Dear Uptight Seattleite, I'm an art critic at a daily newspaper. I secretly wish I worked for an alternative weekly, because those writers seem to have more fun and are usually gay. Hanging with the gays makes me feel worldly and lends my comments a queenly zest, at least in my own mind. I don't know, maybe I'm too much of an intellectual for this town. My nuanced observations and obscure references certainly show I'm a class above the other so-called critics around here. I even landed a job at the Boston Globe not too long ago. I mean, almost. So close and yet so far! I'd like to tell my boring old paper to kiss off (not to mention the readers who seem to have lost interest in me), but I can't afford to miss a paycheck. What's a girl to do?Gaining in Neither Area
Dear Gaining, That's quite the Zen pickle you've gotten yourself into there, Missy! Now, let me start by saying I'm totally not an astrologer. Not that I have anything but respect for astrology—I, too, found it useful for a decade or so. But there comes a time when you must turn toward more universal patterns, like in nature and stuff. The flow of a river, the flight of a bird. Who can chart these things? For the sake of argument, however, let's suppose I were an astrologer. Your horoscope would be as follows: You're exhausting yourself with rivalries that exist only in your own mind. Make this the week you unburden yourself of hostility. Not by venting it on others, but by letting go of it, like a child lets go of a cherished toy as she drifts off to sleep. In the morning, give yourself a gift to replace that toxic plaything: the gift of rediscovering whatever pleasure in the visual world led you to be an art critic in the first place. In place of your usual impulse toward Brahminic pronouncements, let this rediscovered pleasure guide your writing to a brighter, more readable future. As you emerge blinking into the light of this new attitude, you may find that it's not too late to earn a readership outside the usual tiny circle of artists and dealers hungry for your favor, and that people don't dislike you as much as your behavior warrants. Then again, like I said, I'm no astrologer. Dear Uptight Seattleite, Help! I'm stuck on the top floor of the downtown public library! What's with the crazy one-way escalator? And the elevator that never comes? Should I just find the nearest spectacular view of the atrium and jump?Panicked Patron
Dear Patron, There is in fact a way to get down. It involves a "spiral" and a door hidden behind a shelf of books on cassette. But what good would telling you about it do? Just as you found your own way up, so too you must find your own way down. Such is every person's burden to bear. Instead of focusing on escape, take a moment to take in the moment. Is it not beautiful to hover 10 stories above the traffic in an acre of cathedral sunlight? Is it not rare to view the sky from inside the eyeball grid of a giant robot fly? Consider also that anything culturally valuable requires some trouble on your part. That's what makes it valuable. My close personal friend Roger Downey once called this the Difficulty and Inconvenience Factor. See the DIF at SIFF, when people line up around the block in the rain to see Iranian films. Sure, they could stay dry by waiting until the films hit general release or DVD, but that wouldn't show a very serious commitment to art, would it? You want to show that same commitment, don't you, Patron? I therefore suggest you think of the puzzle of the exit as the price of admission. Dear Uptight Seattleite, Have you noticed those crosswalk signals for the blind, the ones that go "beep-boop, beep-boop, beep-boop"? There's one in front of the zoo, for example. A great idea, but there are so few of them. What good are a few audible signals placed randomly around town?Beep Heeder
Dear Heeder, The mystery falls away once you realize these signals are not for the blind but for the rest of us. They may be of little practical value, but these soothing beeps give us a warm feeling of compassion for the less fortunate, and the satisfaction of being associated with nifty solutions. Like those automatic toilets, only cheaper. Have a question for the Uptight Seattleite? Send it to firstname.lastname@example.org.