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Birth Week 2017, Day Five - The Literary Exhibitionist
Birth Week 2017, Day Five

Yesterday was my fifteenth uninterrupted year of a Birth Week day (more like morning and early afternoon) with Auntie Rose -- and I actually have had even more of them with her; we just weren't able to get together in 2002 because she had gotten hit by a car and was in the hospital. But, as she apparently told me sometime in the past few years (I can't remember it but I'm sure she's right), we also had lunch around my birthday in 2001. I would have no record of that because I was too busy working for the newspaper and was not keeping a journal at the time, nor did I have much time for letter writing.

In any case, of all my Birth Week traditions, time spent with Auntie Rose is definitely the longest lasting. Even if we consider 2001 its start (that being three years before I even started calling it a "Birth Week," four years before I began taking a week off of work for it), that would have been the year I turned 25. And she was set to turn 64 later that year, in August. This year, she'll turn 80. I'm honestly beginning to wonder how many more years of this I'm going to get. She's getting noticeably frail, for her at least; she's still surprisingly strong for her age, I suppose -- she's been spending the past decade or so participating in half-marathon walks. But, she says she has one more to do this year and that will be her "swan song," as she put it -- but before clarifying that she meant only in terms of half-marathons. No more walks that long after that. But she still plans on doing more 10k walks. In any event, every time she got out of a chair, she took several moments to pull herself up. She had to use her cane to help with walking up hills, although when ground was level, she did keep up a pretty good pace. And to her massive credit, she did walk with me -- however slowly -- all the way up to our condo from Pike Place Market where we had breakfast. And we had walked there from where I picked her up at the ferry terminal.

As always, I met her on the ferry that arrived at 8:30, making it the one morning of my Birth Week every year that I have to wake up nearly as early as I do when I go to work. I noticed a turn style that allowed you to walk out onto a wooden platform at the top of a staircase down to the parking area of cars waiting to board, thinking it would make it easier for me to spot her coming off with the other mass of walk-on riders, but then she had to call out to me from the other side of the turn styles. I went back through them and then we walked together to Pike Place Market.

After four years of breakfasts at Six-Seven at the Edgewater Hotel (2012, 2013, 2015, 2016), it was time for a change to a new place -- not because Six-Seven is bad at all, but because it's no longer the special, annual Birth Week destination now that I eat there twice a month with Karen (although this week she and I will go back to Portage Bay Cafe, albeit the South Lake Union location but it's the same menu, for old times' sake). And I chose Honest Biscuits at Pike Place Market because the two times I've gone there with Shobhit, it was just before they closed at 5 p.m. and they were out of gravy. I wanted to try their lentil-based vegetarian gravy! That's what you see me about to eat in the above photo. Auntie Rose got the regular meaty gravy, and she commented on how much she liked it -- "not too salty." Well, now that I finally managed to try their veggie biscuits and gravy, I can say I did. It was all right but nothing special; I don't need to have it again.

I struggled somewhat to come up with ways to kill time with Auntie Rose until she was to catch the ferry back across the water this year, having done all the best ideas over the years already. I did consider the Seattle Water Taxi (which is part of Metro and I can use my Orca Card and I haven't ridden it in ages), but it was a tad too cold and slightly drizzly for that. I even later found out, much to my surprise, that Auntie Rose has actually not been to the new (since the end of 2012) location of the Museum of History and Industry, and I actually could have taken Shobhit's suggestion of using the same passes I used with him and Dad and Sherri on Sunday to take her there as well. But, 1) I gave the passes back to Sara when I had lunch with her on Monday; and 2) I was not super interested in going back again only two days later. But! These are both ideas I have made a note to consider for next year -- literally: I just wrote then down in my Birth Week calendar item on Google Calendar for next year.

But, for this year, we still had our requisite visits to Beecher's for cheese curd samples, and to See's Candies for our candy sample. And actually, See's was not to open until 10 a.m., which was in another five minutes, so Auntie Rose decided she needed to kill that time by going to use the bathroom at Westlake Center first.

That was how we discovered the huge amount of construction going on up on the third floor of Westlake Center -- where the bathrooms, and the entrance to the Monorail, are currently the only things accessible to the public. It's otherwise completely gutted, getting ready for a major overhaul, with a Sak's Fifth Avenue coming in, presumably to replace a huge portion of what used to be the food court, and a new, obviously much smaller "food hall." I took a few pictures for posterity, including the spot where I used to eat pasta from Sbarros quite regularly.

Shobhit had offered to make lunch for us all at home, since he hadn't actually seen Auntie Rose in years -- and actually, I only figured out yesterday, she hadn't been to the condo since my Birth Week in 2008, when I also got photos of her holding both Shanti and Guru as tiny kittens. I figured she would walk pretty slowly as we meandered our way up Capitol Hill, and that was one way to kill time, and I was right.

