Weird Deer

A New Privacy

Dear Adam,

June 26th, 2007 · No Comments

One hundred years is a strange amount of time. A century. A long human life. A container for an era or two, some history, a house. A hundred years is still in the air, like a family story, or the taste of rhubarb. Forgotten for a time, but not by everyone, and not for long.

My friend Pete–whom you didn’t meet when you were here, but who has always sort of reminded me of you–threw a party on Friday to celebrate the 100th birthday of his Central District house here in Seattle. He promised a time capsule, music, and good food, so Monica, Joshua, and I walked the fifteen or so blocks from our apartment to the house, through the back end of Capitol Hill and down into the Central District.


A hundred years of private property is traceable–bills of sale, district zoning, and local paper obituaries make it accessible–so Pete traced it through county records, the University of Washington, and the public library. He found out who owned the land, how they divvied it up, who owned the house, and who lived in it for most of the hundred years of its life.

The more diffuse and estranged history of the area–the Duwamish tribe’s history–is of course harder to trace. Theirs wasn’t public property, exactly, but it wasn’t private either. Its history is buried in deeper, less accessible veins, though in Seattle it feels less ancient than it has anywhere else I’ve lived, despite any arrowheads in the yard.

When we finally got to the house, we followed the signs to the backyard, where Pete handed us a card with a name and a brief biography printed on it. These were the names and stories from the hundred years of the house. Henry Yesler, Violetta Stander, Charles Anderson, Doc Maynard . . .

We took our new identities sat in the yard talking about a hundred years while we listened to music, drank and ate. We watched the babies listening to the music with awe.

A couple who lived in the house in the seventies had come to the party to help celebrate. They stood on the stairs and said, “You all are like the newer version of us!” Everyone laughed. “We were the only white people in the neighborhood back then.”

As the sun went down, everyone made their way back into the house, laughing, talking, and drinking like at a normal party, but with pieces of the house’s history trailing behind us.

As the night went on, the house filled with more and more people–all trailing their ghostly doubles–until finally I had to escape to the porch. There, I found Anton, Charles, and Shirley, and so we talked about ourselves in the dark.

Wish you had been there.


Tags: Adam · Anton Stander · Charles Anderson · correspondence · Ghosts · History · Look · Pete · Shirley Rickles

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