- Essays: On The Road (And A Little Off)


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Rockvale TN may 25, 2010 - - I just got
back from a four-day trip to Seattle after
spending ten years away.  Most of the time that
I was there it felt as though I'd never left.

Got picked up at the airport by my friend
Shar, with whom I'd wanted to spend more
time but I was mission-driven and was never
able to get in touch wih her again.
Sharlene is a marvelous woman, an
entrepreneur, cuts hair, cleans houses,
picks up guitar bums at the airport. 
And does this all while looking like
Meryl Streep.

Not much has changed, as I think I've
indicated already.  One of my very good
friends, a man very careful with his and his
family's money, apparently fell first into
the clutches of a coke whore and then those
of the substance itself.  Sad news to me. 
But been going on for years
my friends tell me. Old news to them.

People still jumpin off the Aurora
Bridge.....  When I was living here
somebody shot the bus driver on the Aurora
Bridge and he crashed through the walls of
the bridge and landed nose first, big ole
articulated city bus, into the roof of
some apartments.  Lotsa bodies scattered
around.   Like a CSI scene.  I didn't
witness it, so maybe I'm merely repeating
exaggerations.  But I did see the bus.

Wednesday night, the 18th and the first
evening of my stay, I merely stayed at my
friend Catchowe's house, and didn't venture
any progress forward.

My mission, by the way, was to sort through
some stuff that had been stored in Seattle
and arrange for the transshipment back to
Tennessee of the best of the lot.  But
there was a lot to go through as I was to find
out the next morning.  Most of the stuff, that
which had been in storage,
was now at my friend Brian's.
So that Thursday found me first sorting a
box at Catchowe's, then leaping over to
Brian's to begin the beguine there. 
Finally the workday ended and I was
now free to go to Linda
Lee's Open Mike, where
she now presides at the Gypsy Cafe or the
Gypsy Pirate Cafe something gypsyish and
something piratey.  It's on Stone Way.

Nobody ramrods an open mike like Linda.
Break a string?  She's right there with one
from your case,
need a drummer? She's all over it.  And
vocals and guitar and bass.  Keeps it
moving along seamlessly.
I have loved her talent since I first
beheld it.  She loves to play, and has a
joyful attitude toward music.
Other friends I hadn't seen in ten years,
Fantastic Dan my major bass man here,
Jonathan Meyer, Billy
Spear, played a little with 'em all and it
was worth the trip just for those few
minutes.  And my BFF Neal
Storme made the evening complete.
Party broke up so I went back to my room,
the teetotaling Carol herself at the wheel.

Next day, Friday, found me back at Brian's
garage, freshly equipped with a new box to
put stuff in.
Ended up with a lot of stuff for Goodwill
and a lot of stuff for the dump.  Later,
Brian took me over to Ballard,
now regarded as the area to live in Seattle. 
Used to be Queen Anne when I lived here.
So anyway, Brian prepared me for my
introduction to his friend Arvin.  "Okay,
now, Panama, he's a redneck,
but you should be able to get
along with him if you don't mention Obama."
We met.  "Arvin, this is my friend Panama.
Panama, Arvin."  "So Arvin, how's Obama
doin?" I ask.

"That sonofabitch isn't even a citizen, and
he's President of the country."  Brian is
torn between concern and mirth. 
"I know whatcha mean, pal," I say. 
What I do not say is stuff about
shifting demographics,
etc, that we should be standing up for this
particular sonofabitch just like we stood
up for the last one, who,
even though nobody ever questioned his
citizenship, didn't even get ELECTED.  But
this is all old tired shit to Arvin
I'm sure, as his is to me.  Besides, he
hates Dubya too.  He's a real tea-bagger.
And I'm a real socialist.
And for that matter, though I don't
hateHateHATE Obama, I feel pretty fucked
over by him, and by Harvard, and
by the best and brightest of Chicago.  Is
the phrase lying cocksuckers a little over
the top?  I can never tell.

So we go to the Viking Bar and drink beer
and talk about Vietnam, and neither of us
is so full of shit as to say we served there. 
Arvin has a date with his wife,
so Brian takes me back to Carol's
and I crash.

And so my four days progressed: up in the
morning and over to Brian's, pawing through
mounds of stuff, reducing it to trash,
giveaway, and bring back home to mama. 
Finally, on my last full day, Sunday,
I made one more trip to Goodwill, this time
buying the biggest suitcase I could find so
that I could load it
onto the plane for the trip home.

Though I had been gone only these few days,
I missed Tennessee because though Seattle
is wonderful, it is COLD and DAMP, slim. 
Everyone told me that the weather had
been just perfect before I arrived,
but it rained the whole time I was there.

Next day I got  into Brian's car and took
I-5 down to the airport.  I checked my
bags, including my huge
Goodwill with the sidewalk skycap, who
weighed it and said I was thirty pounds
overweight.  This resulted
in a flurry of asses and elbows as I took
all the heavy stuff I could fit into my
little carry-on, and all the
light stuff from it into the Goodwill.
Then I checked both the big 49.9 pound bag
and the little 49.9 pound bag.

I parked Brian's car and got on the plane.
When I left Seattle, the temperature was 53
degrees Fahrenheit.
When I got home four hours and sevral
changes in latitude later, it was 89.  
I got home with all my stuff.