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All about you, by which I mean me

Here's something to contemplate before you take your grievance to social media:

Facebook and its ilk -- you are reading this on an ilk -- are not akin to a train station or open-plan office. People have you in their online community because they want to hear from you. They want to hear from you because they like you. People who like you will feel bad when you feel bad, and will want to do what's in their power to alleviate your troubles.

What this means is that if you take a grievance to social media, people will suggest solutions. This falls under the umbrella of being your friend.

Another thing we rely on our friends for is checking our egos. Egos need a lot of checking. Like dachshunds, they are bad at regulating their own weight. If you're complaining that Hunter got a trophy and you didn't, but trophies are a reward for finishing your homework, it's legitimate for a friend to ask whether you finished yours. You might, after all, be misinformed about trophy distribution, but you're clearly upset you don't have a trophy. Your friend wants to help you acquire one.

Telling you instead that you deserve one although you didn't finish your homework would be feeding your ego. Having a big ego will repel other people in the long run. Your friends are not, or should not, be in the business of helping you along the path to becoming insufferable.

I use "ego" here to mean that deeply deluded and noisy compartment of your brain that tells you that you are the center of the universe. This part of your brain is evolutionarily advantageous; you couldn't eat another animal if you didn't think you deserved to live more than that animal did. Your self-preservation instinct is based on an ingrained but false belief that when you are unhappy, something is very wrong with the world, and that furthermore, the world will end when you die. Egos are vital in hunter-gatherer societies and crisis situations. They can get in the way of daily life, though.

As your friend, I want you to point out to me when my ego's started doing my thinking for me. Ex: I'm friends with a married couple, and years ago, I sent the wife a long email. I forget the topic but it was considered an important one by me, me, me. She didn't respond for several days and didn't return a phone call. I became concerned and emailed the husband to ask whether his wife were mad at me. His kind but brief reply was, "We're just busy, Kim. It's not all about you." That snapped me out of my narcissism, and I still repeat that sentence all the time. Sometimes to other people, but far more often to myself. Brusque as it sounds, it's an invaluable thing to understand.

Is that fellow passenger at the airport gate purposefully glaring at me across the gap that separates our seats? Almost certainly not. She is thinking about her own life, in which my involvement is utterly negligible, just as I am thinking about mine. That's simply what people's faces look like when they're ruminating on their difficulties. She could be flying to a funeral or a trial, and this is what's determining the set of her facial features. Not me. It's not all about me. Now I can go back to my book and peacably wait for my row to board instead of fretting over why a stranger doesn't care for me.

It's not all about you. That's so freeing. We protect our egos so fiercely, and they protect us with even more ferocity. We are all the owners of vicious dogs that desperately need discipline.

So before you post that Hunter got a trophy and you didn't (F[Y]L), ask yourself the following questions:

Can I graciously accept the replies that Facebook complaints nigh-universally generate as well-meaning, human responses? Does my immaturity stop at 1. Getting upset that I didn't get a trophy, 2. Being unable to cope with that ego injury silently, and 3. Demanding a sympathetic audience for my petty martyrdom? Or does my immaturity go deeper than that? Does my immaturity extend as far as throwing snotty tantrums at helping hands, like a shrieking three-year-old who wails with equal distress over both his unbuttoned shirt and his minder's attempts to assist him with buttoning it?

In other words, is my immaturity that of merely an adolescent, or am I about to double down and go for toddler?

If the latter, you might find yourself short not only a trophy, but also a friend or two.

(NB: if the comment, "That's awful. I'm so sorry you're coping with this," would come across as sarcastic to you, that means you tacitly understand that the problem you are outlining does not constitute a real problem. It also means there is literally nothing anyone can say that does not drive you further into your tantrum.)

If you think this directed at you, specifically, you are not even on the same planet as the point I am trying to make, and it's not in my power to reach you where you are. If your instinct is that you need to leave a comment telling me that these are unfair things for me to say because this isn't what's going on inside your head, specifically, please build a rocketship and come back next Sunday.

