Vacation, Day 6

Today is a day for friends. Old and new.

The Knucklehead is headed out to the Seattle Art Museum, which is just his sort of thing. The filmmaker in him loves stories and moments captured visually – a digital camera was his constant companion on every trip we ever took together. The introvert in him loves sitting or standing quietly alone, allowing himself to meet a painting or sculpture half way. He doesn’t know much about art, but he knows what he likes. He’ll be set for the day.

I’m meeting up with Amy in a few hours in Pioneer Square. Amy lives in Vermont, and just happens to be in Seattle at a conference for a few days. We only just realized we’d be in the same city at the same time a few days ago, which was a wonderful surprise, since we haven’t seen each other in years.

Amy is the kid sister of my oldest friend (friend I’ve known the longest that I’m still in touch with, in other words). Amy’s sister (Maggie) and I met when I was eight and she was seven. My father had just taken what was to be his last parish in the coal regions of Pennsylvania, and Maggie and I did the whole Sunday School, VBS, and middle school trip together. I would have met Amy around the same time of course, but at that age, you just know her mostly as your pal’s kid sister, and that’s that.

Years later, I was to meet up with Maggie again, where we worked for a few summers together as camp counselors, and really got to know each other well. Maggie is spectacular. She’s artistic, free-spirited, smart – an activist. Maggie is grounded, but she seems to be grounded on an entirely different plane than you or I. She’s happy to take you along for the ride, but sometimes – and I love you, Maggie – she’s hard to keep up with.

Amy, as long as I’ve known her, has lived in Maggie’s formidable shadow. At least that’s the way I imagine it. But I’ve had opportunity to quietly chat with Amy a few times growing up, and have gotten hints of a fascinating person under there. This is only my surface impression, but I sense that Amy years ago decided that instead of competing with her sister, or becoming subsumed by her, would love and cherish the whirlwind that is her sibling, and establish her own self, whether anyone noticed that or not. That’s my impression, anyway, but we never really had a solid chance to connect. It’ll be fun to take a few hours and reintroduce ourselves to each other.

That’s the thing about being an introvert. It’s not that we mind people, we don’t. We’re often fascinated by them, and we are truly loyal friends. But when you’re at a party, or in a group of people, or in a setting where it’s impossible to have a long conversation, you’re unable to get to the stuff that really interests you. We don’t have the patience for small talk, it’s taxing for us, and it’s designed to divert attention from the things that make people truly unique and interesting. I don’t care what you do for a living, unless you’re working at something that really defines you, in which case I want to hear all about it. I don’t care if you’re a Republican or Democrat, Christian, Muslim, Hindu, or atheist. I want to hear what you think.

Amy and I have decided to meet up at the Seattle Mystery Book Store. I randomly picked it off Google maps because it’s right in the Pioneer Square area and it looks really cool. We’ll look for a place to have lunch from there. What could be better while on vacation than catching up for a few hours with a truly warm and dear person?

* * *

My newer friend is Jeff. Jeff is a local, and we’re having dinner in the University of Washington neighborhood. I’m a little bit in awe of Jeff. Jeff constructs crossword puzzles, and I met him a few years ago at the American Crossword Puzzle Tournament, then in Brooklyn (if you spend any time doing the New York Times crossword puzzles, you’ve seen his work). I’m terrible at socializing at these things, and I saw a quiet guy standing in the corner with his name badge that had his hometown of Seattle on it, and I walked over to tell him how much I liked his city. That’s when I discovered he was a constructor at the Tournament, and later found out actually something of a big deal. But he was friendly, we chatted a bit, and in subsequent years I’d say hi when I ran into him. He’d smile back and say hi, and I had no idea if he remembered me or not, but at least he was warm about it.

I tagged him in a Facebook shout-out asking about stuff to do in the city, and was delighted when he responded with some really interesting suggestions (I owe him one already for steering me toward the Triple Coconut Cream Pie at the Palace Kitchen). He said if our schedules meshed it might be fun to meet up for a drink, so that’s what we’re doing tonight. Actually, he messaged me with a number of suggestions, but I learned long ago that when a native offers a list of local hotspots, always say “yes” to the first one  – it’s usually their first choice in preference as well. So we’re having dumplings at Din Tau Fung. I’ve never had dumplings. Will they be spicy? Greasy? Fishy? Will I even be able to solve the riddle of how to correctly eat them? I don’t know. All I know is I won’t have the opportunity to try them at my local brewpub, or at my hospital’s cafeteria, or at The Olive Garden, so better jump on the opportunity while I’m here.

And most importantly, I have the opportunity to relax with a nice guy and a friendly local. We have some common ground of crossword puzzles and fatherhood, so that’s enough to get the conversation started. And since I finished my writing for the day early, can relax without that hanging over my head.

I like Friend Day. Every vacation should have one.

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