I'm now going to talk about how I feel. Like several of my friends, I haven't been talking about it. The people in my life and the people who work at The Stranger tend to be intelligent, unstoppable, and dramatic, and on the morning after the election we all stood around feeling like our faces had been ripped off and fed to us. Some of the writers and editors who work here went to lunch and had a meal that tasted sad and disgusting, and all we could do was try to talk through our own feelings of sadness and disgust, but the more we talked the sadder and more disgusted we felt. We sat together in a restaurant, inarticulate, appalled, and at a total loss. Then someone had the absolutely brilliant idea to go to a movie.

Holy fuck, have you seen Shaun of the Dead? It's an English film, so they all talk funny, and the lead guy just wants to get his girl back, but the world's been overrun with milky-eyed, mossy-mouthed, ravenous zombies who rip apart the living to feed on their entrails. It's a romantic comedy. The reason that it's so brilliant, especially right now, is that part of the romance of the thing is the lead characters are outnumbered by a groping, brain-dead mass populace that can't easily be stopped (to fend them off, you have to bash their brains out or decapitate them). This is an allegory to the dawn of the apocalypse. Or this is an allegory for America, a country now firmly in the hands of a milky-eyed, mossy-mouthed, brain-dead majority. The movie feels vaguely relevant and totally absurd. It's perfect escapism, and I've never longed for escapism quite the way I did this week.

You're feeling sick? Listen, I understand. You're feeling defeated, gullible, furious, disheartened, weirdly betrayed, completely baffled, slightly homicidal, and absolutely thrilled you don't live in Nebraska? I'm so with you. Go see Shaun of the Dead before it closes this week. Take your mind off things, take some friends along, and if getting stoned is something you like to do, get stoned first. We live in a city with dozens of movie theaters and a lot of quality marijuana, where the chances that anyone you know voted for Bush are less than one in five, and where--thanks to an initiative passed last year (god bless this city)--prosecuting people who use marijuana (to dull the pain of defeat, to loosen up about the impending loss of constitutional liberties, to better enjoy zombie movies) is law enforcement's lowest priority.

Once you've had your dose of escapism--once you've seen Shaun of the Dead--steel your resolve, ignore your despair, and get back out into the city. We might not feel like we live in a country we can be proud of, but goddamn it we live in a city where a theater company called Defibrillator Productions is staging a flawed but spectacularly designed adaptation of Dostoyevsky's Notes from Underground, in which the din of Pioneer Square is cleverly used as a stand-in for the din of St. Petersburg, and shredded office documents double as St. Petersburg snow, and one actor spends a lot of time in his underwear. We live in a city where you can take a trip down Fourth Avenue South to the art space Western Bridge to stand--as I did the other night, after seeing Notes from Underground--inside Carsten Höller's "Neon Circle," a structure of flashing white-fluorescent tubes that looks a little like the discarded shell of a carnival ride dropped into the middle of the room. We live in a city where you can eat a delicious taco dinner on a bus in Rainier Valley--a short drive over the freeway from Western Bridge--for two bucks.

We live in a city where this week the Magnetic Fields are scheduled to play the same downtown theater Laurie Anderson performed in last week; where Le Tigre, R.E.M., Bright Eyes, Pinback, Modest Mouse, Franz Ferdinand, the Killers, Keane, the Shins, and Snow Patrol all have shows coming up in the next few weeks; where right now in the University District you can watch Charlie Chaplin on the big screen; where writers Matt Briggs and Gregory Hischak are set to give a reading at Richard Hugo House in a couple days called "The End of the World," and where (in the same venue) Sherman Alexie recently gave a crazed, spirited talk about the little-known Native-American poet James Welch to a fully packed house; where the opening last weekend of THREAD for ART's new retail space in Ballard was so popular that the crowd overflowed out onto the street and into the Lock & Keel around the corner; where Northwest Film Forum just opened an impressive new headquarters (the opening night party featured searchlights and a red carpet--the works); where Neighbours, the glorious and sometimes seedy nightclub, just opened an underage place below ground--a nightclub for gay (and straight) kids old enough to legally vote but too young to legally drink.

In other words, fuck Nebraska. It's time to recognize what we have and what we don't have to compromise on, to admit that what distinguishes Seattle and other big cities from the scorched-earth field of zombies we call America is imagination, intelligent art, creditable graffiti, progressive marijuana legislation, and gay underage clubs. Movies are great and you can get yourself stoned and go stare at a movie screen if you want--I identify with the impulse--but staring into a movie screen is exactly what everyone in Nebraska does all the time when they're not staring into a computer screen, FOX News, or the faces of their own ignorant children. Seeing and supporting the kind of art and the kinds of bars and the kinds of stores you can't find in Nebraska is now not only a privilege, it's a political act. It is a positive act and an act refutation. It is the practical application of the values that define what we're calling the new urban identity--as outlined in the previous pages.

The challenge for artists right now is to make great art, and the challenge for the rest of us is to see as much of it as possible. ACT's current production of Steven Dietz's new play about infidelity and cancer, Fiction, is cheesy and useless--it's okay to say that. The urge toward critical magnanimity is understandable right now, but it's also neglectful, and it's not going to help anything. It's important that we don't fold up and die. That we don't stop going out and listening to, looking at, thinking about, and critiquing the art that this city continues to produce--a serious, wonderful, exhausting obligation. We want our culture to be interesting? Then we have to be interested in it.

What follows is an extended Stranger Suggests, a kind of seven-day guide to your post-depression reentry into the life of this city--a city that now stands in sharper contrast to the rest of the country than ever before. Happily, there is too much going on in the next week for us to list it all. If anything else, the next two pages present a compelling case for avoiding that friend of yours who insists on dwelling in silent anguish. Over the weekend, at the unsung and undercelebrated Eastlake Zoo Tavern, a sad but heroically optimistic friend of mine told me she was avoiding an acquaintance who had described his mental state to her as exactly that: "silent anguish." She is the same friend of mine who stood next to me inside the neon sculpture at Western Bridge and who ate dinner with me on the taco bus in Rainier Valley and who will be my date to see Franz Ferdinand in a couple weeks. She was avoiding the Silent Anguish Man because, as she put it, "Frankly, I don't have time for that."

Neither do I. Neither do you.

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