Tailgating Seattle

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Where is this place? Let’s go! Photo by Aleksandr Kozlovskii on Unsplash

Tailgaters are the worst. In Seattle, tailgating is a lifestyle.

I’ve tried to figure out why so many drivers here ride bumpers. The only reason I can think of is, population density. Ever since the tech industry exploded (Amazon, Google, Microsoft), people keep moving in.

The tech boom has driven the real estate market sky-high as well. While this is a financial boon to the tech workers, the developers, and the real estate agents, the influx has wreaked havoc on the roads.

My son, 15, started drivers ed last month. Driving around with him behind the wheel’s been even more harrowing, because he’s had to deal with these asshole tailgaters constantly.

It’s not a case of one or two speed demons. It’s 90 percent of the driving population going 20 miles over the speed limit on average, converging into one bottle-neck after another, creating the perfect recipe for road rage.

A few nights ago, my son exited 525 toward North Everett with an aggressive tailgater on his back. This asshole was following so closely that my son couldn’t even see the flashing headlights. He did, however, nearly see the angry driver give him the finger before proceeding to cut him off from merging into the left lane.

Now, this tailgating driver had no idea he was being a dick to a student driver, and probably wouldn’t have given two shits, not at the rate everyone’s going.

Every day, there are several collisions holding up traffic even more, the result of speeding and tailgating — even though there are supposedly laws in place against both. Last night, my son drove by a car that had flipped over on I-405, causing a six–to-nine-minute hold-up.

Did you know that it should only take about 21 minutes to get from Mukilteo to Bellevue? Good luck making the trip in under 50. The average is about 59 minutes-1 hour, 5.

People are so uptight here that they can’t even let anyone in front of them. They literally will cut back in front, just to enjoy an unimpeded view up ahead.

Maybe they’re claustrophobic from all this traffic. I know I am.

Both my husband and I can’t wait to move somewhere quieter.

Recently, Gov. Inslee enacted a new law forbidding distracted driving by cell phone, and, secondarily, drinking beverages, eating, and smoking. That’s how bad it’s gotten.

I don’t have a problem with the cell phone crackdown — in effect since July 23 — but how the hell am I supposed to refrain from drinking my precious Starbucks to wake up on the many drives to and from my son’s soccer tournaments? Haven’t people been drinking coffee on the way to work since the automobile was invented?

What’s next, no talking? This is ridiculous.

I hear Deep Cove, Vancouver’s nice this time of year…

 

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The Woman on the Side of the Road

“I don’t even have words with which to properly articulate what it’s like when you become that deeply fucked up.” –ChristyShawFitness

“Faith can get you through anything.” –DIY Camper

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Photo by Clark Young on Unsplash

Something tells me the Truthers aren’t living in their own fantasy world anymore.

Is it me, or is this place overpopulated? I’m feeling claustrophobic every time I step out of my house, on the roads full of tailgaters and in the stores jammed with last-minute, harried shoppers with hair-trigger tempers.

I live in a constant state of waiting for the next shoe to drop. I can only hope I’m ready, as ready as I’ll ever be.

But that’s not what this blog entry is about.

What this blog entry is about is my perennial self-doubt, especially when put on the spot.

I know I’m not alone. Everybody suffers from self-doubt. When the spotlight’s on us, we freeze, worried to death that we won’t come through, we can’t perform.

Even though I’ve never let myself down, there’s always that initial phase of almost-crippling self-doubt bordering on acute self-consciousness that I’m some fake, and that I’ll must assuredly let you down.

When it comes to writing, I always go through this phase. It’s a mix of extreme laziness — do I really have to do all this work? — and extreme insecurity — what if I fuck up?

A fellow writer in Spokane once told me, “We all go through the same insecurity. But then, you realize you know what you’re doing.”

He’s right.

The minute I start thinking about what I’m supposed to do, I’ve already set myself back.

