What makes something land?
1. The Meat of It
I really don't know. I think a lot of it is in how the film is handled. Focus and A24 know a lot about presenting a film. Fox Searchlight did too, before it got swallowed by Disney. My means have been limited, but I'm trying (and continuing to try) to get this piece of front of the right eyes. The festivals above are small, but they're still attended by real people, and some of the real people in these various cities have apparently gone for my strange little beast. I do not know why this is. At a hefty 33 minutes it's too long to be a short film (programmers hate long shorts), too short to be a feature, has barely any plot, no villain, no resolution, and is centered around the not-exactly-trendy topics of grief and death. All this, and they're still going for it?
I am grateful.
Not just that they've given my film and especially the people who made it a boost, but more deeply because they must feel, too, what I felt, what compelled me to bend over backwards trying to convey.
What do you do when the world you know ends?
We experience it on different scales as we wander through life: a toy that won't go back together; a partner who loses interest; a family that breaks apart, a livelihood lost, friend or lover killed. It happens, and you pause. What we do in the Pause is critical. How we choose to see, moving forward. It's important to take your time with it. Who ever said they understood an event better while it was happening, as compared to years down the road, assisted by the helpful wisdom of hindsight and softening reflection?
I tried to engineer this film to be as rich with color, sound and life as possible, the better to get around the fact that it's thirty minutes of people talking, but also to elevate the fact that probing into grief and death really means considering life and joy. This is where you quote Sophocles, because he always says things better than we can, doesn't he:
"Many have tried, but in vain, with joy to express the most joyful;
Here at last, in grave sadness, wholly I find it expressed."
I'm kind of glad I didn't happen upon these lines before making the film. I might have felt I didn't need to!
2. Latest Updates
A special thanks to Bucharest– we were in their Long Story Shorts International Film Festival, where we won Best Screenplay, and were also nominated for Best Short Film, Best Actress (Meagan), Best Actor (Ross), and Best Director.
Over at the Bucharest ShortCut Cinefest, we were nominated for Best Actress (Eleanor).
Additionally, we played a shorts program of spiritual and philosophical short films at London's Dreamers of Dreams Int'l Film Festival, where we got nominated for Best Narrative Short. Here's an interview from there between myself and the wonderful Anya Patel (video, 13m).
3. On Boys
I've written and spoken at length about the female roles in this film elsewhere (here, and here and here, among others), and I'm grateful for the attention and accolades those roles have received. Let's talk about the boy role for a moment.
Every major role in MIT getting awards attention so far except Marty's is a little like everybody in The Irishman getting nominated except Robert DeNiro. The film doesn't work without him. Most great films about men, especially masculine men, interrogate or deconstruct masculinity, as they should; but this isn't a film about archetypal men, and I wasn't aiming for that approach with its male character. Our contemporary discourse has been invaluable in further illuminating how men shouldn't behave. Excellent. But what should they do instead, in the negative space which opens up? People like role models. After centuries of being told they're supposed to know everything, fix everything, and own everything, what is modern man supposed to look like?
This question is both harder and easier to answer than it seems. You can only bemoan the John Wayne archetype for so long before realizing the act of moving toward something positive becomes more useful than moving away from something negative. They're not the same thing.
"Let black men be soft," writes contemporary artist Tatyana Fazlalizadeh, in an appeal to expand and make more sensitive the narrow definitions of manhood which dominate black American culture. Her encouraging of gentler sides hasn't exactly gone over unanimously, but that's precisely the sort of role model I wrote the Ashley character (played by Ross and Marty) in my film to be. As a character, he is an attempt to answer the above question, and the fact that I considered casting a woman in the role is probably telling. But it had to be Marty. He kills it. He positively beams out of every frame he's in.
It's not a political film. I don't get much out of casting generalizations along gender lines. It's a human film, and all this chatter is secondary. I bring it up only by way of emphasizing that sometimes the best qualities live in plain sight. He's doing things with that role which won't be appreciated until later.
Film Threat says of Marty:
As Ashley, Martyn G. Krouse carries the bulk of the emotional load along with Eleanor Moseley as the older Emma.... Krouse plays it calm and focused, never resorting to an over-the-top ugly cry. I understood precisely the weight of what he was thinking and feeling.
UK Film Review writes:
Finally, the cast play their parts to the nth degree as well, specifically Krouse and Moseley who are responsible for carrying the film's substantial emotional heft and do so with aplomb, while their younger counterparts also shine in giving the film its welcome sense of hope.
Thank you, actors, for making this film come alive in the way it does. Thank you, crew, for making everything glow. Check out the (updated) trailer below, and I hope to screen at another film festival near you soon!
