On the Way to Becoming a Pile of Glass

I bike to and from work one of two ways. The decision to go one way or the other is made by the simple act of taking a turn or not. A binary option of avenues. No detectable forethought goes into this turn or lack thereof. I just do or do not turn.

My idea of the life and the universe is that everything is happening as a result of momentum from a giant explosion at the beginning of time. Our actions are decided just as the jar that fell is already broken. Absent deus ex machina, we are watching ourselves take actions that we have decided to take responsibility for but which were already decided. We’re at the theater yelling at the character to not open that door but we know she’s going to open that door and she’s already dead. That’s OK.

I bike to and from work one of two ways (which is really a total of four ways) and I like to imagine that the decision I make not to ride the way that I did the day before, to make that split second decision to turn instead of not, will change the direction of my life, however minutely. Even within one of those four ways to or from work there are slight alterations to the route.

Take a right at 65th then an immediate left on 7th one time and I might make eye contact with a stranger on their porch taking tea or a beer, which might make me feel invigorated and awkward leading me to think about the interaction for the remainder of the ride home. This memory could stay with me for many years and I may see them on the bus a few weeks or months on, seeming familiar but out of context, stare at them too long or ask them a question or forget about them after unsuccessfully trying to pin them down in my list of casual eye contact people.

If I slip up a different street, the one that passes the grocery coop, maybe I think to grab a sixer and some radishes (to clean at the sink, salt at the sink, and eat at the sink). My life changes, if just a little.

I like to think these things as a challenge to my idea that the jar is already broken and the girl is already dead. It’s just as possible that my route rearrangements are just the movements of a scripted character unchangeably walking toward certain doom (presumably an analogue less gruesome than death by the inevitable chainsaw or butcher knife or ax). We are all walking toward certain doom (if the idea of inescapable death at some unknown juncture is your definition of doom as well).

I am not hoping to escape said doom but to express the hope that at least some of my actions are movements outside the written narrative (while still within the general direction). On the way to my certain doom, a level of personal autonomy is appreciated. Whether or not I am truly exercising this autonomy is outside of my knowledge, necessarily. The act of writing about it does no more to solve the query than does the act of turning. But, by the act of turning (or not), I may by multiple iterations try to initiate changes against the life I would have lived locked into the same route.

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The Art of Becoming a Homeowner

These days it can be difficult to pry our attentions away from the world stage, whereon so much melodrama and absurdity are being performed. A mixture of comedy and fear ripples throughout the globe as a manbaby plays at the controls of the biggest machine. Each day brings another mad headline, clicked and shared at a rapid pace before the next thing drops to our collective gasp (getting less gasp-y with each new thing).

But, despite the uptick in global happenings, local happenings still proceed forward (albeit at a much more manageable pace). So is the case for us. We bought a home.

Following four offers and four refusals, numbed to the excitement of the process, we stumbled into a spot we figured we couldn’t possibly get. Then we did. At this point, we’d really just go to open houses to see the places we’d likely never get. Lost was the gusto of the initial experiences when our lingo was adorably untrained. We now knew to ask about HOA dues, reserves, rental caps, the perceived level of interest. We knew to expect 10-20% escalations, and then to somehow expect even more than that. We’d still imagine our lives there, the commutes, the local bars and restaurants, the parks. We’d stare out the windows like we might if we slept there and all our furniture was just behind us. But the expectancy had slightly shriveled.

Then a place we’ve loved for years, old and iconic and next to the park, our park, had an open house. Redfin’s estimate had it outside of possibility, even with minor escalation, but the open house was Sunday and what else are we doing? Twenty minutes before the open house closed, we went by and checked it out. Nice hardwood floors, tall ceilings, radiant heat and tile counters. There was nothing remotely charmless about it. But we shuffled around it like it wasn’t ours, couldn’t be ours. Nice tile, she’d say. Yeah, nice tile, I’d volley. It was nice tile floor, but it was distant from us, beyond a money mountain we couldn’t travail.

We checked out the laundry situation, chatted up the agent, and were on the way out. Oh yeah, by the way, the HOA dues include property tax. Now, this would have been a terribly boring sentence to me just four months ago. But at this point, it meant that this progressed from the most unattainable spot we’d flirted with to the most just in the matter of one simple and boring sentence. We confirmed this new attainability with the Redfin app on our way out, then stood awkwardly at the corner like, holy shit, we can do this.

Personal letter, appropriate escalation clause, an agent on top of her shit. Our offer was accepted. We had become homeowners, sort of.

But, not really. Not yet. And still not yet. The excitement of the offer acceptance began a long month of money-related documents we would proceed to sign in our lifeblood for the next few weeks (and still). Further, our acceptance was additionally contingent on the board formally approving our neighborly existence with them. To the joy of our own estimations of ourselves, we were approved for that (though not before much homework about policies and meeting minutes and volunteer committees).

