Peaceful Protesters Aren’t Rioters

There’s definitely a lot to protest about these days. Personally, I’m emotionally drained by it all. My whole life, I’ve never been more horrified by what’s going on in this country than I am at this moment. I’m sure you can fill in the blanks with your own set of horrors. That’s the worst part about it. The list is endless.

The truth is that I’m glad people are protesting. It’s the only way that our voices will be heard. I’ve participated in a few protests myself. And every single one has been peaceful and nondestructive.

I get so frustrated when people equate all forms of protest with riots, looters, and vandals. Those things are a sickening side note that has nothing to do with the protests themselves. When a riot breaks out at a sporting event, as so often happens, do you blame everyone who attended the sporting event for that? When looters come in after a hurricane, do you blame the evacuees or the hurricane for that? When vandals tag a blank wall, do you blame the architect or the construction workers or the building for that? No? Then why are you blaming peaceful protesters? Is it because you really think it’s their fault, or because you want to add additional pressure to shut them up because you don’t agree with them?

In fact, according to this article, there is growing evidence that the trouble makers at these protests hold views directly opposite to those of the protestors. They’re trying to give them a bad name, when in fact it’s the right wing militia/domestic terrorists who should be accused. It’s horrific.

A lot of people are really angry right now. And unfortunately, some of those people are choosing to express that anger in very violent and destructive ways. That does not further their cause. In fact, it causes a lot of people to get hurt, tensions to ratchet up, and our tax dollars to be stretched even thinner to clean up after them, which depletes our ability to provide social services that might have prevented these problems in the first place.

But I genuinely don’t think looting, riots and vandalism have anything to do with the protests themselves. These destructive people are not trying to urge others to see their point of view. They’re just having a public tantrum, and using a protest as an excuse to get away with things that they normally couldn’t get away with.

I strongly encourage people to peacefully protest, and I genuinely believe that the vast majority of protests are, indeed, peaceful. There’s no need or excuse for things to escalate into violence or destruction. That would play right into the hands of those whom you are protesting against. Protesters know that. Please don’t lump them into the same pile with the destructive forces of this world. If anything, protesters care very deeply about this country and want to see it change for the better. Destruction doesn’t achieve that end.

What follows is the aftermath of some vandalism that happened at South Park Bridge in Seattle the other day. It’s a beautiful bridge, or at least it was. This does not win people over to your point of view, but I doubt that was the agenda in this instance.

As a bridgetender, I realize that I’m biased. I always hate to see a bridge damaged. It feels like a violation. It makes me sad.

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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My Most Memorable Year

On my way to work the other day, I was thinking about the fact that, ten years from now, if people are asked what their most memorable year has been, a good percentage of them are going to say 2020. That’s heartbreaking, because this year SUCKS. I’m sure most of the memories from this year won’t be happy ones. I’ll be happy to get past this year and move on, no matter what that looks like. I think that’s the scariest bit. We have no idea what the world is going to be like after this year.

Fortunately, 2020 is not my most memorable year to date. If I had to pick one, it would be 2014, because it was overflowing with the really, really bad, but ended up really, really good. It was the most pivotal year of my life.

For starters, in 2014 I went to visit my favorite aunt, Betty, in Connecticut. I didn’t know it at the time, but it would be the last time I saw her face to face. I wish you could have known her. She was amazing.

Unfortunately, while I was there, I got a phone call from the Jacksonville, Florida Sheriff’s Office telling me that they found my boyfriend dead in his truck, still clutching his asthma inhaler, in the pharmacy parking lot a few short blocks from my apartment. Upon hearing that, I instantly came down with the flu, and couldn’t hear a thing for three days, which made flying home in tears quite fun. It felt like I was ground zero at a nuclear blast, such was the devastation this caused in my life.

There was a huge family conflict over whether or not I should attend his memorial service (thank God I ignored them and went), and the taking of all his possessions (and a few of mine) by his adult children. Other than that, I really don’t remember much about those next few months, except a lot of tears, forgetting to eat, and a constant ringing in my ears. I did go to work, though. I had to. Fortunately, there can be tears in bridgetending.

