An Unexpected Night

Last night, around eight o’clock, our phone rang. Usually, we don’t answer our landline, especially at 8:00 at night. It’s always telemarketers calling. Last night, though, I had the feeling that I should see who was calling. I recognized the name on Caller ID. It was Barbara, from Writers’ Group. I answered the phone.

Barbara had fallen, and aid unit had come, decided that she didn’t need to be taken to the hospital, and left. She was better now, but would I mind coming over and visiting with her for a while? Of course, I said I didn’t mind at all. I explained that I didn’t have my car, but I’d be right over.

As expected, there were no cars2go or ReachNow cars in the neighborhood.

As I headed out the door, it occurred to me that Barbara doesn’t have my cell phone number. I gave her a call, and suggested I give her my number, in case she needs to reach me before I get there. She said she’d be all right without it.

I walked up the hill at a brisker pace than I usually do when I’m on my way to Writers’ Group.  When I rang Barbara’s intercom, a woman I didn’t recognize appeared. She said her name was Isobel, and she introduced herself as Barbara’s neighbor across the hall. Isobel was smiling, so I wasn’t worried that something bad had happened.

I learned that Isobel had seen that Barbara had left her door open, and had checked to see if she was OK. Barbara told me she should have gotten my cell phone number, because Isobel had been sitting with her, and I didn’t have to come. I told Barbara that I was happy to come over.

Barbara laid down on her bed, she and I sat and talked, and watched the Arts channel together. Barbara told me it had been just a pinched nerve, and she was already feeling better.

At 10:00, I knocked on Isobel’s door. She came over to sit with Barbara. I gave Barbara my cell phone number, and said good night.

I walked up to 15th Avenue, to catch a 10 bus home. I just missed one – I saw it leaving the stop as I rounded the corner. OneBusAway told me the next one would be in 18 minutes. I walked into Caffe Ladro and got a latte to go. I walked down 15th to E Thomas Street, to the stop where both the 8 and the 10 stop. I had a 4 minute wait for an 8 bus.

The neighborhood was full of cars2go, but I didn’t need one then.

I rode the 8 bus down the hill and walked home.

A New Way Home

Since I was coming home to an empty apartment this evening, I decided to experiment with a new commute home.

I walked south along 5th Avenue, through Pioneer Square, under Yesler Way, and into the International District. It’s a part of town I’ve never walked through before. Obviously, I saw sights I’d never seen before – government buildings and apartments, with mix of old and new architecture. It was a nice walk – not very hilly.

I was about two blocks away when I saw two streetcars arrive, and depart, at the stop at 5th & Jackson.

I got to the streetcar stop. The arrival sign said the next one was due in 10 minutes. OneBusAway agreed. They were both right.

I rode on the “Japantown” streetcar, which, until today, I thought was rather pretty. Well, I still think it’s pretty, but the problem today was that I chose the seat next to the window with the big flower on it. I’d never noticed this before, but those decals are not transparent. That big flower blocks almost all of the view. All of those inkbrush lines do, really, but that flower is the worst window blocker.

Japantown Streetcar

This photo wasn’t taken today. That’s the flower, however.

The streetcar was full when I got on. Otherwise, I would have switched to a different seat. I kept glancing back for a free seat after every stop, but I soon resigned myself to a viewless ride. Oh, I could see out, through the gaps in the design, but I wasn’t pleased with the design choice.

I glanced at my watch when I boarded the streetcar at 5th & Jackson. I glanced again when I exited at Broadway & Denny. The streetcar ride took around 20 minutes. That’s about twice what a light rail ride from Pioneer Square Station to Capitol Hill Station takes, but the views are better – when you can see through the window, that is. I didn’t factor in the time I spent walking.

I stopped off at the library, where a third hold had come in.

