Monday, September 27, 2010

Time with the neighbors

About a week ago I ate dinner with a Bulgarian named Lenko. The tale begins a few hours before we sat down for food, he in his high-back chair and I in my fold out lazy boy, of sorts.

After an Americano from the local espresso bar Vivace, I wander down Minor Avenue on the way back to the new studio. A sign catches my eye: Feed the Homeless and those in Need. It’s a food bank put on a local church every Thursday of the month. This ad sends me on a quest mentally… I’ve been thinking lately of how I might serve the poor, particularly those on the side of the road asking for a few bucks. I’m soon reminded of the verses in James "What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save him? Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to him, 'Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed,' but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it?" Shortly there after, I stumble upon Hellen. Helen lives in a subsidized apartment just across the street; she and I are friends. The afternoon I moved into the neighborhood our first introduction came with a ‘d’you have a cigerette?’ ‘I’m sorry, I don’t’ ‘Could you give me some money to buy a pack?’ For a moment I’m fumbling… ‘well could I meet you first? I’m Evan.’ And so we became neighbors.

‘My keys stick in this darn lock, can you help me?’ Once the keys are safely back in her purse we sit down for a breather. The bench outside her apartment offers a fine place to relax. She’s not feeling well today, and as Helen asks me for some OJ, I see the ‘verse’ come to life. Get me to that corner store, I’m on a mission! Man, can this lady ‘down’ some juice. And with but a few sips left she finally takes a breath… ‘th-thanks.’ The next few minutes are beautiful. Helen comes alive. She struggles with diabetes, so a bit of sugar and some fluids help immensely.

And then there’s Lenko. He enters the scene, creeping around the corner with a hand rolled cigarette stashed between his lips. ‘Hey you’ he points at me with a smile. ‘Don’ worry, I no inhale.’ At five foot five or so, this guys a tank and with tattoos of a life lived and fought in Bulgaria. Sixty minutes after our introduction, Lenko’s sitting next to me grabbing my shoulder, slapping my back and telling me the ways of the world. We rolodex-ed through topics A to Z… From Christopher Columbus to Truman Capote and how ‘he was a no good killer, but he look out for the poor.’ ‘And Columbus, ha? Americo Vasputee, that the guy you want to know.’ We’re having some fun. About an hour goes by and ‘I’ve gotta run, Lenko.’ ‘Ok, but don’ forget me.’ ‘Come knock on my window anytime’ I gesture, pointing him towards my cave of a studio across the street. We’re neighbors now, and we both could use the company.

Sure enough, 7:30 rolls around and Lenko’s strolled over for a visit. ‘Ivan Ivan, come with me.’ He mentions something about steak and dinner and then we’re off towards his apartment. You’ll not be saying ‘no’ to Lenko. Up an elevator and through the hall, we travel with him talking and I mostly listening. Stuff galore greets us and he welcomes me with gifts. ‘This, for your bike.’ He points to a bike pump. ‘And this for your mood!’ He proclaims handing me a lamp. ‘And wait wait, let me find it… this for resting feet.’ The green fold up chair arrives in my arms… he practically throws these items at me. All with a great smile and look of concentration. And then arrives the food. With a flick of the wrist, a pan opens up and ‘food, steak!’ breaths forth in all it’s glory. Indeed, the ingredients meld into one. I have no idea what’s set before me. And with a sprits and a swirl of Windex, a bowl is “cleaned” and dinner is served. In a moment of weakness I freeze slightly and quickly ponder ‘what do I do?’ And as if reading my mind he energetically directs me, ‘eat eat!’ So we’re off, and the discovery process ensues. Lenko and I, somehow men of common bond unite over a meal in the city, in his home. ‘Carrot’s, I see.’ ‘Yes, and tukey and tomato, also basil… and don’ forget rice. Strong, very strong muscles this build.’ And very strong bonds one builds by opening his home for another.

