I doubt that anyone who worked at The Stranger in the ’90s or the ’00s would ever guess that one year we’d win a Pulitzer Prize. After all, The Stranger launched “santorum” into the universe (sorry if you got any on you), and one of the requirements for Pulitzer entries is that the material has to have been published in a newspaper “that adheres to the highest journalistic principles.” And by “highest,” I don’t think they meant newspapers where you sometimes get high with your boss at the office Christmas party.
But we’ve had so many good feature writers on staff over the years that maybe it isn’t so surprising. As the editor in chief, I was miffed when Brendan Kiley didn’t get any recognition for his investigative series “The Mystery of the Tainted Cocaine,” which I nominated for a Pulitzer in 2011 in three different categories.
In 2012, the Pulitzer Prizes were announced at noon on a Monday. That morning, walking to work, I thought: “If we’d won anything, they would have told us by now.” One of the pieces we’d nominated that year was “The Bravest Woman in Seattle,” a masterful piece of long-form narrative journalism by Eli Sanders about testimony in a heartbreaking murder trial. Eli had been covering that case for two years: He’d written a feature about the crime itself weeks after it occurred, and then another feature two months later exposing major loop-holes in the way mentally unstable criminal suspects (like the attacker in that case) are handled in Washington State. By the time he wrote “The Bravest Woman in Seattle,” no one in the world knew the story better than Eli did, and I remember distinctly how little editing that piece required. He let the concern and awe that the survivor’s testimony inspired—in himself and in others—come through in his writing. He wrote about trauma in a way newspapers rarely do.
The way the Pulitzer Prize works is, a panel of folks selects three finalists in each category, and from those three, the Pulitzer board chooses a winner. Even being a finalist is a big deal. When Eli came into my office at 12:01 p.m. that day and told me to go to the Pulitzer website, I thought there was a good chance I would see his name among the finalists. I refreshed the page of winners and saw, next to the words “Feature Writing,” the following letters in bold: “Eli Sanders of The Stranger, a Seattle (Wash.) weekly.”
Eli and I stared at each other in shock. He hadn’t believed what he’d seen on his screen, and I couldn’t believe what I was seeing on my screen. I dialed the extension for The Stranger’s general manager, Laurie Saito, and told her to go to Pulitzer.org, and she couldn’t believe what was on her screen. Once we started believing, we ran out into the newsroom and told everyone else, and as we did, Laurie walked in with several bottles of un-chilled champagne that she’d just gone and bought in the liquor store around the corner. I remember a lot of hugs and high-fiving and day drinking. Eventually we wanted cold drinks, so we went across the street to Barça, the bar where we usually gathered after work on Fridays, and Eli’s mom joined in the festivities. So did Jennifer Hopper, the amazing woman whose trial testimony inspired Eli’s article.
It had been five years since a weekly newspaper had won a Pulitzer in any category. When The Stranger’s art critic Jen Graves was a finalist for a Pulitzer two years later, but didn’t win, I was thrilled that her work was being recognized at a level it deserved—but I also thought she’d been robbed. After calling Laurie Saito, I called our publisher, Tim Keck, to tell him that we had just won a Pulitzer Prize. He was in a Wisconsin airport, getting on an airplane. We didn’t have good reception, and he couldn’t hear me when I told him which writer had won. He was flying back to Seattle, and he spent the whole flight wondering who it was. It is a testament to the quality of the writers at The Stranger by that point—a group that included Charles Mudede, Cienna Madrid, Brendan Kiley, Paul Constant, Bethany Jean Clement, Eric Grandy, Anna Minard, Dominic Holden, and Lindy West— that it could have been anyone.
And I doubt that’s the last award we win. The latest crop of Stranger staffers—including Sydney Brownstone, Rich Smith, Heidi Groover, Ansel Herz, and Ana Sofia Knauf— is feisty and freakishly talented. It will be fascinating to watch what they accomplish under their new editor in chief, Tricia Romano, as The Stranger keeps figuring out what it means to be Seattle’s only newspaper.—Christopher Frizzelle
>2009–2016: Highlights from The Stranger's Award-Winning Imperial Phase
Over the years, Sherman Alexie has written several different columns for the paper—a political column called Reservations, a sports column called Sonics Death Watch, a neighborhood column called Text from South Lake Union, and a column of flash fiction. He also wrote the first poem this rag ever published (after anti-poetry editor in chief Dan Savage stepped down and Christopher Frizzelle had taken over editing the paper). Here is the first of five sections in Alexie's poem "Unkissed":
Leave his lovely wife,
And abandon his preschool kids?
He told me once, "I hate my life." So who knew? I did.
(I am vaguely Catholic, so I am prone to believe that any confession, however casual, is a Holy Confession. Isn't every secret a sacred possession? Shouldn't I honor any intimacy with my silence? Or am I just defending my friend? But, damn, what kind of man leaves his family without kissing them good-bye? And what's more, he left them not for another woman or man, but for a studio apartment with a big-screen TV. Should I feel guilty for remaining friends with this bastard? Do I become a liar whenever I conceal the lies of another man, no matter how much I love him like a brother?) ("Unkissed," by Sherman Alexie, February 19, 2009)
The Great Northern Tunnel is one mile long, 28 feet high, 30 feet wide, and 125 feet beneath downtown. Its southern portal is next to King Street Station, its northern portal below Pike Place Market. It was made with James "Empire Builder" Hill's capital and the raw muscle of 350 forgotten men. During the construction, which began in 1903, the miners came across a prehistoric forest. At the center of this long-dead forest, they found a completely preserved tree, which, when exposed to the light of day, vaporized like a vampire into a pile of dust and pulp. Above the southern portal's keystone is the year of the tunnel's completion: "1904." Early in the morning, I found myself standing beneath that date with Luke, my Virgil in punk clothes. We drifted into the tunnel without a thought.
