Tuesday, December 1, 1998

Anger Happens

I want to talk about surrealism this month. But first I want to present the following unpaid anti-advertisement:

The first issue of the zine Out of the Margins, a new publication of the Real Change Homeless Empowerment Project, became unavailable in stores throughout Seattle last week. Out of the Margins will not be sold at various shelters and at drop-in centers every other month.

Should any of you unwisely attempt to purchase a copy of Out of the Margins , we at Real Change intend to be highly uncooperative. We shall not return your phone calls, we shall delete your email messages to us, and we shall run from you when we see you approach on foot. But we do hope the rest of you will enjoy it.

OK. So lets talk about surreality. First, why do I want to do this? Everyone else, wherever I go in this great universe of ours, prefers to talk about reality. So: “What’s MY problem?” I ask.

I came to realize only days ago that not only did I indeed have this problem, but that so also did some of my most loved ones, in addition to others who have been subject to my globule of influence. That I did so then was due to the unselfish, caring, concerned intervention of Bob “the Other” Redmond, who is Real Change’s Production Manager, Editor Manager, and most importantly, fellow Poet Guy.

I was gazing at what was supposed to be, according to reality , the black and white computer image of a pair of male (hence blue) blue jays. The computer gave the blue jays a copper tinge. I consciously thought at the time that, if there should be any tinge whatsoever, it (the tinge) should be of the blue kind.

Gazing thusly at these nonblue yet nevertheless certainly blue blue jays, I began to declaim openly regarding their lack of bluehood. I found that I could not contain myself; I experienced a sense of urgency, a compulsion, a need arising from some one of those things that I might on occasion call whatsits. One of those things that my therapist often used to term feelings.

Nor was I alone. Fellow editor Anitra L. “Please Help Stabilize Me” Freeman was also there, and she practically precisely echoed my own concerns about the missing bluehood of the probably gay, certainly jay, bird couple.

Just as I was about to embark upon a tirade decrying the serious problem of bluelessness in computer monitor representations of gray scale images of avia generally , and the consequent need for urgent federal action, I heard the gentle voice of Bob Redmond from behind me framing the simple remark, “I can’t believe how surreal you guys are! Constantly! I mean, WOW! Like, where does that come from? Gee.”

Thanks to Bob I have looked within and I have faced my demon. I now fully understand how it is that I can be surreal all of the time.

It comes from PURE hostility! Every cell of my being rages against the real! “Are you REAL?” -- I ask that question of every stinking lousy little bit of world-stuff that comes my way, and if the wormy pathetic little stuff squeaks “yes” out of its unworthy windpipe, I say, “then, in that case: CHANGE!”

That’s right. It’s just me, Anitra, Salvadore, that Rene-Magrite dude, Barney Rubble, Ernie Kovacs, and the artist formerly known as Pee Wee Herman -- just the seven of us against all that exists in the cosmos that claims special privileges just because it IS.

For example, Blake Nordstrom IS. The Nordstrom garage IS. The Seattle City Council IS. The adjudicated unassailability of the ethicality of Nordstroms, their contractors, the City Council, HUD and the money that passed about between them just IS.

Me and my Dali Posse say it ain’t that easy. We say that it “matters” (or should we have to say it “spirits”?) that the money passed around was intended to bring relief to people in our cities suffering from a level of poverty normally associated with hurricane victims. And that those who direct Nordstroms, however inbred they may be, have no excuse for being unaware of that intention.

Just as Nordstroms just IS, likewise anger just HAPPENS.

Speaking of Nordstroms, I see that now the company wants the federal government to allow it to convert its credit services to a savings and loan! And they will probably get permission! Just so they can as conveniently as possible put people in debt whenever they can’t afford to buy their goods! Remember the savings and loan crisis? Our government apparently doesn’t. Look forward to paying extra taxes to support the desire of the not-quite-rich-enough to have the same imported shoes that the rich-enough get to have.

Sunday, November 1, 1998

Pooty Free Ameter

In last month’s Real Change we announced that we would throw a birthday party for our (that is, Seattle’s) mayor, the distinguished and beloved periodic Frenchperson, Paul Schell. I bet you all thought we were just goofing, didn’t you? Hah! We really meant it! We love to do things like that! Anything for a hoot and a piece of cake! That’s just the way we feel about it around here!

Meanwhile, as the evening of the party approached, what with the flurry of preparations etc., there was an absolute, literal, palpable air of excitement here in the Real Change office. I mean, you could actually really FEEL the air, it was so palpable. Or at least, stuff in it was...

So, anyway, I was inspired by something palpable in the air in our office to write a humble little speech for the occasion of Mayor Paul Schell’s Birthday. Lacking anything better to do, I would like now to share that speech with the entire Real Change readership, at this time (now). So here is that speech:

I would like to talk about Mayor Schell, because this is, after all, HIS birthday party and that’s why we’re all here, to talk about Mayor Paul “max-a-million, any-million” Schell.

But before I do that, I would like first to take some time out to praise iambic tetrameter.

Iambic tetrameter is, as I have said many times before and in many places, the ameter without which the immortal line “they’re coming to take me away, ha, ha!” could never have been uttered.

If that were the only praise I could sing of iambic tetrameter, I would sing that praise endlessly, but luckily, for all of you here listening to me this evening, there is so much more:

For example, iambic tetrameter is NOT a pooty ameter, like that iambic PENT-ameter is, and this endears it to me, as it should to all right-thinking and right-feeling Americans.

Indeed, for hundreds of years pooty English poets, both in their native England and in their non-native other countries that they’ve gone off to (like this one), have pooted all over the place with their pooty iambic pentameter, whose every single pooty line drags on exactly one pooty beat too long.

