In Which I Connect the Washingtons Once More.

22 Feb

My sister Aliah took me out to dinner my last night in Seattle. YES. The weather was characteristically rainy, and the spot was a cozy little bakery/restaurant. Aliah ate salad, and I nuzzled up to some comfort food: ziti with luscious house-made meatballs. I drank a hearty red, Aliah one of the specialty hot cocktails, and we shared a dessert called a Sarah Bernhardt, a chocolate molehill of delight. All honesty, our conversation hobbled along at first. We’ve only been in each other’s lives about ten years, we live on opposite sides of the country, and both of us are a little flaky, so we don’t communicate often. We love and like each other, but every time we meet we sort of have to start from scratch. By the end of the meal, though, conversation was smooth and sweet.

Aliah.

The next morning found me enjoying another great meal, this time at the Portage Bay Cafe with Daemond and Inti, who’d just gotten home.

Daemond at breakfast.

Inti in the flesh.

Okay, breakfast was off the fucking hook. I went Swedish again, rocking thin pancakes with lingonberries, and Daemond and Inti went hard, too.

Swedish pancakes.

The menu was conscientious, sustainable, and filled with deliciousness. I was really, really impressed – and I don’t impress easily. I’ve eaten good food all my life, thanks to my folks, and developed my adult palate in the Bay Area (which I still believe has, overall, the best food in the country). But yeah, Seattle knows how to dish it out, and Daemond and Inti know where to find it.

***

INTERLUDE: The Ten Prettiest Cities in the U.S.

I know I’m courting controversy here, but why not. I’ve been lucky enough to see a lot of gorgeous places on my travels, so here’s a little shout-out to a few of my favorites, in roughly proper order. I focused on bigger cities mostly, to keep it fair, and obviously I’m biased towards places where I’ve spent more time (the South definitely got robbed, sorry). If you disagree, by all means, invite me to your town and prove me wrong.

10. New York. Lots of big, lovely wild parks, crowned by Central Park, of course. Good presence of the rivers and serious old buildings.
9. San Francisco. Disagree if you will. SF has a lot of beauty to offer, pretty pastel buildings, dramatic hills, the ocean and the mists, yeah. But any city that doesn’t have proper trees loses a LOT of points.
8. Boulder. A city with a very intimate feel, great to walk around in with a good dose of that Old West sensation, and heavily dosed in the shimmer of the Rockies.
7. Boston. The charm lies largely in Boston’s being one of the most intact historical cities in the U.S. The city has plenty trees, lots of brick, lots of circles, great for walking, with a lovely waterfront.
6. Providence. A largely unsung treasure, the city of Providence features an incredible river you can walk along, great variety in elevation, and a charming downtown with lots of huge glass storefronts, so everywhere feels very inviting.
5. Santa Fe. Again with the Old West feel and a good dose of old school Spanish architecture. Mountains and desert and plaza, oh my!
4. Chicago. Utterly fantastic parks, lots of props for the lake, trees everywhere, sexy old buildings, and maybe the best bridges in the nation.
3. Honolulu. This city has a lot of sprawl, which can be a big negative for me, but the downtown is serious and pretty, and puhleez. Any town that features some of the most beautiful beaches in the world will work for me.
2. D.C. Yeah, I said it. A third of the city is park, and the wild foresty kind. The Potomac River’s gorgeous, the Mall is old, serious and sexy, the embassies are no joke, plus circles and lovely old houses – Jefferson didn’t call it “the American Paris” for nothing.
1. Seattle. Truth. Water, water everywhere. Starkly varied elevation, lots of conifers, clean air, mountains, beautiful and varied downtown areas, an obvious commitment to outdoor art, and the best modern architecture I’ve seen in this country. Believe it, son.

Great view.

Seattle Library.

Small example of outdoor art.

And another.

Water, yeah.

***

Then I jumped on a plane to the Bay. On the way, I was seated between two young girls. I got to talking to one of them, a remarkably self-possessed nine-year-old by the name of Olivia Haley who splits her time between her mom in Seattle and her dad in SoCal (she likes Seattle a lot better, for the record). As it turns out, Olivia’s a poet. She also knows how to freestyle. I asked her if it’d be okay if I wrote down one of her poems, and she said it was. Here it is:

The wind flows with the meadows
and swiftly carries the flowers among the trees
as they lie sleeping in the gentle breeze.
Children are awakening at the crack of dawn.
The birds are humbly singing
with the lake and the swans.
The sun is slowly rising,
just find it in your heart.
Don’t stress or be frightened,
for the Earth in you will never part.

Olivia was continuing on to L.A., so we shook hands. I gave her my book (telling her not to show her parents, please), and told her I hoped to see her on the scene in ten years or so. Keep your eyes open, loves. We poets are everywhere.

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