More on our film here.
Click here for Seattle Met's short but thoughtful writeup– and a big thank you to Nicole Martinson, who did a ton of legwork getting this going over the Summer, and Benjamiin Cassidy for wrapping the whole thing with a bow!
If I could add anything to the article it would be to underline that I continue to love this job. The joy I experience while taking people up the street, talking to them, hearing them, being with them, serving, helping, and thriving alongside... continues unabated. It blossoms. Driving during the pandemic has been, if more risk-aware, very enjoyable (and almost ludicrously easy), but I don't feel it's representative of the greater bliss I get out of interacting with people on the street. Joy outclasses Ease most every time for me. I look forward to the day when we can see each other smiling again. That missing bit of information conveys multitudes, and interacting with strangers isn't the same without it. Also, won't it be so nice to be able to hear each other as we once did??
Of minor importance: "late swing" is my terminology. If 'swing shift' is generally understood as referring to working 14h00-22h00, I prefer running my pieces a couple or few hours later than that. My shift isn't in fact the last shift of Metro's 36-hour day; that would be the Night Owl, the overnight runs which deal with challenges I'm quite simply not up for (such as, among other matters, going home when the sun is starting to rise, and sleeping when it's beautiful out!). Those operators possess a fortitude I lack. Now's as good a time as any to appreciate my colleagues, who I'm honoured to work alongside– check out the two posts below!
"We don't want RapidRide," Marcus told me one night. I'd been telling him stops would be eliminated, and how the 49 would be separated from the 7. "We never asked for it, and we don't want it!"
I said, "It's amazing how much they don't get that, huh?"
"No it ain't. They never asked us. Oh they did they lil' outreach thing, and they think they asked us. But they didn't. We fine as it is."
1. A Few Facts
The 7 already runs at RapidRide service levels, with the same frequencies or better than all existing Rapid lines. It has RapidRide stop spacing, as many routes do: once every five blocks, rather than the old once every two. It has two Night Owls, not the normal one. It has numerous infrastructure investments in place from over the years– bus bulbs, signal priority, lane rechannelization, sidewalk expansion. It's in great shape.
And yet, you'll hear lamenting among transit enthusiast circles these days, about how the Rainier RapidRide has been indefinitely postponed. You'll notice those circles are overwhelmingly white, overwhelmingly above a certain income bracket, and most importantly, overwhelmingly not users of the 7.
I've had variations of above conversation at least a hundred times (not an exaggeration). The dominant, prevailing sentiment among working-class people in Rainier Valley is that they prefer the 7 to its RapidRide alternate, for concrete and sound reasons which make sense. They like that the 7:
• Serves the Lake Washington Apartment complex, a large and significant facility on Seward Park Avenue (where a number of my coworkers and innumerable passengers reside).
• Serves the businesses and residents in the vicinity of Seward Park Ave, 57th, and Rainier, a triangle of sorts clustered with restaurants, hair salons, bars, mini-marts, and gyms. This is the densest and most commercial part of Rainier Beach.
• Serves the Prentice loop.
• They especially like that it thru-routes with the 49 at night for direct service to and from Broadway. Many of the dishwashers and servers in your favorite Capitol Hill restaurants, the bouncers and janitors at your clubs of choice– live along the Rainier, MLK, and Delridge corridors (you knew that; who can afford Cap Hill anymore?). They would prefer if it linked more often (a la the old Aloha St turnback for Broadway-only 7s), but nighttime is when it most matters, because that's when you least want to transfer buses, especially downtown.
The Rainier RapidRide would do none of these things.
2. Vis-a-vis Light Rail, BRT, and the 7X
Most people hopefully by now know Link is not a 7 alternative; not only are buses and trains entirely different types of coverage, Rainier and MLK are different corridors. But for the one spot where they meet, the 7 remains the preferred alternative. Why?
It's either faster or equivalent in travel time than transferring at Mt Baker, and of course more convenient. After hours, only out-of-towners or non-residents transfer at Mt Baker to continue downtown– this is especially true during off-peak hours– and sometimes we help them out, telling them that by the time they've expended the 10 minutes it takes to cross the street and walk up to the platform and waited for the next train (another 15– or nowadays, 30 minutes at night), we'll already be downtown. When I used to drive the 7 in rush-hour mornings, sometimes– if we got stuck in enough traffic on Rainier at I-90– we'd take long enough to get to 5th & Jackson that we'd be able to see the passengers who'd left us for Link walking up out of International District station.
Whatever floats their boat, I guess.
