Thursday, July 21, 2016

Last year, after blissfully working in downtown Seattle for more than 20 years,  I found myself banished to the Hinterlands, aka SoDo.   Since that time and on more than one occasion I have wondered what Cosmic forces I offended, because if there is Karma, I'd be instead working for the Smithsonian American Museum on a endless grant to investigate  Manifest Destiny or some other such malady of European-Americans, as opposed to working in the industrial armpit of Seattle.   But I digress.. back to SoDo.

Why I am traversing to SoDo five days a weeks? Well, the reality is that I was offered a job I just couldn't turn down.  Hence, my self-imposed banishment to the dreaded SoDo..... 

SoDo: “How do I hate thee?  Let me count the ways”.   These are the words Elizabeth Barrett Browning would have most definitely penned had she ever  had the misfortune to come to SoDo.

SoDo- South of the Kingdome-- Well, like lots of things in SoDo, the Kingdome was a shoddily built piece of crap that was demolished after only an extremely short-lifespan of 24 years, mostly due to the reality that people attending events there took a dim view of tiles from the ceiling falling a couple of hundred feet down on their heads.   And unlike the Coliseum in Rome and other arenas those talented Romans built and that have stood almost 2 millennia, the Kingdome shuddered to an early and dusty demise, only to be replaced by what can only hope is an arena that will last longer than the TV series, "Wheel of Fortune."

Taxpayers of Washington Unite!  You were fleeced by King County and the builders of the Kingdome!  Demand a refund and use the money to build low-income housing (see my rant about homeless people below).

 Just a Few Things I hate about SoDo:
1) Potholes- As the Beatles once wrote, “Now they know how many holes it takes to fill the Albert Hall.”   According to Paul McCartney (or was it John Lennon?), the city of Blackburn, Lancashire has four thousand holes, whereas SoDo has just as many or more, all strategically placed to do the most damage to your wheels and tires on your car, bike or motorcycle, not to mention jarring one’s psyche in the worst possible way.

2) The Light Rail- Years in the making, millions of dollars in cost over-runs, but finally (several decades behind the fair Portland, Oregon to the south), we have a light rail that runs from Sea-Tac airport to the University district.    While I’m a BIG fan of mass transit, I do really, really hate that SoDo is one of the few places on the rail line in which the tracks aren’t below ground.   As a result, pedestrians, bikes and people in cars (that would be me!) are continually and constantly halted from our appointed rounds (well, truth be told) to Starbucks or food.   I don’t know about you, but when I only have a 30 minute lunch break and have to get in my car and drive 10 minutes at a minimum each way to get anything half-way resembling decent food, one can get pretty steamed waiting for the light rail to come and go and come and go, all in a 10 minute time-frame.  In addition , more than one poor SoDoer has had the misfortune to be stoned out of their mind or mentally impaired and/or lacking the usual survival skills to comprehend that a speeding train will beat you out every time you venture across the tracks.  Unfortunately, some Humans fail to notice the clanging bells,  flashing red lights and a big barricade allegedly there to keep them from jumping out in front of it.    All the above notwithstanding, just ONCE I’d like to leave my office to go to Starbucks and not get nailed by the light rail blocking my way coming and going.  By contrast, those lucky folks in downtown Seattle walk and drive wherever they want, clueless that below their sidewalk are multiple light rail trains are racing north and south quickly and unobtrusively under their feet, but alas, not in SoDo (of course!)

3) Homeless Encampments--- A pox upon the Earth (especially in my beloved Seattle).    One doesn’t have to traverse very far into SoDo or anywhere in downtown Seattle in order to see first-hand the blight and plight of homeless people in our fair city.    Having worked downtown for the better part of 25 years, I can personally attest that the number of mentally ill, drug-addled and/or homeless people has increased significantly to inhumane proportions.    What kind of community and government continually turns a blind eye to the reality that so many people are homeless and that sluffing them off to being relegated to sleeping under our freeways, overpasses and empty lots is unacceptable in the 21st Century.   Too many of our fellow citizens live year after year in filth and despair in lawless communities in and around Seattle that are unpoliced, unserved and forgotten, except when they’re cleared out to wander on to SOME OTHER place in our city (i.e. this week’s option—Airport Way in SoDo, of course!).  There’s a simple rule of physics that states, if you move homeless people out of one encampment, they will most certainly move to someplace else, most likely nearby, as hey, they don’t have cars, so how far can they actually go with their shopping carts full of their meager, filthy possessions?  Thankfully, that’s all I know about physics, so readers of this tirade will be spared further lectures on the study of matter and its motion through space and time, along with related concepts such as energy and force, but will NOT be spared my feelings on a country, state, county, city, and neighborhood (actually, now that I think about it, almost no one lives in SoDo, other than homeless people), that turns their backs on the homeless.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Return to Nebraska resurrects special vacation memories

In December 1935, my father left depression-ravaged Nebraska to join the Navy for three square meals, a paycheck to send back to his mother and a chance to see the world beyond the flat prairie where he had lived all his life.

