Out & Proud in Seattle: Or how I let go of the Plan and went on Faith

I labor Saturday evening over the King County metro schedule making notes in my phone to get from Ballard to downtown Seattle on Sunday morning for the Pride parade; and back. I do it again Sunday morning, just in case I missed something. Obsessive.

I make the 4 minute walk to the stop on Market and 8th for the #28 and arrive 20 minutes early. Paranoid.

When the second #44 goes by and no 28, now 3 minutes past due, I ask the driver of the 44 if it is coming. Though he seems puzzled when I say his is the second 44, he says it should be there soon. He drives off, then stops up the street. When I notice him jogging down the sidewalk toward me, I go to meet him. “You know what?” he says, “This is the stop for the weekday downtown express.” Gesturing toward the next block indicating the cross street, he continues, “For the weekend bus you need to cross the street and it will go down that way.” Amazed.

I wait then with no idea, despite all my planning, when the bus will come or how long it will take me to get downtown to meet my party to walk in the parade. I had allowed plenty of time, now I fear I will miss them. I don’t know why the date specific search of the metro website didn’t mention this little detail, but it doesn’t really matter. I have my first Pride story about a friendly bus driver in a big city. I let go of the plan. Pleased.

I’m still waiting for the 28, 15 minutes before Open Door Ministries expects to start moving from the staging area. I think I will give it up. Just then I see a bus coming my way. If it’s the 28 I tell myself, I will get on and see what happens; if it’s not I will go back to the apartment where I am staying for the weekend. It is the 28, and I board without thinking about it. No backing out. Adventurous.

We get into the city quickly; then we run into the parade. A police officer tells the driver it will be a 15 minute wait until they break the marchers to let traffic through. I get off. Flexible.

Walking upstream through the crowds, ducking down wide alleys when I can, I figure I will meet the group eventually. Then, a deafening explosion ahead and smoke fills the air. Dozens of people on the sidewalk around me freeze, the cheering gives way to eerie silence, the festive faces turn stunned. It seems like no one is breathing. How could I have forgotten to be fearful at a large gathering of people reviled by many, even here? Remembering.

For just a single moment time stands still, and then it is like it never happened. I keep walking, aware of each step in front of the other like I am slogging through mud, feeling anxious and cautious. Did I imagine that? No, I still see the smoke. A police officer seems unfazed. Just some parade entry’s idea of a fun stunt, to make big noise? Not funny. Angry.

I see a parade entry number finally, C28 (interestingly the same number as the once missing bus). We are C44. The number of the wrong bus! Plenty of time. I stop at a Honey Pot. Coming out moments later, I spot my group walking by. A few more seconds in the Pot and I would have missed them and not known it. There might be something to this faith thing. Grateful.

The Dahlia Lounge—a Seattle restaurant—float in front of us is decorated with styrofoam fondant in various uses. A young woman has pasted them on her otherwise, but for flesh-tone pasties, naked breasts. The left one has let loose of its moorings and is not planning to re-anchor. She slaps it back again and again. Amused.

I walk several blocks—back to where I got off the bus—taking photos for Open Door’s Facebook page, website, newsletter perhaps. I am working here, but I don’t want to lose connection with the bus route; I know where it leaves 3rd Street, but I don’t know where it goes after that. I bid farewell and head down Bell from 4th to 3rd. According to the Plan, there should be a bus back to Ballard or Phinney Ridge somewhere around there. I will get on the #28 or the #5, whichever comes first. I wait five minutes and the 5 arrives. Relieved.

Granted, I didn’t see much of the parade, since I was in it, and I know there are plenty of outrageous entries and people. But the oddest thing I see all day is the slight young man in front of me in the back of the bus. He has a neatly executed tattoo marching across the back of his left shoulder. It’s all words. In French. I estimate 60 based on what I can see before the ends of each of the eight lines disappear under his muscle shirt. (He has none, by the way. Muscles, that is.) When he gets up to leave, I see there is another block racing from his armpit down his right side. I wish I knew French. What would possess someone to get a tattoo he can’t see and most of those who can see it don’t know what it says? (I hear him speak, he’s not French.) Mystified.

I think it says, “Let go of your obsessive compulsive planning and live into the adventure of faith, with gratitude and relief that you don’t always have to be in charge. Take pride in your community, try not to be angry, be amazed, and laugh as often as possible. And when you get home safe and sound, say ‘thank you for the memorable mysteries of this life.’”

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