I entered the doors of the now deceased Kincora’s with one objective: Whiskey. Lots of whisky. No chaser. Straight up. This was my test-your-limits-of-alcohol-consumption stage of life and I sought to do just that; whiskey aided in this experiment. When you partake in numerous alcoholic episodes you pick up on strategies such as eating beforehand to boost up your drinking stamina, or not eating at all to get more bang for your buck. On this occasion, I opted for the empty-stomach approach, while simultaneously attempting to hone this technique called “Not-Breaking-the-Seal.” What goes in must come out and when it comes to mass alcohol intake, you can expect a lot of coming out. Legend has it, if you urinate at first reactionary urge; you’re doomed – just a fool running to the bathroom every fifteen minutes.
That night I decided to be no fool.
My co-worker, Josh, and I had spent a couple hours knocking back our bitter beverage choices with fury, when Sarah entered the picture. When I first started working at Dick’s she was a regular employee, she quickly took a promotion and I hadn’t seen her since. Sarah was familiar with this substance called whiskey and definitely was not shy in its presence. We didn’t know each other at all at the time, but our reindeer games went forth as we bonded over whiskey drinks.
After hours of being on top of the world, chain-smoking, and chatting it up with strange alcoholics in a dark, loud room, I decided that I was now going to Break-the-Seal. “All right! I proclaimed, making sure to give both Josh and Sarah adequate eye-contact. “I’m doing it! I’m going in!” And with that I made way to the restroom. All I know of what happened next is that it was glorious. It was relieving. And it took a really long time.
A really, really long time.
Sarah started to become concerned.
“Man, she’s been in there for a while…”
“Yeah,” Josh agreed
“Maybe you should go in and check on her?”
“I’m not goin’ in the fuckin’ ladies room! You crazy? You go check.”
Sarah found me with my head slumped against the stall. Apparently, in my state of relief and relaxation, I had fallen asleep.
“She’s passed out in there,” Sarah reported back, “I tried to wake her up but it is NOT happening.”
At my next moment of consciousness I was staring up at an unfamiliar woman peering over the stall’s edge. “Do you need any help?”
I gathered up every ounce of cool I had left. “I got this.”
I made myself decent; splashed my face, and soon found myself standing at the other end of a cigarette out front. The rain was coming down pretty steady, but my recently purchased wool hat provided all the necessary shelter. It was time for us all to part ways. My damage had been done and it was officially time to retire. Josh really wanted me to take a cab but I refused. My objective was home; I knew how to get home and some nosey cab driver would only complicate the situation.
At this point, I lived in this little green bungalow on California Avenue, one of eight – we called it the Green Ghetto. During World War II, West Seattle was littered with these things. Now, my place of residence was one of the last to remain; home to a friendly group of characters that didn’t mind hanging out together or just leaving each other alone. I spent twelve years of my life finding my way back to that little green house, with its chipped-paint and cheap rent and I’ll be damned if I wasn’t going to find my way home that night.
The next thing I knew, I was waking up on my couch; I was thirsty. It will always puzzle me how one can drink such quantities over the course of a night and yet still wake up so thirsty. In my haze, I grabbed water. Plenty of water. Where the hell is my back pack? I thought. I frantically began searching for my back pack. I ran up and down the stairs – in my room, out my room, checked outside – looked in strange corners I would rarely enter.
For the life of me, I had no idea how I got home, where my back pack was, or, better question, where the hell my hat was. I could have sworn I was wearing a really awesome, recently purchased hat. With my tail between my legs and my ego knocked down a couple of notches and my incredible thirst, I walked to the bus stop – at least I wouldn’t be late for work; at least I could do that right. I snatched up a bus schedule upon boarding the Metro and scanned it looking for the Lost and Found number.
New plan: one, call up Metro Lost and Found and see if left it on the bus and a kind Samaritan turned it over; two, ask Josh if I even left with my back pack – maybe I just left it at Kincora’s. God, I hope I left it at Kincora’s…
While the bus escorted me to my next destination I pondered all the contents of my back pack that I may have lost.
