March 2006 Archives

ankle in an air cast, arm in a sling

I'll leave the rest of the story to your imagination. (Hint: it was dark.)

carnage.jpg

okay bye click

For the most part, an ex-ship is pretty much like any other very close friendship. There are subtle differences, though. There are intimate things you know about one another that cannot be unlearned. Now as then, no unreasonable request can be refused—"You need an airport pickup at 3am, followed by a ride to a mechanic in Cle Elum? Fine. Bitch." The buttons you so carefully wired during the course of your relationship? They remain. I can annoy an ex much faster and more effectively than I can, say, Dorkass. And there are moments that you cannot help but cheerfully juxtapose your current status with your former one. This story is about such a moment. Allie answered the phone.

"Hello?"

This was not good. From how she pronounced that one word, I could tell that I did not want to talk to her. She was depressed, exhausted, angry, bitter, and despairing beyond all hope of repair. In other words, she was Barry's job, not mine.

"Jeeeeeezus," I replied. "I'd like to just back out of this conversation right now."

"Okay. Bye." Click.

Yes. This is much better.

what he said

Anytime I peruse the great Leonard Pitts' writings, I know two things for certain: 1) he will cover a topic I've recently written about and 2) I will be embarrassed by how much better he can express what I'm thinking than I can. This is what I was tryin' to say:

Last week, I received an e-mail from a man named Keith in Atlanta. He wrote: "...I wonder if Barry Bonds were a white baseball player trying to break the home-run record if the media would entertain these unfounded allegations? . . . Once again racist America has reared its ugly head..."

It goes on, but you get the point. I wish Keith didn't feel that way, but I'm not surprised he does. I've spent 11 years writing about race -- among other things -- in this space. In that time, two frustrating truths have become clear to me. The first is that many white Americans labor under the self-justifying fantasy that racism just up and disappeared 40 years ago. The second is that many black Americans labor under the equally vexing belief that racism explains everything, that it is the all-purpose excuse any time one of ''us'' gets in trouble, gets criticized or just gets rude service in the checkout line.

zzz is for vendetta

I am going to tell you what I thought of this movie. But before I tell you what I thought of this movie, I am going to pose to you a question. It is a question of central import, a question of fundamental truths, a question that comes both before and after all other questions. It is perhaps the question of our times. But before I ask the question, I want, no need, to start at the ending. For before the ending the movie began, and after the ending the movie was no more. And now I will ask you the question, and then I will tell you what I thought of this movie. And that question, dear reader, if you're still there, is unfortunately but most precisely this:

Who told the Wachowski brothers they could write, and is this person also responsible for all the boring meta-dialogue they inflict upon us?
The only movie I've seen with more meaningless dialogue about its own dialogue was the second Matrix flick, and that ain't high praise. I make my own entertainment out of it. For instance, when a character is suddenly avoiding contractions—I am going to tell you...—I bet myself that nothing will ever actually be said.

Winner!

As for the movie, it was about what I expected, if skimpier on the action. I was entertained, but probably not enough that I would recommend you spend nine bucks on it. At least this was a comic book movie with a higher purpose; it's a timely parable about citizens' acquiescence in the eroding of their own liberties. Of course, it's a parable with stylish (and unintentionally funny) "knife trails" as our hero chops up police, so it's limited.

great moments in telecommuting

Today I was scheduled for one meeting, a silly meet-and-greet with nary an agenda item. I stayed home and conference-called in. As I used one hand to listen to everyone blather awkwardly about the weather, I used the other to water the trees I planted yesterday. The person who called the meeting explained his purpose in assembling everyone. "Well, I just wanted to touch base and say hello," he said. "I'm sorry I don't have more. Do you have anything, John?"

"I'm just glad to be here," I said, not joking. Everyone laughed.

They talked about which neighborhoods in Seattle are cool. I daydreamed about a world without phones. Right when I was absent-mindedly using my grandmother's back-scratcher on my left butt cheek, Jason asked what I was doing at that very moment. I paused mid-scratch. Do I tell?

"He's probably fishing," he said.

"Something like that."

• • •

I knew, of course, that vending from home would add hours to my day. I have to say, though, that I'm blown away by the cumulative effect of this work style. Free of interruptions and the overhead of meetings, 1:1s, reviews, brown-bags and other corporate atrocities, I can get a full workday done in about 4 hours. No commute? Plus 2 hours. That's about 30 waking hours per week that I did not used to have. I get everything done nowadays. Even when I have to work overtime, the entire day doesn't vaporize on me. Yesterday was typical. I worked ten hours, with four hours of gardening in the middle, and I was still done by 6:30.

