Thursday, September 30, 2010


This photo was difficult for me to take. It was difficult to line up the shot. It was difficult because there were onlookers, causing a bit of distraction. It was difficult because my dog kept pulling at his leash. Once uploaded, it was difficult to adjust the exposure, crop, align, highlight and refine.

But the main reason this photo was difficult for me to take, is that I was trying to stay conscious the whole time.

(Click to enlarge, but only if you really want to.)

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Natural Born Atheist

The vast majority of the human race looks to spirits, deities, rituals, interconnectedness, afterlife, reincarnation, positivism, affirmations, signs, symbols, psychic forces and/or miracles to explain life, death and existence. There are a few of us who are incapable of all of the above. We can't care what happens after we die. We can't wonder why we exist. We're not lapsed. We're not angry. We don't judge others for their beliefs, we simply don't have the capacity. Good and evil become empathy and lack thereof. Prayer resulting in change or cure becomes delightful coincidence. The Golden Rule stays as it is written.

Peace be with you,

The Sarcastivist
(shared from my other blog)

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Alley Kitten

Alleys have been a passion of mine since before I can remember. The bigger the city, the more intriguing the goings on in these places where we think no one looks. Cars we're proud of grace streets, but rusted heaps gather spiders and stray cats behind houses and apartments. Sitting out on the front deck for a cigarette and cup of coffee involves at minimum a robe, at best a full ensemble. A deck overlooking an alley requires only the scantest of boxer briefs. In an alley, children wail or play with abandon.

Near the turn of the last century, many brick buildings went up to house and provide working space for thousands of new Seattle residents. The architectural details rival anything in Europe, especially in what we call Pioneer Square. I've spent many minutes, day and night, trudging down these rat-infested passages, sometimes waiting for a drunk friend to finish stealing kisses with a bartender on break, while I look up at winding iron staircases that lead to nowhere and wish I could go there. Boredom with the wait starts up a staring contest with a relief carving of some or another city founder. By day there are always delivery trucks struggling over intricately patterned cobblestones and flowery, iron grates. The rats are politely hiding.

By contrast, alleys in newer parts of this city are all but neglected. No paving or stone, or any other attempt at aesthetic improvement, distracts from the filth and smell. This is where I indulge in pure voyeurism. This is where people hide from police, steal from their neighbors, stash broken toilets, cry their eyes out or find a working vein for some freshly cooked heroin.

What we do on the street we want to be everyone's business. Nothing we do in alleys counts as part of who we are--even something as innocent and productive as taking out the trash.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

All Things Domestic

I made a statement on Twitter today, 9/11/10, that to my amazement lost me no followers. I fully expected to hear splashing noises as followers jumped ship, while reading various interpretations into what I'd said.

"Acts of terrorism occur every day in this country. I shall honor any and all victims, regardless of how they were terrorized."

No one asked what I meant by that. No one commented, blocked, agreed or called me unpatriotic (pisses me off when I'm accused of that). No one asked if I meant Timothy McVeigh or even the Columbine shooters; though, h-e-l-l-o. Maybe I'm losing my edge, or maybe--hopefully--it has caused some quiet contemplation. Maybe everyone is out drinking, mourning, working or trying to get laid--bless their hearts--and not letting today get them down. As it should be.

Hold on tight, because here it comes: I was referring to rape, child molestation and spousal abuse. These are deliberate acts that target groups or individuals, striking fear in their hearts and letting them know that they will never be safe. In other words, terrorism.

A fellow tweeter tweetingly asked if rapists carry lube, and she was unfollowed by a good number of people almost immediately. What some were offended by, I took as stark social commentary. In fact, I was so impressed by her comment that I've spent a good deal of time quietly pondering. I've always felt that rape isn't discussed enough, even in a humorous way. Why not?

Child molestation and spousal abuse are finally becoming part of mainstream conversation. Every time someone thinks of molesting a child or smackin' the misses, they maybe pause first and say to themselves, "Society thinks that what I'm about to do is abnormal to the point of being laughable. I'm a national joke," or, "I'm a wife-beater, and I don't mean the white tank top. I'm a total jerk." At least I hope so.

Now let's do the same thing with rape, shall we? "RAPE! Ha ha! I'm a weak, spineless, angry man (occasionally woman) who gets all fussy-wussy sometimes because my mama scared me. I'm a complete loser."

Part of the reason this she-maverick lost followers, she snarked in a followup tweet, was because of the mere use of the word "rape". At first I assumed it was re-traumatized victims jumping ship. Then I thought about it again. I tweeted to ask her if she was unfollowed by rapists or K-Y, but she hasn't gotten back to me yet.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

A Taste of Ethiopia and Lottery Tickets

Bodegas are, if you live in a city that has them, about the best little shops on earth. If you are from the suburbs or rural places, you'd have to visit a truck stop to find the next best thing.Except at truck stops you don't have the diversity factor. Bodegas are rarely owned by people who hail from the United States, and they are located in inner city neighborhoods that often have high crime and poverty rates. No matter the nationality of the owner, I call them all "bodegas". It's just easier than trying to remember how to say "weird little shop" in 10 languages.

Their merchandise is comprised of random samplings of essential and nonessential items. All products are usually toward the front of shelves in perfect geometry so as to fool the eye into thinking there are more than, say, four boxes of Cornflakes. Individual rolls of toilet paper, sewing kits and candy bars occupy the same section. Alcohol takes up most of the wall space, followed closely by cigarettes, and lottery tickets are available at the front counter.

Those are the commonalities. What I love about a true bodega is the stuff for sale from the owner's country of origin. Across the street from me is a shop owned by a woman from Ethiopia. She moved here as a young child, so her English is better than mine most days. When I request a lottery ticket, she always recites the same caveat: "If you win, you must buy this place so I can get the hell out of here. Maybe Paris." Her half sister, on the other hand, barely speaks a word of English.

My last visit, I had to circle past a group of addicts and dealers trying to steal beer to do my browsing. After they begrudgingly bought the beer with coins, I arrived at the counter with an armload of what I thought might be tea, a plastic pack of what looked like mustard seeds, an interesting melange of spices and a Butterfinger. I have a pretty good handle on what a Butterfinger is, but I needed clarification on the other three.

The non-English-speaking sister was on duty. After a few attempts at communication, much improvised sign language and a gestured request for a lottery ticket I bought all four. Everything cost $1.99.

Much to my delight, what I thought might be tea is, and it's amazing. It's smokey and strong, and goes beautifully with a little honey and some milk. The mustard seeds (?) I've yet to put to use. They are irregularly shaped, and smell faintly of red peppercorns. The spices must be for making chai. I've harvested out the cardamom seeds for baking. The Butterfinger is long gone.

My next adventure is to visit the Algerian bodega for some goat jerky and bobby pins. Then to the Korean one for some canned hearts of palm and a second bag of multicolored tapioca beads. Why? Because they're there.