Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Road Trip, Elvis, and Old Friends

Abstraction of Seattle at Night - inspired by my email and actual conversations with Dean Strom

Contrary, but don't call me Mary, Mary, (nor should you ask how my flowers grow - like the old nursery rhyme - even if I am a fine gardener). Why that, why contrary? Well, I'm starting at the end of that title, because old friends are the reason I'm in amrka at all. This is nothing to do with foliage either, even if I do plant trees for travel. 

Electronic social media is what we grew, and flourished within.

We've known each other fourteen years, these particular amrkns and I. Most of those highly individual and sensitive writers visited here in the land of the free, home of the brave, they know me in ways other people cannot, too, nowadays. Writers online give away more than most, when we're writing seriously in discussion or in our work, and may offer insights and attitudes arguably quite different from folk in other professions, too. 

Behind the guise of pseudonyms and various persona, we met on a writing site during msn groups days. Ah yes, and a far superior online community forum msn proved to be, more so than anything since, especially for writing. In those days it was not primarily a marketing tool, but a genuine forum for sharing ideas and conversation. The ad's were secondary, easily ignored, and primitively formed so anyone halfway clever could avoid them. We were probably guinea pig testing sites for what followed, but we played say while the fun went on.

We writethisians wrote up all manner of tales, weather, and whatnot. A group of wts started a small press in New York, and pGp now is distributed world-wide, using editors from amrka and England, a fine illustrator from Brussels, Stratos Fountoulis, (who is in fact Greek), and writers of outer-reach excellence from everywhere. The Willesden Short Story Competition began, and is doing famously well, out of London town, even if they seem to never be going to have another round of story-telling fracas ever again. James Browning Kepple also recently developed his Underground Books even further, and Kim Goransson's writing and recording songs - My Hot Air Balloon. Many of us have other projects going, as well. I started Magazine, an arts magazine which ran for six years, sold world-wide from Aotearoa New Zealand and we published some of those writethis writers too, amongst many others, and some visual artists. I have a third novel out this year, it's about the 15th books I've had published I think. Kindle and Print-on-demand - http://www.amazon.com/Glam-Rock-Boyfriends-imaginary-memoir/dp/0473266644http://www.amazon.com/Glam-Rock-Boyfriends-imaginary-memoir/dp/0473266644

Now that forum has become writethis, a writing zine, and also Writing Duel on farceberk. We keep getting together.

And I've visited some of those amrkn writers, as you may know, (I go on and on about it because it's so gosh darned excellent I can). Friends, colleagues, admired fellow artists and writers across the globe only previously known online. But now we've met in person and grown to be closer, or closerest, or at the least to understand each other better, or betterer, or worserer and that's funny, (peculiar and ha ha). 

Me about to leave En Zed June 2014 - photo by Sandra Bell

I use the term amrkn, given to me by James Browning Kepple, to indicate another more personal and truly intimate country within this place they call the U S A. amrka - a place where my friends live, yours may do too, (and en zed is where I live, co-incidentally).

The internet has only been with us human beings around twenty years. Social media affects us in ways we have no idea of yet, but are beginning to understand. Powerful connections formed can appear to be stronger and more important than those in real time, (more attractive, more multi-dimensional, more exciting than 'ordinary' relationships with people we see and converse with every day, or whom we've known for years, even decades). I trusted these apparent strangers enough to visit them, without knowing them ever before in actual real time. And so far, we do mainly get along pretty well, even excellently. Not perfect, this is no ideal relationship for any of us. But the definite closeness shared to varying degrees, and in some idiosyncratic forms, enables each friend to relate in ways which please the individual, to mutual advantage. Ha, that sounds academic, but then I am one now, working as a lecturer. 

These get togethers with my writer friends and I on amrkn soil are an extension of what we already know, and share, in any case.

In Seattle (recently left on a plane, then another smaller plane from Denver, then an even smaller one to Moline, where I was driven to Davenport by one of my fine hosts Ed Winborn), well, in Seattle, there was Amy Tucker, praise be to goodness. 

We met again, this time in the stunning King Street Railway Station. 

My suitcase went missing, but we were happy to see each other. Thank goodness I wasn't alone. It'd taken me all night and day to get to Seattle, my suitcase was a long way away, or maybe gone forever.


