House on the Hill

She has a small pallet board homestead

She stands about 5′-2″—wind-blown Jet-Black hair. Dark skin, she Weighs maybe 90lbs. Because of her small size, her striking features, I think she might be South American. She wears jeans, plaid shirts, sometimes a black jacket over the shirt.
She has found a place behind Seahawk stadium, facing 4th avenue. Small empty green space, slight incline, a small tree to the north side of the clearing, small bushes on the street side.
She has built a small pallet board homestead. Shes lined her home with tarps, pieces of wood she has found.
The home sits on pallet boards as well. She steps up to the opening that is used as a door, pushing the tarp to one side, then steps in. Her place appears to be about 3 or 4 feet deep, 7 or 8 ft wide.
The area that she cleared for herself is clean. The grass is pulled, weeds are pulled. I have seen her collect garbage that blows its way into the area.
I have driven by in the mornings and have seen her sitting in front of her place eating. She uses a bowl and utensil. I begin to wonder where she has come from, how long she has been there. As the city has cleaned out other tent towns and homes over the last couple of years, she seems to have survived this, her house always clean, always separate from others, no one has moved into her territory. I have wondered why.

The small tree on her homestead is about 20 feet away from her door. She argues with it. I have seen her shake her fist at it. Break a branch, throw it on the ground. Then stomp to her house.
I have seen her stand at her property line, next to the street as cars and buses, trucks buzz past. She doesn’t seem to notice us. She stares past the hustle. Her dark eyes are busy with things on her mind. And She is busier than the street in front of her.
She looked my way last Sunday, I was hoping to see into her eyes, but we never connected there. She turned again to the tree, waved her arms, stomped to her door.
Behind her, lights of Century Link Stadium.

Somedays I wish for a Zombie Apocalypse. The good news though, Seahawks are 4-0

I have more than once heard: A society is measured by how they treat the most vulnerable.
I think it’s evident how we measure up.

I’m going to rant a little bit.
I like my job. I find it interesting. It’s a job like no other if you’re a people watcher. It’s been said that bus drivers encounter more people than Presidents or the Pope on a weekly basis.
So, that is what gives me a license to rant.
Today, 3rd and Cherry, I have seen this man several times this past year. He sits in a provided manual basic wheelchair, the kind Hospitals give to people who need them just before they are sent back into the street or shelter.
He has no legs. He is far too skinny to look healthy.
He has one arm.
He struggles to use this chair. I have seen him trying to push the wheels forward. It’s, to say the least: Awkward.
Back to today. 2 pm. He sits on the street side of the sidewalk, facing uphill on 3rd and Cherry. His head is tilted to the side, his eyes vacant. His one arm dangles next to the wheel. He looks exhausted. He is in a dangerous place as a car speeds up the hill and misses him by a couple of feet.
I see a Prostitute that I have seen with him before. They have struck me as friends, not business. She is a blond, short polyester skirt, stained with street muck, white leather jacket; blond hair pulled back. White skin that is blotchy red, she is moving as quickly towards him as she can to help him.
My light turns green. I move south on 3rd ave.
I am repulsed by what I just saw.
A man with no legs. one arm living on the streets. His best friend, a drug-addicted Prostitute, who probably has a heart of gold. Nonetheless, her occupation creates a risk to her longevity, and her obvious drug addiction also creates risk.
Why do we allow this? Is this the best we can do?
I have more than once heard; A society is measured by how they treat the most vulnerable.
I think it’s evident how we measure up.
The same trip, on 1st between Holgate and Lucile.
Another man has his sweatpants down to mid-thigh, his jockstrap is down too, he is scratching under his testicles, he sees me and tries to wave me down. He has a grin on his face, desperately tries to get me to stop.
I don’t stop; I can’t have that on my bus, I have people that I am responsible for their welfare and safety.
I drive down streets, where both sides of that street have homeless, drugged, handicapped mentally ill. These streets have garbage everywhere, decay, destruction as we build high-end high rises.

