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!

Bearing Bittersweet Witness to a Living Legend

Some people, upon passing, will break the hearts of half the world.

Sometimes I cannot believe how lucky I am. That’s exactly what I was thinking on Monday, October 17th of this year, when I got to experience the best concert I’ve ever been to in my life, bar none. The entertainer in question was none other than Sir Elton John.

As was so often the case, my older sister first introduced me to his music around 1974, right about the time my mother uprooted my entire life and moved us to Florida. I was 10 years old, and had lived a pretty sheltered life up to that point. Elton was quite a bit for me to take in.

Elton is a living legend who has more than earned that title. I don’t think I fully understood that until seeing him live for the first, and most likely the last time. I’ve loved his music since the 70’s, and I have enjoyed reading about his controversies and shenanigans over the years.

I always looked forward to seeing what he would wear next. Aside from Liberace, I had never seen a man dressed so flamboyantly. And I’m fairly certain that Elton’s Rolling Stone interview in 1976 regarding his bisexuality was my introduction to the fact that not everyone is heterosexual. I don’t think I was thinking about sexuality in any form or fashion up to that point.

Elton’s philanthropy has always impressed me as much as his music and showmanship has. AIDS came along right when I hit college. I had long anticipated getting there and going hog wild. No such luck. For many years AIDS was simply not spoken about, but it was everyone’s underlying fear. That led to a lot of misinformation that could and should have been avoided. Instead, as with the misinformation about COVID, many lives have been lost due to the ignorant silence. When Elton started his AIDS Foundation in 1992, he was the first person I remember openly talking about it without any reservations. I was in awe of his courage and dedication.

Despite him being a very integral part of both my youth and my cultural awakening, somehow I’ve never really focused in on Elton like a diehard fan would do. I’m not sure why. He deserved better from me.

I do have one theory about that, though. Until writing this blog post, I could swear I once saw Elton wearing those iconic platform shoes with goldfish in the heels at some point. I was certain that was Elton. I mean, he was known for some crazy footwear over the years, and there was a brief period in the 1970’s when goldfish were tortured in this fashion.

I remember seeing those shoes on our dusty, bulbous, old-school TV screen, on the feet of some musician standing in front of a piano. I was shocked and upset. It would be quite like me to hold a grudge against the wearer of said shoes. I can imagine my skinny preteen self, arms crossed and foot stomped, as I shouted at the TV, “You are dead to me, goldfish torturer!”

Because I was hard core like that. (I still am, if I’m honest.) My sense of integrity was quite rigid. But then preteen me would have gotten distracted by other things, even as my inner self was staging this fishy little boycott.

But my lazy internet search tonight has yielded no images of Elton in those shoes, and no talk of him wearing them. So perhaps I got that wrong. It would be a shame if my distance from him was due to a childhood misunderstanding that was firmly held in some puritanical section of my brain.

In retrospect, Elton seems to be entirely too kind to harm goldfish. But maybe that’s why I kept Elton at arm’s length all these years. I honestly have no idea. The goldfish memory only surfaced as I was walking into the concert venue. Regardless, I always loved Elton’s music.

Fast forward to 2022, and I’m sitting in the Tacoma Dome with Dear Husband and about 20,000 other people, thinking the same thing I always think at concerts: “I’m breathing the same air as someone famous.”

But there were more layers to my thought onion on this night. This was to be Elton’s last concert ever in the state of Washington. The man is 75 years old, and he wants to spend the rest of his life with his husband and his two sons, ages 9 and 11. He has certainly earned that.

And I kept circling back around to my good fortune. If this concert had come just a decade earlier, I wouldn’t have had the financial means to afford the ticket, and I wouldn’t have had anyone to go with. And yet here I was, about to witness history. I don’t know if I’ve earned that, but I certainly wasn’t going to pass on this opportunity.

Elton has been doing his final tour, entitled “Farewell Yellow Brick Road”, since 2018, and it is expected to end in 2023. It has been sporadic, thanks to COVID and other factors, such as a bout with pneumonia, and later, catching COVID himself.

