The first decade had only seemed hard. By the turn of the century, The Stranger had become part of Seattle’s cultural landscape—less a beloved companion than a party guest no one could remember inviting but who refused to leave for so long that they eventually got added to the lease. I confess to a sentimental and romantic attachment to this era that isn’t shared by all my colleagues, because I am basically a big soft cotton towel, but any way you look at The Stranger in the ’90s, things were going well. Then history and technology started fucking up the program.

Internally, the biggest change was the advent of Slog, The Stranger’s group blog, which arrived with the redesigned, relaunched website in 2005, instantly doubling everyone’s workload and fundamentally altering the staff ’s consciousness, especially after comments were enabled.

The first big shock of this period was the catastrophic land grab of the 2000 presidential non-election. Then came 9/11. Putting out a newspaper in the days and weeks that followed at first felt like the purest form of futility, but ended up feeling like a gift. Against the global backdrop of people insisting that irony was officially dead, a paper whose marrow was irony had to determine what was worth saying and what wasn’t.

The attacks fell on a Tuesday, the day the paper goes to press. In a mad scramble to make the cover reflect the only thing anyone was thinking or talking about, art director Joe Newton and the brilliant graphic artist Sean Tejaratchi came up with a startling image of absence, oblong columns of white in a blue sky, as if the towers had been literally torn off the page.

Of all the millions of words written in the subsequent 15 years, I can’t think of any as resonant or eloquent as that Stranger cover.

For the following week’s issue, we ran a close-up photo of a box cutter, the weapon used by the hijackers to take control of the planes. The trademark engraved on the handle inspired the headline “Unmade in the USA.”

The worldwide economic free-fall that followed the attacks, coupled with the rise of Craigslist, represented a brutal one-two punch to the entire newspaper industry. Around 2004, I coined the slogan “Seattle’s Only Newspaper.” It was kind of a joke.

The reelection of George W. Bush in 2004 was surely the darkest day of that decade. The morning after election night, many of us started drinking at breakfast, if we had even stopped the night before. We stumbled around the office, bleary and shattered. We took the loss personally, as though it had been a referendum on the values we embodied and attempted to give voice to week after week. Which it had. The city felt leveled by grief. Then someone had the excellent idea of blowing off the rest of the day and going to the movies. So we bundled up and trundled down Pine Street en masse, the least threatening gang Seattle has ever known. Several of us got high, others drunk(er), and we laughed ourselves silly at Shaun of the Dead, an absurd British comedy about a semi-bohemian life being invaded by brain-eating zombies.

When we reconvened at the office, the grief had turned back to righteous anger, and talk turned once again to what there even was to say.

The answer was “The Urban Archipelago,” an ungainly, impassioned, 6,000-word group feature, accompanied by one of the most iconic covers the paper has ever published. It was the biggest gob of spit we could hock up, a celebration of urbanism, a refutation of the know-nothing, exurban isolationism that embraced Bush (and now threatens to elect Trump).

Its conception was contentious and bitterly argued. It was loved. It was hated. It had multiple authors and contained multiple logical flaws, but it was also fundamentally true, and still is. More to the point, “The Urban Archipelago” contained a powerful rejoinder to the idea that the country had been reclaimed by bastards, bigots, and believers.

Though we continued to argue over the finer points, it felt good to know what we were for and against. By the time the whole of Capitol Hill erupted in orgiastic celebration the night Barack Obama was elected president in 2008, it felt even better.


Highlights from The Stranger, 1999–2008

Boys do cry: when their record collection disappears. JAMES YAMASAKI

OUR CRUSH WITH EYELINER...

As Bumbershoot approaches, The Stranger extends a warm welcome to very special fake guest columnist Michael Stipe in "New Column! What's My Gripe?" (August 26, September 2, and September 9, 1999)

...IS OVER

Dear Stranger:

What's my gripe? My gripe is how lame your "What's My Gripe by Michael Stipe" column is. It was marginally funny when you did it two years ago. Now it's just painfully stupid. Can't you guys come up with anything new? If you find it a laugh riot to use my name and photo, then by all means, be my guest. But it just seems like it's a big waste of paper. There are major things going on in this world and in Seattle, and you have a big readership of young people with a lot of energy, so why don't you do something positive instead of trying so hard to be "funny?" Oh yeah, I almost forgot: I call bullshit on that.

