Trying Out: MoPOP and Chihuly (Week 13 & 14)

These were the two that I had an imagined grudge against.  I started working around Seattle before these two entities came into existence.  And when it was being discussed, I was rather vehemently against Chihuly.  So for me to have a fine time at either of these establishments was going to be quite the feat.

Week Thirteen-  MoPOP

Grudge number one: From the outside, it appears that this building cannot decide who it wants to be.  They started off as the Experience Music Project.  But no matter how famous your musical instrument structure is, or who hideous that roof looked during construction, they still wanted to draw a bigger crowd.

A few years down the road, they more or less split the museum in half.  EMP became EMP/Sci-Fi; or the Experience Music Project and Sci-Fiction Museum.  I know.  Words much?  And the café has gone through more management and name changes that I can keep track of.  So it was not terribly surprising when they rebranded themselves again this year, calling themselves the Museum of Pop Culture.

What I did not realize before going in, that this is a rather adult museum.  Right next door, Pacific Science Center focuses their exhibits on the age range of three to thirteen.  (They have adult exhibitions here or there, and their movies are blockbusters or documentaries, but the core exhibits?  Those are school-focused.)  MoPOP picks up at age thirteen.  (Conveniently, the Children’s Museum probably aims for newborns to toddlers, so families have all their kids set within a one block radius.)

I took my tour at the same time that a high school group was booking through the exhibits.   They were having a grand time.  “Man, this is the greatest place ever!”  Direct quote. Not too shabby a comment for what is technically a museum.

I say, “technically”, because the ambience was not one of quiet contemplation.  Go to the Seattle Art Museum.  Then come to MoPOP.  Your head will explode.  There are music concerts being held at their performance stage.  An exhibit on video games has noises and effects playing.   Even the historic exhibit has old-timey music and broadcasts playing in the background.  Appropriate enough for a music-focused setting, but quite disorienting when you are trying to read all the displays and navigate around the crowds.

The reason I chose this time to come is that MoPOP had an exhibit on Rube Goldberg.  An amateur physics nut, I could not turn that down. I was hoping for more physical displays (I believe they built two of Goldberg’s creations), but instead was treated to dozens of his cartoon sketches.  I had not known that he was also a Pulitzer-winner and editorial cartoonist.  Turns out I learned quite a bit.  Surprise.

However the first exhibit I went to was the “Can’t Look Away: The Lure of Horror Film”.  Okay, technically I tried to go to Star Trek first.  But it was a featured/touring exhibit and it cost extra.  I am not a Trekkie.  So I made my way to the free exhibits.

I do not like horror movies.  I think there are plenty of bloody murders in real life without seeking out more.  However, they did their best to make it entertaining and informative.  (They also labeled it several times as PG-13.  Keep out the wimps like me.)  There were plenty of monitors showing clips from classic horror scenes.  I avoided those.  I had no desire to see The Exorcist or any gore-filled moments from the Saw franchise.  But the high school kids sure liked it.

They also loved the Sound Lab.  Go through a room filled with instruments.  Go into a booth and rock out.  Basically, go nuts.  My nine months of piano had me at a disadvantage.  I peeked around a bit, but again, too loud for me.

Jimi Hendrix has his own room.  Kurt Cobain has his own display.  Neither of which were quite my style, but I have their displays the courtesy look.  (I did not sit through the television interviews.)  A story was told, their legacy was celebrated, but I still could not name more than two of their songs if pressed.

Guitar Gallery was more interesting than I would have thought.  They had guitars from throughout the ages, some of them previously owned or used by famous musicians.  The technology part won me over.  I was intrigued to see how they guitar had changed over the years, what innovations had come about as supplies were short, and how electricity was used over the decades.  It was rather interesting.  Surprise.

We Are Number Twelve.   No, we are not.  At least, I am not.  I do not like sports.  I do not want to spend my off-time watching tribute to a football game that happened years ago.  And I do not think an entire room should be dedicated to it.  For all those reasons, I refused to go into that exhibit.  That bias I will not get over.  Me and sports are not soulmates.

Plus, and this is perhaps my biggest bias against MoPOP, the owner’s name is everywhere.  All of Seattle knows how owns the building.  We know he also owns the Seahawks.  We know that he owns most of the movie and music trinkets strewn around the building and much, much more in warehouses.  How do we know this?  Because there are signs everywhere stating as much.  Every display case has a little sign acknowledging the loan.  And the three paragraph sign welcoming visitors to the Number Twelve exhibit had to mention his name twice.  It suggests he was the one responsible for the Super Bowl win.  And I still have not gotten over my bias that the guy likes putting his name out there too much.  End rant.

Infinite Worlds of Science Fiction is a bit of a must-see for hardcore nerds.  Their range on the topic was pretty comprehensive.  From comics to Stargate to Battlestar Galactica, they had their bases pretty well-covered.  The weapons case forced me to pause.  It was an entire wall dedicated to replicas of guns from the ages.  Everything from GalaxyQuest to Men in Black.  It was a lot of guns.  To be fair, the museum folks were not the ones that came up with these guns, they simply put them all in one place.  But man, there is a lot of time dedicated to impressive and creative ways to blow creatures to juicy bits.

You get the idea.  I thought it would be a series of rooms, but it was three stories of well-thought out displays and information.  Surprise.  The group that normally shirks formal education and museums?  The teenagers?  They thought this place was amazing.  And darned if I did not learn a thing or two.  Surprise.

