15th and John

 

 

15th and John is a corner stop in front of one of Seattle’s major Hospitals, it’s a stop where you will find people in all stages of health.

Today a man I guess to be in his late 70s or early 80s, has a worn fleece vest over his hospital nightgown, his feet in socks, slippers, his white beard and hair contrast his dark skin, sunken eyes.  His arms have band aides that indicate recent I.V. and shots. His skin is blotchy, weakly, slowly, shaking as he climbs onto the bus, he hangs onto the hold bars as he finds a seat next to a window,  he holds a pizza and a bottle of something in a brown bag that he takes a long draw on after a bite of his pizza.  His gaze out the window seems long drawn, his mood melancholy.  I’m at a stop next to a small greenbelt, his hand is now on the window as he looks out, then he sits back wiping tears from his eyes.  He sits alone, and I have the feeling he feels alone and has been revealed to him his time is near and he left the Hospital abruptly leaving clothes in an effort to leave the situation behind him.

I wonder if I should call this in, what does one say when you only have a feeling.

We arrive at a stop downtown, there are homeless, bottles, broken glass boarded windows, graffiti of lives matter, old clothes laying about, dirty, wet from rain.  He carefully, weakly, shaking, leaves the bus and makes his way out through the crowd.

There is a tree there, who’s branch has been broken, hangs from its bark as its leaves are turning brown, one lets go in the breeze fluttering to the sidewalk.

Saturday July 11, 2020

The Nature of this job feels like it has changed since the virus hit.
I will admit, the driving is easier for sure, sometimes there are no other cars on the road and far less riders, to the point sometimes there are no commuters, and this is where the nature of the job has changed.
Third avenue has been bus stops only for a few years now, usually lined with commuters, day visitors, shoppers, people running errands and of course street people, who were in the minority, and could often disappear into the crowd.
With few people that are not street people now adays, we drivers are more aware, or directly effected by them.
Southbound 3rd and Lenora approaching Pine street is a long stretch of benches which used to be used by commuters, now has been a place for the druggers and street people.
9 am. I drive by a man in his 40s shooting up as he leans against a building, his arms are pocked, splotchy, swollen, he is struggling to put the needle into a vein, he finds it and shoots the drug in.
Next to him is a young man who has been covered in tentacle like cancer, I have spoken about him before, today his is wrapped in an army blanket, he is spitting what I think is blood onto the sidewalk.
Next to him, there are a couple of tents with piles of garbage laying street side.
Out of one of the tents a young woman, who I have seen on the streets several times dressed like a prostitute, is poking her head out the flap and is yelling something to the tent just south of her.
An old woman dressed in black, her gray hair puffing out beneath her hoodie, pushes her grocery cart of belongings through the crowd of homeless and druggies, they ignore her as she makes extra effort to not trip or pass over their belongings.
My window is open, there is a smell of weed in the air.
I drive past Pine, continue south approaching Pike. There is a small group of young men, baseball caps, sag jeans, Nike shoes, a smart speaker is blasting rap as they complete a drug sale.
I arrive at my stop. One of the guys from that crowd jumps on my bus, lays down on the back seat, puts his cap over his head and appears to go to sleep.
I pull away from the stop and make it halfway down the street and see a young blond woman desperately waving me down, I slow and open my door, “my friend is trying to make this bus too” I see a young man running for the bus about a half a block away, when he sees I am stopped, he begins to walk putting his headphones on, Im under the impression he isn’t getting on, so I begin to close the doors, which makes him run again, so I open them. He stops again and walks slower, I leave the doors open for him. He glares at me with a death stare as he enters the bus, his girlfriend follows him to a seat. They get off at the very next stop.
The Nature of this job has changed, months of people on drugs and otherwise dysfunctional is now my main customer service challenge.
I still have drops of compassion for them, people that use drugs on a daily basis, weed, or stronger it changes their perception of the world and who they are, they often do not realize they are irrational, nor do they realize their actions affect others.
They only feel themselves as the drug prescribes them too,
The streets look different. They’re demeaner has changed their appearance, Negative energy is what they exude
I still very much enjoy this job, I have found to deal with constant barrage of the drug induced, I look for ways to balance the ugly with fine living.
I make sure to have a steak with a good glass of wine while I watch a Puget Sound view. Go for a walk on a near Island beach and bird watch. Walk in the woods, listen to the creatures make their lives.
I go window shopping at nice boutiques and see the current collections for houseware, I go gallery walking, I read a good book, listen to symphonies.
Come home, close the door laugh at a sitcom or watch a hero take down a drug dealer.
Before Westernization, indigenous cultures had drug use for ceremonial purposes, Shaman, elders, often over saw the use of drugs with their tribe members for spiritual effect.
As far as I know, there wasn’t the problems with the drugs we have now. Where drugs are a constant recreation, the mind adjusts to what is normal for it.
I wont blame drugs for all the decay I see,
But its clear, there is a problem.
As I write this, I am finishing a Scotch and Sour.

