ORBITING THE CRYSTAL PALACE
Dreamed 1998/1/12 by Chris Wayan
I'm wandering through the Seattle Civic Center--theaters, libraries, and museums set among plazas lawns and fountains--when I notice a long rope around my waist! A safety line, leading up the glass wall of an oval greenhouse, a crystal palace a bit like the Conservatory in Golden Gate Park back home--but huge long and irregular, like a faceted paramecium or a big glass shoe. Long ago, when this civic center was a World's Fair, this structure housed an amusement arcade, but it's long been closed. Ferris wheels and bumper cars are beneath the dignity of a respectable civic center.
Suddenly I want to see what it looks like now. When I was a kid and the fair was here and the rides were running, I remember looking down on the amusement palace from the Space Needle. Unlike most such, it was actually pretty! The roof was asymmetrical, a surreal landscape of ridges rivers and lakes, but all of glass. Pleasing patterns--the architect was eccentric but a master. I want to see what's there now. The doors are locked; STAFF ONLY signs. But I'm tied to this building, so I think I have a right to climb it. The rope is anchored to a high spire. I pull it taut and climb the wall. Rather than risk my weight up on the glass roof, I get an ingenious idea--run along the wall till I'm swinging on the end of the line around the whole building! Pull in on the line and speed up as my radius shortens, till I'm zooming around so fast the rope's nearly horizonal and I rise above most of the roof and can see it as a whole. It's as beautiful as I remember it! It's not all arched like most glass palaces--much of it's tent suspension, with toothy cusps over the poles and curved ridges and saddles between. Spraypainted white though--mothballed. But the curves still flow beautifully--horizontally echo the sweeping motifs of the Space Needle.
Uh-oh. I wasn't thinking. As I complete my first orbit round the tower, my line fouls on a nearby spire, the only one higher than my anchor-point. I hoped none were, so I could orbit indefinitely. But now suddenly my line's shorter and my speed faster. Clearly I'll spiral in around the two spires, wrapping faster and faster till I hit a pane out of control.
I decide to take initiative--pull rope in, a strain now, but I manage to reserve several loops so I can let go and slow myself near impact, or even choose where I land.
And I do. But I have help--children scramble out of the spire, carrying a mattress. They pull on the rope and bring me in to a soft landing, between the spires. Feral children inhabit the shut-down fair! They show me the greenhouse aisles where they grow food.
A whole society of runaway children lives in here. Though though I'm adult, I join them.
He thinks it over... and lets us go. They'll ignore us if we ignore them.
At last, we feral children have a home.
NOTES IN THE MORNING
It did. I still live there. Best house I've ever had.
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