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07/25 2014

A Workweek in the Northwest

2014-07-22 20.23.33I’m on the road for a bit of an extended trip and kicked it all off with a West Coast tour from Seattle down to San Francisco.  Here are a few things that happened.

Chapter 1: Visiting Family

Four days before my departure to a city where my brother lives, I notify him that I’ll be in Seattle, working out by SeaTac for two days and not a whole lot of time, but would he be able to come to dinner?  My brother is the most generous of all the Keller kids (no insult to my sister, she would agree) and so Travis meets me at the hotel for dinner in the overpriced and not very nice restaurant where I’m staying.  We talk about our jobs and complain about some things.  We discuss our parents and our niece.  We wonder about holiday plans.  Should we go to California?  Should we go to Idaho?  In a family of people who have a million homes, it is never easy to sort out what to do a for a run of the mill Christmas.  Kellers move and corralling us to one state in one month is a hell of a project.  We hug farewell.  I miss China so much but it is a good thing to see family and I’m heartened by this brief dinner where I can see my brother.

Chapter 2:  In the Car with Kate

This is how things have always been and always should be.  I’m riding shotgun in the car with Kate from Seattle to Portland.  She tells me she cannot get a speeding ticket, I tell her I have no idea what I’m doing with my life.  This is my friend who I have been riding around with in cars since we could drive.  First her with the VW Bug (Papouli we named it!) and then me with the totaled Honda Civc (named Scar).  We have driven down this coast before as teenagers, we have had these conversations our whole lives and I know it will never end.  Our memories go back so far I do not know where they begin.  We have been roommates and traveling friends and now she comes to pick me up in Seattle and take me to Portland. we stop in Tacoma and watch her friend’s show at the Glass Museum there.  We listen to music and I put my feet on the dashboard, my arm in waves out the window.

I can be an anxious person from time to time but with Kate I am at peace.  It is good to be driving down the northwest with my best friend and airing my happiness and and my anxieties.  I wonder if I’ll move West again.  I was in Oregon in 99 and then in Seattle in 2007.  Neither seemed to take, but who knows, maybe this time?  It was raining when we left Seattle but by the time we are to 30 miles south on the I5 it is hot and I am rolling up my jeans.  Western Washington is lush and green compared to where I grew up near Eastern Washington where the the fields are all yellow by this time of year.  Living in the midwest I sometimes forget how dry the west is until I come home.

We enter Portland and everything slows.  We drive in an irritating circle of one one streets until we get to the hotel and then I can drop my bags and we can head for a beer.  the greatest gift is a good friend.

Chapter 3:  Missed Connections

I was in a taxi from one neighborhood in Portland I don’t know, headed back to the Travelodge and at a stoplight I lazily looked out the window.  It took me a minute, I looked again, but it was her.  Stacey Coonfield (you were Carroll when I knew you) I saw you walking and laughing down the street. It was 2:25Pm on Thursday.  I was so startled I didn’t know what to do until the taxi had pulled away but I wish I’d waved or called out.  I haven’t seen Stacey in more than ten years, but I remember her poetry.  Those classes we took together, all  those workshops where we learned each others writing, as well as Sarah’s (what is her last name, I don’t remember) and Jen, who was the only one of us who went for an MFA.  Undergraduate writing students are those still in consideration, and none of us seem to have gone full tilt, but it was good then, and seeing Stacey on the street, that blond streak still in her hair, I missed being  student writing in Idaho, earnest and alive.

Chapter 4: Poor Choices

It was a bad idea to get a $63 hotel in downtown San Francisco.  I acknowledge this fully now, so spare me the lecture.  This  is what happened though.  I arrive at 10PM to the hotel and there is a man coming out of the steps who offers to carry my bags up.  I think he is a porter but part way up when he asks if I’m single and free that night I realize he is a boarder in the hotel.  I tell him I’m married.  For some reason I add that I’m pregnant, with some vague idea that this will assist in making me someone he does not want to talk to.  At the top of the stairs I note that the reception attendant is surrounded by bulletproof glass.  The person who has carried my bag up is suddenly accosted by another man and there is a mild altercation with many expletives and I have to wrestle my bag from the man who carried them up.  The man behind the bullet proof glass ignores this all and explains that this is my room key, this is the key to the shared toilet, and this is the key to the women’s shower.  I haul my bags up another floor.  Inside, I read yelp reviews of this hotel and wonder what hole in my head allowed me to book in this place.  I check for rats and cockroaches.  I decide there is no way to better this situation other than alcohol so I find a bar and have two beers then go back before it is too late.  Downtown San Francisco at midnight is not for the faint of heart.  There are fights occurring and a woman asking a man over and over “have you slept yet?” and a man asking if I need smoke or coke.  There is the stench of urine from the parking lot.

Back in the room, I fall asleep.  I am first awakened by a fight occurring in the room next door.  There is a young man laughing and then an angry woman.  I fall back asleep.  I wake again to a man in the hall raging on the hallways that he has been robbed, someone has stolen all of his things.  He slams the walls, the doors, my door.  I check the lock on my door and have trouble falling back asleep. I wake up again and hear a man and a woman violently fighting, words, fists, anger all out there and through these thin walls it is in there with me.  A baby cries.  I think to myself, what Bukowski story have I landed in?  I cannot fall asleep again.  At 6AM I haul everything down and go to a coffee shop two blocks away where I stay all day until my 2Pm meeting.  I haven’t showered today but I don’t care.  No way I’m going back there.

Now I’m waiting for the redeye from SFO to Boston.  Until next time, West Coast.