Culture Shock – a running commentary

It’s been six months since my last trip to Seattle. New buildings have sprung up – mostly apartment buildings. Businesses have closed. Highways are being widened. Politicians seem depressed.

I’m staying in a wonderful unoccupied-by-owners apartment in a nice area.  It’s on Mercer Island, a wealthy community just east of Seattle proper. In the apartment, the flat screen TV is about four feet wide. There are three boxes, all blinking, that accompany it. I have learned to operate three remote controls, different functions on each one.  Overwhelming.

When I came out of the post office today, a nice looking woman in her 50s with a bit of well-toned midriff exposed (after all, it’s 61 degrees today) was talking to a man. Their body language gave them away. Both wore wedding bands. She was saying, “My husband works all the time, even at night, and I’m just bored at home…”

My phone made a funny noise a few minutes ago. Someone had texted me. I’d never been texted.  Hey – I texted her back. It was weird.

One of our two newspapers here in Seattle, shut down. Now the Seattle P.I. exists only online. I used to get this paper delivered every morning.

One of my friends is spending the morning at a spa getting waxed. Yes, that’s what she said, getting waxed. “What’s that?” I asked. Apparently they put hot wax on unwanted hair and then pull it off. They will do any part of your body. A total waxing of “everywhere covered by your underwear” is called a Brazilian. My friend is having a Brazilian. She says that if you do it all the time, it doesn’t hurt any more. I don’t understand this at all.

The other night someone told me he was busy Saturday night because he had to watch Hoarders. What’s Hoarders? It’s a new reality show about those people who keep everything, have piles of stuff in their homes so you have to find the path to walk through the living room. Is America that hard up for entertainment? 

Right now it is tense here politically. Obama has staked everything on the passage of the watered down health care bill. There are paid spots on TV talking about how the health care bill would raise taxes and drive the country into impossible debt. These spots urge people to contact their congressional representatives and tell them to vote no.

A lot of democrats are voting no, because they are from districts that don’t support the health care bill. There doesn’t seem any thought of what the right vote would be, only consideration of being re-elected. No one even mentions this. Yet Obama has staked his political future on this, insisting that congress do the right thing. No one really has an accurate prediction of how this will come out, but it is generally agreed that if the bill is voted down, Obama will have failed in his most important issue, weakening whatever power he has.

And Israel insulted VP Biden to his face last week, provoking a huge international incident. NY Times columnist Thomas Friedman says that middle eastern governments (including Israel) have an uncanny ability to sense who holds the power, who they have to suck up to. Obama is vulnerable now, if this is a gauge.

Friedman also says that what America has going is one party (Democrats) with much of the power, and the other party basically saying no to everything they propose. Totally polarized. And that the result of this produces a watered down “sub-optimal” version of whatever the initial proposal was, certainly true of the health care bill. Have things always been that way here?

 Up until recently, common thought in the USA was that if the rest of the world hates our president, he must be on the right track.  And foreign governments don’t hate Obama. In fact, they like him and the level of respect for the USA has shot up since he was elected. He’s about to go to Indonesia and there is outspoken derision for his trip. “He needs to focus on issues at home.” 

Now I’ve been here long enough that things don’t look quite so strange any more. But here are a few more.

You almost HAVE to have a membership card to shop at major grocery chains. The discounts are substantial if you have one. The cards are free and available to anyone, but to get one, you have to fill out a form with your name, address, phone, and personal information. If someone cared, they could see everything you’d bought to eat, or whether you bought certain magazines or cleaning products.

They no longer have IRS forms in the post office. People are expected to get them online. If they don’t have a computer, they can use one at a local library. Or, presumably, go to the local IRS office.

Looking at any group of children, MOST of them are substantially overweight. This is in all kinds of neighborhoods.

There seem to be far fewer TV programs involving actors. Not many comedies, dramas, mysteries, etc. There are a lot of reruns and more of those awful reality shows.

I’d forgotten about the wonders of dim sum. Lunch with Merrill and Mary at Top Gun today was incredible. I didn’t see food that good in China, and Mary says that what we are getting is Americanized. Good. A lot of preparation is involved for many of the items – like the steamed rice in leaves, with various meat at the center. And the dumplings with many ingeniously combined ingredients cut up into tiny pieces and steamed.

My friend Shoshanna’s daughter is about to have a baby with the help of a midwife. She’s in labor right now. What we used to call contractions are now called surges. And she doesn’t feel pain, she feels intensities. The baby won’t be pushed out. The mother will be breathing the baby down. And of course, the child is being delivered under water. I think it’s wonderful. But when Shoshanna told me pain was out and intensities were in, I howled with laughter.

This morning it was drizzling and chilly as usual, and I was sitting in a coffee shop with Judy. Perhaps ten percent of the adult patrons had combed their hair. Almost everyone was wearing jeans. Very few women were wearing any make-up whatsoever. Absolutely no one was wearing clothing that allowed you to see even vaguely what their bodies looked like. Men’s and women’s clothes were identical. I found myself speculating on what wonders could be performed with make-overs. This was a VERY Seattle place called the Grateful Bread. They have fabulous coffee and the best chocolate chip cookies in the world.

More to come…..

About BG

Beryl Gorbman is a writer and private investigator who divides her time between Seattle WA and Merida Yucatan Mexico. She has published two works of fiction, 2012: Deadly Awakening, and Madrugada. They are both available on Amazon and other outlets. Also at Amate Books, and Casa Catherwood in Merida. You can read about them in various articles on this site.
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8 Responses to Culture Shock – a running commentary

  1. Martha says:

    Oh Beryl, you have made me want to make my upcoming visit to Seattle shorter! It makes me sad to see and hear the country I loved sinking to the lowest common denominator. Looking out for ME or the Corporate Interests instead of what is needed for the country. Sad.

    On the uncombed hair and non-sexual attire. I noticed that the last time I was there. I marveled at the contrast between Seattle and Merida. Here women are women and men are men and it’s not a sexist thing; it’s more that they are comfortable with their gender and sexuality.

    Enjoy the time remaining and keep those reflections coming.

  2. Jane says:

    You are such a good writer. What a treat it is to read your copy!

  3. John Sowley says:

    |Hi Beryl enjoyed your musings. I agree with you about the makeup. Especially the no lipstick. Today women’s faces look like a lump of dough. I would think twice about investing in any makeup companys. And, the fetish for hair is unbelievable. |It must unkempt and long whether full or stringy of different lengths and this is blonde brown or grey, young or old. As for clothes, that is a different can of worms. Why do we have designers and fashion shows. The “in|” look is as a resident of skid row. ||I think they dress better.. enough, Regards.

  4. Rainie says:

    Great writing Beryl. Hows your new book coming? I just know it will be as good ot better as the last. We miss you at Writers Group..hurry home to Merida.

  5. Rainie says:

    Great. The bill passed. At least a lot more people will have coverage.

  6. LG says:

    Why the anger?
    Sounds like psychosis to me … and US is exporting it to the rest of the world. Makes me uneasy.

  7. BG says:

    IMHO, the anger in the US is attributable to racism. Racism is America’s mental illness. At the heart of things, most white people hate black people (and vice-versa). There are well known historical reasons for this, and although we like to pretend we are more enlightened now, we are not.

  8. Christofer says:

    Beryl, I love your writing.
    I can just picture places by the way you describe things – not vividly with lots of flourish and detail, but just the salient details that catch your eye.

    Maybe we think alike or… well, I don’t know what, but I love to read your descriptions of places and things going on. Keep up the great work!

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