Poem: Castaway

Rain clouds over Seattle skyline, photo by Christian Bobailla

 

Castaway

by Shannon Laws

 I am a yolk inside an egg
first light backlit behind mother’s skin
Morning glows gently
through her Texas accent

It’s about to rain in Seattle
Clouds dark-gray-pregnant with drops
hover over Yesler Way

Latin guitars labor heel slaps
against slats laid on the café floor,
serenade woodblock prints
balanced by wires against the red wall

Joker behind me gets up
throws something in the basket
It’s Wednesday afternoon
smashed into a ball
wasted

 


I learned I was born on a Wednesday. Such a quiet day to be abandoned, laid like an egg in a forest-floor nest, placed there for fate to guard but the world to devour.

#

Tuesday Morning

Where were you when—?  I was living in Port Orchard, commuting to Seattle via ferry on September 11, 2001.  Here is my story:

This story was originally written in 2011.  Please see my author notes at the end of the article.

Tuesday morning arrived like any other September morning in my little, sleepy town of Port Orchard, Washington.  Located on the Sinclair Inlet, the town is known for a rich fishing history and its role in the famous Mosquito Fleet of Puget Sound.  From 1851 to the 1950’s, smaller passenger and freight boats connected business and people via the waterways of Puget Sound, before the conception of a state-run ferry system.  The old vessel the “Carlisle II” is one of the survivors.  Built in 1917, she proudly takes walking travelers from the dock at Port Orchard across to the Washington State ferry dock in Bremerton, about a 12 minute crossing.

Port Orchard, WA credit: marinas.com
Port Orchard, WA
credit: marinas.com

The “Carlisle II” was my floating connection to a good paying job in Seattle.  From 2000-2002, I commuted from Port Orchard to my office on Mercer Street with a cable advertising company.  It was a great location to work at; close to the main production houses, just a short walk to the Space Needle, good restaurants and the best foamy latte you could find.  Two boats and a bus, talking 45 minutes to cross on the passenger only ferry, or 60 minutes if I was on the auto ferry.  The passenger ferry is faster and holds about 150 people.  Once docked on the Seattle side, just a quick walk two blocks east was needed to reach a bus stop on 1 st Avenue that carried me the rest of way, in the perfect time for a 9 a.m. start.  I became a pro at working the three modes of transportation to fit any fluctuation in my schedule, i.e. running late, a half day, leaving early for a doctor’s appointment, etc.  However, on that particular Tuesday, September 11, 2001, the boats seemed to move agonizingly slow as if sailing through mud.  It was a voyage into the mind and spirit.  The return journey, back to Bremerton, would take home the same bodies as before but the landscape of our minds, that which we identify as being American would be all-together different.

Being the first one up in a family of four comes with responsibilities.   My morning duty was to get dressed and head downstairs to start the coffee and breakfast.  Often I would turn on the early morning news to catch the weather and headlines.  When my husband came down for his cup that is where he found me, sitting in front of the television watching CNN.  Right around 5:45 our time, a plane had crashed into the World Trade Center in New York City.  The event was being broadcast on every major channel.  He grabbed a cup and sat next to me.

plane-hits-on-cnn
CNN’s first plane crash coverage showing the second plane on it’s way

At the time it seemed that it was simply a horrific accident.  We talked about it back and forth, “Wow, look at all that smoke.”  “All those people…”  “Could you imagine being in the OTHER tower looking at all that?”   We were dumbfounded.  It put a lump in your throat, but still it was “over-there” in New York.  Just a plane crash.  It’s amazing how things can change in 20 minutes.

The second plane
The second plane

We talked over the commentators who were interviewing experts asking the big questions, “How could a plane just accidentally crash into a building like this?”  One expert mentioned it could have been a mechanical error or perhaps the sun was in the pilot’s eyes.  At 6:03 a.m. the second plane hit.  We saw it LIVE.  My husband stood up and shouted, “A second plane just hit!”

“No it’s just a replay of the first plane hitting.” I replied.

“No I’m telling you, a second plane just hit the other building—LOOK!”