It's not all about you.
- There are other cars on the road in addition to mine, going places; I want to go to a place and they are slowing me down

- People are not being silent in public during the day and I am trying to concentrate on something, or nap

- This free software has bugs in it

- [Related] This cutting-edge piece of technology has not yet been perfected

- [Also related] These two systems developed independently of one another that have no relationship to one another don't work interchangeably

- A person in the service industry was not sufficiently deferential to me

- Starbucks got my drink or name wrong

- My pet or toddler is not welcome everywhere

- A creative professional wants money in exchange for their product

- [Related] HBO expects me to subscribe to HBO to view their programming

- My car is in the shop and I had to take public transit for a day or so

- This weather is not what I would personally prefer

- Air travel is not enjoyable

- My high-profile, well-paying job demands a lot of my time and energy

- My hired help did not put everything back exactly where I left it

- I am at a popular event and it's crowded

6th Jul, 2013

Got the cat carrier out of my storage locker in the basement. I get anxiety going into my storage locker. There's stuff in there from my Gran's and my Uncle Steve's estates that I've never really looked at or dealt with, plus the cat carrier. If you watch "Hoarders," you know that one of the primary reasons people cram their homes with boxes is that the boxes contain the effects of dead people that the hoarder can't let go of.

And in every "Hoarders" house, there's at least one Kennel Cab, which is the brand of cat carrier I have. After taking in a few episodes of "Hoarders" (you have to be mindful of which episodes you opt to watch; the animal hoarders always unearth corpses in the rubble, and witnessing that can bend your whole day) I started keeping an eye peeled for Kennel Cabs. Even the hoarders who don't hoard animals tend to hoard at least one Kennel Cab.

One thing I've learned about the storage room in this building: don't open any unpadlocked lockers. When I first moved in, someone had a four-foot-high glass-eyed porcelain doll, dressed in a gingham frock, in the locker closest to the door. That locker is enclosed on its near side by chicken wire rather than wood paneling. Every time I entered the storage room, I'd turn on the overhead light, see the doll, scream, then realize it was a doll and feel like an idiot. Often I'd remember the doll before the scream even left my mouth, but out it would come anyway. Fortunately, no one ever came downstairs to see what was the matter. Or, perhaps, they too were familiar with the doll and knew exactly what the matter was. I didn't go into the storage room often enough to remember it/she was there before I flicked the light switch.

A couple of years ago, that locker was emptied. On the same trip to the storage room I noticed its/her absence, I furthermore noticed that a locker that used to have a padlock  in the hasp was now apparently available. It was larger than my locker, so I opened the door to see whether it too was empty.

Guess who had already moved their things into the larger locker?


Today I brought the Kennel Cab upstairs and scrubbed it out with bleach solution. I was accompanying a friend to an animal shelter to check out the used cats, and if we did find a winning candidate, the winning candidate did not need to marinate in the scent of my own cats all the way home. The winning candidate would be stressed enough already.

As I was scrubbing, I noticed for the hundredth time that one of the screws joining the top and bottom clamshells together was missing. This forced me to recall why that is, for the hundredth time. Perhaps seven or eight years ago, I brought Oswald to the vet. I was transferring him from the Kennel Cab to the exam table in the usual manner: opening the wire carrier door, turning the carrier on its end, and shaking him out of it. It's the best way to get him out of there. He's really good at bracing himself against the sides. Gravity does a better job than your arm loosening him up, and he can't claw gravity. Oswald can't draw gravity's blood.

The vet tech was appalled when I upended the carrier. "What are you DOING? Can't you see how stressful that is for him?" Lady, he's at the vet. That's what's stressing him out. The quicker we get him out of here, the less stressed he'll be.

She insisted that I set the carrier down and we disassemble the entire structure around him. This took a while, and of course as soon as we got him out of there he started hurtling himself hither and yon, and the screws and nuts went flying all over the exam room. Being removed from the carrier in this manner did not go far toward calming him. Fancy that.

When the exam was over, she moved on to her next patient in the other room, and I had to put the carrier back together myself. I was missing one screw and never found it. I think it rolled under the rubber-topped flatbed scale, the one with the sign over it that reads DO NOT WEIGH YOURSELF OR YOUR CHILDREN. I crawled around on the floor for a while. Eventually I just left because Oswald was wailing at the top of his lungs. This was, as I said, perhaps eight years ago, and I still feel residual annoyance at the vet tech every time I see that hole where the screw belongs.

I finished scrubbing down the Kennel Cab and wondered if it could possibly be normal to have this much emotional baggage built up around a cat carrier.