Each crunching step diminished the light behind us; utter blackness was slowly approaching. The tracks were dumb and cold. After walking for about 10 minutes, it occurred to me that if a train were to come through, I would be in a spot of trouble... My imagination saw the lights of a freight train approaching me at a murderous speed. I saw its wheels crushing my body, crunching my bones. I envisioned the newspaper headline: "Zimbabwean Drifter Killed in Tunnel." I saw a thousand rats feasting on my bloody remains. ("Young, Poor, Lucky," by Charles Mudede, March 26, 2009)
The best part of living in Detroit is the ruins. The whole place is one giant urban-ruins park. Though it's sad and broken and abandoned, there is art everywhere. It's beautiful. From the graffiti and street art to all the overgrown empty places, where nature is slowly but surely reclaiming its place. When school ends, it's time to leave and find a job. The last summer we're living there, we break into 50-plus buildings. Not to destroy things, but to pay our respects to all those grand old dinosaurs. We spend so many nights sitting on top of the old train station, Michigan Central Station. We climb 18 stories—it takes almost 45 minutes—with food and beer and blankets on our backs, and then just sit on the roof and watch the sunset over our pretty city. I think I miss that place the most, out of everything. ("Things I Remember About Detroit," by Kelly O, May 27, 2010)
What do you do?
I am in charge of all pyrotechnics and proximate pyrotechnics for the band Bon Jovi. Basically, I make sure anything onstage involving explosive or flame is safe.
So you like to blow shit up?
I've never actually blown shit up. Exploding feces would be messy, and it wouldn't get me very far.
I don't know. I think if you exploded feces on Jon Bon Jovi while he was singing that song "Have a Nice Day," it would be amazing.
Is this really what you wanted to talk about? ("Sound Check: A Q&A with Bon Jovi's Pyrotechnic Specialist," by Trent Moorman. July 8, 2010)
What's the incentive to use a relatively expensive [cutting agent] that makes your customers sick and increases your smuggling risk? ... Nobody seems to know, including experts I spoke with on both coasts of the United States: doctors, scholars, chemists, think-tank fellows, research scientists, federal and state public-health analysts, law enforcement agencies from the Seattle Police Department to the DEA, and even people who work in and around the drug trade. Everyone has theories, but nobody has answers. It's a mystery. ("The Mystery of the Tainted Cocaine," by Brendan Kiley, August 19, 2010)
The agents sit silent, seemingly flummoxed. They've pursued this target for years, luring him into a bust that they hoped would scare him into giving up some valuable intelligence about domestic terrorists, or city politicians, or at least some drug dealers. But they've fundamentally misunderstood their own investigation.
This story fits into a national pattern of law enforcement going to great lengths to prosecute people who are perceived as serious threats to national security, but who are (for the most part) just people with big mouths and weird lifestyles. ("The Long Con," by Brendan Kiley, May 4, 2011)
There are two kinds of Americans: those who hate—or simply tolerate—"The Star-Spangled Banner" and liars.
How is it that the greatest country in the history of everything has one of the worst songs ever as its national anthem? ... I propose that the 1978 song "One Nation Under a Groove" become the United States' new anthem. Written by the late Garry Shider, Walter "Junie" Morrison, and George Clinton (no relation to Bill) of the cultishly popular psychedelic-funk ensemble Funkadelic... President Obama surely heard "One Nation" as a teenager and, being possessed of considerable intelligence and refined aesthetics, he probably dug the song; maybe he even played hoop, busted a move, or made out to it. Clearly, Obama is the man to catalyze this change, especially while he's riding a wave of popularity after vanquishing Osama bin Laden. With "One Nation Under a Groove" as our national anthem, America will prove that even if its economic strength is flagging, its musical taste and striving for positive change remain unimpeachable." ("Throw Away the (Francis Scott) Key," by Dave Segal, May 11, 2011)
Homosexuality is not a race. I am black. I am also gay. I am not gayack or blagay. Being in one minority group doesn't excuse being insensitive to another minority group. If I were to walk around dressed in a kimono with my eyes taped back for a slantlike effect, it should not come as a surprise if any and all Asian persons took offense to it. I promise you, none of them would stop and think to themselves, "Oh wait, he's black. It's totally cool." ("Racist Queers," by Solomon Georgio, June 22, 2011)
A tiny, mean ferret of a man became our store manager, and he hired a murderer's row of cronies from the long line of troubled Borders stores he had tamed into conformity in the past... In 2001, Borders would go on to partner with Amazon.com, allowing the online book retailer to handle their internet sales for them, if you can believe it. There's a photo of Jeff Bezos and then-Borders president and CEO Greg Josefowicz shaking hands to celebrate the partnership. Josefowicz has weatherman hair and a broad smile, and he's beaming past the camera with the cocksure giddiness of a guy who thinks he just got rid of all his problems because he sold his dumb old cow for a handful of really cool magic beans. But when you pull your eyes away from Josefowicz's superheroic chin, you notice that Jeff Bezos is smiling directly into the camera with keen shark eyes. His smile is more relaxed, a little more candid than Josefowicz's photo-op-ready grin. It's the face of someone who's thinking, I finally got you, you son of a bitch. It's a photograph of the exact second that Borders died. ("Books Without Borders," by Paul Constant, Aug 3, 2011)
On the number 7 bus, which runs from Rainier Beach to downtown, a woman once scolded [Ron] Ruthruff for calling a young African American kid a boy. He was a boy, and Ruthruff [who is white] almost ignored the woman because she was drunk. But he was feeling open, and instead he asked her to tell him more. She explained that masters used the term "boy" to belittle slaves; it's still a charged word for black males of all ages. That was 25 years ago, and Ruthruff is still riding that bus in the same spirit. "I think for many of us, we have to just keep listening," he said. "Could we as white people be willing to be wrong? Could that just be okay?" ...
