Do Not Startle the Animals

My mom is coming to visit next weekend. I think partially because she wants to and partially because I recently threw half a tantrum over no one in my immediate family having any plans to visit Seattle for reasons involving money, time, etc., even though I’ve visited St. Louis twice already and those burdens were on me. But the important part is that she’s visiting, and she’s staying in a hotel here in Ballard on what is perhaps one of the best streets in America (please remember that I am biased).

She gets in on Friday night and is leaving Monday, so it’s more of an extended weekend than an actual vacation. And I have no idea what we’re supposed to do, although I guess I should leave that up to her. My idea of a good day in Seattle is taking the bus or walking wherever and not doing much of anything, and as long as I’m not getting rained on (even though we need the rain) or getting shouted at by a crazy homeless person (although we also need those, apparently), I’m just fine.

I guess Graham is working later on Saturday so he can make lunch with us then, and maybe if it’s a sunny day I’ll take her over to Seattle Center. Not for the Space Needle, though; remember, we are St. Louisans. We have our own history of paying money to go up in pointlessly tall monuments and then realize it’s good for a field trip and that’s about it. But it’s a nice park, and the fountain is one of the most hilarious pieces of entertainment if you like watching giddily terrified children, and both Five Point Café and Lake Union are near-ish. Although I might have to reconsider my estimation of “near-ish” as no one walks anywhere in St. Louis and so far everyone has been less than pleased with me about my insistence on self-ambulatory travel. But I’ll take her to get coffee, and we’ll hit up the chocolatier, and we’ll walk along the Burke Gilman and probably cross over the Locks. I kind of want to keep it a Ballard-centric visit, actually, because like I said, it’s not really a vacation. I want her to see where I live. And outside of work and work-adjacent activities, I don’t really leave Ballard all that often. Why would I?

It’s funny to me – I’ve lived in Seattle for nearly three years but I still don’t feel like that’s long enough. It’s sort of like when you start dating someone and you get a little bit jealous of their ex. Not because they used to sleep with the person you’re with, but because of their history. Because they know them better. You have all this catching up to do and there’s someone out there who beat you to it. But that’s how Seattle feels to me. I’ve been here for three years and am intensely jealous of those who have been here longer, to the point where I constantly feel like I have to prove myself as a Seattleite. Which is pointless because a) I am a library card-holding, condo-griping, registered voter Seattleite and b) I already passed the two-year Seattle Freeze mark so as far as everyone else is concerned, I belong. But I think that’s why I was so driven to figure out the neighborhoods and bus schedules and weird little quirks (guys, quit saying “bag” like it rhymes with “vague,” please).

Tourists don’t know the difference. See, I like to think that I’ve developed my own brand of disaffection that is common here in the Pacific Northwest, but there must be something still Midwestern and earnest about my face, because even when I assiduously avoid eye contact (like a true Seattleite), the tourists seek me out for directions and general conversation. And I really do think that hotels should start briefing visitors about this, because it really freaks us out. It’s like having a sign at the zoo that asks people to please don’t startle the animals. We can’t handle that kind of thing here.

But because I am a native Midwesterner and being thought of as impolite by a stranger is just unacceptable no matter where I am, I give them directions. Good ones, too, ones that make sense to someone who doesn’t live here, not the shrugged and confused directions common with many people who don’t look up from their phones while walking or riding the bus. I answer their questions. I try to keep my responses short but I will play along for a bit when they suddenly open up with a piece of their life story. And they do. Because no matter how many times people have told me that the look on my face is cold and unapproachable, a person with a camera slung around their neck and some baggy khaki shorts at their waist will invariably find me wildly attractive.

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A Cup of Tea

Okay, first thing’s first. I wrote a thing. It’s not an important thing or probably a very good thing, but it is grammatically-sound and from what I’ve seen of other horror writing contests, that counts for something.

