- America's 99 problems, a ranked list.
- A map showing which bands enjoy the most outsized support in each American state.
So no, I did not go up to the church and ask for directions and risk being kidnapped into an 80's horror novel. The entire world was telling me to fuck that noise, so that's precisely what I did. I noped right out of there, went to the fruit-stand and had them write me new directions down on a tourist map of the area like a reasonable person. I followed that, got to the tire place, had the tire replaced, turned my music up loud, then drove straight to Ballard, two hours late yet weirdly relieved.
The first person I was visiting in Washington was a stranger I met on-line. I didn’t want to arrive and immediately risk sympathy, so I updated my OKCupid profile so I seemed slightly less crazy and pinged a few people before leaving Canada. "Hey, wanna hang out?" The usual let's get into trouble sort of note. Someone named Matthew replied. He sent me his address and we made plans for dinner.
I like Ballard. It's a neat little neighborhood populated with restaurants, bars, and coffee shops that I think of as friendly places. It is most notable in my personal mythology for housing the Tractor Tavern, the venue that annually hosts Mike as That 1 Guy when he's not playing at Neumos. (It is from that focal point that my explorations have expanded, so my knowledge of the place is mostly based on the hours of 9 pm to 9 am and may not be useful to everybody.)
The restaurant wasn't ready for us, so I brought Matthew to a gelateria I especially like, and we got a couple of cones and parked in the window to chat and wait. He was telling me about his time in Naples when our conversation was interrupted by someone walking by in a bright red costume. "That guy looks familiar," I said, but wasn't entirely sure. Maybe we had met at a party? Then another costumed person walked past carrying a giant red banner and he looked familiar too. Nah. What are the odds? It’s probably my programming. Costume = Interesting = My Attention. Then Jay Benham walked past and I banged on the glass.
Seattle, population 3 million. And out of the entire city, where I know an entirely of 50 to 100 people by sight and only half that by name, I had stumbled across the Kaos Kids. Or rather, they had stumbled across me. An aptly named and truly riotous Burning Man group if there ever was one, they were romping through Ballard on a Pisces themed Birthday Scavenger Hunt, stuffing themselves into unlikely places and taking absurd pictures with wooden sculptures of fish. Each team was led by a Pisces. The bright red team belonged to my buddy Big Dirty Sean.
So, though Naples sounded fascinating, I swept Matthew into their wake and accepted my new post as Sean’s red-team photographer. Wouldn’t you?
Soon we were on our way to The Kiss Cafe, where someone kissed Matthew in front of the sign, “we need a stranger!”, and the phone booth, into which we crammed the entire team, and the totem pole, where we piled everyone into an inevitable tower. But first, before we found any of those things, we encountered Tony & Jordan across the street! Tony, my ex, now lives in San Francisco. I cannot fathom the odds. They had come up for the birthday weekend. Surprise! At no point did either one of us know we were going to be in the same place at the same time.
Always a fun moment, getting to explain that the fellow across the street lifting his kilt and flashing his cock at your group is one of your favourite exes. Awesome. (Thank you, Tony. You bring the party.) As first introductions go, it could have been worse, but it might have been difficult to make it any better.
Next Matthew and I bailed for dinner, an easy thing at a Mexican place we both liked, and then I peeled off to reconnect with Kaos and Tony & Jordan at The Grizzled Wizard, a nerdly bar their friends run in Wallingford. Sugar came to meet me there and we chatted for awhile, leaning in to each other against the volume of the music, for comfort from our recent break-ups, for warmth and care and affection. I brought expensive chocolate and we caught up around the melting, gooey stuff. It is always a pleasure to see her. She had to run off to a dance festival, though, and I was stealing Tony & Jordan away as well, off to the onesie-themed Capitol Hill bar crawl.