And We Shall Warm Our Hands on a Fire Fueled By Rich Men’s Kindles

One of the reasons I moved to Seattle was because of the bus. It sounds weird and a lot of people, at least the ones who come from St. Louis and pull “dude, gross” faces when I mention the bus, seem either confused or offended by this. But really. It’s true. I moved here for other, more important reasons, sure, but the bus did play a part in the decision.

When Graham and I first visited Seattle, we walked up the most monstrous hill I’d ever seen to catch a bus to Seattle Center. Now I know that it’s not the biggest hill and that the trip is a relatively short bus ride, but at the time, and as someone who’d spent the last 25+ years living in cities where public transportation was unreliable, unsafe, and sometimes nonexistent, I was incredibly nervous about finding, boarding, and riding the bus to my destination. We took other buses that day, too, from Seattle Center down to the waterfront and then from the market (really the Metro stop at 3rd and Pike, which is still probably my least favorite stop in all of Seattle because BUM PEE) back to our friends’ house in Fremont. Sometime between getting on the bus in the morning and getting back to Fremont, I realized that the bus wasn’t a bad thing. In fact, I kind of liked it. I liked being able to sit back while someone else drove. I liked that the people riding the bus with us were quiet commuters who weren’t starting fights over chicken nuggets. I liked that the bus flew along in its own lane while everyone in cars seethed in traffic. I liked the bus. And I wanted to live in a city where I could actually ride it.

Common wisdom says you don’t feel like a Seattleite until you’ve been here for at least two years. After that point, other Seattleites will begin to warm up to you and maybe be your friend, or at least start making eye contact. We didn’t have this problem because we already had friends here, so I guess we had to find other ways to feel like we belonged. For Graham, it was the first time he rode his bike all the way from the Fremont Bridge to the top of the hill without stopping (it’s a big fucking hill). For me, it was when I felt comfortable taking the bus.

I still really like the bus, even now that it’s essential to my commute. I like the sleepy camaraderie of the morning express, where I see the same faces every day and I get to read the boat names from the Ballard Bridge and the guy who always sits next to me knows my stop and gets up before I ask. I like the jostly evening Rapid Ride or express, at least when I can get a seat, because both of them are air-conditioned and that’s a little luxury most Seattleites don’t have at home. I like taking the bus on weekends, when it’s mostly empty and I can have an entire extra seat for grocery bags. I like taking the bus home at night when I’m a little bit drunk, because I’m not paying for an Uber and someone else can be in charge for awhile.

But.

As in any situation where you’re forced to squeeze into a relatively small area with a bunch of people you don’t know, there are some downsides to the bus. Little inconveniences like breakdowns and messed up routes, buses that arrive 20+ minutes late or depart five minutes early when you’re already running up another hill to catch it. Or the bigger inconveniences, like the two biggest things I hate about the bus and would gladly give maybe a week off my life apiece to never deal with them again.

1. The dogshit people. It happens so often that I sometimes think it must be Seattle city policy for every bus to always be transporting at least one person who smells like they rolled in dogshit. And not necessarily fresh dogshit, either, although that was happened before. It’s as if people have swapped out lavender sachets for dried up dog turds in their drawers and are pulling their shirts and pants directly out of their little poop bundles. Most of the time, these people just smell like dogshit on their own, like a grotesque little mystery for the rest of us commuters to discover. Other times, people bring their actual dogs on the bus, which is both allowed and fine as long as the dog is clean and well-behaved. That’s clean and well-behaved, so if your dog spends any time at all outside, it would be best to bathe them at least weekly, but certainly more often if they love rolling in shit. And most of them do. And for some reason, most of their owners are fucking clueless.

