Sunday, November 30, 2008

Go Find God II

I had kind of a rough night.

Maybe it was that plate of leftover brussel sprouts I had for lunch, or perhaps it was the after-effects of the bottle of rye I’ve been working on since Thanksgiving, but whatever the case, my belly kept me tossing and turning from the moment I hit the pillow; the good news, though, was that this made it fairly easy to rise before 6:00AM to catch the bus across Lake Washington so I could make it to the 8:00 service at Antioch Bible Church in Kirkland where I was undertaking this year’s version of my attempt to fulfill the final project I’d assigned in the Philosophy of Religion class, which once again asked students to “Go Find God.”

And because last year, I explored in nature, I thought that this time around I would go looking inside, among at least some folks who, I’m pretty sure, do find God in the building that housed this morning’s worship.

I was surprised to discover that the pastor was none other than the notorious anti-gay marriage preacher, Ken Hutcherson, but I tried to not let that cloud my vision. In any case, everyone there was kind and friendly, the singing was lovely, and I could really see how the sense of shared community was uplifting and inspirational.

If I believed that the Bible was the literal word of God, I’d have been especially moved, since the sermon drew heavily on the text, and, as a philosopher, I liked how Pastor Hutcherson worked through the arguments, chapter and verse, but I really struggled with the basic idea that people are by nature sinful and need to be redeemed through Jesus Christ.

The pastor talked a lot about being a “weapon” for righteousness, which kind of freaked me out and although, in the end, I still didn’t find God, at least on the ride home, through Seattle’s beautifully foggy streets, my stomach felt better.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Cargo Bike Ride 11/28/ 2008

First thing, I’ve moved up one spot in the oldest person alive rankings; Edna Parker, I salute you.

What I appreciated most about today so far has been the pace. Well, that and the sky. And all those crows in Seward Park.

A great flocking of winged creatures: crows on every branch of the tall trees, seagulls weaving in and out at a slightly lower level. I thought of some Shakespeare play where there are heroes and warriors, but then it became obvious that the main player in the drama was a bald eagle that the crows mobbed at first, but who then just toyed with them, soaring higher and higher, (literally) and, at one point, dipping and turning while reaching with its talons, just to remind them who’s boss.

A lovely day for a bike ride: I got a little wet on the ride to Red Square about noon, but by the time we were leaving around an hour later, skies were clearing. In fact, the only time I noticed the weather at all was when we first arrived under the shelter at Seward Park and the cawing of the birds was so constant I thought it was raindrops on the roof.

The other thing I’m thinking about now is Buy Nothing Day; I purposely left the house with no money in my wallet and I thought it right in sync to have had so much fun already without spending a penny, unless one were to amortize or whatever the costs associated with pedaling.

And then mostly, I was trying to not be a nuisance; one of the things I really like about rides like today is that everyone is more or less trying to take care of him or herself, but at the same times, it seems like we’re all equally willing to pitch in to make everything work out.

I can’t really see any significant difference between our afternoons and that of the crows.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Turkey vs. Turkey

In the near corner, weighing thirteen pounds, from Home Acres Farm in Everett, Washington, we’ve got the free-range, sustainably-raised, all-organic, killed-and-plucked-by-my-own-hand heritage bird, Slate-Narraganset, and in the far corner, weighing 23 pounds, from Red Apple supermarket, we’ve got the plumped-up, large-breasted tender-timed (with pop-up tender-timer roasting gauge) Norwest improved bird; both are ready to be cooked, the former looking forward to being dunked in boiling hot oil for a couple hours, I think, the latter anticipating the pleasure of being seared at 475 degrees Fahrenheit for about fifteen minutes before being slowly roasted at 325 degrees for almost half a day.

And then, they’ll both be eaten, although I think I’m only going to sample the one I killed myself. Somehow, ironically, the vegetarian has ended up being the dead animal chef; I was the one who prepared the store-bought bird and put it in the oven, the old-fashioned Ruth Shapiro way, breast-side down.

Having had the experience of “processing” a live bird to a hunk of foodstuff to be cooked made me way less squeamish about the various cuts, grabs, and tucks it took to get Mr. Norwest into the roasting pan. Yanking the pre-packaged giblets from the interior of the pre-packaged bird was nothing compared to slicing off the head of the one whose throat I slit or of twisting its esophagus around my finger so as to pull the body part free.