Iambic tetrameter KNOWS when enough is enough. “ALWAYS LEAVE THEM WANTING MORE!” -- that’s iambic tetrameter’s motto! -- and it lives it, line after line after line after line after line after non-pooty line.

Moreover, iambic tetrameter is faithful. Oh, sure, it isn’t as flashy or as exotic as is, for example, anapestic tetrameter. But iambic tetrameter will always be there for you, waiting patiently and forgivingly while you come slinking home with that anapestic lipstick on your collar, those lacy crotchless silky anapestic panties tucked just inside your left front pant’s pocket, and that anapestic vibrator left carelessly on, wasting batteries, causing that peculiar walk of yours.

There are so many more wonderful things that I could tell you about iambic tetrameter, involving for instance Keiko The Killer Whale and/or Elizabeth Dole, but I have just reminded myself that we are here, after all, to talk about Mayor Schell, so I should get on with that instead.

But before I do that, I would like to present a little poem that I have written. No, actually I was just kidding, I am going to present a poem AND talk about Mayor Schell -- simultaneously! I call my poem

Our Mayor Schell Sure Does Mayor Well!

or Opus 67 (Count Them!) Spanks

by © Dr. Me, Wes Browning

Our Mayor Schell sure mayors well!

He mayors swell! -- as I will tell:

He mayors here, he mayors there,

he mayors gladly anywhere,

He is the mayor with the plan,

he doesn’t sit upon the can!

Five hundred thousand he would spend,

-- far more than any’d dare to lend --

that women & kids be off our streets

as one of many Christmas treats!

It’s not his fault five hundred thou’

is not enough. -- Don’t have a cow!

Our mayor Schell DOES mayor great --

So WHAT if he can’t calculate?

-- Thank You.

Thursday, October 1, 1998

Social Solvents

The fall equinox* has come and gone and now I got the fall equinox blues. I'm reminded of my 1996 statement on the subject, which I have as yet failed to improve upon. (A symptom of auld-tymer disease, says those that know me.)

(*: It has been called to my attention that not everyone in the Real Change Readership may know what an equinox is. For those people I will explain. An equinox is an equine-ox, that is to say half horse and half bovine. Therefore it is equi-noxious, to both horse-haters and

bovine-haters. Personally, I hate afghans, because they are cats merely pretending to be dogs, which I find despicable. But that's just me.)

My 1996 Statement Regarding The Fall Equinox,

Whose Actual Title Is Much Longer Than This,

So Much Longer That I Can't Include It Here,

Except To Say That It Includes the Words

"to be Sung Dolefully in the Key of Flat"

by © Dr. Wes Browning

The first day of Fall is the Fall Equinox;

This day means as much as a bag full of rocks.

Not a damn thing has happened, the sky is all gray.

I live in Seattle, we like it that way.

At the first of the month I will get a fat check;

Then maybe this season'll get my respeck.

Until then I'll merely be biding my time,

With nothing to do except write silly rhyme.

The Equinox isn't all that's come or gone and I'm not just talking Presidential politics. Remember those Chris Bayley ads? With no mention of Patty Murray, just "Linda Smith this" and "Linda Smith that"? Way to go, Chris!

Thus was our esteemed Editorial Board moved to weigh in on the local races that still remain, now that the primary is over. So we held a Special Meeting just to decide upon "our" endorsements. And are we at all surprised (it happens every time) that my recommendations are ignored by that August Body? No we are not.

First of all I think we should pay more attention to the cool names some of these candidates have. You voters have already said no to a Pope, to a guy named Mike the Mover, and to a Medley. OK, the People Have Spoken, but those of you in District 41 still have a chance to send a James Brown to the State House. Who cares who he really is! Come on! Make me proud!

Could I ask that the glorious Ed Board consider such a proposal for even a second? Just listen and take a lousy vote on it? Just listen, then yes or no. Would that hurt?

NOOOOoooo: "we're too busy deciding the fate of the Universe, Wes." "If it's so important to you why don't you do it in your silly column, Wes." I just made those quotes up but Ruth A Fox Rhymes With Box Socks and Clocks actually said "put it in your column and smoke it."

Fine. Here are my other picks then. I'm for Faith Ireland if she'll change her name to Kathy by November. I'm for Kip Tokuda, unchanged, because with a name like Kip "no one needs a golden retriever". I regretfully must therefore oppose Kip's Republican challenger Muhammad S. Farrakhan. That's a shame because it would be so cool if the courts had to straighten out a Farrakhan win.

Farrakhan is claiming that the State can't prevent him from taking office even though he has been convicted of felonies.

Though I don't endorse Farrakhan himself, I endorse his right to run and serve if elected. I probably wouldn't be saying that if this weren't the US of A. But it is, and that means me and you and everyone else I know could be defined by one legislative body or another as felonious at any time, because that's just the way we do things here:

"Got a race problem? Don't sweat it! We'll just figure out how the undesirables 'get by', and then we'll criminalize it!"

"Too many poor people lowering property values? We'll just build more jails and make it illegal to exist in poverty!"

There isn't any social problem that ignorant fools can't "solve" by passing laws against it.

Case in point. Flashback to the Dark Ages. The bubonic plague kills two thirds of all Europeans. There is a huge labor shortage. Serfs leave their lands to become itinerant laborers. They charge MARKET prices. The ruling classes are horrified. Laws are passed making it illegal to charge any more than pre-plague prices for labor.

