Ever experience a moment that you can look at while it happens, and know that it’s iconic, at least in the span of your own life?
I think just had an evening like that.
It’s been a dark week or so for reasons that I won’t talk about here, but I will say that things have looked the bleakest I can remember in a great while, and it’s been harder than I’d like just to keep my head up. A good friend once said that while I do a pretty good job masquerading as a pessimist, my closet optimist tendencies just sneak out despite my best efforts to contain them. I never really understood that, but maybe this evening I get it, at least a little bit.
While waiting for a lecture to begin, I stopped at a place I love and don’t get to visit nearly enough, and had a very well-made Negroni (many thanks, Murray) and a light dinner. There must have been some hellishly excellent juju in the place (or the drink), because I stepped outside into cold wind and the kind of downpour that had no right showing its face in Seattle outside of November, and I didn’t even mind. No rain gear, just my super-absorbent denim jacket and I, a new book tucked safely underneath a lapel as I wandered up the steps and into the post-rush hour downtown.
I found myself at the newsstand at Pike Place (I guess that’s redundant now — I should just say the newsstand, as its the last in Seattle) and stopped in for no apparent reason, despite the fact that I was now running late. When I stepped around the corner, it was just the owner of the stand and his radio left in that whole section of the market, which is my favorite time of day there and hard for me to catch with any regularity. What made it really remarkable today? That radio, competing with racket of the downpour and the splashes and squeaks of the bus stop just outside, was somehow able to project over the din and clearly broadcast, live, Barack Obama as he accepted the Democratic party’s nomination.
Just to stand there, trying to avoid the rain as it bounced off the adjoining cobblestones, listening to this speech that I thought I’d never hear, to have the newsstand owner softly mention how amazing it was, as we near the 45th anniversary of Rev. King’s “I have a dream” speech, that we were finally seeing something happen, was one of those noisy-turned-quiet moments — where things I can’t even understand yet are coming into focus — that I will not soon forget.
As Senator Obama commended Senator Clinton for her service, I glanced up and realized that I was now very late, and had better head out. The rain turned torrential as I walked/ran to Benaroya and I went from damp to heavily soaked, laughing in disbelief with the few foolish others on the streets as we passed each other. Then, stepping into the Hall lobby, I was instantly surrounded by something completely different — leopard print, taffeta ball gowns revealing amazingly hairy backs, impressive bouffant hairdos, and even a few dastardly pencil-thin mustaches — yes, as if it could be anything else, it was an evening with one of my favorite directors, John Waters. And it was exactly what I needed at precisely the right time.
If Seattle can still surprise me with a now too-rare outburst of actual character and deliver such an evening as a swift spiritual kick to the head, if I can actually have a warm, genuine conversation with a stranger on the street, if someone here knows how to make a proper Negroni, if I can hear an historic speech standing in an open air, cobblestone market on an old radio in a world where I’m usually online 24/7, if people can join together in a room and laugh and remember that humanity is perverse and we should delight in it at every opportunity, and if all of this can happen in one 4 hour span…well, then, I might just be able find a way to break free of all the crap that’s been so oppressive of late, and build something new and fine in its place.
A closet optimist? Well, maybe I am.