Past lives continue to haunt us. How well I know. Although I have been a City Councilmember for these past 10 years, some Seattleites still remember me from my apprentice years as a daily columnist – eight years writing a column at the Seattle Post-Intelligencer a dozen years at the Seattle Times.
It was a job that I loved. I found great satisfaction in chronicling life in my favorite city. Nothing made me happier than for some newcomer to tell me that they were wondering whether to relocate and my column gave them a feeling for what life would be in Seattle.
As a columnist, I had this secret aspiration: I wanted to hold a mirror up to Seattle and tell readers what it is was like to live in the Emerald City.
When I wrote, I didn’t actively seek out the halls of government – although I often wrote about Seattle process and the people elected to operate the levers of government. Mainly I relayed every day sightings.
I passed along great new restaurant finds – another great Tommy Douglas restaurant. I commented on civic art (Lenin’s grandiose statue re-erected in Fremont) and changing life in the city (buskers green lighted at the Pike Place Market). I loved tidbits about Seattle and asked callers to please tell me a story. I still hear a good story and think, “That would be a great item for the column.”
So that, I guess, is why I was so touched to hear recently from a valued former colleague. Laurel Humphreys, who served the City Council as a clerk , now works for the City of Tukwila. She recently happened into Tukwila’s Goodwill and found – guess what? – a gold-framed column, written by me at the Seattle PI (November 1, 1989). The Goodwill had priced it at $4.95, a rather steep amount for a story best told a couple of decades ago. But Laurel, bless her, bought the column and sent it to me. The item told of two restaurateurs: the late Victor Rosellini and Mick McHugh, a protégé of Rosellini’s who is better known as the proprietor of Pioneer Square’s F. X. McRory’s. The two were planning to open a new Seattle restaurant, later know as Rosellini’s Nine-Ten, an eatery that no longer occupies a suite on Second Avenue.
Where had this gold-framed column been in the years since I had written it? Presumably it was framed so that it could be displayed, maybe next to the men’s room at Victor’s and Mick’s upscale establishment.
If this were the only artifact, I might not have thought much about it. But there’s now another memento from lives past. Last week I received a package from a North End resident, Eric Madis, who was kind enough to share a treasure with me: a license plate. Eric wrote that from 2006 to 2010 he and his son, Alika, were stewards for Victory Creek, part of the Thornton Creek watershed. He writes, “One Sunday when we were working on the wetland, Alika and I found a license plate in the wetland.”
When they returned home, they did a web search to see if they might locate the owner of the plate. The only thing they found, however, was an article, written by me, that mentioned the plate. According to a column that appeared in the Seattle Times in 2002, I had spotted the plate on a Porsche in nearby Maple Leaf.
Madis mentions that the license plate sat on his son’s bookcase for a few years. But, when the son left for his last year of college, they agreed that it was “time to send it to you.” How surprised I was to receive the vanity license plate. It reads (and I’m not sure how to pronounce it): “ODABUCS.” Since it was on a Porsche, it could say, “Oh, da bucks.” Or maybe, “Owe da bucks.”
Like most of the vanity plate sightings that I reported, I never knew for sure. What I do know for sure is that I’m very pleased to have the rescued license plate. It now hangs in my office and I am honored that the creek stewards thought enough to send it my way.
It’s a reminder, as if one were needed, that we never outgrow our past lives. Nor would we want to outlive a time when we labored to hold that reflected mirror up to the city.