Utopian Turtletop. Monsieur Croche's BĂȘte Noire. Contact: turtletop [at] hotmail [dot] com

Wednesday, July 27, 2005


Recent political yammering hereabouts has reminded me that, like Patricia Williams, I believe that a person's position in society influences how he or she will feel about it.

My name is John. I'm a white guy, born 1963 in a Navy town as my dad signed up after marrying my mom and graduating from college. I don't think of the Navy town as my hometown because we moved away from it when I was 2. I grew up in my mom's hometown of Kalamazoo, Michigan -- my hometown. My dad grew up the next town over, Battle Creek, and my younger brother and sister, my parents, my grandparents, all 8 of my great-grandparents, and many great-greats were born in Michigan, Illinois, or Indiana. I was raised in a liberal, ecumenical Presbyterian Church -- culturally WASP.

When I was 10 years old a motorboat ran over me, the propeller cutting my face and under my chin, scarring me, knocking out 6 or 7 teeth, and cutting the nerves on the left side of my face, partially paralyzing my mouth. A few years ago I broke down crying talking about this with a friend, when I realized that the main lesson I learned from this event was how much my family loves me. I grew up thinking my scar and marred mouth made me ugly, but since marrying my beloved spouse 4 years ago, I've grown to realize I'm a handsome devil after all. Two and a half years ago our son was born. We play a lot of music.

I met my wife at a sit-in in a City Council member's office, protesting punitive anti-homeless laws the Council was considering (and went on to pass). My future wife got arrested; I left before the cops came. My future wife later hired me to work at the transitional housing program she managed. We fell in love and I slept my way out of a job. I've worked for low-income housing or homeless programs since 1991. My first job in "the field" was walking the floors of Seattle's roughest, largest shelter, on the original, historic Skid Row, which got its name from the loggers skidding the logs down the hill to the Bay. In my 2 years at that shelter, 4 different clients assaulted me. Only one was scarey or painful, a glancing blow to my head that I mostly ducked as I fell on my ass; the other three were slaps or shoves. Now I work for a non-profit agency that has home ownership programs for low-income households.

I've played a lot of music. Piano lessons as a kid, jazz and rock and classical fandom all my life, bluegrass and folk since high school. Bands since age 14, writing music since age 10, writing songs since age 15 (? maybe 16). Published poems in obscure journals in my early 20s (Beatniks from Space, Meat City). Acted in and wrote music for and wrote many plays, age 20 to 27. Only wrote one full-length play, a musical, 1987. I still play some of the songs from it. A cassette of music I wrote (1986) for lyrics in a Caryl Churchill play has passed from hand to hand and been produced at least twice by people I don't know.

I dropped out of college for 10 years, disgusted by the false privilege the college education confers upon its beneficiaries. Went back and graduated when I realized, first, that my middle-class upbringing, white skin, maleness, and heterosexuality give me access to many of those privileges anyway, and, second, that denying myself a diploma was helping nobody. My degree is in liberal arts blah blah blah, and I don't regret it; had a lot of fun; learned a lot.

Before moving to Seattle and stumbling into the housing/homeless/poverty biz, I worked as a proofreader for various publications, including the Chicago Reader. They published a few theater reviews I wrote, back in '89 or '90; I did not enjoy the experience of having my stuff edited. I mention it only to dispel any romantic notion that I'm a pure unsullied amateur.

I've been blogging for 18 months now. Thanks for reading.
John, thanks for telling. What a life you've had so far! It does my heart and soul good to know you're over there keeping the faith and fighting the fight. My best to you and your family.
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