Dispatches From The Great, Rainy North

June 29, 2012

Humor

I’ve been in Seattle all week.  As such my time has been pretty catch-as-catch-can, and instead of a coherent post, I offer this hodge-podge:

The water god in the sky is angry and casts fire at us! Flee! Flee!

It’s rained most of the time.  This has not been shocking.  The sun came out for one afternoon and it was like the government had collapsed.  What’s happening?  The world makes no sense!  What are we supposed to do!?

My wife and I disagree, regularly and vehemently, about the quality and density of the traffic around Seattle, particularly in the I-5 corridor from about an hour south, to 45 minutes north of the city.  She insists that it’s not that bad.  I insist that it’s a circle of hell which you could leave, except that the exit is a quarter-mile ahead and traffic is at a complete stand-still.  A low point of the drive up, in the literal sense, but a high point in the matrimonial sense, was when she called to ask if I was there yet, and I said, “Actually, I’m sitting completely still on the interstate, about 65 miles south of Seattle.  Isn’t that weird?”

“Oh. Hello, Bernard. Um… how about that economy, eh? Ha ha. Well, our fees are due at the tanning salon, so I figured I’d sell grandma’s earrings.”

Technically, I’m not in Seattle, I’m in Bellevue, which is just across the lake.  Mercer island is nearby; a clear view of its houses with yachts pulled up out front.  It’s an extremely wealthy community – from my hotel room I can see one of Microsoft’s main buildings.  Also Expedia.  Also Ch2mHill.  Most of the stores in the area are tanning salons, beauty salons, gyms, restaurants, galleries… and Cash For Gold pawn-shops.  Guess it’s not easy to stay this fabulous.

“All my life the early sun has hurt my eyes, he thought. Yet they are still good. In the evening I can look straight into it without getting the blackness. It has more force in the evening too. But now this bug is in there scraping around like a maniac. Jesus, he thought, what’s he got in there, a rake?”

A bug flew in my eye last night.  He was not going to go down without a fight.  This was a bug with incredible spirit and resolve.  It became like The Old Man & The Sea, but with me and a bug in my eye (which I believe was an earlier version of the book; The Not Old Old Kind of Young But Getting Older Man & The Eye Bug).  I came to respect and love the bug, yet know that I must ultimately kill him.  I wondered what the great DiMaggio felt as he tried to get a bug out of his eye.  I fought the bug, then would rest, and he would rest, and then we would fight again – me trying to wipe him out, he trying to take out my eyeball, then – presumably – head for the brain for the kill-shot.  Eventually the bug died.  He died honorably, and I wept for him.  Specifically, I wept in order to physically get him out of my eye.

Just up the road is 110th street.  Across it is all the restaurants and such.  Every time – every single time – I cross it I start singing Bobby Womack’s “Across 110th street.”  Walking in the shadow of the Microsoft building, and the Expedia building, as expensive cars and heavily-styled women go by, and singing, “Across 110th street, pusher won’t let the junkie go free…” makes me laugh and laugh.

Oregon doesn’t have sales tax, so every time a buy something there’s a nanosecond of “Hey, what’re you trying to pull??!!” and then I calm down.

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About The Byronic Man

Recently voted "The Best Humor Blog in America That I, Personally, Write," The Byronic Man is sometimes fiction, sometimes autobiography. And sometimes cultural criticism. Oh, and occasionally reviews. Okay, it's all those different things, but always humorous. Except on the occasions that it's not. Ah, geez. Look, it's a lot of things, okay? You might like it, is the point.

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56 Comments on “Dispatches From The Great, Rainy North”

  1. susielindau Says:

    I went to one of the first Starbuck’s in Seattle. It was rainy, of course. Sorry about the bug killing. I wish I would have killed the sucker that bit my shoulder. I have a huge welt. Dang yellow jacket! Some day when you are rich and famous, you can hire a limo driver and listen to “Across 110th Street” while you sit in the back and watch the heavily styled women go by…. 🙂

    Reply

  2. Audrey Says:

    Seattle traffic is horrible!! I dread it like the plague. I think it’s actually comparable to LA traffic on really bad days…
    Bellevue? Daaaang! Sorry about the rain, all us coastal Washingtonians are escaping over to the east side of the Cascades this weekend to see if this thing call sun really exists. 🙂 Hope you had a good visit despite the crap weather and sales tax!

    Reply

  3. Wilma Says:

    Welcome to our fair city. I’m not going to hold it against you that you write of Seattle but stay in Bellevue. One of the Housewives of Orange County did the same thing, talked all about going to Seattle and then partied on a boat off of the east side of the lake by Medina. Nope, I’m not going to lump you in with her. Not going to do it.

    Did anyone forcibly spray tan you yet?

    If you’re going to come to Seattle frequently, you need to learn some side streets. I rarely sit in traffic, but it’s probably because I avoid I-5 like the plague.

    Reply

    • The Byronic Man Says:

      You know, that’s a good point – I would never mean to suggest that Seattle & Bellevue are the same place, but maybe I should go back and clarify that a little. Years of being in Portland and people talking about the orbiting suburbs as “Portland” used to make me crazy.

