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.

The Kiss

I have watched a man walk his dog during that time frame, a good looking Pit bull Labrador mix that has a brindle coat.

I have been driving the same route in the same time frame for about a year now, and at different times almost two years before that.  I have watched a number of people on this route and know some of their routines.

I have watched a man walk his dog during that time frame, a good-looking Pit-Bull Labrador mix that has a brindle coat.

He had been walking her up and down 35th sw, happy dog, smile on her face when she greets people, she has that squirm and her ears go down when she meets people, and she loves them all. 

He is over 50, shaggy beard carries a ball for her, I have seen her run and catch, fetch be distracted by birds, dogs and people as she brings it back to him. 

I have seen her become grey, and this past year, she has slowed.  He had stopped carrying her ball early last summer, she was walking with her head down, her tail swings slow left and right, she stops, her nose in the air and sniffs, he patiently waits for her to move again. 

I missed seeing them over the past few weeks, saw them today. He lives by a stop, I am letting on an old gentleman that needs the ramp as he scoots his walker past me I watch the pair, I’m saddened:

Her back legs are not working right, her hip overly swings, her front legs are weak as she shakes to walk.  They are at the end of their front walk of his house where it meets the sidewalk grass, she stumbles falls, whimpers, she seems blind now, scared, he bends down next to her, lifts her front torso up, kisses her head and sooths her.

I am taken by this moment, I leave my door open and watch this grotesque, horrible but beautiful moment. 

I know he is talking to her, softly, as his lips are to her head, he slides his other arm under her back, to her hips, then lifts her, she subtly jerks, he whispers again, holds her as he stands and kisses her head again, she relaxes, her head loose over his arm, her tongue out, he is holding his head against hers in a hug as they turn towards his door. 

I close my door and start to pull away as he carries her to his door.

Orange Needle

Crows are present, they have found stops like these offer foods for the day, materials for nests, a reason for territory arguments

This August morning started with greys and mists, sun orange behind clouds the warm light casting mild shadows.

Its early enough the sounds of cars, traffic and people are still singular sounds, muffled by their distance. I am at a stop at 12th and Lane. This stop is often busy with human services and care, by this stop is a small tent city know for its drug use, crime.  Some are waking up, some are returning home, they are moving around, one lady makes her way to 12th, She doesn’t seem to know she’s on the street, nor does she see me, she drops her pants, her skin is blotchy, potted, she pees, then vacates her rectum a few yards in front of me.  She cleans herself with a towel she tosses to the sidewalk.  My door is open, I smell the garbage that’s littered, wrappers, beer cans, broken bottles, clothes. I can smell alcohol and the garbage in the air. A siren in the International district echoes between the buildings.

Crows are present, they have found stops like these offer foods for the day, materials for nests, a reason for territory arguments.

Two Crows look to be molting, they are skinnier than most, not a jet black, more of a light charcoal, feathers hang loose from their bodies unpreened,  their movements are quick, they seem angry, they have found an orange needle the kind that is handed out by the state, they are pecking it.  One goes to pick it up, the other pecks at its beak, the needle is dropped, the crows fight each other. Viscous, not normal territory squabble.

I had to ask myself, are they fighting over the needle for its drug?

They are rolling on the ground, talons out, pecking for eyes, one flutters away chased for a bit.

I close my door, continue south across the Rizal bridge,

I can see T Mobile Park lighted in Pink, in the distance behind, Puget Sound then the Olympic Mountain range rises above the park, its peaks are blue to white, to a soft glow of the yellow sun touching grey clouds.

In the Park

 

 

7 am at Westwood, the park across from Target, there is a woman lying face down, sleeping, she is brunette, grey hoodie, she has the brown skin possibly an Islander,  her pants and underwear are off, they have been folded, placed next to her elbow of the arm her head rests on.  Her right knee out and almost equal to her hip.

An empty bottle of Jack Daniels lays on the other side of her clothes.

I can’t help but to look at the details of the situation.

It was not sexual for me,

There was some concern of perhaps rape, but her folded clothes, empty bottle, her deep, seemingly comfortable sleep led me to believe she found a comfortable spot.

I pick up the radio and call TCC

The Grass is long in this park, it is due

for a mowing, dandelions are tall, some yellow buds are turning white at the end of tall stalks where one has found itself to be standing behind her entrance.