Decisions Decisions

Last night, I helped Phillip get ready for NorWesCon 40. My main task was to pack up the laptop. It’s a very old laptop that we hardly ever use anymore. I unplugged all the peripherals (the K key missing, so it now has a USB keyboard plugged into it). It was all ready to be put in its carrying case, and I couldn’t find the carrying case. The laptop has a 17-inch screen (we bought it partly to watch movies), so it’s large and heavy, and nearly impossible to carry around without the carrying case.

The carrying case wasn’t where we’ve always kept it. We searched through the apartment, looking in every place the case might be – which, given the fact that it’s the size of a suitcase, couldn’t be very many places. The case just wasn’t anywhere.

Phillip gave up, and decided he’d borrow one of the NorWesCon staff laptops. I was almost at that surrender point, too.

I decided to look in the trunk of our car – which I knew was a silly idea. Why would the case be in the trunk without the laptop in it? But I was out of options. Then, right as I was picking up the car key, a better idea came to me. What if it was in the storage room provided by the apartment building? I rarely think of that storage room. It made more sense than the car trunk, anyway.

That’s where it was: In the storage locker. Then I remembered: During one of our de-cluttering sessions, we’d agreed that it was silly to have a rarely-used laptop case the size of a suitcase sitting in the living room. We agreed that the storage locker was a much better idea. The case could be out of the way, in the locker, until whenever we needed it. That worked out well.

beer and peanuts

Beer & Peanuts

When I said goodbye this morning, Phillip was doing laundry, getting ready to leave for NorWesCon. I left for work

Last year, at the end of NorWesCon 39, I told Phillip that I’d decided that spending all four days, and all three nights, at the convention was too much. I told him I was thinking that spending a day – or maybe a day and a night – might be more enjoyable for me. This got misinterpreted, over the past few months, into him thinking I wasn’t going to NorWesCon 40 at all.

I realized that I wasn’t correcting Phillip. I realized that no one was questioning me about why I wasn’t going to the convention. I realized that I was settling into the idea of not going to NorWesCon 40. I’ve been enjoying my solitude lately.

But I haven’t made up my mind completely. NorWesCon is just a short light rail ride away. I could pop in on Saturday. Sakura-Con is also this weekend, and it’s just a mile away. I’ve never been there. It fun for costume-watching. Or I could stay home, drink beer, eat peanuts, and play Cities:Skylines, and enjoy my solitude.

Trains And Books

Somehow, I ended up on a 3-car Link train this morning. Every other Link train is a 3-car train at peak hours, and the other half are 2-car trains. My timing is such that I’m typically on a 2-car train both going to work and coming home.

It was one of those morning when I kept looking at my watch, trying to figure out if I was running late or early. Every thing was normal, time-wise. The 47 bus had been on time, and had no noticeable delays. It was just an out-of-the-ordinary 3-car train.

Then, on my commute home, I was on another 3-car train. I don’t know if my timing was off, or if the Link schedule shifted, or (can it be) are all Link trains now 3-car trains?

Another hold came in at the library today. It had jumped ahead a place or two in the hold line, and arrived sooner than I’d planned. I’m now reading two books at the same time, both for the Reading Challenge. I can already tell that I’m going to like one book a whole lot more than the other. That may be a challenge in itself.

Two People In Paris

I went to Writers’ Group today, having written nothing. I read a couple of book reviews from my blog. Those seem to be popular.

On my walk home, I stopped into the library and picked up a book for the Reading Challenge. Poor Atlantis trilogy.

Tonight, Phillip and I watched the second film in the Before trilogy: Before Sunset. Phillip has admitted to me that he didn’t love the first film, Before Sunrise, as much as I did. I think we both loved this one, however.

It’s nine years later, and Jesse and Célene meet accidentally (maybe?) in Paris. Jesse is on a book tour, promoting a novel he’d written about two people who spend a night in Vienna. He has a little more than a hour before he has to leave for the airport, to catch a plane back to America. So, they go get coffee, and then go take a walk.

First off, is the question: Did either one of them show up at the train station, six months after that night?