2. The middle-aged men in suits with nice watches who refuse to look up from their phones or iPads or Kindles and give their seats to hugely pregnant women or the elderly. I. Cannot. STAND these fucking men. I’m going to dust off a little Louis C.K. and ask, is it not enough for you to have had centuries of unchecked privilege and power? Can you not just relinquish those fifteen minutes at the end of your day of bossing people around and taking up space to a person who might be a little more tired or achy? I’d think with the money you spent on your clothes and accessories that you’d be in a social class that knows about things like real manners, like the kind you learn from somewhere other than that one scene in Pretty Woman where Hector Elizondo is teaching Julia Roberts about tableware. Were you never taught that it’s customary to give up your seat? What’s the problem here? Can you really not tear your eyes away from James Patterson’s latest formulaic celebration of the continuous victory of guys like you to recognize that there are other people in the world and maybe you could do them a small favor once in a while? Or are you waiting for someone like me to do it, which I always do, by the way, but never without fantasizing about smacking your leather Kindle case out of your manicured hands and screaming “THIS IS HOW NICE PEOPLE DO IT, YOU BOURGEOIS PIECE OF HUMAN CRAP!” in your face.

I’ve seen other, less pregnant women and other, less elderly people get up for these new passengers. I’ve seen homeless guys get up, too. I’ve seen thugged out teenagers offering their seats, the occasional punk (although never a crust punk, because fuck society, they need those two extra bus seats for their bedroll and a pile of loose change and batteries), and even mothers with small children giving up their seats for someone else. So hey, Mr. Boardroom, what’s your fucking problem?

Posted in I Just Can't, Seattle, WTF | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

That’s-A Vegan Meat-A-Ball

Last night, I made a vegan thing.

It was a calculatedly vegan thing, in that I actually found it because it was vegan instead of, I don’t know, making something and then at the last minute realizing it’s vegan. It came from Mark Bittman’s VB6 cookbook, a thing I wrote about before and am coming to learn needs a little work.

I already knew this about Mark Bittman. While I know that his recipes are probably all extensively tested, I’ve come to realize that they’re more for people who either don’t cook very often or don’t have very demanding palates. And while I realize that this sounds snobby as shit, the thing is, I do cook a lot, and I want what I eat to taste good. This is why I’m more disappointed than a lot of people when I order something in a restaurant that I could have made better at home. And before you say it, I am an excellent orderer. I don’t go around getting default club sandwiches or culturally anomalous stuff all the time. I order well and most of the time I’m not let down. Some of the time I am, though, like when I get collard greens anywhere because I am apparently the world champion of collard greens and no one else’s come close.

Anyway. Before I made this vegan thing, I decided to see if anyone had bothered reviewing the recipe. Oh yes, because not only can you find recipes for pretty much anything, you can find feedback from people who boldly went before you did and maybe weren’t very impressed. I did this because I didn’t want to waste time making something I wouldn’t like, and because this recipe included eggplant. I don’t normally like eggplant.

Okay, I get it, vegetarians. I’ve heard that eggplant is a terrific, incredibly versatile substitute for meat and I’m supposed to love it. But guys, hey – that’s if you’ve never actually had meat. And it’s not that versatile (most recipes require a pre-salting and draining lest you end up eating a bitter sludge), and have you ever had baba ghanoush? At the risk of talking shit on a huge swath of Middle Eastern culinary culture, you guys are out of your fucking minds with baba ghanoush. I don’t care how you make it. It’s ideal texture is a bowl full of mucousy slop and that is fucking nasty.

Anyway anyway. I looked up the recipe, compared it with some reviews, and wrote a few edits of my own. And it was…okay. Would have been better with meat (at least then I wouldn’t feel like a liar by typing it like “meatballs”), but compared to other “meat” products made without meat that I’ve tried, at least in restaurants and not the mechanically-produced freezer section stuff, it’s of comparable quality. So if you’re looking for something with a texture more along the lines of a non-fried falafel (or if you’re already a vegetarian or vegan and don’t know the difference), this might be worth a shot. Especially if you have a little time on your hands, a bunch of summer CSA produce, and a night that’s gone a bit chilly (as most of them do around Seattle, since we have a lower dew point so warm air doesn’t condense during the day and meteorology is very fascinating, you guys) and is therefore ideal for comfort food:

It’s basically this recipe, although like I said, I made a few changes. Namely, I made my own sauce in my own way (see below). Also, I toasted the breadcrumbs, added about 1/2 cup of toasted/popped quinoa, as well, and didn’t add any water to the eggplant pan because it’s wet enough already. Ohhhh right, and I added a minced poblano (like eggplant and tomato, pepper is an excellent summer market pick), plus some dried oregano, smoked paprika, and a tiny pinch of coriander, and if I had to do it all over again, I’d probably bake the “meatballs” like Bittman suggests but then fry them. Which would require an egg wash, which renders them completely unvegan. But they’d taste better.

