Seattle Underground Tour

A couple nights ago, we did the pub crawl to a place called Unicorn, which is decorated like the circus and serves Jell-O shots the size of your face. I also tried the local shitty tallboy beer:

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A northwestern Lone Star

I awoke with the horrible feeling that I had been snoring. So, basically, to everyone else in my dorm room, I was “that fucking woman who was snoring all night.” Sorry, lady-from-the-Netherlands and weird-chick-who-never-gets-out-of-bed, I didn’t mean to keep you up. I never saw the rest of them. They all checked out in the morning.

Yesterday, I worked for about 4–5 hours and then I went to yet another Indian buffet, with yet another new German friend, Caroline. Caroline loves to get her dance on at the electronica club on Capital Hill and she has seen every episode of Grey’s Anatomy at least twice. Sara the Austrian loves Grey’s Anatomy too. The international language of McDreamy. I prefer my Patrick Dempsey more Donald Miller style.

Extra anchovies.

Extra anchovies.

My big touristy thing of the day was to go on the Seattle Underground Tour, which takes you under the streets around Pioneer Square. The original city was built on tide flats, so it was continuously flooding, and faulty planning of the sewage system sent shit literally bursting out of toilets. Indoor plumbing was new technology back then and no one really knew what they were doing.

When the Great Seattle Fire of 1889 consumed the mostly wooden city (but killing no one), the decision was made to build retaining walls out of the local quarry rock, and basically put their entire city up on stone stilts, raising them out of the shitty, flooded marshes.

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The original Seattle streets, which are now underground.

So Seattle’s original downtown is actually underneath modern day Pioneer Square. For years afterward, the space between was used as a sort of dump for household items and construction waste that was thrown in as filler to cushion around the support walls. Like a big basement for the city.

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In the early 1900s, the underground was condemned because the whole place was overrun with rats (and there had been an outbreak of bubonic plague). For a while, the city offered a “bounty” on rattails. Until they discovered that people had been breeding and raising rats expressly to cut off their tails and turn them in for the reward.

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The Seattle Underground Tour was started by a historian and urban conservationist named Bill Speidel in 1965. He sounds like an awesome dude. He wrote a book called Sons of the Profits, about how the city’s founders were motivated by greed, and he pretty much single-handedly saved the underground. Punk rock. He was also something of a comedian, so the tour has a stand-up comedy feel to it.

I wasn’t sure how funny it was going to be when my tour guide appeared to have just leapt from the pages of the J. Crew winter catalog:

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Miles. Sigh. He’s probably about 26. And pretty funny. I was surprised.

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Yeah, there are quite a few in this genre. Miles standing under the skylight.

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Fuck it. I should just send these photos to J. Crew myself.

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I’ve been to bars that aren’t this nice.

IMG_1334 IMG_1338 Some of the cool shit in the gift shop:

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Old-timey espresso machine

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The kind of “junk” that was thrown into the underground.

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The only other news is that they moved a bunch of guys into my dorm, so I am now sharing a room with an Englishman, a dude-bro frat guy, and a gynormous, extremely polite African fellow.

Harry Belafonte lays down some truth

Last night I had a whole house to myself, so I planned to make a Thai stir-fry and watch some corny movie. I turned on the TV and happened upon the NAACP Image Awards. I am a sucker for any and all awards shows, so I kept watching.

It was mostly what you would expect—a few A-list celebrities, like Halle Berry and Samuel L. Jackson, Jamie Foxx, Kerry Washington, Quentin Tarantino, LL Cool J—mixed in with a bunch of people you kinda, sorta recognize. (Is that Buuud from The Cosby Show? … It wasn’t). And the adorable little girl from Beasts of the Southern Wild with the name that no one can pronounce. And this white dude who stars with Washington on the show Scandal:

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That’s right. It’s the guy who killed Patrick Swayze.

It was disappointing when people weren’t there to get their awards. Denzel wasn’t there. Omar Epps wasn’t there. Viola Davis wasn’t there. They gave Kerry Washington something called the “President’s Award” for her humanitarian work. I think she is a great actress (I mean, did you see Last King of Scotland?) but the shlocky PR video that they showed before she accepted her award was nauseatingly contrived. And I get that she is beautiful and has broken through to mainstream success, but ugh. She just ended up sounding conceited and self absorbed.

I have to admit that when 85-year-old Sidney Poitier took the stage and started slowly reading from the teleprompter, I was expecting a few sweet sentiments or maybe even a prepared speech written by some twenty-something awards-show writer.

Harry+Belafonte+Sidney+Poitier+Film+Society+6zLdECUDEsqlBut then something changed. He began to light up as he talked about Harry Belafonte, also 85, also one of the trailblazers of African American entertainment, also a pillar of the American civil rights movement.

It is easy to forget, in these post-politically-correct times, when we have a black president, when a we have movies like Django Unchained with a slave for a hero, just how much work it has taken to get to this point. Just how much struggle and pain it has taken. I mean it is easy for me to forget. For other people, it is absolutely impossible.

Sidney Poitier and Harry Belafonte remember the world before. They remember segregated America, and Medgar Evers and Emmitt Till, and Mississippi Burning, before it was a movie. When it was real. When these were real people being murdered for trying to challenge our country’s hypocrisy.

They remember the people they knew as children who told real stories of slavery. Not Tarantinoan revenge fantasies, but real-life recollections of violence and oppression that most of us will never even come close to understanding. The kind of suffering that crushes a human being’s soul.

I was impressed recently when I heard Tarantino defend the brutality depicted in Django Unchained by saying: Yes, it is violent. But what really happened during slavery was much, much worse.