Sincerely,

Michael Stipe ("What's My Gripe?" by Michael Stipe, September 9, 1999)

HAUNTED BY THE TOWERS

They were never the beautiful part of the Manhattan skyline. In fact, filmmakers sometimes went out of their way not to feature the World Trade Center's twin skyscrapers... Now, of course, they mean everything... Much as actors who die too young retroactively overwhelm the pictures they acted in, those buildings will now become the star of every film in which they appear. Furthermore, their appearance will transform the film, no matter how inane or innocuous, into an unshakable reminder of the day that the first great cataclysm of the 21st century finally pulled America into the harsh reality of the 20th. ("Ghosts of Steel and Glass: The World Trade Center on Film," by Sean Nelson, September 20, 2001)

OUR ART CRITIC'S PROTRACTED WAR WITH PIGS ON PARADE

But the gloss of self-congratulation had hardened like a coat of epoxy over everything. I knew there would be no fellow dissenters in the crowd, so I traveled incognito. (Geoff Garza, an artist buddy of mine and creator of "Charlie Porker" and "Piggy Gillespie," respected my anonymity by calling me "Stacey" throughout dinner, much to the bewilderment of my table mates.) I had hoped to hear more about the widespread pig vandalism—John Curley's entry, "Ham on Rye to Go," was damaged beyond repair and was not auctioned at all. This didn't prevent Curley from attending the dinner, with his tiny infant next to him and the twin glows of fatherhood and celebrity like a nimbus around him. Most conversation, however, centered on what a "lovely project"; what a "fun thing" for the city; how we should "do it again." There were rumors of a pig signed by Ichiro that someone was going to pay $1 million for. I drank scotch and soda, light on the soda.

There is a little-talked-about side to being the naysayer, which is the perverse desire to see yourself proved wrong—but my comeuppance was a little lukewarm. The auctioneer (a lady from Oklahoma) was not very effective. In the hands of a talented auctioneer, such a sale is an amazing thing to see: Money ceases to be the stuff of bills and overdrafts, but becomes an abstract concept, something to be raised, topped, pushed over the edge. The value of the object under the hammer becomes almost moral; bidding becomes a courageous act. In this case, the crowd was not in the palm of the auctioneer's hand. Certain pigs stalled at $2,500 and $3,000, when she should have been able to talk the price up much higher. The Ichiro pig failed to raise the minimum bid. I drank some red wine. ("Pigs Hit the Block," by Emily Hall, October 18, 2001)

THE ONLY PERSON I KNEW WHO HAD SUCCESSFULLY QUIT DRINKING WAS MY GRANDMA

I'd been a blackout drunk since age 14, and by 36, only twice I had come close to dying as a result of binge drinking. The third time, the last time, was the closest. I knew when I woke up that I'd lived through the night only because it was time to begin living all over again. As I walked to work, reeking of booze and wobbly from the huge amount of painkillers still in my system, I realized that the only difference between me and the drunks I stepped over on the street was my ability to go on as normal when my life had fallen apart...

Within a day I had gone through assessment and been told I could check into [an] inpatient facility either immediately or a week from now (if I needed to make arrangements). I chose a week from now, but not because I wanted to have a final binge, as most alcoholics do... I was worried about appearances. I was afraid of what people would say if I just up and disappeared for a few weeks and then came back all shiny and sober. Asshole. ("Now You Don't 'Cause You Can't," by Kathleen Wilson, January 3, 2002)

THE CASE AGAINST PUBLIC ARTS FUNDING, BY AN ART CRITIC

Arts funding as currently practiced by our federal and state governments is lukewarm, indirect, and cowardly. The good cause has won out over the good work. In the NEA's current, glossy brochure, you can read about recent triumphs: grants to Appalachian fiddlers, an exhibition of Hmong culture, and increased access for deaf people. None of these projects is unworthy. But civilization advances by debate—and these kinds of projects don't inspire debate, but only warm, fuzzy feelings. The funding of these sorts of projects to the exclusion of other, more challenging work tells us that the government is only interested in consoling visions of who we are. ("The 'WOW' Factor," by Emily Hall, March 28, 2002)