Not long after that, my landlord, who lived in the other half of the house, figured out that I’d probably not be able to make the rent without my boyfriend’s assistance, and she kicked me and my two dogs out of my apartment with no notice at all. I was too devastated at the time to fight it.

Fortunately I had a place to store my stuff, but I got to experience a brief stint of homelessness there. Nothing quite like sleeping with two dogs in a crapped out Buick LeSabre to make you appreciate all the comforts of home. Then I did a bit of couch surfing and realized who my friends really were.

Finally, I found a place to rent that I could just barely afford. I hunkered down in anticipation of an existence in which I would be all alone, working a dead end job, and living paycheck to paycheck. I was resigned to my fate.

I was talking to a coworker about just that when he mentioned that there was a job opening for a bridge operator in the City of Seattle. I had never been to Seattle. I had never even been to the state of Washington in my life. I didn’t know anyone there. But man, was I ever due for a do-over. My life was going nowhere fast and I was miserable. So what the hell, I applied. What did I have to lose?

And, what the hell? They hired me. Sight unseen. Over the phone. Just like that.

Now I had to figure out how I was going to move across the continent. Fortunately, my sister and my husband not only loaned me money, but they gave me a more viable van. And for the rest, I dipped into what little savings I had, and also did a crowdfunding campaign.

That campaign was amazing and humbling. Not only did friends from decades ago come out of the woodwork, but also total strangers gave me money. Without all that generosity, I wouldn’t be where I am today. Because of that, I do my best to pay it forward every chance I get.

House hunting from a distance is not at all fun, but somehow everything fell into place (including the breaking of a lease I had only signed 2 months before) and the next thing I knew, I was driving across the country with two dogs and entirely too much stuff.

The cross country trip was amazing. (Read more about it here.) You have no idea how vast this nation is until you drive 3100 miles across it. It’s magical. I will never forget that experience.

And then, on this very day (August 24th) in 2014, I arrived in Seattle. I was scared half to death, and second guessing myself the entire time, but I was also extremely excited for this fresh start. And my life has been, despite a few false starts, an ever-increasing high ever since.

Because I came here, I’m actually making a living wage for the first time in my life. Because I came here, I published my first book. Because I came here, I bought a wonderful little house. Because I came here, I met my amazing husband-to-be and was married for the first (and only) time ever.

No one at my wedding had known me more than a year or two. That kind of smarted. But, as a dear friend says, onward and upward and into the future!

I’ve met some wonderful people here and have had too many exciting experiences to list. (You may want to check out the archives of my blog for that.) And I’m happy to say that I feel as though I’ve made an excellent life for myself.

So, yeah, 2014 beats 2020 all to hell. And because of that, life is ever so good, and I am exactly where I want to be. You just never know what’s in store for you. Truly, what a ride…

Colourful 2014 in fiery sparklers

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Mid-Month Marvels: Young Women Empowered

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!

When I read the first line on the “our story” page of the Young Women Empowered website, it gave me pause. It says, “Research shows that girls’ self-confidence peaks at age nine, then drops as they advance through high school.”

It gave me pause because, instinctively, I knew that this was true. I know it because I lived it. And I’ve seen so many other women and girls live it. We are taught to be our own worst critics. If it’s not body shaming, it’s assuming that we’re inferior in a whole host of other ways. And it has to stop.

Enter Y-WE (Young Women Empowered). I’m so proud that this Seattle-based non-profit exists and is celebrating its 10th year. It is a safe space for all young women, including people of color, trans, and nonbinary individuals. It’s a place where, to hear one participant describe it, you can “feel heard and loved and valid and smart and worthy 100% of the time.”

Y-WE is a leadership program that helps build confidence and self-esteem through a variety of activities, including camping, coding, artistic pursuits, performance, health and wellness, creative writing, and social justice. It currently serves 845 young women a year.

I hope you’ll join me in supporting this amazing organization! Please donate here.

YWE

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Rounding Tahoma

On the day in question, it was going to be hotter than blue blazes in the Seattle area. For my purposes, that’s about 90 degrees. I know that my Southern friends will scoff at that, but remember, we don’t have air conditioning. I was anticipating misery, so I began casting about for ways to beat the heat.

My husband and I decided that the best way of doing that would be to go to higher altitudes. Specifically, we planned to go to Mount Rainier National Park. We are lucky that this gorgeous mountain is but a day drip away for us.