I hope my time as butcher hasn’t made me overly sanguine about the plight of these once-living things; on the contrary, I think that I’ve become more sensitive to what they go through to end up on dinner tables coast-to-coast on this, arguably the most American of all our American cultural holidays.

I have lots to be thankful for myself, like my health, the love of family and friends, a good job, a nice home, and none the least, that I wasn’t born a turkey to be eaten.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Lost and Found and Found and Lost

Last week, on my Sound Transit commute out to school, I left—as I usually do at least once a year—my helmet on the bus. It happened, as it has in the past, because my essentially-mindless process of debarking was changed up a little. Some guy sitting a few seats ahead of me asked me a question about the upcoming stop, I got up to answer him, and then when he stepped off, I did too, forgetting to return to my seat and pluck my helmet from the storage rack above my seat.

“Aw shit!” I ejaculated upon realizing what I’d done, turning around just in time to see the vehicle from which I’d just exited disappear off into the distance. I immediately began strategizing about how I might possibly get my helmet back, trying to figure out when I could make it downtown to the Metro office so I could check out their lost and found, balancing the time it would take to do that with “aw fuck it, I’ll just go buy a new one.”

But then, events transpired such that, contrary to my original plans, I needed to catch the bus back from school and lo and behold, what should pull up at the appointed hour, but the very same motor coach that brought me out in the morning (easy to identify because it was wrapped in a Pemco insurance company advertisement Northwest Profile #28: Bumper Sticker Idealist) and there, inside, just where I’d left it, was my helmet. Woo-hoo.

Lost and found.

This morning, by contrast, as I was exiting the bus, I dropped my ID card/bus pass right down the front steps of the vehicle, where it bounced into a tiny little crack and slid far out of reach, even of my Swiss army knife, whose blade just pushed it even further and further away, deep into the bowels of the handicapped-lift machinery, in sight, but gone forever.

Found and lost.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Turkey Death

Last week, in my applied ethics class, we were talking about animal rights, and because I wanted to connect the topic to students’ experiences, I did some research into the lives the birds that nearly everyone will be eating on Thanksgiving, and after being a bit surprised by a few accounts of how the lives of so-called “free-range” birds isn’t all that great, I ran across information about a place up in Everett, Home Acres, where the farmer, Bruce King, doesn’t keep his birds in a barn at all but rather, lets them wander about in a fenced field until the day of their demise, which struck me as a lot more like the Michael Pollan ideal of food animals that live a relatively “creaturely” existence, or as Farmer King put it, “a pretty good life, then one bad day.”

It turns out that Home Acres was “processing” birds today and interested parties could show up, pick out a bird, and, with the help of people who worked there, take the animal from living thing to oven-ready foodstuff.

I had floated the idea by Mimi on Tuesday, and what she wanted to know was whether we would get to shoot the birds, but even after finding out that that wasn’t the killing methodology (we stunned ours in barrel filled with inert gas, then slit its throat), she was still game, so this morning the two of us spent about three hours killing, plucking, and butchering a 13-pound heritage turkey which will be the centerpiece our Thanksgiving dinner.

As a longtime vegetarian, I wanted to be witness to the process if I’m going to eat bird on Thursday and while today’s experience neither particularly grossed me out no inured me to the animals’ plight, I think it helped me appreciate what’s involved for both meat producers and their products, especially when my arm was in the bird up to the elbow and I was pulling out entrails.

Saturday, November 22, 2008


Just watched the University of Washington Huskies football team lose in the Apple Cup to the Washington State Cougars. I’m pretty sure this was the saddest loss in the saddest game by the saddest Division I football team I have ever seen.

I’m really glad I don’t care at all about the team or I would feel just awful. The Dawgs had the game sewed up with about two minutes to go; all they had to do was make a first down and let the clock run out, but on 4th and about 2 from the WSU 35 or so, “coach” Ty Willingham decided to punt and on the ensuing drive, the Cougars, following a long pass play, tied it up on a last-second field goal. Ugh.