SAME AS IT EVER WAS

Protesters started out the evening denouncing King County Prosecutor Norm Maleng's decision not to charge King County Deputy Mel Miller in the April 7 death of Robert Thomas Sr. But by the end of the evening, in front of the Seattle Police Department's West Precinct—where the crowd waited for one of its leaders to be released after he was arrested at the beginning of the march—a few protesters started shouting racial epithets at black police officers, like "Oreo" and "house nigger." One particularly loud man kept shouting "Ku Klux Klan" at black and white officers. Some officers seemed to ignore the comments, while one black officer cupped his hand around his face, and sidled away from a protester's shouts. ("Policing While Black," by Amy Jenniges, October 24, 2002)

WHY DOESN'T ANYBODY REMEMBER THE 1995 SHOOTING AT GARFIELD?

The guy who shot two people inside my high school is on the phone.

I have tracked him down because I want to hear his story. I want him to explain what happened that day. I want to know what has become of him since he got out of juvie. The day was January 12, 1995. He was 15, a freshman at Seattle's Garfield High School: short, smooth-cheeked, black, and on that particular morning selling weed in the school gym as students gathered there for the Martin Luther King Day assembly...

I've always assumed the shooting at Garfield failed to cause any great gnashing of the national teeth because it happened at an inner-city (read: black) school. It stemmed from an argument between two black students, and was therefore seen by many as not surprising—just a typical example of urban black-on-black violence.

But strip away the racial and urban components of what happened that day at Garfield and what you find is a script identical to those of the later, better-known school shootings: A young, troubled boy, small in stature, victim of humiliation at the hands of bigger boys, gets hold of a family gun and comes to school to teach everyone a lesson...

The distance between suburban Columbine and inner-city Garfield suddenly seems a lot shorter... Is there much difference between the basic social dynamic of an urban high-school gang and a suburban high-school clique? Between a street thug and a school bully? Between the traditional high-school imperative "Be popular or be picked on," and the urban imperative "Be tough or be a victim"? ("The Shooter," by Eli Sanders, February 27, 2003)

ELI GOES TO GAZA

At first, the doctor did not want to see me. I had come by dirt road to his small pharmacy in this dingy town along the border between the Gaza Strip and Egypt because I wanted to ask about the young woman from America—the one who died defending his house...

The doctor, Samir Masri, is known to all as simply Dr. Samir, and he is now famous in this city because it was his house Rachel was defending when she was killed by one of the giant armored Israeli bulldozers that people here say terrorize them.

In Dr. Samir's home, shades are drawn over every window... Dr. Samir believes his home is next in line for demolition...

Earlier during my time in Rafah, in his house, I asked Dr. Samir... If you could turn back the clock, would you rather have lost Rachel or your home?

Dr. Samir looked at me as if I were crazy, as if I had asked him to choose between one of his own children dead or his home destroyed.

"Of course, my building destroyed," he said. "Of course." ("Was This House Worth Her Life?" by Eli Sanders, April 3, 2003)

GRANDPA, WHAT WAS FRIENDSTER?

It's likely that Friendster is just another piece of driftwood in the weblog ocean, akin to the countless personality tests, polls, and petitions that are wildly popular one day, spread like viruses, and are soon forgotten, quickly supplanted by the next meme of the moment. The real test, as in all such cases, will come when the beta period ends and Friendster becomes a pay site. Then we'll see just how friendly it really is. At least for now, almost no one takes it terribly seriously, no one's making any money off it, and it's all in good fun. It's possible, though, that in crossing over into a wider readership, Friendster will come to represent the standard for online interaction, as characterized succinctly by my friend Merlin: "Kinda cute, kinda weird, kinda creepy." And let's not forget lonely. Very, very lonely. ("Overconnected," by Sean Nelson, July 17, 2003)

THE MILLIONAIRE KILLER OF PIGGY'S PALACE AND HIS TOWN FULL OF PARTY GUESTS

"There are no whole bodies at the pig farm," says Elaine Allan, a former coordinator for a DES drop-in center for sex workers. While employed there in the late '90s, she worked with almost 20 of the women who are believed to have been murdered by Robert Pickton, dismembered, and fed to his pigs. In her late 30s with medium-length hair, an intelligent air, and attentive eyes, Allan's voice expresses an almost aching sensitivity for the victims...

What detail could Allan possibly tell me that wasn't already known? Was there more than dismembered women in the meat freezer, in the teeth of the wood chipper, or the guts of the pigs? Were there worse details, more horrifying details?