When People Dance

 

 

There is a saying, “dance like nobody is watching”

It refers to the internal struggle of accepting of who we, or you are, not to be inhibited by the stares and judgements of others.

Driving down Pine street today, passing a construction zone,  the Paramount Theatre, the Carlisle club, a Sushi restaurant, an African American man mid-30s, dressed somewhat professionally, danced in the middle of the street, halting traffic and pedestrians as people reacted to the scene with caution.

First thought of course was “drugs” there was no music if you don’t count the sound of jack hammers, car noise and the emergency response vehicle siren bouncing of buildings in echo in the background.

There was a purpose to his dance, was first hips centered above his feet his shoulders in shimmy keeping time, I could tell his dance was in 4/4, his hips subtle swing, as someone would do at a disco, his head snapped up then he left the street with flamenco steps stage right then walked as any pedestrian would down Pine street to who knows where.

Maybe someday…

Tuesday Morning

 

Capital Hills Broadway ave was misty at 7am, late June the sky grey, the weather shelter dripping dew and mist as the couple dressed in grey hoodies, blue jeans, tennis shoes, she 5-4 native American, he was 5-8 or less, white, stocky build, standing together her arm in his, his arm around her.  Her face beaten, bruised, swollen, his eye is black, his fists are freshly scared, arms of his hoodie is torn. He stands tall, waves for me to stop, I open the back door for them, they move to a seat in back, he sits by the window raises his arm as she sits in, her head on his chest she reaches his across and rests it on his shoulder.  He pulls her close, she closes her eyes and begins to fall asleep while he gazes out the window.

Taking a right to face the city, laid out down grade to Puget Sound crossed by Tankers, Ferries, Fishing boats.  Grey granite, stone, marble, glass, forming Obelisks, rectangles pushed edge to edge speaks to the subtle battling violence claiming status of commerce. Boarded and Locked doors, darkened glass fortresses. Taxi’s, Car’s, Bike’s, Buses open, close exchanging friends and foes like bridges over moats.

Fathers Day in C Major

Dad was Color Blind and Tone deaf

I imagine sitting at a keyboard and thinking of my father, for him I’d like to play something. Something just for him.

He was a Master Mechanic, old school, could listen intently to a vehicle diagnose the issue, then fix it.  The sounds made that much sense to him

He spent time on our Cars they always ran perfectly.

He died in 82, I was 21

I confess it wasn’t until later in life that I had many questions only fathers can answer

Dad was a Gentle Man

Kind

Lived Simply

Rarely made Demands

His favorite Birthday Gift was a Steam Engine,

He enjoyed putting it together as he explained its concept to me.

“You can’t compress water”

I had no ability for Mechanical things.

Dad had endless support for my interests.

I’m not a Musician, but have a musical background

If I could do anything for him

I would start with low C, then E, then G,

My right hand would build, C, E, G, C

I’d let the chord resonate till silent.

