Steppin’ on the Donuts

We find an old friend

How about a one donut poem to kick off a day of interesting developments?

Rushin' Roulette

Alexei in your cassock
under censer swung
perform for me the Unction -
my foolery is done!

Reports out of Yakima/Tri-Cities show a significant spike in cases. We’re talking Eastern Washington here, the counties that are laughed at and sneered at by the elites here in the Enlightened Sound. It’s rural, in other words. Assumptions are that Memorial Day celebrations had something to do with it. People here in King County are gracefully, carefully, fearfully avoiding forecasts of an uptick as a result of all the protesting. Most of the reporting paints a utopian picture of thousands of people marching in perfect six-foot intervals while wearing masks. But then you see the photos.

A comment from the article where those pictures were posted:

We are remarkably forgiving of things that we like.

I’ve been as wrong as can be from the beginning anyway, so I have little to say. King County’s been doing well, and we’ve applied for Phase 2. I believe that means up to 50% capacity in stores and restaurants. I might be able to go for that. It still interrupts the ritual, though. Besides, I figure that if I’ve been able to be a good little sheep for this long, I might as well wait it out a little longer. No sense pretending to be brave now.


It’s the last day of school. We’re all getting a late start. The Boy isn’t up yet (rare for 8:00, which means he’s probably found something else to do instead of coming downstairs), so he doesn’t know that I’m not going to make him do any schoolwork. All of the other kids on our not-so-dead-end street have been out of school since last Wednesday or Thursday, and he’s been diligently working away in here at his cursive, grammar, reading, and math, complaining no more than usual. Good man.

He gets bloody noses. The last few days have been gruesome. Better than a couple of years ago, though, when I woke in the night to hear him crying in his room. I walked in to absolute carnage. His nose started bleeding in his sleep, he obviously rolled around in it for a while, and he and his sheets and pajamas were a Pollockian nightmare. I am not afraid of blood in any conscious way, but prolonged exposure always makes me queasy eventually. Two nights ago it was when his third large clot fell in the sink that I had to step outside for a few minutes. He handles it all so beautifully, so stoically. But on Sunday night it was late, he was very tired, and he started to be worried about all the blood. He’s 9 years old now, and tall and powerful and capable and real, but it still absolutely crushes me to see him scared.


My brother has a bar in Massachusetts. Well, he built a bar. Ok, he built a sort of countertop that he puts out on the beach near the firepit. Everyone on that stretch of sand – permanent residents and return vacationers – knows it well. It’s name is Sharky’s, and it’s on a remote strip of land across the bay from Plymouth, called Saquish. Anyway, it’s a minor legend out there, at least among family and friends. There are hats and t-shirts, and it has its own facebook page.

We here in Seattle have decided to name the patio I just built “Sharky’s West.” We have the blessing of the original proprieter, so all that remains is for me to carve up and hang a wooden sign that looks something like this:

The home and humble grounds themselves we are going to call “Twin Cedars,” for the two, uh, cedar trees that stand prominently behind our new patio. So we will have Sharky’s West at Twin Cedars. All are welcome, but were not putting up any stupid signs to say that. There’s the namesake trees now:

They’re taller in real life.

That’s a lot, but still not much, and – wait, I almost forgot. I emptied my yahoo mailbox clear back to April of 2010. The first email on the pile is now part of an exchange between myself and the man behind Sippican Cottage. If you don’t know him, he is a writer and furniture maker out in the Maine hinterlands. At least he was in 2010. He used to blog rather famously, and published a book of flash fiction called “The Devil’s in the Cows.” It’s been years since he posted last. But seeing his email made me go check his website, and lo there are few new posts, albeit reprints of earlier writings. No new content as of yet. It’ll be good for all of us if he gets going again. Visit this post for a look at my kids 9 years ago, in a different house, sitting on a piece of his furniture. We still have that stepper, plus a second one just like it, and use them both almost daily. There isn’t the slightest wobble or weakness in either of them after significant abuse.


Off to the day now, with, hopefully, a slightly better outlook than I’ve had lately. But it’s hard. It’s mid-June and yesterday I had to go inside to get a toque to wear while reading on the porch. It shouldn’t be like this.

Of Ballads and Bruises

And also of forgiveness

Emily Dickinson:

I HAD a guinea golden;
I lost it in the sand,
And though the sum was simple,
And pounds were in the land,
Still had it such a value
Unto my frugal eye,
That when I could not find it
I sat me down to sigh.
  
I had a crimson robin
Who sang full many a day,
But when the woods were painted
He, too, did fly away.
Time brought me other robins,—
Their ballads were the same,—
Still for my missing troubadour
I kept the “house at hame.”
  
I had a star in heaven;
One Pleiad was its name,
And when I was not heeding
It wandered from the same.
And though the skies are crowded,
And all the night ashine,
I do not care about it,
Since none of them are mine.
  
