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Shared Stories

Seattle is a large city, people coming and going from all parts of the world, all stages in life, all of us have stories that begin, develop, continue then end. Bus stops are like frames from Zoetrope’s

To drive for Metro means that you have a certain understanding of the humor and tragedy of the people you see.  There is a level of empathy that we share through it all.  It might be because we are up close and see these people and talk to them, it might be something that Metro see’s in us and that’s why we are hired.

I have made numerous connections with other drivers, from the ones I was in training class, to the ones I see around the base, and the ones I work with loading Orca cards. 

When we load Orca cards it’s a 4-hour shift with another person, and you get to know them pretty well, and in all human situations you connect with some stronger than others. 

Often these connections are made because of our stories we share about driving, and we find each other to have a similar level of humor and empathy for the people we have encountered.

Some stories affect us deeply.

My friend Juda shared with me today.

“Was pretty much a normal day, I was picking up people, and you know how they are, you say “good morning” to everyone and only a few hear, or say it back, their busy doing what they do.

A middle aged Asian lady got on my bus, she was dressed professionally, clean, her body language was bent over, and a bit timid, then I noticed she had a very bad clefted lip, it went as far up into her sinus area, I said “good morning” to her as I looked her in the eye, I read something in her eyes that seemed she didn’t get recognized often, she said “good morning” back and went to a seat in the front, and put her head down immediately.  I was taken by her body language, she seemed to hide, It made me think of the situation she must be in, kids don’t have filters and ask their parents why she looks like that, and lets be honest, not all adults are kind and their reactions of disgust must hit her hard.  She must have had to deal with this her whole life. Why, I wondered, here in the US would someone have to have this situation… and other countries people are shunned….

She came up to me when we came to her stop, she thanked me for saying “good morning”

I looked her in the eye and said, your welcome, my eyes acknowledged her, we connected.

She has a problem she lives with everyday with no relief, she never gets away from it. 

It helped me see the difference from a problem, and a situation. that I have no real problems, I have situations.

I changed that day, I think of her when issues come up and it helps put it in perspective, I share this with other drivers.

We have reasons, a purpose in life, I’m not sure what these things are, but sometimes seeing something and feeling something that connects us makes sense of things.”

I took in his story, asked if I could share this with you.

He said, “please do, it changed me”.

Her story is ongoing, and we witness others who’s problems are ongoing or develop.

On 3rd and Madison a middleaged man first scanned his card with me sometime in July, I remember because he was particularly friendly and talkative and liked a womans dog that was shaking because of all the noise going on at the bus stop. after that, he was gone a few weeks then appeared again, but missing his right arm.

His short sleeve hid the length of what was left and he didn’t say hello back or say a word as I scanned his card.

Now during the second week of September, he has appeared again with an artificial arm.  He didn’t scan his card this time nor did he interact with anyone, including the dog, who is still scared by all the noise at a bus stop.

Which brings me to Gus.

Gus is a lab mix who was rescued from a kill shelter in Texas.

Gus just met his forever home partner at the  Sea Tac airport today and on his way to his new home by bus.   Gus is over 12, black fur, grey muzzle, just a tad overweight and a bit arthritic.  His front teeth are missing from chewing on a chain link fence.  He has scars on his nose, legs and ears that are believed he received from being a bait dog.

Gus seems to know his life has taken a turn for the better and loves that people are saying hi to him. He loves his new life partner as she shares with everyone his story and how she met him for the first time at the airport and he hugged and cried when he met her.  She is still flushed, his tail hasn’t stopped wagging, Gus and the people around him know that from today on, his life is going to be awesome.

Seattle is a large city, people coming and going from all parts of the world, all stages in life, all of us have stories that begin, develop, continue then end.  Bus stops are like frames from Zoetrope’s

One piece that is part of the story.

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Dragon Flies have fun with food

The Dragonfly’s were out in full,

I was sitting on the Dock last night, thinking this might be the last warm fullish moon.  I sat down just before sunset,Some of the trees are turning now, bits of orange are blending with the green. I  had my dinner of left over Teriyaki chicken and a rice beer. 

