Mukbang

I’m on the ragged edge. Between this accursed pandemic, the thick blanket of smoke that’s blotting out the sun, the loss of our beloved RBG, unnecessary drama at work, and discovering that someone I love more than life went to a large, multi-day party and posted pictures of himself marinating in the maskless, close-knit crowd, when he knows I know firsthand how precious and fragile life is, and how it should never be squandered, I’m at the end of my rope. I mean, just look at me funny right now. I dare you.

Fortunately, there is a way to turn off my brain without the use of electric shock. It’s called mukbang. It’s a Korean word that loosely translates as “eating show”. And that’s about the size of it. You can find it all over Youtube. You just sit there and watch people eating way too much exotic food, often while talking to the camera.

Yeah, I know. Maybe this is evidence that I’ve lost it already. I have to admit that I find mukbang oddly comforting. Maybe it’s the crunch, crunch, crunch sound. Maybe it’s because when I’m really angry, I tend to eat, and these people do the eating for me. Maybe it’s just that I get to watch people just doing their weird thing at a time when the world seems so utterly out of control. I don’t know.

My favorite mukbang channel is Stephanie Soo. She sits there and eats and talks about true crime, which is another interest of mine. Check it out and tell me what you think.

My second favorite channel is Food Monster. This one shows footage of a girl working really, really (supposedly) hard in the Korean countryside, and then coming home and (supposedly) eating about 6000 times more than a normal person can eat. It’s kind of funny.

Yes, there is a reason to criticize mukbang. It promotes extremely unhealthy eating habits, food waste, and in some extreme cases, animal abuse. I don’t condone or encourage any of this. And yet I can’t seem to look away. (I’d never watch the animal abuse ones, though. Never. Give me a little credit.)

I know, this is nutty. But it takes my mind off the fall of civilization. And hey, I once wrote about my obsession with pimple popping videos. Surely this is a step up. Right?

Tell me I’m right. Please.

Stephanie Soo

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On Being an Adult

When I was little, I longed to be an adult, because I figured that would mean I could do whatever I want. Boy oh boy, but I had no idea what I was talking about. Not a clue.

It’s true that grownups can do whatever they want. They can commit crimes. They can be selfish. They can be greedy and thoughtless and cruel. They can abuse the planet. They don’t have to pay taxes even though they take advantage of the infrastructure that’s provided by taxes. They can make idiotic decisions. They can disrespect their elders. They don’t have to think ahead or consider consequences or feelings or take any responsibility whatsoever.

Grownups can get away with that stuff. And since 2016 I’ve been seeing more and more grownups doing just that. It really makes me weep for the future of this planet.

But what I’m beginning to realize is that even though all adults are grownups, not all grownups are adults. It takes integrity and conviction to be an adult. It takes maturity. It requires that you realize that the world does not revolve around you. It is all about understanding that your actions effect other people.

One simple, straightforward example is the wearing of masks during a pandemic. Doing so may not be fun, but it says that you care about the people around you, whether you know them or not. And yet I’ve heard so many “grownup” excuses.

For some reason people think getting tested is some get out of jail free card. Testing negative only means you haven’t been positive for COVID-19 up to that moment in time. You can test negative and contract the virus 5 seconds later. You still need to wear a mask unless you’re selfish. And unless 100% of the people you are spending time with are getting tested every 5 seconds, the risk remains. “Some of us get tested” is just not good enough.

Another convenient excuse is, “Well, I tested negative after my risky behavior, so what’s the big deal?” To that I say congratulations and thank God. But do you want a cookie for that? Because you gambled with your life, and the lives of everyone you come in contact with. This time you won. But that doesn’t mean you always will.

People also think that if their job puts them in a high risk situation, then there’s no reason not to engage in high risk experiences while off the clock as well. That’s like saying, “I’m exposed to radiation all day at work, so I may as well get irradiated when I’m home, too.” In contrast, an adult is even more cautious at home, to reduce their odds of shortening their lifespan as much as humanly possible.