During his many years in the Navy my father saw a lot of that world.  And then, like millions of other war-weary vets after World War II, he and my mother headed for California, the land of opportunity.

However, as he was a dutiful son, we returned to Nebraska every summer to visit his family.
The trips we took required that we cross the desert in the blazing heat of summer — in the days before air conditioning was standard in cars. I remember my dad installing this weird metal contraption that hung on the outside of my mother's window. It was allegedly an "air cooler," however, if memory serves me correctly, it just ended up blowing hot air everywhere. I still have memories of sitting in the back of a 1956 Chevy for hours with my two sisters, jockeying to avoid the hump in the middle of the backseat floor and my mother's dog drooling on us.

In those days, there were no interstates. Instead, country roads and highways led us through the small towns and farms.   The towns were so small that myy sisters and I would chant, "We're in, we're out!" as we motored through towns that were only a few short blocks.  

As with every trip, our final destination was my grandmother's house in Lincoln, which is on the eastern side of the state. It seemed as if almost every city along the Platte River, in fact the entire width of Nebraska, had one of my father's aunts. We visited all of them. And no matter what time we pulled up to their modest homes, we would find them dressed in their Sunday best, chicken and mashed potatoes on the stove, ready to feed us.

The culmination of our trip was arriving at my grandmother's house. She lived in a big, roomy place close to the University of Nebraska. My cousins also lived in Lincoln, and we spent our time catching lightning bugs and eating ice cream. We would munch on my aunt's famous German potato salad, runzas (hamburger and sauerkraut wrapped in bread dough) and German chocolate cake. I didn't like coconut, so whenever she wasn't looking, I would scrape off the frosting. I'd kill for that recipe now that she's gone.

The last time I went to Nebraska as a kid I was about 17. My parents uncharacteristically bagged the usual trip back and went to Europe, leaving me in the care of my aging grandmother. Unfortunately for both of us, I had just fallen madly in love — a summer romance that I thought would last forever! (It didn't.) Needless to say, I was considerably less than pleased to be shipped off to Nebraska in the midst of all this.

What could have been priceless time with my grandmother, instead was two weeks of excruciating phone calls to my boyfriend and a really bad attitude on my part. Little did I know that the years would roll quickly by and that my grandmother would die before I realized what a treasure she was.
This past Fourth of July I returned to Nebraska. Before I left, I thought little will have changed since my childhood. But things were different. I was told that my grandmother's house, belonging to someone else now, is in poor repair.

My parents weren't there with me — my mother has Alzheimer's and doesn't even know who I am, and my father's been dead and very much missed for more almost 40 years. My cousin and I are now in our early 60's.   I doubt if she's up for catching fireflies now.  Regardless, I can still remember the sound the wind makes as it drifts through the corn fields and the smell alfalfa in the air, all these years later....

Monday, June 20, 2016

What is about white guys in trucks?   I commute downtown and every day I find myself unhappily sharing the road with white guys  storming down the freeway as if they were on their way to Navy Seal try-outs.    These guys live in the suburbs for God's sake and I'm wondering... What could they possibly use their truck for?   Perhaps they REALLY need it to buy bark at Home Depot or to take their lawn mower to the repair shop?

I, of course, wouldn't mind if they drove trucks, but the sad truth is, the same nice guy that coaches T-ball for 1st graders gets behind the wheel of his truck and turns into a total ass!   Apparently, there's not a no-bullying class for applicable truckers.

On a daily basis I see them swerving in and out of various freeways lanes or wait till the carpool lane runs out and THEN cut you off so they can squish in.   They ain't making any friends sitting behind the wheel of their truck, I can tell you!

Hey guys, get a SUV like everyone else and chill out.  Save the truck in the extremely unlikely event you move to Colorado and start raising cattle!

Until such time, please tone down the testosterone and try remembering you're an average white guy, not Arnold Schwarzenegger. 

Just sayin'.