Bridge Woman

Everyone deserves a place where they feel safe.

As you prepare to eat a nice warm meal on this Thanksgiving day (provided you’re are able to overlook the disturbing colonial overtones of this holiday), and whether you’re spending the day with family or friends or all alone, I hope that you remember to count your blessings, dear reader. I know I’m making a lot of assumptions about your circumstances, but the fact that you have access to the internet tells me that, like me, you’re a lot better off than many people are.

I’d like to tell you about someone who doesn’t have it as good as we do. As I write this, she’s sorting through garbage in a ditch, not 20 yards from where I sit. Perspective.

Here at work, I spend a great deal of time watching the comings and goings of the people who cross my drawbridge. After doing this for a while, I began to spot patterns. I’ve learned people’s routines. I’ve created backstories about them in my head, which, admittedly, are quite likely inaccurate, but it helps me feel a certain kinship with these people, even though they probably don’t even know I exist.

In the past month or so, I’ve been seeing quite a bit of someone that I’ll call “Bridge Woman”. I considered calling her “Drainage Ditch Woman”, but that seems undignified.  And she needs all the dignity she can get.

I suspect that this woman is mentally ill and/or homeless. She spends hours on the bridge approaches, sitting on the curb that separates the sidewalk from the bike lane. She is completely engrossed in the detritus that flows down the drainage ditch. It’s as if she is panning for gold. She doesn’t even look up when someone goes past.

She sorts through the gunk, sifting out little bits of God-knows-what, and puts those things in what she deems to be their proper place. Some things are placed on the sidewalk, some on the curb, and apparently some things don’t pass muster and are returned to the ditch. I’ve tried to figure out her method of categorization, but I’ve yet to succeed.

She doesn’t do anyone any harm, and it is, after all, a public sidewalk, and she’s far enough away from the part of the bridge that moves to be safe, so I let her be. And I’m painfully aware that her odds of continuing to “be” are a lot higher when she sits on this bridge and quietly organizes away. Here, she’s relatively safe. No one hassles her. No one influences her or takes advantage of her vulnerability. If anyone tries to hurt her, there are witnesses. I strongly suspect that these things can’t be said about the rest of her days or nights.

According to the National Alliance to End Homelessness, women comprise only 29 percent of the homeless individuals (as opposed to families) in this country. This means they’re greatly outnumbered in most places. Women who are unsheltered have a much higher risk of premature death, mainly due to mental health and chronic health issues. And, “The rates of victimization and assault, including robbery, physical abuse, and sexual assault are much higher for women than men.”

An article entitled, “Rates of violence against the homeless are worse than you think” spells it out in upsetting detail. It also contains a link to a comprehensive report entitled, “Vulnerable to Hate: A Survey of Bias-Motivated Violence against People Experiencing Homelessness which details stats from 2016-2017.”

Here are some of the statistics from the article and that report that jumped out at me:

  • Life expectancy for someone who is homeless is 20-30 years less than the general population.
  • About 13,000 American homeless people die on the streets each year.
  • 1 in 3 homeless people have been deliberately hit, kicked, or experienced some other form of violence, including having things thrown at them. Some are urinated on, intimidated or threatened, or verbally abused or harassed.
  • While 1-3% of the general youth population report sexual assault, 21-42% of homeless youth have reported sexual assault. 1 in 3 teens are lured into prostitution within 48 hours of living on the street.
  • 1 in 3 homeless youth engage in survival sex.
  • The experience of violence in the lives of homeless women: A research report, showed that 78.3% of homeless women in the study had been subjected to rape, physical assault, and/or stalking. Those who experience such assault while homeless also lack access to legal, medical and mental health services, which can worsen the post traumatic effects of the experience.
  • The report also briefly focused on Seattle, my city, by saying, “many cities do not often provide free public restrooms that are easily accessible. For example, Seattle, which has the third-largest homeless population in the U.S, only had one functional 24-hour restroom, downtown, as of 2015.”

Homelessness is a rough life for anyone, but it’s even more so for women. So when I see Bridge Woman organizing garbage in the ditch, oddly enough I’m happy she’s there. Yes, I would like much more for her, but given the current state of the world, I think that that ditch is probably a safer place than many of her current societal alternatives. It makes me sad, but I genuinely believe that it’s true.

As winter approaches, and the cold, raw, Seattle weather settles in for the duration, I worry about Bridge Woman. I’m relieved to see that she now has warm clothing and good shoes, and she looks clean enough that she would blend in with the general population if only she were not so focused on the task at hand. I assume that she has been in contact with someone who cares, at least, either personally or professionally.

I hope her situation improves even more.

It probably won’t.

When the ditch is flooded with icy water, she may not enjoy her project quite as much. She’ll most likely choose to pass her time elsewhere. I hope that she continues to find safe places, ideally places that are warm and dry, where she won’t be hassled, even if it’s only for a few hours a day.

Gazing out the window at her, I count my blessings and think that she deserves better. I wonder if people understand how much we have let this woman down, or if they think she gets more than she’s entitled to. I have no idea what she wants or what she can get. I hope she is loved.

At a bare minimum, I’d like to think that all but the most cold-hearted among us can agree that everyone deserves a place where they feel safe. I’m glad my bridge has provided her with that kind of respite, if only for a short time.

I hope, dear reader, that like me, you use this holiday to give thanks for all that is good in your life, rather than thinking back, with pride, on the wholesale theft of this continent and all the bloodshed that was required to rip it from the hands of the people who were already here. If so, then Happy Thanksgiving!

Gratitude should not require a holiday. But if you’re giving added focus to it on this day, please consider ordering my book, Notes on Gratitude. And happy Thanksgiving, dear reader. I’m so glad you’re here!

A Masterpiece of Activism?

Well, they got our attention.

Two weeks ago, Tigrayan expats decided to protest against the genocide in Ethiopia that has been going on for two years, and has resulted in the deaths of hundreds of thousands of their people so far. I genuinely believe that this is an outrage that is worthy of protest. I’m glad these protestors got our attention for one brief, shining moment.

In this internet age, people in general and Americans specifically are hit with so much information that they are hard-pressed to focus on anything. They’re too overwhelmed. There are too many atrocities in the world. There are too many problems to solve.

While it’s hard to believe we could forget about an entire war, this is not the first time we’ve done so. I’m sure it won’t be the last. We don’t seem to care about anything unless it impacts us directly.

This protest was an act of desperation for the Tigrayan community in Seattle, which is the second largest in America. Only Washington DC has a larger community than ours. Back home, their people are dying. They’re being bombed and tortured and starved. The expats have no way of communicating with the loved ones they left behind, so they don’t know whether to grieve or “just” worry.

So, on Friday, November 4th, during afternoon rush hour traffic on the only North/South interstate that goes through the city, a large group of protesters gathered, blocking not only Northbound I-5, but also the I-90 ramps to I-5 in both directions. As if the Friday afternoon commute didn’t suck enough in this densely populated town. This, of course, caused total gridlock city wide.

Fortunately, I was going southbound. My commute time was “only” doubled, due to lookie-loos and people trying to take less familiar routes home. But I saw the Northbound traffic, at a complete standstill, for nearly 6 miles. And it remained that way for over an hour.

