Monday, July 11, 2011

Seattle Candid Camera: Finding Pictures, Stories, and Laughs Seemingly Everywhere.

Our arrival in Seattle to visit our daughter Misha, husband Ed, and kids Mia, 9, Bella, 8, and Max, 4, got off to a sobering start. After my regular physical by doctors Bella and Max, shown above, Dr. Bella gave me some awful news.

"The numbers are bad, very bad," Dr. Bella said, her face a portrait of professional concern. "Your blood pressure is way up and your heart is not working right. You only have about two weeks to live."

"Two weeks, doctor? Are you sure?"

"Yes, we have to operate right now."

So the two of them, Dr. Bella and Dr. Max, swung into action. First, they gave me medication to put me to sleep.  The last thing I remembered before blacking out was Dr. Max reaching into a big box of  surgical instruments.

When I woke up, it was to a smiling Dr. Bella. "Good news," she said with a big smile. "You're going to be all right. The operation was successful."

"What did you do?" I asked.

"Heart transplant," Dr. Bella said.

"Yea, a heart transplant," Dr. Max said.

I didn't ask questions, like where they got the heart. I just said, "Oh, thank you, Dr. Bella and Dr. Max. Now I'm going to get even older."

Thanks to my two doctors, I was soon up and about. The next morning Barbara and I were in our second home, the nearby Starbucks that we walked to every morning.  One of the first things I noticed there is that one super tall guy after another walks in. I mean, these are guys with heads scraping the ceiling!

Here are a couple of photos of what I mean. The first is one of the giants. The other is of me and a giant that I walked up to and confronted about his abnormal height.

"You know that you are a lot taller than you should be," I said looking up at him.  "How come I have to watch one giant after another walk in here? Can you imagine how that makes me feel?"

He looked down at me and laughed.

I mentioned my problem to a couple of the baristas, Kathy and Erin, shown below.  Both said that they had never noticed more tall guys than usual, but would check it out.

Pretty soon, as one giant after another walked in, Kathy and Erin were giving each other and me knowing looks and having fun with it. My look back at them said, "Now, tell me I'm crazy."  And, indeed, both admitted later that they had never noticed all the tall guys.

The reason is right there in the history of the Northwest. I did a little research and found that early on there there was a major migration to the Northwest from Sweden, Norway, the Netherlands, and other Indo-European nations. These were areas with a large number of unusually tall males.

Their descendants are the giants of Seattle that march mockingly in front of me at Starbucks.

Did I mention that every morning in Starbucks Barbara and I sit in the VIP spot? No? Well, we do, in the corner at the front window where we can see everybody come and go. Actually, having a VIP spot saved for us is the least of how important we are at Starbucks.

On the day before were were to leave, guess who got our Tall and Grande Pike coffees--room for cream in Barbara's Grande--and two 8-grain rolls heated and with a little butter? Oh, yawn, yawn, just the mayor of Shoreline, the city where this Starbucks is located.  He is Keith McGlashan and he has been Mayor of Shoreline for two and a half years and a member of the City Council for six years.

The Mayor took our order, brought our coffees and rolls, and rung us up.  When he handed me my change, I said, "Thank you, Mr. Mayor." I had never been waited on by somebody so important.

At left, the Mayor serves our coffees. Right, I lobby the Mayor during his break. Notice how tall he is. Imagine that -- the Mayor of Shoreline coming in just to serve Barbara and me!

Oh, all right, I'm getting a little carried away. The truth is, Mayor McGlashan, 57, really does work at this Starbucks in Richmond Beach.  For thirty years, he owned a hair salon. At 55, he sold it and retired.

But even with his mayoral and Shoreline city council duties, he sought additional work. A regular at Starbucks, he wondered if the firm would hire someone his age. They would and did. And here he is waiting on Barbara and me and other Starbucks customers.

"Mr. Mayor," I said, "I have a question.  Why do you work at Starbucks? Why don't you just live off your mayor and city council pay, not to mention all the political payoffs?"

"I make $9,000 from the City Council and $11,000 as mayor," he said, assuming that would answer my question. It did.  Like the rest of us, he needs more than $20,000 to live a reasonable life.

You would never know it to look at him, but Mayor McGlashan is recuperating from a heart attack. He said heart problems run in his family, something he learned at 16 from a father he had never known and who promptly disappeared again. He said that his heart attack had been a "wake-up call."

Mayor McGlashan obviously has quite a story to tell. I wanted to hear it, but he had to get back to work.  Reading my mind like a true politician, the Mayor gave me his e-mail address and offered to be in touch by e-mail.

"Thank you, Mr. Mayor," I said. "Been a pleasure meeting you. We'll be in touch."

The Starbucks crew surprised us with a going-away Starbucks gift card. With it was a nice note: "We have so much enjoyed your company!  Come see us again when you're back. Your friends at Richmond Beach Starbucks."

How thoughtful. Thank you. We'll be back!

