A Pat behind the veil


Here’s to seeking out stories (photo credit to Partner)

I got home from work today feeling like those flamingos in Alice in Wonderland that they use to play croquet with. Like someone had grabbed me by the feet and smashed me into things all day. Everything is a shit storm lately, every task is urgent, and I have three people all telling me to do the same thing three different ways.

Do it this way, no this way, no this way.

My poor head is spinning. The last thing I wanted to do when I got home was investigate anything in my free time. And yet, for some reason, I called Pat.

When I got my phone, probably ten years ago, I used to get all these calls asking for Pat. They slowed down over time and I hadn’t gotten one in years. I had forgotten all about Pat, until last week, out of the blue, I got another call. It was some company calling for him, I don’t remember what exactly they were calling about, but they used his last name. It takes so little to find a person these days.

A quick Pipl search later and I had his new phone number. I was curious who this person was, yes, but I probably wouldn’t have called except that the number (my number) is still associated with his REI account. I’ve tried several times to start an REI account (so I can stop borrowing Partner’s account) but they keep telling me my phone number is on someone else’s account. So, why not?

Ten years later and I am on the phone with Pat, chatting about REI. He’s joking that I’d better not steal his safeway gas rewards (he still uses my number for it). He is saying he still stops by REI on occasion and he’ll change the phone number. I am telling him that I found his number online, that I work for the Public Defender’s office , and so I’m practiced at finding people.

There is a real, living, breathing person behind a tiny little moment in my life. All I experience is a brief moment, a phone call for someone I don’t know. But there is a whole person, an entire life behind that little moment. There is a Pat behind those phone calls and he has a story all his own.

It’s a funny little reminder that the world is big and full of stories. That I need to keep seeking them out even when I am tired and feeling like a bashed flamingo. My feather’s are all bent out of shape but my ears, my eyes, and my heart are still working. I’m lucky. Life is beautiful.




Chasing the Bluebird

Finding the record shop would have been a lot easier if I had just talked to the woman telling the story but I don’t have the best relationship with opportunity. It’s something I’m working on. I remember two summers ago I was sitting in a bar in Capitol Hill, having a beer with a friend. The door was open, letting the warm summer evening air in, and I saw I saw an older, transient looking guy walking past. There was something about him that caught my attention, something unique and interesting about him. He looked at me and we had a brief moment of eye contact. There was a momentary feeling of connection. In that brief moment he immediately changed direction and marched into the bar and sat at a table nearby. I will never forget how quickly he changed course. I don’t know what it was the passed between us but he acted on it immediately. The world whispered possibility and he answered instantly, no hesitation. But I was not so decisive. I hesitated. I thought about buying him a drink and asking to hear his story but instead I sat and thought about whether I should. He sat with his drink and I sat with my friend. After he left I remember the staff talking about him, that they’d been unsure whether to let him in, but that he’d payed in cash. And this is all I will ever know about him.

It’s funny how even the minor characters in your life can change its course so drastically. That old man is one of the untold stories that made me start this storytelling project of mine. I think about him sometimes. I wonder who he was and where he’d been. I wonder what he might have told me if I’d talked to him. And I’m trying to be more like him, to listen for the little whispers of something that might be. Or someone I might meet. I’m trying to follow possibility until she takes me to a story. I’m getting better, although I still hesitate a lot. I didn’t ask the woman in the crumpet shop to tell me her story, but now I’m seeking it out.

So I went to Enumclaw. I wandered into a coffee shop with incredibly pleasant staff but a horrifyingly sweet “lavender latte.” The thing was more sugar than I’d had in two weeks. But they point me towards a music store in the hopes that they might know more. The guy in the music store is clearly not interested in stories or writing, but was very sweet to the kids coming in looking at clarinets and flutes and saxophones. Eventually after much inane questioning of surprisingly patient strangers, I wander into a bar for a much-earned beer. After asking the waitress about the record shop (to no avail) I end up striking up a conversation with the two guys sitting next to me. They remember it. Such is life.

The shop closed a long time ago, sometime in the 90’s, and much longer ago than I had suspected. One of the guys I talked to used to buy comics there, and remembered Dana, the owner. It took them a while, but they finally remembered the name of the shop. I finally have a name. Bluebird Music. And with a name, I was able to find a picture of this elusive place. I tried to contact the owner of this Flickr account but haven’t gotten a response, so I’ll just link to the photos I found.

