Yet More Words on Marriage Equality

Marriage is, at its core, a social contract. Two adults pledge to be responsible for each other. If they want to add a spiritual or religious element to it, they have the freedom to do so.

If marriage were purely a faith-based institution, the federal and state governments would have no legal basis for enacting any laws relating to marriage. Adults would only be able to file taxes as individuals – at most their spouses would be dependents (a whole other can of worms). Spouses would be obliged to testify against each other (maybe that’s just a TV thing). There would be no divorce – good luck getting your records after the split.

On June 6, will it be legal for all consenting adults to marry each other, regardless of gender, or will there be enough religious fanatics in Washington to force the issue to a popular vote? We’ll just have to wait and see.

My Next Great Idea: Returnable Shampoo Bottles

I’ve been thinking lately about water bottles (who isn’t?) and it led me to thinking about shampoo bottles. The average American surely goes through much fewer in a year than the evil store-bought water bottle, but we still must go through quite a few. So I got an idea. There could be a little return receptacle at the grocery store/pharmacy where consumers can place their empties while picking up their new bottle. When the distributor comes to refill the shelf, they take the empties back to the distribution center, and then they make their way back in bulk to the manufacturer. There they get washed and stuff, and then refilled. If the bottles now are not in a reusable state, they may need a redesign, or maybe they just need to be melted and reformed, I don’t know.

I’d like to start a pilot program with a smaller company – I was thinking Giovanni since I use their product – and see how it goes. It may be an idea that fails miserably, but it may be the start of something much bigger.

Karma Chameleon

It seems that I may have been given an opportunity to redeem myself for not helping out a stranger the other day. This is what I’m thinking this morning, after I hand over the wad of cash to my neighbor. Wednesday morning, my elderly next door neighbor knocks on my front door to ask me for a couple postage stamps. I usually have a stash, but had recently run out, so I could not help her. But I stood at the door and listened to her for a few moments, as she was clearly distressed. She is frail and sad and on her own since her husband died last year. She tells me that she is not in good health and she just wants to die. I’m in my bathrobe with a towel on my wet head, otherwise I might have stepped outside to give her a hug. Instead, I take her hand in mine while she whimpers a bit more (I hope I don’t sound sarcastic, because I don’t mean to be) and I go inside to get dressed and go to work. This morning, at a little after 7am, she comes to my door again, and this time she’s even more distressed. She hands me a hundred dollar bill and asks me for change so she can take a cab to the hospital. I don’t have the change, but I tell her I’ll go to QFC and get some. I throw on yesterday’s clothes and my shoes, forget my glasses, and rush over to the supermarket, preparing my speech to convince the cashier to give me change without making a purchase. When I get there, no explanation is necessary and I head back home with a bunch of bills folded inside my fist. I decide then that supermarkets are banks for people without bank accounts, and I’m happy they exist. I hand over the cash and continue with my day. I didn’t hear her leave, but I’m pretty sure she must have.

This is when I think that this was my opportunity to make up for a couple weeks ago, and I’m comforted by that thought. And then I think, on a different tack, maybe it’s been her anxiety I’ve been feeling for the last few months. I’m not a stranger to mild anxiety, but for several weeks it’s been quite agonizing for me. I’ve often felt I have some sort of psychic connection with others at various times, and I think I vacillate on whether I’m a sender or a receiver. Today I think maybe I’m both, but I’m a one-way transmitter. In other words, if I’m in a mode of receiving, such as maybe I’ve been for my neighbor recently, I can’t also send anything out to anyone. And maybe it’s to do with biorhythms, if those actually exist. It’s all just crazy talk, I’m sure, brought on by being startled awake by a scared woman nearing the end of her life.

You have to also understand that I’m not really good with people. I generally don’t like touching people, even people I like, and I have a horrible bedside manner. But I felt for this woman I’ve lived beside for the last five years, and thought I really need to do something to comfort her. Standing at the door with my neighbor, I thought to myself, “how would Meg handle this situation?” I could never emote the way she can, but I tried to channel Meg as best I could to allow some intimacy. I held her hand, I stroked her arm, I offered some, hopefully, encouraging words. I suppose I did OK. When I gave her the money I had changed at QFC, she told me, “I will never forget you. You are all I have.” Which is, of course, not true – she has family nearby who come by fairly often. But it made an impact, and hopefully I did on her.

