The Needle and Thread, Seattle

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.


Categories: humor

Tags: , , , , , ,

26 replies

  1. That is sad about the animal paperwork and red tape! Can’t you get a house renter who will keep your cats and dog here? Or send them to a year-long sleepover with Grandma?


    • It’s not so bad, the red tape — in some ways it’s better that they act rigid and inflexible here in the states, because that minimizes the likelihood I’ll have trouble in Germany. Yes, we would have liked to keep the animals here at home but our friends/renters are allergic to cats (wise move on their part!) and so we’re all going together. It just ups the drama of everything – in a good way, I’m hoping. Nice to hear from you Valarie and I hope you’re well!

      Liked by 2 people

  2. Capital Hill was at it’s best in the early 2000s. Now it is too corporate. All the cool paces are going under. It was one of the best neighborhoods, but down on the other side of Broadway it was a little sketchy. If you remember the early 90’s Sir Mix-alot song, Posse’s on Broadway? That’s what he’s talking about.


    • Hi Josh – thanks for your note here, I didn’t know you’re a PNW guy – that’s cool. I lived on Capitol Hill 1996-98…it’s funny how you switch out the o to an a, to denote what it’s like now. I like that. I remember Cafe Septieme as a fun place to go…and we moved in the summer they opened that Noah’s Bagels. It’s no different than any other place, when the money moves in and the artists move out. Fremont, for example. Glad we made a Seattle connection, and thanks for reading my posts. Bill

      Liked by 1 person

      • When I lived there the first time, Fremont was already getting overrun, the Hill and Ballard were my favorites. By the last time (I just moved away again in March), all of it was gone, with just a few pockets here and there.


  3. And it used to be Capitol Hill, but ever since Amazon blew up South Lake Union and the corporations moved in we call it capital hill.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I think you just captured America in 1000 words.
    Obama’s eyes made me laugh.
    “it’s not what I need it’s what you need” – God please. There’s a great word in French for “civil servant”; it’s “fonctionaire.” Rarely said as a positive.
    P.S. Never toy with hungry Canadians.


  5. I don’t think I like like that lady behind the window, what with her lockings and unlockings of windows and corrections regarding who needs what, and such. Everything is too complicated these days. I mean it’s just a goat, isn’t it, and if we didn’t all agree that that there is an imaginary line where Canada starts, there would be no reason he couldn’t go there.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. the goat was my favorite character. he was understated but an important part of the tale.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. It feels like Capitol Hill is about six months from turning into every other place I have ever been, the weirdness is getting pressure-washed off the concrete. I still hold out hope that people will keep the local businesses open, but the billions of condos going up all over the place send a different message.
    Gotta love the customer service from gate keeper in Olympia.


  8. I need to get me one of them flip-locking transaction windows! For dealing with the outside world.

    There IS something in Obama’s eyes. His will be the one presidential memoir that I’ll be interested in reading one day — if he can summon the cojones to be totally frank. The man has been through the mill…


  9. Apologies, but this is wholly unrelated to the post. What is the People’s Poet widget on the side? What’s that all about? It flashed Brian Eno’s Before and After Science and I almost tipped over backwards in my chair.

    Ha. Needle. Seattle. I see what you did there.


    • It’s me being goofy: thanks for asking – you’re the first one. That’s just a carousel of images of people who inspire me, some of them well-known and others, not (friends). It’s funny, I’m here in Germany and just fired up my laptop and sure enough, it recognizes my mom’s Wi-Fi because we were here last year. That just blows my mind for some reason – doesn’t take much though.


  10. Stuck in bureaucratic hell with two Canadians an a goat. It’s a goddam Edward Albee play, that’s what she is.


    • That is pretty freaking funny. I might have lost the thread here since I turned my data roaming off and I’m not up on my comments, so sorry if I’m like out of rhythm here. And it took me multiple tries to spell rhythm. I just like the Albee reference because I feel I’m in some stupid, banal cycle like that. I think I get what you’re saying. Waiting for Goat-it.


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