All those surprises add up.  There is an obvious effort put into the museum.  Despite my biases against it, I have to admit that I spent two and a half hours in there, and much of it was spent being impressed.  If you have a family of teenagers, I would have to recommend it.

Week Fourteen- Chihuly Glass Museum

There is already a Chihuly place in Tacoma.  Only once in my decade or so of working nearby had a question from a tourist about Dale Chihuly.  (And people ask all kinds of questions.)  It is my understanding that Chihuly does not even create pieces anymore.  So why name the place after him?  And honestly,  I am not blown away by glass art.

Get it?  Glass art?  Blown?  …’cause you have to blow the glass to form…  Ahem.  Moving on.

You can scroll through the pictures for yourself.  Sorry for the image quality.  Regardless of focus, you can still see why some people really like the place.  The colors are lovely.  The craftsmanship is evident.  But to me?  It is a room full of glass.  Glass in different shades and shapes, sure.  At the end of the day though, it is simply glass.

(Hence  the pictures and very little paragraphs.  If you enjoy this, do not let me ruin it for you.  Simply bask in the hues and forms.)

However, and I almost missed this part, it was the demonstration that won me over.  Every hour, they host glass-blowing.  Two folks, who have worked in the glass-blowing field for years, usually in a factory, work by their airstream trailer and show what they do.  It is rather captivating.  You can see the glass change color as each layer is added.  You learn how hot the glass and the rods have to be kept.  Even the mitts the man used at the end had to be warmed up in the furnace a little to maintain a workable temperature.

The audience sat there and witnessed the glass being stretched and bended.  We observed their skill and patience, knowing that these two had probably shattered hundreds of pieces before they got to this level.  The thousands of man hours came across.  Again, the science fan in me had to marvel at the way in which they tweaked and manipulated the glass across all stages.  The impressive part was in the doing, not the end product.

The glass displays took less than half an hour to navigate.  The demonstration at the end was well worth the wait and kept in interested.  Forty-five minutes well spent.

I just hope the MoPOPs guitars and their many speakers never break free from next door.  One can only imagine the carnage…

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Trying Out: Floating through Waves and Radio Waves (Week 11 & 12)

Week Eleven- First Swim Lesson

“You don’t know how to swim?”

“I understand the concept of it.  I simply have yet to execute the process.”

I was weary of using that explanation year after year.  (The same is true for riding a bike, but bicycles are expensive and they get flats and I like hiking instead.)  When I was around age nine or so, we went to visit our favorite cousins.  Our cousins had a pool in their backyard.  They were informed that I did not know how to swim.  They tried to teach me to float.  My immediate family is not skilled at floating.  (None of us would label ourselves as “swimmers”.)  Of all the things I want to try or learn this year, becoming a swimmer has always been on the top of my list.

I do not fear drowning.  I simply dislike the thought of having water up my nose or in my eyes.  I have been using the bathtub to curb those qualms.  Dipping my head low enough to get water in them, exhaling when I turn my head sideways; you get the idea.  Also, let it be said that swim goggles are a cheap investment that are worth every penny.

It also does not hurt that my instructor is delightful.  She already tried to give me a bicycle lesson once, so she knows how embarrassing I think my shortcomings are.  She has done her share of triathlons, so swimming is an area that she excels at.  When you are trying to keep your mind off of tense muscles and water in your lungs, I find it helps to have a comforting sight and friend to aim towards.

The first lesson was me trying to feel comfortable.  Most days I still feel self-conscious walking around with no shirt.  My body resists the idea of submerging everything below water.  And floating?  Turns out, years later, I still lack any obvious floating skills.  In short, not a lot was accomplished.  However, I never expected to learn everything in one lesson.  Nor did my friend expect it of me.  So we will keep at it.

(Lesson two was a bit better.  But still not dignified.  “Push off!”  And after my two-foot thrust, I began to sink.  “Try pulling yourself forward with your arms!”  I did, as my feet touched the bottom of the three-foot pool.  “Hold onto the edge and kick your feet out behind you.  Now let go!”  Kicked me feet, felt fine, and then, surprise surprise; sinking kicked in.  Not the kind of kick we were hoping for.  Just keep swimming, just keep swimming…)

Happily she likes being in the water and has missed it.  The opportunity to see each other and catch up is a happy result.  Sometimes good things come from slow learners.  (Though I could do without swallowing so much water.)

Week Twelve- Radio Play

I am a sucker for the Golden Age of Radio.  (This remains, now and again, a media blog after all.)  So when I heard that a theatre I volunteer for was performing one as a fundraiser?  Well color me intrigued.  I quickly let them know that I would be happy to volunteer.  I wanted to relive the glory of yesteryear through a live performance.

As I said last time, just because I attempt to do something each week, does not mean that I will succeed.  For one thing, I was coat checking.  And let me tell you, everyone had a coat that night.  Coats all over the place.  Then there were those that saw there was a coat check after they had passed the coat check station so they were trying to add theirs to the stack while I was already trying to clear the hangers for the three new coats someone had just handed me.  It was hardly an I Love Lucy scenario.  Though I would say they kept me busy for a while.

Twelve or so minutes past the hour, I more or less gave up on catching the act.  (We all know theatres have latecomers.  ‘tis a fact of life.)  I would have preferred to be there, watching from within the theatre.  However there is a monitor in the lobby that people can watch.  After the proceedings were underway, I joined half a dozen staff members that were strewn about.  We tried to take in the show while catering rushed back and forth with full trays and carts.

It turned out that the “cast” was made up of local celebrities.  An author, a weather forecaster, some board members; the emphasis was not on bringing actors on stage.  The emcee is a rather notable actor, but I admit to some disappointment.