New flames were emanating out from the south tower.  We looked and waited for the person speaking to confirm it, but the newscaster did not yet recognize what we had witnessed!  The wings and landing gear on the news helicopters and airplanes were in the way, preventing a clear view of both towers, causing me to subconsciously toss my arms to the left, “Get out of the way!  Turn your plane around to get a better shot!”   Frustrated, I changed the channel to get some answers elsewhere.

explosipon
The second plane hits

Within five minutes of the second plane hitting, Fox News called it a “suicide terrorist attack”, and NBC, “something deliberate.”  TWO planes HAD hit the towers!  A cold silence fell over our living room.  What the hell was going on?  The kids were just waking up and heading downstairs for breakfast.  My son asked, “What happened?”  For a brief moment the four of us just stared at each other.  As parents, we were speechless, but knew we had to tell our 3rd and 5th grader the truth: terrorist have just attacked America!

AutoMode
Carlisle ferry a "Floating Museum"
Carlisle II ferry a
“Floating Museum”

Then something strange happened to me, which to this day I cannot explain; I just fell into the motions of Tuesday.  It was 6:20 and I had to catch my foot ferry to Bremerton.  I did what the clock told me to do.  Trusting my husband to comfort the kids, I put on my commuting socks and tennis shoes then drove a mile down the curvy unlit road to the waterfront.

The old Carlisle so lovingly restored sitting at the end of the dock talked to me; “I’ve made it through two World Wars and I’m still floating.  Everything will be OK”, but I did not listen.  Hopping onto the boat, I headed right for the cabin to find a seat, instead of the stern, viewing Port Orchard’s hill of classic homes and evergreen filled ravines as the sunrise slowly lit it up, as I normally would.  I sat in silence, along with four other passengers, our ears filled with the sound of the boat’s engine as it navigated across the inlet.  My eyes fixed on a vacant part of the wooden bench in front of me.  It was hard to tell by their quiet demeanor if they were in shock by the events that just unfolded or if they had not yet been made aware.  Judging by the sleepy atmosphere that normally enveloped the boat, I believed the latter.  I didn’t want to say anything, perhaps I didn’t know what to say.  I couldn’t tell them what had happen.  It was nice just for a moment to believe, that it was Monday morning and everything was normal again.

ferry in the fog
Morning fog

As we approached the Bremerton dock I stepped outside for some air.  Our little boat passed by the mouth of the 450 foot long, jumbo class, triple deck auto ferry.  This early in the morning the groaning sounds of cars loading onto her made it easy to imagine the ship as a basking shark ready to suck us in like plankton.  Feeling myself being drawn into the gaping mouth, I sat up and fixed my coat so as to collect myself.

Once in line for the passenger ferry to Seattle, I could hear conversations about the event all around.  Meeting up with two ferry friends, we started to collect stories from each other.  Susan, a regular passenger ferry commuter who worked in the I.T. Department at a hospital downtown, had a cell phone with a news headlines service; it was a newer service at the time and not many people had it.  When she shouted out an update, those immediately around us would hush to listen.  While we waited on that cold dock for the boat to load she shouted out,

“All domestic flights in the continental United states have been grounded!”

9111_mini
Revisiting the Location

As we loaded onto the ferry, I noticed it was about half full.  “Perhaps some are home watching the news,” I thought, not wondering why I was going to work.  Those on the boat sat a little closer to each other than normal.  Susan and two other gentlemen with different news services talked and compared notes, trying to put together a time-line.  The rest of us at the table just sat in silence, absorbing every bit of details communicated, just trying to make sense of it all.

“The first tower was hit by a 747.”

“No, I don’t think so, I heard 767.”

“Oh my God, the South Tower has collapsed!”, one of the men said reading it off his phone.

100210_9_11_lg7
Both towers DOWN

With a quick look around the large cabin, I saw many of those faces I commuted with five days a week, for over 18 months.   Anger, fear and confusion seemed to be the main emotions.  We were all different people who worked at different places: retail stores, hospitals, high-rise, Safeco Field.  People in suits, dresses, jeans, overalls and workout clothes huddled together in groups collecting data and adding commentary.  The group on the ferry, that morning, that Tuesday morning, was a slice of Americana, traveling towards a common destination.  It seemed we were searching for courage to get through the next half hour.  When the boat docked, more disturbing news traveled throughout the cabin.

“A plane has crashed into the Pentagon!”

“The North Tower has collapsed!”