We are all under an enormous amount of stress right now, so some people believe that a little self-care by socializing with friends every once in a while is worth the risk, because it improves their mental health. Poppycock. One person dies of suicide every 12 minutes in America. That’s horrific. But one person dies of COVID-19 in America every eighty seconds. So you’re 9 times as likely to die of COVID than you are of suicide. I’d rather be alive and mentally disturbed than sane and run the risk of killing off another human being.

And what’s wrong with socializing with a mask on and 6 feet apart? Why do people have to be all up in each other’s faces, taking selfies cheek to cheek? I know it feels like you’ll live forever, but no. Death comes for us all. No need to flirt with it.

Yes, self-care is vital. But your right to self-care stops right at the line where your actions can potentially harm others, especially the more vulnerable amongst us. Adults know that. They understand that the golden rule isn’t a suggestion. They have a moral compass.

Adults also realize that other people love them and worry about them and they make decisions accordingly. Adults realize they have responsibilities and obligations. And adults know that they have to set an example for others who look up to them.

I don’t know how so many of us were never taught the importance of being an adult, and the importance of taking care of others. It’s a serious failure of society at large. I think, perhaps, that was why societies were invented, though. Societies are meant to protect us from the grownups who refuse to be adults.

We all live within a societal contract. There are rules we are meant to follow in order to experience society’s perks. It’s not supposed to be a tug of war. The contract isn’t supposed to be null and void every time you get a wild hair to cut loose. It’s supposed to be common sense.

In my county, we’re not supposed to gather in groups of more than 5. We’re supposed to wear our masks. We’re supposed to remain 6 feet apart. It’s not fun and it’s not fair and some people view this as judgmental or political or controlling rather than a matter of life and death. Those people are not adults.

Humanity is becoming more of a disappointment with each passing day. And we’re all going to pay the price. It’s all so senseless. I’m becoming so scared that I’m practically blind.

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Nineteen Years a Bridgetender

Well, tempus certainly does fugit, doesn’t it? When I first got a job as a bridgetender in Florida, six short, surreal days after 9/11, I figured I’d only be at it for 6 months or so. I looked at it as a brief respite from “real work”. Now, after opening 9 different bridges in 3 different states, I honestly don’t think I’m fit to do anything else.

When you consider that for the first 13 years of my career, I was in Florida, a “right to work” state, and got paid peanuts and had no real benefits to speak of, you have to chalk up my staying power to a real love for the job. And I do love it. I always have. It suits me. Very little human interaction, minimal supervision, and plenty of time to blog. Perfect.

Plus, I’ll admit, it’s pretty darned cool. Whenever I tell someone I’m a bridgetender, they’re fascinated and want to hear more. I wouldn’t get that reaction if I were a… well, just about any other job I can think of. I was even asked for my autograph once. That was amusing.

And I’m constantly surprised that this job constantly surprises me. The weirdest things can happen on a drawbridge. People can be really strange. I enjoy observing them from a distance. This job is an excellent source for blog posts.

Growing up, this was not the life I had envisioned for myself.

It’s so much better.

Who, me?

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The 100th Anniversary of the Wall Street Bombing

At 12:01 pm on September 16, 1920, a bomb exploded in the financial district of Manhattan in New York City. 30 people died instantly with 8 more deaths to follow. 143 additional people were injured. It was the deadliest terror attack on American soil up to that point.

According to Wikipedia, this crime was never solved, but it is suspected that it was carried out by Italian anarchists. It had to do with postwar social unrest, labor struggles, and anti-capitalist agitation. (Sound familiar?)

The bomb rolled up on a horse drawn carriage, times being what they were. It consisted of 100 pounds of dynamite and 500 pounds of shrapnel. Given that there was a timer, you’d think the terrorist would have had the decency to save the horse, but no. The driver escaped, though. Of course.

The explosion mostly took out young, lower level employees; messengers, clerks and the like. That hardly seems fair. But of course none of this was fair.

It also caused 2 million dollars in property damage, which would be worth nearly 26 million today. It was no accident that this happened at lunch hour at the busiest intersection of Wall Street. You can still see remnants of the damage to this day.