But no matter about that. Amy and I sorted out a plan, meanwhile I stayed in downtown Seattle and Mauro at Assagio, about to close, recommended we eat at Lola. http://tomdouglas.com/index.php?page=lola  Warm wood decor and a charming, knowledgeable waitress, we snacked on sublime kebabs, mine vegetarian, Amy's seafood, (pour ouzo on caramelised onions as they sizzle on a hot serving platter). We also shared the best Coconut Cream Pie ever in existence. Fine company, (o how Amy and I did talk), good food and a little excellent wine, with superb service - heaven could exist somewhere and this was a glimpse of proof of such divinity. 

Lola next morning also offered a fine breakfast.

Afterwards, outside in the calm evening air, we heard someone muttering, and a ramshackle street person told us we had to see where his girlfriend bit him, and then, (warning - triggers for abuse survivors), tried to remove some of his clothing to show us where the bite occurred. I only heard, "...you have to..." and took off after Amy who was already way on her way, away. (Anyone tells me I have to do something not previously discussed, it's a bad sign and I'm invisible, running, vanished). 

To be blunt, the homeless and distressed appear everywhere now, evident in public across amrka, (and in other countries), in larger and larger numbers. Policies of some governments work to marginalise any who do not fit within profitable paradigms. That's only money we're talking about here too, not considering other ways we may profit, such as by having streets safe to walk at night because the mentally ill are cared for, and the poor have shelter.... My own country also being squeezed like a piece of fruit to extract only the juice, and that to benefit merely a select few, while the rest is tossed away, (often thrown hard in the face of those who need decent food and care). An extreme simile there, extremely messy it is too. We need to speak out against travesty, this ruin. We need governments who provide services again, who care for the people they vowed to serve, speak out yourselves, you may trust your own experiences and voice, of course.

Many polar opposite contrasts appear in lovely Seattle, in any case. Balanced people there, and disturbed people too. A genuine sense of sophistication as well, elegance, while also this Washington state city appears equally down-to-earth and friendly. In one night we may enjoy exquisite service, food and atmosphere, then be accosted outside the place by a flasher. (Not an isolated incident either, another evening a wild man in orange pants, nearby, leapt around unpredictably and shouted nonsense. He followed us for a time. Teeth flashing white, his strong dark arms flailing).

We did hasten away that first evening as soon as we realised the blond stranger in grey pants and blue shirt was bothering us, by the way. We waited in the lobby of the rather 70's style Hotel Andra, a beautifully decorated place with coloured glass panels in the walls, like pulled toffee, only lime green. A fine, quick haven, away from any shocks of the evening. I later stayed there when my cheaper room nearby proved unsuitable, to say the least. More about that in another blog, (quite awful, I'm still recovering). 

The other man in orange who bothered us, we could not avoid as easily, but kept watchful, walked briskly and made the railway station, (for my found suitcase at last). Inside that building it felt safe, no loiterers appeared to be tolerated.

My friend with me found the initial evening so difficult, (understandably), due to that strange blond man behaving that way after such a delightful time, she wasn't sure if she wanted to go out again. But we discussed things and soon had a new plan for another culinary expedition.

Amy, her fine son Connor and I one evening visited Assagio, where Mauro reigns over his restaurant like no other ever has anywhere in my experience. Such warmth, and insight, such attention to detail, (when Amy fanned herself feeling a little hot, Mauro said he'd change the air conditioning. If we looked up wanting the waiter, Mauro immediately signalled to him. Mauro greeted guests like old friends, genuinely, and so on).... and o what superb dishes appeared. Tears appeared in Connor's eyes when his plate arrived, and Amy and I were also extremely moved. I think we sang at one point.

About to beautifully sully my tiramisu

Deeply grateful I'm privileged to do these things, now and then, and it's wonderful to share good fortune, also, even with limited funds, of course. The top of the pyramid of happiness is 'giving to others' and believe me, giving what one can afford, when one truly chooses to, does produce happiness as long as other needs of a person are covered, (food, shelter, clothing, the basics, then intellectual pursuits and goal making with some achievement). I recommend giving, generosity for its own sake, for goodness sake, for your complete happiness.

'Mist' on the left side of the road is simply a retouched reflection removed, not anything else.

 We drove out to Snoqualmie (People of the Moon, I gather their name means), country, passing massive, mainly evergreen trees, rolling hills covered in dense forest, and also visiting the waterfall at one point. Energising, sublime and relentlessly gorgeous.

Interested as I am in all people, it felt disappointing, however, to hear the Snoqualmie people do not own the falls and developments there, nor the expensive reception lodge near the falls. Their reservation, like so many, sites a casino, but did not include forest lands we drove through for the most part, as far as I know. I'm accustomed to Maori gaining back lands unfairly taken from them, I expected more justice along the same lines by now in amrka, as well. This could appear nonsensical to some locals, but I can only go on what I'm accustomed to, and see working well elsewhere. If I am mistaken please let me know.