Dear god, please oh please oh please don't let the gravy train ever stop, amen.

yeah, that's about the size of it

Every once in a while, Seattle will appear in some list of the nation's most polite cities—one time even in a non-Seattle-based publication. The claim always makes me snort, if not guffaw. Yes, I'll guff, I suppose there's one advantage to people pretending they don't see you and fleeing the moment you attempt conversation: they don't give you the finger, either.

Here's the headline that made me guffaw this morning:


seattle gunman headline

consistency of character

After some solo boating, I visited a restaurant that the AW and I used to frequent. Dining alone with a good book is one of my favorite activities. I find reading and having food brought to me to be incredibly relaxing. And thus was I deep in a don't-talk-to-me trance, engrossed in my book, when the server shattered my peace and quiet. She set her tray down on my table and assumed an alarmingly meaningful tone, looming above me, so near that her waist was all I could see. Utterly mortifyin'.

"I just have to thank you!" she gushed nervously.

I tried to remember even making eye contact with her. "Pardon me?" I said to the waist.

brown ponytail"I have to thank you. On my first day here, a really horrible day where I almost quit, everyone was awful to me and you were the only person who was kind."

That certainly didn't sound like me.

"That certainly doesn't sound like me. I think maybe you're confusing me with someone else?"

"No, it was you. I remember. You were here with a blond woman, seated right at that table over there. You were on your way to the Film Festival."

Oh. That was me. That was me three years ago, but it was me.

"And you saw that everyone was pissed off at me, and you told me that I was doing great, to go ahead and neglect you two so I could help everyone else, and then you gave me a tip that was big enough for the whole room—practically the only money I made that day."

"Anyway, um, thanks. My name's Sarah." And then she got flustered and left.

I thought back to the original incident. Even though she was clearly set up to fail, even though she was obviously hustling her ass off, the other customers—a great mass of preening assholes—bitched about the service when she was absent. That, I remembered. I never forget a preening asshole. But what on earth had possessed me to do the right thing?

As I contemplated my inconsistency of character, the waitress came into full view. I actually stopped breathing. She's utterly gorgeous. And when she turned her head to smile at someone, a silky, bouncy brown ponytail whipped around her neck.

Ah. Order to the universe, restored.

kismet

The football gods came to me in a dream last night and whispered into my subconscious what turns out to be true: the Steelers get their rings in a game two days before Ohio State plays national champ Texas in Austin. Hello, road trip!

• • •

Two hours later: done and done. Thank you, football gods. I shall now sacrifice an Ohio State Final Four banner in your honor.

spade! spade!

With the NCAA men's tourney presently between rounds and the Ohio State women taking it on the chin, I'm left with watching the NFL Network while I work. It turns out that Paul Tagliabue is a great man, and that the NFL is a totally bitchin' league. Who knew?

When it comes to offseason programming, they're clearly reaching. Yesterday, a documentary about—I am not making this up—the Dolphins' cheerleader tryouts aired. I was only tangentially aware of the show, so I can't give a whole review, but I managed to catch this moment on tape so that I could transcribe it. The scene: Ashley is summoned before two grotesquely artificial-looking Barbie dolls, who would look quite natural spritzing wrists in the Nordstrom perfume department, or perhaps working the front desk at a disreputable car dealership, or simply shilling peroxide. Ashley is a veteran cheerleader, and the narrator gravely tells us that no one—no one!—is above the lofty standards to which those who simulate masturbation for drunks are held. Or words to that effect.

Ashley sits down. Dorie Grogan, the Dolphins' Director of Event Entertainment and Ashley's pimp, immediately begins chiding:

"We're going to have to let you go. I mean, your weight is just too big of a problem. Um, I honestly was extremely upset when you came back, with the weight like that, um, it's not only, it's a disappointment to your teammates, it's a disappointment to the Dolphins"—at this point, Grogan's disgust and outrage are swelling, and she can't chide fast enough without stuttering—"i-it's-it's-it's it's disrespectful of the organization, everything that we stand for, that you would come back and not want to respect it enough to come back at your best you know, you know it's just gonna have to end here."

I pause now to show you a photo of the morbidly obese cheerleader getting up to leave after having been fired, probably the least flattering pose imaginable. Note the telltale folds of waist fat.

cheerleader ashley mclees

Ashley leaves. The other Barbie grins.