Needless to say, trading on the New York Stock Exchange was suspended immediately. James Saul, aged 17, took a car and spent a good deal of time transporting 30 people to hospital. I bet he turned out to be an amazing person. Unfortunately, that information seems to be lost to history.

So anxious were they to get back to business as usual that they cleaned the area up that night, destroying a lot of evidence. But flyers were found that said, “ Free the political prisoners, or it will be sure death for all of you. American Anarchist Fighters.” It is now assumed that the political prisoners referred to were Sacco and Vanzetti, two Italian anarchists who were erroneously arrested (and later electrocuted) for murdering two people.

So there you have it. A bit of history to enjoy while eating your corn flakes this morning. You’re welcome.

Not a good day to be on Wall Street.

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Mid-Month Marvels: Face Masks That Give Back

A recurring theme in this blog is the celebration of people and/or organizations that have a positive impact on their communities. What they do is not easy, but it’s inspirational, and we don’t hear enough about them. So I’ve decided to commit to singing their praises at least once a month. I’ll be calling it Mid-Month Marvels. If you have any suggestions for the focus of this monthly spotlight, let me know in the comments below!

This month I’m not going to focus on a specific organization. Rather, I’ll focus on an idea whose time has come. There’s a way to give a silver lining to these pesky face masks we all have to wear.

When this pandemic first hit and everyone was in a pure panic, I bought my first two facemasks for $75. They came from China. They took 4 weeks to arrive. They were so small they would barely fit on a child, and they broke upon first use. Live and learn.

Now you can get masks all over the place, and they come in all shapes and sizes and colors and designs. Masks can make fashion statements or political statements or just be simple, safe, and effective with no fanfare. The choices are endless.

Even those of us who realize how important masks are, who care about others enough to wear them, and have the sense of civic duty to take the issue seriously and not turn it into a silly political statement are (news flash!) not thrilled to have to wear a mask. But we wear them because it’s the right and decent and intelligent thing to do.

Having said that, I still wish the experience were more fun. So I started casting about to see what I could do to make that happen. I came across this article entitled, “18 face masks that support a good cause”.

Oh, yeah. Count me in! It would be nice to not only have the satisfaction of doing the right thing, but also feel as if I’m giving back to non-profits at the same time. And after reading the article, I also discovered that a lot of these masks look great, too. So win/win.

You can order masks in a pretty floral design, or masks designed by independent artists, or masks with a sports logo, kitten or dog images, or rainbows. There are more than 1000 designs to choose from in this article alone. And the organizations they support range from places that provide PPE to frontline workers, to food organizations, to homeless shelters, to boys and girls clubs, to the ACLU and Black Lives Matter.

So now while you wear your face mask to protect the lives of everyone around you, you can make an impact in other ways as well. I love this concept!

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Museum Sacrilege

I know this will sound contradictory, but I view museums as scientifically sacred. They are institutions that are created to teach us. The things that are housed therein are carefully presented after much research. They are fact-based and are meant to expand our knowledge, and therefore they are venerated by me.

So when I hear of a museum that twists facts to promote an agenda, I am infuriated. The displays in such a place are not based on evidence of any kind. They’re not backed up by multiple historic sources or any type of physical proof whatsoever. Rather than employing the scientific method, these places form a conclusion first and then try to cherry pick reality to suit the purpose of promoting their agenda. These places are often directed toward the indoctrination of children, and that makes me want to scream.

If you had been driving next to my car during my commute the other day, you’d have heard just such a scream. I was listening to a story on NPR about the Creation Museum in Northern Kentucky. Apparently, when you enter this privately funded, 27 million dollar museum, one of the things that you’ll see is Adam and Eve standing beside a Tyrannosaurus Rex that is sporting a saddle. And the “docent” will tell you that this creature’s fearsome teeth were simply used crack open coconuts, and that, in fact, all dinosaurs were vegetarians and lived right alongside humans, apparently as domesticated pets.

Oh. My. God. Help.

