door. It still smells faintly of her perfume, 12 years later.

I was telling my mother I planned to get rid of my LPs and turntable, etc., and she said, “I do not support this,” and she was right. It’s not time yet, and might never be. I’ll leave this for Hammett to do after I’m gone. Here he is, resting up for the future task, or maybe just for more resting up.

I had also been trying to think if there was a way I could get rid of my stereo receiver and old speakers and still use my turntable, and I made the thrilling discovery that, since the turntable has a pre-amp built in, I can plug it directly into the back of the new computer speakers, and I can do the same with my tape deck! But, a few days later, while listening to a Todd Rundgren song, I heard a truly terrible sound that I could not get rid of via the equalizer in iTunes.

I belatedly went to Amazon to read the reviews for the computer speakers, which are overwhelmingly positive, but on this occasion I read the 1-star reviews, about 50 of them, and a good number of people complained about the sound quality: overly booming bass, nonexistent midrange, tinny treble. There was a chart comparing this speaker system to other Logitech speaker systems that have 25 or 40 watts of power. These have 200. So now it’s back to the drawing board on all of this, because it appears that for great sound, I might need to use my old stereo receiver and old speakers, and that is really too much stuff to have on my desk.


A couple of weeks ago, I took a walk with Elea on a warm Saturday, and then had a phone date with Margaux. In the evening, I had a burrito with George, one of the core group of volunteers at the soup kitchen. He regularly goes to volunteer at San Quentin, as well, and I offered to treat him to a burrito if he’d tell me all about it. I thought I might like to go along with him one week. I must have mentioned this to my mother, because the next thing I knew, I’d received a copy of Robert D. Hare, Ph.D.’s Without Conscience: The Disturbing World of the Psychopaths Among Us in the mail, so I could choose my incarcerated husband carefully.


I was noticing one day very clearly in sitting practice that when something unpleasant arose, such as a physical sensation, the reaction was not one of aversion and trying to push the unpleasant thing away, as I would expect, but of shrinking away: There was a fear of fully perceiving the experience, coupled with a fear that the experience wouldn’t go away, that it would linger and maybe even become worse.

I also noticed that when a pleasant sensation arose, or perhaps a pleasant sound, like a certain kind of airplane, there arose a desire for the pleasant thing to continue, certainly, but also the mild anxiety that it would go away. So in the unpleasant there was mild fear, but also in the pleasant.

When I became Howie’s student, in 1990, I was excited that meditation and mindfulness might help with the compulsive eating I’d struggled with since I was seven years old. I figured that, instead of eating when I wasn’t hungry, I’d use my nascent mindfulness skills to notice what was happening, and thus not need to eat compulsively. This approach did not meet with immediate success, and I mentioned it one night at sangha. Howie asked how long I’d been practicing eating compulsively. If we had that conversation roughly a year after I became his student, then I had been practicing it for 22 years. He advised that it might then take that long to get the hang of doing something else. He was precisely correct. It’s been 23 years, and very recently, since going on the Tejaniya-style retreat at Spirit Rock in April, I have noticed a major change in the realm of eating.

I now see that, for most of those 23 years, I was on the Mindfulness Diet. (By the way, at Rainbow most recently, I saw that phrase, used sincerely, on the cover of one of the Buddhist magazines.) That is, I was attempting to use mindfulness to reach a predetermined goal, that of not eating when I wasn’t physically hungry. Basically, I was trying to use mindfulness in the service of grasping: I want a certain result, and mindfulness will help me get it. That was the idea, anyway. It absolutely did not work.

Since coming back from the retreat, I’ve been practicing a more open awareness. Rather than choosing an object and attempting to stick with it or drill down into it, I aspire to notice how all things are working together: What thoughts are arising? Is there wanting something to happen or wanting something not to happen? What am I aware of?

Thus I am aware that I am walking to the refrigerator and that I have an unpleasant task to do. Or I’m tired, but have several things I must do before going to bed. Or I have finished a task and will be beginning another, but am in between right now. And as soon as I see that, assuming I wasn’t actually physically hungry, the urge to have a snack disappears. The cause that created that condition—namely, unperceived anxiety—no longer exists.

(Click photos to enlarge.)

Tuesday, September 09, 2014

Divestment and Discovery of Objects

The decluttering is off to an excellent start. I’m philosophically in tune with this, so it was a short hop from “But I might need these hundred pounds of expired batteries someday” to ruthlessly placing objects formerly considered to be of great sentimental value in bags bound for the thrift store. The hundred pounds of batteries went to the soup kitchen.

A wondrous transformation was effected in many areas of my small apartment. I asked myself, “I know this happened to belong to my grandmother, but do I really love it? Do I ever even look at it?” I also kept in mind what my new guru Barbara Reich says about what we’d like to do or intend to do versus what we actually do do, and consequently got rid of, among many other things, some pretty fabric I’ve been meaning for years to make into a certain thing. I’d like to do that, but evidently not enough to have done it in the past year, or the several years before that, so into the trash it went, as the thrift store doesn’t take fabric or linens.

