I had two teaspoons of my pop’s ashes in a baggie in my handbag when Himself and I traveled to Washington for an Irish Studies Conference in Tacoma. Our issue were most adequately and warmly attended to by the Smith Family (as in Brian, Clara, Riley, Addie and Granny), Marlene and good ol’ Uncle Richard, to all of whom our humble thanks are offered. Mine at least. Let Himself thank you on his own blog.
It never occurred to me much to discuss Washington lore with my dad while I worked beside him for over twenty-five years. I made a mental note to get facts and addresses back when we booked this trip several months ago but I never got the chance. I remembered that his earlier years were spent in Port Angeles, where his dad ran a hotel and then the later years, after his father died of suicide, in Seattle. The only real geographical clue I had was Garfield High. Pathetically and embarrassingly scant details but I did get a feel for the hardness of the place and perhaps a bit of a sense of how man’s love/hate relationship with mother nature particularly plays itself out there. Chilly dark wet days make for obscenely spectacular green of nearly psychedelic intensity.
We strolled genteel Pioneer Square, where the first "Skid Row" was named for logs being dragged through streets that were rawer when my dad walked them.. We sought out Garfield High, now gutted entirely and as an historic monument, undergoing a spectacular refurbishment. A construction worker snuck us in and it occurred to Himself afterwards that I should have sprinkled a few ashes in the foundation but I sure wouldn’t want to have my ashes spiritually connecting me with high school through all eternity. I’d rather die.
I did get my mind around what it must have been like for Dad at the age of 22 when he left the cold stateliness of Seattle, where he’s sought comfort from poverty, and undoubtedly from being, in movies and music. There was family strife hinted at too but I never took the time to broach this with him. My dad traveled South, to Hollywood , by train, in 1940, to have three wives and three homes and an obit in the Daily Variety. He returned to Seattle perhaps three or four times in his life. I saw the roughness and hardness of the place. I tossed a teaspoon of ashes from the Space Needle and the rest into the harbor, near the ferry port in Port Angeles and was glad that the rest were home warm and dry with Aliki.
I haven’t traveled by air in several years and you will be happy to know that America is safe from terrorism now because my lip gloss is in a plastic bag. Himself and I had calamitous near flight- missing adventures on both legs of the trip but in-between he read a beautiful paper about little known writer’s writer J.F. Powers and his even lesser known wife, Betty Wahl. We traveled on a WWII amphibious duck vehicle, blasting rock n’ roll, on a land and water tour of Seattle. We were close and warm, although he persists in tailgating and I continue to be unfairly inconvenienced by his dogged refusal to use his cellphone and of course there’s the walking ahead of me business, although that, at least, has considerably improved.
Tess Gallagher, poet and wife of the late Raymond Carver and native of Port Angeles, read and signed books at the conference. She is an elegant voice for the sacredness of connection between lovers, and I thought of her, sleeping a night in their bed together with dead Ray when I learned about Aliki pounding on the door of the morgue and I think about it when I lay naked with my husband and we flail and cry and touch and are reminded of the sacred bonding of our spirits as we worship each other’s immortal souls and their temporary vessels.