Dirty Tricks

On the day I wrote this, I was driving to work, and as I exited the interstate I observed a white guy in a dark grey Infiniti who had pulled off the side of the road and was pulling up the yard sign of a controversial woman who is running for election to Seattle city council. When he saw me on the exit ramp, he pulled away.

As I followed him down the street, I saw him circle back to get another one. I gave him a dirty look, and later reported it to the Facebook page for the campaign. I wish I’d gotten his license plate number, as this is illegal as well as immoral. Are dirty dealings how you got your Infiniti, man? Shame on you.

I’m not a resident of Seattle, so I won’t be voting for or against this councilwoman. I have no skin in the game, so to speak. It’s just that these types of political dirty tricks make me really angry.

If the only way your candidate can win an election is through lies, criminality, or dirty tricks, then you may want to rethink your support of that person. Clearly under those circumstances, the only motivation is greed and power for that individual, and that won’t do a thing for you in the end.

I know I’m being idealistic, but I’d like to vote for people who bring integrity and dedication to the public to the table. I’d like to vote for the person I feel has the most moral fiber. It would be nice to believe that there were candidates that ran a clean race and had nothing to be held accountable for.

Just me wishing for unicorns again.

political sign

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Without Mad, I’ll Be Sad, but Proud

I just read an article that broke my heart. It seems that Mad Magazine will no longer exist in its current form this summer. The end of an era. But Alfred E. Neuman wouldn’t want you to worry, because you’ll still be able to get it with a subscription, or in comic book stores.

I have to admit that I haven’t laid a hand on Mad Magazine in decades. But it was a gigantic part of my childhood. I would read each issue over and over again. I probably didn’t understand its subtleties, but I loved the artwork, and it did make me laugh.

I don’t know exactly when I stopped reading it, or why. I’m sure I just got busy with other things, as one does, and then eventually I kind of forgot all about it. But a part of me was always happy knowing that it was out there, somewhere, doing its madcap, satirical thing.

But that article, and this one at historylink.org, also made me realize that I have a reason to be proud, too. It seems that Alfred E. Neuman was actually created here in the Puget Sound area, by a guy named Harry Stuff, back in 1914, long before Mad Magazine came to exist.

Now that I know that, it makes perfect sense to me. The Seattle area has a taste for satire. It takes an intelligent population with a sense of humor to pull that type of thing off, and those are two things that Seattle is known for.

So, while it might be slightly more difficult to enjoy Mad Magazine these days, I can smile, knowing that Alfred and I are neighbors. That’s pretty darned cool.

Alfred

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Whale Wonders

Whales seem to be in the forefront of my mind today. Dear husband sent me a link to this amazing 7 minute video of orca’s cavorting in Dyes Inlet in my adopted state of Washington just last month. It’s delightful to watch. They slap their tails on the surface, they breach, they pop their heads up to spy on those of us who are unfortunate enough to be land-based mammals. There’s even a baby amongst them. It’s just a joyous group of orcas, doing their orca thing.

And then I read this fascinating article entitled, The ‘narluga’ is a strange hybrid. But it’s far from alone. It’s about a cross between a narwhal and a beluga. Scientists were able to confirm this because the Inuit hunter still had the skull, and they were able to get DNA from its strange teeth. Whereas a narwhal usually has the one tooth that grows out like a unicorn horn and a few teeth-like protrusions growing behind that, and belugas have 40 teeth, this skull had 18 teeth up front, some as twisty as a narwhal tusk. There were a few other strange findings about this skull, but I’ll let you read more about that in the article itself.

The article did go on to say that marine mammals seem to create hybrids a lot more often than we land dwellers do. It seems it’s a very sexually experimental world down there beneath the waves. And the exciting thing is not all of them are rendered sterile like hybrids usually are on land. (When donkeys and horses produce mules, for example, they can’t reproduce.) So it’s a mad, mad watery world.

Speaking of mad, though, I was very angry to hear that the Japanese are back to commercial whaling. But then I read this article, and this one, and was slightly comforted. It seems that they used to hunt whales for “research” and then they’d sell the meat. Now the government doesn’t want to subsidize the practice, so they’re allowing commercial fishermen to take it over on a much smaller scale, and that will get smaller each year, and will have to take into account that the average Japanese person doesn’t really have a taste for whale meat, and with the declining young population, they will be hard pressed to find the 300 fishermen they’ll need to keep it up, especially when other fishing industries pay a lot more.

