Dear Uptight Seattleite, I have trouble remembering the difference between Pike and Pine.Disoriented Capitol Hillian
Dear Disoriented, Pines grow in the north, and Pine is north of Pike. Easy, right? Your problem's not actually solved, though. Because you still can't remember whether any particular business is on Pike or Pine. For example, the Caffé Vita on Capitol Hill used to be called Café Paradiso. In the early '90s, they served the world's best scrambled tofu with a side of fresh fruit and a slice of bread baked on the premises. The price was $3.99 and included an americano. I remember all this, but even if they shipped me off to Guantánamo—and if they're monitoring my consumption of alternative news sources, they probably will!—I couldn't tell you if Paradiso was on Pike or Pine. This is due to both the natural aging process and the paradoxical nature of these street names. What happens is that memories from both streets go into one neural slot which your brain labels "Pike-a-Pine." The problem is solved when you follow your brain's lead and adopt this name yourself. Where's that one Mexican place? Pike-a-Pine! Where's Frame Central, the Odd Fellows Hall, the Capitol Club? Pike-a-Pine, Pike-a-Pine, Pike-a-Pine! When you first start using this name, people may react badly—as if you're spouting gibberish, perhaps, or have suddenly developed Tourette's. But they will soon recognize it for what it is: a friendly hand-hold out of the shared darkness of our failing memories. Dear Uptight Seattleite, Last week I went to West Seattle to see Frances Farmer's old house. I couldn't believe how dilapidated it was and that—wonder of wonders—the front door was open. Meaning someone lives there! I'd sure love to get invited to dinner just to take a look around the place. Naturally I can't just walk up to the door and invite myself. What would you do?Bold, Brash Bostonian
Dear Brash Bostonian, There was a power outage in my neighborhood the other night. This shouldn't have been a big deal, but it somehow pierced me like a cold shard from an imploding future. For it was a preview of the failure of civilization itself. The end of oil is nigh, neighbors. Sure, that will mean no more SUVs, but it may also mean worldwide war and famine. This is already happening in other places, and may happen here far sooner than we think. In the light of day, walking down any street in town, everything looks so solid and peaceful. There are all the familiar coffee shops, newspaper boxes, restaurants, and grocery stores. And yet all these familiar things depend on a shamefully wasteful supply chain which is vulnerable to the slightest shift of historical winds. I mean, sure, I'm hopeful about the election and everything, but it seems as though there are larger forces at work here. I wish Joseph Campbell were still around to put the whole deal in mythical terms. I bet if he still had that great show with Bill Moyers, he'd appear to us on KCTS and say something to make us feel better. Oil as a blessing/curse like the fire that Prometheus gave the ancient Greeks. Something like that. He had a way of putting things that made it all seem so grand and dramatic. Rather than sad and small, which is how it felt to me as I lay there in the dark with a refrigerator of food going bad, missing my dog and my mom. I bring all this up because, as you probably know, Brash Bostonian, Frances Farmer had her own journey into darkness. The Northwest's original Hollywood celebrity, she spent years locked in mental institutions. I guess she was just too much of a rebel for her times. Did you know that when she was a student at West Seattle High, she won an essay contest with a piece called "God Dies"? (You can read it on HistoryLink.org.) I'm not saying I know more about it than you, Brash Bostonian, but I'm pretty sure the house you refer to actually belonged to Farmer's parents. Though she did spend time there between institutions. Anyway, you can see from the outside that it's falling into disrepair. Why do you have to go inside? It will only tell you what you already know: Everything ends in death and dissolution. Dear Uptight Seattleite, I'm going around Green Lake. Am I in the wrong lane?Guy on a Pogo Stick
Dear Guy on a Pogo Stick, Probably. Have a question for the Uptight Seattleite? Send it to firstname.lastname@example.org.