How I spent my summer vacation

Part 3 — Friends, old and new 

So I flew to Seattle, city where I was born and spent most of my childhood...

Part 1Part 2Part 3Part 4

It's hard making friends in a new city. I've been living in San Francisco for several years, so for me it's not really a new city any more, but still there aren't many people there I'd call a friend. Probably fewer who'd call me a friend. My friends are still in Seattle, and it was good to see them, and sad not to see the ones I couldn't.


Bruno has been my best friend since we were little kids, almost as long as I can remember. For a lot of that time, he was my only friend. 

As an adult, he's maladjusted to life on planet Earth, much like me, but unlike me he hasn't given up. He hasn't been on a date with a woman, I suspected and he said, for at least fifteen years, but he still hopes to meet the right lady and settle down, get married, maybe raise some kids.

If that's what he wants I'm all for it. I'd like it too, except for the 'raise some kids' part, but reality stares me down, and I doubt happily-ever-after is going to happen for either of us.

I love the man, and it worried me when he said he's susceptible to bouts of depression. Then again, every time I level with anyone about some sliver of my perpetual pessimism, they tend to translate it as suicidal, so I know it ain't that. I gave him a hug and we changed the subject, like men do.

As always, we picked up pretty much where we'd left off years ago, eating fish'n'chips and disagreeing amicably about politics — gay rights, women's rights, abortion, Dr Jack Kervorkian, and whatever else — and religion — he's a Christian, and even teaches a Sunday School class.

We disagree about everything, but we're two fat loners who'll be friends forever.

Addendum, 2022: And that's the last time I ever saw Bruno.

Leon and Stu

Leon and Stu are two old friends, basically a matched set, and for years we were a pack of three. We were 'guy friends' like you'd see in a Budweiser commercial, except we met going to the same church, where booze is a sin don't ya know, so there's never been any Bud Lite with these buddies. 

They're good guys, but I gotta admit, they're 'partial friends'. We joke around, slap on the back, used to go bowling, or to ball games or maybe an action movie, but we've never, ever talked about what we believe, what we care about. Just guy stuff — baseball, women, camping, porn, and so on.

During my visit, I went to a softball game with Leon, but he was playing left field and coaching at first base, so we didn't get to talk much. 

Stu came to the big Holland family barbecue, because we've been buddies for so long he's basically family. He brought his new wife and little urchin, and I offered my condolences. 

Addendum, 2022: And that's the last time I ever saw Stu.


Had lunch with Corby, one of this zine's regular readers. He's nuts, but most of my favorite people are nuts, so that's not an insult. He has a gun fetish ("to compensate for my small penis," he said) so we went to a shooting range in Mountlake Terrace and fired a few hundred rounds out of two .22s and two .45s.

Look at me, typing .22s and .45s like I know the difference. I don't, but it was enjoyable, and loud, and my upper arms were sore for days after, from holding heavy pistols with both hands, tight against the recoil. They never mentioned that on Gunsmoke

I know more about cars than guns, and I don't know jack diddlysquat about cars, but Corby's gunning enthusiasm is infectious. Best of all, his pistol play was accompanied by impassioned complaints about the government. I rarely say but do believe, anyone who doesn't fear the American government doesn't understand the American government, so me and Corby were generally agreed, except for a few nitpicky particulars. 

Curiously, he works for the federal government, but he has more fervor for the rights of the people than some anarchists I've known. One fine day, if Corby loses his temper and becomes a headline in The Chronicle, I'll be proud to say I once went shooting with the guy.

Karl Myers, Maria Tomchick, and Bill

On Thursday, I had lunch and laughs with Karl Myers, the zinester behind Permafrost, Maria Tomchick, who publishes Enclosed, and Maria's housemate Bill, who's one of those weirdos who doesn't publish a zine at all. Get with the program, dude.

Had a fine time, which surprised me because I know me. Usually I'm barely able to endure a quick one-on-one conversation with a stranger, so being with three strangers who already knew each other should've squelched the minimal personality I possess.

I was pretty much at ease, though, and the four of us traded funny and almost-funny stories for longer than I'd intended. We were an easy-going bunch of oddballs and it was nice, and probably I'll never see them again.


Big sigh. Saving the best for last, Sarah-Katherine is the woman behind the zine Pasty, a zine I particularly like, and she's a person I particularly like. We've been exchanging letters for months, with the running gag that she's my stalker. I wasn't sure what to expect as we finally met in the flesh.

