High School Kids and Uber Eats

Well, it’s not only high school kids who are tempted to replace school cafeteria food with UberEats or one of the other app-activated delivery services. Any kid with a cell phone and a lunch period can do it.


When I lived in my Belltown apartment building with mostly young neighbors, you could get run over between 6pm and 8pm by the number of fast delivery food service people beating a path to the concierge desk with carefully wrapped bags of microwaveable gourmet take-out. Heaven forbid you should have an emergency leak or something during that time. Building staff were entirely occupied being the conduits for Seattle’s vast array of online food vendors.

I can well imagine why busy high school front offices are loathe to be in that role. Then there is all the added mess from the discarded containers, greasy wrappings and leftover partially consumed food items. Perhaps most importantly, school food services make some attempt to provide lunches that are nutritionally balanced and healthy for students.

This is probably a natural extension in some ways for students used to ordering things online. But no, schools can’t become food delivery heaven. Too chaotic, too unhealthy for students favoring greasy burgers and salty fries every day, and too unfair to the kids without the means to tap an app just because the day’s cafeteria menu doesn’t excite.

Getting to Know Seattle: Rock n’ Roll Marathon

Rock n’ Roll Marathon is a national franchise, so the race happens in many cities during the summer months. Sunday was Seattle’s turn.

The race came right by my house, and I’m astonished at how many people tackled this super hilly challenge. The runners came right by my street, a steady stream of them for a couple of hours. They came up the back end of Queen Anne hill, which means they ran down the super steep seven blocks going into the city. Running downhill is really hard on the shins.

Early risers and dog walkers were along the route to cheer them on.

Seattle is an outdoorsy city, and this race has lots of appeal for runners and race watchers alike. Great kickoff to the summer season.

There was actually a young-ish woman, but old enough to know better, standing on the sidewalk in front of my house screaming “f***ing awesome” in a loud screechy voice as people passed. Sigh. I hardly know what to say. One of the race monitors finally went up and asked her to move along.

“Back Row America”

The phrase “back row America” in the London Guardian caught my eye. The article is about American towns and cities that remain unaffected by the economic boom. The focus in this piece is on Gary, Indiana — the state where Mike Pence was governor, if you recall.

The author, Chris Arnade, has a new book, Dignity, from which this article is drawn.

In back row America McDonalds, which is likely to be just down the street from WalMart, a bail bondsman, several payday loan companies, and a pawn shop, is the town’s de facto community center. People sit there all day, out of the harsh weather, in a social environment with access to coffee and cheap food. They play dominoes, read the Bible, stare through big glass windows into the wrecked neighborhoods that used to thrive when Gary was an industrial city. Homeless people use the rest room and wash out their clothes, drying things with the hand drier mounted on the wall.

Back row American sounds unrelievedly depressing. No wonder people turn to drugs.

At another table is an older man about Sylvester’s age, dressed entirely in white except for a black Stetson. He introduces himself as Jesus Christ, without any hint of craziness. He is friendly and in the mood to chat, talking about his past, talking about his work.

“I grew up here, only went away to do two years in the army, then worked for Ford Motors for 18.9 years.” Like Sylvester, he talks about how Gary was when he was younger, about the bars, the clubs, the gambling. When he is done, I ask him if he is religious. He stops.

Well, I believe in reading the Bible.”

I ask him why he goes by Jesus Christ, and he pulls out his wallet and shows me his driver’s license and bank card – both with the name Jesus Christ.

Before I leave, I ask him one last question: “I don’t mean to be rude, but you ever been mixed up with drugs?”

He smiles.

“Not much. I quit all that. Just do cocaine now.”


Does it matter, to the rest of us, that there is back row American to be found in every region of the country? That’s another way of asking whether profound inequality matters. Let’s watch the all the candidates on the 2020 stump, and see who, other than Elizabeth Warren, talks about back row America in any serious way.

The Central Park Five

One of the benefits of my new cable package is that it comes with Netflix, so I was able to watch the original mini-series by film maker Ana DuVernay, When They See Us. The series is powerful, the injustice overwhelming. The five young men convicted without evidence of the Central Park rape attack, which occurred in 1989, had their lives upended in ways that can’t be fixed by multi-million dollar settlements from the City of New York.