The Dragon flies were out in full, Iv never noticed just how many swarms, and how busy they are.  Nats were clouds of flutters, the Dragons, which id like to see in slow motion some time, were having a feeding frenzy.  They would buzz by my head and sometimes appear to be looking me in the eye.  I noticed more speicies than Iv seen here before, at least more colorful types.  With few exceptions, Iv only seen Black Dragons here, last night, I saw a full range,  yellow/green,   blue/green,  black, white, orange.  Ill have to look them up some time and see if their of different varieties or not.

They looked like they were having fun.  Most spiecies, including us, compete for food.  Hunting, growing, cooking, a lot goes behind getting a meal that our fast food resturants and convienient stores with  all their marketing has helped us ignore.  Food is a task.  Most animals spend all their time dealing with hunting for food and playing the odds on their next feast.

I wonder If the Dragons compete for food at all, or ever have to deal with a shortage.  I saw millions of Nats last night,

I saw hundreds, maybe thousands of Dragon flies.  The Dragons seemed almost joyus in their feeding, bouncing, hovering, rolling together and singly.  Figure eights and long flieghts across the lake and back.  Made me think of rush hour on the freeway.

Iv been to food circuses, County fairs, food and Art Festivals,  Theres  also a frenzy that people seem to enjoy,  as we walk through these events we eat what we want.  Its s a blast, a great way to eat and mix with people  and eat more than you should,  feels good doing it..

We have our food they way we want it, and I think, Dragon flies do too.

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Porch Lights

Was close to midnight when I stepped out of my cabin, I was in the mood for a walk and the beach air draws you out.

Was close to midnight when I stepped out of my cabin, I was in the mood for a walk and the beach air draws you out.

The Day had been overcast and the Clouds had now dissipated revealing so many stars, the sliver of the moon was hard to find.

I walked across the street towards the beach, my shadow from porch lights and window light shortened and disappeared as I reached the sand, dry sand is soft and firms up as you get closer to the waves, who were muffled and sounded deep.

I walked into the Pacific mist and kept walking towards those muffled waves and their slow rhythm, it was farther to the waves than earlier in the day, had to be Low tide.

I made the goal of walking to the edge of the waves; I like to touch bodies of water I visit. 

I looked behind me, back to the cabins that are rented out, no more porch lights or lights from windows, just blackness and mist, I closed my eyes and because it was so dark, there was no change in light, the waves felt louder now and completed their rumble with a fizz. I opened my eyes and was engulfed by the mist completely, there were no more stars, just the waves speaking over my breath. I walked farther and came to the edge of the water. I was farther away from anything than I had before.

I knelt and put my hand down. The wave came to my fingers, it was cold and soft almost like the mist around me.  I inhaled, I wanted to inhale the sound of the waves, then closed my eyes and there was no change in darkness.  My exhale was in treble, and the waves in bass.

I listed to my heart as it made its Duette with the waves.

I turned back to the cabin the waves behind me

I walked back in search of porch lights.

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3rd and Madison

He wore a Captain America Watch

Third and Madison

     As I was watching people waiting for their buses it occurred to me that I have only written about the homeless or odd characters that I see on the streets.  I had to ask myself why?  As a people watcher the odd people stick out and gain the most attention I guess, but aren’t we all odd?  I think all of us consider ourselves unique and rightly so, and for whatever reason we may not show the world how unique we are, but I heard once that you can not escape from being yourself.

Dressing for work is not what it used to be.  Casual Friday has turned into Casual week.  (At least here in Seattle) There are exceptions of course, and those people stick out more … Perhaps they are Lawyers, Accountants, Upper Management?  Mostly I see Jeans, sometimes black jeans, sometimes docker sort of things, button-down shirts, rarely do I see ties now.  There is one Gentleman, very stylishly chosen items, If you have ever seen one of Gregory Porters videos ( Jazz Singer with a great sense of style, that is only surpassed by his fantastically great voice) This Gentleman dresses similarly, except its all about 1 size or 2 too small, He must be in his late 60s and I’m guessing at this point in his life he is not going to buy any new clothes.  Blue blazer, white button-down shirt with an orange plaid, bright flower tie, light beige vest, tan slacks and brown wing tips, fedora, white beard neatly trimmed, semi long hair.  Some days he has a walking stick, somedays when he works at home, a briefcase. Ill Scan his card and say good afternoon, he repeats “good afternoon sir”   

He wears a Captain America Watch.

