A month and a half here, and I still am confounded by my neighborhood. I keep reminding myself that it’s not like I was some uptown superwoman when I lived in Minneapolis, either. I didn’t get lost much after I’d been there for a while, but “a while” was at least a year. I remember (and some of you remember) the raging battles I fought with Hennepin as I learned to cross it, diagonally and all. Lyndale never tripped me up as much, but its super long blocks often made me forget which one I was on. I never encountered bridges on a day to day basis, but I know there were some, somewhere.
I keep reading that Seattle is a really walkable city, which begs the question, walkable for whom? It’s probably really walkable for people who can read street signs or walk in a straight line. (Yes, I know, most of you will tell me you can’t walk in a straight line either, thanks for reminding me. But, most of you you do have your eyes to get you back on track.)
I live close to a bridge, which I must walk under to get pretty much anywhere I want to go. Under the bridge, I must navigate a street which is not straight, various structures I don’t have a name for but which my friend Nina calls pile-ons (thanks, Nina!), and usually about a thousand kids on a class field trip. And-or, a thousand adults with their dogs. Why the kids and dogs? Under this particular bridge there is a troll, which is a big tourist attraction in my neighborhood. I get it, trolls under bridges are pretty awesome. The street which branches off from the bridge is called Troll Avenue, which I also admit has some kitsch value to it. Oh, there is also lots of mud.
Because this can be a confusing bit of space to navigate for me, it is confusing for Kiva as well. It’s hard enough getting us through there without the extra kids and dogs and dogs and kids, but when they’re around, I know I’m screwed. There are many cries of, “Doggie!” There are many sniffy, wet noses (those are dogs, not kids, I hope). There are piles of mud that Kiva thinks really need to be investigated. Damn kids, damn dogs, damn mud.
Then there are the streets. I’m not sure which clever person thought to put Fremont Avenue, Fremont Lane, Fremont Place, and Fremont Way close to one another. But thanks, clever person. There are so many streets that don’t go all the way through, or streets that turn into other streets, that I’ll often look at my GPS to tell me which street I’m on, and all it has to offer is, “near unnamed.” Thank you, also, technology, I’m so glad somebody paid for you. There is a big island in the middle of 35th. There is a bridge at the bottom of 34th; it’s called the Fremont Bridge, who knew?
Some days, I get it right. We go under the bridge, and because I am urging her with food and praise and that Tiffany collar I still haven’t gotten her, Kiva ignores the dogs and kids and kids and dogs. And mud. We cross 35th and manage to do it without wandering into traffic or tripping over the giant island. We avoid the Fremont Bridge. And I feel like I’ve really accomplished something spectacular. I feel like someone cute has just asked me out, or I wrote something I actually stand behind, or I got a job interview. Instead, I just walked a few blocks without totally effing up, something that most people do every day and don’t even think about.
And then there are the days. The days that I do none of it right, and I feel embarrassed because I’ve done this how many times now, and I still can’t get it right? I feel dumb, and even though I know “dumb” doesn’t really exist and even if it does is completely subjective, I still feel it. I always think of something an ex told me once, when I was having a hard time getting Kiva through a parking lot to a spot where she could pee: “You’ve done this how many times and you STILL get lost.” Never mind that there are good reasons for this, that parking lots are open and unpredictable and it’s valid that I might loose my way in them. Bridges and giant islands are the same. I know this and yet I still can’t help that voice in my head that tells me I should know how to do this by now.
It’ll be ok and I’ll figure it out, because I have before and I can. But in the meantime, if someone has an idea of how to keep the kids and dogs and mud at bay, I’m all ears.