What's With the Public Displays of Tai Chi?

Dear Uptight Seattleite, My dislike of beloved librarian Nancy Pearl has me racked with guilt. She seems like a perfectly nice person, and isn't doing anything worse than promoting a love of reading. But I break out in hives whenever I hear her chirpy voice on Morning Edition hyping some book with one of the same five adjectives she always uses. (The No. 1 Nancy Pearl adjective: "incredible"). Heal my bitter heart!No Nancy Boy

Dear No Nancy Boy, I admit that going from Book Lust to Book Crush felt like a downgrade. And it's also true that, as far as reading recommendations go, I blaze my own boldly meandering trail. But before we give in to negative thoughts, let us consider the many local livelihoods that depend on Nancy Pearl–related books, calendars, mugs, action figures, and tote bags. Consider also the millions of gentle readers who count her as a friend. For them, she's an invisible aunt hovering warmly in the air as they work their way through the overlooked and surprisingly funny Eastern Bloc memoir she told them to read. With what benign brilliance her spirit shines on this vast field of happy readers! Nancy, we haven't forgotten it all started here, with your fancy that all of Seattle might read the same book. In my own humble way, I, too, am trying to get everyone on the same page. Perhaps we might compare notes sometime? If you'd allow me to buy you a cup of tea, I would consider it the highest possible honor. Would it be an icon-to-icon affair? That's not for me to say. But I flatter myself that, at the very least, we might make what my grandma used to call "quite the luncheonette pair." Dear Uptight Seattleite, Please explain the compulsion some Seattleites feel to practice tai chi in public. This week on the Seattle-bound run of the Winslow ferry, I observed a middle-aged man practicing tai chi who looked like he was going to mate with the bulkhead, until he almost fell down. Note that it was a calm day and there were no swells. A regular on the ferry told me the man does this every morning. My dog and I always see this other guy who's tai chi'd to death all the grass around a tree in a park near my house. I see the same thing at Volunteer Park, Green Lake, and other places around the city: middle-aged white guys sweeping the air in elaborate, self-conscious slow motion. Why do they have to do it in public?Why Chi?

Dear Why Chi? Why indeed? Why do these peaceful practitioners bother you so much? Is their presence a silent rebuke to your own rushing, unreflective state of mind? Please don't be offended—I'm exploring possibilities here, not pointing fingers. I do confess, however, to a concern about the disdain I sense is coiled up inside your phrase "middle-aged white guys." These men may seem laughably irrelevant to whatever important thing you're rushing off to. They may be far removed from the glittering sideshows thrown up by the media to distract us from the true state of the world. But is it not the case that wisdom may be contained in the least comely of vessels? Next time, pause for a moment to ponder the contents of these headband-sporting gray heads. Consider that, as they slowly push at the air, they are also pushing at the limitations of our culture itself. They're urging it, and us, to slow down and feel the quiet rhythm of a healthy spirit. Indeed, for them to practice in public is an act of generosity, offered to the world with great humility. Also, for the record, there were in fact very rough waters that day on the Winslow ferry. Dear Uptight Seattleite, Why do microbrews give me less of a hangover than regular ol' Bud?Quizzical Quaffer

Dear Quizzical Quaffer, Look no further than the honest, yeasty sediment on the bottom of the glass. It's packed with vitamins or amino acids or something. A Pike Place or Mac & Jack's on tap is almost a meal in itself. That's only part of it, though. More important are the workers who brew the stuff. Perhaps you've seen pictures of them in advertisements. They are as Utilikilted a splendor of eccentrically bearded manhood as you could ever hope to see. Dedicated to their craft with a simplicity of soul that derives from their majestically pure sense of guy-ness. Every drop of their small-batch craft beers is infused with the love of this veritable church of latter-day lumberjack saints. Budweiser, by contrast, is made in China by slave robots. Have a question for the Uptight Seattleite? Send it to uptight@seattleweekly.com.

 
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