In the southbound direction, there's a woman who boards in the U-District in the evenings and departs at Capitol Hill Link station– only to always reappear when I arrive at southbound Mount Baker station, where she reboards to continue her journey home. She always walks by me too quickly, or I'd tell her she could be riding one vehicle home instead of waiting for three(!); I'm literally the same bus she chases through town by transferring to Link.
In other words, speed isn't a concern on the 7. At best bus lanes between Walker and Charles would be appreciated during rush hour; and the only reason the 7 Express was underused was because it was mishandled. With as few trips as it had at the end, of course no one used it. The trick is to make service attractive, and they'll come. Make it more than an opportunity trip while waiting for the local 7. Run it frequently during peak and intermittently all day, like the 9 (this has been proposed to me over a dozen times by passengers over the year), and make it truly an express: five or maybe six stops total, all south of Walker.
(You're wondering why a Rapid line would need to replace the 7 at all. In other cities, Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) is overlaid onto existing service, so it can be truly 'rapid,' making only a few stops while the local route, or 'shadow,' covers the in-between stops; in King County, BRT is used to replace existing routes, which is why they need to make so many stops. Converting a route to Rapid format is a cost savings for Metro, because RapidRide is in large part federally funded. With a limitless budget you'd just keep the 7 and run the R Line on top of it, and everyone would be happy.)
There are other concerns: Link doesn't run late enough (last trips on Sundays are around 11:30), and unless you have the incredible fortune of having both endpoints of your commute right outside rail stations, Link always requires a transfer. My dishwashing friends don't want to change buses on their way home. If they work in kitchens near Broadway and Pike or Broadway and Mercer, they'd rather walk a block to a bus that'll take them clear to Rainier and Holden, as the 49/7 does, than face the inconvenience of using rail. That's doubly a concern now that Link runs less frequently, and the 49 has been reduced to thirty-minute service(!) at night.
3. The Gentry
There needs to be a strategic shift away from a transfer-based network during this time when service is infrequent. I must also add my enormous preference for front-door boarding for safety concerns: greeting each incoming passenger with respect and acknowledgment allows me more control over the space, a better read of the room, a sense of community, and a safer environment. This is huge. On a route like the 7, respect and community are what will get you and your passengers through the night. I cannot achieve that with RapidRide's all-door boarding. I cannot assert community, positive atmosphere, acknowledgment or safety with all-door boarding. This is why I don’t drive the E Line very much, even though I was all over the 358 for years. I had tools for making it work back then that I no longer have.
Gentrification is when change happens in a neighborhood without that neighborhood's consent. I have the ability to speak for the community because I'm there every evening. I've been there every evening for years. I rode the 7 regularly as a child and have driven it off and on since 2009, drove it five nights a week for four years straight, and remain on it as my route of choice with as few as three exceptions in eight years (let me take a break every now and again!). Basically, I've been out there, and I've taken the time to get to know the people.
They are the least liked, least heard, and most disrespected people in the city, and I am proud to be their friend. I choose them because they are kinder to me. They say hello to me. They value respect.
Yes, gentrification is unstoppable. Capitalism is a beast with a lifespan, and it is aging. As more money becomes held by fewer, larger amounts of people lose access to resources. We've watched as the new buildings have sprouted up. We've felt the folks from the north and east encroaching in. We've looked about in unspoken mutual reflection as the first white faces stayed on the bus south of Genesee, then Edmunds, then Orcas. Orcas! When did that ever happen?
Back during the heyday of blogs, there was a blog called "Stuff White People Like." In a delightfully amusing and now-deleted post, it once noted that one of the Stuffs White People like is public transit– as long as it's not buses. Isn't it funny how that's true? Planes, trains and all the rest, sure– but you don't see Lego making a city bus. There's a stigma, and it's stuck. Fixed-route service is somehow sometimes able to transcend that stigma, and RapidRide has thusly ascended. Something about all the stations and priorities and– well, the just plain specialness associated with Rapid transit. I have friends I cherish in every rung of the class ladder, and for whatever reason my affluent confidants have no allergy to RapidRide.
That is one reason why the Rainier RapidRide counts as gentrification. But the biggest reason is that the neighborhood doesn't give concrete feedback easily (Metro has sure tried, believe me. No organization is more equity-oriented). You just have to be out there, feeling the pulse of the place, how it shifts and speaks in years. Can those who’ve suffered at the hands of authority be expected to give their honest feedback to authorities on command, on terms not set by them?