We're arranged to find each other at Beth's Café, and as always when I'm antsy about something, I wanted to be an hour early so I wouldn't be a minute late, and also for pacing and fretting. The bus routes have changed a little since I lived in Seattle, though, so I got misplaced and arrived at the restaurant only twenty minutes before we were supposed to meet, leaving me barely enough time to worry myself into a frenzy.

Dunno why I should be so nervous. From our zines and letters, we knew each other already, but it's easy to ad lib a wise crack to a typewriter. It's more difficult to be clever face-to-face.

And it had been so long since I'd been on anything resembling a first date, I'd forgotten how crazy all those emotions can be. How's my hair? Is my fly zipped up? Breath mint.

I had a semi-clever line rehearsed for a great first impression, but instead I simply screamed in terror when I recognized her face from the photo she'd sent. She did not run and hide, but instead calmed my jitters with a quick kiss before we stepped into the diner for dinner.

What we talked about while our omelets were frying, I have no idea, but we both laughed now and then, so maybe someone said something witty. Wouldn't know. I was barely there.

She isn't what I'd expected, to be honest — a bright, funny, perhaps ever-so-plump woman in her late 30s. Instead she's a bright, funny, lovely woman in her mid 20s, and really only plump by society's insane standards. Certainly she's not fat like me.

And I'm not sure how she lost ten years. Maybe I mis-read her zine, but I thought she'd be older, and she'd sorta promised me she'd be less attractive. Instead she's a major babe, to use the loutish male terminology. 

She's talkative enough to be interesting, but not so talky it ever felt like she was doing most of the talking. She's not afraid of occasional moments of silence, which are inevitable when talking with me. She's witty without trying to be witty, and unlike some jokesters she's also capable of serious conversation. She's clearly twice as bright as me, but never once made me feel only half as smart. There might have been something we disagreed about, but it didn't seem disagreeable, and now I can't remember what it was.

Also worth noting, she ate all of her omelet, hash browns, and toast — she's not one of those dames who eats like a bird and worries about her figure. Her figure worried me, but only in a good way.

We had a nice evening — at least I thought so, and she didn't yawn even once. It lasted late enough that she invited me to sleep over, something I certainly hadn't anticipated. We'd agreed by mail that sex was not happening, so we simply slept together, snuggling and kissing between the snores. It was a fabulous finish to the evening.

Seeing her once during my week in Seattle was all we'd arranged, all I'd hoped for and better than I'd expected, but during dinner she invited me to the following night's midnight movie at the Seattle International Film Festival. Not sure if she noticed, but a piece of hash browns flew from my mouth as I stuttered, "Sh-sure."

The next night, she was deep in the ticket-buyers' line when I got to the theater, but the ticket-holders' line snaked halfway around the block. Admission looked unlikely, and we decided the movie wouldn't be worth the crowd anyway.

Instead we strolled down Pike Street under the midnight stars and streetlights, holding hands. In San Francisco, a late night walk downtown would be frightening, but Seattle is a more civilized place, and anyway, I think Sarah-Katherine might be a black belt. She's certainly tough enough to keep us safe from muggers and miscreants.

Then we bused to the University District for a beer at the Blue Moon, a combination tavern and library where I occasionally drank and read years ago. It was nice seeing the place again, and the place had never seen me with anyone but myself. We shared an oversized booth and two beers, as a drunkard performed a medley of Beatles songs for everyone's amusement.

In a quiet moment, Sarah-Katherine recited some poetry just for me, something I'd ordinarily have little patience for, generally abhorring poetry. Hearing it from her, though, gave the words a power I'd never have noticed if I was merely reading the poem myself. And what was the poem? Damn, I wish I'd written a name, an author.

It was then, as she spoke a song, that the room began spinning, and there wasn't enough alcohol in either of us to account for that. Swear to golly, it's a good thing we were sitting down, because the poetry hit me harder than the beer. My eyes watered. Didn't want to be corny then, don't want to now, either, but as I watched and listened Sarah-Katherine became maybe the prettiest woman I'd ever had a beer with. A deal is a deal so we'd stick to it, but our "no sex" agreement seemed suddenly stupid. 

After the beers and poems she kissed me again, and we bused toward her house. Then we kissed one last time, said good night, and she got off the bus, while I rolled on toward whoever's house I was staying at that night, a detail no longer remembered.

To my happy surprise, though, Sarah-Katherine called and left a message for me at Clay's house, the number I'd given her. She asked me out again, a third time, and you bet your ass I said yes, cleared an evening for her, but it went sorta wrong.

