The holidays need to include a visit with family. Some travel over the river and through the woods. Others go by trains, planes and automobiles for turkey, trees and mistletoe. Me? I go to the Seattle waterfront; specifically 1001 Alaskan Way. With the smell of deep fried fish and the sound of begging seagulls filling the salt air, I visit a family member that thrust himself onto Seattle around the same time I did.
He’s not Uncle Sylvester, or 2nd cousin twice removed Sylvester, but he’s been a part of my life since I was a kid and it feels like a holiday when I visit the Ye Olde Curiosity Shop. Does that make him family? That I can’t answer, but I imagine he wouldn’t hog the mashed potatoes or get drunk and fight like my brothers, so yeah, maybe I wish he WERE family.
I remember being mesmerized the first time I set eyes on his reddish brown body. My imagination ran wild then as it still does now. How did he die? By who’s hand? Why? Was he a good guy or bad? Did he suffer? Was he buried? Did people miss him? We all have a chance to look death in the face with every visit. As many times as I’ve stopped by to say, “Hi”, I come away with the lingering sting of mortality mixed with a wisp of wonder. That combination makes my overactive cranium attempt to fill in the blanks around this mysterious man that hides nothing except what’s under his loin cloth.
Sylvester arrived in Seattle in 1955 complete with his signature moustache and bullet hole. His prior story is sketchy but says that he was found in the sands of the Gila Bend Desert of central Arizona. The year was 1895 and two wandering cowboys laid claim to his half-buried body. The fact that he has an arsenic based embalming fluid under his sun-dried skin throws doubt on the legend but I’m going to forgive that. There are more than a few curious things in that shop to which I give the benefit of the doubt.
In 2000 and again in 2004 CT scans were conducted which revealed the bullet that may have killed Sylvester. It entered his lower left abdomen and a fragment was found by the collarbone. In addition, his right cheek is pocked with pellets from a shotgun blast some years before his death. MRI scans were also done showing that his internal organs and brain to be smaller but extraordinarily well preserved. If he was a drinker, his healthy liver doesn’t show it.
It seems that his effective 19th-century embalming was done shortly after his death and the body subsequently dried out like beef jerky. I like to think that his family members took great care in their burial rites. I don’t like to think of how he got from his resting place to our beloved waterfront. Instead I’ll hold onto the desert and cowboy story as I gaze upon his mummified remains.
He would be happy with a holiday dinner in honor of his Seattleite Spotlight induction. I think I’ll send him an E-vite. He probably won’t come since the invitation will NOT include his date, Sylvia. Not only does that nasty skank REALLY weird me out but I hear she pounds the booze down that spooky, slack-jawed mouth of hers!!!