Dick's under the lights

Since moving back to Seattle earlier this year, I've enjoyed a dozen meals at Dick's, always the same meal — two Deluxe and two fries. Always it's been fine, and always it's been lunch.

On Saturday the hankering hit me again, but I wanted to order off the dinner menu. It's the same menu, day or night, but what I wanted was Dick's under the lights on Broadway.

When I was young, Broadway was a kind of magical neighborhood in Seattle, especially after dark, and I wondered if it still is.

For a few years, I lived in a slummy apartment near Broadway, and got to know the area. I dated a woman who lived just off Broadway, and a few years later another who attended the college there.

Always there were fun but affordable things to do, after dark on Broadway. Walk the reservoir. Watch a tavern-league softball game at the red-dusted park. Cool movie theaters at the north and south ends of Broadway, and more theaters in the middle. And Dick's.

Every woman I ever dated in Seattle, we went to Dick's eventually, and often. The worst date of my life was at a party on the north end of Broadway, after dinner at Dick's. Second worst date was a movie at the Egyptian, at the south end of Broadway, after dinner at Dick's.

And it wasn't only dates. Me and my buddies Leon and Stu sometimes cruised Broadway when we didn't have dates, which felt like always, and always we ended up at Dick's. Sometimes, on the many nights when I didn't have dates, I walked Broadway alone. Usually, those walks began or ended with two Deluxe and two fries at Dick's.

♦ ♦ ♦

Dick's is in my blood, and I wanted Dick's after dark, so at around twilight I took the #99 from my house for a short ride to the #60 stop. It was only a few blocks and I could've walked, but avoiding unnecessary walks protects my spherical shape.

After ten minutes standing at the bus stop, I remembered that I'm stupid. It was Saturday, dummy. During the week the #60 runs so often you don't have to think about the schedule, but on the weekends? Just one bus every half hour.

Purgatory at a bus shelter. I stood and watched traffic, counted cars for 40 long minutes, because the next bus was late. My belly wanted the burgers already. A bus always comes if you wait long enough, and after I'd waited long enough my journey to Dick's was underway.

♦ ♦ ♦ 

The bus driver was an old white man with a fluffy white beard, and for a moment I thought he was Anti-Santa. But he said, "Good evening, sir," as I stepped aboard, so clearly he wasn't that bastard.

This old driver was almost too nice, braking gently and greeting every customer, and shouting thank yous to the back door when people stepped off.

♦ ♦ ♦ 

After the driver, what I noticed next was a black woman on the bus, 30 or so, who had more clothes with her than I own. Several pair of pants were neatly folded on the seat beside her, more pants were on hangers hung from the horizontal hold-on bars, blouses were hanging from a different horizontal bar, and also several jackets.

She was riffling through all these clothes like they were new to her, and they were. Everything still had price tags still attached. The price tags said Michaels in big lettering, and it made me wonder, where were the bags? 

Lots of new clothes, but no bags? They're stolen clothes, of course. It would not be possible, though, for that petite woman to have shoplifted so much merchandise in one visit to one store. She must be part of a team, I decided. 

Also, in a store, customers try the clothes on before purchasing. This woman was trying the clothes on, on the bus. She never nudified herself, but she removed her pants and slid different pairs over her shorts, and tried on blouses over her t-shirt.

The driver, Nice Santa, was watching in his mirror. I was watching, too, because all this changing of clothes happened directly in front of my seat.

"That one looks nice on you," I said when she modeled a yellow striped shirt. She didn't reply.

♦ ♦ ♦

In South Park, a young woman got on the bus. She was very attractive, 25 or so, and wearing an evening dress — cleavage, straps, bare midriff but classy, legs, high heels. The dress was red and black, her hair blonde and up, and "Damn," I said, quietly, I hoped.

"Double damn," said a man in the seat across the aisle.

The decked-out woman sat a few rows in front of me, so I couldn't ogle, but other men did, discretely.

You don't often see people riding the bus dressed fancy for a party or a night club, but why not? Gotta get to the party somehow, and this was the bus to Broadway. 

