After the steep, always delightfully roguish descent down sandy bluff (far easier than usual due to overnight showers which stabilitized the ordinarily terrible footing) through colorful maples and green nettles, Oliver Fern and I spent several hours wandering the beach at relatively low tide. After inspecting untold numbers of tiny crabs and undertaking a handful of meandering detours around ghastly, slippery clay leaching and oozing out of the forest above into the shallows of Elliott Bay, we eventually happened upon a derelict runabout, a garish-orange Whitehouse full of putrid seawater and gravel and we pried the dangling, corroded nameplate off with a mussel shell, loving found objects much as we do (Oliver Fern insisted we tow the boat home, cleverly appealing to my sensibilities with a most intriguing proposal involving containerized Saguaro cacti in the backyard). The boys and I’ve discovered lots of broken-up old boats on the Whulge, over the years. They’re terrific finds for children and their shutterbug fathers, akin to strolling along forest paths which mysteriously lead to meadowy clearings underneath abandoned treehouses with thick rope ladders hanging down. Obviously, if a treehouse appears suspiciously well-constructed of cookies, gingerbread and the like, you turn and run the other way unless your dad insists it looks safe (even tests the rope himself).
The youngest bicyclist in our household is only a few months removed from training wheels and has a bike with one gear so initially the boys and I stuck to sidewalks for our Saturday afternoon ride: Starting with a delightfully long downhill (distant views of the university’s football stadium) and then gradually leveling off into the Montlake neighborhood where tenured professors live in tidy houses with those telltale neat but frumpy yards that convey organized people with not a lot of time and which feature improperly-pruned fruit trees with watershoots like cellular radio towers (not that bad pollarding stuff, either) and that mess the sidewalk with rotting manna and protrude branches which hang down and poke you in the head. Sprinkled in are fancier, somewhat larger older homes lived in by aging code monkeys from 1998 who conscientiously ride their bikes astonishingly long distances but will bus it on rainy days and finally you have the smattering of dark little bungalows inhabited by curmudgeonly native Seattleites who go for walks in the Arboretum to blow off steam and scowl at English ivy like newcomers from Michigan, ripping it all down bare-handed.
After stopping several times to browse uninspiring yard sales consisting of broken radio control cars and embarrassingly bad music collections, we continued across the ship canal (stopping on the bridge to admire boat traffic this magnificent blue-green day) and joined up with the Burke Gilman Trail for a leisurely ride eastward, though the final push to the Hiram M. Chittenden Locks in Ballard was rather unpleasant as a matter of course. Throughout and during this time we paid a visit to the hordes on Kite Hill in Gas Works Park, got milkshakes (root beer and strawberry) in Fremont and whizzed past giddy beerphiles at Oktoberfest.
On Sunday, we rode the full length of the Elliott Bay Trail and that’s where these pictures come from. We were crosstown for Adam’s game in Magnolia, a place which I find positively dreadful to the fullest with the exception of that one Discovery Park (which we have not visited since the Victoria-ish rupture that sent alligator turds streaming like Atlantic Salmon into Elliott Bay) and it being such a pleasant, warm afternoon it seemed like it’d be an awfully fun save to squeeze in another summery ride and so we dodged ornery yellowjackets, swerved around grouchy guys with fishing poles and raced rumbling locomotives that crawled in the train yard next to us. There was a breathtaking popcorn sky over the grain silos on the way to the sculpture park but the boys wanted to keep going so I settled for left-overs on the return to Smith Cove.
I’ve been taking turns the past couple weeks with Adam, reading short stories by Philip Dick. He picks one to work on before bedtime and usually I take my shift super-early the next morning before Oliver gets up and at some point later we’ll discuss the story’s merits, twists and whatnot. Plenty of weird ones in the large volume we’re sampling, like this old lady who keeps baking cookies for a neighborhood whippersnapper so she can steal his life essence. A tad depressing at times, stumbling across some of the more dystopian older stories, especially considering they were a little ahead of the curve back in the day and trickier yet explaining undercurrents to a ten year old in terms he can grasp (truth be told he’s gotten used to plenty of dystopia the past eight months if you know what I mean but maybe you don’t). At any rate, Adam’s definition of science fiction has expanded. So has mine, really. For a voracious reader, I’m not very literate. For years I needed a dictionary at the ready to make it from one page to the next let alone understand sort of deep things. Right now I’m struggling with Jim Bouton’s classic Ball Four but not because it’s hard reading. An indisputable classic and luckily I’m enough of a baseball nerd for enjoying half the name-dropping but……….. it’s dated. Not exactly in the same way but it brings to mind last year when I finally took down from a dusty shelf and slogged through my yard sale copy of Lake Wobegon and by the end had chuckled a fair amount but speaking strictly for myself I don’t find Garrison Keillor’s writing much cleverer than his old radio show.