My story has a moral:
I have a missing friend,—
Pleiad its name, and robin,
And guinea in the sand,—
And when this mournful ditty,
Accompanied with tear,
Shall meet the eye of traitor
In country far from here,
Grant that repentance solemn
May seize upon his mind,
And he no consolation
Beneath the sun may find.

Seems oddly unforgiving. “House at Hame” is from an 1822 Scottish ballad about a woman, at home and working hard to keep her kids fed and clothed while her husband is gone. Presumably in a war, because that’s how these things usually go. There was some unrest in Scotland in 1820, “The Radical War,” but that was short-lived and domestic, consisting of riots and occasional clashes with authorities (where have I heard that before?). Interestingly, and antithetical to Emily’s poem, the husband in the song does return home, to much joy and celebration. A bit more upbeat than Dickinson’s wish for eternal suffering.


I’m going to let the Plague Diaries slide into a less prominent role here. It’s getting old, and I find myself complaining too much. It’s going to be dragging on long enough that I don’t need to worry about running out of things to say. The Boy’s school just emailed us to the tune of “expect to continue some level of homeschooling next year.” They have no definite plan yet, but it won’t be like it used to be. Months ago I obstinately refused to believe that this vain terror would have any lasting effects on life as we knew it. It may be time to admit that I was wrong about that. I am wrong an awful lot.

But I’m right, too, and it’s frustrating. Yesterday I received an email from a friend. I went to high school with her husband. We don’t talk much. But they’re a very thoughtful couple, and it didn’t surprise me that they reached out, offering prayers, thoughts, well wishes while they hear about Seattle on the news. I can’t imagine what image they are getting through The Big Filter. My mom, for instance, asked me how close I lived to “The block party.” No irony, no sarcasm. That’s just what the news told her was happening on Capitol Hill. And that kind of confusion and spin is what fueled my response to yesterday’s email from my friend in California:

It's odd here. From our house it's impossible to tell anything has happened. Or is happening. The West Seattle Bridge being out of operation really cuts us off from the world, and with all the Coronavirus restrictions, well, our universe is decidedly shrunken.

The behavior of people confuses and saddens me, and I guess I just try my best to know what I think about it all. As of now, I have no idea. Everyone seems to have a good point to make alongside every bad one, nobody's doing anything all the way right or all the way wrong, and the whole thing just seems to keep everyone divided and unhappy. I'm reading The Brothers Karamazov right now, in which the principal character lives (at least in the first part) in a monastery. I can't help wanting to run to one myself.

Whether it's streets blocked with protesters, or COVID restrictions from the Governor, I'm tired of not being able to go where I want, when I want. It's a pretty nice life here in our big house with plenty of food and money, but the soul begs for movement, contact, and variety.

Wherever the other side of all this is, and whenever it comes, I hope we all arrive there better than when it started.

Here’s to getting healthy, Comrade Citizen.

The Domestic Terrorism Diaries

Sometimes the winners are real losers.

Come on, man:

Look, I say “I don’t know” an awful lot, and that’s because I don’t know. What I do know is that what’s happening is happening, and like it or not, it’s the process. I have always liked his willingness to do unpopular things, his refusal to be politically correct. He’s shown some backbone that has been sorely missing from the White House for, really, my whole life, and has been good medicine for the whiners and whingers of The United States for the last few years. And one of the things that I appreciated about him from the beginning was that he seemed to have the right idea about who and what he was as the President. With every other politician, you can sense the megalomania from a mile away. Trump always seemed kind of blasé and disinterested in the power, and more focused on breaking up the phlegmmy muck clogging up the political machine, while actually and genuinely putting America and Americans first. He’s been famous forever – becoming president wasn’t going to give him much of a bump in that category. But here he is, forgetting all of that, and saying, “Take back your city NOW” or he will do it for them. A bit of an egregious chest thump. (One of) The (many) problem(s) with that is that the city of Seattle does not belong to Mayor Durkan, nor to Governor Inslee. It is not in any way “their” city. It belongs to the people, and the people have it, for now. Perhaps for the first time ever, really. It may be bad people, it may be the wrong people, it may be people who aren’t going to vote for you, but it’s the people all the same.

Honestly, Mr. President, I’ve lived under these politicians for a long time now, and I am in no particular hurry to let them have it back.

Besides, perhaps if the police can be overthrown by a bunch of low-grade terrorists, they should be overthrown.

It’s interesting, too, and probably worth several pages of analysis, that a city which has been monopolized by a single political party for as long as anyone can remember, is being overthrown by its own party members. The other party is sitting back, watching the cannibalism and saying “have at it, just stay away from my home and family.”

Please, President Trump, stay away from Seattle. Stay away from Washington state. Protect your own House, even while mine burns down. The idea of the military coming in here and thrashing these punks back to their poetry slams and interpretive dance studios is rather satisfying on the surface, but it’s really nothing that a free society wants to see.


