An Unlikely Friendship

This blog is supposed to be about my experience of watching Alene’s life in Seattle from my remote location at the bottom of South America. I promise I’ll get back to that in a few posts – but I want to first tell the story of how we got to know each other in the first place. It’s rather fun to look back on, and I think it helps Alene to remember how this started.

In 1998, business started taking me to Seattle and in the first half of 1999 I was there at least one week out of each month. I stayed at the Olympic Hotel downtown, which is a pretty nice place to stay. Nowadays it belongs to the Fairmount chain but when I first stayed there it was a Four Seasons hotel. One drizzly morning in March when there was nothing on the agenda, I set out for a walk and a business associate offered to accompany me. I’d rather have gone alone – but you know how it is….

I don’t recall the actual route I took, but I know I walked at quite a determined pace because my companion was under the impression I had a specific destination in mind. I didn’t though. I had no idea where I was going. We ended up in the Capitol Hill neighborhood but I kept on going to Volunteer Park where I made a beeline for the water tower, entered it and climbed the stairs to the top without skipping a beat. Well, I had to catch my breath at the top – but we enjoyed the view through the grated openings in the walls.

I think my companion actually assumed I’d gone up there purposefully, but I was really just following my nose – as they say. Then I thought a cup of coffee was due and I suggested going back to the neighborhood we’d walked through to find a Starbucks. There are some lovely old trees in Volunteer Park and as we left, I joked that it felt like some of them might uproot themselves and follow along with us. I though it was funny, but my companion looked at me as though I was quite barmy. We found the Starbucks OK and I had a tall cappuccino with a lemon-poppyseed muffin. Oddly enough, I wasn’t so sure of the way back downtown so we caught a number 10 bus.

That Starbucks became my regular coffee shop when I was in Seattle – even though there were many coffee shops within a few blocks of the Olympic. Sometimes I walked. Sometimes I took a bus. I usually went up to Volunteer Park to visit my favorite trees and climb that water tower, after which I went back to the Starbucks for the tall cappuccino and lemon-poppyseed muffin. I must have almost become a regular, because one day the girl at the counter greeted me with an apology for having just sold the last lemon-poppyseed muffin.

It was on one of these trips to Capitol Hill that I first met Allen. He was driving the number 10 bus. And I can’t for the life of me figure out what schedule he might have had, because I seemed to be on his bus every time I went that way, no matter the time of the day. And if he passed me walking, he slowed down and opened the bus doors to ask if I needed a ride. Then early one evening, I was enjoying pre-dinner cocktails in the bar of the Metropolitan Grill at Second and Marion when I saw him walking by — and he recognized me and came in to say hello. He was on his way down to First Avenue to get a bus home to West Seattle where he lived. I bought him a beer – and it was the beginning of our unlikely friendship.


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