Its Mid-Summer here, days are over 75 and most 80 or more,

A young, beautiful Asian woman walks by in a ¾ length black leather skirt with a heavy sweater chevron pattern in gold and orange

I saw her walking from a block away, I scan her card she smells like lilacs, hair is perfect and no sign at all she might be warm under all that heavy clothing.

Not long ago, I walked through the Seattle version of the  Amazon Jungle,  Its where Amazon has centered itself here, I recommend going there if you haven’t seen it yet, I’m convinced as you walk through there your stepping into the future of how business is done.  Lots of dogs leashed to their owners, tablets or laptops on Bistro tables, people talking over their screens sharing info as they upload documents to each other then move to the next person, Fresh fruit is handed out for free by vendors, health food, veggie and fruit smoothies, and a dog café and indoor dog park where people work as their dogs socialize.

No suits in site.

A Security man dressed in a black uniform and black-tie walks by a couple of the dogs take notice and sniff the air after him then go back to their business.

A couple from Rome approached me today for directions and info, he dressed in casual slacks, salmon colored polo, she in capri pants and white blouse over a yellow tube top, they were beautiful, he looked like Cary Grant, she wasn’t far behind Sofia Loren.  She is a Contracts Lawyer in Rome, He’s a Banker, they are spending the summer on our west coast and just came up from Oregon yesterday. They wanted info on how to get to the Ballard locks.  Also, did I know a place to buy some football magazines? Her brother is a fan of the Redskins….  I pointed them to Bartells, they came back a few minutes later, huge smile on her face that she scored a couple of great magazines.

We chatted a bit and laughed easily with each other, he took a selfie with the 3 of us, I gave them a pair of free bus passes waved to them as they left my stop, both of them blew me a kiss as they left.  

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Transit Transients

I have been driving for Metro for about a year and a half now, Love this job. Driving has always been fun for me, and adding on the parade of people on a daily basis in a large beautiful city like Seattle, is the extra foam on my Macchiotto. Thank you for dropping by…. I hope you enjoy these stories as much as I do.

Three afternoons a week 3rd and Pine is my bus stop to load Orca cards, I watch people come and go, and have come to regard this as “the Parade”. Friday as I arrived a homeless man had been sleeping on the sidewalk for a reported 3 hours, a puddle of Urine had started to leak out from beneath his pack….I called it in , a supervisor arrived and let me know they had moved this guy earlier that day.
At the crosswalk another man was pushing his wheel chair that had run out of power, I ran over to help him out of the street .. he had been pushing it for a few blocks with no where to plug it in to get a quick charge and no one helped him, as I got him off the street he was so out of breath he could hardly speak, I pushed his chair to his shelter… The Police and Aid cars were busy at the McDonalds entrance with a person that overdosed…..
There were a small herd of pigeons picking at food droppings, one of the smaller ones only had a stump for a leg, no foot and painfully hobbled, came across a crumb and was pushed away by a bigger healthier pigeon….
A retired couple from Czechoslovakia asked me for directions to the Museum of Flight…… they loved Alaska and were looking forward to seeing more of Seattle until they flew into New York to visit relatives……… A woman of plus 70 with a cane gave a young 20s girl some kind of muffin from her bag….. Young lovers met there after work embraced as though it had been days, a bicyclist with a speaker turned up too loud rode by too fast bumped a young mans pack, skidded to a stop and apologized…… another man that resembled the guy that plays aqua-man had a huge Newfoundland, black with paws larger than my hands were getting attention and praise…….
a Seagull dropped his mark next to a small group of Chinese women that made them laugh as they stepped back…..
This was about 45 mins on Friday.

I have been driving for Metro for about a year and a half now, Love this job. Driving has always been fun for me, and adding on the parade of people on a daily basis in a large beautiful city like Seattle, is the extra foam on my Macchiotto. Thank you for dropping by…. I hope you enjoy these stories as much as I do.

Route 11

Route 11 starts in the Madison Park area. This is a wealthier neighborhood, Waterfront property in Seattle is plentiful but very pricey. Houses and yards are very well kept. This is a neighborhood where Interior Designers, Architects and Landscape Architects, Caterers, Craftsmen of all kinds have made their mark and therefor their living in. Sidewalks are always clean.