It's not, is it?

Kicking back

I want to tell a story from a couple years ago, but don't want my motives misconstrued. This is not a story about how great I am. It's a story about how you don't have to be great to make a difference; you just have to show up.

I was walking downtown via Pike one afternoon. As I was crossing Sixth, I saw there was some kind of event going down at Fox Sports Grill, a joint that had always seemed to me as if it didn't belong in Seattle. (It has since been rebranded as Edge Grill.) There were sleek tinted-glass tour buses outside that require special permits for street parking, indicating a celebrity. Roughly ten large men in football jerseys for various teams were hanging around the entrance.

Their attention was focused on the opposite side of Sixth, where a lone woman was standing holding a poster board. The men were shouting at her and scowling. From the intersection I could read her sign:


I turned left, walked over, and stood behind the sign with her. As I approached, I could hear the men's taunts. They were all about her appearance, of course. Caitlin Moran has observed that who women are is often regarded as interchangeable with what they look like.

She was the picture of dignity. Her face was blank and impassive. Her posture was tall and straight. She was looking directly at the men in football jerseys and it was as if they were not even there.

As a child, I read about a monk who had set himself on fire to protest the Vietnam war. As an adult, I looked him up: Thich Quang Duc. For the first time, I saw the pictures: his amazing stillness in the face of excruciating pain. People throw around the word "excruciating" too lightly. It has the same root word as "crucifixion." It is the degree of pain that Christ suffered on the cross. This woman was not in excruciating pain. But she made me feel the way looking at pictures of Thich Quang Duc made me feel.

She turned to look at me when I stood next to her. I hadn't planned what to say, so I blurted out something along the lines of, "I hate him, too. Those guys are total pricks."

Those pricks stopped shouting the second I joined her. In under a minute they had all meandered back inside the bar, feigning boredom. Perhaps they truly were bored. I had no idea how long the woman had been standing there enduring them. I also still had to do whatever I had come downtown to do, so I couldn't keep standing there. I was shocked they'd dissipated so quickly, and a little disappointed, because I had a couple of Oh Snap things to say to them. Dissent feels better when I can see just how much I'm irritating the pricks.

Again, I was at a loss for words, so I just said, "Thanks for doing this," to the woman. She said, "Thank you, too." The corners of her mouth turned up slightly, and I could tell she was trying to smile at me, but didn't have it in her at the moment. I understood. The pricks have taunted me before. I started back down Sixth.

I don't know what those Vicks fans were responding to. It could have been that they couldn't come up with appearance-based taunts for me on the fly, not after three beers. It could have been that I was not gazing at them impassively. I was giving them a glare that said they'd better pray I wasn't packing heat.

But here's what I think it was: there were two of us now. And sometimes that's all it takes to make a prick realize, "Wow. I am being a total prick." The biggest problem with pricks is that so many of them are in denial. They genuinely believe themselves to be on the right side when they look around and see their numbers. They're not on the right side. You are. There's more than one of you. Show them that. Go show those pricks.

Nerd Boy and Cheerleader

I've seen a particular Nerd Boy and Cheerleader scenario play about about a hundred times. I am expressing their identities in high-school terms because this is a scenario that belongs in high school, although I have seen it play out with actors well into their thirties.

Cheerleader is attractive and popular, and also a genuinely open-minded person who doesn't judge people by their social status. Nerd Boy is less attractive and less popular. Cheerleader makes friendly overtures to Nerd Boy, as she does to everyone.

Nerd Boy is so overwhelmed with joy that an attractive, popular girl considers him a friend that he over-invests himself in the relationship. Cheerleader is 50% of the girls who talk to Nerd Boy. Nerd Boy is .5% of the boys who talk to Cheerleader. This leads to a situation where Nerd Boy feels constantly aggrieved because he's clearly not as important to Cheerleader as she is to him. He keeps asking for her time, and she keeps being busy. It aggravates Nerd Boy, her not being available to him more often. It is almost as if she has a life that does not involve him constantly.

The thing is, if Nerd Boy stopped focussing on Cheerleader so much, he would realize that there is a whole world of Nerd Girls out there. He could be 50% of the boys who talk to a particular Nerd Girl and have a real relationship of equals. But why would he talk to Nerd Girl when Cheerleader is so much more attractive and popular than Nerd Girl? Nerd Boy is not quite the saint he thinks he is.