I get it.  I do.  You want to bring in figureheads from the community.  Should they happen to invite some spending-inclined friends with them, swell.  The goal was to raise their profile and their income.  The other six shows of the year can show of their ability to draw in skilled actors.

However my goal was not to see a group of people read pages off a script.  My goal had been to see a group of actors invoke a performance style that had not been popular for almost eighty years.  My expectations were not quite in line with what I saw on the screen.  Perhaps my experience would have been different if I had been watching it unfold on stage.  But it was already past my bedtime, I had worked my shift at work beforehand and had completed my volunteer shift.  I was ready to go home.

Perhaps I only like radio for its nostalgia.  Maybe I like having the finished product piped into my headphones but I find the actual act of a row of chairs and microphones boring?  I am not sure.  I still think the theatre-going public would enjoy professionals displaying their craft.  However, I am not the one calling the shots; I am the one assisting those that do.  I may be a purist who wants his radio dramas to play out a certain way.  Oh well.  I am not about to make waves.

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Trying Out: Automotive Adventure and the Sunday Times (Week 9 & 10)

Trying Something New: The Automotive News (Weeks 9 & 10)

I knew these two weeks would be a little limited in what I could do.  It was Emerald City ComiCon.  I was in a comic shop eight out of ten days.  Only so much a guy can learn sitting in a store.  However, I did my best.

Week Nine- Car Trouble and Bus Flirting

I would not say that I cheated, but I broadened the scope of my plans.  The whole point of trying new things is to push yourself, right?  Do something out of the ordinary or be a little daring?

The engine light on my car went on.  I fear breakdowns.  Happily, my car has never left me stranded.  (Which only makes me want to continue the trend.)  I called a tow truck.  They wanted me to ride with them.  It was eight o’clock at night, I had no one to drive me home, I told them I would call them back.

A phone call with a friend later convinced me to be bold.  “Be cautious, but don’t worry too much”, he told me.  Driving a possibly impaired vehicle mildly terrifies me, but it was only a few miles.  What could possibly go wrong?  (Dun dun dunnnnnn.)

Short answer:  Nothing.  My jaw got clenched.  My knuckles had their period of whiteness.  The car behaved fine.  If anything had happened, I would have simply pulled over an called the tow truck like I had planned.  Fear lost to practicality.  I call that a victory.

After dropping off the car, I hopped on a bus that I would not normally take.  That put me in a seat across from a certain woman.

Now, I tend not to hit on people on the bus.  People simply want to get home.  Attractive people can have long days at work, just like anybody else.  It is not like you can have a private audience.  When I am on the bus, I want to be left alone.  I treat others the same.  But this woman.  Sigh.

untitledIf I describe her features, she might come across as looking like a Roswell alien.  Big eyes.  Exaggerated, quite triangular nose.  Unlike those famous guys, her skin was far from gray.  Also, her nose was of a large nature as well.  And yet, it all paired fabulously.  One of those compositions made up of extremes that work.

Sitting on the opposite bench, I tried to keep my eyes to myself.  Nobody likes a creeper.  The brave side of me was quite keen on chatting her up.  The civilized, reserved, introvert thought I should look at the pretty trees outside and go home.

That little voice that spoke first did a little dance when she got off at the same stop that I did.  And it started to shove me onto the dance floor when we both ended up waiting at the same crosswalk light.  So I flirted with bravery.

I turned around, approached her, and said, “I don’t mean to bother you, but your face is amazing.  Especially your eyes.  So kudos.”

She took out one of her earbuds, smiled, and said, “Oh, thanks.”

And then I turned around.

“Chicken!”  “Wuss!”  “Why didn’t you get her number?”

First off, at a guess?  She was probably ten years my junior.  Let the poor college kid be a college kid.  Second, the goal of the interaction was not to get a date.  If she wanted to chat with me, that would have been delightful.  First and foremost though, I wanted her to be appreciated for being herself.  No catches, no demands; just a guy complimenting a woman.  The end.  (I still give myself points for venturing out of my comfort zone though.)

Week Ten- Reading the Sunday Paper

Growing up, my family always got The Seattle Times delivered to our home.  There is an episode of Mad About You where the two of them sit around the apartment reading the entire Sunday paper.  The local library apparently gets free copies of the advanced version of the paper and sets them out on a rack, free for the taking.

Hence, I decided I would take a stab at reading the entire Sunday newspaper.  (Not counting ads, puzzles, or classifieds.)

Short version:  I failed.  It took me three days, and I attempted, but I harbored this notion in the back of my mind that I was not going to make it.  For one thing, there was no news in the newspaper.  It was one big collection of features; more like my definition of a magazine than a newspaper.

Yes, I understand the logistics as to why.  The advance version carries the idea that it cannot be up-to-date.  (It is probably printed Friday afternoon.  Hard to be current in that setting; that is what online editions are for.)

Still, I like to think that I gave it a valiant effort. Parade was a silly collection of fluff.  The color comics were amusing (but all are pretenders to the Calvin & Hobbes throne.  C’mon now).  And hey, I found a few new books to read thanks to them, so that is all well and good.

The obituaries were interesting for their accumulated effect.  It fascinated me how many notices were three months late.  How many folks had been born in the 1920s.  And happily, how many people deferred any flowers or bereavement gifts in lieu of donations to causes.  Well done.

The national news consisted of four articles.  Anti-fake news in Ukraine, hiring problems in Denmark, and a dance study in England.  Nothing to earth-shattering.