I’m a little angry at this point. I have to say, this kind of sequence of events is not outside the norm. This is the world we have built, and its no different in just about any big city across this country, and I’m sure other nations as well.
We are Irresponsible people.
I am one person; I fully admit that I do not have the money or resources to change anyone’s life. I simply have enough money to get by day to day and save a little for tomorrow and hope for the best. There is also only so many good deeds that I am capable of doing and still take care of my own life.
I recently saw the Walking Dead.
It’s a great series, not just for the acting, writing, effects, and eye candy. It’s great because of the portrayal of what happens when we don’t take care of each other.
The people in that series return to tribal status. They have found themselves with a group of people; they work for the better good. When they don’t, things predictably go wrong.
So, they bone up; they take care of each other the best way they can. It’s not always about being a better fighter, sometimes its intelligence, creativity, choosing to walk away, or learning to enjoy the moment. Every person has a place there; every person is important to their tribe.
We obviously do not do this.
We have the wealthiest nation on earth. We have the most powerful nation on earth.
We have a divided nation. The have’s are telling us, that there is nothing to be done to help the homeless, the poor, the disabled, the druggies. Nor can we afford to educate people. They say we can’t afford to help people that won’t help themselves. We cannot afford healthcare; it is not a right; it’s a privilege.
They think these people are lazy, unworthy.
They say this while the rich, the extremely rich get more tax breaks, broader control over the planet, more overall control over consumers. In other words, we spend our money foolishly on the wealthy.
We are a sick Nation, there are days I try my best in my own world to help the people around me, and I do these things selfishly because my world is better because of it. Then I feel better about my world.
I am a Seahawk fan. I am thrilled that they are now 4-0.
Isn’t it great that we have young millionaires playing a game. Owned by the super-rich who makes more money from people with enough money to buy tickets and merchandise to support this lifestyle.
( I say this knowing that so many of those players and teams do good things in their communities.)
Is this the best we can do?
Seriously, who would you rather talk to about life?
A football player, or a teacher, or a social worker. Who would give you the most wisdom regarding life?
I pull into a stop at Chinook street under the West Seattle bridge,
I lower the bus for an elderly man pushing his belongings in a rigged up cart of a dolly and plastic milk boxes.
It tips and spills his items out of the top milk box, some toilet paper, a half loaf of bread, a peanut butter jar, some clothing. He cusses. The 2nd milk box holds a pup tent. A young man with a skateboard who was waiting for his turn to board bends to help him. The old man starts to cry, and it’s obvious he is embarrassed; the young man gets things stacked again, pats him on the shoulder, then boards.
It’s about 230 pm.
I am pissed.
I have tears in my eye.
I drive slow to Avondale, where I take a left, head up a hill.
I am thinking a Zombie Apocalypse just might be deserved.
I am not kidding.

The Prayer

He unrolls his prayer rug to face east, kneels with his arms reaching in front, the drops of rain sticking to his skin, darkening his white tank top

Turning North on 6th from Holgate, 5:40am, on the sidewalk just east of Salvation Army.  A man, dressed in shorts, white tank top, bare feet carrying a prayer rug, it’s sprinkling out rinsing the soot of the recent fires in Oregon that have been sending their smoke North to Washington and Canada, there has not been much wind in the past week, it is smoggy, thick with the smell of smoke, you can feel the air stick to your skin and the sprinkle of rain creates a darkening mist just above the ground.

He unrolls his prayer rug to face east, kneels with his arms reaching in front, the drops of rain sticking to his skin, darkening his white tank top.

His pup tent door is open to the sidewalk, it is also facing east.

 I continue to drive by as I hope Allah is listening,

I as well speak to the great Creator, asking for wind, and perhaps if he feels it appropriate, a downpour of rain to help all the creatures of his world as I pull into our parking garage.