Eventually Nerd Boy is aggrieved enough to take Cheerleader to task for being a Bad Friend. A Good Friend would drop everything for him when he wants her time, as he has for Cheerleader. NB: his "dropping everything" when Cheerleader called involved pausing a game or setting aside a book. Further NB: Cheerleader has never actually asked him to drop anything; he just does. Because he wants to fuck her.

My apologies. that was a typo. I meant "Because he's a saint."

Cheerleader then files that email with the other two dozen emails she's gotten from past Nerd Boys telling her she's a Bad Friend. Eventually she stops talking to Nerd Boys altogether, because she can't cope with that level of embittered entitlement. She starts to recognize when she is headed down the path that ends with the Bad Friend letter.

Then Nerd Boys everywhere get to call her (and all Her Kind) a stuck-up cunt behind her back while masturbating furiously about her.

Everyone wins.
About a half-dozen men, over the course of the last couple years, have attempted to strike up a conversation on public transit with me by asking, "You know there's a Kindle app for your phone now, right?" They see me reading my Kindle and occasionally taking out my phone when the text chime goes off, so they know I have an iPhone, too. They are trying to be helpful, probably.

The thing is that this query amounts to saying, "You're doing that inefficiently. I know a better way. Let me tell you about it." Every time, EVERY time, that I have approached a man with anything like this attitude, he gets defensive. Men obviously regard this variety of helpfulness as condescending and therefore insulting. But they seem to think it will endear them to me.

The central tenet of feminism is simply that women are human. If you asked just about any man if he believes that women are human, he will readily assent that they are. But so many men seem to simultaneously believe that female responses to situations are unpredictable. For example, a man will look at a crafting a project his wife is working on, point out where something is a little uneven, then act like she's crazy for not appreciating this honest feedback. But he wouldn't appreciate it either. Try standing over a man trying to accomplish something, tell him how to do it better, and see how it goes. Jeez Louise.

[Cue "Hey Kim did you know there's a Kindle app for your phone HAW HAW HAW I ARE HILARIOUS MAN" comment. Whatever, I am beyond caring.]

Cam'ron vs. O'Reilly

People post the infamous "You mad?" video all the time, in which rapper Cam'ron taunts Bill O'Reilly for getting hot under the collar in a roundtable discussion. We're not meant to watch it every time it crops up, just understand that the person who posted it is taunting the inordinately angry person upthread. But I do watch it every time, because the dynamic fascinates me.

To begin with, I don't think that the only chasm between the parties involved is race. It's also stature, or perceived stature. Bill O'Reilly is a famous man who makes a great deal of money in an influential industry. His face is on every television in America, or would be, if we could all agree on what constitutes "fair and balanced."

Cam'ron may be well-known in his business. I'm not sure. But we can assume that he is not an important figure in O'Reilly's world, because O'Reilly doesn't seem like he's down with rap. O'Reilly just met Cam'ron backstage twenty minutes ago and has no idea how to punctuate the man's name.

But one of the things that astonishes O'Reilly so much -- and you can see the realization break over his face too fast and hard for him to keep it from showing --  is that the inverse is true for Cam'ron. Cam'ron really doesn't care much what O'Reilly thinks, because in Cam'ron's world, not too many people could pick Bill O'Reilly out of a lineup. He's a nonentity to Cam'ron.

Watching Bill O'Reilly die inside as he feels an invisible crown snatched from his head is, in microcosm, the experience that white America is having. They're watching their sense of better-than drain away. The people whose subjugation they've been relying on for hundreds of years turned out to be not so subjugated after all. They're hungrier than the white guys, too, and you remember what Steve Jobs, Last Important White Man in the Universe, said. They appear to have foolish down also.  Look at their clothes!

The scene, for those unfamiliar: O'Reilly and another panelist have been talking past one another for a few rounds. O'Reilly's frustration is mounting, and he's getting puffed up in his usual threat display. But instead of seeing his anger as something to be either smoothed over or risen to, Cam'ron has correctly identified anger for what it is: helplessness. 