I’m sure a lot of people were weeping tears of frustration, trying to get home after an exhausting week of work, trying to pick up their children from school, trying to get to some much-needed food, and desperately wanting to pee. Not to mention that there was at least one ambulance caught in that mess, and it was carrying a patient in critical condition to the hospital. The police had to clear one lane to get them through, and it caused a significant delay. I hope that guy is okay.

I think that the general city-wide irritation quotient must have spiked higher than it should have because most of us didn’t know what was causing this delay until it was nearly over with, and even then, we were told there were only 6 protesters, instead of the several dozen that were actually on the scene. There were also several police cars present because it’s illegal to protest on an interstate, but in the end, they made no arrests.

It’s amazing how the forgotten slaughter of an entire group of people can make you sound like a whiny little b**ch when you complain about an hour and a half of your life being taken from you. It makes me feel rather pathetic and bloated with false privilege. It also made me drop the illusion that I have any control whatsoever regarding anything in life. But I can’t sustain that reality for long or I’ll go completely mad.

This protest hit every single local news outlet. It was talked about for days afterward. If reminding us/educating us all about this horrible genocide was their only goal, then I’d say mission accomplished, and then some.

But is that what they were trying to achieve? Or were they hoping to bring an end to a senseless war? If that was the plan, I don’t think shutting down Seattle was the best way to get people on their side.

I’d be all for a protest in front of an Ethiopian Embassy. I’d even be down for a protest that targeted some part of the American Bureaucracy, or even that of a local government agency if it has investments in Ethiopia. Power to the people! But blocking a lot of random individuals on an interstate? That had the wrong kind of impact.

I know I was frustrated. And I still, to this day, have no idea what I could do to help end this genocide. I have never believed that thoughts and prayers were that effective. I can chant, “May peace prevail upon the earth” a million times, and there will still be power-hungry a**holes acting out all over the globe.

I could call my congressperson. Yeah, yeah. But we’re all starting to realize that the political agenda and the people’s agenda are mutually exclusive. The American government is not going to care about Ethiopia until that caring benefits them.

I don’t think blocking traffic on a Seattle interstate is going to change a thing in Ethiopia, any more than pouring soup on an artistic masterpiece is going to stop oil. Are these protests masterpieces for their causes, or are they just a speed bump on the roads of our lives; a mild irritant until we move on? I suppose time will tell.

It’s the oil protesters who should block interstates. And maybe the genocide protesters should be pouring tomato soup on the politicians. I certainly wouldn’t blame them for that, even though I don’t condone violence in even the soupiest of forms.

The bottom line is that I think that the bulk of us whiners stuck in that commute from hell were made to whine for no good reason. I feel bad that that’s the case. Truly I do. But the only change it brought about from my perspective is that I got another reminder of my helplessness, and I had to take a nap when I got home. As I drifted off, I was grateful that I had a warm, dry, and safe home to go to.

But as I write this, the war in Ethiopia rages on, despite the Ethiopian Government signing a cessation of hostilities agreement a few days prior to the Seattle protest. And this surprises me not at all. Homo sapiens may think they are a superior species, but they’re sadly mistaken. Lest we forget, we humans are simply primates with delusions of grandeur, and we’ve proven, time and time again, that our prime motivation is power tightly intertwined with greed and selfishness.

Slightly off topic: I’ve been struggling with the reasons for my outrage at those throwing soup on masterpieces, but if you want a spot-on, albeit foul-mouthed explanation as to why this activism is so unacceptable, check out this Facebook Post by Advocatus Peregrini. Well said, indeed.

Sources:

A Weird Day on the Drawbridge

Some days are yours to struggle through and be transformed by.

I rolled up on my bridge at 6:30 am. My 38-minute commute was uneventful. So uneventful, in fact, that I had yet to snap out of my sleep-deprived fog. For all intents and purposes, I was operating on sheer muscle memory. My body is never ready to face the day when it is still pitch black outside, and will remain that way for another 45 minutes.

But you don’t always get to decide when you need to be alert. I have always found that fact to be extremely unfair. It almost reaches the level of being cruel and unusual punishment.

When I saw the shabby old vintage pickup truck parked in the bike lane on the other side of the span, I knew this wasn’t going to be good. That woke me up a little bit, because I usually have Sunday mornings all to myself. Seattleites tend to sleep in, especially at this time of year.

That truck was not in a normal location. Yes, it was far enough away from the movable span so that I could do a bridge opening if a vessel requested one, but it was entirely blocking the bike lane, and I was sure that the bicyclists around here would not take kindly to that. No one likes it when their routine gets interrupted, but they really, really don’t like it.

I called up the graveyard shift guy to see if he knew anything about the truck. He did not. So I told him that I was going to approach the vehicle. If he didn’t hear back from me in 5 minutes, things probably weren’t going well for me.

What was I going to find in the truck? Someone passed out? Dead? A paranoid, gun-toting drug addict shooting up?

As I got closer, I spotted the note on the windshield and relaxed a little. No one was in the truck. The note said that the truck broke down, and that he’d be back in an hour or two, hopefully with a tow truck. Fortunately, he left his number.

I figured I’d cut the guy a break and give him an hour or so. If your car breaks down, the last thing you need is for someone to add impound fees to your anticipated expenses. I mean, haven’t you suffered enough?

I did text the guy and explained that the truck needed to be moved ASAP because it was in the bike lane. No response. But it was still early.

Then I opened my email and discovered a message from a fellow bridgetender who had worked swing shift the night before, saying the truck ended up there around 10 pm last night, and the guy was really apologetic and said he’d be back in an hour or two. Okay, that put a different spin on it. I texted the guy again and said that if I didn’t hear from him soon, I’d have to report an abandoned vehicle to Seattle PD.

I really didn’t want to do that, so I wrote up the incident report slowly, hoping that the guy would call me. I was in no hurry, really, because I doubted SPD would actually show up. They rarely do, unless someone is wielding a machete, or someone is bleeding out. (Speaking from experience.)

The guy finally called at 9 am to ask if the truck was still there. He said it had taken him all that time to find a ride. Hmm.

It was a good thing he called though, because when I looked out the window to confirm that the truck was still sitting there, I saw a guy opening its hood, and he began fiddling around in there. I asked the owner if he had sent anyone ahead. He said no.

I hate thieves. I really do. So, keeping the guy on the phone, I approached said thief and asked if this was his car. The little twerp said no, he was just trying to help. I told him that help was on the way, so he need not stick around. I then slammed the hood shut. The guy started walking slowly up the street. He’d stop about every 100 feet or so, pretending to tie his shoe, when actually, he was checking to see if I was still standing there.

You bet your life I was. With arms crossed. I got back on the phone and explained the situation, and the owner said he was en route. Once the attempted thief had rounded the corner, I decided it was safe to return to the tower, but I kept an eye on the truck. 

That was fortunate, because 10 minutes later, another guy came slowly down the street from the direction that attempted thief had gone. Of course, he had every right to do that, but what got my attention is that he was looking around furtively. He was also dressed similarly to thief number one. He stopped in front of the truck and was reaching toward the hood when I shouted.

HEY!

He immediately walked away, while speaking to someone on his cell phone. I didn’t even have to explain what I was shouting about. He knew. (And have you ever noticed how adrenalizing it is to shout? I hate shouting.) I’m pretty sure that if I hadn’t been there, the truck guy would no longer have a battery or a catalytic converter or hubcaps.