It’s noon, I pull into the Burien Transit center, drop a small group of riders off, There by the building 5 policemen have a man on the ground, he is kneeling, his hands cuffed behind him a small crowd surrounds the scene.

  I continue clockwise around the building and come across a small flock of pigeons that have been slaughtered a few are missing heads, it does not look like they had been run over by a bus, I wonder if the handcuffed man had something to do with this.

I’m at home, close to 9pm, in my yard, through the haze, my binoculars are focusing on the moon that has begun it’s crescent phase, it has a slight red tint to it.

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.

Ode to Mrs. Furbush

I was sitting in her Living room interviewing for the position, I was looking at a number of beautiful antiques……

My first real career was an Interior Designer.  I struggled to understand the concept of designing for others, as in some way’s it’s an extreme invasion privacy.  A designer’s mission is to fully understand the clients esthetic tastes then somehow turn it into the home of their dreams.

Learning about them is what I struggled with, until I met Mrs. Furbush.

I was sitting in her Living room interviewing for the position, I was looking at a number of beautiful antiques, art, Knick knacks and asked her, “what is your favorite piece”?  She told me about a chair she would read stories to her now grown daughter, a table where her son fixated on studying… a Lamp her husbands mother had, then her eyes lit as she talked about her Grandmothers Tea Set.  Her and Grandmother drank tea together from this set ( what’s left of it) and later she inherited it and used it almost everyday…. “ I used this during the war she said.  I was an actress in London at the time of the bombing, one night during a performance, the bombs were shaking the building, several chandeliers and tiles fell, we kept the play going. Afterwards when I came back to my dressing room a number of things were destroyed by fallen tiles, but this tea set survived.” She had tears in her eyes.  I felt the moment with her, then we talked about how we could design the condo around the tea cup, pull the colors onto the walls, use a similar pattern on the drapery, paint one of the scenes (deer) onto the fireplace.

So much happened during this project, we became great friends and the project was one of my best because it was so personal, every item and color had purpose.

I began to piece it all together, the items we have, we wear are stories about us. 

I had spent many hours at airports, shopping malls, walking the streets observing people, 7 years at an Art School, but it took Mrs. Furbush to bring the attention of all the symbolism we carry in our lives.

I understood people make decisions about items with purpose, whether they know it or not, there is a reason they dress the way they do, or live the way they do, have homes the way they do. 

In my mind now possessions are not shallow things, we like items for a reason, and that reason my have historical significance to it. Money doesn’t matter in all this, my most precious item is a Christmas ornament that is from my fathers first Christmas of 1921. Glass bird, worn out, thin, missing feathers for its tail, but I cherish it for all the reasons you can imagine and cannot.

Not long ago, a woman boarded my bus, she was holding a sweater to her face and crying into it. She struggled to sit at the front.  I didn’t have many people, Mam, are you ok?  She spoke in broken Latino English, my mammy just died, they just told me, she sobbed, broken, unashamed about her state in front of strangers, This is all I have of hers, she lives away, she cried. An older woman sitting across from her moved to sit next to her, put her arms around her and held her as she cried. 

I felt the pain as I pulled away and across the West Seattle Freeway bridge.  I thought of my moms death and fought the tears that all of us were fighting.  The woman hugged the woman next to her, left our bus a few miles later, able to walk and breath. 

It was an old sweater, worn and not many would consider it pretty… to the woman who just lost her mom, it meant her childhood, her family, it was everything she sees the world through.  It is irreplaceable.

The next day was the beginning of my weekend.  I have teacups that belonged to my mother and grandmother.

I made tea that morning…. I thought of Mrs. Furbush, my Mother, my Grandmother. 

70th and Love and Marriage

Well, my 2nd ex just bought me dinner and drinks…….

