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Picture of the Day

August 1, 2016


                        on Capitol Hill, Seattle, 15th & Republican
                        - click to enlargify
Shoprite, 15th & Republican, Capitol Hill, Seattle

it's been a busy summer. when i was a teenaged lifeguard sipping free snackbar milkshakes on break or playing waterpolo in the deep end with the swim team i coached, i used to imagine how horrible it would be to be a regular schmoe in jeans and shirt swinging a hammer on a construction site in the heat. despite my anticipatory horror at the prospect, somehow it's become a self-fulfilling prophecy. i come home begrimed, the day's dust turned to a fine paste on my sweaty face. yet there's nothing i seem to like better than putting things together, and i've wandered down a lot of different paths only to turn back as soon as i felt trapped. the only job i'd prefer is one where i'm lounging somewhere overlooking swimmable water and waving to the letter carrier as they bring me my latest royalty check, preferably by small boat.
    it's been a busy summer, and today was my first certified day off from all wearying activities in weeks. i stayed in bed till about 1:30, torn between napping and reading. then i wrote some letters and wrapped some packages, went across the street and around the corner to the post office outlet, a private enterprise but quasi-official insofar as it's listed at and there's no upcharge for postage. it has that small business feel, the proprietor himself the only one i've ever seen working the counter. adding to its charm is the subtle aroma of weed from ruckus next door.
    i idled awhile outside the grocery store, chatted with michael, a real change vendor who used to be a union drywall taper. "you can't beat a man at his trade," he says. "run like clockwork if that's all he do." i thought of him a little later in the day when sarah and i went to the bank down the block to get something notarized (what a fun day off!) and saw their space being remodeled, fresh sheetrock all around with white duct tape--duct tape!--covering every corner, seam, and screwhead (of which far too few). unorthodox, to say the least and no workers anywhere to be seen.
    well, i had home projects of my own to attend to, top of the list the communal bench in the side yard which for weeks has been fallen apart, legs up like a stricken mammal. all it needed was some bondo and bolts, but the ones i had were too short so i took a left at the north end of the alley and slipped into shoprite, a general store that gives hasegawa's on maui a run for its money. coincidentally, shoprite was also the name of a northeast grocery chain whose titillating commercials were one of my earliest glimpses of the risque adult world when i was a slack-jawed televison-obsessed child. i asked the owner of today's shoprite if i could take a picture. he said yes, as long as he wasn't in it. i didn't press, but he offered to step out from behind the counter so i could get it in the picture, just minus him. i showed him the result. "it's good, yes, good!"
    "do you want a copy? i could email or print one for you."
    "oh no, i do not need a picture. i see this every day, morning to night."
    i went back to the bench with my eight shiny new zinc machine screws, not exactly what i was looking for but enough to make do till i get some proper galvanized carriage bolts. the ones i had to settle for were too long and two protruded from the seatback so i hacksawed off the excess. just as i was finishing off a jagged edge two tennish/twelvish kids, dutifully helmeted, stopped their bikes on the sidewalk where they'd been riding and stared as i put away the pocket saw and sat down on the bench with my laptop. the boy said, "that used to be broken."
    "yeah, i just fixed it. progress is being made."
    the girl, wise as only an older sister can be, stated flatly, "it looks loose."
    "yeah, that's how it broke in the first place. it's not a very good design."
    "uh hmmm."
    "it should be fine if it doesn't get moved around too much." i failed to breach the beachhead of her skepticism.
    i was glad they were tuned in to their surroundings. it made me think back to how i saw the world as a kid. yes, a broken bench would definitely stick out, both as landmark and portent.