"Yes," she says. "It's worse than you can imagine"...

The entire city of Port Coquitlam (pop. 53,000), it seemed, was feeding on pigs that had been fed by the suspected serial killer Robert Pickton...

Construction presses in along the border of the pig farm... The developers want Pickton's land, and a memorial to sex-trade workers and drug addicts who were murdered in the heart of this thriving suburban area just won't do. ("Death Farm: The Geography of Pig Farmer Robert Pickton, the Man Suspected of Having Killed Over 60 Vancouver, BC, Sex Workers," by Charles Mudede, October 30, 2003)

DOWN WITH THE VIADUCT

The solution proposed by the new organization (known as the People's Waterfront Coalition) isn't the surface freeway advocated by folks like city council member Richard Conlin. Nor is it the $4.1 billion, six-lane waterfront tunnel backed by Seattle's urban-design aristocracy. Instead of replacing the viaduct, the new plan proposes tearing it down and replacing it with... absolutely nothing.

The idea is the brainchild of Grant Cogswell, a current Allied Arts board member, and Cary Moon, a former member. The two split from the urban-design and arts advocacy organization out of frustration that, in Cogswell's words, the group was "just not ready to do something political... They're a salon, and a salon is great, but we're a political campaign." Former Allied Arts president Philip Wohlstetter, whose home in Madrona provided the backdrop for many of those very discussions, holds no ill will toward the splinter organization. He calls the new proposal "a bold choice. Politically, it's very interesting." ("Nothing Goes Here," by Erica C. Barnett, April 15, 2004)

AN INTERVIEW WITH THE HONEYCRISP APPLE

Who are you?

A crisp, juicy, and frankly enormous breed of nature's perfect food that combines the best elements of the Macoun and Honeygold strains...

Where did you come from?

My parents were a team of scientists at the University of Minnesota's apple-breeding program, who performed the hybridization in 1960.

Why are you so motherfucking delicious?

That's an excellent question. I wish I could answer it with any authority, but guess what: I'm just an apple. What I can say is that my average weight is close to a pound, my flesh is white and insanely crispy, and my juice—well, you know how good my juice tastes. It's apple juice. If I had to name my best quality... I'd have to cite my consistency. Seriously, since you first noticed me at the Whole Foods and QFC stores, have you ever had a bad Honeycrisp? I thought not. You pay a little more, you get a little more. Simple as that. ("Chow Bio: An Interview with the Honeycrisp Apple," by Sean Nelson, October 14, 2004)

UNDERCOVER WITH THE TRUE BELIEVERS AT MICHAEL JACKSON'S TRIAL

As a connoisseur of pop culture, celebrity justice, and horribly fascinating scandal, I couldn't be more riveted by the questions raised by the new Jackson trial. Does excessive success lead to criminal insanity? Can a person embody both great humanitarian love and criminal sexual urges? Do a great artist's crimes invalidate his art? Will Michael fucking Jackson actually go to jail? These questions could be answered by following the trial in the media. But my most nagging question could only be answered through active investigation: Despite all the allegations, settlements, and creepy documentary footage, is it possible that Michael Jackson is actually innocent? ...

My plan was simple: I would go to California for the beginning of the trial and mix with the true believers in their natural habitat—support rallies, courthouse vigils—in hopes of acquiring, or at least better understanding, their unshakable faith in Jackson. However, to true believers, there is no enemy more insidious than the Media. To "pass" as a true believer, I needed a strategy: Walk softly and wear an expressive T-shirt. Local custom-made T-shirt shop B-Bam! put together a collection of pro-Michael T-shirts for me. "Innocence Is Beautiful" read one, the letters framing an airbrushed image of Michael surrounded by the Children of the World. "Tom Sneddon Is a Cold Man" read another shirt, its anti-prosecution slogan rendered in an icy wintery blast. Finally, my most confrontational shirt, which dissed Jackson's accuser with the creepy nickname allegedly given to the boy by Jackson himself: "BLOWHOLE IS A LIAR." ("Among the Faithful," by David Schmader, February 17, 2005)