If an angry man had the power to force the thing that's infuriating him to stop, he would do so immediately instead of spluttering about it. Anger is the place you go when you're afraid you can't win, or know you can't. Anger is a sign of weakness, and the expression of it reveals our weakness, often to the very entity that injured us. 

Cam'ron understands this, because his currency is Coolness. In his estimation, the most powerful man in the room is the most relaxed man in the room. Cam'ron does not unwind with a cup of coffee.

When Cam'ron first asks, "You mad?" O'Reilly can't even parse the question. At first he's just irritated because Cam'ron has committed a minor transgression by breaking into the exchange without excusing himself or waiting for O'Reilly to acknowledge him. He just busts in while the others are midsentence with his simple two-word query.

Then O'Reilly focuses on what exactly is being asked, and has a profoundly disconcerting moment. He is, in fact, mad, but he's never thought of his anger as a negative attribute before. He just thought of himself as the man who asks tough questions and doesn't tolerate tomfoolery. He's supposed to be intimidating. Yet Cam'ron is asking him the question in a way that implies the correct answer is, "No," because Cam'ron himself is not angry. Cam'ron is chuckling and having a great time. He doesn't particularly care if O'Reilly finds him impudent. He's not embarrassed if this ends up on YouTube. Hell, it's the only way his friends will ever watch Bill O'Reilly.

And in that second when O'Reilly is trying to figure out where he went wrong, because he's sure he was just making an incisive point (although he can feel it slipping out of his brain-buffer already), Cam'ron runs away with the show. Just yanks it out of its moorings. He does this by turning the question into an assertion. He switches from asking "You mad?" to saying, "You mad." This simple alteration of inflection denies O'Reilly a chance to answer the question, because Cam'ron did that for him. Cam'ron just closed the conversational loop. He's controlling the entire discussion.

O'Reilly can't ignore Cam'ron, because he has to have some kind of comeback. O'Reilly's been on television since the dawn of time, and this kid is some upstart who probably doesn't even have an account in the Cayman Islands yet. He has to prove that he can outwit this kid, that he's faster on his feet.

But in order to turn the tables, he has to show that he's not mad, because apparently in this game a display of temper means you've lost the round. In order to prove he's not mad, he has to calm down. But he can't calm down because this kid will not stop laughing at him for being so angry. O'Reilly is extremely perturbed.

Cam'ron finds this entire situation absurd. Sitting in front of cameras talking to this old man, and for what? This old man is clearly never going to get it. He probably can't even operate an iPhone, and his viewers are probably similar old dudes who share O'Reilly's aversion to progress, so why put any effort into this? He's just keeping himself entertained.

His host can't even tell whether Cam'ron was trying to flummox him this badly. It's much worse if the kid did it without even trying. He can't read this kid at all, because this kid does not play by his rules and is using the language in a way he's only heard in in movies from either Ice-T or maybe Ice Cube. O'Reilly gets his Ices mixed up. Shouldn't this kid be nervous? Why is Bill O'Reilly experiencing more anxiety than one of Bill O'Reilly's guests on Bill O'Reilly's show?

That's why I'll never stop watching that clip. 

Customers who enjoyed "watching O'Reilly being taunted by a rapper" also enjoyed "watching Bill O'Reilly get owned by another rapper." Lupe Fiasco's take on the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq is that from the middle east's perspective, Obama is terrorizing them: coming into their homeland and slaughtering innocent citizens. This forces O'Reilly  onto Obama's side, which he's not too happy about, but he sure does love war, so he has to be one of those infamous political strange bedfellows. 

At one point O'Reilly says to Fiasco, "What you just said is fallacious. That means it's wrong." Rappers don't understand big words, in O'Reilly's belief system. Fiasco denies that it's fallacious, and you can tell that "fallacious" is not a strange word in his mouth.  O'Reilly then condescendingly explains the root cause of the Afghan war in simple declarative sentences to Fiasco, who is very clearly already familiar with that too. Fiasco then details his nuanced position to O'Reilly, who accuses Fiasco of oversimplification.  The accusation is hilarious in light of the Little Golden Book explanation of the Taliban that O'Reilly just delivered. 



Children, back in my youth there was a show on the air called "America's Funniest Home Videos." Folks would film their friends and family using a device called a camcorder. Sometimes something unexpected would happen while the camcorder was rolling, and someone would  say, "Hey, Uncle Bob! Everyone should see that funny video you took!" 

