Recent local blog posts

Providence St. Peter Chemical Dependency Center Open During Construction in South Lacey

Thurston Talk - Mon, 04/04/2016 - 11:16am


Submitted by Providence Health & Services, Southwest Washington While construction of the Providence Multi-Service Clinic, in partnership with Pacific Medical Centers (PacMed), recently began in South Lacey, current services are still being provided. Since 1991, Providence St. Peter Chemical Dependency Center has provided outpatient treatment for adults and adolescents at the 4800 College St. SE

Adopt-A-Pet Dog of the Week

Thurston Talk - Mon, 04/04/2016 - 11:11am


Submitted by Adopt-A-Pet of Shelton  Sugar is a beautiful six year old Coon Hound/Dane Mix.  Her grey brindle coat looks like it was painted on by hand! Because Sugar has a lot of energy, she would do best in an active adult household.  Sugar is smart, sweet, and loves hikes, yard play, fetch, car rides,

Tapestry Garden Unveiled at Westport Winery Garden Resort

Thurston Talk - Mon, 04/04/2016 - 11:02am


Submitted by Westport Winery Garden Resort Westport Winery Garden Resort has just completed its 2016 Garden of the Year with the unveiling of the new Tapestry Garden. According to winery co-owner Kim Roberts, “In our effort to become the Butchart Gardens of Washington we design and open a new garden in the resort every year.”

Thriving at Home: What Being ‘The Best’ Means to Us

Thurston Talk - Mon, 04/04/2016 - 10:29am


Submitted by Sarah Lane for FirstLight HomeCare – South Sound When my husband, Greg, and I told our friends and family we had decided to open FirstLight HomeCare – South Sound, they kept asking us the same question – “What’s your plan?” We heard it over and over again. And since neither of us had

Make Your Move to the Village at Mill Pond Before Time Runs Out

Thurston Talk - Mon, 04/04/2016 - 9:37am


The website ranks Olympia in the top 20 of nation-wide small to mid-sized cities. The editor’s cite our growing population, lower than average median home price, high quality schools, and thriving arts scene as just a few of their determining criteria. With growth, a region also benefits from increased housing values. Between 2004 and

Alyssa Bryan Leads North Thurston Girls Golf

Thurston Talk - Mon, 04/04/2016 - 6:00am


After four years, Alyssa Bryan had grown tired of playing golf. It was time to take a brief hiatus. “It was fun, but it was something, at the time, I just didn’t think I wanted to do anymore,” said a smiling Bryan. “When you’re 11, you really don’t know what you want.” The break was

River Ridge High School Students Join in Upcoming Jazz Ambassadors Concert

Thurston Talk - Mon, 04/04/2016 - 6:00am


When the United States Army’s Jazz Ambassadors come to town on April 10, three local teenagers will have the honor of joining them in concert. Payton White, Cato Cannizzo, and Trenton Oiland are all active members of the River Ridge High School jazz and marching bands. They are thrilled to be playing at this free

Skagit Valley Tulip Festival 2016

Janine's Little Hollywood - Sun, 04/03/2016 - 10:16pm

Above: Red Tulip with Dew Star, Skagit Valley Tulip Festival
By Janine
You’ll never look at tulips the same way again after you go to the Skagit Valley Tulip Festival. In fact, I’m sure I’ll be dreaming of tulips for nights to come. 

The self-paced driving tour goes on all month long, but as the brochure says, bloom dates are according to Mother Nature! 

So many happy faces and families in one place made this field trip one to remember...until next year!
Inside tip for everyone, especially photographers: arrive early in the fields to catch the morning dew and you’ll also avoid traffic and crowds. 
Go to for all the information you need. 
Above: Which is your favorite color? You'll have hundreds of acres to choose from!

Capital Mall Goes Green with Trail Project

Janine's Little Hollywood - Sat, 04/02/2016 - 9:09pm

Above: Kevin Johnston, general manager for Capital Mall in Olympia, Washington. Johnston and his executive team brainstormed a concept to create an eco-friendly, one mile trail with public amenities on mall property, along with other safety improvements. They entered the idea into a contest for national mall managers, and won $350,000 from corporate executives for their innovative idea.
Mall Makeover Could Increase City's Bottom Line
By Janine
If you don’t go to the mall on Olympia’s westside, maybe now you will.
That’s the hope of Capital Mall general manager Kevin Johnston, who is creatively embarking on a one mile, multi-purpose trail project that will encircle the 65 acre mall property.
Johnston and his executive team recently brainstormed the idea and entered it into a “Shark Tank” type contest for national mall managers. With a catchy presentation and a homemade video about the project using a drone that flies over the proposed path of the trail, they beat out several other proposals, and won over the judges. 
Their innovative thinking earned them $350,000 from corporate executives toward construction of the project.
“....We thought, ‘Let's do something Olympia-ish.’ We jogged into the presentation and wore T-shirts that said Capital Trail on them,” Johnston laughed.
The project will improve and increase public access to and from the mall property by providing much needed walking paths from the surrounding city sidewalks. Six motion-activated, signaled crosswalks will be installed at each major traffic entrance and in busy areas.
Even as Johnston gave Little Hollywood a tour of the property in near 70 degree sunny weather on Thursday, pedestrians were seen bushwhacking through the green belt from city sidewalks to access the mall property, walking around traffic to enter the main building.