Mount Rainier is called Tahoma by the Native Americans in this area. I think that’s a much better name.  Tahoma is 14,410 feet high, which means it’s the tallest peak in the Cascade Range. People have been visiting this mountain for more than 9,000 years. It became a national park in 1899.

We decided on this day that it would be fun to circumnavigate the entire mountain. This meant that we’d have to use roads that were quite often outside the park itself. But the views were spectacular regardless, and we got to visit some very enchanting small towns along the way.

Our first stop was for ice cream in the little town of Greenwater. We also got to check out a couple statues of Bigfoot. This made me wonder if the plural of Bigfoot is Bigfoots or Bigfeet. I don’t suppose this question will loom large in my life, but it was something to think about rather than feeling guilty about eating ice cream.

Next, we entered the park and headed toward the Sunrise Visitor Center. The State of Washington’s highest paved highway ends there at 6400 feet. Needless to say, we were treated to several switchbacks along the way, and the roadsides were blanketed by a variety of colorful subalpine wildflowers. We also encountered the fascinating remnants of some columnar lava, and enjoyed the glacier-clad slopes in the distance. We got to see Emmons Glacier, the largest American glacier outside of Alaska.

We had packed a picnic lunch, and enjoyed that in the Sunrise picnic area. Two million people visit this national park each year, but we had the picnic area pretty much to ourselves. We adhered to strict social distancing and mask guidelines whenever we saw another human. Mostly, we were surrounded by flowers, and got to watch some chipmunks play. I relished the peace and quiet.

I was a little sad that I wasn’t able to obtain a stamp for my National Parks Passport, because the ranger station was closed. But the gift shop was open, so we were able to add another fridge magnet to our collection. Yay!

After that, we headed south along the east side of the park. We were smack dab in the middle of nowhere, without even a hint of cell phone signal, when we came across a family standing beside their broken down car. They wrote down contact information for a relative, along with their membership number for AAA, and asked if we could please contact that relative as soon as we got a cell signal, and have him call a tow truck. We said we would. We also took a picture of where we thought he was located, more or less, on a map, because needless to say, there were no intersections or addresses to be had.

It took us about a half hour to get a signal and make contact, and we texted the map photo as well. By then it was about 6:30 pm, and we knew that this would be no quick rescue. At that elevation it would be quite cold when the sun went down, so we worried about them. We asked the relative to contact us and let us know they made it out safe. And in fact, they didn’t get home until around midnight. So that must have been a really rotten day for that poor family.

But for us, it was shaping up to be a lovely day indeed. We were getting to see Tahoma from all angles. It’s a formidable mountain. Here’s a quote from the national park brochure we received at the entrance:

“Mount Ranier is an active volcano. Active steam vents, periodic earth tremors, and historic eruptions provide evidence that Mount Rainier is sleeping, not dead.”

Steam still escapes from its summit. I’ve seen it from Seattle. It’s not a gigantic, eruptive plume. It’s just a gentle mist that wafts from the top at unexpected moments. It reminds me of the power of nature.

We stopped for dinner at the little town of Packwood. There are a few restaurants there that rely on the tourist trade, a museum, and an outfitter for outdoor pursuits. That’s about it. I don’t even remember if there’s a stop light. This town relies on gigantic swap meets twice a year, on Memorial Day and Labor Day, for the bulk of their income, and those swap meets have been cancelled due to the pandemic. I have no idea how this town will survive. The elk seem to still like visiting it, though. They were everywhere.

From there we entered the Gifford Pinchot National Forest. It was fun to see all the different people camping along the creeks. Personally, I’ve never camped outside of an official campground, because I like having an actual bathroom, but camping rough seems to be the thing to do in this area. It certainly is a bucolic setting.

We arrived home late in the evening, having successfully driven all the way around Tahoma. When we pulled into our driveway, we discovered that we had driven 214 miles. I cannot get over the beauty and variety of this state and this country. I feel so lucky to live here.