The outcome? Capitalism. Those serfs became the new Middle Classes. The laws came to be universally violated, with the resulting loss of respect for the governments that created them. Any of those wage fixing laws that still remain on the books are historical jokes, like those laws of the same period that prohibited Christians from engaging in money lending (banking). Was that a bad thing?

And why the hell couldn't we have had a Thor in the US Senate? Where were you Ballard, when we needed you?

Tuesday, September 1, 1998

Let My People Be Exploited

Well, that August was some month wasn’t it? You had your Monica blah blah Bill blah blue dress etc. blah, you had Tent City II & hearings, you had terrorist attacks and counterattacks, you had a big rally about the Nordstrom garage, you even had your local celebration of Newt Gingrich’s birthday, complete with the gray-haired pudgy-fingered salamander himself.

And what have those of us here at the Real Change been therefore talking about all month? What has been the almost undivided focus of our attentions?

Answer: Montreal.

That’s Montreal, Quebec, Canada, as in “What is the largest French speaking city in the world besides Paris, Alex?”

You see, last year, when the North American Street Newspaper Association (NASNA) held its lately annual conference here in Seattle, it was decided that this year’s conference would happen in Montreal, where it would be hosted by L’Itinéraire, NASNA’s Montreal member.

Try to picture this: almost everyone taking part in putting out street newspapers in North America or around the world has been homeless in the past even if they aren’t homeless now. But because we’re accomplishing things, we are able to get financial grants to help carry out the business of organizing, such as flying to Montreal and then staying in rooms for three nights on grant money!

Is that cool or what? Can you see how it might affect perspectives?

Monica who? Or..., after just four days total in Canada, someone gave me USA change for a purchase, and for a moment I thought I was getting funny money.

Most interesting revelation in Montreal: Quebec apparently has one of the most youthful homeless populations to be found anywhere in the developed world. Most widely offered explanation: uncertainty about the future political status of the province leaves the youth (and those who would potentially invest in them) less able to envision their own futures.

Most interesting homeless person in Montreal: a young man seen pantomiming the squeegying of automobiles, waving a stick in front of their windshields instead of actually cleaning them, and getting paid for it! While I watched, nearly every other driver paid him something for his “work”. My theory: they paid him out of gratitude. They hate squeegy-guys even more than they hate mimes. (The alternative theory is almost too awful to contemplate -- they’re Quebecois, and they like mimes. Eeeew.)

Everyone’s favorite quote from the 1998 NASNA Conference, from the chief editor of Le Voir, a Quebec weekly, regarding that blue dress: “I heard there was a second shooter... ”

Most interesting street paper represented at the 1998 NASNA Conference in Montreal: L’Itinéraire itself. Interesting, because it had its beginning as a cafe specifically catering to the homeless -- good food priced within reach of the poor. It was only after the cafe was a success that the paper was developed.

Again, that could be a Quebecois thing. So people there eat in cafes.

A thrift cafe would be bound to succeed.

But I think the experience of L’Itinéraire is more universal than that.

Naturally, I said so at the conference. Specifically what I said was that after having been homeless in the last twenty years more times than I can now remember, the one thing I remember most missing in all those times that I was homeless was not food, not sex, not shoelaces, not even a home, but being exploited.

Whenever I was homeless, businesses here in Seattle turned their backs on me! I still had money -- not enough for Seattle rents but still some green and silver and copper USA money just like everybody else -- but BUSINESSES HERE DIDN’T WANT MY MONEY!

Nobody wanted to exploit me!

Meanwhile three thousand miles away in another country people got the idea that providing food to poor people at prices they could afford might actually be, well, at least sustainable. Sustainable enough that they could build on it. (The cafe is now a successful cyber-cafe.)

I don’t want to have to leave the country I was born in to have my money be taken seriously. I want to be exploited right here in the good old USA. What is the matter with American capitalists that they would ignore the opportunities that US homeless have to offer?

Eventually, I want to see even American real-estate developers figure out how to exploit the homeless. Come on, guys! You’re on the A-TEAM!!! Billions of welfare and minimum wage dollars are going to waste that could be being spent on your properties.

Thank you all for your attention. Next month: how comfortable is Nordstrom’s garage at night?

Saturday, August 1, 1998

The Truth Is Way Out There

Well, here we are again. It’s deadline time and I’m stuck, as always. I ask Cindy and she suggests “Write about why you are stuck.” I think, “Do I really want to talk about the X-Files here?” But I have nowhere else to go.

As I write this, Anitra L. “Net Mama” Freeman, fellow editor and proof that I am not the world’s biggest nerd, tells me that she wants me to get the following message printed.

“Mulder is a dweeb. He is a lovable dweeb, but he is a dweeb. And YOU, Scully, are an admirable woman in many ways. But you seriously need to enroll in a co-dependency program: ‘Woman Who Love Dweebs.’”

Apparently, how Scully conducts her life is very important to Anitra, and Anitra is certain that her advice will reach Scully. The theory seems to be that some paranoid schizophrenic will read the above paragraph and pass it on to Mulder (all paranoid schizophrenics have Fox Mulder’s unlisted phone number - it’s a union privilege), in the belief that it contains a coded message. Mulder will then show it to Scully, in the hopes that she will be able to decipher it. She will.

But that isn’t what is making it so hard for me to write this month. After sharing my problem with Anitra, she is very alarmed. She says I mustn’t talk about that in public. There are people, she tells me, sad, unfortunate people, who haven’t seen the movie yet! She pleads with me not to spoil it for those miserable people who might nevertheless still find the seven bucks to see it, someday, in a theater.

I’m sorry. Tell you what though, I’ll give you all a warning - WARNING, INFORMATION ABOUT THE END OF THE X-FILES MOVIE FOLLOWS.