Docked
columbia building
The view of the Columbia Center, Seattle, WA, from the waterfront

I wanted so desperately to get off the boat and to my office.  Working at a cable advertising company almost every office has a television in it.  I wanted to see everything, collect information and try to figure out what was happening.  Would Seattle’s tallest building, the Columbia tower, be a target?  It was over 900 feet high, the tallest building west of the Mississippi River when it was built in 1985.  As we walked off onto the dock into the heart of Pioneer Square, that black tower dominated my sight and thoughts.  I tried to visualize a plane hitting it, wondering what the people on the streets of New York were going through.  It was painful to imagine.

Continuing to the bus stop, the ferry commuters spreading out into all directions, Susan and I stayed together catching the 1st Avenue bus.  On the bus she read the headline, “A plane has crashed in a field in Pennsylvania; possibly connected to the others.”

About ten minutes later, exiting at Mercer, I raced into the office to get more updates.  It would only take me seven minutes to get from the bus to my floor.  “Would there be another place crash by the time I get to my desk?”  I wondered.

Being on a ferry the day of 9/11 was a unique situation, a permanent mark in my memory following the old adage, “where were you when…?”  Where was I?  I was with my ferry friends sailing through dark, unfamiliar waters wondering like the rest of America, what was around the foggy bend.

grey people
The ash covered people of 9/11, walking in a haze

*Author’s note: this blog was originally written in 2011.  Months after the planes hit, new information started to come out, and continues to come out, about that day; information that makes me question everything.  However, this is not a political blog.  I do not know the truth, nor will I profess to know it.  Writing about that day helps me to process.  I was a zombie that whole week; completely numb.  This is my story about 9/11, and that’s all it is. Tuesday September 11th 2001 is a day that opened minds and stabbed many hearts.  -S.P. Laws

Philomena / What Are You?

Just last week I went to see the movie “Philomena” at the Pickford Film Center. Here is what the Internet Movie Data Base writes for the movie’s summary:

“When former journalist Martin Sixsmith is dismissed from the Labour Party in disgrace, he is at a loss as to what do. That changes when a young Irish woman approaches him about a story of her mother, Philomena, who had her son taken away when she was a teenage inmate of a Catholic convent. Martin arranges a magazine assignment about her search for him that eventually leads to America. Along the way, Martin and Philomena discover as much about each other as about her son’s fate. Furthermore, both find their basic beliefs challenged.”

As an adopted child, this was an especially interesting movie to view.  It seemed at times Philomena, played beautifully by Judi Dench, bled out a mothers heart, washing the audience with the experience of a mother being separated from her child.

I cried through most of the movie, and as a poet and an author, I feel forced to categorize my emotions on paper.  Not even sure that’s possible.  In the meantime, below is a re-posting of “What Are You?”.  A post I wrote in 2012 on adoption and family trees.

A psychologist friend of mine shared once, the earlier in a person’s life that a tragic  event occurs, the more of an impact it has on the foundation points of the person’s character.  An adopted child is, sometimes, unwanted at conception.  It’s forming ears hear it’s mother struggle: loving the child, hating the child, doesn’t want the child, wants to keep the child, the guilt and anger.  Some adopted children end up as “transplanted fruit” attached to a new family tree, loved, cared for and happy, others may bounce around in foster homes.  I would guess that most of us have a puzzle that we carry with us, a puzzle that needs to be solved: who are my people? The family blood connection, especially mother/child, is undeniably strong.

The main point, I am glad they highlighted in the movie, is forgiveness.  It is a blessing to me to forgive. To allow myself to forgive.  You can forgive people you never met, even people who birthed you, then walked away.

My mother was 32 when she had me, information on my father is unknown.  If they are still alive, I wish them well.  Too much energy in this world is wasted on hate.  God bless you both, whoever, wherever you are today.

-Shannon P Laws

***

WHAT ARE YOU

Harborview Hospital, Seattle WA
photo taken in the same decade I was born,
from the western slope of First Hill
and part of Yesler Terrace
For the first two weeks of my life I was an orphan.  My birth mother left me at the Seattle hospital I was born in.  She walked in to the emergency room in labor, gave birth and left the next day.  Gone.  Nothing but a one page form filled out.  It’s doubtful that the information she gave was truthful, I never found out.  Fortunately, when I was just two weeks old, my future parents took me in as a foster child.  They adopted me a year later.  I grew up in a happy home.  I was lucky.

Throughout my life there were little moments when not having birth family health history was an issue, usually with trips to the doctor.  Most forms ask for family history.  For example when I was pregnant, the form asked if miscarriages, natural or multiple births ran in the family.  Always I entered “adopted” on the blank line.

