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Seattle Songs

by Jim Page

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she’s comin’ in cuttin’ ‘cross the Sound and she rattles and she rumbles as she rolls, good god she’s worthy, she ain’t never run a-ground she got pulp putty pluggin’ up the holes, good god she’s a mighty bit unsteady and she coughs when she gets cold but she’s well put together all the better when she gets old she runs on bourbon and boiler steam and it suits her just fine she’s the Whidbey Island Overwater Transfer Ferry Line she gets washed in the water at the cross and she leaps and she lurches as she goes, good god she got direction, she don’t never get lost they blindfold and lead her by the nose, good god she gets twisted and unruly and they try to calm her down she’s a little less than able but she’s the finest ship around she’s a mighty bit uncertain but she’s always on time she’s the Whidbey Island Overwater Transfer Ferry Line all hale the captain at the head for he staggers as he clutches to the rail, good god he has knotted up the mast to make his bed he’s been on every ship that’s ever been a-sail, good god he’s and old salt hustler and a half back oiler he’s a mighty bit punchy he been gassin’ up the boiler he’s got a full head of steam up blowin’ salt water brine on the Whidbey Island Overwater Transfer Ferry Line all hands hit the deck out in a fog and they’re tuggin’ and a-leanin’ on the line, good god and she shudders as she bumps up on the logs and they’re twistin’ and a-tightenin’ on the twine, good god and the clangin’ of the chain pins and the bangin’ of the landing it’s a miracle she made it it’s a wonder she’s still standing she could go down like a boulder but nobody never minds she’s the Whidbey Island Overwater Transfer Ferry Line
early in the evenin’ we go walkin’ in the park in the evenin’ do a little talkin’ in the dark of the evenin’ just she and me see the way the moon flies like a kite up in the night skies shine upon the gasworks park by the union sea oh there’s a sign in the water says don’t go in the water there’s somethin’ in the water that they don’t want you to get on your skin oh but the lights of the city make it look so pretty and one of these days we gonna leave this city behind and there is little to be what it appears to be it’s an illusory situation you can do anything, be any one get your mind undone, it’s a simple equation and it’s a tiny spark in the gasworks park oh in the town that I was born in they got up every mornin’, went to work and they came home in the evenin’ and it was always the same I coulda followed in their footsteps don’t know why I didn’t but somethin’ in my thinkin’ wouldn’ allow me to jump on that train and there is little to be what it appears to be it’s an illusory situation you can do anything, be any one get your mind undone, it’s a simple equation and it’s a tiny spark in the gasworks park so early in the evenin’ we go walkin’ in the park in the evenin’ do a little talkin’ in the dark of the evenin’ just she and me
I’ll tell you a story my friend from the Vietnam days way back when body count mountin’ on the wall you had to do somethin’ about it all that’s when the singer took a trip up to Washington State it was a good day to travel on the interstate two hitch hikers all of nineteen traveling real light with their heads shaved clean the singer picked them up, he had room in the car he said “I’ll take you where you’re goin’ if it’s not too far” “we’re goin’ up to Canada” they said it kind of slow “seems like the place to go” you can trust a stranger if give him a chance and there’s a million stories in a sideways glance the singer knew, he had a long range view “I’m only goin’ to Seattle but I’ll see what I can do” the interstate’s a long straight black top line and you can do a lot of thinkin’ while the time unwinds leavin’ California for the evergreen land pretty soon the singer had a plan stoppin’ for supplies like anybody might do get a map and a compass and a flashlight too canteens for water, food enough to last goin’ on to Seattle but they drive right past almost to the border, take the side road to the hill “here’s your map and your compass and a twenty dollar bill Canada’s that way, it’s a straight shot good luck and goodbye and don’t get caught” then the singer drove away through the darkening breeze and two shadows disappeared in the evergreen trees and that’s the measure of a war try to tip the balance just a little bit more I was there when the singer came in late mutterin’ somethin’ ‘bout the interstate the songs were good and the music was fine and that’s what kept us goin’ most of the time so that’s the end of my story my friend from the Vietnam days way back when about a singer on the road and the AWOL Kid you had to do somethin’ and that’s what they did
First Avenue 03:54
