Thursday, October 30, 2003

We Were Number Seven!

I've got Seattle neighborhoods on my mind. I think the neighborhoods of Seattle are what make this city, or whatever it is, great. It used to be the smell. Back in the sixties downtown Seattle smelled like rotten fish heads, and some of us thought that was pretty cool. But, now, the pretty cool thing about Seattle is its neighborhoods.

Most people don't know just how many Seattle neighborhoods there are. Anyone who has ever watched Almost Live, live or in reruns, knows at least 10 or 11 easy areas of Seattle like Ballard, Wallingford, the U District, Belltown, Pioneer Square, the International District, Rainier Valley, Georgetown (maybe), and West Seattle (the Kent of Seattle Proper.)

But how many of you knew that West Seattle isn't considered a neighborhood itself but is composed of nine neighborhood pieces, namely Alki, North Admiral, Junction, Seaview, Fairmont Park, Genesee, Gatewood , Fauntleroy and Arbor Heights? I certainly couldn't unless I were cribbing off of the neighborhood list of The Internet is to die for.

When you add it all up our government has identified somewhere around 95 to 97 neighborhoods, depending on whether you lump some together for consistency's sake, or let them all hang out.

They each have their own history and character and reputation. For example, once when I was in college on the East Coast I found myself by chance in a room full of guys who were all from Seattle just like I was. Everybody had to say what neighborhood they were from and when they got around to asking me I told them I was from Mid Beacon Hill and they all laughed. Especially the guy from Broadway. "You're from Beacon Hill? What a loser! Ha, ha!" he said. What a great memory.

Fortunately I have since moved up in life and have lived in more highly regarded neighborhoods. When, a few years out of college I found myself living in a car, it just didn't make sense to park it on Beacon Ave when I could be part of the "In" crowd and park on "The" Ave. Since then I have slept in an alley in Belltown (at a time when it was the seventh coolest neighborhood in the whole country!) and I now live in subsidized housing in Pioneer Square, or as I like to think of it, the hot neighborhood where the cool all began.

A couple of weeks ago the One Night Count of homeless people was held and the big news was that the overnight homeless occupation of Ballard increased by 132 percent this year. It looks like somebody else has got the idea: if I have to sleep outside, at least I can sleep somewhere interesting. Seattle neighborhoods are catching on with our homeless people and I think it's fantastic. I want to see them have to do the count in Blue Ridge next year. By the way, the view of the Sound from Blue Ridge is fabulous in October – so everybody make your travel reservations early!

Speaking of Seattle neighborhoods, I want to complain about the City of Seattle Charter Amendment No. 5 that's being voted on soon. How lame is this? They want to elect city council members from nine city districts instead of city-wide.

Nine? Nine? Out of over ninety neighborhoods they're going to rig nine districts? ARE THEY MAD?

What this city needs to do is wallow in its neighborhood-icity. We've got the neighborhoods, now we need the Neighborhood Representatives. We need a Seattle Congress, a legislative branch consisting of a House and something else I haven't thought of yet.

We need at least one, maybe two, representatives from each of Seattle's 95 or so neighborhoods to legislate and debate and advise and consent and all the other things that representatives do.

Then, and only then, will we be able to witness a roll call in a Seattle House of Reps and hear a guy from Ballard stand up during roll call and talk for fifteen minutes about Norwegians. It would be almost as good as getting the smell back.

Thursday, October 16, 2003

What If Chihuly Signs It?

Let's talk about bongs and insane drug-paraphernalia convictions!

I have never used a bong. I'm not even sure I know what a bong is exactly. But I love saying the word bong, and I know I'm not alone in that.

It often surprises people to look at me and hear me say that I have never used a bong. But there are two good reasons. One, all my hippy friends in the sixties and seventies had plenty of rolling papers. And two, I've never liked marijuana anyway. It makes me cough my lungs up and by the time it gets me high I'm too sick to enjoy it.

Still, I'm of the age to have had all those hippy friends, and yes, my children, I did inhale. Just not from a bong.

But I've looked at a lot of them. Some are very artistic. I've learned a little from looking at them. As best as I can tell, they are pot-smoke delivery systems. That, I believe, is a principal defining characteristic of a bong.

The other thing that I have learned from looking at bongs is that you don't need to buy one to smoke pot. Let's say worse comes to worse and you are desperate for a toke from a bong. I have learned that all you need to do is procure an ordinary legal pipe for smoking tobacco and make minor adjustments to it, and that will do just as well.

Because of all that, and the ready availability of the afore-mentioned rolling papers, I am absolutely certain that no-one has ever failed to smoke pot due to an inability to buy artfully crafted bongs on the Internet.

