Getting to Know Seattle: Walk to the Gym

I went back and forth over the walk-to gym with clean, up-to-date equipment but not much else in terms of spinning classes or pool or anything v. the drive-to chi chi gym with everything. Finally, I chose the walk-to gym. I think it was the right decision. I’m enjoying working out there. I’m easily the oldest person on the floor at the mid-morning time I go, which was not true at the downtown YMCA. From the number of young people there mid-morning, I’d have to guess that a lot of Seattle-ites work from home and can fit in a gym workout as a break from what may be a very early start. The atmosphere on the gym floor is good, respectful. Working in is easy. People smile, and chat. I like the vibe.

The gym is about a ten minute walk from my house, much shorter than the 25 minute walk to the downtown Y from the apartment. Ten minutes still gives me time to notice things, like a veritable army of ants crossing the sidewalk.

There were thousands of ants in this one spot. I’m fascinated, as I shoot the pic, at whatever they are doing, how they do it in tandem, and how indifferent they are to my stepping over them. I’m sure someone who specializes in insect behavior could provide precise answers. They were stretched out from one side of the walk to the other, and clearly on a mission.


I don’t agree with conservatives on much, but I agree with David Frum’s opinion piece in the Atlantic. Frum is writing about a book by Laurence Tribe, one of the country’s leading constitutional scholars, and his former student Joshua Matz. Their conclusion is that impeachment of a president, even when it may be warranted, is a dangerous thing.

I think Trump is doing enormous damage to our country, to democratic norms and values, to our standing in the world, and to innocent people who are suffering under his racist and xenophobic administration. I think Trump is making a mockery of the presidency with his in-your-face decision to use the office to enrich himself and his family.

But an impeachment would give us what, Mike Pence? Maybe Pence would pick someone like uber-hawk Nikki Haley as vice president. They look more normal than Trump and so would attract more Republican votes, but their ultra conservative policies are no less a horror show. I see no benefit to going from bad to bad.

Tribe’s point is different. He says that impeachment, absent a bipartisan consensus, is too damaging a step. He’s probably right. The 40% or so who uncritically support Trump, and vow to do so in 2020 regardless of anything that happens between now and then, would view impeachment as an attempt to overturn the election — albeit an election that looks more and more as if it was unduly influenced by foreign powers. I don’t think we ever get those people back on board, so the only solution is to muster enough other voters to get Trump and his cronies out of office.

Twenty twenty sounds awfully far away.

Deportation: A Very Personal Conversation

The sequel to CBS’s popular series The Good Wife is called The Good Fight, and I have become a fan. The next-to-last episode, which began streaming last Sunday, is the chilling case of a young black investigator caught up in deportation proceedings by ICE. The story is frightening, and all too real and believable.

I have a deportation conversation happening much closer to home. The woman who cleans my house is Salvadoran. She and her husband are here legally; they have papers allowing them to be here and to work. Their young daughters are American citizens. But protections for Salvadorans fleeing violence in their country have been ended by the Trump administration. In 2019, she and her family expect to have to return to their village in El Salvador.

An elderly neighbor of her mother’s, who lives in the village, was thought by gang members to have seen something she shouldn’t. They came for her at midnight, and her body was found the next morning in a ditch, two bullets in her head.

Trump supporters would say that violence in El Salvador isn’t our problem, and perhaps it isn’t. But we are a large and rich country. We admitted this family in recognition of the threat to their lives, which apparently has not abated. They work. They pay taxes. They contribute to our culture. Their daughters are Americans, like us.

And she sits at my kitchen counter, eating lunch, talking about her fears and their  reluctant preparations.

I am ashamed of my country.

Next Act for Barack and Michelle Obama

I quite love that Barack and Michelle Obama are having an interesting and highly creative next act. They are becoming TV and film producers for Netflix. They have a lot to say, and a lot of people who want to hear them. I remember seeing a documentary about Michelle Obama as First Lady, traveling to meet young girls in Africa to encourage them to stay in school. She was in the company of classy gal pals, like Meryl Streep. I hope that inspiring program gives us an inkling of what kind of programming the Obamas might do next.

