Tag Archives: Walla Walla

Instructions to Our House Sitter

model house on lots of dollar billsAs Emile keeps telling us, we are “flying plane Michigan” tomorrow to see “Grandma AND Papa.” (Can’t leave Papa out, after all.) Usually leaving for two weeks in the summer means that we’ll return to a brown lawn, shriveled annuals, and a stack of cobwebby newspapers. But not this year! Thanks to a helpful and intrepid recent college graduate, we will for the first time be employing a bonafide house sitter. So of course I had to give her a few instructions.

1. The key to the house works all the outside locks.
2. We stopped the mail while we’re on vacation, but the newspaper will keep coming. Feel free to read it/recycle it/line a bird cage with it.
3. You can eat whatever you find in the fridge or the house. (Don’t like, eat THE house.) Things with nuts in them: the package of walnuts in the pantry, the jar of peanut butter, the granola bars in the pantry, the granola cereal and the panda bear cereal in the basement storage. Otherwise we’re nut less. [sic] We’ve left you a few cookies on the counter—those are chocolate chips and cherries.
4. There are two plants by the sink, one tree in the room behind the kitchen, and an African violet in that same back room, that need watering, maybe 2-3 times a week. The hanging pots on the porch need to be watered every day, and the two little pots out front need a splash every day. Those other two containers only need to be watered 1-2 times a week, depending on how hot it gets. Read More…

Presiding Juror (The Aftermath)

statue of justiceThe twelve members of the jury walked back into the deliberation room, after we’d handed over our verdict and individually attested that we voted freely and according to the instructions from the court.

“Did you see his face,” asked one juror, meaning the defendant.

“He looked like the weight of the world came off his shoulders,” answered a juror. Kiffen was her name.

The mason grumbled. “He looks like he dodged a bullet.”

Soon thereafter the judge came into our room. He’d said he had a quick question for us, but we peppered him with ours first. They came out all in a barrage—why didn’t we hear from Grumpy and Stretch? why isn’t Officer Tony’s dashboard camera working? why was the testimony so vague? Did we just let a guilty man go free? What did you think about his guilt or innocence?

He tried to answer them in turn. He looked much smaller standing in front of us instead of occupying his perch above us, and his robes looked like they could smother him.

“Nobody can find Joaquim (Grumpy) or Stretch,” he said, looking like he was trying not to sound dismissive. “If we could have located them, we would have brought them in for questioning.”

Juror number 4—the woman who had sat in front of me the whole trial—asked why Stephanie wasn’t coached to be more assertive on the stand.

“Ms. Adele was brought here by officers, as a material witness. The prosecutor had to put out a warrant to get her here, and she stayed at a motel with a guard so that she would testify.”

Well, that explained the very large bailiff who’d accompanied her to the court. Read More…

Presiding Juror (Part 3)

In a criminal trial on television, like in a fictional drama, or a less-than reenactment, writers manufacture the building conflict and shocking revelations that are appropriate for a 44-minute show. We may see some objections or motions, usually ones that are related to the “ripped from the headlines” twist, but most we get the banner testimony from the star witness, or a sudden confession from the killer. The worst damage taken in this case in Walla Walla was an unsuspecting mailbox, so we were orders of magnitude less dramatic than the average storyline on Law & Order. But there were still moments of tension between the attorneys, who battled back and forth over a few issues like old friends squabbling over the size of a rainbow trout caught a decade earlier.
Stephanie was something of a lightning rod for the case. She was, after all, the owner of the runaway vehicle, and the individual asserting that Skyler Glasby was all to blame for the litany of crimes that took place that cold January evening in College Place. April King—I mean, Lisa Simpson’s Human Counterpart—walked us through Stephanie’s experience in the car and afterward, but it looked like the tooth-pulling experience that many parents have with their teenage daughters who answer everything with, “I dunno.” Many of Stephanie’s responses on direct were vague, spoken through clenched teeth, or told with a shrug. LSHC asked for more details, but they didn’t come. On cross examination from Downtown Julie Brown, Ms. Adele remained circumspect. According to her Skyler knew where he was going, ending up at some purpose at the old landfill site.

After the cross-examination, LSHC called her back to the stand. Read More…

Presiding Juror (Part 2)

When last we left our intrepid Walla Walla courtroom, a jury had been at last selected for the trial of State of Washington vs. Skyler Glasby. Twelve jurors and one alternate were ready to dive into the case, all with stenographer’s pads and freshly sharpened number two pencils at the ready. The judge looked at us, seeming to assess each of us as individuals. Five of us had on purple clothes. Three were men. All of us were white. Every single one, white. Eight of us wore glasses. We had discussed, with the judge and attorneys for each side, our understanding of “reasonable doubt,” the unrealism of NCIS, CSI, and Criminal Minds, the weighing of disparate testimony, and the gravity of our responsibility to remain fair and impartial.

