HELIX REDUX – Wishing Farewell to Bill White, While Waiting for Bill White . . . to Write

Helix this week is austere, at least when compared to any of the 30 some previous offerings.  And things will stay restrained for about two weeks more, for we have lost Bill White – temporarily.  This week Ron Edge’s clever black-white lasso of the Moitoret Helix logo is left without color.   Ron has restrained himself, for it is he that has been putting up those colored renderings every week – with about two years to go.  (They should make a fine little Edge Animation.  We can show it on YouTube.)

Now it occurs to me that this lack of color is prefigured by a slide I took many years ago of the front of the old and last Helix office on Harvard Ave.   The place was plastered with bills.   I’ll put it up.  (For sake of disclosure, perhaps it was recorded with Tri-X and not color.)  Someone – like Bill White – with a detailed understanding of Seattle’s Rock history will be able to date this by the bands playing.

[Now someone has: Mike Whybark.  While Bill is on the train – thanks Mike.  Here’s his comment, which can also be found far below.  Mike refers to both front door shots of the abandoned Helix, this one and the other near the bottom of this contribution.  We’ll  put his truths in quotes, and this welcome interruption in brackets.

“Black and white posters shot includes a date: Freak Show at the Central 6-2-91, flyers in the clerestory of the storefront.  I also note the mass of posters lower down is very weathered with no fresh flyers. I would guess that this then dates from the first year or so of the poster ban, around 1993. The color pic [near the bottom] looks to be around 1982. Three alternative market bands are featured: The Stranglers (UK based), Romeo Void (LA) and Echo and the Bunnymen. Romeo Void had the shortest half life of these bands so I say about 1981-1982.”]

Things will stay dormant for about two weeks more – until Bill gets settled in Peru.  We say farewell Bill.  But we wait to hear from you.  (He has sent a few lines from Chicago and a few more while rolling through Washington D.C. via Amtrak.  They were understandable complaints about the price of train food, the difficulties of sleeping in a coach, the state of North Dakota and the state of national politics.  But soon comes relief, for Bill by now must be approaching dangling Florida.  There on its western shore he will join a cruise ship filled with tourists.  On my trip across the Atlantic long ago I quickly developed a fondness for tourists and the deck shuffleboard and swimming we shared high above the ocean.   Bill’s journey with take him and his tourists through the Panama Canal, in the direction of the new world.  Fifty seven years ago I too went through it in the opposite direction landing in the old world at Tilbury on the Thames.

Here's some hide and seek for you Bill. You will, of course, be in the other locks on the left - the ones heading for the Pacific, still perhaps you can keep an eye out for this place, either from the stern or some high open deck. Study the hillocks on that wet horizon and shoot. We will print!

Bill intends to send reports by land and sea and with pictures.  Once he is comfortably at home in Lima we will figure out how to resume these weekly offerings with our partnered commentaries, by means of SKYPE and some recording program we have yet to install.  And we hope that a few thousand miles, Skype and the cameras on our respective screens will help us get better at reading Helix.

The trip from Seattle to Lima, which takes a few hours by air, will last a little under three weeks for Bill – a luxury for a writer as prolific as he.   We shall wait to read him.  A century ago Bill could have easily booked steamer service to South America directly from Seattle.  And there was a boat operating as early as the 1870s named for the City of Panama, on the isthmus that by then had the first transcontinental railroad in any hemisphere crossing it.  For one crossing over from the the Old to the New, adding to the coastwise-steaming on two oceans, the rattling of less than a day by train, made this Western Migration something like tolerable.  And there was less chance of catching Malaria on the little train than on a hired wagon though that steaming jungle.

An Edge Clipping from a 1878 Post-Intelligencer. (Courtesy, Ron Edge)

Bill has moved more north-south than east-west.  But he has gotten older.  Pizarro, the tough Spaniard who founded Lima, called it the “City of Kings.”  That was in 1535 – by now time enough the grow a layered culture.  Bill will add to it with his singing and writing – even in English.  Wallingford will not be the same without him, although the neighborhood is also changing.  Tully’s, the bigger espresso shop on the northeast corner of 45th and Meridian folded.   It figures.  Tully’s was a place we used to go for meetings but with minimal consuming.  At the same time the west wall of the place has been painted with a sampler of Wallingford’s destinations.  It is mildly charming if one is feeling good but pathetic when not.   Ron Edge snapped it from his driver’s window.   Bill print this and hang it on a north wall in Lima.

Now a snapshot of Bill on his last day in Wallingford and the Northwest.  I’m helping him pack some primitive essentials – although he later refused them.  (Until inserting this, I had not noticed that the right pocket on my temperate winter coat is torn. I inherited it from my oldest brother Ted, now six years beyond.   I’ll leave it alone.)

Returning – in conclusion for this week – to a more colorful Helix this time in Kodachrome.  This slide is not dated, but Bill can probably figure it out from the names on the posters.  Now what will happen to all the familiarity that is part of him?   Losing White to South America is like burning a library with a smolder.   Bill we await your reports – by Land and by Sea – and books both real and magical from the “land of crosses.”

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