Dear Uptight Seattleite, The MacArthur Foundation and its dedicated grantees have been working to build a more just, verdant, and peaceful world. "Verdant"?Radio Raheem
Dear Raheem, Do you feel somehow excluded by that word? Do you find that it falls with an uncolloquial thud? Cast off the anti-intellectualism of your own ears. Get comfortable with this perfectly good word by using it at least 10 times every day. "What a verdant salad," you can, for example, exclaim. "It has ever such myriad lettuces!" Keep this up until the word sounds as natural as your own breathing. The idea is to soften that thud. Soften and sweeten it until it rings with the delicate tinkling heard by the veteran NPR listener, who accepts such words with a literate nonchalance. Besides, what other word could you substitute? "Lush"? That's a tad frivolous for the serious business of saving the environment, don't you think? It smacks of self-indulgent sensual pleasure. "Fertile"? Well, OK, I guess. But that has certain associations with human reproduction. Now I know some people choose to have children instead of dogs, and I find that perfectly valid. There's nothing at all weird about having a child. Especially if you have only one—that's a pretty tasteful number of offspring. Of course, some people have more than one child. Maybe even as many as three. Three does seem like some kind of limit, though. Beyond that, and, no offense, you're liable to seem kind of...fertile. Dear Uptight Seattleite, Can I pull off a Rasta beret?Bill
Dear Bill, Are you an alcoholic? I'm not suggesting you are. According to AA, you're the only one who can say you're an alcoholic. That's what they call "admitting you have a problem." If you don't admit you have a problem, after all, how can you solve it? Something for you to think about, anyway. Not that I'm in AA myself. At one point I did go to a few meetings of Al-Anon, the spinoff group for the friends and family of alcoholics. Because of my dad. I found out that they have their own separate set of 12 steps, and that you never get to the top of these steps. When you get to the 12th step, you start over at the first one. I can appreciate the circular nature of that. It's like the wheel of reincarnation. Or that M.C. Escher picture of monks ascending an infinite loop of stairs on top of a tower. But I always liked to think of myself as that one monk in the picture sitting by himself at the base of the tower. He's just staring off into space. His soul's got its own groove going, as has my soul. I do like to try to emulate the 12-Step people in certain ways, though. Like how they're so patient when someone disagrees with them, and how they try to find out why exactly that person is "resisting." I strive in my humble way to be as patient with resistors I meet in my own life. Which is as gentle a way as I know to get back to my original question: Are you an alcoholic? For just as only you can answer that question, only you know if you can pull off that Rasta beret or not. Though I won't intrude on your moment of hushed self-judgment, I will tell you there's one thing you'll need should you decide to proceed with the beret: a plan for when someone mentions it. You have to have a story about how you got it. It won't do to say "I picked it up last week at a smoke shop in the U District." You don't have to lie about your beret's origins, simply use your imagination a little bit. See the invisible patterns behind the events of the day you bought it. You were walking. It was raining. The sun came out and hit the beret just so. It was a sign! Something like that. You should also be prepared in case someone teases you. You have to go along with the teasing to show that you also see the humor in turning yourself into a walking cliché. But don't be too accommodating. This particular style of hat requires a certain level of confidence. Let that charming self-effacement of yours go too far and the beret will become a 10,000-pound dunce cap. If it's possible to intimate that you're part Cherokee without resorting to outright deception, this may bolster your dignity. Slightly scruffy facial hair will also help. The first few weeks will be the roughest. Once you pocket your six-month token, your beret-wearing will develop its own momentum. Let me know how it goes. I care. Have a question for the Uptight Seattleite? Send it to firstname.lastname@example.org.