Athletes go through this too. They overthink the shot, then they miss. They overthink the pitches, then they throw balls, or strike out. It’s called, getting in your head, and we’re real good at it.

Nowadays, society doesn’t really put much stock into feelings or gut instinct. But it’s saved my life numerous times.

I remember a few months ago seeing this homeless woman holding up a sign asking for money at the entrance to a Trader Joe’s. I’d see her every time I went there. The burden of guilt, and fear (that I would end up just like her), weighed down so heavily on me that one day I took $40 out, not much, and walked over there intending to simply hand it to her.

Instead, I looked up at her. We locked eyes, and my arms opened reflexively into an embrace. Keep in mind that I am not an affectionate person. I’m kind of a hypochondriac germaphobe. I have no idea where that came from, other than for once in my life I stopped living in my fucked-up head and focused outward, on someone else.

This love flowed through me and onto her. The words that tumbled out didn’t matter. She responded instantly. We both stood there hugging for what seemed like an eternity. Someone else saw us and came out, walking over $20 to her.

After that day, I never saw her again. I hope she’s doing better.

I need to live like that. I need to live. You know what I mean.

Portal

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She seemed so much younger. “That’s not— ”

“Yes, you. If you choose.”

The open console and the prismed, surround picture windows barely registered. But then I was always the kind to focus only on the task at hand while the rest of the world danced — at times, my downfall. That battle really could’ve been avoided if I’d only stayed longer…

“She’s too … pretty. I’m uncomfortable with reconciling such externals with what I’ve endured. I mean, I’ve split men open like pigs on a spit.”

The panels split into a living storyboard. The music rose with every page-turning evolution, a combination of jazz and pop, what I would chase in the next life — an ever-elusive lover bent on self-fulfillment over reciprocal annihilation.

“You decide.”

“I don’t deserve this one. I can’t.”

“Because you’ve killed?”

“Savagely.”

They leave me alone.

The last panel opened up with a view of sun, sky, and water — the Holy Trinity — her living testament in this dreamscape. I saw the pretty girl with a suitor, beloved, forever after, and their sweet, precocious son. The sea washed over their bare feet. A dog barked in the distance. I could almost feel the warm waves over the center of my heart.

But I’ve taken more than any soul could bear.

“I’m sorry. I can’t. Give me the worst one.” My final answer.

(Dream, July 21, 2017)

Plumeria

I will always associate Hawaii with plumeria.

My friends and I used to sew together leis with the milky sunset blossoms that fell around our Army barracks in Ft. Shafter. It was 1972.

I remember my father warning me not to put the milky white sap in my mouth or I would die. “It’s poison.” I think I put my tongue on a wet finger decades later, on my fourth or seventh visit — as a grown-up.

On the last visit, my husband almost died of bladder cancer. We caught it in time. The nick of time. He and our son went back home to Seattle after a week in paradise, leaving me to deal with the ghosts of my childhood for a few more days.

I couldn’t believe how much my island home had changed. Where were the plumeria? I hunted around for them in the streets of Waikiki. One pinkish-white blossom, absolutely no floral scent.

My childhood had gone, died in fact, somewhere between 1972 and today.

When I gazed up into the sky, all I could see were flowers of another kind, man-made flowers that gave off no pleasant smell and felt hot and hard to the touch.

I can hear the Honolulu Boys Choir and Jimmy Borges singing their hearts out, somewhere over the rainbow — far, far from my diminished return.

Newport FC

And sometimes, my predictions turn out to be just wishful thinking.

My son’s first tournament with Newport FC: two wins, one loss, one tie, they made it to the finals. He scored the second goal of the first game, passed, tackled, and kicked with the kind of abandon he once had as a little boy.

“How do you feel after your MCL injury?”

“I feel great. My knee feels even stronger than before.”

… Now, I sleep.

