Thursday, July 22, 2010

In the Bushes

"I can't quite figure out what this is," my sweetheart says.

Me neither. It's shrub-shape, branching from a low junction, green leaves with whiter or grayer fuzzy undersides, too small to be a tan oak. We're in a line of these bushes, propped against dark gray boulders worn somewhat smooth by time or water; the rocks surprised us, unseen until we joined them in the bushes.

He refills our wine glasses with zinfandel, I tear off more bread from the baguette, which makes him think of some old Seinfeld show about a woman with "man-hands" (!)

We're at the ocean. We can't see it though. We're tucked in here to be out of the wind. What we hear is not the respiration of waves, but one long low roar.

"We could be next to a freeway in Seattle," I say.

"No, but the air," he says. Of course he's right, the sea air and how it smells green in our den.

We drove west this morning to escape an expected sweltering 80-degree Seattle summer day. On the beach in the early afternoon, we walked one way, spread out our blanket, and had lunch. The sun actually appeared for a moment. He napped; I read. We threw the frisbee.

We walked back, dropped some stuff at the car, got the wine -- it was now nearing 6 -- and walked another way and found a driftwood log to snug in against for awhile. But it was too cold. He said, "Does that look like a path over there? I think we could get out of the wind...."

Hence the bushes.

We drove home in the dark where Seattle at 70 degrees was warmer than we'd been all day. At 11 pm, people were still filling Molly Moon's ice cream shop on 45th.

We listened all the way to cassette tapes: Neil Young, James Taylor, Holly Dunn, then Stevie Winwood for the final mile home.

The music. I didn't know this James Taylor song, Like Everyone She Knows.
Like everyone she knows
She's holding out for truelove
Waiting on an answer
Ready for a change
And everywhere she goes
She's just a little bit on the lookout
A day might mean tomorrow
Questions still remain
It's not that she's so sad
She always was a happy soul
But lately she gets to wonder to herself
What's the good of going on anymore

I see her in her room
Sitting at the window
Wondering if she's pretty
Feeling just a little small tonight
She thinks of going home
Giving up on the city
Maybe moving back down to mobile
It's not that far to fall
I know she won't see me
But I might just say anyhow
If I could be right there right now
As I myself was told

Hold tight to your heart's desire
Never ever let it go
Let nobody fool you into giving it up too soon
Tend your own fire
Lay low and be strong
Wait awhile
Wait it out
Wait it on out
Wait it out
It'll come along

Doesn't that seem kind of perfect? I am loving hearing again the music of our youth. I feel that young again....

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Safe on the Bus

I love the Seattle P-I's Bus Chick, a woman who would ride the bus in heels and a backless dress on Saturday nights, who met her husband on the bus, and who now navigates Seattle via bus with her two young children, one a babe in arms.

She recently posted a piece about their family's Zip car adventure to Mount Rainier for a day. The car had its benefits, but it made her realize too the benefits of busing. Take a look at what she wrote.

Bus Chick takes her babies on the bus! Got me thinking about my recent posts about dating on the bus, and responses drawing my attention to the danger. I talked last Friday night at a dance with my friend the bus driver. He's had decades of experience and says he sees no reason not to ride a bus. In all those years, he was spit on twice and briefly assaulted once. True, those are not good experiences, but having spent over an hour driving last Wednesday from a Scrabble game in Bellevue to my sweetheart's in Lake Forest Park, stop and go on a long parking lot of a freeway, I was once again thanking my lucky stars for our public transit system.

Next time, I bus to Bellevue. And won't that be interesting? I'm imagining it's the zenith of high-class transit population, another demographic out of my usual day-to-day experience. We'll see.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Green with Love?

The bike trip on the Burke-Gilman trail from my place to my sweetheart's is a peaceful, lovely ride of maybe 70 minutes, and we're riding it, me to him, him to me, we two together: a green relationship. In so many ways.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

More Bus Adventures

When I wrote recently about a bus date, I got these reader comments on the Seattle P-I site:

"yup... take a date on a smelly bus full of panhandlers, drunks and drug dealers... GREAT way to impress her! i'll pass, thanks..."

In Europe, where public transportation is clean and the citizens have universal health care and gun control, a bus date would be fine. But here in Seattle? No way. The smell of alcohol and festering bacteria, the ravings of the mentally afflicted, the profane posturing of teen thugs and the tubercular hacking of untreated disease take all the glamour and romance out of a Seattle bus ride. Seattle buses make me think about disease vectors and public health hazards.

Maybe Mary here wasn't in Seattle when some scum shot a bus driver in the head resulting in the bus plunging off the end of the Aurora Bridge. Maybe she has never ridden a downtown bus full of the denizens of Muscatel Meadows. Maybe she has not read about the spread of incurable strains of TB in American homeless populations.