After another helping of ‘steak’, the cake and the orange soda appear, and we’re watching a little television and shooting the breeze. ‘You’re name now Vanya!’ I’m laughing now almost uncontrollably. I cannot believe he called me ‘Vanya.’ My Dad calls me this, and he has for years. What joy I felt was in this moment. And Lenko gets this mischievous and slightly victorious look on his face when he’s excited about something. ‘Vanya!’ He projects. ‘and I… Iyonya!’ Unbelievable. Somehow, I live for this stuff. Soon enough he’s teaching me a combo of Russian and Bulgarian and he flies through his Bulgarian/English dictionary in search of words that propel our multilingual conversation. Just a few hours earlier we were both alone living our lives, and one conversation birthed an experience of camaraderie and friendship.

Friday, August 27, 2010

The intelligentsia

Wherefor art thou Toby and whyfor do you live so far away?’ This phrase rings in my head as I bear witness to ‘a modern and most dramatized interpretation of Shakespeare’s sensational and beloved masterpiece, Romeo and Juliet,’ as the brochure proclaims. Ellary my niece, a surprisingly articulate 20-month-old child, decided Juliet’s line needed an addendum. She speaks of her uncle toby, (the family dog). In her blogging brilliance ( she unpacks the emotional distance Juliet feels from her Romeo. She could indeed take it a step further and explore the many other questions often asked by a heartsick lover. She’s discovered the important and thought provoking questions of wherefor and whyfor, but what about whatfor and whenfor and howfor? I digress, as they say, ‘they’ being the academic with his glasses in hand, continually crossing and uncrossing and recrossing his legs, with a fire warming his back and thus his intellect, and with the flames igniting his ever expanding mind. ‘It’s like the universe, really.’ And don’t forget the beard he strokes contemplatively and with purpose. But seriously, I’m doing all these things right now.

Apparently I’m subject to the whims of a sporadic mind. I did go to see some Shakespearean plays this past weekend. And I did realize that Shakespeare in a park with a grassy knoll for a backrest is really the best way to watch this master at work. Needless to say, after two tragedies back to back, R&J and Othello, I demand that ‘someone get me one of those UV lamps immediately.’ Depression, that sneaky, cunning, serotonin depleting disease… it’ll get you. But in even more seriousness, Seattle summers invite locals to many events all over the city. Tour de Fat (combining biking, beer, and ridiculous costume wearing), Shakespeare in the park, movies at the brew houses and $3.50 Imax viewings of Inception have all entertained me thus far.

Friday, August 20, 2010

An inadvertent musician

A few weeks ago, the drive up the 5 on my way to Seattle presented a number of different views and obstacles. At one point I pull up behind a large and growing pile of traffic. ‘Wreck ahead’, reads a sign. Ok, I’ll expect delays. Yada Yada, I’ve lived in southern California for the last five years, I know the drill… should have been more like a fire drill. Pulling up to the scene, this ‘wreck’ was in fact a trailer ablaze and charred, a mere skeleton. From what I could see, no casualties fortunately enough. Then the next ‘wreck’ appeared fairly quickly following the conflagration*. I must give you the context surrounding this second incident. My brakes are squeaky. The Vis, as I call my Eagle Vision, four-door and white stallion-esc sedan, has seen many cross-country trips and subsequently many miles. She’s well traveled, well aged, and dependable. But something’s begun in her, a squeaking of orchestral proportions. Breaking never sounded so magical, I tell you. In four four time, squeak two three four, squeak squeak three four… (or maybe it was six-eight) the starts and stops, the petrol exhaust, the arms poking out of open windows, the peaking glances around long rows of cars... all and everything make for quite the sensory experience. And the aged gentleman beside me in a tiny ford couple with a bumper sticker labeling his car and perhaps himself a ‘BIOHASARD,’ acts as the impromptu conductor, waving his arms in time with an unrelated musical manifestation of his own. We’re at a stand still. But soon traffic quickens and with a nod of acknowledgement we’re sent flying once more at speeds uninhibited by rotating instruments. Actions of forward progress begin with the tapping of a wand and the jumbled sound of tuning instruments. Just wait and listen to the synchronized notes that soon will follow.