Trump has done his best to draw Barack Obama into a tit-for-tat over the presidential legacy, which Obama has studiously ignored. He gave us eight years of class, integrity, intelligence, and competence in the Oval Office, and he has the ability to move on. What an emotionally healthy man. Trump, by contrast, never lets anything go. And it’s taken him under two years to turn the Oval Office into a place of self-enriching sleaze and corruption, never mind incompetence.

Here’s the message the Obamas are giving us in this dark time: you do your thing, you do your best, and you move on. I like it.

Getting to Know Seattle: The Pantry

Seattle has no shortage of extraordinary, innovative places to eat. A new one to me, site of Matt’s 40th birthday party, is The Pantry in the Ballard neighborhood of the city. The Pantry is a small place, with one long table in the center, a fixed menu, and the multiple-course meal is cooked and served right there. I gather The Pantry also offers cooking classes, which sell out as soon as they are posted — I think I heard one server say they offered 45 or more classes each month.

We had enough family and friends gathered to take over the whole place, which was really fun. A server greeted each person arriving with a glass of bubbly, and hot appetizers were passed while we were outdoors on the small patio. I wish I had grabbed a menu. One was a spectacular arancini, another geoduck on a home made potato chip, and a third was some sort of lightly battered fritter. When we sat down there was a delicious salad, a hot veggie course, and then the main: lightly done fresh salmon with pasta in a delightful lemon sauce. Wine pairings as appropriate, liberally poured. The dessert was a coconut creme pudding — it had a fancier name — with liquored fruit and additional toasted coconut on top. Really good coffee.

The whole thing took 3 1/2 hours, as a leisurely and well-enjoyed meal should — this is the antithesis of fast food.

Most of us took an Uber or Lyft there and back, to account for the alcohol. I didn’t have that much to drink — my body can’t tolerate it any more — but I was surely glad to be taken home rather than driving.

Matt’s birthday would have been special in any case, but The Pantry was a real treat. Highly recommend if you find your way to Seattle.


Rochester friend J. sent me sunflower seeds as a housewarming gift. Just an update: there were six seeds, and two started to grow and then withered. The other four are doing great. I’m optimistic. 🙂

Trump and the Economy

Much of the difficulty in building consensus around Trump’s performance in office is his followers’ resistance to facts. They prefer his bombast, like the constant assertion that under his presidency the economy is the best it’s been in a long time, or ever. According to Brookings, not so.

While some hyperbole is a matter of opinion, Trump’s claim that his stewardship of the economy puts his predecessors to shame can be checked by public information that is readily available to all. In fact, the data show that compared to his predecessors, Trump’s record so far falls somewhere between unremarkable and substandard. Moreover, other economic data suggest that the current expansion will likely wind down before his term ends, and his boasting will ring hollow once the economy slips into recession.”

If the country ever recovers from Trump’s assault on truthfulness, not to mention integrity and decency, pundits will write a lot about the phenomenon of perfectly intelligent people willingly suspending their critical thinking faculties in order to bolster his reality TV presidency. I don’t get it myself.

Getting to Know Seattle: Too Expensive to Live Here

A second friend has just told me that she and her longtime partner are leaving Seattle because it’s too expensive to live here. K. owns her condo and her partner contributes to expenses, but rising condo fees and unpredictable assessments have made staying there untenable. They are moving to Walla Walla, a college town about four hours southeast of Seattle. Walla Walla is much less expensive, the pace of living is slower, and as a college town, there are a lot of cultural and educational events to make life interesting.

My former hometown of Rochester, NY, was struggling to revitalize a pretty dead downtown after the demise of Kodak and the loss of most of Xerox, Gannett, Bausch and Lomb, French’s Mustard to other iconic companies. Seattle is at the opposite extreme, struggling to control the bad effects of rapid growth: constant traffic, rising prices, and a surge in homelessness.

This wonderful city can’t become a place where only the young, the rich, and the tech-savvy can afford to live.