This Guardian piece was written in 2016, and talks about how big a role then-real estate developed Donald Trump played in inflaming public opinion against the young men. To this day, Trump focuses only on how effective his capacity to channel white fear by fueling racist themes has been, including electing him president. He’s never acknowledged being wrong about the Central Park Five, never showed a shred of remorse for his role in this terrible episode. Trump still maintains the Central Park Five are guilty, despite the confession of the actual rapist and confirming DNA evidence.


Curiously enough, Jerry and I had a window into how the justice system works for poor black defendants when we lived in Rochester, NY. In the spring of 1973, a white Kodak executive was found beaten to death in a seedy part of the city.  A young black woman working as a prostitute was arrested along with her pimp. The Rochester Police Department had its share of bad detectives, and a particularly notorious one beat confessions out of the two. Both were sentenced to 25 years to life. In 1998 the woman’s conviction was overturned, and she settled with the City for 1.2 million dollars. Someone sent her to our financial planning firm, to see if we could help her use the money as a path to a better life. She was 25 when she went to prison, and 50 when she got out. She was poorly educated, had no job skills and a long although unjustified prison record. She returned to the crime-ridden neighborhood where her family still lived, and attempted to build a new life.

Her story did not have a happy ending. I’m hoping that life for the Central Park Five will be better.

See the Netflix series if you can. It’s sobering.

Getting to Know Seattle: A Private Moment in Public Space

Seattle has quite a homeless problem. Some individuals and families who lack stable shelter live in large semi-permanent tent encampments, or in smaller groupings under highway overpasses. Some just find a semi-sheltered spot where they are more or less alone, like a secondary entrance to a building, and sleep there overnight. My former neighborhood of Belltown had a lot of people sleeping right in the midst of everything, moving from spot to spot.

My new neighborhood is less likely to have singleton overnight sleepers in public spaces, but I was out fairly early on the main drag of our small business district.  I passed a man just getting up from his night’s sleep in an alcove in front of the pharmacy. He was barefoot, his clothes rumpled, his curly hair sticking out wildly in all directions. He was stretching, and yawning. He had very little by way of possessions: a dirty sleeping bag, a small backpack. Moving on would be easy, not cumbersome. His back was to me, and our eyes didn’t meet.

I thought about what a private moment just getting up is. When I get out of bed my short, straight hair is often sticking up in odd directions. I’m barefoot, and a bit creaky on just arising. It takes a few steps on the way to the bathroom for my body to lose its stiffness. I have on a knee-length nightgown, but no underwear. I usually wash and dress before going downstairs, but if I had an early-rising houseguest I might slip on a bathrobe and my Birkenstocks and go down to make coffee first. I wouldn’t expect to perform my awakening rituals in full view of strangers.

The homeless do. The barefoot man didn’t see me as he stretched and lifted up his polo shirt to scratch his lower back. I pretended not to see him.

There’s no public bathroom near where he was sleeping, and I wondered what he was going to do next.

Buying Tony Soprano’s House

HBO mob boss Tony Soprano ran his business out of Satriale’s Pork Store in Kearny, New Jersey, where I grew up, and out of strip club Bada Bing, an actual go-go bar named Satin Dolls on Route 17 in Lodi. But his TV show family — Carmela, Meadow and AJ — lived in tonier North Caldwell.

Now the real family that owns that house, and owned it when the HBO drama was on the air, is selling it — at a premium, given its storied history. Tony marching down the driveway in his white bathrobe to get the paper is one of the iconic images from the show.

This is a big house, 5600 square feet, and it’s going on the market for a “starting price” of 3.4 million. The owners, Patti and Victor Reccia, are hoping for a bidding war on their one-of-a-kind property. The owners are handling the sale themselves, so you need to demonstrate seriousness as a bidder and evidence of ability to pay in order to be in on the viewing. You can’t just appear and walk around, like the average open house.

The sale price is at least 2x the going rate for comparable homes in the area, so we’ll see how much cachet “Tony Soprano’s home” still carries.

Interested? 🙂


Getting to Know Seattle: Neighborhood Public Markets

The iconic Pike Place Market is open year round. Despite its fame as a tourist destination —  especially for departing and arriving cruise passengers — the bread and butter customer is a person who lives downtown and shops there for produce, meat, and fish. Tourists look and taste what’s on offer, but they don’t really buy much.

Each of Seattle’s neighborhoods also has a public market, for the summer season only and usually one day a week. Neighborhood market season has begun. There’s not yet local berries or vegetables, but you can see fresh rhubarb. There were also locally grown mushrooms of various kinds, lots of food trucks, some pastry vendors, a few specialty cooking oils, one wine tasting stand — enough to make the market interesting. At about 6pm, the street was packed. Cello man hasn’t shown up yet, but there was a busker playing a horn, and a local string band entertaining people sitting on the grass eating supper. You can bring, or buy from a food truck, and enjoy the music.