   Route 11 is a loop route, meaning you go to one end, then come back without going onto another route.  These routes are comparatively short but done for the reason of higher density.  I particularly enjoy this route because of its path through several different types of neighborhoods.

  Route 11 starts in the Madison Park area.  This is a wealthier neighborhood, Waterfront property in Seattle is plentiful but very pricey.   Houses and yards are very well kept.  This is a neighborhood where Interior Designers, Architects and Landscape Architects, Caterers, Craftsmen of all kinds have made their mark and therefor their living in.   Sidewalks are always clean. 

I had been driving this route on Saturdays, which I understand is a “lighter day” to be driving.  Because of Madison Parks high density parking is tough so even the well to do ride the bus, its easier.  The route starts on 42nd, Usually picking up grandparents and grandkids going into the city, they let the young one pay in cash as I welcome them onto the bus and hand them the transfers. 

We drive through these stylish and well kept homes to Madison ave.  Take a right and start up the hill, we pass Bistros, Coffee shops, Boutiques, high end grocery store, Fashion houses and Interior Design stores.  As we go up the hill we start to pass condos and a golf course.  A few miles up and we arrive at the entrance to the Arboretum,   one of Seattle’s very large parks known for its amazing landscapes, historical trees and vegetation that stretches to Lake Washington, the Arboretum also hosts our oldest Japanese Garden, a place of unique beauty well known for its full moon tea celebrations with Koto music, large pond with schools of Koi and many turtles.  Families and tourists often get off here, grab some coffee and walk to the garden.

We head up the hill past more condos and into the “central area” which historically had been one of Seattles Urban neighborhoods that in the last couple of decades because of our tech industry, has become quite gentile.

At the top of the Hill is Capitol Hill.  Capital Hill is the center of our LGTB community.  Every weekend of the summer there is some kind of community gathering, music, art festivals, food, parades of all types. Sidewalks and crosswalks are painted in rainbows, restaurants and bars, retail shops and services are mostly geared towards the young and hip. 

This is a fun area for me, because here I will pick up all kinds and types of people, from the wealthy to the homeless.  Tattoo’s, piercings, gender mixes, clothing styles, hair color, even the dogs have colored hair and extreme style. It’s a nice break from the daily commuters going to work who dress rather conservatively.  A day in this area will demonstrate that there is all kinds of ways to enjoy being human.

From Broadway we head down the hill into the city, we cross the freeway pass our Historical Paramount Theater, Saturdays there are matinees of musicals, the evening will be music and comedians.  Then we head into our retail district, Westlake Mall, Nordstrom’s, Macy’s, high end clothing, perfumes, jewelry.  The sidewalks are full of people shopping, sightseeing and street performers. I open the doors and listen to all the bustle. There are singers with loudspeakers, guitar players, Chinese musicians, horn players, drummers, stand still performers in extravagant costumes, magicians, jugglers, it all happens here. 

I nudge myself through traffic to 2nd avenue and drop off locals and tourists who are on their way to Pike Place Market, a world class farmers market to pickup fresh food, flowers, Knick knacks and more restaurants

I take a left to finish the half of the loop and begin to head back, picking up the people going back home, or to the Arboretum, or Lake Washington. 

I drive through our Convention Center where there is an event almost daily and most certainly on weekends.  Busy, Busy, Busy.  Drivers say they get dizzy from this route.  Its not so much its circle as it is amazing variety of  people and places.

Route 40

You’re not alone, your dog goes with you. In the Jungle, there are dog parks, dog cafes, where people meet and exchange info or relax. Fast food is being redefined as healthy food and is being served up quickly, vegetables and fruit is passed out for free off food carts to walk by’s. Workers are dressed in Jeans and comfortable shoes, tee shirts and button downs. Facial hair, people who are trimmed well, and those that are not. It seems to be all about come as you are.

Route 40 might be one of the more interesting and diverse routes.

It travels from Northgate Mall, (1st Suburban Mall in America) to Downtown Seattle.

I can’t talk about route 40 without mentioning Paul Allen.

