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Sunday, April 26, 2015




general philistinism & parochialism, media &
an enumeration of discrete events


by Michael Roloff



In Spring 1994, suddenly, I had little choice but start to translate again to make a living: A minute stipend that, in addition to royalties, had allowed me the luxury to live as “nothing but a writer” since 1985 was suddenly disparu while I was living a very rural existence in Mulege, in Baja Sur, Mexico. I hadn't even hustled my one good screenplay
and, as friends suggested, dropped everything to get it made - no, I was spending months upon months on the shaggiest of shaggiest screenplays, something about pre-historical bird DNA & a mechanical plane merging...

Moreover, the owner of a firm, Farrar, Straus, I had made millions for as editor, specifically Roger Straus, screwed me out of what I thought then was one half of my participation, hundreds of thousands of dollars over the course of years, and I didn't realize until about a year ago that it actually was ¾, the fellow was not only a brute, but tricky
Little I could do about it from the West Coast – it cost $ 10 K just to file a Federal claim! I had learned to go per se in another matter in New York, and I could at least have won something there, although most of the moneys fell under the statute of limitations.
Mentioning Federales:
I also failed to collect some federal judgments against a former business partner – matters had become wild in the New York of the 70s & 80s
and -
- but for the mysterious disappearance of the stipend-
if you delved to the root of the problem: I didn't care enough about money, I lacked the killer instinct, I was too gullible - I lived with my head in a cloud of hopes & wishful dreaming. I was a good dreamer since childhood. I hated to think about money, it seemed a waste of time, a costly way to be!

But as I said, some matters did not go that badly.

In addition to translating
-great work, Adorno, Habermas, Josef Winkler-

- which, however, interfered with the projects for whose sake I had forsaken the pleasures of New York City -
I fell into a line of work that resulted in something entirely unforseen
It was that no doubt rare instance where poverty becomes an invaluable experience, an experience that informed me of the seedy, more than underbelly, of Seattle & surround. With a Pulitzer Prize winner at The Seattle Times I tried working my muck-raking (Not a professional muckraker, when I encounter muck I can rake!) to turn my prose into something for a family newspaper. - The briefest of digressions: By the time I left NY City in the
mid-80s I had seen quite enough; as a matter of fact I felt I had seen everything, the heights and the extreme depths of the great city, and how they connected & inter-played, in the subtlest of ways,
but not because I had been in publishing for 25 years, although if you edit certain books, say Robert Kalich's THE HANDICAPPER... Yet to find a gentleman in those quarters became like looking for the Dodo bird: the last of them died out during my years, to be replaced by Tasmanian devils:
I had seen things you couldn't if you asked outright, and I didn't ask or go look, it sort of happened because I got to know folks whose company afforded views.

Write Some Numb's Bitch
steps on too many toes, and so that didn't work out with the Seattle Times, the reporter was forced to pass. At the suggestion of a Seattle Weekly reviewer I sent it to Mossback there, and never heard back, the reviewer, a dubious figure, may even have back-stabbed me, he did so a bit later (*).
The only other time I got involved in public matters of that kind in Seattle was during a Port Commissioner campaign nearly ten years ago. I had befriended a candidate & then had the opportunity to delve deeply into port matters & did a long interview with then Port's C.E.O. Mic Dinsmore: no one wanted to publish it! Shortly after, the state auditor found a lot of hanky-panky at the Port of Seattle, and lots of good Commissioners got voted out of office on a wrong-headed “throw the crooks out” campaign, that brought in two actual crooks! I noticed how reporters, from the Seattle Times and the still extant P.I. merely copied what the Port said, without bothering to ask questions.
I was getting a drift on the local media.
The media picture has not improved during these twenty years. The Seattle-Post-Intelligencer continues to exist as a blog
The Seattle Times
does not deserve the name
news paper”
It is an aggregator of stories AP stories, stories from McClatchy, the Los Angeles and NY Times & Washington Post Bloomberg
with a handful of local reporters & columnists that delivers an equal weight of inserts with its newsprint pages
At coffee houses many of its habitues at once turn to the
New York Times Crossword Puzzle.
You notice the lack of interest after you have left your NY Times and/or Wall Street Journal
not many folk even want to read the better papers for free.
As the once alternative
was sold to a national chain
it became far less interesting than it had been under Brewste's ownership with Knute Berger (Mossback) as editor
and there appeared
and became a very different alternative; you might say that it is the obverse of the Seattle Times; quality control is not one of its fortes, it is
rather predictable in some of the political positions it takes, but it not so far off in its claim to be
Seattle's only newspaper”:
after all, that unfortunately does not take much!
There are a host of blogs.
Crosscut is the most & often
boringly responsiblle of the lot
lotIt is an outgrowth from the WEEKLY that was, and its best & most interesting columnist is Mossback/ Knute Berger.
SEATTLE is a pretty good movie town & I don't mind some of the film reviewers. There is pretty good coverage of the arts. It's just my luck that theater is not thriving any more & that I am of an age that I can't do much about that state of affairs.

