The Road Revisited

Follow Me Around The United States!

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Reluctant Yuppies and Bainbridge Flakes -- My First Night in Seattle.

"That's not a real Six Million Dollar Man lunchbox, is it?"
"Yes, it is."
"You could get a lot of money for that," he said.
"Yeah, you're right. I probably shouldn't be using it as a purse, but oh, well!"

It was Thursday Happy Hour at The Brooklyn, and the bar of tall globe glasses and pounded copper was full of businessmen, muckety-mucks and generally rich people. And a girl in a pale green dress with a lunchbox and flip-flops, bumpkin-tastic. I learned in Missoula that I had nothing to lose by being myself, "some random, weird girl". My notebook that night read, "When you get used to being kicked when you're down, you fight back by forgetting to care."

I slathered another oyster in cocktail sauce and sucked it down, watching the bartender work the room like a pro. He had salt-and-pepper hair and Buddy Holly glasses, and a mischevious gap-tooth smile. I was tired just watching him, and curious when I saw him bury his head in his hands in front of two women on the other side of the bar. He put a business card in his pocket and, red-faced, waved goodbye as they walked out the door. Then he came to where I was sitting and told me, the guy next to me, and the two women next to him, "You'll never guess what just happened."
"What?" asked the young guy.
His voice dropped, forcing us to lean in to listen. "Remember I told you I waited on those ladies a couple weeks ago, before we went to the Gorge? Well, they came back in and asked how it was and I said, 'Oh, we had so much fun, we were tripping on shrooms, it was great!' And the older lady didn't smile, she just put this on the bar" -- he slapped the business card down; it read, "Drug Enforcement Administration Officer".
The four of us reared back, laughing hysterically.

It broke the ice a little. "Is this your first time here?" the guy to my left asked. His name was Mike.
"Yeah! First time here, first time in Seattle."
"Really? When did you get here?"
"About two hours ago!"
He laughed. "What brings you to the city?"
I explained.
"Wow. That's pretty cool. Hey, you guys, this is Jessica. She's a travel writer." He introduced me to his friends, Paula and Tracy. Paula was about forty-five, with long, dark hair. Tracy was tall, in her early thirties, and trim. Both were dressed smartly.
"Oh, how interesting!" Tracy said. "That is fabulous! Well, you'll have to stick with us tonight so we can show you around!"
"Sure! That sounds great!"

We talked all night. Paula told me about her home life, which sounded like a sitcom. "My husband and I moved here from the boonies. I don't really know why, but I just wanted to live closer to the city. So, my son moved here with us and started seeing a nice girl named Nicole. She moved in with us, too. Then they broke up and my son moved back to southern Washington and Nicole moved out too. But then she moved back in with us. She lives with Doug and I now."Tracy cut in. "She's so cool! She's a construction worker. She could literally kill you with her bare hands."
"Sorry, what?"
"No, I'm serious," Tracy continued. "Nicole's such a sweet girl, but she's strong. I wouldn't want to meet her in a dark alley."
"She's like a daughter to me," Paula said. "My son gets upset that she's in our house, but I just tell him, 'Look. You brought her into our lives and we loved her. Now just because the love between you two faded doesn't mean your father and I love her any less. So get used to it."
"She's on her way here now, you'll get to meet her," Tracy said.
"I've never met her, either," Mike told me. "To be honest, I'm scared. God forbid I say something wrong and she decks me."
"Oh, stop it!" Paula chided him for teasing. "She's a doll!"
Speak of the devil, Nicole appeared, tall, red-headed and buxom, with square hips and biceps that stretched the sleeves of her t-shirt. She was pretty, and had her hair spun in two pigtail buns.
"Well, don't you look nice?" Paula said, hugging Nicole.
"Yeah, I figured I'd look like a girl for once."
"Nicole, this is Jessica. She's a travel writer."
"Oh, awesome!" she said, shaking my hand. "What do you write about?"
"People I meet along the way, mostly. Interesting people. Like chick construction workers."
"Oh!" She laughed, pulling her hand away. "Don't write about me!"
"Okay, I won't."
She turned to Paula and Tracy. "You guys, I seriously poured the most beautiful slab today!"