So, part of our route back, we went through the underground pedestrian concourse that runs the two blocks between Rainier Square and Union Square, which, before yesterday, neither Auntie Rose nor I had walked through in many years. I mean, it's not super special, but I have always liked it down there and that it's sort of a hidden gem that I think not a lot of people know about, unless they work on those blocks. None of the stuff down there is open on the weekends, which would largely explain how rarely I get down there. I went there a few times the first few years I lived in Seattle, when I was either unemployed or working weird hours.

I actually walked through it by myself on the way to meet Auntie Rose, to get my bearings again on where to go back in on the way back. One of the lovely features they have down there is a gallery of historic photos of Seattle, so I had Auntie Rose pose for a photo next to the shots of downtown Seattle in 1959 and 1960, since she lived in Seattle for forty years and first moved there to go to college in 1958.

When we came out the lobby exit at One Union Square, we went across the street to the IBM Buildng and then made our way to the staircases that go up to Freeway Park, which is one way for pedestrians to cross the freeway into First Hill. She commented on how long it had been since she had been in there as well, just before we witnessed a rather memorable incident that I had to post on Facebook about:

We witnessed an almost-cat-fight between three women in Freeway Park, one of them threateningly taking off her shirt, just in her bra, like she was ready to throw down.

I think they spewed more curse words than Auntie Rose has heard in probably the past ten years.

My favorite part was when one of the fully clothed ones yelled (without irony) "You are possessed by the devil! In the name of Jesus, demon be gone!"

When I was processing the photos from yesterday this morning, I noticed in the one shot I took in Freeway Park that all of those women are visible, as it was a couple of minutes before the crazier, bra-lady passed the other two. Of the two ladies who can be seen in the further distance in the shot, I'm pretty sure the one on the left is the one who ultimately took off her shirt. It all started when they passed each other and the dog-walking lady in mid-distance on the far left made some snide comment about how the further-distant lady passed by so closely she could spit on her. Then there commenced this kind of amazing shouting match.

I said to Auntie Rose, "I've never seen that before." She laughed and said, "Welcome to the big city!"

I was really afraid a real fist fight would break out between those ladies, and we quickened our pace a bit after we passed them, but it never got worse than the shouting (and the bizarre partial stripping). So we walked through First Hill, made our way over to Pike Street, and I took a moment to show her the Starbucks Roastery flagship store located over there, since I knew it would be nothing like any regular coffee shop she had ever seen. We didn't buy anything, as neither of us drink coffee (although one lady pointed out to me the do sell tea). Auntie Rose wandered around for maybe five minutes and then we left and walked the rest of the way up Pike and then Pine to my place, where Shobhit made us lunch.


So we were all at home for the lunch Shobhit made us for what I would guess was about two hours. I think Auntie Rose and I were both ready for a rest anyway. Shobhit made two dishes, one out of potatoes and one out of lentils, to have with rice. Auntie Rose did not eat a huge amount, but she was very complimentary. I had told Shobhit she will probably want to pray before we eat, but as opposed to any time we eat out at a restaurant and she insists on praying before we dig in, I guess she recognizes the different context when she has a meal in the home of people she knows are non-believers: she just started eating once her plate was dished up. I thought about telling her she's free to pray if she wants, but I never did. I actually rather appreciated that sort of contextual respect she was offering us, however conscious it may or may not have been.

Once we were done eating, and there seemed nothing left to do, I asked if she'd like us to get her to the 2:00 ferry instead of the 3:00 one she was originally planning on making it to. She said sure, and she went to use the bathroom. That was when Shobhit asked if we should just drive her home. He really was overly worried about her having to spend too much time on the bus, wich she does all the time, but I was still swayed by the fact that we really had the time.

We looked at the estimated travel time on my map app, and it looked like we could conceivably even get back by 6:00, which was when Ivan had said I could come out to Madison Park when I said "give or take an hour" to be there when he takes his break and maybe come up and see the view from the top of the 16-story building he works in. But, the last couple of times I brought it up, his tone was clearly one that indicated he really didn't want to deal with that right now. I even offered an alternate idea of coming before his shift even started, which he was even less inclined to do: he's always really busy as soon as he gets there, he said. So it's impossible just to come a little early? Whatever, technically I was the one who was imposing here -- still, once again, he acts like he's open to an idea I have at first (I brought this up weeks ago, before it even occurred to me to do it for my Birth Week, which was then what I said was the only present I wanted from him), and then later does an about-face. It seems we'd both be better of if he would just be straight with me from the start: he'd avoid doing something he doesn't want to do, and I wouldn't get disappointed.

