About jp 吉平

john patrick | 吉平 is a former superhero from seattle | usa

You Come Back Anytime, Sweetie

It’s 64º in Seattle with occasional stray raindrops. Not cold unless you’re outside all day.

This morning I was at my favorite 24-hour diner, the Square Knot in Georgetown.  I was eating my 2 eggs over medium, and I heard the waitress at the register cheerfully say, “I know what you want! You want a little cup of coffee!”  I looked over and there was a small woman, bundled up in a puffy jacket and knit cap, dressed for being outside all day, with the waitress at the register.

I was a little surprised that I hadn’t heard the woman walk behind me; nor did I hear her say hello to the waitress.  The waitress served her some coffee in a small to-go cup, and the next thing I know, the waitress was saying, “No no, honey; that’s too much!”  I looked over and the waitress was pushing the woman’s money back into her hand.  There might have been $20 in small bills.

That’s when I connected the dots. The woman is dressed for being outside all day because she’s homeless. She doesn’t speak or know the price of a small cup of coffee because she lives with mental illness.  The woman walked silently behind me, back out to the door and through the plate glass window I saw her cherishing that coffee, smiling as she looked into the cup. As she was leaving the waitress called back to her, “you come back anytime sweetie.”

It occurred to me later that the woman might have been deaf or hard of hearing. I’m used to Deaf people who vocalize, but of course many have learned to not vocalize around hearing people, who can be fragile and easily scared.  It also occurs to me, now, that I could have bought the lady some breakfast. But as usual my mind wasn’t that fast in the moment. In any case, everyone seemed happy.

Life is hard and we all face challenges. I want to live in the America where we treat each other with kindness and dignity, where we don’t have to shit on others to prosper or feel like we’re prospering. Part of me wonders if that whole scene played out around me so that I could learn a lesson about kindness.

Minutes before seeing this scene play out around me, I was fighting mad about this article about the disgraceful injustices at the southern border. It’s not a particularly explosive article at this point; it’s actually par for the course nowadays.

The United States of America used to welcome refugees and asylum seekers; we used to have porous borders that allowed workers to come and go. Now we presume that refugees and asylum seekers are criminals, and we use their very lives to deter others from coming. Don’t come, it’s not worth it, we say, Americans are too cruel.

Our hardened borders means that people are forced to leave their countries and stay permanently, because living here with no legal status or rights is preferable to the violence and/or lack of economic opportunities in their home countries.  They contribute to our economy, work hard, and pay sales taxes and often income taxes; and commit crimes against Americans at a lower rate than Americans do. They raise their kids here; their kids go to school and play on soccer teams with our kids. They sit next to us at church and on the bus; they enjoy three day weekends and Thanksgiving break. Some of them are guilty of wanting the American Dream for themselves and their children. Others are just here to build better lives for themselves so they can go back to the countries they love someday.

However, smugly comfortable Americans are panicked that new immigrants will bring poverty, crime, and brownness,  and erase their smug comfort. They fight over a slice of the pie; they don’t see that immigrants are actually making the pie. So they harden the border, make asylum impossible, and betray the promise of this country.

The summer reading book was Stevenson’s Just Mercy, which I couldn’t finish because I the injustice turned my stomach. It’s a wonderful and insightful book, but it describes the injustice against poor African Americans that makes me angry.  Slavery and its repercussions are the original sin of the United States of America. Then the other day, the school librarian checked out a copy of Takei’s They Called Us Enemy for me. It’s Takei’s story of the Japanese Internment, another time when Americans forgot who they were supposed to be. Both of these books are hard for me to read; it’s the America I want to leave behind.

I prefer the America of the kind waitress.

I feel like some Americans have to shit on others to feel prosperous and comfortable.  I don’t know how to change their hearts.

 

Stormy Weather

I’m back in the 206 nowadays, teaching Spanish at an archdiocesan high school in North Seattle. For the moment I’m crashing in my sister and brother-in-law’s guest room in the Admiral district, but I’ll have my own pad in before too long; probably in North Seattle.  I’m coming to terms with it.

The new school is a funny place for me. All the professional stuff is super cool; they seem to be “on it” in every way.  My own job as a Spanish teacher is a new challenge; all my lessons are planned for the whole year down to the minute; not by me. In fact, it’s a challenge to me to understand the lesson plans and to make them happen effectively and on time. So far I’m a little inconsistent; I’ll keep at it.