Roasted Tomato and Red Pepper Sauce
Makes enough for a whole batch of the “meatballs” in the recipe, or for a pasta dinner for a family of 4. Probably.

NOTE: You need to prepare the tomatoes at least a day in advance. Seriously, it takes like 5-6 hours just to roast them, and you never have to check on them at all during this time. Also, nce roasted, they’ll keep for several days in the fridge. I did mine about five days before I made the actual dish.

It’s also great to make a much larger batch than you need, and the below recipe is easily doubled. Can you get a bumper crop of tomatoes and peppers at the height of summer? Great, make a ton of this sauce and the portion it into freezer bags. Flatten them out, stick them in the freezer, and hey, you’ve got ready sauce for several more months.

  • 4 heirloom tomatoes, quartered (do not get the shitty wooden things from the supermarket in winter, so help me god)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for drizzling
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 smallish jar of roasted red peppers (Trader Joe’s has a very good brand) or 2 roasted bell peppers, diced
  • several cloves garlic, minced (I used probably four big ones, but do whatever you want)
  • 1 tbs kosher salt
  • ½ tsp black pepper
  • ½ tsp red chili flake
  • 1 tsp dried Italian seasoning (or a mixture of dried oregano, rosemary, thyme, and marjoram)
  • 2 tbs balsamic vinegar

    (You can also add some softened onions to this. Just make sure that they’re actually soft and just about golden brown before adding them to the sauce.)

Preheat oven to 250. Place the quartered tomatoes, skin sides down, on a baking sheet lined with foil and sprinkle them with salt and pepper. Drizzle with olive oil. You want the tomatoes to be well drizzled, by the way, none of this barely spilling a drop nonsense. The oil is going to come in handy when it comes time to store these.

Place the tomatoes in the oven and let them roast for 5-6 hours. Yeah. A looooong time. You want them to begin drying a bit, get nice and shrivelly like dark, jellied jewels, and smell like concentrated tomato sugar. Which is basically what you’re making.

After you remove the tomatoes from the oven, let them cool slightly. Then dump the entire contents of the baking sheet – intensely-flavored oil and all! – into a storage container. Thanks to the acid in the tomatoes and the fat in the oil, this will keep in the fridge for about a week.

When you’re ready to make the sauce, dump the tomatoes and oil container into the bowl of your food processor. Add the diced peppers and minced garlic. Blend until somewhat smooth, or until you can see most of the garlic pieces disappear.

Place a thick-bottomed saucepan over medium-low heat and add 2 tbs olive oil. Once this is warm, add your tomato-red pepper sauce mixture. Add the salt, pepper, chili flake and Italian seasoning and stir to combine. Continue stirring occasionally on a very low simmer, adjusting the heat lower if necessary, for about 30 minutes.

Add the balsamic vinegar and stir to combine. Continue simmering for about 5-8 more minutes, and then remove from heat. If you’re freezing it, allow it to cool most of the way before portioning into bags.

Like I said, this is good for the “meatballs” above or for actual meatballs, or for pasta. You can also add about a teaspoon of tomato paste to make a pizza sauce or do what I’m doing tomorrow night, which is simmering chicken thighs in the sauce with some chickpeas and beet greens and then serving it with some crusty bread.

The rest of the “meatballs” I made are in the freezer. Waiting to be improved fried someday.

Posted in CSA-OK, I Eat | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Toiling in the Land of Vocal Fry

Vocal fry: the lowest vocal register…produced through a loose glottal closure which will permit air to bubble through slowly with a popping or rattling sound of a very low frequency. (from Wikipedia)

Also: a low, scratchy sound that occupies the vocal range below modal voice (the most commonly used vocal register in speech and singing). Also known as vocal fry register, creaky voice, pulse register, laryngealization, and glottal fry. (from Richard Nordquist)

If you’re still having trouble with this, just imagine how the Kardashians speak. Flat, atonal, a blasé tone that suggests total disinterest but tilts up at the end of each sentence as if even the most declarative statement (“I just took a huge shit”) sounds like a question (“I just took a huge shit?”).

