Seattle was a blast. By day Jonas & I lived the high life by dining out in expensive Redmond places, an Italian place with a huge wine list, an Asian restaurant where we ate a banana ice cream, a Japanese all-you-can-eat sushi buffet where Jonas ate grey murky crab innards until a waitress showed him how to crack the legs open proper. It was at this place that Jonas overdid the wasabi sauce: suddenly, his eyes got huge & frantic, and he started shaking all over like a volcano about to erupt, groping wildly for his ice water. I practically cried I was laughing so hard at the sight of poor Jonas.
By night we partied at expensive Seattle clubs, twice at a place called the Fenix Underground. Cover was $12 and a beer started at $5, steep. It was a split level deal; a live band played at ground level & you could watch them from a loft level. Below, in the dark underground level, there were two more weirdly glowing bars and a dance floor that was usually packed too close for comfort. One night the band did a cover of Tool's "Stinkfist" which was pretty amazing; the lead singer even sung through a megaphone on the verses, which is I guess how Maynard got it to sound that way.
Later that same night on the advice of some random dude we went to a club called the Standard, which had a dimly lit black & red fan de siecle feel about it. There was no one there except for the DJ, some people who knew the DJ, and a few stragglers like Jonas and myself. Despite this we got searched for weapons by security at the door. But later we started talking to the security guys, and they turned out to be okay, ran a record store together. By the end I had talked to everyone in the place. Jonas and I then drove out to the beach and watched the sun rise over the Seattle skyline, Jonas making me stop like every quarter mile 'cause he thought the view was getting better. The sunrise was indeed amazing as we crossed the sound back over to Redmond, with Mt. Rainier in calm brooding bigness off in the blue distance.
Besides all this we also did a lot of walking around Pike street & poking around in artsy stores & had a big conversation about Kafka as we went down to the docks. One day we hiked up Tiger Mountain in the Washington woods. Then on the last day we went bouldering at the first rock climbing gym in the U.S., where a funny climber dude named Hans talked to us about blind jazz men who played three saxophones simultaneously, and complained about their store inventory software (realizing we were computer guys). We bouldered hard for two hours and I ended up with 8 blisters on my hands.
Finally on the last night I was there Jonas & I had this great talk about America. Jonas's friends always joke that he's the best American they know but it had never occurred to me that *of course* he's the best American, he's a 1st generation immigrant. In fact these always make the best Americans, followed by 2nd gen. immigrants, and so on down the line. By the time you reach the 6th generation--i.e., me--you are a pathetic non-American who has grown up in a comfort zone & whines about the system way too much.
Anyway more to the point, we decided America was a new kind of experiment in which the interaction between people was not force (as in feudal times) or feeling (as in Europe or Asia or anywhere culture, tradition, etc. are emphasized) but a number, a quantified exchange of value for value. As with any good experiment, in order to see if the hypothesis--that this system leads to happiness--is true, you have to prevent other kinds of interactions from interfering. And this leads to America's state of culturelessness. Essentially when you immigrate to America you are asked to leave your own culture at the door; people who fail to do this & instead try to preserve it by forming their own communities are shunned, and are not really allowed to participate in the American experiment.
Because here we're not about the fuzzy interaction of feelings, tradition, society, community, etc. but about the crisp numerical interaction of dollars with other dollars. When these fuzzy interactions exist they are mediated by the dollar on both ends, insulating the people behind them, and this is how we have reached the form of culture we currently boast--pop culture.
Yes this eradication of all non-quantifiable relations with other people does leave something to be desired; that's what I'm really wailing & railing about half the time, the lack of fuzzy feeling interactions. But maybe we can all live without them & be better off for it. Well, that's the experiment, I guess!Posted by Alan at August 17, 2003 01:39 AM