There are sections I knew would bore me.  Sports- NASCAR.  Oh joy.  Fashion- I shall never visit your featured blogs.  (Also, your headline referenced seven blogs.  Your subtitle discussed six.  Decide!  The two lines are right next to each other!  -spoiler: there were seven-)

Pacific NW magazine was fine.  An interesting article on the viaduct, but I will never cook the fancy recipe.  Vacation made for an interesting enough travelogue.  Four pages are about all I can take and I still do not have the urge to hop on a plane, but I feel like I received some culture.

I tried.  I attempted to read every section.  So I can now say that I have sat down with the Sunday paper and gone through it all.  But I cannot say that I read it all.  (Perused: sure.  Glanced: you bet.  Read:  Eh, not so much.)

Hey, nobody said I would succeed at all 52 new things I would try.

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My God-Story

My pastor suggested that we try writing our experiences with God out.  This is my attempt.

———-

The story starts off before I was even a glimmer in my father’s eye.  My parents started planning out their family and decided that three kids was the right number for them.  They gave birth to a girl.  Swell.  They gave birth to a boy.  Things got iffy with him.  The boy did not stick around for long.  He died, my parents grieved, but eventually they tried again.  Boy was born; this one was much healthier.  Then it was my turn and I am still standing.

That may seem like just another part of life to others.  To me, it gave me some purpose.  If you read it a certain way, I was never supposed to be born.  If that first guy had been a bit more resilient, I would have little cause to be here.  If I was the one “chosen” to exist, then what if there is a reason for that?  What if I have some role to play on this big dramatic stage?

(I also maintain that this created my love for alternate realities.  In some other version of life, that second-born is doing just fine.  Maybe he invented a cure for cancer and got us off fossil fuels.  Somebody else would have gotten those jobs that I applied for.  Somebody else would be taking care of my cat.  What happens if somebody else got the seat on the airplane that I never rode on?  I feel that my love for comics and science-fiction was prepared early on.)

Now, my family has always been Christian.  It simply works for us.  I am ninth-generation Quaker.  “Birthright Quaker”, if you like folksy titles.  Some family members like different versions of Christianity, but Quakerism works fine by me.  Regardless, I grew up assuming that God existed, that Jesus loved me, and that my butt would be in an uncomfortable church pew every Sunday.  (There are no comfortable pews; only varying degrees of uncomfortable-ness.)

I am sure it would be more interesting if I had some dramatic conversion anecdote, but I do not.  No, the closest I came to that was when I was visiting my uncle’s family in Ohio.  I still remember that bathroom.  It was huge, right in the middle of the house with two different doors that access it.  (A fact that still freaks me out.  The odds of a person walking in on you with one door are bad enough, but two?!)  There were swimsuits constantly draped from the shower rung and the bathtub; visible proof that the pool outside was waiting to be utilized at any moment.

That was the religious setting where I sought to reaffirm my faith.

“Hey God”, a quiet little seven year-old said.  “We’re covered, right?  I mean, I know I haven’t actually said the words or anything.  That I haven’t technically asked you into my life or anything.  But we’re good, right?  I mean, yeah?  Do I have to come out and say that you are in charge?  Do we get along?  I could do it now?  Maybe I should?”

The session was Informal, to say the least.  So informal, that when I was back in that same house a year or two later, still with towels and bathing suits hanging to and fro, I felt the need to re-double check.  “Last time covered it, right?  No loopholes?  We’re fine?  Right?  I mean, yeah?”  I still tend to obsess over details.  Poor kid.

Childhood was pretty Rockwellian.  (Rockwellesque?  Akin to a Rockwell state of being?)  Monday through Friday I went to school and read as much as I could.  Got to know libraries really well.  Came home and watched cartoons.  Tormented my brother and sister.  The usual upbringing.

I went to Sunday School, but even back then, the Picture Bible appealed to me much more than the regular version.  And I always perked up during parables.  I love parables.  If you want me to learn something, take a page from Aesop and wrap it in a narrative.  Wars and selecting different kings and rules about how to make a temple?  I could not have cared less.  But man, talk to me about a seed that was dropped in four different locations?  You have got a captive audience.

I never had a great crisis of faith.  When you figure out that you could have easily not been born, you develop a strong belief in that old cliché, “Everything happens for a reason”.  I know many folks find that phrase to be trite.  They think it is something that people say when they do not have any better response to a hard situation.

It works for me.  Always has.  I usually do not have any idea what the reason is, but I buy that there is one.  If I look at things long enough, I tend to find some sort of possible logic hiding in the corners.

However, I still had my typical teenager phase.  Mom had a hard time with me in junior high.  I had friends, sure.  But I had a hard time fitting in.  I always felt like I was somewhere in-between.  I could run fast enough to be with the athletic crowd, but I did not want to do sports.  I liked the nerdy crowd, but I could not bring myself to play Dungeons & Dragons or Magic: The Gathering.  I grew up around computers, but after an hour or two I was bored with any game.  I was comfortable enough to fake a good fit, but I never really felt comfortable in groups.  (To this day, I still prefer one-on-ones.)

When you do not feel like you fit, you feel like a freak.  Like something is wrong with you.  And I was not in the mood for, “Everything happens for a reason”.  Over the years though, I had kept on decent terms with my mom.  If she wanted to take me grocery shopping, I was willing to tag along.  Which is apparently, is how I got sorted out.

