Stuff White People Like

We don’t judge? Of course we do—every day and in every way. Like the Uptight Seattleite, we must constantly, tacitly condemn our fellow citizens for improper recycling, their excessive food miles, not bicycling to work. Oh, but it’s complicated, this business of being a judgy educated liberal urbanite. Or to put it differently: being white. This is the subject of the brilliantly incisive humor blog by Christian Lander, now collected in Stuff White People Like: The Definitive Guide to the Unique Taste of Millions (Random House, $14). Among the targets: NPR junkies, triathletes, Prius braggarts, Whole Foods worshippers, fixed-gear fetishists, early Obama backers, and those whose musical tastes froze at the Pixies. What I love about the book is that it lances both the core pretensions of The Stranger’s demo (“To a white person, being a fan of a band before it gets popular is one of the most important things they can do with their life”) and our own (“If you are looking for an activity you can share with your white friends, nothing will progress the relationship faster than a trip to a farmer’s market”). And sometimes both in one stroke: “When engaging in a conversation about corporate evils, it is important to never, ever mention Apple computers . . . ” Lander, Canadian by birth, presently resides in L.A., where he and his wife live without a car. Speaking by phone last week, I demanded to know why Portland (Portland! Those Pearl District snobs!) merits its own chapter while Seattle merely gets a flow-chart mention for our vintage home-renovation mania. Lander explains, “There’s essentially a serious white corridor from Portland up to Vancouver, Canada. That area is the most competitive, cutthroat white region of the entire continent. I felt like I could only choose one [city], and I felt that Seattle was too diverse—in relation to Portland—to make the book.” But as a past visitor to Seattle, what are some of the hallmarks of our whiteness that he’s observed here? “The performance clothes. You need to be able to go from the farmers market to the campsite in 40 minutes. The need for four-wheel drive to access remote camping locations. It has to be one of those four-wheel-drive Subaru station wagons.” But how can we tell all those identical green Subaru wagons apart in the parking lot at PCC? Here Lander is stumped: “They all have the same bumper sticker! They all say ‘Coexist’ on the back and ‘Obama ’08.’ Once they release the Forester hybrid, it is over—the Prius is dead in the Pacific Northwest.” OK, what about local food? I explain how mini-goats are kept in some Seattle backyards; should we then slaughter those goats for food? “That would be huge for a number of reasons. Because it would also show not only a local-food aspect, but it would show that you’re in touch with that production of food, and you understand what it takes to create this meal. And then you get above Whole Foods!” What about biking? “Bicycling for health is one aspect. Bicycling as a lifestyle and commuting is much, much better: ‘I don’t just bike for exercise; I bike to get around and save the world.’ Also in Seattle and Portland, mention that you bike in the rain. Because you always have to say, ‘Yeah, it’s really easy to bike on a sunny day.’ But biking on a rainy day will get some respect. So put some fenders on that bike.” OK, but where does the cycle of judgment and white competitiveness finally lead—when we finish the fixer on East Capitol Hill, then build the all-solar second home in the San Juans? Says Lander, “Having one of those homes is like the end goal. You’ve won. You own two properties. I don’t know if I’d say you’ve transcended race. But white people will both look up to you and hate you. That is the goal.” The Hideout, 1005 Boren Ave., 903-8480, www.vital5productions.com, www.stuffwhitepeoplelike.com. 21 and over. Free. 8 p.m. BRIAN MILLER

Tue., July 15, 8 p.m., 2008

 
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