Meanwhile I was/ am accumulating the sights & sounds of the city,
that eventually made for
Steeped in Seattle,
an odd collection of bird and weather & prose poems
here an excerpt

The first three months in Seattle I stayed with what no doubt is one of the toughest ex-marine hippies the world has ever, a friend from Mexico, in a spectacular loft on Elliott, opposite the P.I. Building - as a New York loft dweller I had never encountered timber that size. Jerry was using the space to rebuild his truck, an elephant, with which he hoped to drive all the way to Patagonia, and to repair rusty French automobiles - not very conducive sounds or smells to my line of work, but the daily walk along Elliot Bay through Myrtle Edwards Park is still with me and the Geese noshing on grain at the rails by the grain terminals...
This city walker also discovered Seattle in this fashion, a city that is pretty conducive for good long walks but for a few of its left-over hills (many were hosed into the bay in the 19the century)... one of my most famous walks was all the way to West Seattle
during which I couldn't shake some crows to whom I must have said the wrong thing: the inception of my famous

poem as well as a very different idionsyncratic take on Seattle
Since I wanted to be near a library, the U. District is where I, impoverished, had a seemingly unending series of amazing housing experiences
(until I moved, for a few years to the International District until all the great food, 25 different kinds of rice made me overweight for the first time in my lean life)
Since - but for being at the mercy, especially in Manhattan, of the large-scale tectonic machinations of its real estate moguls - I hadn't had bad experiences along that line, renting, privately & in business, in the notorious New York City housing market I certainly did not anticipate the crooks & exploiters and renters of wrecks that are the vultures that live off the students of the University of Washington. Meanwhile - due to the late 90s housing boom and increase in house prices - a lot of the wrecks have been demolished & replaced & students that do not live on-campus must commute longer distances. Of, say, the dozen different venues where I resided, maybe two were not run by exploiters of the worst kind. The best, however, where I resided five years (until the house was sold), was owned by a dear man who abided the legalities of rental laws & to the extent that he kept renting, say, to folks who showed up at his place covered in shit, thus ruining the abode for the other half dozen folks, inhabitants, which is why I have a chapbook's worth of stories just about those landlords and ladies & some of the amazing critters I encountered there: The real McCoy, and her naked full-grown son, who barricaded her basement exits - until I called the fire department - so as to be able to observe her tenants passing in & out; Red Eric the Nietzchean beatnik of one apoplexy & one fit of vengeance per minute; ultra-gay Max in his Vespa with his cleaning tools tooling around who comically tried to tell his tenants what to do by standing in their way; the hotspur Berber, a mathematician, who if he didn't get his way at once proved that every culture has its Mama's boy; the Marine brig guard who sought to enforce complete quiet... I could go on for days...
but, I made two good friends along the way:
A survivor of the Chinese cultural revolution, from the University of Peking, who knew how to cook & play that melancholy Chinese violin; Santosh, an Indian mathematician.

One of the pleasures of the city is a profusion of coffee houses of all kinds, that now afford internet access. And a number of significant experiences can be located there.
One of the most significant was reading Handke's
five times, thrice in German, twice in English, at a Hmong donut shop then called Lola's, that itself was a true “no-man's hole”, that had the dregs, Smerdyakov was a Persian computer programer who had never recovered from a breakdown and brought a cherished goldfish with him;
without Handke's great book I doubt I would have felt so warm amongst that crowd, you notice I am a person of simple routines!

At that time, mid to late 1990s, the LAST EXIT TO BROOKLYN was still extant, at about 52nd and the Ave (University Avenue 14th to be specific), and had fine jazz & coffee and a pretty hippiesh clientele, and I felt entirely comfortable there.
There is the Cafe Allegro
Seattle's original coffee shop
the closest to the feel of the Last Exit,
north of the Village
is on the fancy side

Starbuck's flagship in University Village;
for a long time Tullies until folks started to snoop on what I was writing & calling in; and
many another on the “Ave” (University Avenue, 14th)
and I haven't even been even once into a lot of them... though I have a pretty good idea of the various madmen & women in the area.