It’s a warm morning, nearing 80 at 7am, a woman in her 80s that I often see walking, stops, approaches her, tries to wake her. The sleeper raises her head, then turns it the other way.

The elderly woman has a cell phone to her ear as she reaches for the woman’s pants and gently lays them across her rear.

I open the door to the bus, call to the elderly woman that I have called this in, she responds, “I just called too, the police will be here, 2nd time this week I have found her like this”.

You ok mam? “I’m fine, I’ll stay with her.

Thank you, mam, have a good morning.

TCC responds, I tell them to disregard.

A male in his 30s is doing his morning run, stops where the old woman is, they have a brief conversation, he turns his back and faces the street keeping his eye open for the police.

I pull out, start my route, heading east, sun in my eyes.

The Ladder

Driving South on the Aurora Bridge, Lake Union on the right,

Puget Sound on the Left.

 Chesheeahud was a renowned Duwamish chief and travel guide to Lake Union, Lake Washington, and Lake Sammamish in the days before roads were built in the City of Seattle and its suburbs of the “Eastside”. Chesheeahud was the leader of a Duwamish village on Lake Union. Chesheeahud had a cabin and a potato patch on land given to him by pioneer David Denny at the foot of Shelby Street as late as 1900.

 Landscapers have been busy at the “Canlis” Shrubs have been trimmed, lower branches from Maples removed.

There is a ladder that is leaning against a Juniper, left behind as the workers moved on.

 Crossing the bridge,

A Black Lives Matter sign hangs from its right side and drapes over the sidewalk the breeze picks up, it swells like a sail similar to one of the boats below.

Chesheeahud’s to become also known as “lake John” (canoe was a full-sized Salish style canoe, with gently up-curving bow and tapering, angled stern.  Carved from a single huge log of western red cedar, large canoes of this shape had almost disappeared by the end of the 1800s. This was by the Nuu-chah’nulth from the coast and western.

 A young man, 20 something, dressed in white shirt, vest, tie, nice  jeans leather shoes leaves the bus at 39th and Freemont, I pull forward he slaps the bus and waves, he has left his computer behind.

At 46th and Phinney, then drop him at 65th and Greenwood, I pick up a regular, older man, 70? Wears a grey flat cap, light blue jacket, jeans, white tennis shoes, his line before Covid was to pay a $1, say to me “its only fair” we both will shake our heads with appreciation for the corny greeting,

He awkwardly enters the back of the bus now and seems to feel he is missing something before he sits down.

 

“John was a Lake Indian. His illahee [land], which was given to him by his cloish tillicum [good friend], “Dave Denny,” was on Portage Bay, Lake Union, at the foot of what is known now as Shelby Street. There he had his cabin and a small potato patch. He buried his chickamin [money] at the base of stumps. Back among the stumps he built his “sit down” house,. of which he was very proud and which we would not allow any one else to use.”

 

One person is left on my bus, an older Japanese woman, English her second language sits in front with her cane and mask, I had picked her up at 4th and Jackson by the International District, she leaves my bus at 100th   where I pick her up in the mornings, Her husband is with her , his White Fedora, White Jacket that matches his white hair, he pays her fare, walks her to her seat while he does, he makes sure to let me know he is leaving and where her stop is.

Her Husband is now at 100th, there to greet her, helps her off the bus and both bow and wave goodbye to me.

 Chesheeahud and his wife, known by her Pastid name “Madeline”, were often referred to as “the last of the Lake Union Indians,” since they were in fact the last Duwamish family to maintain residence on the lake as the city grew up around  “Debadidi” (David Denny) and moved with many of his people to the Suquamish Reservation across Puget Sound.

I have continued the route, left my layover at Shoreline Community College, a dozen or so people on my bus, I cross the  Aurora Bridge Southbound, the Olympics are still white with shades of blue as they meet the sound.

On my left is the “Canlis”, with a ladder that has been left behind as workers moved on.

 Sources:

Dailey, Tom. Coast Salish Villages of Puget Sound, http://www.coastsalishmap.org/

Gould, Jim, Professor Emeritus of History and International Relations, Scripps College, Claremont CA. The Montlake Neighborhood,  http://montlake.net/mcc/mcc_history_Jim_Gould.htm

King County Landmarks & Heritage Commission, Change of Worlds, http://www.changeofworlds.org/object.cfm?object=

Thomas Speer

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.

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.

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.