She Sells Flowers

 

 

Flowers picked from roadside green spaces, Snap Dragons, Paint Brush, Cow Parsnip, Cut leaf, Coralroot, cut, arranged in found bottles that had been rinsed, but not washed, whiskey, mayonnaise, mustard, mason, whatever bottle found then arranged by height, 20 or so, the tallest in the back, short in front, a handful of flowers in each, not too many, less is more, amongst the offering of arrangements, small hand size American flags, coasters of the Space Needle.

A Red White and Blue ribbon weaves its way through the back row of flowers, the display sits on a tie dye silk throw

Her Mid length, non-washed brown curly hair holds to her head like a helmet, Green and white pin striped button down shirt, holes in the elbows, missing buttons reveal a black bra, her jeans dirty, worn in the knees, rolled cuffs, dirty feet wearing whitish sandals. I think she was once attractive.

How much for the arrangement in back? She didn’t look me in the eye as she said “the ones in back are $7 comes with the vase”

I like the one in the Jack Daniels bottle, “Lovely” she said as she reached for the jar, handed it to me with her eyes down, her body odor was strong, it had a back odor of excrement.

She had a small wagon that I believed carried her goods, her purse sitting in it. She reached for it after I paid her.  She struggled to slip the money in, a needle fell out, the kind they hand out for free at the clinics, orange tip and cap.

I had seen her on Broadway for over a week now and curious about her goods spread out, the staging was attractive, the arrangements seemed to be done with the “right touch”

I was driving by today when I decided to make a visit.

I think she is an artist at heart, there are people who you look at, see their work and it fits together, yes, you can tell they painted that.

As I walked away, I admired my new flowers, beautiful in their contrast of something pretty and something that was used and thrown away as garbage, unwashed, taken to be used for something perhaps better.

Walking towards the train station, a bike road by me, the handle bar hit my elbow I dropped, then breaking my vase on the cement.

I kicked the bottle together, picked up the large shrouds of glass, threw it away in a garbage can.

Ill buy again from her, maybe she will show me her eyes.

The Beautiful

Somehow the warmth of the air brings us inside the perfume of flowers, trees, breeze bringing us nearby kitchens, clicks of glasses with ice, somehow the light and shadow with its strong contrast creates a focal point.

 

 

She walks south on Freemont ave, Red Dress hangs just to the knees, small white floral pattern, brown sandals perfect with the summer dress, her dark hair pulled back to a pony tail, Olive skin, her right hand holding white daisy’s, her left gently swings lose, each step graceful like an ice skater, her head glides like on a rail, she moves through the shadows of the trees, the light dancing on her like she is center staged, people notice her, girlfriends holding hands of their lovers join their lovers in a long look as they hold their breath.

Summer is the time for such moments,

Somehow the warmth of the air brings us inside the perfume of flowers, trees, breeze bringing us nearby kitchens, clicks of glasses with ice, somehow the light and shadow with its strong contrast creates a focal point.

She walked through the sidewalk crowd lost in her thoughts, provoking thoughts of others

She is early 20s, she lifts her hand with the flowers and smells them as she passes an elderly couple, He uses a walker, she has her on his arm , white hair, white wrinkled skin fresh to the sun step into the shade of the tree and  watch her walk by, he kisses her hand then they turn back slowly moving on their way.

A 40sh male riding his bike slows to look at her, loses the rhythm of his pedals, he shakes his head as he regains his rhythm, energy well spent.

I turn my bus west on 46th, 12pm on a Monday, its quiet on this street, not so many shadows as the sun is now overhead, not so many trees, cars on each side.

I think of the time I met my lover at a QFC, we bought Sushi and Ice Tea, we walked to a near by park and talked, we had winter jackets on, hers a light blue, mine kaki, I did not notice it was cold.

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.

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.

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.

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. 

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.

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.