The PVP Diaries #59

“A man who lies to himself is often the first to take offense. It sometimes feels very good to take offense, doesn’t it?”

– The Elder Zosima, The Brothers K.

Here’s a reprint for a day that’s simply one too many:

Soft Armor

Guard against the joylessness -
the shout
the sloganed cry.
Guard against the chanted curse
and truthful-seeming lie.

Guard against the joylessness -
against the sheepish fright.
Guard against the mirthless marches
that wilt without the light
(a truly righteous Army thrives
even out of sight).

Guard against the joylessness -
the hunt
the blue bird’s noose.
Guard against the flashing placards
that turn a lynching loose.

Guard against the joylessness -
against the textbook heart.
Guard against the low momentum
of the classroom’s faded arts
(the ivory’s crumbling fastest
at the over-polished parts).

Guard against the joylessness
my son,
my girl child,
by suiting up in Mother’s grace
and by wielding Father’s smile

The PVP Diaries #58

Which Horseman are we up to?

These quotes are getting long. Wait until you see tomorrow’s.

“Oh, how well he understood that for the humble soul of the simple Russian, worn out by toil and grief, and, above all, by everlasting injustice and everlasting sin, his own and the world’s, there is no stronger need and consolation than to find some holy thing or person, to fall down before him and venerate him.”

– Dostoevsky, The Brothers K

The problem, Fyodor, is that we don’t have time for holiness, so we find some criminal charlatan, and venerate him instead. (He said, in an election year, during race riots.)

The toil and grief:

Not much left to say here. It was interesting to go to the KING 5 news website yesterday to see poor Governor Inslee and the Coronavirus buried deep, deep, and barely visible beneath a pile of violence, fire, and retreating police.

More West Seattle businesses reopened yesterday.

The everlasting sin:

I don’t know what to say here, as far as the police and the rioters go. It’s too obvious to point out the idiocy of running around and burning things, then becoming indignant when the police show up. In the Capitol Hill neighborhood, the police just left. They’re still around, still mildly present, but they boarded up and abandoned the precinct building. That might have been the smart move. The mature move. I have two children who fight with each other all the time, both of them being irrationally intractable and far more wrong than right, making it obvious to any 3rd party observer that the best course of action is for the smarter, stronger one to shrug, walk off, and let the other have his tantrum.

And it’s all very childish, isn’t it? Every time. The rioters are mad at the cops, so they do things to deliberately draw out the cops. The cops come and do hard, mean things to the rioters because the actions of the rioters demanded it, the rioters point and say “see?” and somehow nobody feels as stupid as they should. Or they actually do, and like all children when they start to feel their own guilt, they double down on the crookedness.

This is a questionable choice, though:

The mayor said previously she hoped the crews would help to clean up the area daily. The city is also maintaining chemical toilets in Cal Anderson and will add a new bank of toilets outside Seattle Central on Broadway in a bid to avoid the health problems that dogged the neighborhood’s Occupy camp nearly a decade ago.

Capitol Hill Seattle

They made this bed. Don’t clean the sheets for them.

The article also said that the rioters had rearranged barricades to block traffic. Cars and trucks are having to turn around. That’s nice, because we all know that businesses create their own goods on Star Trek replicators in the back room, and never have to be supplied by deliveries from the outside.

Perfect opportunity for a siege, if you ask me. Starve ’em out. Their little urban p-patches, fertilized as they are by patchouli and vanity, won’t be near enough to feed them all.

It’s important to note, just once, that equality and justice are the rallying cry, but as with everything else that mobs do, the true driving force behind all of this is the simple fear of not being able to take credit when something significant happens. “I was there.” Doesn’t really matter what that something is. We are driven by fear and loneliness more than anything perhaps. Surfing a human tsunami anonymously as it wipes a city away is preferable to having to say, afterwards, that you only saw it on snapchat. Lots of little nobodies are paddling in a panic out there, because fortifying your house against the flotsam-riddled wave is too much work, and lonely.

Anyway, it’s all fear and momentum now. People feel the advantage building for the other team, so loyalties will be shifting, and an embarrassing sequence of bad political decisions and dangerous policy choices is sure to follow. Votes uber alles. Seattle may get its experiment with real socialism sooner than later. The corporations that pump blood into this city and keep it alive are no doubt already working on their bugout plans. Amazon, Microsoft, Boeing, etc. They’re the most generous, philanthropic, socially conscious and justice-oriented entities this city has ever known, but socialism’s about criminalizing the success of others, so it’ll be “off with their heads.” If you don’t think Bezos and Bill are fully prepared to wag a middle finger in the rearview without skipping a corporate beat, you’re more naive than I am. And folks, you read these pages, I’m pretty bad.

