Monday, November 28, 2011

1000 Cranes for Mama


The apartment is full of boxes. These are the cranes we made for Mama. They are beautiful and all I keep wishing is that we don't have to make them.

Greyhound Express to Seattle

And the meltdown happened. Of course I found a way to sit in front of the little kid. The little kid, as always has had a meltdown. This time it didn't even take an hour. That's how traveling goes. Doesn't make me feel less stressed out.

The last bus was too cold and fat men wouldn't stop talking about the mileage on semi-trucks (“so that was 180 gallons right there”). This bus has a child who is obsessed with the word house versus home and babbles right in my ear. The teenage mother barely has him under control and he keeps kicking my seat and the bus is too hot.

The Portland bus station is great though. It's really quite nice. Much better than Seattle; the worst bus station I have ever been to.

I-5 is full of people who can't drive in poor conditions again. At least three accidents on the way up. I really think that the roads here are far more dangerous just because of the style of driving I have witnessed on these roads.

So I'm on the express bus but it doesn't move fast enough. And my naps never last long enough.

This weekend is over. Finally and sadly. The stress of going to see a family in constant need is an unparalleled experience. I have such deep and honest joy in seeing and being around them but I also have such sadness due to the circumstances. We worked all weekend; not without its rewards, but certainly without the few rewards we really want.

It is the baby in the backseat keeping me from settling comfortably. It's the trip I need and the trip I dread. It is the sense of restriction and discomfort the baby feels and the helplessness the mother feels even while controlling him to her limit.

The nearly black scenery passes before my fogged window. Blips of light and slight shade changes give me an impressionist glimpse at the night landscape. All I can really see are the reflections of the lights on in the bus. I'll be back at the apartment soon and I'll go back to the daily grind.

Consumer Citizens

Black Friday just happened. And now Cyber Monday will be happening. This highlights something very interesting. The role of America and consumerism in the modern world. Businesses, local and international look forward to the days where Americans can consume $52 billion dollars in one day. That is a lot of products. If one factors in the discounts and downed economy—a weak dollar, constricted spending, and the industries that don't report in on their gains—there's even more to deal with.

America is huge. Many people would consider themselves consumers. Part of the economic machinery. Americans spend more time being economic units than they do being political ones. We make purchases on a daily basis but only vote once every two years (and that's for especially active ones). The average American identifies themselves on a regular basis more for their economic contributions rather than their political ones.

Why is that? Why have Americans removed the word citizen from their daily lingo? I think exposure is a key factor but even more important is the rise of a global market that re-imagines the world in terms of economic rather than political potential. I think that citizenship doesn't have potency anymore because it is actually seen as ignorant to some degree.

If you can buy a scarf that was dyed in India finished in Indonesia and sold through a third-party scarf distributor based in France one can easily imagine the themselves a world traveler, versed in the nuance of foreign culture.

Being a citizen on the other hand never really breaks the national scale. And most of the time it's just for positions on the local school board. Voting, in addition to being rare, feels—well, insignificant. You go to a private little voting booth in some elementary school gym, spend five minutes reading names you have never heard of, and then join a faceless mass of people who have an equal say in the outcome.

In the economic realm however, there is power. In some twisted Orwellian perception of our country spending has become our way of saying “all animals are equal, but some are more equal.”

Spending appeals to core American values: individualism, entrepreneurship, uniqueness, and paradoxically a strong sociality. No one shops alone really. It is nearly as taboo as drinking alone. Shopping and being a consumer is all about the sociality of it. “Where did you get that? I have to go get one like that.” The operative word being 'like' as in similar. Be unique, shop with a friend, get something similar, and spend openly.

Americans are vocal. We love to be gaudy and say how frugal we are. We are not a minimalist culture. But we aren't about excess either. Everything has a use, our Protestant guilt still directs us in the oddest ways. That iPad can do less than a netbook but it does have a touch screen that is super functional (unless you need to do anything tactile). Americans love to say how much they saved on such and such, “but it was more than worth it; it was a great deal actually.”

Thus being an engaged citizen proffers few benefits without ease while being a consumer helps define one's identity through appearance, can be social, imparts a sense of worldliness, and reinforces those aspects on a regular basis. That Americans have come to define themselves in economic terms is not surprise. The surprise comes in the perceived trade-off with citizenship.

Somehow we would rather wait in a Wal-mart line at 2am for several hours every year rather than vote once for five minutes every 2.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Thanks in Giving

And it's change that moves us. Things change and evolve. Slowly but definitely.

It isn't about the effort. I can do this and I am committed to it. I do it for a few days, but nothing compared to what those who are here commit to. My effort is token. A small relief to the constantly under fire.

I just went to help Mama. She had been sleep-talking and then suddenly she was calling out David's name. I burst into her room to find her half-off the bed. She had somehow knocked over the objects on the top of her night-stand and sort of propped herself against them.

“Did you take the cotton sheets,and wash them, and I'm pretty sure Myrtle...I think I'm going to take them.” She was just talking in her sleep right now. Last night it was heavy breathing. Tonight it's quiet except for bursts of sleep-talk and coughing. The coughing; it's worse than nails on a chalkboard.

I picked her up to help her adjust on the pillows. She was half in and out of sleep; her sentences were almost nonsensical. And it would be funny if she weren't bone thin. I talked to her for a few minutes until she calmed down enough to sleep. Kerry the cat came in and patiently stays with her.

“Are you all right Mama?” I asked after lifting her and trying to readjust her.

“Ok, thank you,” she replied.

“Goodnight. I love you,” I tucked her in and left the room. This is where our family is now.

This is where our family is now. Marian's house is slowly emptying. The contents of a lifetime, shuttled away in boxes and given back to the family. I feel so lost right now. There is so much joy in the family. And so much gravity.

I visited Marian today in her assisted living home. She was cranky. The phone wasn't right. “Why's he here?”

“He was with us and had to come,” Leslie rushed to defend me.

“I'm sorry Marian. Do you want me to leave?” I asked her sincerely and respectfully. She sat on the bed, her round bald head made her look a little like an angry Buddha. She scowled, impetuous and slightly vacant. Thoughts came like fragments of shipwrecks washed onto shore.

“No. You can stay,” Marian said. I always detected in her a softness. Her statements are harsh and her demeanor pointed but it's about the right push back. You find the chink in her armor and she lets her soft side through for a moment; just enough to let you know it's an act She never intended that I leave. She doesn't care about how good the phone is. And she certainly doesn't care about which clock sits above her television.

Her gifts were always the most exciting at Christmas. Big boxes wrapped in newspaper. Always a sweet note and a warm hug to accompany it all. And I don't know if she ever knew how much I cherished that moment. More than the gift. It was the surprise behind the big newspaper box with one of the cousin's names written in sharpie on it. It was the guarantee that she would smile her brightest when we lit up at the things she gave.

Ate at a hipster diner on the east side.

I tried to fix a pocket watch. I broke it instead. But it's shiny now. I'm stuck in my body and it's weak and finite.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Family Thanksgiving

It's the roads at night. There are themes and motifs in my life. The roads at night, the music up and the rumble of an engine under me. The dim headlights illuminate one bit of road at a time. The streetlights before me help only a bit; mostly they stand as stalwart shrines to stars; shining in high contrast.

It's those moments on the road. Going somewhere. It's there that I feel calm. I have a sense of purpose and movement and I can let my thoughts find me. I can be with myself for just those few moments.

And I think I may need those now. This Thanksgiving has been wonderful and amazing. I have seen my family and spent time with them. I have a place with my relatives. I know how to interact and live with them now. I am part of the fabric of my family.

We have been battered. This is a year of transition. A place hopelessly lost to the swirling world around me. To stay optimistic; to stay driven during this disphoria is difficult. Mama is so very sick these days. Marian is going too. Loen is struggling as well. And I have only my two hands to help.

“I don't have much of an appetite. I guess it's this tumor, it's grown so large I can feel it now,” she said over Thanksgiving dinner. I watched her hands lift a napkin to her mouth. They were old and sallow, the sinews and veins evident through her clear skin. Her hands were bruised because her body had become so fragile; her skin broke and bruised easily. Yet they retained the grace that I so admired in her. They retained the nobility and wonder that I had grown up with. Each motion of her hands revealed the entire structure and inner workings of her hand; the anatomy of a human hand.

I can still make her smile and laugh.

I fixed grandpa's computer again. It's amazing how it can get so out of whack every few days. I hope that I have helped him so that he can teach himself without me. I don't have the tools to help him long-distance. I try to be there but even Seattle is too far now.

Marian is sick. She has a brain tumor and is going through treatment. Her prognosis is not good. She is living in a group home. We are clearing out my great-grandmother's house. Marian has lived there since the end of World War II. There are things untouched in there from when they moved in. My great-grandparents managed the Hotel Australia in downtown Portland. The house is full of history. Things I don't understand. Things I don't remember. Heirlooms and antiques that reference everything that brought me into existence and made up my being.