All the photos below were taken on our journey. Enjoy them. And I’ll leave you with this quote:

“Of all the fire mountains, which, like beacons, once blazed along the Pacific Coast, Mount Rainier is the noblest.” John Muir

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Loony Candidates of the Pacific Northwest

A few days ago, I voted in a primary and special election here in the Seattle area. They really make it easy here. You vote by mail, and they provide you with a nice thick pamphlet which tells you everything you need to know about the various candidates and issues.

People in the State of Washington really have no excuse not to vote. It’s not like you have to stand for hours in a blistering hot parking lot, waiting for the chance to vote, and have to conduct hours of independent research to know who to vote for, like I did for decades in Florida.

The pamphlet for my area was 91 pages long this time around. I adore these pamphlets, because they help me do my homework on the candidates. I can eliminate many people on their statements alone, and then do further research on the more serious ones if I feel the need.

But I also enjoy the pamphlet because there are enough loony candidates to turn it into a joke book. Anyone can run if they meet the requirements. But jeez, it really makes you wonder why certain ones bother.

For your amusement, here are some of the more lunatic fringe candidates (in my opinion) running for office here in the Seattle area, and some quotes directly from their statements as included in the voter’s pamphlet. Suffice it to say, I voted for more sane, serious, and qualified candidates than these.

  • Alex Tsimerman is running for Governor of the State of Washington and says he prefers the StandupAmerica Party. Under his Community Service, he lists, among other things, receiving “over 12 trespasses for a total of more than 1,200 days from going into the Demo-Nazi-Gestapo Council Chambers.” In his statement, he simply repeats the following sentence 25 times: “Stop Seattle/King Fascism with idiotic face!”

  • “Goodspaceguy” has been running for one office or another for as long as I’ve been in this state. This time he’s running for Governor. Apparently this is his legally changed name. He says he prefers the Trump Republican Party. His statement includes the following. “Viruses will always attack you. Your immune system defends you. As governor, I will not shut down your businesses or forbid you to go to work….How many robots would you want to supervise to make your work easier? … Please refer to our world as ‘Spaceship Earth.’ This concept might improve your descendants’ future.”

  • Omari Tahir Garret is also running for Governor. He prefers the Democrat Party. He says he’s running as a spokesperson for anti-apartheid/reparations now movement, and claims that “the current Governor’s biggest mistake is turning Seattle’s SVI building over to proven historical Negro vampire criminals.” He also says that “since race is arbitrarily based on ‘skin color’, redefine ‘race’ based on hair color, which is much easier to change.”

  • Jared Frerichs is running for Lieutenant Governor. He says he prefers the Libertarian Party. Under “Elected Experience” he says he was the student council president at his high school. His statement is short and, I suppose, to the point. “Poverty is bad for business. I have some wild ideas on how we can end poverty forever, but I need your help. I don’t need your money. I need your vote.”

  • Cameron Whitney is running for Commissioner of Public Lands, and prefers the Republican Party. In his Community Service section, he states, “I’ve never been to jail.” And his statement is as follows: “I like environmental protection. I don’t like fires. Let’s work together to clean up the environment and stop fires. President Trump says we need to rake our forests to clean up debris that exacerbates fires and that’s where I intend to start.”

  • Mr Whitney’s competitor for Commissioner of Public Lands is Steve Sharon, who also prefers the Republican Party. He says that “If elected, I will direct an independent, state funded study of the effects of 5G cell-phone towers upon living things. My research indicates that this radiation is killing trees, birds, honey bees, human life.” He also assures us that he will stop chemtrails in Washington state, and says he’s against eugenics, Satan, the New World Order and the Green New Deal.

  • Stan Lippmann is running for Superintendent of Public Instruction. He states that “Sometimes I think it would be better to start all over from 550 BC with a Pythagorean Academy, since it’s been all downhill in the common sense department since then.”

  • David Spring also wants to be Superintendent of Public Instruction. He states that “it makes no sense to shutdown schools for months at a time when there is not even a single case of any child in any school anywhere in our state transmitting the corona virus to any adult.”

  • Chirayu Avinash Patel is running for Insurance Commissioner, and he prefers the Republican Party. He wants to do so in order to manage 168 students so that he can major in every degree at the University of Washington. He plans to run the office externally like the Reagan Administration and internally as the Jefferson Administration. He says he’d be the external commissioner 60 percent of the time, and two other candidates would have the role the other 40 percent of the time. He says he would fill the roles of Ronald, Nancy and Nixon, and the other two would be Carter and Ford. Internally, he says, 168 insurance agents would hold the position in one hour increments.

