I am going to Bellingham, WA to go check out the glass blowers and the farmers market — a big thing on Saturday I’m told. Today I’m taking a ferry from Port Townsend to Coupville with Little Wing. When we get to the other side of the salt water and onto dry land we shall ride the rest of the way to the promised market.
I have a hope that I shall see sea-life, but I’m not too worried if I don’t because when walking Puget Sound in Seattle I observed a seal. We made eye contact and chatted and became pretty great friends. Before swimming away the seal told me that other sea critters aren’t quite as charming so no worries.
Nah, just joshing ya. The seal was exceptional, but I find hoping for things that aren’t likely makes one feel empty. Maybe the first story is better. Anyway, when I did see the seal I hadn’t been hoping for anything so I was very excited by the little creatures existence. It differed from the rest of the trip in that way. For example in Yellowstone I didn’t really want to see any creatures. While astride a motorcycle I’m sure that is many riders secret hope. I saw many creatures there though. I saw a buffalo with his ass hanging out in the highway as his front end wrestled a tree branch in the ditch. As everyone else stopped to take pictures I used my small vulnerable size to my advantage and got the duck out of there. The buffalo was on the left of me and in the opposing ditch. He had managed to stop a miles worth of vehicle ensconced, picture-obsessed, Yellowstone patrons with his animal antics. Regardless, I was not quite so fascinated. Being from the swamps of Minnesota I am very aware that animals can be sweet and interesting one moment and turn around to charge a motorcycle the next. If raccoons can do it so can buffalo.
The moral of the story is that I am happy to play the critter seeking tourist as long as the critters are in the water, but I’m not holding high hopes.
The water. This is the Pacific Ocean we are talking about. Dude. That’s cool. I’m pretty pumped. I’ve been on the coast about a week and the excitement hasn’t died. Speaking of being here about a week, let me tell you the story.
I went to Seattle last week. Little Wing and I arrived Thursday to a wonderful couple who hosted me. Julie, John, and cat and dog. Julie gave me a tour of the busy busy city so I got to see it without getting lost on Little Wing. We went to the Fish Market and to Jimi Hendrix’s grave. I took pictures so feel free to go check those out on the new The Pictures page there, up top, on the menu bar. We went to some of the parks and I got to attend my first party in a month and a half. A group of interesting minds gathered around to eat good food, talk and have a good time. Seattle was intimidating because of the traffic, but great because of the people. My method to life had me spend an hour lost while leaving the city. Despite great direction from my host I lost myself anyway. A reoccurring theme in my life, I gave Portland the same treatment when I left.
Yes Portland, my next stop after Seattle. “But wait,” one might say if they had followed this rambling story. “You are headed North to Bellingham, WA now. How? Why Seattle to Portland and then North?”
Great question. Be patient observant reader and I shall get to that. Besides, directions and I don’t usually keep a tight handhold. I went from Yellowstone to Neligh, NE and then back to Wyoming and headed North, I’m not much for straight lines.
Back to the story though -Portland. I have a friend back home who set me up with a passle of radio engineers that I could stay with. Sprinkled across the country are a handful of engineers willing to take Little Wing and myself in for a bit. My latest engineer, Gray, is ever so kind. A real treat to stay with. The conversation has been enlightening and the welcome warm. Portland itself is a great city. Though confusing and hard to figure out it is filled with art and an interesting group of people. I haven’t made it into the art museum yet (which I very much want to do), but the city streets are sort of the next best thing. Sculptures, paintings, culture, it is everywhere. I met a busker named Tony Street, a fascinating work of art himself, on the streets or Portland. We chatted, I took pictures (to be posted later), I gave him a small amount of money from my small supply, and we exchanged contact info. I continued on, exploring, photographing, taking in the town. Eventually I hopped a bus and got myself lost, got back on the right track, and made my way back to Gray’s.
I don’t know if you have ever heard of Utah Phillips. He isn’t well known, but he is good. If you haven’t heard him you should look him up. I first learned of him because he collaborated with Ani Difranco and a friend shared the album with me. I have since become a fan. The reason I bring it up is because Gray knew him and he is currently renting a room to Utah’s son. My brush with celebrity did not go without a few dramatics. It is hard to hide admiration regardless of how much one doesn’t want to sound like an obsessed fan girl. I didn’t sound bad, however I was slightly weird about it. This actually lead to a discussion with Gray about cool vs. uncool and some new thoughts from myself on the subject.
