Final Score: Salmon Beach, Browns Point


There was a moment during breakfast yesterday when I found myself thinking about big personalities. I was at Gabriel and Shell's new place in the fabled Salmon Beach neighborhood of Tacoma. Gabriel and Shell had invited me over to have breakfast before helping with cleaning out Gabriel's old apartment in Browns Point, and apparently not even Gabriel found out until yesterday morning itself that Shell had also invited a close friend of her own to join us for breakfast, whose name was Aubrey.

Aubrey was very cool, though. She has a big personality. Gabriel and Shell do too. Each one of them has a personality big enough to fill a room. I have a strong personality, to be sure, but not a big one. My personality never fills a room. I'm far too reposed, comparatively speaking. At least I can hold my own in conversation with any of these people now, even surrounded by them, outnumbered by them. When Gabriel and I first met, 22 years ago, in a situation like this I would have just completely retreated, not even tried to get a word in edgewise. I'm not scared of engaging with people like this anymore. It did still result in plenty of stretches of conversation dominated by the others, but never oppressively so. One such stretch was long enough for me to visualize a Venn diagram of all three of their personalities, expanding like helium-inflated balloons until they all overlapped completely, filling the space.

I was the "one of these things is not like the other" in that group. But then, I often am. The time I spent all day with Gabriel stood in stark contrast to the day I spent with Ivan on Saturday. Ivan and I actually went to lunch and talked very little, spent much of our time at our table at the Honeyhole in silence. I was fine with it, totally comfortable. Yesterday had a whole lot more going on, way more activity, far more volume. I was fine with that too, also totally comfortable. I guess I had what you might call an Ambivert Weekend.

Later in the evening, over dinner, when Shell was asking about what ways Shobhit and I are passionate with each other (almost none), Gabriel came up with an apropos analogy. "Matthew 'maintains'," he said. He made a comparison to different types of animal at the zoo. Some need much more attention, far more frequent maintenance. Others can be given a relative minimum of care, just checked up on once in a while, and they are generally fine. "Just feed them once a month and they're good," he said. He thought I might be bothered by this analogy but it really made sense to me. I'm very much the latter type of animal. "Shobhit's the other kind," I said, "and it often drives me crazy."

Gabriel also noted that I do have my rigid, ritualistic elements to my daily life, which I stay consistently pretty dedicated to -- but as look as I can have that, I'm generally good. This is true. Even the issues that often come up between Shobhit and me tend to blow over soon enough, in a matter of days at most. The rest of the time, I just live my day to day life with him, not really fretting about it.

I think of my friendship with Gabriel as kind of a testament to avoiding over-reliance on having a lot in common with someone, the idea that such things are a prerequisite to getting close to or bonding with someone. You can connect with virtually anyone, really, if you just let yourself be open to it. He even referred to me as his "Rock of Gibraltar" at one point yesterday: a reliably permanent presence. It's long been established that he and I will never be rid of each other. He's family. All the bullshit between him and Shobhit makes that a little more difficult, but doesn't change it in any way.

As for Shell, I feel like I've got at least slightly deeper insight into her now that I've spent an entire day with her, as opposed to barely an hour like the first time we met. This was still only the second time I've met her, so I'm not going to be so naïve as to say I've got her figured out or that I can make any sweeping assessments about her. I can still only speak to impressions, although clearly the more time you spend with someone the better you get to know them, bit by bit. That said, I'm not sure even Gabriel yet has a truly full picture of who she is, this early on, to be perfectly honest. He was married to Kornelija a couple of years before he discovered who she really was, after all.

I will say this: Shell presents as someone operating with no self-consciousness at all, not even about the wide range of emotions she may be feeling at any given time. Sometimes how she deals with how she's feeling is oddly delightful; sometimes it's jarringly odd. But she has a definitive sort of openness about her, at least until she gets challenged with an emotion she's evidently unable to cope with in an immediate way, which also happens on occasion. If nothing else, she's certainly got a singular personality. It's easily the most like Gabriel's of any woman he's ever been with, so sometimes it feels like he's found a female version of himself. You don't have to dig that deep to find clear differences, though. I can't think of Gabriel as any kind of hippie, really. This woman makes her own kombucha, for fuck's sake. She also told me over breakfast how much fun she thought it would be to trip on acid together, after I told her I was terrified of ever taking hallucinogenic drugs. She told me some pretty interesting stories about when she was younger and still in school. It doesn't take much time or effort to learn very persona details about her.

