Seattle is total modernity and socialization after my weeks of semi-isolation and quiet, slow immersion in our country's history and geography and my interior reflections. It's a good break from the road for me, too, an opportunity to catch my breath, take advantage of Seattle's great food, and the buzz of city life. It's a young place, awash with 30-somethings, tech money, and an urgency to not miss a moment or be left behind. It seems the antithesis of where I've been on this trip, or spent the last forty years of my life - brightness and noise, hustle, construction, a need for new and shiny. An embrace of life. And I wonder how my life would be different had I moved to a place like Seattle, or Portland, forty-two years ago, instead of a place rooted in a rich, but unchanging past?
My nephew David, aka Cousin Dave, is the breakaway child of my sister Jean's fundamentalist Christian family from southern Indiana. He's lived in Seattle for about ten years now and works as an engineer. He lives a particularly expressive, creative, and active life - building tiny houses on wheels, making his own moonshine, playing banjo and rugby. Dancing. It's a comfortable visit and David and his partner, Emily, who include me in their day-to-day with their many wonderful friends, incredible meals from Emily and Ethiopian and Vietnamese reastaurants, long walks downtown, and time to sit and be quiet.
Saturday night Dave and Emily host a birthday party for their friends Alex and Peter and a decision has been made to make a penis cake for the occasion. I'm not sure of the origin of the first penis cakes, but there are many excellent examples of them on the internet if you're curious enough. My thought is the Greeks and Romans had to have made penis cakes as obsessed as they were with body parts, but I really don't know. My own experience with pasticcino de le pene is somewhat circuitous, stemming from a story my high school buddy Joe Fraundorfer told me. We were at a school dance and Joe said he'd been slow dancing in a tight clutch with a very attractive girl when she pushed him away and asked if he had a pencil in his pocket because it was sticking her in the leg. Joe, who was very bold and nonplussed, answered, "Honey, that's not a pencil, it's a flashlight." Twenty years later, I related that story to my girlfriend at the time who loved it and promptly made a flashlight cake for my 37th birthday party, a cake decidedly more phallic than luminous. But now, thirty years after my flashlight cake, and in the presence of a group of 30 year olds and their gigantic cake, I find myself revisiting that earlier time of life and realizing if Mae West were to walk into the room and utter her most famous line, "Is that a pistol in your pocket or are you glad to see me?" she would not be talking to me.