Obviously Mary is just talking about herself here, but chooses to say "you" when she means "I". Mary might be impressed by bus dude, most women assuredly are not.

Wow. Completely different experience from mine. I've never felt frightened on a bus, and I often ride the 5 and the 358 after 9 pm. I do know frightening things have happened to others. But for me, bus riding is like bike riding: I may be [and I'm not sure the statistics bear this out] more vulnerable, but I'm not willing to forgo my rich experience on that chance.

For example, I was waiting last Sunday at Aurora and Mercer for a 5 or 358. I hate to have to say it, but on Sundays, the schedule is a joke: you just show up any time, as the buses do. It's the only time I wait more than 15 minutes for a ride, Sundays on my way home from church and me without a book to read.

Anyway, last Sunday I got to the stop and the only person waiting was a guy whose face seemed vaguely familiar from other bus rides. He was perched on the only possible place to sit, a bit of raised concrete. I said hello and joined him.

Turns out his name is Hassan. He was eager for the bus to come, so he could get home and see the World Cup final. We talked a bit about soccer, then I asked where he was from, and he told me he left Morocco at 27, for the opportunities here. He likes the work, in a restaurant downtown while he completes his studies in engineering, but his family and friends are all back home.

Then he said he'd recently become a citizen! I shook his hand and said, Congratulations. I said I always love reading the stories of the big July 4 citizenship ceremonies, but I myself hadn't met any new citizens. Then he said, "I was there on July 4. That was my citizenship day." Wow. He showed me photos on his phone of the crowd, he in his nice suit and tie, then with Maria Cantwell. He named all the dignitaries who had come, including Governor Gregoire.

I loved meeting Hassan. If not at a bus stop, where?

Then that afternoon, my sweetheart came over and we packed our picnic and took the 44, then the 49, to Volunteer Park in Capitol Hill to see Wooden O's free production of Much Ado about Nothing. Coming home after, we skipped the 49 and walked all the way back over the University Bridge to the 44 stop, enjoying the lovely evening. It always feels like a holiday and more of an adventure to us on the bus. Honestly folks, screw up your courage and give it a try.

About the play: We couldn't remember the play, so a friend who met us there started to read the program's synopsis out loud. With all the couples involved and the various treacheries, we couldn't make head or tail of it, so she stopped. How would we ever follow the play, if the synopsis defeated us?

Actually, no problem. Wooden O gave a great performance with Cajun music, lots of romance and drama, unfairness to women and feisty chicks fighting back, and lots of chemistry between Beatrice and Benedick, perhaps the original "screwball comedy" pair who hate each other so much you just know they'll end up in love.

Highly recommended. See for other times and parks.

Friday, July 9, 2010

About that Movie...

What we saw was, Please Give. Neither of us would highly recommend it, and in fact, my sweetheart said that at 20 minutes in, he was ready to walk out, which I must say would have endeared him to me. But would it have endeared him to me as much as his determined effort to find and enjoy every possible little enjoyable thing in this movie about a bunch of variously depressed and depressing people? Hard to say. And also, there's the way he always suggests we walk a little out of our way -- because of course, we walk to our movies -- so we get the prettier route home, this time via Woodland Park, with plenty of time to air our varied views. For example, he loved the final scene, where he focused on the blissful look of the teenager in the mirror, with her happy mom and dad reflected behind her. While I, of course, focused on the appalling fact that the teen looked so happy because her folks were finally anteing up the $235 for the jeans she wanted.

So you see, we complement each other.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Movie Date

So last night, after the pie, we walked over to Green Lake, and around the lake, and at some point I said, I have a sort of mental list of things I'd like to do with you, to see how we do.

He said, cheerfully, Oh, like a test!

And I said, No! No no no, not a test, just a way to get to know each other better. [Because when he said "test," I thought immediately of my ex, who has quite a bit negative to say about women who test men.]

Okay, he said, what's on your list?

Well, how about a movie? I said.

So tonight we're going to walk over to Wallingford for a movie. I'm totally looking forward to having his arm around me, since I know we fit well that way, but when I woke up this morning, I started thinking about how I've hardly seen any movies since I moved to Seattle, and about what a pain in the butt I am as a moviegoer. (As evidence, I am planning to post here the column I wrote for the Port Townsend Leader about Little Miss Sunshine.)

And I'm afraid I'll be even worse tonight, since I've been re-reading John Gardner's wonderful book of essays, On Moral Fiction. I'm re-visiting all my earnest underlinings of lines like this:
...Television -- or any other more or less artistic medium -- is good (as opposed to pernicious or vacuous) only when it has a clear positive moral effect, presenting valid models for imitation, eternal verities worth keeping in mind, and a benevolent vision of the possible which can inspire and incite human beings toward virtue, toward life affirmation as opposed to destruction or indifference.