#SoundersFCCup2017

Tilapia with Eggs

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Photo by Timothy Ries on Unsplash

a severed head

maggots oozing pearly whites in their own special sweet-sour sauce (the day I chewed a fly in my Campbell’s Alphabet Soup)

tilapia’s mouth opening on little tiny gray-haired caviar

in one week’s time, a small orchard of U-Pick raspberries awaits before the children go back to school

this dream, mottled with traces of time, where it’s always early morning, the gauzy sore that never quite heals in my early childhood after I fell off a cliff and lay drowned underneath liquid layers of orange soda

my father called her a “cunt”

mother cursed in her ghetto-Korean, her own ball and chain staring, petulant, jagged razor sharp from the corner of our paper-thin room close to the hole I used to shit in outside

where am I now, and should I stay inside this endless gig at the 24-hour Irish marketplace waiting for the gypsy to play? the coffee here is always bracing hot, cream in clouds above the lip of my dishwasher-stained cup

I can’t forget the tilapia with the eggs, his whispery notes playing havoc with my memories

 

Ridealong

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Alessio Lin

“Mom, did you see my goal?”

“Yes, I did. I looked up just as you came charging toward the net,” I replied, looking at him in the driver’s seat, about to charge down I-405 toward home. Then, I felt the tears well up, as I continued my thought. “You looked like you were flying, like some superhero. How’d it feel?”

He felt my emotion as directly as if I’d wrapped him a little too tightly in a blanket. Rather, he nervously endured it. “It felt great,” he smiled, knowing all of the trials we’ve endured led me to be teary.

Later on the drive home, we laughed when he missed an exit, then a U-turn, because of a grape (long story).

I cherish those moments a lot more now that I’m in my 50s — even if it means I’m a sobbing mess.

Tonight on Facebook, I watched a virtual real estate tour of a beautiful, expensive Kirkland, Wash. home. As the camera panned into and out of the palatial rooms, a nursery here, a huge, near-wraparound deck looking out toward Lake Washington, I realized I would never live there, that I made my choices, and it was done for the most part.

If I’m lucky, I’ll get to live out the remainder of my years in a roving RV, maybe a manufactured home for the mail. I’ll probably die of a heart attack somewhere between a campfire in the middle of New Mexico and the morning glories of a Nebraska dawn — with the man I’ve called my husband since Dec. 1, 1990.

It’s too late to teach my son how to play Jacks. I saw a line of snowboards in one of the rooms, and I thought, I’ll never be there when or if he learns to ride one of those things.

I’ve wasted so much of my life doing nothing. Born into this specific life with this specific body and this specific mind — a virtual prison at times.

So, I let my only son drive home after soccer practice — even though it scares me to watch him navigating traffic at over 60 mph. It’s one of the few moments I have left with this now-teenager, quality quality time, and I’ll be damned if I’ll give that up because of a little fear.

Tomorrow, I will make an appointment with a dermatologist to check out two spots on my back, one which scabs but never heals. I’ve had them since 2014.

Within a week, I’ll know what kind of 8 mm. polyp the doctor found in my ascending colon.

Today, though, I tried to enjoy the simple things. I went walking around a track. I ate an apple. I watched my son play soccer as the summer sun peeked through a line of trees.

It was nice. For awhile.

Live-Blogging My Colon Prep

It’s 4:19 p.m., the sun is out, and I’m about a half-hour away from destiny.

Four tablets of Bisacodyl and a glass of water, then the dreaded MiraLax.

I’ve done everything I could think of to prepare for my second colonoscopy in two years, maybe too much. Next time, I won’t go the dirty end of a low-fiber diet, as I’ve realized I’m most likely allergic/intolerant to sugar/bread.

I feel like shit inside and out, pun intended.

Vaguely aware that a lot of people a lot smarter and healthier than me refuse to get a colonoscopy, ever. Even if polyps are found, as in my case.

As my luck would have it, I happened upon a Facebook post warning against colon cleanses, because they destroy the good bacteria keeping us all alive and cancer-free. Of course, I had to go on Google to search for the drawbacks to colonoscopy preps.

Good ole Google. You never disappoint me.

