Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Seattle - Irish and Russian style

I've been so bad at posting, but nothing really exciting has been going on either. I just got back from a wedding in Seattle. This was IP girl's wedding (see link on blog), and I had so much fun! Friday night we went to this great Moroccan restaurant with a mesmerizing belly dancer. Then we went clubbing. Okay. Maybe I've just been out of the scene for too long, but this was no ordinary club to me. All the gender and race rules went out the window. Girls were grinding with girls - and then switched to grind with guys with equal aplomb. They looked like they enjoyed both equally. Otherwise nerdy looking white guys were dancing with hefty looking black guys - one even did the snake with his hand on the black guys head before leaping thru the black guys' legs. The topper was an Asian girl in a red unitard that was dancing so provocatively on the bar that I had to look around for the slot to put our quarters in so the window would stay up. Everyone was pretty young, too. I was so confused.
Saturday was the lovely wedding. It was at Ray's Boathouse - right on the water. It was a great site - the weather was really too so you could be indoors or outdoors. I saw guy I knew in college who asked me - hey, didn't something happen with you and our kickboxing instruction in college? I said, um, yeah, you could say that - we're getting married in April. I met my friend's Irish cousins, who were like a comedy routine together. Very bubbly and funny. In fact, all her guests were very nice, and my normal social phobia was not too bad.
Sunday we went to Banya 5 - the Russian baths. My friend's sister is married to a Russian and he was explaining that in Russia - you go out in the woods and into a hot house, soak up the heat, and then run out and roll in the snow or jump into the icy water thru a hole you cut in the ice. This sounded crazy, but I was intrigued. We went, and there are about 6 stations. You can stand in a shower, pull a lever and cool water will dump on you, there was a jacuzzi, a (hot!) dry sauna, a wet sauna or steam room that smelled like eucalyptus, a cold tub, and a tepid tub. We went from hot dry to cold and wow - that certainly shocked the system. After about an hour and a half, I felt like I do after a massage or after I did when I took diving lessons. Gently pummeled, but more relaxed. My friend (Dr. 90210) and I then went to get a body scrub. We weren't quite sure what it entailed when we signed up, but we were up for the adventure. This is definitely not for the timid (which would normally include me). You basically lie naked on a massage table while a woman scrubs you with salt and honey, rinses you, then scrubs you with shampoo. She does all your back first. This meant that while it was embarrassing enough for her to have to look at my bare hiney - let alone scrub it - I was going to have to flip at some point. Sure enough. I've never been so exposed in my life - I guess apart from the time I was 1 1/2 years old and escaped from the tub and ran down the street naked while the frat boys cheered me on (we lived near a university). Dr. 90210 was in the next "room" which was only separated from each other and by the main room with the baths by a thin curtain which they didn't seem too diligent in closing all the time. I was definitely out of my comfort zone, but I emerged with soft new skin, so it wasn't all that bad. I heard there are Turkish baths here, but I haven't found anyone who has been. I'll have to check it out.
Now, I'm home and back at work. I loved Seattle. I realized (for the 1 billionth time) that the pacific northwest is the place for me. I just have to figure out how to get there!

Saturday, September 03, 2005


All the coverage of Katrina amazes me in many ways. First, does society revert so quickly into a "Lord of the Flies" situation? I can ALMOST understand the looting, if it were coming from a survival instinct. But the news footage shows people with shopping carts like they won the supermarket sweep. While I don't condone it, I wish that were the worst of it. Now you hear people saying that rape (including kids as victims) and mayhem prevail. I think I heard that a third of the police force in New Orleans deserted, and the officers that stayed to help had no food or water themselves, were taking gas from abandoned cars to put in squad cars, were outnumbered, and scared.
Today the military came in and are cleaning up. I've heard people say that there are plenty of acts of heroism, but that just makes me wonder what is your baseline for human behavior? Sure, next to the rapist/looters - pretty much any non-criminal behavior can be seen as an act of heroism. I don't doubt the heroes are out there. I'm just horrified that apparently the default behavior in a disaster area is not to care for one another (thus making "heroism" the prevalent behavior), but to rape and murder them.
I enjoyed the Salon article that I linked to from Road Runner. I think you can't dispute the fact that the ones who were left behind were the ones who couldn't help themselves to get out: either they are too poor or unhealthy. I completely agree that this raises ugly questions that have to be thoroughly discussed and answered. However, I picked up a hint from reading the article that (regarding the behavior) there was this "what do you expect, they're poor" tenor to the argument. I can't agree with that. I think it oversimplifies the complexity of the problem.
Unfortunately, I fear that this also gives an opening to conservative Christians to push for getting religion back into the schools. It's such an obvious, (also) oversimplified argument - because these people "didn't know any better" we have to teach them, and naturally this means we have to teach them Christian values.
As is probably clear from the earlier part of this blog, I expect people - poor, rich, in a disaster area, whatever - not to rape and murder. That's my baseline. My question of why this is not everyone's baseline cannot be answered so easily by either of the above arguments, and I acknowledge that they are only truncated versions. Both answers start with "what do you expect from THESE people?" which in-and-of-itself suggests a disenfranchisement - another issue which must be addressed. I hope that this leads to a frank discussion of the incredibly complex issues alluded to in the Salon article. That would be a silver lining on this otherwise horrible disaster.