Let’s hope this obscene industry dies a natural death. It’s only currently active on an industrial scale in Japan, Iceland, and Norway. But there is more money to be made from eco-tourism, there’s a better international reputation, and there are much more delicious things to eat for those who eschew whaling these days.

Also, I once mentioned in a blog post that belugas have been known to mimic the human voice. How can you hunt something that joyfully plays and is smart enough to mimic? How do you eat something that likes to sexually experiment? I ask you.

Non-smoking Narluga

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Fremont Solstice 2019

This will be the third year running that I’ve written about an amazing Seattle tradition. (Here’s last year’s post.) I can think of no better way to celebrate the advent of summer than the Fremont Solstice Parade. There’s such a feeling of joy that comes from this event.

In true Fremont style, everyone who participates in the parade does so in his/her/their own unique way. There are, for the most part, no politics involved. Signage is discouraged. There’s certainly no advertising. It’s just a two-hour-long orgy of self expression.

To me, this parade is the epitome of Seattle. I bear witness not only to celebrate summer, but also to celebrate the fact that I’m here, now, in this place. And I can’t imagine any place I’d rather be.

I try to picture such a freewheeling event happening in hyper-conservative, stodgy, judgmental Jacksonville, Florida, where I used to live, and I have to laugh. There’s no way on earth that would ever come to pass. So this is also a celebration of the fact that I’m no longer in a place that tried to make my choices for me, tried to squash my opinions, tried to tell me how to live my life. No, I’m now in a place where once a year, people come together and ride through the streets wearing nothing but smiles and body paint, and the whole city turns out to cheer.

I go to Fremont Solstice Parade every year to remind myself that I am finally free.

Happy Solstice, everybody!

img_20190622_143054.jpg

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Dismal Nitch

On our way to the Oregon coast, in our last moments in Washington state, we came upon a rest area called Dismal Nitch. For the name alone, we had to stop. It was a beautiful place, on the north bank of the Columbia River, just before it opens out to the mighty Pacific Ocean. How had it earned such a dreary name?

From this spot, we could look at the beautiful Astoria-Megler Bridge, which, at just over 4 miles in length, is the longest continuous truss bridge in North America. But that bridge didn’t come along until 1966. And while the Columbia looked relatively calm during our visit, it was wide and quite obviously powerful. I’d hate to have to cross it in a canoe. While watching a harbor seal coast quickly past, I thought about how relentless nature can be. We may vacation in nature, but nature itself never takes a day off.

By the time the Lewis and Clark Expedition had reached this point in 1805, I’m sure they had learned that lesson on multiple occasions. By now they were nearly to the Pacific Ocean, and had experienced any number of trials and tribulations. But it was here that a bad winter storm pushed them up onto this rocky shore with its steep banks, and they were forced to huddle in the wind, rain and hail without fresh food for 6 days.

One of the placards indicated that in one of his journals, Clark had complained about being forced to eat only salmon while stuck in this place. My first reaction was, “must be nice!” but I’m sure that after a while, one would, indeed, long for some fresh vegetables and a different flavor. I suspect that it was nearly impossible to keep a fire going in that exposed, blustery place, too, so sushi it was for the entire crew.

When the storm finally broke, Clark declared himself happy to leave “that dismal little nitch”, and that is how the place got its name. It is now a part of the Lewis and Clark National Historical Park, which has 5 scattered locations both in Washington and Oregon.

So, if you’re ever in the area and see a sign for Dismal Nitch, it’s worth a stop. If nothing else, you can prop yourself on the hood of your car, take in the glorious view, and quietly thank the universe for planes, trains, automobiles, bridges, gore-tex, convenience stores, flush toilets, and the explorers who were willing to blaze a trail so you wouldn’t have to.

(And yes, I know “nitch” is actually spelled niche. But I guess they went with the journal spelling, so I’ll go with the sign, just this once.)

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Bridge Buffoonery

I get it. It’s hot out. And thanks to climate change, each summer is going to be worse than the last. But that’s no reason to check your brain at the door.

Check out this video of a kid doing a backflip off one of the drawbridges here in Seattle, Washington. Well executed. And I bet it felt great.

But this is how to give a bridgetender a heart attack.