“I need to get to the old UW library. The woodwork there is all from the Davis Mill,” Harry said as I drove him home. Bow-bow was breathing heavily in the backseat, “the Davis Mill produced the woodwork for the state capitol of Oregon. If you look around, you'll find our name on the woodwork.” I thought about the statement. I have history everywhere I suppose. I just need to know where to look.

More later.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Homeless Thanks

Homeless people. They exist. And I suppose they serve as a lens.

And I ignore them everyday on my way to work. A homeless man was walking toward me when he was overcome with some sort of force pulling him back he shook violently and turned the other way. I made it to the corner and he kept looking at me as if he was scared of me. I crossed the street. There is a homeless man who has a simple sign, “kind soul please share what you can.” I can share so much more than the cold shoulder I give him every time I pass by.

There is a homeless man who heckles people kindly; he bows with his cardboard sign and asks for a little change.

There are two homeless men who spend time under the Alaskan Way Viaduct. They seem to be good friends and have chairs and a few articles of clothing. They don't have much more than that. I once made eye contact with one and he smiled and nodded. I hurried past.

There is a homeless air force veteran who stands on first. He seems newly homeless and had gotten much more disheveled even in the time I have been walking to work.

I have had homeless men yell at me because they have some sort of psychotic break.

I have seen kids my age, homeless on the streets. They seem smart and kind enough; they just don't have homes.

I still don't know what to say or do about homeless people. I just don't. So I pass them with stiff body language and the internal hope that it somehow gets better for them without my assistance. All that means is that I have pawned off the responsibility on some nameless other. Is that an acceptable course of action?

So yeah, happy Thanksgiving. I know some of the things I'm thankful for. I have a roof over my head. If I fell there would be a substantial safety net of friends and family to help me. I have the benefit of being a well-adjusted, reasonably sane human being with a steady enough job that I can pay rent. I am thankful that those in my life have helped me so much this year. I am thankful that I can go home to a place. I am thankful that I don't have to find a dry spot to sleep in the Seattle rain. I am thankful that everyone around me has done so much to make sure I succeed.

Greyhound 4 Scene

Scene: Greyhound bus stop. Four people are sitting in a square. The Hipster (H) has a large travel backpack full of stuff. The Businessman (B) has a small travel bag and a messenger bag, he is wearing a brown trench coat and a shirt and tie underneath. The College Student (C) is fairly nondescript; introverted and has three bags: a backpack, a large duffel, and a cooler. The Quiet Man (Q) has one black medium sized backpack and is wearing an unlabeled sweatshirt and jeans. He has a large coat with him and the backpack sitting on his lap.

H: (to C) where are you headed?

C: (turns to look at him cautiously, but tries not to reveal her reticence). Portland.

H: That's cool. Me too. Spending some time with family I guess?

C: Yeah.

H: That's good. Family is good. You from around here?

C: No, I just go to UW. I'm studying math.

H: That's great. Cool stuff. I loved college before I dropped out. The parties were great, and my professors were so smart. I left because of the pressure. That and this sickness. That's why I have this face mask. I'm sick already, and if I get sicker I won't be able to handle it. (slight pause). Math huh, that's a great field do you like it?

C: I suppose, I just always knew I would do it. I am good at it so I like it I guess.

H: that's hard stuff. Hard stuff. Yeah, it's really hard stuff. You know, that's a gift. You shouldn't take it for granted. It's a great gift to know math and be good at it. I was only a psych major. My dad told me, after I told him, “son most people are psych majors because they want to figure themselves out. You want to figure yourself out and then you'll leave.” I told him he was wrong, that I would follow through. (Laughs) I guess he was right.

Q is texting, and continues texting; pauses, looks around, and resumes texting. B enters and sits across from H. Long pause, B pulls out a newspaper and sighs heavily. He loosens and undoes his tie.

H: Nice tie. You don't need it to travel though.

B: Pardon?

H: I said nice tie. But you don't need to travel. (Laughs uneasily).

B: (Laughs back). Yeah I guess. (He turns to lift his paper).

H: But you know what I always say, can't wear something that will choke me. No turtlenecks and no ties...but I've had to do that before; wear a tie. I didn't wear a tie though. I wore a clip-on. Walked right into a room full of men in expensive suits and shook their hand with a clip-on tie. Ha...what do you do?

(Q gets on the phone and starts speaking, at first in a low voice and with short answers)

B: I'm a clerk, I file.

H: I couldn't do that. That's tough stuff. If I were you I would only be in it for the benefits.

B: Yeah, it gets boring sometimes. You're right, I'm only in it for the benefits.

H: We're getting swindled. Those big corporations are exploiting us and making us do things like file folders. All for some measly benefits...y'know?

B: Yeah. The benefits are important.

H: I don't know what I would have done if it weren't for my allergy. I'm allergic to iodine. The hospital I went to when I was sick. They didn't check to see if I'm allergic to the iodine they gave me—they gave me the most overpriced one—they just handed me a prescription. And I was allergic to it. It sent my system into panic. So then I'm sick because they didn't follow procedure and I pointed it out to them. I was the first person to point out that flaw in their system. I had to bring a medical malpractice suit against them. And I'm poor, so what do I do? I can't afford a lawyer, so I had to present my case on my own. Can you imagine? Me against a bunch of hospital lawyers? I finally convinced them they had bad practices and they settled. I don't know how I would have paid for my prescriptions.

B: Yeah, prescription drugs are expensive.

(Q gets louder on the phone. His voice is tight and low.)

H: I almost didn't travel. I was down at the Occupy Seattle protests. I've been down there for the last two weeks y'know. And I got a call from my parents. They wanted to see me. And I almost said no. But then my father—he never pays for anything for me—he offered to pay for my travel. He's been a lot nicer since I got sick.

C: (looks up at him, seems concerned. She pulls out her phone and answers a text) I'm sorry about that.

H: (starts opening pockets in his bag one at a time looking for something.) what? Oh, the medical stuff. Don't worry. I have my mask and I got my doctor's sick. My immune system even compromised my doctors. They had flu shots and everything. And I got them sick...Hmm...an iPod but no headphones...I know I packed them here somewhere. (continues rummaging).

B: (begins to look more concerned, puts down his paper half-way) what are you sick with?

H: probably some cold virus. The doctors can't really tell because of my iodine allergy. So they just give me expensive drugs and hope it goes away. Are you going to Portland too?

(call overhead for Vancouver. Q temporarily starts yelling over the speaker)

B: No. I'm going North. Happy Thanksgiving. (he swiftly exits).

(Long pause, Q is listening on the phone, saying curt yes's or no's. C is looking at a small packet of papers for a class. H keeps rummaging through his backpack.)

H: Ha, two iPods but still no headphones. I might have to pull all my stuff out and camp here. Y'know what I mean? (he unzips pouches puts some clothes on the seat in between him and C) They are here somewhere.

Q: (gets much louder suddenly) there's no way that—that's a complete lie and you know it! Damn it! No, I'll talk to you later...ok...fine...yeah...happy Thanksgiving.

(C looks shell shocked; H has now gotten off his chair and is digging around for headphones through all of his stuff. A distant announcement for final boarding to Vancouver)

H: Ah here they are! I wonder why I put them there? (turns to Q while he starts packing the bag back up) Never where you think right?

Q: (looks up bemused) yeah, I guess.

(H keeps packing up his things. A man with a toy dog in a children's backpack walks by. A woman in a space blanket scurries in the other direction.)

H: so where's home for you?

Q: I don't know. I'm going to Portland for Thanksgiving though. Does that answer it?

H: I suppose. I understand. I was in Europe a couple months ago on a spiritual journey. And people always asked me where I was from. I don't know either. I mean, I'm an American sure, but we are people of the earth. And after a while, well it seemed like where I was from was where I had just been. (turns to C) What about you? Is Portland your final destination?

C: um...No. I'm getting picked up by family and heading to Salem. That's my real home I guess.

H: Yeah, I liked being a kid. It was so simple. Where you were from was where your family lived. After college I had to change that definition. My home wasn't my family's. The two of you will understand.

Q: (sighs heavily) No, I understand. I just graduated this past May. Sometimes home is where the people you are going to visit are. But they are just as scattered as me--

H: yeah. Yeah, that's profound. We've become a homeless generation. You know, I'm sick like this and half the problem was getting treatment. No one wants to take me if I don't have insurance or even a permanent address. Getting health care was so tough. And these banks and HMOs are making record profits and I have to defend myself against the doctors and lawyers that kept me from getting better in the first place. It's insane.

C: It looks like the bus is late for us.

Q: yeah, what a day to travel; at least it's not raining.

C: I guess.

(Long Pause, the overhead finally announces the Southbound bus to Portland)

H: I guess that's us. Happy Thanksgiving guys.

End

Travel Thanksgiving

I am not a big fan of the marathon days. I woke at 4am to get Ciera to the airport. Side note, Chris at work is slightly obsessed with the weather, and he told me, “the weather in November is the worst of the year, and this is the wettest November on record. It rains in the other months but it doesn't pour like in November.”

