Notes on Thanksgiving in Seattle, November 27, 2008 Pt. I

Left on a jet plane (please cue my favorite song by PP&M -- written by Mr. Denver -- from when I was five) at noon to see Chris and Chelsea for Thanksgiving dinner later in the afternoon. They told me previously they were extremely excited to cook their first attempt at a Turkey day soiree -- at least they seemed excited on the phone. I don't really care what the result is... seeing them again is the important thing. I have decided that beginning next year, I am going to try to make two trips a year to see both Mark and Chris. Mark is easier because he is so much closer, but Seattle is close enough to not make it a difficult undertaking. The trick in taking multiple trips is getting Dad and Joann to understand how important it is to me to see my brothers, both emotionally and artistically. I do want to get up and see the parentals once a year as well, but all of this needs to come with the understanding that the other parties need to make the attempt to come down and see us in return. I do not want things to turn into a situation where any of us start putting off seeing members of our immediate family for a number of years. Maybe once a year to go see each one is more doable, especially if there is some assurance that they will reciprocate.

But, for now, Seattle, which I have considered for a number of years to be my favorite city. My last few zips there have literally been "zips" -- airport layovers for anywhere from two hours to fourteen hours, which afforded me little in the way of time to catch up with whomever I wished to catch up there. For me, this is now my brother, my friends Tim and Kathryn (and boys), and my old school pal Jim. I have an uncle there in Olympia and Joann's brother Neil, and I wouldn't mind seeing them as well, but I am probably going to call such plans on account of selfishness.

Explanation: the last time I was through, when I stayed at C+C's new home for one night (going to an awesome restaurant in the process) before catching an early morning flight up to Anchorage, Chris and Chelz said that it was too bad I wasn't staying longer, because there were all of these places they had discovered since they settled there. What they wanted to do, they explained, is show me THEIR Seattle. I have my Seattle, which pretty much consists of walking the waterfront, going to the Aquarium and Woodland Park Zoo, shopping and hanging around downtown and at Pike's Place Market, and going to Mariners games. That's Seattle to me. But these were usually the things I discovered, or did again and again, because I was often hanging with the same people on these trips or didn't know better. Yes, I have done brunch atop the Space Needle and I have ridden the Monorail. I have taken the ferry over to Bainbridge Island (and stayed there numerous times) and seen porpoises racing along its wake. I have been to the Pacific Science Center and saw my first IMAX movie there, and I have hit a number of museums and galleries. I have haunted the bakeries and bars downtown and stayed in a pretty great hotel down there, allowing me to soak in the nightlife on a few occasions.

But I want to discover more...

I spent the first half hour of my flight to Seattle contemplating a new scenario for air travel, in which families with children five and under, and especially those sporting bawlers of the infant variety, are made to ride in an airborne form of steerage (as opposed to riding in coach, which is essentially steerage at the current moment. No more crying, whining, spitting up, diaper shitting and temper tantrums in the cabin. The brats will be confined to an area just in front of the luggage, but I will allow said area to be heated and even laden with seats, as long as it is also soundproofed for the considerate people in the normal seating area above.

Thoughts such as this filled my head after my initial reverie of having no one else seated in my half of the row was melted away like the current hopes and dreams of millions by a pair of kicking, shrieking under-six demons behind my seat and a wailing toddler of recent vintage directly in front of me. A headache began to set in, and no amount of furtive glances at the couple with the baby and the grandmother ignoring the other pair who I believe, from the quick stabs of my eyes through the seats to stare seethingly back at them every few minutes, are adorned with tiny little horns jutting out from their foreheads just below their hairline. Never mind that they come equipped with talking Mickey and Minnie dolls, which I am easily able to ignore since the hellspawn wielding them are even louder and more obnoxious. The grandmother ignores them through every jolt of passenger turbulence, and even manages to sleep through most of the trip. About halfway through the ride, there will commence a constant pounding and thumping to the back of my plane seat, but as I am a polite person in public, I try my best to turn up the Yatsura and ignore the wail of souls from the Pit of Despair that had opened up right behind me. None of this is helped by the fact that the boy keeps saying one phrase over and over -- I shit you not, he said it about four times, almost like a mantra -- "I'm all about Satan." Surely I was mishearing this, but then I thought, "What if he has a dad who watches Tenacious D, or is perhaps, himself, a Satan worshipper? What if this is acceptable in their family? I believe in that mythical creation as little as any other (except Bert Convy, whom I definitely keep the faith over, because I used to see him on TattleTales). Who am I to judge?" The third time Damien, Jr. said it, the grandmother calmly responded, "You are? Well... OK." I thought it best not to stir up the wrath of a clearly disturbed family, even if they were returning from a trip to Disneyland.

In front of me though, I met my sharpest foe, a drooling, wailing little 24-lb. bundle of pure evil. At least for that first half hour, that is what I considered her. I am sure the G-forces and the bumping of the plane are stressful for any toddler, going up or coming down. Hell, they are for most people. So I was willing to give this one a reprieve until we were stable and aloft, but the toddler crankiness continued for a while, just long enough for me to start conceiving my totalitarian restructuring of air travel seating arrangements. But then, in a moment of blessed silence, I got sucked into a trap. Said baby, draped over her porky mother's shoulder, saw me and smiled. A giant, Gerber's-laden grin spread across the face of her apple-cheeked disproportionate noggin and stole my heart. Evil baby! Horrid baby! Damn you, baby! Why have you brought me such joy when I am clearly hellbent on despising you? Quick staring at me with those beguiling big brown eyes and start crying again so I can have you whisked away to the belly of the plane posthaste! Stop being adorable, damn it!

Even with the adorable baby, who continued to giggle and smile at me for the last two hours of the flight (but I will not own up to playing peek-a-boo at all in that time, so don't push me on it -- I hate babies, and that is that)... yes, even with the adorable baby breaking into another fit of wailing on the landing, I was won over for good, and somehow I left the plane in a grand mood. Mostly this was from my excitement about meeting my brother again, but first I had to relieve myself in a desperate way. I bolted past the people who had deplaned just ahead of me, but by the time I reached the bathroom, there was already a long line of Larry Craig wannabes stretching out the door. I figured that instead of waiting, the best plan would be to zoom across the airport to another bathroom, a trip which took me just past the baggage exit where my brother stood waiting for me. As I thought, it was nearly empty. Having a couple of carry-on bags weighing me down, I figured the best thing to do would be to hit a stall and urinate in there. Boy, did I lose on Let's Make A Deal. Door #1 held a terrible splatter of what Robyn Hitchcock might describe as "tomatoes, hummus, chickpeas and some strips of skin," or at least that's what the fetid mess dripping rather freshly off the toilet seat seemed to resemble. I had to hold back my disgust before I added to that Boschian runoff of disgorged stomach remnants. (Little did I know that I would hear two more tales of ruptured meals in the days to come, with my story shared amongst our trio, and that the subject of barfing would almost become a leitmotif of the trip.)

(To be continued...)

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