Second, more importantly, my friend Alexa wrote a thing. I have probably a gazillion things to say about it, not just because of the subject matter and what it means to be the gender that has to care, like, infinitely more about the subject matter (because the other gender is taught not to care as much), but also because she is my friend, and I think this piece is so incredibly brave and scary and important and I am simultaneously saddened by it and so, so proud of her for writing it.

Want to know what’s really fucked up? That piece – or rather, the event that caused it – is what made us friends. Kind of. We’d seen one another on Twitter for a long time and I followed her, and when she named the person from the piece and posted the e-mail mentioned in it, I attempted to reach out to her via DM. But I couldn’t, because she didn’t follow me yet, and I went to sleep that night feeling sick for this person across the country who’d had to experience something so fucking horrifying. This is a person who didn’t really know me yet, but I so hoped she would follow me so I could talk to her. Which she eventually did, and we did, and now she’s the ringleader of the best group DM the world has ever seen because it is made up of this cabal of ultra-smart, hyper-talented women who talk a ton of shit and support each other and crack me up on a daily basis.

The thing about being in this DM group of women – in being in a group of any women, or even knowing women – is that statistically (well, statistically as reported, anyway), 1 in 6 of them have been raped or sexually assaulted. And again, as Alexa points out, rape is stomach-churningly underreported, so the real number is probably much higher. I’ve said before that, considering this statistic, I consider myself lucky to have never been sexually assaulted, but at the same time, I am aware of how fucked up of a concept “lucky” is here. I should not be “lucky.” I should not be an exception. I should not have to reflect on always having been able to provide consent and have that consent respected and, even knowing what I know, be fucking grateful to people for that. I shouldn’t be grateful. That should be the default. Always. Without fucking question.

It’s not just this one friend. It’s others on Twitter. It’s others on Facebook. It’s women I know in real life. Women who are living with this piece of themselves inside, who might have reported it but usually didn’t, because we live in a society where some women are “lucky” and others get to have their stories questioned and their characters assassinated and their bodies turned into crime scenes that the law rarely treats with respect. Women who have to just cover that piece up and keep moving and wonder if the person who hurt them did it before or will do it again. They might have to see that person’s face in public. Can you even imagine? I feel like my heart is going to drop out of my butt when I see someone who looks like an ex-boyfriend on the bus (my nearest ex-boyfriend lives 2,000 miles away); what would happen if that face belonged to the person who had raped me? And who knew they’d raped me, and knew they’d gotten away with it? And not just that person, but suggestions of them, or what happened that time (or times), or scenes in movies or plays or in books? Or fucking everything fucking everywhere?

Rape isn’t about sex. It’s about power and the egregious abuse of it, and retaining power over someone else long after the act is over. It’s about ignoring someone’s agency, not respecting their personhood or dignity, and bulldozing over the utterly and stupidly simple issue of consent because…why? I dunno, why is it harder to teach boys not to rape than it is to enforce puritanical dress codes on school-age girls or continue slut-shaming women? I can’t figure it out, either.

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The Very Big One

If you live in Seattle, you’ve probably read that New Yorker article about the probability of a cataclysmic earthquake striking the (ultra-sexy-sounding) Cascadian subduction zone and obliterating our corner of the Pacific Northwest. If you haven’t read it yet, I’ll wait. It took me until this morning to finally feel up to reading about my imminent death and I understand if you need a little bit of preparation time.

I remember when I was in grade school, someone – maybe a psychic, maybe a seismologist, I can’t recall – predicted a major earthquake along the New Madrid fault. This faultline runs through northeastern Arkansas, eastern Tennessee, and mostly southeastern Missouri. In 1811, the New Madrid earthquake hit and caused significant property damage in St. Louis and, it is rumored, rang church bells in Boston. And when you’re a kid in the late ‘80s, this is one of the most dangerous things you can image. I remember parents keeping their kids home from school on the day it was supposed to happen. And, being in the Midwest, we didn’t even know or need to be concerned about tsunamis.