As my mom tells it, we were walking through the store.  I believe it was around the cereal aisle.  (Back when they were allowed to put toys in the cereal.  The good times.)  I saw a person in a wheelchair and I got very quiet.  I think they had some sort of developmental disability.  We had a similar person at our church, one who could barely walk and had some slurring in her speech.  I grew up with kids that had physical setbacks in school.  Yet this person in the aisle stood out to me that day.

I imagine that it was in the car after we had loaded the groceries in and we were about to go home.  At some point, I commented, very softly to my mom, “God made them different on the outside like He made me different on the inside.”

After that, junior high-Philip was much less of a twerp.  It was harder to be upset with God for making you weird when you receive a reminder that it was intentional.

The funny thing is, my acceptance as being, “different” caused some frustration.  While I was in high school, we were seated at the dinner table.  A relative asked, in a bit of a huff, “Why can’t you just be like normal kids?”  I was about seventeen at the time, so my response was, “Because being normal would mean staying out partying or making out with strangers.”  I knew who I was and I was fine with it.

High school, which as every teen-flick will tell you, is usually about partying, rebelling, and making big speeches before you score the winning goal.  I spent it reading.  Yes, I always had a friend or two.  But it was so much more interesting to watch the drama unfold before me.  I saw the school-couple yelling and fighting in front of their friends during lunch break.  I saw one kid punch another and I went to grab a staff member.  If I could find a teacher willing to let me sit in their classroom and read the lunch time away, then terrific.  If not, then I would find some corner and try to keep my book dry in the rain.

Then, in a story that would take too long to tell here, I got sucked into theatre.  You want people watching?  Hang out with drama kids.  The vying for the same roles, the swooning over those dreamy actors that always invoked stage-crushes, the inevitable coupling.  I just sat on top of the scaffolding or kept my ears tuned to noises from backstage.  I think I had all of two minutes of “performing” in over two years of high school theatre.  Mostly, I spent the time having fun and figuring out what I liked.

There were always a few raised eyebrows when we got too deep into things.  I had a hard time believing folks wanted to kiss on stage.  I thought kissing someone you were not dating was madness.  I shirked parties.  They took place on Saturday nights, I had church Sunday morning.  The fact I was not invited to all that many made it easier too.  😉  And the time when the group of seven gals performed a scene from Cabaret; well my poor little brain almost exploded.  What were they doing!?

Around that same time, my brother tried out a different church.  He liked his Christianity served with a little different flavor, he had a bike and a driver’s license; off he went.  At some point, it was decided that I should be in charge of running sound.  I never professed any proficiency for running sound, but I had sat in the booth with my brother.  “Surely you know what you’re doing?  Just give it your best!”  Uh… okay.  If nothing else, it gave me a reason to make sure I went to church every week.

Eventually, the threat of college loomed.  My parents were moving to Pennsylvania.  I applied at the two colleges I liked and both were kind enough to accept me.  I could play it safe, stick with my brother and attend the University of Washington and stay in the area that I was familiar with, or I could branch out, be my own person, and go to George Fox University.

Remember those parallel worlds and alternate realities we talked about earlier?  I am convinced that there is a version of me that went to George Fox and loved it.  A person who majored in Communcations, got to log some microphone time in a real sound booth, and fell in love with a cute Christian cohort.  They held hands around campus, crammed hard for their challenging classes, and eventually graduated and settled down together around Newberg, Oregon.

Back in this world, I took the easy way out.  I shared an apartment with my brother so my responsibilities would be cut in half.  I worked a job that my youth pastor was kind enough to hire me for.  I played it safe.  Looking back on all those times I wanted to skip class?  All the times I asked myself why I was on a campus of 40,000 and classes of 300?  I still think UW was probably not the school for me.  But I had my support system, I kept going to my same church; I survived.

I kept doing things for God that I thought were right for me.  At some point in my teenage life, I took the Sabbath more seriously than most.  When I applied for jobs, I told them I would not work on Sundays.  Throughout college, I stuck to my notions and never did homework on a Sunday.  I patronized a restaurant once or twice, but did not buy anything.  (I later realized that was silly.  The staff still had to wait on the person in that chair.  Therefore I was making them work.  Eventually I stopped going to restaurants on Sunday altogether.  That fit my sense of right better.)  If I expected to have a day off from work, a day to focus on God and the important things in life, then who I was to make other people work on Sundays?

College was also when I started to look around and see females.  Hey, I was still a teenager.  Why sit there and only observe cute people when one could go up and talk to them?  Maybe, and here is a crazy thought, interact with them?

Those poor gals.  I learned a lot from those years of observing other couples, but I did not learn enough.  One limitation was that I would only allow myself to be interested in Christian women.  Not that non-Christians are not worth my time.  The problem is a matter of common ground.  If you want a family, you want to marry someone who also wants a family.  If you want someone to travel with, the person you hitch your wagon to should probably already possess a passport.  And if God is important to your life, it makes sense to find someone who goes to church each Sunday.

So I looked.  And I looked.  And I looked.  And I thought I found?  Maybe?  Nope.  Keep looking.  And looking.  And what about this one?  She seems like…  It could be.  She sure is pretty.  And smart.  And kind.  Nope.  Hard nope.  Okay.  Maybe if I keep looking?

I tried everything.  I could make a checklist for you.  Online websites?  Tried it.  Blind dates arranged by mutual friends?  Failure.  Different online website?  Twice.  Three times.  No result.  A blind dating service?  No dice.  A different blind dating service?  Goose egg.

After college I found myself rather restless in church.  Whenever I told people that I wanted to meet someone who was Christian, they would offer up, “Maybe you can meet someone through your church?”  Yeah.  I tried that.  Nope.  And then somebody said it.