I'm inclined to really believe him. Driving when it is dark in Seattle in November means driving (or often in my case walking) in a downpour. It was so wet this morning that using the carpool lane meant hydroplaning. I didn't use the carpool lane to say the least. I dropped Ciera off at the airport and crawled back into bed. But wait, I had to get up again and so I was right back out of bed and heading to work. It was wet enough today that I just took the bus. The bus is a bit faster than walking. It took me 15 minutes to get downtown as opposed to walking which takes forty five.

If you calculate the speed though, if I jog at a reasonable pace, I can make it all the way downtown in about 17 minutes, so the bus isn't that fast. It's mostly dry and warm.

Work was pretty casual. Jess brought her cute little dog Clarisse into work. That dog has a mind of its own. Jess headed off to the kitchen but Clarisse refused to budge and plopped down right next to me. I'm glad that the puppy likes me but I think she should behave a little better. Anyways, Clarisse seemed entirely too preoccupied with my crotch so I let her come up on my lap and sit there for a minute. Even if the only benefit I get is a puppy on my lap every now and then it is a benefit and I do like those.

Anyways, I listened to music all day and worked steadily. It wasn't really anything that I needed to be there for, but I did show up. Because I'm dedicated. At least I like to fancy myself as such. Who can really tell.

Dropped the car key off with Amber Lee at Fireworks, met April the store manager, and went to the bus station. There began a long wait for a late bus. It was kind of agonizing. I listened in on a very talkative guy in standard drifter hipster attire—pants that turn into shorts, a beard, a beanie, a large hiking backpack, a soft spoken voice, and a semi-informed communist political demeanor. He had some sort of auto-immune disease and was sick. But he was talkative and made the Asian girl very uncomfortable, and the black guy just ignored him, and I really didn't give much of a damn.

At an entire bus stop though, his conversation seemed like he had been dropped out of a movie and had just drawn in three strangers to be part of his indie film. I kind of liked him. And now I'm in traffic. I won't be in until late and I don't expect to go to bed early. There are a lot of Asians in Seattle. And a bunch are going to Portland.

A black man wore a batman backpack frontways and in it was his toy dog. Greyhound is the best smattering of life.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

FTL Crowdsourcing

Recently, at CERN, faster than light (FTL) neutrinos were verified as having been discovered. The team of scientists reported about a month ago that they had witnessed neutrinos traveling at FTL speeds. The experiment was re-run with tighter controls and even better results were observed.

This has thrown up a controversy with most people dismissing it. I am very excited to see where this goes. I am making no assertions about its ultimate staying power but I don't doubt the robustness of the experiment. Certainly this could have significant implications. If FTL neutrinos were found it would mean that E=mc2 is..um...wrong. It would open up a whole new world of physics. It wouldn't allow us to start floating from the ground and traveling in time, our GPS satellites wouldn't implode, but it would be akin to turning a corner in a maze, expecting to see the end and finding an entire new labyrinth.

So it could be cool stuff.

Also, Occupy the SEC. It's a group of OWS people that have been scrutinizing legislation; specifically the Volcker amendment to Dodd-Frank. Well I guess that means that they just got specific. So here's my idea, springing off of that. If we are a government “of the people, by the people, and for the people” in Lincoln's words, and if vigilance is key to preserving that democracy, I am hereby proposing the idea of crowdsourcing government documents.

Pork barrel spending is based off an old slavery term. During holidays, slave-owners would get a barrel of salted pork to their slaves and watch as the slaves fought over the best parts. They would egg the slaves on to fight and would bet on different aspects of it. Pork barrel spending is a sick term we use to demonstrate not just the glut of congress but its lascivious servitude to special interests.

In order for pieces of legislation to pass, for the required amount of votes to be found; rider-amendments are often added that are tailored to the swing votes. These amendments often approve funding for projects that will help boost specific districts. An excellent example is the 'bridge to nowhere' in Alaska, a proposed $300 million bridge-building project that would serve only a few thousand residents. Residents of the islands being served weren't even in favor of it. But it would have generated a substantial sum of money for Alaska.

It was literally the cost of a vote.

And so this is my idea. Create a site that takes public documents and allows crowds to scrutinize them for loopholes and riders that are not only unnecessary but exploit the impenetrability of many bills. Screw that. What if there was a central site where people could analyze documents into plain English, flag questionable passages, and use a library of cross-referencing tools to form cogent arguments against big-business? That is Democracy in action in my opinion.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Excerpt Land Leave Update

Short story. An excerpt from my editing of Land Leave:

Rain came down quickly. Bill's clothes were getting soaked slowly but he didn't care. He walked down the abandoned road. It would be seven or eight more blocks until he got home. The rain came down in tiny drops, little reminders of the magnificent cloud cover above. If he squinted he could see low and quick moving clouds against the higher permanent background of gray. His hair was long and shaggy; it slowly weighed down as drops hit his moppy top and dripped to his nose. He turned to the girl beside him and smiled. She had on a faux fur hood, and was trying to walk along the edge of the sidewalk.

“I can do it,” she said triumphantly. Her foot slipped and planted firmly into a deep puddle. Her beat up Converse sneaker was immediately soaked. “That doesn't count,” she looked at Bill, smiled flirtatiously and took a quick hop-skip forward.

Bill was sixteen and this was his first girlfriend—it would be at least. For now they were just 'best friends'. She stood under the street light; a bio-luminescent green that burst into full brightness as she passed under it. She bounced on one foot lightly, “c'mon. It's wet out! And we got a long ways to go!”

Bill picked up the pace slightly. Offered his arm to her as he approached. She stuck her tongue out and laughed, “you got an umbrella mister?”

“Er...no.”

“Then I don't want what you're selling,” and she turned quickly and strode gracefully forward.

Bill kept his arm out and walked behind her, “but I'm not selling it. This here is for free.”

The drops left dark stains in any surface exposed to the thin night air. The rain came down with spring heft, but the Colorado air was always crisp, even when it was damp. Bill's boots were awkward; ankle length hiking boots that didn't go with even his most outdoorsy pair of rolled up jeans. The light of the streetlamp faded behind them and the girl turned to him.

“Nothing's for free,” she said coyly. Bill caught her, even in the dim light, bite her lip and hold back a giggle. A flash and she turned away, hidden in her furry hood again.

“What?”

“I said nothing is for free,” she ended with a high final note and grabbed his arm. She put his arm down slowly and stood in front of him. Stopped him in his path, leaned in and stared right into his eyes. Bill held his breath, tried to keep a calm expression. Her eyes darted all over his face, “you need a haircut,” she said matter-of-factly. And she turned and danced in the rain. She twirled and tilted her head back. Felt the rain hit her face.

Bill let his breath out. Tried to think clearly as the image in front of him blurred. It was either the rain or his parents' gin. Probably the gin. The two had sneaked out the back of the house; unnecessary because his parents slept like rocks and put in 'soothing sounds of the sea' on full blast. They were such big hippie naturalists they surrounded themselves with technology to reinforce that image. Bill and the girl had gone to the nearby park, giggling and passing the bottle back and forth. They sat on a bench and talked about what they thought love meant, what held the world together. The park was an overlook on the city. The lights were all out except for the airport where high-speed blimps were getting loaded with supplies.

The blimps were long thin and thin. They rested gently on the ground receiving their cargo. It was almost inconceivable to Bill that those were the tiny dots that darted at over 450 miles per hour high above the clouds. He tried not to wonder too much at it as the girl had scooted closer to him and passed him the bottle.

They decided to return because the bottle was empty and the air was too cold. Bill had tried to look manly and cool; he suppressed his shivers and his speech came out in staccato bursts as a consequence. But it was too cold and they got up to go; smelling the forest air; thick with evergreen, dirt, and the spring snow. As they exited the park, the rain peaked. It had gone from sporadic patters to steady fall. More than a drizzle, less than a downpour. And every drop that touched Bill's skin electrified him. Despite the cold and the wet, he was happy.

They stomped into the house, noisily removing their wet outer layers. Bill kicked off his shoes at the door.

“Shhh” she said and whispered a giggle.

Bill looked at her, “wha?” he pointed to her feet, and she quickly removed her shoes.

The house smelled like new carpet and hardwood floor. It was a large house, another cookie cutter out in the suburbs of the American Union. It had a gas fireplace. Bill grabbed the wet clothes and set them on the rack next to the fireplace. A screen popped up and he set the fireplace to high. With a whoosh and a pop, the fireplace came on and a roaring fire lit the room. Bill set down the clothes and pulled the blanket off the couch. He looked at the girl. She pulled at her tank top and looked at it, “do you have some clothes I can borrow?”

Bill motioned to his room, “second and third drawer in the dresser, grab whatever you want,” he whispered back. She came back into the room, wearing one of Bill's old ts and a pair of his sweats. Bill gave her the blanket and ran to his room to change. He dressed in the dark, tried not to make too much noise. When he came back into the living room he realized that his shirt was on backwards. She laughed at him in a hissed whisper.