Brief digression:

Working at what is partially a fashion company, about half of my floor is populated by merchandisers, buyers, and other people who studied fashion as, like, an actual college thing. And they got jobs for it, which is understandably enough to drive my English major friends batty.

My floor is devoted to women’s and kids’ apparel, and these departments are typically dominated by women. While I’ve worked with plenty of women before, I’ve never worked with these kinds of women. Or should I say “this kind of woman,” because as far as I can tell, there’s only one kind.

(Actually there’s two kinds, but you should know that the second kind is exceedingly rare, and that every time I happen to spot a bigger girl or one with unkempt hair, I want to rush over and high-five her in solidarity. “YOU AND ME, GIRL, YOU AND ME!”)

First of all, you should know that some of this is coming from a place of jealousy. The first half of the paragraph, anyway. You see, while I would rather be able to discuss Nabokov than Prada, I do feel a twinge of envy when I walk to the bathroom every day past desk after desk of some of the most attractive females I have ever seen in my life. Easily 85% of them could pass for supermodels. Mostly tall and willowy or Asian and petite, these women have terrific skin, somehow know what to do with makeup besides just slap it on in an effort to look less exhausted, and possess the kind of hair that is either flowing and well-conditioned, sloppy but purposefully and artfully so, or chopped to a perfectly flattering pixie cut that sits daintily atop the tiniest elfin features. They dress impeccably, even the one who wears sweatpants and the other who shows up in running clothes every day. I’m convinced that most of them own entire accessory closets. They swill Diet Coke like it won’t eventually cause hideous tumors, and they only drink coffee through straws. Sentences about what they think or prefer begin with “Um, I feel liiiiiike…” and the newest group of hires in their department are named – and I am not making this up, I re-checked the company Web site today – Kylie, Kayleigh, Hayley, Mackenzie, and Brenna. These are adult women, by the way. They’re obviously too sleepy to sit up straight, so they hunch over like they’re warming their delicate bones over a mug of steaming herbal tea. They shake hands like sparrow-clawed little babies. They all have fuzzy blankets to wrap themselves in when it’s August outside. And they all speak with vocal fry.

I. Can’t. Stand. Vocal Fry.

Perhaps this is because, as a native Midwesterner, I prefer a more direct way of communicating. I prefer people to be plainspoken. I don’t even mind abrasive speakers; I get along terrifically with people from the Northeast because at least they tell you where you stand with them (tip: if you have not been shouted at in friendly conversation by someone from Boston then you are missing out on one of the great joys of life). I just need people to be declarative when they speak, because when they’re not, when everything someone says sounds as though they are bored, condescending, or unsure, my brain goes into overdrive trying to figure out if they’re fucking with me or actually just that stupid.

Usually, they’re actually just that stupid. Because a smart person knows how to speak, okay? A smart person knows how to communicate intent and emotion. A smart person understands when they say something incomplete or confusing. A smart person doesn’t stare blankly back at you when you stand there, waiting for them to finish asking the question they clearly started when THAT AND EVERYTHING ELSE THEY SAID WAS PHRASED LIKE A QUESTION.

Why the explosive use of vocal fry? Is it because I’m on the West Coast now? Is it actually because of the Kardashians? Are the fashion girls in my company not above emulating those fucking people? Is everyone’s speech getting shitty and lazy as we over-rely on non-verbal communication such as texting, or have so many people adopted this practiced disaffection that it’s strangulating their speech? Does anyone notice that I am asking real questions with real question marks?

Posted in I Hate, I Just Can't, Paychecks Are Important, WTF | Tagged , | 1 Comment

All About My Gorge

For reasons that are no surprise to me (ahem, I am lazy), I stopped logging my food into Fitbit a couple of months ago. I knew I shouldn’t be doing this; it was only when I started logging my food that I started getting smaller, so why I thought I could psychically control what I was eating without any kind of calculated proof is beyond me (but again, I am lazy). While I’ve remained at a slightly smaller size than when I started, I haven’t made any additional progress lately, so I decided to quit being an asshole and start logging food again.