All this signing and money-pushing did not come before we had again looked at the place in person. Before we went on to 30-year contracts, we walked the interiors of our possible new home, imagining how our lives looked inside. The second bedroom window opened out to a rosemary bush. Sage below the kitchen’s. There was a bonus room, whose future was constantly mutable, from dressing room to project space. The old galley kitchen with ubiquitous cabinets and potential for renovation. No yard or balcony, but outside the front door was the park we’ve loved for all our years here, the biggest yard we could hope for and without the botanical grooming.

Beyond the unit itself, the building was a cooperative, wherein community is key and most maintenance is the responsibility of the residents. This in a city of few neighbors, a city of momentary glances and eye aversions. Whole apartment buildings who’d barely recognize each other. We were choosing a community over the chilliness of some former residences.

Of all the future homes that we have cyclically imagined for ourselves, we finally found the one for which we most loved the invented futures.

 

All My Future Homes

I had imagined living amongst Somali refugees, the hijabed children playing in the central playground. Imagined wandering down to the duck pond, maybe sneaking a joint out when nobody was looking, staring out in turns at the distant downtown and the immediate blanket of pond. Walking to the main street for a drink or a bite, biking to the beach or the grocery store. Out there across the bridge from the city, detached, in a residential mixed-income community, my immaculate condo with nine-foot ceilings and two soaking tubs. But a two-bus, hour-plus commute and the feeling of suburban isolation burnt the dream into ash, to be revived in another space, another intersection, another selection of pubs and restaurants.

Before that was the campy condo village in Northgate. There were various futures contained in the sunny window seat, a window that pushed out of the building allowing for sun or rain to more encompass the body that laid within its glassy bosom. The balcony festooned with plant life, enclosing two chairs and a small table from which vantage the chair-sitters could converse and drink or stay silent and drink, coffee or tea or beer or cocktail or wine, while the sun shot down in between the dun buildings and enlivened the landscaping or while the rain showed no end and the feeling of being protected and warm was accentuated and life-affirming. The ensuite bathroom, a luxury understood by any child of ubiquitous siblings, the solace of solitude in all toilet, sink and bathtub matters. The extra room for the extra human yet to be. Laundry with no lines, no coins.

Then a place not 10 blocks away. Southwestern windows, small plant balcony looking out over a pool and the highway and the future airspace of the above-ground light rail line. Open floor plan in a building from the ’70s, new hardwood, and storage galore. The dining table would sit next to the tiny balcony and fake fireplace, looking out through the veil of terrace plant life. A living room space near the front door, darker and cozier, a sweet little Netflix cove. Somewhere a small desk to write at, a little postcard picture of Ginsburg tacked up at seated eye-level. Outside, a future baby being bobbed up and down in the slightly cool water of the pool, wincing and laughing at the new stimulations, their little fresh face slathered in too much sunscreen.

Another one, Maple Leaf neighborhood by way of Lake City Way. Would need some work, but good enough light. Rip up the carpet and install hardwood throughout. Replace the hollow doors with something more substantial. New trim. New vanities. Truly adult shopping exercises. We could make something nice out of it, and that trailer park viewable from the balcony would soon be replaced. The Wild West car lot across the way, while not ideal, adds some grimy charm. We could make it ours. We could make it work. Bus lines and nearby parks. A beer palace down the street. Proximity. City life. Sometimes you have to give a little in order to gain. Then again, sometimes it all just ends the same anyway.

Freshest wound in the form of another two-bed two-bath (ok, 1.75 technically). Not far from the first two. Lovely open kitchen with a gas range and plenty of counter space, a conversation kitchen which could speak out to the bright living room and even out to the covered balcony. Yes, another balcony. Said balcony already fixed with hooks for all the plants with all their verdant draping parts, and room enough for a grill and an intimate seating situation. Another ensuite bathroom, newly updated. Quiet rooms with storage enough for all the various baubles and thingies and wearables we keep around. And covered parking to boot.

All our future homes. Temporarily ours and only in the mind. Despite all legalese and officially signed documentation, the offers were just a flash in the pan, considered for a couple hours at most and then recycled. My imagined realities, our imagined home lives, dissolve away in the incinerator of useless memories or get boxed and mothballed to be dredged up at the most appropriately vulnerable time.

Stoicism serves us well in this life. Giving too much power to the dominant flux that life can present allows for tumultuous internal strife. Realizing instead that these are just little simulations, little fantasies that can sometimes come to fruition, allows that no particular outcome can affect your essential disposition.

So you forge on into the great dark gray of the future, that future you can’t fully imagine, waiting for the next flux, the next flash of fantasy, to present itself. Consistently, it will.

The Redfin app never stops with the notifications anyway.