I approach a young African American man I'm overhearing. "I'd love to interview you; you're so eloquent," I tell him, immediately hearing myself sound like one of those people who said candidate Obama was so well-behaved (well-groomed, polite, pick your nice adjective) for a black man.
"I can't believe I just called you eloquent," I say. He gives me a knowing look, we both laugh, and start talking. ("Deeply Embarrassed White People Talk Awkwardly About Race," by Jen Graves, August 31, 2011)
The worst example of white supremacist trolls run amok on our site is probably the comment thread on a story about the book Listen Whitey! The Sights and Sounds of Black Power, 1965–1975, written by a white dude named Pat Thomas. We won't quote from it. But about the book: "Ultimately, Thomas captures the revolutionary spirit of myriad vital strands of the movement and stokes your desire to hear these recordings. Partially to sate that need, Thomas arranged a compilation of spoken-word and musical tracks to be released by Seattle's Light in the Attic Records..." ("White Man's Book Does Justice to Black Power Music," by Dave Segal, February 2, 2012)
And then there were the footprints.
During the first two weeks after Rosado's death, neighbors piled flowers outside Rosado's door, just as they'd piled flowers outside. But a ghostly smattering of white footprints kept showing up on the carpet outside of 606 as well. Whoever was cleaning up 606 kept tracking more flour out and leaving it there overnight... Truthfully, if Rosado hadn't called so much attention to her departure from the world, most of the neighbors on the sixth floor never would have noticed. It's an 88-year-old brick building with rodents and high turnover... The guy who shot himself in his kitchen down the hall seven years ago, shortly before I moved in, craved attention from his neighbors, at least according to the notes he wrote all over his walls... Chris Parks, the ex-maintenance guy who had to repaint those walls, took photos of them... He burned the photos to a CD that he gave me... It made me want to run down the hall and introduce myself to everyone in the building. ("The Woman in 606," by Christopher Frizzelle, August 22, 2012)
It turns out, [Clint] Eastwood speaking to an invisible Obama sitting in a chair onstage was an unwittingly perfect metaphor for this convention; the organizers spent millions of dollars arguing against an imaginary statement by a cartoon-villain president who at least one of these delegates described in the streets outside as "in the Muslims." ("Stuck in a Room with Mitt Romney," by Paul Constant, August 29, 2012)
It's that time of year again—time to pay attention to the men who rock, FOR A CHANGE! Everyone knows that there is nothing sexier (or more rare) than a man who knows how to rock. Being a gorgeous man in music is one thing, but add talent to the mix? That's taking it to a whole 'nother level. With male-fronted bands, male solo acts, and even all-male bands becoming more and more commonplace, 2012 has definitely been the year of fierce men in music. They're starting to rock all the genres, too: provocative punks, steamy rock 'n' rollers, dashing cowboy sweethearts, hiphop hunks—men are even making it in the complicated world of electronic music! Guys everywhere are stepping to the front and demanding to be heard—and we're ready to listen. ("Men Who Rock," by Emily Nokes and Bree McKenna, October 3, 2012)
Since Munchausen syndrome by internet isn't in the DSM-IV, the best way to detect it is to know the signs, says Dr. [Marc] Feldman.
Like other forms of the disorder, Feldman explains that Munchausen by internet usually manifests in the late teens or early 20s. It's often preempted or accompanied by other psychological issues, most commonly personality disorders. And it predominantly affects women. "I'm not clear on all the reasons for that, but it's a pretty consistent finding," Feldman explains. "And many of them have medical or nursing training... Their fascination with medical issues is expressed in their career choices."
The lies escalate slowly, which makes them harder to detect. Someone might sound like a walking textbook when talking about their symptoms, or they may be quick to duplicate the symptoms of other people around them. The lies are intricate, detailed, engrossing. Terrible setbacks are followed by miraculous recoveries. And if someone else becomes the center of attention, their condition will dramatically worsen or they will become the victim of a sudden tragic event. ("The Lying Disease," by Cienna Madrid, November 21, 2012)
The question is hard to get your head around: If Charles Krafft is a Holocaust denier, what does that say about his revered artwork? What exactly does he believe happened, and didn't happen, during the Holocaust? How should collectors and curators—or anyone who sees his work— reassess his art in light of what he's been saying lately? ...
This wasn't the first time I'd heard the rumor, but I found it impossible to imagine that the swastikas on Krafft's work might reflect genuine spite toward Jews—i.e., that there might not be so much difference between Krafft's swastikas and Hitler's. After all, that could mean this self-taught, former Skagit Valley hippie artist was using the guise of art and irony to smuggle far-right symbols into museums, galleries, collectors' homes, and upscale decor shops like Far4 on First Avenue.
That first time I asked Krafft whether he was a Holocaust denier, he refused to answer. ("Charles Krafft Is a White Nationalist Who Believes the Holocaust Is a Deliberately Exaggerated Myth," by Jen Graves, February 13, 2013)
Once a month or so, I sleep with men.