“Four to six minutes after the dogs start barking, the shaking will subside. For another few minutes, the region, upended, will continue to fall apart on its own. Then the wave will arrive, and the real destruction will begin.”

See, it’s not just the earthquake that will do it; it’s the tsunami that will come afterwards. As the article notes, “Among natural disasters, tsunamis may be the closest to being completely unsurvivable.” Also, should the Cascadian subduction zone rupture, “It will not look like a Hokusai-style wave, rising up from the surface of the sea and breaking from above. It will look like the whole ocean, elevated, overtaking land.” You know all those natural disaster films you’ve seen where people sprint through the streets and scramble up the sides of mountains and somehow, the protagonist escapes danger? Nope. Not real. A tsunami is no joke. It is a behemoth wall of seawater moving under a volition more powerful than anything mankind has ever produced and it does not stop until it is fucking done. Or until it smacks into a fucking mountain range that is massive enough to traverse an entire continent.

Think that’s bleak? Read the fucking article. Paragraph after paragraph of doomsday prophecy, only in actual true scientific context. The official estimates of human life damage are over 27,000 injured and 13,000 dead from Northern California to Vancouver. The worst of the damage will occur west of Interstate 5. Hey guys, guess who lives west of Interstate 5? (Raises hand, waves it desperately!)

There is no solid timeframe for an event like this, but the odds of a big earthquake, between 8.0 and 8.6 on the Richter scale, is about one in three over the next 50 years. But the very big one, at anywhere between an 8.7 and 9.0, the one that will trigger the most horrifying, decimating, long-lasting damage, is estimated at one in ten. I have no idea where I will be in 50 years (honestly I kind of hope I’ll be dead because the thought of living to 83 is just impossible in my head). Likely I will already have been priced out of Seattle with the rest of the poors and the only ones here to withstand the very big one will be tech billionaires who we’ll all be a little bit happy to see disappear under the waves. But I might still be around, and let me tell you something, if I have to die, it might as well be in a version of the apocalypse.

As depressing and anxiety-inducing as the information is – or maybe it’s not, like maybe you don’t live here or care about anyone who does, or like maybe you just hate-read this blog for some complicated psychological reason and are actively rooting for my catastrophic demise and if that’s the case then I can’t say I blame you – it’s still very fascinating. In much the same way as it is fascinating to read about super droughts or the Yellowstone supervolcano. Or maybe I’m a freakshow who is just exhausted all the time and is therefore reasonably comfortable with the concept of her own death. I suppose I am a fatalist. I dunno.

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No Touchy

It’s been a weird week. Everything started out okay, I guess, but after a few nights of little or fractured sleep and an unexpected nosedive in mood (partially thanks to a Cowboy Junkies song playing on Pandora that holds no real significance for me but made me miserable for some sad bastard reason), I was lying in bed on Friday at 2am with my eyes wide open and no hope of getting back to sleep. So I did what any masochist would do. I got out of bed, made some coffee, and was at work before 6 in the morning, vibrating down to my bones with sharp pains shooting out of my eyeballs.

Way back when I first said something about being depressed, Mike texted me to say that if nothing else, I had to make sure to get up and do stuff. He said it would kill me if I didn’t, if I just sat there and never left the house and let it consume me completely. And he was right. So I get up. I go to the store. I mail a rent check. I go to work early and stare at e-mails and will myself not to be meaner than is absolutely necessary.

Even when everyone in my department left early for a “team-building” exercise at a bowling alley and I was tired enough that I could hallucinate hearing my hair grow (sounds laborious, at least when you’re exhausted) and I just wanted to sleep, I went, anyway, and drank free beers and looked like a doomed spectre of myself.

And when I left early to make a massage appointment, I was buzzing with enough nervous energy to be on 3 different buses within a 10-minute timespan, although I am happy to report that the creepers are still alive and well, everyone, don’t worry, for although I looked entirely strung out and weird, some rando kept staring at me for the entire bus ride home. The public transportation freakshow economy system is intact.

