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Alki Walks

The city usually photographs better

The city usually photographs better

Saturday doesn’t start because Friday night went on way too long, leaving me stuck to the bed even though sleep is long over. The vain hope that lying still will purge the extra gravity, leak out the needles inside my head, wipe clean the silky froth dripping down my eyes and down my throat is one I know will never come, but I lie in bed anyway. I never was a night owl and this proves it again. Imagine what a mess I’d be if I drank.

Knowing I will stare out the window uselessly or keep stumbling up and down the stairs trying to remember where the ibuprofen is, I give up on usefulness and decide to walk. I have always walked: short ones before some terror or long boring stretch, to see what’s around the corner, to catch some sun before work descends, to take a few silent hours to myself and see the world as our oldest ancestors did. I feel like stretching beyond the neighborhood’s grit–I feel California and Saturday. Seattle has only one such place with that geomancer magic.

Alki was where the whites first meant to stay in this part of the world, suffering through a first winter with the help of natives. Now it features the typical mix of high-end beachfront condos with unadvertised prices and ramshackle lean-to trans-generational houses that can never be crappy enough to drag down the property value. A favorite of walkers, bikers and toddlers on scooters, it has the fresh clean smell of Pacific water and the feel of somewhere warm and bright. It is a liveable neighborhood where real people live, with normal streets where mortals can park and little cafes and pubs that serve unpretentious meals. It always feels like Saturday out here, or Christmas break. Stay out as long as you like. The water will stay up with you.



The beach is empty but for one lone table and a modest fire, pink folding chairs set up around it by some church-type group. Bundled up against the modest wind, a woman stands at a little table before the setup, waiting for someone to pick up brochures, some kids in puffy coats running around in front of her. A couple lies fully dressed in the sand in various poses as someone with a massive camera takes pictures, the kind of thing for wedding invitations. On the walkway, I am surrounded by those seeking Serious Exercise: dressed in elaborate, skin-tight and expensive fabrics, shoes as compound and complex as the Space Shuttle, wraparound shades against the overcast. The sign above is an added bonus. Everyone here has a sense of humor.

Solid advice

Solid advice

Beach types have a certain worldview common to calendars and outerwear brands, and they put their money where their mouth is. Hans paid for a brick to line our common walkway, contributing to the common good with thousands of others. Community spirit isn’t dead at all, only available in hundred-dollar increments.

The advice is paradoxical, though. Is living on the beach in the typical way–sunning oneself, swimming, having a little something from the cooler, reading a little, repeat in various combinations–living? It is not at all the image of striving competition projected from the centers of power, the kind of life the all-knowing Market has been slicing and paring down for us these past thirty years. The Market doesn’t want us to have this life–it wants us to buy it, along with everything else. But the beach is always here. It didn’t charge anything before white people came. I think people are tired of living with this cognitive dissonance. I know I am, but it feels weird to change.

I am walking out something, the nameless thing that comes when nothing is wrong but you sense that something is. That nothing is wrong can’t be proven and the subconscious picks at it like a scab. My mood has been terrible, my eyes scratchy, something not quite anxiety scurrying in the corners. Sleep doesn’t help–I wake up tired, full of static. It’s less than a ghost, nothing I can point to. I am not asking for help with it. How could I?

A year ago I was in Oscar’s attic, pacing or huddled, the sharp clean angles as new as a semester at a new school. Everything had to be figured out. Quiet made me clench my teeth remembering all those other times it was quiet, and I was alone. All my few things were in plastic Safeway bags. Now I am in a house I pay  a bank for. My Hawaii tan is all but gone, and so are most of the ocean’s scars. I ride the bus to work, pay my bills. I am holding at a higher energy and am remembering what that is.


Message from a stranger

Walking back, families stream by. Mom and dad look tired as the kids peel out on clown-sized bikes and neon-green razor scooters. Two kids pass me, six maybe, speaking in the near-shouts of a world where everything is wow.

Yeah, and then, he shot it all the way up!

With pee? That’s crazy!

It doesn’t matter what they’re talking about. It’s Saturday and they are there.

There is a message in the picture I didn’t see until posting it here. Can you see it? Did you put it there?


One comment on “Alki Walks

  1. Weird… I had to enlarge the pic to see it, but the message is unmistakable. But I think it is there to remind you of your accident. We don’t need to see your cheeks again. 🙂

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