Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Seattle Scenes: When Legs Do The Walking and a Camera Does the Talking.

Seattle is different from East Coast cities.

But don't take it from me. Take it from my camera.

What does this photo of Barbara and me tell you?  Perhaps, just perhaps, that when grown-ups come out here, they forget that they are adults and start acting like kids?  Such as jumping on and riding iron sea lions?

Getting on a fat sea lion is easy; getting off is not.  Barbara, a young girl compared to me, hopped off easily. I had trouble. Just after an elderly couple sitting nearby on a bench offered to help me off, I managed it on my own. I made it look a lot harder than it was. They both laughed.

As we left, the gentleman smiled and said, "Thanks for the entertainment."

"Any time," I said.

People laugh easily here.  That makes Seattle an ideal setting  for a show-off and amateur comic like me. I'll do anything for attention and a laugh. In this photo, hoping to catch the eyes of passersby, I do a little balancing act complete with a little dance flourish.

I got a few smiles but more quizzical looks that said, "Look at that crazy old guy." Oh well, that's show business.  You can never tell what  will go over with an audience.  But at least no one reported me to authorities.

People here have a high tolerance for quirkiness.  Maybe the beautiful setting has something to do with it. I was doing my act on the beach in Edmonds with picture-perfect white-capped mountains in the background.

The lucky woman below taking a break from work has a not too bad scene to feast her eyes on and get re-energized. I'd say it beats any employee rest area that I have seen.

She would also be able to look out and watch the ferry churning its way into Bracket's Landing, as in this photo. The only downside might be noisy interlopers like us carrying on.

Here I'm fooling around with Bella while two other grandkids, Mia and Max, and their mom Misha  more or less behave. Mia is dressed in the white gown she wore while receiving her First Communion earlier.

Ed, father and husband, takes in the show and the scenery with little Max.

People were fishing off the main dock.  And just as we walked by, a fisherman had pulled in an exotic, outrageously colorful creature of the deep.

It was a starfish, underside up on the dock. The fisherman was just about to throw the creature back when I asked if I could take a picture.

He obliged and here is that picture.  Seconds later the lucky starfish got tossed back into the water, presumably having learned a lesson: stay away from those tempting appetizers dangling at the end of a line.

The starfish was not the only creature of the deep  encountered.  A few day's later, told by my wife and daughter to get lost (without actually saying the words; they are too polite for that), I walked three miles to the same spot. There I encountered three strange-looking creatures on the beach. They were part human for sure because they had faces, eyes, mouths, and walked upright.
On my own and lonely, I began talking with them as they prepared to go in the water.  As I watched them pull on rubber suits, fasten gloves, heave on huge oxygen tanks, and check various gauges, I asked, "Do your moms know you are doing this?"

"My mom and I trained together," one said. "She's a diver, too."

"You're not worried about getting eaten out there by something a lot bigger than you?"

"No," the second one said. "But did you know that right here are the world's largest octopuses?"

"Really?  And that doesn't worry you, that you could be gone in one gulp?"

"Nah," the third creature of the deep said.  And I watched as the three of them, chatting happily, walked down to the water and disappeared into it.

Back at the house, I was allowed to be present at Mia's 8th birthday party.  Like all of Misha's parties, it was an extravagant, meticulously-planned, beautiful affair.  The night before, Misha gave us all paints, paint brushes, and blank canvases and told us to paint.  I told her that I had never painted anything in my life.

"Paint," she said. I did and so did Barbara and Ed and Mia and Bella and even little Max. And soon the results were on the wall for Mia's party, shown here.
 As we all gradually let our inner artists out, Barbara worked diligently to fill the space in a socially acceptable way. Ed, who has prehistoric impulses, went wild with colors while depicting a female face with outsized hair, lips, and eyes. Mia had fun splashing on colors. Bella settled for one color, brown.

With me, something unexpected happened when I picked up a paintbrush for first time in my life, dipped it in paint, and looked at a blank canvas.  I thought about how I might best fill up that space.  Could I be another Jackson Pollock?

I actually had reason to wonder whether I was related to the famous painter. My cousin Dianne, a genealogist, has recently discovered that we are related to historic luminaries, including a few Presidents. Dianne, could you find out if I am related to Jackson Pollock?
If I have his genes, one thing is sure.  My first painting ever will be the first original Pollock in years.  And then our paintings were finished and on the walls, on either side of a painting by Misha. Among her many talents, she is also an accomplished painter.

