Off the old block

It is rather easy for us to pick right up where we left off, even if it is more crowded now with beautiful wives and wonderful children. Tis a marvelous blessing indeed.”

— Kip

My friend Bernard Christopher — you know him as Kip — was in town briefly last weekend to visit his not-doing-so-well father. He came alone this time, and although getting our young families together is always a joy all its own, I was particularly thrilled to have a chance to sit down to a meal with Kip and just catch up the way we haven’t been able to do in a long time. He disembarked the Link Light Rail train from the airport at Pioneer Square and met me at Planet Java — my perennial favorite diner — for breakfast.

I’ve known Kip since about Seventh Grade, which was in the early Precambrian period. I’ve said before that I don’t even remember meeting him. He just fell into stride with Jeff and me, the right hombre for the difficult job of balancing our by then already maniacal seriousness. I’ve written of this Triad before in other posts (notably here), but I never told you about his heritage.

Kip's ancestor, Thomas T. Minor, Mayor of Seattle

Kip is a direct descendant of Thomas T. Minor, erstwhile mayor of Seattle (and Port Townsend, too) and the referent of Minor Avenue on First Hill, in a house on which, perhaps not coincidentally, Kip’s father grew up and in an apartment building on which, in an even more interesting turn, the old man lives now. Kip’s last name is not Minor, but that name has been a first or middle name in every subsequent generation of his family and as we were growing up I constantly heard mention of cousins and uncles named Minor.

Once when Kip’s mother was driving us back to Bellevue from Bainbridge Island, where we often stayed weekends in various summer homes owned by Kip’s extended family, she pointed to Trinity Episcopal Church on Eighth and James and reminded Kip that his forebears had helped build that church. I was gobsmacked. Kip made a comment of affirmation, but Kip was not a person who peacocked his Seattle blue-blood heritage. It was just a fact. But even before I became intensely interested in Seattle’s architectural history I found this fact to be remarkable. My friend Kip, descendant of churchmakers.

It's right there, but you can't see it. Kip enjoys things like this.

And it’s a really fine church, at least it seems to be so from the outside, which we passed on the way up to Minor Avenue. Our plan was that we would eat a leisurely breakfast and then I would accompany him on foot up to First Hill on his way to see the old bean, and we’d part ways there. It was just the right thing, only too little of it. The thing about Kip, historically as now, is that I could always spend untold amounts of time with him. We could play for hours, and it really was play. We played frisbee. We played guitars — he liked my six-string acoustic more than he liked his own classical, and I liked his classical more than I liked my classical. We played cribbage. We played vinyl Genesis records, trying to figure out what Phil Collins was singing at the end of “Los Endos” just before the fadeout.*

I had all the time in the world back in those days, and spending it with Kip always felt like worthwhile outlay. Walking through downtown, from Washington onto First and across Yesler, then up James, we fell into that timelessness again, just talking about stuff. Noticing stuff. Wondering aloud about stuff. There is a piece of sidewalk up on Eighth Avenue about 30 feet long where on a clear September day you can look right at the Columbia Center, the tallest building in Seattle, and not see it, because its shape fits with perfect snugness behind the Municipal Tower from that viewpoint. Not many people I know would pause with me to marvel at that. That’s how Kip rolls. His mind seems to have no limit of capacity for the little things that make life interesting right here, right now. And this is the Kip of today, a tired guy working a full work-week, tending to two small children, and flying at 7 o’clock in the morning to visit his dad.

The church his ancestors built.

Though it has never been “his church”, Kip allowed as how I could snap him in front of Trinity on our way past. I like the idea of the photo, its visual concept: my old friend solidly and solemnly enshrined above and around, sitting before a heart-red door, and blessed by the bright sun of a Seattle September. It’s the way I think of the people I love. If my heart were heaven, then all my friends were sanctified.

*We figured out later that he’s reprising a line from several albums before, when Peter Gabriel sings “There’s an angel standing in the sun”.

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3 Responses to “Off the old block”


  1. 1 Janet September 15, 2011 at 06:57

    Especially meaningful to get together with a longterm friend.

  2. 2 ami September 15, 2011 at 15:28

    What a great post. I’m rather fond of the guy myself, but one could say that I am biased in that particular area! I’m pleased that you two have reconnected. At times, no one speaks to the soul like a long time friend can.

  3. 3 Matt September 16, 2011 at 08:37

    @Janet, yes, the older I get the more I regret having let so many really wonderful people wander out of my life and the gratefuller I am to have reconnected with some of the aces.

    @Ami, your opinion is still valid, biased though you be.


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