The difference between science and creationism is that science wants to be disproven. By more science. It encourages further investigation, deeper study, critical thinking, and allows for future discoveries. Creationism, on the other hand, says, “This is how it is. Accept it. Don’t look any further. Don’t think.” I find this appalling. I cannot believe that any rational parent would want to put a choke hold on his or her child’s mind in this way.

According to this article about the debate held by this museum’s founder and Bill Nye, the Science Guy, “fear of death permeates every corner of the Creation Museum.” It seems to want to send the message that if you accept evolution, and think the world is more than 10,000 years old, then you’ve just shown that you are all alone in the universe and your existence is pointless.

Well, then, let’s all curl up and die and leave the planet to the brainless fools who believe in creationism, flat earth, QAnon, and the flying spaghetti monster.

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This Feels Like the End of the World

The west coast is on fire. Fortunately, none of those fires are very close to Seattle. Yet. But all that west coast smoke got blown into the Pacific Ocean, hit an induction current, and headed right to Puget Sound like a freight train from hell. We now have some of the worst air quality on the planet. Poor Oregon has it even worse. I’m struggling to breathe.

The day before yesterday, when I got home from work, I was coughing, my heart was pounding, and I had a headache. Air matters. I kept having to fight down a panic attack when I felt as though I wasn’t getting enough.

My inner child was freaking out. “You’re gonna DIE!!!” “Help me!” I was on the verge of tears for most of the day. This feels like the end of the world.

Yesterday I brought a respirator to work. A respirator. And we thought masks were bad. I would never have predicted that I’d be relying on a respirator. This is not the world I had planned to live in. The smoke has blocked out the sun. It’s a perpetual twilight.

But with time to think, I was able to compare my situation to others. Not being able to breathe is terrifying. I thought of my late boyfriend, Chuck, who had to fight for every breath he took. When he was having a really bad asthma attack, he’d want me to put my hand on his heart and talk calmly to him, so he wouldn’t freak out. “You’re breathing. You’re breathing…” I can still hear myself saying it. I learned to say it even before I was fully awake. Now I get it. I get it, and I’m heartbroken at the thought of it.

I also feel even worse about George Floyd. Lying there in the street, being choked to death by a cop. He was looking at the crowd, who were desperately trying to talk the cop out of this, but the crowd, for good reason, was too afraid to physically intervene. How frightened and alone he must have felt as he died.

I feel for those in industrialized China who have lived with this air quality every single day for years. It’s a travesty.

I’m outraged for those prisoners in Guantanamo. Many are still there, and some have been waterboarded more than 80 times. What animals are we to do that? It has long been proven that torturing doesn’t yield valuable information.

I weep for all the people who have died of COVID-19, each one struggling for breath as they went. And they had no loved ones by their side to put their hands on their hearts and talk calmly to them. So much of this has been unnecessary.

Winter is coming and the fires will die down, but we’ll still have to deal with this pandemic. In the best of times, I struggle with depression during these Pacific Northwest winters. The isolation. Not seeing the sun for weeks on end. The raw, wet, unrelenting rain. Now add a heaping helping of COVID-19 on top of that, and I fail to see how any of us will make it to spring with our sanity intact.

Please, God, do not visit an earthquake upon us right now. I can’t take another thing. Stop 2020. I want to get off.

Stay safe everyone. Wear your masks. Wash your hands. Vote.

Me, just trying to breathe. 9/12/20

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Just a Leisurely Swim in the Shipping Lane

The drawbridge I work on is the University Bridge in Seattle, Washington. It’s located between Lake Union and Portage Bay. There are a lot of houseboats in the area, as well as people who live aboard their boats. It’s also a heavily trafficked waterway, used by sailboats, pleasure craft, research vessels, cruise ships, Coastguard cutters, and the daily transit of a 3000 gross ton gravel barge.

So imagine my shock when I looked out the window to see something I’ve never seen before in the 6 years I’ve worked here. There was a woman doing a leisurely backstroke in the shipping lane. What could possibly go wrong? Oh, where to begin.

