Time Capsules

The Parent Imperfect is Sleepless After Seattle. He’s back in Boston with just enough time to cause trouble before taking off for another work trip.

In the case of Seattle, the PI’s decision to take an extra day before coming home was a good one. The Emerald City was a place of time capsules for the PI. He spent a great night on Vashon Island with four people that he knew when he was living in El Salvador in the early 1990s (and the very nice husband of one of those people). Two of them live in Seattle and one in the “other Washington.” The fourth person lives in Brookline, but the PI’s crazy life means that he seldom sees her in Boston. One could write an interesting book about those five people who share a connection to El Salvador among many other things…Los Cinco en Seattle.

Vashon Island is, itself, a sort of time capsule. Many people moved to the island in the 1960s as part of the “back to the land” movement. At that time, the island was a very underpopulated rural space, quite accessible to Seattle. In 2010, it is more of a commuter island, but it still holds onto some of its hippie past and rural charm. The PI’s hostess on the island grew up there as the daughter of one of those back-to-the-landers who had her own parenting challenges long before the PI even though of discovering his. Four husbands and forty years later, the mother is still sort of parenting a teenage boy. Time capsules…

The hostess and her husband both have their own teenage girls from previous marriages. They’ve ended up parenting both of them and, at times, the aforementioned boy, which has made for an interesting last few years. Is the PI ready to parent teenagers from now until age 67? Now, there’s a cheery thought.

Seattle’s biggest tourist attraction, by far, is the Pike’s Place Marketplace. This century old market fell into disrepair in the 1980s, but has undergone one of those urban commercial revivals that has made it a destination for visitors from around the world. The fishmongers still throw around their product and make a lot of noise, but this is not your mother’s marketplace. The PI has the urge to devour one of the Dark Chocolate Chipotle Cherries that he got there, but it seems that Mr. Vince got to them first.

Right outside the market, however, sits the PI’s biggest time capsule. Left Bank Books is a radical anarchist bookstore located on prime real estate just outside of the market entrance. Walking into the bookstore, the PI was taken back to the year 1983, when the Redbook, a Cambridge radical bookstore, decided that the rent was too high in Cambridge and that Jamaica Plain held its future. Left Bank Books, which was started in its current location in Seattle just a few years after the Juche Collective launched Redbook in Central Square.

The PI worked at Redbook (now the Lucy Parsons Center…believe it or not, trying to put the link for LPX in here crashes WordPress, repeatedly) for seven years and remembers the feel of the place very well. The unfinished wooden bookcases, the colorful posters covering the walls, the painted plywood floors, the unmistakeable smell of decaying books…it’s all still there. Left Bank Books even still uses the same card inventory system that the PI introduced to Redbook in 1977, and manages the store collectively, with a combination of unpaid and barely paid staff (all well-pierced, if not well-paid). That is time capsule to rival anything buried under the ground (like the one captured in the Seattle Underground Tour of Pioneer Square).

The PI wandered around the store long enough to find out that the economic squeeze has taken a lot of the juice out of LBB, and the place faces its worse financial crisis ever. The radical oasis in the midst of all of the Pike’s Place hype may well be in for its own radical change. This happens as rumor has it that the Lucy Parsons Center is about to move back to Jamaica Plain, after a twenty-year absence.

Just as the PI crawled out of the Pioneer Square underground, two of the El Salvador friends from the night before called him. They had some bad news to deliver about the health of another common friend from that time, and then they asked if he would like to go to somewhere to see some tulips. Always preferring friends to solo touristing, the PI agreed, expecting to go to some garden in another part of the city. Instead, they whisked him off to the Tulip Festival, about 50 miles north of Seattle near the small city of Mt. Vernon, Washington. The PI has seen tulips, but nothing like this. Huge fields of brilliantly-colored tulips, sitting in the bright sunlight against the backdrop of Mt. Baker and the rest of the northern Cascades was nothing short of spectacular. The traffic jam coming back into the city almost made the PI miss his flight, but the trip was well worth the tension.

Back in Boston, the cast has been off of Ms. Connie’s arm for over a week, just in time for the opening of The Little Mermaid. The exhortation to “break a leg” takes on new meaning for her. Her almost-healed arm is still painful, but that won’t keep her from being the perfect crab. She would love to have a bigger role, but she’s happy to just be there in awe of the professional adult actors around her.

For the month beginning this Saturday, the show will dominate life around the PI. Of the 21 performances, Ms. Connie will be in 10. True to form, the PI faces a big dilemma around the opening show. He was not organized enough to tell the schedulers of the Regan Youth League of this momentous day, and so the opening game of his Strategy Matters Muskrats will occur exactly as the curtain opens on Connie’s initial show.

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