Saturday, January 11, 2014

Dusty Strings Harp

On a clear, chilly January Monday a friend and I drove to Freemont (near Seattle) to pick up the harp I was going to rent.  I had decided this was the time in my life to learn how to play that beautiful instrument.

After all, I've read music my whole life and I've played the piano for decades.

I also played the guitar for years -- in high school, when I was at UCLA, and even when I lived in Suburbia in the 1970s.  If I had not played the guitar in the stairwell for hours every night when I was in college, perhaps my grade point for my freshman year would have been higher than a 1.2.
Neither my friend nor I had ever been to Freemont.  But we had Map Quest, so we were in good shape.  The friendly folks at Dusty Strings (who make the best harps in the United States) told me where to park and how to find their store.
I forgot the name of the place to park, some Asian-sounding business, but remembered the address where Dusty Strings was located in the basement below another business.  My friend navigated and at 12:30 p.m. I found a great parking spot right in front of the Silent Heart Nest Restaurant.  Sweet.  It sounded sort-of-Asian; had exotic smells wafting out of the place; and didn't even have a parking meter!  How lucky can we be?!
We had to cross two busy streets.  The traffic was awful there and we were crushed inside a mob of people crossing with us.  My primary concern was not being knocked over by someone and then run over by a car.  The cane(s) I need have not been found yet, so I am a bit unstable when walking.
We had the address of Dusty Strings (3406 Freemont Ave N.)  They even have a wonderful website: .  Sure enough, we found the place, went down the stairs, and were absolutely blown away by the sight before our eyes.  We both simply stood there for a moment, trying to take it all in, with the sound of a banjo playing in the background.