I’ve been a Willingham supporter all along, but no longer. His unwillingness to take small chance cost his team the game, no less so since, following a touchback on the kick, the defense only gained about fifteen yards, anyway.

I’m sure talk radio airwaves will be buzzing with the abysmal nature of today’s game, but, as a matter of fact, I’m kind of glad. Now the Huskies can legitimately lay claim to being the worst team in college football and, more importantly, have nowhere to go but up next season.

(Again, I’m talking as if I give a shit about any of this; I don’t, of course, knowing it is way more important that the university find a way to fund tuition for students who are going to need help in these tough economic times, as well as continue to recruit and keep excellent faculty as budgets get smaller and smaller.)

Watching the game was like observing a slowly-unfolding train wreck; in the third quarter, when Washington was up 10-7, it became all-too-obvious that they were going to stumble and let WSU back into the game; the only truly fitting end, though, would have been the 10-10 tie.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

No Complaints

I can’t imagine a day better than this:

Up and atom, the paper on the porch and it’s not wet.

Morning stomach awakening predictably successful.

A satisfying yoga practice, complete with actually balancing in pigeon pose.

The kid, up and off to school with a minimum of complaining.

Back home in time to change outwear and bikes, and still make it down the hill for a sandwich and the Stranger before the bus.

And while I was waiting, some guy gave me a pamphlet that was the ideal conversation starter for today’s Philosophy of Religion class.

An absolutely forgettable ride out except that I got to help a perfect stranger figure out the stop for the driver’s licensing place in Bothell.

I completely enjoyed today’s class which, although small, seemed authentic; I took two occasions to share my writing and students had at least one.

Then, I got to observe a colleague’s class and get some perspective on my own teaching.

A cookie before Faculty Assembly.

Throughout much of the meeting, I thought I would be leaving early, but my interest was kept throughout; I felt a part of something.

Still, I made it to my number one Plan B spot for kickoff in the Steelers-Bengals game and was already enjoying a beer when the first few brick’s of the evening’s load appeared, including a couple students for a bit, then faculty members who show up and like to talk.

And while Pittsburgh was only up 10-7 at halftime, keeping it interesting, the outcome never really seemed in doubt as the 27-10 final attested to, so I got to watch and converse simultaneously.

We mostly talked about our departed dads.

The ride home had all the qualities I most enjoy of a Thursday night: a few miles, some adventure, interesting visuals, and the sense that some number of folks are also on their bikes this evening.

I didn’t see anyone, but I’ll bet they were out there.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Why Does This Happen?

Seems like every time I want to save time by taking the bus home from school, it ends up taking longer than it would had I just sucked it up in the first place and gotten on my bike and ridden.

That’s essentially what happened today, although traffic was so bad so quickly that I got off the bus and pedaled within ten minutes of getting on, once it became apparent that the accident-induced traffic jam that led to a solid line of cars for like three miles along Bothell Way was going to make it far slower to stay aboard Sound Transit than to climb on my well-worn Brooks saddle and go all human-powered.

And as a matter of fact, it was bumper-to-bumper pretty much all the way to Lake Forest Park; not only did I entirely smoke the bus I had been on, but I believe I passed the one that left half an hour earlier.

In any case, the experience made me wonder why this phenomenon of having it be quicker to bike than bus home seems to happen so often. I figure there are at least three possibilities:

First, it may be the traffic sucks every evening heading from Bothell to downtown and so it’s almost inevitable that when I take public transportation it’s going to be slow. But that belies the fact that there have been times when I have gotten home sooner by bus.

Or, this may just be one of those cases of self-fulfilling prophecies or cognitive bias: since I already believe that taking the bus is going to be slower, I tend only to notice those times when it is; when it isn’t, it doesn’t even register in my awareness.

Or, it could be that the cycling gods don’t want me on the bus, so they see to it that when I’m off my bike, traffic stacks up. That way, like today, I’ll get off and ride.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Drunkard's Walk

I’m halfway reading a book called The Drunkard’s Walk: How Randomness Rules Our Lives by some guy Leonard Mlodinow, who essentially argues that lots of things we think behave according to patterns or systems are really far less predictable than they appear to be.