We didn't spend all our time at Starbucks. Our daughter Misha also had a "Japanese Tea Party" for Bella's 8th birthday. Yes, she is a very, very young doctor. In the lineup below of girls dressed in their kimonos at the party, Dr. Bella is 4th from the right. Her sister Mia, 9, is next to her, 3rd from the right.  The invitations, the food, the art, the kimonos themselves were all "authentic" Japanese.  Misha created the invitations, the framed art, and the kimonos herself.

Like every event Misha puts on, it was a great party, one that Bella, Mia, and all the girls will surely remember.  Before the tea party, Misha herself did up the girls' hair, complete with chopsticks, and friend Molly put on some make-up, before they all sat down to a scrumptious table of sushi, rice, chicken, tea, and home-made cupcakes.

In this photo is Bella, sister Mia, and, from left, Misha, her good friend Molly, and Barbara.  In the other photo, I am with the birthday girl, Bella.

In the two and a half weeks we stayed with Misha and Ed and kids (Mia, Bella, Max), we ate well.  That is an understatement.  Ed, a former chef, did some of the cooking. Here he is with one of his great meals, with little Max, 4, digging in.

We also explored Richmond Beach, the cities of Shoreline and Edmonds, and went to the farmer's market in Queen Anne.  Barbara and I went off one day to downtown Seattle. We took the kids out to area playgrounds, of which there are many. One afternoon, Barbara and I took all three kids to the  Edmonds Theater to see Cars 2.

Following are photos from these various adventures. The first is a photo of Barbara and me at the entrance to Richmond Beach.  A thoughtful woman offered to take a picture of us. There is no shortage of thoughtful and sociable people in the Seattle area.

 Here I am sitting on one of a huge number of logs on Richmond Beach, reading my New York Times.  The logs were washed ashore from recent powerful storms such as Japan's tsunami and have just been left there. They make great benches. They also serve to remind us of the awesome power of natural forces. As a rock-lover, I am in my glory below.  I found some beauties.
 I don't know about you, but when I look at the log below, I don't see a log. I see the remains of an alligator-like creature.
 Below I pat a lonely sea lion.  Being a water creature myself, we immediately bonded.
Ordinarily, Barbara doesn't care for photos with her back.  But I thought this was an interesting shot and she went along with it.

When we first arrived at Richmond Beach, the crows went wild.  I thought they were excited to see me. The real reason was that a red-tailed hawk had invaded their territory, threatening their young. Hiding in a tree with an open view, the hawk was hungry and hunting. He was scanning for  mice and other small prey to swoop down on.

The crows knew it and were "angry," said Jay Hornbeak of the Shoreline Parks Department, whom we met staring at the hunting hawk.  Yes, as we talked about birds with beaks, "Hornbeak" is his real name.  As we talked, the hawk flew off with squadrons of angry crows dive-bombing him out of there.   After that, I looked for a close-up of a crow and finally got the one below-- keeping an eye on human visitors to his territory. 
One day, Barbara and I just went for a drive and ended up in Pike's Market in Seattle.  At the fish counter, the fishmongers entertain, tossing fish back and forth. Of course, with the name Pollock and my love of the water, I'm half fish myself -- maybe more than half.

Here I look down on an unfortunate relative and soul mate, a rockfish. We both live in the water and love rocks and have similar rugged, masculine looks. Erin and Kathy, is that nice thinking of us as "ugly?" 

Now here are a few shots of the kids at play. We start with the athletic, if not balletic, Mia doing a beautiful cartwheel. Max emerges from his slide. Bella does a balancing act.  Mia strikes a majestic pose.

Mia's pose is a possible cover shot for my upcoming E-book, a paranormal novel about a 10-year-old girl with the "power." The title is, "Something Tells Her." Mia and Bella have both been suggesting plot ideas and making drawings for possible use in the book. Confronting strong waves below, Mia summons the "power."

And that's our glimpse of Seattle. We'll be going back in a few months. At 39, with three kids, Misha is pregnant with her fourth and is due in October.  Barbara and I will be there for the birth and to offer love and support.

To our friends at Starbucks, we'll be using that thoughtful gift certificate.  Could you please reserve our VIP seat by the window?  Appreciate it. 

Mr. Mayor, even though we have just met, I feel that we made a real connection. I was wondering if you could do me a small favor? You see, I have this friend in Shoreline and he has this problem with the city.... Oh, maybe it would be better if I e-mailed you. I'll do that. Sorry, I'm still learning how to use my new political influence.

So long and keep moving.

Amazon 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 his being locked up for 23 hours with killers in a maximum security prison;  "I, Cadaver" is about his 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 that literally saves his life;  "A Long, Happy, Healthy Life," which is about how to live the title every day; and "Unlove Story," Writing anonymously as "Elvis," a husband, dumped after 38 years of marriage, lets it all out on love, marriage, life, everything. A guy doing this? It's unheard of.
   For the Nook:

A Beautiful Story
A Long, Happy, Healthy Life
I, Cadaver
State Kid
Unlove Story

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