Black Lives Matter


-- चार हजार एक सौ चालीस-सात --

Once again we've arrived at a Monday during which I need to catch you up on a lot that went down over the weekend, because I never wrote about it as it was going on. And all of it started with my monthly Happy Hour with Laney on Friday, pictured above -- that was at Marination Ma Kai, one of only two places with food and drinks within walking distance of the West Seattle dock of the King County Water Taxi, and really the only place within walking distance that has reasonable prices. This other place, a short walk to the south called Salty's, has pretty much exclusively meat (unless I want to get a side of potato salad) and its prices are ridiculous.

Marination Ma Kai, on the other hand, has at least a few vegetarian options, and based on our experience on Friday, good drinks -- the "Mai Kai," their version of a Mai Tai, that I had, was delicious. Their so-called "taco salad" was a bit stupid though, I must say. The vegetarian version featured fried tofu topped with their "NUNYA sauce," and I have no idea what that is except that it's actually very tasty -- but the rest of the "taco salad"? It was simply that fried tofu topped on what appeared to be dry coleslaw. No chips, no salsa or beans or cheese or anything. What the hell? So, it was a tasty tofu side with comparatively tasteless coleslaw, being passed off as taco salad.

Most of the reason we went there this month, though, was that we had talked about how long it had been since either of us had taken the King County Water Taxi, and Laney knew this place was right there on the dock. I left work on Friday at 4:10 -- twenty minutes early -- so I could walk down the waterfront (I did not bike that day) and get on the 4:45 ferrry.

And apparently it had been a very long time since I last took the water taxi. I was expecting a much smaller boat, something more the size of Vancouver's Aquabus, which Shobhit and I rode when we were in Vancouver for our honeymoon in 2013.

. . . And, well, I guess I was kind of remembering wrong. After several minutes of online research, I finally found a photo of what the earlier version of the King County Water Taxi, which had been called the Elliott Bay Water Taxi, looked like: and it did indeed hold far more people than Vancouver's Aquabus. Funny how our memories change things in our minds, often to pretty huge degrees. I always remembered it as a much smaller vessel. And I know I rode it, years ago, with perhaps Auntie Rose or Barbara or maybe even both at different times; I just can't seem to find any of my own photos taken on one of those boats, which is kind of amazing.

It doesn't even look like that older version of the Water Taxi, while perhaps a little smaller, is all that much smaller than the current vessels being used. And not only that, but I've actually been on one of these newer vessels before -- Shobhit and I rode one back from Vashon Island during my Birth Week five years ago, in 2012. How did I just completely forget that? To be somewhat fair, based on my photo captions at the time, I don't think it registered to me then that it was the same water taxi that goes to West Seattle as well.

Wait wait wait! I actually found some photos of when Barbara and I took Nikki on it when it was still called the Elliott Bay Water Taxi, in 2005. (According to Wikipedia, it operated as "Elliott Bay Water Taxi" between April and October every year between 1997 and 2007, before King County took over operations. Now, I know I've been on that damn thing even before 2005, and I could swear I remember it even being yellow once, but I guess I must be mistaken, based on the published history stating the first boat was a leased Argosy Cruises boat (and those are not yellow) and the second one was the one I already linked to -- the Sightseer, which if nothing else had a blue and yellow checkered stripe pained around its otherwise white exterior. I must be thinking "yellow" just because of the word "taxi."

I guess I remembered this much correctly: it had not only been years since I had ridden one of the King County Water Taxi vessels (five), but even longer since I rode one to West Seattle specifically (twelve years), since the one in 2012 was from Vashon Island and I did not realize that by then they were using the same vessels to go both there and to West Seattle.

So anyway. The old Elliott Bay Water Taxi vessels were larger than I remembered, but appear still to have been somewhat smaller than the vessels now being used. The level of surprise I had at how big the boat was when I arrived on Friday was misplaced, since I did ride one nearly as big in 2005. Granted, I don't think I can be blamed for not having the clearest memory of twelve years ago. And larger than expected or not, I acknowledged even on the boat itself when Laney and I sat down that it was still dwarfed to a massive degree by the Washington State Ferries, one of which was docked right next to us.

I do wish now that I had taken one or two photos on the boat ride on Friday, which I did not do, mostly because the view was one I've taken countless photos of already. Had I realized everything I was reminded of doing research today, though, I would have at least taken a photo of the exterior of the boat. Next time, I guess. (Incidentally, this shot taken from the water taxi in 2005 features what was then WaMu Center, mid-construction. The skyline is just overall much more dense now than it was then, although there aren't many new buildings approaching the height of the tallest ones.)

