Buzzing Along Under the Monorail

buzzing-along-under-the-monorail

There I was on a trip, zipping along under the monorail. It was surreal, almost psychedelic.

Visions of 2001: a Space Odessey.

But I get ahead of myself.

Our world as a married couple expanded a bit when my wife took a new job at Virginia Mason Hospital. So our footprint in Seattle was enlarging. She had a further distance to travel, double what it took me to go to the Fifth Avenue Theater. She easily walked it. Or depending upon schedules I was sometimes able to drop her off at the Spring St entrance.

For the past five years we had been pretty insulated, having met each other in show biz, it seems the only people we knew were family or in show business (and a good percentage of individuals in those two categories overlapped).

At Virginia Mason she worked in the kitchen, cutting raw produce for the hospital cafeteria and for the patients’ meals. Carrots and celery for instance. In fifty pound bags – character and muscle building.

She co-ordinated closely with one of her co-workers, Dan Daniels. His job was to receive the produce, store them, then distribute them where and when needed; i.e., her cutting board. Not too long after she started there, he invited the two of us up to his home to introduce us to his wife, Mary. And for many times after.

Dan and Mary lived in the Queen Anne District, which, as some readers may know, is north of the downtown Seattle area. We were only familiar with a few things up in that neck of the woods. Things like the Pacific Science Center and the Space Needle; and our favorite restaurant at the time, Bloch’s.  (It was great for after a show. We came for the sandwiches. I always had the hot pastrami, and my wife had the prime rib. Yum).

Dan and Mary were fun-loving, festive folks. And holidays for them were always an excuse for a party. They were also artistic souls and everything was always tastefully decorated to the hilt. They introduced us to other things as well.

It must have been a New Year’s Eve celebration. There were noisemakers and party hats. And champagne at midnight. I believe it was the first time I had ever sampled the “bubbly.” I had had beer before, and that always with food, and never to the point of drunkenness. This new concoction was definitely something different.

It’s why I found myself in the passenger seat of the Roadrunner, buzzing along under the monorail at night back to our apartment. The supports to the monorail track flicked by with rythmic regularity. Any lights we passed seemed to bend around and through the windshield and side window and funnel somehow through my wide awake eyes, directly into my brain. It really was the “light show” segment from “2001.” The swift motion of the vehicle that cradled me, instead of comforting, added an element of creepiness, an edge of unease.

That “trip” contributed a great deal to the reasons I have been a teetotaler for the majority of my life.

Apartment on the Monorail

Apartment on the Monorail

Some people can look back with nostalgia about living in New York on the elevated train, or in Chicago on the El. We look back with fondness on our first “home,” the Sheridan Apartments on Fifth Avenue in Seattle on the monorail. It was a tiny studio on the second floor in the back – two rooms, a kitchen and a bath. Green was the theme – green walls – green chair cushions and the shaggiest green shag rug ever that overspread the two rooms: a living/sitting room in front, which opened onto the bedroom complete with murphy bed. If there had been a window in the wall from which the murphy bed dropped, we could have seen my old workplace, the Cinerama Theater. The UA Cinemas 150 and 70, my new workplace was also close by, a short two and a half block walk. Consequently our Roadrunner sat most days down in the parking lot, viewable from our kitchen window.

And talking about the kitchen. A postage stamp would have been bigger. We used to joke that you had to step out of the kitchen to open the fridge. You definitely could not open the doors on the fridge and the oven at the same time. Despite these little drawbacks it was a nice place to entertain friends. We had family over – from both sides – and friends – from our schools, Dave our best man, and co-workers from the UA.

Our space was not limited to the second floor. One could wander down to the basement for the laundry, or up onto the roof where an urban garden offered a place above it all. Karen used to sun herself up there in the summer. The Space Needle peered down on it from the north, with Queen Anne Hill frowning from behind.

Across the parking lot, on the corner of Lenore Street and Fifth Avenue sat the Trojan Horse Restaurant / nightclub. For the years I stood at the door at the Cinerama tearing tickets I saw a parade of famous names from the music world cross its marquee – Glenn Yarbrough, The Modernaires, Frank Sinatra jr., The Shirelles, The Platters, O.C. Smith, the Ramsey Lewis Trio, Della Reese, and the Kingston Trio. The parade continued now that we were “neighbors,” – the Checkmates (in a reunion engagement), Ray Charles, Lloyd Lindroth (the Liberace of the harp), Lou Rawls, Bonnie Guitar, Harry James & Orchestra, and B. B. King. We never caught any of their acts. Number one, we had no money in our entertainment budget, and number two, I was always working during the times of their shows. However, there were some late, late nights, when I caught a few stray notes that escaped via the back door when some employee was out for a smoke.

The memories began early in this studio apartment (the most memorable I will cover in a future post that I’ve entitled “Thunderball, Mr. French”). On our very first morning there, we were awakened – no startled – actually shaken out of our murphy bed by an unholy crash and clatter from the alley just the other side of the bedroom wall. We thought the walls were caving in. It was only the Monday morning garbage truck making its way down the alley, welcoming us with the only concert we could afford – the Urban Gotterdammerung.