When I had dinner with Ana in San Francisco (this would be the Ana from the KTS wedding, not the Ana in Barcelona) she was busily organizing her next project: an erotic novella with a Christmas theme.
When she innocently asked Where in the country do they cut down trees? it was clearly obvious that she needed to see where I grew up.
Although we only just barely knew each other I immediately started to woo her with promises of clearcuts and Kristmastown, USA. The Charm Offensive is mighty and powerful; she tried to resist but finally relented and flew up for the last week of the trip.
Ana wanted to find a lumberjack to learn about the woods, and a bad boy for character study and personal amusement. The credentials to qualify as a lumberjack were vague, but her Bad Boy criteria were specific: tall, tough, tattooed (preferably including neck), smart, and emotionally unavailable.
It was perhaps not entirely practical to search for a lumberjack in the bars of Capitol Hill, but a girl has to make do with the available resources – and I figured we could find a bad boy without too much effort.
Everywhere we went, people wanted Ana’s number, and more than one stranger immediately asked if they could visit her in SF. Bartenders served her endless free drinks, and since Ana doesn’t drink and I don’t touch hard alcohol we often forced Byron to, as Ana said, take it for the team.
During the day we trekked all over Seattle and Tacoma making new friends and haphazardly researching the history of logging. I showed her the original encampment at Alki, and the true Skid Row, and we picked blackberries at Camp 6 on Point Defiance.
Each excursion was fantastically amusing; though after a few days immersed in my highly efficient antics Ana did think to inquire Have I joined a cult?
At night we scoured all of my normal haunts with no success, until a flash of inspiration took us to Kincora, where whole tables of bad boys turned to stare at us as we walked in.
We ended up at a table with the Himsa kids, who pointed out a candidate with the comment His dick is so big it would break you.
Ana didn’t think that sounded like fun so I introduced her to BP, who grew up on the peninsula. He admitted (quite reluctantly) that he used to have a wood business.
I had forgotten that hanging out with smut writers cranks up the innuendo (and adventure) ratio. Ana gained valuable insight on the technical aspects of logging, but more importantly, the culture of my hometown.
BP looks and sounds just like my cousins and may well be one; in the middle of his anecdote about hurling flaming axes I interrupted and asked him to verify that people used to nail live kittens to trees. He shrugged in agreement, much to the horror of those who grew up in civilization.
Ana and Byron and I, with the occasional disapproving assistance of Jeff, rapidly developed a code of conduct to prevent what Ana called cock blocking. The boys were often parked with friends while we girls trekked from restaurant to bar to after party, interrogating potential candidates about their backgrounds in the forest and evaluating their relative badness.
Whenever Ana had a line on a good research subject I melted away to spend quality time with my scintillating new friend Mark Mitchell at the Bus Stop, officially my favorite bar in the whole world.
The intensity of the search leached into every aspect of our week, turning even the smallest and most routine outing into an adventure. One afternoon at a cafe we were plotting our next excursion. I was trying to implement some level of organization on a chaotic plan when I noticed that a barista in short shorts was cleaning the counter next to us – over and over again – and shimmying to a theremin version of Loving You by Minnie Ripperton.
The performance certainly wasn’t intended for me, though I could not tell which of my companions she was going to hit on. I left for a moment and when I came back she was practically giving Byron a lap dance; this is what happens when you spend your free time with notorious flirts.
It was easy to get caught up in the socializing and neglect the reason for her visit – but I was determined to take Ana to the peninsula.
Along the way we stopped at a chainsaw carving school:
The main destination was Shelton, where nothing has changed since I moved away eleven years ago:
The place still has a functioning mill:
And is officially Kristmastown – a perfect setting for lumberjack erotica!
We also saw actual wildlife: a fox, a seal, and a deer!
Somewhere out in the countryside we stopped at a Chevron, and when I went in to inspect the restroom (gas stations represent my true cultural heritage) Ana finally found a real lumberjack!
Or at least, someone who hauls logs. Her approach was simple – she walked over and said I like your truck.
By the time I was done tsking at the overflowing waste baskets and lamenting the lack of gritty pink soap she had acquired extensive insider information from her logger; I came out just in time to take their picture.
With one mission accomplished we returned to the wild decadence of our city search. Ana dressed in a dashing little sailor suit, pointed to her nautical theme necklace, and said Tonight I’m going to hook me a man!
I introduced her to countless suitable people but somehow none of the boys matched her exacting standards. On the final night we had nearly given up hope; standing in front of the Bus Stop at midnight, I explained the problem to Zack and Greg. Both fit most of the profile – tall, tough, tattooed, intelligent, and, as the kids say, hot.
But evidently they were too sincere; like me, they can be menacing when appropriate – but wear their hearts on their sleeves:
The three of us stood on the sidewalk watching with various levels of amazement as Ana swept through the Cha-Cha, selecting and rejecting with ruthless force.
When she made her final choice and zipped past us on the way to see a show at the Comet Greg asked Do you think she knows she is going out with a drug dealer?
