A Different Kind of Class Struggle

I was driving home from work at 11:40 pm, and it was bitterly cold and raw outside. Frost, glittering beneath the street lights, was already covering the grass and the pavement. I looked forward to getting home.

Almost to my destination, I noticed a car in the dark parking lot of the city park down the street from our house. The windows were all fogged up. Someone was inside.

“Please let it be lovers,” I thought. But it was midweek, and the weather was hardly conducive to romance. The car wasn’t exactly date-worthy, either.

I went home to my warm house and my loving husband and my well-fed dogs. There was a fire in the fireplace, and warm food waiting for me. Before bed, we luxuriated in the hot tub as the freezing fog surrounded us.

As I took my hot shower and then tucked in beneath my warm comforter, belly full and feeling safe, I couldn’t get that car out of my mind. I drifted off to sleep, thinking about how lucky I am.

The next morning I woke up at 5:20 am, because on that day I work the day shift, not the swing shift as I had the night before. The fog in my head was as thick as the fog outside. I stumbled about, preparing for work, too tired to complain about my usual less than 5 hours of sleep on this day of the week.

I stepped out into the 35 degree wall of grey and wondered about that car. “Please let it be gone,” I thought, as I started the engine and cranked up the heat.

But no. There it was, still at the park. The windows were still fogged, so the occupant was still breathing, at the very least. But man, it was so cold.

How do you face the day, struggle to improve your lot in life, manage to get clean and find food, after a night like that? How do you cope? What do you do next?

What could I have done? Invite this person, this stranger, this (let’s face it) potentially mentally ill drug addict, to stay in our guest room? Is that person’s life worth my own? But what if it was a single mom with a baby who was running away from spousal abuse?

Should I have entered that dark, deserted parking lot and offered that fellow human being money or blankets or food or… something? Anything? And then, what about the next person? And the next?

What should I have done? What would have been enough? What would you do?

I hesitated to write this post. I hate to sound like a bleeding heart liberal. I hate to reveal that I did nothing, as I almost always do. I did nothing but take my white, overly-privileged butt home to my hot tub, where I wallowed in my ineffectual guilt.

The worst part about it is that I guarantee you that that’s what I’ll be doing next week, too. Yes, I’ll throw money at causes. I’ll vote. I’ll blog. But what good does that do for the thousands of people sleeping in their cars or, worse yet, on the streets, in my city each night?

Fog

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That’s Acting

I am always shocked when I remember that Charlton Heston, the star of two of the most liberal movies ever made, the original Planet of the Apes and Soylent Green, went on to become the poster child for what I believe to be the most conservative, warped and corrupt organization in America: The National Rifle Association. I mean, how do you promote one belief system and yet espouse another? I wouldn’t be able to do it.

Bill Cosby also springs to mind. On screen he was the quintessential family man. That was his brand. But in reality he was a sexual predator. The moral tension between what you do and who you are in these situations must be exhausting, unless you’re a psychopath.

But actors aren’t the only ones who act. Diplomats definitely have to do it, as do politicians, if they hope for any type of occupational success. Lawyers, too, along with every director of a human resource department on the face of the earth.

How do you people sleep at night? I would be up at all hours, trying to reconcile the dichotomy of my life. I can’t even stand it when someone within my orbit behaves like that. I can’t abide fake people. I think they’re evil.

Unfortunately, we need diplomats and politicians and lawyers and personnel directors. I suppose I should be happy that there are people out there who are willing to act. I would hate to take on those dirty jobs myself.

So, if you are devoid of integrity, never fear. There’s a place in this crazy world for you, too.

Charleton Heston

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Randy Rainbow: What Would We Do Without Him?

If you are on Facebook, and are even the slightest bit liberal, chances are you’ve seen videos by Randy Rainbow. He’s like the Weird Al Yankovic of our time. Not only does he sing much better than Al, but his messages are practically vital for one’s sanity in the Trump era. He shines a light on the insanity, and makes you laugh about it. He makes you feel a little less alone in our present-day Twilight Zone. Bless him!

