February dawned exquisitely in West Seattle. 3000 miles east in Puxatawney, PA, a gang of middle-aged white male business owners hauled a groundhog out of a stump and hoisted it into the air,
then announced we were going to have six more weeks of winter.
Meanwhile, temperatures in Seattle came floating steadily up out of the 30s. Thick grey fogbanks burned off by late morning, and the sun fell across our hilly neighborhood like a soft blanket. Honeysuckle started blooming alongside our house, attracting swarms of softly humming bees.
The sun, the goat, the honeybees…. its all been a little surreal. Walking Assata down the hill to Lowman beach on Monday, I had to shed my hat, gloves, sweater, scarf, and hoodie, until I was following her across the driftwood and beachrocks bareheaded in shirtsleeves. She poked her way across the beach to visit some gulls, who all rose up into the air at once, backflapped a dozen yards, and settled back into the water. She stood ankle-deep in the small waves, watching the gulls with her head cocked. I saw a seal slipping through the waves, and a giant freighter slowly chugged past out in the shipping channel, with two giant cranes (the ones that look like massive, angular dinosaurs) bound for the port of Seattle around Alki point.
(Assata watching a less water-phobic dog-friend at Lowman Beach)
Walked home in the glowing sunshine. Noticed birdsong as we walked the sidewalk up the hill through the ravine. Got ready for my five-oclock waitressing shift.
Set out on my customary walk-to-the-junction, a gentle uphill mile trek to the business district of our neighboorhood. My mother, who grew up in Seattle, says our neighborhood reminds her of hers in the 1950s and 60s. Lots of small family-owned businesses, largely non-corporate, old signs, familiar faces. As I neared the restaurant I work at, I saw a news van parked nearby. Walking closer, a spotted a pile of flowers on a table in front of the bar next door to ours. One of my co-workers came out and stood next to me in front of the table.
“someone got shot out front last night, after you left work,” he told me. “He ran into the bar next door and collapsed, and he died in the hospital this morning.”
(images thanks to WS Blog).
“Look,” he said, gesturing behind him. “You can see the bullet holes in the wall.”
That night, the restaurant was quiet. My only real tip income was from a large table of journalists and staff who’d been laid off from a local news network that day, and had decided to rendevous one last time for beers before going their separate ways in search of work.
Every now and then, Seattle PD officers walked by out front, “foot patrolling” to make the neighborhood feel safer. A news crew camped out on the sidewalk and accosted passerby to see if they were grieving for the man who’d died.
I didn’t know this young man. My heart goes out to his family. But I can’t help but think the event was lost on the rest of us: as a society, we fill the bullet holes with putty and paint them the same color as the rest of our lives.
I feel safe as ever in my neighborhood. I keep on glorying in the sunshine, taking my dog to the beach, walking to work and yoga, and saving tip money for our wedding. Reading the West Seattle blog, my heart ached at the sight of the young man’s picture, holding his niece. Sunny days and strange nights, as the economy teeters and the wars continue and the country waits for “Change.”