Then push the keys in unison

I’d play it in a way that he could hear the complexity and clearness of that chord

I’d ask him is this how our Car sounded.

Early Blue

 

 

Sitting on the front yard bench, Sheba inspecting the perimeter of the yard, smelling over night visitors, following trails of a stray rodent, a moth flutters between her paws as it rises from the grass that lays as a charcoal green carpet, a spangly rose bush untrimmed reaches to the cement grey arch over the sidewalk.

Blackberry brambles back lit by Cedar, Madrona, Fir hold the last midnight blue below them, above light begins its turn for day.

Rain drips from leaves like applause as the light stirs shadows out of the pockets.

Crow’s and Blue Jays continue their struggle over territory,

A single crow draws one of the Jays out of its nest, caw’s  and scrambles as it appears the Jay has the upper hand of the crow, 3 crows attack the nest, the remaining adult flee, as two chase it away, the last crow plucks a baby out of the nest, drops  it, then grabs another and flies away.

Jays and Crows scream at each other as the drama of the battle ends.

Sheba has made her way back and sits next to me on the bench, her wide eyes watch the Crows as they fly over us towards their nest in a back-yard Tree.

The streetlight across the street goes dark, the rain becomes a pour as I climb the stairs to the door, closing behind us.

Route 106

We start 106 in front of Seattle’s Historic Union Station, pick up mostly elderly people up that have been grocery shopping. It’s a busy stop, some days 20-30 people with push carts and bags, all very polite as they greet you with bows and hello’s as they make their way to their seat.

Route 106 travels through several historical areas, International District or “China Town” which was before World War 2 referred to as “Japan Town” then runs via “Rainier Avenue” to the nearby suburb city named Renton. 

The International District’s Story is largely the Asian immigration story of Seattle, of which, Seattle could not have been built.

Through Seattle’s growth the International District may have changed  nick names, some configurations have changed, but through it all it has provided mostly the center of Asian Culture or, starting point for many families through immigration programs, grocery stores, restaurants, places of worship, Museums, Galleries.  Japanese, Chinese, Thai, Filipino, Laotian all have interests there. 

We start 106 in front of Seattle’s Historic Union Station, pick up mostly elderly people up that have been grocery shopping.  It’s a busy stop, some days 20-30 people with push carts and bags, all very polite as they greet you with bows and hello’s as they make their way to their seat.

We head east on Jackson picking up a few more shoppers as we turn South on Rainier Ave to begin dropping off our shoppers at nearby condos, apartments, houses. 

 We take a right and face South on Rainier, the view of Mt Rainier commands attention over buildings, cars, people, as we pass through the busy shops, immigration offices and services.  

Martin Luther King Way intersects with Rainier, as we follow it South, the route keeps it’s immigration feel as we pass newer East African neighborhoods with their restaurants, galleries, places of worship and community centers.

Martin Luther King way offers several stops for our Link Rail system, Townhomes, condos and apartments create a lot of density as well a number of streetlights as we continue south.

We take a quick turn east as we begin our way through Renton via Rainier Beach, then up a hill to the somewhat quiet Skyway neighborhood that offers some spectacular views of Lake Washington and while looking North, the Seattle Skyline.

Skyway is a neighborhood that has a great mix of homes, new, modest, lavish often we are picking, dropping off students and commuters of all ages. 

We head East on Renton Ave, then South dropping off the last of our riders at the Renton Transit Station located just south of Lake Washington, Renton Municipal Airport meant for smaller planes.

There are shops, condos attached to the Transit Center.  People transfer to other routes or pick up their cars as they continue on their way.

The Crow and the Crew

I was checking in with the Contractor when he told me the crew was being harassed by a crow

The Firm I was working for was building a house in the Bellevue area.

I was the project manager for this one, so found myself at the construction site rather often as we were removing some walls and adding a couple rooms.

It was late Spring the walls had been framed so I could take measurements for some flooring as well as a few other items.

