Saturday, February 16, 2008

Port Out, Starboard Home

Hey, everyone!

Sorry it’s been awhile. It’s been a busy couple of weeks, and I haven’t felt like I had anything great to say. Not that anything is wrong, or that things are going badly. I’ve just been caught up on an inside horse on the carousel. I really try to avoid that in life. Find an outside horse!

Work has been so busy that I haven’t even had a chance to go prowling around the city at lunch. That means less interaction with interesting characters. And now that I’m officially living in Snohomish with Rob and Nick, my commute is not as socially oriented. Train travelers are just not the same maddening crowd as the ferry folks. The trip is no less beautiful though. The tracks run right along the base of a bluff overlooking Puget Sound most of the trip from Everett to Seattle. By “right along” I literally mean that for much of the journey when you look out the window on that side, you don’t see land. At All. As in, you’re looking straight down into 46 degree salt-water. Of course, my twisted brain is trying to make a murder mystery out of having someone pushed out of the train into the sea, but I haven’t quite figured out the details.

Actually, I like to sit on the land side of the train. It’s not that I lack appreciation for the Olympic Mountains and the Sound, they are indeed magnificent. But that view tends to be static. I’m more fascinated by the sneaking glimpses into life on the other side of the tracks. To me, the train provides a front row seat to scenes much more interesting than anything on t.v.

Even as the train lurches and sways out of Everett, past the Port and the industrial core, there are interesting contrasts. Ubiquitous blackberry brambles and gutsy alder trees hide grafitti and discarded junk, and also provide shelter to a variety of fauna. Rabbits and song-birds have been forced to think that the urban jungle is a fine place to call home. I wonder what they think of the train.

Everything out there has a story. Burlington-Northern Railroad utility buildings, surrounded by chain link fences – what are they used for? Why are they secured like Fort Knox? I want to know what’s in there. Can I hide a fictional body in there? Is there a potential weapon? Colonel Mustard in the utility building with a railroad spike.

There are tidal lagoons with playful ducks and elegant Great Blue Herons amongst the snags of fallen trees. What else is in there? I envision a fantasy Loch Ness Monster-like creature gliding through the mud and murk. The lagoons are bordered by homes, some brand new and stand-offishly modern, oblivious to the fact that their aged and weather-worn neighbors were once someone’s dream as well. And what’s up with the half-sunken canoe at one of the piers? Someone used to go paddling, and now they don’t. Why? Maybe in my mystery story it belonged to the protagonist, who could have once been a world class skull rower, but has not been on the water since the tragic drowning death of her best friend and crew-mate in college.

Some of the newer homes have pools. How’d you like to hang out in your beautiful, expensive seaside pool and have trains whirling by fifty times a day? And more relevant, how do you keep the Canadian Geese out of them? I can see the geese on the manicured lawns. Maybe they don’t like chlorine. Perhaps it’s bad for their down.

South of Edmonds, the bluff is higher and steeper and the train perches precariously between the hillside and the sea. Here the Himalayan blackberries and Scotch Broom fight an endless war for territory in their hostile takeover of the incline. Neither is indigenous. I wonder what would really be growing in their place if they weren’t here. Actually, I think they may be the only thing keeping the bluff from sliding into the sea. Several times a year the train doesn’t run due to sudden and unpredictable assaults by mudslides on the tracks. If this were Nessie’s fantasy world , the map would read “Here There Be Slides”, instead of “Here There Be Dragons”. It’s much the same sort of threat.

Things get really interesting as we enter the city. The Ballard locks where one of the homes keeps a small powerboat at a pier. If the locks are full, the boat is afloat. If the locks are drained, it’s mired in mud. “Gee honey, lets take the boat out today” “Oh, never mind, we can’t, there’s no water…” There’s a park that always has suspicious looking vehicles hanging out by the canal at 7:30a.m. Obviously my mystery story victim witnessed some sort of crime from the train and was somehow caught out. To be interesting it would have to be another murder that was witnessed. So besides having my commuter victim pushed out of the train into the sea, I’ve now got an original victim to hide. I need one of those darn utility buildings! The beauty of being the writer is that you get to try on the ideas and see how you like them. You can always put them back in the closet and bring them out later.

We roll past the railroad maintenance yards at Interbay. There’s a giant box spilling over its cargo of fire extinguishers. Huh? Why fire extinguishers? Why are they sitting by the railroad tracks? There’s also an abandoned orange hard hat. How does one lose a hard hat? It’s not something you just happen to drop and not notice. Another clue to be written in to our story.

Downtown Seattle now, I can see the Space Needle, the Old Spaghetti Factory, and some of Pike Place Market. Then into the tunnel to arrive at King Street.

My ride is over. To be sure, I could have spent the hour preparing for my day gazing out over the water. Instead, I can create the headline “Canadian Goose Saves Seattle…..Uses Fire Extinguisher to Battle Dragon Attacking Space Needle”.

2 comments:

Deb La Monica said...

ahem.

I thought that was supposed to be the MADDING crowd... - Deb

Patience-please said...

Delightful!

Patience

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