it’s midnight on the ice tonight, everyone has gone to bed except for Lonesome Sally with her aspirins in her head she’s peeking through the keyhole where the doorway meets the hall watching for stranger who is long dark and tall so when Long Tall Howie with ribbons in is hair comes skipping down the hallway singing “everything is fair” she knows he’s a nice fellow but she doesn’t like his looks ‘cause he ain’t long and tall enough so she goes back to reading books down by the benches and Bennie’s hungry shoes down by the water on First Avenue the blue streak purist bus comes in right on time the driver gagged and cross-boned, tied up way behind a skinny kid with afro is drivin’ the wheel for us and he don’t allow nobody to pay to ride on his bus and the taxi cab and the French horn play a midnight melody as Vanishing Lucy paints her face with mystery and as she vanishes finally a hummingbird does growl along the foamy waterfront where the Jesus people prowl down by the benches and Bennie’s hungry shoes down by the water on First Avenue Sergeant Frank is terrified with his policeman’s badge and hat he’s afraid of men with beards, especially if they’re fat so when fat bearded Poco comes and taps him on the boot poor Sergeant Frank jumps clean out of his suit Poco puts it on and goes walkin’ off down the street shooting off his guns on his new policeman’s beat and somewhere in the city a naked sergeant’s on the loose as Poco pawns his uniform to buy a jug of juice down by the benches and Bennie’s hungry shoes down by the water on First Avenue
Walter Tortoise was a pool player, best I ever seen. He was an eightball magician with his eye on the green. He could make five-hundred dollars in a one-night's go-around. There was a lot of empty pockets when Walter came to town. He could cue his way from 'Frisco Bay all the way to Maine. Every side-pocket corner town was fodder for his game. He musta come from somewhere, but just where I never knew. I met him in Seattle on First Avenue. He was two-thirds drunk and drinkin' to make his other third when I sat me down beside him to hear what could be heard. He was losing to his limit, and his limit it was clean; twenty dollars worth of quarters in a gambling machine. And the more he lost, the more he laughed, as he drained the drafty beers, and he fed his final quarter and watched it disappear. And when a girl came up and won it all with just a single try, well, he laughed so hard 'til his eye began to cry. Then he said, "These metal bandits ain't my cup of gruel", and I said, "What's your real game", and he says, "Playn' pool". Why, only just the other night he had 'em on their toes winnin' everybody's money up at Smokey Joe's. He said he was a shark of such dangerous degrees, he could hustle up a bundle nearly any place he please. He'd won more fortunes than the Rockefeller clan. Not bad for just an indigent with chalk dust on his hands Well, I listened to his talking just the way that you would do, then I said, "Alright, if you're so good I'll see you to the cue". He laughed at me so hard I thought he'd surely come to harm, then he said, "Alright, I'll play ya but I'll only use one arm". I racked 'em up and broke 'em and I even sunk a few until one-armed Walter took his stance and loaded up his cue. And with a blinding combination cleared the table all and over, then he laughed again and grinned, said, "I play better when I'm sober". We wandered off, in and out, and squandered through the night, until I got lost and he got taken off to see the sights. And I wound up in a strange one with a head to make you wince, but where ever was was he was I ain't never seen him since. Yes Walter was a pool player, everybody knows, he could rack 'em and attack 'em, he could sink 'em with his eyes closed. I may not know much of nothin', I ain't got the cure, but Walter Tortoise was a pool player, I know that for sure.
when I first came to Seattle it was barely bigger than a small town with the evergreen trees growin’ up and the good rain comin’ down and it looked so innocent then you’d never dream to take a glance at those baby billionaires waitin’ for their chance a penny makes a nickel makes a dime, makes a dollar makes a kindergarten CEO want to jump up and holler turns a software magician with a fine and friendly face into a planetary predator with fingers all over the place we used to call it Seattle, Jewel of the Puget Sound we used to call it Seattle, now we call it Paul Allentown Seattle was Duwamish but nobody really really cared so they turned him into a drinking fountain in Pioneer Square and the mountain was Tahoma but that made their minds go blank so they called it Rainier and that became a bank and the bank became a magnet for the money and the flash and the mountain made of nature became a mountain made of cash and the little baby billionaires broke