So, for instance, while we may believe that our failure to get accepted into Harvard is because we are so much less deserving than those students who do, it may have nearly as much to do with the order in which our application was read as it does with our qualifications. Or, to take another example from the book: the fact the Bill Gates ends up making billions of dollars as founder and chairman of Microsoft turns out to be more a matter of somebody else deciding not to offer a different operating system to IBM way back when than of Gates’ native genius.

On the one hand, this is all very reassuring and makes me feel like my own shortcomings or failures are far more arbitrary than I might think, but on the other hand, it makes whatever successes I’ve enjoyed a little too out of my control, too. The good news about this, though, (if there is any) is that, as Mlodinow points out, lots of things that we think are related to each other aren’t, that coincidence plays a bigger part in our lives than we imagine, and that even though, for instance, every single car that has cut me off in traffic this week has been a Honda Civic, I shouldn’t make too much of it.

Another example Mlodinow plays with is grading; he observes a case where the same paper handed in by different students to the same teacher earned scores from 70 to 93; while I hope I’m not that inconsistent, I know that, to some degree, the grades I give are random.

I wouldn’t necessarily call that a drunkward’s walk, but someone watching me work might.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

I'll Take It

The Steelers prevailed over the Bland Diego Chargers today at Heinz Field 11-10, a score that apparently no NFL game has ever ended in before.

It was pretty ugly from start to finish (although I only saw the second half), but I’ll take it; if Pittsburgh is going to make the playoffs, they’ve got to win every game they can, whether it looks good or not. It’s the old “beggars can’t be choosers” idea; and since, as I stood in the Ram brewpub, I was silently beseeching the football gods to allow the Black and Gold to come through, I see no reason to complain that the outcome wasn’t rendered more artistically.

As it was, the game turned out to be pretty exciting, with Roethlisberger driving the offense down the field for a Jeff Reed field goal with eleven seconds left even though it would have been a touchdown had it not been called back on an illegal block that looked legal to me, but once the field goal had been made, didn’t matter, especially since I had the good sense for a change not to place a bet on the game.

So, perhaps there’s a lesson in here, something to the effect that winning ugly is still winning, but maybe I can also take it to mean that the better team will eventually prevail—except, that is, when, like last week, the Steelers managed to let a sure victory slip away in spite of themselves.

The Ram was an okay place to hang out and brought back memories of a times I watched games there with my Mom, although for each of those, if I recall correctly, the servers were willing to put the Steelers game on where we were sitting. whereas today, with the Seahawks playing, they only showed it in the bar, so I had to keep running back and forth to the restaurant to chat with Mimi and Jen.

Wasn’t pretty, but it worked.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Stock Market

I wish the stock market was like the way I think it was during most of my dad’s life: a reasonably safe place to secure your fortune by investing in companies that you believe in, returning fairly predictable rates, most in the form of dividends distributed quarterly or so, rather than what it’s become during mine: a way to speculate wildly on the value of some intangible asset that may or may not bear any relation to the everyday work of the company it represents.

In other words, give me back a time when the book value of say, Coca-Cola exceeds that of eBay (for all I know, especially these days, it might, but my point being: I wish there was a stronger correlation between what people spend their money on and the stock value of the companies that sell those things.)

As freaked out as I continue to be about the ongoing demise of my family’s nest egg, I’m taking solace from the belief that maybe this is finally the correction the Market’s been needing since the dot-com boom; (of course, I’m also taking solace from the usual variety of recreational self-medications, but that’s for another post.)

Besides, I would much rather have Obama be President than my being rich. (I’m not saying there’s any correlation there, it’s just that every time I turn to the financial pages and get sick to my stomach, I just have to flip back to the headlines and feel relatively good all over again.)

And who knows? By January 21st, the economy might be roaring again. (And sure, the Mariners might win the World Series next year, too, but there’s a big difference between logically possible and actually in the realm of the somewhat probable.)