Fourteen or 15 usually. We sleep on mats, the men on the floor of the gym and me on the floor of the storage room off the little kitchen by the gym. Before the men arrive, the other winter shelter host and I put the mattresses out on the gym floor and a chair beside each one so the men can put whatever they have somewhere. We get out juice and cheese and crackers and instant soup and peanut butter and jelly so they can make themselves a snack. Some of the men, as soon as they arrive, go straight to sleep, but some of them want to stay up and read the paper, if one of us remembers to bring it, or watch a video on the TV in the kitchen, though mostly we just hang around together. ("Sleeping with Strangers," by Rebecca Brown, April 24, 2013)
It was a warm night late this past summer, the kind of night that leaves you panting between yawns like a horny-dull lover. A familiar craving drove an unsuspecting Seattle man from his condo: He needed a cigarette. He stepped outside. A few clouds hung in the breezeless sky, partially obscuring the waxed gleam of a fat gibbous moon, but not enough to dispel its brightness.
The 35-year-old man rolled a cigarette, alone. He'd lived in the small, L-shaped condominium building long enough to know the rules—if you wanted a smoke, you had to take it outside, either in the condo's gated parking lot or on the sidewalk. He was a computer programmer, not a rule breaker.
Laughter and muted conversation spilled out from a nearby bar. More horny-dull people struggling to make a connection in this crazy, horny-dull world. But that wasn't what captured his attention as he took a drag off his cigarette. It was the empty, nice car he says he saw parked illegally, partially blocking his condo's driveway. As he walked toward the rear of the car, he says, he saw an elegant woman shitting right where the driveway and the street meet.
"I definitely saw her bare ass," he tells me over the phone.
I lean back in my office chair, pressing him for details. "And you're sure it was a turd you saw?" ("Spooky Shit," by Cienna Madrid, October 23, 2013)
[Seattle Police silently introduced] a mesh network [that's] part of a whole new arsenal of surveillance technologies that are moving faster than the laws that govern them are being written... If federally funded, locally built surveillance systems with little to no oversight can dump their information in a fusion center—think of it as a gun show for surveillance, where agencies freely swap information with little restriction or oversight—that could allow federal agencies such as the FBI and the NSA to do an end-run around any limitations set by Congress or the FISA court. ("You Are a Rogue Device," by Brendan Kiley and Matt Fikse-Verkerk, November 6, 2013)
The Seattle Police Officers' Guild is a club of retrograde good old boys that embodies the most toxic aspects of cop culture. Officially a labor union representing about 1,250 sworn officers—negotiating police contracts, shaping department policy—the guild's past leadership admits that the union, commonly known as SPOG, spends most of its time defending officers involved in misconduct investigations.
After a spate of misconduct cases arose in 2010, eventually resulting in the US Department of Justice finding that Seattle police have a pattern of using excessive force, editorials began appearing in the SPOG newspaper, the Guardian, attacking political leaders who supported reform, opposing the reform plan, and calling to overturn programs intended to stop racial profiling. The city's Race and Social Justice Initiative is "an assault on traditional and constitutional American values," one Guardian piece declared. Efforts to combat racial profiling were "socialist policies" perpetrated by "the enemy" (with "the enemy" being city officials who wanted to work on the racial profiling issue). Another piece, published the same year a cop threatened to "beat the fucking Mexican piss out of" an innocent man, argued cops should be allowed to call citizens "bitch" and "n***a" (asterisks appeared in the original). SPOG compared the Justice Department's investigation to the federal government's bloody standoffs at Waco and Ruby Ridge. They said the city attorney charging an officer with assault after the officer kicked a teenager lying on the ground was "a calculated and evil move." They sued to block the police reform plan after it was approved by a judge. And they said that several assistant chiefs partnering with elected officials to implement early reforms were a sign that "the enemy" had found "new allies... at the very top of SPD." ("Reform in Reverse," by Dominic Holden, April 16, 2014)
Tranny was invented as a term of affection between those of us who wished to live outside the gender binary system, but now a new generation of trans activists finds that word to be deeply offensive and have sought to banish it entirely. For the record, I'm sorry the word we made up was overheard by mean people and has been used to cause so much pain to those who are experiencing transphobia in their young lives. It breaks my heart that transphobes from within and outside of our "community" have used that word to inflict pain on people. I am delighted that the word "queer," a word that continues to be loathed by a huge number of conservative, mostly bourgeois members of the LGBT community—a controversial and reclaimed umbrella term we fought hard for—has become a word that many conservative, state- and university-educated young "activists" seem to be able to cope with. For now...
My greatest wish, and I mean this with my whole heart, is that the strategies they are using to combat transphobia now will lead to the better world they are hoping for... But if by erasing the word "tranny," they hope to get rid of embarrassing associations with trans sex workers, drag performers, trashy gender fuckers, and other self-identified "freaks" who choose to live outside the binary gender system, they are in for a big disappointment, and in my opinion, they should be ashamed of themselves. Long before and even since Stonewall, the gay bourgeoisie has tried to hide the drag, leather, and trans subcultures away from the mainstream media to present a "positive" face in order to gain mainstream acceptance for the heteronormative LGBT people of their own class...