The humble soul:

It was my daughter’s last day of 6th grade yesterday. Felt like nothing happened. They had a Zoom class or two, then it was just over. Nothing changes much for me, either. She’s independent – gets herself up and fed in plenty of time for classes, so that was never part of my routine. The school tried to signify things by sending out a few high-energy emails full of great ideas for the summer and commiserations over the “weirdness of these times,” but in the end it’s just a few months without classes. No big to-do. I imagine we’ll all be out and about in a fairly normal, pre-Wuhan way sooner than later, because as hard as sudden homeschooling may have been for people, it at least had structure and requirements and a schedule, to some degree. Summer’s just chaos, and families are going to be clamoring for the progression of recovery phases to continue with as much haste as possible. We need to go from 1.5 to 4, like today.

I cut The Boy’s hair yesterday. I haven’t done that in years. His mom gave him a little trim a few weeks ago, but no kind of a lasting scourge like the one I laid on him in the bathroom, under the humming clippers after school. He’s got wild hair, he does, and I may not be particularly proud of my tonsorial handiwork, but he was perfectly pleased:

“Thanks for giving me a good haircut. I look a lot more like you. I like looking like you.”


Wax your plywood surfboard, Comrade Citizen!

The PVP Diaries #57

Impotence and arrogance

“There will be people near me, and to be a human being among human beings, and remain one forever, no matter what misfortunes befall, not to become depressed, and not to falter — this is what life is, herein lies its task.”

Dostoevsky, writing to his brother about his 11th hour stay of execution. Obviously nobody told him about the Wuhan Flu or George Floyd.

Businesses are starting to reopen, albeit with all that reduced capacity. This is when I realize how much I rely upon ritual. Not routine – I can take or leave routine. But ritual. Especially with food. I do not run out and grab a quick coffee, and I try very hard not to just throw some food down my gullet on the way to somewhere. There’s a deep breath and centering sensation that I work into everything that I can. I don’t drink coffee while I’m cooking breakfast, for instance, because I can’t pay any attention to it that way. It makes the coffee pass through my morning like some banal accessory – a function of need or a simple rote transaction. An item on a list. I prefer to pay attention to it. I eat when I can notice what I’m eating, where I’m eating, with whom I’m eating. Not that I give it an exhausting, oppressive degree of significance; it’s just that I tend to try to relax into it.

The ritual is scattered and abused by six-foot intervals and masks. Especially by the stress and tension of wondering whether I’m doing it right. I’ve always been a little paralyzed by the wondering, even in the normal times. If I’m joyfully planting plants outside, spreading fresh dirt and mulch, feeling good, a person walking down the street past me will send me into internal fits of worry and doubt. I assume they’re a horticulturist who can see with a second’s glance that I’m using the wrong kind of soil, putting the wrong kind of plant in the wrong place, not digging a big enough hole, etc. In short, I’ve always believed that I’m the only person in the world who isn’t an expert at the thing I’m doing, so I’m doing it wrong, and that everyone else can see it right away. Choosing produce is a brutal exercise in anxiety suppression. Everyone’s watching me grab the worst possible cantaloupe on the pile and thinking “what a noob.” It’s the sense of observation and evaluation.

I found it out in high school, after I first learned that it was possible to skip a class. What nobody told me was what it would feel like, for me, to return to class the next day. The shame and embarrassment, the unshakable belief that it mattered to everyone what I did. The knowledge that it didn’t – that nobody cared in the least what I did – but the inability to marry that knowledge to the opposite belief. So I skipped class, but then was unable to face my classmates and teacher, and wound up, predictably, almost never going back. I failed all my classes one quarter. Every single one. Seven F’s.

I’ve been that way since the start of the quarantine. Believing that if I go out I’ll be wrongly estimating six feet, standing in the wrong place, wearing the wrong kind of mask in the wrong way, etc. And literally everyone else in the world will be able to see my errors right away, and wonder what in the hell is wrong with me.

So I don’t want to go for coffee where I have to adapt to a prescribed ritual that’s fraught at every step with ways to do it wrong. Distances observed and instructions taped to the floor, nowhere to sit, wear your mask, get your things and move along. That’s no way to live, and I don’t have that little off switch that keeps me from worrying about it all. Not the virus, mind you. I doubt very much we have anything left to worry about there. Worried instead about the way a simple, insignificant misstep can make me feel like a villain, while starkly highlighting the embarrassing condition of our public insecurities. Like I’m in high school again, walking back into the classroom after skipping a day.

There’s no room for my ritual in a place like that. No rest. No deep breath or centering.


I have a lot of dreams about still being in the Army. Usually it’s a lot of confusion about why the heck I’m still in the Army, mixed with dread and disappointment about the fact that I’m still in the Army, combined thirdly with some tremendous panic because I’m supposed to be on a plane to my next deployment, but I don’t have any of my stuff. They’re generally weird and exhausting. Sometimes the whole dream is an escalating frustration – I’ll order a soldier to do something simple, he’ll refuse, and the rest of the dream will be me increasing the rage, volume, and invective of my order until I’m screaming fitfully at him to just fucking do the thing, all while he’s just standing there, perfectly, obviously, blissfully disinterested in anything I have to say. Total impotence.