Bill didn't even notice that they had fallen asleep. She lay in his arms, curled tightly against his body; a wisp of hair caught in her barely open mouth. He shook her lightly to wake up.

Piercing

Short story:

“I just got it pierced see?” She grabbed her collar and stopped herself, “well, I probably shouldn't show you, not in public at least. I mean, like I'll show you some other time...Don't take that to mean—no I didn't mean that way. You are nice and attractive but I don't want to show you it that way, if there is a way about it” she giggled, “I just, I am excited to show you this piercing...You see I got my first one when I was in college. I just graduated last year. And anyways, I got it my first year, I was a little drunk one night and this guy I was hooking up with mentioned that he thought it was hot. I didn't do it for him though. I promise. He ended up being kind of a jerk. I had been thinking about it for a while; it was something I could get that no one would know about but that I could call my 'little rebellion.' Am I talking too much?”

She paused and took a large sip from her coffee. Her eyes shifted around the room trying not to look at me. “Oh anyway, I should finish the story even if I do talk too much. I love stories, and I hate it when people hold off on telling and they start and then they stop and go I can't tell you, it's not appropriate or it's too embarrassing or whatever. But then they just tell you. Like what the hell? Just tell the story!” Her hands flailed wildly and almost spilled the coffee. “Anyways, like I was saying...what was I saying? Oh the piercing. Yeah I was kind of tipsy and I was hanging out with my friends and this guy I was hooking up with and I said I'd get one. I had been thinking about it because I wanted to be a 'wild crazy college girl'--ha! But it sort of was because of that, my parents are so straight-laced it drove me up a wall. I almost got my tongue pierced once at a charity clothing drive when I was sixteen just to see the look on my dad's face. My mom caught me before I could go through with it though.”

She shifted her position and leaned forward, “so we were hanging out and I told them I would do it. And this bitch that I hated but who always was around, you know those kinds of girls? The ones that are always there but you can't get rid of them because they are friends with so-and-so and they aren't big enough bitches that you can point out any real reason to not hang out with them so you keep seeing them at every party and when you do they always run up to you and give you a big hug and a fake smile and say 'oh my god! It's so great to see you why don't we hang out more?' Her. Well she and hook-up guy egged me on and so we went down to the mall, which was a whole story in itself, and I got it pierced.”

She picked up her coffee and put it to her lips, stopped mid-action and looked up at me, “I never hooked up with him again. He was a jerk like I said. He ended up hanging out with 'oh my god' girl; they're getting married now I hear. She was fugly though and that should make me feel better but it doesn't. It makes me feel kind of fugly by proxy. Whatever. Anyways, I got this piercing so I could have my own little rebellious secret. So that when people say 'you are so straight-laced and clean' I can smile and nod knowingly. But for the last four years I have felt lopsided. So that's why I got this one. Symmetry. I like to feel personally rebellious but also kind of y'know...even.”

Friday, November 18, 2011

Living at Home

Ciera just said, “more lovin' for the shovin'.” I think she meant, “more cushion for the pushin'.” Either way that's polite dinner conversation. Especially when I go out of my way to make a beautiful dinner and get a nice bottle of red wine to drink with my asparagus gnocchi.

Apartment living. It's what I do now. I was looking at a map of Seattle today, and I called it home in my head. That was compounded by a further oddity. I tried to find my first home and I couldn't. It just seemed so distant. I don't know why but I thought to myself, “if I look at a map of where I grew up I will be able to remember what it was like to be young again. Just for a moment, be a child on my way to school.” But that didn't happen. Instead I became lost in the grid, looking at familiar names without context, wondering where my home was.

Reno was set ablaze today. It made national news. People I went to high school with were evacuated to my high school and my gym was all over the national news circuit. And I couldn't help but feel that if the developers hadn't shirked on costs for safety the fire wouldn't have eaten 20 homes. The dry cheat grass covers the hills and dies by June. For the rest of the year it is tinder covering the hills, waiting for a spark. The late autumn winds in Reno kicked up and a stray spark from a downed electrical wire or maybe a campfire lit by a homeless man or maybe just a tossed cigarette turned into a blaze. The blaze reminded me how much I wanted to go home, but like I said my home is in Seattle now.

And its wet here. Sometimes by weather. Other times by Ciera's design. Or rather, her lack of. This morning I woke up as I normally do and hopped in the shower. Ciera woke with me and said she would make a pot of coffee. I was relieved to not have to make my own pot of coffee. It's the little things in life. I got out of the shower and was drying myself off when I heard a knock on the bathroom door. It opened just a slit, and Ciera's hand shot through it, grabbing a towel and quickly shutting. I was left there, half stunned, and very reticent to see what had happened in the kitchen.

I tossed on some pants and opened the door. Ciera was frantically wrangling a bath towel, a dish towel, and paper towels to clean up a very large spill of coffee all over the counter and floor. She said, “I didn't put the coffee pot in all the way and it dripped everywhere.”

I helped her clean it all up. When we sat down and ate our oatmeal she confided something to me, “I didn't even put the coffee under the drip. I just set it by the sink. I turned on the stove and put the oatmeal on and I even thought to myself I hope I did everything right. Then I crawled into bed and waited for you to finish your shower. I woke up and there was coffee everywhere. I didn't want you to know so I grabbed the towel. But I didn't even put the pot under the drip.”

I couldn't help but laugh. She had tried to hide if from me like a child. And like a child she had believed that if she had cleaned it up she could keep it all a secret. But I'm sure I would have noticed that there was no coffee. Apartment living. Oh the minor adventures of living with somebody. How quaint.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Apartment F 2


Ok. How about now? Does the artist in question seem a little more influential?

Apartment F 1


This is part one of me making an art piece for our Apartment. Can you guess the artist that inspired it? Probably not because it isn't a direct rip-off.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Alaskan Way Liquefaction

It's hard to write. And it's hard to pay the bills. It's hard to not have life kind of suck. But that's only when I start worrying. Most of the time I am just doing what I do. That's far more fun. But it doesn't pay the bills.

Those damn student loans. The average American household with the head being 65 or older is worth 35 times what I'm worth. That is real inequality.

And those freakin' loans. If you default then your credit is bad for “like forever” and it drives me up a wall to think that my parents barely paid for college. College costs have skyrocketed and average post-graduate wages have drilled themselves downward. I am part of a generation of people who live in the most affluent nation and somehow cannot seem to get a slice of the big ole pie.

The Stranger has little postcards that fall out of their magazine each week now. They are confessions from the 99% on how their life sucks. It does suck. I mean, it's not South Sudan; it ain't paradise.

I feel like I'm right next to the Alaskan Way Seawall. In the event of a big enough earthquake, all of the fill that has been put there to make it level liquefies and starts to undulate with the waves of the earthquake. I feel like I'm right at the edge watching the piers collapse; the double-decker viaduct sway and tremble until they pay homage to the Embarcadero Bridge and come crashing down in enormous chunks, taking the lives of unsuspecting commuters in a violent maelstrom of concrete and smoke.

And if I'm not careful, I could easily step into that chaos. I could lose my footing on the steep yet sturdy bedrock below most of Seattle. I could end up on the structurally insufficient man-made death trap.

The two homeless men I pass on my way to work sleep and live under the Alaskan Way Viaduct. They will feel it shake, and they will be the first to go. But no one will notice and then everyone else will go. And I might be there too. On my way to work. And I won't have recourse to escape.

That is what it feels like sometimes. I'm not so happy with the people that let this happen. I can vote. I can organize. And these a-holes aren't going to keep me on the seawall while they watch from their penthouse windows. Screw that. I'm tired of people who suck trying to make my life suck.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Cookie Sheet


Ate spaghetti at four. Went grocery shopping. Hung out. Because we can. Made these awesome cookies, which sort of melted together.

UW By Gates Law


UW by Gates Law Building.

Spring Closing in November

And then we went to Pike Place Market. And we spent an afternoon enjoying each other if not the weather. The market was crowded. People moved like molasses. People called out to sell their wares. Free samples. Heavy smells. Kitsch and beauty. Art and food. Knick-knacks and fish. It is the beauty of the city.

Lunch buffet. Indian food. The warm and the cold. The rain, and the breaking rays of light. Seattle is green and neon red and blue-grey. And I kept apologizing to Claire for “the weather being so terrible; it wasn't like this just a couple days ago.”

I purchased spices and we made our way back. Chilled out in the apartment. This is a city. I hoped Claire would choose to live here. But I respect if she goes to a school and location that more suits her needs.

We skyped with Katie, Alex, and Laura. It was nice to talk to them. I want to visit them.

We met Mimi and her friend Denise before the play. And Spring Awakening closed. The show went well, Ciera's scenes constantly evolved. Her big one was darker than I had ever seen it before. But she was great, as I had expected.

