I left Seattle today at about 1400. Much later than I planned. It’s always the way with me. Procrastination + obsessiveness makes for a lot of missed start times. I hesitate to use the word obsessive; I don’t want to discount or trivialize OCD. But if there’s a spectrum, I’m not at “flies out the door without thinking”.
I didn’t make it far. The roads were ugly. The Subaru did pretty well over snowy, icy Snoqualmie (sp?) Pass. I haven’t driven in those conditions in a long time. I decided to call it a night in X. The plan was to go to bed early. The best laid plans of mice and men.
The whole drive here I was thinking about this post. I also had an idea for a short story. That idea is now lost to an aging mind.
The people who are best positioned to make it in the freelance photojournalism/documentary photography world are one person production studios. Stills, video, audio. They make it look so easy. My mind just doesn’t work that way. I think that’s one of the many reasons I’ve become a big fan of Daniel Milnor at Blurb. He preaches the importance of one format, one medium. In practice, he works in several mediums, but he’s not being inconsistent. More on that later. It makes sense, trust me.
My plan was to commit to a camera and a 50mm-equivalent lens for this trip, which I hope is also the start of my main focus for the next year project-wise. The other focus is finding part-time work that lets this aging dude also pursue documentary work. Most of my friends in Seattle work jobs that in theory allow for part-time hours. In theory. They bust their asses, work all the time, do back-breaking work, and somehow have the energy to pursue their art and music. I wouldn’t survive a day. A sub-component of it all is finding home.
One camera, one lens. But then I talked myself into allowing for the possibility of some audio, and possibly some video. Just a little. The main bag started filling up. A second bag started filling up. And then I figured what the hell, I’d give this stupid drone one more shot. So long one camera one lens, so long Wednesday departure. We’re now looking at batteries, cables, small organizing bags, a hard drive, a flash just in case. It all starts weighing you down and getting in the way. It’s ok. I’ll make one more attempt at tracking what I really need and use.
Arrived in X. It’s dark, cold, and icy. I like it. I could live here. Found a hotel. Walked to a restaurant and had some fish tacos. The refried beans and the chips were perfect. The tacos were ok. It’s close enough to the ocean that I figured the fish tacos would be fine. And they were. But they weren’t great.
Back onto the icy streets. I couldn’t live here. Found a dive bar. Time/tense shift…
It’s slow. There are about 6 other people. Someone played some pool, someone’s half-assing some darts. The streets are icy. Shitty, really shitty, rock is blaring. A near empty bar with blaring music. “Come get your knife…we’re all anemic.” What the fuck song is that. I don’t want to know.
A dude asks about food. “Only fried food right now.” I’m surprised that non-fried food is on the menu. I sound like a dick. I probably am, but I don’t mean any of this maliciously. It’s a cold, snowy, icy night in X, and these folks are keeping a light on. I’m grateful.
The bartender asks if I’m ready for Christmas. I tell him I’m not all that into it. I don’t elaborate, I don’t tell him that I’m excited to see my family. I don’t care about the holiday, but I’m looking forward to seeing my family.
He tells me that he doesn’t go in for it too much, either. We’re adults, you know. But he likes buying presents for his nieces and nephews. Yea, me too. Almost everything feels wrong these days. Want to forget that for a minute? Focus on the kids. Hell, just make someone’s day better.
The bartender wanted to chat. I wanted to listen. Paraphrased…
“Tough to talk to my dad. He’s about your age, maybe a little older.” I feel old now, even older than I did tip-toeing on the ice. “He was born in the 50s.” Oh come on man, that’s more than a little. “They had it good…but it’s tough to explain to him – I’ll never be able to buy a house. I don’t have health care. I don’t have shit. That shit’s fucked. And I look at all these wars. I know people who went and died. For what?” (For some context, we somehow got on the topic of military spending earlier. And it wasn’t me ranting about the Forever Wars. A discussion about A10 Warthogs prompted it. How we got there I don’t know. Also, he wasn’t suggesting that the 50s were universally good for everyone.)
Me: Rare. Most of America doesn’t know anyone who has served or who has deployed.
“Yea, you’re right. We’ve got the X Training Center here.”
He wandered off. I drank my Rainier and…I say eavesdropped, but that’s not the right word. It’s a bar. If you’re talking in a bar, I’m not putting in earplugs to give you a private moment.
A: I never got sick. I had to fake being sick. I just wanted to stay home for a day and chill.
B: Yea. It was never fun, though. I’d be on the couch, my mom and I watching some shitty soap opera.
B is now at the bar, right over my shoulder, ordering a drink. B just did an Oliver Twist impersonation. “Might I have another please? Oh no, that was terrible. How’d you like my accent?”
Bartender (different bartender): It was awesome.
B: That Hell-Cat Maggie is awesome. Is Y the only one who drinks it?
Bartender: I’m not sure.
B: Is it from Seattle?
Bartender: I hear it’s popular in Seattle. Bars are going with it over Jameson.
B: I like it better than Jameson. B looks down, disappointed. “It pains me to say that. I love Jameson.”
Bartender: Jameson sucks. They’ve just got the name.
B: Theatrical shock. I might have to reassess this relationship.
I like B. In 3 minutes of eavesdropping I’ve learned that B likes Dickens and whiskey…or whisky.
A drops something.
B: Ruh roh.
Ruh roh? Well, we’re none of us perfect. I’m sure the bartender can’t wait for the old guy in the sweater to get the fuck out.
B likes the Mandalorian. B’s streaming password is guacomole.
I walked back to my hotel. I checked out the little hotel market. No beer, just white wine and rosé. I asked if they had beer. The person in charge said that if I came back later she could get one from the bar. I went back down later, and she asked if I still wanted that beer. I appreciated the hospitality, so I said sure. She opened a few of the refrigerators looking for the beers.
“I’ll have a Heineken.”
“There’s a nice black beer. It’s really good.”
“I like black beers, but I’ll just stick with a Heineken.”
“I used to live in Burlington, Vermont. I’d walk down the street to get a black beer from Portland, Oregon.”
And there was my entry. Home. I always ask about how people have found home.
“What brought you from Burlington to X?”
“Ahh. Well, first it was Seattle. My spouse’s parents live here, and we visited regularly. Years of driving and spinning out on icy roads. Eventually my spouse’s father suggested we move here. We have the space, you can stay with us until you find a place of your own.”
I could live here.