"Poor thing, she was about to...she was tearing up! Did you notice?" The grin widens to beaming proportions. "She was trying to hold it back."

That the NFL pimps and denigrates the women in its employ is hardly a surprise. That vacuous, heinous women like Dorie Grogan exist is hardly a surprise, either. Nor it it surprising that the Dorie Grogans of the world utter unintentionally hilarious things like a young woman's alleged weight gain being against "everything we stand for." Great stuff, that, and no doubt honest, although a better verb choice might have been "gyrate" or "kneel." What does surprise me is that this aired. The NFL isn't even pretending not to objectify these young women, anymore. The girls' evisceration along the shallowest and unhealthiest of lines is now good reality TV fodder. I'm surprised the cameras didn't follow Ashley to the bathroom to show her sticking her finger down her throat.

Where's your self-awareness, NFL? Where's your shame?

the book of job

I'll start transcribing the conversation at its very end.

Allie: "Waitaminute. Waitaminute. Hold on. Are you telling me that in the biblical story of Job....you identify with God?"

march madness

__DirecTV's NCAA basketball tournament package
+ Working from home
__Bliss

When the NBA first allowed high school kids to enter the draft, I joined the chorus that feared for the future of college basketball. Surely, the talent drain would be lethal. Ironically, what actually happened was the opposite of what I expected. The quality of college ball has gone up, as actual scholar-athletes remain to improve their skills and shake bad habits, and NBA play is mining new depths of dreadfulness, as lunkheads with unshaken bad habits roam the hardwoods.

I am now an enthusiastic proponent of the new age rule.

Not that lunkheads with bad habits don't remain in college basketball. Anyone who watched Ohio State fail to execute anything resembling a set play can attest to that. They got where they are on sheer muscle, and it shows. Their eventual conqueror, Georgetown, was the antithesis of that. John Thompson coached the socks off of whoever the Buckeyes' coach is. You'd think my boys had never seen a pick, screen or give-and-go in their entire lives. They were absolutely bewildered, helpless. They looked exactly like my dog, Ed, when I do the fake tennis ball throw. They were vexed by sorcery. Georgetown, meanwhile, is my new tourney favorite. Athletic, disciplined, and very smart, they're thrilling to watch.

sequel

I just noticed that the "rainbow" series includes my best-ever shot of the whale's schnoz. I'm sure you have goosebumps.

gray whale blowhole


you should have seen the one that got away

gray whale shallow waterMinette and I headed to Langley today in search of gray whales. We anchored a few feet off shore so that we could check email, and then I said something clever like "Let's go find us some whales." I looked up and saw some mist hanging over the water beside the boat. Ordinarily, I'd think it was a blow, but it was 10 feet from folks' back yards. 25 foot whales don't swim in 12 feet of water...do they? But then again, what was that mist? I strove to articulate the varied nuances of the situation.

"Um. Minette. What the fuck is that?"

And then the whale appeared, swimming right where we happened to anchor, between us and the homes from whom we were stealing broadband. In impossibly shallow water.

gray whale pectoral fin

I snapped 30 blurry pictures plus the ones above. Minette got some even better shots of its pectoral fin as it rubbed in the shallows; I'm sure it's being posted as we speak. It was a great day, filled with as many dives and spy-hops as we could bear. Again, Minette's spy-hop pics are better than mine, but I'll share this one since it looks sort of like my fakes from last year.

grays 18mar06 073.jpg

The best spy-hop was a complete surprise. We had lost our whale for a good 15 minutes, which in this pursuit is an eternity that compels one to do defeatist things like dropping anchor and declaring "Lunch!" I was sniffing my sandwich to ascertain whether it was the one with mayo or mustard when this enormous black monolith of a head elevated out of the water outside my window, towering over my boat. There's no picture, of course, but it was pure magic. Having a creature of that scale take an interest in you is like no other feeling. Of course, the magic dissipates when he swims toward you and you remember the anchor line under your boat, but we won't speak of those moments of sheer terror.

My photographic claim to fame is a remarkable sequence of photos that I just can't bear to shrink down to 390 pixels. Here's one, but if you have broadband, definitely check out the whole sequence.

gray whale spout flukes dive rainbow

tom cruise, come out of the closet already

Intrigue surrounds Comedy Central's decision this week to yank a repeat of South Park's scathing Scientology episode. Rumors are swirling that Tom Cruise bullied Viacom, threatening not to promote Mission Impossible 3 if the episode re-aired. I choose to believe these rumors. Why? Because Cruise defiled Katie Holmes, that's why.

