towering grief


-- चार हजार एक सौ चौबीस --

Part of the impetus -- among many things -- for yesterday's post about changing skylines, and especially Seattle's changing skyline, was the changing view of Belltown and the Denny Triangle from Capitol Hill. I got a fairly nice photo of that view from the roof of The Braeburn Condos about a year ago (that photo was taken July 23, 2016), but as you can imagine the view is a little different -- more obscured -- from the street. But I keep noticing how much more prominently buildings loom in the view straight down Pine from, say, 12th Avenue when I'm coasting down the hill on my bike: the second / northernmost of the two Amazon Slabs dominates the background view from that vantage point. But there's this other building right in front of it, an office building relatively nondescript except for except that its design has it crowned with maybe three floors consisting of horizontal white stripes.

I found myself wondering, Why can't I figure out which building that is? I even tracked it with my eyes while riding to figure out that it's on 8th avenue, and got on Google Maps to narrow down the cross street at Virginia Street. Shows how well I pay attention: I finally figured out this morning it's 1918 Eighth Avenue -- which, as it happens, has been finished, standing at an even 500 ft and 36 floors since 2009. Furthermore, it's a building I was very much aware of when it was first erected, because I felt bad for the people living in The Cosmopolitan at 819 Virginia St, a 33-story, 330-ft building literally across an alleyway from 1918 Eighth. The Cosmopolitan was finished two years earlier, in 2007, and for those two fleeting years stood quite alone and pretty far from any other buildings. Well, now anyone in a west-facing unit in the Cosmopolitan can be seen right across the width of an alley in any of the east-facing offices of 1918 Eighth.

I noticed just this morning while searching online for web pages about these buildings that realtors continue to be a bit deceptive about this. Consider this Redfin listing that shows an exterior shot of the Cosmopolitan from street level: it's taken from an angle that makes it really easy to think there's no other building so close to it -- in this picture, 1918 Eighth is almost completely obscured, and what you can see looks almost like it's part of the same building. I suppose I shouldn't be surprised coming from Redfin, the company that royally screwed over my last roommate. (To be fair, the photo gallery suggests the unit in question is in fact east-facing, from which direction there are no view obstructions. It also shows a photo of what appears to be a rooftop deck, however, and it gives no indication of how the 1918 Eighth building looms another 170 feet above it just to the west from there.)

This isn't even the first time I've noticed this very kind of unfortunate byproduct of density of urban development. The first time was when I saw the erection of the 455-ft, 39-story Olive 8 -- also on Eighth! and also finished in 2009! -- directly across the alley on the same block as the much older, 498-ft / 33-story Qwest Plaza (1976). I even took photos of how incredibly close to each other those two buildings were when Olive 8 was being constructed in 2008. Olive 8 is a mixed Hyatt Hotel plus condos and the Cosmopolitan is all-condos, but either way, people can go to work in Qwest Plaza or in the 1918 Eighth building and look right into people's private spaces from as high up as 455 feet -- unless, of course, the people in Olive 8 or the Cosmopolitan keep their blinds drawn, which I'm sure most of them feel compelled to do.

The key difference is that Qwest Plaza and Olive 8 are on opposite sides of the same block they stand on, so only a small portion of one end of each building is actually directly across the alley from each other -- on the other hand, 1918 Eighth and the Cosmopolitan are both on the north side of the same block they occupy, which means every single west-facing unit in the Cosmopolitan looks straight into the windows of an office building across the alleyway. I'm sure the value of all the units on that side of the building went way down because of that.

Shobhit and I used to dream of owning a unit in the Cosmopolitan. No so much anymore. Actually now there have been so many other new residential towers to choose dreaming about in the past decade, I can't even narrow it down. If money were no object, I'd happily live in just about any of them. I'd just have to be very careful about how tall and how old the buildings near to it were, in an effort to mitigate any chances of a massive view obstruction. That even happened in the condo we're in now, with a new apartment building on 14th cutting out about half the panoramic view we once had of the skyline from our own living room. At the very least, we can still go up to the roof and see a skyline view mostly unobstructed by that stupid building.

That original view from the living room bay windows was what had originally sealed the deal for me, though. Shobhit was ready to keep looking around, but I saw that view and I was like, This is it. This is the one. I want to live here. I know my passion and desire for that place was a big contributing factor in Shobhit settling for that place, which he has always felt he paid a little too much for. (Realistically, he would feel that way no matter what.) I can still remember being super skeptical about Shobhit's insistence that there was about to be a huge economic downtown and it would make more sense to wait a while. Shobhit is dead wrong constantly about a ton of things; he has a bad habit of talking out of his ass as though he knows he's right about things he actually knows nothing about. One of the many negative consequences of that is how he loses credibility as a result when he's actually right about something. And with this, he was very right -- the Great Recession began the very next year. Shobhit does know more than most people about economic trends, and I'll acknowledge that. He just makes it hard to listen to him about anything when he talks as though he knows what's up about everything.

