This handsome man was kind enough to rideshare/drive me to Seattle! I took a photo of his face and license plate, then sent it to my worried parents. (“Sahar! Riding with strangers! How could you?”) That way, if I ended up mysteriously disappearing, the detectives would know who did it. :-P
But along the way we stopped by Olympia, WA (because it’s just so great there!) and checked out their food cart lot. (Yes they have food carts).
I ended up grabbing some Assyrian (!?) food.
And then we posed in front of the Star Wars mural.
I talked to the co-owner, Sky. He founded the bookstore with his buddies during college, and it’s been around for 14(?) years. It doesn’t seem like the store has ever been much in the black (har har), but lately business has been really slow.
As an aside: I say “Anarchist bookstore”, but I didn’t get a sense of what that means in practice. The shop definitely has an ideological lean, so you can buy radical books. It also hosts a few community events. (Three in the next week or two, even). But I didn’t get a sense that the bookstore was that connected with the wider community, or even “activist community”. Could be completely off-base here.
The shop was nice, and I chatted with the owner, a volunteer worker, and even bought a few books as gifts.
The whole encounter made me really appreciate Back Pages Books, the amazing local bookstore in Waltham, MA. Alex Green, the owner of Backpages, isn’t the sort to festoon the store with red and black flags. However, he does invite great authors to give book talks, and a deep relationship with some faculty at Brandeis University (he stocks their coursebooks, they send business his way). Lastly, through his perch at Backpages, he does a great job in “community organizing” all the small business owners on his street. They’re supporting progressive policies, he’s in meetings with the mayor all the time, etc.
Alex is actually a great role model in that sense. What a nice life he has – the autonomy and passion of running your own business, with the strategizing and good works of community organizing. Maybe I should look into doing something like that myself.
Okay, back to the story!
As Cece and I were browsing books to buy, Austin, the volunteer at the store, came over, and invited me out for a drink. I saw his drink, and raised him a dinner with Cece, and we all went out for tacos.
In Austin’s words:
Yesterday, as I was doing some volunteering at Last Word Books, I had the pleasure of meeting two really awesome people. We spoke of philosophy, meaning, and happiness among other things. This has literally been my fantasy for so long and it has come true. Cecelia and Sahar, thank you guys for being a couple of badass mofos. You guys rule!
We did talk about life, and happiness, and so on. I pretty much forget what everyone said. As far I can remember, I learned that:
I think this journey I’m on is easy (I exchange money I already have for travel and food, and also talk to strangers). But from another point of view, it’s brave and to be admired. (I’m still not convinced, but Austin was pretty adamant about it)
There are three types of good: stopping or slowing evil, building structural alternatives, and inspiration/ a shift in consciousness. I can, and should, find all 3 in my life, instead of just the 1st.
After all that, Cece and I bought a *ton* of cod. I cut it into thirds and made three types: cod spiced as if it were meat (red), cod spiced as if it were pizza (green), and cod spiced the way that the recipe said to (white):
Surprise! Following directions led to the tastiest fish.
Cece’s partner Aaron, and their mutual friend [aah how embarrassing I forgot her name!], were on hand to help cook / eat.
Olympia has a pretty large anarchist scene, apparently. They’ve got fliers all over town. When I first walked around though, I thought the anarchist scene was much larger and stranger than it really is, though.
There were these people walking downtown. You could see them all over. They all were wearing a button-down shirt uniform, and above their right breast was a stylized A. Kind of like this:
“Wow!” said I. “The radical left here sure is organized.” “And really civic minded, they keep picking up trash and so on”.
Turns out the chamber of commerce or something has a “downtown ambassadors” program to “keep downtown clean and nice”.
Most local stores had a sign up: “Another Business That Supports The People’s House”. The People’s House, I learned, is a homeless shelter of some kind. I tried to track it down, but it doesn’t have a physical location yet. Quite different from Right To Dream Too, which I would discover (to my delight) just a few days later…