The trail is proposed to be made pervious, with recycled, rubberized mulch, and will include benches made with recycled wood and metal, pet sanitation stations, picnic tables and stretching/pull-up areas. It will connect to existing sidewalks and new walkways that will be constructed to create a continuous loop.
People will be welcome to relax and rest, or eat lunch in currently underutilized grassy areas by Fujiyama Japanese Steakhouse and Bar in the southwest corner of the property and 24 Hour Fitness in the northeast area of the property. The path will be in range of free Wi-Fi service from the mall. 
“It can be used for walking, jogging, exercising, and pets are welcome. It will be eco-friendly at every turn, constructed using recycled material wherever possible and include solar power lighting,” said Johnston, bursting with enthusiasm.
The trail will also be accessible in the evening. Asked about security, Johnston said the entire trail will be lit with lights low to the path, and mall security personnel drive around multiple times throughout the property, day and night.
In an outlying area called the Promenade, a ramp will be built to connect businesses such as TJ Maxx, Bed, Bath & Beyond, Ann Taylor Loft, Chico’s, and the locally owned Artist’s Gallery, to the main mall.
Johnston says no trees will be cut down for the project. A wetland near 24 Hour Fitness will be protected.
Capital Mall management already hosts about 120 or so morning walkers per day who walk or stroll through the mall before shops open. Members of the popular ritual, seniors and others looking for a safe place to walk, have long asked for an outdoor trail.
The economic benefits of the trail for the mall and the city could be significant.
“We project that we can bring at least, or more than, 100 extra people per day to the property by creating better access and providing a place for people to spend time exercising, jogging, and walking. If we convert 30 percent of them to customers, we can add an additional one million in sales per year. This will translate through to an increased tax revenue for the city,” said Johnston. He estimates that the amount to the city could be about $125,000 per year.
Johnston says he is looking forward to meeting with City of Olympia public works and parks, arts and recreation staff in April to see how access to city sidewalks can tie in with Yauger Park and the McLane trail system.
He has met with Renee Sunde, the city’s economic development director, who has already briefed councilmembers about the project at a meeting of the Community Economic Revitalization Committee. Sunde is excited about the project and sees it as a win for everyone.
To see how they can all partner together, Johnston is also looking forward to meeting with the West Olympia Business Association in a few weeks and local service clubs like Rotary and Kiwanis. 
To raise more money for the project, sponsorship opportunities will be available for extra public amenities such as benches and trail markers.
“There’s a lot of potential to expand this idea,” said Johnston, who says he expects to speak to a council subcommittee in late April. He hopes to begin breaking ground soon, while the weather is favorable.
Above: Overall Capital Mall site improvements are being planned. This intersection on Capital Mall property is one area that will be improved with a new pedestrian walkway made of stamped concrete, colored concrete, or a combination of concrete and tile or pavers.
Capital Mall Facts and Future
Indoor malls were in their prime in the 1960s and 1970s. Built in 1966, South Sound Mall in Lacey, the area now anchored by Sears, Target and Kohl’s near Pacific Avenue and Sleater Kinney Road, was the Northwest's first indoor mall.
Times have changed, and malls across the country struggle to survive. Online retail options and other factors have dramatically changed consumer shopping habits, leaving brick and mortar stores to creatively adapt, or fail. 
Built in 1978, Capital Mall is centered on Olympia’s westside, bordered by Cooper Point Road, Black Lake Boulevard, and Capital Mall Drive, near the interchange of U.S. Highway 101 and I-5.  
At just over 789,000 square feet, it’s currently comprised of 112 stores and just over 3,500 parking spaces.
The mall currently has 4,000-5,000 visitors on an average day, and is poised for more growth as it caters to an affluent shopper. With an expanding economy and workforce in Thurston County, the mall is well-positioned to capture its share of the growth.
The property has seen some renovations and expansions, particularly in 2002-03 with the addition of the 14 screen Century Theatre multiplex, and the additional parcels added in 2003 called the Promenade.
The mall was quietly bought by Starwood Capital Group from Westfield in November 2014. Starwood Capital Group, a subsidiary of Starwood Hotel and Resorts, focuses on community centers.
Johnston, who has lived in west Olympia since 2002, was hired by Westfield about six months before the sale to Starwood. The company did not rebrand itself as a Starwood property, instead preferring to keep a lower profile, and emphasize a local flavor.
Miss Moffett's Mystical Cupcakes, a local business famous for their appearance on the television show “Cupcake Wars,” is happy to be at the mall, and just signed a long term lease, said Johnston.
“Our mission is to identify with the local community. We didn’t want to rebrand as a Starwood property. The Westfield corporate brand was a turn on or a turn off, depending on what side of the argument you’re on, but we found an overwhelmingly positive response when we took the big ‘W’ signs down. We wanted to go back to what the mall used to be in the day when it was just called Capital Mall,” explained Johnston.
Anchored by JC Penney, Macy’s, Best Buy, REI, Total Wine & More, Old Navy, and Century Theatre, the space is 94 percent occupied, ranking second highest in occupancy for the Starwood chain of 29 community centers.
The mall is currently receiving a B minus grade by the International Council of Shopping Centers, a group that grades retail malls. The grade is based on the amount of sales per square foot.
While the mall’s sales are proprietary, Johnston says he needs to increase sales about $10 - $20 per square foot to improve the mall’s grade. The trail idea was one way to improve its grade, and Johnston is open to more ideas. 
To improve the mall’s bottom line, Johnston is looking forward to the opening of Dick’s Sporting Goods, currently under construction. Future projects include adding an exterior restaurant and the possible relocation and revitalization of the existing food court. He has plans to install LED lighting in the parking lots, which will save the mall about $50,000 in energy bills.
“This team thinks a lot about community. It’s good for Capital Mall to be recognized as part of the community rather than a corporate brand, you know what I’m saying? So it benefits us because we live in the community and it also benefits us, obviously, because it’s going to help the popularity and profitability of Capital Mall. It’s a win-win….” said Johnston.
Above: Standing on an underutilized greenbelt around the perimeter of the mall’s 65 acre property near Forever 21, REI, and Red Robin, Capital Mall general manager Kevin Johnston motions toward Yauger Park on Cooper Point Road. Johnson envisions a possible trail connection from the mall property to the park and a larger network of trails. 

A mother’s plea for justice

Works in Progress - Sat, 04/02/2016 - 5:26pm

Police accountability for last year’s West Olympia shooting
By Crystal Chaplin
Andre and Bryson
It was a nice day in May 2015.  It was dry outside and both André and Bryson decided they were going to the local skate park on Cooper Point Road. It wasn’t far from where we lived; they left late that afternoon.

That night, or should I say early that morning on May 21, my daughter came home saying someone had just been shot down on Cooper Point Road not far from our home. She was frantic asking if her brothers were home. “They hadn’t come home yet,” I said to her. We stayed up the rest of the night waiting for them to come home, but they didn’t.

Later that morning there was a knock on the door. It was detectives/police saying that both my sons, André and Bryson, were both shot in the chest by a police officer and were in critical condition. I froze; I can remember dropping to the floor. My heart felt like it was just ripped out of my chest.

I cried and I felt sick to my stomach.  I said, “God please don’t take them from me. Please.” What went through my mind then was why a police officer would shoot them? What the hell is going on?

We were told which hospital they were taken to. When we arrived at the hospital I was not allowed to go in to see my sons. An officer was there in the lobby outside the ICU wanting to ask my daughter more questions. After informing my family on what happened they advised me to stop talking to the police or media until we have legal representation. I immediately said, “no more questions. I want to see my sons right now.” They finally let me in after a few minutes.

Walking into that room seeing my youngest son unconscious and having all these machines around him—wires all over him and on a respirator to help him breath—was something I wasn’t prepared for. It was frightening and very overwhelming and then seeing a police officer sitting there all calm made me so upset. I wondered why he was there with his little pad writing things down. I still didn’t know exactly what had happened or if my son would make it. Doctors then said to me that he was stable but still critical.

I asked where was my other son. At first they didn’t seem to know where he was but finally we were told where he was, he was about 30-45 minutes away from St Peter’s. Before leaving to get on the freeway for the drive to Tacoma General Hospital, we made sure Bryson was stable.

I felt numb and so worried because now I’m going to see André and I wasn’t prepared for what I was about to see, I was scared and I just prayed “Please, God, please let him be still with us, please.” Finally making it to André’s room I was so happy to see him awake and I could see the pain and worry in his eyes. He asked how his brother, Bryson, was. I told him and he began to cry. My heart was breaking.

He said, “Go back to Bryson, Mom, I’m okay.” He was so worried for his brother. He said, “Mom, Bryson needs you.”

I kissed him, told him I loved him very much and said, “I will be back soon baby.”

“Love you, Mom,” he said.

Arriving back at St. Peters Hospital Bryson was still unconscious and being readied to be airlifted to Seattle Harborview Hospital. I stayed overnight with Bryson not leaving his side, talking to him saying to him I love you and saying, “Bry-Bry, open your eyes. Baby, fight. Baby, you’re strong. I’m here; Mommy’s not going anywhere.”

I believe it was the next day when he opened his eyes. Family had flown in from Rhode Island, Florida and California to be with us because this was just unbelievable. Nothing like this happens in our family. We would drive back and forth between hospitals until André was released a couple days later. My brother, my oldest son, my son’s father, my daughter and I would take turns staying with Bryson in the hospital because we didn’t want him to be alone; someone had to be with him at all times. The drive back and forth from Seattle was so stressful and overwhelming.

I was so afraid for André and Bryson. I still am ‘til this day.

Bryson is now paralyzed. He has a bullet in his back from the White police officer who opened fire on him and his brother. When I learned that he couldn’t walk and saw the x-ray that showed the bullet in his spine, I was angry that the police lied. They told me both he and his brother were shot in the chest.


And while in the hospital, after Bryson was airlifted to Seattle, I got a call from the Olympia police chief asking me how I was doing and saying he was sorry for what happened. He spoke some more, but I wasn’t really paying too much attention to what he was saying because I really didn’t want to hear what he had to say. I remember him saying to call him when I could because he would like to talk with me.

“Hmm, for what,” I asked in my mind.

After about a month Bryson was released from the hospital. We tried to make it as comfortable as possible for him because he had to use a wheelchair. This has changed their lives, my life and our entire family’s lives. The media and ignorant people making nasty comments, saying my sons must be thugs or gang members, it’s just ignorance.

My sons are just sweet caring guys with big hearts.

