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Humans of the Burke-Gilman

Google Maps Street View is the anti-Stanton.  It’s aim seems to be to achieve the exact opposite of Brandon Stanton’s book “Humans of New York.”  Using what might be called “facial derecognition software” all human faces are blurred out, sometimes to funny effect, but sometimes it’s a little chilling.  You’ll never find a better illustration of this than on the Burke-Gilman Trail in Seattle.

Around 70th Street

Around 70th Street; note dog face not blurred out.

Instead of having a camera mounted on top of the car, this one was mounted on a pole at the back of the photographer’s bicycle while he rode along  from one end, the Sammamish River Trail in Kenmore, all the way to Ballard, where he stopped at the Missing Link (a section of un-Trail that Trail activists have been looking to fill in-to connect to another segment just north).

Here you can tell the camera is behind him, leaning forward yields this bizarre view.

Here you can tell the camera is behind him, leaning forward yields this bizarre view.

You look at these pics and have to wonder, who are these people?  What are they doing now?  Do they even realize they’ve become blurred out non-persons on the Burke-Gilman?

Human's X and Y turn to greet the camera near Kenmore.

Human’s X and Y turn to greet the camera near Kenmore.

In “Humans of New York,” individuals are zoomed in on, stopped temporarily, and asked if they’d like to offer something personal about their life experience, how they’re feeling etc.  When you zoom in on the humans of the Burke-Gilman all you get are things like this, a human walking near the University of Washington:

Disturbing; the closer you get, the further you are from knowing anything about them.

Disturbing; the closer you get, the further you are from knowing anything about them.

Sometimes when you get to an intersection, the date on the picture will zoom a few years ahead and you can see what has changed.  This view, like all of those from the Trail route run, dates from July ’09.

The only thing that has really changed here, almost exactly 5 years later,  is that the price of parking has gone up.

This shot is 5 years later, 2015

This shot is 5 years later, July 2015

Sometimes you see someone who simply looks as if they’ve been standing there the whole time, waiting for passers-by.  The anonymity of Trail-goers on any other day is a given; people pass by too fast to say hello to; except in the mornings, when everybody seems to be in a better mood.  Here, anonymity is made a certainty.

This one, captured near 105th St is a little creepy, especially the closer you get.

This one, captured near 105th St is a little creepy, especially the closer you get.

The ah-ha moment with Stanton’s book comes when you realize that even with all these various stories of pain or happiness; stories that can make them seem so different; people everywhere are pretty much the same.  It’s comforting yet also kind of exciting, even addictive.  Google Maps; however has rendered these resting workers (on the Trail around Lake City) inert, with no story to tell.

Here’s a strange shot of the Google photographer changing his shirt (or something) while riding along:

Then this view from Fremont from ’09:

And another in ’14, where the median has been taken away but the red car on the right seems oddly like the same one from 5 years earlier.  This view was made available by “stepping to the right” with the mouse.

Here is one of many generic bicyclists who can be found along the Trail:

Somehow, along the way in Fremont, people were warned of the approach of the Google Bike; perhaps the greeting was so nice the powers that be decided not to neuter any of their identities:

It's almost unsettling seeing actual faces after this virtual trip along the Burke-Gilman

It’s almost unsettling seeing actual faces after this virtual trip along the Burke-Gilman

It seems odd that Google Maps would even be interested in visually cataloging this trail; the appeal, I suppose, is more for those like me, those who want to make virtual journeys or trips down memory lane.  But the more you look, the more you can’t help but wonder who those faceless people are.

 

 

 

 

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Going Seattle

How long does it take someone to truly absorb their adopted home?  A few months, several years, perhaps immediately?  It’s easy to move to a place you like, to know you’ll eventually bond to it; so what is with that weird period of denial, of having to get used to?  Maybe it’s missing the old place, and maybe that’s true for some, but in my case it was just good old healthy cynicism.

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Polemic #1: Nobody Cares

OK, this one isn’t about long ago days in Hollywood or about growing up (finally) in New York.  This one is a little bitter, maybe even caustic.  It’s time to vent.  I vent because some people think they can make you care, and….despite their cloying efforts, you just don’t.

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Destination: Denny Regrade

One of the best theoretical questions out there is this:  “If you had a one-time-only use of a time machine, when and where would you go?”  Of course this query should invoke a seriously wide variety of responses, all of which, however, would fit into only 3 categories:

1)      “I want to go back and change something in my personal past,” like perhaps going to a certain college, or maybe hanging out with a deceased loved one a little more.

2)      “I want to go back and be a fly on a wall for some awesome event or era,” maybe the painting of the Sistine Chapel or to just live during the Roaring Twenties.

3)      “I want to go back and change history,”  like possibly making sure Hitler got accepted into art school or maybe infecting Lee Harvey Oswald with Ebola so he won’t be at work the day the Kennedy Motorcade passes by.

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PCC: Under Pressure

Puget Consumers Co-op, or PCC, is a natural foods retailer located in and around the Seattle area.  Like its feisty neighbor Starbucks, it is a source of either local pride or embarrassment; depending on who you ask and when.  If you ask me, I’d say it’s a thing to be proud of; after all, it’s now the largest natural foods co-op in the country.

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Find Yourself

I love being tracked.  I know people nowadays have concerns about the NSA snooping into their business and whatnot; civil liberties: blah blah blah; but I just look at all that as a sign that somebody somewhere cares.  It’s comforting to me.  I realize this attitude may come about as a result of negligent parenting, but I try not to dwell on the whos or whys too much.

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Leaving New York

I lived in New York for 12 years.  In that time I went through a lot of stuff, I guess like anybody would over a 12 year span.  But I finally decided I wanted something better (and I say that full in the knowledge that I consider New York to be the best city in the world).  The City was a place of endless wonder, but I was lacking something.  I wasn’t living up to the potential of the Energetic Metropolis.  I needed to find for myself a different definition of potential.

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Vipassana

By the late ‘90’s I had realized things were not what they seemed.  There needed to be a change, things had gotten stagnant.  Not being very good at self-delusion, I knew there had to be an alternative.  Historically, I had been an imperfect student to an imperfect teacher.

My mom was like the mom in “The Glass Menagerie.”  As a kid, I resented her alternating perkiness and morosity.  Perversely, I guess I resented the perkiness even more.  During my teen years, she’d wake us siblings up early on weekend mornings and make breakfast.  She’d bop around the apartment singing and uttering silly things.  There was disdain in the air, and it was coming only from me, for I thought we should all be depressed.  In my mind, we weren’t “successful,” and I felt a hot embarrassment that would flare up hotter the happier she would get.   As I’d clamber out of bed I’d often mutter, “I’ll rise but I sure won’t shine.”

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Streets

Some people are born and grow up in one place, sometimes even one house.  Then there are others who move a couple of times, maybe even to different cities.  Then there’s my family.  We moved around like neurotic nomads from place to place within cities; and then from coast to coast, ricocheting back and forth in ever widening caroms.

Probably the only thing that kept us in the same country is that we never had passports or much money.

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2002: The Year of the Palindrome

I’ve been in and out of health food stores for almost twenty years and seen so many people come and go they’d probably fill Key Arena.  I could look around this arena and easily not remember more than half of them.

Of the ones I do remember, there was Kitty, and Squanch, and a self-described ’30 something virgin’ named Elderberry (who we called Eldercherry).  There was a guy whose name I don’t remember but who answered the phone “Hello sir or ma’am, thank you for calling Perelandra.”

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