In the Swirl of a Dish

Petri Dish Man’s Urban Seattle Socialist Vignette

Hungry. Sun blazing in my eyes. Making me squint as my belly growled low like a dog guarding a slab of meat. Hadn’t eaten since yesterday. Felt ravenous after I spent too much of the morning in the hospital being poked, pierced, measured, and explored by fantastic doctors and their curious assistants. Prodded me like a damn bug followed by quick pecks on their computers. Felt as if I was a giant insect splayed out and peeled apart in an enormous Petri dish by mad scientists and clever kids. Who behaved as if any moment they would hobble over and slather weird baby food goo all over me to see what monsters might grow. Ahhh, yes, call me…Petri Dish Man! BAM! BAM! BAM! DON’T BAN THE PETRI DISH MAN! ran thru my head over and over, tho I dared not tell anyone at the time, as it felt so strange.

Brought back memories of being in the Battle of Seattle during the so-called Anti-Globalization Revolts, and memories of being in Occupy Seattle and Occupy Olympia. Yes, even brought back memories of being homeless during the Great Global Recession after rich, capitalist pundits declared it long over. Despite being such a proficiently medically inspected man, however, I felt grateful for Obamacare’s ACA here in Washington State. Thank goodness it covered what my employer’s private health insurance plan wouldn’t cover. I shake my head funny too, as it seemed plain old common sense for 21st Century America, indeed all of Planet Earth, to have an integrated single-payer universal health care system, a democratic economic system, a socialist system.

Thus satiated on clarity of vision, I ventured hungrily into The Dish, a funky Seattle café, for a belated breakfast. Call it brunch. Time was 11:30 am. It’s a lively little café in my neighborhood. I currently live in a small, quasi-cooperative household below the landlord’s family in a house uprooted from the I-5 Corridor running north and south across the States between Canada and Mexico. The house sits beneath three immense Western redcedar trees in the Tangletown-Latona part of Green Lake up in the middle of North Seattle. At least till the rent rockets up. Only my second visit to this cafe, too. Rarely eat out anymore. Now it’s a treat! The place was abuzz, too.

Two staffers had called in sick, however, leaving the business understaffed. Only two other people were out front serving including one new worker who admitted she didn’t know how to work anything quite yet. But they were game and smiled anyway. Big, welcoming smiles, too. They bustled in and out among crowded customers, and the one cook in back paced himself as he had to. The warm smells of cooked food swirled with exuberant colors intoxicated yours truly Petri Dish Man.

The ghost of a homeless guy watched everything right over the lip of his big orange coffee cup. He was so invisible it as was if I couldn’t see him but nevertheless still sense his presence. I felt the color of his large, tattered coat fade charcoal and gray. Was his bright orange cup just a reflection of the Sun upon a glass bowl of slivered fruit? No, he wasn’t there, just a coat and a cup and the ghost of a man who gave up everything precious but his dignity and curiosity.

The café was well lit by two walls of giant windows framed by lightly colored wood. It had been remodeled from a somewhat derelict one and a half, almost two-story building, the kind of funky ass architecture I’d fallen in love with here in Seattle. The building, unfortunately, also represents the kind of place being rapidly torn down and overdeveloped into bland Soviet Futuramas reminiscent of cheap box cities not yet built by capitalist imperialists on Planet Mars. On the SE corner of Latona Avenue NE and NE 65t Street, The Dish quickly became one of my favorite chowdowns to venture into and waddle out of.

My God, it was so noisy in there. Loved it, too, all the commotion pandemonium of human voices in full throttle locomotion. Human beings behaving like a tree full of birds! Middle-age women jammed around a table jabbering at each other and into their ring of smart fones all at once. Damn, I can’t do that. Construction workers silently munched down on voluminous creamy omelets between slugs of coffee. Students and babies and young bodybuilders and yoga pogas and businessmen without ties and about half of them all taking selfies.

I liked seeing every color of skin from under the Sun in there. Being all single and solo and a pasty pink paleo, I sat up at the counter upon a barstool between a Latino guy covered in dust and paint and a Whitish man who mumbled about “goddamn robots gonna impregnate Donald Trump and make little baby Trumplits” and complained about having to “take the bus all the way back up to North Gate” from Green Lake, but “goddamn robots lurked everywhere,” even in the bushes “camouflaged as trees and birds.” Or maybe drones. Or something as strange and weird as those “thangs.” I think. Not sure. Not at all sure. Maybe the roots of those bushes spying on people were plugged beneath the surface into the matrix monitored by the NSA as fractalized holographic expressions of digitalized biology powered by Crowleyian Will and Imagination.