Before Sunset is an hour and twenty minutes long. The story is told in real time. There are amazing, beautiful, long, unbroken shots of Jesse and Célene walking through Paris, talking. I suspect that if technology had allowed him to, Richard Linklater would have made the entire film as one continuous shot.

Jesse and Célene have both grown older. They’ve moved on with their lives. The feelings are obviously there, however. Célene keeps reminding Jesse that he has a plane to catch. Jesse keeps finding something else for them to do together, and Célene agrees.

There is love, reality, and hurt going on between those two in that trip through Paris.

Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy did masterful acting, again.

Before Sunrise ended with an unanswered question. Before Sunset does, too.

This second film is even better than the first. It is amazing.


Poor Atlantis

The Atlantis trilogy, A. G. Riddle, got lost in my rush through the 2017 Reading Challenge. I’ve tried to find a way to fit them into one of the Categories, but I can’t. They’re very good books. All three have been stacked on the coffee table since the beginning of the year. Kelly gave the third book, The Atlantis World, for Christmas, over four months ago, and I haven’t even read the first page.

Last night, I found myself without a book to read. I returned Asleep yesterday, and the next Challenge book is In Transit. I opened The Atlantis Plague, the second book, and picked up where I’d left off, three-fourths of the way through the 400-page book. It was surprisingly easy to pick up the story.

Unfortunately for it, The Atlantis Plague will be set aside again when the library book arrives.

This morning, Phillip started reading the first book, The Atlantis Gene.

This afternoon, Phillip and I boarded a 49 bus and rode to the U-District for a 3:50 movie at Sundance Cinemas. Somehow, I’d overestimated how long it would take us to get ready and walk up the hill. We must have caught an earlier bus than planned, because we stepped off the bus at 2:38. We’d bought our tickets online, so we spent some time hanging around in Trader Joe’s, and in the upper lounge of the theater.

We saw Personal Shopper, with Cristina, Michael, and Craig.

I loved this movie – I loved it a lot. It reminded me, somewhat, of the book I’d just finished reading: Asleep, by Banana Yoshimoto. Personal Shopper is a ghost story, but not in a scary way. It’s also much more than that. It was character-driven. It was also enigmatic – very enigmatic.

Craig walked out during the movie – it wasn’t to his taste. After the movie, Michael, Cristina, Phillip, and I walked up to The Ave, discussing the movie as we walked. It was that kind of movie – one that needs to be discussed if you’re going to understand it.

At The Ave, Michael had to say goodbye. Then Cristina and Phillip and I had dinner at CaliBurger, where we continued to discuss the movie.

Then Phillip and I rode a 49 home.

Stories Of Sleep, Love, And Ghosts

I decided that Banana Yoshimoto would be a good choice for this Category in the Reading Challenge. She’s one of my favorite authors, she’s Japanese, and the Seattle Public Library has a good selection of her books in its catalog.

I picked Asleep because it was one I hadn’t read, there were no holds on it, and none of my current holds were moving fast enough.

Right after I placed the hold, I discovered that I’d been misremembering the Category. It’s the main character, not the author, who should be a different ethnicity than me. I decided to go with it anyway, since all of Banana Yoshimoto’s books are set in Japan.

If I’d realized I’d been misremembering the Category earlier, I might have picked out a different book, since Asleep is a collection of three novellas, with three main characters. If I’d realized the book was on the shelf at the Central Library, I might have picked it up during a lunch break, instead of placing a hold. Oh, well.

AsleepShirakawa Yofune, by Banana Yoshimoto, was published in 1989. It was translated into English, by Michael Emmerich, as Asleep, in 2000.

The first story is named Night and Nights Travelers.

Shibami, the main character and narrator, finds the draft of a letter she’d written to a girl named Sarah. It brings on a flood of memories. The story jumps back and forth in time.

In high school, Shibami and her brother, Yoshihiro, were close friends with their cousin Mari. Yoshihiro met an American student named Sarah, who was studying in Japan. Yoshihiro and Sarah began dating. When Sarah returned to Boston, Yoshihiro went with her.