My attitude about the condo, which I continue to love as much as ever -- the obscured view notwithstanding -- has evolved a bit. That view is less important to me now than how much I love the building itself and its amenities -- including the view from the roof, still -- as well as its fantastic location in my favorite neighborhood (Capitol Hill) in my favorite city in the world.

-- चार हजार एक सौ चौबीस --


-- चार हजार एक सौ चौबीस --

So how about last night, then? Pretty similar to the night before. I rode my bike home from work. I meant to stop at the library and spaced it; I'll have to do that tonight. They have the latest David Sedaris book for me to pick up -- yay! -- and also a DVD copy of Ocean's Twelve, the worst of the Ocean's Eleven trilogy. Laney and I are doing a marathon viewing of all three movies in the Braeburn Condos theatre tomorrow and Netflix dropped the ball on getting me the Blu-Ray version on time. It's supposed to arrive in the mail tomorrow but, since we're starting at 10:00 in the morning, it's very unlikely the Blu-Ray will be there by noon. I suppose it's possible.

Anyway. I made veggie burgers for dinner. We watched three episodes of The Golden Girls on Hulu. We did the New York Times crossword and mini-crossword -- actually finishing them both this time. Shobhit went to his MSNBC stuff online and so I went to the bedroom. I tried to watch a Netflix comedy special but the guy wasn't funny at all so I turned it off after like ten minutes. I listened to the 1987 Madonna remix album You Can Dance, and read a little bit of the latest Entertainment Weekly.

Ivan, after two evenings off, worked again last night, so I never saw him yesterday. He did message me a couple of times to check for a package that had been delivered, and I was slightly annoyed by that -- perhaps unfairly. He'd gotten a DVD copy of a three-hour Russian film from 1998 called The Barber of Siberia, from "the greatest country on Earth," as he put it. He's got a bizarre obsession with Russia. He said I could watch it with him if I like, and I said okay. I have no idea when there will be time to. I keep wondering if the DVD will even play: not only is it not streaming anywhere, but Netflix doesn't even have it available on DVD, which means Ivan would have had to purchase it from some obscure place. A lot of times when that happens the DVD is formatted in some international way that prevents it from playing on U.S. players. So that's what I'm most interested in about it right now: if the disc will play in my Blu-Ray player. The suspense is killing me!

You know what is streaming on Netflix right now? The 2016 version of The Jungle Book. I intend to watch that soon. I only saw it the one time in the theatre, and never saw Shobhit. He worked as an extra on that movie. I hope to find him when I watch it again. Also, it was a wonderful movie that I very much enjoyed.

-- चार हजार एक सौ चौबीस --

When I walked into the kitchen at work this morning, there was a box with lavender twigs in it and space to put notes in sympathy for the "Fresh Director" who recently moved on to another job: her son, who apparently also worked at one of the store, has been killed in a car accident.

This is a woman who shared that back, former closet my desk was in for the last 16 months we were at the old office -- we got along really well. I couldn't be one of the people who didn't leave a note in sympathy -- they're all being given to her tonight, apparently, at a bonfire memorial -- but seriously, what do you say to a person having had such an experience?

I did leave her a note, but I really struggled with it. I couldn't possibly write the typical sympathy-card platitudes. I chose instead to start with, I don't know what to say, except that I don't know what to say. I then said I can only imagine, and can't fathom the severity of what she's going through. Certainly nothing will be the same again. I also added something along the lines of, Embrace your grief, and express it in your own way. I have always felt that that was important. I often think of how difficult it is to find something to say to someone experience a tragedy of such magnitude. The loss of a child? Unreal. I don't have any children of my own, so I can't truly relate to having them to begin with, let alone losing one.

The flip side is this: I also know from experience -- just from grieving the loss of grandparents -- that even though people don't know what to say, there really is no wrong thing to say either. Everyone is just doing the best they can, and I think, by and large, even the person bearing the heaviest weight of grief understands that.

Many years ago now, Elin's nephew in Florida, who was only 13, rode his bike in front of a bus that hit and killed him. As I recall, Elin's sister took a long time to really move on from it. I think if something like that happened to me, I would go straight into therapy, to get assistance in the processing of it. Sometimes I consider finding a therapist anyway, even though I don't particularly feel like I need therapy. But I do feel like I could use better skill in dealing with other people in my life who could definitely use it but refuse. How do you effectively communicate with someone not operating on a rational playing field? I've still not quite mastered that one and I'd kind of like to.

-- चार हजार एक सौ चौबीस --