In Cruise's honor, here's the entire episode. Performance was poor when I first played it. I just hit Pause and came back after 30 minutes, then watched it with no problems.

church signs

I added a few more church signs today.

envy

I'm wrapping up my last of David Sedaris' books. After the next 40 pages, there's nothing else to read.

"And then, depression set in."

There is not, I think, a greater compliment to a writer than murderous contempt. And I compliment the hell out of David Sedaris. I hate his dry, charming, self-effacing narrative voice. I hate his bravery, his life, his sister Amy. I hate his whole brilliant family. I hate his ability to craft sentences that I, given unlimited time and resources, could not craft. Hate, hate, hate.

Does that happen to anyone else? Do you find yourself reading someone's work, laughing away and enjoying yourself, when suddenly you come across something so magnificent that you're overwhelmed with the pettiest jealousies? Happens to me all the time.

• • •

I worked from Seattle bars the last two Tuesdays, and I ended up reading Sedaris in each. Note: reading Sedaris in Seattle's black Central District is easy enough, but reading him without interruption on gayest Capitol Hill? An absolute impossibility.

petulance defined

"Brokeback" author Annie Proulx wrote an amazing article for the London Guardian in which she:

  1. Derides Academy voters for awarding another movie Best Picture.
  2. Argues that their obvious stupidity is the product of their living behind iron gates near, but not in, a yeasty ferment.
  3. Argues that if you really want to see a reputable award, you should check out the one that she actually won.
  4. Indulges in the argumentative cheats of "we should have known!" and that old standby of playground rhetorical legerdemain: the demeaning malaprop.
    "Trash – excuse me – Crash."

Ha, ha. Zing!

That the Guardian published this steamin' pile of petulance is surprising enough, but who knew Brokeback was written by an 12 year old girl?

the great priest-diddling craze

Like a lot of middle-aged women in the 70s, particularly in her circle, my mom embraced the feminist movement by getting a divorce. That my dad was ripe divorce material is indisputable, but that my mom and her three closest friends all got divorces in unison is equally indisputable.

Pilates and yoga might be great for you, but they're still fads.

While I was happy that my parents' unholy death march of a marriage was behind us all, I was unprepared for what came next. Mom wanted a replacement man, and she wanted one right now. She was a boy-crazy teenager—anxious, prone to bawling, unwilling to leave lunging range from the phone. I was too young to recognize that, of course, but I sure knew needy when I saw it.

The pattern began immediately. First up: Wayne, a local cop and a member of our church. Mom fixated on him, inviting him to dinner and touching his arm while laughing just-a-little-too-loudly at his jokes. Who was this fawning, obsequious woman? Why was she suddenly being a model parent when Wayne was over? She was a stranger to me, an actress, and I was her prop. My real mom made an appearance when she had the clerk of courts dig up Wayne's divorce records, which she then shared the highlights of with me. "Can you even believe what this bitch said he did? Poor Wayne. Poor, poor Wayne." She bought his house, which we lived in for Mom's remaining years. After the sale of the house, Wayne disappeared. If you ever wonder how a single mother handles rejection, wonder no more: her kid is her therapist. I reassured her that she was a good person, that she was attractive, that she wasn't going to die alone. I didn't remotely believe any of these things, of course, but lying extricated me from the crying jags and cost me nothing but my soul.

disco stuWhat followed next was a parade of losers the likes of which even my older sisters never mustered. Dick stands out. Dick was a spectacular midlife crisis suspended forever in mid-explosion. If you know "Disco Stu" on the Simpsons, you know Dick. I was "the man." Mom was "hot mama." They danced The Bump and roller-discoed and got afros. They weighted themselves down with ballast of gigantic, horrifyingly ugly turquoise jewelry. I, myself, had a cowboy hat with a giant silver and turquoise belt buckle on it. And a matching actual belt buckle. Dick disappeared for younger pastures, and although I wasn't sad in the least to see my mother stop defiling herself, there were times I preferred my ugly cowboy hat to my therapist's hat.