The owner arrived at 9:30. I verified it was him by asking for the name on the note, then seeing that he had the key, and also, I quizzed him about what we had previously discussed and took a photo of his driver’s license.

I asked him if anything was missing, and he said it looked like someone had been inside the cab, but that he hadn’t left anything of value in there. Things were just rearranged. He said he would wait until AAA showed up with the tow truck, and then get out of my way.

He told me he was trying really hard to get back up on his feet. That broke my heart, because it looked like the guy was about 70 years old. That’s a hard stage in life from which to start over again. I wished him luck. He thanked me for my kindness, and asked me to thank the swing shift guy, too, because he had been really kind as well.

That made all the effort worthwhile. He seemed like a good man who was just down on his luck, so I was doubly glad that I hadn’t added an impound fee to that mix. I went back to my tower, cursing quietly to myself, at the economy and at COVID and at aging in general. Soon the tow truck arrived and off they went.

What a strange start to the day. Start, it turns out, was the operative word. This day was just warming itself up.

I was sitting at the desk, scanning the horizon for vessels that might need a bridge opening, and musing about what to write about next (which is why this job is perfect for a blogger), when I thought of an old friend who is about truck guy’s age and I said to myself, “I wonder whatever happened to Max?”

That sent me down a cybertunnel for a few hours, because he hadn’t left a big online footprint. When I came out the other side of the cybertunnel, I had discovered that my friend had passed away a year and a half ago. I sat there for a while with tears in my eyes, trying to absorb that news. I didn’t know what to do.

Ultimately, I wrote a blog post about it, so I could express my feelings. Writing always helps me. But I think I was in shock for most of the rest of my shift. I had been living in a Max-less world for months without knowing it, and that felt strange.

Finally, it was time to go home. It was also the last day of my work week, and I was looking forward to relaxing. I was emotionally drained. On the way home, I listened to one of my favorite NPR shows, called Snap Judgment. I like to tell stories, but I also like to have stories told to me, and this show does that with aplomb.

But on this day, of all days, the story was particularly gut wrenching. It was called Finn and the Bell, and it won a Peabody Award for good reason. It’s about an amazing boy named Finn, and it’s told from his mother’s perspective. It had to be told by her, because Finn committed suicide as a teen. (If you click on that link and listen to it, have a box of tissues close at hand.)

But this was not a story about suicide. They don’t ever even discuss why he did it. Its focus is how amazing this kid was while living, and it’s about coping with the gaping hole he left behind him. This hole is not only in the heart of his mother, but also in the heart of the little town where they lived. And the mother is so raw and honest with her emotions that you feel like you have that hole in your heart yourself. It felt like a very important story to hear, so I’m glad that I did.

But this meant that I spent the latter half of my commute having a huge ugly cry. I cried for the nice old truck guy who was being forced to start over. I cried because I hadn’t had a chance to tell my friend how grateful I was to have known him, and how I’d miss him. And I cried for Finn, a boy with so much potential, whose life was cut short just as it was getting started.

That cry purged a lot of gunk out of my soul. (And believe me, I tried to find a better word than gunk, but in the end, gunk was the only word that truly applied.) I didn’t realize how much I needed that release. It was cleansing.

By the time I got home, I felt sad and tired, but somehow lighter. I told Dear Husband about my day as soon as I walked in the door, but I think this was the kind of day that you can’t truly understand unless you were there. He was sympathetic, of course, and I was grateful for that. But it was impossible for me to fully articulate how much this day had impacted me.

I spent the evening on my recliner, cuddling my dog, watching TV with Dear Husband, and not really absorbing what we watched. I was just trying to get used to my new state of mind, while feeling an overwhelming sense of gratitude for my life and my good fortune.

Some days are all yours. They can’t really be shared, whether you like it or not. They are yours to struggle through and be transformed by.

And this was definitely one of those days.

Are you wondering what to bring to Thanksgiving dinner? How about my book, Notes on Gratitude? Place your orders now! (Or any other time, since we’re on the subject.) And… thanks!

Rest in Play, Eclipse

She was love and kindness, dog-ified.

The citizens of Seattle are a little bit more sad today, because our beloved, internationally known, solo bus riding dog has passed away. According to this article, she had cancer and died in her sleep. She was only 10 years old.

I never met Eclipse personally, but as I note in my post entitled One More Thing to Love About Seattle, she was one of the many things that made me really happy to call this area home when I first got here. And this article in NPR entitled, Eclipse the dog, known for riding the bus alone to the dog park, has died tells you everything you need to know about how beloved she was. It includes a twitter post with hundreds of comments by those who will mourn her loss, as well as a delightful YouTube video that was made by King Country Metro about her, which I’ll post below.

Eclipse showed us all that some things transcend species, require no language, and will always make the world a better place. Those things are love and kindness. Thank you, Eclipse, for teaching us all. Since you always had your bus pass on your collar, I’m sure there was a bus waiting to take you to the Rainbow Bridge in style.

Are you wondering what to bring to Thanksgiving dinner? How about my book, Notes on Gratitude? Place your orders now! (Or any other time, since we’re on the subject.) And… thanks!

Witnessing the Fall of Civilization

“B****, you better back off…”

The day before I wrote this was a surreal one for me. It seemed like an endless parade of the very worst of humanity. I have no idea what I had done to deserve VIP seating for this shameful display, but whatever it was, mea maxima culpa.

It was my day off, and yet I still had to make the drive to Seattle because I had a doctor’s appointment. Fortunately, the building where the doctor’s office is located has a parking garage, and I decided to take advantage of that rather than circle the building for blocks, in the blistering heat, in hopes of finding a more affordable space.

Much to my shock, I got to park at the space closest to the door which is, in turn, closest to the lobby elevators. Dear Husband calls this Doris Day parking, and who am I to pass that by? So, having suitably garaged the car, I made it to my appointment in record time.

Things didn’t start going sideways until after said appointment. I expected to breeze over to my car and toodle off about my business, as one does. But no.

You always see violence going on in parking garages in the movies and on TV. It makes you wonder why anyone would even consider entering one of these places, let alone leaving their valuable car therein. But I had never witnessed anything nefarious within one myself, so I walked into the parking garage without giving anything much thought. My car was right there, just waiting to be ignited. (Well, that’s why they call it an ignition, right?) I could hear a car approaching. That didn’t concern me very much, because, you know, that’s what cars do in these places.

So imagine my surprise when the vehicle in question came around the curve and stopped at a cock-eyed angle, completely blocking the driving lane, and… just sat there. It was creepy enough that I decided to kind of hunker down in my car with my doors locked and wait until this person moved on before I pulled out. I hadn’t been seen.

Then another car came along. The driver waited about 10 seconds, because why on earth wouldn’t car number 1 move under these circumstances? I mean, common sense, right?

Once it was clear that the driver of car 1 wasn’t a team player, the driver of car 2 laid on her horn. Since we were in the bowels of a concrete garage, this naturally echoed off all the walls to the point where none but the dead could have ignored it. The air was fairly vibrating with hornage. And yet car 1 didn’t budge.

Now I was a little concerned. Did this person have a heart attack or something? The building is a medical complex after all. I peeked over my seat. Should I get out and take a look?

Fortunately for me, before I could do this, car 1’s window rolled down, and the lady within screamed, “F*** YOU!!!”

I took that as a sign that she was in great shape, so I stayed put. “Okay, here we go,” I thought.

