Friday, August 27, 2010

The University Of Puget Sound In Tacoma Washington Sees The Light

Today I wandered onto this pristine north end campus with the goal of having a fresh spinach salad with high protein beans on top of the vegetables. I achieved that goal. However, on the way to the salad I saw a wall called the "green spot" that has been placed there by the associated student body of the university. On the little green spots were these fabulous messages about domestic violence. I wanted to add a message.

Along came the director of the associated student body, I recognized him from my stint on campus as an undergraduate. He seemed to be completely out of his body when I asked him about the green spots with messages on the walls. He indicated he was on his way to a catered lunch. He gave me no useful information about who put these messages all over the wall. He was jovial and obviously hungry and not willing to discuss, even for one single minute, domestic violence. Still, it is refeshing to see it is talked about at all.

My experience as an undergraduate at UPS were mixed. The academic program was rigorous no doubt. But during my time there, I was sexually harassed by two English professors. One of them is dead and I can use his name. He and his heirs can sue me if they like, but I have no assetts. Still, perhaps I will refrain from using his name. He repeatedly asked me to come to his apartment to meet with him. He looked me up in the student directory and sent me cards and notes and birthday notes and more cards and even personal drawings. He was creepy. In a later encounter, he said he knew I was really far away from my family. Upon learning about my diagnosis of multiple sclerosis, he said, "Sex after fifty is really good, Alison."

This creep dropped dead just shortly after I notified the university of his harassment, which would have been about ten years after I graduated. I am certain his death had very little to do with me. I think he had a bad heart, both literally and spiritually. Still, the UPS campus is delightful. The buildings are consistent with one another. They are gorgeous brick buildings with ivy growing over some of them. In the fall, the changing colors of the ivy coat the walls with a diversity not really seen on campus. With a tuition rate of thirty-seven thousand dollars per year, there really is not much diversity on this campus. Still, they were good to me. I got a lot of financial assistance.

When I got violently ill, they even sent me a personal note discharging me from my debt to them. It's not the fault of the university they had a creepy English professor. No one knew the full depth of his mental illness. Only recently have I run into other English majors who were also his target. He lived, apparently, in a crummy basement apartment with no windows. He was never tenured despite multiple attempts. He finally quit teaching and went to work for the government where he reportedly contiuned to torture people with his angry rants, horrible academic and confusing writing, and his bitter personality.

The UPS campus is and remains a place of hope. The wall today reflected cultural changes going on even in the upper class of our society. People are talking about domestic violence. People are aware it happens even in upper middle class homes. It doesn't take a creep living in his basement to spread the darkness. It could be the work of an impeccably dressed upper middle class white collar worker. Kudos to the students involved in this project. Light one candle, Amnesty International says, rather than curse the darkness. -Alison Whiteman

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Making Art To Fund A Higher Education

Emily Meyers is selling these handmade dolls at Mad Hat Tea in downtown Tacoma from $2.50 t0 $6.00 to help fund her college education.  

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

My Long Spotty Career In Journalism

My former high school classmate brings up the issue recently of my aspiration to be a journalist, a desire of mine that has been going on since I was a mere sixteen years old. So I am going to pelt you with this sometimes funny, sometimes tragic story of my career in journalism.

I began my career at The East Junior High School newspaper in Colorado Springs. I was a reporter on the staff. Mrs. Peak ran our newspaper staff. Mrs. Peak and I often found ourselves in a tangle of conflict, as I often was with authority figures then- and even now I suppose. Mrs. Peak had  a pencil in her beehive hairdo. I don't recall much about what I wrote to be honest. I passed her English class.

In high school, I applied for a got a position as a stringer for the local daily newspaper. It was a libertarian newspaper, the now defunct Colorado Springs Sun. I didn't fully realize the impact of this unwitting political move on my part, they just said they would pay me to write and that was good enough for me. My first article was about my Jewish friends who had taken a trip to Israel. It was my first paid writing assignment. I was the youngest reporter in their newsroom at the age of nineteen as an intern. A colleague sent me an illegal drink at a bar once. I think I drank it. It's long past the statute of limitations to convict me on my underage drinking, don't even try.

In college I worked on The University of Puget Sound newspaper staff. We had lightboards back then. This means we had exacto knives and paste too. We would stay up all night pasting the newpaper together and crawl home at sunrise with letters affixed to our clothing. I remember many happy nights filled with much laughter. Then we sould finish  our newaper by  pasting it  down and barely in enough time for publication.

After college I accepted a part-time paid reporter job in a Washington state logging town. I wrote news stories, took police reports and photos but there was a crack in my Honda's manifold. This was distressing to me as one cannot repair a cracked manifold. So I did what any hack writer does, I bought a ton of spark plugs and kept swapping them for bad ones when the leaking oil fouled out my spark plugs. A girl has to get to her writing assignment. I did so until the paper lost a one page advertiser and could not pay me my minimum wage salary. No more meetings with angry loggers who wanted to kill spotted owls for me. I was out.