4. Silent Relief
I write all this because you will have read elsewhere that it's a calamity that the Rainier Rapid is significantly postponed. Don't you worry, reader. Take it from me. We scoff at that lament the way we scoff when a certain publication once actually proposed terminating the 7 at Othello St and not even serving Rainier Beach. We know a wrongheaded idea when we see one, and usually we just tolerate it.
The R Line wouldn't have been as good as the 7 (mostly because: no service to Seward Park residential and business areas, Prentice, and no night service to Broadway), but it would've still been good service. We would've put up with it, as we put up with so many other things.
The night Trump was elected in 2016, I noticed both halves of my route were in mourning, but the Broadway half was more distraught than the Rainier half. I was confused by this, because although Trump's policies would hurt all of us, the Rainier crowd would be more disproportionately damaged. I asked Will about it, phrasing the question as delicately as I could. He was only too happy to reply.
"Nathan, you gotta understand. We're the black man in America. We're used to getting shat on. Now these white folks out here are experiencing what that feels like for many of them probably the first time. But for us it's a way of life. And what we do, is we get on with it. We keep our head down and keep goin'. Survive. Hell, Nathan, you're a person of color. You know what I'm talkin' about. We survive, baby! 'S what we're good at!"
And that's what the folks would've done with the Rainier RapidRide. But in a challenging time, the indefinite postponement of the R Line is, for the significant portion of working-class people I know in the Rainier Valley community, a cause célèbre. Even if it's only temporary this is an enormous win for underserved communities in the Valley. On this particular issue, we couldn't be happier.
I know I don't speak for the whole community; of course that's ridiculous. I don't even speak for the whole 7-riding community. But I at least have the ability to speak for some of the 7-riding community, not abstractly, not from behind an armchair, and not with well-intentioned groundlessness like certain outlets I won't name, but rather from years-long interpersonal primary experience. My word is not definitive, and I know folks will disagree with me; when they do you can bet they won't quote this paragraph. Listen to them. Consider their views. But I say also listen to the people who are actually affected, the gestures of other cultures, voices on the late-night streets.
5. No Blame
I will also reiterate what I've said above and multiple times on record earlier: Metro has bent over backwards trying to get feedback over this. I do not point my finger at them. These neighborhoods are tricky. I don't just have good friends up in the King Street offices, but on the R Line planning committee itself. Their work is tough, and I loved the community-based approach they were taking. My biggest hope is that they'd be able to prove wrong every anxiety I list here, and in reviewing their plans I must share a healthy optimism. They heard my concerns and even spent time on my route, and their RapidRide Art Plan is the best, most inclusive, insightful, community-engaged and people-oriented civic proposal I've ever read (and I don't just say that because I'm in it!).
I'm not interested in assigning blame here. I'm just highlighting voices who may not have been heard in the outreach. Metro’s gotten some good feedback, and I’m merely adding to it. I hear these voices often, have noted the passion with which they speak, and have noted that they don't feel heard. Maybe a lesson can be learned from the recent 106 restructure, which was met with nigh-unanimous and continuing enthusiastic street-level approval.
This postponement's win is that gentrification, even if can't be stopped, can be delayed. Maybe this delay is leading to the bigger win we all need, in that it gives us the time to think critically about how to move forward, and reconfigure what some see as gentrification as something else entirely. If the R Line were given the leeway to happen exactly as described in that internal 2020 Art Plan, which had a lot to say about community and social geography, the Valley would be in good hands.
One can hope.
It’s become a tradition of mine to write a rapturous thank-you post following any big event of mine. You know, where I just can't help myself and have to praise the high heavens that any of it happened.
Why do I do this? It isn't even only with my own stuff (see below for an index). I write about the Biden win here, Bob Ferguson here, and the 2017 Women's March here, to cite just a few examples, in similar terms. I look in the eyes of the people who come to my events, and I just have to raise my hands to the sky. How does any of it happen?
I wasn't raised to expect any of this.
Forgive me if I'm overcome with gratitude, or wishing to divulge more details about this or that event. The great composers wrote devotional music with an analogous fervor, the ancients wrote their psalms, and before that gods were praised and stories told around open fires.
We feel better when we're thankful.
In this 2017 story, Shoeshiner Tim tells me, "the world don't owe you nothin'." I write in the post about how and why those words so liberated to me. Tim has since passed on, but I carry his words in my pocket. Thankfulness is how I stay sane and how I stay happy. I have to keep front and center what's more important than any accolade; I know I don't deserve the goodwill that's been thrown my way. But I do my best to earn it.
So without further ado, let's talk about the four events I just gave at the Redmond Library!