♦ ♦ ♦

After a few blocks, the lady who'd shoplifted from Michaels reached over and tapped the low-cut lady's shoulder. "Hey, I have jackets for sale," she said.

It's evening, it's autumn, and the low-cut lady didn't have anything to cover up with, if the city got cold or wet. She said, "No thanks," though.

♦ ♦ ♦ 

In Georgetown, another woman in eye-catching clothes go onto the bus, but she was older, not as pretty, her hemline was higher, and her cleavage dangled lower. She was a prostitute, commuting to her evenings and weekends job, is my guess.

And again, why not? The bus is for everyone.

♦ ♦ ♦ 

The next stop was at a park where lots of otherwise homeless people live in RVs that don't run, or in their cars. That's where a badly-facebruised old man got on, carrying a skateboard. With only a few seats remaining on the bus, he stood in the aisle beside me.

He was maybe in his 60s, maybe older, certainly older than most skateboarders. His face had met a fist or a curb, recently. Had he taken a tumble on the board? Was he a senior citizen skater-boy who'd been in a fight?

That's the thing about riding the bus, or one of many things — there are eight million stories on public transit, but if you keep quiet and don't say anything, nobody will bore you with their stories, usually. Well, except me, a few days later.

After a few stops a seat opened up, and the battered old man with a skateboard sat next to a teenager with a skateboard. They bumped fists but said nothing.

♦ ♦ ♦ 

After we'd crossed the freeway, the construction worker from the Village People got onto the bus. His outfit was no coincidence, perfectly assembled. He was as decked out and dressed up as the low-cut lady, and he sat near her. They said a few sentences complimenting each other's looks, and by 15th Avenue they were chattering like old friends.

♦ ♦ ♦ 

I hadn't noticed it when it happened, but we must've switched drivers on Beacon Hill. Nice Santa was gone, and all the "good evenings" and "Thank yous" were gone with him.

Our new driver was younger, meaner. Someone got on and asked if this bus went to Virginia Mason Hospital, and of course it does and the driver probably knew it, but he said, "I don't know."

"Yes," I shouted from five rows back, and the new grumpy driver glared at me in the rear-view.

♦ ♦ ♦ 

As we approached the most notorious stop on the route, a little before Chinatown, the driver stopped and let people off the bus half a block before the bus stop.

That's a courtesy. The shelter at that stop is always crowded with people who aren't taking the bus — crackheads, junkies, and double-troublemakers — so stopping early, letting people off where they wouldn't be stepping directly into that crowd, was saintly.

At the stop, though, an Asian man and Mrs and their two kids were waiting, and risking their lives to do so. Surrounded by drunks and derelicts, they were standing where they're supposed to stand to catch a bus, but the driver didn't pull over. He inched the bus slowly onward in traffic. The Asian man waved at the driver. The driver kept driving.

"Hey, let those people on," someone shouted, and I wish it had been me, but it wasn't.

"Yeah, let 'em on!" I added, late.

The driver didn't pull out of traffic, but he did stop the bus, open the door, and let the Asian family on.

Ignoring them was no oversight, though. It was deep into twilight, but the street was lit, and a bus driver always notices when people are waiting at a stop. He ignored those people either because they're Asians or because he hates stopping at that horrible bus stop, but either way, he's getting a complaint from this Karen.

♦ ♦ ♦ 

After she'd sorted through her freshly-stolen wardrobe, the try-on lady left the clothes hanging from the stanchions or stacked on the seat beside her, as she dozed off.

I counted: Eleven pair of pants, six shirts or blouses, and four jackets.

She woke up and got off at 12th and Weller, a very bleak neighborhood, and it took two minutes for her to gather all the clothes together, balanced between her arms and over her shoulders. Somehow she got everything off the bus without a bag, without dropping any of it.

Well, without dropping anything she was carrying. She'd left all the price tags behind, though, in a clutter under her seat. Michaels, they all said, which sorta confuses me. I thought Michaels was an art and crafts store, not a clothing store.