Then it was to the cast party where I got to really talk to the members. Interesting people. Stepped out into the surprisingly warm air with Claire and walked to Bartell's to grab some cigs. I needed some air from the laughter and the noise. I cleared my head; came back. And we went back to the apartment. At three in the morning we finally called it quits, going to bed. But that is even a lie. Ciera fell asleep and Claire and I still talked until about four.

This is what I missed, just being with my friends and not caring about the hour. The wine would come back to haunt me in the morning. The lack of sleep too. But for the moment it was just another loop on the roller coaster.

Sometimes I feel like I am living someone else's life. Like I don't feel entitled to being surrounded by such awesome people. It doesn't compute to me that I get so much and others get so little I suppose. I don't know what I did to really earn it all. I think that is what luck really means.

Visiting

So Claire came in on Veteran's day. It is comforting and wonderful to have someone like Claire in my life. Claire came to visit me and to visit colleges to look at law schools. On Friday it was rainy and it was inconsequential.

I couldn't find a parking spot, but it was inconsequential. I rolled into Sea-Tac International Airport and met her at baggage claim. From there it has been a non-stop ride. We toured the city and I dragged her around. I have gotten so used to walking that I don't find distances odd at all. I regularly traverse the distance between the Space Needle and Pioneer Square. I walk about 5 miles a day. So whenever I remembered another little destination I told her, “just a couple more blocks.” Forty blocks later we had seen much of the city on foot.

I realized how much I knew about the city. I am not a very bad tour guide I think. I was way excited to show Claire everything about my new life. I also realized how barren it was to a large degree. I don't know where the big concerts or shows are; I live vicariously through Ciera, who is hooked into the theater scene. I usually just go see the things she has comps for.

It's nice to live that life, but I need to get out. I have become sort of isolated. Claire is my friend but I don't think that many people I have met here would really consider me to be such. I think I am “Ciera's boyfriend” a lot of the time now. Oh well.

The rain picked up and I guided Claire back to the Seattle Center, under the Space Needle, and into the car. I pulled off my Skidmore rowing shell; a waterproof layer that kept me warm. I turned the engine and picked up Ciera.

We cooked mac and cheese, picnicked on the floor and uncorked a bottle of wine. I now have the comforts of home in miniature. I live in a little studio apartment and am proud to bring my friends over and have them sleep on our couch and be hosts. I have moments of peace.

Ciera went to her play. Piper got on skype and I was able to hang out with my friends for hours. I miss Skidmore.

I am in Seattle now and I am happy to have my friends visit and I can't help but be happy and proud. It is probably some sort of sin to feel contented. Despite the many chaotic things in our world right now. Despite the uncertainty around me. Having Claire here reminded me of how much I mean to people and how much they mean to me. Living with Ciera it becomes a little insular. I folded cranes. Something I should have done a long time ago. I want to make sure that they make it to their destination.

If only to show that others are important to me.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

empty roads

I love walking the city streets at night when they are abandoned. The roads hint at some greater purpose. At night they are unused and look like black rivers, lazy and geometric. I find a peace in walking along the streets and knowing that—while I cannot directly observe it—there are a great many lives around me. Each has its own history. People who have friends and family, who remember endless summers, and have inside jokes, and say profound things to each other.

There is always a human tragedy. Two men speak in hushed whispers outside a cafe. I pass slowly and they stop talking; look at me. A man tries to sell tickets outside Key Arena. A metal band emanates from an open door. A woman with a mastiff walks her dog. And all of these things have a history; are the middle of their own indie films.

Amber started her theater company today. I was there for the first meeting. I met new people and tapped into a culture of peers who want to do something.

I want to hit the ground running everyday. Queen Anne Hill is nearly a 500 foot ascent/descent. If I walk up and down it twice in a day I have changed elevation by nearly 1000 feet. On a map that barely makes a dent. The longest ships in the world are just over 1000 feet. If I were to stand one up, it would be twice the height of Queen Anne Hill. But it is the second highest hill in Seattle. And I walk it everyday.

I feel proud of myself. I hit the ground running everyday. And I'm excited to be creative again. I'm excited to collaborate with artists my age. I'm excited to live my life the way that I want to. I want my little indie flick to have a happy ending and I want it to be awesome. But I feel like I've just started climbing another little hill with this troupe. No matter, art requires exercise and perseverance, just like anything physical.

An empty road in a city. It beckons me; calls to me, “drive. Let the street lights pass in easy and steady succession: one, two, three.”

The Seer's Story 04

short story continues:

At her house, Lily turned to Tally. She looked at him, opened her mouth to speak, and hesitated. Tally looked at her expectantly, hoping that she would verify what had happened wasn't just his imagination, that something made sense. A couple of yellow leaves fell, twisting gently in the breeze. Lily held her breath and almost spoke.

Instead, she squeezed his hand quickly, turned and ran inside. Tally stood there. The morning had been unbelievable. Was it the morning? Was it a dream? It couldn't have been. It was so visceral. He walked slowly toward his house, feeling the gravel of the drive crunch under him. His feet touched pavement; a firm footing. The few leaves in the trees cast playful shadows down the road as the breeze pushed the branches. It was warm, almost muggy.

He could feel his body tingle slightly as it absorbed the weather. He had a few blocks to walk alone and muse about the day. What could have made that happen? He kept pushing the answer out of his head. There was no basis.

Seers. Magic. The dream. But it was just a dream. He paused. The street had become quiet. It was completely still. A shiver ran down his spine as he pulled his backpack off and opened it. He reached his hand down slowly into the bag, trying to keep his composure. He felt it and his hand jumped back as if it had touched a hot coal. Tally was breathing heavily. He looked at the backpack, zipped it up and ran home.

The door slammed behind him unceremoniously. He threw the backpack to the other side of the room and it hit the closet door with a thud. The contents spilled out. Tally looked; he tried to make it go away but it wouldn't. The rope had fallen out of the backpack and was coiled like a snake facing toward Tally.

A mixture of fear and excitement swept over him. There was something real about the incident earlier today. He had proof. The rope was there. The seers. Were they real?

Tally whirled around and looked at his bookshelf. Hundreds of books lined the shelves. He searched for his favorite. The best written—only the best books could open the gates he thought. He had books from when he was a baby to his first reading books to the long chapter books that he had been reading. He knew immediately which one he would choose. It had to be Alice in Wonderland. He flipped to his favorite part—the tea party. And he started reading. He held back his mind from wandering, but still couldn't help looking around every few sentences.

Nothing. He read all the way to the trial but didn't notice any changes. He had gone to another world earlier in the day. What had changed? He went out back to the porch and sat in the sun. Th large oak tree that covered the back yard swayed gently in the breeze. It's long branches twisted and gnarled in the most magnificent patterns. It was such a beautiful tree. He had spent hours under that tree playing and climbing it. The oak must have been at least two hundred years old. Tally wondered what it would say if it could talk.

“The squirrels are messy, but they are entertaining,” said the tree.

Tally opened his eyes lazily, “yeah, aren't the birds entertaining?”

The oak had a full voice, smoky and rich as brandy, “yes, but they fly away in winter. I need company even in the darkest months.”

Tally felt sorry for the tree. Hardly anyone ever went out on the back porch and all of the trees around him had been cut down and replaced with houses; and he was the only one who had ever talked to it probably. “Are you lonely?”

“No, I pass my days feeling my leaves strain toward the sun and my roots dig into the dirt. It is a pleasant sensation; you humans are too busy to appreciate that though.”

Tally smiled at the tree, reached for the low branch and rubbed a leaf between his fingers. “I guess not, but we have fun in other ways.”

The trees branches swayed in the afternoon breeze, “I suppose. I will never know the joys of humanity, and you will never know the joy of being a tree. You humans come and go too quickly; never stopping to speak to an old oak like me.”

Tally let go of the leaf and apologized, “we don't know how to stay in one place; it's not that we don't like you, we just don't know how to talk to you.”

The tree laughed a deep rumbling laugh, the entire earth seemed to move, “you speak to me now, what is so hard about talking to me?” The tree swayed and creaked as a gust of wind pushed through, “take a leaf from my branches, keep it safe.”

“Why?”

“It is a gift; you have earned my friendship. Few know this but the leaves of an oak are magical. Humans may be able to evoke the magic, but trees store it. We hold it in our roots and our trunks and our leaves,” the oak cleared its throat. At least it appeared to somehow, “the leaf you hold will help you summon the magic when you need it.”

Tally held the leaf by its stem, twirled it. “So my dream is real. The seers do exist.” The world pulsated around Tally and he was on his back porch, but the tree wouldn't talk to him anymore.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Magnolia Bridge


The bridge to Magnolia in Seattle. It reminds me of Hayao Miyazaki's fantasy worlds.

Mushroom


I believe this is an amanita muscaria mushroom. I found it on a fall walk with Ciera. They are potently hallucinogenic and fatal if consumed in excess. At least that's what I found out in my fifth grade report on edible plants commonly found in the forests of the west coast.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

List of Specifics

Here is the list. The list is for people, organizations, or policies that have significantly altered the well-being of the people in this nation either through action or distinct inaction. This list is incomplete. What was a minor inequality between the top 1% and the rest of the nation has now become ballooned into a problem begging for a solution. The road to change is long and hard. This list is not a road-map but a guide to the hotspots where real change can occur.

