Friday
November 4, 2005

SGN.org
Volume 33
Issue 44

 
 
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Not Thinking Straight by Madelyn Arnold
Most Liveable City
Gay magazines promote Seattle as one of the best places to be a Gay woman, though I can't say that I followed advice like that; I did as the majority of (acquired) S(e)at(t)ellites do: We were just moving West and finally ran out of country. Oh sure, some came to await deployment or rivet airplanes, but a remarkable number of us merely lemminged out here.

Perhaps, even now, Lesbians are headed here under the impression that Seattle is "Gay perfection." If they're from the country, they won't be far wrong, but if they're from a city... Seattle is not New York or San Francisco. Well enough. But neither is it Houston, Tucson, or Fort Wayne, Indiana. And just when it has you lulled into a pleasant stupor, you notice that police disproportionately shoot minorities, and that occasionally, thugs gang rape guys touring Volunteer Park. And that Washington is still a dry state in disguise. Most differences, however, are stranger, if not subtle.

YAY TEAM

It's painful for me to acknowledge, but most Lesbians I have met are sports conscious, but this may just be the place. For one thing, Seattle seems to have taken the health craze to heart. Of course, I didn't know it was popular when it started: I had been here about 13 hours and was emerging onto Ravenna Boulevard from a side street - there in front of me more than a dozen people running like the devil from under the 65th Street on-ramp. It was 1975, and the only time I had ever seen adults run was from riots, demonstrations, and - in particular - gunfire. Whenever I run (or ran) I fall down. So, I did the next best thing: I panicked.

Of course, by now the jogging craze has leaked all over the nation, and in Seattle, jogging is comparatively safe (except on the Eastside). Where I grew up, it was not reasonable for women to walk down their own streets, let alone draw attention to themselves by skipping, or running, or hopping or such. Any attention drawn was negative attention. Here, people dressed like bums or, perhaps, Flash Gordon, expect to barrel down sidewalks, fields and trails flattening children and cripples, from about 5 a.m. to several hours past midnight. Flash Gordon also rides a bicycle (on which it can be seen that he is anatomically correct). One can come out here and be athletic properly.

But there's something about Seattle males. When I first got here, I thought that most men looked like children. Even the ones with beards. After a while, I finally figured out why. The average man out here didn't have a grown man's girth. And since in the land of back-home the only men I knew who had cared bout their weight had been Gay, I quite naturally overestimated the number of Seattle queers... Add that to the fact that straight women here tend to dress like boys (to exercise or otherwise), I overestimated the general number of Gays. It's usually good to go where there are people of one's own kind, but, dancing aside...

THE BLUEST SKIES YOU'VE EVER SEEN ARE PROBABLY ELSEWHERE

Washington is carved into two unequal parts: Coastal, with much-vaunted beaches and seacraft; and transmontane, east of the Cascade Mountains. The latter has actual weather - lightning, thunder, torrential rain, snow, blizzards, heat waves, droughts, arctic winds, etc.. Seattle has... well, thick air. This is true even with global warming. There was a time when I registered shock at a phrase like: "Light rain, followed by showers." What?

There are more descriptions for wetness descending than the Mongols have for ponies, such as: Light mist, mist, heavy mist, fog, patchy fog, heavy fog, sprinkles, showers, light rain, rain, freezing rain, some showers, showerlike activity, rain followed by showers, heavy rain, thundershowers, snowshowers, sunbreaks and, rarely, snow. There's also overcast and sunny - used like saffron in a casserole.

What all this means is that the average Seattle day begins overcast and by afternoon it has either rained or is raining. Fall and winter frequently begin with fog, are followed by a degree of wetness, and does it all again the next day. In spring and summer, there is usually less fog, though, by afternoon an evil yellow star may steam the atmosphere above 65 degrees F. I join my neighbors in deploring heat above 70 degrees - but we're seeing more of it.

With all our dark dankness, we probably need caffeine; so you can get espresso in a phone booth during a "snow shower."

LANGUAGE: A LOVE THAT DARE NOT SPEAK

The other day a new arrival blurted out that she had never been so unpopular as she felt in Seattle. What was wrong? In New York people had loved her sense of humor. Yet, when she made a joke at work, people starred the way you do at someone who collects pancakes. Well, the fastest way to be carried to a shrink is to leak bleak humor - the kind you live with in New York. You'll be seen as under-peppy. Like, depressed.

Now, this could sound a little indelicate, so I will put the explanation first. In the development of the northeastern USA, many groups of people who greatly respected learning poured their expectations into the school systems, and, as a result, no matter what your people's language or pronunciation, you were expected to emerge from high school speaking the peculiar American version of English. If you finished college, you had a tendency to sound absolutely Educated. Working-class or middle-class or other, schools worked on vocabulary and selection.

The Northwest's greatest influences came from northern Europe, where it was not unusual for aspiring scholars to be mentioned in the same tone as daughters running off with the Hootchie Cootchie man. As a consequence, outlanders tend to be surprised when apparently middle-class, well-dressed, confident Seattlites don't discriminate among similar sounding words. This has nothing to do with wits, it's an inculcated lack of interest.

I have heard a physician use *enervated* instead of *innervated*, and many use *disinterested* to mean *uninterested*, or *realism* to mean *realistic* and *farm* to mean *estate*. Some time back I was having

a disagreement with my (Ph.D.) boss, and he burst: "Why you are so reactionary!" "Reactionary!" I snapped - then realized what he meant. "Do you mean reactive?" I said; and he waved it away with "Whatever." Which is another thing. When Seattlites mean "Who cares?" they say "Whatever."

Certainly, I'm not alone in noticing that TV announcers misuse, and outright abuse, our language these days. Of course, most programs are beamed from the West - not the East - Coast, now.

It's not that local people are not proud, it's that they're proud of other than intellect. They're proud that they can run around and get dusty, and their most creative use of language is for weather reports - although it is common for people to tell each other that they're poets. Not everyone in the world who water-colors claims to be a painter. That's because there's still respect for painting. From that, you may extrapolate how many folks read poetry as opposed to think they write it. Maybe it's the rain.

So, all you sisters and brothers who are moving toward Seattle: You'll like our softball games, ballroom dancing, soccer, basketball, bowling and mellow bars. But if you're a scholar - a wit or an ingenue - maybe you should think of New York or Chicago. Those are pretty good places to be smart as well as Gay...

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