♦ ♦ ♦ 

"Virginia Mason Hospital," I announced as we approached it, because the driver had turned off the automated stop announcements. What a prick.

♦ ♦ ♦ 

With a lurching left turn, we were finally on Broadway on a Saturday night. It isn't as cool as I remember it from thirty years ago, but the neighborhood is still reasonably cool. Way cooler than where I live.

The low-cut lady got off at Pine Street, and the construction worker got off with her. I think they were headed for the same party.

The hooker got off a few blocks later, with me, at Olive Street. Someone approached her while we were waiting for the walk sign to cross Broadway, and away she went. Gotta make a living.

Across the street, across another street, and half a block further on, I was at Dick's. "Two Deluxe and two fries, please."

There are no seats, so you eat your burgers standing up in the parking lot, soaking up the neighborhood. And I'm pleased to report that the neighborhood is still there.

The movie theater has been hollowed out and turned into a frickin' Rite-Aid, and the only night club I ever went to is now a fitness center. Some of the cool old buildings have been torn down and replaced by ugly modern bland things, and many of the storefronts are still boarded up from COVID or the riots of 2020. 

After my fine dining at Dick's, I loitered on Broadway illegally. At least, that's what several signs told me: "No loitering." Bite me. 

Under the neon and streetlights, crowds of mostly well-dressed people walked by, same as when I was young. More of them were pierced and purple or pink, but still they walked in pairs holding hands, boy-girl, boy-boy, or girl-girl.

So young, they all are. Cripes, all these people out for a fun Saturday night, and none of them would've even been alive the last time I was at Dick's on Broadway with a date.

With April, with Cathy, with a few others whose names I've forgotten, I'd steal a kiss between burger bites, tasting onions instead of tongues. A couple of studly young men were leaning on the side of the Dick's building, not kissing, but they were holding hands. Next best thing.

A billion years ago, I might've had a pretty lady beside me and a reasonable hope of boinking her later on. These days, with luck it'll be a handjob, but it's always my own hand, and some nights I don't have the energy.

There are certainly more bums and panhandlers on Broadway now than there were back then, but there were fewer in the evening than I've seen when I'm at Dick's during the day. I wonder where the bums go at sunset?

And something else that's changed — my hamburgers were wrapped in baby blue foil, instead of the ordinary orange. When did that happen? They've been wrapped in orange foil for fifty years, and as recently as last week. Maybe they go blue in the evening. Maybe it was a trick of the neon and streetlights.

What hasn't changed, what'll never change, even a hundred years after I'm gone: the burgers were yummy, and the fries were greasy. We'll always have Dick's. And Seattle's Broadway is still a place where young people go to be young. 

Next: My ride home from Dick's.


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  1. >Me and my buddies Leon and Stu sometimes cruised Broadway when we didn't have dates, which felt like always, and always we ended up at Dick's.

    I bet.

  2. >Dick's is in my blood, and I wanted Dick's after dark,

    I'm gonna stop here, but my inner 12-year old just busted out and laughed out loud.

    1. Don't knock Dick's until you've tried Dick's. It's delicious.

  3. Doug, this is a beautiful mood piece/action piece about one of the only neighborhoods around Seattle that bears some resemblance to its antecedents of 40 and 60 years ago. A very nice piece of writing, well crafted and well edited. Thanks.


    1. Thanks, my man! On a short piece I can tell whether it's good or bad, but on a long piece like this, after giving it too much time and too many rewrites I seriously have no idea, so a simple "It's not shit" is appreciated. :)

  4. One of your best! Now I want Dicks! 😉

  5. I remember eating Dick's on a school field trip when I was about seven. Eating Dick's after church on Sunday morning. A few times skipping church to eat Dick's. Really, you can't go wrong eating Dick's.

  6. You write about it like its charming, but that tryon lady is part of what's wrong in the world.

    1. Shoplifting from a giant corporation with hundreds of stores is not in my top hundred-thousand concerns.


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