Those were mere warmups for the main attraction: Mom took a shine to Catholic priests. Loved them. Loved them. She'd always been a fan, but loneliness turned her into a sex-mad groupie. The first was Colby, who I scarcely remember, save that he used my mom and broke her heart. That, and that I was compelled to be an altar boy in his church. Shudder. Next up was Jim, a gem who actually left the priesthood for my mother; who nailed her quite audibly (parents: if you're going to lock the kid out of the house in order to get some, kindly don't lock just the screen door); who complimented her on her "nice tits" in front of me—in Spanish, so I guess it didn't count; who she couldn't wait to show off to my newly remarried father; with whom she made plans to marry, pull me out of school, sell the house, and move to an an RV in Arizona. In short order, I began perusing recruiting literature from circuses.

Jim clearly had to go. One day when I was accidentally rummaging through his bureau drawers for something, anything that would keep me from living in an RV in Arizona, I came across ballet tickets. Pure gold. He was not, as it turned out, taking my mother. That a man who was already so morally compromised would undertake cheating made sense enough to me, but for some reason it ambushed my mother. She was devastated. She hated him, and she hated me for exposing him. That didn't surprise me. What did surprise me: I didn't much care. Evil was smacked down, and order was restored to my universe. Two of my favorite things. But Mom, oddly, seemed to blame me for ruining her one chance at true happiness. A simple "thank you" would have sufficed.

hit of the day

the seventeen year war: mom

I've resisted writing about my mom in this space. I resist for what seems to me a pretty good reason: I'm writing about her in another medium. It pains me, though, to pass up the rich source of anecdotes that was our relationship. Today, I yield. Today I'm reminded of Mom, as I am every spring, by the buds appearing on the trees in my yard.

It was the 70s, and Mom was an aspiring you-name-it. Disco, wine with metal screw-on caps, vitamin everything, turquoise everything, bellbottoms, divorce, cheap-sex-as-feminism, priest-diddling—if it was a fad in the 70s, she was practicing it. (Hmm? You don't remember the priest-diddling craze? You must have been blind. I remember it being all the rage.) One of Mom's incarnations—I'm not sure if it was the old hippie or the master gardener—dragged me outside every spring to show me the buds forming on the trees. Maybe that's daft; maybe it's not. But Mom didn't stop there. She had a whole dramatic circle of life speech. "From the Dawn of Time," she'd say in title caps, waving her hand theatrically with one hand while restraining a miserable, wriggling me by the shirt collar, "Nature has renewed itself e'ry spring. This renewal marks the time. It herewith marks our lives, and those of they who came before, and those of who will follow. We all come and go, but we are part of nature, and nature is eternal. Lo, gaze upon these pink buds, Johnny."

And then she made some profound point. I forget what.

We were an odd pairing, Mom and me. When your mother is an impetuous trend-hopper, you rebel by being overly serious, disapproving. I downright clucked. "You were born 40, John. I swear to God, " she scolded me more than once, before born-again Christianity briefly swept through her circle and she abruptly stopped using the expression. I never thought of being born 40 as an insult, particularly, at least not until I started hurtling through my 30s at uncontrollable speeds. Born 40. Yow. That makes me, like, Percy's age now.

Hurtful, hurtful woman.

see? i told you mortality is life-affirming.

Bon voyage. Give my Dad my regards.

things with ears and teeth

I don't have many regrets about man's mortality—in most people's cases, it's a comfort that allows me to sleep at night—but one regret is huge: that I won't live long enough to see certain celestial neighbors explored. The Martian equator is all well and good, but scratching at the driest of rocks is rather limited in its promise. But liquid salt-water oceans on Europa? Now we're talking. And add now Saturn's moon Enceladus to the liquid-water list. NASA is forever talking about stirring the public's imagination like in the old days. I submit that discovering things with ears and teeth on alien worlds fits the bill, but what do I know? There are international space stations to restock with Jell-o. Chop, chop.

black. white.

For the first few years of "Survivor," you could reliably bet on the Black Guy (there would be exactly one) being 1) conspicuously lazy, 2) ultra-religious, or 3) both. "What," I wondered. "Did they get these guys all from the same family?" There was obvious stereotyping going on, be it in the casting or the editing. Although empathy extracted some offense from me, I'll admit I was also amused. I find anything amusing if I know it irritates people who aren't me. I'm just a lousy person that way.

In other words, I had "Black. White." coming to me.

