Alarms go off early, far too early, in the morning.

My family packs, we eat mostly separately, and then they disembark the Tardis.

That gives me about 45 minutes to pack up my things before I too, disembark. Just off the boat, there's an enormous warehouse where our bags, having been picked up the previous night, have been layed out for retrieval.

For years, I couldn't pass through TSA without a lengthy wait and having my bags searched, but now they let me by without comment. It's a pleasant, if somewhat disturbing, change. Just outside the terminal a thousand taxis, a hundred buses, and a million people are meandering about. Traffic-director types tell me that I can only use one of the pre-arranged buses if I have paperwork. I know that I'm entitled to a bus, but I have no idea where the paperwork has gone. I sidle into that line and no one ever asks to see if I'm there legitimately.

Thus begins Phase I of my Master Plan to be Early. People are always telling me that this Early-thing is PDG. But, when I show up at the airport 21 hours ahead of time, Delta tells me I can't check my bags this early. I ask them when their counter closes for the night, and they don't know, but say that maybe I can check my bags then. I leave the airport, and catch the Link back to downtown.

The Green Tortoise Hostel is more accommodating: of course I can stash my bags in their storage room for the day. And I can pay the $1 fee later. Having done this, I walk across the street to the Starbucks, pick up a hazelnut steamer, and work through the past week's back log of email.

There's a lot of it… and most of it is junk. Usually, I just delete this stuff, but I'm feeling very gumptuous at the moment and decide to take matters into my own hands. I use the unsubscribe links on every one of the junk emails. It feels terribly liberating and, in the days since, there's been a marked drop in the number of messages I have to contend with.

Towards afternoon, I begin to get quite hungry. My English breakfast and strawberry-whipped-cream-topped waffle have worn off. A bus ferries me to RoRo, one of my favourite places to eat in Seattle. Vivle and I had meant to make it up here the previous week, but didn't find the time, and I just can't leave Seattle without stopping by.

When I was last here, we'd visited a sewing space, which rented sewing machines at $10/hr and RoRo. I'd commented that the sewing space couldn't possibly make it. Vivle, perhaps in disagreement, had asked me what I thought the odds were of RoRo surviving, and I'd replied, “100%”. And indeed, here it is.

The inside is wannabe Western and a TV in the corner plays an endless stream of black and white episodes of Leave it to Beaver. Sweet potato fries, exploded pork, and cornbread are accompanied by a choice selection of no fewer than six BBQ sauces.

Delicious, and filling. Afterwards, I wander down to Gasworks Park, along with, it would seem, the rest of Seattle.

Aside from the masses of people socialising and sun-bathing on the hill, and the armada of boats clogging the lake, there are other, more specific, peoples about. A small horde of photographers and accompanying models are practising their craft.

There's some kind of parkour meet-up as well. At first it's just this amazing guy with a water backpack on jumping and rolling from high places making injuriously-loud impacts. Then a more scrawny kid arrives and begins running up walls. A girl shows up later and they begin to teach her the basics, starting with a long series of stretches.

A fiddler-man and three ladies show up to practise Irish step dancing. A group is picnicing off to my side.

A trio of Krav Maga practitioners are at work out on a balcony.



After watching them for a while, I play my pennywhistle in the shade of a tree before taking a nap. When I wake up the parkourians are still stretching and jumping, and a rock climber is up on the equipment. You're not supposed to climb on this stuff, but, as they say, everyone is doing it.

I leave the park and walk down to U of Washington campus then catch the #49 to Capitol Hill, afraid I'm going to be late for Compline chant, the closing of the monastic day.

I've always thought that there are two types of buildings whose doors should never be locked: libraries and churches. When I arrive, I find the church empty—Compline isn't for another hour and a half—but all the doors are wide open. I enter, alone, and find myself in a massive and lofty space. High above me, exposed wood beams cross the ceiling and the white walls are shedding paint. The sanctuary itself is Spartan. There's an intrinsic and rare feeling of the sacred. I leave and continue up the road.

Farther along, I see a small sign for the Metrix Create Space. I love these places. Lots of tools, lots of supplies, smart people, teaching and learning. I step inside and, within thirty seconds, I'm part of a discussion of how the new health care laws interface with a capitalistic system. Small talk and social nicities can more or less be disregarded here.

Lauren comes over to see who I am and we discuss the rip that's appeared in my backpack. She digs out an appropriate needle, a spindle of sturdy thread, and teaches me the appropriate stitching for the situation. A sign on the wall asserts in bold letters that, “If you can't fix it, you don't own it.” I thank Lauren for her help and pay a pro-rated $5/hr. Before I leave, she shows me some of the other projects that have come out of the space recently: OpenBeam and the Cossle Pro 3d printer.