In Ballard, stopping at Market Street, 3 or 4 people loaded immediately, as I was closing the door I heard a voice call, “Wait” A man, 70s, white beard, dressed in jeans, work boots, baseball cap, for some reason, I thought “Sailor” started to enter my bus, “sorry, I’m moving slow” your doing fine, “its my 70th today” wow, Happy Birthday! “thank you, I made it” he said as he slipped his dollar in the till and I handed him his transfer.  He stood by my chair, I asked, you gonna celebrate?

“Well, my 2nd ex, just bought me dinner and drinks” Nice I said, cool of her, “yeah, we have always kept in touch, she was 2nd out of 3….. 1st one, I was too young, we were too young, my 2nd, well, 15 years was enough” 3rd? I said, “She died a couple years ago” sorry man, “its ok, this one was always ok, tonight was steak at my favorite bar, she bought me a bunch of shots, I’m a bit tipsy” you seem fine, I said, “about 7 or 8, I asked her if this meant she was staying tonight” I chuckled and looked at him, hmm, “yeah, she kissed me on the cheek, and said, no, sweetheart, I wanted to get you those shots so your hung over tomorrow, that’s my gift to you,

 she paid the bill and left me there, she always seems to get the upper hand” …….. I had to laugh.

A buddy of mine since childhood married his childhood sweetheart and have been married since they were in their early 20s…. He would bring up times when he felt he knew he was married, Kids, 1st purchase of a house, things like that  seemed to be reminders to him, I didn’t know if he was keeping track of what they did, or these things made the marriage seem more real.  In their 20th year together he was confiding in me how things had changed… Yeah, love was still there, but sex wasn’t what it used to be, and on a Sunday morning after a session together, draperies were closed, lights were off and they were talking and laughing about how their bodies had changed, softer, more folds, patches of padding,   Home, Kids, college funds, careers, friends, families, these kinds of subjects came up during sex, that morning their discussion led to how intertwined their lives were and marriage was not what they expected, but what they had hoped for, and talked about how sex seemed to become both a discussion of tasks as well as a physical connection. They were happy,  While he was laying on his back and she sitting on his stomach, she taps his chest right on his breast plate, her finger beads a drop of sweat, she leans down and taps again with her ear to his chest, she brings her lips to his ear and says softly “if you ever leave me,  I’ll stab you in the Heart…Do you understand, the Heart.” 

Reptilians and a Guy with the day off

There are times when you ponder when we are still human, and if one can come back from not fitting that definition.

There are times when you ponder when we are still Human, and if one can come back from not fitting that definition.  I have partook in casual drugs in my life, and believe moderation and light use is part of the human experience, alcohol, weed, pretty mild stuff when enjoyed lightly, there are those that are more bold in their “exposure”

At the corner of 3rd and Pike, across the street from me, a young blond girl struggled walking with her 2 pair of shoes, her lace up heals wrapped around tight jeans, with the heals sideways dragging on the street to the outside of each foot wearing tennis shoes,  ever see that video of the husky wearing shoes?  This is how she moved. 

Behind her, an older man in at least his 70s, long hair and long beard, worn jeans that sagged, way down, whitey tidies……. He was bent forward with his butt against the building, rubbing it up and down, drooling.

The blond started to cross the street towards us, busses slowed and let her go, her movements were reptilian.  Think of the Chicken picking its way through the yard. She walked towards me, I looked into her eyes, it was disturbing how vacuous and empty those eyes were, a woman standing next to me gasped and moved behind me, the blond strutted by me, walked to the building behind put her hand on the wall, turned left and  continued up the street.  I had a chill from the encounter.

At Aurora and 105th I approach a stop light, there is a middle-aged man dressed in torn clothes, long blond hair and unshaven with a spotty beard.  He slowly spins with his arms stretched out wide, comes to the edge of the curb, steps back as he turns, comes around and steps onto 105th, a small Honda swerves left to miss him making the car in that lane stomp on his brakes, send the car behind him into my lane, missing my bike rack by inches.  The man freezes in the street as horns blare. He stares off in the distance unaffected and unaware of almost being hit, and the situation he caused.  A few weeks later he boards my bus at Northgate, pays his fare in coins and stares forward all the way to 3rd and Pine.  I saw no change of expression in his face. He stood up his face still forward as he walked past me and out the bus.  I did not watch to see where he went.