So, when I discovered that he was touring, and that he’d be in Seattle, of course I had to go! And it was, as expected, hysterical, and delightful, and a much-needed political palate cleanser.

He performed many of his most popular parodies, including:

You Can’t Stop His Tweets!

Desperate Cheeto

Covfefe: The Broadway Medley

The Room Where It Happened

How Do You Solve A Problem Like Korea? (While wearing a nun’s habit.)

Yes! We Have No Steve Bannon! (While wearing a banana outfit.)

This is a comedian and performer who came at just the right time, to just the right place. If you get to see him live, I highly recommend it. At the very least, subscribe to his Youtube channel or his Facebook page and prepare to laugh!

Here are some blurry pictures I took of him in his many costumes at the concert. They’d no doubt horrify him, but hey, who said I was a photographer?  Enjoy!

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Andy Johnson, or Unethical Politicians are Nothing New

Not a day goes by when there isn’t some outrageous story about a corrupt politician. I’m relieved that most of us are still shocked by this, but I can feel the cynicism growing all around me like kudzu on an abandoned Southern house. I rue the day when we all become so used to it that it doesn’t even raise any eyebrows. That’s what they’re working toward. That’s what they’re hoping for. That’s why we can never allow ourselves to look away.

I have personal experience with this outrageous lack of ethics. For me the poster child for a slimy politician is this man: Andy Johnson of Jacksonville, Florida.

andy-johnson

Most of you won’t have heard of him. He’s rapidly sinking into obscurity. In the 80’s, though, he was a member of the Florida legislature. (If you want to see his smug face back in those days, go here.) It tells you much about his effectiveness as a politician that he was eventually defeated by Corrine Brown, an even bigger embarrassment to the Democratic Party.

I had the misfortune of crossing paths with this distasteful man long after his political career had taken its nosedive. For many years he was the host of a progressive talk show in Jacksonville Florida, and my boyfriend at the time worked for him, often without pay. (Had I known that at the time, I wouldn’t have been stupid enough to do business with the man, but I could only work with the information I was given.)

I’ve written time and time again about how this man stole $3,500.00 from me and refuses to pay it back. That’s why he has his very own category on my blog. Suffice it to say, I took him to court and won. I also have a lien on his house, for all the good it will do me. (If you’re interested, it’s Duval County, Florida, case number 16-2010-SC-000516.) The interest that has accrued would make this lien worth buying from me, if you are so inclined. That’s probably the only way I’ll ever see that money again, because I’m not cut out to be a debt collector.

I’ll never stop telling the truth about what Andy Johnson has done. I have the truth on my side, at least. He’ll never have that. You wear the chains you forge in life, Andy.

I guess my point is that the political corruption we are seeing today is nothing new. The difference is, those of us who have been wronged have a lot more forums in which to speak out about these offenses. The cockroaches no longer have the luxury of the dark. That, at least, is a step in the right direction. I hope someday these roaches will be squashed by justice.

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Deadly Little Toys

Needless to say, there’s been quite a bit of debate going on about gun control in the wake of the tragedy in Las Vegas. The GOP would have us not talk about it. It’s not the appropriate time, they say. Well, when is the appropriate time? Seriously. How much blood has to run in the streets before we get to talk about this?

During one Facebook conversation on the topic, someone said, “The Left’s only solution is banning and confiscation.” Is that why you won’t come to the table, conservatives? Because let me clarify. I don’t know anyone on the left who wants the government to root around in your gun locker and take away your squirrel gun or your pistol. I swear to God. I promise.

We are not talking about taking away your ability to feel safe. (In spite of the fact that most guns in homes wind up harming the residents.) That’s your prerogative. We are also not talking about taking away your ability to hunt for food. Do your thing.

But you don’t need assault rifles, armor piercing bullets, silencers or a freakin’ arsenal to protect yourself or feed yourself. If you do, you aren’t living right. Can we at least agree on that? Please?