And yeah, I’ve been an asshole about it. On the one hand, it’s a lot less painful to admit to Fitbit that I’ve eaten an entire pizza (again) now that I’m walking at least 2 miles every day just to get back and forth to work, and one of those miles is a 45-degree uphill climb. On the other, I wonder where my brain tricked me into thinking I had control over all of this, because it’s obviously a liar and I obviously need to get with the program again.

It is slightly easier to eat more of the stuff that’s not harmful now that the CSA is in full swing. While I wish we could stop getting so many fucking beets, overall, I’m able to fill two or three meals with so many vegetables that I sometimes struggle to validate the need for meat to accompany it. Three out of five of the meals I’m making this week are meatless, and the fourth uses up some leftover chicken from the one I roasted last night. And I look at that as a freebie, because a) it’s chicken, b) it’s one of those fancy free-range, organic, hormone-free chickens, and c) it’s leftovers, so not only did I already use up the effort to cook it, but I’m being economical about what’s in my fridge.

It’s not that I’m trying to eat less meat, except I kind of am, although it’s less for reasons like a conversion to vegetarianism (NOPE) or health (at least not until anyone proves that a vegetarian diet is unequivocally healthier than one that includes infrequent-to-moderate consumption of sustainably raised lean animal protein). But for reasons related to personal ethics or something insufferable like that, I buy more expensive meat from direct, organic, environmentally responsible purveyors, and because I am not yet made of money, this means that I can’t afford to cook meat every night. I also bought Mark Bittman’s “VB6″ for Courtney, and because she was out of town, I, um, read it before I gave it to her (oh relax, she did the same thing when she bought Yotam Ottolenghi’s “Plenty” for me). Bittman’s plan to eat completely vegan before 6pm isn’t quite within my personal idea of things that are possible (you can have the milk in my coffee when you pry it from my cold, dead hands, which will invariably come back from the grave and haunt the shit out of you), but he makes a lot of sense in terms of the value of eating in a way that will eventually be the most realistic model for a world where animal products are prohibitively expensive and damaging to the environment. At least with the scale at which we’re consuming them now.

ANYWAY, I’m not about to become a vegan, a vegetarian, or even an anything-definite-before-6pm-an, but I am taking steps to buy and eat less meat and seek out other options when they’re available and taste good. I do realize this isn’t for everyone and many of us who were raised on eating meat with most meals would find this unsatisfying at first, so, you know, there’s a reason I’m making the eggplant and white bean meatballs while Graham is out of town.

This means making the most out of the stuff I have when I have it. We’re currently in high summer in the Pacific Northwest, which means that while the rest of the country is gearing down after the most bountiful harvests of the year, we’re still neck deep in tomatoes, green beans, corn, and big, leafy greens. When you think about it, even bumper crops of this stuff are kind of flash-in-the-pan. You can grow apples and potatoes all year long; not so for most summer produce. So even though I’ll be pretty sick of red chard come mid-September, right now, I’m making sure that I honor this stuff in the best way that I can. I’m careful about how I store it, prep it, cook it, and eat everything, including the leftovers. When you think about the food industry in general, meaning the enormous corporations that process and market the hell out of all that stuff in the middle of the supermarket, it’s a marvel that we’re still growing food at all. People are still planting, raising, pulling stuff out of the ground. And for the people who are doing this with heirloom seeds, without chemicals, and in ways appropriate to their regions and climates, it just feels like a remarkable thing to be able to hold a clutch of enormous walla walla sweet onions in one hand and a tangle of sweet pea vines in another and commit yourself to doing right by this food and the people who grew it.

I not only owe it to these people, but I owe it to myself to choose this kind of food. Instead of, you know, forgetting about my period and buying a bag of buffalo chicken pizza rolls because for some reason my brain is telling me it needs them to survive (I did this recently, and while I don’t necessarily regret it, I’m not exactly proud, either).

