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Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Red Skin State

It’s about as warm as it ever gets in Seattle. It is sunny and 80 degrees. My apartment doesn’t have air conditioning but it is comfortable during the day, and at night it cools off enough so that I still need to sleep with a blanket. We are having what a lot of people consider to be good weather. My body hasn’t seen much sun since I moved here from the sub-tropics of Florida. My skin has been the color of boiled chicken for most of the time I have lived up here in the upper left hand corner of the country.

Lately I don’t seem to gravitate to warm places when I travel. I have been taking my overseas vacations during the winter to places that have even worse weather than Seattle. During the summer months I have been traveling around the Northwest, which isn’t exactly famous for sunshine. In these parts, hot sunny days are less common than earthquakes or volcano eruptions. Tan lines are about as alien to me these days as, well, aliens.

I sat outside the other day and read for an hour in the hot sun. I now have a few blotches of red on my otherwise very white carcass. I don’t even know if I am capable of getting anything remotely resembling a tan. I used to think that I tanned easily enough but I’m just way out of practice. It is sunny again today so maybe I’ll go out and try to get some red blotches on other parts of my body without getting the red blotches already present even redder.

Here is the problem. I live downtown and I don’t have a deck connected to my apartment. The only park area around my neighborhood is the Seattle Center which is hosting a huge music festival this weekend. This means that there won’t be six square inches of available grass to lie on, or a single empty park bench where I can sit and read.

The Folklife Festival at the Seattle Center ushers in the summer every Memorial Day weekend. Armies of musicians with fiddles, dulcimers, banjos, bongos, flutes, guitars, and anything else you can pick, blow into, beat, hammer, or bow, all these people converge on the Seattle Center to play. Since I’m already on the subject I have to say that this is about the whitest crowd I’ve ever seen. There isn’t enough skin pigment in this entire venue to fill a musician’s tip cup. Someone could make a fortune today with a sunscreen concession.

I come from European peasant stock—German and French. The German side is fair haired and light skinned. Although I lean more towards the Mediterranean French side, the German blood in me is responsible for my sunburns. I have always wished that I looked more Mediterranean, a little darker skinned and with dark hair. If I looked more Greek I would also look more Mexican, more Lebanese, more Spanish, more ambiguous racially, and I would blend into a crowd in more places than Seattle. I have tried several times in my life to pound the square peg of my white skin into the round hole of a sunny climate on the globe. It doesn’t work so well. I’m sure that I damaged my hide during my residencies in latitudes closer to zero. On sunny days like we’ve had here this week even Seattle isn’t far enough away from the equator to save me from sunburn.

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