Senator Phil Gramm: famously said in 2008 that the downturn was just a “mental recession.” Was the architect of much of the repeal of Glass-Steagall. Cowed the SEC into not pursuing strict oversight for Enron before it collapsed—specifically on rules that would have prevented Enron from its malfeasance—through the Commodity Futures Modernization Act. Top five recipient of funds from commercial banks and Wall Street overall.

Commodity Futures Modernization Act: prohibited regulation of derivatives, the speculative market that led to the crash on Wall Street in 2008.

Tom Delay: notoriously corrupt. “Nothing is more important in the face of a war than cutting taxes.” That's right, not war, not the lives of the soldiers, not the international impacts, not anything else. Just taxes.

The Evangelical Right: a coalition of tens of millions of middle and working class Christians who have unwittingly sold out their economic futures for the social issues that their Republican leaders have espoused. The birth of the Tea Party was an off-shoot of this; a group of Evangelicals that realized their social issues weren't being addressed and their economic fortunes had been sold to Wall Street.

Grover Norquist and Americans for Tax Reform: already wrote about this guy. Created the no new taxes pledge that has paralyzed the GOP into a position where economic reality no longer plays a role in how they vote. No new taxes—it's illogical and degrades democracy and scholarship in this country. This country is filled with rational and logical people who don't need a motto to bypass the best judgments.

Stephen Moore and Club for Growth: wants to make the government smaller than it was before World War II. Backs radical Republicans that have made debate and civil discourse in Congress a monumental task.

The Bush tax cuts: the average American (the bottom 80%) received $300 immediately after its passage. The top 1% averaged $38,500 in take home. Ten years later, the top 1% are receiving event greater cuts while the rest of the cuts to the average American have ceased and we are paying what we did before.

The Alternative Minimum Tax: Bush made it worse, doubling the number of Americans expected to pay it, while reducing the rate for the highest income taxpayers. Basically adding the burden of taxes to the more middle-class taxpayers while cutting the taxes of the wealthiest. Oh, and it also resulted in an $800 billion dollar hole in the tax code.

Senator Charles Grassley: supported the AMT while being fully aware of the consequences for this nation.

Tax revision of 2003: estimated loss of revenue--$1 trillion over ten years. That's bigger than the TARP. Of the measure Dick Cheney famously said “Reagan proved that deficits don't matter. We won the midterms. This is our due.” Dick Cheney doesn't care about spending when it's his initiative and not his income class that takes shoulders the burden.

Chuck Schumer, John Kerry, Hillary Clinton, Joe Lieberman, and Chris Dodd: biggest beneficiaries of the securities and investments largesse.

Hedgefund Managers: they pay a lower rate than their secretaries. 15%. Even Rick Perry's 20% flat tax would raise their rates. And they pull in about $900 million a year on average.

Senator Mark Baucus: as chair of the Senate Finance Committee he has taken in more money from interest-groups than any other senator other than Bill Frist.

The Senate filibuster: there is no mention of it in the constitution but it has become so commonly used that few bills pass in the Senate now with less than 60 votes. It has effectively paralyzed legislation and needs major reform in order to get this country back on track.

Senators Miller, Feinstein, Breaux, Landrieu, and Lincoln: approved of tax cut legislation without looking at the nuance of it and effectively screwing over anyone making less than $200,000 a year. All to maintain an image of moderation.

Expensing of stock options: in the tech boom of the 90s companies often paid out bonuses in stock options. A move by the SEC to have companies report the like costs of this form of compensation. This never happened, and so now stocks can be given away by companies as a form of compensation without ever reporting it. It is effectively an under-the-table form of pay that keeps CEOs from claiming them on taxes. Same goes for the company. This wasn't a big increase in government; this was adjusting to the 21st century and asking for honest accounting.

Sandy Weill: Clinton advisee who pushed for the repeal of Glass-Steagall which paved the way for the merger between Citicorp and Travelers. They were later bailed out to the tune of $45 billion dollars because they had become 'too big to fail' but obviously not smart enough to succeed.

Gramm-Leach-Bliley: legislation that repealed Glass-Steagall and opened the door for bank failures.

Robert Rubin: Secretary to the Treasury under Clinton. Advocated the repeal of Glass-Steagall. Resigned and became a senior advisee at the newly formed Citigroup. Ran the company into the ground, producing $65 billion in losses for the company. Received over $126 million in cash and stock as compensation.

Alan Greenspan: Fed Chairman that pumped up the housing bubble to soften the Dot Com Bomb and 9/11 but didn't consider that it would burst. Wrote a paper defending his actions but was explicitly warned of the consequences by the likes of Warren Buffet and Nobel Prize winner for Economics Paul Krugman years before.

Senator Mitch McConnell: has alienated the moderate GOP to the point that it is either non-existent or forced to vote the party line. Is an abuser of the filibuster and has effectively ground to a halt any legislation he finds distasteful.

Senator Jim DeMint: believes the 16th Amendment (the federal income tax) should be repealed. Tried to double down on the Bush tax cuts of 2001 and make them permanent. This would have resulted in a $3.1 trillion deficit over the next decade. Can't do math.

The party of no: the nickname of the modern GOP. Their refusal to even consider certain policy maneuvers has paralyzed the country and stunted its development. They openly use their stonewalling as a political tactic while stifling real democratic discourse. Even the famous Reagan conservative Bruce Bartlett called the GOP fiscal policy “distorted into something that is, frankly, nuts—the ideas that there is no economic problem that cannot be cured with more and bigger tax cuts, that all tax cuts are equally beneficial, and that all tax cuts raise revenue.”

Senator Olympia Snowe: by playing the middle and failing to take a strong stance on anything, she has held up progress on almost every bill. She rarely crosses the aisle but demands that everyone pander to her demands.

Thomas Donahue and Chamber of Commerce: has created political channels where interest groups can funnel money quietly through to push an agenda without having to take credit. This ruins accountability and creates distortion in the media.

David and Charles Koch, Americans for Limited Government, Tom Coburn, 912 Project, Glenn Beck, and Americans for Prosperity: Tea-Party tagalongs that have pushed their own selfish agendas while exploiting working Americans.

Political Illiteracy: perhaps the biggest issue. Political illiteracy has demonstrated that voters do not know the importance of what they are voting for or who best represents their interests. This has led to confusion and the weakening of our political system.

Senator Louie Gohmett: elitist that uses populism as a cover for his oligarchic views. Wants to repeal the 17th amendment which provides for direct election of senators.

John Boehner: “hell no, you can't.” Refuses to even negotiate on half-way reasonable terms and is the reason the legislation coming out is so watered down.

This list is far from complete. This list is not meant to be a 'hit' list; instead it is meant to show people points where pressure can be applied to start affecting real change. These all require different tactics, and a lot of time and effort. But this list is meant to help

Give Me Some Credit

Ok, so today was the big switch—Bank Transfer Day. A woman started a group on facebook that implored people to make the switch from their big bank to a credit union or local bank. The day the switch was supposed to happen was today, November 5. 70,000 people became friends of the page and made the pledge to make the change. Many more are expected to as well.

So, the question becomes, why switch to a credit union? And for that matter, what is a credit union?

Well, a credit union is owned by its account holders with each member getting one share to help decide the direction the credit union will go. One person one vote; account holders are typically called shareholders and accounts are called shares to reflect this system. Credit unions are not publicly traded entities, their assets are managed by an elected volunteer board that steers policy according to the will of its account holders. Credit unions tend to be local; operating in a small region and having few branches or ATMs. To offset this though, many credit unions belong to larger groups of credit unions that share benefits like access to each other's ATMs to increase their footprint.

Credit unions typically use their assets to reinvest directly into local communities, providing a very large percentage of small business loans SBAs each year. All banks in the nation last year averaged .187 percent of deposits going toward small business loans. In contrast, the more regional institutions—credit unions and even local banks—invest substantially more. They inject money into the local economy which provides jobs and helps the middle and working classes.

The big banks counter that they make substantial contributions to SBAs in the form of loans and services. But their categorization of an SBA is a business that makes less than $20 million in profits per year. If you look closely at where those 'magnanimous' loans go, it's mostly in the $10 million to $20 million profit range. Big banks don't have the same kind of lending policies. Period.

Credit unions also focus on lending and helping improve financial stability of their shareholders. Boeing Employees Credit Union (BECU) extends a line of credit based off the largest expense a shareholder has on a monthly basis—example: if a shareholder's biggest monthly bill is $500 for rent, BECU gives the shareholder $500 of credit attached to the shareholder's accounts. This provides a safety net in case of emergency (car breaks down, unforeseen medical bill etc.) and prevents overdraft fees, while simultaneously building credit scores for those who don't use it.

