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

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.” 

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.

Conversations with Katy

About a year ago, I pulled into my stop at 56th and 25th nw.  Katy about mid 30s who stands about 5’4, uses a walker, ski cap over her forehead and just above the eyes that are the opposite of cross eyed.  Jacket a bit too large, a scarf around her neck and pajama bottoms. Sneakers on her feet.  I kneel the bus and ask if she would like the ramp…… “Yea” she responds.  She uses the ramp as she begins her discussion.  “I need to be careful, because I fall” Oh no, take your time, be safe, “ I know, I get in trouble when I fall, I hate that”  She scoots and waddles, its apparent she has some kind of hip or leg issues.  “I gotta get my pills for my blood pressure day” OK I said. The person sitting at the front vacated the seat for her, she started to settle in, “ don’t go yet, wait till I  get seated please, I fall”  I fell about a year ago at a stop I hate that, I get in trouble”.  Oh no, I hope you were ok…. Are you ok?  “yea” I check my computer, its about 2 mins to get her loaded and seated.  We chat as I make my way down the road.  She speaks slowly, a bit loudly.  “ I gotta keep my walker near by recliner” she tells me, When I recline, then have to use the bathroom my legs fall asleep and I forget to take time to wake them, then I fall, I get into trouble when I fall.  I hate that” I guess it’s hard to be careful all the time I said.  “Yea” she said.

Mostly, our conversations go like this as I take her downtown where she transfers to another bus to her appointments.  I find her kind of funny and enjoy seeing her as she wobbles with her walker, her googly eyes, snotty nose.  Easy going and concerned that she might get in trouble if she’s not careful. She makes it to her appointments, grocery shopping, home. 

She speaks slow, her pace of the conversation stretches out between stops and sometimes she focuses her conversation on me.

About a week ago: 

“How late do you work”?  Oh, about 630 tonight.  Then is your wife making you dinner?  No, I’m not married……. I pull into a stop and start to let people on, “You’re not married”?  No…. I make it about halfway up the block. “How come”?  I don’t know I said, I pull into another stop, “Women don’t like you”?  I look at her, one of her googly eyes is behind her nit hat.  Not really, I said.  “Oh” We go up another block to a red light.  “Are you nice to them”?   Not always, I guess. The light turns green… “Maybe you should be nice, then you might get a date” Yea, I said. We pulled into a stop…. “Have you tried telling a joke?  Yea, but that doesn’t always work… another minute goes by and she asks “you’re not funny”? No. 

We arrive at her stop, I lower the ramp and she waddles off as I wish her a good night, she says “good night, Thank you”

Today I pick her up at Macys, she’s on her way to the grocery store, she complains she’s out of paper towels and has to remember to get them this time. “Ill remind you I said, “No” I can do it” I just have to remind myself, I keep my walker by my recliner, and when I get up to go to the bathroom, my legs are asleep, and I don’t give them time to wake up”  I’m wondering if this has something to do with the paper towels.  “I might have to get a caretaker, I get in trouble when I fall.

I know, I said, hate to see you get in trouble. “yea” she said.  I’m thinking that our year long of trips have sort of bonded us in a way, where I know her routine a bit, and she knows me.

  “How late do you work tonight” she asked. About 630 I said.  Is your wife making dinner tonight?  I smile and say, (and think I might dodge a bullet this time, so I lie…No, were going out tonight.

“Oh” we pull into a stop and I let some people on… “Does she make you shower before you go out”?  Yea, I said.  We make it to a light… “cause your sweaty”?

Yea, I work very hard I said. Another block… “Yea, you work hard” she sort of snickered it.  I look at her “Does she drive when you go out”?

No, I drive.  “How come”?  well, she doesn’t like to drive, I do.  “oh” we turn a corner and pick up a bit of speed.  “I need to pick up paper towels” Ill remind you when we get there…. “No, I can do it.” 

We arrive at QFC, I lower the ramp as she prepares herself to leave, “Are you nice to her”?  I always try. “There is another driver that isn’t nice, he’s single” She’s at the end of the ramp… Pick up paper towels!!  “I Know”

An older lady with blue hair blinks both her eyes at me while she leaves. I raise the ramp as Katy is waddling towards the store entrance.

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.