Later on, I asked her more. "So, how did you start getting into construction?"
"Well, it's not really construction, it's more like a road crew. I started out holding the stop-slow sign, but that was boring. I wanted to do more stuff, y'know? So I kept bugging my boss until he let me actually get dirty. Then I joined the union. Once I did that, my options shot up. Now I work a jackhammer."
"Wow! Do you like it?""Oh, I love it."
"Tell me more about this perfect slab. What is it?"
"Oh!" She laughed. "I did a sidewalk square -- it came out perfect! It's, like, my baby. I think I might go visit it later."
I was cracking up. "That's awesome! You know I'm going to have to write about you, right?"
"Ugh. Okay."

At one point Mike said, "Yeah, that's great what you're doing. I used to travel a lot myself."
"Really? Where to?"
"I worked for the National Parks for awhile. I spent about four months up in Denali, in Alaska. Got to backpack the back country there for a whole month once.""Jeez! That's amazing!"
"Yeah, that's how I like to do it. I never want to be one of those drive-thru tourists who go in, take some pictures and then leave."
"Yeah, I try not to do that either. Sometimes time constraints get in the way, but I try."

He surprised me, because he seemed like such a yuppie. A reluctant yuppie, but a yuppie nonetheless. Like someone born under the sign of Privilege and raised to stand up straight, play on the golf team, and not touch the trust fund until it's time, but secretly wishes to be a vagabond, to shun showering and live recklessly, grow a beard and maybe even dreads, and while away hours hiking in the woods. He was the first person I'd ever met with that underlying aura. It made me sad for him, even sadder than I'd felt about Max and Willow's situation. At least they're happy -- and somehow, I think, better off.
"Where are you staying tonight?" he asked.
"The Green Turtle Hostel down the way. Tomorrow I may stay in my car at the parking garage over on Second.""What? Oh, don't do that. You can stay with me."
"Yeah, my roommate's out of town." He gave me his card and told me to call if need be.
"Thanks." After the madness in Coeur d'Alene, I was apprehensive about staying with another stranger, but a couch is a couch.

I splurged on a port wine sampler and the bartender, Tony, gave me a fifth glass for free. It is safe to say that I was housed by closing time. "Come with us!" Tracy shouted. "We're going to the Nock-Nock! They have salsa dancing tonight!"
"I'm on it like white on rice, baby!"
Yeah, I was wasted.

The Nock-Nock did indeed have salsa dancing that night. I nearly broke a flip-flop trying to keep up with a tall black man who spun me in circles tighter than a drum. When I became too dizzy, I panted in a booth with Paula and Nicole. "That is so interesting, what you're doing," Tracy repeated. "We are just so happy to have met you, you are fabulous!"
My face was magenta from dancing and blushing. "Thank you so much! I'm having so much fun with you guys!"

Tony the bartender met up with us, toting his uniform in a shoulder bag. He had changed into a t-shirt and shorts. "How are you?" he asked.
"Retarded! And you?"
He laughed. "A little behind you. I guess I need to catch up."
I went to the bathroom and he went to the bar, leaving Mike, Tracy, Paula and Nicole at the table.

Two minutes later they were all gone.

"Where did Tracy and all them go?" I slurred.
"Did they just up and leave us?"
"Guess so."
"That's.... huh? I don't get it. Tracy was just telling me how much she loves me and all this stuff about how we should hang out tomorrow and whatnot."
He looked at me like a father looks at a child who doesn't understand why her fish has to go in the toilet. "Let me explain something to you. Those are Bainbridge people. They're flakes. They're fake."

He walked me back to the hostel at last call. "Don't stay here, it's freaking me out. These people are weird. Come stay with me."
"I can't, I already paid! Besides, I don't even know you, silly!"
"Okay, well, sorry those dorks left you."
"Eh. At this point, I'm almost used to it. Almost."
"Yeah. Ha. Welcome to Seattle. You got a firsthand taste of the Bainbridge type."
"Ha. Yeah. Just like L.A. Blow smoke up your ass and then drop you the next minute. Must be a Pacific thing."
"No, it happens everywhere."
"Yeah, you're right. Well, goodnight."
"Goodnight. Let me buy you lunch tomorrow, to make up for tonight."
"'Kay." We exchanged numbers and said goodbye, and I fell asleep on my mattress on the floor, being careful not to wake -- or step on -- my roommates.


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