Banks should do these kinds of things but they don't. Most banks have eliminated free checking, charging fees to customers without notifying them. In the wake of the big bailouts; banks have failed to lend out money to SBAs or small clients; instead focusing their energy on acquisitions. Lending is tight in the recession despite record bonuses for their executives. They often have national ATMs but that's a moot point because places like BECU offer over 28,000 ATMs nationwide through their partnerships. Big banks are usually publicly traded companies which makes them vulnerable to significant manipulation via markets as well as enthralled by the coercive power of large investors rather than their members.

Banks have held this nation hostage with their 'too big to fail' nature. The American taxpayer has been effectively on the hook; stuck with these guys because they have hoarded cash, made terrible financial decisions, lobbied Congress to turn a blind eye to their unregulated pyramid schemes (Madoff was famously boosted in credibility by the banks who refused to inquire about his methodology), and refused to do anything to change these detrimental policies.

This was supposed to be an objective look at banks versus credit unions, but I fail to see a reason why I should continue to patronize a place that can't turn a profit (Bank of America has been the DJIA poorest performer for the last two quarters), wreaks havoc on my country's financial system (the banks approved toxic loans and bundled them in volumes that caused the recession), is unresponsive to customers (they have famously tried to foreclose on homes for $1.00 and $0.00 in unpaid loans; both later attributed to bugs in their system), and has continued to make big payouts to its CEO without tying his pay to any sort of objective performance.

Oh, and they don't care either, so don't worry about hurting their feelings. If I were to tell the CEO that I was pulling all of my assets out and sticking them in a credit union, he would laugh at me; he doesn't care about what I make because he makes that in less than five minutes of work. But that would never happen, because he will never meet me. I have a high likelihood of meeting and knowing a board member of BECU though; they live and work in my community. They make sure that the money goes where it belongs, back to the community. And they have a democratic way of organizing themselves. I love democracy and I love economic development. I don't love monopolies that hold capitalism hostage and spend millions of dollars lobbying my congressmen to make legislation that continues to benefit only the big banks. I'm sick of it.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Spring Awakening Review

Last night I went and saw the preview to the play Ciera is in; Spring Awakening. This isn't the musical version. This is the dark and discordant, fractured and hilarious original play version. It explores sex, puberty, angst, and the dark world of the teen in a way I never thought of.

It portrays the teens in a painfully honest way—forcing the audience to chide the melodrama that unfolds while at the same time making us sympathize with children coming of age despite the adults' best efforts to prevent it. Local Jewell, a small community theater company, has put up the performance. And it is community theater. Sometimes the acting is stiff, other times overwrought, but on the whole the potency of the script shines through undiminished.

I had the benefit of talking to the director Christopher Jewell about his directing choices—over a couple beers after the preview—and got a glimpse into his vision of Frank Wedekind's surprisingly contemporary play. Christopher's overarching principle was to treat each scene in its own right. The farce of the parents; the romanticism of the teens in the woods; the giddy conspiracy of each scene as if it were plucked straight from memory, unpolished and untainted by the years of adulthood that inevitably casts a tone onto a time without one.

The strongest actors were by far the children; all tapping into an honesty that is contrasted by the deliberate shallowness of the adults in the play. The children play each scene with kindness to their characters—pursuing the uninhibited and illogical choices of adolescence without the trappings of an adult thought process. The children—are childish; they aren't dumb though, and ask to be taught about the changes happening to them. But the adults refuse, instead filling their minds with Latin and classics; desperately hoping that they can stave off the loss of innocence just another day if only they don't ask the most burning questions.

What I'm saying is that there was some really good acting in the play. There were some stand-outs. Zachary Simonson stole the show as Moritz, easily outshining Melchior in many ways. It adds a different dimension to the play to see the sidekick as main character and the main character as victim of circumstance.

And of course Ciera did an amazing job as Ilse; eliciting audible reactions from the audience with her monologue about her escapades with turn of the century avant garde German artists. In the scene Ilse tries to cheer up Moritz who is about to commit suicide. In a perfect illustration of dramatic irony, the scene plays out in a heartbreaking fashion.

And of course Amberlee Williams plays a simple and straightforward Wendla; a girl curious about her developing sex and denied all information by those around her. It is a cautionary tale for teachers of abstinence only education, showing the unintended consequences of trying to stunt a girl's mental development. It's impossible to keep kids from growing up and leaving them unprepared is akin to the severe beatings that the character Martha endures for seemingly no reason.

Ultimately the message resonates; people grow, die, and change. We make promises we can't keep, we discover things we wish we hadn't, but in the end life goes on. And we have to find the humor in tragedy, the honesty in lying, and the complexity in the simple joy of resting under a tree in the summer sun.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

The Seer's Story 03

Short story continues:

Tally woke from his daydream. Rather, he was jolted back to reality by a paper clip missile to the back of his neck. He didn't turn to see who it was. It was probably Darren or Derek—it didn't matter which one, they were identical. They even looked the same, slightly pudgy builds, pasty white skin, and always inflicting pain. Usually it was to themselves, but when that got tiring they found ways of torturing the rest of the class. And, because it was a quiet time, shooting quarters at each others' knuckles was not a quiet ordeal. Instead they opted to fold paper clips into deadly little arrows and shoot them from a rubber band.

Tally didn't worry much about them. The bullying hurt but he knew that everyone was a target. His neck still stung though. He looked in his pencil case. An array of rubber bands and paper clips, pen caps and springs from click pens. He had been hoarding supplies waiting for the perfect revenge idea to strike him. But it had been nearly the whole year and nothing had struck his mind except for the occasional barrage from the back of the room. His pencil case looked like a junkyard. Bits and pieces but nothing whole. He zipped up the case and flipped to his notes.

They were really just a few notes. A couple of words, important names, and dates. The rest of the notes were doodles. Some doodles bordered on art, others were merely patterns and spirals, drawn while his mind wandered away from the class.

Tally looked up at the clock. In a couple of minutes the day would stop and all of the students would shuffle off to the gym where neatly and widely spaced rows of desks had been set up for the state proficiency exams. He had stayed up late for this. He didn't know why he had studied really. He had always done fine. But it seemed like something to do; a reason to not sleep. He was getting older now, next year he would be in High School, and he was testing the limits with his parents. Going to bed a little later wasn't much of a test; they had given up on his bed time since Daniel had gotten big enough to make the entire routine stretch into an hour long ordeal. They had cut their losses with Tally and focused on Danny. Even with the extra energy there was usually some sort of physical struggle at the 45 minute mark.

The clock seemed to stop moving. The teacher's words droned on. He was almost excited to take the test because it meant a half-day and only 25 minutes with Mr. Dale. Mr. Dale had this extraordinary ability to drone on. One time he spent an entire class explaining the types of triangles. He was the rare person who was enamored enough with the basics of math and geometry that he was willing to talk about it everyday to children that fell asleep in the middle of his class. It happened so often that Tally had kept a little tab on how many people fell asleep in any given day. In the two weeks that Tally had been keeping track, over 14 people had fallen asleep.

Tally looked out the window at the fall colors. The sky was a deep blue, pushed away by the constant south wind. It would be a great afternoon; easy to walk home on a day like this. That wouldn't really be the case once winter settled in. But in Mr. Dale's class that was a far off eternity.

The bell rang and Tally packed up his things. As he headed for the door Lily flagged him down, “hey, wanna walk with me to the gym. I wanna tell you something.”

Tally had known Lily for years, they had been neighbors since third grade. “Sure. What's up?” He thought about the time they had first spent time together. The deck of the house next to Tally's had collapsed, and they had both gone to check out the loud crash. He looked at her and smelled cinnamon and apples. It was in her backpack. Her mom was an excellent baker and always put a treat in her lunch. Lily's mom was also thoughtful; she packed extra so that Lily could share some with a friend. In elementary school Tally was always the recipient, but since seventh grade they hadn't been spending as much time together. Tally figured it was part of growing up.

“I had a dream about you. It was weird,” Lily seemed to be regretting ever starting her story.

“Yeah, what was the dream about? And why was I in it?”

“Well, I'm not sure. It was a dream—y'know. So it didn't really make sense. And we were at school. Here. But it was different. It's always different, that's dumb to say,” she giggled nervously, “anyways, we were going to school. And then we were at school. And it was stormy and windy. It was so dark, but it was the middle of the day. And the storm was so big that it flooded the field and washed away everything. And the school, it wasn't here. It was on a cliff. There was a big canyon. And everyone was being washed into it. And you were there. You had a rope, and you tried to save me but the rope was too short. So you told me to fly, to remember that I could fly. Just as I washed over the cliff and started falling I flew. And then it was sunny, and the flood stopped. I saw you waving from below. I landed. And we weren't at the school anymore. We were in a field and you said that we were lost and--”

“What? Lost?” Tally felt a tingle crawl up and down his spine. His ears started ringing and he felt disconnected from the world.

“Yeah, lost. Are you ok? You look like you've seen a ghost.”