THEIR MAJESTY, THE DECEMBERISTS

But if all music business success is unlikely, the success of the Decemberists is frankly baffling—even to its devotees, even to the band itself. How, in the straitlaced, take-no-chances world of indie rock, does such a fearlessly theatrical, non-rock gesture gain such a zealous following? Sure, the records are good, but so are a lot of records. No, the Decemberists offer something more than just good. They represent a real rarity in popular music: a band fully immersed in an aesthetic identity that is neither glamorous nor blue collar, that is both pretentious and self-effacing, smart and silly, high- and lowbrow, and defiantly anti-cool; the overall vibe is far more Gilbert and Sullivan than Jagger and Richards. The question remains, however, how did they get this way? ("The Fabulist Sounds of the Pacific Northwest," by Sean Nelson, March 17, 2005)

ANNIE WAGNER'S BRILLIANT BRAIN

But casting according to type has its risks, and one is compounding negative character traits. I'm not fond of the character of Hannah—her supposed wisdom is so bound up with her chastity and class that it's hard not to see her as an example of Williams's preference for spayed, unthreatening female characters. She's the most annoying character in the show and she's played by Suzanne Bouchard, one of the most annoying actors in Seattle. Filling the role of a shabby-genteel artiste with a husky-voiced actor who projects the same brand of beatific sludge no matter what role she's playing may have seemed appropriate, but it's intensely dull to watch. Tennessee Williams has the Reverend Shannon address Hannah as "Miss Thin, Standing-Up Female Buddha," and if the words make you wince, Bouchard's performance will make you shudder. ("On Stage," by Annie Wagner, August 11, 2005)

MAYOR GRIDLOCK

Mayor Nickels claimed he wanted to push an urban agenda: He was for density, development, and smart growth. He said he wanted to challenge a city that favors car-centric, quasi-suburban neighborhoods like Laurelhurst, Magnolia, and Green Lake with their single-family zoning and inaccessible grocery stores. But Nickels's claims were empty. This fall, Nickels decided to throw out elevated transit with the trash, revealing that, despite the big-city posturing, he's just a suburbanite at heart. Without keeping speedy, elevated transit in his equation for change, Nickels has negated any sense of an urbanist agenda...

Last September, on the afternoon that Nickels came out against the monorail, I reached Deputy Mayor [Tim] Ceis on the phone. Running through a list of questions—why was Nickels demanding a 30-year bond schedule for the monorail when the city's own debt-management policy allows for longer amortization schedules? Why all the Sound Transit double standards? Where was the finance plan for Nickels's viaduct project? And most important, what was Nickels's mass transit alternative?—Ceis just cut me off and dismissed my questions by attacking my bias. "But Josh, you support the monorail," Ceis said.

That's funny Tim, I was led to believe the mayor did too.

But that was then. That was when I thought Mayor Nickels was running Seattle. Now I know better. Mayor Gridlock is in charge now. ("Mayor Gridlock," by Josh Feit, November 17, 2005)

LOL INDOOR SMOKING

Last Wednesday, the night before the ban took effect, I went to the half-full Sunset Tavern to see Will Johnson's first Seattle show since 2004. The air was thicker than usual because everyone was smoking double-time to beat the clock. Four different people loudly asked me why I wasn't smoking. Each one helped ruin Will's set. He was drowned out by smokers yelling about smoking. It was a typically Seattle form of protest against the new law that's supposed to be so detrimental to local nightlife.

The following night, I played a sold-out, all-ages show at the Showbox. The crowd was a mix of kids, grown-ups, drunks, abstainers, rowdies, arm-folders, reluctant hipsters, and eager squares. Though it was crowded, loud, and hot, everyone could breathe. You could stand in the back and see the stage without peering through a smoggy haze—and vice-versa. No one got ashed on or exhaled at, no clothes got singed, no one had to hold his breath to walk to the bar.

And for once, only the smokers had to go outside. ("A View from the Stage: Notes on the Smoking Ban," by Sean Nelson, December 15, 2005)


No horsing around. We’re serious. charles mudede

WHEN THE STATE CHANGED ITS MIND ABOUT HORSE-FUCKING

Zoo (2007) was the film Charles Mudede wrote about the fatal horse-fucking incident in Enumclaw that captured the world's attention, but first he wrote a Stranger story.