Mark my words: I don’t think the Dow is going to fall much lower, but then again, I’m the same guy who bet 10 bucks last Saturday that the Washington Huskies would beat the spread.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Hobo Bike Gang

While we were meeting up for the .83 ride at Westlake Center last night, there was this guy in full Cletus garb—dirty white overalls, no shirt—raging around the fountain flapping his arms, and those of us who saw him remarked that he seemed to be setting the bar for crazed hobo behavior pretty high, but predictably, before the evening was out. that sort of thing would seem pretty tame by comparison to any number of the antics of those assembled to ride, and ride we did, reasonably far south, way past Georgetown, to a brand-new little corner of the universe overlooking the Duwamish, dubbed, IIRC, the “Hidden Hobo Fire Pit” (or HHFP), where much booze was drunk—(and a good portion spit, in flaming blasts into and over the fire)—several pies were eaten, and at least one used condom was scooped up with a stick, waved around threateningly, and then dropped into the flames where, thankfully, it disappeared, never to be seen again.

And although, at first blush, the place seemed hardly a destination nightspot, its charms, once the fire was burning and the bourbon and tequila started flowing, were revealed: with the fast-running Duwamish all silvery in the background and only so much space to maneuver in on the hillside, plus a sweet little bench for the most inebriated to sit on, the HHFP has to be the coziest of all the places we’ve been to around town for burning shit outside at night.

One of my favorite moments was when, as we were gearing up to leave, Miles went all Stinky Pete/Walter Brennan/Walter Huston and called those who were dawdling something like “goddamn douchebag motherfuckers” (now I remember: douchecock sonzabitches! which, in hobo-speak has got to be a term of endearment, but I also liked, at the end of the night, discovering a new taco truck, El Trompo Loco, next to the nightclub El Gallo D’Oro, whose veggie tacos are the new favorite of this douchecock sonzabitch bike hobo, anyway.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Could Have Driven

I had to be at the airport this morning by 7:30—although I got there at 7:00—for a three-hour workshop I was teaching, and then need to be up in Bothell, at Cascadia, to teach at 1:15.

I could have driven south, then north, and saved myself some sleep and maybe some anxiety, but I’m glad now that I managed to catch the 194 bus to Sea-Tac, then taxi back downtown in time to hop on Sound Transit out to school; I’m on it right now, taking advantage of the onboard wi-fi, and, just so long as the driver doesn’t veer off into a ditch or Lake Union, I should be at my desk in plenty of time to prep for today’s ethics class.

This keeps alive my streak of not having driven to Cascadia in over a year; I went all of last year using either the bus or the bike; I guess this must matter to me more than I think it does; otherwise, I would have availed myself of the car in this, by far my most complex commute of the year.

As it is, though, I can remain smug and self-satisfied and, for that matter, less stressed out than I would have been fighting rushhour traffic on this rainy, windy November morning. Miles and miles of taillights showed in the distance outside the Metro coach’s big windows at 6:45AM, and nearly everyone I talked to as the workshop got underway had a complaint about what a miserable drive it was today.

Granted, there is a downside, which is that I felt compelled to rush away as soon as possible from the workshop; while this may have enhanced my mysterious presence as a presenter, it did result in my leaving behind three cheese graters I use as props and even worse, my Macintosh power supply, which, until I get back, means I must really ration my computer time and, for instance, stop right now.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Aw Hell

I’m sure other teams do this, too, but since I only follow the Steelers, I’m not sure.


Pittsburgh, and here I refer especially to one “Big” Ben Roethlisberger, managed to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory yesterday at the dainty hands of the so-called “Indianapolis” Colts, whose departure from Baltimore in the dead of night some years ago still rankles, but none the moreso than when they manage to win in Pittsburgh for the first time in something like forty years, even though the Black n’ Gold dominated statistically for pretty much the whole game except at the end of the first half and three minutes in the fourth quarter that made all the difference, both instances precipitated by an ill-advised—or, at least, poorly executed, throw by the Steelers’ quarterback.

A couple lucky plays on the Colts’ part really characterized the afternoon. The first one, which resulted in a touchdown, saw Pittsburgh cornerback Ike Taylor deflect a pass right into the waiting arms of Indianapolis receiver Reggie Wayne for a totally fluky touchdown; on another play, the normally reliable Troy Polamalu dropped an easy interception that would likely have resulted in pick six going the other way.