It was yesterday I was gardening and wouldn’t you know it the sky turned black coming down over the hill and there was a patch of thunder. Oliver Fern was sensible and heeded my warnings to run to the house and stay there until the weather blew over but I decided to take my chances engaged such that I was in a heartless renovation of rockrose (only ever meant to serve as placeholder). Adam was going to be shouldering his forty pound book-bag up the hill from the bus stop at any moment between sometime-and-midnight (on his fourth bus driver because the trainees keep flunking at the hands of Humorless Bus Supervisor who sits behind with the kids) and figuring I may as well distract lightning bolts from an innocent schoolboy lost in daydreams, toiled away. No lightning problems but a handful of cloudbursty downpours had me mildly hypothermic for several hours and while I was trying to remember the President’s name (you’ve gotta be fucking kidding me) Adam took care of dinner for himself and Oliver as he’s pretty good at fixing hot dogs but he did tear the buns all to hell as they were these fluffy brioche numbers I picked up to allay the boys’ mother’s concerns I’ve been feeding them hot dogs five days a week since school started.
Speaking of which, Adam’s loose tooth had fallen out during social studies. The school nurse gave him a hinged, plastic tooth-holder molded into the shape of a back molar for bringing home the nasty little prize. On the International Scale of Weirdly Revolting Things, a fallen-out tooth ranks highly but when Adam showed it off (reddish pulp still attached) I did my best to hide any trace of revulsion, nodding with pretend admiration at what may as well have been moldy dentures. We were standing in front of the house in the pouring rain and I was shivering uncontrollably but as he was clearly blinded by the beam of pride it’s apparent Adam mistook hypothermia for excitement. Loving him dearly as I do…… all for the better, I must say!
postscript: I wrote this a couple days ago but then the earthquake in Mexico City happened and frivolity went out the window. I’ve been worried terribly sick about friends who live in the city. It was no small miracle to me this morning I received confirmation they’re okay and doing what they can to help others.
After a disappointing perusal of seemingly more abundant-than-usual manufactured kitsch that had me feeling transported to a unique sort of Etsy Hell (such as the vendor who papers old maps and atlases over light-switch plates, I guess homey hardware featuring microscopic detail of backroads and small towns from each of the fifty states) downunder in what doubles as parking garage the rest of the week, the boys and I spotted a vintage, Super-Flex Smokey Bear and I was torn for a little project I’m assembling except his dirty polyvinyl armpits and neck were liquefying into sticky goo in the Sunday morning sun and the price was just not right. The irony was not lost, come to roost as it were, this awfully desiccated Pacific Northwest summer upon that iconic, lovable stooge of the United States Forest Service. In summers to come, many thousands more acres will burn for old Smokey. At any rate, proprietor was ornery cap gun guy who was in a far cheerier mood than usual and later we crossed paths with him while looking amongst the sterling silver for Oliver, who lost his beloved peace ring at the dock on South Manitou Island in Lake Michigan country earlier this summer.
We made our rounds in the antique mall where the boys smirk at the vintage Playboy magazines next to hideous Starter team jackets (for the few remaining ironic hipsters in Seattle?) but Adam begged us to go back to the market so he could get the Venus fly trap he had his eye on. He insisted on paying for it with his own money: Venus fly trap was delicately transported home in the back seat on his lap, Adam was like those nervous parents relieved-yet-terrified to be out of the hospital with baby. Except when they’re yelling and screaming bloody murder in concert with their little brother each time they spot a lime-green, orange or pineapple-yellow bicycle. Adam was up 32-15-3 (I wasn’t really trying) before I invoked the bequeathment clause for Oliver’s sake and snagged a half dozen bikes between the hospital and the football stadium but this raised Adam’s competitive ire and he would spot the usual trio of bikes parked in front of Montlake Market and Oliver basically gave up and we spent the rest of the ride home peacefully thinking up names for numerous Venus fly trap children (little brother and I each got the honor of naming one). I don’t know who exactly this is featured above but it’s clear she has a refined palate when it comes to fruit flies of which there are billions in the house at this time flying scared.