Thursday, July 28, 2011

Who Steals a Tree?

The title of this post, minus an expletive, is courtesy of my friend Wes. This was his reaction when he found out that a magnolia sapling, used in my wedding ceremony, was stolen from our front courtyard yesterday. The tree is not much taller than a foot inside its orange plastic pot. Did I mention that the pot is plastic? Lots of value there.

Feeling an odd mix of dorky and enraged, I fliered our neighborhood this morning with "Missing Plants" signs. (The thieves also took a daisy and a shamrock). I doubt anything will come of this, but I can't do nothing.

The double injury here is that we had just taken it to Swanson's nursery four days before for a primer on how to better care for it. We're garden novices, but the helpful woman at the Info desk showed us how to trim dead leaves, told us how often to water, advised us to get fertilizer for it, recommended when we should put it in the ground, etc.

Apparently plant theft in Seattle is not uncommon. Which brings me to my phenomenon: dark aspects of a city that you won't hear about from the Chamber of Commerce. In my first ignorant years here, I thought hills, traffic, and gentrification were Seattle's biggest issues. I don't want to suggest that plant theft is more problematic than gentrification. Um, no. But learning firsthand about Seattle's rat problem at our old place, and now this...I feel like there should be a name for going from total ignorance of some piece of your city one day to unwanted club membership the next.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

That Bird Has Flown

The upstairs neighbors are in the process of moving away. Background: I live in a duplex, so when I say neighbors I mean, "The only other people living in this house, who make noise at all hours." Yes, they are night owls and my husband and I are early birds. And we are not, like, best friends with them. But we have been cordial when we see each other. We have exchanged stories of weddings, plant waterings, and car fires. You know. The normal stuff.

I knew they ran a business out of their place, so I became suspicious a few weeks ago when both their cars sported For Sale signs. Um, how are you supposed to drive to the post office with loads of boxes if you have zero cars? I'm not a math major, but that seems difficult. Then, just as my suspicion was cresting, bam! A giant U-Haul truck in the driveway yesterday. And tonight, when I got home - no bird cage in their living room window. I peered in, emboldened. Yup: a few boxes, a TV, and nothing else.

We basement dwellers are moving soon too. And I hadn't anticipated informing our upstairs neighbors. So why that tickle of surprise that *they* didn't inform *us*? And what would you call that sliver of indignation when you're not notified of something you wouldn't notify others of, given the chance?

Saturday, July 16, 2011

All the News...

Tomorrow is the last day that a paper copy of the New York Times will arrive at my house.

I give that sentence its very own paragraph to underscore what a profound change this will be for me (and, well, to add some theatricality to the whole thing). For the last ten years, my father has given me a subscription as a gift - a long time to give any gift to anyone, let alone such an expensive gift, let alone to your, er, adult child. So. I completely understand that this had to end; in the past year, as he's moved from a job at the NYT itself to a copy editor position at a small paper in Rhode Island, I've reminded him several times that he no longer has to foot this bill.

But this is a man who has been a journalist his whole adult life, who has news paper ingrained in him the way some people have the union ethos or lighthouse keeping (OK, maybe that last one is a stretch). When he's on a trip, he buys the local newspaper, even if it's the Wretched City Urinal, even if the headline writing kills him, even if he finds the thing loaded with, insult of insults, "non-stories." It's as much a testament to his traditional view of how one ideally gets the news as to his love for me that he held out on cancellation for so long.

And it's an ideal that he passed on to me. If I were a typical early-30-something, I would have preferred to access my news digitally all along. But I'm an outlier. I do read websites, I have listened to podcasts, I pay some bills electronically, I write - gasp! - a blog. But I'm also that person on the bus who's filling out her rent check while trying to keep the Arts and Business sections from sliding off her lap to the floor.

It would be one thing if I were just embracing my inner grandma. But I find that looking at a screen for too long or listening to the radio without having an activity to do irritates me. And when there's technology that I don't understand, I'm just as liable to abandon it as I am to try to adapt to it. (My friend calls this falling into an Amish black hole...which is maybe name enough for this phenomenon. She is the funniest). Case in point: my laptop "died" three years ago. Why do I put died in quotes? Because I never actually brought the thing in to get diagnosed. For all I know the light is dead and the motherboard is fine.

So I'm nervous about staying as informed through the radio and Internet, but instead of, oh I don't know, swiping the neighbors' copy from their driveway on my way to work, I'm going to try to change my habits. I've already been checking the Seattle Times and other news websites almost daily for (ahem) a few months - I can add one more (though only to the tune of 20 articles a month for now). And when I move to a college town for grad school soon, I'm going to look into delivery rates for the local paper.

I don't have to completely reject being my father's daughter.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

The Perks of Being a Pedestrian

A few months ago I saw a former boss with whom I hadn't interacted in awhile.

"I see you every day," he said by way of hello, "walking down the street as I drive to work."

"Yeah," I agreed, a little thrown off and not sure how to respond, "I'm a pedestrian."

Over the last few days I've done a lot of walking, and it has reminded me of this conversation, the eerie fact that just because you don't see someone doesn't me they haven't seen you, and that odd gap between what you notice as a walker and what you see as a driver. As Mr. Redanz told us repeatedly in Drivers' Ed (when he wasn't proclaiming that he wanted to start an organization called Fathers Against Radical Teenagers, or FART), you do 90 percent of driving with your eyes. Of course my old boss notices me: I live near where he works, and it's his job while driving to be alert to his surroundings.

In some ways, bus riding is more closely related to walking than driving. Sure, it's hard to read, write or sleep while walking, but you get to do the pedestrian equivalents: pause to check out a band poster on a telephone pole, stop and smell the roses (seriously - they're in bloom everywhere right now!), or zone out because you can, because you walk those sidewalks every day and don't need to pay attention.

And I will admit to a less noble reason why I like the discrepancy between what drivers and pedestrians see: I like the idea that certain individuals might be forced to see me occasionally and remember how they wronged me (in my scenario, of course, they never feel righteous about their own perspectives, only chagrined). I like to think that they've even had to grant me right of way in a crosswalk once or twice, powerless before traffic law.