I just shrugged; we agreed that we did not understand the ways of Ana, though the whole thing was excessively amusing.
There has been much debate over whether or not people flirt with me, and my relative ability to reciprocate. I explained the hypothesis to Ana and she brushed it off with a brusque People are flirting with you. Pay attention!
So I did, checking with Ana for expert advice along the way. In the course of one week I recognized two pickup attempts, and at least four people overtly flirting (and that is a conservative count verified by Ana; the number of presumed but unproven is higher).
I found this quite puzzling. I have approximately the same clothes, hair, spectacles, lipstick; nothing about my appearance has changed, but people are interacting with me in a substantially different way. Various friends suggest that the flirting has always happened and that I just failed to notice.
Historically this is perhaps true, in limited circumstances, when I already knew and loved the person. I’ve certainly never lacked friends, suitors, or conquests, even when I wanted to be alone. But something in my manner has changed in the last year. I am more tolerant of ambiguity, and willing to talk to strangers. Do I know how to flirt? According to impartial witnesses, yes. Do I practice the skill? Rarely – and judiciously. To summarize: this year I have become almost friendly.
One night we went to see DJ Laura at the Crescent, a bar I had never been to previously. We arrived late, after the crowd was uniformly wasted, and my ass was patted by strangers more times than…. well, ever; strangers have never previously dared touch me.
At some point a drunk girl grabbed my arms and tried to make me dance. I protested that I don’t know how but she started shoving me around and grinding, and when I failed to have rhythm she took offense. I had to kiss her cheek and gently shove her off on other partners.
Just before closing Byron and Jeff took the floor to sing a duet of Feel Like Making Love:
Jeff threw a dinner party in our honor and a whole crowd of people turned up. I was, of course, delighted to see old acquaintances and make so many new friends. Xin and Niki both emailed that they couldn’t make it, and of course many of the Bus Stop bartenders were working, but Holly Chernobyl, Shannon, Ramona, Matt, David, Jessie, Sarah, Darlene, Sheila, Julia, Lynnette, Joey, Zoe, Kristi, Laura, the Sexy Mailman, and very tall Mark all turned out, along with others I’ve forgotten or did not get a chance to talk to.
I was particularly pleased by the opportunity to hang out with Ade; there are very few people in the world who can laugh at my wicked stories (the ones I will never publish), fewer still who have stories to offer in return.
We talked and talked and the party pulsed and the guests consumed astonishing quantities of alcohol. Ana went to bed long before the guests left as there were neither lumberjacks nor bad boys present; Byron locked himself in his room at two in the morning; and Jeff kept pouring champagne into my cup until my brain went fuzzy.
The raucous antics upset the upstairs neighbors, who tried to intimidate us by filming the scene, until Holly screamed Do you want to see my pussy? at the camera.
The other night I went on a dinner cruise featuring several hundred computer scientists. One of my favorite people in that crowd asked in amazement Whatever are you doing on the Ship of Geeks?
I would never turn down a chance to go on a boat ride.
However, the trend of meeting other people from the past continued; the most amusing happened when we ran into someone Byron once had a fling with, and learned that she was working two doors down from our apartment.
The coincidence meant that we had to be friends, and she very kindly offered to be my surrogate mother for a shopping excursion; she picked out my new lipstick and then insisted that I try on dresses and show her each one. I’ve never had such a ladylike afternoon, nor have I ever found three new dresses that I liked and could justify purchasing.
Left to my own devices I never spend money on myself, and I left the tags on for a week – but all three eventually made it into my suitcase.
I didn’t run into anyone I recognized but nearly every night I met someone else who grew up on the peninsula. Conversations went something like this:
Stranger: Do you remember that time when those kids were murdered, except the one who just got an extra smile carved into his face?
Me: Yeah, my dad cleaned up the blood splattered restroom where he went to wash afterward. The sheriff took away the towel dispenser as evidence and still hasn’t returned it – my folks are still irritated twenty-five years down the line.
After Hometown Connection Number Eleven I was convinced that I would run into someone I’ve dated, and that they would foolishly try to speak to me.
I prepared to blithely introduce them around – This is X, that sociopath I’ve mentioned – we haven’t talked in sixteen years!
Or Oh, this is Y, my serial rapist ex. Don’t think you’ve met?
But my strange luck held out – the people I met remained familiar strangers, the final one spotted at 2 AM during our final visit to the Jade Pagoda (RIP). I nodded a hello, left a big red lipstick print on Jeffrey’s cheek, and headed back to the safety of Capitol Hill.
The other day I was pleased as punch to finally introduce Byron Number One to Byron Number Two. We had an excellent dinner and chat before they indulged my newest passion: the egg circus vending machine at Uwajimaya!
Later that night I met a guy named BP who looks just like my cousins, and discovered that his brother used to work for my grandfather. We had a fascinating conversation about the relative merits of the gun range in Silverdale, the unsolved murders we remember from childhood, and other points of hometown trivia. I was relieved that we were too far apart in age to actually have known each other.