OK, you’ve all been warned. So here’s my problem. There they are, BOTH of them, lying in the ice and snow, IN ANTARCTICA, at the edge of this huge crater made by the unexpected take-off of a previously buried tremendously huge alien YOU-KNOW-WHAT. The snow tractor that delivered Mulder to this site is somewhere nearby, BUT IT IS OUT OF GAS. The evil conspirators who brought Scully to this chunk of ice ARE LONG GONE.

So how did they get off Antarctica? What’d they do, thumb a ride on the back of a passing penguin? Walrus, walri? In the very next scene they’re doing their almost-but-not-quite-kissing act in DC, under blossoming cherry trees! What?! Did Mulder dial up the Chief Engineer of the Enterprise on his cell-phone? “Hey, it’s cherry blossom time! Beam us to the Capitol, Scotty!!?” On a continent that does not yet have cellular phone service???

Oh, but THAT can’t be. I forgot that Mulder’s cell-phone would have been in outer space at this point, since he had carelessly dropped it inside the alien YOU-KNOW-WHAT.

SEQUEL ALERT!!: ALIENS have Mulder’s cell-phone! The fun only starts there!

Speaking of evil conspirators...

Let me get this straight... Paul Schell deeply CARES about the plight of the homeless, so long as they aren’t visible? So long as they don’t put up tents? “I LOVE you homeless guy, cause you sleep outdoors without any shelter and you will surely die at that rate, but thank you anyway good buddy! - for not putting that nasty protective tent up!”

Once again, Anitra gets into the act. She wants me to “remember the hamsters”, whatever that means. I remind her that Mayor Schell is on our side. Yeah, really! This is a man who would never beat a dead horse - he LOVES dead horses!

Maybe Paul Schell would like to negotiate with SHARE and WHEEL et al to agree that they may put their unhoused people on the continent of Antarctica. Just so long as they don’t put up any unsightly tents that might offend the eyes of those who may have voted for Mr. Schell, or that might do so in the future, or that might be artichokes.

“Tents are not only ugly, but they are a fire hazard. Snow is much safer.”

And, surely those homeless wimps can’t complain about being isolated, by being put there in Antarctica. For one, they’ll have evil conspirators everywhere around them to keep them company. For two, they will be able to get to DC within minutes (at cherry blossom time).

For three, Mark Sidran himself, renowned humanitarian, is prepared to provide the initial transportation at no cost to the general public (he can write it off as a campaign expense.)

Great, now my spell-checker is telling me to change “unhoused” to “unhorsed”. Some things make no sense, others too much. How’s a guy supposed to concentrate?

Wednesday, July 1, 1998

Nailing Stephen Hawking

Every month the same thing: first, I realize that as writers go, I am the functional equivalent of Steven Hawking without his Power Chair. (By the way, my girlfriend says that Steven is my biggest threat. She says that if he were here at this very moment she would nail him, with or without the mobile throne. I say, yeah sure, she would have to. What else could she do?)

Second, I despair.

Third, I wonder, “is it ‘third’, or is it ‘thirdly’?”

Fourth, out of my desperation, I analyze the cause of my inability to get started writing.

Fifth, I write about that cause, since I realize that I have nothing else to write about, apart from bad beer, dead pigeons, and the other gender, and I’ve probably already said all that I should about those, for now.

This month the culprit is the Capital T that is followed by the Capital Gosh Condemned V. To be precise, almost as soon as I became housed I procured an “idiot box”. I am right now on the verge of getting cable. After years of what my therapist had declared a cure I have suffered from what is undeniably a relapse: I have become re-addicted to Letterman and his Stupid Human Tricks. I have started watching Simpson reruns every day. I have to watch 11 at 11 on 7 every night. I no longer have a will of my own. Something has pierced my neck. Something is controlling my cerebrum. I have the urge to scream. I start to bond with paranoid schizophrenics. The stories from the X-files seem reasonable to a guy who has gotten used to watching Jerry Springer. Aliens among us? Heck yeah.

I recently heard an “anchorperson” on a TV news program say something like this -- “And now, Jim has some information that will help you avoid being swept off a mountain by an avalanche.” I wasn’t even able to write my own name for half an hour after that...

I thought I heard “and now Uncle Jim will tell me how even an infantile adult-in-age-only such as myself can avoid ending up like any of a bunch of reckless thrill seekers more than willing to tax the resources of State rescue agencies without bothering to assume the responsibility of paying in advance for the privilege.”

If I were a real adult, I thought, I would climb mountains daily. And people would CARE if I slipped, or if some stinking avalanche disturbed my climb. There would be hundreds of people concerned with every breath I took, for fear that I wasn’t getting enough oxygen and might have to live the rest of my life stupid, as if I was raised in the projects eating lead paint. Hundreds of Mountaineer Club Types would be willing to trek through miles of knee deep snow up 110 degree inclines just to deliver beef-jerky and/or French Cognac to me.

Well, guess what?! I don’t LIKE beef-jerky! Meanwhile, where were any of you heroes any of the four years I was homeless and freezing my ass off sleeping in toxic waste dumps?

I know the answer already. When you weren’t watching television you were climbing mountains or you were rescuing other jocks like yourselves who had tried to climb mountains. You were too busy for me. Just like now, I am watching the Simpsons, and can’t be bothered with news about someone’s failed attempt at literal upward mobility who brought his troubles on himself by taking unnecessary risks.

Ha, ha, just kidding! “Taking unnecessary risks” is another way of saying “being born,” right?