Accidentally then, out in the verdant countryside, my old internet writer friend and I spied something neither of us expected. 

Like I said, Seattle holds some unexpected contrasts, and much of Washington state I've noticed is tended in a subtle, careful manner, with understatement, and even a sombre sternness, like with the many pale or vari-coloured stone walls and square-edged architectural details. Humour and some fine amusements do exist, but I would not say there's anything much crass or hokey done deliberately there, that I've seen. (I like crass and hokey, at times, for a laugh, but it's not around that place as a rule, and Amy, who's a local agreed). So, when we spied a driveway lined with dancing enormous red strawberries, then cruised on down to see a bunting bedecked truck and trailer all glitzy and heehaw for the recent fourth of July, neither of us could contain ourselves. 

We talked non-stop together, exclaiming, with enormous grins, parked and walked on in. Remlinger Farms, famous for pies, (with good reason too), and bedecked and hoe-downed for a carnival-hay-ride of a time.

Delicious pie, wonderful salad, fine service when they did get it together to find the forks, (but I think they'd had a busy day). The restrooms, however, require better cleaning, scary is putting it mildly. 

Tremendous entertainment nevertheless, and such a surprise.

We drove out just as the ponies were arriving for rides, tossing their manes and tails about, almost laughing.

I cannot explain everything we so enjoyed over the week I stayed in Seattle, but I'm so grateful for knowing Amy, and her family. O Lucy the cat, I miss you so, too, Loopy Lulu Wild One of Wonder. 

The trip to Georgetown, (once its own precinct), another highlight, and meeting Ronald Aeberhard, local artist and entrepeneur. What a superb, friendly man, such a conversationalist, and a fine host - thanks for the iced tea, Ron. We sure needed it after our long walk, including a stroll past the haunted house of Georgetown, now renovated by a hard-working couple. 

The gentrification of Georgetown not enjoyed by everyone some protests were evident, just like the trouble we're having in Grey Lynn back home with too much development, too fast and disturbing long-time residents in the middle of winter. Housing NZ properties up for grabs, possibly illegally there.

Meanwhile, I luckily can have some rest and recreation, instead of working seven days a week.

Ron and Amy in Georgetown

The Square Knot Diner - excellent biscuits and vegetarian gravy here

Traditional Banana Split with real strawberry sauce, preserved pineapple, chocolate sauce....

Here is the haunted house in any case, where some poor souls did die in sudden ways, some say. I hope those gone do rest in peace. But some viewers mention they can see strange images in this picture I took, just this last week.

Earlier, I had taken this picture of the house from the car. It turned out there were some strange light effects in the shot. Some can see a woman in the shadows looking at us, others also a bear, or a pig. No other photo taken leading up to there has these light effects. Also, the camera went off in my hand without my touching it and took three images, two of the dash, and one of Amy's rosary hanging on her rear view mirror. 

My fey friend Amy, in touch with much otherness, took great delight in telling me that New Orleans (where Julie, Dana, the Babe and I are going any day) has lots of ghosts. But of course, Aotearoa New Zealand where I am from does too. 

We shall see what we see there in New Orleans eventually. Am I too blase? Perhaps....

We're going to Gracelands I know that, Memphis Tennessee, popping into Elvis' place. 

Also, Houston to see Julie's sister who lives there. 

New Orleans we're planning for, as mentioned, o music, o ghost trees hung with bottles to catch errant spirits, o trees hung with Spanish moss, o roller skating women in red, or orange, or lacy things, gliding down alleys, others slinking with cats, and men in snazzy suits strolling boulevardes, or lounging in cafes, then there's the food.... Wait and see what happens, good idea?

Now here in pretty Davenport, Iowa, my fine friends Julie Payne Williams and Dana Williams have kindly offered to show me around. I'll post some pix of the flooded Mississippi soon, what a startling sight. 

Then we're going on a road trip, what could be more amrkn than that? Tomorrow we're planning more. The Magoos' Road Trip shall commence on Friday. Imagine us muttering and bumping into things, careening about over the road, all the way oopsie everywhere, but lovable, of course.

If you like my blog, you could also enjoy my other work, the books are mentioned here on my NZ Book Council website.

Feel free to comment, and thanks for reading. Lovely to know you are there, yes even those who are annoying, or lurking, or trolls - you know who you are. Boo. 

Time will tell.
Amy Tucker in Seattle makes the most beautiful things - this is a banner for New Year's Eve

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