Rick Anderson's 2004

It was the year of the Rainier Bear, the flu-vaccine 'shortage,' Ichiro, Bill O'Reilly's 'falafel thing,' and, of course, the re-recount.

Unless you were the oily pilot of the ConocoPhillips tanker or the rudderless captain of the Kalakala or had a nice summer place near the dome of Mount St. Helens, 2004 might have been a decent year. But wouldn't it have been better if you had found half a million dollars in the woods? Dan Gerth did while hiking near Ellisford in Okanogan County. Keep $500,000 in cash? Naw. The ex–Border Patrol agent called the local sheriff, who hid out and waited for David L. Taber Jr., 35, of Oroville to show up, arresting him for suspected drug-money laundering. Now Gerth is rethinking his Good Samaritan–ship and has filed a legal claim for the cash, possession of which is also being sought by the local sheriff and Taber. ("He is absolutely not a drug dealer," says his Seattle attorney, Mark Watanabe.) In his sleep, Gerth may be thinking what the NAACP's Carl Mack said aloud, "Shhhheerrreeeeeeeeeit!" That was during a Taser test at 10 paces with Seattle Police Chief Gil Kerlikowske, and it's as good as any capsule description of 2004, a year of many shocking developments. I mean, death by Lava Lamp? Yes, an exploding one—left to heat on a stove burner, killing a man in Kent. "Why on earth he was heating a Lava Lamp on the stove, we don't know," said Kent Police spokesperson Paul Petersen. Then there was the mayhem of the exploding cell phones. The Consumer Product Safety Commission says it happened at least 83 times in two years. A cell with incompatible, faulty, or counterfeit batteries is like holding a bomb to your ear, said one official. (Talk about an incoming! call.) And don't overlook the hazards of cradling that warm laptop computer on your crotch—causing sterility, experts say, or maybe some kind of weird techno-genetic deformity. ("Hey, why does your baby look like Bill Gates?") On the other hand, you just know some technology is

inherently risky, such as the homemade electric chair that killed a Lithuanian man this year. It makes you think twice—like the Florida man who created a separate, living "brain in a dish" for himself, using rat neurons. But onward: 2004 was supposed to be the year of the elephant or donkey, then turned out to be the year of the bear. CNN says the black bear that downed 36 cans of Rainier beer at Baker Lake Resort in Skagit County and then passed out—all of it caught on tape—was its most-viewed online video of the year. Demand for the Rainier Bear, who used his claws and teeth to open cold ones he stole from campers' coolers, easily outdistanced requests for, say, replays of the George Bush–John Kerry debates on Vietnam. (The war in Iraq, with its death toll exceeding Vietnam's for a comparable period, was mere background noise to the sound of distant Swift boats.) Bush set the discourse level for Election 2004 with his mid-debate observation that, "In all due respect, I'm not so sure it's credible to quote leading news organizations about—oh, never mind." He was going to make fun of the mainstream media's gullibility, then remembered that's what got him elected. "As I was telling my husb—" bachelorette Condoleezza Rice started to say of the president one equally never-mind day, and Howard Dean really wished he'd never minded to scream "Yeeeeeaaaaaargh!" in the middle of Iowa. Speaking of mindless politics—is that redundant?—did you vote in 2004? Prove it. This is the year we learned every vote recounts, mostly. The historic Dino Rossi/Christine Gregoire gubernatorial squeaker turned Washington into Florida without the sunshine and white belts. Machines jammed, ballots were lost, and party leaders Paul Berendt and Chris Vance had us turning to The Osbournes for peace and understanding.

(Ukraine had its sometimes-poisonous election problems, too, but at least they had a sign-language interpreter who, as the candidates spoke on TV, flashed the sign for "They're lying!") Even a statewide hand job didn't necessarily ease our pain. But in our hearts, we knew how it would end: Whomever we elected would turn on us. Like law-and-order fanatic Dave Reichert. The pre-frosh congressman has already cast his first vote—a private party ballot on whether to allow Tom DeLay to continue to serve as House majority leader if he's indicted by a Texas grand jury. Yeah, no problem, said Sheriff Dave, turning in his badge. Speaking of politics and screwing—is that re-redundant?—the probe into the Seattle City Council's enduring wardrobe malfunction, aka Strippergate, petered out, with King County Prosecutor Norm Maleng taking over the investigation of nude-dance impresario Frank Colacurcio Jr. and his fellow girly men. Democrats, meanwhile, lay back and enjoyed it politically when state Republicans, without checking, picked the unknown Will Baker as GOP candidate for state auditor. Turned out Baker was known—to cops, among others—as the self-proclaimed "International Man of Diplomacy" who'd been arrested 19 times and was such a bore that jailers left his cell door open, hoping he'd leave. (Yet in the general election, Baker drew 840,000 well-informed Republican votes.) Still, Year of Will Power doesn't quite nail it. Year of the Wiccans, maybe? During Halloween, the Puyallup School District banned decorations featuring witches, black cats, and other symbols "intended to frighten or scare individuals," in deference to the pagan, witch-worshipping Wicca religious order (but photos of President Bush are allowed). The Tacoma School District might have topped that with its cruel and unusual ban on

