Thursday, August 23, 2001

Crackpot Writer Says Blowers Blow

From time to time this column inevitably takes a flaming, careening, nose-dive into column hell. The reasons for this are easy to enumerate. You've got your basic procrastination. You've got the fact that yours truly learned to write copying the words off of advertisements (my first word was "colgate".) You've got the fact that I don't get paid for this, unlike some geniuses I know. (I won't say who, I'll leave the director out of this.)

At times like this I naturally turn to Cindy, my personal Muse, Muse of few words, AKA Muse of "Other". I will beg her to give me a clue.

"What should I write about, Oh great immortal Muse," I will say. So I do.

"Well, you act like you're in a bad mood," she says. "Why don't you tell the readers why?"

Hmm. Yeah, that could work.

OK, what the hell was the city thinking when they decided to let skateboarders race outside my window today when I sat down to write this crap? Complete with announcers, paid for by Red Bull, and a PA system aimed directly at my window?

Don't get me wrong, I don't have anything against skateboard racing, and I suppose if it's going to happen it has to happen SOMEwhere, and what the hell, what is there at 3rd S and Washington anyway but poor people and more poor people, they listen to fire truck sirens and aid truck sirens all day anyway, so they're used to it, right?

So whenever the city wants to put some noisy celebration down somewhere on the map let's put it at what is already the 3rd noisiest damned intersection in the city, where the poor people there have proved by the sheer fact of putting up with it year after year that they won't raise hell about it, right?

And let's do it in style. Let's not just ruin everybody's afternoon. We can do much more that that. After having the event, which we'll run until 4PM, we'll do some half-assed but loud cleaning of the area for two hours. Then we'll go away leaving approximately ten stables worth of straw in the streets, so that at roughly 1AM, when that crackpot writer will think we all are gone for the night, we will send in the streetcleaner and the guys with blowers to clear out all of the straw.

No, I don't have anything against skateboarding of any kind, my gripe is with a hypocritical city that would try to shut down a barely audible dance club a few blocks away near prime real estate on the grounds that the noise it generates disturbs the peace, but lets anything go where I live.

A note to the City Council: put it one of YOUR neighborhoods next time. The well-off aren't the only ones who can play NIMBY.

Speaking of finally cracking after all these years of taking it without complaint, let me tell you what else would have my shorts in a bunch, if I were wearing any.

I STILL can't walk into the First Avenue Service Center by the front door. It has been years since I first saw that sign telling me to use the alley entrance.

Excuse me? I wouldn't mind if it were like the Alibi Room, and the alley entrance WAS the front door. But in this case there is a clear front door on the third avenue side, and it isn't even locked! It's open for ventilation all day! So the only reason to tell me to use the back door is to be sure that people like me aren't seen coming and going.

Now Cindy tells me I should wrap up by saying what's wrong with that.

Damn it, where's Rosa Parks when you need her?

Thursday, August 9, 2001

Breaking News: Public Toilets

Lets deal with the elasticity of light.

Once again we at Adventures in Poetry have had the good fortune to bless a North American Street Newspaper Association conference with our presence. This one was at San Francisco. Fog City, USA.

Actually it didn't really fog while we were there, unless you count the conference. Something was dreadfully wrong. There was no infighting! What was up with that?! How could there have been seventy homeless and formerly homeless progressives in the same auditorium without any infighting?

Were they ill? Was it the flu making its rounds? Or was the food supplied by Food Not Bombs more satiating, owing to the added chicken? Was it something in the smoke, a Cheech and Chong effect? Or had the participants all learned their lesson from previous NASNA conferences that had been derailed by the disputations of the More-Progressive-Than-Thou?

No, they had not, I am here to tell you. Instead, they were distracted by a bigger enemy than each other. They were busy attacking the mainstream press, especially the San Francisco Chronicle.

Here's the deal. The Chronicle has been making an issue of the homeless, especially those who hang out on San Francisco's main drag, Market Street. It's mostly typical Sidranesque stuff, blaming the victim for bleeding on the nice clean sidewalk kind of stuff.

It's a bit more convoluted though. SF has expensive self-cleaning toilets, for instance, similar to the kind Seattle is planning to buy. So before complaining about homeless people urinating and defecating behind dumpsters, it's necessary for them to explain that the self-cleaning toilets around Market Street are mostly broken. But that's blamed on the homeless too. It's all those "homeless AND prostitutes AND drug addicts". That's the phrase used over and over again, as if those three categories were equivalent.

San Francisco's television isn't too enlightened either. One television report of a demonstration on behalf of the homeless briefly showed demonstrators talking followed by a long sequence of archived shots of people breaking laws on the sidewalks, as if only homeless people use sidewalks, as if the demonstrators were supporting criminals, and as if weeks of archived shots were all showing crimes that happened yesterday. It's a crime wave! Run for your lives!

It's too bad we don't have anything as bad as the SF Chronicle here in Seattle. Think of the fun we could have verbally abusing them. Also it would make it that much harder for us to mistake ourselves for mainstream, a fate worse than oblivion.

Sometimes, reading the Weekly, I'm not so sure. Maybe we're mainstream and we don't know it? What if the rest of NASNA found out, in time for next year's conference? What if Perfesser Harris were really Mike Mailway? What if Anitra "too much" Freeman were really Nicole Brodeur? What if I was Jean Godden? No wait, that wouldn't be a bad thing. I meant, what if I were Erik Lacitus? The horror, the horror.

If this were a mainstream column, would there be any difference? Well, for one thing, there'd be a lot fewer questions, and a lot more answers, surely. The mainstream press in this country always has all the answers for everything. How to improve your marriage and still play more golf, Life and the Arts, D2!

This couldn't be Adventures in Poetry. There is no mainstream poetry, contrary to popular misconception. We would be Excursions in Prose. Or Strolls in Speech.

But I think the biggest difference would be the lack of reflection. You have to be able to stop before you can stop and reflect. They don't call it a stream for nothing.