• James Eric Fristad

And All That He Could See

Walking, walking nearly everywhere. Except this midday when we stepped aboard the LINK light-rail train, several stories underground, to get whizzed north to the University of Washington. Like a subway, I guess, except that for parts of its route it also scoots along right up there in the fresh air, past suburbs with names you must have seen in a book somewhere (like "Othello"? Hmm) past ginormous gantrys looming above acres of freight containers along the waters' edge, past the King Stadium -- which by now will have had several name changes courtesy of swapping corporate sponsors every few years. And on to SeaTac airport, if you care to go that far. Which we will on our return late Saturday afternoon.

Today's little underground trek was to enable Michele to move within range of how far a former friend was prepared to drive, to make a doing-walkies-together meetup in that neighborhood for a couple of hours. She (the friend) is going to be 80 in another month or two. Spry in many ways but full of aches and frustrations that non-working peers also have. She likely never will retire, is married to a rather neurotic guy about ten years her junior who is himself married (I have to put it that way) to the Prosperity Gospel. Work, proclaim, believe, profit ... which eventually devolves into simply profit. Can you tell I abhor this brand of Scripture twisting? It is self-absorption on steroids that in virtually any other Christian generation would be identified as Greed, a deadly sin. Only now it's dressed up in a veneer of God-talk. Shudder.

So I went along to the Trader Joe's store up on Roosevelt Avenue at about 47th Street. You know the place, right? A pleasure as I knew it would be. Partly it was the pathway through the University campus, always beautiful in its swaddling of vast evergreens that stretch into the usually-cloudy sky. So many new buildings, whose names almost certainly identify either incredibly successful alumni or, failing that, local corporations looking for tax writeoffs. The trees reassure me it's the same campus I knew in the early 1970s; but as I think about it now, I was reluctant actually to step far into the actual maze of new classroom structures/libraries/research labs. So much change, such huge increments of growth.

The web of actual streets tucked up against the campus, show less change. Slicker signage, ethnic foods unseen thereabouts, decades ago. Vietnamese? Egyptian? Uh huh. On my return from TJ's I stepped into a Starbuck's there on University Avenue. Not coveting their Americanos, truth be told, so much as finding out what species of baked goodie I might find for free, on the actual 15th of July. Today. Banana bread turned out to be delicious. Moist, fresh, tasting a little nutty. Very few crumbs escaped. Also the need to use their, um, facilities. Ah, occupied. Finished the baked thingie and the coffee to go with it. Still occupied, with no sign of ingress or egress. Maybe some homeless person was bunking out in there, until the store would be closing that night? A gross image but not impossible here in Seattle where the derelict population has swelled. Little tent cities have popped up (literally popped up, canvas wall next to canvas or nylon wall) in a few city parks. The sprinkling of conservative suburbanites who actually comes here, decries the presence of these unwashed souls. Blames the more liberal elected city officials for, I guess, not scooping these lives away onto somebody else's domain, for not sending them to jail or somesuch. It's so easy to rant from one's Bellevue armchair.

So I'm putting this photo here, harvested from yesterday's foray into the Bloedel Reserve at the northern-most region of Bainbridge Island. Because ...

... well, because it was a place we walked yesterday. And walked and walked some more. And after those moments I spent above, remarking about the wandering and unproductive denizens of Old Seattle in the 21st century, what I really want to talk about is the effort and inconvenience and (sometimes) pain of our trudging everywhere. But if I'm honest, it's a thing we hope to do because sometimes magical things cannot be discovered any other way. Today it was nearly fifteen thousand steps showing on my cell-phone app, and yesterday likely it tallied about the same.

It brings up the issue of foot and knee and hip health. Of a spine with some scoliosis you never paid much attention to, before. Of clothing that wants to be at once the right temperature, lightweight, well-ventilated, stylish, that will remain fresh-looking sometime after it really should have been washed. It really is possible (experience speaking) to continue wearing an outfit day after day, as long as one has clean cotton undies and serious support socks, also clean, against one's skin. Realities of laundry intrude.

Oh, and good footwear. Soft but not worn-out, sturdy but also cushy. Both rugged and handsome. And if you had one knee replaced and that side of your carriage stands four mm. higher than its mirror companion leg, the shoe for that side must be forced to take up the slack.

My point is that for us, walking those multiplying kilometers in Europe is not simply stepping out the front door and strolling to the mailbox every afternoon. It is going to be work, a thing to be planned for with diet (uh-huh, weight is a factor) and stretching and building endurance.

So if you invite us for a stay in Southern California, for instance, it may take us several days to walk the distance. "You're kidding, aren't you?"

Sure. But still.

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