The people who work there are an absolute joy:  John, Molly, Gary, Matt and others.  They know what they're doing; they love music and their jobs; they're friendly and fun; they care about the customer; they made us feel as if we were in good hands.  It's has been decades since I've had such an amazing shopping experience.  The harp they saved for me was beautiful and it even came with a portable stand, a carrying case, and a free "How to Learn" book.  All for $45 a month, plus a refundable $75 damage deposit.
It turned out that I did need a Musician's Stool to sit on and found the perfect one.   Black.  Soft.  With a back for support.  It was not for rent, but was assembled and could be purchased for $280.  Steep ... but ... well, I was committed to doing this right.
Then of course I needed a music stand that was only $30.  And they have the coolest electronic harp string tuner for a mere $20.  A steal for something as critical as being in tune ... electronically.  The total bill as we collected my purchases:  $383.  But look what I got!
Is that beautiful or what?!
Molly is the nice lady who knows everything about the harp, but talks really fast especially if she had coffee with lunch (which had been the case).  It seemed as though she may have had a triple shot of caffeine in her coffee on that day.  I had to ask her twice to just stop talking; I could feel my blood pressure spiking, and didn't want to have a stroke before I got my harp home safely.
In spite of the lickety-split speed of her speech, Molly sweetly carried the Stool and music stand box all the way to my car, while I carried the harp stand, and my friend carried the harp in its case.
She loaded everything into my car (the precious harp being stowed gently in the trunk), and wished us well. Then she suggested that we make sure to see the Freemont Troll under the Freemont Bridge before we turned onto I-5.  We didn't know squat about a troll; if it was a statue or a carving or what.  But no matter ... we headed to I-5 North.
That's when I noticed the piece of paper stuck under my windshield wiper.  We were six block up the street when I pulled over and the friend retrieved the paper.  It was a ticket!  I got a parking ticket for parking in that lovely spot in front of the exotic restaurant.  And the fee was $44.  Welcome to Freemont!
Neither of us saw a meter or a sign or anything.  And now ... on top of spending $389 ... I owed $44 more.  An expensive trip!  And we weren't back home yet.
We did spot something wedged under the Freemont Bridge that had to be the "troll."  I mean, that was as good a name as any for what we saw.  I stopped the car and opened the window, but who knew exactly what it was that was fondly referred to as "The Freemont Troll"?  It was 2:00 pm and our top priority was to be on the freeway lest we be overwhelmed with rush hour traffic, which in Seattle is a brutal experience.  Anyway ... here's the Famous Freemont Troll.
Is that not one of the most bizarre things you've ever seen?!  Apparently that is a real life-sized VW under his left hand.  And you can get a feel for the size of the thing compared to the people pictured here.  It makes you wonder about the whole Freemont Thing.  With the traffic, the Troll and the Parking Gestapo ... it all seemed like something out of the Twilight Zone.
Once home ... after unpacking, setting up, and strumming the harp a bit ... the ticket dominated my thoughts.  And after reading all the fine print over several times, it was still perplexing:
"Parking violations at payment devices."
"No valid proof of valid payment receipt displayed."
"Confirmed associated plate not in pay by phone database."
None of it made any sense, especially the last one.  What on earth is a "phone database"?
Officer C. Batiot did indeed identify that I drove a ten-year-old  4-door Cadillac with the correct license plate number, but got the color wrong.  My car is brown, not grey.  It was apparently a 2-hour parking limit, and I got the ticket after my car had been there for 1 hour.  Maybe Officer Batiot is not only color blind, but also unable to tell time.
What was clear is that the fine was $44 due in 15 days unless I go to court to contest it.  Can you imagine the probability of my even finding the Seattle Courthouse, not to mention the cost of parking my car legally (wherever that might be) ... to avoid another ticket? 
I have since learned that the Seattle Municipal Police Department has found a lucrative "revenue stream" for the city coffers.  They have a screwy parking system that is only known by residents or people who must work in Seattle.  The old Parking Meter System relied on people to monitor the meters.  Those people required a salary and some sort of benefits.  So the costly meter-monitor people were replaced by kiosks (these are not people ... thus far less costly) installed at one end of a block, which turned out to be 15-20 yards in front of where I parked.  We never saw this; the picture is off the Internet.
Then the Seattle Municipal Police Department posts a sign, coincidentally located 15-20 yards behind the place where I parked.  Because I was "lucky" to have parked in the middle of the block ... we missed seeing both the kiosk and the sign.  I'm not even sure what the sign looks like.  Perhaps like this:
Since I don't live down there in Seattle La-La Land, I've decided to go for Option 2 on the back of the ticket:  "Requesting a Mitigation Hearing" which can thankfully all be done by email.  I plead guilty, then email the judge my exhibits along with a passionately written plea for justice.  After all, the car was parked by a senior citizen, who had never been to Freemont,  living on a fixed income 90 miles north in a rural community.  What would they do?  Garnish my Social Security check? 
This is perfect!  I already have maps and rules and other exhibits, and only need to compose my passionately written defense.  The judge reads it; the clerk emails me his/her Honor's decision; then I either send in a $44 check or Officer Batiot will have to find one more sucker to fill his or her January quota.
Stay tuned to hear who won in The City of Seattle v Dorothy Haase



  1. I actually went from using a cane to using an forearm / elbow crutch. It supports my weight much better and is way more in tune with the way my body moves; not to mention it stays attached when you need to use the hand. (That's a tad handy.)

    I don't know if the Red Cross down there rent them out like they do up here, but might be a consideration to try out!

    As far as Seattle parking goes.. I have found using a ouiji board to contact the parking gods, turning around three times, doing a jig and praying in general a good start in figuring out where you're supposed to pay and how.

  2. Seeing the Troll in person was on my bucket list. I got to visit him last year. He is so very cool. Beautiful harp. Let me know if I should bring the video camera while you play.

  3. Easiest way: Park in the BART lot in Walnut Creek CA, take BART to SFO. Fly from SFO to SEA. The courthouse is a lengthy cab ride away and you are sure not to get a parking ticket. None of the BART parking lots are patrolled by any official at all. Ever.