After a couple months go by, the investigation is still going on. Then in August the investigation is completed with both my sons, André and Bryson, being charged with assault on this White police officer. He tried to kill them both and I truly believe the officer not only shot Bryson multiple times but he also wanted to kill André.

So there was no witness to his brutal and reckless act on two young Black men. This killer cop said my sons tried to attack him with a skateboard.

“Bull,” I say.

They are also being charged for assault on the store clerk who has claimed they had attempted to steal beer from the store.

This so-called police officer saw two suspects fitting the description from what this store clerk had given them, and from that my youngest son was hit with bullets multiple times and my other son was shot at three times and hit once.

All my life I have never heard of a police officer going after anybody that had attempted to steal beer or even a store clerk or owner who called 911. Usually it’s the store manager saying to a person or persons never to come back in their store. Wouldn’t you think that would be more logical? But instead two young black men, my sons, get gunned down with bullets flying everywhere.

When I heard the charges I was livid and saying “Is this for real; are they really serious? This can’t be happening.”

First court date was nerve racking. The media was outside and inside the courtroom. It felt like we were all going to a hanging. Then there was silence because I don’t think the media and people in the community didn’t really believe my son Bryson was paralyzed and in a wheelchair, but they see now.

I feel we are trapped here in Olympia and all I can see, when I go places or into that court room, is racist people. I have so much anxiety when I see a police car or an officer and every time we drive down that road. I picture my sons running through the woods trying not to get hit by bullets as this White cop fires into the darkness, into the dark woods.

Every day since Bryson and André came home from the hospital I see the pain in their eyes and I see the physical pain Bryson goes through. Every day I wish I could take it all away; I feel helpless.

Where is the justice? So many men, women and children have been killed by police officers all over the United States. When is this going to stop? When is change going to come? I thank God every day for my sons being alive and I pray every day for the mothers and fathers, sisters and brothers who have lost a loved one because of police brutality.

Looking back through history it seems like it’s happening all over again and everyone is just blind to what’s really going on. The police take care of their own “White privilege.” That’s how I see it and I’m sure other people see it, too.

As I write these words, with tears in my eyes, my chest is so heavy and it aches like I’m living that day again when I was told my boys were shot. I live this every day. A mother should never have to hear those words or even be told that their child has died. My heart goes out to the families that have lost a loved one to this madness. My family will never be the same again; my sons will never be the same again. I want justice for my sons, Bryson and André. The police officer should be held accountable for using excessive force, for attempted murder, and never be able to work in law enforcement or carry a firearm again.

I truly think that all police officers who have killed should be stripped of their badges and guns never to get them back again, ever!

Many people have asked me how I’m doing or how I’m feeling. Looking at my sons I cry inside every day. They didn’t deserve what happened to them. I cry in private because I don’t want them to see my tears, I was protective of them before and now I am overly protective. I trust no one around my family, especially my boys. Before all this happened, we were trusting people.

Our lives have changed forever since that White officer tried his hardest to kill my sons, but God had other plans for my boys. He sent down his Army of Angels to protect them as they ran through those woods in the darkness for their lives; I am so grateful for the Angels. My experience as a mother with two black young men, my sons that survived and lived through this traumatic incident, I can truly say I am blessed to have them still with me. If it wasn’t for the work of God and his Angels I would be mourning both my sons. I can only imagine what they went through that horrible night on May 21, 2015. That day will forever be etched in our brains and hearts.
Justice for André and Bryson.

Crystal Chaplin is a single mother of 43 sons and a daughterand  grandmother of 11. She grew up in New England in a Rhode Island town  called Woonsocket and her family moved to Olympia in 2012. Crystal is a dedicated mother and gives her all for her children and grandchildren. “They are my life.”        


The post A mother’s plea for justice appeared first on Works in Progress.

God as Republican

Works in Progress - Sat, 04/02/2016 - 5:24pm

Theocratic thinking on the 2016 presidential campaign trail
By Enrique Quintero

Connected with the divine

Claiming to have God on your side can be philosophically problematic, mainly because without logical evidence, you are invoking an imaginary force with extra powers and unexplained superior morality as an ally and justifier of your actions, without risking much social scrutiny.  As a politician running for office in a nation that, according to the 2010 results of the Association of Statisticians of American Religious Bodies, has over three-hundred-fifty-thousand religious congregations, with an estimated total of over one- hundred-and-fifty-million adherents, asserting that God is on your side may constitute more an act of political calculation than an act of faith.  This type of political scheming is not new in human history; rather, it’s probably as old as human political opportunism.

In search for political power, rulers from ancient civilizations as well as contemporary political leaders have, on innumerable occasions, created a connection with God merely by claiming that such a connection exists.  Senators Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz belong to this category of evangelical politicians, or so they both tell us. To the surprise of many, it turns out that God in the United States happens to be Republican.

Early crucifixion: The Marco Rubio case

The principle of the separation between church and state constitutes one of the guiding principles of western political democracy. This separation between faith and politics is also required by the First Amendment to the American Constitution, which allows all citizens the freedom to practice any religion of their choice, but also stops government from favoring any particular religion. The violation of this principle constitutes the main mistake of theocratic politicians.

Rubio’s use of faith for political advantage is not new to his political career; his passion for ‘country and God’ is only eclipsed by his religious contortionism: first born as Catholic, later converted to Mormonism while living in Nevada for three years, then, after returning to Florida, he was confirmed and married in the Catholic church, but also attended a Baptist church for years, and currently splits his time among these last two.  He has also been quite diligent about inserting his religious beliefs into the campaign. After Time Magazine’s cover presented him as ‘the Republican savior’ he stated:  “Let me be clear about one thing: there is only one savior and it is not me. It’s Jesus Christ who came down to Earth and died for our sins”.  The implicit Christian arrogance of the statement is clear and offensive for those of different religious faith.  Also it is completely contrarian to the principles of the First Amendment, not to mention the questionable logic of finding commendable that someone—Jesus in this case—would die (sent by his Father nonetheless) for undetermined sins committed by previous and future generations and people of all ages, including innocent children.

During his speech announcing his dropping out of the presidential campaign as result of his early electoral crucifixion in the Florida primary, Rubio once again managed to insert God’s will in political events by saying: “ it is not God’s plan that I be president in 2016 or maybe ever”.  The introduction of religion into the realm of politics not only brings anti-democratic exclusionary practices into society, but also brings up unsolvable contradictions and faulty thinking.  Is the social construction named God really busy planning who will win the American elections? Do human actions have nothing to do with political results?  Is all social life really planned in advance by a creature that historically seems to have used very little time for planning how to eliminate social injustices or economic inequalities, unless these of course, are part of his plan? Most telling, through history, who have been the main beneficiaries of this particular God’s social planning?

Cruz and karaoke evangelism

Ted Cruz is perhaps the candidate with the more vociferous evangelic message in the electoral trail. It was not coincidental that the launching of his presidential campaign was announced at Liberty University in Virginia, an academic institution founded by evangelist Jerry Falwell that, according to the Guardian  (March 23,2015), advertises itself as a “training ground for the Champions of Christ “ and the “Largest Christian College in the World”.  Cruz peppered his announcement speech with constant repetitions in his notorious karaoke sermon-like style: “our rights do not come from man; they come from God almighty”.  In the same event Cruz also openly courted the Christian right by saying: “Today, roughly half of born-again Christians aren’t voting. They are staying home […] Imagine instead millions of people of faith going out to the polls and voting our values”.

For Cruz, ‘voting our values’ means clearly the unification of conservative Christian faith with governance and public policies, as exemplified by his message to Pastors in America titled “Stand with God and Be on the Right Side of History”.  Again, as we saw with his colleague Rubio, with Cruz, we witness the clear intention of Christian conservatism to eliminate the separation of church and state, effectively erasing the First Amendment charge to separate politics and faith of religion and culture, and the poorly concealed desire to impose the values of  Christian conservative evangelism upon the rest of civil society.