This breakfast was in a house they now live in, literally built on stilts, the tide coming in underneath it every day. There's even a rope pulley system under there for bringing boats in and out of the water. When the tide is out, you can just walk under the houses -- 80 of them, in a single line, along the waterfront. After trying to find a good web page about the Salmon Beach neighborhood online, and failing to find anything in any way official that had both historical and environmental information as well as well-representative photos, I decided it might be literally accurate to call this neighborhood Tacoma's best-kept secret. I'm shocked it's so hard to find any web page about it that is any way comprehensive. All I found was this National Register of Historic Places Inventory Nomination Form, which has no photos but contains tons of great information; and a couple of blog posts by local people simply exploring it, like this one from 2006. Okay, I also found this page by a disgruntled resident who felt he was not adequately warned about the public safety risks, evidently the biggest one of them being landslides. I guess at least two homes in the past have literally just slid into the water completely. What fun! Gabriel also noted that a fault line running directly beneath Puget Sound could indeed obliterate all those homes with a tsunami, I suppose if a major earthquake didn't collapse them outright first.

But, as Janine noted when I saw her later in the early afternoon, Gabriel has long dreamed of living in this neighborhood -- since before Kornelija, even. Gabriel reminded me he once showed me this neighborhood, which I completely forgot about. The memory started to come back to me, and then I thought it wasn’t that long ago this happened. But, actually, it was a while: we went down there one day in March 2014 when I spent a day with him and Kornelija. Three and a half years ago. I took just a few pictures of it then, including the dirt footpath between the backs of the houses and the cliff. In the photo at the top of this entry, you can see part of the trail that goes down there. Unless you approach the fronts of the houses by boat, this steep -- and often very wet -- trail is the only access. Try and imagine them lugging carts of items, including even a couple of small dressers, down that thing all day on Saturday. I'd rather not.

I figured if I helped out at all over the weekend, I'd be better of coming down on Sunday. I wanted to finish Stranger Things 2 with Ivan, and also have lunch with him, on Saturday anyway. Either way, I figured, if this was the only way I'd get to hang out with Gabriel this weekend, by helping them with their move, then so be it. I can't remember the last time I actually helped anyone move. I'm so not into it. Who wants to help anybody move? This is exactly why I never ask for help moving whenever I move: two moves ago, Shobhit and I hired movers. There's no going back after that. Besides, I never thought it would be fair to ask anyone for help moving since I never, ever help anyone else do it. I did yesterday, though.

And? It was fine. I actually managed not to break any nails! I did bash into things a couple of times, though, so I have a couple of bruises. I was holding box and not seeing where I was going when I smashed my thigh into the U-Haul truck's trailer hitch. I also banged my arm on something, I don't remember what.

Anyway. Risks notwithstanding, it's easy to see how someone could fall in love with Salmon Beach. The views are spectacular. Gabriel and Shell can roll over in bed after waking up in the morning and see whales swimming by right outside their bedroom window. This is well within Tacoma city proper -- just south of Point Defiance, in fact -- and yet it's so secluded it feels like visiting cabins in some wilderness well outside of town. It takes a while to get to. I drove Shobhit's car, and the drive from my place was 52 minutes. It barely takes longer than that to drive all the way to Olympia, and Tacoma is halfway. But, you have to drive through a bunch of town from the freeway to get to it. It's not that much different from driving to his old place in Browns Point, anyway -- that place was on the north end of Tacoma, again within Tacoma city limits but for all intents and purposes part of Federal Way, just a short drive to Janine's which is actually in Federal Way. But again, a good drive through town from the freeway to get to. Getting there by car from home was on average only four minutes shorter a drive. The advantage in Seattle is that it's rarely more than two or three miles from the freeway to the waterfront, because of the city's long and narrow shape. I-5 does not on average run nearly as close to the waterfront going through Tacoma.

Exactly how long they will be in Salmon Beach remains to be seen. Their living there now is the product of unique circumstances, a temporary arrangement that could be longer but for now is officially for all of eight months. But it's hardly surprising that Gabriel would take any opportunity to spend any time living in his favorite neighborhood he's dreamed of for years. The place is already furnished. I don't remember the details, something along the lines of one of the owners being terminally ill and the spouse needing to live where tending is more reasonable and practical. This meant a lot of what Gabriel and Shell own, respectively, could not be brought down there -- which would be a massively complicated undertaking anyway. Although one neighbor has this huge crane that they apparently offered the use of to help move stuff in, presumably from a boat, if ever need be. Gabriel said their neighbors are "crazy friendly."