So anyway! The crossing time at off-peak times is about fifteen minutes but only ten minutes during commute hours -- and that was when we went, during rush hour; we were both struck by how fast it was going and how quickly we reached the other side. I suppose it might have been fifteen minutes coming back, since we caught the 7:00 return ferry, but it didn't really feel any longer.

We then walked to the Westlake Center Light Rail station, via Pike Place Market taking two elevators to get up the hill to the Market. I walked home from Capitol Hill station and was home by around 8:00 I think. I spent the next two and a half hours hanging out by myself at home since both Shobhit and Ivan were working, and I zonked out by shortly after 10:30; I was too tired to wait for Shobhit to get home.

. . . Okay, a bit of a coda: I finally thought to find my 2005 journal entry about taking Nikki on the Elliott Bay Water Taxi, and at that time, I wrote this: The boat is much bigger now than it was the last time Barbara and I rode it, which was for the 4th of July fireworks in 2003. Barbara and I argued about whether or not the $3 we had to pay to go one way today was more than it was in 2003, and we both thought I almost certainly would have written what the cost was in my 2003 July 4 entry. Well, I just checked, and I didn't. So I guess that mystery will just have to remain unsolved. So: I did remember even then that the boat used to be much smaller. Maybe the Argosy Cruises boat they used really was rather small?

Too bad I have no pictures from 2003! Hell, that's one of only two years since 1996 for which I do not have an Independence Day photo set. Amazingly, I don't have a single photo from the 4th of July in 2003. Between 1999 and 2003 I have comparatively fewer photos than other years, because I spent so much time focusing on work stuff instead when I worked at the papers between 1999 and 2001, and I did not get my first digital camera -- gifted to me by Julie, if I recall correctly, when she bought a new one and gave me her old one -- until 2003.

-- चार हजार एक सौ चालीस-सात --


-- चार हजार एक सौ चालीस-सात --

Well, I guess I can move on to the rest of my weekend now. Shobhit worked two separate shifts at both his jobs on Saturday, only half an hour between them, so I did not see him for most of the day. I did see Ivan for a bit in the morning; as he often does, he asked me what my plans were for the day. I was assuming he was working that day as well, but forgot that this was one of the every-other-Saturdays he's getting off with his August schedule (and, he presumes, September as well). Probably more often than not, we wind up doing something together on such days, but I already had plans, even though they involved only myself and no other friends, but he had no interest in them.

It was pretty slim pickings for movies opening this week, so I went ahead and took myself to see Girls Trip that afternoon. It had been out a while, and it was not quite as good as I wanted it to be, but still good enough -- a solid B. I left early to get downtown and buy a couple of things at Target first. It ended around 3:30, so it was around 4:00 by the time I got back home, giving me enough time to write my review.

Before long I went back downtown, for the sixth major protest rally and march I've gone to this year: the Black Lives Matter March Against Hate and Racism. I've gone to so many now, I almost felt like I was going through withdrawals. I needed another one. The last one was the Seattle Pride March in June, two months ago.

It's unfortunate that this one was probably further from President Fuckwit's radar than any single one of the others have been. There are regular Black Lives Matter marches, part of a movement that began well before Barack Obama left office; it addresses a need that has existed -- well, if you want to get technical, it's existed since slaves were first brought to the United States. That's not hyperbole; it's the truth. But this particular need came to light in the national consciousness in an unprecedented way during Obama's term, and has only been exacerbated under President Fuckwit.

And this is what I keep thinking about: Donald Trump's ascent, and his vile attitudes about any group of people into which he himself does not fit, is a symptom of this country's disease, not the cause. If this past year has revealed anything to white liberals in particular, it's that this has never been the country we thought it was. What we're seeing now? This is the country it's always been; it's just being allowed to be a bit more brazen about it lately. And this is the thing that's far too easy for us white liberals to lose sight of: it's something black people in particular have known all along.

It's this more than anything that convinces me that although Saturday's march was easily the least organized of all the marches I've taken part in this year, it was arguably the most important. I don't know how its size compared to that of the many other Black Lives Matter marches that have taken place over the past few years, even in Seattle alone, but I suspect it was an unusually big one. The main speaker at the rally at Westlake Center said to us all, "If you're here just because of Charlottesville? This is much bigger than that." And that's a fair point. I'm not sure I would say that I came to my first-ever Black Lives Matter protest because of Charlottesville, but Charlottesville was certainly a key part of it. But it's just been . . . everything.