The funny might be me; I miss working for the Jesuits. The other day after lunch it took me a second to realize the Examen wasn’t going to come on. I was told that Friday lunch is always grilled cheese; I think that’s a year-round meatless Friday. Last week at happy hour, my new co-workers were commenting that we’d get fired if we exercised our right to marriage equality. The Jesuits at Brebeuf in Indianapolis chose to lose their charter from the bishop rather than to fire an employee who chose to get married. Firing people because of a monogamous commitment doesn’t seem like the Good News to me.

So yup, I work for the bishop now. We’ll see what the new guy does. The one that just left testified before the state legislature in 2013 that marriage equality would be the end of all civilization. After him, they rolled out a nun in a habit, who said the old ADAM AND STEVE line to the state legislature; it was so embarrassing. We’re all supposed to hate gay people because of a stupid bigoted rhyme.

I’ve been going to a drum circle on Tuesday nights; bought my own djembe. It’s kind of an embarrassing one; super high pitched, super synthetic. In ukulele news, I’m working on “If I Only Had a Brain,” “I will Survive,” and “I Only Have Eyes For You.”  I heard that someone at a nearby school that I used to work for is already sick with the flu, so I went out and got the flu shot already; I think the shots have allowed me to sit out the last two flu seasons, and I’m trying to keep that streak alive.

I went to dinner with J last Saturday night; we went to Señor Moose in Ballard. I think that’s my favorite Mexican restaurant in Seattle.  Afterward, I drove home in an epic thunderstorm, the kind that never happens here.  The lightning was blinding and relentless; the rain was coming down so hard that it was scary to drive… for Seattlites!  There was water standing on the Admiral Way exit on the West Seattle Freeway. I guess I made it home from the desert.

Water Bottle Cultural Values

6c3c9b9bf42a4326829f3405e36df4adThey other day I commented to my friends that the white kids like to carry water bottles that are more like water tankers; they’re apocalypse proof, unwieldy, and they carry enough water for a small community.  They are often brand name (I think “hydroflask” was the water taker of choice at my last school”) and they are covered with stickers that express their identity; brand name stickers, European country bumper stickers, inspirational quote stickers. Well, you can read about it here.  There’s usually a way to clip on a carabiner so it can be clipped to your bug-out bag.

I was just being facetious when I said it was a white kid thing, but for my friend, it hit home. He gasped and said he was a white kid with a white kid water tank.  I started thinking about other cultures’ preferred water bottles.

zojirushi-stainless-steel-vacuum-mug-16-oz-sm-khe48-47

In my family, we carry Zojirushi water bottles; Zojirushi is a Japanese brand. You can see what’s important to them. These bottles are vacuum insulated and highly engineered to be pleasant to drink from, whether the drink is hot or iced. No twisting is involved when you drink from it; the top pops open with a flip at the touch of a button, exposing a spout that has a ventilation hole, to prevent glugging. When you’re not drinking, from it, a simple switch slides easily with the thumb to secure the flip top. An American would look at it and say that it’s too small and overly engineered. It does not carry a week’s worth of water, and there’s no place for a carabiner clip. Unlike an American water bottle, it’s not about survival hydration; it’s about the pleasure of beverages.

580397726336a02134d80146-large

Here’s how Chinese people stay hydrated; with a travel tea mug.  It’s beverage sized, so users can refill it with hot water from the kettle in every home and office.  It’s glass, so it’s inexpensive and breakable. It’s a simple twist off top. Most importantly is that you can see into it and appreciate the whole tea leaves. They are not drinking dirty, dried up tea leaves that are so brittle and broken that they must be served in a “tea bag.”  What is that disposable sachet even made of, and why is it acceptable to put it in your drink?  Is it leaching chemicals into your tea?  Chinese people buy whole, hand picked tea leaves that bloom in hot water and sink to the bottom; no need for a filter. They want to be able to see those leaves. 

I’m not sure about what other cultures do, although I suspect that there will be many “disposable plastic bottle” answers, as well as “walk to the damn drinking fountain” answers. If your water bottle says something about you and/or your cultural perspective, please share in the comments.

Not going to be tricked

The Opposite of Injustice is not Privilege

This morning I was reading my Facebook feed and saw that one of my friends posted an article that police shootings is a leading cause of death among black men. In the comments, one of his friends blamed black people. Sorry, I’m not going to be tricked into hating black people, not even criminals.

Later I scrolled down and saw that one of my friends reposted a meme from a FB group called “Seattle looks like shit,” a group where people take pictures of homeless people and addicts in Seattle and wish for more authoritarian police to clean them up. Sorry, I’m not going to be tricked into hating people experiencing homelessness, not even those that have addictions.

