Downtown Seattle is a much more pleasant place in the fall than it is in the summer. Less traffic, less heat, more lights, fewer bopo boys with skateboards and pit bills, fewer homeless people, fewer tourists, fewer homeless tourists … from the perspective of a resident, it’s just better in every way.
Last night, it was even better than usual.
On Friday, roughly between the hours of 5pm and 8:30pm, Pine Street was closed from 4th Street to 7th Street for the 26th Annual “Figgy Pudding” Caroling Competition. You read me right, “Figgy Pudding”.
You know, I wish I was white. I really do. Many is the day I’ve spent longing to be a real Pacific Northwest Caucasian.
Now, I know what you’re thinking, “you are white, Rex”, but you’re wrong. So very, very wrong.
Oh sure, I may appear to be white, but appearances can be deceiving. I’m not the race on the inside, that I look on the outside. See, I am to white people what Barack Obama is to black people. I’m the Wayne Brady of crackers. The Bryant Gumbel of honkies. The Will Smith of white trash. Even though I may look the part, I find American white culture to be as big a mystery as do the Bushmen of the Serengeti Desert.
Fraternities, beer, charities, beer, eating disorders, coffee, food trucks, beer, organic shit, vintage shit, beer, recycling, camping, beer, etc. White people may as well be from a different planet. More than anything, however … that which I find most intriguing about white people, is their prolonged adolescence. While life-expectancy rates have skewed age norms overall (“30 is the new 20″), modern white folks, at least those of the upper-middle-class and above variety, now remain adolescents until roughly the age of 60. It truly is fascinating.
Take, for example, last year’s snowstorm. Seattle got 6″ or so of snow, and when we went over to Denny Hill, about 50 people were sledding, none of them under the age of 25. A similar scene played out on Queen Anne Hill. Who can forget this video:
Last weekend, we were at the ice cream stand in Pike Place Market, where we found ourselves standing behind a group of three people. A man and woman in their 30′s, and an older woman in her 50′s. They each got ice cream cones, and when the cashier announced the total, the older woman rolled her eyes and said “I got it”.
“Thanks, mom!”, the two thirty somethings announced in unison.
Back when I lived in Olympia, it would always astound me, and in some cases, depress me when I spoke with my neighbors. I was surrounded on all sides by twenty somethings who all owned their own houses (I had to rent from one of them), and after inquiring over the months, I learned that all of them, every last one of the 10 or so houses on my block, were owned by Evergreen students whose parents had purchased the houses for them.
As a very young man who often slept on the subway while supporting myself as a bicycle messenger, I could never imagine such a thing. Not even formulate the thought. It is not even within my realm of comprehension. Middle-class white America and above is an enigma to me, and I’ll be honest … brutally honest … most of the ire I direct toward hipsters, Lexus liberals, slutwalk sisters, and the hoola-hooping kidults of Capitol Hill is pure, unadulterated jealousy. Oh my God, had I had anywhere close to their level of support, I would have conquered the world. At the very least, I probably wouldn’t be a miserable fuck.
Anyway … upon hearing that “Figgy Pudding” was going on, I walked down to Westlake Center to see it for myself.
Upon arriving, I encountered 5,000-10,000 mostly-white people milling about, listening to other mostly-white people singing Christmas carols.
Some of the groups sang traditional songs, some groups injected humor into their songs, and some groups, as white people are known to do, funked it up and went all African-American on a honky. White people love acting black around other white people.
Of course, when white people gather, they invariably, and without fail, engage in their absolute favorite pastime. Collecting money.
Folks, if you believe nothing else I say, believe this. White people love nothing, NOTHING more, than collecting money from other white people. Usually by wearing them down with peer pressure. It’s one of the reasons I am persona-non-grata at a certain Safeway in Kitsap County.