My brother and I at the beach
My Aunt called us “Irish Twins”

In my younger years, growing up in an area with a low minority population, people, sometimes strangers, would ask me awkward questions.  Some people are not graceful when they ask about your adoption or race.  In America , there is still a sense of taboo about being adopted, especially by the folks from my grandparents generation.  However, the question of WHO gave me up and WHY, is shadowed by another.  The most asked question from others is “What are you?”   …’scuse me? Yes, it’s true.  Sometimes I’ll respond, “I’m human.  What are you?”  However, when I’m in a cheeky mood, I answer with the only one I have:  “Me? Oh I’m Irish and German.”, then watch them try to figure out how my features fit into those categories.  “You mean Black Irish?”

What are you?

Painted faces from the World Cup 2012

Folks are often confused by my features and can’t figure it out, and sometimes really need to figure it out.  Of all the little issues with being adopted this one is the most confusing for me.  People have guessed that I could be Mexican, Spanish, Italian, Jewish, Slavic, Black Irish, even Gypsy.  No one guesses German or Irish.  I do wonder about my blood line, but WHY is it so important to other people, especially to people that I just met, what my race, nationality or ethnicity is?  Is there a box in their head they are trying to put me in?

Over time, my position regarding what I am changed slightly.  Since I don’t know what race I am, I decided to be ALL races.  This attitude comes in handy and lightens the conversation at times.  Once I offered a friend some hummus.  They went on a rant how they do not like “foreign” food.  I informed him that he was insulting my people.  This friend knew I was adopted and joked back, “You don’t know who your people are.”  I responded proudly, “Then I am ALL people.”  We were joking around, but honestly aren’t we all a little bit of EVERYBODY?

Pedigree Collapse
The truth is that we are everybody… or I mean everyone.  Genealogy is a fickle beast.  Did you hear about the guy who discovered he was a direct relative to King Charlemagne?  NPR ran a great article about the issue of Pedigree Collapse.  It goes something like this:  if you count your direct ancestors backward through time, the further back you go, obviously, the more ancestors you have. But when you do the numbers, something strange happens.

King Charlemagne 742-814,
The “Father of Europe”

Go back to A.D. 800 and the number of direct ancestors is, well, puzzling. You start with two grandparents, then four great-grandparents, then on to eight, 16, etc., and by the time you get to A.D. 800, the number averages to about 562,949,953,421,321. That’s a lot of people. In fact, that’s more people than have ever lived.

So somethings wrong.
What’s wrong is at some point up the line, people get counted twice, or three times. Your great-great-great-great-grandma on one line turns out to also be a great-great-great-great-grandma on another line. The same person can show up multiple times. You get duplicates. And way back, when the population of humans was much smaller, pretty much every line is duplicating heavily till at some point, everybody is your direct ancestor.
So see I wasn’t too far off.  I am related to all and all is everybody.
(…oh and don’t insult my people!)
*blah*
***

References:

http://www.npr.org/blogs/krulwich/2012/02/16/146981369/the-charlemagne-riddle
Philomena Official Movie Site- © 2013 THE WEINSTEIN COMPANY
“Philomena” IMDb Movie Page

Chemical Warfare

Last Saturday, September 21st, was the International Day of Peace.  With that said, today’s blog is about two women who hate each other so much, they pass gas whenever they are near each other.  Yes, this story is about farts.  Not just any kind of farts, but farts in the workplace.

This is a real story.  It really happened.  If you stay with it to the end, I promise there is a point, a good point, the kind of point we should all ponder.

***
A Washington State Ferry docked in Seattle

Seattle, Spring 2001

Walking off the ferry I started to chat with another commuter who walked the same route I did to the bus stop.  I learned that she worked downtown, was new to the country, working on a visa, and that she enjoyed Seattle and riding the ferry to work.  I will call her Jan.

On another day, one sleepy morning, while staring out the ferry window, a nice conversation was started between myself and a gentle-looking-soul of a woman.  We enjoyed each others company enough to continue the conversation while walking off the ferry, up the three blocks to Pioneer Square where we split off, each to our own workplace.  I will call her Mary.

