Seattle Again

Parsing the details. Assigning value to daily experiences. I eat hotel bacon for breakfast. No meaning for me in the hotel bacon. No meaning in the eggs, the yogurt, the bottle of water, or the view of men washing windows on the adjacent building. No meaning in breakfast at all, a meal I often forgo.

There's meaning in pastry, though. I'll get there.

But first.

I'm on vacation with my family in Seattle. We eat. We have fun. We nap. In the time I find for myself, I look for other people to hold my attention.

A man I met on the elevator in my brother's building had a Shiba Inu on a leash. I knew the breed, but I didn't say so when the other person in the elevator, my mother, asked the man what kind of dog it was. The Shiba Inu, like my breakfast, is not a meaningful personal symbol. It's the man, of course. The man holding the leash. The first Seattleite I met when I arrived and I didn't say a word to him. I let him tell my mother about his dog. We parted. Mom and I took a car down the hill home. Well, hotel home.

I realize now, at this age, it's people. People hold the most meaning. I can't write another story about someone looking at a deer or a snake or a spider, I swear. I'm writing stories where people look at each other.

Late one night, the man from the elevator found me on the, uh, Internet. And that's all I'll say about that. You figure it out. He didn't remember me from the elevator, but I remembered him. There's no value to be found in the social media mechanics beyond the obvious power of a kind of omniscience. Whatever you like is out there and easy to find. Even though you search, what you search for seems more like it searches for you. No, really, I won't say any more about it.


I believed in magic for a while. I believe in magic now, but a few years ago I believed magic had meaning, that it floated around and changed the world all on its own. Well, no. The truth is you, the person, are the initiator of magic. All I'm saying is if a random event seems to happen like magic, it's invaluable to me. Even if I know better. There's a reason adults still love fairy tales. The cruel are punished. The virtuous are valued. Change is mourned at first, celebrated later.

Give it time.

Pastry seems to require magic. But really, it just requires time. The places I find to hold my attention, the places away in Seattle for a moment alone, are bakeries. Not even coffee intrudes. Only me, the occasional cute clerk, and sugar, butter, and flour. I eat. I don't eat alone.  Don't ask me to explain that. I drank expensive ginger beer down by the water three times, and every time I was lonely. Countless pastries, though, and I've been content. Sugar, I bet. There's science there, but let's not dirty happiness with science.

More magic.

I spent a few minutes visiting a man who has the same rectangle forearm tattoo I have. Mine is red. His is black. We met on the Internet, too. The daily experience. The tiny details of interaction. I knew I had to meet this guy or I'd regret it. In the end, there's not much meaning there either. He was nice. I was nice. I walked two miles to the home he shares with his husband and their dog. The man greeted me at a charming gate. He gave me a glass of water. We talked. I sweated. We hugged. I left. I thought maybe I'd assign the experience something more. A story or a feeling. Instead, it lives in the place small twists of the narrative often live. Neat. Cool. Fun. A moment in the woods, per Sondheim.

What else? The trip continues. My mother mourns the inevitable departure. My brother, like myself, is a rational statue. We would be punished in the fairy tale version of this trip. It would be up to the third brother, the youngest one, the stupidest one, to marry the princess, to inherit the kingdom, to tie the story with a bow.

No such brother exists. The fairy tale isn't the one written for us; it's the one we write. Why assign meaning at all? The older I get, the bigger the picture grows, and yet, all I want to see are the detail shots, the close-ups. The big picture is too chaotic and meaningless to behold. The details soothe and distract from the inevitable departure. The only animals I've seen on this trip are dogs, cats, and people.

I look closely.

I work with what I have.

Seven Hills

Did you know I have a brother? Well, I do have a brother, and he's moving to Seattle. He flew my mother and me up there last week. It was a small family reunion. The first night, we had the freshest nectarines and a white wine that pretended to be champagne. My brother and mother salivate for the sweeter stuff. We sat on beds and uncovered the rocks in our family history, the ones we'd been stepping on for years. Good and bad but all ours. Under some of them, snakes. Under others, diamonds. We posed for a picture in the airport. Now I know we're all related. We share a nose.

A brief word on the men in Seattle. My eyes never went hungry. Let's just say. My brother took me to a gay bar. (Did you know my brother is also gay? He is.) I sometimes forget how handsy gay guys can be en masse. At this bar I was touched and groped and caressed and hugged. All in passing. Only once did I see the face of the guy grabbing my waist. I approved. Smiled. Drank something that was intended to taste like Froot Loops. It did taste like Froot Loops.

I recognized one of the go-go boys from "the Internet." He's in pictures, you see. A stranger pressured me to tip this go-go boy. The stranger said, "This is his job. Give him some money." I'd tried to pay my bus fare earlier, but my brother told me to save my money for souvenirs. I was trying to decide whether or not tipping a go-go boy counted as a souvenir. Yes, I decided, but the go-go boy was gone. Soon after, so were we.

We walked back to our hotel in the rain and talked about our different coming out experiences. I learned what happened when I didn't come out to my brother. Other people told him. One youth minister sat him down to tell him how hellish and wrong I was for being gay. If I'm getting the timeline right, that was probably the same year I met Josh, the man I've been with for over nine years now. Not a competition, but that's longer than some of the marriages in my family.

Another night in Seattle I ran around with Molly Laich. You know her. She's responsible for the second half of this VIDEO. We've only been in the same physical space twice. Whiskey is our mutual friend. We sat in the bendable accordion section of a bus and hugged each other over Roger Ebert. Maybe cried. I slept on her couch. Watched her backyard chickens peck the ground in the morning. Avoided goodbye by leaving quietly and Googling my way to the bus.

And my mother. I hadn't seen her in over a year. Since the funeral of her mother. We were crossing the street on the way back from Pike Place, and a homeless man asked us for money. My mother stopped in the middle of the crosswalk as the light was about to change, touched the man's arm and said, "What do you need, sweetie?" My mother gave the man some money. The kindness in my mother's voice undid me. No annoyance. No patronizing. Simple compassion.

Later, my mother and I misunderstood each other and had words. We sat in silence by the water. I looked at my mother and saw myself. Except for the kindness. It's there for her as a force. A constant consideration. A choice she made somewhere along the line to balance out the darkness inherent in our family. If it's there for me, I don't know what it looks like.

Probably it looks like pie.