I am blameless
Retrograde Mercury is real; I am blameless. From October 21 until November 11, don’t bother making plans, communicating or even trying to think. It’s useless. Like me you’ll wander around in the fog. And you’ll like it if you’re lucky.
I woke up yesterday in South Lake Union and didn’t want to go home. Fridays off, baby. I thought it was early morning — all the clocks were blinking early numbers — but it was actually almost 11 by the time I got outside. The fog we’ve had recently makes time immaterial. It’s either day or it’s night.
My bike was in Capitol Hill so I started to wander in that direction. My phone was almost dead and I decided to go out in style — listening to Sunday Morning by the Velvet Underground.
I decided to get a haircut. My hair was knotted and hugely curly and sat like a mass of seaweed atop my head. I thought about Rudy’s but found myself standing in front of a place called Raven — Cuts, Color, Conversation — $25 haircuts — No Appointments — Walk-ins Only. I walked in. There was loud music playing. I didn’t like it. There was a beautiful black and white poster of New York City behind my chair that I could look at in the mirror. I loved that.
My stylist was Mauro. He lovingly washed my hair, deep-conditioned while scolding me for over-processing, and cut while complaining about his troubles. I told him I always wear my hair curly; he blew it out, straightened it and cut it dry. For the rest of the day I didn’t look like myself; I had long, straight, blonde hair. And no idea if I liked the haircut. Not until I wash and style myself can I even have a clue. And now that I have washed, and dried, and curled? I am still wearing my hair like a mass of seaweed atop my head. Why fight perfection?
After that I thought coffee was smart. I wandered and found myself outside of Black Coffee Co-op. I had never been inside and I didn’t want to. It looked quiet and I was hyper in a no sleep hangover kind of way.
Five hours later…
I really feel like I was bullied into it. I went in because it existed and it felt wrong not to. Inside I found free zines and anarchist books. On the wall was a poster for a sex positive story slam. All the food was vegan. Around the perimeter, next to the beautiful windowed walls, were books and games and dogs and pillows and couches.
Meow. Meet my new living room. How could I tear myself away?
I asked if there were free drip coffee refills. 50 cents. I asked if I could start a tab and pay when I left because I have a credit card and I’m annoying. No problem. And he poured my coffee into a mustard yellow mug! How lucky! And beautiful. I like telling every person I ever see interacting with a yellow object that my favorite color is yellow. It has gained me many friends and admirers.
I had heard, and soon saw, that a lot of homeless kids hang out at Black Coffee Co-op during the day. I shared my carrots and Sriracha-smothered hummus with a guy with a dog and blonde curly hair. I occasionally talked and smiled with a sweet tiny girl with purple hair and fairy wings.
I took the opportunity to be ridiculous. I walked around. I had a lot of energy and sometimes questions. One time I asked a guy with an afro if I-5 is a thruway or a highway or an expressway or whatever. I don’t remember the answer. We all talked casually, slowly. Like coming up for air.
When I burnt out from writing and bouncing around, I settled down into a couch that had been recently occupied by a dog and dove into VS Naipaul. I’m now reading Half a Life and I think this will be my last of his works for a while. In all I read A Way in the World, A House for Mr Biswas, Miguel Street and now Half a Life. I’m in love but I learned what I wanted to learn — about race and culture and writing and India and Trinidad, and just who is this VS Naipaul anyway? It’s time to meet someone new.
After a brief nap on the leather couch in the upstairs loft, I decided to brave the elements. I hadn’t made eye contact with my bike in over 12 hours and I was starting to feel a little anxious. So I set out. I had no idea what time it was; my phone had been dead for hours; the sky was the same shade of gray. It was just barely crisp, like an overripe apple, and I was soon energized by briskly walking around Capitol Hill.
I found my bike still safely locked in front of Mario’s, but — get this — someone stole my headlight! Thieves exist! I’m honestly not mad, and I hope they put it to good use, but for the rest of my life whenever I see a headlight on a bike I will assume it was once mine.
I wandered for hours. I went to every store on Broadway selling Halloween costumes. Did you know there’s a Red Light in Capitol Hill? I felt like I stepped into the Twilight Zone. How did I miss it, forever dashing into Crossroads across the street? Did you know there’s a Bettie Page store on that block as well, entirely empty save one effeminate hipster employee with a wide-brimmed hat and wire frame glasses, and lots of $150 dresses?