Then later in the evening he introduced me to someone else, who proceeded to reel off a list of everyone I ever knew in the eighties.
Oh, except those I dated; but that might be attributed to the fact that we were friends in elementary school.
I swiftly redirected the conversation to roller rinks.
Imagine my surprise to open The Stranger and find a photograph of myself, without having first done something like “perform on a stage in front of an audience.” And no, it isn’t the Drunk of the Week.
Jeffrey says I look badass and pissed off. I believe we enjoyed the show – we just objected to being photographed:
The East London Massive was supposed to show up here this week but each individual member has elected to cancel rather than face the chaos at Heathrow.
This is unfortunate as I was looking forward to showing the crew around Seattle; there isn’t really anything to do when they visit us in Cambridge, aka the city with only one good restaurant. I think that they would quite enjoy the clubs and bars on the hill.
In the past week I have spent most of my time with two six foot six men wearing all black, which makes me feel like I have bodyguards, even if I’m the only tough person in the trio.
The adventures have been relentless, including parties and barbecues and late nights at the Bus Stop. We even went dancing at the Lo Fi for Emerald City Soul, an excursion that featured two completely novel and unexpected experiences: I danced, sort of, which was surprising and delightful.
Then this fellow tried out a stereotypical pickup line on me – which was amusing not least because we’d previously had dinner together and he didn’t recognize me (it might have helped if he had looked at my face instead of just my torso).
Between my complicated past and Byron’s penchant for turmoil there is always a high likelihood of social drama, but so far neither of us has stumbled across any skeletons. The only confusing thing so far is the fact that strangers keep recognizing me — that messes with my misguided belief that I am invisible.
The best part of this phenomenon? I’ve now met a large number of people who have had major health problems, but continue to lead full lives with a wicked sense of humor. I’ve never really had a peer group before!
Jeff says that my life resembles a Hal Hartley film but I disagree; my days include too many elements of farce.
Most of my memories of Seattle are from childhood – dreary trips to the doctor, harrowing surgeries, pain, fear. Or of adolescence, when my driving need to leave home took precedence over anything else.
The two years that I lived here as an adult did not mitigate the past; that short residence had the opposite effect. I could have settled for a pleasant middle class existence in my pretty house on the hill, but the view of the mountains just taunted me. When I left the country I didn’t even plan to come back for a visit.
It is a surprise to find myself back here again without any regrets, having a brilliant time. I do not understand how any of this happened though I do find it all quite amusing.
At the Hideout:
Wandering at night:
Rosyvelt at the Comet:
Greetings from a portion of Seattle that never existed; or rather, that has been built over from scratch by Paul Allen.
The Cascade neighborhood was once just a stretch of decrepit warehouses and some saggy if beloved apartment buildings like the Lillian. Now the place is overflowing with shiny empty condominium developments punctuating the fake waterfall and climbing wall of REI.
This creates an eerie sense of displacement, as though I’ve taken up residence in a diorama, but again – it would be ridiculous to complain. Although I abandoned Seattle on purpose I still love this city.
Lisa Jervis found it quite amusing that I am stuck at the W once again. Years ago we found ourselves wandering in a daze in the Seattle version of the hotel, when an internet start-up threw a peculiar party for young feminists in an effort to woo us into a dodgy scheme they had (partially) formulated.
That weekend was jammed full of parties and food and treats that we potential clients did not appreciate; my estimate is that it cost over one hundred thousand dollars, though I am probably being conservative with the figure. And, of course, none of us signed with the firm.
That was certainly the oddest experience I had during the dot.com years, and most of us were completely mystified by the ordeal. Though the encounter was hilarious and definitely worthwhile; I met Inga for the first time, along with scores of other fantastically smart editors and publishers. At one point Ariel flicked the ash off her cigarette and murmured Watch out. The W is like a portal into another world.
I’m not sure about the others, but this has certainly been the case in my life. The W chain seems to enjoy some kind of special relationship with high tech firms. It is the facility we are routinely billeted to, even if we request an alternate address.
It would be churlish to complain about free accommodation anywhere, let alone in luxury hotel rooms. Staying in these places has certainly taught me a great deal about how to communicate with people who are not remotely my sort.
Hotel visits have also forced me to exude the confidence of the entitled classes. For example: I am no longer stopped by security on suspicion of being a prostitute, no matter what I wear.
But that doesn’t mean that I enjoy these idylls. My mother cleaned hotel rooms when I was a kid, and my father is still a janitor. There is something deeply wrong about letting other people make my bed and tidy my room. I can’t even cope with such ministrations when I am bedridden in a hospital.
Though I do admit that hanging out in the lobby and the bar is useful for my sociological research projects on the mating rituals of the human species. Last night I was deeply amused to sit for an hour watching people in white trousers act silly and spend money.
We were scheduled to spend the rest of the summer at the W but I used up vast quantities of my own work time to identify an alternative that would not be so painful. It took a great deal of strategic effort but I finally found an apartment to rent.
I am very excited to have a fridge that is not crammed full of tiny liquor bottles.