Alan Rhodes

A Downtown Odyssey: Mr. Cranky’s Excellent Adventure

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Not having what one would call a responsible job, I wander around a lot looking for things to write about. I didn’t come up with any good ideas for a column on my last downtown jaunt, but here are some things I noticed.

The most interesting exterior of an edifice might be the apartment building at the corner of Billy Frank, Jr. and Holly streets, where William Carlos Williams’ eight-line poem “The Red Wheelbarrow” is painted on the wall. In addition to being a major 20th century American poet, Williams was also a full-time pediatrician. I, on the other hand, can’t even find time to straighten my underwear drawer.

I’ve passed the Holly Street store called Wise Awakenings many times without paying much attention, so today I drop in. They have all kinds of stuff made from crystal. The saleslady tells me that crystals have metaphysical properties that enhance meditation. But I don’t meditate. It hinders my crankiness. I spot a crystal orb the size of a bowling ball. If I drill holes in it I can probably be the only guy in Bellingham with a crystal bowling ball. But I don’t bowl. I can never hit the pins. Apparently that’s a fairly important part of the game. I’m told that the orb costs around $5,000. Wow, by not meditating or bowling I just saved five thousand bucks.

I like the building across the street from Wise Awakenings. It features a gray façade with gray stairs leading up to a gray entryway. Over the entrance is a big gray five-pointed star that makes the place look like Communist Party Headquarters in a provincial Romanian city during Nicolae Ceausescu’s brutal reign. After they overthrew Communism, one of the first acts of the new Romanian government was to abolish capital punishment. But just before they did that they executed Ceausescu. I love a government with a sense of humor.

On Grand Avenue (which isn’t really all that grand) I see Sabbath Tattoo. I’ve advanced well into geezerhood without getting tattooed, even though tattoo is one of my favorite words, along with kazoo, igloo, wazoo and Kalamazoo. Maybe it’s time. I go inside and am helped by Patrick, a man of seemingly infinite patience. I inquire about getting William Carlos Williams’ poem “The Red Wheelbarrow” tattooed on my chest, backwards, of course, so I can read it in the mirror while I’m shaving.

Patrick tells me it would cost around $200 and take a couple of hours. When I ask if it would hurt, he tells me that in a worst case scenario it might feel like a cat scratch on a sunburn. Whoa, two hours of cat scratches on a sunburn? Deal breaker!

Across from the Lightcatcher Museum I see the law office of Aaron M. Lukoff. I decide on the spot that if I’m ever in trouble this is where I’m heading because every lawyer here is described on the window as a “Hammer.” Aaron’s the Hammer of Truth, another guy is the Hammer of Justice, and so forth. When I’m in hot water I don’t want some Gucci-wearing East Coast toff. I want a hammer. As a bonus, through the window I spot what looks like a video game in the waiting room. At long last I’ve found a waiting room where I wouldn’t get bored.

The best downtown window is at Jes’ Barber Shop at 1301 Commercial St., where there is a large display of antique toys. There are some real treasures here: a Betty Boop figurine, a blackjack-dealing bear, a tiny television set with a still shot of a Honeymooners episode, a 9” by 4” pool table complete with cues and balls, and a gorilla and rabbit on a date cruising in a vintage convertible. There’s a lot more inside, along with a gregarious cat named Rosie. Oh, and you can also get a haircut.

At 204 Commercial St. sits a squatty little brick building that used to be an insurance office, but now has a sign next to the door that says Consulat de Monte Cristo. Monte Cristo is a tiny, largely uninhabited island in the Tyrrhenian Sea. And this is its consulat! I might like to ride out the Trump administration on Monte Cristo. Maybe I could get a residency permit and move there. But the door is locked. I’ll definitely be back.

During the day I had more adventures than I have space to tell you about. And they call us the City of Subdued Excitement? Not a chance.

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