The Sledgehammer – Version 2.0

March 3, 2011

A Sampling of Items Found on Downtown Bellevue Sidewalks

Filed under: Bellevue, Wanderings — Brian Lutz @ 2:07 am

Between walking to work and back daily and taking frequent walks around the vicinity of my office during my afternoon breaks, I’d say that these days I almost spend more time on the sidewalks in Downtown Bellevue than I spend on the roads anymore.  And for the most part, the scenery along the way tends not to change all that much.  Sure. the mannequin ends up getting dressed in a new set of clothes every once in a while, and on most weekdays someone fills up the newspaper vending machines with the latest reasons why we’re all doomed in 72-point bold headline type, but for the most part, things pretty much stay the same as they’ve always been on the typical path I take to work.    The same alley behind my building.  The same vaguely creepy “Look Better Naked” signs on the health club windows.  The same nondescript sidewalk next to the same nondescript office buildings.  It’s easy to get stuck in a rut when you’re doing this twice a day every day.  But if something unusual appears along the way, there’s a pretty good chance I’ll notice it whether I’m trying to notice it or not.

Thanks to a little portion of the human brain known as the Reticular Activating System, there is a tendency in situations like this for things that seem out of place to command an inordinate amount of attention. which is probably why I’d end up laying awake in bed all night if I knew I left one of the kitchen cabinets open but was too lazy to go actually do something about it.    For better or for worse, objects that are out of place do tend to attract one’s attention.  Depending on the way one’s brain is wired, some people have no problem just continuing to walk on by without a second thought, but other people will see something on the sidewalk and have to completely drop what they’re doing and pay attention, at least until they can safely determine that it’s just another random bit of the cast-of detritus of an urban society.  Even for someone with a wandering mind such as myself I don’t necessarily think that this is always the case, but if something shows up that just happens to be bright and/or shiny, then all bets are off.

Given the fact that I have not found myself oddly compelled to wander aimlessly into oncoming traffic anytime recently, this probably turns out to be one of those harmless little habits, and for the most part, there really isn’t a whole lot to see anyway.  Most of the stuff you find on the ground while walking around here is the usual mishmash of wrappers, bottles, cans. cigarette butts (a LOT of cigarette butts.  Seriously, there are  piles of the things all over the place) and the occasional paper or two.  Every once in a while, something genuinely interesting does show up though, for a number of different reasons.  Sometimes something is just so out of place that you can’t help but notice.  Other times it’s something that you see at the side of the road and just know that it just has to have a story behind it, and on rare occasions you might even come across something of value, if not to you then to someone.  After the jump, you’ll find a few of the things that I have come across in my wanderings around Bellevue.

As you might imagine, this one was found shortly after New Year’s Day, discarded presumably following a wild night of partying.  Once the clock has struck midnight on the new year and all the partying is done, the whole New Year bit quickly becomes old news, and gets cast off to the side of the road.

And speaking of wild parties, every once in a while you’ll find some of the signs of a night of partying, be it discarded beer cans, an empty bottle, or (fortunately even more rarely) the occasional vomit.  This, on the other hand, I’m not quite sure what to make of.  As near as I can tell, it looks like someone must have gone on a serious Cashew Roca bender one night, and discarded the remnants by the wayside.  All things considered, I guess there’s worse ways than this to go off the proverbial rails, but I guess it all depends who you ask.

And this one must be either a cast-off remnant of someone’s night of barhopping, or the former weapon of a now vanquished participant in the world’s tiniest swordfight.

Sun-Dried Tomatoes:  You’re doing it wrong.