Paul Allen might be best known for being a cofounder of Microsoft.  Here in Seattle he is loved for keeping the Seahawks in town, saving them from moving to another city by an owner who was only interested in the profit.  Paul made sure the Seahawks were Seattle’s team by being the perfect owner: Deep pockets and forward thinking enough where he truly believed the Seahawks home was in the hearts of the 12th man.

A new stadium was built, state of the art, a practice facility was built, state of the art.

He enacted a business plan to attract players that included that they would be treated well.   He as much as any of the players won our Superbowl and there by securing Seattle’s Sea Hawk worship.

Paul Allen didn’t stop there, he invested in South Lake Union, he saw an opportunity for growth and development for our high-tech industry made a deal with Amazon and buildings that would house people and offices were built. Amazon being what they are, were not interested in just business as usual, as much as they have changed retail, they are also changing the way business is done.  When you go into what I call the Amazon Jungle, you walk about 20 years into the future of how we will do office work.  Spaces there are less about cubicles and more about being able to move person to person.  You’re not alone, your dog goes with you.  In the Jungle, there are dog parks, dog cafes, where people meet and exchange info or relax.  Fast food is being redefined as healthy food and is being served up quickly, vegetables and fruit is passed out for free off food carts to walk by’s. Workers are dressed in Jeans and comfortable shoes, tee shirts and button downs.  Facial hair, people who are trimmed well, and those that are not.  It seems to be all about come as you are.

Starting at Northgate Mall I head south and west over to North Seattle Community College where I drop a few students and teachers, pick up commuters and continue west.  I cross Aurora, stop, pick up a few more commuters and some street people, head towards Ballard. First is our Crown Hill district Dicks Drive Inn will be on my left, ( another Seattle Landmark, the burgers are not to be missed) a couple of grocery stores, restaurants, ma and pa businesses mixed with apartments and condos.

Taking a right onto 85th, I’m driving in a neighborhood with a mixture of homes from different era’s.  Arts and Crafts, Modern, International, NW contemporary, mostly a higher income neighborhood.  Here I’m picking up older commuters or students.

As I head South on 24th towards Ballard, I pick up groups of people and start to see the dogs who come with their mates to work for Amazon.  I like to be introduced to these dogs and claim the dog’s way of paying fare is to say hi to me…. Some lick my hand, some like to be petted.  Gigi a toy poodle kisses me on my cheek. A young man with a Borzoi has no interest in me or anyone else and enters my bus as his partner pays human fare.  A squiggly mutt is happy to see everyone, and this is the best day enters and wines as people reach down to say hi to him, his mom says good morning as she giggles at her dog.

In Ballard on Market street a few more commuters then I head south towards downtown Freemont, I pick up more people, a few leave who work at google, or facebook, or leave to enjoy shopping, or a walk by the Ballard Locks.

I go over the Freemont Bridge and hope that it doesn’t stop traffic, raise and let a ship pass.  I head south past lake Union, past marinas, restaurants, high end Condos with fantastic views of Lake Union.  (Lake Unions Gasworks park is where Seattle has its 4th of July fireworks).  When I reach South Lake Union my bus is often at standing room capacity.  I start dropping people off in the Amazon Jungle at dog parks and cafes, office buildings and workspaces.  Seattle’s diversity is on display here, its progressive acceptance of all that is human, people from all parts of the world, gays, lesbians, transgenders, black, white, brown, all cultures and back grounds come here to do business. Most are younger than 40, they have their computers, tablets and smart phones. They are dressed casually and behave professionally and are personable.  Their Dogs wag tails and are part of this parade.

I tell people that to come here is to see what business would be like 20 or 30 years from now.  I hope the world truly does follow this path, and I believe Paul Allen is as proud of this accomplishment as any of his.

I drive up to 3rd ave and drive south, by then its just a few people, a couple of commuters and street folk, they go where they need to go, then the bus is mine while I lay over at one our bases.

Route 5/21

The Geography of the greater Seattle area is responsible for both our traffic and the beauty of the area

The Geography of the greater Seattle area is responsible for both our traffic and the beauty of the area.  On the West side of Seattle is Puget Sound, the East, lake Washington, the two are tied together by lake Union, the 3 bodies of water started out as separate,  but the monetary value that could be realized by attaching the three was apparent, so the Ballard locks were constructed in 1916, which now allows ships and boats to move from Lake Washington, through Lake Union then out to the Puget Sound.  3 bridges cross the North/South bound traffic, those are the I-5 bridge, the Freemont Bridge, and the Ballard Bridge.  The Last two bridges raise to allow taller boats to go through. 