“Well maybe you should try going to a different church?”

I resisted that phrase for as long as possible.  Quakerism works for me.  There are not that many Quaker churches around.  Why separate myself from what I love unless I am guaranteed something better?

As any assemblage of depressed drinkers in a bar will tell you, loneliness makes you do some crazy things.  So I went on a tour of different churches.  I tried out my brother’s family church.  I went to the historic cathedral-church.  I visited the uber-stringent, wallow-in-our-sins church.  Finally, I settled for the trendy church.  I still went to my Quaker church once a month or so.  Yet the church I spent the most time at was the one attended by the college crowd, the cool couples with their spiffy cars, peppy music, and a very charismatic pastor.

And it was fine.  There were several hundred people at that church.  I enjoyed the services well enough.  I felt God at work there.  I asked out a gal or two.  The results left me wanting.  I went there for my God-fix, yes.  However I was also after a romantic entanglement.  Yet I could barely get a social entanglement.  Of any kind.  I was there for two to three years and when I stopped going because I felt no connection to community.  I went to a bible study for two years.  I went to a church retreat for a weekend.  No deep bonds were forged.

However whenever I went to my Quaker church, people expressed joy at seeing me.  They told me they missed me.  I felt welcome every time that I walked through the doors.  I could have made the other church work.  Maybe I should have tried to engage more people.  But I had this group of people working overtime to love me.  Why stay away from them any longer?

That is where I find myself right now.  I fit in at my church, even if there are not throngs of people dying to spend time with me.  We get along.  We help each other out.  We pray for each other.  My church feels like home.  I may not be madly in love with any attractive females, but most days I get by just fine.

I know God still has plans for me.  I know all those years I spent observing and processing were partially so that I can understand people.  I can relate to them better and have some notion of the situations that they are in.  And I know that I am supposed to take my love of stories and do lots of writing.  My purpose is to collect stories, to share them, to listen to them, and to write them.  As with most stories I come across or share, I continue to believe that everything happens for a reason.

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Trying Out: Family Flying and Twitter (Week 7 & 8)

Week Seven- Family Weekend

Just before Christmas, one of my siblings gave birth to their third kid.  That brought the grand total up to six nieces and nephews.  Add some parents and siblings to the mix, a few grandparents; we have quite the clan.  Hence, thirteen people all in one house for a four-day weekend.  While I was there, and on my way there, I attempted to try a few new things.

Flying in the very back.  Did you know that 75% of disputes on planes are caused by reclining seats?  Fact.  Honest.

My great plan was to take a seat in the very back.  I secretly hoped that they laid out the seats with the thought of, “Oh.  We have a few extra inches back here.  We already bolted down the other seats.  Eh, might as well give them a inch or two wiggle room extra.”  I cannot prove it, but I am pretty sure I was right.  At the same time, I switched from United to Alaska.  The seat-situation on United simply did not work for my build.  Alaska gave me leg room and then some.  (I was not cozy, but it was far better.)

Plus, you get to people watch the entire time!  I was on the aisle.  To my immediate left was the bathroom.  For almost the entire flight, people were coming to see me.  Sure they used the bathroom, but simply because it was there.  We all know that they wanted to stroll down the aisle and barely acknowledge my presence.  I am that charming of a guy.  Really.

There was only one time when I regretted not holding my breath when the bathroom door opened.  I ought to have seen it coming.  No one to blame but myself.  The plane had not even finished ascending when this guy made straight for the bathroom, unlocked the door that the flight attendants had secured, and forced his way inside.  He emerged five to seven minutes later.  I should have held my breath.  Live and learn.

Back row from now on!  It was not even as loud as I feared.  Darned engines.

(And you know you will be the last one off, so there is no need to stand around waiting for the cabin door to open.  Sib back, relax, and find some busy work for those extra five minutes.)

Changing Time.  My best friend has two kids.  Six nieces and nephews.  Kids all over.  Yet I had survived never changing a diaper.  Not once.  Until now.  I told my sister that I was attempting new things.  I suggested that if she happened to have a soiled diaper at some point in the four days I was around, she should let me know.  Go figure, she was able to accommodate my request.

I got off pretty easy.  All number one, no number two.  And the munchkin was female, so she lacked the equipment to dispense a surprise attack up at my face.  No crying, no trauma, and my sister helped.  In and out in a few seconds.  Was it an epic achievement the likes of which the world will write songs about?  Nope.  But I learned to swipe down, not up, and marveled at just how big those Velcro tabs have gotten.

Scavenging.  My family is big on puzzles.  My mom is the worst, doing jigsaw puzzles, crossword puzzles, and to this day I do not understand how she gets through Freecell.  (Not once have I made any headway.  Stupid game!)

On Easter, we took it to another level.  There was no simple egg hunt.  No, we had clues.  “Time is running out”, one scrap of paper would say.  So we went to the grandfather clock.  There we would find another scrap suggesting that we travel to the Ivory Coast, which was probably a hint to go look at the piano.  (No elephants were harmed in our hunting.)  You get the idea.  A proposal in my family included a maze.  We are puzzle people.

I was ready to fly home.  The kids were getting loud.  So I grabbed some jellybeans, put them in a bag, and thought about what different places there were and how I could form clues around them.  Of course I used the grandfather clock.  And the piano.  (Tradition should count, darnit.)  I suggested they did not have a remote chance of figuring the clue out.  I instructed them to map out a plan.  Etcetera.  That kept them busy for a solid half hour.  The sugar at the end probably evened up the amount of energy they used running around the house and outside.  Either way, I got to practice my puppet-master ways.  Next stop, those pesky kids and their meddling dog.

