Tag Archives: Romie

Homage to a brilliant bus nerd

I recently passed this Jacob Lawrence tribute shelter on Jefferson, somewhere between 18th and 21st.

Jacob Lawrence bus stop

I can’t believe I never noticed it before!

Thanks to my dad, I’ve known and appreciated Lawrence’s work since childhood. (Pops was both an admirer of Mr. Lawrence’s paintings and an acquaintance of the artist.) What I didn’t know until I read this HistoryLink essay is that both Lawrence and his wife, Gwendolyn Knight, were bus people.

In 1971, Jacob Lawrence accepted a teaching position at the University of Washington’s School of Art. … As part of the move and their effort to become part of the community, they bought a house that was near both the University and a bus stop.

For apartment dwellers who had never owned a car or a freestanding home, all of this was an adventure. They walked or took the bus nearly everywhere they went.

The evidence is mounting, folks. There’s definitely a connection between transportation and inspiration.

Bus Dad: Portland lover, “transportation expert”

My dad‘s family has been in Seattle since the early 30’s. My grandparents originally settled in a home mere blocks from where I live now. Dad was born at Harborview, grew up in Seattle and its environs, and raised his family here. And yet, I get most of my (considerable) Seattle love from my mother, a Northwesterner by marriage.

Truth be told, my dad is a bit of a Seattle hater.

To be fair, his hateration is less about the place, which he reveres, and more about the culture. Let him tell it, it’s lack of leadership and foresight that has led us to the current sprawling, transit-deprived, farmland-encroaching, treeless mess we’re in. There is also some complaining about the lack of a “scene.”* Tough words, coming from a guy over 70. I digress.

Every time my dad visits Portland (which is a lot, since one of his closest friends lives there), I have to hear about what a great time he had, and which jazz clubs he visited, and how much better Portland is than Seattle and blah, blah, blah. (In case you missed it, I’m a bit sensitive about such comparisons.) He called me last week, after his most recent visit, to rave about the street fair his friend took him to.

“Do you know they have a street fair once a month down there?”

“But Dad, we have those, too. Remember? Seattle Summer Streets?”

“Yeah, but all they do at those is…ride bikes and stuff.”**

It’s usually a good idea to attend an event before making those kinds of judgments, but hey. Who am I to disrespect an elder? He continued.

“And you want to talk about public transit…”

I braced myself for the long list of Pdx’s PT virtues, but was instead treated to the tale of how he’d made it all the way from his front door to Portland without setting foot in a car: Short walk to Seacrest Water Taxi dock>Water Taxi to Pier 50>Longer walk to King Street Station>Amtrak to Portland’s Union Station.

The car-free adventure ended there. Dad opted to have his friend, who lives right in the city, pick him up. The streetcar apparently doesn’t run close enough to his friend’s house, and he wasn’t up for dealing with the less discoverable and predictable bus. Go figure.

I was impressed with my dad’s adventure*** despite its anticlimactic ending, and I told him as much. I even offered to come up with a catchy nickname for him, like “Train Dad” or “PT Traveler,” but he’s not so into nicknames.”Just call me the transportation expert,'” he said. And so I will.

*Oh, and he does tend to hate on Seattle sports teams, which used to make me mad, back before Clay Bennet and David Stern stole my Sonics. These days, I’m numb. But that’s a discussion for another venue.
**I think he appreciated the commerce at the Pdx version. He got very exicted about the booth that sold old records for $1.
***I should note that my dad has had many more officially adventurous adventures (hoo boy–has he ever!) than taking the train to Portland, but hey. He could have just hopped in his car and headed down I-5. I think it’s cool that he didn’t.

A nice ride if you can get it

This evening, we Saulter siblings (well, three of us, anyway)–along with our respective SOs and Chicklet–convened in our original neighborhood of West Seattle to celebrate our father‘s 70th birthday. The plan was to meet at a restaurant on Alki–as good an excuse as any for Bus Nerd and I to try the Water Taxi shuttle for the first time. (Yes, I’ve been riding the Water Taxi for years, but since my dad lives across the street from the Seacrest dock, and I only ride my favorite floating bus to visit him*, I’ve never had occasion to use the shuttle. I digress.)

Some advice to Water Taxi riders who have to get somewhere (for example, a restaurant that doesn’t hold reservations and won’t seat a party until everyone has arrived) by a specific time: Get your tails off the boat and to the shuttle stop ASAP, or have a backup plan.

We were somewhere in the middle of the pack of passengers disembarking, and by the time we made it to the shuttle, it was full. The driver told us she only had room for one more person, and–oh yeah–hers was the last shuttle run that evening. Have I mentioned that bus service from Seacrest to the beach is all but nonexistent? Back in the old days, Nerd and I would have probably just taken a cab, since we didn’t have time for a long walk, but, of course, we had Chicklet in tow and no car seat.

Fortunately, we had a rarely available option: nearby family. I rode the shuttle with Chicklet while Nerd hightailed it to my dad’s place to hitch a ride with him. The reservation was preserved, and a good time was had by all, including–and especially–the guest of honor.

P.S. – For those who are wondering: We took the 56 home.

*I usually ride the bus to other destinations in West Seattle, since riding the Water Taxi tends to take longer. Pier 55 is a decent walk from 3rd Avenue, and the WT schedule rarely lines up well with the schedules of the buses I ride downtown.

The making of a bus chick

For Jerome–born May 15, 1939

I was just one of your children. I wasn’t the oldest and I wasn’t a son. Wasn’t good at sports or confident enough to impress you. I was just one of your children, but you were my hero. The man to whom all others have been compared–none ever as brave, as smart, as strong.

How many days did I watch you bolt your soggy cereal and grab your briefcase, sprinting up the alley to a world I wished I knew? That world symbolized courage and independence, and everything I wanted to be. To be included in it was an honor beyond measure.

On the days we rode together–you carrying my heavy backpack along with your briefcase as we hurried to make up for your lateness–I had you all to myself. We discussed the stories you read in the newspaper, what I was learning in school. When I talked, you would cock your head to one side and look right at me, nodding seriously as if my opinions mattered, as if you had never before heard such profound ideas.

On the days I rode alone, I did my best to show I was worthy of the honor. Bus tickets in the pocket of my red cardigan sweater, I watched carefully out the window for my stop, remembering to ring the bell to let the driver know I wanted off. Two blocks to 3rd and Pine, to the number 2. Hold on to the transfer–pay as you leave. Then off at the school, hoping the other children would see me–infinitely more worldly and sophisticated, able to get where I was going without the assistance of an adult.

Twenty-seven years later, I still feel worldly and sophisticated when I climb the steps of a city bus. Twenty-seven years later, I still think of you every time I do.

Baby Bus Chick and Daddy Bus ChickBus Chick and Daddy Bus Chick