Anyway, last night I dreamed that we were invaded. By the French (I know, right?). I was up in the booth at some big stadium, the place was full of American soldiers. I had no weapon, but everyone else did. It’s just that nobody seemed to care. I kept grabbing a weapon from someone, popping out into the hallway to kill a few French soldiers (who were dressed, by the way, in some kind of 18th century (19th, 17th, I have NO IDEA) uniform with long red coats that looked waaaaay to heavy for the warm weather), then popping back into the booth to try to rally some support. Again, nobody cared much about what I had to say. I just kept shooting the French, and they were always slumping back sadly against the wall, with very young faces, boys and girls alike. The whole thing wasn’t completely emotionless, but it certainly lacked urgency or passion. There wasn’t any blood. Nobody bled.

There’s an easy parallel, of course, between all that impotence in my dreams and the paralysis of doubt from which my rituals free me, but I’m going to make sure I keep them six feet apart.


It’s freakin’ Juneuary here in Seattle. Low 60’s and rainy. Nice for the plants, bad for heart, hard on the kids. The Boy, as I’ve mentioned, is really feeling it. The weather and the lockdown. He has more bad times, hard days, breakdowns, etc. Here he comes now, down the stairs – let’s take the temperature:

“I was awake at 5:22. I remember because Rae was climbing all over me.”

“I thought your door was closed.”

“It was open. Just a crack.”

“Oh, sorry about that.”

“It’s OK, I like her.”

He’s starting strong, but he almost always does. Things often begin their downward turn at bout 10:15, which is when math starts for the day. But that couldn’t have anything to do with it, right?


Don’t just stand there shouting, Comrade Citizen!

The PVP Diaries #56

Home of the Six-Foot Salve

Update 6-8

They’ve revamped the dashboard again. King County is in the cleverly hedged Phase 1.5 of recovery/return. Honestly, it’s difficult keeping up with what it all means. Restaurants can function at 25% capacity, though I doubt that many of them can make any money that way. I know there’s been a robust demand for takeout over the last few months. Assuming that keeps up, maybe combining it with the quarter-full seating will actually be worth it. We’re told, also, that we can hang out with up to 5 people from outside of our immediate families. But of course we have to (it is strongly suggested) wear masks and maintain social distancing. In other words, unless I’ve been sleeping for 3 or 4 months here, there’s no change at all. Other people have always been permissible, if generally discouraged, as long as the six-foot-salve was in place.

I’m looking for the handshakes and hugs phase.


Seemed like kind of a peak weekend for protests. We’ll see if there’s a tapering off on the way. West Seattle did its part:

Junction Rally
Image taken from the West Seattle Blog

That’s the primary 4-way intersection of Alaska Street and California Avenue, from whence The Junction gets its name. Someone estimated upwards of 2000 people by the time it was all said and done. It went peacefully and without incident, as far as I know. Nice job, neighbors.

One of the presenters played the National Anthem on his guitar, apparently so everyone could kneel.

At 3:40, black Seattleite Jimi Hendrix tells Dick Cavett why he did it:

“All I did was play it. I’m American, so I played it.”

The interesting point is that Dick asked about the hate mail that would be generated not because Hendrix played the National Anthem, but because he played it “unconventionally.” Not faithful enough to the original intent. Presumably not respectful enough. Times have changed.

Jimi just said “I thought it was beautiful.”

It’s 50 years gone, so it isn’t very responsible to draw parallels, but it’s right there, anyway. No telling what Jimi would say today.


Our daughter adopted the Japanese maple tree that we just planted. It was part of her “outdoor education” day at school last week:

Adopted Tree

Adopted Tree 2

 

It’s the last day of homework kit exchanges for The Boy’s school. One more week of this stultifying attempt at education. I applaud his school for managing it as well as they have. Realistic expectations are important. There’s a long-running owl pellet dissection project that we haven’t completed, and frankly I have no way of knowing whether we’re behind on or missing anything else. My assumption is that we’re doing fine – that we did fine – and he’ll move on smoothly to 4th grade. It will be highly disappointing if, after 3 months of zero feedback, we’re blindsided by some report that he’s behind. But I really don’t expect that to happen. His school is small, and laid back, and even kind of old-fashioned. And they are fully independent. Yes, on some level they are accountable to (presumably) the state, but they are not a member of any groups or associations of private/independent schools. Just a small, K-5 collection of fewer than 100 students in the back hall of a Baptist Church. I’ll miss that place when he’s done there.


There’s no more dirt in the driveway, and I’m staying project-free for a while. What does that mean? Probably that I’ll start reading The Brothers Karamazov for something to do. I’m always a little happier when I’m reading.


