Friday, November 19, 2004

Offensive Driving II

Read my first report here.  This time it wasn’t with a UPS truck; it was with a school bus.  Close to the same area, though, and same time of day (9:45 am).

Two lanes turn left from Rainier Avenue onto Dearborn.  Half a mile later, a left turn from Dearborn goes onto the I-90 bypass of I-5.  There is a two-way turn lane on Dearborn which becomes the left turn to the onramp.

I turned from the leftmost of the two lanes on Rainier into the leftmost of the lanes on Dearborn.  A school bus turned from the rightmost of the two lanes into the rightmost lane on Dearborn.  About half a block on Dearborn, the driver (I’ve since learned the driver was female; I only mention that so I can use a pronoun for the rest of this) realized she needed to get into the left lane to eventually get onto I-90, and she started to change lanes.

At first, she just edged into the lane a little, as though dodging around a parked car.  Once I was up almost parallel with her (she could probably see the hood of my car by looking directly down from her seat, but I may have been in a bit of a blind spot), she was signaling.  (She may have been signaling before that.  I don’t remember such, but it may have happened.)  At that point, we were stopped at a stoplight, and she was only a foot or so into my lane.  The only way for me to let her in without her hitting my car would have been to go into reverse, which is not smart in the left lane on city streets.  She edged in a little more, I honked, and I dodged around her.  (At this point, I saw that there were no cars immediately behind me; they had all held back to let her change lanes.)

A kid in the bus seated directly behind her put down his window and started yelling at me (I couldn’t hear what he said, but I can imagine it; I think he may have been the only other person on the bus, but I couldn't really tell).  She then laid on her horn for 5 seconds or more; I flipped her off, naturally.  She then gunned the bus (started to speed) and pulled into the two-way turn lane (maybe 1/4 mile before it becomes a left turn lane for the onramp), intending to at least race up to the onramp, but possibly to either pull up next to me and yell at me (or who knows what!) or else pull alongside me and prevent me from getting in the turn lane myself.  So I had to speed a little myself to ensure I got into the lane.

Once on the onramp, the bus fell back as much as 1/4 mile, since it just didn’t have the oomph that a smaller vehicle does.  Once onto the bypass, though, she picked up speed again — almost certainly speeding, since I was at or near the speed limit.  Three lanes merge into one to enter I-5, and she got in the right-hand lane, the second to merge, and rather than merging at a reasonable time, pushed the bus ahead to merge only when the two lanes collapsed together.  My belief is that she was trying to catch me.

Once on I-5, again at the speed limit, I crossed several lanes of traffic to get to my left-side exit at Mercer.  She continued speeding, pulling parallel to me, but a couple lanes over.  Glances to my right (trying not to impede my driving) showed the kid flipping me off and gave me the impression that she was on the phone (presumably to report the incident).  As a result, I noted the bus company and number, pulled out my cell, and left a message at work to report the incident myself.

When I called and spoke to the supervisor (also female; use those pronouns!), I found that indeed, the incident had been reported, and the supervisor verbally agreed with me that it sounded like there was some aggression and borderline reckless driving occurring (and with kids on board, that’s worse).  (I note that she verbally agreed with me; you can never tell over the phone that they are not just nodding and brushing you off.)  She promised that the driver would receive some additional training or something to that effect.  I did my best to be moderately apologetic and to admit my own part in the incident (the possible lack of realization that she was signaling to change lanes until I was right next to her).

The supervisor also refrained from take my name and contact number, lest it somehow get into the wrong hands and result in some form of retaliation.  I suppose that’s a good thing, although it does restrict any paper trail.  Ah well, I’ve done what I can.  I hold no malice toward the driver, and I apologize for my portion of the incident.  I hope she merely gets a “talking to” and maybe a short training session, and not any lasting job impact.

Updated on May 25, 2011

Tuesday, November 9, 2004

The Weight of a Quilt

Two months ago, on September 12, I went to the Seattle Center to view the WTC / Pentagon / Pennsylvania Memorial Quilt, and I volunteered some time while I was there.  I came back with somewhat conflicted feelings, rather underwhelmed by the display.

Part of it is that I don’t know anyone who was killed (or injured; how many survived but were hurt?) in the September 11 attacks.  The event remains for me very much something which occurred in the distance, not unlike the War in Iraq.  The only two panels which had any real impact were one which was just for children who were killed, and one which include Father Mychal Judge and Mark Bingham (and by extension, was probably intended for all gay and lesbian victims).  These last were the closest to being people I know; they were at least people whose names I knew.  There were also a few squares which had some truly innovative work on them, and some panels with extras, such as the lyrics to America the Beautiful stitched into the panel, but even those were interesting to me but not moving.