I parted with an ugly ceramic vase with a frightening face with bulbous rubbery features on it. I don’t remember how this came to me, but it was serviceable for keeping colored pencils and highlighters in, and I felt obligated to safeguard it as a certified unique object. But I never really loved it, and drawing with colored pencils is more a thing I’d like to do than a thing I actually do, and why do I need four highlighters? One is plenty. How often do I highlight anything? One highlighter was easily stored in another pen holder, and the remaining highlighters, the colored pencils, and the vase all went to the thrift store, along with a little square metal case with a handle sticking out of it. When you press the latch, the lid springs open and a curved piece of metal flips out: a little personal ashtray for ladies playing bridge in the 1950s! It’s a groovy thing, and it has some of my grandmother’s own cigarette ashes still in it, but do I love it? And how many times a year do I spend time with it? So I took it to the thrift store, but dug it out of the bag and explained to the fellow exactly what it was, so it could be fully appreciated and sold for $100.

Soon I’m going to be getting to books: am I ever going to reread this book? I do tend to regard books as actual friends, and to love them, ditto my vinyl LPs, so those may be a bit tricky.

After the thrift store, it was off to the soup kitchen with three bags of stuff to give them, including a brand-new garlic press and a brand-new can opener, items that had been in a kitchen cupboard in case I needed them someday. I sat on the two-person bench just inside the gate and handed out numbered meal tickets to those arriving. The tickets are just to help manage the initial flow into the soup line. Once things have slowed down, we stop giving out tickets and people can just walk in and get in the food line; there may not be a line at all at that point. No one is turned away. After I was done giving out tickets, I went to fetch second bowls of soup and bus tables.

One guest said that he had taken a shower, which the soup kitchen offers, and that he was “clean—zestfully clean.”

Dennis had a new hat that said “Obey” on it, with a picture of a skull, and said it was yet another “ground score.” He finds a lot of good stuff, always very clean. He said that’s because if it was dirty, he wouldn’t touch it. Then he hinted that if I were ever to think of parting with my hat, he would take it off my hands. I think he said, “I could help you recycle that hat.” I said I thought he had a policy against putting his hands on anything that is filthy, and pointed out its very visible wear, but he said, “It has a certain panache,” so I agreed that if I ever decide to upgrade, the hat is his, minus the pin on it with the pair of shifty eyes peering out of the darkness, which Dennis himself gave me. However, it may be quite a while before the decluttering initiative extends to my hat.

Thursday, September 04, 2014

Excited to Finally Be a Member of the Special Club

I lately received my first copy of the AARP magazine and was pleasantly surprised. I remember once seeing an issue at the home of some people I knew who were nice enough but really, really old (I’m referring to my parents when they were 50, or however old they were when they got their first issue of the AARP magazine) and it struck me as being a dreary little leaflet, but the copy I received was colorful and appealing. It waded into the what-to-eat fray, sifting out a few facts that supposedly no one disagrees with, such as that people who eat an excess of protein are four times more likely to die of cancer than those who eat moderate amounts.

The most riveting article was a long one on decluttering, which I did a round of after reading Gretchen Rubin’s The Happiness Project. But Barbara Reich is stricter—if you haven’t used it in a year, get rid of it—and I’m inspired anew. She says you should only have things that are beautiful, useful, or that you love. She says you should not store other people’s mementoes. She says you shouldn’t leave getting rid of unnecessary stuff for your children to do after you’re gone. She says you don’t need four wooden spoons!

I have far too many sentimental items: “That was my father’s/mother’s/grandmother’s/Carlos’s!” or “That was mine when I was a child!” I have the simple wooden puzzle I put together when I was three years old, and a stack of my contemporaneous artwork, and the Raggedy Ann and stuffed animals I communed with in those days. I have costume jewelry of my grandmother’s and photos she took of people I don’t recognize, the mechanical pencil my mother used in the 1960s, a toy truck from my father’s childhood. All these items seem tremendously precious—they seem to fit into the category of well-loved—but since many of them are in a cupboard that gets opened just a few times a year, it’s hard to claim that I really need them.

I also have far too many but-I-might-need-this-someday items, including 20 pounds of wires. Barbara Reich says get rid of those wires! If you really ever need one of them, go to Radio Shack and buy one.

Then there’s the decades of journal entries in the filing cabinets in the walk-in closet that is now more of a peer-in closet. If my clothes weren’t in there, I’d just nail the door shut and try to forget it exists. These days, I don’t print my journal out, but up until a year or so ago, I did, and there’s a lot of it. It’s essential to write it, one of the deepest impulses I have, but I almost never reread it. Nor is it going to be source material for a riveting autobiography—let’s just concede that. I’m contemplating getting rid of the very first volume and seeing if I die. If not, I could get rid of the second, and so forth.