My mind made up stuff I couldn’t hear. So loud in there, happy loud. Except he was jolly at all. Hard to read his lips, too, as irked Whitish guy kept dabbing his white napkin at his shaggy black mustache. He had issues. Issues! Issues with robots camouflaged as trees and birds and bushes and … bugs! Yes. No. Maybe so. I don’t really know. Imagination filled in the blanks with nonsense, and I felt irritated awe.

For a moment memories of the past pushed away the quirky discord of the present. I remembered a man I sat next to on a bus one rainy day several years back, a white man of about 50 with red-hot earmuffs, on my way into Downtown Seattle. This guy muttered and mumbled over and over with stark clarity the CIA, the KGB, the FBI, and the Chinese Secret Service are all after him because he knew too much, even tho the Cold War was finally over.

Didn’t matter if the Cold War was over, he declared, as it was a shell game all for show. All for SHOW like a hot blanket of crazy SNOW! And he babbled on as if several people sat chatting around a table inside of his head. Nazis without swastikas sat at the top of humanity atop the apex of a huge invisible pyramid, he said, and played the lower-level spies and soldiers all against each other to keep us distracted, divided, and submissive to authority. He wouldn’t keep a bank account so he couldn’t be traced, and would only use pay fones or slip people notes. And beware of cameras hidden almost anywhere!

Bus Man in Red-Hot Earmuffs tried to hand me a piece of worn paper. His hands were so crusty with filth I chose to politely decline. The man declared he was pretending to be insane so they wouldn’t find him. So he hid in plain sight! Cuz it’s all for SHOW like a hot blanket of SNOW! Oh, he was so proud of himself. His shiny eyes would dart to see me watching him then focused straight ahead to lecture invisible comrades. He was crazy as shit!

Yes, he was, too, the Man on the Bus was, and yet, I knew too many people struggling with neuropsychological illnesses and injuries. I knew our Capitalist civilization abandons and punishes them. Locks them up in forgotten institutions. Shoves them into the shadows. They go live in the barren dirt beneath bridges or in the overgrown jungles of greenbelts.

Once I ended up in such dreadful shadows myself until my friends and family intervened. Eventually I emerged from the deep, paralyzing melancholia of depression. So when crazy people share their craziness, I listen more closely then I used to, for sometimes there’s a whole ear of corn of truth sticking out of the madness and waving about for help.

This man on the bus may well have been a victim of the CIA’s Project MK-Ultra or even the FBI’s COINTELPRO or something similarly sinister. Then once irreparably damaged, turned loose into society in such a way the human herd of bellowing, mewling, bawling petty bourgeoisie and lumpenproletariat would ignore him and his crazy messages and thus deny the possibility for mass perturbation. How odd it was, however, how this crazy Man on the Bus proved to be a harbinger heralding the Orwellian comedy of American politics during 2016-2017. Perhaps he was once an NSA Remote Viewer whose mind exploded after he saw too much on the Dark Side of the Moon.

Dishes and cups clatter. Forks and knives clink. Spoons scatter. I’m back in the world of matter and the unplanned economies of anarchistic Finance Capitalism. People pay and leave. People enter and sit. A baby cries and squeals somewhere upon clusters of human arms waving smartfones. A rolled yoga matt radiates bright, lemon sunshine colors. The mumbling, mustached man ranted about time machine buses and politicians and birds and bushes and Hillary is a reptilian shapeshifter or something as gorgeously baffling as that finally stands up, pays, and strides quickly out the door.

Feeling as baffled as he is, I smile anyway with unreasonable joy and give him a merry ol’ deaf man’s nod just before he turned to stride away. Cuz I really can’t read bushy, mustachioed lips or hear even the lick of a tick amidst such jolly racket. The silent, hunched-over-his-plate construction worker to my left uncurls to stand and stretch. He pays in silence, nods farewell, and exits to the street.

The older server, about my age, late 50s, the one who declared straight up she didn’t know how to do some of the jobs the ones who called in sick usually do, such as operate the register, walks over to me on the other side of the counter with my receipt. I stand up to listen more closely and share I’m hard-of-hearing, but I’m enjoying the energy here in this place and the food tasted great. As we’re chatting she flips out her hand as she gestures in fun and accidentally knocks over a little metal pitcher of milk ‘n cream. Out splooshes milk across the counter like white oil.

She laughs. We both laugh. Our bellies shake. I complement her for choosing to respond with humor and not getting all pissed off and embarrassed. Not worth bawlin’ over, y’know? Nope. She then tells me the mumbling guy with the big mustache has Asperger’s, and he fusses so much because the buses don’t run exactly on time. He’s a genius, really, able to see things between layers of ROY G BIV, but he more he fusses about the busses the more he goes off about all kinds of crazy stuff. I purse my lips and feel bad for a moment. After all I was a birth trauma baby with brain damage once upon a long time ago, and the doctors declared I was a mentally retarded baby boy.  I looked into her sad, friendly face and declared next time I see “Matrix Man” I’ll tell him I will listen to him even if I cannot hear. He shall be heard. She nods and smiles as she quickly wipes up sploosh from the creamer.