I was worried that I wouldn’t be relaxed enough for a massage. For one, I felt like I was physically unhinged. For two, when I get depressed, I get socially anxious, and when I get socially anxious, I find it difficult to gauge how I should react to other people. People I know are one thing – they’re used to my voice and my cackle – but people I don’t know can be taken aback, and I never quite know how to strike the balance between speaking in a barely audible murmur and just fucking screaming everything I say. So I was a little nervous about freaking out the massage therapist, and that was on top of my normal anxieties about massage.

I don’t get massages. The thing is, my father is a massage therapist. He hasn’t always been one, though. He didn’t go to massage therapy school until I was in my early ‘20s, so basically, I got to live most of my life being yelled at by a crazy strict Catholic disciplinarian, and then, in my ‘20s, I was presented with this weirdo who wanted to talk about chakras and shit and I still don’t quite know how to deal with that. Part of me feels cheated, most of me is just confused. ALSO during that time he took up with some lady who became his mistress and she had a family, too, and it just got really ugly and unfortunate and I don’t blame massage therapy, but the residual psychological effects have sort of skeeved me out to the intimacy of a massage situation. Know what I mean?

But I’ve been dealing with a hurt shoulder for about a year and a half now, and since I don’t want to go back to the doctor for muscle relaxers, I thought I’d give massage a try. And in the meantime, I’d use the opportunity to get over my issues of being touched by a stranger. I was a bit worried that I’d fall asleep. I was more worried that I’d fart on the table. I wasn’t worried that I’d cry, at least not until I read a comment on the bus ride there about how some people just lose it and start weeping. But I did none of these things. I kept it together and the therapist and I talked about Chris Pratt while she worked on my scalp and I was finally able to sleep that night and you know what, I’ll probably go back.

It still feels as though I’m holding on like grim death, psychologically-speaking, but as I get older and learn ways to work around that (get off your ass, go out in public, write mean things and then delete them and then congratulate yourself for being so progressive and kind, etc.), I realize that at least it feels like I am holding on. And that’s an improvement.

“Always remember that the crowd that applauds your coronation is the same crowd that will applaud your beheading. People like a show.

— Terry Pratchett

Posted in I Just Can't, Sads | Tagged , , | 4 Comments

Happy Little Sleep Videos

I mentioned the other day that I’ve been sick recently, and that part of being sick involved a fever. I haven’t had a fever in a very long time – actually, hang on, I should say that I haven’t felt a fever for a very long time. I don’t actually know if I’ve had one because I don’t own a thermometer, because I’m an adult without children and this is still perfectly acceptable.

But anyway. I’ve been sick before, sometimes severely, but I hadn’t felt a fever for probably over ten years. Then I felt one this past week, which happened to be the hottest week of the year, which happened to make doing anything feel impossible. Can’t sleep. Can’t cook. Can’t move. Can’t wear real pants. Can’t even think straight, because not only was it too warm to be comfortable in my house, but the rising temperature in my body made me feel like my brain was cooking in my skull and as metal as that sounds, I did not actually enjoy it.

The not sleeping was the worst part, though. What you need to understand is that I am very into sleep. I don’t sleep too much (I average about 6 hours a night) and, unlike some comments I’ve received from friends, it’s not that I’d rather sleep than stay out until 1am on a school night (wait, yes, that is exactly what I’d rather do), but I’m serious about sleep. I know exactly how much I need and at what times to feel normal, and if I don’t get that or if I miss the window (and can’t recover it with a nap or something), I start to feel like I’m losing my mind. Insomnia isn’t a manic state in which a person is incredibly productive because they’re not sleeping; insomnia is a fucking misery because you’re so fucking tired and want nothing more than to sleep but your body won’t fucking let you.

I have a handful of tricks I use to help me sleep. White noise, like with a fan, is essential. Not keeping a TV in the bedroom and limiting my phone use in bed is another key factor. Keeping an arsenal of dryly-written books by my bedside is another, because by now all it takes is the specific rhythm of certain authors’ styles and I feel sleepy. Another trick – one that I hesitated using for so long because I heard it was habit-forming but my god does it work – is watching ASMR videos.