The largest part of my ambivalence, though, is that quilt memorials have been done before, and done both better and bigger.  Compared to the Names Project’s AIDS Quilt, this is but a shadow of the earlier one.
  • The WTC Quilt took up the space of a large ballroom (albeit hung vertically, and back to back, which reduced the space required by a factor of probably 6 or 8), while the AIDS quilt covered the entire Mall in Washington DC and was laid on the ground.
  • The WTC Quilt uses 25 quilt squares per panel, while the AIDS Quilt uses only 8.  Is that 3 times more impact per panel?  Or only 1/3 as much, since the pieces are smaller?
  • The WTC Quilt largely uses traditional quilting methods and patterns, and mostly limited the colors to a patriotic red, white/cream, and blue; only a few of the quilts included other fabrics or fabric-printed photos.  The AIDS Quilt is a cacophony of colors, materials, and imagery.  As a result, pieces of the AIDS Quilt stand out very strongly, while the WTC Quilt fades into a sea of sameness.  Even standing in front of the right panel, finding a square for a particular person is difficult, and once found, it’s a let down because there’s nothing personal about it: just a quilted square with a name scribbled on it.  (This strengthens the randomness of the attacks, perhaps, but doesn’t really give you a reason to look at more than a fragment of the whole display.)
  • Panels in the AIDS Quilt were usually made by lovers, friends, or family of the deceased.  You can feel the love and the pain that went into every panel, producing a memorial to each person.  With the WTC Quilt, most of the panels were done by people with no direct connection to the attacks.  The panels were largely done blindly, not attached to a name (even to a specific name the quilter knew nothing about).  The WTC Quilt comes off somewhat generic and cold as a result.
  • Not that I wish that more famous people had died in the September 11 attacks, but much of the reason to see the AIDS Quilt, if not to see someone you know, is to see someone you know of.  Celebrity is a touchstone, and it’s a great way to educate.  The reason to see the WTC Quilt is to see the quilt; the reason to see the AIDS Quilt is to see someone’s quilt.
In no way do I want to say that the WTC Quilt is bad or poorly thought out.  It is what it is, and it certainly has a power to it.  (And both memorials utilize an American artform, as well.)  But just as my ability to publicly grieve at yet another death faded over the 1990s as friends and acquaintances succumbed to AIDS (and as half my own family died of mostly age-related causes), so too has my ability to be awestruck by the immensity of such a memorial gone away.  I’ve seen displays of the AIDS Quilt — and outright cried the first time, and halfway wish I had been able to see a full display in DC (but halfway don’t) — and I donated money to the NAMES Project for years.  The WTC Quilt cannot compare, in any direction.

I stopped donating to the NAMES Project in the late 1990s when I recognized that AIDS was not, should not be the centerpiece of the gay community.  A friend and dance partner of mine — Parm Nelson — died in the mid/late 90s, not of AIDS but of melanoma… of cancer.  (And I got to be the one to call everyone in our dance troupe to tell them the news.)  A major tragedy for those who knew and loved him, but is there a quilt panel for Parm?  Nope.  No such memorial for gays who merely died of common ailments, almost as though if it wasn’t AIDS, it wasn’t worth dealing with.  (My choice to no longer donate to the NAMES Project was purely from my own growth, not from any failing of that organization.)  Many organizations in our community have had to and are still having to deal with the fact that, as AIDS becomes less of a deadly immediacy, their structures being built solely on that disease become unstable, unfunded, and less vital to the community.

Updated on April 17, 2006
Comment by Sid M. (Bellingham, WA)

Hi… I recently read your web-log <not blog> and see that your were a friend of Parm Nelson.

I was a pledge  brother of Parm’s at Sigma Nu — University of Idaho and sadly had reconnected with him after many years just before he died.  We were both deeply in the closet then, but in retrospect I think we both “knew”.

I was curious what ever happened to his partner?  I talked him several times but was never able to convey my condolences.

Anyhow, quilt, or no quilt, Parm remains in our memories.

Updated on June 2, 2011
By being presented vertically, the WTC Quilt encouraged people to encounter it in the same way as art in a museum — at face level and with nothing beyond/behind it but a flat surface.  The AIDS Quilt was typically presented horizontally, at foot level.  To encounter the panels, you had to look down and sometimes even kneel.  And you had an awareness of people on the other side of the panel, in the next row, and or the entire scope of the display at hand, be it in a hall or on The Mall.  Brilliance on the part of the AIDS Quilt display designers, exponentially increasing the impact of the display.

The 2004 Presidential Election (joke)

Dr. Seuss wrote a children’s book about the 2004 Presidential Election:
One State, Two State, Red State, Blue State

Wednesday, November 3, 2004

Selection 2004: Making Lemonade

  • Even in Mississippi, at least 14% of people thought that preventing gay marriage via constitutional amendment was a really stupid idea.
  • Pete Coors lost.
  • Seattle’s monorail is back on track, and we’ll clean up Hanford, and we won’t have video slots in every bar and convenience store (and Tim Eynman lost again), and we won’t have a sales tax increase to pay for an undefined education “trust fund”.

Updated on May 31, 2011

The monorail later got repealed again and has not resurrected.  But we do now have Light Rail from downtown to the airport, and they will be extending that to the University of Washington and (we hope) up the East Side to Bellevue.  And a trolley from downtown to South Lake Union (and the old monorail from downtown to the Seattle Center).  And they are now starting on a streetcar from Pioneer Square (and past Light Rail in the International District) to Capitol Hill, due to be done in late 2012.