  • Peter Thompson, Jr. is running for Representative. He prefers the Republican Party. Under Professional Experience he says he’s a Machinist who has worked at one shop owned by a real machinist and two shops owned by bureaucratic shareholder welfare queens. Under Community Service he says, “Praying for the souls of roadkill. Opossum coffins are not awesome.”

Don’t you just love the democratic process? Who says voting is no fun? All jokes aside, though, I’m sitting here poking fun at these people under the assumption that a nut can’t possibly get elected. But I thought that in 2016, too.

Goodspaceguy

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A Taste of Their Medicine

A few nights ago, I was driving home from work at 11 pm. I was mildly irritated to discover that a long section of the interstate was closed for some unknown reason. I would have to spend a good portion of my 25 mile commute on surface streets. Ah well, there was nothing for it but to settle in and endure a great deal of zigging and zagging through Seattle. Thank heavens for Google Maps.

I was wending my way through downtown when I turned a corner into the intersection of Bellevue and Olive, and suddenly found myself right in the middle of a protest march. About 200 people swelled into the intersection and surrounded my car. I couldn’t move forward. I couldn’t move back. I was trapped.

It was a peaceful enough protest. They weren’t doing any damage, but they did look angry. They were carrying signs, mostly related to defunding the police, and they were shouting, “No Trump! No KKK! No racist USA!”

I believe wholeheartedly in every one of those statements. I genuinely do. But these protesters didn’t know that. What they saw was some random white woman. It would be easy to think I’m part of the problem. And in essence, I am, since I’ve unwittingly propped up the status quo for my entire life.

So there I was, trapped in my car, desperately hoping that this crowd wouldn’t see me as the enemy. If they did, there’s nothing I could have done about it. Every movie I’ve ever seen where a car is surrounded by a mob flashed through my mind. They could have easily trashed my car or rolled it over. I was completely at their mercy.

I did the only thing I could think of to do. I called my husband. As if he could save me, 25 miles away. But it was good to hear his voice. At least he’d know why I didn’t come home if the worst happened.

The traffic light cycled at least 5 times, but I was going nowhere. My heart was pounding. I felt like I was going to throw up.

And then I had an even worse thought. If the cops showed up right now, this would probably turn into a riot, and there’d be teargas and rubber bullets. And I would be trapped in the thick of it, with nowhere to go. Oh, God, please don’t let the cops come right now.

Yeah. Let that sink in for a bit. I was terrified that the cops were going to show up.

At one point, the crowd started marching down the street, away from my car, which, in fact, no one had touched. I heaved a huge, shaky sigh of relief and prepared to move forward, out of the traffic snarl. But then, inexplicably, they all rushed back into the intersection and engulfed my car again. I felt like crying. I just wanted to go home.

That crowd felt like one big, organic, unpredictable entity to me. I didn’t know what was going to happen. And then finally, just like the parting of the red sea, the crowd separated and let traffic flow again. The incident probably only lasted 10 minutes, but to me it felt like an eternity.

I headed home, feeling nauseous from the adrenaline dump. I fought back tears as I merged onto the interstate south of town. I felt like I had survived something that I never expected to encounter.

And then I realized that this is what it must feel like to be black a lot of the time. At the mercy of the majority. Trapped. Afraid that you’ll be seen as the enemy. Terrified that the cops will come. Surrounded by the unpredictable. Misunderstood.

That night, the universe forced me to take a big old draught of the medicine that is poured down the throats of black people every single day, and I didn’t like it. Not even a little bit. In fact, it made me feel sick.

But in terms of enlightenment, it probably did me good.

028301ef8542699a1225945ac477acf5--bottle-box-cure

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Seattle’s Volunteer Park

Recently, I had the opportunity to visit Seattle’s Volunteer Park for the first time. I don’t know how I missed this gem after living in this county for nearly 6 years. This is definitely a place I’ll be bringing visitors from out of town to from now on.

Volunteer Park was designed by the Olmstead Brothers, the same guys who brought us Central Park in New York City. That had to be the coolest job ever. They got to travel around and design huge city parks that are still appreciated today.