Sixth, when that goes nowhere, I resort to a totally irrational non sequitur:

For example --

Speaking of being born, that reminds me that I am male. And I realize that I haven’t batted people in the head about it recently, whence a poem --

We men don’t need large bladders --

We piss on everything, that’s our job!

-- or something like that. Trouble with that one is, what rhymes with bladders besides ladders, and what do ladders have to do with it? Do I really want to bring Tool Time into the discussion? Of course not. I preferred Seinfeld.

And why did I prefer Seinfeld? Because there were no fathers even trying to know best on Seinfeld. There were no Uncle Jims. Think of it: a sitcom that acted less like a sitcom than the nightly news!

Tonight at eleven -- Uncle Jim tells how you can avoid having your campsite bulldozed by the City of Seattle! The answer just may surprise you!

Monday, June 1, 1998

Chuck Grammar

Let’s chuck grammar in the bin, why not? Speech parts of? Needs them who?!

And while we are thinking about that, we’ll give a thought to writing a poem that expresses the thought we’re thinking.

Whoa, wait a sec! We weren’t thinking a thought, actually, were we? Well, OK, let’s think of something, and then color it, so to speak, with the sentiment previously touched upon (eeeww).

What I’m thinking about is the plight of Eastside Earl (not his real name). This is a guy you can see daytimes in the U District, even at the U itself, reading books. Say you see him reading a book, and you walk up to him, and you say, “Hi, what are you reading?” If he looks up and says “a book” and then goes back to his reading, it’s a fairly good sign that it’s him.

An even better indication would be no answer at all. Earl is at home with books but can barely relate to human society at all. That’s why, although he’s clearly mentally ill, he’s never checked into the welfare system, because that would entail talking to people. That’s also why every evening, instead of checking into a downtown shelter, Earl rides a bus to the Eastside. To a patch of not-yet-developed land not yet as crowded with homeless as Seattle’s “jungle” and therefore not nearly as likely to be bulldozed, or even visited.

Of course like all people who “work” in Seattle while residing in Bellevue or Redmond or Kirkland or whatnot, Earl pays a price. Prior to June 1, Earl’s price was $2.20 per day. He’s been paying for that and his food and other expenses with money obtained from clearing the alleys and sidewalks of the U District of littered aluminum cans. But “rent” has gone up for Earl. Thirteen percent.

This poem is inspired by Earl, and I am sure that it is one that he would particularly despise.

Bus Burdened Eastside Earl

by © Dr. Wes Browning

Thank Earl’s bent back no cans out back

blackberry ladens, they’re laden less since him

His peace vines fruit quiet, daily

But busses burden Eastside Earl.

Oh, sure we all zone twice or twice again

-- Earl’s got nothing we elsewise lack

Hell, Earl’s got nothing.

But come June the first,

he’ll be bus burdened Eastside Earl,

by thirteen percent the worst.

This being the 1998 Real Change Food Issue, allow me to waste valuable space and time by discussing some of my own favorite culinary tips for the street-weary.

The last time we did this I got honorable mention for my limburger-burger suggestion. That was a utilitarian repast, designed less to be eaten than to seize territory. Whole parks could be claimed just by making one limburger-burger.

Here is another helpful hint from the Homeless Gourmet, and one that is not at all original to me: always, always, carry a bottle of hot sauce with you to those soup kitchens. Earl carries one. You need one, too. You want to be able to eat the food without necessarily having to taste it. With sufficiently many repeated applications of this suggestion you might even spare yourself from having to taste anything ever again. This greatly simplifies cooking all around and makes coming up with new satisfying recipes a cinch.

Earl reminds me of one more way to improve an otherwise lack-luster meal. Everywhere you go you can find “empty” beer cans. This is even more true than ever thanks to the drive to eliminate 40-ouncers from the shelves of downtown stores.

Now a nice thing about aluminum, as opposed to glass, besides being worth more per pound, is that aluminum is opaque. As a consequence, upon close inspection you will discover that these cans almost never get completely emptied by their original owners. Their contents can be saved in a jar to provide an interesting and enjoyable addition to sauces and gravies and even soups.

I especially recommend stale beer & sardines. Add a half dozen shakes of hot sauce, a little bit of ketchup, and sop it up with bread. It’s got your grains, your carbohydrates, your vegetables and your protein. And thank you Seattle for making it so much easier to round the ingredients up!

Friday, May 1, 1998

Name My Nose

If you are like most people you think of poetry as an ancient art, one which only touches modern life glancingly. You learn a few poems in "high" school, you learn to "appreciate" that certain Paul McCartney lyrics are poetic, that Poetic Metaphors "Exist". That, e.g., Yellow Submarines are Poetic Metaphors for something or other, probably having to do with erotic uses of certain products of bladders or other organs of the human body.

How WRONG you are, BUNKY! Poetry is everywhere around you - and if you have not yet recognized it, then when it impinges upon you it WILL take over. That's right: YOU are a poetry slave. YOU, sir or madam, adult or munchkin, YOU eat words, whether you know it or not.

So... knowing how beloved I am, there is no doubt in my mind that you, my beloved Reader and Much Appreciated Fan, can recall, without even being reminded, that sometime in oh somewhere around late 1995 I was elected to be the StreetLife Gallery Artist of the Month. And you were all there, weren't you? You were there and you saw that to the above right of my display was an emergency light labeled "Enlightenment", signed and copyrighted by me and priced at a hundred dollars "As Is".

The theory was, if anyone paid the hundred bucks for the light, I would take the cash and then tell them that they'd got it "as is", i.e. attached to the wall there, forever.