It was a long, full day yesterday. I left home at 8:30 in the morning, and returned home at about 10:35 in the evening -- when I'm usually in bed on a work night. Also, the very same time the previous evening was actually 11:35 because of the end of Daylight Saving Time, so it's a minor miracle I was able to drive home without getting tired. I suppose I was slightly wired from all the day's activities. I think it was more exhausting to Gabriel and Shell, who stressed a lot more, especially Gabriel. I didn't bother stressing, I just helped however I could. Gabriel did mention at one point that I was "not very hands-on." I was like, "Well, just tell me what you want me to do." And he acknowledged that when asked to do something specific, I'm on it. I mean, hey -- I did take two heavy boxes downstairs from the upstairs bedrooms at the Browns Point apartment without being asked! Gabriel was outside and thus didn't even have a chance to notice.

Very little of the stuff left at the apartment yesterday was actually being brought back to the Salmon Beach house. What was left on the agenda was cleaning, trashing stuff, and donating stuff. The boxes I brought downstairs, and several boxes I also assembled from their flattened state and then filled with the piles of clothes and other small (or small-ish) items piled in the living room, were all for donating to the Goodwill. Bit by bit, the stuff was packed into either boxes or plastic sacks and put into the back of the U-Haul truck, along with some furniture items Gabriel no longer planned to keep. He spent a lot of time in the truck, packing the stuff in a very neat and organized way.

Aubrey was only over for breakfast and did not help with this stuff, as she had to work yesterday. The other person who did come to help was Gabriel's mom, Janine. She was very excited to be told she'd finally be getting a point on one of my quarterly Social Reviews again. We tried to figure out when we last even saw each other, and finally concluded it must have been the Making Strides Against Breast Cancer Walk we both participated in, in Tacoma, which was in October 2014 -- so, three years ago. I just now checked my Social Review archives, and we were right. I hadn't seen Janine in over three years! Can you believe that shit?

She's lost over 100 lbs. She looked great, and I told her so. Still, when she was leaving later in the early evening, she left and then came back in again, just to lift up her jacket and show me how flat her belly really is now, because the jacket was too baggy and, I guess, she felt it didn't show well enough. She didn't have to prove what I could already plainly see, though. Hi, Janine!

I actually did have a minor debate with myself as to whether technically this would count as socializing -- helping someone clean out their house is not exactly a social outing, and Janine had not come to breakfast. I was just going to give it to her anyway, because I am so wonderful and generous, but then I remembered: she brought us all her leftover homemade Leek Pie! And we all ate some together on paper plates in that mostly-empty kitchen. It was really tasty, too. That definitely counts as social: eating together. I mean, I came over and she fed me. Shell even stopped at a gas station to get Tito's vodka and orange pineapple juice so I could have cocktails. (I just wanted to try Tito's since it's Doug Benson's favorite and I had never tried it. Verdict: I'm sticking with Ketel One. That doesn't mean I don't appreciate it, though! I'm always happy with cocktails.)

Before that, I spent a couple of hours riding around in the U-Haul truck with just Gabriel. He needed some help (what little help I tend to be, anyway) and I thought I'd take the opportunity for some one-on-one time with him. I was actually alone with Shell comparatively briefly two times over the course of the day, both before and after this: when we first drove from Salmon Beach back to Browns Point (a 16-mile, half-hour drove around Commencement Bay -- for regular drivers, anyway) I rode with Shell in her car. Gabriel had already given me plenty warning about this: she drove like a maniac. Shobhit would love her. Not even he tends to go 80 in a 40 mph zone. Okay, I guess I should be fair. She actually only got up to 79. This was when we stopped at a gas station to get liquor and wine. In spite of that stop, we still got to the apartment in Browns Point right when Gabriel was pulling in with the truck -- and we had left at the same time. Anyway, the second time was much later, after dinner in Browns Point, driving back to Salmon Beach in the evening. That time it was her and me in her car again, but I was the one driving, because both Gabriel and I didn't like the idea of her driving after the amount of wine she'd had -- my first time driving a Prius, which is an oddly kind of herky-jerky experience. Having a gear shift sticking perpendicularly out of the dashboard takes some getting used to. Shell said, "Matthew? Thank you" at least three times during that drive. She also told me I was "cool" at least twice. And twice she leaned her head on my shoulder and squeezed her arms around my right arm. It was sweet, actually, in its way -- regardless of how much it it may have been influenced by intoxication.

I didn't realize the drive between Salmon Beach and Browns Point was a half-hour drive until I just looked it up on my phone, actually. I did think about how long it seemed to be taking to get back after dinner, once it was getting late enough that I realized I needed to message Ivan to ask him to feed the cats their dinner for me -- and he already had, much to my relief. In any case, I guess I spent a cumulative hour in the car with Shell, come to think of it.