I immediately jumped on the marine radio to warn a very large research vessel that was headed my way. He was grateful for the head’s up. But not all vessels monitor their radios, as stupid as that may sound.

As a matter of fact, a very inattentive motorboat was aimed straight at her, and she was too busy enjoying her swim to notice. I tried calling the boat. No response. I tried blowing my horn. No reaction. I tried shouting out the window. Nothing. They missed caving in her head by about 12 inches. She behaved as if this was business as usual.

I called 911, but by the time the Harbor Patrol arrived, she had already swum back to her boat. She did a few pull ups on her ladder for good measure, then calmly toweled off, and entered the cabin. I told the Harbor Patrol which vessel it was, and they approached it, but she either refused to come out or miraculously didn’t hear them.

I am stunned that there are so many people in this world who don’t think of the consequences of their actions. Get yourself killed through your own stupidity all you want, but don’t do it at the mental and emotional expense of the person who accidentally kills you or those of us who have to bear witness. That’s just not right.

If anyone knows the woman on the blue-hulled vessel called the Jenny II here in Seattle, please tell her, for me, that she’s a selfish fool who is very lucky to be alive.

Jenny II, the home of the errant bather.

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I Am My Mother’s Mother

Recently, I watched an amazing movie, Life Itself. I highly recommend it. It’s a multi-generational tale, and it shows how the actions of one generation impacts the next and the next and the next. We all are intertwined, part of a legacy. We each carry with us the choices of our forefathers. Here’s a quote from one of the characters in the movie, Elena Dempsey-González:

I’m not sure whose story I have been telling. I’m not sure if it is mine, or if it’s some character’s I have yet to meet. I’m not sure of anything. All I know is that, at any moment, life will surprise me. It will bring me to my knees, and when it does, I will remind myself that I am my father. And I am my father’s father. I am my mother. And I am my mother’s mother. And while it may be easy to wallow in the tragedies that shape our lives, and while it’s natural to focus on those unspeakable moments that bring us to our knees, we must remind ourselves that if we get up, if we take the story a little bit farther… If we go far enough, there’s love.”

This got me thinking about my own family. I’ve written a lot in this blog about how, at age 49, I moved all the way across the continent to Seattle, a place where I had never been and knew no one, just to start over. People tell me that this was brave. I just thought I had nothing to lose, and it turned out that I had everything to gain. But I am not the first person in my family who has taken a leap like this. Far from it.

My mother, at age 48, moved us all from Connecticut to Florida. She, too, felt she had nothing to lose. I wish, for her sake, that that risk had worked out as well for her as mine did for me. I landed on my feet and then some. Her situation became much, much worse, in terms of finances and lifestyle and location. It’s really heartbreaking to think about. She deserved so much better.

Her mother, my grandmother, came through Ellis Island when she was 23. She learned English on the way over, using an English/Danish dictionary and the Saturday Evening Post. She had $10.00 in her pocket, and she was met in New York by a Danish minister. Her husband, my grandfather, worked his way over on a Danish ship.

My great grandmother and my great great grandmother on that side seem to have never left their home places, but my great great grandmother’s husband committed suicide, leaving her with seven children, and that must have been a challenge all its own.

My great great grandmother on my grandfather’s side was born in Sweden but moved to Denmark in her 20’s. That may not seem as extreme, but back then, I’m sure it was still a huge transition into the unknown. It would have been a language change. She went there looking for work. She most likely brought the BRCA1 genetic anomaly to our family as well, and many of us have been paying for that ever since. (Not all legacies are good ones.)

I don’t know as much about my Father’s side of the family, but I do know that his mother came to America from Ireland, young and single, and hoping to make a better life. She met my grandfather because she was a waitress in his restaurant. He liked to say that he only married her so he could stop paying her. In any case, he left her with 4 children to bring up on her own, which was far less than she deserved.

We each carry on a legacy. We each add to that legacy. I come from a long line of strong, risk-taking women. Sometimes those risks worked out, and sometimes they didn’t. But I’m grateful for all of them, because they led to me.

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