None of the other accused took any notice of him. But the boredom of those minor offenders would have been dashed in an instant had they known what was really going on between James Michael Tait and Judge David Christie, a man who bears a striking resemblance to Sam the Eagle on The Muppet Show. The state wanted to punish this man for horse fucking but because there was no law against it at the time the horse fucking occurred, the state could only charge him with a crime as boring as drunken driving, serving booze to minors, a failed attempt to turn a trick. Tait's trial was very short: Tait, flanked by two glamorous lawyers, pleaded guilty to the charge; the judge, without giving the case much thought, suspended sentencing for one year, fined Tait $300, and ordered him to complete one day's worth of community service.

"I want to make myself clear," said Judge Christie in conclusion, "If you ever cross into that property again, I will not be so lenient. Is that understood?" Tait nodded his head, promised never to visit that particular barn again, and left the courtroom in a hurry.

And that was the worst punishment our state could mete out to a horse fucker—until now...

Perhaps the equestrians of Enumclaw—sometimes called "horse people"—were upset about the horse fucking because it made their own closeness to horses seem somehow suspect. True, it's a socially accepted closeness, but it nevertheless involves touching the animals, brushing them, caressing their wavy manes, cleaning their hooves, breeding them, riding atop them... So what truly differentiates an average equestrian from an extraordinary equestrian? One way or the other, both derive pleasure from horses.

And pleasure is the only function horses serve in our modern society. ("The Animal in You," by Charles Mudede, February 23, 2006)

LET THE CHILDREN DANCE

Far from endangering kids, teen dances keep kids safe. If the young people hadn't been at a crowded public dance overseen by extensive security (19 guards were at CHAC on Saturday night) where no one got hurt, the kids would likely have been out at unchaperoned and completely unregulated house parties—not after the dance, but all night. And, without a fat calendar of all-ages events, that's where they would be every weekend. Because without organized all-ages dances and live-music events, house parties and parking lots are all kids have... If we want to prevent horrific shootings, our society has to rethink our gun laws—not teen dance rules or our house parties or our meals at Denny's or the advisability of walking into any of the workplaces across this country that have been the site of random acts of shocking gun violence. ("Raving Mad," by Josh Feit and Dan Savage, March 30, 2006)

THE BEAUTIFUL STORY ABOUT THE UGLIEST PLACE IN SEATTLE

This is a history of a hostile building, and it ends in the dark. A man in a small room is moaning. His door is open. His light is out. The door that faces his door is also open, the walls inside that room swimming in blue light, the guy on the bed riveted to the TV or asleep with his eyes open. Down the hall, in a bigger room, a black guy pushes a dildo into a white guy's spread-open butt, holds it at crotch level and pretend-fucks with it, loses interest in what he's doing, removes the dildo, hops off the bed, and walks out... The members of Club Z spend their time standing in the dark, masturbating, having sex with one another, fisting one another, walking the hallways, walking up and down stairs, looking through holes in plywood, staring at TVs, staring at nothing. Many appear to have, in one way or another, checked out...

The building is at 1117 Pike Street, between Boren and Melrose Avenues, one of the most trafficked blocks in the city, but you've likely never noticed it. History has barely noticed it. It's a void. My obsession with it is personal. It haunts me. If all goes to plan, it will be destroyed this year, the year it turns 100, which feels right. It is a building that has destroyed people. This is a story of many kinds of death, and of misery's association with a building whose past is a tangled mess of war, disease, drugs, wrecked loves, and real estate. ("Bleak House," by Christopher Frizzelle, April 6, 2006)

WATCHING ANNA NICOLE SMITH TO DEATH

I take no pleasure in writing this, but it feels like I've been watching Anna Nicole Smith die my whole life...

In a final bit of Marilyn Monroe emulation, Anna Nicole Smith apparently died after choking on her own vomit. In a fitting testament to the world of difference between their legacies, Marilyn Monroe died in her home Hollywood, California, while Anna Nicole Smith died in a Hard Rock Hotel in Hollywood, Florida. ("Goodbye, TrimSpa's Rose," by David Schmader, February 8, 2007)


The viaduct: Hated it then, too. kelly O

NO TUNNEL, NO VIADUCT

Seattle voters are being asked to vote "yes" or "no" on two new freeways on the city's waterfront—a larger elevated viaduct (the option preferred by Governor Christine Gregoire, key members of the state legislature, and the Seattle public, if opinion polls can be believed) and a scaled-down, four-lane, cut-and-cover tunnel (the option that's still preferred by Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels, despite being declared dead by the governor earlier this month). A third option, tearing down the Alaskan Way Viaduct and investing in transit and improvements to surface streets instead of a new waterfront freeway, isn't on the ballot despite being (a) cheaper, (b) less disruptive, and (c) the most environmentally responsible option... The debate has boiled down to dueling sound bites—"Big Ugly" versus "Big Dig"—and voters are understandably confused.