Considering that slavery in America ended less than 200 years ago, we have come miraculously far toward becoming a nation that truly provides liberty and justice for all. But you need only to look at the poverty and crime statistics to see how much further there is to go. Which is why what Mr. Belafonte said last night was so powerful:

The group most devastated by America’s obsession with the gun is African Americans. Although making comparisons can be dangerous, there are times when they must be noted. America has the largest prison population in the world and, of the over 2 million men, women, and children who make up the incarcerated, the overwhelming majority is black.

They are the most unemployed, the most caught in the unjust systems of justice, and in the gun game, the most hunted. The river of blood that washes the streets of our nation flows mostly from the bodies of our black children.

Yet as the great debate emerges on the question of the gun, white America discusses the constitutional issue of ownership while no one speaks to the consequences of our racial carnage. Where is the raised voice of black America? Why are we mute? Where are our leaders? Our legislators? Where is the church?

Not all, but many who have been recipients of this distinguished award were men and women who spoke up to remedy the ills of the nation. They were committed to radical thought. They were my mentors, my inspiration, my moral compass. Through them I understood America’s greatness. Dr. W.E.B. Dubois, Martin Luther King Jr., Eleanor Roosevelt, Fannie Lou Hamer, Ella Baker, Bobby Kennedy, Connie Rice, and perhaps most of all, Paul Robeson. He was the sparrow. He was an artist who made us understand the depth of that calling when he said, “Artists are the gatekeepers of truth. We are the civilization’s radical voice.”

Never in the history of black America has there ever been such a harvest of truly gifted and powerful artists… our nation hungers for their radical song. Let us not sit back silently. Let us not be charged with patriotic treason.

—Harry Belafonte

Some bloggers today have called his speech an “admonishment” of black America for not doing more to end violence. I did not hear it that way. I heard it as a call to action. I heard it as big love. I heard it as power. The same kind of power you hear in the words of Frederick Douglass, or Abraham Lincoln, or Martin Luther King, Jr, or Malcolm X.

As Mr. Belafonte spoke, the crowd was visibly moved. Everyone who took the stage after him made reference to his speech, including Jamie Foxx, who said that while he had planned to talk about “me, me, me, I, I, I,” instead gave a beautiful, heartfelt thank you to those who paved the road for him and others. Not just in Hollywood, but every African American who suffered the inconceivable cruelty of slavery.

He acknowledged Quentin Tarantino for telling the story of Django Unchained, and Kerry Washington for the role she played in it. The role of every black woman who ever took a lashing, and worse. Before the network cut him off to show some commercial, Foxx sang an impromptu a cappella rendition of the song “No Weapon” as if singing to every sister, mother, auntie, and grandmother:

I know that a lot of people will not hear Mr. Belafonte’s words the way that I did, but it gives me hope that he said them. I do not think he was speaking only to black America. I think he was speaking to all of America, and to all artists, to be brave, honest, and radical in our compassion. We owe it to each other and to every American who came before us.

What to do if your driver’s license is stolen

I’ve recently taken a freelance job where I write blog posts for a website all about the Department of Motor Vehicles. (And it IS as sexy as it sounds.) I had a little trouble getting started, so I had a couple glasses of Merlot, and decided to free-write to get the creative juices flowing. This is what came out:

What To Do if Your Driver’s License is Stolen

So, some fucker stole your ID. Or it fell out in the cab (you think). Or you forgot it at the bar (you hope). But when it doesn’t turn up for a day or two, you realize, shit. You have to put on your big girl pants and replace it.

Obviously, you should call the places where you might have lost it. Do a little detective work. Go all Law & Order SVU. Be a pain in the ass. Because God knows your life is going to be a pain in the ass if you have to take time off work to go to the fucking DMV.

But if it doesn’t turn up, you really need to report it to the authorities. In fact, you should do that A-SAP. Because, yes, there are a lot of kind-hearted people out there who will do the right thing and turn it in. And then there are a lot of fuck-faces who will get credit cards in your name and buy buttloads of electronics.

And, most likely, there are underage drinkers who will go to any means possible to obtain several bottles of Hot Damn! and MD 20/20. Call the cops. Or the state. Or whoever you call. But do it.

Then you are going to have to go down to the fucking DMV. I’m sorry. And that means you are probably going to have to take a cab, or just hope you don’t get pulled over on your way there. Or if you do get pulled over, hope that it is one of those nice cops like the dad on Family Matters. Or get your significant other or your friend to take you, because really, what have they done for you late-ly?

At least the DMV usually has a ton of natural light, great coffee, and super-friendly service. No. Think ambiguously-stained synthetic fibers. Think linoleum. Think gray-skinned, fluorescent-light-soaked sad-sacks whose hearts have been hardened by assholery.

But at least the other patrons will be in good moods, right? No. They will smell like fried-food farts and look like they should not ever, EVER drive a car. That’s another reason why your friend or S.O. is there with you. To gawk at these people.

You will probably not have to take any kind of test to get your replacement ID. Buy you will have to prove that you are you (with a Social Security card, or a birth certificate, or some other legal government shit—which, FYI, if you don’t have this you are SERIOUSLY fucked. I hope you like the bus).

If you do have the exact legal document they require, you’re in luck! (Though, how do they fucking know? My social security card doesn’t have my picture on it. Is there some kind of oracle in that blue paper that pops out and is visible only to the clerk, like some DMV version of Synergy from Jem and the Holograms who tells them it’s really me?).

Sometimes they will just issue you a new ID using the exact same photo that you had before.

Or, if you are really lucky, they might let you re-shoot your photo. This is the ONLY potentially positive thing about losing your license. You MAY get a second chance at your ID photo. And you still might look like you just had sex with a 12 year old.

Better luck next time!

Oh, and you might have to pay like 15 bucks or something.