Week Eight- Twitter Time

While I was away from home, I heard a patently ridiculous phrase.  A phrase that surprised me.  In context, sure it made sense.  But spoken out loud, it gained a presence that stuck with me.  I knew this phrase could not go unsaid.  So I joined Twitter and shared it.

Now, I have been reluctant to make that final media leap until now.  It feels to me like a never ending barrage of status updates.  If you have the comedic chops of Anna Kendrick, then go for it.  Please.  I like to think I do, but my life is rather tame.

However, I work in customer service.  I walk around downtown.  I hear some stupid phrases.  I enjoy taking things out of context.  So once a week I am going to share these gloriously quirky tidbits of conversation and share them with the masses.  (I used to host a Monday Media section on this site.  Part of that is being revived, with a little video clip on Mondays and pointless trivia on Fridays.)  I will see if I have enough horribly awry phrases and nuggets for three posts a week.

Subscribe or follow along and see if I succeed!  Hey, what else do you have to do while the plane prepares to un-board?

Update 4/20:  I gave up on Twitter.  (Shrug)  It just is not my thing.  Maybe I will try again some other time, but not currently.

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Trying Out: Henry Art and Famous Tattoos (Week 5 & Week 6)

Week Five- Henry Art Gallery

I did not visit many places on campus during my four years at University of Washington.  Sure, I could have strolled through the museum for free, but why do that when you can come back a decade or two later and pay full price?

Now, technically I was set to visit the Burke Museum.  It is near the campus, I researched the hours, and that was the name I had lodged in my brain.  But the bus dropped me off closer to the Henry Art Gallery, and I had not been there either.  So I added Burke to my “stuff I have yet to do, but will do some time this year” list.

On the downside, about a third of the museum was closed for an exhibit installation.  I get it; I have worked in museums, I know you need a period of time in between to take things out and have an empty room.  Because of that situation, they were not charging admission.  They were, however, accepting donations.  Works for me.

Since it was the slow season, there were really only two art installations open.  Well, technically there was a third, but it consisted entirely of a video of a house and one canvas.  The video showed a house constantly under construction.  Doors would open into walls.  Stairs would lead to nowhere.   Walls would start halfway through a room.  It made me antsy just thinking about it (which is probably what the artist wanted).  The canvas next to it was almost blank.  I say “almost”, because the artist put some semen on there and covered it in Vaseline.  The end.  Put two dabs of chemicals on a canvas and walk away.  I received no artistic insight from that.

The main event was probably Chuck Close Photographs.  This Close fellow loves his Polaroids.  He has been taking them for years, and then he tweaks and changes, and often zooms up close for his actual paintings.  Clinton’s noggin appears about three feet by two feet.  Naked people loom over ten stories tall.  And if you ever wanted to see a wall full of self-portraits, then Close is your guy.  I understand his approach.  By getting up in their face, one is able to see the humanity that eludes us when we distance ourselves from people.  I get that.  However, I am more of a landscape-art appreciator.  I like my humans clothed.  Sure, there is a beauty in the human body.  That does not mean that I need to see what is essentially a mural-sized male laying there naked with his genitals dangling.  They posted a sign at the entrance warning of such.  And yes, there was artistry in how he adjusted colors, angles, and materials (even having some photographs made into fabrics).  Still, the prude in me is just fine with women and men wearing clothes.

The first exhibit that I entered was the one that was probably the most controversial.  Trans Hirstory in 99 Objects was a collection of poems, articles, and interviews about transgender folks.  There were cards depicting transgender folks throughout history.  A record played of a famous transgender musician.  Newspaper articles scrolled by of people in the area who had been arrested for dressing up as the other gender.  There was even a series of audio interviews, one of which highlighted a discussion over the phone from a prison.  The installation clearly shows that transgender folks have been treated harshly over the years.  While I thought a few too many exhibits were dependent on monitors (I always prefer paintings to electronic screens), it made for a thought-provoking time.

I am used to larger venues, such as the multi-story Seattle Art Museum.  It certainly was no Smithsonian.  But the Henry Art Gallery certainly tries to provoke and educate with what little space they have.

Week Six- Respecting Emerald City Tattoo

Okay, I have no desire to get a tattoo.  You want to go under the needle?  Fine.  I simply don’t have anything I care about enough to proclaim it.  Plus, it would detract from my “boring” demeanor.

However, I do not like bullies.  And as the news broadcast I watched informed me, there was some serious bullying going on.

Now whether or not you support gay rights; hate speech?  Come now.  Telling someone, “Your days are numbered?”  That is unacceptable.  So the person from Emerald City Tattoo decided to report the hate crime.  And to speak about it on TV and in a public hearing two days later.

And I thought he should be encouraged.  He should get kudos for standing up to those that would threaten him.  Also, the tattoo shop is one that I pass by every day on the bus.  Might as well stop in on the way home.

I walked in the door, asked for the owner, and was told that he was not technically working, but they knew where he was.  So out one door, in another door, and there he was sitting with some of his friends.

Honestly, I should have let him do more of the talking.  I got all speechy.

“Hi, my name is Philip.  Saw you on TV.  Wanted to thank you.  You stood up to bullies.  You stood up for what you believe in.  Kudos”, etc.  I wanted to thank the guy for standing up for himself, but I barely let him get two words in.  Sigh.  Next time I will do better?

He was very gracious.  Thanked me.  Shook my hand.  Accepted my wishes that his talk the next night would go well.