I quite love going to the market. There’s one vendor that has the most delicious strawberries — I can’t wait. I often have the grandkids, and they enjoy picking boxes of raspberries and blueberries and strawberries. We often buy a four or six pack, and it’s not uncommon for them to devour one pint box each before we get the rest home.

Deep and Enduring Political Swings

I’m wondering if our country has deep and enduring political swings that last 30-40 years. I think I was lulled by the gradual progressive bent that began in the 1960’s, when I reached early adulthood, and seems to have moved in the right direction ever since — until the election of Trump. I understood Dr. King’s “moral arc of the universe bending toward justice” as going in one direction only, not something that took wide zigzags back and forth.

Now we’re experiencing a sharp backlash, well funded and coordinated by white conservatives, Catholic and Evangelical true believers, augmented by malleable angry Rust Belt voters who just want to punch somebody in the nose because their lives didn’t stay the same and they’re mad about it.

Here’s a profile of one of the stalwarts of the backlash, Leonard Leo of the Federalist Society, the group that has worked for 40 years to fill the bench at all levels with white conservative men. Their success will make life very difficult for the next several decades for women, immigrants, Muslims, blue states, the poor — anyone who doesn’t look and sound like Kavanaugh and Gorsuch and Alito and Thomas and Roberts. Yes, there is one black man in that portrait — an angry and bitter one whose porn history and sexual harassment of women should have kept him off the bench in the first place.


Another element of the backlash is the Koch network rebranding its dark money effort to infuse the political culture with libertarian goals as “philanthropy.”

Another is the absolute conviction of religious conservatives that controlling women’s reproductive choice is the defining battle of their era — irrespective of what happens to all those unwanted babies and unwilling mothers over time. Joan Chittester, a Roman Catholic nun who’s been speaking out for decades, defines such people as “pro birth”, which is distinct from “pro life”.

The country is split pretty much down the middle, at least in terms of the way people vote. If it takes 40 years to see this current dark turn in the political and culture wars zigzag back I won’t live to see it. Sobering thought.

Getting to Know Seattle: Small Gems

Seattle is a great food city, and a lot of our real gems are small neighborhood places that have been here a long time but continue to innovate and offer great food.

Black Bottle is in my old neighborhood of Belltown. On offer are small plates, which means that two people can order three or four things to share and be very satisfied. I love the small plate idea, rather than ordering “dinner”. Add a great wine list and a few fancy cocktails, and you’re all set.

Some of the small plates at Black Bottle are always on the menu, like grilled flank steak and charred broccoli. I like the taste of the broccoli but the serving is HUGE, way more broccoli than even two people might want to eat. Then the place innovates with occasional items, something like grilled halloumi cheese — a Middle Eastern specialty — with dates and sauteed veggies. Honestly, the dish was the best thing I’ve ever had there.

We rounded out with the flank steak and a light salad plus a glass of good Malbec for me, and it was the perfect after-movie late evening meal.

If you come to Seattle, don’t go only to the “name” places. Suss out these little neighborhood eateries, and enjoy. Worth the effort. 🙂

Trump’s Bullying: Be Careful What You Wish For

Trump has shown himself to be a bullying and erratic leader on the world stage, threatening our European allies that it’s his way or the highway. According to Foreign Policy Daily Brief, our allies have a different plan: their way. The Pentagon is furious, because U.S. defense contractors might miss out on lucrative business deals.

Transatlantic defense tensions. The United States, especially under Trump, has repeatedly badgered Europe to increase defense spending. But now that Europe is taking concrete steps to boost a pan-European defense industry, Washington is reportedly howling mad,according to Spanish daily El Pais.

The Pentagon sent an angry letter to officials in Brussels, the paper says, arguing that two new defense initiatives—the European Defence Fund and Permanent Structured Cooperation—could cut out U.S. defense firms and erode decades of close cooperation between the United States and other NATO allies.”

This is head-shakingly ridiculous, because the erosion of decades of close cooperation has been deliberately and cavalierly blown up by Trump in the last two years, not by Europe. Our new Def Sec nominee, Boeing executive Shanahan, need look no further than the Oval Office for the source of the U.S. defense industry’s potential problem.