Walking Around Seattle

forestMany things can be, and have been, said about Seattle – congested, dirty, loud, growing too fast, best being avoided, green, cold shouldered (the Seattle Freeze) and rude. Most of that are true. Quite a few drivers honk at the car in front of them to move it or get out of the way. Pedestrians and bicyclists do the same thing, too. “Move it!” they shout as they silently sneak up behind you and scare the living daylights out of you. Some people avoid downtown Seattle altogether for fear of getting shot in the face (it happens). There is no shortage of beggars and riff raff around the Pike-Pine corridor, Pioneer Square, Native Park, the Waterfront and elsewhere. Aurora Avenue has its own character, too. On any given you can find so many orange needle caps on the street you’d swear you were walking through an infirmary. Still, Seattle is packing them in. There are countless streams of Asians milling about. The Ducks are always full. Just a short stroll through Seattle Center will expose you to foreign languages you strive to identify. Yeah, the skyline is getting bigger and more congested, but at least there is something true about Seattle that can’t be overlooked – she is interesting.

My roommate and I have done a lot of walking around Seattle and the outlying areas. It’s interesting how just crossing one block can bring a whole new change of scenery. We started out walking just 4 miles here, 6 miles there. Eventually, it escalated to 10 miles here, 15 miles there. Yesterday we walked 19.1 miles. Our aching feet brought us through SoDo, the Central District, Mercer Island, Factoria and Bellevue. We saw rich folks and poor folks, businessmen and crackheads, gleaming spires and condemned hovels. There were lakes, bridges, forests, marshes, malls, marinas, hills, gated communities, parks, a bike tunnel, ships, and the two longest floating bridges in the world – the north and south floating bridges across Lake Washington. Walking across that south bridge was torturous. Wikipedia says it’s 1.2 miles but other [laces say it’s about 2 miles long. I believe the 2 miles story. It felt like it. It was kind of dangerous, too. I nearly collided with a bicyclist coming down from Mercer Island at a fast clip. Mercer Island itself was interesting. The police pulled us over and asked if we’d seen a black guy on a bike. We said no. Funny. Mercer Island is milk white. You’d think it’d be a walk in the park to spot a black guy on a bike from 2 miles away. I don’t know. Maybe the cop was just checking up on us to see if we were up to no good.

Our journey terminated at the Bellevue Square. That was worth our 10 hour walk. We were probably fated to make the trip anyway because the Panda Express restaurant we ate in had the same store number as the address of this transitional shelter we live in. All in all, I’d say it was a pretty productive day yesterday. There definitely are lots of areas that Seattle has to improve – Holgate Ave., SoDo, Aurora Ave., the Central District, the International District, Westlake Center, Belltown, parts of Lake City, the University District and so on, but I believe Seattle is just a work in progress. I read that there are 42 cranes working as we speak on the skyline. That’s a start. Once Big Bertha, the super tunneling machine, gets churning again, Seattle will be well on her way to being a super developed but very enjoyable metropolis.

Day of Penance/Austerity Day

wash+mouthYesterday was my first Day of Penance or, if you will, an Austerity Day. For the entire day I ate nothing, didn’t use a computer or TV and wasn’t supposed to cuss. I failed on the cuss part though because I swore about seven times.  I guess I just have a sailor’s mouth. In any case that’s probably a record for me because in the course of a day I usually cuss about 100 times. To test my no-eating resolve I went for a walk down to the Seattle Center where The Bite of Seattle was taking place. That’s where food merchants from all over town set up stalls to sell their food. Just walking around the center there were stalls of Filipino, Greek, Samoan, Chinese, Turkish, Indian, Mediterranean, European, Italian and other delicacies.  Even as their strong scents dilled the air I dutifully resisted. All I did was drink water. In fact, the entire day, that’s all I did. I don’t feel weak, either. In fact I still have yet to eat. Yesterday, one of my transitional housing mates tested my blood sugar. It was 78. I suppose it stayed like that all day because I didn’t feel weak, faint or light-headed. Laying off the computer was tough, though. Still, I did it. As for the cussing, well, that’s another matter. Next time I undertake an Austerity Day I’ll keep a bar of soap for my mouth, just in case.

Making Sense of Violence

Yeah, we all know what it is – a push here, a shove there, a stab here, a shot there, a beheading here, a lashing there. Some would argue its necessity in vengeance, others in protection. Violence is never pretty but some have seen it as art and even made a fortune exploiting it. It’s no secret that people are fascinated with it. Throughout the years we have been witness to some of the most gruesome inventions created solely to inflict all manner of pain and extract information or confessions from people. Even animal cruelty is so widespread that it’d turn the stomach of any sensitive person viewing it. It also seems that no race, class or creed of people has been spared the vicissitudes of violence. Mankind has been privy to the conquering hordes of Huns, Vikings, Zulus, Watusis, Mongols, Nazis, Samurai, ISIS and the like. The list is never ending.