Dear Husband and I had been anxiously awaiting the start of the concert, and then suddenly the spotlight shined on his piano, and there he was, in all his unmistakable glory, as if by magic. But even more magical was his ability to make all 20,000 of us feel as though he were drawing us into a warm embrace that would last the duration of the concert. He even took the extra effort to acknowledge those who were seated behind him on numerous occasions. That’s class. That’s consideration.

And believe me when I say that we were embracing Elton right back. People came to the concert dressed in his costumes. The air was thick with feathers molting from brightly colored boas. And his band, every member as advanced in years as he is, could still rock, and clearly loved performing with him for one last tour.

Elton’s showmanship is as great as it ever was, even though it was quite obvious that he was well beyond doing handstands on his piano bench like he was known to do in his youth. He had hip surgery about a year ago, so when he would walk off stage for a costume change and a break, he was obviously far from being spry, and his crew flanked him protectively. It was sad to see, but it is also a natural progression for all of us.

Hearing so many of the songs that I have known and loved throughout my life filled me with joy. And unlike Paul McCartney and the Beach Boys, his voice is just as rich and strong as it was in his youth. Some people should know when to quit. (Sorry.) But Elton, on the other hand, is choosing to move on, even though selfishly we would love to enjoy his performances until the day he would be taken off stage feet first. But he has given us more than we have a right to expect over the years. He deserves, instead, to live out his life surrounded by the love of family.

And the thought of that, as he serenaded us all, had me on the brink of a huge, ugly cry. I had to fight that urge to publicly humiliate myself the whole time. I knew I was seeing the final chapter of an amazing career, as well as the tail end of an amazing life. Because Elton, of course, is as mortal as every one of us is. It’s just that some people, upon passing, will break the hearts of half the world.

So I sat there in the Tacoma Dome, gazing at this icon, basking in the warmth generated by this gracious talent, and I said a bittersweet thank you to the universe. I have been lucky enough to see many legends come and go. The going, which I’m bound to bear witness to with greater frequency as I age, is what makes the gratitude so bittersweet.

If you’d like to check out some of the actual videos we took at the concert, check out the Elton John Farewell Tour Tacoma Dome October 2022 Playlist on my YouTube channel. Clearly we’re not cinematographers, but they will really give you a sense of what the actual concert was like.

If you’re more interested in professional grade official music videos of the songs he sang, Dear Husband introduced me to a cool website that gives you set lists from concerts, and includes links to music videos. It’s like concert meets MTV. Check it out here.

I’ll leave you now with some of the photos we took at the concert. I know I’ll be looking at these souvenirs of a very happy memory for years to come. That will have to do, because, as financially stable as I have become, I am still not willing to spend 50 dollars on a t-shirt.

Sorry, Elton, but some things will always make me put my foot down.

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!

Day Trip to Alpine Land

The next best thing to Switzerland.

One of the things I love most about living in Washington State is that it has such a wide variety of ecosystems. Just a few hours travel from your home in any direction will most certainly take you to a different world entirely. The state boasts prairies, wetlands, estuaries, rainforests, shrubsteppe, marine waters, scablands and grasslands.

On any given day trip you can go from sea level to glaciers, from canyons to mountains, from lowlands to foothills to plateaus. To me it feels like foreign travel without the need for a passport or a frustrating TSA encounter. Sign me up.

This year, on our 4th wedding anniversary, Dear Husband and I decided to go to Switzerland. Unfortunately, we only had a day. So we hopped in the car and headed for Mt. Rainier National Park. You can’t get any more alpine than that without leaving the Pacific Northwest.

En route, we passed through the charming towns of Black Diamond and Enumclaw.

As the name suggests, Black Diamond used to be coal mine central. A real mining and railroad type town. Now it’s becoming the fastest growing bedroom community for the Seattle Metropolitan Area, but it’s still charming. You know you’ve arrived when you see the old coal car on the side of the road.

Enumclaw still hosts lots of farms and lots of cows. (Sadly, the cows weren’t wearing those delightful bells around their necks, but you can’t have everything.) It’s on a flat plateau due to a mudflow from Mt. Rainier that happened about 5,700 years ago. The rest of the area is mountainous. So Enumclaw is a perfect place for farming. Their main crop used to be hops, but now it’s dairy. And a trip down Enumclaw’s main street will transport you back in time.

