Beware the ides of March

Beware the ides of March

This post won't live up to that title. I had my reasons, though. It is March, I'm anxious about the competing trajectories of COVID variants vs. vaccinations (that's a lot of v's...I think I prefer vees), and I'm going to post a link to an opinion piece about the Roman Empire after Pompeii.

I love late February, early March weather in Seattle. Today was another day of brilliant sunshine, hail, gloomy rain, precipitous drops in temperature (will look up precipitous after this to see if I used it correctly), and that most perfect of weather conditions - light rain while also bright and sunny. I love the rain + sun combination, and I was lucky to be walking along Pike when it happened.

I was walking around and talking to my friend Kate. I think my texting as preferred communication days are well behind me. I used to love texting. Efficient, concise. There's a beauty in an economy of words. But slowly, very slowly, over the past 10 years I've watched as we do everything we can to avoid actually having to speak with people.

I remember pretty vividly a discussion with a friend of mine a couple of years ago that made me realize I wanted to stay in the talk to people, brick and mortar realm. He was extolling the virtues of Stitch and Amazon Prime. They're great! With Stitch, they get to know your clothing preferences, and they send you items based on that profile. With Amazon, I can get all the monthly necessities shipped to me on a schedule. I never have to set foot in a store.

Sounds awful.

I should add a couple of lines in his defense. He's one of the hardest working, most efficient people I know. Engineer, go figure, right? He makes use of those tools to maximize his scarce free time, allowing him to use those precious moments to spend time with people and to pursue activities that make him happy. It's not at all an attempt to avoid ever having to interact with people.

I'm not an ultra efficient engineer. I already have reclusive tendencies. I don't need to reinforce them. Besides, I have never had good experiences with online shopping.

The discussion reminded me of an article I read in - hmmm - the late 80s or early 90s? Doesn't matter. The article lamented the development of automatic garage doors. Ahh, the American dream. Wake up, have a cup of coffee, get in your car, hit the garage door button, pull out, go to work, return home, open the garage, pull in, close the garage, pour a martini. You never had to talk to Marge next door.

Of course I'm a hypocrite. There are about 10 units in my building. I don't know any of my neighbors. The last neighbors I knew moved to Magnolia. We were friendly in rare hallway passings, but we all adhered to the Seattle Conversation Timer. Man I loved their dog, but he was a straight F student at dog school.

When I was working in the Middle East and North Africa I had a Qur'an. I'm embarrassed by how little I read it, and I can't remember if I actually read this or heard it in Arabic class - there's an importance placed on knowing one's neighbors to the left, right, front, and back. Ignorantly referring to a religious text is always a bad idea. If I'm wrong on the facts, mea culpa, but I think there's wisdom in the message regardless. So much of the anger and invective we hurl at one another or revel in online melts away at the local level. (Twitter and Facebook will be our undoing.)

Segue. Do you hear that? Me neither. It's 0300, and Seattle is blissfully dead quiet. There's an occasional pitter of a rain drop, followed moments later by a quiet patter. It reminds me of that Deep Thoughts by Jack Handy quote (paraphrased): When a child asks me why it rains, I like to tell them that they made God cry.

Undo the segues. It was great talking to Kate. Her Midwestern work ethic and sticktoitiveness is paying dividends. I think that's good timing. We're not out of the woods on the pandemic or the problems facing this country, but putting one foot in front of the other is the best thing we can do. This pandemic will end, and I hope we all get the ship pointed in the right direction as we emerge from the storm. I don't do figurative well, so forgive me if that's pretty cheesy. But I do hope your ship, boat, or skateboard is pointed in the right direction for you.

I didn't intend on staying up this late. I never do. I should wrap things up. I was walking by Cal Anderson Park / Bobby Morris and talking to Kate when I saw a protest march on Pine. After the call I walked around trying to find out where they went. I spotted the trailing police vehicles heading south on 12th and followed.

It's been a while since I've taken photos at protests. There's a lot to navigate, mainly suspicion. I can't really understand the suspicion. That's not accurate. I can understand the suspicion, but I can't understand how it's directed.

I caught up with the protest on 12th near the King County Juvenile Detention center. The protesters had stopped in an intersection. They had some trailing vehicles for safety. To the north and south there were police vehicles and bicycle police. Standard stuff. I was standing off to the side with my small camera with a 50mm-equivalent lens. An invasive species.

I think most of the protest's perimeter walkers realized that my lens cap was on and that I wasn't trying to take identifying photos. But there was one guy in a black rain jacket and khakis who had a camera and did a couple of fly bys. I waited until they started walking again to get a distanced shot from behind.

Black Lives Matter, Capitol Hill, Seattle, 7 March 2021.

I followed the protest up the hill. The guy in the khaki pants fell in behind me. We kept walking for a block and I stopped to let him catch up at an intersection. Let's get this over with. He stopped next to me.

"You working or just checking it out?"

"I'm a freelancer. I wish I were working. How about you?"

"Personal project, I'm not on a deadline."

"I'm Scott."


"Nice to meet you."

"You, too. Good luck. It's tough to get pictures."

"Yea. People are understandably spooked. Just hoping to get a wide shot from behind, no faces."

I'm not sure if he was a photographer or part of the protest's security. I recognize a lot of the local photographers. He was polite but a little sketchy, so I'm guessing he was filling some sort of security role. If so, that's understandable, and they're smart to do it, but I think their efforts are misplaced. The protesters spent at least 30 minutes in the intersection near the juvenile detention facility. That building has loads of cameras. There were police SUVs with tinted windows to the north and south of the protesters. Someone could camp out in there with a 400mm lens and tell you if you need to change your skincare regimen. The protesters in the safety vehicles got out to socialize and stay warm...and you know what that means...out came the phones, the greatest gift to surveillance ever invented. I don't mind scrutiny and suspicion, but I can't see the logic behind a lot of it.

Black Lives Matter, Capitol Hill, Seattle, 7 March 2021.
Heading home. Capitol Hill, Seattle, March 2021.

Still here? I wandered around for a bit after the protest and ended up on 15th. I was hungry, but nothing appealed. I ducked into Agora to check it out. That was a mistake. I love little shops like that. Unfortunately, I went outside the dinner budget. I got some boquerones, pesto, tzatziki, and crackers. Did a number on the tzatziki. I really need to find or make some haydarī. Can't wait to have the boquerones tomorrow.

Almost forgot the Pompeii article. I really enjoyed that article. There were several points I wanted to see debated or downright argued. Too tired, though. I hope you're doing well, hang in there.