But while political evangelism has been busy conducting its theocratic proselytism hoping to agglutinate most of the American population around its values, their campaign shows mediocre results and a wretched misreading of contemporary American culture, which in spite all of its structural and social inequalities is a pluralistic religious society with a population that does not want to automatically echo right wing conservative Christian values. Indeed, not all the three hundred and fifty thousand congregations mentioned above are evangelical, monotheistic and conservative. Among them we find not only non-conservative, non evangelical Christian centered congregations, but also congregations based on the Muslim faith, Buddhism, Hinduism, Judaism, and other American Native and Afro-Caribbean congregations just to mention a few.

Equally important, in terms of the pluralism that characterizes the U.S., is the doubling of atheists in America in the last several years, according to the Pew Research Center, and they tend to distance themselves from the Republican Party. In a 2014 report, the same center states that 22.8 percent of the U.S. population is religiously unaffiliated, atheists made up 3.1 percent of the population, and agnostics make up 4 percent of the U.S. population. The 2014 General Social Survey reported that 21 percent of American had no religion with 3 percent being atheist and 5 percent being agnostic.

Again, if we claim, as Cruz does, to have God on our side or that standing on God’s side means being on the right side of history, the statement becomes antidemocratic, exclusionary, and contradictory. Which God is he talking about? Just the Christian God? How come this God carries more value than other Gods? Who determines what the right side of history is? How can we measure the political performance of this God and his self-assigned divine candidates without looking at the social conditions where humans live? What is the evidence of Ted Cruz’s connection with this entity call God? Or is he bringing into existence this connection simply by saying that such a connection exists?

Let’s distance ourselves from the anti-democratic karaoke machine of theocratic evangelism and get ourselves closer to reason and social justice.

Enrique Quintero was a political activist in Latin America during the 70’s, then taught ESL and Second Language Acquisition in the Anchorage School District, and Spanish at the University of Alaska Anchorage. He currently lives and writes in Olympia.

The post God as Republican appeared first on Works in Progress.

Nicaraguan visitors from our sister community will be here April 19 to May 12

Works in Progress - Sat, 04/02/2016 - 5:21pm

By Jean Eberhardt
Nicaraguan delegation
The Thurston-Santo Tomás Sister County Association (TSTSCA) has hosted numerous community exchanges as part of our sister city relationship with Santo Tomás, Chontales, Nicaragua. Since 1988, over 150 people from Thurston County have visited Santo Tomás, and 31 tomasin@s have visited Olympia. Sometimes always they include learning about reality on the ground, be it here or there. Throughout the typical three-week long delegation visits to the states, TSTSCA members accompany our guests to local schools, the public colleges, libraries, museums, and other relevant organizations in the greater Olympia area. Some context:

TSTSCA began as a part of the decentralized sister city movement that sought to “sister” with communities in countries with which the US was at war, overtly or covertly. During the 70s and 80s in Nicaragua, a brutal dictator was toppled, followed by an impressive social and economic revolution that was attacked by the US funded contra war. All of this drew the attention of many people in the US who demanded an end to funding the war that caused incalculable amounts of suffering, while demanding respect for a sovereign nation. After the war ended and Nicaragua shifted into a long period of disastrous neoliberal economics, TSTSCA maintained its relationship with Santo Tomás by supporting projects including a children’s free lunch program, small public library, and the construction of different education and health care facilities. Nicaragua entered yet another economic era seven years ago with the re-election of the Sandinista Party, access to cheap Venezuelan oil making possible the financing of poverty reduction projects, signing on to the CAFTA-DR Free Trade Agreement and a further opening of export markets (coffee, textiles, gold, beef, sugar, seafood). A controversial inter-oceanic canal has been given the green light to proceed, displacing farmers, with volatile opinions being sounded across the country. A new law is now in effect to squelch protests and demonstrations.

In the midst of many challenges in both of our countries, we are honored to host the 11th community delegation from Santo Tomás, which will arrive in Olympia on April 19th and depart for home on May 12th, 2016.  This delegation will be largely focused on education, with a good dose of cultural pride.

Please join us and connect with the delegation from Santo Tomas.

The post Nicaraguan visitors from our sister community will be here April 19 to May 12 appeared first on Works in Progress.

The Peasant Agroecology for Food Sovereignty and Mother Earth tour

Works in Progress - Sat, 04/02/2016 - 5:18pm

By Erika Takeo
During April 22-24, 2016, Marlen Sánchez and Nils McCune of the Nicaraguan Asociación de Trabajadores del Campo (ATC, or Rural Workers Association), will visit Olympia as part of a West Coast speaking tour.  Agroecology, a form of low-input, politicized, sustainable agriculture, is seen as a key pillar to constructing food sovereignty, or the right of all peoples to define their own local, culturally appropriate food systems.  The ATC is a founding member of La Via Campesina, an international social movement made up of peasants, agricultural workers, women farmers, fishermen and women, pastoralists, indigenous peoples, and migrants around the world that coined the term food sovereignty.

Sánchez and McCune will highlight the ATC and Via Campesina’s work to construct the Instituto Agroecológico Latinoamericano (IALA) Mesoamérica, or the Latin American Institute of Agroecology of Mesoamerica in Santo Tomás, Nicaragua.  While IALAs exist in other parts of Latin America, this would be the first regional, agroecology peasant university of its kind for Central America.  Another group from Santo Tomás will be in Olympia at the same time as the ATC representatives for the speaking tour, organized through the Thurston-Santo Tomás Sister County Association.  These two groups look forward to meeting one another in the States!  Sánchez and McCune also look forward to meeting with Evergreen State organic agriculture students and local farmers through the South of the Sound Community Farm Land Trust.

Bios of the two Via Campesina delegates:

Marlen Sánchez is the National Coordinator of Agroecology for the ATC.  She was one of the first graduates of IALA Paulo Freire, located in Venezuela, and is currently the director for implementation of IALA Mesoamerica.

Nils McCune is a student and researcher in agroecology, as well as a technical team staff member with the ATC.  He represented the ATC at the International Forum for Agroecology in Mali in 2015.  He is a regular translator at Via Campesina international meetings (and can serve as translator during this proposed project).  He is also the liaison to Friends of the ATC, the sister solidarity organization of the ATC.

Please stay tuned for more details about the Olympia visit of this agroecology speaking tour at, or by contacting Erika Takeo at

The post The Peasant Agroecology for Food Sovereignty and Mother Earth tour appeared first on Works in Progress.

THE STORY OF MY LIFE © R.W. Walker 2008

Works in Progress - Sat, 04/02/2016 - 5:15pm

I was born in Kentucky on a dark and stormy night
My daddy bit the cord in half and I commenced to fight
And when I learned to understand, my Mama, she would say
Just you be a good boy, son, and life will be o.k.

Then I passed twelve grades at the consolidated school
Which is where I met ol’ Joanie, my Barren County jewel
I served in the Air Force, then came directly back
And we took accommodations in a yellow shotgun shack

I swung a framing hammer for well nigh thirty years
Each day we’d roll the cords up, then we’d drink us several beers
When I walked in the kitchen, Joan would fry me up a steak
And Joanie, when the lights went out, was icing on my cake

On weekends I would hunt or fish, I’d take along ol’ Dan
Seems I’d get back to discover June had added to the clan
And with each new arrival I’d tack on some extra space
You never lack for doin’ with six kids around the place

One frosty mornin’ I slipped off a second story deck
I landed ‘cross a footin’, it like to broke my neck
And some #7 rebar sorta grazed my brain
I got hooked on Oxycontin and it weren’t just for the pain

So now we’re on the county / mortal short of cash
Some nice folks show us charity and others call us trash
There’s nothin’ much that I can do but sit and watch the kids
And every single one of them does just what we did

Now some say life’s a blessing and some say life’s a load
And some think our redemption is broke down on some back road
‘Though I got no college learning I can point you out the way
Y’all just mind your mamas good and life will be o.k.
You’ll see
Life will be o.k.

The post THE STORY OF MY LIFE © R.W. Walker 2008 appeared first on Works in Progress.