I spent at least two and a half hours running around with Gabriel in the U-Haul truck, though. I know this because when we left he was stressing about all that needed to be done in the ninety minutes until the truck was supposed to be returned at 5 p.m., only to realize right after we left that he had been looking at clocks that had not yet been reset -- which meant we had one more hour than he thought, which he realized after finally looking at the clock on his phone. And guess what? We still cut it really, really close. And we even did something super illegal!

First we went to Janine's house. She later apologized to me for how dirty it supposedly was. I don't know why people do that. You want to see dirty? Come look at my shower stall. I really need to fucking clean that, and I keep not doing it. Also: nearly all her lights were off! There could have been rats running across the floor and I wouldn't have noticed. (FOR THE RECORD THERE WERE NO RATS.) How could I notice anything being dirty in the dark?

We did go to a room upstairs to break down a metal crib frame, and take that and its mattress, intended for the donation pile to be taken to Goodwill. This was the part that took a bit longer than expected, because one screw took some real effort for Gabriel to get it undone because of some stripping that had occurred. I held the rest of the frame steady to make it easier for him to figure it out. I helped! And eventually he got it done. We also grabbed the vacuum cleaner which Janine would later use to vacuum the Browns Point apartment. I want to say he grabbed something else too, maybe? I can't remember. I know he left a couple of things, to be stored there for him for a while.

Next we went to the Tacoma Storage unit where he had a bunch of furniture and other odds and ends, and now added maybe three rounds of stuff we put on carts, from the truck, to the elevator, up to the second floor. This took a bit of time as well. On our way out, a lady asked us if we had a cell phone on us. What do you think, we still live in the nineteenth century? Or the nineties? Gabriel hesitantly said yes, hoping it wasn't some sort of scam. The lady just asked him to call her phone so she could figure out where she left it in her own storage unit. They found it quickly, which was a relief.

So we thought everything left in the truck would then be left at Goodwill -- and he wasn't even certain their donation center would be open, but it was -- and then we could zip on over to the U-Haul center and barely get it returned by 5:00. But, guess what? The Hispanic guy helping take stuff out of the truck at Goodwill refused to take anything at all baby-related (no crib, no playpen, no baby mattress), or any item of furniture at all. Giant TV? Sure! Presumably it was set aside with all the other couple dozen TVs we drove past sitting out in the rain. He did ask if the TV works and Gabriel said yes, which is technically true. He wisely did not mention that TV is a giant piece of shit with terrible picture quality, and has been for several years. It sort of turns into half-snow, giving the picture a weirdly sparkly quality to it. Shell said that's why she calls it "The Twilight TV, because it sparkles." That TV was fucking heavy, too, and this rather small guy was clearly used to carrying heavy shit; he took it without hesitation or struggle at all. Is it weird that I wondered how he is in bed?

We were then left with several pieces of furniture, and a bike the guy also refused to accept, and literally fifteen minutes to get the truck back on time. Gabriel started driving, kind of racking is brain to come up with what to do. I asked about the dump, which I knew was not likely to be open, and he said there wasn't one anywhere near close by anyway. The level of desperation got to a point where he was just trying to see any open dumpsters we drove past. We never saw any.

And then, literally across the street behind the U-Haul station, we found a construction site, no one there, clearly in the very early stages of whatever was being built. Gabriel pulled into the gravelly area in the middle of it, a couple of tractor shovel loader vehicles, and he said something about something he had done with his dad back in the day. Something not quite kosher, clearly, but I don't know what, exactly; he didn't really elaborate. But then he saw this small pile of discarded wooden pallets, and concluded that we could at least leave the wooden shelving unit from the truck there -- someone was obviously going to come haul that shit away anyway. He pulled the car up by it and we both got out. I looked around, wondering what the chances were that we would get caught. There was actually too little around; nothing close by even had the potential to have security cameras, let alone actually be able to see us clearly from that distance.

So the shelving unit was pulled out, and Gabriel paused at the back of the truck, looking at all the other stuff. I guess he just wanted someone to give him permission: "Should I do it?" he asked. "You should do it," I said, without hesitation. He told me hearing that gave him a massive sense of relief, and he wasn't sure he could handle it if I hemmed and hawed about it. But, what other option did we have? It did made me think this: sometimes, if you see someone dumped some shit where they shouldn't have, it's possible -- maybe not likely, but possible -- whoever did it also simply had no other option and just didn't know what else to do.

