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Wednesday, March 21, 2007

The Wonders of Yesler

posted by on March 21 at 13:20 PM


A few hours ago, I saw something wondrous under this tree on 18th and Yesler: A young Japanese woman helping an ancient Japanese woman to reach with her old and crooked fingers the cherry blossoms on a low branch. Why was this vision wondrous? Because it echoed a traditional Japanese ghost story about an ancient woman who has a young woman help her reach a cherry blossom tree in a garden. The old woman is about to die; the young woman has fresh breasts. The old woman does something to the young woman that the old woman in real life didn’t, thankfully, do to the young woman in real life.

c58aa10226c1.jpg Coming across this impressive advertisement on the back of a truck parked near the corner of 14 and Yesler, I wondered who its intended or ideal subject might be? Two handsome men carrying your mattress out of the back of a truck? Who would be pleased by this vision, this particular situation? And what exactly are the smiling men doing with my mattress? Are they taking it out, or taking it in. And if in, is this an invitation?


Here near the corner of 12th and Yesler a wonderful thought appeared in my head much like that wonderful cloud appeared in the sky. The thought concerned one of the sayings (number 29) I read the night before in the Gospel of Thomas, which was translated from Coptic and found in 1945 by a murderer looking for manure.

Jesus said, “If the flesh came into being because of spirit, it is a wonder. But if spirit came into being because of the
body, it is a wonder of wonders. Indeed, I am amazed at how this great wealth has made its home in this poverty.

At first I thought nothing of the saying. It appeared to be the muddying of a puddle to give the effect of depth. Then, at this moment, the corner of 12th and Yesler, it occurred to me that the Jesus in the Gospel of Thomas was saying something that the Jesus in the canon would never say: the spirit comes from humans, from the flesh, from the body (“this poverty”), rather than the other way around. More impressive: the spirit rising from man is far more wonderful, more amazing than the spirit descending from God—or from the sky, as Plato fancies in Phaedrus:

The soul in her totality has the care of inanimate being everywhere, and traverses the whole heaven in divers forms appearing—when perfect and fully winged she soars upward, and orders the whole world; whereas the imperfect soul, losing her wings and drooping in her flight at last settles on the solid ground-there, finding a home, she receives an earthly frame which appears to be self-moved, but is really moved by her power; and this composition of soul and body is called a living and mortal creature.

A scene in Phaedrus brings the conclusion to this post:

Phaedr. What an incomprehensible being you are, Socrates: when you are in the country, as you say, you really are like some stranger who is led about by a guide. Do you ever cross the border? I rather think that you never venture even outside the gates.

Soc. Very true, my good friend; and I hope that you will excuse me when you hear the reason, which is, that I am a lover of knowledge, and the men who dwell in the city are my teachers, and not the trees or the country.

RSS icon Comments


enough, pothead.

the money our state or nation used to help (over)educate you could've been better used on someone useful.

Posted by frederick r | March 21, 2007 1:24 PM

Lovely post, Charles. I'm glad to see you're feeling more positive today.

(And I love the creepy story about the cherry blossoms and the boobs.)

Posted by Mark Mitchell | March 21, 2007 1:28 PM

i like the post's happy ending.

Posted by josh | March 21, 2007 1:40 PM

I had the pleasure of walking that same stretch of Yesler this AM - the cherry blossoms are amazing!

Posted by Timebomb | March 21, 2007 1:41 PM

Charles, I have always thought of you as a talentless hack. Often I could only take a tiny bit of your writing and then just move on. In my mind I wondered if you could possibly be worse at something other than your writing, and thank you, today you proved your photography is equal to your writing.
Why the Stranger feels compelled to continue allowing you access if beyond me. Token anyone?

Posted by rufus | March 21, 2007 1:42 PM

Again with the old people. We all know that older people have (statistically speaking) less time than younger people. We don't need to be told that.

Pointing out obvious facts ad nauseum, and in a ponderous manner, is very George W. Bush of you, and I wish you'd knock it off.