*please refer to Leonard G Crowley’s vocabulary archive for clarification and definitional explanation.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Old buildings and new residences

Some writing from a bit ago, (about a week and a half) documenting my continued apartment excursions...

Yesterday set quite the stage for my future in Seattle. ‘If you get hungry eat somethtin.' My mom and I quote that line from Best in Show all the time… especially on trips, etc. I think subconsciously she also knows it’s exactly what I need to hear. The absence of food renders me dysfunctional in almost everything. Mainly that the longer I go without food, the more I convince myself that I don’t need it. Huh? Yeah, figure that one out. So after my little escapade outside that first apartment/gents club building, I felt the little gnawing creeping up in me. No I say! Stomach, I will not heed your advice nor your instincts. And so I’m off again, flying at the swift pace of 10 miles an hour through the streets of Seattle. One street and then another, well, missed that street and then... oh man that’s a One-way. So finally I pull into a parking space in the northeastern part of downtown, for a breather but still no food. I must beat my body into submission.

A few stuporing blocks later I stumble upon a building, one with bent floors and decks and oddly shaped paneling. Soon I’m standing beside the thing looking at the sign indicating, ‘plans for demolition.’ Apparently another magnificent building will usher in the new area, laying to rest this poor, shabby and sagging elder of a building. But it hasn’t passed on yet, and it keeps fight along with its ten or so residents. ‘Maybe this is my new home’ I think as I turn the corner and before me a sign reads ‘Vacancy, call Paul.’ Well, Paul turns out to be the 85 year of landlord who kindly directs me to a man named Denise. Now according to Paul, Denise lives down a set of rickety old steps, wooden and descending to a dark and damp room below. ‘Just give ‘em a good holler down there,’ says Paul. ‘Ah, Ok… Denise! Dennnnisse!’ No answer. And I, the wannabe conquistador, says ‘I’ll brave the steps.’ ‘What?’ sounds Paul, a little hard of hearing. ‘You sure?’ he cautions. I’m feeling especially confident and adventurous at the moment. ‘Oh I need to Paul.’ ‘Well you go right ahead there pal.’ 'Denise!'.. streams a bit of a yell from my lips. Nothing. He’s here I know it. Behind an open door, a boiler room awaits. One final time, perhaps more out of fear than courage, I yell. And sitting upright he shouts himself awake, ‘What! Who? O hey there.’ A response rises from a well-camouflaged cot beside the rumbling water heater. ‘It’s nice and warm and cozy beside that thing.’ he tells me. We ascend the steps and with the sunlight emerges this warm figure named Denise. My man, with a tobacco stained beard hanging low to his chest and a draped pony tale and one tooth left standing, explains the eventful history of this early 1900’s building. ‘You best know the origins of this thing if you wanna lay your head right here.’ He points to the never-once-changed lime green carpeting that adorns this slanted main room of the available apartment. I’d be sharing the one bathroom with Roger and Hank from the next room, ‘Hope that’d be all right with ya.’ I don’t mind!... with a classic Frigidaire from the fifties chilling my perishable items, I’d gladly slap high fives with these seventy-plus gents on my way to the WC. I can imagine our comical conversations late at night, I bushing my teeth, they Alkazelsering theirs, shooting the breeze and welcoming a new era of toilet humor. And so finishing the tour Denise bids me farewell and happy apartment hunting and admits he may soon be encouraged to do the same.