Granted, I do know what other options there were. They just would have cost a lot of extra time and money. And Gabriel rationalized: someone was clearly going to haul the stuff away that was piled there already. Now they were just going to also haul a few extra items of furniture. And a bicycle. And a small mattress. Surely it was all destined to the same final resting place regardless of what route it took. And they have tractor shovels to pick it all up with! That doesn't mean they're going to be thrilled, but you know, whatever. Sometimes you just do what you have to, to stay sane. And comfortable and privileged. #America

We then pulled into the U-Haul station, giving new meaning to "down to the wire." It was literally just a couple of minutes before the truck would otherwise have been late. There was some stuff that needed to be taken out of the truck and put into his car, which was parked there, which I started on while he dealt with paperwork. And then, finally, the U-Haul was empty. So was the Browns Point apartment, for the most part. All that was left was crammed into both Gabriel's and Shell's cars. I have no idea when they'll get around to lugging all that shit down to the house at Salmon Beach.

Janine and Shell had spent a lot of time cleaning while we were gone. Gabriel still stressed about what still needed to be done, and that he would have to come back today to do some final things like fill in the holes in the walls. Neither Janine or Shell would stress about it. Janine had the least reason to, of course. And she brought snacks! I had a cookie, and another cocktail, and as I said already, some yummy Leek Pie, which was apparently leftover from a party she'd made it for on Saturday night.

Janine vacuumed the ground floor last, and I picked up some of the larger things that might otherwise fuck up the vacuum cleaner should they get sucked up. I don't think it was that long after 6:00, I suppose maybe it was 6:30, when Janine packed up and went home. We did have a near-fiasco when she couldn't find her jacket, which had her keys in it. We finally found it thrown into Shell's hatchback with all the other last odds and ends from the house that were loaded into her car. I think that may have been my fault, actually. Shell and Janine both acted thrilled beyond compare that I had found the jacket for her, and I was the dipshit who probably tossed it into Shell's car to begin with.

Then, finally, it was time for dinner. Gabriel and Shell wanted to go to a pub, I think, about a block away, but all the places were closed. The nearby, fancy-schmancy Cliff House was open, though, and we ate at the bar instead of in the dining room where we'd be expected to order their super-expensive dishes. Which I very nearly did: the Eggplant Parmiasana sure sounded good. It was like twenty-five bucks, though. I was afraid I'd be forced to eat that if they wouldn't make the "Bacon Macaroni and Cheese" -- nine bucks -- without the bacon. But, then Shell asked for exactly that, and to my surprise, Autumn, our bartender/waitress, said they could make it without the bacon. When I was going to order one for myself, Shell suggested we just share it. I was fine with that; the Leek Pie had been quite the appetizer already.

The view there was spectacular. Even if it was just Tacoma. Okay, fine! Tacoma can be pretty too. It's no Seattle. Gabriel and Shell can shit all over Seattle all they want, and insist that Tacoma is superior (as if), whatever. Seattle is the best -- and the prettiest -- city and no one will sway me on that point!

The macaroni and cheese was very, very good. I also had tea. They covered my dinner for me, which was generous of them. It was also easy not to feel bad about it since all I had was half (hmm, maybe three quarters) of the macaroni and a cup of tea. Also I had helped them all day. I probably wasn't the best contender for this help in terms of efficiency, or initiative, or, say, brute strength. But there's no question I still saved them plenty of time and effort yesterday. I made a difference, god damn it!

I also had a good time. That Aubrey person was lots of fun. The quiche Shell made for breakfast was itself delicious. The house and its view were spectacular. And for me at least, helping pack up the rest of the shit in the Browns Point apartment really wasn't even all that stressful. It was a good, enjoyable day for me. I wasn't all that sad to be saying goodbye to that old apartment, which I found to exist at this point largely as a semi-haunting reminder of Kornelija, and the bevy of sort of false promises that, in retrospect, she now represents. I always liked her, but I also know enough verifiable truths at this point that moving on is not a difficult thing to do. Janine talked briefly about how she apparently converses with her for work something like twenty times a day. I had no idea. I did remember that Janine got her that job, but I forgot that they work for different departments that work together in a lot of ways. I guess the divorce will be final later this month, and details like this notwithstanding, should provide some long-needed closure for a lot of people. Gabriel most of all, of course.

There is a certain level of volatility apparent between Gabriel and Shell that leaves me somewhat concerned, especially given how early they still are in their relationship, but . . . you know, whatever floats your boat, or stilts your house, I guess. It's been a long time since I've seen Gabriel this overtly enamored with someone, and never have I seen a woman just as enamored with him. And I suppose if they have truly similar personalities then a certain level of volatility is just going to go with the territory. I still can't jump to expectations, but the hopes I had for them after meeting her the first time a couple of months ago remain unchanged. What reason would I have for them to change? I care about him too much.


[posted 12:18 pm]