—Set phasers to run, Comrade Citizen!—

Friday in the Grist Mill

A Perfect Vision Plague Subplot

I came downstairs to assume my usual position, and found The Boy, asleep under a blanket in my chair. I don’t know when he got out of bed and headed down there. He’s been out of sorts – sudden bursts of sadness, lots of resistance to school and soccer. He’s a feeler, emotional, and as much as we may think that the heavy things of our big, grown-up world don’t penetrate their gleeful childish ignorance, we are wrong. He’s been, for instance, for weeks now finding ways to work the word “detain” into conversation. “I feel so detained today,” or, in the middle of doing chores or schoolwork, “this feels so detaining.” I don’t know that I use that word very often, but he picked it up somewhere and is feeling it. Of course if I said any of this to twitter I would be told that he needs to check his privilege; that he has no idea what it really means to be detained. Because everything is binary, zero-sum, and a 9 year-old saying he feels detained during the COVID-19 quarantine, while riots are burning the cities, is a slap in the face to 9 year-old immigrants in detention facilities at the border. It can only mean that.

Even Lileks is depressing this week. If you just got your internet this morning, and still don’t know James Lileks, here’s your chance. Click on “The Bleat” and you’re on your way. He’s always taking the angle that I wish I would have been insightful enough to take myself. There’s no one more level-headed and erudite, and this week he just sounds pissed off and tired and sad and well, not himself. Things have taken their toll. On all of us.

The first of several planned and announced demonstrations in West Seattle is at 10:00 this morning. I don’t anticipate problems. This is a gathering of people on a street corner outside of a senior care center. Another one is later this afternoon at a busy intersection, but there’s no retail to speak of out there. Hooliganism also not expected.

It’s tomorrow’s march through the heart of West Seattle that worries me. Someting about the idea of movement seems to excite the mobs, and there are lots of juicy targets for the brick-throwing anti-capitalists.

Let me just say something here that nobody else will (I also hate that I said that just now. As if I’m so special, so unique that I could possibly be the only person to say something. What a jerk). It ties directly to what I’ve said several times about people being exhilarated by tragedy. People taking a, perhaps unintentional and consciously unnoticed, thrill in being a part of something horrible. Like COVID-19 and the excitement that seemed to come out when people talked about how bad it might become. Like watching a grenade get lobbed into a public swimming pool and being a little disappointed, in spite of our better angels, when it turns out to be a dud.

We’re a fodder-fed society, and there’s no fodder in joy.

So what I’m saying is that I see it in me. Just admitting that right here, right now. A part of me wants to see West Seattle burning tomorrow. I want to be able to drive through on Sunday morning and see the broken windows and graffiti, take pictures, write about it, and commiserate with my neighbors about the sadness of it all while working in, every dozen sentences or so, the boilerplate “it’s a shame that they have to make the good protesters look bad like this.” It’s a small part of me that wants this, a part in no danger of becoming dominant. The part that longs to belong, to be able to say #metoo. The allure of locking horns with hell and boasting, later, of my survivability. Especially when I was never in any real danger because the devil doesn’t want me. It’s weak and petty. It’s the side of me that wants something for nothing; to take credit for resilience that I may not have shown in the face of anything more immediate than these approximate dangers that I see on the news. I don’t know if you feel that, too, but I know I’m not the only one who does.

Find something that sucks that you can admit about yourself today. Maybe it’s the part of you that hopes, when you’re reading an article about a murder, that the perpetrator turns out to be not of your race. Or the jolt of happiness you feel when you’re reading an article about a politician in a sex scandal, and they turn out to be not of your party. Drag that feeling out by its tail, give it a little shake, then put it back in and make sure you remember where you left it. I’d like to say that you should throw it away, but let’s be honest.


The boy woke, stirred, accidentally shook a sleeping cat from his lap, then slumped down onto the floor and fell asleep again on the rug, as he mumbled something indecipherable to me. This is not the sleep of bliss under the impenetrable dome of childhood. His is the sleep of emotional exhaustion. The exhaustion of the long-borne illusion, the impotence of childhood. and the weariness of trying to work out just what that thing is, slinking around behind all of these toys and games that seem so nice. That thing that worries you inexplicably and keeps full contentment at bay. The thing that no amount of otter pops and ice cream can sweeten enough to silence. That thing that feels so detaining.

He’ll know it one day as conscience, or Original Sin, or a grand moment of unchecked honesty. Maybe he’ll be careful enough, astute enough, mature enough, to drag it out by its tail, give it a little shake, and then set it free.

The PVP Diaries #55

Double Nickel Diary

Update 6-3

I’m just a guy who needs to stop wasting his time with Wilkie Collins.

