I live in an area of Seattle called Crown Hill. When someone isn’t sure where that is, I say Upper Ballard. That doesn’t really clear anything up. So then I say Greenwood. Greenwood sounds very Henry VIII and olde. That appealed to me until I watched The Tudors, which was creepy. Crown Hill, which now that I think of it also sounds very Henry VIII, is a “transitional” neighborhood, which my neighbor Gwen, who knows something about just about everything, says means that there’s one place in the city where it’s cheaper to live. She makes a little joke. We’re good people here.
After the routine-busting pace of the over-long holidays, I appreciate the quiet pleasures of this neighborhood where I have lived for 18 years. I do a lot of walking, but I also have A Walk which I do several times a week: I turn left at Crown Hill Cemetery and walk a mile due east into Greenwood. I walk to my Yoga for Over 50s class at Whole Life Yoga, to my neighborhood Bartells and to the ATM where I deposit the checks that come fluttering into the Local Dilettante Studio during the first weeks of a month. I think of this walk as purely pedestrian, double entendre intended. The other day I decided to see if there was enough interest in this modest mile to write a whole post about it.
When I stray out of my Block Watch area and cross 8th Ave, I am officially out of Crown Hill and into Greenwood. On the right is Jorge’s house. When I first moved to Crown Hill, Jorge had installed a double door on the edge of his yard. A regular door. Like an inside-the-house door. It stood sentinel there for years while a hedge of various plants caught up to it. I have taken a personal interest in that door over the years. Now there’s an eight foot hedge, and Jorge and I are on a first name basis in both Spanish and English.
Squeaky lives in the next block, across the street from the Greenwood Community P-Patch garden. She’s a small, muscular tomboy of a black cat who is remarkably social, though of course on her terms. I look for her and she comes running, ready to endure being picked up for ten seconds. I put her down. Outraged, she runs a yard from me, stops and looks back seductively. She does a figure eight around my ankles and I pick her up again. This time she wriggles, jumps down and instantly contracts a fascination with a blade of grass. She’s done with me. Yes, your majesty.
On 3rd Ave, the street jogs and I turn left at the house of the guy who plays his music way too loud and continue along the backside of the monstrous Fred Meyer that’s being built. I will never forgive them for tearing down the Greenwood Market which used to be a regular port of call for me. I bought my groceries at Greenwood Market and everything else at Bartells. My feeling in this age of super-stores is if Bartells doesn’t carry it, I manage to do without.
Bartells, a family owned Seattle institution that began as a drugstore in 1890, has become a mercantile of sorts. When I was a child in Olympia, my parents made regular trips into Seattle where I was cut loose downtown to run my little errands and meet up with my dad at the soda fountain at the Bartells in the triangle building on Pine next to the new 1962 Monorail station. My loyalties run deep.
So I plod past the construction of this new Fred Meyer silently thumbing my nose, or sometimes I take a detour so they can feel the depth of my contempt for them. In any case I end up a block from Greenwood Ave at the house of the garage sale hustler. This family runs an on-going garage sale most of the year and I see the husband at other sales all over the city, looking for things to re-sell. He sometimes comes to my annual yard sales and tells me all my prices are too high.
Across the street is Blind Mike, the piano tuner. I’ve known many blind piano tuners. When one sense is inoperable, the others are heightened. Or can be, I suppose. I think a lot of politicians are both blind and tone-deaf and it hasn’t seemed to heighten anything but their egos.
I’ve gotten to know many of the people who walk past my house: the dog walkers, the lady down the street who is close to 90 and is still out every day, the really skinny woman, the Canadian from Montreal, Tamara and Callie, the border collie, who I walk with once a week –or did before the holidays crashed in on me– the Samoan who walks like a dancer while he listens to his ipod, the woman who cancer aged twenty-five years and who is accompanied by different friends. They inch by my house, turn at the corner and come past again. Sometimes former students walk by and wave. Sometimes they ring the doorbell, shy, but tickled to say hello.
Other than Jorge and Squeaky’s people I wonder if anyone recognizes me as That Woman Who Always Walks By. I wonder on a scale of one to ten how eccentric I seem. I know I sing to myself sometimes. I talk to myself a lot. I expect I gesticulate more than I like to think I do. I took notes the last time I walked in preparation for writing this post. But these musing are for another time. I’m done here.