Well, nobody ever bought those emergency lights. But now I have a far more attractive offer in the same vein. And I also hope it will be poetically instructive to you, by resonating Socratically with your Native Verbalescent Soul.

For just ONE dollar, YOU can name a body part of mine. Almost any body part you choose. You can't name my liver, because Timothy "Neo-Greek Editor God" Harris has already paid one dollar to name it "Intrepid". You can't name my left shoulder, because Ruth (A. Fox) has already claimed it as Moe, acquaintance to Larry and Curly.

A certain significant other, who shall be nameless, a Ms. Anitra "She who also eats raw eggs" Freeman, has placed dibs on the externally situated organ formerly known as "Raoul". (I'm sure you know of which I speak.) And as I write this I am engaged in hot negotiations concerning my nose and Church-of-Mary-Magdalene Cathy.

It occurs to me here that some of you may have missed the part about this being poetry. PAY ATTENTION now! That is exactly what this is! I am (1) selling my body, and (2) - simultaneously! - doing poetry - ALL AT ONCE!

How is this possible, you ask? The answer is: LOW OVERHEAD!! My organs and appendages were formed at birth, thanks to genes and hormones provided AT VERY LITTLE COST to me, or to my immediate ancestors or progeny. But because I possess speech, I am able to sell you the very callous upon which I tread (on my right foot, still unclaimed).

Important: This offer is made for a limited time only, and is strictly limited to available stock. No rainchecks will be provided. Prices are subject to change without notice. Offer void where prohibited by law.

Speaking of the ubiquity of poetry, I recently provoked a friend to such an extent that she whipped her bra off and flung it at me. Witnessing this event was the aforementioned fellow editor Ruth (A. Fox), who immediately told my friend not to expect me to give her bra back, as I (quoting Ruth) "have no boundaries" (!)

This called to mind one of my favorite modern poems of all time, the one by Gloria Steinem which goes "A woman needs a man like a fish needs a bicycle." Sort of an analogy-ku. The variation that sprang to mind was something on the order of "expecting me to have boundaries is like expecting a ferret to have a shell." This in turn recalled the opening lines in my "Campsite on Fern Hill" which went, "Now as I am old and stiff... and happy as the grass is red."

It occurs to me that those of you readers looking for ways to get your modern poetic juices flowing might want to try cranking out a few analogy-kus of your own. But I would never suggest such a technique without first trying it out on a willing subject. Fortunately a willing subject is nearby, namely Ms. Freeman. Here are a couple of the results of her application of my new exercise.

"You (speaking to her computer) can be usefully recycled into a lot of coffee cups!"

"Expecting me to come up with analogy-kus after I have been up all night yelling at my computer is... like... totally ridiculous."

Well, I think that shows what an astoundingly good exercise I have come up with here. It evidently stimulates one's writing creativity as well as being hit in the face with a bra, and I can now recommend it as heartily as I recommend chewing steel wool.

Which reminds me to remind all of you that next month's issue of the Real Change is to be our 1998 Food Issue, and yours truly has been tapped to be the judge in the Street Recipe Contest. Got a killer back alley recipe for pigeon? A very special way to fix Dinty Moore Stew without a stove? A better idea for using those common dumpster finds? Send it to us by the third week of May and you might be a winner!

Wednesday, April 1, 1998

Cindy, Ancient Muse of Other

Here it is, production week at the Real Change. As always, I'm staring at an otherwise blank document with just the words "insert column here" at the top. For some reason those three words usually get me going. But not this month. Time to call upon my lovely and talented muse Cindy, the ancient Muse of Other, AKA Muse of Few Words. As soon as I do, there she is behind me licking what's left of a Hershey's Special Dark from her fingertips, looking over my shoulder as I type.

"So... that's it so far. One paragraph," she says with a sigh. I hear the disappointment in her voice and wonder what she's thinking. Old abandonment issues well up within me. What would I do without a muse? She's leaving me for another editorial board member... I thought... yeah, that's it... probably that Michele "let's find new writers" Marchand. Curse her!. "Too inbred", indeed!.

But Cindy ignores my anxiety fit and just says, "OK, I'll walk you through it. First: you need a poem -- right here." (She points at the next patch of blank space.) What about? "The Real Change wants submissions from new writers." Oh yeah, I knew that...

Make a Change!

Or, Hey Look! I Got a New Rhyming Dictionary!

by © Dr. Wes Browning

Steak and eggs every morning?

Steak and rice every noon?

Steak and beans every dinner? -

Then drive a stake, please, through me soon.

Thank God I'm not the only poet that writes within these pages,

for, maybe not right now, but in time you know, by stages,

if I was I'm sure that I'd even cause myself to sicken.

(While surely others all around me would immediately be stricken.)

But its not only poetry or steaks that we're talking about,

those were hypothetical examples.

Don't make me yell and shout it out,

send us your prose and journalistic samples...

"OK, maybe you should leave that now and go on to something else."

But I haven't worked the title in, that was going to be the big refrain, you know - write for the Real Change, let your story make a change! -heh.

"Um-hmm, and you should let your column make a change right now."

Oh, I see what you're saying. You're saying I should bail out of the poem with one of those all-weather non-sequiturs. Sure, people can reread the title, great.

So, speaking of change, how about these lengthening days? And what's with this El Niño business? Is the new millennium marking the end of the world as we know it? Are we all going to be globally-warmed like a collective poodle in a microwave until we all explode and there's no one left to clean up the mess?

"More focus." And what in our daily experience is more focused than a microwave oven, one could ask. "Focus on one change."

One of the latest popular causes on the poverty front as reported from Oregon is that of public funding for doctor assisted suicides by the indigent, wherever doctor assisted suicides are allowed at all.