I thought I’d written about this before but a search tells me I haven’t, but I am a person who experiences ASMR – that is, autonomous sensory meridian response. Very, very simply, ASMR is “the tingles” you experience, usually from the top of your head downwards, when something is deeply pleasurable or calming to you. It’s not sexual, it’s not a medical thing, and the term itself wasn’t around until like 2010 and even then it was introduced on fucking Facebook. But the sensation has always been there for me; I think I can trace it back to being read to and having my hair repeatedly tucked behind my ear when I was maybe 2 years old, and it having a name is just…nice, I guess.

Mental Floss recently published a thing about how Bob Ross has become a sort of ASMR celebrity (instead of just a really great kickass PBS celebrity, I guess) and in it, the writer described how many professionals link ASMR to flow states, synesthesia, and musical frisson. Which was kind of even better than learning that ASMR had a name, because when I first heard of synesthesia years ago, I kind of hugged myself a little because I finally had a name for the background pictures I’d see in my head for (seemingly) unrelated words or smells or whatever. And AGAIN, none of this means I’m nuts. It’s just a weird association thing in my brain, I guess, and it doesn’t stop me from living or working or doing stuff. If anything, it’s a brain bonus. That, um, I didn’t share with anyone until it and ASMR had names. Because I was afraid it would sound like lunacy.

I’ve never tried watching a Bob Ross video to get to sleep. Yet. I’m not sure that I would, though, since my memories of Bob Ross are watching The Joy of Painting while sitting on scratchy brown shag carpet in my grandparents’ house because they were watching me that summer and it was too hot to go outside for any length of time. The videos I watch are almost exclusive whispering and hair- and face-touching videos, which, yeah, weird if you don’t experience ASMR, but fucking magical for getting to sleep in under two restless hours.

Possibly habit-forming. But at this point, who even cares.

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The Time I Met Mystery Fireworks Jesus

Yeah yeah yeah, how was everyone’s Fourth, happy birthday America, blah blah blah YOU GUYS. You guys.

I MET MYSTERY FIREWORKS JESUS!

A bit of background for those reading on their phones who wish not to follow a hyperlink:

Last year, with the Porter-Eyre household vacationing in California and their Eastlake (ahem, Gas Works Park-adjacent) abode not open for Fourth of July festivities, Graham and I invited some friends over to our new place in Ballard. We figured we’d barbecue, drink, play some ping pong on the tables at the community center, and watch some drunk hillbilly blow their fingers off down on the athletic fields.

And we mostly did that. We had pork steaks (hollaaaaaa, St. Louisans), I made two desserts like some kind of maniac, we got handily drunk, we played ping pong until it was too dark to see, and we did see one drunk hillbilly nearly blow off not their finger, but their ear. And then laugh about it. As, I suppose, drunk hillbillies will do.

Around the time we started talking about heading back to the house, someone else’s fireworks display began on the opposite side of the athletic field. It quickly became clear that this was no ordinary display purchased by a frustrated dad at a roadside fireworks stand. It didn’t belong to a drunk hillbilly. It also wasn’t sanctioned by a business or community organization, and only a handful of people were around to watch.

But it. Was. Glorious. And the man behind it soon became known as both the President of Ballard and, most fittingly, Mystery Fireworks Jesus. I went looking for information and ended up on the MyBallard forum and posted a much lengthier thank you on this blog.

This year, we declined an invitation to Eastlake due to concerns about spending 2 hours in traffic and me having been sick all week (tip: when you haven’t had a fever in years, it’s not the greatest idea to get one during the hottest week of the year because you will become convinced that your brain is cooking and you are going crazy). Instead, we stayed home with a slightly less ambitious menu and Craig, who was spending his very first 4th of July as a Seattleite. We’d talked a big game about Mystery Fireworks Jesus and I was a little worried that he might not show up this year.