Dirty work shirt? Meh. Who cares about a dirty work shirt? Some journals I been writing in over the years? Why the hell was I even dragging them around? I’ve never filled one all the way through…What was that banjo song I wrote a few weeks back? I’ll never replicate how that thing went. I think I liked it…I really liked that back pack…Did I pass out in the bathroom?
Once downtown, I got off to transfer to another coach that would trudge me up the hill. I lit up a smoke and headed to bus-stop-number-two on the daily journey. Most of the time Downtown treats me all right. Some instances can be a little sketchy but my slight scowl from not wearing my glasses, carefully placed tattoos and my general she-could-have-a-knife appearance allows me just enough breathing room from the common city dweller. If someone speaks to me, I speak back and I always remain skeptical. Out of my peripheral I noticed someone speeding up to my pace and lingering. I looked over.
“How’s it goin’?” They inquire.
“Goin’ good.” I said with tired confidence.
“MAN. You were fuck-ed UP last night!”
”Yeah,” I replied with a nervous smile. “It happens…” I kept aim for the bus stop and took a heavy puff of smoke as the stranger broke away.
Did he see my back pack? He sure as hell saw me…but where?
As soon as I walked into to work, Josh had a big cheesy grin on his face. I smiled weakly back as he let out a loud, jocular laugh.
“Hey, did I leave with my back pack?”
“From the spot? You had a back pack?”
“Yeah. You don’t remember if I had my back pack? How ‘bout my hat? Did I have my hat, you remember?”
Josh’s face took a more contemplative form. “I don’t remember, dude. Honestly. You make it home all right?”
“Yeah…I made it. I just don’t know what the crap happened to my back pack. Eh, can I use your phone?”
“For sure. I left it upstairs. It’s in my pants pocket.” I climbed the steps up to where the bathrooms and coat hangers are located, pulled out the folded bus schedule and grabbed Josh’s cell phone and dial with hope.
Of course, a phone call of importance always takes the scenic route. One operator leads to the next. The reception goes hay wire. I call back and am put on hold. Finally, I end up talking to the first person I talked to, who has had the information the whole time, and hang up feeling like they’re all laughing at their little desks…What they hell did she mean, I have nothing “matching a back pack” – do they have the back pack or not? I don’t get it. This is serious! I’m not trying co-ordinate an outfit, here…
I began my shift just as puzzled as when I woke up.
“Nah. They have nothing “matching a back pack,” I parrot. “Maybe I left it at Kincora’s?”
“Maybe. I really don’t remember, dude…I tried to get you in a cab, but you were like ‘nooooo.” Josh broke out that same shit-eating grin he wore at my first arrival. “You remember what happened before you left?” He asked with an ear-to-ear smile.
“Oh yeaaahhh.” This was the part that I was hoping really didn’t happen.
“Passin’ out in the bathroom! HAH! You were takin’ hella long and Sarah was like, “You should go in there” and I was like, “Fuck. I ain’t going in THERE.” Finally, she went in and, dude, you were passed out! She couldn’t get you to wake up so finally she got the bartender to go in there to getchoo.”
“You don’t remember if I had my hat with me?” I probe, hoping to focus the conversation away from that incident.
“Nah. Don’t remember you havin’ a hat.”
It’s all I could think about for the next eight hours, especially with Josh hanging the whole bathroom ordeal over my head and my boss preaching: Maaaiiiinn-taaaaaiiiin. Just say that to yourself whenever you go out drinking. Maaaiiiinn-taaaaaiiiin. You don’t gotta get wasted every time you go out. You’re not gonna impress anyone; always better to Maaaiiiinn-taaaaaiiiin. C’mon, repeat it along with me – it’s like a mantra. Maaaiiiinn-taaaaaiiiin…
By the end of my shift I just wanted a decent night’s rest and to know where my back pack and hat was. I rushed out at the end of my shift. Just as suspected, Kincora’s wasn’t open. Well, suppose I’ll give ‘em a call later, I thought. I trekked through downtown, giving up all hope. I wondered if there were any other mysterious pedestrians among the crowd of faces that had seen me or my back pack the previous night.
