seattle, in doses.

20 August 2011 § Leave a comment

(In order to best view the following, please listen to Porcupine Tree while reading.)

We’re in the midst of a golden age, as they say. You and I. Outside, the seas shimmer, the mountains mesmerize, and the rivers flow forth through canyons carved from a million years of being ignored but by sex-starved fish and cockblocking bears. Survival of the most elusive.

As am I.

It’s easiest to start relationships from the beginning. Travel’s easier once I’ve found the groove of things, said goodbye a few times, gotten my coattails caught in the closing train doors once or twice, and lost at least one pen. The truth is, it never feels real until it’s alreadyhappening. We can talk and speculate and wonder a hundred what-ifs and would-it-always-be-like-thises, but meanwhile, there’s something happening already. Someone’s getting comfortable with dropping anvils of information about what was going on twenty-something years ago, and we haven’t even had a beer yet. Soon, we’ll be talking about up and going, absconding to the Great Unknown, passport in one pocket, cash in the other, because that’s what I’m best at, or would be, if I ever had enough cash to fill an entire pocket.

That’s how it starts, and the transparent mystery which lurks behind me stays, sometimes long after I go. I’d take it with me if I could. Only the egoist writer in me wants desperately to be remembered. The rest of me, not so much. I crave little, and only break my own heart. I’m not damaged; I’m just impossible.

We went to the Seattle Poetry Slam this past week. It reminded me of Glasgow, when four or five people I’d met only days before accepted a last-minute invitation to Rio, an open mic on the West End where I’d signed up to read a few things I’d been working on. I hadn’t expected company. It’s easier to read to a strange audience, and I think – I think – they were my friends. (On my deathbed, I’ll think of Glasgow, and all it held for me that rainy week in October.)

My Seattle company, Heather, Josh, and Seth, the two former fishermen travelers, the latter a nine-to-fiver analyst for Microsoft, looked a little dismantled when the poetry took a turn toward rambled nonsense of midgetthought and low criticism. Then a girl named Maya Hersch took the stage, belted out a well-rehearsed piece about Anthony, a misunderstood, bumbling but noble brute, and some clever lines concerning her wrists. Over the course of the slam, she made it to the rest of her dressed-down body, which looked like she just got out of bed and didn’t know how to zip her sweater (it hung from her shoulders with fuck-you abandon), and then to her spirit and life and as all good things must end, but not so soon, so take that razor and watch it reflect the sunstariness in the sky while you smile up, hoping that some addict up in the sky might do the same.

Josh reacted to the slam in the way that I’d always wished someone would after I’d introduced them to this world: raw emotion, and the courage to share it. He approached the poets afterward and said something that made each of them smile. Maya avoided most of the attention, as I would in her position (though I’m not sure I’ve ever placed in a slam before, or even made it to the third round). When I shook her hand and thanked her, she smiled politely. The obsidian sparkle in her eyes was brighter in the shadow of the soundbooth than her lip ring had been in the spotlight.

The city enveloped me for a couple of days, much as New York did some months ago. The tattooed culture of Losers Gone Cool exploded in my eyes: suddenly the Radiohead nerds with the thick-rim glasses wore cool hats and plaid shorts and smoked cigarettes, drank microbrews and talked about who they knew where and how they’d met.

A gypsyfolk musician couple in Pike Market fawned each other with their eyes to the sound of guitars and fiddles and applause from Midwesterners who wore cameras around their necks like Jewish armbands and bought polished Seattle trinkets from the sun-drenched vendors like the city hadn’t seen a cloud or economic crisis in years.

Two blocks away, past the brilliant little bookshop with the handpicked selection of anarcho-soul searchers and travel literature, a man who looked like he belonged in a navy admiral’s uniform directed car traffic that merged from a 12-dollar-a-day parking garage. The reflective vest labeled Police did not suit him. He was an honorable man, from looking at him, but humble enough to receive what he could.

We make up all sorts of stories for people. Even ourselves.


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