      Reply

  4. anecdotaltales Says:

    You build a tolerance for our traffic. Honest. (Except for Friday nights.) Also, it is a complete and utter fallacy that it rains 9 months out of the year. It rains 12. Welcome to our fine corner of the world!

    Reply

    • The Byronic Man Says:

      I think it takes a few years of living in the “pacific” part of the pacific northwest to understand. It’s that drizzle. You gradually go from, “Yeah, it rains a lot.” to “IT NEVER. STOPS. RAINING.” And presumably back to “Yeah, it rains a lot” except that I moved away during the crazy stage.

      Reply

  5. artzent Says:

    Great reference to one of my favorite books: The Old Man and the Sea. Forgot about the bug raking in his eye. Your traffic horror story sounds like Atlanta or DC.Hate those!
    Hope that you have a good weekend though!

    Reply

  6. Life in the Boomer Lane Says:

    My older son lives in Seattle. I’m going there on Sunday. I love Seattle. Did you know that Seattle gets less rain than New York? But they do get a lot of grey.

    Reply

  7. Denise Says:

    O the sales tax scam! They pull that crap on me too when I bother to cross the great river Columbia. ..and have you ever just sat at the pump waiting for the gas station attendent? Grumbling and swearing at the laziness of that gas dude, and then realize… o yeah, Toto, I’m not in Oregon anymore.

    Reply

  8. JenniferVaughn Says:

    I lived in southern CA most of my life and now find myself living 45 minutes north of Seattle. I used to think the rain would be great (instead of cloudless 100-degree days for most of summer). Now that I’m here though, I’ve come to realize that I have seasonal affective disorder, a depression caused by lack of sun. Go figure.

    As for the traffic on the 5, it’s definitely worse in L.A. The only difference is that people in Washington don’t know how to drive in traffic. They often slow down to 30 mph for no valid reason. It usually happens as traffic approaches a curve in the road. “Slow down guys! Curve ahead!! And this one’s an “S” curve. It could get ugly.”

    Reply

    • The Byronic Man Says:

      You know how I could have guessed you were from California? You called it “The 5.” It’s a bigger give away than saying “Did you feel that earthquake?” every time a heavy truck goes by.

      I hear you on the driving, though.

      Reply

  9. Eagle-Eyed Editor Says:

    And then there’s the traffic in the DC metro area. I call it “combat driving”. Too many tailgaters. Ugh.

    Love the captions on your pictures. ROTFL.

    Reply

  10. Deborah the Closet Monster Says:

    Even after four years (back) in Los Angeles, I occasionally still get that “what are you trying to pull?” reflex. Then, when I return to Oregon, I have to fight the urge to say, “You’re forgetting the tax!”

    I miss the Pacific Northwest, but I don’t miss the rain.

    Reply

  11. pegoleg Says:

    When it takes a whole 10 minutes to get from my office to my house, with the barn and creek, nestled in a holler down a dirt road a spell, I remember what I hated about big-city life. But I know just what you mean – sometimes I’m stuck for a whole 2 minutes waiting for a gaggle of turkeys to cross the road!

    Reply

    • k8edid Says:

      Oh, what I wouldn’t give for a 10 minute commute…without the camo-painted pickups, mobile mansions, and old ladies hunched up over the steering wheel…

      Reply

    • The Byronic Man Says:

      When I first fled the city to where I am now (which has about 85,000 people, so it’s not exactly rural), I used to arrived everywhere half an hour early, because I’d gotten so used to need that much time for transit. This is better.

      Reply

      • pegoleg Says:

        I hear you both. I used to do that commute on the toll-road and the stop-and-go sucks the soul right out of you. Not doing that is better.

        Reply

  12. Maggie O'C Says:

    I5 traffic outside of Seattle is the 7th ring of hell and is never good. Lake Oswego is prettier than Bellevue. And um, if you show them your Oregon driver’s license…ta dah!!! No sales tax!!!

    I make someone come out and pump gas for me in Washington b/c I don’t know how to do it and really do they want me ruining their gas station?

    All that being said, I love Seattle.

    Reply

    • The Byronic Man Says:

      I never remember the Oregon ID thing until after the fact, and then I feel like a jerk.

      And I consider it a point of masculine pride to pump the gas. You’d think I’d replaced the engine.

      Reply

  13. 1pointperspective Says:

    Greetings from Sea Isle City, NJ, home of my vacation for another few hours. Also home to millions of the carnivorous insect known as the “green head”, or to vacationers as the %#&?@ green **&@%* head that just bit me…they’re impossible to kill until they’re in the act of biting you, which is obviously a little too late.

    Reply

    • The Byronic Man Says:

      Science needs to create a harmless, soy-based substitute for irritating insects, then we’ll all go in to bomb shelters for a few months, and DDT the entire planet.

      Reply

  14. mirjamvanzelst Says:

    All the time, I don’t know why, i hear this song, too: “Across the 110th street”, while I’ve never been there and never will be, because i live in the Netherlands, for …’s sake, and I have other things on my mind. But.
    The song. It is old and wrinkled. And i hear it all the time in my head and now i read that you do, too. So you and I have something in common. (besides from being human and all that) 🙂

    Reply

  15. Life With The Top Down Says:

    Being stuck in traffic is one thing, stuck in traffic with dark skies and rain…oh, that’s a recipe for a headline worthy action. Well, I hope you got to enjoy some of your trip.
    I LOVE the photo of the people running from the sun!