Oh well. Too bad about that back pack, better pick one up next paycheck…how the hell did that banjo song go? I wonder what kind of back pack I should get. I barely even got to wear that hat around town. I could always hassle Metro again tomorrow- and I’ll try that Kincora’s thing again. Maaaiiiinn-taaaaaiiiin.
It had been a long day and I was ready to throw in the towel. There’s always a sense of relief I feel cruising over the West Seattle Bridge, hitting up 35th, just making it back into West Seattle; the knowledge of being able to scour the terrain care-freely. I can get pretty much anywhere in with the confidence that I can make it from Point A to Point B with relative ease. I made my way up the steps from California and now stood looking eastward toward my tiny, comforting home. There stood eight small houses before me, facing each other, four to a side; mine to the furthest right, next to the alley. As I closed in on my dwelling, there seemed to be an object on the front steps. I don’t usually wear my glasses so I allowed myself to get nearer before I confirmed my suspicions.
BANG! BACK PACK.
In what seemed to be delirious dis-belief, I lifted my precious Swiss Army back pack with all of its wondrous pouches and pockets and air-flow back cushion. I set it back down and yanked the zipper to one side. My hat! Check. Why is my hat wet? Dirty work shirt. Check. Journals! Check! My stuff! My sweet, dear, lovelies!
I opened the door with hurried fervor and sat on my couch with my bag at my feet. There was no question that the contents had been rifled through. Everything was disheveled. My hat was wet. I reasoned that in my drunken state I probably got sick of my new hat being dumped on and put in my bag on my way downtown. What happened afterwards could be anyone’s guess. I made it home, which was the most important part. But, how my back pack made it home was the mystery at hand. I placed my hat on the coffee table and pulled out my dirty work shirts. Next came my notebooks. Who woulda thought? I pondered over whether or not the person who found my bag read any of the crap I scribbled down on those pages. I would have. I would have read every word and judged the person that lost track of their back pack.
I remembered the time my friend Emma got smashed and accidently left her bag on the bus. The sorrow she felt over having to let go of her paperback edition of Moonwalker with all her favorite Michael Jackson quotes underlined, I remembered her Smurf lunch pail that Margie had given her that she used to house an array of trinkets. I remembered how pissed she was when the culprit that found her back pack mailed back her ID. “Fuck that ID,” she would say after opening the envelope. “The inconsiderate muther fucker sent me the most useless, replaceable item outta my entire back pack!”
For a moment, I felt an incredible gratitude towards the kind soul that found my bag. I decided that I was going to read every page that I had scrawled on in those notebooks. It felt good. As I thumbed through the pages I considered what the person that returned my bag thought while they read through years of a stranger’s gibberish and hoo-hah. I found things, ideas, fragments that I had all together forgotten. I saw things that I found enjoyable to read. Huh. I wrote that? Not too shabby…I was thankful. I hoped that the person that kindly decided to find out where I lived thought that my chicken-scratch wasn’t too shabby – that maybe I seemed like a pretty decent person that ought to have their writing back. I found that banjo song I was worried about. Why did I think this was so great?
After finishing up my notebooks, I continued into by bag – so far nothing was taken. I opened the front pouch and found a pay stub. My address. That’s how they knew where I lived. This wonderful human being rifled through my bag, foond my pay stub and dropped my bag off at my door step. All the stress and tensions of the day quickly wavered away. I decided I was never going to carry around multiple notebooks like I was going to fill them up in one day – that would only last a couple weeks. I gotta have something to write on. Maybe that’s how I’ve acquired so many journals throughout my life. Maybe if I were to lose one at least it wouldn’t be jam-packed with irreplaceably crafted sentences and doodles. To this day, I always have a notebook on hand. One – at least if I misplace it I won’t be losing too much. Most of the time I toss my pay stubs away prior to exiting the bank but, on occasion, one will find its way into some random spot in my bag. I’ll catch it every now and again. Smile. And shove back to where ever it came from. You never know when you’re gonna need one of those…