One day while walking with Jan, I noticed Mary walking with others on the opposite side of the street.
“Jan, do you know Mary?”
silence…
“Do you know her?  I think she lives in Silverdale.”
“Yes, I know Mary.  We work in the same office.  I hate her.  You should stay away from her.”
“Wha… why?  Really?  She seems nice to me.”
“That is because you do not have to work with her five days a week like I do.  I hate her so much, I fart whenever she comes by desk, so that she’ll leave quickly.”

A week later, Mary and I were walking to the bus.  Mary interrupted me to point at Jan, who was walking by herself into town.
“Shannon, see that lady there, in the light blue coat?  Stay away from that bitch.  Whatever you do, do not talk to her.  She’s poison.  AND she stinks like shit.  Like she never showers!”
“Well, maybe she has a condition or…”
“NO.  I’m telling you she always stinks, and it’s on purpose.  She is so nasty, I’ve decided to fart at her whenever she’s near.”
“WHY?”
“Because she needs to know how stinky she is. How dare she come to work like that, stinking the place up!”

Pioneer Square, Seattle Washington
1st Ave and Yesler Way

Wow.  Somehow I had become Ferry Friends with two ladies who were at war with each other.  Neither of them knew that I liked the other, and so for a good month I listened to each of them tell me their side of an argument.  An argument started for an unknown reason, and the purpose of the gas attacks unclear.  Why leave a good paying job because of it’s methane levels?  The only thing I knew for sure was that these two ladies hated each other SO bad, they were willing to go to disgusting lengths to insult each other!

I stopped riding the ferry in 2002.  As far as I know the ladies are still gassing it up.

…oh, and I lied.  This story has no point.  That’s the point.

PEACE
***

Good Egg

Seattle, 1987 an old stone church somewhere around Capitol Hill: I woke up. 
My first job out of high school I worked as a freelance television production field assistant for David, a producer who had, what was called, “an account” with CNN.  David had a working relationship with the network to provide feature stories from the Northwest corridor that included Northwest Oregon, Washington and Alaska.  It was one of the most life changing jobs I ever held.  One experience I had in the field has recently resurfaced in my thoughts.  It has made me consider the heavy responsibility writers, communicators, reporters and producers have to the public.
Me and the Bates Quad Tape Machines,
possibly cueing up some Paul Anka
KBTC TV, Tacoma
I first met David in the hallway at my school, L.H. Bates Technical located in downtown Tacoma on Yakima Street.    David was looking for an assistant, gave me his card, I took the job.  It was brilliant on-the-job training while I finished up my degree.
David had a small upstairs office off Broadway, above a restaurant called “The Good Egg”, just a block or so down from the QFC Grocery.  Nothing glamorous, as you may think.  It was a lonely gray room, bare walls and the only office furniture was shelves that held the tape library, two desks and two chairs.  One desk had a ¾ inch tape editing system on it, the other had stacks of papers and the only good chair. When I was called in for a shoot, THIS was headquarters.  Running downtown 20 minutes from my home in south Seattle, I never had a place to sit.  That was fine because I never was there for more than a half hour at a time.  Headquarters to me was the place to load up the car for a shoot with boxes of tapes, batteries, the lighting kit and mics, nothing more.
One half of a Sony 3/4 inch editor
One day I was called in to do errands.  When I arrived David was reading a newspaper, from a stack at least a foot thick.  He gave me a list of places to purchase new tape stock, ship some things out, and an order for lunch and mochas.  When I returned, he was more than half way through the pile, as he gleamed each page for future features he wanted to cover. 
“This is how it starts,” he told me, “research.”  His job seemed boring and tedious.
Many of the stories we covered were moving,  but none more than the musician   It was one of my first assignments.  A standard shoot: interview and B-roll.  Usually, I did not know what we were shooting until the drive over.  This evening David was covering a local musician who was performing at an old church.  
The musician was a singer, songwriter, guitarist, who, I was shocked to discover, also in a wheelchair!   He was a little person with a malformed spine that kept him from walking.  Despite his height and limited mobility, his arms and shoulders allowed him to play a guitar with ease.  (I have tried unsuccessfully to find him online, so my apologies that I cannot credit his name for this article.)  His message was an inspiring one.  The doctors told his parents he wouldn’t live more than ten years, yet here he was in his mid-thirties.  His band traveled around sharing original music with hopes to encourage, enlighten, and increase social awareness about the handicap.      
Host/Producer Denny, me (grip/assistant)
and a new cameraman
Ketchikan, Alaska
My main job during an interview was to monitor the audio. Once everything was set up, David sat down with the guest and the two started to talk.  I sat there, in the shadows as it were, large headphones over my ears, listening to the audio, adjusting it as needed.  Then I started to not just listen, but to HEAR and understand.  The musician’s voice, with its rich warm tones, flowed directly into my ears, brain and heart.  With eyes closed I could not hear his disability, only his spirit!  Memory, however, is a strange beast.  I cannot remember one word he said!  I DO remember feeling moved to tears by his story.  Those words, not words spoken, but the spirit in which they were expressed, moved me.  It seemed like for the first time in my life I was standing before a true warrior; a man who fought real battles every day.  Yet instead of being bitter and angry about his handicap he simply celebrated life, seemed thankful for every breath. Thankful for his family, his music, his life!  My impression of the physically handicapped changed from fear and uncertainty, to the realization that a full spirit lives inside the shell we call “Body”, a full complete person, despite any disfigurements, limps, or mutations of the flesh. 
I understood why David found his job so exciting.  Why he searched the newspapers for remarkable stories.  These were voices that needed to be shared with everyone.  He was a good egg.  
~   ~   ~
I love those who can smile in trouble, who can gather strength from distress, and grow brave by reflection. ‘Tis the business of little minds to shrink, but they whose heart is firm, and whose conscience approves their conduct, will pursue their principles unto death. 
~Leonardo da Vinci

