On The Test
I may have to turn off the television set while I'm writing this because I can't fucking concentrate. I'm a news junkie and once you're a news junkie you're always a news junkie except maybe I'll have to be a no news at night junkie after this. Right now it's quiet, the door is open, the air is cool and the television is off. The cat is sitting at the door guarding us against moth attack.
I had to take a course in Washington State history to complete my degree in Political Science. I was not happy at the thought of taking that course.
I remembered those depressing history classes I'd had to take in grade school in New York. The Dutch settlers arriving on Manhattan Island. (You listening to this Rien? You talk about bent Americans. It was that son of a bitch Stuyvesant who started it! Remember New Amsterdam? They left those god damned wooden shoes in the local museums so generation after generation of school kids would have to write essays about them, Rien, even kids like me from Washington State!) We had to learn about the windmills on Long Island, Paul "Dutch" Revere's ride, and Massachusetts. (They were all Dutch up there in Massachusetts, Rien, but they came later so we made 'em live up north near Plymouth Rock, which was a god damned Dutch rock, by the way Rien, that they brought with them and traded to the Indians for Boston.)
The whole Northeastern culture consists of pizza, baseball and antiques, lot's of antiques, Colonial antiques, lots of fucking eighteenth century but made in the twentieth century except you're not supposed to know it impossible to sit on and be comfortable antiques that are sold to tourists on every back highway, back town and back yard from New York to Maine, turn right at Boston for lunch.
Anyway, they were putting me on this same collision course with Washington State history, somebody coming over the mountains, no doubt, stealing Seattle from the Indians and then, I had to assume, logging and fishing and logging and fishing and logging and fishing and, well, you know, logging and fishing. Bill Gates hadn't met Paul Allen yet.
I was saved by a young instructor with a passion for politics. He came into class, held up a book and said this is the text, read it, there'll be questions on the final exam. Now, since the Washington legislature meets every other year and this is the year, we're going to talk about Washington State legislative politics for the rest of this course and you'd better read the newspapers and take notes. So we did.
Lots of wonderful stuff you didn't learn about in high school such as the Washington State liquor business where you can't buy a bottle except at a state owned Liquor Control Board store and the wonder money under the table system that kept it pure, the rich history of pin ball machines, bought elections and beer. Prohibition running so smoothly in the Pacific Northwest because the police were not only in on the take, but provided the necessary muscle to maintain the peace. No Tommy gunning gangsters and unpleasant headlines in the papers. You try to move into the local liquor business and the sheriff rolls you off the dock in a barrel of cement.
It even made me consider a job in journalism down in Olympia (the state capitol) culling locals for political gossip (for maybe three minutes) before I remembered nobody would print it. I'd started a humor magazine the prior year for some "nobody would print it reasons" and once was enough. Still, my need for news has persisted ever since. I even learned a little Washington State history by reading some of that book, although he lied about the final. There were no questions about Washington State history on the test.