While Yoshihiro was away, Mari realized that she’d always been in love with him. Things turned sour between Sarah and Yoshihiro, and he returned home to Japan. It soon became obvious to Shibami that her brother had fallen in love with Mari.

Mari and Yoshihiro began secretly dating, against their parents’ wishes. Then Yoshihiro died suddenly.

Mari is now 25. She moves around in a trance, “like a sleepwalker”. That’s only the beginning of the story. It’s about the friendship between Shibami and Mari, haunted by their mutual loss. It’s also about a lot more than that.

The second story is named Love Songs.

Every night, Fumi, the main character and narrator, drinks herself into a drunken stupor. Right before she falls asleep, Fumi hears strange music – almost like someone singing. She’s not sure if she’s dreaming or hallucinating.

Earlier in her life, Fumi was in a romantic relationship with a man. At the same time, the man was also in a romantic relationship with a woman named Haru. Fumi and Haru hated each other. Then the man left Japan. Haru went to Paris.

Fumi’s current boyfriend, Mizuo, had known both the man and Haru. Mizuo tells Fumi that the dead often communicate with the living through singing. He says that when a person is falling asleep and when they’re drunk are the best times for ghosts to synchronize with that living person. Mizuo thinks Haru is dead. He thinks Haru is singing to Fumi.

Fumi asks a mutual friend and learns that, yes, Haru has died.

Mizuo thinks that Fumi and Haru liked each other more than they were willing to admit. He thinks there may have been some mutually romantic feelings. At Mizuo’s insistence, he and Fumi go see a man who can put Fumi in touch with Haru in the afterlife. Fumi goes willingly. She realizes that Mizuo is right: She had been in love with Haru.

What does Haru want? What is the message in her song?

The third story is named Asleep.

Terako is the main character and the narrator. She’s been sleeping a lot recently, and she doesn’t know why. She can sleep through anything except a phone call from her boyfriend. Somehow, she always knows when it’s her boyfriend calling. She’s wide awake when she’s with her boyfriend. When she’s alone, she sleeps for long stretches of time.

Terako and her boyfriend have been seeing each other for a year and a half. She hasn’t been able to tell him that her good friend, Shiori, committed suicide two months ago.

Shiori had an unusual job, and when people ask what sort of work it was, Terako evades the question. Shiori was a sort of prostitute, only she didn’t have sex with her clients. People paid to sleep beside her – just sleep. Shiori wasn’t allowed to fall asleep herself, but she sometimes did.

Terako’s boyfriend is married. Terako knows this. Her boyfriend’s wife is in a coma. He was Terako’s boss when they started dating, and she still calls him Mr. Iwanaga.

As time passes, Terako finds it more difficult to stay awake, even when she’s with her boyfriend. She sleeps through entire days. She falls asleep on a park bench and is visited by a ghost who gives her specific career advice: Pick up a job-hunter’s newspaper at the train station, and find a job that requires you to be on your feet all the time. Terako ignores the advice. A few days later, a friend calls and offers Terako a temporary job as a hostess at a trade show – a job where she’s required to be on her feet all the time.

Has her boyfriend’s wife cursed Terako to sleep, or is she helping to keep Terako awake?

I absolutely loved this book. Its three stories drew me in. I didn’t want to put the book down. I wished my commute were longer, so I could continue reading when it was time to go to work.

I wished the stories were longer, especially the first one. I wanted to know more about where Shibami and Mari were heading.

There’s a magic quality to Asleep (the book). The writing is poetic and beautiful, even when the story is sad. (I’m sure it’s even better in the original Japanese.) They’re subtle and enigmatic. All three stories are character-driven. (That’s my favorite kind of story.) People handle unusual lives in normal, everyday ways. The physical world interacts with the spiritual world comfortably and easily.

  • A book where the main character is a different ethnicity than you