I have had so many brushes with cool. As a radio DJ I constantly approached musicians I admired, and felt overshadowed by, and asked for CD’s or conversed with them. I have worked with cool musicians, artists, and other humans, and managed myself well enough. I tamp my weird admiration down and try to get on with people without squealing. One of the things I have trouble understanding is people now calling me cool. People have admired my art and now my journey. People say things like ‘bad ass’ and ‘inspiring.’ People have admitted that they have slight envy and another said I should make a documentary. My friends are vicariously following my story as are people I have never met. The word ‘cool’ has been tossed around a bit and applied. What? Me? Cool?! It has been hard to understand.
Recently a friend told me that all she ever wanted was to be ‘cool’ and she never succeeded. This was shocking to me, I thought she was really cool. I didn’t have a preconceived notion about her being cool as I do with musician and artists and such, but I found her just as cool. I didn’t have to tamp down squeals, but I had to hold back appreciative hugs. And in that lies the answer.
We all have these dumb notions that cool comes with a definition. That because we feel uncool and dorky we must be those things. Well, the truth is that we all feel like that. If we don’t feel that way we very well might be ‘uncool.’ We are all stuck in our own brain. The only person we can or will ever know fully is ourselves. We look at others and see the superficial bits and think “that’s cool.” We hope that we can be like that, and as I said before, hoping for things that are improbable or undefinable is unfulfilling. One grows empty with the feeling of inadequacy and they wind up depressed.
I guess what I’m saying is a have no aspirations to be ‘cool’ because I’m happier without those aspirations, and just because I find another person cool doesn’t mean they agree. I find it is hard to make friends with people who admire me when I don’t understand why. I want them to treat me as an equal and not hold me on a pedestal so I am certain others must generally want the same. Despite being in awe of Utah’s son, I made a conscious decision to let it go so I wasn’t the one weird girl sitting around the table. And the thing is he is also a musician. He had a group called Fast Rattler which he is currently on hiatus from. He gave me a CD so I shall be soon playing him on the radio alongside his father.
My third day in Portland was met by a call from Tony Street and we met up at the fountain where we had met the day before. He played three different instruments, all within the woodwind family. He brought one with him the day we met up and we walked the streets. He was a bit like a tour guide. Like a tour guide straight out of a Tarentino film. I recently watched Django Unchained, it was actually the last Movie I watched. The busker was very reminiscent of Jamie Fox. He was wearing a red shirt under a vest when I first met him. He had on a pair of sunglasses and a cowboy hat as well. The day that he acted as my tour guide he wore all black and had lost the sunglasses. His hat remained though, and the most interesting part of his appearance, his facial ink, also remained. He had symmetrical lines adorning his chocolate skin that made him look like a work of art. He looked like something I would have drawn, it was beautiful.
Tony Street and I walked through the streets searching for yarn (for me), and interesting things to look at. We would also stop so he could play every once and awhile. I would watch as people stopped to listen while others just kept walking. We would find other musicians and they would pair up and play. It was such a work of art. I got to traipse beside and experience the life of a busker, and it was awesome.
The whole day I was observing while Tony was asking. He would talk to strangers and get the questions we had answered while I would look to signs for my answers. Between us we didn’t have a problem finding what we needed, but had he not been asking or I not observing we would have been lost. It was a fifty fifty split, we needed both skills to be implemented to have a productive day.
I came to realize that I don’t ask enough. I walk through life with an I’ll-do-it-myself attitude and often get lost because of it. If I asked more I wouldn’t get lost leaving big cities and I wouldn’t spend an extra hour on a bus when it was only meant to be a fifteen minute ride. I tend to avoid asking questions because of the word ‘cool.’ I find others too cool and intimidating or find someone might realize I’m ‘uncool’ if I ask.
You know what’s uncool? Being lost in Seattle. I have better things to do.
I’m about to get on my first ferry. Thoughts of music and busking fill my head. Thoughts of the walking art I wish to paint are dancing in there, kicking up the dust that is caking my painting muscle. Thoughts of farmers market and glass blowing are in there too. Thoughts of heading back to Portland permeate it all.
I am going back to Portland on Tuesday because I get to be cool. A friend set me up with an artist who photographs and films women on motorcycles. Little Wing and I are meeting her Tuesday which is the answer to that far away question, ‘why Bellingham?’ I’m killing time and exploring. I’m spending five days exploring the coasts and vineyards of Washington before going back to Oregon.
However, it isn’t as easy as saying I’m “asking questions,” I have to do it, and so that is what I’m going to do on this roundabout trip back to Portland.
Asking questions and being cool. I’m not allowing ‘cool’ to define.others for a bit to see what happens. And I’m taking a ferry to a farmers market.