out of their padded cells and the little town got real big and everything went to hell (chorus) Paul Allen made his millions in the Microsoft days then he multiplied those millions and he gave himself a raise and he gazed out into the distance as far as he could see and everywhere he looked he saw an opportunity and he waved his wallet like a scepter and a sword he said “there’s nothin’ next to god that this wallet can’t afford move over Mister Yessler step aside and take a bow my name is Paul Allen this is my town now!” (chorus) you like sports? he’ll build you stadium or two and he’ll do it with your money too he owns Lake Union and the EMP he owns half the city council but he don’t own me you want to fondle your portfolio you’ve come to the right place you like high rise get yourself a condo with a happy face with a Starbucks on every corner and your own cash machine now I know what they mean when they call it “evergreen” (chorus) they say Paul Allen plays a mean guitar but I don’t think that’s right I think that poor guitar’s just angry ‘cause he ain’t treatin’ it right like some adolescent ego with his billfold overblown he thinks he can just go out and buy himself a rock star of his own Jimi Hendrix on his bended knees up on Broadway all in bronze he still can’t figure out what went wrong playin’ The Star Spangled Banner in a blown out purple haze now he lives in a digital museum and his fans are all half crazed (chorus) new money likes to strut around showing off it’s stuff and we’re all supposed to love it we’re not supposed to call its bluff just buy your ticket, take your chance and keep your place in line and maybe they’ll throw you down a few crumbs from time to time they say the road to hell is paved with all the best intentions hypnotized and dazzled by the latest slick inventions like a deer in the headlights tryin’ to catch a ride well it can be a big surprise when you reach the other side (chorus)
there's a man there livin' in a cardboard box and he's checkin' out the weather hopin' it don't rain too hard you know down around this part of town it's a perilous life to be livin' without a membership card and it's hustle for hustle, it's hand to mouth it's an easy hole to get in to, but it's so hard to get out and all the want to talk about at city hall is how to build a better building to play baseball there's a teenage girl with a baby boy and a great big monkey on her thin little back she's lookin' down the alleyway for some kind of love seems like her whole life keeps slippin' through that concrete crack and it's tease for tease, it's a trap set to fall won't be no memorial when she goes, just some spray paint on the wall somebody's grandmother livin' on memories and stretchin' that social security as far as it'll go you know I always thought you were supposed take care of your old people I guess that shows how much I know and it's lonely for lonely, it's so far from grace they say if you ain't in with the cash flow, you're just takin' up space I see those long limousines glidin' they got millionaires inside 'em oh, and they look so fine they'll play you for a taxpayer fool and make a good clean killing almost every time and it's dollar for dollar, you can hear that cash register sound they say that sports spectacular is the finest game in town there's a shadow on the promised land shiver in the winter freezin' in the empty space seems like nobody really cares about anybody anymore if you ain't got a lot of money or a pretty face and it's slander for slander, it cuts like a knife this ain't no game we're playin', this is real life
I used to live in the city, an apartment on the second floor (x2) until the man with the money said I couldn’t live there no more well they brought in a wreckin’ ball and beat it to a hole in the ground (x2) they put me outside walkin’, made me homeless in my own home town now tell me who loves a wreckin’ ball, surely ain’t no friend of mine (x2) they built a bank to put their money in and I ain’t even got a dime well I served my country and I loved it like a long-lost friend (x2) now my country don’t love me back, looks like, ‘cause I ain’t got the money to spend you know my shoes are worn from walkin’ and my head is spinnin’ around (x2) and there’s a cop with a ticket book tellin’ me I can’t sit down well I’m tappin’ on your shoulder and I’m whisperin’ in your ear (x2) you know I’m only tryin’ to warn you but you seem to be so hard to hear I’m thinkin’ dangerous thoughts and I know I ain’t the only one (x2) I’m thinkin’ about that wreckin’ ball and how I’d like to get me one well if I had a wreckin’ ball I’d turn it on to City Hall (x2) and I’d stand back laughin’ while I watched that whole thing fall
Guitar Thing 05:34