My Handke studies - in 1994 not quite ten years old, I'd given a few lectures at U C. Riverside
participated in seminars -
once the internet started to mature
(search engines at first proliferated)
I put some of the work on-line @
the handke.scriptmania project
and also gave a few lectures at the U.W.
Becoming a “visiting scholar” for asking for a library card allowed me to discern what I might have become had I not gone dead, in 1960 at Stanford, at the prospect of becoming a member of a German department: indeed there was a fair amount of dead wood, as I had already noticed at the Austrian shin-dings at U.C. Riverside. More interesting were those who had not gone dead under such circumstances. Goethe scholars were good at it, and at least one formidable scholar looked as though he would hold up.

I had become a member of the Seattle Psychoanalytic Institute & Society on a memorable day when David Spain who sponsored me and I attended a horrendous Freud lecture by one Mikkel Borch-Jacobson whose utter pettiness I memorialize
I read all their syllabi & course material, thus refreshing & in many cases enhancing what I had learned in Los Angeles & spent many an hour at Health Science Library & for a time attended quite a few events but then only became close to the head of the Jungian crew, the
only one I encountered with whom I might have continued that kind of analytic work, money permitting; and I wrote quite a few things that you can find
and participated in the International's online discussion forum.


snooping, snitching,
a city of small complaints
men as the proverbial old women, busy bodies, other-directed,  anal, dirt-obsessed
middle-class beings,
breeders, crossword puzzlers.
not interested.”

It was while living at 16th & about 52nd,, that is near the Ave & with easy access to the Libraries & frequenting LAST EXIT TO BROOKLYN, that I had the first of a series of incidents – that now spans a 20 year period - and that constitute the raison d'etre, that triggered the impulse for the entirety of this resume, this approach to the past 20 years in Seattle & it is my guess that these individually minor incidents, as they accumulate, must have an adverse effect that interferes, that cumulatively would oppress the young over the years
which thought made me then try to write up why I came to regard Seattle as
to artistic endeavor – more so than the rest of the country?
Sufficiently unconducive.

Opposite the rather fine rooming house – where I befriended that visiting Chinese People's Republic scholar who at dinner time played the melancholy Chinese violin
and who had survived a stint picking tomatoes during the Cultural Revolution – stood a fairly splendid building with some Ionic columns where, periodically, I noticed someone, a woman, peek out from behind the doily-type curtains; an eternal watchdog I realized and filed it away.

When I lived on top of the rise overlooking the five by five block cemetery at 35th Str. & NE & 55th Ave. I used to walk home through some alleys, especially during fruit picking time. One morning as I set out to walk to the library, about two miles off, via the University prairie, I heard a news account of a robber in Everett or Bellingham on the loose & dressed all in black, as was I, black Davis jeans, the original Alaskan gold rush kind, and a black NATO jacket.
As I walked back through one of the alleys late in the afternoon, - it must have been fall for me to be wearing the NATO - I noticed one of these doily curtains falling back into place. About 50 yards further up what if a car doesn't come inching out of the doily's driveway and starts to crawl behind me at my walker's pace. It follows me through a variety of alleys all the way to the alley behind the house that I live in. I thought of approaching the pursuit car, but then thought the better of it: what if whoever woman has a gun?

One fine morning as I took a short cut through the mowed autumnal prairie, that runs from the Horticultural Center
along Lake Washington
(Wahkiakum Lane, the main path that runs through the Union Bay Natural Area -- please note that Wahkiakum is a gravel trail best suited for mountain and touring bikes. This route connects to the University of Washington's E-4 parking lot. You may reach the Burke-Gilman trail by following the pedestrian overpass that crosses Montlake Boulevard next to Hec Ed Pavilion.)
to a canal that is the estuary of Ravenna Creek, I noticed a middle aged woman who was taking the regular path
(there are signs saying to keep to the paths!)
and the way she looked I made a bet with myself that she would call the cops. And that is one bet I won. Walking home after nightfall if a University cop wouldn't pop out from behind a bush! Apparently the woman had claimed that I was living in the prairie. After clearing up the matter & my explaining why I took the short-cut the cop and I had a nice chat about the animal in the creek, beavers, etc. I did spend the occasional night in a bower in the prairie however.