But he did. And way more neighborhood people were there to watch. And Craig’s face lit up because duh, that’s what happens when you witness someone doing something out of kindness and joy.

THANKS AGAIN, MYSTERY FIREWORKS JESUS!

I’ve been trying to add a comment to the MyBallard forum for the past 20 minutes (mostly in response to someone named VeganBiker WHO IS, NOT SURPRISINGLY WITH THAT NAME, KIND OF AN ASSHOLE). Until I can to that forum, I’ll keep posting here in the hopes that the man responsible for all of the bang and none of the traffic gets his share of the credit.

Last year, someone posted a comment to my blog about Mystery Fireworks Jesus to say that the man himself had seen my post, loved the nickname, and was now the owner of a t-shirt printed with the moniker. I’ve been looking for this guy all over Ballard since then and have never seen him, so after last night’s display, Graham, Craig and I walked over to that end of the athletic fields in the hopes of meeting him.

Which was not as easy as I thought it would be. Understandably, when fireworks are illegal, anyone asking for the perpetrator is highly suspicious (although I did briefly fancy myself as a Scully type of character, so that was cool). The first few people we asked professed ignorance and because I am who I am (ahem, mostly insecure, awkward, and shy), I was ready to turn around and go home. That’s where the cake was, after all. But Graham approached a group of dudes who appeared to be the most likely suspects, and although they initially claimed they had no idea what he was talking about, I eventually heard one of them say “Wait a minute, is your old lady named Erin?”

Heh. Old lady. Terrific.

ANYWAY, I then walked over and met Mystery Fireworks Jesus – who was wearing the t-shirt! – and his friends, and not only did they seem pleased to meet me (a nice change of pace when people know my name in advance, to be honest), I was so thrilled to be able to thank him in person and learn his name. Hell no I’m not telling you what it is.

Hey, Mystery Fireworks Jesus! Don’t listen to the VeganBikers of the world! You keep doing you, buddy, and I’ll buy you a beer the next time I see you.

Posted in I Heart, Seattle | Tagged , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Rat Rat City Bitch

The first nightmare I can remember having took place on Sesame Street. I was standing in front of Susan and Gordon’s brownstone and somehow fell into that planter thing just next to the stairs (opposite side of the garbage cans and Oscar, obviously). The planter was just the right size for me to lie down in, which I did, and at that point I was swarmed by rats.

I woke up screaming.

Now, I’m not afraid of rats – I had three of them as pets in high school – but apparently rats are a common nightmare motif in my family. My grandmother used to dream about rats. My mom dreamed about them chasing her around one neighborhood house so often that when I go home to visit and drive by that house today, some 25 years-ish later, I still think of it as “The Rat House.” I don’t know why out unconscious selves are so freaked out by rats, but there you go.

The other day, I got a ticket on my car. It was for expired plates, and although I’m in a deeply residential neighborhood where nobody ever monitors this kind of thing, I suspect our shitty neighbors called it in and nevertheless, my tags were expired so that ticket was legit and will be paid. The next day, I got another ticket. Less than 24 hours later, an absurdity that I feel amounts to harassment of someone who works at a job all day when the DMV is actually open. This ticket is some bullshit and will be contested.

In an effort to renew my tags and avoid even more tickets, I took my car to the emissions testing station (it failed) and then to the mechanic (in the hopes of getting it to pass). In addition to fixing the oxygen sensors and telling me my muffler had been almost fully corroded by seawater (what?), my mechanic also cleaned a rat’s nest from under the manifold.

Yeah.

There were rats living in my car. At some point in the last 10 months and some change (the last time I regularly drove my car to and from work every day), some rats crawled up in my car and made their home there, which I guess makes some sense but I would’ve thought with all the hawks and stray cats in our neighborhood that this sort of issue would have straightened itself out.

So. In addition to being a voracious reader, a proficient typist, and an all-around punk as fuck lady, I am also a shelterer of rats. Apparently.

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