My husband’s off to Bellingham for a gig. He wanted me to come enjoy the waterfront view and the live jazz again, but I had to remind him of the colon prep. Every time I start to feel really overwhelmed, I think of what he has to go through with the Bacillus Calmette-Guerin (BCG) therapy and why he has to go through it. The man’s been my hero the past two years, facing death head on and doing whatever’s necessary to get through it.

It’s 4:27 p.m. already, and I’m starting to shake.

The first and last time I had to do a colonoscopy prep, well, it didn’t go well. I may have even blanked out the details of some of the trips to the bathroom.

You’d think I’d be used to sudden trips to the bathroom by now, what with my IBS-D and my myriad butt ailments. With IBS-D and my weakened sphincter from many anal surgeries, there’s always the risk of exacerbating/worsening/creating hemorrhoids. If I have too much diarrhea, those hemorrhoids tend to bleed and grow bigger.

One of those hemorrhoids grew until it prolapsed. The prolapsed hemorrhoid they removed in 2015 contained a tubular adenoma, a precancerous polyp — not the kind you leave behind. I developed prolapsed hemorrhoids early on, since I can remember.

Each and every time a doctor has removed one, another would grow in its place, bigger and more stubborn to treatment.

I remember these doctors telling me there’s nothing to be done other than living with them if they don’t really bother me. This is what I tried to tell the doctor who did my first colonoscopy. She dismissed me, outright, focusing on the suspicious mass. She might as well have wished cancer on me.

Had the previous doctors told me the prolapsed hemorrhoid should be removed, I wouldn’t have let it go so long.

I dreaded my first colonoscopy. I was afraid of the normal things normal people were afraid of. But then I was also afraid of triggering a major IBS-D flare that would last for years like the time right after my anal fistulectomy (to remove a fistula down there) in 1995. I couldn’t eat or drink without soiling myself badly. For over a decade.

Nobody could fix me, either.

The colon prep is possibly the worst thing someone like me could go through. I literally don’t know if I’ll be soiling myself all the way down to the clinic and on the examining table. I don’t know if I’ll start hemorrhaging from a bloody hemorrhoid or two from the diarrhea.

I don’t know what will happen.

Hunger and lack of sleep are the least of my concerns.

A week ago, I confided my fears to someone I thought would be compassionate. He just recited the usual Christian line about not fearing death since he’s already been saved by his Lord and Savior. IOW, he checked his humanity at the door and checked out. I’m sure he didn’t mean to, but he came off condescending, cold, and well, not much fucking help.

I’m scared of what I’m about to go through so soon after the first colonoscopy. I’m not supposed to have so many within two years. They’re usually spaced out three to five, even if they find polyps.

I’m scared about what they might find, even though the doctor assured me that waiting nine months past the due date (I was supposed to have a follow-up back in Oct.) wasn’t “unreasonable.” They need to monitor the site of the prolapsed hemorrhoid another surgeon removed. They’re not sure all of the adenoma got removed, you see, so I’m fucked again.

What would I rather be doing?

In my last dream, I found myself back in high school, staring at a freshly developed photograph of the old sugar mill in Aiea. I was young again, and this geeky boy liked me. My only concern was making the next deadline and dealing with an asshole principal who was trying to force us to sign over our rights to free speech.

I also wouldn’t mind a nice English tea on the deck of a friend’s beachside cottage, with a few people I know would show me compassion or, at the very least, a fun time.

Now, it’s 4:45 p.m., and I’m about to cry, so I’ll head downstairs soon to start the process and endure the long night ahead with my yarn and my conspiracy theories.

See you later.

4:57 p.m.

Gig

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Jens Thekkeveettil

I’d go see live music — even if I never met and married a working jazz musician.

Music is living art. I grew up with it. I knew my parents were in a good mood when they’d blast Led Zeppelin, Connie Francis, and Tom Jones on the stereo.