This argument around word-policing has mistakenly been described as "a generational thing." It's not. It's about conservative tactics versus more progressive ones... Banning words is censorship, and censorship is a conservative tactic. Maybe you've heard this one? "I don't mind that you're gay, but do you have to talk about it all the time?" ("About the Word 'Tranny,'" by Mx Justin Vivian Bond, June 25, 2014)
Having given Seattle a host of places to eat, drink, and be merry, [David] Meinert and [Jason] LaJeunesse are now offering the ultimate lifestyle accessory, with their own retro-modernist twist. The former Ferrari dealership will be made over to resemble what Meinert calls "a combination hunting lodge and '80s video arcade" envisioned by renowned designer George Esquivel. The cars themselves will be moved to an underground vault for private viewing, while what is now the vehicle showroom will be converted into a lounge/fashion boutique that will serve locally sourced sparkling wine and fruit, sell clothing designs inspired by the films of Visconti, Fellini, and Antonioni, and feature a revolving lineup of the Northwest's premier DJ/turntablists. But Meinert and LaJeunesse have been around long enough to know that all this innovation would be for naught without the right name. With that in mind, they've christened their latest brainchild 4RE. ("Meinert, LaJeunesse Acquire Ferrari Dealership," by Sean Nelson, October 10, 2014)
Eden is a 2012 film about a suburban teenage girl kidnapped from her hometown in New Mexico and taken into a warehouse outside Las Vegas, where she is forced into a factory of sex slaves headed by a crooked US Marshal. The girls live in punishing conditions. They're lined up for mandatory pregnancy tests and mystery injections. Tracking cuffs are strapped to their ankles. Their clients come from every level of American society: businessmen, fraternity guys, politicians. Assigned the name Eden, the girl we follow is imprisoned, beaten, raped, whipped, and tortured. Her only route to escape is through the ultimate betrayal, convincing sex-trafficking ringleaders she is loyal to them by becoming their madam—selling other women to save herself.
As the movie makes clear, Eden's story is based on the life of a real woman. She is Chong Kim, a noted crusader against sex trafficking...
If there were a lawsuit, that would include a "discovery" process, a jarring loose of evidence, potentially—facts that might lead us toward the truth. But as things stand, we don't know who involved with the movie knew what when. And nobody, as far as I can tell, is pursuing legal action around the question of whether Eden is true, or whether Chong Kim, in her many and varied statements about sex trafficking in America, has been telling the truth. ("Eden Was a Scary Movie About Sex-Trafficking Based on a True Story—Or Was It?" by Jen Graves, December 17, 2014)
You would think hair is of no consequence, but mine was part of my persona—big, red, and unruly. I liked to hide in the mess of it. I had nearly the same hairstyle for 25 years. The thought of losing it was akin to a loss of self. But losing that was only the beginning.
The first guiding metaphor that helped give order to what was coming was something one of my doctors said. He compared being diagnosed with stage IV cancer to stepping onto a roller coaster car in a dark enclosed space. Once the diagnostic bar comes down and the car starts rolling, there's no time to think. There's just shock at the prospect of death.
My first serious medical appointments happened over Christmas. The holiday was a lush island in a lake of fog. I found myself craving Christmas carols, staring fondly at the neighbors' ostentatious display of lights, and listening to the rhythm of conversations, enjoying that—just voices—without caring what anyone said. I had some catastrophic thoughts and some morbid thoughts, and drank a few glasses of wine—a brief and final indulgence. ("How Listening to Music and Fighting with Susan Sontag Helped Me Cope with Chemo," by Trisha Ready, January 21, 2015)
RIP to Oklahoma brother Eric Harris, fatally shot last month by a Tulsa County Sheriff reserve deputy named Robert Bates who allegedly meant to grab his Taser. In a Tulsa World report, sources claimed that the sheriff's department falsified Bates's training records. Bates, 73, is also, apparently, a wealthy insurance executive and political ally of Sheriff Stanley Glanz. He has pleaded not guilty to second-degree manslaughter. You can't make this shit up—you can't make up for it, either.
I am not meaning to turn this column, which is ostensibly about hiphop music, into a tally of black lives lost at the hands of the police. It's just that a war upon black people is extremely relevant to any conversation about hiphop, close to mind, and completely inescapable—though if it is managing to somehow escape your notice, you should count your blessings. For extra credit, you can count the blessings of others, too, and think honestly about why they've stacked up the way the have. ("My Philosophy: I Don't Wanna Dance, I'm Scared to Death," by Larry Mizell Jr., May 13, 2015)
Don't worry, friends, when your mom told you that you could be anything you wanted to be, she was right! You can be black if you want to, and I can be white! I've had my eye on Whiteness for a while and it seems like a sweet gig, so if you've been looking to add a little color to your life, I'm here to make a trade.
What You Get: Black friends—but for real. A whole library of cool handshakes. Great music. Dancing ability. The ability to look cool in bright colors. A rich history of strength through adversity. Black Twitter. The ability to grow locs that don't look disgusting. An Afro that white people always want to touch. Better basketball skills. You get to retroactively feel immense joy at Obama's 2008 election. Kwanzaa. Black history month. A really nice ass. Those anti-aging genes (#CheckThisMelanin). A sweet potato pie recipe. Kylie Jenner lips without surgery. Police brutality. A lower life expectancy. 1300 percent less net financial worth. A higher infant mortality rate. A lower salary—for the same job! The school-to-prison pipeline. Those ladies who clutch their purses when you walk by. Centuries of oppression and exploitation. Your own food desert. Your own security detail every time you go shopping. Your own special extra-racist internet trolls
What I Get: St. Patrick's Day. All the other history months. To enjoy that show Girls. A bank loan. Hair that's considered "professional" just the way it grows out of my head. Most of the Disney princesses. Way more Halloween costume options. The freedom to call the police when I'm in danger. Country music. Nude crayons, Band-Aids, and pantyhose. A goulash recipe. A fat/phat raise (next round's on me, friends). All your business contacts. Manifest destiny. The ability to go to the airport without being picked for "random screening." Generations of freedom and power. The ability to ask for help after a car accident without being shot in the face. Higher-quality medical care. Fanny packs. Carson Daly. A lifetime supply of sunscreen. The ability to not see color.