So I’ll roast down the tomatoes until they’re dark, jelly-like jewels, and I’ll store them in olive oil until I puree them for a sauce. I’ll prep and freeze the peppers in advance so I can be sure to use them up before they shrivel. I’ll keep at the blueberry-peach-nectarine cobbler for breakfast and for dessert because hey, did you know that if you’re (ahem) lazy and don’t peel the peaches or nectarines, some of the skins come off the slices and become, like, fruit noodles that you can slurp? So good. I will finally figure out artichokes, because I’ll be damned if I let those weirdo dinosaur things go to waste again.

I will gorge myself on everything I can, everything within reason, and I will be as least lazy as possible while doing it.

Posted in CSA-OK, I Eat | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

What St. Louis Means for People Who Have Suddenly Decided to Care

I’m still struggling to get used to my new schedule. While I don’t have trouble actually waking up, it is difficult to get home from work and feel like doing anything other than sleeping, which could explain why I’ve cooked all of two meals this week and have a fridge full of wasted green stuff.

I’ve also lost a fair bit of sleep over the Ferguson situation, which is of course far more complicated and nuanced and terrifying for those involved than the media could possibly convey, both the conservative slanderous media portraying a) Michael Brown as an strong arm robber (hey, remember when we were young and they called it shoplifting and didn’t try to assassinate our character) despite the Ferguson PD’s statement that he was stopped – and shot eight times – for jaywalking with no officer knowledge of this “robbery” whatsoever and b) everyone protesting the vicious police response as a rioter and looter, despite livestream and photographic evidence to the contrary.

I’m also dismayed at the far-liberal media, who seem all too happy to portray white St. Louis as elitist snobs who’ve erected walls topped with barb wire to protect them from black neighborhoods, as if any of the people writing these articles could easily point out St. Louis or its suburbs on a map, let alone comprehend the layers of segregation and the history that inform them. Stephanie recently posted “Brace yourselves – the New Yorker think pieces on St. Louis are coming.” I liked the post, but it also made me cringe because it’s true.

It’s also why I’ve abandoned traditional news sources (KSDK, the Post-Dispatch, and especially faraway correspondent papers like the New York Times and the Guardian) and Facebook (where the rumor mill is just as bad as those comfortably cosseted in far-flung suburbs who aren’t as careful about disguising their racism as they think they are) and turned exclusively to Twitter. At least there, I can get real time updates from people who are actually there, without any flowery suppositions about what St. Louis means because a 140-character limit simply does not allow that.

In a weird way, I feel protective of St. Louis. While I want people to care and get angry and protest across the country because a young, unarmed man was murdered by a police officer who I sincerely doubt would have done the same thing to an 18-year-old white jaywalker, I also have a hard time trusting that anger sometimes. I can’t even look at Tumblr these days, what with the lustful ALL CAPS shouting and misattributed photos making the rounds seeming less like justified outrage and more like carrion birds standing over a meal.

It’s not my place to police people’s anger, but in my own impotent way, I want them to have a full understanding of what St. Louis is like, and maybe, I don’t know, care about it and its problems outside of this media circus. I want them to stop writing “one of the most segregated cities in America” as if they’ve ever been there, or know anything at all about the complex economic issues and neighborhood culture affecting this. I want them to give a shit about what they consider to be flyover country, this vast swath of the nation that they conveniently forget or deride when it’s not as sensational as it is now.

I want them to understand that there are still people involved there. There is a community involved. That it is reprehensible for a police force to use full-scale military tactics against citizenry and journalists, and how insane it is for St. Louis County to be able to issue officers assault weapons, armored vehicles, and MARPAT pants when they claim not to be able to afford dashboard cameras. I want them to understand that while this is still a racial issue at heart and we absolutely cannot forget that (to do so is forgetting our privilege as white people who aren’t open season targets), it is easier for the media to frame the story as one about a mob of looters, or a mob of protestors, or a mob of cops, and that when we buy into this, we forget that the institutions of each do not represent the individuals involved.

I am protective of St. Louis because my heart is still there, and I because I am asked to explain it every day (to Seattleites, no less, who don’t have the most sterling police department or reputation for integrated neighborhoods). It’s because it’s hard to convey what it’s like to grow up in a broken, impoverished, extremely diverse city, and to prove the media wrong when it attempts to smear the entire place as an ignorant, unstable problem. Because, unfortunately, it is easier for non-St. Louisans to dismiss the city as exactly this when it’s not grabbing the spotlight. They’ve been doing it for as long as I’ve been alive, and this is why I feel like I need to be sure that they care before I give anything away. Which is pretty silly of me, I get that, but St. Lousians are a tough and (sometimes) defensive people. We’ve had to be.

