Wednesday, September 27, 2006

En el principio...

The first attempt was in May of last year. It was che
esily titled: "In the blogginning."
(Hey--it was 3 a.m., and the mind at that hour is easy prey to facile word-play....)
Here it is, then:
Fighting to conquer caffeine with chamomile, I find myself flying into the insomniac's world of the blogosphere... After reading a respected friend's blog for a few weeks now (you know you you are...), I've decided to join the online verbosity... S. and I are moving to Nicaragua in a few weeks, so here we go--perhaps this will be an easier way to communicate with YOU, the readers... I being presumptuous, assuming that my words will be worth your time? and...should I wean myself off my e-mail habit of using "..." all the time? and whuddabout those smilies/icons? ;-) Onto new things then, as I sit amid the pre-moving chaos...
That was as far as that nascent blog ever got.
(I decided to stick with sending e-mails from Nicaragua.)
Today, then, is the 'delayed birth'...

Trying to figure out what to write--what is this genre of 'the
blog' anyway? Hmm...not really a letter, not really a column, not really a diary...although many blogs out there try to be those things.
(Has there ever before existed such an easy outlet for instant publishing?)

Blogs are not really essays--at least not in the high-school English-
class sense of the word...
But the original Essayist, the writer who coined the term, would feel perfectly 'in his skin' were he alive today.

Montaigne. Good-ol' Michel didn't write stuffy five-paragraph-e
ssays back in the 16th century. The logical-but-boring format that tyrannizes high-school-writing today would have horrified him; a criminal misappropriation of the word "essay." (Interestingly, the original word simply meant 'an attempt.')

Picture our writer, sitting in his circular library in the tower of his family chateau...but with a laptop. Instead of penning his comments on parchment, he would have blogged his errant, but not rambling, thoughts.
Spouting off. About whatever. Getting on one train of thought--to hop on to a passin
g train going in the opposite direction, but on parallel tracks...or to hop off altogether, rolling into a grassy field and lying down to look up at the stars...or the smog. The title being but incidentally linked to the content. Maybe. Commenting on his own writing...on that of others...on current events...on annoying acquaintances...on the unbearable repetition of history...on new scientific discoveries...on the absurdity and sweetness of it all. (There are good modern translations of Montaigne out there now...check the monsieur out...)

From Montaigne to me, now...(blogs are, after all, by their very nature, narcissistic, no? at least a little...)
I am not, alas, perched in a book-lined castle-tower. My computer sits on a particle-board table. But there are books next to me...and our apartment is perched on a hillside--with vi
ews of suburbia steadily encroaching on farmland and forest, Mt. Rainier looming over it all...

...After our year in Nicaragua, my wife and I are back in the NW, but no longer living in Seattle. Just south of it, now. Situational whiplash--living on Capitol Hill for five years, then the poorest country in Central America, and now in Renton. Surreal contrasts.

Several months ago, while sweating in front of the t.v. in Nicaragua, we watched news coverage of the various pro- and anti-immigrant demonstrations that were taking place in the U.S. Living again in Gringolandia, in an area that is decidedly more diverse than either León, Nicaragua (where I was the "chinito") or Capitol Hill, makes me think about the realities of modern immigration.

Twenty-first century immigration is no longer a story of urban immigrant enclaves: 'arrivederci' to the Little Italies of the inner-city past and 'nee-how' to the ethnic niches of the suburban present.

Here, for example--most dry-cleaners in strip-malls here are owned by Koreans. As are the teriyaki-joints. (I have NEVER seen a teriyaki-restaurant actually owned by Japanese. Ever.)
Taxi-drivers are either Punjabi or Ethiopian.
Doughnut shops are Cambodian.
Manicure/pedicure salons are Vietnamese.

The construction workers building the new and idylically-named subdivisions ("The Park at Village Woods"...where's the park? where are the trees? and the village?!) are are the gardeners in the neighborhoods that are already built.
And just down the road from the IKEA store is the "Great Wall Mall" where you can have Bubble tea in a Taiwanese deli or buy fresh Durian from the 'Ranch market'...

Immigrants now are as car-dependent as the rest of us...although I have seen head-scarfed Ukrainian grandmothers bravely attempting to cross 6 lanes of traffic on foot...

Renton may lack the chic-factor of Seattle's core, but it is far from being 'white-bread'...(not that there's anything wrong with that...)

Time now to get a bite to eat. Maybe I'll have some phó...or something from the taco-truck down the street from the kosher Punjabi place...


  1. Nice to see you blogging, Joe. It gives me another site to check out between customers here at AJ's Espresso on Vashon Island.

    I'm working the early-morning shift here while getting zigflitz on its feet.

    Also, nice shot of Mt. Rainier and the suburban sprawl! Was that from your apartment?

  2. Hey Daniel...
    I will not be held responsible for your leisure reading on the of these days when I get on Vashon again (haven't been there in, like, seven years) I'll stop by since I know you know how to make a good cuppa...and yes the view of Rainier and the Kent valley is from our balcony!
    And Amber...thanks for your encouragement! random facts-a-plenty will be coming your way...

  3. To assuage any potential guilt, Joe, the 'tween reading is officially sanctioned. I took the job with the express consent to working on my web design projects between customers.

    AJ's is a one-person stand in the parking lot of an antique store across the street from the library.

    Anywho, funny thing about contempoary diversity in our area, eh? Capitol Hill, the supposed home of all things diverse and different has more of a monoculture than Seattle's southern suburbs. In the Rainier Valley, you can sample almost any culture within a 10 minute drive.

    How's the Cambodian-speaking going?

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