“Deja vu,” he composed himself, “was there anything else in the dream?”

Lily hesitated, “no. Nothing else.”

“Oh, ok,” they walked in silence for a few seconds. “Are you ready for the test today?”

“Yeah, remember? We talked about this on the way to school.”

“Oh, yeah. Sorry. It must have slipped my mind,” Tally felt a pulse of energy as they walked in silence. He wanted to break it, to do something magical; something that broke them out of the moment. Instead he walked through the doors that led to the courtyard. The two would have to cross the courtyard to enter the gym.

Lily pushed open the heavy industrial door. It was pouring rain. “The dream--” Lily spoke softly.

Tally looked out at the field. A rush of brown water was flowing across it. The back fence where a line of trees and homes were now looked out on a canyon. Tally watched a basketball get tossed in the riffles and drop over the cliff. Lily let out an audible gasp and looked at Tally.

“What's happening?” She asked wide-eyed.

Tally didn't know. He realized he was holding a rope. Then he heard rushing water and the gym doors exploded; water poured out and engulfed the two of them. Tally instinctively reached out his hand to grab for Lily. He found her arm, but the rushing water swept her away. He let go of all the air in his lungs.

Tally and Lily were standing in the courtyard, four yards apart. Tally could hear a slight ringing in his ears, but all else was silence. The day was the same as it had been; a bright fall day.

The bell rang; the two of them rushed to the gym to take their seats. The test went uneventfully. An endless sea of bubbles were filled out with a number two pencil. The final bell rang, and a flurry of feet rushed to leave the school grounds. The wind had calmed and it was a warm October afternoon. Tally and Lily walked home together in silence.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

The Seer's Story 02

short story continued:

Taliesin woke from his dream. He looked at his phone. The blue screen flickered and flashed the time—1:20 am. He had barely been asleep, and the dream had come again. This was the third time the dream had invaded his sleep in a week. And it was an invasion. Instead of the deep blackness of his other dreams, this one burned itself into his senses. The smell of old books, the buzz of something electric in the background, and the voice. It was a voice that was deep and resonant, echoing in his mind, even as he sat bolt upright transitioning to consciousness.

He looked around his room and watched as the dark shapes came into soft focus. He could see the shadows of his many creations, paper models that he had built from his imagination. A dragon, a plane, a sea creature. He thought about the dream, tried to remember it. Why did the dream scare him? It wasn't the words. It was something else. He laid back in bed and stared at the ceiling. Magic was imagination. Stories were gateways—of course they were. He had heard that since he had learned to read. But that was always a figure of speech. People didn't actually get transported to another world. They stayed firmly in place. People reading words on paper. They weren't anywhere else, they couldn't be.

He heard a creaking. His little brother Daniel came into the room. “Tally? Tally?” Daniel shook Tally's foot over the covers.

Daniel groaned to himself, “what?”

“I had a nightmare. Can I sleep in your bed?” Daniel pleaded softly.

“No, go to mom and dad's room. I don't want you in here.” Tally turned over in bed, pulling the covers over his head.

“Mom and dad aren't there,” Daniel said, “can I sleep here?”

Tally sat up in bed, “what do you mean mom and dad aren't here?”
“They aren't here.”

Tally wasn't in the mood. His homework had been taking over his evenings and this 'seer' nightmare had kept him from sleeping three nights now. He thrust off the covers and walked to the door, grabbing Daniel's hand as he went. “They're here, I'll show you.”

The two walked down the hallway to their parents' bedroom. Tally opened the door, and looked in. His parents were both there, asleep in the bed. He looked at Daniel triumphantly, “here, now go to bed!”

Tally went back to his room and closed the door. He drifted off into sleep easily; dreamless and restful.

The next morning was crisp. The fall was setting in and the leaves were just starting to turn. It was supposed to be warm, part of the back and forth that was early October. He wore a light sweatshirt and happily dawdled on his way to school. His thin lanky frame was accentuated by his big backpack and long straight-leg jeans. He thought about everything on his walks. At this moment he had lost himself in a system of roads that had pedestrian tracks in them. The tracks would have a device that hooked into any skateboard, bike, or roller skate wheel and zoom off. It would be useful for going up hills, but most people needed exercise so it wouldn't be used for most other types of terrain.

He passed a large tree, one side got significantly more sun than the other. He could tell because the leaves were red and some had already fallen off on one side, whereas the other was still mostly green. As he pondered this thought, he saw a white rabbit appear and scurry into a hole in the roots.

“Whatcha starin' at?” It was a girl's voice. Tally nearly jumped when he heard the voice; instead he jerked his body toward the sound and found himself nearly nose to nose with his neighbor Lily. Her large green eyes nearly popped out of her head. Tally jumped back and stuttered.

“The—I was—where'd you—” he stammered.

“What were ya lookin' at?” Lily tried to prompt his jumbled speech; she tilted her head to the side a little and started walking. Her nearly porcelain skin shone brightly in the early morning sun.

Tally composed himself a little and took a couple quick steps to catch up with her, “I was looking at a rabbit,” he said annoyed. The swell of emotion from being startled was fading slowly. He caught himself and changed the subject, “where'd you come from?”

Lily turned and looked at him slightly perplexed, “where I always come from. My house. We meet here everyday and walk to school. Are you ok?” She noticed Tally trying to think; the answer was obvious, so why had he asked it? Tally felt sheepish.

“I'm sorry, I just—it's just—I didn't sleep well last night,” he started to explain to Lily as well as himself, “and something about today has felt so beautiful. I had a nightmare—not a nightmare. It doesn't make me feel good though, this dream. And it was so dark last night. But it's bright and orange today. I feel different,” he paused and looked at Lily. She was pinning her hair back with a pin, trying to wrangle the loose strands of hair that kept falling over her face. “I'm sorry, it's stupid.”

Lily paused in her work and turned to Tally, “no. It's not. But we have to get to school; we'll be late.” She picked up the pace, “did you study for the test?”

“Yeah, didn't get to bed until after one in the morning,” he said it with a bit of pride; his studying was sure to pay-off.

“That's late. Do you think you are ready?”

Tally thought about it for a moment. No, he didn't really feel ready. But that was more due to his preoccupation with the seers. What an odd dream. It seemed so coherent; it was constant; it never fluctuated like the few dreams he could ever remember. And it stayed in his head. Most dreams faded or turned into chunks of images and blurs. This one seemed clearer than a memory. So there.

Lily was crying. He looked up and saw her holding her face, tears streaming down it. He snapped out of his thought and took a step toward her. “What's wrong?”

Her whole body shook, it was the violent emotional vulnerability of a helpless child. “We're—we—we're lost,” she sobbed.

Tally gently put his arm around her, unsure how to touch her and comfort her. “We're not lost. We're going to school.” The sky seemed suddenly dark. He noticed goosebumps on his arm, “we're--” he trailed off as he looked around. How long had they been walking? Where was the school? Where were they? The sky was a uniform dark grey. It held no happiness. It was an empty abyss and sucked at the fall air. A wind kicked up, blowing the dead leaves toward the storm. The air became heavy. And Tally felt small against the darkness.

Sweet Tooth

Why is place so important? What makes a home so necessary?

I would first like to position this in the context of humans as animals. We have our refined modern lifestyle, but ultimately we are animals meeting our basic needs in a time tested way. We don't have dirt burrows, we have buildings with central heat. We don't store our food under rocks, we put them in refrigerators. And we don't cover ourselves in brush to stay warm, we wear clothes and cover ourselves in blankets. We are animals; what a curious thing to be so attached to our bodies and yet put on airs about being 'higher beings.'

With that in mind, I will now speak to the facade of our human world; which is not to diminish it, but simply to acknowledge 300 million years of being pure animal that precedes it. The Ambers came over—probably a slight misnomer as it piles them together though their personalities are so different—and we cooked dinner. We watched youtube videos and talked about life. We drank wine and had spaghetti. And I started to feel a little normal again. Less isolated in the middle of nowhere.

In a city full of people you don't know, discordant noises that break my inner peace, and a whole new way of living I like my home. I control it—well, at least when I can get Ciera to help me keep it clean—and I can do what I want in my home.

I can have friends over, and we can laugh on Halloween. We can cook and sit on the floor and eat. I can find a little inner peace. I am comfortable living here now; the walk down Queen Anne Ave doesn't feel so daunting. Work goes by smoothly; even if it is a rush to finish deadlines.

And I can pretend to live a bland existence while telling my new friends about the wild life I lead. I won second at the costume contest at work, dressed as the Triangle Associates' Intern-ship. I attached a cardboard cut-out of a ship to my belt. Ciera helped me paint it and provided the enthusiasm for me to follow through.

I guessed that Alan (my boss) wouldn't really have a costume—he was the only one in the office not to. It's funny how predictable and transparent we are to other people sometimes.

We have run our dishwasher three times! That's amazing for us, we barely have enough dishes to run it. Halloween in Seattle. I woke up with a candy hangover.