Dear Uptight Seattleite,
My new neighbor wants to hang out all the time, every day. He brews his own beer (four varieties, each with its own little "rad" label), ties his own fishing flies, is an avid golfer, owns two Harley-Davidson motorcycles, scuba dives, owns guns, and bow hunts. His ponytail and goatee with soul patch round out the picture. He wants me to "bro down" with him on each and every one of these activities. To avoid contact with him, I have actually started leaving the house earlier and coming home later. How do I tell him that real friendships can't be force-fed, and that I really like the quiet solitude of my own house?No Bro
Dear No Bro,
The guns trouble me. Not because they are terrible things, though they are. No, it's because your neighbor is mixing and matching genres of male activity with such abandon that he is in grave danger of suffering from an OB. That's an Over Bro, No Bro.
His ponytail may seem to fit all his hobbies, but is it a sensitive ponytail of the sort that would go with his home brewing, or a jingoistic, Ted Nugent ponytail to match his gun ownership and bow hunting? Scuba diving, with its military discipline and heavy industrial equipment, sort of fits in the same broad, vaguely Republican category as golfing, but both sit somewhat uneasily with fly-fishing, with its pretensions of poetic contemplation. Is he a stoic outdoorsman, backslapping social networker, or hippie athlete? Unless he chooses a stereotype and sticks with it, he may lose his very identity in this overheated mishmash of hobbies.
But it's your neighbor's paradoxical ponytail that points the way toward your solution. Worn with more focus than your neighbor shows, a male ponytail can swing with harmonious ease between sensitivity and virile power. You don't need a real one—you can stand up to your neighbor's ponytail with your own inner ponytail. Think of it as a strong, steady voice that you always have within you. When you think he's gone too far, fix him with a confident smile, hold up your hands, and in your ponytail voice say, "Hey, whoa! Bro overboard!" He should get the picture. But if he looks puzzled, execute a crisp karate chop to his throat and run away.
Dear Uptight Seattleite,
As a Northwest native, I know Morris Graves had a thing for painting rainy-day Japanese mysticism. But this whole Seattle-as-Japan thing is getting out of hand when people place shoe racks just inside their front doors as a heavy-handed suggestion to take off your shoes when you enter. I always pretend not to see the racks. Does this make me a bad person?Norwegian Reserve
It might seem like we're just aping a particular Japanese custom. But it's bigger than that. See, the delicacy of feeling that is the genius of Japanese culture finds its analogue in the delicacy of our carpet fibers. Floors are an investment, and can add or subtract considerably to the resale price of a house or condo. So there are inside/outside, sacred/profane, and clean/unclean implications here. To enter someone's home is to breach the glowing energy field that is its market value. A value that has glowed bright indeed for those who bought 10 or more years ago. When these blessed souls let you in the front door, you must purify your entrance like a sumo wrestler throwing salt, or a Shinto priest waving his folded paper thing around. It's not just carpets, by the way. Those scuff marks on bamboo floors—ugh! Not that they have a lot of bamboo floors in Japan, but there is an evocative connection that floats like a feel-good haze above our tasteful decor.
You mention Morris Graves, who is still very much with us. True, you can see giant colored dots and other up-to-date art at galleries like Greg Kucera. But we always sink back with a contented sigh into the warm mud bath that is the Northwest Mystics school of painting, dispersed but still staggering onward. Half-abstract landscapes, rendered in muted blobs of blue and brown, fill the city's galleries from Pioneer Square to Phinney Ridge. Like the custom of taking off your shoes, this art is sort of Asian-influenced, without demanding too much actual knowledge of Asia. The timeless theme of oneness with nature remains as easy to absorb as ever.
Oh, and as for your problem, just stop resisting. Get some wacky purple socks and roll with it.
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