Dear Husband was kind enough to take us on a little side trip to the Enumclaw Public Library, where my book used to be housed. I went there with the anticipation of visiting that old friend (and perhaps sneaking an autograph in while no one was looking), but sadly, the shelf it would have occupied did not produce results. That’s a pity, because it would have been in good company. A second look at the King County Library System’s online catalog revealed that my book is now only in Renton and Burien. I’ve visited the one in Renton multiple times (to pull it slightly out on the shelf to make it more noticeable), but I have yet to visit the one in Burien.

I know. I’m easily entertained.

Right by the library, Enumclaw also has a gigantic statue of two oxen being led by a man, and the oxen are dragging a gigantic log about the size of a trailer.

The caption in front of it says:

THE LOGGING LEGACY

Tough Courageous and Larger Than Life. This monument is dedicated to the people whose courage and hard work built the foundation for our community, creating economic opportunity for our State and region. With this memorial, we seek to honor the over 8000 dead and the 65000 injured logging this plateau and these mountains. Though rarely glorified in their work, these men embodied the physical toughness and mental resolve that has become synonymous with the pioneers of the West. This is our Logging Legacy.

It’s one of the most impressive statues I’ve seen in many a day.

From there, we went to Greenwater, Washington, and stopped at a store called Wapiti Woolies, and had some ice cream. Two thumbs up. And the building itself really reminds you that you are in an alpine region.

Next Stop was the Mt. Rainier Gondola at Crystal Mountain. This is a skiing mecca in the wintertime, but we pretty much had the place to ourselves. And the gondola is so much fun! It takes you up 2,400 feet to the summit, where you have a stunning view of Mt. Rainier, and, when the weather’s right, you can also see another Washington Volcano in the distance: that of Mt. Adams. If you do decide to brave the gondola, bring layers of clothing. It was a good 30 degrees colder up there, and I’m sure it is even worse in the winter. And the wind will try to blow you back down into the valley. The gondola’s steep ascent didn’t bother me, oddly enough. But the descent had me digging my fingernails into Dear Husband’s arm. It was still worth it for the views. What an adventure!

Next we went to Paradise. That’s one of the primary gathering places in Mt. Rainier National Park. Sadly, we got there after the visitor center was closed, but we enjoyed walking around outside, soaking up all things alpine, including some amazing wildflowers. And then we went to Sunrise, on (of course) the eastern side of the mountain. We were almost there for sunset, ironically enough, but we decided that we didn’t want to go down that narrow switchback road at night.

We made it out of the switchbacks before dark, and were treated to this awesome sunset.

When we drove back through Enumclaw, we pulled over in a place with no city lights, opened the sun roof, and gazed at the stars. We even saw two satellites speeding by. Then we went home to our dogs. It was the perfect way to end the day, and an amazing anniversary, indeed. I have no idea how I got so lucky, but I assure you that I’ll never take it for granted.

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I Walked in Space!!!

An incredible, immersive virtual reality experience that lets you explore the International Space Station.

I have always been fascinated by the International Space Station. In fact, I have gone to https://spotthestation.nasa.gov/ to sign myself up for text notifications when the ISS will be passing over our house. (You can, too!)

If the station’s flyby isn’t at some ungodly hour like 3 a.m., and if the entire Pacific Northwest sky isn’t blanketed in clouds as it so often is, Dear Husband and I make it a point to spot the station from the hot tub in our back yard. I always wave. As far as I know, no one has ever waved back. Still, it never gets old, and it makes me feel connected to something much bigger than myself.

Having said that, just imagine our excitement when we heard that The Infinite was coming to a city near us. This is an amazing virtual reality experience that allows you to virtually walk around inside the space station, explore all its nooks and crannies, and even walk through walls into the vacuum of space. You get to eavesdrop on the astronauts as they go about their daily routines, and you really get a sense of what life must be like up there.

