SEATTLE Dawn's fingers are grubby and grey on my 33rd birthday. No matter. The calla lilies are bright; the cornbread warm; the champagne flowing. I loiter over brunch and miss the Fremont Solstice Parade entirely.
Which turns out to be the best first-day-of-summer tactic to date.
Candace and I push through the crowds to the terminus, Gas Works Park. Everyone's here: the Vikings, bellydancers, wood nymphs, Rain Barrel Robots and the emo boy with a tutu headdress that resembles a sulky daisy.
And, of course, the nekkid cyclists, who kick off the non-motorized granola-fest each year in a bodypainted blur. Except they've dismounted and are standing around, shooting the shit over free beers and grub. That's one of the things I love most about Seattle: its citizens will celebrate even the most spavined coder, if he or she is willing to blaze "free choice" or zebra stripes on their bare hides.
At the taqueria, I gen up a toilet-flushing workaround, which delights the long queue. Two painted ladies clap me on the back. I try not to count their nether piercings, which would be fascinating so many! but rude.
Or is it rude not to admire something so joyfully on display?
Fremont's atmosphere shifts towards surly around 5pm, as the intoxicants reach critical mass. On a blister-band-aid supply run, I glimpse my cellphone: its murky screen clogged with multiple text and voice messages ... the family broadcasting on all channels.
My grandmother Emma O'Brien Baptist weighed just 60 pounds when a stroke froze her ability to chew or swallow. She refused an IV: she was done with medical intervention. Yet still it took six days for her to die. The average healthy adult lasts three in those conditions.
I crouch on the sidewalk, weeping, fighting to hear over the crowd's hum. Strangers reach down, touch my shoulder, urgent: are you OK? Candace runs to enfold me in a hug, her blisters forgotten.
After months of illness and the last weeks of deathwatch I should be fortified, prepped, ready.
But hurt doesn't fix like a toilet tank's broken chain.
And life has no replacement part for Emma.