And then car 2’s window rolled down. She screamed, “Move your f***ing car!”

These were both middle aged women, alone in their nice cars, getting ready take off their earrings and throw down. This left me with nothing to do but clutch my pearls.  And then again with the horn. Enough already!

This prompted the lady from car 1 to leap out of the car. The blaring horn had my ears ringing, so I can’t be certain of what she said, but it was something along the lines of, “B****, you better back off…”

That would have been plenty for me. I’d have thrown it into reverse so fast I’d probably leave my torque converter bouncing down the ramp. GTFO first, call 911 later, you know? But not this lady.

She leaps out of car 2, slams the door and starts screaming. “You are in the f***ing way! Move your G****** car NOW!”

I was wishing I could employ the exit plan that car 2 had so stupidly decided against. Torque Converters can be replaced, right? But by that time my window of opportunity had disappeared. They were facing off right behind my car.

Never in my life have I seen two women punching each other in the face. Maybe I’ve led a sheltered life or something, but oh shit, they were whaling on each other, and I was freaked out. As they tumbled away from me, I heard a man shout, and saw him running toward the action. I took that opportunity to take off.

When I got to the ticket booth, I told the attendant what was going on, and he sighed and immediately reached for the phone. I suspect I’ll never find out what happened next, because I was not about to stick around to talk to the cops, especially since from my perspective, both of those fools were at fault.

Oh, and by the way, the lady in Car 2 was wearing scrubs. I know that our healthcare workers have been under an extraordinary amount of stress for the past few years, and I feel for them, but come on. I’m sure there are much easier ways to get fired than to show up in your own ER, having given as good as you got.

Feeling nauseous from the adrenaline dump, I then had to drive back home during rush hour. And people were road raging right and left. (Did I mention it was an extremely hot Tuesday afternoon?) People were tailgating and honking and swerving. I just tried to focus on getting home in one piece.

But before I got home, I needed to stop for gas, and since the station is right in front of a grocery store, I decided to go in and pick up a few things. Because, you know, what else could go wrong, right?

Wrong. I walked in, and there were no empty carts anywhere in the store. They were short staffed, and no one had gone out to collect the strays in the parking lot. People were pissed. I decided it was too darned hot to go back outside, so I just figured I’d put things in my grocery bags, and if anyone accused me of shoplifting, I’d try not to react like the women in the parking garage.

After I had picked up about half of my items, I noticed that a fresh-faced stock boy had left a line of carts full of things to be shelved in the middle of the aisle and had walked away. So I grabbed the cereal boxes out of the first cart, dumped them into the second cart, and pretty much ran away with the empty. People were eyeing my cart as if it were a porterhouse steak. It’s a jungle out there. What had come over me? I felt no sense of remorse for stealing from someone who is probably still in high school, and most likely couldn’t care less. And besides, to quote Ferris Bueller, “If I’m going to be caught, it’s not gonna be by a guy like that!”

As I wheeled the cart away, my items comfortably ensconced therein, I considered the irony of stealing a cart so as not to look like a shoplifter. I headed toward the deli section. On a day like this, I deserved elephant ears. Nothing less would do.

My timing was just abysmal that day, because I rounded the corner just as a very large man grabbed a tiny woman by the arm and spun her around. That was going to leave a mark. He bent down, inches from her face. His eyes were bulging, his face was red, and he spat out, “WE’RE TALKING ABOUT TWO DIFFERENT THINGS!!!”

Whatever that means. My instinct is always toward rescue, but I couldn’t have overpowered that guy. And besides, the woman just rolled her eyes at him as if she was used to such treatment. (If he’ll do that in a grocery store, she’s probably used to a lot more behind closed doors.)

I stood there at a distance, bearing wimpy witness, until he let her go, though. She just scoffed and walked away. I wish I could have told her that his behavior is unacceptable, but I feared escalating the situation. And she was an adult, after all. If she wanted rescuing, she could have run toward the cashiers and screamed bloody murder. If that had happened, I might have mowed him down with my stolen cart to increase her lead. Oops. But there’s only so much you can do for people.

I finished my shopping, feeling sad and tired and wanting nothing more than to go home to Dear Sane Husband.  Naturally, the checkout lines were long, so I just stood in queue with my eyes closed, waiting for this fresh hell to be over so that I could stuff my face with elephant ears on the drive. At home, I’d create a distraction from all the self-soothing carb crumbs covering the front of my shirt by giving a couple ears to DH. That would make him, effectively, an accomplice.

After finally getting past the cashier, I headed toward the exit, past the jewelry department, through women’s wear, feeling disgust that they are already trying to sell sweaters when it’s 90 degrees out. And then I walked into the alcove, the sliding doors within reach, my car within sight like a light at the end of a beastly tunnel, and that’s when I saw a guy off in the corner. He was conveniently located where he couldn’t be seen from inside the store. He was dressed in black from head to toe. He had a duffel bag that appeared to be at least three feet long. He was squatting down with his back to me, and he was rummaging through it as if he were on a critical mission.

I didn’t stick around to see the contents of that bag. I ran to my car, hopped in, pulled to the other side of the parking lot, and called the store. I asked for security. But what I got was voicemail. FFS, if someone is calling security, maybe there should be someone available to answer the phone! I called again and pressed zero and got some teenager who clearly hates her job. When I told her about the sketchy guy rummaging around in a big duffel bag in their north alcove, she just said, “Okay…”

Useless. I sat in the parking lot for a second, thinking how crazy the cops were going to think I was, because there’s no law against rummaging around in a duffel bag. But after the day I’d had, with its constant reminders of how uncivilized and hate-filled people have become since 2016, and how many innocent people have died because of it, I had no choice but to call 911.

After the usual explanations and descriptions, they said they’d send someone out, and I truly hope they did. They had my number if they had any questions, so I took myself out of firing range as I dove headlong into my elephant ears. Home has never been so sweet.

I spent the evening in a stupor, and that night I slept as if I had been hit with a brick. No one ever called, and I didn’t read about a mass shooting in women’s wear the next day. So maybe sometimes a duffel bag is just a duffel bag. Unfortunately, these days, you can never be too sure.

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Deprogramming Myself from Dan Price’s Cult of Personality

Yet another bubble burst.

When I first heard about the Dan Price scandal and started writing this blog post about it, its title was going to be, “No Freakin’ Way!” Then, I started to read up on it, and I decided to change the title to, “Say It Isn’t So, Please”.

And then I read the article in the New York Times.

At first I read it with shock, thinking that the Times isn’t usually up for an all-out vicious attack on someone. They are usually more measured in their reporting. But by the time I finished the article, and read the quotes from something like 75 sources, I realized that there were too many allegations, too many accusations, too many lawsuits, and too many stories for me to continue to deny that they don’t all hold at least a kernel of truth. And given how despicable the stories are, even a kernel of truth is enough to put me off Dan Price for good.

That leaves me wondering how to cope with my sadness and disappointment. I really wanted to believe that the public persona Dan had worked so hard to promote was real. I wanted to believe that there could actually be a rich guy out there who spoke out against corporate greed and corruption. I wanted to think that maybe there was someone in power who actually gave a crap about the little guy. I’d never seen that before, and I wanted it to be true so badly that I fell entirely into Dan Price’s thrall. It’s no comfort at all that so many women have done the same and lived to regret it.