And why would you be offended about needing background checks? If you can’t pass one, then you have more problems than a gun can solve anyway. You’re okay with the need for drivers licenses, fishing licenses, and marriage licenses, right? Why is this any more intrusive?

We are the only country that isn’t addressing this issue, and we are the only country where incidents like the one in Las Vegas happen with such horrifying frequency. Other countries do not have anything close to this problem. Doesn’t that make you stop and think? Doesn’t that make you want to at least try to deal with this?

What is it going to take before you’re willing to come to the table and talk, and take action? How many people have to die?  We should be ashamed of ourselves as a nation.

Automatic weapons
That little orange sign says “You have EARNED this.” Maybe, but has the person you are aiming at earned it, too?

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Good Help

Sometimes it’s hard for me to maintain my liberal perspective. Oh, my day started off well. I was at my rental place for the very last time, having moved all my stuff out. I was eagerly awaiting the cleaners I had hired, in hopes of getting more of my rental deposits back.

Yeah, I guess I could have done it myself, but did I feel like it, after all this packing and moving and all the unpacking still in my future? Heck no. And since the company owner said it would be a ballpark figure of $200, I was thinking of it as money well spent. I’d be helping put money into the economy, and giving business to a mom and pop company. It’s all good.

I had no idea what a nightmare this day would become.

Since it was to be a cleaning crew, I was guessing maybe 4 hours work. That seemed reasonable. All the furniture was gone. The carpet had already been professionally cleaned the previous day, and I had done a cursory vacuuming of all the non-carpeted rooms. So I figured I’d hang out in my beloved back yard one last time, maybe take a few cuttings from some of my favorite plants, in hopes they’d take root in my new home. And I’d bring a book. The time should pass by quickly.

But then the “crew” arrived. It was one tiny little woman, who couldn’t have weighed more than 90 pounds, soaking wet. She said her boss couldn’t come that day, so he sent her. Well… if the boss trusted her, then I would, I suppose.

I asked her how long she thought it would take, and she said it would be hard to say at this point. Fair enough. No doubt she would tell me once she got a better sense of the place.

But now the liberal guilt set in. I never had a maid in my life, and now here I was, lounging in the back yard, while this poor little woman toiled away. I wondered how much of the money she would get. What a thankless, hard, boring job. I felt as if I were exploiting her.

When I expressed my concerns to a friend, he suggested I give her a big fat tip in cash at the end of the job. What a great idea. That’s what I would do.

She started off by vacuuming the cobwebs. And as I was hypnotized by the sound of the vacuum, I came to realize that I was developing a really bad sinus headache. Not good. I had no meds with me. And this was the worst possible kind of sinus headache– the kind where the stuff drains down the back of your throat and makes you nauseous. I spent the next couple hours vomiting in the bushes. Needless to say, I was feeling pretty miserable. I didn’t want to wake my neighbors, so I sat there feeling like death until I saw them put their dogs out, and then I went over and begged for meds, which they kindly provided. I started feeling better again after that.

During all of that, my focus had naturally shifted away from the house and toward the bushes. But once I was on the mend I realized that no sounds were coming from the house. When I walked in, she was standing in the middle of the room, with no cleaning supplies nearby, eating a snack. Well, everyone is entitled to a break, right? So I just asked how it was going, and she said fine. I didn’t press her for a timeframe. I didn’t want to disturb her break. Stupid me.

I went out and lay on a big patch of soft moss, and promptly fell asleep. (I’m really going to miss that yard.)

What woke me up was her coming out into the yard with her lunch. I think she was really surprised to see me there. She explained she needed a break. I said, “Of course.” I left her alone.

From the looks of it, in the 4 hours she had been there, she had yet to touch the kitchen or the bathroom. I was kind of shocked, but she had assured me that she had been cleaning houses for this property manager for many years, and knew exactly what he expected, so I supposed she was being thorough. The other rooms did look good, but I didn’t think they had looked particularly bad in the first place.