So those are my terms of sale. A life of blackness is yours—all for the cost of your whiteness! Don't miss out on this great opportunity. Terms and conditions: No refunds. No day passes. No substitutions. ("I Have a Proposal for Rachel Dolezal," by Ijeoma Oluo, June 12, 2015)
When I was 5, my family moved to a new house off Aurora on 115th. My dad invented a game in which the house was a ship, I was a sailor, and he was the captain. The purpose of the game was to distract me from my fear of the house and to persuade me to follow rules. I preferred a version of the game I invented in which I was also a captain—the captain of a pirate ship. At first I was Captain Hook from Peter Pan, but through ongoing make-believe, my pirate persona developed. I wore an increasingly filthy felt tricorn hat and eye patch, and every morning drew a mustache on myself with a black-licorice-scented Magic Marker.
When a relative made me a plaid dress with a matching eye patch, my mom was thrilled, but when she put the dress on me so she could take a picture, I started crying. I remember her saying how pretty I was, which made it worse. I felt humiliated—pirate captains don't wear dresses, I thought. Fortunately, my mom realized something was seriously wrong and never made me wear that dress again, or any other. Within two years, I asked to cut my hair short. In any picture of me from childhood past the age of 5, my wardrobe isn't much different than it is now, except I am now less likely to a wear a poison-dart-frog-print baseball cap, and the substances my clothing is stained with have changed. There are few things I'm more thankful to my parents for than not forcing me to dress and behave "appropriately" for a person with my external sexual characteristics. ("My Whole Life I've Been Asked If I'm a Girl or a Boy," by Sarah Galvin, June 24, 2015)
I was the one driver pulled over out of a group of drivers travelling at the same speed. Maybe it had absolutely nothing to do with my race. Maybe the cop couldn't even see us until we were on the side of the road. Maybe it's just plain old bad luck and I'm thinking bad thoughts about a good cop.
But I'll never know. Because I can't ask. Not unless I want to risk angering a cop. Not unless I want to risk being pulled out of a car, having a taser pointed at me, having my head slammed into the ground, being left in a jail cell for three days, all without an explanation of my arrest.
And that's what really hurts. I can't even ask why. ("Today I Got Pulled Over for Driving While Black," by Ijeoma Oluo, July 22, 2015)
Human milk is... very much alive... The flavors are as dynamic as a mother's diet... My daughter began dabbling in solid foods at five months, and since then, much to my delight, has eagerly scarfed down pork ribs smoked by her grandfather, roasted zucchini from Local Roots Farm, lechon and bagoong at a Food & Sh*t pop-up dinner on Beacon Hill, Neah Bay king salmon at Capitol Hill's Marjorie, and deep-fried hush puppies from Jackson's Catfish Corner in Rainier Valley...
Even before her first encounter with solid food, her taste buds had already begun telling her that she is part of a city filled with the cuisines of many nations, a household that supports local farmers, and a Filipino family with an abiding love of pork and fermented shrimp paste.
Just as exciting... without my knowing it, my milk has already been adapting itself to her needs. Breast-fed babies have lower instances of colds and viruses... How exactly is my body able to write my daughter a prescription for her illness without a diagnosis? ("The More I Learn About Breast Milk, the More Amazed I Am," by Angela Garbes, August 26, 2015)
This was the most-read story ever run on The Stranger's website, with more than one million page views.
The crowd booed and hissed and chanted "Bernie," which overwhelmed the chant to "let them speak." As [Marissa] Johnson and [Mara Jacqueline] Willaford called for silence, some people raised fists in solidarity, but the more vocal Sanders supporters shouted vitriolic shit. Someone from behind the stage threw a full bottle of water, which hit me in the stomach. If that bottle of water had been thrown a little higher, a little more to the right, one of the two women who had commandeered the mic would have been hit in the head. The scene may have turned violent. The little cadre of cops keeping watch could have leaped onstage and indulged their rage for order, and things could've gotten even uglier. I don't know who the bottle-thrower was aiming for, whether they were aiming at all, or whether they were from Seattle. But I would like to use this platform briefly to say: Fuck you. You're not helping. ("What Bernie Sanders Said (and Didn't Say) After the Black Lives Matter Interruption," by Rich Smith, August 12, 2015)
Last Days was for years a Stranger standard. It was a cesspool where all other cesspools came to meet up, and its first writers were Sean Nelson and Rebecca Pellman. Its longest writer was David Schmader. Every week for 16 years, Schmader would comb through the news of the world and pick the most terrible, the most unfuckingbelievable, and the most whaaa? things that humans had done in the week just past, things he described in the final column as "16 Years of Gawkworthy Crime, Human Bloopers, and Adult Children Hoarding the Corpses of Their Dead Parents." At first he would report city scenes, but later, with the interwebs all webby and inter-y, he curated material from every corner of everywhere. In the final column, he explained, "Why should one Cosby accuser be showcased and not another? Do people really need to know the name of the guy who died of a fatal penis injection, or is 'New Jersey man' an acceptable substitute that might spare his survivors some pain? How many stories of babies being microwaved can readers withstand before being driven to sterilize themselves and throw away their microwaves? These are the questions I wrangled with weekly for 16 years, typically while listening to Gas's ambient masterwork Pop and in the vicinity of my ridiculous dog Pickles." ("The Last Days Crisis Is Over (for Me)," by David Schmader, September 16, 2015)
I'm not saying Alice B. Toklas does or does not haunt the Sorrento. It's a beautiful place, and they have even invented a terrific drink for her, the Ms. Toklas (lucid absinthe, elderflower, chamomile, honey, lemon juice, rocks). So, if Alice's spirit is a wandering one, why not come back to Seattle? In the 1890s her mom was alive and charming, and Alice herself was alive and gay and beginning to be an artist. She lived here when she was happy, before anybody she loved had died. Who doesn't want to go back to then? Who isn't haunted by a sweeter past?