BW is a new show that premiered tonight on F/X. It's reality show schlock posing as a meaningful sociological experiment. Two families, one black, one white, don makeup and pose as the other race. They live together during the experiment and give one another tips. The best moment of the first episode was a seemingly nothing moment: the black dad, wearing his redneck getup, goes into a shoe store and buys shoes, and he's blown away by the clerk sliding the shoes on to his feet. With a shoehorn, yet. A minor thing, of course, but his astonishment was not: he was genuinely shocked. That's the show at its best, illuminating the little societal differences we don't even know exist.

But good god, that white family. They're my punishment for the Survivor thing. I was utterly humiliated while watching them—and I was by myself. The daughter seems cool, but the parents are hopeless, clueless, sniveling, approval-starved losers who simply will not shut their holes. "I expect I'll walk differently!" chirps the vacuous father. "I love black," says the Nobel Laureate mother. "I mean visually, and heart-wise. There's a warmth." We know from the previews that they casually let the n-bomb fly over dinner. So we have that to look forward to. Meanwhile, I had to stop the Tivo a couple times just to wince and recover from the mortifying things they were saying. To the black family, on posing as black among blacks: "I just figured when I walk into the room, I'd high-five everybody."

Please tell me this is a put on. These people don't really exist, right? Please?

what did i ever do to you, motherfucker?

I met Terrell and Don and their beautiful 4 year old girl for dinner last night. When I was distracted, the child ordered her mother to trade places with me. "She wants to sit next to me," the ever-obedient Terrell explained when I returned.

"You mean she doesn't want to sit next to me," I replied.

"Well...yeah."

I turned to the child and unleashed the sentence in the headline. My friends stared at me. Apparently I was responsible for the child's first motherfucker. I assured them it wouldn't be her last.

"I'll be sure to add you to her baby book," Terrell cooed.

pain redefined

Men, if you want to know what your pain threshold is, and you know you do, try the following during the next blackout: running the house on generator power, trim your beard with electric trimmers. That's it. You know those steel-toothed hair strippers that dog groomers use? Or the medieval ear-chopper? Children's toys.

"Right off, I can think of two excellent reasons not to see a gay cowboy movie."

Maybe you have to be here, but I'm cryin.'

The winner of Best Picture has Tony Danza in it. Think about it.

in defense of hate

I've had a post with this title in my queue for some time. I was going to write about the bum rap that hate gets, about how the healthy reaction to someone contemptible is hate, about how hate can separate us from the cretins of the world. We hate them, so we are not like them, or so the thought was going to go. I don't know. The thought never finished gestating. It got derailed toward the end of Grizzly Man.

I don't know how you couldn't know the plot of this documentary, but briefly: a flaky, flamboyant man named Tim Treadwell lived with grizzlies on remote Kodiak Island. He foolishly thought of them as his friends, shooting tons of footage of himself with them until his eventual death by mauling. Filmmaker Werner Herzog cobbled together years of footage into a documentary, and voila, Grizzly Man. So far, everyone I've spoken to had a different reaction to Treadwell. Some thought him an idiot who got what he deserved. Some thought him mentally ill. Me, I thought him merely pathetic, a man who reinvented himself many times, trying to find a version that would be accepted. He, not the bears, was the star of his footage, which was crudely calculated to make him look the daring, bold avenger against the forces of...well, we're never quite sure. I thought he tried too hard at all things image. I found his posturing unappealing, and I readily admit that I enjoyed the macabre humor stemming from knowing what would be this particular superhero's fate. Was he mentally ill? Perhaps. There's ample evidence of bi-polarism and delusion. I just didn't think of it. I didn't worry about Treadwell's mental health; I just skipped straight to thinking he was a jerk. I think both impressions are defensible, and they're not mutually exclusive, besides.

At the end of the film, the Discovery Channel ran an epilogue in which they revisited Treadwell's friends, post-film. They read letters that they have received. Now, Treadwell's friends are inoffensive, even nondescript people. I can't say the same of the letter-writers. They gleefully celebrated Treadwell's death. Your friend got exactly what he deserved, they gloated. Just another spotted-owl loving liberal trying to tell the rest of us what to do. Hooray for the bears. It makes me want to send bears to places that could use them, like the Berkeley campus.

Let's skip any discussion about their assertions. I'm far more interested in this singular, gleeful act of hate. Just how much hate do you have to carry in your colon in order to track down and harrass these people? To sit down and write a letter to someone who you do not know, with whom you have no possible objection or connection, and gloat over their close friend's death? This is far worse than a drive-by shooting; it's premeditated, and while it has the appearance of targeting, it's really just as arbitrary.

These letters humbled me. I don't hate anyone that much, not nearly, not even the letter-writers. I'm a rank amateur.