This might be a little bit hard to read, but it’s just a little post-it note that reads simply “Don’t Forget!”.  I have no idea what this might have been for, but whatever it is, I sure hope she remembered…

This being the middle of Winter, we are currently in the three or four months out of the year when we’re spared from the endless morass of political campaign signs clogging up every spare bit of scenery that we can find, but every once in a while a sign or two pops up.  Most are the usual advertising in one form or another, but this is one that just popped up out of nowhere one day, threw off a bit of standard-issue shopworn conspiracy nonsense, and disappeared completely a couple of days later.  If I recall correctly, it’s generally more or less customary to at least put a link to some crackpot website on signs like this, but there doesn’t appear to be any such info on here.  The sign actually appeared to be stenciled onto a sheet of plywood, with a few extra details hand-scrawled on to give it that special tinfoil hat touch that lets you know you’ve got a live one on your hands.  And I’m not even sure if that’s supposed to be an airplane or if it’s actually some sort of suspiciously emissive space whale.  Or at least that’s what they WANT you to think.  It’s really far more sinister than that…

And here’s one I found just a couple of days ago, the leftover bits of plastic that once held the SIM card for someone’s phone.  I’m not particularly familiar with how the whole GSM system works with regards to IDs and things like that (I generally work on stuff that operates at a much higher level in the system than this) but something tells me that this isn’t exactly the type of thing you’d want to leave lying around on the ground.  It’s also not the kind of thing you’d find around here very often…

…But this one just seems completely out of place.  It’s a Metrocard used for transit throughout New York City, but primarily on their subway system.  Regardless of however it managed to end up discarded on a Bellevue sidewalk, it would have required a journey of at least 2,800 miles to get here.  I’m sure a New Yorker would think nothing of seeing one of these lying on the ground somewhere, but when you find one on the sidewalk here it suddenly becomes a strange artifact from some strange and distant land that occasionally comes over and pillages our baseball team.  By the same token, I’m sure that one of the ORCA cards used by the various transit systems in the Puget Sound area would look just as incongruous if you left it sitting on a New York subway platform.

But regardless of whatever random bits you might find on the sidewalks, there’s a certain sense of impermanence to it all.  Eventually just about everything you find on the sidewalk will disappear, either blown to and fro by the wind, collected for disposal or recycling, or just get carried off for one reason or another.  Every once in a while, you’ll see something leave a bit more of a lasting impression though. 

Sometimes this will happen in forms that you wouldn’t expect it to.  Near the entrance to the Bellevue Art Museum, these two chalk drawings on the sidewalks have faded considerably, but have somehow managed to endure over seven months that have included Fall and Winter (although this particular sidewalk is located underneath an overhang that shelters it from most of the rain,) and the chalk-rendered face of Botticelli’s Venus remains clearly visible.  The other drawing (Pablo Picasso’s Girl Before a Mirror) hasn’t fared quite as well, but also hasn’t faded completely just yet.  Given the fact that typical chalk drawings seem to have an expected lifespan of, oh, about a week at most, it amazes me that these ones hadn’t disappeared months ago, much less remained in easily recognizable form.

To give you a better idea of how this has held up, I dig through the photos on my phone, and found this photo of the drawings from early August, roughly two weeks or so after they were made.  I thought I had some other photos of this from various points in time, but am unable to find any of these. 

Even with the transitory nature of most things you’ll find on the sidewalks, every once in a while you’ll find something that’s managed to endure, usually by merit of being too mundane to attract much attention to itself.  Such is the case with this fire hydrant, which bears what would appear to be a manufacturing date of 1960.   Back in 1960, the bookstore this was found in front of would have been a bowling alley, and the now mostly vacant building next to it would have been the John Danz Theater, while Bellevue’s first high-rise building (the Paccar Tower, across the street from this) would still be a decade away.  It’s hard to say whether or not this hydrant has truly remained in this one location for all this time, but it certainly doesn’t look like it’s planning to go anywhere anytime soon.

So as you wander this fair city (or whatever fair city you happen to inhabit,) regardless of whatever your normal routine happens to be to take a walk around the place every so often.  It’s good for you, it allows you to notice things you might otherwise miss as you pass by in your car, and you never know just what you’ll find along the way.  They say one man’s trash is another man’s treasure.  To be honest, I’m not so sure that’s necessarily the case here.  For the most part, one man’s trash is still another man’s trash, but at least it’s interesting trash, right?



  1. I love this Brian, I think that there is a certain art in everything. I love the leaf imprint on the sidewalk.

    Comment by Judy Walsh — March 3, 2011 @ 2:57 pm

  2. Great post!

    Comment by Rob — March 7, 2011 @ 9:25 am

  3. Enjoyed this! Thanks!

    Comment by Jana — March 25, 2011 @ 8:04 am

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