I also have a stack of Carlos’s journals from about 20 years ago, most of which I will never read, due to time constraints, and which I’m sure he wouldn’t want me to read. They cover a year or so and were tucked away in a high shelf closet in his apartment. He probably had no idea they were still around and would be horrified at the thought of anyone perusing them.

I’d planned to skim through the AARP magazine and then take it to the soup kitchen, with the mailing label scissored out so no one thinks I’m old, but instead I’m thumbing and rethumbing it as if it’s a special double issue of Hair Band Spectator.

Wednesday, September 03, 2014

Blogger’s Extremely Accomplished Young Relative Does Two New Things on the Very Same Day

In mid-August, I flew to Seattle to visit David and Lisa, and my cousin and her family. The last time I visited, I took a bus downtown from the airport, but now there is the LINK light rail system, which is fantastic. It’s easy to use and costs just $2.75 for the 45-minute ride from Sea-Tac to the last stop downtown. From there, it was a walk of 10 minutes or so to my hotel. From the train windows, one can see green in every direction, not the lush, bright green of a Michigan summer, but a deep, dark, almost forbidding green. Sort of a Twilight green. Beautiful, in a serious sort of way.

I also noticed again how the colors of buildings are often more saturated than they would be in San Francisco. I discussed this with Lisa and she theorized that San Francisco’s light and pastel colors are a nice fit with the Mediterranean light, whereas Seattle’s gloomier weather calls forth cheerier, more vigorous shades.

After I went to my hotel room, I walked over to David and Lisa’s, which involved crossing a four-lane street at an intersection with no traffic controls. As I was deciding whether to try to do this or not, an old lady with a walker came up behind me and yelled, “Go! Go!” “OK,” I said doubtfully, and stepped into the street, holding up my hand, the old lady in my wake. I made it across pretty quickly, but had to go back and retrieve the old lady. David and Lisa advised against employing this procedure in the future. There’s an intersection near the hotel where this street can be crossed safely.

The three of us sat on David and Lisa’s new deck—they moved to a different unit in their building since my last visit—which has a great view of the Space Needle, and of part of Amazon’s massive headquarters, which fills a series of buildings. That area is booming due to tech, as in San Francisco. I admired their garden, which consists of a tomato plant and a basil plant, both thriving. We ate some freshly harvested tomatoes and they were delicious. Lisa shared fantastic news: she has been selected for a poetry on the bus program, one of 365 poets whose work will be featured on one of the area’s bus systems. But, even better, she is going to be one of 52 poets who will be interviewed and photographed and appear on a related website.

Then we walked to I Love Sushi of South Lake Union and had a marvelous sushi dinner, sharing an order of pumpkin maki for “dessert.” I had maki made with Copper River salmon and avocado, and a small order of shiitake tempura.

On Saturday, my cousin A. fetched me from my hotel and she and I and her darling one-year-old daughter, whom I was meeting in person for the first time, walked around near the waterfront and Pike Place Market. We stopped at a little café for light refreshments and the baby drank through a straw for the first time! Then we went to my cousin’s house in a town just north of the city and hung out while the baby “napped,” though we could hear via the monitor that she was mostly chatting animatedly to herself about this and that. I met their two dogs (Checkers and Belle) and three cats and my cousin and I got all caught up.

Her husband came home from work—he is a really sweet fellow; I was meeting him for the first time, as well—and we went to a lake not far off to visit his parents, who are absolutely lovely, too. A.’s husband grilled us all veggie burgers and we had a fine dinner together. The day featured a second milestone when the baby rode the rocking horse at her grandparents’ house all by herself. A. took me back to my hotel after dinner. It was a really nice visit, and it was good of her to schlep into town twice on the same day on my behalf.

By Sunday, David had left for a challenging multi-day bike trip, so Lisa and I had breakfast at Row House Cafe and walked down to the Center for Wooden Boats to see about going for a boat ride, but they had been on NPR in the past week, so there were a lot of aspiring passengers. (Note to the King: maybe next time we should go down to CWB just before 9 a.m., sign up for a ride at maybe 11 a.m., and then go have a leisurely brunch followed by a walk and/or tea.) Lisa recently went on a mostly women sailing trip and spotted a couple of the crew. We briefly boarded a pretty sailboat so Lisa could get a flyer from one of her friends, and even just sitting on the boat for a few minutes as it bobbed gently on the tranquil water, of which there is much around Seattle, was highly agreeable.

Next we went to REI’s flagship store, which is enormous, and I bought a hat. We had tea at a café not far from my hotel, and then I collected my stuff and took LINK back to the airport. It was very sunny. One doesn’t think of walking around Seattle sweating, but such was the situation that day.

At the airport, I had fish and chips for lunch, and got three grease splotches on my pants, which is good, because now they match the pair I got three grease splotches on eating a salmon burger in Ann Arbor in July. 

(Click photos to enlarge.)