Goodbye Seattle Viaduct

On Saturday I bid adieu to Seattle’s iconic Alaskan Way Viaduct, along with the Battery Street Tunnel. Both of them were not considered up to current seismic standards, and are being replaced by the new State Road 99 Tunnel, which is scheduled to open today. Read more about it here.

It turns out that I wasn’t alone in wanting to say goodbye. It’s estimated that 100,000 other people walked the tunnel and viaduct this weekend. I’m sure many of them felt a lot more nostalgic than this relative newcomer did. The viaduct had been around since the 50’s, after all.

I was enjoying taking in the view for the last time, and marveling over the massive construction project. I had also expected a different kind of celebration. I was disappointed.

I was expecting food trucks and vendors and souvenirs. There were more port-a-potties than there were food trucks, and there wasn’t a single souvenir to be had. There were a few musicians here and there, and a smattering of antique cars. That’s about it.

I did enjoy checking out the graffiti in the tunnel. I think the city missed a great historic opportunity there. The tunnel is eventually going to be filled in with the debris from the viaduct and sealed off. They should have handed out sharpies and allowed people to write on the walls. Imagine what a treasure trove that would have been 500 years from now, what a time capsule, if we humans have managed not to completely destroy life as we know it. Archeologists would have been fascinated with what we found important enough to say, one day in time, back in 2019. So while others were feeling nostalgic, I was feeling kind of sad at historic opportunities missed.

And then I ran into a coworker. He was standing mid-tunnel, next to the office door. That’s a room most people don’t even know exists. I certainly had no idea. So he let us peek inside. How many people have come and gone in that office over the years? I wonder. I felt privileged to get a glimpse of this lonely little room.

But even better, my coworker had a sharpie. And I took advantage of it.

So, if you are reading my humble little blog post 500 years from now, first of all, nice to meet you. Second of all, if you’re excavating the Battery Street Tunnel, just outside the office door, you might still be able to see my graffiti. “Barb Abelhauser, Bridgetender, 2019”. That was me. I was there. In that tunnel. Saying goodbye.

Here are some pictures from the experience.

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Ghosting

Every once in a while, I think about the many people I’ve met on the internet who have come to be good friends. It’s a different world. As a young adult, before the internet, I could not have conceived that these types of connections were even possible. But children today are growing up taking these long distance relationships for granted. (With adequate supervision, I fervently hope.)

I’ve met several of these people face to face, and we are friends to this day. I’m going camping with one of them this summer. (Waving hello to Martin.)

But for all the good friends I’ve made, in the virtual world of Second Life, or via my blog, or on Facebook, there have been at least as many who have taken a piece of my heart and disappeared with it with no explanation whatsoever. Lorraine, Steve, John, Vicki, Brian… yeah, I’m talking to all of you.

I don’t have a problem with them not being in my life anymore. The choice is entirely theirs. Some friendships are annual, others are perennial. I get that. What I have a problem with is the lack of closure. For all I know, they’re dead. That’s a horrible feeling. It’s cruel to make someone grieve when grieving may not be the appropriate response.

There’s something about being able to hide in cyberspace that brings out the worst in people. I strongly suspect that none of them would be this rude face to face. And yeah, explaining why you’re ending a relationship is never fun. It would be tempting to skip that step entirely. It’s understandable to want to avoid the awkward stuff. But people have a right to their closure. They have a right to understand why. They have a right to learn from their experiences.

Depriving people of such rights without so much as a by your leave reveals something rather ugly about you. Just sayin’.

Ghosting

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The Life Penalty

As sick as I am right now with the head cold from hell, death sounds very appealing to me. Please put me out of my misery. Please. Sure, I know that in a few days (God willing) I’ll be feeling better and my attitude will change. But right now, I’d dearly love to shuffle off this mortal coil, wrapped in flannel and wearing bunny slippers.

That’s also how people who are suicidal feel. At a time when every single aspect of their lives feels totally out of their control, their mortality, or lack thereof, may seem like the only choice they have left. That’s a short-sighted view and one I disagree with, but there you have it.

Call me crazy if you like (and a lot of people do) but I am completely opposed to the death penalty. Not for moral reasons, although there are many of those. Not for financial reasons, although there are tons of stats out there that show that it costs more to put a human being down than it does to lock them up and throw away the key.

No. The reason I oppose the death penalty is that dying is easy. Life is what’s hard. Especially a life behind bars without the possibility of parole. That’s why people refer to death as being taken out of their misery in the first place.

Most murderers and serial rapists and the like are all about dominance and control. Putting them in a situation for the rest of their lives in which they don’t have control over anything would be hell on earth for them. They are also usually under the impression that they are the smartest people in the room, and now they’ll be surrounded by fellow idiots. Torture. Imagine being condemned to a life with no future, full of boredom, frustration, hostility, violence, ignorance and helplessness. I can think of no more apt punishment for a psychopath.

I know that the families of victims often think that the death of the perpetrator will bring closure to them. I can’t even pretend to understand what they are going through. But I will say that I used to long for the death of my abusive stepfather, and when he finally obliged me, I felt… nothing. Nothing at all. The damage still had been done. Death will not negate the atrocity that was visited upon you. Death cannot bring your loved one back. Nothing can do that.

I could talk about the racial disparities that are related to the death penalty. I could discuss how it has been proven not to be any type of deterrent. I could blather on about how people have been put to death and then have been found to be wrongly accused, which makes murderers of us all. You can get plenty of information about these things on other web pages. But what I will tell you is that if revenge is your thing, then death isn’t the worst punishment. Life with no freedom and no potential for joy is.

Life Penalty

[Image credit: seattletimes.com]

Cliffhangers

The other night, around midnight, I was driving to work on a deserted stretch of highway when I came upon a cop who had a car pulled over on the side of the road. No big deal. But then about 200 yards beyond that scene, in the middle of I swear to God freakin’ NOWHERE, I mean nothing but swamp and cockroaches, there was a man standing on the side of the road with a grocery cart. Just standing there. At midnight. All alone.

That’s it. That’s all I know. I’ll never hear the end of that story. That happens a lot and it drives me nuts. I mean, I’m sure that there was either a fascinating tale there, or a perfectly reasonable explanation, but I’ll always be left out of that particular loop.

Just as I’ll never know what became of the professional diver who surfaced near my bridge and instantly had his entire face ripped off by a passing speed boat. I know he spent months in the hospital, but after that, the trail goes cold.

And whatever happened to the waste of human flesh who kept my dog for the first year of his life in a horrendous puppy mill where he never saw the outdoors, had to fight 30 other dogs for food, and stood starving up to his chest in waste while breathing ammonia? I mean, does someone like that go on to read Winnie the Pooh to the kiddies while setting aside money for the college fund?

And as I was writing this, I looked up to see a huge cargo ship moving up the St. Johns River. No big surprise there. We get several of them a night, but this one was extremely different in that the vessel’s name was covered up, and it was surrounded by police vessels with flashing blue lights that looked like fire flies attacking a slow moving elephant. I’m assuming this is a contraband case, but again, I’ll never know.

Every day we pass hundreds of people on the street who probably have fascinating anecdotes of which we’ll never be privy. It kind of makes me wonder what I’m missing.

On the other hand, some stories are better left incomplete. For example, my oldest sister decided to look up her first boyfriend from high school and discovered that he’s doing time in prison for serial rape. Apparently after they parted ways he developed a taste for drugging women that he met in bars, and then tied them up with duct tape before doing the deed. That’s a story that could have remained untold. You’ll be proud of me, though. I resisted the urge to tell her that he always did give me the creeps.

Closure can be a double edged sword.

cliffhanger