| The way I looked,
I was embarrassed to leave the house. I was
walking to a party in Madrona, Elise's 45th
birthday, so I was bringing a stack of 45s to
play in a vintage light blue and white plastic disk-go-case, which by
happenstance neatly matched my 1960's cardboard
dejay swinger portable
record player, both of which I color coordinated
with a light blue cycling shirt with white
stripes. Hell, even the gift I was bringing, vol.
1 of robZtv (where Elise makes an
appearance in Chapter 15), matched the rest of
the ensemble. I looked and felt like the
stereotypical hipster, right down to the beard
and tortoise shell glasses. What's worse, I was
walking across the Central
formerly black part of Seattle which is
now rapidly gentrifying and blanching in the
process. I felt like an invader. And a rather twee and fey one at
First stop was Trader Joe's
where I picked up a six of Clausthaler,
my favorite malt beverage. The cashier asked
my plans, I said I was going to a house party.
"Is that a cake?"
I lifted the lid off the 45s,
"Yeah--a layer cake
"I want you to come to MY
party." I gave her my card, the one I made for the book I
wrote. "Are you
"It's my alter ego." Her
colleague at the next register chimed in, "I've
got a drinking alter ego, too!"
"Well, that used to be mine,"
My cashier was named Jules
and I felt less like a turd walking out than I
had coming in.
The walk was super pleasant,
the weather just perfect, the way Seattle in
summer ought to
be--sunny, dry, not too hot at all,
with a lingering golden light on the slow slide
to sunset. I passed an
abandoned house and relished its
decrepitude. Too much
decrepitude is no good, but the absolute lack of
it is soulless and sterile. Most of the new
restaurants I pass hold no appeal, everything so
sparse and bright, square and right, more
clinical than hospitable. Same for the cookie
cutter boxlike houses and the nondescript cars
that crowd both sides of
every street. So, yeah, let's hear it for a
little seasoning, the sagging fence and peeling
paint, the set-upon porch and lawn worn down by
I was still feeling like an
ass when I stumbled upon a strange little lot at
and Columbia, a hand-painted sign
welcoming me to Nora's Woods. The light was
hitting just right so I detoured through
it, hoping to find a way out at the top of the
fairly steep incline. An older black couple was
cleaning up and tending some flowers in the
uppermost corner where the winding trail
inevitably led me. Madrona was a historically
mixed neighborhood, nicknamed "The
Peacable Kingdom", but it too has been
skewing richer and whiter in the past 20 years.
Again, I felt like I was the face of
gentrification and half-expected to be met with
hostility for crashing the local spot. "Excuse
me, is there an exit up here?"
"Oh no, you gotta follow that
path all the way back down. You can get out at
the bottom corners but
not the top."
His companion asked from
where she was sitting, "Is that a record
"Yep, and here's a stack of
45s." I twisted off the lid and showed them.
They were delighted.
"My dad used to have a record
player about that size he used to hook under the
dash of his Chrysler."
"I was on Amtrak one time
with this and it played just fine. I've
seen pictures of those dashboard players."
"Well, my dad had one! We used
I asked who
Nora was and they weren't totally sure
except she used to live around here and left behind a
lot of bird houses. It's a city park
but the community takes care of it. I thought of
ancient forests, first
peoples, and all the intrusions and
displacements since then. I was grateful for
this pocket out of time and strangers happy to
meet in conversation. Later at the party
I met another
woman named Jules, second of the day, second of my life!
When I first stopped
drinking, parties and bars were the biggest
challenge, but now that I've got the hang of it
I don't miss it at all in social settings.
Instead of hiding out and chasing an elusive
buzz down the inside of a bottle, I've become interested in other
people. I've got nothing against alcohol. In
fact, I may like it too much. But ultimately it
never satisfies, so instead of being unsatisfied
with it after tying one on, I'm content to be
unsatisfied with it by having none.