It is not until I'm lying by the alter in the church that I realise I've left my jacket behind. I lay my head against my backpack and stare at the ceiling as the walls are washed with the gold and then the purple of the dying light. The chant begins. Beautiful and aching. Afterwards, I know I need to move on and get to the airport, so I leave as the organ performance begins, the reverbations echoing in my organs.

Lauren & Co. look for my jacket and don't find it. Then she remembers one of the members moving it just before he left. I run outside and around the corner to find three police cars, an ambulence, an unconscious guy on the pavement, and another guy with giant gauged ear holes surrounded by cops… holding my jacket. I walk up, pointing, “That's mine.” “Oh yeah, I grabbed it when I saw that shit was going to go down. I was going to bring it back.”

Unfathomable. Back inside Metrix, they explain that this is pretty much mid-level drama for a maker space. They tell me, “You get this fringe crowd of super intelligent people, sometimes on drugs, with little sense of personal boundaries. We just try to make sure things happen off-property.”

I catch the #49 to downtown and look for supper. It's about eleven o'clock now and everything is closed. Except for the quickie-mart. I pick up a banana and a Pot Pie with 410 calories, of which 210 is fat. At the Green Tortoise they confirm that I can't possibly have a good night's sleep in downtown Seattle and still make it to the airport. They let me use their microwave and gift me a metal spoon. Then I skidaddle, pie steaming.

At the airport, Delta still won't let me check my bag. “Come back at 3AM”, they say.

Why, you might wonder, did I not choose a reasonable time to leave… such as earlier in the day? Answer: Steo is arriving back from Ireland tomorrow and I intend to be in the airport to surprise her. But I don't want to surprise her with a sleep-deprived zombie.

I check everything through TSA. Turns out, they don't care how many bags you have or how big they are. Seeing four glass jars of salmon and salmon-liquid in my suit case, they look at each other inquisitively asking what the other thinks it is. Then they let it through.

I find a Gate, slide the metal couches into a protective barrier, and doze off to the sound of a well-enunciated male voice telling me, “If you see anything suspicious…”.

At 6AM I awaken with a start. I need to move! Now! My flight's at 6:55AM. I pack everything in two minutes flat and dash down the hallway, surrounded by a nebula of stuff. Outside TSA I'd expected to find the airport deserted at this hour of the morning.

No.

There's something like thirty people waiting to check their bags. I go up behind the first one and politely point at my ticket… can I just pass you by? I ask each person in turn and, very shortly, I'm at the front of the line. Delta tells me I've made it just in time to get my bag checked.

Then I run off to TSA where there's a line of maybe a hundred or two hundred people. I repeat my strategy, politely asking each person in turn. “Sure!”, “Good luck!” “Hope you make it”, they say as I pass them. Then I reach the angry man.

“You know what!? I'm late too! I gotta make my flight too! Why didn't you get here earlier? Why didn't you think of this! We all got problems!”

I protest that I did get here early. Very early. That I have, in fact, already checked through this whole process once. But he's not having any of it: “We all got problems!”

“And I'm afraid I must leave you with yours”, I say as I duck under the webbing and out of the line. There's a TSA lady there, and I explain the situation. She holds a finger to her lips and tells me that if anyone asks, she's pulled me from line and is putting me back in. Then she deposits me in the premium bording line. I'm ready, and it takes only a few seconds for me to sweep through TSA (whatever happened to the “experienced traveller” lines?). I run to the intra-airport train and make it to my Gate mid-way through the boarding process. There's still time to get breakfast!

I'm right on time… but maybe I did this Early-thing wrong. I'll try it again sometime.

I spend my day at the Minneapolis airport wandering around. They have iPads sitting out with games like checkers, chess, and tic-tac-toe on them. I trounce the AI a few times and then leave the game boards set up in improbable ways for the next person to come along.

Steo's flight doesn't appear on the boards.

And no one in the airport knows where or when it's supposed to arrive. United's customer service agents have an arrival time and gate when I call them on the phone. They also seem perfectly willing to give me information I would have thought would be private: Steo's name, that she's on the flight, her middle name.

I repair to the Gate they indicated and find a dilipidated plane sitting there. That's not going to move.

Finally, just before her plane's due in, they update the Gate location. I walk over and nervously watch the plane pull up and passengers begin to disembark. Then I skidaddle up the hall and find a chair off the side, in time to catch her attention by playing Morrison's Jig. Surprise successful!

The day finishes with trying to find her baggage—the computer still doesn't know about her flight. Trying to find my baggage—it's been locked away, but I undo the straps they put the lock through and walk off with it. And getting supper and trivia at the Green Mill with her parents, followed by ice cream at the Grand Ole Creamery.




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