Food, food-like substances, and the GMO vs. real food legal debates in Washington

Works in Progress - Sat, 04/02/2016 - 5:11pm

By Liza Rognas

Remember when you were a teenager in a life-sciences class where genetics was first explained to you using Mendel’s experiments with peas? We all learned about dominant and recessive genes and their manipulation, producing hybrids. Genetic manipulation explained why Mendel could produce different colors of peas and pea blossoms; and why wolves don’t look like golden retrievers even though they’re all canines; and how brown-eyed parents could produce blue-eyed or green-eyed babies but not the reverse. If you want a refresher course on basic Medelian genetics, check-out this video on YouTube:

On February 19, 2016, Washington State Attorney General, Bob Ferguson, sued the Grocery Manufacturers Association, whose members contributed $11+ million to defeat Initiative 522, a 2013 state ballot measure that required  foods sold in the State of Washington to carry a GM/GE label if those fresh foods, or the ingredients of processed foods, were genetically modified or genetically engineered. (Read more about this later in this article.)

The great concern is about the unintended consequences of GM foods upon human health and ecosystems. There’s a huge difference between selective breeding—that which produces hybrids within a specific varietal, like peas, carrots, cabbage or grains using controlled parent plants and controlled pollenation techniques –and GMOs, where genetically modified organisms become something other than what their genetic make-up produced. For example, a hybrid plant like wheat, hybridized from Triticum grass stock and domesticated by humans about 10,000 years ago—becomes a GM plant when genes or parts of genes from other organisms or chemicals are inserted into its cells  using a technique called gene-splicing.

Soy beans, corn, rice and wheat are among the most genetically-modified, human/animal “food/feed” products in the world. For example, studies now show that genetically modified (GM) wheat, engineered to be high in protein (high gluten) and resistant to disease and to pesticides/herbicides, contain non-wheat amino acids that can penetrate cell walls. Emerging research shows that the GM wheat used throughout the US food industry may be contributing to Celiac Disease. Industrial agriculture has countered the debilitating effects of high gluten, GM wheat, by producing and marketing gluten-free products, at a much higher price, to the general public.

Another example can be found in beef. The average feed-lot beef steer slaughtered between age two and three ingests almost 100 liquid pounds of petrochemicals through his diet every year.  Where does he get this food? From high protein, GM food-like, feed pellets (corn and soy) grown specifically for feed-lot animals, laced with petroleum-rich insecticides/herbicides, and fertilized with petroleum-based “nutrients.” The bovine species, Bos Taurus, cannot well digest corn or soy. Cattle evolved eating grass, not legumes (soy) and not GM corn —which moved from a grass, to a grain, to a starch under human manipulation as hybrids, but which is now almost totally GM, except for heritage corn plants found in Central and South America.

Cattle in feedlots eat GM corn and soy food pellets to fatten them up so they can be slaughtered at about 1500 pounds at two years, rather than the 3-5 years a grass-fed steer takes to gain that weight. Feedlot cattle get sick from this fast-fattening feed diet. They are then inoculated with antibiotics, followed by doses of bGH (bovine growth hormone) to boost their weight to maximum before the final moment of slaughter.

What happens when cattle are force-fed corn and soy, which make them sick, and are then injected with antibiotics? They get diarrhea. The most common infection they harbor from being fed food they cannot eat is E.coli. The ethal strain of E.coli known as 0157:H7 evolved in the gut of feedlot cattle. Poisoned beef poisons humans who eat it—witness the decades of E.coli reports/recalls for grocery store beef, fast-food restaurants and frozen “food-like” meat products.

In the larger, human-only, industrial “food” world: GM “food” producers create plant seeds infused with genetically spliced, high-protein nut, various bacteria and chemical genes. These GM plants are designed, not mated in a Mendelian fashion. Genetic  engineering is now used by major food corporations to manufacture food-like substances for industrial food production.  Biotechnology now makes it possible to insert genes, or parts of them, folded into proteins from one plant family to another (Brazil nut proteins into a wheat clone); and from plant genes into animal genes, creating an assorted mix of common GM “foods” as whole ingredients or as additives to processed human food products. One worst-case result? Latex-intolerant allergic reactions by people ingesting genetically modified corn and soybean products.

As consumers, we can escape the spiral of GM food -produced or -enhanced diseases by refusing to buy and eat them. Of course the question is, how do we know what is genetically modified and what isn’t? That was the question fueling informed citizens of this state to successfully qualify I-522—the Mandatory Labeling of Genetically Engineered Food Measure—which appeared on the Washington ballot in November 2013.

Back to the politics of the I-522 campaign and the current case before the Washington Supreme Court.

In 2012, support for  I-522 was coordinated by YES on 522, a group that included individual citizens, food activists, small-scale producers and several food co-operatives such as PCC Natural Markets, Olympia Food Co-op, and retail grocers like Whole Foods Market. It was also promoted by the Organic Consumers Association, and by Washington and Oregon Tilth. Dr Bronner’s Magic Soaps issued a special label in support of I-522.

Labor groups supported the initiative, including the Washington State Labor Council, over 350 businesses, 25 seafood groups, 150 farms, more than 100 other groups, 45 elected officials and many individuals. Reported state campaign donations for YES on I-522 totaled more than 13,000 donors, giving $6.2 million with a median donation of approximately $25.

Full disclosure by author: I gave $50 to the I-522 initiative.

The largest donation in opposition to I-522 was $7.2 million from the Grocery Manufacturers Association. The top five contributors in opposition to I-522 were the Grocery Manufacturers Association, Monsanto, DuPont Pioneer, Dow AgroSciences LLC, and Bayer CropScience.

Currently, the State of Washington is suing the Grocery Manufacturers Association for concealing major contributions from international companies:  PepsiCo, Nestlé USA and Coca-Cola each gave hidden donations of more than $1 million to the NO on I-522 campaign. The  opposition to I-522 raised nearly $17.2 million, with most of the money coming from “food” companies Pepsi, Nestlé and Coca-Cola, and the rest from “food” chemical/biotech companies: Monsanto, Dow, DuPont, and Bayer.

Do you want to eat “manufactured food?”  Or do you want to eat real food? Let’s imagine a world we can take food for granted. A real food world where peas are peas, carrots are carrots, lettuce is lettuce, beets are beets, right? Is that a good assumption?

So, here’s the take-away, in popular media parlance:

Eat real food, fresh and organic, locally and seasonally grown.
Don’t buy mass-produced wheat, soy or corn products.
Reduce or eliminate highly processed foods.
Buy organic, sprouted grain breads and bread products.
Give your money to the farmer at the market, or to local vendors.

Keep in mind that every dollar you spend in locally-owned businesses circulates in  your community 12 times before it leaves. Every dollar spent at a big-box corporate store leaves about 10-15 cents in the local economy when it’s spent. The rest, let’s say, 85 cents, immediately translates into corporate profits and dividends to shareholders within about 48 hours.

If we want to have safe local food, we must support our local organic growers. These farmers—small-scale (less than 20 acres)—are  all around us. Most of them are organic or nearly so. In Thurston, Lewis and Mason counties, buying local and organic means no GMOs in the plant world; many opportunities to buy plants or seeds from heritage growers—very tasty and often higher in nutrients; no GM feed, antibiotics or hormones in the meat world; no weird, genetically modified cells making crazy diseases in our human bodies or being flushed into the rivers, aquifers and oceans from which we draw water and life.

Readers, I’ll wager that my words confirm what you already know. I’m excited that our state’s Attorney General is calling the question and proving the point related to campaign financing and corruption. I must say that I’m dancing with glee that in this instance, local organic food may win the day against the behemoth corporations on the GMO issue.

Full disclosure: I did drink a cola at a locally-owned restaurant the other day. While drinking the soda, I never once confused it with food.

Liza Rognas is an academic librarian and a research professional, and has been a community food security activist and researcher for 20 years in Washington State.


