Rooftop

I’m out on the roof of an apartment building in Belltown, sitting around a table crowded with paper plates, ketchup bottles, and strangers. We’re eating barbecued burgers. We’re losing sunlight, and the dark clouds are getting more ominous. I refrain from pointing out that it’s probably going to start raining any minute.

A family is eating their barbecued meal in the little room that opens out onto the roof, fifty yards away. Whenever one of us crosses paths with them, one of the men in that group gives us a verbal poke in the ribs: “You can leave the beer on the counter over there. I’ll watch it for you.” or “You said you’d do our dishes, right?” The Mariners game is playing out on a big plasma screen TV that we can see through a window. Look away from the TV, and you can make out part of the giant scoreboard screen shining through the framework of the stadium across town. Occasionally the wind will carry the bass of the stadium sound system all the way over to us. Then the distinct voice of Björk drifts up from the waterfront. I’m convinced that I can tell which song she’s singing each time a new one is started. The lyrics are at the back of my head, but I can’t quite connect. Late in the evening, the squeal of a train braking on the tracks seems to compliment Björk’s howlings perfectly. (Wait. Is that a train or is it part of the music?) It doesn’t rain.

Cat

The lights in the parking lot outside my picture window brighten the window shade into an even flat glow. A movie I’ve seen a dozen times ends, and my eyes are drawn to the shadow of a cat which suddenly appears in my corner of the window. The shadow turns so that it’s in profile now, and it paces the length of the window, tail pointing up behind it. The shadow stops at the other end, hangs out there for a moment and then turns around to retrace its steps and wander away.

Another Day





“The ferry ride was uneventful.”

Tom suggested that, for my 500th entry, I “illustrate one of [my] favorite things-seen-and-overheard posts.” JR seconded the idea: One Thursday, a couple of months ago, I spent a good chunk of the day on an errand, waiting at ferry terminals and riding back and forth across Puget Sound. The entry I wrote about that day came out clearer-headed (and more syntactically correct) than most. These are more photos from that day.

[road and railing]

Life Story

There’s a woman sitting next to me at the lunch counter at the Three Girls’ Bakery. Her companion runs off on an errand just as their food is being served. She digs a wallet out of her purse and asks the server, “Would you mind if I paid now?”

“Nope. But first, are you going to have anything to drink?”

“I’ll have a Coke.”

“Anything for your friend?”

“No, my brother won’t want anything.”

“Alright. That’ll be nine dollars.”

She hands over the money and says, “I’m a stoner.”

The counter guy stands there and looks at the money, trying to decide the significance of this new information. ” . . . You’re a stoner?”

“Yeah. I’m his donor – his bone marrow donor.”

“Oh, okay.” He punches up her order on the cash register and comes back with some change. He is still confused.

“Did you think I said stoner?” She points at her brother’s stool, “He used to be a stoner.”

“Okay.”

“He’s lucky that I turned out to be a perfect match.”

“Yeah. I guess he would be.”

Her brother comes back. “Are you ready?”

“Yep.” She picks up her bread bowl. “Let’s take these somewhere and eat.”

The counter guy raises his hand, “Good luck!”

The woman nods her head in return, “Thanks.”

Recycling Day

It was recycling day and, while the bins were still out at the curb, I was sweeping up the narrow little recycling room. It really needed a more thorough dusting and vacuuming, but the building’s vacuum cleaner is kept in the gardening room and I don’t have the key.

Someone in the apartment above me started playing the saxophone, I don’t know who it was. The sax player hesitated at the start of the song, but found a comfortable tempo soon enough and went with it. Now I was kind of sweeping in time to the music – but not in a really obvious way, because across the hall someone was shifting clothes around between washers and dryers and I didn’t want to call attention to myself.

The sax player recovered quickly from a missed note, and now I felt like I was in a hard-boiled detective novel. I got into the corners around the door and my broom brushed out into the hallway and picked up a bit of action from the floor out there. The hallway is deep into a months-long remodeling, and things had not been going well. When the carpet was pulled up, we found a layer of a tar-like sealant underneath. This was not compatible with the surface we’d been planning to lay down, and things needed to be thought out again. The hallway floor was in mid-construction purgatory, perfect for the detective novel.

The guy came out of the laundry room and stood in the hall looking at me. All I could see was a backlit profile carrying a basket of clothes. He contemplated me for a moment. I squinted my eyes, and recognized him as one of the Andrews – quiet edgy Andrew (as opposed to nervous Andrew or out-spoken Andrew). He was wearing a kilt. He nodded at me and turned away toward the stairwell.

Now I recognized that I was not the star in this detective story, I was part of the atmosphere. I didn’t even have information for the protagonist, I was just some Joe sweeping up.

It was laundry day, and I was wearing my last clean outfit. The saxophone music that follows me around was accompanied by the sound of someone sweeping. I hauled my whites out of the dryer . . .

Passersby

  • A young man wearing a short-sleeve shirt and dark pants – a missionary’s uniform – stands swaying on the corner outside my building. His eyes are closed and there’s a Bible tucked under one arm.
  • A leathery sun-burnt guy in loose clothes and sandals sits outside the coffee shop leafing through a computer printout – an unruled grid of two digit numbers.
  • A girl with a self-help type library book open on the counter in front of her.
  • A student-type underlining passages in a Plato anthology with a mechanical pencil, flipping through thin whispery pages. He introduces himself pointedly and I’m distracted by a balloon bunch rising from a nearby car lot – three helium balloons tied together and spread out into a spinning “Y”.
  • (An increasing caffeine edge as I approach the day’s sixth cup of tea.)
  • One woman outside has a scar gouged out of the dragon tattoo on her arm. She spends several minutes handling a packet of rolling tobacco, before walking off briefly and returning with a pack of Camels. A little girl, who’s with her, eats sunflower seeds from a tube-shaped package. Quick little sparrows hop around among their legs and pick through the sunflower seed gristle.
  • The Plato reader later mentions his friend Charles, who he’d been talking to while I was buried in my reading. Some background details line up and we piece together that he’s a common acquaintance. “His face is like an English King’s.” Now I’m fairly sure that the last few times I’ve seen Charles, I’ve called him Jeremy.