The thing is, I left St. Louis because of its problems. I left because of the crime, because I’d witnessed decades of decline without any authoritarian or (organized, widespread, effective) citizen-based efforts to improve it, and because, no matter how much it remains an irrefutable part of my character, I could not stand and watch this happen to my city from the remove of the suburbs. I left despite the good people I know there, the amazing arts scene, the beautiful parks and architecture and food and no-nonsense, plainspoken attitude that I, as a current West Coaster, sorely miss.

St. Louis and its neighborhoods are incredibly complex, as are the people who live there and the issues that (sometimes, when it drives clicks and coverage) get attention. It hurts my heart to see anyone there buying into what the media is feeding them, and to see anyone who isn’t from there forming opinions based on misinformation and ignorance.

I am dismayed at this, I am saddened by the reasons behind the shooting and the attempted character assassination of Brown and the misplaced blame and confusion of protestors vs. looters. I’m scared of what will happen if (although unfortunately, probably when) the shooting officer is pardoned for his actions, and I remain tough and defensive to anyone who asks me to explain it.

Posted in I Just Can't, Sads | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

It Never Hurts to Check Your Privilege

Although there were many things I didn’t like about my old job, one of the things I was pretty happy about was my schedule. After about a year of dragging my old bones out of bed before sunrise and feeling like a zombie for the rest of the day, I was given the 9:30am to 6:00pm shift, which meant that I could wake up when it was already light out and, from about early May until late September, at least, go home when the sun was still visible. I wouldn’t go so far as to say that I have Seasonal Affective Disorder, but it’s a tricky thing when waking up in the dark, staying inside under fluorescent lights all day, and then going home in the dark makes you want to fucking die.

So I really liked my schedule, and I experienced a pang of regret when I realized that my new job would not be likely to afford me the same one.

And it didn’t. Which is fine. I expected it, I can live with it, but now I’m back to that old state of never feeling like I can get enough sleep and panicking when I realize that it’s 11pm and I’m still awake.

Part of the reason I was awake last night is because it was finally hot enough in Seattle for me to be uncomfortable. I normally sleep a bit like a burrito with a little bit of the filling coming out – one leg sticks out from under the covers, but the rest of me is bundled up from head to toe. And I mean head to toe. In order to feel fully comfortable and ready to sleep, I need a portion of the comforter over my head and covering my ear. Ideally also my eyes. Last night was just too warm for that, so I fitfully fell asleep without covers sometime around midnight.

Another reason I couldn’t fall asleep is because I kept thinking about Ferguson. For non-St. Louisans watching the news, Ferguson is a suburb of St. Louis that’s about 30 minutes northeast of the city. It’s a pretty integrated suburb, as far as suburbs go, and although I did not live there (come on, the suburbs?), by all accounts of the people I know who do/have, it’s nice. It’s also currently swarming with police in full-on riot gear, which is a very strange thing for them to do after killing an unarmed 18-year-old black man.

So. Ferguson police shot and killed Michael Brown, who they claimed attacked them. However, Brown was unarmed and, witnesses say, had raised his arms in “don’t shoot” posture. This matters little to cops of all stripes, though, so understandably, the citizens of Ferguson weren’t happy when they gathered to protest this incident and hold vigil for Brown.

These protests and vigils soon erupted, though, as protests and vigils are wont to do when the people holding them are historically marginalized by a racially-biased media and systematically oppressed by a racially-biased police force. So they rioted. Well. You should understand that the riot area in question isn’t very large, and that reports of looting are nowhere near as widespread as police-sympathizing media would have the public believe (because that’s not as exciting). However, there was violence and property damage and a police response.

