On the twenty-first floor of the Grand Hyatt hotel I stood at the window in my bathrobe looking out at the high-rises and cranes above, mountains in the distance and ferryboats, all the people looking back in at us. I drank a large coffee and got back into bed. Sunday. Beth would be dropping the dog off on her way to church; Charlotte had homework to finish. The last day of mid-winter break, a stay-cation culminating in Hamilton at the Paramount. We walked up the hill to the Six Arms and I told Lily about my last night there, 20 years ago. You could still smoke in bars back then; they let me have a cigar by the jukebox in the corner right there. And walking back down the hill to the hotel, crossing over I-5, all the cars streaming by, the blinking lights and rush of the city, its arteries and slip-streams.
They had a sushi place with the rotating belt in the middle, and a Starbucks right there off the lobby. Many faces we saw downtown looked familiar; the past was still the same, reassembled. “You write like you’re running out of time,” they told Hamilton. And Charlotte told us a riddle, “what can you see in the water that doesn’t get wet?”—your reflection.
There was the night walking to a restaurant on a dinner date crossing this same section of I-5 by foot, I felt so young and alive, felt the rush of the freeway, all those speeding cars below, as if it came right through me—like I could take all that energy on, like it was a part of me.
Charlotte and I did staring contests at the bar and Lily photographed it but I couldn’t believe how bad I looked from the side. I was starting to understand why my mom refuses to allow pictures of herself, it’s depressing. Lily looks so vain with her phone, but at least she’s got cause. I’m the same with my writing but it seems to improve the more I indulge in it, something out of nothing.
Work feels angular now, angular like you’d describe guitar effects in late ’70s post-punk, jagged, full of tension. The chess metaphor of how we’re limited by our piece and how many spaces we can go, what’s in the way, who we’re up against, how much experience we’ve got, how much we strategize. And yet I think the worst that can happen is I lose and have to start over, reset the board. Maybe the past is like that too, every time we lose we learn and get better, we learn nothing by winning, only how to win. Take everything I own to see what’s left, and that will be me.
Image from Modest Mouse album, 1997. Photos of the Westin Hotel, downtown Seattle.