Our endorsement: no to the moribund tunnel and hell no to the rebuild. By voting down both waterfront freeway options, Seattle voters can send a message that they want another choice: a smart, affordable, environmentally responsible solution that takes an optimistic view of Seattle's future. ("No and Hell No," by Erica C. Barnett, February 22, 2007)

JEN GRAVES TRIES TO GET A MAN PREGNANT

I took the miscarriage hard... For weeks my mind raced. What had I been doing at the time of death? What was wrong with me? Why had I wanted to do this, anyway? I had entered into pregnancy lightly, I realized. How could I not have seen that there was no light way out of it, baby or not?

Less than three months later, [my best friend] Linda's son, Phoenix Lind Anderson, my godson, was born.

At first, I couldn't be around him, which was awful. Then I didn't want to be away from him. He was so happy, I almost took it personally. He coaxed me out of mourning.

Eight months after the miscarriage, we were ready to try again. My desire to have Patrick's child remained uncomplicated. Then, on July 7, 2005, I got two calls from Swedish Hospital instructing me to come immediately. When I got there, I took Phoenix and held him. He was 7 months old. He'd just died, suddenly, of bacterial meningitis...

I have plenty of respect for nature: the usual mix of fear and awe. It's when nature gets involved that miscarriages happen and babies die suddenly. I think of nature simply as the universal condition of not being in control. When everything is up in the air anyway, well, why not throw a uterus into Patrick's belly and see what happens? ("Getting Patrick Pregnant," by Jen Graves, July 12, 2007)

TIM BURGESS'S CHRISTIAN SKELETONS

Tim Burgess, the former head of the Seattle Ethics and Elections Commission, has been seen as a strong liberal challenger to city council incumbent David Della, who has disappointed many progressives in his first term on the council. Among other things, Della refused to take the City Light committee after a campaign focused on incumbent Heidi Wills's failure of leadership on that very committee; he was a staunch supporter of a larger new Alaskan Way Viaduct; and he routinely votes for tax giveaways to companies like Paul Allen's Vulcan. (Burgess has raised $164,000 to Della's $184,000.)

Burgess, however, has a client in his past that won't sit well in progressive Seattle. Burgess's ad firm provided media planning, copywriting, media buying, and other consulting services to Concerned Women for America (CWA), a fundamentalist Christian group that's best known for fighting against equal rights for gays and lesbians. Gay former council member, Tina Podlodowski, who has endorsed Burgess, says CWA is "not a group I could ever support. Clearly, he made a big mistake." Among other things, CWA advocated against making emergency contraception available over the counter, arguing that access to it would encourage promiscuity; has said that legalizing gay marriage would destroy the fabric of society; actively opposes the Equal Rights Amendment; and believes that "politicians who do not use the Bible to guide their public and private lives do not belong in office." ("Challenged Challenger," by Erica C. Barnett, September 6, 2007)

BUSH DAMAGE

George W. Bush's very first lie as president took place at his inauguration when he pledged to "preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States." The Republicans under George Bush have trashed the Fourth Amendment (warrantless wiretaps); whittled away at habeas corpus (the Military Commissions Act); Tasered the First Amendment (gag orders); and leveled the Constitution's cornerstone formula of checks and balances (why should Harriet Miers or Karl Rove have to testify before Congress?). All of this is scary in its own right, but something scarier has happened, something that's going to make the task of reclaiming the country trickier than simply tossing Bush out next November.

The Bush administration has gotten the public so accustomed to a neutered Constitution that we're facing a growing constitutional crisis at the state and local level.