So the faculty summer reading book at my new school is Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson, the book with the earth shattering quote, “The opposite of poverty is justice.” I can only read a chapter or two per day, because it stresses me out. The book is about a Stevenson’s experience trying to represent men on Alabama’s death row in the 80s; it describes a society where the gentry, the law enforcement, and the penal system railroad people into the death penalty despite things like evidence, the law, and the Constitution.

I tease some of my white friends from the South sometimes, joking about how they love to say, “You don’t understand the South!” at random times when nobody asked. They always want to tell me about how, yes, the South has a horrific past full of terror and bigotry, but there is also a beautiful side of hospitality and gentility. The truth is, no, I do not understand the South; I haven’t spent time there, and I do have friends who are People of Color who do want to live there. However, it does seem to me that the gentility and the manners are extensions of a brutally oppressive class system that revolves around white supremacy. I don’t have to scratch too hard to uncover the same thing here on the West Coast.

Anyway, this book I was assigned stresses me out because I read it and get angry at white American society. Luckily I have the privilege of putting the book down. I’m tempted to get angry and white folks in general but I’m not going to be tricked into that. However, when I meet people who do avoid and mistrust white Americans, I find it perfectly understandable. It’s not unreasonable to avoid to get burned; once bitten, twice shy.

We’ve had a taste of freedom and equality, even if we haven’t all experienced it yet. We can smell liberty cooking in the room and we know that there’s plenty to go around, and we won’t go until we get some. Dr. King taught us about Non Violent Direct Action, which was a bet that the clueless majority would feel ashamed when they saw injustice on their televisions, that they’d wake up. Not everybody woke up back then, but enough of them did to desegregate the South.

In the present day, some people don’t wake up when they see injustice; they rationalize it because the idea of it threatens their identity.  It’s ok that police kill black people, it’s ok that trans people are murdered, it’s ok that Mexicans are targeted at Walmart. It’s ok that women get paid less, it’s ok that for full time workers to make poverty wages, it’s ok to pollute and heat the planet, it’s ok for women’s lives to be ruined by rape.  A steep price to pay for 20 minutes of action.

It seems to me that privileged people love injustice. They don’t just tolerate it; they seek it out. They celebrate it.

Life in America is comfortable, I’m not suffering that much. But people around me are suffering, and it seems like we’re a rich enough country that we can afford to eliminate suffering. I’m not going to be tricked into trading peace and prosperity for freedom and justice; we should have it all.


Hong Kong and the Opposite of Harmony

So Hong Kong was a British colony that got really wealthy under British rule; when the lease ran out, Hong Kong’s sovereignty was transferred to the PRC, who wanted to replicate Hong Kong’s wealth and prosperity but without the pesky freedom of speech.

Twenty years later, Chinese cities have no problem eclipsing the wealth of Hong Kong. So why should the PRC tolerate Hong Kongers’ demands for an independent legal system, multiple political parties, and freedoms of speech and assembly?

Because China agreed to it. It was a promise. Those were the terms.  

The PRC is making more money from Shanghai and Beijing already, by now Guangzhou/Shengzhen and Tianjian are probably making as much money as well. Why tolerate these unruly, spoiled Hong Kongers who demand special treatment? The narrative is that Hong Kongers are violent, unruly, riotous, subversive, and that they are puppets of the West.  The American CIA and the British whatever are actively sewing seeds of dissent to embarrass China and hurt the feelings of the Chinese people. That’s what their media tells them.

Of course I don’t see any of that. I think that America is dealing with Donald Trump and his white supremacy; Britain is brexiting, and neither country can locate it’s own ass with the lights on right now.  I don’t see violent protesters; I see violent police responses to protesters. I don’t see unruliness; I see massive peaceful demonstrations, emphasize the word massive.  I see people who smell freedom cooking and know that it’s for them.

Yes, they know that the PRC is massing a military crackdown invasion force in Shenzhen. Yes, they know that the PLA will mow them down. They might as well shut up and accept their fate, right?

And yet they don’t.  Listen, people that are not the PRC don’t want to be ruled by the PRC. Chinese people don’t own each other. People want to determine their own fate.

Also nobody wants to be ruled by the Spanish. Or the British. Or the Americans.

Anyway, it seems that a free Hong Kong is doomed, and a crackdown seems inevitable. I hope my friends get out safely. Hong Kongers are protesting not to anger or destroy their way of live, but because they’re betting that China and the world will be ashamed of the injustice of their broken promises. Of course China will not be ashamed; it’s our job to see it, and be ashamed for them. China will embarrass itself, just as American constantly embarrasses itself. Nobody is going to be tricked into thinking that the people of China will feel ashamed at the crackdown. They will rationalize the injustice against that which threatens their identity.

 

 

 

Work it! 12 years of GIFS

So when I take pictures with my phone, I often take five or more in a row. It turns out Google Photos find these and asks me if I want a GIF.