You may recall my book, The Lines that Make Us, was Redmond Library's, Microsoft's, and the City of Redmond's choice for their 2020 Summer Reading Program. I'm touched particularly because I worked as a page at Redmond Library for six years, and never for one second imagined my book would even be in their system, let alone a well-above-average 36 copies, nor certainly their choice for the single Summer Book. They usually choose a few titles per summer. This all ended a month ago, and I'm still blushing.
Then there's the Friends of the Redmond Library financing this whole thing, and the exquisite turnout across four events. People who came more than once. Faces who beamed at me through the screens, their essence cutting through the pixels like so much chaff in the breeze. Dozens upon dozens, from teens to ninety-year olds, all with a kind word. It's more than I could ever dream of for an online event.
What particularly strikes me about this event (or four events, rather; they'll go online eventually) is the full-circle nature they engender within me. It goes beyond the fact that I once worked there. It was my first job. I was lonely as a child, and at 14 I began volunteering, coming in with a degree of frequency that quickly led to a hire. The staff, a delightful gaggle of mid-aged women and younger, kindly associates, pages and librarians, took me under their wing with kindness and loving warmth. Kindness and loving warmth? Who finds such things in junior high school? There are many moments from across those six years I best remember now not as events but emotions, gentle nudges from a loving past. The words have names and faces: Bev, Kim, Lynn, Joe, Shuja, Carol, Andy, Malinda, Margaret, Angela, Heather, Sue, Darcy, and many more (I’m not leaving your names out, you others! Blame it on the word count!)… and Dan. Most of these people have drifted out of my life, but Dan has remained a presence.
Very few people have known me for more than several years, let alone twenty. Did any part of me know he and I would collaborate two decades later on a project as important to him or I as this? Dan moved mountains of the most personal nature to make this happen. Many other lovelies were involved (here’s looking at you, Dori and Mary), but for much of the process and because of our history, I felt a certain uniquely collegiate affinity working for Dan. The echoes of years past infused our happy dealings now. A lost memory of walking by him on a weekend afternoon, or me shelving CDs while listening to him help customers the nearby reference desk; a tall fellow, gentle, measured in movement and reflective in speech. Do you know the kind of person whose chuckle you can always trust as truthful?
It was a haven, the Redmond Library. I felt a sense of belonging in that space, with those people, which I’m convinced played a role in who I am today. In this book and its outlook existing in the first place. For many years the blog was called “The View From Nathan’s Bus;” I still think of it as that, even if it’s now just titled “Blog” in the navigation bar above, for space reasons. It’s about a certain choice of perspective, less mine than the one I’ve absorbed by such kind souls as Dan and the others. Getting to do this series felt like a completion of the promise those early teen years held, returning something to the folks who helped me find my footing. My view. The book contains echoes of their generosity, as filtered through by me, by time, and by the folks on the street.
How many great things exist because someone took a youngster under their wing, made them feel loved?
Thanks, you wonderful people.
More Nathan thank-tastic gratitude explosions:
here (one of my first– Seattle Art Museum),
here (on co-hosting with the great Susanna Ryan),
here (an epic 3-parter about Elliot Bay),
here (on the book launch plus last color darkroom show),
here (Seattle Channel),
here (Seattle's 35 Most Influential),
here (Wall of Fame),
here (winning best film at Amsterdam),
here (WA State book awards),
here (MOHAI lecture),
here (PLU author lectures),
here (Top 10 bestseller status), and
here (MOHAI again, clarifying an issue that concerned me).
I think of photography as being more like painting. I want to drape the space with my gaze, let its textures whisper and drift about. The earliest attacks on the validity of photography as an art form were that it captured existence with such replicatory exactness that it couldn't possibly be art; it quite simply looked too much like life.
But you can do so much more than duplicate external appearances. The intense subjectivity of photography has been discussed by better minds than I, especially with regard to choosing what's in and not within the frame; but there's more than that too. There is the matter of how you let colors streak across the scene and with what intensity. How rich you let the blacks bleed, and what you do to make the moment sing with the vibrant, heady, and contemplative rush with which I often find myself seeing life.
I feel connected to that full-bodiedness when I affect these manipulations by hand, through analogue means, in keeping with the tactile language of lived existence. There is no HDR here, no late-night tinkering or showcasing of dexterous software. These are not rows of pixels but pictures of light burned onto silver crystals, my attempts to conduct the ephemeral, to try to add myself to that impossibly alluring dance between light and emulsion. I hope you enjoy.
Click here for the images and an essay of what I was seeing, or trying to see, in Milan.
Click here for photography in other cities, essays on those locations, and more.