How about right here in liberal Seattle, where our own mayor, Democrat Greg Nickels, has made a habit, like President Bush, of ignoring directives from the legislative branch? When the council passed guidelines governing how the city awards its public defender contracts (a way of ensuring that the city wasn't discriminating against certain public defense firms), Mayor Nickels ignored the legislation. When the city council passed a budget item for more community service officers (police officers who deal with civil disputes like those between a landlord and tenant), Mayor Nickels ignored the legislation. And when the council tried to head off Nickels's heavy-handed nightlife licensing scheme by passing more reasonable legislation, Nickels didn't sign it. ("Trickle-Down Crackdown," by Josh Feit, November 1, 2007)

Pie time is the right time. TIM SCHLECHT

OUR FOOD CRITIC'S WRITING IS ANTHOLOGIZED (AND NOT FOR THE LAST TIME) IN THE NATIONAL BEST FOOD WRITING BOOK

Baking is said to be a science, a simple exercise in following directions exactly that any fool—any patient, painstaking fool—can carry out. It's not true. Baking is rife with mystery, fraught with hazard. I failed right out of the gate at age 8 with a complicated, many-egged Mad Hatter tea cake from a misleadingly cheerful Alice in Wonderland cookbook. The cake emerged from the oven an unholy, inch-high, inedible sludge; I was crushed. The same people who say baking is a science say to persevere, which I have, with mixed results (that mix being of middling to very poor). Fairly recently, I baked a cake so objectively terrible that I threw it out a window. I did all right with pie crust for quite a while. Crust is notoriously difficult: touchy about being handled too much, involves a rolling pin. One bad crust, and I lost my nerve. Crust can sense fear. There's no going back. ("Pie Time," by Bethany Jean Clement, November 15, 2007)

A STORY ABOUT DEPRESSION THAT DOESN'T TRY TO MAKE YOU FEEL BETTER

With crumbs stuck to his lips, my dad told me I should write a book about my adventure or, better yet, open a bakery. My sister told me I should be a guest on Martha Stewart's talk show—or at the very least The Ellen DeGeneres Show. But mostly people laughed, then shoved another cookie in their mouth, then said I was crazy. And you know, they were right, I was crazy, but not for attempting to bake 106 different kinds of Martha Stewart holiday cookies in two months. Between the crying fits, 2:00 a.m. telephone calls that ended in screaming matches, the constant rearrangement of the furniture in my apartment, and the very quiet wish that I would just die, baking those cookies was the sanest thing I did that entire winter. Those cookies saved my life. ("The Long Winter," by Megan Seling, November 22, 2007)

ERIC GRANDY MEETS HIS MUSIC IDOL PHIL ELVERUM

The canopied bed of Elverum's pickup truck is packed with blankets—this is where he'll sleep en route—and the cab is stuffed to the roof with bags and his guitar.

Elverum is wearing sandals, even though it's maybe 50 degrees outside, along with plain khaki pants and a coarse gray and brown sweater. He has short brown hair and piercing eyes; he speaks softly, but he's not awkward or shy. Even though I've met him before, and even though he doesn't look the least bit mystifying in person, I'm still kind of stupidly starstruck. Listening to his albums, it's easy to build up an impossible vision of Elverum. For instance, I'm irrationally shocked that Elverum drives an automobile—he should be walking barefoot to Texas or just floating on the wind or something. Of course, I know Elverum is a person, if a uniquely gifted one, and not some Olympian deity. He's used to such misconceptions, though.

"It's kind of been an issue for a long time," he says. "I'm not always camping and riding a horse around nude with a sword, you know. It kind of feels out of my control, even though I realize that the mythology is maybe because of my songs." ("After the Glow," by Eric Grandy, April 10, 2008)

DAVE SEGAL LOSES MOST OF HIS MUSIC COLLECTION, AND NEARLY HIS MIND

As the weeks passed with no sighting of my precious cargo, I became increasingly ill with anger and toxic vengefulness every time I pondered Eagle Express's botched job. For a while, I was phoning Gomez every day, furious over my enormous loss (fuck a 401[k]; those records were my pension!). When he did pick up, Gomez would profusely apologize in heavily accented English and vow to try to find out what happened to my stuff. Rinse, repeat, rage...

You should have seen my friends'—especially fellow collectors'—responses to my situation...

After I told Jason Pettigrew, an ex–Alternative Press magazine coworker and fellow music obsessive, about my travails, he said, "I would be getting background checks on the individual movers and start brutally murdering their family members at random." ("Dispossessed," by Dave Segal, December 23, 2008) recommended