There's more than one kind of haunting. There's haunting that's not about wandering figures in white or mysterious noises, but haunting as in the things you can't forget. The things you remember and wonder what if. What if I had done that differently? What if I'd said what I meant? Oh what, oh what if I could go back? There's haunting like how when you wear something someone gave you, you remember. Or you hear a song or want to tell someone something but they're gone. There's haunting like staring for how long at you don't know what. There's haunting like thinking why can't I be happy again? Why are you dead? ("Alice B. Toklas Lived in Seattle Before She Met Gertrude Stein," by Rebecca Brown, September 9, 2015)
I wouldn't have blamed Olsen for leaving the stage in that moment. I've seen male performers storm off-stage because their tea wasn't hot enough. I've seen many more (myself included, btw) become petulant and hostile on-stage because they/we didn't feel the audience was paying the right kind of attention.
Being a performer is gratifying on many levels, but it's hard in private ways that non-performers never see, and therefore are unlikely to sympathize with—you don't like it? Don't do it. As if that were an option. What a massive cosmic injustice it is that women—whether as preternaturally gifted and real as Angel Olsen or not, just all human women—have to pay this added tax, the indignity tax, just to participate in everything. ("A Few Thoughts About the Creep Who Heckled Angel Olsen During Her Show at Neumos Last Night," by Sean Nelson, October 8, 2015)
I really didn't want to write this review. I still don't. Not because Meryl Streep is a lie (she appears for like 15 seconds). Not because the main character never existed in this supposedly historical film (the director calls it a "composite character"). Not because Suffragette is a bad film—it's not. It's fine. It's Oscar bait. Whatever.
I didn't want to write this review because I'm tired of writing about white people. I'm tired of fantasy worlds where people of color don't exist. Where even the made up—excuse me—composite characters are white. It gets really disheartening to see yourself written out of popular culture, written out of history time and time again. It's really hard to keep answering my son's question: "How come there aren't any brown people in this?" ("Why I Won't Write a Review of Suffragette," by Ijeoma Oluo, November 4, 2015)
On July 9, 2014, a brilliant summer day, William Wingate was walking through Capitol Hill.
The 70-year-old Air Force veteran and retired King County Metro bus driver had a daily habit of walking and using a golf club like a cane, according to his attorney, Susan Mindenbergs. He typically walked from Northgate to the Central District, where he would pick up copies of the Facts newspaper.
But at about 1 p.m., shortly after Seattle police officer Cynthia Whitlatch turned the corner past The Stranger's offices, she pulled over her patrol car, got out, and yelled at Wingate to drop his golf club.
The incident was caught on her vehicle's dash-cam video recording system and obtained by The Stranger through a public records request. ("Video: Seattle Police Jail Elderly Military Veteran for 'Walking in Seattle While Black,'" by Ansel Herz, January 28, 2015)
1. "It does not bang in any sense—Ryan Lewis's productions don't really do that—and is a too-many-tabs-open mess of musical ideas." (re: Macklemore's "Downtown," Aug 28)
2. "More importantly, you never get the feeling that Kendrick is going to tell you racism is a thing of the past (like Kanye or A$AP Ferg have) or that black folks needed to 'extend their hand in love' and 'forget about the past' to fix it (as Selma soundtrack Grammy- and Oscar-winner Common fixed his face to say recently)." (To Pimp a Butterfly review, April 1)
3. "Every new name crossed out by the police—or the unlicensed, unbonded white terrorists who drink from the same well as the cops—is another invitation to be traumatized, to be filled past bursting with bile, frothing over like shook-up soda." (My Philosophy, Dec 2)
4. "Do you sit on FB commenting on scary-ass status updates bemoaning 'Somali gangbangers' on Pike Street while ignoring the fact that 300,000 of your neighbors can't send money home anymore because of the war on terror?" (My Philosophy, re: Malitia MaliMob, March 4)
5. "Let the record show that the week this album dropped: (1) Starbucks publicized a ham-fisted initiative to make their least-paid employees attempt to discuss race with their customers in the two minutes before they get their morning fix (let's hope they were insured against any resulting third-degree facial burns), (2) a black UVA student had his head beat bloody on the concrete by beverage control officers for allegedly using a fake ID; (3) a middle-aged black man named Otis Byrd was found lynched in a tree behind his own house in Mississippi, and at press time is still considered the prime suspect in his own death." (My Philosophy, re: To Pimp a Butterfly, March 25)
6. "To a lot of trad rap heads—who historically keep the finger they would otherwise keep on the pulse of what's going on right up their fuckin' asses—most ATL rap is identical gibberish with triplet hi-hats (and being only half-right is not being right, IMO), and rap's keynote weirdo Young Thug is pretty much the Antichrist, given his fuckless gender-flouting gangster persona." (My Philosophy, Oct 7)
7. "Something I don't mind telling you: I had an Everclear T-shirt." (Everclear preview, Nov 7)
8. "Compare that to Compton, which, despite some nice hooks, beats, and guests (especially Anderson Paak), smacks too much of the high-tech, hermetically sealed melodrama of an Eminem album—WHY ARE WE YELLING?—and too little of the creeping, laid-back menace-funk that Dre practically invented." (My Philosophy, Aug 12)
9. "If you really like rap—and not just the way that rap informs your self-image, and not only the rap you or your friends make, or the rap you grew up on (or the shit that just sorta sounds like it, which you also might make yourself)—well goddamn, you really might just be enjoying all this good shit dropping in 2015 right now." (My Philosophy, July 22)
10. "Batten down the hatches, batches!" (My Philosophy, Nov 11) ("The Top 10 Albums, Songs, and Everything Else from the Year in Music 2015," by Sean Nelson and Stranger Staff, December 16, 2015)
Though I'm distraught by the prospect of a world without David Bowie, I'm consoled by the knowledge that there are enough layers in the work he left behind—not to mention just the last 20 years of underappreciated records—that we will have plenty to think and talk and sing about.