I’m probably partly to blame, too; right before Roethslisberger essentially threw the game away, I left my post in front of the TV to head out to Mimi’s soccer game; had I stayed put with a fresh bottle of Rolling Rock, no doubt the Steelers would have prevailed.

So, there I was, riding my bike down the street, listening to the final minutes of the contest on the radio, swearing out loud as Manning drove his team down a short field for the winning score; I was so mad I managed to register 32 miles per hour on the “This is Your Speed” sign on 31st Avenue, a good 5 or 6 miles faster than usual.

I broke the speed limit but them Stillers broke my heart.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Rotten Apples

Our entire neighborhood, and—it seems to me as I ride around—much of Seattle, smells these days like slightly rotten apples.

But this is a good thing, and makes it really feel like fall, which, of course, it is.

The scent is sweet and slightly bitter; it tickles my nose, sort of. And it lingers; even as I sit here in the basement of my house, with the windows all closed up, I can sort of smell it, I think.

Or maybe I just have the memory of the fragrance, and that’s enough.

It is said, I’ve heard, that smell is the most evocative of the senses, like how you can be transported back to some place years and miles away by a familiar scent. I know, for instance, that I can powerfully recall the feeling of being six years old on Friday nights and my parents going out to the symphony while my sister and I stayed home with our aged baby-sitter, Mrs. Ferguson just by the smell of women’s perfume.

Or the kind of soggy sour-milk smell of institutional cafeterias takes me right back to being a miserable high-school student, sitting alone in the lunchroom of Central Catholic high school.

Or, there’s this old coffee smell mixed with burnt toast that evokes, for me, the time when I was living in Los Angeles and working, one December, in a dingy office on Sunset Boulevard above a tired old coffeeshop called, I think, the Contintental, and writing public service announcements for some fly-by-night company whose job, apparently, was to spend a bunch of money at the end of the year for somebody’s tax purposes.

The smell of burning pinon, especially if it’s mixed with a dash of tequila and lime, transports me straight to New Mexico, but perhaps most powerfully, is this mixture of pepper, warm flannel, and brewer’s yeast, that reminds me exactly of how I felt here in Seattle when Mimi was a newborn.

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Random Rant

Tinted windows on the driver’s side of cars and SUVs: I hate that.

Some latte-swilling cellphone user is threatening to roar through the intersection ahead of me; I’m trying to see if I can catch their eye—not that doing so necessarily guarantees me safety—but I can’t even tell where they’re looking, or if they’re paying attention at all.

Why does anyone need tinted windows in Seattle, anyway? Why are they even legal? Do these people think they’re some kind of celebrities or something—that their lives are so interesting and important that they’ve got to be hidden behind smoked glass from the prying eyes of the paparazzi? All I’m trying to do is establish a tiny bit of human connection and, with any luck, prevent myself from becoming a statistic; meanwhile, some wannabe something-or-other in a 3000 pound death trap has to be all pretending to be Stevie Nicks or whomever.

I could see the point of tinted windows if this were Arizona or wherever; having them in Seattle is pure pretension, plain and simple.

There’s a storefront on Lake City Way that I pass when I take the bus out to school; it’s a shop called “the Darkside” and apparently, they specialize in after-market window tinting. The funny thing, to me, is that the tinting in their own windows is totally thrashed; it looks like the film, or whatever is that they use, has started peeling away from the glass to which it’s affixed, so some parts of the window are really dark, but through others, you can see the crummy furnishings inside the shop.

Maybe they do this so that customers who come in can see how the process works, but I think it’s more a matter of neglect that just goes to show what happens when you make it your business to block the outside out.

Pretty soon, it’s not just that other people can’t see in; pretty soon, you become blind to the world.

Friday, November 07, 2008

Wild Goose Chase

If I had a cell phone, tonight wouldn’t have happened.

While I take that as something I believe but cannot prove, I still think I can put forth evidence that supports my claim that things actually happened as I report them.

It’s like how the other day I was sitting on the bus near downtown Bothell and some guy was talking to himself in ways that only he and I paid any attention to whatsoever. But that was a human moment even though I was the only one who noticed it.