The post Food, food-like substances, and the GMO vs. real food legal debates in Washington appeared first on Works in Progress.

What the Grocery Manufacturers Association spent lobbying nationwide

Works in Progress - Sat, 04/02/2016 - 5:10pm

GMA’s PAC made $222,245 in political contributions at the federal level in 2014—63 percent to Republicans and 37 percent to Democrats—according to the Center for Responsive Politics. According to the Sunlight Foundation, the top recipient of GMA political contributions from 1989 through the second quarter of 2014 was Democratic Senator Ron Kind of Wisconsin. GMA made $11,073,608 in political contributions at the state level in 2014, according to the National Institute on Money in State Politics. It has spent $41,052,904 in lobbying at the federal level from 1989 through the second quarter of 2014, according to the Sunlight Foundation. It spent $4,620,347 lobbying at the federal level and had eight lobbyists active in three states in 2014.

Liza Rognas is an academic librarian and a research professional, and has been a community food security activist and researcher for 20 years in Washington State.

The post What the Grocery Manufacturers Association spent lobbying nationwide appeared first on Works in Progress.

Meaning making

Works in Progress - Sat, 04/02/2016 - 5:09pm

The erasing of Bernie Sanders
By Emily Lardner
erasing Bernie
Language matters. How we name things, how we describe things, the things we choose talk and write about—all of those choices shape the shared world of meaning in which we live. It’s not that language creates our material reality, as I argued with a student last quarter. The socio-economic status of the family one is born or adopted into, the physiological features upon which race is constructed—these are not created by language. How we understand, interpret, make meaning of class and race—these are functions of language and power.

We are witnessing this phenomenon of meaning making in the current primary races. Ted Cruz, a Republican contender with approximately 18% of the total number of available Republican delegates, is considered by many in his party to be a viable alternative to Donald Trump, who currently has approximately 30% of the total number. Simultaneously, Bernie Sanders, with 24% of total number of elected delegates (975 as March 28) as compared with Hillary Clinton, with 31% of the total elected delegates (1243 as of March 28), is being asked by leaders in the Democratic party to step aside. “Viable” is not a function of mathematical percentages, but rather of the preferences of those in power—the political and financial establishment.

Hayakawa’s semantic parable—A story for our times

In 1991, Republican Senator S. I. Hayakawa published Language in Thought and Action, a treatise on the nature of language and its effects on perception. In it, he offered a “semantic parable”—the story of two communities hit by a recession, each with about one hundred heads of families unemployed. In A-town, leaders believed that giving people something for nothing would undermine their character. On the other hand, their families were starving. What to do? The town leaders opted to give unemployed families “welfare payments” but made sure getting those payments was difficult and demoralizing.

In B-ville, leaders faced a similar situation—a recession, and a hundred heads of families unemployed. Rather than opting for welfare, the leaders in this town determined that these families had contributed to—had helped insure–the overall wellbeing of the community. Instead of welfare investigators, B-ville appointed claims adjusters, to ensure people were paid.

As the parable goes, A-town relations festered. B-ville thrived. The point of the parable, Hayakawa suggested, was not that people can give different names to the same thing, but rather, that the different names we give make the things we are naming different. Social insurance in B-ville is not the same as welfare in A-town.

Where is Bernie Sanders?

I should have known better. On March 21, while I was working on a draft of this article, I got a ping on my smartphone informing me that CNN was airing its town hall, featuring all five current presidential candidates. In spite of my skepticism (why would they all agree to a debate/discussion now?), I turned on the television, only to find that what CNN calls a “town hall” was actually a series of one-on-one interviews with candidates.

I should have turned the TV off. When an ad for the town hall aired several minutes later, encouraging viewers to stay tuned, it featured four of the five candidates. Kasich, Cruz, Trump, and Clinton—no mention of  Senator Sanders. I kept watching. Hours later, I can report that the organization of this serial set of interviews perplexed me, going neither by alphabetical order nor by frontrunner status. CNN started with the three Republicans, and aired the interviews in order from least delegates to most—Kasich, Cruz, then Trump. That put Trump in prime time. When they switched to the Democrats, they reversed order, and began with Clinton, and then finally, hours later, ended with Sanders. From all appearances, he was the least wanted guest at the party. What’s up?

Provoking the establishment

All Senator Sanders has done is wage a successful campaign that is, in its very essence, a call for significant change. As he puts it on his campaign website,

“The American people must make a fundamental decision. Do we continue the 40-year decline of our middle class and the growing gap between the very rich and everyone else, or do we fight for a progressive economic agenda that creates jobs, raises wages, protects the environment and provides health care for all? Are we prepared to take on the enormous economic and political power of the billionaire class, or do we continue to slide into economic and political oligarchy? These are the most important questions of our time, and how we answer them will determine the future of our country.”

Those who wield the economic and political power of the billionaire class are part of the “establishment”— a term that’s being used with increasing frequency to describe those who wield power in our society. As Robert Reich put it in a recent article, “there’s no official definition of the ‘establishment’ but it presumably includes all of the people and institutions that have wielded significant power over the American political economy, and are therefore deemed complicit. At its core are the major corporations, their top executives, and Washington lobbyists and trade associations; the biggest Wall Street banks, their top officers, traders, hedge-fund and private-equity managers, and their lackeys in Washington; the billionaires who invest directly in politics; and the political leaders of both parties, their political operatives, and fundraisers. Arrayed around this core are the deniers and apologists – those who attribute what’s happened to ‘neutral market forces,’ or say the system can’t be changed, or who urge that any reform be small and incremental.”

Senator Sanders’ campaign is grounded squarely in challenging the people and the institutions, including the media, that have exercised power over the American political economy. In response, major media companies are trying to erase the Sanders’ campaign. CNN’s pseudo-town hall is but one example.

Democratic Senators are in on this erasure too. According to Burgess Everett, writing for Politico on March 21, 2016, a group of Democratic senators, backers of Hillary Clinton, are calling on Sanders to stop pointing out differences between his positions and Clinton’s, and instead focus on the inadequacies of Donald Trump’s policies. The issues where differences can and should be ignored, claim these senators, for the sake of party victory, include trade, financial regulation, and foreign policy.

Counting Delegates

I’m not a party activist, and I’ll never be chosen to be a super-delegate, but in my role as an ordinary person trying to make sense of our political system, I found myself wondering what the vaunted delegate counts mean, in terms of actual voter turn-out.

I did some digging, and found two useful sources. Michael McDonald, a political science professor at the University of Florida, keeps a website entitled “United States Election Project” ( There, he keeps track of voter turn out for all the primaries and caucuses, noting the total number of the voting age population in a state, the voting eligible population, and the number that turned out for the primary or caucus, Democrats and Republicans. He includes notes about where he gets his data, and even a quick look at his table confirms that the number of people making decisions about the delegates awarded to these candidates is much smaller than the number of eligible voters. The highest voter turn-out so far has been in New Hampshire—52.4%. The lowest turnouts, under 10% of eligible voters, occurred in Nevada, Minnesota, Kansas and Maine.

I used the Real Clear Politics website to get a current delegate count ( One thing about this site, in comparison with the New York Times site, is that super delegates aren’t lumped into the delegate totals. (If you are trying to track elected delegates to get a sense of what people want, the New York Times site is maddening.)  After doing some simple math, I realized my concerns about biased reporting and the irresponsible use of language are well placed. For example, in Massachusetts, Sanders won 45 delegates and Clinton won 46. The Washington Examiner wrote, “Hillary Clinton has won Massachusetts, dealing a major blow to her rival Sen. Bernie Sanders.” In the Illinois primary, Sanders won 67 delegates and Clinton won 68. The Washington Post headline the following day read “Super Tuesday II: Clinton sweeps Florida, Illinois, Ohio and North Carolina.” In fact, in terms of delegates awarded in all four states, Clinton won 339 while Sanders won 239—in other terms, Clinton won 58.7% of the combined delegate totals, and Sanders won 41.3%. In terms of actual numbers of people who participated in those four Democratic caucuses, 3,525,243 voted supported Clinton, but 2,449,745 supported Sanders. Clinton won, but the nearly 2.5 million people who voted for Sanders have been swept under a rug of easy rhetoric.

