When I was 10, all I wanted for my birthday was a one-man submarine. No torpedoes.
I didn’t get it. My parents forgot my birthday altogether. So I’m a little chagrined that Biden gave Volodymyr Zelensky 31 M1A2 jet-engine-powered Abrams tanks for his 45th birthday. Zelensky is like my neighbor Steve. Steve always got cool stuff.
Leaping around my memories, I come to a long string of them to do with the University of Washington parking garage. To be clear, I’m talking about the one under Red Square. The one that lies between and under Kane Hall, Odegaard Library, Suzzallo Library, the administration building and Meany Hall.
When I first started at UW in 1967, the area between those buildings was grass criss-crossed with paths, just like the Arts Quad still is. Students sat around on the grass and chatted or did their homework. I got used to it and looked forward to walking past all the happy smiling faces on my way to my morning classes.
Then, one dark day, my way was blocked by a six-foot wooden wall. I managed to find a place where I could peek over it and look down and see what the wall meant to hide: a hole in the ground big enough to put a four-story parking garage in it.
The wall was my first exposure to hippie graffiti. Before then, all the graffiti I’d seen was on the walls of men’s rooms at diners. Classics like “Please don’t throw your butts in the urinals, it makes them hard to relight,” “Kilroy was here,” etc.
Now I was seeing such things as “Today is the first day of the rest of your life,” and “Turn on, tune in, drop out.” There was also the occasional Yippie graffiti, such as the beloved, “Smash the state.”
Eventually the parking garage was built, lidded with Red Square plaza. The inverted obelisk was erected in front of Kane Hall. I went off to graduate school, got some jobs in Europe and on the East Coast, got a 1969 junk Green Rambler. I came back, and my life took some nasty turns. In December of 1983, I found myself in a snowstorm living out of the Green Rambler, a vehicle with no working heater. I was freezing to death. Literally.
So, as I always say, necessity is a mother. I discovered at night I could park for free inside the underground parking garage. There was no gate attendant. I could just drive in. I always picked a spot deep inside, next to the stairwell up to Kane Hall. Kane Hall was warm, and I got some of the heat. I did not freeze to death, thanks to the garage staying open and the warm buildings it butted up against. I had to leave by 7:30 a.m. when a gate attendant came back on shift.
I wasn’t completely alone in the garage. There was a guy playing the saxophone. He seemed to like the echoes.
Eventually, the Rambler broke down, and I couldn’t start it to get out of the garage in the morning, so I had to walk to the parking attendant’s booth and pay the day’s parking fee. I’d get a ticket to display on my dashboard. For some reason, probably having to do with my compromised mental state at the time, I never cleared off the old tickets from the dashboard. They piled up in a mountain, and the attendants inspecting would have to pick the latest ticket out of a hundred or so. Fortunately, they were cool with it. They knew the car and the parking space I was stuck in, so they let it go.
But the underground parking garage remained open and accessible at night. Legally, you couldn’t sleep in your car anymore, but at least you could park a while and warm up.
Now I’ve heard that’s going to end. The entrances are going to be blocked at night. We can never have nice things.
Read more of the Feb. 1-7, 2023 issue.