After exploring all aspectS of the “Adventures in Telemarketing” aspect of WRITE SOME NUMB'S BITCH
I found 20 hours per week sensible employ at the Puget Sound Blood Center
to supplement my income. It was automated telephone work, and fairly well paid, and did not take too much out of me. The major event there was the overwhelming response to 9/11 when the entire area wanted to donate blood, that unfortunately was not needed – but I was impressed that in the event of a disaster the “people” could be counted on. The Blood Center lived for many years from that addition to their rolls. I was pretty stellar at telephone work by that time, but a few year later I was fired... just in good time... guess for what? Someone I had been pitching to come back in and donate another pint had heard that I was still chewing on some food, and SO had called in to complain.
Before switching to 24 Hourfitness
I used to go to an outfit that used to be called Pro-Robics but now is
of the forever leaking roof
that is within walking distance but lacks a steam room, a jacuzzi & swimming pool, not to mention far better and more varied equipment. Pro-Robics, in Laurelhurst, a pricey part of Seattle, is, as I noticed over the years, rife with men who are really the proverbial old woman, they take phone photos of the least detritus in Pro-Robics teensy sauna, complain if you entere it wet as a dog from whatever rainstorm to dry out a bit prior to you actual work-out – unsanitary! Very Seattle uptight in other words!
Which leads me to the ultra=anality I have noticed in these quarters, and if there is anything to avert the mess of creativity it is anality, dirt obsession as I encountered it e.g.
The old Elliot Bay Bookshop
when I was living in the International District and finally had no further use for 25 years worth of dictionaries since they were all on-line or I could download them.
Of course some of these fairly priceless items had acquired some smudges during their 25 years of Manhattan use & I will never forget the “Nase ruempfen”
- the wonderful German for what a nose does in disgust - with which the clerk greeted my offering.
I didn't feel like hauling a hundred pounds back up King Street to my digs and dumped the load in a trash bin & then complained in detail in exchange for profuse apologies. Book-buyers, even if for second hand valuables, are the most anal.

University Village
has the absolute mascot for Seattle's dirt-obsession:
I call him General Giap for his fanatical day-long cleaning,
a typically gruff Vietnamese working class emigrant.
I guess if you are Kroeger
(the company that owns QFC)
you couldn't be happier than having a fanatic of the General's kind working for you.
Like a crow for the slightest crumb, armed with vacuum cleaner, hoses... his eye beaks seizes. I've been watching him for nigh on 15 years, ageless, dour, fanatical.
I migh mention the profusion of “leaf blowers” with their noise machines. Even after a rainstorm that has swept every leaf the into drains, there they are blowing noise.

One of quite a few overseers at Zoka's
which I frequented for its open teas objected to my spreading out too much, computer, readouts, books, no matter that I spent a pretty penny.

@ their Five Corner's shop
there are folks who try to snoop at what you are writing on your computer screen & busybodies who complain if you are eating food other than available in that store.

The above are typical examples,
I could go on enumerating for many more pages, but
I must add the following: Since I gave away my automobile more than ten years ago but am even more of a walker, at all times of the year & also during that six month stretch of inclement weather, I dress accordingly. In U.S Army rain-pants (the best!) and a rain-resistant jacket with a rain-resisten hood & thus bulk out & have the appearance of many a homeless G.I., of which there are many in Seattle, but who inspire nearly as much fear as the hoodlums in hoods do.
Folks in Seattle, except perhaps in the Capitol Hill neighborhood,
are easily made uncomfortable by anything slightly different.
It's a parochial city. Some of its provincialism sits well, a lot of it doesn't with this somewhat different bird.

In the course of these 20 years there has been an extraordinary increase in obesity of a kind I never saw before, anywhere, which must have added at least 10 t0 20 pounds to the girth of the average Seattlelite. How many more “fatheads” among the sport fans?
Some slight improvement in unlocking gridlock at the most congested rush-hour bottlenecks.
Whereas the owner of the Seahawks was being chased out of town 20 year ago, for having an affair, and the wrong kind of business, meanwhile Seattle has become a sports town, and the sprained pinky of a Seahawk plawer will produced headlines in the Seattle Times. The city's identity is being merged with that of a commercial enterprise.
The region continues to feature the grisliest of crimes, mass murders galore. The Green River murder was finally caught around the time I arrived in these parts. People still do not ask you to visit their homes – a once left dweller from Tribeca – where, “let's go to my loft” was a natural – has been asked to visit two homes in 20 years. Meanwhile, the once so gregarious, however, is all work.

(*) Roger Downey

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MICHAEL ROLOFF http://www.facebook.com/mike.roloff1?ref=name Member Seattle Psychoanalytic Institute and Society this LYNX will LEAP you to all my HANDKE project sites and BLOGS: http://www.roloff.freehosting.net/index.html "MAY THE FOGGY DEW BEDIAMONDIZE YOUR HOOSPRINGS!" {J. Joyce} "Sryde Lyde Myde Vorworde Vorhorde Vorborde" [von Alvensleben] contact via my website http://www.roloff.freehosting.net/index.html