I do think finally fewer people are engaging in the "Oppression Olympics" that contribute to infighting: all oppressed groups should work together. If I would like the black community to have the queer community's back, then the inverse needs to be true too. And I was already planning to come to the Black Lives Matter march before noticing this, but the banner on their Facebook event page included not only the Black Pride flag, but the Gay Pride and and the Trans Pride flag (and another flag I did not recognize -- pink and blue, which I looked up to realize it was the Bisexual Pride flag: so all three others in addition to the Black Pride one were queer in nature). I was genuinely moved when I saw that -- something I did not think the BLM people were under specific obligation to do, but they took the initiative, and I really appreciated it. It really meant something to me.

This being super-white Seattle, this Black Lives Matter march consisted of a large majority of white people. I suppose how ironic that really is, is a different discussion. The speakers and leaders of the march were either black or certainly not-white; one of the few guys who spoke, a very attractive young man who told us he was half African American and half Mexican, talked about how that makes him wonder where he's supposed to go when some idiot (that's my word, not his) tells him to "go back to your country." I mean, shit. The guy spoke with an American accent. America clearly is his country. He also appeared to use a cane, and I have no idea if he had been injured for some reason or had a permanent disability. He used a bullhorn and was the last of four people who spoke.

Two people shared talents. One was a young black guy with several face tattoos who rapped along with a song that I think was one of his own -- the sound system was not the best and sometimes it was difficult to hear. Everyone but the guy who used the bullhorn used a microphone and speakers. I found myself wondering, while the rapper guy rapped, how many of the countless white people present would have given this guy's rapping a second thought in any other context, or even at a political rally just a few years back. I have to admit that I wouldn't have. I feel like there's this sense among white liberals in particular that certain elements of black culture are more worthy of attention than previously realized. Most conservatives today would take one look at this guy, with tattoos on his face, and dismiss him out of hand. Hell, outside the context of a Black Lived Matter rally at which hundreds of white people are effectively a captive audience, a lot of liberals would too. (I do find it odd that there remain street artists trying to pass out CDs on the sidewalk. How many people walking by even have a machine that can play a CD anymore? My iMac doesn't even have a CD slot, and I have to use an external player that plugs into the USB port.)

The other person who shared a talent was a young white woman, and my internal "Hmmm" that was my automatic response to that was maybe unfair -- to what degree, I don't know. I was very consciously there just to listen, maybe even learn something. Well, that and to add to the numbers -- the primary motivation I've had for going to every one of the marches I have attended. Numbers matter. Anyway, the guy who led the rally asked if anyone had anything to share, and this young woman said she did. She talked about getting arrested at some other demonstration in D.C., and then said she "dabbles in spoken word," and I kind of thought, Oh, god. She shared a piece that honestly did go on a little too long, but at an event like this, actively shutting anyone up is just not in the spirit of the proceedings. (In context, I mean: if there were any white supremacists there -- and there weren't, at least not that I saw -- the whole crowd would have shut them up, and that would have been appropriate.) To be fair, the piece was still pretty good, and she got a healthy applause when she finished.

The black guy who in effect hosted the rally -- well, it's more accurate to say he did the most talking than to say he "hosted." I was a little confused for a moment because when I arrived, there was a covered stage area and I totally assumed there would be rally speakers there. That stage must have been for some other event, because when proceedings finally began, there was just a microphone with two speakers set up near the three banners stretched out along the ground at Westlake Park, near the Sephora store, on the opposite side of the park from that stage. All of us near them were asked to sit down so people behind us could see; I was one of those who sat, as I wound up closer to this area than I was to the stage I mistakenly thought was part of the event. Anyway, this guy was not the most articulate person, and that combined with the somewhat subpar sound system and a speaking voice that was sort of gravely and lacking in clarity made it difficult sometimes to decipher what he was saying. He did have the crowd practice chants: if he shouted, "Racism!" the crowd responded, "It stops with me!" If he shouted, "Black liberation!" the crowd responded, "It starts with me!" If he shouted, "Whose lives matter!" the crowd responded, "Black lives matter!"

I never did any of the chants. I'm not a chanter.