A moment later, the other server, a younger gal, trips over a little dinky winky trash can while carrying stacks of dirty dishes. Whoa! She stumbles right thru the swinging saloon gates into the back without spilling or dropping anything! Wow! She returns all composed and uprights the little trippy dippy doo trash can. I catch her eye and give her the thumbs up. Aye, BIG thumbs UP! She BEAMS with a certain PRIDE working folks have with being able to dance with crazy shit on the job as sometimes crazy shit just happens. All in a day’s work. Aye, all in a day’s work, too.

I finally pull out my smart fone to text my two ex-wives here in Seattle the results from those hospital tests. Almost walked into the door. Yep, almost texted myself right into framed glass. Pulled open the door up just in time to let in an elderly couple. A woman is pushing a wheeled walker with a seat in it. She smiles! A man I assumed to be her husband gently pushes her forward over the doorsill. Heck, maybe he’s her big brother. I don’t know. Hey, he smiles, too! Those two stutter on inside in unison. They’re both jolly as Hell, woo HOO!

They had to navigate the street, the curb, the sidewalk, and now the outside, wipe-yer-feet carpet, the door, the doorsill, and the inside carpet, then slick ass tile. Next they navigated around someone’s big ass purse hanging off a chair and bulging from a red coat stuffed part way in. The merry walker-woman-man train choochooed on inside with the sunniest smiles. Well, the sun IS shining here above Seattle and the air smells of flowers and hot black coffee and it’s only 43 degrees Fahrenheit. That’s 6.11 degrees Celsius, by the way.

Meanwhile millions and millions of people are in the streets of Brazil’s cities and towns raging against corruption but now allegations surface the U.S.A. was covertly stirring the pot as part of a clandestine plot. Here in the U.S.A. there’s more and more talk of the possibility of civil war as Americans become increasingly more polarized. The Elite sit all smug because they think outmaneuvering Bernie or Trumpolini away from being nominated will solve everything. Nope and Hell no. Do the financial and power elites at the top of the “huge invisible pyramid” really think the riled up masses are just gonna suck it back up AGAIN and go home to eat more Doritos and pizza and stuff? Ahh, we really do need to unite as much of the so-called 99% as possible to form a new revolutionary mass movement of the working and middle classes for the Left.

Our destructive system of Capitalism is long overdue for replacement. We must find ways to come together to build a new civilization founded in principles of democratic socialism and dialectical materialism. Real socialism, too! Socialism as democracy expanded into all areas of life, not the kind associated with gushy soft liberals or murderously steely Stalinists, both whom are capitalist bureaucrats operating behind distorted and misappropriated labels and historical figures of Socialism. ¡Viva el socialismo!

Ahh, I feel exhausted by my hospital visits, I feel exhausted by the uproar of Capitalist politics. Such politics constantly betray working folks and keep the people crazy. My tongue hangs out in a grotesque mockery of a dead donkey. Once must navigate thru the insanity of what Albert Einstein once aptly described as “the economic anarchy of capitalist society.” This Anarchy of Capitalism excites perturbation from providing health care services to distributing and serving food to business and marketing plans to industrial production and yes, even social media. Facebook and Twitter burn with insults and hurt feelings and enraged trolls from whose huge troll noses jiggle giant, nasty buggers. The tumult of explosive economics and endless imperial wars trigger unhealthy autoimmune responses. Sickness and exhaustion ooze thru the air almost everywhere as gently toxic and sweetly lethal clouds.

Love this window, tho, into the hustle and bustle of a busy streetside café in my Seattle neighborhood. I gaze around into bright sunshine as I crossed the street and walked uphill past The Latona Pub and on up the lane where I hear flowers glowing and smell the rainbows to finally touch the vinyl steering wheel of my old, old, blue car. Left ol’ Petri Dish Man behind in the dregs of mind swished into the bottom of a coffee cup plumb outa time.

I’d entered into the swirl of The Dish feeling lonesome and left feeling enriched with the greatest food of all, feeling connected to and in love with humanity regardless of the messes we make in the world. We die without touch. Today the Sun shone for hours.


William Dudley Bass
Friday 18 March 2016,
Wednesday 4 May 2016,
Sunday-Tuesday 8-10 May 2016,
Wednesday 4 January 2017,
Friday 13 January 2017
Friday 10 March 2017
Seattle, Washington
The Big Swirl


Copyright © 2016, 2017 by William Dudley Bass. All Rights Reserved until we Humans establish Wise Stewardship of and for our Earth and Solarian Commons. Thank you.


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