And there, abruptly, the "in defense of hate" post died.

reader mail

Asks Bob: "I don't think you've adequately distinguished your prejudices from those of others. What's the difference between railing against Seattle people and railing against Mexican nannies? As I see it, one is more or less socially acceptable while the other isn't."

A not uncommon question. I, of course, think there's an enormous difference between railing about one's own geographical demographic and hating on an entire ethnicity. But I won't even go there. The easier answer is "context."

See the address bar? That's my address. I own it. You typed it in order to visit my site and read my views. See the logo? It says "Stank." In some circles, that could be thought indicative of the content here. I did not shove my prejudices down your throat in a business meeting, on a bus, in a news article, or in a social context. You came here purposefully to shove my prejudices down your own throat.

To hold myself to my own metric: what makes me think it's okay to say these things to you? You came here. Don't traipse through the rain and complain about gettin' wet.

I noticed the phenomenon the first time some Ohio family came to Seattle for a visit. "Look!" I said.

seattle skyline rainier.jpg

Shining a spectacular red, there was Mount Rainier. The mountain remains covered in snow year-round and serves as this city's most prominent and beautiful landmark. I pointed to it from the ferry. "Those are 60 story buildings, 10 miles away, and the mountain's 75 miles away." They yawned. "Just look at how it towers over them," I tried.

"What year is your Jeep?" my sister asked, literally surveying her fingernails. "How much did you pay for it?"

I tried again with the next family member a year later. They were equally appreciative of the grandeur. "Yeah, that's nice. So did you hear Aunt Jane caught diabetes off a toilet seat?"

It's easy enough to attribute this attitude to my family's overall lameness. These are people, after all, who've never dared imagine living anywhere but central Ohio, who consider me weird for wanting a different life. They do not travel. They do not read. Natural beauty is not important to them. They have no dreams or plans; such things are best left to the next generation, so long as they too remain in central Ohio. They are absolutely incurious about the world around them. In the game of life, they are merely running out the clock.

Sure, I could write this incuriosity off as familial lameness, but that would be oversimplifying. Perhaps it's just a function of age, but most people I know seem to be running out the clock, lately. They blithely check off entries on the How Life Goes check list, talk of trips they'll never take, read only what affirms their world view, and have friends who only do likewise. For them, "adventurousness" means a midday trip to Costco, or perhaps ordering movies from Netflix instead of Blockbuster. But not both. That would be overkill.

• • •

When I was 15, I came to Washington in order to see gray whales. I was astonished by the beauty of Aberdeen, which is pretty funny to me now, but to a 15 year old kid from Ohio, Aberdeen is Cape Cod. When our commercial whale-watching vessel went to sea, it was pounded by enormous waves. A dozen people huddled in the cabin, depositing their complimentary huevos rancheros in red-striped bags labeled "Popcorn." I was the only person who remained on deck, which in retrospect was pretty dangerous. I bear-hugged a metal pole as waves crashed on the deck and swells towered above the boat. I was frightened. The storm was getting worse. But I had just come 2000 miles to see a whale, and goddammit, I was gonna see me a whale. And I did. Still hugging the pole, I watched with awe as this massive black thing rolled slowly, steadily by, completely unperturbed by the violent waters that were so battering me. For me, it was an immortal moment. For me alone.

It was a metaphor for what all of life would look like to me later. Curious people: taking a bite out of life; often out on deck alone, clinging for dear life; thrilled to have chased and caught wonder. Incurious people: cowering inside together, miserable and self-pitying; missing it all; thrilled that Netflix finally sent them that one Adam Sandler movie where he plays a guy who's kind of dim-witted. He's a kind of wonder!

They can have their popcorn bags. Point me toward the nearest metal pole, please.

prejudice revisited

Oddly, I forgot to cite what inspired the string of posts about prejudice a few weeks ago. An old friend of mine has had poor luck with a string of Mexican nannies and has started uttering clever, vaguely appalling things like:

I've discovered that I'm becoming rather bigoted in my advancing age. I can't decide if it's the product of the crankiness that seems to affect a lot of older people or if it's just that I'm more realistic about broad generalizations than I used to be.

I have chosen to believe that it's an issue of recognizing the patterns in the data.

I'm still pissed off. I've spent more time angry at Mexicans in the past year than at the entire rest of the world in the past five years. I clearly need to dramatically readjust my expectations of this entire culture. I thought they'd already hit bottom, but it's now time to start digging. As our neighbor says, maybe it's time to start paying retail for childcare.