Which I understand. As awful as it is that an unarmed man was shot and killed by a uniformed police officer, I do not condone responding to violence with violence. However, I understand more that, according to Dr. Martin Luther King, “riots are the language of the unheard.” I understand that there is a world of difference between the violent crime that St. Louis endures every fucking day (and, ahem, turns a blind eye to when it happens to poor black people in traditionally shitty neighborhoods) and actual murder perpetrated by actual cops. I understand that when you, as a citizen, learn from experience to fear a paramilitary force of public servants who have sworn to protect you and distrust a media that turns a blind eye to that force’s crimes, sooner or later, you will not be able to contain your anger. Your anger wants respect. It wants attention. It wants to let the people who oppress you to know that you are not their property to be oppressed.

I also understand that the subsequent police response to the Ferguson situation is absolutely out of fucking control. There is no fucking reason why a suburban police force should be militarized to the extent that it shocks an actual Iraq combat veteran. I’m no criminal justice major, but it speaks volumes when the police respond in full, battle geared force when they are accused of murdering an unarmed citizen. This is not a legitimate reaction. This is a full-scale attack on a community that has exercised its displeasure with what is now clearly an institution committed to brutality. You want an army? Call in the National Guard. You want a police force? MAKE THEM PROTECT AND SERVE PEOPLE INSTEAD OF KILLING THEM.

What I don’t understand is how so many people I know on Facebook are hiding behind their privilege. I didn’t expect it, I guess. I had no idea I was friends with such dim-witted, fear-mongering sympathizers of violent offenders playing war with real weapons and uniforms in the suburbs. As one of my (actual) friends sighed, “Facebook, your racism is showing.”

I don’t condone violence as the answer to violence. I don’t condone anyone having their lives or property threatened because of someone else’s misdeed. But in cases like these, where the people with badges and guns are the ones literally getting away with murder, I will always align myself with the citizenry because we should always make the authorities accountable for their actions.

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To Die Would Be a Grand Adventure

I had my first day of work at my new job today. Actually it was more of a half day, but considering that I woke up early, showered, and managed to look like a reasonable person before catching the bus and not throwing up the entire way there, I’d say I did okay for myself. Also, my desk overlooks Elliott Bay and is equidistant from Pier 70 (where the Real World Seattle house was located) and the Edgewater Hotel (WAY MORE BADASS because of Led Zeppelin and the groupie who fucked a shark). Also also, my new company is casual. And I mean really casual. One of the other new hires showed up in shitty jeans and a Sub Pop t-shirt. Another woman wore a long t-shirt like a dress, and the back was completely open to her tramp stamp-area, which means that when I was not being scandalized, I got jealous of her very cute bra. Which I could plainly see.

I wanted to write more about my first day, but then I got home and sorted out the Internet and learned that Robin Williams had died, and I was very shocked and felt profoundly sad.

Robin Williams was definitely one of the team. While I was primarily raised on the comedy of George Carlin, Richard Pryor and Steve Martin and knew Williams mostly as a comedic actor (it took years before I saw one of his actual comedy specials and was hideously entertained at his impression of someone eating ‘70s pussy, which he mimed by putting his face into the crook of his very hairy arm), I was still aware that this guy in these movies was a fucking lunatic, and that being a fucking lunatic was a good thing.

Even a kid could watch Robin Williams’s movies and understand that he was really going for it. You could tell that he was manic and loony and so crazily, relentlessly funny. And there was an integrity in that, because even when he branched out into drama and people complained because he wasn’t being funny anymore, the thing was, he was still being funny, he just understood that the jokes had to be delivered in a different way. I defy anyone to watch “Good Will Hunting” and not be heartbroken about Sean’s wife or the oppressive emptiness of his tiny apartment. I dare you to not adore his reenactment of game six of the 1975 World Series, or smile at his dry ad-libbed last words in the film, “He stole my line.” As much as I hate “Dead Poets Society” (get off that fucking desk, you idiot, and quit making mediocre teachers think that’s all it takes), I have to give the man credit for hanging in there and doing that, and translating some passion for performing into what was otherwise a dreary wank session for dudes who like lecturing women about Whitman.

But anyway. What a loss. What a hole in the world. If I believed in things like Heaven, I assume I’d also believe in the bullshit rules about how suicides aren’t allowed, so of course I’d Ouija board the shit out of the powers that be to lobby on behalf of Robin Williams. The guy deserves to get in.

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