    Reply

  16. chellbyjaye Says:

    I’m liking this for the Bobby Womack reference alone. The second I read “Just up the road is 110th street…”, I stopped reading and started singing. Eventually, I came back to read the rest of the paragraph.

    Reply

  17. pinklea Says:

    The I5 traffic around Seattle is legendary even up here in Vancouver. We know to carefully time our drives through Seattle, aiming for around 3 am. Of course, Vancouver traffic is horrendous too, but that’s only because we have no idea how to build highways properly.

    Reply

  18. Ape No. 1 Says:

    Will you be mounting that magnificent bug on a board in your games room now?

    Reply

  19. tedstrutz Says:

    What mode of transportation does your wife use? The traffic sucks! Speaking of your wife… what’s her phone #… I want her to slap your alongside the head for telling that bug story… and equating it to The Old Man and the Sea!

    Reply

  20. Minh-Anh Says:

    Is the drizzle that bad?
    OK, well, maybe it is. I’ve lived in Seattle all my life and the sun in San Diego gives me a headache. 😛
    Also, about the traffic: do note that Seattle has a great transit system. 😀

    Reply

    • Wilma Says:

      I’ll second Seattle’s transit system, which is probably why I-5 doesn’t seem to bother me. I’m on the bus, reading a book. I’ll leave I-5 for the suburbanites, tourists, and those who just can’t otherwise give up their cars.

      Reply

  21. Lorna's Voice Says:

    Seattle is a place I’ve always wanted to visit. Seems like the climate would suit me just fine. Cool and damp. I’m not a girl who likes hot and sunny–weather, that is!

    Reply

  22. Valentine Logar Says:

    Although I am a third generation Texan, I spent much of my childhood in Bellevue. Still have friends there and so return periodically to visit. It is not of course the Bellevue of my childhood but remains a strange place that I continue to despise most hardily.

    Sorry for the bug!

    Reply

  23. becomingcliche Says:

    It’s the humidity. The bugs are tougher and meaner in the humidity.

    Reply

  24. Go Jules Go Says:

    I like the ‘hodge-podge.’ For many reasons, including but not limited to the big ideas it inspired about why you’re in Bellevue (see how I was careful there? So I don’t offend any commenters?). I suspect they’ve hired you to do more commercials, and you had to go negotiate re: the cat factor.

    I’m sure you’ll be glad to get home (if you’re not already), but that stinks you didn’t get to have more leisure (and rain-free) time! Think of all the tanning you could have done.

    Reply

  25. Dyanne@TravelnLass Says:

    Pshaw – pansies. Every last one of you! I’m from Seattle (and miss it terribly) but nothing, repeat NOTHING, quite compares to the death-wish stream of 4 MILLION motorbikes here in Saigon.

    Reply

  26. sj Says:

    Man, I miss the Pacific NorthWest. After having fought traffic on the 5 and 91 for most of my adult life, and now living in the SouthEast (where the bugs are as big as my kids), I’d much rather deal with constant drizzle than endless heat and humidity. [sigh]

    Reply

  27. freddyflow Says:

    I pray thee, send us some rain, o Byronic One. Chicago’s turning into a desert…

    Reply

  28. Michelle Gillies Says:

    I have always wanted to visit Seattle … not so much now.

    Reply

  29. Angie Z. Says:

    I have never been to Seattle but have always wanted to — the weather is exactly my cup of tea. Also, when I lived in Ketchikan, Alaska in college, everyone who was anyone went “down South” to Seattle for their R & R.

    Reply

    • She's a Maineiac Says:

      Angie, depressing drizzle and rain is your cup of tea? there is a reason why Seattle drinks more coffee than any other place in the world: it’s all they got, man. Java gives them just enough will to keep living.

      Reply

  30. She's a Maineiac Says:

    I don’t know, I never found the traffic around Seattle to be that bad. Maybe it was because I was always riding in the back of my roommate’s beat-up ol’ Volkswagen bus covered in daisies.

    And stoned out of my mind.

    When I first moved to Olympia, I remember asking, “Hey, do you guys know when this dreary rain and constant drizzle will stop?” and they laughed and said, “Stop? Oh, it never stops.”

    The next day I was standing at the top of the Space Needle threatening to jump. Ah, what a magical place–Seattle.

    Reply

  31. Shannon Says:

    I’m certain no one else can write so poignantly about getting a gnat out the eye. I delight that he didn’t take a left turn at Albuquerque and wind up in your sinuses instead. Now THAT would truly have been the Old Man and the Sea.

    Hope you enjoyed your week in the Northwest.

    Reply

  32. spilledinkguy Says:

    You work so hard to get a giant bug like that out of your eye.
    Days and nights of endless toil!
    And then, in the end, the thing finally pops out and there’s nothing left but a few squishy pieces of goo.
    So sad.

    Reply

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