I'm not really sure if Shobhit would have joined me at this march if he'd had the opportunity or not. He might have. It was scheduled for 6:00 and that was exactly when he was to get off work in Northgate. The guy leading the rally suggested we all text ten friends and ask them to come down -- a seemingly worthy request, except I'm sure most of us already had what friends and companions we knew would or could come with us. Ivan doesn't come to these things; for a multitude of reasons I'm not sure it would be fair to expect him to. I know he has a tough time handling crowds, and he's not the only one. I could have texted Danielle earlier, and I never did. She likely had other stuff going on. There was certainly no one I could text to suggest they come down right now. People tend to have all manner of things going on, on Saturday evenings, and the vast majority of my friends live far from downtown Seattle.

The crowd was asked to volunteer to pick up the three banners and march at or near the front of the crowd. No one knew the march route until it began. The guy speaking said he did not tell the Seattle PD beforehand what the route was, "Because I don't trust them." I felt comfortable that nothing terrible was going to happen, but it's easy for me to feel that way when I'm white and the police don't tend to give me a second glance. I jaywalk in front of them regularly. I probably wouldn't do even that if I were black. Any black person feeling distrust of any police force in this country is perfectly understandable. So I don't blame him at all.

This does mean, though, that we disrupted traffic that had no way of being warned of our presence beforehand. This is one thing that once made me feel contempt for Black Lives Matter specifically. We didn't block traffic on the freeway, but we did cause some gridlock downtown. And I'm okay with this now. There was a guest on a podcast I listen to not long ago, who posited that only disruptive demonstrations have effected real change in the long run. He did not say violent -- an important distinction -- but he did say disruptive. I think it may have been this guy, sociologist Douglas McAdam. The way I see it, when it comes to Black Lives Matter, until people take the pertinent issues seriously, then people will have to be forced to pay attention.

The argument can go both ways, of course. Consider this blog post from a year ago by King County Metro driver Nathan Voss, in which he talks about how such disruptions often do the most disrupting to the communities they are intending to help. In his case, he was driving "the single most essential conduit to the black neighborhoods in south Seattle," and that neighborhood's service was obliterated by the protest occurring in a completely different neighborhood. People weren't able to get to their jobs.

I don't know what the solution there is. It's important to note that as soon as angry riders in south Seattle heard the reason for it, they became far less angry.

In any event, it was just hearing that sociologist's argument that turned me around on disruption as a protest tactic. Average demonstrations and marches hardly capture anyone's attention anymore. The Women's March in January was something that could not be ignored simply by its sheer size -- the largest global demonstration ever staged. But none of the subsequent marches could come close to laying the same claim. Protest can't be done in a context that is just routine. Something different has to be done, something that actually gets attention. And it has to be nonviolent -- violence is the kind of disruption that gets people's grievances dismissed out of hand.

So, I learned of the route as it happened. Shobhit was slightly concerned for me: "Be careful," he texted; "it could turn violent." But, it didn't. We walked out of Westlake Park right in front of a #11 bus in the middle of its route and onto Pine Street; walked west to 3rd Avenue; and turned left to head east on Pike Street -- a relief to me, selfishly, because it meant we were working our way back toward my home. I still had no idea where the final end spot would be; the speaker had said, "It'll be worth it, trust me." I kept wondering if we'd wind up at the East Precinct building on 12th and Pine -- I thought so clear until we turned left on Broadway, but then we passed Pine, and clogged up traffic on Broadway, pouring through and in between stopped vehicles. At this point I was still thinking I would stick to the march through the end, and when we turned right on John I wondered if we would turn right again on 12th and wind up at the police station after all. Nope! The crowd turned left on 12th to head north instead, and it was here that I decided finally to break off and go home.

In the meantime, I took about fifteen photos. You can see the full photo set on Flickr by clicking either the middle or bottom photos in this entry.

It took me a few minutes to figure out where the march ended: Lake View Cemetery -- where, as it happens, there is a Confederate monument. Now, I would be all for getting rid of this monument, but there is still an important distinction to be made: this monument is on private property, and the ones in Charlottesville and Baltimore that have been removed or should be removed are on public city land.

Anyway, I went home. I had told Ivan I would watch his Netflix copy of Fargo with him when we were talking in the morning, and so the three of us watched that after Shobhit and I made our dinner. That was how I closed out the day on Saturday.

-- चार हजार एक सौ चालीस-सात --

And then the three of us went to brunch yesterday morning. Let's just say . . . it wasn't the greatest.

We went to a place called Meet the Moon, which had really high ratings on Yelp. Shobhit and I walked past it on our way home from the Blue Angeles show three weekends ago and decided we wanted to try it sometime. I messaged Ivan a link to the Yelp page on Saturday evening and told him we were planning to go there for brunch if he'd like to join; he messaged back, Okay fine I'll go. He said he'd like to go "at like eleven."

