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Walla Walla

Started: 2020-08-07 19:43:07

Submitted: 2020-08-10 21:58:17

Visibility: World-readable

In which the intrepid narrator visits his parents in Walla Walla for a long weekend in the middle of a global pandemic

On my last day at Google, we moved out of our house in Wallingford to a furnished rental in Queen Anne. This is the part of Queen Anne that overlooks the Space Needle and Elliott Bay, and the living room featured a telescope (that was really designed for stargazing) that I also used to look at the Space Needle and the boat and ship traffic coming in and out of the Port of Seattle.

The next day was Thursday, 14th July. Kiesa went back to our house in Wallingford to supervise the movers who had come to pack and load our house. (They estimated they'd need three days to pack and two days to load; they ended up spending a total of four days at the house, doing some packing and loading each day. The move included a "third-party service" to hoist the Ian couch over the second-floor railing because the interior stairs were too small to carry it down inside, and also do some disassembly.) I loaded the kids in the Rav4 and drove across the state to Walla Walla, making sure to avoid stopping in Yakima now that it's become a COVID-19 hotspot.

I drove to Walla Walla because both of my siblings decided to visit our parents. My sister Bethany lives in Manhattan and had been isolated in her apartment for months before emerging to take a cross-country golf-and-family trip with her husband Josh. (Despite being hit hard in the beginning of the pandemic, New York City now seems to be one of the few places in this country to actually have COVID-19 under control. California and Washington shut down early and dodged the first bullet but now seem to have gotten complacent, proving that we can't have nice things.) My brother Willy drove up from Angwin, so my entire family of origin met at my parents' house in Walla Walla for the weekend.

Julian and Aunt Bethany record a video
Julian and Aunt Bethany record a video

The first night we were there we watched Knives Out. I had previously seen it in the theater (back in December, when movie theaters were still a thing). I already knew the ending but I enjoyed seeing the movie a second time, seeing the plot develop (and, while I was at it, feeling grateful that I had not grown up in a family with that much money and dysfunctional).

Qualcomm mug
Qualcomm mug

In my parents cupboard I found a Qualcomm mug, which I think I got them as a present (from the Qualcomm-branded store in the lobby of Building Q in San Diego) at some point in the past when I was actually working at Qualcomm. This amused me, because I haven't worked at Qualcomm for more than four years (and because I just left the job I got after Qualcomm laid me off), so I used it for coffee every morning.

Uncle Willy, Julian, and Calvin build Lego
Uncle Willy, Julian, and Calvin build Lego

And, of course, there were the Legos. Willy had built a prototype Spanish-style California mission chapel (inspired by Mission San Francisco, aka The Mission that gave the modern neighborhood its name), and had then used the prototype to order pieces in white to complete the final model, then partially disassembled it to reclaim the pieces. I took one look at the model and decided it needed to be a ruin, so I found an assortment of plants to fill the inside and drape over the sides like clinging ivy.

Lego ruin
Lego ruin

Under the arch at the focal point of the chapel, behind the altar, I moved the cross off its pedestal and placed it to the side, as if it had fallen down at some point and then been leaned against the wall, so it was still upright, just not in the right place.

Gentleman-explorer in Lego ruin
Gentleman-explorer in Lego ruin

To complete the model I populated it with two minifigs: an Edwardian gentleman-archeologist (carrying a geologist's hammer) and his plucky sidekick (carrying binoculars).

Plucky sidekick in Lego ruin
Plucky sidekick in Lego ruin

We colonized the living room and begin setting up the 1990s Lego train set Willy and I played with as children. Willy assembled the passenger train station from the original instructions, and I assembled the freight locomotive. (Willy noticed the apparent contradiction that we had received a freight locomotive set to go with the passenger station, even though Lego did have a contemporaneous passenger locomotive set. I couldn't remember if we'd noticed this contradiction before, though it occurs to me to consider that maybe the freight locomotive set was in fact more available when my parents went Christmas shopping.) I found the twenty-five-year-old freight locomotive set much easier to reassemble than Calvin's similar Lego locomotive, twenty years newer: the newer set had many more pieces, and the pieces used generally more complicated construction techniques (featuring everyone's favorite Studs Not On Top, aka SNOT, used to get more complicated details out of the pieces). Then I set the train on the track and let it run in circles, and Julian took over the operation of the train, running it backwards and forwards and running the points to switch it onto different tracks and pick up and drop off train cars.

Uncle Willy and Calvin build Lego
Uncle Willy and Calvin build Lego

(I wanted the train controller to take into account the momentum of a real train: it should be slow to accelerate and slow to decelerate, rather than the nearly-instant speed changes of the electric motor and the light plastic Lego train cars.)

On Friday afternoon we watched Hamilton, the musical, now available to stream on Disney+. I've listened to the cast album multiple times, watched the show in person, and I watched the recorded performance with Kiesa and Calvin on the 3rd of July, the first day it was available. (I was not willing to wait for it.) But my siblings wanted to see it too, so I brought my AppleTV and my Disney+ account and we sat down to watch the American musical again, with my whole family. (Julian got bored after the first act and kept asking Aunt Bethany when it would be done so he could play, so they left in the middle of the second act.)

We spent all of Saturday afternoon sitting on the porch, shaded from the harsh afternoon sun, talking at the table; then in the evening, after a light supper, and after Julian was in bed, I gathered people together and played Wingspan with Calvin, Willy, and my mother. (I brought the game because I thought it would amuse Willy, given his interest in birds, and I was right.)

Wingspan game board
Wingspan game board

Bethany and Josh left early Sunday morning to fly back to New York. I left around noon to drive back to Seattle, stopping at the rest stop above Yakima to eat lunch in the shade of a tree. (None of the picnic tables were shaded, so we sat on the ground under a pine tree, which worked well enough.) I momentarily forgot how close I was to Yakima until a woman smoking under a tree called out to me, "What a world we live in, where we have to wear masks" and all I could manage in response was "Yeah"; but I'd much rather wear a mask than get COVID-19 so I'm going to wear a mask every time I go out in public.

We arrived in Seattle, at our temporary furnished rental in Queen Anne, in the evening, just in time for supper; then I prepared to spend the next week wrapping up things at my house in Wallingford before flying to California and looking for housing and starting my new job at Apple the following week.

Money does not abide by the laws of thermodynamics.
- schwap, in a /. post