So every week on this show, you'd watch videos of people riding unicycles or eating bugs or getting married or whatever. You'd see the people who made the videos in the front row of the studio audience (with subtitles like, "Bob: Man Standing On Head While Drinking Beer.") These ordinary people were squirmy and excited about everyone watching the video they made. Is this what being a celebrity is like? People are watching me on a screen! I'm famous! They're clapping!

It was widely understood that this show was lame. Walking around with a camera all the time hoping something interesting would happen was lame, because when you're filming things, you're not participating in them. Submitting your footage for the approval of the public was lame, because hoping that everyone will applaud and love you when they see how clever you are is a goal for children and adolescents with desperately low self-esteem. Watching the show was lame because the only thing lamer than being those people was waiting for death while watching those people.

Now we have the internet. It's "America's Funniest Home Videos," all day, every day. 

And it's hella lame. 


Will an exorcism bring the old Naomi Wolf back? 

Michelle recently finished "The Beauty Myth," and attempted to pass it on to me. I told her I'd read it when it came out twenty-one years ago and she replied, "Well, read it again!" It's that vital a book; you know that other women need to hear it out. I've bought several copies as gifts. "The End of America" is similarly vital, albeit for entirely different reasons. Naomi Wolf is a national treasure. Or was.

I don't know who this pod person is who used to be Naomi. I don't recall which came first, her defense of purdah or her defense of Julian Assange, but it was one or the other of those positions that got me regarding her with a new wariness in recent years. I set the wariness aside when she was arrested in Zuccotti Park. She was one of the few progressive Big Names who allied herself with the Occupy movement and put her money where her mouth was. But that wariness is back with a vengeance, and it's blossomed beyond wariness, beyond dismay. 

I've read reviews of the book that critics cannot help referring to as "Naomi Wolf's 'Vagina'" as they've come in. Katha Pollitt's rang in my head like a smoke alarm; something was very, very wrong in Feminismland. I wondered when my other favorite third-wave feminists were going to weigh in.

This morning they all weighed in at once. This piece in "The Millions" is a real ladyblogger who's who. The only obvious candidate missing is Jessica Valenti, who I assume is still lying on a fainting couch somewhere grumbling to herself.

I've relished takedowns structured like this one in the past, where liberals tear into a piece like a pack of left-wing jackals, leaving bloody gibbets all over the page. But the impala those jackals were disemboweling was never an impala that I used to love.

The viciousness is perhaps necessary.  The movement has to shove away Naomi with both hands at this point. When someone says that vaginas have been scientifically proven to be magical, you really cannot ally yourself with that person without looking like you, too, have a screw loose.

I feel about this takedown the way I felt about Red Letter Media's review of "The Phantom Menace." All these points needed to be made. There is great joy to be had in the derision of lazy idiocy. It's still hard watching Wolf and Lucas get smacked around like piñatas. I'm never going to thoroughly enjoy watching that.


Out of kilter

In the ongoing saga of My Wacky Apartment Building, today's episode features a door to the stairwell that will not open for love or money.  Tenants of the second floor, self included, have been instructed to enter and exit via the fire escape.  It's not clear when a locksmith is coming, if ever. 

You know, just this morning I was turning the 200th omelet I have attempted to make here into my 200th scramble.  My stove is very slightly off-level, so when I attempt to make an omelet the eggs all slide to one side of the pan and that omelet is over with and must be reborn as a scramble.  Every time this happens it's like I see the f-word appear in thousand-point font across my brain for a split second, then vanish. Part of it is that I'm mad at myself for forgetting this every time (when I am making an omelet it is before 9 a.m. and I do not know what I'm doing yet.) 

But most of my frustration stems from the fact that this is not a soluble problem. My galley kitchen is so narrow that I can't pull the stove out and adjust the feet.  As near as I can figure, they moved the oven in and built the kitchen around it, and the building has settled since then. This is one of roughly one thousand problems in this 90-year-old rat farm. (A few days ago I told the manager, Dan, that I thought I was smelling raw sewage in the corridor and he said No, it's a dead rat in the wall, nothing to worry about.)