In this era, it’s too late for that. Everything has already been built up. You’re as likely to see a new city park as you are to see a new major airport. I’m glad cities had the foresight to carve out natural spaces while they still could, or no city would be livable today. (But nothing in life is that simple. More about the eminent domain atrocities in Central Park in an upcoming post.)

The City of Seattle bought the land for Volunteer Park in 1876 for $2,000. That land is priceless today. Consider this: This mansion, right across the street from the park, is for sale. You can buy it for a cool 6.3 million dollars. (If you want it, here are the details. My realtor husband can hook you up.)

Mansion

To design the park, they had to move a cemetery, and I sure feel sorry for those bodies and the people who had to dig them up, because they had been relocated once before. They started in what is now Denny Park, moved to what is now Volunteer Park, and were then shunted right next door to Lake View Cemetery. May they finally rest in peace. (Bruce and Brandon Lee are also buried here.)

Volunteer Park was once called Lake View Park, but folks were confusing it with the cemetery. J. Willis Sayre, who fought in the Spanish-American War, convinced the city to rename it for the volunteers who fought in that war. And it has been so called ever since.

The park is 48.4 acres, and includes lawns and wooded areas, and has a wide variety of trees and flowers. It’s about 1/20th the size of Central Park, but still seemed massive to me. There is a gorgeous conservatory, currently closed due to the pandemic, which was built from a kit purchased from the Hitchings Company of New York. A lovely carriage drive winds through the park, and it is easy to imagine the horse drawn carriages that must have once used it.

The park also has a concert grove with a small stage, and a water tower which I’m told has spectacular views of the city… when it’s not closed due to the pandemic. There’s also an intriguing Seattle Asian Art Museum in a cool Art Deco building, which is, yeah, yeah, closed. There is also a very large and placid reservoir in front of the museum which greatly enhances the view.

Between the museum and the reservoir is a piece of art called Black Sun which I was told inspired the song Black Hole Sun by Soundgarden. If you line your camera up just right (which I did not, exactly), you get a great view of the space needle through this sculpture. (A few years ago, I also visited Seattle’s Sound Garden, which inspired the band’s name. Alas, the wind wasn’t blowing at the time, so the sound garden remained mute.)

Apparently there are also some tennis courts on the grounds of Volunteer Park, but I didn’t see those. In season, there are also dahlia gardens, koi ponds, and a wading pool.

I look forward to visiting this lovely park again and again. Here are some photos that we took during our visit.

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Visiting the Capitol Hill Organized Protest in Seattle

Recently, I blogged about the Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone (CHAZ), a protest society that has sprung up in the Capitol Hill neighborhood of Seattle, which makes me love this city even more. I don’t know how long this little enclave will last, but I was intrigued by the concept. I wanted to bear witness.

I was glad to see that it was still there, even though it has undergone a name change. CHAZ is now CHOP: Capital Hill Organized Protest, because it can’t be considered autonomous in the strictest sense of the word. It doesn’t have its own utilities. It does not maintain its own streets or provide its own bureaucracy. It has not enacted its own constitution. It’s more like a barnacle on the shell that is Seattle, which in turn is a barnacle on the shell of the Duwamish tribal lands. But if CHOP is a barnacle, it’s a beautiful one.

CHOP has three demands: 1) Defund the police. 2) Invest that money in the community. 3) Release all protestors.

Trump would have you believe that a part of the city has been taken over by domestic terrorists, and that if he has it his way, he’ll send in the troops. There’s also this huge rumor that people are toting guns up in there. In essence, that it’s a war zone, all hell has broken loose, and the inmates are running the asylum. I wanted to find out for myself.

The weirdest part about CHOP, as far as I’m concerned, is that there were thousands of people there. Many were lookie-loos like me. Most were masked. But it was the largest crowd that I have been around in months, thanks to the quarantine, and I have to say that it felt exceedingly strange. Such are the times in which we live.

The biggest danger in CHOP, in my opinion, is COVID-19. I didn’t see a single gun the entire time I was there. I saw no violence. The only destruction I saw was the graffiti, which for the most part is really beautiful and well thought out. I felt completely safe.