What Are You?

For the first two weeks of my life I was an orphan.  My birth mother left me at the Seattle hospital I was born in.  She walked in to the emergency room in labor, gave birth and left the next day.  Gone.  Nothing but a one page form filled out.  It’s doubtful that the information she gave was truthful, I never found out.  Fortunately, when I was just two weeks old, my future parents took me in as a foster child.  They adopted me a year later.  I grew up in a happy home.  I was lucky.

Throughout my life there were little moments when not having birth family health history was an issue, usually with trips to the doctor.  Most forms ask for family history.  For example when I was pregnant, the form asked if miscarriages, natural or multiple births ran in the family.  Always I entered “adopted” on the blank line.

Painted faces from the World Cup 2012

In my younger years, growing up in an area with a low minority population, people, sometimes strangers, would ask me awkward questions.  Some people are not graceful when they ask about your adoption or race.  In America , there is still a sense of taboo about being adopted, especially by the folks from my grandparents generation.  However, the question of WHO gave me up and WHY, is shadowed by another.  The most asked question from others is “What are you?”   …’scuse me? Yes, it’s true.  Sometimes I’ll respond, “I’m human.  What are you?”  However, when I’m in a good mood, I answer with the only one I have:  “Me? Oh I’m Irish and German.”, then watch them try to figure out how my features fit into those categories.  “You mean Black Irish?”

Honestly, I love my family and adopted the heritage of my parents.  My mother’s parents both are of German decent, from the Northern Rhine region, came over before WWI.  Mom was born and raised on a mid-west farm.  My father is Irish-Canadian, his Grandfather moved down to Minnesota a hundred years ago to farm.  My dad’s mother was a Dunbar.  Dad was raised in St. Louis, Missouri. Perhaps you associate blond hair, blue eyes with someone with a Northern European genealogy.  In fact I have black hair and brown eyes, and tend to stick out like a sore thumb in family photos.  No big whoop.  Inside I felt, talked, played and thought like the family I was raised in.  My attitude has always been, if someone has a problem with you, it is their problem not yours.

What are you?  Folks are often confused by my features and can’t figure it out, and sometimes really need to figure it out.  Of all the little issues with being adopted this one is the most confusing for me.  People have guessed that I could be Mexican, Spanish, Italian, Jewish, Slavic, Black Irish, even Gypsy.  No one guesses German or Irish.  I do wonder about my blood line, but WHY is it so important to other people, especially to people that I just met, what my race, nationality or ethnicity is?  Is there a box in their head they are trying to put me in?

Over time, my position regarding what I am changed slightly.  Since I don’t know what race I am, I decided to be ALL races.  This attitude comes in handy and lightens the conversation at times.  Joking around aside, honestly aren’t we all a little bit of EVERYBODY?

Pedigree Collapse
The truth is that we are everybody… or I mean everyone.  Genealogy is a fickle beast.  Did you hear about the guy who discovered he was a direct relative to King Charlemagne?  NPR ran a great article about the issue of Pedigree Collapse.  It goes something like this:  if you count your direct ancestors backward through time, the further back you go, obviously, the more ancestors you have. But when you do the numbers, something queer happens.