‘For every act of creation is at first an act of destruction,’ as a Mr. Pablo Picasso put it. That goes for new buildings and new men alike, arising from the rubble of their pasts. Adam couldn’t experience the beauty of Eve without first removing and giving her the rib that protected his heart. And perhaps we can’t draw nearer to God without a few sledge hammer blows to that comfortable residence of ours. And so He’ll throw the cards on the table, I’ll read them realizing at once they are not my own. Trumped, I’ll destruct. And soon He’ll guide me on towards a new and more joyous creation. Peace of Christ to you, my family and friends.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Failed attempts at thievery

Getting locked out of a house has its advantages. For one, meeting a lovely elderly lady named Rose. ‘Hey you two, come over here and say hello.’ You don’t argue with a lady on her porch. ‘Oh hello Rose,’ my friend Dave warmly responds. ‘Don’t worry about those flowers, I can barely move to water’m anyway.’ Then she starts in with stories. Oh boy, brace yourself. And then there’s her special seasonal jam that we must try. ‘I do suppose you’d like one too then, huh?’ Her eyes fixate on me, a guy continually showered with hospitality and kindness, as of late. ‘Oh why, why yes I would, thanks.’ ‘You got it honey.’ An hour later and after Rose’s insistence… ‘I’ll be baking you some delicious cakes soon real soon, you two.’ With a smile and a bit of a sunburn (the sun shines bight and warm today, at least for the moment… and so I hear, soon enough it’ll disappear for many months to follow), Dave and I tiptoe off her garden.

'Let's try to break into the house.' Locked and closed doors lead to barred windows. But for every locked door, there’s the one slightly cracked window. After searching, we indeed find it. Yet in our triumph, Dave jabs his hand through the open window, launching the blinds and flinging the keys of our salvation towards a most unreachable location. Shucks!.. as Joe my new South African friend would say. Grab a branch, quick! After many unfruitful tries and numerous oily smears from faces jammed against windowpanes, we sit down to regroup. Now, there are ‘Shucks-es’ flying about everywhere, and a few laughs also as we ‘jump a little higher for that branch.’ ‘Ok try this one, it’s sturdy, see, and with a little hook on the end.’ And so we try for the keys again. After many failed attempts, we snag these keys… but of course, these are not the house keys, but the keys to my home on wheels. Drat, I guess the nap can wait… ‘squeeze in the car, we’ll head out for a sandwich.’ So after a quasi victory lap that looks more like a three point turn, we move out in search of a door more open and welcoming and hunger satisfying. The adventure continues.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Apartment Fumbling

The other day was interesting. I went to a studio apartment to check it out more closely and to get a tour. Turns out in passing by the day before I failed to see the entrance to a gentleman's club literally right next door... what the heck... and then around the corner was another similar establishment. I was pretty dumbfounded. At first I thought maybe I'll just avoid it because otherwise it's a great price and pretty good location... but quickly realized that just wouldn't fly. (But had a nice conversation with the apt manager, he was an americorps member back in the day). In a way, it was a humorous moment for me, having found what I thought was my new home for 420 a month and then realizing I would be sequestered/surrounded by the devil... and waiting for this manager to show up, twiddling my thumbs outside of a strip club where any passer by would never believe that 'I'm just waiting to see an apartment' 'yeah right'... I guess I'll wait on the Lord instead.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

AIO and other Acronyms

Anybody heard of Adventures in Odyssey? Yeah, me too. In fact I was fixated or otherwise focused on that stuff. Adventure after adventure streamed through that cassette player atop my mom's mini van dashboard. I sit as a little kid with jaw dropping, feet dangling above the floor mates and my head in the clouds. Beautiful stuff. I figure this time of my life, like AIO, involves a bit of adventure and also a bit of lunacy. Or maybe a bit more of the later than I’d like to admit. My adventures consist less of high flying air balloons, as Mr Whittaker often traveled in, and deals with detective like activities, mainly apt searching, finding and losing them because a) the apartment is right next door to a strip club, or b) I’d prefer… ‘baking you four pies a month to live in your studio, deal?’ In other words, not a great deal of cash flow ahead of me. So join me in this new part of my life. I’ll try to fill you in along the way… hopefully I won’t reach my Whits End too soon. Cheers!