I don't know why, but that night I couldn't find my sense of humor or anything much to say, and I was doubtless glum company. Hope she enjoyed her date with the world's fattest mime.

It's frustrating to be with someone you like but have simply nothing much to say. That was the 'me' I usually bring on a first date, so what Big Quiet Doug was doing there on our third night out, I have no idea, but it felt like I'd completely belly-flopped the evening. 

Sarah-Katherine, though, seemed to sense my muteness wasn't going to melt, so we walked to a video store, rented a Hitchcock movie, and went to her place. For an hour and a half, we had a good excuse to be as speechless as I'd already been, and by the time the movie was over, whatever had muted me was letting me say a few words now and again.

Despite my blankness during most of the evening, Sarah-Katherine was charming, cheerful, enjoyable to be with. She saw me at nearly my worst, yet somehow made me feel it wasn't really that bad. It was, though. I'm hoping there'll be a next time, but lots of miles are between us and nothing's promised except no sex.

Probably it sounds like I'm totally enamored, but my head's still attached, honest. I'm 75% enamored, maybe. She's swell is all, and it's nice to have feelings again.

And honestly, who wouldn't be infatuated? I spent three evenings with a brilliant, beautiful woman who made me laugh and feel something. If I was a man who could fall in love, I could easily fall for her. Not planning to. Not likely to. Not sure I have any love in me anyway. As daydreams go, though, she's a sweet one.

That last morning, when we kissed goodbye and I walked to the bus stop alone, I didn't feel quite so alone. For that and for everything else, and for things unmentioned here, thank you, Sarah-Katherine. You can stalk me any time.

Next: Part 4 — It never rains in Seattle

From Pathetic Life #12
Tuesday, May 16 - Tuesday, May 23, 1995

This is an entry retyped from an on-paper zine I wrote many years ago, called Pathetic Life. The opinions stated were my opinions then, but might not be my opinions now. Also, I said and did some disgusting things, so parental guidance is advised.


  1. >As always, we picked up pretty much where we'd left off years ago, eating fish'n'chips and disagreeing amicably about politics — gay rights, women's rights, abortion, Dr Jack Kervorkian, and whatever else — and religion — he's a Christian, and even teaches a Sunday School class.

    You're a stronger man than I. Other than my parents, I have excised these people from my life. I get so FUCKING ANGRY listening to their shit. It's bad for me.

    1. Agreed, really. The times have changed, and the tenor of the idiocy has changed. I don't think I'm giving him too much credit when I say Bruno wouldn't put up with the QAnon crap. He was wrong but not stupid.

  2. You 75% enamored of SarahKatherine? I am in love with her. Tell me you didn't let her get away!

    1. It's complicated, and I never had a chance anyway, but just addressing your question — yeah, I let Sarah-Katherine get away.

    2. That sounds like a heartache, nothing but a heartache. Will you be telling that story?

      (It feels strange asking, like prying, none of my business except that you write about it and I read it and care so I hope asking is OK.)

    3. Nah, it's reassuring when someone gives a damn enough to wonder about something in one of my rambling remembrances.

      I'm not sure whether I ever told the story in the zine, so I'll tell a quick version of it now. This is of course my version; Sarah-Katherine's is undoubtedly different, but what I remember is...

      She was (and I hope still is) a brilliant and marvelous lady, and she had an itch to move to New York. She asked me to move there with her, but she wanted me as a flatmate and fuck-buddy, in an open relationship. I fancy myself kinda counterculture and open, but I'm not open enough for that, so I said sorry, and SK moved to NYC without me.

      We're out of touch now, and I wonder sometimes how her story turned out. My own story, as fond as I was of Sarah-Katherine, turned out better by saying 'no'. I met my wife in San Francisco just a few years later, and we lived pretty damned close to happily ever after.

  3. Yeah, actual thinking people would reflect on something in Faulkner or Joyce Carol Oates. Not me of course.

    She lit a burner on the stove and offered me a pipe
    "I thought you'd never say hello, " she said
    "You look like the silent type"
    Then she opened up a book of poems
    And handed it to me
    Written by an Italian poet
    From the thirteenth century
    And every one of them words rang true
    And glowed like burning coal
    Pouring off of every page
    Like it was written in my soul from me to you
    Tangled up in blue


    1. It's surprising how *completely* right this song is for that memory. Belongs on the soundtrack for this scene.


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