I was checking in with the contractor when he told me that the crew was being harassed by a crow.  As they worked the crow would dive at them, land nearby and caw at them.  It was bad enough a couple of the crew had decided to work elsewhere. 

Odd I thought.

I was doing some measuring when the Crow started flying around. I didn’t sense that the crow was dangerous, so I stood there with my arm out for him (or her) to land on as he flew at me.

He did land, started talking to me rather seriously, I let him crawl to my shoulder and decided Id finish what I was doing, and he would fly away.

I finished up, the contractor said, “probably not a good idea man” He seems fine I said, opening my door and expecting the crow to leave. He stayed on my shoulder, I opened my windows and started my car, expecting him to leave, he just pruned and looked around my car.

I didn’t know what else to do, so I opened the passenger window and started to drive slowly down the road, expecting him to fly away, he did not.  I got to the freeway; told him it would be his last chance until I get across the 520 bridge.  He stayed as I rolled up the windows (I thought he might get hurt if he tried to fly out at 55mph) He was fine as I drove home and into my parking spot.  I unloaded my stuff with him on my shoulder, opened the apartment door, expecting him to leave, he did not.

I walked down the hallway to my apartment, opened my door, Kaylar (my cat) took one look at our guest, wanted no part of this and dove under the bed. I dropped my stuff in the entry, walked to my slider that opens to the back yard, opened it, expected him to leave, he did not.

I used the restroom with him on my shoulder, he seemed unmoved.

I went back outside and told him he really should go…he can hang out here, that would be cool but I can’t keep him inside with Kaylar.

He flew to the tree by my window, seemed to sniff the air getting his bearings, he focused on the direction of the house from where we met.

He cawed, flew back in that direction.

I never saw him again

Hummingbirds and the Surgeon

He retired a few years earlier and had spent over a decade a garden to attract Hummingbirds and Butterflies.

They had me over for dinner as we just finished their project of their living and dining room,  and some window coverings in other parts of the house which was on the bluff just North of Edmonds, expansive view of the Olympics over the Sound.

They owned a NW Contemporary House that was situated in the middle of a large flat of land that he had spent over a decade developing a garden that was meant to attract Hummingbirds and Butterflies.

He retired a few years earlier and was loving that he was able to spend his time in the garden, as well as building his outdoor kitchen that’s back was to the house.  It had a canvas cover that could be used if needed.  He had laid large shale tile on the ground to define the dining area that faced the view, he liked to cook for his guests as we took in the view and the Hummingbirds.

It was spectacular, hundreds of Hummingbirds of all colors, red, brown, yellow, green…. , Butterflies of many types,  darting and floating around all of these flowers and bushes, It was nothing short of magical as you also watched the large container, cruise ships, fishing vessels, day cruisers, sail boats and canoes go left and right on the sound.

Their house was next to a green belt and they had been adopted by 2 cats over the years, I asked if they were a problem for the Hummingbirds and he said, “rarely, mostly they just watch fascinated”

My head was buzzed by a bird then I heard a “pop”, I looked behind me and a bird had hit the glass and was lying on the ground.  The Calico cat was fascinated and looking at the bird, I quickly and carefully picked the bird up, it was knocked out, I held it in my palm and carefully stroked its head, after a few seconds its eye’s began to blink open, it slowly stood, ruffled its wings, tilted its head as it looked at me, pruned itself, then flew a circle around me and landed on my hand again.

Pruned itself once again, looked at me, tilted its head then flew off.

“Aren’t they amazing creatures” he said,

I sat there with my mouth open as his wife squeezed my shoulder and refilled my wine.

Some Interesting People

During a late winter weekday I pulled into the stop by the Mission, it’s a busy stop, several bus routes stop there and its near the stadiums and international district. Mostly it is a stop used by homeless and people of various abilities.