Way back in 2015, I wrote a glowing blog post entitled, Dan Price: Man of my Freakin’ Dreams. And I meant every word of it. Now I read that post and I cringe. But I won’t take it down, because it will forever be a reminder to me to never, ever fall for the branding.

Back then, Dan reduced his million-dollar salary in order to give all his employees a raise to at least $70,000 a year. Every single one, right down to the guy who mops the floors at night. And since then, that figure has increased to somewhere around 80k to 100k, depending on what source you read. I mean, who does that?

Dan Price does. And that’s laudable. I can still stand by that, at least. But that’s not a get out of jail free card for rape, domestic violence, and emotional abuse. And if it turns out that it was just a show to get out of a lawsuit with his brother, as is credibly laid out in this Bloomberg article from 2015, then even that good act came from a bad place.

While doing research for this post, I came across a Facebook post that I wrote nearly a year after my blog post that I mentioned above, in which I gave its link and gushed, “Omigod, a friend went to see this guy at some public speaking event, and I jokingly told her to have him read this blog entry, and she DID! And he DID! He thanked me and said he hoped we’d get to meet some day.”

With hindsight, that Facebook post seems as surreal to me as the current situation. I doubt seriously that the man stood there at that busy event and took the time to read my blog post. Oddly enough, I have no memory of that conversation, or even whom I had it with. But it was obvious that I had stars in my liberal eyes. Now I can see that I was a total fangirl, and I’m nauseated by that realization.

For me back then, Dan was the guy who proved that you can walk the talk and actually prosper while at the same time not grinding your employees down to a mere shadow of their former selves. (You’ll never see Jeff Bezos doing that. Amazon warehouse employees are treated like crap.) But Dan impressed the hell out of me. He led me to conclude that he was a guy who cared about people.

I convinced myself that he had proven that it really is possible to fix capitalism. I’m sure that had a lot of corporate fat cats on edge. They don’t want to be forced to do the right thing. They don’t want to think of anyone but themselves. I was sure that those rich white men would love nothing better than to see Dan Price disappear. (That reminds me of an art installation I saw when I lived in Holland. It was an electronic marquee that said, over and over again, “If you behaved nicely, the Communists wouldn’t exist.”)

I allowed myself to think that Dan was being targeted by someone very rich who was probably paying people off to say these horrible things about my hero. I was still trying to believe that this whole mess was pure fabrication. I comforted myself with that theory for a few days. Because, you know, he really did give those raises. He did.

But in order to write this post, which I thought would be full of righteous indignation, I had to first do my homework. I started off by reading these articles:

They were not particularly credible in my eyes. I refused to allow them to be true. I was still allowing myself to stay in Dan Price’s cult of personality, where I felt safe and where everything was so warm and fuzzy. Without that faith in mankind, where would I go? What would I do?

But as the evidence mounted, I tried to tell myself that maybe this good guy just snapped under all the pressure. (As if that would be a valid excuse.) Being a poster child for anything at the age of 38, after having been sued by your own brother for doing the right thing (as I thought that situation had played out at the time, based, in retrospect, solely on Dan’s version of events), and his not knowing who his friends truly are anymore, must come with a great deal of stress. At the very least, it’s a safe bet that Thanksgiving dinner in the Price household is somewhat tense.

“Poor little rich boy,” My inner voice whispered to me.

But I wasn’t ready to escape the cult just yet. For me, Dan symbolized what is possible if you have integrity and morality and decency. He made me believe that the world could turn around if enough good people did good things. Maybe this big blue greedball on which we all live could alter its trajectory and stop hurtling straight toward the fiery sun. It could happen.

Why would anyone want to give up on that faith in mankind? I clung to it like a drowning man clings to flotsam. I really didn’t want to let go.

Next, I came across a whole series of articles by a guy named Doug Forbes. He had written them over the space of several years. Each one was a damning opinion piece about Dan Price.

But, you know, I tend to take opinion pieces with a grain of salt. I wanted truth, not opinions. This guy was saying he talked to dozens of people, but he did not cite any of them, except, I think, Dan’s ex-wife, who, I told myself, was probably bitter. And this guy Forbes, I told myself, must hate Dan for whatever reason, and he’s given himself this forum to spew his speculations into cyberspace.

I told myself that the accusations against Dan were so disgusting and extreme that the charges had to be trumped up, right? I mean, who resorts to waterboarding a woman? Who drowns a dog in a swimming pool? Who rapes women in their sleep and emotionally abuses employees? (Well, actually, a lot of men do that last bit. But not the good men, right?)

But, just as with so many other cult members who start to wake up, a lot of conflicting thoughts were running through my head.

He’s such a nice guy! This can’t be true! At that point my inner voice was whispering, “But you used to think that about Bill Cosby back in the day, didn’t you?”

There are some sick people in this world, and that’s a fact. I just didn’t want Dan Price to be one of them. Not that guy.

During my research, I kept seeing links to the New York Times article about him. When I’d click on it, I’d get their website, and a few tantalizing sentences, but in order to see more I’d have to subscribe. I have a great deal of respect for the New York Times, but I didn’t want Dan Price to be the reason I got a subscription. Instead, a friend (Hi Tracy!) was kind enough to gift me the article from her subscription. (If you know someone with a subscription, they are allowed to “gift” 10 articles per month to people. It’s perfectly legitimate.)

I read the entire article, and any fantasies that rich white fat cats had created this scandal to destroy Dan Price’s squeaky clean reputation fell by the wayside. In retrospect I can’t even imagine why I entertained such a fantasy to begin with. I don’t believe in conspiracies, because large groups of human beings find it impossible to keep secrets, and those evil rich men would have had to find nearly a hundred people who would be willing to lie about Dan for money.

Impossible.

But the final nail in Dan Price’s coffin, as far as I’m concerned, is that he admitted, before two witnesses who were both willing to speak out, that he used to restrain his wife, but he admitted to them that that was not the right thing to do.

Ya think? And yet you did it, Danny Boy. This was a choice you made, multiple times. That’s seriously twisted.

I began looking back at his interviews with Kelly Clarkson and Oprah Winfrey, etc. through a more cynical lens, and I realized that the people interviewing him were total fangirls, too. Heck, even Trevor Noah compared him to Jesus! They all wanted a feel good segment for their shows, and this guy fit the bill. And it doesn’t hurt that he’s good looking. Why scratch that sexy surface?

Now I realize that Dan Price is his own spin doctor. I discovered that all the memes I had shared about him had originated from… Dan Price. I never allowed myself to think that a humble man doesn’t need to toot his own horn so much unless he either a) knows that he’s not really that popular in real life, and this is his only way to get admiration, or…  b) he has something to hide.

And I was even more disgusted that I fell for all these wonderful liberal memes when I learned that he didn’t even write them himself. He hired someone else to do it. I had always imagined him kicked back on his couch after a long day of decently paying his troops, typing away, speaking from the heart. Instead, he told the guy the image he wanted to have, and the guy provided it. And I inadvertently helped to prop up this image by sharing those memes on Facebook.

Now my inner voice is quoting a dearly departed loved one: “Even if you pour syrup all over something, that doesn’t make it a pancake.”

I need to own the fact that it was highly simplistic of me to think that a member of my flawed species could be pure and good and devoid of tarnish. That’s too much to expect of anyone.

