Zot's Small Corner of the World

I usually try to make site visits on days when the weather is nice. Not today. Today the computer screen was giving me a headache. My coffee had turned stale within a half hour and the fluorescent glow from above was too much to bear. I was squeezed like paint from a tube onto the wet palate of the outdoors.

“See ya in about an hour, Greta.” I grabbed my jacket and raincoat, stuffed the directions into my messenger bag and made my escape.

The sky read rain and delivered on its promise just as I stepped out of my car. There was only one other car in the lot. Another drove through Lakeside Park with four people inside, their faces pressed to the glass like they were looking for something. Maybe a lost dog? Are they tourists that took a wrong turn? A family trying to pick up their fix and unable to find the drug dealer? I pulled my hood over my head to shield it from the misty Seattle rain and walked north along the path.

Two weeks ago, Heather Chen had contacted me by email:
GOOD MORNING... I am asking about dedicating a park bench in the name of my god-son who took his life at the park this past sept. Is this something that can be done... if so what kind of bench is permissible and what might the cost be for a single 2 person bench.,,,my god-son name was ZOT.... look forward to hearing from you.... heather chen
Upon hearing my reply that yes, this could be possible, Heather had Zot’s mother send in a check for the full donation amount — an unusually fast check. I proposed a few sites in the park that the landscape architect at the parks department had identified, but Heather wasn’t interested. She wanted a specific spot where Zot used to spend a lot of time. I asked if she could direct me toward a site that she preferred.
Good morning Mr. Zazinet..I had a chance to go by the park today and we found the ideal spot for the bench.I am pretty sure it will need to go by the board.what would be the next procedure? Might I need to meet with someone or send in pictures of our chosen area?thanks so much again for your input and ideas... you are much appreciated.heather chen

I didn’t know what she meant when she said “it will need to go by the board” but I encouraged her to tell me where they would like the bench to be located. The next email contained the directions.

1. Headed north on the trail past the airplane tail displays.

Treading through the mist, it took me longer than expected to reach the sculptures. I wasn’t used to driving to Lakeside Park, and my car was in a farther lot. As walked past the closer lot, I considered that had I followed the family of lost tourists/dog-seekers/drug-addicts, I may have been better off. On the bright side, I’d be out of the office just a little longer.

The breeze from Lake Washington left faint drops of water in my beard. I sauntered along the path through a hallway of sleeping giants lulled into dormancy by the cold weather. This was my first time in Lakeside Park during the winter. Gone were the children in bathing suits, chasing each other in and out of the water. Their parents were absent, too, sitting on picnic blankets and discretely but self-consciously sipping wine. Nobody was playing soccer in the meadows, nor were there any kites challenging the wind, tethered to their human anchors on the hill. The raft in the protected swimming area where Zot had once lifeguarded laid bare. One retired couple smiled at me as they walked their dog in the other direction. This was not the same park that Zot had spent his summer vacation in. This park held a quiet beauty instead.

I recognized my landmark. The giant tails shot out of the grass like fins of black sharks frozen in time as they swarmed around their prey. I passed by unnoticed and unscathed and continued on my search for Zot’s special spot.

2. Arrive at the structure of the boarded up building that looks like a old home (located on the left side of the path)
3. Go - Due right across the pathway headed toward the lake.

After rounding a bend beyond the giant sharks, I came upon the dilapidated structure. It looked more like a warehouse than a home; the front was clearly a loading dock. But I wasn’t going to argue with my directions and the path clearly came to an end perhaps a couple hundred feet ahead.

I made a right turn and started to wonder where exactly I was going. Was I on my way to the spot where Zot killed himself? I had been on a work crew in New York City that had previously found a dead body in Highbridge Park while tearing out invasive species one spring. It turned out to be an old man with Alzheimer’s that had managed to walk out of his care facility in the fall. The authorities assumed he froze and spent the winter in the park, waiting to be found. Who had found Zot, I wondered? I shook my head and tried to focus on following the directions.

The path was no longer paved, and I was on a foot trail that cut through the brush and brambles toward the lake. The park is filled with these paths leading to small secluded clearings on the water’s edge — good places to go swimming or enjoy the view of the mountains in privacy.

What kind of guy was Zot? Did he like coming here because it offered a good place to go and get into some trouble, or was he a bright, innocent youth, drawn to the quiet clearing as a place to clear his head and cool down on a warm summer day?

4. There are several pathways headed north about 50ft. headed north to a cleared area.

This is where I began to have some difficulty. I had no idea where these “several pathways” could be. From the structure (which had definitely never been a house), I followed one trail and it had led me straight to the water. I was now standing on the beach. The only way north would be to walk along the beach. I looked to the next direction for a clue:

5. At this point, there is a fallen tree and a nice clearing.
6. There is also a tree that closes to the lake with the name of my god-son (Zot).. that was carved into a tree. Any where in that clearing facing toward the lake is our hearts desire.

Maybe I had already gone too far to the north? I looked up and down the beach for a clearing with a fallen tree. North of me, just past a fence, in the off-leash area, was a huge fallen tree. It had been dead so long that the wind had left it smooth like a piece of driftwood that had been launched ashore by a Lake Washington tidal wave. Could that be Zot’s fallen tree?


As I made my way toward it, sand collected in my topsiders. They were perhaps not the ideal footwear for this sort of trip. I reached the fence but there was no easy way around it and the brush and willow trees made the climb unattractive. Could there be another trail west of me that could bring me into the off-leash area? I started heading that direction through the scotch broom and thick forest of willows.

There was no such trail. As I emerged from the brush back onto the paved path I grinned sheepishly at the man and his dog walking by. “Don’t mind me,” I thought, “I’m just the guy wearing muddy slacks and boating shoes that just emerged from the forest.” I walked along the path to the actual entrance of the off-leash area and quickly discovered that despite the creepiness of the tree, there was no evidence of Zot’s name carved in a tree anywhere close by.

How could his clearing be such a pain in the ass to find? I was determined not to give up however, and headed back to the structure: the last place I knew I had been on the right track. This time, when I diverged from the paved path, however, I took a trail that was a bit farther south and veered southeast as opposed to northeast. After only about fifteen steps in, I saw him: “ZOT” carved in two inch letters in the trunk. The fallen tree was hardly as dramatic as I had envisioned, yet here it was. I had made it. I sat down on the fallen tree and took a deep breath in Zot’s small corner of the world.