  • He could have fallen backward off the railing and been badly hurt, or worse yet, fallen on to one of the millions of bicyclists or joggers that go past, their heads in clouds, and then both would have been hurt.

  • He could have hit his head on the railing while doing the back flip and broken his neck.

  • He could have landed on some unseen debris in the water and been impaled.

  • He could have taken his plunge just as one of the motor boats came speeding through the channel, which happens, oh, about every minute or so. (A diver in Jacksonville, Florida had his face ripped off by a motor boat that didn’t see his dive flag. Now add the person falling from the sky into the mix, no flag in sight, and you get the idea.)

And thank God I wasn’t working on that drawbridge at the time. Here’s the thought process:

  • “Oh sh**, that kid’s going to get himself killed!”

  • “I’m going to be blamed and lose my job.”

  • “Paperwork…”

  • “Now I get to hold up the stereotype of the bridge troll by running those kids off the bridge.”

  • “Never a cop when you need one.”

  • “What if I need to open the bridge and this fool is too busy playing around to move?”

It amazes me that any of us survive to adulthood. Stay safe, everyone.

Ah, the joys of summer.

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Why It’s Bad to Beat the Bridge

There’s a really fantastic fundraiser that has happened every spring for 37 years here in Seattle. It’s called Beat the Bridge to Beat Diabetes. It’s sponsored by Nordstrom to benefit JDRF, formerly known as the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation. It’s a run/walk/fun run that starts at University of Washington’s Husky Stadium and ends at University Bridge, the drawbridge I just happen to operate. This year it will be held tomorrow, May 19th.

I am thrilled that so many people get behind this very worthy cause. I’m also gratified when we can come together in a large group and be a force for good. What I’m not thrilled about, however, is the tradition of beating this bridge.

At the end of this race, at exactly 8:50, I will be raising the bridge. If you haven’t crossed it by then, you haven’t beaten it. But it’s actually fun not to beat it, because there’s a live band and entertainment while you wait.

Here’s the thing, though. I have operated 9 different bridges in 3 different states, and I’ve never, ever seen such a tradition of drawbridge risk taking as I’ve seen on the drawbridges that span the ship canal here in Seattle.

Every single day, I see pedestrians ignoring the warning bells and the flashing lights in order to cross my bridge as I’m preparing to open it for a vessel that can’t slam on its brakes and has no option for a detour. I’ve seen people standing center span, taking selfies, while a 2000 ton gravel barge is bearing down on them. I’ve even had people attempt to cross this bridge when it has already started to rise. I’ve had people climb under the gates and approach the million pounds of moving concrete and steel that could crush them like a bug with no concern at all for their life or limbs, simply because they’re impatient for it to close. Someone actually climbed up the fully opened Ballard Bridge, and the local paper, The Stranger, reported on it as if it were a big joke.

If you were to Google Death and Drawbridges, you’d quickly see that playing around on drawbridges is no laughing matter. People get killed on drawbridges every year, and it’s usually due to their own foolish behavior. Fortunately it hasn’t happened in Seattle yet, but I have no idea why, other than the extreme professionalism of the bridgetenders here. Still, I suspect that it’s only a matter of time.

I’m not trying to say that the Beat the Bridge fundraiser is solely responsible for the behavior of Seattleites, but I’m sure it doesn’t help. Additional factors are the use of ear buds and cell phones, which greatly reduce attentiveness; the fact that we have so many institutions of higher education in the area, full of young adults who think they’re immortal; and the cultural standard of this city that encourages people to break rules and live unique, sometimes reckless lives.

It would be wonderful to see Nordstrom partner up with Seattle Department of Transportation for future Beat the Bridge events, and allow them to have a table that promotes bridge safety. It could be manned by bridge operators that could answer questions about the bridges, because the public is naturally curious about them. The general message could be, “It’s okay to beat the bridge this morning, for this worthy cause. But please don’t beat it the rest of the year!” I think this is a public relations opportunity that SDOT should not ignore.

So yes, that will be me, tomorrow, raising the University Bridge promptly at 8:50 am, as hundreds of joggers run toward it. I’ll be doing it for a good cause. And while I’m not speaking for all of SDOT, please know that even as I do this, I’ll also be gritting my teeth.

Stay safe everybody. That’s what matters most.

Beat the Bridge

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