Less Than Sixty Days

Just past the seven-week mark of this, the longest-seeming presidency of mine or many other’s experience, and the atmosphere is one of exhaustion and the taint of hopelessness. I try to not let the gravity of this whole thing weigh down on me. I live in a sanctuary city, in a state whose AG is fighting or vowing to fight the various and multitudinous injustices of a demagogic federal executive, on a coast which is unilaterally against the Orange Menace. And, I am objectively smarter now than I was when Bush slimed his way into the presidency (and subsequently injected the various neo-conservative filth from his father’s posse in the rooms adjacent the Oval Office), and certainly more sober. All the same, the shadow of it follows wherever I go.

This is not liberal over-reaction or the hurt feelings of some special little snowflake. We should not treat this as normal. Bush was not terribly normal himself, but compared with the present he would be a breath of fresh air.

Speaking of fresh air, try not to get attached. For all the crowing about the rights of businesses to make money without hindrance, there doesn’t seem to be a lot of sympathy for the rights of the humans within (and without) those businesses to continue breathing freely, or for that matter drinking freely. To be presented with clear evidence of destructive pollution and follow that by allowing for more is unthinkable. Businesses that do not respect people do not deserve to make money, let alone exist. Their rights end where they obstruct our rights to basic human needs.

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Flint, Michigan has not had clean water for three years. THREE YEARS. They are still being told to drink bottled water. The effect of this issue will haunt them for many years, an unalterable wrinkle that will decide the fates of so many people.

Coal will make a comeback, no matter the consequence. We can expect an increase in the usual air pollution but add to that increased pollution of creeks, streams, and rivers. With a lobby-driven flourish of his pen, 45 has stricken regulations on the mining of coal near streams (a regulation to protect water sources from surface mining debris). A government that protects business interests over human interests is a terroristic government. Without direct violence, they become responsible for the deaths of many.

A citizenry that openly applauds these efforts has been blinded by party politics and a false idea of American individualism. That citizenry heralds their own dismal future. We are not animals that can exist on our own. We are pack animals. We created government as a means of directing and protecting all of our kind, not just those who were able to climb over their brothers and sisters to stand on the tip of the pyramid. We are nothing if not a giant family. Our differences are what makes us dynamic and competitive and interesting. To deny that is utterly disheartening. We cannot become a country of villains, a country undeserving of any title of honor on the global stage. Not even a participation trophy.

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This turned out to be a bit of a rant, for which I am not sorry. If nothing else, this counts as therapy.

If you are still here, I would recommend a podcast I just found. There may or may not be a bias in the annals of the Washington Post or New York Times (despite being still very good journalism), but one outlet I’ve found to be unceasing in criticism no matter the party is The Intercept. They also have a podcast, which you should listen to, called Intercepted. Hosted by Jeremy Scahill (who most notably covered the evils of the mercenary group Blackwater) with great production and wonderful music.

And that is where I will leave you. Have a great week! Let’s hope for the tweet to end all tweets. And, not to overstate it, but Lucas would’ve hated this.

Lucas Would’ve Hated This

It’s been awhile. A pin drops in this blog and it rings loudly, like that sad and sleepless silence that pervades the countryside in the dark of night. Between the last post and this, many things have happened, too many to truly enumerate. I will cover a couple.

Occasional contributor to this blog and frequent contributor to my joy, Lucas Cain, passed away. Or that’s too soft, “passed away.” Lucas dropped off this world, suddenly and tragically. He was here and then he wasn’t. Laughing with us in a bar too late and then not doing that ever again. Theoretical loss can be painful, that is until real loss is born. Absence, and the knowledge that this absence is permanent, is flashing and loud in its lack of substance. That emptiness is what sits invisibly on your chest, obstructing breath and clenching the throat.

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“Resting Man” Anne Petty

Lucas still lives on in our memories, in paintings that adorn my apartment walls, and in some pieces of this blog. He occupied a large space in many of our minds and continues to do so after his physical existence has ceased. He’d be overjoyed that we keep talking about him. He died with the real possibility in his mind that Bernie could take the White House, and for that he was lucky. He’d never believe the shit we’re in right now.

Which brings me to the other thing. He whom we shall not name, the Cheeto-dusted and bloated bag of Confederate memorabilia. A reality TV spectacle was elected to the highest position in our government. A man whose Goodreads account would begin with Mein Kampf and end with the assembled speeches of Adolf Hitler (where in reality he just scanned the Cliff Notes of each). A man who shits on a golden toilet but can’t seem to buy a suit or tie that fits. If the descriptor “presidential” had any meaning before, it has completely ceased to mean anything at this point. There was a time where we could laugh at memes of a child-like dictator pointing at various objects safe in the knowledge that no such idiot strongman ruled over our much more competent and thoughtful nation. Ah, the good ole days!