But, then another idea came to me: given that the promise of getting back to Seattle by 6:00 exactly was iffy to begin with, what if Shobhit and I took a detour on the Olympic Peninsula after dropping off Auntie Rose? It did add three hours of travel to our day, but Shobhit was open to it: I wanted to see a place off Highway 101, just north of the town called Brinnon, called Rocky Brook Falls. Dad had told me a year or so ago about having gone there with Sherri and I really wanted to see it -- I'm just not over there very often. So, ultimately, that's what we decided to do. And so I sent Ivan a message: Soooo we made a last minute decision to drive Auntie Rose home to Port Townsend, so you're off the hook! I could tell you weren't all that keen on dealing with me bothering you at work anyway. 🙂

I did not hear back from him for another six hours or so, possibly when he was about to text me that he was too busy for me to come out that evening -- and I honestly wasn't necessarily expecting any response at all, as I don't often get one from him. And what he said was surprisingly conciliatory: Thank you. Sorry to be evasive, but I've actually been very busy at work recently. I can't leave my unit except when I'm on break and I often don't know when I'll even be able to take my break, depending on what's going on. I also get interrupted during my break sometimes, so planning any kind of a tour or a visit is actually a lot more complicated than you might expect. Maybe once things have calmed down around here a bit.

That amount of explanation was really unnecessary (and I was already thinking about how his liking for this job has taken a downturn recently anyway), but I still rather appreciated it, as it was much more than I can typically expect from him. And I'm having to learn to let go of a few of the things I wanted for my Birth Week this year: Gabriel, for reasons I can't get into, is clearly not going to happen -- a first since 2004, but we can just pick up again next year. It's not the end of the fucking world, Matthew! It occurred to me yesterday that I should be grateful I have so many friends it's still a challenge to schedule them all into an expanded 10-day Birth Week even after three of them are ranging from weirdly evasive to simply unavailable. I was also supposed to have lunch today with Tommy, until he finally responded to my follow-up text last night that he's been so busy at work that they've had to call lunch in the past couple of days and he was afraid of having to go at the last minute (he was already kind of bailing at the last minute but whatever!). So I asked if he was available for a late dinner on Thursday, and as he has been wont to do lately, he did not respond immediately and I have not heard back. Honestly, with him in particular and his apparent social anxieties he often references in one way or another on social media, I'm about to give up. My social efforts with him have always been extraordinarily one sided, which I'll freely admit he never asked for, and I'm beginning to think I'm just expending energy there pointlessly. It's too bad because I really like him and enjoy his company, have even told him so more than once, but he may just be the type for whom that makes little difference. I'm about to ask him for his address so I can just mail him the five pieces of mail that are here for him, so I don't have to ask him -- yet again -- if and when he might come and get them.

So anyway, even after all that, my Birth Week is still quite packed, mostly with people who are thrilled to be included rather than feeling put out by my pestering them about it (was that passive aggressive?), so I should just shut up and enjoy what I'm getting. The guest list for the dinner party on Saturday is already shaping up to outsize last year's, almost to the point of being too much, which is itself a bit of a shock to me. I even thought I might not be able to fit Lynn in, especially after she said she was unavailable for dinner on Saturday, but since I finally let go of trying to convince Gabriel to get together with me this year (he clearly has more important needs, and I mean that sincerely; with him in particular I'm actually not bitter, I want that to be clear), I was able to schedule her for dinner on Friday instead.

So, with this new approach, Shobhit and I spent the evening just the two of us last night -- and it killed two birds with one stone, as I actually had not yet scheduled a dedicated "Birth Week activity" with just him, and that now qualified: our detour down to Rocky Brook Falls. We were there only for a few minutes, but I got 12 fantastic and beautiful photos out of it, which made the excursion totally worth it. (As always, you can click any photo in this entry to be taken to the full photo set on Flickr.) We drove from there back around Hood Canal to get on the Kingston ferry which, this time, we barely missed; we had to wait 50 minutes for the next one. Had we caught the earlier one, we actually would have made it to Seattle by 6:00 with time to spare. But, this still worked out best. And we stopped at Costco in Lynnwood for gas and had a slice of pizza for dinner there, before driving home with barely enough time for me to walk downtown and take myself to see the so-so Free Fire by myself. I had shown Shobhit the trailer and he wasn't big on it. And when I returned home to write the review, I said, "Well, it wasn't as good as I wanted and it was about as good as you expected." He said, "B-minus?" Yep.

I then went to write the review, and then we worked on the crossword puzzle, which we were doing when Ivan got home from work. I was up until midnight because Ivan was surprisingly chatty, with conversation of unusual depth about relatives and how affected they are by religion. So then I went to bed, and Guru woke me up around 6:30 this morning, and I've spent my time since processing and captioning photos (there's a lot of detail in the captions of this set in particular) and writing this journal entry.




positive energy please