Lake Union Time Trip – D.E.
He never figured out if being high had anything to do with it or if it was the atmospheric conditions or the time of day or something about that particular kayak. He didn’t know how the whole thing worked, so he just stuck with what he’d done the first time, when it happened by accident, and that meant getting up early on a foggy morning, filling a small thermos with thick black coffee, twisting up a fatty, and paddling out into the middle of the lake to burn it. Then, as he was just feeling that first little buzz, he’d start paddling while trying not to think too much… just waiting to see if anything was going to happen.
John owned a small, older houseboat on the east side of Lake Union in Seattle. Most people on the lake lived in floating homes which were larger and didn’t move, but his was technically a houseboat because it had an outboard motor on the side. As long as he took it out on the lake once a year, he could keep it tied up in a marina with a nice view.
He’d gotten a pretty good deal on it shortly after his no-kids-marriage ended and it suited him. He’d always enjoyed “messing about in boats.” He half suspected that the old guy he’d bought the place from had given him a good price because he’d shown so much interest in the old wooden kayak tied up alongside. The old guy had built the kayak himself, and John paid him an extra three hundred bucks for it.
He’d loved living by himself for several years. He thought that a house on the water suited him given his nebulous attachment to life on earth. He’d never known his father and his mom had died while he was in college. He had a sister and a nephew down in LA, but they had a Christmas card relationship. He didn’t even know where is ex was now. He did have some friends in town, but they were mostly the “let’s get together sometime” sort of people so common to Seattle. He genuinely liked the handful of folks he worked with, but none of them had ever been to his home.
The only change he made to the place was to cut a hole in the wall facing the lake where he installed a sliding-glass door, and all that water was company enough for him until he met a woman with nice tits. They got along well enough until she started spending most of her nights at his place. Then they started bickering over tiny little things that didn’t matter at all. He suspected that she mostly liked his houseboat and he knew for sure that he mostly liked her tits. They sure made the place feel more like home.
They’d had one of those stupid fights the night before he first paddled back in time. When he thought about it later, he realized that what he’d done was lose focus as he paddled – absently gazing at the forward tip of the kayak. It reminded him of those 3-D stereograms that were popular for a time back in the nineties. What you had to do was deliberately let your eyes glaze until the image appeared. He knew he had it right when double vision occurred and he saw two bow tips in his field of view.
There was no drama to it at all that first morning. It was just that he came right up to the broad expanse of a gray wall made up of steel plates held together with lots of round-headed rivets. It came out of the fog so rapidly that he had to back paddle to avoid running right into it.
Obviously, this was the side of fairly large immobile ship yet he felt certain he was still in the middle of the lake. He paddled to his right and came upon an anchor chain. This ship looked old fashioned. The bow was nearly vertical unlike the swept bows common to modern marine architecture. The numerals of the draft markings looked somewhat antique like ones seen on highway signs in old movies.
As he maneuvered past the anchor chain he saw that this ship was tied up to another on its port side. He continued on and counted another seven ships for a total of nine anchored in the middle of the lake. They looked like they’d been there for some time. The portholes on the hull were battened down with round steel plates, and those on the sections above deck were covered with boards. In places, blackberry vines twisted around the ships’ rails.
As the fog thinned out, he continued paddling north, dodging a tugboat, a barge loaded with a mountain of coal, numerous steam powered launches, and a couple of wooden sailboats until he came within sight of Gasworks Park. Except it wasn’t Gasworks Park. It was just the Gasworks with large storage tanks and unfamiliar brick buildings and smokestacks producing billowing black clouds.
The whole expanse of shoreline had a grittier, more industrial look to it, but he didn’t really start to get it until he realized what was missing. That was the constant, continuous din of traffic on I-5; a sound so omnipresent as to blend into his consciousness unheard until it was gone.
He paddled to his right towards Portage Bay. He was approaching the University Bridge before he looked up at the gray sky of early morning and noted the utter absence of the Ship Canal Bridge that had carried I-5 past the University District for the past fifty years.
The few automobiles crossing the University Bridge were antiques. He spotted two Model Ts but had no idea what the others were. There was only one pedestrian crossing the bridge. The guy was wearing a hat and that was what finally made the figurative light bulb above John’s head click on. He knew he was “back in time.” It was starting to look to him like he was slightly stoned in a kayak in the 1920’s. And he needed to get some breakfast.
(To be continued)