wrote this story last year, when our worries were ones we were more used to.

I clearly remember how much, sitting out on my roof over Fourth Avenue, I anticipated the Pride Parade.

Of course, none of us knew then that this year’s parade would be cancelled or could have dreamed in our worst night terrors how unrecognizable and complicated the world would become overnight.

We weren’t prepared to worry about friends and family who got sick (a lot of mine live in New York, so there were lots of them), understanding a global pandemic or surreal things like being afraid to hug people.

Anyway, I wrote this story for Tom Douglas. Or, rather, to extend an apology after I offended two of his customers — and to be clear, I offended them on purpose.

Again, this was before he had to close 12 of his 13 restaurants, which doesn’t even begin to cover how much more sorry this made me, beyond sorry.

Today, rereading this, I become so deeply nostalgic for Seattle as it was that day. It hardly seems possible it was only a year ago...

Many times in my life I have longed for the ability of turning a blind eye. Count to 10, focus on your breath, take time to process what you want to say — except none of these silent approaches seem to work for me when I’m furious.

And no one can accuse me of looking the other way when I’m furious because if they could I would never have allowed myself to say, “Hey! He’s a friend of mine. Don’t you dare say that about him!”

It was a lie. I didn’t know the man walking by our tables in tighty-whities and a cowboy hat embellished with the colorful stripes of the rainbow flag, exactly what one would expect the day before our 45th Annual Pride Parade. LGBTQ’s of every stripe were pouring into the city for the weekend festivities; rainbow banners garlanded every downtown doorway.

Well, not every doorway. But a lot of them. It seemed to me most businesses were proudly, peacefully on board for Sunday’s parade.    

Even the Rainier Club waived a banner over its entrance. I keep thinking  how difficult it must have been to get some of the more senior members on board with that. (Just to be invited behind those thick-brick walls as an author, I had to be vetted. The programmer called it “a luncheon to get to know one another,” but she would say that.

I changed three times, slightly different versions of the same pants and blouse that passed the only rule of professional dress I know: Smooth top, hard bottom.)

I was just starting into my roasted tomato soup when the man at the next table said, knowing full well I could hear, “Look at that freak.” Before his wife said, “I can’t believe they they let people like that wander the streets.”

I was so startled I almost dropped my spoon. That our city’s public pride had turned into their personal joke, well, this kind of remark has always made me angry, even as a kid, even if I didn’t know exactly why yet. I hate it even more today.

Let us remember, it wasn’t made in a bar somewhere in Garfield County, but in Lola’s restaurant on Fourth Avenue. But narrow-mindedness knows no boundaries. It lives everywhere. I thought, you can’t let them say that! And then, here you go again, getting into trouble.

I thought of my friend Dennis, removed by 800 miles from my every day but not from my fondness, how he once boasted tighty-whities in San Francisco’s Castro Parade. Tighty-whities are a coming-out thing. What a good man Dennis is.

He made me brave enough to speak up.

But before I said what I said, I asked the couple what I believed I already knew: that they were waiting for their cruise ship to leave in the morning. “Yes,” they said in unison, off to Alaska from Missouri.

I worry when I see tourists like this walking in Belltown, though the reason has changed. I no longer want to warn them about walking on Third Avenue on their way to the Space Needle. Lately, I feel the opposite of protective for some of these inlanders — and this couple seemed even more out of place than most — I feel afraid.

Not for them, but of.

Tom, I didn’t set out to insult your customers by speaking loudly on my cell. But their heartlessness egged me on. So I went on. Definitely so they could hear, “I’m just sitting here next to Tweedledee and Tweedledum-dum-dum-dum.”

Even to me it sounded mean. They shot me a surprised look, and lord knows what they mumbled to each other.

And though I’m not exactly mad at myself for saying what I did, still, this is what I hope for next time, that I just shake my head and soldier on, silently.

Which is all fine and good, if you’re a soldier.

I was still questioning my behavior — I’ve had a lot of practice questioning — when I stood to go.

The proud cowboy was sitting across the street at the Dahlia Bakery. I looked at him, wishing I were the kind of person who would walk right up to him and say, “Excuse me, but I wish I didn’t question myself as much. I wish I had half the self-confidence you seem to have.”

Back on the sidewalk, in direct contrast to any dum-dum-dum disapproval, Seattle sparkled with irreverent acceptance.

And I loved us for it.   


— Mary Lou Sanelli, author, speaker, and dance teacher, lives in Belltown. Her novel, “The Star Struck Dance Studio (of Yucca Springs)” was recently published (Chatwin Books). For more information about Sanelli and her work, visit www.marylousanelli.com.