In my first few months of driving I had a situation come up and wasn’t aware of a proper procedure to handle the situation or if there was one, so I did my best to deal with it.  This story is not for sensitive readers due to its explicit nature and sexual content. I chose to write the story as it happened and use the words spoken to me.

During a late winter weekday I pulled into the stop by the Mission, it’s a busy stop, several bus routes stop there and its near the stadiums and international district.  Mostly it is a stop used by homeless and people of various abilities.

This day, I picked up several people, two of them It struct me as the guy, and his case worker, he seemed straight off the street, and she was dressed in nice jeans, carrying a leather bag but wearing a white T shirt and no bra… ( I mentioned its late Winter) They sit in front and I hear them talk, she is relying on him to take her to a certain bus stop, he is assuring her he will make sure she gets there, a few stops later a friend of his boards the bus and they talk, he introduces his friend to her and he gets off at the next stop explaining that his friend will take her the rest of the way. He seems respectful and nice as he tries to get to know her, she gets angry with him, “ I don’t know you, I don’t trust you, leave me alone,”  He’s embarrassed by her outburst, apologizes says he’s not going to hurt her, this doesn’t work so he moves to the back of the bus.  She approaches me and asks if she can stand by me as she doesn’t trust “that man”  I tell her of course, you can stay here, you’ll be fine, we start a bit of small talk, she tells me she just lost her place and last night was her first night on the street.  “I’m sorry” I said, that sounds rough, “I was raped” she said, What? I asked… are you OK? I can call someone get them to meet us… “NO, she said, I just… not trusting anyone right now” I know of a women’s shelter I can drop you off at, but its not until I head back into town……  “I know where I want to go, I’ll just stay here for now, OK I said.  We got to the end of the route, I needed to use the restroom, she followed me into the store and waited for me to come back out and followed me back to my bus for my break.  We chatted a little about how she lost her job, an ex-screwed her over with money and it was time to begin my next run.  I start down the road and have just a couple of people on the bus, she leans closer to me and starts describing the rape in every detail, being  held down by 4 guys and how she decided to open her mouth……  It was clear to me she was messing with me and wanted a “reaction” I told her I needed to focus on my driving and will get her to her shelter.  She left a few stops before the shelter telling me, she was ok and changed her mind.

I saw her again a few months later, she was dressed in a school girls outfit, no bra, white shirt, glasses on, pig tails and addressed me as “Hi Mr Bus Driver” again, she seemed sexually suggestive,  but a whole different personality.  I wondered how many personalities she has and if they are all sexually suggestive.

During a break on a recent Saturday, parked at my layover by the station, a man mid-40s, dark hair, wearing kakis and a back pack, that was very inebriated, knocked on my door, I hesitantly opened it and he immediately asked me why Metro drivers are so fucked….. I shook my head and started to close the door, he said, “NO, sorry, look I’m just trying to get to Ballard, and that fucker dropped me here” I see I said, ( knowing he probably was asleep and wasn’t discovered until the last stop… happens a lot) Look, to get to Ballard you’ll have to  walk to the other side of that building, use the stop there to get downtown, then det on the D Line.  He stepped on my bus and tried to walk by me, I said, no, your not getting on here…. “too late” he said, NO…. get off the bus now!  He complied, but as he stepped down and turned he said I was a vet you unamerican bastard, I was in Afghanistan, Iraq, I woulda been in Nam, but I wasn’t born yet… in fact, I’m gonna get my buddies and were gonna kill you, were gonna come to your house, burn it down and kill you… where do you live?  I started to shut the door, he stepped by to avoid the door and fell onto his back. When he hit the ground he swung his fist, didn’t hit anything, still on his back, he kicked, “FUUUCK” he yelled, Fuck you!! His kick didn’t connect with anything as he laid on the ground squirming…. (cleanest fight I had ever won)

He crawled a few feet and managed to get on his feet, walked a few steps fell over.  I called it in, described what had happened and they sent out the transit police who got him off the ground, determined he was not dangerous and left him in some bushes… Not sure what happened to him after that.