Every day during lunch, the cashiers at the Safeway in question would always ask me, often loudly, if I wanted to “donate to breast cancer”. This was usually done when other people were in line behind me, within clear earshot of the request. I always resented it, but usually just politely declined. After two or three months of putting me on the spot like this, one cashier happened to catch me in a particularly bad mood.
As I was preparing to pay for my lunch, the inevitable question came, “Would you like to donate to breast cancer?”
“No, the bitches deserve it!”, I replied.
It was uncomfortable, awkward, and I later semi-regretted it … but white culture can overwhelm those of us not entirely accustomed to it.
I came to find out that Figgy Pudding almost perfectly combined singing with white people’s love of collecting money. As I was watching the results of the competition, I learned that the singers were being judged not on their singing ability, but by the amount of money they collected.
This made me sad.
Don’t get me wrong. The Pike Food Bank is a very worthy entity. I have no problem donating in the regular course of life. That said, I know all too well what it’s like to be judged, not on talent or abilities, but by the amount of money you have to contribute. In addition, the American culture of begging has permeated every aspect of society, to the point where my local convenience store now has a tip jar. Even though Washington State has the highest minimum wage in the nation, I still get the hairy eyeball when I don’t tip the cashier for ringing up my Fritos.
When people pass a hat, put it in your face, and apply peer pressure … I resent it. Greatly. I hate it, and I will never give anything to them. This doesn’t mean I’m a heartless bastard, it just turns me off.
Last week, when it was pouring rain, I was stopped at a stoplight on my scooter on Madison just east of the freeway. I looked over, and there was a white man, 40, maybe 45, standing under a tree, holding a sign. It read “It could happen to anyone”. Under it, in smaller letters, an afterthought, read “(please don’t be mean)”.
I’m a fairly jaded guy, but this one broke my heart. I felt an odd kinship with the man. I see scores of homeless people each day, but some just hit you differently. This, I realized, was another non-white white guy. A guy who the other white people berate for being a loser for not being born into Kirkland money, hours before those same white people donate money to the charity du-jour at the office, or run for this or that. Seattle is the most money-collectingness-for-the-supposed-poor place in the known solar system, yet here he is, standing in the rain, holding a sign begging people not to insult his bad fortune.
And they do. Insult his bad fortune, that is. I can attest to that firsthand.
“That’s me without a few lucky breaks”, I thought. Two or three things that didn’t happen the way they did … I didn’t grab the single-stringed guitar before it was thrown away, I didn’t save every penny to buy the shitty TRS-80 color computer, didn’t spend sleepless nights figuring out how it worked, I’d be standing in the rain. I had no idea the whole computer thing was going to blow up. I didn’t know people would want to see stringy haired losers in thrift store clothes play through ridiculous distortion to cover for the fact that they couldn’t play at all. Who knew??? White people are a fickle bunch. They could just as easily have decided that hair metal was the shit, and that the whole computer thing was a fad. If they had, it would be me standing in the rain, holding a cardboard sign, asking people not to be mean to me.
I gave him what I had. It wasn’t much, but it was something. It was money. The money I had left in my wallet, because I hadn’t already acquiesced to the dozen or so privileged white people who, the prior week, had also asked me for it.
So many charities. Over 1 million registered charities in the USA. 1 charity for every 300 men, women, and child. So many donations, so many runs, so many walks, so many stair-climbs, so many shakedowns in the grocery checkout lines … yet … so many poor people. So many sick people.
Something ain’t right.
Folks, I implore you … if you want to give … give. Give to the person who needs it. Directly. To their face. Give … and this will be the most difficult for the white people reading this, but I implore you … give when nobody’s looking. Give when nobody knows. It’s all the help most people get.
Again, I digress. It seems hard for me to hold a topic on this fine Saturday morning. With that in mind, allow me to cease the endless stream of thoughts, and get to the images.
Like most large gatherings of middle-class-and-over white folks, Figgy Pudding was a fascinating thing. As usual, white people proved themselves to be fascinating, fascinating creatures.
Rock on 38 year-old children, rock on.