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Picture of the Day

July 16, 2016


The way I looked, I was embarrassed to leave the house. I was walking to a party in Madrona, Elise's 45th birthday, so I was bringing a stack of 45s to play in a vintage light blue and white plastic disk-go-case, which by happenstance neatly matched my 1960's cardboard dejay swinger portable record player, both of which I color coordinated with a light blue cycling shirt with white stripes. Hell, even the gift I was bringing, vol. 1 of robZtv (where Elise makes an appearance in Chapter 15), matched the rest of the ensemble. I looked and felt like the stereotypical hipster, right down to the beard and tortoise shell glasses. What's worse, I was walking across the Central District, the formerly black part of Seattle which is
now rapidly gentrifying and blanching in the process. I felt like an invader. And a rather twee and fey one at that.
    First stop was Trader Joe's where I picked up a six of Clausthaler, my favorite malt beverage. The cashier asked
my plans, I said I was going to a house party. "Is that a cake?"
    I lifted the lid off the 45s, "Yeah--a layer cake of plastic."
    "I want you to come to MY party." I gave her my card, the one I made for the book I wrote. "Are you Buzz?"
    "It's my alter ego." Her colleague at the next register chimed in, "I've got a drinking alter ego, too!"
    "Well, that used to be mine," I mumbled.
    My cashier was named Jules and I felt less like a turd walking out than I had coming in.
    The walk was super pleasant, the weather just perfect, the way Seattle in summer ought to be--sunny, dry, not too hot at all,
with a lingering golden light on the slow slide to sunset. I passed an abandoned house and relished its decrepitude. Too much
decrepitude is no good, but the absolute lack of it is soulless and sterile. Most of the new restaurants I pass hold no appeal, everything so sparse and bright, square and right, more clinical than hospitable. Same for the cookie cutter boxlike houses and the nondescript cars that crowd both sides of every street. So, yeah, let's hear it for a little seasoning, the sagging fence and peeling paint, the set-upon porch and lawn worn down by play.
    I was still feeling like an ass when I stumbled upon a strange little lot at 29th and Columbia, a hand-painted sign welcoming me to Nora's Woods. The light was hitting just right so I detoured through it, hoping to find a way out at the top of the fairly steep incline. An older black couple was cleaning up and tending some flowers in the uppermost corner where the winding trail inevitably led me. Madrona was a historically mixed neighborhood, nicknamed "The Peacable Kingdom", but it too has been skewing richer and whiter in the past 20 years. Again, I felt like I was the face of gentrification and half-expected to be met with hostility for crashing the local spot. "Excuse me, is there an exit up here?"
    "Oh no, you gotta follow that path all the way back down. You can get out at the bottom corners but not the top."
    His companion asked from where she was sitting, "Is that a record player?"
    "Yep, and here's a stack of 45s." I twisted off the lid and showed them. They were delighted.
    "My dad used to have a record player about that size he used to hook under the dash of his Chrysler."
    "I was on Amtrak one time with this and it played just fine. I've seen pictures of those dashboard players."
    "Well, my dad had one! We used it!"
    I asked who Nora was and they weren't totally sure except she used to live around here and left behind a lot of bird houses. It's a city park but the community takes care of it. I thought of ancient forests, first peoples, and all the intrusions and displacements since then. I was grateful for this pocket out of time and strangers happy to meet in conversation. Later at the party I met another woman named Jules, second of the day, second of my life!
    When I first stopped drinking, parties and bars were the biggest challenge, but now that I've got the hang of it I don't miss it at all in social settings. Instead of hiding out and chasing an elusive buzz down the inside of a bottle, I've become interested in other people. I've got nothing against alcohol. In fact, I may like it too much. But ultimately it never satisfies, so instead of being unsatisfied with it after tying one on, I'm content to be unsatisfied with it by having none.