Shoprite, 15th &
Republican, Capitol Hill, Seattle
it's been a busy summer
. when i was a
teenaged lifeguard sipping free snackbar
milkshakes on break or playing waterpolo in the
deep end with the swim team i coached, i used to
imagine how horrible it would be to be a regular
schmoe in jeans and shirt swinging a hammer on a
construction site in the heat. despite my
anticipatory horror at the prospect, somehow
it's become a self-fulfilling prophecy. i come
home begrimed, the day's dust turned to a fine
paste on my sweaty face. yet there's nothing i
seem to like better than putting things
together, and i've wandered down a lot of
different paths only to turn back as soon as i
felt trapped. the only job i'd prefer is one
where i'm lounging somewhere overlooking
swimmable water and waving to the letter carrier
as they bring me my latest royalty check,
preferably by small boat.
it's been a busy summer
and today was my first certified day off from
all wearying activities in weeks. i stayed in
bed till about 1:30, torn between napping and
reading. then i wrote some letters and wrapped
some packages, went across the street and around
the corner to the post office outlet, a private
enterprise but quasi-official insofar as it's
listed at usps.gov
and there's no upcharge for postage. it has that
small business feel, the proprietor himself the
only one i've ever seen working the counter.
adding to its charm is the subtle aroma of weed
i idled awhile
the grocery store, chatted with michael, a real
change vendor who used to be a union drywall
taper. "you can't beat a man at his trade," he
says. "run like clockwork if that's all he do."
i thought of him a little later in the day when
sarah and i went to the bank down the block to
get something notarized (what a fun day off!)
and saw their space being remodeled, fresh
sheetrock all around with white duct tape--duct
tape!--covering every corner, seam, and
screwhead (of which far too few). unorthodox, to
say the least and no workers anywhere to be
well, i had home projects
of my own to attend to, top of the list the
communal bench in the side yard which for weeks
has been fallen apart, legs up like a stricken
mammal. all it needed was some bondo and bolts,
but the ones i had were too short so i took a
left at the north end of the alley and slipped
a general store that gives hasegawa's on maui a
run for its money. coincidentally, shoprite was
also the name of a northeast grocery chain whose
were one of my earliest
glimpses of the risque adult world when i was a
slack-jawed televison-obsessed child. i asked
the owner of today's shoprite if i could take a
picture. he said yes, as long as he wasn't in
it. i didn't press, but he offered to step out
from behind the counter so i could get it in the
picture, just minus him. i showed him the
result. "it's good, yes, good!"
"do you want a copy? i could
email or print one for you."
"oh no, i do not need a
picture. i see this every day, morning to
i went back to the bench
with my eight shiny new zinc machine screws, not
exactly what i was looking for but enough to
make do till i get some proper galvanized
carriage bolts. the ones i had to settle for
were too long and two protruded from the
seatback so i hacksawed off the excess. just as
i was finishing off a jagged edge two
tennish/twelvish kids, dutifully helmeted,
stopped their bikes on the sidewalk where they'd
been riding and stared as i put away the pocket
saw and sat down on the bench with my laptop.
the boy said, "that used to be broken."
"yeah, i just fixed it.
progress is being made."
the girl, wise as only an
older sister can be, stated flatly, "it looks
"yeah, that's how it broke in
the first place. it's not a very good design."
"it should be fine if it
doesn't get moved around too much." i failed to
breach the beachhead of her skepticism.
i was glad they were tuned in
to their surroundings. it made me think back to
how i saw the world as a kid. yes, a broken
bench would definitely stick out, both as
landmark and portent.