After she finished her lunch, I asked if I had time to go down the street and get something to eat myself. I was starting to get the shakes. I hadn’t expected to be there that long. She said yes, of course. That would have been a good time to tell me how much longer it would be, but she didn’t. Okay, fine. I was hungry. I left.

When I came back, she was cleaning the bathroom. Yay! Progress! I went back into the yard and had my lunch.

From where I sat I could see the kitchen. I kept expecting to see her in there. But no. I read my book. But by now 5 hours had passed. I was getting irritated, and bored.

By hour 7 I was afraid I was going to shout at her. I was feeling really ripped off. But I don’t want to be one of those people. You know, the kind who talk down to people. The kind who are rude to waitresses and bell boys and the like. That is not who I am. I’m one of the good guys! I’m a liberal!

But I would be damned if she was going to get that tip now. She was milking this job for all it was worth, as far as I was concerned.

I needed to get away from this woman, so I asked her if I had time to go grocery shopping. She said it would probably be 2 more hours. She also said it would be $315, which is so far from that $200 ballpark that you probably couldn’t even hear the cheering crowds from there. My jaw dropped. Then she told me that she could give me a discount. If I paid in cash, it would be $290. That seemed a little sketchy to me, but it’s a moot point. I had no way to get my hands on that kind of money that late in the freakin’ day, and I hadn’t used my ATM card in about a billion years, and could no longer remember the code.

At hour 9, I got back from the grocery store to find her eating a cookie and staring vacantly at the washing machine, which she had accidentally filled with water. She said she couldn’t figure out how to empty it. So I turned it on. She thanked me.

By now I was so frustrated that I was on the verge of tears. I was tired. I just wanted to go home. By hour 10, after watching her slowly move throughout the kitchen, the dam broke. I started to cry. I don’t cry when I’m sad. I cry when I’m pissed off. I was pissed off.

I wrote the check. I walked next door. I told my neighbor that I couldn’t take it anymore. I was going to pay the bitch the $315, and would she see that the house was locked up after she left? She said yes she would.

So I went in with the check, tears streaming down my face, and handed it to her. And she had the nerve to say that it had taken longer than she anticipated, so she was running the dishwasher to let it clean itself. I had my doubts about the efficacy of this, but I had to leave there right that second to avoid getting arrested. So I handed her the check and she said that since it took so long, it would cost even more.

I said, through gritted teeth, “No. No. I’ve already written the check. Do you want it?” She took the damned check.

And then she had the nerve to say, “Do you have any questions before I go?”

I was tempted to say, “How the f*** do you sleep at night?” But I just said “No.”

And off she went, after 10 hours.

I swear to you, I never thought these words would ever pass my lips, and I know they don’t make me look pretty, but you really can’t get good help these days.

cleaning lady

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Expanding Your Circle of Love

A few weeks ago I had a Sunday off for the first time in years, so I decided to go to the University Unitarian Church here in Seattle. I’ve been a Unitarian Universalist for many years, but my schedule doesn’t allow me to participate often. I’ve written about the religion before, so I’ll just say that its liberal outlook, its highly educated congregation, its emphasis on social justice and the environment, and its refusal to force dogma down your throat are what appeal to me the most. I was really looking forward to attending a service for the first time in ages.

I felt welcomed as soon as I arrived. And I was delighted right away by a little Anna’s hummingbird sitting on its tiny nest in their rhododendron bush. They had covered the window in paper and cut out little peep holes so people could observe her without disturbing her.

The chapel was beautiful—open and airy. And the congregation is so large, with more than 850 members, that they have two services each Sunday. That’s great for those of us who like to sleep in. I’m used to a congregation of about 200 or so, so this was really amazing to me.

Many things were discussed from the pulpit, including politics, but the thing that stayed with me the most was this interesting concept: the people you care about, friends and family, abide within your own special circle of love. Now, imagine what would happen if all of us expanded our circles of love, if only a few inches, to include others. What would the world be like then?

If we could include strangers who are suffering, people of other cultures, the homeless, the oppressed… if we all extended our love to include these people, if we all just made a little extra effort, this planet would be changed for the better in ways beyond our ability to imagine. Fear and hatred would be eradicated. This feeling of free-floating anxiety that we all seem to be experiencing would be a thing of the past. As John Lennon liked to sing, “Imagine.”