"You trying to make us look bad?" I asked her.

She smiled, guiltily.

She won't be so smug when Cousin Dianne finds out that I am related to Jackson Pollock and the first original Pollock in years is on the market and the bids start rolling in.   I figure the bidding will start at $125 million. 

Meanwhile, after the party, I was again banished to the wilderness.  I had no car, only my God-given legs. And I used them.  Boy did I use them, walking mile upon mile in the Shoreline/Edmonds area. I checked out the Firdale Village shopping area.

To my surprise, I found that much of this little area is devoted to animal needs. The Dining Dog Cafe & Bakery is a restaurant for dogs. It says it is the only restaurant where your "4-legged baby" is seated at a table with a "white tablecloth, chandeliers overhead, and the menu is designed exclusively for them!'"

Does that mean that dog-owners have to go hungry?   No. You can get people food by ordering out from nearby eateries. It is delivered to your dog's table -- if he deigns to share it with you.  You can read more at Dining Dog's website.

Splash Dog is a spa that provides warm water therapy for the canine set.  The therapy includes body work such as massage, range of motion exercises, and swimming.  Splash Dog promises that its therapy "can help your dog to live a more healthful, active, and rewarding life."  It specializes in injury treatment and recovery.

Curious, I went into Splash Dog.  There I came upon a therapist in a pool working with a big boxer named Joey and an tiny chihuahua named Twinks.  Both come twice a week for treatment. Joey is 10 years old and feeling his age. "But he is doing better with the treatment," his owner said.  She's had him since he was a pup and he is the "love of her life."

In the photo Joey gives little Twinks a ride. You can read more about Splash Dog at its website. As if this were not enough, there is also a cat-grooming studio in Firdale Village. On the way is a Doggie Day Care called Peanut's Pals.  Apparently, this is not at all unusual for Seattle. For sure, this is an animal-lover's town.

Seattle is also people-friendly. Everywhere I walked, people spoke and smiled. Drivers slowed and waved me across the street. Like other major cities, Seattle is clogged with traffic. But here pedestrians, not cars, are routinely given  right of way.

I felt important walking. In Edmonds one glorious sunny day, I walked by a couple sipping wine at an outdoor table of an Italian restaurant.  I thought, "what a nice picture," but kept walking.  Impulsively, I went back and asked if I could take their picture.

Both broke into huge smiles and immediately struck a pose. "Sure," the woman said. "My husband is a photographer."

"Well, " I said, looking at him, "then you know why I had to come back and take this picture."

"Absolutely," he said.

And here is the picture.

And then, normal for Seattle, we chatted.  They have had a long and happy married life. The kids are grown and out on their own.  And now they have the time and freedom to enjoy life, to do the things they have always wanted to do.

To start with, they want to live more simply. They want to sell their big house and move into something smaller that requires less care. They're thinking of a condo in Edmonds.

"I don't want to drive everywhere any more," he said. "I don't want to waste time in traffic. I'm done with being  a slave to a car. In Edmonds, we can walk everywhere."

"Well," I said, puffing myself up, "I just walked here from Shoreline and I'm going to walk back. Works for me."  I could tell they were impressed.  They will never  know that I called  Ed and asked him to pick me up. 

We parted as we met, with no names or numbers or e-mail addresses or websites or networking or hidden agendas of any kind.   It was pure, honest, eye-contact (yes, through the sunglasses) conversation that happened spontaneously for its own sake and without one of today's ubiquitous electronic intermediaries.

It was people talking to people.  This happens a lot in Seattle.

So long and keep moving

P.S. And now a 5-hour flight home. I'd rather walk.

 E-Books by George Pollock

"State Kid: Hero of Literacy" is fiction based on his  real-life experiences  growing up in foster homes; "Last Laughs," is the true story of how five foster kids (he and four younger siblings) found their way in life and each other. "Killers: Surprises in a Maximum Security Prison," is the story of the author being locked up for 23 hours with killers in a maximum security prison;  "I, Cadaver" is about the author's postmortem adventures and mischief in the anatomy lab at UMass Medical School. “A Beautiful Story” demonstrates the art and process of creative writing as a 16-year-old boy goes all out to write a story good enough to get him into an exclusive college -- on full scholarship; and "A Long, Happy, Healthy Life," which is about how to live the title every single day.

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