I took other jobs along the way mainly because I was hungry and refused to move to Kansas, as do most beginning reporters. I decided I was a woman of the west coast, or "a woman on the edge" as my oldest brother used to tell me. In each of these jobs I continued to be a reporter rather than a special education teacher, state worker, federal worker, and sometimes moderately paid slave. This did not earn me many friends as you can imagine. Can you say misappropriation of funds? Corruption? Bizarre policies? I knew you could. Too bad I am so inquisitive.

I worked on two Tacoma weeklies. One is defunct and that editor gave me trememdous leeway. The most fun I ever had was crashing the religious group The Promise Keepers meeting in The Tacoma Dome. Now a group of men cannot exclude a woman from attending an event on public property. They tried and I wrote a scathing 2500 word article about their treatment of me and my transgender friend who appeared way more terrified than me that night. She had reason to be scared, and perhaps I should have been as well, but I was just taking notes.

I wrote for the Puyallup Tribal newspaper and for some reason got paid double the rate per word of the weekly I was also writing for at the same time. Both newspapers were owned by the same publisher. I had to write under a pen name at the tribal newspaper. Just read my name at the end of this article and you will understand. I covered my first murder trial. It was a strange experience. I took a lot of notes and even did some caricature sketches of the judge, lawyers, defendants and such in my reporter's notebook.

Here I am blogging. I am afforded the luxury to write in an odd fashion. I have multiple sclerosis and get SSDI money from the federal government. I also get some medical assistance. If not for these two things, I would be slogging away full time at a job unrelated to writing because I refuse to move to Kansas and let's face it, not even the people in Kansas have writing jobs anymore. Writers are just plain unemployed or employed in other fields or in these times, not employed at all. So MS has afforded me the chance to write again? A potentially life-threatening condition enables me to write and nap as needed? Is that a small price to pay or one at rather high cost? -Alison Whiteman

Monday, August 16, 2010

Support The Olympia Food Co-Op?

The following is printed on the back of a publication called "Works In Progress" a free newspaper available to all citizens wherever you can scrounge up a copy. On the back is a box which reads:

"On August 11 the Olympia Food Co-op's board of directors is hosting a free public comment forum on the recent decision to boycott Israeli products. Zionist groups from across the Puget Sound are planning to attend to sway our local vote. Make your voice heard! Join millions around the world who are saying NO to genocide. NO to racism and NO to the Israeli apartheid."

Well, it is clear this was planned to be a non-bias discussion, right? I mean saying there are "Zionist" groups planning to attend  is pretty open-minded, right?. I guess the Co-op doesn't want to deal with say the hungry folks right in Thurston County. Oh no, that is like way to close to these touchy feely liberals with a serious agenda. Furthermore, they donated their Israeli products that lined their shelves to local food banks. Well, how about donating some food to local food banks? How about some consistency in donations by sending the products to the Palestenians themselves?

How about you just pour yourself a big old bowl of mind your own business and stick to selling organic and locally grown produce instead of meddling in complicated and controversial affairs that you really don't care that much about? Or even know that much about? If you had hearts, co-op, you would be feeding local hungry people. There are a lot of them. -Alison Whiteman

I Didn't Mean To Scare The Crap Out Of Senator Murray's Senatorial Assistant

This morning I made call to Senator Murray's office in Washington D.C. mainly because I am too lazy to write a letter in this heatwave and we have unlimited long-distance. I explained the nature of my call to the assistant. "It's this Senate Bill 510- The Food Modernization Act. It really bothers me," I said. "They are saying it's about Homeland Security and is for our protection because terrorists could taint our food supply." I mention it was introduced by Senator Durban, a Democrat of all parties. I had contacted his office prior to Murray's but he was golfing or something, I really don't know for sure.

Senator Murray's assistant was alarmed when I pointed out the Food And Drug Administration would have the right to raid private vegetable gardens without a warrant if this bill passes. I informed him it's not about Homeland Security at all, but the corporatizing of our food supply. "This," I said, "will put small famers and even people like us who have a raised organic vegetable garden at our house out of business." There was a long silence.

After a time, I said, ", good morning." He snapped out of whatever funk he was in and said "I will pass this on the Senator." I thanked him. He is on his way to a Washington D.C. based pharmacy as we speak to get some trazadone to calm down. On the way he will get a freshly squeezed organic juice from an immigrant run vegetable stand and/or juice dispensery. Okay- I made that last bit up. Everthing else is true. I scared the crap out of the assistant. I didn't mean to. Bills pass the Senate all the time and no one but maybe the person who wrote it ever knows what is in that bill. -Alison Whiteman

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Let's Not Deal With Social Ills, Let's Beef Up Our Police Force!