My main takeaway is that I think the station needs to focus more on aesthetics, so that it isn’t such a psychological shock being there. I know it’s zero gravity, and that physical space is at a premium, but every floor, wall, and ceiling was covered with sharp edged, cold, clinical-looking instruments. There needs to be one module where things are warm and soft and comfortable. People need that every now and then. (I wanted to check out the sleeping quarters and the bathrooms, but had no luck finding them. There wasn’t time to see everything, but I suspect I’ll be back.)

When we arrived at the Tacoma Armory for the event, we were given VR headsets, and once we had them on and they were properly adjusted, an assistant came around to see who in our group of 8 were actually family or friends. To avoid bumping into others as you wandered around, you “saw” everyone else as human-shaped, star-filled avatars. Strangers had a glowing blue star in their chest. Friends had golden stars. Facilitators had green stars. If, while wandering the station, you came anywhere close to a real life obstruction, it was covered in bright red lines. I’m proud to say I didn’t bump into anything or anyone during my visit. (A little girl did bump into me once, but no one was hurt.)

At one point I was standing inside a capsule and a ball came whizzing past my head. What the…? I turned, and there was an astronaut catching the ball. He then threw it toward me again, and I spun around to see another astronaut catching it. All the while, they were discussing their work on the station. Even though I knew this was virtual reality, and that a foam ball in zero gravity couldn’t hurt me even if I were truly there, I couldn’t help but duck each time it flew/floated by me.

I had an unexpected intermission when a facilitator approached me and said that the battery on my headset was running low, so they’d have to trade it out for another one. I took off my headset and came crashing back to reality. I was standing in a huge empty room, and oddly enough, its walls were covered with murals of palm trees. (I wish I had thought to snap a picture.) There were dozens of people wearing headsets who were slowly walking around me, obviously interacting with things I could not see. It was rather surreal. I was happy to get another headset on and return to space.

At one point I walked through a (virtual) wall and enjoyed viewing the station from the outside, and also had fun looking down at earth, both in daylight and darkness, from 200 miles above. And then, the next thing I knew, the station left without me! That gave me more time to focus on the universe surrounding me, but still, I wanted to say, “Hey! Wait for me!”

It came back, though, just in time to allow us all to participate in a mission. We were going to do a space walk to observe the astronauts as they made a few repairs. I got to sit there, with nothing but stars beneath my feet, and watch and listen to their communications. I really felt like I was right there with them. If one of them had said, “Here, hold my wrench,” I’d have reached for it.

But of course one cannot spacewalk for days on end, and so the experience came to a close. We were asked to place our headsets on a conveyor belt so that they could be sanitized for the next lucky visitors.

And then we were treated to an unexpected bonus. (“But wait! There’s more!”) That bonus was in the form of an audiovisual art installation by the Japanese artist Ryoji Ikeda. Called “The Universe within the Universe”, it had us standing in a big circle, gazing into a mirror on the floor that reflected a projection of a very colorful, fast-moving, computer generated journey through his interpretation of everything from the micro universe to the macro universe, and back again. Still photos don’t do it justice, so here’s a short video we took of a tiny segment of the installation. ***If flashing lights cause you to have seizures, you may want to skip it.*** Otherwise, enjoy!

The Infinite is currently in Tacoma, Washington, and will remain there until about September. If you are anywhere close, you’ll really want to experience it. It’s out of this world. (See what I did there?)

If Tacoma is beyond your reach, you can go to the website and sign up to be notified of future tour dates. Keep an eye out in case it comes your way. It’s even better than watching the International Space Station fly overhead while you sit in a hot tub with someone you love (although that’s pretty cool, too).

If stuff like this existed when I was a kid, I’d have taken science more seriously. What amazing times we live in.

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“Love Will Prevail”

Because of splashes of hate, this message of love went further than expected.

Gig Harbor is on the Puget Sound here in Washington State. The town itself is charming, with its historic waterfront, and its many boutiques and restaurants. It has a population of around 12,000 people, but if you want a big city experience, it’s only about a 12 mile drive to the much larger Tacoma. Like Tacoma, Gig Harbor is somewhat liberal. But you have a very good chance of finding like-minded people there, no matter where you fall on the political spectrum.

