Travelogue: The City of God and Monsters

Shawn Kavanaugh is a cashier in UC Berkeley's food services. Respond at [email protected]





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Have you seen the movie "Gods and Monsters?" It was a recurring theme in my mind as I sat down to write this piece about my trip to Seattle, Wash.

I took Amtrak - a big mistake. The 23-hour ride left me hot and smelly, and sleep evaded me during the entire ride. After checking into the local hostel, I made my way through the Pike Street Market and found myself looking for the Space Needle. I was told it was within walking distance of the hostel, so I kept looking up, hoping to see it. As I headed up a hill, I was distracted by a long wall about five feet high with a poem etched into the stone. As I was reading the poem and decided to head back to the hostel, a strange, white building appeared off to my left. I was happy to find the Space Needle towering up into the sky before me. I forgot about the poem, rested my arms on top of the wall and just looked at the needle. I stayed that way for almost 20 minutes before turning back for the hostel.

Another day, I found the Rock and Roll museum, the University of Washington, a cruise to Blake Island and a little car dealership that sold old cars like Maseratis, Rolls Royces, a 1961 Triumph, and a 1952 Bentley. By night, my routine was different. I'd usually go to the section of Seattle called Capitol Hill and hang out at a gay bar and bookstore, and have dinner at a nearby Burger King (okay, lousy food, but it fit my budget).

One evening, I walked by a small corner market where there was a stairway. Lying on the stairs, surrounded by two paramedics, was a homeless man. His mouth was in the shape of an "O," and his eyes were wide and unblinking. Although I continued walking and barely glanced at him, I know I won't forget the look on his face. It will haunt me for a long time.

On Saturday night, I visited a gay bar. The bar had three floors. I made my way directly to the third floor without passing "Go" and without collecting 200 dollars. Once there, I stopped at the bar, ordered a beer and, as the bartender walked away to get my drink, I took the opportunity to look around at the crowd. There were two guys, and both of them looked like they were in their early to mid-20s. One of them spotted me and abruptly stopped talking to his friend and just stared at me. At this point, the bartender had brought my drink, so I turned to him, paid him and took my drink. When I turned back to the guy who was looking at me, I was happy to find him still checking me out.

I walked away from the counter of the bar and stood against the wall. That was when the guy left his friend sitting at the bar and made his way over to me. He shouted so as to be heard over the loud music, "You're hot!" He then grabbed my hand and, as weird as it may sound, began reading my palm! He held my hand in one of his, then began tracing a finger over the lines on the palm of my hand. He shook his head occasionally, periodically looking up into my eyes, smiling. "You're very smart! You're sweet..." He then trailed off and began shaking his head from side to side and shouted, "Shit!"

I was worried by this and shouted to him, saying, "What?"

He then looked at me, seemed disappointed, and said, "You're sensitive. Too sensitive." He then looked back down at my hand, then looked back up at me and said, "You're fucking hot!" He shook his head again, and continued. "But you're just way too sensitive."

At this point, I wasn't sure how he meant that, so I asked, "Is that a good thing, or a bad thing?"

He smiled the sweetest smile at me and said, "It's a good thing. But still, I don't wanna hurt you. I can't have anything to do with you - you can be hurt too easily!" And, with that, he stepped back from me, let go of my hand and walked back to his friend at the bar. I stayed against the wall, finishing my beer. I occasionally caught the guy looking at me, and every time our eyes met he'd shake his head at me as if to say, "It's too bad."

The last couple of days I was there I played tour guide to a couple of guys from the hostel, showing them around downtown. I flew back home instead of taking the train again, which proved to be quicker and a lot more comfortable. This trip was my first vacation on my own, my first time staying in a hostel, and my first time in a gay bar. It was all terrific.

As the plane began its descent into the Oakland Airport, I saw the Bay Bridge out the window. I also caught a glimpse of my reflection in the glass window. What I saw was both a little good and a little bad. I thought about the man strung out on the stairway, I thought about love found and love lost, and I thought about the beautiful young man who told me that I was really hot. There's a little good and a little bad in all of us - or rather, there is a little of God and a little bit of a monster in all of us. As the plane touched down, I tried holding onto the good aspects of the people I had seen and met, but couldn't help being haunted by the monsters.

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