Each and every week, The Stranger receives thousands of press releases hyping events throughout the Northwest. Some of these events are thrilling (Arcade Fire at the Paramount!), others are insignificant (new Blizzard flavor at Dairy Queen!). And every once in a while comes that rare press release hyping an event to which we wouldn’t send our worst enemy.
Meet Cienna Madrid, Stranger contributor and now, officially, Our Worst Enemy™. Throughout the coming months, Cienna will attend those events to which The Stranger would only send Our Worst Enemy™, and then she’ll report back from the wreckage. Why Cienna? Why not? She’s tall, thin, pretty, and hilarious when she suffers.
Now please welcome the premiere installment of Our Worst Enemy™…
I was standing alone and sober in the Columbia room of the Bank of America Tower, clutching a Seattle magazine and staring down 75 floors to pick out attractive men on the streets. A woman crept up behind me.
“Isn’t this a great view?” she asked.
“Yes,” I answered, “from this height even the poor look normal.”
She crept away without responding.
On October 20th, Seattle magazine honored the “Power 25 of 2005—The Puget Sound Area’s 25 most Influential People of 2005,” who were featured in their November issue. The party was pomp and swank—free drinks, free food, a three-man string quartet, and the most stunning view of Seattle I can ever remember treating my eyes to. Influential and Powerful people stuffed the room, basking in yet another acknowledgment of their wild personal and professional successes.
And then there was my roommate Craig and me. Craig was supposed to be fetching us drinks, but instead he appeared to be showing the bartender his shoes. We are both recent college graduates. English majors. Unemployed. In this crowd, the urge to panhandle was strong. Craig works as a temp to support his ridiculous shoe habit—he’s addicted to Tod’s driving loafers (P.S. he’s a big homo). Neither of us drive. Nevertheless, he proudly trots about the city in his beloved driving loafers despite the fact that they are not designed for walking and cost more than my monthly rent. I’ve seen sneezes last longer than these shoes. Craig currently has two pairs and is plotting for a third.
Bored, alone, and facing an unending evening of sobriety before me, I loaded up two plates of hors d’oeuvres and opened my complimentary copy of Seattle magazine to check out the Power we were celebrating.
“Just because you’re approaching your 40s and 50s doesn’t mean lingerie boutiques should be unapproachable,” the magazine instead counseled me. Another page gave instructions on where to buy alligator, wild boar, kangaroo, and other exotic meats because “roasting a turkey on Thanksgiving is, like, so 17th-century Plymouth Rock.”
I had never before read Seattle magazine. Not to be snobby, but it’s designed for people with incomes. People such as Christine Gregoire, Greg Nickels, David Boardman, and “real estate mogul” Kemper Freeman Jr.—a few of Seattle’s “Power 25” highlighted in the issue. All 25 received a free trip to Whistler and hefty glass paperweight used to, perhaps, weigh down the free-floating wads of cash wafting about their cavernous homes.
Creating an award (or paperweight) to honor individuals who are already reputed for their influence, power, and money is kind of an ass-kissing cop-out in my estimation. But not all of the honorees fit into this category—Trish Millines Dziko was being recognized for her work in technology education with minority students. Well done! Still, Seattle magazine should have narrowed down their Power Players a bit. All of the honorees should have been caged together like in Beast Wars and left to duke it out with their paperweights until there was only One Power Standing. And fuck the Columbia Tower Club—slap the event in Pioneer Square and sell cage-side tickets to the poor and less influential. Wake up and expand your readership, Seattle magazine!
“It’s very sad to me that I’m not wearing the most expensive driving loafers in the room,” said Craig, finally arriving to trade me a drink for a plate of food. “Cheers.”
We toasted. We ate. We crouched in the corner for a solid hour and emerged only for more food and drinks, and more, and more. And more. Eventually we were forced to stop gorging ourselves, not because we’d reached the threshold that separates hunger from gluttony, but because we were drunk and paranoid that someone—or everyone—was staring and noting our bottomless greed.
“They’re all watching me get fatter,” Craig whispered to me while grabbing at his midsection and breasts.
“Don’t worry,” I replied, “You’re sitting down. The table shields your stomach at least.”
We were down to our last mini quiche and sucking vodka residue off of ice cubes when David Boardman and his wife joined our empty corner table, drinks brimming and plates in hand. Boardman is the managing editor of The Seattle Times, a paper I read more religiously than Seattle magazine (high praise indeed). His hard-earned paperweight shimmered as charmingly as his light blue eyes. Our knees brushed each other lightly, like the wings of courting butterflies. I felt something stir in my young unemployed loins.
“Hi!” I chirped, spitting out a lime slice. “I’m a journalist, kinda. Congratulations on being powerful! Wanna chat?”
There was a beat of silence. The string quartet quieted. Craig stole our last quiche and stuffed it in his mouth. Boardman looked into my face, into our future. His wife, “+1,” stared at him. I glanced alternately at his appetizer plate and shiny paperweight. I wanted to touch it so bad.
Instead, Boardman stood, grabbed his wife and turned his back on me. I suppose that counts as a “no” in Power speak. They stopped 10 feet away and stared at us like circus freaks.
“He’ll be back,” I said.
“Um, I think not. That was a bit desperate and creepy,” said Craig.
Desperation is a quality that most people leak from their pores. It is an identifier that everyone can relate well to. At mixers such as this, social custom dictates that we sniff each other’s desperation like eager dogs, eventually befriending those lucky few whose sad stench blends best with our own.
Craig was right. I was desperate and creepy, which were two good qualities that the Columbia Tower crowd lacked. The Power 25 and Friends did not nearly shit themselves at the sight of a free wet bar, nor did they scuttle to the buffet table nine times to double-fist appetizers, and then scuttle back to their corner like harassed spiders. These people were sedate. Sterile. Successful. Social drinkers. They don’t take risks in public; there are too many paperweights at stake. It is no fun being around successful people. I wished I could bite them.
“Do you think it’s gross if we take their drinks?” asked Craig. “I don’t think they’ve touched them yet, and they’re definitely not coming back for them.”
“I don’t think it’s gross,” I said. “They will be coming back, though. He forgot his paperweight.” I reached across the table and stroked it a little.
“How long do you think we have to wait before we can call dibs on their mini quiches?” I asked.
“Not too long. Just until they stop staring at us, really,” said Craig.