Walla Walla courthouse in the 1920s: postcardHe gave us a look, tilted his head to one side, and then told us we would be breaking for lunch.

“The trial will begin with opening arguments,” he said, and it was clear he’d said this hundreds of times before. “We will begin at 1:30, so be back in the jury room at 1:15. My standard is that if you are here fifteen minutes early, then you are on time.”

Okay, tight ship there, bucko, I thought. This made him my people, this little insistence on punctuality. This is my cloth, and I wear it well.

We stood in the jury room for a couple of minutes, waiting for the bailiff to let us out.

“So how many children do you have,” Juror Number 3 asked the woman in purple paisley. The defense attorney had asked her a question during voir dire as if she had 18 kids at home. I admit, I was curious.

“Five,” she said. Read More…

Presiding Juror (Part 1)

I call myself a humorist. I make a piss-poor trade in identifying the funny stuff in the midst of garbage, sadness, strife, etc. I find humor to be life-saving, especially when it bubbles up in the midst of a gender transition, say. So I went into the jury summons process with an eye toward spotting the bits of funny. And somewhat paradoxically, the criminal justice system, even in the tiny universe of Walla Walla, has its side-splitting moments and instances that are absolutely chilling.

jury duty ecardIt started with a perforated postcard in the mail, back in early April, saying I was on the docket for June 2013. Walla Walla’s Superior Court uses a system in which jurors need to be on call to make an appearance on any given date during the month. Opening up the sealed card, one will find a short questionnaire which is supposed to be mailed back to the court right away. It tells the court if there are dates one can’t serve (I said I’d be out of town after a certain date in June), if one is or is not a United States citizen (Susanne gets out of all her jury duty for being Canadian), a resident of the county, and older than 18. It asks if one can read, speak, and write in English (illiterates need not apply?), and asks things about whether one is currently employed, and if so, what kind of work it is. There were other things on there, but I’ve forgotten them. Read More…

The Small Town HIV/AIDS Organization

walla walla wheat fields combinesShe comes in, won’t make eye contact with me. I have to hold my breath so I can make out what her mumbles mean. But before I’ve had time to process the low tones of her language, I know why she’s in my office: She wants to get tested for HIV.

There’s definitely shame in the eyes of the people who come here looking to exchange their used syringes for new ones, but oftentimes they’re so desperate to be done with me that there’s nothing halting about their speech or presentation. The folks worried they’ve got the granddaddy of sexually transmitted diseases well, they have a reason to put off the potential certainty of a diagnosis. Those exchangers are all too anticipatory, and it is a readily accessible difference that I can assess inside of five seconds.

No matter the need of a given individual, I put on my most reassuring face. Get professional, avoid any hint of judgmental snark or attitude. In most engagements, they’ve spent copious amounts of time beating themselves up for their behavior, their mistakes, their bad decisions. I’m not one for piling on. Read More…

Why It’s a Pain in the Ass to Be Trans in a Small Town, Or A Simple List of Stuff People Have Said to Me

  1. walla walla upholstery signHey, did you see that article in the newspaper about that transgendered couple?
  2. Hey, do you know the transsexual couple in the paper today?
  3. Oh my God, was that you in the paper today about being trans?
  4. Hey, there’s a high school student/college student/totally grown adult who is starting to transition. Could you talk to them? I mean, I haven’t talked to them yet to find out if they’d like you to do that, but you know, could you do that?
  5. I’m a great ally, but I’m not really out about being an ally. So please don’t go telling people I think it’s okay to be trans, all right?
  6. That’s a nice idea and all, but you know this isn’t DC, right?
  7. You sure talk about being trans a lot. Like, aren’t you happy just being a man?
  8. You might have a hard time finding a job here, because you’re overqualified. You know, that happens to men.
  9. What was your old name?
  10. Do you know the pregnant man?
  11. Hey, did you hear the pregnant man is getting divorced?
  12. Did you make that baby with Susanne?
  13. Does it bother you that your baby isn’t related to you?
  14. Why do all trans men have such crazy facial hair?
  15. Do you mourn the old you?
  16. Do you ever think about going back to being a woman?
  17. I was just wondering, do you have phantom breast sensations?
  18. Hey, do you know <<INSERT FAMOUS TRANS PERSON’S NAME HERE>>?
  19. Does it feel weird to take your shirt off in the pool?
  20. I understand how hard it is to find a doctor in town. My mom had <<INSERT DISEASE HERE>> and she had to drive to Seattle to find a specialist.
  21. Is it like, totally weird living in a small town?
  22. Are you interested in giving the newspaper an interview about being trans in Walla Walla?