According to Neighborhood Scout, you are much less likely to be a victim of a violent crime in Gig Harbor (1.5 violent crimes per thousand people) than you are to have that experience in the Seattle area (6.6 violent crimes per thousand people). For reference, the national median is 4 violent crimes per thousand people. So Gig Harbor sounds like a wonderful place to be.

Yet oddly enough, both Gig Harbor and Seattle exceed the national median for property crimes, which is 19 per thousand people. Gig Harbor is the victim of 38.07 property crimes per thousand people, and Seattle weighs in at a hefty 52.5 per thousand. Don’t get me started on my theories about Seattle, but I suspect the increased numbers in Gig Harbor are related to the fact that it is part of an urban cluster but has a lot of rural areas as well. So there’s enough of a population and tourist base to commit these crimes, paired with enough isolation so that there is an increased potential for fewer witnesses.

That unfortunate mix came to the forefront recently in an extremely disappointing way.

A local artist, Hillarie Isackson, decided to paint a beautiful mural on the side of a Gig Harbor business with the city’s approval. Isackson bought all the paint herself, and worked all day long, often in the rain, and into the night on the mural, which was of a Ukrainian flag, with an outline of the country over that, and a giant sunflower, the flower of Ukraine, over it all. She came in the next day before dawn to apply the finishing touches. Its message was “Stand with Ukraine.” Many people who worked in the building have ties to Ukraine, so they were thrilled by this artwork.

Unfortunately, not everyone was as thrilled with this mural as those working in the building. Late that night, two scumbags wearing black hoodies spent 4 short minutes destroying the artist’s hard work by splashing the white, blue and red of the Russian flag all over the wall. They were caught on the security cameras of several businesses, and several residents took videos, but at the time of this writing, they have yet to be identified. The fools even left their own footprints in the paint, so I have high hopes that they’ll eventually be apprehended.

If justice is ever served, it is estimated that they did about a thousand dollars’ worth of damage, so they would definitely be charged with vandalism, but there’s a very good chance that they’ll also be charged with a hate crime, which would not bode well for them at all. IMHO, it would certainly serve them right.

But the best part of this story came after their heinous acts. When word got out about the damage, people immediately stopped by with donations of paint and cash for other supplies. They also provided spotlights so the artist could once again work through the night. In addition, there are now more security cameras trained on the revitalized mural.

And what Isackson did to transform the splashes of hate has made the mural even more poignant than before. She took that hate and turned it into love. She restored the Ukrainian flag, the country’s outline, the sunflower, and the message, but she also used the haters’ handiwork to add an American flag, and was inspired to include the national flowers of all the many countries who support Ukraine. (The national flower of the USA is the rose. I didn’t know that.)

But the part of the mural that makes me get tears in my eyes is the message Isackson added below. “LOVE WILL PREVAIL

Isackson’s determination to make something beautiful out of her vandalized mural is a sort of microcosm of the current Ukrainian situation. Like Ukraine, this was an undeserved attack that left discouragement, destruction, and profound sadness in its wake, but she didn’t give up, just as the Ukrainians haven’t given up when faced with the Putin-inspired hellscape of death they are now forced to occupy. In Gig Harbor, people came together to make it possible for this artist to renew her efforts, to show support to fellow human beings who are suffering, just as many of us, all around the world, are doing what we can to stand with Ukraine.

Love will prevail, indeed. And that right there is why I still have hope for mankind in general and the Ukrainian fight for freedom specifically. I genuinely believe that those who are fighting because of love for one another have a much better chance of triumph than those who are fighting from a place of hate.

There is now a mural in Gig Harbor that allows me to say, with renewed vigor, слава Україні  — Glory to Ukraine, and любов переможе — Love will prevail.

Let it be so.

Sources and further reading:

‘Love will prevail:’ Ukraine mural vandalized in Gig Harbor takes on new message

A mural supporting Ukraine was destroyed in Gig Harbor. Here’s how the artist responded

Vandals deface Gig Harbor artist’s mural of support for Ukraine

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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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