In Freemont, a Saturday afternoon I pick up a 20s something guy, wobbly drunk and openly friendly, says, “man, I don’t have any cash on me, beer is expensive” I smile and hand him a transfer. “Thanks man, I’m drunk … just sorta happened, kinda” a s he took a seat near the front. He burped loudly and said, “oh man, I’m sorry, this is kind of embarrassing” thinking of nothing else he could say, he blurted out “GO Hawks”!! the Bus was silent… he waited a moment,  then said, “Ok then, I get it, I’m drunk, how bout politics. Trump, sheesh, am I right”? silence, “I mean seriously, Jesus”! silence, then he said, “ok, pardon me, Love you guys”

An older gentleman was getting off the bus and leaned into me as he said, “you have an intoxicated young man there”  He seemed to expect me to do something about it, all I said was, Yes, I noticed.

The young man stepped off the bus in Ballard, thanked me for the ride, As I waited for the light to turn green, I watched him go into a coffee shop.

While Stopped

a Lovely brunette in her mid twenties is turning as the seamstress pins the hem

I pull into a stop on Greenwood Ave, I have a view of a Bridal Gown store, a lovely Brunette in her mid-20s is turning as the seamstress pins the hem, her Mom is taking pictures with a camera, a friend takes pictures with her phone. On my left I’m passed by an electric bike with the cargo spot in front carrying a set of what I think are twins, toddler age, I begin to get ready to pull out and am passed by a small car with a husky hanging out the window, he barks at the lady riding the bike, she veer’s to the right but manages to avoid hitting a parked car.  Across the street the Fire House doors begin to open, a siren turns on and the flock of pigeons lined on a power line take flight.

Sunrise I’m at a stop, facing Mt Rainier, the foot of the mountain is pink, then is dark blue at the summit, the mountain dominates the seen as the buildings, cars, people become unnoticeable,  sheep clouds are red underneath, then cotton white at the top.  I watch the blinking red lights of a plane as its on its way to Sea Tac, my window is open, and the air is fresh as it gusts in my window. The early Seattle city planners designed the road this way and this is why we call it Rainier Avenue

I’m headed down a hill and stopped just before a busy intersection downtown, it’s Game day,  there is a Seahawk fan in full garb, hat, coat, shorts, shoes and socks in hawk colors throwing a football to other fans across intersections, he points at me, I shake my head no, and he throws the ball over my bus and to another person dressed in garb on the other side.  The crowd laughs and he throws the ball over to another corner, as I wait for the light, the ball has been thrown 4 or 5 times to different people.  There is a dog pulling at the leash wanting to get into the game, a street singer saws “Go Hawks” on her microphone, the crowd yells “Go Hawks.”  There is an old gentleman at a bus stop bench sleeping.

I’m at a stop that is by the front door of a small chain restaurant, they have a line on Sundays that goes about a half a block, people are drinking Starbucks, couples are meeting other couples, a family of 5 is carrying presents as to celebrate a Birthday. Inside the restaurant the tables are full, the windows are slightly fogged.  At the door the hostess is calling the next table. I pick up a couple that just finished eating and they ask me if I go near the zoo.  A younger man wearing a hoodie and headphones pushes by without paying or caring that he knocked food out of their hand, walks towards the back, they look at him briefly, shake their heads then find a seat in front. He gets off later at a busy downtown stop and pushes through the crowd, another younger guy swings back at him and hits him on the shoulder, he ignores it and goes into a drug store.

The crosswalk is full of people dressed in various types of garb, going left, right,  phones, briefcases, purses, wheel chairs, bags of food, clothes, dogs on leashes, hats, sunglasses, scarves set up multi moving patterns of color that hints of the stories they are telling.