King Charlemagne 742-814,
The “Father of Europe”

Go back to A.D. 800 and the number of direct ancestors is, well, puzzling. You start with two grandparents, then four great-grandparents, then on to eight, 16, etc., and by the time you get to A.D. 800, the number averages to about 562,949,953,421,321. That’s a lot of people. In fact, that’s more people than have ever lived.

So somethings wrong.
What’s wrong is at some point up the line, people get counted twice, or three times. Your great-great-great-great-grandma on one line turns out to also be a great-great-great-great-grandma on another line. The same person can show up multiple times. You get duplicates. And way back, when the population of humans was much smaller, pretty much every line is duplicating heavily till at some point, everybody is your direct ancestor.

So see I wasn’t too far off.  I am related to all and all is everybody.

(…oh and don’t insult my people!)
*blah*

http://www.npr.org/blogs/krulwich/2012/02/16/146981369/the-charlemagne-riddle

NEIGHBORS

Written: December 2009

This short story is based on a dream I had.

Seattle, Washington

It was mid afternoon and Heather should have been at work. Getting a mid day list of items to finish for her boss to be ready for tomorrow was the most she accomplished. She worked at an archives agency and spent most the day filing, organizing and sitting at a computer. Three times a week she went to the gym during her lunch break. Once in a while she would go for a jog after work around her Seattle neighborhood. Dogs would bark, crows would crow and the seagulls would squawk. It was very relaxing a beautiful. She loved to jog until she came around and saw her home. Her home was recently famous. A picture of her house had been taken from that very street corner by a reporter nine months ago, and plastered all over the papers. Her husband had lived here. And the arrest took place just on the sidewalk in front of the home. “How could he of done that?” she thought. She discovered after moving here with him that she was his 8th wife. That he wasn’t who he said he was. He was a liar. She didn’t know him after two years of marriage- she didn’t know him at all. She was living a lie, a player in play, and he was the director. Her identity was kept secrete but most people recognized her name. “Hey are you that lady…?” NO! I mean, not me. Just a strange coincidence. But that poor woman right?” “Oh ya – If that was me I would of beat the man to death I’m telling you! Eight wives!? I mean what the hell right?” *sigh*
And so it was. His identify was false, and now she told everyone that she was not the person whom she really was. Everything was upside down and backwards. But at least she got to keep the house. It was a fun little house nestled amongst the trees with a short little path to the front door. It used to make her feel happy to pull up in front of it. But lately it was just this strange BLANK. No feelings. No emotion. She stopped going to the bars with friends from work. Sometimes she wouldn’t go to the gym at all. The run was the best thing, and attending the local theater.
At least you know when you go to a play that you are entering a reality that is based on people pretending to be other people. It says so right on the ticket: “These people will be pretending to be these people tonight. Pretend costumes by this person and the pretend world was created by those people. Hope you enjoy it! Best play of the year!” So with eyes wide open she would enter the small theater and hope that the broken down walls and ceiling would somehow keep her in check. That the acting no matter how well it was that night would not transport her completely into another reality, but with a simple glance up at the water stained tile, she could be brought back to reality and breath a sigh of relief. Ahhh this is just a show and I’m really not in Kansas.
This is the condition that we find our Heather. Staying close to the ground, trying to find her feet again. Appreciating the support of friends and the city provided therapist, but somehow knowing that Heather will have to fix Heather. …Am I really broken? Did he break me? Perhaps I’m just in shock and all these feelings will go away soon. Melting like a lemon drop in your mouth. “It’s important to know that he was wrong. That it wasn’t my fault.” She would think to herself. And then just keep on jogging.

Jogging around the corner, and this time instead of looking at her home like a newspaper photographer, her eye was drawn to the street corner. She noticed a man on the corner… starring at her. He had that look like he wanted to ask her something. “Just keep jogging Heather. He’s not there”
“Excuse me…’”
Jogging in place “Yes?” She looked at him and it was as if for a brief moment he was lighting up the whole block. Shake it off girl. He just wants to ask directions.
“Yes what?”
“Hi. I’m new here and got lost. How do I get back to Magnolia?”
“Magnolia?! Magnolia. Well just turn left at any of these streets.”
“Any Street?”
“Yes. It’s the main street that runs parallel with the water. You know THAT water. (Using her head in a jerk to point to Puget Sound) Magnolia is the main drive on the water.”
“Oh yes. I was just a bit direction turned. So I could turn left here…”
“Yep- on Dravus.”
“Dravus. Ok. Thanks.”