Among the things that keep me here are an incident that happened earlier this week.  There's a single basement unit in this building that I believe used to be part of the garage or a large utility closet.  People move in and out of it every few months, never anyone over the age of roughly 23, so I assume it's even more broken than my unit.  It's definitely more cramped.  It's vacant now.

So, a few days ago I'm in here with the windows open making sure no cats fall out of them and I hear some kid come into the courtyard hollering  into his phone.  He announces, "This looks like my frat house!" (NB: the UW campus is a 15-minute bus ride away and many houses on Greek Row are built in the same Tudor style.) Right away I'm on full alert.  Maybe he graduated a long time ago? No, because the very next thing out of his mouth is, "My dad's parking the car but I can talk till he gets here."

He keeps saying stupid things on his phone. Every variety of stupid you can imagine, from simple ignorance to baseless hostility toward a third party being discussed.  I realize with some horror that listening to this variety of dumb may be on my docket for the entire upcoming school year.  More horribly, I know that when one frat boy gets an apartment, the apartment becomes a bro-magnet. The activities in the apartment are not regulated by the UW's Intrafraternity Council, and activities in the house are.  Apartment A could become the hub of all of Tappa Kegga Bru's IFC-banned shenanigans. Oh God no no no no

Dan is in his own apartment, presumably waiting to show the basement unit.  I know he's home because he has a smoker's hack and his windows are also open.  The kid finally terminates his idiot conversation when his dad shows up, and rings Dan on the security phone.

Dan doesn't pick up.  He lets the kid rot out there until he leaves.

And that's why I haven't moved out.  Dan has limited means to fix this building's extant problems, but he's sure as hell going to stand his ground against new ones.

Memento mori

The second anniversary of the John T. Williams shooting is today, in case you needed another reminder of how little the establishment cares about the lives of the poor.

Williams was a homeless, hearing-impaired Native American who was often seen meandering in my neighborhood.  I knew him on sight, although not by name. Once he had a sort of necklace he'd woven out of yucca leaves that he said would bring me love and happiness forever.  He said he would sell it to me for a dollar, and I told him that this was a very small price to pay for love and happiness forever. He got my dollar. He was also a woodcarver, and would fashion scrap wood into figurines that he would sell.

Two years ago today, Williams crossed the street in front of a police car.  Officer Ian Burk was behind the wheel and saw Williams's knife in his hand.  Williams was not threatening anyone.  He was whittling the wood.  You can witness his demeanor on the dashboard cam footage below.

Burk exited his car, shouting, "Hey! Hey! Put the knife down! Put the knife down!" Williams did not turn around. There are various reasons he might not have. He was partially deaf and may not have heard Burk.  Burk also did not identify himself as a police officer, not once.  I don't think any of us are given to automatically and immediately obeying orders shouted by random people behind us on the sidewalk.

Two seconds later, Burk fatally shot Williams. Watch how quickly it happens.

Burk was never charged with a crime.  Burk was not ousted from the force.  Burk retired quietly.  He may well be enjoying this lovely day even as I type.

Can you hear the blood crying out from the ground?  I will never stop being angry about this. This was Seattle's Trayvon Martin.  


Dear moderate Akin-haters:

Welcome to the feminist soiree!  It makes no difference to your hostesses that it took you a while to get here.  It's hard to internalize the idea that a large percentage of the population thinks that women don't have bodily autonomy. They don't even understand how women's bodies work!  

They have wives and sisters and you didn't understand how deep the problem went till now. Ex: supposedly conservatives hate Islam because of purdah, and they were pretty loud about hating sexism when people were Photoshopping Sarah Palin into hardcore pornography. That tricked you into thinking they regarded you as something other than a baby-vessel, something equally deserving of respect as a man.  They're a tricky bunch.

But that's all right.  What's important is that you're here now, and the party can really get started.  We've been keeping a plate warm for you in the oven since 1965 or so.  Load up and let's smash the patriarchy together!  You'll need all the energy you can get.  

Here's a beer to wash it down.  You'll need that too.

Put the mute back in commute

An open letter to those who have decided to live on the opposite side of Lake Washington from where they work, then complain endlessly about their commute:

Shut up. Shut up.  Shut up.

Is your commute slow?  Yes, there's a fucking glacial lake in the middle of it and you're not driving a fucking boat.  Is it now costly?  Yes, and why should the rest of us fucking pay for it?