Comments like these make me feel a lot of things, but none so much as a squirmy "This is my friend?" and of course, the increasingly familiar old standby: "What about me makes you think it's okay to say this?"

People seem to be downright delusional about the self-evidential nature of their own prejudices. Have they no filter for their uglier thoughts? They hold forth confidently, unconcerned about people's perceptions. I'm the one abashed by shame. I shouldn't be.

celebrity guest

Well. Here's a topic I never imagined I'd write. We have a celebrity visitor, dear trolls. None other than Fucking Amy was here recently, searching for the string amy. How embarrassing for her.

j pod returneth

For the first time since fall, J-pod and I were in the same place at the same time. Out by myself, I got brutalized by some four foot waves and took about 300 one-handed shots of sky, water, the ceiling of my cabin, and my tennis shoes. And oh yeah, I got about a dozen shots of orcas. With me positioned in 40 yards offshore near their favorite path, they passed between me and land. That was a surprise.

orca lighthouse

orca lighthouse tailslap

orcas lighthouse

A bigger surprise occurred a few minutes after this pass, when I was following the whales as three of them breached in spectacular synchronization. The fourth spy-hopped right in my path as I moved forward, not 20 feet from my oncoming bow. I got no photo, so this is a fake, but it's precisely what I saw. Pretty heart (and engine) stopping.

spyhop.jpg

now 95% sane!

guard towerPart by circumstance, part by design, I'm leading a more and more solitary lifestyle. It is not, as so many inquire, all that lonely. When I want companionship, I venture out. It's that simple. Look ma, no loneliness. It takes a lot to make me lonely nowadays, though. During my break from work, I decided to see how long I could go with minimal human interaction (read: paying grocery clerks). I made it nearly four weeks before I started getting squirrely. And then I visited Katrina and Dorkass, and I was reminded why I avoid humanity, and I was ready for another 17 weeks alone.

No, loneliness is not the problem. Spoiledness is.

I noticed it this weekend when I ventured to Port Townsend to shop for Even More Useless-But-Cute Household Crap I Don't Need. I used to make this trip with AW all the time, and I noticed her absence. Specifically, I noticed how bloody wonderful it was to go just to the stores I liked, to leave as soon as I was done, to not have anyone telling me that the vase I liked was ugly. Yes, I missed the interactivity of shopping together ("Get a picture phone," Dorkass suggests), and I missed having someone to blather to at lunch. But these are trifling cons compared to the pros. I love being in complete control of my environment.

By "control" I mean this: dictating what we do, where we do it, and with whom. Most of life is a tug-of-war between the parts we control (home, entertainment, friends) and the parts we don't (work, S.O., family). A few years ago, I controlled maybe 50% of my life. Now that number's more like 95%. My working from home 4 days a week has much to do with that achievement, as do my singleness and my willingness to be alone. Cut off most human contact, and you too can control your environment. 95% of the time, I don't do what I don't want to do, and I don't suffer fools. It's addictive.

At this point, some readers are thinking this sounds awful; others think it sounds like bliss. Only you know if your insides are wired such that hitting 95% is desirable. It is for me. No one who knows this particular duck is surprised to see him happily wallowing in these particular waters, but what has surprised me is my greed for it. I want more control. I resent the hell out of that remaining 5%. 95% of my life is idyllic, mellow, devoid of conflict and rancor and pettiness. If someone or something brings negativity, they're gone. Poof. No debate. My life is governed by an electorate of one. The remaining 5% of my life? It drives me mad. I want it eradicated. It can't be, of course. For as long as some degree of human contact is necessary, that 5% I can't control will be there. What's surprising, and more than a little alarming, is that I'm less and less capable of dealing with the 5%. When that portion of my life was 50%, I dealt with it far more easily. It was just my everyday crap, same as yours. But now when I have to drive the 10 minutes to Albertsons and wait in line for five minutes, I'm irritated beyond all reason. It's the worst part of my day. I can barely deal. This strikes me as slightly insane. What happens if, god forbid, I have to lead a normal life again someday? If I have to do something drastic like—gasp!—work in an office and actually interact with people I don't like? Or share in decisions with an S.O.? I think I'll implode.

I'm thinking 80% is probably a healthier number, lest my my social-coping muscles completely atrophy. Time to join some book clubs or somethin.' Just as long as I get to create the reading lists.

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