"Otherwise only the economically advantaged can end their lives with dignity, etc. We must make this service available to all, etc."

I can't resist comment.

I know that assisted suicides are a fine art (as are hangings, they tell me) and that they take a lot of preparation and time. But they have got to be cheaper than extended stays in hospitals hooked up to respirators and IVs and heart-pumps and whatever else's been invented lately. All of which are after all just as sophisticated as killing someone neatly and painlessly. And many of those life-extending technologies are already covered in part by public funding, with the result of being serious drains on public funds, at least in the view of a great many people, including many policy-makers, and many voters.

Does that sound like an important concern? It's just a caution. I don't want to end up having more access to assisted suicide than the rich simply to save them money.

How was that for focus? "Too essayish." So I'll just have to rewrite it, then? "Or you could just add a Limerick. That might be fun."

The One That Got Away

A Limerick I'm sure would be fun,

But I know the one here will not be the one

'cause the one I know will

is that one about Bill -

and Monica, et al, that I haven't begun.

Sunday, March 1, 1998

Mmm, Grovel

I have sunk to the lowest depths of depravity. For each new fix I crawl and I grovel, I beg and I plead, I crawl and I grovel. I am no longer a man, I am a receptacle for one and only one need, a need that grows stronger each and every time it is satisfied, a creeping vine choking my humanity to death. So, for that reason, I crawl and I grovel... (hey... I'm really starting to like this word "grovel"!) I can barely write these words, except for the grovel word, as my fingers ache to reach for the one thing that can relieve me of the agony I am feeling.

But I must write! I must expose the one who did this to me, so that others might not fall prey to his evil snare. So that others might not have to crawl or grovel. Unless they wanted to. Oh, I am sure there are those who like to grovel. Yes, I read the Stranger. But I am likewise as sure that the vast majority of us only like to talk about it and don't like to do it. ("It" referring to groveling, of course.)

Now where was I? See how I've become!? This is starting to affect my memory! And it's all the fault of RC Director Tim "The Pusher Man" Harris, who knew what would happen if he installed SimCity™ on this computer.

There is no escape from it. Everywhere I go its hooks pierce my eyes:

Piercing Hooks,

by © Dr. Wes Browning

Luxury houses, apartment buildings,

factories, cars, condominiums.

Bus depots, railroad tracks,

or any number of stadiums.

Everywhere that I turn, they turn as well to face me.

With evil malice do they grab me pull me & then do place me

in front of this computer screen...

My soul screams "Please, no more!

My derriere is sore!"

- whence I run out the door.

Only to be greeted once again

by schools and police stations,

and houses (under construction),

and hospitals and seaport cranes

and airport hangars and aero-planes,

- and all else that there are in major cities

like libraries, parks, musea, and univers'ties -

sights which grab my heart and would rip me apart,

if I didn't return to this computer screen,

there to build yet more SimCities™.

Speaking of diversions, I have been listening to the news lately, that is, when I haven't been in the office indulging. Now I have no intention of abusing the privilege of this scribbling outlet by using it as a soapbox to present my own political views unrelated to issues involving the mission of the Real Change. However, current events have compelled my thoughts to dwell upon a certain incident in my homeless past which might possibly be seen as representing an allegory relating to who-knows-what is going on, but is in fact really about nothing at all of the kind , so don't anybody get their hackles up, thanks.

So anyway, I was homeless, as I just said, or maybe (I don't remember actually - blame TH) I wasn't homeless but just looked like I was. I was walking west on NE 47th through the Fraternity District. A gentleman was standing alongside the sidewalk there, speaking to two other people. He was college-age, about 2 inches taller than myself, 50 pounds heavier (I was thin from malnutrition), looking like a jock. He could have been on the swimming team. He was in so much better shape than I was at the time that he could easily have killed me within minutes, if we had to fight.

All the more reason that I was astonished that he would threaten to kick my ass as I passed by, saying "I'm sick of having to look at you people". It wasn't as though I could have threatened him in any way.

In fact, I had just before that merely glanced his way and given him a faint smile and a nod.

Well, I'd been a cab driver for five years by then, so without even thinking, I flipped the SOB off and kept walking. I knew immediately that such defiance was foolish but I couldn't help it, it was a reflex, a habit, from years of receiving abuse and formulating answers to it.

He followed me for two blocks yelling and threatening to beat me up for having given him the finger, while at least a dozen students watched and said and did nothing to stop him. Finally I came across a large rock next to the sidewalk, picked it up and turned to face him. Since no one else was going to defend me, I prepared to do it myself.

I was shaking, sure that this time I was going to end up in traction at least.

At which point he demanded that I drop the "weapon" and that I stop threatening him!

Needless to say, his appeal to me to disarm was totally ineffective.

Sunday, February 1, 1998

Playing Catch-up

I was alarmed recently when I realized that not only had I not written a poem in two months, but that my Opus 1 ("The Unfinished Poem") had fallen seriously behind schedule, and that if it wasn't brought back on line soon, cost overruns could be expected.

Opus 1, some of you may recall, is a five verse poem scheduled for completion in 1999. Its manifold fiveness is intended to point to the condition of humanity, which is symbolized by the number five, the sum of the female two and the male three, or maybe the other way around.

At any rate we have only seen, so far, versions 1.0 and 2.0. Version 3.0 is six months late and 2.0 was never even properly debugged, so

it is with some apology that I am led to unveil

O Boy O Boy O Boy O Boy O Boy

or Opus 1, The Still Unfinished Poem,

(Version 3.5)

Check comes each month from the SSA -

Get to eat a cheeseburger ev-ree day!