With some training from the schools listed in this link, you too can become a fairly poorly paid patrol officer. The rewards? Dealing with complete and utter social breakdown while on foot. Apparently our government has plenty of funds available for this training as they keep spamming my mailbox. Don't they know people with MS cannot patrol on foot? Perhaps in a scooter with ice packs to cool us down, but not on foot. Go Team USA! Let's not address issues like unemployment, poverty, starvation, desperation, drug addiciton, homelessness and other social ills. Let's just keep feeding the police and military regimes.

KOYAANISQATSI A Way Of Life Out Of Balance, A Hopi Indian Word

The Hopi Indians have a word for a way of life that is out of balance. The 1982 film of the same title is out of print due to copyright issues, however, Wikipedia has information about the 80s movement and film and here is a link to the poster that was made from that film which mainly details environmental destruction.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

An Extensive, Not Inclusive List Of Senior Services In Our Region

Seniors stood in line today at The Beacon Senior Center on South Fawcett Avenue in Tacoma for a delicious free meal. A voice boomed over the speakers in downtown Tacoma which reminded me and the Tacoma Fire Department of high school. "Keep your voices down!" said the person on the speakerphone. I wanted to leap to the microphone and announce who was prom queen, but I do employ good self control in situations like these, so I didn't do it. Hundreds of seniors were participating in Senior Citizen Appreciation Dance or SCAD. The event was presented by the City of Tacoma Senior Services- Human Rights And Services Department and sponsored by several local senior service agencies and area businesses.

I wove my way though the crowd and picked up some free information which I am happy to share with the community. I was careful not to block the oncoming throng of seniors coming in an orderly line to get their lunch. "Be sure not to stand in that aisleway," said two very nice Social Security Administration employees who then gave me a free new mouse pad for my computer. They told me quite gleefully that they are near retirement. They work across the hall from the law firm where I once worked fighting their disabilty claim denials. It always amazes me how well one can get along with the opposing team. You can find these nice SSA employees and others at: You will find information about disability, retirement, widow's, benefit amount, Medicare prescription drug coverage, replacement Medicare cards and information about how to sign up for or change your direct deposit information.

The AARP gave me a fan to cool myself with as I walked through and visited with vendors. Some of those vendors included the following:

Always Best Care Senior Services of Tacoma/Gig Harbor at 253-534-9596
Cascade Park Communities- memory care, assisted living and adult day health at: 253-475-3702 or
Certified Senior Advisor of Lakewood at: 253-534-9596 or
Puget Sound Health Partners at 1-866-789-7747 or
Crime Stoppers of Tacoma Pierce County at 253-798-4936 or the anonyomous tip line at: 253-591-5959
The YMCA of Pierce County with several locations at
The Healthways Silver Sneakers program at various locations at or 1-888-423-4632
The Korean Women's Assocation of Washington State at 253-535-4202 or
Cascade Park Gardens Memory Care at or 253-475-3702
Catholic Community Services of Western Washington at or 1-877-870-1582

Puget Sound Health Partners provided me, a very non-pill taking person, with a package of bandaids, towelettes, miralac (not even totally sure what that is to be honest) and Cedaphrin ( I really don't want to take this at all since I don't even know what it is).

My twenty minute jaunt through the Beacon Senior Citizens Service center was frought with the anxiety of thinking I might get trampled by those seniors patiently waiting in line for lunch. But I was not trampled and I have lived to provide you with some contact information. -Alison Whiteman

Friday, August 13, 2010

Let's Keep The Mail Safe! A Guide To Safe Mail Brought To You By The US Postal Service

Most of us would know what we cannot place in the US mail because of plain old common sense. Because of litgation, however, some federal employee had to design a brochure for us outlining the items we simply cannot mail. Your children are not mentioned, however, despite how tempting it may be at times to simply mail them to say some east coast camp for the behavior impaired.

There are nine classes of things you cannot mail according to a US Postal Service brochure. The categories include: 1) Explosives; 2)Gases; 3) Flammable Liquids; 4) Flammable Solids; 5) Oxidizers and Organic Peroxides; 6) Toxic Materials and Infectious Substances; 7) Radioactive Materials; 8) Corrosives and lastly 9) Miscellaneous Hazardous Materials.

You are supposed to be questioned about any package you are mailing, according to a postal clerk at Ranko's Pharmacy in Tacoma. This makes it difficult for the average mail carrier if you leave a package on your front steps and you are not home. I think the US Postal Service issues some x-ray glasses for that task. It's a sticky wicket issue there. The funding for those glasses is quite low during the economic downturn.

