Seattle 2013: Day Three

Wednesday, November the 27th.

Room tip $5.  B just left.  And I leave that room tip despite our Kleenex tin not getting refilled.  That’s what I meant when I referenced the “indicator tissue.”  Those Kimberly Clark (aka Kleenex) “professional” little boxes of tissue go orange for the last five or so tissues, letting you know you’re just about out.  I really like those tissue boxes—I used to have them at work somewhere, or maybe I bought some sometime.

I’ve had a cup of coffee, I’ve counted my change.  I’m happily musing and looking out the window on a not-as-foggy Seattle morning, Wednesday the 27th, Thanksgiving Eve.  Hannukah starts today, too.  It’s odd having T-give so late, X-Mas less than—or, no, exactly four weeks away.  That is not very far at all.

Dinner last night at Ray’s was “just OK.”  They served up a tremendous clam chowder and my blackened rockfish was darn good—a meaty fish nicely blackened, though inexplicably sitting in a pool of salsa.

But I thought the service and atmosphere was dreadful.  B’s mom had requested something “on the water”—and maybe they told her they’d do their best, no guarantees—but all I had a view of was the kitchen.  And as K made this complaint to the hostess seating us, all the hostess said was, “Well, you can wait until something better opens up.”  Barf.  That was a piss-poor thing to say.  I mean, could someone not have called K to say that her request could not be met but that the folks at Rick’s Café would still love to have us and would serve us a hell of a meal?

Instead, what we got was, “Here’s your blanking table, take it or leave it.”  Then of course the two young kids at the table next to us were running around their table like it was the maypole, running down the path back to the front of the restaurant—spending less time out of their seats than in them.  Their parents didn’t care, the waitstaff at Rick’s Café didn’t care.  What ever happened to being able to go somewhere—a café?—and get a nice, quiet meal?  Sorry, Ray.  But you did not seem to care what I thought about your place so I will not ever be back.  And that’s all I have to say about that.


I realized yesterday that there will be a football game—the Apple Cup between U Dub and Wazoo—at the very nearby Husky Stadium on Friday.  We are not quite but essentially on campus here at Talaris, smack dab in the midst of student/faculty housing.  I am excited for the atmosphere that will envelop us, probably early Friday with lots of early drinking, traffic, and tailgating.  We have no particular plans, and don’t need to drive anywhere so I’m just going to do some people-watching, walk down toward the stadium, and enjoy it.

That sky out there is clear!  We had a little bit of rain late yesterday afternoon, just as we were walking back to Talaris from the bus, and then some again as we were slowly making our way by car through the campus toward Ray’s out in Ballard.  But, for Seattle, I should think the meager amount of rain we’ve had in the 48 hours we’ve been here to be a great gift.

I’ve been back on through my photos and vids from yesterday downtown, along the harbor, on the ferry.  I got a few good textures, but with a little more time I could have gotten triple what I hauled.  Of course, those types of shots can probably be had by the hundreds in St. Louis and I’ve never really made any effort to capture them there so I can’t get too claustrophobic about it.  The lanyard for my iPhone was very useful in giving me the confidence to have my camera (phone) out on on the sundeck of the ferry, and in the case of a Vine I shot, to hold the phone over the railing to film how the ferry was cutting through the Sound.

At some point I need to get a map of the greater Seattle region, or at least a good Washington state map.  Not because I have a collection of maps from many of the places I’ve recently been but because I generally have no idea where the hell I am most of the time out here.  Our drive out to Ballard last night?  I couldn’t tell you what direction we went in, or how far we traveled in terms of distance. 

Lake Union, Lake Washington, Puget Sound, the Pacific Ocean.  I’m googled.  Sure, I could pull it up on my phone—and at some point I will—but I like to have it on paper in front of me without having to flick a screen or pinch/pull zoom.  I’m still trying to hang on to a little bit of the old school, for a reason that isn’t at all clear to me.

I was sitting here, there…having an imagined conversation with no one…a terrible habit of mine and probably a reason I often don’t have much I feel the need to say: because I’ve already said what I need to say, sipping a drink in an empty room, listening to music, looking out the window.  Or often just before a shower, during a shower, after a shower.  Talking, talking—not shutting up, not leaving myself alone—and so I say to everyone else: just leave me alone.

And I so I was telling no one about how I was just about getting to the end of this notebook, i.e. I’m going to fill this thing with my travel writing from/beginning with WI/MN nee Colorado 2013, following with Farm, Pere Marquette, and, now, Seattle.  I am feeling very good about this.  But then my imaginary interlocutor asks me if I’ve been writing any poetry and I respond by saying, “No, nothing like that.  I really haven’t had the composure or the disposition to write any poetry.  Maybe patience is a better word.  I have to be capable of objectivity; I must keep from keeping distracted by anything that is not the body of the poem itself.  In other words, second-guessers make terrible poets.  And I spend way too much of my time—day in, day out—second-guessing myself about a host of decisions—mainly work decisions, i.e. stocks—to be able to sit down in the midst of one of those days and craft a poem that is at all useful.

Hence, travel writing.  With this form I have something specific to write about—a place, a doing—it’s all around me: newness, something to describe, to record.  In that way, travel is like a writing drug for me, a catalyst.  It is the equivalent of blindfolding myself and painting with whatever paints I pull out of the bag.  Sure, I could regiment myself more forcefully and say, “OK, take this next hour, sit down, and write something.”  But I imagine that what would come out first would be complaints, gripes, and hot air.  Writing while I’m in some other place, as long as I have a moment to sit and catch my breath, is the best I can offer today.