It’s not over—nearly half the delegates are still to be delegated

As I write this article, about half the Democratic delegates have been elected. Half remain to be chosen, by people in the states whose primaries and caucuses fall after March 28. As strong as the establishment resistance is to Bernie Sanders’ candidacy (to say nothing of Trump’s, that that’s another story), so too are the millions of people who disagree with the Democratic party establishment that “trade, financial regulation, and foreign policy” are minor matters. In fact, we are living in—and actively shaping—a moment in U.S. history where the political and financial elite are being challenged through the democratic process in a new way. Even if the mainstream media won’t carry the story, this moment of political foment is real.

Emily Lardner lives and works in Olympia, Washington.


The post Meaning making appeared first on Works in Progress.

Newspaper carrier

Works in Progress - Sat, 04/02/2016 - 5:05pm

The lonely road of a local contract worker
By Michael Wilson
Lonely road
When I retired a few years ago my wife and I moved to Olympia so that I could finish my college degree. I had hoped to find some sort of employment after college. Unfortunately that didn’t work as planned so I took a job as a contractor delivering newspapers to help make ends meet. That proved to be an interesting experience.

The Uber or Gig Economy, as contracting is being called, has been with us for some time and in the news recently. Many different fields are represented.  Some workers are doctors or software designers. Others are janitors and landscape workers.

I signed a contract when I went to work for this company that spelled out my responsibilities. If I had had some legal advice of my own I might have had second thoughts about taking the job but at the time that was not really an issue since I had no plans on being there more than about eighteen months. I had delivered newspapers when I was a kid and I had spent considerable time in retail so I knew how to treat a customer. I wanted to pay off a couple of bills, put a few dollars away and this job would have done that. For the most part I was on my own. I had no one looking over my shoulder. If I made a mistake I fixed it. In some instances I was charged three dollars for an error but for the most part I took care of my business without many problems.

To some two-hundred customers I delivered six papers, a local one and two others from in the state as well as the USA Today, Investor’s Business Daily, and the New York Times. It was a fairly simple job one where I showed up at 1 a.m., picked up the papers as they came off the truck, inserted the comics and ads which was done daily except on Mondays. For some reason Mondays were the only days the comics were inserted as the papers were printed. The plastic bags the papers come in are purchased by the carriers and many of us inserted the papers in the bags before we left the warehouse. I was told that the company once paid for the bags and rubber bands but shifted the costs to the carriers a few years ago.

If there was a sports event on Sunday we could plan on spending more time waiting for the Monday papers to arrive. Add to that three hours a week at home updating my route list. For this I earned about a thousand dollars a month or about six to seven dollars an hour. From that I then took out my gas and other expenses which dropped my income. The time spent on the job varied but the work was about 30 to 35 hours a week.

On my first route I was given a monthly gas allowance. On the second one with just a few less miles I didn’t receive gas allowance.  I was fortunate in that the routes I ran during the time I was working there generally were about 45 miles. Some people had routes that were eighty or more miles and one man told me he drove over 120 miles a night.

The first day or two on the job I rode with the carrier I was going to replace at my own expense.  The third day I drove and she received no pay. From then on the route was my responsibility and it then took me a couple of weeks to get it down so that I could drive it without wondering if I had delivered to all of my customers. This was my first route with the company and I didn’t know what really to expect from them in terms of assistance but the job was not complicated. Even though the pay was low I would be able to pay off some of our bills and there was no one leaning over my shoulder criticizing my work.

Other carriers told me that according to state law the route supervisors are not allowed to tell you what to do and they also are not allowed to provide much in the way of advice or explain any best practices. In my case the first route I ran was easy. The woman I took it over from handed me a well maintained route map of customers that showed me the best way to run the route. On the second route the map I was given to work from was three years old. Fortunately I did get an alphabetical customer list. I was then left with the task of matching the names up with the list that showed which order the streets were in and then place the customers in order of their address.

The weather complicated things. I dealt with downed trees blocking the road on a couple of nights. I also had to contend with elk, deer, lots of raccoons a few dogs and even one bear. All made life interesting. Then there were the drivers whom I will assume were drunk. Two nights in a row I dodged cars that ran stops signs. There was the night I had to pull into a driveway to avoid a pickup truck. I heard him before I saw him come around the curve and I was lucky that I did hear him. He was in my lane coming at me at about 60 mph.

There were the occasional accidents, ambulances and damage done by those who decided that running over mail boxes late at night and knocking over every trash can they could see was a fun time.

My wife who doesn’t drive because of a disability rode with me sometimes. That was mainly to give her something to do but I also felt safer with her in the car. I didn’t like of the idea of her being left overnight in the apartment by herself. Shortly after I started she had a relapse and had to stay home instead of riding along with me. A few months after I started the opportunity for a route closer to where we lived became available. I asked for a transfer since I felt it might be better for me to be closer to home in the event that she might need me in an emergency.  The route supervisor that I was working for at the time agreed but also asked me to take on another route as well. I had my doubts because of the time involved but agreed to give the two routes a try.

It didn’t take me two weeks to realize that combining the two routes wasn’t going to work. Being new to both routes ended up putting me late getting done on the second one and I ended up with too many complaints. I was the one running the routes and had agreed to give it a try but somewhere along the line management should have had a better idea as to how long it took to do both especially when I was new to both of them. In the previous months I had been told by another carrier that it generally took three to four weeks to get a route down so that you could get done in time. As a result of being late I was charged three dollars for each complaint which came out of my paycheck. The fact that I was new to both routes didn’t seem to register with management and my effort to appeal the penalty fell on deaf ears. Part of the reason I had no luck in reducing the charges might have had something to do with the fact that the route supervisor who had started me on the two routes was dismissed a few days after I started on the second route.

I walked into the office one morning and asked to be relieved of the second route. In response another of the supervisors commented that he didn’t think it was going to work out in the first place. Common sense had gone out the door but I still had to pay the financial penalty for the late papers on the second route.

A few days after I had turned the second route over to someone else I received a call from a woman saying that she had not received her television guide and needed one that day. I explained that I was no longer the carrier but she insisted. I called the supervisor who told me he was well out of the area and he then asked if I could deliver the copy. I agreed to do so and drove it over to her but received no compensation from management. Maybe I should have complained but at least I didn’t have that problem to deal with so I shut up and let it go.

Theft was not much of a problem but on one section of my route someone was helping themselves to the papers but the problem was easily fixed. This section was the first part of the route and I just changed it and made it the last section I delivered. My wife was now riding with me again so I gave her a copy of the route list and asked her to check off the customers as we delivered them and when that was done I was fairly certain we had delivered to everyone especially when the inventory came out at the end of the day right on the money. I sent an email and notified the office of the theft problem but was still charged for it as if it was my fault. Once again I was ignored.

The theft problem happened in the fall but with the Thanksgiving season coming on and the amount of extra time it would take some days to get done as the weather changed I put the theft issue behind me.

Most of the carriers that I worked with gave out Christmas cards and they suggested I do the same. I was real happy with the response from my customers and the extra money that I received went towards paying down one of our bills. This meant I could reach my goal ahead of time.

I was getting close to finishing my first year with the job when I stepped out of the car at 4:15 one morning to toss a paper over a gate and I slipped or mistepped and went down like a brick and broke my hip. I was just about at the end of the route and if my wife hadn’t been there to go for help I would have been on the ground for some time until sunrise and someone noticed me. One of the residents came out at the early hour to help thanks to my wife’s efforts and called 911 who sent an emergency team. I just remember thinking that if I could get back in the car I would finish the route and then go to the hospital. Instead I went to the hospital in an ambulance where I went into surgery and spent the next two days somewhat sedated. I found out later that my wife finished the route with one of the supervisors. A few days after the accident one of my fellow workers came by to see me and informed me that the company had found someone to take my place which I understood since I had my doubts that I would be up and about any time soon.