Even if I will not put your art on my bicep or hang it on my walls, I still think expressing yourself is important.

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Poor Service

I am concerned about the lower class these days.  The gap between poor and rich continues to grow.  In my experience, it is becoming more convenient to be rich and the longer lines are saved for those that already struggle.

Want something delivered in the next two hours?  If you shell out a hundred dollars a year, you can have that service.  If you are working two jobs and struggling to get by, then you should go out and get it yourself.  Have the finances to own a fancy phone with spiffy applications?  Then feel free to pre-order your coffee and it will be waiting for you.  Just the standard flip phone?  Well then wait in line.  (Certain apps suggest you can, “skip the line”, but they never dwell on those who are being skipped.  Working in the ritzy business development area?  Pay five dollars each way and you can ride in the special lanes.  Otherwise, feel free to sit in traffic with the rest of the bums.

Some say that the most looked-down on groups are poor people.  Not race, not sexual status; income is the new factor as to how we treat people.  From what I see, I do not have much trouble believing that.

There is at least one person in my circle who appears determined to treat homeless folks differently.  “Sometimes I wonder how many of them are just too lazy to work”, they say.

For example, in my coffee shop we try to keep milk to a reasonable amount.  If you come into our store and ask for a free cup of hot water, then yes, we will probably approach you at the milk station and ask you not to load up on supplemental goodies.  But if you want a little dab of milk in your cup and that is it?  No big deal.  The line I see in the company paperwork states that less than four inches is acceptable.  Over that, folks should be charged.

There is a man with a cane who has been coming in daily for the past few months.  He buys a cup of coffee and then asks us to put the cream in a little cup so he can make his drink at his leisure.  We do not give him gallons of milk.  I am rather sure it works out to less than the four inches.  He pays for his coffee, full price, and treats us respectfully.

Friday was the first time the barista had been at the register when this customer came in.  He asked for a cup of coffee with some milk on the side.  The barista quoted a price.  I tried to mitigate, suggesting from across the room that we normally gave him so little milk that we did not charge extra.  The barista discarded that information.  They decided to charge for an extra cup of milk.

What I overheard:

“That’s $3.12.”

“That’s not what I usually pay.”

“Well it’s $3.12.”

“Who’s your supervisor?”

“I’m the supervisor.”

“Well who’s your manager?”

“I’m going to ask you to leave now.”

“You have to have a manger.  I want their name.”

“You need to leave now.”

“You don’t like me because I have a cane.  I walk a little unsteady so you’re treating me different.”

“You need to leave.”

On the one hand, I feel that the customer was a little overly vocal.  He became loud.  But would any reasonable person act any differently?  Yes, it was a matter of less than a dollar.  Though if I were the customer, I would be more upset at the fact that I was treated differently.

A bit more background information may help.  Yes, the barista is a supervisor.  However, they were performing the duties of a regular worker at the time.  There was another person, the acting supervisor, who was working in the back.  In addition, the store manager was in the backroom as well.

The customer’s response to see a supervisor?  Perfectly reasonable.  The request for the manager’s name?  Also reasonable.  If someone wants to talk to your boss, then you let that happen.  If you are in the wrong, then you might have a “sit down chat” later.  If you are in the right, then the customer gets to talk to the boss and they handle it.  That is why they get the big bucks.

I do not think that the cashier treated the person differently because they have darker skin.  I do not think that the cashier really cared that the customer was using a cane or had some elderly features.  I have the impression that the cashier wanted to exact as much money as they could from a homeless person.

While all this was going on, I struggled not to interfere.  I have no supervisory role whatsoever.  I have about ten years of experience and over a decade of age over the cashier.  Yet I have no disciplinary power over them.  I had the strong impression that any attempt I made was only going to make things worse.  They had already vetoed the offer I made about not charging.  It was not my floor; not my shift to rule over.  However I was strongly on the customer’s side.

Seeing that the scene was not resolving itself, my other coworker went to the back and grabbed the actual supervisor to go help the cashier and the customer.  That was soon followed by the manager.  The situation never really ended to my satisfaction.  Twice I walked around our food court area, trying to find the customer and check in with him.  Officially, there was not much I could do.  I could tell my manager that I was upset, but that person is brand new to the store.  I do not trust them yet.

What frustrated me, besides the apparent injustice playing out me before me, was how powerless I felt.  I obviously could not talk the cashier back to the logical side.  Once all the bosses had gone from the back room to the floor, I went to the now-vacant back and tried some prayer.  All morning I had gotten the nudge to root for peace.  And now that some biased attacks were happening, I tried praying for more peace.  But I never got the resolution I wanted.  Things didn’t, “work out.”

To make things even more fun, I had invited the cashier to come see a movie with me the day before.  We were going to the theater right after work.  I did not say many friendly things to say to them at the theater, but I tried to love them despite my irritation at their behavior only hours ago.

The next day, I was happy when the customer came back.  He asked for the milk to be put in the cup.  “Let’s see if we can avoid any trouble”, he said.  I asked him his name.  I told him that he had always treated me well.  I voiced my hope that he would still feel welcome in the store.  And no, I did not charge him for his coffee that day.  The company can eat that one for the way he was talked to.  It was the least I could do.

I was taught to love everybody; especially those that have life much harder than I do.  You want to pick on someone who sleeps outside in the winter weather?  Who does not have pockets full of bills but manages to have enough to pay his way through the coffee line?  You do not have to be best buddies with the world, but society is judged by how we treat the “least” of ours.  And what I saw could have used some improvement.

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