So I’ve made some progress. It’s small progress, but hey, at least I’m moving in the right direction. Also, I have good news. I’ve finally upgraded from an iPhone 4 to a 6, so they quality of my own pictures is going to make a big leap up. Woohoo! I’m inserting a random photo now to demonstrate.



Where have all the record shops gone?


Somewhat unrelated urban photo…

I’m sitting in a crumpet shop when I over hear a snippet of conversation. If you don’t know what a crumpet is go to The Crumpet Shop and get one. They’re amazing little butter absorbing delights that I might compare to English muffins except that they are infinitely superior. I’m having mine with pesto and ricotta when a woman starts up a conversation with one of the employees. He’s saying that he grew up in a small town (somewhere in the middle) and moved here because there just wasn’t anything there for him, no jobs, no opportunity. She says she had a similar experience but in a nearby town, Enumclaw. She starts describing it and I can only hear bits and pieces of the conversation. She had reasons for leaving, but it did have this one thing. She said it had this great old record shop she loved. The owner had previously owned a record shop in a city but had moved to Enumclaw and set up shop there. I missed part of the story but she was talking wistfully about the store and how it was so sad that it had closed down.

It’s interesting timing because I just drove through Enumclaw very recently. I was heading out to the mountains with Partner to go backpacking. We drove through and were talking about what an interesting little town it was. Something about it piqued my interest. Just odd little things. Peering into the warm bright interior of a pub we saw a man with an eyepatch sitting at the bar. There’s a beer place called “The Filling Station” for filling growlers. It’s not the sort of place I would have expected to have a well-stocked record shop. But then, I’m clearly not giving the place enough credit. Perhaps I need to let go of my snobby city-person expectations and go find out what Enumclaw is actually like. I think that unexamined assumptions are the death of real learning. So I will drop my assumptions and learn about the little town that gave rise to a record shop that has grown so large in the memories of those who still remember it. I want to know that story.

And so I shall investigate.

Summer bells

Last August I was sitting outside of a coffee shop on first hill, writing, when I heard a bell begin to toll noon. It was a beautiful sound, coming through the quiet moments in my music. I’d never heard a bell tower there before, not as far as I knew. Sitting there in hot sunshine with iced coffee and listening to the bell mark the time I felt like I was traveling. I felt far away from work and worry. But time ticked on and I had to leave. And I didn’t hear the bell again, not until a full year later.

A few weeks ago I heard the bell again. I was sitting outside the same coffee shop (we’ll call it a ritual not a rut, shall we?) when I heard it once again. I’m convinced I had not heard it once between those two times. It seemed like a strange coincidence, that the only two times I’d heard it had both been in the end of August. I started to wonder why. Did it only ring in summer? Or very infrequently? So, of course, I decided to look into it. The next time I walked up to that coffee shop I asked the two baristas. I know both of them by now although saying I “know” them is maybe stretching the relationship. After a year they have sort of recognized that I come there a lot but we’ve never had much of a conversation.

I asked if they had heard the bells. The guy said yes, sometimes, but that it was hard to say because he didn’t really notice most of the time. I asked where the sound was coming from and the girl said she thought it was from the Church just around the corner, the Lutheran church. The guy said it sounded like it came from that direction and pointed vaguely in what I believe was a south-eastern direction. I walked up the hill and found myself self at the base of an impressive Catholic cathedral. Peering up I saw what appeared to be a bell-tower at the peak.

that's a bell tower, right?

that’s a bell tower, right?

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The Metropole Mystery

As an investigator my insatiable curiosity is something of a professional asset. The rest of the time it can be frustrating. Have you noticed how many little mysteries present themselves in the course of a day, especially living in the city? For example, why does that one car have approximately ten thousand toys glued on it? What led to that decision and then the impressively painstaking followthrough? We may never know. But that kills me. I want to know why.

I was walking in Pioneer Square, on my way back to work from my habitual coffee-lunch spot. I passed this giant, gorgeous mural on a building I’d never noticed before. It’s this bright, graffiti-style underwater scene, but there’s a sign sticking right out of the middle of it. For Kabobs. But you can’t read the whole thing because only half of it protrudes beyond the plywood.

the mysterious sign

mysterious sign

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