It is possible to do good deeds and be a scumbag at the same time. That annoys me. It would be so much easier if Dan had just picked a side. I really hate shades of gray.

Of course, none of us will ever know the complete truth about Dan Price. If there’s a despicability spectrum, we’ll never be certain where to place him on it. But he’s definitely on the spectrum, and so I’m done with him.

That leaves me in an awkward position. Should I hope the accusations are completely true so that I can at least be comforted by the idea that justice is real, or should I hope they are mostly false, only to watch his carefully honed and oh-so-appealing brand be destroyed by them?

There’s no good answer.

I had always read that breaking free of a cult is hard. I never thought I’d have to struggle through self-deprogramming. I feel like such a fool, and it leaves me wanting to boil myself in bleach.

So, yet another bubble burst. Damn, but it was such a lovely fantasy. I’m going to miss it. And that hurts.

My Love/Hate Relationship with the Blue Angels

The cons are starting to outweigh the pros for me.

The iconic Seattle Seafair was cancelled/reduced for two years running due to the pandemic. Personally, I didn’t miss it, because I’m always working on my drawbridge for the three main days, and they are some of the most hectic days on my bridge. In an 8 hour stretch this past Saturday, I opened for 26 vessels, and each time, street traffic was backed up for miles. The shift definitely went by quickly, but I had to get rude just to eat my lunch, and I got no blogging done. I’m home now, but jittery from the adrenaline dump.

I think that most Seattleites would agree that the crown jewels of Seafair are the performances by the Blue Angels and the Hydro Races. I’ve never seen the races, but I hear they’re pretty spectacular. Of that I have no doubt, but the pollution and the carbon footprint would be forever on my mind while watching them.

I have seen the Blue Angels multiple times. When I was around 19 and could rock a bikini, I used to drive out to the beach every chance I got, and the five jets would often blast past, hugging the Florida coastline. We girls would wave, but I have no idea why. I’m sure for them we were just a blur. So now, more than anything, the Blue Angels make me nostalgic for my 19 year old butt.

In Seattle, the flight path they used to take always had them buzzing the South Park Bridge, where I used to work on Sundays. The first time they did that on my watch, it scared me half to death. I was out on the balcony, washing windows, and my back was turned to them. By the time I heard the roar of the engines and turned around, they were right over the top of me, flying in formation, quite low, making my tower shake and the windows rattle. That’ll wake you up.

And at University Bridge, where I work now, I used to be able to see a little bit of their performance on the horizon. But not this day. Their flight plan has been altered. I could hear their engines, but not see them.

Seattle used to close the 520 Bridge for this event, because back in the day drivers would get distracted by the jets and get into accidents, causing a city-wide traffic snarl. (520 is one of the primary east-west arteries for the county.) So they decided to close the bridge instead, which also causes a city-wide traffic snarl. This year, they planned their flight path to avoid having to close that bridge or cause a distraction, which I suppose makes sense, but the Blue Angels still caused a city-wide traffic snarl.

My commute home falls right at the beginning of their scheduled afternoon performance, so, although I would have pulled into my driveway 38 minutes later on a typical Saturday, on this day it took 1 hour and 25 minutes. Not only were there several accidents on the interstate as people tried to take pictures of the jets as they blasted past (heck, I almost rear-ended someone while taking this not-so-good picture below for your viewing pleasure), but then the Department of Transportation, in its chronic shortsightedness, chose to continue their weekend construction work despite the festival, narrowing the highway from five lanes to two, right at the same spot where the jets were flying overhead. This caused the slowed down drivers to slow down even more to take in the spectacle. Can you say clusterf**k?

So, yeah, exciting performance, but the cons are starting to outweigh the pros for me. I’ve written about some of those cons before, in a blog post called What Price Patriotism? In it, I disclose how much it costs the taxpayers to keep these 5 jets in the air, the amount of jet fuel they burn in the average show, causing the carbon footprint from hell, and the noise pollution that terrifies every dog in the city.

That post was written in 2018, so the numbers, if anything, have only grown. But frankly, after a Seafair day on the drawbridge, I’m really too tired to do the research to bring the figures up to date. But if you read that blog post, the 2018 numbers will curl your toes.

The Angels are basically a big PR push to recruit cannon fodder for our military industrial complex. They make the military look fun and exciting, even though their target audience for recruiting is young people from backgrounds that are so impoverished that they see the military as their only ticket out of their situation. Most of those will never get within a mile of these fancy jets, let alone fly them. And these poor kids will quickly discover that much of the time the military is not fun and exciting. In fact, it’s usually pretty darned boring unless you’re being shot at, and then, if you’re injured, you get to spend your life being neglected by the very government you joined up to protect, even as you beg to be cared for by their understaffed and incompetent VA hospitals for illnesses you got on duty which they will refuse to acknowledge.

It can be argued that the Blue Angels allow Americans to feel patriotic. And I’m sure I would have eaten that up with a big ol’ spoon when I was a kid, but the more I learn about the fraud, waste and abuse in the military, the more I see how they have devastated other countries, overthrown democratically elected foreign leaders, caused some of the worst pollution in the world’s history, and have disproportionately placed our nation’s minorities and poor on the front lines, all while holding back the children of most politicians (along with the politicians themselves), it doesn’t feel like patriotism to me. It kind of makes me sick.

Those taxpayer dollars would be put to better use by recruiting teachers for our public schools. They could allow us to have guaranteed health care like every other industrialized nation on the planet. They could fund much needed social services. All these things would make me feel a heck of a lot more patriotic than acrobatic machines that glorify war will ever do.

Since many Seattleites view their performance as a tradition that they’ve enjoyed since 1972, I’m sure this blog post won’t be popular with many of them. But there’s an increasing number of complaints about the noise, and the fact that they fly so low over residential districts. If and when one of them falls out of the sky, as has happened before in other places, it is sure to take out entire neighborhoods.

I have enjoyed their performances more than once, mainly because they couldn’t be avoided. But the environmental impact, the taxpayer expense, the glorification of war, and the potential for major disaster makes me think that my desire to wax nostalgic over my 19 year old butt is not worth the price that we all pay. And, you know, two years without them did not seem to cause the end of the world as we know it. (The pandemic is doing that all on its own.)

Maybe it’s time to move on. Maybe it’s time to get patriotic about doing good, peaceful things that benefit mankind and the planet. Maybe it’s time to appreciate education and compassion for our fellow man. Maybe true patriotism is about not doing stuff like causing an insurrection in the nation’s capital that was ginned up by a president who was a poor looser, a liar, and a power-hungry fascist, whose destruction will be with us for decades.

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Communing with the Wildlife of the Pacific Northwest

A delightful afternoon at the Northwest Trek Wildlife Park.

In honor of Dear Husband’s birthday, we decided to spend the afternoon with three good friends at Northwest Trek, a 720 acre wildlife park in Eatonville, Washington, which is about an hour and a half south of Seattle. This was my first visit to the place, but I hope it won’t be my last. If you get the chance, check it out. You may see as many as 40 different types of animals that are native to the Pacific Northwest.

Part of the park is a free roaming area consisting of 435 acres, where you are essentially a captive in your car, and the bison, elk, caribou, moose, bighorn sheep, deer, mountain goats, eagles, cormorants, and disabled swans amble about unfettered. Here are some of the photos we took during that portion of the experience.