When I was a little girl and my mom made dinner, something like spaghetti or mac and cheese, I would always insist it was a new brand. It always tasted different to me. But it was always the same. That was my day yesterday. Same as it ever was, yet off. Twisted.
After Halloween costumes, I searched for sushi. I walked along Broadway and ignored Genki, down Denny past a tiny place with just four outdoor seats and a bar, up Pike and down 15th. Nothing. My search was at first an abstract exercise, but after a while I started getting hungry. I finally, desperately, decided upon Olympia Pizza and Spaghetti House. They had outdoor seating and I’ve been craving garlic and marinara.
Everything on the menu was $15 and I assumed gigantic, so I was annoying and ordered the kid’s spaghetti and meatballs. The waitress was like, ‘It’s a small portion, are you sure it’ll be enough?’ And I was like, ‘Girl I’m getting spaghetti that comes with a side of garlic bread. Three carbie bites and I’m satisfied.’ And lo — I couldn’t even finish it. And I overate. The first bite was heavenly and by my last it just tasted like steam. You know how these things go.
After dinner I went to Neumos for the show I had been hanging around Capitol Hill all day for. The Stranger suggested I attend Night of the LTD, an all-ages hip-hop show, and I complied. Or at least tried. I took side streets on my walk back, looking for a good view of the skyline, singing New York, New York, wondering what time it was.
When I got to Neumos there was a line so I queued up and got talking to the girls behind me. They were there to see CocoRosie, two sisters who mix pop, blues, opera, electronica and hip-hop. So…not what I was planning on. And it was sold out.
I dashed away to find a Stranger. I didn’t see any newspapers for a few blocks and again felt like I was in the Twilight Zone. Have I been transported to another time, another place, another city? But then I found some. And, silly girl, the show isn’t at Neumos. It’s at Neptune, near my house. I could have gone home, could have showered, could have had an entirely different day.
I thank you, Mercury.
I told my line friends about my change in plans, got my bike and, headlightless, biked up to the U District. It took no time at all. I swear when I looked at the Stranger standing outside the Egyptian Theatre and realized how silly I was, I read that the Neptune is on 15th NE. When I consulted the paper for a second time: 45th. Where my reading comprehension at?
I found the Neptune; it was oddly quiet. Locked my bike, walked up to the door and a sign: Show Cancelled. All credit card purchases will be refunded. No explanation. ‘This,’ I thought, ‘This is why I need my cell phone to not die.’
What now? I had stayed in Capitol Hill all day for a concert that not only wasn’t there; it didn’t exist. I had been invited to a party by a guy at work the day before, but never even got his address because I thought I had plans. Now I didn’t.
I went to work. It was busy. He wasn’t working. No one knew his address. He doesn’t have a phone.
So I went home. I was so close by this point, just two miles away, that I figured I had to at least shower. I did, and stayed. I cleaned my kitchen, I organized my backpack, I cooked quinoa and roasted beets, I looked at the internet. No Facebook posts from either the Stranger or the Neptune on why the show was cancelled — or that it was cancelled at all. Even if I had been plugged in, I couldn’t have known. I was blameless.
I felt afraid to leave the house, afraid to venture back onto those backwards Mercury-deficient streets. So instead I put on some music, sat cross-legged on my bedroom floor, and wrote.
Tags: A House For Mr Biswas, A Way in the World, astrology, autumn, Bettie Page, biking, Black Coffee Co-op, blameless, Broadway, Capitol Hill, Carey Mulligan, CocoRosie, costumes, Crossroads, Egyptian Theatre, Emily dreams of sushi, fall, fog, Genki sushi, haircut, Half a Life, Halloween, headlight, homeless youth, I'm annoying, India, kids menu, Mercury, Miguel Street, Neptune Theatre, Neumos, New York, Night of the LTD, Olympia Pizza and Spaghetti House, Raven, Red Light, retrograde, retrograde Mercury, same as it ever was, seattle, Shame, sorry not sorry, spaghetti and meatballs, stolen, sushi, the color yellow, the Stranger, the Stranger suggests, thieves, Trinidad, Twilight Zone, VS Naipaul, walking