Mountain ranges are the Olympics to the West, the Cascades to the East. Mt Rainier is in view except on the cloudiest of days, Mt Baker can be seen from many areas of Seattle. 

Seattle’s traffic mostly travels north and south, to go east west is done on either of two floating bridges, north is the 520 bridge, the I-90 bridge is on the south side of Lake Washington. 

Seattle struggled to make these roads happen, most of our 100 plus years our roads have been under construction and development…… as much as we may cuss at our world class traffic, we also praise our views, I drive daily, the views never get old.

I drive a bunch of different routes during my week, entering now my 2nd year at Metro, I have a few favorites, route 5/21 is my first route, and currently my favorite.  I like it for many reasons, one, is that is got the right balance of crazies and commuters, Students and Elderly, family and singles.  You can see a lot of different people during a “run” which goes from Shoreline Community College then goes into Downtown Seattle and becomes the 21, then out to West Seattle/Burien.

Often, I start in Westwood Village, a shopping center in Burien.  It usually starts with a few elderly women who work at a Hospital nearby, and a homeless person or two, who like this route because of its length, they can catch a good sleep for an hour and a half and be warm, or dry, or at least out of the weather.

I turn a couple of corners and head North up 35th Ave, which drives through a long neighborhood of small Arts and Crafts homes, sidewalks that hold grass and leafy trees.  I drop the Hospital workers off at the crest of the hill, the view of the city is in the right side of my windshield.  Puget sound is in the foreground, our Port of Seattle there through our front door. Some mornings the cranes are busy unloading and loading ships.  A Totem Pole that was once stolen in broad daylight, restored by the criminal, then returned…… (Seattle has all kinds of odd stories).

 I go on down the hill, the street is now called Avalon, losing my view to tall condo buildings on both sides, the street gets a bit dark for most of the year. The Buildings grab as much view as they can in all directions, I head down to the West Seattle bridge and pick up a few people at a Park and Ride under the bridge, as I continue onto the entry for the bridge and head back up into the light, I get to the crest of the bridge, on my left is a view of Puget Sound to Canada, on my right is Mt Rainier.  The West Seattle Bridge is tall, you’re up there high, you feel your looking down at the city, this is where Puget Sound feeds the Duwamish River as it travels south towards Mt Rainier. Mornings, when the light is just right, you can see the last remains of a few stars, and the glimmer of the snow on the mountain, you took to your left and the windows on the buildings are bright on the back side and are black on the Sound side.

You see ships heading in and out to sea, ferries taking commuters to work, planes heading in and out of Sea Tac, helicopters watching traffic, cars finding places in line.  I slow down a bit and take it all in before I pull off the bridge, head up 1st ave where commercial area services the Port of Seattle, past Starbucks headquarters, Showbox Sodo,  ( many of Seattle’s musical legends and the worlds, have played at the showbox ) towards the Stadiums,  take a right, drop off a couple people at Occidental and Edgar Martinez way, Edgar Martinez was a Mariner won the hearts of Seattleites enough to have a street named after him, a statue of Ken Griffy Jr. poses by the front door of our Ball Park. The size of the Stadiums is stunning, the retractable roof hangs over train tracks that go from Canada, then across the US. The stadium is amazing up close, far away and from the inside.  Truly something to see.

 Then I head to fourth, take a left, to the backside of Seahawk Stadium then up 3rd through downtown. You can travel anytime through downtown and take in a part of the parade, going past Yesler there is a few missions, shelters, state housing and parks where street people stay, you drop off legal types at the county and federal buildings, you then head up towards the finance district, then through the retail area. Through Bell town, another great neighborhood of condos, apts, restaurants nightclubs and retail, I take a right on Bell street, then head on to Aurora past lake union facing condos that watch Sea Planes, sailboats, houseboats. To the left is the Olympic Mountains that rise over the sound. Then over to Freemont,  Freemont is largely an apartment neighborhood with some beautiful old Arts and Crafts homes, was once the Art District of Seattle and called itself the Center of the Universe…… and, as much fun as they have there with their quirky restaurants and bars, shops, street art, statues, parades, festivals and Sunday market, they have a claim on that motto. 