Ten would have been way better, but whatever. Shobhit drove us, thus making it a rare occasion when Ivan actually rode in the car with us someplace (it might have even been only the second time, after we went out to Golden Gardens Park on Ivan's and my birthday). We got there at about 11:15, and there was a half hour wait. No reservations at this place. We all just accepted it and waited. The time went by relatively quickly.

We finally got seated, and we ordered as soon as the waitress came to get our drinks -- so we actually ordered several minutes earlier than most people do when they sit down. I mean, we had plenty of time to look at menus. And then? It took fifty fucking minutes for us to get our food.

After maybe half an hour, Shobhit was the first to get agitated. At first I was thinking he was jumping the gun with that, but then enough time went by that Ivan and even I were visibly annoyed. It took our waitress, a young lesbian who I wondered how long she even had the job, forty-five minutes even to come by and give us an update. "Your orders should be coming soon," she said, and I was the one who said, "We've been waiting forty-five minutes!" She then began to apologize profusely, but it was kind of too little too late.

I'm normally very forgiving of poor service. You can usually tell if, say, a place is understaffed. This place was not. Our waitress would disappear for long periods of time, where I could not even see her attending other tables. And Ivan himself, I think, came to his most visibly annoyed when Shobhit pointed out that not one, but two other tables that had been seated after us not only had their food, but were nearly done eating! Jesus Christ.

A guy I presume was the manager came to our table and said he heard we were angry and asked if he could do anything for us. I don't know, get us our fucking food? Shobhit suggested a few minutes later that we just leave, and Ivan said no, he didn't think we should do that. I didn't either -- I didn't want to have waited all that time for nothing. Ivan did say a short time later, "I don't think we should have to pay. What do you think, Shobhit?" Shobhit and I both knew that would never happen.

I realized later there was no way for them to win at this point, when it came to the food. If it was cold, it would mean it was sitting out way too long. If it was hot, that meant they took way too long to get the order in. Shobhit figured out that it actually was sitting out way too long. He and I both had dishes that were supposed to have over-easy eggs on them, and because they sat out under heat lamps for so long, neither of us had runny yolks -- our eggs were over-medium. I have to admit the biscuits and mushroom gravy were seriously delicious, but I do resent how it could have been even better had the fucking food come when it was supposed to, with the eggs cooked properly.

I paid for Shobhit and myself, and left no tip -- even though the waitress split the bills for us, and even comped the mimosa I ordered. The problem there was that Ivan only got the 10% discount she also gave us, but he didn't get anything comped like I did. I can't remember ever leaving no tip at all, but there was just no excuse for this. I felt a little bad for our waitress, but I just couldn't reward her complete inattentiveness. And neither could Ivan: he lifted up his receipt to show us what he wrote in the tip line: SERVICE SUCKED.

Shobhit filled out the feedback form detailing all our complaints. This usually results in coupons but he didn't bother leaving contact information. None of us ever wants to go back there. That may be unfair to the establishment when it was probably just our specific server who was the problem. There's a fair chance if we went back again in a few months the service would be fine. But this experience soured us all on the place. Ivan had to be to work by 2:00, and even though we arrived at 11:15, it was nearly 1:00 by the time we finally got out of there!

So Shobhit and I drove Ivan back home and dropped him off at the corner; he had less than an hour to get ready to leave for work. Shobhit and I drove on to PCC Greenlake Village, where we only needed to get about $35 worth of stuff -- maybe the smallest amount I've spent there for a regular grocery shop in about fifteen years -- and then down to the Asian grocery store in the International District for produce. After that, Trader Joe's.

Shobhit and I came home, put away the groceries, and Shobhit baked a genuinely delicious peach pie. This was his second attempt at baking a pie, and already much improved over the first, blueberry one. As I said in my post, I had to restrain myself from eating the whole thing. That brunch, imperfect as it was, was very filling. I had peach pie for dinner. Two slices.

And we watched my Netflix copy of The Bridges of Madison County, which I don't recall ever seeing before, and figured Shobhit would enjoy because it's a romance. He seemed to like it okay. And I liked it okay too. And then we watched a couple episodes of The Golden Girls. The original plan was to go to Laney's to watch two episodes of Mad Men but she had to text me to cancel because she threw out her back cleaning her apartment. So that's postponed to a date to be determined.

-- चार हजार एक सौ चालीस-सात --