My mom would sing to the Carpenters. My Army Sergeant dad whistled military marches. When times were really good, before the divorce, they’d cha-cha-cha to Latin jazz right in the middle of the living room.

My first record was the soundtrack to “Music Man.” My second was Donny Osmond’s Puppy Love.

There’s something infinitely cool about going out to see a band perform live: the onstage dynamics, the pulsating beat, the molten unpredictable relationship between performer and audience, the celebration of man and his music… There’s nothing like it.

In 1990, I married a jazz musician, who gigged constantly, morning, noon and night, weekends and most holidays.

In 2009, I began covering jazz for Examiner, then AXS. Earlier, my first published music review appeared in Seattle’s infamous “Rocket,” now defunct.

That’s when I really appreciated all it took to put on a show: the thankless schlepping, the political schmoozing, the collective coming together, the climax when a solo hits all the sweet spots, the discovery of new, rising talent in a hidden show-and-tell, the blood, sweat and tears of pouring your soul into every note, putting your heart on the line for any random stranger to break.

That’s when I also noticed the disconnect with working musicians about The Gig.

My husband’s musician friends would talk a good game, but when it came to walking the walk — going to one of his gigs — they almost never showed. I know one guy who makes a big show on social media about praying for his family and friends when they’re ailing, or going on and on about the best bass players and drummers, check my band out, blah-fucking-blah.

But where is he when it’s not his gig?

You’ll never hear my husband outwardly bitch about this one-sided affair, but it bothers him in private. He’s always going to other musicians’ gigs, simply to enjoy their music. He’s not there to sit in, or make contacts to pad his own shows.

In fact, I have to push him to put himself out there more. Most of his non-musician friends don’t even know he can play piano like Bill Evans. He won’t say a word. As far as they know, he’s a mild-mannered software tester somewhere in Amazon country.

I’m the same. I love going to other people’s gigs, even if I’ve never met them before and they don’t have any connection to my husband. Especially.

The biggest thrill of my life is meeting the jazz musicians whose music I’ve reviewed. I’ve met Grammy-winning artists at Jazz Alley: drummer Antonio Sanchez (“Birdman”) and his vocalist wife, Thana Alexa (Ode To Heroes), and saxophonist Donny McCaslin (Blackstar). When Kavita Shah (Visions) and Helen Gillet (Tephra) hit the Royal Room, I was there like a fan girl. Art Farmer-mentored flugelhornist Dmitri Matheny (Jazz Noir) and I became fast friends after I caught his gig in North Bend a few years back.

There’s no equal to experiencing live music. You gain such intimate insights into people — the very best parts of them. It’s like walking into their world, and watching it open up before your very eyes — in technicolor sound.

I’m excited about going to all kinds of gigs, big and small, in an amphitheater or a hotel lobby, because the music is what drives and compels me.

I don’t understand people who can’t or won’t make time in their day for live music other than their own, those of their immediate clique, or to further their own career.

The ones who make a show of shaming others for not coming to their gigs are especially shameful. These are the very ones who tend not to practice what they preach. They’re the ones who are all about supporting live music, so long as it’s their live music you’re supporting.

You’ll never catch them going to anyone else’s gigs if they’re not a part of it somehow.

It’s the same with certain members of the audience.

These so-called music lovers — the brand-namers — will only show up if it’s their favorite pop/rock/indie/mainstream Top 40 appropriately hip stars. Then they’ll brag all over the place.

Some of them will insist on being the center of attention at the very shows they attend. These attention whores will slum it occasionally only if they know the musician or singer. Then, they’re stealing the spotlight, dancing, carrying on, as if this show were about them.

The lead singer came down and sang to me! I think the guitarist just made a pass, is he married? My brother’s band is awesome — they played our favorite song, so we could dance right near the stage! Look at me! Look at me!

I’ve tried every which way to coax people to shows, including my husband’s. Nothing, and I mean, nothing works. I think I could pay them and they would still find some excuse to beg off.

 

Their loss.