There are protests or demonstrations or whatever planned for this Saturday in West Seattle. Thus far I think it has been very much to our benefit that the bridge is out and there’s no easy access to our neighborhood. Other Seattle boroughs have seen some rough activity, with the majority showing up in Capitol Hill (if you’ve been getting a bit too much of the conservative view from your daily reads, hit up that link. You’ll be evened out right quick). That is – if you’ll bear my intolerable honesty for a moment – predictable. Capitol Hill is the progressive epicenter of the city, and the location of Seattle University. It claims Elliott Bay Books, the most famous bookstore in the city, as well as Hugo House, a literary school/gathering place named for (West Seattle/White Center!) poet Richard Hugo. Capitol Hill is, in short, a haven for the 20-30-something searchers for meaning and significance. If you’re looking to stay up to date on the latest trends in cross-dressing and body mutilation, it’s the place for you. So yes, I think I am not being terribly controversial in saying that it is unsurprising to see the chaos embraced therein.

I went to school there from 2015-18, and learned what I think is a fairly apt summary of the university student mindset: a passion for conflict, and self-worth conflated with self-righteousness. Especially through my English degree – reading all those essays and stories and poems from my fellow students – those are generally not joyful young people.

This happened yesterday:

Curfew Lift

Probably a good move. I don’t have any answers, so lower your expectations accordingly. I can’t imagine what the capital ‘R’ Right call is in these situations, for the people in charge. The mayors and governors and presidents. I mean, I could scrounge up a description of what I would like to see done, but that in no way means it would be the best thing or the right thing. It would only satisfy my whim and scratch my own personal itch. I know that I hate the looters and protesters (yes, children, it actually is ok to use the word hate, whenever you want to), but I also derive no satisfaction from seeing the police march on them. These clashes that happen sicken me, though they sicken me far  less than the rioting does, because the conflicts are at least a result of an inconsistent good (the police) making an effort to stop an unwavering bad (the rioters). It adds a small Right to what would otherwise be an unchecked Wrong. Still it kills me to see it.

So the mayor lifts the curfew. Ok. In times like this, curfews are, let’s face it, a challenge. A gauntlet thrown at the feet of the looters, daring them to stick around and see what happens. Then they stay past curfew, then the police come down on them lawfully, then the police, no matter how lawful, look pretty awful. Rinse, repeat.

But what’s the other option? Do nothing? Maybe. Now, whether you’re in the White House or your own house, you should defend it to the death. But out there in the streets, the overwhelming majority of the satisfaction derived from rioting and looting comes from the sense of defying the evil authorities. Maybe one of these times, try leaving the authorities at home. Heck, leave the cameras at home. As impossible as it would be to expect honorable behavior from the media, implore them to refuse to cover the rallies. Take away the sense of an enemy and the hope of fame, and people driven incessantly to war get bored more quickly.

If a riot breaks out in the city and there’s no one there to see it, does it loot an Old Navy?

They’ll still riot. They’ll still loot. They’re morons, after all. But they might quit early, and perhaps the whole scene would play out with less depressing redundancy from everyone involved.

Anyway, now that two West Seattle rallies have been announced in advance, there will be time to plan the mayhem and get here to carry it out, for those who wish to do so. Thus far there have been several small gatherings, all perfectly sensible and by the book, without traffic disruptions or anything untoward. This weekend will be interesting to see. The good news is that we live about as far as possible from one of the marches, and fairly far from the other. The two are planning to meet up in The Junction, our commercial epicenter. It, along with Alki Beach, is precisely where I would expect the ugly to happen, being the sort of area that is popular enough to bring people from outside of Seattle on the weekends, for the food and shopping and nightlife. We live a couple miles to the South of there, with no businesses anywhere near us. I will be upset but unsurprised if I find my self on Saturday night wishing I was armed.

I’ll keep you posted on the doings, but only secondhand. No way am I getting anywhere near it myself. And who knows, maybe it’ll all be fine.


Cat scare yesterday: Maggie wouldn’t stop sleeping. She wouldn’t eat, didn’t head to the litterbox all day (until I carried her and put her in there), and when Rae tried to play with her, she was PISSED OFF. She looked like she was limping and favoring her left front leg. When we picked her up she would often make some rough sounding meows that just weren’t right. I hate that feeling. Called the vet and got the usual – monitor her until tomorrow. By evening she was a tiny bit more lively, and my wife was able to feed her some smoked salmon. At 2:00 this morning she was wrestling with her sister on our bed, though still a little more passive than usual.

So far today she has gotten around quite a bit more, and she ate her regular food for breakfast. As a pet owner, you know that wretched feeling when your animal won’t eat anything. Nothing else is quite so sure a sign of trouble. To see her go voluntarily to her kibble is a real spirit lifter.

Ok, she just pulled a full savanna pounce from the high ground onto her sister. I think she’s doing fine.


Taking the day off from any projects today. I have to catch up on the housework. I did get a whole lot of overdue laundry done yesterday, and DEEP cleaned a bathroom. But cleanliness has suffered slightly over these months of patios and doors and dirt and plants.

My daughter is on an Outdoor Education day for school. Normally her class would be off on a hike or a camping trip right now. She has to go 24 hours without a screen, and selected several activities from a long list, to be accomplished over the course of the day. One of them was to prepare a meal for someone other than herself. I took a break from writing this post a few minutes ago, because she delivered me the pancakes that she whipped up with Bisquick. Along with bacon and coffee, she has very definitely checked that box. I love these kids.

