From the Editor’s Perch

Ur Editor

“Over thirty years ago I worked for a local moving outfit where most of the endless days were spent loading or unloading vans at one of the many loading docks.  One of my fellow workers, Dale, was a huge Italian, who grew up in Hell’s Kitchen.  He would skip on his toes across the warehouse floor – like one of those dancing hippos in Disney’s Fantasia – flicking jabs, to amuse himself on slow days, while he went from here to there collecting bits of stray string or torn sections of cardboard in order to appear busy.  He was tall and powerfully built with olive-skin, oily black hair, large fleshy features, liver lips and an enormous beer belly – so enormous in fact, that in order to stay upright he had to lean backwards while skipping forward.  He was a former ‘deep-water sailor’ who harbored in Belltown and drank with his cronies at the Two Bells.  He was a binge drinker who now and then just wouldn’t show up for a while.

But when Dale was there, if he were in a talkative mood, he share with us the ‘adventures of the sea’: about sailors who’d strap bras to their back while out at sea to make a little extra money, and about visiting his retired pals who spent their days keeping track of the whores on First Avenue with red pins stuck in a large map of downtown Seattle – as if conducting military maneuvers.  Dale generally stayed above any argument that would break out from time to time in the coffee room.  But when he did voice an opinion, it was always the same one:  “The question is,” he would say with a chuckle as he lifted his meaty forefinger to make his point: “are you da Fucker, orderda da Fuckee?”  And I had to admit, Dale’s comment almost always hit upon the crux of whatever was bothering those guys.  His gnome-like silence notwithstanding, this ‘one-thought’ intelligence-of-his was downright uncanny, in fact.

One boring winter afternoon I asked Dale how his Christmas had gone.  He had been looking forward to spending the holiday with a woman and her young son in a cheap motel room along Aurora Avenue North.  I assumed she was probably a hooker who came with the room.  “Not so good,” he said.  “We got in an argument and I ended up throwing the tree and the turkey out the back door.”  In retrospect, the dark humor of it seemed to be its saving grace.  I had the feeling Dale was perplexed, and more profoundly depressed than he could admit. There was something in the nuance of a relationship which seemed to trip him up.  Nevertheless, he seemed to admire the dark humor of it – of those fragile Christmas tree ornaments hitting the asphalt with a pop!.  It was the kind of world he might have designed, himself.

Over the years, I’ve encountered numerous bright people who’ve tried to explain to me again and again the reality of the same situations Dale could have summarized with greater and more accurate ease, in a phrase.  I guess they repeat themselves again and again because they think I don’t get it; I can’t face it; I’m poorly read; I can’t understand it; I’m ignorant; I’m weak; I’m a waffler…    I miss Dale.  I think the reason we sort of liked each other was because we both grasp that their  ‘reality’ – just doesn’t work.  I could look at him and realize that he got the joke.

Photo by Scot Bastian

 

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