Monday, February 03, 2014

How to end a dry spell

Such a goofy, giddy atmosphere in Seattle yesterday, like a particularly localized bizarro Christmas. Seahawks banners were taped up in every window of the ballet studio, and to the Campfire Girls’ card table outside the market (though by the time I made it out with my nacho fixins, they’d packed up their mints and raced home with their moms to make the kickoff). Someone had draped 12th-man flags on the pedestrian bridge over Holman Road and strung the handrails with blue and white twinkle lights plugged into an outlet on the city’s dime. People in Hawks jerseys thronged Chuck’s Hop Shop and the Sunday-morning biscuit truck outside. Driving through the anticipatory mayhem I had a weird momentary thought: that I wished I was a child, just a bit, to be experiencing this unique civic holiday from that perspective.

I was nine years old when the SuperSonics won their lone NBA championship. Seattle was still effectively a small town, known for boom-and-bust cycles of lumber and airplanes and little else. 1979 was closer, then, to Elvis at the World’s Fair and Here Come the Brides than I am to nine, now. Bill Gates and, yes, that Paul Allen had just moved their fledgling company up from Albuquerque. There was one Starbucks. Just the one! Think about that for a second.

So the Sonics were still somewhat accessible, to normal people. They made appearances at my elementary school assemblies, gentle giants signing autographs. Some crafty local made sock dolls in team likenesses; my fourth-grade teacher, Mrs. Eskenazi, had one of her favorite player, Dennis “DJ” Johnson, complete with frizzled-yarn Afro and his trademark freckles—somebody’s grandma had painstakingly embroidered a dusting of French-knot specks across his knitted cheeks. Based on a (shockingly accurate) self-portrait of the period, I had a Sonics t-shirt:


And so we were invested, at least somewhat.
We were with our dad, Sis and I, the night of Game 5. I don’t think we actually watched it, on the green-tinged 19-inch tube TV in the living room (though I’d love now to have the brass-and-veneer midcentury-mod Media Cart it sat on). But someone had hired a skywriter: I remember running around the yard in the long light of early-summer evening, and the little plane spelling out SONIC BOOM in puffy cloud trails in the air. And I remember afterwards, the shouts and horn-honking and people whanging pots together, house to house. Dad piled us into the pickup—just the three of us sliding around on the bench seat in the cab, never a thought of belting in because safety hadn’t been invented yet either—and drove us to Mercer Island, where Kathy still lived with her parents. He’d marry her, that fall. I cross Lake Washington every day now, but it seemed an epic journey, a vast distance, at the time. There were carloads of other celebrants on the highway, snapshots zooming past: a shirtless man hanging out of a VW Beetle whooping for joy, his own Sonics tee whipping and snapping in his hands like a flag.
“Wait,” Dad told me, “wait…” until we reached the I-90 tunnel…and then he let me lean over and pound on the horn. Honking in the tunnel! A delirium of echoing, illegal racket! Other cars took it up and we shot out the far end in a cacophony of blaring joyful noise that I’d instigated, thrilling and dangerous, champeens of the world.



Katie Richmond said...

I remember the night the Sonics won the NBA championship. I was spending the night at a friend's house, and she lived on 36th, right up next to the Aurora Bridge. We had planned on sleeping in the back yard, but the horns! So we moved inside. Thanks for helping me remember...

Amy said...

I always miss the good stuff.