Before I even walk into Vermillion, a face calls out my name. I haven't seen Joni in years. Here's her companion, Emma. What a delightful couple of folks. We chat away. Why are we talking about Postmates? It's about the camaraderie beneath the words, the shimmering acceptance. I get excited as I explain "how completely awesome" I find the job-related side of the restaurant industry.
Finally I wander inside. A few faces see me but don't approach; they're trying to place me. Where have they seen that face before? Why is it smiling at them? But here's mister Jaesun. What a guy. I see him before he sees me, as he works the change machine. "You're all set for laundry money," I say. Handshake, handshake and man hug.
Look at the genuine thankful thrill in his eyes, in his voice, as he expresses his gratitude for my being there. Here is everything good about the new generation, and it is significant, generous and true. I know how hard it is to make time to talk to one person when you're the center of attention, as he is tonight, but he takes time to give me his tour of the work. Truly one of a kind, that Jaesun. A painter, bouncer, multimedia artist, musician, comic book enthusiast, as simultaneously booksmart and streetsmart as they come. I've known him since we both took darkroom photography in 2005. He was in high school and I was in college. We haven't spent nearly enough time together.
We look around at the walls. The show is comprised of modified proposed land use signs, all recut in the shape of coffins, with various art– photography, paint, spray paint, ink, and more emblazoned over them. It's a funerary cry for the vanishing Seattle. Jaesun shows me his contribution to the show, and knows all the other pieces too, clearly passionate about the work of his artist friends (The New Mystics, among others). I want to congratulate one of the artists on her photographs, but she's a little too into her boyfriend at the moment. We'll let them have their space. "Listen, I gotta go to work," Jaesun says. Forget the handshakes. Full hug.
As I walk out– there's Trenton! Drink in hand, ice cubes with lime, head cocked to one side. What a splendid fellow. I join him and his friend Emily in conversation. We're talking succession politics. I mostly listen. Don't you love listening? I get more out of listening than talking. I already know what I'm going to say, after all! Trenton makes the salient point about how hereditary monarchies, imperfect as they are, were an attempt to offer an alternative to brute force regime changes. Something besides the physically strongest always taking the throne. It's a compelling argument, but I feel the call of Metro. Adieu, friends.
Avoiding the famously unreliable 11, I walk over to the 49 bus stop right as one rolls up. I realize it's my own piece of work I'm getting on! Am I really that nutty, riding my own shift on my day off? Ah, but such is the humor of the universe. There it is, big as life, turning the corner now. Is that what I look like? A Latino woman at the zone recognizes me. We exchange pleasantries. "Your spanish is good!" she exclaims.
"Un poquito! Que tenga buena noche!"
Stepping aboard, I look around, all grins. Who's driving? It's Jose! Nice man. I don't know him too well, but we chat it up. He exclaims, "you just can't get away from this, can you?"
"Ha! I love it that much!"
I sit down, smiling at the next man getting on, a scruffy rough-and-tumble character looking rather down on his luck.
"Oh, it's you," he says.
"Hey, how ya doin'?"
I explain it's my day off, and we talk about "hangin' in there." The best we can do. He asks if I know Real Change, the newspaper. Of course I do, I tell him, the best newspaper in Seattle. We talk about last week's issue. He sells the paper all over. Lake City, Northgate. I commend him for the difficult work he does– selling Real Change is only for the most hard-working and self-motivated of street people– and we start talking about Lake City. I'm there all the time. We talk about Fred Meyer. We talk about Dick's. He mentions the new Dick's in Edmonds, and we start trying to figure out how many Dick's there are. Make him feel normal, not ignored. Human. Counting them off on our fingers: "let's see, we got Ballard, Capitol Hill, uh huh Wallingford…."
A woman seated nearby who I vaguely recognize is watching us, perhaps with surprise at what we must look like– the odd couple of all odd couples, talking up restaurants. What's going on here? Just two guys on a bus, thirty years apart, one with shiny dress shoes, L.A. jeans, and an ironed button-up, the other with tatters and grizzle and an indefatigable eye. His name is Michael Moore. "Like the filmmaker!"
I bid the driver farewell, calling out, "say hi to all my people for me!" I can't stop smiling. I beam at the female passenger as I run past. She looks pleasantly confounded.
Continue here to Part 3.