It used to be that these tours were in a guided tram, but then, you know, pandemic. So they switched to having a group of private cars following a lead car in close formation, and they broadcast their talk on your radio. Their website says that they will have trams again eventually, but in the meantime, pray that your new paint job doesn’t encounter a moose in a foul mood, because you have to sign a waiver that releases the park of any liability. Jokes aside, I found it rather exciting, and not only because we escaped unscathed.

The other part of the park contains the walking paths. If you’re lucky and nobody is hiding in their enclosure, you’ll see bears, foxes, wolverines, wolves, eagles, owls, racoons, skunks, beavers, badgers, porcupines, otters, cougar, lynx and bobcats.

Most of the enclosures for these animals were really large and made you forget that there was a barrier between you and them. This allows them to behave more naturally. It was great fun seeing a black bear pop his head out of his den. He was in torpor, so his groggy self looked like Dear Husband before his first cup of coffee. A red fox peeked out at us from under a log. My favorite was the gigantic cougar. I had never before come face to face with one, thank goodness, so I had no idea how massive they are. Check out the videos and photos we took below.

What an amazing experience! Two fun facts I learned on this day and won’t ever forget: 1) Moose can dive up to 18 feet to eat the plant life at the bottom of a lake. 2) No full grown adult should ever volunteer to sit in the middle of the back seat of a Volvo XC 60. Leave that to flexible humans under the age of 12. You’ll be glad you did.

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Beware of False Patriotism

There has been a fascist streak running through this country since the 1700’s.

A friend of mine recently directed me to an offering in the PBS Short Film Festival entitled A Night at the Garden. From the title, you’d expect it to be bucolic. Images in my head include the sounds of crickets, fireflies flashing amongst the trees, a babbling brook, cows lowing in the distance. Peaceful.

Yeah. This video is not that. Not even close.

The video itself is only 6 minutes long. The rest of it is credits. I encourage you to take a few minutes to watch it. It is terrifying. It’s actual footage of the 1939 Nazi rally at Madison Square Garden in New York City. It’s an important film to watch, because history has been repeating itself of late, and since we have more access to misinformation, more of us are vulnerable to this type of false patriotism.

According to Wikipedia, 20,000 people attended that Fascist rally, and when you see the footage, the pomp and circumstance will give you the chills. People marching in lock step, American flags interspersed with Nazi flags. A gigantic image of George Washington, as if he were a god. People giving the Nazi salute to the American flag. Patriotism at its most terrifying.

And wait until you get to the part where the protester runs up on stage and is beaten up by about 20 to 30 Ordnungsdienst, the militia that was organized by the German American Bund to protect them at the rally. They throw the protester to the ground, kick him, and punch him. All this while the speaker looks on and smiles. If the local police hadn’t dragged the poor protester off stage, he may very well have been killed. Instead, they fined him 25 dollars for disorderly conduct (which is the equivalent of $505.66 in today’s money). That must have been a bitter pill to swallow given the conduct of the Nazis that the world would come to know.

At the time of this rally, the Nazis were operating 6 concentration camps. But Americans only stopped ignoring the constant drumbeat of news regarding these camps by around 1944 and by then there were almost too many to count. It’s not that we didn’t know. We just didn’t want to believe or think about it. But when Johnny came marching home with horror stories, there was no more room for denial.

But let’s go back to that Nazi rally on American soil in 1939. This time let’s avert our gaze from the stage. (Yes, please!) Let’s look at the 20,000 Americans in the audience.

One has to wonder how many people in attendance had already joined the German American Bund. This was, after all, pure propaganda, and it would serve that organization well to pack the Garden so people would think that this hatred was the prevailing attitude. Fortunately, Wikipedia tells us that there were 100,000 protesters outside, including WWI veterans wrapped in the American flag.

And this little tidbit from Wikipedia really had me intrigued: “One of the most mystifying disturbances came from a blaring speaker set up in a second-floor room of a rooming house at the southern corner of Forty-ninth Street and Eight Avenue. Shortly before 8 o’clock it began blaring out a denunciation of Nazis and urging “Be American, Stay at Home.” Upon investigation, the room was found untenanted: the voice of these ‘denunciations’ came from a record, timed to go off at 7:55 pm.”

I would dearly love to hear the story behind that.

Mayor LaGuardia hoped that by allowing the rally at the Garden, the disturbing spectacle would convince people that this group was one to be avoided. But he also knew that things were bound to get ugly, so he dispatched 1,700 uniformed officers outside, and 600 undercover officers inside.

There is really no way to know the makeup of the audience. The GAB’s membership rolls were already dwindling. (Hence the need for the rally.) One has to assume that a certain percentage were already members, and that a certain percentage had fallen for the disinformation campaign, and/or were anti-semites who were looking for like-minded friends.

It’s also important to remember that this was 1939, and people had been suffering the effects of the Great Depression for a decade. That’s a lot of disaffected countrymen who were longing to “Make America Great Again.” As we know at present, people are willing to swallow anything if they think it will bring them some relief.

But the attendees that I worry about the most are the very small percentage who had no idea what they were getting themselves into. The posters for this event called it a “Pro-American Rally.” It mentions “True Americanism.” World War II wouldn’t begin in Europe until September, which is a little over 6 months after this rally. And America wouldn’t join the war until December 1941.

But this must have been a really scary time, and one where a lot of people might feel instinctively more patriotic, because they were so afraid. They probably would think that going and rooting for America was a good idea. The poster did not contain Swastikas. The only telltale sign was that all the letters s in the poster are designed like those worn by the German SS. I suspect that those trying to ignore the existence of concentration camps were not likely to look at pictures of those terrorists long enough to focus on the font on their uniforms.

And yet, for those in denial, it would take a special level of moral blindness and an utter lack of independent judgment to walk past 100,000 protesters to go to this rally and still be shocked at what one was walking into. Still, I’d like to think (for our sakes, if not for theirs) that there were a certain number of clueless donkeys who attended that rally and looked on in horror. What must it feel like to suddenly be completely surrounded by people who you are convinced are warped, twisted and crazed? You certainly wouldn’t want to speak up. Here you’d be, expecting to root, root, root for your country, only to discover that this was no baseball game. Under those circumstances, watching someone beaten on stage must have been terrifying.

But please don’t think that this infamous Nazi rally was the only one that ever occurred in America. Far from it. These rallies occurred all over the country. In fact, here in Seattle several rallies were held, albeit with protesters outside. I encourage you to read this fascinating series of articles in Crosscut. The series of six articles is about the forgotten history of the Nazis in the Northwest, and it will make you blink more than once.

Among the things discussed in this series is the fact that one of the local diplomats from Nazi Germany, Baron Manfred von Killinger, was a known Nazi stormtrooper. It was later discovered that he was posted in the San Francisco office to invigorate the already existing spy network in the United States. Later, he killed himself after being charged with implementing the Final Solution in Romania.

It seems that Seattle was lousy with Nazis before the war. In fact, in 1937 there was a Nazi rally at the Masonic Temple, and the Mayor of Seattle was in attendance, and it is alleged that he gave the Nazi salute. I first learned of this disturbing event while I was sitting in that very theater, now called the Egyptian. It was in 2018, and I was there to see Rick Steves do a talk and a prescreening of his upcoming documentary entitled, The Story of Fascism in Europe. This film is not your usual Rick Steves upbeat travelogue. It’s a fascinating documentary that I highly recommend. I blogged about it here.