I had a vague plan, earlier in the evening, that I might run across my .83 mates, and so I toured by all the usual haunts: the Knarr, the CIP, the Nickerson, and even, given the evening’s shittiness, the Owl and Thistle, but none of these yielded a single familiar face. I also swung by the shelter in Gasworks Park, but all I saw was a couple of hobos chuckling and dancing in relative comfort out of the rain.

Consequently, I was a bedraggled and somewhat lonely little rat as I peeled off my layers of gear for an end-of-evening beer at the Elysian, when who should appear but Evil Mike, out for a nightcap himself. We ended up going through at least three pints apiece, covering a variety of topics, from Buffy Season Six to a Foucaultian analysis of one’s virtual presence in cyberspace.

But see, had I a cell phone, I could have phoned someone who was out on the Thursday night ride and met up with the gang, enjoying a potentially more convivial but certainly more predictable course of events. I take this not, as a I often have, as an indictment of the portable wireless telephone, but rather, as a celebration of many other such evenings in my past where I’ve wandered around looking for something or someone only to eventually discover that it wasn’t what I was searching for all along.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008


I’ve now voted in eight Presidential elections, and after last night, my record is evened at 4 and 4.

I started with a win in 1976 when I picked Carter, then suffered three losses in a row, Independent John B. Anderson in 1980, Mondale in 1984, and (holding my nose) Dukakis in 1988 (I really liked Pat Schroeder in the Democratic primaries); then I bounced back in 1992 and 1996, picking Bill Clinton, but since then, it’s been a bust, as both my choices, Al Gore in 2000, and John Kerry in 2004 fell to outgoing (yay!) President George W. Bush.

So it’s essentially been a lifetime—and if we take Mimi, for example, it’s literally been one—since my choice for President has won, and it’s been an entire adult existence—anyone born since the 1980s—since I’ve been really excited about the choice I made, winning or not (I naively thought Anderson had a legitimate chance, and I really believed my vote for him could change things, even though, since I was living in Los Angeles at the time, Reagan had already been determined the winner of the election by East Coast poll data and announced as such on TV.)

And what’s freakier to me is that nearly all of the candidates and issues I supported this time around have prevailed: Christine Gregoire has won re-election as Washington State Governor and ballot initiatives to help fund public transit (on which I’m riding right now as I type this), the Pike Place Market, and renovations to a number of city parks have also succeeded.

All this makes me feel more like part of the establishment than I’ve ever felt before; so much for being a rebel, and outsider, a maverick; now I’m in the majority, and while it’s nice to win, it’s sort of weird to be on the side that’s most like everyone else.

I’ll definitely take it though; and I’d be happy to do so again in 2012.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Cautiously Optimistic

The last four days have been more or less completely devoted to celebrating the half-century of Jennifer Leigh Dixon, and that’s been a good thing, with dozens of old and new friends showing up for dinners, a kick-ass party Saturday night, bloody marys Sunday morning, and pretty much non-stop commemoration of the most beautiful, funniest, creative, and amazing woman born in the second to last year of the 1950s—and since, for that matter—all of which enabled me to help make for a grand time for all, and atone for my abject failure to do much of anything for her last birthday; but now, attention turns back to other pressing matters at hand, especially, of course, the Steelers victory over the Washington Redskins last night, but also, today’s long-anticipated Presidential election.

And as it turns out, those two events are related, not only because—as I remain cautiously optimistic today—good has and will triumph over not-so-good, but also because, according to football lore, as reported on The Stranger’s blog, when the Washington Redskins win on Monday night football before an election, the incumbent party holds on to the White House.

Thanks, therefore, to a staunch defense and an adequate offense led by backup quarterback Byron Leftwich, the Steelers have ensured that Democrats will take the Presidency, and come January 20th, 2009 (when, hopefully, the Steelers will still be in the Superbowl hunt), Barack Obama will be sworn in, ending our eight-year long national nightmare.

Not surprisingly, the game turned right at about the point I stopped listening to it on my new—and much to my surprise, effective—cheap little transistor radio, which inclines me to believe that if I only could learn to not pay attention to their games, the Steelers would do much better. Unfortunately, not only would that take all the fun out things, it’s also inconceivable.

I just hope that my inability not to not listen to today’s election results doesn’t negatively impact its outcome.