Seen any television lately that fits that description? any movies?

And on the other hand, we have the advice of Mars/Venus John Gray who says that when a man takes you out to dinner and you love the food, he'll feel like he cooked it himself. So if he takes you to a movie and you love it, will he feel like he made the movie? And what if you don't like it?

What I guess I want from a movie date is this: enough of a movie to provoke a good conversation. I'm pretty sure I'm going to get that.

Thinking and Talking about Life and Culture

A column for the Port Townsend Leader, August 29, 2006

There’s been plenty of cultural food for thought in Port Townsend lately: theater, film, Dr. Dave. The Taming of the Shrew, for example, recently at Chetzemoka Park. Is it sexist, or not? Maybe it’s just that I was forewarned, but I wasn’t offended. One hopes your average audience didn’t see Katharina as your average woman, but as a bad-tempered pain in the butt. If she were my kid, I’d have to do something about her.

And honestly, I was taken by her final speech. I looked it up later and basically it says, Don’t be grumpy; it makes you look ugly and no one will want to be around you. Your husband works through cold and storm to support you, while you stay warm and safe at home. So stop being so competitive and just be nice.

What’s missing, though -- can this be Shakespeare? -- is sufficient reason for, first, her initial ill temper, and second, her change of heart. Withholding sleep and food may “tame” someone, but not persuade. Big flaw. And Petruchio doesn’t go to work, does he?

My neighbors, wheeling their daughter home in a wagon after the play, were a little nervous about its message to her. I told them the message I took home was this: Be kind.

What they could never take their child to see is Little Miss Sunshine. And the film is introduced with the information that it was such a family-friendly set! Why oh why must we have R-rated movies with lovely children in them? (Liar, Liar comes to mind, a great family film except for the sex scenes.)

You know, writers and directors have choices about how to tell their stories. Did we need the granddad to snort cocaine to know this was a dysfunctional family? Did we need him to encourage his 15-year-old grandson to have all the sex with young girls that he could before he and they turned 16? Did darling Olive have to do that kind of pageant performance? Why did people laugh at those parts?

We want to laugh, and there was funny stuff, and there was so much potential! I’m always tempted to fix these films that have gone astray. Granddad could have been a Beatnik in a timewarp. The sexual references and porn magazines could have been eliminated completely, and maybe the cop could have been one of the few people in the world who had been to the dad’s self-help workshops. Young Olive could have done, oh, yo-yo’s or balloon-tying or juggling, something that would have put her on the child-side of what the other too-soon-sophisticated contestants were doing.

Or have we decided this is normal family life now? It would have taken little more than black-and-white film to present the same story as a heart-rending documentary. Those are not lives we want to live. And what was the message? That even people with no clue about what matters can love each other? That’s nice, but is it enough?

Or was I meant to understand that this family was absurdly unrealistic? Because I didn’t get that. I’m starting to think, based on popular media, that pornography is becoming an everyday thing. You pick it up at the Quick Stop along with a Slurpie when you stop for gasoline on family trips. Remember when women found pornography offensive? Remember the studies -- new ones have come out just recently -- about the ubiquity of pornography among sex offenders? Why would we be more offended at Taming than at Little Miss Sunshine?

Oh, life is very public in Port Townsend. I hate to sit at plays and movies all vinegar-faced while the folks around me are rollicking with laughter. Even worse is walking out, another thing I do. But a friend of mine told me over breakfast at the Co-op recently, where we were continuing a long and not always easy discussion about Dr. Dave’s recent column on abortion, that she’d decided this year to say what she thinks. She does it kindly and thoughtfully. It is exhilarating to talk with her. Let’s all join this movement. First you think. Then you speak. Then you listen.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

A Pie for my Sweetheart

Regular readers are wondering where I've disappeared to. I'm wondering sometimes myself, as I sit and stare abstractedly for hours, like a teenager going steady.

It's the bus date man, it's the man who helped me move to my new home, the man who finally got my shelf attached to the dining room wall. I'm uncomfortable saying a lot about him in a blog.

But here's something I can say about me. I've noticed the oddest reluctance to actually carry through on my impulses to be even half as giving and wonderful as he is. It's not that I wonder if he's worth it: not at all. I'm afraid to be a fool for love, I guess. It's embarrassing. I had to steel myself to write a nice note to tuck into his pocket for him to find another day. I invited him over for dessert, and got totally nervous about what to make and whether, after all, he even likes rhubarb pie. I have yet to offer him a nice foot rub -- but who would say no?

I keep wanting to consult my myriad relationship books, but I've read them all; won't I just remember the important stuff? I want to see if I've acquired any inner wisdom here at my advanced age. I'm trying to be in the moments, and see how I like them.

All material copyright © 2009 by Mary Davies