But I am saddled with an autistic mind, a mind which attempts to categorize and simplify the world in order to more easily absorb it. My thinking can be so locked into black and white mode that anything abstract, or in the gray area, can become unnoticeable. Either you’re bad or you’re good. You’re happy or you’re sad. You’re working or you’re goofing off. You’re productive or lazy. You’re violent or non-violent. Since I’ve already chosen to be non-violent, that is where I’m locked into permanently. This, of course, makes it difficult for me to understand how one man can easily tear the skin off another or take another man’s head completely off with a knife. I don’t want to seem naïve here. I know that hatred and anger can drive people to do things that, to others, seems unbelievable. Yet, the internet is chockfull of lurid examples perpetrated around the world, and it seems like there’s no end.

I wish I could do something about the violence. Jains see littering as violence against the earth so I try to use receptacles for my garbage as often as possible. I like the saying, “Commit a random act of kindness every day.” If I could live up to that I think I’d be a better person. In a way, people littering on the street is my fault. Instead of sitting at home playing Scrabble I could be out on the street telling people not to litter or maybe even setting an example by keeping the streets and parks clean. That’s a little extreme but I’m sure it has been done. Perhaps, like Shakespeare said, I doth protest too much. Can’t turn it off, though. I’m locked in non-violence.

The Power of Forgiveness

Korean Weight LifterI’m not sure if this is the right title for this entry but it’ll do for now as I have very little time with internet access anyway. What my attempt is, anyway, is to not harbor ill will to those who would torment me. For instance, if a jogger or bicyclist suddenly came up behind me and said, “To your right!” or “To your left!” it normally startles me and makes me jump out of my skin. Of course this would anger me. Now, what I’m learning how to do is simply think, “Thanks for giving me the opportunity to test my Jain Dharma.” When I hear people play bad guitar that makes my skin crawl and think, “Thanks for playing bad guitar to allow me the opportunity to strengthen my Jain Dharma.” When people insult me, talk behind my back or walk their pitbulls and other savage dogs near me I think, “Thanks for giving me the opportunity to strengthen my resolve in Jainism.” The opposite, of course, would be to swing on all these people and end up in jail or worse. I have to believe that my resilience will make me a better person. So, wreckless driver, thanks for unnecessarily honking your horn in unmovable traffic. Speedy driver, thanks for tailgating at 60mph even though if the guy in front of you suddenly brakes you’ll end up in the morgue. Lazy waiter, thanks for bringing my food 45 minutes late. Hunger builds character anyway. Harried mothers, thanks for having seven noisy uncontrollable kids  who scream incessantly for products on the shelves you can’t afford. Thanks, world, for presenting me with challenges everyday. You give me the strength to carry on.

Jain Society of Seattle

Adinath and Mahavir

Adinath and Mahavir

Yes, Virginia, there is one. Our temple is located within the walls of the Hindu Temple & Cultural Center in Bothell. Right now it’s under renovation but should be up and totally functional in a few months. I was going to take some pictures but I didn’t know if they’d allow it so I didn’t. So far I’ve only been up there about five times, mainly for the big celebrations like Mahavir Jayanti. The two idols pictured in the photo are Adinath and Mahavir, the 1st and 24th Thirtankars. Mahavir, as we all know, is the Jina for this generation and the one who’s teachings are followed. Basically, is teachings are the same as all the other Thirtankars, though – respect for all life, renunciation of material things to attain happiness, extreme non-violence, etc. It’s interesting to note that teens and young people don’t go to the temple that much, at least when I’m there anyway. Mainly it’s older folks and young kids who are learning about Jain Dharma. I suppose like any other religion, the young ones prefer to sit at home playing video games than attending temple. That’s their prerogative. The only reason I mention that is I get a perspective of Jainism from the older crowd. I would also be interested to see how young Jains apply the tenets of Jainism, what they cling to and what they eschew. I’ve read they don’t care much for the complex practices of their ancestors. Some probably don’t bow to the idols, either. I do know that some sects of Jainism have no idols in their temple at all. I guess the basic beliefs of non-violence remain and that’s probably the biggest takeaway. I’m looking forward to the 5K Walk/Run in Marymoor Park on Aug 9. Should be interesting.

Walked 15 Miles in the Hot Sun Yesterday…

…and now my whole body is an aching mess. Oy! When my roommate and I set off for our daily constitutional around noon yesterday I wasn’t anticipating the length of the walk. It turned out to be about 15 miles. That wouldn’t have been so bad except the sun was blistering yesterday. Granted, it was only 90 degrees, still, it felt almost like being stranded on the Sahara. At one point, when we were resting at the Daybreak Indian Cultural Center in Discover Park, my blood sugar dipped and I started feeling shaky and dizzy. Because I’d underestimated the length of the walk I’d committed to I’d only brought two plums to eat. Anyway, after procuring a few candy bars from the Shell on Government Way we continued our stroll. I’m a complete redneck now – physically. I think it’ll be a few days before I set off for another walk again. Hopefully by then the weather will be cooler and I’ll have packed more vittles in my knapsack.