O Boy! O Boy!! O Boy! O Boy! O Boy!!

Church down the street wants to save my soul -

It's wiener stew! In a big green bowl!

O Boy! O Boy!! O Boy! O Boy! O Boy!!

Farmers gotta have their produce sold -

So my Stamps can buy it (if it's cold)!

O Boy! O Boy!! O Boy! O Boy! O Boy!!

Food banks dispense the surpluses -


O Boy! etc.

Speaking of Food Stamps, I don't have any at the moment. This is the normal state of affairs at the end of every month, for all recipients of Food Stamps, because the US Government has determined that Americans eat too much, and therefore makes sure that everyone on Food Stamps gets just exactly enough for two and a half weeks and no more. "It's important that our poor people set a good example for the rest of our citizens", said one unnamed source, recently.

Ok, I said it. But you know that's how they think.

One consequence of the end of the month shortage of Food Stamps is a corresponding shortage of spare change throughout the land. For as all recipients are aware, the law permits ninety-nine cents worth of change per day in Food Stamp transactions. (Thus the Food Stamp Program also subsidizes the shoelace industry about half of each month.)

Of course it is only an apparent shortage of spare change, as the panhandler's success reveals. This speaks to yet another aspect of the concept change - sometimes I have the change, then times change, and Sam or Wally has it.

Change, Change, Who Has the Change?

- A Poem Cantabile.

Change, change, who has the change?

If I don't get any soon,

I'll get even more strange.

I'll punch at the air and holler and swear,

I'll smash all the clocks and swallow my socks,

I'll get on a stage and I'll rant and I'll rage,

I'll act like a goon, I'll play the bassoon -

if I don't get any soon.

Change, change, who has the change?

If none comes my way,

My brains will derange.

I'll think wild thoughts of government plots,

I'll watch TV and believe whatever I see,

I'll make up new "facts" and spread them with tracts,

There's nothing I wouldn't say by the end of the day -

if none comes my way.

If you are one of the Sams or Wallys near the end of February, and you've read this far, you might be especially interested in the Dead Poets' Slam scheduled at the OK Hotel on the evening of Wednesday the 25th. I will be one of the live poets in attendance, as I perform haiku and low-ku, in competition with Portland's 1997 Haiku Slam winner. Come for that, or come for the Dead Poets, but whatever you do come and bring that change with you.

Thursday, January 1, 1998

Dear Poetry Editor

Many people seem to have gotten the impression that yours truly must be the poetry editor for the Real Change. They write letters to me that begin "Dear Poetry Editor" and ask me to please see that their latest septina or paean to the changing seasons or a pantoum they wrote in college gets printed in the Real Change. They usually ending with "sincere thanks", or an equivalent.

In fact the other editors won't let me be poetry editor. For example Anitra Freeman, on whose kitchen floor I have slept, says to the idea: "Yeah, right." Similarly Stan Burriss, editor and poet who frequents these pages, has responded with: "not in this life, buddy". The only such role the editorial board has seriously considered offering to me is that of "bad writing editor", making me Keeper of the Round File, based on my demonstrated proficiency in the genre.

I was reflecting on all of this recently, oh about half an hour ago, right after I noticed that I had a column to write by the morning and the bars were all closed. It occurred to me that we all write badly at times but that not all of us are able to be truly awful on a regular basis.

Or are we? Is there, out there in the world, on the streets - you know, apart from this office - a vast untapped potential for bad writing that we weren't aware of?

After all, it's a matter of will rather than talent. Is the will there?,

This inspired the following brief unscientific quiz intended to flush out the will to write badly.

Bad Writing Quiz

1. Choose the statement that seems most accurate.

a) In order to begin writing, the tunes have to be so cranked up you can't hear yourself think.

b) You have to ply yourself with liquor (or chocolate, or whatever) first.

c) You never remember starting to write. You just wake up in a ditch in Tukwila next to a manuscript. The manuscript is in your own handwriting.

d) You have never even seen your writing. Your writing personality refuses to share his/her memories or thoughts with your normal personality.

e) Other ____.

2. You have written (check all that apply): * a love sonnet, * a sex sonnet, * an S&M sonnet, * a stalking sonnet, * a free-love sonnet (with extra lines), * all of the preceding.

3. Which best expresses your attitude toward rhyme in poetry?

a) It happens. Get over it. Get on with your life.

b) Poets who never rhyme are state enemies. They seek to rip apart the our country's social and moral fabric.

c) Poets who always rhyme lines are fascists.

d) Other ___.

4. For the purpose of this question, imagine that you belong to a writers' workshop, whether you do or not. Which would characterize your involvement?

a) You would facilitate the meetings.

b) You would dominate the meetings.

c) As soon as the meetings start you would go to the bathroom, you would go to the bathroom and not come out until it was over.

d) Other ___.

5. When you speak you find that (choose one):

a) people hear you but don't listen.

b) people want to jot down every word, to cherish your words forever.

c) people leave the room.

d) None of the above. You don't notice what other people do.

e) All of the above.

Quick and easy scoring: If you answered "other" or "all of the above" in almost every case, you not only are capable of writing badly all the time, but you probably would prefer to, and all you need is to find somebody to print your stuff. Good luck!

Prolonged painful agonizing scoring: mail your answers to me, Dr. Wes Browning, at 2129 2nd Ave. Seattle, WA, 98121, , and, down the road, when I can't think of anything else to write about, I may evaluate your quiz in excruciating depth and print my conclusions. So be sure to include your full legal name, address, phone number and hope I don't use it.