Some Interactions on the Bus

Life should always be as happy as feeding birds

An older gentleman that I believe to be in his late 60s early 70s, definitely a hippy, hopped on to my bus and explained he was from out of town and has no idea how much it costs to use our bus.   I said, “well, people in their 20s pay 2.75, people a bit more mature pay a dollar”  Through his long beard his toothless smile chuckled and he said “ Im a bit past 20 but still immature” good for you sir, that will be a dollar and Ill give you a transfer for the next bus.  Yea, I’m heading up to Shoreline and need to get on some giddy bus” giddy bus? I said…. “something like that, a buddy of mine has an art show at the Shoreline town hall I’m in town to see it.  Very cool I said, I think you want the

E line, yea, that’s it. We were chatting as we headed down the road, Ill let you know when we get to that stop, great he said, I just got in from Spokane about an hour ago, I hitchhiked…. Really? That’s a long ride…. Yea, been 4 days, I picked up a ride to Republican, then over to Wenatchee, down to Arlington, then up here… sheesh that is a journey, yea, I like to get out at least once a year, hitch a ride and go for a bit…… you do that as a thing? I asked, oh yea, been doing it for years, my buddy said I should see this show, so this was a good reason for the ride…. You’re a good friend I said as we arrived at his transfer… I reached out and shook his hand, He struck me as a guy that’s had a lot of good conversations.

There has been what I believe is a Mother and Son that get on my bus in Ballard and ride into town, or from town to Ballard, her health has been on the decline and she moves a bit more slow each time and now has a hearing aid and wears dark glasses. I tilt the bus for her, she is careful with her cane as her son holds her arm, they sit close and chat to each other.  He is very attentive, they seem very close.  It reminds me of my mothers last days, as hard it is to watch a parent that is in their end of days, I think of my moms as some of the sweetest times I had with her. 

She had Leukemia. The last few weeks were a fast decline, I lived near by and would go to her place each morning to check on her before work and after.  One morning she was having a difficult time getting out of bed.  Mom was a big woman helping her out wasn’t easy, As I got her to her feet, she passed out, It was all I had to keep her from falling, and because of her size and physical condition, getting her back on the bed was more than I could do, I held her up in a bear hug.  I had my cell phone in my pocket and called 911 and explained the situation, and let them know her bladder just let lose, the dispatcher said they wouldn’t be long.   

I called into work and let them know I wouldn’t be in, she started to come too and started to cry, I’m so embarrassed she said, Mom, don’t worry about that, they are on their way, we will get you checked in for a few days…….. As upsetting as that memory sounds, and the loss of some very nice Italian shoes, I find it to be a moment of intimacy that is unforgettable one of those moments of love and understanding that can only be achieved with a lifetime behind it.

I envy them as much as I cringe at what will come next for them.

Don is a middle-aged man that lives in one of Seattle’s halfway houses, Don has a great nature, positive, fun, he doesn’t have walls nor is he shy from sharing anything.  He Physically seems to be in great shape, and I believe his situation is simply a limited mental capacity, which has never seemed to bother him.

His favorite coat is his mariner coat, he has gone to the expense of printing pictures of all his favorite mariner players on this coat, he shows it off with great pride, explains which picture is, when they played he shares a memory of them and there must be 30 or 40 pics on this coat…. It’s a good-looking jacket, I’m surprised no one has stolen his idea yet.

I see Don usually around the Denny area, lately he sells a local newspaper to people as they pass by, he loses interest as the pigeons flock to him, he loves his birds, they sit on his arms and shoulders as he feeds them, laughing, having a blast that these birds flock around him, sometimes must be a crowd of 30 or 50 birds around him as he puts bread crumbs and seeds on his shoulders, feet, hands , head he waves as people drive by.

Life should always be as happy as feeding birds.