We talked a lot over the pancakes, all impromptu, about justice and equality and George Floyd. The truth that birth is an accident for everyone, and nobody is born with guilt or responsibilities that are pinned to their skin tone. We talked about MLK and civil rights, and the fact that, unlike MLK, we are trying to pursue an equal society in the absence of any explicitly unjust laws. When the civil rights we want are already lawfully guaranteed (if still haltingly attainable), what’s the target? Racism is impulse and behavior, and you can’t riot your way to kindness.

The Girl is eager to talk and discuss, and shows a level-headedness that I hope she is able to maintain. For my part, I just try to keep my opinions to myself and not abuse my position to influence their thinking too much. I just try to guide them towards objectivity and reason, and gently lend credibility to the unpopular positions that their education will teach them to view with contempt and disdain. They don’t have to like or adopt or believe in anything they don’t want to. I’ll just consider it a mark of success if they grow up knowing that “the other side” isn’t the exclusive territory of idiots and Hitlers. There are friends, neighbors, and family on that other side. Goodness lives there, too.


I can’t find the lyrics to this song anywhere. But hey, there’s damage and fires and things, so I figured it was fitting:

 


 

Batten down the old hatches, Comrade Citizen!

The PVP Diaries #54

Incapacitation

Update 6-2

Missed you guys yesterday, but I’m just a guy who’s been sleeping in a little bit. Well, laying in is more accurate. But the extra rest has been welcome.

Speaking of laying, this is what lying looks like:

The county is using 8 indicators, 8 targets, to determine the need for and level of restrictions as we move along. I’ve shown you these before, and now we’re down to 2 of the 8 targets that are not being met. As before, it involves testing, which is voluntary, though they’re using clever wording and some sleight of hand to avoid pointing that out. This, as they say is how they get you:

Testing Capacity

They’ve called it “Testing Capacity,” which is a lie because that gives the impression that the target depends upon the County’s ability to administer the tests. An ability that carries the benefit of being attainable through measurable, material channels like resource availability and procurement. It holds the promise of “we will, as soon as we can.” But in fact, these numbers have nothing whatsoever to do with capacity, availability, readiness, or resources. Instead they rely entirely on the choices of individual people going about their lives, and whether they choose independently to go to the doctor if they feel sick.

Besides, the county website also has this update:

Testing availability in King County has increased. Anyone who has COVID-19 symptoms should get tested right away.

It’s a wildly layered misdirection. The metric itself is dishonestly named to appear as though our failure to meet it is a resource issue, but at the same time they announce the ability to test “anyone who has COVID_19 symptoms” “right away.”  Then, its fulfillment is based arbitrarily upon the way we wish people would behave. We’ll meet this target when more of you sick idiots go to the doctor. Soooo, if we stay locked down for a while, it’s our fault. What do the college kids call that? Gaslighting? I think that’s the word.

This isn’t moving the goal posts so much as it is turning them sideways. The opening is there, but you can’t get the proper angle on it.


He pulled a table and chair around the house, so that he could do schoolwork on the new patio. Makes me proud, that boy:

Homework on the patio

That’s all well and good, but there’s still a huge pile of dirt in the driveway that I need to dump somewhere around the yard. We vastly overestimated our needs. It’s ok because there’s more than enough places to put it, but getting it actually done is the miserable part. More wagonloads. More shovels.

The door is done, finally. There was a debacle involving a horrible stain/poly combo product that I knew was a bad idea as soon as I bought it, but the selection was poor. The first coat didn’t go on well, and it looked lousy, but I put on a second coat to see if that would improve things. It didn’t. I had to strip two coats and do a little more sanding, then finally go get a good stain and separate poly, and everything came out beautifully:

 

Olld door
It was not looking good

Done door

It’s a super-deep brown that they’re calling “tobacco.”


My wife had her first guitar lesson the other day. She’s rockin’ a mean Smoke on the Water. The Boy never took to piano, so he has one more lesson, then I’m sliding into his spot. We’re gonna be a weak little Partridge Family before you know it.


There’s actually a lot to talk about. The whole phased re-opening thing has many more facets to its development than I’ve touched on; the West Seattle Bridge debacle has been put out to bid (or will be soon), with numbers like 10 years being thrown around. Everyone is assuming, of course, that  this means a minimum of 10 years until we have a way out of town again, but further reading makes that a slightly less frightening number. As always, there’s more to it.

And of course there’s riots and curfews and all that, but I’ve said my little piece, and I’m done. As ever, we have a situation where the right side and the wrong side should be pretty easy to see, but we’ve used our tragic wits to turn virtue into sin, and sin into righteousness, and now the only thing that makes sense to me is to shut up and take care of my family.


Read between the lies, Comrade Citizen!