Crosscut also wrote about Steves’ talk at the Egyptian, and went into more detail about Seattle’s Nazi sympathizers in this article, which was written two years after the series of articles mentioned above. It talked about the Nazi rallies in town, and also that even back then, the NRA was heavily involved with the far right, and would help arm these groups, just as they do to this very day.

It goes on to describe another creepy Seattle/Nazi connection in the form of William Dudley Pelley, a presidential candidate in 1936 who called himself “American Hitler”. He was also the founder of the Silver Shirts, and their headquarters were in Redmond, Washington for a time, right across the lake from Seattle. (Interestingly, Redmond is now home to the Microsoft headquarters.) The Silver Shirts also got a lot of their arms from the NRA and they planned to overthrow the American government. Thank goodness their man was never elected.

According to this article, there has been a fascist streak running through this country since the 1700’s. McCarthyism, with its witch hunt of communists, was fascism pure and simple. But as Rick Steves says, “Fascism is incremental. It’s a slow chipping away of your rights, until one day you look up and you have none.”

Our strongest flirtation with fascism to date was when Trump was elected president in 2016. This article, and thousands of others on the web, make a great case for his unapologetically fascist tendencies. Any time you hear someone shouting about fake news, ask yourself what they are trying to keep you from knowing. It’s a safe bet that these chaos-mongers are fascists. Never let anyone replace your access to professional reporting that is well-investigated and backed up with facts, with their pretty words based on nothing but opinion and rumor.

And, again, beware of false patriotism. We step over its shadows everywhere we go. Sitting in that seat at the Egyptian where known Nazis had sat and saluted both the Nazi and American flags made me want to leap up and run to the nearest shower. I’m sure Germans today feel that way all the time. Or maybe they’ve reconciled themselves with their dark past. I’m sure there are a wide range of attitudes, just as there are in this country.

But if someone is patriotic in the extreme, let your BS antennas go up. I have been saying this for years: A true patriot is one who can look at the country with an unjaundiced eye and criticize it when it needs to be criticized. That person truly wants the best for the country, and would never fall for these rallies that serve up food for thought that has no real nutritional value.

Don’t take the easy way out. Question authority. Exercise the critical thinking skills that so many are trying to prevent us from being taught in schools. These skills, although hard-won, will serve you well. No doubt about it: Nazi flags still fly in America. We need to be ever-vigilant of fascism and resist it at every turn.

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How a City’s Best Kept Secret is Kept

It’s important to establish an online presence.

There’s nothing more annoying than stumbling across a valuable service that should have an online presence, but pretty much doesn’t. The only reason I discovered that Seattle has a Hazardous Waste Library is that Dear Husband and I happened to drive past, and since I was in the passenger seat with my nose in my cellphone, I noticed that this place has a pokestop on Pokemon Go.

As I am drawn to all things peculiar, this got my attention. Unfortunately we didn’t have the time to stop and investigate. Does it contain samples of various types of hazardous waste? Images of row upon row of jars of bubbling green liquid are dancing through my head. Do you have to wear a hazmat suit to gain entry? These are questions that beg for answers.

“No matter,” I said to myself. “I’ll just look them up online when we get home.”

If only it had been that easy.

First, I plugged “Hazardous Waste Library Seattle” into my search engine. The first thing that popped up was a Yelp entry. Sort of. First of all, no one has claimed this business on Yelp, so it’s hard to say if it is still operational. All you see on that page is a phone number and an address that brings you to the same place the pokestop does. There’s also a website, but when you click on it, you are given an error message that says, “403 – Forbidden: Access is denied.”

There are also two yelp reviews. Both are from 2010. A gentleman named Lars gave it three stars and said, “It’s not what I expected from a public library … very, very, very small;  have to be “buzzed-in”  to get into the building;  no library staff on duty;  topic material available are pretty narrow;  and I couldn’t check anything out. Now the up side of the review – pretty good selection of materials on all-things-hazardous (from the very technical to the laymen level) ; the hazardous waste office staff was friendly;  and I did find the answer to the question I had.”

Review number two was written a month later, in response to Lars. It was apparently the librarian of said library, Of course, she gave it 5 stars, and said, “I am the Local Hazardous Waste Management librarian. So glad you found our library and got the answers you needed. We specialize in providing guidance and information about hazardous waste and hazardous products used in King County residences and small businesses. You can find me in the library two days a week, usually Tuesday and Thursday between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m. Sorry I missed you when you dropped by, but if you would like to browse our collection online, just link to https://kingcountyhazwastewa.gov/about-us/hazardous-waste-library. I would be happy to help you further and you can check out materials. Feel free to contact me at https://kingcountyhazwastewa.gov/contact-us .

Naturally I clicked on both links. They both bring you to different pages on the Hazardous Waste Management Program website, which is apparently located in an entirely different spot. The first link sends you to a list of all the hazardous waste that King county does and does not collect. For example, they’ll take Lice Shampoo and Formaldehyde, but they won’t take smoke detectors or toner cartridges.

Fascinating. But it doesn’t tell you anything about the library, its hours, its purpose, or provide any images, with or without green goo. Based on this link, it’s impossible to say if the library even exists in 2022.

The second link sends you to a standard message form that you can fill out. I couldn’t work up the energy to do so, since I didn’t know the exact nature of the library, or how the place might edify me. That page also had a link to find a hazardous waste collection site, and information about a Haz Waste Help Line and a Garden Hotline.

There was also a link that said, simply, “Library.” That got me really excited, but when I clicked on it, it was another page on the website which turned out to be a document library. There, you can look at hazardous waste annual reports, and scintillating articles such as “Battery Product Stewardship: A Way Forward for Waste Management.”

So, back I went to my search engine. I found an entry at the ChamberofCommerce.com website. Again, the listing was unclaimed. It had the address and phone number, but no reviews. The website was http://www.mercuryinkingcounty.org. But when I clicked on it, it said “Server not found.”

Even the Mapquest Map doesn’t tell you if the place is opened or closed. Again, the page is unclaimed. Same address. This one assures you that it does have a wheelchair accessible entrance, though. That’s a relief.

As a last resort, I went to yellowpages.com. What a weird listing. It told me that the Hazardous Waste Library has been in business for 27 years. Same address and phone. No reviews. When you click on “visit website” it takes you to https://envirostars.org/, which is apparently a resource for people who want to start a green business.

Maybe one day, when I have nothing better to do, I might call the number and see what happens. But frankly, any place that can’t be bothered enough to have an online presence probably shouldn’t expect too much patronage.

It’s a shame, too, because everybody could use a little outreach and edification regarding hazardous waste. This could be an active, very vital library, one full of both general and technical information. Schools could bring their students there. They could have a table at local festivals. They could really be getting their library on by making a web page, and claiming their Yelp, Chamber of Commerce, Mapquest and yellowpages. At the very least, they should have these pages deleted so that some poor person who barely speaks English doesn’t show up at their door looking for copy machines and internet access, as they do with my little free library all the dang time.

But nooooo.

I’ll probably attach a link for this post to their message form and see what happens. Or maybe I’ll leave it in their Yelp review. Or both. I’ll be sure and give you the lowdown, dear reader, if ever it is given to me!

This is what happens when you need a picture for a blog post about a place that may or may not exist.

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