Posted by catalina vel-duray | March 21, 2007 1:46 PM
7're weird.

Posted by oatmeal turtleneck | March 21, 2007 1:51 PM

I find it odd when I tell acquaintances that I am Athiest, they often think it's depressing. Somehow they think I need the idea of a higher being to be happy. I never understood why that was, and I've always had trouble explaining to them that the wonders of humanity sans God are to me far more impressive than any gift from a higher being. Your interpretation of the Jesus quote gets this idea across quite well. Thanks.

Posted by steve | March 21, 2007 1:57 PM

re: @7.

Yes, Charles, you are weird. In the most wonderful way imaginable. I thank the Stranger every week for hiring such a brilliant lunatic. You keep the world from being boring.

Posted by SDA in SEA | March 21, 2007 2:20 PM

is that brendan fraser carrying that mattress?

Posted by gforce | March 21, 2007 2:26 PM

Charles, ye poet who shan't admit to yr poetaster ways, yr post thus reminded me in turn of this exchange between Lee Hazelwood (who was cooler than Dean Martin, btw) and Nancy Sinatra,,,

Some velvet morning when I'm straight,
I'm gonna open up your gate
and maybe tell you 'bout Phaedra
and how she gave me life,
and how she made it in.
Some velvet morning when I'm straight.

Flowers growing on the hill,
Dragonflies and daffodils,
Learn from us very much,
Look at us but do not touch,
Phaedra is my name

Posted by come again | March 21, 2007 2:34 PM

You think the Sleep Country guys are attractive? You have low standards my friend.

Posted by elswinger | March 21, 2007 2:37 PM

Many people who believe in God pretty much believe in predestination. Whenever something bad happens, they say it's the will of God. Whenever something good happens, they thank God for it. The idea that we have absolutely no control over what happens to us or what happens in the world strikes me as much more depressing than atheism.

Posted by keshmeshi | March 21, 2007 3:18 PM

i agree with SDA @ #9. i couldn't disagree more with rufus's first sentence @ #5. beyond that, it becomes incoherent.

Posted by josh | March 21, 2007 3:20 PM

Yesterday at 4:45 pm at Yesler & 20th (or so), I heard "firecrackers" -- I hoped. I told my preschooler and his friend, who play at Pratt Park every week, not to get out of the car. (Yesterday was cold and rainy.) A few minutes later, when all was quiet, we made the transfer from the car to our friend's front door.
Shortly thereafter, cops arrived and yellow tape was placed around the 21st/S. Washington block.
Who are these jokers? One does not like to hear automatic gunfire on the block where our children play.

Posted by Sara | March 21, 2007 3:51 PM

Huh, I noticed more cops coming down the street when I left my house (at 20th & Washington), but didn't know what they were there for.


Also yesterday one of my neighbors had their back window of their car shattered, also at 20th & Washington. Related? Possibly, but not one of the more beautiful sights on Yesler.

Posted by Tom C. | March 21, 2007 3:57 PM

Wow… That’s the most self-indulgent Slog post I have ever read. What drivel…

Posted by You_Gotta_Be_Kidding_Me | March 21, 2007 4:45 PM

um, the usual interpretation of saying 29 is exactly the opposite of yours: i.e. He's ridiculing those that would say the spirit came from the flesh.

Posted by freek | March 21, 2007 5:33 PM

garph blat oo buh buh loo, loo lah! Bleep blop boop boob boo. Bzzz, bzzz, zzz...?

I like cake.

Posted by loo | March 21, 2007 6:28 PM

am i the only one that goes back to zen and the art of motorcycle maintenance on this one? really?

Posted by me | March 22, 2007 3:17 AM

I actually know the woman who lives at Yessler & 18th in your picture. First off stop stalking her. Secondly dude you need to realize there is a difference between a Japanese woman and an African American woman. You were dead on about her breast though.

Posted by Doug | March 22, 2007 9:17 AM

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