Here’s what I’ve found so far. A lot of these tell the stories better than individual shots.

 

Roughly a Week

It’s been roughly a week since my last post. I’m making an effort to put events in my calendar and to blog them, because I’m having a nice time and I want to remember this stuff.

This is my mama, my sister, and I at bingo a few days prior. We didn’t win anything but we sat at the same table with a nice African American lady from Long Beach who won $200 and gave us each a dollar from her wallet for being lucky.  She enjoyed our clowning.

I bought these five-finger toe shoes online to strengthen my arches and correct my step.  I’ve been wearing them for half the day, every day for the last week. My arches are absolutely working harder and getting stronger, I can feel that. In fact, at a massage the other day the therapist hit a pressure point in my arch and I felt like I was pasted to the ceiling.  In the last couple of days I have sat on the sofa and attacked that pressure point myself (if you’re keeping score it’s Spleen 4 – Ancestor and Descendant) and those muscles feel like suspension cables.  I guess they are suspension cables.

Anyway, the other reason to wear five-finger toe shoes is to weird out the squares, to watch their minds explode, and say “chill out dude.” Of course I’m in Seattle now so nobody bats an eye, even though I know in their hearts they are freaking out.

On my last day in Vegas, my parents and I went to an Indian buffet before dropping me off at the airport.

At the airport there were the requisite #airportselfie and #asiansquatbombs.

img_5534One of the things I love about flying Alaska is the Fruit and Cheese box, which I never fail to reserve.  Never.

Well, this time the apple was brown and there was a gross spot on one of the slices, which made me not want to eat the apple, or the grapes. I tweeted a “what gives” to them but they didn’t respond.  Huge disappointment.

 

 

I finally got a chance to go to the Sunfish Café on Alki. It’s run by two Greek brothers, a smiley one and one who seems grumpier.  I hadn’t been there in four years, but Smiley brother greeted me warmly, started speaking to me in Greek, remarked that I hadn’t been there in a long time, and asked how my sister was.  I got the cod combo. That’s such good fish and chips, and it feels good to go there.  Later, their one employee, a sweet Mexican lady, came over to say hello, gave me a big hug, and asked about my sister.  If you want to know my favorite fish and chips places, check here.

I went to my new school the other day; they issued me a computer and let me into my new classroom. They also gave me a copy of Stevenson’s Just Mercy, the faculty summer reading assignment. It’s good that I’m finally reading this because I’ve been quoting it for years; “…the opposite of poverty is not wealth. The opposite of poverty is justice.”  More on that in future posts, I imagine.

I also treated myself to lunch at Musashi’s.

So listen, one of my favorite taco places is TnT Taquería, the tacos are well made and the experience is pretty gringo friendly. It’s a corporate restaurant, but all the employees seem to be latino and Latin American. On the one hand, they have two vegetarian options for me; maíz de pozole con espinacas (“hominy with spinach”) and kamote con col rizado (sweet potatoes with kale)… but they call the sweet potatoes “papas dulces” which just crawls up my butt like teeth on a chalkboard. They were delicious, by the way. I ordered them with beans and rice as if tacos were an entree, and you know what, they were next to beans and rice, so they were an entree.  I had to take a picture of the sandwich board saying “SEÑOR PASTOR COMÉ AQUI” because that’s really, really, really, really bad Spanish. It tells customers, “cheesy gringos only.”  It features twin trompas with stereotype mustaches, which makes me think it was actually designed by a Mexican person with a very, very little esteem for the gringos.

I got to hang out with my boy BM in his neighborhood the other night, we caught up over a beer and a bowl of clams.

Later he texted me if I wanted to go to a Mariners’ game… I asked a bunch of questions and thought about it as if it needed serious consideration, which is ridiculous, because I always want to go to a Mariners’ game with BM.  He bought tickets online and sent me a screenshot of the confirmation.

Hours later, I remembered that I’m trying to put stuff in my calendar, so I look at the screenshot to get the details and… this can’t be right… these tickets are for Rogers Centre in Toronto!  I texted BM “I think you bought tickets to an away game,” and we had a good laugh. Wish I could go!