I was able to listen to several protesters speak. One emphasized that this was a peaceful community. They didn’t destroy. They didn’t burn. And it was obviously true. I also saw a makeshift salon on the street, a circle of couches and chairs, where people were talking about race in the forthright way that you’d never see at a gathering at your average coffee shop. There are several teach-ins going on at any given time at CHOP.

I visited the No Cop Co-op. Free everything. They don’t even accept money in the form of donations. And everyone is welcome to help themselves. I did not do so because I’m sure there are people out there who are more in need than I am.

Cal Anderson Park was full of tents and gatherings. There’s even a vegetable garden starting out there. People were talking quietly. There was no buying or selling going on, and it was refreshing. This wasn’t some festival. These people are seriously wanting to make a change.

If anything, they were earnest to the point of exhaustion. Everyone seemed to be right on point. I did not get the impression that this was a bunch of freeloaders taking advantage of a hassle-free space.

I honestly felt kind of out of place. I was a lot older than the demographic, and a few times I felt like I was being viewed with suspicion. Was I a police or city plant? But everyone treated me, and everyone else, with respect.

I wanted to contribute to the place, so I brought some books to donate from my little free library. One was an anthology of working class literature. But the rest were just, you know, books to read. Because you can’t be on message all the time, can you? Sometimes you just need to read a good book. That was my thinking.

But when I turned them in, the guy at the co-op got a hopeful look in his eye, and asked if it was anarchist literature. Then I felt kind of silly, and was glad that the blush was hidden behind my mask. He was gracious and took the books anyway. I wonder what he did with them.

Hey, you know? You have to at least try. Even if your good intentions miss the mark.

I’m really rooting for CHOP. I walked away feeling like I had witnessed something historic, something important. I certainly know I wasn’t witnessing domestic terrorism.

Here are some pictures that we took in CHOP. I’ll do my best, out of respect for the protesters, to not include any where the unmasked faces are identifiable.

 

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The Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone

Thanks to all the current demonstrations that have been happening because Black Lives Matter, a new protest society has sprung up in Seattle, Washington. It’s in a 6 block area of the Capitol Hill neighborhood, which has been ground zero for the most violent of the police responses to the protesters. For many nights, the streets were a fog of tear gas and flash bangs rang in the resident’s ears. Police cruisers were set alight, and looters were destroying area businesses.

Finally, the police boarded up and abandoned their East Precinct building, and closed the area off to traffic, with the exception of first responders. The building’s sign has since been altered. It now reads, “Seattle People Department East Precinct”.

Currently, volunteers are giving out free food, and there are first aid stations set up on many of the corners. People are camping out in tents. It is a free speech and police free zone. They even showed the movie “13th” on a bed sheet in an intersection, and 200 people peacefully attended. Children have decorated the streets with chalk. The area is now covered in protest graffiti and shrines to people who have died too young, for no justifiable reason.

There are rumors of people open carrying guns, and that’s rather worrisome to me. There is also rumors of extortion of local businesses, which is outrageous. And one of their demands is that the police department be defunded.

I’m not sure I agree with that. But I DO think police funds should be reallocated away from militarization and toward de-escalation training. I also think that for every cop, their ought to be a social worker. And there should be more citizen oversight and a heck of a lot more accountability. So if anything, these departments need more money, but differently handled. That’s just my opinion.

But it will be interesting to see how the Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone, a.k.a CHAZ, develops over the next weeks, even months. There’s no specific leadership there. Maybe that’s the point. But I don’t see how that’s sustainable. We’ll see.

I’m rather proud of Seattle for trying for a new society. Of course, Trump takes great exception to any situation that allows we, the people, to speak for ourselves. He tweeted, “Domestic Terrorists have taken over Seattle.” He blathered on, “Take back your city NOW. If you don’t do it, I will. This is not a game.”

Mayor Jenny Durkan responded, “Make us all safe. Go back to your bunker.”

That makes me like her a little more, even though people are calling for her to resign.

I’d like to go check out CHAZ. As of this writing, I’ve only experienced a virtual walk through, on line. If I do go, I’ll blog about it again. But my main takeaway at the moment is that, clearly, change needs to happen for our citizenry. #BlackLivesMatter

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