I am with two Canadians in a waiting room in Olympia, Washington: the United States Department of Agriculture Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service. I don’t really know what they do, I’ve just been sent here by my vet to get the paperwork in order to fly my animals to Frankfurt. The Canadians are trying to get a goat across the border because there’s too much in-breeding with goats in Canada and they’ve bought a Nigerian dwarf from some hippies in Oregon. There is a framed picture of Obama and next to him, another framed picture that must be our state governor, smiling.
I got here an hour early to beat the morning traffic, which meant driving on four hours’ sleep after a rock concert that ended with a cheeseburger at McDonald’s.
In the waiting room with Obama, there is a sick-looking plant that’s spread out and looks like it’s trying to escape, two chairs with some pillows, fashion magazines, and then a sign on the window that partitions the waiting area from the place where they work, behind the wall. The sign says NO PUBLIC RESTROOMS. Another sign, with frilly border, instructs you to ring the buzzer because the window is not attended.
I don’t like pressing buttons to get service from humans, but the Canadian says I should. She’s been waiting awhile already.
I don’t notice the locking clasp on the window at first, but after several interactions with the same woman, the locking clasp is a scene break, a form of punctuation, a period. She opens the window, inspects my papers, tells me something’s wrong, gives me a look, and then closes the window and flips the clasp to lock it, disappears.
I call my vet on my cell phone, relay what she said, get asked if such-and-such will work instead, say I don’t know, let’s just try that, and she says they’ll send the fax right away. I wait for the woman to return with the fax, to unlock the window, and tell me if we’re OK, if I can leave.
I say is that what you need and she corrects me, it’s not what I need it’s what you need.
The Canadian is diabetic and needs to eat, and all the places around here just sell meat, so she makes a plea to a different woman who’s helping her with the goat, and that woman says there’s a Trader Joe’s around the corner, that she can’t interrupt the people who are inspecting her papers now because she doesn’t want to break their train of thought.
I am not going to joke about Irritable Bowel Syndrome, but my stomach is making deep, gurgling sounds and I have to stand and pace while I wait for the woman to retrieve my fax and unlock the window. I’m worried if I leave there will be something vital that goes missed, and I’ll be screwed. I search Obama’s eyes for wisdom, for strength.
Alongside the window there is a door that needs to be scanned to open. Above the scanner there is another framed picture, this one a photocopy of some rules that’s in three-columns, small font, impossible to read, and I adjust it so it’s not leaning, I make a show of adjusting it and stand back to ensure it’s straight.
When I’m “all set” and it’s time to pay I whip out my debit card but she points to a form, where I have to copy the numbers down, sign off on it, and hand them the form so they don’t have to accept responsibility for handling my card. She promises me the information has been shredded.
Before the Wire concert, we meet for drinks at a bar on Capitol Hill called Tavern Law. Above Tavern Law there’s a speakeasy, like a pretend-speakeasy meaning you ask the bartender at the downstairs bar if the speakeasy’s open and if it is, they direct you to an old phone and give you a code to say to the person who answers, then buzz you in.
There’s low light and just another couple, who look like models or reality TV actors. The bartender explains there’s no menus because there weren’t any during Prohibition: instead, you just name your liquor and taste profile and he’ll come back with something. It sounds expensive.
Mike gets a Bourbon thing with sour cherry and I get something gin-based with egg whites that looks like a cupcake because they dotted the foamy top with a syrup that almost forms a smiley face, but has too many eyes.
Anthony meets us and I have a bad feeling about how Anthony will react that’s confirmed when the bartender starts his spiel and Anthony uses his hand as a kind of swiping gesture, like you would with a phone, and says Do you just have beer?
Mike asks for a wheat whiskey and after much searching and rearranging of bottles, they produce one but caution, it’s $40 a shot.
Capitol Hill used to be grungy in the 90s, Dawn says. There were a lot of homeless kids slumped around the doorways, and those little espresso stands with boomboxes on the corners. It’s been happening for a while already with the advent of money and good-looking scenesters, it’s starting to feel like parts of New York or San Francisco.
At the Wire show I check out the merchandise table because I like supporting bands that way, but I used all my cash at the speakeasy and they don’t have a Square or a credit card thing that makes carbon copies, so I mumble something about capitalism to the girl with the bangs but I don’t think she heard me or understood what I was saying.