5ae35780-a574-4cfa-b7a0-85d11f2203c5So I went to Pacific Inn Pub for fish and chips yesterday, because I can’t stop eating fish and chips and I just love heart disease.  I’ll try to limit my consumption. But I was in the neighborhood. I got the three piece fish and chips and a pint of Manny’s.  Sublime. 4ae061bd-ad8f-4555-93c5-78bc2efd877aClowning with my sister. img_20190813_084217-animationI haven’t been to Pagliacci in years but it’s in my sister’s neighborhood so I tried it again… it was about a thousand times better than I remember it from college.  8c49f27c-6cec-4dea-bb4a-53fb0425d5dc

I haven’t backslided on my #konmari lifestyle yet.  These are my chonis, folded to stand up for themselves. They spark joy. 5870d1fc-0357-4952-83fb-42448a4f9436

Other things not to forget about this week; hanging out with JG and BS, wanting to be a podcaster again, going to ASL meetup, eating at Dumplings of Fury, signing up for and skipping crossfit… I’ll go later.

This new box, Crossfit West Seattle, is perfect; it’s half a block from my sister’s house, it’s a converted auto shop… perfect. It strikes me as very Seattle; everybody is introverted, they don’t turn the music up very loud… the penalty for being late is two burpees for every minute late, which seems like not very much! Of course I will never be late, ever.

I wrote Coach Paul at Nela Athletics to tell him about two burpee late penalty… he wrote back the next morning, and told me to move back to LA. Just say screw it, move back in October. I probably can’t do that, but the adventure sounds like fun…

Finally, I met my friends for happy hour last night at Fiasco, which is a funny name for a restaurant.

 

The Miracle of the Coffee Mugs

coffee-mug-collection-worlds-largest-memorable-mugsThere are about twenty coffee mugs in my mama’s cupboard. My sister and I are both here to visit for the week, so there are four coffee-drinking adults in this house.

Some of the mugs are matchy matchy; they are of no use to me. When my family drinks coffee from a mug from a matching set, they lose track of whose-coffee-is-whose the minute their fingers leave the handle. “Is this mine?”  Sometimes we remember, we can recover knowledge of possession, the coffee physically in front of me is probably mine.  However, most of the time, we put down our coffee down and then walk all over the house, erasing that crucial chain of possession from the three bits of RAM we have in our melon heads.

So as I said, the matchy mugs from the set are of no use to me. When I’m returning 20 clean mugs to my mama’s cupboard, I shove all the matchy mugs to the dark, back corner, and bring all the singleton mugs to the front.  I want my family to drink out of singleton mugs, so they will remember; oh, my mug is the union local mug, your mug is the souvenir mug with a bull in silhouette and “España” written across the top… Unique singleton mugs, in my mind, erase the problem of matchy mug confusion, due to their unique uniqueness of uniquity.

Every morning, I  make a pot of coffee and serve it in a thermos pitcher, and I set out four singleton mugs, precisely calculated to serve each of the four coffee-drinking adults in the family, so that we all use precisely one mug, one mug for each person. I arrange the thermos and the four mugs onto the breakfast table as a centerpiece; the thermos towers over the four mugs like a mother duck with four ducklings.  I imagine my parents and sister would see the breakfast table, realize that the coffee is served, and sit down at the breakfast table and stay out of my damn way as I’m making breakfast for everyone.  That is what I imagine.

Actually, what happens in actuality is quite different, actually. When they come into the kitchen area for breakfast, they stop in the kitchen area and reach into the cupboard for a mug. It doesn’t matter how far back I bury the matchy mugs behind rows of singletons; they reach into the cupboard and half a second later there is a matchy mug in their hand as if the cupboard was filled exclusively with matchy mugs.  Then they say something like, “oh, did you forget to make coffee?” and then stand in the center of the kitchen and look for the thermos.

Folks, every day, I make coffee, I serve it in a thermos at the breakfast table, along with four mugs. So by the time I put hot garlic fried rice, fried eggs, and diced tomatoes on the table, there are three matching mugs on the table, filled with coffee, plus the four empty singletons that I served.  A total of seven mugs on the table. Sometimes, eight.

After breakfast, I clear the dishes from the breakfast table and take them to the dishwasher. There are several plates to watch, some utensils, and somehow there are four dozen dirty coffee mugs to wash. Mama only owns 20 mugs, but there are 48 mugs filling the dishwasher. Once the dishwasher is filled, coffee mugs and water glasses (a similar phenomenon) start appearing from other parts of the house. So now there are 48 mugs in the dishwasher and 24 more mugs that have come home to roost, making a grand total of 300,000 that I have to deal with after one breakfast service. The vast majority are hard working and law abiding, and the crime rate among the mugs is actually lower than that of the general population. Most are documented with the government, many are not. Needless to say, the dishwasher is overwhelmed.

When everything is washed and dried, all twenty mugs go back into the cupboard. I try to bury the matchy mugs in the back, knowing that my family has the magical ability to summon them forward, making them and millions of other coffee mugs appear on the breakfast table, numbering like the stars in the heavens.