I left there feeling better about things than I have in a long time, simply because there’s potential for improvement. I wish they had had a “Joys and Concerns” part of their ceremony, as many UU Churches do, which allows you to stand up and say things, but I suppose with this many people, the service would go on forever. But if I’d had the opportunity, I would have said this: “My joy today is that this church, with its compassion, its social responsibility, and its love for the planet, exists. My work schedule doesn’t allow me to attend often, but I get a great deal of comfort from knowing that you’re here. Thank you.”

And the last song we sang was Lean on Me. How appropriate. If you’re looking for a sense of community without judgment or dogma, find a Unitarian Universalist Church near you.

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What I Love about Seattle, Washington

I’ve been living in this delightful city for 2 ½ years now, and I have never been happier. It sort of feels like I went to bed in Florida and I woke up in the Land of Reasonable People. Not a day goes by when I don’t look around in awe. How did I get so lucky?

Now, more than ever, I’m grateful for the liberal bubble in which I reside. In the current political climate, I think it’s the only reason that what little sanity I still possess remains intact. I love that my senators and my representative are all Democratic females. I love that we have a member of the socialist party (also female) on our city council. I love that our mayor is gay. And granted, it was a federal judge who ruled against Trump’s travel ban, but that judge was located right here in Seattle. I couldn’t be more proud.

The City of Seattle also just divested itself from Wells Fargo Bank due to its involvement in the Dakota Access Pipeline. Integrity in politics. How refreshing. (Not that we always get it right. For example, the homeless situation here is abysmal, and there’s absolutely no excuse for it. But it’s a start.)

We’re also proud to be a sanctuary city. Immigrants are welcome here. Contrary to supposedly popular belief, that makes me feel safer. I don’t like the idea of people being snatched from their homes. That happens a lot more frequently in this country than any terrorist attack.

I love the fact that individuality is celebrated here. It means that creativity thrives. Because of that, you can experience a wide variety of art, music, culture, and food in this fair city.

Oddly enough, I’m glad that we have horrible weather in the winter. It makes me appreciate the rest of the year that much more. I spend a lot more time outdoors here than I ever did in Florida.

I love that no one here needs air conditioning (yet). I love the parks and the flowers and the diversity of the landscape. I want to explore this city and this state a lot more. I love that every neighborhood has its own personality.

I love that the environment is taken so seriously here. If you don’t recycle, you can practically cause a riot. And there are so many outlets for environmental activism.

I love that this is the most literate city in the country. I love that the library parking lots are always packed with cars. I love that people enjoy talking about books.

I don’t smoke pot, but I love that it’s legal here. I don’t drink coffee, but I love that it’s celebrated here, and I love hanging out in coffee shops. I am musically inept, but I love that you can’t sling a dead cat without hitting a musician. This is the land of Jimi Hendrix and Kurt Cobain, after all.

Now, if you want to talk about horrible traffic, out of control growth, and the outrageous cost of living… well, that’s a topic for another post.

seattle

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Schooled by Jon Stewart

I will always wonder if this election wouldn’t have gone differently if Jon Stewart hadn’t retired prior to the campaign. To me, he is the epitome of a well-spoken and reasonable human being. Unfortunately the people who needed to listen to him the most were the very ones who never watched his show. More and more we are a culture that preaches to its own choir.

Would I classify him as liberal? Heck, yeah. But he’s not afraid to smack sense into even those of us on the left. That’s what I admire about him the most. He has integrity.

For example, I just watched this 6 minute interview of him on CBS This Morning and it really made me take a hard look at myself. If you have the time, I encourage you to watch it. But for those of you who don’t, I will share with you one of the many wise things that he says.

