In Seattle, the very mention of Pioneer Square (“P2”) for some people conjures up images of needle exchanges and homeless men lined up outside the many missions that call the neighborhood home. For hipsters and art appreciators, the numerous galleries and antique shops in this area of town comprises an artistic hamlet-within-a-city, with one of the most vibrant art districts in the country. History buffs like the area for the not-so-distant past role it played in the Alaska Gold Rush. For sports fans, P2 is a gateway to our city’s three major sports teams, with the Clink and Safeco Field mere steps away; it also serves as an after-party venue for those wishing to celebrate or, more often than not in Seattle, drown their sorrows after a game.
In any event, I have come to regard P2 as a colorful and quirky, culturally significant place I call home. I’m comfortable here. Even with all the homeless and the tweekers, I have rarely felt my safety to be compromised and feel absolutely fine walking around after dark with my dog. But I’m also constantly on my guard when walking after daylight hours as there is still that seedy element that populates any urban area. And lest I forget and let my guard down, I am continuously reminded of the existence of the dark side that will occasionally rear its ugly head and demand attention.
The most recent reminder happened on Friday night: Seahawks Pre-Season Game Night. Because of the neighborhood’s proximity to the Stadiums, I’ve learned to tolerate the presence of the Sports Fans. Seahawks fans though, are particularly challenging. They do dumb stuff – like have tailgate parties at 7AM, and then leave their trash for the seagulls to pick through. They dump there extinguished charcoal briskets in the weeds where the neighborhood dogs go to take care of business, forcing owners to walk over ash. They get drunk early in the day, and then spend the rest of the time terrorizing an otherwise peaceful area with their wild debauchery. Not that I’m opposed to debauchery; I just prefer my debauchery be done in the dark confines of seedy bars and not out on the street in the light of day.
I could hear of lot of things happening down on the street Friday night, but due to the angle of my apartment, I wasn’t able to see much. Saturday morning dawned bright and clear, so I decided to take my dog for a walk. Sure enough, the streets were littered with trash, empty bottles and the subsequent vomit.
But that was actually not the most disturbing sight I saw. I happened across an abandoned purse in a lot under the Viaduct. The bag was innocuous enough, sitting in a mess of broken glass as it clearly had been the unwitting victim in a smash-and-grab altercation. Upon closer inspection I realized this purse had been violated – raped and pillaged; forced to give up its most valuable possession. The discarded bits – a novel by Nicolas Sparks, makeup, receipts, grocery lists – were strewn about with little regard for the value they held for the rightful owner. Gone, of course, was the wallet and any identifying information it presumeably contained.
I felt a sense of mourning for the demise of the bag. Or rather what the bag represented – a life lived by a woman who maintained neatly-written grocery lists of chicken, eggs, granola and cottage cheese. A woman who likes to read real-books. A woman who keeps old receipts forever and a day for no particular reason. A woman who carried a faux-Juicy bag because she was too frugal for the real-deal.
A woman kind of like me – minus the faux-Juicy.
For me, it was a reminder that no one is immune from the bad things in life. It can strike at any point and leave you sprawled out on the streets with your entrails hanging out for the world to see. You just have to be prepared to pick up the pieces when it happens.