Butterfly Affectation

Recently I met someone who made an impression on me. Something about him struck me, and I listened to his story, strange that it was. I wondered if what he was telling me was true, and at the same time also knew there were things he was keeping hidden. Eventually it came out that he needed a place to stay for the night, and I considered granting it. In the end, I guess you could say I chickened out (my mother is probably thankful for that) and sent him out into the night without anything to make his way any easier. What could I have given him? He didn’t even ask for anything. And I’m left wondering if I did the right thing, if he really just wanted a place to lay his head for the night, or if he may have had sinister intentions. Who knows, because when he left, he was gone. It brings to mind Jesus’ story about treating strangers nicely (“when I was hungry, you fed me, etc”). Maybe this guy, this fellow human being, was down on his luck but otherwise a decent person. Then again, maybe he was a thief and a liar. I feel like I should be able to connect with my fellow globules of atoms in a way that would help me know this. What have we become if we turn our backs on everyone solely on the basis that one of those people might be evil? I sincerely hope this man found a nice patch of grass to rest upon and that he made his way home after sunrise. And if there is any kind of karma, I hope it doesn’t bite me for turning away a stranger with an authentic need for shelter.

Yes, I Know Exactly What You’re Talking About

A few weeks ago, I took a class called Writing Effective Paragraphs. It may seem obvious, but there are some things that you just don’t think about when writing, but when someone says it out loud it brings them to the forefront of your mind. It can be quite helpful, even if you think you know how to write, for someone to tell you how. I wrote the below paragraph for the class. I don’t make a claim to its effectiveness, but I felt compelled to share it. Though our instructor made suggestions for improvement, the paragraph is virtually unaltered from what was presented in class.

There is always something interesting happening on the block of Third Avenue between Pine and Pike Streets. As a bus stop for many of the routes passing through downtown, and as a sort of geographical center of the Ride Free Area, this block brings many different people to it, and at all hours of the day. Recently, I witnessed a game of Catch between two young men in the middle of the street. It was a Sunday night so there was very little vehicular traffic. On a previous occasion, I was waiting for a bus when a fight broke out, prompting a bus driver to call in a report which brought three sheriff cars and a police car to the block. A week ago, I read a newspaper article about a disgruntled man who went home to get a gun to settle an argument, and he brought it back to where? That’s right, he returned to the Third and Pine bus stop. Many of the less fortunate among us gather on this block whether waiting for a bus or not. If you use this stop, you will start to see the same people again and again. It brings to me a sense of belonging and community which suburbanites may not appreciate. This block could be considered an institution in Seattle, on a similar level of the Starbucks building or the Fremont Troll. At the very least, it is a part of the rich tapestry which is the Emerald City.

Where is All the Money? And Why?

I got an email today from my pal Joe Biden.

Friend —

See? We’re pretty close.

$200 million.That’s what Republican-aligned special interests have pledged to spend on the 2010 election. Just to put that in context, that’s nearly $40 million more than every interest group spent on the 2008 presidential election — combined.

I have to wonder, if those numbers are even half right, what is wrong with this scenario? Why, if people/companies, have such large amounts of cash they are willing to give away, why do they waste it on campaigns (no matter which party)? Wouldn’t it be better served by investing in communities? In real projects to better our infrastructure, grants for schools and libraries, food and shelter for those not able to provide from themselves? They could get their name in giant letters across the face of a public hospital they paid to build, in blinky lights on a much-needed South Park bridge replacement.Millions spent on political campaigns is such a fruitless, impractical endeavor. What’s the expression – pissing in a river . . . (or maybe watering your lawn while it’s raining)

A Shake and a Word

Today I stopped and took that hand. It belonged to a young man going by the name Tristan who was peddling sponsorships through Children International. Although he was cheerful and enthusiastic, I was a bit disappointed that his wasn’t politically-motivated activism. It’s all fine and good to sponsor children in Zambia, but about Seattle? the state of Washington? these United States?We leave the decisions up to our politicians then complain about the aftermath of doing so as if it’s not our fault. I’m just as guilty as the next person of apathy. So wouldn’t it be great if someone with the enthusiasm of Tristan was working to let our representatives know what our people want and need?