This experience confirmed a few things for me and it also showed me society will have some problems as this business model grows.

I went into the hospital on February 9th and on the 23rd I experienced some complications. On April the 3rd I was released. A couple of days later I called the distribution office and asked for my check from February. Since I had worked about a third of the month I thought I might have $200 to $300 coming. Instead I was informed I was owed nothing because mistakes made by my replacement had eaten up my income. Unfortunately I didn’t have my thinking cap on straight when I was in the hospital since I was sedated for the first couple of days and hadn’t made any arrangements for a replacement. I was also told that since I had not given a thirty day notice or found a replacement I violated the contract and was lucky the company wasn’t taking me to court to recover damages. I wonder what they would have done if I had died out there while delivering papers. Or what they would have done if a woman carrier had been sexually assaulted?

When I was offered this job I was handed a contract to sign that had been written by a lawyer.  One would think for my own protection I should have hired a lawyer to read it for me. To do so would have cost a good deal which I could not easily afford. I can assure you that a number of the carriers were in financial difficulties and for them to afford a lawyer would have been nearly impossible. Because of this the company was in a much better position legally than any of them.

Pay was a big issue with the carriers. Some months into my first year, there was an increase in the price of the paper. As I recall none of that increase was passed down to the carriers and many spoke about this slight. For many carriers this was important because they were barely scraping by. Some carriers were making less than minimum wage and holding their cars together with duct tape and wire it seemed. One question led to another and some of the carriers were wondering out loud if they were getting all of their tips since the customers paid the office and the carriers had no idea what the tips actually were.

Then there were some simple things that were annoying such as the lack of regularly cleaned restrooms or a drinking fountain. Bottled water was brought in for the supervisors but nothing for the carriers as far as I know. There was a soft drink machine but many of us brought our own bottled water. When a new carrier took over a route they were expected to handout a flier with their contact information on it. I saw a couple of carriers who had no idea how they were to make the flier or where to make them. One young man didn’t have the tools to make the copies or the money to afford to have a shop run them off for him so the customers had no idea that a new person was on the route. Apparently that is still a problem because after being gone a year I get calls from customers who have not received a paper. My last call from a customer who did not receive a paper came on the morning of March 13th of this year which was over a year after I had been terminated by the company.

Fortunately family and friends helped us get through the medical problems.

Michael Wilson is a resident of Thurston County.

The post Newspaper carrier appeared first on Works in Progress.

black widow

Works in Progress - Sat, 04/02/2016 - 5:02pm

By Lennée Reid

revolution of consciousness circle of life wheel of dharma karma center of the universe we threads of web intertwined I black widow my thoughts energy expressed sound your ears receive here now we share one memory I find my mind wanders I lose my ego by soul go fly download peace of mind manifest this inside outside up down revolution round and round confusion state of shock genocide murder cops stop the flood of blood in the street flow of traffic stop the madness shut down the racist classist prison industry no more drug war stop break it down build new revolution round town small business down hit by outsourced offshore downfall resolution go green team buy organic local weed legalize the cure we need sacred pieces of mother earth gives birth to spirit I heed air I breathe earth I be water my blood pumps goddess Im on fire resolution spirit freedom rider awareness riser higher I’m up in the sky on cloud 9 where poetry bombs ignite blow minds point expands circumpunct gaia cup filled with sun I stare at light to see truth this fights blindness so when mindless guidance leads through the night rise in the dark to see brightly reflect like the moon nightly ponder round revolution dominance submission patent masters profit off slave wages your asses and taxes buy war machines fuck politicians that trickle down poverty goes round revolution idle no more get moving rise up lead yourself past this go forward to revolution baltimore ferguson slavery justice and freedom need revolution within you and me I see bondage migrant farm workers come on now please resolution be free show solidarity palestine Syria unistoten nican tlaca revolution refugees follow me to the sea level global warming rise up fukushima meltdown california dry up goes flames down fall ashes to ashes dust to dust revolution serves carcasses children starfish porpoises grolar bears know where glaciers splash iceberg crash titanic sinking down fall revolution around pollution rappelling off bridges kayaktivists stop drilling oil rig explodes coal train rolls cargo dark clouds go up chemtrails sprayed downfall pain and strife resolution revolution web of life sees all feels all holds all heals all watch now fuck me I am black widow

Lennée Reid, a geeky vegan-ish Universalist witch doctor slam poet activist survivor goddess on the spectrum, doesn’t like labels.

The post black widow appeared first on Works in Progress.

A Night With Janis Joplin

South Sound Arts - Sat, 04/02/2016 - 11:02am

Kacee Clanton stars as Janis. Photo credit: Mark Kitaoka
A Night With Janis Joplin at the 5th Avenue Theatre surpassed my expectations, and my expectations were awfully high.
Not only does Kacee Clanton stand out on every one of Janice’s great hits with backup from a band that is like Big Brother and the Holding Company, the Kozmik Blues Band and the Full Tilt Boogie Band all combined into one rocking ensemble, she sounds damn close to exactly like Janis and has her moves down pat. I expected as much after finding out that Clanton has made a career of playing Janis. But this show far surpasses my expectations because (first) there can be no comparison between a live performance with the full 5th-Ave-style production values and the records and video clips which were my only previous ways of experiencing Janis’s electric presence, and because (second) in addition to great Janis Joplin hits like “Down on Me” and “Ball and Chain” and “Me and Bobby McGee,” there are a dozen great songs by the pioneering women blues singers who influenced Janis—Etta James (Aurianna Tuttle), The Chantels, Odetta (Sylvia MacCalla), Bessie Smith (MacCalla), Nina Simone (Yvette Cason), and an “every woman” played by Nova Payton and identified simply as Blues Singer.
Janis Joplin (Kacee Clanton, center) and Aretha Franklin (Yvette Cason, right) with Franklin's singers (l-r Sylvia MacCalla, Aurianna Tuttle and Nova Payton). Photo credit: Mark KitaokaFirst, a word about Clanton. She was an alternate Janis in the original Broadway production of this play and played the same role in the Pasadena Playhouse, ZACH Theatre, and San Jose Repertory Theatre, and performed as Janis in Love, Janis at the San Diego Repertory, Kansas City Repertory, and Downstairs Cabaret Theatre. Plus she has toured as a vocalist with Joe Cocker, Luis Miguel and Big Brother & the Holding Company. That resume alone should send every Joplin fan in the Northwest running to the 5th Ave.
A Night With Janis Joplin is more concert than play, with 25 songs including versions of “Summertime” performed first by Blues Singer and then by Janis, and versions of “Down on Me” by Odetta followed by Janis (hearing earlier blues versions of these great songs followed immediately by the familiar sound of Janis’s rocking blues versions is breathtaking). There is also the theatrical element of Janis telling her life story in short speeches (while sipping whiskey)  between songs, from her childhood in Port Arthur, Texas to her final songs recorded shortly before her tragic death at the age of 27.
It is a feel-good look at her life with no mention of drugs and very little mention of how lonely she was throughout much of her short life (she did talk about feeling fully alive and loved only when performing in front of an audience.
Act 1 ends with something that never happened outside of this play and never will: a duet between Janis Joplin and Aretha Franklin (Cason) on “Spirit in the Dark” which had the audience on its feet and screaming. Another song that had the audience on its feet was Payton’s mesmerizing rendition of “Today I Sing the Blues.” In all my years as a theater critic I can’t recall any other show that brought the audience to its feet so often.
Warning: This show is loud, and the spectacular lighting effects are slightly overdone. But who cares?
A Night With Janis Joplin – through April 17. 5thAvenue Theatre, 1308 5th Avenue Seattle, Washington, Understudy Kristin Piacentile plays Janis April 2, 3, 7, 9, 10, 13, 14 and 16.

Categories: Arts & Entertainment
Syndicate content