And by the joy I feel in his final magic trick having succeeded so beautifully.
I'm a tiny bit comforted by my belief that he would be pleased, if only in some tiny, wry way, by the image of a fan listening to his new record when they got the news of his death, and, rather than turning to the beloved old hits for succor in the face of this incalculable loss, going even deeper into Blackstar. The ingenious mischief, the crafty sincerity, the calculated openness behind the now undeniable fact that he knew he was writing and recording his own eulogy. Who better?
I'm a tiny bit comforted by the fact that whatever else had happened in the 50 years since he started making music, David Bowie at long last managed the rarest accomplishment that exists in the realm of pop: He refused to die until he had returned to his rightful place—at the center of it all. At the center of it all. ("In Death as in Life, David Bowie Remains the Master of Self-Invention," by Sean Nelson, January 11, 2016)
According to the invitation, the night came about after a "dialogue about the things we love most about Seattle and our most passionate grievances," in which the Cloud Room's members "reported their number one grievance with Seattle is homelessness." The Cloud Room is a members-only co-working space in Capitol Hill's recently opened Chophouse Row. Memberships cost $300 to $600 a month; the space has, in addition to standard office accoutrements, a full service coffee and cocktail bar, a white grand piano, and an "Astrologer in Residence." ("Looking for 'Solutions' to Homelessness at the Cloud Room," by Heidi Groover, April 28, 2016)
Fuck El Comite. Fuck another tame immigrants rights march parade, organized by local group El Comite and welcomed by police, while the federal government maintains a for-profit gulag holding immigrants just forty minutes away. Fuck doing the same thing over and over—protesting because you want to end deportations that rip apart families and send fathers, mothers, and children to impoverished, unsafe countries—instead of upping the pressure or focusing attention on the active monument to the injustice of the system in our neighboring city.
Fuck a bunch of the anarchists. Not all of them. A bunch of them. Fuck their tired, overblown rhetoric: "destroying our enemies," "let's get wild and free!" etc. Fuck their macho-posturing, their self-involved adrenaline rushes, their immature screaming and cursing, and, for all of their hyperbole, their failure to accomplish jack in the fight against capitalism, a rapacious economic system that threatens the planet. Fuck their laziness, their unwillingness to put in the organizing work between May Days to do something that ordinary working people in Seattle could get behind, something that isn't stale and predictable. ("Fuck Everything About May Day in Seattle," by Ansel Herz, May 2, 2016)
When I first moved here from Los Angeles, I stumbled across a little coffee shop while wandering through Pike Place Market. Even though it's hard to find, it's worth the hunt. This charming, local spot has managed to keep its doors open in the outdoor market since 1971—which is saying something in this age of constant development—and their chipper baristas serve up perfectly roasted, no-frills cups of joe. You won't find coffee like it anywhere else. ("Fifty Places in Seattle That You're Taking For Granted," by Ana Sofia Knauf, May 25, 2016)
[Deja] Stwalley told [Liz] Shearer that she was a recruiter and it was her job to ferry women into the porn industry safely...
According to Shearer, Stwalley told her that she could audition with her ex-boyfriend, a photographer named Matt. Stwalley told Shearer that she would also have to have sex with Matt... Two years before Shearer met Matt, another woman had a similar experience. In 2013, Deja Stwalley friended 19-year-old Allysia Bishop on Facebook... Bishop says that she never would have had sex with Matt if she didn't think it was for the audition...
That same day, Bishop slit her wrists in a bathtub...
But the justice system has a limited ability—or willingness—to prosecute cases where consent was obtained under false pretenses. Three of the women have gone to local police, but they don't feel they're being taken seriously.
"It makes me feel like they don't really care if he does it again," Shearer says. ("The Audition," by Sydney Brownstone, June 8, 2016)
By the time you read this, someone will have showed me the Facebook Live video of Philando Castile, the Minnesota man killed while sitting in his car. According to his girlfriend's account, Castile, who told the officer that he had his licensed firearm in the glove compartment, was shot in the arm and chest four times (again, point-blank) while reaching for his wallet, presumably to show the cop his ID. ("I AM REACHING INTO MY POCKET FOR MY LICENSE." —Richard Pryor, 1974.) One could probably assume then that the officer approached the vehicle, pulled over for a busted taillight, with his gun out and his finger on the trigger. Wonder why?
His girlfriend, Diamond Reynolds, narrated the whole scene via live streaming video while her daughter—4 years old, not too long after they say childhood memory begins to form—watched from the backseat. Castile—who managed an elementary school's cafeteria, an upstanding dude who'd been a straight-A student and had no priors—bled out and died.
I imagine there's a lot of America, the other America, the Real America, that will see his long braids and think thug, and mean nigger—though maybe they'll just cut out the middleman—and not for a second doubt that it was his fault. "Honey, he had a gun," some NRA member will patiently explain to somebody, somewhere.
And nothing will change, except maybe there will be more people in the streets. And there will definitely be more police in those streets, too, hands on their guns, ready to serve them, if not exactly protect them. ("My Philosophy: This Fucking Week," by Larry Mizell Jr., July 6, 2016)