Responses tomorrow.

Representative Misunderestimation

Barrett Pryce, Mike Hewitt's legislative aideWalla Walla’s Washington State Senator, Mike Hewitt, is not known in progressive circles for being a friend to the queers. Trans people aren’t even on his radar. His office caused a ruckus in the blogosphere (a.k.a. The Huffington Post in this case) when some as-yet-unnamed staffer told an angry caller that gays should “grow their own food” if, under his co-sponsored bill, any business owner decided to deny service to LGBT people because of “a sincerely held belief.” The “grow their own food” was apparently an option if any LGBT person living in a rural area with few grocery stores (as is actually the case in large swaths of Washington State) was denied as a customer by store owners.

Of course this was an angry caller from Seattle, not Hewitt’s district. Of course this was a stupid off-the-cuff remark from the staff member, not the Senator himself. And to further contextualize things, this Senate Bill 5927 is in response to a florist from a nearby city who refused to serve a couple looking to get gay married. She is now being sued. But that’s the point of anti-discrimination statutes. A florist is not a church. And flowers seem unimportant–as in, they’re not food–but even small moments of ignorance and bigotry cast wide ripples. For SB 5927 doesn’t limit lawsuits, it opens the floodgates for any individual with a product or service to refuse access, solely on the basis of dislike. It’s a total negation of including sexual orientation as a protected category in the state, setting up a hierarchy of communities based on which ones have unstoppered protection and which ones fall under this proposed law’s exception.

Certainly this isn’t the first time some sort of “philosophical” exception has made its way into the laws of the land. Extreme right-wing organizations actively recruit close-minded people into medicine and pharmacy now in order to have more “soldiers” on the front lines of the battle over reproductive rights in order to use their “sincerely held beliefs” to say they won’t supply Plan B to women, or offer pregnancy termination when it’s requested (or hey, needed). There is now so much room around these moral objections that the very notion that any of us in the general public finds these exceptions problematic is itself an assault on religious freedom. Read More…

Seek and Reclaim

BR catalogI love cargo pants. I love cargo pants almost as much as I love ye olde sweater vests, but trousers receive decidedly less attention from my friends and family. Maybe it’s because they’re in neutral tones, or situated too far from my face, the area where people look when we’re conversing. Peripheral vision only extends so far. In any case, I have several pairs of cargo pants, and I’ve owned at least one pair since Banana Republic sold its wares out of a hand-drawn catalog. I like them not because I have some strange affection for marsupial pouches, but because I don’t like having stuff in regular pants pockets; it’s more comfortable to keep my wallet in a bigger pocket that pressed against my hip or ass cheek.

Until yesterday, cargo pants had always been good to me. Until yesterday.

Left pocket stores my iPhone, right pocket my wallet. Lanyard goes around my neck with my office pass key, and my keys are either in my ignition or on a table nearby. I only put keys in my pocket if I’m out somewhere, walking, and even then, I’ll try to find a spot for them off my person if I can (read: baby stroller drink cup holder). But as my pants have aged the kangaroo pockets have gotten more pliable, and when sitting in my car, a couple of times I’ve felt my phone slip out and fall to the floor. I hadn’t identified it as a general problem, and that is on me. Because when I was running from the office to home on my way to an HIV testing fair, it slipped out, only this time it found the pavement in the parking lot rather than the floor of my Honda. I drove away and didn’t notice it missing until I crossed the threshold at home, giggling at Emile in his high chair. I patted my pockets once, twice. Wallet in my right hand. Where was the phone?

Now then, I presumed I’d left it on my desk at work. When I’d run out the door to the car, I had a stack of folders for taking down testing and specimen information, a fist full of HIV tests, a few pens, a paper sack filled with condoms, lube, and dental dams, and a banana. It was more than likely that in all of my flusteredness I simply forgot the little white iPhone. As I bundled up the baby and took his diaper bag from Susanne, I reminded myself to log on to the computer in the student center (where I’d be doing the testing), and email my case manager to ask if he could find my phone back at work. Nope, not here, he said. Read More…

More Injustice, This Time at the Walla Walla Farmer’s Market

Once again, Walla Walla gets mired between petty politics, entitlement, and good people.

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