recess. Why, even lifers get a few minutes in the yard. But then, educationally, 2004 was a learning-curve bummer. It was painful to hear that the one man who could have prevented 9/11 was cooped up in SeaTac. According to the 9/11 Commission's report, if the FBI had run a photo of one of the hijack plotters past convicted millennium bomb planner Ahmed Ressam at his SeaTac detention cell, he would have ID'd the suspect (as, in fact, Ressam did post–Sept. 11) and broken the plot wide open. We also anguished over America's mad-cow scare, a national panic that started near Yakima—and turned out to have consisted of one cow from Canada. But at least the flu vaccine shortage was for real, right? As a civilization, we aren't easily flummoxed—all Vioxx aside. If, say, Gov. Gary Locke tried to give Boeing a $3.2 billion tax break secretly based on the advice of Boeing's own consultant, we'd be all over him like white on rice. Our public officials fear us. Would Mayor Greg Nickels be foolish enough to, oh, try to charge us to park at our parks? No freakin' way! (In remembrance of Rodney Dangerfield, it was clearly the taxpayers' Year of No Respect.) On the gossip front, billionaire Paul Allen was rumored to be altar-bound with actress Laura Harring (the ex–Mrs. Count Carl von Bismarck, of course), apparently looking like a catch now that he has forsaken that lousy 301-foot yacht, the Tatoosh, and launched the world's biggest pleasure boat, the 413-foot Octopus, which includes two helicopters and a 60-foot submarine. (If they were new mom Julia Roberts' boats, would she have named them Phinnaeus and Hazel?) And maybe Linda Ronstadt got run out of Vegas for saying nice things about that hunky Michael Moore, but Eddie Vedder of Seattle's Pearl Jam had no problem wrapping himself in a flag

and telling his concert crowd, "Let's take this fucking thing back!" Lounge singer Leon Hendrix turned a hazy purple after losing his bid to share in half-brother Jimi's $80 million Seattle musical estate, which remains under the control of Jimi's stepsister Janie (she tearfully observed it was "time to heal"—perhaps on the Riviera). And now the sports: Not good, basebally. Ichiro hit 262 (literally, 262 record hits in one season), but Edgar caught a bus to Cooperstown and the Mariners sank to 63-99, prompting one fan to post a fake item on eBay offering a used "Howard Lincoln" (the Mariners CEO) to the highest bidder: "I bought it in 1999, and it worked well for the first few years but started to malfunction in 2002. There is a tendency for this model to repeat the same spin from year to year. . . . " Not a word about pimping his ride. Meanwhile, Lou Piniella's successor, M's manager Bob Melvin, was not, in his own words, "the anti-Lou . . . " although, "I might have been the buffer for the next guy. Well, someone had to do it." Ditto one-game winner Keith Gilbertson, the University of Washington football coach: "I felt like I was building something for the years to come," he said—like acid reflux, maybe? His locker had barely cooled when Tyrone Willingham, late of Notre Dame, hit town to, well, replace Rick Neuheisel, who had been fired for what the NCAA said was a gambling infraction that never happened. That history was obviously on the mind of newly named UW President Mark Emmert, whose first word to describe Willingham was "integrity." Emmert also said the right things about the U-Dub's costly Medicare billing scandal: "If we can figure out the human genome, we can figure out the federal regulations." Thing is, with Emmert being paid $762,000 and Willingham $2 million,

why does integrity cost so damn much these days? While we're on ethics, good journalism slipped a few more notches in 2004 as we said goodbye to semi-retiring icons Tom Brokaw, Jimmy Breslin, and Bill Moyers. We prepared to bid adieu to the quirky Dan Rather—who was blogged into submission—while a teetering Bill O'Reilly, the hot-air buffoonist, paid as much as $10 million in hush money to former co-worker Andrea Mackris, the woman to whom he heavily breathed the words, "So anyway, I'd be rubbing your big boobs and getting your nipples real hard . . . and then I would take the other hand with the falafel thing and I'd put it on your pussy. . . . " Is that your no-spin erogenous zone? Someone else's words were being breathed into Stephen Dunphy's business writing at The Seattle Times, and the paper and he divorced over irreconcilable plagiarisms. Onetime Seattle Post- Intelligencer reporter Susan Lindauer was accused by the U.S. of being sort of a spy for Iraq: "I'm an antiwar activist, and I'm innocent," she sort of explained. And at the Tacoma News-Tribune, longtime restaurant critic Bart Ripp quit after fictions were discovered in his writing. Editor David Zeeck subsequently discovered Ripp had refused to pick up the check at one restaurant for 10 years. But then, aren't reporters, in Elton John's words, "rude, vile pigs" anyway? (Except Tucker Carlson, who, Jon Stewart said on live TV, is merely "a dick.") Not that pols are particularly well mannered. "Go fuck yourself" was Dick Cheney's advice to Sen. Patrick Leahy, although I don't think George Bush really meant it when he said our enemies "never stop thinking about new ways to harm our country and our people—and neither do we." Maybe in 2004 we didn't have a queer eye for the gay

marriage—Gov. Ah-nold fretted that if such weddings were approved, "The next thing we know, there is injured or there is dead people." (He seen dead people.) But on the upside, Courtney Love hasn't been arrested for months, Jessica, Nick, and Friends have been banished to reruns, Frasier said his last "Goodnight, Seattle!" and someone finally translated Bon Marché for us: "Good Macy's." So what if Seattle's newly opened $165 million downtown library has only one escalator, going up? That the Seattle Monorail Project, two years old, finally got approved? Or that homeland security went into the crapper when a confused motorist drove his Cadillac the length of Metro's downtown bus tunnel? Happy New Year anyway. And remember, 2005 is an election year in Seattle. To be safe, can we start the recount now?

randerson@seattleweekly.com

 
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