I wasn’t around for this country’s other more fractious and frightening times (or else I was too young to be aware of it), so where we are at is very disorienting and stressful to me. I assume that this is still the case for those who’ve been through such times (assuming they aren’t fawning after the failed steak salesman and his assembled band of clueless silver spooners). At no point could I have predicted that a party so vigorously opposed to the very idea of Russia would be, if not openly praising their dictator, shrugging away the blatant attempts at bending the West to their purpose. It defies logic.

At the same time, nothing short of this wannabe emperor could have engaged so many people in protest and activism. From coast to coast, we’ve assembled with passionate or comedic signs, to march, to chant, to debate, to express, in the streets, in city parks, at town halls, in each other’s living rooms, outside reticent congressmen’s homes. We’ve talked about things we’d kept to ourselves, admitted mistakes and committed to actions, watched documentaries and read non-fiction books. We’ve started reading more news than at any times in our lives.

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Seattle Womxn’s March

These are the times that we need to understand what the essential character of our country should be, no matter where on the political spectrum we fall. Decisions based on fear, free of fact, cannot be trusted. Look at the statistics, mine the underlying reasons for the problems we face, understand the complaints of our neighbors. To line up blindly behind the big red R or the big blue D gives a sense of civic duty without the work to back it up. We need to stand for ideas, not for parties. If something is wrong, it is wrong, no matter what jackass found himself behind the big desk in the Oval Office.

Obviously, there is too much going on right now to speak to each unjust and/or idiotic action. Various news outlets can elucidate the particulars of the day (and, seriously, be various with your new sources). Suffice it to say, Lucas would’ve hated this (though he’d make a mean protest sign).

A Summary Reflection on Summer and Matrimony

Wow, time sails by. Here we are in the latter part of July, three months from the last post on this page, on the ringed side of a solstice wedding, deep into the sinews of a roasting summer, the grills in the distance spinning out smoke and that sweet caramelized smell reminiscent of all those others summers when you were younger and probably drinking Rainiers like bottled water, or too many IPAs before they got warm. Here we are on top of our blankets at night, spread eagle before the box fan. Here we are, figuring out who’s got beer and A/C and a table in the corner where you can be anti-social with a book or a journal or the crossword, the Sunday crossword, that you’ll fill out a bit of before just staring at the ceiling because you can’t remember the word “epee”.

I got married. In the rainforest heat of St. Louis, which was receiving the wet end of some hurricane somewhere else. His name was Bill. This hurricane. The rain neglected to show up the day of the wedding. And returned the next day. We got lucky. And in everything else too we were lucky. Thanks to the efforts of so many family and friends, the thing went off amazingly. The bride and groom didn’t break down during vows. They didn’t falter when speaking. Or fall at any time. The Kiss was photogenic and not weird (because usually we don’t kiss for an audience, which is weird). They gave each other rings and said sweet incantations to tie it all up in a bow. Married.

Now back to Seattle. To working. To biking and grilling and drinking IPAs in the park (or on a roof or in front of a fan in your apartment). Back to a slightly different existence of legal commitment and referring to someone as “wife” casually (so so strange!). We can all be married now. Let’s all be merry now.

On the Way to That Place You Thought You Were Going

Creativity doesn’t always come easy. It doesn’t come from a place of merely wanting to write. That doesn’t make it be. It doesn’t always come out the meeting of four well-intentioned guys, hoping to sip from the fount of profundity, hoping to dip digital pens in it and spread it across a blog somewhere in the vast internet. That fount doesn’t beckon to any random call. It wanders about the ether invisibly, alighting upon the unwitting at random, only some of which take advantage of that sudden inspiration instead of vegging out on reruns of Friends on Netflix, or finishing Firefly because it is supposed to be good.

Sometimes camaraderie is worth the trip, even if the goal was to concurrently write something of worth and weight. The goal isn’t always the thing that matters. The goal is a point of direction. The trip to that goal is something more worthy of the time spent, even if that goal is never reached or that goal morphs into something altogether different. Sometimes you get four guys together to write about Seattle music, but you end up eating amazing food, drinking great beer, and having unvetted and directionless conversation while looking out over Ballard to the mountains backed with the oozing yolk of the sun.

This blog doesn’t have to define itself just yet (maybe never). It merely has to be a sounding board. It needs no true goal yet. The trip will define it, if we let it. Its goal may turn out to be rather mundane and unglamorous. That does not say anything of the path that led it there. Write to write. Write when the fount has alighted upon your head. When no-one is watching, you’ve no reason to explain how anything you write fits inside the blog’s raison d’être. We’ve got all the time in the world to cordon things off into themes. Right now, it’s better to just write about something.

So, this is a call to arms (typing fingers?) for my fellow bloggers. Don’t over-analyze it. Write. About whatever. In the meantime, we can revel in the incidental camaraderie of our well-intentioned meetings. And drink beer.