Just to mix this up and make this fun, please do match the following to the above listed categories: products with a radioactive label on them; self-inflating life saving devices; lithium batteries; matches; fireworks; paints or inks; ammunition; model rocket engines; nitrates; swimming pool chemicals; magnetized materials (pacemakers- well, I just made that one up there); some cosmetics (like botox?); peroxides. irritating materials; signal flares (for Uncle Joe who is stuck on I-5 in northern California in the dark without AAA towing); scuba tanks; and air bag inflators. And you 80s hair freaks? Hairspray cannot be mailed!

So does that clear things up a bit? Can you match the products to the categories? It's sort of a fun task, much like doing the word jumble in the Voter's Pamphlet. I know. Why is there word jumble in the Voter's Pamphlet? Well, I just don't have an answer for you. Go ask GoodSpaceGuy, candidate for US Senate in 2010. Maybe he knows. -Alison Whiteman

Ranko's Pharmacy On Tacoma Avenue- One Of Tacoma's Possibly The Nation's Only Independent Pharmacies

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Well, Somebody Must Have Needed The "R" Perhaps An "S?"

GoodSpaceGuy in chalk in downtown Tacoma South 17th and Pacific Avenue

Supreme Court of Washington, Ralph Seeley Respondent, v. State of Washington, Appellant, argued Sept. 25, 1996, decided July 24, 1997

Many of us do not remember this case, but it was the case that was pivotal in the decision of voters to pass an initiative for medicinal marijuana. I must preface this story by stating that Ralph Seeley was a friend of mine. I met him in the summer 1987 when were were employees of The Tacoma News Tribune. I was a work study student in the marketing and communications department, he was a columnist. We did not hit it off immediately as friends. He had written a controversial article and I had signed a petition in protest of one of his many controversial articles. Seeley came down to the marketing department to meet me in person. I was the only employee in that department to sign the petition. Others expressed concern about backlash and crossed their names off the petition.

Shortly after my brief stint in a field I did not feel suited for, I went to work for Associated Ministries in Tacoma and alongside Mary Plante, an AM employee. We headed up a student group addressing racism and sexism issues in the Tacoma School District. Seeley wrote a very nice article for our group. We met again as employees of an aviation newspaper at which time he had found out he had chordoma, a rare cancer that begins at the base of the spinal cord. He was often in a tremendous amout of pain. One evening he contacted me at home and asked me if I would accompany him to the emergency room at the UW in Seattle where he received treatment. Always thinking of others, Seeley insisted we stop at the UW bookstore and purchase a novel for me to read in the ER waiting room. Ralph was a champion of causes. He was fired from The Tacoma News Tribune but went on to finish a law degree at The University of Puget Sound School of Law. He finished despite losing one lung in the process. He was applauded by his mainly working class classmates who also had day jobs and went to school at night.

In the Superior Court of Pierce County, Seeley was granted a summary judgment by Rosanne Buckner and the state directly appealed. The decision of the Supreme Court case was written by Judge Madsen who held that 1) privileges and immunites clause of the Washington Constitution does not provide greater protection than the Fourteenth Amendment of the Federal Constitution in the area of drug classification, and thus independent equal protection analysis based on the constitutional provision was not required; 2) statute was appropriately analyzed under rational basis test; 3) plaintiff failed to show that legislature's decision regarding the classification of the drug was arbitrary and obsolete; 4) the Washington Constitution does not create a right to use marijuana for medical treatment free from lawful exercise of government police power. In short, Seeley was not able to legally use marijuana. So he continued to use it illegally, as do most terminally ill patients who opt not to take controlled FDA approved substances.

Judge Sanders issued a dissenting opion on this case. In February of 1998, Seeley passed away at one of his infamous dinner parties at his house. He died before voters approved the initiative granting one the right to use medicinal marijuana. He died the same month I was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. I treated my pain at that time with one does of drip steroids. I have since not needed any painkillers. Last night at city council chambers activists and I testified about the reported SWAT team raids that took place in our city last week. One citizen reported that the door to her house was smashed, handles torn off her cabinets, and medicine scattered. I have not read any police reports. I have little to say about this except that federal laws trump state laws. Police Chief Ramsdell spoke to me in city hall and said the federal laws will be upheld in our city. The three TPD officers with him in the hallway concurred.

I had a vision of my friend Ralph on his wedding day at the now defunct bar Kelley's downtown on Tacoma Avenue. He was eating a brownie while shaking hands with his guests. Ralph was really happy that day. He was going to beat his cancer. The doctors had given him one year to live, he had lived twelve years. He had won the largest civil rights claim in history in an unrelated case, a decision that would be reversed after his death. I can still recall the evening we flew over this city in his twin prop plane. It was the day before the FAA yanked his license to fly because of his health problems. Point Defiance Park looks really dark at night from the air. But there was a lot of light coming from our city. There still is. -Alison Whiteman