“So this was the first time you met him?”
Her therapists sat there trying to show no emotion, but Heather could tell she was concerned.
“Yes, it was fall; lots of leaves on the ground. So perhaps October?”
“What was your first impression?”
She thought about that moment. How his faced shined in the light. How alive and happy he looked. How incredibly inviting of a man he was. Dressed nicely, clean, friendly; and just for a second her heart jumped.
“Well he was like just a guy on the street. Perhaps a guest staying with a neighbor somewhere… that got lost. or something.”
“Tell me about the second time you met.”
“I was downtown at the public library getting some micro files for a client. And I noticed him. Then I was at the market and we met at the same booth. Then I saw him next at a fund raiser for the theater.”
“Had you seen him before?”
“No. It was like he had just moved to the neighborhood. We talked that night. And he told me, “I’ve just moved here and can’t help how I keep bumping into you. What’s your name?”
“Was that the night you first started to have an affair with him?”
“An affair? I’m not…really married remember.”
“Oh I’m sorry Heather, I mean did your physical relationship start that evening? I’m just trying to establish a time line.”
Time line? Are you working with the police? Because I thought we had a confidentiality agreement. What are you trying to pull?
She looked to the ceiling to take her out of this horrible play.
“No worries Heather. I’m just trying to figure out what happened. I’m a little confused. We’ve been working for months to help you establish safe boundaries with others, and yet this man who you’ve only met twice…”
“Four times…”
“Ok, Four times just seems to walk into your life and completely seduce you. Much like you husband.”
“He was never my husband.”
“Right. Yes. I’m sorry. It’s just I thought we were making progress here. This stranger could have hurt you. And honestly I’m not sure WHAT he did to you. As soon as he’s found, perhaps we’ll get more information from him.”
“You’ll never find him.”

The therapists looked at Heather, over her glasses. Wondering how such a gullible little girl of a woman has ever made it this far. Again hiding her true feelings, the therapist’s started to concentrate… Heather is a very pretty woman- with or without make-up. She’s a trophy wife, no brains, just a body to hang on someone’s elbow. And yet a bit of a square. How can I help someone who isn’t even a real person? Someone who is this shallow?
“Why won’t the police find him Heather?”
“Because he’s gone home.”
“You said he lived in your neighborhood.”
“Well… I really don’t know where he’s from. Mt Olympus maybe?”
“Mt Olympus? You mean like the Olympic Mountains? Like in Port Angeles? Or are you talking Greece?”

Heather looked out the office window, and saw the Olympic mountain range in all its glory. Snow covered and the sun shinning on it. She was done. This woman would never understand what she went through; this was a waste of time. Somehow she knew she didn’t need her anymore. That Dravus cured her of her broken heart and healed her mind of anxiety over meeting new people. He helped her. But what did she do for him? …A smile crawled up her face and her feet twitched a bit.
“Thank you very much for your time. I’ve been very grateful for your help. But I think we’re done here.”
“Wha..? Heather wait we’ve just scratched the surface. You still need much more therapy.”
“Sorry, I don’t think so. I’m done with the pills, sleepless nights. You did help me to figure things out. And I’m ok now. Really.”
“Well the mandatory visits by the state ended 2 months ago. Of course you can leave at any time. I can’t force you to come here. But Heather, you need to look out for yourself and protect your inner space. Remember not just anyone can come in there, right. Call me anytime if you need to talk alright.”
“Ok”
“Protect yourself”
“Alright”
“Please- oh the police are meeting with you on Thursday. Would you like for me to come with you?”
“Ummm… sure. That would be fine. Perhaps we could have lunch afterwards? Don’t worry, I wont let you into my space.” –she laughs. “I’ll see you Thursday then.
Yes Thursday.”
Heather leaves. The therapist walks over to her desk and pushes a button.
“Stacey?”
“Yes?”
“Please open my schedule for Thursday morning. And get Josh from channel 5 on the phone please.”
“Yes.”
She sits down in her chair, swings around to her view of the mountains and scratches her head.
…How could one man, change a woman THAT much?

***