Guitar Thing we'll, I get up early, I go to bed late seems like every day's the same starin' out the window like fish eyes on a plate I don't even care if it rains somethin' on my mind, I guess it must be you you been on my shoulder for a while whisper in my ear, say “what are you gonna do?” and me, well I just stutter and smile think I'll hit the streets, take a walk up Capitol Hill check out all the latest facial lacerations maybe I can get lost, I got some time to kill feels like that kind of situation somethin' about a streetlight lit up so fine makes you want to lower down and cruise all those uptown bravados on the high hip line wish I had some shine on my shoes I’m talkin' with the herbivore outside the neon cafe I remember when this place was called Ernie Steele's and the old Fresh Air, well that was just down yonder way man, those were the days for real just then my ears implode and my head begins to fog and I get a funny kind of vision in my eyes good old Seattle when nobody even knew where it was and there wasn't no such a thing as a high rise it was a small town, big city, wide open kind of scene the wild west with no two minute warnin’ you had to know just how fast to walk to make all the street lights green ‘cause they’d give you a ticket at 3:30 in the mornin’ now I'm walkin' down the rainy street and I'm turnin' in doorway it's crowded dark and lit up like a jungle there's wild eyes lookin' at me, scopin' out my state of mind “how far you want to go?” they seem to mumble there's taps of some same old, ain't no micro-brew and there's enough smoke to choke a chimney and there's a rock and roll band playin’ with no room to move but everybody’s movin' anyway, believe me now maybe some one gets hot and they have to cool him off and somebody else may pass out on the floor and by the time it's all over it's too much to remember but everybody got what they came for now I shakin' my head, I'm comin' to my senses the herbivore's off lookin' for a vegetable bone there's no place to be but these present tenses I guess I shoulda known and I'm seein' all those ghosts in the sidewalk lookin' at me you know I can almost hear 'em callin' my name funny how you never really lose a good connection but I know it'll never be the same now I'm rollin' up my sidewalks and turnin’ up my collar figure I might as well go back home got nothin’ on me but a Susan B Anthony dollar and you can’t even use those things in the phone so I make like to start for my cross-town drive and there you are on the hood of my car I say “all right, I’m glad to be alive! let’s go play guitar”
I love the way that the rain sounds on the rooftop over my head like little animal feet the way the clouds come down so low sometimes they seem to prowl the alleyways and get into the side streets and all the world goes soft and the hard lines disappear and the echo of the footsteps is the music in your ear and the sing song river runs all along that little crack I’ve been all around the world but I keep coming back the big boats come to the dock side, they tie off and unload and they stay a little while you get a bright light Saturday liberty night, you gotta do it up right want to do it in style maybe hear a little music, can I have this next dance maybe fall in love if I get half a chance with somebody like you, yeah imagine that I’ve been all around the world but I keep coming back first time I rode the bus it picked me up hitch hikin’ took me clear across town I said I ain’t got no money, he said that’s alright friend just get on board and lay your burden down he said where you goin’ I said I ain’t got that part figured one out yet life is so uncertain and the future is not set I let you know when I get there, how about that? I’ve been all around the world but I keep coming back I rode that Fremont Bridge so high one time I coulda scratched old Mister Moon right on the chin I took a look at the water in the canal down below and I thought to myself I’m gonna dive right in yeah but I’m too young to go that way I ain’t ready yet I don’t mind the fallin’ that far, I just don’t want to get that wet it’s a carnival of circumstance, you gotta have a knack I’ve been all around the world but I keep coming back


Recorded and mixed at David Lang Studios, Fife, WA. 2004

All songs by Jim Page, Whid-Isle Music, BMI

Jim Page: vocals and guitar
Orville Johnson: guitar, Weissenborn, and Dobro
Grant Dermody: harmonica
Michael Gray: fiddle


released June 25, 2004


all rights reserved



Jim Page Seattle, Washington

Named by Seattle Metropolitan Magazine as “One Of The 50 Most Influential Musicians In Seattle History.” Originally from California Page has called Seattle and the Pacific Northwest “home” since 1971. Songs covered by The Doobie Brothers, Christy Moore, Dick Gaughan, Michael Hedges, and Roy Bailey. Utah Phillips: “If you’re ever going to get the message, this is the messenger to get it from.” ... more

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