17 April 2013

Rat

There's this undercurrent of fear in Seattle, in certain circles anyway, that the city is losing its grit and charm. Rents are up, offices are replacing warehouses, and NOTICE OF LAND USE signs invariably announce the replacing some smaller structure with a seven-story apartment building with ground-level retail.

I work at the epicenter of one of the more impacted neighborhoods in the city. Depending on who you believe it's either an erstwhile dead warehouse district that now bustles with the activity of medical and software offices or a great place for antiques and dive bars ruined by senseless demolition and yuppification. Still being new to the city, my own frame of reference is both limited and meaningless. However, in any event, it has a pristine newness to it that's hard to find in the rest of the city.

But the other night, I was walking home from a bar and realized I needed to pee something fierce. I was really close to my office and figured I'd swing by there. But that's actually way too casual a way to put it. I was running there, quite literally, in fear of disastrous consequences.

I was running by a small bush when I got the distinct feeling that something collided with my foot. I didn't really pay it much mind, I figured it was probably trash or a branch or something. But that changed quickly. There was an awful piecing squealing sound. What I had kicked was definitely alive, some fucking mouse or rat or possum.  And it was sounding a warning to its kind, maybe even making one last agonized cry, or maybe screeching at me with pure contempt. For a brief moment I stopped dead in my tracks, before my bladder forced me on.

By the time I made my way back past the spot, there were no clues of what happened. But, fuck proof, I kicked a rat walking home from a bar. And no thoughts were had about $10 food truck burgers, or streetcars, or ground-level retail, because on that day Seattle felt as gritty as fuck.

06 April 2013

What is the saddest song in the English language?

The saddest song in the English language is the The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down by The Band. The song is intended to be a Confederate soldier's depiction of the suffering and hopelessness in the closing days of the Civil War. No Confederate sympathies here, but in spite of that, the story of some guy fighting on the wrong side of history manages to be ridiculously sad.

The key element is the character of Virgil Caine, the soldier in question. Virgil seems to be a low level guy working on supply lane between Danville and Richmond. Personally, he's suffered considerably. His brother had been killed in the war. Virgil's not fairing a whole lot better, as he describes himself and those around him as "hungry, just barely alive".

Virgil's a fairly simple guy. He comes from a line of farmers and it seems like its of the sustenance farming variety; he isn't above chopping wood for some extra cash. Virgil probably doesn't really stand to gain much from the war. It's basically impossible to assign a single cause to the Civil War, but whether you're in the slavery, states' rights, or tariffs camp the war isn't about improving life for Virgil. He's tied to the conflict merely because he's tied to the land.

Virgil's fucked. The only way to end his suffering will be that his side loses. And through all this, he's utterly powerless. The supply train he's on is continuously having its tracks torn up by the Union troops. The situation is perfectly futile. He's in a conflict where he can gain nothing, has already lost basically everything, and can't do anything. And it's playing out over and over again.

Pretty fucking sad.