“There is now this idea that anyone who voted for him [Trump] has to be defined by the worst of his rhetoric. There are guys in my neighborhood that I love, that I respect, that I think have incredible qualities, who are not afraid of Mexicans and not afraid of Muslims and not afraid of Blacks. They’re afraid of their insurance premiums. In the Liberal community you hate this idea of creating people as a monolith. Don’t look at Muslims as a monolith. They are unique individuals. It would be ignorance. But everybody who voted for Trump is a monolith, is a racist. That hypocrisy is also real in our country. And so this is the fight that we wage against ourselves and each other, because America’s not natural. Natural is tribal. We’re fighting against thousands of years of human behavior and history to create something that no one’s ever… that’s what’s exceptional about America, and that’s what… like, this ain’t easy.”

Okay, I have to confess, Jon Stewart just bitch-slapped me but good. Because I have to admit it: I was demonizing all Trump supporters for demonizing… well… everyone else. As if my lumping them all into one steaming pile was better than their doing the very same thing to others.

Another thing Jon Stewart pointed out was that we’re still the same country we were last month. Whether that’s good or bad is up to each one of us, I suppose. But I really do have to work on my attitude. I think we all do, all across the spectrum. I’m going to try a lot harder to appreciate the shades of grey. I suspect there are a heck of a lot more than 50 of them in this country. Isn’t that, after all, the whole point of it?

I will say, though, that I still can’t relate to someone caring about their insurance premiums more than the safety and rights of others, but hey, that’s just me. Oh, there I go again. This is going to take practice.

jon-stewart
I’d have voted for him.

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Two Years in Seattle

On August 24, 2014 I arrived in Seattle to start my new life. I had never been to the city before, and didn’t know a soul. I remember how I felt that day: excited, and scared silly. I felt like I was in a foreign country. Sometimes I still do.

In retrospect, I really think I was in shock. The terrain wasn’t flat like I expected. The weather was sunny and mild. I had been expecting rain, and after living in Florida for 40 years, “mild” was a sensation I had very rarely experienced.

I remember sitting in a park with my dogs, just staring at people. After driving for 3100 miles, I still had the sensation that I was moving. I still pass that park every day on the way to work.

I remember noticing that there was a completely different vibe in this city. It’s a much smaller city than Jacksonville, Florida, but it feels like a much larger one, probably because people are much more densely packed here. I don’t know how I was picking up on these signals just by sitting in the park, but I remember drawing conclusions that I later found to be true: this was a more educated, more sophisticated, more liberal, more diverse place.

More liberal! I wanted to jump for joy. After 40 years of feeling like a liberal turd in a conservative punch bowl, suddenly I felt like I fit in. It was like taking off a pair of shoes that was two sizes too small. I had no idea how much of a burden I had been carrying all that time. That feeling of being an outsider, that feeling of having to justify my conclusions, that feeling of never being taken seriously…I could lay those burdens down for the first time in my life. And it felt so good.

In the coming weeks and months I had a lot of adjusting to do. Finding my way around. Getting used to the insane level of traffic. Figuring out which of all the unknown grocery stores fit my budget and my tastes. Getting used to the fact that a lot of the products I was used to are sold here, but in entirely different packaging. Getting used to the fact that everything costs about 3 times as much. Learning my job. Finding doctors and dentists and libraries and post offices. Wrapping my brain around the Seattle Freeze.

After a few months of desperately trying to make friends, I wrote about the Seattle Freeze. I just didn’t know what it was called at the time. In that blog entry I called it, “Nice, but not.” After two years I’m still convinced that this is a thing, but since then I have made friends, and therefore don’t act quite as needy, and am not as hurt by the smiling, polite, unmovable wall of rejection.

I also came across a blog entry I wrote before leaving Florida, called A Florida Transplant to the Pacific Northwest. In it I had a lot of anxious, unanswered questions about how to make this massive transition. I can still feel the stress rolling off the page. Man, I was scared.

But you know what? Since then I’ve answered all those questions, and this place now feels like home. I can’t imagine living anywhere else. It was the best decision I’ve ever made.

So, happy anniversary to me!

three_year_anniversary_yay_by_saltyspice-da0d83f