Nap sleep is the best.  It’s like being passed out on life.  I slept for only a couple of hours but I was in such a deep state of sleep that the sun working its way west down the horizon and blasting me in the face through the window wasn’t bothersome but quaint.  I was so out that, despite having ESPN on at normal volume, I somehow slept through PTI, with which if you are not familiar, can get boisterous on a normal day.  Today Tony K was dressed like a turkey and making more noise than a turkey would.

Compare this to my attempt to sleep at night, when every little house sound or the lack of perfect positioning bothers me back to a fully awake state.  When I’m tired at night I toss and turn.  When I’m tired during the day I could fall asleep on a set of traintracks and not care if a train were coming.

We shopped earlier.  American Apparel.  I’ve got several of their items.  I’ve always been attracted to their status as a domestic manufacturer (their stuff is made in downtown LA).  I’ve experienced some inconsistent sizing on their deep v-neck summer shirts but B wanted to go to their store on University Ave.  So I went in and ended up buying three things while she got nothing!  I found a beanie that is shockingly similar to one that I bought at a grocery store a dozen years ago and still wear frequently.  Then I decided to give their knee-high socks a try.  I got two pairs—I’m wearing one now and they feel good.  Though they are mostly cotton they have small amounts of both nylon and elastane in them so they slide on without a dollop of elbow grease.  That’s my problem with too many of my other socks: they take such effort to get on my dang feet!  I have gone to the length of first putting these stubborn socks on my arms first, to break them in after washing.  It’s ridiculous and I’d like to stop doing it.  So I have been and will continue to phase those stiff socks out of my lineup.

After American Apparel, I went kind of pen crazy at the University of Washington bookstore.  For years I have been having a hard time finding the kinds of Pilot G2 refills I want.  These are a specific kind of gel pen refill I am talking about, and the refills themselves come in different sizes, ranging from the “Bold” 1.0 width, to the very easy-to-find .7 “fine” tip, then to the fairly common “extra fine” .5 width, and finally on down to my preference, the elusive .38 “ultra fine” refill.  What I like about these pens—and why I want the refills—is that you can by a pack of .7 pens—which include not just the ink cartridge but also the pen bodies themselves—and then once the cartridge is empty, you can put any type of cartridge back in that .7 body—.5, .38, whatever.  So in my early days of using the G-2 pens I bought whole pens—.7s or .5s—and eventually used them up.  That left me with and empty pen body—sometime I call it a “chassis”—but no ink.  I could go and buy new pens but then I was just tossing a perfectly fine empty chassis and that struck me as wasteful.  So I started looking into buying refills and that’s when I discovered the .38 size—and I’ve been hooked on these “ultra fine” badboys ever since.

Except for one small problem: they aren’t very easy to find.  I can get the black ink .38s on Amazon but somehow that just feels like cheating.  So I’ve taken on as a kind of quest the mission of finding my .38 refills “in the flesh.”  In 2012, B and I must have hit half a dozen Office Max/Office Depot/Staples stores in NYC and I might have come away with one .38 black ink two-pack.  Any time recently I’ve looked at the above-mentioned stores, I’ve struck out, including at the Washington University bookstore in St. Louis.  That was a total zero.

But B thought I’d have a good chance of finding what I wanted at the University of Washington bookstore.  And I did.  I wouldn’t quite call it “the motherlode” but I came away with quite a haul of gel.  I got three two-packs of black .38s.  I probably should have gotten more but I didn’t want to get greedy.  Because I also found something that I wasn’t even sure existed before: blue .38s.  Now, they did not have blue .38 cartridges—I had to buy whole pens, but this was a small price to pay to get a crack at another color of .38 (which with I am currently writing).  Then I added a two-pack of red .5 cartridges (never seen them before), some blue .5 cartridges, and then I bought a stand-alone green .5.  It was a hell of a bookstore, probably the best office-supply offering I’ve ever seen.  I bought a nifty Made-in-Spain Miquelarius wire-bound journal (I am pretty sure I had one of their journals back in 2001, for a lot of stoned scrawlings).  Then I couldn’t help myself in front of their Sharpie display and picked up a black Sharpie “Twin Tip”: one tip is fine marker, the other is ultra fine pen.  All of that, which got me so hot and heavy, was $25.34.  I wasn’t done.  As I was finding these various items that have eluded me in various aisles over the years, I thought of something else I had been looking for for years: book darts.  These are little bronze thing-a-ma-jigs that slide over a page and serve as an understated bookmark.  My mom got me a tin of 25 or so for Christmas several years ago and even though I was solicitous of my stash because I knew I was losing them, I have only managed to hold on to one—it is currently the bookmark in the book I brought on this trip, J.G. Farrell’s incredible The Singapore Grip.  Long story short, they had the bookdarts, too.  My choice was a tin of 50 or a tin of 120.  I went with the 50: I’ll take better care of them this time, I swear!

Addendum to my note about nap sleep: I was so tired I fell asleep with a toothpick in my mouth!

Ah, drinking (a beer), sitting in our hotel room, with the Maui Invitational on the telly.  Talking—chatting.  Taptowne won the Swatara Stakes at Penn National in Pennsylvania a few minutes ago.  He is a hell of a horse and was done a lot of wrong in California.

Before I forget this is where we are staying:

Talaris Conference Center
4000 NE 41st. St.
Seattle, WA  98105.

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