I travel up the hill past Freemont, past our Zoo, I often drop families, grandparents, grandchildren, couples and some workers there.  I head North through Greenwood, which is where there are a lot of Bicyclists, bicyclists are big in Seattle and now with electric motor capacity, it’s more difficult to gauge their speed as they ride from behind and want to pass when you stop. Many are commuters or Moms and Dads with kids sitting in the storage bay of the bike.  I continue north through Broadview, which is almost all neighborhood and a few convenience stores, then end at Shoreline Community College. Which is surrounded by groves of pines.

Usually when I arrive, I’m a couple minutes behind schedule, I drop off some students, a couple of homeless that I might have to wake.  This route has a lot of stops  a lot to see and a lot of traffic, I get about a 20 min layover to catch my breath, relax a bit before I head back.    

Street Dogs

Street people have dogs and these dogs serve different purposes, some are companions, some are tools, some are protectors, When I see these friends walk by, I think of the bumper sticker, “who saved who”.

We have been breading dogs for as long as we have been building communities.  We have bred them in as many ways as we have built our buildings. We use them as tools and protectors, we have used them as food, we have used them as allies, they live 1/7th the length of time we do, so their evolution is traceable…. (want proof? Go look up what almost any breed looked like 75 years ago, and how they look now) and most of all, or through it all, they are our best friends. 

I’m willing to bet that every person reading this, if asked to honestly list the best friends they have had in life, a dog would be near or at the top of the list.  (or cat, but that’s another story)

Street people have dogs and these dogs serve different purposes, some are companions, some are tools, some are protectors, When I see these friends walk by, I think of the bumper sticker, “who saved who”.

I have “befriended” a few of the older ladies, over 70, they push their belongings in a cart, clothing, blankets, whatever else the shelters allow them to bring in, and their doggy bed is at the top with their little lap dog, this dog almost always has two names, one they tell the public, and the real name that is only known by people they trust…. I have no idea why this is done… what I gather is, the breed is also kept secret because people steal in shelters and they are afraid if the real breed of the dog is known, it would be stolen.  So, I usually hear it’s a Shiatzus, or Pekingese, or Poodle, but they tell everyone it’s a mutt.

One of these ladies is a Jamaican woman, she’s blind, I have picked her up and dropped her off at various points around the city.  We talk a bit, She tells me her son lives in Lynwood and is doing very well, her dog is very sweet, slow licks to those that are allowed to pet her, blind, missing most of its teeth, arthritic to a point where walking is difficult, she has towels on the bed that her dog pees on.  She totes on her dog hand feeding of chicken and other veggies, her little dog is everything good in her life.  I have thought of how difficult it is to lose a pet even in normal conditions, I wonder if her dog wanders to the rainbow bridge how she will do.  

The Tool category:  This can be any dog, usually medium size and approachable, they have a sign, “I’m homeless, my dog needs to eat, or, my human needs to eat” please help” the sign works here in Seattle, we love our dogs here. Some of the dogs actually wag their tale if you give money, not sure if this is trained or if they make the connection…. dogs are smart creatures; I think they know stuff about us.

One of these dogs has a gentleman for his friend, they often sleep in Yesler Park, he uses a sleeping bag and blanket, one morning I was walking by and the dog was in the bag with his friend, head out of the bag, both were snoring, a paper plate and an empty dog food can were next to them.

Protectors:  to me, these are the scary ones and I have seen some bad combos on the streets.  A short white guy with lots of tattoos, bald head, pointed beard wears chains.  He has a beast of a dog, huge Pitbull mixed with what I’m guessing is a mastiff.  Often I have seen this dog muzzled as the man is pulled behind, the dog is ok unless another dog gets too close, then a lunge happens and so far no damage has been done but I figure it’s a matter of time before some poor dog is killed, and I have to wonder where these two spend their nights, no shelter would take this dog in.  From what I can tell, this guy would be safe anywhere with this dog.  This dog has some scars from bites, I believe it either protects him, or is used to raise money by fighting. 