Oh, the 520 bridge toll!  The citizenry stopped bankrolling your selfish desire to work in Redmond but not live there because it's far too lame for you.  (Or, perhaps, to work in Seattle but not live there because you just had to have a fucking half-acre in Issaquah all to yourself.) Horrors!  Do you know that people in other states pay to drive on fucking freeways?  On the east coast that's really normal.  Turnpike: maybe you've heard of it? It's not just a dance move on "Jersey Shore."

You know why your bridge costs so much fucking money?  Do you want a fucking engineering lesson?  Here you fucking go.  Most bridges are causeway bridges or suspension bridges.  These are pretty fucking stable structures.  The bridges that cross Lake Washington are fucking pontoon, or fucking floating, bridges.  Let my good friend fucking Wikipedia speak: "The Evergreen Point, Lacey V. Murrow, and [Third] Lake Washington bridges are the longest, second longest, and fifth longest floating bridges in the world, respectively."

Wow!  Lake Washington is like the floating fucking bridge capital of the world! That's so weird!  Why might that fucking be?  Why aren't there more fucking pontoon bridges elsewhere?  Because they require constant maintenance, that's why.  They're fucking  hollow blocks of concrete anchored in bottom muck and stapled together, drifting around on a glacial fucking lake in a city where we had a 6.8 fucking earthquake in 2001. These things start falling apart the second they're built.

Well, why do those fucking morons keep building fucking pontoon bridges?  It is you, sir, who are the fucking moron.

Lake Washington isn't just any fucking lake.  It's really fucking deep.  It's 214 feet deep.  Go find a 214-foot building, stand on the roof, and look down.  Maybe you're so fucking ignorant you have no idea how deep the average lake is and you're not impressed.  Whatever.  You should be. The average lake is nowhere near that fucking deep.

My point is that you can't sink in supports for a suspension bridge over a lake that deep unless you have billions of fucking dollars to spend.  And we all know by now that you are not willing to hand over billions of fucking dollars. You whine hard enough about a fucking toll.  (What is it, six dollars?  Boo hoo! Your Starbucks order went from fucking venti to fucking grande.)

That fucking lake was carved by a fucking glacier and carved down halfway to hell.  You know how it's so fucking cold that when you try to swim in it you have to get out after fifteen minutes because your feet are going fucking numb, no matter how hot a day it is?  That's because there's so much fucking water in that lake it's STILL warming up from when it was a fucking glacier. The greater the volume of water, the longer it takes to warm. Think about how fucking long ago that thing was a glacier.  Ice age: maybe you've heard of it?  It's not just a movie with a neurotic white weasel.

So Lake Washington's too deep (and soft-bottomed, but I'm afraid further information will leave you hopelessly fucking confused) to support a suspension bridge and too wide for a causeway bridge. That leaves one option.  One fucking expensive option.  So we built it.  Then you assholes thought that meant that you were supposed to cross that lake every fucking day instead of a few times a year, and more of you started doing the east/west work/home thing, so we had to extend the first one. And build afuckingnother one.

Taxpayers paid for all that.  Taxpayers who may well have decided NOT to live on the opposite side of a glacial fucking lake from where they work because they don't believe that's fucking sustainable.  Some of us tread a lot more lightly on the fucking planet than you do. Whatever.  I managed not to fucking whine about it.  That's possible, you know: to be irritated by something and not fucking whine about it.

Now we're up to floating bridge number FOUR, in its early construction phase.  And finally, FINALLY, the jackwagons who made all this bullshit necessary have to pay for it via a toll on 520.

HALLEFUCKINGLUJAH.  Enjoy driving across your new fucking pontoon bridge.  You won't, though.  You'll be soooo mad because it takes soooo long to get to work on the opposite side of a glacial fucking lake.  Oh look, you've been stopped on 520 so long that you're taking pictures of the ass-end of the car in front of you and posting them on Facebook with another tiresome, snotty rant about traffic, as if you weren't part of the problem.

Get another house.  Get another fucking job.  I don't care.  Just shut up. Shut up.  Shut up.

Postscript: Please note who this open letter is addressed to. Make sure you fit ALL the named criteria ("decided," "endlessly") before you determine this MUST fucking be about you personally.  I am pretty much never talking about you personally.


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