Can you imagine someone saying, "Oh golly, now that Tommy Chong has gone to federal prison for making and selling glass bongs on the Internet, I can't buy his wonderful glass bongs, and therefore I won't smoke any of this evil grass that I have purchased on the black market through other sources?"

Let me be clear on this. I don't know what Chong's bongs look like. I don't know that they are as artistic as they've been made out to be. I don't know that Chong himself ever had anything to do with making them either. All I know is he lent his name to the selling of bongs and the feds busted him for it and he's gone to prison for what could be nine months, barring an appeal, and that's totally insane.

Let's suppose the public service ads are true and that smoking marijuana kills people like flies in a zapper. It would still be the marijuana that did it, not the bongs.

So why do we have a law against selling bongs? Because this whole country has gone freaking bat-spit nuts, that's why.

It's gotten so that I don't even have to look for absurdity anymore, it finds me.

For the last two years the administration has been telling me that the most important thing in the world for Americans to worry about is this country's security. Because of the need for security we had to go to war against two other countries. We had to pass a law making it legal to wiretap anybody and never tell them we did it or why.

We've always been told, at least since the Truman administration, that one of our needs for security is the need for good intelligence as specifically provided by the CIA and its undercover agents. And by the way, if they're undercover, it's for our blessed safety as a nation, right?

But when a right-wing columnist outs a CIA agent the Justice Department looks the other way for months, even though our security has presumably been harmed by it.

Meanwhile an old comedian gets nine months for capitalizing on a stale joke. I wouldn't mind so much if they'd just stop lying and telling me it's for my own good.

Thursday, October 2, 2003

Mind Your Manners

It is now possible for any of us to be secretly imprisoned without charges indefinitely by making creative use of existing anti-terrorist laws. So what do people worry about? They worry that there's too much obscene language on prime time network television.

For one thing, there can't be too much. That's like saying there's too many Bulgarians. The Bulgarians aren't hurting anybody, are they? So how can there be too many of them?

OK, maybe some Bulgarian has popped you in the nose recently. So then maybe that wouldn't be a good illustration of my point. So instead of talking about Bulgarians, we'll talk about wide ties. Now I understand that a lot of you hate wide ties. Hell I hate ties altogether. But no one was ever injured by a wide tie, at least not by it's wideness. Therefore there is no such thing as there being too many wide ties, even if there may be far too many ties.

Likewise, there may be far too much prime time network television, but there can't be too much obscene language on what there is of it. Because none of it hurts anybody, no matter how much they whine and tell you it does.

Let me put it another way. If any of these prudes who don't like obscene language want television that doesn't have any, let them do what everybody else in this country has to do when they want something they don't have. Let them pay for it. It's called cable, and it's widely available these days.

Hey, I want to watch South Park on free prime time network TV and listen to weird little fat cartoon kids from Colorado talk about unnatural sex. Is Congress going to pass a law so that I can get what I want? No! I have to pay for South Park. So why should these obscenity-hating whiners get free obscenity-less TV? What makes them better than me?

Some of you are probably saying to yourselves right now, "Self, if Dr. Wes likes obscene language so much why doesn't he use it all the time? Better yet, why doesn't he go away to Obscenity Land or Obscenitrovia or whatever?"

Fair enough, except for one thing: this IS Obscenity Land. If you don't believe me go ride a bus. Get out and meet people. And no, it didn't just start being Obscenity Land when Berkeley Breathed started using the word "suck" in Bloom County. People were using a lot worse s-words years before that.

In fact, speaking of worse s-words and foul mouthed little kids, way back when I was 9 years old back in 1958, during the Eisenhower administration right here in Prudezuela, the other little kids on my block promised to beat the crap out of me if ever I uttered any single sentence that didn't at least once use the s-word that signifies "crap." The South Park kids would have gotten beat up all the time in my neighborhood, because sometimes they say sentences like "What?" Where I lived you had to say "What's this [s-word]?" or eight kids spent an hour taking turns scraping your face on the pavement.

So why don't I use the crap-signifying s-word all the time now? I'll tell you. I don't do it because I moved away from that insane neighborhood and those kids didn't follow me, and they all grew up and don't care anymore anyway, so now I don't have to say the s-word if I don't want to. So I don't.

After I moved out of the insane neighborhood I moved into another insane neighborhood. In the new insane neighborhood you were ostracized if you said the words "golly" or "heck" or "gosh darn it."

This is the one constant: wherever I have been in this country, people have tried to tell me what kind of language I could use, instead of being content with controlling their own mouths.

Why is that? And why are we imprisoning people without trials? That's offensive.