The Blend

You can be anonymous here on the streets. People enter and leave the streets through Doors that open and close on buildings, cars and buses, reflections on windows trace their paths then blend to the others.

You can be anonymous here on the streets. People enter and leave the streets through Doors that open and close on buildings, cars and buses, reflections on windows trace their paths then blend to the others.  Telephones to their ears people are stretched between two places.  Sounds of engines, sirens, voices, smells of weed, popping corn, meat being cooked, garlic, coffee, surround the colors of  blurring vehicles, advertising, traffic lights, so much can distract and detach others from you, your presence no matter how you look, smell, or sound becomes subtle here, your usual impact, then retraction or compassion from others dissipates and you are accepted as part of the background. This is where you can be part of the parade, normal, unseen unaffected. 

I watch people, over time I see some enter the streets on what might be their first week or so, then begin to become street people, they change, its unavoidable.

A young woman maybe 20 something walks by with her sleeping bag, pillow rolled and wrapped with a bungee, bags and large purse is hanging from her arms. She say’s “pardon me” as she steps through the crowd.  She is attractive with her clear skin, long brown hair, her eyes are kind, I see one red mark on her forearm, and I hope the best for her.

I’m approached by a man who has been on the streets for what looks like decades, I have seen him before, long hair matted into filth and litter ridden dreadlocks, splotchy beard, long black overcoat over a torn and dirty t shirt.  He wears black sweatpants under his jeans that are at his ankles, tennis shoes, one blue, one somewhat white, no socks.  He mumbles incoherently but I keep an eye lock with him, I look for someone in there and I hope I can see him.  He mumbles, I wonder if he still has the ability to speak English, then he tells me “you fucking smell, your gross”.  “I look down at my belly and I say, yea, I have let myself go a bit” “You need to get a job” he tells me then stumbles off.

The following week I see the girl walk up the street asking for money, she has her sleeping bag over her shoulder, no pillow no other bags, just her purse. More marks on her arm and she stumbles on the building side of the crowd.

A young black man I have been watching, he attracted my attention because he wears a scarf in all weather, he is large, over 6’2” and closing in on 350lbs. He has an unkept afro, blue jean shorts, light jacket and red tee shirt, as he walks by I can see he has tumors that look like intestines hanging from his neck. His legs and arms have medical patches and there are red blotches on his skin.  He walks by, his eyes focused on something far ahead.  Several weeks go by and I am driving in the morning, I arrive at 3rd and Pike.  He is in a wheelchair now, I lower the ramp and bring him on, his smell is overwhelming, it’s not just body odor, his skin is rotting.  He wears the same scarf where the tumors now hang down farther, his coat is gone and his shirt is filthy  and torn. He has a video game in his hands and he’s bright, friendly, kid like with a huge smile as he says “damn, almost had it” ( to no one in particular)  I strap in his chair and see his legs now are bloated, red, painful looking, and the smell is taking over, I hold my breath and worry about the other passengers,  a woman sitting behind him discretely opens her purse and quietly sprays him with a very nice perfume. I continue up Pike Street and see the girl leaning her bare butt against a building, pants on the ground,  she finishes her pee and pulls wipes out of her bag and cleans herself. Her arms are pocked with red blotches. She doesn’t have her sleeping bag, her hair is a mess and people walking by pretend not to notice.

On the streets you  can an escape for for a while, it’s a place where we can lose ourselves amongst the colors, the sounds, the smells, our reflections on windows blend with others.

The Story of And

And she laid there, hair tussled, skin gleaming sweat stretching her hair taught and darkened with the moisture,

And she laid there, hair tussled, skin gleaming sweat stretching her hair taught and darkened with the moisture, her breath wet, hot in the warm room breathing deep, slow, her baby now wrapped in a blanket, eyes closed, body blue and red slick glistens, quiet, dreaming of grandfathers, grandmothers people whos warm hands eased her baby to this new place, its mind still fresh of the place before and after,sleeping between its parents, fathers hand holding the crest of its mothers head, his other resting on her belly,  sleeping, nuzzled, it can hear the breath of the new world, the heart beat of its mom from that place before, air and wetness, the three sleep, the transition to the new world brings them peace, they sleep, exhausted, dream with the wonderment of and.